DISCLAIMER: Did I mention that I don't own any of the lovely characters portrayed in this fic? There's lots of other people who own them, but sadly, none of them are me. I'm just borrowing them for a while. Heck, even the title's borrowed, loosely adapted from the movie "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?". I'm not intentionally infringing on anyone's rights in any way. I'm also not making any profit from this in anyway, shape or form. Disclaimer done.
FANDOMS: Deep breath, big sigh: Without A Trace, Charlie's Angels, CSI, NCIS, Cagney & Lacey, Crossing Jordan, Law & Order SVU, Murder She Wrote, Nancy Drew, Law & Order, Law & Order Trial By Jury, CSI New York, CSI Miami, D.E.B.S. and Cold Case.
CHALLENGE: Submitted for the 5th Anniversary Challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Whatever Happened to Ralst?
By Del Robertson


"What kind of timeline are we looking at people?" asked FBI agent Samantha Spade.

"Unsure," responded Agent Vivian Johnson.

"What do you mean, 'unsure'? How can we have a person missing without a trace if we're not sure of a timeline?" The blonde asked in an irritated, snippy voice.

"Well, no one's actually seen Ralst." Dramatic pause. "Ever." Another dramatic pause as Samantha's eyebrows rose in suspended disbelief.

"Oh, we have a boss just like that," chimed in a blonde with feathered hair and a sparkling smile, standing between two brunettes. "His name's Charlie."

One of the CSI agents crawling on her hands and knees, running a flashlight along the carpeting paused from her work, glanced up at the trio of angels. "You've never seen your boss?" asked Catherine Willows, skeptically.

"Nope, never." Jill replied, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, strategically placing her hands on her hips, causing her breasts to jut forward dangerously. It was obvious the gorgeous blonde wasn't wearing a bra. "Although, we've come close on several occasions."

"Wish I had a boss like that," grumbled Sara Sidle, as she lifted a possible print from the windowsill.

"Focus, people!" commanded Spade, directing the group's attention back to herself. "We're here to find a missing person. So, the first thing we need to establish is 1)Is this person really missing and 2)How do we know they're missing if no one's ever seen them?"

"Just like Charlie," Jill cupped a hand, whispering in Kelly's ear. Unfortunately, even her whisper was loud enough to elicit snickers from the other detectives and a cringe from Spade.

"Actually," spoke up a tiny voice from the other side of the room, "I may be able to help with part of that."

All eyes turned to focus on the young woman seated in front of a computer. She was dressed all in black, including the spiked collar that adorned her neck. Her jet black hair sported two pigtails. An NCIS jacket hung over the back of the chair she was seated at.

Another woman, with dark hair tied back in a severe ponytail and brooding dark looks casually leaned against the edge of the desk, legs crossed at the ankles. Her arms were defensively folded over her chest as she surveyed the room with suspicious eyes. Her baseball cap marked her as another NCIS agent.

Sensing the air of skepticism permeating the room, she spoke up. "Abby may not look it, but she's the best computer whacker in the business."

"That's hacker, Ziva." Abby patted the other agent's arm. "But, thanks. I think."

"So, what'cha got?" asked Sabrina Duncan, blowing a bubble, then popping it.

"Well," Abby typed rapidly on the keyboard, punched the enter key, and brought up a website. "Ralst is big on the web." She glanced around at the blank looks on faces, waiting for the lightbulb to click. "Come on, you know; maintains the website for Passion and Perfection, the home for a multitude of fan fiction focusing on women. It's by far the best site out there for - " A slight pause as her eyes went round like saucers. "Oookay, probably too much information there. Anyway, the site's Fifth Anniversary is coming up and she put out a challenge to her writers."

"What's your theory?" asked Lacey, coming in from the kitchen with a ham sandwich clutched in her grasp. Her partner, Cagney, trailed close behind, nursing a Styrofoam cup filled with coffee and a little nip of scotch.. "You think one of the writer's whacked her?"

"It's a possibility," Abby shrugged. "Deadline's coming up fast and competition's fierce. I wouldn't put it past any of them."

"Wait a minute! I think we're getting a little ahead of ourselves," objected Spade. "We haven't established anyone's missing, let alone whacked." She glanced at the front door, where Jordan inconspicuously leaned against the doorframe, nonchalantly shielding a waiting gurney and bodybag. "You, out! Nobody called for a coroner!" She pointedly jabbed a finger at the sulking brunette.

"Excuse me, pardon me," apologized ME Warner as she worked her way through the crowd of detectives, slinking out the front door with Jordan. "Don't worry," she was overheard consoling the lanky brunette, "We'll park the vans out back. They'll call for us - sooner or later."

"You know, she's right," said Kelly Garrett, drawing the detectives' attention back to the case at hand. "How do we even know Ralst is missing if no one's ever seen her?"

"This is ridiculous!" protested a young woman dressed in a plaid skirt and white muscle tee, carrying a very large gun. "Obviously, Lucy Diamond is behind this whole caper! Find her, and you'll find your missing editor!"

"Max!" Amy reached out, fingers closing on Max's bicep. She put just enough pressure behind a quick squeeze to get the Squad Leader's attention. "We don't know for sure that Lucy is involved."

"Oh, she's involved." Max gripped her gun tighter. "I can smell it."

"Zat may be my new perfume," Dominique admittted, sniffing at her wrist. "Zit's supposed to attract ze boys." She reached back, swatting at Sabrina Duncan, who was standing behind her, obviously sniffing of the French woman's neck. "I guess zis ze next best thing, non?"

"Focus, people!" shouted FBI Agent Spade, rubbing both temples, trying to ward off the migraine that was beginning to set in. "Let's start over. Question one: Why was this classified as a missing person case? Question two: Do we know she's really missing?"

"No one's heard from her; she hasn't posted anything in a week," interjected Abby. "Highly unusual for someone who has a big anniversary coming up, don't you think? I think we just have to assume she's missing and go from there."

Samantha Spade turned around, producing a large dry erase board, marking out a timeline on the board with a red marker. She drew a line shooting off one side of the board, writing in "One week, no postings". Tapping the dry erase marker to her chin, she turned back to Abby, waiting for her to continue.

"The writers have noticed," added Ziva. "Some of the more resourceful ones have taken the liberty of contacting their local law enforcement agencies. I'm sure that's why most of us are here, correct?"

"Actually," interjected Sabrina, "We're here as a personal favor to Charlie."

"Yes," chimed in Kelly, in her most charming southern drawl. "Charlie does love anything that's all about the ladies."

"And, I'm here because I'm quite positive that somehow the poor dear may be related to me." All eyes turned to see Ms. Jessica Fletcher unobtrusively sitting on a chair, daintily sipping a cup of hot tea. "Why, I'm almost certain that she's the niece of my second cousin's third wife's brother through marriage of my grandmother's fourth husband." A pause. "On my husband's side, of course."

"Since we've established the likelihood of Ralst's disappearance," Catherine paused from her examination of a shoe print deeply embedded in the carpeting, "I suggest we get organized and develop a strategy for each of our teams."

"Okay," Sabrina blew another bubble, popped it. She got that super serious expression on her face that she patented, the one where she looks at someone through her bangs while placing one hand on her hip and the other gesticulating at her audience while she described her plan. "I'm going to go undercover as a journalist, see if I can get the inside scoop on what happened. Kelly's going to nose around, smile demurely, flirt a little, see what she can charm out of the neighbors. Jill, you're undercover as the tennis instructor."

"Does she even play tennis?" asked Ziva, flipping through her profile report McGee had put together before they left Virginia. She didn't remember seeing that detail in the report. Damn incompetent, lazy son of a -

"Doesn't matter." Sabrina popped another bubble. "Undercover is what we do. And, Jill is always the tennis instructor. We'll call ya when we get something." The Angels started towards the door; Sabrina stopped Kelly with a well-placed hand on her arm. Oblivious, Jill continued to walk out to the curb where her Cobra II Mustang was waiting. Sabrina winked at Kelly, asked her, "Can I see you alone for a minute, Kel?" before taking her hand, dragging into a nearby closet.

"Well," whistled Catherine. "On that note, Sara and I'll finish processing the scene and head back to the lab with the evidence kits."

"I'll see what I can hack into on the pc," offered Abby, fingers already flying over the keys. "Ziva can do reconnaissance of the neighborhood." She flashed a smile at Ziva. "She's really super good at the stealthy stuff."

Spade didn't respond, raptly intent on studying her Day of Disappearance timeline board. Likewise, Ms. Fletcher continued to sit in her chair, sipping her tea. "Oh, don't mind me," she said at length, "I'm just going to finish my tea and take a nice nap before checking the neighborhood for young people to annoy with my nosy questions." She sipped noisily from her cup, focused her attention on the two young people awkwardly standing nearby. "What about you, dears? What is your plan of attack?"

"Gosh," shrugged Nancy. "George and I aren't trained in forensic science or timelines or even undercover work."

"Yeah," added George. "Mostly, we just ride around in Nan's convertible until we see some person acting meanly. Then, when they threaten 'that nosy Drew dame' and kidnap her, I come to the rescue."

"Oh!" Nancy reached up, pulling a bobby pin from strawberry blonde hair. "And, I can pick any lock you've got!" she exclaimed, excitedly showing off her bobby pin.

"Well, isn't that special?" nodded Mrs. Fletcher. She leaned forward, winked at the girls. "Tell you what; you can tag along with me after tea and we'll go ask snooping questions together. Won't that be fun?"

"Gosh, Mrs. Fletcher!" exclaimed Nancy. "That'd be great!"

"Yeah, you kids have fun. Cagney and I are going to check the kitchen again." Lacey grunted as Christine elbowed her. "For evidence. Maybe there's a clue we missed."

"Yeah, in the cookie jar, maybe," mumbled Abby beneath her breath. With that thought, she returned her attention to the pc, rapidly typing, skirting around passwords and document protections alike.

Abby stared at the computer screen, blearily rubbing her eyes. After hours of research, she thought she might actually go blind. She wasn't sure if it was the sheer volume of reading she'd been subjected to, or the graphic nature of some of the more mature works.

"Soda?" asked Sofia, leaning against the desk, taking a long draw from the straw of her fountain drink before offering it to Abby.

Undaunted, Abby took it, greedily sucking at the straw. "Ooooh, caffeine. Gotta love a girl that gets me flying high on a sugar rush," she looked at Sofia through thick lashes, flashing a flirty grin.

"You find anything?" The long-legged blonde asked, flipping her hair back over her shoulder in one, smooth motion.

"Lots of things, actually. There's sooo much stuff on the site. Stuff you can't find anywhere else."

"Like, illegal?" asked the ex-CSI turned detective, interest piqued.

"Like, Birds of Prey, The X-Files, Babylon 5, The Facts of Life." A ghost of a smile formed on Abby's lips, a faraway look appeared in her eyes. "Gotta love that Jo," she murmured, momentarily distracted. She mentally shook herself. "Plus, graphics like you wouldn't believe." She leaned over conspiratorially, whispering to Sofia, "You've gotta see this," she winked at the detective, clicked on a graphic.

"Hey! I love that show!" a distinctive New Yorker voice exclaimed. The brunette with the tight jeans and black tee muscled her way between Abby and Sofia, staring at the blonde image on the screen.

"Detective - " warned a low, throaty growl as a long-legged blonde dressed in a striped power suit and killer high heels stormed across the room, grabbed the brunette by the ear and tugged - HARD.

"Ow!" Detective Benson briskly rubbed at her ear as soon as it was turned loose. "Alex, what gives?"

"What gives, Detective," Alex crossed her arms over her chest, tapped her high heel impatiently on the carpeting, "Is that you leave me sitting in the car for over an hour at what's supposedly a crime scene. Yet, when I walk in, I find you ogling pictures of some blonde on-line!"

"Babe, that's Seven of Nine from Voyager. You know I love watching - "

"- The only blonde you should be concerned with watching is me, detective." Cabot pulled her trademark black-rimmed glasses on, leveled a glare at Benson. "And, don't call me Babe!"

Benson watched helplessly as the attorney stormed off, joining ADA Serena Southerlyn by the door. She could overhear their conversation in bits and snippets, going on about the inconsideration of butch detectives. Rolling her eyes, she glanced back at the computer terminal. The Goth girl and the tall blonde detective were trying rather unsuccessfully to choke back their laughter.

Detective Benson put on her best butch strut, strolled back over, trying to appear as cool as possible. "Who's that?" Abby asked as soon as Benson was in range.

Olivia shrugged. "My ADA, Alexandra Cabot." She dropped her voice, leaned in, whispering, "Brought her in case we need a quick warrant."

"If she's your ADA," asked Sofia, discreetly looking over Benson's shoulder, "Who's that red head in the lime green suit hovering in the background?"

Non-too-subtly, Benson swiveled, checking. "Oh, that's another ADA." Seeing Benson's look as an open invitation, Casey Novak sauntered over. "Didn't I tell you to wait in the car with Gaffney and Kibre?" Olivia hissed in a low voice.

"They were talking about dispositions and trial cases and motions to suppress and junk," whined Casey. "I got confused, so I thought I'd come in for a while." A pause, a contrite look. "And, I really have to go number one," she said in an exaggerated whisper, shifting her weight from foot to foot.

"I told you not to buy the Big Burp at the Shamrock, didn't I?" Benson glared at the ADA. "There's a couple of cops in the kitchen; Ask them where the john's at." Benson watched Novak hurry off towards the direction of the kitchen, turned back to Sofia and Abby with a shrug. "ADA's. What are you going to do?"

"Let me get this straight," Sofia flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder, "You came here with a car full of ADA's?"

Benson shrugged, let a slow grin spread across her face. "What can I say? I've got a thing for ADA's." Satisfied with the awed expressions on the other two women's faces, Benson turned, swaggered away, whistling a confident little tune.

Sofia continued to lean against the desk, watching Benson saunter away. She waited all of five seconds before turning to Abby. "Hey, I just remembered something I needed to - discuss - with that detective." She pushed off from the desk, scrambling after Benson before Abby could even respond.

"Typical," Abby muttered to herself, turning her attention back to the computer screen. As she clicked on another link, she took a deep draw from the straw of her soda.

"Hey, Boss!" Abby called out, prying her eyes away from the computer screen, swiveling in her chair. "I think I've got something!"

"What is it?" asked a tall brunette with curly hair and a dreamy accent.

"Who are you?" asked Abby, craning her neck, attempting to see around the approaching woman. "And, where's that FBI chick?"

"Detective Stella Bonasera," the woman nodded brusquely at Abby. "FBI Agent Spade is still pursuing her timeline theory. CSI's in charge now."

"Okay," shrugged Abby. "Makes no diff to me, boss."

Stella smiled; she liked this girl's attitude. "You found a lead?" she prompted.

"If you count flames as a lead, yeah," responded the Goth.

"Flames?" Stella frowned.

"Jargon for poorly written, without basis criticism contrived by a flake incapable of coherently stringing two sentences together to tell you why you suck at writing something they could never even hope to try to put on paper." A deep pause. "In layman's terms; hate mail."

"Vic was receiving hate mail?" Sofia asked, sidling up to Stella and Abby. Abby noticed another blonde trailing along behind the detective, hovering in the background.

"Mostly from one whack-job," clarified Abby. "I've printed out the most recent." She handed three sheets of paper to Detective Bonasera, watched as she leafed through them.

Stella let out a low whistle as she showed the more descriptive, colorful paragraphs to the other detectives. Paragraphs that Abby had helpfully highlighted for them.

"All from Seeing Red In Miami," concluded Sofia.

"I'll fax these to our Miami office," offered Bonasera, "CSI Agent Duquesne can do the legwork there." Sofia nodded her thanks at Abby, moved off in search of a fax machine.

Abby continued to stare, dividing her gaze between the blonde detective and the tall leggy blonde hovering in the background. Sofia had a red splotch on the collar of her shirt. A red splotch that matched the identical color of the blonde's smeared lipstick. Abby's eyes narrowed.

"You've got - " she gestured, then was cut off by the sound of music wafting into the room. Some tune she vaguely recalled hearing on a Hit's of the Eighties CD. "What the Hell?" she asked, glancing at the ceiling, looking for hidden speakers.

"Don't worry," spoke a blonde dressed in a business suit. Her hair was tied up in an awkward mess on top of her head, little spindles and strands falling haphazardly here and there. "Detective Rush, Cold Case Division." Lilly flashed her badge. "That music you hear is background noise. Something suitable from the time period of the case I'm investigating. Adds atmosphere."

"Ooookay." Abby fidgeted in her chair, adjusted her right pigtail. "We don't have a cold case."

"Still," shrugged Lilly. "Given the hate mail; It could be something that dates back a while. Maybe the writer blames Ralst for something in the past and has snatched her to make her pay."

"That's a bit of a leap, don't you think?" asked Sofia, one brow arched in skepticism.

"Besides," cut in Abby, still staring Sofia's shirt collar, "Ralst hasn't been missing that long."

"It's okay," Lilly shrugged. "I can wait." She settled down in a nearby chair. "Mark my words; as soon as this puppy turns cold, I'll be all over it."

Sofia shook her head dismissively, turned to find Abby still staring at her. "What?" she asked, with more than a hint of annoyance.

"You've got a - " she broke off, gesturing at Sofia's collar. Sofia craned her head awkwardly, trying to see her shirt collar. Grabbing a tissue from her pocket, she wiped briskly at the stain. "And, you've got - " Abby nodded at the other blonde. "The same shade smeared - " her voice began to trail off " - on your lips."

Serena reached out, snatching the tissue from Sofia, dabbing at her lips. "Is this because I'm a lesbian?" Southerlyn demanded, archly.

"Noooo," Abby cocked her head to one side, eyed the ADA oddly. "It's because you've smeared your lipstick on Sofia's shirt."

Detective Bonasera slammed her cell phone closed. "Our CSI in Miami tracked the hate mail to a fifteen-year old boy who stumbled across the site by accident. He thought it was just harmless fun to send those emails."

"Some fun," muttered Detective Benson. "Wonder if he'd like to see my gun - for fun." She let her sentence trail off when Alex Cabot elbowed her in the ribs.

The front door slammed open, Sabrina and Kelly purposefully entered. "We got zip on the undercover," Sabrina said loudly, smacking her gum.

"Where's your partner?" asked Spade and Johnson, glancing up from their FBI timeline board.

"Jill?" Bree shrugged. "Oh, she's still out giving tennis lessons."

"I canvassed the entire neighborhood," Ziva said, dropping her bag of tricks by the door as she came in, "I didn't see a tennis court anywhere."

"That's the beauty of Jill; she doesn't need a tennis court to give lessons, ya know?"

"You are not worried about her then?" asked Ziva. "What if something should happen?"

"Ah, she'll turn up." Sabrina stuck her hands in her back pockets, smiled wickedly as she rocked back and forth on her heels. "Eventually."

"Still, I think I shall go look for her." Ziva gathered her gear, headed towards the door. "Perhaps if I can't find one missing person, I can at least find another." She skirted around the trio coming in the door, gave a curt nod of acknowledgement on her way out.

"I'm afraid we fared no better," admitted a forlorn Ms. Fletcher as she was helped into the room, delicately balanced between Nancy and George. The two sleuths carefully jockeyed the elderly woman to a chair, helped her to sit.

"What happened?" asked Detective Rush, hurrying to give the matronly woman a cup of hot tea.

"Run in with a rather large, vicious dog after Nancy picked the lock on a rather ominous looking privacy gate."

"I'm sorry, Ms. Fletcher," Nancy blushed furiously. "At least George was there to fight him off."

"Ah, yes." Jessica Fletcher smiled up at the brunette. "Good, old George. Such a nice, butch girl, isn't she?" she asked, winking conspiratorially at Nancy.

"Have all the other teams checked back in, yet?" asked Tracey Kibre from somewhere near the back of the room. She was holding a clipboard, ostensibly keeping track of the teams coming and going. She frowned, checking her log in sheet. "What about Cagney and Lacey?" she asked.

"Never made it out of the kitchen," responded Gaffney, coming in from the other room with a cup of coffee. She took a sip, then passed the remainder to Kibre.

Kibre took the proffered cup, gingerly sipping the hot liquid. "That only leaves the CSI team." She frowned, consulting her pages again. "Willows and Sidle."

"They said something about trace analysis back at the lab," volunteered Abby.

"Great. If they come back with nothing, we're back at square one," Kibre delivered in her monotone voice.

"Good thing we didn't come back empty handed, then, isn't it?" asked CSI Catherine Willows as she sauntered into the room, Sara Sidle following close on her heels.

"What have you got?" asked the detectives in unison.

"We've completed our forensic assessment of the premises, both inside and out. We've fingerprinted, taken tire moldings, analyzed hair fibers, rug fibers and fibers of fibers and done trace analysis on everything through a microscope in the lab, using the latest scientific gizmos and gadgets."

"And?" prompted Sabrina.

Sara Sidle continued, "Without a doubt, we're pretty sure we know who snatched Ralst."

"Without a doubt, pretty sure? I'd like to cross-examine that statement," objected ADA Cabot.

"Never mind that for now," Benson cut her off, "Just tell us what happened; Which lowlife scum kidnapped Ralst?"

Catherine took a deep breath, slowly exhaled. "TPTB."

"TPTB? Are those the perps initials?" Sofia asked, turned to check with Abby. "Did you find any hate mail from her in the system?"

"It's an acronym," explained Sara. "For The Powers That Be. They're an insidious organization that we've found to be behind numerous disappearances, cancellations and 'censorship', if you know what I mean."

"So, they're like the mob?" asked Kelly Garrett.

"Worse. You know what happened to Lt. Tasha Yar?"



"Hey, before you get your conspiracy theory ramped up, I think I've got something." The Goth girl from NCIS swiveled in her chair, looking over her shoulder at the assembled law enforcement personnel. "Took me a while to get past everything. There were a few incriptions and codes that I had to break through. Mostly, though, I just got distracted reading all the Bad Girls stories." She took a long draw on her Big Burp soda, swiveled her chair around so she was facing the monitor again. "Anyway, I hacked into her itinerary." She paused dramatically before continuing. "Ralst's just been on vacation."


The End

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