The Found Child
by Jo Crow
September 18, 2018 Book Blast
One mother’s life can change in the blink of an eye—and there’s no going back.
Elaine’s worst fears become a reality when her beloved son Jakob is diagnosed with cancer. She needs to find a bone marrow donor, and time is running out. While awaiting test results from herself and her husband Nathan, she approaches his business partner, Roger—her ex-lover—to see if he could be a possible match. Instead, an even greater shock awaits: Jakob is not her biological son. For years, she has been raising someone else’s child.
The news threatens to send Elaine back to the pills that almost destroyed her life once before, pushing her already fragile mental state to the breaking point. As the family faces one crisis, a ghost from her past emerges to jeopardize everything she’s built. But is the threat real, or is it all in her mind? Elaine needs to stay strong for her son, but as her whole reality continues to unravel, she can’t trust anyone—not even herself.
Read an excerpt:
Telling parents that the search for their missing infant had gone cold was a job that no one wanted. And honestly, Detective Aaronson had tried to pass it off to someone else—to his partner, Miller, and then to a uniform. Ultimately, though, the chief had put his boot down and pushed it back on Aaronson. He was the point man. He and Miller had worked the case together for a month before the leads dried up, but it had been Aaronson who had sat with the parents, talked to them on the phone, and kept them updated.
He’d been the one to give them hope, so it followed that he should be the one to take it away… right?
They had agreed to meet him at the station. That seemed to be the best choice. No one wanted to get this kind of news in their own home—it would put a stain on the place that would never wash out. No, it was more professional to have the talk here in one of the small conference rooms. No decorations, no distractions, nothing to make the moment seem too casual. Only gray brick, white linoleum and a wooden table and chairs that were plain and utilitarian. Unemotional.
Now he sat across from them, steeling himself and trying to work up some moisture in his mouth. There was water, but they hadn’t poured a glass so he wasn’t about to. Both of them had dark circles under their bloodshot eyes, and a waxy pallor to their skin. They hadn’t slept in a month, he figured. He’d have put money on it. Hell, he could barely sleep when his teenager stayed out late with her friends on a weekend. And their child had been gone for more than a month. As a parent, he understood part of their pain. Just part of it. That’s what made this so damn difficult.
“We’re not closing the case,” he said, his tone as flat as he could manage. “But as of now, the leads—”
“You’re not looking anymore?” the mother asked. Fury filled her eyes, and loss. One of those was for him.
“It’s only been a month,” the father said. “You can’t stop now. Please, our son is out there somewhere—we know it.”
“I can feel him,” she said. “You have to believe me, I can feel him here.” She clutched at her chest, at the threadbare, peach-colored sweater she wore.
You have to keep it short, the chief had said. Keep it direct and then refer them to the counselor. That’s your job.
Aaronson wondered if the chief had ever done this before. He imagined he’d had, but to make it seem so simple… Of course, there were regulations. He couldn’t be the counselor and the detective, and there were good reasons for that. “We will keep the case open,” he told them. “If any new leads come in, we’ll follow up on them.”
He meant it, too. But the truth that he knew, and that these two knew even if they didn’t want to believe it, was that after seventy-two hours, most of these cases were never solved. Every day after that windows closed, the likelihood of finding a child like theirs dropped exponentially until it plummeted to a fraction of a percent which itself really only represented the handful of miracle cases that had been resolved sometimes decades after a disappearance.
“Please don’t do this,” the father begged. He took his wife’s hand, and they leaned into one another. “One more month. There was that woman—”
“At the moment, Andrea Williams has been cleared as a suspect,” Aaronson said. That poor woman’s life had been all but destroyed already. “We’ve been over her life with a fine-toothed comb. If new evidence emerges, we’ll look into it again, but I’m telling you that she’s not who we want.”
“So, what do we do now?” the mother asked. “What do we do now that you’ve abandoned our boy? Abandoned us?”
Aaronson was so close to breaking. He stood from the table. “I swear to you both,” he said, the words bitter on his tongue, “that we will pursue any and every lead that comes across my desk. We’re not abandoning anyone. Alright?” And while it may have been technically true, it sure felt like a lie.
Nothing but contempt came from them, and he didn’t blame them at all. And he hated himself for what he had to say next. “There’s a counselor here. Doctor Amari. She’s a grief counselor, and it’s free to see her. I can send her in, but I have to leave you now. I’m sorry. Really, I am.”
They turned their faces from him.
As he left, he closed the door gently even though he wanted to slam it hard enough to shatter the glass. He wasn’t even sure who to be angry with. Himself, mostly, he guessed, or the whole damn department. And Andrea-fucking-Williams, who had wasted their time from the beginning by lying to protect herself instead of telling them the truth about her record so that they could have moved on.
He took only two steps before the mother wailed loudly behind him. The entire department went quiet. That sound was one they all knew. It was the sound of a woman who had lost the last shred of hope she’d had. The shred that he’d taken away from her.
That was the sound of a mother whose child had died. And, at this point, Aaronson had nothing to suggest it wasn’t true.
He’d failed them.
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