They raced down the street. April Break was the first real freedom of the year. In Maine, it was the first warm time off from school since the summer previous and the fifty-four degree day felt fabulous. Henry ran to keep up with Roland who whizzed down the street on his skateboard, long curls flowing around his face. They had a whole week of nothingness to face and Henry was not about to waste it. Roland wasn't about to either.
The skateboard ran into the step in front of The Corner Market and Roland hopped off with a practiced move that landed him on his feet. A month ago he had landed on his face too many times to count trying to get that move just right. Henry wanted no part.
"You know what the worst thing about seventh grade is?" Roland asked, tucking the skateboard under his arm.
Henry tilted his head as they went down their usual snack aisle. "What?"
"The homework over breaks! It cannot be a break if we have homework. Ms. Blanchard wants us to write a whole paper,"
Henry sighed and shook his head. "We have had three weeks to write that paper already. Mine is nearly done."
"Of course it is." Roland shook his head as he grabbed a bag of Wise ruffles and Jax cheese puffs. "Don't tell me you have nearly finished the history project Mr. Archimedes gave."
Henry laughed. Roland had been his best friend since they were kids. It had been solidified in Kindergarden when Mother's Day was approaching and Roland had burst into tears. His mom had died a few months before, and Henry had been the only one who knew what it was like to be missing one parent had gone and told him he could make a gift for his mom to have in heaven. Henry made one for his dad every year. So Roland had sat beside him and they had both made their Mother's Day gifts.
Still, Roland wasn't likely to do anything until the end of the week when they had had their fill of X-Box and comics and hanging around. "No. He really did give that to us today. It's okay, if you ask, I am sure Ms. French at the library will help you out."
Roland swiped at Henry with the bag of cheese puffs before turning into the sweet aisle. Henry followed behind, hitching up his bag on his shoulder. If his mom new he had a new project she would probably have him setting down to start planning it out so he could get it done with maximum efficiency. She was really good at efficiency. It was why she was the mayor. Henry wondered if Mr. Locksley would be the same. "Your dad really won't mind us hanging around and playing X-Box all day?"
Roland rolled his eyes. "When has my dad ever minded? I think he likes having you around. It lets him pretend our family is bigger, you know. They would have had more than me if Mom had lived. 'Sides, what are you going to do otherwise? Go home to your huge house and read and do homework?"
A pack of peach rings was added to the pile and Henry grabbed Oreos. Roland flashed Henry the bright grin that had been his mark nearly all their lives. "Instead we are going to go to my house and kill some virtual people. It's a much better deal."
"True," Henry answered, returning Roland's grin with one of his own. "Hey, do you think you could talk your dad into letting you go to Comic Con in Boston this year? It should be awesome."
"I wish," Roland complained letting out a breath, "One, letting me leave Dad's sight outside of town is the number one no-no. Two if my dad had the money I would have new sneakers."
"Mom could pay for you."
"Ha! You have met my father. No charity. You remember the time your mom sent me home in a pair of your jeans and told me to keep them."
Roland and his father had shown up on the doorstep with the pair of folded jeans, smelling of fresh detergent. Mom and Mr. Locksley had sent them to the back and had proceeded to argue about charity and what people did or did not need and taking care of kids. They hadn't really spoken since, their parents, except about their kids when they had to.
"Another year then," Henry said sadly.
Mom would probably take the time off to take him if Henry asked, but he wouldn't want to to without Roland. Mom always tried her best to talk to him about comics and she liked some of his stories and anime and movies but it wouldn't be the same without someone who understood it like breathing.
Roland nudged him. "Hey, in two years I can get a permit to work at Tom Thumb's Grocery. I can spend the whole year saving up for it. If your mom springs for the hotel, I will totally go."
They threw their snacks up onto the counter and Henry pulled out his wallet before Roland could argue. He had twenty from his allowance which covered the snacks and the energy drinks. There was more for the pizza they would order for dinner.
Laughing about the latest issue of Avengers, they spilled out onto the street. Henry swung both of the bags slightly as he tried to keep up with rolling Roland and his one bag. He would play games that his mother would not allow in the house and have far too much sugar. It would be awesome.
Or it would have been until the hand vised down on his shoulder and something hard poked into his back.
"Roland? Henry?" Robin called, wiping his hands on his stained jeans as he moved from his workshop into the house. Silence greeted him. He had assumed since he had been using the buzz saw and other large materials they hadn't entered the workshop for safety's sake. "It's too quiet in here."
Usually, upon emerging from his workshop the sounds of riotous gunfire and laughter filled the whole small house. Today it sounded like it had when they were six and had written all over the walls of the living room. Silence from the inseparable duo usually meant trouble. "Guys?"
Swinging from the kitchen to the living room, Robin noted the worn, brown couch was empty and the large TV and various game systems were off. Shaking his head, he climbed the stairs to where the two dormered bedrooms were. "Roland? Henry?"
Robin knocked on the door. No answer. "Roland," he called again, "I am coming in."
Twisting the knob, Robin entered. The old, Pokemon bedspread that Roland was nearly grown out of practically resembled a ball on the bed, more rumpled than the sheets beneath. Comic books and action figures and all other paraphernalia of being a young boy was scattered over the floor. What it was missing were the two usual boys who were spread across the room.
A pit formed in his stomach. It was the same pit he had been unable to get rid of since a typical ultrasound towards the end of her pregnancy had shown something abnormal on Marian's ovary. Even after they had known she would never get better, even after she had left him and their boy behind, the pit never left. Robin took deep breaths in through his nose and tried to tell himself that nothing horrible had happened, even if his gut was telling him it was. His gut rarely lied.
The door gaped open behind him like a large mouth as he took the stairs two at a time and barged into his workroom. Grabbing his cell phone he flipped through his messages. The last one from Roland read Out. Grabbing snacks. Home in 20. That had been two and a half hours ago and Robin's house was still empty.
Robin clicked on the contact twice. Roland's smiling face, nearly a year out of date, smiled up at him as the phone rang. The only sounds were the endless ring and the beating of his heart before there was a click. "Roland. Roland, where the hell are you-"
"Hey, I am not able to pick up this phone. If I know you, I'll call back. If not, you shouldn't have this number."
"Damn it, Roland. Call me or enter this house in the next five minutes or I am calling the police. I am not kidding."
It was likely not the best message a parent could leave on a child's phone but the amount of patience he normally had stored up would be gone. If Marian we're here with her calm voice and endless patience and her ability to make him feel small, Robin would probably be handling this a whole lot better. Roland might actually answer her phone call. She wasn't though and he was in this alone.
I didn't sign up for doing this alone, Marian, he thought at her. If she could even hear him. I promise I won't kill the boy once I find him.
Robin poked at his phone until Henry's contact popped up. While his own son had picked up on his own sneaky habits, Henry was as straight forward as his mother had always been. To a fault, even, which Robin considered a gift. If they were doing something they were not supposed to. Henry would still answer and likely tell him the truth. Then he would skin them both and deliver Henry to Regina for his own skinning.
Again, the ringing consumed his mind and he watched as the time on the display flipped from 6:05 to 6:06. When it clicked over rather than a human voice, an automated voice sounded, "You have reached 207-555-3298. Leave a name, number and I will get back to you."
Robin cursed again,before taking a deep breath. In the calmest voice he could manage, Robin said, "Henry Mills, this is Mr. Locksley. I need you to call me back right away. I need to know where you and Roland are."
He clicked off the phone and Robin's brain began to race. Maybe they were safely at someone else's house. There weren't many other people they hung out with. Hopefully it was just a small misunderstanding and he could appropriately ground his son for the length of his vacation, never to leave again without permission.
"Hey, Mike," Robin said, when the voice on the other end picked up. He ran a hand through his hair. "Roland and Henry didn't come home with Nick and Ava by any chance, did they? No, no. They were supposed to be over here but no sign of them. Thanks. If the kids know anything let me know."
"Jefferson, Roland and Henry aren't over playing with Grace are they? No. Alright. Just a little mix up."
"Rachelle, Roland didn't come home with Jake did he? No. No, but if you hear from him, let me know."
After a few more fruitless calls, Robin grabbed his coat and headed for his truck. The sun was already starting to hang low in the sky. Roland knew in no uncertain terms that he would always have to be home before sunset. He was going to drive around this whole town until he found the boys and then they were going to hear from him about how this was never to happen ever again.
The briefs on kids going missing flipped through his head. The first 24 hours were crucial. But who would take the boys. Neither of them had a parent with whom there was a negative custody battle. Robin never had an issue with his or Marian's family. Regina's family were not the most friendly, from what he remembered, but it wasn't as if any of them were going to just take Henry. Her family wasn't very motherly. The boys were outside of the ages of the usual family abductions.
Which left a far more dangerous level of abductions.
But he was not going there, Robin reminded himself as he twisted the key in the ignition and brought the truck roaring to life. The boys could be at the beach or on their old haunt of a castle like structure. There were dozens of places that the boys could be. If he just kept telling himself that it might be true.
Driving around town, there was no sign of them. He popped into the corner store where the boys usually picked up their junk food.
"Hey Mr. Locksley," Jimmy who was behind the counter greeted him.
"Hey Jimmy. You didn't happen to see Roland and Henry earlier, did you?" Robin hoped he had kept most of the panic out of his voice.
"Yeah," Jimmy said with a grin, "They were in like three hours ago, picking up a mountain of junk. You know your kid."
"Indeed I do." His boy was entirely too predictable and was sure he had gotten all kinds of snacks. For the first time in the past hour, Robin felt a smile pulling across his mouth. At least someone had seen the boys in the last few hours. "You don't remember anything about their conversation, by any chance, do you?"
Jimmy, who Robin still remembered from youth outreach programs the officers used to put on at the school smiled. "The usual: comics, video games, what to do with a whole week off. Weren't they heading to your house?"
"Yeah. Never showed."
Jimmy gaped at him like a fish for a minute, which might have been amusing another time. "Shit, Mr. Locksley, should we call the police?"
"Not yet. I'm hoping they just got distracted. Not much they can do yet," Robin said, feeling the importance that was far too familiar to his life.
Nothing would happen if they called yet. The boys hadn't been missing for long enough. Sheriff Nottingham would likely suggest that the boys had run away. Something lovely about Roland's terrible influence as passed on to him by his terrible father. Robin would need something more concrete.
"Thanks anyways, Jimmy. Let me know if they come by again, please."
Robin gave a wave and stepped out onto the street and there, something caught his eye. Laying in the bush was a skateboard he knew far too well and a bag of Jax puffs and Oreos lay beneath it. Robin's blood froze in his veins. This was the concrete evidence he had needed. Roland hadn't gone anywhere without that skateboard for the last two years.
Pulling out his phone he snapped a few quick pictures before calling the police.
Regina sighed and looked down at her paperwork again. Working out the budget was one of her favorite games to play. The reason she kept being elected mayor was because she was good at it. Regina knew how to balance a budget and keep everything moving. She knew how to secure money from the tourists and give her people a break.
Looking up from her notes, Regina began to speak from memory. "I am telling you, the answer is to raise the parking rates. Our meters are still running on nickels. Portland and Ogunquit are at a dollar an hour. We also need to look at the rates for daily parking in municipal lots. This winter was hard and next likely won't be better and the town is riddled with potholes. We have serious fixes that we need to make if we are going to continue to compete with towns like Ogunquit and York."
The blonde sitting in the chair across from her grinned. "Well you have my vote."
Regina rolled her eyes and threw her pen down on her desk. Today was far too long for a Friday. Tomorrow morning she would sleep in and then make Henry brunch. Right now, she needed to finish things here. "Trina, I always have your vote."
"Exactly, I am not the one you have to convince."
"I can over-rule the damn council if need be," Regina muttered as she carefully placed her pen back where it belonged. Council meetings were not her favorite. Mostly because the five-member team liked to believe they were the ones who had authority in this town when she was the rightful mayor and they had minute powers.
Such was the way of the chess game that was small-town politics. She put aside her town work and looked up at Trina. "How are repairs on the farm going?"
Trina quickly provided a folder. Regina compared the estimated budget versus the actual budget. It seemed that they were staying on track. "Good," Trina supplied as Regina perused the figures. "Geppetto has been working on them with Robin Locksley and Stable Haven should be ready for tourists as soon as May 10th. Registration for summer camp is also full and we have a wait-list for about 15 kids and counting."
"Excellent." Regina closed the file and smiled at Trina. "Daniel would be pleased." The farm and bed and breakfast had been his dream and Regina never could bring herself to sell the property or the dream.
"Sven is an excellent manager."
"He knows his hoofed mammals and young people." Sven was awkward around adults however, and Regina had little use for the man when it came to conversation. He did take great care of the horses, including her own. "Do we have someone to run the bed and breakfast?"
"Not yet, but we should have a list of people to interview by the end of the week. Anything else?"
Her eyes glanced to the cell phone in the corner and she flipped it up. Usually, Henry texted her when he got safely to a friend's house. He was 12 however, and was likely invested in whatever horrible video game Roland was introducing him to today. Sighing, she put the phone back where it belonged and forced her shoulders to retreat down her back. "No. I think that is it."
Trina stood up with a smile and a nod. "Don't stay too late, boss. You do have a kid to pick up after all."
"He could stay up all night at Roland's. Go on home, Trina. I won't be here too much longer."
"You got it."
Before her assistant could gather all of her things and head back out into the office space beyond Regina's office, the voice of one of the secretaries came through the door. "You know you can't just go in there! Sir! Sir!"
"Like hell I can't," an angry growl responded. Regina felt a chill wash over her. It sounded like Robin, but Regina decided to "I can go anywhere I damn please. This is an emergency."
Trina held up a hand to Regina. "I've got this. You stay here. No crazies in the mayor's office this late at night."
"Regina!" The voice called, and it sounded strangely like Robin. Which was crazy, because he was at home filling their kids full of junk food. "I do not care who she is meeting with; this is about our sons!"
"Let him in," Regina commanded, sounding far more put together than she felt. Her hands shook by her sides so she fisted them instead as she looked at the man who was entering her office. "Robin, what happened?"
"The boys didn't come home. I got a text from Roland that they were on their way just stopping at the convenience store, and then nothing. They don't always pop into the workshop if I am onto something large so I didn't think about it until I went looking for them. Neither Henry or Roland will answer their phones. I have called all of their friends. I drove all over this town and found this."
"And that is?"
"Roland's skateboard. He never goes anywhere without it. There was a bag of sprawled junk food with it."
Trina glanced between the two parents who were just staring at each other. Laughing nervously, she offered. "The boys could be off doing something foolish. They are at that age. When I was twelve-"
"Not our boys," Regina and Robin answered at the same time.
Lips pursed, Regina considered the situation. Henry and Roland might have been just shy of teenagers but they were never this careless. It was why they were trusted to head home by themselves.
"Did you call the sheriff?" Regina asked, mind spiraling out trying to think of where they might be.
Robin barked out an angry laugh. "His response was similar to your friend's," he answered, nodding his head in Trina's direction. She watched the way his jaw clenched, felt the anger building within herself. "Said if I were a better parent I would know where my own kid was. Promised he would keep an eye out."
"Bastard. Don't know how he has gotten elected so many times."
Regina's hand was on the receiver, ready to dial and give Nottingham a piece of her mind when her cell phone began to ring. Flipping it over, she was graced with Henry's smiling face beaming up at her and his name. Relief flooded through her as she pressed the green button and lifted the phone to her ear.
Tears pooled at the corners but she refused to let them fall. "Oh thank god," she breathed, her voice shaking on the first few words. Taking a deep breath, Regina reminded herself she could fall apart later. "You tell me where you are right now young man and stay put. I will be right there to get you."
"I am glad I have your attention Mrs. Mills," an electronic voice croaked through the phone.
All the relief slid from her body and drained into the floor. Her knees buckled and Robin's strong hands gripped her arms, keeping her from falling. Her grip was still tight on the phone. Where are they? He mouthed.
Regina shrugged and shook her head as Robin guided her into one of the chairs. "Mrs. Mills, do I have your attention?" The voice crackled across the line again.
The tears were long since gone and anger now flooded her veins, making the room feel like it was over 100 degrees inside her office. "You bring my son home to me and I will talk to you," Regina growled into the phone. "Not a moment before."
The words never negotiate with terrorists floated through her mind. She was not the president though. She was just the mayor of a town and this was her son. What could anyone want from her?
The voice on the other end made a staticky tsk, tsk, noise. "We are not one to be making demands, Mrs. Mills. Not when I have your son and his raggedy friend."
"What do you want!"
"That will be revealed. So long as you follow all demands, the boys will be returned in one piece."
The phone clicked off and Regina stared at the device in her hand. Someone had her baby. The only thing in the universe she truly cared about any longer and someone was holding him captive. Whoever it was did not know that few people messed with Regina Mills and walked away. Particularly not when it came to her child.
Glancing up, she realized Robin was kneeling in front of her chair. His blue eyes were searching her face as if he could gain information from her expression alone. "They have the boys," she told him, and felt Robin's hands relax from the armrests he had been clenching. "No demands yet but there was a promise of them. I don't know if they are going to call or leave notes. Do people even still do that magazine clipping note thing anymore or was that just the movies?"
She was rambling. Regina was never in complete control when she was rambling. She closed her eyes and fought to tamp down on the panic. Panic never did anyone any good. Mother had taught her that.
"When I did my last missing persons training, before I left the force, it was mostly hidden IP address emails and burner phones. Typed notes are also hard to trace and easier to make than magazine cut outs."
Regina nodded. That was something. Still, not knowing if she was waiting for a call or an email or a note slid under the door made waiting agony.
"Call Nottingham and have him come in to take our statements," Robin instructed and forced himself into a standing position. "You have had a call from the kidnappers on Henry's phone. It's something at least."
Trina stood up, clearly flustered and began at rapid speed. "I'll call and get some waters. Or tea? Coffee? Just hang tight."
She slipped out the door in a flash. Regina was grateful that just for a moment others were taking the lead. Turning her chair, she glanced out over Main Street and the way the street lights were coming on to light up the darkness. Normally, Henry would be almost ready to come home and they would read before bedtime; something he still hadn't grown out of on her just yet.
Taking a last deep breath, Regina stood and faced Robin who looked just as lost as she felt. "What do we do next?"