Friday night, I went to see Bianca, the vampiress.
I really wasn’t kidding.
Harry sleeps til three, when Murphy calls him about the work he’s supposedly doing for her.
“Nothing yet,” I said. Then I lied to her, a little. “I was up most of the night working, but nothing to show yet.”
For someone who’s a terrible liar, he sure does do it constantly.
She answered me with a swear word. “That’s not good enough, Harry. I need answers, and I need them yesterday.”
“I’ll get to it as quick as I can.”
“Get to it faster,” she snarled.
Harry uses his super people skills to inform us that this means the police commissioner is pushing her and in fact the guy loves to harass her and try to get her fired. His chivalry fails to activate over this, because it’s a fellow man rather than a door. In fact, Harry doesn’t feel the slightest guilt about lying about working on it.
Time to change the subject, before she pinned me down and smelled me lying. I had no intention of doing the forbidden research if I could find a way out of doing it. “No luck with Bianca?”
Another swear word. “That bitch won’t talk to us.
It’s really weird how this is doing the prudish “a swear word” when it’s fine writing out “bitch”. Possibly that one doesn’t count, because we really need that one to talk about vampiresses and the women who told the author to leave them alone.
Just smiles and nods and blows smoke, makes small talk, and crosses her legs. You should have seen Carmichael drooling.”
“Well. Tough to blame him, maybe. I hear she’s cute.
You just can’t blame men for anything.
Murphy then orders him not go get involved.
“Lieutenant Murphy,” I drawled. “A little jealous, are we?”
“Don’t flatter yourself. You’re a civilian, Dresden, even if you do have your investigator’s license. If you get your ass laid out in the hospital or the morgue, it’ll be me that suffers for it.”
“Murph, I’m touched.”
This is another one of those contextual things. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, provided they have a joking relationship. They don’t. They have a relationship where one of them disregards the other. He’s twisting it to be innuendo with someone he isn’t even on good terms with.
“I’ll touch your head to a brick wall a few times if you cross me on this, Harry.” Her voice was sharp, vehement.
See? This isn’t a game to her, and she doesn’t want to deal with this bullshit, and he knows it and does it anyway. He then tells her there’s no need to get upset when he totally listens to her and respects her decision on this one.
Whups. A lie.
She’d be all over that like a troll on a billy goat.
And indeed, she trollishly recognizes he’s a piece of lying shit, so he continues to lie by saying the phone line is breaking up. He hangs up, unplugs it, and goes to feed his cat, who apparently drinks Coke with him. By the way, that would kill your cat, don’t do that.
Wizardry is all about thinking ahead, about being prepared. Wizards aren’t really superhuman. We just have a leg up on seeing things more clearly than other people, and being able to use the extra information we have for our benefit. Hell, the word wizard comes from the same root as wise. We know things. We aren’t any stronger or faster than anyone else. We don’t even have all that much more going in the mental department. But we’re god-awful sneaky, and if we get the chance to get set for something, we can do some impressive things.
Harry is so dedicated to lying he’ll even do it to us readers.
It seems like a lot of authors understand that the ability to Batman-prep is impressive, but they don’t understand that requires actually writing Batman prep. Theoretically, this is a detective story, but as we’re already seeing, there’s not much detectiving going on. Neither is he particularly intelligent, except at how to tempt fate. While a noir detective, as we’ve discussed, solves his cases by getting punched a lot, he’s still supposed to be clever – spinning out ideas about what’s going on until finally the last piece falls into place. In contrast, Harry is simply oblivious.
His first guess is the heartsplosion case involves a woman, and then he fails to investigate any witches. It’s unclear if they even exist at this point. He eyeballs the scene and tells us that what happened involved a lot of power, which should suggest someone quite experienced, but doesn’t factor that into his investigation at all. Then he finds out the Council is about to blame him for the murders – and now there’s the possibility this is all a setup to get him. Harry’s said there are people on the Council who want him dead not for the killing of someone with magic, but for how he’s going against the way wizards usually live, and anyone who’s willing to kill a guy for putting his name in the phonebook is not someone who’d be fussed about killing two innocent people with magic.
Then there’s his other job. An inexperienced guy, but one that the Council isn’t aware of if he’s a wizard at all. Is he? Evidence points to him just using the other house to have lots of sex…but, why didn’t the wife check there herself instead of claiming she didn’t know where he was but telling Harry exactly where to find him, and where did he go given he’s still missing? Harry doesn’t concern himself with any of this. The house is currently empty, the fairies saw people banging earlier, nothing more to concern himself with. And definitely no connection here to the first case. I mean, all it involves is a woman being cheated on who knows a little bit about magic, what could that possibly have to do with a woman murdering a prostitute with hate magic?
And really, what else should you expect from someone who reads about a drug that supposed grants the third sight called three-eye despite only wizards even knowing the term third sight and decides eh, probably not magic I should just totally ignore this.
As a wizard, if you’re ready to address a problem, then it’s likely that you’ll be able to come up with something that will let you deal with it. So, I got together all the things I thought I might need: I made sure my cane was polished and ready. I put my silver knife in a sheath that hung just under my left arm. I put the escape potion in its plastic squeeze-bottle into my duster’s pocket. I put on my favorite talisman, a silver pentacle on a silver chain-it had been my mother’s. My father had passed it down to me. And I put a small, folded piece of white cloth into my pocket.
But yeah, this is the author’s best stab at Batman prep – picking up a weapon before a possible fight. The author immediately stops dead to say we shouldn’t expect this kind of thing much.
I had several enchanted items around-or half-enchanted items, anyway. Carrying out a full enchantment is expensive and time-consuming, and I just couldn’t afford to do it very much. We bluecollar wizards just have to sling a few spells out where we can and hope they don’t go stale at the wrong time.
Translation: thinking up a consistent magic system is hard. He just has whatever he has, okay?
Harry explains you can’t carry too many obviously offensive stuff or you’ll just provoke people, despite the fact that you should be able to load up on defensive magic just fine. All Harry really needs is a max shield and max escape potion and he’d be completely safe while having no real ability to harm anybody else.
Not that I was afraid, mind you. I didn’t think Bianca would be willing to cause problems for a mortal wizard. Bianca wouldn’t want to piss off the White Council by messing with me.
This and the bit earlier about how she couldn’t possibly be getting into a magic fight with a mortal wizard suggests that yet again, things are absurdly stacked in Harry’s favor. Not only are fairies not people, but vampires are also second-class citizens. There’s been nothing about wizards not antagonizing vampires, just that any vampire causing trouble will get the full might of the whole wizarding society aimed at their head.
Presumably there’s some degree of balance, or else any given wizard could take over anything of a vampire’s just by starting a fight and bringing in the Council as soon as their victim retaliated, but it can’t be much, because if it was based on who threw the first blow it’d be completely possible for Bianca to be under attack by a mortal wizard, and you’ll recall that was the idea Harry dismissed as impossible.
On the other hand, I wasn’t exactly the White Council’s favorite guy. They might even look the other way if Bianca decided to take me quietly out of the picture.
But that’s irrelevant unless Bianca knows it’s an option. And because bad writing, there is of course no clarification, so we have no idea if this is mildly paranoid or look into medications level paranoid.
I also don’t believe it and think this is more poor-me bullshit. The Council may not like him, but a vampire offing him with no retaliation would just make them look weak. These kinds of setups aren’t about liking some people more than others, though I’m sure there’s speciesism in there somewhere. They’re about power and control and safety in numbers. If a lone vampire wasn’t a threat to a lone wizard, Harry wouldn’t be stocking up on protections just to talk to one. That, in turn, means the wizards destroying vampires is because the wizards are more powerful as a group, and know the best way to remain individually safe is disproportionate retribution. They may high-five upon hearing of Harry’s death, but they’ll also say that the best part is how at least in death he was useful in maintaining the status quo.
(Now, if they ever make a point of formally withdrawing protections from a wizard, that’d be another thing. In that case, you’d actually expect them to start pushing for other nasties to take the rejected wizard out as quickly and painfully as possible, to underline just how important it is for everybody else to maintain their own memberships.)
Bianca runs her business out of a huge old mansion from the early days of the Roaring Twenties.
I don’t believe there’s been any statements of magical creatures having similar issues with modern things yet, so this is just the author liking old stuff because old stuff is so much better than anything you young whippersnappers can do.
There was a gate with an iron fence and a security guard.
While I’m not sure of fairy foods, I do know why iron.
Iron is the antithesis of nature, gained only by hard labor (and fire). It is civilization you can hold in your hand, and you can then use it to carve away the wild and create new civilization. Iron was life.
Personally, I’d say the later metals would work still better at repelling anything aligned to the wild. Whether or not something like plastic or fiberglass would work is debatable – it depends on if the power is derived from how many steps removed something is from nature, or if it requires the ability to destroy nature. If the latter, then steel should work far better than iron, but you should also get some decent mileage out of plain fire even though it’s a relatively natural thing.
The association of iron = good is so strong that people once regularly staked vampires with iron.
In conclusion, a vampire with an iron fence should make Harry think it’s a vampire who’s on poor terms with the fae. Vampires likely wouldn’t be very fond of the stuff personally, but they’re able to tolerate the stuff far better than fae. And even if vampires are totally immune, it at least shows they aren’t even in contact with the fae. In the latter case, Harry might have some allies.
(Whether or not it’s definitely a sign of anything, of course, depends on what the usual connection between vampires and fae is. If they tend to just avoid each other, than Harry can’t confirm this means anything. But he’s supposedly paranoid, so you think he’d be on edge and noticing this stuff.)
Right as he gets there, his car gives out. Harry takes this in stride and starts chatting with the security guard about how he doesn’t have an appointment but Bianca will totally appreciate him being let in for the chat she didn’t know she wanted to have.
“Suit yourself. I’ll just stay until a tow truck comes by, then, until I can get this thing out of the drive for you.”
He stared at me, his eyes narrowed down to tiny slits with the effort of thinking.
Eventually, the thoughts got to his brain, got processed, and sent back out with a message to “pass the buck.”
Given this was written to be formulaic, I guess it’s inevitable it’d be repetitive, but it’s telling that the things that repeat are things like this – Harry asserting that whatever’s happening proves the other guy is an idiot who couldn’t successfully walk and chew gum.
I listened. Listening isn’t hard to do. No one has practice at it, nowadays, but you can train yourself to pay attention to your senses if you work at it long enough.
I am not sure if this skill ever comes up again.
Bianca, apparently feeling she hasn’t dealt with enough bullshit yet, decides that yes, she would like to talk to him.
“Come on in, Mr. Dresden,” he said. “I can have someone come tow your car, if you like.”
“Super,” I told him. I gave him the name of the wrecker Mike has a deal with and told him to tell the guy that it was Harry’s car again. Fido the Guard dutifully noted this down, writing on a small notebook he drew from a pocket.
It’s also interesting that Harry likes to focus his ire and insults on people who are doing their jobs, oftentimes for him.
The guard then checks him for weapons. Harry effortlessly lies about the escape potion, and ultimately only gets the cane and knife, both obvious.
First, he’d overlooked the clean white handkerchief in my pocket. Second, he’d passed me on with my pentacle still upon my neck. He probably figured that since it wasn’t a crucifix or a cross, that I couldn’t use it to keep Bianca away from me.
Which wasn’t true. Vampires (and other such creatures) don’t respond to symbols as such. They respond to the power that accompanies an act of faith. I couldn’t ward off a vampire mosquito with my faith in the Almighty-He and I have just never seemed to connect. But the pentacle was a symbol of magic itself, and I had plenty of faith in that.
And, of course, Fido had overlooked my getaway potion. Bianca really ought to trust her guards with more awareness of the supernatural and what sort of things to look for.
Yup, Harry just pointed out the plot hole. If Bianca is warded off by faith, she should be warded off by sincere Wicca, which means she should’ve added pentacles to the no-entrance list on that basis alone. More likely, she’d just demand all necklaces removed, especially anything with a symbol. Mysterious liquid should be banned on similar principles – even if wizard potions are pretty rare, holy water presumably works just fine in the hands of a believer. There’s no point in having people frisked if she doesn’t tell anyone what she wants removed.
My best guess for making this workable is that Bianca doesn’t usually ban things like crosses from her house, and the guy is acting on his own initiative based on knowing enough about Harry to know he’s a dangerous asshole.
The house itself was elegant, very roomy, with the high ceilings and the broad floors that they just don’t make anymore.
Aside from the author’s continual insistence that everything was better back in my (imagined) day, by gum, there’s the fact that no actually, roomy and high ceilings are far more common now than in the past because we can actually heat our damn houses these days.
Harry waits for a half hour before Bianca shows up. Bear in mind, still no statement yet about vampire sleeping habits. We just know they’re different from mythological vampires to some degree. We don’t know if she’s been up for hours and just fucking with him or if he got there right as she was crawling from the coffin.
She came into the room like a candle burning with a cold, clear flame. Her hair was a burnished shade of auburn that was too dark to cast back any ruddy highlights, but did anyway. Her eyes were dark, clear, her complexion flawlessly smooth and elegantly graced with cosmetics.
Makeup is shaping up to be a requirement of existence in the Dresden universe.
her three-hundred-dollar shoes were a study in high-heeled torture devices.
There’s two possible things he’s saying here.
1) He’s picturing her stepping all over him. This is, sadly enough, the nicer option.
2) The author has dressed the supposedly strong female character in painful clothing for male appreciation, and Harry has followed up by exclaiming that yes boy does he like watching women suffer for beauty.
I rose when she entered the room. “Madame Bianca,” I replied, nodding to her. “We meet at last. Hearsay neglected to mention how lovely you are.”
She laughed, lips shaping the sounds, head falling back just enough to show a flash of pale throat. “A gentleman, they said. I see that they were correct. It is a charmingly passe thing to be a gentleman in this country.”
“You and I are of another world,” I said.
She approached me and extended her hand, a motion oozing feminine grace. I bowed over her hand briefly, taking it and brushing my lips against the back of her glove.
“Do you really think I’m beautiful, Mister Dresden?” she asked me.
“As lovely as a star, Madame.”
“Polite and a pretty one, too,” she murmured. Her eyes flickered over me, from head to toe, but even she avoided meeting gazes with me, whether from a desire to avoid inadvertently directing her power at me, or being on the receiving end of mine, I couldn’t tell. She continued into the room, and stopped beside one of the comfortable chairs. As a matter of course, I stepped around the table, and drew out the chair for her, seating her. She crossed her legs, in that dress, in those shoes, and made it look good. I blinked for just a moment, then returned to my own seat.
You might think that maybe the fact the only woman who fits his script is head prostitute and also evil might be a sign that his script has some issues. But no.
What makes this worse is she’s actually terrified of him, so nothing she says or does here can be taken as sincere. Odds are, she’s only acting like this because she heard he likes it, and she’s hoping that by playing up the gentleman and lady thing he’ll be less inclined to brutalize her.
See, cutting no lines here, this is what comes next:
“So, Mister Dresden. What brings you to my humble house? Care for an evening of entertainment? I quite assure you that you will never have another experience like it.” She placed her hands in her lap, smiling at me.
I smiled at her, and put one hand into my pocket, onto the white handkerchief. “No, thank you. I came to talk.”
Her lips parted in a silent, ah. “I see. About what, if I might ask?”
“About Jennifer Stanton. And her murder.”
I had all of a second’s warning. Bianca’s eyes narrowed, then widened, like those of a cat about to spring. Then she was coming at me over the table, faster than a breath, her arms extended toward my throat.
Let’s end now on this good note. We’ll do the other half of the chapter next time.