Thaddeus Wright would love to forget his childhood. A bi-racial bastard orphaned at four, he was the very definition of sin, according to the strict and disapproving grandparents who raised him. Twenty years later, Thad works with at-risk youth as both coach and counselor. Even after his grandparent’s spare-the-rod, spoil-the-child parenting, Thad just wants to help people. But when three young boys he coaches go missing, he’s the prime suspect.
Especially when he goes missing himself!
That’s when paranormal policing agency Borderless Observers Org. (B.O.O.) sends in recent recruit Peter Batique on his first solo mission. Peter had another name once, but he’s all grown up now and looking to prove himself an adult and a capable agent. However, after a hundred years as an unruly boy in Neverland, growing up holds some pretty unique challenges for Peter.
Despite their differences, Thad and Peter must learn to work together to rescue a whole new generation of Lost Boys and take down the black market shadow dealer responsible.
Can Thad learn he’s worthy of love? Can Peter finally grow up? Can the Lost Boys be found?
Gears groaned and rollers squawked as the second-hand printer spit the last of the Missing Child posters into the output tray. Job done, it shuddered and gave up the ghost. Thaddeus Wright grabbed the pile and thumped one end against his desk until they were all nicely lined up.
“Um, Coach Wright?”
Startled, Thad dropped the posters. They fanned out across his desk. Dozens of pictures of Jaden Raines looked up at him accusingly.
And one real Jaden stood before him, wearing the same accusing, angry-sad look as he did in the shot his foster mom had provided for the poster.
“Jaden!” Thad said, half rising. He wanted to hug the kid, so glad to find him alive and looking unharmed, but the voice of his old community relations professor rose in his mind: “Never touch the children in any way, even to comfort them. It’s a lawsuit in the making. Especially since you’re… you know.”
Thad rounded his desk and stepped toward Jaden. At least he could come closer. No reason to keep the big clunky desk between them. Realizing he now loomed over the teen, he perched on the edge of his donated desk, a genuine smile blooming on his face. “Where have you been? We’ve all been worried sick. Your foster mom especially.” He knew that wasn’t completely true. She missed the check Jaden’s presence brought her and was offended by the investigating detective’s ongoing questions. She’d made that much clear.
“I’m so glad you’ve come back. If you don’t like it at your current foster home, we can apply to move you somewhere else. Brother Guy can speak to your liaison. Please don’t run away again.” Thad spread his arms wide, pleading with the young man to listen.
“I know, man. I know. She’s not so bad. I’ve lived in worse places. I tried to go to her, tell her I was okay, but she didn’t listen. She doesn’t even remember me a minute after we talked.”
“What do you mean she doesn’t remember you?” No way she’d forget Jaden. He was such a likeable young man. And the community center’s star basketball player.
A flash of pain flitted through Jaden’s eyes before he shrugged. “Maybe she doesn’t want me there anymore.”
Thad paused, toying with the gold hoop in his ear, stalling, considering his answer. He so wanted to get this right. These kids needed counseling more than coaching, but he struggled to find the right words. If only he could solve all Jaden’s problems with a friendly game of one-on-one.
He strove to make eye contact. Jaden met his gaze defiantly, crossing his arms over his chest. “I know what you’re going to say, man.”
Thad nodded. It probably did all sound trite to Jaden. But Thad had to try anyway. “It’s normal for you to feel—”
“Marginalized. Yeah, I know. You’ve said that the last six times.” He made a dismissive gesture, like he was shoving Thad’s words away.
“No, wait. It’s true. People do care about you. I—” He paused, thinking to hell with potential lawsuits. This kid needs me. “I care about you. In fact, I was just going to put up these posters around the neighborhood.”
“No, wait! Don’t look away. You have to keep your eyes on me.”
It was a strange thing to say, but then Jaden was obviously going through something. “Don’t sweat it, Jaden. I’m not going anywhere.” Thad twisted around and quickly swept up the posters into a rough stack, edges crumpling in his haste to prove to the young man that people cared. He took a second to smooth them out into a neat pile, and then wondered why he was wasting time smoothing out the posters instead of hustling to hang them up. Maybe because he felt so bad about the lost boys. He hoped the detective was wrong. That Jaden and the other missing boys had just taken off.
Better go hang these posters. When he turned around, he almost jumped out of his skin. There was Jaden himself, standing right in front of him.
Storm Grant pens long and short tales. Her work spans genders and genres, offering good guys and bad puns. Her alter ego, Gina X. Grant, writes quirky urban fantasy.
(More author info here: http://ginaxgrant.wordpress.com/about/storm-grant-bios/)
Quirky fiction that’s pretty, witty and gritty.