It looked like tapioca.
Detective Hoffman had seen his share of automobile accidents, but not as many as one would think. There was precious little use for a homicide detective on the streets mopping up impaired drivers, normally. Normally, though, cars did not smash at full speed into a solid object which had been there for decades with no attempt at brake application.
It was due to this last anomaly that Hoffman stood here now, regarding dual brain prints on the wall and wondering what his daughter saw in tapioca. He had already photographed the scene several hundred times from varying angles and was waiting for the tow truck to fight its way through the traffic caused by the accident so it could remove the largest bit of detritus from the roadway. Once it was gone, Hoffman could document the spot it had lay in an attempt to divine further clues.
In an attempt to distract himself from the dessert on the wall, he lifted the digital camera around his neck to his eyes and pressed the View button. The most recent image leaped onto the LCD and he was treated to a close-up of the tapioca. Grimacing, he flicked backward through the images until the brain documentation had passed.
Here was the front seat from the driver’s side, both passenger, and a driver having exited through the windshield. Only their legs from the knees down remained in the car. The rest of them were alternatively smashed into the brick wall and laying on the hood. Here was the front seat from the passenger’s side and the accompanying closeups. Here was the backseat, which was attempting to get into the front seat. And sitting in the back seat…
There they sat, smiling with a blank vacuity, eyebrows raised at the world they regarded. Hoffman gazed back, a smile coming over his face. They were actually pretty cute, those little things. His daughter collected dolls, and she sure would love these.
Without having any idea how it had happened, Hoffman was sitting in his unmarked police car, piloting it away from the smoldering wreck in which Eric and Vivian had met their end. Beside him, strapped in with care in the passenger seat, sat the two dolls. They looked out the windshield, over the dashboard, eager for their approaching new home. Their chauffeur sat rigid in his seat, his mind a roaring blank save how much his daughter was going to love adding these two to her collection.
Hoffman arrived home earlier than usual. He probably should have stayed longer at the scene, but it didn’t seem very important. Compared to the look he knew would appear on his daughter’s face, some drunken fatcat smearing he and his wife’s brains across a brick wall didn’t seem to be so much as a blip on his radar. He turned into his driveway and his eyes fell to the dolls. He smiled. So cute.
“Never mind,” Hoffman said, beaming, the roaring in his mind as gentle as the sound of surf on a beach. “Why don’t you go show them to your mommy?”
Sofia was off like a shot, up the stairs, and into her little sister’s bedroom. Her mother, Mary, was putting her sister Rachel down for a nap when Sofia burst in.
She was going to have to talk to Dave. These dolls were fucking creepy, the way they were leering at her. “I’m naming this one June and this one Janie!” Sofia babbled, shoving each doll in turn into Mary’s face. “Want to hold them?”
Sofia skipped out the door and down the hall to her room. She had just the outfits in mind for the two dolls. She dropped them on her bed and went to her closet. She was rummaging through the piles when her hands slowed their feverish digging and her eyes lost their focus.
From that day forward, more and more, Sofia could not find June, though she was sure she had not moved June from her spot. That was all right with Sofia, she liked Janie better anyway. They would go out to the garden, and eventually, June would end up back in her room so what did it matter?
Hoffman smiled at June and gestured toward the window of his study with his lit cigarette.
June said that would be just fine, she preferred coffee anyways.
June complimented him on his eloquence and expressed her disappointment that his wife didn’t seem to like Janie and her.
All the same, June said, she would feel far better if everybody in the house got along.
June considered for a time and suggested that perhaps if his wife had fewer demands on her time, she would be able to get to know June and her sister better. Hoffman nodded as he thought about it.
“That could work, you know she’s been awful stressed lately and not sleeping too well. What could we do for her to ease her mind?” June told him.
Mary hurried down the hall, wiping the soap off her hands. She had been washing dishes when she thought she had heard the baby cry out. Their baby monitor’s battery had been dead for a week or more and the house was fresh out of nine-volt batteries so she wasn’t entirely sure what she’d heard was real.
Steve Hoffman stood facing her beside Rachel’s crib, cradling her blanketed little body in his arms. Mary leaned against the doorway and smiled. As the doorway creaked, Steve looked over at her.
She glanced at the wall clock. “Speaking of which, it’s about time for little girls of all ages to be washing up. Is she out in the garden with her dolls?”
“My mistake,” mumbled Mary, moving down the hallway toward the door leading to the garden and the back door.
“Things are going to get easier, you’ll see,” Steve called down the hallway to Mary. “June said so.”
He smiled at the baby in his arms. When he had smothered her, she had only made a single noise. Nothing for Mary to worry about, now or ever again. Now, they could be a family. The five of them.