Heading East- Mark Part 2

Kennedy laid out her plans to an eager Mark. She called Anne and asked her to meet with Mark the next day then told Mark "you need to get out of there immediately. You are going to blow the lid off that place and show everyone just how corrupt they really are. A death of a beautiful young woman because one abuser's father is the judge and the other abuser's father is the sheriff and both are friends with your boss is going to be hot news. You need to secure all your files and make multiple copies. Trust nobody. In fact, I think Anne should go with you and gather information on your behalf."

Valerie smiled, she knew what Kennedy had up her sleeve. She told John with a big grin "call Leslie and ask if Mark could stay with her for a few weeks while Reed and Kylie's old home if finished. Then ask Patrick and David if they are willing to share the house with Mark. I'm sure Lilly would prefer that they have someone to watch over them so they focus on their work instead of being eligible bachelors."

Mark tried to object but Greta cut him off, telling him sharply "they are paying you back for what you did for them four years ago and what you did for us two years ago. The guys are good folks, they are John and Valerie's nephews. Anne is the regional supervisor for Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and is a licensed social worker like you. She will get them to talk, and she is in need of an experienced social worker with your heart."

Anne called back immediately and told Valerie she would meet with Mark the next day at her office. She asked that he be prepared to show his abilities first, she wanted to see him at work before helping. Mark smiled and admitted "she's good. I like her already."

Leslie called back and was glad to open up her apartment to Mark. She told him on the phone "you come highly praised and you did a good thing for Scott and Jessica so I couldn't deny you help. I can also guarantee that our aunt and uncle will demand to meet you to thank you for what you have done for Jaimie and Scott." John and Valerie burst into laughter, they knew without hearing that Jorge and Victoria were mentioned just by the look of shock and horror on his face.

The kids slunk downstairs while the adults were helping Mark. Scott was still fuming and looked like he wanted to destroy everything in sight while Jessica and Jaimie were visibly crying. Michael tried to hide his frustration but broke down as well. Stacy, Richard, Courtney, and Eric comforted their significant others while the rest sat stunned at the sight.

Michael finally pulled himself together enough to tell the others what happened and why they were so sad. He told them "Sylvia was Jessica's best friend before Scott's dad's abuse caused them to need to come east. We four grew up with her, played with her, worked on Uncle John's projects with her. She was such a good person but her mother had to remarry a terrible person. Philip and Jason were Scott's friends in bullying until Scott snapped after he hurt Jaimie. The two tormented everyone and Sylvia had to put up with it because she was family to them. They raped her! They did it without a care! She couldn't defend herself! Nobody wanted to help her, only Mark tried to help her and they stopped him from doing it!"

Michael broke down again as the teens sat in silence. They comforted the four as best they could but it was futile, they couldn't do anything where they were. This was something the adults had to do.

After a half hour of thinking Joseph and Evelyn laid out their plans. They told Kennedy to contact William Kelly and have him coordinate the leak. He had the right connections and he knew who to trust. Mark recognized the name and just nodded, saying sharply "I know my name will make the newspapers but at least it'll be sympathetic instead of trying to call for my head. They can't spin it to make themselves look better without exposing themselves."

Mark told them that he had the papers with him and would turn over all files to the authorities. The two smiled and told him back "copies will suffice; you need the originals for your court appearance. You remember why you would need multiple copies and originals kept separate and secure", alluding to his key role in John's custody case.

Kennedy received a text from someone and had a big grin. She proudly announced "my friend in the Attorney General's Office out in Missouri will be having a word with the Missouri State Marshals and Missouri Highway Patrol about the wrongdoing by Judge Hall and Sheriff Baker. He wasn't too happy to hear that a sheriff exerted pressure on a state agency to do his bidding and a judge openly ignored all legal rights of a child in ruling on a matter against a member of his immediate family especially in a major case such as rape. They won't brush this aside or give it a once-over, this is going to be a deep investigation."

Hearing this news made Mark smile. Things were looking up for him but he still had to worry about his job. Joseph saw his concern and added "I'm on good terms with the head of the agency and will see to it that you are neither fired nor reprimanded for what you are doing as you have proof you were being set-up for a fall by Arthur Davis. I'll wait until after tomorrow's meeting to talk with him, I am sure you will know then why I wanted to wait."

As Mark went downstairs he was nearly knocked over by Cat who was upset at seeing him. She cried out "you made Jaimie and Michael cry, you meanie!" Mark didn't know what to do so just stood there letting her pound away at him, burning off her anger towards him over seeing her siblings hurt. Karen calmed her down and told her softly "he didn't make Jaimie cry, someone else did. He is happy that you love your sister enough to fight him but he's too big for you."

Cat glared at Mark and ran off to hug Jaimie, keeping him under constant watch. Karen just shook her head and whispered to Mark "she never showed that kind of emotion before, especially towards her sister. We think she has been sneaking out of her bed and sleeping with Jaimie but until now we didn't know why."

Mark tried to say something but Karen stopped him, telling him softly "she is trying to protect her big sister; she knows Jaimie has been through a lot and everyone keeps an eye on her but you are the first person she has lashed out at. She needed to do that for her own sake as much as yours. You know how she feels about you now so you will be able to handle her; she will keep an eye on you and in doing so won't be getting into trouble. It's the best for everyone."

JD ran up to him and hugged him. Karen started laughing as Mark winced. John came downstairs in time to see his reaction and calmly stated "JD will do the opposite of Cat especially when it comes to adults. Don't read too much into the affection, it's all for show. He just wants to see how his sister reacts, judging by her glare she isn't happy so he will do it again tomorrow just to get the same response from her."

John announced it was time for the twins to go to bed which signaled the group to disperse. Scott hugged Mark deeply, thanking him for caring about Sylvia when nobody else did. Jessica cried again and asked that he make sure she got a proper burial. Greta and Quentin left in silence, Mark figured that the shock still hadn't caught them yet or they were trying to put on a brave face for their children.

After all of the others had left Valerie ushered the twins and teens to eat a light meal. Mark felt like an invader in their personal space but was told to eat as well since he hadn't had a chance yet. Miles fed JD while Jaimie fed Cat, who was still keeping a close watch on Mark. Michael tried to make light of her antics but got the same glare from her making the others laugh and her grunt in disapproval.

The twins went off to bed, Valerie put down Cat while Miles put down JD. Michael was the first to ask Mark what his plans were, being sure to keep away from sore spots. Mark told him honestly "I'm meeting this person your mom and grandparents want me to meet. I am still unsure about meeting with this person Kennedy is telling me about but it's important that I do so for Sylvia's sake."

Miles came back in and announced "she's Christina, Jenna, and Paige's mom. She works for DCF here and she will check the facts of the case closely. Mom, grandma, and grandpa will check them against the state laws to see where her rights were infringed upon and use that against them. Aunt Kennedy's friend is a good person, he is close friends with her, Aunt Karen, and Uncle Nigel and won't hesitate to help out."

Mark didn't know what to say. The boy knew more than he let on. Valerie sensed Mark's astonishment and told him sharply "Miles is our resident problem solver. He is able to sense connections that others haven't seen or can't see due to other issues. He is right, she will look over the files from a fresh perspective as a supervisor and we will work with her to point out the legal issues. William you have indirectly met, he testified on John's behalf and grew to be friends with Karen, Nigel, and Kennedy through their children. He wants justice as much as anyone and will ensure you get back up from the press instead of the propaganda pieces the trio will try to push out."

John chimed in with "You didn't want a fight but we don't back down when kids are in danger. You saw it before, we never have and we never will. We don't like to throw our muscle around but there are times when it is necessary to protect people from bullies and evil intentions. You are one of us, and you need help. We help our friends and family and you are both."

Jaimie grounded Mark for a second, telling him softly "it's Aunt Kennedy's job to look out for people trying to do harm to others and abusing their power and it's Aunt Anne's job to look after innocent people. Let them help you, they can do more than we realize and do it through proper channels and get the right people who can actually do things to make changes make them happen." Mark acquiesced to Jaimie's irrefutable logic, a smile creeping over his face at seeing Jaimie demonstrating on him her calming effect that Mark had only heard about but never seen.

The group went up to bed with Mark making careful notes about what he needed to show to Anne and Kennedy. John and Valerie talked a bit and formulated their own plan, with John telling Valerie that it was best that Jaimie and Michael go about their weekend plans and let Miles and Christina keep Mark company. She read his mind, Miles was new to him and the two were direct results of his influence on the family so interacting with two whose lives were changed for the better due to him would boost his confidence while they themselves worked to secure his future.

In the morning Jaimie had to leave early for work while Michael went out for a day with Reed, Eric, and George. John and Valerie announced they were going to do some work on Mark's behalf allowing Mark free time to calm himself and get to know the area. Miles was drafted to be his escort with Christina keeping them company as the twins would be with them.

Cat was still scowling at Mark but brightened when Christina came over. She stuck out her tongue at him as she jumped into Christina's arms, silently telling him she didn't want anything to do with him while Christina was there. To her credit, Christina admonished her for acting that way towards Mark making Cat show some remorse but still glowering at him when Christina wasn't looking.

Miles just shook his head and had Mark talk about Newhall and the area he worked from. Mark knew he was probing him for the truth and wasn't surprised at his analyzing his answers. Miles admitted to him "mom, Jaimie, and Michael don't talk at all about that place but I can understand now why they don't. It's different from here but it's still just as corrupt. They just hid it better and aren't afraid to use medieval mentalities to keep the shroud over their exploits."

Christina chimed in with a soft "you are lucky to be such a good person, you are trying to help and people just won't let you. Mom is trying to find more people like you but it's so hard to get people who don't just go through the motions to clear a case, she wants people who follow up and help before and during the time they are needed not after."

A knock on the door led Miles to open it and let Anne and Paige inside. Paige smiled at Mark as she entered, he immediately spotted her ring and was in disbelief that someone so young was already engaged. Miles caught his look and told him bluntly "the four of them didn't bother acting like they needed to wait, the only thing keeping them from marrying right now is Aunt Karen and Aunt Anne but knowing them once they are all 18 and have their diplomas Bryan is moving in with Paige and Pete is moving in with Hannah."

Anne coughed and looked angry but burst into laughter as Miles cringed. Anne formally introduced herself and told Mark "it's nice to finally meet someone who shares the same beliefs about the children in need of protection." Mark extended his hand as Miles, Paige, and Christina slunk away with the twins to give them privacy.

Anne dropped all formalities and asked him sharply "I'd like the whole story from your perspective. What did you try to do and when? I know you tried to help her in her final minutes but there is more to the story that I need to know." Mark liked her already, she was sharp-tongued and to the point.

Mark took a deep breath and started his tale "it started two years ago after Scott and Jessica moved east. Scott's revelation that his father was abusing him caused Sylvia to come forward to her teacher and ask for help. Her teacher and principal followed proper procedure and notified us as well as the sheriff about the abuse. That's when the trouble started but none of them knew it yet."

Anne raised her eyebrow in surprise as Mark noted the timing. Mark nodded and continued "the deputies took the information down and told the girl that they would investigate but nothing came of it. I sought out the report but nothing was filed by them. The deputies pretended that they had no idea what was going on but I knew they were told to drop the investigation by the sheriff. Sylvia told me the names of the boys who raped her, one was her stepbrother. The other was his best friend, the sheriff's own son. The deputies who investigated were both related to the sheriff."

Anne asked him quickly "was there any attempt to seek out an unbiased agency to investigate on the county's behalf?" Mark nodded but told her "I tried but it was shot down right away by my boss. He told me that it was a waste of resources and that the girl was lying or the story was exaggerated to make the boys look bad. I knew it wasn't true, I saw the marks on her body and had the doctor's reports saying it was definitely not consensual."

Anne cringed and asked him to continue. Miles and Christina were listening in from the dining room, close enough to hear but not intervene. Mark knew they were close by and asked them to just sit down and listen as they were probably the few who didn't have any connections to Newhall in some way. Anne pointed out that she did but Mark countered with "you visited for a very brief time and didn't get to see it for what it was so I don't consider you as having connections." Christina countered with "mom he has a point, Jenna got to meet Sylvia and all you got was a glimpse of her from the stage."

Mark nodded and continued "after the case floundered I was forced to work on others with my boss telling me to pigeonhole it. I have the memos from him regarding the case to show the exact wording. After a few months she was showing signs of abuse again but this time refused to come forward so I had to note it in the file then hide it away."

Miles made note of the timeline and what Mark had as evidence. Anne smiled at his eagerness to help and whispered: "are you sure you don't want to become a social worker?" He countered with a soft "Jessica and Jenna are better suited, I am not quite sure what I want to do yet."

Mark was proud that the boy was taking this seriously and trying to help even though he didn't have to do anything. Anne nodded at him to continue so he stated "after a year and a half she called me directly and begged me to help her. The abuse had gotten worse and the boys were using her as their own personal sex toy, openly taunting her about nobody being able to help her. I recorded a phone call from her and you could hear the two taunting her in the background as she tried to hide. She never had a chance to end the call so it recorded her screams and pleas with the two explicitly stating ‘our dads won't let that idiot help you so stop screaming and take it or we will make sure you never tell anyone again."

Shock appeared on all three faces as Mark nodded, playing the recording on his phone. Christina was visibly crying as Mark stated "I took this to my supervisor and demanded action. He told me to drop it, the sheriff and judge were never going to allow any action to be taken. I told him that this was going to end badly and it would be on his conscience that it fell to which he scoffed and said I was an idealist who needed to learn the system before it was too late. He then told me not to investigate further or else he'd fire me for insubordination. I demanded that he put it in writing which he scoffed at until I replayed what he just said making him furious and tell me that he'd get me back."

Anne asked if he still had it to which Mark played the recording. She smiled and told him bluntly "he just nailed himself there, blatantly ignoring a confirmed abuse case and threatening illegal action against an employee for following proper procedures. Kennedy's friends will love all of this. Please continue, I know it's hard but I need to know what happens next."

Mark nodded and told her "the next week I got a call from Sylvia. She was pregnant and needed help badly. Her parents were outraged, blaming her for the whole situation. Her stepbrother denied any wrongdoing and claimed she came onto him. Jason's dad even went so far as to get a restraining order against her, claiming she was lying and besmirching his reputation. She was pregnant with twins and was so skinny that she started to show around the ninth week. Her friends abandoned her and her family openly detested her. She came to me begging for help but again all efforts were blocked."

Mark had tears starting to well up, Anne took a short break to allow him to compose himself. Christina got him a drink while Miles checked on Paige and the twins. He didn't tell her what was being discussed, knowing the twins were listening and knowing Cat would do something to Mark if Paige started to cry.

When Mark was composed he began again "she pleaded with me to help. I kept the voicemail recordings and the emails from my boss telling me to stop the case. I went to the judge directly and when that was blocked I went to the adjacent county and begged the judge there to help. He scoffed at taking action, especially against a fellow judge's wishes despite the overwhelming evidence. I was unable to help and within hours after the final refusal, Sylvia took her life. I tried to beg her to stop but she said she had already started and just wanted to let me know that I was the only one who truly cared about her and I needed to get out of there while I still could."

Mark broke down again. Anne comforted him, telling him softly "you did all you could. You were going against every hurdle and short of physically removing her yourself which would have earned you kidnapping charges you did your best. She knew you cared and wanted you to know that she was thankful for it. You tried, you failed, but you tried. Very few would have continued to try after the first blockage but you never give up. You are one of the best social workers I have ever encountered and I am going to see to it that you have a job here if you are willing to work for us. We need you."

Miles smiled and told him proudly "told you so. Aunt Anne learned from your handling of Jaimie and then used your example to save Scott from people who wanted to take him away from Uncle Quentin and Aunt Greta. She helped me and Christina when we were in foster care, going so far as to adopt Paige and Christina to keep them away from their birth parents. You are a hero and mom and dad and grandma and grandpa will help you. It's the least they can do for you."

Anne smiled and told him the story about Scott's situation starting with the attempt to discredit John and send him to jail by Penelope Clarence. Mark was shocked to hear someone would stoop to such a level but Anne smiled and stated "the joke was on her, she is now in prison for what we found out about her and her husband. Reed and Kylie, who you met last night, are her kids. They were taken in and adopted by Kennedy and Willie Pena, and Kylie herself is like a younger Jaimie only with more eagerness and less ability to rein in her girliness but we love her just the same."

Christina and Miles burst into laughter as Mark was perplexed. Anne filled him in on the whole Reed and Kylie story which he had partially heard the night before but this time adding in her perspective and a harsh criticism of her lazy employees. Mark asked about the quick adoptions which Anne admitted "they were more for the kids' sake as the harassment and mental toll was too much for them especially Reed. We had a real fear that he would commit suicide if the adoption wasn't sped up to stop people from harassing him about his former parents. Dr. Dane and Dr. Eliza agreed, with both offering their strong criticism and full support for an appeal if it didn't happen right away. Judge Matthews thankfully didn't hesitate at granting it and gave the order right away, he has a soft spot for abuse victims especially after Miles was nearly kidnapped the year before."

Mark looked at Miles who told him the full story about him. Christina added that he did the same regarding her parents after her birth parents tried to kidnap her. Mark got the sense that the Finns as a whole were a family that nobody messed with without it becoming a full blown storm.

Miles read his thoughts and said "Uncle Jake once joked that messing with our family was like messing with a tornado. The EF scale didn't stand for ‘enhanced Fujita' it stood for ‘enraged Finns' and anyone dumb enough to get in our way when the storm was brewing was taken down fast and hard and without mercy."

Mark asked if they fought a lot, Anne countered with "none of us look for a fight, it always finds us. Miles came into John and Valerie's life after problems at his group home caused by the caretaker and Roland's goons, Christina was due to greed and vanity and trying to cover their tracks, Reed and Kylie was due to ignorance and hatred that had nothing to do with them, Nichole and Nigel due to prejudice and abuse of power, Sam, Virgil, and Tanya due to racism and classism by a woman who is about as evil of a person as you can ever encounter. All came together by pure luck but all became part of the family and got the full help of the family."

Kennedy, John, Valerie, and the Johnsons entered as Anne started her speech. She timed it perfectly as she heard the cars outside and saw them enter. All of them had smiles on their face as they listened.

Anne summed up the family nicely. Kennedy added a sharp "family comes first and just because you aren't blood does not mean you aren't family. All of us learned it in some form and all of us are proud to see it in use."

Mark turned to John and Valerie and asked what was going on now. Kennedy sat next to him and showed him the email response from her friend who was all too eager to start proceedings to investigate on his behalf and would be very interested in reading and listening to his evidence. Anne added, "he has damning evidence against the three big players, four if they go after that other judge for ignoring the abuse of Judge Hall as well."

Joseph added "my friend is speaking with Sylvia's father about what happened and he is going to be starting legal proceedings against social services on her behalf. It won't bring her back but whatever he gets out of the lawsuit will be used to help abused kids. It'll also help her siblings, she was the only kid he lost to his wife and it sounds like it was on purpose. "

Another knock on the door brought Kennedy smiling as she showed William Kelly into the living room. Kennedy explained the situation to which William shook his head in horror and told him "this will get lots of print. I'll call my contacts right away and get them to start the ball rolling. You hit a gold mine if your evidence is as damning as I suspect. Keep all originals in a safe place, I suspect you will be visited by a goon squad who are going to tear apart your home looking for them. In fact, I'd leave them with Anne as they would not think to look into her but would look into John and Kennedy's involvement since they are the ones who are known and connected.."

Mark asked him pointedly "why help me?" William smiled and said "because Kennedy asked and thanks to her my son got justice for what his teacher did to him. Plus you did a lot of good for two kids who are making us all proud."

Mark asked Kennedy quickly "what is that about?" Kennedy retold the other story about Kylie, one that Anne didn't feel was her story to tell. Mark understood now, William nodded and added "the folks out west needed to repay me for helping them with some of the details of their coverage of the abuse story so it's also professional courtesy at work. But this is the kind of stuff they eat up and will have your back fully especially as you have so much damning evidence that anything less than prison for them would spark public outcry!"

Miles smartly said "now you know what I mean? This is at least an EF-2 working on an EF-3." John shook his head and added "it's an EF-5, you haven't experienced an angry Jorge and Victoria which I suspect they are going to be once the sheriff and his goons make their move on Tuesday. This goes beyond us, this is widespread damage."

Mark had only one response to that: "we will be ready."

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