Meg and the gang

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Chapter 1: the girls make contact
(by Kim Etheridge, added on 4 April 2017 11:24 PM)

Hello, everyone. It’s nice to meet you this fine day. Who am I? My name is Meg Grace. Why am I writing this book? Hmm, let me see if I can say this correctly. It’s like this. It’s because I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a wonderful story, but just as we have trials in our life and in our Christian walk with the Lord, this story has its share of trials, travail, and if you want me to be blunt, traumatic moments. This is not only my story, but the story of four girls that the Lord God placed in my life. I see you’re full of questions, already.

The next thing you’d like to know is how I met these girls. Well, grab either your favorite snack or your preferred beverage, and have a seat. It’s going to be a long story, so sit back, put your feet up, relax and I’ll tell you all about it. Good, I see you’re comfortable and you’re ready to listen. Boy, this couch is soft!

We begin this story, as I’m cleaning up my house. OK, that sounds like an urgent knock on my door. Dear Lord, please don’t let me wind up regretting opening this door, I frantically pray as I make my way to the door. You have to be careful, because it could be anyone. At least whoever it is had the decency to knock, instead of trying to break into my house. Hold on, I’m coming! I open my door to find four girls on my front porch, crying their eyes out. I’ll speak to you later. I need to go, so I can tend these girls and figure out what’s wrong with them. I’m really worried about these poor and frightened girls.

“Hi, I’m Meg Grace,” I began. Who are you? Did you walk all the way here? What’s wrong? Why are you crying? Just take it easy now. We have to talk about what’s going on here. We have to communicate, if I’m going to be able to help you. Don’t worry, girls. You’re in good hands. God tells us in His Word that He’ll never leave us or forsake us. He’s here right now. There, now. I won’t bite you.

Here, have a tissue. OK, it’s not the end of the world. We can talk about it. Should I call someone? OK, OK; just take it easy. I won’t call anyone right now. Say, you girls are pretty banged up. What happened? I don’t mean to be rude, but how did you get so dirty? What have you been doing? Would you like a drink? Just calm down and tell me what’s wrong. I want to be your friend. You could’ve gone to anyone’s house, but it’s obvious the Lord led you to me. Now I can’t help you, if you’re not willing to trust me. Come on, girls. Just as God can lead you to my house, He can also help me to help you. However, I can’t help, if you won’t tell me what’s wrong. Let's get you a hot bath, some clean clothes, a listening ear and a strong shoulder. What do you say? Good. Let’s go upstairs and find some clothes that might be your size. Good Lord, please let me be able to clothe these girls, until I can wash what they’re wearing and find out what’s wrong with them.”

We were able to find clothes that would fit the girls. Thank God the lady who formerly occupied this premises was rich and left some of her clothes behind. I noticed that all four girls were smiling and dry eyed. The bath apparently helped their disposition and improved their distraught state. I poured them each a cup of tea, and we sat down at the kitchen table.

“OK, girls, it’s time for a chat,” I said. “What are your names?” The oldest girl cleared her throat. “My name is Sandra Hooper.” “It’s nice to meet you, Sandra,” I said. “My name is Patsy Bowls,” the second girl said. “OK, we’ve got Sandra Hooper and Patsy Bowls,” I said. “What about you two who haven’t said anything?” “I’m Sherry Byrd,” the third girl said. “What about you?” I asked the youngest girl.

Sandra had to tell me her name, because the girl burst into tears, in response to my question. “Don’t mind her, Miss Grace,” Sandra said. “She’s Drew Bryant. She’s just shy, and like the rest of us, she’s very traumatized and scared right now.” “I see,” I said. “By the way, please call me Meg. However, it was polite and respectful of you to call me miss, just the same. Thanks for the respect, but let’s drop the formalities here. Now that we’ve established who you are, I’d like to know what’s going on with you. How did you get all the welts and bruises you have?” “I’ll tell you,” Sandra volunteered. “The others are too traumatized, and I don’t want any questions directed at them.” “OK, seeing as how you’re the oldest, that sounds very sensible,” I said. “I won’t ask the others anything, out of respect for the trauma they’ve suffered.” “Well, this is a long story,” Sandra said. “I’m listening,” I said. “The floor is all yours.”

“Well,” Sandra began, hesitantly. “Meg, it’s like this. We four are best friends. We’re not exactly neighbors, but we lived on the same street. Our mothers aren’t exactly the loving and compassionate kind. They abuse us. They do everything from burning us with their cigarettes to using extension cords to beat us. They claim they’re just trying to keep us in line.” “I see,” I said. “Have you ever told them you were going to report them to the authorities for their behavior toward you?” “We’ve tried,” she said. “It doesn’t work, and we only get a beating for making idle threats, as my Mom likes to say. Also, they tell us that the police would lock us up, and that the Child Protection Services folks would throw us into a home with wicked foster parents or into a state-based boarding school for orphans. The things they say and the stories they tell are very scary and give us all nightmares for weeks on end.”

“Is there any relatives who can take you into their homes?” I asked. “I’m afraid not,” Sandra said. “Oh dear,” I said. “Thank you for deciding to trust me with this story. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to call Child Protective Services. You see, if I don’t report this, your mothers could call the police and report you as runaways, and if they came here looking for you, the police might think I forcibly abducted you from somewhere and lock me up for kidnapping. No thanks. I’m sorry, but the police and CPS (Child Protective Services) are going to have to get an earful of this horrid story.”

“No!” Drew wailed. “Calm down, Drew,” Sandra said. “Meg’s only trying to do things the legal way. We don’t want our mothers or the police making trouble for her. We had to take a chance and trust her. I think she’ll look after us. Just take it easy and calm down, now.” “The police and CPS aren’t the only ones who need to hear about this,” I said. “I’m going to call a neighbor of mine over here. She’s a doctor, and she’ll examine you. It’s possible that when your mothers go on trial, she may have to testify, as to the condition in which she found you.”

I did exactly as I promised and called my neighbor, Dr. Carol Parker. She hurried over and examined all four girls, while I put in a call to the police and CPS. They came over, and after they questioned the girls extensively about their mothers’ abusive behavior toward them, Dr. Parker was questioned, as to the condition in which she found them. After the police left, Kate Powell, a social worker from CPS showed up to talk with us. I asked her about the possibility of the girls staying with me. “Well, Meg, your home seems to be stable, even though you’re single,” she began. “Is there anywhere we can talk privately?”

“Yes, we’ll talk in the den,” I said. “Follow me, please.” I led Miss Powell into the den and closed the door. “Meg, you know that the girls’ mothers are probably going to be arrested,” she said. That means that unless we find a proper home for these girls, they’ll be placed into separate foster homes, one girl to a home. Some people only want one foster child, not four. You’ve taken a liking to these girls, and you cared enough to take them in when they came to you. Before we came in here, you asked about the prospect of providing a home for these girls. Let me speak with my boss, the director of CPS, and see what she says. I’ll tell her about your home life and the tidy condition in which I found it. After that, we have some paperwork that needs to be attended to, and after all the red tape’s over and done with; you may have four new foster children. How does that grab you?”

Of course, I said that it would suit me just fine, if I could be a new foster mother to these girls. After Miss Powell left, I fixed the girls and me some lunch. “Meg, this is delicious!” Sandra proclaimed after the meal. “This is the best homemade spaghetti I’ve ever eaten,” Patsy said. “Amen to that,” Sherry said. “Man, the only thing my Mom ever fixed was that boring old spaghetti and meatballs in a can,” Drew said. “Thanks, Girls,” I said. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” “Meg, we’re scared our mothers are going to come over here, now that CPS and the police know everything,” Sherry said. “I wouldn’t be too sure of that, if I were you,” I said. “I think the Lord and the police have better ideas and plans for their immediate future. If I know the police and the law the way I think I know them, there’s only one stop for your mothers and one message for them to receive. Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Of course, they’re not going to just lock them up and throw away the key. There’s due process of law to consider. That means that they’re innocent until proven guilty. That means there will be an upcoming trial, unless the D.A. and they reach a plea agreement. If the D.A. is set on prosecuting them without the possibility of a plea bargain, then there is certainly going to be a trial. I don’t wish to scare you, but you’ll likely have to testify about the abuse you endured.”

Drew immediately started wailing, at the idea of having to testify in an open court. “Say, how old are you?” I asked. “I’m thirteen, Patsy’s twelve, Sherry’s ten, and Drew’s only eight,” Sandra said. “ “I see,” I said.

Chapter 2: the wheels of justice start to turn
(by Kim Etheridge, added on 4 April 2017 11:33 PM)

“Say, what do you want for supper tonight?” “Meg, you know we’ve only just eaten lunch,” Patsy said. “I know, but if I’m going to have to get something out to thaw, I’m going to need to know what you girls would like, before I do it,” I said. It will take all afternoon, if we have to thaw something like hamburger meat.” “Do you ever make homemade pizzas?” Drew asked. “Pizza would be great,” Sandra said. “Yes, I can make a good pizza,” I said. That news made Drew’s day. The phone rang.

Sandra grabbed the phone. “Grace Residence,” she said. “Yes, she’s right here. Meg, someone from the D.A’s office wants to speak with you.” “Thank you, Sandra,” I said and took the phone. “Can you put that on speaker, Meg?” Sandra asked. “Please, Meg, since it concerns all of us,” Patsy said. “Of course, girls,” I said. I put the phone on speaker. “Hello?” I asked. “Meg, this is Grace Love, and I’m from the D.A’s office,” the lady said. “Good afternoon, Miss Love,” I said. “Please call me Grace, since we’re only on the phone,” she said. “Are you prosecuting the case, or are you the D.A’s secretary?” I asked. “The D.A. assigned this case to me this morning,” she said. “I see,” I said. “Are you going to question us on the phone?” “No, I’m calling from my car phone. I’m on my way home from the office, but I need to come to your home and see you and the girls. Which street do you live on?” “My address is 777 Mercy Street,” I said. “It’s the first house. You can’t miss it.” “Hey, I’ve just turned on to Mercy Street, and I’m right outside your back door,” Grace said in astonishment.

After I hung up the phone, the doorbell rang. I immediately opened my door. “Come in, Grace,” I said. “Thanks, Meg,” she said. “Let’s all go into the den,” I said. “That couch in the den is very comfortable and soft,” Drew remarked, as we headed for the den. “Meg, I spoke with Dr. Parker and Miss Powell today, and they both told me about your part in this matter, so I don’t need to ask you any questions,” Grace said. “OK, I’ll be fixing up my pizza dough, while you’re talking,” I said. “Are you fixing them pizza tonight, or is it going to be for another meal?” she asked. “We’re having pizza tonight,” Sandra said. “Yes, and we’re all looking forward to it,” Patsy said. “I see,” Grace said. “Well, Girls, I need to ask you all some questions about your home environment and about the abuse you endured at the hands of your mothers.” “I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job, Grace,” I said, “but take it easy with Drew. She’s the youngest, and she’s really scared. Sandra, Patsy and Sherry are scared, too, but Drew’s been the most traumatized.” “Don’t worry, Meg,” Grace assured me. “Since I’m not the defense attorney, it’s not my job to cross-examine these girls. Just leave the girls to me, get your pizza dough ready and rest easy.” I sighed with relief. An intense feeling of peace overtook me, and I immediately felt better. Thank You, God for giving me Your peace and for sending Grace to us, I prayed, as I began gathering ingredients for my pizza dough. God seemed to be telling me that Grace would be a good friend and a good prosecutor for the case. I knew that He’d take care of the girls and me.

Grace questioned the girls extensively. It didn’t take too long, to my surprise. I thought she’d need at least an hour or two to figure out what the girls had gone through at their mothers’ hands. It only took half an hour. Once Grace left the house, Drew felt a lot better about testifying in court. It didn’t take long for things to start happening. The girls’ mothers were arrested that afternoon and charged with the following: child abuse, assault and battery, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and assault with intent to commit murder. For the sake of the girls, and because of their youth, the story was never released to the media, thank God.

That would’ve been the last thing we needed, to have reporters and journalists parading around my front lawn or standing on my back porch shooting photos and shouting questions. The next day, Grace called me back and said that the preliminary hearing would be held the next afternoon at one. “Who testifies at the preliminary hearing?” I asked. “Well, we have Dr. Parker and you, Meg,” she said. “Great, the girls don’t get to testify until the trial,” I said, and she agreed. “I hope the defense attorney won’t attempt to cross-examine the doctor or me tomorrow,” I said. “If he does, that’s not a good move.” “He’s a she,” she said. “I see,” I said. “You’re right, Meg,” she said. “Don’t worry. The girls shouldn’t be nervous about tomorrow. This defense attorney’s good, but she’s not stupid.” “Great,” I said. “All the girls have to do tomorrow is just show up for court and listen to the testimony and the judge’s ruling about whether or not he’ll bind the defendants over to the grand jury for a future indictment. They’re not formally charged as of yet, and they won’t be until a bill of indictment is issued.” “You seem to know a lot about the law,” Grace said. “I used to watch courtroom dramas on TV when I was growing up,” I said. “I’ve also read a few legal fiction books in my time.”

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