Jim Butcher has stated that the first line will be "I can't believe he's really dead"
The story opens with Murphy standing near the Water Beetle, after she had arrived to go on the date Harry invited her to at the end of Changes, only to find him missing and apparently shot to death. She reminisces about how she came to know Harry, while the CPD forensics explore the murder scene. Despite her suspension, a forensic tech named Jarvis informs her that Harry must have been shot through an artery with a high velocity round that went cleanly through his torso and the Beetle's hull. A dive team is on the way to attempt to recover his body but Murphy knows that the special conditions of Lake Michigan make it an almost impossible notion. Stallings and other SI operatives arrive to the scene. Stallings reminds Murphy that she is on suspension and urges her to leave the crime scene and get some sleep, to which she has no choice but to agree.
The next morning, Murphy is awakened early in the morning by Billy Borden, who asks for her help in investigating the violent kidnapping of his pregnant wife Georgia. With Harry absent, his only hope is Murphy and she agrees to help. They travel to Billy and Georgia's apartment to find it trashed. However, despite obvious signs of struggle, there is no blood, and Murphy soon deduces that Georgia wasn't alone at the time of kidnapping. Billy picks up the scents of Andi and Marcy, ex-Alphas who left town but returned recently, but they aren't sure who of them was with Georgia. They canvass the building and discover that nobody heard the apparent struggle. Murphy tells Billy to find Andi and Marcy for questioning, while she canvasses the three apartment blocks nearby whose tenants might have witnessed the kidnapping.
An hour later, Murphy still doesn't have any leads, frustrating her and making her think what Harry would do in her place. Memories of him make her cry again but she quickly recomposes and resumes investigation. When she enters the third block, she notices a change of atmosphere and soon finds a witness named Maria who obviously lies to her about having not seen anything. Murphy soon discovers that Maria is scared senseless of the building superintendent Ray. Murphy recognizes Ray as a petty bully and provokes him to attack her, only to have him quickly subdued. She then threatens him into resigning from the job, thus freeing the tenants of his oppression. As she is about to leave, Maria catches up with her and tells that a man very reminiscent of Hendricks visited Georgia's apartment soon after the kidnapping.
Murphy calls in a favor with Micky Malone to learn where she can find Hendricks' boss, Johnny Marcone. Meanwhile, Billy has returned empty-handed and Murphy tells him about Dresden's apparent death. Malone informs them that Marcone is at a construction site in Bucktown. They find him in an office with Hendricks and Gard. Marcone reveals that he knows about Harry's assassination (and claims he had nothing to do with it), Murphy's suspension and involvement in Georgia's kindapping case, from which Murphy deduces that Maria is actually one of his "troubleshooters". Billy tries to threaten Marcone for information, but is quickly cut down to size. Marcone offers Murphy a job in his organization, which she flatly refuses. He then orders Gard to escort the two of them out but give them all the information they need. The valkyrie reveals that soon after Harry's shooting, some unknown faction started kidnapping mortals possessing minor supernatural talents. Maria saw Georgia and her visitor being kidnapped last night, that's why Hendricks was there.
Based on an "talent search" advertisement on Craigslist, which they assume was placed by the kidnappers, Murphy devises a plan to use Billy as a bait to lure them out. She returns to her house and is soon joined by Billy and Marcy. Murphy interrogates Marcy but eventually judges her trustworthy. Marcy reveals that she and Andi were keeping Georgia company while Billy was out of town and confirms that Andi and Georgia must have been kidnapped. Afterwards, they disguise Murphy to prevent unnecessary recognition and contact the person who placed the "talent search" ad. Murphy arranges a meeting in Buttercup Park where she would hand over the werewolves she supposedly captured. When she ties up Billy and Marcy, Billy points out that these kidnappers might have appeared to fill in the power vacuum left in the wake of the Red Court's destruction.
That evening in the park, Murphy meets her contact, a large man calling himself "Nothing". Murphy notices gills at the back of his neck and he confirms that he is not human "any more". The man hands over the money to her, then moves the tied up werewolves to his own truck and leaves. Murphy follows them on a motorcycle to a warehouse at the docks. She disables a guard and infiltrates the compound. Inside are a number of cages holding the kidnapped individuals, Georgia among them. All of them have suffered a mental invasion akin to what Murphy herself experienced in Grave Peril, and they are additionally guarded by lumps of unnatural substance Murphy dubs "growths". Although she is overcome with fear, Murphy decides against going back to call for backup and find Fidelacchius and proceeds inside.
Murphy climbs to the roof of the warehouse to find Nothing and five more creatures like him loading cages with kidnapped people onto a railroad cargo container below. Billy and Marcy are with them, still "unconscious". A short while later, a man resembling a frog appears out of nowhere, whom Murphy recognizes as Nothing's master, and starts casting a disabling spell on Marcy, leaving himself open to attack. From her hiding spot, Murphy kills him with multiple subsonic rounds from her silenced P-90 to the head. Before the remaining creatures spot her, Murphy kills one more of them and flees back into the warehouse. In an intense fight that follows, Murphy, Billy, and Marcy manage to kill all the remaining creatures, including Nothing whom Murphy sends flying into a "growth". Murphy right arm is broken during the fight, Billy has a dislocated arm, too, while Marcy has taken a poisoned dart to the shoulder.
As they await the sunrise to wipe away the spell holding the captives, they are found by Gard, who identifies the kidnappers as a lesser Fomor sorcerer and his retainers. She says that many teams such as his are currently operating in the world and thanks Murphy for dealing with this one. She then informs Murphy that if she wanted, Marcone could get her police badge back but Murphy refuses. Gard then tells her that Monoc Securities is hiring and Vadderung would likely be interested in her. She also says she will dispose of the bodies and clean the warehouse of evidence of a fight before leaving. Billy deduces that with Dresden gone, Marcone must have stepped in as the supernatural protector of Chicago. Murphy protests that until she has seen the body, Harry is not dead for her. However, she agrees that it will fall to them to protect Chicago "until Dresden gets back".
- Main article: List of The Dresden Files characters
- Murphy mentions that she has been in law enforcement for 15 years.
- Fomorians are a magical race from Irish mythology that inhabited Ireland before Tuatha Dé Danann conquered it and drove them out. Tuatha Dé Danann would later retreat into underground mounds after being defeated by Milesians and became known as "Aos Sí" or "Sidhe".