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       Lost Boy, p.5

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  Peter wanted to crow in excitement, but he didn’t have time to waste because he was flying in the wrong direction. Peter corrected his course and called Slightly, who was closer to where she was heading.

  Slightly answered the phone. “Yeah?”

  “Be ready for a pickup,” Peter said.

  Minutes later, Slightly was waiting with his motorcycle parked off to the side of the road, his helmet on the seat. He waved to acknowledge that he saw Peter and turned away from him, lifting his arms. Peter swooped in, picking him up under his arms and lifted him into the air.

  “Where is she?” Slightly asked as they flew toward Brookestone Street.

  “In the white van.”

  “I see it,” Slightly said, pointing.

  Peter could see it coming up too, and it was about to go inside a tunnel.

  “Faster, Peter," Slightly encouraged.

  Peter flew as quick as he could, dangling Slightly in the air just above and ahead of the van.

  “Okay, do it!” Slightly called over his shoulder.

  Peter let Slightly drop, the teen transforming midair into his bulk form, his whole body tripling in size, his muscles bulging and ripping through his shirt. Slightly roared as he landed on the van, his weight denting the top, causing the vehicle to sway into the other lane. He punched through the roof, pulling back the metal like a can of tuna.

  The Red Skulls opened fire on Slightly from inside the van, but their bullets bounced off his thick skin. He reached inside, grabbing a Red Skull and slamming him into a second, knocking them both unconscious.

  The driver of the van sped up toward the low-clearance tunnel, aiming to knock Slightly off the roof.

  Peter snatched Slightly, hauling him down and behind the van, just before the ceiling almost removed his head. Peter groaned, holding on tight; he wasn’t strong enough to carry Slightly in his bulky form.

  “Throw me!” Slightly growled, and Peter launched him onto the back of the van. Slightly seized the bumper, digging his heels into the road, halting the van in the middle of the tunnel. Peter entered the rear door and paused as the sight of two unconscious Wendys greeted him.

  The driver cried out as Slightly physically yanked him out of his seat and threw him into the back of an oncoming dump truck.

  “Smell ya later,” Slightly called out, his voice deeper in his bulky form.

  Inside the van, two bodies lay very still among a mess of weapons and gun casings. What was going on?

  “Wendy?” Peter said softly and stepped into the van, careful not to disturb the two beings. He knew one of them had to be a fake, but the trick was in determining which one it was.

  “Whoa,” Slightly exclaimed as he crawled into the front seat, his body reduced to his normal size, with his stretched and torn clothes hanging off him. He pushed up the glasses on the bridge of his nose. “What now?”

  “Well . . .” Peter picked up a Beretta and made a show of pulling out the magazine, reinserting it with a click, and racking the slide, loading a round into the chamber. “I say we shoot them both. We know the real Wendy can survive a bullet wound, but can the fake one?”

  He pressed the barrel to the nearest girl’s temple. The fake Wendy’s eyes flew open as she leaped at Peter, a knife in her hands. He blocked the swipe with the barrel of the gun and wrestled for control of the combat knife, which went falling to the floor of the van. The fake Wendy shrank and morphed before his eyes into his image, and it was unnerving to wrestle with himself.

  “Who are you?” Peter asked.

  “I’m you,” he laughed, putting his hands on his hips in a very Peter-like fashion. “Or should I say I’m what you could be?”

  “You will never be me.” Peter feinted a punch and then swiped his leg out from under the fake Peter, who toppled forward into the van frame, his head making a loud thud as he slid down to the floor in an unconscious heap.

  Peter stepped over him and carefully picked up Wendy, cradling her against his chest. Cars were piling up and blocking their way out of the tunnel.

  “This way!” Peter yelled, and they ran out and up the hill, ducking between alleys. They could hear the sirens in the distance drawing closer. When they were farther enough, they slowed. Peter gave Slightly a wane smile. “Never boring, is it?”

  Slightly laughed, slapping him on the back. “Nope, but what are you going to do now that she’s no longer safe? I doubt we can force her to come back to Neverwood with us, without her memories. It would be akin to kidnapping.”

  Peter was worried. Wendy hadn’t woken up yet and was sleeping peacefully in his arms. He didn’t want to scare her any more than she had already been. What if she awoke and decided that she didn’t like him? What if she wanted nothing to do with him or the Neverwood boys any longer? She wasn’t safe on her own any more—that was abundantly clear. He would have to help her regain her memories. He needed her, and he needed her to remember him.

  “We need Dr. Mee,” Peter said, giving Slightly a knowing look.

  “I’ll get on it. We tracked Dr. Mee down once. I’m sure we can find her again.”

  “But remember, Slightly, she doesn’t want to be found. She made that very clear to us the last time. She could be dangerous.”

  “Don’t worry. I’ll bring Curly. No one says no to Curly.”

  “Good, but until then we can’t go to Neverwood and going home could be dangerous. I may have to take her to a neutral safe zone and try to win her over slowly.”

  “Since when do you ever take things slow?” Slightly scoffed.

  “I do when it’s her,” Peter said, gently brushing his lips across her forehead.

  Chapter Nine

  John was dumbfounded. They were still in the van speeding down the highway, tracking Peter and Slightly. Tink did her best to fill him in on Wendy’s past and the crazy story of how they knew his sister. He was also fascinated watching the snarky blonde work magic on a computer as she hacked into the department of motor vehicles’ traffic cams. Peter had texted them about a van and she was searching for it.

  Feeling somewhat stuck and unable to help, he started to poke around the equipment and gadgets while he listened to Tink explain Wendy’s past and their involvement.

  He picked up a strange looking cuff bracelet off the console and Tink caught him.

  “Don’t you *@#[email protected] touch that light brace!” Tink shrieked, ripping the light brace from his hand. She tossed it into a bin filled with other braces and went back to scanning the screen.

  John liked it when the attractive blonde snapped at him, causing the bracelet she wore to start chiming.

  “Yeah, I’d do what she says,” Ditto warned. “Otherwise, you might end up in a lake.”

  “She’s done that?” John asked.

  “Oh, yeah, she’ll hack the GPS in your car without you even knowing and get you lost.”

  “Duly noted. Sorry to interrupt, Tink, but you were saying these pirates that took my sister—”

  “They’re not pirates. They’re mercenaries called the Red Skulls, and they work for Neverland Corporation.”

  “These are the people that took my sister and did experiments on her and tried to kill her, right? But she died, only to survive, and ended up with no memories . . . twice.”

  “Ding, ding, ding,” Tink said. “Yes, exactly, she panned and lost her memories, after escaping Neverland and then again after she was shot.”

  “And once again ended up with us.” John was beginning to dislike the idea of his sister being with these people. They always seemed to manage to get his sister killed. “I’m starting to see a trend here.”

  “Okay, I’ve hacked into all the traffic cameras that lead away from the school. I think I found the van Peter described going up Jefferson, but then they turned somewhere along the way, and I can’t find them. They must have turned off somewhere; my guess is we should follow this road to the highway.”

  Ditto followed Tink’s instructions until they came to a backup of cars in front of
a tunnel. There were lights and police vehicles surrounding the area, with police redirecting traffic.

  “Uh-oh,” Ditto mumbled. “Do you think—?” His phone rang, and he answered, his face grim. Then, he broke into a smile. “They got to Wendy. She’s safe.”

  John was so consumed by anticipation that he didn’t realize he’d been half-holding his breath. He started to get choked up when he heard the news. “She’s okay?”

  Ditto nodded, “We’ve been ordered to pick up Slightly. The Red Skulls have been neutralized.”

  “How did he find her, did he say?” Tink leaned forward, putting her hand on Ditto’s shoulder as he waited for the traffic to clear so he could do a U-turn.

  “Peter said he received a phone tip.”

  “I don’t believe it,” Tink said, shaking her head. “From whom?”

  “Jax.”

  “What? We need to interrogate her then.” Tink turned in her seat to look at John. “You have to let us talk to your sister.”

  “No!” John said, reaching for the door handle and sliding it open. “Stay away from her.” He jumped out into the road and began to storm off.

  Ditto pulled around and drove the van at a slow pace, the passenger window rolled down, and Tink popped her head out.

  “Okay, would it make you feel any better if I said the interrogation wouldn’t involve any Chinese water torture techniques?”

  “Maybe.” He kept walking.

  “It would involve a lot of K-pop music.”

  John snorted. “I happen to like K-pop.”

  “Really? You just can’t tell about some people,” Tink said thoughtfully.

  John slowed, and the van matched his pace.

  “Look, I know you want to help my sister, but maybe you’ve got it wrong. We were fine before you came along, and we’ll be just fine after you leave.”

  “You don’t believe that, do you?” Tink asked. “We’re on her side.”

  “No, I’m on her side. I’m family. You’re strangers.”

  Tink rolled her eyes, tapping her fingernails on the outside of the door. “You’ve met me. I’m annoying, but I’m not evil. Peter will probably take her home soon. She may not be safe there, she is the only PX-1 original out there who isn’t hidden at Neverwood. We could protect her at Neverwood, and while she’s there, I could find out what she knows. I think it would be easier and faster if you just bring her to me and let me hook her up to a machine and—”

  “You mean you’re lazy.”

  “What!” she screeched.

  Startled, Ditto slammed the brakes. The van lurched to a halt, and Tink was flung forward into the equipment. The loud ringing of bells could be heard coming from inside the van as she tried to regain her seat.

  “And that’s why you should always wear your seatbelt.” John laughed, and turning the opposite way, he ducked into the alley and headed home.

  Chapter Ten

  Flying with Wendy carefully tucked against his chest, Peter struggled with the thought of letting her go. He couldn’t take her straight home, not without endangering her life. But Neverwood, despite its offering of an army of protectors for her, was not an option either—not yet. Not while her memories of him and Neverwood were locked away. She could end up resenting or even hating him if she learned that he still had her brother locked up, that when had she panned, he had abandoned her. That he hadn’t saved her years ago on the rooftop when they were kids. There were a million reasons she could resent him. She would need to come willingly, to choose him.

  And Peter wasn’t patient. But an idea had occurred to him, and he was desperate for her remember.

  Wendy shifted in his arms, her head nuzzled gently into his neck, and he was almost undone. He hoped for the strength and wisdom to do the right thing.

  Peter flew to the heavily wooded area of the park, where he had found her weeks ago, and landed amongst cover. He carefully carried her to the same bench where she’d fended off the shadows with a pocket knife. The setting was different. It was still early evening, with kids and families lounging and picnicking. The whole atmosphere was safe and welcoming. Peter slipped his jacket off and tucked it under her head and waited for her to wake up. The clock in the park struck six and began to chime loudly.

  “Wendy?”

  The chimes cut through the darkness, waking her. Then, she heard it—a familiar voice that kept calling her name. She fought off the fogginess and searched for the voice. Forcing her eyes open, she was blinded by the setting sun, and her limbs were dead weight.

  The sunlight made it difficult to focus, but then she saw him—the stranger from her dreams. His soft smile and the reassuring twinkle in his eye made her breath catch in her throat. He was real.

  “Hi,” he whispered.

  Butterflies filled her stomach at the sound of his voice; there was a twinge of recognition.

  A cry from a young toddler startled her, and she took stock of her surroundings.

  A park? What was she doing? Where was she? What happened?

  “Where am I?” She tried to sit up. Everything that was harmless moments ago had become threatening and forbidding.

  “I remember John . . . only it wasn’t my brother. He changed and then I was taken, and . . .” Her breathing became ragged, and her hand flew to her throat, where she could feel the raised bump and slight pain.

  “Hey, it’s okay,” the handsome boy said reassuringly, touching her hand. “I’ve got you. Listen to me, I know that you’ve been through a lot, but understand that right at this very moment, you are safe. We saved you. Nothing bad is going to happen.”

  “How did I get away? Why don’t I remember?”

  “You were unconscious. My friend Slightly and I followed the van and were able to force it to stop and we um . . .” He laughed. “We stole you from the kidnappers. I wanted to give you time to understand what happened before we take you home.”

  She could tell there was more to the story, but she believed him. She could hear the confidence in his voice. She took a few moments to calm herself and take note of where they were. A very public place, surrounded by people. There were worse places she could have awoken in. He promised to take her home; he hadn’t made any untoward advances. So, she was still relatively safe. “How did you know I was in trouble?”

  “Your friends and your brother told me,” Peter answered.

  Someone from school could have seen what had happened. The answer was plausible, but it got her mind turning, thinking as she tried to remember.

  “I know you?” Wendy fought against the emptiness and the cobwebs in her mind. “You’re . . . you’re . . .”

  His face brightened; so, she knew they knew each other. It was her first real inkling. Another memory, something about a football game, a blur of shadows and monsters.

  “On the football team?” she guessed.

  His smile fell. She was wrong.

  “From school?” she said, trying again.

  “Well, I’m from a different school, not yours, but you do know me. I’m your guardian angel, per se. If you don’t believe me, listen to your heart,” he said, holding her hand the whole time, gently rubbing his thumb over her knuckles.

  A thrill raced through her at the feeling of his hand over hers, but he was a stranger. She knew nothing about him, and that thrill quickly turned to fear. She dropped his hand and stood up, subconsciously wiping her palm on her pants.

  “You never answered my question,” she said firmly, backing away from him.

  “What question?” He sounded hurt from her rejection of his touch.

  “Who are you?”

  “My name is Peter.”

  “Peter,” she repeated, letting his name resonate on her lips.

  “Do you trust me?” he asked and held out his hand to her, waiting, hoping she would take it.

  Déjà vu sent a tingle of anticipation down Wendy’s spine. The opened hand, the words of trust—it was so familiar. Why was it familiar?

  She swallowed
, looking into his dreamy green eyes. She knew there had to be a hidden meaning behind his question. And she wanted to know the answer.

  Her hand reached instinctively for his. “Yes, I trust you.”

  “Then, come with me. Let’s walk.”

  Wendy stood up, pins and needles racing down her legs and feet as feeling came back to them. She walked through the pain and the park, holding on to his arm, partly because she didn’t want to let go and partly because she had no clue where she was.

  “Why are we here?” she asked, uncertainty plaguing her. His hand gently rubbed her back, soothing her.

  “Because I’m hungry, are you hungry?” he answered, stopping at a hot dog vendor and pulling out his wallet. “Everyone loves hotdogs.”

  Wendy relaxed somewhat as she glanced at the friendly smile of the hot dog vendor.

  “Hey, Louie,” Peter said, pulling some bills from his wallet.

  Louie offered Peter a smile and a nod, and then turned to Wendy. “Why, it’s our little Miss Wendy looking so grown up these days! Here, I’ve got your favorite.”

  He handed her two hot dogs wrapped in foil, and she held out her palm, taking the hot dogs instinctively, though the part of her responding to his smile and the warmth of his voice warred with the knowledge that she didn’t know that man any more than she knew the boy beside her.

  “Is two too many?” Louie asked, his smile falling as he took in her expression.

  “I—” She shook her head, feeling overwhelmed. It was all too much, nothing seemed familiar. Others knew who she was, but she didn’t know them at all. And then, there was a boy who made her heart melt into a puddle, and she couldn’t remember him at all, no more than she could remember the smiling face of the hot dog vendor who knew what she wanted better than she did.

  Wendy continued to stare at him wordlessly, and Louie glanced at Peter with uncertainty. Peter slipped him a five and took the hot dogs from him, then whispered softly to the man.

 
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