Authors: Peter Lerangis
Case File: 1449
Name: Baby 5
First contact: 40.08.19
HE IS BORN.
At the cold. The light. The pain.
No retreat now. No comfort.
A pair of hands lifts her. Wraps her in a blanket.
“We did it,” whispers a deep voice. “Again.”
She turns to the sound. Tries to focus on a face.
A door opens.
She moves. Sheltered by the arms.
Her screams fade to whimpers.
She goes limp.
When she awakens, the arms are carrying her through a shaft of blazing white.
“Did the mother leave a note?” asks a voice. Different. Softer. Higher.
“No.” The deep one. The one that makes her rumble.
“Look at the resemblance. It must be the same mother.”
“Have you notified the ICU, Dr. Rudin?”
“Would you get the paperwork started for the adoption process?”
“Same agency as the last?”
“Please hurry. I need your help.”
“What shall I tell your daughter?”
“Tell her I’ll be another couple of hours.” Words. Rhythms. Gentle. Yes. “Please have somebody order her dinner.”
Motion. Speed. Sleep.
Before leaving Dr. Black, Julia Rudin adjusts the sleeping infant’s head. Briskly but delicately. In midstride.
On the back of the baby’s neck she spots a red arrow-shaped birthmark. The same as the other foundling—how long ago? A year?
As Dr. Black barges through the ICU door, the child’s face is peaceful. Trusting.
Dr. Rudin turns away and walks to a small waiting room. There, a twelve-year-old girl reads a magazine.
“Sorry, Whitney,” the young doctor begins. “Sort of bad news. Your dad told me—?
The girl puts down the magazine and looks up. “Eve,” she says.
“That’s the baby’s name. Eve.”
“How do you know?”
Whitney smiles. And shrugs.
As the girl turns to pick up the magazine again, Dr. Rudin notices something on her neck.
A mark. Red and arrow-shaped.
What is he doing?
He has a plan. If it works, he’s a genius.
If it doesn’t
He’s a murderer.
OULD YOU COME INTO
the den, dear?”
Eve stopped eating.
She knew from Mommy’s tone of voice.
Nice and worried was a bad combination.
But why? Why now?
Because I need to know sometime,
Mommy and Daddy had never told her the truth about where she came from; they didn’t want to admit it, but
knew, oh, yes she did, it was OBVIOUS, because she didn’t
like them—not in person, not in pictures, not the slightest bit—and just because she was only six years old didn’t mean she was
“Eve, darling? Did you hear me?” her mom called again.
Eve tried to answer, but no sound came out.
I can’t go in there.
But she had to.
had to. Or Mommy would get mad.
Eve closed her eyes. She reached into her brain. She could be someone else.
[Yes. That’s me.]
Caroline wasn’t afraid. She had a great big room and her parents weren’t allowed in. She was smart and strong and
[I don’t have to go inside until I want to!]
Eve looked up from the kitchen table. “Wait a minute! I’m eating!”
Did Mommy and Daddy yell? No sir, not at Caroline—and
they would have yelled at plain old Eve.
Eve took her time finishing. And then cleared her plate. And then found her yo-yo.
Mommy was sitting on the sofa, Daddy in the armchair. But the TV wasn’t on and they were leaning forward. Smiling.
“Have a seat, dear.”
Think. Say something. Do something.
Eve tossed back her hair and sat on the sofa.
“Sweetie…um, remember when your teacher asked everyone in the class to bring in old baby pictures?” Mommy asked.
“And you wanted to know why we didn’t have any photos from the hospital?” Daddy added.
“Or photos of Mommy pregnant?” Mommy said.
Here it comes I hate this no no no
“I’m sure you’ve been…well, expecting this—? Mommy said.
“Suspecting,” Daddy corrected gently.
“Right. The truth is, Eve, Mommy never
Crying. Mommy was beginning to cry.
I can’t hear the words I CAN’T…
And when Mommy finally said it, when the truth came out exactly the way Eve always thought it would (the
word), Caroline was history. She faded away, leaving Eve all alone. And Eve was falling, falling into a hole that had no bottom.
“We know how you must feel,” Daddy was saying.
“We love you just the same,” Mommy added. “This doesn’t change anything.”
Yes it does, it changes EVERYTHING.
She wasn’t theirs.
They got her from an
Somebody you paid money to.
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO…
Eve stood up from the sofa. She turned and walked to the bookshelf.
“Eve?” Mommy said.
NOT EVE. I CAN’T BE EVE. And not Caroline, because she ran away.
Yes. That’s who she’d be.
Alexis wouldn’t stand for this. She’d be mad. REAL mad.
[I hate them. I hate their house. HOW COULD THEY DO THIS TO ME?]
Eve wrapped her hand around a vase and pulled. With a loud smash, it hit the floor and broke into a million pieces.
Daddy leaped off his chair, but Mommy held him back.
Eve began yanking Mommy’s college books from the shelf. They made a cool swishy noise when they hit the floor with the pages open. Eve burst out laughing.
She ran into the living room. Mommy’s African violets looked so soft and perfect, all bright in the sunlight. She grabbed one of them and crushed it. Then another. The next one came out by the roots.
“Eve, stop that!” Mommy called out.
[You’re not my mommy, are you? I can do whatever I want!]
Daddy was picking up the pieces of broken pottery, on his knees, looking like he wanted to be angry but had forgotten how. “Oh, Eve,” he said.
Stop stop stop what am I doing?
And just like that, Alexis was gone, and Eve was tumbling again, falling hard.
So she thought of Danielle.
Danielle found the whole thing
Daddy on his knees, the purple flowers all crumpled like wilted lettuce.
She began to laugh. She sat on the living room sofa, doubling over.
But the moment she hit the cushions, Mommy sat next to her. And the laughing stopped.
Mommy’s eyes were wide and brimming with tears.
Danielle shouldn’t laugh. She was being so bad.
So who? Who?
Eve reached again.
Maybe Bryann. Sad, delicate Bryann.
Eve could feel the pressure welling up in her eyes.
Then Mommy leaned toward her. And hugged her. And the arms felt the same as always. Big and warm and just right. Like a mother’s.
When the tears came, they weren’t Bryann’s. Or anyone else’s.
They were Eve’s.
And she thought they’d never end.
W.G., of Bloomington, Indiana, Alzheimer’s.
Like the others.
S THE BEAST?”
Cranston gazed down the slope. “I’d call this, like, early
Eve stopped. She kept her skis pointed along the beginner trail, which crossed the Beast and wound gently through a wide wooded path.
Eve was a much better skier than Kate. Even though she was only in eighth grade, not quite fourteen yet, she practiced with the high school team and could beat some of the ninth- and tenth-graders.
a super-hard trail. But on a day like this, when the trail disappeared into the whiteness of a gathering snowstorm, and the lodge was vi
sible only as a faint cluster of lights below, slower was better.
“Uh, Kate? I need
my legs,” Eve said. “I’m hoping for another ski trip or two this winter.”
Kate didn’t take the hint. “Race you.”
“Kate, stop it—?
“Afraid you’ll lose?”
“I’ll go by myself.”
these conversations. But Kate was Kate. She
go down alone. And if anything happened to her, Eve would feel responsible.
Eve began turning downhill. “You know, this is a dumb idea.”
“On your mark…” Kate replied. “Get set…”
She shoved off.
She jigged her skis into place. Crouched.
Knees together. Body forward, over the skis. PUSH—left…right…left…
Eve gained ground fast. Kate’s movements were wild, jerky.
“WOOOOOOO!” Eve screamed.
Kate screamed back.
The whipping snow felt like sand against Eve’s face. Below her, the lodge was materializing out of the whiteness. Looming up fast.
She didn’t see the other girl coming.
Just a flash of red and yellow.
Then a crash.
Eve’s shoulders lurched sideways. Her knees twisted. She hit the slope, sending up a spray of white. Her cheeks scraped the icy surface as her skis flew off.
She stopped sliding a few yards east of the lift line.
The other girl was lying toe to toe with Eve, on her back.
Eve scrambled to her feet. No broken bones. That was a relief.
Kate skied to a stop beside them. “What was
Eve was standing over the stranger. The girl wasn’t moving. Her skin was flushed, her eyes fluttering.
“Are you okay?” Eve asked.
“Uh-huh,” the girl replied.
“She doesn’t look okay,” Kate murmured. “I’ll get some help.”
As Kate skied back toward the lodge, Eve knelt over the girl and felt her forehead. Red-hot.
The girl grimaced and tried to sit up.
“You have a fever,” Eve said. “Just stay still and wait for the ski patrol.”
“I can’t breathe.” The girl was pulling at her down coat now, trying to yank it open.
Eve cradled the girl’s head in her lap. She helped her with the zipper. “I’m Eve.”
“Tanya,” the girl said. “Where’s my mom?”
“I’m sure she’s coming. Sit tight. You’ll be okay.”
Eve looked over her shoulder. Three ski patrollers were speeding toward them, pulling a sled.
“I’m—I can’t—? Tanya’s eyes flickered shut. Her breaths were shallow and erratic. The redness was purpling.