When I joined the case at 47 County Street, I didn’t know what to expect. As a social worker, I see all kinds of screwed up things from child abuse, to children abusing their parents. Yet, when I got the reports from that household, I wasn’t expecting much. The initial letters we received were from a neighbor describing loud noises, shouting in the late hours of the night, and a teenager storming off from the household on a bike last winter just after they heard what sounded like glass shattering from within the house.
This had apparently been going on for a few years.
Still, something about the way the cop came in on Tuesday, white as a sheet, asking about the case, probably should have at least somewhat set off some alarms. I was ignorant.
There I stood, in the living room of the Bedford family home on County Street, beside myself as the story unfolded. Dan, the father of the three children, spoke first with tears in his eyes.
“I’m so glad somebody called on us; my wife and I would have never had the courage to contact anyone about this.”
This struck me as odd, seeing as most people don’t want the authorities or social services knocking at their door.
“Can I offer you some water? Coffee maybe?” That’s what Valarie, Dan’s wife asked me in a hushed voice.
They both looked exhausted, and unbathed, like they’d just been stranded on an island for weeks and were just rescued by me. They seemed indifferent to their surroundings. Calm at the moment, but the tension was kinetic.
“No thank you,” I passed up the offer, I wasn’t comfortable accepting anything from the couple just yet.
“Tell me, as we need to get started here, what are your children’s names and how old are they?”
I already had this info, but I needed to survey how these two reacted to questioning. Valerie answered me.
“Well, Damien is 17. He dropped out of school last week, but he’s not here today. And there’s my little sweetheart, Kelsey. She’s 11. She’s with her grandmother for the weekend.”
“It’s Wednesday, m’am.”
“Oh right, I’m sorry. She’s with her Aunt. I lose track, since they’re never here anymore. She’ll be home soon, though.”
Her husband stared at her intently, almost not staring at her at all. More like through her. I took note of all of this.
“Please note that you’re being recorded for this interview. I apologize If I’m mistaken, but I says on file here that you have a third child.”
They both stared coolly into my eyes. A chill ran up my spine, and my left leg went numb. This is a feeling I would get as a child if I ever made a joke that offended someone, except now at thirty four. I suddenly felt out of place.
“Jessica.” They both spoke in unison.
I relaxed, slightly.
“Jessica. Okay, yes I have that here. Seven years old?”
They nodded together. Their faces twisted into an uncomfortable expression, both suddenly wringing their hands. Dan glanced over at the staircase to his left, I guess to silently signal as to Jessica’s whereabouts.
“She’s up there.” Valerie told me, suddenly sobbing.
A pang hit my heart like knuckles to a tether ball. I could feel my emotions swirling around my ribs. My stomach started to turn.
“Excellent, can I meet her?” I asked, stiffly.
“Yes, but…” Valerie wiped her nose with a tissue and looked at the stairs, “…but you have to go get her.”
Another odd feeling; I was beginning to get suspicious, but I wasn’t sure just what I was getting suspicious of. These two seemed like a train wreck, and I was certainly one to judge. Still, they didn’t seem like bad people. They felt like victims to me.
I decided to accept their request.
“Okay, um, where upstairs is she. In her room?” I scratched at the back of my neck, as I do when I’m not comfortable.
“Yeah.” They both answered at the same time again.
I stared at both of them for a bit before standing up and heading toward the stairs.
My heart jumped as my foot hit some metal across the floor. I looked down to see an empty pet dish of some kind.
“Don’t worry, sorry about that.” Dan picked the dish up off the floor for me.
“That’s our cat, Evie’s dish.”
I nodded, but didn’t respond. I just climbed the stairs to the top floor.
The creaks of the steps were eerie and loud as I made my way up to a dim, badly lit hallway. I couldn’t quite collect my thoughts. There was something strange going on, but I didn’t know what. Why were they sending me up to meet with their daughter? Why couldn’t they retrieve her for me? Why did I accept their request?
Upon checking out the long hallway, I noticed one door at the end. It was bedazzled with stickers and letters, appearing to be a very normal young girl’s room. The letters spelled out Jessica’s name, except the “S” next to the “E” was missing. I also noticed there appeared to be no light coming from within the bedroom.
I was taking mental notes of everything for my report.
I opted for knocking on the door out of respect, but received no reply. After three or four tries, I decided to just open it, figuring they were wrong about her whereabouts.
The door slowly creaked open under the grip of my left hand. My other hand clutched my clipboard, perhaps tighter than it should have. Just as I expected, the room was dark. Only a small amount of moonlight shined in from the cool autumn night. I found a switch on the wall to my right, and clicked it on.
“Holy hell…” My heart skipped a beat, as what I saw in the center of the room was unexpected.
A little girl with dark brown hair sat cross legged on the bed, smiling at me. I didn’t notice her before, with the lights off. I was startled, but I couldn’t be stirred.
“I’m sorry, uh, Jessica. I didn’t think anyone was in here.”
“Hi!” Is all she said, still smiling at me.
“Hi, I’m here talking with your parents and they told me you’d be up here. I just need to ask some questions. Is that okay, Jessica?”
“Is this… like a game?” She asked. The smile never left her face. The problem is, what seemed like a happy smile at first, suddenly seemed a little off. I’m not sure what the feeling was that I was getting, but it definitely made me unnerved.
“Um, not exactly, but it will only take a moment.”
She just stared at me, her off kilter smile never changing.
I moved toward the dresser across from her bed, and pulled out my pen.
“Jessica, how are you feeling today?”
I blinked a couple times.
“Hungry, huh? Okay. Haven’t you had dinner yet? It’s pretty late right now.
“They had dinner, but I feed myself.”
I blinked at her again.
“They don’t feed you?”
“It’s okay, I eat whenever I want.”
That smile on her face… it sent chills down my back much cooler than the air outside. I cleared my throat a little.
“Do you like your parents?” I asked.
“I used to.” She dipped her head down a little bit, looking at me with her neck arched, still grinning as ever.
“Jessica, I need to get the full story here so I can make sure we find out what’s going on, okay? If you’re honest, I can help you.”
Still smiling away, she nodded.
“Where are your brother and sister today?”
She didn’t reply.
I noticed the cat jump on the bed, and lay by the post. It was staring up at Jessica.
“Oh, I see you have a little friend! Do you like your cat?”
Jessica’s grin grew wider and her eyes flashed with mischief. Then, she titled her head to the side and spoke, but not in her own voice. This voice was deeper, and gravelly.
That’s when she snatched the cat up from the bed and pulled it’s neck to her mouth. She crunched down, causing the poor thing to hiss and screech with agony.
I gasped and fell back against the dresser. Jessica tilted her head back and gave the most maniacal laugh I’ve heard in my life. Blood was dripping from her teeth and lips. She took the cat in both hands as blood splattered onto the bed. Then, I heard a snapping sound and the poor creature went silent. Jessica flopped down onto her stomach, continuing to bite into the cat’s fur and flesh. I could hear her lips and teeth smacking and crunching. That’s when I puked all over the god damn floor.
After spilling my guts, I lunged for the doorway, colliding with the opposite wall just outside. I stumbled and stomped my way back downstairs, to where Dan and Valerie were sitting. They both just looked at me, obviously knowing I had just witnessed the reason for their strange behavior.
I looked at them both, not one of us saying a word for the longest time. Finally, as I began making my way to the door, Valerie spoke.
“Wait!” She exclaimed.
I turned around, my hand on the door knob, fear still present in my watery eyes.
Valerie looked at me with the saddest face, gripping her husband’s arm so tight and said,
“Aren’t you gonna help us?”
CREDIT: Mike Maxim
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