"So, what are we going to do with this stuff? We can't just leave it here to gather dust." Jane poked a toe at the pile of Natpack luggage that had been sitting in a corner of one of the back rooms since Cynthia had signed for it.
Cynthia shrugged. "Don't know. I expected one or more Natpackers to turn up demanding it a few days ago. Any suggestions?"
"We could see if there's anything in it worth keeping." Jane eyed the suitcases doubtfully.
"It is Natpack clothing, remember," Cynthia reminded. "Still it doesn't hurt to look. We might be pleasantly surprised.
The two Ravens dragged the luggage out into the centre of the room, and spread them into a circle. Settling themselves in the middle, they opened each of the cases and flung the tops back so they could access the contents easily. They rummaged silently through the first case, occasionally holding up an article of clothing for scrutiny. Each piece was met with a wrinkled nose and dropped into the top of the case.
"Have you two seen my book bag? I just finished this and need to get on to the next book on my list." Catherine waved a copy of The Satanic Verses at Cynthia and Jane (she was taking a little break from the Victorians to work on her censored book minor orals field). At that exact moment, Jane lifted a very floral dress with a lace collar out of the case. Catherine pointed the book at the dress, and gasped with fright. "Quelle horreur, as the Boss would say. What is it? Is it more gifts from Jane's ex-in-laws?"
"A dress...from the Natpack luggage." An evil gleam sparked in Jane's eyes. She knew exactly how to get some help with sorting through the clothing -- even better, the help would come from someone who knew what she was talkng about. "Do you think I should keep it? My closet has seemed awfully empty since you and I cleaned out the stuff I got from my ex-inlaws."
"No!" Catherine tossed her book to one side and tore the dress out of Jane's hands. She jumped over the luggage and plumped herself down in between the other two Ravens. She pulled one of the cases closer, and sighed heavily. "Letting the two of you sort through clothing for usable pieces is like allowing a colour blind person to pick out a decorating scheme for your living room. Why don't you let a professional do the job properly?"
The question was obviously rhetorical. Catherine dove into the task with enthusiasm. The pile of unacceptable garb grew ever larger. A few business suits were reluctantly returned whence they came.
"I have never seen so many pairs of scrubs in my life. In fact, I don't think that New York Hospital has seen so many pairs of scrubs in its existence as an institution." Catherine broke into the tune of "Little Boxes" for a moment, "There are green ones, there are pink ones, there are blue ones, there are yellow ones, and they're all made out of cotton-poly, and they all look just the same."
"Cotton-poly?" Cynthia reached out and gingerly felt the fabric. "How can they stand this stuff next to their skin?"
"Probably used to it by now," Jane commented.
Cynthia added a few more scrub sets to the pile. "Well, I may not know a lot about fashion, but I do know about fabrics. Give me natural stuff like cotton and silk any day."
Jane sifted through the pockets of the cases, retrieving a veritable pharmacopoeia of inhalers, bottles and vials. "We could open our own drugstore with this stock. I hope they've been able to get replacements for it all. Still, prescription drugs are nothing to fool with. We better get this stuff back to them."
"Is this a Laura Ashley convention?" Catherine threw yet another lace-collared, floral print dress on the pile. "Really, darling. The occasional floral I can live with, but I feel like I'm trapped in a wallpaper shop."
Cynthia started picking clothes out of the remaining cases and handing them over to Catherine. She and Jane stayed quiet and listened to Catherine's muttered running commentary as she finished emptying the luggage.
"Of course, every girl should have a good strand of pearls, but . . . it looks like the Natpack is responsible for wiping out entire ocean floors." Catherine replaced the pearls in the jewellery case and pulled out the next object. "Stethoscopes as fashion accessory. Well, it's an interesting concept."
"Is there anything in these suitcases that doesn't have 'nice girl' written all over it?" She flung a heap of polyester camisoles with tiny lace flowers and bows over her shoulder, then squawked in surprise. "I don't believe it. Does anybody else find a t-shirt that says 'Coroners do it Better' just a tad unnerving?"
"Darling, these shoes are just not . . . quite . . . " Catherine broke off in appalled silence, dangling a pair of white, high-heeled strappy sandals from one perfectly manicured finger. "I'm beginning to sense a weird conspiracy going on here. I think these are the people who dressed Janette when she was mortal."
The three Ravens sat in the middle of several mostly empty suitcases, contemplating the piles of discarded outfits.
"Now what? We can't send the luggage back empty," Jane said.
Cynthia stood up and dusted off her hands. "I know exactly what to use to fill them. "Be back soon."
Catherine turned to Jane. "You know, every single one of them has a picture of Walter Skinner in a heart-shaped frame tucked somewhere in their luggage. Do we want to know about their personal lives?"
"Probably not." Jane smiled. "There's some garbage bags in the corner. Why don't we put the rest of this stuff in the bags while we wait for Cynthia?"
A few minutes later, Cynthia returned with her arms full of dolls dressed in elaborately sewn period clothing. "These should do the trick. There's one for each Natpacker." She began to lay them carefully in the cases, occasionally holding one up for Jane and Catherine's appreciation. "This is Lucretia Borgia. She's for Sharon on account of her preoccupation with nailing Nick."
"They're perfect. Where did you get them?" Jane grinned.
"Back home. I had a friend of mine put them together. What about Marie Curie? Who do you think should get this one?"
"I don't really think there's anyone..." Catherine took the doll from Cynthia.
Cynthia picked up the next one. "You're right. That one doesn't really fit does it. Why don't we donate it with the bags of clothing."
"Who's that one for?" Jane asked curiously, eying a doll with a high-piled white wig.
"Marie Antoinette? She's for Jill. She seemed an appropriate choice because of all the head lopping Jill deals with when writing Highlander fanfic. And Sarah Bernhardt is for Valerie, of course." Cynthia finished packing the rest of the dolls, and they closed up the cases.
A short while later, the suitcases were being taken to Natpack headquarters by Chris and MJ.
At the same time, Cynthia and Jane bundled up the garbage bags and delivered them to a women's shelter a few blocks away that Jane knew of through work. The clothing was accepted eagerly and with effusive thanks by the women at the shelter, most of whom had had to leave their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs in order to escape from their abusive partners.
And Catherine returned to her studies.