Reread of The Dresden Files
Book 1: Storm Front
by Jim Butcher
Welcome to Part 4 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 3!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.