As they neared the gate, Taffy found something lying against the iron. Stepping closer Richie saw what looked like a hunk of some sort of material. He looked closer and realized it was a rag doll with dark curly hair and blue eyes and.... “Taffy leave it.”
The doll’s eyes had been blacked out with big Xs and there were multiple tears in the torso. To his untrained eye they looked like they were caused by a knife. He picked it up to have a closer look and found a piece of paper attached to the doll’s back.
I hope you enjoyed your family holiday bitch. It’ll be the last one you ever share with him!
“Fuck!” Richie closed his eyes. Despite Tori’s close call in the parking lot, he’d really hoped that Jasmine had gone away. Evidently, she wasn’t giving up that easily....and obviously Tori was definitely now the target. “What are we going to do Taffy? Do we tell her or hide it?”
“Woof! Woof woof!”
“I know. If...okay, when she finds out about it, my ass is in a sling for not telling her.” Richie sighed. “She’s going to be pissed.”
When they arrived back at the house it was to find it in mild chaos. Lauren was crying, Tori and Rosa were calling out to each other, and Cathy ran by with an armload of towels.
“Richie, where’s the valve to turn the water in the bathroom off?”
Hearing that, Richie set down the doll and rushed to the downstairs bathroom where he found Tori ankle deep in water, industriously working a plunger in the toilet.
Tori glanced at him and blew a strand of hair out of her eye. “Ask your oldest son.”
“Peanut?” He looked around. “Where is he?”
“Hiding in the kitchen.” Rosa answered as she returned with another pot that she tried to scoop water up with.
“Richie! The water!” Tori had to holler at her husband when he started to turn away.
They got the water stopped, but Tori still couldn’t get what was plugging the toilet out. Richie took the plunger from her and tried for a few minutes, but he didn’t have any better luck. Finally he grimaced and knelt beside the bowl, rolling up his shirt sleeve.
“I hope this is something other than what usually goes in here.”
“Oh I think that’s a safe bet.” Tori assured him.
Richie reached in. His fingers touched....something, but he couldn’t grab it. He moved closer and bent down further, stretching as far as he could. Now he could grab whatever it was, but it wasn’t easy to pull out. It took several minutes of twisting and tugging before it finally came loose. Richie looked at it and started to chuckle while he squeezed water out of the synthetic fur.
“Well, that explains why Sweetpea’s crying. Guess he couldn’t wait for Taffy to destroy it.” He held up the soaked Elmo for Tori to see.
She shook her head and looked at him in horror. “Are we going to have sibling rivalry going in two directions now?” She closed her eyes and groaned. “I don’t think I can handle it. Why can’t they just stay babies?”
“Don’t fall apart on me now angel. We’ll survive it.” Richie ignored the rest of her rant and studied the toy. “And I don’t think that this was a rivalry thing.”
“No? Then what was it?” She looked around at the disaster area that used to be a tidy bathroom. “Fun? Or just to drive me nuts?”
“I’m not sure. But I bet he’s got a story.” At her look he shrugged. “I remember some of the stuff I came up with as a child.”
“Great.” She rolled her eyes. “Boys!”
He grinned at her sarcasm. “Should we put it in the dryer?”
“Are there washing instructions on it?”
“I don’t see any. Maybe that’s why he put it in the toilet.”
“Ha ha.” Tori sighed. “Maybe if we put it on low. I don’t think Sweetpea’s going to wait until it dries on its own.” She reached for a towel. “Let’s get this cleaned up.”
With the bathroom cleaned up, Tori followed Richie into the kitchen and sat down at the table where Stevie was running his Tonka trucks over the wooden surface. Big blue eyes filled with tears as he watched his parents settle into the chairs beside him. “I sorry!”
Richie set the now partially dry Elmo on the table. “Why did you put Elmo in the toilet?”
“Him wanted to go simmin but I couldn’t open de door.”
“So you flushed him?” Tori was trying to grasp his logic.
Stevie nodded. “So him could go outside.” He frowned. “But him got stuck and I couldn’t get him out.” His eyes widened. “And den the water was....all ober de froor.” He met his father’s gaze. “Him too big to fit. Need bigger hole.”
Richie’s lips twitched, then twisted into a wince as pain shot up his shin where his wife’s foot connected. The look in her eyes promised more pain if he laughed, so he bit his lip and fought to keep a sober expression. But it was hard. The logic was understandable. It sounded so much like something he would have done.
Another nudge from his wife spurred him into action. Clearing his throat, he tried to sound appropriately parental. “Do me a favour Peanut? Next time you want to flush something outside...or see if it fits in the toilet, check with Mommy or me first. Okay?”
“Okay Daddy.” A second later both parents were forgotten as the truck continued on its path across the table.
Tori shook her head and looked to Rosa for help....and was met with a sympathetic look – and a grin. No help there.
A second later, Taffy bounded into the kitchen and skidded to a halt beside Tori.
“What have you got Taffy?” Tori bent to take the hunk of material out of the dog’s mouth.
Richie watched her study the doll, his stomach knotting in dread and waited for her reaction. He had a feeling it wasn’t going to be pretty. Should have hidden the damn thing.
“What the....” With a glance at her son, she bit back her temper. Instead, she stood and headed towards the door to the garage, out of earshot of kids, the look she threw her husband over her shoulder said she expected him to follow.
He didn’t want to go, but he knew it would only be worse if he didn’t. Closing the door carefully behind him, he faced her and braced himself.
“What the hell is this? Where did Taffy get it?”
“We found it by the gate when I took her for a walk.”
Tori had been reading the note attached to the doll again, but looked up at that, her hands trembling. “She was here? SHE WAS AT MY FUCKING HOUSE??!!”
“She didn’t get inside the gate.” He assured her. “It was locked and the doll was on the outside.”
“Where the fuck was the security guard?”
“Angel, calm down. We...”
“CALM DOWN? THE CRAZY PSYCHOPATHIC BITCH THAT STOLE OUR SON WAS RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE AND YOU WANT ME TO CALM DOWN? Is that how you plan to protect your family?”
“Tori stop it!” Now he was getting pissed. “We talked about security and agreed that with the gate and the alarm system on the house we didn’t need guards around property. You agreed to that. Don’t accuse me of not protecting my family!”
Tori closed her eyes and visibly fought to bring her temper under control. She took a deep breath. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just....” She looked down at the note again. “She’s not going to go away is she?”
“Doesn’t look like it.” Richie reluctantly admitted.
Tori was quiet for a moment. “She hates me. She really wants me out of the way.”
Wrapping his arms around her, he gathered her close. “We’re not going to let her hurt you. We’ll call Rob and show him the doll, and see what he suggests.” Framing her face between his large hands, he forced her to look at him. “We’ll find her and stop her. You and the kids will be safe. I promise.” He pressed a kiss to her lips to seal his vow. “Okay?”
Tori nodded, slipped her arms around his waist and hugged him close, her face pressed to his chest, the sound of his heart beating steadily under her ear somehow reassuring. She knew that he would fight to his last breath to keep that vow.
Her expression turned to determination and she made a silent vow of her own. We will be safe. I won’t let the bitch win. She will leave us alone....one way or another.