The bronze nameplate was one of dozens on the face of a mausoleum wall, and for Tiny it was the loudest, more blaring detail of the whole cold, ugly thing.
Heidi Mickayla Downey-Horton.
He blinked against the uncomfortable burn in his eyes. As small as the nameplate was, there was no way the ash it marked weighed half as much as the metal that made it. He didn’t know if there were even remains in this situation. Once a stillborn baby was out, did they cremate? Was it considered medical waste? It couldn’t be. It had to be treated the same as if it had at least drawn a dozen breaths or so.
He had no fucking clue.
Next to him Fritter had his arm around his woman, and she was frail and weak-looking, tucked into his side. He’d never seen Sheriff Downey look like this. Her skin was almost waxy, her hair in a lank ponytail like she was going to work, and even he could tell her shoes didn’t really go with the navy skirt and blazer she’d put on. Her kid was standing behind her other shoulder, looking somber, every now and then reaching out to squeeze his mom’s arms. And in front of Brayden was an undersized ten year old kid named Adeel. He was holding the hem of Sharon’s blazer, chewing his thumb, his wide dark eyes staring up at all the people around him. He was so close to Sharon it looked like he was hoping she’d absorb him, but she didn’t mind. Her hands were on the kid’s shoulders, holding on just as tight.
Tiny yanked his gaze from her. Shit, he was going to start crying. This was all too fucking vivid and familiar.
Images came flooding back again, ones he tried to tamp down every time they reared their stinking head but this time he couldn’t. A tiny white coffin, lowering into a square hole. The spray of flowers on top too big for the box. His little girl inside. Cold and gone forever.
Angrily, he swiped at his eyes. On this opposite side Knuckles saw it, and frowned at him as if sending him the telepathic question of what was wrong. Like crying at a baby’s funeral was somehow odd.
Jaw clenching, Tiny shook his head and looked elsewhere, eyes following the tidy rows of plaques that marked the deceased. Like passages of time, but it wasn’t neat and orderly. It never was. Sometimes parents outlived their children and grandchildren. Sometimes time didn’t know what fucking order this was all supposed to go in.
“We’re gonna head back to Fritter’s now,” a deep voice said behind him as a shovel-sized hand closed on his shoulder.
Over his shoulder, Tiny met Tank’s eye and nodded. “Okay,” he agreed, turning back to the name on the wall.
“You all right, Tiny?”
He nodded, wiping at his eyes again. Shit. This was not a story he felt like sharing, not at all. But there would be questions. He supposed he could put them off for a while, though. At least long enough to put his ghosts back in their box.
“I’m fine. Let’s roll out.”