Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl: Part 18
From Chapter 16
Anna Wronski, staying with the Neville's, was flourishing and opening up some about her life as a young person.
Mrs. Hargrove was manifesting disturbing behavior, much more than unusal. She had stopped grooming and was paranoid that everyone was spying on her or plotting to bring her down. Raymond gets a concerned phone call from Mrs. Harrington, a freind of his mother's.
"Ma, you here? It's me, Raymond." There was no answer. His stomach sank as he noticed her filthy teeth on the counter. His mother was not in her chair. The cash register was open but there seemed to be no money missing. Not thinking straight he said, "Oh, please, God, please tell me she hasn't been robbed."
He went into her little apartment looking for her. The heavy drapes were still drawn, which wasn't completely unusual. But a few days worth of half eaten meals were still on the table, dirty dishes in the sink and on the counters and stove, and the stench of garbage spilling over under the sink. He went to the bathroom and bedroom - which were also a mess - calling for her, but he didn't find her. His fears of a robbery and kidnapping still worried him. He called Cooper, his partner.
"Coop, I think Ma has been robbed. Can you come right over?"
"Sure, buddy, but we ought to call someone on duty as well. I'll be there in a few."
Raymond checked the cash register again. He was off his game in investigating and he had to rethink things. There was still money in it. Robbers would have cleaned it out. He continued looking for evidence. A while later he checked his watch. "What's keeping coop?" He called him but there was no answer. Twenty minutes later Cooper arrived with an on duty officer with his mother in tow, looking wild eyed, frizzy haired, and a gagging stench that emanated from her underarms.
"What the heck is going on?" Raymond said.
"We found her lurking around Anna Wronski's home."
Mrs. Hargrove struggled against Cooper, who was in street clothes, and officer Joe Wheeler, a ten year veteran officer. Wheeler hated these kinds of calls and was itching to get back to work fighting real crime and real criminals. Mrs. Hargrove was cursing and accusing them of kidnapping her and ordered Raymond to arrest them. Raymond knew he had to keep a cool head.
"It's okay, Ma. You know Cooper here. He's a swell guy who thinks you are a fine woman."
"If he thinks I'm a fine woman why is he kidnapping me?" Cooper moved his hand from her arm, though his touch had been light, not wanting her to feel any more threatened. "Get away from me you barbaric Cretan," she said to Wheeler.
Wheeler clutched her arm harder and gave her a jerk. "Listen, lady, you want to go to jail? You want to be a criminal? We can oblige you right here, right now." Mrs. Hargrove screamed in pain. "You're hurting me. Raymond, help." Wheeler looked up at Cooper. "I told you we should have cuffed..."
"Wheeler!" Cooper said, burning a hole in him with a glare. Wheeler respected Cooper, and silenced himself, letting go of his challenger. But he stood there with his arms folded, clearly letting her know he had his eye on her. She was now in tears and afraid.
"Outside, Wheeler," Cooper said. As soon as they were out Cooper let him have it. "You know better than this, Joe. You've been on lots of these calls. Mrs. Hargrove can't help her behavior. She needs medical care and compassion, not your threats of jail and physical roughness. Don't ever, ever let me catch you treating a vulnerable person like Mrs. Hargrove again, or I will do whatever it takes to get you a nice seat doing desk work, cleaning toilets, or if worse comes to worst, off the force. Are we clear?"
Wheeler was ready to protest, but Cooper had seniority and was not a force to be reckoned with. In his opinion, Cooper was a good cop and a good man but sometimes he was too mamby pamby, a goody two shoes. He backed off.
"Now," said Cooper, "get out your pen and make a report then get out of here. Hargrove and I have it under control."
It had been everything Raymond could do not to punch Wheeler out. But he needed to bring calm to the situation and going after the brute would only compound the conflict. He was grateful for his partner taking over. He walked over to his mother, cupped her face in his hands and spoke softly to her.
"Hey, Ma. Everything is okay. No one wants to hurt you. Cooper is a friend."
"Definitely your friend, Mrs. Hargrove," Cooper said as he reentered the store. He patted her tenderly on her shoulder. "I'm sorry to have upset you. I was just trying to protect you and get you back here safely. I'm awfully glad you're safe." She began to calm and rubbed the arm Wheeler had dug into.
"We just want to protect you, Ma," Raymond reiterated. "I came for a visit and found the door and the cash register open and Cooper and I were worried you'd been robbed. I sent him out to find you. We're so glad you're safe. How about we go in and you can make Coop and I some coffee and I'll warm us up some butter horns slathered with butter. I'm half starved."
"Me too," said Coop. "You make the best coffee I've ever tasted, Mrs. Hargrove."
Raymond put his arm gently around her shoulder. "I love you Ma, and I can't wait to drink your coffee. I hope you have some decaf. Shall we go?"
Mrs. Hargrove rested her head back against Raymond's chest. "Raymie," she mewed. She looked up into his face. "Of course I'll make you two some coffee." She glared at Wheeler who could be seen through the large storefront window making his report. "But that cop who beat me up is getting nothing."
"Mrs. Hargrove, I promise you that man won't be back again. I sent him on his way and Ray and I are here to keep you safe and drink all of your coffee. Deal?"
"You bet it's a deal," she said adamantly. She took her new hero by the hand and led him to her apartment.
Lunch and Laughter
Mrs. Hargorve fell heavily onto a kitchen chair with a big sigh. Since it didn't look like Ma was going to make coffee, Raymond got the ball rolling, and also put a kettle on for tea for his mother. Instead of pastries, he put on some soup and began making some grilled cheese sandwiches. He reckoned she hadn't eaten all day. Cooper went to work clearing dirty dishes off the table and counters and filled the sink with hot soapy water to soak them. Then he sat down at the table with Mrs. Hargrove who had her head propped upon her fist and the other hand drumming her fingers on the table. She was deep in thought.
"How are you doing, Mrs. Hargrove?" Cooper asked.
"Fair to middlin' I guess. I don't like that cop that tried to beat me up. Raymond, you ought to report him for assault and battery. I'll testify in a court of law, you bet I will."
"I'll certainly look into that Ma." He stole a look at Cooper.
"Did you know Anna Wronski's house is abandoned?" Mrs. Hargrove went on. "Someone must have kidnapped her. You ought to look into that too, Raymond. I'll bet Neville is at the bottom of it. He is out to destroy my reputation and I wouldn't put it past him to keep Mrs. Wronski tied up in his basement. I'm going to find out for sure."
"Ma, we're about to eat. I'm making tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and I put the kettle on for some tea. Coop and I are starved half to death. I haven't had lunch with you in a long time."
"That does sound good. It's about opening time for the store. I'll just run out there..."
"No Ma. It's almost four in the afternoon. I closed up for you early. It's been a slow day and I thought you could use at least part of a day off."
"You ought to put an armed guard in front of the store. My teeth and my blue sweater are missing. I'm sure those two hoodlums stole them. Broke in here while I was at Mrs. Wronski's place."
"Not to worry, Mrs. Hargrove," Cooper said. "Your blue sweater is right over there on your sofa. See?" he pointed.
"So it is. They must have snuck in and put it there. They're trying to play mind games with me. My teeth are still missing. You ought to get a search warrant out on them."
"Ma, I found your teeth on the counter. They're in the bathroom soaking."
"Hmm, more trickery. Well, I'll go get them. I can hardly eat without them." She got up and headed to the bathroom.
Raymond motioned Cooper to the stove so they could talk. "I am really worried about her Coop. She's delusional and paranoid. I don't know how I can get her to go to the doctor."
"That is a conundrum. Why don't you tell her the office called and she's due for her annual check up."
"That's a thought, but I don't know that it will work. It's worth a try."
Ma came out with her teeth clean and intact, but she had a flannel pajama top on over her dress. "Where's my blue sweater? I'm cold and I need it. Find those hoodlums, I know they have it." Cooper went to the sofa and retrieved the sweater and wrapped it around her shoulders.
"Why thank you sir. You're Raymond's partner, yes? You watch over my son, he can be a daredevil that boy. When he was a little boy he jumped off the roof of the garage and broke his wrist. You remember that Raymie?" She laughed heartily. She was softer in demaenor when she called him Raymie.
"Yes, Ma. I wish you wouldn't tell Coop all my secrets. He might ask for another partner."
Mrs. Hargrove looked worried and put her hand atop Cooper's. "You wouldn't do that to my Raymond would you, sir?"
"Absolutely not. I was a real rascal when I was a kid. Raymond's a tinker bell compared to the things I did. Why, when I was eleven, I started a campfire with lighter fluid in the backyard. It was a hot dry summer and the grass caught on fire and most of the lawn burnt up. Dad gave me the switch when the fire and police departments left."
"Oh my, you were a little devil were'nt you?" She threw her head back and laughed. "Raymond, you need to watch this fellow. He's dangerous," she teased.
Raymond arrived with the tea and coffee and began serving the soup and sandwiches. The conversation turned light hearted and the tensions of the day drained away replaced by laughter. Mrs. Hargrove regaled them with stories from her childhood. Raymond didn't know when he'd seen Ma so happy. He'd never heard some of the stories she told. She and her brother, it turns out, were little hellions. No surprise, really.
While they ate and she was in a good mood, Raymond broached the subject of going to the doctor.
"Oh Ma, I forgot to tell you. Dr. Hannity's office called earlier," he said nonchalantly. "They said your'e overdue for your annual check up and they are particularly anxious to see if your blood pressure medication is working. Mrs. Franklin, his nurse, promised to get you the earliest appointment if you'll bring in your famous chocolate chip cookies. That's an offer you can't refuse."
Mrs. Hargrove thought hard. Mrs. Franklin? Nurse? The name seemed vague. But she sounded awful nice. "Well, how lovely of her. Go ahead and make the appointment Raymond. I'll make the cookies tonight."
Raymond offered to help with the cookies just like when he was a little boy. His plan was working. Hopefully Ma wouldn't change her mind. When Ma went to the living room to watch television with Cooper, Raymond got lucky. There was a cancellation for the next day. In twenty four hours they might have some answers.
Fortunately, Raymond was successful at keeping his mother in good spirits to a certain degree. The next day he waited in the living room for Ma to get ready. He'd convinced her earlier to take a shower with the argument that doctors are more considerate of clean patients. He had the chocolate cookies in a bag. He'd bought them in a local bakery while Ma was still asleep. Ma had forgotten about making them and it was easier this way. She came out dressed in a dress stained with coffee. She had her slippers on but her teeth looked decent. He handed her her blue sweater which would cover the coffee stain. On the drive to the doctor's office, Mrs. Hargrove began to act paranoid again, feeling sure someone had stolen her letter opener. Raymond turned on the radio and found a station that played big band music. His mother hummed along and forgot about the conspiracy to steal her letter opener.
When they arrived, Raymond handed the bag of cookies to his mother and reminded her to be sure and give them to Mrs. Franklin, the nurse. He'd warmed them a bit in the oven waiting for his mother to get ready. He'd also made a call to Mrs. Franklin earlier that morning to let her know about the cookies from his mother, and to tell her what was going on with her and asked her to note it to the doctor. It wouldn't work to discuss her behavior with his mother sitting right there.
"You are such a good man, Mr. Hargrove. She is very lucky to have such a caring son. I will be waiting with baited breath for the cookies you can be sure."
Mrs. Franklin kept her promise and made a lovely fuss over the cookies. Ma was humored for a few minutes at least but began to fret again about the letter opener. Dr. Hannity did very well at being jovial and keeping his patient relatively calm and humored. He asked her questions that were clearly meant to test her memory, then asked about any complaints she might have about her health. She gave him a long list of aches and pains, then told him all about the fright she was in about intruders and missing things. She covered Mr. Neville and Anna Wronski as well.
After he got her calmed he told her he was going to order some tests to make extra sure that her health was at it's very best. He also suggested she get help at the store, offering a sneaking wink at Raymond. He made a call to Mrs. Franklin. "Mrs. Franklin, can you come in and take Mrs. Hargrove to the waiting room. I'll just be a minute with Mr. Hargrove." But she would have none of it. She did not want to end the intense attention she was getting from Dr. Hannity. He told her he wanted to get some blood drawn and a specimen to which she was not happy about.
"Edna, I wouldn't ask you to do anything I wouldn't do, and remember, I'm trying to take the best care of one of my favorite patients."
"Only one of them? Hmmph. I ought to be numero uno."
"You are indeed Edna," he said, offering her a private wink, "but don't tell anyone, I don't want there to be any hurt feelings."
"Your secret is safe with me."
As they left the office Dr. Hannity told Raymond, and presumably Mrs. Hargrove, that he'd be in touch once the test results began coming in. Raymond took her for the tests. She was ornery but they finally got the blood drawn. As to the specimen, despite a nurses best efforts Mrs. Hargrove would not cooperate. He could hear her chewing out the nurse while the effort was being made. He helped his mother into the car, then went around and got in. He sat for a moment, hands on the wheel and let ought a long, exhausted sigh. 'What am I going to do with Ma when I go back to work?' He tried to work it out in his head as he drove his mother home. She was chatting along and he was trying to shut her out so he could think. It was near impossible.
Raymond was fortunate after calling work that he'd been approved to some vacation time to help his mother. But it definitely would not be a vacation.
What to Do
Back home Raymond offered to make dinner. He convinced his mother to watch television while he played chef and tried to figure out a game plan. He could always hire someone to take over the store duties, or at least to help, but he knew Ma would make it miserable and she'd probably scare the person off. He realized, depending on what the tests revealed, that he may have to move her out either to his place and hire someone to watch her, or put her in a nursing home. Each idea was followed by a "but." But, Ma would be combative and cantankerous and no one would be able to handle her. The pork chops burnt because he was so distracted, so he cooked up a box of mac and cheese and a can of peas. It worked. Ma was so tired after dinner she went back to her chair and fell fast asleep. He got her off to bed and decided to stay the night. Before he turned in he called Coop to unload. Coop himself had been thinking it through. He remembered a friend had found a place for his mother who had dementia; a facility strictly for people with the same issues. It was ground breaking as most people went to overcrowded and understaffed nursing homes that couldn't give people with these problems the attention they needed, nor did they have sufficient training to deal with behavioral issues. Raymond got the name of the place and would call tomorrow. Ma could not be left alone in the store, or even in the apartment with any confidence she'd be safe. He finally went to bed on the couch and slept a solid six hours. When the sun rose he was ready to take the next steps to help his mother.
© 2018 Lori Colbo