By Pamala Rush
Synopsis: After performing an autopsy on an abandoned child, Amanda helps Steve to find whoís responsible for the abandonment of another child.
Authorís note: This story comes from two sources. One, a story of a woman in California who takes responsibility for such children by giving them names and a respectable funeral. She is trying to get the California laws changed so that the mothers who do not want their children can take them to a hospital or police station or other public servant without being prosecuted for abandonment. If you live in California or any other state where they are trying to get such a law, please support them. A child should not have to pay for a parentís mistake. The second source is the finding of a baby in my own balefill here in Casper, Wyoming several years ago. This child was treated with dignity as all such children should.
Amanda was sitting at her desk trying not to cry when Mark came into the morgue.
"Amanda I need a copy of...," he stopped. "Whatís wrong?"
"I got a call earlier this week," she said between wiping her tears with a tissue. "Someone found a body on a dumpster." She paused to wipe her nose. "She couldnít have been more than three or four days old." She sniffed. "I just finished the autopsy. Cause of death was exposure." She looked up at Mark. "That was the hardest autopsy I have ever had to do."
Mark took his friend in his arms and hugged her firmly. "I know," he soothed. "Babies never are easy whether theyíre a patient or not." He pulled away but before he could continue there was a tentative knock at the door.
There was a serious young woman in a business suit standing at the doorway. "If no one else has," she began. "Iíve come to claim the baby."
Amanda moved away from Mark and around to the woman. "You canít be family," she said. "Youíre not even the same race."
"No," she said. "I make sure that unclaimed and abandoned babies get a name and a dignified funeral." She paused. "Has anyone claimed the childís body?"
Amanda shook her head no as she blinked away tears. "Not yet," she said.
The woman handed her a stack of papers which Amanda looked through to find that they were the proper paperwork. "May we see the baby?" the woman asked.
"Of course," Amanda said.
Amanda pulled out one of the drawers and took the small body wrapped in a sheet and lay it on the cold autopsy table. The woman unwrapped the small bundle to reveal a tiny African-American baby girl. She pulled some hand knitted items out of her bag and gingerly dressed the tiny body in a tiny hat and booties before she wrapped her in a pink baby blanket. She then placed the baby in a small coffin brought in by the man whom Amanda hadnít noticed until now. After adding a small stuffed teddy bear next to the childís head, she bowed her head for a silent prayer. With gentle fingerís on the dark little head, she spoke aloud the name she had chosen only seconds before. "Autumn Rose," she said. "Rest with God and all the love you never received while you were here." With that, she closed the coffin lid slowly.
She looked up to find Amanda crying. "How do you do this?" Amanda said.
"They deserve to be treated with dignity," the woman said. "I never get used to it, but it needs to be done." She nodded to the man. "This is Henry Charleston and Iím Regina Spencer. Henry is from Charleston Mortuary. They donate the funeral and give us discounts on coffins which are paid for by donations from the community. Blankets, hats and booties are made by local senior citizens so the babies will be dressed when they are buried."
"How could anyone do such things to a helpless infant?" Amanda asked.
"Drugs, alcohol and desperation make you do some awful things," Regina replied.
"Do they ever find the parents or families of these children?" Mark asked as Henry took the coffin from the room.
"Sometimes," she replied. "But usually they donít want to even acknowledge the existence of the child."
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Amanda asked.
"Donations help a lot," Regina said. "And the funeral is scheduled for tomorrow at 10 a.m. but the most important thing you could do is to help on our lobby to the state government to make a law stating that a mother who does not want her child will not be prosecuted for leaving the child at a hospital, police station or in the care of any public servant."
Mark chuckled momentarily. "I donít see anything funny about the subject," Regina said.
"Iím sorry," Mark apologized. "My son is a cop and I was laughing at the image of him trying to care for a newborn infant at the station."
Regina smiled for the first time since entering the morgue. "Others have found that thought funny as well." She shook Markís hand and Amandaís hand, gaining a promise from each to attend the funeral the next day.
There was a drizzle coming down as the seven mourners, including Mark, Amanda and Regina, stood over the tiny grave as the priest said a prayer over the coffin. He finished the prayer and the small group raised their heads to look at him as he finished the ceremony. "The child has been given the name of Autumn Rose," he said. "May she rest in the hands of the lord forever."
Regina stepped forward and placed a small bouquet of daisies on the coffin. Amanda followed with a pink rose that was barely a bud. Mark placed a sprig of violets and stepped back to watch as the rest of the group placed lilies, carnations and babyís breath on the small coffin. The flowers completely covered it. The mourners wandered off to their cars as Mark and Amanda watched.
"Thank you for coming," Regina said softly as she approached them.
"It is our pleasure," Mark said as he looked at the other tiny graves around his feet. "Are these all for abandoned babies?"
"Most of them," Regina replied. "I named almost every one of them."
Amanda took her hand. "I admire you for what you do."
"Thank you," Regina replied. "I just wish I didnít have to."
Miserable, cold and horribly wet, Steve squatted in the muck in an alley behind a trash bin as he watched the door for his suspect to come out. Piles of trash around his feet and a cat looking for scraps of food were his only company.
When he heard the cry, he thought it was the cat. He turned to watch the animal drag a discarded hamburger stuck to a piece of newspaper from the gap between the bin and the building. The cry came again and Steve realized that it wasnít the cat. Looking harder at where the cat had found the food, he saw a tiny hand moving.
Stakeout forgotten, he pushed the bin out and moved aside the trash to find a baby lying in the muck. She was cold and shivering and weak so Steve took off his jacket and wrapped her in it. Her cry became weaker with every moment and he felt a sudden lump in his throat and anger in his belly. How could anyone leave a defenseless baby in this mess?!
He ran, adrenaline pumping through his body, to Community General which was only a few blocks away. He could almost feel the tiny life waning away. He burst through the doors where the first person he saw was Jesse Travis. "Jesse!" He screamed.
Steve unwrapped the bundle to show Jesse. Instantly realizing that this baby was in trouble, Jesse took it in his arms and rushed it, Steveís jacket and all, into one of the triage rooms with several nurses following. "Get me a doctor from the neo-natal unit, STAT!" was all Steve could hear him say before he disappeared around the corner.
The adrenaline choose that moment to disperse and Steve found himself shaking. Alex appeared beside him just in time to catch him as his knees gave out.
"Whatís going on?" Alex asked as he placed the older man in a chair.
Steve gasped for air. "I found a baby in an alley." He stopped to catch his breath. "She was still alive."
Alex nodded. "Iíll go in and see whatís happening. Are you OK?"
Steve nodded and gave the young man a thumbs up sign. Alex disappeared into the room where Jesse had taken the baby. Minutes later, Steve saw Mark and Amanda down the hall heading to the morgue. He sprinted after them.
"Steve!" Mark said with concern. "Youíre soaked!"
He took another breath and told them about finding the baby in the trash. Amanda went pale and headed down to the ER. Mark and Steve followed only to be stopped by Alex on the way.
"Dr. Raygar says she thinks the baby is going to be OK," he said. "Thanks to Steve." Steve breathed a sigh of relief. "Sheís suffering from pneumonia and exposure. Theyíre taking her to the Neo-natal ICU and Raygar says that you can see her when they get her settled."
"Isnít that against the rules?" Steve asked.
"Raygar says that since you saved her life, you can see her as much as you want," Alex replied. "But maybe you should change into something dry first."
"Thanks," was all he could manage to say.
Dressed in a gown and dry hospital scrubs, Steve pushed open the door to the infant ICU and made his way over to the incubator where the baby he had rescued only hours earlier lay. After several minutes of simply looking at her, Dr. Caroline Raygar joined him.
"Sheís hanging on," the woman told him. "If she keeps fighting like this, she may just make it with no brain damage."
Steve only nodded as he watched the infant fight for every breath she took. A small tube was taped to her face and leading into one nostril of her nose. "Whatís the tube?"
"Itís for nutrients and medicine," was Raygarís soft answer.
"And the clip on her abdomen?"
Raygar snorted with disgust and Steve tore his eyes away to look at her face. Anger flashed in her eyes. "That is for her umbilical," she replied. "At least they had the decency to tie it off when they cut it."
Steve straightened. "How old is she?"
Raygarís face softened. "She couldnít have been more than two or three hours old when you brought her in. Sheís lucky that she was probably a strong, healthy baby when she was born."
Now was Steveís turn to be angry. He turned back to the baby just as Amanda entered the nursery. "How could anyone do that to their own baby?" he asked.
Amanda put her hand on his shoulder. "It happens all too often, Iím afraid."
After a long silence, Raygar spoke. "Since you found her," she began. "Why donít you name her?"
Steve looked up at her then back to the baby. "Catherine," he said. "After my mother.
"Thatís a wonderful name," Raygar said then paused before speaking again. "You know, they say that touch is beneficial to healing," she said. "Would you like to hold her hand?"
When Steve didnít answer, Raygar opened one of the round windows on the side of the incubator and left Steve and Amanda alone with her. Hesitantly, Steve reached in and stroked the blond head before he took the babyís shivering, delicate hand. The hand curled around the finger he offered, melting his heart. "Well, Catherine," he said softly. "Welcome to the world."
"What did you do with my baby?" the girl asked with tears running down her face.
"I got rid of her," the other said matter-of-factly.
"Got rid of her!?" was the incredulous reply. "She a child not a sack of garbage!"
Allison Jane Moore, daughter of Senator William Moore, paced the spacious office. "You said you were going to find a family to place her with!"
Jim Parker, the senatorís top aide, turned to face her with anger in his eyes. "I knew you would change your mind," he said with venom. "I just knew it."
Allison went into hysterics and began hitting his chest with her fists. "Whereís my baby? I want my baby!"
Parker grabbed her arms. "Shut up. Your father still doesnít know."
"Doesnít know what?"
In the doorway stood William Moore with his hands on his hips. "Parker, what is going on here?"
Allison wrenched herself way from Parkerís grasp and ran to her fatherís waiting arms. "I didnít want you to know."
"There isnít a problem," Parker said with a smile. "Iíve already taken care of it."
Moore pulled his daughter away to look in her eyes. "What is it?"
Allison swallowed. "I got pregnant," she said softly.
Moore was quiet for a long time before he spoke. "Iím not happy with you right now," he said. "But Iím not going to stop loving you just for getting pregnant out of wedlock."
"Iím sorry, daddy," she said as she pulled herself back into his embrace.
Moore held her then looked up at Parker. "Did you get her an abortion?"
"She refused to have an abortion," Parker replied.
Allison pulled away and looked her father in the eye. "I wanted to keep her," she told him. "But Parker convinced me to give her up for adoption, and..."
"I took care of it," Parker said as he crossed his arms. "To keep your reputationóand hersóin tact."
Moore pushed his daughter away. "Youíre more worried about our reputations than my only grandchild?"
"I was hired to..."
"Well, youíre fired," Moore stated. "Now where is my grandchild?"
"I left her in an alley downtown," Parker replied. "Sheís likely dead by now."
Allison began to wail an Moore took her in his arms once again. "You are going to go and find that baby this instant," Moore said.
"Or what?" Parker snorted. "Your daughter is the childís mother. All I have to do is tell them that she was the one who abandoned her and sheíll be in jail for the next ten to twenty."
"They wonít believe you," Moore said.
"They wonít? Parker said. "Unwed daughter of an American senator has a baby without her fatherís knowledge. Suddenly, the baby turns up dead after being abandoned." He paused. "Do you really think theyíll believe that Allison didnít abandon that baby?"
"Daddy, I didnít...," Allison began.
"I know," he replied softly. "What do you want?" he asked Parker.
"Only to keep my job," Parker said. "Isnít that what we all want?"
Moore closed his eyes and held Allison closer. "Yes," he whispered.
"Iíll make sure that Regina Spencer gets a large donation," Parker said and started to leave the room.
Allison pushed away from her father. "Who is Regina Spencer?"
"Sheís a local woman who takes care of dead abandoned babies," Parker said. "Sheíll give your baby a proper burial."
Moore took him by the lapels of his suit. "Sheíd better," he said. "Or Iíll make sure you get a proper burial."
Dr. Raygar placed the tiny infant in Steveís arms as he sat in the rocking chair. She handed him a bottle of warm formula which he hesitantly placed in her tiny mouth. As she began to suck hungrily, Steve marveled at the smallness of her. Her tiny head, tiny toes, and tiny fingers. Off handedly, he wondered if his own father had felt like this when he and his sister Carol were babies.
A tap on the window drew his attention and he looked up to see Amanda standing in the window to the door. She waved before opening the door and entering with another woman close behind. "You look adorable," Amanda said. "Almost like a father."
Steve smiled and shook his head. "Whoís your friend?"
As if remembering she was there, Amanda turned and introduced Regina Spencer to him.
"Is this her?" Regina asked as she leaned forward to get a look at the baby in Steveís arms. Steve nodded as Regina reached a finger to smooth the hair on her head. A tear ran down her cheek and Steve wiped it away. "Iíve never had the pleasure of seeing an abandoned child who survived." She looked up at Steve only to realize that her face was barely inches from his. Someone clearing her throat behind her broke the spell and Regina stood back up.
Steve looked at Amanda where she stood next to Dr. Raygar. "So whatís going to happen next?" he asked.
"Sheíll be released tomorrow," Raygar said with a sidelong glance to Amanda. "Sheís going to be put with a very good foster family."
"Do you think theyíll let me see her?" Steve asked.
Amanda looked thoughtful. "Iím sure that can be arranged." She paused. "Her new foster mom is a woman named... what was her name?"
"Bentley, I believe," Raygar replied.
Steve looked back to Amanda. "Youíre her foster mom?"
Amanda smiled back. "It took a lot of string pulling, but yes."
"I know a few people," Regina said.
Steve smiled at Regina but spoke to Amanda. "How do the boys feel about it?"
"They are extremely excited," Amanda said. "They like the idea of a new baby sister."
"Iím glad," Steve said then looked down to find that Catherine had stopped eating and was watching Steve intently.
"I think sheís in love," Regina commented.
"Sheís not the only one," Amanda said as they watched the tough cop look back at the tiny baby with adoring eyes.
The only thing that could interrupt the mutual admiration society between Steve and baby Catherine was a clue to who had left her in the alley. It came in the form of a phone call that came through just as Catherine was drinking the last drops of a four ounce bottle. Steve burped her just as Amanda had shown him as he spoke on the phone. He handed her off to Regina and he got up from the rocking chair. "They have a composite sketch of they guy who abandoned Catherine," he explained.
"Do you mind if I come along?" Regina asked.
"Not at all," Steve replied, taking the baby back and handing her to Amanda. "Do me a favor will you? Give her the rest of her bottle."
Amanda nodded and adjusted the baby in her arms. Steve stopped just long enough to watch her give Baby Catherine the bottle.
A few minutes later, he and Regina were walking through the rain to the scene where he had found the infant. The rain and turned from a downpour to a drizzle and there were about eight officers going over the alley with a fine toothed comb.
Steve stopped next to the one who seemed to be in charge. "So whereís the sketch?"
The officer pulled a fill from the case under his arm and handed it to Steve who opened it and looked at the drawing. "That looks like...," he began.
"Senator Mooreís aide," Regina finished. "The senator gave a huge donation earlier today."
"That ainít all," the officer continued. He held up a plastic evidence bag that had a small gray button in it.
Steve looked at it carefully. "Looks like a button from one of those expensive rain coats," he said, feeling his blood start to boil.
"Which fits in with the description the guy looked rich," the officer replied.
Steve nodded and turned to Regina. "You up for a little ride?"
"Out to the senatorís place?" Steve nodded. "Lay on, MacDuff," she said with a bow.
It didnít take long for Regina and Steve to be led to the senatorís office. They sat in mahogany chairs and waited for a few minutes for the senator. After a brief and, what seemed to Steve, forced introduction and welcome, he led the conversation to the finding of the baby.
"A witness gave a description of the person and it matched your aide," Steve said.
"Jim Parker is one of my most trusted aides," Moore replied. "He has a beautiful wife and two wonderful kids."
"Senator, where is your daughter?" Steve asked. "I did some checking and found out that she left school about five months ago."
"My daughter has decided to go to Julliard," the senator replied. "She wanted to take a year off and travel a bit before going back to school."
"Would it be possible to speak to Mr. Parker?" Steve asked.
"No," the senator said. "He had a flight to Washington this..."
He was interrupted by his aideís untimely entrance. "Parker, I thought you were going to Washington?"
Parker nodded with understanding as Steve glanced back at Regina. "Iím Detective Steve Sloan investigating a child abandonment case."
"They donít usually send detectives out for abandonment cases," Parker said with a sly smile.
"I have a vested interest in this particular case," Steve said. "I was doing a stakeout when I found her in an alley behind a bar." He glanced back at Regina. "I barely got her to Community General in time."
"In time for what?" the senator asked with a sadness that neither Steve nor Regina had expected. "Her autopsy?"
"No, she was alive when I found her," Steve said. At those words, the senator seemed to brighten while Parker became deathly pale.
"The baby is the senatorís daughterís," Parker said. "I was under the senatorís order to get rid of her."
Moore exploded and took Parked by the collar, slamming him up on the desk. "How DARE you!"
Steve pulled him away. "Stop it," he said. "I want the truth and I want it now!"
"I didnít know that Allison was even pregnant until this morning when Parker told me that he had abandoned her baby," Moore said as he tried to calm himself. "Allison was so beside herself that I had to have the family doctor sedate her."
"Iíd like to speak to Allison," Steve said. "Do you think sheíd be awake yet?"
Parker straightened his jacket. "I just left her," he said. "Sheís awake."
Moore moved away from Parker to the door. "Follow me." He led Steve and Regina up a set of stairs in the entryway and down a hall to a closed door. He knocked on the dark surface and waited a few minutes. "Allison?" No answer.
Steve tried the doorknob to find that it was locked. "God, no!" Moore exclaimed then began pounding on the door and calling her daughterís name. He turned to Steve. "Break it down!"
Steve stood back and kicked the door in. I swung open to reveal the senatorís daughter laying on the floor with an empty bottle of pills in her hand. Steve rushed forward and checked her pulse. It was weak but present. "Call an ambulance," Steve said.
Regina had already pulled her cellular phone out of her pocket and dialed and was talking to emergency services within minutes. Senator Moore clutched his daughterís hand and whispered to her, "Please donít die. Your baby isnít dead, honey. Sheís going to need her mommy."
Senator Moore sat in a chair next to his daughterís bed. Steve slipped in and placed a hand on the senatorís shoulder. "How is she?"
"Dad says that if she can make it through the next few hours, sheíll be all right," Steve replied.
"Was I so consumed by my job that I didnít even notice that my own daughter was pregnant?" Moore said with a barely stifled sob.
"She hid it well," Steve replied quietly. He was quiet for a few minutes before he went on. "If it makes you feel any better, Parker has been arrested for abandonment, child endangerment and attempted murder."
"It doesnít make me feel any better," Moore replied. "But thanks for telling me." He turned back to his sleeping daughter.
Several minutes passed before Mark Sloan entered the room. "Hello Steve, Senator," he said.
Moore stood and turned to look at Mark. "Why hasnít she woken up yet?"
"We got to her in time," Mark said. "But she doesnít have the will to live."
"Thinking that her child was dead has probably contributed to it," Steve added.
"Iíll give her the will," the distraught senator said as he turned back to his sleeping daughter.
"I hope so," Mark replied. "If you come with me, thereís someone I think you should meet."
Steve smiled in approval and nodded.
Moore turned to him. "Stay with her while Iím gone?"
Steve nodded again. "Iíll have a nurse come get you if she wakes."
"Since we didnít know her name," Mark said as they looked through a window at Amanda feeding the tiny newborn. "My son named her Catherine."
"Thatís a beautiful name," Moore whispered. "I donít suppose I could hold her."
"Iíll see what I can do," Mark replied with a smile.
A nurse approached before he could turn to make the arrangements. "Senator Moore, Detective Sloan has called to say your daughter is awake."
Moore breathed a sigh of relief. "Thatís wonderful." He turned to Mark who was looking thoughtful.
"I think that since sheís awake," Mark began. "We should give her something to live for."
"What?" Moore asked.
Mark only gestured for him to follow.
"He should have been here by now," Allison said, her eyes swollen and puffy.
"Heíll be here shortly," Steve assured her. "He wants you to meet someone."
"Meet someone?!" She exclaimed. "Is he nuts! Look at me!"
"I donít think sheíll care," Steve replied.
At that moment, Mark pushed the door open and entered followed by Moore in a hospital gown and Catherine in his arms. He was followed by Amanda.
Allison rolled away from her father and began to cry. "Daddy, how could you," She said between sobs. "I donít want to see any babies."
Moore walked around the bed and lay the baby next to his daughter. "You will this one," he said. "Look at her."
"I donít want to look at her," Allison said with closed eyes.
"Allison," Moore ordered quietly. "Look at her."
Slowly, Allison opened her eyes and looked down at the baby. The features looked familiar. As a matter of fact, she looked an awful lot like Allison herself had looked in the baby pictures in her baby book. "Daddy, what is this?"
"This is your daughter," Moore replied. "This is Catherine."
"Parker was wrong," Moore told her. "Detective Sloan found her before she could die."
Allison turned to look at Steve. "Really?"
Steve nodded. "Congratulations," he said. "Itís a girl."
Allison held a hand out and Steve took it. "Thank you," she said, tears of joy running down her cheeks.
"Youíre welcome," Steve replied then turned and followed his father and Amanda, who had tears in her own eyes, out the door.
"You can come see her anytime you want," Amanda told Allison as she wheeled her in the wheelchair towards the exit.
"Thanks Amanda," Allison replied.
"When the Department of family services goes over your case," Amanda said. "After you finish your six weeks of counseling of course..."
"Of course," Allison said.
"Theyíll probably return custody to you," Amanda finished as they approached Steve.
"In the meantime," Steve said. "Your daughter will be very well taken care of."
Allison smiled. "Sheís already been very well taken care of. I couldnít have asked for more."
Amanda smiled and patted the younger girlís shoulder. "Iíve got to get back to Pathology. Iíll see you tonight when you stop by to see Catherine."
Allison nodded. "Bye Amanda. And thanks." She turned to Steve. "I take it that dadís not here yet."
Steve nodded. "Heís running a bit late. He wanted to appear at Parkerís arraignment."
Allison nodded. "Weíll be having Catherine baptized next week," she said. "Iíve asked Amanda to be her godmother. Iíd like you to be her godfather."
Steve smiled. "I would be pleased and proud."
Moore entered the nearby door with a smile. "Parker has been indited on all charges," he announced.
"Good," Steve said. "Maybe justice will be done." He patted Allison on the shoulder and walked away whistling.