The ring is silver. Heavy. Joss wears it on a chain around her neck and it bounces against her breastbone when she chases perps, solid and comforting like her dad used to be.
He'd only taken it off once that she can remember. The day he died. He'd pressed it into her hand, curling her fingers around it, before collapsing back on his bed.
She'd asked him what it was and he'd smiled. "A promise."
Everybody knows about the Shadow. He's one of the urban legends that makes the city what it is, even if he's just something the comic book companies made up to sell more copy.
At least, that's what everyone believes. Everyone who doesn't wear one of his rings.
It's what Joss believed until a week after the funeral when her Dad's journal arrives in the mail. She curls up with it, a cup of coffee, and gets to know the part of her father she never knew.
The Shadow is real and her dad worked for him. Him and hundreds of others. If the Shadow saves you, he owns you, and the trick of it is, you don't actually mind.
It sounds pretty messed up. She puts it on a chain and keeps it out of sight.
She wears it through Afghanistan and Iraq. No Shadows come calling.
Not until she's home, six months into the NYPD, and not expecting it. He's craggy-featured, taller than her, wearing a black cloak over a black suit. There's a flash of red lining when he moves and she'd guess, she's not sure, he's packing.
His voice is rich, but raspy, and everything about it and him makes her nervous. Still, she stands there and looks at him. "You saved my father's life."
"And it belonged to me," the Shadow agrees. "You have no such obligations."
She feels the ring where it rests, lays a hand over it, and looks at him. "Maybe not, but I read what he helped you do. You saved people."
The Shadow nods once. His eyes are warm, not exactly friendly, and that unsettles her all the more.
"Stop that," she says, not sure why she's saying it. "You're doing something--now stop it."
Surprise brightens his gaze, but he nods again. "Perceptive. Like your father."
The pressure fades and her mind clears.
"I need your help, Jocelyn Carter."
She helps him with that case, then she helps him with another. It's not always him either.
Joss is a detective for three days when a socialite, the daughter of New York's old families, shows up at her apartment door. They're from two completely different worlds with nothing in common...
Nothing but the ring on Cade Margo Cranston's right hand which is twin to the one around Joss' neck.
She sees other agents too, all of them wearing the same ring, but Cade's the most frequent. They get to be sort of friends about it.
Which is why she should have seen it coming.
Her mystery man and 'Norman' are barely out of sight when alarm thuds through her, thick and heavy in her chest, and she turns around without meaning to. Her step is uneven and not of her own doing.
It should be terrifying, but it sort of isn't. There's a presence in her head, familiar, and she can swear she can hear Cade's voice calling her name. Except that's not who she finds in the shadows of an underground parking garage.
It's The Shadow himself and he's bleeding. Bad. It's all around him and he's so weak that he can barely lift his head.
"Oh god," Joss says, dropping to her knees. "What happened?"
"That's the understatement of the century." Joss pulls open the cloak, pushes it back, and makes a face. The cloak is shot through with half a dozen holes, but only one shows blood.
She sighs. "Don't suppose you've got a doctor on standby?"
"Six, but you were the only one in reach."
"You--" Joss squints. The Shadow's face is wavering. From the nose down is covered by his mask, but the eyes aren't. They're shifting. Changing. An illusion is fading. "How the hell are you doing this?"
"Old family secret," a voice that isn't the Shadow says. A familiar voice.
Joss watches in disbelief as the craggy-featured face dissolves into the softer, feminine features of a woman. Cade's features. The man behind the mask isn't a man at all.
Joss rocks back on her heels. "You gotta be kidding me."
"It's a long story," says Cade. Her head lolls. She's getting weaker. "Did they make it?"
"They--" Joss freezes, pieces falling into place. "The CIA did this?"
Cade nods. "Back up team."
"You shot a bunch of CIA agents?" Joss closes her eyes. "You realize that's insane, right?"
"I didn't actually shoot anyone," Cade grins. "I just made them think I did."
Joss opens Cade's shirt, wincing at the sight of the bullet wound. "Yeah, well, next time, try it the other way around, okay?"
"I'll try to remember that," Cade says. "Joh--they make it?"
"Can't you--" Joss realizes her mistake. Blood loss. She's too weak to concentrate. "Yes, they made it."
"Good." Cade passes out.
It's weeks before she puts it together and not until she sees them side by side. Then the family resemblance becomes abundantly clear. Mr. Reese isn't a Reese at all.
"Well now," she says, looking from sister to brother, "anything else I should know?"
John grins. "No, I think this should about cover it."
He's lying, but at this point, she's kind of expecting it.
"So, you're--there are two of you?"
John shakes his head. "No, just her. I don't have the ability. Only Cranston in three generations who doesn't. I decided to make my own way."
Joss thinks about what she's seen. "Seems to me you became your own kind of Shadow."
He looks at her then smiles, slow and surprised. "Yeah," he says, "I did."