The Lady Who Didn't Want Help
Email from Joe Banton to Ben Wendham. 17:51 May 5, 2025
I left you a voice message a few minutes ago but you can delete it. I had a few minutes and I wanted to leave you a longer message. First, I will gladly accept your offer of drinks tonight! See you at the Oberland's around 20:00. I've got a lot to tell you.
It's been an interesting day. Ever since the new Elderly Assisted Living Center was opened last week, I've been busy visiting and signing up retirees living outside the city limits. Most of them are glad to learn about a place where their needs will be met and they never need worry about falling down stairs or being away from a doctor. And with the sale of their assets, a large portion of the costs of the Center are paid for so they don't need to worry about burdening any of their family. You need to come visit the Center sometime and see what we have. Everyone is given a room with a bed, computer, and television, as well as a downloadable music and book library. Call buttons summon staff. They get three meals a day and there is even a small park with trees; the walls of the park are painted to give the impression that the park continues for miles which given their poor eyesight and memory most will believe anyway. They never need know they're in the city at all! Truly, a great place for them to spend their remaining years in comfort. We don't have a better name for the Center yet, but we're tossing suggestions back and forth. If you have any, let me know.
Anyway, I ran into one old lady living out along Russell — you know, that winding tract of a road near the wild lands — that didn't want to go to the Center. Name's Cecilia Annette Kirk, and it's Mrs. Kirk, not Ms. and she wouldn't let me forget it! She's about 81 years old and living in a house as old as she is. Definitely old fashioned with lots of inefficiences and more rooms than she needs or can keep in order. Polite though and served excellent tea. Her bit of land has been in her family for generations and she didn't want to sell. She has some grandchildren who live two states over to whom she's promised the house. Sentimental, I know. But that's what I have to work with. I'm going to have to go back there in a few days. I've got a few ideas on how I can convince her that moving into the Center is what's best for her but I'd like to run them by you at Oberland's tonight. I'm pretty sure I shouldn't need more than a second visit. The elderly know us SCA folks are looking out for them.
How are things at the Reserve? You had best give me all the news when I see you! Whoever gets to Oberland's second buys the first round.
Email from Ben Wendham to Joe Banton. 08:45 May 6, 2025
I tried to call but I guess you've already left on your daily rounds. I've been thinking about what you told me last night with Mrs. Kirk. You're very zealous about your job and that's to your credit, Joe, but I think you should take it easy on Mrs. Kirk. She sounds like an old-fashioned matron who is too used to doing things her own way. Ease her into the idea of entering the Center. Leave her brochures and pamphlets if you have any on the place and then leave it up to her. That will set her mind at ease and help give her time to think about it. If her house is in as good a shape as you said last night, then it will probably be okay for her to stay there a month or two more.
I know how you worry about them and I know you'll win her over in time. Just don't push too hard yet. The Center just opened, and I'm sure there are plenty of other elderly who will gladly sell their assets to live there.
I'm going to be working double duty the next few days at the Reserve. The funding came through for us to upgrade some of the shelters and observations cells and I'm going to have my hands full with the renovations. I'll tell you all when its done. If you need to call, you know my number.
Email from Joe Banton to Ben Wendham. 19:33 May 7, 2025
Good luck with your renovations! With a little luck we can free up some more property on the city outskirts so you can expand the Reserve.
I took your advice with Mrs. Kirk and gave her brochures to look over. She was gracious as ever when I came to her door and offered me tea. I'm rather fond of her tea, and once I can move her into the Center I must come visit her so she can make me some more! Still, it's going to be harder than I thought. No sooner had I given her the brochures she threw them away. Right in front of me! I've never met anyone quite so unreasonable, irrascible, or old-fashioned! She is completely confused about what is best for her and insists on staying in that house. Not only is it too big for her, but she has to navigate two sets of stairs every day. She'd be much better off in the Center where she would have just the right amount of space and no stairs to fall down.
I may bring in a lawyer to study her case. If she persists in this lunacy I'm going to have to use the law to move her into the Center where she belongs.
Anyway, I'll talk to you again once you've finished those renovations. I'm anxious to hear all about them!
Email from Ben Wendham to Joe Banton. 14:52 May 11, 2025
Are you up for drinks tonight? Things have finally settled down enough that I can get out in the evening. I would have written you earlier, but I've been making my weekly rounds for animal sightings. And I know you'll be interested to hear about one of them. That's right, along Russell and near old Mrs. Kirk's place.
I stopped by there to ask her about the animal sighting, but she didn't seem to know anything. She was very concerned though. We had a pleasant conversation about my work tending wild animals at the Reserve and in the surrounding wilderness. It turns out that in her youth Mrs. Kirk used to tend strays. Did you know that? I asked if she had a license which of course she didn't and that's why she doesn't do it anymore. Still, I think it explains one reason why she doesn't want to leave. She'd miss the animals.
Have you considered adding some animals to your Center's park? A few squirrels and birds to live in the trees would add an element of the wild. I might be able to arrange some for you if you can get the necessary permits.
I did take a moment to pitch the Center for you, but I don't think Mrs. Kirk is buying it. And looking over her house, I don't think it's as bad for her as you suggest. There's a risk there, but I think she'll be fine for another year. She appears to be in excellent health and seems able to keep the house in good order. And you're right; she makes delicious tea. I'll talk to you tonight.
From Joe Banton's Personal Journal. 16:35 May 11, 2025
So Ben paid a visit to Mrs. Kirk. He thinks I should wait a year before trying to move her into the Center. Is he crazy? She's on prime wilderness property! If we can move her off Russell that will free up several more acres for the reclamation projects. Another ten years and we can shut down Russell all together. I know Ben's always talked about wanting to do that, so I have no idea where this "go-slow" approach is coming from. I'm going to have to call him on this over drinks tonight.
In other news, I made an appointment with a doctor for next week. I was surprised he could see me so soon, but hopefully it won't be necessary. I've been developing a rash on my chest, but the skin cream I picked up today should tend to it. Still, always good to see the doctors just in case.
Email from Joe Banton to Ben Wendham on 17:01 May 12, 2025
I talked to Mrs. Kirk again today. I gave her more brochures and firmly informed her that it was her civic duty to read through them. She didn't throw them away this time. I might be wearing her down. I told her I would be back in a week to hear her answer. I will not stand for another refusal. She doesn't know it yet, but I've arranged to meet with an SCA lawyer tonight to discuss what might be done.
I stopped by your Reserve afterward to take a look at the new facilities. I'm very impressed! I think the animals will really like the new shelter design, and it's much easier now for the guests to see each one. Your animals look very well taken care of. In fact, you can probably fit a dozen more species in now. I look forward to seeing what you'll add to the Reserve in the coming year.
I think I'm going to work a few other cases tomorrow. There's plenty more elderly folks out there who should prove to be easier to sway than that crank Mrs. Kirk. Some success will help me relax. When are you going to be available for drinks again?
From Ben Wendham's Personal Journal. 12:14 May 17, 2025
I'm beginning to believe that Joe is right and we need to move Mrs. Kirk to the new Elderly Assisted Living Center. We had another animal sighting out on Russell near her house today. After considering the evidence, I'm inclined to believe that Mrs. Kirk is secretly tending the animals in the area without a license. That is why she doesn't want to leave. While I admire her desire to aid the wild animals, she does so without a license and without the cognizance of the proper authorities, namely the Wildlife Management Agency which I represent.
Let me quickly note the evidence I've found so I can refer to this later if I must. While exploring near her house I discovered what appeared to be animal tracks of a small to medium-sized omnivorous mammal. The heavy winds we've had the last few days have made the tracks indistinct so I wasn't able to determine exactly what species, but the tracks did lead to and from Mrs. Kirk's house. All the spore I was able to find was old, but it may indicate a trend of animal visits on her property. Further, given that none of the reports have been made by Mrs. Kirk but by her neighbors (the nearest of whom is a half-mile up the road), and passer-bys implies that she is either completely ignorant (in which case her observational skills are insufficient to keep her safe even in her relatively well-kept house), or she is hiding them (in which case it is best for the animal's sake that she be moved). Also, when I confronted her about the tracks and my suspicions, she proved evasive, changing the subject or offering me more tea.
I'm going to mention this to Joe tonight either by phone or in person. I'm not sure what he's trying to do now, but this could be of help.
Email from Joe Banton to Ben Wendham. 13:37 May 17, 2025
I just spoke with Will, the Senior Citizen Administration lawyer I told you about. He says that before we can forcibly move Mrs. Kirk to the Center, we'll need concrete proof that she's illegally tending animals. If you attest to your idea before him I can probably coerce her into leaving of her own accord to avoid a protracted court fight. Could you meet with him tonight? I'd like to go over to Mrs. Kirk's first thing tomorrow. The sooner I can get this done the better I'll feel.
Either way, I'll see you for drinks tomorrow night!
Email from Ben Wendham to Joe Banton. 18:03 May 17, 2025
Joe, I'll see your lawyer friend Will tonight. Catch you for drinks tomorrow!
From Joe Banton's Personal Journal. 07:46 May 18, 2025
Woke up feeling sore all over and sick in my stomach. The skin cream didn't do anything for the rash. It's spreading up my arms and down my legs too. I can barely stop itching long enough to record this. The only thing the cream does is stop the itch for a while. I'll have to pick up some more on my way to Russell. I'm almost out. At least after I see Mrs. Kirk today I'll be able to visit the doctor. I hope his line isn't too long.
But for now I need to maintain my composure. I have the initial report from Will, and everything looks good for me to bring the weight of the law to Mrs. Kirk. If she doesn't back down this time, Will and Ben can start their investigation. I must make sure she understands that she'll have to pay all court expenses and once we move her into the Center anyway, her family will be responsible for the cost. I don't like impoverishing people but this is for her own good. Hopefully she'll listen to reason and recognize what's best for her. I'm an agent of the Senior Citizen Administration. It's my job to take care of the elderly. The Center is designed for just that. It is utterly unconscionable that anyone would question my and consequently the SCA's judgement in this matter!
From Joe Banton's Personal Journal. 11:21 May 18, 2025
Time for the law to step in. I cannot understand this woman! Even after I threaten her and she calls me a little thief, she then becomes all sweetness and continues to play the hostess! She could see that I wasn't feeling well and offered me something for it with her tea. It did help some; my stomach's feeling better but I think the cream is wearing off. I itch all over and I'm feeling warm like I'm coming down with the flu.
But no matter how nice she is to me, she's still thumbed her nose at the SCA and that I cannot tolerate. I will not have her accidental death on my conscience, and I know that if she stays in that house that's exactly what will happen.
Ugh, I feel funny. I wish Russell wasn't so curvy. I could really use some speed about now.
Mrs. Kirk. Mrs. Cecilia Annette Kirk! I will see you in the Center before I'm through. Mark my words. Ugh! What the...
From Ben Wendham's Personal Journal. 14:25 May 18, 2025
Well something worked. A little after noon today, Mrs. Kirk herself reported finding a wounded animal by the road. I wasted no time in coming with my supplies, medicine, a cage, as well as my sample bag so I could take some specimen's around her house. This was a perfect opportunity to start collecting the evidence Joe needed.
Mrs. Kirk had the animal in her living room in an old cardboard box filled with blankets. It was a male raccoon probably a year old. The animal was so feisty I had to tranq it before I could start my examination. I felt a broken rib and a broke right front leg as well as several bruises across its chest, but no other injuries. Mrs. Kirk said she found the poor creature crawling alone the road. I'm not certain where the animal got its injuries. Had it been struck by a car, even one going as slow as they would need to on Russell, it would certainly have been dead by now.
I knew Mrs. Kirk's anxiety was genuine, but I assured her that I would take the raccoon to the Reserve. The animal will probably never return to the wild, not with its injuries. I assured Mrs. Kirk that it would be well take care of. I described the Reserve to her, and told her about the recovery rooms, with veterinarians on staff at all hours, plenty of water and food and exercise equipment to aid the animals in their recovery. Everything they could ever need to live comfortable lives is provided for them by the WMA. This seemed to satisfy her.
Once I'd tended the raccoon's injuries and had him secured in the cage, Mrs. Kirk offered me some tea and asked me about what Joe told her earlier. It seems the news that she could be forced into the Center disturbed her. She asked me if I wanted to put her in there too. I told her that I thought it was in everyone's best interest if she went to the Center. It's clear she doesn't want to go, but she didn't argue anymore. After finishing my tea I left and took my charge back to the Reserve. I think Joe's plan is finally working. Will have to compliment him on a job well done tonight over drinks.
From Ben Wendham's Personal Journal. 22:13 May 18, 2025
Bad news. I've been pacing for the last fifteen minutes since I received the phone call. If I don't sit down and record this, I think I'll never be able to calm down. Oh Joe! Where are you?
Let me try to record what happened this evening in order. I arrived at Oberland's around 20:00. Joe wasn't there yet, but I didn't think that too unusual. He often has to work late. I waited a full hour and when he still hadn't showed I called his SCA office to learn whether he was tied up. But he hadn't reported in after finishing his meeting with Mrs. Kirk around eleven.
I checked on his schedule and called his next visits, but they'd never seen him. I waited another half-hour before returning home. Fifteen minutes ago I received a call from the police. As I'm one of Joe Banton's closest associates, they questioned me as to his whereabouts. They were kind enough to explain to me that his car crashed along Russell only a few minutes after leaving Mrs. Kirk's house. He drove completely off the road and into the woods before crashing into a tree. They didn't find Joe in or near the crash but they did find his shoes next to the pedals. They found his socks twenty feet away from the crash, but they lost his trail once he reached the road.
The police have already talked with Joe's family but they don't know anything either. I asked them if they spoke with Mrs. Kirk and they had come by her place briefly, but she hadn't known anything, nor did she notice anything unusual with him when he left. A part of me suspects that she had something to do with his disappearance but what and how? The motive is clear; to keep him from moving her into the Center. But if she had something to do with his disappearance, then she'd be put in prison or a mental health center at the latest, and that's a far worse situation for somebody her age!
Still, even though I can't figure out how she's involved, I know she has to be. If she wasn't, then why didn't she mention that the police came by when I stopped to pick up the raccoon? Speaking of the raccoon, I called the Reserve a few minutes ago. The raccoon is doing well, though still quite shocked at being in the recovery enclosure. He's been frantically scratching at the walls and windows and trying to pull out his bandages and fur. I recommended they keep the little fellow on pain killers. That should help him calm down. In time he'll adjust to living at the Reserve.
Ah, if I can't help find Joe, at least I can take care of my animals. That's something at least.
Oh, personal note, make an appointment with a doctor. I've got this weird rash on my chest and it itches like crazy.
Oh, Joe! What's happened to you? Where have you gone? Maybe I'll find out tomorrow. Maybe.