Josie and her adopted daughter, Rain, were eating breakfast.

"Mom, when's Daddy coming home?" Rain asked. She took a forkful of scrambled eggs.

"As soon as he wraps up the case he's working on," Josie answered, biting into a piece of toast.

"I miss him," Rain said.

"I know. I do, too."

"But I like having a daddy I can miss," Rain said thoughtfully. "I never missed Popper when he was away. I hoped he'd never come back."

After breakfast, Josie went to her bedroom to get ready for work. She unlocked a drawer in her dresser, and took out her gun. Then she remembered that this was her day off. She was about to put the gun away when the doorbell rang. "That must be the package I'm expecting," Josie thought. She went to answer, leaving the gun on her dresser.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Josie was about to pour a second cup of coffee and read the paper when she got a call on her cell phone.

"Hello?"

"Detective Sinclair?"

"Yes," Josie said.

"This is Mabel Jordan, the principal of Bay City Elementary. Your daughter, Rain, brought a gun to school, and, as you know, we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to weapons of any kind. We notify the police, and suspend the student for two weeks. However, I feel that it's best, in this case, for you to come yourself and take Rain home."

"Because I'm a cop?"

"Precisely."

"I really appreciate that, Mrs. Jordan" Josie said.

"Of course, I'll still have to notify the precinct."

"Could you let me handle that?" Josie asked.

Mrs. Jordan thought it over. "Well, I think that would be all right in this case."

"Thank you, Mrs. Jordan," Josie said. "I'll be right there."~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A little while later, Josie and Rain were sitting on Rain's bed, talking.

"Rain, honey, you know you're not supposed to touch a gun," Josie said. "And how did you get ahold of it, anyway?"

"It was on your dresser."

And then Josie remembered that she had forgotten to put the gun away. How, she reproached herself, could she have been so careless, especially with a child in the house?

"Oh, Sunshine, I'm so sorry," Josie said. "I should never have left that gun out, not for one second. But, honey, you know you're not supposed to touch a gun, don't you? You, or somebody else, could have been hurt very badly."

"I knew I shouldn't take it," Rain admitted, "but I didn't think it would matter just once."

"Well, Rain, a lot of bad things have happened because someone did something wrong just once."

"I'm sorry," Rain said. "Are you going to punish me?"

"I have to," Josie said. "So, for the two weeks you're suspended from school, you won't be allowed to watch TV or play games on the computer."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A few minutes later, Joe got a phone call at the 2-3. He picked up the receiver.

"Carlino."

"Joe, it's Josie. I..."

"What's wrong?" Joe asked. "You don't sound so good."

"It's Rain. She..." Josie hesitated. "She brought a gun to school."

"But nobody got hurt?"

"No," Josie said.

"Thank God for that," said Joe. "Now, Josie, I know Gary took his gun with him, so how did Rain get her hands on your weapon?"

Josie knew that Joe would be disappointed in her if he knew how careless she'd been. So, almost without thinking, she said, "She took the key to the drawer out of my purse." Josie changed the subject before Joe could ask any more questions. "She's been suspended from school for two weeks, and"

"And you need those two weeks off so you can be at home with her."

"Right. I know it's short notice, but.."

"But this is an emergency. In fact," Joe said, "tell you what. We'll call it emergency leave, so it doesn't count against your vacation time."

"Thanks, Joe."

And then, Josie turned and saw Rain looking at her reproachfully. It was the look of a child who's been betrayed by someone she had completely trusted. She didn't say anything, but the unspoken "How could you?" was there.

Josie had seldom felt more ashamed than she did at that moment. But before she could say anything, Rain ran upstairs. Seconds later, Josie heard her bedroom door slam.

"If only she hadn't heard me," Josie thought.

"If only," her conscience said, "you hadn't lied."

Josie walked upstairs and approached Rain's bedroom door. She could hear her crying. It was the crying of a child whose heart has been broken. Quietly, feeling almost like an intruder, Josie opened the door. She walked over to bed, where Rain lay face-down, and began to rub her back and shoulders.

"Rain, honey, please stop crying or you'll make yourself sick."

Rain took several deep breaths, and stopped crying.

"Listen, Sunshine, I made two terrible mistakes today," Josie said. "The first was when I left my gun out, and the second was when I lied to Joe about it."

"That wasn't a mistake," Rain burst out. "You knew you were lying!"

"You're right," Josie said. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry!"

"Well, why don't you just tell Joe the truth?" Rain asked.

But Josie felt too ashamed and afraid to do that. Only she and Rain would ever know the truth. Josie was to live with her lie, and her guilt, for the rest of her life.

What could be worse?