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       Lost Boy, p.13

           Chanda Hahn
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  “This way” Slightly beckoned Curly and headed down the steps.

  Curly balked at the top. “Whoa, the smell gets worse down here.”

  “Baby,” Slightly chuckled as they headed into the dank storage area, where cracked linoleum had peeled back, revealing the cement floor. They pushed past pallets and metal containers of old clothes before coming to a heavy door, a paper sign with “KEEP OUT!” taped to it.

  “Well, this is the only door down here,” Curly pushed past Slightly and rapped on the door three times. No answer. “I guess no one’s home. Your turn.” Curly motioned to Slightly, who moved in to assess the door.

  Slightly stretched his right arm, his muscles growing rapidly in size, and with superhuman strength, he ripped the door out of the frame and set it to the side.

  “Oops, my bad.” He laughed and looked inside the dimly lit room.

  The boys crossed the threshold into what appeared to be a basement apartment, but a crash from the shadows up ahead, followed by growling and snuffling, caused them to halt and exchange worried glances.

  Two German shepherds darted around a table and lunged at them. Curly fell with a scream as one dog latched on to his arm. Slightly shifted and caught the other dog mid-air, holding its snarling and snapping head at a distance.

  He worked his way further into the apartment and maneuvered toward a kennel he spotted by the fridge. Being careful not to hurt the dog, he was able to lock him in the kennel, receiving minimal cuts and scrapes.

  Panic set in as Slightly turned to aid Curly with the other shepherd.

  “Shh,” Curly said softly to the dog latched onto his arm, his face a mask of pain as he fought to make eye contact with the furious dog. After a few moments, the canine settled, unclamping his jaw to lick at the arm he had released. “That’s a good boy. Yeah, you didn’t mean it. I know.”

  After a few more pats, Curly sat up and stared into the dog’s eyes, silent communication passing between them. The dog whined and took off down the hall.

  “Follow Leader,” Curly ordered.

  “Leader?” Slightly asked as he followed them. “How do you know the dog’s name?”

  “I don’t. That’s just what the dog calls himself.”

  The dog scurried to a large metal cabinet on the wall and sniffed, scratching and whining, by the doors. The cabinet creaked as someone or something inside it moved.

  “Careful, could be a trap.” Curly held back, keeping his distance.

  “I think they were the trap,” Slightly answered as he hesitated, his hand on the silver handle. He mentally counted down and swung the door open, revealing a cowering and scared Dr. Mee, her hands held over her head as if to block an attack.

  “Hey, Dr. Mee, it’s us.” Slightly backed away, holding his hands in the air. “It’s okay.”

  She looked up, her face a mask of confusion and surprise. “Slightly . . . Curly? What are you doing here?”

  “We need your help,” Slightly said, sitting on a stool by a lab table.

  “N—no, no. I told you, I’m done helping. I can’t get wrapped up in this anymore.”

  Curly, with Leader at his heels, made his way over to a table and began to search through the paperwork carefully organized in a stack of file folders. He didn’t seem at all interested in Neverland’s former psychiatric doctor’s plight or her current state of mind.

  “What did you do to my dog?” she asked, pushing herself up off the cabinet floor and stepping into the room. She tried to straighten her messed-up ponytail, but it only drew attention to what a mess she was. Her makeup was days old, and it looked like she had been living off microwave meals, based on the pile of boxes in the garbage.

  “Nothing, Leader’s fine.” Curly didn’t even look her way, just continued to snoop through her stuff.

  “His name is Max,” she corrected.

  “He hates Max,” Curly answered as he carelessly knocked over a stack of papers.

  “Don’t touch that!” She panicked and rushed to pick up his mess while he carefully folded a piece of paper into fours and tucked it in his pants pocket. “What do you boys want?” she finally said, clearly desperate and upset by their presence.

  “We found her. Wendy. And she’s just like Peter—she can pan,” Slightly said. “Which is the current problem. Neverland’s after her, and she recently panned, and we need her to remember, quickly.”

  “What? Wendy?” Dr. Mee pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “The one we lost at sea?”

  “Yeah, after all these years, she showed up, like a lucky penny.”

  Dr. Mee paced the room, mumbling to herself, “That’s no good. No, we can’t interfere. I’ve done enough harm. No, no, no.” She chewed on her thumb, her brows furrowed, showing signs of anxiety.

  Slightly was demoralized at how much Dr. Mee was losing herself, much like Dr. Barrie. He rifled through her desk, convinced she must be working on something important to be living in this condition, and the fact that she was slowly losing her mind. Neverland safeguarded all of their secrets and anyone in their employ was drugged. Walk away from the company and their minds would deteriorate, and they would slip into early Alzheimer’s. She hadn’t been in the greatest psychological shape a few years ago, and then, he wasn’t sure if she could function in the normal world anymore.

  His phone buzzed, and he went to the door and answered it, cupping his ear so he could hear. He wasn’t getting the best reception in the basement and didn’t pay attention to Curly pocketing more items—especially, focused as he was on his conversation with Peter, who had news that wasn’t stellar.

  He turned, his face grim as he went to confront Dr. Mee.

  Curly could read his body language. “What’s going on?”

  “We need her help. Something’s happened.” Slightly planted himself in front of the pacing Dr. Mee, and she almost ran into him. “Dr. Mee, please, we need your help. We need you to help our friend.”

  Dr. Mee shook her head and spun, her hands covering her ears. Her eyes looked wild, like those of a scared rabbit. “No. No. He will find me if I help.”

  Fed up, Curly moved to her and gripped her upper arms, looking into her eyes. “You are not scared of Neverland. They cannot get you.” With each sentence, her breathing became less punctuated and slowed. Her brown eyes became glassy with tears. “You are Dr. Mee, a highly decorated but secretive psychiatrist. You are smart, intelligent, fearless.” She took a deep breath and stood taller. Her eyes became focused as she blinked, and then tears ran down her face, her mouth twitched, and a corner of her lip rose in a smile.

  “You’re doing it, Curly!” Slightly cheered.

  “Now, give me the serum you used to help Peter after he panned.” He pushed her away, and she stood unmoving in the middle of the room. His last command was so forceful that it shook her. She made her way to a locked filing cabinet, where she fumbled for the key and opened it. Slipping her hand inside, she pulled out a small vial filled with clear liquid.

  “Not cool, dude,” Slightly chastised. “You shouldn’t have forced her.”

  Curly shrugged. “It smells, and this place is a dump. The sooner she helps us, the sooner we leave. Now, we got what we came for. Can we leave now?” He headed to the door, the dog still at his heels.

  Slightly followed but paused when a picture of a child that had fallen out of one of Dr. Mee’s folders caught his eye. It was one of the folders that Curly had knocked off the table. He picked the photo of the younger version of himself and stared at it with sadness. He gently began to thumb through the other folders. They were Dr. Mee’s psych evaluations from her time at Neverland. He thought they were all destroyed. He was surprised that she had them and was still going through them. He put the picture in the file and closed it. He had no desire to revisit that chapter of his life or learn her medical opinion of him as a child. But he didn’t stop his search until he found Wendy’s file.

  “Hello!” Curly said impatiently. “Can we go?”

; “No, we can’t leave yet. Not without Dr. Mee,” Slightly said, heading to the closet, then pulled out a long blue jacket. “This is something that only the two of you can pull off. I need you to prep her as we get into the car.” He coaxed Dr. Mee into the blue jacket and handed her the folder.

  Curly didn’t look pleased that he had to help further.

  “Where are we going now?” Curly grumbled.

  Slightly pushed his glasses up his nose. “The police station.”

  Chapter Twenty

  “This is the second time you’ve been associated with these crimes,” Detective Saylor said, towering over her, as if to intimidate her into confessing.

  “As far as I know, association doesn’t prove guilt,” Wendy retorted.

  “It doesn’t prove you’re innocent either,” he said, his voice filled with conviction. “You’re the one that first came to us, practically begging us to believe that you’re connected to the disappearances. Now, I’m beginning to think you’re right. You’re in on it. You’re not leaving here until I have answers!”

  Wendy crossed her arms and glared out the window, waiting for her parents. She wasn’t saying anything else until they got there. She didn’t trust the child advocate they’d hastily assigned on her behalf, even if she seemed slightly familiar. Ms. Kim sat in the chair next to her, wearing a navy jacket. She held Wendy’s folder and was reading it silently. She was petite and quiet, the opposite of the hard-edged and verbal Detective Saylor.

  “I have to thank you, Detective Saylor, for letting me take her case,” Ms. Kim said, removing her glasses. “I know I’ve only been on the case a short time, but I’ve done a bit of research and had some extra tests done.”

  “Have you now?” the detective snapped before pulling the file folder away from the advocate.

  Detective Saylor gave Wendy a stern look before reading over the results, like a warning for her not to try anything. What could she possibly try and do? She was in a police station surrounded by cops; she wasn’t planning on going anywhere.

  “Are you sure about this?” he asked the Ms. Kim.

  “You can’t argue with the results. I had your lab run the sample twice.”

  “And how come this didn’t come up before?”

  “Because opening up this case opened up the others.”

  Detective Saylor’s eyes were wide; he looked like he was sweating and a bit uncomfortable.

  “Well, this is a bit unnerving, but it doesn’t impede our investigation or absolve her of her crimes.” He leaned back in his chair, running his hands over his mouth and then his hair.

  A few moments later, her dad’s voice could be heard from the hallway. “I want to see my daughter!”

  The door opened, and George and Mary both rushed into the room. The child advocate stood up and brought over another chair for her parents.

  “Sweetie, are you okay?” Mary cooed, running her hands over Wendy’s back as she gave her the most reassuring hug.

  “Yeah, Mom, I’m fine. Whatever they said happened, I didn’t do it. You have to believe me.”

  “We do, honey, we do. George will get this all sorted out, and then you can come home with us.”

  “I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Detective Saylor said, giving Wendy a heavy-lidded gaze, as if he still didn’t trust her.

  “Well, of course, she’s going home with us. She’s our daughter,” George fumed.

  “Is she?”

  “What kind of a question is that?” Mary snapped.

  “And how come you didn’t tell me the last time that she was adopted?” the detective asked.

  “Because I don’t see how her adoption has anything to do with her disappearance,” Mary seethed.

  “Maybe because she’s not adopted but stolen.” Detective Saylor tossed Wendy’s file onto the table and spun it around to confront the Owens.

  Staring up at them from Wendy’s file was the smiling face of a six- or seven-year-old Wendy, her eyes crinkled in laughter, her hair in pigtails, and wearing a blue and white school uniform.

  “Where did you get this?” Wendy asked, her hand trembling as she pulled the file closer to her. There were some subtle differences between the girl in the photo and Wendy at that time, but nothing that couldn’t be accounted for as changes through time. There was no denying it was her.

  “This is you!” Detective Saylor said before flipping the page. “And these are your parents . . . your birth parents.” He flipped the page, and there was a family picture of a smiling couple in their thirties. The man had blue eyes and dark hair, with just the faintest thinning hairline. The woman had beautiful strawberry blonde hair with brown eyes, and on her lap, she held a young toddler boy, wearing a suit and tie, who was hauntingly familiar. A young Wendy was standing next to the man, in a short green dress, her hands clasped demurely in front of her.

  She couldn’t pull her eyes away as she drank in every feature, every single detail, down to the woman’s pearl necklace and the color of the man’s tie, the slight wrinkle in the boy’s outfit as if he had taken off the jacket many times that day. Gazing at the picture made her heart fill and break over and over again. That is what she wanted—answers—but then it pained her when she couldn’t answer them herself.

  “Their names?” she whispered.

  “Excuse me?” Detective Saylor said.

  “What are their names?” Wendy asked a little more heatedly. “Him.” She stabbed a finger at the man. “Her . . . What are their names?” Her breathing was becoming ragged as she tried desperately to cut through the fog of nothingness that was her memories.

  “Oh!” Detective Saylor flipped the file back and read through it quickly. “That would be Robert and Kathryn Blackburn. And the boy—” He flipped the page again, searching for the name.

  Suddenly, the name rang clear as a bell in her mind, as if Peter were once against in front of her—telling her the truth.

  You have a brother.

  My brother? You mean John?

  No, not your stepbrother, your real brother. Michael.

  “Michael,” she interrupted, feeling her world colliding with the fantasy.

  “You remember?” Her mom sounded hopeful.

  “I don’t. It’s just something that someone told me.”

  Wendy glanced over at her adopted parents. Mary’s hands covered her mouth as tears silently slid down her cheeks and onto her blouse. John wiped at the corner of his eyes, sniffing.

  “Oh, darling,” Mary blurted and let the tears flow in uncontrollable sobs. “It’s okay. You will always be my baby . . . no matter what.” Mary flung herself into George’s arms as he tried to console his wife, but he too was on the verge of sobbing.

  George cleared his throat. “Where are these . . . parents? How come they haven’t come forward before now?”

  Detective Saylor looked uncomfortable. He squirmed in his seat, then flipped through the file and pulled out a yellowed newspaper article with a bold headline—MISSING COUPLE.

  “Well. Uh.” Detective Saylor looked uncomfortable. “I don’t want to give you false hope, but they left no paper trail—no credit cards, tax forms, et cetera, since the day they went missing.”

  “They’re dead,” she said through unshed tears. The words on the newspaper became black squiggles from the tears threatening to fall. “Aren’t they?” She looked directly at the detective, and his shoulders fell. “They would have come for me, searched for me if they were alive.”

  “Well, we don’t know that for sure. They just disappeared without a trace.”

  “You mean they could still be alive?” Hope began to fill Wendy.

  “Why now?” she asked, a burning anger inside of her growing brighter each minute. “Ten years.” She looked up at the detective. “I had a brother. Ten years. Why now?”

  Ms. Kim spoke up. “When your biological parents disappeared, both of you went into foster care but were moved so often that the state lost you. No one knew that you both vanished from
the care home during transit and with it, your records.”

  Detective Saylor cleared his throat. “We only recently received this file and are putting two and two together.”

  Wendy’s skin tingled, and she noticed how her advocate wouldn’t look her in the eye, a sure sign that she was hiding something or lying.

  “This complicates things,” the detective said.

  “How so?” George answered.

  “Well, she’s a prodigal child back from the dead, but she’s also a suspect in the kidnapping of two teens, which leads us to believe that she isn’t a victim, but maybe an accomplice in the crimes. Not to mention her missing brother, who could be dead.”

  “Kidnapping?” Mary said incredulously. “How would my daughter kidnap someone?”

  “Maybe, she had help or was working for someone?” the detective smirked and leaned forward, putting the pressure on Wendy. “Where are Brittney Spacek and Jeremy Hatler?”

  “I don’t know,” Wendy answered forcefully.

  “Witnesses say you were seen with him the night he disappeared. Is that right?”

  “I, uh, yeah, we were on a date at the movies, but I swear I didn’t hurt him.”

  “What exactly happened on that night?”

  “I left . . . in the middle of the movie.”

  “Why?” he pressed.

  She shrugged her shoulders. “He was making me uncomfortable. Ask John, ask my brother. He was there with me. He’ll tell you.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she realized that she hadn’t seen her brother after she left the theater. Only when she made it back to the house. It wasn’t a great alibi, but there was her other brother, Michael, whose disappearance, seemed as if it could also be blamed on her. Where was he?

  “Where’s Michael?” Wendy interrupted. “Where’s the boy in the photo?” Wendy pointed at the picture in the file.

  “Maybe, you should ask yourself the same question, Wendy. Where is Michael? Where are Brittney and Jeremy? Maybe, the same place you disappeared to a few weeks ago?” Detective Saylor leaned forward on the table and folded his hands. His large knuckles were white. “Where are they, Wendy? Where did they go?”

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