She stiffened against me. "You said—"
"I am Harry Dresden," I said. "I swear it on my magic." Murphy did not look reassured, as well she shouldn't have. "I'm just not…I'm not your Harry Dresden." I waved one hand helplessly. "I'm not from here."
"No, you're from, what, Missouri?"
"I don't mean here Chicago, Murph. I mean here this dimension."
There was a pause. Slowly, Murphy said, "I swear to you, Harry, if this is some sort of joke I'm going to fucking kill you." She pulled away from me, her body language going stiff and defensive.
I winced. "No joke. You ever see that Star Trek episode…" I studied her face. "OK, maybe not the best example, but I'm not coming up with anything better. Look, maybe I should just tell you how my day so far has gone." After a second, she nodded.
"About a month and a half ago, a college student named Edward Law was killed in a car accident," I said. "His sister Stephanie decided that she needed to get him back."
"With magic," Murphy said.
"Yep. To do this, she stole an artifact that belongs to a couple who's part of the Paranet. Which is how they recognized that the theft was magical—the wife has a little trickle of power, enough to sweep for magical residue. So they called me."
Murphy rolled her eyes, but made no further comment. It annoyed her sometimes that people held out on the police when it came to magic stuff, but she understood the problem. Or at least, the Murphy I knew understood.
"It took me a few days to track her down, and I was all ready to go in after the statue when she decamped for a nice traditional abandoned warehouse to do her ritual in."
"So is this Stephanie someone's apprentice?" Murphy asked.
"She seems to be self-taught," I said. "Pretty impressive, too, all things considered. As far as I can tell she hasn't even broken any of the Laws." Murphy made a disgusted face, which confused me a little. I filed it away for later discussion. "Anyway, when I got there she was all done casting. She took the body of her brother—might want to check with the cemetery on that one, by the way—and threw it through the portal she made. That didn't do anything. What did do something was shoving me through it. I just don't know what, because I ended up here."
"Here, this dimension," Murphy said. Her voice was perfectly calm, but I could see the strain all over her face. She was about to cry again, and desperately didn't want me to know it. "You're just like my Harry, only you're not. He's dead after all."
And finally the penny dropped—I think it was the tiny stress on the word 'my'.
"Oh, Karrin," I said softly. "I'm so sorry."
"Sorry about what? That my friend is dead?" She stepped back another pace and turned her face away from me.
"He wasn't just your friend. I'm pretty dense, but I can see things when they're right in front of me," I said. "That's why you asked about the day we fell in love."
She laughed, but the sound was harsh and held no humor at all. "We…we were so desperate for it not to end," she said. "We had to force ourselves to go through with burning the belt, and all the while it was going up I kept waiting to feel different. But we didn't." She took a long breath. "We decided we'd stay away from each other till it wore off. We lasted almost a week. God, why am I telling you this? You know."
"Burning the belt…ended it for me," I said. "Me and, and Murphy, at least. There weren't any more suicides that fit the profile, so we figured any other couples were OK too."
For a while, neither of us said anything.
"So you're not with…me. Her. The other Karrin Murphy," she said at last.
Murphy nodded. After a second she asked, "What are you going to do now?"
I sighed and started to climb back to my feet. "I was planning to get some sleep, for one thing, but, well, is my—his—is the bed packed yet?" I gestured at the boxes.
"It's not," Murphy said, and then hesitantly, "I've been sleeping here the last few nights. While I pack up his things." She sounded as if she expected me to protest.
"How about I take the couch then," I said. I very carefully didn't notice the fleeting expression of disappointment that went over Murphy's face.