A Summer Place
Althea Tibbs and Etta Kibbey were sitting on the front porch of the Tibbs' house on Elm Street. Althea had just received a letter from Monica Styles, a former student of hers that was now in college in North Carolina.
"Can you believe it, Etta? She asked. "Monica's been gone for 18 months. She's a second semester college freshman now."
Etta didn't look up from her sewing when she responded, "How old is that child now?"
"She was 17 this past April."
"I'm mighty proud of that girl, the way she grew herself up and made something of herself, in spite of what she come from," Etta said. "When she 'gon come back here for a visit?"
Althea folded the letter and took a quick peek into the yard to check on the twins, who were now two years old.
"She'll be here by the end of the week for fall break. She'll be staying with us since her house is rented out."
Etta smiled. She remembered the few weeks Monica had stayed with them before she left for school. Etta had really enjoyed having the girl around.
"Well, I reckon I ought to get myself on in here and start making out a grocery list, since we 'gon have one more mouth to feed. Uh, before I go, Althea, there's something I need you to help me wit, if you don't mind to."
Meanwhile, back at the Sparta City Police station, Lt. Lonnie Jamison was breaking his neck to get off duty. His shift ended 15 minutes ago, and he was eager to start his vacation.
"Uh, Lonnie?" Parker called, just as Lonnie was headed towards the door. Standing behind Parker were a snickering Bubba Skinner and a grinning Luann Corbin.
"What now, Parker?"
"Uh, me and Bubba was just saying how we'd be happy to drive you to the airport. Help you with your bags. Keep you company in the ticket line while you're waiting to go to…where did you say you was going?"
"I didn't, Parker."
"Now that is true, Parker," Bubba chimmed in. "Lonnie never did tell us where it was he was going. And I say a man has every right to fly off to….uh, where was it again, Lonnie?"
"Wrong question, Captain." Luann interrupted, "I think you meant 'who' was it."
"Come on, guys. Just let me go in peace, will you?"
At the moment, Bubba and Luann burst out into laughter. They had all seen Lonnie's vacation schedule on the calendar, but he had not mentioned one word about it plans to anyone. So when Fedex delivered a package from Jackson City Airport to him at the station, it threw everybody off. Exactly what was the man up to?
"See," Parker said, sounding completely exasperated. "I told ya'll we wouldn't get nothing out of him."
"Get what out of whom?" Virgil had just come from the evidence room.
"Nothing, Virgil." Lonnie responded.
"We were just trying to figure out where Lt. Jamison here was going on vacation, that's all," Parker said.
"Well, Parker, I'd have to say that Lt. Jamison won't be going anywhere if you continue to block the man's path. Lonnie, get out of here and enjoy yourself," Virgil said.
"Thank you…VIRGIL." Lonnie cut his eyes at Parker, Bubba, and Luann and left the police station followed by gales of laughter.
At that moment the telephone rang.
"Sparta PD, Corbin here," Luann answered. "Oh, hey, Mrs. Tibbs! He's right here."
Luann looked at Virgil who signaled to her to forward the call to him and Chief Gillespie's office. He waved good morning to Chief Gillespie and answered the phone.
"Oh, she is? That's wonderful! Friday? I can't wait to see her. Of course, it is. Okay. Yes. Me too, honey."
After Virgil hung up the phone, he sat down at his desk and started going through some paperwork.
"I take it that was Althea?" Chief Gillespie asked.
"Yes. Yes, it was. She was calling to tell me that Monica Styles was coming home for fall break. She'll be here on Friday and is going to be staying for us for a week."
"Styles, Styles. Where do I know that name from?"
Virgil reminded Chief Gillespie of the murder and attempted robbery case, and of Monica's mother, Elise.
"Oh, yes. Elise Styles. You know, I remember that woman from years ago. I arrested one of her boyfriends right there in her house, a house a different boyfriend had bought for her I might add. She couldn't have been more than 19 or 20 at the time. After the bust, you know what I said to her?"
Virgil sighed. He felt one Chief Gillespie's infamous stories coming. "What Chief?"
"I said, 'Elise, you're young, you're pretty, you're smart. Now, every time one of these here conmen wants to spend time with you, I want you to ask yourself this question'. You know what question I told her to ask herself, Virgil?"
By this time, Virgil had closed his eyes in silent prayer for the ending of this story. "What question, Chief?"
"I told her to ask herself 'Why would a man buy the cow if he's getting the milk for free?' And you know what Elise said?"
By now Virgil couldn't speak anymore, he just raised both of his eyebrows and threw his hands in the air, gesturing to Chief Gillespie to hurry up.
"She said 'the same reason a woman would buy a whole pig just to get a little sausage, I suppose.' Know what I did then, Virgil?" Chief Gillespie asked as he stood up from behind his desk and headed towards the door.
"What did you do, Chief?"
Chief Gillespie turned around and looked at Virgil like he was crazy. "I left, of course."
And with that, Chief Gillespie was gone, and Virgil was sure that the man had taken just a little bit more of his sanity with him.
Lonnie was finally on the road and, as his co-workers had mentioned, on his way to the airport. But they were way off as to why he was going. The ticket that arrived at the police station wasn't for him, but for the woman he was going to pick-up at Jackson City Airport.
Lonnie and Monica Styles had established their relationship over a year ago, right after her 16th birthday. Under normal circumstances, this pairing would've been illegal as well as an affront to society. However, their circumstances were far from normal. Monica was an academic genius, legally emancipated at age 15, and was mature enough to handle a relationship with an older man. Truth be told, adults were about the only people Monica could relate to as she never knew her father and her mother never took the time to raise her.
Even with these understandable factors, Monica and Lonnie had kept their feelings for each other a secret for two reasons. One, because Lonnie was a police officer, their seeing each went against the city's code of ethics, even though she was emancipated. Second, because Monica was black and from the Bottoms, their relationship went against the city's code of life.
They were very much in love with each other, but when Monica was offered a full scholarship to a school in North Carolina, Lonnie made her go, even though it hurt him, because it was best for her. The night before Monica left for school, they had made love to each other for the first time. They had been each others' first; Lonnie was her first lover and Monica was the first woman he ever loved. They had written to each other constantly over the past year and a half. And finally, she was coming home for a visit.
Lonnie parked his corvette, and ran inside the airport, bobbing and weaving between would-be passengers, trying to find Gate 15-B.
"Great," he thought. "I haven't seen her in over a year, and I'm already going to get cussed out!"
Lonnie finally found the right boarding gate and looked hurriedly through the crowd. Then…he saw her.
Monica was more beautiful now than she was when she left. She was wearing a pair of denim shorts, sneakers, and T-shirt that read 'NC Girls Rock!' The white shirt seemed to gleam against her ebony brown skin and the shorts were long enough to be appropriate, but short enough to show off her muscular legs and thighs. Lonnie thought she looked amazing. She was standing up, with one hand on her hip, her head cocked to one side and a look on her face that read 'I'm not happy right now.' Lonnie decided to tease her. He leaned up against one of the large windows, crossed his arms and waited for her to spot him.
When she did see him, she waited a moment, and then did a slow stroll across the aisle to where he was perched. When she was standing directly in front of him, she greeted him with, "You're late."
Lonnie noticed the little smile she was trying to hide.
"Yeah?" he started as he got up from the window sill and brushed her hair out of her face. "You still need a comb."
Monica laughed and jumped into Lonnie's arms. It felt so good to hold each other again that neither of them said another word for a full five minutes. Lonnie pulled her back so that he could look at her. 'Stunning!' he thought. Then, he kissed her forehead and took her left hand. He noticed something bright and shiny on her wrist and smiled.
"I see you're still wearing it."
Monica looked down at the small silver charm bracelet on her wrist. It had been her going away gift from Lonnie. Dangling from the delicate chain was a small silver charm, a heart, and Lonnie's way of saying 'I love you' one last time before she left.
"I've never taken it off."
Monica felt herself getting teary eyed and decided that they should get going before they both started crying in the middle of the airport. They got her luggage and headed for the parking deck. When Lonnie opened the trunk, Monica noticed the black keychain she had given him before she left. It had a corvette symbol on the front and his initials were engraved on the back. She also spotted the Fedex package and began to laugh hysterically. Finally, Lonnie couldn't refrain any longer and he too started laughing.
"Okay, LJ. How bad was it?" Monica asked between tears of amusement. "LJ" had been her private nickname for him since the day the two had first met.
"Well, let's just say I'm not the only person in this relationship who could be a detective. Your plan worked. The entire Sparta City Police department thinks I'm flying off somewhere. Luann was the only one close; she guessed I was going to see a woman. Here."
Lonnie handed her the package that contained her return ticket back to North Carolina.
"You better put this in one of your bags there so you don't you lose it."
After Monica zipped her bag closed, Lonnie grabbed her, put his arms around her and gave her a long, throaty kiss.
"I can't wait to get to New Orleans. We've got over a year's worth of catching up to do in about 3 days."
Monica kissed him back, and then smiled slyly. "I was thinking that we had over a year's worth of sex to have. But catching up works, too."
Lonnie's jaw dropped to the ground as Monica giggled and got into his car.
Back at the Tibbs', Aunt Etta had told Althea what she needed help with. Apparently she owned a small place near Brewer's Pond. It had been left to her by her late husband, Marcus, and had been standing empty for a while now. It was nothing special, just a basic double wide trailer. Etta had planned for her nephew, Tyrell, to live there. But Tyrell was now in prison and Etta wanted Althea to help her find someone to rent it.
"Now, I know it ain't much." The old woman said. "And I ain't expecting much. Most folks don't weekend at Brewer's no more; they all heads out to Purvis Lake now. But if you know somebody who just wants a nice, quiet place, just to get away to every now and again, it sure would help me with a little extra mad money."
Althea was listening as she was trying to fix lunch before the twins woke up from their nap.
"Well, I'll ask around. But why don't you ask Virgil? I'm sure he's more likely to find someone with that type of need than I will. Maybe one of the guys. You know, they don't make enough money to afford places at Purvis."
"That may well be. But I don't want Virgil in this. He 'mo likely to tell me what to do than to get what I want done."
Althea laughed because Etta was right. Virgil meant well, but sometimes he had a habit of treating Etta like a child. And for a woman with Etta's strong personality, it normally caused a heated family argument.
"Okay, Aunt Etta. I'll see what I can do."
"Thank you, Althea. Now let me get myself on off to the grocery. It's going on four o'clock. And you know how I hates being out too late."
Althea laughed as Etta left, thinking how ridiculous it was that the woman still believed that all ladies should be at home by 5pm, unless of course they were out with a male family member!
'Whew,' she thought as she collapsed into the living room chair. 'I didn't realize how badly I needed fall break to be here. The next two weeks are going to be great.'
All of a sudden, Althea realized what she had just said to herself. She reached into her skirt pocket and pulled out Monica's letter. The girl had said specifically that fall break would begin for her at the end of this week, and had reiterated that when she called this morning to tell Althea what time on Friday to pick her up at the airport.
'Our schedules may be off by a few days or so, but by an entire week?' Althea thought.
Then she remembered Virgil warning her that he may be pulling some late nights this week because Lonnie would be on vacation. He had even mentioned that Lonnie had excellent timing since he too was on break from law school and would be able to handle the extra work.
Suddenly, Althea clapped her hands and laughed out loud.
"Way to go, Lonnie and Monica!" she said to the walls.
Just as quickly as she had begun to smile, a look of exasperation came across Althea's face. All of her noise had woken up the twins.
"I'm coming guys!" she called as she walked upstairs. 'Well,' she thought as she rounded the upstairs corner and entered the kids' nursery. 'At least I've got someone to rent Etta's trailer. Because when, and I do mean WHEN, Virgil figures this out, Monica and Lonnie won't be able to pull this off again.'
Virgil couldn't believe it. He was actually getting to leave work at 6pm, even with
Jamison's extra cases. Just as he was about to bid 'good-night' to Chief Gillespie, Bubba came in.
"Uh, Virgil, you might want to hang on there for a minute." Bubba said.
"Good Lord, Bubba. What is it now?" Chief Gillespie asked.
"Well, sir, DA Darnelle just came in and asked about seeing the both of you. Something about a dinner party for him on Saturday night?"
"Oh, yes, yes. Harriet mentioned that to me at dinner last week. Go on and show the man in, Bubba."
Virgil looked confused. "A dinner party? For Darnelle?"
Chief Gillespie took off his glasses and answered. "It's some little get together the City Council planned for him. Sort of a pre-endorsement party, if you will. But you don't know about that. The endorsement part is, uh, on a need to know basis."
Virgil grinned at Chief Gillespie. "Then how is that you know about it and I didn't?"
"Well now, Virgil, I am Chief Gillespie of Police here in Sparta, though you tend to forget that from time to time. Therefore I need to know everything that happens around here. But you? You are hard at work! On your way to becoming a magnificent and brilliant attorney; which of course means… you ALREADY know everything."
Virgil cracked up laughing in spite of himself. Just as he was beginning to collect himself, DA Darnelle entered their office.
"Did I miss something?" he asked with a smile.
"No," Virgil said, still laughing a bit. "Just more of the Chief's pearls of wisdom."
"Ah!" Darnelle replied.
"What can we do for you on this fine, yet late, evening, Mr. Darnelle?" Chief Gillespie asked.
Darnelle caught the Chief's implication and got right to the point.
"I only came by to hand deliver your tickets for the dinner party this Saturday night. And Virgil, here are yours."
"Thank you, Gerard." Virgil said.
Darnelle said 'good evening' and was just about to go, when Virgil stopped him.
"Oh, Gerard! I almost forgot. Monica is coming into Sparta on Friday. She'll be staying with me and Althea if you want to see her while she's here."
"Of course, I do. And thank you for telling me. How long will she be here for?"
"For a week. She's spending her fall break here."
Darnelle laughed. "I see that she's gotten into the swing of college life pretty quickly."
"I don't get your meaning." Virgil said.
"Virgil, Salem College's fall break officially started this past weekend, not next week. My niece goes there and she headed down to Florida yesterday. My brother said she pulled out of the driveway so fast, that all he saw was the back end of her BMW and a glimpse of his credit card shining between her teeth! It sounds like our Monica is making a little pit stop before she gets here!"