The phone on Danny's desk rang shrilly in the silence of the office. Lindsay leant over the desk grabbing the receiver.
'Detective Messer's phone,' she answered politely.
'Hi this is Linda Hill, Rosie's kindergarten teacher, is it possible to speak to Mr Messer please?'
Lindsay rose to her feet in a moment of slight panic, 'Erm he's not in the office at the moment. I'm Lindsay Munro, Danny's partner, is anything wrong? Is Rosie okay?' She asked hastily.
'Oh, I'm sorry to panic you Ms Munro, its nothing to worry about, Rosie's fine. I was just wondering if Mr Messer would be able to drop in this afternoon when he's collecting Rosie. It's just a chat, nothing to worry about. Would you be able to get a message to him?'
Lindsay breathed a sigh of relief. 'Yeah sure no problem Ms Hill I'll call him on his cell and let him know.'
Once Lindsay had hung up she quickly dialled Danny's cell and relayed the message to him. Hanging up the phone for a second time she made her way back to her desk and sat down. Trying again to work her way through the paperwork that swamped her workspace she let her mind wonder to little Rosie. Over the past few days she had been extremely quiet which both Danny and her had agreed was unusual for Rosie, especially in the run up to Christmas. She also hadn't been quite as affectionate with Danny as she was usually was and had began coming to Lindsay for hugs instead of her dad and also requesting that Lindsay, not Danny, read to her a bedtime story. Hoping the little girl hadn't gotten herself into any trouble at school Lindsay eventually turned her attention back to her papers.
Danny wondered up the corridor in search of Rosie's classroom. All the other times Danny had been here the building had been filled with the talking, laughing and occasional crying of kids. This time it was different. All the other kids had left leaving the corridors deserted and classrooms in a riot of tired teachers, scattered papers and spilt glitter. Danny had never been asked to 'come in for a chat' before.
Danny stopped in the doorway of the classroom. Rosie was sitting at a kiddie-sized desk holding a pencil in one hand, biting the thumbnail on her other hand and staring into space. Danny knocked the door softly and entered the room as Rosie and Miss Hill turned in his direction to see who was. Rosie quickly cast her eyes down and she shifted uncomfortable in her seat. Miss Hill smiled and made her way over to Danny and the pair began talking quietly to one another; occasionally stopped to steal glances in her direction.
Eventually hearing footsteps coming in her direction she looked up to see her dad making his way towards her. He smiled softly and ruffled her hair.
'You wanna get yer things packed away and we'll head home.'
Rosie nodded and began stuffing her things into her navy backpack that Danny held open for her.
'Come kid,' he said holding his hand out to her and she took it, grasping it tightly in her much smaller one. They said goodbye to Miss Hill and made their way to the car.
'Daddy?' Rosie asked quietly.
'Am I in trouble?'
Danny sighed, 'no, but we'll talk about it at home, okay?'
Rosie struggled out of her winter coat and handed it to her dad who was waiting patiently to hang it up for her.
'Okay, lets go have that chat, eh? He said as he placed his hand on her back and guided her through to the kitchen to sit at the table. One they were seated Danny surveyed his daughter, since she had sat down she had suddenly found the hem of her skirt very interesting was nervously swinging her lets back and forth. Danny recognised the body language; something was definitely the matter he thought.
Danny cleared his throat, 'so, Miss Hill told me what happened in class today'. Rosie remained silent so Danny continued. 'She said you didn't wanna stand up front and tell the rest of the class what you want Santa to bring you. I don't mind that, I mean when I was your age I used to get really shy about stuff like that too. But Miss Hill then told me you then got really upset after that'.
Rosie's eyes water, but still she made no comment. 'Rosie, please will you tell me what the matter is?' Rosie shrugged weakly. She couldn't hold back the tears any longer. A sob escaped her lips and she lunged towards the table, buried her head in her arms and started to cry.
Danny was up out of his seat and crouched down at her side in a second. He pulled her towards him and she settled against his chest, sobbing into his t-shirt as he gently rubbed soothing circles on her back. He comforted her by whispering loving words into her ear and wiped away strands of her tear soaked hair from her face.
'I don't want Santa to come'. She whimpered out through her tears as Danny continued to comfort her.
'Why not sweetheart?' Danny asked looking down at her in surprise.
'He's a bad man,' she stated.
'Hey, where is this coming from?' When she didn't answer it suddenly dawned on him why she would suddenly think this. 'Baby, when you came to work with me the other day did you come out of the room you were drawing in?'
Rosie didn't answer; instead she just hugged her dad tighter.
'I promise I won't be mad,' he reassured her.
He felt Rosie nod her head and sniffle loudly. 'Baby, that man, the one you saw Don and I with, he wasn't the real Santa'.
Rosie pushed herself up and looked up, 'he wasn't?'
'Nup, he was just posing as Santa.'
'Is that why you put him in jail?' She asked innocently. Danny smiled and wiped some stray tears away using the pads of his thumbs.
'No, he did something else as well'.
'Oh.' She settled back against him and sighed loudly. 'Daddy, I didn't mean to come out the room'.
'Do you think the real Santa will still come?' she asked nervously.
'Yeah, I think so. Hey you know what? If I remember correctly I still owe you a trip to the park'.
Rosie grinned wildly and climbed down from Danny's lap and tugged at his hand to encourage him to get up.
'Will you push me on the swings Daddy?'
'Okaaay, but one of these days its my turn!'