The porcelain sink had a hairline crack from the drain to the top of the basin. Towards the edge of the drain there was a fresh chip of porcelain missing, gouged out when Marlene's too-wide wedding band finally dislodged from arthritic fingers that trembled in disgust. The band had flowers carved onto the side. Rosebuds.
Marlene Douglas had raised four girls and two boys from infancy right on to adulthood. She'd never had a job--James had always provided. Four girls. Two boys. Mary grew up to be an accountant. Donna was a nurse. Gracie, she was a secretary. Pamela...
James Jr. was a pastor. Bill owned a little shop down on 45th. It was a good life. They were a good family.
Years and years ago, Pamela's friend Jessica used to come by every Friday after school. Marlene made them grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. They'd play hide-and-go-seek or run down the path to the old pond and skip stones, or sometimes set up shop in the living room to play tea party.
James Sr. would keep an eye on them when he was home from the office sometimes. He was a good father. Doted on his children, showed up to every school function. Went to every single play and baseball game and recital.
Jessica stopped coming over. Pamela stopped playing indoors. Stopped playing outdoors. Stopped playing. Kept the doors closed.
Marlene asked, once, twice. The answer was a lie. In her heart, she'd hoped it was Pamela's lie.
Marlene Douglas had raised six children. Five of them had children of their own now. Bill's little girl, Abby, would be three next month.
James Sr. was naked in the bathtub. Marlene hadn't seen him naked in at least ten years. She didn't want to see him now, either. He was hanging over the rim of the tub half-way, head lolled back, wet hair plastered to his scalp, with his eyes wide and sightless as they stared at the ceiling. A livid slash across his throat dripped blood onto the tile. The initial spray had faded to a trickle. She’d never get all the blood out.
There was just a little bit in the sink, too. A few drops that had leached deep into the grooves of a carved golden wedding band.
Marlene closed her eyes. It didn't help. James' body was two feet away, a wrinkled ruin, half-submerged in a stew of lukewarm water, blood, and his own excrement.
In her mind's eye, Pamela nodded. You saw, Momma. You know.
"I know, Baby," Marlene murmured.
You needed to see the truth. You were the only one that could make it right.
"I know. I know."
It's okay. He can't hurt anyone any more now. And we can go. I'll take you.
"It's all on the cameras, ma'am. Well, mostly on the cameras. There's some interference in the network but I'm told our boys can recover it back at the lab."
The scene technician looked up from her tablet and then offered it to Skye. Skye shook her head. "I've got the right frequency on my AR implant. Damn, they really went all-out 50s suburbia in this node..."
"It's very popular in the second-tier, ma'am," the technician replied. She seemed to look for something else to say, but couldn't find words to fill the silence.
Skye stepped past her and looked down the hall--a few faint glowing marks on the floor identified themselves as 'Human Blood, type AB+' and made a helpful trail from the bathroom to the master bedroom. Skye pulled back her hot pink hair and put it into a pony tail, then took a pair of thin polymer gloves from her pocket and pulled them on.
"Starting doccing sequence. Case file number 5642-876ax-41b. Details ready for upload to the secure node whenever my assigned partner arrives."