Hey, it's a new chapter! A few more dynamics of the Lord Harry 'verse are revealed.

Un-beta'ed, so quibble away.

- o – o -

I'll Be There

Connie Murphy had been a detective, once. She'd been damn good at her job, too. Special Investigations had been the catch-all for the most unwanted police in Chicago. But they'd done the job they were assigned. They investigated supernatural crimes or things that would have needed Dresden. (She kept referring to him as Dresden, because he seemed happier when she didn't use his titles.)

Thirteen years ago, she'd considered joining the Militia, just so she could use their resources to find her daughter. She knew Monroe personally. He'd used a permanent marker to trace the brand onto her arm. For whatever reason, he'd never asked her to accept it, though. Looking back, Connie could be grateful for that much.

With the benefit of hindsight, she could understand why she'd never been branded. Militia recruits from Chicago, as a rule, joined if they wanted to. Conscription parties rarely ran through Chicago; when they did, they never picked up anyone but the poor souls on the chain gang. (Connie had searched them for her husband, time and time again. She'd had no luck in thirteen years.)

But she sat on the edges of Chicago, every night, because—for all her skills as a detective, for all Monroe had enjoyed her company during those six months he'd worked for Lord Dresden—she had never found her daughter. Harry—Dresden, she reminded herself—had only been able to give her vague directions out of the city. Anna may have been Of Chicago, but she wasn't in Chicago.

A vague direction was all Connie had.

She hadn't seen her daughter since the Fall. Her ex-husband had taken Anna out of the state on vacation a few days before the world died. Connie had prayed that, somehow, John and Anna would be among the stream of refugees. They never had been, but she hadn't given up.

At one point, she'd shared her vigil with Monroe as he slowly sobered up. He'd left, suddenly, just as the sun was coming up. Connie had woken up under his coat, still warm. The black ink on her arm still had the acrid scent of whatever was used to make it permanent.

She'd enjoyed the time with him, just sharing cups of not-coffee and a quiet vigil on the walls of what had been SI's building years ago. Connie still sat there, wrapped in the old jacket Monroe had left her under. Even if he was evil, even if Dresden wanted nothing whatsoever to do with the Militia, Connie still remembered his smile.

And she hated herself for it, every time she left a space next to her on the wall for Seb.

Connie rubbed her arms, giving the jacket on Monroe's spot an evil look. She'd wear it, but she wasn't that desperate. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

The former detective looked up as Harry sat down next to her, holding out a cup of real coffee.

"Italy," he said, sitting down. Connie smiled and took the cup.

"She's in that direction," Harry added, pointing towards the old highway. Connie leaned against him, taking what comfort she could.

At least someone wasn't going to let her down.

- o – o -

So, what did you think? Good? Bad? Does Connie need a hug? Drop a line and let me know.