Ocelot arrived home still unable to get the evening's events out of his mind. He pulled the truck into the garage, locked it carefully, and entered the house through the garage door, moving through the darkened room with the certainty of a blind man in familiar surroundings. His thoughts wouldn't stand still; they flitted madly from jealousy to paranoia to shame for feeling jealousy and paranoia to just plain fatigue. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do right now, but sleep damned sure wasn't it.

The last thing he had thought he was going to do tonight was go to a party and find out that his girlfriend (that word sounded so strange in connection to him) was not only there, but apparently had hooked up with a well-connected young guy with sim-star looks, and the two of them were starting up a fixer business. All of this was so unlike what Ocelot had known from his previous time with Kestrel that he couldn't force it to make sense. Okay, so she said she wasn't sleeping with him. He believed that. He had to work at it a little, but he trusted her enough that when she told him something, he believed it. If she didn't want him to know something, she let him know that. It was one of the things he liked about her: she was straightforward. No games.

But that was the old Kestrel, his paranoid side reminded himself. Except for the last couple of days, it had been two years since he'd seen her. A whole lot of things could have changed in that time. In the intense lifestyles usually lived by shadowrunners, two years could be an eternity. Kestrel had struck him, previously, as being a very street-smart, savvy, and levelheaded person—the kind of person who couldn't be fooled by scams or lines. But somehow she had left her team, the people she told him were like her family (or maybe they had left her?) and hooked up with this guy with no past. Ocelot tried to figure out what might cause her to do something like that, but couldn't do it. He just didn't have enough data. If Gabriel was a front for some corp's dirty little plan, as Ocelot was convinced he was, then could he be dangerous to Kestrel? Could she have gotten herself into something over her head, and just couldn't see it?

Ocelot sighed. There were some possibilities, and he didn't like most of them. One was that everything was on the level: she had, as she'd said, met Gabriel on a run and they had become friends. Another was that he had something on her; a secret, some kind of blackmail, or some other reason that she would go along with him. A third was that he or someone connected with him was controlling her mind, either through drugs or magic. But those last two just didn't make sense. She had made a point to bring him over and introduce him to Ocelot and the rest of the team. Maybe she didn't know `Hawk, `Wraith, Joe, and Harry, but Gabriel undoubtedly knew of them if he had that kind of data, and he must have known that between them, there wasn't much they missed. Ocelot had been watching closely, and he hadn't even seen a hint of a misstep. Kestrel acted around Gabriel as if he was exactly what she claimed he was: a dear friend. A dear platonic friend.

Ah, screw it, he thought disgustedly. Enough about this. I'll talk to Kestrel tomorrow and see if I can get her to tell me anything else. And if she wouldn't, he reminded himself, the whole thing really wasn't any of his concern. Just because the guy was her business partner didn't mean that Ocelot had to worry about him. As long as Kestrel's behavior didn't change, he figured that just letting it go and keeping his eyes open was the smartest thing right now.

He pulled off his coat, jacket, and tie, tossing all of them mechanically toward the large troll chair without even looking in that direction, continuing through the room toward the bathroom.

There was a small flump sound as the clothes hit the floor.

Ocelot stiffened, turning. Sure enough, the coat and jacket lay in an untidy little heap on the floor, the tie on top. The huge chair was off two meters to the left. He stared. I don't remember moving that chair...

He shook his head quickly, his muscles still taut. The chair weighed more than a hundred kilos; it wasn't the sort of thing you just shoved around because you didn't like where you'd put it.

Unless you're a big troll, he thought, relaxing. He'd forgotten that Joe had been here recently. Maybe he'd moved it. With the kind of strength Joe possessed, he might have done it without even a second thought. Okay, mystery solved. He picked up his clothes and tossed them over the chair.

You're all keyed up about nothing, he admonished himself. You're jumping at shadows. Determining that he was far too wound up to sleep right now, he decided to run through a few katas in his workout room to relax him. He quickly changed out of the rest of the suit, glad to be back in the snug-fitting, easy-to-move-in clothes that he normally wore. He couldn't understand why anybody would want to spend all their time trussed up in a suit and tie; he could never figure out how Winterhawk put up with it.

Heading toward his workout room, his bare feet making no sound on the floor, Ocelot glanced idly around at the collection of hand weapons, both common and exotic, that passed for decorations in his multi-purpose living area. Of course, they weren't really decorations; Ocelot wasn't an interior-decorating kind of guy. Every one of the weapons was fully functional and ready to be pulled off the wall and used should the need arise. The ones he liked to use for his workouts, he kept close to the door to the exercise room. Others, depending on their function, hung near the front door, on the wall by the door to the garage, or near his bed. All in all, there were more than twenty different weapons hung in various places around the room.

As he approached the door to the workout room, he reached out automatically for the bo stick that he kept nearby.

His hand fell on the hilt of a machete instead.

Ocelot stopped, yanking the machete from its place and gripping it tightly. His blood was running cold again. Slowly, his head came up and his gaze tracked around the room.

Every one of his weapons was in a different place from where he had put it.

The dau (Chinese scimitar) and nunchaku that normally hung on the wall next to the exercise room were gone, replaced by the ninja sword and yari spear whose regular places were close to the front door. The cat-head sword cane from next to his bed now resided by the garage door, while the gladius, his collection of shuriken, and several throwing axes were on the wall by the front door. Every other weapon in the room had been carefully moved and re-mounted in a different location.

Carefully, moving in utter silence, Ocelot re-crossed the room. His adrenaline was pumping now, every muscle ready to respond instantly to his command. Someone was in here, or had been. The thought of that set Ocelot's every nerve on edge. Still in the dark (it hadn't occurred to him to turn on the light, since the moonlight and the illumination from the streetlamps was plenty for him to see by with his low-light vision), he crept over to his locked weapons cabinet, a floor-to-ceiling affair that was bolted securely to the floor, opened both locks with practiced ease, and reached in for his Franchi-SPAS combat shotgun.


His hand smacked into a hard metal ammo box where the shotgun should have been.

Ocelot flung open the door of the weapon cabinet.

Everything was there. All of it was carefully arranged. None of it was where he had put it.

The whole thing was quite subtle. The Franchi-SPAS he had been reaching for was right next to the ammo box, moved from its usual location by only about a quarter of a meter. All his other guns were there as well, hung in the rack, but in different locations. The ammo box, which should have been on floor at the bottom, was on the shelf below the guns.

"Okay," Ocelot muttered to himself through his teeth. "This is getting too weird now..." He pulled out the shotgun, checked to see if it was loaded, and switched on the light.

Aside from the odd place-switching among some of his possessions, everything looked fine.

He spent the next half hour in a slow, methodical search of his entire house for intruders, signs of forced entry, or anything else that might indicate how the switching had been accomplished. He checked the front and garage doors for signs of tampering, looked carefully in every location where an intruder might be lurking (including the shower stall, the cabinets in the kitchen, and under the bed—although even he had to admit that he was going a bit overboard when he checked the in the refrigerator and the dishwasher), and looked both inside and outside for obvious footprints. He checked the windows for evidence of forced entry. He checked the camera he kept on the front door. He got down on his hands and knees and checked the floor around the troll-sized chair, looking for scrape marks. He put on his ultrasound sunglasses and scouted around for invisible beings. He even climbed up on the roof to see if any of the shingles had been disturbed. All the time he did his checking, he kept the Franchi-SPAS with him, loaded and ready. If there was anything to find, he was going to find it. If there was anyone to find, he was going to find them. And then he was going to beat the crap out of them for freaking him out like this.

He found absolutely nothing wrong.

There was no sign of forced entry, tampering, footprints, or anything else. Ocelot sighed, dropping back into a chair. It was as if the stuff inside had decided to move itself around, just for fun.

Move itself around—?


Of course. Ocelot nearly slapped himself in the forehead. It had to be magic. Hell, `Hawk could have done it, just by looking in through the windows and using his levitation and magic fingers spells. It wouldn't even have been hard for him. So another mage could have—

—but what about the gun safe? a little voice in his head spoke up. Mages can't affect what they can't see, right? That left the possibility that the mage (or an accomplice) had managed to get into the gun safe unnoticed, a possibility which seemed quite remote. The thing had two separate locks: a heavy-duty maglock on the outside, and a magnetic-key lock on the inside. Ocelot had both keys with him. Sure, a sufficiently determined thief could probably get through the locks, but then why just move things around? There was thousands of nuyen's worth of artillery in that safe, not to mention the weapons on the wall. If somebody was going to go to all the trouble to break in, why hadn't they taken anything?

That was the question that was making Ocelot more than a little nervous.

Suddenly, he didn't want to be here anymore. It wasn't likely that whoever had done this would be back, but Ocelot didn't want to take the chance. Anyone capable of this kind of thing was probably not somebody he wanted to tangle with on his own. Tomorrow he'd call one or more of the team and see if they could come up with anything. Maybe `Hawk could spot something astrally, or `Wraith might notice something the Ocelot had missed. For now, though, he had to get out.

Quickly changing from his workout outfit to street clothes and armored jacket, he gathered up the Franchi-SPAS, a couple of other smaller guns, his ninja sword and monowhip, and some spare ammo, and headed out to the garage. He'd take the Blitzen and hole up in the abandoned school building in the Barrens that the team had used for that purpose on numerous other occasions. Tomorrow, he'd start fresh when his mind wasn't clouded by confusion and anger.

Whoever had done this was going to be sorry. Even if somebody had done it as a joke, they were still going to be sorry. When it came to the security of his home, Ocelot had absolutely no sense of humor.

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