The second floor of the Social Services building housed the Adult Protective, Early Childhood and the unit I worked in, Central Intake. My unit handled the cases that weren't quite severe enough to be taken by the Child Abuse Hotline and the juvenile cases that came in through Family Court. I was in the office writing up case notes the day this call came in, and as usual, had no idea anything out of the ordinary was going on.
My supervisor called me into her office and that's when I noticed that people were flying back and forth between her office and the Adult Protective supervisor's office. She told me what was going on in the one sentence and told me to go with the AP caseworker, Jane. Sheriffs would meet us there.
Jane explained more as she drove. This little old lady lived by herself in the little house that she was born in and recently, her nephew decided to move into the old, abandoned mobile home sitting next to her old barn. It was news to her about the nephew's daughter, but she thought the girl was 14 and way out of control.
Jane turned onto a dirt road that looked like it hadn't seen a car in years. Dried weeds brushed the windows and barren tree branches scraped the car's roof. About a half mile of ruts and scrapes, we see a county Sheriff car and Jane parked behind it. The two officers looked at us, but didn't say anything as we headed toward the tiny house barely visible through the overgrowth.
A little old lady, bright-eyed with white hair carefully pulled up into a bun on the top of her head, sat with an afghan over her lap, her wooden chair next to the potbelly stove in the center of the small room that was her kitchen and living room. Sparse yet clean and warm, there was one other doorway that led to an even smaller room with only a bed in it. She smiled when Jane said her name and asked how she was.
"Oh, I'm fine. Now who are you, dear?" The old lady smiled up at Jane, but hadn't moved in her chair.
"I'm Jane. Do you remember me? I was here a few days ago and took you to the grocery store, remember?"
"Oh, I know a nice lady named Jane. Is that you?"
"Yes, that's me. We're here because you called earlier. Do you remember calling?" Jane, the patient placater to the end.
"Oh yes, I remember. My nephew's daughter was up here this morning with a gun in her hand. She told me she was out there shooting at rats and got bored. Thought she might come up here and shoot me instead!
"That damned nephew of mine. I told him he could live in that old trailer by the barn for a few weeks until he found a place for himself. That was months ago, and now he won't leave. Suddenly, his daughter is with him. She don't go to school or nothing, just does whatever she does all by herself while he's off working. She's no good, I tell you."
The old lady sat and glared at Jane, never once looking my way. But, the floodgates had closed again, and she didn't say anything else.
We told the officers what the old lady had said, and they followed us down a barely visible path, heading toward the roof of a barn we could see through the trees and brush. Turning a corner, the underbrush thinned in front of the barn, and on the right side of it was an old, dilapidated trailer that looked in worse condition than the one in the photo above.
Nothing stirred. It did not look like anyone could possibly be living in that trailer. There were no electric wires running to it. It listed to the side and bent in the middle. It sagged in places that said it wouldn't hold up to another snowfall. The open doorway on the front porch enclosure looked like a deep, dark hole with rotted boards as the welcome mat.
"Is anybody here?" Jane's yell echoed back from the maw of the barn and was answered only by the sudden flurry of bird wings flying through its rafters. A dual rustle of movement behind me made me turn to see that both officers had unsnapped their gun holsters.
To be continued...