It was a dark and stormy night. The rain fell in sheets from the midnight sky as the wind howled, the lightning crackled and the thunder roared. It was a wild night, a night that nobody in his right mind would be out in, which probably proved that I wasn't in my right mind.
It was also a night that somebody would die. With luck it wouldn't be me.
In my own defense, it wasn't as if I had planned on getting into a toe-to-toe with Michael Carpenter, Chicago's very own Knight of the Cross. In fact, I would have been perfectly happy never crossing paths with the man. No, it was Carpenter who insisted on getting all righteously indignant on me, going on about the power of the devil and leading my daughter astray and trying to smite me in my own office. It was only afterwards, when Karrin had the man safely (if temporarily) behind bars, that I discovered the reason for Carpenter's fury. Apparently, my new apprentice, Molly, was his daughter, and the man clearly had a serious, practically Salem-esque issue with magic.
Later, Karrin had called to tell me of Carpenter's mysterious – one might even say miraculous – escape, and I immediately knew I had to do something. Molly had exhibited too much potential to let sit untrained, but based on her father's reactions so far I figured that he would be disinclined to acquiesce to my trying to educate her. Hell's bells, I could probably learn a thing or two from her about mind magics and veils. So, I instructed Karrin to 'arrest' Molly at the Carpenters' house, and take her to my apartment, where I would meet the two of them.
"No problem, Harry," she said with a chuckle. "It'll be believable, too – according to the files your new padawan has been downtown twice already."
"Yeah? What for?"
"The first time was for unaccompanied drinking; the second was possession of narcotics with intent to distribute without proper permits. I'm liking this girl more and more all the time."
"Y'know, Murph, with an attitude like that I'm surprised you're still on the force."
"Without Lasciel, I might not be." Which was true. Since she had come into the possession of one of the Blackened Denarii a few years back, Karrin's fortunes in the Chicago IPD had risen substantially.
"Well, tell her thanks for me, and I'll see you in a few minutes."
"See you, Harry."
Hanging up the phone, I left my office and made my way to the Black Beetle. While Karrin liked to joke that there were no original parts left on it, I really had to hand it to my mechanic, Mike, who always managed to make it look like new after whatever monster had ravaged it this week. The mold demons were the worst – they even ate the convertible top.
Of course, with the way the weather was, the Beetle's top stayed in the upright and locked position. I had just turned off Lake Street when the car suddenly lurched forward with a loud screeching sound. I whipped around just in time to see the large white pickup truck smash again into the Beetle's rear.
Normally, I would have been able to maneuver the Beetle away from Carpenter, even if he had hit me, but tonight the rain complicated my escape. The Beetle spun on the slick pavement, flipped onto its side, and crashed to a stop on the opposite sidewalk, jammed up against the storefronts.
As I sat there, the thought crossed my mind that, maybe, Carpenter would be satisfied with trashing my car (with me in it) and go away. Unfortunately, from what I knew of the man I wouldn't list "lack of resolve" amongst his vices. As I tried to unbuckle my seatbelt, I caught a glimpse of a pair of steel-toed boots approaching the windshield. Crap.
"Wizard! Your time of judgment has come!" I frantically rocked the Beetle, hoping to roll it back right-side-up. Maybe I could trap Carpenter underneath it. Just a little farther . . . yes!
With a mighty crash, the Beetle settled back onto its tires. I lost no time scrambling out, blasting rod in hand. The Knight was nowhere to be seen. As I bent over to see if, maybe, he was underneath my car, a sword swung out of nowhere – right through where my head had been. The Beetle's side mirror skittered across the sidewalk. Where the downbelow had that come from?
As Carpenter attempted to wrench his sword out of the Beetle's door panel, I headed up the street. Not too many people were outside in this weather, but I wanted no witnesses for what was about to happen. I turned into an alley, being sure to slow up a bit – partly so that Carpenter could see me, and partly because I had been thoroughly battered by the Black Beetle's earlier escapade.
Carpenter took the bait. Sword held high, he charged after me, no doubt intent on using it to express his righteous indignation at my profession. When I was a good distance down the alley, I spun on my heel and faced the Knight. His face displayed a curious mixture of disgust and triumph.
"Your time has come, wizard." He sneered. "And may God have mercy on your soul, for I shall have none." He swung the sword at me, and I barely got out of the way in time. He did manage to clip my blasting rod, which spun out of my hand and rolled under a dumpster.
"I see someone had a nice, big bowl of Fanatic-O's this morning." I retorted, leading Carpenter farther down the alley. Suddenly, I backed right over a box in the middle of the alley and fell flat on my back. Carpenter seized his opportunity and brought the sword down in a stabbing motion, while I threw up my left hand, channeling energy through my shield bracelet.
The sword rebounded off my shield, causing Carpenter to stumble backwards. At this point, I didn't think I'd be able to block another thrust, so I went with the best of my rapidly diminishing options.
I pulled out my .45 and shot the knight three times in the chest.
Carpenter's sword clattered to the ground as the knight sank to his knees, a shocked expression displayed on his face. Then, he slowly reached up to his chest and pulled aside the ridiculous red cloak he had sported during every time I had encountered him. Underneath it, however, he wore a chain mail shirt instead of the flannel he normally wore. Two of my shots had hit the upper torso and had failed to penetrate, but the third had apparently gone a little high – straight through Carpenter's neck. His fingertips brushed the blood streaming from the wound, and Carpenter toppled over with a gurgle. My fourth shot put him out of his misery.
Bruised and achy from the night's excitement, I quickly gathered up my blasting rod and the late knight's sword. Both of which I wrapped up in my coat, since from the sound of things out on the street, the authorities had already shown up, and most of them tended to frown upon anything not easily categorized by the IPD bureaucracy.
I needn't have worried. The responding officer, standing with her back to me interrogating an apparent witness, turned out to be none other than Karrin Murphy. Sensing my approach, she spun around, leaving the relived witness to discreetly vanish.
"Harry!" She rushed forward, slowing as she noticed my state of disarray. "Are you OK? What happened?"
"Carpenter happened. I'm fine, though – just a little banged up."
"What happened to Carpenter?"
I gestured back towards the alley. "Lead poisoning."
She grimaced. "Say no more." She pulled me over to her squad car, within which I saw a familiar looking pink and green head. I opened up the door and smiled at my apprentice.
"Hey, Molly." She immediately looked up, looking rather relieved.
"Harry, thank the erlking, I swear I didn't do anything, this crazy cop chick just barged into the house and grabbed me, and – "
I couldn't help it. Despite my bruises, I was doubled over laughing. Molly glared at me. "It's not funny, Harry!"
"I – I – I'm sorry, kid." I managed to get out. Calming down a bit, I continued. "The 'crazy cop chick' is a friend of mine, her name's Karrin Murphy. You're not really arrested; I just had her pick you up so there would be no problems with your dad." I looked over the squad car's roof, and saw two EMTs loading a draped stretcher into an ambulance, with Karrin looking on. "I don't think there will be, anymore. Can you hold onto this for me?" I thrust my bundled up coat at her.
"Sure." As she pulled the coat onto her lap, the sword slipped out. Molly started. She ran her hand along the blade. " . . . Dad?" She looked up at me, eyes filling with tears. "Did . . . did you . . . "
I slowly nodded. "I had to, kiddo – it was either him or me." Molly covered her face with her hands. I could hear her sobbing behind them. "For what it's worth, he didn't suffer long. I'm sorry."
Just then, Karrin came back. Molly seemed to have calmed down slightly, so I asked her if she would like to go back home. She nodded despondently. I relayed the request to Karrin, and we were off.
After Karrin returned Molly to her house – giving her mother a cover story about a false accusation – she headed for the Victorian boarding house I live in. I bought it shortly after a job involving a country singer who thought his house was haunted. Some people will pay outrageous amounts for incense and mood lighting.
"So, my report clearly states that Carpenter was the aggressor – I don't think you'll get in any trouble over this." Karrin's voice jarred me from my thoughts. "I also called Mike to take care of the Beetle."
"Thanks, Karrin – you staying tonight?"
She smirked at me. "I just might. My shift is over at eight – I'll be back by eight-thirty." She pulled up in front of my house. I got out of the squad car and opened the back door to grab my coat.
"By the way, Murph – I picked up a little souvenir after Carpenter's . . . passing." I slid the sword out and laid it on the backseat. "I'm sure you know where it needs to go." She grinned at me, then shifted the car and drove off. I headed to the house.
An hour or so later, I heard Karrin come through my door. I hustled out of my lab to greet her. "Hello, Karrin. You look lovely tonight."
"Thanks, Harry." She smiled flirtatiously, then frowned at the sight of the open trapdoor. "You didn't let that weird assistant of yours into your head, did, you?"
I hurriedly shut the trapdoor. "Nope. It's just the two of us tonight."
I don't own Harry Dresden or anything related to his universe. I also don't own the Star Trek Mirror Universe.
And, two months later . . . the Mirror Universe Harry Dresden. I tried to make him more of a ethically questionable figure than he already is, but I don't know how well I succeeded. Michael, on the other hand, is pretty nasty. Please keep in mind that this is supposed to be a darker universe, and so I ascribed traits to the characters not necessarily reflective of their roles in the books. I'd really like to hear what you think of them, as well as the story in general. Also, don't forget to let me know if you have any ideas for further Mirror Shards.
Thanks for reading!