Nothing to Say.

“Remember, Max, these are kids.”

An derefore… wut?

“You can’t swear at them. You can’t make any lewd or specist jokes. You can’t take in any weapons or booze.”

He mutters something and takes the flask out of his pocket.  Dis is a big fat waste a time! We got nuttin to say to some brats!

“No argument here, but I owe Tiff a favor.”

Pffft. Dat skirt aint doin nuttin fer you dat you gotta worry bout repayin.

“Shut up, Max.”

Least when ya owe Cassie a ‘favor,’ it don’t drag me inta da mess.

“Shut up, Max!”

Wuttta ya owe her for? Lookin da other way while-

“Max! Shut up! Now!”

I’m gripping the steering wheel so hard I’m leaving claw marks. Not as if that’s anything new, there’s plenty of those gouged into the fake leather. But thinking about steering wheels makes me calm enough to talk again. “We’re gonna go in there. We’re gonna talk to some kids about being cops. We’re going to leave. And we’re not going to say anything about it afterward.”

Pause.

“You got that, Max?”

Yeah, sure thing, Sly.

How Can They Have Any Pudding If They Don’t Eat Their Meat?

The kids are all waiting for me, so there’s no chance to talk to Tiffany. I give them a few of the tamest cops and robbers stories I can think of, all the while trying to ignore Max pretending he thinks that Tiff is part of the class.

Das right, little goil, dis is a ‘A-pul!’ ‘A-pul!’

I know that Max. I brought it.

Can you say ‘A-pul?’

“So yeah, kids,” I raise my voice to talk over them, “That’s what being in the police force is like. Any questions?” Hopefully they won’t ask, and I’ll have time for a word with Tiff before I go.

Do you ever shoot people? says the adorable little waif in the pink frilly dress.

“Um–we do everything we can to keep that from happening.”

Oh. She looks really disappointed, but the smug-looking koala to one side is waving his hand.

“Yeah?”

Are you not aware, he sniffs hard enough to collapse his nasal cavity into a black hole, that to make an arrest, he blows his nose in reverse again, without fully reciting the suspect’s, snort, rights is completely, snark snuff sniffle sniffle, is completely unconstitutional?

“Uh, yeah, I kinda did know that.”

Oh good, because, hideous sounds that should only occur when there’s a live rat blocking a sewage line, if you arrested someone and didn’t-

“Would you like a kleenex, kid?”

Nuh-uh. Looks like I touched a nerve there. Long as it shuts him up.

How come you never shoot anyone if you’re a real police? asks a rabbit suspiciously.

“Uh, any more questions?”

I have one, says a disturbingly unctuous voice from the doorway, can you solve a little mystery for the likes of me?

“You’re the principle?” I ask the hitleresque dog looking in, while feeling my chances of saying anything to Tiffany vanish like water down the drain.

Yes indeed, and I’ve got quite the puzzle for you, detective! If you could join me out in the hall for a moment? I shoot Tiffany a glance. She looks none too happy about it, but nods.

“Ok, what’s the enigma?” I say as the door shuts.

One of the little gremlins in there defaced my plaque for third place in the district-wide paper conservation project! I want you to tell me who, so they can be punished!

He has got to be kidding me.

“How was it defaced?”

Someone wrote ‘Poop’ on it with a permanent marker!

“And where in your office was it hanging?”

In pride of place beside the window, so that anyone who comes in or goes out has to look at it!

“Then it wasn’t any of these kids. They couldn’t reach, and I’d be willing to bet they can’t spell ‘poop.’ Try the secretary.” Though I can’t say I blame her. I’d probably be writing worse than poop on stuff if I worked for him.

He’s still busy looking stunned when Tiffany steps out of the room for a minute. “We all done?” I ask without turning, watching him wander off.

Yes, she says, it’s naptime now.

“Oh. Good, they… need their sleep. Where’s Max?”

He said he needed to find a restroom. There’s this little quaver under her voice, that says that she knows what I’m thinking, and she wishes I wasn’t, but she’s not going to say anything about it. And that’s what keeps me coming back, I guess, even if it gets harder and harder each time.

C’mon Fox. Say something. Anything.

“Well, I guess I got a lot of work back at the department.”

Of course.

“Um… will I see you tonight?”

I don’t know. I’ve got homework to grade, and-

“Nevermind, it’s all right.”

Sorry.

“Me too.”

Max is already in the car when I get there.  I’m fuming, but I’m not sure about what.

My fingers slide over the claw marks in the fake leather. “Man, that was a nightmare of-”

Unh-uh, Sly. You said we wuzn’t gonna talk about it.

So we head back to the office in silence.

The Final Word.

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