Who's Child is This?
Who’s Child Is This?
Mr. Lewis loaded the last of his luggage into his Saturn when his three year old daughter came running out.
“I’m ready, Daddy!” She jumped up and down making her red pigtails bounce.
“Okay.” He came around lifted her in the car and fastened her into the special child safety seat. He went around and shut the trunk. Just as he was about get into the car himself, his wife came out of the house holding a casserole dish.
“You almost forgot this,” Mrs. Lewis called. “If you forgot my chocolate soufflé your father will never let me hear the end of it.”
“You’re the best, baby. What would I ever do without you?” Mr. Lewis gave his wife a kiss.
“Have fun. Bye, honey,” Mrs. Lewis called to her daughter. “I love you.”
“Bye-bye, Mommy,” the little girl answered. They waved happily until the car was out of view.
Mrs. Lewis let out a long sigh. With her husband and daughter gone for the weekend, she could have some time to herself and get the much needed chores out of the way. She wouldn’t have to worry about keeping an eye on a precocious three year old.
She folded and put away the laundry, did the dishes, which been sitting in the sink for two days and swept and mopped the kitchen floor. She had planned to dust, do the vacuuming and clean the bathrooms later. She heated up some eggrolls for dinner. She was the only one in her family who liked them and she didn’t get them very often. After dinner, she sipped a cup of herbal tea while watching a romantic comedy. It was midnight and she was getting ready for bed, when the telephone rang.
“Who would be calling at this hour?” she wondered. She remembered her husband hadn’t called to let her know they had arrived at his parents’ house. She figured they had started talking and lost track of the time.
Little did Mrs. Lewis know when she picked up the phone and said; “Hello?” her whole life would change forever in a split second.
Four years later…
Erin Fuller loved the park. First, they would stop at a roadside market and pick up some fruit and vegetables. They would have a picnic lunch and her mother would push her on the swings. Her father would kick around the soccer ball. They would walk along the lake and feed the ducks. Fresh air and sunshine was good for anyone. Before they headed home, Erin would get a slushy.
Today was no different. She swung on the swings, kicked the soccer ball and walked around the lake. Candace Fuller stood watching her daughter get in line and order a lime slushy. Erin turned around and took a long sip, just as two men wearing gray hooded sweatshirts jumped out of the bushes and tried to grab her. Erin screamed and dropped her slushy, spilling it on the man wearing a red baseball cap. He let go of her and the two of them ran off when they saw her parents coming. Candace picked Erin up and started running the other way, while Mr. Fuller took off after the men. But they had gotten away. The only thing Mr. Fuller saw was a gray van driving away.
Emily Pascal gave an exasperation sigh. She had just spilled hot chocolate on her desk as well as herself. A light brown stain appeared on her lavender button down shirt. She got some paper towels and started blotting her shirt, but it only made the stain worse. She was a detective of the Hartford Police Department in Connecticut.
“Pascal,” the captain snapped his fingers to get her attention. “Singer needs you. Possible kidnapping case. Conference room four.” Then he walked out.
“Good morning to you, too,” Emily muttered. The captain wasn’t big on pleasantries.
Dillon Singer had been her partner for five years now. They had participated in the DARE program at the local junior high schools. Cruiser and Max, two of the K9 officers had also participated. They knew the dogs would help keep the kids interested and attention.
Emily would walk around and demonstrate how Max could execute certain commands. Dillon would point out if the kids listened closely, they would hear Max’s commands weren’t in English…they were in German.
“If I’m dealing with a suspect and I’m telling him to get down, I don’t want the dog to lie down,” Emily explained. “The second reason is just so the average person can’t tell Max what to do, not that he would listen to them anyway. But it would be a distraction to the dog.”
Then Dillon and another officer would demonstrate how Cruiser could apprehend a suspect. Especially if he thinks the suspect is going to hurt his partner. First, Dillon would show the kids Cruiser and the other officer were good friends. Then the officer would put on a protective sleeve. Dillon told Cruiser to sit and stay. Dillon would circle around the officer like he would do a criminal. Though he never got between the suspect and Cruiser.
“Why?” asked one of the kids.
“Because I don’t want to get bit in the behind,” Dillon would respond and some of the kids would giggle.
Then the suspect would take a swing at Dillon and Cruiser would rush in and clamp down on the protective sleeve and hang on until Dillon gave him the release command. After this demonstration was complete they would show Cruiser and the officer were still good friends.
Dillon was sitting in the conference room with a man, a woman and a little girl maybe seven years old. The man had a stern expression on his face. The woman had dark hair and her gray eyes were frightened. The little girl was as timid as a mouse and didn’t make a sound. Dillon got up from the table.
“This is my partner Detective Pascal. And this,” he gestured toward the couple, “is John and Candace Fuller and their daughter, Erin.” Dillon’s eyes motioned to Emily. He wanted her to take Erin out of the room while he talked to her parents. There was no need to scare the little girl any more than she was already.
“Hi, Erin. My name is Emily. How about if we go get a soda while my friend and your parents talk?”
Erin glanced over at her mother. “It’s okay, honey,” Candace replied. “Go with the nice police officer.”
Emily took Erin down the hall to the vending machines. Even though she had strawberry blonde hair, Erin was wearing a denim jumper with a pink blouse and a pink sweater.
“Is pink your favorite color?”
“Mine, too,” Emily answered even though pink was one of her least favorite colors. Being a fair skinned, blonde, Emily was more of a blue person. “Erin is a very pretty name.” Emily had noticed a silver ID bracelet on Erin’s left wrist. “That’s a pretty bracelet. Can I see it?” Emily tried to keep her tone light and friendly.
When Erin held her wrist up, Emily also saw it was medical ID bracelet. Erin had type II juvenile diabetes.
Back in the conference room, Dillon was questioning the Fullers.
“Has anyone ever made any threats toward you or your daughter?”
“Not that I can think of,” John replied.
“Does anyone hold a grudge against you? A co-worker maybe?”
“No. We try and get along with everybody. What are you trying to imply? You think I had something to do with my own daughter’s kidnapping?” John was starting to get defensive.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Dillon apologized.
“Some dirt bag just tried to kidnap my daughter. I’m not upset. I’m furious.”
“Can you tell me anything about the two men?”
“One was wearing red baseball cap. They both had gray hooded sweatshirts. Medium height, medium build. I didn’t see their faces.”
“I would like to question Erin. She might have seen their faces.”
“Do you really have to?” Candace finally spoke. “Hasn’t she been through enough?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see any other way. Do you know how many people wear baseball caps and hooded sweatshirts? Hundreds, maybe thousands. It doesn’t give us much to go on. We don’t even have a definite motive.” Dillon explained. “You will be right here with her.”
“They drove a gray van,” John tried again.
“Still, not much to go on.”
“Well, okay” Candace reluctantly agreed.
When Emily brought Erin back to the room, Dillon bent down so he was eye level with her.
“Erin, can you tell me anything about the men who tried to grab you? Did you see their faces?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Try and think. What color eyes did they have? Did they have beard or a mustache?”
“I don’t know.”
Candace tried to go to her daughter, but her husband held her back.
“If we showed you some pictures would you be able to remember?”
For the next hour, Emily and Dillon showed Erin some mug shots of criminals who were already on file. Erin just kept shaking her head no.
“There is one more thing we can do,” Dillon said. “If they tried to kidnap Erin once, they will most likely try it again. Only this time, we will be ready for them. Then if we put them in a line up it may jog Erin’s memory.”
“What do you want us to do?” John asked.
“I’m going to drive her to and from school until you catch the creep,” Candace said.
“No,” Dillon said. “Changing your routine isn’t going to help. Trust me. It will be easier and quicker this way.”
“We will have police officers cover every vantage point,” Emily cut in. “They will be wearing street clothes so you won’t be able to tell where they are, but they’re there. I’ve been involved in many of these kinds of stake outs. They are 90 percent successful.”
A couple of days later everything or rather everyone was in place. They sat in a parked car across from the Fuller’s house. They walked along the opposite sides of the street checking passing cars and the pedestrians nearby. They wrote in notebooks jotting down who, what, where and when. They pretended to drop something beside the car. As they leaned down to pick it up they inspected the undersides of the vehicles. Most people would look at a BMW or a Jaguar not a rusty Honda Accord. If the Fuller’s left, they would let a truck and two more cars pass before they pulled out into traffic. Others were at a local deli across the street from the elementary school; others were buying newspapers or looking through magazines on the street corner. There was even one portraying an old man sitting on a bench at the bus stop. They all wore ear pieces so they could communicate with each other. They were very good at their job.
Emily decided there would be no better time to talk to the children in Erin’s class about strangers.
“Okay, everyone.” The teacher clapped her hands. “We have a special guest with us today. This is Ms. Pascal. She is a police officer. Can you say good morning?”
“Good morning, Ms. Pascal,” the class answered in unison.
“Good morning, kids,” Emily replied and smiled. “I am here today to talk to you about something very important. Do you know what a stranger is?”
“Someone that you don’t know,” one little girl answered. “My daddy is a cop.”
“Well then I know you know what a stranger is. But some people don’t. Now, something we never ever do is…talk to a stranger. Let’s all say that together.”
“We never talk to a stranger.”
“What about kids? Can we talk to kids?” asked one little boy.
“Yes. Kids are okay. But we never want to open the door to a stranger or take anything from a stranger because….” Emily held a hand up to her ear.
“We never talk to a stranger!”
The next day Emily was back in the car with Dillon on the stake out. She sighed.
“You’re not already bored, are you?” Dillon teased.
These stake outs could take a very long time. It might be days or even weeks before something happened. Especially if the kidnappers decided to wait or refine their strategy before trying again.
“It’s just the anticipation of waiting. I hate waiting,” Emily answered as she sipped on her coffee.
“Just part of the job,” Dillon replied.
“I know. And in the end when we know Erin is safe, it will all be worth it.” Even though neither Dillon nor Emily had any children of their own, when the case involved a child, it made their blood boil. Especially a sweet little girl like Erin who wouldn’t hurt a flea. There were a lot of perverts out there.
Luckily, they didn’t have to wait very long. Two days later, they saw a gray van parked along the side of the rode across from the elementary school. It was unlikely the kidnappers would try the same place twice. Dillon spoke to another team to get in position. They didn’t want to scare off a potential suspect. Team 2 discreetly positioned themselves in front of the van while Dillon and Emily approached from the rear. They wanted to catch the kidnappers off guard. Emily inched along the side of the van while Dillon hung back. She drew her gun and swung around and pointed it in the driver’s face.
“Freeze! Get out of the van. Keep your hands where I can see them.”
Just then a man wearing a red baseball cap was approaching the van holding two sandwiches in his hands. When he saw Dillon, he dropped the sandwiches and took off running. Seeing how Emily had everything under control, Dillon took off after the other man.
“Now put your hands on the van,” Emily turned her attention back to the other man. She put her forearm across the man’s back pinning him to the hood of the van.
“Look,” the man sputtered. “You have this all wrong. Ryan and I, we are private investigators. In my back pocket, I have ID to prove it.”
Emily reached down and took out the man’s wallet.
“I’m going to take that personal in a minute,” the man jokingly replied. With that remark, Emily jabbed her elbow right between the man’s shoulder blades.
“Jeez, lady. We’re on the same side here.”
“Funny, but I don’t go around trying to kidnap little girls. Now you and I are going to take a nice ride downtown.” Just as she handcuffed the man, Dillon came back with the man in the red baseball cap who was also handcuffed.
“So did he tell you they were private investigators?” Dillon asked after putting the two men in the cruiser.
“You think they could come up with better cover story than that.”
“I don’t know,” Emily said. “Their ID’s look pretty authentic.”
When they arrived back at headquarters, Dillon gave the ID’s to forensics. They were going to run the ID’s through the computer to see of the two men really were who they said they were. Dillon and Emily joined Erin and her parents.
“Now, Erin,” Dillon said. “We are going to have some people come in and stand in a line. I want you to tell us if you recognize any of them.”
“Won’t they be mad at me?”
“Why would they be mad?”
“Because they would get in trouble.”
“You know what, this window is magic. Do you like magic?”
“Let me show you something,” Dillon picked up Erin and carried her over to the room next door. He showed her how the two way mirror worked. All the people who were on this side of the mirror wouldn’t be able to see the people on the other side. When they were back on the other side, Dillon waved his hand to have them bring in the line-up. All the suspects took their positions. Then Erin started whimpering.
“He scares me.”
“Which one scares you?” asked Emily
“That one. Number four.”
“Are you sure?”
Erin nodded then wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck in a fierce hug.
“Thank you, Erin. You have been a big help,” Dillon said. He patted her back.
After the Fuller’s left, Emily and Dillon received the results of the ID test. The test had come back positive. The two men, named Joe and Ryan, were indeed licensed private investigators.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Emily said. “Why would two private investigators want to kidnap a little girl?”
“You got me,” Dillon responded. “I guess we will have to ask them.”
In the interrogation room, Emily stood in the back corner with her arms crossed. Dillon circled Joe and Ryan and banged his fists on the metal table before asking them a question. Putting the fear of God in the suspects was Dillon’s forte.
“Look, man, we were just trying to do our job,” Joe said.
“You job involves kidnapping which you know is a crime?”
“We were hired to take the little girl.”
“Who hired you?”
“Sorry, that’s confidential.”
“If we promised to grant you immunity,” Emily spoke up. “And not press charges would you tell us?”
Joe and Ryan looked at Dillon. He nodded in agreement.
“Her name is Harper Lewis.”
Harper Lewis lived at 1512 Oakhurst Street. Emily and Dillon showed up promptly at 9:30am. They hoped they were about to get some answers. Everything would be sorted out and they could consider this case closed.
A woman in her mid-30 with strawberry blonde hair answered the door.
“Harper Lewis?” Dillon asked.
“Yes?” the woman answered.
Dillon and Emily flashed their badges. “We’d like to ask you a few questions. May we come in?”
“Of course.” The woman didn’t act the least bit surprised they were here. Not exactly the response of suspected kidnapper. “Can I offer you something to drink?”
“No, thank you,” Emily answered.
“Look," Dillon started. “The reason we’re here…”
“Yes, I know. It’s about Bridget.”
“Who?” asked Emily.
“The little girl. Her name is Bridget, but you probably know her as Erin. Joe and Ryan told me.”
“So you admit you hired private investigators to kidnap Erin?”
“Bridget,” Harper corrected them. “Of course. It’s not kidnapping when you take your own child.” Emily and Dillon both looked at each other. “That’s right,” Harper said. “Bridget’s my daughter.”
“I think you had better start from the beginning,” Dillon sighed as he and Emily sat down on the couch. It appeared they were going to be here for a while.
“About four years ago when Bridget was just three years old, she and her father went to visit his parents for the weekend,” Harper began.
She recalled the phone call she had received that fateful night. Her husband and daughter had been in a fatal car accident. Her husband had been killed on impact and the car had burst into flames. It was only logical to assume the child had also been killed.
“But they never found a body,” Harper pointed out. “Do you two believe in fate?”
Emily and Dillon just shrugged.
“I always knew Bridget was still alive.”
“Maybe Erin…” Emily began.
“Whatever. Couldn’t it be just a coincidence? Maybe they just look alike.”
Harper got up off the loveseat and took two pictures off the mantel. She handed them to Emily and Dillon.
“Here is the last picture I have of Bridget. She was three. I had a friend of mine age the photo. This is what she would look like now.”
Even though the aged photo was grainy, the resemblance between the two children was uncanny. Could this woman be telling the truth? Could Erin/Bridget really be her daughter?
“What happened after the accident?” Dillon asked.
“I filed a missing persons report,” Harper replied. “They did an investigation, but never found any evidence. They probably just thought I was a grief stricken young widow who hadn’t come to terms with her child’s death yet. I knew in my heart Bridget was still out there somewhere. Anyway they dismissed the case.”
“Why did you hire the private investigators?” Emily asked.
“They were the only ones who would listen to me. Let me show you something.”
Harper led Emily and Dillon back the hallway. She opened a bedroom and they followed her inside. The room appeared to be a little girl’s room. The walls were painted lavender. A canopy bed with a white comforter sprinkled with little purple flowers was next to the window. The name Bridget was spelled above the dresser in white letters. A small desk and chair were in the other corner. The closet was filled with clothes. This was not a room for a three year old. Usually when a parent loses a child, they keep their room exactly the way it was when the child died as sort of a shrine. This room was for a seven year old.
“I changed this room every year so it would be appropriate when she came back,” Harper said.
“What’s this?” Emily picked up a picture.
“Oh, that’s our beach house. We used to take weekend trips there. Bridget always loved it there.” Harper smiled at the memory. Dillon opened his mouth, but Harper cut him off. “Do you have any children, Officer?”
Emily shook her head.
“Then I wouldn’t expect you to understand. Whether you believe me or not, that child is my Bridget. And I’ll prove it.”
“I think we had better talk to the Fuller’s, Emily murmured to Dillon. Dillon agreed.
“We’ll be in touch,” Dillon said to Harper. “Thank you for your time.”
“It all just has to be a misunderstanding,” Emily said as they walked back to the car. “It’s the only logical explanation.”
“Even so logic must give way to genetics. You know what they say: If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains however improbably must be the truth.”
“Are you actually implying Erin really could be Harper’s daughter?”
“No, but I have to consider all the options.”
“I see where you are coming from. Do you think if Erin really is Bridget, she might not remember the car accident? It was very traumatic.”
“I’m not a psychiatrist,” Dillon answered. “I think we are jumping the gun. We need to talk to the Fuller’s first and then we will go from there.”
A few days later, Dillon and Emily revealed their findings to the Fuller’s.
“Who does this woman think she is? What kind of a lunatic would think her daughter is still alive? And why did she have to choose my daughter?” John shouted.
“My heart goes out to her of course,” Candace replied. “I can’t imagine the pain she must have been through losing her daughter and her husband. My worry is she might expose Erin to danger.”
“Would you be willing to meet with Mrs. Lewis?” Emily asked. “Talk to her? Hear her side of the story?”
“I have nothing to say to that woman. You should have her committed,” John replied harshly.
“Dear,” Candace placed a hand on her husband’s arm. “Maybe we should listen to what they have to say.”
“Thank you,” Emily said. “I was actually directing the question to you, Mrs. Fuller.”
“If you were to talk to Harper, you know, woman-to-woman, mother-to-mother, she might be willing to listen.”
“And if she’s not? From what you told me she doesn’t seem to be very rational.”
“Then we will have to move to plan B. Start by asking her questions only a mother would know.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes. I just want this to be over with.” Candace agreed.
“Are you sure you want to go this way?” Dillon whispered.
“Do you have any better idea?”
“Not really, but I’d feel better if I could be there.”
“Dillon, please let me do this my way. I am a woman and I know how the female brain works.”
Harper was more than happy to meet with Candace. She was just as determined to prove the child was indeed her daughter. Emily had requested them both bring birth certificates.
For the first couple of minutes the two women just stared at one another as if they were sizing each other up. Harper was the first to speak.
“You and your husband both have dark hair and Bridget…”
“Let’s try and refrain from using the child’s name,” Emily interjected. She didn’t want either woman to feel attacked as if it had already been decided who the child belonged to.
“The little girl,” Harper revised her statement, “has strawberry blonde hair. So do I. How do you explain that?”
“My mother and sister both have red hair,” Candace replied not missing a beat.
“She has blue eyes. You and your husband both have brown eyes. Do your mother and sister have blues eyes, too? It is very unlikely for two brown eyed parents to have a blue eyed daughter.”
“I’ll admit it is uncommon, but not impossible.”
Harper and Candace continued to fire questions back and forth to each other. When the child had a bad dream or was scared of the dark, she liked to be sung to. Her favorite stories were the ones by Beatrix Potter. Her favorite movie was The Jungle Book, her favorite food was macaroni and cheese; her favorite color was pink.
“What little girl doesn’t like pink?” Harper replied. “Every child likes macaroni and cheese. None of this is conclusive.”
Emily looked over the birth certificates while keeping an ear on the conversation. She didn’t want to intervene unless it got out of control. She wanted them to get everything out in the open. Bridget Kathleen Lewis was born on April 12th and Erin Elise Fuller was born on April 26th, two weeks later.
“My daughter has juvenile diabetes. Did yours?” Candace asked.
Emily thought, “Here’s the kicker.”
“As a matter in fact, yes. She did. You can’t tell me that is just a mere coincidence,’ Harper replied.
“Then how do you explain it?”
“Simple. Because the child is mine.”
“I gave birth to her!”
Emily could see this wasn’t going to get anywhere. Both women had convincing answers to every question. Neither one of them was going to give in. Then something caught Emily’s eye. Both children had been conceived by in vitro-fertilization. Now that was too similar.
“I hate to break up this little love fest,” Emily said sarcastically. “But I have a question. Would you mind telling me how each of your children were conceived? Candace?”
“My husband has a low sperm count. So we decided to try in vitro.”
“Harper?” Emily asked.
“My husband and I also tried for a while, but the tests always came back negative. We weren’t comfortable with the idea of a surrogate. The doctor suggested we try in vitro as well. I gave myself hormone injections and my eggs were harvested and combined with my husband’s sperm then planted in my uterus…”
“I know how in vitro works,” Emily cut in.
“We tried it quite a few times, but I still hadn’t been able to conceive. Finally, we decided we would try it one more time and if it failed, then we would just look into adopting or maybe being foster parents. A month later, I was pregnant with Bridget.”
“Who was your doctor?” Emily questioned.
“Dr. Childress,” Harper replied.
“Wait a minute,” Candace interrupted. “Dr. Randy Childress?”
“He was my doctor, too.”
Two women went to the same clinic at the same time. The plot thickens.
The Stonehenge Fertility Clinic was around two hours away from headquarters. Emily was on her way. Dillon had been called out on a double homicide, but she didn’t want to go alone. It would look kind of fishy for a single woman to visit a fertility clinic. She had asked her friend, Rico…her gay friend, Rico, to go with her. Rico was very honest, open and comfortable with his sexuality. He was a talented actor and could play a very convincing straight man. Emily felt confident. Maybe the doctor was the key to figuring this whole thing out. They had decided not to reveal who they really were so they wouldn’t scare the doctor off before getting the information Emily needed. She found it ironic a person with the last name of Childress would specialize in fertility.
Emily was dressed in a white peasant top and a light blue gauze skirt. Rico was looking quite handsome in his tailored Armani suit. If she didn’t know him better, he might have been the kind of man she would have been attracted to. He wasn’t much taller than Emily, but he was dark and handsome.
The clinic was spread over five wooded acres and in the daylight Emily saw no expense had been spared in its design. Every inch of space suggested a world class spa. Each residence had its own outdoor spa, private garden and balcony. Inside were stone fireplaces and high-tech computer ports. The cobblestone courtyard and green lawns were completely peaceful. Two women sat in lounge chairs out by the pool. The only thing that made them different from other woman who lounged around a pool was the thermometers in their mouths.
“We try and reduce the patients stress as much as possible,” said the nurse who was giving Emily and Rico the grand tour.
“I can see that,” Emily replied.
“We definitely want to see the labs,” Rico said. “We want to make sure the conditions are safe and hygienic for the sake of our child.” He gazed loving into Emily’s eyes and put his arm around her waist and held her close. They were supposed to look like a couple who were madly in love with each other and trying to conceive a child.
“Of course,” the nurse replied. “Dr. Childress is very knowledgeable. I am sure you will find him helpful. When you’re finished, he can escort you back to the lobby.”
The nurse led them down a narrow hallway that reminded Emily of The Wizard of Oz.
“I’ll tell Dr. Childress you’re here. You can go ahead and wait in his office.”
“Safe and hygienic conditions?” Emily asked Rico after the nurse had left.
“Hey, I am responsible father-to-be. Someone paid a bundle for this setup. Making babies must be big business.”
“For this clientele at least.”
The door opened. Dr. Childress was a tall man in his mid-50s with graying hair and wire rimmed glasses. He also wore a long white doctor’s coat and a stethoscope around his neck.
“Sorry, I’m late. My last appointment hit a snag. So you are Mr. and Mrs. Lopez, I take it?” They shook hands. “Please have a seat.”
“I really appreciate you seeing us on such short notice,” Emily said.
“Of course. I always say nine months is long enough to wait.”
“This sure is fine place you have here, “Rico gazed around the room.
“Thank you. We make a point to have the best equipment and the finest staff available.”
“My wife and I are willing to pay for the very best.”
“Then you have come to the right place,” Dr. Childress replied proudly. “Shall we begin?”
Rico reached over and took Emily’s hand.
“We really want to have a baby, “Rico said. “My wife would be an amazing mother.”
“Well you wouldn’t make such a bad father yourself,” Emily played along.
“Thanks, baby, but unfortunately, I am sterile.”
“I see,” Dr. Childress replied. “I usually tell the couples to go home and make love after the procedure. It helps them feel more at peace if the procedure is a success.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Rico said slyly.
Emily smiled and pretended to be bashful.
“How did you hear about the clinic?”
“My friends Candace Fuller and Harper Lewis told us about it.” Emily hoped by mentioning the names might jog the doctor’s memory. “They came here around the same time.”
“I take it their procedures were a success?”
“Oh, yes,” Emily smiled. “They said if it hadn’t been for you, they wouldn’t have the beautiful children they have today.”
Dr. Childress was trying to be modest, but it was clear he was enjoying the praise. He opened one of the desk drawers and took out some forms. “I ask all couples to fill out an application first. Then we usually ask for a specimen from the husband, but seeing you are sterile, Mr. Lopez, we can skip over that particular part. However, your wife will have to undergo a physical examine.”
Emily and Rico quickly looked through the forms. They all seemed to be legitimate…names, ages, weights, medical history and so on. The last form was different.
“What’s this one for?” Emily asked.
“As you probably already know, Mrs. Lopez, we need more than one egg from you. We plant more than one fertilized egg in the uterus. It gives us a better chance of success. Just because an egg has been fertilized doesn’t always mean it will attach itself to the uterine wall. Sometimes it just becomes reabsorbed. If it works the first time around, this form gives us consent to use the rest of your eggs for other couples where the female does not have or cannot produce her own eggs. Just like donor sperm we also have donor eggs. I believe in couples helping other couples who are in a similar situation.”
“I see,” Emily replied. “Thank you for your time. I think my husband and I will need to discuss this more, just the two of us before we continue.”
“Of course,” Dr. Childress replied. “Take all the time you need.”
Emily filled Dillon in with this new evidence.
“Do you think Harper signed one of those forms?” Emily asked.
“I suppose she could have,” Dillon said.
“Then maybe her eggs got mixed in with Candace’s eggs and Harper’s was the one that worked.”
“It’s a long shot, but anything is possible.”
“It’s a probably hypothesis, but I need those records to prove it.”
“You know the doctor won’t give those up voluntarily.”
They decided to confront Harper before going back to the clinic.
“I most certainly did not sign any consent form whatsoever!” Harper was completely insulted. “I only had six of my eggs harvested and they implanted four of them. The doctor ought to be arrested for stealing my last two eggs.”
“Would you be willing to have a DNA test?” Emily asked. Even with the medical records, it still wouldn’t prove who’s child it was. There were so many similarities between the two children a DNA test might be able to help sort them out.
“Whatever,” Harper waved her hand.
“I still don’t believe Erin and Bridget are the same child,” Emily said.
“Could they be twins and were separated at birth?” Dillon asked.
“No, not twins, but they could be sisters if what I suspect is true. Maybe we should have gone with the DNA test in the first place. It would have saved us a lot of time and trouble.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. You went with your instincts.” Dillon patted her on the shoulder.
Emily went storming into the station just as the captain was coming out of his office.
“Get me a warrant,” Emily said. “I need those medical records.” And walked out.
After a lot of persuasion on Emily and Dillon’s part, the Fuller’s finally gave in and agreed to a DNA test. Emily was usually more enthusiastic when a case was getting close to being solved, but this one was different. No matter what the DNA test results were, one woman was going to be devastated. A manila envelope lay in the center of the table in the conference room. No one wanted to be the one to open it. They all felt it would be easier if a non-bias third party read the results. The captain volunteered. He felt it was his duty as head of the police department. As he opened the envelope, everyone in the room held their breath. The Fuller’s clung tightly to each other’s hand.
“The child’s DNA and Mrs. Lewis’s are almost identical. There is no doubt Harper Lewis is this child’s biological mother.”
“I knew it. See, I told you my daughter was still alive. This proves it!” Harper jumped up from the table.
“But how can that be?” asked a shell shocked Candace. “I gave birth to her!”
“If you let me finish,” the captain continued. “According to the reports, Mrs. Lewis’s daughter died in a car accident almost four years ago. An 18 wheeler carrying a gas tank collided with the car. There was nothing left. So even though this is Mrs. Lewis’s biological child, she is not the same child who died.”
“Well, I don’t care,” Harper said. “Okay so she’s not Bridget, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s still my child. And I want her.”
“Isn’t there something we can do?” asked John. “Like get a restraining order?”
“You can’t keep me away from my own child.” Harper stood up and walked out leaving the Fuller’s speechless. The look of loss on their faces was almost more than Emily could stand.
“You know this will have to go through the courts, “Emily replied gently.
“If Harper’s egg was implanted in my wife does it mean I might not be Erin’s biological father?” John asked.
“No,” Emily answered. “These kinds of mix up cases are very rare.”
“But somehow it happened to us.”
“So if John is Erin’s father and Harper is her…mother,” Candace almost had to force the word out. “What does that make me? Am I nothing?”
“Or course not. You are her birth mother. “
“Do you want us to tell Erin?” Dillon asked.
“No,” John replied. “She is still our daughter.”
“We will try and explain it to her,” Candace decided.
The court date had been scheduled three weeks form the day the DNA results were revealed. The child was allowed to remain with the Fuller’s until then. It would be up to the judge which parents/parent the child would go home with. They had requested a female judge. It was Emily’s hope maybe a female would be more sympathetic and compassionate about a case involving a child.
Three days before the trial, the police department received a call from the elementary school. Emily and Dillon arrived on the scene at the same as the Fuller’s.
“We went on a field trip to the Museum of Natural History,” the teacher said. “Erin was in line when we got ready to leave. But when I did a final head count on the bus, she wasn’t there. I asked the security guard and he said Erin had left with her mother.”
Emily and Dillon looked at each other. “Harper,” they both said in unison. They should have seen this coming. Since the DNA test proved the child was Harper’s, there was no way she was going to stay away even after she was told it was in her best interest to keep her distance until the court date.
They went straight to Harper’s house. It appeared they were too late. The house was empty. Emily noticed some of the clothes from the child’s room were missing. Harper had been planning this for a while.
“I wouldn’t have a clue to where she would have taken Erin,” Dillon replied with a sigh flopping down on the couch. They didn’t even have a possible lead.
Emily walked over to the coffee table and pick up the picture on it. She was just trying to do something, anything to fill the awkward silence of defeat. She turned the picture over in her hand.
“Oh my gosh.”
“I know where they are,” Emily said.
“You do? Where?” Dillon sat up. Emily showed him the picture. “The beach house?”
“Remember when we first met Harper? She said her daughter always loved it there.”
A whole team of officers, including Dillon and Emily, stormed the beach house. Two of the officers took Harper into custody. The other officers searched the rest of the house. Emily opened the door to an upstairs room. There was Erin sitting on the couch across from a small TV set. The neon lights of a cartoon flashed across the screen. A little suitcase was in the corner along with some Barbie dolls and stuffed animals.
“Erin! I found her,” Emily called out.
“Emily,” Erin answered. There was relief in her voice. “She was there waiting for me.”
“Why did you go with her in the first place?”
“She said she was going to take me to my mommy. But when we got here, Mommy wasn’t here.”
“Well everything’s okay now. You’re safe. “She took Erin’s hand. “Let’s go see your mommy and daddy.”
“You mean they still want me?”
“Of course they do, sweetie. Why wouldn’t they?”
“Harper said they didn’t want me anymore because I didn’t come from Mommy’s tummy.”
The Fuller’s as well as Emily and Dillon thought Harper should be charged with kidnapping and child endangerment. But since it didn’t appear she had mistreated the child in anyway and the child was biologically hers, so both of the charges were dropped. It would be up to the courts to decide.
On court day, Emily was pacing the hall. She knew today the case would be closed. But not knowing how the judge would rule was nagging at the pit of her stomach. If the judge ruled in Harper’s favor then it was better for Harper. If the judge ruled in favor of the Fuller’s then it was better for Erin. In Emily’s mind it was a no brainer. Biological mother or not, shouldn’t both mothers want to do what was best for the child?
Dr. Childress was first on the stand.
“Do you remember either one of the women?” the lawyer asked.
“I see hundreds of thousands of patients every year. How do you expect me to remember a certain one?”
“Did you steal Harper Lewis eggs?”
“It is not stealing if she signed the consent form.”
The lawyer retrieved the folder which contained Harper’s medical records.
“Is this the form she signed?”
“He’s lying!’ Harper jumped up. “I never signed any such form.”
“Please control your witness,” the judge warned Harper’s lawyer.
“Look,” Dr. Childress said. “All I do is help couples who can’t have children, have children. Last time I checked it wasn’t considered a crime. You have eyes. Mrs. Lewis’s signature is on the form. That’s all I need. What else was I supposed to think?”
When it was Harper’s turn to take the stand, the lawyer showed her the same consent form.
“Did you sign this form giving Dr. Childress permission to use your eggs?”
“Absolutely not,” Harper strongly stated.
“Is this your signature?”
“How do you explain it then?”
“It has to be a very convincing forgery by someone who had a sample of my handwriting…like the doctor. He’s the one who should be on trial here, not me.”
“Don’t you worry about Dr. Childress. The FBI will handle him.”
The FBI was going to launch an investigation of its own on the clinic itself. To make sure all the procedures were legal and legitimate.
Being the lead officers in the case, it was standard procedure for Dillon and Emily to give testimony as well as the doctor who had administered the DNA test. Finally, it was time for the child to take the stand.
“Erin, do you see the person who took you from the museum?” the lawyer asked.
“Can you point to her?” Erin did and the lawyer said, “Let the record show the witness has identified Harper Lewis. What did you do at Harper’s house?”
“Do you like Harper?”
“She’s okay. Can I go home now?”
“I just have a couple more questions,” the lawyer said. “Did your parents tell you who Harper is?”
“Yes. She’s my egg mommy.”
“What does that mean?”
“They took me out of Harper’s tummy and put me in Mommy’s tummy. I want my mommy,” Erin’s voice was quavering.
“There she is.” The lawyer pointed to Harper.
“No, I want my mommy. I want my mommy.”
“She’s your real mommy. You came from her tummy.”
“I don’t want her. I want my mommy. I want my daddy.” Erin was crying now. Big tears ran down her face. “I want to go home.”
Finally, Harper couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Stop it! Just stop it, please. Stop.” Harper raised her voice so she could be heard over the child’s sobs.
The judged dismissed the child from the stand. Erin flew right passed Harper and straight into Candace’s arms. After she had calmed down, Erin stole a tentative look at Harper.
“I’m sorry, Erin. I’m so sorry. I won’t bother you again. Please don’t cry.”
“Well,” the judge spoke up. “It seems we have reached a verdict. Court dismissed.” She banged her gavel.
“The wisdom of Solomon,” Emily leaned over and whispered to Dillon as the rest of the people filed out of the courtroom.
“What do you mean?”
“Solomon had a similar dilemma. Two women in his village claimed the same baby to be theirs. Solomon decided he would cut the baby in half so each woman could have part of the child. But in the end the true mother told Solomon to let the other woman have the baby. Only the real mother would do something like that. Harper couldn’t stand to see Erin cry. Her maternal instincts took over. She let the Fuller’s keep the child. All any mother wants is for her child to be happy.”
As it turned out, Harper didn’t just have six of her eggs harvested, she had sixteen. The doctor must have kept her remaining eggs from her prier attempts. Whether she knew it or not, Emily and Dillon didn’t know.
“So Harper could have more kids out there somewhere?” Emily asked.
“It appears that way,” Dillon answered. “Dr. Childress is going to have some explaining to do.”
“Even though it’s impossible to know who he gave Harper’s remaining eggs to. Harper could have a child in Tim Buck Two for all we know.”
Harper had lost the battle, but not the war. Deep down inside, both of them knew, they hadn’t seen the last of Harper Lewis.