Pink. With ribbons on. And enormous bows. Everywhere.
Tyler shrugged and lay back on the rug, letting the eight-year-old girls swarm over him like an army of giggling, blonde-haired ants. Writhing in mock-distress at they tickled and pinched and tied him with their ribbons. To one side there were at least three or four holding down his arm, messily painting his nails and on the other, another squealing horde of pre-adolescent fun-monkeys intent on decorating everything that could be tied or lacquered or hennaed or covered in glitter.
He just hoped he could get most of it off before his next work-shift.
Poppy was the ring-leader of them all, of course. Unexpectedly taking charge of matters, she was foregirling the others, supplying them all with bottles of hot-pink luminous goo and the contents of her hair-accessory basket. Who would have thought she’d have accumulated so much. It just showed how soon those sneaked-in-the-basket items he never saw each shopping day built up.
But it was the least part of what he’d do for her. It was tough for him being a father and a single-mom rolled into one but he knew it was even harder for her. And he was dreading how much harder it was going to get for her. He only wished there was a way he could find someone to share her with him; someone who could care for them both and make it possible for him to stop wanting to hit ‘pause’ on their lives all the time.
But there was little chance of that with his work schedules.
The peal of the phone rip-sawed through the giggling, bringing him back to the here-and-now. That ring-tone he’d programmed; Danse Macabre, that bitter-sweet waltz that Poppy loved to hear. And the tune he hated the most.
He stiffened then rolled to his hands and knees, carefully shedding the pouting decorators as he shifted reluctantly from mother/father mode to business-like cop. He caught Marcia’s eye - it seemed like his mother-in-law had a sixth sense for moments like this - and began to pluck the most obvious of the bows and hair-grips from his hair and clothes, reaching out for the phone Marcia was holding out for him.
He was pulling over from the express-route when he first saw them. A clot of uniforms ringing an object on the ground. The regulars had got there first. Probably contaminating the scene of the crime and making his job even more difficult than it usually was. He stilled the car’s engine, bit back the resentment and grief he always felt and stepped forward to take charge.
“Travis. You were quick.” Parker Knowles broke free from the scrum, the tall dark-skinned man the only one of the regulars he immediately recognised. “I’d better warn you though, man. The DB’s a pre-pubescent Caucasian girl. Blonde, I think. And…” his voice faltered, wavering a moment until he recovered control. “And she’s pretty messed up.”
As I stood beside the rotting corpse, it suddenly occurred to me that I shouldn’t be there.