Jul 26 2013 10:00am
Dangerous Women: “Bombshells” (Excerpt)
We are very excited to be able to preview Dangerous Women, a new anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, and featuring 21 new stories from some of the biggest authors in the science fiction/fantasy field. The anthology is available on December 3rd from Tor Books!
Every morning until July 30th, we’ll be previewing excerpts from the stories, returning you to the world of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Brandon Sanderson’s cosmere, and even Westeros itself. Keep an eye on the Dangerous Women index to keep track of them all.
“Bombshells” by Jim Butcher features Harry Dresden’s young protégé, trying to carry on the fight against the forces of darkness without Harry. Read on, then join Rajan Khanna for his review and analysis of the full story.
I miss my boss.
It’s been most of a year since I helped him die, and ever since then I’ve been the only professional wizard in the city of Chicago.
Well, okay. I’m not, like, officially a wizard. I’m still sort of an apprentice. And no one really pays me, unless you count the wallets and valuables I lift from bodies sometimes, so I guess I’m more amateur than professional. And I don’t have a PI license like my boss did, or an ad in the phone book.
But I’m all there is. I’m not as strong as he was, and I’m not as good as he was. I’m just going to have to be enough.
So anyway, there I was, washing the blood off in Waldo Butters’ shower.
I did a lot of living outdoors these days, which didn’t seem nearly as horrible during the summer and early autumn as it had during the arctic chill of the previous superwinter. It was like sleeping on a tropical beach by comparison. Still, I missed things like regular access to plumbing, and Waldo let me clean up whenever I needed to. I had the shower heat turned all the way up, and it was heaven. It was kind of a scourgey, scoury heaven, but heaven nonetheless.
The floor of the shower turned red for a few seconds, then faded to pink for a while as I sluiced the blood off. It wasn’t mine. A gang of Fomor servitors had been carrying a fifteen-year-old boy down an alley toward Lake Michigan. If they’d gotten him there, he’d have been facing a fate worse than death. I intervened, but that bastard Listen cut his throat rather than give him up. I tried to save him while Listen and his buddies ran. I failed. And I’d been right there with him, feeling everything he did, feeling his confusion and pain and terror as he died.
Harry wouldn’t have felt that. Harry would have saved the day. He would have smashed the Fomor goons around like bowling pins, picked the kid up like some kind of serial-movie action hero, and taken him to safety.
I missed my boss.
I used a lot of soap. I probably cried. I had begun ignoring tears months ago, and at times I honestly didn’t know when they were falling. Once I was clean—physically, anyway—I just stood there soaking up the heat, letting the water course all over me. The scar on my leg where I’d been shot was still wrinkled, but the color had changed from purple and red to angry pink. Butters said it would be gone in a couple of years. I was walking normally again, unless I pushed myself too hard. But yikes, my legs and various pieces needed to get reacquainted with a razor, even with medium-blond hair.
I was going to ignore them, but… grooming is important for keeping one’s spirits up. A well-kept body for a well-kept mind and all that. I wasn’t a fool. I knew I wasn’t exactly flying level lately. My morale needed all the boost it could get. I leaned out of the shower and swiped Andi’s pink plastic razor. I’d pay Waldo’s werewolf girlfriend back for it later.
I wrapped up about the same time as the hot water ran out, got out of the shower, and toweled off. My things were in a pile by the door—some garage-sale Birkenstocks, an old nylon hiker’s backpack, and my bloodied clothes. Another set gone. And the sandals had left partial tracks in blood at the scene, so I’d have to get rid of them, too. I was going to have to hit another thrift store at this rate. Normally, that would have cheered me up, but shopping just wasn’t what it used to be.
I was carefully going over the tub and floor for fallen hairs and so on when someone knocked. I didn’t stop scanning the floor. In my line of work, people can and will do awful things to you with discarded bits of your body. Not cleaning up after yourself is like asking for someone to boil your blood from twenty blocks away. No, thank you.
“Yes?” I called.
“Hey, Molly,” Waldo said. “There’s, uh… there’s someone here to talk to you.”
We’d prearranged a lot of things. If he’d used the word “feeling” at any point in his sentence, I would have known there was trouble outside the door. Not using it meant that there wasn’t—or that he couldn’t see it. I slipped on my bracelets and my ring and set both of my wands down where I could snatch them up instantly. Only then did I start putting clothes on.
“Who?” I called.
He was working hard not to sound nervous around me. I appreciated the effort. It was sweet. “Says her name is Justine. Says you know her.”
I did know Justine. She was a thrall of the vampires of the White Court. Or at least a personal assistant to one and the girlfriend of another. Harry always thought well of her, though he was a big goofy idiot when it came to women who might show the potential to become damsels in distress.
“But if he was here,” I muttered to myself, “he’d help her.”
I didn’t wipe the steam off the mirror before I left the bathroom. I didn’t want to look at anything in there.
“Bombshells” © Jim Butcher