Chapter One

"That's funny…" Piper said, as she unbuckled her seat belt. She was looking up at the front door of the house.

"Hmm?" Prue murmured, reaching for her handbag and stepping from the Jeep.

"I know we left the porch light on." Piper glanced around to see a few other lights on in neighbors' windows and porches, so the electricity was working there… "I just replaced the bulb—"

Prue just shrugged. "Probably Phoebe turned it off by mistake."

"Maybe," Piper said, but she picked up her step until Prue had to run to catch up with her at the front door.

Slightly out of breath, Prue gripped the arm of Piper's jacket, "We shouldn't panic."

But Piper kept fumbling with the keys, trying to find that long skeletal key and fit it into the lock, only to drop them on Prue's sandaled foot.

"Okay, you know what?" Prue said, immediately bending and removing the keys from her foot. "We're going to feel like two complete idiots when we wake her up with all this noise." Her fingers found the house key and she slid the key into the lock and turned, nearly finding herself sprawled out on the foyer floor as Piper pushed her in the back.

"Oh, Good God," she huffed, stumbling before finding her footing on the slick floor.

But Piper was going from one switch panel to another, flipping the light switches up and down. "None of the lights work—"

"I'll get the flashlights," Prue whispered, slipping off her sandals. She padded over to the desk and took two from the drawer, and instantly there were wide circles of yellowish light. She handed one to Piper and they crept upstairs.

The upstairs hallway was dark but for the thin band of light coming from underneath Phoebe's bedroom door, and both let out a relieved breath.

"Must be the circuit breakers," Prue said. She gently rapped on Phoebe's door.

"Just go in," Piper told her anxiously.

"Ummm, rules of privacy. Remember?" But she opened the door anyway, stepping to the side this time to avoid Piper's shove to the back.

The small crystal lamp on Phoebe's vanity bathed the room in warm light: the overturned vanity chair, the empty but disheveled bed, the hairbrush on the floor. Phoebe's purse and keys were on the dresser, same place she always tossed them when coming home. Seeing her younger sister's personal items lying abandoned caused Piper's chest to tighten. She turned to Prue. "Can we panic now?"

Prue bit her lower lip. "I'll check all the downstairs rooms, and the basement. You check the second floor and attic."

"I think we should stay together," Piper said. As much as she didn't want to make a trip down to the basement, she couldn't let Prue go it alone.

Prue didn't argue. "Come on, then."

Fifteen minutes later they'd searched the house from attic to basement, but no Phoebe. They went back to Phoebe's room where Prue sat on the bed while Piper paced the floor. The constant movement helped Piper think; adrenalin raced through her limbs and if she didn't release the pent up energy she was sure she'd crawl out of her skin. They should be doing somethingother than wasting time in Phoebe's room with its constant reminders of her disappearance. Yet they'd been drawn back here, to the scene of the crime as Andy would say.

Piper bent and picked up Phoebe's hairbrush from the floor, trying not to notice the dark hair woven through the bristles. She always brushed her hair before going to bed. Piper looked at her wristwatch, 2:15 a.m... Sometime between nine o'clock and two something had happened.

Suddenly Piper was exhausted; her head ached as she fought back tears. With Phoebe's brush still in her hand she sat down beside Prue. "Do you want to go up and look through the Book of Shadows?"

Prue sighed. "And ask it what's going on? Who took Phoebe? Where is she?" She shook her head. "Right now I'd trade it in on a crystal ball."

Piper stood up. "Well, I can't stay in here any longer." She put the hairbrush on the vanity. "I can't…look at her stuff anymore." She picked the toppled chair up off the floor and set it upright. And she couldn't bear seeing the signs of an apparent struggle.

Prue pointed. "What's that on your shoes?"

Piper looked down at her flats where water beaded and glistened, and then another drop fell and rolled off the black leather. It was coming off the arm of the chair she'd just picked up. Running her fingers along the length of the carved wood, she gathered a few droplets in her hand and then shook her hand free of the liquid. It had curled into a ball! Prue gasped and knelt to the floor, looking for the strange substance.

Piper sniffed her fingers and then wrinkled her nose. "Demon."

Prue felt along the arm of the chair, but it was dry now. "Maybe we were meant to find it, like some kind of demonic calling card. But if a demon wanted her dead…then that's what we would've found…"

Piper nodded. "She's still alive. I have to believe that."

"I think whoever took her wants something in return. Breaking the Power of Three doesn't seem to be the motive."

"It could be revenge," Piper mused aloud.

"No, I don't think so. It looks more like leverage. They want something from us. Otherwise, why take her? Anyway, the Book of Shadows should help us now."

"Yeah," Piper said, looking around the room.

"Stop feeling guilty," Prue told her. "We can't live our lives shackled to one another twenty-four hours a day."

Piper took a deep breath. "I know. But someone has our little sister…and she's all alone in this."

"Think of it this way, Piper. If I know Phoebe, someone's got one pissed off witch on their hands."

Piper's eyes narrowed, "No, someone's got three pissed off witches on their hands."

Prue smiled. "I'm going downstairs to the circuit box to see if I can get the lights back on. I'll meet you in the attic." At the bedroom door she turned to Piper. "Sure you're okay?"

"I will be." And for a few seconds she listened to Prue's footsteps on the stairway going down.

Piper pulled a tissue from the box on the vanity and wiped her hand frantically. Impulsively she grabbed a bottle of Phoebe's perfume from the vanity and sprayed her hand, then sprayed into the air around her. But still, she couldn't rid herself of the stench of sulfur.

xXx