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Changes, Page 4

Jim Butcher

Chapter 9~10

  Chapter 9

  I watched out for trouble all the way back to Chicago, but it didn't show up.

  The trip from Edinburgh would be a difficult one if limited by strictly physical means of transport. Wizards and jet planes go together like tornados and trailer parks, and with similarly disastrous results. Boats are probably the surest means of modern transport available to us, but it's a bit of a ride from Scotland to Chicago.

  So we do what a good wizard always does when the odds are stacked up against us: We cheat.

  The Nevernever, the spirit world, exists alongside our own, sort of like an alternate dimension, but it isn't shaped the same way as the mortal world. The Nevernever touches upon places in the mortal world that have something in common with it, a resonance of energies. So, if point A is a dark and spooky place in the Nevernever, it touches upon a dark and spooky place in the real world - let's say, the stacks at the University of Chicago. But the space five feet away from point A in the Nevernever, point B, is only dark and sad, not really scary. Maybe point B attaches to a cemetery in Seattle.

  If you're a wizard, you could then start at the stacks at UC, open a doorway into the Nevernever, walk five feet, open another doorway back to the real world, and emerge into the cemetery in Seattle. Total linear distance walked, five or six feet. Total distance traveled, better than seventeen hundred miles.

  Neat, huh?

  Granted, it's almost never as little as five feet you walk in the Nevernever, and that stroll just might introduce you to some gargantuan, tentacular horror so hideous that it drives you insane just by looking at it. The Nevernever is a scary place. You don't want to go exploring without a whole lot of planning and backup, but if you know the safe paths - the Ways - then you can get a lot of traveling done nice and quick, and with a minimum incidence of spontaneous insanity.

  Once upon a time, I would have refused even to enter the Nevernever except in the direst of emergencies. Now, the idea wasn't much more stressful to me than the thought of hitting a bus station. Things change.

  We were back in Chicago before lunchtime, emerging from the Nevernever into an alley behind a big old building that used to be a slaughterhouse. I'd parked the Blue Beetle, my beat-up old Volkswagen Bug, nearby. We went back to my apartment.

  Susan and Martin were waiting. About two minutes after we got back, there was a knock at the door, and I opened it to find both half vampires standing on my doorstep. Martin carried a leather valise on a sling over his shoulder.

  "Who is the girl?" Martin asked, his eyes calm and focused past me, on Molly.

  "It's nice to see you again, too, man," I said. "And don't mention it. I save people's lives all the time. "

  Susan smiled at me, giving Molly the Female Once-Over - a process by which one woman creates a detailed profile of another woman based upon about a million subtle details of clothing, jewelry, makeup, and body type, and then decides how much of a social threat she might be. Men have a parallel process, but it's binary: Does he have beer? If yes, will he share with me?

  "Harry," Susan said, kissing me on the cheek. I felt like a pine tree in cougar country. I'd just have to hope territorial scoring of my bark wasn't next. "Who is this?"

  "My apprentice, Molly Carpenter," I said. "Grasshopper, this is Susan Rodriguez. That's Marvin someone-or-other. "

  "Martin," he corrected me, unruffled, as he entered. "Can she be trusted?"

  "Every bit as much as you trust me," I said.

  "Well. " Martin's voice couldn't have been any drier, but he tried. "Thank goodness for that. "

  "I know who they are, Harry," Molly said quietly. "They're from the Fellowship of St. Giles, right? Vampire hunters?"

  "Close enough," Susan said, standing right next to me, well inside my personal space perimeter. It was an intimate distance. She touched my arm for a moment with fever-hot fingers, but never looked away from Molly. "An apprentice wizard? Really? What's it like?"

  Molly shrugged, averting her eyes, frowning slightly. "A lot of reading, a lot of boring practice, with occasional flashes of pure terror. "

  Susan looked from Molly to me and seemed to come to some sort of conclusion. She drifted out of my personal space again. "Did you speak to the Council?"

  "A bit," I said. "The duchess was at headquarters. Spoke to her, too. "

  Susan drew in a sharp breath. "What? She hasn't left Mexico in more than a hundred and eighty years. "

  "Call Guinness. She broke her streak. "

  "Good God," she said. "What was she doing there?"

  "Being compassionate and understanding and forgiving me for challenging her to a duel in front of about a thousand fellow wizards. "

  Martin made a choking sound. Susan's eyes looked a little wide.

  "I wanted a piece of her right there," I said, "but she was operating under a pledge of safe conduct. Council intelligence says there's all kinds of vampire activity starting up. I've got feelers out for any other word, but it will take a little time. "

  "We already knew about the mobilization," Susan said. "The Fellowship warned the Council three days ago. "

  "Nice of the Council to inform everybody, I guess. But I'll get whatever else the Council knows in the next few hours," I said. "You guys turn up anything?"

  "Sort of," Susan said. "Come on. "

  We went to the seating around the coffee table, and Martin plopped the valise down onto its surface. He drew out a manila folder and passed it to me.

  "Out of nearly a petabyte of information - " he began.

  "Petawhat?" I asked.

  "One quadrillion bytes," he clarified. Helpfully.

  Susan rolled her eyes and said, "Several libraries' worth of in formation. "

  "Oh. Okay. "

  Martin cleared his throat and continued as if he hadn't been interrupted. "We retrieved fewer than three hundred files. Most of them were inventory records. "

  I opened the folder and found several sheets of printer paper covered with lists, and several more that consisted of photographs of any number of objects accompanied by identification numbers.

  "The objects in this file," Susan said, "were all categorized as metacapacitors. "

  I grunted, paging through the photos more slowly. A stone knife. An ancient, notched sword. A soot-stained brick. An urn covered in odd, vaguely unsettling abstract designs. "Yeah. Can't be sure without physically examining it, but this stuff looks like ritual gear. "

  I frowned and started cross-referencing numbers on the lists. "And according to this, they were all checked out of a secure holding facility in Nevada and shipped as a lot. . . . " I glanced up at Susan. "When was Maggie taken, exactly?"

  "A little less than twenty-four hours before I called you. "

  I frowned at the timing. "They shipped it the same day Maggie was taken. "

  "Yes," she said. "About three hours after the kidnapping. "

  "Shipped where?"

  "That's the question," she said. "Assuming it's connected with Maggie at all. "

  "Odds are that it isn't," Martin said.

  "Yeah. Your time would be better employed running down all those other leads we have, Marvin. " I spared him a glower, and went back to studying the pages. "If I can figure out what this gear is used for, maybe I can rule it out. For all I know it's meant for a rain dance. " I tapped the pages on my knee thoughtfully. "I'll do that first. While I do, Molly, I want you to go talk with Father Forthill, personally - we have to assume the phones aren't safe. Forthill has some contacts down south. Tell him I'd like to know if any of them have reported anything unusual. Take Mouse to watch your back. "

  "I can look after myself, Harry. It's still daylight. "

  "Your weapons, grasshopper," I said in my Yoda voice. "You will not need them. "

  She frowned at me in annoyance and said, "You know, I believe it is possible to reference something other than Star Wars, boss. "

  I narrowed my
eyes in Muppetly wisdom. "That is why you fail. "

  "That doesn't even . . . Augh. It's easier just to do it. " She stood up and held out her hand. I tossed her the keys to the Blue Beetle. "Come on, Mouse. "

  Mouse rose from his position in the kitchen and shambled to Molly's side.

  "Hold up a second, kid. Susan," I said. "Something about this is making the back of my neck itch. The bad guys knew where to find us last night. They must have some kind of tail on one of us, and we don't need to walk around with a target painted on our backs. Maybe you and Martin could go see if you can catch our shadow. "

  "They'll see us and pull a fade as soon as we leave the apartment," Martin said.

  "Oh!" Molly said abruptly, her eyes brightening. "Right!"

  I went out to get the mail and walk the dog around the little backyard while Molly, Susan, and Martin, under cover of one of Molly's first-class veils, slipped out of the apartment. I gave Mouse five minutes, then called him and went back down into the apartment.

  Molly had beaten me back inside, after walking Susan and Martin out of the view of any observers who had a line of sight to my apartment's door. "How was that?" she asked. She tried for casual, but by now I knew her well enough to spot when my answer mattered.

  "Smooth," I said. "Did me proud. "

  She nodded, but there was a little bit too much energy in it to be offhand agreement. Hell's bells, I remembered what she was feeling: wanting, so badly, to prove my talent, my discipline, my skill - myself - to a teacher. It took me nearly a decade for my hindsight to come into focus, and to realize how inexperienced, how foolish, and how lucky I had been to survive my apprenticeship with both eyes and all my fingers intact.

  I wasn't too worried about sending the kid on a solo mission. It was pretty tame, and Forthill liked her. Molly wasn't much in a fight, but she could avoid the hell out of them if she had an instant's warning - which was where Mouse came in. Very little escaped the big dog's solemn notice. If hostility loomed, Mouse would warn her, and hey-presto, they would both be gone.

  She'd be fine.

  "Don't take too long," I said quietly. "Eyes open. Play it safe. "

  She beamed, her face alight. "You aren't the boss of me. "

  I could all but taste the pride she felt at making her talents useful to my cause. "The hell I'm not," I told her. "Do it or I dock you a year's pay. "

  "You know you don't pay me anything, right?"

  "Curses," I said. "Foiled again. "

  She flashed me another smile and hurried out, bouncing eagerly up the steps. Mouse followed close on her heels, his ears cocked alertly up, his demeanor serious. He grabbed his leather lead from the little table by the door as he went by. Molly had forgotten it, but there were leash laws in town. I suspected that Mouse didn't care about the law. My theory was that he insisted on his lead because people were more inclined to feel comfortable and friendly toward a huge dog when he was "safely restrained. "

  Unlike me, he's a people person. Canine. Whatever.

  I waited until the Beetle had started and pulled out to close the door. Then I picked up Martin's printed pages, tugged aside the rug that covered the trapdoor in the living room floor, and descended into my laboratory.

  "My laboratory," I said, experimentally, drawing out each syllable. "Why is it that saying it like that always makes me want to follow it with 'mwoo-hah-hah-hah-hahhhhhh'?"

  "You were overexposed to Hammer Films as a child?" chirped a cheerful voice from below.

  I got to the bottom of the stepladder, murmured a word, and swept my hand in a broad gesture. A dozen candles flickered to life.

  My lab wasn't fancy. It was a concrete box, the building's subbasement. Someone probably had neglected to backfill it with gravel and earth when the house was built. Tables and shelves lined the walls, covered in wizardly bric-a-brac. A long table ran down the middle of the room, almost entirely occupied by a scale model of downtown Chicago made of pewter, right down to the streetlights and trees.

  My apprentice had a workstation at a tiny desk between two of the tables. Though she had continued to add more and more of her own notes, tools, and materials as her training continued, somehow she had kept the same amount of space open. Everything was neatly organized and sparkling clean. The division between Molly's work area and the rest of the room was as sharp and obvious as the lines on a map.

  I'd upgraded my summoning circle, which was set in the concrete floor at the far end of the little room, a five-foot hoop of braided copper, silver, and iron that had set me back three grand when I ordered it from a svartalf silversmith. The materials weren't all that expensive, but it took serious compensation to convince a svartalf to work with iron.

  Each metal strand in the circle's braid was inscribed with sigils and runes in formulae that harnessed and controlled magical energies to a far greater degree than any simple circle. Each strand had its own string of symbols, work so tiny and precise that only svartalves and maybe Intel could have pulled it off. Flickers of light, like static discharge but more liquid, slithered around each strand of metal, red light, blue, and green dancing and intertwining in continuous spirals.

  I'm still young for a wizard - but once in a while, I can make something that's fairly cool.

  One shelf was different from all the others in the room. It was a simple wooden plank. Volcanic mounds of melted candle wax capped either end. In the center of the shelf was a human skull, surrounded by paperback romance novels. As I watched, orange flickering light kindled in the skull's empty eye sockets, then swiveled to focus on me. "Too many Hammer Films," Bob the Skull repeated. "Or, possibly, one too many nights at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. "

  "Janet, Brad, Rocky, ugh," I said dutifully. I went to the shelf, picked the skull up off of it ("Wheee!" said Bob), and then carried it over to a mostly clean space on one of the worktables. I set the skull down on top of a stack of notebooks, and then put Martin's manila folder down in front of him.

  "Need your take on something," I said. I opened up the folder and started laying out the photographs Martin had given me.

  Bob regarded them for a moment, and asked, "What are we looking at, here?"

  "Metacapacitors," I said.

  "That's weird. 'Cause they look like a bunch of ritual objects. "

  "Yeah. I figure metacapacitor is code language for ritual object. "

  Bob studied the pictures and muttered to himself under his breath. He isn't actually a talking skull - he's a spirit of intellect who happens to reside inside a specially enchanted skull. He's been assisting wizards since the Dark Ages, and if he hasn't forgotten more than I ever knew about the wide world of magic, it's only because he doesn't forget anything, ever.

  "They're traveling in a single group. I need to get a ballpark estimate on what they might be used for. "

  "Tough to tell from two-dimensional images," Bob said. "I start getting confused when there are any fewer than four dimensions. " He rattled the skull's teeth together a few times, thoughtfully. "Is there anything else? Descriptions or anything?"

  I opened the folder. "Just the inventory list. " I put my finger on the picture of the stone knife and read, " 'Flint blade. ' " I touched an old brick with crumbling edges. " 'Brick. ' "

  "Well, that's just blindingly useful," Bob muttered.

  I grunted. "It's possible that this is just miscellaneous junk. If you don't think it has a specific purpose, then - "

  "I didn't say that," Bob interrupted sourly. "Jeez, Harry. Ye of little faith. "

  "Can you tell me anything or not?"

  "I can tell you that you're teetering on the edge of sanity, sahib. "

  I blinked at that. "What?"

  Bob didn't look up from the pictures. "Your aura is all screwed up. It's like looking at an exploding paint factory. Crazy people get that way. "

  I grunted and considered Bob's words for a moment. Then I shrugged. "I'm too close to this case, maybe. "

  "You need some time in a quiet place, boss. Unkink your brain's do. Mellow your vibe. "

  "Thank you, Doctor Fraud," I said. "I'll take that under advisement. Can you tell me anything about those objects or what?"

  "Not without getting to examine them," Bob said.

  I grunted. "Super. Another bad inning for the wizard gumshoe. "

  "Sorry," he said. "But all I can tell you from here is the trigger. "

  I frowned. "What do you mean?"

  "Oh, those are objects of dark, dangerous magic," Bob said. "I mean, obviously. Look at the angles. Nothing is proportional and balanced. They're meant for something destructive, disruptive, deadly. "

  I grunted. "That tracks. Rumor has it that the war is going to rev up again soon. " I ran my fingers tiredly through my hair. "What did you say the trigger was, again?"

  "For something this dark?" Bob asked. "Only one thing'll do. "

  I felt myself freeze. My coffeeless gorge began to rise.

  "Human sacrifice," the skull chirped brightly. "The slaughter of an innocent. "

  Chapter 10

  I leaned on a table with my eyes closed.

  The Red Court was preparing a destructive act of high black magic.

  The ritual, whatever it was, required a human sacrifice to succeed.

  In my head, I watched a movie of Maggie being bled out like a slaughtered sheep within a ritual circle, surrounded by an army of vampires beneath a nightmare sky.

  There was a hideous elegance in it. In a single stroke my daughter would die, and her death would be used to lash out against the Council. It was bald guesswork, but it fit what I'd seen of the duchess. She could inflict the maximum amount of personal agony on me and launch a sorcerous attack simultaneously. Revenge and war would both be served - all while she smiled and smiled and offered promises of peace and understanding, protected from me by the same idiots she was plotting to destroy.

  I could try to warn them, but few would listen. Ebenezar, maybe, and Anastasia, and some of the young Wardens - but even if they listened and believed, they would still have to convince others. The freaking Council never does anything quickly, and I had a bad feeling that tempus was fugiting furiously.

  So. I'd just have to do it myself.

  But to do that, I needed information.

  I looked at my summoning circle again and took a slow, deep breath. There were things I could do. Horrible things. There were beings I could call up, malicious mavens and entities of wicked wisdom who might make the unknowable as plain as daylight.

  If I did, there would be a terrible price.

  I tore my eyes from the circle and shook my head. I wasn't that desperate.


  Someone knocked loudly on my apartment door.

  I went upstairs, closed the lab, and picked up my blasting rod. I carried it to the door and looked out the peephole. Murphy stood outside, her hands in her coat pockets, her shoulders hunched.

  "Couldn't use the phone," she said when I opened the door. She stepped in and I closed it behind her.

  "Yeah, we figure the Red Court might be tapping them. "

  She shook her head. "I don't know about that, Harry. But Internal Affairs has got mine wired. "

  I blinked at her. "Those IA idiots? Again? Can't Rudolph just let it rest?" Rudolph the Brown- nosed Cop-cop, as he was affectionately known at SI, had managed to kiss enough ass to escape SI and get reassigned to IA. He seemed to hold a grudge against his former coworkers, irrationally blaming them for his (now concluded) exile among the proles of SI.

  "Apparently not," Murphy said. "He's making quite a name for himself over there. "

  "Murph, you're a good cop. I'm sure that - "

  She slashed a hand at the air and shook her head. "That's not important right now. Listen. Okay?"

  I frowned and nodded at her.

  "There's a full-scale investigation going into the bombing of your office building," Murphy said. "Rudolph talked to the lead FBI agent and the local lead detective in charge of the case and convinced them that you're a suspicious character and good perpetrator material. "

  I groaned. "Forensics will bear them out. The explosives were on my floor, some of them in the walls of my office. "

  Murphy pushed her hair back with one hand. The bags beneath her eyes had grown visibly darker. "They're going to bring you in and question you in the next couple of hours. They'll probably hold you for the full twenty-four. More if they can find a charge to stick you with. "

  "I don't have time for that," I said.

  "Then you've got to get scarce," Murphy said. "And I've got to go. Neither of us will be helped if we're seen together. "

  "Son of a bitch," I snarled. "I am going to throw Rudolph halfway across Lake Michigan and see if the slimy little turd floats. "

  "I'll bring the lead weights," Murphy said. She drew the amulet I'd made to let her past my apartment's magical defenses from her shirt and showed it to me. "Hopefully I won't be able to find you. Get in touch with me when you need my help, huh?"

  "Murph," I said. "If the authorities are getting set to come down on me . . . you can't be around. "

  Her eyebrows climbed a tiny fraction. It was a danger signal. "Excuse me?" she said politely.

  "It's already going to look bad enough, we've worked together so much. If you're actually abetting me now . . . they won't let you keep your badge. You know they won't. And they might do even more than that. You could wind up in jail. "

  The subliminal angry tension in her abruptly vanished. "God, Dresden. You are a simp. "

  I blinked at her.

  "If I go with you," she said, "I could wind up in the ground. That didn't seem to worry you. "

  "Well," I said. "I . . . "

  "I choose my battles, Dresden. Not you. " She looked up at me calmly. "Let me put this in terms that will get through your skull: My friend is going to save a child from monsters. I'm going with him. That's what friends do, Harry. "

  I nodded and was silent for several seconds. Then I said, "I know you, Karrin. For you, dying in a good fight would not be a terrible end. You've known it was possible, and you've prepared yourself for it. " I took a deep breath. "But . . . if they took your shield away . . . I know what your job means to you. You'd die by inches. I don't think I could handle watching that happen. "

  "So you get to choose to shut me out? What I want doesn't count?"

  "I don't know," I said. "Maybe. "

  "And you're the one who decides?"

  I thought about it for a moment. Then I said, "No. "

  She nodded. "Good answer. " She touched her fingertips to the shape of her amulet under her T-shirt. "Call. "

  "I will. Maybe by messenger, but I will. "

  "It's occurred to me that someone who wanted to make you suffer might start pulling the trigger on your friends. How do I verify the message?"

  I shook my head. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure that even here, in my own home, I couldn't be too careful about being overheard. My apartment was blanketed in protective magic, but there were plenty of people (and not-people) who were stronger, more experienced, or wilier than me. "If I have to send a messenger, I'll make sure you know who it's from. "

  Murphy watched me answer. Then she glanced slowly around the room, as if looking for an unseen observer, and nodded her understanding. "All right. Don't stay here long, Harry. "

  "Yeah," I said. "Don't worry about me, Murph. "

  She made a face. "I'm not worried about just you. You've got at least one gun stashed here, and I'm betting there's more illegal material in the lab. If they like you for a suspect, they'll get a warrant. And the FBI, as far as I know, doesn't have any amulets to get them in here alive. "

  I groaned aloud. Murph was right. I had a couple of illegal weapons in my apartment. The Swords were still in the lab, too. Plus some miscellaneous material that the government probably w
ouldn't want me owning, including depleted uranium dust, for when the answer to "Who you gonna call?" turns out to be "Harry Dresden. "

  The wards that protected my apartment were going to be an issue as well. They wouldn't do anything if someone walked up and knocked on the door, or even if they fiddled with the doorknob - but anyone who tried to force the door open was in for a shock. About seventy thousand volts of shock, in fact, thanks to the defenses I'd put in place around my door. The lightning was savage, but it was only the first layer of the defense. It hadn't been so terribly long since an army of zombies tore their way into my living room, and I wasn't going to repeat the experience.

  But my wards wouldn't have any way of differentiating between a zombie or a crazed vampire or a misguided FBI agent. They simply reacted to someone forcing his way inside. I'd have to deactivate the wards before someone got hurt. Then I'd have to remove any suspect gear from the house.

  Hell's bells. Like I didn't have enough on my mind. I rubbed my thumb against the spot between my eyebrows where the headache was forming. "I did not need this on top of everything else. Which is why she did it. "

  "Why who did what?"

  "Duchess Arianna of the Red Court," I said. I filled Murphy in on my day.

  "That's out of character, isn't it?" Murphy asked. "I mean, for them to do something this obtrusive? Blowing up a building?"

  "They did similar things several times during the war," I said. "She was making a statement. Blowing up my place of business right in front of God and everybody, the same way the wizards took out her husband's command post in Honduras. Plus she's diverting my attention and energy, yanking more potential support out from under me. "

  Murphy shook her head. "She's so clever she's making a mistake. "


  "Yeah. If she was all that smart, she would have blown you to pieces in your office. "

  I nodded. "Yeah. That's the most practical way. "

  "So why didn't she?"

  "Figure she wants to inflict the maximum amount of pain she can before she gets rid of me. "

  Murphy lifted her eyebrows. "For vengeance? That's . . . kind of like a bad movie script, isn't it?" She put on a faint British accent. "No, Mr. Dresden. I expect you to die. "

  I grunted. Murphy had a point. Duchess Arianna almost couldn't have been the sort to enjoy indulging her sadistic side at the expense of practicality. You don't survive millennia as a vampire without being deadly cold-blooded.

  Which meant . . .

  "There's something else at work here," I said. "Some other game going on. "

  Murphy nodded. "How sure are you that Susan is being straight with you?"

  "Pretty sure," I said. It sounded a little hollow, even to me.

  Murphy's mouth twisted up into a bitter curl. "That's what I thought. You loved her. Makes it easy to manipulate you. "

  "Susan wouldn't do that," I said.

  "I hope not," Murphy replied. "But . . . she's been gone awhile, Harry. Fighting a war, from the sounds of it. That's enough to change anyone, and not for the better. "

  I shook my head slowly and said, "Not Susan. "

  Murphy shrugged. "Harry . . . I've got a bad feeling that . . . " She scrunched up her nose, choosing her words. "I've got a bad feeling that the wheels are about to come off. "

  "What do you mean?"

  She shrugged. "Just . . . the building blowing up is all over the news. You can't find an anchor talking about anything else. People are screaming about terrorists. The whole situation is gaining more attention from higher up in the government than anything else I've ever seen. You say that most of the White Council has been effectively placed under the control of this Cristos person. Now the upper ranks of the Red Court are getting involved, too, and from what you tell me everyone is reaching for their guns. " She spread her hands. "It's . . . it's like the Cuban missile crisis. Everyone's at the edge. "

  Hell's bells. Murphy was right. The supernatural world was standing at the edge - and it was one hell of a long way down to the war of annihilation at the bottom.

  I took a slow breath, thinking. Then I said, "I don't care about that. "

  Murphy's golden eyebrows went up.

  "I'm not responsible for everyone else in the world, Murph. I'm going to find a little girl and take her somewhere safe. That's all. The rest of the world can manage without me. "

  "What if that's the last straw, Harry? The little girl. What will you do then?"

  I growled as a column of pure rage rose up my spine and made my voice rough. "I will make Maggie safe. If the world burns because of that, then so be it. Me and the kid will roast some marshmallows. "

  Murphy watched me thoughtfully for several empty seconds. Then she said, very gently, "You're a good man, Harry. "

  I swallowed and bowed my head, made humble by the tone of her voice and the expression on her face, more than the words themselves.

  "Not always rational," she said, smiling. "But you're the best kind of crazy. "

  "Thank you, Karrin. "

  She reached out and squeezed my arm once. "I should go. Call me. "

  "I will. "

  She left a moment later and I began sanitizing my apartment for government scrutiny. It would take me a little precious time, but being locked in a cage would take even more. I was still tucking away the last of my contraband when there was a knock at the door. I froze. After a moment, the knock was repeated.

  "Harry Dresden!" called a man's voice. "This is Special Agent Tilly of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have a warrant to search this property and detain its occupants for questioning regarding last night's explosion. If you do not open this door, we will be forced to break it down. "