The Darkness Around the Corner

The blood under her nails refused to be removed. It was dry, and some came off in flakes when she ran another fingernail along the surface, but the majority seemed too deeply embedded to be affected. It would take something much more to cleanse the nails and destroy the evidence that blood had been there. It meant another case closed, at least. And she had survived.

Sighing, she gave up and glanced out the window of her car. The car lot was still empty. Harry had not yet arrived. Fishing in her bag, she pulled out her phone. She dialled his number. It rang twice, three times, four, with no response. Five. Six. Voice mail. She hung up.

"Dresden," she sighed, plopping the phone back in her bag. "Where the hell are you?" The man would be her death, she was sure of it. If it wasn't some wizard thing or magical nonsense, it was something typically male.

Tonight it was that he didn't seem to grasp the concept that she had a job – a real job in the real world – and that her time was important. He had called her up to meet on this of all nights, and now he wasn't showing up. She had far better things to be doing than sitting in her car and waiting for him, like, for example, returning home and taking a bath and soaking her fingernails to hopefully remove the blood that way.

Not gonna happen. At least not for awhile. She glanced at her nails again, frowned, and then glanced up. Something had occurred to her. She dialled Harry's number again. No response. That was odd. Harry ignored her calls on occasion, but not when he had phoned her to organise meeting up. There had been times he'd had to cancel and not given her a good reason, but there had always been something.

"Harry." She sighed again. "What have you gotten yourself into this time?"

There wasn't much she could do to help him, not knowing where he was or even if he was in trouble, but sitting around here couldn't be doing much. She warmed the engine and pulled out of the parking lot. It couldn't hurt to have a look around the immediate area, right? Maybe Harry was somewhere close.

Before she got to the end of the street, a commotion caught her attention. On one side of the street, a cloaked figure bent over a body. In the figure's hand was a knife – or an athame, as Harry would most probably call it. It looked very much like the witchy tool that Harry had told her about and shown. From this distance she was unsure though. It might just be a kitchen knife. A really big kitchen knife.

She felt for her gun, pulled it from her holster and slowed to a stop at the side of the street, just a little further up from where the figure was standing. She sensed no movement from the figure as she climbed from her car. Not a huge shock, seeing as her car was unmarked. She wasn't in uniform. No assumptions could be made about her job path or her intentions.

The moment she started walking toward the figure, that would change. Either it would become obvious she was a cop, or that she was stupid or a crack head trying to score. The gun in her hand would make cop the most likely of choices. From there, things could only go badly.

Speaking of things going badly, where the hell was Harry? She shook thoughts of him away quickly and focused on the task at hand. Going into a situation like this without paying full attention could result in a lot of badness. She raised her gun in front of her, her whole body a little more tense than usual and on alert.

Breathing in deeply, she prepared herself. And then she strode toward the figure, gun at the ready, hair billowing out behind her and around her shoulders, and she called out, "Police! Drop your weapon!"

The figure didn't move. The body, however, did. "Oh, thank god, Murphy. Finally. It took you long enough to get here!"

"Harry?"

"Before you ask me what's going on, finish your whole cop thing and get his knife?"

Glancing at the figure, she was surprised to see that he was as hard as stone and as immoveable. She quickly reached over and knocked the knife out of the figure's hands without resistance of any kind. The figure didn't move, didn't breathe, didn't anything. She was pretty sure he was still alive though. There was a fear in the figure's still eyes that made her nervous.

"What the hell is going on?"

"You don't wanna know, Murph. Really, you don't." Harry pulled himself to his feet and patted down the front of his shirt. He gripped the charm around his neck for a moment, closing his eyes, and then opened his eyes once more and let the charm fall back to rest against his chest.

She sighed. So many times she had heard that excuse. It was getting really old really fast. "Yeah. I do, actually."

Harry's sigh was loud. "Murphy," he warned. "I thought we were clear on this. You don't ask and I won't tell. It's safer for both of us."

"Is it, really? Because no matter how little I know about your… stuff, I seem to get caught up in it more than enough times."

Silence. She'd hit a nerve. Or struck truth, as pure as it came. Perhaps her obliviousness was a disadvantage rather than the bliss she had hoped for when she made her agreement with Harry. It seemed more than likely now that it was the case and that the best option now would be to learn the details of whatever the hell was going on.

"Harry," she said, emphasising his name. "Please. I need to know this stuff. Now. I'd rather not, but it's got to be safer, right? I know you said it's not, but it's easier to avoid the enemy you know than the enemy you don't. It has to be safer."

"Your enemies should stay to as few as possible," he replied, "and knowing… stuff… it won't help you either way."

"And why is that?" She put her hands on her hips and stared at him. It was more of a glare, really.

"If you make enemies with the people I know, people like me, you're not gonna get very far. There's a good chance you'll wind up dead. You won't be able to protect yourself with your cop skills."

"You protect me then," she replied. "Can't you… I don't know. Mix me up a protection potion or something?"

Harry was getting irritated now. She could practically see the waves of annoyance fly off his body and around it. It was like a red hot heat wave roiling and boiling and close to burning temperatures.

"Come on, Dresden! Tell me what's going on. If you don't, I can arrest you for-"

"Being an accomplice to that guy?" he asked. "Breaking the peace?"

She merely continued glaring at him.

"Murphy. When I turn and walk away, remind yourself that I'm doing this for your own good. You don't wanna know what goes on in the black of night when your back is turned or you're asleep. There are some rocks better left unturned."

"And there are some people who you think are friends and trying to help, but turn on you when you least expect it."

"Ha." It was a dry, humourless laugh. As quickly as it escaped his lips, Harry Dresden gave her a quick wave, a mock salute, really, and did as he had told her he would. He left her standing there by the stone figure, without a clue as to what had occurred in the streets of Chicago.

Murphy sighed. As much as it sometimes felt like it'd be safer knowing more about Dresden's world and irritated her that he wouldn't tell her, it relieved her that he was stubborn and refused her answers. She didn't have to like not knowing everything, but it sure made it easier for her, not knowing what might lie in the darkness around the next corner.

Fin.