Harry opens this chapter insisting that the fact the babywolf pack and Tera haven’t shown up already means he’s definitely totally all on his own, which is how it always is for wizards because they’re so special, but this time it’s horrible because he’s horribly crippled and actually needs the help.
Wizards of my level of skill and strength (well, my usual levels) are few and far between-maybe no more than two dozen in the United States, with a slightly higher concentration of them in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
This actually sounds somewhat progressive until you think a split second too long and remember the relative populations of each. Also, apparently the entire rest of the Americas has no wizards of note/in the Harry Dresden universe the US annexed everybody and now spans two continents.
Also: so, only the best magic users are “wizards” worthy of the council, but also there’s different levels of power within wizards with Harry being a sue’s sue, or else the entire council is two dozen people and there’s possibly one or two other wizards not part of it. Which actually sounds more likely, come to think – a couple powerhouses defending their own interests but with no ability to police much of anything fits much better with the behavior we’ve seen from them. But I’m almost certain there’s supposed to be a ton of them so I guess not.
The smart thing to do would be to run, to turn around and go back to the van and to have Susan drive me the hell away. Granted, I probably couldn’t even climb the wall on my own, but I could have tried.
But I was already committed.
Harry is trying to get points for not doing the thing he just said wouldn’t even work. Also, given his whining about having to run, I think a part of his motivation he’s not admitting to here is that trying would be a great deal more painful than staying where he is. I don’t begrudge him the decision itself, torso bruises are terrible and any attempt to pull himself up is going to be agony.
What’s amusing is also how he lists his reasoning:
1) Already committed to it.
2) I FIGHTS THE FORCES OF EVIL.
3) Also, I made a formal challenge, so can’t back out.
4) Oh yeah the whole wolfpack is probably gonna die here otherwise.
I think this is roughly his priorities. He’s more invested in the self-image of being the noble hero, #2, than he is actual noble hero motivation, #4.
Harry begins to tramp through the forest, and I guess we’re supposed to believe that Refrigerator Tiger of Infinite Money only put cameras on the walls themselves and none in the trees, because movies always have cameras on walls and rarely in trees.
Come to think of it, in modern times you could probably stick a solar panel on top and not even have to worry about wiring the cameras into a grid. Solar panels did exist by the early 2000s, and I’m sure a forward thinking friend mobster like Chilly Cougar would be all about alternative green energy sources. Plus, although as new technology they’re probably ultra sensitive to magic fuckery, the fact they’re all wired up independently and produce low voltage might make them more resilient overall – picture Harry moving through, blanking out cameras, but then the cameras coming back on as he leaves the radius rather than getting shorted out or blowing the whole grid.
Anyway Harry eventually makes his way to the edge of the forest.
looked out on to Gentleman Johnny Marcone’s estate.
It was magnificent, something out of a home-and-garden magazine. You could have put a small golf course in Marcone’s backyard. A long ways off, at the front of the property, Marcone’s huge white house stood serene and flawless, artistically illuminated by dozens of lights, with a veranda or patio larger than a dance floor plotted out at its rear. Behind it, three enormous square plots, side-by-side, contained lit and lovely gardens, terraced down a gently sloping hill toward me. At the hill’s base was a pretty little vale, and there lay a small pond, which I realized after a moment was an enormous, concrete-lined swimming pool, lit from beneath the surface. The pool was irregularly shaped, and one corner of the pool stirred, near the surface. Steam lay thick over the water.
Standing stately sentinel toward the center of the vale was a ring of evergreens, thick and stocky trees that concealed whatever was at their center. Two rounded hillocks decorated the left side of the vale’s landscape, one of them surmounted by what looked like a replica of a small, ruined shrine or temple, all cracked marble and fallen columns.
The whole place was well lit, both by silver moonlight and by lighting placed at strategic intervals. The lawn was immaculate, and trees dotted the grounds in the sort of careless perfection that only an army of expensive gardeners could have maintained.
And they say that crime doesn’t pay.
Harry appears to be reconsidering the merits of having Marcone as a sugar daddy.
Then the plot returns and as always it’s full of stupid.
Abruptly, Billywolf runs out onto the grass, and he’s shot, and the shot is with a tranquilizer for some reason, by Denton, and can we go back to the question of why they’re here and not back with Harry? I mean, I could understand agreeing to do what he says and not meaning it, but Tera was pretty certain that wizards were useful and she’s been dragging him along this far without getting anything out of him.
The one doing the shooting is Denton. Now, every time Denton’s been mentioned Harry added that there’s a throbbing vein on his head, and now he says there isn’t, even though throbbing veins just mean excitement of some kind. Someone acting chill while their veins throb may be showing self-control, but it doesn’t follow that the vein goes away when they lose control.
His tie was loose. His jacket was unbuttoned. He moved with less steel in his backbone, more fire in his belly. There was an animal quality to him, a surety and savagery of purpose that had been uncertain before, and what it meant was a lot more significant than the changes that showed on his exterior.
His restraint was gone. Whatever last remnants of doubt or regret that had enabled him to maintain his own self-control, and some measure of control over the other Hexenwulfen, had vanished with the blood frenzy in the Full Moon Garage. It was in every line of him now, in each step and every flicker of his eyes.
The man had become a predator.
See, Harry says this, and yet he’s not in wolf form. He’s in human form because human form means opposable thumb goodness, even though we established last time that staying in human form for practical gun reasons required enormous self-control.
But Harry needs a justification for why he’s not human and killing him is totally kosher, therefore he’s decided the guy is a predator and also is apparently unaware that humans are already predators.
Benn, now dressed only in a white dress shirt and a grey business skirt, her legs dark and rippling with muscle in the moonlight; Harris, his ears still sticking out, his freckles dark spots against pale skin, his manner restless and hungry; and Wilson, still in his wrinkled suit, but with the shirt unbuttoned, his potbelly overlapping the belt of dark fur around his waist. He stroked and patted it with his fat fingers.
SLUTTY GIRL, LAME GINGER, GROSS FATMAN. Quality writing.
Denton, continuing to show he’s totally in control, says this is the sixth one and asks to confirm that that’s all they counted. Benn, because women are easily corrupted and also evil makes them sluts, replies, her voice throaty. “Can we have them now?” She reached Denton’s side and pressed up against him, lifting one leg to rub against his, baring it to the top of her thigh as she did. Denton continues to not only not be a wolf but to be able to order them not to be wolves.
Harry, meanwhile, realizes that oh, there’s all these dark lumps that turn out to be wolves, and of course Billywolf was running toward the already downed Georgiawolf. Still no explanation for why they charged onto the grass in the first place.
I licked my lips. I was shaking. The gun felt heavy in my hand. There were only the four of them, I thought. They weren’t more than thirty feet away. I could start shooting right now. If I got lucky, I could down them all. They were werewolves, but they weren’t invincible.
I slipped the safety off of the pistol, and drew in a steadying breath. It was a damn fool thing to do, and I knew it. Life is not the movies. It wasn’t likely that I would be able to shoot them all before they could draw and shoot back. But I didn’t have much choice.
Harry continues to have the whole “not like the movies” thing backward. In the movies, people dodge bullets all the damn time. In real life, if you’re standing in the open and being shot at by someone in the dark, a slight numbers advantage doesn’t matter.
I mean, look.
Harry can currently aim at his leisure because they don’t know he’s there. I’m willing to believe he’s a fuckup who can’t manage a headshot, but wolves aren’t much better with sucking chest wounds than we are. Merely hitting Denton in the chest should be good enough to remove one of four right there.
Depending on how well trained they are, they may or may not react before Harry can shoot again. I’d normally say FBI should react well, but the wolf thing seems to have fucked them up and bullshit pack dynamics have been all through this, so their “alpha” getting taken out may throw them badly.
Even if it doesn’t, once fired upon they can shoot or turn wolf. I’d guess they blow another second or so fighting between their training to go for their guns and their actual desire to turn wolf. Harry should absolutely be able to manage to shoot at least one other.
Now, once they do turn wolf Harry is fucked. He’s actually much better off in a firefight because humans don’t aim very well in darkness. The wolves will be able to smell Harry. However, they’re also rage spirits who seem to go crazy at blood and otherwise aren’t too smart, so it’s possible one of them will decide to eat Denton or something, and it’s likely they’ll just charge Harry head-on, allowing another shot. Plus, Harris can’t turn wolf, so if Harry shot either of the other two, there’s now only one wolf left. Good odds it either turns on its downed comrades or runs for it.
In other words, the worst case scenario is Harry takes out the most dangerous one, the likely scenario is he takes out most or all of the spellwolves, and it’s entirely possible he wins.
It is, of course, also possible he gets killed in the process, because you can still put a bullet through something’s head while it’s swallowing your intestines. But Harry instead phrases this as if it’s only acceptable if he can shoot all of them before any of them could even attempt to harm him, even though it’s not at all that sort of binary. If it was daylight and he was just standing behind them or something, sure, he lives only until the second gunshot, but he’s in forest in the dark, he could do a lot of damage.
But anyway, we were supposed to be wondering why Denton is here hanging out.
Marcone was dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans, and a hunter’s vest, and he bore a gleaming rifle, an enormous scope mounted on it, in one hand. Hendricks, hulking beside him in muscle-bound silence, was dressed in what looked like black military fatigues, bearing the gun I’d seen earlier, a knife, and various other gear. Hendricks’s eyes flickered over Denton and his associates warily. I stared at Marcone in shock. It took me a moment to pick my jaw up off the ground and to piece together what was going on. Marcone didn’t know. He didn’t know that Denton and company were out to get him. They must have blamed the other killings on MacFinn and the Alphas.
This is a really good twist.
I think it’d have been stronger if the multiple werewolf thing hadn’t been shoved in our faces immediately. We’re know there’s something going on when Harry finds blood and a paw print that traces to a woman who turns into a wolf but insists that can’t be the killer, and that’s in the first few chapters. The werewolf clusterfuck of this book would’ve worked so much better if every faction was thrown by the fact there was a werewolf clusterfuck going on: the lycanthropes assume there’s one other werewolf, MacFinn assumes there’s one other werewolf, the FBI think they’re super on top of this by knowing there are two other werewolves and then suddenly Tera’s trying to chew through their throat wtf.
That said, Marcone should really be smart enough to just shoot Denton already. Even without him being a werewolf, and they’re openly wearing their belts while being all blood drunk and rambling so it’s kind of obvious, there’s the fact that this all smacks of setup. The FBI who hate his guts now care deeply about protecting him and also just so happen to believe in magic and know exactly what’s going on, and all he has to do is let them into the heart of his estate while letting them carry any weapons they like? He’d be incredibly lucky if this just ends with him in cuffs.
So now Denton had Marcone and the Alphas there. Once MacFinn arrived, he would be able to kill everyone he wanted dead, everyone who knew what was going on, and be able to make up any story he damned well pleased.
The “he” here is rather confusing. It must be Denton, given MacFinn wouldn’t be able to make up a story, but we have no reason to think they can stop MacFinn. The best plan would be to take out the babywolf pack, then say the problem’s solved and book it so they’re not here when MacFinn goes on his killing spree. They can shoot human-MacFinn tomorrow and wrap up loose ends that way. Or could if it wasn’t for the fact the curse says he can’t die without kids why is no one considering the possibility he just can’t die?
Marcone says that although they saw this many wolves on the cameras, because wow it’s like telling the person who doesn’t know how technology works to avoid cameras was fucking stupid, one of the cameras mysteriously malfunctioned so obviously Harry. Also, Marcone, being a good supportive father figure, is sure that if Harry said he’d show up he will.
“And he just watched his werewolf friends get shot down?” Denton asked.
“Wolves run faster than men,” Marcone pointed out. “Possibly, he hasn’t caught up to them yet. He could even be watching us now.”
But the plot hole of the wolves charging into open grass after these guys rather than sticking to the trees and finding Harry first remains.
Benn, apparently the only one with any sense, says they should just kill the babywolf group already.
Marcone tsked. “Shortsighted. Let MacFinn tear them to pieces when he arrives, and any medical examiner won’t bother to look for the tranquilizers. If one of you does it, it will create awkward questions once forensics takes a look at things. And I thought that was the point of you coming to me with this offer. Reducing questions.”
Why will any medical examiner look for tranquilizers in random wolves?
First off, you never said that they revert human on death (and if they did, you’d still have the question of what they were even doing there). Second, you’re a fucking mob boss why would anyone be seeing any bodies that you didn’t want them too?
Just fucking kill them. Don’t disappoint me like this, Marcone. You’re the closest thing I have to a competent character!
Benn lifted her lips away from her teeth, and I saw the tips of her breasts stiffen beneath her white shirt.
“I hate slimy scum like you, Marcone,” she purred, sliding her hand from her thigh up over her hip and beneath the buttons of her shirt.
And I hate this book.
Denton continues to illustrate he’s got as much control by ever by intervening before Benn gets herself shot. He then tells Marcone he’ll bring Harry back and not just instantly murder him. I’m actually not sure if we’re meant to think this is a lie – obviously letting Harry communicate with Marcone would be a problem, but he could bring back tranquilized Harry betting that MacFinn would be by long before Harry woke up.
But that just reminds us that there’s totally a solution: Harry should just shout to Marcone to shoot them because they’re the belt type and they’re the real killers and by the way how fucking stupid are you Marcone, GOD did you even read my damn essay.
Again, worst case/best case says that it’d range from Marcone gunning them all down and then letting Harry explain what’s up to the two entering into an immediate fight and at least being too busy to do anything to Harry.
Harry is just baffled that mobster daddy still likes him.
What in the world could John Marcone want with me, after the incident in the parking garage? Nothing good, certainly. Nothing I wanted to think about. Damn, damn. This night was getting spookier all the time.
“Of course, Mr. Marcone,” Denton said, his tone a little too polite. “Do you have any suggestions of where we should start looking?”
Marcone ignored the sarcasm, flicked a switch on the sight on his rifle, and pointed it negligently at the tree line. “Over there ought to do.”
The red dot of the laser sight settled onto a leaf six inches to the left of my head
I choose to interpret this to mean he totally has cameras in the woods and is just fucking with everyone involved.