We hastily put my coat on and Troy led me out to the valet stand with his hand firmly holding mine. I almost laughed at how desperate we had become. Then the realization of what we were about to do hit me. I was going to have sex with Troy but why?
Because it was familiar, that’s why.
My mind flashed back to the man I’d been having coffee with for almost a month and I suddenly felt guilty. I didn’t even know his name but there was something between the two of us. A connection. A promise of more.
I couldn’t go home with Troy.
The valet had just taken his ticket and I decided to tell him that I’d changed my mind. Before I opened my mouth, though, I heard a baby cry.
When it continued crying for a couple of moments, I glanced around to look for the culprit, but the few other people on the sidewalk around us were without children. I heard it again and caught sight of a toddler bundled in a coat, holding her mom’s hand. I stared at her for a minute and when I heard the cry again, I decided that it wasn’t her making the sound. In fact, it sounded like the cry of an infant.
“Do you hear that?” I asked Troy, tugging on his hand to get his attention. He went still, holding my eyes before he shook his head.
“The baby,” I whispered, craning my neck to see if I could hear it again.
He shook his head. “Babe, I don’t…”
I knew he heard it that time because he stopped speaking and turned in the direction of the building next to Brimstone. There was a patio behind it that led to the doors of a club that had been closed for months. I followed his gaze and took a couple of steps towards the enclosure when the cry sounded, quieter that time.
“It sounds like a young baby.” Without caring that it was dark and abandoned, I headed through the opening to the shadowy side of the building. There were a bunch of empty boxes thrown into a haphazard pile, dirty and worn from the elements, off to the side of the club, somewhere people wouldn’t regularly walk by.
I could feel Troy behind me as I headed right for the boxes and he let out a long sigh. “Steph, it’s probably coming from someone’s car or that apartment building. Maybe a window’s open.”
I could barely hear him because the baby cried again and it was definitely coming from the boxes in front of us. My heart pounded in my chest, not ready to find what I knew I was about to. I gently moved a few of the boxes off the top, setting them behind me. After getting rid of about six of them, I heard the cry again, louder than it had been. I opened the flaps on an old Amazon box and gasped when I saw the contents.
There was a towel, probably one that had been white at one time but was now stained with blood and other fluids. The material moved slightly and I saw a tiny foot sticking out of the end.
“Troy. Call 9-1-1. Tell them we found an abandoned infant.” I didn’t stop moving as I relayed the instructions to him and reached in to pull the towel back. The baby probably would have been very red and very angry if it hadn’t had blue lips and obvious lethargy. It cried out again, the cry as powerful as it could muster. I scooped the bundle up, careful to cradle its head, and drew it to my chest. “Oh, my god,” I whispered, pulling back to look at it for a moment. I maneuvered the towel just enough to figure out that the baby was completely naked underneath and obviously a boy. He also had the signs of afterbirth matted to his hair and skin and the umbilical cord still attached, tied off with some sort of string.
I turned and looked at Troy, who had his phone to his ear.
“Tell them he’s just a few hours old and probably hypothermic.” I opened my jacket and pulled the baby to my chest, wrapping my coat around his small body. He shivered in cold and probably anger, but his cries intensified, as if he realized that someone was finally listening.
“Oh, sweet boy. You’re okay. I’ve got you.” I bounced slightly as I tried to comfort him and sighed in relief when sirens could be heard. “Help is coming. You’re going to be just fine.”
Troy shook his head frantically as we walked back out to the front of the building. “Someone just left it there?”
I nodded and waved my arm at the police car that was coming down the street. “In the garbage. In the fucking garbage.”
The police car pulled to the curb and I met the officer at the door. He glanced at the bulge in my coat before looking back to me. “You found the baby?”
“Yes.” I nodded quickly. “My name is Stephanie Gibson. I’m a caseworker with DCS. I found the baby in the boxes over there. Is an ambulance coming?”
“About two minutes out,” the officer replied. “Can you show me exactly where you found him?”
Clutching the baby tight, I walked the officer over to the box and explained to him what had happened. When the ambulance pulled up on the street, I immediately headed that way. The back doors had barely opened before I was climbing inside with the baby. “He’s just a few hours old,” I explained as I changed the position so I was cradling him.
The EMT looked at me wide-eyed before glancing to the officer. The officer looked at us both and nodded. “Go. I’ll tell the detectives to meet you at the hospital.” I looked at Troy, who also nodded with a worried look on his face. He shut the doors and the EMT pointed to the bench next to the stretcher.
“Can you sit and hold him while I do an assessment?”
I sat without responding and glanced down at the little guy. His eyes were scrunched up and he cried as hard as he could, which wasn’t that hard.
“I don’t have a rectal thermometer in here to get his core temp,” the EMT explained as he ran a temporal thermometer over the baby’s head. “This will give us an idea but won’t be entirely accurate.”
“ETA eight minutes,” the driver yelled from the front seat. “Hospital is preparing the NICU to receive the little guy.”
“Damn,” said the technician as he looked at the thermometer display. “It’s coming up just short of ninety-two degrees. It’s not exactly accurate but he’s probably hypothermic.” He grabbed a grey patient blanket and I helped him get it over the baby but all it did was make him angrier. I held him close, making all types of swishing noises as I rocked him from side to side. The technician took other vitals but my only focus was on trying to comfort the little guy.
The ambulance stopped and the doors opened immediately. I handed the baby to the EMT who passed him off to the crew waiting with an incubator. The baby was placed into the bed and wheeled away quickly.
The technician offered me his hand so I could climb out of the back of the ambulance. The second my heels hit the ground, I was digging into my clutch for my cell phone. As I walked through the hospital doors, I pressed Robin’s name and headed right for the elevator.
She answered as I was pressing the up button. “Hey, Steph.”
“Robin. I’m creating a file on an abandoned infant. Male, less than a day old.”
Robin groaned and I heard her shift on the other end of the line. “Who made the discovery and who called?”
I stepped into the elevator and squeezed my eyes shut. “Me. I found him on Seventh Street in some boxes behind that old techno club.”
I gave her the brief rundown as I stepped off the elevator on the labor and delivery floor. I tucked my phone between my shoulder and ear as I dug around in my clutch for my badge.
“I’m at the hospital now but I’ll let you know when I have a status update on him.”
“Okay,” Robin replied and I could tell she was typing furiously into her computer. “Let me know who from PPD is assigned to the case, please.”
“Will do.” I ended the call and walked up to the NICU desk. I handed the receptionist my ID badge and gave her a small smile. “Hi. I’m Stephanie Gibson with Arizona DCS.”
The receptionist nodded and returned my smile. “I recognize you from a few weeks ago. You’re here about that baby they just brought in, right?”
“Go on in. He was taken to stage two,” she said as she buzzed me into the locked ward. I accepted my ID back and thanked her before walking inside. I followed the hallway until I found the Stage Two NICU. I watched three people through the window as they hovered around the little guy. I didn’t move for the next thirty minutes and the doctor eventually came out of the side door.
“I’m Curtis Struthers, the neonatal physician. Are you from DCS?”
I nodded and shook his hand. “Stephanie Gibson. How is he?”
“Well,” he said with a sigh as he folded his arms across his chest. “His body temperature is really low so we’re trying to bring it up. He’s six pounds, six ounces, and about five hours old. I’m thinking he was only about thirty-seven or thirty-eight weeks gestation. We’re doing a full work up, including a blood panel with a toxicology report.”
“Is he going to be okay?” I tore my gaze from the doctor’s so I could look into the nursery.
“As far as I can tell, yes. Luckily his lungs are clear but we’ll keep him in some oxygen for the night just in case. They told me you found him?”
I looked back at Dr. Struthers and offered him a weak smile. “He was in a pile of old, probably mildew-riddled boxes.”
“You saved his life, Ms. Gibson.” He reached out and squeezed my shoulder. “Give us about fifteen more minutes and you can see him.”
I thanked the doctor as he walked away and pulled my phone out to press Troy’s name. He answered almost immediately.
I sighed and let my head fall to the window with a soft thunk. “Hey. I’m sorry for just leaving you in the dust like that.”
“You saved that baby, Steph,” Troy said quietly. “How is it?”
“It’s a little boy. He’s going to be okay. He’s going to need someone to bond with since his parents just left him in the trash, though. How could someone do that?”
“I don’t know, babe, but everything will work out thanks to you.”