Nervousness. The emotional plague of lovesick teenagers, professional performers like my dad and me, the rough and tumble, zombie dinosaur-riding wizard who is about to ask a girl to look into his soul. I know it breaks the guy code of ethics to share my feelings with a woman, but it can't be helped.
A soulgaze, the process where a wizard can see your soul and you into his by locking eyes, is colored by who a person is, what they are looking for and their previous relationship with the person. I've done it about a half dozen times. Everyone's experience seeing the depths of my soul has been a little different… and equally disturbing. There has been fainting, screaming, a brief crack in the poker face of a hardened gangster, and an increased desire to jump my bones. The only thing I can get from that is my soul apparently does things in extremes, which is appropriate given who it belongs to. Still, the fact is I don't know what people see when they look at me and to do my next job without damning myself, I need to find out.
I got a package from The Gatekeeper this morning containing a note and a shield bracelet that I know, I know, belonged to my mother. The note, written in The Gatekeeper's immaculate cursive said one phrase, "temet nosce". My Latin sucks, but that phrase jumped out at me thanks to The Matrix. Know thyself. The Gatekeeper, as well as being one of the most enigmatic members of the Senior Council, was also a heavy hitter in the precognition department. He had pulled the mysterious note, cryptic message thing a few years back and it saved my life so when Obi-Wan said, "Jump." I listened.
Which brings us to Murphy. The kick-ass, short, cute blonde Valkyrie whose fight against the paranormal thankfully earned her the day off so she could to do me this favor. Murphy got to know me the old-fashioned way, through years of conversation, mutual interest and the occasional pyrotechnic supernatural adventure. She is, in a word, awesome. Her courage and intelligence makes her a warrior amongst men. Her willingness to tell me the truth about myself whether I want to hear it or not, makes her a friend. If anyone can handle telling me the good, the bad and the ugly about my soul, she can.
In general, I'm an okay guy. I pay my rent relatively frequently, shovel the stairway for the elderly couple that lives above me and shout expletives when I get cut off in Chicago traffic. In addition to that, once every few months, I save the world or at least my corner of it. You'd think that would be enough to get me by on my own merit, but as the saying goes "the sins of the father will be visited on the son" or in this case, the mother. My mom was involved in some pretty questionable stuff. Some of it involved the vampires, some involved demons and some involved the not-so-nice members of the fae, like my godmother. I still don't know it all, but what I do know is that there were circumstances that happened around my birth that either make me more susceptible to dark magic or will enable me to control/destroy dark entities. The line between controlling dark power and being controlled by it is practically transparent so I try not to touch it.
I'm not always successful.
Along with her silver pentacle, my mom left me some serious enemies and some equally unpleasant allies. Ever since I killed Justin, my original mentor who after teaching me the basics of magic tried to turn me into a soulless killing machine, there has been a part of me that has been attracted the dark side of magic. On a bad day, I'm still fascinated by black magic's potential and lack of rules or consequences that come with it. But I also know that what black magic lacks in consequences, it makes up for in cost with damned high interest. If whatever is going to happen next will unravel the mystery of my mother, I've got to be prepared. I've got to know everything I can about myself so I don't destroy me.
My wards alerted me to Murphy's presence before she knocked on my door. I still waited after three knocks to answer to the door so at least I could look like I had been busy.
"Hey, Murph," I greeted, taking in her jeans and leather jacket. She looked like Jan Brady on a Harley.
She took off her glass and glared up at my forehead, "Before we do anything, Dresden, I want to remind you that this is my day off. If I end up back in the office for any reason, it's your ass."
The corners of my mouth quirked up.
Murphy rolled her eyes and walked past me into my apartment, "Stop it."
"What?" I asked innocently, closing the door behind her.
She turned to me, "I can see what you're thinking and I'm telling you now, stop."
"Now you're the wizard."
Murphy let out an annoyed sigh, "So what am I doing here, Harry?"
I picked up the note that The Gatekeeper gave me from its resting place on the table and handed it to her. She examined it and raised an eyebrow at me.
"It says Know Thyself. It also came with this. It was my mother's," I stated and handed her the shield bracelet.
Shock registered on her features before she took the bracelet with reverent care. She looked at the bands of silver, gold and copper crisscrossing the bracelet and turned to me.
"What's this mean?" she asked.
"I think it's a warning. Whatever is coming my way next, it involves my mom and I need to know the truth about what's going on inside of me if I'm going to survive it," I replied.
"You are who you decide to be. What more do you need to know?"
I quirked my head, "Ultimately, yeah. But family, experiences, friends, they help define us. Sometimes in ways we don't know or understand."
Murphy narrowed her eyes at me as the ideas clicked in her head.
"And you think I can help you figure out things that you don't already know about yourself," Murphy concluded, "How?"
"Well, chicks have a talent for this psychological crap," I stated.
Murphy shook her fist at me, "One day, Dresden, I swear."
My smile got wider. Murphy responded in kind and put her fist down.
"Seriously," I started, putting my hands up in mock surrender, "A soulgaze,"
I watched how she responded to the word, testing to see if she remembered the first time I tried to initiate one with her. She was the victim of a psychic attack at the time. I hated the demon that tortured her, but mostly I hated that had been too late to stop it from happening. I didn't want to her to remember it.
"Soulgaze?" she asked.
I let out a short breath of relief, hoping she didn't catch it.
"It's what happens when you look directly into a wizard's eyes for the first time. You see into his soul and he sees into yours," I said.
Murphy blinked, "Sounds intense."
Murphy leaned toward me, "And how come we've never done this?"
I looked up toward her face while avoiding contact with her eyes, "You know why."
"Cause you've never looked into my eyes for more than a few seconds, less than," she said slowly.
Murphy considered me for a second, "You've done this before?"
"Yeah, plenty of times."
She eyed me, "And you can't get any of these other people to sketch your soul for you?"
"It's better when the memory's fresh and…" I trailed off.
I took a breath, "I trust you."
Murphy's gaze settled on the floor and the seconds ticked between us.
"If I do this," she said finally, "It means you'll see my soul too? Everything?"
She seemed, and I don't use this word lightly regarding Murphy, scared. I needed her to do this, but I promised a long time ago I would stop lying to her.
"Mostly, but I'm not looking for your secrets, Murph. I'll just get a general sense of who you are," I said as gently as I could.
"At my deepest level," she stated with caution lacing her words.
"At your deepest level," I agreed, " And you at mine."
Her eyes remained on the floor. I scratched behind Mouse's ears as we both waited.
She looked up, "Okay."
Murphy nodded, "I trust you too, Harry. That's all there is to it. And I'm not gonna let you go into a fight unprepared if I can help it."
A grin forced its way to the surface as I gestured for Murphy to see next to me on the comfy, second-hand couch.
She sat down.
"Just so know, any thoughts of you in a bikini is just biology and before you say it, Oink!"
She narrowed her eyes at me. "I hate you."
My grin got wider.
She groaned, "How does this Dresden mind meld start?"
"Like this," I said and took Murphy's hand like we've done a million times before when we were about to do something dangerous.
"Take a deep breath," I said, looking how Murphy's blonde locks ghosted across her face. She stared at our locked hands and I waited for her eyes to meet mine. She raised her head with the iron determination that she used to protect Chicago and in half of a breath, the soulgaze began.
I found myself in just outside of Murphy's old office in SI with a glass wall that allowed me to look inside. I wasn't surprised that she still thought of herself as the boss because for all intensive purposes, she was. The police officers of SI were a close bunch and the only reason why Special Investigations developed into a solid defense against the supernatural threats was because of Murphy. She took her job and her duty seriously even if her current assignment was supposed to be political Siberia.
The office was big and managed to be organized and cluttered at the same time. Mementos of a life and friends covered the walls and floor. The furniture was well worn, some with burn marks and the glass that surrounded her was cracked in several places, spider webbing across the surface. She was doing work at a huge mahogany desk with trophies and award covering the surface. An open closet filled with causal clothes; pant suits and one cute little red number I had never seen before was to her right side. She got up and started changing. I looked away, changing the angle that I was looking at her office.
Beside her desk was a locked file cabinet. I didn't try to open it, but they were clearly labeled. I recognized my name on one of the cabinets followed by Kincaid, her two ex-husbands and her father's name was at the bottom. Suddenly, a small pale shade of pink crossed my line of vision. I turn toward it and saw a little girl in her jean shorts and a t-shirt with pink pony on the back. She crawled to a spot underneath Murphy's desk and colored. I watched her diligently focus on her work and then took note of the bruises on her arm. I leaned in deeper, trying not to scare the girl. She suddenly turned to me. Her black eye shocked me out of the soulgaze.
I came back to myself and tried to process what I had seen in Karrin. Her eyes began to refocus a second after mine. She stared directly in to my face and then scooted quickly away.
"No," she said, going to grab her jacket, "Not you."
I got up, "What?"
She turned to me, "You're not gonna pity me, Dresden."
"Murph," I pleaded.
She pointed her finger at me, "Don't. Okay. Just don't."
She opened my door and left. Details that I had passed over during the soulgaze start filtering in. The office and the desk that I had seen had been much bigger than her old office in real life. The desk was big enough to hide things, lot of things, on purpose. Murphy has called me a chauvinist repeatedly. She's not wrong. For me, the instinct to protect and defend women goes bone deep, even if they are fully capable of kicking my ass. It's worse when I know the person. It's worse when I love the person. It's worse when it's kids.
Someone had hurt Karrin Murphy, my best friend, before she was capable to defending herself. Someone turned her youth against her and had stole her innocence. Someone needed to pay.