And Therein Lies the Truth
Monica pulled into the Tibbs' driveway at around four in the afternoon. Before she had a chance to get out of the car good, Althea ran outside to meet her.
"Hey, Mrs. Tibbs! I just…."
"Monica, we have to talk. Now." Althea grabbed Monica by the arm and led her into the kitchen. They sat down at the kitchen table, and Althea filled her in on her argument with Virgil over Monica's relationship with Lonnie.
Monica was speechless. She was also scared. Legally, there was no issue since Monica had been emancipated for three years. But she knew that from an ethics point of view, Lonnie could be in trouble. And if Virgil decided to make an issue out of this, Lonnie would definitely be in trouble since Sparta would not be happy about a white police officer having an affair with a black 18 year old from the Bottoms. Virgil would have all the support he needed to ruin Lonnie's career.
"What exactly did Mr. Tibbs say?" She asked
"Nothing." Althea responded. "That's what worries me. All he said was that he was going to work and he walked out."
Monica sat for a few minutes and thought. After she figured out what to do, she took Althea's hand.
"I know you feel responsible for this, but don't. It was bound to come out eventually. LJ and I just never really prepared for it. Anyway, I need to go to the courthouse."
Althea was confused. "The courthouse? What for?"
Monica smiled. "Research."
Chief Gillespie listened to Virgil intently as he spoke. They were at the Chief's house as Virgil did not want anyone, especially Parker, overhearing what he had to say. After he finished speaking, Virgil sat quietly and waited for the Chief to respond.
"Well, Virgil. All we really know for sure is that Lonnie slept with her this weekend. And that's just your word against theirs since you were the only witness. And she is 18. So legally, there's no issue here."
"Chief! Are you telling me that you honestly believe he wasn't involved with the girl before she left?"
"Virgil, you're talking about filing formal charges against one of my best officers based on hearsay. What I believe about a situation that happened two years ago, while I was out of town, I might add, has nothing to do with this. I'm talking about facts. And the fact is nothing illegal has happened here. Why are we even having this conversation?"
Virgil stood up and began to pace. 'Oh, Lord help us!' the Chief thought as he knew Virgil pacing meant it was soapbox time.
"Technically, you're right. I'll give you that. But I'm not talking legalities here. I'm talking about the moral and ethical responsibilities of a police officer. And I refuse to believe that it's okay for an officer to seduce a 16 year old; whether she's emancipated or not. Our code of ethics will back me up on that and you know it."
"How do you know that she didn't seduce him?"
"Chief, this is no time for jokes!"
"No, I'm being quite serious. I've known Monica Styles since the day she was born. And I'll tell you something Virgil. I've seen many a man in Sparta, black and white, almost forget himself with her. And that girl is smart; she's got just enough of her mama in her to do anything she sets her mind to do. I tend to believe that if she wanted a man, she would get him. End of story. And I'm equally as inclined to believe that she couldn't do any better than Jamison. Of course, the ability to choose the right man is a skill set she didn't get from her mama."
Virgil was completely exasperated and didn't appreciate the Chief's attempt at humor. "I can see that this conversation isn't going anywhere. Between you're attachment to Jamison and your personal situation; you've got your blinders on again."
The Chief slowly removed his glasses and stared at Virgil. "Just what exactly are you implying, Virgil?"
"I'm stating that your involvement with a black female who's younger than you may keep you from seeing this situation with Jamison for what it is."
"Really? Well, I'll tell you what I think Virgil, since you're so busy looking for the truth. I think you're so upset about this because Jamison is white!"
"No, no really. I think if this was Sweet or Peake you wouldn't be so damned mad right now. And… I think you're mad because people around here knew something you didn't. And we all know that the great Virgil Tibbs never misses anything!"
"That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
"Well, it could be, Virgil. It could very well be. But I'll tell you this. I'm not signing off on your request to conduct this inquiry against Jamison. And I suggest you search yourself long and hard before you end up hurting a lot a people."
"That's your decision. I do, however, have the right to go over your head."
"And that, Virgil, is your decision. In the meantime, I think we've both said all we have to say about this matter. Besides….my lunch, much like this conversation, is growing cold. I strongly suggest that we go ahead and eat before it gets too cold for either of us to tolerate it any longer."
"Monica!" Marie screamed and ran around her desk to give Monica a hug. "I'm so glad to see you. What are you doing here?"
"Oh, I've got some last minute research to catch up on. Do you think Darnelle would mind if an ex-employee spent some time in the file room?"
"No, he wouldn't. Provided that ex-employee had a good explanation for not calling him when she arrived in town."
Both women quickly jerked their heads around as Marie had not spoken. They both turned and saw Darnelle grinning from his office door.
Monica smiled. "Hi, Mr. Darnelle!"
Darnelle walked to her and gave a quick peck on the cheek. "Glad to have you home again, Monica. You know, if you're looking for some summer work, I'd be glad to have you back. And Parker would appreciate it, too."
Monica laughed. "Believe it or not, I'm actually taking the summer off. But I do have a last minute project to finish up. Is it okay if I borrow some space for a few hours?"
"Of course, use whatever you need. But I do need to run off to a meeting. Faye and I will still have our usual dinner with you before you leave?"
"I wouldn't miss it!"
Darnelle left, and Monica went into the file room to get to work. She went to the computer and found exactly what she was looking for, the Sparta City Code of Ethics for Government Employees. Then she found the specific violation she thought Virgil would try to use. All she had to do now was find the courage she needed to move on to the next step. Even with all of the personal growth she had made over the past two years, the next necessary move would be her hardest. Now that Monica had her information, she would need to ask for help.
Lonnie and Virgil had not spoken since Monday afternoon, unless it was specifically related to a case. They were both professional, but they had grown close since Virgil hand-picked him to train for detective work. The change in their communication pattern was noticeable to everyone at the station.
Luann noticed it, too, and decided to bring it up while they were out on patrol. Lonnie tried to keep Luann close to him or Bubba whenever possible. She was well on her way to becoming a Sergeant, and they both wanted her ready when the time came. Luann had already told him that she planned on being a Lieutenant within the next three years, and Lonnie believed she could very well do it.
"All right, boss," she started. "What's up with you and Virgil? Trouble in paradise?"
"It's nothing, Luann."
"As much time as I've spent with you, and you're going to sit here and try to lie to me?"
Lonnie took his eye from the road long enough to look at her face. She was smiling and Lonnie smiled back. "Okay, it's something. But don't worry about it. It's more personal than anything else."
Luann let it drop. When Lonnie mentioned the word 'personal', that was her cue to back off. The man didn't talk about his life outside of work and she knew it. Lonnie noticed her silence and decided to acknowledge it. He and Luann were becoming friends and he didn't want to lose her.
"Thanks for the catch." He responded.
"No problem. But you know if you need anything, I'm here."
"I know. And before this is over, I may just take you up on that."
Luann had no idea what Lonnie was talking about. But she did know that whatever it was had to be serious. Luann could tell that Lonnie was still a little uncomfortable, so she changed the subject for him.
"So what's your detective brain telling you about these two cases?"
"Oh, no. You're after my job, remember? You tell me."
"Okay." Luann reached onto the floorboard of the car and pulled out a small notebook. "I made a list of similarities and differences. What's in common is that both victims were females, smart, quiet, and between 18-25. What's different is that one was black and the other was white, the white girl was poor and the black girl was rich, and oh….the white girl was found raped and murdered, and the black girl is still missing. But, I'm still not sure that the two cases are related."
Lonnie smiled to himself and said, "So what's the best direction to take to get sure?"
Luann wrinkled her forehead, a sign that Lonnie had noticed meant she was thinking. "I'd say for now we focus on the similarities. The differences are so far apart that we'd be going in circles forever."
"I think you're right…Lieutenant!" Lonnie winked his eye at her and they continued on to the white girl's home to talk with her parents.
Meanwhile, Sweet was in the Bottoms talking to Jimmy Dawes about the same case. Even though the Bottoms was black, everyone knew that Jimmy had business associates in the poor white neighborhoods, too. Lonnie figured it'd be easier for Sweet to get information out of Jimmy than it would be to send him scoping over in the trailer park.
Sweet had been waiting for about 15 minutes before Jimmy finally showed up out of nowhere. Sweet was not pleased. "Why is it that you can never be on time?"
Jimmy smiled. "You know how it is, man. When the employees don't show up for work, it's the owner that ends up sweating. Being an entrepreneur ain't for everybody."
Sweet just shook his head and chuckled. "You know, I think you were a politician in your previous life."
"Naw, man. That's my next life." Jimmy looked quickly from right to left and then said, "So, you got a donation for my future campaign expenses?"
Sweet reached into his jean pocket and handed Jimmy a $50 dollar bill. "The other half is if your information checks out."
"Word is that dead white girl and the missing sister are all the same deal, man. There two more girls missing that ya'll don't know nothing about."
"Okay." Sweet was completely confused, but didn't want to let on.
"See, the other two wasn't reported cause they mamas is sorry. Most folk figured they just ran away. Ain't nobody say nothing 'cause they figured it was none of they business. But I done some figuring on my own."
Sweet was already reaching into his pocket. He knew Jimmy would want the other $50 to continue.
"See, them two girls that ain't nobody said nothing about is both smart and they keep to themselves. And….."
Sweet was getting tired. "And what, Jimmy?"
"And they ain't have no boyfriends. I bet the dead white girl and the missing sister was flying solo, too. And ya'll looking for one sick dude."
Sweet thought about his for a minute and decided the information was worth taking to Lonnie. "So do the two non-reports have names?"
Jimmy smiled and held out his hand. "They sure do!"
The two men completed their transaction. Just as Sweet was about to leave, Jimmy stopped him.
"How's Monica, man?"
"She's doing good, Jimmy."
"What about my ivory brother?"
Sweet smiled. "He's doing good, too."
"On the real, Sweet. He doing right by her?"
Sweet was careful not to say too much, but trying to hide anything from Jimmy was crazy. "They're both doing great."
Jimmy smiled and nodded his head approvingly. "Tell Jamison I need to see him."
"About what?" Sweet asked.
"Man, just tell him to holla at me, okay?"
And with that, Jimmy was gone.
Sweet returned to the station and found that Lonnie was still out on patrol with Luann. Virgil was in, so he'd have to report his talk with Jimmy to him. Sweet wasn't happy about that. He hadn't been happy with Virgil since the Pinkney case wrapped up.
Everything turned out fine for Sweet, he acknowledged that. But it had been hell, being accused of asking for a bribe, and then being asked to submit to a lie detector test in order to keep the Chief from admitting that the bust occurred because the suspect had hurt Harriet Delong. Everyone knew he was very upset about that. But what no one knew is how badly Virgil had disappointed him. Virgil had been forced to investigate him, Sweet knew that. And in the end, the Chief did decide to admit how the arrest came about; although no one, including Sweet, would let him do it. What had disappointed Sweet was Virgil's reaction after the case ended up in Sweet's favor. In a private conversation, Virgil basically told Sweet that these things happened and that he needed to get over it. And while that may have been the truth; what Sweet really needed and expected from Virgil was some brotherly support. And he was hurt that Virgil seemed unable to see that. Virgil didn't know it, but their relationship had not been the same since. And since Virgil also didn't know that he would be leaving at the end of September, Sweet decided to keep his feelings about the man to himself. He gathered his senses and walked into Virgil's office.
Monica arrived back at the Tibbs' house and noticed a brown hatchback car at the curb.
'Oh!' She thought. 'I forgot that Althea was tutoring this summer.'
Monica walked into the house and saw Althea sitting at the kitchen table with a young man.
"Oh, Hi Monica. This is Aaron Pitman, the student I told you about. Aaron, this is Monica."
"Hi Aaron." Monica extended her hand. Aaron took it in kind. "Don't you have more important things to do this summer than study?"
Aaron pushed his glasses back onto his pink nose and shuffled his penny-loafered feet. "Actually, I don't, ma'am. Other than playing chess on the computer and Bible study. Besides, Mrs. Tibbs tells me that you spend a lot of time studying yourself."
Monica laughed. "She's right. But I do take a break now and then."
"Yeah." Aaron replied. "I'd imagine your boyfriend would be upset with you if you studied all the time."
"Oh, I don't have a boyfriend," Monica lied. She didn't know this kid, but she and Lonnie hadn't decided to date openly yet, and she wasn't taking any chances. "But I'm going to let you two get back to work so your girlfriend doesn't get mad at me for keeping you here."
Monica left the kitchen and went to the backyard to play with twins. Althea went back to checking Aaron's math answers.
And Aaron stared out of the window, watching Monica.