It wasn’t an easy job, but one she enjoyed. And she was good at it. There were a few leaders who respected her more than the President, and that was saying something.
Tiffany and her husband, Joe, had four adopted children of varying ages, from 19 to six months, and the middle two asked to take bowling lessons. Jasmine and Seth, blood siblings adopted after their family died in an arson fire, rarely asked their new parents for anything, so Tiffany felt that the kids should be allowed to have the lessons, even if she wouldn’t be able to take them every day. The kids didn’t know exactly what it was their parents did for a living, but knew they were federal cops and up at all hours of the day and night speaking with people in foreign languages, and understood that it was something important. Joe checked with a couple of their agents and found a pair willing to be escorts for the lessons and went along to sign the children up for lessons and later, a kids’ league. Both Tiffany and Joe saw their middle children opening up more as the time at the bowling lanes increased and realized how good it was to have them out with others their age again. It was the first time since the fire that either had shown any interest in anything outside of the house, and they were thrilled.
For the first league tournament, both Tiffany and Joe made sure that they would be able to go to the bowling alley with their children and decided, as long as they were there, to have dinner. Tiffany wasn’t sure exactly what she would be able to eat as she developed food allergies and chemical sensitivities that limited her diet when she was away from home, but was determined to have a fun night so her kids wouldn’t worry about her. She knew that Joe was double-checking the menu was well and hoped that he wouldn’t say anything when she finally ordered fish and chips.
“I’m going to run to the restroom,” she said when their server was gone.
“Do you need help, Mom?” Jasmine asked.
“Thanks sweetie, but I’ll be fine,” Tiffany replied. She picked up her ebony cane with the silver wolf handle and stood carefully. “But come check for me if I’m not back in ten minutes, okay?”
Jasmine checked her new Mickey Mouse watch, a birthday present from Joe, and nodded seriously. Tiffany reflected, not for the first time, how much Jasmine took after her aunt, Tiffany’s younger twin sister. They were both serious and didn’t like to be around people at all. It was one reason Tiffany was so glad that Jasmine had asked for lessons that would force her to interact with people. She wasn’t going to force her children to do anything they didn’t want to, but she wasn’t going to let them hide in the house for the rest of their lives either.
As Tiffany walked slowly through the tables towards the restroom, she noticed a family with three girls all around Seth’s age - about eight - and one of them had a pink inflatable alien that she was holding like a teddy bear. Tiffany, who had grown up with two younger brothers who adored science fiction movies and shows, immediately thought that it looked a little like Thor in Stargate SG-1 except for the color and kept moving, focusing more on her movements than the people around her. If she fell, there was no way she would get back to her feet on her own.
The sink in the ladies room was a large trough style and Tiffany propped her cane up against the wall to wash her hands. While she was rinsing her hands, the three girls she had noticed out in the restaurant came in. One went right into a stall and locked the door, while the one with the alien hurried over and put the plastic doll into the sink and turned on the water.
“You know you can pull that plug on his back and he’ll turn flat,” her older sister said, looking around Tiffany’s side at the toy.
“Yeah, I know, but right now it’s a body and I’m washing the body,” the girl said in a calm and almost expressionless voice that chilled Tiffany. She looked at the child out of the corner of her eye and bit her lip when she saw the motions the small hand was making on the body.
Ignoring the squabbling over stalls that was going on between the other two girls, Tiffany picked up her cane and walked slowly from the room. She didn’t have much time for anything away from work, but both she and Joe carefully screened the television shows that their children were allowed to watch. With Maria - their eldest - out of the house and at college she was sure that she would be exposed to a lot of shows that had never been allowed at home, but that was part of growing up. Tiffany moved slowly back through the restaurant, pausing as if to rest near the table where the girls’ family was sitting and studied the adults for a moment. It didn’t seem like anything was wrong and, having come from an abusive home herself, Tiffany knew the signs. The adults all looked like normal parents in the current age - stressed and overworked, if a little lost and not sure exactly what had happened between their own childhoods and the current day. She wondered if they knew the types of shows their children were watching, what they were being exposed to, the games they were playing and how at risk they were from all of that. The police officer in her wanted to go over and have a stern talk with the parents, but something held her back. There was a look in the dad’s eyes that she had seen too many times before. And it was one she wouldn’t mess around with unless she had her second in command with her for back-up.
With a small sigh, Tiffany went up to one of the servers and took out her badge. “Excuse me, but I was wondering if you had a moment.”
The badge did the trick, as it always seemed to with the young and innocent. “Sure. What do you need?”
“The name of the family sitting at the table behind us,” Tiffany said. “They’re not in trouble, but I need to talk with them professionally and don’t want to ruin their evening.”
The server looked doubtful, but moved over to the small computer terminal and punched some buttons. “The name on the card we have is David A. Simmonson,” she said. “Did they do something wrong?”
“Not at all,” Tiffany said. “Don’t give it another thought, please. I just have some information for them. Thank you for your help.”
“Yeah, any time,” the young girl said.
Tiffany limped back to her own table and sat down, snagging the pen out of Joe’s shirt pocket to write the name down on her napkin. “Where are the kids?” she asked.
“In the arcade,” Joe replied. “What happened?”
“I think I might have just seen a serial killer in the making, Joey,” Tiffany sighed. “I got the name, but it’s possible that it won’t do any good in the long run. I have to try.”
He looked over, noting the kids at the table with the adults. “Which one?”
“The one with the alien,” Tiffany said. “She was pretending it was a body she had to clean up, Joe.”
His coffee brown eyes widened. “I wish you were kidding.”
“Regardless of how they take it, I’m going to track them down and have a long talk with the parents,” Tiffany said. “But I want to have Steve and Frank there with me. This is one I can’t do alone, no matter how much I want to.”
“I’ll get their licenses,” Joe said. “And without them knowing it.”
She regarded him for a moment. “Jake has been playing around with computers again, hasn’t he?” she asked. “Never mind, don’t answer that. Thank you.”
“Of course. I’ll be right back. And Jake will be happy to find out if this works right or not.”
Tiffany watched Joe walk towards the restrooms and sighed. She only hoped the new device wouldn’t blow up when it was turned on. The last one had, and had taken out a six foot section of lab wall with it. They were just lucky none of their people were close to it when it happened. Jake sold that one to the army as an experimental explosive and went back to work.
Joe returned just before Jasmine and Seth, caught Tiffany’s eye and nodded. She smiled at him and turned to her dinner. Nothing was going to ruin the evening for the kids, no matter how disturbed Tiffany was about what she had seen. She just wish she could believe that television was to blame. That was what the parents would blame. They always did. It was never the kid’s fault. Never their fault. Always the media. And they were never right about that one. Never right about what happened to their kid to lead them along a path paved with violence. Tiffany knew she couldn’t save them all, no matter how much she wanted to, but she would never give up the fight.
a little backstory for you all. if you've read my pieces "Outside Influences" you will have met Tiff, Joe, Lexxie (gee, doesn't that sound familiar) and a couple of the others in this piece. i call Tiffany my alter ego. i created her in junior high school when i started to write seriously for the first time, and she's stuck around to the point that she's as real to me as any of my characters are. i even use Tiffany F as my online name a lot of the time. and Joe keeps an eye on me to make sure i'm behaving myself. ;-) no, i'm not kidding about that. any writer will know what i'm talking about.
the alien incident really happened to me today. it takes a lot to disturb me, but this chilled me to the bone. it feels good to have written it out, even if the story feels kinda awkward to me. it's more for therapy than anything else. ;) but if you want to read and leave me feedback, i'll love you forever. =^.^=