SPOTLIGHT! - Jane's Baby
By Chris Bauer
Publisher: Intrigue Publishing
Publication Date: June 1, 2018
Whatever happened to Jane Roe's baby? Norma McCorvey, of Caddo-Comanche heritage, did not terminate the pregnancy that led her to become the anonymous plaintiff of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court women's rights case Roe v Wade because in 1971, when the motion was first argued, abortion in the U.S. was illegal. The Jane Roe real-life child would now be a woman in her late forties, the potential of her polarizing celebrity unknown to her. A religious rights splinter group has blackmailed its way into learning the identity of the Roe baby, the product of a closed adoption. To what end, only a new Supreme Court case will reveal. Tourette's-afflicted K9 bounty hunter Judge Drury, a Marine, stands in the way of the splinter group's attempt at stacking the Supreme Court via blackmail, murder, arson, sleight of hand, and secret identities.
I want the boy institutionalized, Judge’s father told his mother. Try it, his mother said, and I will leave you.
His father, a U.S. senator, decided on a different approach: the Marine Corps.
When Judge left for boot camp, they didn’t hug, didn’t shake hands. There was no imparting of keen insights or wisdom, no fatherly advice. His father made one simple, finally-rid-of-your-fucking-afflicted-existence comment that came directly from his black heart: They’ll either kill you or cure you.
His father would have been satisfied either way.
Judge’s affliction had embarrassed them on the grandest of stages: Nixon’s second inauguration, when Judge was fourteen. When he turned nineteen, his senator father wrote the letter. The president said yes, he’d make his enlistment happen. A senator had this access, the Commander-In-Chief this power.
That was thirty-eight years ago.
Kill you or cure you.
Judge waited for his bounty, a bail-jumping pedophile, outside a Shreveport, Louisiana Starbucks, a long way from home for the both of them. Judge sat in the van, smooth-talking his K9 deputies, waiting for the guy to exit, wanting, praying the guy would run…
Judge had proved his father wrong. The Marines proved his father wrong. Win-win.
His father died knowing this. His father died horribly. Win-win.
Judge had Tourette’s. There was no cure, but they had an arrangement, this affliction and him. Win.
His full name, Judge Terrence Drury. USMC rank at retirement, Gunnery Sergeant. His current profession, bounty hunter.
June 1985, Hotel Indigo Ballroom, South Dallas, Texas
Difficult beginnings, U.S. Senator Mildred Folsom knew from her experience, often shaped a child’s worldview in ways that remained unrecognized far into adulthood. Ways that were permanently unhealthy, that could stunt a child’s emotional maturity and hinder her from becoming a responsible, God-fearing, conservative adult. It wasn’t much different today, the senator told her audience, than it was twenty-five years ago, when she herself was still in the system. A small lamp on the podium illuminated the senator’s speech, the light reflecting onto her face, her platinum hair.
“Many displaced children, if they age out un-adopted, will forever feel hungry and alone,” the Texas senator said. She was the last speaker for the evening, her speech a voice-over for a slideshow that to this point had only shown images of proud parents with their smiling adopted children.
The tone of the slides changed. The images shifted, became interspersed with pictures of twentieth-century group home despair. Children in dignified poses but with no individuality, at attention at the foot of their beds, lost and frightened, or in foster home kitchens seated stiffly upright, their adult caregivers smiling but the children rigid, with severe faces.
“Many, regardless of their achievements as adults, will feel colder than you in winter, or uncomfortably warmer than you in summer. Many will feel sick their entire lives. And many children…”
Three hundred moneyed Texan benefactors were in attendance at the senator’s fundraiser for the agency. By the end of the slideshow she expected their eyes to be moist, and their noses to be sniffling. Her voice caught in her throat. She tapped the podium lightly and pursed her lips, both meant to pull her out of some maudlin personal memory the audience was expected to conjure up for themselves.
She was good at this. She had them.
“… so many children will feel perpetually unloved, perpetually unlovable. I’m sure our guests of honor have all had similar feelings on some level. But their adoptions, and mine, served to mitigate them, and our adoptive parents rescued us either from well-intentioned shelters, the foster care merry-go-round, or from much more compromising situations, and paved the way for us to realize our potential as productive citizens. Generous folks like you have helped defray the costs of adoption allowing state and county adoption agencies to provide homes for children so deserving of them. Please give with your hearts tonight, ladies and gentlemen. Your honorees and I are proof that your gifts can and do make a difference. Thank you, and may God bless you.”
A round of applause erupted for the four guests of honor, all women: a heart surgeon, a homemaking mother-of-three, a kindergarten teacher, and a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, all assembled for the black-tie event by this popular first-term U.S. senator. After her speech the senator worked the gathering, on the stump as much for her campaign as she was for agency donations. She pulled aside Darlington Beckner, the local county adoption agency’s director, who
was also a practicing minister. She had him light her cigarette.
“How do you like your new pen, Pastor Beckner?”
He patted his vest pocket. In it was a diamond-encrusted Montblanc, a gift from the senator’s pro-life campaign contributors, inscribed with his initials and the group’s slogan: Let them live, and we will help them thrive.
“I like it very much, Senator. Thank you.”
She clinked her drink glass with his. “I’ve been told someone wants to thank you personally for all your hard work this year, Pastor.”
“How wonderful. Who?”
“I don’t have any details. The hotel concierge will be along in a minute to fill you in. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
Upstairs in one of the hotel’s luxury suites Mitzi, fundraiser honoree number four, the alleged former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, was performing an act that Pastor Darlington Beckner knew broke at least one Commandment and countless other Bible admonishments. Influential religious leader, community organizer and adoption agency head, the forty-two-year-old devoted father of four was going through a tough stretch, his wife estranged, a divorce in the offing. Mitzi, naked from the waist up, was thanking the hell out of him. Seated on the edge of the bed, his tux pants off and out of the way, he had a close-up view of her bobbing head, her hair a soft, ash blonde, just like the hair of his lovely wife. At best, Mitzi had been a Cowboy cheerleader from the early seventies. At worst, she’d been a Cowboy cheerleader never, more likely a high-priced whore who filled out the formal gown nicely. Against his better judgment, a judgment significantly more impaired than it was an hour ago, Darlington had succumbed to the temptation and was along for the ride. Just a few more seconds—
The closet doors burst open; Mitzi didn’t flinch. Two cameras flashed, then the photographers behind the cameras spilled out from their hiding place. Darlington recoiled, Mitzi disengaged herself. She pulled up the top of her gown and stood to leave.
“They want a name, Reverend,” Mitzi said. “An adoptee who came through one of the county’s agencies. She’d be about fifteen now. Someone will be in touch.”
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“The thing I write will be the thing I write.” Chris wouldn’t trade his northeast Philadelphia upbringing of street sports played on blacktop and concrete, fistfights, brick and stone row houses, and twelve years of well-intentioned Catholic school discipline for a Philadelphia minute (think New York minute but more fickle and less forgiving). He’s had lengthy stops as an adult in Michigan and Connecticut, thinks Pittsburgh is a great city even though some of his fictional characters don’t, and now lives in Doylestown, PA. He’s married, the father of two, is a grandfather, still does all his own stunts, and he once passed for Chip Douglas of My Three Sons TV fame on a Wildwood, NJ boardwalk. As C.G. Bauer he’s also the author of Scars on the Face of God, an EPIC Awards runner-up for best in 2010 eBook horror, and the editor of the Crappy Shorts short story collections.
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