The RedeemerHarry Hole investigates a mistaken assassination
He specializes in the strange but is no stranger to the New York Times bestseller list. Jim Butcher is the author of more than a dozen fantasy books, including the Dresden Files and the Codex Alera novels—proving himself as adept with urban fantasy in the former as he is with epic fantasy in the latter. Since the publication of his first novel, Storm Front, in 2000, Jim Butcher has become a favorite author of millions of dedicated readers worldwide. You’d never guess that his nickname is Longshot—a tag he came by when he decided to become a published author. Friends felt it was against the odds he’d join the ranks of the small percentage who make a career of writing…until the Dresden Files and Codex Alera books proved them wrong. Butcher's best-known work stars Harry Dresden, detective and wizard, and combines urban fantasy with hardboiled detective fiction. Rabid fans of Jim Butcher books like New York Times bestseller Changes have made Harry Dresden a star of more than just fantasy books, landing him in several graphic novel adaptations, as well as the Dresden Files television show. A martial arts enthusiast, skilled horseman and a lifelong fan of comic books and bad sci-fi movies, Jim Butcher lives in Missouri with his wife, son and a vicious guard dog.
Life is hard.
So many things must align in order to create life. It has to happen in a place that supports life, something approximately as rare as hen’s teeth, from the perspective of the universe. Parents, in whatever form, have to come together for it to begin. From conception to birth, any number of hazards can end a life. And that’s to say nothing of all the attention and energy required to care for a new life until it is old enough to look after itself.
Life is full of toil, sacrifice, and pain, and from the time we stop growing, we know that we’ve begun dying. We watch helplessly as year by year, our bodies age and fail, while our survival instincts compel us to keep on going—which means living with the terrifying knowledge that ultimately death is inescapable. It takes enormous effort to create and maintain a life, and the process is full of pitfalls and unexpected complications.
Ending a life, by comparison, is simple. Easy, even. It can be done with a relatively minor effort, a single microbe, a sharp edge, a heavy weight . . . or a few ounces of lead.
So difficult to bring about. So easy to destroy.
You’d think we would hold life in greater value than we do.
I died in the water.
I don’t know if I bled to death from the gunshot wound or drowned.
For being the ultimate terror of the human experience, once it’s over, the details of your death are unimportant. It isn’t scary anymore. You know that tunnel with the light at the end of it that people report in near-death experiences? Been there, done that.
Granted, I never heard of anyone rushing toward the light and suddenly hearing the howling blare of a train’s horn.
I became dimly aware that I could feel my feet beneath me, standing on what seemed to be a set of tracks. I knew because I could feel the approaching train making them shake and buzz against the bottoms of my feet. My heart sped up, too.
For crying out loud, did I just say that death isn’t scary anymore? Tell that to my glands.
I put my hands on my hips and just glared at the oncoming train in disgust. I’d had a long, long day, battling the forces of evil, utterly destroying the Red Court, rescuing my daughter, and murdering her mother—oh, and getting shot to death. That kind of thing.
I was supposed to be at peace, or merging with the holy light, or in line for my next turn on the roller coaster, or maybe burning in an oven equipped with a stereo that played nothing but Manilow. That’s what happens when you die, right? You meet your reward. You get to find out the answer to the Big Questions of life.
“You do not get run over by trains,” I said crossly. I folded my arms, planted my feet, and thrust out my jaw belligerently as the train came thundering my way.
I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said, "They’ve taken our daughter."
I sat there for a long five count, swallowed, and said, "Um. What?"
"You heard me, Harry," Susan said gently.
"Oh," I said. "Um."
"The line isn’t secure," she said. "I’ll be in town tonight. We can talk then."
"Yeah," I said. "Okay."
"Harry…" she said. "I’m not… I never wanted to…" She cut the words off with an impatient sigh. I heard a voice over the loudspeaker in the background, saying something in Spanish. "We’ll have time for that later. The plane is boarding. I’ve got to go. About twelve hours."
"Okay," I said. "I’ll… I’ll be here."
She hesitated, as if about to say something else, but then she hung up.
I sat there with the phone against my ear. After a while, it started making that double-speed busy signal noise.
She said our daughter.
I hung the phone up. Or tried. I missed the base. The receiver clattered to the floor.
Mouse, my big, shaggy grey dog, rose up from his usual napping spot in the tiny kitchenette my basement apartment boasted, and came trotting over to sit down at my feet, staring up at me with dark, worried doggie eyes. After a moment, he made a little huffing sound, then carefully picked the receiver up in his jaws and settled it onto the base. Then he went back to staring worriedly at me.
"I…" I paused, trying to get my head around the concept. "I… I might have a child."
Mouse made an uncertain, high-pitched noise.
"Yeah. How do you think I feel?" I stared at the far wall. Then I stood up and reached for my coat. "I… think I need a drink," I said. I nodded, focusing on nothing. "Yeah. Something like this… yeah."
Mouse made a distressed noise and rose.
"Sure," I told him. "You can come. Hell, maybe you can drive me home or something."
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