Pushing blindly through the crowd, she blasted her way through the massive doors of the Boone
County Courthouse. Her office is inside the courthouse, but that’s the last place she wants to be right now. She’s headed for oblivion, and the trip is a short one. Emory’s Bar & Grill is right across the street.
George Cook had been molesting his fifteen year old stepdaughter for the last few years. The girl had come to them several months ago, depressed, suicidal; desperate for help, and Child Protective Services had immediately taken the steps necessary to remove her from her home. Part of Amy’s job as the psychologist for CPS was to comfort, counsel, and advise “at risk” children, and from her first meeting with Heather Green, she had liked the teenager immediately. Short and stout, with eyes like Raggedy Ann and a boy’s crew cut, she was a fierce and intelligent young woman. The Brewers were considered saviors at CPS, the middle aged couple always willing to offer emergency shelter to troubled teens, no questions asked. They had embraced Heather, and after only a few weeks, the teenager’s state of mind had improved tremendously. As part of the investigation, Heather had been examined by a local physician, who’s report had confirmed the girl’s story of sexual abuse. Heather was prepared to testify against her stepfather, and Harold had felt confident that they could put the evil bastard away. Their case would have been a slam dunk if it hadn’t been for Heather’s mother.
Mildred Harper was the CPS case worker assigned to investigate Heather’s abuse. Several days after George Cook’s arrest, Mildred paid a visit to Heather’s mother. When she returned to Amy’s office that day, Mildred’s face had been a mask of total disgust. “Oh, Amy, you would not believe this house. It smelled like dirty feet and cat shit. There was trash piled everywhere! I’ve been doing this job for five years, and that was the filthiest house I have ever been in. I was afraid to sit down!” as she crumpled into the nearest chair.
She had described Norma Cook as a butterball in a moo moo, dirty bare feet, with a wooly gray Afro topping an impish face, her eyes tiny slits in biscuit cheeks. “She’s a horrible woman, Amy. She said that Heather was a liar, that if anything had happened between her husband and “that girl”, it was Heather’s fault for seducing him, leading him on with her skimpy clothes and “breast that she shouldn’t even have yet.” She said that about her own daughter!” Lisa cried, as she ran for the restroom.
As Amy had listened to the sound of Mildred being sick, a rush of maternal love had enveloped her. This job was the older woman’s whole life. The short, staunch spinster had a wild mass of gray hair, wire rimmed glasses riding the tip of her misshapen nose. But she was ferocious in defense of these children, pouring her sweet heart into their protection. She was a loner, and spent her nights watching TV and caring for a slew of animals.
Waiting for Mildred to recover, Amy’s thoughts had turned to Norma Cook. She recognizes the classic symptoms of denial. The woman was unable to accept the fact that she was married to a pedophile. Or maybe she just didn’t care, Amy is gaining steam now, becoming angry, or maybe, she had just been jealous of her daughter, who’s body attracted George Cook in ways that her fat ass didn’t anymore. Whoa girl, Amy thinks, you are not supposed to be thinking
those kind of thoughts, but she feels better anyway, after throwing up with her mind, while Mildred throws up with her body. The poison has to come out somehow. As Mildred drags her emptied, pale shell from the restroom, Amy asked, “Are you alright?” “I feel better, thanks, but I’m worried that we are gonna have major problems from that woman.”
How right Mildred had been, Amy thinks, as she orders her second beer. Her exotic, royal blue eyes catch her own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. People have told her all her life how beautiful she is, but the six foot blonde scoffs at her looks. If anything, beauty has been a deterrent to her, a roadblock. She is a serious young woman, on a quest for justice, her mission to rescue the innocent children, ready to do battle for those who can’t defend themselves. If Mildred only knew how much there were alike. This is Amy’s first job since she received her master’s degree, and over these last six months, Lisa has been her guiding hand. Amy is thankful for her everyday, and for this wonderful little town, the first place she has felt at home since Claire and Chicago. She is the head of Child Protective Services, with a Master’s degree in psychology from Texas A& M. Mondays are hard for her, it seems that most of the damage done to the children occurs on the weekends. She’s only been here for three months, and already she feels an overwhelming sadness at times. The things people do to their kids. But, this is what she has wanted her whole life, to make a difference, to help the people who can’t help themselves. She is a petite young woman, but formidable when crossed. She moved to Chicago for this job, and this morning she is homesick for Texas. She was raised in the country, with three older brothers, and she’s not afraid of anything. But the human snakes she encounters in some of the homes she visits here make the rattlesnakes at home look like prized pets.
But a smile quickly replaces her sadness as, not the first time in the last three months she thinks of John Graves. She met the lieutenant right after she started here, her job requiring continuous interaction with the Chicago police. He is quite a bit older than her, but she likes him. She finds his rough exterior attractive, reminding her a little of her brother, Jack, all rough lines and sharp corners. She senses a calm, softer layer underneath all that gruffness, and it has her attention. Amy can’t think about anything good after what just happened with George Cook.
She can’t believe the son of a bitch is a free man. She knew they were in trouble the minute she walked into the courtroom this afternoon, Norma Cook sitting smugly behind her husband, no Heather to be found. What had the woman threatened to do to her daughter if she testified?
Amy could kick herself for not seeing the red flag when she called the Brewer’s house yesterday. Heather had been reserved, the effervescence of late absent from her voice. Amy had chalked it up to nerves about the trial, never dreaming that the girl would pull a no show. Without Heather’s testimony, the defense attorney had torn them to shreds. The bubble butt lawyer had reminded her of W.C. Fields, all bluster, a bulbous, drinker’s nose. He was out of Dallas, one of those snakes in the grass you see on TV commercials, making a joke of the profession of law. “Your honor, my client is the true victim here. A young girl, jealous of her mother’s happy marriage, has brought shame and embarrassment on the good name of her stepfather.”
Harold really had done all he could, even though Heather had tied his hands. Carrying himself in regal fashion, calling Dr. Phillips to the stand, “I would like to enter as exhibit A the doctor’s report of his examination of Heather Green. Doctor, state in your professional opinion what you discovered upon examining this young lady.” The doctor had made a convincing witness, explaining the medical aspects of Heather’s sexual abuse, the broken hymen, the brutal damage done to her young vagina, but the defense attorney backed the doctor into a corner, “Isn’t it true, Dr. Phillips, that this damage could have been caused by any number of the young boys Heather has been having sex with?” W.C. Fields had done his homework. Harold was left with no recourse but to dismiss the doctor, for Heather had admitted to being sexually active, and without her there to defend herself, he was afraid of doing more harm than good. George Cook had always used a condom on his step daughter, the brilliance of evil, and with that knowledge, the district attorney’s office had declined to administer a DNA test.
When Norma Cook took the stand, it was another nail in our coffin. The woman must have taken a bath and bought a new dress, for her appearance was matronly and respectable, her hair tamed into a grandmotherly bun. She painted a picture of her daughter as a wild and disrespectful child who resented her stepfather for trying to bring some order and discipline into her life. She described her husband as a good man, hard working and honest. She apologized to the judge for the lies her daughter had told , and begged the court to release her husband so that they could rebuild their lives. The defense attorney had closed the deal, “Your honor, this is a travesty. The young lady who has brought all this trouble and heartache down on her family is not even here today. Obviously, she has realized the error of her ways, and decided not to get herself in big trouble by bringing her lies into your courtroom. I move that this case be thrown out, and my client be reunited with his loving wife.” The judge had bought it, hook, line, and sinker. CPS was never even allowed to testify, and the judge angrily reprimanded Harold for allowing this case to get this far. Case dismissed.
Amy doesn’t want another drink. People are starting to drift into the bar after work, and conversation is the last thing she wants. What she does want is at home, a hot bath, some candles, soft music, and something good to eat. As she steps down from the barstool, she thinks of Heather. Amy has been in her shoes, and she hopes that somehow, the young woman will find her way out, just like Amy did.