Mon
Feb 25 2013 3:00pm

The Dresden Files Reread: Side Jobs Pt. 3

The Dresden Files Reread: Side Jobs Pt. 3The last set of stories detailing Harry Dresden’s Side Jobs sends Harry investigating contaminated beer, love gone wrong, then switches gears to give us a story from the point of view of Karrin Murphy, detailing the “Aftermath” of Changes.

Last Call

This one is from the anthology Strange Brew edited by P. N. Elrod. It takes place between Small Favor and Turn Coat. The story begins with Harry going to MacAnally’s looking for a beer. He smells burning food and so goes in locked and loaded (or rather rodded and staffed). He finds Mac’s customers unconscious, and Mac, barely conscious and beaten. Mac asks Harry to call in Murpy, which Harry does.

When Murphy gets there, Harry is able to fill her in that Mac’s customers all turned violent and Murphy guesses that the one thing they probably had in common was Mac’s ale. Murphy agrees to question the people involved if Harry will examine the beer.


Harry takes a crate of beer back to his place and down to his lab where Molly is working. Molly eagerly grabs for a bottle of beer but senses something when she touches it. Some kind of contagion focus, a magical contagion. Harry asks Molly to puzzle out the exact enchantment, which will help him, and train her, and she susses out that the compulsion enchantment is masking a psychic conduit, whatever that’s being used for.

Harry visits Mac in the hospital and Mac mentions that Caine, the thug from “Heorot,” was in the bar the previous night. He also meets up with Murphy who has been questioning the other victims who all have temporary amnesia. Harry explains that the psychic conduit allows the originator to put whatever it wants into your mind. He also explains that he can’t use a tracking spell because that would open him up to the influence.

Harry and Murphy run down Caine, who it turns out is a criminal and a rapist. He runs when Murphy identifies herself, but Harry takes him down with magic. When he takes a swing at Murphy, she takes him further down. Caine refuses to talk until Harry takes some of his blood and threatens to give Caine a heart attack. Caine still won’t identify the mysterious “she” who will kill him, but he gives up Decker as the person who set things up. Murphy also admits that Harry’s empty “threat” seemed too real. Harry’s dark side coming out again.

Harry knows Burt Decker—he sells magical gear to the black magic crowd—and so Harry pays him a visit with Murphy in tow. They play bad cop and badder cop, breaking things and threatening him with Warden justice. He mentions that a woman came in looking for bloodstone and Decker said he’d sold the last of it to Caine. Harry gets her name from a credit card record—Meditrina Bassarid. He guesses she isn’t human to have used a credit card. Murphy agrees to try to find out what she can while Harry returns to Mac’s.

Harry doesn’t find a hell of a lot at Mac’s but does realize that there’s a dearth of beer in the place. Mac usually stocks more than that. He also realizes that the incident at Mac’s was probably not the main focus of this Meditrina. Searching Mac’s files he finds a receipt showing that Worldclass Limited had bought a whole bunch of Mac’s beer. Murphy helps fill in by phone that it’s a caterer and they cater to the private boxes at the Bulls game.

When Harry gets to the arena, bluffing his way in as from the ATF, he discovers that the brew doesn’t necessarily just make people violent. It seems to make people sexually aroused. Harry talks to the people from Worldclass Limited who direct him to “the woman from the city,” who matches the description of Meditrina Bassarid.

Harry tracks Murphy through the amulet he gave her and finds her, um, making out with Meditrina Bassarid. And extremely randy. She even mentions always wanting Harry and, er, his rod. Harry helpfully mentions that Meditrina is a maenad, a servant of Dionysus, and that the psychic conduit links mortals to the god of revels and ecstatic violence. Meditrina offers Harry the beer. When he refuses, Murphy attacks and Meditrina follows. Harry backs away, dodging broken bottle slashes from Meditrina (not well) and using his shield against Murphy. He manages not to go down in the fight and holds both women off until the cops arrive to take everyone away. Harry manages to convince them to take away all the beer.

Harry ends up in the drunk tank until he’s sprung by Murphy. She doesn’t remember much about what happened and Harry only tells her the pertinent details. Bassarid disappeared from the hospital which means she can’t press charges, and because of the drugged beer, Harry is left with just a drunk and disorderly—ironic since he never got the beer he wanted.

This one isn’t tied too directly into the overall arc of novels, but Murphy does admit to wanting Harry, albeit under the influence of Dionysus. Also, it’s about beer, so that always works for me.

 

Love Hurts

From Songs of Love and Death, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. This one takes place between Turn Coat and Changes. It starts at a crime scene, two people naked and in the middle of an intimate act, both dead from gunshots to the head. The walls of the place were covered in photos of the couple, like hundreds of them, all in the same kind of pose. Harry mentions that this is the third suicide pact this month. He also figures out, from photos, that the dead duo were brother and sister. Harry figures some kind of bad mojo made them fall in love and that their knowledge that it was wrong made them go crazy. It’s mind tampering which Murphy has had experience with.

Harry tries to figure out what the victims all have in common. He calls Luccio to see if she had any tips, but she mentions the Gatekeeper is the one who could help and he’s not around. Luccio also has had experience with mental tampering, so she’s also sensitive. Then Harry and her have the kind of conversation you have with your ex (this happens after they split up). Harry admits to himself that he misses being happy with Luccio.

Harry tries other leads—the Little Folk, Little Chicago, the Paranet, McAnally’s—but comes up with nothing. Fortunately, Murphy finds something. The common denominator is the State Fair in Springfield. It takes them a little while to pick up something so they walk around for a while. Murphy asks about Luccio, Harry asks about Kincaid. They also realize a man in a maroon shirt is following them.

Then Harry picks up some magic near the carnival. And their tail veers off. Harry and Murphy pursue. Maroon Shirt disappears into the Tunnel of Terrors and while Harry and Murphy guard the exits, he doesn’t disappear, so they hop into a seat and go on the ride. But they don’t find Maroon Shirt and so they try to walk around some more to see if Harry picks anything up. He doesn’t, but a crowd pushes Murphy against Harry and they start asking why they never got together. Then kissing. Then holding hands. It’s Harry who figures out that they were whammied. By the Tunnel of Terrors.

They return to the ride and grab the carnie running it, trying to get information about the bolt hole inside the ride. The carnie doesn’t talk, but Harry finds the hole anyway. They descend and find Maroon Shirt working at a computer. Then a woman in a lab coat appears, whom Harry identifies as a Red Court vampire. She introduces herself as Baroness LeBlanc. She claims to be manufacturing love. And Harry guesses that it’s to help protect against the White Court, to whom love is dangerous. The Red Court wants to protect their food source. And maybe make more food in the process.

LeBlanc eggs Murphy on and she moves her drawn gun toward the Baroness, which allows Maroon Shirt to draw his gun. But Harry protects Murphy with his shield bracelet and takes him down. Then Harry and Murphy fight LeBlanc until Murphy unloads a ton of bullets into her. Seems everything’s wrapped up, but the magic is missing. Harry finds it in the Tunnel ride, a magical seat belt. Harry and Murphy realize that once Harry burns it, the spell will be over and they both know they’ll miss it. But Harry has to do it. The spell fades as they kiss. In the end they both feel it, love hurts.

 

Aftermath

This novella takes place an hour or two after the end of Changes, a coda of sorts. It’s told from Murphy’s POV. It starts with Murphy at the scene of Harry’s shooting. She’s suspended, but trying to get information. She doesn’t want to believe that Harry’s dead, but it seems that the bullet took him in the chest and knocked him into the lake. The police will send divers, but she doesn’t think they’ll find the body.

She returns home, still reeling from the events of Changes. In the morning she’s awakened by someone at her door. Will, the werewolf. He needs her help. Georgia is missing (again). Will was talking to her on the phone and she was scared, then screaming before she cut off. Harry had always said if he wasn’t available, that the Alphas should go to Murphy for help, so Will did. He also tells her that Georgia was seven months pregnant.

Murphy checks out Will and Georgia’s apartment. There’s no blood, which means the kidnapper put her down without drawing it. And there are two cocoa cups out, one with lipstick on it. Will mentions that it might have been Andi, or Marcy, who moved back into town after Kirby died. Andi and Marcy used to have a thing, apparently.

Murphy moves on to canvass the building, though it doesn’t turn up much. Except that the struggle can’t have been too loud. So Murphy goes across the street to question people there, musing on how she wasn’t Harry Dresden and feeling some idea that Harry is dead. The building is run down and run by a large bully who also seems to be an abuser. Murphy, being Murphy, takes him down with martial arts and makes him agree to leave the next day. The creep agrees. One of the women mentions that she saw a large man go into Georgia’s building. One who matches the description of Hendricks, Marcone’s goon.

Will asks about Harry and Murphy fills him in. Will can’t believe Harry is dead; surely he must be doing something wizardly? Murphy heads to one of Marcone’s building sites with Will and bully their way to see him. Will threatens Marcone and Marcone throws a knife into this arm. Turns out Maria, the woman who saw Hendricks, was one of Marcone’s people. He knew she was coming. Someone has been kidnapping people with modest supernatural talents and grabbed two women from Will’s building, Georgia and someone else. There’s an ad on Craigslist. Marcone is hoping for Murphy to help find them.

Murphy decides to offer bait. She returns to her place and Will shows up with Marcy. Murphy doesn’t trust Marcy, but the newish werewolf is able to cross her threshold. She said that while Will was away, Georgia, Andi and her had a girls’ night out. And that night they all had terrible nightmares that hit Georgia pretty hard. They had agreed to take turns staying with Georgia and Andi was up first. She guesses the two women taken from the building were Georgia and Andi. Lots of people have been going missing. The nightmares are probably from the events of the Changes (the destruction of the Red Court). Supernatural people are scared, huddling together in protected places. Marcy also mentions that Murphy is too recognizable. They have to do a makeover. Murphy reluctantly agrees.

Murphy sets up a buy, disguised, offering up Will and Marcy. She tapes them up and makes a call, offering to make the trade in Buttercup Park. She meets up with a large creature with gills whom she calls Nothing. He gives her money, she lets him take the werewolves. Then she follows the van to the docks.

Murphy is on her own. Just plain old vanilla mortal and her guns. No wizards. No magic. But it’s only her so she has to help. She goes in and sees the taken supernaturals who are all tampered with in some fashion to make them practically catatonic. All except Georgia who still has some fight in her. Nothing is in there with others like himself. They seem to believe Murphy’s story that Will and Marcy were drugged. Murphy prepares to shoot Nothing.

Then the creatures’ master appears, a naked froggy creature. And he has the werewolves brought to him where he is apparently going to mess with their minds. Murphy lines up her shot and blows his head to pieces.

Then all hell breaks loose as Murphy fights agains the creatures. Nothing removes some kind of weapon that shoots urchiny-projectiles that spew acid. Murphy runs and fires. Then Will and Marcy appear, helping Murphy square off against the creatures. Then the lights go dead. Murphy goes for Georgia and Georgia helps her realize that the creatures are using sonar. Murphy uses her gun to throw it off which helps the wolves get another.

Finally Murphy faces Nothing and despite shooting him, he doesn’t go down. In the end she throws him into one of the acid urchins and it kills him. Murphy makes sure all of them are dead (good on you, Murph) and then burns the master.

They free the prisoners, who should return to normal at sunrise. Ms. Gard appears, impressed by Murphy’s actions. She salutes Murphy as a warrior. She also mentions that this was Fomor magic and that their teams seem to be doing similar things all over the country. Gard mentions that Marcone could give her her job back, but Murphy doesn’t want it that way. Gard also offers her a job working for Marcone. Without Harry, he’s the one defending Chicago. Once again Murphy refuses. Gard mentions Vadderung might contact her for a job in the future.

Will says he can’t believe Harry’s gone, but Murphy reminds him that Harry is in all of them. He trained them. They can carry on his fight. But in the end, Murphy says she won’t believe he’s really gone until she sees a body.

One of the things mentioned by Will in this story is that the destruction of the Red Court is bound to leave a power vacuum. One that will cause chaos as other creatures fight to fill it. No good deed, right? Gard mentions the Fomor have now tried twice to invade Chicago. Will they try again? Who else might try? I guess we’ll find out in future books.

So that’s Side Jobs, a collection of Butcher’s shorter works. What did you think of it? What were your favorite stories? Did you enjoy seeing into Thomas’s and Murphy’s POVs?


Rajan Khanna is a writer, narrator and blogger who still wants to taste Mac’s ale. His website is www.rajankhanna.com and he tweets @rajanyk.

2 comments
Kasiki
1. Kasiki
Of these few my favorite is Aftermath for the simple reason of the Faith of Harry's freinds, but specifically Murphy.

At this point in the series, as fans and readers, we can assume since the series has more left that Harry isn't gone forever. But to Murphy and company this is a very real option. Yet they have faith in Harry and believe he will be back.

In many ways this makes events in the next book all the harder for everyone, but it is one great set up.
Emmet O'Brien
5. EmmetAOBrien
"Strange Brew" struck me as so-so; has some good notions in, but a really awkward end.

"Love Hurts" doesn't really seem to me to add anything other than yet more messing around with unresolved romantic tension between Harry and Murphy, which at this point bores me senseless, and which it has quite a bit more than enough of already.

"Aftermath" has the same problem for me that "Backup" has in terms of not really believing how much Murphy's POV revolves around Harry, plus really obnoxious gender-essentialism (any chance Georgia could get to rescue Will for once ?). Mildly interesting to watch how some of these people interact without Harry but that's about it.

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