Banter grumbled under her breath. Ray promised she wouldn’t be out in the field, especially after Corey had a talk with him. Yet, here she was prowling down an alley doing some reconnaissance. It was midnight and hot. Even though she was wearing her lighter black hoodie and a thin t-shirt, she was still hot.
“Stinking garbage. I thought I was done working with garbage.”
There was a heavy stench in the air.
“Just walk through the area. Yeah, Ray. I’m walking. Nothing to see. You think I can magically find everything just because… I can.”
She chuckled to herself. Her recent police work had given her an excellent reputation.
“Now everyone wants me to help.”
She passed a row of garbage cans. None of them had lids on to help block the aroma that rose from them. She was almost clear of them when she heard a noise. Something within her made her stop dead.
Animal, she thought. Kitten?
“That’s all I need with two dogs and two kids. A cat.”
She turned her head toward the garbage cans, half expecting a kitten to pop out.
There was nothing. She heard nothing more. With a wrinkle of her nose, she turned to leave.
She heard another noise before she could even take a step. A soft whimper. A cry? Or the chattering of a rat?
Banter turned back to look again, but still, nothing stood out. She spun on her heels to take two steps toward the cans. They all looked full. One looked overflowing with a bundle that looked like old rags on top of it.
A weird feeling of apprehension flowed through her. Part of her wanted to run while the other felt the need to investigate. She took a few more steps.
The bundle moved. There was a soft cry.
“What the fuck,” she said, moving forward the last few steps in haste.
Barely visible in the bundle was a newborn.
“What are you doing here?”
She caught herself from touching the bundle.
She took pictures of the bundle and the area, then made a call.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“This is Banter.”
She gave the code that identified her as an officer.
“I have a newborn in a trash can.”
She gave the cross streets since she couldn’t see any building numbers.
“We’ll send an ambulance right away. Please stay put so you can direct them.”
“No shit. I’m not leaving.”
She sent a text to Peter, her undercover partner, to let him know what was happening. He was somewhere driving around waiting to extract her. His reply was ‘WTF’.
“Yeah, my thoughts exactly,” she muttered.
She moved closer to the alley entrance. It was fifteen minutes before the flashing lights of the ambulance appeared. She was thankful they weren’t using sirens. She waved them down. The ambulance’s flashing lights turned off when it turned into the alley. She led the way down to the cans.
“What did you find, Banter?” Nick said, getting out of the driver’s side.
With all the cross training of late between disciplines, she now knew most of the EMTs.
“Newborn in the trash.”
“Dead or alive.”
“Alive. So far.”
Paul, his partner, got out, and they all converged on the can.
Nick put on a pair of disposable gloves and opened the bundle just enough to look.
“A girl. Umbilical cord still there. Hardly an hour old, I’d say.”
Paul nodded his agreement.
“I took pictures of the area already,” she said.
Paul put on gloves and gently picked up the bundle, supporting the baby’s head with a hand.
“Anything else around?”
They all looked through the top layer in the cans and around the area, looking for clues.
“No placenta. She wasn’t born here,” Nick said.
“Come along. You can make your report direct to Social Services,” Paul said.
“Lovely. More paperwork.”
She followed Paul to sit in the back of the ambulance.
“What are you doing out here?” Paul said. “This isn’t a nice neighborhood.”
“Recon duty. This wasn’t what I was expecting to find.”
She sent a text to Peter telling him where she was going.
Will follow, was his reply.
“My ride is following.”
“She’s small, but looks full term,” Paul said. “Probably a first for some young teenager. You need to find these young ones fast. Good thing you were around.”
Banter watched Paul, who seemed totally absorbed in staring at the baby.
“Vitals look normal,” he said after a few minutes.
“You can see all that just by looking at her?”
“I counted her breaths. I can see a pulse. She’s not in distress. Her coloring is good. She was wrapped well enough, and it’s warm out.”
It impressed her that he could see just by looking at the baby.
“She just needs to be cleaned up and to have the umbilical cord treated. Then a feeding with colostrum.”
“Now you lost me.”
“First milk has colostrum. Gives her the antibodies needed to buildup her immune system.”
The ambulance pulled into the emergency entrance of the nearest hospital.
“Staff will be happy that we’re not bringing them something that’s critical. Especially at this time of the night.”
“A newborn isn’t critical?”
“Not this one. No shakes.”
“She’s probably not a drug baby.”
“That’s good to hear.”
The ambulance came to a stop. Paul didn’t move. Banter figured Nick was running around to open the door for them. A moment later the door opened as she expected.
Banter followed Paul into the emergency entrance. A nurse stood.
“Newborn...” Paul said.
The conversation between Paul and the nurse went fast with acronyms and terms that Banter wasn’t familiar with. In minutes, they were in an examination room. Paul handed the baby over to the nurse.
“I have another call already. Have a good one, Banter.”
He left in a hurry.
“A representative for Social Services will be here shortly. Are you a relative?” the nurse said.
“What? No. I’m a police officer. I found her.”
The nurse looked at her as if she didn’t believe her.
Banter flashed her badge.
A doctor stepped in.
“Abandoned newborn,” the nurse said.
“I’m Banter, police officer. I found her,” she said.
“Dr. Sam Grove,” he said as an introduction. “Let’s have a look.”
Banter watched while they examined the baby. Once outside of her wrapping, she found her lungs and screamed. Banter liked her better when she was quiet.
The doctor removed the wrappings to put into a plastic bag as evidence, then he took a few swabs of blood from the umbilical cord before treating it. They thoroughly wiped the baby down, put her into a diaper and wrapped her in a hospital baby blanket.
“Here, hold her a moment,” the nurse said.
Banter wanted to protest, but the baby was in her arms before she could utter a sound.
The nurse cleaned up and wiped down the examination table. Banter had the image of a waitress who was in a hurry to bus the table for the next customers.
The baby, however, was still crying but not so loud.
“You’re warm and clothed. You should be quiet now,” she said to her.
The baby quieted to a soft whimper, which surprised her that her voice could evoke such a response.
“We’ll get a bottle for her. We have a reserve of breast milk, but it’s frozen. It will take a few minutes to warm it up.”
The nurse left.
Banter found herself alone with the baby. She fingered the fine brown hair that was very much like her own.
Another nurse stepped in.
“Can you wait out here? We need the room.”
Banter stepped out to a packed waiting area. Peter was there. He fit right in with his long hair and ragged jeans.
“What do we have?” he said.
“She looks just like you,” he said.
Banter almost broke out laughing. “Yeah. Like garbage.”
“What are we waiting for?”
“Social Services and a bottle.”
“Let’s sit over here.”
Peter found them a spot out of the way. Most of the patients waiting for a doctor looked like drunks who had either gotten beat up or were ill from something they drank.
“Not the best place to be on your birthday,” he said.
“No. I can’t imagine anyone doing this. There are so many agencies that people can work with.”
“Unfortunately, if you’re an affluent teen, you’ve probably never heard or dealt with any of these agencies.”
A man rose. He caught Banter’s attention because his head was bleeding. A nurse led him into the exam room she had just vacated.
“Shit,” Peter said. “I know of poor teens who don’t know of these agencies.”
The baby seemed to settle and was quiet.
“I wish they’d hurry. We can end our evening,” she said, feeling impatient.
“Did you see anything suspicious?”
“Yeah, a baby.”
He laughed. “Other than the baby.”
“Overflowing garbage cans. I’m looking forward to what Ray says when he reads my report.”
It was twenty minutes before a nurse came over with a bottle. Banter expected her to take the baby, but she didn’t. She handed her the bottle and walked away.
“What the? What am I supposed to do with this?” she said.
“Feed the baby,” he said.
“But… but aren’t you supposed to check that it’s warm enough?”
“Just put the nipple in her mouth. She knows what to do.”
“She was just born.”
“Nipple. In the mouth,” he said.
Banter put the nipple to the baby’s lips. A drip came out. The baby responded by moving her lips. The nipple seemed to get sucked into the baby’s mouth.
“She sucks,” he said with a laugh.
Banter watched the milk disappear. “Going. Going. Gone.”
“I said she sucks,” Peter said with a laugh. “A gun-for-hire taking care of a baby. What next?” He shook his head.
“You tell me.”
She watched two more people go into exam rooms. “Where is Social Services? Are they sleeping in?”
“They have a twenty-four-hour hotline.” he said. “Someone will be here.”
“You sound pretty knowledgeable about this.”
“I’ve worked with runaways.”
“I don’t want to wait here all night. I’m teaching a class in the morning.”
She was feeling uneasy holding the baby. It was an odd sensation to be holding something warm that moved.
“Your class doesn’t start until nine.”
“I have paperwork,” she said with a tone of impatience.
A woman with a clipboard walked in and zeroed in on them.
“You’re abandoning this baby?” the woman said in a curt voice.
There was a law that allowed parents to abandon their children at certain locations and surrender their right as parents.
“What? No. We’re police officers. We found her.”
“That’s good. We only accept children who are at least one month old. Do you have other children?”
“I have two boys.” She didn’t know why that mattered and kept offering the baby to her, but the woman was busy taking notes.
“It’s hard to find a place for newborns at this hour. Has the doctor seen her yet?”
“Yes. They already checked her.”
“Let me go have a talk.” The woman turned on her heels and left.
“She could have just taken the baby with her. Shit. We’re going to be here for hours,” she said.
The baby fussed and squirmed.
“I’m going to fuss with you,” she said.
The woman returned with a doctor. This wasn’t the doctor that had seen her.
“The baby can go,” the doctor said.
“Doesn’t she have to spend one night in the hospital?” Banter said.
The doctor waved a hand.
“She just did. She’s fine. If she develops a fever or the umbilical area becomes swollen, then bring her back in.”
The doctor left in a hurry when a bloodied man walked in through the door. Everyone rushed to help him.
“You’ll need a car seat for her and some formula. I think we have some in our storage area.”
Banter again tried to hand the baby over, but the woman turned and left.
“What is happening here?”
“I’m thinking they want you to take the baby,” Peter said.
“Me? You take her.”
“I’m a single guy with nothing but soda and pizza in the fridge.”
“Like I know what to do with a baby?”
He cracked up. “You do not use a gun to feed a baby.”
She glared at him, not amused by his comment.
“No, but I’ll use my gun to make you take her.”
The woman returned carrying a car seat and a plastic bag.
“Here you go. We’ll contact you.”
“What? Wait… I can’t take this baby.”
“We have no one who can take her. We’re swamped as it is.”
The woman seemed to be in a hurry. Her phone was now buzzing.
“Excuse me.” She answered her phone and hurried out of the room.
“What the fuck.”
“I told you. They want you to take her.”
“They don’t even know who the hell I am. How are they going to call me tomorrow? I don’t…”
“Looks like formula and two bottles in the sack with a couple of diapers. You’re all set.”
“I’m going to put this baby right here on a chair and leave.”
She was almost serious.
“You can’t do that,” he said, looking slightly aghast.
“Where is it in my job description that said I have to foster abandoned babies?”
She made a slight movement like she was going to put the baby down, but Peter grabbed her arm and the car seat. He led her out of the hospital.
“I can’t believe this,” she said.
“Well, Corey has two kids.”
“A guy? You think he knows anything other than burping and playing? He had a wife take care of his boys when they were infants.”
“You can call Social Services in the morning.”
“I’ll call the police.”
He laughed. “You are the police.”
“I’ll put this baby in Ray’s office and see what he does with her.”
Peter opened the backdoor and slid in the car seat. She watched him seem to know how to put the seatbelt on to hold it.
She handed him the baby. “Is this where I walk away?”
“Don’t you dare. Get into the car.”
He joined her once he had the baby strapped in.
“She is tiny,” he said. “You always forget how small they are when they’re born.
“I can’t believe this.”
“I’ll take you back to your car.”
Banter ruminated on what she was going to do with a baby. Where would a baby sleep if there was no crib? In the sock drawer? She chuckled at the thought.
“What’s so funny?”
“Baby in the sock drawer. Where else do you put a baby if you don’t have a crib? Cardboard box?”
“She can sleep in the car seat.”
“They are versatile. Carry her around in it. Sleep in it. Feed her in it. That’s all you need for the first couple of months.”
“You sound more knowledgeable than me. You should take her.”
“You found her.”
“I keep thinking they violated a procedure.”
“Abandoning a newborn is a felony,” he said. “The mother is the one who violated the law.”
“I meant Social Services. As for the mother, we have no clues unless they can make something out of what she was wrapped in.”
Peter pulled up to her car. She noticed he was rather quick about transferring the baby to her backseat, which was a little more involved since her car was a two-door. He had to push forward her passenger seat to get the car seat into the back.
“I don’t even drive the kids around in this car,” she said.
“See you tomorrow,” he said.
She watched him drive off. He didn’t hang around.
She got into her car, feeling perturbed.
“At least you’re quiet,” she said while she drove. “Or should I shut up? You’re sleeping with a full belly.”
It was a quarter to two am when she pulled into the driveway and into the garage. She knew Corey would meet her at the door to the house. He always did when she worked late. She knew he was in for a big surprise.
Once the garage door was closed behind her, she got out and pushed her seat forward. It took her a moment to figure out how to release the car seat from the seatbelt. She had to bite her tongue to keep herself from swearing, pissed at herself for not paying more attention to how Peter fastened the straps.
Once released, it proved to be bulkier than she realized. She had a hard time getting it out. Once out, there wasn’t much room between her car and the wall of the garage, especially since there were things hanging on the wall. She almost knocked off a rake while edging along to the front of her car.
To make it worse, Corey was watching her from the door, looking like she had gone insane. She thought he looked pretty good standing there with just his pajama bottoms on. He was looking lean and muscular these days.
At the front of the car, she had more room. She brushed past him, heading to the kitchen where she set the car seat on the table.
The entire house seemed to know there was a stranger in their midst. Both dogs came running down the stairs.
“Look what I found in the garbage,” she said.
Corey unfastened the baby from the car seat and lifted her up. It amazed her that he knew how to hold her.
“Did you call Social Services?”
“Yes. Apparently they are swamped and… I feel like they dumped her on me. Damn. I forgot the sack in the car. There is formula and diapers.”
She went back out to retrieve the sack. When she returned, both dogs were sitting in front of Corey with their heads up trying to get a sniff of the baby.
“She seems pretty healthy,” he said. “Did she get a bottle?”
“Yeah. We fed her at the hospital.”
Banter emptied out the sack.
“Diapers. Bottles. Formula with colostrum.”
“I have a crib in the attic,” he said. “Even though we were done having kids, we were saving it for a relative. No one wants used furniture. No one wanted it. It’s still up there. Here.”
He handed her the baby.
“I’ll go get it.”
Banter stared at him.
“This doesn’t bother you?”