The four Knighties came blowing into the loft yelling something about 'stupid snake,' 'just a garter' and 'fourteen hundred scrunchies' at the top of their lungs. Cath watched with amusement until Perri veered over and grabbed her arm. They retreated to the kitchen.
"So," Cath asked calmly, "how'd it go?"
Perri looked disgusted. "Up until the snake appeared, it was pretty damn frustrating. After that, it was just nuts."
"One of the little snakes from last war -- guess the NatPack missed one. I don't mind guard dogs, but I hate it when they slither."
"Could have been worse. Could have been one of the frogs and you could have had Scottie along. You did clean up before you shrieked and ran, didn't you?"
"We didn't shriek -- much -- and of course we cleaned up. We're only slobs in our own space. The hell of it is, the only things we found were because of what we couldn't find."
Cath thought about it, then replied brilliantly, "Huh?"
"All of Natalie's stuff was there, right down to the most amazing junk drawer I've ever seen. But nothing that had anything to do with Nick."
"Nada. Niente. Rien. Bupkis, even." Perri looked even more disgusted. "And considering Nat basically had no life except Nick for the last five, six-odd years, that is too strange to be believed."
"Yeah." Cath's forehead furrowed. "No luck on the notebook then?"
"Nope. We couldn't even find her 'lab rat' books on him. The cards he gave her were gone, there was just nothing there, like he'd never even been in his life. I'd think she was a hallucination except that we found a matchbook from The Raven."
"But nothing else? That means someone tossed it before we got there."
"Yup. And months ago, judging from the dust levels. But the suspect list is damn near endless."
"Natalie herself, the Enforcers, LaCroix, the NatPack -- hell, almost any faction. And whoever did it could have the book."
Perri slumped against the counter. "Yeah. My money's on Natalie or the 'Pack, by the way. The search was really, really neat -- the Enforcers or LaCroix would probably have left it messy, to throw suspicion on her disappearance to mortal foul play."
"You think sneaky."
"Paranoia will do that to you. I'm calling the 'Pack. Either they did it or they need to know someone did it."
"Do you think they'd tell you if they did?"
"Would you believe them if they said they didn't?"
"After last war? Hell, no."
"Just wanted to make sure," Cath grinned. "Before you go running off to raise caine, do you want to hear what Scottie found at the morgue?"
"Was it nothing?"
"Then no, I don't want to hear."
"This is ridiculous!"
"Problem?" A few Knighties wandered over.
Perri slammed the phone down and glared at it. "I almost wish we hadn't gotten this damn thing back, it's not doing any good. Not a single NatPacker is answering, at home or at work."
"Try e-mail," Marg suggested.
Perri blinked, then grinned in spite of herself. "You know, that's such a simple plan that the American mind tends to discount it."
Amy D tried to hit her. "Stop doing Ray Vecchio impersonations and get on your computer."
DATE: July 29, 1996 12:56 p.m. EST******
SUBJECT: Where the %&$#* Are You?
I need you to contact me. We're in the middle of a war, apparently, and I need some information concerning Natalie. I may also have some information you might find interesting. I'm at Nick's loft with the others -- you know the number.
"Nice and cryptic," Cath approved.
"Thanks. You do better with the NatPack when they're curious."
"Okay...now, time for the Cousins."