Love Hurts is a short story in the The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. It was originally published in the Songs of Love and Death anthology, and later also included in Side Jobs. It takes place between Turn Coat and Changes.
Gardner Dozois has a bunch of awards for his anthologies because he's good at them, and I leapt at his invitation to contribute to the anthology he was working on with George R. R. Martin, originally titled Star-Crossed Lovers. Despite my enthusiasm, finding a starting point for a Dresden story was sort of a puzzler for me, since Harry Dresden might in the top three Star-Influence-Free lovers in the whole contemporary-fantasy genre. How was I going to bring him into a story with a theme like that?
Answer: Get him into the thick of things next to Murphy when seemingly random love spells are running amok through the city. After that, all I had to do was apply his usual streak of luck and cackle madly to myself while typing.
The title of the anthology changed to Songs of Love and Death after I had written the story, which is probably a good thing. Otherwise I may have tried to find a way to fit a death-metal band in the margins somewhere. No one deserves that.
Murphy and Harry are investigating a double suicide in an apartment in Wrigleyville involving a brother and sister who seem to have also been a couple. They conclude that someone used mental manipulation to make them fall in love with each other, which made them eventually go insane. It's the third pair in a month.
Harry briefly contacts Luccio, who doesn't know anything. He spends four days combing the supernatural scene for any information, turning up zilch. Murphy, however, finds the common denominator between the victims: a state fair in Springfield. The two of them drive down there to check it out.
They wait until night falls, talking while eating hot dogs and funnel cake, noting that someone is tailing them, before Harry finally senses magic being used. He follows the trail to the midway, where they again note the man who had been following them. They chase after him. He escapes into a ride called the Tunnel of Terror. Murphy goes to the back of the ride through a personnel entrance, while Harry watches the front. The man doesn't appear. They decide to enter together, slipping some money to the carnie, as splitting up would make both of them more vulnerable to mental compulsion.
As they search the ride, they start acting a little giddy and unusual, though neither of them realize it. Harry puts his arm around Murphy. They discuss possibly having a relationship. They kiss. They plan to have dinner after they finish finding the culprit. Harry starts to think, after awhile, that maybe something is wrong. "It just isn't fucked-up enough to really be you and me."
They complete the circuit, and realize that the carnie is working for whoever is doing the spells. They question him, rather unpolitely. They find a ladder near the entrance that leads down to a secret room. They find the guy who they were looking for. They also find his boss, who happens to be a Baroness of the Red Court. She is attempting to create true love in people, so that she can both weaken her competitors in the White Court and have a higher population to feed upon.
The Baroness taunts Harry with what the Red Court will do to him if he's captured, provoking Murphy, who is still in a kind of love-struck stupor from the spell, to attack. She shoots the Baroness dead. Harry reasons that the vampiress couldn't have been working the spell, however, because she wasn't a practitioner. Neither was her thrall. Harry says that it was a difficult, complicated spell that only three people in the Council could do, and that it must have been a focus item. Murphy mentions the FBI wolf belts of Fool Moon. Harry makes the connection between the wolf belts and the seatbelts of the ride. He's correct. He burns the belts, which ends the spell. The two ride off into the metaphorical sunset.
- Harry Dresden
- Karrin Murphy
- Anastasia Luccio
- Greg and Cindy Bardalacki
- Stu the Carnie
- Baroness LeBlanc