Reasonable Cause

Summary: Sarah Dermott is a Social Worker for Child Protection Services. She travels to the town of Bootsville to investigate the abuse case of Coop Burtonburger.

This story is rated T for mentions of violence and child abuse. It is set during season one.

Characters: OC focused story spotlighting Coop, Burt, Millie, and Mr. Kat. No pairings.

Chapter One: Prologue

Every child has the right to be safe, thought Sarah as she approached Bootsville Hospital. It was her job as a Social Worker to begin an investigation for Child Protection Services. She was a passionate individual, yearning to be a protector of the community by keeping kids safe and families strong. It wasn't always a rewarding job though, often the more complicated cases were difficult and downright depressing. More than once, she had to depend on her own personal resilience to cope with the horrors.

It was decided that she'd be the one to interview Coop Burtonburger after receiving his case. A medical practitioner had recognised and reported the child abuse when he was submitted to hospital early yesterday morning. It was less than twenty-four hours later, and a short four-hour flight, that Sarah had landed in the small town of Bootsville.

She'd already sought the consent of the family, in particular Mr. Burt Burtonburger a single dad, to conduct the interview. It was always more difficult when they didn't consent. Often the police were involved or a lengthy process through Youth Court to seek official orders. This time she was fortunate. Burt had agreed to let her conduct the interview without putting up much of a fight. A part of her role was to engage with the parents or caretakers, to ensure a co-operate working relationship. So far Burt had been cordial but she hadn't yet met the man in person.

The hospital was a two-story building with a set of double doors at the front. She'd found a car park easily as most of the lot was empty. As she approached the building, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the glass. The image of a thirty-six-year-old woman shone back at her. She wore a crisp white button-up shirt, with a dark maroon skirt that sat below her knees. Her brown hair was tied back into a neat ponytail.

The doors opened automatically and she entered the reception area. A couple of people were sitting in the waiting room. One held a bloodied towel to their head but otherwise seemed fine with barely a peep. She wondered if Bootsville had enough budget to maintain the building, as she immediately noticed the scuffed carpets and cracks in the wall.

The receptionist smiled as she arrived at her desk. Perky, cheerful, and optimistic. Quite the opposite of herself. Her counter was cluttered. She saw a box of tissues, two bowls of bite-sized lollies, and several stacks of papers, all squeezed between a large grey computer in the middle.

"How can I help you, Hun?"

"I'm here to see a patient – Coop Burtonburger. You should've been contacted by CPS about my arrival."

Sarah opened her handbag and grabbed her ID card, holding it out so the receptionist could see it.

"Oh, Mrs Sarah Dermott," she read off her identity, "Yes, that's right. Let me check what room he's in."

She typed away at a keyboard as Sarah waited patiently.

"Ah, here he is. Coop is in ward D, room twenty-six on the second floor. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Yes, could you please contact his attending doctor. I'd like to discuss his medical state."

"No worries at all," she smiled sweetly, "Let me give her a buzz."

Sarah watched as the receptionist picked up a phone, obscured by the mess on her desk, and press a number patching through to the doctor.

"Dr. Thompson, you're required out in the reception," she spoke into the phone, "Yes, CPS is here… Okay, I'll let her know… You too, goodbye."

She looked up at Sarah once she hung up the phone.

"The doctor will be here shortly."

"Thank you."

Sarah stood aside in the waiting room. It wasn't too long before Dr. Thompson arrived. She wore a white coat, light blue long-sleeved dress shirt, and had a stethoscope around her neck. The stern look on the doctor's face, matched her own.

"Dr. Thompson, I presume?"

"Yes, that's me and you're the Social Worker I requested. You're here to see Coop Burtonburger today?"

"Yes, please, and call me Sarah. Do you mind if we speak in a more private area?"

"Of course, I'll take you to his floor."

The two stepped into an elevator and travelled up to the second story. Sarah had Coop's case inside her purse in a manila folder. She'd documented his personal information, a statement from Dr. Thompson who notified CPS, family background regarding the internal relationships, and the circumstances of the alleged offence.

Coop was ten-years-old with a younger sister Millie. Both were raised by their single father Burt, after their mother had passed away five years ago. Initially Coop had been brought to the hospital for a possible fractured arm. After the medical examination, it was determined that the injury was much worse than expected and had to undergo surgery. Further analysis revealed a history of undocumented injuries. Neither the father or the son could give a reasonable explanation for the trauma.

Bruises, large and numerous, littered Coop's back and arms. He had multiple fractures of varying ages including a rib fracture. There were claw marks all over his body, red and raised, standing stark against his pale skin. The doctor suggested they were done by a small animal, perhaps a cat. The arm surgery was performed successfully last night and Coop was currently resting.

The elevator doors dinged open and the two women stepped outside.

"If you could Dr. Thompson, what's Coop's medical status?" Sarah asked.

"His status is fair. Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious but quite uncomfortable. We've given him analgesia for the pain."

"Is he aware enough to answer questions?"

"Yes, I checked on him this morning. The grogginess has worn off."

"In your statement you mentioned a full body inspection, did this include genital examination?"

For Sarah, it was difficult to think about sexual abuse in children especially when they were very young. It was part of her job though, to identify, recognise, and respond to such concerns. Helping children, making a difference, was why she'd became a Social Worker to begin with.

"Yes. We have no concerns or findings to discuss."

Sarah let out a soft breath she was holding.

"Good. I've seen the photographs you took of the injuries. What's your opinion about the scratch marks? You mentioned a small animal made them?"

"Yes, I believe it was a cat. Some serious damage was done, with deep gashes on his legs and arms. His body is littered with both old and new claw marks."

"Do you think its linked to his other injuries? The bruises and fractures?" Sarah queried.

"It's difficult to tell. In my opinion, he's either fighting with a cat on a daily basis or someone is setting one on him. The extent and the proficiency of the scratches just don't make sense."

"Huh, that's a new one. Thanks for letting me know."

"His room is just down the hall, to the left. If you need medical or security help, there's a red panic button to the side of the door that'll alert us."

Dr. Thompson checked her pager, nodded a goodbye to Sarah, and turned back around down the hallway. Sarah continued through the empty corridor, counting the room numbers as she went. When she came across number twenty-six, she stilled her nerves, knocked twice on the door, and then entered the room.