Today's Reading

"Good start. Door number one, a geriatric," Elliott said to himself and checked his notepad. He knocked on the door next to Mrs. Morrison's, still shaking his head.

It was opened by a tall man with thick fair hair, who introduced himself as Leonard Palmer.

"You're the guy who called about a missing kid?" the constable asked.

"Well, yeah," Leo replied. "In a way."

"What's that mean?" Elliott snapped, his patience already gone. Ten seconds, he thought. Might be a new record.

"We haven't lost a kid," Leo said slowly. "We've...well, we've kind of found one."

* * *

Three times Leo and Elise told their story to the officer—once next to the cot, then twice more seated across from him at the dining table. Elliott pulled an assortment of faces and scribbled furiously on all three occasions.

"Right," Elliott said. "And whoever it was who left the baby...they set up the cot too?"

They nodded.

"While you were both asleep."

Nodded again.

"And what woke you up?"

"We heard him," Elise said, her face pale and drawn, still processing 'why' they were being interviewed at the table where she usually ate breakfast.

"The person who left the cot?"

"No," she said. "Him." And she pointed to the small boy sitting up, sheet tangled around his legs. His eyes were darting curiously between the three people gathered near his bed, as if fascinated by the commotion.

"And then you called the police. Because your baby woke you up." Constable Elliott sighed. "Fuck 'me,'" he said, not quite under his breath.

Leo opened his mouth to respond, and Elise put a hand on his arm. Leo paused, composing himself.

"We've told you. It's not our baby. We...we don't have any kids. Yet." He wanted to add that it wasn't in this stage of The Plan, that babies were in stage two, but didn't think the cop would care.

He was right.

Elliott stared at them both again, then made an exaggerated display of looking around the room, as though inspecting for hidden cameras. Something didn't feel right here.

"This is a joke, right?" They shook their heads. "Okay. What have you taken?"

Elise and Leo looked at each other, confused.

"What. Are. You. On?" the officer asked, sounding each word out, not even attempting to hide his frustration. "Look, people don't break into apartments and leave behind a baby. So let me tell you what I think actually happened. You two had a big day on God knows what. Then you thought you'd waste my time with a call at two o'clock in the morning because you forgot you had a kid you're supposed to be looking after. Am I right?"

But even as he said it, he wasn't sure—not that he'd admit it to them. They didn't look like addicts. They looked more like teachers on a school trip, dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to tell the kids to go back to sleep. And the air in the living room didn't smell like stale pot. It smelled—well, it smelled like a baby. Like nappies and talcum powder. And milk.

A tiny hammer of a headache started to beat above his left eye. The flat looked rough from the outside, but in here it was neat as a pin: clean floor, nice furniture, shelves and shelves of books, pictures hung level on walls. (The presence of pictures in frames was actually pretty uncommon—in half the places he visited there'd only be a poster or two; David Bowie or Duran Duran, sometimes torn from a magazine, always covering a hole punched through the wall.)
The table next to the cot was completely bare, save for a small vase with a posy of pink and white flowers.

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