I should have known something was up when my phone rang at two-thirty in the morning. No sane person calls another at two-thirty in the morning. Hell, I doubt only a few insane people would call at two-thirty in the morning. But it could be my brother, in trouble, so I had to answer. I couldn't ignore him, no more than I could throttle him. It didn't mean I didn't give it major thought as I threw the covers off me and rolled out of bed.
"Yeah," I had growled into the receiver, after stumbling down the hall to my phone.
"Thomas," the expected voice said around some static. It was one disadvantage of having a wizard for a little brother.
"Yeah, Harry, it's me," I said with an eye roll. Of course it was me, who else would be picking my phone up? The only person I'd consider inviting over for the night, Harry notwithstanding, was the one person who couldn't be near me. Just the thought of her sent a sharp pain to my heart, but I pushed it away and returned my attention back to Harry.
"Can you…? Can you by any chance come get me?" okay, major clue number one that something was off. Harry rarely called for just a ride. He normally called to say 'Hey, there's an evil…insert creature here…after me. You mind having my back so I don't get eaten, killed, beaten, or anything else that is remotely harmful to me? That would be great, thanks.'
"Where are you?" I asked without hesitation. I was wide-awake by that point, my heart thumping against my chest. I knew I was probably jumping to irrational conclusions, but a small part of me believed they were perfectly rational. I mean, Harry isn't exactly known for his lack of enemies. He's made a ton over the years, more than a ton, probably more than more than a ton. I knew this; everyone close to him knew this. What if one had caught up to him again?
I realized he hadn't responded to my question. Okay, major clue number two. By now, any normal time, he would have been throwing out sarcastic quips about me sounding so worried. It was annoying sure, but I had gotten used to it over the years. It was normal for us, familiar. Without it I went from worried to panicked without stopping for donuts on the way… Does my little brother rub off on people or what?
"Hey, Harry," I said raising my voice, hoping he had just chosen the most inane time to talk to someone else. "You okay?"
"What?" oh God, he sounded so confused, his voice was slurred. It wasn't slurred before, was it? Did I miss it? Crap.
"Harry, tell me where you are," I responded trying to sound calm. Letting myself fully panic, now, wouldn't help him in the long run. So, I pushed and pushed until all my emotions were locked up in a tight box, along with everything else remotely bothersome to me. It would have to do for the time being.
"I'm… I'm outside a gas station," my brother answered in a weak imitation of his usual sarcastic filled timbre. He never let on how hurt he was, unless he couldn't help it. Major clue number three. I was beginning to feel like a useless big brother.
"Which gas station?" there were a lot in Chicago, he had to narrow it down a bit. It was quiet for a few seconds, too long if you asked me, then he finally rattled of a street name. Finally I could help my brother, finally I could figure out if he were okay or not, something was going right. Until I heard the unmistakable thud of a body hitting the ground, that's when I knew I had to hurry.
Thank God it hadn't snowed really early this year, or I wouldn't have been able to go about fifty over the speed limit in my Buick. I was thinking about getting a new car, maybe a Hummer. But that decision would have to wait for a while longer. I had a little brother to worry about.
The station was six blocks from my apartment, no doubt where my brother was headed. I knew he wasn't driving much this last week. The 'Blue Beetle' or Harry's 'piece of crap' as I called it when he wasn't around, had been to see Mike, again. One of Molly's spells went off course, hit the back end, and caused the engine to catch fire. It was probably going to be out of commission for a few weeks, a month at most. Right now I kinda wished I had lent him my Buick, he obviously needed it more than me. I mean I could easily walk to the salon. Amidst the stares of females, and a few males, who wouldn't think twice if I asked them to have intercourse with me right there on the sidewalk. I wouldn't, but they still wouldn't say no. Hell, I've had people follow me from random places. It was kinda creepy. So, I guess I did need the Buick…
I finally pulled up to the gas station, the placed closed for the night. It was a rarity in Chicago, an actual gas station that closed at a set time. Normally they were open twenty-four hours, for all the late night stragglers. I guess not many stragglers came down this road, to this gas station. Why am I even thinking about this? My brother is in trouble.
My headlights caught a heap by the pay phone, a blinking streetlight bringing it into focus every so often. There was no doubt in my mind who that heap was. I slammed on my brakes, keeping the motor running, and threw the door open. Sprinting toward my brother calling his name, I skidded to my knees, feeling tiny rocks slicing into my skin, and grabbed Harry's wrist. My fingers prodded, searching for a pulse, and caught a weak, sluggish one. Relief barely made it through my mind before I realized Harry was hurt somewhere; hurt enough to affect his pulse rate.
"Hey, Harry," I said lightly tapping his face. I felt something warm and sticky smear across my hand, finding blood splattered across my palm. Crap, crap, double crap. I had to get him out of here, get him help, but knew I couldn't take him to a hospital. Yes, peace talks were being discussed for the vampire-wizard war, but there were still a few from the Red Court who would kill any downed wizard if they could. Especially my brother, who happened to be the most hated wizard amongst them.
"Come on, little brother," I said hefting him up. I guess I had to take him back to my apartment; it was the closest place.
Super vampire strength aside, it was a bitch carrying him to the car. He's nothing but limbs, limbs that kept hitting me in the legs every time I walked.
As I pulled into my apartment's parking lot Harry started to come around again. I went to the passenger side to help him to the door; hopefully I wouldn't have to carry him this time. That's when I saw all the blood. The entire right side of his face was covered in it. There was a hole in his jeans that revealed a sizable gash across his leg, bleeding into his sock and shoe. His right hand also looked like it had been smashed with a blunt object. I suspected a baseball bat. I used my shirt to clean him up the best I could.
"Empty Night Harry, what happened to you?"
"I godda shit be' outta me."
I hadn't expected him to answer, it was a relief that he was able to communicate, at least a little.
"You shouldn't try to speak."
"Then stopaskin' me kestions."
That's my little brother for you, beaten to a pulp, bleeding profusely, and still able to be a wiseass. I got an arm under his shoulder and he made a very unmanly sound, I let it slide this time. As we approached the front door I turned up my "charm" for lack of a better word. The doorman and security guard didn't even look twice at the bleeding, half-dead wizard under my arm. It amazes me sometimes how blinded by lust people can be. I decided to carry him up the stairs rather than risk his magic trapping us in the elevator. I finally got him up to my apartment and onto the couch. I was going to have to burn that later. I went to the kitchen and retrieved my first aid kit. When I say first aid kit I don't mean the kind that mommy's have to fix boo-boos. This is a bona fide kit from the military, with a few of my own upgrades. And I still knew it wasn't going to be enough to save my brother. I gave him a shot of morphine and bandaged his wounds the best I could. By this time he was again losing his fight with consciousness. He needed professional help, no not that kind of professional help. Well, he needed that too, but it was more pressing to get him medical attention.
"Harry, man, what is the name of that ME you know?"
"Yeah Butters, do you know his number?"
"Uh...Yeah..." his eyes rolled back in his head as he passed out.
"Dammit Harry!" I wanted to hit him but I knew that that would be counterproductive. I was running short on time. The bandages wouldn't hold forever. The wound on his leg looked like it may have hit something vital. Not to mention the possibility of a cracked skull and concussion from that head wound. He needed a doctor NOW! How come every thing that can go wrong around Harry, does. Murphy! I can call Murphy she'll be able to get Butters. It was almost three in the morning. What sane person calls another at three in the morning? A desperate one.
She answered on the third ring. "Hello?"
"Karrin, it's Thomas Raith I need you to come to my apartment..." in hindsight it probably wasn't the best way for me to start a sentence.
"Oh no you don't you sex-driven monster if you think that I..."
"Murphy, Harry is here, he's hurt bad I need you to get Butters and bring him here."
"I...Oh." I gave her my address.
She said she would be here in half an hour, I told her for Harry's sake I hope she got here sooner. Sixteen and a half minutes later there was pounding on my door. I opened it to find Murphy dressed in sweat pants and a Cubbies windbreaker, standing beside Butters in Oktoberfest boxers and a shirt that read "Born to Polka!" Seriously that man needed to get laid. I led them to the living room and Butters immediately got to work. He started pulling things out of the little doctor's bag he had brought with him, and removing the bandages I had applied earlier. He looked up at me.
"Did you put these on him?"
"Yeah I did, did I do something wrong?"
"Oh, no you did a very good job. You probably saved his life."
That sent a chill down my spine, beside me Murphy had wrapped her arms tightly around herself.
"But he's going to be OK now right?" she asked.
"I don't see why not, I've never lost a patient yet," his smile faltered at the un-amused expressions on our faces. He went to work piecing back together my little brother. I walked to my kitchen and pulled a couple of Cokes out of the fridge. I would have grabbed the beer, but it wasn't even three-thirty. Murphy was still standing there intently watching the ME work. I offered her a Coke. She looked at it.
"You got any diet?"
I gave a dramatic gasp. "Blasphemy."
That warranted a small grin from her. "He's rubbing off on you."
"In more ways than one." She took the Coke and sipped it.
"What happened?" her tone suddenly went professional. Her cop persona kicked in, and I immediately felt the scared and worried feelings slip under her mask of professionalism.
"He called around two-thirty, said he needed a ride, just a ride. He sounded confused. I guess a hit to the head'll do that to you." I told her where I found him.
"I brought him back here, tried to patch him up, then called you."
She processed that information. "I need to get to CPD, get some units out to that gas station; maybe they can find some clues as to who did this."
"I don't think you'll find anything there," I told her. "When I got there the gas station was still intact and the streetlights were still functioning. If there had been a fight, the owners would need to call their insurance company."
She stared at my little brother lying helpless on my couch. "At least it's a place to start. He'll probably have left a trail of bl...blood from wherever he came from. The Beetle is still at Mike's. I offered the stubborn son-of-a-bitch a ride; he said he would just call a cab."
That confused me a little. "Why would my dear brother need a ride from you at well after midnight?" I asked slyly. She glared at me. Maybe not slyly enough.
"We were wrapping up a case about a few college kids who were summoning some sort of minor bad luck spirit, apparently they thought the ritual needed to go down at the thirteenth hour. I offered to give him a lift home on my way back to the station."
She went back to watching Butters work. I would never say it out loud, Butters would have to surgically remove my head from my ass if I did, but Murphy loved my brother. She would never admit it to herself or anyone for that matter, but standing there watching her worry about him I could see it. Why else would you leave the comfort of your home to help someone? I went to help him because he was my little brother and I loved him. Murphy abandoned a good night's sleep, whether she believed it or not, to help the man she loved.
"I better get going I need to change clothes and get back to headquarters, God it felt like I just left." Murphy turned to me. "You'll let me know how he's doing."
I noted the bags under her eyes and the tired way her shoulders slumped despite her best efforts to appear in control.
"No, you stay here get some rest, you're dead on your feet." She started to protest. "I'll go to the gas station and have a look around; if I find anything I'll call you. If he wakes up you can ask him questions, get his statement or whatever it is you cops do." I gave her a reassuring smile. She didn't seem all together reassured.
"You call me before you go investigating any leads."
I gave her a mock salute, "Yes ma'am!" I turned heel and headed towards the door, dropping a spare key on the counter.
"I know I'll call you."
"No, I just wanted to say thank-you, for helping him."
"It's what big brothers do." I gave her a curt nod and stepped out to find my brother's assailant.
The gas station was still dark by the time I got there. The streetlight the pay phone was under was still flickering; the receiver was still hanging off the hook. I saw the dark stain underneath it where my brother had been laying. I grabbed my cavalry saber off the seat next to me, and went to the trunk and pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. I didn't think anyone would be around, but I had heard criminals like to return to the crime scene so I wasn't taking any chances. I cautiously made my way to the pay phone my brother had called me from. There wasn't much in the way of clues, as to who did this. Harry hadn't conveniently written So-and-so did this to me in his own blood. With the way he looked when I found him I guess I should be glad that he could remember to dial my number before speaking into the phone. I looked around the dimly lit area.
Sure enough Murphy was right. There were long dark streaks and large drops leading from across the street to a park. Harry must have fallen and dragged himself the rest of the way to the phones. I shook the image out of my mind, Butters was going to fix him up; he would be fine. I started following my brother's blood trail; I hoped he hadn't travelled far.
Four blocks later the trail ended. I was standing in a section of Lincoln Park. The first thing I noticed was how dark it was. This part of the park is usually lit up by streetlights, much to the displeasure of the apartments across the street. If it hadn't been a clear night I wouldn't have been able to see the carnage before me.
"I guess I found the battle ground." I don't know why I said it out loud, but the description couldn't have been more accurate. Trees were charred, some were still smoldering. A car that was parked in the street was now lying on its roof in the middle of the sidewalk. Benches and picnic tables were overturned and completely splintered, there were gouges out of the earth where spells had hit or uprooted trees had been. A big elm looked like it had been dropped out of the sky. It had snapped in the middle and looked like the A-frame of a house. I could almost imagine Harry underneath it casting his shield spell over his head as it came crashing down on him.
"Empty Night little brother, what did you get yourself into this time?"
"He was sticking his nose where it didn't belong," a bored sounding voice said behind me.
I almost jumped out of my skin. I turned around to see a woman leaning against the passenger side door of an old blue pick-up with her arms crossed, her head was bent and her hair covered most of her face. There was someone in the driver's seat. How the hell did I not hear that truck pull up? I tightened my grip on the saber and shotgun.
"Well it is a pretty big nose," I said smugly, turning on my charm "are you sure it wasn't there first?"
The driver said something to her, she shook herself like a dog shakes off water, said something back and they both laughed. It was a little unnerving; she should have at least taken a step towards me.
"You've got a big nose too vampire. You'd do well to stay out of our way. Or things might not turn out too well for you," she held up two vials, one contained a deep red liquid; the other contained what looked like strands of hair. "Or your brother."
My blood went cold, she got into the truck and it started to pull away. I took off running after it. Before I could get within ten yards of it, it disappeared. Just poof, gone. There one second, gone the next. I couldn't even get the license number. It made the stuff Molly could do look like child's play.
I pulled back into my apartment's parking lot fifteen minutes later, completely rattled. That woman had almost completely shrugged off what my demon had thrown at her. More of a challenge for us, you've become too complacent nibbling at the kine you groom. She would be a prize worth our conquering. Only if push came to shove. I wasn't going to give into my Hunger after all the work I had spent keeping it at bay.
Whoever those two were, they were scary as hell. I'd seen my brother go up against monsters ten times his size and come out of it a little winded. Those two had appeared to be as human as any vanilla, or so my brother called them. And now he was laid up on my couch unconscious, and they didn't look like they had a scratch on them.
I opened the door to my apartment and came face to face with the barrel of a gun.
"Easy there Murph," I said. I came into the room palms facing her and closed the door with my hip. She relaxed a little but didn't lower her weapon.
"What did I ask you when you handed me my drink," she demanded.
I put on a high-pitched girly voice, "You got any diet?" I added a little giggle at the end just to mess with her. Boy my brother's idiocy was rubbing off on me; I was messing with someone who had a gun pointed at my face. She rolled her eyes and stowed her weapon back in her shoulder holster. She had taken off the Cubs jacket. Underneath she had on an oversized white t-shirt; her shoulder holster pulled the shirt tight against her left side making it painfully obvious that she wasn't wearing a bra. This one has yet to be tainted by love, with your kin incapacitated we could have her; she would not resist the comfort of a friend. I ignored my demon.
"How is he?" I asked.
Her shoulders sagged, the adrenaline rush of hearing someone at the door gone. I could tell she hadn't gotten any rest, probably hadn't even sat down since I left.
"He's still unconscious; Butters stopped the bleeding and sewed up the leg wound. He said it was pretty deep, almost nicked an artery," she let out an exhausted sigh. "What about you, you find anything interesting?"
"A four block trail of blood, ending in Lincoln Park. It looked like a warzone." I reported.
She swallowed hard. "Any bodies?"
"Nope, just a lot of property damage."
"Damn it." I think she was more upset about the lack of any evidence as opposed to the damages my brother had incurred, I think.
"Sgt. Murphy!" Butters voice sounded panicked.
We both were in the living room in less than a second. Harry laid there, his duster hanging over one of my overly expensive chairs; his jeans were cut off just above the knee so Butters could operate easier. His shirt had also been removed, which revealed extensive bruising and a few minor cuts. There were also letters on his chest, which I realized was the reason Butters had called. They looked as if an invisible hand was writing them. The words were being burned onto his skin, not enough to leave scars but enough to make his skin turn red and start to welt.
Heed Our Warning
"What the hell! What warning? Who's?" Murphy turned to me.
"Our new friends."
"These people," Murphy started pointing at the raw burns across my brother's chest. "These people did this to him?" she gestured to the rest of his body, glaring at the wounds as if her stare would make them go away.
"Yeah." I replied then told her everything, skipping over my demon's unwanted two-cents.
"You're saying that your psychic-sex drive power didn't work on this girl?" Murphy asked the moment I quit talking. She sat perched on my coffee table, elbows on her knees, hands clasped. She was looking just to the left of my gaze. I wasn't sure if it were her paranoia of a soulgaze from several encounters with Harry (which I couldn't do with her) or her avoidance of my 'charm' (which didn't need eye contact to work). Whatever the reason, I chose not to comment. Instead I said, "I wouldn't call it that, and no it would have worked but her friend...partner...the guy with her worked some mojo and she was able to shake it off."
"Can anyone do that? Has anyone done that?"
"Not to me and the only person who might know..." I let my voice trail off, letting my eyes rest on Harry. Murphy followed my gaze, a look I couldn't quite identify crossing her face before fading. In a way, I lied to her. I could call my sister Lara, but she wasn't exactly speaking to me much since I sorta ditched the family. And, in a way, that would be a waste of a phone call.
"So, what do we do?" Murphy asked meeting my gaze briefly, face professional once more. I made to answer, but footsteps cut me off.
"Your bathroom's much nicer than Harry's," Butters commented, appearing around the corner, drying his hands on one of the few towels I owned.
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," a groggy voice replied from my couch. Half-mast eyes were attempting to focus on the half-pint ME, my brother finally awake. I rushed to Harry's side, dropping down next to him.
"Are you okay?' Karrin and I asked at almost the exact time.
"Oh, you know me," my brother started managing to pry his eyes fully open, "if I'm not in pain the day has been wasted." Murphy rolled her eyes; I flashed my brother a smile. Good old Harry, bruised, beaten, bloody, yet still able to whip out the sarcastic quips he was known for. I felt a wave of relief rush through me, if he was able to joke about his health my brother had to be okay.
Or he was, until my door flew off its hinges.
I was on my feet before anyone else comprehended what happened. Standing just short of my threshold, face hidden in the shadow, was a guy about average height (maybe an inch of two taller than Billy the werewolf, whom I only met once). In his hand was a short-bladed sword. There was no doubt that was his version of a blasting rod. Kinda smarter than Harry's version, that guy didn't have to keep carving a new one if he lost it. I also recognized him from the park; he was that strange girl's friend.
"Oh, that's not fair. You didn't even let us find you," my brother cracked from the couch. I didn't look back at him; not wanting to see what look was etched across his face.
The guy didn't respond, he just pointed at Butters and smiled. I didn't need a translation to know what he meant-that man wanted Butters-and neither, unfortunately, did Harry. He had already dragged himself to his feet before I could stop him. Damn his stupid hero complex.
"Forzare," Harry shouted sending raw power toward the guy. He managed to deflect it easily, the spell merely a bothersome fly to him. The power flew back at Harry, sending my brother through my bedroom door. He landed on my bed, bouncing off onto the floor.
"Harry," Karrin and Butters called at the same time, Murphy pulling her gun while the ME raced toward my brother. She fired four shots, each one slamming into a damn near invisible wall. Empty Night, I didn't even see him draw a shield. As the bullets landed on the carpet, the guy turned his gaze to Karrin and sent her into my coffee table. She bounced off the thick wood, landing on the carpet, her head slamming into the edge. She didn't move again. Well, there went my back-up.
I leapt forward, super vampire strength at the ready, only to run headlong into a flash of green light. I flew backwards, crashing through the plate-glass window situated against my far wall. Glass shattered, a sharp edge slicing my arm wide open. I acted quickly, grabbing hold of the edge of the window before I could fall.
I tried to climb up, pale blood leaking down my forearm, but before I could succeed the guy appeared above me. He smiled, flashing his teeth, his red hair catching the light. He gave me a two finger wave, and then stomped on my hands. The right snapped, my left index and middle fingers crunching, too.
"Thanks buddy," he said as I fell. I didn't know what that meant, and I really didn't have time to work it out. I was falling, five stories, making me really wish I had just ignored that phone call earlier.
I landed on my back, the pavement knocking the air out of me. My demon half was the sole reason I survived. Everything hurt, my vision was going grey, and the last thing I heard before I passed out was Butters scream...
Okay, I co-wrote this with my partner in crime BennyE5121. It took us probably... I wanna say...about seven months to finish, but it is finished.
So, please enjoy our first attempt at a Dresden Files story, drop a comment if you can, and I'll catch you in the next chapter (which should be published sometime next week)