Finding a Hart

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Chapter 11

Stephanie

The following week was insanely busy. I ended going out on a lot more home visits than normal thanks to the upcoming six-month employee evaluations that I had to do. I was putting in twelve hour days at the office and then spending a few hours a night at the hospital. It was probably a good thing that my coffee buddy was out of town because I was stretching myself thin as it was.

Chris had me wrapped around his tiny little fingers. I didn’t know what it was about him but I was completely stuck on that baby. Maybe it was because he didn’t have a family of his own and needed someone or maybe I felt some sort of bond with him after finding him in that pile of trash, but if I wasn’t at work or sleeping, I was at the hospital.

He was doing well for the most part but still wasn’t eating like he needed to be and had ended up with a feeding tube through his little nose. During my visit on Tuesday, Kara had talked me into undoing my blouse and resting him against my bare chest, telling me that skin-to-skin contact could do wonders for him. I felt a little awkward at first but the feeling quickly disappeared when he let out a content sigh. She wrapped a blanket around us both and I spent the rest of my time there with him curled up on my chest.

Valerie and Kevin kept me up to date on everything. They had a hard time getting any surveillance footage that showed anything good and the restaurant Troy and I had been at were giving them a hard time about releasing their video without a subpoena.

The DNA results had come back without any matches and by Friday, I felt like we were never going to get anywhere with the little guy. I was doing what I could to secure a foster home for him for when he was discharged from the hospital but my chest ached every time I thought about how he had been just tossed away.

When Friday arrived and nothing new have been discovered in regards to the baby, I went into work wearing a grey pencil skirt, red blouse, and a pair of matching red heels. I had left my hair hanging straight at my shoulders but put a bit more make-up on than I normally would. The killer outfit didn’t help my nerves, though. I felt like I was going to be sick.

I hated the thought of being on TV.

“Damn.” Keon released an obnoxious wolf-whistle when I walked into the conference room. “You’re dressed to impress, Steph.”

I rolled my eyes at sat down next to where Robin was already settled at the head of the table. “I figured dressing powerfully might hide how badly I feel like puking.”

The crowd of fifteen around the table laughed out loud and Sable, one of the senior caseworkers, leaned over to squeeze my shoulder. “You’ll do awesome, Stephanie, but he’s right- you are working that skirt.”

I offered her a quick smile and reached into the box of donuts at the end of the table when Robin started speaking. The caseworkers all gave us status reports and afterwards I listed off everyone who still had to be shadowed by me before the month was over.

The meeting adjourned an hour later and I printed out the statement Robin had written for me before grabbing my bag. I waved to everyone and walked out of our small suite so I could head to the elevator.

I drove to the police department shortly after ten. After I’d signed in and received my visitor badge, I walked through the familiar building until I found Valerie and Kevin’s desks. They both greeted me enthusiastically and Kevin gave me an approving nod.

“You look really nice.”

I raised my eyebrows at him. “Does that mean sometimes I look less than nice?”

“Women.” He scoffed as he looked to Valerie. “You guys can’t take compliments very well.”

Valerie just laughed. “You’re too easy, Kev.” She gestured me over to the desk. “Just so you know what we’re showing today, you should look at this. We found usable images on the surveillance video from Brimstone’s security camera once they finally ponied it over. One of them pointed at the opening of that patio area, so we can’t see the baby being dumped but we can see this woman going in that general area. She also walked right in front of the doors so we got this.”

Valerie held up a photo of a woman with brownish hair pulled up into a ponytail. She was wearing a really large coat and a pair of sweatpants. Her expression was wild, almost panicked, and I really didn’t like her already.

“You think she left him there?”

“Yeah.” Valerie nodded. “The angle we’re working now is parental abandonment. According to the timestamps, he had been there about three hours before you found him.”

“There weren’t any DNA hits on the baby,” Kevin chimed in as he sat on the edge of Valerie’s desk. “At least no one in the system. We’re just hoping someone recognizes her after this and calls us.”

I held up the statement Robin had prepared and that the department had already approved. “Well, mine’s pretty short and sweet.”

Valerie and Kevin both read over my statement and I sat with them until it was time for us to go to the press room. The commander of the Family Investigations Bureau, Alice Murphy, was going to be giving the statement on behalf of the Phoenix Police Department. She was dressed in her formal blues and smiled when she saw me in the hallway.

“Stephanie, how are you?” Alice was probably in her mid-forties and she was the first female police commander PPD had ever had. She earned the title and I respected her and the job she did. “I’m great, Alice. How are you?” I replied as I shook her hand. She just let out a long sigh and nodded.

“At least this little guy will be okay. We have a chance at a happy ending.” She gestured to the room. “Just stand next to me and I’ll bring you in to give the DCS update. I’ll speak again after.”

I nodded my head and inhaled a deep breath. When Alice began to walk through the door, she smiled and encouraged me to follow her.

The room was full of reporters and Alice moved to a podium that had microphones set up all around it. I stood behind her, slightly off to the side. The reporters weren’t noisy like I’d been expecting, but instead the quiet hum of conversation filled the room. When Alice stepped up to the microphones, however, silence fell.

“Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming. On Friday, January tenth, a caseworker for the Department of Child Safety discovered a young baby on the patio of the abandoned club, Gold Spirit, on Seventh Street in Phoenix, Arizona. The baby, only identified as Baby Boy Doe, was just hours old and severely hypothermic. We have pulled surveillance footage from the area and are currently looking for this woman as a person of interest.” Alice gestured to the screen off to the side where the photo of the panicked woman was. “Anyone who has any information as to her identity or whereabouts is asked to come forward immediately. For an update on Baby Boy, I bring you Stephanie Gibson, a social worker assigned to Prevention and Support within the Department of Child Safety. She is also the person who made the discovery of the child.”

Alice stepped back and gestured me forward. I cleared my throat and looked to all of the people and cameras nervously.

“Hello, as Commander Murphy said, I am Stephanie Gibson with DCS. At approximately nine in the evening on January tenth, I discovered Baby Boy Doe in a pile of trash outside of Gold Spirit. When he was discovered, the temperature had fallen to forty-four degrees and he was in nothing but an old towel. He was cold, hungry, and weak from exposure. Baby Boy was rushed to the hospital immediately. He has responded to treatment and is considered to be out of danger at this time. It is imperative that we find his parents so we can determine if he has any other health risks we need to take into account at this time. Thank you.” I looked to Alice and stepped back, a rush of air leaving my lungs as I did.

Alice took questions about the investigation and the baby. Someone had asked if he would be placed in foster care, to which Alice looked at me and I nodded. The next person asked if he’d be placed up for adoption after a certain amount of time, and I stepped forward to claim that we’d cross that bridge when we got there.

Alice wrapped up the press conference and I was really happy to leave that room. She pat me on the back and told me that I’d done well, but I wasn’t in a hurry to see myself on TV.

“Okay, I’m going to retreat back to the shadows,” I declared as I grabbed my bag. Both Kevin and Valerie nodded and it was the latter who spoke.

“We’ll let you know if we find anything out.”

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