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Flesh Masks

By Tears of Reese

Mystery / Fantasy

Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome to the jungle,

We got fun 'n' games.

We got everything you want;

Honey, we know the names.

~ Guns'N'Roses


The battered door of the corner mini-mart swung open with a rusty squeal. Two men stepped out onto the busy city sidewalk, the shorter of the two hauling a plastic bag full of junk food and a six-pack carton of beer. The taller one cradled a paper bag of actual foodstuffs in his one arm, his other hand shoved deep into his jacket pocket.

"You sure about this, Sammy?" Dean asked for the third time, craning his head to ogle a blonde in a fitted business suit and heels before turning to glare up at his younger brother.

"Yes, Dean. I'm sure," Sam snapped in exasperation. "The signs in this city have been off the charts. I mean, odd weather fluctuations, buildings burning down for no good reasons, weird deaths, you name it, all the signs are here, and now this dead couple turns up."

"So?" The elder Winchester brother shrugged. "This is Chicago. Stuff like that is routine."

"Yeah, but mixed up in all these cases is a man named Harry Dresden. If he's not working with the police directly, he's mentioned in passing in the case reports. We should at least talk to the man."

Dean hoisted the six-pack to the crook of the arm holding the plastic bag and pulled a packet of jerky out of the pocket of his worn leather jacket with his free hand. He popped a chunk in his mouth and glanced at Sam.

"Hmph," he grunted skeptically, mumbling around his mouthful. "Well, any guy who advertises that he's a wizard is either a fraud or a whack-job."

Chewing happily, he held the packet out to Sam, who turned it down with raised eyebrows and a mildly disgusted look. Dean stuffed the snack back into his coat pocket, shooting his brother a look of incredulous confusion.

"What?"

Shaking his head, Sam flipped the collar of his jacket up and hunched his shoulders to protect against the wind that blew against their backs. His brother kept pace beside him, the slightest hint of a swagger adding a bounce to his gait. Despite the air of relaxed confidence that he projected, Sam could tell that Dean was taking in every little detail as they walked down the street.

The elder Winchester winked at a tall brunette as she went past, but was sizing up her boyfriend and the businessman behind her as she smirked and winked back. His eyes slid to the right, taking in the cars that passed them. Red Chevy truck. Black Prius. Faded blue Tauris station wagon. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Sam sighed. It seemed they couldn't even buy groceries without going on high alert. It was a long-ingrained habit at this point, he supposed, one practiced since boyhood.

As they passed a phone booth, Sam had a quick realization. Tugging at Dean's arm to stop him, he gestured to the booth.

"Let's get his address. Here, hold these." He jostled his bag into Dean's arms and flipped open the booth door.

Dean rolled his eyes, but waited patiently while his little brother rapidly turned pages in the phone book.

"Here's his ad," Sam said over his shoulder. He raised his eyebrows and chuckled. "You may not be far off about this guy."

Dean glanced over Sam's shoulder to read the little square of print and let out a bark of laughter.

"See?" He scoffed, "like I said, whack-job."

Sam glanced around quickly and then casually ripped out the page and stuffed it in his pocket. With a smooth turn, he and Dean fazed back into the jostling crowd on the sidewalk.

"Let's head back to the motel and get changed. His office hours don't end for a few hours more, so we should be able to get something out of him."

"Yeah, and we'll drive to get there." Dean was adamant. "I don't care how close his office is. I know skeevy motels are our thing, but I hate leaving Baby alone there. Why'd you make us walk anyways?"

" 'Cause you eat like a garbage disposal and you never exercise."

"Whatever."

"It's true."

"Bitch."

"Jerk."


The jangling of the bell over Harry's door caused him to look up from his novel. Two young men, both easily six feet tall and wearing suits, entered the room. The shorter one stepped forward and rifled through his pockets as he began to speak.

"Harry Dresden? My name's Agent Tyler; this is my partner, Agent Perry. We're with the FBI and we need to ask you a few questions."

By the end of his short speech, the young man had slapped an FBI badge down on the desk and was now staring at Harry expectantly.

The wizard rose slowly and sauntered around his desk. Standing, Harry was just about as tall as 'Agent Perry'. Moving to stand directly in front of 'Agent Tyler', Harry casually leaned back against his desk and eyed both young men.

"No offence, but I'd like to know what brings you to my humble doorstep. The FBI and I had a bit of a… run-in a while back. Now they rarely dabble in my affairs."

Harry left the sentence dangling and raised and eyebrow at the two men. Without warning, he whirled around and slapped his palm over the badge that was lying on his desk and muttered a few terse words in Latin. The badge flashed blue for a moment before the words on it blurred and shifted.

Smirking slightly and shaking his head, Dresden turned back to the stunned men in his office and held the badge up.

"Thought so. Care to tell me what you two are really here for," he looked at the badge before turning to grin at the man who had held it last, "Dean?"

"Damn." Dean breathed, deflating a little.

The taller of the two stepped forward from where he had been lingering by the door.

"Well… um… I'm Sam Winchester, and this is my older brother, Dean. We're looking into some of the more… unusual events that have taken place around the area, and… uhhh… we thought we'd come to you first, seeing as –"

"Seeing as you seem to be in the middle of every single weird thing that happens in this city," cut in Dean, crossing his arms and looking sullenly at Harry.

"Am I now?"

"Well," Sam fidgeted a little, "we had the police give us a number of case reports… umm… The Kravos Murders, the Lobo killings, the 'Nightmare' incident."

"Hell's bells! Murph gave you all that?"

"Lt. Murphy wasn't in," Dean said, "We talked to a receptionist or something. Good looking brunette – ow!" He began rubbing his left rib where his brother had elbowed him.

"Since she thought we were FBI," Sam glared at his brother, "she gave us copies of the SI files we wanted without much trouble."

Harry ran his hand through his hair as he contemplated what to tell these men in his office. Just as he was about to speak, a little glowing orb zipped into the room, stopping suddenly to hover in front of his nose. The glow faded slightly to reveal a tiny humanoid sprite; the little figure snapped a smart salute and began to chatter excitedly in its shrill voice.

"Oh, Mighty Pizza Lord! I have come to report –"

Harry cut the sprite off with a gentle cough and looked pointedly behind him. The little fae spun around and froze in horror.

Dean jerked back in surprise and blinked a few times; then, with a derisive snort, he shook his head.

"Awww, hell no… I don't believe in faeries," he muttered.

Immediately, the tiny figure gasped. Clutching its throat, it staggered about in midair, its chest heaving as it tried to suck air into its lungs. It collapsed onto the desk and, with a final, rasping shudder, laid still, the orb of light that had surrounded it going ominously dark.

Everyone froze. Sam turned to glare at Dean, who was still staring at the pale figure on the desk with a mix between shocked disbelief and dawning horror. Harry looked surprisingly calm, though his mouth twitched a little at the corners.

"I-I didn't realize that… aw, hell." Dean began to mutter incoherently, running his hands through his spiky hair.

Without warning, the little sprite sat straight up and began to laugh, holding its sides and rocking back and forth. Harry joined in, pointing at Dean all the while. Even Sam began to chuckle as Dean looked about him, fuming.

"Toot. Toot, that wasn't funny," laughed Dresden, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes.

"Yes it was," grinned Sam, thoroughly enjoying his brother's discomfort.

"Yeah," grumbled Dean, rubbing the back of his neck and glaring, "freakin' hilarious."

Harry did his best to straighten up, after all, he had appearances to keep up – brooding, quick to anger, mysterious – standard wizardly fare. Schooling his expression into the sourest glare he could manage, he began to glower at the men before him.

Unfortunately, the intimidating glare never had its desired effect; an accidental glance at Toot, who was hovering in Dean's face, threatening dire harm and shaking his tiny finger in the man's face, caused Harry's mouth to twitch, and before he knew it, he had dissolved into laughter once again.

But then, Toot should never have revealed himself to strangers, even accidentally. That alone was cause for worry. Clearing his throat, he glanced at the two young men in his office.

"I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to leave for a little while."

"If you'll just answer some questions first…" Sam's voice trailed off as Harry fixed him with a cold glare.

"Tell you what," the wizard sighed, relenting, "there's a pub nearby where we can talk undisturbed, and Mac serves the best food in the city. Steaks cooked on a wood-burning stove, homemade ale…"

At the mention of steak, the eldest Winchester's face split into a wide grin.

"We're in."

"Good." Harry scribbled something on a small sheet of paper, "Here's the address. I'll meet you there in two hours."

And with that, Harry ushered the two men out of his office and shut the door before either of them could protest. Turning back to the small sprite hovering over his desk, he narrowed his eyes.

"All right, Toot. What's up? I know you wouldn't come in here when there were witnesses unless it was important."

The little sprite buzzed over and lighted on Harry's extended palm. Looking up at him piteously, Toot rubbed his stomach.

"I'm hungry. You wouldn't happen to have…?" Toot cast a wistful glance towards the cabinet.

With a sigh, and knowing that he wouldn't get any information out of the dewdrop faerie otherwise, Harry opened the cabinet and pulled out a plate with a slice of cold pizza on it. He carefully ripped off the tip and handed it to Toot, who immediately began stuffing his face.

"What's the news, Toot?" Harry tried to keep the impatience out of his voice.

"Magic. Dark." The little sprite mumbled, chewing his way through a bit of red onion. "Death and blood. Heard it from Pip, who got it from a Brownie who lives near those werewolves you like."

"What kind of dark magic?"

"The bad kind, Harry," Toot gave the mortal a pitying look. "What other kind is there?"

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