The Headline read "Man Jailed, Suspect in Death of Toddler."
"I can't do this anymore!" Joy ripped the identification badge from her jacket and tossed it across the room, dropping her head into her hands.
"Whoa! What's up?" asked her co-worker, Michael, dodging the projectile.
"I'm just so frustrated with the system. I come into work every day, hoping to make a difference, but none of the families will talk to me. How can I help these children if no one will give me any information?" She began to sob.
"Joshua was not even on our caseload, Joy," he said.
"I am at that complex every week. It could have easily been one of my clients. I don't have the energy to go on. Maybe it's time I got into another line of work."
"I know you're discouraged but you just have to keep trying. If you help one child, it's all worthwhile."
She sat up straighter and said, "I'd like to do something for Joshua's mother."
"I can pick up cold cuts. By now people will probably have stopped bringing food."
"There's an idea," he said.
After a quick trip to the grocery store she drove in silence to the industrial side of town, watching houses go from modest one-family homes to insignificant shacks and dilapidated apartment buildings. She could feel the anxiety rising.
Joy got out of the car and, squaring her shoulders, trudged toward apartment 2B. After knocking loudly, she heard footsteps approaching and a dog barking in the distance.
"Mrs. Jackson, it's Joy Davis. I've brought something for you." She started as the door was opened abruptly.
"Yeah? Whadda you want?"
"Um, I brought you some food."
Mrs. Jackson's eyebrows raised slightly.
"For Joshua. I just want to offer my condolences. I'm so sorry for your loss."
Mrs. Jackson's tough countenance, slipped, but only briefly.
"Thanks." As she opened her mouth to say something else, a commotion arose from across the courtyard. Both women turned to face the disruption.
"I told you to stay out of my closet! You know better than that!" The large, obviously enraged man was chasing a little boy with a leather belt.
"Sorry, Daddy!" the child, no more than four, cried, covering his face with his hands.
Joy felt as though time was standing still as she dropped the bag of groceries and raced to the child's defense. She could hear more voices appear as if from nowhere as people began to look out their doors.
"Back away from that boy right now!" Joy ordered.
"Who do you think you are, lady?" the red-faced man demanded.
"I'm Joy Davis, of CPS," she said as she stopped between the man and child, "And you need to leave this boy alone."
"This is none of your business Ms. Davis. I'm his daddy and I'll deal with him as I see fit."
"Oh, no you won't."
"Who's going to stop me?" The man began to laugh at her as the boy sat cowering behind her.
Joy, surprised, turned to see Mrs. Jackson walking up just behind her. When she turned back to the abusive man, he too looked shocked.
"Now, Jerry, I just lost my baby and I will not stand by and let anything else happen around here."
"Go home, Margaret and take care of your family and I'll worry about mine." He turned to look at Joy.
"As for you, get out of our neighborhood. You don't know nothin' about us. Go back to your fancy car and money."
"I know that you are beating a small child and that is against the law. I have been charged with protecting children." Joy flinched when the man called Jerry lifted his hand as if to hit her.
Just then, another man grabbed Jerry's hand.
"No you don't, Jerry. It's enough," he said.
When Joy peered around, the courtyard was filled with people who seemed to be residents of the complex. All defiant faces peered angrily at Jerry. Normally the anger was directed toward her. She was dumbfounded when she discovered that they were backing her up.
"Jerry, stand down." Her rescuer turned to face her. "Ma'am, I don't think you have to worry about this neighborhood anymore. We will not lose another one of our own."
Joy looked around at the crowd, lips trembling, and unable to speak. For Joshua she suddenly found the energy to carry on.
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