Have you ever felt despair? Absolute hopelessness? Have you ever stood in the darkness and known, deep in your heart, in your spirit, that it was never, ever going to get better? That something had been lost, forever, and that it wasn’t coming back?
That’s what it felt like, walking out of the Varsity, walking out into the rain.
Yes, this is over the hair, not the actual people who are actually dead.
Although he said earlier he’s sure tracking spells are possible and he might even be able to remote incinerate it, Harry, like any magic geek, would rather die than try to work the spell out himself – even listening to someone else tell him a new spell is apparently a fate worse than heartsplosion.
He decides to emo about his dad, raising yet another plot hole.
He was a good man, a generous man, a hopeless loser. A stage magician at a time when technology was producing more magic than magic, he had never had much to give his family. He was on the road most of the time, playing run-down houses, trying to scratch out a living for my mother. He wasn’t there when I was born.
He wasn’t there when she died.
He showed up more than a day after I’d been born. He gave me the names of three magicians, then took me with him, on the road, entertaining children and retirees, performing in school gymnasiums and grocery stores. He was always generous, kind-more kind and more generous than we could afford, really. And he was always a little bit sad. He would show me pictures of my mother, and talk about her, every night. It got to where I almost felt that I knew her, myself.
As I got older, the feeling increased. I saw my father, I think, as she must have-as a dear, sweet, gentle man. A little naive, but honest and kind. Someone who cared for others, and who didn’t value material gain over all else. I can see why she would have loved him.
Today’s plot hole is how in the hell did someone like that raise a misogynist? Harry doesn’t even have the old-fashioned values that mark the most tolerable sort of sexism, and that’s the one thing compatible with his description of his dad.
Admittedly, he does say his dad then dies while he’s still a kid of unspecified age, but Harry’s treatment of women is bone-deep, and I just can’t buy he could’ve been taught all of it by someone later when his dad was a non-alpha widower.
Maybe we can bridge the gap by saying that Harry’s awful enough he could describe a guy catcalling every woman he saw as “a dear, sweet, gentle man”, but that’s just depressing.
Anyway, so, Harry’s feeling miserable and alone due to having his hair taken and refusing to talk to his friend because she’s some dumb woman, just like how he felt when his dad died. He also tells us yet again he’s totally fucked.
The killer was going to get a spell together to kill me the next time he had a storm to draw on, and from the way the air felt that could be anytime.
Remember, he’s said he could make a counterspell in 12 hours on his own and in 24 if he waits for the skull, but whatever, it’s practically guaranteed that at some point in the next week there’ll be a storm so he’s doomed.
If he didn’t kill me, Morgan would certainly have the White Council set to execute me at dawn on Monday.
Except Harry now has evidence!
He’s spent the last two chapters repeating that he’s so fucked because he doesn’t know who the guy is, but now he can be reasonably sure whoever has his hair is the killer. Even if Harry doesn’t know how to track it, he knows it’s possible. Morgan knows more than he does and the council collectively knows a hell of a lot more, he can just tell them to see who’s on the other end.
It’s not like it’s impossible to get this to work. All we need is for Harry to check the damn weather. He can even use his magic senses for it! Harry checks and estimates a spell will hit sometime between today and dawn, so best case scenario, while he’s explaining about how he didn’t do it and they need to track his hair, he gets his heart torn out in front of them and at least they’ll probably avenge his death.
There, now his fatalism is reasonable.
Instead of saying any of this, Harry sneaks back into Randall’s room and naps on the carpet, specifically the probably blood-soaked carpet next to her bed. Way to disprove the idea you’re some insane ex-boyfriend, Harry, going back to a crime scene to nap next to corpse juice is definitely normal behavior.
He wakes up and has an utterly ridiculous argument 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.
I hunched my shoulders, not wanting to obey, but against my better judgment, I did open my eyes.
Just why is this here even.
Anyway, Harry then happens to notice a film canister.
Just happens. He didn’t go back to the apartment looking for clues or anything, because Harry has had a great streak of lying around until someone gives him the answers and he doesn’t want to mess that up. He grudgingly thinks about this clue enough to remember that the film canister he found at the lake house looks the same (luckily he has it in his pocket, because he couldn’t just remember red canister with grey cap).
But it still wasn’t clear. I couldn’t be sure what was going on, but I had a possible link now, a link between the murder investigation and Monica Sells’s aborted inquiry into the disappearance of her husband, Victor.
A possible link. Because there’s no other connection between a newbie wizard who obviously hasn’t been trained by anyone being the killer and a missing husband you were explicitly told only recently got into magic and was learning it all from books.
Harry gets up and explains that by the way, napping at a crime scene looks bad if anyone catches you, because he thinks we’re as dumb as he is. But oh no, someone’s at the door!
I reject the crappy cliffhanger and we continue on. It turns out that it isn’t cops.
A man entered-slim, short, harried-looking. His hair, a listless shade of brown, was drawn back into a ponytail. He wore dark cotton pants, a dark jacket, and carried a pouch on a strap at his side. He shut the door, most of the way, and looked around with great agitation.
He crossed the room and stopped short when he saw the bloodstained bed. I saw him clench his hands into fists. He made a strange, cawing little sound, then hurried forward, to throw himself down on the floor by the bed and start pawing underneath it.
Harry then pulls his jacket around himself to look more respectable and puts his ID badge on to look kind of like a cop if you’re nervous, and says he knew the murderer would return.
“No!” he said, “Oh, God! You don’t understand. I’m a photographer. See? See?” He fumbled with the case at his side and produced a camera from it. “Taking pictures. For the papers. That’s what I’m doing here, just trying to get a good look around.”
“Save it,” I told him. “We both know you aren’t here to take pictures. You were looking for this.” And I pulled the film canister out of my pocket, held it up, and showed it to him.
His babbling stopped, and he stood stock-still, staring at me. Then at the canister. He licked his lips and started trying to say something.
“Who are you?” I asked. I kept my voice gruff, demanding. I tried to think of what Murphy would sound like, if I was downtown with her right now, waiting for her to ask me questions.
“Uh, Wise. Donny Wise.” He swallowed, staring at me. “Am I in some kind of trouble?”
I narrowed my eyes at him and sneered, “We’ll see about that. Do you have identification?”
“Let me see it.” I speared him with a glance, and added, “Slowly.”
Now, as I said when he was tracking down Randall, it’s a given that private dicks will have to be dicks at points in their job. That said, this seems about 10% to get the guy to talk and 90% Harry getting off on terrorizing someone.
The guy realizes Harry’s just fucking with him.
I tilted my head back at an arrogant angle. “Okay. Maybe not. But I work with the cops. And I’ve got your film.”
He cursed again and started stuffing his camera back into his bag, clearly meaning to leave. “No. You got nothing. Nothing that connects any of this to me. I’m out of here.”
I watched him start past me, toward the door. “Don’t be so hasty, Mr. Wise. I really think you and I have things to discuss. Like a dropped film canister underneath the deck of a house in Lake Providence, last Wednesday night.”
He flicked a quick glance up at me. “I have nothing to say to you,” he mumbled, “whoever the hell you are.” He reached for the door and started to open it.
I gestured curtly to my staff in the corner, and hissed, in my best dramatic voice, ” Vento servitas,” jerking my hand at the doorway. My staff, driven by tightly controlled channels of air moving in response to my evocation, leapt across the room and slammed the door shut in front of Donny Wise’s nose. He went stiff as a board. He turned to face me, his eyes wide.
“My God. You’re one of them. Don’t kill me,” he said. “Oh, God. You’ve got the pictures. I don’t know anything. Nothing. I’m no danger to you.” He tried to keep his voice calm, but it was shaking. I saw him tilt his eyes at the glass sliding doors to the little patio, as though calculating his chances of making it there before I could stop him.
“Relax, Mr. Wise,” I told him. “I’m not here to hurt you.
There’s no reason for this. Harry could’ve just led with the fact the photographer is likely going to be another victim. As it is, Harry comes off as lying this whole time, because there’s only one reason to only say you’re not going to kill someone at the point the guy is about to drive through glass doors to escape you, and it’s because escaping would get in the way of your plan to murder them.
I’m after the man who killed Linda. Help me. Tell me what you know. I’ll take care of the rest.”
He let out a harsh little laugh, and eased a half step toward the glass windows. “And get myself killed? Like Linda, like those other people? No way.”
The book wants to say this is the usual thing where the guy is worried that Harry isn’t a badass enough dude to do this, but in context, I think the more reasonable reading is that he’s sure the only think keeping him alive is that Harry wants to know if there’s any other loose ends before murdering him. That’s what he means when he says talking will get him killed just like the rest.
But no, it’s time for the no really Harry is heroic.
“I want these people stopped just as badly as you do.”
“Why?” he demanded. I saw a little contempt in his eyes, now. “What was she to you? Were you sleeping with her, too?”
I shook my head. “No. No, she’s just one more dead person who shouldn’t be.”
“You’re not a cop. Why risk your ass to do this? Why go up against these people? Haven’t you seen what they can do?”
I shrugged. “Who else is going to?”
It’s like he’s reading off a teleprompter, and also like he’s just lost a contract negotiation, has no professional pride, and is just ticking off the minutes until the job’s over. He’s supposed to mouth some words about how he’s doing this because it’s right, so fine, he’ll mouth some words before the plot gets bored and moves on.
Having completely fucked up the conversation, he decides now is a good moment to start asking about the film. The guy’s counteroffer is that Harry should give him the film first.
I shook my head. “I might need what’s on here.”
“What’s there isn’t any good to you if you don’t know what you’re looking at,” he pointed out.
I like the “pointed out”, as is this isn’t nonsense. Harry promptly goes on to say if he was telling me the truth, the film wouldn’t do me any good. The trail had led me here, to him. If I didn’t dig up a lead to somewhere else, I was dead.
This is how shitty of a detective Harry is. He can’t even figure out what good actual evidence is. His detective work is solely someone standing in front of him telling him things.
So Harry gives him the film, because what good is a photographic record of people Randall wanted pictures of shortly before she was murdered for knowing too much?
The photographer explains he takes photos of naked chicks to sell to magazines of naked chicks. And that’s how Randall knew him, and she asked him to take a bunch of pictures and then give her the film, and that’s all he knows. “I don’t know Randall hired me” is apparently way more than Harry could work out on his own, so he doesn’t spend a second thinking that wait, he gave up the pictures to identify these people in return for this?
They were having some kind of party. All candles and stuff. It was storming like hell, a lot of thunder and lightning, so I couldn’t really hear them.
Harry continues not reacting.
“They were having sex,” I said.
“No,” he snapped. “They was playing canasta. Yeah, sex. The real thing, not fake stuff on a set. The real thing don’t look as good. Linda, some other woman, three men. I shot my roll and got out.”
I grinned, but he didn’t seem to have noticed the double entendre. You just don’t get quality lowlife often enough anymore.
Harry, the man does photo shoots with prostitutes to sell to porn mags. He noticed, he just doesn’t give a fuck because unlike you, he’s actually getting laid. More, he’s probably heard that exact joke only a million times during his filming of prostitutes for porn, and the only reason he made the mistake of phrasing it that way is he mistakenly thought you would be slightly more mature than that.
“What are you going to do with the film, Donny?”
He shrugged. “Trash it, probably.” I saw his eyes flick from side to side, and I knew that he was lying to me. He’d keep the film, find out who was in the pictures, and if he thought he could get away with it, he’d try to weasel whatever profit he could out of it. He seemed the type, and I trusted my instincts.
“Allow me,” I said, and snapped my fingers. ” Fuego.”
The canister’s grey lid flew off in a little whoosh of flame, and Donny Wise yelped, drawing his hand back sharply. The red canister burst into flame on its way to the ground and landed there in a crumpled, smoking lump.
Now, all Harry had to do was light the canister on fire and the film might’ve been retrievable. But no, actual evidence is for chumps.
My brain lurched into gear, now that there was something to work with, some other possibility for tomorrow morning than me dying in a variety of gruesome ways.
Linda Randall had been planning on blackmailing someone, I took a staggering mental leap and figured it was Victor, or someone out at his house during the party. But why? I didn’t have any pictures now, only the information I’d gotten from Donny Wise. I couldn’t afford to wait around. I had to pursue the lead he’d given me if I was to get to the bottom of this, and find out who had killed Linda.
I think at this point we can officially say this is not a mystery book. I’m not sure what it is, but definitely not that.
Harry casts around for any further idea and remembers that, what with the hating of women, he can work out a way it was a woman’s sneaky treachery that did this:
How had I managed to get into all of this trouble in only a few days? And how in the world had I managed to stumble across what appeared to be a complex and treacherous little plot by chance, out at the house in Lake Providence, on a separate investigation entirely?
Simple answer-it hadn’t been an accident. It had all been by design. I had been directed there. Someone had wanted me out at the lake house, had wanted me to get involved and to find out what was going on out there. Someone who was nervous as hell around wizards, who refused to give out her name, who had carefully dropped phrases that would make me believe her ignorance, who had to rush out quickly from her appointment and who was willing to let five hundred dollars go, just to get me off the phone a few seconds faster. Someone had drawn me out and forced me into the open, where I had attracted all sorts of hostile attention.
I remember the “IT’S ALL HER FAULT PEOPLE KEPT TRYING TO KILL ME DUE TO ME DOING STUFF SHE HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING I’D DO” featuring prominently in Sapphire of Alternia too.
As Harry said at the time, anyone with even a grasp on rumors knows not to tell a wizard their name. That no one else has cared is bad worldbuilding, not proof his client is terrible. And Harry proceeded to loudly shout he was investigating the police’s heartsplosion case, antagonize the mob, and sear the face off a vampire. Clearly it was his other client who he blew off that got him in all this trouble, because vaginas spew evil.