I can't take this. I can't take this! I mean, she's just a kid! And not a kid like I was. The Grinch knew it was heartless, but it wouldn't have torn him up if the Biddies had been killed. Sure, I might'a been upset… maybe a little sad. But I would have been okay. But Cindy… She didn't grow up like me. She always had real parents. She'd never known life without them.
Now some heartless pile of garbage came and slit their throats in the night, and left her a pile of wreckage.
It didn't make any sense to him. Who did this sort of thing? The police didn't even know what to do, this had never happened before. Not that anyone knew of. I mean, I know if I lived here long enough I'd crack and throttle someone for sure, so it must have happened sometime, but obviously not anytime recently.
The Grinch couldn't concentrate on the cops though. Cindy had cried herself out, and now clung to him like a leech. He couldn't have pried her off, even if he wanted to. And he didn't want to.
A grand total of two police had showed up. The rest, he had been told, were searching thoroughly for the not-so-nice person who had done this. He'd gritted his teeth, knowing that probably meant they were knocking on doors, asking if the nice folks inside had killed anyone that night. Bungling bugalongs.
Dru and Stu stood on either side of him, a true testament to their shock. Usually, even on the best of days, they wouldn't come within ten feet of him. But they seemed too stunned to care whether he was even in the room or not.
He growled lowly. "You two had better snap out of it real soon."
Stu glanced over to him dumbly.
"You're the only family Cindy's got now. Better get used to raising her."
Dru's jaw went slack, and Stu began to hyperventilate.
Anger spiked in the Grinch's gut, and it was all he could do to remind himself that he was holding Cindy-lou. "Don't you dare chicken out. Dru, you're grown into your nose now. Stu, you've almost grown it in all the way. You two better step up to it, and fast."
Neither of them would dare contradict him, so they nodded vehemently. The Grinch growled. He would probably still have to be Nanny to make sure they were doing their jobs. Perfect. Just what he needed. Maybe he could get Martha's help, she had to know more about kids than he did. Granted, she'd never had her own—yet—but she was at least a Who.
Cindy had nearly fallen asleep in his arms when he tried to set her down in her bed. Immediately she came awake, wrapping her arms around his neck. "No, don't leave me!" She begged. "He'll come get me!"
The Grinch groaned. "Cindy, nobody's coming sweetie. The police are crawling the place worse than fleas on Max. Nobody's gonna getcha."
"Don't leave! He will!"
"Who will? There's nobody here but your brothers and the cops and me."
Cindy just buried her face in his shoulder. "Don't go, please, I'm scared."
What am I supposed to say, no? Sighing, he laid Cindy Lou back, perching uncomfortably on the edge of her bed. "Look, pipsqueak, if I stay here until you fall asleep, will you try to fall asleep?"
Cindy looked uncertain.
"I'll be back in the morning, I swear by green. First light, scout's honor, cross my heart and hope to sit through Easter Egg hunts."
The corner of Cindy's mouth twitched slightly, and the Grinch patted her head. "I'll be here till you sleep, kid. Now get some."
The next few days were a blur for the children of the Postman, and the Grinch. The Grinch had guessed right, there hadn't been a crime of this magnitude for hundreds of years. Up until recently, the worst crime around here had been his theft of Christmas, and before that the biggest news had been that somewho shoplifted a few candy canes.
Now the Grinch stood up to his ankles in snow, in the middle of mainstreet. Christmas was on the way again, in just a few months, yet not a single band marched. Not a light sparked. Not a bell jangled. No cars, no shoppers, and no snow-scraperdoodle for all this blasted snow.
It was worse than the day he stole Christmas. At least then, they'd all pulled together and sung those stupid songs and gotten his heart growing. Now he could sense the change. It was like before, when someone had yelled, "GRINCH!" Except, anyone could be the Grinch. It could be their neighbor, their grocer, their car shiner. Someone who looked like them, but wasn't really one of them anymore, because no Who could ever have done such a thing. He could see them, eyeing each other nervously from across the street, clutching their children tighter, then averting their gazes to the snow as they crunched through it as fast as they could.
He gagged at the thought that he might actually miss their cheerful attitudes.
Turning toward the courthouse, he trudged through the snow, burlap cloak pulled tight around him, mask pulled down over his face. Cindy had tried for months to get him to abandon the mask, but he couldn't. No matter how many times she begged and pleaded and promised that everyone thought he was wonderful now, he knew better. He could see the slight hesitation when any clerk dealt with him, or any Who crossed his path. Clause's crafts, he couldn't even walk down Main street without a Who child pointing at him and exclaiming, "Is that the Grinch?"
Cindy was right, of course, he knew everyone knew who he was, mask or no, but there were less stares. Less pointing. Even less suspicion. It's as if he fit better. And he could give Cindy-Lou a million excuses as to why he didn't get rid of it, from it being Max's first gift to him from the dump to the fact that it smelled of moldy cheese, his favorite scent. But the truth was, the stares bothered him, and the pointing prodded at old memories he'd rather stay buried. It was just easier, and thus the mask stayed on. At least in public.
Entering the courthouse, he tromped past the receptionist, ignoring the mat by the door and tracking in slush.
"Well," muttered the receptionist, huffing.
"Hire a janitor," The Grinch snarled, pushing open the courtroom doors.
Everyone was assembling. Cindy-Lou and her brothers sat near the front, all three looking pale. The room was nearly full already, and it was hard to make out everyone there. He hoped Martha was there, she'd promised to come. Cindy-Lou needed every friendly face she knew now.
The Grinch inched, bumped, and prodded his way to the seat right behind Cindy, and tapped her shoulder. She jerked around, tense, then relaxed when she saw who it was.
"Hey kid, just calm down. You've faced worse on Mount Crumpet, right?" He forced a wry grin.
A ghost of a smile crossed her face, and she opened her mouth to respond when the gavel came down, and everyWho's attention was drawn to the judge.
The newly elected Mayor of Whoville, as well as governing the city, held the responsibility of high judge. He hadn't yet settled into his position, and fumbled nervously with the gavel as it rebounded from his first emphatic BANG.
"The c-court will now come to o-o-order." Mumbled Judge Jerry-Gnu-Who. "We have r-r-reviewed the documents s-submitted to the court and have been a-asked to decide if S-s-stu-Lou-Who and Dru-L-l-lou-Who are fit guardians for Cindy-Lou-Wh-who. To the b-b-best of our knowledge, there is no b-b-etter g-guardian for a young Wh-who than her own family members. So, it is the d-decision of this court, that the g-g-gaurdianship of Cindy-Lou-Who be g-g-granted to—"
"Your honor," A voice rang out from the back, thick with worry and condescension. "I object. For the sake of this poor, poor Who-child's future, I must protest this decision."
Note: I apologize if I haven't got the characters down quite pat. My obsession is Invader Zim, not the Grinch. I was just stewing over this idea for a long time and wanted to get it down, so please be a bit lenient when grading my first ever Grinch fic. Also, anyone (by any slim chance) who saw the first draft of this at 12:30 in the morning, I'm sorry, I stuck a copy of a chat I did with someone on a dating site on the end of my chapter by accident... I cleaned it up as soon as I realized. Someone was acting weird on me there... sorry if anyone saw it.