Chapter 13

They took me to the Chicago division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Roosevelt. A crowd of reporters was outside the place, and immediately started screaming questions and snapping pictures as I was taken from the car and half carried into the building by a couple of patrolmen. None of the feds said anything to the cameras, but Rudolph paused long enough to confirm that an investigation into the explosion was ongoing and that several "persons of interest" were being detained, and that the good people of Chicago had nothing to fear, yadda, yadda, yadda.

A slender little guy in a fed suit with fish white skin and ink black hair strolled by Rudolph, put an arm around the other man's shoulder in a comradely fashion, and almost hauled him off his feet and away from the reporters. Rudolph sputtered, but Slim gave him a hard look and Rudy subsided.

I remember stumbling through a checkpoint and an elevator and then being plopped down into a chair. Slim took the cuffs off my wrists. I promptly folded my arms on the table in front of me and put my head down. I don't know how long I was out, but when I came to, a rather stiff, dour-looking woman was shining a penlight into my eyes.

"No evidence of concussion," she said. "Normal response. I think he's just exhausted."

Slim stood at the door to the little room, which had a single conference table, several chairs, and a long mirror on the wall. Rudolph was standing there with him, a young- looking man in a suit more expensive than his pay grade, with dark, insanely neat hair and an anxious hunch to his shoulders.

"He's faking it," Rudolph insisted. "He wasn't out of our sight for more than a few minutes. How could he have worked himself to exhaustion in that time, huh? Without sweating? Not even really breathing hard? He's dirty. I know it. We shouldn't have given him an hour to come up with a story."

Slim eyed Rudy without any expression showing on his lean, pale face. Then he looked at me.

"I guess that makes you Good Cop," I said.

Slim rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Roz."

The woman took a stethoscope from around her neck, gave me a look full of disapproval, and left the room.

Slim came over to the table and sat down across from me. Rudolph moved around to stand behind me. It was a simple psychological ploy, but it worked. Rudolph's presence, out of my line of sight, was an irritant and a distraction.

"My name is Tilly," said Slim. "You can call me Agent Tilly or Agent or Tilly. Whatever you're most comfortable with."

"Okay, Slim," I said.

He inhaled and exhaled slowly. Then he said, "Why didn't you just answer the door, Mr. Dresden? It would have been a lot easier. For all of us."

"I didn't hear you," I said. "I was asleep down in the subbasement."

"Bullshit," said Rudolph.

Slim looked from me to Rudy and back. "Asleep, huh?"

"I'm a heavy sleeper," I said. "Keep a pad underneath one of the tables in the lab. Snooze down there sometimes. Nice and cool."

Slim studied me for another thoughtful minute. Then he said, "Nah, you weren't asleep down there. You weren't down there at all. There was no open space large enough to have hidden you in that subbasement. You were somewhere else."

"Where?" I asked him. "I mean, not like it's a big apartment. Living room, bedroom, bathroom, subbasement. You found me on the floor in the subbasement, which only has one entrance. Where else do you think I was? You think I just appeared out of thin air?"

Slim narrowed his eyes. Then he shook his head and said, "I don't know. Seen a lot of tricks. Saw a guy make the Statue of Liberty disappear once."

I spread my hands. "You think I did it with mirrors or something?"

"Could be," he said. "I don't have a good explanation for how you showed up all of a sudden, Dresden. I get grumpy when I don't have good explanations for things. Then I go digging until I come up with something."

I grinned at him. I couldn't help it. "I was asleep in my lab. Woke up when you guys started twisting my arms. You think I came out of a secret compartment so well hidden that nobody found it in a full sweep of the room? Or maybe I appeared out of thin air. Which of those stories do you think will make more sense to the judge in the civil suit I bring against the CPD and the Bureau? Yours or mine?"

Slim's expression turned sour.

Rudolph abruptly appeared to my right and slammed a fist down on the table. "Tell us why you blew up the building, Dresden!"

I burst out laughing. I couldn't help it. I didn't have a whole lot of energy, but I laughed until my stomach was shaking.

"I'm sorry," I said a moment later. "I'm sorry. It was just so . . . ahhhh." I shook my head and tried to get myself under control.

"Rudolph," said Slim. "Get out."

"You can't order me out. I am a duly appointed representative of the CPD and a member of this task force."

"You're useless, unprofessional, and impeding this deposition," Slim said, his tone flat. He turned his dark eyes to Rudolph and said, "Get. Out."

Slim had a hell of a glare. Some men do. They can look at you and tell you, without saying a word, that they are perfectly capable of doing violence and willing to demonstrate it. That look doesn't convey any particular, single emotion, nor anything that can be easily put into words. Slim didn't need any words. He stared at Rudolph with some faint shadow of old Death himself in his eyes, and did nothing else.

Rudolph flinched. He muttered something about filing a complaint against the FBI and left the room.

Agent Tilly turned back to me. His expression softened, briefly, into something almost resembling a smile, and he said, "Did you do it?"

I met his eyes for a second and said, "No."

Tilly pursed his lips. Then he nodded his head several times and said, "Okay."

I lifted my eyebrows. "Just like that?"

"I know when people lie," he said simply.

"And that's why this is a deposition, not an interrogation?"

"It's a deposition because Rudolph lied his ass off when he fingered you to my boss," Tilly said. "Now I've seen you for myself. And bomber doesn't fit on you."

"Why not?"

"Your apartment is one big pile of disorganized clutter. Disorganized bomb makers don't have much of a life expectancy. My turn. Why is someone trying to tag you for the office building?"

"Politics, I think," I said. "Karrin Murphy has pissed off a lot of money by wrecking some of their shadier enterprises. Money leans on politicians. I get some spillover because she's the one who hired me as a consultant on some of it."

"Fucking Chicago," Tilly said, with real contempt in his voice. "The government in the whole state is about as corrupt as they get."

"Amen," I said.

"I read your file. Says you were looked at by my office before. Says four agents vanished a few days later." He pursed his lips. "You've been suspected of kidnapping, murder, and at least two cases of arson, one of which was a public building."

"It wasn't my fault," I said. "That building thing."

"You lead an interesting life, Dresden."

"Not really. Just a wild weekend now and then."

"To the contrary," Tilly said. "I'm very interested in you."

I sighed. "Man. You don't want to be."

Tilly considered that, a faint frown line appearing between his brows. "Do you know who blew up your office building?"

"No."

Tilly's expression might have been carved in stone. "Liar."

"If I tell you," I said, "you aren't going to believe me - and you're going to get me locked up in a psycho ward somewhere. So no. I don't know who blew up the building."

He nodded for a moment. Then he said, "What you are doing now could be construed as obstructing and interfering with an investigation. Depending on who was behind the bombing and why, it might even get bumped up to treason."

"In other words," I said, "you couldn't find anything in my apartment to incriminate me or give you an excuse to hold me. So now you're hoping to intimidate me into talking with you."

Agent Tilly leaned back in his chair and squinted at me. "I can hold you for twenty four hours for no reason at all. And I can make them fairly unpleasant for you without coming close to violating any laws."

"I wish you wouldn't do that," I said.

Tilly shrugged. "And I wish you'd tell me what you know about the explosion. But I guess neither of us is going to get what we want."

I propped my chin on my hand and thought about it for a moment. I gave it even odds that someone in the supernatural scene, probably the duchess, had pulled some strings to send Rudolph my way. If that was the case, maybe I could bounce this little hand grenade back to her.

"Off the record?" I asked Tilly.

He stood up, went out the door, and came back in a moment later, presumably after turning off any recording devices. He sat back down and looked at me.

"You're going to find out that the building was wired with explosives," I said. "On the fourth floor."

"And how do you know that?"

"Someone I trust saw some blueprint files that showed where the charges had been installed, presumably at the behest of the building's owners. I remember that a few years ago, there were crews tearing into the walls for a week or so. Said they were removing asbestos. The owners had hired them."

"Nuevo Verita, Inc., owns the building. As insurance scams go, this isn't a great one."

"It isn't about insurance," I said.

"Then what is it about?"

"Revenge."

Tilly tilted his head to one side and studied me intently. "You did something to this company?"

"I did something to someone far up the food chain in the corporate constellation that Nuevo Verita belongs to."

"And what was that?"

"Nothing illegal," I said. "You might look into the business affairs of a man calling himself Paolo Ortega. He was a professor of mythology in Brazil. He died several years ago."

"Ah," Tilly said. "His family is who is after you?"

"That's a reasonably accurate description. His wife in particular."

Tilly absorbed that, taking his time. The room was silent for several minutes.

Finally, Tilly looked up at me and said, "I have a great deal of respect for Karrin Murphy. I called her while you were resting. She says she'll back you without reservation. Considering the source, that is a significant statement."

"Yeah," I said. "Considering the source, it is."

"Frankly, I'm not sure if I can do anything to help you. I'm not in charge of the investigation, and it's being directed by politicians. I can't promise that you won't be questioned again - though today's events should make it harder to get judicial approval to move against you."

"I'm not sure I understand your meaning," I said.

Tilly waved a hand toward the rest of the building. "As far as they're concerned, you're guilty, Dresden. They're already writing headlines and news text. Now it's just a matter of finding the evidence to support the conclusion they want."

"They," I said. "Not you."

Tilly said, "They're a bunch of assholes."

"And you aren't?"

"I'm a different kind of asshole."

"Heh," I said. "Am I free to go?"

He nodded. "But since they've got nothing remotely like evidence that you were the one to plant the explosives, they're going to be digging into you. Your personal life. Your past. Looking for things to use against you. They'll play dirty."

"Okay by me," I said. "I can play, too."

Tilly's eyes smiled. "Sounds like. Yeah." He offered me his hand. "Good luck."

I shook it. I felt the very, very faint tingle of someone with a slight magical talent. It probably augmented Tilly's ability to separate truth from fiction.

I got up and walked wearily toward the door.

"Hey," Tilly said, just before I opened it. "Off the record. Who did it?"

I stopped, looked at him again, and said, "Vampires."

His expression flickered with swiftly banished emotions: amusement, then realization, followed by doubt and yards and yards of rationalization.

"See," I said to him. "I told you that you wouldn't believe me."


Tags: Jim Butcher The Dresden Files Suspense
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