Which brought us to the second thing we learned, though we kind of already knew it—Kells was obsessed with finding a way to correct “the anomaly,” having blamed it for her infertility. As we watched her interviews, we heard her mention working with a man—a pharmacologist, Daniel guessed—to develop different drugs to counteract the effects of the gene, to switch off its effects, whether a carrier had manifested or not. But nothing worked . . . on her, at least. So she wanted to see if drugs worked on anyone else. But she couldn’t jump through the appropriate hoops to be able to do human trials on women who were trying to become pregnant who might have been carriers too. Couples undergoing infertility treatment tended to be wealthy, which meant Congress cared about them.
No one cared about foster kids, though, so Kells became a foster parent. Once I realized what I was looking for, I began to find records for A. and B. Lowe, C. and D. Lowe, E. and F. Lowe, and G. and H. Lowe. All identical twins. All boys. All dead.
And they’d all been under her care. They died at different ages, with different symptoms, but all culminating in a fever and “death arising from natural causes,” according to the medical examiners’ reports in each of their files. My heart hurt as I looked at the pictures of them; Abraham at eight months old, teething on a green plastic stegosaurus he held with two hands up to his mouth; Benjamin, who lived a year longer than his twin, squatting on two chubby legs as he pushed a toy fire truck; Christopher, dead at two, shirtless in his picture as he stuck his tongue out at the camera; David, his twin, three at his time of death, wearing a little suit, surrounded by ducks in a park; Ethan, four when he was placed into foster care, four and a half when he died; and his twin, Frederick, five when he died, four in the picture with Ethan, their little arms around each other’s shoulders; Garrett, six, legs splayed out over the back of a shaggy, bored-looking pony, with his twin, Henry, holding the halter. Garrett almost made it to seven. Henry died on his seventh birthday.
And then a picture of a little eight-year-old boy with a too-wide grin and a missing front tooth, a spray of freckles across his nose and a dimple in his cheek as he smiled beneath a too-big Patriots cap tilted haphazardly on his nearly white-blond head.
Subject nine: Jude Lowe.
JUDE AND CLAIRE LOWE, PAIR five. Fraternal twins. “Artificially induced at age eight,” according to their files, their real files, which meant that was when they were injected with whatever version of whatever drug Kells was working on then to cause the symptoms of G1821.
“Wait a second,” Jamie said, looking up from the files. ““What happened to I. Lowe?”
“There is no I.”
Jamie snapped his fingers. “Exactly.”
Stella just shrugged. “Maybe she didn’t like any boys’ names that started with I?”
“Like ‘Ignatius’?” Daniel chimed in.
“Or ‘Ira,’?” I said.
“Which brings up another point,” Jamie said, and bit his thumbnail. “These weren’t the kids’ real names. They couldn’t have been. They would have all had names on their birth certificates.”
“I didn’t see any birth certificates in the files,” I said. Only death certificates. “Their medical records use the aliases or whatever, though.”
“So Kells must have renamed them—but how do you get a six- or seven-year-old to accept a new name?”
“And lie to doctors and nurses about it?” I asked. I thought about the files I’d thumbed through, but no hospital names stood out. “Give me that,” I said to Jamie, and he handed me one of the files. F. Lowe. Frederick.
“These records are from Mount Tom Hospital. Someone Google it.”
Daniel did. “Doesn’t exist.” He paused. “So are these records even real?”
“I think they are,” Stella said. “I mean, why fabricate someone’s entire medical history? Especially if you’re not even using that person’s real name?”
A thought dawned on me. “It’s another layer of protection,” I said. “The names were changed, the places and dates—none of it’s real. If it were, it would make the children, and what happened to them, too easy to actually find. But I think Stella’s right, that what’s actually reported there is real. The symptoms, the treatment, the consequences. I mean, we saw the archives. The real files, with the kids’ real names, might be in there somewhere, but without knowing what they are, no one would ever find them.”
Daniel nodded slowly. “So none of this can be used as evidence,” he said quietly. “Kells was a real person with a real identity, and once you have an identity, it’s not easy to shake. If anyone traced her history and found the archives, like we did, and tried to report this stuff, like I want to, these would just look like the fictional records from fictional kids that never existed.”
“Smart,” Jamie said.
“But how would she be allowed to foster so many kids? Especially when they kept dying on her?” Stella asked.
“The same way she had the resources to find us,” I said. “And to experiment on us, and to do all of this research—”
“Plus,” Jamie said, “bad shit happens to kids in foster care all the time.”
I looked at Kells’s frozen image on the screen, and pressed play.
“J. woke up two days after induction complaining of sickness. The thermometer showed a fever of 99.6. I’m hopeful that this is just a normal cold, or flu, since the others presented with temperatures above 101 before they expired.”
“Expired? Damn, that’s cold,” Jamie said.
“Claire seems fine, anyway,” Kells continued, looking perfectly calm, not worried at all.
“Fast forward,” Jamie said, and I did.
Kells looked tense and worried now. “J. has developed the fever. Same symptoms as the others, mostly, but with a few key differences. He seems disoriented. I’ve caught him speaking in the third person, to himself, and occasionally to me. He has asked to see Claire, but I don’t want to frighten her. I need her amenable and willing to endure future testing, particularly if Jude expires like the rest.”
I stopped the DVD. “Claire was in my grade,” I said to no one in particular.
“And Jude was in mine,” Daniel said.
Stella picked up the pile of papers on the table. “But it says they were fraternal twins. Pair five.”