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Table of Contents
ALSO BY JIM BUTCHER
THE DRESDEN FILES
THE CODEX ALERA
FURIES OF CALDERON
Copyright © Jim Butcher, 2001
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There are reasons I hate to drive fast. For one, the Blue Beetle, the mismatched Volkswagen bug that I putter around in, rattles and groans dangerously at anything above sixty miles an hour. For another, I don’t get along so well with technology. Anything manufactured after about World War II seems to be susceptible to abrupt malfunction when I get close to it. As a rule, when I drive, I drive very carefully and sensibly.
Tonight was an exception to the rule.
The Beetle’s tires screeched in protest as we rounded a corner, clearly against the NO LEFT TURN sign posted there. The old car growled gamely, as though it sensed what was at stake, and continued its valiant puttering, moaning, and rattling as we zoomed down the street.
“Can we go any faster?” Michael drawled. It wasn’t a complaint. It was just a question, calmly voiced.
“Only if the wind gets behind us or we start going down a hill,” I said. “How far to the hospital?”
The big man shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. He had that kind of salt-and-pepper hair, dark against silver, that some men seem lucky enough to inherit, though his beard was still a solid color of dark brown, almost black. There were worry and laugh lines at the corners of his leathery face. His broad, lined hands rested on his knees, which were scrunched up due to the dashboard. “I don’t know for certain,” he answered me. “Two miles?”
I squinted out the Beetle’s window at the fading light. “The sun is almost down. I hope we’re not too late.”
“We’re doing all we can,” Michael assured me. “If God wills it, we’ll be there in time. Are you sure of your . . .” his mouth twisted with distaste, “source?”
“Bob is annoying, but rarely wrong,” I answered, jamming on the brakes and dodging around a garbage truck. “If he said the ghost would be there, it will be there.”
“Lord be with us,” Michael said, and crossed himself. I felt a stirring of something; powerful, placid energy around him—the power of faith. “Harry, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”
“Don’t ask me to Mass again,” I told him, uncomfortable. “You know I’m just going to say no.” Someone in a red Taurus cut me off, and I had to swerve around him, into the turn lane, and then ahead of him again. A couple of the Beetle’s wheels lifted off the ground. “Jerk!” I howled out the driver’s window.
“That doesn’t preclude asking,” Michael said. “But no. I wanted to know when you were going to marry Miss Rodriguez.”
“Hell’s Bells, Michael,” I scowled. “You and I have been chasing all over town for the past two weeks, going up against every ghost and spirit that has all of a sudden reared its ugly head. We still don’t know what’s causing the spirit world to go postal.”
“I know that, Harry, but—”
“At the moment,” I interrupted, “we’re going after a nasty old biddy at Cook County, who could kill us if we aren’t focused. And you’re asking me about my love life.”
Michael frowned at me. “You’re sleeping with her, aren’t you?” he said.
“Not often enough,” I growled, and shifted lanes, swerving around a passenger bus.
The knight sighed. “Do you love her?” he asked.
“Michael,” I said. “Give me a break. Where do you get off asking questions like that?”
“Do you love her?” he pressed.
“I’m trying to drive, here.”
“Harry,” he asked, smiling. “Do you love the girl or don’t you? It isn’t a difficult question.”
“Speaks the expert,” I grumbled. I went past a blue-and-white at about twenty miles an hour over the speed limit, and saw the police officer behind the wheel blink and spill his coffee as he saw me go past. I checked my rearview mirror, and saw the blue bulbs on the police car whirl to life. “Dammit, that tears it. The cops are going to be coming in right after us.”
“Don’t worry about them,” Michael assured me. “Just answer the question.”
I flashed Michael a glance. He watched me, his face broad and honest, his jaw strong, and his grey eyes flashing. His hair was cropped close, Marine-length, on top, but he sported a short, warrior’s beard, which he kept clipped close to his face. “I suppose so,” I said, after a second. “Yeah.”
“Then you don’t mind saying it?”
“Saying what?” I stalled.
“Harry,” Michael scolded, holding on as we bounced through a dip in the street. “Don’t be a child about this. If you love the woman, say so.”
“Why?” I demanded.
“You haven’t told her, have you? You’ve never said it.”
I glared at him. “So what if I haven’t? She knows. What’s the big deal?”
“Harry Dresden,” he said. “You, of all people, should know the power of words.”
“Look, she knows,” I said, tapping the brakes and then flattening the accelerator again. “I got her a card.”
“A card?” Michael asked.
He sighed. “Let me hear you say the words.”
“Say the words,” he demanded. “If you love the woman, why can’t you say so?”
“I don’t just go around saying that to people, Michael. Stars and sky, that’s . . . I just couldn’t, all right?”
“You don’t love her,” Michael said. “I see.”
“You know that’s not—”
“Say it, Harry.”
“If it will get you off my back,” I said, and gave the Beetle every ounce of gas that I could. I could see the police in traffic somewhere behind me. “All right.” I flashed Michael a ferocious, wizardly scowl and snarled, “I love her. There, how’s that?”
Michael beamed. “You see? That’s the only thing that stands between you two. You’re not the kind of person who says what they feel. Or who is very introspective, Harry. Sometimes, you just need to look into the mirror and see what’s there.”
“I don’t like mirrors,” I grumbled.
“Regardless, you needed to realize that you do love the woman. After Elaine, I thought you might isolate yourself too much and never—”
I felt a sudden flash of anger and vehemence. “I don’t talk about Elaine, Michael. Ever. If you can’t live with that, get the hell out of my car and let me work on my own.”
Michael frowned at me, probably more for my choice of words than anything else. “I’m talking about Susan, Harry. If you love her, you should marry her.”
“I’m a wizard. I don’t have time to be married.”
“I’m a knight,” Michael responded. “And I have the time. It’s worth it. You’re alone too much. It’s starting to show.”
I scowled at him again. “What does that mean?”
“You’re tense. Grumpy. And you’re isolating yourself more all the time. You need to keep up human contact, Harry. It would be so easy for you to start down a darker path.”
“Michael,” I snapped, “I don’t need a lecture. I don’t need the conversion speech again. I don’t need the ‘cast aside your evil powers before they consume you’ speech. Again. What I need is for you to back me up while I go take care of this thing.”
Cook County Hospital loomed into sight and I made an illegal U-turn to get the Blue Beetle up into the Emergency entrance lane.
Michael unbuckled his seat belt, even before the car had come to a stop, and reached into the backseat to draw an enormous sword, fully five feet long in its black scabbard. He exited the car and buckled on the sword. Then he reached back in for a white cloak with a red cross upon the left breast, which he tossed over his shoulders in a practiced motion. He clasped it with another cross, this one of silver, at his throat. It clashed with his flannel workman’s shirt, blue jeans, and steel-toed work boots.
“Can’t you leave the cloak off, at least?” I complained. I opened the door and unfolded myself from the Beetle’s driver’s seat, stretching my long legs, and reached into the backseat to recover my own equipment—my new wizard’s staff and blasting rod, each of them freshly carved and still a little green around the edges.
Michael looked up at me, wounded. “The cloak is as much a part of what I do as the sword, Harry. Besides, it’s no more ridiculous than that coat you wear.”
I looked down at my black leather duster, the one with the large mantle that fell around my shoulders and spread out as it billowed in a most heavy and satisfactory fashion around my legs. My own black jeans and dark Western shirt were a ton and a half more stylish than Michael’s costume. “What’s wrong with it?”
“It belongs on the set of El Dorado,” Michael said. “Are you ready?”
I shot him a withering glance, to which he turned the other cheek with a smile, and we headed toward the door. I could hear police sirens closing in behind us, maybe a block or two away. “This is going to be close.”
“Then we best hurry.” He cast the white cloak back from his right arm, and put his hand on the hilt of the great broadsword. Then he bowed his head, crossed himself, and murmured, “Merciful Father, guide us and protect us as we go to do battle with the darkness.” Once more, there was that thrum of energy around him, like the vibrations of music heard through a thick wall.
I shook my head, and fetched a leather sack, about the size of my palm, from the pocket of my duster. I had to juggle staff, blasting rod, and sack for a moment, and wound up with the staff in my left hand, as was proper, the rod in my right, and the sack dangling from my teeth. “The sun is down,” I grated out. “Let’s move it.”
And we broke into a run, knight and wizard, through the emergency entrance of Cook County Hospital. We drew no small amount of stares as we entered, my duster billowing out in a black cloud behind me, Michael’s white cloak spreading like the wings of the avenging angel whose namesake he was. We pelted inside, and slid to a halt at the first intersection of cool, sterile, bustling hallways.
I grabbed the arm of the first orderly I saw. He blinked, and then gawked at me, from the tips of my Western boots to the dark hair atop my head. He glanced at my staff and rod rather nervously, and at the silver pentacle amulet dangling at my breast, and gulped. Then he looked at Michael, tall and broad, his expression utterly serene, at odds with the white cloak and the broadsword at his hip. He took a nervous step back. “M-m-may I help you?”
I speared him into place with my most ferocious, dark-eyed smile and said, between teeth clenched on the leather sack, “Hi. Could you tell us where the nursery is?”
We took the fire stairs. Michael knows how technology reacts to me, and the last thing either of us wanted was to be trapped in a broken elevator while innocent lives were snuffed out. Michael led the way, one hand on the rail, one on the hilt of his sword, his legs churning steadily.
I followed him, huffing and puffing. Michael paused by the door and looked back at me, white cloak swirling around his calves. It took me a couple of seconds to come gasping up behind him. “Ready?” he asked me.
“Hrkghngh,” I answered, and nodded, still clenching my leather sack in my teeth, and fumbled a white candle from my duster pocket, along with a box of matches. I had to set my rod and staff aside to light the candle.
Michael wrinkled his nose at the smell of smoke, and pushed open the door. Candle in one hand, rod and staff in the other, I followed, my eyes flicking from my surroundings to the candle’s flame and back.
All I could see was more hospital. Clean walls, clean halls, lots of tile and fluorescent lights. The long, luminescent tubes flickered feebly, as though they had all gone stale at once, and the hall was only dimly lit. Long shadows stretched out from a wheelchair parked to the side of one door and gathered beneath a row of uncomfortable-looking plastic chairs at an intersection of hallways.
The fourth floor was a graveyard, bottom-of-the-well silent. There wasn’t a flicker of sound from a television or radio. No intercoms buzzed. No air-conditioning whirred. Nothing.
We walked down a long hall, our steps sounding out clearly despite an effort to remain quiet. A sign on the wall, decorated with a brightly colored plastic clown, read: NURSERY/MATERNITY, and pointed down another hall.
I stepped past Michael and looked down that hallway. It ended at a pair of swinging doors. This hallway, too, was quiet. The nurse’s station stood empty.
The lights weren’t just flickering here—they were altogether gone. It was entirely dark. Shadows and uncertain shapes loomed everywhere. I took a step forward, past Michael, and as I did the flame of my candle burned down to a cold, clear pinpoint of blue light.
I spat the sack out of my mouth and fumbled it ...Revue de presse :
Praise for the Dresden Files
“Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlowe.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Fans of Laurell K. Hamilton and Tanya Huff will love this series.”—Midwest Book Review
“Superlative.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“One of the most enjoyable marriages of the fantasy and mystery genres on the shelves.”—Cinescape
“Butcher...spins an excellent noirish detective yarn in a well-crafted, supernaturally-charged setting. The supporting cast is again fantastic, and Harry’s wit continues to fly in the face of a peril-fraught plot.”—Booklist (starred review)
“What’s not to like about this series?...It takes the best elements of urban fantasy, mixes it with some good old-fashioned noir mystery, tosses in a dash of romance and a lot of high-octane action, shakes, stirs, and serves.”—SF Site
“A tricky plot complete with against-the-clock pacing, firefights, explosions, and plenty of magic. Longtime series fans as well as newcomers drawn by the SciFi Channel’s TV series based on the novels should find this supernatural mystery a real winner.”—Library Journal
“What would you get if you crossed Spenser with Merlin? Probably you would come up with someone very like Harry Dresden, wizard, tough guy and star of [the Dresden Files].”—The Washington Times
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Description du livre Hardcover. Etat : Good. 0451462343. N° de réf. du vendeur 635398
Description du livre Hardcover. Etat : Fine. Item is in like new condition with minor shelf wear. Might have a remainder mark or slight wear from sitting on the shelf. N° de réf. du vendeur DS-0451462343-1