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With This Ring

Chapter Text

The morning shone cold and clear, with the harbor sparkling jewel bright beneath a cloudless sky of pure turquoise. At this time of day, with the fishing boats already out to sea, the docks were a jumble of moored pleasure craft, with the ancient wooden masts of the Jolly Roger towering above them. A few other owners were also up early, working on their boats. Gulls wheeled overhead, their strident cries floating on the crisp air. Hand in hand, Killian and Emma strolled toward the marina parking lot, where their yellow Volkswagen was parked. Beside them, was Henry. He seemed rather introspective, scuffing his feet as he walked. "Dad," he finally said. "We just talked to everyone at the harbor who knows Leroy, and nobody has seen him since Saturday morning, when we took the boat out. This isn't looking good."

The pirate gazed at Henry, his expression understanding. "I know you're worried about Leroy, but we'll find him. We still have other places to look."

"Do you think he's still alive?"

Emma put a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder. "I think he is," she said soothingly. "After we drop you off, we're going to check out all his usual haunts."

"Can I come with you guys?" Henry asked plaintively.

Killian shook his head. "No, son - not today. But later this afternoon, you can attend the council meeting with your grandparents." While he was as concerned about Leroy's safety as Henry, he wasn't too sure what condition the dwarf would be in when - and if - they finally located him. But if things took a turn for the worst, it wouldn't do to have the lad present. Wisely, he kept that thought to himself.

As they neared the VW, a shadow, like that of a large seabird, passed over them, its silhouette clearly delineated against the pavement. Despite her heavy coat, Emma felt a sudden chill. Nervously, she glanced up at the sky, but there was nothing there. With a shudder, she unlocked the car, and slid into the driver's seat.

Killian opened the other door, and waited, while Henry climbed into the backseat. After the boy settled himself, the pirate took the seat next to Emma. He studied her profile, noticing the slight trembling of her lower lip. "Are you all right, beloved?" he asked quietly.

"I don't know," she murmured. "I thought I felt something just now. But maybe it's just nerves." She inserted the key into the ignition, and with a low purr, the little car started up. Forcing herself to calm, she headed out of the parking lot. As she sped away, the boats and old warehouses of the harbor quickly receded from view.

He kept his voice low, so Henry wouldn't hear. "Don't be too sure, Swan. I saw that strange shadow too. While our adversary is a creature of darkness, it may still be able to get around in daylight. Perhaps it sensed that we're searching for Leroy."

Emma nodded, and turned onto the main road that led to Storybrooke. "And you can just bet it doesn't want us to find him."

*****

Killian pounded on the door to Leroy's apartment. The dwarf's residence was located on the third floor of what had originally been a large Victorian era home. Sub-divided into a series of flats, the place was a shadow of its former grandeur, with dingy hallways and ugly mustard-colored walls, its once polished oak floors covered with threadbare shag carpeting. All of the apartment doors were slightly warped, their painted wood universally aged into a murky tea tone. The pirate rapped his knuckles against Leroy's door a few more times, then turned to Emma. "Well, it would appear that Leroy is not at home. At the very least, he sure as hell isn't responding."

"Or he's trying to avoid us," she pointed out. "I wonder, though, if he ever actually made it home." She laid her head against the door, straining to hear if anyone moved within, but all was silent. Raising her voice, she suddenly yelled, "Leroy, it's Emma and Killian - If you're home, please answer the door!"

Leroy's door remained stubbornly closed, but the door to the neighboring apartment opened a crack. "Shut the hell up!" a disgruntled voice called out. "It's too damned early to be making such a racket."

Emma moved towards the other door. "Do you know if your neighbor Leroy ever came home? He hasn't been seen since Saturday."

"Who wants to know?" The door opened a bit wider (Emma could see that it was chained), and a woman peered out. Her long auburn hair was disheveled, and her attractive middle-aged face was set in an unpleasant scowl.

"We're here on police business," Emma replied. She fished out her sheriff's badge, and held it up for inspection. "Leroy has disappeared, and we're trying to locate him."

"Is he wanted for something?" the woman inquired, her expression vaguely amused.

"No, we just need to find him."

"I barely know the guy - so I can't tell you much. I mean, sometimes we say hello to each other in passing, but that's about it."

"Anything you can share with us, would be most helpful," Killian interjected. He strolled to Emma's side, and put on his most charming smile. "Ms.– er...?"

The woman grinned as she caught sight of the handsome pirate. “You a cop too?”

Killian shook his head. “Not exactly. I'm more of a …consultant. From time to time, I assist the sheriff with investigations.”

“Consultant, eh?” A wider grin – It reminded Emma of a shark. “The name’s Bo Peep.” She removed the chain, and fully opened the door, revealing a shapely figure clad in a hot pink low-cut nightgown, and equally pink fleece robe. Her feet were encased in furry white slippers made to look like sheep - their beady plastic eyes were also a gaudy shade of pink.

"So, Ms. – Peep,” Emma began. “What can you tell us?"

Bo Peep leaned against the doorframe, her eyes still on Killian. "Well - Leroy and I aren't exactly friends, but I saw him at the White Rabbit on Friday night. He was arguing with his brother, Happy. I didn't think anything of it at the time, as those two are often at each other's throats. Anyway, I had a couple drinks, and decided to go home early. They were still at it when I left. Around midnight, this awful noise woke me up - sounded like an entire herd of elephants. I could hear Leroy trudging up the stairs, cursing under his breath the whole way. I think he was drunk."

"I see," Killian murmured. He exchanged quick glances with Emma. "Anything else?"

"Yeah - About three a.m., I was awakened again, this time by yelling coming from Leroy's flat. It was followed by a series of thumps, and what sounded like something heavy being dragged across the floor. It went on for awhile. I heard nothing more after that, and eventually went back to sleep.”

"And you didn't bother to call the sheriff's office about this?" Emma asked, barely managing to keep the outrage from her voice.

"What for? Sounded like Leroy was just partying...and that's typical for weekends around here. Folks can get pretty rowdy."

"I imagine they do," Killian agreed, his tone neutral. "Well, Ms. Peep, thank you for your time. We'll be in touch if we need anything else."

"Anytime," came the breathless response. She stared hungrily at him for a moment, and then closed her door.

"I don't like the sound of this," Emma said.

"Nor do I. It's time to take our investigation to the next level." As the two of them returned to Leroy's apartment, Killian rummaged in the pockets of his leather jacket, and pulled out a small, pointed metal implement. He kneeled in front of the door.

"Are you about to do what I think you are?"

Killian arched one brow, and with the ease of long practice, inserted the tool into the lock on Leroy's door. Fascinated, Emma watched as he delicately turned the lock pick this way and that, until there was a sharp little click. With a pleased smile, he removed the pick, and pushed the door open with the toe of his boot. "Well, Swan - Shall we enter?" Drawing one of his revolvers, he quietly stepped over the threshold.

Emma shook her head. "You're incorrigible." She slid her .45 automatic from its hidden shoulder holster, and followed him into the apartment. "You know, sweetie - you could have just opened it with magic."

"True, but where's the fun in that? Besides, it's good to keep one's talents honed."

"Even if they're illegal ones?"

He smirked. "Most especially those."

The apartment had been completely trashed. In each of the rooms, the furniture had been roughly pushed aside, leaving skid marks on the wood floors. All of the shelves, closets and drawers had been brutally riffled, their contents strewn about in a riot of crumpled books and paperwork, along with clothing, kitchen items, bedding, and bits of old fishing equipment. Of Leroy there was no sign.

With dismay, Emma surveyed the debris of Leroy's cramped bedroom. "Something happened here - and it sure as hell wasn't a party. I wonder what they were looking for?"

"I don't know, but someone thought it important enough to take the risk, and attack Leroy." Killian holstered his gun, and stared intently about the room. "'There was definitely a fight - the neighbor's story collaborates that. But they're long gone now." He peered at the floor. Crimson splotches trailed across its worn surface, leading directly across the room to a large casement window that faced the street. It gaped open, and there were bloodstains on the sill. Beyond, he could see blue sky, and the rusty metal of the fire escape. "Swan, come look."

Stepping gingerly over the clutter that littered the floor, she joined him at the window. Her face paled, as she spied the blood. "This is terrible, Killian. Who could have done this?"

The pirate's expression was grim. "I suspect the same culprit who sent the vortex to attack us."

*****

They finally cornered Happy at Granny's Diner. He was slumped on a stool at the counter, morosely eating his breakfast. Killian and Emma sat down beside him, one on each side. In the midst of taking a bite from an enormous egg sandwich, his surly facial expression did not reflect his cheerful sobriquet. A study in resentment, mayonnaise dripping down his chin, he glared at the couple. "What the hell do you want?"

"We're here in an official capacity," Emma explained. "Why the attitude?"

"You two are trouble." The little man tore off a chunk of sandwich, sending bits of egg and tomato cascading down his front. Another aggressive bite, and more food landed on his shirt, and splattered the counter.

She grimaced. Watching Happy eat was not a pretty sight. "We need to ask you a few questions. When was the last time you saw your brother?"

"I dunno." Happy reached for his mug, and took a long swallow of black coffee. "I'm not his keeper."

Killian tapped his fingers impatiently on the counter. "We were told you and Leroy were at the White Rabbit on Friday night, and that the two of you got into an argument."

The dwarf scowled. "Who told you that?"

"The name doesn't matter," Emma replied. "Our witness said you were both drinking, and at one point, almost came to blows."

Happy swiveled on his stool, and stared at her. "So what? There's no law against having a drink with your bro."

"Evidently several drinks," Killian commented. "What were you fighting about?"

"It wasn't a fight," Happy muttered, his eyes flicking nervously to the pirate, then away. "It was a discussion - and it's private. Now get lost, and let me finish my meal in peace." He grabbed a fry from his plate, and crammed it into his mouth.

"We really do need you to tell us what happened that night," Emma insisted politely.

He turned towards her, and snickered. "Or what, little girl? Are you going to arrest me?"

"Keep up the lip, and I just might."

Happy leered. "I hope you body-slam me, then." He looked her up and down. "I sure wouldn't mind a body like yours getting real close to mine."

Killian leaned forward, and closing his hand over Happy's bony wrist, steadily applied pressure, until the other man winced with pain. "I take any disrespect shown our sheriff very seriously," he said, his Irish brogue dangerously soft. "So I suggest you watch your tongue." Desperate for help, Happy's gaze wandered around the cafe, but the other patrons refused eye contact, suddenly very interested in their food. At a nearby table, Granny was serving a customer. When she heard Happy cry out, she looked up. Emma waved at her, and the older woman continued to stare, her eyes glowing wolf-gold in the dim light. Setting down a platter of scrambled eggs and bacon, she gave them another casual glance, then disappeared into the kitchen. "Now then," Killian continued in a conversational tone. "On Friday night, you and Leroy had a disagreement. He left, and apparently made it home. But now he's missing, with signs pointing to a possible abduction - or worse. All of this leads me to believe that you just might know something about his disappearance."

"Let go, you're breaking my wrist." Happy attempted to squirm out of the pirate's iron grasp. "I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

"Wrong answer." Killian tightened his grip. "Want to try again?"

Emma leaned in from the other side. "Let's just arrest him now, and take him downtown for questioning."

"I haven't done anything wrong!" Happy protested. "What the hell are you gonna arrest me for? Eating eggs without a license?"

"Oh, we'll think of something," Emma promised. "You can either talk here - or at the sheriff's office."

"All right, all right," the dwarf finally growled. "I'll tell you everything. Just let go, okay?"

Killian released his hold, his eyes gleaming with curiosity. "Very well - Talk."

"First off, I haven't seen Leroy since Friday night at the bar, and that's the truth. But we did have a fight." Happy rubbed his throbbing wrist, and thought longingly of his sandwich, now growing cold. He was also uncomfortably aware that with his brother missing, things were suddenly not looking too good for him either. "That afternoon, a guy approached me, and asked to rent out the boat for Saturday - and he paid a hell of a lot of cash upfront too. When my bro found out, he was really pissed, even though I offered to share the money with him. Turns out, this same guy had tried earlier that day to rent the boat directly from Leroy, who refused. That's why the guy came to me - After all, I'm half owner of that old scow. Anyway, Leroy really got in my face about it, demanding I give back all the money. We argued back and forth, until he left, yelling that he'd see hell freeze over before he let that conniving royal bastard set foot on his deck."

"A royal?" the pirate asked. He raised one brow.

Happy nodded. "Yeah - I was surprised that a snooty guy like him wanted to rent our boat. But he was very insistent - and well, what can I say?" He shrugged. "Money talks."

Emma frowned. "And the name of this mysterious royal?"

"He swore me to secrecy."

"Your brother's life is at risk - and our family has been attacked. I think that effectively cancels any prior agreement." Killian's eyes were cold. "Who is it?"

Happy cringed, trying to scoot as far away from the pirate as possible. "It was George, the deposed king," he finally blurted out. "The one Emma's parents defeated in the Enchanted Forest."