This thing- this entire story- was spawned by one mental image. Want to know? It was- dramatic pause- the image of Murphy and her daughter running into Morgan in the street. That's it. Just that one little freeze-frame in my head. My muses don't need much fuel, do they?
Written in Murphy's POV cause she's easier than Harry, and because I find her half-awareness amusing. So very interesting, someone who's surrounded by magic yet refuses to believe. Set sometime after the series, with blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to at least two episodes. There could be more. They sometimes slip by me. I'm considering writing a follow-up with Harry. We'll see.
Sir Isaac's Third, of course, is in reference to the third of Sir Isaac Newton's three laws of motion- each action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Disclaimer: me no own.
The Manual- capital M, please, it is that important- tells cops how to handle just about everything that comes their way, from how to prevent a car chase down a traffic-clogged freeway to how to arrest a three hundred pound man on PCP. The Manual's longest chapter is on hostage situations- how to diffuse one, how to act if you're part of one. The shortest is on how to handle the friends and family of a missing person. It can be best summed up to one general idea: wing it. But, as the cop, bear in mind that the odds aren't with you. Prepare yourself for the worst, because the best rarily happens.
Murphy pitched the Manual out on its metaphorical ear the day Dresden went missing.
She didn't notice the first day, for which she would always blame herself. She and some other cops had been out drinking the night before, celebrating the capture of a brutal killer who had been eluding them for months, and wasn't really up for conversation that morning. She spent the day growling and glaring at anyone who came near, and the lack of a certain self-declared wizard was something to be grateful for the few times she thought about it.
She did notice the second day, when she was more coherent, but thought little of it. Dresden didn't have the best grasp of the concept of time; he moved along at his own pace and sometimes seemed genuinely surprised to find that the rest of the world didn't operate on the same lackadaisical schedule. Murphy had gone days, sometimes even weeks, without hearing word one from him before. She wasn't worried. Not yet.
Day four found her heading to the store, seeking Dresden's opinion on something. The file itself was left on the passenger's seat of her car when she arrived. His jeep was gone and the store's blinds were drawn. Murphy balked in surprise, then headed up around the back way, into his apartment. She had a key- very important, Dresden had stressed, use the key, even if you're here to arrest me, Murph, don't break down the door, use the damn key- and she used it, on the reasoning that if he really didn't want her strolling in whenever she pleased he'd get the locks changed.
The place was dark. The lights didn't work, of course, probably hadn't for years; but the candles scattered everywhere were unlit for the first time in her memory. She moved cautiously through the rooms, relying on memory to guide her, and found herself suddenly wishing for Kirmani. The sarcasm would be ramped up to an all-time high if he was here, but at least she wouldn't be alone.
He'd packed a small suitcase, from the looks of it. In a hurry, but not panicky or rushing. He'd also taken his hockey stick and she wasn't entirely sure why she thought of that as the equivalent of her grabbing a shotgun before heading out, but the thought couldn't be helped. The entire place had the air of an amusement park closed down for the winter- there was simply something unsettling about the stillness contrasting the memories of movement and life her mind kept calling up.
There was a note, on the desk in the storefront. It wasn't elaborate- hey Murphy if you get this, don't worry, I'll only be gone a couple days- and did absolutely nothing to reassure her. She turned and headed back out, since there was nothing she could do, only to pause in the doorway. With her rational mind screaming at her, she still turned halfway.
No glowing gold words in the air.
Day five began with a bang- the DA stormed into the bullpen to scream at them. The killer they'd caught, the one they'd been celebrating, was most likely going to skate because of a technicality, and the DA had an easier time blaming the grunts cops than himself for this going FUBAR. Murphy tolerated about six seconds of this. Then she took the man by the arm and gently- he'd have bruises in the morning- guided him to the captain's office.
When she got back to her desk, every eye in the room was on her.
"Get back to work," she snapped. "I want this bastard back in cuffs before he hits the sidewalk."
Thus day five melted into day six without her being aware of it, and when they nailed the jackass with the same sort of technicality as he'd used to wriggle free, she went home and crashed and day six became day seven.
Day eight, Murphy decided she truly hated technology- that someone, without even trying, could drop off their radar so easily, just by being a technophobe. True, there was a reason Dresden preferred his gas stove and rotary phone; Murphy had seen how more advanced stuff behaved around him. But this was ridiculous.
He didn't have a cell phone. He didn't have credit cards, which could actually be a sign of wisdom greater than Murphy with her three pieces of plastic possessed. She wanted to pull his phone records but didn't know how to swing it with her captain- he'd gone somewhere on a trip, that was clear, and she had nothing saying he hadn't decided to spend a few extra days wherever. Harris' picture of that kiss had damaged her credibility with the higher-ups as far as her judgment about Dresden went; it would take more than her kicking up a fuss about his vanishing before the department did something about it.
So Murphy swallowed her pride, got off her ass, and behaved like a cop.
"Misplaced your wizard, have you?" Liz Fontane asked, clearly amused. Murphy had waited for her to leave her office, ambushing her as she began the long walk to her car. Fontane wasn't even slightly cooperative, but she headed off the depressingly short list of people Harry talked to on at least a semi-regular basis.
"I just need to know when you last talked to him," Murphy replied, reminding herself to keep a rein on her temper. Last time she'd been perfectly happy to let this woman have it, but then last time she'd been a cop at a crime scene and Fontane was an intruder.
"Couple weeks ago. He asked me to look up something online- you know how he is with computers."
She knew. She'd had to get hers replaced twice already.
"Look up what?" Murphy asked. Though the bulk of his income came from Chicago PD, he did occasionally get clients from the civilian sect. It wasn't common, though, and even less common for those cases to not involve the department in some way.
"You know, I don't quite remember," Fontane said as she unlocked her car, and Murphy ran headfirst into the brick wall of big-city prejudice.
She was going to lose her temper if they started playing this game. "Fine. Thanks for nothing."
"Are you really looking for him? Officially?" Fontane called out as she began to stride away.
"I am," Murphy allowed, realizing as she said it that she'd put too much emphasis on the 'I'.
"But not the department?" When she didn't answer, the PI scoffed. "Of course not."
The car door slammed shut between them before Murphy could come up with a response to that.
Day nine Murphy sprained her wrist trying to tear up carpeting in her entry hallway. The doctor was a bit confused as to how she managed this; she glared at him until he shut up and took the x-ray. Kirmani was wise enough, and knew her well enough, to keep his mouth shut and watch in silent amusement as she reassigned herself to desk work for the week. She snapped at him anyways, because he was there and she felt like it. Then she went to see the captain about Dresden's disappearing act.
The conversation went about as well as she thought it would. She excused herself, popped a couple of aspirin, took the day off, went home, took off that stupid wrist thing, and attacked her guest bathroom as though it had personally insulted her.
Day eleven was Saturday and she had Anna. One of these days, she kept telling herself, she'd introduce Harry to her daughter. The man was surprisingly good with kids and Anna would certainly get a kick out of it. She was at the right age, where common sense and logic were present but the wonder of the world and life itself still overwhelmed them; she would eat up the whole wizard thing.
Of course, that was a little difficult right now.
Mother and daughter were strolling down the street, eating sorbet and debating a night out on the Navy Pier, when Murphy saw him. A tall black man, wearing a solemn expression and clothes a bit too nice for a casual spring Saturday afternoon. He walked right past them and it was the tiniest flicker of recognition on his face that made it click in Murphy's mind.
"Excuse me," she called after him, and when he only increased his ground-eating pace, "Hey!"
He didn't so much as hesitate. Murphy would have gladly chased after him, except for Anna. She wouldn't- she couldn't- leave her daughter standing alone on a busy street, even if it meant losing her only lead on Dresden. Harry would understand.
The man was gone by then, swallowed by the crowd. Murphy pulled her daughter a little closer.
"Who was that, Mom?" Anna asked.
"Friend of a friend," Murphy answered, which was a bald-faced lie. He was a figure from the other part of Dresden's life, the part she tried not to think too much about. The few times she'd seen him, he was leaving Dresden's place, and there had always been noticeable animosity between the two men.
They went to the Navy Pier that night, after dinner at Hard Rock Café. It was a bit expensive on Murphy's salary, but she decided to splurge to make up for her mood.
Day twelve, Sunday, she spent tearing up carpet and performing other aggressive chores. Anna, who was perhaps a little weird, decided this was fun and helped.
Day thirteen, she was back in Dresden's store. This time Kirmani came with her, because he could see that she was getting truly worried. Absolutely nothing had changed, except now it was early afternoon and the place was a little better lit with the sunlight streaming in around the blinds.
Like the last time Harry had dropped off the face of the earth, Murphy had no clue what she was looking for. It didn't help that she knew what she was hoping for- golden words, shimmering in mid-air. A name, a city, a clue, anything.
"He doesn't have any files," Kirmani noted. "Not even a list of phone numbers. Can you do that?"
"Keep track of everything in my head?" Murphy, who on more than one occasion had written certain words so many times in a report that they had ceased to have meaning to her, snorted. "Impressive, Dresden, but not very helpful," she muttered to herself.
They went over the place pretty thoroughly and found the same thing as last time: absolutely nothing. Murphy wanted to scream, wanted to strangle something, wanted Dresden in front of her so she could make sure he was okay before shooting him for disappearing like this.
Back out front, Kirmani paused and gazed at the empty spot where Dresden's jeep should be. Murphy slammed her door, causing something in her wrist to give an unpleasant twinge, as he slid in the driver's seat.
"BOLO on the jeep?" he offered. They wouldn't have to explain themselves with a BOLO, since the brass didn't keep track of who posted one or why.
"Sure," Murphy sighed, then, "It's been two weeks, Kirmani, that jeep could be anywhere from Vancouver to Rio de Janiero."
Kirmani started to answer but slammed on the brakes instead. As they'd been going about fifteen miles an hour, this annoyed Murphy more than anything else.
"Or right in front of us," he said, and Murphy followed his gaze. The jeep was in the parking lot of that cheap greasy-spoon diner Dresden liked so much.
Detective Kirmani was a smart boy. He didn't need to ask. He pulled into the parking lot and let the engine idle, making no move to get out. Murphy did, slamming the door again and storming into the restaurant.
Harry Dresden was leaning against the counter, flirting with the pretty blond waitress Murphy recognized as his on-again-off-again girlfriend. He looked tired and rumpled, as though he'd slept in his clothes, and generally satisfied with life in general- whatever he'd set out to do that required his vanishing for two weeks, he'd done it and was proud of his results. Murphy's fingers brushed her belt, but desk duty meant no gun.
He spotted her- hard not to, everyone in the diner was visibly cringing away from her- and smiled.
"Hey, Murphy," he said, straightening up. The blond took one look at Murphy and fled. "Did you miss me?"
There was only one appropriate response to that.
"Lieutenant Murphy," the doctor said with a sigh, "what a pleasant surprise."
He didn't look surprised to see her sitting there, wrist stiff and arm held carefully. It was a different doctor than the one before; this one looked to be closer to Anna's age than hers. She wondered if he would be offended if she asked for a doctor who wasn't still in diapers.
"I see doctor's orders don't count for much," he continued as he took her hand and began to gently probe her wrist. "Were we tearing up carpeting again?"
"No," Murphy said coolly. Pause. "Well, yes. But not today."
The doctor paused and shifted his gaze briefly to the third person in the room. There was already an impressive shiner around Dresden's left eye. In a few days it would be a lovely shade of purple.
Murphy hoped it hurt like a bitch.
"Would you like an ice pack for that?" the boy-doctor asked in a tone that wasn't quite neutral and wasn't quite snide, but managed to land perfectly in between.
"No, I'm good," Dresden replied. He wouldn't have been there had Murphy had any say in it, but he'd not only convinced Kirmani to let him take her to the hospital, he'd also figured out which doctor she was going to and raced the elevator up four flights. That sort of dedication required at least an acknowledgement, so she hadn't drop-kicked his ass out the window.
"Congratulations, lieutenant. You might have managed to do real damage this time." The doctor stood up and stripped off his latex gloves in smooth, practiced motions. "I'll see if I can get you in for a CT scan later."
He left, and with him left what little good cheer he'd brought, leaving the tension. Murphy rested her chin on her good hand and waited.
"Murphy, I-" Dresden began what sounded suspiciously like yet another apology. Murphy had had enough of those.
"Oh, shut up," she said, aggravated. After a moment, she was feeling forgiving enough to explain why he was being punished. "You left a note, Dresden, saying you'd be gone a couple of days. A note."
"In retrospect, not the brightest idea, but there weren't exactly that many phone lines where I went," he replied. The first half had been muttered to himself.
She spared him a glance, about to ask where that was, then stopped herself. If she asked, he would have to lie, and neither of them wanted to go through that right now. All week long Murphy had been out looking for a fight- Kirmani, the captain, her carpeting- and now that the cause of that was sitting next to her, she ironically decided she didn't feel like fighting with him.
"How about, it won't happen again?"
Really, she should despise this man. There was no telling how many times he'd taken advantage of her trust, how many laws he'd broken and lies he'd told her. He handed out half-truths and almost-lies like candy at Halloween and she was expected to swallow all of it without question. He kept secrets, secrets that had put her in danger on at least one occasion, and got him hurt more times than she could count. Sometimes she got the impression he was walking on the edge of a knife; one slip, and it was over for him, and possibly her as well. She was just too close to this enigma of a man.
She looked over at him, and he smiled. Turning up the little-boy charm. She really should hate him.
"Go get an ice pack before your eye swells shut," she said, exasperated, and the smile turned sincere. He unfolded his lanky frame from the god-awful hospital chair and headed for the door. She didn't realize he hadn't left until he spoke.
"For what it's worth, I missed you too."
"Go!" She ordered, turning to point at the door, and he ducked out. Once she was sure he was gone, she allowed herself to smile and chuckle. It would be a lot easier to hate him if he had something besides the welfare of others as his first concern.
On day fourteen, she let him take her out to dinner. It was the least they both could do.