Within the inner sanctum of Area Four Violent Crimes, the City News reporter slouched at a battered desk. The office was experiencing the gloomy lull that is characteristic of the third watch, a lull that was disrupted only by muffled blows and stifled yells from within interrogation room F: the sound of an offender being put in shape to meet the assistant state’s attorney.
The phone rang, and the reporter snatched it up.
It was the Desk.
“We got a fetus. Found on South Wentworth. Get something on it.” Click.
The reporter cleared the line and put in a call to the watch commander of the Tenth District.
“Yeah, Sarge. City News. You got anything on a fetus found on South Wentworth?”
The sergeant’s voice could be heard in general reverberation throughout the precinct house: “HEY, ANY OF YOU GUYS KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT A FETUS FOUND ON WENTWORTH?”
“A fetus,” he was yelling. “You know: a FETUS: as in baby.”
The officers did not know anything about a fetus on South Wentworth.
The reporter hung up.
He looked up the address in the city directory and called neighbors. It was a housing project. No one knew anything about a fetus. No one, in fact, knew what a fetus was. The reporter wasn’t up to explaining it. He hung up.
The next call went through to the hospital: the nursing supervisor.
Most nursing supervisors need to be continually reminded by City News reporters that their primary function is not to care for seriously ill or injured patients, but to supply City News with information. Most eventually respond to relentless hounding.
The reporter asked the nursing supervisor about the fetus.
“What’s the name?” she barked.
“Fetus: just a fetus. Found today on Wentworth Avenue.”
“That must be–” She said a name.
“Could be,” the reporter said, jotting it down. “What’s the story?”
“No story–well, it’s a little unusual, but–nothing really. The baby was born dead.”
“Unusual, huh? How was it unusual?”
“I can’t disclose that information, sir.”
“Yes, I know, I understand that. I just need to know if this is newsworthy. How about telling me something off the record?”
“You didn’t hear it from me.”
“I don’t even know your name.”
“This woman delivered the fetus at home. She got scared and called the paramedics who brought her to the hospital. When the doctors examined her they saw she’d just given birth and asked her what’s the deal, since she hadn’t come in with a baby.”
“She hadn’t told them about the fetus.”
“She said her boyfriend would have killed her if he’d known she was pregnant.”
“The paramedics had to go back and pick up the fetus. They found it under a pillow. It was dead.”
“Not surprising,” said the reporter.
“It was a 25-week-old fetus. They took it to the morgue.”
The reporter thanked her and hung up.
Immediately the phone rang; the reporter answered it.
“What the fuck is happening with this fetus!?” yelled the Desk.
The reporter explained that nothing as of yet was happening with the fetus.
“You got the family’s name? Call ’em up. Maybe they’ll talk.”
“It’s 1 AM.”
“They’ve just lost their baby, or killed it. You think they’re going to be asleep? CALL THEM UP!”
“I’ll try,” lied the reporter.
The Desk said it wanted to move something on the fetus by two o’clock. Clearly it was a slow news night, and a fetus story would be just the thing.
The reporter hung up.
From within interrogation room F there was a crash, a moan, then silence.
Sighing, the reporter put a call through to the morgue.