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Jane's Baby
 

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Jane's Baby


  Copyright by Chris Bauer June 2018

  All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, magnetic, and photographic including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher. No patent liability is assumed with respect to the use of the information contained herein. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  ISBN-13: 978-1-940758-77-0 Paperback

  ISBN-13: 978-1-940758-78-7 E-Pub

  ISBN-13: 978-1-940758-79-4 Mobi

  Cover design by: Rae Monet

  Published by:

  Intrigue Publishing

  11505 Cherry Tree Crossing RD #148

  Cheltenham, MD 20623-9998

  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

  These are the folks who provided input, feedback, suggestions, chastisement, ass-whoopings, encouragement, and shoulders to cry on while I readied the manuscript for public consumption. Thanks to you all. My family (wife Terry Bauer, daughters Jenn Helenbauer Soliah and Jill Bauer Reese). My literary agent Jessica Faust, President, Bookends LLC. It took a few rewrites for us to determine what wasn’t working, Jessica; by process of elimination and sheer doggedness, I’m hopeful I/we finally got it right. The iconic, wonderful Ms. Buffy Sainte-Marie, singer-songwriter, musician, composer, artist, pacifist, social activist, whose feedback helped me resurrect a fond, tender memory and elevate it “up where (it) belong(s).” Jeffrey Toobin, whose The Nine kept me riveted on the real-life workings of the U.S. Supreme Court. Melanie Rigney, editor. Anything that doesn’t work here is not Melanie’s fault. Lyle Sankey, Sankey Rodeo Schools. “Quinn” at Throwflame.com. The stable of rich writing and critiquing talent that wanders into and out my writing life in Bucks County, PA, and other Philly environs: Don Swaim, Daniel Dorian, Jim Brennan, Jackie Nash, Alan Shils, Bill Donahue, Natalie Dyen, Beverly Black, Kevin Knabe, Bob Cohen, Bill O’Toole, Candace Barrett, Martha Holland, Jim Kempner, Wil Kirk, Stephen Buerkle, John Schoffstall, Fran Nadel, Lindsey Allingham, Cathy Hilliard. Also, from the much hallowed Rebel Writers of Bucks County: author/agent Marie Lamba, author/agent Damian McNicholl, Jeanne Denault, Russ Allen, Dave Jarret, John Wirebach. Alan Grayce (the talented writing team of Al Sirois and Grace Paredes Marcus Sirois). Author Kelly Jameson, who somewhere, somehow, influenced something about my protagonist. Kelly Linko, who suffers through reading all my stuff in its early stages. The Facebook Military Working Dogs community. Travis Pennington, among the first in the publishing industry who saw the merits of this manuscript. Multi-talented musician, songwriter, folksinger, author and all around gentleperson Tracy Grammer. Austin Camacho and Denise Camacho of Intrigue Publishing, who took a chance at publishing this beast.

  To the women who struggle with making these decisions

  PROLOGUE

  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 final, ridof-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 outside a Shreveport, Louisiana Starbucks, a long way from home for the both of them. A bail-jumping pedophile. 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.

  Semper Fi.

  ONE

  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 m
uch 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.”

  TWO

  Thirty-one years later

  September 2016

  Desoto, Texas

  T. Larinda Jordan stepped inside Shiloh Southwood Tabernacle United, a white stucco one-story church that pastor Darlington Beckner had led for the last thirty years. The locals called the church “Shoebox Methodist” because of its low, rectangular stature, with no steeple, only a small cross nailed to the wall above the front door. Larinda wasn’t local and wasn’t Methodist. She’d been raised an Oklahoma Catholic. One time not too long ago she’d been a cloistered nun. She entered the morning church service late, and she intended to leave early.

  Larinda slipped into the last row of folding chairs, joining two other patrons. She was going for invisible in a high-necked white blouse and an eggshell white skirt of respectable length with embroidered white flowers. A short, unbuttoned denim jacket hid her toned, athletic upper torso. Flats lessened her height, makeup lessened her freckles, transitions lenses suggested dull gray eyes, and a blonde ponytail sold her as a college undergrad, reducing her age by ten years. The only thing difficult to hide was her bandaged left palm; the scabbing itched. A light fingertip massage provided relief until she was able to will the discomfort away.

  She mouthed the words of the hymn in progress because she knew them, but she didn’t sing. She scanned the congregation. It was mostly Native American parishioners, many elderly, a few children, all dressed in light jackets, sweaters or pullovers, geared to ward off the autumn chill. But she cared little about the parishioners; her focus was the church’s pastor, now at the podium. A white male in his seventies, thin and vulture-like with a hunched back and a black comb-over, his eyes were a radiant light blue, their sparkle noticeable even at this distance. His hands rested flat on the lectern as he delivered a reading from the New Testament.

  He matched the picture they’d given her.

  A boy two rows ahead, a fidgeting pre-teen, scanned the congregation. Larinda lowered her head and tucked her face into a hymnal to blend in. After a moment she risked a peek to find him staring at her, his look judgmental, effeminate, with batting eyelashes. His mother whispered to him until he faced forward. The mother left behind a self-conscious smile for Larinda as an apology.

  This was the kind of kid who saw more than he let on. The mother or the son or both could be a problem, but she wouldn’t worry about that now.

  Larinda waited in the church parking lot in a forest green, older model Ford Explorer, her binoculars raised. The midafternoon sun heated the car, forcing her to remove her jacket. Visible through the church’s barred windows, Pastor Darlington Beckner flipped through hymnals in a sparsely furnished sunlit anteroom behind the altar, smoothing out the rabbit-eared pages, straightening the piles. This was taking longer than she’d expected. Regardless, she would not sully the sanctity of a church.

  Pastor Beckner hobbled to the door on aged legs. He exited the anteroom, her binoculars following his progress down the center aisle on his way to the back of the church now empty of parishioners. Window to window, pew to pew, she had an unobstructed view of the small church’s interior because there was no stained glass. He reached the vestibule at the church’s entrance.

  The Bible passage he’d read at the morning service had stayed with her, as had his grandfatherly demeanor while he delivered it. Matthew 19:14: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me.’” The passage was a sign that this was right and just.

  A dirt parking lot separated the church’s entrance from her SUV. Shoebox Methodist was a repurposed municipal building, the stucco exterior whitewashed but not adequately, some fluorescent colored graffiti showing through. Rust stains dripped from the corners of its ancient iron window frames. One other car was in the lot, a late model Dodge sedan. The pastor exited the church, pulled the heavy front metal door closed behind him, making sure it latched. He paused, lifted his face skyward, breathed in the sunlit September air.

  Old age and the recent passing of his wife had softened Pastor Beckner’s conservative leanings, The Faithful had explained to her. He was now on the wrong path. His recent actions said he’d lost his own gospel, and this made him dangerous. The timing wasn’t a coincidence. A new Texas law now forced women to view an ultrasound of their fetuses before they were allowed to have legal abortions. Planned Parenthood appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. In two weeks, on the first Monday in October, the new Supreme Court term would begin, and the Texas case Babineau v Turbin would be argued. If The Faithful had anything to say about it, the Court would validate the original Texas decision, and this validation would eventually be used to leverage overturning the 1973 Roe v Wade decision in its entirety. The Court’s opinion was in the process of being reshaped, considering the recent confirmation of a new Supreme Court associate justice.

  For the past thirty years The Faithful had followed Darlington Beckner’s every move. He’d never tried to contact anyone of political, municipal or jurisprudence consequence in all that time. Not the liberal politicians, not the police, not the media. His marriage was dead back then. Over time it resurrected itself to become rock solid. And if he’d felt the urge to confess to his wife his one and only extramarital transgression, The Faithful was fairly sure he hadn’t done so. He’d been a good Christian, and they’d seen nothing that merited his elimination. Until now.

  His wife’s passing had been sudden. With it, apparently, came a need for him to divulge his miscarriage of duty when he was county adoption agency director. His sin.

  His first misstep had been to contact the FBI. The Faithful had the reach and the resources to know these things. His second misstep was booking tomorrow’s flight to D.C., where they expected him to fess up to his dereliction, his betrayal of the peoples’ trust
: he’d provided stolen information, from records sealed by law, about a certain closed adoption.

  The Faithful had explained this to Larinda without volunteering other specifics about their agenda, to provide the context she needed to understand that if his confession reached the wrong people, it would be a bad thing. Pastor Beckner was now a new threat to the war on the unborn, a war that was close to being won. Eliminating him would neutralize this threat. Exactly how and where he fit into this equation, Larinda didn’t need to know, and the good Christian that she was, she hadn’t pressed them on it.

  The Faithful. Her confidants and spiritual guides for most of her life in Texas, composed of ministers, town elders, captains of industry, televangelists, congressmen, and a senator. They were also her clandestine employers, on a contract-by-contract basis. Their text message to her that morning: “C.H.: Your new penance is to fix this. The Lord be with you.”

  C.H. “Church Hammer.” Larinda’s handle. She was a soldier, a righter of other people’s wrongs, in the name of Jesus Christ.

  The pastor unlocked his car. She waited until he climbed inside. The mess would stay contained that way.

  “Pastor Beckner,” she called, approaching his car on foot, her dimples accenting her warm smile. “Hello! A moment of your time, please.” Her smile widened as she speed-walked her way closer.

  He powered his car window down, her smile contagious. “Of course, miss. What can I help you with?”

  At ten paces from the car she raised her arm, ready to shake his hand. Traffic coasted by on the street next to the lot. He made eye contact, was still smiling. He reached his hand through the window to clasp hers. At three paces the small ballistic knife strapped to her wrist inside her denim jacket sleeve ejected from its compressed air sheath with a quiet thokkk, the short blade entering his neck above his Adam’s apple like an arrow, severing his vocal chords. He gripped his throat, a gurgling crimson leak springing from his neck and gushing through his fingers onto the steering wheel and windshield, asphyxiating him in his own blood. She clapped his shoulder like an old friend and scanned the empty parking lot for inquiring eyes, satisfied there were no witnesses. She removed the knife from his neck and wiped the blade on his shirt.

 
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