Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Fool Moon, Page 4

Jim Butcher

Chapter 4

  "Jail?" I said. "Jail? Hell, Murphy. Were you planning on mentioning this to me anytime soon?"

  She shot me an irritated scowl, headlights of cars going the opposite way on the highway flaring across her face. "Don't even start with me, Harry. I've had a long month. "

  A dozen questions tried to fight their way out of my mouth. The one that ended up winning was, "Why didn't you call me in on the other killings, last month?"

  Murphy turned her eyes back to the road. "I wanted to. Believe me. But I couldn't. Internal Affairs started riding me about what happened with Marcone and Victor Sells last spring. Someone got the idea that I was in cahoots with Marcone. That I helped to murder one of his competitors and took out the ThreeEye drug ring. And so they were poking around pretty hard. "

  I felt an abrupt twinge of guilt. "Because I was on the scene. You had that warrant out for me and then had it rescinded. And then there were all those rumors about me and Marcone, after the whole thing was over . . . "

  Murphy's lips compressed, and she nodded. "Yeah. "

  "And if you'd have tried to tell me about it, it would have been throwing gasoline on the fire. " I rubbed at my forehead. And it would have gotten me looked at harder, too, by whoever was investigating Murphy. She had been protecting me. I hadn't even considered what those rumors Marcone had spread might do to anyone besides myself. Way to go, Harry.

  "One thing you're not is stupid, Dresden," she confirmed. "A little naive, sometimes, but never stupid. IA couldn't turn anything up, but there are enough people who are certain I'm dirty that, along with the people who already don't like me, they can screw me over pretty hard, given the chance. "

  "That's why you didn't make an issue out of what Agent Benn did," I guessed. "You're trying to keep everything quiet. "

  "Right," Murphy said. "I'd get ripped open from ass to ears if IA got word of me so much as bending the rules, much less tussling with one of the bureau's agents. Believe me, Denton might look like a jerk, but at least he isn't convinced that I'm dirty. He'll play fair. "

  "And this is where the killings come in. Right?"

  Instead of answering, she cut into the slow lane and slowed to a leisurely pace. I half turned toward her in my seat, to watch her. It was while I did this that I noticed the headlights of another car drift across a couple lanes of traffic to drop into the slow lane behind us. I didn't say anything about it to Murphy, but kept a corner of my eye on the car.

  "Right," Murphy said. "The Lobo killings. They started last month, one night before the full moon. We had a couple of gangbangers torn to pieces down at Rainbow Beach. At first, everyone figured it for an animal attack. Bizarre, but who knew, right? Anyway, it was weird, so they handed the investigation to me. "

  "All right," I said. "What happened then?"

  "The next night, it was a little old lady walking past Washington Park. Killed the same way. And it just wasn't right, you know? Our forensics guys hadn't turned up anything useful, so I asked in the FBI. They've got access to resources I can't always get to. High-tech forensics labs, that kind of thing. "

  "And you let the djinni out of the bottle," I guessed.

  "Something like that. FBI forensics, that redheaded kid with them, turned up some irregularities in the apparent dentition of the attackers. Said that the tooth marks didn't match genuine wolves or dogs. Said that the paw prints we found were off, too. Didn't match real wolves. " She gave a little shudder and said, "That's when I started thinking it might be something else. You know? They figured that someone was trying to make it look like a wolf attack. With this whole wolf motif, someone started calling the perpetrator the Lobo killer. "

  I nodded, frowning. The headlights were still behind us. "Just a crazy thought: Have you considered telling them the truth? That we might be dealing with a werewolf here?"

  Murphy sneered. "Not a chance. They hire conservatives for jobs at the bureau. People who don't believe in ghosts and goblins and all that crap out there that I come to you about. They said that the murders must have been done by some sort of cult or pack of psychos. That they must have furnished themselves with weapons made out of wolf teeth and nails. Left symbolic paw prints around. That's why all the marks and tracks were off. I got Carmichael to check up on you, but your answering service said you were in Minnesota on a call. "

  "Yeah. Someone saw something in a lake," I confirmed. "What happened after that?"

  "All hell broke loose. Three bums in Burnham Park, the next night, and they weren't just dead, they were shredded. Worse than that guy tonight. And on the last night of the full moon, an old man outside a liquor store. Then the night after that, we had a businessman and his driver torn up in a parking garage. IA was right there breathing down my neck the whole time, too. Observing everything. " She shook her head with a grimace.

  "That last victim. All the others were outside, and in a bad part of town. Businessman in a parking garage doesn't fit that pattern. "

  "Yeah," Murphy said. "James Harding III. One of the last of the red-hot industrialists. He and John Marcone are business partners in some development projects up in the Northwest. "

  "And tonight, we have another victim linked to Marcone. "

  "Yeah. " Murphy nodded. "I'm not sure what's scarier. Thinking that these are just regular animal attacks, that they're being done by a bunch of psychos with knives edged with wolf teeth, or that they're organized werewolves. " She let out a strained little laugh. "That still sounds crazy, even to me. Yes, Your Honor, the victim was killed by a werewolf. "

  "Let me guess. After the full moon it got quiet. "

  Murphy nodded. "IA wrapped up with inconclusive findings, and nothing much else happened. No one else died. Until tonight. And we've got four more nights of bright moonlight left, if whoever they are sticks to their pattern. "

  "You sure there's more than one?" I asked.

  "Yeah," Murphy said. "There's bite marks, or bitelike marks, according to Agent Denton, from at least three different weapons. As far as all the lab guys are concerned, it could be multiple perpetrators, but there's no way for forensics to be sure. "

  "Unless it's real werewolves we're dealing with. In which case each set of marks goes with a different set of teeth, and we're looking at a pack. "

  Murphy nodded. "But there's no way I'm going to just come out and tell them that. That would put the nails in my career's coffin. "

  "Uh-huh," I said. "This is the part where you tell me about your job being in danger. "

  She grimaced. "They only need a good reason to get rid of me, now. If I don't catch these guys, whoever they are, politics will hang me out to dry. After that, it'll be simple for them to get some charges going on me for complicity or obstruction. And they'll probably try to get to you, too. Harry, we've got to catch the killer, or killers. Or I'm history. "

  "You ever get any blood or hair from the scenes?" I asked.

  "Yeah, some," Murphy said.

  "What about saliva?"

  Murph frowned at me.

  "Saliva. It would be in the bite wounds. "

  She shook her head. "If they've found it, no one has said anything. Besides, all the samples won't do us a lot of good without a suspect to match them against. "

  "It won't do you a lot of good," I corrected her. "Something left blood on the window when it came through. Maybe that'll turn something up. "

  Murphy nodded. "That would be great. Okay, Harry. So you know what's going on now. What can you tell me about werewolves?"

  I pursed my lips for a minute. "Not much. They weren't ever anything I studied too hard. I can tell you what they're not, mostly. Give me until morning, though, and I'll put together a full report on them. " I glanced out the back window as Murphy pulled off the JFK Expressway. The car that I thought had been following us exited as we did.

  Murphy frowned. "Morning? Can you do it any sooner?"

  "I can have it on your desk by eight. Earlier, if you tell
the night sergeant to let me in. "

  Murphy sighed and rubbed at her eyes. "Okay. Fine. " We got back to McAnally's, and she pulled in next to the Blue Beetle. Behind us, the car that had been following us also came into the parking lot. "Jesus, Harry. I can't believe I'm sitting here talking to you about werewolves killing people in downtown Chicago. " She turned her face to me, her eyes anxious. "Tell me I'm not going nuts. "

  I got out of the car, but leaned down to the window. "I don't think you're going nuts, Murph. I don't know. Maybe the FBI is right. Maybe it's not werewolves. Crazy things happen sometimes. " I gave her half of a smile, which she answered with a faint snort.

  "I'll probably be in my office, Dresden," she said. "Have that report on my desk by morning. "

  And then she pulled out of the parking lot, turning quickly out onto the street. I didn't get into the Beetle. Instead, I watched the car that had followed us into the parking lot. It cruised around the far side of the lot, then started down the row, toward me, and kept on going.

  The driver, a striking woman with shaggy, dark brown hair, peppered with grey, did not turn to look at me as she went past.

  I watched the car go, frowning. It left the lot, turning the opposite way Murphy had, and vanished from sight. Had that been the same vehicle that had followed us down the JFK? Or had it only been my imagination? My gut told me that the woman in the car had been following me, but then again, my instincts had cried wolf before.

  I got into the Blue Beetle and thought for a minute. I was feeling guilty and a little queasy still. It was my fault Murphy had gotten in trouble. I had put her in the middle of extremely questionable circumstances by not telling her what was going on last spring. The pressure she was under now was my responsibility.

  I have what might be considered a very out-of-date and chauvinist attitude about women. I like to treat women like ladies. I like to open doors for them, pay for the meal when I'm on a date, bring flowers, draw out their seat for them - all that sort of thing. I guess I could call it an attitude of chivalry, if I thought more of myself. Whatever you called it, Murphy was a lady in distress. And since I had put her there, it only seemed right that I should get her out of trouble, too.

  That wasn't the only reason I wanted to stop the killings. Seeing Spike torn up like that had scared the hell out of me. I was still shaking a little, a pure and primitive reaction to a very primal fear. I did not want to get eaten by an animal, chewed up by something with a lot of sharp teeth. The very thought of that made me curl up on my car's seat and hug my knees to my chest, an awkward position considering my height and the comparatively cramped confines of the Beetle.

  What had happened to Spike was as brutal and violent a death as anyone could possibly have. Maybe the thug had deserved it. Maybe not. Either way, he was only one victim of many that had been torn apart by something that regular people shouldn't have to face. I couldn't just stand aside and do nothing.

  I'm a wizard. That means I have power, and power and responsibility go hand in hand. I have a responsibility to use the power I've been given, when there is a need for it. The FBI was not in any sense prepared to deal with a pack of ravening werewolves stalking down victims in the midst of a Chicago autumn. That was more my department.

  I let out a long breath and sat up again. I reached into my duster's pocket for car keys, and found the shard of glass wrapped up in my white handkerchief.

  I unwrapped it slowly and found the blood-smeared glass still there.

  Blood has a kind of power. I could use the blood, cast a spell that would let me follow the blood back to the person who had spilled it. I could find the killer tonight, simply let my magic lead me to him, or them. But it would have to be now. The blood was almost dry, and once it was, I would have a hell of a lot more trouble using it.

  Murphy would be royally pissed if I took off without her. She would probably assume that I had intended to follow the trail tonight, purposely leaving her out of the loop. But if I didn't follow the trail, I'd lose the chance to stop the killer before another night fell.

  It didn't take me long to make up my mind. In the end, saving lives was more important than keeping Murphy from being pissed off at me.

  So I got out of the Beetle and opened the storage trunk at the front of the VW. I took out a few wizardly implements: my blasting rod, the replacement for my shield bracelet, and one other thing that no wizard should be without. A Smith and Wesson. 38 Chief's Special.

  I carried all of these back to the front of the car with me and got out the shard of glass with smeared blood.

  Then I made with the magic.