Reread of The Dresden Files
Book 1: Storm Front
by Jim Butcher
Welcome to Part 6 of my reread. Click here if you missed the Part 5!
I had lost Murphy’s trust. It didn’t matter that I had done what I had to protect both her and myself. Noble intentions meant nothing. It was the results that counted. And the results of my actions had been telling a bald-faced lie to one of the only people I could come close to calling a friend. And I wasn’t sure that, even if I found the person or persons responsible, even if I worked out how to bring them down, even if I did Murphy’s job for her, that what had happened between us could ever be smoothed over.
These are the thoughts that fill Harry’s mind as he walks down to a gas station to call for a cab. A man walking by Harry suddenly punches him in the stomach multiple times and throws Harry to the ground. Stunned, it takes Harry a moment to realize the attacker is cutting his hair off with scissors.
Harry panics and leaps at his attacker, wrenching the attackers knee. Harry recognizes the man as one of Marcone’s goons. Gimpy, as Harry now thinks of his assailant, fights off Harry and gets away despite Harry’s desperate struggle to get his hair back. Gimpy escapes in a car. Harry is scared. Marcone could do magic against Harry with his hair, the same way Shadowman could kill Jennifer, Tommy, and Linda.
Harry is not sure how Marcone now fits into the picture. Whether he’s working with Shadowman, has his own wizard, or Gimpy is playing both sides, doesn’t matter. Harry’s angry and he’s going to get his hair back and kick some ass. Harry ponders how he’s going to find his hair when he realizes he has some of Gimpy’s blood under his fingernails. He can use the link between Gimpy and his blood and perform a tracking spell. The spell will let harry track Gimpy by “scent.”
I started laughing again. I had the son of a bitch. I could follow him back to Marcone, or whoever he was working for, but I had to do it now. I hadn’t had enough blood to make it last long.
“Hey, buddy!” The cabby leaned out the window and glared at me, the engine running at an idle, the end of his cheroot glowing orange.
I stared at him for a second. “What?” He scowled. “What, are you deaf? Did someone call for a cab?”
I grinned at him, still angry, still a little light-headed, still eager to go kick Gimpy and the Shadowman’s teeth in. “I did.”
“Why do I get all the nuts?” he said. “Get in.”
Harry tells the cab to take him to apartment so he can pick up some stuff, and Harry will tell let the cabbie know the second stop “when we get there.”
The panic Harry has when his hair gets caught really helps to reinforce how dangerous in Harry’s world it is to let pieces of you fall into your enemies hand. Harry fights desperately with Gimpy, grappling with the guy even after getting punched, hard, three times in the stomach.
Using body parts in spells is found in many real world occult practices, another way Butcher weaves the occult and mythology into the world making his magic seem both real and fantastical all at the same time.
Harry’s tracking spell is interesting. It required putting the blood and his own nose hairs in a circle drawn in chalk on the sidewalk. Followed by some pseudo-Latin that roughly means “follow your testimony” according to the Dresden File Wiki.
After collecting Harry’s equipment (two bracelets, a ring, blasting rod, and staff), the tracking spell leads Harry to the Varsity, a night club owned by Marcone in the suburbs. Harry scouts the location and sees Marcone with Hendricks, Gimpy, and Spike. Harry thinks about his entrance, pondering using illusions or other subtle magics.
I shook my head, irritated. I didn’t have time to bother with subtlety.
Power into the talismans, then. Power into the ring. I reached for the power in both the staff and rod, cool strength of wood and seething anger of fire, and stepped up to the front door of the Varsity.
Then I blew it off its hinges.
I blew it out, rather than in. Pieces flew toward me and bounced off the shield of air I held in front of me, while others rained back behind me, into the parking lot. It wouldn’t do to injure a bunch of innocent diners on the other side. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Harry steps through the door, slags the jukebox with a fireball from his blasting rod, and strides arrogantly up to Marcone, jeering “Little pig, little pig, let me in.” Marcone is not amused and tells everyone the Varsity is closing earl. After the diners flee, Harry demands his hair back. Marcone is clearly confused by Harry statement. Harry explains how Gimpy jumped him.
Marcone turns to Gimpy, who begins to sweat, and demands to know what is going on. Gimpy protests his innocent. Marcone pushes Gimpy, who panics and whips out a gun. Harry channeled power through his bracelet, forming a shield before him and deflects the bullets. At the same time, Hendricks pushes Marcone to safety and produce his own gun. He kills Gimpy.
Marcone is disappointed that Hendricks killed him because he wanted answers. Harry and Marcone agree that they face a common enemy. Harry searches Gimpy and doesn’t find his hair. Harry asks Marcone for what he knows about their enemy. Marcone points out that Harry just challenged him publicly and he cannot let that slide. So, Marcone will either let Harry be killed or, if Harry wins, put out that word that Harry was working for Marcone.
Marcone does reveal that they never have learned anything about the enemy. Everyone they interrogated spoke only of shadows. Marcone then warns Harry that it’s best if their paths don’t cross again. Harry agrees.
I turned and trudged out of the place, into the night and the cold and the misty rain. I still felt sick, could still see Gimpy Lawrence’s eyes as he died. I could still hear Linda Randall’s husky laughter in my head. I still regretted lying to Murphy, and I still had no intentions of telling her any more than I already had. I still didn’t know who was trying to kill me. I still had no defense to present to the White Council.
“Let’s face it, Harry,” I told myself. “You’re still screwed.”
This is the first time we can see what Harry is capable of. It’s quite an impressive entrance. I can see why Harry didn’t want to unleash his magic in his apartment without his shield bracelet on. Butcher’s always good on the details, such as the collateral damage that the shrapnel blowing a door in could produce.
Harry is always snarky. But Marcone really seems to bring out a level of immaturity in Harry. The whole big bad wolf thing is a little over the top as well as childish and this level of discourse will only continue between them. Marcone, of course, is too classy a guy to ever sink to such a level.
Marcone continues to be ruthlessly practical. The whole exchange with Hendricks. He’s disappointed that Hendricks killed him but understands why. Over Gimpy’s corpse, he asks the dead man why he didn’t just come to Marcone. Marcone would gladly double what his enemy was paying Gimpy.
Well, another dead end for Harry. Not even Marcone knows who Shadowman is. And now, all Shadowman needs is another spring storm and bye-bye Harry.
Whenever Harry is in turmoil, he walks. And that’s what he does after leaving the Varsity. He thinks about his father, a stage magician. His dad was working and wasn’t there when Harry’s mother died giving birth to him. He named Harry after three magicians and then took him with on the road. Harry remembers his dad as kind and generous, but sad, missing Harry’s mother. Harry’s dad always promised that Harry could be his assistant when he was older, but his dad died of an aneurysm before that happened. Harry found the body, a smile on his face.
Harry realizes he has walked to Linda Randall’s apartment and without thinking, Harry enters the apartment, breaking the police tape. Harry, feeling depressed and guilty, curls up on the floor next Linda’s bed and falls asleep. Harry wakes up the next morning, feeling disgusted with himself.
“What the hell are you doing, Harry?” I demanded, out loud.
“Lying down to die,” I told myself, petulantly.
“Like hell,” my wiser part said. “Get off the floor and get to work.”
“Don’t wanna. Tired. Go away.”
“You’re not too tired to talk to yourself. So you’re not too tired to bail your ass out of the alligators, either. Open your eyes,” I told myself, firmly.
Harry looks around the room, lingering on a photo of Linda smiling at her graduation with her parents. Harry then spots a red film canister just like the one he found at Victor Sellers lake house. Elated, Harry snatches the canister. Suddenly there was a link between Monica’s missing husband and the murders. Re-energized, Harry gets up and freezes, hearing someone turning a key in the apartment door.
Harry’s had a stressful day and knowing that your death from to different sources, Shadowman and the White Council, would make anyone depressed. Worse, Harry feels guilty for not protecting Linda (a reoccurring issue he deals with). He didn’t know how Shadowman was killing people until it was too late. He has no reason to feel guilty, but emotions are never so simple are the?
And Harry, its not good to talk back and forth to yourself like that. Maybe you should take a vacation if you survive the next few days.
So, now Harry’s two cases have crossed (shocking!). The plot thickens and Harry finally has a clue he grasp. We know from Monica that Victor was getting into magic, teaching himself, and we also know that Shadowman, while figuring out how to harness a storm, has had no formal training. Two plus two just might equal four.
Click here to continue on to Part 7.