Chapter 1

Present Day

Heels. That's what they heard. A sound that shook Brooke to her very core, but right now frightened her beyond belief. He was gone. Connor had left. Broke every rule and then had left her here. The alarm, the note, and Number 11 it was all overwhelming to her. More than she could possibly take. She waited and willed herself into denial. He's fine. He's alive. He will be in her room after the announcement. That's what she wanted to believe, but when she saw the cold stone look from the grey haired woman when she stood on the stage in front of the entire Shadow organization she knew that denial would not help her.

Connor was a dead man walking. Awaiting his sentence until Number 11 found him.

7 Years Ago- Holy Father's Orphanage

1112 was the rusted numbers nailed to the door on Waterbrook street. The once golden numbers had faded and flakes of the color chipped off with weather and time. The outside unpleasant at first, but upon entering people quickly realized it was home to many.

Most floors were scuffed on the inside from the amount of children coming in and out of the house. The beige wallpaper slowly peeling off the wall possibly due to the amount of rain damage from storms throughout the years. The children of the orphanage were a happy bunch despite their inadequate environment. The food was good and the housemother, , was extremely kind.

This was Connor's first home. The one where he learned of a better life. One that was not his. He studied the characters in television and movies. The most influential movie of his life ,the one that he felt he could relate to from his core: Annie. On any given day he would watch and then rewatch the movie in the common area of the house. Much to the aggravation of the displeased older children as Connor got older it was also the movie that restored some type of hope in him for a new beginning.

It seemed more common coming Connor's older years that he would sit in the center of the couch and watched Annie live the life he had wanted. The frustrated children all getting adopted, but he stayed. For him there was no Mr. Warbucks. The dreams of that had faded, chipped, and peeled away like the rest of the house.

By age twelve, those dreams had turned into small hopes that he knew would never come true. By age twelve, Connor was in-fact disappointed.

The disappointment lead to tears in his bedroom of rejection, wet pillowcases at night, and an assortment of tissues in the trash can. Then the rejection had lead his roommate to talk to Ms. Tyler.

The seven-year-old roommate pulled on the elderly woman's long dress to get her attention. From up above, Ms. Tyler saw the blond mop haired boy with worry in his blue eyes. His small hands clutching her skirt as he refused to let go. She bent down to the level of the small boy. The young boy whispered in her ear about the tears that his beloved roommate was shedding. Ms. Tyler placed her hand gingerly on the boy's face and gave a modest smile to reassure him that she will comfort the troubled roommate. A nod confirmed the message was received and appreciated.

Ever since Connor had entered the dangerous double digits it had seemed that a dark shadow has been cast over him. He had been falling into a day by day worse depression. Today was just one of many days that Connor had broken down. Ms. Tyler knocked gently on Connor's wooden door. A brief smile crossed her face as she ran her fingers across the etching of his name in the door. The smile being brief due to the tally marks etched underneath it. A sad tribute to his time in the orphanage. One tally for every year he had been there.

From the opposite side of the door she could hear the soft cries that escaped the boy. It broke her heart. "Connor, open up." Her voice managed to say. Small footsteps rose in volume as they approached the door.

The 12-year-old boy opened the door. His green eyes red from tears and a stray water droplet escaped his eye as his face came better into view. His messy brunette hair covered the top of his face as his head shifted down to meet his arm quickly to wipe away the tear.

Hastily retreating to his bed to seek some solace; Ms. Tyler followed in trail. His dark blue comforter a little tattered but pleasantly made as instructed of all the children in the house. His legs were pulled into his chest as his arms held onto them. A defensive technique that he had become quite accustomed too. His face hidden in his knees to not show any weakness. It was as if hiding the tears hid the fact he was upset.

hesitated before she took a seat on the bed. There had been different reasons for every breakdown that had happened. Many failed interviews with potential families, many existential life crisis that Ms. Tyler was appalled at hm having, and many failed attempts to try to fit in. "Why are you crying hun?" She asked. What could be causing the boy to be upset a day before his birthday? Connor mumbled a response into his legs. Unintelligible was his words to Ms. Tyler. "Hun, repeat the words without your head in your legs."

Connor adjusted his position at her request. The blue jeans clothed legs falling off the bed but not quite hitting the floor. His nose running from all the water escaping his eyes and those sacred eyes just showing how broken this boy was. "No one wants me." Connor whispered. So low in volume that to the old woman's ears it was incoherent. She gave Connor a look because they have had many conversations about her hearing not being what it was. Once his eyes met hers he repeated himself louder. "No one wants me." He stated as if it was written in fate already.

Her heart broke in that moment. All those potential families that had come in and all the rejection that went with it for this poor boy. Her arms immediately enveloped the young boy who she had raised for the last twelve years. As she brought him close to her heart, his defense had broken. The water that was being pent up like a damn had been broken. Her shirt managed to absorb a majority of the moisture. "That is not true." She proclaimed.

Connor sat up straight again to wipe his nose on his sleeve. His eyes cast down towards the floor. "I'm turning 13 tomorrow." Connor starts.

Ms. Tyler took the chance to jump in. "Yes, which we are all celebrating as a family." The elderly woman pulled Connor to her side once more. Connor looked up at her.

"Family doesn't leave you. Everyone here leaves and nobody wants to adopt a thirteen-year-old." Connor declared. The statistics were against him and it was the knowledge that he held close to his heart.

The housemother peered around the room. Maybe it was possible to distract him, since reasoning with him was almost impossible. Once he had an idea in his head he never budged. She looked desperately for something that could bring back the joyful eyes that he once had. Something that would make the tears fade on his caramel skin.

It was as if a light bulb went off in her mind. "I know what will make you feel better." She started before standing up. Her sights set on the side table that had seen better days. The coveted favorite movie. The wrinkled hand reached for the metal hand connected to the drawer. Inside the drawer were a few of Connor's three prized possessions. A note from his mother that was left with him when the hospital delivered him. The note being used a bookmark in the book his drama teacher had gifted him. Building a Character as the title had said. The teacher had given it to him when she saw the excitement in his eyes upon watching movies in her class. The way his face would light up. His eyes would go wide and his mouth slightly ajar. It was his own personal type of hypnosis. The last possession was the Annie VHS. 's current plan about to go askew.

Ever since he was five, this was his favorite movie. It was understandable to Ms. Tyler because it seemed as if he identified with the main protagonist. Annie was an orphan just like him who was left there by her parents. Connor has never self identified with anyone more than her. Yet their endings seemed to be different. "I'll set it up in the common area." Ms. Tyler said as she opened the case to take out the VHS. "Come down in ten minutes." Her hand grazed his head lovingly before she made her exit.

Connor sat there looking at the VHS tape box that she had discarded on his bed sheets. This isn't where he belonged. His eyes strayed down to his hands. He wanted so much more than the worn, previously owned clothes that stood in his closet. Grateful as he was to the charities, he wanted the glitz and glam that could be seen in the movies. A better life than even his parents that abandoned him could have hoped for. His ears could pick up the sound of the older kids shuffling down the hall leaving the common area and the younger kids running towards the known couch to watch the Holy Father's famous film. This had been a constant movie that had played and the only movie Connor had ever requested.

The older children who had been there for two to three years had seen enough of the 'pity' movie as they had dubbed it. For the young kids, it was a beacon of hope with beautiful and catchy songs. Connor could hear them sing the songs as he approached the common room.

The movie that had become Connor's anthem for his future had become the orphanage sing-a-long. The movie was just starting as he assumed his spot on the couch. The younger children all had already started singing the beginning song, Tomorrow. Connor's focus, however, wasn't on the children or even the movie. He had the weird sense of deja vu that this has happened all before. It has. Every time Connor had lost hope this movie was there, but the children had all left. They were either adopted or had grown up past the age limit of staying at the house. They all had left him.

It was ironic, the one movie that could cheer Connor up was the one movie that showed him how unwanted he was. Tomorrow was the day. Tomorrow was the day he would runaway.

The hours he waited to leave were excruciating. The time seemed to drag on as Connor had started to pack his bags before his roommate joined him in the room for bedtime. He had packed his bag with all of the essentials. The worn clothes from his closet was the first to be stuffed into his backpack. It would also be the first thing he disposed of when he started his new life. He stole two water bottles from the kitchen to keep him hydrated and mesh sides of the bags. Getting food to last a few days until he found a better place was a little harder than the water. He had to break the lock to the pantry without being heard to get the snacks. After several attempts to pick the lock and not knowing where the tools that were constantly used to fix up the wooden floor boards of the house.

As the clock in the living ticked and his roommates fiant snores echoed around the room Connor had time to think before the deed was done. He considered a lot of things that weren't on his mind before. Questions like where would he go? How would he become what he wanted to be? The thoughts consumed him for what seemed to be the next hour. It wasn't until the chime of the grandfather clock in the common area sounded off alerting him to the new hour. It was time. Quickly, he checked to see if his roommate was still asleep before he took his backpack out from underneath his bed.

Constantly he would check to make sure he had not awoken the boy on the twin side bed on the opposite side of the room. He opened up the drawer slowly because of the creak it makes when the wood presses together. He took out the book carefully. As he skimmed the pages the book a brief smile crossed his face.

The book was the key of who he was to become. "Don't go." His roommate muttered startling young Connor. The book he held fell to the floor. Pages towards the ground.

With slow feet Connor approached his talking roommate. If he was up he would surely wake up Ms. Tyler as soon as Connor's hand had reached for the front door. The boy's body wad facing Connor physically, bus his eyes were shut. "Danny?" Connor whispered. Loud enough to be heard if the younger boy was up, but not enough to wake him up if he was sleep talking. The boy stirred for a brief moment, which in return widened Connor's eyes. The breath in his throat caught.

"No, I can't go in the water in my jammies." Danny continued before he flipped onto his other side. Connor released the breath that he held in. His facial expressions clearly relaxed more than seconds before. He realized quickly that if it weren't Danny then it could be any other orphan in the house. He would have to be quick before he woke up someone else. He grabbed the treasured book off the floor and stuffed it in the bag.

Grasping the handle he opened the door slowly careful to not make any sound. The ten-year-old that had the room adjacent to his was a light sleeper and even the sound of the door lock being put into place could disturb him if it were the right time. Successfully, he opened the door. His head peaked out into the hallway to view both directions to assure that they were clear.

Once assured that no fellow orphan or the house mother herself was roaming he closed the door gently. Extra careful to not make the thud of the wood hitting the frame. He held onto the handle for a few more moments to not let it immediately snap back to it's original position. Instead he used the few more moments to guide it slowly back to make the least amount of disturbance.

The door that lead to his freedom was just down the staircase. No, freedom wasn't what he wanted. The door that lead to his future was just down the staircase.

He gripped onto the railing as if it would help distribute his weight more evenly. The floors of the house were old and would creak under a mass amount of weight. No matter how often someone would come to fix them it would be a temporary bandage on all the usage the floor had gotten in the last sixty years of operation. His future was in his sight and getting closer as he got closer to the front door. It seemed in his reach in that moment. That if he could leave here that anything was possible.

The last three steps and the front door was right there. From a distance Connor could hear an alarm shrill coming from down the hallway of the floor. His head turned rapidly and his eyes widened as he realized what alarm that must be. The housemother was up an hour earlier than normal. Her footsteps quickly approaching as Connor could hear them as they increased in volume. Why was she up?

Connor looked at the possible places to hide. Could he make it to the door before she made it to the bottom of the stair landing. He paused for another moment before looking at the front closet of the foyer. Within his reach and slightly ajar because it was on a long list of broken items that could never properly be fixed.

Hidden in the closet was the second best option if Connor were to be honest with himself. The best option was to make it to the door, but the hesitation that Connor had experienced had ruined that option in the moment. Now, the option was to wait until Ms. Tyler went into a different room. The little opening from the door being broken made it easier for Connor to see what Ms. Tyler was up to and when she would be out of the foyer.

Ms. Tyler entered the foyer from the library with her kitchen apron on. A few splatters of flour on it from what Connor could see as she turned up the stairs with something in her hand. He couldn't clearly make out what it was because of the of the angle he was at, but she was humming a tune. A tune Connor recognized very well, which meant his window of opportunity was closing.

A little guilt consumed him as she walked up the stairs to his bedroom. He opened the closet door slowly and then closed it. Ms. Tyler had started to sing Happy Birthday as he unlocked and opened the door. The last thing he heard was her scream.

The sunrise started to peak up and it was the start of a new day. A new life for Connor. Until the media attention calmed down on the situation he would have to stay hidden and in the Shadows.