THE BIG NAP
The detective woke up just after dawn. It was a typical morning. His knees were scraped and bruised, his clothes were damp and soiled, and his teeth felt like someone had socked him in the jaw. He reached for the bottle he kept under his pillow and took a sloppy swig. The taste was foul, but it did the trick. Now he could sit up and think. Now he could start to figure out how to somehow face another goddam day.
He stared at his reflection in the mirror. He wasn’t getting any younger. His eyes were red and bleary. His scalp was dry and itchy. He was two years old, and soon he would be three. Unless he stayed two. He wasn’t sure if you stayed the age you were or if that changed.
He wasn’t sure about a lot of things. The only thing he knew was he was tired. Tired of this down-and-dirty life. Tired of trying to make sense of a world gone mad.
The client was waiting for him in his nursery. He’d seen her around before. She’d come onto the scene about a year ago, moving into the white bassinet down the hall. Some people called her Sweetheart. Others called her Pumpkin. But most people knew her by her full name: Baby Anna. She looked innocent enough, with her big, wide eyes and Princess Elsa onesie. But her past was murky. The detective had heard that she came from the hospital. But there was also a rumor that she’d once lived inside Mommy’s tummy. It didn’t add up. Still, a job was a job.
“So, what brings you here?” the detective asked.
“It’s Moomoo,” Baby Anna said. “She’s missing.”
The detective rolled his eyes. Moomoo went missing all the time. That was just the kind of unicorn she was. “Maybe she’s under your bassinet,” he said.
“I checked,” she said. “She’s not.”
Her eyes filled with tears. He handed her a tissue, but she didn’t know what a tissue was, so she put it in her mouth and tried to eat it.
“Please,” she said. “Moomoo’s all I have in the whole world.”
“Lost toys are small-time,” the detective said. “Why should I bust my ass to find some unicorn who’ll probably just turn up under the radiator?”
“Because I can pay you up front.”
The detective cocked his head doubtfully. What kind of scratch could a baby like Anna come up with? She wasn’t old enough to have a piggy bank. She didn’t even have pockets.
“What do you got that’s worth me getting up for?” he asked.
Anna looked him in the eye. “Stickers.”
The detective swallowed. “Are they the fun kind?”
“See for yourself.” She held up the sheet, and he took a long, slow breath.
They were fun, all right. He’d never seen so many Batmans in his life. There were jumping ones, flying ones, punching ones, kicking ones. If you counted them all up, it had to be at least three stickers.
“That’s a lot of cabbage,” he said. “How do I know these aren’t hot? Where’d you even get them?”
“I don’t remember,” she admitted. “Sometimes things are just in my hand. I also don’t remember how I got into this room or what we’re talking about.”
“We’re talking about finding Moomoo.”
She clapped her hands, to the best of her ability. “You mean it?”
“That’s right, doll,” he said. “I’m on the case.”
She threw her arms around his neck and screamed very loudly in his ear.
“Easy, kid,” he said, nudging her away. “I’ve got work to do.”
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