The crystal glass tipped off the table, an inch out of his reach.
One helpless second and it shattered, coating the floor with sparkling fragments and crimson drops of wine. He shut his eyes, unwilling to look. Frustration boiled in his gut, threatening to explode again. He clenched his fist tighter, striving for control.
A small round head appeared from the door frame. “You alright, Ca—?”
“Yes, I’m fine!” he snapped, cutting off the query. The figure at the door froze.
With a heavy sigh, he straightened. “I’m sorry, Henry, my dear fellow. That was unbecoming of me.” He waved a hand with a broad flourish. “Come in. Come in. Clean up this mess, will you?”
The red cap bobbed rapidly. “Oh aye, Sir. Right away, Sir.”
With a clumsy rush, Henry began sweeping and gathering the dazzling bits into a small pail. For a while, no conversation passed between the two men, only faint mutterings now and then from the servant could be heard above the wind and rain howling outside.
Sitting back into his chair, he watched the smaller man rise, then collect the broom and bin.
“This was one of er cups, wasn’t it, Sir?” Henry asked quietly, lingering for a moment at the door.
The candlelight touched his face, and, for an instant, the deep lines softened. The flickering flame captured his gaze, though it was not fire he saw.
“Yes” he whispered. “It was one of hers.”
The head disappeared, and he was left to his own thoughts again. Blessed silence, how he craved it sometimes. And yet, those moments quickly filled with the memories of her cries, helpless and laced with anguish. He shook his head sharply, as if to rid his ears of the sound. There. Silence once more.
He leaned forward, searching among the maps and papers that littered the table. Reaching for a worn newspaper clipping, he scanned the headline once again, although it had been memorized long ago.
LONDON SNATCHER STRIKES AGAIN! A DOZEN MISSING SINCE CHRISTMAS!
POLICE STUMPED! WHO IS HE?—OR WHAT?
“Who indeed?” he muttered to himself, placing the clipping back onto the table. “I know exactly who he is, you fools!”
It was always one or two at a time, no more. Quietly, no signs of struggle, no bodies found. The police had been baffled, and no leads were discovered. But he had not given up. He would not give up.
Quickly he pushed the clipping under a corner of the map. He couldn’t bear to read the date again. It was the day his own son went missing. The day his precious wife began to wither away, unable to bear the weight of a child lost.
A gale whipped sharply outside, pressing against the windows in an effort to gain entrance. Not noticing, he picked up a large quill to resume his log. The scent of the ink, sharp and oily, seemed to soothe him.
Then the distant sound of a young boy’s laughter touched his ears.
He lurched toward the window, fighting against the rise and fall of the ship beneath his feet. Desperate eyes searched the thin gray line of beach on the horizon, barely visible through the storm. Surely it was him this time—his own boy—waiting for his father to take him home. He opened his mouth to call out his son’s name, but the laughter had melted away, swallowed up by the sea mistrals.
“No!” The word barely escaped his throat, choked and twisted with despair. His breath blurred the pane of glass, until the island was no longer detectable.
Yes, he did know who the Snatcher was. Precious years he had spent searching for a way to reach the fiend’s lair. It had taken time to get this far—time, money, and a crew of willing men; some reckless fathers like himself, others along for the fame and glory that would accompany success.
He glanced back at the table, eyes sharp and clear once again. A large map covered in notes and scribbles fluttered slightly, its ragged edges catching the breeze. The black “X” marked in the middle seemed to grow darker.
Reaching over to a chest, he grasped a cold curve of iron tightly. A light in the corner flickered and danced, rapidly changing hues like a hot coal, tinkling violently.
“Yes, my dear. Soon enough. Now that you have provided the means by which to leave this accursed place—“
The gleaming hook clicked into place at the end of his arm.
“I will find Pan, and make him pay for all he has taken from me.”
Words copyright 2018 by Natashya K Newman. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.