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Track of a Cat
        By "Ro"

Part One

The woman paused in her tracks, dropping lightly to the ground, crouching silently. Her odd amber cat's eyes stayed fixed on the group of people picnicking on the grounds.

*Damn....... dis ain' gon' be as easy as I hoped.* A smile crossed her face. *Good. I been needin a challenge.*

She moved silently throughout the growth in the trees, keeping herself in shadow; disabling the sensors she had marked earlier as she went; rewiring them to simply ignore her presence.

Then, finding a secluded spot high up in a tree, she settled in to wait an hour or two till nightfall. Which left her mind free to wander in her memories.

(Why ya t'ink I be de one ta go, mon ami? LeBeau ain' gon' be so t'rilled ta see me, hehn?

"Because he will remember you, neh? You know dis is important, petite..... you must not fail de Guild."

She lowered her head. The Thieves' Guild had been her home since she was a girl; it was the one thing the Councilman could have said to ensure her obedience. "Den I will go, Councilman," she whispered almost too softly to hear. "As you knew when you said it. I will leave tonight."

"You will leave now. It is all arranged; Henri will drive you to de airport. And petite? "

She looked up at him, eyes wide.

"You know de penalty for failure, neh? You must bring LeBeau back here."

She was trembling inside, but did not show it to this man. She did not like him, but she knew her duty to the Guild. "Oui. I know de penalty. I will not fail de Guild.")

She came out of her reverie with a start. It was almost dark; she must have been sleeping. *Not a good t'ing to do on a job, hehn?* Slowly climbing down from her perch, unaware that her progress was now being watched.

She moved silently across the enclosure, pausing only to assure herself she was alone. Her catlike grace was not wasted on her observer, though he kept his mind on business.

*Just makes ya a treat ta watch, instead of a chore, darlin'.* Slowly he moved after her.

Suddenly she spun, eyes searching the shadows. Finding nothing, but still uneasy, she began to move swiftly toward the French doors she had been shown on the plans of the mansion.

The watcher stepped back a pace, not wanting to be seen. *Better ta catch you in the act, darlin'. Can't have ya sayin' ya weren't doing anything wrong.* He continued to watch her, taking in every detail. *Can't find your scent, though.* Puzzled. *Must have a real good masker, ta fool my senses.*

She dropped to her knees in front of the doors, her black clothes making her almost invisible against the night. Her observer, however, had no trouble making out her outline. *No secret why you're here, eh? Burglar. Might get more than ya bargained for, though.*

She fumbled with the lockpick, her senses screaming that there was someone watching. She still couldn't see anyone, but she was used to listening to her instincts. They'd come in too handy on jobs before to stop listening now. Cursing at her clumsiness, she bent to retrieve the dropped tool, then stood, whirled, and lashed out with her foot, catching her attacker in the stomach. "Can't sneak up on a cat, mon ami," she mumbled as she turned to flee.

His hand clamped around her ankle before she'd taken two steps, and she crashed to the ground. *Merde, he's quick! Got t' get loose, get away. Can get t' LeBeau later, after the commotion settles.*

A swift kick, and she connected with his face. She heard his grunt of pain, and his grip on her ankle slackened. She scrambled out of his reach and began to run. *If I can make de fence, I'm home free.*

"Shouldn't play so rough, darlin'," a voice sounded right behind her. A heavy blow between the shoulder blades knocked her sprawling, stunned. Then she felt his weight on her back, holding her down. *Please, don' make me use my powers on you, mon ami. I don' want dat on my conscience.*

"Please, let me go," she gasped, putting a little extra fear in her voice. She was careful to stick to her story. "It was only a game, hehn? A dare?"

She felt him stiffen when he heard her accent. "Sorry, Darlin', can't let you go. Others wouldn't like it." He hauled her to her feet and began to walk toward the house, his grip on her arm tight, but not painful. She frantically tried to think of some way to get free, but her mind refused to give her any options but one, and she refused it completely. Then she saw his face, and froze for just a fraction of a second.

*Mon Dieu, non! I must not let him see I have recognized him. Merde, but I'm glad I have the masker now.* She forced herself to move forward at his direction. *How did LeBeau hook up wit' dese people?*

He pulled her steadily back toward the house, and in through the very French doors she had tried to open. "Should've checked before you slipped yer pick out, darlin'," he said softly. "Those doors are never locked. 'Cept when we're away."

Her heart sank when she realized he was taking her to a well lit study. *Non, please...... I know who is in dat room, an I can't hide from her. Have to use my powers. Have to!* "Mon ami, you won't take me in dere, hehn? Please? Was a dare, just a dare," she spoke softly, to make him look at her closely. And when his eyes met hers she had him.

He howled in anguish as her gaze bore into him..... She unleashed the full fury of her empathy on him and it took him in, claimed him....... made him feel the emotional pain he had lived with so long multiplied almost beyond tolerance. She broke and ran, knowing others would come, knowing she had to get away quickly. Almost tempted to stay and take the consequences, because she had failed her Guild. And the penalty on her return would be her death.

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