The small bell above the door jingled brightly as a small group of customers walked into the Stone Dragon, a year-round costume store.
A young woman with thick and slightly unruly strawberry-blonde hair pulled into a messy bun looked up from the costume she was tagging. "Hi, welcome to the Stone Dragon. Is there anything I can help you with?" she asked with a smile as she readjusted her glasses out of old habit.
"No, thank you. We're just looking," one of the girls spoke up, glancing around the store as if she couldn't wait to leave it.
"Speak for yourself," one of her companions, a tall, muscular young man with shaggy black hair said as he turned to the store owner. "We're going to a costume party in a couple weeks, and I'm not sure what to go as. Do you have any ideas?" he asked with a bright smile and twinkling blue-grey eyes.
The owner walked out from behind the counter and slowly walked toward him, taking in his body shape.
"I'm Mark," he said as she took the measuring tape from around her neck and measured the length of his torso.
"Jacqueline," she said. "But everyone calls be Jaq. Now spread your arms out."
Mark complied and looked around the store at all the costumes and accessories hanging up. "I haven't seen any costumes like these before."
Jaq smiled as she looked at the measurement on her tape. "That's because I design all of these, and fiancé makes them."
"Your fiancé?" Mark asked, sounding slightly dejected.
Jaq frowned, but quickly tried to hide it behind another smile. "Sorry, I should've said he used to help. He died a few months ago."
"I'm so sorry," Mark said as he followed Jaq as she walked to a rack of costumes. "If you don't mind me asking…"
"Police don't know," Jaq answered quickly as she pulled a waist-length maroon cape from the rack and walked deeper into the store. "They closed the case two months ago."
"I'm sorry," Mark repeated, feeling slightly like a broken record.
Jaq shook her head. "It's not your fault," she said, then added something under her breath.
"I said that the rest of the costume for you is in the back room. Wait here for a second."
Mark stood where he was as Jaq quickly walked to the back of the store until a black and white picture above the counter caught his eye.
It was a picture of Jaq, with a giant smile on her face, laughing, standing in the arms of a strong man who was trying not to laugh. He was pretty sure the man in the picture had been Jaq's fiancé.
The picture next to that one caught his attention next. It was a picture of an old, abandoned castle with silver mist swirling around it, and black rocks covered in green moss surrounding it. The picture was breathtaking, but even with the castle confined in a plastic square, Mark still felt a chill run up his spine as he looked at the misty scene.
After fitting Mark for his costume and helping the rest of his small group, Jaq walked back behind the counter and pulled a large key from a key ring at her hip. She unlocked the drawer where she kept her jewelry that got in the way while she was working.
Jaq pulled out a gold ring first and held it up, staring at it again, like she'd done so many times since his disappearance. "They still haven't found you yet, have they?"