A/N: Been a while hasn't it, I think so, July if my memory serves. Sorry to all the readers that liked this but a friend of mine kinda sorta convinced me to start writing a Alice/Bella fic over on the Twi-shit side of things, so I'll ask you all to forgive me. I'm back now with more regular updates. So I hope you guys remember where I left off, cause I don't. I'm just kidding I do, sorta. Thank the Dresden that I had story notes. Okay I'm done have fun reading. Oh, one last thing for any fans of this story, thank AnimeAndBookFan07, for some of the ideas!
Someone at his Bar
Okay, Harry had an appointment at eight o'clock today. That tells me that he didn't plan on meeting at the office. Katelynn, the bitch of a building manager, locks the doors at five PM promptly so unless you plan on meeting a client in the entryway you meet somewhere else. Knowing Harry that meant Mac's.
McAnally's Tavern is by far the only bar slash drinking establishment that caters to the supernatural community. It's styled after and English pub, it's in the basement of an apartment building or office building. I'm honestly not sure. I just know Mac's is done in the number of thirteen. If you counted all the occurrences of thirteen there would probably be thirteen of them. Thirteen stools at the bar, thirteen tables, with fifty-two chairs (that's four occurrences of thirteen) thirteen pillars all with ornate carvings on them and if you look really carefully at them you'll notice there are thirteen scenes on each of the pillars. And thirteen ceiling fans that spin lazily a blink away from frying. Everything in the tavern is scattered around at odd and random angles to disperse any magical energies.
Well, low end magical energies. If Harry or I were to let one rip in there it would still have most of its punch left. But it's good for protecting things from the minor talents, people not members of the White Council, that normally hang out there. Being in the White Council is kind of like being a doctor, you get a shiny white lab coat and some prestige but you also have a giant sue me sign tattooed to your forehead. Minor talents are sort of like chiropractors and those new age healer guys. No prestige, but generally fewer people trying to kill them. It's a trade off really.
On a day like this, I expected no one to be there, but as soon as I opened the door I was greeted by the low buzz of customers waiting out the blizzard with a few of Mac's steak sandwiches and some of the greatest microbrew this side of the Atlantic and Pacific, and Indian…okay you get the point it's some of the greatest stuff ever. It was still rather early in the evening when I got there, and already more than half the tables were filled, some people looked like they had been there most of the day. They probably had come to think of it. It had taken the better part of two hours for the brown turd to crawl through the semi-plowed Chicagoan streets. Apparently the storm proved too difficult for snowplow drivers.
I walked down the steps to the bar, relieving myself of my: coat, gloves, scarf, earmuffs, second scarf, parka, and survival suit. Okay, maybe the last three I made up, but it's cold enough to need all those things right now. I hung all of it on the on one of the thirteen pegs on the coat tree, one more thirteen.
Are we up to thirteen occurrences of thirteen yet?
I took a seat at the corner barstool nodding a hello to Mac. He returned it with a curt nod turning back to a couple of steaks on the old fashion wood burning stove that dominated most of the area behind the counter. Mac's not much of a talker I don't think I've ever heard him say a complete sentence or string more than two or three words together at a time. Fine by me most times including today. I wasn't there to relax or grab a steak sandwich and fires (although if I had to wait much longer I probably would, they smell way too good.) I was there to meet this McGregor guy in Harry's place and see if he was the asshole that cursed him. If he had the misfortune of cursing my boyfriend I had every intention of skinning him alive and performing the counter curse myself if I had to.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, remember?
I slowly scanned the restaurant, not with the Sight, just looking. In the far corner were a couple of college aged girls, who were wearing too much eyeliner, reading a couple of pop culture books on Wicca. Posers essentially, probably didn't have enough power between them to light a single candle. Next to them were a couple of old timers who were the definition of regulars, apparently they were a couple of big name sorcerers in their time, never Council, but from my understanding most wizards wouldn't mess with those two. Currently they were playing chess with a chess set that was probably their age. Better part of two centuries if I understood the stories right. They've been here every time Harry or I have, and we've never once seen them leave.
At the next table was a young couple, slightly older than the two girls in the corner, but not by much. They both had some power too, but I'm pretty sure they were far too infatuated with one another to use any of whatever power at the moment. Next came a table with four suits, they had to be at least two and a half sheets to the wind, and I was getting a little nervous that the table that they were sitting would collapse under the weight of all the dead soldiers lined up neatly into a square shape. I don't think they were in any way connected in the supernatural department; they were most likely looking for the first open bar to go in and get hammered after their office had closed for the day. Three other tables were occupied by singles each accompanied by two or three books, nothing out of the ordinary there.
That took care of the tables; the bar was pretty well empty, other than me of course. The only other person sitting at the bar was in a heavy black sweatshirt hunched over a mug that looked a little like coffee, or tea. From across the room it was hard to tell. I couldn't really see anything else of that person, hell I couldn't even if it was a man or a woman from this angle.
I caught bartender's attention when he set a couple plate of food down on the counter with a heavy grunt. Ah Mac, made great food and beer, but he lacked in the customer service department and never once heard of service with a smile. His idea waiting was plopping down your food on the counter as hard as he could before grunting at you to pick up your own food. After I caught his attention I cocked my head toward the mystery guest at the end of the bar and quirked my eyebrows. He just shrugged is big meaty shoulders and turned back to the stove.
I checked my watch, only 6:30; I figured it was more than a long shot, but what the hell it wouldn't hurt to check. Maybe the mystery guest was this Sebastian Skyler McGregor, stranger things have happened.
Once again I gestured to Mac, using the simple sign language to ask for whatever the hooded figure at the end of the bar was having. Mac may not speak much, but if you speak his language things generally work out. He took a plain white coffee cup out of a cupboard set it down, poured in a dark black coffee that looked about as thick as pancake syrup then topped it off with a fair amount of Irish Whiskey. He slid it in front of me with a small smirk, a rare enough sight that I thought I wouldn't see it in my life. I picked up the strange brew and walked to the other end of the bar, taking the barstool right next to the mystery man – err woman – err person.
"Waiting for someone," I asked as nonchalantly as I could given the circumstances.
The figure nodded, taking a long draw out of the coffee cup. He/she/it turned its attention back to the bar without ever speaking.
"Wouldn't be Harry Dresden would it?" I asked butting a slight edge to my voice, more out of nerve than anger.
Her head snapped up, in surprise letting the hood fall back. She was most definitely a woman, and if I were easily threatened I would have been with someone like her making an appointment with my Harry after hours in a bar. I also felt every male eye in the bar fall on the two of us well mostly her. To put it mildly she was gorgeous. She had long wavy hair about the same shade as wet coal that was just as shiny with a single streak deep read running underneath, her features were delicate and damn near perfect. Humanly perfect, not supernatural.
I became rather self conscious at that point, because I'd been dealing with this shit all day and hadn't had time to even take a shower, let alone do my hair.
She turned to face me and then I understood exactly why Harry agreed to meet with her under these circumstances, the left side of her face was marred by a deep purple bruise. She pressed the chivalry button, whether she'd known it or not.
"Harry's not going to make it, I'm Elaine his," I wanted to say girlfriend and mark my territory for some reason but I ended up saying, "partner."
"Yes of course, I saw you name on the door Ms. Mallory." She said in perfect English even with a rather thick Eastern European accent. To me it sounded Russian, but I'm no expert. "But I think this is a matter better suited to Mr. Dresden's skills." She said emphasizing the word 'skills' to mean magic without saying it before pulling the hood back over her head.
"We have roughly the same set of skills." I said turning to the front of the bar. "It's funny though, you don't look like a Sebastian and you don't sound like a McGregor." I suddenly found myself desperately wanting a weapon of any variety; preferably my staff of the chain I have that works like Harry's blasting rod. But Mac would frown on either of those being let into his bar.
"It's not my real name of course; someone in your position should respect that." She took another sip of quote coffee unquote.
"I can, and I do, now please tell me what you two were meeting about." The edge on my voice became sharper and much clearer. I wasn't far from beating the answers out of this chick.
"You saw my face, you know." Her calm and elegant voice was really starting to get under my skin, she couldn't seem to answer a question directly. I lost all ability to make some s
"Okay, let me lay all my cards on the table." I said spinning around in the barstool to face her, dropping my voice to an angry whisper, "Harry's been cursed, something very, very, very nasty. He's going to die within two days if I don't find whoever cursed him and get him or her to undo it. If I can't I've been told that I can skin the person alive and remove the curse myself. You were the last person in that office yesterday so you know something. I'm going to ask again: What were you two meeting about?" The edge on my voice caught on fire too and I started scaring myself with what I said. Of course I didn't let it show. That would be stupid and foolish (i.e. something Harry would do.)
"We were going to discuss the man who did this to my face." She said pushing herself back into the wall of the tavern. "He's a…warlock? Is that the right English word?"
"Of course he is." I scoffed taking my first drag of the whiskey and coffee. "Of course he is. And what's his name?"
"I don't know..."
"Of course you don't. You probably don't know what he looked like either."
"He told me his name was Vladimir Nabokov, but I don't think he told me his real name. And I know what he looks like; I have a picture of him right here." She dug around in the center pocket of her sweatshirt finally pulling out a wallet sized photo of a man wearing a mantled cape holding a long staff topped with a human skull.
"And how do you know this Vladimir?" I asked calming myself down.
"He was my boyfriend."
That sounded believable, well the most believable thing I'd heard today but still, it was believable none the less. That sounded like it was more up my alley. I deal with a lot of jilted boyfriends and abused girlfriends too scared to go to the police. Comes with the territory when you advertise PI instead of Wizard, but someone has to pay the bills. "Alright, how powerful is your boyfriend and do you have something physical I can link to him?"
"You mean is he powerful enough to curse your Mr. Dresden." She took another long sip, still facing the front of the bar, "The truth is that he might be. He wasn't always a warlock, you know?"
She gave me the same speech I've heard from a hundred different people saying how whoever it was (normally a boyfriend) was a nice guy in the beginning but then he 'changed.' Doesn't matter how many times you hear it or how jaded you get, it gets to you. It gets to you because it's always, always honest, and it's painful, and more than anything you want to help.
"I know he wasn't." I said after she was finished, offering her a small package of tissues I keep for situations like these. The words sounded hollow, a line practiced hundreds of times.
She handed over the picture, taped to the back was a lock of dark brown hair, roots still attached. I thanked, spinning around on the bar stool, and went back to the coat tree grabbing all the stuff I unloaded when I came in. Heading back into the blizzard, I gave one final look back at the girl calling herself Sebastian. Her head, still bowed deeply over the mug, her hands still wrapped around it staring into space.
I didn't trust her.
Happy Veteran's Day everyone!