The notice could not have come at a better time. James’ job had just ended with his company moving off-shore. There was nothing keeping him in the city and he was ready for a change of scenery. James’ wife, Jenny, was working from home. All she needed was her laptop and an internet hook-up, so the notice in the paper was ideal.
Custodial Care Needed
Custodial care givers needed for an exceptional opportunity. Infirm minimal custody inmates are being
moved from standard correctional facilities to
communities where they can be both housed in custody and receive needed care. Families needed (preferably couples) to maintain these infirm inmates in small groups.
Generous stipends available and housing and board provided.
The interview was arranged and James and Jenny met with the director of this new program very quickly. They were somewhat surprised that their interview was so timely arranged for such a promising opportunity. Lt. Brown was the Department of Corrections official who met them for the interview. He seemed to take an instant liking to the young couple.
“This is a new program. The corrections system is being clogged with a population of inmates that are becoming elderly and some are too infirm to face the day-to-day stress of even a minimal security environment. The plan is to take a small number of inmates who have been in the system for years and have not exhibited any problematic behavior for long periods, usually decades. The state wants to put them in communities where they will be in a small family-like group and have them monitored and in this instance cared for by a family or couples such as yourselves.
“This will be a pilot program. This is our first attempt, so you see, we want to make this as problem-free as possible. Your resume makes you both ideal. The inmates for the program have been vetted regarding their initial conviction, behaviors in incarceration and physical and medical needs. In short, they are just a bunch of old guys who no longer belong in prison.”
James had questions. “What kind of place is this and where is it?”
Lt. Brown showed a faint smile as he opened a portfolio on his desk. “You know, our seashores are loaded with tourists in the summer and have fine accommodations. There is, however, one problem--Hurricanes. There are some areas of our outer banks that have beautiful private beaches, but hurricane Dorian cut a new inlet dividing one of our barrier islands. The result is that there are some expensive, lavish properties that are almost inaccessible. The relatively isolated status makes them ideal for our purpose.
The photos Lt. Brown produced were of a large modern chalet perched on a sand dune with slopes leading to a sun-drenched ocean. It looks idealic, doesn’t it? It’s been deserted for a year since the storm, even this summer. Now that the tourist season is over, it’s entirely isolated. Because the island was breached, there is no road access to the property. We have a boat for your use and will have supplies delivered on a regular schedule so you won’t need any provisions.
“Now take a look at these interior pictures.”
The photos were of six bedrooms, each with its own bath. There was a common room, and a spacious family room with games including a pool table, dining room and kitchen.
Brown explained, “The furnishing will stay with the property including the kitchen supplies and we’ll see that the pantry is well stocked prior to your arrival. One factor you should consider is that there are no neighbors. In the off-season, the area is virtually deserted.
“We would expect a commitment of at least six months. Go home think it over. Give it serious consideration and if ya’ll are interested in being den mothers to a half dozen seventy-year old deliquents, we’ll meet back here to look at your charges.”
Two weeks later, back at the DOC office, James and Jenny had mulled the proposition over and considered it an adventure.
Once again Lt. Brown was there, but this time he was accompanied by Margo. She was a thirty-something with hair tightly knotted and a no-nonsense demeanor. There were six folders on the desk. Lt. Brown explained, “Margo has vetted these inmates. She has worked with some of them for years and has investigated their mental, physical and criminal histories.”
James and Jenny reviewed the folders. “They all look like kindly old grandfathers. I wouldn’t think any of these fellows could hurt a fly.”
Margo explained, “I’ve reviewed their records and none of them have ever been violent. And their offenses were committed many years ago. Their greatest interest is getting enough Geritol every day.”
James and Jenny looked at each other and nodded an almost invisible affirmative before turning to Brown and Margo and saying as one, “We’ll do it!”
Ten days later James and Jenny were ensconced in their new home. It really was a wonderful house and it was still furnished with linens, cutlery, appliances and even a stocked pantry.
The next day a launch crossed the inlet delivering their charges. The inmates did, indeed, seem to be grandfatherly types. James made a comment, “They look like kindly old gramps straight out of central casting.” Jenny could not help but counter with, “Yeah, but I’ll bet central casting doesn’t have to look for shives and jail tats.”
The inmates were shown to their rooms and seemed delighted with the accommodations. Johnson, an eighty-year old who was likely the most frail stated, “Well, not bad, not bad at all. It’s got good sun, a nice ocean breeze, and a noticeable lack of bars.”
Jenny had worked out a schedule of chores that was found to be more than agreeable with the residents. James and Jenny had decided that as a group they would be referred to as residents.
They discovered that one of the residents, John Turpin, had been a cook in the army and owned a successful restaurant, before he was discovered having questionable book keeping practices. He was more than happy, actually he was over-joyed to assume the bulk of the culinary duties. He enlisted a couple of his colleagues as assistants. Cleaning and maintenance duties were sorted out among the remaining residents.
Problems—No real problems were initially observed. The residents spent a good deal of time sitting on the porches absorbing the sun. Even when wrapped in their heavy coats and blankets, they still took advantage of the endless ocean vistas. Who could blame them after spending decades behind bars? Their main obligation to the state was to sign in three times a day, and James and Jenny observed them every time they had an opportunity.
Jacob Jones, the youngest of the residents at sixty-eight seemed to be an enigma. He helped clean and was more than helpful with maintenance, but otherwise he was a total introvert. He had his Bible and spent hours sitting with it in his lap. Whether or not he was actually reading was a question. He had a spiral notebook that he seemed to treasure. It was with him all the time. And he was frequently seen making notes in a small, almost microscopic handwriting.
As the weeks passed, the geriatric family settled into a comfortable routine. John Turpin’s cooking was better than James and Jenny could have imagined. The state was as good as its word in supplying provisions. There was plenty of time after the chores were completed for recreation. The mansion’s game room had a pool table, and a TV with an advanced cable connection. The residents discovered that the ocean and the surrounding estuary were teeming with fish, shrimp, crabs, clams and even oysters. All of which supplemented their diet.
John and Jenny noticed that initially the facial expressions of the residents were emotionless, or even dour, but within weeks that jailhouse demeanor was replaced. There were smiles, jokes, laughter and even what could only be described as elation. The only resident who had remained in his shell as Jacob, Jacob Jones.
At the end of the first month some of the residents were out in the estuary digging for clams and the rest were taking an afternoon siesta. John and Jenny were at the kitchen table doing the state required paper work when there was a knock at the door.
James answered the door and there was Jacob. He stood a step or two from the door and talked in a soft, almost whispered voice. “I need to come in. Can I come in?” He repeated two or three times. His head was bowed as though there was something very interesting stuck on the top of his shoe.
James said, “Jacob, is something wrong? Come in.”
Jacob’s next movements were quick. He moved much faster than any sixty-eight year old man should be able to move. He was on James in an instant. His right arm was raised and James noted a scaling knife firmly grasped. James grabbed for Jacob’s wrist and held it with both hands ignoring the rest of the assailant’s body.
Jacob howled, “I must-I must, My duty-My duty.”
Jacob was squirming like an eel. As he twisted away, James was able to forcefully lower Jacob’s arm and pull it across his back all the way to and past his left shoulder. As James did this he felt and heard the tearing of muscles and tendons as the right upper arm was wrenched from the socket. His right arm now hung limply from the shoulder though he was still more than able to flex his elbow.
For the first time James noticed that Jacob held something in his left hand. James noticed a metal object held like a club in that hand. He swung his left arm and achieved a glancing blow to James’ temple just above the ear. James was dazed, but he held on to Jacob as both men stumbled across the kitchen to the sink. At the sink, James was able to direct Jacob’s left hand with a can opener into the sink drain, the garbage disposal.
James held on. He knew that his life depended on his grip. Jacob head-butted James and his grip on Jacob began to slacken.
Suddenly James heard the grinding whirl of the disposal and saw a stream of blood spout upward from the sink drain. As his vision cleared, he saw Jenny manning the disposal switch.
The fight had gone out of Jacob and he slumped over the kitchen counter.
Jenny and James were able to hoist him to the kitchen island and tightly wrap kitchen towels around the mangled left hand that was now missing three fingers. As they were fashioning a sling for his dislocated right shoulder the phone rang. Jenny picked it up, “Hello.”
“Jenny, this is Margo from the DOC.” Margo’s voice sounded urgent. “I need to alert you to one of your residents-- Jacob Jones.”
Jenny said, “Margo I…”
“Jenny, we discovered some old journals Jacob had written. There is a disturbing trend of violence he had never exhibited in over a decade here. Believe me, we never suspected any dangerous tendencies till we found the notebooks. You must disarm him immediately. Now that we’ve looked further we also found a history of him being a cutter. I have a team on the way to pick him up!”
Jenny’s response had a matter-of-fact nature, “Margo, He’s already been disarmed, and de-fingered as well.”