I wrote this about a year ago now, it stalled unexpectedly. So I’m putting it up here in the hopes that you people can help me with it…
Trigger Warning: Possible Grammar and Spelling errors, the version i had with WbDaddy’s edits has gone down the bit bucket due to dm-crypt being a butt…
Heat Haze rose from the back parking lot of the Elementary School as the blue rental Toyota Camry, pulled in taking the closest space to the doors it could find, without risking a ticket. The announcer at the top of the 1 o’clock hour had said it would be “unseasonably warm” through the remainder of the week. With an absolutely deadpan delivery and gift for understatement which only a weatherman or a CIA agent could muster. Hellish would have been more appropriate Ellie Cavanaugh thought as she enjoyed one final moment of air conditioned bliss before exiting her vehicle into the 90 degree heat. Clutching a manila folder full of court paperwork in her slender hand.
Ellie hated schools, she hated any place where she could not carry her Glock just for existing. Ellie wasn’t one of those NRA nut jobs that were always on cable, yelling about whatever cock and bull plan some big city mayor had come up with this week. But a 15 year hitch in US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and ten years of working undercover with street gangs in Boston, and then New York breed a healthy paranoia even when off the force as she now was. But she reflected wryly, that she would need to become accustomed to the lack of a shoulder holster. as she drew her custom cane out of it’s compartment behind the driver’s seat. After all the “no unsecured firearms” rule had been a stipulation of the probate court when she had applied for custody of her 11 year old cousin.
Nevermind the fact that she had been a mere eight years old when she had first gone skeet shooting with her father. Oh well she thought as she set a brisk pace to the front office, as she wondered weather or not she’d need to give up Gin and Tonic as well.
She honestly had no idea what Uncle Jason and Aunt Lilly were thinking when they’d named her in their will, she had positively no experience with childcare at all. But the whole plane crash thing had sort of curtailed Elenore’s inquiries on that particular subject.
In any event she had finally secured custody this morning after six months of legal wrangling, It shouldn’t have taken that long but some old crone in the department of Social Services thought an unmarried woman who traveled a lot would make an unsuitable guardian for a poor autistic child, never-mind that the diagnosis was incorrect, and that Ellie herself made more money in a week then most people did in a month. Who gave a shit if her home had wheels instead of a foundation. Jason, and Lilly’s will had been clear and Major Elenore P Cavanaugh US Army Retired hadn’t shirked a responsibility in since before she’d got her commission. Luckily she still had friends at AJAG or it could have taken years. And now for the final step as she opened the door to the school’s main office. Ellie greeted the perky blond receptionist
“Hello, I am here to pick up Evan Cavanuagh”
“Excuse me. We have no early release requests on file for Evan. You’ll need to come back at the regular dismissal time” Wait that wasn’t right Ellie thought why did she just snap at me, and why is her right foot bouncing like some sort of demented rabbit. She’s clearly hiding something but what could it be Ellie’s mind began to race she had a bad feeling about this.
“We have a family emergency” Ellie replied calmly pasting the patented cheerful smile #7 on for good measure.
“HE HAS NO FAMILY” The Secretary snapped face paling.
Ok something was defiantly rotten in the state of Denmark. No one, not a single person in the world had that extreme a reaction to a routine request like this. Well no one sane and sober at least, but this secretary, and Ellie flicked her eyes to the nameplate on the desk Sarah Crockford her name was, Ms Crockford had no indications that she was on anything, she could possibly be taking the wrong dose of an antidepressant, that was always hard to spot at first. Ellie would just have to talk to a supervisor and see how far this went. It was probably just overwork or something, maybe grief. But Ellie’s bullshit detector was hooting up a storm in the back of her mind,
Just as Ellie’s “cop-mode” monologue finished a man who appeared to be the Principal came striding out of the corner office. Grey and balding, he looked like a college football jock who was way past his prime,
“What seems to be the trouble Sarah?” He asked
“This woman claims that she is here to pick up the Cavanaugh boy. Says there’s a family emergency. But the child has been a DSS case since November. So there can’t be any family.”
And THAT confirmed it. There was something going on, which had to do with her Evan. Ellie thought her professional training reasserting itself. No one spoke with a tone of disgust with and undercurrent of fear. And she spoke of Evan as if he were some kind of object. She only hoped this attitude was the result of a prank gone wrong, and some other stress in the secretary’s life. Ellie’s hopes tended to get dashed frequently but perhaps the thousandth time would be the charm. Ellie just barely had time to tune into what the principal was saying, and handed over her ID to the principal when asked .
She used her Military ID hoping that would cut more ice. Or at least put the principal off balance. She thought that at last that Iraqi land mine were paying dividends at least her medical retirement let her retain the Army credentials, which occasionally made it easier to deal with stupid people.
“Ok…. Well Ms Cavanaugh You see your… um Nephew is still in the system as a DSS case so until we get notice from them. We can’t release him to you… So I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
Ok this guy was better, at bullshiting. But he was still not good enough. The shift of the eyes to the left, and the slight shake of the hand holding her ID. He could be left handed. In which case these signs meant nothing. She would just have to see what happened when she presented the court papers.
“I am afraid these papers are insufficient… But don’t worry DSS will notify us within 48 hours. And you would then be free to come and pick him up whenever you wanted.”
Ok that was BS and he knew it. A court order superseded DSS, and as a principal he would know this. Unless he hadn’t dealt with situations like this before. But he would probably want to make a phone call or two in that case. And mentioning a specific time frame not much on it’s own but taken with the other bad vibes she was getting Ellie thought they were definitely trying to cover something up. But the question was how could she manipulate these bureaucrats into letting her have Evan now.
“I apologize once again Ms Cavanaugh, but like i said come back on Wednesday if you still need… I will have Deputy Albright our Resource Officer, show you out.”
Sometimes Ellie thought the stupid people made her job way to easy. This perpetrator, had just called over a Cop, in an attempt to intimidate her into leaving. And it might have worked too, might have if Elenore P Cavanaugh had been a Cop for twenty five year, in one way or another. Cops were easy to deal with if you knew the tricks. Not only the obvious stuff keep your hands in sight, maintain good posture, eye contact, be polite. Many people thought that this was just sucking up. And maybe it was a little. The deeper reason however was first to make the officer comfortable. If the cop thought you were lying or hiding something he would be instantly suspicious and hostile, and getting a cop in that mode was almost always a fatal mistake. Secondly cops were trained to quickly resolve and deescalate disputes. Therefore if you made yourself seem more reasonable, the officer would view you as a sort of ally, and this is what you wanted if you expected to get anything done with law enforcement.
Luckily Ellie had a second trump card. No cop nowhere would ignore a court order Or at least without the permission of his supervisor, and they would only do that for the “bad guys” and she looked at first glance like a 50ish mother far from a threat.
“Excuse me, Deputy Albright, We seem to be a slight misunderstanding.” Ellie said as she pasted on confused and sheepish smile #3, and widening her eyes slightly. To look more non threatening.
“I am Ellie Cavanaugh, and i have here an order from County Probate court, giving me custody of my Cousin Evan. But the Principal here seems to think the school needs notice from The Department of Social Services, in order to release Evan to me. I don’t want to cause trouble but could you confirm that for me?”
Albright looked carefully at the court order, a look of confusion crossing his face.
“I don’t know”, Albright said, “never dealt with this type of order before.”
“Sit tight while i make a call”
“But Rod… She needs a DSS notice, doesn’t she?” The Principal asked.
“Not always, some orders work differently then the Foster placement. I’ll make a call and we’ll see whats what”
5 minutes later Albright came back into the room smiling at Ellie
“Ok Frank the order is legit and effective immediately. Which means you have to release Evan to Ms Cavanaugh now.”
“Ok I’ll go and retrieve him.” Frank the principal said
“You don’t mind if I go with you do you?” Ellie said keeping stride with the principal.
“Great, I haven’t seen Ev since he was six. It was a real surprise when Lills named me let me tell you. I hope he’s doing well? otherwise we might have to hold him back when we get back to South Dakota”
Ellie kept up a stream of mostly inconsequential babble throughout the short walk. To keep Frank the Principal from realizing that he hadn’t actually given her permission to accompany him. Out of the conner of her eye Ellie noticed that Deputy Allbright was keeping a discrete watch from a distance.
After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only two or three minutes. Principal, Guardian, and Deputy arrived at classroom 4A.
“Excuse me Ms Smith, I need to see Evan. He should pack his bag his Cousin is here to take him home.” Frank the Principal said after knocking and clearing his throat.
“Isn’t he in the Quiet Room today? I thought that’s where Chris sent him after the fire drill incident.” The Teacher said
“But it’s great news for Evan. I look forward to meeting his Cousin soon.”
“Oh, right. I had forgotten”,Frank the Principal said coughing to cover a gulp, “we’ll just take his bag, and go get him.”
After quickly picking up her Cousin’s bag. Ellie followed the principal to the other end of the building.
And then she discovered why her hackles had been on end for the past 20 minutes.
A child’s scream came from behind a door, which appeared to lead to a janitor’s closet. The scream seemed to it’s listeners to go on forever. Never stopping only seeming to alternate between sappranio and fallsetto as the child drew breath. The blood of both Deputy Allbright and Major Cavanaugh ran cold and fear gripped both their spines.
“WHY IS THIS DOOR LOCKED!” Rod Allbright shouted at Frank the Principal,
The principal just stood there mouth practically on the floor.
“Aw… Screw this.” the deputy barked pulling out his master key.
“…It’s just the Quiet Room, no need to be alarmed.” Frank whispered as he tried to compose himself.
After thirty seconds of fumbling the deputy finally got the door open. What he saw there would give him nightmares for weeks. Although for Elenore it would be the smell that would be seared into her memory forever.
The oder of Strawberry Milk that has gone in the wrong direction through someone’s GI track is at first deceptively sweet, at first it is just as inoffensive, and innocent as any other strawberry’s and cream, as you are ever likely to encounter, it might even evoke a happy memory from childhood of lazy days gone by of beaches, and of ice cream stands. At least it would until that second breath of air. For in the second sniff you will realize that the rancid undertone you could just barely detect on first inhale, is in point of fact all that you now can smell, and the strawberries which were so innocent and sweet have are now only a corrupt and twisted shadow of there former selves. Lending the spoiled milk scent which fills the air a decidedly sinister cast. combine that with the smell of a soiled diaper which hasn’t been changed in four hours, and to add to that the person who has soiled said diaper is 11 years old with the inevitable increase in both bladder and bowel capacity which someone of that age usually possess. And it was no wonder that both Ellie and Deputy Allbright had to draw on their years of training to avoid vomiting themselves.
“Evan, honey it’s your Cousin Ellie”, and “Deputy Allbright here Evan you okay son” both said in near unison. Before the active law enforcement officer yielded the task of comforting and consoling to the family member.
Ellie and the Deputy became blurs of motion, years of practice, giving them the ability to not get in each others way Rod whipped out his cell phone and took some basic pictures of the scene, the child tied to a chair, the four by eight room with a fan in the ceiling, and a few other details. Ellie doing the same thing for her own records all the while trying to comfort her new charge. Finally after another microscopic eternity Rod Allbright cut the restraints, and nodded at Ellie speaking only her former rank, as a respectful invitation to finally take up her most important duty yet.
Ellie gently, tenderly lifted the boy who would soon be her son and stepped out of the gloom and stench of the Quiet Room, and marched carrying him into the heat and light outside. Neither of them would ever be seen in that school again, and within six months they would be out of Missouri forever.
“Shhh Ev Love, I’ve got you your safe now.”
Ellie knew the meltdown would happen, as soon as they were in something resembling privacy. As soon as Evan’s gray eyes, had met her brown ones, the child had gone almost catatonic in relief. That state had lasted the ride in the ambulance, through the photos taken of the bruising left by the restraints., Hell he had even had the courage to give a 20 minute long statement of what happened on this and other days, he had hinted at abuse suffered in the foster home at which he had been living. Ellie knew that the calm would wear off eventually. She had seen it too many times, and felt it more then once herself. This was the calm of a warrior, or a child who had to hold it together for far to long amid grief and pain. The calm of the final push to the end when safety was at last in reach. But Ellie knew that as soon as safety was achieved it would all come tumbling down. And this was exactly what happened,
The hospital had initially changed the dirty diaper which Evan had been left in by the school. But around the time all was said and done Evan’s bladder had given out. They had given him dehydration treatment so it was only to be expected. Not wanting to subject her child to yet more nurses Ellie had insisted on performing this service herself. She could have called Evan’s former foster home, or DSS for a set of clothes, but after hearing Evan’s statement and glancing though his school file. Ellie did not want to ask anyone connected with the DSS for anything. So here they were Evan lying on a changing table and Ellie about to perform her first, and hopefully only diaper change for her 11 year old ward. When the emotional floodgates burst open…
“Your really Cousin Ellie?”
“Of course I am kid, I can’t believe you’ve forgotten me already.” Ellie laughed smiling down into Evan’s grey almost silver eyes. So much like her Uncle’s it was almost heartbreaking.
“I didn’t…” he stated sniffling, “what i mean is… well”
“Mamma always said you’d come take care of me if somthin, bad, happened.”
“But?” Ellie asked deeding the answer
“But, Mrs Primtree said, she wasn’t gonna let ya, and that, and that… The Bakers were my knew parents and I’d just haf ta get used to it, and that i’d better be grateful, cus not many would take in a crippled half whit.”
Evan blurted that little gem out in a grim parody of a four year old rush. Ellie’s heart broke just a bit more if that were even possible
“First of all your not a cripple or a half whit Ev.”
“You may not believe it but it’s true now but it’s true”
Lift your legs please
“Secondly Mrs. Primtree is a liar, and a really bad one at that.”
“Who did horrible things in order to get money for her and her friends.”
“So you shouldn’t believe a word she ever said.”
“Really?” Evan sounded astonished, he blinked tears finally tapering off for now.
“Or at least that’s what we think happened. The cops don’t have enough proof yet.”
“Umm… ok… So your really real and you’re gonna do like Mamma said. Right?”
“Yes, yes and yes, and you’re all done by the way…”
“Put your clothes back on honey.”
Evan did just that, and then Ellie revealed the big surprise. She had arranged to stay at her Aunt’s house for the few moths it would take to get legal matters sorted. Evan’s house now she supposed. Ellie would have just as soon stayed in her RV but Evan’s smile, alone was worth her discomfort. Ellie decided she would do just about anything to see that smile more often