Steve and Cassie had been in Colorado for what seemed a year. Steve had been true to his word, travelling back and forth as often as he could. As the big day loomed in Steve brought the whole family with him.
“Well,” Rudy said, “I do believe the moment has arrived. This should take some time, but don’t worry,” he assured Steve with a hand on the anxious man’s shoulder, “I’ll take good care of her.” Rudy left Steve with a reassuring smile and walked down the hall to the delivery room where Cassie had been set up.
No sooner had Rudy disappeared through the swinging doors that Steve started wearing a hole in the rug.
“Take it easy, Steve. Everything is going to be just fine,” Oscar tried to assure.
“I know. It’s just that I never imagined I could be the father of quintuplets,” Steve sighed, nervously wringing his hands.
“It’s quite a shock, isn’t it?” Oscar agreed. “The house Russ picked out is great. Plenty of room for a family of seven.”
“Yea. Mom and dad spent a considerable amount of time on the decoration these past three months. It’s remarkable.” An impromptu silence fell between the two men; one that prompted Steve to wander off to the coffee dispenser. As luck with have it the machine swallowed his money. Frustrated he began kicking it, bashing it badly before Oscar hurried over to calm his friend before he crushed the dispenser to a pile of metal.
“Take it easy, Steve. Let’s go out for a walk. Calm your nerves.”
“Yea, I guess I am a little over strung.”
“That’s an understatement.”
Oscar managed to convince Steve to follow him to a small bistro across the street to grab a bite to eat, assuring him that he’d left the coordinates at the nurses’ station in the event of any complications with the delivery.
It was nearly three hours later when the pair returned to the hospital. Oscar took a seat on the couch while Mister Basket-Case chose to resume his pacing. Minutes later, Rudy emerged from the delivery room and made his way down the hall.
“Well?” Steve asked expectantly with wide saucer eyes.
“Well Steve,” Rudy continued, wearing a broad grin, “You have five fine healthy sons,” Rudy informed. “And a beautiful daughter.”
“What?” Steve exclaimed in utter shock.
“I made a mistake. There were six. The boys were doing a great job of hiding their little sister.”
“Poor girl,” Oscar deplored, shaking his head in dismay. “Can you imagine? Five older brothers?”
“I can’t believe it! Six?” Steve raved, the reality of the moment hitting him hard. “How’s Cassie?”
“She’s fine. A bit shocked but that’s only understandable under the circumstances. She is thrilled and couldn’t stop rhapsodizing over her babies. I tell you Steve, this is the most incredible event I’ve ever been a part of, except for you, of course.”
“Can I see the babies?”
“You can see them but you can’t hold them just yet. They are very tiny and therefore they require remaining inside the incubators.”
“How long before we can take them home?” Steve asked worriedly.
“If they gain enough weight and strength, by the end of the week?”
Steve turned to Oscar with a wide beam etched on his face. “Can’t you believe it? Six?”
“Go on, Daddy!” Oscar encouraged with a slap on the back. “Go see your little miracles.”
“You’re not coming?”
“Only one person allowed in the incubation room, Steve,” Rudy informed.
“I’ll see them later. Right now they need to see their father. I’ll wait for you to give you a ride back to the house ‘cause I don’t think you’re in any condition to drive yourself.”
“I think you may be right. I’m a little shaky,” Steve offered in a nervous chuckle. He then followed Rudy down to the nursery where his bundles of joy were sleeping in incubators.
It tore at his heart to witness tiny human beings barely clinging on to life with the assistance of respirators. The sight of all these tubes going in and out of them repulsed him but he swallowed his disdain knowing it was necessary to ensure their survival. He ached to hold each one in his arms.
Following his brief visit with the babies, Steve made his way to Cassie’s room under Rudy’s warning stare. The good doctor had given him stern instructions not to disturb the weary mother who was in dire need of rest. Steve agreed to respect his wishes and sat quietly by the bed gazing at his precious wife. He marvelled at her incredible strength to bear and give birth to six babies. ‘No wonder she was moody,’ he thought.
“Hi,” she whispered feebly, eliciting a smile out of Steve who leaned closer to the bed.
“Hi yourself,” he whispered back as he gently caressed her cheek.
“Did you see the babies?” she asked while trying to pry open her drooping eyelids.
“I did. They are beautiful. You did a good job.”
“Not bad. I’d say it was a bionic feat.”
“Better than I could ever have done myself,” he said amusedly.
“We made a family of eight in one single day; that’s more than we originally planned on.”
“The more the merrier.”
“After this there is no way I’m letting you touch me again.” Steve tried hard to suppress his amusement at his wife’s statement. “I mean it, 34,” she insisted piercingly upon seeing his devilish grin. “You’re not coming near me ever again!”
“Okay. I promise I won’t for the next,” he rolled his eyes in deep concentration, “two weeks.”
Cassie shook her head in disbelief. “We’ll see if you feel the same after a week’s routine of diaper changing and night crying.”
“I can handle it. I’ve seen worse,” Steve boasted, though a doubt lingered as he began forming a mental picture of his list of chores and bills to pay in the upcoming weeks. He stood to lay a feathery kiss on his sleepy wife’s forehead. “I’ll let you rest now. I’ll be back later and together we’ll go see our little family.” She nodded weakly and surrendered to her leaden eyelids that slowly closed to a world of peaceful darkness.
In the following days Steve made frequent trips to the hospital to be with his family. Rudy and his team performed one battery of tests after the other on mother and babies alike to ensure their good health before giving them their leave.
A week after the miracle birth, the proud parents were allowed to take their sextuplets home. Little Timmy was ecstatic to be a big brother to six siblings. He felt ten feet tall at the giant responsibility that befell him.
Rudy suggested assigning one of his nurses to help with the baby chores but Steve declined the offer, stating that Cassie’s mood swings would likely scare her off the premises.
As predicted, the first night was all but a cacophony of piercing squalls. One baby’s cry would wake his siblings, setting a rolling wave of wails into motion. During the first week, Steve would happily bounce out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to change his babies’ diapers, after which he would bring one at the time to their mother for their feeding.
The lack of sleep was beginning to take its toll on the devoted father. After a few days Steve grew weary of that exhausting routine. Cassie would be the first to rouse to the sound of babies crying and shake her lazy husband out of bed.
“Alright, I going,” he mumbled sleepily, hauling his weary carcass out of bed to shuffle his way to the nursery.
“You guys and I are going to have a serious talk,” he announced to the screaming bundles in their cribs. He picked up his little girl who instantly stopped crying at the feel of her father’s touch. “You’re a nice little girl, aren’t you?” he cooed as he gently laid her down on the bed to prepare her for changing. “You want to sleep like mommy and daddy. It’s those annoying brothers of yours who are waking you up. Shame on them!” The cherub broke into a giggle at her father’s pout. She watched her father’s technique, occasionally frowning at some of his move. “You don’t trust me, do you? You’re right. I’m no expert at this time of night. You’ll learn that when you have children of your own.” He stopped and sighed. “Listen to me, I’m already marrying my daughter.” He finished the job and cradled her in his arms. “Don’t worry little girl. I’m not ready to let you go just yet.” He nuzzled her nose to elicit a giggle before bringing her to Cassie who was sitting in bed, waiting for the first feeding.
“Here you go, mommy. She’s all yours.” Steve handed the wrapped bundle to his wife who gave her the breast. “Alright guys! I’m coming!” Steve shouted down the corridor to the complaining bunch.
“I have to give your daddy credit, little girl. He is sticking to his responsibilities. But between you and me it won’t be long before he cracks and accept Rudy’s offer of an in home nurse.” She gazed at this precious angel enjoying her early breakfast. She fiddled with her tiny fingers that eventually wrapped themselves around her middle finger. “Hey you’ve got some grip there. I can tell you’re going to wrap us around your little finger, especially your father. You already have him catering to your every whims and fancies. That’s good. Keep it up. Let him know who’s boss.”
“I heard that!” Steve grumbled as he appeared in the door with the second child.
“Already changed? You’re getting to be a pro.”
“Nothing to it!” He sat next to Cassie to give her a kiss on the cheek.
“What’s that for?”
“You’re beautiful, you know that?”
Cassie threw him a suspicious frown. “What do you want?”
Steve broke into a guffaw. “35, can I give you a compliment without necessarily hiding an ulterior motive?”
“No,” she replied curtly.
“I’m hurt,” he affected with a feigned pout.
“You’ve changed your mind about that nurse, haven’t you?” Cassie could easily read the desperation etched on her husband’s face, who was obviously at the end of his wits. “I’ll call Rudy tomorrow.”
“I honestly thought I could handle it but…” his thought was cut short by a hand on his cheek.
“No human being, bionic or not, can handle six newborns on their own. We need help Blue Eyes. I’m not ashamed to admit it and neither should you.”
“Thanks Cassie,” Steve sighed heavily, relieved of a huge burden.
“You’re welcomed,” she smiled, leaning forward to claim a kiss. “Now get back to work, you still have four to go.”
Steve rolled his eyes in mocked annoyance and saluted. “Yes sir!”
Registered nurse Elizabeth Crownan showed up at the Austin house two days later. At Rudy’s recommendation she had been flown to Washington to assume her new functions as private nurse to Steve and Cassie’s children. Cassie insisted on doing the baby part while Lizzie would handle the household chores. As for Steve, he’d been called on an urgent assignment, leaving the two women alone to fend for themselves.
Cassie watched Lizzie interact with Timmy who took to her instantly. She was of a delicate nature, never rushing or panicking in the face of a crisis. Her patience was exemplary. Not only was she grateful for the extra help but also relieved to have such a devoted and caring soul in the house.
Much to Cassie’s delight Steve’s assignment was wrapped up before the end of the week. No one was happier than Timmy whose excitement could not be contained at his dad’s promise to bring him to the local fair.
Timmy rose early Saturday morning to creep into his parents’ bedroom. He climbed on the bed and began shaking his dad awake. “Come on daddy, it’s time to go. Come on”
“What?” a groggy Steve mumbled. “What is it?”
“We’re going to the fair. You promised.”
With one eye open Steve glanced at the alarm clock indicating 5:27AM. “Timmy, we still have another hour. Go back to bed.” Steve dropped his leaden head back onto the pillow to claim some extra Zs but his son wouldn’t allow it.
“Daddy, come on!” the four-year-old child whined.
“I think you’d better do what he says,” Cassie muttered from her side of the bed.
“He’s your son, all right. You raised him good, 35. He’s just like you. Stubborn and opinionated.”
“Just you wait until your sextuplets grow up. You won’t be man of the house any more.”
Steve threw his legs lazily onto the floor and put on his slippers. Her raised a hand to Timmy’s shoulder and looked him square in the eyes. “Why are you torturing me like this?”
Timmy broke into a giggle. “Daddy I’m not. It’s time to wake up.”
“Yeah maybe for you.” No sooner had he finished rubbing the sleep out of his eyes that Timmy clasped his hand and dragged him to the door where they bumped into a frantic Lizzie.
“Steve, Cassie, is Billy with you?” she panted with eyes bulging out of their sockets.
“No. Isn’t he in his crib?” Cassie asked, puzzled and concerned.
“I just went to check on the babies and he’s missing. I looked everywhere in the nursery. He’s not there.”
Cassie flung the covers aside and leapt out of bed. “My God! He has to be somewhere.”
Steve gave Cassie Timmy’s hand to hold while he went down to the nursery with Lizzie. He then hurried downstairs to check the first floor for any sign of his boy. Scanning every inch of the living room, he noticed the front door was unlocked.
“Didn’t you bolt the door last night,” Cassie asked on an accusatory tone.
“Yes I did. I even checked twice.”
“Lizzie, didn’t you hear any noise last night? Even one you thought you dreamt?” Cassie questioned bluntly, unconsciously wishing to put the blame on anyone.
“No! If I had I would have gotten straight up to check on the babies,” she countered viciously, rather appalled by Cassie’s implying tone.
“I’m sorry Lizzie, it’s just…My God Steve! My baby’s been kidnapped. Lord knows what they are going to do with…” Steve pulled her hysterical wife into his arms before she could finish the dreading thought that was on everyone’s mind. Once the crisis passed he sat her down on the sofa and grabbed the phone to call Oscar.
No later than thirty minutes later, Oscar and Rudy were at the house. While Lizzie attempted to allay the inconsolable mother’s fears the three men discussed the possibility of an enemy exacting revenge.
“I’ll have Russ comb every file on your missions and see if we can come up with a likely suspect.”
“Oscar that’ll take forever!” Steve groused, trying hard to maintain his composure.
“Do you have better idea?” Oscar asked sarcastically. “I’m listening. You don’t know who did this. Hopefully he’ll call with a ransom. That way we’ll have a better chance to nail him.”
“You know, this abduction is oddly familiar to the kidnapping spree they’ve been having up in Georgia,” Rudy said. “The authorities suspect a ring of illegal adoptions. They snatch the babies to sell to desperate parents. They called it to my attention and asked that we be wary of any unusual comings and goings at the hospital. They either abduct the babies at the hospital or later when the parents take them home.”
“So that means we’ve been watched?” Steve surmised.
“Think Steve. Did you see anything strange in your street lately? Perhaps a peculiar man or a woman who appeared to be waiting for someone?”
Steve closed his eyes to retrieve his mental files. “Can’t say that I have. My mind was on Cassie and the babies.”
“That’s understandable. Maybe something we’ll pop up. If you saw anyone, even unconsciously, you’ll remember.”
“Listen, I’ll get in touch with Lieutenant Simmons. He’s the officer in charge of the case. Or maybe Oscar you’d like to contact him?”
“Yes, I would. Maybe he can provide clues that will give us a lead.”
Timmy crept out of his room to go eavesdrop on the conversation downstairs. His little heart ached at the sight of his mother crying. He dabbed at his own tears pearling down his cheeks and slowly climbed down the stairs.
“Mommy, why are you crying?” the timid voice asked.
Cassie quickly perked herself up and strained a smile. “I’m just a bit sad, Timmy. But I’ll be okay.”
“Why are you sad? Because daddy is not taking you to the fair?”
Cassie’s tears gushed to her eyes as she pulled her innocent boy to her chest in a tight embrace. “It’s not that, son. It’s your little brother Billy. He’s not at home and no one knows where he is. I’m sad because he’s not here.”
“Where is he?”
“I wish I knew.”
“I’ll find him for you, Mommy. Me and daddy we’ll find Billy. Don’t cry. I don’t like it when you cry. It makes me sad too,” he sighed with his little bottom lip quivering.
Her heart brimmed over with pride at this little cherub willing to undertake such a task. He even succeeded in wringing a chuckle out of her. “Daddy and Uncle Oscar will find your little brother. Right now I need you to look after your other brothers and sister. You think you can do that for me? Timmy nodded, bulging out his chest with pride at the huge assignment he was entrusted with. “Good boy. Now go upstairs and see if they are all sleeping.”
“I’ll go with him,” Lizzie said, taking Timmy by the hand.
Cassie waited until the little man and his nanny were out of sight before stepping up to her husband who wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders.
“Who do you think could have taken my baby?”
“Rudy thinks it might be part of an illegal adoption ring.”
Cassie hand went to her mouth to stifle a gasp.
“I’m not sure, but the police in Georgia are on the case and have asked all doctors in the neighbouring states to keep their eyes peeled.”
“If that’s so, I’ll never see my Billy again,” Cassie cried.
“Not if I can help it,” Steve assured pulling her closer to him. He laid a kiss on her forehead and brushed back a lock of hair. “Don’t you worry, we’ll nail them.”
“I wish I could go with you.”
“You have enough to handle right here. I promise to keep you abreast of any new developments as they unfold,” Oscar pledged, clasping Cassie’s hand to give emphasis to his assurance. An acquiescing nod and a grateful squeeze of the hand was his response.
As days went by, the battle to prevent Cassie from sinking into a slough of despond became increasingly arduous for Steve as her fortitude gradually withered away. She was surrendering all hope of finding her precious Billy, knowing that he was now in the custody of adoptive parents.
She would snub her husband’s loving arms from attempting to soothe her anguish, opting to sleep with Timmy in his room instead. Sleeping with one eye open, she would leap out of bed at first sound of a moan coming from the nursery and insisted on caring for the babies herself, refusing help from Lizzie she somehow grew wary of. Steve vainly tried to reason with his distraught wife but knew better than to argue with her. He was desperate for answers, but none were forthcoming.
A month went by and still no clue that could lead to a potential arrest. In the hush of night, a shadow crept downstairs, heedful not to step on any creaky wood board that would sound the alarm. Little did it know that a second silhouette was close on its heel, concealing its identity in the shroud of darkness, peering its head slightly out to the light to prick its ears to the muffled conversation at the front door.
“I can’t do that,” the figure whispered to its nightly visitor.” I told him it’s too risky. One is enough. You wouldn’t want me to get caught? You need me.”
“They have seven children, six if you count the one we took. Surely they can spare another,” insisted the male voice.
“You’re pushing your luck. They haven’t got anything on us. You want to give them ammunitions they don’t have?”
“We need this boy. A desperate couple has offered us fifty thousand dollars for him.”
“They’ll just have to wait until I can find another nursing job.”
Cassie stifled a gasp of horror at what she just overheard. She held her hand to her mouth to suppress the vials of wrath about to spurt out as she hurried to Steve’s room.
“Steve, Steve wake up,” she whimpered hysterically, shaking her husband awake.
“Cassie,” he answered groggily, blinking to establish focus.
“It’s Lizzie. She’s the one who kidnapped our Billy.”
Steve shot into a sitting position and clasped both her trembling hands. “What? Are you sure.”
“Come with me.” She pulled at his arm. “She’s downstairs talking with someone. I overheard part of their conversation. They are talking about taking another on of our babies.” Steve shook his head in disbelief, trying to assimilate the notion that their trusted nurse could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They both padded down the stairs with Steve taking a left turn to the back door while Cassie plastered her back against the wall behind the front door.
“I’ll try to ask for a leave of absence,” Cassie heard Lizzie say to her partner in crime. “The way the woman is I don’t think I’ll get any argument from her. She won’t have me near her brood anymore. I think she’s beginning to suspect me.”
“You damn right I was.” Started by the bolt out of the blue, Lizzie swirled on her heels and gasped. Cassie grabbed her by the neck and shoved her inside. She slammed the door on the visitor she knew would soon be caught in a bionic neck grip. “So, it was you, you little…”
“Please, don’t hurt me,” Lizzie pleaded with the snarling bear stomping towards her, eyes ablaze with murderous intent. “They threatened me and my family,” she fibbed in a frantic attempt to douse the fire raring to consume her.
At the moment, Steve kicked the door open and thrust the man inside who landed on the floor with a loud thud, this momentarily diverting Cassie’s attention from Lizzie who seized the occasion to flee.
“Not so fast, MISSY!” Cassie pounced on her like a hawk on its prey, tightening her hold on her neck. “You and me are going to have a little talk.” She winked at Steve. “34, I take it you can squeeze a few information out of your friend as well?”
“You can count on me, 35.”
“And Steve, don’t kill him,” she teased, sowing the seed of dread in the man whose eyes widened in terror.
“That is if he cooperates,” Steve sneered with a malicious grin crossing his face.
“I don’t know anything. I swear,” the frightened man confessed.
“Yes, you do. I only want the name of the big honcho’s who’s pulling the strings.” Steve clenched his teeth making his veins in his neck stand out in livid ridges. “WHO?” Steve shouted pinning the man against the wall.
“All right, all right! I’ll tell you. On one condition.”
“I want a new identity or this Mafioso will have my skin.”
“And what makes you think I care?” Steve scoffed.
“Then you may as well kill me right here and now, ‘cause that’s what I’ll be if I tell you where you son is. I’ve got nothing to lose, mister,” the man ended on a sardonic tone that pricked Steve. How he wanted to wipe that smirk off the man’s face and hurl through the window, but knew he had to rein in his temper if there were to be any chance at finding his missing son.
It wasn’t long before the ring leader was apprehended and all the files confiscated to be studied. The startling discovery of fifteen newborns having been abducted from their home by the Mary-Poppins caring nurse rose Steve’s hackles to the point of accidentally breaking Lizzie’s arm.
Escorted by the authorities, the anxious parents drove to Annapolis , Maryland to the home where their son had been taken. Cassie dissolved into tears of joy upon seeing her baby boy in the young mother’s arm. She glided across the room to take her cherub but the woman refused. “He’s my son!” Cassie cried, reaching out to touch her baby.
“Who do you think you are barging in here like that?” the insulted father hissed.
“You’ve just recently adopted this baby, right?” Oscar asked.
“What of it?”
“And you went to the Springer Agency?”
“This baby was taken from his natural mother and sold over to you. Don’t you know it’s illegal to buy newborn infants?” Oscar spoke scathingly, glaring at the man whose defiant shield crumbled to pieces.
He turned to his wife with an expression of defeat. “Honey.”
“Chris, what’s going on here?” she cried, hold the crying baby tightly against her chest, while keeping a close eye on Cassie whose arms were itching to hold her son.
“This man’s right.”
“No! You told me the mother died in a car crash.”
“I’m sorry, Jenny. I wanted you so much to have a child that I went and bought one,” he confessed with his head hung in shame.
“Nooooooo!” she screamed, scaring the baby into bursts of deafening squalls that were unbearable to Cassie. No longer could she suppress the need to pry the baby from Jenny’s arms and caress the fears away. Her gentle touch worked magic on the little bundle whose squalls swiftly turned into giggles, much to the adoptive parents’ surprise.
“He knows my scent,” Cassie said as she nuzzled her Billy’s nose. An errant tear dropped onto the baby’s cheek as she brushed a feathery kiss on his forehead. “My baby boy,” she cooed, her finger dabbing at the tear pearling down his rosy cheek. “Mama is never going to let you out of her sight, ever.”
Steve edged toward his wife and wrapped his arm around her waist drawing her close to him. She handed him over his son and leaned her head on his shoulder. Both gazed at their little miracle they came close to losing forever. Their minds were now at ease with the knowledge that Cassie’s mother had graciously offered to fill in for the departing Lizzie.