I managed to quietly leave without getting tangled with the cluster of reporters massed at the administration building, waiting for some official word.
As I drove south through C-ville over the last bridge leaving town, there must have been every police car the town owned and every officer they had was on site. With the officers, there were eight – maybe ten – people standing beside the cars in cuffs with an assortment of bags.
The rumors were true. It was scuttle-butt that there were homeless people were living in that section of woods in junked cars that the previous owner had just abandoned there. In all my travels I had never seen anyone that I suspected of being homeless in the area. I wondered what was going on; why all the police and why were they in cuffs.
You know the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.”
I made a ‘U’ turn in the road, drove past the all the police cars, made another ‘U’ turn, pulled up behind the last car and turned on the light package.
I walked up to the group of officers. I recognized one right off. Corporal Herb Albertson was a regular at the restaurant.
“Herb, what’s going on?” I asked.
“The town manager ordered the chief to round these homeless up or lose his job. All the men have summons against them or they put up a fight so now they are going to spend a few days in the detention center. The women we have been told to carry to the county line and dump them out,” Herb replied.
“Herb, the county line is ten miles from the next town and it’s already below freezing. I thought there was a shelter on the Island. Does the town council know about this?” I asked.
“The shelter is full up. You know the community is trying to close the shelter down there. The same two or three people are calling in complaints every day. They cannot take in any more people and the county health department sends someone down there everyday to check the numbers,” Herb replied then he added, “The town council is mysteriously out of town today and not answering their phones.”
“Herb, you just can’t take them to the line and dump them out. That’s just not right. It’s just to damn cold and it will be dark in an hour,” I replied.
“I cannot afford to lose my job; none of us can. The new town manager is on a power trip and is on a power grab,” Herb replied.
“Are they under arrest?” I asked.
“No, if they were I would take them to the detention center – at least for the night,” Herb replied.
“Can you release the girls to me?” I asked.
“As long as they are out of town and do not come back here. I guess we can,” Herb replied.
Herb motioned for the other three officers to bring their charges. When they were all there, I said “You have two choices. The officers will take you to the county line and drop you off or you can come with me. It is your choice, you have to decide right now.”
All four responded at the same time, “I’ll go with you.”
“OK, did you get everything that belongs to you when they brought you out?” I asked.
All of them nodded the affirmative. With them uncuffed and their bags in the back of the Suburban, there were three on the back seat and one in the passenger seat. I drove to the island; It was a smelly ride.
On the way I called Marcy, “Is the meeting over?”
“Yes, it was a short one. The notes you need to look at are on your desk,” Marcy replied.
“Help Jenny and the boys get home. Then I need the four of you to meet me at the Horsey house. I am 15 minutes away. I will fill you in when I get there. Turn the heat up in the downstairs rooms please,” I instructed.
Vicky, Ching Lee, Lorrie, Marcy and Jenny were in the Horsey house when we got there.
“Mom is watching the boys,” Jenny replied to my glance, looking for them.
With their bags in the lobby area I retrieved four trash bags and told them to strip. “Everything off,” there were some objections but they did it. While they were stripping I placed a body bath towel, a hand towel, a medium towel to dry their hair and a wash cloth in separate piles for each of them.
Then soap, two of those motel sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, body soap, a disposable razor and shaving cream, tooth paste and tooth brush went into a plastic bag and onto the pile.
When they were done I said, “Each of you pick up one of those piles and come with me, you are to shower twice, wash your hair twice and shave anything that needs shaving. When you are finished we will go get something to eat. Leave the room doors unlocked; we will bring in some more things for you in a minute.”
I opened a room for each of them. After they were in the rooms I gave the whole story to the girls. They were as upset as I was that the town was just going to dump them at the county line.
Jenny, on the other hand was livid, “They cannot do that; that is illegal in this state, let alone horrible treatment. I will make a call in the morning; someone is about to get their cage rattled and more.”
Ching Lee and Vicky went to the gym to get gym shorts, tee shirts, sweat shirts, sweat pants and socks from the gym store for the four girls. They also brought back 4 jackets. We placed the items on the bed in each room while they were getting clean.
I placed all their things, with the exception of their shoes, in the trash bags, tied them off and put them by each door. I did not want them in the rooms until everything had been washed, just to make sure there were no pesky insects in the belongings.
While they were getting cleaned up, the girls and I had a long talk. When they had all came out of the rooms, it was time for some introductions.
“I’m BJ; this is Lorrie, Ching Lee, Vicky, Marcy and Jenny. And you are?” I said.
“I’m Joni Athens”
Joni was the older of the group; late 20’s I guessed after seeing her naked. To look at her face, you would think late 30’s; life so far had been hard on her. She seemed to be the den mother looking us over very carefully.
Alica; if she was fifteen I would be surprised, fourteen was my guess. That meant we would have to tread carefully.
Paula was most likely 18 and had a natural beauty that just glowed. I wondered why she was homeless – her looks alone should have opened doors for her.
Amanda was also in her mid teens – sixteen was my guess. She was just an average looking teenager.
As we gained information Jenny could research them to see if anyone was looking for them and maybe get a little history.
We were going to the airport restaurant for supper, but were going to make a stop on the way at the outlets. The four girls were going to get new clothes.
Everything we had seen so far was worn out and hand me downs at best. At the outlets they each got a cart and one of the girls went with them to help them decide. Twenty two hundred dollars later they each had a weeks worth of panties, bras, several pairs of jeans, slacks, tops and shirts, a jacket and a pair each of shoes and boots.
At the restaurant they ate steaks, potatoes, rolls, gravy, and salad with deserts. I asked if they wanted to take anything back for late night snacks; they did.
Back at the Horsey house we helped them unload all the things they had bought, “You will get a wakeup call at 6; be ready to go at 7 and someone will take you to breakfast. You can spend the day at the gym with the girls helping out or go with Lorrie down to the airport. Lorrie spends most of her day there,” I said. “If there are any problems there is a pad under the phone with emergency numbers. Good night,” I said.
As we turned to leave Joni asked, “Why are you helping us?”
“Why not?” I replied. “I will see you tomorrow, Oh make sure you have your room keys; you can charge lunch and snacks on them at the gym or the airport.”
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.