Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy

Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy

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by Ellen Datlow

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In 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. In Jim 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

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In 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. In Jim 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!

Editorial Reviews


This anthology of short fiction affords a superb sampling of urban fantasy, that popular sf/fantasy subgenre defined in the book's introduction (which, in all of three pages, is a welcome and helpful, to say nothing of articulate, definition of this subgenre) as a combination of the "often-dark edge of city living with enticing worlds of magic"--with an urban landscape being absolutely crucial to the story. To put it another way (as also expressed in the introduction, that is), "where the story takes place should matter, in some way, to the story." The headliner piece, by virtue of its placement first in the collection's presentation and the name recognition of the author, is "Curses," by Jim Butcher, creator of the urban-fantasy series Dresden Files. It opens like a noir detective story--"Most of my cases are pretty tame"--but by page 2, we see this is Dresden Files fiction as well. The premise is a riot: the famous curse upon the Chicago Cubs has supernatural origins here. "Priced to Sell," by Naomi Novik, is also very entertaining. It's about vampires buying real estate in Manhattan. But you will have fun with all 20 stories.
Library Journal
In Jim Butcher's "Curses," practicing magician and PI Harry Dresden takes on a Chicago legend and finds himself involved in the world of Faerie mischief, while in Peter S. Beagle's "Underbridge," a cynical children's literature professor finds a kindred spirit under a Seattle bridge. The 20 stories in this anthology, contributed by Holly Black, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Delia Sherman, Christopher Fowler, John Crowley, Naomi Novik, and others, reflect the diversity and depth of urban fantasy popularized by authors such as Charles de Lint and Tanya Huff. VERDICT These original tales by an impressive array of authors provide a powerful introduction to the genre for the curious and a welcome indulgence for urban fantasy fans.

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Naked City

Tales of Urban Fantasy

By Ellen Datlow

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2011 Ellen Datlow
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-8315-0





Jim Butcher is the bestselling author most known for his urban fantasy series The Dresden Files. He also writes the Codex Alera series. Butcher lives in Missouri with his wife, son, and a ferocious guard dog.

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 the cases 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 coffeepot that is 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.

"That depends."

"On what?"

"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, Mr. 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 down low, 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 backward 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. Apart from 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 élan, 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 Sun-Times 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 subbasement 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."

* * *

I put Bob in the mesh sack I sometimes tote him around in and, at his petulant insistence, hung it from the rearview mirror of my car, a battered old Volkswagen Beetle. He hung there, swinging back and forth and occasionally spinning one way or the other when something caught his eye.

"Look at the legs on that one!" Bob said. "And whew, check her out! It must be chilly tonight!"

"There's a reason we don't get out more often, Bob," I sighed. I should have known better than to drive through the club district on my way to Wrigley.

"I love the girls' pants in this century," Bob said. "I mean look at those jeans. One little tug and off they come."

I wasn't touching that one.

I parked the car a couple of blocks from the stadium, stuck Bob in a pocket of my black leather duster, and walked in. The Cubs were on the road, and Wrigley was closed. It was a good time to knock around inside. But since Donovan was evidently prepared to deny and disavow all knowledge, I wasn't going to be able to simply knock on the door and wander in.

So I picked a couple of locks at a delivery entrance and went inside. I didn't hit it at professional-burglar speed or anything — I knew a couple of guys who could open a lock with tools as fast as they could with a key — but I wasn't in any danger of getting a ticket for loitering, either. Once I was inside, I headed straight for the concourses. If I mucked around in the stadium's administrative areas, I would probably run afoul of a full-blown security system, and the only thing I could reliably do to that would be to shut it down completely — and most systems are smart enough to tip off their home security company when that happens.

Besides. What I was looking for wouldn't be in any office.

I took Bob out of my pocket so that the flickering golden-orange lights of his eyes illuminated the area in front of me. "All right," I murmured. I kept my voice down, on the off chance that a night watchman might be on duty and nearby. "I'm angry at the Cubbies and I'm pitching my curse at them. Where's it going to stick?"

"There's really no question about that, is there?" Bob asked me.

"Home plate," we said together.

I started forward, walking silently. Being quiet when you sneak around isn't difficult, as long as you aren't in any rush. The serious professionals can all but sprint in perfect silence, but the main thing you need isn't agility — it's patience and calm. So I moved out slowly and calmly, and it must have worked, because nobody raised a hue or a cry.

The empty, unlit stadium was ... just wrong. I was used to seeing Wrigley blazing with sunlight or its lights, filled with fans and music and the smell of overpriced, fattening, and inexplicably gratifying food. I was used to vendors shouting, the constant sea-surge of crowd noise, and the buzz of planes passing overhead, trailing banners behind them.

Now Wrigley Field was vast and dark and empty. There was something silently sad about it — acres of seats with no one sitting, a green and beautiful field that no one was playing on, a scoreboard that didn't have anything on it to read or anyone to read it. If the gods and muses were to come down from Olympus and sculpt unfulfilled potential as a physical form, they wouldn't get any closer than that hollow house did.

I walked down the concrete steps and circled the infield until I could make my way to the seats behind home plate. Once there, I held Bob up and said, "What have we got?"

The skull's eyelights flared brighter for a second, and he snorted. "Oh, yeah. Definitely tied the curse together right there."

"What's keeping it going?" I asked. "Is there a ley line passing underneath or something?"

"That's a negative, boss," Bob said.

"How fresh is it?"

"Maybe a couple of days," the skull replied. "Maybe more. It's an awfully tight weave."

"How so?"

"This spell resists deterioration better than most mortal magic. It's efficient and solid — way niftier than you could manage."

"Gee. Thanks."

"I call 'em like I see 'em," Bob said cheerfully. "So either a more experienced member of the White Council is sponsoring this curse, and refreshing it every so often, or else ..."

I caught on. "Or else the curse was placed here by a nonmortal being."

"Yeah," Bob said. "But that could be almost anything."

I shook my head. "Not necessarily. Remember that the curse was laid upon the stadium during a game in the 1945 World Series."

"Ah, yes," Bob said. "It would have been packed. Which means that whatever the being was, it could blend in. Either a really great veil or maybe a shapeshifter."

"Why?" I asked.


"Why?" I repeated. "Why would this theoretical being have put out the curse on the Cubs?"

"Plenty of beings from the Nevernever really don't need a motivation."

"Sure they do," I said. "The logic behind what they do might be alien or twisted beyond belief, but it makes sense to them." I waved my hand at the stadium. "This being not only laid a curse on a nexus of human emotional power, it kept coming back week after week, year after year."

"I don't see what you're driving at, boss."

"Whoever's doing this is holding a grudge," I said thoughtfully. "This is vengeance for a genuine insult. It's personal."

"Maybe," Bob said. "But maybe the emotional state of the stadium supercharged Sianis's curse. Or maybe after the stadium evicted Sianis, who didn't have enough power to curse anybody anyhow, someone decided to make it stick."

"Or maybe ..." My voice trailed off, and then I barked out a short bite of laughter. "Oh. Oh, that's funny."

Bob spun in my hand to look up at me.

"It wasn't Sianis who put the whammy on the Cubs," I said, grinning. "It was the goat."

* * *

The Llyn y Fan Fach Tavern and Inn was located down at the lakeside at the northern edge of the city. The place's exterior screamed "PUB" as if it were trying to make itself heard over the roar of brawling football hooligans. It was all whitewashed walls and heavy timbers stained dark. The wooden sign hanging from a post above the door bore the tavern's name, and a painted picture of a leek and a daffodil crossed like swords.

I sidled up to the tavern and went in. The inside matched the outside, continuing the dark-stained theme on its wooden floors, walls, and furnishings. It was just after midnight, which wasn't really all that late, as bar scenes went, but the Llyn y Fan Fach Tavern was all but empty.

A big red-haired guy sitting in a chair by the door scowled at me. His biceps were thick enough to use steel- belted radials as armbands. He gave me the fisheye, which I ignored as I ambled on up to the bar.

I took a seat on a stool and nodded to the bartender. She was a pretty woman with jet-black hair and an obvious pride in her torso. Her white renaissance shirt had slipped entirely off both of her shapely shoulders and was only being held up by her dark leather bustier. She was busy wiping down the bar. The bustier was busy lifting and separating.

She glanced up at me and smiled. Her pale green eyes flicked over me, and the smile deepened. "Ah," she said, her British accent thick and from somewhere closer to Cardiff than London. "You're a tall one, aren't you?"

"Only when I'm standing up."

Her eyes twinkled with merry wickedness. "Such a crime. What are you drinking, love?"

"Do you have any cold beer?" I asked.

"None of that colonial piss here," she replied.

"Snob," I said, smiling. "Do you have any of McAnally's dark? McAnally's anything, really."


Excerpted from Naked City by Ellen Datlow. Copyright © 2011 Ellen Datlow. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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