Exclusive Short Story with Kiki Lowenstein by Joanna Campbell Slan

Happy Homicides 4Author’s Note: Kiki Lowenstein short stories appear in each of the Happy Homicides Anthologies. However, this story was especially written for Dru Ann’s blog.

The beauty of autumn in St. Louis is enough to burst your heart right out of your chest. The colors are glorious, a feast for the eyes. There’s the scarlet of sumac, the brilliant red of sugar maples, and ginkgo trees do it up right with leaves appearing in shades of yellow, red, and burgundy. Actually, I was thrilled to be taking Ty to the pediatrician for his nine-month check-up. With Halloween just around the corner and Thanksgiving on the horizon, I looked forward to quality time with my baby boy. Enjoying the scenery on our way to the pediatrician’s office was a bonus.

We arrived at the office five minutes early. After signing my name—Kiki Lowenstein Detweiler–I found a comfy armchair and put down the baby carrier and the diaper bag. Two other mothers waited with their kids, one with a boisterous toddler and the other with a noisy eighteen month old, or so I guessed the child to be. A few minutes later we were joined by a thin young woman carrying a very quiet child in a car seat/carrier. As she put her diaper bag right next to mine, I noted we owned the same style of container.

In short order, the mom with the toddler was called back to the inner sanctum. Ty cooed and played happily with toys hanging from his carrier, and I would have gotten engrossed in a magazine except the mother seated across from me couldn’t sit still. She jiggled. She flipped her hair. She stood up. Sat down. Picked up a magazine. Scanned the pages. Put it on the table.

Finally, she picked up her child, a girl if the color pink was an indicator. The baby appeared to be the same age as Ty, but while our son was a busy dude, this child was as limp as a dishrag.

The woman with the eighteen-month-old baby was called by a nurse and disappeared.

The thin young mother put her baby girl back in the carrier. I gulped and tried to hide my shock at how flaccid the child’s body was. Ty is my second biological child; I’ve had some practice at this mothering gig. Not only that, I own Time in a Bottle, a scrapbook and crafts store, and we get mothers in and out all day long. However, I can’t recall ever seeing a baby that devoid of muscle tone.

None of your business, I told myself. Let it go, Kiki!

I tried not to stare, but my eyes kept drifting to the mother. I took in her dirty hair, her faded jeans, and her thin frame. There but for the grace of God, I thought. I’d weathered tough times financially, and I’d come to a good spot in life. I prayed that God would help this forlorn looking woman. Chewing my bottom lip, I fought the urge to engage her in conversation.

The frosted glass partition slid open. The receptionist glanced at both of us moms. “Mrs. Rayburn? We need you to fill out a few–”

But the receptionist didn’t get to finish.

“Paperwork?” The young mother interrupted. “Like what?”

“Your address, phone, contact information–”

“My address? Contact information?” With wild eyes darting around furiously, she grabbed her child and her things and rushed out of the office.

~*~

After Ty’s checkup, I called Detweiler to tell him our son was hale, hearty, and doing well. When my husband suggested that I bring Ty over to the police station, I chuckled. Detective Chad Detweiler has always wanted to be a dad. In a six-month span, he became father to Anya, my thirteen-year-old daughter from my first marriage; Erik, the five-year-old son of his first wife; and Ty, our biological son. For most men, that would be daunting. For Detweiler, it’s a dream come true. Of course he wanted to show off our baby. And yes, I could drop by the police station and let all the folks there pinch our little guy’s chubby legs.

“There she is,” said Police Chief Robbie Holmes, my father-in-law by my first marriage. “Let me look at that little booger of yours.” Holding out both hands, Robbie reached for Ty. Just as quickly, his nose wrinkled in distaste. “Um, Kiki? I think your son has left you a small deposit.”

That sent me running back to the car for the diaper bag. While carrying it through the hall into the station, I nearly ran smack into Otto, a German shepherd. The big dog sat in front of me, blocking my way. “Nice dog,” I said as I bent to pat him. But I didn’t get that far, because Lloyd, his handler and a K-9 officer, grabbed my arm.

“Whoa.” Lloyd put up a palm to stop me. “Kiki? What’s that you’re carrying?”

I thought he was teasing me. “Duh, a diaper bag. Come on, Lloyd. You’re a dad. Haven’t you ever done diaper duty?”

“Yes, I have,” Lloyd said, glancing up as Detweiler and Robbie came around the corner. While I stood rooted to the spot, Lloyd gave Otto a command. The dog dropped to a prone position and whined. “Wow,” Lloyd shook his head. “Kiki, I need to take a look at that bag.”

The four of us—not including Ty, who was handed over to Mabel, a dispatcher, and a great-grandmother who happened to have diapers in her desk drawer—stepped into a conference room. I opened the bag, looked inside, and gasped. “This isn’t my bag. Rats! I must have picked up that other mom’s stuff while I was at the doctor’s office. That’s not the brand of formula Ty drinks. Those aren’t the same kind of diapers I buy for him.”

“Okay,” Lloyd said in a calm voice. “Let’s take this from the top. When did you last see your bag and where have you been that you picked up the wrong one?”

~*~

As it turned out, the young mother I’d run into at the pediatrician’s office was Tiffany Rayburn, a meth user. She’d shown up at the doctor’s office because her little girl had been lethargic, and she didn’t know why. The answer was in the bottom of the diaper bag. Otto had alerted on a soggy plastic bag, punctured by teeth marks. Seems that Tiffany’s little girl had chewed on a bag full of meth.

“What will they do to her?” I asked Detweiler that night, as I lay next to him with my head in the crook of his arm. Our bed was comfy, the day had been long, and I should have been asleep, but I kept thinking about Tiffany.

“I’m not sure. She needs a rehab program, but she’ll probably wind up in jail. It’s not just the meth. It’s also child endangerment.” Detweiler’s breath was warm on my scalp. His breathing slow and regular. “I realize you’re upset about this. I know you. You feel responsible, don’t you? That’s one way to look at it. Another is that if you hadn’t grabbed the wrong bag, Tiffany’s daughter might be dead by now. The officers who busted the Rayburns’ trailer arrived in time to take the little girl to the hospital and get her proper treatment.”

I blinked back tears. I felt awful about Tiffany but . . . at least her little girl was safe. Sort of. Detweiler didn’t say anything more, but we both knew the child’s chances at a normal life were slim.

Still . . . at least she had a chance. Slim or not.

–The End–


Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime is the fourth book in the Happy Homicides anthology, published by Spot On Publishing, August 2016.

homicides-boxsetThis is a bountiful harvest of cozy mysteries, including six novellas and seven short stories. Only 99 cents.

TWO-fer Alert: Buy Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime and get Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime absolutely free! Two books for the price of one (only 99 cents) –and you get two enormous bonus files full of recipes and craft project ideas absolutely free. But hurry, this limited offer is good from Aug. 29 to Sept. 4 only.

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About the author
Joanna Campbell Slan is the national bestselling and award-winning author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, praised by Kirkus Reviews as being, “A cut above the typical cozy.” The first book in the series was shortlisted for the Agatha Award.

Connect with Joanna: Website | Pinterest | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook

All comments are welcomed.

56 responses to “Exclusive Short Story with Kiki Lowenstein by Joanna Campbell Slan

  1. Yes, but…I did my research and this is based on an actual happening.

  2. Sad that it happens all too often. I hope that the child you based this story on is ok.

  3. Great story. Too bad things like this happen in real life. Very sad. Taught me to stay alert in public!
    Thanks, Joanna.

  4. Great story and sadly to relevant for our times.

  5. Scary! But i guess it could really happen.

  6. Barbara Hackel

    Joanna, I love Kiki and Detweiler! Thank you for writing a special story for us today! You have so many little vignettes about Kiki, and they are like glimpses into a real person’s life. I have all your books, and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite-It is always the last one written I think! I can’t wait to read your newest Happy Homicides story. 🙂
    Thanks Dru Ann for having Joanna on your blog today.

  7. Loved it!

  8. Joanna, love your Kiki Lowenstein stories!!!!!!

  9. As always, JoAnna, your story is right on the pulse with a current social problem. Heartbreaking! I have to admit that as I began the story, I hoped the “chilling” aspect didn’t apply to Ty and was relieved when it didn’t–but so many children aren’t as blessed, which kills me. Hence our family. Hence the various kids I support through various organizations, such as Save the Children. But I want to save every neglected hungry, suffering child on the planet. 💔💔💔

    • Ally, you have the biggest heart, and you live your values. I’m proud to be your friend. And I admire your glorious family. Big smooch.

  10. I knew it the minute the bags matched! Great story and moment to reflect really seeing other people and the demons they are dealing with.

  11. Dixie Shoemaker

    Great short story to start out my day. Thank you for sharing. Will this be all we find out about Tiffany and her little girl or do you think maybe their paths will cross again with Kiki. It is so sad that things like this really happen and probably more often than we realize. My daughter’s family is in the process of renewing their fostering license as there is currently a shortage of homes to take in infants near your area. At least there are some families out there that are willing to care for these infants in a loving home environment and give the mothers a chance for rehabilitation or to care for these babies until they find their forever home.

  12. maggietoussaint

    Joanna, Your Kiki story is a chilling reminder of the different times we live in. We moms have soft spots in our hearts for these babies and children who are caught up in their parents’ unhealthy lifestyles. I’ll be thinking about this story for a long time to come.

  13. Great story, glad it had a good ending, hope the real event did too.

  14. Cool exclusive Dru Ann! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Loved the story and so glad they found the baby in time. Helps remind us all that we need to be aware of our surroundings and “if you see something, say something”,

  16. Great post about a tragic subject…although it could have been worse. Thanks for sharing this story on your lovely blog, Dru, and for getting the word out about the terrific Happy Homicides 2-fer Joanna has cooked up. Cheers!

  17. lindagordonhengerer

    Great short story – sad, but timely.

    Thank you, Dru, for asking Joanna to write a short story for your blog 🙂

  18. Thanks, Dru, for hosting our fearless leader. Joanna is the greatest, according to 10 other authors and me, all of us part of Happy Homicides # 4. And thanks, Joanna, for the short story. Why do I have a feeling Tiffany (or her daughter) will show up again some day?

  19. A very moving short story.

  20. A great short story. And how utterly possible it is for circumstance to change a life in moments. Nice.

  21. Great short story. Brings awareness to big problem with drug abuse affecting not just the user but many around them. Thank you.

    • People with addictions need help. Currently, as a society, we only incarcerate them–and they can get drugs in jail. We need to do more for them and their children.

  22. What a chilling story and sad but hopefully all will end well. I love your stories so thanks for gifting us with this.

  23. Great and chilling story. It did for me what your works always does; I felt like Kiki was telling us about her day. That ability to make her so real is way I love both of your series so much. Thanks to both of you for bringing us this special story.

    • My husband keeps saying I should narrate a Kiki book, because she’s so me. We’ll see. Thank you for loving her. She’s my invisible playmate.

  24. Della Williamson

    Scary story. And terribly sad. Especially since one knows it’s being played out somewhere. Saw a situation in the 80’s where a mother was reported for getting her kids high on a fairly regular basis but the authorities would do nothing because she was an informer. That is what is really sad. One can only pray for the children. And hope

    • We have learned a lot as a society about things that used to be considered “nobody’s business.” They certainly ARE our business, because we’re all one family.

  25. Nancy Roessner

    Thanks for the wonderful short story!

  26. It amazes me how you have a continuous well of ideas for short stories. This one’s another winner!

  27. Great story that gave me chills. Have several friends in law enforcement and know this happens all too often. Scary and sad. Thanks J!

  28. So sad. Unbelievable things happen.

  29. nothing better than Kiki stories, they are fantastic even the short ones..Thanks Joanna