Traffic was crawling along the A322, and Melissa had been stuck there long enough to have found 27 different evil forces to blame. Primarily the government, naturally, and various departments within it, but also the people who would make money out of this delay. Like Dr. Stewart, the private consultant billing for every ten minutes of his precious time, patient or no patient. The absence of little Daniel’s right eardrum for him to inspect must be such an awful inconvenience. Melissa wondered if he should pay her for making her drive to a hospital that wasn’t local. Petrol companies. They were going to profit from this traffic.
Danny was sat behind his mother, strapped into his race-car stickered booster seat. This really wasn’t his day. The car was hot, he was thirsty, and he was bored out of his mind. Mummy was doing that whispering-under-her-breath thing that meant she was cross, and she’d snapped at him when he first complained. “Don’t you start!” Danny had a feeling there was an insult in there somewhere, but he hadn’t cried. Big boys don’t cry. Only babies cry.
The car inched forward, and stopped almost immediately. Danny craned to one side to try and see out the front windscreen; even at five years old he knew what the sea of red brake lights meant. Hopelessness trumped fear, and he opened his mouth.
“Mummy, can we go home?”
Melissa gave him a stern look in the rearview mirror.
“Of course not. You have an appointment with Dr Stewart, and-”
“I don’t like Dr Stewart. I want to go home.”
“Don’t be silly. You do like Dr Stewart. Remember he has that teddy that helps him check your ears? That was so funny-”
“I don’t like Dr Stewart. He smells like Daddy’s pickle jar, and he hurt my head when he pulled my ear. I. Want. To. Go. Home.”
Danny watched in the mirror as Melissa closed her eyes and pressed her lips together, inhaling deeply through her nose. Mummy must be feeling ill. She always said breathing like that made her feel better.
“Let’s play a game,”she suggested a moment later, her voice suddenly calm and enthusiastic. “I know, let’s play i-spy! You can go first.”
Danny decided not to complain, and looked out the window. There wasn’t much to see, just bushes and unkempt grass, occasionally punctured by a fence or gate. ‘G’ for the grass. ‘T’ for tree. Decisions, decisions. And then something else caught his eye.
“Mummy, look. There’s a glove on the grass!”
“Yes dear. Lovely. I thought we were playing i-spy..?”
“No Mummy, look, why is there a glove on the grass?”
“I have no idea, but littering is very naughty so I hope the person who left it there feels bad for not putting it in the bin-”
“It’s a little glove. I think it’s pink. Maybe it belonged to a little girl.”
Melissa had lost interest and was staring out the front windscreen. The red lights ahead were slowly but surely disappearing; they might move again soon.
“Mummy, maybe a little girl lost the glove. I don’t think she dropped it. There’s no pavement, and no path, so she shouldn’t have been walking there. Maybe somebody took it from her…”
A space opened up in front, and Melissa gently pressed the accelerator. They moved forward a couple of car lengths, and she silently thanked the Lord for bringing the glove out of Danny’s line of vision.
“Mummy, look. There’s something else.”
Melissa bit her tongue, and tightened her grip on the steering wheel.
“Mummy, it’s a…it’s a…it’s a jacket. A little one, like the glove. And there’s a bag, like the one cousin Julie had at Auntie Helen’s wedding. And-”
Danny choked on his next words.
“Mummy, there’s blood. On the jacket. And the bag. And the bush behind. Mummy, look!”