It was a warm August night in New York City, and Danny Stewart, a 34-year-old social worker, was on his way to meet his partner, Peter Mercurio, for dinner. He got off the Eighth Avenue subway at a deserted turnstile near 14th Street—not his usual exit, but the one closest to the train car he'd been on—and walked toward the stairs. It was in a dank, unswept corner that Danny saw a doll wrapped in a blanket with only its legs showing. As he started up the stairs, he felt a twinge of sympathy for the girl who had lost her toy. But something about the doll made him turn around to glance at it again. "That certainly is realistic-looking," he thought. And then the doll's legs moved.
Danny bolted down to the bundle, opened the blanket, and found himself face to face with a perfect newborn baby, umbilical cord neatly cut and tied. As Danny loosened the covering, the infant let out a little cry and then fell silent. Not daring to pick him up in case he was injured, Danny raced to the phone booth outside and dialed 911. "I found a baby," he shouted into the receiver.
After waiting for what seemed like hours, he ran upstairs to the phone booth again and called Peter. "I found a baby," he repeated breathlessly. "I called 911, but I think they thought it was a hoax. Please call them, and get down here. I need your help."
By the time Peter arrived, the squad car was already there. The detectives got there minutes later, followed by reporters, a camera crew, and a slew of bystanders. An ambulance whisked the baby away, while the cops questioned Danny and Peter.
Over dinner later that night, the couple analyzed the amazing events of the evening. "It's not the end," said Peter. "A child can't just fall into your life this way and disappear." Danny agreed. "Yeah. We'll probably think of him for the rest of our lives. We should keep track of him so we can send him a birthday card every year."
The next day, Danny stopped by the hospital to see the baby. "No one's allowed but family," said one of the nurses, brushing him aside. Danny protested that there wasn't any family, but the hospital staff was firm. The attending pediatrician explained that Baby Ace (so named by rescue workers because trains A, C, and E stop at the station where he was found) was being checked out, and that he'd be placed in foster care.
For the next few days, Danny and Peter pestered the hospital for information. Finally, through a friend of a friend who worked there, they heard that the child's grandmother had come forward to claim the baby. Relieved, they told friends that the story had ended happily after all.
A Call From the Court
The tale does have a happy ending, but that isn't it. A few months later, Danny received a call from a family-court attorney, who told him that the information they'd gotten was wrong and that no one had claimed the baby. Police had found the child's mother, but she wasn't interested in keeping her baby. Now the court needed to formally establish that Baby Ace, currently in foster care, had been the victim of criminal neglect. "Would you mind testifying at a hearing next week?" the lawyer asked Danny.
In the end, the hearing was postponed, so it wasn't until early December that Danny finally appeared in court. It took all of three minutes for him to tell officials everything he knew—and then an odd thing happened. The judge invited Danny to stay for the rest of the hearing. After the police officer and the social worker finished testifying, the judge turned to Danny and said, "I want to let you know what's going on. When we have an abandoned baby, we try to place him in a permanent home as quickly as possible." Danny nodded, not sure why she was telling him this. Then she dropped the bomb. "Do you have any interest in adopting this boy?" Danny could hardly believe what he was hearing—or what came out of his mouth. "Yes, but I know it's not that easy," he stuttered.
"A situation like this can take a long time," the judge told him. "But it doesn't have to. In cases where babies are abandoned, we're authorized to expedite the process." She set up an appointment for Danny to visit the child at his foster home, and another court date for two weeks later in case Danny decided to begin adoption proceedings.