Disclaimers: I am not Jim Butcher (alas) or E.L. James (THANK FRIGGIN GOD). Those authors own their respective characters.
Spitefic inspired by a quote from Gehayi & Ket Makura's snarking of Fifty Shades of Grey. Also, nods to Fool's Gold RPG, and minor SPOILERS for Small Favor.
Many thanks to my betas Jaid, Bel, and GG, and thanks too to Gehayi for letting me use a fictional version of her in my story.
It's not often that I get a call this specific.
"Hello, Mr. Dresden? I'd like to hire you to go to Washington state and kill something that isn't human. White Court vampire crossed with demon is my best guess. I'll pay you triple your usual rates. Oh, and Mr. Dresden?" The woman's voice, already sounding casually if quite angry, went to vehemently furious. "Kill it with fire."
Then she hung up.
I blinked in confusion at the dial tone buzzing from my office phone. First off, someone calling me and casually mentioning White Court vampires is enough to have my spidey sense more than simply tingling that all is not well in Chicago. Well, Washington state to go by the call. Secondly... Well, I'm human. An offer to pay me triple my usual rate, especially on something out-of-state, was awfully attractive.
But I am a professional. And paranoid. I'm not about to waltz into something without getting a little more information.
Fortunately for me and my little rotary phone, the old version of star-69 still works. I dial in 1169, and then scribble down the number. Long distance. Not unexpected. I do a little more research with my book of area codes, and see that the call did not originate from Washington state.
Curiouser and curiouser.
I called the number back. "Hello, this is Harry Dresden. You called about a problem I might be able to help you with?"
"Mr. Dresden, hi, yes. There's a man- if you can call him that, he's got to be House Malvora- living out in Washington state who enjoys preying on women, and leaving them broken and shattered in every way, afterward. It's disgusting and horrific. Did I mention you should kill it with fire?"
"Yes, you did," I remarked, a touch dry. Knowledgeable about the White Court enough to know the different Houses?Something wasn't adding up. And though chivalry may be dead to most people, it wasn't for me. Call me a sucker, but I hate it when women are in distress. "Can I ask you a few questions?"
"Certainly," she replied.
"First off, could I get your name?"
"You can call me Gehayi." A touch of evasiveness there.
I could understand that. No one with knowledge of the supernatural wanted to give their Name to a wizard, never mind the fact that I'd never use someone's Name against them so long as they were peaceable. I couldn't say peaceable intentions as Ms. Gehayi's were anything but.
"All right, Ms. Gehayi, there are a couple of things I need to ask..."
One long and very detailed phone call later, I had to carefully set the handset onto its cradle. Stars and stones, but she wasn't kidding about this Christian Grey being horrible and disgusting. Beyond that, even. Words like sick and depraved kept circling 'round my brain. Though the man could be vanilla, I could see why Ms. Gehayi was leaning toward White Court.
Word apparently was seeping through the Paranet to try to warn women away from this guy. Dangerous didn't begin to describe him. I'd have to check with Ramirez as to why this guy was still running around. And check with Murphy, too, see if she could give me any information that might be on police books. Even though I doubted she'd find anything.
I raked my fingers through my hair and stared at my office ceiling. Fifteen women. If Ms. Gehayi was to be believed, this guy had left at least fifteen women as complete messes, and was currently working on number sixteen. My jaw clenched. Expenses aside, now that I knew of this, I couldn't just let it slide. But I would have to wait at least until I was wired a retainer. I was simply too poor to head off to Seattle with my current funds. And someone needed to feed Mister. Mouse, I decided, was coming with me.
I stayed at my office for a few more hours, working on other things until such time as I guessed the money would arrive. A stop by a Western Union later netted me my retainer and then I was homeward bound.
Mister, think of the devil, was waiting outside my door as I clambered down the steps to my apartment. He threw himself against my legs, nearly bowling me over. "Nice to see you too," I told him as I gave him an affectionate petting. I lowered my wards and we went inside.
Mouse met us at the door. "Flickum bicus," I murmured, and the candles all flared to life. I fed Mister and Mouse, grabbed a Coke for myself, took Mouse for a walk, and donned my bathrobe before heading down into my cellar.
"Wake up, Bob," I called. "I've got some questions for you."
The eyelights in his skull winked to life. "Of course, Mas'er. Be right there, Mas'er."
"Still reading Southerner's Fury?"
"It's a classic, Harry. You ought to give it a shot."
I grunted. "Because I really have the time to read romance novels. Anyway, Bob, I need to know if you know anything about a potential House Malvora guy by the name of Christian Grey."
"...I know some things," he replied slowly, "about Christian Grey."
"Is he White Court?" I asked. I did a brief check of Little Chicago, silently noting where I needed to expand the layout.
"Oh, he's White Court, and definitely Malvora." Bob paused. "Why are you looking at him?"
"Got a call today, to hire me to take the guy down. Offered to pay me three times my out-of-state fee."
"Uh, huh," Bob said. "And let me guess: there's a lady involved."
Despite living in an inanimate human skull, Bob was pretty expressive with his eyelights, and gave the distinct impression of raising non-existent eyebrows. He also managed a whistle despite lacking lips. "And will these ladies be eternally grateful to you?"
I shot him a flat, unamused look.
"Hey, it never hurts to ask," he said defensively. Then he sighed. "Christian Grey is probably the most flagrant of House Malvora, flaunting pretty much everything about him. His looks, his social power, and his money- very much his money. Probably the only thing he doesn't flaunt is the fact he's a psychic vampire. He's smart, and hides an explosive temper with the veneer of civility. He also managed to do something he shouldn't have, I don't know what, but the House essentially excommunicated him when he was a wee twenty-something. To them, he simply doesn't exist."
I nodded. "If true, that's one less thing to worry about. The White Court is more-or-less staying out of this current mess, and I'd hate to get the blame for drawing them in if things go badly."
"Says the man who started the war in the first place..."
"Bianca set me up," I growled under my breath.
"That doesn't change the fact you struck first."
Bob coughed. "Anyway, he's managed to survive because he had plenty of money squirreled away for a rainy day, so to speak, which he's dumped into lots of things related to agriculture before forming his company, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Incorporated. He's a big donor to Washington State University's Pullman and Vancouver campuses, which also happen to be his central feeding grounds. His preferred method of feeding is to basically charm young, ignorant women into his twisted version of BDSM, and then basically... You sure you want to hear this, Harry? I know you."
"I've already gotten an idea of what he does," I answered darkly, "a good idea, but just an idea. If you know specifics, I need to know them."
"Grey's isn't a sadist in the Lifestyle terms," Bob began. "He's a stalking, manipulative, sadistic abuser who forms an obsession with his victim until he uses them up. He doesn't feed on them so much he kills them, but he comes close. He's driven at least one of his victims insane. In his world, there's no such thing as consent; it's his way or the highway, which also happens to be his way. He manages to get his victims to keep quiet about the abuse through bogus non-disclosure agreements, and picks the type who will be so dazzled by his looks and riches that they won't even go to their friends for help about anything. He stalks them, he gets aggressive if his current obsession so much as glances at another man, and he seeks to control their lives utterly. And when he's done with them, he just tosses them aside, forgetting them completely. They aren't people to him, they aren't even strictly food. They're just things to be used." By the time he finished, he sounded extremely uncomfortable.
I nodded curtly, feeling my anger boil enough I had to take a few breaths. I thanked Bob and metaphorically rolled up my sleeves. I had some preparations to make before I took a Way to Seattle tomorrow.
I closed the opening to the Way behind us and looked around while Mouse sniffed the air. Essentially, we looked to be in the middle of a forest, but I could hear the hiss of traffic. I was near a road, and a busy one at that. At least there was no one around. Having a portal to a Way open up in front of a bunch of unsuspecting people was bad for business. I adjusted my duster and backpack so they rested more comfortably on my frame, and out of habit checked my blasting rod was still with me, along with my bracelets and force rings. My staff was too conspicuous for this, otherwise I'd have that too. Satisfied that all parts and parcels were fine, we started walking towards the sounds of civilization.
I loosely held the leash that I used for form's sake. Mouse was a big dog, and I didn't know what the leash laws were here, either. Fat lot of good a Temple Dog could do me if he was locked up in the pound. We reached the street and it was lined with parked cars on both sides. Beyond that was another stretch of land, and beyond that, water. I wondered vaguely if it was Puget Sound.
As we walked along what a road sign called Lake Shore Drive, I mulled over what I had learned. Murphy, in her amazing manner, managed to find out unfortunately absolutely zilch about any dealings Grey may have had with the law. Which may or may not be accurate, as I knew that enough money can buy a lot of silence, blind eyes, and closed ears. Ramirez had heard of Grey and Grey's ostracism from House Malvora, but not his extracurricular activities. He offered to help me out but I chose not to take him up on it. He had enough with keeping his section of the country under some semblance of order. I didn't want to pull him away from what were really more important matters for one paltry vampire.
The last call I'd placed was to my brother, Thomas. He pretty much confirmed for me what both Bob and Ms. Gehayi said. And then he added more details. Considering just how detailed he was and that he knew how I react to women in distress, I could only conclude that Thomas and Grey must have known each other and had a falling out because how Thomas managed to hit every one of my buttons in regards to this guy. It took me more than an hour to calm down after that phone call.
A lot of walking later, I finally reached a phone and a phone book to call a cab to drive me to the headquarters for Grey Enterprises Holdings, Incorporated, but with a stop to a Burger King on the way. Mouse got the fries, and no, the water I'd seen was not Puget Sound. It was Lake Washington.
Thanks to the time zone difference between Chicago and Seattle, I didn't lose as much time as I thought I might. I got out at the large, ritzy-looking building, paid the cabbie, and put on Mouse's working-dog vest. Donning my backpack again, I made sure it was settled comfortably on my back before heading through the glass doors over which the words "Grey House" were written. Inside was very shiny and very white, instead of gray, with glass and steel accents. While probably thought by others to look chic, I decided it looked rather boring and puny for a global headquarters. But it certainly allowed the dreary, late afternoon sunlight coming in the glass doors to help brighten up the interior. Somewhat.
I smiled for the blonde lady behind the desk and concentrated very hard on keeping my magic to myself. I'd rather not make a scene by blowing up the poor woman's computer. When I didn't see the typical reaction to a shorting-out computer on her face, I snuck a quick glance to my right wrist. The anti-magic gemstone bracelet was working fine. One of the stones glowed softly as it drew in what I expelled before I could accidentally hex something. I made a mental note to thank Alexandra and Rosa for this ingenious little tool, later.
"Hi," the secretary said, smiling brilliantly. "How can I help you?"
"Hi. My name's Harry Dresden, and I'm a private investigator from Chicago with a few questions to ask Mr. Grey." I poured on the charm as I showed her my license. I liked my license. It was shiny from lamination and made me feel all sorts of official.
The secretary blinked, smile freezing in place. "I'm sorry, Mr. Dresden, but Mr. Grey is a very busy man. If I could get your contact information, I could see about setting up an appointment."
"Please, Miss-" I glanced at her desk plaque, "-Suzanne, I've come a long way, and it would greatly inconvenience both me andmy client to have me wait for days on end while you try to brush me off. I promise, I'll take no more than twenty minutes of Mr. Grey's precious time. If I go over that, you can even have Security walk me off the property."
She looks at me, clearly trying to think of how to get rid of me. But I can be just so gosh-darn affable sometimes. "And what is the nature of your business with Mr. Grey?"
I tucked my license back inside my duster. "A relative of my client might be in some trouble, and I was told the relative was friends with Mr. Grey. I'm just trying to find out what's going on," I replied, smiling easily, "and to get some background information."
Suzanne kept looking at me, to see if I'm sincere, and then sighed. "I'll see if Mr. Grey is taking visitors today. If he is, you promised me twenty minutes."
"Excluding travel time? This place is somewhat big."
"Please don't push me, Mr. Dresden." Somehow still smiling, Suzanne picked up her phone and punched in a few numbers, and spoke to someone in a soft voice. While she did that, I glanced around, noting the elevator locations and the doors that lead elsewhere into the building, and the occasional fair-haired employee walking about. The only obvious exit was the pair of double doors I came in through. My attention returned to Suzanne when she hung up the phone. "Mr. Grey says he has a few moments, and he will see you."
"Excellent! Thanks so much," I replied, beaming at her. "Be out of here before you know it."
Suzanne made up a Visitor pass for me, and directed me to the elevator. "Someone will meet you on the twentieth floor," she said, smile still in place. It probably hurt to smile so much. Maybe that's why secretaries in places like this get paid the big bucks, if they do. Mouse and I were heading to the last elevator on the right when Suzanne squawked my name. "Mr. Dresden! Animals aren't allowed!"
I reached down and scratched Mouse's head while he looked at her adoringly. "Service dog," I replied, turning him a little to show off his vest.
"O-oh," she said, sitting back down again and looking a bit chastised. "All right."
"Thanks again!" We went into the elevator and I pushed the button for the twentieth floor. Then I looked down at Mouse. "That's right," I told him, "you're a working dog." Mouse looked back at me, and sneezed. I had to grin. The sneeze almost sounded disdainful.
Just as Suzanne promised, we were met at the top floor by another (blonde) woman and another shiny white lobby, which held a two-person desk occupied by yet another blonde. While they say gentlemen prefer the flaxen-haired, this place was looking like an EEO nightmare. "Hello, Mr. Dresden," the standing blonde began, offering her hand. "I'm Andrea, Mr. Grey's secretary. Suzanne mentioned you were a private investigator?"
"Yes," I answered, shaking her hand. "And this is Mouse, my service dog." Mouse offered a paw, and Andrea's eyes softened immediately.
She shook his paw, and when she looked at me, her smile was a little less plastic and a little more genuine. "He's friendly."
"Isn't he just," I agreed fondly. "Now, about Mr. Grey...?"
Andrea nodded. "Yes. I'm told you've traveled an awfully long way."
"A good investigator knows no state bounds," I quipped. "As Suzanne no doubt told you, I'm inquiring about a client's relative, who is known to be friends with Mr. Grey. I thought I'd be polite and ask him up front if he knows anything about her."
"Ah. Well. I hope Mr. Grey is able to help. He's a very considerate man, you know."
"Yes, I've heard about his philanthropy." And his micro-managing. "Busy man, Mr. Grey," I intoned.
Andrea smiled at me, and turned effortlessly on her heel, something of a feat considering she wore those stilts some women call shoes. She crossed the lobby to stop outside a black office door. "Yes. So we will keep you at your word, of no more than twenty minutes," she said.
"I wouldn't dream of going over time," I smiled back.
She knocked on the door before opening it. "Mr. Harry Dresden to see you, Mr. Grey."
"Send him in."
I tipped an imaginary hat to Andrea, and entered the office. Aside from a too-large blackwood desk and the coffee table, the entire fricking room was white except for the floor-to-ceiling window behind the desk. Carpet, couches, chairs, walls, ceiling, all of it's white.
I'd really hate to know how much he pays just to keep the place clean. Unless he owns substantial stock in Clorox.
I studied the man before me. With his mussed red-brown hair, he looked much too young to be CEO of such a massive company, but the White Court was known for long-lived physical youth. He was dressed in a gray suit, white shirt, and black tie. As he got up and approached me, I saw he had the amazing good looks and light gray eyes typical of the psychic vampires. I made sure not to meet his eyes for too long- I didn't want to get pulled into a soulgaze, thank you very much.
Grey gave Mouse a sidelong glance, lip curling slightly, but the vest must have kept him from saying anything about his presence. Mouse, for his part, had his gaze riveted on Grey, and growled so softly even I, who was standing right next to him, had a hard time hearing him. Seeing as Mouse didn't normally react to vanilla mortals like this, I had to conclude that Grey was not entirely what he presented himself to be.
"Mr. Grey, hello, I'm Harry Dresden," I began cheerfully, offering my hand. Grey eyed it, and me, with obvious disdain before reluctantly taking my hand. We shook. "Look, I'm real sorry to bother you. I've just got a couple questions and then I promise I'll be on my way."
"So I've been told," he said quietly. "A private investigator from Chicago, so far from home." He sat in one of his white leather chairs, and I sat across from him, making sure to angle myself so that my duster-covered blasting rod didn't make itself obvious. Mouse sat at attention slightly in front and to the side of the chair.
Something about how'd he spoken felt off. He sounded more genuinely thoughtful than anything else, rather than the usual flavor of tolerant amusement I was used to getting from Thomas's family. Now, I'm not egotistical, but what with the war of the Red Court versus the White Council, and especially after the commotion in the Raiths' caves, I didn't think there was a member of the White Court who didn't know who I was. But either this guy's body language was correct and he really didn't know who I was, or he was the most consummate actor I'd yet to come across. Somehow, my gut didn't think it was the latter.
"How can I help you?" he continued.
"I'm actually inquiring about a relative of my client's, who I've been told is known to you," I said. "Her name's Stacie Alloy."
His demeanor changed immediately, from cool gentleman to icy stranger. Apparently my oh-so clever alias was seen straight through- not that I cared overmuch. "I'm sorry, Mr. Dresden. I know no such person."
"Really? 'Cause I got a real good description of you, Mr. Grey, when I asked who she's been hanging around. Fits you to a T."
"I'm quite certain."
I sat up straighter, held up my hand at a guestimate of Miss Steele's height. "Sure about that? She's about yay-tall, brown hair, blue eyes, cute and kinda waify..."
Grey's eyes burned with a cold intensity, and I would've sworn I saw them lighten, the sign he was drawing on his Hunger. I swallowed, and felt the fear course through me. Grey jerked his head a little, eyes closing slightly like he was savoring something before opening them again. "I think you should leave, Mr. Dresden," he commanded softly.
I stumbled up to my feet. "Yes, of course, sorry to bother you, Mr. Grey," I said apologetically, wanting nothing more than to be away from this guy. Mouse got up, too, and stayed close to me. "Thank you for your time." We all but fled out the door.
Once in the privacy of the elevator, the fear I'd intentionally manufactured vanished and I smirked. "Got you," I muttered, and inspected my anti-magic bracelet. As expected, the majority of gemstones on the chain were dark and cracked, with only two remaining. What should have lasted me twenty-four hours had instead lasted only a grand total of four, with two hours to go. But then, I'd needed to compensate for the gemstones' subtle magic vacuum to place a magical tracker on Grey's hand when we shook. I couldn't simply take him out in his office building; that would involve too many witnesses. Better, easier to get him at home. Guys like his type tended to overcompensate and have a spread somewhere where they can play their games (and hide the bodies). It was just a matter of finding where.
I hailed another cab, and had him take me to a store where I could pick up a map of the city, and then to the cheapest motel he could find. No point in wasting Ms. Gehayi's money, and really, all I needed was a place I could scry privately.
To test to make sure the marker I put on Grey's skin was still in place, I pulled out a crystal on a cord from my backpack, unfolded the map, took off the anti-magic bracelet, drew a circle in salt (easier to vacuum up than chalk), and concentrated. The crystal, hanging from my hand, spun in a few circles before practically leaping to point hard at a specific point on Madison Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues. I marked the location on the map, then broke the circle and reached for the room's phone book to check an address.
Whaddaya know. Grey Enterprises Holdings, Incorporated, has its headquarters on Madison Street.
Now came the not-fun part: waiting. Ms. Gehayi said Grey liked to strike at night, and I still had a few hours to go. Except I didn't think Grey would wait that long since I'd whetted his appetite on purpose. And while I hated to put someone in danger, it would be better, again, if I could get him where there would be less people. So I waited half an hour, and then scryed again.
He was moving.
I licked my upper lip, watching the crystal's point trace the route along the paper map. The crystal didn't go far, going instead down Fourth Avenue and coming to a stop at the corner Fourth and Virginia Street. Again, I marked the map, and broke the circle. Putting away my other tools into the backpack, the crystal into my pocket, and putting on a new anti-magic bracelet, I headed to the front office to ask the clerk what was at that intersection. The Escala, she told me, was a condo for the super-rich as it was the most expensive place in the city. Thomas had definitely called it. Another phone call, another cab ride, and about an hour and a half later (stupid rush-hour traffic) I was standing a short block away from the Escala to size it up. Now this was a building. We had similar buildings in Chicago, but this was still a work of art. I was suitably impressed.
"Well," I told myself, "no time like the present." I took off the anti-magic bracelet, breaking its small circle, and put it in my pocket. I shook myself out- wearing the thing, while enabling me to not hex everything in a fifty-foot radius to sparking ruins, always made me feel like I was wrapped in wet wool. It was quite the disconcerting feeling.
Well aware my six-foot-plus lanky frame, my duster, and my dog were all going to attract attention, I pulled out a sports bottle of a potion I hadn't used in years- a blending brew potion so that I'd attract as little attention as possible. Once I finished it, my vision went grayscale, confirming it was working. I had to hope that despite Mouse being the size of a small pony, the potion would still work. Still, I checked that his working-dog vest fit him snugly. Then with leash in hand, I put on my game face and started for the Escala. A flick of my wrist as I approached sent out a hex with a little extra oomph, and I saw the little light on the camera at the entrance flicker and die.
Inside the lobby, the front-desk clerks had the baffled and annoyed expressions of someone whose computer just turned into a plastic brick. The young man took in my and Mouse's presences, and the flicker of color around him quickly faded. "Can I help you?" he asked in a practiced tone.
"Just visiting a friend," I replied.
The young man nodded. "That's good. Have a nice day." His partner, an older man, never bothered to even glance at me.
Potions are wonderful, wonderful things. I really needed to remember to use them more often.
I found the stairs with a little effort. Once inside the stairwell, I unclipped Mouse's leash from his collar, put the leash in my other pocket, and started the long, long climb. Thomas had mentioned that Grey had his abode on the top floor. Riding the elevator would have made things much easier, but without the anti-magic bracelet I didn't want to chance getting stuck.
Even with exercise-enhanced endurance, when I reached the top floor's landing I had to stop and lean against the wall to get my breath back. Mouse looked similarly fazed, and I felt a stab of regret at not bringing a regular water bottle so he could drink something. Hell, I could use a good drink of water myself, too.
Once I felt recovered enough, I opened the door. I retrieved the scrying crystal from my pocket and dangled it in front of me, and then focused on my marker. Without a circle, it took considerably more effort to get the crystal to attune itself, and the light overhead exploded in a small shower of sparks. Meanwhile, the crystal spun around a few times before pointing to the right. I took up my blasting rod in my left hand and started in the direction the crystal pointed, making sure to hex any cameras in the hallway. Finally I came to a stop outside a particular apartment, so I put the crystal away.
The first thing I did was Listen. I only heard faint sounds, too quiet to indicate someone was anywhere near the front door. I tentatively tried the door handle; of course it was locked. Away went my blasting rod, and out came my lockpicks and a highly useful skill that no one tells you will be needed by private investigators. It took about ten minutes to get past the complicated lock and deadbolt.
Hey, I never said I was fast.
After putting the lockpicks away and returning my blasting rod to my hand, I pushed the door open silently, and looked around. Save for the occasional accent piece in black and a metal-framed fireplace, the huge and opulent condo was done up in all white. Doesn't this guy have any interest in color?I wondered.
Mouse moved silently and I mimicked him, still Listening. I followed the sounds of voices, one predominantly male and familiar, the other breathy and female and scared, until I reached another door. Then it was no longer necessary to Listen- I could hear quite plainly and rather wished I couldn't. I put my backpack down, not wanting it to be in the way, and then reached for the doorknob.
This door wasn't locked, and I eased it open a crack. From what I could see with the ambient lighting inside the room, the quick glance I gave showed me what I supposed was a standard S&M playroom. Stereotypical bordello red walls, or I assumed red- the potion remained in effect, so my vision was still only allowing me see in shades of black, white, and gray. There was a wooden floor, an X-shaped cross in the back, and a suspension grid rigged to hang from the ceiling. It was the last that had my attention, as dangling from it by her wrists with her toes barely touching the ground was a naked woman matching Anastasia Steele's description. Her body had different-shaped bruises and marks all where clothes would cover when dressed, and a good number of the marks were old-looking. Her face was contorted with real fear and real pain, and she didn't look like she was enjoying it, either.
Then a naked Grey walked into my line of vision, his back to me. He held a riding crop, murmured something about how Miss Steele had been a very bad girl, and drew his arm back to strike her.
I didn't think; I just acted.
The door flew open and Mouse was airborne before I could even bring up my blasting rod. Over a hundred pounds of angry dog slammed into him, knocking him over. Grey yelped in surprise, then cried out in pain when Mouse's jaws found flesh. I rushed in after, wanting to go to Anastasia but knowing better than to turn my back on a vampire. Mouse stood over him while growling deep in his throat. I gave Grey a once-over and noted two things. The first was that yes, Mouse had indeed ripped up his right arm. The second was the blood running from the wound that was a few shades too pale to be human.
"Dresden!" Grey cried, his voice wheezy with surprise and pain. Color suffused him as he plowed through the effects of my potion.
"So nice to be remembered," I replied stonily, my eyes cold. I leveled my blasting rod at him. "Miss Steele and I will be leaving. You will not."
Grey glared back. "Like hell," he growled. His eyes changed to a brilliant silver, and he surged up from the floor to knock Mouse aside and lunge at me.
"Forzare!" I snarled back. Grey slammed back into the wall, and I heard things clatter to the floor behind me.
The vampire shook his head as if to clear it, bracing himself against the wall. "Who are you?"
"I'm a wizard, Harry," I replied in my best Hagrid impression. Grey just blinked blankly. I had to fight the urge to sigh.
Grey used that momentary lull to scramble across the floor and grab up what looked like a shortened cat-o-nine tails. His expression changed from blank to coldly furious as he lashed out with the toy-turned-weapon. I ducked reflexively and didn't realize I'd raised my hand to help ward the blow until lines of fiery pain scored my hand. I grimaced in pain, still turning from Grey when I saw Mouse again. He'd gotten up from where Grey had knocked him and was running flat-out back. Fangs bared, he leapt at Grey again while I continued my stumbling.
Then my dog cried out in pain, and something else in me snapped. And that something was the very slender and tenuous control I'd had in the face of hearing (and seeing) what Grey did to women.
I spun back to face Grey. Mouse was rolling up to his feet and away from Grey, then he lay back down and pawed at his face, whimpering. Grey still had his cat-o-nine. The bastard had whipped Mouse in the face.
I punched my smarting hand at Grey, loosing the power of two of my kinetic force rings at him. He cried out again as he was slammed harder into a different wall, the cat-o-nine flying from his hand. I ran to Mouse to check on him, and he licked my hand and wagged his tail once. I'm okay, he seemed to say. Except it wasn't. I stepped over him towards Grey, my rage all but consuming me. Hurting me is annoying. But hurting women and hurting my dog? Oh hell no.
"Playtime's over," I snarled, bringing my blasting rod up to bear. "And here's my safeword: Fuego!"
A wide cone of fire spewed forth from my blasting rod and Grey screamed. So did Anastasia, but his was more high pitched. The cloth on the wall on either side of Grey caught fire. Oops. And there weren't any windows in this room, so I now needed to move fast to get me, Mouse, and Anastasia out. Unfortunately, Grey didn't know when to stay down. So when he attacked me again, I punched at him again and used up the other two rings on my left hand. This time there was a distinct crack as his skull hit the wall and he slumped to the floor.
"Who are you?" Anastasia whispered when I approached her, her eyes wide and frightened.
"Harry Dresden, wizard," I replied, my voice a bit short as I tucked my blasting rod up my sleeve. Mouse was thankfully on his feet again and staring hard at Grey, so I trusted that he would give me warning if Grey stirred again. Dimly I'm aware of the other furniture in the room, but my focus is on the slight woman in front of me.
She looked past me and then back. Through the haze of pain and fear in her light-colored eyes I could see slivers of anger. "You hurt Christian!" she accused.
"Sorry if I don't feel bad about it, considering the fact he's eating you," I said as I studied the shackles holding her aloft. They didn't look like the key kind, thankfully, so I reached up to see if I could pull them apart.
"I want him to eat me," she said with a touch of longing.
That threw me a moment, and my face heated a little as I realized what she meant. "Trust me, you don't," I told her. I got the first shackle open, then the second. She fell heavily against me with a small cry of pain, unable to even support her own weight. I didn't blame her; she had looked like her shoulders were about to dislocate and that tenuous connection with the floor she'd had wouldn't have helped her in the least.
By now the fire was picking up speed as it spread, and the smoke was starting to get thick at the ceiling. Mouse glanced back at Anastasia and I. Peripheral movement caught my attention- Grey was getting up, and his eyes blazing silver with naked fury, and what remained of his skin began to glow. I snapped my arm up, blasting rod in hand as he flew at me. "FUEGO!"
"Christian!" Anastasia wailed as the force of my spell sent Grey skidding painfully across the floor, until he smacked into the now-burning couch facing the overlarge bed. By now the vampire was literally on fire, and feebly attempting to slap the flames out with his hands. He was dying, I could tell.
And as much as I wanted to let him burn to death in his personal little hell, I am not a cruel man. Once again, I took aim. "Fulminos!" I called. Lightning crackled from the tip of my blasting rod and through the air to spear Grey's chest. He thrashed wildly, briefly, before going mercifully still.
"Let's get you out of here," I said to Anastasia as I carried her from the room. Mouse had preceded us and was looking at me expectantly, my backpack hanging from his mouth. I closed the door behind me and breathed in the cleaner air. "Do you have a friend or relative or someone you can call?"
Anastasia blinked at me, confused. "There's my roommate, Kate, Kate Kavanagh...," she answered distractedly.
"Excellent," I replied, moving us away from Grey's little playroom and scanning the place for a phone. I found one and steered us to it. There was fortunately a chair next to the little table holding a phone. I placed her in the chair and pointed to the phone. "Call her, tell her to come get you."
While she did that, I told Mouse to stay by her. I then dashed into the white-bright bedroom and threw open the vast closet. Lots of same-shade suits and dark ties and white shirts, but no- there! I snatched the bathrobe from the hanger and hurried back. Anastasia was just hanging up the phone, and I helped her into the robe. She was listless and edging to disoriented, so I had to close and tie it for her.
We left out the front door, and I put on the anti-magic bracelet again before yanking on the fire alarm. Then I prepared myself to carry her all the way down to the first floor.
Amazingly, the fire department was already there by the time Anastasia and I joined the crowd growing outside the building. Color, too, was slowly seeping back into my vision, a sign that the potion was wearing off.
I checked out Mouse's injuries. He had scabbing lines cut into his forehead, muzzle, and nose, but his eyes had luckily been spared. He licked my face, and my injured hand. I smiled back at him and ruffled his fur, telling him he was a good boy and thanking him for all his help. Then I put his leash back on.
For many minutes afterward, people continued to spill out of the lobby and made things more chaotic for the first responders. No one had a clue of what was going on and it suited me fine. Mouse and I stayed by Anastasia, and I kept an eye on her for any signs of shock. She was hugging herself and shivering a little, and in about five more minutes I was going to have to risk taking her to the EMTs. Even with the anti-magic bracelet, I didn't like running the risk of frying life-saving equipment.
The police arrived and started putting order to the scene. They began making the rounds and taking statements of everyone and I focused on keeping calm. This wasn't Chicago, and these guys weren't part of Special Investigations, and I really didn't want to end up in a cell for suspicion of arson. But I couldn't just leave Anastasia sitting on the curb.
It took a little bit for my ears to pick up a familiar pair of words.
"Ana! Anastasia Steele! Anaaa!"
I rose up on tippy-toe to find the owner of the voice. A light-haired woman was moving frantically through the crowd, her head swinging from side to side, clearly searching and, from her dress, clearly not one of the building's occupants. I lifted my arm up, and waved it when she looked at me. "Kate Kavanagh?" I called back, pitching my voice to carry. Relief and worry suffused her face and she moved in my direction.
"Oh my God oh my God," Kate was saying over and over again once I could hear her, "Ana, are you all right?" She threw her arms around Anastasia and hugged her tight. "Oh my God, look at you! Why are you wearing just a robe? Did that bastard..." She trailed off, seemingly just taking note of my and Mouse's presence. "Who are you?" she asked suspiciously.
"Just a passing stranger," I replied, giving Kate a friendly smile. "I helped her out of the building, but she was looking unsteady, so I decided to stay with her. I was just about to take her to the EMTs."
Kate studied me, eyes narrowed with protective concern for her friend. Some of the potion must still be working, or I passed muster, because she turned back to her friend and started rapid-firing questions as she helped the other girl get to her feet. Anastasia moaned a pained protest when Kate moved her arm to put it around her own shoulders, pausing the questions. "Oh, God, Ana. I hope the bastard fries in hell. Where is he, anyway?" Kate asked.
"I don't know," Anastasia admitted. "I hurt..."
I watched the pair get swallowed by the crowd, then watched a little more to make sure Anastasia was taken to the EMTs. She was. I took up Mouse's leash and quietly walked away.
Time to head home.