Authors: Jim Butcher
Working for Bigfoot
Copyright © 2015 by Jim Butcher.
All rights reserved.
Dust jacket and interior illustrations Copyright © 2015
by Vincent Chong. All rights reserved.
Print version interior design Copyright © 2015 by Desert Isle Design, LLC.
All rights reserved.
Copyright information for individual stories is on page 131.
PO Box 190106
Burton, MI 48519
Table of Contents
B Is for Bigfoot
Takes place between
When people come to the only professional wizard in the Chicago phone book for help, they’re one of two things: desperate or smart. Very rarely are they both.
The smart ones come to me because they know I can help—the desperate because they don’t know anyone else who can. With a smart client, the meeting is brief and pleasant. Someone has lost the engagement ring that was a family heirloom, and has been told I’m a man who can find lost things. Such people engage my services (preferably in cash), I do the job, and everyone’s happy.
Desperate clients, on the other hand, can pull all sorts of ridiculous nonsense. They lie to me about what kind of trouble they’ve gotten themselves into, or try to pass me a check I’m sure will bounce like a basketball. Occasionally they demand that I prove my powers by telling them what their problem is before they even shake my hand—in which case, the problem is that they’re idiots.
My newest client wanted something different, though. He wanted me to meet him in the woods.
This did not make me feel optimistic that he would be one of the smart ones.
Woods being in short supply in Chicago, I had to drive all the way up to the northern half of Wisconsin to get to decent timber. That took me about six hours, given that my car, while valiant and bold, is also a Volkswagen Beetle made around the same time flower children were big. By the time I got there and had hiked a mile or two out into the woods, to the appointed location, dark was coming on.
I’m not a moron, usually. I’ve made enemies during my stint as a professional wizard. So when I settled down to wait for the client, I did so with my staff in one hand, my blasting rod in the other, and a .38 revolver in the pocket of my black leather duster. I blew out a small crater in the earth with an effort of will, using my staff to direct the energy, and built a modest campfire in it.
Then I stepped out of the light of the campfire, found a comfortable, shadowy spot, and waited to see who was going to show up.
The whole PI gig is mostly about patience. You have to talk to a lot of people who don’t know anything to find the one who does. You have to sit around waiting a lot, watching for someone to do something before you catch them doing it. You have to do a lot of searching through useless information to get to one piece of really good information. Impatient PIs rarely conclude an investigation successfully, and never remain in the business for long. So when an hour went by without anything happening, I wasn’t too worried.
By two hours, though, my legs were cramping and I had a little bit of a headache, and apparently the mosquitoes had decided to hold a convention about ten feet away because I was covered with bites. Given that I hadn’t been paid a dime yet, this client was getting annoying, fast.
The fire had died down to almost nothing, so I almost didn’t see the creature emerge from the forest and crouch down beside the embers.
The thing was huge. I mean, just saying that it was nine feet tall wasn’t enough. It was mostly human-shaped, but it was built more heavily than any human, covered in layers and layers of ropy muscle that were visible even through a layer of long, dark brown hair or fur that covered its whole body. It had a brow ridge like a mountain crag, with dark, glittering eyes that reflected the red-orange light of the fire.
I did not move. Not even a little. If that thing wanted to hurt me, I would have one hell of a time stopping it from doing so, even with magic, and unless I got lucky, something with that much mass would find my .38 about as deadly as a pricing gun.
Then it turned its head and part of its upper body toward me and said, in a rich, mellifluous Native American accent, “You done over there? Don’t mean to be rude, and I didn’t want to interrupt you, wizard, but there’s business to be done.”
My jaw dropped open. I mean it literally dropped open.
I stood up slowly, and my muscles twitched and ached. It’s hard to stretch out a cramp while you remain in a stance, prepared to run away at an instant’s notice, but I tried.
“You’re…,” I said. “You’re a…”
“Bigfoot,” he said. “Sasquatch. Yowie. Yeti. Buncha names. Yep.”
“And you…you called me?” I felt a little stunned. “Um…did you use a pay phone?”
I instantly imagined him trying to punch little phone buttons with those huge fingers. No, of course he hadn’t done that.
“Nah,” he said, and waved a huge, hairy arm to the north. “Fellas at the reservation help us make calls sometimes. They’re a good bunch.”
I shook myself and took a deep breath. For Pete’s sake, I was a wizard. I dealt with the supernatural all the time. I shouldn’t be this rattled by one little unexpected encounter. I shoved my nerves and my discomfort down and replaced them with iron professionalism—or at least the semblance of calm.
I emerged from my hidey-hole and went over to the fire. I settled down across from the Bigfoot, noting as I did that I was uncomfortably close to being within reach of his long arms. “Um…welcome. I’m Harry Dresden.”
The Bigfoot nodded and looked at me expectantly. After a moment of that, he said, as if prompting a child, “This is your fire.”
I blinked. Honoring the obligations of hospitality is a huge factor in the supernatural communities around the world—and as it was my campfire, I was the de facto host, and the Bigfoot my guest. I said, “Yes. I’ll be right back.”
I hurried back to my car and came back to the campfire with two cans of warm Coke and half a tin of salt-and-vinegar Pringles chips. I opened both cans and offered the Bigfoot one of them. Then I opened the Pringles and divided them into two stacks, offering him his choice of either.
The Bigfoot accepted them and sipped almost delicately at the Coke, handling the comparatively tiny can with far more grace than I would have believed. The chips didn’t get the careful treatment. He popped them all into his mouth and chomped down on them enthusiastically. I emulated him. I got a lot of crumbs on the front of my coat.
The Bigfoot nodded at me. “Hey, got any smokes?”
“No,” I said. “Sorry. It’s not a habit.”
“Maybe next time,” he said. “Now. You have given me your name, but I have not given you mine. I am called Strength of a River in His Shoulders, of the Three Stars Forest People. And there is a problem with my son.”
“What kind of problem?” I asked.
“His mother can tell you in greater detail than I can,” River Shoulders said.
“His mother?” I rubbernecked. “Is she around?”
“No,” he said. “She lives in Chicago.”
I blinked. “His mother…”
“Human,” River Shoulders said. “The heart wants what the heart wants, yeah?”
Then I got it. “Oh. He’s a scion.”
That made more sense. A lot of supernatural folk can and do interbreed with humanity. The resulting children, half mortal, half supernatural, are called scions. Being a scion means different things to different children, depending on their parentage, but they rarely have an easy time of it in life.
River Shoulders nodded. “Forgive my ignorance of the issues. Your society is…not one of my areas of expertise.”
I know, right? A Bigfoot saying “expertise.”
I shook my head a little. “If you can’t tell me anything, why did you call me here? You could have told me all of this on the phone.”
“Because I wanted you to know that I thought the problem supernatural in origin, and that I would have good reason to recognize it. And because I brought your retainer.” He rummaged in a buckskin pouch that he wore slung across the front of his body. It had been all but invisible amid his thick pelt. He reached a hand in and tossed something at me.
I caught it on reflex and nearly yelped as it hit my hand. It was the size of a golf ball and extraordinarily heavy. I held it closer to the fire and then whistled in surprise.
Gold. I was holding a nugget of pure gold. It must have been worth…uh…well, a
“We knew all the good spots a long time before the Europeans came across the sea,” River Shoulders said calmly. “There’s another, just as large, when the work is done.”
“What if I don’t take your case?” I asked him.
He shrugged. “I try to find someone else. But word is that you can be trusted. I would prefer you.”
I regarded River Shoulders for a moment. He wasn’t trying to intimidate me. It was a mark in his favor, because it wouldn’t have been difficult. In fact, I realized, he was going out of his way to avoid that very thing.
“He’s your son,” I asked. “Why don’t you help him?”
He gestured at himself and smiled slightly. “Maybe I would stand out a little in Chicago.”
I snorted and nodded. “Maybe you would.”
“So, wizard,” River Shoulders asked. “Will you help my son?”
I pocketed the gold nugget and said, “One of these is enough. And yes. I will.”
The next day I went to see the boy’s mother at a coffee shop on the north side of town.