Reread of The Dresden Files
Book 1: Storm Front
by Jim Butcher
Welcome to Part 7 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 6!
Harry has no time to flee, so hides behind the Linda Randall’s door just before it opens. A nervous man enters the room and starts searching frantically underneath Linda’s bed. Harry realizes this is the photographer looking for the film canister Harry found. Harry decides to use his police consultant badge to bluff that he’s a cop and question the man.
Harry startles the man, who starts babbling about how he’s just a photographer. Harry learns he is Donny Wise. Donny notices Harry’s identification, and realizes he’s not a cop and he’s leaving. Harry asks about the pictures he took out at Lake Providence on Wednesday but Donny tries to leave.
I gestured curtly to my staff in the corner, and hissed, in my best dramatic voice, “Vento servitas,” jerking my hand at the doorway. My staff, driven by tightly controlled channels of air moving in response to my evocation, leapt across the room and slammed the door shut in front of Donny Wise’s nose. He went stiff as a board. He turned to face me, his eyes wide.
“My God. You’re one of them. Don’t kill me,” he said. “Oh, God. You’ve got the pictures. I don’t know anything. Nothing. I’m no danger to you.” He tried to keep his voice calm, but it was shaking. I saw him tilt his eyes at the glass sliding doors to the little patio, as though calculating his chances of making it there before I could stop him.
Harry tells him to relax and to help him find Linda’s killer. Donny is scared, not wanting to be murdered like Linda. Harry promises to stop the murderer and Donny wants to know why he cares since he’s not a cop. “Who else is going to?” answers Harry, who then asks about the pictures.
Donny agrees to tell him in exchange for the roll of film Harry found. Harry agrees. Donny explains that he met Linda when he photographed her for an adult magazine. On Wednesday, Linda approached him and asked him to take some photograph out at Lake Providence in exchange for sex. Harry asked what he saw at the lake house and Donny said an orgy involving Linda, a second woman, and three men. Donny figured Linda wanted to blackmail someone important.
Harry asks what Donny wants the film for. Donny says he wants to destroy the film, but Harry sense he’s lying. Harry casts a spell and burns the film in the canister and then tells Donny he’ll regret it if he’s been lying. Donny assured him he’s telling the truth and flees apartment. Harry thinks that Linda was blackmailing Victor Sells and wanders how he’d stumbled onto this conspiracy by a chance.
Simple answer—it hadn’t been an accident. It had all been by design. I had been directed there. Someone had wanted me out at the lake house, had wanted me to get involved and to find out what was going on out there. Someone who was nervous as hell around wizards, who refused to give out her name, who had carefully dropped phrases that would make me believe her ignorance, who had to rush out quickly from her appointment and who was willing to let five hundred dollars go, just to get me off the phone a few seconds faster. Someone had drawn me out and forced me into the open, where I had attracted all sorts of hostile attention.
That was the key.
I gathered up my staff and rod and stalked out the door.
It was time to talk to Monica Sells.
“Who else will?” That phrase summons up Harry’s character in a nutshell. He puts a lot of pressure on himself to help people. He took the Spiderman lesson to heart. He has power and he should use it to help people.
Out mysterious photographer is revealed be some slimeball who doesn’t have a problem being paid in sex and even after Linda is murdered, still wants to use that film for profit. Good thing Harry destroyed it or the guy would probably get himself killed. What’s interesting is that he said he didn’t see anything other than an orgy but when Harry uses magic, Donny is familiar enough with it and has clearly heard or dealt with other practitioners. Harry never followed up on this information.
The pieces are falling into place, we know who are villain is for sure now. Poor Linda, her leverage appears to have backfired on her.
We already knew from Toots that Victor Sells was hosting orgies at the lake house. But Donny reveals that there were lots of candles. The orgy appears to be part of some ritual, possibly the ritual that killed Tommy Tom and Jennifer Stanton.
Harry arrives at Monica’s house. She lives out in the suburbs and Harry notices that all the surrounding houses on the street are abandoned with FOR SALE signs. There are no animal sounds, and Harry realizes the place is blighted from the presence of a black wizard. Harry knocks on the door, and Monica answers. She tells him to go away. Harry refuses and she threatens to call the police. Harry tells her to, he would love to tell the police about her husband.
Monica relaxes briefly and Harry pushes past her into house. Monica attacks him with a stun gun and Harry disarms her. Furiously she yells that she won’t let him harm her children and leaps at Harry and their eyes make contact and they have a soulgaze. Harry realizes that fear and love is motivating her. Harry also realizes who she looks like. Monica was abused as a child, and her husband abused her as well. Her two kids are all that matter to her now, and she hired Harry to protect them.
The soulgaze ends and Monica recovers quickly and asks what Harry wants. Harry wants to know who killed Tommy, Jennifer, and Linda, and he wants the lock of his hair back. Monica is surprised Linda’s dead, and Harry tells her it was last night and he’s next. Outside, thunder rumbles and Harry realizes another storm is on the way. Monica begs Harry to leave before her husband returns.
They are interrupted by Monica’s two kids, a girl and boy (who’s holding a baseball bat). The girl asks if everything all right and Monica tells her kids to go to their rooms and lock the door. She pleads with Harry to leave before the storm.
“Monica. Please. I’m up against a wall. I’m out of options. Everything I have leads here. To you. And I don’t have time to wait. I need your help, before I wind up just like Jennifer and Tommy and Linda.” I sought her eyes, and she looked up at me without turning her gaze away. “Please. Help me.” I watched her eyes, saw the fear and the grief and the weariness there. I saw her look at me as I leaned on her, and demanded more out of her than she could afford to give.
“All right,” she whispered. She turned away and walked toward the kitchen. “All right. I’ll tell you what I know, wizard. But there’s nothing I can do to help you.” She paused at the doorway and looked back at me. Her words fell with the weight of conviction, simple truth. “There’s nothing anyone can do, now.”
When Monica thinks Harry is going to hurt her kids, she turns mama bear on Harry. They are all that matter to Monica now and she’s going to go out kicking and screaming to protect them.
Monica Sells is stuck in an abusive relationship and reached out to Dresden because he’s the only one who could stop her husband. She can’t leave him. There’s no place she could go where Victor’s spell couldn’t reach her. No wonder she was so nervous around Harry at the start. If Victor found out, he would take it out on her and maybe even their kids. Fear is a hard thing to overcome.
Monica sits down at the kitchen table and Harry leans against the counter. She doesn’t look at him, but tells him to ask whatever questions he wants. Harry asks if she’s related to Jennifer. Monica reveals Jennifer’s her little sister who “ran away to become an actress, but became a whore instead.” Monica always wanted her to stop being a prostitute, but Jennifer didn’t want to. Harry asks why she lied to him when she hired him.
“And tell me what, Monica?” I asked. I kept my voice soft. “Who killed your sister?”
Wind chimes tinkled outside. The friendly cow clock went tick, tick, tick. Monica Sells drew in a long, shuddering breath and closed her eyes. I saw her gathering up the frayed threads of her courage, knotting them up as tightly as she could. I knew the answer, already, but I needed to hear it from her. I needed to be sure. I tried to tell myself that it would be good for her to face such a thing, just to say it out loud. I wasn’t sure I bought that—like I said, I’m not a very good liar.
Monica squeezed her hands into tight fists, and said, “God help me. God help me. It was my husband, Mr. Dresden. It was Victor.” I thought she would dissolve into tears, but instead she just hunched tighter into her little defensive ball, as though she expected someone to start hitting her.
She sent Harry out to the lake house to find Victor because he was getting worse and worse and she was fearful for her kids. Monica explains that he wasn’t so bad in the beginning, he only rarely lost his temper with her and she thought kids would help calm him down. But then Victor discovered the magic about four years ago and things got worst. Monica realizes he was starting to go crazy. One night, he made her drink a potion. Victor wanted Monica to see the world the way he did. Harry realizes this is the ThreeEye drug.
She nodded. “And…I saw things, Mr. Dresden. I saw him.” Her face screwed up, and I thought she was going to vomit. I could sympathize. To have the Third Sight suddenly opened to you like that, not knowing what it was, what was happening to you; to look on the man you had wed, who had given you children, and to see him for what he truly was, obsessed with power, consumed by greed—it had to have been hell. And it would remain with her. Always. She would never find the memory fading, never find the comfort and solace of years putting a comfortable padding between her and the image of her husband as a monster.
Monica reveals that even though the experience with the drug was horrifying, she was addicted and wanted more. Victor was thrilled when he realized this and started to make more. He learned that emotions, both his and others, could help him make more of the drug. He got “investors,” the Beckitts. They had money and wanted revenge of Marcone for their daughter.
Monica talks about the rituals. Victor would close the circle, and she were just lost in a sea of lust and flesh. It was an escape for Monica. Victor brought in her sister who knew Linda. Tommy Tom was recruited, though Monica doesn’t know how. Things got better, Victor was making money and it took the pressure off for a while. But Victor started summoning demons, and things got darker. And then he start looking at their children, and Monica realized he wanted them. She breaks down crying. Harry gets her a glass of water, not sure what else to do.
If she heard me, it didn’t show. She sipped water, then continued, as if desperate to finish, to get the taste of the words out of her mouth. “I wanted to leave him. I knew he’d be furious, but I couldn’t let the children stay close to him. I tried to talk to Jenny about it. And she took matters into her own hands. My little sister, trying to protect me. She went to Victor and told him that if he didn’t let me leave, she’d go to the police and to Johnny Marcone. She’d tell them all about him. And he…he…”
Victor killed Jennifer and that’s why she came to Harry to stop him and protect her children. Monica tells him to go, she doesn’t want to see him die. Harry gets up and leaves and sees Monica’s daughter, Jenny. The girl asks if he’s the wizard, Harry Dresden. Harry nods and the girl makes him promise to help their mother.
She thought that over for a moment, studying me. Then she nodded. “My daddy used to be one of the good guys, Mr. Dresden. But I don’t think that he is anymore.” Her face looked sad. It was a sweet, unaffected expression. “Are you going to kill him?”
Another simple question.
“I don’t want to,” I told her. “But he’s trying to kill me. I might not have any choice.”
She swallowed and lifted her chin. “I loved my aunt Jenny,” she said. Her eyes brightened with tears. “Momma won’t say, and Billy’s too little to figure it out, but I know what happened.” She turned, with more grace and dignity than I could have managed, and started to leave. Then she said, quietly, “I hope you’re one of the good guys, Mr. Dresden. We really need a good guy. I hope you’ll be all right.” Then she vanished down the hall on bare, silent feet.
Harry leaves the Sells’ house and gets back into the cab he took out here. Harry is trying to think and is furious about the damage Victor has done to his family. Harry doesn’t know what to do next. Harry can’t turn to the police, Murphy might arrest him. He can’t turn to the White Council because of Morgan’s suspicions. Harry realizes he needs to confront Victor Sells and stop him without killing him with magic.
Harry remembers that Monica left one of Victor’s talismans with him. He could use it to rebound some of his powers back at Victor and tells the cabby to pull into a gas station parking lot. Harry decides to call Murphy. Carmichael answers and Harry learns that Murphy is searching his office and has an arrest warrant for him.
Harry hangs up and calls his office and Murphy answers. Harry explains that he knows who the killer is. Murphy is pissed, telling him its to late to talk. Harry tells her to stay out of his desk drawer, its dangerous.
“Murphy,” I said, trying to keep my voice even, “you’ve got to trust me, one more time. Stay out of my desk. Please.”
There was silence for a moment. I heard her draw in a breath, and let it out through her mouth. Then Murphy said, her voice hard, professional, “Why, Dresden? What are you hiding?”
I heard her open the middle drawer.
There was a clicking sound, and a startled oath from Murphy. The receiver clattered to the floor. I heard gunshots, shockingly loud, whining ricochets, and then a scream.
In a panic, Harry jumps back into the car and tells the cabby to get him to office as fast as possible.
Victor Sells is a piece of shit!!!
His obsession with black magic destroyed his family. His own daughter thinks its a good thing if Harry kills him. Monica’s tale is heartbreaking. Like many abused women, she actually explains away his anger in the beginning. She said Victor just wanted to be successful, to provide for Monica and he would get frustrated and take it out on her. And like every other woman in this situation, she had to hit bottom before she would seek out help.
Monica’s kitchen, decorated with cows, appears to be her safe place. She is constantly looking at her various cow figurine and they seem to provide her with strength. Victor seems like the type of guy that thinks his wife’s place is in the kitchen and probably stayed out of there as much as possible.
Hopefully Monica reached out for help before its too late for her and her children.
Jennifer Stanton was killed because she was trying to protect her older sister. Poor girl. I would say she was the stronger of the two. I bet her and Tommy were going to go to Marcone. Tommy would know he can be reasoned with.
For all the disdain that Monica shows for Jennifer’s lifestyle, she named her daughter after her.
Well that talisman of Victors turns out to be dangerous. Good luck Murphy, cavalry’s on the way.