After working with Harry Dresden for several years, Lieutenant Murphy thought she had heard and seen practically everything.
She looked up from the cup of coffee she had been contemplating. "Excuse me?"
"I need to borrow your house," Harry repeated, "Or... well... your address."
"What are you talking about, Dresden?"
Harry leaned over the half-wall around her desk. "I need to have something shipped to your house."
"Uh...huh," she said slowly.
"From one of those mail order catalog thingies," he finished.
"It's not anything illegal, is it?" she deadpanned.
"Of course not," Harry said.
"So why can't you have this thing delivered to your place?" she asked.
Harry shifted uneasily, "Well, your place is more secure." He absently ran a hand through his hair, "Ya know, the home of a cop. Perfect place to have some expensive electronics delivered."
"Electronics," she repeated, "You?" the police detective looked Harry over. "I thought you didn't get along with technology."
"I don't," Harry said, "It's not for me."
"It's not for you," she repeated, "But you are ordering expensive electronics that you can't have delivered to your house."
"Exactly," Harry gave her a grin, "so can ya help me out Murph?"
"You realize it will sit out on my porch all day," Murphy said.
"Yeah I know," Harry said, "That's alright."
She set her coffee cup down and swiveled in her chair to look at him directly, "How is that more secure?"
"It just..." he shifted slightly, "It just is."
"You're a terrible liar, Dresden," Murphy said, "I'm not about to give you permission to have something shipped to my house without a good reason."
"Alright, alright, you got me," Harry held up his hands, "I promise you, this is on the up and up. I just can't have it shipped to my house."
"It's sort of... a gift," Harry said, "To a friend of mine. So it's not safe to have it shipped to my house."
Murphy blinked, and then blinked again.
Harry cursed under his breath as he dug around for matching socks. He had missed the last laundry day, when Dust Bunnies had invaded the Laundromat. Still, he was sure that he had another pair of clean black socks around somewhere.
Finally he emerged victorious with his missing left sock. Harry turned back to his bed and jumped back before he walked through his ghostly roommate. For his part, the ghost just looked amused.
"Geeze Bob, how many times do I have to tell you not to sneak up on me like that," Harry grumbled as he pulled on his socks.
"Out for a night on the town?" Bob asked, disregarding the rhetorical question.
"As a matter of fact I am," he said.
A slight smile crossed the old ghost's face. "Judging from your wardrobe choice, I'd imagine... fancy dinner, dancing, back to her place... or back here even?"
"Dinner," Harry acquiesced, "Then maybe back to her place."
Bob looked slightly disappointed at that. "Why not bring her back here?"
"Get your mind out of the gutter," Harry said, "This isn't a date."
"It's business," Harry said firmly.
"Must be a high paying client to get you to dress like that," Bob commented.
"Shut up Bob," Harry said good-naturedly.
"Fine, fine," Bob said, holding up his hands.
Harry nodded and then looked around, "Now, have you seen my wallet?"
"Top drawer of your bureau," Bob supplied, "Your keys are in your jacket, which you left on one of the chairs in the kitchen."
Harry scooped up his wallet, "Thanks Bob." He hurried out to the kitchen. "I dunno when I'll be back. Late. If at all."
Bob smirked a bit at that.
"Ha ha," Harry put his coat on, "Don't wait up."
"As if I have anything better to do," Bob said to the door as it closed.
The price was a fancy dinner. It was certainly one that Harry was willing to pay. They spent the evening discussing non-work related things. The last movie that she saw. The upcoming baseball season.
After dinner, they made their way back to Murphy's house, where the Box was sitting on her dining room table, safe and sound.
"So, now what?" Murphy asked.
"This... might take awhile," Harry said slowly.
"Yeah I figured," Murphy said, "You can use the basement, I cleared some space for you."
A smile crossed Harry's face, "So you do care."
"Just, try not to blow up my house," Murphy said, "Or set it on fire."
"Scouts honor," Harry said.
Ten feet of wire, nine volt batteries, eight cups of coffee, seven magical shields, six hours of working, five dismantled timers, four how-to-books, three trips to a hardware store, two successful trials...
"And a partridge in a pear tree," Harry muttered as he sat back on his heels and surveying his work.
He couldn't afford one that was voice activated - he wasn't even sure if would work. But the one that was operated by pedal, that one was well in his budget. It took a bit of work to connect the pedal to the timer on the alarm, and set the alarm to go off at regular intervals. But, thanks to Murphy and her petitions before the all-mighty-Google, they had rigged something reasonably stable.
It was also surprisingly low tech, most of the operations were purely mechanical, not electrical.
He couldn't help but admire his work - the system was, for the most part, self sustaining. The heat energy put off by the motor went into powering the shield. The excess power that leaked from the shield went into the battery, keeping them charged. As long as the motor was plugged into an electrical outlet, it should last almost indefinitely. He hoped.
"Shouldn't it be glowing or in a bubble or something?" Murphy asked, holding cup number nine out to him.
He took it gratefully, "Nah," he said, "Uses too much energy." He took a sip, "Besides, don't wanna draw attention to it."
"Uh... huh," she drawled out the word. She still didn't quite believe Harry's story about this nosy friend who went through his mail - particularly since last time she had checked, Harry lived alone. Still, she had gotten dinner out of it, and as promised, Harry had not set anything on fire.
"I'm going to go home and sleep for a few hours," Harry said, "I'll be back to pick this up later."
Harry crept into the office, stopping just inside the doorway and listening.
He took a few more steps inside, passing through the storefront and back into his apartment. So far, so good. It seemed like he would be able to -
"You were out late."
Harry didn't turn around. "I did tell you that."
"You did," Bob agreed, "Did you have an enjoyable evening?"
Harry headed towards the stairs, "Tiring."
A smirk spread across the ghost's face. "You don't say."
"I told you I was working," Harry muttered.
"You did," Bob said again, in a mildly disbelieving tone.
"Whatever," Harry said, "I need some sleep."
Something in Bob's expression changed as he approached Harry. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"I'm fine," Harry assured Bob, "I didn't get involved in any epic battles last night, if that's what you mean"
"Not quite how I would have phrased it, but yes," Bob admitted, "What is this case about anyway?"
"It's not a case, exactly," Harry said, "I owed Murphy one for some help she gave me on the last case."
Bob raised a brow, "So the lieutenant kept you out this late?"
"Yeah," Harry said, "She's doing some work on her basement and she needed another hand."
"We both work during the day," Harry replied.
Something wasn't sitting quite right with Bob about Harry's explanation. Dresden was a terrible liar, but nothing that he had said seemed to ring false. The wizard also didn't seem to show any sign of injury, arcane or mundane. But whatever he had been doing, he was reluctant to give details. This made Bob all the more curious, but he knew he wasn't going to get any more information out of Harry until the wizard had gotten some sleep, and possibly some coffee into him.
Five hours later, the shrill ringing of the phone jerked Harry out of a rather pleasant dream he was having. He groaned and untangled himself from the sheets, stumbling down the stairs to answer the phone.
"Yeah?" He rubbed his eyes, "Oh. Murphy. Why are you so awake?... uh huh." He looked around the room for a moment, "Yeah. Yeah sure. Oh that would be perfect. Half an hour?" He squinted at the clock, "Yeah, half an hour should work fine. See you soon"
He hung up the phone and looked around, waiting a few minutes, but there was no ghostly voice asking who was on the phone. A smile crossed his face, for once it seemed that the universe was on his side.
He made his way back to his apartment, heading towards the lab. "Hey Bob? I need your help with something."
The ghost stepped out of a bookshelf, "What is it?"
"I want to make a potion for peaceful sleep," Harry said, "No dreams, or at least... no nightmares."
Bob nodded, following Harry down into the lab, "That should be easily manageable."
Harry cleared off some space on his work table, and fired up the burner.
"A base liquid of warm milk, I would think," Bob said.
The two of them were absorbed in the potion making, when they heard a buzz at the door.
"Keep an eye on this," Harry said, "I'll go see who that is."
"Don't take too long," Bob cautioned, "Or this will curdle."
Harry nodded and left the lab, closing the door, and hurrying out to the storefront where Murphy was waiting with a large shopping bag. He half expected her to look annoyed, but the detective just looked amused.
"I feel like I'm making a drop," she joked, holding out the bag to him.
Harry grinned, "Thanks a lot Murphy. I really appreciate this."
"So where do you want it?" she asked, "I helped you this much, may as well help you set it up."
Harry blinked and glanced at the clock, "Yeah... yeah sure. That would be great. Back in the living room I think."
It didn't take them long to set the machine up in the corner, out of the way. Harry crawled behind the couch to plug it in and then nodded. He picked a book up from the bookshelf and set it down. "alright, let's fire this baby up and see if it works."
As the two of them watched, the arm turned the page... again... and again... and again.
"Well done Dresden," Murphy said, "I think you did it."
He turned to her, "Couldn't've done it without you, Murphy."
She gave him a light thwack with the empty shopping bag. "I've got to get going."
"Yeah, alright, I'll walk you out," Harry said.
After Murphy had left, Harry hurried back down to the lab, which still did not smell like rotten eggs.
"Just in time," Bob said, indicating the potion, "That is finished."
"Perfect timing," Harry agreed, turning the heat down, "Think it'll work?"
"You followed my directions," Bob pointed out, "Who was at the door?"
"Huh? Oh that was just Murphy," Harry said, "Hey, uh, Bob, c'mon upstairs. I wanna show you something."
The ghost blinked, but nodded, "Of course."
"We've been doing pretty well lately," Harry said as they made their way to the living room, "Lots of cases." He gave Bob a grin, "I finally have some money."
"You have been doing rather well lately," Bob agreed, "Finally able to pay off the rent?"
"More than that," Harry said, "But ya know, I couldn't've done half of this without your help. So, I thought you should benefit a little bit too."
Bob stopped when he saw the newest addition to the living room. It was a reasonably small thing, sitting on a table in the corner, but he recognized it from the catalog he had been looking at a few months ago.
"Look," Harry said with a smile, "It's on a timer, so I can set it at whatever speed you want... and it's got so many shields on it that it shouldn't blow up any time soon." He switched it on, showing Bob how the automatic page turner worked. "I was up late at Murphy's last night, perfecting the shield."
The ghost was speechless. Harry gave him a smile, pretending not to notice that Bob's icy blue eyes were misting just slightly.
"So, I just picked a book off the shelf," Harry said, "Dunno what one you want to start with."
Bob cleared his throat, pulling himself back together, "That one will do."