n this thrilling collection of original stories some of today's hottest paranormal authors delight, thrill and captivate readers with otherworldly tales of magic and mischief. InJim Butcher's "Curses" Harry Dresden investigates how to lift a curse laid by the Fair Folk on the Chicago Cubs. In Patricia Briggs' "Fairy Gifts," a vampire is called home by magic to save the Fae who freed him from a dark curse. In Melissa Marr's "Guns for the Dead," the newly dead Frankie Lee seeks a job in the afterlife on the wrong side of the law. In Holly Black's "Noble Rot," a dying rock star discovers that the young woman who brings him food every day has some strange appetites of her own.
Featuring original stories from 20 authors, this dark, captivating, fabulous and fantastical collection is not to be missed!
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
St. Martin's Griffin
July 01, 2011
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Naked City by Ellen Datlow
An Excerpt from
a Dresden Files short story
by Jim Butcher
Most of my cases are pretty tame. Someone loses a piece of jewelry with a lot of sentimental value, or someone comes to me because they've just moved into a new house and it's a little more haunted than the seller's disclosure indicated. Nothing Chicago's only professional wizard can't handle--but they don't usually rake in much money, either.
So when a man in a two-thousand dollar suit opened my office door and came inside, he had my complete attention.
I mean, I didn't take my feet down off my desk or anything. But I paid attention.
He looked my office up and down, and frowned, as though he didn't much approve of what he saw. Then he looked at me and said, "Excuse me, is this the office of--"
"Dolce," I said.
He blinked. "Excuse me."
"Your suit," I said. "Dolce and Gabbana. Silk. Very nice. You might want to consider an overcoat, though, now that it's cooling off. Paper says we're in for some rain."
He studied me intently for a moment. He was a man in his late prime. His hair was dyed too dark and the suit looked like it probably hid a few pounds. "You must be Harry Dresden."
I inclined my head toward him. "Agent or attorney?"
"A little of both," he said, looking around my office again. "I represent a professional entertainment corporation which wishes to remain anonymous for the time being. My name is Donovan. My sources tell me that you're the man who might be able to help us."
My office isn't anything to write home about. It's on a corner, with windows on two walls, but it's furnished for function, not style--scuffed-up wooden desks, a couple of comfortable chairs, some old metal filing cabinets, a used wooden table, and a coffee pot that was old enough to have belonged to Neanderthals. I figured Donovan was worried that he'd exposed his suit to unsavory elements, and resisted an irrational impulse to spill my half-cup of cooling coffee on it.
"What you need, and whether you can afford me."
Donovan fixed me with a stern look. I bore up under it as best I could. "Do you intend to gouge me for a fee, Mister Dresden?"
"For every penny I reasonably can," I told him.
He blinked at me. "You... you're quite up front about it, aren't you?"
"Saves time," I said.
"What makes you think I would tolerate such a thing?"
"People don't come to me until they're pretty desperate, Mr. Donovan," I said, "especially rich people and hardly ever corporations. Besides, you come in here all intriguey and coy, not wanting to reveal who your employer is. That means that in addition to whatever else you want from me, you want my discretion, too."
"So your increased fee is a polite form of blackmail?"
"Cost of doing business. If you want this done on the downlow, you make my job more difficult. You should expect to pay a little more than a conventional customer when you're asking for more than they are."
He narrowed his eyes at me. "How much are you going to cost me?"
I shrugged a shoulder. "Let's find out. What do you want me to do?"
He stood up and turned to walk to the door. He stopped before he reached it, read the words HARRY DRESDEN, WIZARD backwards in the frosted glass, and eyed me over his shoulder. "I assume that you have heard of any number of curses in local folklore."
"Sure," I said.
"I suppose you'll expect me to believe in their existence."
I shrugged. "They'll exist or not exist regardless of what you believe, Mr. Donovan." I paused. "Well. Except for the ones that don't exist except in someone's mind. They're only real because somebody believes. But that edges from the paranormal over toward psychology. I'm not licensed for that."
He grimaced and nodded. "In that case--"
I felt a little slow off the mark as I realized what we were talking about. "A cursed local entertainment corporation," I said. "Like maybe a sports team."
He kept a poker face on, and it was a pretty good one.
"You're talking about the Billy Goat Curse," I said.
Donovan arched an eyebrow and then gave me an almost imperceptible nod as he turned around to face me again. "What do you know about it?"
I blew out my breath and ran my fingers back through my hair. "Uh, back in 1945 or so, a tavern owner named Sianis was asked to leave a World Series game at Wrigley. Seems his pet goat was getting rained on and it smelled bad. Some of the fans were complaining. Outraged at their lack of social ?lan, Sianis pronounced a curse on the stadium, stating that never again would a World Series game be played there--well, actually he said something like, 'Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more,' but the World Series thing is the general interpretation."
"And?" Donovan asked.
"And I think if I'd gotten kicked out of a series game I'd been looking forward to, I might do the same thing."
"You have a goat?"
"I have a moose," I said.
He blinked at that for a second, didn't understand it, and decided to ignore it. "If you know that, then you know that many people believe that the curse has held."
"Where the Series is concerned, the Cubbies have been filled with fail and dipped in suck sauce since 1945," I acknowledged. "No matter how hard they try, just when things are looking up, something seems to go bad at the worst possible time." I paused to consider. "I can relate."
"You're a fan, then?"
"More of a kindred spirit."
He looked around my office again and gave me a small smile. "But you follow the team."
"I go to games when I can."
"That being the case," Donovan said, "you know that the team has been playing well this year."
"And the Cubs want to hire yours truly to prevent the curse from screwing things up."
Donovan shook his head. "I never said that the Cubs organization was involved."
"Hell of a story, though, if they were."
Donovan frowned severely.
"The Tribune would run it on the front page. Cubs Hire Professional Wizard to Break Curse, maybe. Rick Morrissey would have a ball with that story."
"My clients," Donovan said firmly, "have authorized me to commission your services on this matter, if it can be done quickly--and with the utmost discretion."
I swung my feet down from my desk. "Mr. Donovan," I said. "No one does discretion like me."
Two hours after I had begun my calculations, I dropped my pencil on the laboratory table and stretched my back. "Well. You're right."
"Of course I'm right," said Bob the Skull. "I'm always right."
I gave the dried, bleached human skull sitting on a shelf amidst a stack of paperback romance novels a gimlet eye.
"For some values of right," he amended hastily. The words were conciliatory, but the flickering flames in the skull's eye sockets danced merrily.
My laboratory is in the sub-basement under my basement apartment. It's dark, cool, and dank, essentially a concrete box that I have to enter by means of a folding staircase. It isn't a big room, but it's packed with the furnishings of one. Lots of shelves groan under the weight of books, scrolls, papers, alchemical tools, and containers filled with all manner of magical whatnot.
There's a silver summoning circle on the floor, and a tiny scale-model of the city of Chicago on a long table running down the middle of the room. The only shelf not crammed full is Bob's, and even it gets a little crowded sometimes. Bob is my more-or-less faithful, not-so-trusty assistant, a spirit of intellect that dwells within a specially enchanted skull. I might be a wizard, but Bob's knowledge of magic makes me look like an engineering professor.
"Are you sure there's nothing you missed?" I asked.
"Nothing's certain, boss," the skull said philosophically. "But you did the equations. You know the power requirements for a spell to continue running through all those sunrises."
I grunted sourly. The cycles of time in the world degrade ongoing magic, and your average enchantment doesn't last for more than a few days. For a curse to be up and running since 1945, it would have had to begin as a malevolent enchantment powerful enough to rip a hole through the crust of the planet. Given the lack of lava in the area, it would seem that whatever the Billy Goat Curse might be, I could be confident that it wasn't a simple magical working.
"Nothing's ever simple," I complained.
"What did you expect, boss?" Bob said.
I growled. "So the single-spell theory is out."
"Yep," Bob said.
"Which means that either the curse is being powered by something that renews its energy--or else someone is refreshing the thing all the time."
"What about this Sianis guy's family?" Bob said. "Maybe they're putting out a fresh whammy every few days or something."
I shook my head. "I called records in Edinburgh. The Wardens checked them out years ago when all of this first happened, and they aren't practitioners. Besides, they're Cub-friendly."
"The Wardens investigated the Greek guy but not the curse?" Bob asked curiously.
"In 1945 the White Council had enough to do trying to mitigate the bad mojo from all those artifacts the Nazis stockpiled," I said. "Once they established that no one's life was in danger, they didn't really care if a bunch of guys playing a game got cursed to lose it."
"So what's your next move?"
I tapped my chin thoughtfully with one finger. "Let's go look at the stadium."