I spent the morning back in the Archive overseeing the processing of the dead woman’s paperwork. Well I say overseeing. Six of us were running pages through document scanners. The extent of my overseeing was to pick whose day to ruin. It was as boring as hell. In spite of all my protestations to the contrary I was actually desperate to get back to the ‘Deen. Fortunately I had a lunch meeting with my little brother.
My little brother used to work for the council. He worked in housing as a neighbourhood services officer so he dealt with vulnerable adults and families. You know people with social workers. He left the council when he got a job with one of the Social Housing Charities. It was the relentless disorganisation, cost cutting and incompetence at the council that got to him in the end. He’s much happier where he is now, though he actually earns less than if he’d stayed, because he gets to work flexi-time and he can use his motorbike when he goes on home visits.
Now I call him my little brother because he’s 3 years younger than me but he’s over six foot tall with long legs and shoulders so broad he can’t buy off the peg suits. He looks like Geoff Bridges as the Dude in the Big Lebowski only younger, taller, better looking and Scottish. So, you know, perfect. Yes ladies he is single. Sorry gents he’s straight.
For the purposes of this blog I shall call him Ishmael.
He met me in a branch of the well known coffee chain named after a Liverpudlian Comedian. You know the one from before. I found it slightly ironic that he, the tea drinker, had picked this coffee shop because he wanted a Chai Latte. I’m a coffee drinker and I’ve never met a cup of joe I didn’t like but if I have a preference of chain it’s the ones named after a Roman Emperor or a soap star.
“Alright what’s up?” He said.
“Why does anything have to be up?” I said.
“You’re never available for lunch even when I’m right outside the Library and suddenly I get a text that you want to meet for coffee in town today. What’s up?” He said.
He had a point. You see as far as my family is concerned I work in the Central Library. Which is kind of true. That’s the building I enter in the morning and leave at night. But my actual office in in the Department Archive in London. I could explain but we’d be here all day. The short version is that I can’t meet my brother for Lunch in the ‘Deen because it’s such a hassle walking back through the corridors of the Archive just when everyone else is heading in the oposite direction to the Department canteen.
“You’re right. I do need a favour. I have to pick your brains about the Social Work Department.” I said.
A look of utter horror crossed his face. I’ve seen that look before but usually only when the unprepared attempt to look something up in the Necronimicon.
“Don’t worry it’s not for me.” I said.
“You know I sometimes look over really old police files for the Met?” He nodded. “Well the local lot want me to look over something more recent.” I nodded towards St Nicks tower.
“The Social Worker who took a long walk out of a short office?” He said.
“Yeah. There’s a lot of paper work to go through and they want me to try and find the important bits. I thought it might be an idea to get some background.” I said. I could see he wasn’t entirely convinced. But I’m his big sister and he wasn’t about to say no.
“OK. What do you want to know?” He said.
“Can you tell me anything about the dead woman? And if not can you put me in contact with anyone who’ll talk honestly about her because we’re getting nothing out of her co-workers.”
“Hmmmm. I didn’t know her myself. I can tell you that her whole team is fucked.”
“Oh yeah. They’re so far over budget they couldn’t see their budget with a telescope. Some of their paperwork is backed up by two years. They only get away with it because they can shout ‘Child Protection’ whenever anyone tries to audit them. They’re about one lawsuit away from bringing the whole Social Work department down in flames.”
“How widely known is this?” I said.
“Well it’s not public knowledge but everyone in Housing, Education and Mental Health knows about it. We all try to steer people to other Social Work teams because we know you never get a straight answer out of that office.” He said.
“Any idea why that team is so bad? Are they dealing with the worst cases or something?” I said.
“Not particularly. They’re dealing with families in crisis but they’re not dealing with the serious child protection stuff. They’re supposed to be going in to prevent family breakdown but the word is that things keep going in the wrong direction.” He said.
I stared out of the window at the tower of St Nicks. The broken window was still there, still not boarded up, still staring at me like a single malevolent eye.
“Actually,” He said, “I might know someone you can talk to about this. He used to work up at [REDACTED](a local mental hospital). He’s retired now so he’s got nothing to lose talking to you. I’ll give him a call. You might have to buy him a pint, mind.”
“One of your drinking pals?” I said.
“Kind of. He’s a good guy. You’ll like him.”