n the sequel to The Hazards of Working SI, Harry and John's friends begin meeting up for weekly venting sessions. However, this has drawn the attention of Murphy's superiors, so they send someone t...
I’ve never doubted that Lieutenant Murphy is a good cop; she catches the bad guys and her arrests stick, unless they’re someone under Gentleman John’s payroll, or, more recently, Gentleman John himself. And I guess that’s where the problems lie, or at least a few of them, though I haven’t met a cop yet who could make an arrest of one of Johnny’s people stick, no matter how good they were. Marcone’s a special case in this city, I guess.
Murphy was being seen with a lot of people from Marcone’s organization, and not just seen with them, but seen going to their apartments and staying for hours, coming out looking dizzy and calling a cab, sometimes even leaving her bike in front of their buildings. It was, obviously, suspicious, and I, being just high enough on the ladder to get stakeout work but not quite high enough to get exciting stakeout work, was elected to investigate it. I still say the only reason anyone gave a damn was because my direct superior, some guy named Rudolph, had this weird hard-on for the prospect of getting her fired. Anyway, it was a pretty normal day, one with clear skies and only a little wind, when I followed her from SI headquarters and to her usual after work hangout, the house of one notorious mob enforcer, Nathan Hendricks. And I’ll tell you now, it was no easy task setting myself up beneath his living room window in a place where I could both see, and faintly hear, what was going on.
I did manage it, though; I’ve always considered myself a good cop too, you know? But I didn’t expect what happened next. Probably no one would have, it was so ridiculous. And this is coming from a guy who didn’t even know what he was expecting going into this.
“You want the usual, Murph?” Hendricks asked, standing from his couch and stretching, his head bending from one side to the other on his thick neck as he stretched. Murphy shrugged off her jacket and tossed it over one of his chairs with a nod before she dropped like a stone onto his couch.
“Yeah. Maybe with an extra shot today.” He snorted and wandered into his kitchen before he came back with two impressively large glasses, one filled with something close to black and the other filled with a warm amber. He handed the dark one to her, and she immediately put it to her lips and tipped it back, downing a good fourth of it in one go.
“Damn. What’d he do today?” She settled the glass on the table before her and rubbed her temples as Hendricks sipped at his own drink.
“You haven’t heard yet? Dresden had the fucking brilliant idea to go out of town last week, managed to get all the way to New York before he thought to goddamn call me, and you know what he did? The dumbass managed to piss off their outfit because oh, well, of course he had to barge into that deal! There was a pixie in there with a broken leg and he owed Toot-Toot a favor. Can you believe that? A pixie. With a broken leg. It’s like the plot of a shitty fantasy TV show.” She snatched the drink from the counter and took another gulp, the glass now drained halfway.
Hendricks looked caught between hilarity and frustration, and I could tell at the sight of it that that particular look got used really often.
“Man. Boss is gonna be pissed when he gets that call. He’s already been having to clean up Dresden’s messes with other syndicates just in town. Dresden was yelling about not being some girl with a damsel in distress disorder and need to be defended from all the ills of the world just last week, all while Boss was yelling back that he was only doing it because he loved him and he doesn’t want to see him get dead and that yes, he knows that he can protect himself, he just wants to help.” Murphy nodded.
“I heard, and I’ll give you three guesses why he just left without telling anybody in the first place.” Hendricks blinked, slow, as if he couldn’t even believe what foolishness he was hearing, and downed his whole glass. Murphy nodded and did the same in response.
“I… I really hate you, you know that?” he asked, standing to walk back into the kitchen. He came back with a very large armful of bottles, which he then arranged neatly on the table in front of them. Murphy laughed.
“Me? What the hell did I do?”
“You’re the one who got them together. Christ, I never thought I’d say this, but I liked him better pining.” Murphy rolled her eyes, filling her glass thoughtlessly, and Hendricks followed her lead.
“It would’ve happened eventually even if I’d left it alone. Besides, what was I supposed to do? When the fucking mob boss starts flashing puppy eyes, it’s time to take action.” Hendricks huffed into his drink.
“Yeah, well, you’re not the one who has to deal with him on the day to day. Hendricks, get Harry on the line for me. Hendricks, do you think this suit is nice enough for my date with Harry? Hendricks, I know it’s your night off, but would you mind cancelling all of your plans and stalking Harry for me because I think he might be wearing a different brand of fucking socks and obviously that means he’s about to dump my ass.” Murphy howled with laughter, then shook her head.
“Maybe so, but you’re not the one who has to listen to Harry complain about all of that. Murphy, Marcone won’t quit calling me, can you go, I don’t know, have his phone disconnected? Murphy, how come Marcone keeps showing off his suits? Murphy, go punch Cujo for me; Marcone has him on my ass again. Oh, or my favorite of this week! Murphy, some guy from the FBI tried to wiretap my phone yesterday. Can you please tell Marcone to stop being such a criminal scumbag so I don’t get subpoenaed?” Hendricks flinched as she finished downing another glass.
“Goddamn. We’re both gonna need AA by the end of this shit, aren’t we?” Murphy snorted.
“Probably, and your boss is paying for the support network.”
“Hey, Dresden’s gotta foot at least some of the bill too.” That had Murphy doubling over with laughter, the drink she was pouring sloshing around in the glass, a little splattering on the floor and the table.
“Dresden, help pay? Are you serious? I mean, have you seen his back account? I bet the ATM lets out a little puff of dust whenever he looks in it.” Hendricks looked pained.
“Not anymore. Boss has me deposit a weekly allowance. Tell him that his birthday is a really shitty PIN number, by the way.” Murphy blinked really slowly now instead of Hendricks as he downed his own drink.
“Goddamn,” she said, copying Hendricks yet again as her drink disappeared.
From there on, they did much the same, complaining about the same two men and drinking. I took notes and recorded until I figured I’d heard all I was going to hear and went back to my car to wait until Murphy stumbled from the house, called a cab, and left.
I say again, with all I could’ve imagined was happening, no way had I expected that.
The next day, I brought the tapes and the notes to Rudolph, him looking way too excited and me feeling honestly a little nervous at knowing I would have to disappoint him with what I’d found.
“Did you get her?” he asked, and I shifted.
“About that. See, she’s just getting drunk with the guy. Really, really drunk. Shit-faced. Sloshed. Three sheets to the wind. And, uh, I think they have a really good reason for it, honestly; you ever heard of a guy named Dresden?” Rudolph looked pissed, just, immediately. As soon as I said the name, it was like flipping a switch.
“Er, yeah. I guess. Apparently he and Marcone are doing some kind of dance and making everyone around them go insane and require a lot of liquor.” Rudolph stared at me, hard. I shifted a little where I stood because little though he was, my job kind of depended on him; I knew the people in SI worked hard and all, but I really didn’t want to end up down there.
“Murphy will be going there again next week, as always. You’ll be following her again then to find out what’s really going on.” I nodded and left. At least, I guessed, I still had a job. That was always a bonus. What was not so much of a bonus was that I, being a probably very expendable grunt cop, had to agree and leave to play the waiting game, during which time period I was given an addendum to that order stating that I was pulling this shit until I got something incriminating. I assume this particular post-it note to my duties came about after Rudolph listened to the tapes and realized that they weren’t doing anything incriminating.
Anyhow, when the week passed by, I found that tailing Murphy’s bike to Hendricks’ house was just as easy as before, but when I arrived this time there was already an extra car, one I didn’t recognize, parked in front. Obviously this wasn’t strange, though, because she just parked as before and went inside. From then, I just crept back to my spot under the window and set myself up as I had the week before.
Two new people could be seen inside, one a tall, blonde woman who I knew worked for Marcone with Hendricks and the other a rabbit-y looking man with wiry black hair and thin-framed glasses who I assumed owned the unrecognized car.
“Hey, Murph; glad you could make it,” Hendricks said with a slight wave, although it probably wasn’t the easiest action in the world considering the arm he waved with was draped over blondie’s shoulders.
“Wouldn’t miss it. How’ve you been, Butters?” The little guy looked suddenly really depressed and faintly ill.
“I don’t drink often, but where’s the alcohol?” he asked pathetically, and Hendricks once more entered the kitchen and returned only to set up his impressive array of booze. Butters poured himself a tall glass of something clear and knocked a good gulp back.
“Better?” Murphy asked, settling down and pouring herself a drink as Hendricks and the blonde did.
“Yeah. Alright, I’ve got to tell you something,” he said, and everybody waved him on. “So, Harry got hurt. I know, I know, like usual. So he and Marcone dropped by the mortuary, and Harry jumped on the table, like always, stripped his shirt off and showed me where he’d been punctured this time, and I’d only just gotten over there and started looking at the wound when Marcone was right there,” he paused to put his hand right beside his face, “And I swear, he growled at me!” Blondie laughed.
“You don’t touch a tiger’s mate without his permission,” she said, and Hendricks rolled his eyes.
“Gard, I love you, I do, but if you think they’re so damn cute, why do you even come to these things?” She laughed.
“Your frustration amuses me.” Murphy snorted.
“Valkyries.” Gard smirked.
“I could say the same of mortals.” Butters took another deep drink.
“No, no, that isn’t even the worst of it! Murphy, you know how long I’ve been working on Harry, right? I don’t exactly like working on living people, but I haven’t killed him yet; I know how to stitch up a wound. But Marcone just stood there. Did you anaesthetize the area first? Is everything sanitized? You did clean the wound, right? Like he’s the one with medical training!” Another gulp, and the poor guy, apparently a lightweight, started swaying. Hendricks was doing his best to hide his laughter while Murphy had no such courtesy.
“Man, Marcone’s lucky Harry was too doped to realize what he was doing!”
“I know,” Hendricks said, “I still had to listen to him bitch when I got home, though. Hendricks, the mortician is too rough with him; too used to dead bodies instead of living him. Find Harry an actual doctor who knows how to deal with his technological issues.” Marcone and that Dresden guy had to be insane. There was no other explanation for these conversations, none at all. And they really, really had a reason to get drunk.
“Well of course I wasn’t doing my best work! You wouldn’t either if you had someone staring over your shoulder like you were the biggest failure on the planet! And he’s good at that look! I mean, does he practice on you or something?” Butters hiccupped and poured himself another drink, his hands wavering so badly that some splashed over the side. Hendricks looked pained.
“I’ll pour for you from now on. And, no, he doesn’t practice on me, dumbass; think about what kind of work he does and tell me what kind of expression you think he has to put on with a whole hell of a lot of people.” Butter blinked slowly, Murphy’s eyes flashing with amusement, and Gard sighed, head shaking.
“Um… yes?” he tried, eyes hazy, and Hendricks just shook his head.
“Butters, you don’t even know the half of what gets said about you, you know. Harry tells me all the time about how much Marcone whines about you. He always talks about how Marcone yells that you want to fuck him, but then, Marcone is pretty sure that everyone wants to fuck Harry, the way Harry tells it.” Hendricks nodded, almost painfully depressed.
“He once told me about a barista that he thought was making eyes at that skinny asshole. Christ, I thought I’d end up having to get the whole damn coffee shop shut down for that.” Murphy nodded sagely.
“I know; it’s only been recently that I’ve gotten his stupid ass to realize that if I wanted to fuck Dresden, why in hell would I have helped him get with Dresden, but for all he’s good at the whole crime thing, I’m pretty sure the simple reasoning thing is over his head.” Gard and Hendricks both looked like they were valiantly fighting laughter as Butters keeled over with it, his pale face flushing bright pink.
“Don’t insult my boss, ass,” Hendricks said, but the smirk on his face and the periodic giggles escaping his throat told the truth of his feelings on the matter. Murphy grinned and knocked her drink back.
“Like you don’t?” He shrugged.
“It’s different. When you know someone as well as I know him, you’re allowed to be an ass to them sometimes. Like you are to Dresden.” She nodded thoughtfully.
“Granted,” she told him, and then sighed. “You know what happened yesterday? Harry fell on his ass in HQ, right? Because he’s a klutzy Wizard for reasons no one can accurately explain. And, of course, he cracked his head on the wall going down, for once avoiding a concussion. Still, I bet you can’t guess what happened about an hour after he left.” Gard grinned.
“Mr. Marcone called.” She looked far too pleased by that fact, honestly. Murphy nodded, refilled her drink, and knocked it back again. Butters was still giggling and murmuring incoherently.
“Yeah. And the bastard yelled at me, like I can do anything about that clumsy dumbass tripping on thin air! I mean, what, am I supposed to pad the whole damn office? The asshole is insane, like, I’m not even kidding! Insane! And I thought Dresden himself was bad.” Hendricks snuffled.
“Yeah, well, Dresden isn’t a walk in the park either. The house used to stay clean, but no, he insists on leaving his clothes scattered everywhere, and on making himself lunch instead of asking the cook to do it and therefore making it so no one else can ever find anything in the kitchen anymore, and let’s not mention how much time I have to spend now keeping him from becoming bullet riddled.” And on and on, just like before. That day I stayed and watched Murphy cart Butters out, the two of them leaning on each other and walking like they were on a slalom course that no one else could see. I still wonder how the cab company was able to understand the address Murphy spouted off through her slurring, but maybe they just recognized the voice and knew where she’d be.
The next week was much the same; Murphy left, I followed her and set myself up under the window. That day, though, another new addition to the party had been added in the form of a young-ish girl with cotton candy hair and artfully tattered clothes. She sat by Butters, her legs crossed in front of her, and gestured expansively as Murphy entered, last as was apparently usual.
“Molly?” she asked, and the girl nodded.
“Butters invited me. He said I could complain however much I wanted here about Marcone.” Murphy blinked and shrugged.
“Just as long as you don’t drink. Michael and Harry both would have my head, not to mention your mom.” The girl rolled her eyes, still smiling faintly, and held up a glass filled with pinkish liquid.
“Shirley Temple; Hendricks makes a mean one.” Murphy laughed and nodded as she settled herself in her usual seat.
“Alright. Well, Molly, newbies get to go first, so have at it.” She nodded, took a breath, and that was when I got to wonder just exactly how much oxygen the human lungs could possibly hold.
“Well, for starters, how is Harry going out with such a jerk? I mean, it’s not like he doesn’t get better offers! You know, actual good, nice people! He always gets into arguments with my mom, too, whenever they come over for dinner. She gets all… well, you know my mom. She gets all my mom on him, and he gets this look on his face, like, dangerous. But then he is dangerous. No one ever tells me much about him, but I know who he is, and I know he’s dangerous; he just normally hides it better than he does in those moments.” Hendricks leaned his head back, laughter mixing with liquor on his lips.
“Man, you don’t know the half of it. Boss can’t decide if he admires your mom or hates her, honestly. He likes that she looks after Harry, mothers him, even if she doesn’t like to admit that she does it, even when she yells at him and does the nearest thing to cussing him out she can bring herself to do. And then she does her thing where she tacitly suggests that Boss is scum on her shoes, not worthy of being in Harry’s life, corrupting. Your parents both care about Harry, you know? In different ways, but. Yeah. I mean, I’m probably not qualified to talk about it, but what I’ve seen… I do philosophy, not psychology, but I know people. They both love his stupid ass. Hell, I think everyone does, when they get to know him. Something about him, I guess, I don’t know. Still, Boss loves him too. I’m not drunk enough, gimme a minute.” He knocked one back, Murphy and Butters did the same, and Gard laughed and poured them all another. The girl, Molly, glared up at the ceiling and sipped her own drink.
“Well, yeah, I knew that already. But why him? Harry always acted like he hated him. I liked that better. He’s such an asshole, and Harry gets in enough trouble on his own.” Murphy chortled where she sat, and Butters, getting well on his way to drunk again, was giggling mindlessly.
“Partly my fault, I guess. I got the double dumbasses together. Got tired of the pining, and the tantrums, and the godforsaken tension. Besides, I can at least say that Marcone stops him from trying to kill his stupid ass self quite as often.” Molly snorted.
“Except when Harry’s saving Marcone. The idiot shoved him out of the way of a bullet the other day. I was with them, but Harry didn’t notice me there until I pulled a rave to give him a chance to get a good shot in. I found the squished bullet stuck in a fold in his coat, when he brought me to his apartment for a lesson afterwards.” Butters flinched.
“He’s lucky. He’s always lucky though, isn’t he? He’s come to me with injuries that would have anyone else screaming or crying and he just… he grins, or he laughs. Even when he’s flinching. I’ve seen him with a three inch long gash in his side, deep, bleeding like crazy, almost unconscious, and he was still flinging fire like a madman. Marcone was the one shoving him out of the way, then. Hard, snarling. He looks like… like what people say he is, when he looks like that. Then Harry just got up, got up like he hadn’t just gotten put down by a guy with twice his width, all of it muscle, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him laugh that loud. He and Marcone argued after that, but I think sometimes they communicate by arguing. Then, when I was patching the both of them up, they just stopped and smiled at each other. I left the room and when I came up they were talking, quiet. They both looked so… calm. Happy. Almost domestic, if I thought words like that applied to guys like them. They kissed each other before they saw me there, and not like how couples in the movies usually seem to kiss. It wasn’t passionate, or sexual, or wild, or anything like that. It was chaste, sweet. I had a crush on this girl, in elementary school, and when we were in third grade she brought me behind the slide and gave me a kiss. The one they were sharing then looked like how that felt.” Murphy grinned.
“Sometimes it’s hard to let them piss you off.”
“And then you remember the stupid shit they pull and it gets a lot easier.” Molly looked down and sighed, then laughed.
“It still worries me. Harry doesn’t… what if he gets hurt?” Hendricks shrugged, but Gard was the one who next spoke.
“Mr. Marcone is risking just as much as Harry by allowing himself to display such vulnerability. He does it because he trusts that Harry can look after himself, that if one of Mr. Marcone’s less merciful enemies happens across him and wants to hurt John by hurting him, he can fight back. He won’t die. So too is he trusting that Harry will not use the vulnerability against him himself. Their relationship is indeed one of trust and concessions. So too must their dear ones learn to trust each other, and their judgment.” Molly paused, looking thoughtful.
“Can I still complain about him when he pisses me off?” Hendricks did bust out laughing at that, and drank again.
“Duh. What the hell do you think I do here, beyond bitch about Dresden’s little snits? Boss can be dumb. Hell, Boss makes me do the little bastard’s laundry, just to make sure that ‘John’s Detergent’ smell doesn’t go anywhere. Dresden’s snits are still the worst, though. Any of you ever heard him when he’s on one of his autonomy fits?” A chorus of resounding positives filled the room. Butters waved a hand wide about the room, cleared his throat, and went into his story.
“Those are definitely the worst times for me.” And here I should probably make the concession that I probably don’t always get all this dialogue right; I mean, they are drunk, after all. A lot of it is done with slurring, and towards the end, when they start getting really drunk, a whole lot of words start sounding like nothing so much as a really drawn-out “s”. “It’s when Marcone really starts glaring at me, like, hard, because Harry comes to me without telling him and whines at me that Marcone’s stuck up his ass and I just know one day I’m going to get brought out to a big black sedan with a bag over my head and there’s gonna be guns and cement and pistol whipping and possibly torture and those are the times that I really wish necromancers didn’t exist. Or just that I remained a totally innocuous little mortician whose superiors hate him.”
“Nah. If Boss ordered that, then Harry would get pissed and he’d be in the doghouse. The doghouse means no hanky-panky. He hates the doghouse.” Butters snorted.
“Glad to know I’m at least worth, like, a whole week without them doing the thing bunnies like to do.” Hendricks shrugged.
“Well, the polka does get kind of annoying after a while.” Butters, wonder of wonders, actually got together enough motor coordination to flip him off.
“Polka never dies!” Murphy shook her head, looking as bemused by all of this as I felt. However, she just took it to mean that she was not at all drunk enough and tipped her head back again with her glass pressed against her lips. Whatever she was drinking that night must’ve been stronger than her usual, though, because she shuddered afterwards.
“Jesus, you two shut up. Never would’ve brought him if I’d have known you two would like each other so damn much. Still, you complain about Harry’s autonomy thing like you’re the one he always bitches to. I mean, it’s every couple of months, like clockwork, he comes to tell me about everything that Marcone’s bought, or Marcone’s offers to let him move in, and all that. And I always have to remind him that if Marcone wanted to buy him, he’d do it with lunches and offers of fairy repellant, not designer shirts and silver rings.”
So everyone started telling their favorite “Harry is not Marcone’s Wizard” stories, ranging from the kind of depressing “he was just so scared that this was going to be the thing that made everyone right about him, that made him evil, and he knows Marcone isn’t evil, not really, he knows he does what he does for all the right reasons but what he does is still wrong and he isn’t always sure he can keep making that compromise. It terrifies him that he loves Marcone and sometimes he just needs the reassurance that loving him is okay” to the idiotically hilarious “and then he just came sulking like a storm cloud into my house, magic making the lights flash, and I’d think something was actually wrong, but then he just says ‘you know what Marcone did today? He bought Mister a scratching post! Can you believe that? A scratching post! I hope he knows that just because my cat thinks he’s the god of all things doesn’t mean I do too.’ And sometimes I just have to laugh at him, you know? And the fact that he looked so serious about it, like this was some world-changing event on par with a giant fairy chess game, just made it better”.
I was pretty sure I had what happened about an hour after that, the process of leaving, down to a science, though, because it went the same as ever except with the addition of a single sober person, although that person was a teenager, so that probably cancelled the whole sober thing out. Anyway, upon them leaving, I did too. Three weeks and I still didn’t have anything to fucking report to Rudolph. I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to change, too. They were all way too drunk to talk about nefarious plots.
When I arrived at my window the next week, Murphy going inside like it was nothing, as always, I began to wonder if Hendricks’ house was becoming the biggest hotspot in town, because three new people sat inside, two women and one man.
They were sitting on the floor in front of the couch, by Molly and Butters’ legs, looking probably more comfortable than they had a right too, but then they were pretty young. Not as young as Molly was, granted, but younger than everyone else in attendance. Somewhere between nineteen and twenty-five, first years of college, all that jazz. Old enough that no one yelled at them when they poured drinks, at least, and one of them, a red head with a softly rounded face and gentle curves, leaned her head back against Butters’ knee. He grinned like he’d just won the lottery, like nothing better could ever happen to him, and she laughed quietly as his hand stroked once through her hair.
Murphy got her own drink and curled into her usual chair (and it must’ve been hers, I decided, because even though she still got here last, even though there was no seating left, it remained empty until she arrived) while everyone else just gave her a quick wave.
“Hey guys,” she said, directing the words to the three on the floor, “Who invited you guys?” The guy grinned, big and jovial, the look of it familiar and comfortable on his face.
“We found an ad in the chat room we set up. Or, I did, I guess. Figured we’d come by and check it out.” Murphy blinked and Hendricks shrugged.
“Thought it’d be the best way to get the word out. Dresden would never find it, for obvious reasons, and Boss hates computers. Born in the wrong time, you know? Never got the hang of them.” Murphy snorted.
“Your house is being overrun by people who want to bitch.” He just shrugged again.
“Your fault. If I start needing a bigger one, I’ll ask you.”
“Like you don’t get paid more in a month than I do in a year, you ass.” Gard smirked at that and crossed her legs at the knee, leaning forward almost conspiratorially.
“I believe there is an expression about that, is there not? Crime pays?” Murphy cackled.
“The expression is ‘crime doesn’t pay’. Which is a nice sentiment, of course, but obviously whoever thought it up never met Marcone and his crew.”
“Oh, shut up,” Hendricks grumbled, almost pouting, and I was pretty sure he’d gotten a head start that day. He took a deep gulp from his cup and the girl who didn’t have red hair, a tall, thin, mousy sort of girl, pretty in an awkward, coltish way, spoke up.
“You’ve been drinking since we showed up. Something on your mind?” The male, Billy, shoved her lightly, teasingly, something caring painting his face.
“Quit psychology-ing him, Georgia. We’re here to have fun.” She shoved him back just as teasingly, with obviously more muscle lining her thin frame than was readily evident because he actually did jerk a little with the force of it.
“Here to vent, more like,” she replied, and he laughed.
“Same thing.” Hendricks sighed, looking miserable and glad to be in range of alcohol. Gard bared her teeth in a wicked sort of smile, something almost animal in her features.
“Nathan has had a very particular run in today. I believe he quite wants to forget about it.” Everyone in the room looked very suddenly horrified, but Molly was the one who finally voiced everyone’s fears.
“You walking in on them fucking?” she asked, voice lilting up into a squeak by the end. Hendricks flinched. Another drink went down his throat, and Gard, apparently a gracious hostess despite it not, as far as I knew, being her house, kept them coming.
“Yeah. Dresden didn’t notice, obviously, but. Yeah. Boss saw me. Been glaring at me ever since, like I saw anything I wanted. Skinny little fuck, legs folded up god knows how, eyes screwed up. Surprisingly not all that noisy, though. Fucking terrifying.” Murphy couldn’t seem to stop laughing, and eventually everybody else found themselves in the same state, unsurprisingly, if I’m honest. I mean, his expression even had me fighting a grin, and I didn’t even know the fucking people.
“That’s far from the worst thing you’ll be dealing with shortly, Nathan. Isn’t Mr. Marcone’s sister coming for a visit next week?” Hendricks looked close to tears. Gard patted him conciliatorily on the back. He dropped his head onto her shoulder and she laughed. Murphy curled her legs into her chair beside her and continued laughing into the rim of her cup.
“Marcone has a sister?” Hendricks gave her a funny look.
“He’s Italian. He’s got three of them, and a brother. Just the one is coming to visit though, thank god.” The red head tilted her head.
“You don’t like his family?” Hendricks gave her this soulless, dead eyed stare that I was pretty sure I needed to learn because I could break, like, so many crooks with that look.
“She’s fine, I guess. It’s how they act when they’re around each other; they bitch and bitch and bitch at each other. ‘Mimi, what in god’s name are you doing here this early? I told you I’d send someone to pick you up.’ ‘Oh, stop with that fake accent, fratellino, you’re not fooling anyone with it. And don’t pretend as if I can’t get to your fucking house from an airport by myself. I don’t need an escort.’ ‘Damn it, Mimi, I’ve told you a hundred times Chicago is dangerous. At least you didn’t bring your husband this time considering-,‘ ‘Oh, shove it, fratellino. What the hell are you wearing anyway?’ And on and on and on. And I can’t imagine having Dresden around to add fuel to the fire.” Billy snickered.
“Her name is actually Mimi? Seriously? And what does fratellino mean?” Hendricks sighed.
“Her name’s Maria, actually. Mimi’s a pet name. And fratellino is baby brother. Next week is going to suck, when she gets here. I’m going to have to cart her all over town just to keep her off John’s ass so he can get something done, and Harry’s going to be painfully curious about the whole thing.” Georgia rolled her eyes.
“Well, maybe if Marcone’s busy with her, he’ll stay off of our turf. We’ve explained that we dealt with things at the school, but I caught one of his people there just last night, on our game night with Harry.” Hendricks shrugged.
“Yeah, well, he wanted to make sure Dresden was alright, mostly. He knows that isn’t his turf, and it makes him antsy. So long as Dresden’s in his fiefdom somewhere, he’s fine, or as fine as he ever is. Just, when he’s on someone else’s, he gets weird.” Billy scratched his head and shrugged.
“Better he send his people there than come himself. Remember that one time Harry brought him to game night? I’m pretty sure he asked why the die needed so many sides if we used different ones for everything anyway at least ten times. He’s really bad at RPing, by the way. Like, no creativity. And he breaks rules worse than Harry. And he refused to listen to me even though I was the game master. ‘No, I disarmed the trap. Why did it kill me? What do you mean I wasn’t a high enough level to disarm it? Why the hell was it there then? Who put it there? What Dark Elf? Why the hell wasn’t it mentioned that the Dark Elf who owned this dungeon was capable of putting down level 35 traps? And why the hell are we here if we aren’t good enough to disarm the traps? Why didn’t we wait? This doesn’t make sense!’.” He used a really high pitched, mocking voice for the part he was quoting, and Georgia’s head landed on his shoulder to muffle her giggles. The red head, too, covered her mouth to hide it, but she did speak up to defend the absent man.
“Oh, come on, Billy; he wasn’t that bad.” He looked at her with big, goggled eyes, probably at least a little exaggerated for the theatrical benefit.
“Seriously, Andi? He questioned every decision I made, like it was some kind of business deal! Because, you know, fantasy is obviously beyond his realm of expertise, jeez.” She shook her head, a vague smile on her face, still leaning against Butters’ leg although he had moved his hand.
“You’re just upset that Harry thought it was funny and sided with him in his overthrow of you as the Game Master.” He blinked, very, very slowly, and smirk curled Georgia’s thin lips, mischief in her eyes. Billy took a deep drink, and then sighed.
“He doesn’t have to overthrow everything.” And so everyone got caught in another laughing fit, including Hendricks, although he looked kind of surprised at himself for it.
“Oh, quit complaining,” Molly attempted through her chuckles, “at least you weren’t the one in Harry’s house with both of them after that particular clusterfuck. Harry tried to give him private lessons and Marcone just glared at everything for a really long time and tried to make his characters based off real people. He used you, by the way, Hendricks. He made you a ranger, by the way. And Gard was a Druid. He totally ships you two, too, which I guess makes sense. Oh, and Murphy too; she was an Ardent.” Butters nodded at that, and I was admittedly pretty lost by that point, but I’m pretty sure everyone in the room except for Butters, the three new people, and Molly were too.
“Yeah, that makes sense. Let me guess, truth was one of her mantles?” She nodded.
“Obviously.” Murphy sighed.
“Will you two please stop geeking all over the place? I get enough of this from Harry. I mean, he tried to bring his character sheets into the precinct before because he wanted to do a ‘total overhaul’. I figure they just kept dying and he wanted better ones.” The three new people nodded, and everyone took a big collective drink. It was surprisingly silent for a little while after that, though, which was pretty new for these kinds of get-togethers, from what I’d seen thus far. Hendricks was the one who finally broke the silence, though.
“We’re all screwed when it comes to those two, aren’t we?” he asked, weirdly contemplating for someone as drunk as he likely was by that point. Murphy nodded, looking accepting.
“Totally and completely. But, hey, at least they’re happy. And we have plenty of booze.” Butters grinned.
“Cheers to that!” he said, raising his glass, and actually got a toast. Which, it was a pretty wavering toast, except for Molly’s part, but it was still a toast. Anyway, I figured that that was that, at that point, and took it as my cue to leave for the day again. I was pretty sure Rudolph was going to tear his hair out whenever he heard these damned tapes. I was also, however, pretty sure that I was going to enjoy it, considering I was getting quite honestly resentful about all the damn sitting under that stupid window. It was hell on my knees.
By the next week, I was basically certain that it would soon be necessary for them to rent out a park to have these little get-togethers because yet another new person was seated in the room, him on a kitchen chair that had been dragged into the room for just such an occasion. Still yet, Murphy entered and got her chair, and gave a wave to everybody. Everyone but Hendricks, who was almost swaying already, returned it. The new guy, tall and overly broad, brown hair just the slightest bit shaggy while his beard was trimmed neatly, looked at the red head worriedly, although Gard waved him off.
“What’s with Hendricks and his head starts lately?” Murphy asked, pouring herself a glass of a clear liquid that I was sure would burn like hell going down. Must’ve been a bad week for everybody, I guessed, because once the party saw her going for it, everyone but the new guy and Molly did the same.
“Mimi visited, remember?” he asked, his stare almost blank, and Gard was hiding what was probably a smile behind her hand.
“Oh, hell. Let me guess, fireworks went off with her and Harry?” Hendricks shook his head.
“Worse. They got along.” Silence reigned again. Everyone gaped.
“Seriously?” Murphy asked, and he nodded.
“Yeah. It was terrible; you should’ve heard them, my god. ‘Fratellino, where were you hiding this absolute darling?’ ‘John, why didn’t you tell me you had actual human beings in your family? I figured they were all robots like you!’ ‘Shall I tell mamma to plan the wedding?’ And it was basically a whole week of that; she just left yesterday. The really bad part was, no one was expecting it. Two personalities that dam big generally result in the explosion we prepped for, but no, they were this close to making friendship bracelets and singing kumbay-fucking-ah. And then there were the times they ganged up on John, which was fucking terrible. Just, so much bitching. Johnny, take better care of yourself. Johnny, take a vacation now and then. Johnny, will you come out of the office for five minutes and talk to us? And, of course, I also got to contend with John being jealous, because wow, my married sister is taking my boyfriend. Hendricks, can you please take her out for a few hours so I can see him at some point this week?” Molly blinked.
“You know, that’s actually almost legitimately impressive. Being jealous of your own sister, seriously? Your apparently happily married sister? That’s… wow. Just, he’s more insane than I thought.” Hendricks didn’t even bother defending him that time. I could understand that pretty well, to tell the truth.
“Be nice, Molly,” the new guy said, though he too was smiling a little. Billy snorted.
“Come on, Michael, live a little. You came here, so obviously you want to complain too. Want a drink?” The man looked pretty amused, but it was a soft kind of amusement rather than the hard sort the others generally seemed to show.
“Something light,” he said, and shortly thereafter a reddish liquid that I assumed was some kind of wine was passed to him. He sipped rather than gulped, but it seemed to loosen his tongue a little nonetheless. “Charity has been rather bothered by the both of them, as I’m sure Molly has mentioned. Mr. Marcone more than Harry, of course. The two of them are… strained, to say the least. Charity doesn’t trust him, fears that Harry will be hurt or worse as a result. It’s the same, I think, as if any of her children fell for the ‘bad boy’. She threatens to poison the man, actually, or to take up my blade against him. It has been years since she’s spoken that way,” he said, smiling a bit. Murphy grinned.
“Methinks Michael has a thing for bad girls, doesn’t he? Besides, you can’t say you haven’t wanted to kill Marcone a time or three with that fancy sword of yours. Hell, I’ve wanted to kill Marcone a time or three with one of those fancy swords.” Molly gagged, and Michael looked thoughtful for a couple of moments.
“It probably wouldn’t take anyway. I’ve noticed that a person’s intentions seem to balance out their actions, with the Holy Swords.” Butters cocked his head.
“I thought they always said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions.” Andi punched him in the shin.
“That’s a human saying, Waldo. Obviously the supernatural isn’t beholden to it. Just like garlic doesn’t actually work on vampires, sort of. Or, at least not all of them.”
“Hey, it basically worked! He was gagging long enough that we were able to get him,” Billy stated, and Georgia sighed.
“We should still stop asking Harry for monster slaying advice when he’s tired.” And why did that conversation sound so normal to me now? I was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to. Wait, scratch that, I was totally positive that that conversation was never ever supposed to sound normal, ever. To anyone. I think I’m getting a contact drunk. Anyway. Murphy rolled her eyes.
“No one should ask Dresden for anything when he’s tired. Cups of requested sugar always seem to end up being salt, you know?” Michael smiled.
“He’s a good friend nonetheless, Karrin. At the very least, one can always be assured that they’ll find a bag of sugar and an apology on their doorstep the next morning. Of course, his foolishness can get rather grating, I will admit. Just two days ago he leapt from a building after a particularly slavering demon, and luckily enough landed on its back.” Molly stared.
“Harry played bucking bronco with a demon? Why didn’t I hear about that? Oh, did you join in or something, dad?” His smile was secretive and teasing, next, and Molly pouted at it.
“Never, honey.” Georgia yawned suddenly and leaned against Billy, who yawned back and threw an arm over her shoulder comfortably. Apparently the harder alcohol they’d been downing that day was hitting them a little harder than their usual stuff.
“I’m more surprised by the fact that he managed to do that without Marcone tagging along,” Murphy said, and Hendricks shrugged.
“That was the day he was taking Mimi to the airport so she could fly back to her city. I promise, Dresden didn’t hear the end of it that night. At least not until about ten, at which point I’m sure you can guess how they decided to fill their time.” Molly gagged again. “Oh, no, not sex. That would’ve been too easy. Movies. One of my guys got to deal with the film reels. He’s talking about quitting if he has to chaperone more dates, but Boss is just going to end up giving him a raise, a personal thank you, and possibly a cruise for him and his wife. And so the cycle goes on. That ass is going to be making more than me in a couple of years, as if he deserves it. He only loses a few hours a week; I lose my whole damn week with those two.” Murphy sniffed.
“You’re such a bitch, Hendricks,” she said, and he just shrugged.
“Never claimed I wasn’t. Besides, I’m drunk.”
“Excuses, excuses,” Butters said with a grin, and Gard nodded.
“Indeed. It is not so bad, is it? They’re quite funny, when they’re being sweet.” Murphy nodded, a positively evil expression on her face.
“I know, right? Come on, Hendricks, how could you deny the sight of Marcone nuzzling Harry like the sweet little pussycat he is? Or them when they’re in a good mood and just curling up on the couch together talking? Or Harry when he gives John some kind of talisman or charm or anything?” Hendricks glared.
“Yeah, well, that’s all fine and dandy, but you’re forgetting all of John’s god-awful pet names, in English and Italian, and you’re forgetting Harry’s need to drape the whole house in so many wards that you need about twenty-seven charms to get inside without triggering something, and of course there’s the issue with the damn dog and cat forming an impenetrable wall around them at basically every part of the day whenever Dresden’s in the house.”
“But cutely,” Andi said, grinning, and everyone else nodded. I’m pretty sure I saw a man give up on everything at that moment. By the way, you’d never imagine that to be funny, right? Well it actually kind of was. A look that pathetic on a guy like that’s face just can’t help but be sort of ridiculous. Either way, I figured that was probably a pretty good moment to end on, so once again I found myself creeping away. I decided to pick up a new notebook on the way home since mine was full. Hell, if Rudolph was going to make me spy on a bunch of people getting really drunk together, I was going to make him read a bunch of pointless prattle about those people getting really drunk together. Besides, it was pretty funny, to tell the truth; I could probably use those notebooks as fodder for a short story one day.
The next week, I began to seriously wonder if Hendricks was going to consider hiring a contractor to put an addition on his house. Needing more space for drunk pals was a legitimate reason for doing something like that, right? I was pretty sure. Anyway, the newest new person was tall, with dark, curling hair and a preternaturally pretty face for a guy, along with a set of stormy gray eyes that I was mostly certain would be described as “swoon-worthy” by my pre-teen niece. Murphy greeted him as Thomas when she came in, and he scoffed.
“Seriously? I get invited after the night of the cross, who in general refuses to drink? Seriously? Jeez, now I really feel loved.”
“Oh, shut up, sit down, and pour yourself a drink.” Hendricks, today obviously more sober than he’d been the past couple of weeks, blinked slowly and stared.
“It’s my house, Murph. Quit inviting people to be comfortable.” She shrugged.
“By this point it’s basically my house too, so shut up. In fact, you can pretty much consider this house to belong to all of us by now. Except Thomas. It won’t belong to him too until next week.” Hendricks sighed but didn’t argue. Obviously he’d discovered the futility. Anyway, everyone got settled as always, a new chair from the kitchen having been brought in to accommodate Thomas, and he became the first to speak on frustrations that session.
“Being White Court around Marcone sucks,” he began, and a chorus of snorts filled the room. “I mean, it sucks in general anyway, but it’s way worse when Marcone’s around! His head’s like a twenty-four hour porno with Harry as the star! No, wait, it’s worse than a porno. I’ve seen porn that would blush at what goes on in his head. And I’m pretty sure everyone who’s celibate just overnights their lust to him because he has way too much of it for one person. And again, you need to consider the source here.” Hendricks blinked.
“Look, I’ve seen them in bed together, okay? I really don’t need the extra visuals.” Thomas rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, well, too bad. If I’ve got to suffer, so does everyone else. Johnny Marcone wants to spank Harry Dresden, everybody!” He proceeded to flash double peace signs, pour himself a drink, and down it in a go. “And I really wish he would stop.” The silence of the room was filled with Molly’s giggling. Hendricks just pouted.
“Just because you can’t eat him anymore,” he grumbled, and Thomas laughed.
“Really? You guys all thought that too? Huh; I must be a better actor than I figured. Anyway, no, ick. You know how appetizing road kill looks to you? Yeah, that’s about how delicious Harry looks to me. I wouldn’t go for that if I were starving to death. I should know; he’s been with me on occasions where I was starving to death.” Hendricks narrowed her eyes.
“I thought your type liked Wizards,” he said, giving Gard a suspicious look, and she granted him a secretive little smile. Thomas shrugged.
“Extenuating circumstances. Still, I guess if you really want to think about someone from my family sleeping with Harry, you can consider my sister. You’ve met Lara before, right? She really wants him. Of course, I’m sure she wouldn’t be averse to having Marcone too, so there you go with that.” Everyone blinked, but Butters was the one who spoke.
“Thomas, shut up before you make him drink more and I have to give him a liver transplant.” He cocked his head.
“Can you seriously do that?” Butters laughed, a little surprised.
“No, but given that I’m Harry’s on-call physician, I should probably learn.” Andi gave a deep, pathetic sigh.
“I remember when I would’ve thought that you were exaggerating,” she said, her head on the little guy’s knee again. Everyone nodded in agreement, looking really reminiscent for some reason. Michael shifted a little in his chair and allowed himself a surprisingly large sip.
“It’s rather funny, you know. I was a Knight of the Cross before I met him, but my life has still somehow managed to get stranger now that I know him.” Hendricks seemed to agree because he nodded, rapid fire, and threw his hands up.
“I know! I’m in the mafia! I helped orchestrate a coup of the former boss. I became second in command! How do you possibly make life weirder after that? Oh, I know! Throw a Wizard into the backseat of a car, watch your Boss fall madly in love with him, and then, just for some added fucking spice, here, have this slimy monster! Quick, better explode it before it spits acid on your face! It’s stupid. Everything about my life is stupid now.” Gard gave him a particularly terrifying look.
“Is that so? Careful, darling, I might start to get offended.” Billy and Thomas looked at each other and began to muffle spluttering laughs behind their hands, and shortly thereafter Murphy and the rest joined in. Even Michael, although he held out the longest.
“Somebody’s in trouble,” Billy sing-songed, offering a grin to Georgia who nodded in response. Hendricks started spouting off apologies and Gard just watched him do it, her face totally blank, but amusement was glittering in her eyes. Finally she gave him a quick, hard kiss and he went quiet. That lasted for about three seconds until Murphy spoke.
“You know, though, I can’t help but think I’m glad it all happened the way it did, though. Harry deserves to be happy, even if it’s with a psycho mob boss who makes our already insane lives just a touch more wacko.” Thomas and Molly looked at each other and grimaced theatrically, but both nodded anyway. It kind of looked like it physically hurt them, though.
“I guess so,” Molly said, “but am I the only one who never saw it coming?” A chorus of what amounted to ‘hell no’ filled the room.
“Boss hadn’t dated in years when Dresden came along. He always told me he didn’t love very well, that he didn’t want to get someone innocent hurt because of his business.” Murphy nodded.
“And Harry was… well, he was Harry. Back when he was with Susan, I don’t think a truckload of supermodels could’ve made him look anywhere else. If he’s with someone, he’s with them all the way. It was the same with Crazy SI Bitch. I always had sort of a feeling that Johnny had a thing for him, but I never figured he’d have the balls or the timing to confess and do it at the right moment.”
“It is crazy, isn’t it?” Georgia said, “But welcome. He always talked about Billy and I getting married, and he saved the wedding as well. He deserves some love of his own.”
“Boss does too,” Hendricks said, “especially after all the encouragement he gave me and Gard. And all the subtle hints in the form of sending us to Hawaii together.” She nodded.
“You mustn’t forget Paris, or Fiji.” He nodded.
“Yeah, those too.” Molly laughed.
“So basically they both had the always the bridesmaid but never the bride syndrome?” Michael looked as if he wanted to chastise her for a second before he thought better of it.
“You could find a kinder way to say it, Molly,” he tried, and she rolled her eyes playfully.
“Yeah, yeah, dad.” Thomas grumbled.
“So, they’re both skipping through fields of daisies now, I get that, and that’s awesome and all, but I still wish that Marcone would quit thinking about sleeping with Harry when I was in the room. It’s not like he’s been cut off or something; their auras are all tangled up together, and Empty Night, I can even smell them on each other if they’re in an empty room.” Butters looked at him again and shook his head.
“Shut up, Thomas.” You know, I almost wished that I knew these people. It had to have been more entertaining than sitting outside a window and documenting a weekly party. I think I just realized that my life is absolutely pathetic. Huh. You know, it’s not quite as dramatic of a feeling as I figured it would be. I do suddenly want some of that cognac they have in there, though. I figure that’s probably as good a sign as any that going home would be an awesome idea, though, so that’s what I ended up doing. I couldn’t imagine that Rudolph could have me do this much longer; after all, it had been nearly two months and I still hadn’t heard a word of anything incriminating Murphy in anything illegal, and huh, that was what I was doing here every week, wasn’t it? I’d kind of gotten distracted once Hendricks’ house turned into Chicago’s biggest hotspot.
The next week, there was yet another new player, but that was honestly becoming pretty expected. Still, she was probably the strangest one to have ever showed up to one of these things. She was tall, prettier than the man from last week, with hair red as flames and a dress that made her look like she’d stepped right off of a Broadway production of Hamlet. The skull she carried under her arm added to that theory. Murphy looked a little shocked by her, and possibly her willingness to sit cross-legged on the floor, when she walked in, but waved anyway.
“Hey, Lea. Is, uh, is that Bob?” She nodded.
“Indeed. I dropped into Harry’s basement on my way here.” Hendricks knocked back a drink before he spoke.
“She just appeared there in my living room about an hour ago. Poof.” Molly shrugged.
“Does anything actually surprise you anymore? Wow.” Murphy sighed.
“Whatever. As long as no one gets hurt, I don’t care.” And that was when the skull spoke up. I will admit to the fact that I immediately backpedaled from the window and had a middling level heart attack. I don’t think anyone will judge me for that.
“You’ve got my word, at least,” the skull said.
“And mine own,” the woman, Lea I guess, stated. “I merely wished to… what word do thou mortals use? Vent? Mine godson has been quite… troublesome, of late, love him though I do.” The skull seemed to nod.
“I know, right? He’s a good guy, yeah, but he’s such a pain in the ass sometimes.” Lea sighed.
“Thou, mine darling spirit, have at least not had to suffer through the words of his lover as well.” She proceeded to pull an unmarked, thick glass bottle from within the cloak she wore, and after she settled the skull by her side and yanked the cork free. She downed a hearty gulp.
“Hey, hey, share!” Bob yelped, and she poured some into the skull’s waiting mouth. And, get this, it just disappeared. None of it touched the carpeted floor. It was just, you know, gone. I wondered if I’d gotten drunk myself without realizing it. Gard smiled at them both sense everyone else seemed too busy staring.
“Why don’t you two explain your troubles?” she asked, and the woman, obviously relaxing, nodded.
“Certainly, certainly. I will start by stating that mine godson does not often come to me for help; he fears me, perhaps rightly so. Mine domain is generally one of his last resorts. That being said, his last visit was not, perhaps, or a willing nature. Rather, he got quite lost whilst traipsing about in the Nevernever and only happened across it. He then, obviously, destroyed my pet caterpillar, which took me ages to heal, mind, and then pretended as if it were mine own fault that he ended up in such a scrape! Of course, he relaxed shortly after, I’ll admit, but still yet it was quite annoying while it lasted.”
“What she means is, she hit him with a sleep charm and when he woke up he was a lot less shout-y,” the skull said, apparently very helpful.
“Oh, la. Yes, yes, that. Now, when he awoke, I explained what had occurred, and he did indeed believe me, as I had, at that moment, no reason beyond the fact that he is my beloved godson to want him in my gardens. However, being that he was indeed my godson, I asked him of his recent adventures and he told me of his new love, as well as of all he has faced since getting said love. Of course I supported it; I quite liked the Baron, really, and had long considered him to be a good match for mine dearest, a good protector. That, however, was when he came barreling through mine domain, brandishing iron blades, which of course could not be tolerated.” An orange flume poured from the skull and engulfed the bottle, and when it was placed back down, it seemed decidedly less full. It was at that point that the orange smoke began to talk. I wasn’t sure if I was more disturbed by that or the skull talking, but decided in the end that it would be best to just go with it either way.
“What she means is, she got super offended by the fact that someone brought iron into her presence even though she was doing nothing cold at the time, since that is actually pretty disrespectful, and so she tied him to a tree. Harry got kind of annoyed, once he got his jaw off the ground. Marcone was pretty annoyed the whole time, though.” Lea glared at him.
“I do not think the mortals need a lesson in mine meanings, spirit.” I’m pretty sure I saw the formless smoke shrug. Don’t ask me how, though, because I have no goddamned idea.
“They kind of do, actually. I mean, you’re pretty vague.” She paused for a minute and everyone just stared at the back and forth like it was a super fascinating game of tennis or something.
“I am clear enough to tell mine own story, I thank thee. Now, upon trapping the intruder, I of course went to his side so that I could extrapolate his reasoning for coming to mine home in such a disrespectful manner. He proceeded to accuse me of kidnapping mine own godson, as if I could even possibly do such a thing!”
“Well, there was that one time when-,” the smoke tried, but Lea held out a hand and it fell silent.
“As I was saying. He accused me of such, and that was when Harry spoke up to inform him that he had only gotten lost and ended up in my domain. They began to argue after that, with the Baron being surprisingly emotive despite having no use of his limbs, as apparently he thought Harry a fool for wandering the Nevernever alone, which I must agree with, and yet he had done the same to come to Harry’s aid, and he had done so unnecessarily. Although, the misunderstanding had been cleared, and so I did indeed release him, rather graciously if I do say so mine own self, as I had plenty of grounds to have him executed for his intrusion. And how do they repay me? By fighting upon mine property! Mine godson tackled the Baron, and they tussled for a bit, and suddenly it was as if nothing had happened and they were laughing together. I was quite confused, to be sure.” She still looked confused, golden eyes wide, like a curious cat’s, and oh, hey, what the hell was wrong with her pupils? Pupils weren’t slits.
“Lea doesn’t quite get the intricacies-,” the smoke began, and then hiccupped, “of human relationships.” I’m pretty sure the smoke started to swirl and fall like a really drunk old man. Lea took up her bottle and downed another gulp, the slightest bit of it slipping from the corner of her mouth only to be licked up seconds after. It was silent for a few minutes anyway, though, because apparently the room was digesting what they just heard. Murphy was the one who broke it, though.
“Well, she can join the club, Bob. No one gets the intricacies of the relationship between Harry and Marcone. I don’t think Harry and Marcone get the intricacies of the relationship between them. They just go with it and hope they don’t blow shit up too badly, I think.” And that day basically came to an end there; everyone started packing up to leave. Which was pretty weird because usually they all whined a lot more. I guess they figured they couldn’t top that story, so they went home. I figured I had nothing better to do, so I did the same.
The next week was a change in routine. I did not go to Hendricks’ house. In fact, I did not do anything, because there was frantic knocking at my door early that morning. I answered it warily, and I was pretty sure I needed to because on the other side of my door there was a tall, scarecrow thin man with brown hair and black eyes with a bruise on his cheek who carried a big stick. Apparently there was a new influx of crazy people to my neighborhood. Wonderful.
“Hey, no, wait, don’t shut the door! Look, do you have a phone or something? Real quick? There’s kind of an issue out here, and I need to call in some back up. I’m a PI, yeah? The name’s Harry Dresden. I’m in the phone book under Wizard, if you wanna check. But mostly I just need a phone. For a couple of minutes. And I promise I’ll pay you back if it mysteriously breaks.” Wait. What? No. No, no, no. This could not be the guy I’d heard complaints about for seven straight weeks. No way. My life is not that coincidental. I think the shock of that made me temporarily insane because I did just give him my phone. Even though he was obviously crazy. He dialed a number quickly, the movements practiced. And I heard Murphy’s voice on the other end. Goddamn it.
“Higgs?” she asked, and Harry looked confused.
“What? No. It’s Harry. I just used some guy’s phone. Do you think you can call everyone and come to Twelfth? There’s, uh, well, I might’ve summoned a demon. Accidentally. And it might’ve gotten loose. Accidentally. Bob was acting funny, you know? Almost drunk. I don’t know what was wrong with him, but I probably shouldn’t have listened when he told me to chant that weird chant from Ursula’s song in the Little Mermaid. Something about winds of the Caspian Sea, I don’t really remember. Anyway, yeah.”
“Dresden, why the fuck were you summoning a demon in the first damn place?” Silence.
“Well, you see, it was supposed to be one of the minor demons. One of the little trickster sort of things, you know? Basically one step up from a Dewdrop Fairy. I’ve called him before, we’re actually pretty okay friends, and I was going to get something from him to prank John because he was being an asshole and didn’t even apologize for tearing my shirt last night even though I liked that shirt and. You get the idea. Anyway, Bob made me mess up and actually I called something a lot bigger, which I wasn’t expecting, and now it’s rampaging, by which I mean it stole like a lot of shaving cream and is being mildly annoying to a lot of people and I could use some help. Oh, Hell’s Bells, I gotta go; it’s tearing some woman’s top off, and that shirt looks really expensive, so I’ll see you soon.” He hung up, threw my phone back at me, and ran off. I, being temporarily insane as already described, took a step outside.
There was indeed something that might’ve been a demon out there, small and hunched with greenish skin and bottom teeth that jutted over its top lip, warty skin and all. I stared. It sprayed shaving cream on my face. Some got in my eye. It was indeed mildly annoying, as described. I kept staring. How the hell? This was not real life. I’d gotten sucked into a bad movie. I was getting Punk’d. One of my buddies was going to step out from behind a wall in just a minute and laugh at me for actually buying this shit. Dresden shot fire out of his hands and the demon dived out of the way. Holy shit.
From there, as if it couldn’t get any more surreal, a black sedan barreled down the road and Gentleman John dived out of the driver’s seat, gun drawn. Harry waved at him before something reddish flew from his hands and slammed into the creature, made it hit the wall hard enough that some of the old brick crumbled.
“Dresden, why the hell do I let you leave the house without me?” Marcone asked, battle ready grin splitting his face as he got a few shots off at the thing.
“Because I’d kill you if you didn’t, scumbag,” he grumbled, and more fire crashed towards the thing.
“Lucky I love you,” he replied.
“You’re the lucky one.” And on and on and on. It was like someone was playing back the arguments that the people at those parties had imitated. I could feel myself going slowly insane. And then everyone else arrived, all the people I’d seen at the party, and not five minutes passed before there was a brand new pile of goo a few feet from my house. I stared at it. Harry and John thanked everybody, gave some greetings and some hugs and had some laughs, made promises for dinners and other get-togethers, and everyone acted like this was downright normal the whole time. Then Harry and John left in John’s car and everyone else started to leave too. I ran and caught Murphy by the arm, though.
“I’ve been listening in on your weekly thing for about seven or eight weeks now. I really understand why you were doing it. Can I please join in this week?” I asked, and Murphy grinned.
“Yeah, we figured you’d get sucked in eventually, ever since that first day you hid under the windowsill. Shitty hiding place, by the way. Anyway, come on. We’ve got some vodka with your name on it. And maybe even an explanation you’ll sort of understand, if you’re lucky.” I nodded and followed after them, even rode there on Murphy’s bike with her. I proceeded to get really drunk. So drunk, in fact, that I realized that green demons and Wizards being in happy, yet very stress inducing, relationships with mob bosses was entirely common and I had no idea why it had bothered me so much to begin with. Needless to say, Rudolph never got any of that evidence he wanted. I did get a new Saturday hang out, though. And I also realized that Chicago is a lot weirder than I thought it was. I should probably write a book about it, one day. I’d probably make millions.