Sonic the Hedgehog
Evil in the Shadows
By Lucky_Ladybug


Nack the Weasel darted through the night, heading for the old warehouse at the San Francisco docks. Earlier that day, some critter had brought a message to him that Fat Sam, a gangster, wanted to meet with him. Nack had accepted, though wary of the whole thing. Fat Sam *never* hired bounty hunters.

Stun gun in hand, Nack opened the door of the warehouse and blinked at the total darkness inside.

"Ahh, so glad you could make it, Fang." A raspy voice wafted up from somewhere in the blackness.

Suddenly a bright lamp was turned on. The guy at the dilapidated table, whom Nack identified as Fat Sam, shined the lamp right in the weasel's deep blue eyes.

Nack growled inwardly, but moved away from the glare as nonchalantly as he could. "The name's Nack," he responded.

"Of course," Fat Sam said, not really paying attention (or else not caring). "Now, then, Fang, I suppose you're wondering why I sent for you. It is a known fact that I do not enlist the assistance of bounty hunters. I despise them."

Nack nodded. "Lots of people do," he said, not loosening his grip on his stun gun.

"The thing is, I have been having a little problem, one that my cotton-headed henchmen haven't been able to fix." Fat Sam pulled a picture out of a drawer and handed it to Nack. "Do you recognize this woman?"

Nack stared at the photo of a black-and-white weasel with flowing, curly black hair spilling over her shoulders. Her deep emerald eyes stared at the camera, a darkness in them, and in her mischievous smile. Black lipstick covered her full lips, and dark blue, nearly black eyeshadow adorned her eyelids. She was attired in swirling scarves not unlike that of a fortune teller's, and hoop earrings hung from her long, pointed ears. Nack was about to say that he absolutely had never seen this woman before, but then he saw the fang protruding from her mouth, hanging out over her bottom lip. Nack had that same fang. "Who is this?" he demanded.

"My problem," Fat Sam replied. "Her name is Lucretia."

Nack gave him a skeptical look. "Lucretia?" he repeated.

"Yes. I'm sure you've heard of the Borgias," Fat Sam said. "This Lucretia was named after that infamous member of the family."

"What's any of this got to do with me?" Nack asked. "She doesn't look that hard to catch."

"Ahh, but that's where you're wrong, my friend." Fat Sam took the picture back. "Lucretia the Weasel is an evil sorceress."

There was a long pause, then Nack burst out laughing. "A sorceress! Oh man, who're you kidding?"

"She turned two of my henchmen into rabbits, two more into turtles, and two more into snails," Fat Sam announced.

Nack folded his arms. "Oh yeah? Well, guess what. I ain't stupid enough to go chasing after some sorceress. This is probably just some plot of yours to get rid of one of this world's bounty hunters."

"I could've called in anyone, but I chose you," Fat Sam said smoothly. "And not just because you're the best—I believe Lucretia is your aunt."

Nack frowned. "I have an aunt who's an evil sorceress?"

"On your father's side, I believe." Fat Sam held out the picture again. "His family was the one with the long fangs."

Nack's expression darkened. "We're not here to talk about my father."

"Ahh, I see I've struck a nerve." Fat Sam smiled.

Nack was liking this guy less and less. "What exactly is it you want?" he asked, trying to stay calm. "What's this sorceress done to you?"

"She is casting spells that disrupt my . . . operations," Fat Sam said carefully.

Nack had to laugh. "What's so evil about that? We both know your 'operations' aren't exactly on the up and up!"

"There's more to it. She's trying to invent a potion that will make everyone obey her every command." Fat Sam's smile pulled tight. "She came into my life and pretended to be in love with me. She was really after my emeralds, which she says are an integral ingredient in her potion. What I want you to do is track her down at her secret lair and destroy her powers."

Nack shook his head. This was definitely the strangest case he had ever been asked to take on! "And what's in this for me?" he demanded.

Fat Sam opened another drawer and pulled out a box. "You see these?" He lifted the lid, revealing assorted sapphires, rubies, and garnets. "They will be yours . . . just deplete Lucretia's evil powers."

Nack picked up a garnet and examined it. Satisfied that it was real, he set it back. "And what makes you think I can figure out how to destroy her powers? I could get turned into a turtle or a snail too, you know."

"Yes, I know. But you won't." Fat Sam closed the box. "You may get knocked unconscious quite frequently, but you have brains . . . unlike my unfortunate cronies. You will find a way." He clasped his hands. "So, do we have a deal?"

Nack removed his hat and scratched his head. "I don't know . . ." he said slowly. He paused, thinking about all he'd been told. He grinned mischievously. "I *might* do it."

Fat Sam took that as a definite yes. "Just keep me posted from time to time," he said. "Take this picture of Lucretia and this packet of information." He shoved a manilla envelope at the weasel. "I hope to hear from you soon, Fang."

Before Nack could reply, he suddenly found himself outside the warehouse. "Now how did that happen?" he muttered. He banged on the warehouse door, yelling for Fat Sam to come out, but nothing happened. Grumbling to himself, Nack went around to the side and looked in through the window. Everything was dark once again.

"There's more going on here than meets the eye," Nack announced to a stack of crates. "I don't know if I like any of this."
****
Back at his hideout, Nack opened the information packet and pulled out a sheet of paper, which had a brief description of Lucretia and a brief summary of her life. Nack read the latter out loud.

"'Lucretia the Weasel was born in Salem, Massachusetts,'" he began, laughing. "Appropriate place," he commented. "'While her parents gambled away, she became involved in spells and sorcery,'" he continued. He read the rest to himself, which told of some of her various excursions into magic. While it was true that she had turned Fat Sam's henchmen into various creatures, she actually had not meant to turn them into what she had. She had actually wanted to simply freeze them in place, but had always cast the wrong spell. She was much more adept at shape-shifting, he read, looking thoughtful.

"This whole case is ridiculous," he muttered aloud. "And it's no wonder she got involved with black magic, coming from . . . *that* family." His abusive father had been a father in name only, and the guy's family was just a bunch of people who were related. They had gone in a million directions, none of them straight. Most of them were in prisons across the country. Unfortunately, it was extremely hard to lock a sorceress in jail, and so Lucretia, one of the top larcenists in the country, kept getting out.

Nack wasn't exactly sure how to defeat someone such as Lucretia, but he had heard something about countering black magic with the opposite, white magic. Of course, though, he knew absolutely nothing about how to perform magic of any kind. He wasn't really concerned about that, though. He was confident that he could defeat Lucretia without the assistance of magic.

*If* he decided to take on the case. He was very reluctant to do so and become involved with his father's family.

At that minute, something suddenly shot in through the window and stuck in Nack's hat, pinning it to the wall.

"What the devil . . ."

Nack whirled around. He gasped, spotting an arrow sticking out of his hat. He pulled it out, muttering to himself.

"That could've killed me!" he burst out.

Examining the arrow, he found a piece of paper wrapped around it. Pulling it off, he read it slowly, getting more upset with each word.

"'Ooopsie! I missed, dear nephew. But you
can bet your hat that if you take
this case, I will try again, and again . . .
And I *will* succeed . . . someday.
Ciao!'"

Nack looked down at the arrow suspiciously. "Lucretia?" he whispered. He couldn't bring himself to address her as "Aunt." Had Lucretia engineered this . . . murder attempt? And on her own nephew? The note certainly seemed to indicate that. Of course, perhaps she hadn't meant to actually hit him, but just scare him. *This* time, anyway.

Nack crumpled the note, looking angry. "I'm not afraid of you, Lucretia," he said defiantly to the air. "And to prove it, I'm taking on the case!"
****
Nack wandered into the creepy club known as The Other Place Bar and Grill. He didn't like the place very much, but the head waitress always seemed to know something important about the whereabouts of whoever Nack was looking for, if they were in the area.

Suddenly two very feminine arms came around Nack. "Well, hello, big boy," a throaty voice purred.

Nack wiggled away. "Howdy, Melindy."

"What can I help you with today?" the waitress asked, stroking the soft, velvety fur on Nack's ear.

Nack endured this ticklish torture as long as he could, but finally said flatly, "Don't do that." He paused. "I'm looking for my cousin Rocky."

"Rocky been causing trouble again?" Melindy asked.

Nack sighed. "Not exactly." He didn't elaborate. He actually needed Rocky to tell him about Lucretia. Rocky's mother, Zorba, a real wild woman, had disappeared when Rocky was nine and he had fallen into the custody of an unknown aunt, whom Nack suspected possibly could have been this Lucretia. He didn't know how receptive Rocky would be to Nack's asking, but he was hoping his bad boy cousin wouldn't go berserk about it. Rocky definitely had it in for Nack . . . and just about everyone around him, except for the other Whipped Cream Avengers, though he often treated Andre roughly.

Melindy smiled, her forefinger tracing a pattern on Nack's cheek. "Rocky's henchman was in here a couple of days ago, collecting the empty whipped cream cans."

"Did he say where he was going?" Nack asked, feeling uncomfortable. Melindy always made him nervous.

"He mentioned something about the city and county building," Melindy returned.

Nack sighed. "Why does your boss let them come and take the whipped cream cans when they just go about using them to wreak havoc?" he demanded.

"He says it's because he honestly doesn't care, but . . ." Melindy lowered her voice and said mischievously, "he actually believes in their cause."

Nack groaned. He felt like saying, "What cause? Spraying whipped cream around when you don't agree with something or someone is a cause?" but decided not to waste his breath. Instead he tipped his hat and headed out the door. "Thank you, Melindy. You've been helpful," he said.

Melindy batted her eyes at him. "Anytime, sweets," she purred.

Nack shut the door and leaned against it, glad to be out of there, and away from the amorous Melindy.
****
As he approached the city and county building, Nack felt almost relief at seeing Andre DuBois writing out "Merry Christmas, suckers!" with his whipped cream bazooka. Though he wouldn't admit it to anyone, not even himself, he had a sense of dread when it came to dealing with Rocky or his right-hand man Rambo. Neither of them had any kind of conscience at all, and would injure (or maybe worse) without a second thought. Even though their usual weapon was just whipped cream, Rocky had always treated Nack with the utmost hostility, even beating him unconscious if he felt like it. Nack was quite a fighter himself, but he always found it hard to attack Rocky, who had grown up beating up on everyone around him and would have been a school bully if he had stayed in school. Andre, on the other hand, was quite tame, though he tried hard to be rough-and-tough. Andre was quite the klutz, and about the only thing he was good at fighting with was a faulty engine or muffler.

"Hey! You there!" Nack called.

Andre whirled around. "Nack?" he exclaimed, bolting away.

Nack tore after him, using his tail as a spring to suddenly appear in front of the startled Andre. "Hold up! I just want to talk!"

Andre, however, did not want to talk, instead preferring to dash into the city and county building's basement through an open window. Nack quickly followed.

When Nack's eyes adjusted to the darkness, he looked around for the runaway Andre, but couldn't see him anywhere. Cautiously, he crept along the floor, peering around the empty stacks of crates.

He was not expecting what came next—Andre's wrench suddenly pounded him over the head, sending him to the floor.
****
Andre had been hiding atop a stack of crates, where he hoped he was hidden from Rocky's cousin Nack. Rocky had never liked Nack for reasons unknown to Andre, and as for himself, he was rather scared of him. Andre had heard about Nack's adventures from various sources, and almost everyone said that Nack always got his man . . . eventually. And both times Andre had met up with the bounty hunter, he looked the same: his battered Stetson hat pulled low over his eyes so no one could see what he thinking, his gun at his side, his gloved hand ready to pull it out when needed. Nack was ambidextrous, Andre was sure, able to fire his gun aptly with either hand.

Andre had not meant to hit him with his wrench. That was a total accident, one that he couldn't even understand, since his wrench had been safely in his pocket. But now that it had happened, Andre was totally freaked. He leaped down off the crates and looked at Nack from a close distance, then gulped. He was so still . . . but it could be a trick. Andre backed away, then changed his mind. Cautiously he went over to the fallen bounty hunter and touched him lightly on the shoulder. When he didn't move, Andre went crazy.

"I must've killed him," he moaned, running his hands through his long black hair. "I didn't mean to, but I must have killed him!"

While Andre was carrying on, Nack, who was definitely not dead, or even unconscious—just dazed—started to laugh. "You know somethin' Andre? It's a good thing you ain't an undertaker, or I'd be six feet under by now!" He chuckled, slowly sitting up.

Andre backed up against the wall, sheer terror in his eyes, though he tried to sound tough when he spoke. "I'm not afraid of you," he declared.

"Oh really?" Nack grinned.

"And I didn't mean to hit you with my wrench."

Nack decided not to tell Andre that the wrench had only grazed him, but would probably leave a bump in the morning. "It better have been an accident," he hissed, advancing on the mechanic, "'cause if you did it deliberately, you will have to face my wrath!"

Andre cringed. "It was an accident," he rasped.

Nack relaxed. "Just tell me where I can find my cousin Rocky and I'll go away."

Andre waved his hands wildly, shaking his head. "No, no! Don't go after Rocky!" he pleaded.

"Relax. You're a bundle of nerves!" Nack declared, placing his hand on Andre's shoulder, only making him cringe all the more. Nack laughed. "I'm not going to hurt you, Andre. Or Rocky, either."

"He'll probably hurt you!" Andre managed to say. Although Andre looked up to Rocky and was proud to be a Whipped Cream Avenger, he never liked it when Rocky beat up on people.

"I just want to ask Rocky some questions." Nack spoke in a very soft, calming voice.

Andre shook his head vehemently. "No, no. It's not a good idea!"

"Come on, Andre. What's the worst that could happen?" Nack continued to talk slowly and calmly, trying to play mind tricks on the young Avenger to make him help. "Rocky won't get mad, and if he does, he will never know you told me."

"No," Andre repeated. He wasn't willing to risk Rocky's wrath. "I can't help you."

Nack nodded slowly. "Maybe you can help me in another way, then. Do you know who gained custody of Rocky after his mother Zorba disappeared when he was nine?"

Andre shook his head again. "Rocky doesn't talk about it." He mentally kicked himself for showing how timid and afraid he was. Somehow, he found it hard to be bold and menacing around Nack the Weasel.

Nack turned to go. "You know, Andre, I will find Rocky, with or without your help."

And before Andre quite knew what had happened, Nack was gone.

For a long time afterward, the long-haired mechanic just stayed in the corner of the basement, pondering this notorious, confusing character he'd met up with. The only other time he'd seen Nack up close was one time a while back when the bounty hunter had gotten into a fight with Rocky, and they had both played very rough. Andre himself had gotten unwittingly involved in that fight and wound up knocked unconscious, whether by Rocky or by Nack, he was never sure. He had woke up with Rocky slapping him across his face and calling him an idiot.

He had expected Nack to punch him out now, so he had been surprised by Nack's actual behavior, though for good or bad, he also wasn't sure.

He wasn't sure about a lot of things.
****
Nack looked at Andre's whipped cream message one last time on the city and county building and shook his head before sprinting off. The authorities would discover it soon enough, and Nack had to be on his way.

Andre was an odd character, Nack said to himself. He hadn't been sure whether Andre had actually hit him with the wrench deliberately or not, but he was willing to bet he hadn't, judging from his reaction.

Andre really wasn't a bad sort, that Nack already knew. He had a conscience, unlike Rocky or Rambo. Rocky was probably somewhat of a bad influence on the critter, but he hadn't seemed to make Andre any less caring about other living things . . . yet.

And, oh, speaking of Rocky . . .

Without warning, and out of nowhere, a leather-clad figure dropped out of a nearby tree, knocking Nack to the ground. They wrestled wildly for a time. First Nack was winning, then the other, whom Nack identified as his rambunctious cousin.

Rocky growled. "So, I hear you've been looking for me!" He pushed Nack into the ground.

"Word gets around fast," Nack observed with a gasp as Rocky's long fingers wrapped around his neck. He found himself wondering if Andre had told Rocky about Nack's search.

"I don't need you buggin' me, cousin," Rocky hissed, tightening his grip.

"C'mon, Rocky, let's be civilized," Nack choked, though he knew Rocky wouldn't let go until he, Nack, was unconscious . . . and he wouldn't stand for that. Rocky had a weakness—his eye patch. Nack struggled to get his hand up to it, to pull it off.

Instantly Rocky's hands grabbed Nack's hand, freeing him from the strangling grasp. "Don't ever touch the eyepatch," he warned.

Nack shot his feet up, kicking Rocky out of the way and several feet back. Quickly Nack was over to his cousin and had his hands tied back with the chain on his infamous spiked-ball thing before he could recover enough to get up.

"Now, cousin, are you ready to cooperate?" Nack hissed.

Rocky mumbled something unintelligible, then said louder, "That depends entirely on what it is, cousin." He spat out the last word with contempt.

"Does the name 'Lucretia' mean anything to you?" Nack asked smoothly, not loosening his grip on the chain that, temporarily, was keeping Rocky subdued.

Rocky was silent. "I don't have to tell you anything!" he growled.

"It does mean something to you, doesn't it?" Nack crowed.

Rocky struggled to get free. "Maybe it does, and maybe it doesn't. But it's none of your business!"

Nack put his foot on Rocky's back to hold him down. "Oh, I don't know about that. Since she just threatened my life tonight, I would say it's all of my business."

"So she threatened you. Not my problem!" Rocky snarled.

Nack sighed inwardly. "You don't have to tell me how she relates to you. Just tell me what you know about her and I might let you go."

Rocky again struggled, but finding it fruitless, growled angrily. "Lucretia is a witch . . . and not just in the literal meaning of the word. She's conniving, criminal, and wholly without principles or pity."

Nack couldn't help but notice the irony of that statement. "In short, she's like you," he summed up.

Rocky was silent, then snapped, "Shut up!" He tried to break free. "You better let me go now, or you'll be only a pale shadow of your former self when I'm through with you!"

"I don't give in to threats," Nack said evenly. "Do you know if she's in the area?"

Rocky shrugged. "She could be anywhere . . . or anything," he added, his lips twisting in a wry smile, his lavender mop of hair falling over his left eye. "Shapeshifters can be anything they want to be . . . when they want to be."

"You seem to know a lot about the subject," Nack observed.

Rocky growled but said no more.

"Is that all you can tell me?" Nack persisted.

"If you want the witch bad enough, you can check Oakland, Stockton, and Sacramento. Perhaps the Sierra mountains if you're game." Rocky's long tail whipped around, trying to knock Nack off balance. "That's all I'm gonna tell you, Fang," he added contemptuously.

Nack bristled, but tried to remain cool-headed. "Alright, Rocky. I'm gonna take my foot off your back and unwrap this chain from around your hands and I'm gonna let you go for now, which is probably a heck of a lot more than you deserve."

Slowly he released his cousin while staying on his guard, not knowing what to expect. Rocky got to his feet and stared Nack down for a long moment, Nack staring back defiantly.

Finally Rocky grabbed his spiked-ball thing away from Nack and swung it low, not really intending to hit his cousin . . . this time. Nack realized this and didn't back down. "One of these days . . ." Rocky snarled. He never bothered to finish the thought, but instead took off through the night, never looking back.

Nack watched him go. For as long as he could remember, Rocky had been tormenting him. He was never sure why Rocky hated him, exactly, but even before Nack's mother was killed and his father abandoned them, Rocky had been there, mocking, tormenting, bullying. Nack was seven when Zorba went missing, and then Rocky had disappeared too, several times. He hadn't wanted to go with the aunt, but she had found him anyway and had taken him away, back to where she lived. Nack hadn't seen Rocky again till a couple of years back, and he hadn't changed much, nor did he look much different. Oh, a few more bruises and scars, and that infamous eye patch, but other than that, he looked exactly as he had when Nack had seen him last. His torn left ear was from a scuffle in a back alley when he was eight—or so the rumors said.

He wasn't sure whether Lucretia was in any of the places Rocky had mentioned, either, since only hours earlier it had been pretty much established that she was in San Francisco, attempting to kill (or scare) Nack with an arrow.

Coming to think about it, where was that arrow? Nack checked his gun belt, where he'd had it earlier. It had vanished. Nack grumbled to himself.

At that moment, lightning suddenly split the sky, even though the night was clear and star-studded. Nack looked up, startled, and was barely able to get out of the way of a falling tree that the lightning bolt wound up striking.

Nack looked the tree up and down, realizing with a cold feeling that this was no freak accident of nature. More than likely, Lucretia had been working more of her black magic.

"You still don't scare me, Lucretia!" Nack yelled at the night air. "I'll find you yet!"

This time, instead of dead silence, a harsh feminine laugh was the reply. Nack's fur stood on end. Lucretia was very nearby . . .

Nack drew his gun for protection and silently crept through the brush and trees, searching for his evil witch of an aunt. Suddenly a bolt of electricity hit his gun. It only took a second or two for it to travel through his gun and reach him, and he yelped in pain.

His scream seemed to be some kind of signal, and from here and there and everywhere, bolts of lightning suddenly came at him, striking him, piercing him, hurting him, until he could take it no more. Collapsing to the grassy floor, he weakly reached for his gun, shooting off one round into the nearby bushes before he was struck one final time. With one soft moan, he let go of the gun, his hand and whole body going limp as he gave in to the darkness, the oblivion, and, he assumed as he faded away, the death.
****
Music . . . He heard music . . . Strange, foreign, alarming music . . . Then someone singing to the music . . . A female of some kind, singing in what sounded like a Transylvanian dialect . . .

A drop of water suddenly splashed on his right eyelid, and both eyes came flying open. I'm alive, Nack realized with a great sense of surprise. I'm still alive . . .

He looked around. He was laying on the floor in a very odd-looking room, full of potions in bottles and recipes that called for such things as eye of newt and fur of stoat. A woman with a wicked expression was looking down at him, her eyes glinting with mischief. When Nack's vision cleared better, he realized that she was a dead-ringer for the woman in the picture Fat Sam had sent him.

"Lucretia . . ." he gasped.

"You are correct, my dear nephew." Lucretia spoke with a mixture of Russian, Italian, and nondescript accents.

Nack bristled. "I can't be all that durn dear to you when you go around shooting arrows and nearly electrocuting me!"

Lucretia only laughed. "I am sorry," she said, not sounding the least bit sorry, "but I can't have you coming after me now, can I? That Fat Sam. He is such a nuisance." She paused. "I have heard many tales about you, Nack the Weasel, none of them good . . . from the bounty's perspective, that is." She laughed again. It was a cruel, heartless sound.

Nack struggled to get up, but found himself too weak. "What are you going to do to me?" he asked. "Not that you ain't done plenty already," he growled.

"The electricity was only the beginning," Lucretia replied. "I used just enough to torment you enormously, but not enough to kill. But now . . ." Her eyes narrowed and she slapped Nack across the face. "I will get rid of you, Nack the Weasel. You will not bring me in!"

She threw a potion at the hapless weasel before he could react. He didn't seem to feel any different, though . . . What had she done??

"Oh, drat it all!" Lucretia yelled suddenly. "I used the invisibility potion instead of the torture potion!"

Nack started to laugh. That definitely gave him the upper hand! As Lucretia ran madly around the room, throwing the reverse potion left and right trying to locate Nack, he ran along behind her, having finally regained his strength.

Without warning, he suddenly tapped Lucretia on the shoulder. She whirled around, throwing the potion on him. Nack slowly became visible again . . . and in his hand he held . . .

"Not that!" Lucretia yelled. "Not that!"

Whatever it was, she ran away from him and it, suddenly disappearing in a poof of smoke.

Or had she? Nack looked around suspiciously. Could she have shapeshifted into something?

Cautiously the weasel crept around the room, suddenly noticing from a distance a coat rack that hadn't been there before. Grinning, he threw the potion at it.

"No! No!" it shrieked, changing back into Lucretia. "You creepy, crazy nephew of mine!" Then she started yelling at him in Transylvanian, unable to move from the temporary paralysis potion Nack had thrown at her.

Nack sighed in relief, leaning against the wall. "Sorry, Lucretia," he said with a grin.
****
Two days later, Fat Sam called Nack out to the warehouse again.

"What is it this time, Fat Sam?" Nack asked warily. "I captured Lucretia, and I was at least temporarily successful in depleting her powers."

Fat Sam's ugly lips curled into somewhat of a rueful smile. "Yes, Fang, I am quite aware of that. However, her powers returned suddenly after being turned over to the custody of the police and she has escaped again."

Nack folded his arms, looking blase. "So? That's hardly my problem. She didn't escape while in my custody. Let the police handle it."

Fat Sam's sickly smile didn't fade. "Oh, but it is your problem, Fang. It is. You see, she has sworn undying revenge on you for humiliating her by depleting her powers, if only temporarily."

Nack yawned. "That doesn't scare me. Do you know how many people have declared revenge on me for one thing or another over the years?"

"Numberless concourses," Fat Sam replied. He tapped his fingers on his desk. "I just thought I should warn you, Fang."

"How considerate," Nack said sarcastically, somehow suspecting there was something else going on with Fat Sam. "I'll be careful."

"Yes. You watch out, Fang, or things could get very ugly." Suddenly Fat Sam snapped his fingers, and Nack found himself once again standing outside the warehouse, with total darkness inside.

"Hey! What's going on in there?" Nack yelled, very vexed now. "You open up this durn door and tell me what's going on!! I have a right to know!"

Receiving no answer, Nack plopped down on a nearby crate in frustration. There's more going on here than meets the eye, he decided. And even the mighty Nack T. Weasel was a little concerned by that thought.

Lucretia was somewhere, anywhere, maybe even nearby. And Fat Sam's behavior had very been strange, almost as if he was toying with Nack, almost as if he was testing him. . . . Or maybe . . . maybe the gangster had something much darker in mind.

And there'd be Rocky to deal with too; Nack knew he hadn't seen the last of his wayward cousin.

Nack sighed, staring at the now-vacant warehouse. Something very odd was going on, and somehow he felt as if he was the only one who didn't know what it was.