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The lights were off in the Mars Investigation windows when Veronica pulled up, which meant Dad had already hopped his plane to Nogales. With any luck, Earl or Bobby had come through, and then Veronica would be off on her own wild goose chase. Skip tracing was so much more interesting now that her dad let her do more than book the rental car.

She locked up the Le Baron and dashed across the street, keys in hand. She'd just reached the sidewalk when a scream came from nearby. She stopped, and heard it again. The alley behind the building.

Fumbling for her taser, Veronica took off at a dead run.

She skidded to a stop at the side of the building and cautiously peered around the corner. There was a blonde girl pinned to the ground by...something really big and kind of slobbery, from the looks of it. As Veronica watched, a tall guy in a suit threw a rock at the thing's head and called, "Hello! Looking for me?"

Some people, Veronica thought. No sense of self-preservation.

She edged around the corner of the building while Tall Dark and Slavering advanced on the suited man. The blonde, panicky, scrambled to her feet but, surprisingly, didn't make a run for it. She looked around frantically, probably for a weapon. When the girl caught sight of Veronica, she started. "Doctor?" she called.

Veronica scowled and waved her hands in front of her neck, the universal sign of "for the love of all things holy, shut up!"

This thing, whatever it was, was huge. Bigger than the man by at least a foot. 875,000 Volts packed a lot of power, but she wished the handgun Dad had given her for her 20th birthday wasn't locked in her desk upstairs.

Base of the spine, she decided. She stepped carefully. Given a choice, she'd prefer to play dumb and then make her move in plain sight, but judging from the clearly-visible claws, sneaking was the only option.

It made a lunge, and Veronica took her chance. The taser leads connected solidly with the thing's back, and almost instantly it yelped and howled in pain. She ducked as it turned on her, missing its swing by a generous margin. Another blast to the chest, and another, and it sprawled on the ground, unconscious.

The girl immediately ran to the man's side. "Doctor!" She threw her arms around him and squeezed, a delighted laugh exploding from her throat. It was a charming scene.

The title was a little weird, though.

Dr. Anonymous squeezed in return, grinning. Veronica looked down at the inert monster-thing and toed it dubiously, with one boot. Wallace would say something inane if he were here, like "Who da woman?" She narrowed her eyes in satisfaction.

"Thanks," the doctor said. Veronica looked up to find that he'd turned the grin on her, and it was safe to say that it was an entirely irresistable grin. Veronica smirked back. It wasn't every day she took out a raging monster-thing for the sake of a cute PhD.

"Anytime." She held up her taser and let it flicker once, briefly. "Contrary to popular opinion," she said brightly, "a taser is actually a girl's best friend."

The girl frowned and looked back up at the doctor. "I ought to get me one of those," she said, and now that they were speaking in more than a few syllables at a time, it was clear that they weren't from around here.

He looked speculative. "I don't know, Rose. Anytime you carry a weapon it could as easily be used against you."

"But it's not fatal! It'd only hurt a bit."

"It hurts a lot, actually," Veronica corrected. She stashed the taser back in her bag and continued poking at the unconcious thing. It was an odd reaction for something so large. Maybe it had a heart condition? Even if she'd wanted to check for a pulse, she had no idea where to start.

"See? She knows exactly how much it hurts. Bad idea, Rose."

"Where the hell did you come from?" Veronica asked the thing, stooping to peer closer. It showed no signs of waking.

"London, but that's a bit rude, innit?" Veronica looked up in time to see Rose glance down. "Oh, you meant the Trogomorph."

Slowly straightening, Veronica surveyed the scene and arched a brow at them. "You two have something you want to tell me?" she asked. They fidgeted. Veronica made a circling gesture, encompassing the Whatevermorph and the whole back alley. "Something...bigger than a bread box?"

The doctor thumbed his eye and looked exasperated. Or reluctant. One of those types of adjectives. It was hard to pin down in the dim light. "Fine," he sighed, "but not here."

Veronica eyed the pair and considered a moment. "Chocolate cake, anyone?" They exchanged a glance and shrugged in weird synchronicity. Veronica rolled her eyes and said, "Okay, I'll drive. But first..."

She pulled a set of PlastiCuffs out of her bag, disentangling it from the others she'd stashed there this morning. "Uh, a little help?" she prompted, nodding down at the Morphic thing. The doctor and Rose got it rolled over onto its stomach, and pinned the massive arms behind its back while Veronica fastened on the plastic-band restraints with a few quick tugs. Surveying her work, she bit her lip in amusement as she dug out her phone.

"What are you doing?" the doctor asked sharply.

"Calling the sheriff's office. Oh, he's gonna love this one." She barely managed to supress a giggle.

"You sure that's a good idea?" Rose looked to the doctor, brows raised.

"What else are we supposed to do with it?" Veronica asked. "Besides, I'm going to take great pleasure in imagining the look on Lamb's face when he sees this thing."

"She's got a point. And it's like I mentioned, Rose," the doctor said. "You hum--lot, you lot always ignore the evidence that's right in front of your faces."

"Oh, so you've met Sherrif Lamb already?"

Veronica broke off as the clerk answered the phone. "Uh, yeah, hi," she said, in what she's mentally dubbed her 'Madison Sinclair' voice. "So, like, I was walking to my car after my manicure, and I totally heard these weird screams coming from behind this building." She gave the address and a vague physical description of how to get to the alley. When the clerk asked for her name, Veronica gave a little gasp and said, "Oh my God, I'm getting another call - that's my boyfriend! Gotta go!" and unceremoniously hung up.

She took a satisfied little breath. "I don't suppose you'd want to wait around until the Sheriff got here? I was thinking I'd hide and take pictures."

The doctor gave her A Look, capital letters and all, and she sighed. "Fine. I've got to run upstairs and check something first. You two, in front of me."

"What'd we do wrong?" Rose protested.

"Please, you think I'm leaving you down here by yourselves, to swan off and never been seen again? My investigative skills are better than that. You never let reluctant informants out of your sight. Even after you've tempted them with offers of chocolate cake."

She made them wait in the hall outside Mars Ivestigations. Dad had left a Post-It note on her desk; definitely the bail jumper. But there wasn't a message on the answering machine or a fax from Earl or Bobby, which meant her own jumper hadn't surfaced yet.

Veronica locked up behind, and Rose grinned at her widely. "What?"

"It's just ironic, that's all. You know," Rose said. "Your name's Mars, and you live in Neptune, on Earth..."

"Yeah, like I haven't heard that before," Veronica answered, gritting her teeth. "Although adding 'on Earth' is a new one." She narrowed her eyes at them and added, "I think maybe that's not the only thing that's new."

They didn't try to escape once all the way to Java the Hut, which Veronica supposed was one-up on bail jumpers.

+++

They certainly had an interesting tale, but Veronica was distracted when she got a call from Earl.  Bad news.  The skip trace skipped.

The Doctor (capitals and all) offers her a ride in the TARDIS (also capitals and all).  Veronica narrows her eyes.

"We can go anywhere in time and space?"

"Yeah, that's kind of the point."

"Great!  Let's do El Paso, three hours ago, so I can nab my bail jumper before he crosses the border and is lost forever."

The Doctor and Rose seemed puzzled, but they looked and one another and shrugged.

Adventures in time and space are nice and all, but mama's got to get paid.