From the Toronto Star, Saturday, February 14, 1983
Two-day-old Cassidy Jane Lefevre was stolen from Gracefield Hospital, snatched from the nursery between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. The hospital is cooperating with the official investigation. Cassidy’s parents, Bottle-Up magnates Gina and Daniel Lefevre, are devastated at the loss of their first child. Five million dollars is offered for the return of their baby. There are no suspects but there are a few people of interest, including a missing nurse.
In the past year, four newborns have been abducted from hospitals in Quebec and Ontario. Is there a black market?
Mary scanned the rest of the five-month-old article. It sounded so ugly. Some people were so desperate for a baby they didn’t know where else to turn. Kids deserved parents who’d love them, not keep them as prizes. Rich people were all the same.
“Excuse me. Would you like something to eat or drink?”
Mary looked blankly at the stewardess. “Something to drink…oh…no. No. I’m fine, thank you.” Mary folded the clipping and stuffed it in the brown envelope she’d propped beside her hip, shuffling the baby to her other arm.
“She sure is cute.” Smiling, the stewardess tilted her head, opened her mouth and clicked her tongue.
“Well, thank you. I think she is too. She’s a beauty. My best…g-grandchild yet.” Mary looked down at the baby sleeping in her arms, then back at the stewardess. She beamed at her. “Aren’t you just the sweetest thing to say so. Thank you. It means a lot when others notice what I think is true.”
“What’s her name?”
Mary’s hand shook as she patted her carefully coiffed, dull gray hair. Her scalp itched, but she didn’t dare scratch. The wig would no doubt shift, so she restrained herself, glad the charade was almost over. “C-candy.”
“How about you? Do you have kids?”
“Oh, that’s a shame. Why, I bet you’d be the best mom ever. It would sure be the cutest tyke, too. You with your blonde hair and blue eyes.”
“Thanks.” She grinned at Mary before shifting her gaze to wink at the baby. “Sorry, but I’ve got to keep moving. Excuse me.”
The stewardess’ eyes darted from Mary to the man beside her. Mary leaned on the armrest between them, closing the distance. His head whipped around to stare at her, his shoulder bumping her cheek. She smiled indulgently at him before shaking her head and shrugging her shoulders. The stewardess nodded in acknowledgement, rolling her eyes as if saying, “men.”
Mary took a deep calming breath, reminding herself that this was almost over.
As soon as the attendant moved off, asking others what they wanted, Mary sat upright. She looked around; her gaze met a pair of blinking, owlish green eyes, partially hidden by streaky lenses that looked thick as the bottom of a Coke bottle. She pursed her lips as she frowned at her seatmate. He nervously pushed up his glasses before sticking his nose into the stack of papers in his hand. Rooting through the pages scattered over his tray and the empty seat beside him, he was soon oblivious to her.
Mary had been tempted to ask him to scoot over so she’d have more space for the baby but was glad she hadn’t. Better that people think they’re together. She almost reached out and rubbed the smudge of makeup she’d left on the shoulder of his blue shirt. Absently, she gently patted her hand over her face, hoping that the wrinkles that had taken hours to make hadn’t been disturbed. Her pale face powder felt a bit creased, just like it was supposed to. She relaxed a tad.
Mary shifted the baby to the side so she could reach under the seat in front of her. The infant cried out. “Hold on.” She snagged the diaper bag and stuffed the paper inside. “All right. All right. Do you have to wake up screaming all the time? Cripes, you’re worse than…my… youngest ever was. And man, could she scream.” She stifled a groan at her near-mistake. She’d be so glad when this pretend stuff was over. She grabbed the pacifier and plopped it into the baby’s mouth, who gave a mulish look before starting to suck on the rubber stopper with the suction of a vacuum.
The plane jerked — hard. Mary clutched the baby to her chest as she whipped her head around, trying to see what was going on. The man beside her dropped his chest onto the tray table, arms splayed wide, securing all his paperwork. He tilted his head and his bulging green eyes met her glance.
The voice came over the speaker. “We’re experiencing some turbulence. Everyone please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts.”
Mary looked out the window. Gray clouds, low-hanging and heavily laden, filled her view. Lightning streaked by, followed by a loud rumble. The plane jerked and shuddered.
Passengers screamed and shouted. The stewardesses flung out instructions as they raced down the aisle, checking on everyone. “Please remain calm. We’re going through some rough weather. Stay seated and ensure your seatbelts are secure. Put your tray tables in the upright position.” The instructions were thrown out so fast they were almost incomprehensible.
More booming and cracking shook the plane like it was having a grand mal seizure. The aircraft dropped, nose down. They were descending. Rapidly…too rapidly. The stewardesses swayed and scrabbled, grabbing seats, staggering as they pulled themselves down the aisle heading to strap themselves in. The plane bucked. People screamed.
Mary slammed forward, smacking her head on the seat in front of her. The baby shrieked with terror. Mary forced herself back, glancing at the infant in her arms. “Shh, baby. Shhh. We’ll be all right.”
Papers flew around like frantic birds despite her seatmate’s attempt to catch and hold them. Ignoring him, she looked out the window. The sky was a blur of ominous black lit up to a gun-metal grey every now and then by a flash of lightning. She wasn’t sure what dropping out of the sky looked like but she figured this was it. It reminded her of a ride at the fair, where the floor fell out from under her as she’d spun around in a drum. She’d taken that ride only once, and only because she’d been teased into it. And the ride had been hell. She’d puked her guts out when she’d gotten off. Now, the lurching of her stomach gave her the same sensation. She swallowed hard.
The grubby, green-eyed passenger turned and regarded her with a solemn gaze. “We’re going to die.” Another had started to pray. Everyone seemed to realize what Mary was.
“I’m going to go to hell. I know it.” Mary hugged the baby to her chest. “But you don’t have to go with me. I made a promise that I’d look after you. And I will.” She grabbed the diaper bag, unzipped it and threw its contents onto the floor. She stuffed the screaming infant into it.
“Give me your blanket and pillow.” Mary elbowed the man beside her.
He tilted his head sideways.
“Give me your blanket and pillow.”
He blinked and continued to stare at her blankly.
“Give me one of your books!”
He jerked upright and grabbed one of his manuals from the seat on the other side of him, clutching it like a treasure.
She ripped it out of his hands. He looked at her owlishly for a few seconds before again collapsing protectively over his papers, still spread over the lowered tray table.
She looked down, and tear-filled blue eyes blinked up at her. The baby’s bottom lip was trembling. In the five months Mary had the baby she’d never before felt a tug in her heart. Amazed at what fear would do to her, she shook off the feeling and tucked the screaming baby into the diaper bag. She hugged it close against her well-padded belly, glad that she was carrying some extra protection her taut stomach couldn’t provide. She curled herself around the crying infant and held the hard-cover book in front, providing the most protection she could. Her arms were rigid, the muscles screaming in protest as she held on, as though a tornado was trying to tug the baby away from her.
“Mother of God, I hope you can hear me. I know it’s been forever since we talked. But what’s twenty-eight years between friends? I know I was supposed to on many occasions but I didn’t figure you were there for me when I needed you, so why bother.” Fear crawled up her throat, choking her. She coughed. “This is different. I know I’ve taken the wrong path. Many times. But please don’t hurt this baby. She’s innocent. Something I haven’t been in a long time. Don’t hold that against her. Take me, keep her safe. She might actually have a chance to be something.”
Screaming. Yelling. Fear. Anger. The dashing of hopes and dreams. Prayers filled the cabin. The lights flickered. The engines howled. Thunder boomed and lightning cracked. The plane shivered violently.
“Holy Mother of God. Holy Mother of God. Holy Mother of God.” Mary chanted over and over. She wanted to say a prayer but couldn’t remember any, even though she’d been forced to spend hours locked in a small room to recite prayers. The nuns had been convinced that was the only way she’d learn, yet none of it came back to her.
Mary kept her head tucked, refusing to let in to the temptation to peek out her window. She didn’t want to see ground rapidly rushing up to meet them. “John. I’m sorry, big brother. I screwed up. Again. This is my fault.”
The baby screamed, and Mary vainly tried to comfort her.
And then everything went black.
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