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The Dark One: Chapter 29

HOOK

“Jas.”

A hand grips my shoulder and shakes.

I lurch awake and come out swinging with my hook and just barely catch Smee across the face with the sharp, curved tine. She dodges at the last second and frowns at me with enough disappointment to scorch eyebrows.

As if that was my fault.

“Christ.” I scrub at my eyes with thumb and forefinger. “Don’t do that.”

“How am I to wake you then, eh? With a ten-foot pole?”

“Perhaps so, if you’d like to keep your face connected to your skull.” When I look up at her, she’s tense with impatience. “What is it?”

“They found Pan’s shadow.”

I lurch to my feet. “Smee! You should have led with that.”

She mutters some obscenities behind me as I rush from the house.

“Where?” I call over my shoulder.

“Down by the river’s edge.”

Mysterious River is northeast of the house, but just a short distance away. I can hear the rush of water against the river bed as I approach and the men shouting at one another.

“Out of my way!” I yell and shove several pirates aside.

Backed against the trunk of an oak tree is Peter Pan’s shadow.

It’s hard to see it when you look at it directly as it’s more suggestion than shape. But I can feel it. The air vibrates with power.

For the first time in a long time, I am alive with hope.

The look on the Crocodile’s face when he realizes I possess the Neverland shadow…

“Now what, Captain?” one of the men asks.

Excellent question. I never thought the plan through to this point. Perhaps I was a bit too reckless in that regard.

How does one capture a rogue shadow?

Better yet, how does one claim it?

I look to Smee. She’s spent some years on the other islands studying magic. She’s mortal and landed in the isle chain when she was just nineteen. But she’s always been fascinated with this stuff and has a memory to rival all.

“No one who has a shadow has ever been forthcoming with how to claim it,” she says.

“Bloody hell.”

The shadow darts to the side and all of us surge to corral it. It swings back to the tree and leaps into an elbow between branches.

“I need a chest,” I tell them.

No one moves.

“Well, don’t just bloody well stand there!”

Two men rush off into the woods, back to the house. I inch toward it.

“Careful, Jas,” Smee says.

“I know what I’m doing.”

The edges of the shadow vibrate as I reach out with my hook. If it’s violent, my metal can take the hit. The rest of me can’t.

I’ve heard some nasty things about the Dark Shadow and it’s difficult to predict what the Life Shadow will do.

It bounces back and forth, stretching long.

The men return with a trunk the size of a large dog.

“Open it,” I order them. “And hold it up.”

They position themselves, one on either side of the chest, one hand on the bottom, the other on the lid, so the chest is a gaping hole in front of the shadow.

I don’t need to know how to claim it right this second, but I can’t let it out of my grasp.

“Get ready to close the lid,” I tell them and stalk behind the tree.

Smee circles around the other side, her arms loose at her sides, knees bent ready to spring.

“On three,” I tell her.

“Aye,” she says.

“One,” I say.

The pirates go still.

“Two.”

The men holding the chest fidget and I shoot them a murderous look.

They right it again, holding it steady.

“Three!”

Smee and I lunge and the shadow springs forward and thunks hard into the bottom of the chest. The men drop it and it teeters on its bottom edge. “Close it, you idiots!”

The burlier of the two jumps on the lid as the shadow thumps on the underside trying to get out while the second man pops in the latch.

Once it’s secure, I finally breathe, and then I look at Smee and smile.

She shakes her head. “I don’t like this, Jas.”

“I don’t pay you to like things, Smee. Just to find them. Now come on. Let us figure out how to claim the damn thing before Peter Pan arrives.”


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