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Reread of Storm Front: Part 4

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 1: Storm Front

by Jim Butcher

Part 4

Welcome to Part 4 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 3!

Chapter 10

Dresden’s mechanic lends him a Studebaker while the Blue Beetle is in the shop. The first thing he does is call Linda Randall’s number. At first Linda is very flirty on the phone until Dresden reveals he’s calling about Jennifer Stanton. Linda gets quiet and in the background Harry can hear sounds of an airport. Linda finally says she can’t help, she’s working right now. She does not know anything about Jennifer’s murder and hangs up.

Harry deduces she is at O’Hare airport waiting to pick up her employers, the Beckitts. Harry hurries to O’Hare. At the concourse, Harry spots a silver limo in the loading zone. Harry heads to bank of pay phones and calls Linda again. He can see the driver of the silver limo move as Linda answers the phone. She lights up a cigarette, flirts briefly with Dresden, and hangs up a second time.

Harry walks over to the limo and knocks on the window. Linda rolls the window down, appraises Dresden, and guesses who he is. Linda is very flirty, and admits working for Bianca (a prissy bitch in her opinion). She and Jennifer were roommates and lovers then. They would often see Tommy Tomm together. Harry asked when she last saw Jennifer.

She took another drag, and this time I saw a small shake to her fingers, one she quickly hid. Just not quickly enough. She was nervous. Nervous enough to be shaking, and now I could see what she was up to. She was wearing the alley-cat mask, appealing to my glands, instead of my brain, and trying to distract me with it, trying to keep me from finding something.

I’m not inhuman. I can be distracted by a pretty face, or body, like any youngish man. Linda Randall was damned good at playing the part. But I do not like to be made the fool.

So, Miss Sex Goddess. What are you hiding?

Harry repeats his question and Linda stops flirting and asks if he’s a cop. Harry promises she’s not. She reluctantly tells him that she saw Jennifer on Wednesday. Jennifer wanted her to party with Tommy Tomm for his birthday. Linda had to work, so she declined. Linda admitted she hadn’t seen much of Jennifer since she left the Velvet Room. Harry asks if anyone would want to hurt Jennifer. Linda says no, Jennifer was a sweet girl.

The Beckitts arrive. Harry observes that neither were wedding rings, and both have blank faces, like survivors of German stalags. Linda lies, and says Harry is an old friend. Linda helps the Beckitts into the limo, and Mrs. Beckitt’s hand lingers intimately on Linda’s waist. Linda tells Harry to leave before she gets in trouble. Harry hands her his card and leaves.

Harry heads into a café, orders a coffee, and thinks what he should do next. He decides to track down the pizza deliver lead for the Monica Seller’s case. He goes back to the pay phones and calls the only pizza place in Lake Providence, Pizza ‘Spress.

Harry asks to talk to the driver who delivered to the Lake House on Wednesday. The guy on the phone agrees, and gets Jack, the delivery driver. Jack gets on and immediately apologizes again. Jack quickly explains that he won’t tell anyone, like he promised, and it’s none of his business what you guys were doing at the house. Harry asks what he saw, and Jack answers he saw no faces.

Harry presses Jack on what he saw, and Jack admits to seeing an orgy and some guy outside taking pictures. Jack hangs up. Harry realizes that Victor Sells is trying to cover his tracks, having already intimidated the pizza guy. The photographer explained the film canister Harry found, but not who the guy was or why he was talking pictures.

Harry returns home. Walking up to the house, a guy leaps out from behind a garbage can and hits Harry in the head with a baseball bat, knocking Harry to the ground. The attacker presses the bat against the back of Harry’s neck and threatens him with more violence if he doesn’t stop investigating. The attacker leaves. Harry manages to get into his house and collapse on into a chair.

I sat motionless until the spinning slowed down enough to allow me to open my eyes again, and until the pounding of my head calmed down. Pounding hard. Someone could have been pounding my head with a baseball bat just then, pounding my head into new and interesting shapes that were inconducive to carrying on businesslike pursuits. Someone could have been pounding Harry Dresden right into the hereafter.

I cut off that line of thought. “You are not some poor rabbit, Dresden!” I reminded myself, sternly. “You are a wizard of the old school, a spellslinger of the highest caliber. You’re not going to roll over for some schmuck with a baseball bat because he tells you to!”

Harry thinks Johnny Marcone is behind this attack. He had already once told Harry to butt out. Harry decides it prudent to start carrying his Smith & Wesson .38 Chief Special revolver with him and heads down into his lab to start working on the heart exploding spell.

My Thoughts

Linda Randall is a very jaded, young woman. She hides it with sex bunny act. She is jealous of the fact Jennifer never got jaded. While she claims she doesn’t know anything, she got scared fast when Harry started talking about Jennifer. We all see that how quickly she lies to her bosses about who Harry is. Maybe not the only lie she told.

The Beckitts are very disturbing. They both dress in suits, wear no jewelry, even their wedding rings, and their eyes and face look dead and numb. Something terrible happened to them and it seems like they almost don’t care anymore. They also have money. They are a piece to the puzzle.

I delivered pizza’s, and that whole scene where Harry calls the place and they just put on the driver doesn’t make sense. I would never let a customer talk to the driver without first knowing what he wanted. But, hey, I’m complaining about this in a world with magic.

Dresden thinks Johnny Marcone is behind the assault. This being detective fiction, the first guess is usually wrong. There are some clues to who the real culprit is if you use your brain and think, hmm, who else was intimidated in this chapter.

Chapter 11

Harry works all night and into the morning and figures out how the spell that killed Jennifer Stanton and Tommy Tomm worked. Either his calculations were wrong or he seriously underestimated the villain. Either way, Murphy needed to know.

Harry set off for run down station Murphy worked at. While waiting for Murphy, a pair of cops dragged in a handcuffed drug addict, obviously tweaking, struggling with the cops. Harry is sent upstairs and finds Murphy on the phone. She motions him to wait in the hallway. While waiting, the drug addict breaks free of the cops. He is screaming in fear of something and running blindly down the hallway towards Harry.

Harry tries to stop the man, but gets knocked down. Harry manages to reach out and grab the guys leg and trip him up, though. The drug addict looked at Harry with hugely dilated eyes.

“Wizard!” he trumpeted. “Wizard! I see you! I see you, wizard! I see the things that follow, those who walk before and He Who Walks Behind! They come, they come for you!”

The cops grab the junkie and drag him away, thanking Harry for the help. Harry asks what’s up with they guy. The cop answers that he’s high on ThreeEye, a drug that’s supposed to let you see into the spirit world. As the cops drag the junkie off, he continues to gibber about He Who Walks Behind.

Harry didn’t sense the aura about the guy signaling he had any power, so he’s confused how the junkie saw the shadow of He Who Walks Behind in Harry’s wake. Only another wizard should be able to see that with the Third Sight. When Harry was younger, an enemy sent He Who Walks Behind after Harry. It’s a badass hunter-spirit and Harry managed to beat the odds and survive. Apparently, Harry was wrong about the claims of ThreeEye.

I shuddered at the thought. The kind of things you see when you learn how to open your Third Eye could be blindingly beautiful, bring tears to your eyes—or they could be horrible things that made our worst nightmares seem ordinary and comforting. Visions of the past, the future, of the true nature of things. Psychic stains, troubled shades, spirit-folk of all description, the shivering power of the Nevernever in all its brilliant and subtle hues—and all going straight into your brain: unforgettable, permanent. Wizards quickly learn how to control the Third Eye, to keep it closed except in times of great need, or else they go mad within a few weeks.

Harry finds the thought of ordinary mortals inflicted with the Third Sight troubling. Even if they aren’t driven mad, monsters garbed by illusions, would react badly to their disguise being penetrated by the hapless mortal.

Murphy calls Harry into her office and hands him some coffee, charging him 50 cents. The first thing she does is unplug her computer so Harry doesn’t accidentally short it out and then asks Harry what he’s got. Harry explains the spell was done with thaumaturgy and was near impossible to pull off. They used fingernails or hair of the victims and a sacrificial doll to rip out their hearts and it would take a staggering amount of energy to pull off. Harry thinks he could do it to someone he really hated and not die. Two people would kill him. Murphy asks if they are looking for the Arnold Schwarzenegger of wizards.

Harry explains that a ritual spell where multiple wizards combine their energy could also accomplish the spell. As many as thirteen (the max possible). They all have to know each other and trust each other very well for it to work. A lot of fanaticism. Murphy thinks this is an attack on Bianca, but Harry reveals he saw Bianca last night and she isn’t involved.

Murphy is pissed at Harry, and he defends himself that Bianca would never talk to a mortal, but would talk to a wizard. Murphy forgives him on the condition he tells her what she said. Harry relays the info, and says this was probably aimed at Marcone. Harry explains what he just learned about ThreeEye and speculates the wizard who killed Jennifer and Tommy is probably the supplier behind the drug and is in a gang war with Marcone.

Murphy wants the names of anyone in Chicago who could cast the spell. Harry balks and Murphy threatens to arrest him for obstruction of justice. Harry says if he had any information he would share it and complains of the room spinning. Murphy exclaims that she can tell someone has already attacked Harry. Its her job to be in danger, not Harry’s. Harry starts to answer but the room begins to swim and he passes out.

My Thoughts

Concussion suck. Harry you really should see a doctor after a head wound like that.

ThreeEye could give you the greatest or worst trip of your life and is more addictive then crack. Of course their going to be friction with the mundane drug dealers. The escalation of magic into Chicago’s crimeworld is a continuing motif of the series.

Butcher Third Sight is a neat slant on a classic bit of magic from mythology. The great strength of the series, other than Harry’s snark and obstinacy, is Butcher incorporating mythology into his world, making them feel organic, and yet leaving them true to their roots. Thaumaturgy is another good example, using the classic Voodoo Doll to explain how it works.

Murphy and Dresden argument at the end of the chapter is the central one in their relationship. To Murphy, she’s the cop and he’s the civilian. No matter how skilled he is in magic, she sees him that way. Harry, as is obvious, sees himself as above her when it comes to supernatural stuff. Harry’s arrogance and Murphy’s sense of duty butt heads here and almost goes too far before Harry’s head trauma nap happens.

Chapter 12

Harry wakes up on the floor of Murphy’s office and she asks who hit him in the head. Harry lies and says he fell down the stairs. Murphy doesn’t think Harry’s fit to drive and tells him she will take him home. Harry protests, tries to stand up, and instead throws up. Murphy helps him clean up.

Murphy takes Harry home and helps him inside into a chair. The phone ring and Harry answers. It’s Linda Randall. Harry, still a little out of it, asks Lisa if she’s naked. Murphy arches an eyebrow as Linda gives a throaty laugh. Linda offers to meet Harry tonight. Harry thinks he has something to do tonight, but he can’t remember so agrees. Linda asks were, and Harry says he doesn’t have a car and offers to meet her at a 7-11 by his place. Linda counters by saying she’ll go home and freshen up, make herself pretty, and be at his place around 9 pm.

Murphy appeared again as soon as I hung up the phone. “Tell me you didn’t just make a date, Dresden.”

“You’re just jealous.”

Murphy snorted. “Please. I need more a man than you to keep me happy.” She started to get an arm beneath me to help me up. “You’d break like a dry stick, Dresden. You’d better get to bed before you get any more delusions.

Harry remembers he needs to do something. Murphy protests, saying he needs to get some rest. Harry just needs to give Monica Sells a call to check in. Harry calls the number she left and a boy answers the phone and Harry says he’s Monica’s cousin from Vermont. Monica answers, and nervously says she doesn’t need Harry’s services anymore and he can keep the money.

Harry is perplexed, but Murphy insists he go lie down. She helps him to his bed, gives him some water and aspirin, and checks his eyes with her penlight. She helped him undressed, tucked him, and kissed his forehead. As she was walking out, the phone rang again. She answered but no one was on the line. Murphy hangs up. Harry thanks her, calling her Karrin. Murphy smiles and leaves. As Harry drifted off to sleep, wondering if that was Monica calling back, and if not, who didn’t want to speak to Murphy.

My Thoughts

This is a short chapter, but really its sweet. Murphy must be a good friend to help you clean up vomit. She is very motherly to Dresden, not her usual gruff self. We get to see the true Murphy here, not the cop mode she usually is in. Between her job, and the old boys club mentality of the police, Murphy is usually more of a hard ass then she is in this chapter (wait until you see her house). And for the Harry-Murphy shippers, any women who you can vomit in front of and she still likes you is a keeper.

I am not a Harry-Murphy shipper though, even if the later books really seem to be about to embark on that voyage. I like the idea of them being really good friends without all the sex stuff, but the two do have a certain amount of sexual chemistry that grows. My ship, unfortunately, has sailed do to…messy complications, but my back-up one still has a chance.

Harry has indeed forgotten something import when he made his date with Lisa. He had already made a date with Susan tonight. Harry will undoubtedly learn to regret the mistake of inviting two women to his place at the same time. If this were a comedy, wacky hijinks are about to ensue.

This is a noir detective novel dressed with supernatural clothing.

Click here to continue on to Part 5!

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Reread of Storm Front: Part 3

Reread of The Dresden Files

Book 1: Storm Front

by Jim Butcher

Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 2!

Chapter 7

Harry is startled by the appearance of the man with the sword. He almost attacks the man with magic, but instead causally greets the man, calling him Morgan. Harry explains that Toot had a choice and was not a mortal, so it wasn’t breaking the Fourth Law. Morgan calls that a technicality. Morgan is a Warden of the White Council, assigned to watch over Harry. Wardens are the police and executioners of the White Council.

Harry explains, he is on a missing person case and just called up the faerie to get some information. Since he is not using actual mind-control on the faerie, technically he did not violate the law, a technicality Harry is prepared to hide behind. Morgan doesn’t think it’s worth the effort of bringing it to the counsel, so sheathes his sword. Harry starts to leave, when Morgan grabs his shoulder and tells Harry, he’s not finished with him yet.

I didn’t dare mess around with Morgan when he was acting in his role as a Warden of the White Council. But he wasn’t wearing that hat now. Once he’d put the sword away, he was acting on his own, without any more official authority than any other man—or at least, that was the technical truth. Morgan was big on technicalities. He had scared the heck out of me and annoyed the heck out of me, in rapid succession. Now he was trying to bully me. I hate bullies.

So I took a calculated risk, used my free hand, and hit him as hard as I could in the mouth.

Morgan is incensed that Harry struck him. Harry tells him he is happy to cooperate on Council business, but Harry doesn’t have to put up with this on personal business. Morgan calls Harry an arrogant fool and Harry tenses himself for a fight. No law of magic protects Harry from Morgan punching him back, and Morgan has more experience and 100 lbs. on him.

Morgan accuses Harry of killing the two people at the hotel with magic. Morgan doesn’t know how, but he will figure it out and bring the evidence before the Council. Harry is taken aback that Morgan, and by extension, the White Council, thinks Harry is the killer. Harry realizes as the only wizard in Chicago that has killed with magic, albeit in self-defense, Harry is the prime suspect for the Council.

Harry protests, saying he is helping the police find the killer. Morgan is dismissive of mortal authority, and thinks Harry is just setting someone up to take the fall for the mortals.

“Good night, Morgan,” I told him. I started to walk away again, before I could let my mouth get me into more trouble.

He moved faster than I would have given a man his age credit for. His fist went across my jaw at approximately a million miles an hour, and I spun down tot he dirt like a string-cut puppet. For several long moments, I was unable to do anything at all, even breathe. Morgan loomed over me.

“We’ll be watching you, Dresden.” He turned and started walking away, the shadows of the evening quickly swallowing up his black coat. His voice drifted back to me. “We’ll find out what really happened.”

As Harry checks whether Morgan broke his jaw, his thoughts drift back to the reason he is under the Doom of Damocles. When he was a teenager, the wizard he was apprenticed to tried to seduce him to Black wizardry. Harry resisted and his mentor tried to kill him. Harry, by luck more than skill, managed to kill his mentor with his magic. However, the First Law of Magic is “Thou shall not kill.” Harry managed to convince the White Council it was self-defense, so instead of the death penalty, they put him on parole. One slip up, and he will be executed.

Finding the real killer has become a lot more important for Harry and he is now more resolved to go speak with Bianca the Vampire behind Murphy’s back.

My Thoughts

Morgan is a dick!

We start to see why Harry has such a problem with authority figures. If my mentor tried to seduce me to the dark side and then I was force to kill him, I might have a similar problem. And of course, the other wizards put him on trial instead of giving him a medal for getting rid of a bad dude. And now he’s the equivalent to an innocent man who’s been in prison and is out on parole and everyone still thinks he’s the bad guy.

Pretty big chip to carry.

Harry has a hard time backing down. It’s what makes him a great hero and always getting into dangerous situations, but he also talks himself into worse problems and makes bitter enemies as a result of his lack of tact.

And I’m glad Harry is learning that sometimes its better to shut up then provoke the guy that just cold cocked you so hard he dropped you. He doesn’t quite understand diplomacy (and may never will), but at least he has some modicum of self-control and doesn’t talk himself into getting killed. Harry walks that fine line.

There is also a lot more to the confrontation with Harry’s mentor that we get latter on. My understanding about Storm Front is Butcher wrote it years before he started writing the rest of the Dresden novels and there seem to be some inconsistencies in Storm Front from the latter novels. For instance, Wardens always wear a gray cloak, it’s the symbol of their office. Morgan’s description doesn’t have him wearing his in this chapter, and he mentions killing Bianca with a stake in the next chapter, but that would make her Black Court Vampire, and she is a Red Court, something else not established until book 3.

Chapter 8

Harry lives in a basement apartment. Mister, a large tomcat that Harry found badly injured three years ago, waits at the bottom of the stairs for Harry to let in. Like most cats, Mister believed the apartment was his, and merely tolerates the presences of Harry. Because Harry has such an effect on technology, Harry has no power in his apartment. Luckily, there is a fireplace that works.

Harry lights a fire for Mister and then dons a flannel bathrobe. Harry heads down into the subbasement where his lab is. The real reason wizards wear robes is to stay warm in their labs. On the floor of his lab is a brass summoning circle. The walls are lined with shelves full of various ingredients in Tupperware, jars, and other containers. Several books, a row of his notebooks, and a human skull, also rest on the shelves. The first thing Harry does is order Bob to wake up.

Bob the Skull grumbled something in Old French, I think, though I got lost when he got to the anatomical improbabilities of bullfrogs. He yawned, and his bony teeth rattled when his mouth clicked closed again. Bob wasn’t really a human skull. He was a spirit of air—sort of like a faery, but different. He made his residences inside the skull that had been prepared for him several hundred years ago, and it was his job to remember things. For obvious reasons, I can’t use a computer to store information and keep track of the slowly changing laws of quasiphysics. That’s why I have Bob. He had worked with dozens of wizards over the years, and it had given him a vast repertoire of knowledge—that, and a really cocky attitude. “Blasted wizards,” he mumbled.

Harry tells Bob that he wants to make a couple of potions and explains the situation to Bob. Bob tells Harry he could help, if Harry would let him out of the skull. Harry refuses, remembering the trouble Bob caused at a sorority last time. For a spirit of intellect, Bob is really obsessed with sex. Bob calls it academic research, and Harry calls it voyeurism. The pair argue, and Bob demands to know how long its been since Harry has been on a date. Harry reveals his dinner plans with Susan on Saturday.

Bob asks for a description, and after Harry describes Susan Bob asks how Harry got such a pretty girl to out with him. Harry changes the subject and tells Bob they’re going to make an escape potion. Bob refuses to help Harry with the escape potion unless he also makes a love potion. Harry threatens to throw Bob down the deepest well he can find, but Bob knows he is far to valuable to get rid of.

Harry resists the urge to smash the skull and counts to 30 to calm down. Love potions are cheap and would give Bob a vicarious thrill. Harry doesn’t have to use it, after all. Harry tells Bob he’ll make the love potion.

Bob’s eye lights came up warily. “You’re sure? You’ll do the love potion, just like I say?”

“Don’t I always make the potions like you say, Bob?”

“What about that diet potion you tried?”

“Okay. That one mistake.”

And the antigravity potion, remember that?”

“We fixed the floor! It was no big deal!”

“And the—“

“Fine, fine,” I growled. “You don’t have to rub it in. Now cough up the recipes.”

Every potion has eight ingredients: a liquid base, something to engage all five sense, something for the mind, and something for the spirit. Every potion is different for every person making the potion and Bob is very good at understanding which ingredients would be needed for which wizard making it.

For the escape potion: liquid base (Jolt cola), smell (motor oil), touch (bird’s feather), taste (chocolate covered espresso beans), sight (a shadow), hearing (mouse scampers), mind (bus ticket), and spirit (broken chain). This version of the escape potion will turn the imbiber into the wind for a few minutes. Harry is unsure of it, never having heard of this potion before. Bob says it will work since he is an air spirit.

For the love potion: liquid base (tequila), smell (perfume), touch (shredded lace), taste (dark chocolate), sight (candlelight), hearing (sigh), mind (fifty dollar bill), and spirit (shredded pages of a romance novel). Harry objects to this potion a lot. Usually, champagne is used as the base. Harry thinks the tequila will produce a sleazier result. Bob wanted the ashes of a love letter for the spirit and powdered diamond for the mind, but Harry was fresh out of both. Luckily, Harry got a paid in fifties by Monica today, and Bob has a collection of trashy romance novels.

The next step was infusing the ingredients with magic to transform them into potions. Harry gathers his emotional energy (worry, annoyance, and stubbornness) and focus them on the potions while muttering quasi-Latin phrases. Finished, and tired from the effort, Harry puts the potions into squeezable sports bottles and clearly labels them. Bob assures Harry that these are top notch potions.

Exhausted, Harry climbs up the ladder and stumbles to his bed and lies down. Mister, as usual, climbs up on his bed, gets settle, and begins “purring like a miniature outboard motor.”

My Thoughts

Mister the Cat is very much a cat. Arrogant, thinks he is in charge, and that Harry is there to serve him. I’m not a cat person for the reasons Jim Butcher lists in the story, but Harry likes his cat, and he is useful in some of the latter books.

Bob the Skull is awesome. He and Harry make a great odd couple, always bickering, Bob always criticizing his love life. Harry almost always has to bribe Bob to get him to help out. But Bob knows when Harry is really desperate and will help then.

The method Butcher came up with for potions is really great and creative. And the fact that harry has such weird things stored: “a flickering shadow in a handkerchief” or a jar of sighs. The potions are made out of such mundane items, though a few are magically held. It is really neat. I wish he used potions more often in the later books, because I always enjoyed the ingredients he comes up with for them.

And poor Harry, his last fifty for the love potion. There goes it being cheap.

Chapter 9

Harry is awoken late Friday afternoon by a call from Murphy. Despite having no electricity in his apartment, he does have a phone. She asks for a progress report, and he says nothing yet, lying that he worked on it all last night. The case is not going well, and Murphy needs the info pronto. Murphy, and her unit, are the scapegoats of the Chicago PD. Any unsolvable crime was dumped in their laps. Harry asks if she spoke to Bianca yet.

Another swear word. “That bitch won’t talk to us. Just smiles and nods and blows smoke, makes small talk, and crosses her legs. You should have seen Carmichael drooling.”

Harry floats the option of him speaking with Bianca, and Murphy shuts it down and explicitly tells him not to go to the Velvet Room. Harry lies, but Murphy hears it in his voice (Harry is a bad liar) and threatens to lock him up. Harry pulls the old bad connection gag and hangs up on her.

Harry eats and gets ready for his visit to Bianca after nightfall. The most important part of wizardy is preparation. Harry gets his cane, puts a silver knife up his sleeve, grabs the escape potion, a white handkerchief containing sunlight, and a silver pentacle talisman that belonged to his mother. Harry leaves behind his staff and blasting rod, not wanting to spook Bianca by bringing the equivalent of a flamethrower and machine gun.

The Velvet Room resided in a mansion on the lake. Harry pulls up to the gate and his car brakes down. A guard comes out and Harry tells him he’s hear to see Bianca and asks if the guard can call his mechanic, Mike, to get his car towed. Harry walks up the driveway but is stopped and searched, his knife and cane confiscated. Harry has to rely solely on magic now. Luckily, the guard didn’t take his pentacle, not realizing to Harry it is a symbol of his faith in magic, and like a crucifix to a believer, will have the same effect on a vampire.

Bianca the Vampiress appears to be a very beautiful women in a black dress with a plunging neckline. They exchange pleasantries, and Bianca asks him what he wants from her. Harry puts his hand in his pocket, grabbing the handkerchief. Harry tells her he’s hear about Jennifer Stanton’s murder.

I had all of a second’s warning. Bianca’s eyes narrowed, then widened, like those of a cat about to spring. Then she was coming at me over the table, faster than a breath, her arms extended toward my throat.

Harry pulls out the handkerchief and the sunlight hits Bianca like a sledgehammer, throwing her back. Even though Harry moved first, her fingernails still managed to graze his throat. The sunlight sent burned skin flying off Bianca and her true form is revealed.

I had never seen a real vampire before. I would have time to be terrified later. I took in the details as I tugged my talisman off my neck. It had a bat-like face, horrid and ugly, the head too big for its body. Gaping, hungry jaws. Its shoulders were hunched and powerful. Membranous wings stretched between the joints of its almost skeletal arms. Flabby black breasts hung before it, spilling out of the black dress that no longer looked feminine. Its eyes were wide, black, and staring, and a kind of leathery, slimy hide covered its flesh, like an inner tube lathered with Vaseline, though there were tiny holes corroded in it by the sunlight I had brought with me.

Harry uses his pentacle to keep her at bay and tells her he just came to talk. The vampire accuses Harry of killing Jennifer, one her prostitutes. Harry tries to explain that he is just helping the police. The pair are at a standoff, and both agree to stand down. Harry agrees and lowers his amulet and she resumes her disguise. Harry can’t get the image of the true Bianca out of his head, and she is not quite as beautiful to him anymore.

Bianca explains that Tommy Tomm was just a regular at the Velvet room. Bianca is protective of her girls and Tommy was a good guy. She sent Jennifer to him that night. Harry asks if anyone saw Jennifer on a regular basis, someone who would want to kill her. Bianca says no.

Bianca is still furious at Harry, and he realizes she is embarrassed that he saw her real form. Bianca wants to be seen as beautiful, and Harry had destroyed that illusion. Bianca swears that she would kill him if they hadn’t agreed on a truce. Harry warns her that would be dangerous, that she has something to lose. Even if she did kill him, his death curse would get her.

Bianca breaks and begins to cry and Harry feels bad. Dully, she tells Harry that Jennifer had a friend, Linda Randall. Linda used to work at the Velvet room, but now works for a rich couple who wanted a servant who does more than just clean. Bianca offers to get Harry her phone number and Harry thanks her.

Bianca smells the blood from Harry’s neck wound and orders him to leave, trying to control her hunger. She tells him Rachel will bring down the numbers. Harry gets up and as he leaves, Bianca swears she will get revenge on Harry. As Harry exits Bianca’s office, Rachel, a lovely young woman, passes Harry and enters Bianca’s office. Harry watcher her pull up the sleeve of her blouse and offer her wrist to Bianca.

Horrified and fascinated, Harry watches Bianca feed on Rachel and notices the the girl act like she’s on a narcotic. Bianca cuts her wrist open with her fangs and laps up the blood with her tongue. Rachel begins moaning in pleasure. Harry quickly heads outside, disturbed how Rachel willingly went to Bianca and allowed her to feed off her like Bianca was her lover. Harry speculates that Bianca’s saliva was a narcotic.

Outside, the security guard returns Harry’s weapons and a tow truck has arrived and is hooking up the blue beetle. A call comes to the guardhouse, and the guard hands Harry a piece of paper. Harry asks why Rachel didn’t bring it down.

He [the guard] didn’t say anything. But his jaw tightened, and I saw his eyes flick toward the house, where his mistress was. He swallowed. Rachel wasn’t coming out of the house, and Fido was afraid.

I took the paper. I kept my hand from shaking as I looked at it.

On it was a phone number. And a single word. Regret.

I folded the piece of paper in half and put it away into the pocket of my duster. Another enemy. Super. At least with my hands in my pockets, Fido couldn’t see them shaking. Maybe I should have listened to Murphy. Maybe I should have stayed at home and played with some nice, safe, forbidden black magic instead.

My Thoughts

An intense chapter.

Bianca is not your typical vampire. In latter books, Butcher will call her type a Red Court vampire. He appearance, tuning into a bat monster, and how in latter books you kill a Red Court vampire, are very similar to chiropteran of Blood the Last Vampire. Both Blood and Storm Front came out the same year, so I can only assume they both drew on a similar monster from mythology or both came up with same creature independently of each other.

Harry’s encounter with Bianca will have repercussions down the road. Butcher is very good at making Harry experience the consequences of his actions, whether they were the right thing to do or not. Harry will make a lot of mistakes through the series and they always come to bite him in the ass.

Bianca is an interesting character. She is very protective of her employees, making sure her johns will not hurt them. She tries to kill Dresden because she thinks he is the only one in Chicago who could have killed Jennifer. When Harry hurts her and she reveals her true form, she is embarrassed. She is a vain vampire, one who prides herself on appearing seductive and beautiful.

Supernatural creatures, especially ones that have been around a few centuries, are very big on old world hospitality. When oaths are sworn for truces, they are usually honored. Although when dealing with such creatures, they tend to hold to the letter of their oaths.

NOTE: Older editions call Rachel by the name Paula. When Butcher wrote a later book where Bianca returns, he mixed the name up and called her Rachel. Newer editions of Storm Front of fixed this error.

Click her read Part 4!

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