Watching Harry and the man she assumed to be Warden Ramirez interact with the “cat” (the title being even more questionable now that they weren’t sure what the creature was) made Charity very glad she had not invited or helped the thing in herself. Suddenly faced with a lack of anything better to do, she set down the duffel bag next to an empty chair and headed over to the kitchen area where Thomas had left the pancakes. She hadn’t eaten since the dinner she had helped the elder Carpenters make and after taking a bite or two she was very impressed with the work.
“Thank you for these, Mister Raith, they’re delicious” She said quietly, then surveyed the room for any way to make herself useful. Her eyes fell on the clearly injured man on the couch that could be none other than Gentleman John Marcone and the bottle of painkillers next to him. Well, if there was anything non-magical Harry was bound to have a supply of… Charity crossed the short space over to the couch and knelt next to it, looking stern but at least a little concerned.
“Mister Marcone, I don’t believe we’ve met, but I’m Charity Carpenter. I have some experience with patching up injuries, and by the size of that ankle, and the wrapping on it currently, I think you could use some help.” Her voice held a little more softness than her face because no matter how little she liked the man, he had played his part in trying to protect her daughter.
Marcone caught Thomas’s eye and quietly thanked him for the painkillers. “Ah, Mrs. Carpenter. Pleased to meet you, though not under these circumstances… That sounds wonderful. Thank you.” He took a moment to gaze at the tall woman, wondering how she could help a man whom she’d threatened for talking to her daughter earlier that week. Compassion was a foreign entity in his life.
As Mrs. Carpenter set to work on his ankle, John looked over at the cat, still standing in the doorway. It didn’t look as though Ramirez had made any headway with it yet. And there it was again, the strange sense of surreality that had become so commonplace to John since Harry Dresden came to Chicago. There was a man talking to a cat while a vampire cooked breakfast and a former Knight of the Cross’s wife tended to a wound.
Very few things in Marcone’s life were normal, but this was stretching it, even for him.
“That’s all of it. Honest.” Maybe if he had a chance to grab some shut eye, he’d be able to remember more clearly. But no. Instead Not Mister had started talking. Apparently he knew It. Well, bigger things to worry about first: If he was ready to catch some Z’s, he could only imagine what Molly was going through. “Molly, I think that once Not-Cat here has been dealt with, you should have your mom drive you home. No buts,” He said, preemptively quashing any rebellion on her part. “Go home, get some rest, we’ll regroup in the morning. And Grasshopper…you did good. Not many go through something like that and come out the other side, including a lot of Wizards a lot older than you.”
“Not-Cat, I want you to listen to me very carefully. I have been beaten, bruised, kidnapped, and Walked Behind. I am in no mood for games.”
Harry’s right hand clenched into a fist, which he aimed at Not-Cat like it was a loaded gun. Each of the bands on each of the rings of his hand were hovering somewhere near full capacity: More than enough to seriously Mess Someone Up.
“Who or what are you, and what do you want?” Who or What, Hell’s Bells, how messed up did your life have to be when you could ask that question seriously and it not be unusual. The Glamorous Life of a Professional Wizard, he supposed.
Molly looked at Harry when she heard her name. Once she had reassured herself of his safety and that he was, relatively speaking, unharmed, her exhaustion had caught up with her all at once and she sat down. When Harry told her to go home, it was a testament to her sheer exhaustion and terror that she paused a moment before even thinking of objecting. But she wasn’t about to leave Harry, not at a time like this. She stood up suddenly, then paused at his praise, feeling her cheeks flush and a warmth that she hadn’t truly felt since this entire nightmare began—happiness—fill her. She opened her mouth to agree with Harry, and suddenly the events of the past few days caught up with her. The world spun around her and she collapsed back down onto the couch.
“Harry,” she murmured. “You’ll keep us all safe from this thing, right?” Before she could hear her mentor’s answer, she had passed out cold.