It’s been twenty years, but we still shy away from talking about the last Christmas Eve of the 20th Century. Who could blame us. Ya think rational folks would believe three aging guys from a small town in rural Maine about anything? That’s only part of why we keep our traps shut.
It was about as miserable a December night as anyone in Reedville had seen in ages. Gusting winds, snow falling at better than two inches per hour and lots of folks jiggy as all get out over the possibility that most of the technology was going belly-up on New Year’s Day. Still, some of us fools had jobs that required us to be out in this mess, looking after those even more foolish than we were. It was me, Kyle Bradbury and Stan Hillman poking along Route 27, slowing every so often for a temporary whiteout, or an indication at the side of the road suggesting an unfortunate soul was in the ditch.
Stan was running in front of us in his ugly but serviceable tow truck, orange lights fighting a losing battle with the snow. Kyle, while off duty from his job as a volunteer firefighter and EMT, had nothing better to do. It was hang with us or stare at the walls and get drunk while feeling sorry for himself. Nasty divorces will do that to a fellow. I should know, I’ve been through two. I was out in this mess because our sheriff’s department had been blindsided by a budget cut and we were down three officers. I had an informal agreement with the sheriff which was probably illegal ten ways to Sunday. I’d work overtime and only claim the hours if it was necessary for an arrest, or something similar, then take a day off during fishing or hunting season as comp time. Out here in the sticks, you did what was necessary and being out in this mess, even though I wasn’t scheduled, was what was necessary and like I said, it beat the hell out of staring at the wall.
We were on our way up to Partling Pond to check on a report of a car off the road. It had been like that ever since sunset, not that we’d noticed it going down. The blizzard, predicted to arrive after midnight had jumped the gun, leaving zero visibility from three o’clock on. Even if we wanted to get anywhere in a hurry, the conditions were so bad, neither vehicle’s defrosters could fight off a line of frost creeping up the windshield, so I was hugging Stan’s bumper at all of fifteen miles an hour.
I started to relax as the wind slowed when Stan braked so hard his rear wheels threatened to lose traction. He damn near took out my windshield when the heavy steel hook he used to winch wrecks onto the bed of his truck swung free. I came to a stop and looked at my buddy. Kyle’s face almost as white as the drifts by the edge of the road.
“What the hell is he doing? He nearly killed us,” I growled. “Can you see anything in front of him?”
It took a moment for Kyle to pull himself together. He released his seatbelt, grabbed my high powered flashlight and got out. I watched him start around the tow truck and come to an abrupt stop, his mouth hanging open at whatever he was looking at.
I put the cruiser in park, grabbed my gloves and got out to see what was going on. By the time I got around the tow truck, he and Stan were in front of it looking at the impossible. A girl who didn’t look more than sixteen, stark naked and very pregnant, was looking back at us with what I could only describe as an angelic expression on her face. I could swear the frigid wind and snow wasn’t bothering her one bit.
Kyle was the first to act, turning and running back to the cruiser, returning a moment later with the space blanket stashed in my trunk for just such an emergency. He wrapped the girl before picking her up and returning to the cruiser where he deposited her on the back seat.
“What in hell do we do now?” Stan looked at me while shaking his head in disbelief.
“I’ll have Kyle sit in back with her unless that freaks her out. We still need to check on whoever is supposed to be stuck in the ditch. Then we get her to the hospital in Farmington.”
Stan nodded and got back in his truck while I went to my cruiser, telling Kyle to babysit the girl. Given that she’d been naked in a blizzard while being accosted by three strange guys, the girl seemed awfully calm, taking in her surroundings with a tiny smile.
It took close to half an hour to locate the stranded vehicle and almost as long to free it so the shaken, but uninjured couple could get on their way. The mystery girl watched as Kyle and I worked with Stan to hook the car and ease it back onto the nearly impossible to see pavement.
After turning around, something else made extremely challenging because of the weather, we started toward the hospital thirty miles down the road. I didn’t realize how much tension the storm, coupled with our mystery passenger had created in me until city lights on the horizon brightened the stormy sky. I tried to flex my hands and winced as fingers on both hands cramped.
“Russ,” Kyle said, “I think we’re about to deliver a baby. Her water broke and when it did, she grabbed my hand like her fingers were a snapping turtle. I don’t think we have time to reach the hospital.” Kyle’s voice was even, but I could tell he wasn’t as calm as he sounded. It had been that kind of night.
I flashed the cruiser’s blue lights to give Stan a heads up that something was happening before making sure it was okay to swing out and pass him. The closest place to do what we needed to do safely was the scenic turnout half a mile ahead. I kept the lights flashing as I slowed and turned into the empty parking lot. If we parked by the thick row of hemlocks, we’d have some protection from the wind. Given the storm, I chose not to call for backup or an ambulance. Both were probably needed elsewhere tonight.
This wouldn’t be a first for either Kyle or me, but as far as I knew, Stan had never been involved in a delivery, so I had him angle the truck to give us more protection from the wind and told him to stay put.
Given her presumed age, I expected we might be in for a long labor and hastened to reassure her that we both were professionals and had helped women give birth under similar circumstances. It was at that moment when I realized she hadn’t said a word since we found her, something that struck me as extremely odd once I realized it. “Do you understand me? Are you feeling any pain?”
She remained mute, but nodded at my first question and shook my head at the second. I could work with nonverbal, particularly since it looked like I might have no choice.
Her labor lasted just over half an hour and she remained mute the entire time, occasionally wincing or grimacing while giving our hands a thorough workout when her contractions were particularly strong.
When the little girl arrived, her healthy lungs more than made up for the mother’s silence. We cleaned her up and gave her to her mom who started feeding her immediately. Then something happened that left Kyle and I as mute as she had been. A voice started speaking in our head, one that was the most beautiful I’d ever heard and I could swear there was equally beautiful music in the background. Afterward, Kyle verified what I heard as did Stan even though he never left the cab of his truck.
“Two thousand years ago, we first tested your capability for love and compassion. While you were found wanting, there was sufficient evidence that your race was worthy of an extension. Tonight we returned for a follow-up evaluation. While we will not leave our daughter as we did our son, you have once again demonstrated promise as a people who can be loving and compassionate. We leave you in peace.”
What followed reminded all of us of the movie Close Encounters of the
Third Kind, with a big splash of ET. The new mom and her child began to glow, then shimmered before breaking into millions of sparkling bits that rose right through the cruiser’s roof.
I have no idea how long we sat in shock before Stan started banging on the window. After he got it together enough to get in the front passenger’s seat, we looked at each other not daring to speak first.
I shook like I’d been doused with ice water and looked at the seat where the baby had been born. It was completely clean and I could see no evidence that a baby had been born in my cruiser.
There was no reason to head for the hospital now, so I told Stan to follow me back to my place. Kyle remained in a daze the rest of the way. I was grateful I needed to focus on the blowing snow because my mind was refusing to accept what had happened.
We got drunk that night and never really talked about what we experienced. After all, who would believe us, But none of us have ever thought about Christmas the way we used to before that night.