“—reports of missing children around the globe, all seem to have happened around the same time. The first child went missing two nights ago. Investigations are being carried out as to who has committed these crimes, but more importantly, where these children are being kept. It is advised to…”
Mrs. Tower stared at the television screen, comprehending nothing she was watching. She was glued to the sofa and couldn’t take her eyes of the screen. Ever since her husband had left her family, she hadn’t been the same. She had changed tremendously. Her once enormous heart had closed itself from everyone. She had no thoughts for anyone but herself.
She closed her eyes not even realising that her son hadn’t shown up for lunch even though it was a Saturday. Not even realising that she hadn’t actually seen him that whole day. Not even realising until she did.
It came as a kick in her chest.
A motherly instinct woke up from its deep slumber. It took its time like a baby in the womb, kicking occasionally to let its mother know it was still there.
This time, she felt a harder kick and gave an involuntary shudder. Then she sat up straight, alert. For the first time in years, she thought about her son. Her sweet, beautiful son who didn’t deserve such a terrible mother as herself. Her son who must have had to grow up quicker than children were meant to. Forced to deal with the horrible melancholy which had come swift as a shadow into their lives to fill in the void of a loved one. Where was Charlie?
Neola had just led Charlie and Emma out the narrow corridor when a small red-haired boy jumped out from the corner. Neola seemed used to it but Charlie jumped (although he tried to conceal it as an attempt to clap a mosquito to death). Emma smirked as if she dealt with this sort of behaviour on a regular basis.
The little boy had the palest and whitest face that Charlie had ever seen. His large grey eyes took up half of his face. In short, he looked like a vampire gone wrong. But of course, that’s not what one is meant to say to the next in line to the throne.
“This is Prince Rhodri,” said Neola. The boy nodded in agreement. He had a solemn expression and his eyes looked dull. Neola knelt down in front of him and he lowered his eyes even more. “This is just another bump in the road, kiddo. If you need anything, just ask.” Rhodri nodded. He still hadn’t said a word.
“He’s adorable,” whispered Emma to Charlie. He didn’t really see it but Rhodri must have heard because he finally seemed to actually look at Charlie and Emma. Well, mostly at Emma. To him, she was the most beautiful girl he had set eyes on in his nine years.
But then he looked at Charlie. “Who’re you? And what are you doing in my castle?” This would have sounded threatening to Charlie but the flame-haired boy only reached up to his chest. Instead, Charlie laughed and in the next moment, found himself sprawled on the floor.
Charlie Tower did not enjoy being pushed to the floor, especially if it was done by someone practically half his height.
“I’m going to be king in twelve years,” said Rhodri, puffing his small chest out as much as possible and raising himself to his full height which really wasn’t that tall.
“Well, will you look at that? You know how to do math!” was Charlie’s reply.
Emma elbowed him in the ribs. Hard. “Ow! What is with everyone picking on me?” muttered Charlie under his breath. He glared with annoyance at the young prince but a small part of him couldn’t help liking the fiery prince.
“Go easy on him,” whispered Emma, softly so that Rhodri wouldn’t hear. “His father just died.”
Charlie felt a rush of sympathy. He knew what it felt like to suddenly be left alone without any warning. It wasn’t a nice feeling to have.
Neola was watching the whole scene with mild amusement but time was ticking. She clapped her hands to get the children’s attention. “Well then, Charlie, Emma, you’re coming with me. Rhodri, don’t get into any trouble.”
Rhodri gave Neola a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I won’t.” It was obvious that his father’s death had left a big hole in the little prince’s life. As the three walked away, Charlie turned back and gave a little wave. To his relief, it was returned by the young vampiric boy.
Emma was close to losing her patience. She held onto it for a bit longer, five more minutes to be precise, before she let loose.
Emma placed her hands on Neola’s shoulders and turned her around so that they were face to face. She stopped in her tracks, refusing to move a step further. “I demand to know where my brother is!”
Neola sighed. “Your demand has been rejected.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I just did.”
Emma scowled at Neola who stared calmly back.
“I’m telling you, Emma, I don’t know exactly where he is. I thought he would be here at Felicity—”
“So why can’t we look for him now? I mean, we’ve spent all this time parading around—”
“We’ve only spent an hour at most here, Emma.”
Charlie watched from the side feeling like a third wheel. He didn’t want to get in the way of this argument. Everyone knew you were never meant to interrupt an argument between two females regardless of their age.
“We haven’t spent an hour, we’ve wasted it.”
“Emma, kiddo, I wasn’t the one who told you to come.” Neola wrung her hands in exasperation. “In fact, if I remember correctly, I insisted that you stay at home. It’s not my fault you didn’t listen.”
“I thought I’d find Hayden by now!”
Neola closed her eyes and after counting to ten numerous times, sighed and said, “How about this? Come with me, I’ll take you to the headquarters and see how we can help you. No”—she shook her head at Charlie who was about to ask her a question—“ask me in the car.”
Neola didn’t know where to start with her explanation of the events that had taken place. From what Celicia had hurriedly told her, things had gotten quite out of hand. As the blue CRV accelerated away from the castle, she was thinking of the best way to explain the situation to the children without giving too much information away.
“So?” asked Emma. “Tell us.”
Neola took her time to begin the long explanation. “Children have been reported missing from the Outside—”
“What’s the Outside?” asked Charlie.
“What do you think it means, Charlie?” snapped Emma. “Where we’re from—like Asia, Europe, North America, South—”
“I know what the continents are!”
“Keep going, Neola,” Emma said impatiently.
“Oh, by all means, keep arguing,” said Neola, smiling to herself.
“Alright, relax, kiddos. Children started disappearing about two days ago. All that we’ve managed to find out is that there’s a possibility that they’ve been brought to Felicity but we don’t know where on this blasted island they’re being kept.” Neola paused as the car went over a small bump in the cobblestoned road.
Charlie, seizing the opportunity asked, “Who’s ‘we’?”
“Er, the most I can say is we’re agents who travel to the Outside and have other duties. Anyway, Celicia’s sent her guards to search all over the island, but they couldn’t find anything.”
“So what’s going to happen next?” Despite the seriousness of the situation, Charlie couldn’t help feeling secretly thrilled. This was much better than being cooped up at home all day.
“We’re going to look for them, of course.”
“We’re also trying to find the people behind this. This is impeccable timing to pull off a scheme as large as this.”
“Why? What happened before?” Emma’s interest was suddenly piqued.
“Well, a lot has happened in a short time. Last month, there were masked protesters who flooded the roads. I didn’t even know Felicity had so many citizens.”
“What were they protesting against?” This time it was Charlie who asked.
“The monarchy. And then a week before the protests, we managed to put a stop to the smuggling of weapons. Now that was a challenging task. But we weren’t able to find the man behind it all.”
“How do you know it was a man who masterminded it?” asked Emma.
It was a very reasonable question to ask but Neola didn’t answer it. Instead, she said, “We’re here.”