Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4) - Jim Butcher

Chapter One

It rained toads the day the White Council came to town.

I got out of the Blue Beetle, my beat-up old Volkswagen bug, and squinted against the midsummer sunlight. Lake Meadow Park lies a bit south of Chicagos Loop, a long sprint from Lake Michigans shores. Even in heat like wed had lately, the park would normally be crowded with people. Today it was deserted but for an old lady with a shopping cart and a long coat, tottering around the park. It wasnt yet noon, and my sweats and T-shirt were too hot for the weather.

I squinted around the park for a moment, took a couple of steps onto the grass, and got hit on the head by something damp and squishy.

I flinched and slapped at my hair. Something small fell past my face and onto the ground at my feet. A toad. Not a big one, as toads goit could easily have sat in the palm of my hand. It wobbled for a few moments upon hitting the ground, then let out a bleary croak and started hopping drunkenly away.

I looked around me and saw other toads on the ground. A lot of them. The sound of their croaking grew louder as I walked further into the park. Even as I watched, several more amphibians plopped out of the sky, as though the Almighty had dropped them down a laundry chute. Toads hopped around everywhere. They didnt carpet the ground, but you couldnt possibly miss them. Every moment or so, you would hear the thump of another one landing. Their croaking sounded vaguely like the speech-chatter of a crowded room.

"Weird, huh?" said an eager voice. I looked up to see a short young man with broad shoulders and a confident walk coming toward me. Billy the Werewolf wore sweatpants and a plain dark T-shirt. A year or two ago the outfit would have concealed the forty or fifty extra pounds hed been carrying. Now they concealed all the muscle hed traded it in for. He stuck out his hand, smiling. "What did I tell you, Harry?"

"Billy," I responded. He crunched down hard as I shook his hand. Or maybe he was just that much stronger. "Hows the werewolf biz?"

"Getting interesting," he said. "Weve run into a lot of odd things lately when weve been out patrolling. Like this." He gestured at the park. Another toad fell from the sky several feet away. "Thats why we called the wizard."

Patrolling. Holy vigilantes, Batman. "Any of the normals been here?"

"No, except for some meteorological guys from the university. They said that they were having tornadoes in Louisiana or something, that the storms must have thrown the toads here."

I snorted. "Youd think its magic would be easier to swallow than that."

Billy grinned. "Dont worry. Im sure someone will come along and declare it a hoax before long."

"Uh-huh." I turned back to the Beetle and popped the hood to rummage in the forward storage compartment. I came out with a nylon backpack and dragged a couple of small cloth sacks out of it. I threw one to Billy. "Grab a couple of toads and pitch them in there for me."

He caught the bag and frowned. "Why?"

"So I can make sure theyre real."

Billy lifted his eyebrows. "You think theyre not?"

I squinted at him. "Look, Billy, just do it. I havent slept, I cant remember the last time I ate a hot meal, and Ive got a lot to do before tonight."

"But why wouldnt they be real? They look real."

I blew out a breath and tried to keep my temper. It had been short lately. "They could look real and feel real, but its possible that theyre just constructs. Made out of the material of the Nevernever and animated by magic. I hope they are."


"Because all that would mean is that some faerie got bored and played a trick. They do that sometimes."

"Okay. But if theyre real?"

"If theyre real, then it means something is out of whack."

"What kind of out of whack?"

"The serious kind. Holes in the fabric of reality."

"And that would be bad?"

I eyed him. "Yeah, Billy. That would be bad. It would mean something big was going down."

"But what if"

My temper flared. "I dont have the time or inclination to teach a class today. Shut the hell up."

He lifted a hand in a pacifying gesture. "Okay, man. Whatever." He fell into step beside me and started picking up toads as we walked across the park. "So, uh, its good to see you, Harry. Me