Grey is a hard-hitting foster care social worker who removes babies and children from dangerous drugged parents, violent homes, and families joined with criminal gangs. He is unstoppable until a new social worker enters his department. She is hungry for power and position, as she challenges Grey in malevolent and unexpected ways. As Grey yanks newborns from mothers, confronts irate parents, and lives through suicides of foster children aging out of the system, nothing stops him until he meets his nemesis, a truly power-hungry woman. As Grey struggles to maintain his position at work, his ambitious co-worker strategizes to bring his career to an end. She plans her take-down in a stealthy, behind-the-back manner, as Grey wakes daily to the grind of child removals during his job as a Child Protective Services social worker. After he is attacked by an addicted, brutal father during a child removal, Grey becomes unruly to his supervisor, co-workers, and his clients while his enemy at work steps back and watches him unravel. She delivers the final crush in an unexpected, malevolent manner. Grey teeters, no longer able to hold himself together, no longer able to perform on the job. He takes the next move, the last thing left for him to do to avoid a final melt-down, a final smear of his old self on a sheet of fly paper.
GREY STOOD QUIETLY next to the hospital bed. “Mrs. Jaspers, your baby has tested positive for cocaine.” Grey knew from experience that talking in a low voice helped hold back the negative emotions of a child’s removal, before anger and defiance from parents swept around him like a dangerous tempest. Mrs. Jaspers, a nineteen-year-old woman recently out of high school, glared at Grey. Her eyes grew larger in her upturned face, framed by tangled, matted purple hair. She wore an apologetic nose ring that swept to one side of her flared nostril and vibrated with each panicked inhalation she drew in.
“I repeat, Mrs. Jaspers, your baby has tested positive. I am from the Department of Social Services. I am here to take your baby to a safe environment.” Mrs. Jaspers bolted upright in her bed. She grabbed onto Grey with a gritty desperation to stop him from removing her baby.
“My baby ain’t on cocaine. How dare you say my baby is on drugs? I didn’t give no drugs to my baby. You cannot take my baby girl. We are waiting for her daddy to come see her. We are going to name her today. I need my baby to stay with me, because like I just told you, we’re waiting for her daddy to come see her.” The daddy, a twenty-one-year-old unemployed construction worker who married her when she tested positive for pregnancy, prowled the streets looking for cocaine after a three-day drinking binge.
Grey unclasped the mother’s hands and moved towards the door. Mrs. Jaspers jumped up, pulling out her intravenous tube, causing blood to spurt out of her arm. She howled loudly. Grey called in a police officer who waited tentatively in the corridor. The police officer’s presence did not deter the fiery mother from running around her hospital room in frantic leaps. The sickening odor of fresh blood permeated the room. Her hospital gown flew open, displaying the naked form of a young woman new to adulthood. Her tattoos, splayed across her torso, looked like colorful orbs of splattered paints, graffiti statements embroidered in flesh.
Grey felt his stomach grip in painful spasms. He thought of his daughter Olivia, also nineteen years-old, at an age of innocence, a time for dreaming, to be a youthful arrow pointed at the stars. As Grey watched Mrs. Jaspers lurch side-to- side in frenzied movements, he wondered how she came to this moment; losing her baby, being strung out on drugs, with a bleak future rising before her. Nurses ran in as the police officer restrained her, “Her stitches. Watch for her stitches,” one of them shouted.
“I don’t care about my stitches. I wish I could die. This man wants to take my baby away. I just had hours of pain to make my baby. You didn’t have that pain, you didn’t go through what I went through;
you didn’t make my baby. You have no right to take my baby. How dare you?” The young woman screamed between loud ricocheting sobs. Her hands shook and her face turned ashen.
One of the nurses yelled, “Mrs. Jaspers, get in bed right now. Nurse Anne, please help me lift her into bed and get her to stop moving around. She has stitches that will tear, if they haven’t already. There, there, Mrs. Jaspers, we’ll have something for you right away.” The nurse patted the sheets down with trembling hands.
Mrs. Jaspers kicked furiously, as the officer restrained her. Two nurses and an aide helped pull her onto the hospital bed. Mrs. Jaspers screamed when the officer gripped her arms and hands. Another nurse came in and gave her a shot. Mrs. Jaspers looked out at a haze of blue uniforms surrounding her, as she shook uncontrollably, emitting a strange growling sound, before her sedative took effect.
Shelby Londyn-Heath, a transplant from New York, has been a world-traveler, crossing the Sahara Desert on the back of a salt truck, working on banana plantations in Spain, an oil company in New York, and on coffee farms in Hawaii. She has jumped freight trains across the United States, and she was the proud owner of a beachfront bamboo hut on the Canary Islands. She has worked as a counselor, social worker, and teacher.