Another missing person. Sighing, I looked down at the picture I’d been given. Like the others she was a teenage girl, who’d become more secretive recently, and that told me exactly what I was dealing with. Even though Willow had made it obvious anyone using the humans around them would be punished harshly that didn’t stop it. Far too many of them didn’t give a damn what she said, because, to them, she wasn’t the true Queen. Instead she was someone standing in the way of a true monarch, one who would make the right choices. If they found out she’d come to me, to ask for my help, they would have been even more determined to take her throne from her. Unlike them she understood. Being human meant my people trusted me, and, slowly, word had passed from one parent to the next. I was the person to come to if they needed help to find a lost child.
It wasn’t always a daughter. Occasionally I was out looking for a son, who’d been enchanted by a fae woman who wanted to drain everything he had within him. They all believed the person they were with loved them. No one ever wanted to believe they were being used. Feeling like it was never going to change, and it probably wouldn’t, I stood, pulling my jacket on. Getting started quickly was the most important thing. Jennifer had already been gone for five days, and that didn’t give me a lot of time. I never had a lot of time. They should have come straight to me instead of hoping she’d come home on her own. I hadn’t yet known one of the girls to leave their boyfriend, even when he started pushing for more than they were willing to give. That was why they went after teenagers.
Like I always did I called one number. Daryl didn’t answer. He didn’t need to. There was only one reason I called him. He was my contact within the fae, someone I knew I could trust, and he would be waiting for me when I reached the border. Before that I needed to ask some of Jennifer’s friends if they knew anything about the boyfriend she’d been hiding from her parents. She knew they wouldn’t approve, because he was fae. To her that made him exotic. To her parents it made him dangerous. Far too often the parents were right. Of course that didn’t matter to the girl in question. All she knew was that this attractive young man, who could well be centuries old, was interested in her. It helped that they could do magic, of course, and it wasn’t unheard of for them to cast a little enchantment, not caring that it would get them a life sentence if they were caught. They simply weren’t going to get caught.
To begin with they hadn’t. There hadn’t been someone like me around. That was why Willow made the decision to come to me, when I was dealing with my first missing person’s case that involved the fae, to make sure I had the help I needed to be able to find the teenager in question. Unfortunately I hadn’t found whoever it was that had convinced her he was truly in love with her, but then that wasn’t a surprise. When I started asking questions they knew the best thing they could do was get away before they were caught. It wouldn’t take them too long to find someone else to take the place of the person they’d lost, and then it would start all over again. It was a horrible cycle that we all hated, but, so far, there hadn’t been anything we could do in order to stop it.
Jennifer’s school was close enough to my office for me to walk. It was a nice day, one I normally would have enjoyed, but my mind was on what she was going through. Did she think she’d been forgotten? That’s what they always said. When they took the girl they told her they’d made it so their parents would never remember them. Every time it worked. Teenage girls were easily manipulated. A couple of the right words in her ear, and she was putty in his hands. Telling her the only reason her parents didn’t want her to see him was because they didn’t understand made it so much simpler for him to convince her to go with him past the border. Once she as in fae territory getting out was much harder, especially alone, and when he said her parents wouldn’t know who she was if she went back she believed him. Maybe, in part, it was easier that way. It was easier to let him do what he was doing if she didn’t think that her parents would miss her if she never came home.
For me it was like that. I can still remember every moment of the time I spent with him. Unlike them I made the decision I was getting out, even if I didn’t have anything to go back to. Every day I was a little bit weaker and I knew the time would come when I wasn’t strong enough to go. He thought I was like all the others. He thought I’d stay with him to die, because he made me think he loved me, but I ran for my life. I didn’t think I had anything to escape for, apart from my own life. Sometimes I wonder why the others don’t make the same choice, but they always go after those who are struggling the most, who are dealing with depression, or some sort of addiction, or just feel like they have nothing in their lives. I was one of those who didn’t believe I had anything. Getting home showed me how wrong I was. It was a lesson I was grateful for learn, but I’ve always wished I could have learnt it without the pain.
Remember what it was like it what pushes me to help the others. They’re all like me. They all need someone to show them what it is they think they don’t have. Without me they wouldn’t have the strength to find their way home, and I know that, because I’ve done it so many times already. I’ve been thanked by so many girls who could easily have been me. All I really want to do is put a stop to this, so I don’t have to keep going after them, but that’s far harder than any of us want it to be. Willow’s done what she can. If she knew what would happen I think she would have left her people where they were, to deal with what was going to happen to them, and yet it’s not fair of either of us to tar them all with the same brush. Some of the fae are good people. A lot of them are. It’s the minority that give them a bad name, but that minority is dangerous.
The school came into view. My old school. I studied it, from where I was, remembering what it was like to be a student there. I’d hated most of it. I felt so alone. From the very beginning I felt like I was never going to fit in there, and I can’t help thinking that was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I thought I wasn’t going to make any real friends, so I kept everyone at arm’s length, telling myself I didn’t need anyone. Old me was very wrong. I needed people in my life. I always had and I always would, but back then I was comfortable being a loner. In a lot of ways I am still that girl, but I’ve grown up to trust people, like Daryl, to watch my back when I need someone there. If it wasn’t for him I would have died multiple times. He’s the one who’s always there for me. He’s the only one I could imagine being in fae territory with, because he’s not going to turn on me. It took me a long time to work that out, but in the end, when he saved my life for the third time, I came to the conclusion I couldn’t keep waiting for him to turn on me. He wasn’t going to.
Half feeling like I was going back in time I slowly made my way towards the building. It was late enough that I wouldn’t have to wait too long for the last bell to ring. Jennifer’s parents had given me a couple of names. That would help. I was always trusted more if I had names, because then it meant I had spoken to someone who knew the missing girl, and that was when I’d get the answers I needed. I stood close enough to the gate I’d be able to see what was going on and far enough away no one would call the police on me. Being female gave me a lot more leeway, but it wasn’t unheard of for me to get into trouble when I was at yet another school asking questions about missing people. Luckily for me the police had come to know who I was, what I did, and often they’d simply turn up to tell I was too close to the gates.
I brushed a hand through my hair. Jennifer’s parents told me she had a few close friends, but she wasn’t one of the popular girls. They never were. Taking someone who was always in the middle of things was a hundred times harder than taking someone on the outskirts, and most of them didn’t want to go to that much effort, even if people like that did have more to offer. I’d only ever once dealt with a fae who had gone to that much effort. He’d disappeared before Daryl and I got to where he’d been keeping the girl in question, but that wasn’t going to stop us from hunting him. That was more Daryl’s job than it was mine, even though we all knew I was in danger. I was sticking my nose where it didn’t belong, and the time would come when the fae I’d stopped would come after me. All I could do was hope Daryl found out about it before anything could happen.
When I heard the bell ring I stayed where I was. Some of the girls knew me. I’d been there before, doing the same thing, and it helped. One of them, Eleanor, looked over at me with a smile, before pushing someone she was walking with in my direction. That wasn’t unusual. Word passed through the girls quickly. If someone was gone they knew about. Sometimes the girls had even come to me before the parents had, because they knew what I did. They knew I was the one who helped, if I knew where I was needed. Sometimes the girl who’d been taken was right and didn’t have parents to go back to, but they weren’t the only people would cold be family, and the girls had proved that to me more than once.
“Hi.” I let my eyes meet with hers, just for a moment. “I’m looking for Jennifer.”
“El told me you would be. I’m Sophie.”
“Jennifer’s mum mentioned you to me.”
“We shouldn’t have waited. Jen’s been gone too long.”
“Not too long. It’s longer than I would like, but I’ve found girls after five days before.” I was trying to put her mind at ease. “Do you know anything about the guy Jennifer was seeing?”
“At first Jen didn’t want to talk about him. She came into school about a month ago, and we all knew something had happened. When we tried to get her to say something she’d clam up, so we stopped asking, and waited for her to talk to us. I had a feeling I knew why she hadn’t said anything. It isn’t as though we don’t know what the fae can be capable of, but she didn’t want to believe her boyfriend was like, and, to be honest, I didn’t want to believe he was either.”
Sophie shook her head. “Nothing I said would have stopped her from going with him. She believed he loved her. I told him no one worth being with would say he loved her after such a short time, but she told me I was jealous. I kept my mouth shut after that. I didn’t want her to stop talking to us. The time would come when she’d need us to know who he was, at least, to give you a place to start.” She studied me. “We all know about you, Emily. You’ve done this for so many of us, and I don’t understand why you haven’t walked away.”
“There’s no reason for me to.” I studied Sophie. “Jennifer, if she’s anything like I was, doesn’t understand how lucky she is to have the people she does in her life. She feels alone, and sad, and like she’s never really going to have a place. I know what it’s like to feel that way, and I’m not going to give up on people who need help. Being a teenager is hard. I went through it all myself. I could easily have died, after making the same choice she has, but I didn’t, because I wasn’t going to give up without a fight. I have no idea why I fought. I didn’t believe I had anything to fight for, apart from myself, and I wasn’t enough.” I ran my tongue over my dry lips. “It wasn’t until I managed to get home I saw what I hadn’t before. I wasn’t alone. I had people who loved me in my life, and I just couldn’t see them before.”
“Jen wasn’t comfortable telling us much about him. I think she was afraid of one of us stealing him from her. A couple of times we saw him from a distance, but that was all. I can see why she wanted to believe what he was saying to her. Even from a distance I could tell was attractive. At the same time…” Sophie looked down at the ground, and then back at me. “You can’t tell anyone about what I’m about to say next.”
“You could see the magic coming off him?”
“I could. I think he was enchanting her, or he wasn’t as attractive as he was pretending to be. Either way I knew she should stay as far away from his as possible, but nothing I could have said to her would have made her see the truth. She had to find it out for herself. Now she has there’s nothing I can do.”
“Tell me his name.”
I’d heard that name before, and I knew him. “Thank you.”
“Are you going to be able to find her?”
“Sophie, I know better than to make any promises, but I will do my best.”
“Don’t thank me until I’ve found her.” I took one of my cards out of my jacket pocket. “If you hear from her contact me. It’s unlikely, but you never know what might happen.”
Nodding, Sophie took the card from me. “I will.”
“Do one other thing for me.”
“Think about what you saw, and what it means. Not all the fae are like Eoghan. If you want me to I can introduce you to someone who’ll help you to see that.”
“I’m not going to the school.”
“I said that once, and then that’s exactly where I ended up.” I shrugged. “You don’t have to make the decision right now, but if you need someone to talk to you have my number.”
Knowing there was nothing I could do to convince her to do something she didn’t want to do I walked away. I had a job to do, and if that job meant finally bringing Eoghan to justice, no matter how little I believed it was ever going to happen, I was more than happy to be doing it. Thanks to Daryl I knew there was a spot near my office I could step through to get into fae territory. As I walked back there I couldn’t help thinking about my time at the school. Even though I’d graduated it wasn’t something anyone outside of the school knew. It was the reason I found it easier than most to travel from a human street into a fae one, so I had that to be grateful for. At the same time being at the school had just made me more certain than I had been before that I was better off keeping my distance from the fae. I’d stuck with the other humans as much as possible, which made it mostly bearable, but a lot of my friends had dropped out, because the fae were hard to deal with.
Shaking my head, wanting to stop the memories from getting the better of me, I found the point I needed. There was nothing to make it seem as though I would step into fae territory, and I wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t fae blooded. When I stepped through Daryl was leaning against a wall, waiting for me far more patiently than I would have been waiting for him, but then he’d always been like that. He’d been patient with me when I believed he was going to kill me the first chance he got. He was still being patient with me guessing who he really was, because I didn’t know anything more than his name and that Willow trusted him.
“What did you get?”
“Promise me you’re going to be careful.”
“I’m always careful, Daryl.”
“This time you need to be more careful. He knows who you are, and there is a chance this is a trap.”
“Did you really think I hadn’t thought of that?” I shook my head. “Jennifer needs my help. That’s all that matters.”
<<< The Fae World: Earth: Ava: Unexpected Magic***The Fae World: Earth: Eleanor: Going Back in Time >>>