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The Identical Infants

A. C. Spahn wanted to be an interstellar starship captain when she grew up. Since nobody was hiring, she became a writer instead. She enjoys training in martial arts, organizing messy rooms, and researching a hobby-of-the-month. When not commanding imaginary starships, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and feline overlord. She is the author of the Endurance series of comedic sci-fi novellas and short stories appearing in Outposts of Beyond, Disturbed Digest, and other publications.

"Thanks for coming so quickly, Professor," said Detective Faraday. "This case is a little urgent."
"I've told you not to bother with titles." Professor Cara Watt, paranormal investigator, turned in a slow circle, taking in the lavish nursery. Plush carpet on the floor. Hand-painted cartoon characters on the wall. Twin newborns in matching pajamas in the mahogany crib.
A teary-eyed woman in business attire hovered, figuratively, over the babies. A smaller woman in a silk gown hovered, literally, beside a uniformed police officer in the corner. Her translucent wings kept her aloft, though her wrist was handcuffed to the officer guarding her.
"I see you have a fairy in custody," Cara said.
Detective Faraday wiped his brow with his sleeve. "Yes. Yes, we do."
Cara eyed him. "Still not comfortable with our townsfolk?"
"Last week I found out the mailman is a dragon. An actual dragon."
"That's Rax. He delivers to my neighborhood, too. Always very prompt." She grinned at the detective. "It's the wings. You didn't notice his lack of a mail truck?"
Faraday tucked his hands in his pockets. "Let's just focus on why we're here."
"It's the baby," said the woman in business clothes. She sniffled. "She's only two weeks old."
Cara arched an eyebrow. "You look good for someone who had twins two weeks ago."
The woman began to sob.
Faraday spoke quietly. "Mrs. Gonzalez didn't have twins. She came in to check on her daughter's nap and found this fairy holding the baby. She screamed, and the fairy set the baby in the crib. Only then, Mrs. Gonzalez realized there were two babies. One is her real daughter--"
Cara inhaled sharply. "The other is a fae changeling."
Faraday nodded. "The fairy was in the process of swapping the fairy child for the real one, but we don't know how far she'd gotten. Was the baby she set down the real baby, or the imposter?"
"May I?" Cara placed a gentle hand on Mrs. Gonzalez's shoulder. The sobbing woman nodded and made room. Cara studied the infants in the crib. They had the same miniature features and clenched fists, the same button noses and wispy baby hair. One baby blinked sleepy eyes at her surroundings. The other quietly gummed one of her fists.
"They're identical in every way," Detective Faraday said. "I even had a doctor examine them."
Cara eyed the fairy, who fluttered sullenly near the watchful officer. "I don't suppose you're willing to tell us which is which?"
The fairy scoffed. "You wouldn't believe me if I did."
"Very true. Detective Faraday, I propose a test. We'll have you hold the babies."
"What?" croaked the detective.
Cara ignored him. "Then we'll have Mrs. Gonzalez stand on the opposite side of the room. Whichever baby cries for her is the real child."
She pulled Faraday to the crib and gently settled the two infants in his arms. Both began to whimper, and Faraday shifted his weight, looking about for escape.
Cara led Mrs. Gonzalez to the opposite side of the room. "Now call your daughter," she said.
Mrs. Gonzalez wiped her cheeks again and tried to smile. "Sweetheart, it's Mommy! Mommy's over here!"
The infant in Faraday's left arm whimpered as tears pooled in her eyes. The baby in his right arm let out a piercing wail.
"Ha!" said the fairy. "No simple test will work against the fae. You'll have to do better than that."
"Actually," said Cara, "I think we have all the evidence we need."
Cara took the infant from Detective Faraday's right arm and handed her to Mrs. Gonzalez. "Here's your daughter, ma'am."
Mrs. Gonzalez sheltered the baby against her chest. "How do you know?"
Cara pointed to the remaining infant, who was still fussing. "This baby's eyes welled up. Human newborns don't have functioning tear ducts until they're a month old." She smiled at the fairy across the room. "Sometimes a deception can be a little too detailed for its own good."
The fairy's lip curled. She snapped her fingers, and the squalling infant in Faraday's arms vanished. He yelped, then looked around sheepishly and cleared his throat. "I guess we're done here. Let's get this kidnapper to the station."
As the other officer escorted the fairy out, Faraday watched Cara. "You've got a lot of random knowledge, Professor. What exactly do you teach? Biology? Medicine?"
Cara grinned and shook her head. "That's one mystery you'll just have to wonder about, Detective."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Author Comments

The Cara Watt stories were inspired by the two-minute mysteries by Donald J. Sobol, featuring Dr. Haledijan the sleuth solving various cases alongside the reader. My husband and I enjoyed reading Dr. Haledjian's adventures aloud together, and the pairing of the interactive mystery style with a paranormal setting seemed like a perfect fit.

- A. C. Spahn
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