In the middle of the night nine year old Jessica lay in bed listening to the sounds outside. Sister Anna had told her several times to keep the window closed at night. Jessica would wait till the lights were out and all was quiet, then get up and open her window, pressing her nose against the screen so she could see the street better. There were eight beds in the girls dormitory and Jessica was close to one of the four windows.
Jessica was the oldest of the girls in this dorm and the only one who had been there all her life. She thought she must have been an ugly baby to not have been adopted early. She was small for her age, slender with dark red hair that had its own mind even though she faithfully brushed it good every morning and night. Even the barretts she put in did not keep her unruly hair in place. And she had freckles. No one likes freckles, she often thought. Yet she was a stunning looking little girl with large green eyes. People fell in love with her at first sight, but she held back from them. She was very withdrawn and did not want to be adopted. She loved her home here in the orphanage and was afraid to even go outside for fear of getting lost. Kevin was the only person she would go outside with. He was a huge man, well to Jessica he was huge, for she was so small. And Kevin was a detective, which in Jessica’s eyes, was the same as Superman. Detectives and cowboys were heroes to Jessica.
Sometimes during the day Jessica would stand at the window with elbows on the sill, gazing at the big house across the street. A lot of people lived there and she liked to watch them as they sat on the porch or walked around the yard. One of those people seemed very strange to Jessica, not because of his looks, but his habits.
She started watching him a day ago because he wore a cowboy hat and boots. He must have just moved in because she never saw him before yesterday. Her feelings about him were a mixture of curiosity and sadness. He was always alone and looked sad. Sometimes he would stand out in the yard and gaze at the orphanage for a long time. He liked to pull one of the long dry grasses from the garden, break it in smaller pieces and chew on one end as he just watched the orphanage, just standing there with his thumbs hooked in back pockets. He was tall as Kevin, but more slender. Jessica would start twisting her ring around when she watched him. She wore the ring on a long ribbon around her neck and had the habit of slipping her finger in the ring when she was thinking hard on something.
Nine Years Earlier ~
Jessica had been found on the steps of the Catholic Orphanage one spring morning. She was just a few hours old, wrapped in a pink blanket, the only item of comfort, and placed in a basket. The security guard saw the basket on his last round of the night and took the babe in to Elda, the Matron on duty, who called the infants ward.
As Elda watched, the baby was examined by the Registered Nurse for any health concerns. The baby was bathed, dressed, fed and placed in a crib in the nursery by one of the ward assistants. Elda then called Detective Berkley at the police station, who came over and wrote down all the details needed to begin an investigation. Wearing plastic gloves he carefully inspected the basket, the blanket Jessica had been wrapped in and a ring box found in a corner under the blanket. The box had a note and ring in it. “Please take care of my baby Jessica.” The writing was hard to read because it was more like scribbling than writing. “So, you are baby Jessica,” he said when Elda took him to the nursery to see the baby. He gently touched her little chin as she lay sleeping soundly and fell in love with her.
Detective Berkley ~
Kevin Berkley worked in the Department of Abandoned, Missing and Exploited Children. He was thirty-nine and this was his tenth year in the department. He had received offers of promotion to other sections of the detective division, but always refused. He liked his job and was dedicated to helping children. He had been abandoned himself at the age of two. He was found in a motel room by a housekeeper. From there he was taken to the Catholic Orphanage. The investigation went on for two years and finally became a cold case due to no evidence or persons of interest found. He was adopted at the age of four. He grew up never knowing his birth parents. For this reason he did all he could to help children.
Kevin was on the Varsity Team of his high school, the friend and envy of all the other players, and a heart-throb to all the girls. He was 6’2″ tall and had a strong, muscular physique. Although he dated a lot, he never had a special sweetheart and never married. By the time he graduated he knew that he wanted to be a detective and that was his only real goal in life.
The first thing Kevin did to investigate Jessica’s case was to trace the basket to where it might have been purchased. He visited several local stores and had no tips. Then he found one garden shop where similar baskets were sold. The owner of the store told him it was one of their baskets, but was very old, so it would be impossible to know who purchased it. The next item was the blanket and that could not be traced, for it was hand crocheted. The ring was another matter.
The Ring ~
Kevin was lucky with the ring. The first jewelry store he visited had a ring just like the one found in Jessica’s basket. The sales woman told him the ring was only sold in a matching pair, a woman’s and a man’s. Kevin asked if she had sold any other sets like it. “No, this is the only other pair we have.” Kevin studied both rings. The sales lady said she remembered the young couple who purchased the rings because they were both so remarkable. The woman was petite, had large green eyes, freckles and a mass of long curly dark red hair which was rather unruly, but pretty. The man was tall, probably about 5’9″ or 10 and slender with wavy black hair, quite handsome, and had a small purplish blotch on his right cheek that looked like a birth mark. They both had a heart and rose tattoo on their left hands. On impulse, Kevin bought the rings.
In the middle of the night Kevin awoke with the rings on his mind. He lay there thinking about the description of the young couple, especially the woman. He decided to check on missing persons when he got to work in the morning. For some unexplainable reason to him at the time he decided to wear the man’s ring.
Kevin got the phone call just after lunch the next day. “Kevin, Andy here. I got just got your message about the young woman with long red hair. I have been out since early this morning on investigation. The woman was found over in the woods behind the orphanage. It appears she bled to death, maybe from a miscarriage. We will know more after the coroner’s report.”
Late the same day, Andy accompanied Kevin to the morgue where they got permission to view the young woman. When Kevin asked the attendant if he could see the left hand, he was not surprised to see a heart and rose tattoo. He asked for a copy of a picture just from the shoulders up, which showed her beautiful hair. Coroner’s report stated “death from internal complications and bleeding after giving birth, with added complications from pnuemonia.” There were no signs of physical abuse. Her dragging foot tracks and scattered blood spots were traced back to the front steps of the orphanage.
Kevin had checked earlier with forensics. There was one fairly clear set of prints on the note. When he and Andy compared them to the prints the morgue had taken, they matched. The middle finger had a deep scar that crossed the print. The finger prints were run through the local, county, state and finally national archives and no matches were found. Baby Jessica’s mother was buried with the name Jane Doe and her case number engraved on a stone plaque.
A classified ad with descriptions of the couple ran in all newspapers in the county for any information on Jane Doe and the man who was with her in the jewelry store. There was only one call on possible identifications.
© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns
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