And Therein Lies the Truth
Virgil and Althea didn't say anymore about Monica and Lonnie. He did clear the table and began to wash dishes, his peace offering to Althea. She was in the living room on the phone.
"Okay. Thank you for calling." Althea walked into the kitchen with a strange look on her face.
"What is it?" Virgil asked.
"Monica. She called earlier and said she'd be home by three, but it's almost eight and she's not home. And that was Marie calling. She was working late tonight and when she left, she saw Monica's car. But no sign of her. Virgil, something's wrong!"
Virgil was only half listening. He was sure that Monica was with Jamison since he got off at seven tonight. While Althea was talking, he reached over to get the dish soap. That's when he noticed the small pill that Althea had placed there earlier.
"Althea. Where did this come from?"
"What? Oh, I think the boy I tutor may have dropped it this morning. Anyway, about Monica, I…"
"Honey, what is your student's name?"
"Virgil, I'm talking about Monica…"
"His name, Thea!" Virgil screamed.
"Aaron Pitman! Virgil, what's going on?"
Virgil ran to the phone. Just as he was about to pick up and dial, it rang. And Virgil found Sweet on the other end of the line.
By the time Lonnie, Sweet, Virgil and Luann got all of their information together, they had enough evidence to get a tired and cranky Judge Simms out of his bed to issue a search warrant for the church and both of the Pitman's property. It appeared that the Reverend owned a small shack in the middle of Brewer's Woods in addition to their family home.
"Luann, you and the Lieutenant take this warrant and get to the Pitman's home first. We need the Reverend to tell us where his son is. Sweet, I need you to come with me to Brewer's Woods in case the boy is there."
Lonnie was a bit miffed that Virgil took Sweet, but not surprised. When Sweet got into the car, Virgil spoke.
"Listen, Althea said that Monica met this Aaron kid while she was tutoring him at the house."
Sweet knew there was more, so he waited while Virgil continued.
"Monica may be missing. She was supposed to be home by 3pm and no one has seen her. And her car was found in the square about 30 minutes ago."
Sweet didn't respond. He figured that was why he sent Lonnie in the opposite direction. What Sweet couldn't figure out is if Virgil's decision was out of concern for Lonnie or if he was just power tripping again. In either case, this could turn out bad if Lonnie figured out that Monica might be in danger.
Lonnie and Luann arrived at the Pitman home. His car was in the driveway but no one answered the door when they rang. All of a sudden, the two officers heard loud crashing from behind the house.
"He's running!" Lonnie cried, and he and Luann took off around the back of the house.
"That's not the kid! It's the father!" Luann shouted.
They only had to run a few yards. The Reverend couldn't keep up the chase and finally crashed to the ground. Luann went to get the car and call for back up. Lonnie cuffed him and read him his rights. When Luann came around with the car, they put him in the backseat.
"Did you get Virgil on the radio?" Lonnie asked.
"Nope, bad reception. But it could be those woods. Anyway, Parker and Dee are about five minutes away. They're en route."
"Good. We're gonna need some help searching this house. The Reverend here claims he don't know where his son is."
Just as Lonnie was about to walk back to the front door, his cell phone rang. He answered it thinking it might be Virgil or Sweet trying to reach them.
"LJ! I need you! Quick!"
"Honey what's wrong? Where are you?"
"I'm at the trailer! With Aaron Pitman!"
At that moment, Parker and Dee pulled up. Dee went to the car where Reverend Pitman was locked in. Parker and Luann ran to Lonnie who was yelling into his phone.
"Monica! Has he hurt you? Look, I'm on my way, honey. Just hang on!"
"LJ, he's…OH MY GOD!" The next sounds Lonnie heard were gunshots followed by Monica's screams.
Lonnie's head started spinning. His legs began to shake and had Parker and Luann not been there to catch him, he would've fallen to the ground.
"Monica's hurt! I gotta go!" Lonnie snatched himself away and ran to the car that Parker and Dee had just arrived in.
"Did he say Monica? As in STYLES?" Parker asked.
Luann didn't respond. She didn't know the answer for sure, but she was almost positive that the answer to Parker's question was 'yes'. And judging by the way Lonnie screeched down the street, there was a lot more going on there than any of them had a clue about.
Lonnie pulled into the trailer lot and found Virgil and Sweet with their guns drawn. The front living room windows in the trailer had been shot out. Lonnie ran to them.
"Virgil, where is she? Where's Monica?" Lonnie was a complete wreck.
"Why are you here? I didn't call for you, Lieutenant. You need to leave."
"Monica called me on my phone! And I'll go when I know she's safe!"
Sweet decided to give Lonnie some kind of information before the man lost it and killed Virgil on the spot. He'd never seen Lonnie so shaken up before and he saw a real bad situation about to get worse.
"Lonnie, we were on our way to the Pitman place when Virgil spotted the kid's car here. He contacted Aaron on the bullhorn and told him to come out. The boy just kept asking where his father was, but he stayed inside. I could see in through the right window. I saw Monica inside and told Virgil. When she stood up and moved to her left, I was given orders to take the shot."
Lonnie's face went stark white. "Sweet, is she okay? Is she hit?"
Sweet looked up and then back to Lonnie. "I don't know, Lonnie. I don't think so. But I don't know."
Just then Lonnie's phone rang. He almost dropped it to answer. "Jamison! Oh God, honey! Are you okay?"
Virgil and Sweet watched as Lonnie listened to Monica. He lowered the phone, looked at Virgil and spoke. "The kid's not our perp."
"Look, I'm sick and tired of conducting investigations based on your love life! If you…"
"And I'm sick and tired of your know-it-all attitude! If you had shut up and listened to me earlier, half of this wouldn't have happened!"
Virgil's jaw hit the ground, as did Sweet's. While both men were quiet, Lonnie kept talking. "Aaron's daddy, the Reverend, has been doing this. Aaron figured it out a few months back. He tried to figure out his dad's system so he could stop him without having to get his daddy in trouble. When girls started dying he realized he was in over his head. He figured out that Monica was his father's next target and brought her here to keep her safe. He left that pill you want to use so badly as evidence on purpose. That's why he had Althea tutor him. He wanted you to figure it out so he wouldn't have to turn his own daddy in to the police."
"And how in the hell are we supposed to know if the boy's telling the truth!" Virgil screamed.
"For one thing, that trailer belongs to your aunt and doesn't have a pink and white bedroom. After your visit here last weekend, you should know that. Secondly, Monica's alive, Virgil! Third, Aaron told her his daddy tracks his victims before he strikes. In the basement of their house the man's got all of their pictures, including some more girls we don't know about. Monica's picture is the last one."
Just, then Virgil's radio began to squawk. He answered it. Sweet and Lonnie tried to listen as hard as Virgil was. It wasn't clear at all. But all three men heard the same three things. It was Parker speaking, something about a basement, and something about some pictures.
Lonnie got back on with Monica and told her to warn Aaron that he was coming in. He told her to promise him that he was not in trouble and that he would enter by himself.
As soon as Lonnie opened the door, Monica rushed into his arms. He held her so tight that Monica's sides began to hurt. Lonnie pulled her at his arms length so that he could look at her. He tried to say something to her, but he couldn't speak. He just pulled her back against him, buried his face in her neck and cried.
Virgil came in to advise Lonnie that he was no longer needed at the scene. But when he walked in and saw Lonnie crying in Monica's arms, his voice wouldn't cooperate with the thoughts in his head. He motioned Aaron to follow him outside, and left Lonnie and Monica alone.
Back at the station, everyone was wrapping up the final report on the case. Reverend Pitman had gone over the religious deep end. He had somehow decided that God had chosen him to keep the young women of Sparta chaste and pure. He would take girls that he spotted on his own or he would use the information his congregates shared with him during counseling. He would drug them and then physically test them to see if they were virgins. If they were, he would have sex with them, thereby cleansing them of the temptation to stray since he was one with God. If they were not virgins, then he would wait for the Rophynol to wear off, and then brutally beat, rape, and murder them to 'eradicate the evil influence'. His kidnapping days were always the same: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That's how Aaron knew which day to hide Monica. Writing the report was easy; the man gave them every bit of information they asked for, and then some. He truly believed that he was an agent of God and that he had performed God's will.
As for Aaron, he was indeed formally arrested. However, Darnelle and Virgil agreed to work on a deal that would keep him out of prison.
Virgil was about to get into his car and head home when Harriet Delong stopped him.
"Harriet! It's awful late. What are you doing out here?"
"What else? Fighting with Holly Colmer and his bunch. You're working late as well, I see."
"We just caught the kidnapper. You'll hear all about it tomorrow."
"Virgil, can we sit for a moment? I only need a few minutes."
"Sure." Virgil gestured to the small bench that was just outside of the station entrance.
"I'll get right to the point. I know about Lonnie and Monica. And I know that you're considering filing charges of improper conduct against him. And…."
Virgil was trying to keep his temper. His emotions were still reeling from the confrontation with Jamison during the siege. He wasn't ready for an assault from Harriet as well.
Harriet took a deep breath and continued. "I know why you're pushing for this. You're thinking of Linda."
Virgil shut his eyes and looked away from Harriet. She slowly took his hand and continued. "I'm not going to tell you what to do. You know your own mind and you'll do what you feel is right. Just make sure that the right thing you decide to do, is the right thing for the two of them; not the right thing for you. Please." She patted his hand and walked across the street to her car.
When Virgil finally arrived home, he found Lonnie's car parked on the curb and Althea waiting for him on the porch. Before he could open his mouth, she spoke. "Monica didn't want to stay at the trailer, for obvious reasons. Lonnie refused to leave her. And I refuse to ask him to."
Virgil looked at his wife and kissed her cheek. "I know, babe. I know. Where are they?"
"Upstairs. Monica's mentally and physically exhausted."
Virgil couldn't face his wife. He just shook his head from side to side. Then he finally spoke. "I have so much to say to them. And to say to you. Where do I begin? 'I'm sorry' seems so very weak."
Althea gave Virgil a hug. "Try something new. Don't say anything. Try showing us how you feel instead."
The rest of summer break passed uneventfully for Lonnie and Monica. But neither of them was complaining. Lonnie and Monica now saw each other for dinner at the Tibbs' home, although there still some unresolved tension between Virgil and Lonnie. The couple spent their nights together at the trailer, and continued to arrive at separate times in their own vehicles. Sweet and Lonnie had gone in, repaired the windows, and threw out all of the old furniture. They also primed the walls so that Monica could decorate it herself. So their relationship was still pretty much a private affair. For one, they were both private people and just didn't think it was anyone's business. Secondly, they just didn't want to be bothered with all of the questions just yet. As a result, all of Sparta thought the two of them were dating, but no one was quite sure. So, as usual, no one said anything at all.
At the station, everyone could clearly see that Virgil and Lonnie were no longer friends. And they all assumed it had something to do with Monica, especially the officers that were involved in the Pitman arrest. But with all of the attention Bill and Harriet were getting, in addition to the obvious change between Virgil and Lonnie, no one at the station dared to mention it. Even Parker kept his mouth shut!
Virgil finally had a private conversation with Lonnie regarding his actions over the past six weeks, and he offered a sincere apology. Lonnie accepted it, but decided that he would study for the detective's exam on his own, though he appreciated all of the extra attention that Virgil had shown him. Virgil understood Lonnie loud and clear. Their budding friendship was now at a halt and Lonnie had nothing else to say about the matter. While Virgil had hoped that he could repair the damage he had caused, he understood Lonnie's decision and respected him for it.
Monica spent her last night in Sparta at the trailer with Lonnie. They were lying in bed together, dreading the next morning when she would leave.
"October, huh?" Lonnie said.
"Yep, that's when fall break rolls around again. That's when the trial starts, too."
"Well," Lonnie began, "At least we won't have to send airline tickets through Fedex this time."
They both laughed, and then Lonnie spoke. "Hon, I'm sorry for saying that we shouldn't see each other while Virgil was on the rampage. I didn't know how bad it'd make you feel. And I don't ever want to do or say anything that'll make you think I'm ashamed of you, or us."
Monica sat up in the bed and looked at him. "Lonnie, at the time that you said it, did you truly believe that was the best decision?"
Lonnie thought about it for a moment and answered her honestly. "Yes."
Monica leaned in and slowly kissed the top of his lips. "Then there's nothing to apologize for. I asked you to be honest and to approach this thing in your own way. No ties, no lies. Remember?"
Lonnie grabbed her and pulled her on top of him. "I remember. You know what else I remember?"
"The floor at that hotel in New Orleans." And with that, Lonnie gave a quick twist and dragged them both out of the bed and onto the carpet.
The next morning, Lonnie packed up Monica's car after he gave it a Jamison check out.
"Everything looks okay except that passenger side back tire. The air pressure's low. Stop and get some air in there before you get out of Sparta."
Monica smiled and gave him a formal salute. "Yes, sir."
Lonnie rolled his eyes. "I mean it. If you call me stranded with this damned tire, I swear I'll leave you where you are."
"I'll stop. I promise."
The two of them kissed each other one last time. He opened her door and helped her inside. He shut the door, gave her another quick kiss on her forehead, and watched her pull off.
As promised, Monica stopped at a small gas station right on the outskirts of Sparta. And Lonnie was right. She did need to have a little air put in her tire. Of course, he had failed to explain to her exactly how to do it.
"I'm going to kill him!" Monica said out loud.
"Need some help?"
Monica stood up and saw a cute little blond standing a few feet from her. Monica almost said 'no', but she knew she'd never figure it out on her own.
The girl smiled a little. "No problem. Let me guess. You're boyfriend sent you here, right?"
Monica laughed. "How'd you know?"
Her assistant just nodded her head. "I have a know-it-all-but-share-nothing boyfriend, too. He pulls this kind of thing all the time, when he's around."
The girls chatted as the blonde worked on her tire. They found that they had similar personalities, and both admitted this was the first time they had ever really talked to a female. After Monica's tire was filled with air and the two of them drank a soda together, the ladies exchanged mailing addresses and decided to keep in touch. Monica was elated. This was the first female friend she had ever made that wasn't an authority figure.
She had been back in school for about two weeks when she received her first letter from her new friend. She ran up the stairs to her dorm room, and smiled at the return address label.
Stay tuned for Part Four!