Turn Coat Chapter 1819

Chapter Eighteen

The handy part about riding with a cop was that she has the cool toys to make it simpler to get places quickly, even on a busy Chicago morning. The car was still bouncing from sweeping into the street from the little parking lot next to my apartment when she slapped a whirling blue light on the roof and started a siren. That part was pretty neat.

The rest of the ride wasn't nearly as fun. Moving ’’fast’’ through a crowded city is a relative term, and in Chicago it meant a lot of rapid acceleration and sudden braking. We went through half a dozen alleys, hopped one bad intersection by driving up over the curb through a parking lot, and swerved through traffic at such a rate that my freshly imbibed coffee and donuts started swirling and sloshing around in a distinctly unpleasant fashion.

’’Kill the noise and light,’’ I said a couple of blocks from the storage park.

She did it, asking, ’’Why?’’

’’Because whatever is there, there are several of them and Thomas didn't think he could handle them.’’ I drew my.44 out of my duster pocket and checked it. ’’Nothing's on fire. So let's hope that nothing's gone down yet and we'll be all sneaky-like until we know what's happening.’’

’’Still with the revolvers,’’ Murphy said, shaking her head. She drove past the street leading to the storage units and went one block past it instead before she turned and parked. ’’When are you going to get a serious gun?’’

’’Look,’’ I said, ’’just because you've got twice as many bullets as me-’’

’’Three times as many,’’ Murphy said. ’’The SIG holds twenty.’’

’’Twenty!? Look the point is that-’’

’’And it reloads a lot faster. You've just got some loose rounds at the bottom of your pocket, right? No speed loader?’’

I stuck the gun back in my pocket and tried to make sure none of the bullets fell out as we got out of the car. ’’That's not the point.’’

Murphy shook her head. ’’Damn, Dresden.’’

’’I know the revolver is going to work,’’ I said, starting toward the storage park. ’’I've seen automatics jam before.’’

’’New ones?’’

’’Well, no...’’

Murphy had placed her own gun in the pocket of her light sports jacket. ’’It's a good thing you've got options. That's all I'm saying.’’

’’If a revolver was good enough for Indiana Jones,’’ I said, ’’it's good enough for me.’’

’’He was a fictional character, Harry.’’ Her mouth curved up in a small smile. ’’And he had a whip.’’

I eyed her.

Her eyes sparkled. ’’Do you have a whip, Dresden?’’

I eyed her even more. ’’Murphy... are you coming on to me?’’

She laughed, her smile white and fierce, as we rounded a corner and found the white rental van where Thomas had left it, across the street from the storage park.

Two men in similar grey suits and grey fedoras were standing nonchalantly in the summer-morning sunshine on the sidewalk next to the van.

On second glance, they were wearing the exact same grey suit, and the exact same grey hat, in fact.

’’Feds?’’ I asked Murphy quietly as we turned down the sidewalk.

’’Even feds shop at different stores,’’ she said. ’’I'm getting a weird vibe here, Harry.’’

I turned my head and checked out the storage park through the ten-foot-high black metal fencing that surrounded it.

I saw another pair of men in grey suits going down one row of storage units. Two more pairs were on the next. And two more on the one after that.

’’That makes twelve,’’ Murphy murmured to me. She hadn't even turned her head. Murphy has cop powers of observation. ’’All in the same suit.’’

’’Yeah, they're from out of town,’’ I said. ’’Lot of times when beings from the Nevernever want to blend in, they pick a look and go with it.’’ I thought about it for a couple of steps. ’’The fact that they all picked the same look might mean they don't have much going for them in the way of individuality.’’

’’Meaning I'd only have to go on a date with one of them to know about the rest?’’ Murphy asked.

’’Meaning that you need a sense of self to have a sense of self-preservation.’’

Murphy exhaled slowly. ’’That's just great.’’ She moved a hand toward her other pocket, where I knew she kept her cell. ’’More manpower might help.’’

’’Might set them off, too,’’ I said. ’’I'm just saying, if the music starts, don't get soft and shoot somebody in the leg or something.’’

’’You've seen too many movies, Harry,’’ she said. ’’If cops pull the trigger, it's because they intend to kill someone. We leave the trick shots to SWAT snipers and Indiana Jones.’’

I looked at the booth beside the entrance to the storage park. There was normally an attendant there, during the day. But there was no one in the booth-or in sight on the street, for that matter.

’’Where is your unit?’’ Murphy asked.

I waggled my eyebrows at her. ’’Right where it's always been, dollface.’’

She made a noise that sounded like someone about to throw up.

’’First row past the middle,’’ I said. ’’Down at the far end of the park.’’

’’We have to walk past those two jokers by the van to see it.’’

’’Yeah,’’ I said. ’’But I don't think these suits have found it yet. They're still here, and still looking. If they had located Morgan, they'd be gone already.’’ As we approached, I noticed that the two tires next to the curb on the white rental van were flat. ’’They're worried about a getaway.’’

’’Are you sure they aren't human?’’ Murphy asked.

’’Um. Reasonably?’’

She shook her head. ’’Not good enough. Are they from the spirit world or not?’’

’’Might not be able to tell until we get closer,’’ I said. ’’Might even need to touch one of them.’’

She took a slow, deep breath. ’’As soon as you're certain,’’ she said, ’’tell me. Shake your head if you're sure they aren't human. Nod if you can't tell or if they are.’’

We were less than twenty feet away from the van and there was no time to argue or ask questions. ’’Okay.’’

I took a few more steps and ran smack into a curtain of nauseating energy so thick and heavy that it made my hair stand on end-a dead giveaway of a hostile supernatural presence. I twitched my head in a quick shake, as the two men in grey suits spun around at precisely the same time at precisely the same speed to face me. Both of them opened their mouths.

Before any sound could come out, Murphy produced her sidearm and shot them both in the head.

Twice.

Double-tapping the target like that is a professional killer's policy. There's a small chance that a bullet to the head might strike a target at an oblique angle and carom off of the skull. It isn't a huge possibility-but a double tap drops the odds from ’’very unlikely’’ to ’’virtually impossible.’’

Murphy was a cop and a competition shooter, and less than five feet away from her targets. She did the whole thing in one smooth move, the shots coming as a single pulsing hammer of sound.

The men in grey suits didn't have time to so much as register her presence, much less do anything to avoid their fate. Clear liquid exploded from the backs of their skulls, and both men dropped to the sidewalk like rag dolls, their bodies and outfits deforming like a snowman in the spring, leaving behind nothing but ectoplasm, the translucent, gooey gel that was the matter of the Nevernever.

’’Hell's bells,’’ I choked, as my adrenaline spiked after the fact.

Murphy kept the gun on the two until it was obvious that they weren't going to take up a second career as headless horsemen. Then she looked up and down the street, her cold blue eyes scanning for more threats as she popped the almost-full clip from the SIG and slapped a fully loaded one back in.

She may look like somebody's favorite aunt, but Murph can play hardball.

A couple of seconds later, what sounded like the howls of a gang of rabid band saws filled the air. There were a lot more than twelve of them.

’’Come on!’’ I shouted, and sprinted forward.

The grey suits weren't individualists. It wasn't unthinkable that they would possess some kind of shared consciousness. Whacking the look-outs had obviously both alerted and enraged the others, and I figured that they would respond the way any colony-consciousness does when one of its members gets attacked.

The grey suits were coming to kill us.

We couldn't afford to run, not when they were this close to Morgan and Molly, but if the grey suits caught us on the open street, we were hosed. Our only chance was to move forward, fast, to get into the storage park while they went screaming out of it, looking for us. If we were quick enough, we might have time to get to the storage unit, collect Morgan and company, and make a quick escape through the portal in the floor and into the Nevernever.

I pounded across the street and through the entrance, with Murphy on my heels. I threw myself forward as the howls grew louder, and made it into the center row just as maybe twenty or twenty-five grey suits came rushing out of the other rows. Some of them saw us and slammed on the brakes, throwing up gravel with their expensive shoes, putting up a new tone of howl. The others belatedly began to turn as well, and then we were all the way into the center row of storage units, still moving at a dead run.

The grey suits rushed after us, but Murphy and I had a good forty-yard lead, and they didn't appear to be superhumanly light on their feet. We were going to make it.

Then I remembered that the door to the storage bay was locked shut.

I fumbled for the key as I ran, trying to pull it out of the front pocket of my jeans so that it would be ready. I figured that if I didn't get the door unlocked and open on the first try, the grey suits would catch up to us and kill us both.

So naturally I dropped the damn key.

I cursed and slid to a stop, slipping on the gravel. I looked around wildly for the dropped key, horribly aware of the mob of grey suits rushing toward us, now in eerie silence.

’’Harry!’’ Murphy said.

’’I know!’’

She appeared beside me in a shooting stance, aiming at the nearest grey suit. ’’Harry!’’

’’I know!’’

Metal gleamed amongst the gravel and I swooped down on it as Murphy opened fire with precise, measured shots, sending the nearest grey suit into a tumbling sprawl. The others just vaulted over him and kept coming.

I'd found the key, but it was already too late.

Neither of us was going to make it to the shelter of my hideaway.

Chapter Nineteen

’’Stay close!’’ I shouted. I thrust the end of my staff into the gravel and dragged it through, drawing a line in the dust and stones. I swiftly inscribed a quick, rough circle maybe four feet across around Murphy and me, actually getting between her gun and the grey suits for a second.

’’Dammit, Harry, get down!’’ she shouted.

I did so, reaching out to touch the line in the gravel, slamming a quick effort of will into the simple design. Murphy's gun barked twice. I felt the energy gather in the circle and coalesce in a rush, snapping into place in a sudden and invisible wall.

The nearest of the grey suits staggered, and then flung itself into a forward dive. Murphy flinched back, and I grabbed her, hard, before she could cross the circle and disrupt it.

The grey suit slammed into the circle as if striking a solid wall, rebounding from its surface in a flash of blue-white light that described a phantom cylinder in the air. An instant later, more of the grey suits did exactly the same thing, maybe twenty of them, each of them bouncing off the circle's field.

’’Easy!’’ I said to Murphy, still holding her against me. ’’Easy, easy!’’ I felt her relax a little, ceasing to struggle against being held in place. ’’It's okay,’’ I said. ’’As long as we don't break the circle, they can't get through.’’

We were both shaking. Murphy took a pair of gulping breaths. We just stood there for a moment, while the grey suits spread out around the circle, reaching out with their hands to find its edges. I had time to get a better look at them while they did.

They were all the same height and weight. Their features were unremarkable and similar, if not quite identical. They looked as if they could have all been from the same family. Their eyes were all the same color, an odd grey-green, and there was no expression, none whatsoever, on their faces.

One of them reached out as if to try to touch me, and his open hand flattened against the circle's field. As it did, a freaking mouth opened on his palm, parallel to his fingers. It was lined with serrated sharklike teeth, and a slithering, coiling purple-black tongue emerged to lash randomly against the circle, as if seeking a way through. Yellowish mucus dripped thickly from the tongue as it did.

’’Okay,’’ Murphy said in a small, toneless voice. ’’That is somewhat disturbing.’’

’’And it's gonna get better,’’ I muttered.

Sure enough, the other grey suits started doing the same thing. Within seconds, we were completely surrounded by eerie hand-mouths, writhing tongues, and dripping slime.

Murphy shook her head and sighed. ’’Eckgh.’’

’’Tell me about it.’’

’’How long will this thing keep them off?’’

’’They're spirit beings,’’ I said. ’’As long as the circle's here, they're staying outside it.’’

’’Couldn't they just scuff dirt on it or something?’’

I shook my head. ’’Breaking the circle isn't just a physical process. It's an act of choice, of will-and these things don't have that.’’

Murphy frowned. ’’Then why are they doing anything at all?’’

I had to restrain myself from smacking my forehead with the heel of my hand. ’’Because someone summoned them from the Nevernever,’’ I said. ’’Their summoner, wherever he is, is giving them orders.’’

’’Could he break the circle?’’ Murphy asked.

’’Yeah,’’ I said. ’’Easily.’’

’’Which is an excellent note upon which to begin our conversation,’’ said a man's voice with a heavy Cockney accent. ’’Make a hole, lads.’’

The suits on one side of the circle lowered their hands and stood back, revealing a blocky bulldog of a man in a cheap maroon suit. He was average height, but heavy and solid with muscle, and he wore a few too many extra beers around his middle. His features were blunt and rounded, like water-worn stone. His hair was graying and cut into the shortest buzz you could get without going bald, and his eyes were small and hard-and the exact same color as those of the grey suits, a distinctive grey-green.

’’Ah, love,’’ said the man, grinning. ’’I think it's quite fine to see couples who aren't afraid to express their affection for each other.’’

I blinked at him, then down at Murphy, and realized I was still holding her loosely against me. By the expression on her face, Murph hadn't really taken note of the fact, either. She cleared her throat and took a small step back from me, being careful not to step on the circle in the gravel.

He nodded at us, still grinning. ’’ 'Allo, Dresden. Why not make this easy for all of us and tell me which unit Donald Morgan is hiding in?’’

I suddenly realized that I recognized this jerk from the profile the Wardens had on him. ’’Binder,’’ I said. ’’That's what they call you, isn't it?’’

Binder's smile widened and he bowed slightly at the waist. ’’The same.’’

Murphy frowned at Binder and said, ’’Who is this asshole?’’

’’One of the guys the Wardens wish they could just erase,’’ I said.

’’He's a wizard?’’

’’I do have some skills in that direction, love,’’ Binder said.

’’He's a one-trick hack,’’ I said, looking directly at him. ’’Got a talent for calling up things from the Nevernever and binding them to his will.’’

’’So, Binder,’’ Murphy said, nodding.

’’Yeah. He's scum who sells his talent to the highest bidder, but he's careful not to break any of the Laws of Magic, so the Wardens haven't ever been able to take him down.’’

’’I know,’’ Binder said cheerfully. ’’And that's why I am positively savoring the exquisite irony of me being the one to take down the famous Warden Donald Morgan. The self-righteous prig.’’

’’You haven't got him yet,’’ I said.

’’Matter of time, my lad,’’ Binder said, winking. He stooped and picked up a single piece of gravel. He bounced it thoughtfully on his palm and eyed us. ’’See, there's a bit of competition for this contract, and it's a fair bit of quid. So I'm willing to give you a chance to make my job easier in exchange for considerations.’’

’’What considerations?’’ I asked.

He held up the pebble between his thumb and forefinger. ’’I won't pitch this into your circle and break it. That way, my lads won't need to kill you both-and won't that be nice?’’

Behind Binder, down at the end of the row of storage units, the dust stirred. Something unseen moved across the gravel. Given how my life had been going, odds were good that it couldn't be a good thing. Unless...

’’Come on, Binder,’’ I said. ’’Don't be a simp. What makes you think I won't ask the lady here to put a bullet through that empty spot in your head where your brain's supposed to go?’’

’’She does that, she lowers the circle, and my lads tear you apart,’’ Binder replied.

’’That won't be your problem, by then,’’ I said.

Binder grinned at me. ’’All of us go down in a blaze of gory, is it?’’

Murphy calmly raised her gun and settled it on Binder's face.

Binder faced her, his grin never fading. ’’Now, little lady. Don't you be doing nothing you'll regret. Without my, ah, personal guidance, my lads here will tear this good gentleman's throat out right quick. But they're considerably less, ah, professional with ladies.’’ His grin faded. ’’And you, miss, do not want to know what they're like when they're not professional.’’

Fingers and slimy tongues and fangs continued pressing against the outer edge of the circle's protective field.

Murphy didn't let it show on her face, but I saw her shudder.

’’Decision time, miss,’’ Binder said. ’’Either pull that trigger, right now, and live with what happens-or put it down like a proper lady and work through this politely.’’

Murphy's eyes narrowed at his comments. ’’For all I know, you're about to toss that rock at us. I think I'll keep the gun right where it is.’’

’’Bear something else in mind, Binder,’’ I said. ’’I know that you think you can just have your pets step in front of you and throw the rock from behind a wall of them, but think about what happens to you if you kill me.’’

’’Your death curse, is it?’’ he asked. Binder raised his hands and flattened his palms against his cheek in mock horror. ’’Oh no. A death curse. Whatever shall I do?’’

I faced him with a chilly little smile. ’’You'll spend the rest of your life unable to use magic, I think,’’ I said in a quiet, hopefully confident-sounding voice. ’’When I die, I take away your power. Forever. No more summoning. No more binding.’’

Binder's expression began to flatten out into neutrality.

’’You ever had a job that you liked, Binder?’’ I asked him. ’’I'm betting you haven't. I've read your file. You're the kind who likes to sleep late, spend a lot of money impressing people. Always buys room service, always with the champagne. And you like the women the money gets you.’’ I shook my head. ’’How many bottles of champagne you think you'll be able to afford when a paper hat becomes part of your professional wear? You've got enough talent to live a nice, long life, man. As a nobody.’’

He stared at me in silence for a second. ’’You can't do that,’’ Binder said. ’’Take away my talent. That isn't possible.’’

’’I'm a wizard of the White Council, Binder. Not some stupid hack who spent his life using his gift to hurt people. Do you think we go around advertising everything we can do? If you knew half the things I've done that you think are impossible, you'd already be running.’’

Binder faced me, beads of sweat suddenly standing out on his jowls.

’’So I'd think real careful before I threw that rock, Binder. Real careful.’’

A police siren sounded, from fairly nearby.

I smiled, showing teeth. ’’Hey, cops. This'll get interesting.’’

’’You?’’ he asked, incredulously. ’’You'd bring the cops into a private matter?’’

I pointed a finger sideways at Murphy, who produced her badge and tucked the back of its folder into her belt, so that the shield faced Binder.

’’Already did,’’ Murphy said.

’’Besides, the whole reason I picked this joint was how heavily the neighborhood was policed,’’ I said. ’’One gunshot and nobody reports anything. Half a dozen and people get nervous.’’

Binder's eyes narrowed, and he looked from us toward the front of the park.

’’Tick-tock,’’ I said, applying the pressure as hard as I could. ’’It's just a matter of time, my lad.’’

Binder looked around him again, then shook his head and sighed. ’’Balls. It's always messy when I have to deal with the cops. Idiots dying by the truckload. Buckets of blood.’’ He gestured at his men. ’’Identical suspects fleeing in all directions. Everyone out chasing them, and more people dying when they manage to catch them.’’ He stared hard at me. ’’How about it, wizard? Cop? Maybe you've got stones enough to take it when I threaten you. I can admire that.’’

My stomach got a little sinking feeling. I had been counting out seconds, hoping that my nerves didn't make me rush. There should have been enough time by now.

’’How about those policemen? You willing to have their deaths on your conscience?’’ He rolled his neck a little, like a prizefighter warming up. ’’Because I'll tell you right now that they aren't going to stop me.’’

I put my hand out and touched Murphy's wrist. She glanced aside at me, and then lowered the gun.

’’That's better,’’ Binder said. There was no hint of jocularity in his manner now. ’’All I want is the Warden. He's a dead man already, and you know it. What does it matter who takes him?’’

Something stirred at the end of the row, behind Binder, and I started smiling.

’’I've got no quarrel with you or with this town,’’ Binder continued. ’’Tell me where he is, I'll leave peaceful, and Bob's your uncle.’’

Murphy drew in a sharp breath.

’’Okay,’’ I said. ’’He's right behind you.’’

Binder's smile, this time, was positively vulpine. ’’Dresden. We have a bit of banter going between us. We're both here in a moment where neither of us wants to act rashly. And that's all good fun. It's one of the little things that makes a day more enjoyable.’’ His voice hardened. ’’But don't do me the incredibly insulting disservice of assuming that I'm a bloody moron.’’

’’I'm not,’’ I told him. ’’He's about forty feet behind you. In a wheelchair.’’

Binder gave me a gimlet stare. Then he rolled his eyes and shot a brief glance over his shoulder-then did a double take as his mouth dropped open.

Morgan sat in his wheelchair about forty feet away from Binder, my shotgun in his hands. Mouse stood beside the chair, focused intently upon Binder and his minions, his body tensed and ready to spring forward.

’’Hello, Binder,’’ Morgan said in a flat, merciless tone of voice. ’’Now, Miss Carpenter.’’

Molly appeared out of literally nowhere as she dropped the veil she'd been holding over herself since I'd first seen her moving at the beginning of the conversation with Binder. She was holding my spare blasting rod in her hand, its far end covered with pale dust from being dragged through the gravel. She knelt beside the long, lazy arc of the circle she'd drawn in the dust and touched her hand to it, frowning in concentration.

Circles of power are basic stuff, really. Practically anyone can make one if they know how to do it, and learning how to properly establish a circle is the first thing any apprentice is taught. Circles create boundaries that isolate the area inside from the magical energies of the world outside. That's why Binder's minions couldn't cross the plane of the circle I'd drawn on the ground-their bodies were made up of ectoplasm, held into a solid form by magical energy. The circle cut off that energy when they tried to cross it.

As it sprang to life at my apprentice's will, Molly's circle did the same thing as mine-only this time the grey suits were inside it. As the energy field rose up, it cut off the grey suits from the flow of energy they needed to maintain their solid forms.

And suddenly the next best thing to forty demonic thugs collapsed into splatters of transparent gook.

Binder let out a cry as it happened, spinning around desperately, mumbling some kind of incantation under his breath-but he should have saved himself the effort. If he wanted them back, he would have to get out of the isolating field of the enormous circle first, and then he would have to start from scratch.

’’Ow, Binder,’’ I said in patently false empathy. ’’Didn't see that one coming, did ya?’’

’’Ernest Armand Tinwhistle,’’ Morgan thundered in a tone of absolute authority, raising the shotgun to his shoulder. ’’Surrender yourself or face destruction, you worthless little weasel.’’

Binder's intense grey-green eyes went from Morgan to the two of us. Then he seemed to reach some kind of conclusion and charged us like a bull, his head down, his arms pumping.

Murphy's gun tracked to him, but with a curse she jerked the barrel up and away from Binder. He slammed a shoulder into her chest, knocking her down, even as I received a stiff arm in the belly.

I threw a leg at his as he went by, but I was off balance from the shove, and although I wound up on my ass, I forced him to stumble for a step or three. Murphy took the impact with fluid grace, tumbled onto her back, rolled smoothly over one shoulder, and came back up on her feet.

’’Get them out of here,’’ she snarled as she spun and took off at a sprint after Binder.

Mouse came pounding up to my side, staring after Murphy with worried doggy eyes, then glancing at me.

’’No,’’ I told him. ’’Watch this.’’

Binder was running as hard as he could, but I doubted he had been all that light on his feet when he was young, much less twenty years and forty pounds later. Murphy worked out practically every day.

She caught him about ten feet before the end of the row, timed her steps for a second, and then sharply kicked his rearmost leg just as he lifted it to take his next step. His foot got caught on the back of his own calf as a result, and he went down in a sprawl.

Binder came to his feet with an explosive snarl of rage and whirled on Murphy. He flung a handful of gravel at her face, and then waded in with heavy, looping punches.

Murph ducked her head down and kept the gravel out of her eyes, slipped aside from one punch, and then seized his wrist on the second. The two of them whirled in a brief half circle, Binder let out a yelp, and then his bald head slammed into the steel door of a storage unit. I had to give the guy credit for physical toughness. He rebounded from the door a little woozily, but drove an elbow back at Murphy's head.

Murphy caught that arm and continued the motion, using her own body as a fulcrum in a classic hip throw-except that Binder was facing in the opposite direction than usual for that technique.

You could hear his arm come out of its socket fifty feet away.

And then he hit the gravel face-first.

Binder got extra points for brains in my book, after that: he lay still and didn't put up a struggle as Murphy dragged his wrists behind his back and cuffed him.

I traded a glance with Mouse and said, wisely, ’’Hard-core.’’

The police sirens were getting louder. Murphy looked up at them, and then down the row at me. She made an exasperated shooing motion.

’’Come on,’’ I said to Mouse. The two of us hurried down the row to Morgan's chair.

’’I couldn't shoot him with this scatter pipe with the two of you standing there,’’ Morgan complained as I approached. ’’Why didn't you do it?’’

’’That's why,’’ I said, nodding to the park entrance, where a patrol car was screeching to a halt, its blue bubbles flashing. ’’They get all funny about corpses with gunshot wounds in them.’’ I turned to scowl at Molly. ’’I told you to bug out at the first sign of danger.’’

She took the handles of Morgan's wheelchair and we all started back toward the storage unit and its portal. ’’We didn't know what was going on until we heard them all start shrieking,’’ she protested. ’’And then Mouse went nuts, and started trying to dig his way through a metal door. I thought you might be in trouble. And you were.’’

’’That isn't the point,’’ I said. I glanced at the circle drawn in the gravel as we crossed it, breaking it and releasing its power. ’’Whose idea was the circle?’’

’’Mine,’’ Morgan said calmly. ’’Circle traps are a standard tactic for dealing with rogue summoners.’’

’’I'm sorry it took so long to draw,’’ Molly said. ’’But I had to make it big enough to get them all.’’

’’Not a problem. He was happy to kill time running his mouth.’’ We all entered the storage bay, and I rolled the door closed behind us. ’’You did good, grasshopper.’’

Molly beamed.

I looked around us and said, ’’Hey. Where's Thomas?’’

’’The vampire?’’ Morgan asked.

’’I had him watching the outside of the park, just in case,’’ I said.

Morgan gave me a disgusted look and rolled himself forward toward the prepared portal into the Nevernever. ’’The vampire goes missing just before a bounty hunter who couldn't possibly know my location turns up. And you're actually surprised, Dresden?’’

’’Thomas called me and told me there was trouble,’’ I said, my voice tight. ’’If he hadn't, you'd have been drowning in grey suits by now.’’

Molly chewed her lip worriedly and shook her head. ’’Harry... I haven't seen him since he dropped us off.’’

I glanced back toward the entrance of the park, clenching my teeth.

Where was he?

If he'd been able to do otherwise, Thomas would never have let Murphy and me fight alone against Binder's minions. He would have been right in there beside us. Except he hadn't been.

Why not? Had circumstances forced him to leave before I arrived? Or worse, had someone else involved in the current crisis decided to take measures against him? Psycho bitch Madeline came uncomfortably to mind. And the skinwalker had already demonstrated that it was happy to murder my allies instead of striking directly at me.

Or maybe he'd simply been overwhelmed by a crowd of grey-suited demons. Maybe his body was already cooling in some nook or cranny of the storage park. My mouth went dry at the thought.

Hell's bells.

What had happened to my brother?

Morgan spoke a quiet word and opened a shimmering rectangular portal in the floor. Molly walked over to it and stared down, impressed.

’’Dresden,’’ Morgan said. ’’We can't afford to become entangled with the local authorities.’’

I wanted to scream at him, but he was right. More sirens had closed in on the park. We had to leave. I grabbed the handles to Morgan's chair, started for the portal, and said, ’’Let's go, people.’’

Dammit, Thomas, I snarled to myself. Where the hell are you?


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