Regina Mills was a responsible adult. She was the mayor. She made sure the snow ploughs worked and the schools were open. How and why she came to believe that she and everyone she knew were displaced fairy tale characters was both a long story and a short one. She believed it because her son Henry had convinced her of it. He was her sun and moon and all the stars in the sky, and no the first time he sat down on the couch with the giant old book of stories she hadn't believed. But he wanted her help in breaking this curse that the Evil Queen had placed them under and she did what she always knew she would. She'd move her entire world for him.
And thus Operation Raptor was born the summer before Henry started 4th grade. He would come to her office each day at 5PM as she was finishing up work so that they could walk over to Granny's and he could eat dinner before his appointment with Archie. She'd found a lot of usefulness in talking to Archie over the years, he'd helped her with some of her anger and sleeping problems and she liked Henry to have male role models in his life. It was Archie who had gotten Henry to tell his mom about the book and his theory about the Curse. And it was Archie that had been the key to her agreeing with Henry that they were in fact living in a cursed town.
It had started, ironically enough, as a summer reading project. Henry would read a chapter of the big book during the day and try and come up with a list of candidates around town for the cursed identities of the characters. It had been a fun and harmless game at first but one evening over dinner he'd laid out his case that Archie was Jiminy Cricket and as strange as that sounded Regina found herself a believer.
The book had illustrations, but they were old timey water colors and no real good in identifying people. Besides if a cricket could be a man named Hopper the pictures didn't seem like the best guide.
"Madam Mayor," Granny said grumpily from behind the counter as Henry ran to their regular booth. Not everyone in town loved her. She didn't need anyone in town to love her except Henry. Still Ruby the waitress came by as they sat down with a glass of milk, a grilled cheese sandwich and broccoli and tomato soup for Henry, and coffee for Regina. Their regular.
"So who are we working on today?" Regina asked.
"I think I figured out who Miss. Blanchard is?"
Regina found herself frowning a little. Miss. Blanchard was Henry's teacher. After the third bird house he'd brought home Regina had gone to her to speak about how this couldn't possibly be part of the state guidelines for science education. Mostly the young woman had shaken like a leaf and Regina wondered if she'd not caught her by surprise if she'd have tried to hide under her desk rather than speak to her. "Who do you think she is?"
"Well, your idea to look at names made me think maybe they're not all English. So I asked Graham to help me search Wikipedia."
Regina chuckled a little, not at Henry but more at the idea that Graham helped Henry with computers. Given the layer of dust on the computers in the Sheriff's Department she was sure it was the other way around. But at least there was an adult with him while he searched the internet. "And what did you find?"
"Blanchard means 'white' in old French. Well... 'white'ish.'" He scrunched his face up a bit and shrugged. "I think she may be Snow White."
Regina resisted the urge to dismiss the idea. One of the things she'd liked about these stories was that Snow White wasn't some stupid girl who was cursed because she thought an apple was shiny. She was strong and independent and yet still full of hope. A good role model. Mary Margaret Blanchard was a pathetic woman probably jumped up on chairs when she saw a mouse. "Alright... the name is suggestive. And she does have the bird obsession."
"And if she's cursed by the Evil Queen it explains why she's alone. The Queen wanted her to suffer."
Regina nodded slowly. Being alone was the worst punishment of all. "So where is her Prince Charming?"
Henry shrugged, "I haven't found him. But I think we have a bigger problem. I think we have to find the Queen."
"Do you think she's even here?" Regina asked. The Queen in the book, full of fire and anger and insanity had been one of the reasons she'd hesitated to let him read it. Before she believed it was true and it was just a storybook. She'd had a few nightmares about the Queen. Of all that death the book talked about that Henry glossed over. Of the kind of woman that would kill her father and curse a realm to punish one girl. "I mean I thought maybe she'd stay with her castle and the kingdom."
Henry shook his head, "No, the pages about the curse say that she was sending everyone. I think she's around here but I just don't know who."
His voice was low now, whispering. She reached over and squeezed his hand, "Don't worry Henry. We'll figure this out. Together." She glanced at her blackberry, "Damn it, I have to get to a town council meeting. Spencer is suggesting stupid things again. Can you make it to Archie's?"
"Mom, I'm not a kid, it's just down the block."
Regina smiled as she got up and kissed him on the forehead, "Of course you aren't my little Prince. I'll pick you up after your session."
After Regina left Henry looked over at Ruby who came over and took away his broccoli and gave him a bowl of ice cream and a wink. Not long after he started digging in a well dressed man sat down across from him.
"Hi..." Henry looked confused. Mom said not to talk to strangers but there weren't really many in town.
"I overheard you talking about wanting to find the Queen."
"You know about the stories?"
"I do. And I think you are right. You should figure out who the Evil Queen is next. And I can help. My name is Jefferson. And I knew her."