Where She’ll Never Be Found – I

It took Zebra a week to notice Katters was missing.

Well, no. He noticed immediately, or near enough. It was odd, that she didn’t come home that first night, that her bed remained empty clear through to the following morning. Odd that she skipped work the next day, and the day after, and the day after. Odd that she didn’t take her turns in the basement.

But it didn’t sink in that she was gone gone, not until a week had passed.

It took another week for him to decide to do anything about it.

The animals had noticed before he did. Spike followed him everywhere, those weeks, keeping at his heels and tripping him up like a one-dog obstacle course. Deferring to Zebra’s apathy, despite his clear, tail-tucked and head-lowered worry.

Brutus, meanwhile, deferred to nothing. He wandered a loop through the house, taking the search into his own claws. Stopping only to stare Zebra down, like he was judging him for his inaction. The dinosaur had never warmed to Zebra, and without his actual owner around, it wasn’t long before he decided to leave, too.

Brutus could take care of himself, Zebra knew. He was not sure he could say the same of Katters.

So, a week later, when he had gotten tired of running the shops alone, and then bored of letting them stay closed, he decided to start with searching the house. Maybe Katters was stuck in a cupboard and too dull to call for help. Maybe she’d trapped herself behind the fridge and starved to death.

Spike joined him, his tail wagging a slow, nervous — but hopeful — arc. He flopped onto his side whenever Zebra stopped for more than a minute, looking up at him with big, wet eyes. Sighing just often enough to get across how depressed he was.

He was very depressed.

Zebra wandered from room to room in an aimless way, one eye on his email app and the other glancing over the contents of their closet and cabinets. They did not live in a large house, and he soon ran out of places to look — except for the chute, but checking that was hard and he didn’t feel like it.

Having confirmed that Katters was, indeed, gone, Zebra sat on the couch and thought over what he should do with that information. Continuing to follow the status quo without her was not an appealing notion. It was a lot of work for two people, let alone one, and it wasn’t work Zebra was particularly keen on in the first place. He only stayed here because ‘here’ was where Katters was, and if Katters wasn’t, well.

He could leave. That did have appeal. Pack up the few things he cared about and move out of the country, or across the globe. Start over somewhere else. Somewhere new.

That sounded nice. Like something to aspire to. But it also sounded very final, so Zebra shuffled it off to the back of his mind and thought about things to do in the meantime. Like find Katters.

Spike rested his head on Zebra’s thigh and whined.

That didn’t appeal any more than holding the fort without her, to be honest. That would probably be a lot of work, and there was a good chance there wouldn’t be any reward for him at the end. There were a lot of scenarios he could think of which ended with ‘Katters is gone for good’, such as ‘Katters is dead’, or ‘Katters wanted to leave and won’t come back’, or ‘Katters is grievously injured and no longer useful to me’. There were also a number of scenarios which ended with ‘Zebra is dead’ or ‘Zebra is grievously injured’, and he especially didn’t like the sound of those.

Still, getting Katters back and resuming their status quo of murder, trauma, and more murder — that was a pretty reward indeed. Zebra decided it was worth shooting for, at least for now.

So. Look for Katters and, when the going got tough, high-tail it out of town. It wasn’t even a skeleton, yet, more of a mission statement than a plan. But it was something to build on.

He stood, pushing Spike back, and headed for the bedroom. The best-case scenario was that Katters had left of her own volition. If that were the case, she may have told someone about her plans, and if she told anyone about her plans, that anyone would be Sor.

Zebra grabbed his coat from the closet and summoned a rideshare from his phone. He had a sorceress to meet.


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