#amwriting FRIDAY #FICTION with RONOVAN WRITES Prompt Challenge #26-Caught
JEAN ELLA MOVES
“I’m afraid, grandfather,” Jean Ella whispered, facing toward the cruiser’s window.
“Do you remember the 2 rules?” a man with grey hair, wearing a red velvet smoking jacket, asked in a perfect British accent.
“Don’t talk like you. Only say what you tell me to say.”
“Jean Ella, look toward me.” he ordered, shaking a finger at her. “Say it the way people would expect. No! Not yet! You are well aware that no one else but you can see me. Look toward the window again…and whisper in a softer voice.”
“Don’ talk like you. ‘n say what’cha tell me ta say.”
“Good. We’re almost there. You have to be brave,” he said, as if he knew exactly what was going to happen next.
Officer Erin Jonas parked her vehicle in front of a sprawling brick home. She stared out the front window, trying to build up the courage to follow a court order she didn’t want to obey.
The large eyes of a trusting child looked to her for comfort. She sighed deeply and stepped out of the police car to open the door for Jean Ella. Children peeked through windows on the second floor, hopeless faces wishing to see a familiar car or a kind relative willing to provide a home.
“Miz Jonas? Do I hafta live here?” she asked, holding tightly to a tattered suitcase containing the remnants of her life. Inside were a change of clothes, underwear, her mother’s lace curtains from the kitchen and the clown picture they’d picked out together from a garage sale.
A grey-haired lady emerged from an immaculate home. She had so many wrinkles around her mouth it reminded Jean Ella of something her mother once said: “That woman’s so old her mouth looks like a butt hole.”
As if she could read the child’s thoughts, she looked down at Jean Ella with harsh eyes. But the child’s gaze was up a foot and to the left.
“Do not say anything,” her companion advised her. “This woman is a menace.”
“Why are you looking over my shoulder?” the grey-haired lady demanded.
“Some kids was lookin’ out the window, ma’am,” Jean Ella replied.
“At least I don’t have to teach her manners,” the old lady sneered. “What brings her here?”
“Her stepfather and her mother are facing life in prison. She won’t be returning home,” Officer Jonas replied.
“Do you have a list of her doctors?”
“She was seen at the poor clinic for mandatory vaccinations. Jean Ella is quite healthy.”
“What a terrible name. We’ll have to do something about that! Has she seen a psychiatrist yet?”
The police officer frowned. “Yes. He said she was surprisingly balanced for a child who’s been through such trauma.”
Jean Ella didn’t like the way the old woman talked about her, or the coldness frozen in her eyes. Her companion lit his wood pipe with its long curve, a routine that usually filled her with comfort.
“This witch is planning on taking you to a psychiatrist tomorrow,” he said. “All the children in this foster home are on the same drugs, you know.”
Jean Ella thought about asking what a drug was, stopping when her companion shook his head no.
“What are you looking at child!” the old lady demanded.
Jean Ella looked toward the ground and asked the police officer, “May I talk ta you private?”
“Sure,” she said, leading Jean Ella back to the police cruiser.
“Once yer gone, she’s gonna take me to a sick-rist. She wants me on drugs. I’m scareded. Please, don’ leave me here.”
“I’m sorry sweetie,” the officer said, her brow furrowed with worry. “I’m following a court order.”
Jean Ella’s companion whispered in her ear, “Here’s what you need to tell the officer…”
“The chillen look like my mama after smokin’ weed. I don’ know what weed is, but mama say it make her weird.”
“The children you saw looking out the window?” The officer asked.
Jean Ella pursed her lips, an action her companion called “cuteness,” shaking her head yes. She dutifully took the outstretched hand offered to her, trudging up the freshly cleaned walkway to the front door.
“Come along child!” The grey-haired woman ordered.
“I’m coming in with her!”
The old woman frowned, not hiding her dissatisfaction at the intrusion. Instinctively, the officer tightened her hold on Jean Ella’s hand.
“I’ll tell the other children to stay in their rooms,” the woman said.
“No,” Jean Ella cried out, pulling at the officer’s hand. “Please, ma’am. My papa’s dead. My mama’s in jail. I…I don’ like this woman!”
“Why! I never…” the old lady said, a hand popping onto a well-covered chest. “I run a respectable foster home!”
Fearful eyes peeked around a hallway corner, darting away when the old woman looked back. The officer’s intuition rang out an alarm in her mind, one she wasn’t about to ignore.
“Jean Ella, please wait here while I make a call,” The officer said.
Her hand twitching, the old woman waited until the officer sat inside the car. She attempted to grab Jean Ella’s slender arm, badly misjudging the reflexes of a child only half her size.
Jean Ella looked toward an entity the woman couldn’t see, giggling at his words. “It is time to send this bitch to jail.”
Turning toward the mystified woman, she said in a very British accent, “All of the children in this institution are on the same psychotropic medications. This hell hole will be shut down by tomorrow.”
“If that is not enough to send you away, my guardian angel told me where you buried the two children you reported as runaways. We will see to it that you never leave prison.”
Jean Ella remembered the sound of a fist against her head, nothing after that. The faint scent of bleach, and sounds of feet shuffling down a hallway, began her journey back to consciousness. She followed the entity’s voice as he called to her, “Wake up, child! Wake up!”
Officer Jonas sat next to Jean Ella, a trail of dried tears still visible on the her cheeks. “Mama?” Jean Ella asked.
“No. It’s Erin.”
“That lady’s evil. She said she kilt two kids an’ buried ’em in a peat bog. She’s gonna bury me there, too.”
“Not where she’s going,” Officer Jonas said with a kind smile. “Thanks to you, we caught a social worker who wasn’t doing her job and two other homes that used the same quack to drug out their kids. How did you know her doctor put them all on the same drugs?”
“My guardian angel tol’ me,” Jean Ella said, smiling up at the officer. “Are you gonna be my mama now?”
“I’m petitioning for guardianship, but it’s up to the courts. If that goes well, I’ll…”
“So am I,” Officer Jonas replied, staring up at a translucent man standing next to the bed wearing an old-style smoking jacket.
“You can see me?” he asked. She nodded yes, her hands trembling. “Bloody hell!”
She blinked, and he was gone.