The boss hands me the chalk and some gloves and I walk over to the first one. About a foot long, brown, curly hair, black nose. Typical. Abrasions on one of its stubby little legs. One ear torn, and it doesn’t look like it was because of contact with the road. One of its button eyes is hanging out by just a thread. I already know I’m going to see the same things on the other ones. Trust me, after you see a couple of GI Joes with their arms in the leg holes, or a couple of My Little Ponies with their tails lopped off and their personalized insignias perverted, the little stars made into pentagrams and the little hearts made into intricately and minutely drawn images of unsuccessful coronary bypasses, you get to where you can spot a pattern before you even see it repeated.
I look up and I see some rookie cop throwing up on the concrete divider. I’d like to say I had never been there. I smile when he looks at me, just to let him know he’s not alone. Sometimes lies are the best truth.
Jack comes over to snap some pictures before I get to work. He gives me a long look. “Kinda like those Smurfs in New Haven back in ‘02.” Jack’s not surprised I don’t answer. He knows that I like to do my own thinking.
I pull the latex gloves on with a snap at each wrist. The boss comes over with a plastic bag. I like the Ziplocs with the “yellow and blue make green” seal, but funding has been short lately, so I make due.
I press gently on the bear’s belly to hold it steady and trace it out with the chalk. Then I pick up the bear and put it in the bag. The eye gets hooked on the top, but I get it loose before it tears off. I try not to think about the home it could have had, the cheeks it would have solaced, the gentle, sleepy breathing it would have caused. Those kinds of thoughts get you where there ain’t no toys, just a lot of white, and padding, and needles with sweet, soothing, liquid nothingness inside.
The boss tells me there’s more bears up the road, but I tell him to wait a second. I’m looking down at where the bear had been. There, right in the middle of his white outline, is a hunk of thin plastic. The remains of a grocery store bag. I open up my DoTaS Investigators Crime Scene Set. I pick it up with the tweezers. I take out the magnifying glass and look until I spot it. One brown hair stuck by friction to the plastic. Nine will get you ten that that hair came from my little friend that I just bagged. And if my hunch is right, fingerprints on the plastic will lead me to the scum who did this.