A Hidden Secret

A Hidden Secret by Linda Castillo Read Free Book Online

Book: A Hidden Secret by Linda Castillo Read Free Book Online
Authors: Linda Castillo
tonight. But if she is Baby Doe’s mother—and I suspect she is—I wanted her to know that while the situation is serious, the repercussions may not be as dire as she’d anticipated.
    Rising, I extend my hand to Dr. Atherton. “Thank you for your time.”
    “Thanks for the update, Chief Burkholder.”
    I smile at Chloe and offer my hand. “Good luck in Phoenix.”
    “Thanks,” she mutters.
    But her hand is cold and limp within mine.
    *   *   *
    After a long day, I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with Tomasetti at the farm, but thoughts of Baby Doe have been tugging at my brain all day; a little hand reaching out and touching me with tiny, soft fingertips. I know she’s being well cared for at the hospital. Still, the thought of her being brought into the world, unwanted and abandoned, plucks at my heartstrings. Since the hospital is on my way home, I opt to make a quick stop to see how she’s doing.
    It’s fully dark when I park adjacent to the ER entrance and make my way to the nursery. The ward is brightly lit, cheery, and bustling with activity. I see new mothers and fathers in homey birthing rooms as I pass. The mewling cries of newborns as they’re taken to and from the nursery.
    I’m on my way to the nurse’s station when I spot the RN who was on duty when I brought in Baby Doe. She spots me and smiles. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to stay away.”
    I smile back. “I thought I’d stop in to see how she’s doing.”
    “I was just heading that way for a peek if you’d like to walk with me.” Her practical shoes squeak against the floor as we walk to the nursery. “She’s got a lot of fans here at the hospital.”
    “The police station, too.”
    “I hear the chief is particularly fond.” Another hearty grin. “To tell you the truth, we’re having a tough time keeping our hands off her. There’s just something about her.” She lowers her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Just between us, I think she’s the cutest baby on the floor.”
    We’re chuckling as we make our way to the viewing window. Inside, a dozen clear plastic bassinettes are arranged in three rows. There are six newborns; three girls tightly swathed and wearing pink knit hats and three boys, their little heads snugged in blue hats. Each infant has a name tag and a number affixed to their bassinette. Baby Doe is nearest the viewing window, a pale little face nestled in a yellow blanket. I get a twinge in my chest when I see that she’s the only baby without a name, just a number.
    “It’s usually a little more crowded in there, but most of our babies are with mom at the moment,” she tells me. “We encourage all our new moms to keep their newborns in their rooms while they’re here, and send the babies to the nursery only when they want to sleep or take a shower.”
    For several minutes we stand outside the glass, watching the babies. Some are sleeping. Others are awake and looking around. The infant farthest from us is red faced and crying his heart out. I think of the new mothers and fathers standing here to ooh and ahh , and the babies being taken to mom’s room for nursing and coddling, and it makes me sad that there’s no one to do any of those things for Baby Doe.
    “How is she doing?” I ask.
    “She’s eating and healthy. Once they find a foster home for her, she’ll be ready to leave the hospital.”
    I make a mental note to contact the social worker first thing in the morning to find out what the status is on Baby Doe’s foster family.
    “This must be the happiest floor in the hospital,” I say.
    “Isn’t that the truth? Who doesn’t love babies?”
    The question, intended to be flippant, makes me think of my own life. I feel like an outsider here. A foreigner looking into a world to which I don’t belong—a world to which I may never belong. A part of me has always believed that having children is something other women do, a ritual other families partake in. I don’t

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