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       Lost Boy, p.2

           Chanda Hahn
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  “Who’s getting stronger?” Peter demanded. He pretended to lose his grip and let the man slide out of his grasp for a split second. The man screamed in terror. Peter snatched him up again by the front of his uniform. “Tell me.”

  “Who do you think?” the man blubbered.

  “They’re creating more super humans. The kidnapped kids,” Peter answered.

  “They never stopped, but you knew that.”

  “But we destroyed Neverland.” Peter swung the man.

  “Wrong, you destroyed a building; Neverland is more than a place. It’s an idea. You can’t kill an idea once it is born,” he said with a wicked laugh.

  “You can if you cut off the head,” Peter said. “So, tell me, how do I find the snake’s head? How do I find Hook?”

  “You don’t find Hook. Hook finds you, and then you die.” The man sputtered as Peter jerked the uniform around his throat.

  Peter’s arms were tiring, and he was struggling to keep hold of the bulky soldier, but he wanted more answers. The Red Skulls wouldn’t let that slide. Once they learned how many secrets their soldier had spilled, they would probably kill him. It would probably be better if he took care of him then, before he ever went back to them.

  Peter’s muscles were screaming, and he was going to drop him soon, but something shimmered up at him from down below. He was almost at his destination. “If Neverland has these super soldiers, what do you think is going to happen to you?” Peter asked. “They won’t need you anymore. I guess, like me, you will be old news, and do you know what happens with old news?”

  The man began to whimper. “W—what?”

  “It gets thrown in the trash.” He began to loosen his grip.

  “No. No. Don’t drop me,” the Red Skull begged.

  But even if he wanted to, Peter couldn’t hold him forever. He uncurled his fingers and let him go. The man yelled and clawed at the sky, reaching for anything to grab. Peter playfully waved down at his disappearing figure.

  The soldier hit the dark water with a splash and disappeared beneath the depths. A few very long seconds later, he surfaced, sputtering and cursing. Peter laughed and left him to find his way out of the water-filled quarry. He needed to get back to Fox and check in on Wendy.

  As he flew back, his phone began buzzing in his pocket, and he answered, hearing Fox’s laughter on the other end.

  “That was fun. We should do it more often.”

  “Did you take care of him?”

  “Yep, chased him into a shed, and he’s locked inside. Someone will eventually find him.” The sound of an engine revving filled the speaker, which meant that Fox had decided to relieve the remaining Red Skull of his vehicle. “Whoa! Pete, this thing’s a beauty. You’ve got to try driving it.”

  “Don’t call me Pete!”

  “Okay, boss.”

  Peter chuckled. “It’s probably got a tracker,” he warned.

  “Counting on it. Going to take it through a few camera-operated speed traps before ditching it in front of the police station.”

  “You want to make them pay, don’t you?”

  Fox’s laugh continued. “Yes, they’re going to get a massive speeding ticket, courtesy of the Neverwood boys.”

  Peter hung up when he was back in front of Wendy’s house. He sighed. Things couldn’t stay the same much longer. He knew Hook was gunning for him. It was only a matter of time.

  Chapter Three

  The knock on her bedroom door came too early. Its persistent hammering was sending waves of pain through her head, causing Wendy to burrow further under her comforter, seeking solace.

  When she didn’t answer, the door opened, and her mother leaned into the room.

  “Morning, my darling,” she sang out softly. “It’s time for breakfast. I made your favorite, French toast.”

  Wendy’s stomach rumbled from hunger, but her mind protested the emptiness that resided there when she tried to recall her favorite food. Her mother told her that she loved French toast, but Wendy wasn’t sure if she did. She couldn’t remember—anything.

  She’d woken up a few weeks ago in that bedroom, her mind a blank slate. Her family knew who she was, but she didn’t know who any of them were. She’d put together that they were her family from all of the photos around the house with her in them, but other than that . . . nothing.

  Her brother John had mentioned some plan they had concocted together, one that had driven her from home, but she’d just given him a blank stare. He said she had run away and that he had helped her, but that didn’t seem right—or at least she thought it didn’t sound like something she would do.

  Her mom left, the bedroom door closed with a click, and Wendy forced herself to get out of bed and get ready for the day. Her movements were robotic, with little thought going into her process, as she grabbed an oversized sweatshirt and jeans and ran a brush through her strawberry blonde hair before heading downstairs to the kitchen table.

  Her father sat reading the paper at the quaint kitchen table set with four plates, his elbows propped on either side of his place setting. Whenever he turned the page, the edge of his newspaper dipped into the syrup. John, the spitting image of her dad, folded his French toast in half and ate it in two huge bites. Her mom used her fork and knife to cut it into perfect squares before eating one at a time.

  It was a picture-perfect setting. A happy family eating breakfast together, worthy of any American greeting card.

  Except she wasn’t related to them. Her mom had explained that they’d adopted her seven years ago after they’d found her washed up on a beach and couldn’t bear to leave her to the foster care system. She’d washed up with no memories then, and once again, had appeared from nowhere back in her own house after having been missing for months.

  Wendy picked up the fork and cut a piece of the fried bread, then stuffed it into her mouth. She chewed slowly, trying to decide for herself if she liked French toast. It wasn’t bad; it had a hint of cinnamon and butter. A few more bites reaffirmed that she did indeed enjoy that special breakfast treat, and she mentally filed it away for the future.

  It was exhausting, trying to relearn everything. Thankfully, Mary and George Owens had been through that before with her when she was ten, so they were extremely accommodating, never pushing her too far or asking too many questions, although Wendy could see the wheels turning in their heads whenever they looked her way. Her mother would start to say something, then bite her lip and avert her eyes.

  She had been to three different doctors and a psychiatrist in the last two weeks, and none of them could agree on a diagnosis. Traumatic amnesia, brain damage, and her favorite diagnosis, “She’s just faking.”

  If only.

  Wendy eyed the clock on the kitchen wall, then excused herself and placed her plate and fork in the dishwasher. She made her way to the living room and curled up on the couch. Flipping the TV on, she stared at the screen, waiting for the morning news. She had begun watching it religiously, morning and evening, listening for . . . she wasn’t sure, but taking in the information was comforting. Wendy relearned about the world one horrible news story at a time.

  A petite woman with a dark brown bob was reading from the prompter when a picture of a smiling teen boy popped up in the corner of the screen. It had a red banner underneath it with MISSING captioned in capital letters. Wendy sat up and leaned forward, reaching for the remote to turn the volume up.

  The seventeen-year-old teen from the next town over had disappeared while walking home from track practice. They were asking for any leads. Wendy mentally filed away the name of the boy and the dates and waited through the next few news stories before she made her way back to her bedroom. She pulled out a notebook she kept in her dresser and entered in the new information. The boy’s name: Pilot Jansen. Height and weight. Date of birth and his last known location.

  Wendy added the missing boy to her list along with the other six in the notebook. There were five boys and two girls, all under eighteen, mi
ssing. There had been two kidnappings since she had reappeared, but there had been more before her. Wendy pulled out the map and a red sharpie and then marked an X on the spot of the missing boy’s location. Her temples began to throb, and she rubbed them before nibbling on the end of the sharpie. They had to be connected to her disappearance.

  She felt a deep connection to those missing kids, though it didn’t make sense. According to her brother, she’d run away from home, and though she didn’t know how she ended up back in her house, she knew she hadn’t been kidnapped, unlike those kids.

  When she had seen the news report, she had demanded that her father take her to the local precinct because she felt that her missing memories and those missing kids were somehow connected, but she had no proof. The police hadn’t believed her and had treated her with skepticism.

  Once, her father and she were sitting in front of the detective in the interrogation room. She began to have second thoughts. There was something about being in the small sterile white room that unnerved her.

  “Wendy, what can you tell me about your own disappearance? Where were you kept?” Detective Saylor had asked.

  The fluorescent light overhead buzzed softly, but to the nervous Wendy, the hum sounded like a freight train. She tried to focus on the question directed at her.

  “Uh, I don’t know.” She licked her dry lips.

  “What do you mean . . . you don’t know?” His disbelief was evident. “How do you not know where you’ve been? Were you kidnapped? Did you run away—with a boyfriend, maybe?”

  Images flashed in her mind, a very handsome boy running, laughing, jumping over the hood of a car, but then, it was gone as fast as it came. She shivered. “No.”

  “No what?” the detective pressed.

  “No . . . I don’t know.” She dug her fingernails into the palms of her hands until it hurt.

  “And what can you tell me about the missing teens?”

  “Well, I think that I’m connected, that I should know where they are. But I don’t . . . I’m not—” she trailed off as she looked to her father for support. She didn’t know how to explain what she felt.

  “Wendy, honey.” Her dad gently touched her back to reassure her. “It’s okay.”

  She nodded numbly.

  The detective was losing his patience, and he tapped the end of his ballpoint pen on the notepad. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

  It sounded like a hammer hitting a wall in her skull, and Wendy knew that it had been a mistake to come there.

  “Are you psychic? Is that it? Are you here for your fifteen minutes of fame?”

  “No!” Wendy was getting frustrated.

  “Look, Detective Saylor,” George said firmly, “I’ve told you before we’re here to help you in any way we can. Wendy insisted we come here. There’s no reason to treat her with so much contempt.”

  “Mr. Owens, your daughter claims to have information related to an ongoing investigation. That these disappearances are connected, yet she hasn’t given us anything to work with. I believe she is holding back on us . . .or she’s faking.” He leaned back in his chair, his face grim. “She either knows something or she doesn’t. Which is it?”

  “I’m not faking!” Wendy snapped and turned to her father. “You believe me, don’t you?”

  Her Dad tried again to coax her. “Sweetie, we love you, always have and always will, and nothing you say or do can change that. But can you remember anything, anything at all about where you’ve been?”

  “I remember flying—no wait . . . falling.” Her shoulders slumped.

  Detective Saylor rubbed his forehead as if he was tired. “Stop with the fairy tales.”

  “I’m telling the truth!” Wendy said, getting frustrated with trying to explain to him.

  “Oh, so you were flying . . . were you flying high on drugs?”

  “That’s enough,” George said, pulling Wendy from the chair after him. “We’re through with this interview. If, and only if, my daughter can remember anything about what happened or about those other missing kids,” he said, opening the door and pushing Wendy through first, “we will call you. But until then, forget you ever met us.” The door slammed on a very red-faced detective.

  George fumbled for his keys and grabbed Wendy’s hand as they made their way out of the police station and to their car.

  “Dad, I don’t think you’re allowed to just walk out like that,” Wendy said, even though she was relieved by their abrupt exit. She shouldn’t complain.

  “Let them try and stop me. What are they going to do? Throw me in prison after we just got you back,” he said over the top of the car, just before sliding into the driver’s seat. “That won’t look very good on the five o’clock news now, will it?” He gripped the steering wheel, making his knuckles turn white. “Look, you tried, honey, and that’s all that matters. Let’s get home to your mom and brother.”

  She couldn’t help but feel a bit apprehensive as he sped out of the parking lot. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Detective Saylor on the front step of the police station, drinking a cup of coffee out of a paper cup. He lifted it in salute when they drove by—a signal of good riddance.

  Weeks later, she still couldn’t shake the feeling that she was still on to something. Everything was connected if she only could find the missing link.

  A knock on the door startled her. She quickly shoved her notebook and map back into her dresser.

  “Come in,” she answered.

  Her brother stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. He came over and sat on the end of her bed. “How are you doing?”

  “Fine, or I will be, as soon as everyone stops asking me.”

  “Well, maybe if you gave another answer besides fine.” John chuckled. “Acceptable answers include the following: sucky, horrible, or even ‘Get lost, John.’”

  “Okay, get lost, John.” Wendy smiled wanly.

  “Are you sure? Because you’ve said that on multiple occasions, and I never listened to you then either.”

  Wendy’s smile grew a little brighter, but then he asked, “Are you ready to go back to school?”

  Her smile dimmed. “I’m not sure. Can you go over everything with me one more time?”

  Her parents had decided the previous week that Wendy should try and get back into her routine as much as possible, and that meant school.

  John grabbed their high school yearbook and slowly went over all of her teachers’ names. Mrs. Tillman taught Algebra, and Wendy had Miss Stark for second period study hall. They went through her whole schedule before he turned the page to the previous year’s classmates. Her friends.

  “Brittney Spacek is your best friend, or was . . . I’m not sure what happened between you two. Mom talked to the school, and because of your . . .” He paused, as if he didn’t want to say what she knew he meant—absence. “They’ve agreed to let you back on the team, if you wish.”

  She thought about it and looked over at the corner of her room and the blue and silver pom-poms sitting in the corner. “Do I?”

  John shrugged his shoulders. “That’s for you to decide, but it’s a part of who you were.”

  “What if I don’t like who I was? What if I’m someone different now?” she said.

  “Well, you never know unless you try.”

  He flipped the page and showed her another picture. Jeremy Hatler, a young blond-haired guy with a cocky grin and a red heart drawn around his face, which she assumed she had done.

  John stabbed a finger at the image. “You like him; you’ve had a crush on him since middle school, although I can’t imagine what you see in him. But he was the one that could break up the band—I mean squad.”

  “Uh, okay.” A queasy feeling dropped like an anchor in the pit of her stomach. That didn’t seem right, but who was she to disagree when she couldn’t even decide what her favorite food was?

  “Well, tomorrow is Sunday, the last free day before your prison sentence—I mean before school starts,” John joked.

  Wendy grimaced.

  “Well, how about we celebrate by going out and watching a movie?”

  She shrugged.


  She shrugged again.

  “Ice cream?”

  That didn’t even warrant a shrug.

  “Okay, there is something wrong with you when ice cream didn’t even snap you out of your coma. Okay, um, home movie it is.” John persuaded her to come down to the living room and began flipping through the movies. He spent forever deciding before he pulled down an old home movie on DVD. She relaxed back into the sofa as he inserted the disc and then the screen flickered before a young boy appeared in front of the camera.

  He was grinning and sticking his tongue out at an unseen cameraman, and then he ran along the beach and made a beeline for the waves. Wendy could hear a woman yell at him to be careful. She could tell just by looking that the boy on the screen was a younger version of John and that the woman’s voice was her mom. Then, the camera panned over to her, and Mary grinned, a large sunhat and glasses covering her face, the slightest beginning of a sunburn on her nose.

  Wendy didn’t even notice John had left the room until he returned with a pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream for her. Wendy dipped her spoon in and took a bite and was disappointed. The flavor needed something like bacon.

  She looked back up at the screen, the bacon ice cream craving forgotten.

  “Is this . . . ?” Wendy was unable to finish the question.

  “The day we found you,” John answered.

  Their mom waved at the camera and blew a kiss before George zoomed in on John running along the beach. She took off toward the water and her son, only slowing when she came across something floating in the water.

  Mary shouted back at her husband, “George, there’s something over here!”

  The camera bobbed up and down as George ran toward the log in the water.

  “Stay back, Mary.” The camera dropped to the ground but not before panning across a pale, unmoving girl tangled in a mass of seaweed and her own hair. “Oh Lord, it’s a child.” The camera was abandoned on the sand, but Wendy could see firsthand how George had put his ear to her chest and felt for a pulse. “Call 911. She’s still alive.”

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