Gentleman Johnny Marcone.

The name of one of the biggest sleazeballs I had ever had the misfortune to become acquainted with, standing across from me with an offer laying right there on the table for his very own personal metaphysical consultant.

He had enough money to his name to make a dozen suits out of hundreds to match his faded-dollar-bill-green eyes for every day of the year, and still have enough left over to fill up a small pool to swim in.

I hadn't had a solid source of income since I started up my private investigator shtick a few years back, and for a few moments, I paused to envision just what all I could do with the kind of salary those terms said he was willing to pay me to sign up as his hit-wizard.

Oh, I had no illusions as to what he really wanted my more-than-marginal talents for, but the contract laying there was quite circumspect in the wording.

And outside of that one little flaw, I'll admit that it felt pretty damn good thinking of what my life could be like in the nominal hours.

And yet, for every pro that I could find, the cons that came with being an wizard in this century knocked them back down a few pegs; what good was a fancier apartment or, more than likely, an actual house, if I'd just burn out the water heater and electrical systems within a day?

What could I do with a better mode of transportation if it would just breakdown and cost me a small fortune to repair? The Blue Beetle was slow and my god, was it an embarrassment to drive around in, but I could reasonably rely on it to get me there on time when it counted for what for.

No. Housing and transportation were non-factors in this equation, and the only things I could measure the potential deal in the making by were the other aspects of my life that could be impacted.

My reputation with Chicago PD's Special Investigations unit wasn't at an all time high at the moment, and what little I had regained since the Sells' incident wasn't enough to mend the fence with Karrin Murphy, which meant that I wasn't going to be looking to them for a case and the usual exorbitant-per-hour quota I used to get for my services semi-infrequently.

Without that, I was already past-due on this month's rent, to say nothing of the next month's.

But even still, I could probably scrounge up something from somewhere to get through by the skin of my teeth, just as I had in the days before becoming SI's consultant.

What ultimately changed my mind about immediately rejecting Marcone's deal and telling him to shove it was the effect his name carried with it in spoken circles.

When news spread that Gentleman Johnny Marcone was coming through a section of Chicago, the rest of the criminals with two braincells to rub together took their illegal activities to another section of the town, and though I hated to admit it, he wielded his considerable political clout like a surgeon would a scalpel;

In four years, he had never been successfully charged with a single case in court.

Was he innocent? Define 'innocent' in full legalese and hope your lawyer happens to speak as fluently in bullshido.

As for anyone else that was stupid enough to hang around and try to duke it out with him outside of the courts, they usually found out why Marcone had won out over the Jamaicans and Vargassi family those four years ago.

The name of 'Harry Dresden', on the other hand, was typically accompanied with skeptic stares and unpleasant muttering about my hourly rates, even when I provided the services agreed to by those desperate enough to ask for my help.

And dammit if that doesn't grate on my nerves more than almost anything else in the world.

I'm trying to save lives and help the little guy out along the way, but most of the time, the little guy is too busy adamantly refusing to acknowledge reality until it takes a bite out of their head one midnight stroll to offer even common courtesy.

And that wasn't even accounting for the vast opinion of the White Council.

Even now, with the Doom of Damocles lifted at last and by their own reluctant order, I was viewed my many of my fellow and older council-members as a danger to the Council's reputation at the best of times, and an volatile threat at the worst.

Exhaling, I nodded my head.

I wouldn't sign up to help Johnny Marcone under normal circumstances.

I wouldn't want to disappoint my teacher or the views of magic he had instilled in me after helping to spare my life about a seven or eight years ago.

But there were times when he had mentioned the lesser of two evils, and if Marcone didn't put me on the tab now, than who would he turn to next?

I knew enough wizards of the White Council to know that none of them would agree, and nor would they take kindly to his trying.

More likely, he'd find another Victor Sells somewhere, easily lured in by the money and having no compunctions whatsoever about murder, and then I'd be up to my neck in bloodshed that I could have avoided.

I picked up the sheet of fine paper and scanned the terms printed there again, frowning at the lack of casual-loopholes, and picking up the pen, I scratched through two or three lines I found unappealing before setting the sheet back down and facing him.

Marcone examined them and sighed quietly beneath his breath. "I had wondered if you would even understand the meaning behind those words, Mister Dresden," he said with a light condescension in his tone.

I scowled.

"Do you want my help or not?" I shot back, tapping the pen irritably against my left palm.

He took an extra moment reviewing the striked-out words, then turned the sheet back around to face me again.

"I would prefer to have the full access of your abilities at my command, Mister Dresden, but I am willing to wait and see if you review your opinion about our relationship throughout the life of this contract," he answered mildly.

I snorted at that, triple-checking to make sure I was willing to do this and that I hadn't missed something.

Then I started the first good intention along the long road to hell.


A/N: Guys, I appreciate the follows for this story, but it is already over. It was only ever a concept I wanted to flesh out a little; unlike "Fallen King", or "Sirius Interruptions", which I started with the full intent to expand upon, "The lesser of two evils" is finished with as far as I'm concerned and is only a one-shot, a brief look at what could have happened if Marcone had offered Harry a job sooner than he does in Fool Moon.