Regarding Jane Doe 86-0187

Regarding Jane Doe 86-0187

A Story by Chopstix

A case worker evaluates a strange situation. Picture prompt:Riverside woman in red with sketch pad.

County of Muskingum

May 8, 1986

From: Josephina Carter, Child Welfare Worker 
To  : Micheal Johnston, Director, State Office of Child Protective Services
cc  : Jebedaih Bridewell, Commissioner, Muskingum County Social Service
RE  : Jane Doe 86-0187

On May 5, 1986 the Department of Social Services received a telephone call from Emily Swenburg. She took in a, seemingly, feral human female of approximately fourteen years. I was dispatched to 137 Treeline Road, Zanesville OH where I met Jane Doe 86-0187, allegedly Melinda Meigs. Although she attempted speech, often excitedly, poor diction distorted her English beyond recognition. After initial frustration, she grabbed my clipboard and wrote, “Please help. Please protect me,” with flawless penmanship. I asked her to write down what happened. Her story follows.

I am Melinda Clarke Meigs, daughter of Hannah Clarke, a famous artist, and Evan Abednego Meigs. I was born in New York City during one of my mother's gallery exhibitions, as was my little brother, Paul, eighteen months younger than myself. I think, as best I can reason through events, my current situation originates from Paul's curious rebelliousness. 

On a hot, summer's day six years ago, Paul and I played on the south bank of Licking Creek. Paul stripped off his clothes, ignored Mother's admonitions and swam to the opposite bank near a large rock. I whistled and yelled to him. He ignored me and climbed the rock. By the time I removed my shoes and frock, he was gone. I waded midways cross the creek and yelled for him to return. He ignored me. Furious, I gathered my things, ran home and told Mother.

Mother set me in front of an open writing primer, told me not to worry, whispered into father's ear and went in search of Paul. Father cooked dinner while I continued my studies in arithmetic, history and geography. Neither Mother nor Paul returned. I put away mother's paints and implements, and Father tucked me into bed. 

We lived in a cabin Father built for Mother. Paul and I shared one bedroom; Mother and Father the other. A large kitchen took up our cabin's front half. Father locked my bedroom's back door, and he required I wake him should I need to use our outhouse during the night. Two large storage sheds out back completed our home. 

Father must have awoken early the next day. He cooked breakfast, set a stew a simmer and left a note instructing me to do my chores, study and wait till he finds Mother. So I did.

I heard scuffles early the morning after, but Father never entered our cabin. I found a sack outside our door filled with deer meat, apples, yams, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, chestnuts and herbs. Father must have left it while he continued searching for Mother and Paul. As part of my chores, I prepared venison stew. I roasted the chestnuts and fetched flour from the shed to make dumplings. It tasted good; I wished Father would have come home and tried it. I washed his sack and left it outside to dry.

The next morning, Father left another sack of food but I did not see nor hear him. After a few days, I modified my routine. Every morning, I prepared meals from Father's sack, cleaned our cabin and gathered firewood. After lunch, I took one of Mother's drawing pads and headed to the creek. Something, perhaps anxiety, compelled me to sketch the scene where Paul disappeared. I drew that scene two thousand times (after a week, I numbered each drawing in the lower right hand corner).  I completed my sketch and took advantage of the creek's clear water to bathe. This saved well water for cooking, washing dishes, clothing and Father's sack. I returned well before sunset, ate dinner and studied from Mother's primers and school books. Often I read novels by Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, George Elliot, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Austin and The Bible. 

I learned to sew; Mother collected several sewing books. At first, I learned to let-out and lengthen my clothes. Later, I took-in and shortened Mother's blouses and trousers. I am almost her size, now, though her dresses hang on me somewhat baggily without alteration. Father's morning food sacks comforted me, reminding me I was not alone. I grew accustomed to my life, but my sketch's numbers reminded me I had not seen my family for years.

I'm not sure why I started hanging my sketches on the shed's walls. Dwindling stores of kerosene, flour and sugar revealed bare walls. First, I hung Mother's incomplete painting of Licking Creek's north bank. I modeled all my sketches on it, sitting in the exact spot Mother stood. My day-by-day sketches followed until a hundred works covered both the south and west walls.

Examining Mother's painting closely in this light, I noticed a strange shadow in the rock's side face. It looked like a capital “I.” I never noticed it before. Looking at my sketches, I saw letters in each rock flank as well. vUIalwAzwilIalOnluvUIalwAzwil ... I alOn luv U I alwAz wil … I, alone, love you. I always will. I rushed to the creek, forded it and approached the rock. I found a bucket of dark, tar-like mud and couple rags. Someone painted a “u” on the rock's side.

A narrow path lead away from the rock to a clearing in the forest where someone netted tree branches into a canopy, a roof. Embers in a rock ring smouldered. Skinning knifes, cast iron pots, pans, a butchers clever, axes and saws hung from trees to my right. Various tools, including a crude loom, littered their trunks. A deer's skin hung left of the fire ring, drying. Stacks of animal pelts lay about trees to my left. On the other side of the embers, snares encircled an animal-bone pile. Further to the right, three rock covered mounds stood with weathered, wooden planks marking the ends furthest from me. From left to right they read: bOI, bOIz ma and bOIz pa. Blood pulses pounded  my skull. The world tainted red. I sought exit. My eyes settled on a tree, its bark stripped from one foot above ground an up another five feet. Someone carved letters into its pulp. I alOne luv Girl I alwAz wil I sE her BOI and Ma bI River I watch dem plA BOI a Fool Ma a Fool Pa won dem MEgz hE hurt mE I hurt him wurs I sE Girl everE dA I fEd Girl I pA her DowrE with Food I luv Girl shE grOn now sUn I marrE her sUn shE mI WIf.

I ran past trees, through brush and over over logs till I found a path which I followed. I ran for an hour, perhaps longer. I ran till my legs burned, my lungs felt like bursting I ran till I couldn't run any more. The path widened to a trail and, eventually a fire break road. I walked further down the trail for another hour or two. Eventually, the road ran along fenced yards. Some had gates.  I tried some gates; they were locked or barred. Finally, a gate opened. I ran across the yard and pounded on a glass door yelling for help. A woman, Mrs. Swenburg, appeared. She looked frightened, so I stopped pounding and asked for help. She couldn't understand me, but she fetched a glass of water and some cookies. I was grateful. She telephoned Mrs. Carter.

Mrs. Carter could not understand me either. In frustration, I grabbed her notepad and wrote, “Please help me. Please protect me.” After asking a few questions, she asked me to write what happened, to explain how I came here. This notepad's small pages left little room, so this account must do.


I reached Archie Rockwood, Hannah Clarke's agent. He confirms Hannah's absence since 1974 when she arrived pregnant with her second child, Paul, and twenty-four landscapes. He knows of Melinda, but has not seen her since her brother's birth. Mr. Rockwood claims Mz. Clarke's absences are not unusual. Hannah often disappeared for years at a time. He tracked down and sent me a copy of Melinda's birth certificate. Parental names match Jane Doe's narrative.

Deputy Mattingly questioned several Meigs clan members. None would claim Melinda. They had not heard from Evan after his marriage, seventeen years ago. Evan, they recalled, insisted on living, isolated, off the land. They speculated as to where Evan would likely build a cabin.

Escorted by Deputy Mattingly, I drove along a dirt road which fords the Licking River several times. We spotted a 1965 Chevrolet Suburban with New York plates registered to Hannah Clarke. Dust, leaves and spiderwebs covered the vehicle. We followed a path through thickets and trees. A half mile in, we came across a burned down latrine, two burnt sheds and a cabin's ashes, its chimney collapsed. 

Chimney stone heat and lingering kerosene scents suggested the cabin erupted two days ago. Heavy stones, not flames, brought down the chimney. Someone hurled thirteen river stones at it. Another fifteen river stones remained, stacked ten feet away. Sifting through a shed's charred remains, I discovered many metal objects consistent with art painting: brush head bands, painter's spatula and easel hinges amongst blackened tins. No skeletal remains were found in any of the burned out structures.

Several paths lead to Licking River. From each of them, we saw large rock outcroppings on opposite banks. We forded the river and walked along the bank taking the occasional path into the forest. We discovered several clearings. One featured a canopy of interleaved tree branches. On the far end, we encountered a recently felled tree's stump, no writing on its trunk.


Deputy Mattingly deems the physical evidence inconclusive. We both believe Hannah Clarke occupied the cabin site at some time. Jane Doe's upper body strength seems insufficient to throw seventy pound river stones. With adrenaline, Deputy Mattingly reminds, such acts are possible. In an agitated state, such as murdering her family and burning down her residence, Jane Doe may have reaped adrenaline enhanced strength. Deputy Mattingly narrows Jane Doe's identity to one of three possibilities: She is an imposter who killed the Meigs family and burned their homestead; she is Melinda Meigs who murdered her family and burned her homestead or she is Melinda Meigs whose family fell victim to an obsessed stalker. I chose to believe the latter. Whatever her past, Jane Doe is a teenage girl in desperate need of help.


From here on, we should refer to Jane Doe 86-0187 as Melinda Clarke Meigs. Academically, she tests above high school levels in reading, writing, math, geography, basic science (excluding laboratory science), history and art. She needs extensive speech therapy, emotional stabilization and social skill development. She also needs to master use of modern electronics, indoor plumbing and other facets of civilized life such as sanitary napkins as Mrs. Swenburg can attest. I recommend placing her with a foster care family with children. When she is ready, she should be introduced to public high school. There is no rush. She should be able to catch up in her studies quickly.

I disagree with Deputy Mattingly. She should not return to her homestead to guide evidence collection. Nothing can be gained from it. On the contrary, Child Protective Services should relocate her, clandestinely, to another county such as Cuyahoga, Eerie or Sandusky. As a matter of caution, she should be placed far from any person obsessed with her. 

WDC Word Count: 1919

© 2017 Chopstix

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


This is such a great, unique story. I love the format especially. Wonderful job!

Posted 10 Months Ago


10 Months Ago

Thanx again for reading and reviewing my stories.

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


1 Review
Added on February 9, 2017
Last Updated on February 9, 2017
Tags: Official Memorandum, Murder, Family, Jane Doe, Deputy, Social, Child Protective Welfare



Los Angeles, CA

In high school, I wrote lyrics. I started college writing poems and switched to short stories. After college, I discovered I could write computer programs, but I could not finish a novel (kept editi.. more..