Ocelot didn't get much sleep that night.
He tried—several times in fact—but every time he fell into a light, troubled slumber, it was haunted by nightmares of Kestrel and blood and screaming for help. Finally he gave up on sleeping and spent the rest of the night in his chair in front of the trideo. In the morning, he didn't remember anything he had watched.
One by one throughout the day, his sources checked in to inform him reluctantly that they had found nothing. Harry still had all his available people working on locating Kestrel, but as nearly as they could determine, she had disappeared without a trace. Even the white van she had been driving was nowhere to be found. `Wraith and T. C. had come up with nothing on the Matrix. Joe had even gotten his friend at Lone Star involved, but still to no avail. No one matching her description had turned up at any of the area hospitals, jails, or morgues, nor had they attempted to leave town via the airport, train, ferry, or bus terminal.
Gabriel called at mid-day to let him know that he had not yet discovered anything either. He hadn't remained on the phone long; Ocelot could see that even the always-in-control, insufferably-self-assured young man was starting to get seriously worried, though he was trying hard not to show it. That fact, more than any other, disturbed Ocelot.
The rest of the day passed much as the early part had. Ocelot spent a couple hours re-checking some of Kestrel's haunts just to have something to do; he went by her house again and found nothing had changed from the last time. He checked her answering machine and found only his own message and one from Gabriel, both of them merely checking to see if she was home. Finally, at the end of his inspirations, he had returned home and started a long and grueling workout to get his mind off his growing fear that the longer this drew out, the greater the chance that Kestrel wasn't going to come back alive.
In the late afternoon, Winterhawk called. Ocelot was still in the middle of the workout; he swiped a towel across his forehead before answering.
"You didn't call me this morning," the mage said soberly. "I trust that means you've not yet had success?" He looked much better than he had the previous night.
Ocelot sighed, falling into a chair next to the phone. "Not a damned thing. It's like she's disappeared off the earth. Harry can't find anything, Gabriel can't find anything—" He tried to keep his voice steady, but didn't quite succeed.
"What are you doing right now?" Winterhawk broke in.
Ocelot looked at him funny. "I'm in the middle of a workout. Why?"
"Why don't you finish up and come over here. If anyone calls they can reach you here as easily as there, and it can't be doing you any good to sit over there alone and wait."
"`Hawk, I know what you're tryin' to do," he said, shaking his head, "but—"
"No buts, my friend," Winterhawk said briskly. "If you don't come over here, I'm coming over there. I'd really prefer that you come over here, though. Your chairs are bloody uncomfortable." His voice grew more serious, as did his expression. "Come on. Humor me."
Ocelot thought about it for a moment, realizing that `Hawk was right. It wasn't doing him any good sitting here by himself staring at his four walls. The information wasn't going to come any faster here than it would at `Hawk's place, and at least there he'd have somebody to talk to. "Okay, okay," he said at last. "I'll be over in a little bit."
"Good," the mage said, returning to his brisk tone.
It was a little over an hour before Ocelot arrived at Winterhawk's apartment. He had finished up his workout, grabbed a quick shower (with his wristphone on the sink right next to it, in case it rang), and resisted the urge to call Harry and Gabriel to find out if they had any new information. Of course they don't, he told himself bitterly. They'd call you if they did. Just back off and let them do their jobs.
Winterhawk met him at the door. "I called out for pizza," he said. "Didn't think you'd be wanting to go out to get anything." He was dressed in his casual hanging-around-the-house style: jeans and a baggy black fisherman's sweater over a white T-shirt.
Ocelot nodded wearily. "Thanks." He noticed that `Hawk had put all the furniture back where it belonged; there was no sign of the chalked lines and other components of the circle that had been there last night. "You look like you're feelin' better since last night."
"Quite so. I told you—it's just the strain of having to concentrate for so long. Takes a bit out of you. But it goes away quickly with a few hours' sleep." His expression sobered. "I just wish I'd been able to find something."
"You tried," Ocelot said, sighing. "Can't ask for more than that." He threw himself into a chair. "Gabriel said he's got mages on it too, and I'll bet so does Harry."
"Well, then," Winterhawk said, taking a seat opposite Ocelot, "it'll only be a matter of time before she turns up safe and well, won't it?"
"Come on, `Hawk," Ocelot said bitterly. "Remember who you're talkin' to? You ain't gonna fool me with all that optimistic crap. Sure I'm hopin' you're right. I'm hopin' that more than anything in the world. But you know as well as I do that if all those mages can't find her, then she's probably—" He looked down at his lap, unable to meet Winterhawk's eyes. "—dead."
"Don't do that," Winterhawk ordered, his electric blue gaze cold and determined. "We'll believe that she's alive until we find out otherwise. All right?"
Ocelot didn't look up. "Yeah."
The pizzas arrived, and the two runners spent the next half hour in companionable silence, eating and flipping through channels on the trideo. Ocelot didn't think he was hungry until he began eating, and then he realized that he hadn't had anything all day. Between them, with Ocelot leading the way, they polished off one large pizza and half of another.
When he'd finally had enough, Ocelot leaned disconsolately back on the sofa, beer glass in hand. "Do you really think we're gonna find her, `Hawk?"
"I do," the mage said, gathering up the boxes to carry them to the kitchen. "It doesn't make any sense that she's—not alive."
Ocelot looked up at him questioningly. "Okay, tell me what you mean by that. I could sure use something to believe right now."
Winterhawk returned to the living room and sat back down in his chair. "It's simple," he said, injecting every bit of persuasion that he could muster into his voice. "If it was something random, such as a carjacking or robbery or that sort of thing, she's more than capable of taking care of herself, correct?"
"Sure," Ocelot said. "She'd rip `em to shreds if they tried to mess with her."
"So by that, we can probably assume that this isn't a random incident, right?"
"Probably...so what's that mean?"
"What it means," Winterhawk continued, hoping that he sounded more convincing than he felt, "is that her disappearance was deliberate. If I were inclined to make a bet on who's behind it, I'd bet on it being the same person or persons that are behind the bizarre happenings of late."
"Well, sure," Ocelot said. That much was obvious. "But how does that lead to her bein' still alive?"
"So far," Winterhawk pointed out, "except for the little unpleasantness with Jenner and Magnum, none of the things that have happened to us have been dangerous. It's almost as if someone is having sport with us, or trying to drive us insane."
"They're doin' a pretty damn good job of it," Ocelot growled. "And they sure as hell have been dangerous for other people. Look at Blake. Look at Mortenson and Hoenberg. And Jenner and Magnum."
"Yes," the mage agreed, warming to his theory, "but look at them. We've got Blake explained already: Nuance killed him with a ritual. As for the others, they all died in specific ways. They didn't disappear and then turn up dead; they simply died. If this person or persons, whoever they are, wanted to kill any of us, including Kestrel, I've no doubt that they could accomplish it with a minimum of fuss and bother."
Ocelot shifted position, setting the beer glass down on the table."Yeah, but they could change their tactics, couldn't they?"
"Of course they could. But I wonder if they will. Perhaps they want Kestrel for some purpose. Perhaps they plan to use her as a bargaining chip against you—or against Gabriel, possibly."
"So then why haven't they contacted us?" Ocelot demanded. "It's been almost two days."
"That I don't know," Winterhawk admitted. "I didn't say I had the answer; it's just a theory."
"You're just tryin' to get my mind off this." Ocelot pushed himself up and stood, going over to the window to look out over the neighborhood. It was dark, but the streetlights and the lights on the buildings illuminated the area in a cheery glow. "Nice try, `Hawk, but it ain't gonna work." He grasped the window-frame on either side, tightening his grip until his arms shook. "Damn it, I want to do something!" he exclaimed. "She's out there somewhere—she needs help, and I'm just sittin' here on my ass!"
Winterhawk sighed, remaining where he was. "I won't tell you we're doing all we can. You know that. There isn't anything else we can do but wait. You can run out there and search for her on your own, but I think all you're going to do is tire yourself out and run into brick walls." He paused, then spoke very quietly. "If that's what you want to do, I'll help you. After what you've done for me in the past, I wouldn't do anything else. But ask yourself: will it help?"
Slowly, Ocelot released his grip on the window and turned back around to face Winterhawk. His grief and frustration was clearly visible on his face. "This is—the first time I've ever felt like this about anybody, `Hawk. I never let it happen before. But with Kestrel it's different." Slumping against the wall, head bowed, his voice dropped to a near-whisper. "I don't want to lose her now that I've found her. I don't know if I could take that."
"I know, Terry," Winterhawk said softly. "As you pointed out to me, remember who you're talking to here."
Ocelot nodded morosely. "Yeah. Where's all my speeches about livin' with what life throws at you now? Wouldn't blame you if you threw `em back at me."
"I wouldn't do that." Winterhawk spoke in the same calm tone. "I've never felt that way, and I'm not about to start now. I'm still confident that we're going to find her." He paused. "I can see what you're doing. I don't know whether you should be doing it, but I won't presume to pass judgment."
"What?" Ocelot's eyes came up to meet the mage's.
"You're preparing yourself. I can see it. Perhaps you have to do it, but I wouldn't do it yet."
"Nobody can find her, Al," Ocelot said desolately. "I gotta start acceptin' that maybe that means she's not alive to find." He pushed himself off the wall, took a deep breath. "Listen—I gotta go. I need to get out and just move around, if nothing else. Maybe I'll go over to the Wharf Rat and see if I can start a bar fight or something." He picked up his coat and began putting it on. "I appreciate what you're tryin' to do. Thanks for bein' here to talk to. But I can't stay cooped up right now, you understand?"
Winterhawk nodded sadly. "Yes, my friend. I understand. Don't get yourself killed over there—Kestrel will be quite unhappy when she comes back if you do that."
"I'll try," Ocelot said, and started for the door. "No promises, though."
There was a knock.
Winterhawk's gaze came quickly up. "Wonder who that could be..." he mused, and then went astral for a second to look. When he came back, he looked confused. "No one there, or anywhere nearby."
Ocelot was already running for the door, crossing the big room in three quick steps. He flung it open, sweeping his eyes back and forth.
The hallway was empty.
Then he looked down.
"What is it?" Winterhawk asked, coming over.
Ocelot snatched up the two items that lay on the mat in front of Winterhawk's door and stared down at them as the mage drew up behind him. He held a set of keys with a Westwind fob, and a second key attached to a generic orange plastic tag. Picking up the Westwind keys in his other hand, Ocelot squeezed them tightly. "These are Kestrel's," he said through his teeth.
Winterhawk plucked the other key from Ocelot's open hand and examined it. "Knight's Rest Motel," he said. "It's a room key. Number 111."