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Captain Swan is My Favorite Rom-Com: 2nd Edition

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              Emma Swan stood at the top of the ravine, her hands on her hips, her brow furrowed as she took in the search dogs sniffing around the wreckage of a prison bus twisted like a pretzel around the front of a freight train. She catalogued a dozen different ways the local police had already screwed this one up. The sheriff next to her was a cliché of the biggest proportions: pot-bellied, with a big gray mustache and a scoff on his face that said he didn’t believe someone like her – blonde, slight of build, female, attractive – could actually be a US marshal. Emma tapped at the top of the slender holster that held her gun, her mind spinning, completely ignoring everything the country bumpkin of a sheriff was saying.

              “This is what we’re going to do,” she said, cutting him off mid-sentence, “call off the helicopters, call of the dogs –“

              “Wait a second, how are we-,” he tried to interrupt.

              Emma lifted a decisive hand as she turned and strode back up the hill. “Sheriff, you’ve just alerted our fugitive that we’re looking for him. You’ve sent him running; hiding. We want him to relax, think he’s gotten away with it.” The man opened his mouth to speak again, but Emma just grinned and slapped him on his flabby arm. “I’m relieving you of your duties.”

              She then walked purposefully towards her team who were already setting up a temporary base of operations. She barked orders: to Mary Margaret as she set up her computer equipment, to David who was organizing the police force into search teams, to Graham who was on the phone with neighboring police departments, and finally to Ruby who she sent for an extra-large hot chocolate. (So maybe her intern scowled at that final request, but someone had to be the newbie.) Emma bit the inside of her lip to keep herself from grinning at all the activity. She was already known as the best tracker in the department: Emma Swan always got her man. But this?

              When she brought in fugitive Killian Jones, she would be a legend.

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              Emma grasped the console of the pickup with a tight-knuckled grip as David took a tight turn. Killian Jones had been spotted at a local hospital, then stolen an ambulance, of all things. Emma was elated. The hospital reported finding dirty bandages, stitching thread, and a used syringe in a bathroom. That meant Killian Jones was injured, and though he might be a world-renowned surgeon (in another life, anyway), those injuries would slow him down.

              “There, there!” Emma shouted, pointing.

              The stolen ambulance turned onto a gravel road that led to a water treatment plant. David jerked the wheel, almost going up on two wheels to make pursuit. The truck fish-tailed slightly, giving the ambulance a bit of a lead. This was another good sign, however. Jones didn’t seem to have a plan; he was desperate.

              Of course, the prospect of death row for first degree murder would do that to a person.

              The story of Killian Jones and the murder of his wife, Milah, had been in the news for a full year before it finally went to trial. The world was simultaneously horrified and intrigued by the idea of a wealthy, respectable surgeon being capable of such a cold-blooded act. Milah Jones had died in her sexy lingerie, strangled, with her head bashed in. He swore he was innocent, of course, but didn’t they all? What made the story even crazier was Dr. Jones’s assertion that he had caught his wife’s killer still in the house, wrestled and fought with the man. A one-armed man. Emma had snorted when she heard the story. If he was going to make something up, he could at least make it sound believable.

              Mary Margaret’s voice came over the walkie-talkie. “Graham, take a left and you’ll cut him off.”

              “Copy,” Graham’s voice came through, static crackling.

              Sure enough, the jeep Graham was driving came bursting out onto the road from the left. The ambulance jerked, sliding sideways across the gravel. Before it even fully came to a stop, the driver’s door flew open, and Killian Jones tumbled out. He got to his feet more lithely than Emma would have expected and took off for the treatment plant.

              Emma yelled for David to stop, and jumped out of the vehicle as soon as it slowed down.

              “What the hell, Emma?” David yelled after her.

              She ignored him, taking off at top speed. Graham and Ruby leapt from the jeep to join her. David wasn’t far behind. They all pulled their guns as they faced the options in front of them: three huge drain pipes that led in different directions.

              “We split up,” Emma said, “Ruby, you’re with me. We don’t shoot unless absolutely necessary, and then only to incapacitate. Got it?”

              Everyone nodded as they went their separate ways. She and Ruby hadn’t gotten far when Emma heard the splashing of water echoing around them. Killian Jones was definitely in this pipe. Emma turned to Ruby and nodded her head slowly. Ruby nodded back.

              “Killian Jones!” Emma called out. “You’ve got nowhere to go.”

              The pipe turned sharply, and suddenly a dark figure came swinging down from the electrical wires above. His feet connected with Emma’s shoulder, sending her sprawling to her back in the shallow water. She heard a gun shot, but Ruby must have been spooked, because her aim went wide. The bullet ricocheted off the metal sides of the pipe, and Emma had to roll to her stomach to avoid the bullet. Meanwhile, Killian Jones had sprinted ahead.

              “Damn it, Ruby!” Emma snapped as she scrambled to her feet.

              “I’m sorry!”

              The pipe branched off again, and Emma motioned irritably for Ruby to take the one to the right while she took the left. Emma had only gone a few feet when she saw him; silhouetted against the opening of the pipe. The water spilled over the edge and into the reservoir below with a thunderous roar.

              “Killian Jones!” Emma shouted. “Hands where I can see them!”

              The man lifted his hands, which shook slightly.

              “Turn around, slowly!”

              Emma Swan had seen many wanted men during her time as a marshal. She had seen the looks on their faces: arrogant, terrified, rebellious, uncaring. She saw none of these things in the face of Killian Jones. His head was bowed low, and he looked up at her beneath impossibly long lashes. His eyes were a bright sparkling blue, reflecting the water at his feet. She had read in the papers that he was handsome, but the pictures always showed him with unkempt hair and a long, bushy beard. As if he’d stopped caring long ago. The man before her now had trimmed the beard to mere scruff, and given himself a haircut. Emma vaguely recalled the hospital saying the sink had been full of dark hair.

              But it wasn’t his good looks that had Emma unconsciously lowering her gun. It was the look in those eyes: a pleading look.

              “I didn’t kill my wife,” he told her.

              Emma blinked. She had a special talent; her team called it her super power. She could tell when people were lying. And Killian Jones was not lying. But guilt and innocence wasn’t Emma’s job. She lifted her gun and cocked it.

              “I don’t care,” she snapped, a bit of sarcasm dripping into her words.

              Killian Jones actually smirked at her, then shuffled backwards a bit, glancing over his shoulder. Emma’s eyes widened.

              “Don’t you dare!” she shouted, stepping closer. He held her gaze as he inched closer to the edge. “Damn it, Jones, I don’t want to shoot you!”

              He had the audacity to wink before launching himself over the edge. Emma gasped and raced forward to look down into the pounding water. The mist was too thick to see anything, and she blinked against the moisture assaulting her eyes. Emma pounded her fist into the metal wall.

              Why hadn’t she taken the shot?