No Ties, No Lies
Monica thought that Sparta had seen enough excitement to last them a good while this past summer when that Reverend started kidnapping and raping young women. She was one hundred percent wrong. Between her letters from Lonnie and phone calls with Althea Tibbs, Monica learned that Sparta was going through some major changes.
Willson Sweet left the department a few weeks back. He was now a Lieutenant with the Jackson City Police Department. Someone else was preparing to leave as well. Virgil and his family would be moving to Jackson so that he could finish up law school sooner. He would be considered "on leave" so he would continue to receive his paycheck, but he would now be able to spend more time with Althea and the kids. They would be gone within the week.
Monica hated that Althea wouldn't be there when she came home in October. As nosey as she was, Monica had grown to love her like a sister. Etta would be staying at the house and had already advised that she expected to have Monica there for break. Monica didn't mind at all. She loved Etta as much as she loved Althea.
Lonnie had pretty much told her the same things in his letters, although Monica had noticed that their letter writing had started to decrease. She still wrote to Lonnie, but only once every couple of weeks, and she had to admit that her letters were a lot shorter than they used to be. She felt bad about it, but she was a senior in college now. And she wasn't the resident genius anymore. Everyone around her was smart and for the past two years she'd worked harder on school than she ever had in her whole life. She was even beginning to have headaches and it was all she could do to stay awake in class. His letters weren't as long either; and with everything going on at the station right now, she didn't expect them to be. Monica didn't spend too much time worrying about it. She and Lonnie understood each other. And October would be here before they knew it.
Back in Sparta, Lonnie was doing his own evaluation of the changes he noticed in his and Monica's communications. But while Monica chalked it up to a series of life changes, Lonnie felt that he was the sole cause and he had no idea how it happened or why.
He had first met Lana Farren, Chief Gillespie's daughter from an affair 20 years ago, last year. He didn't pay too much attention to her then; he was too busy trying to look out for the Chief who was terribly hurt that Lana's mother had been murdered.
But right after Monica left for school, Lana returned to Sparta. Initially, she just wanted to square away paperwork on the property her mother had left her there. But after a while, she and the Chief began to work on their relationship and it looked like she was going to stay. And that's when the trouble began for Lonnie.
Every time he was around Lana, he found himself flirting with her, even though she appeared to have no real interest in him at all. He had no idea what was going on with him or why. His feelings for Monica hadn't changed at all. But something about Lana Farren drove him crazy, and he didn't know why. He finally decided he was going through some sort of phase and backed off of Lana completely. Then out of the blue, she suggested they go for coffee one day. They had been privately seeing each other ever since. Lonnie had no idea what her expectations were since she'd never told him. He didn't know what his own expectations were. He hadn't paid attention to anyone expect Monica for so long that his attraction to Lana had caught him completely off guard. And for reasons that Lonnie still couldn't explain, the two of them had found themselves in bed together last week. Even though it appeared that Lana had accepted the situation for exactly what it was, Lonnie felt that they needed to talk.
Lonnie asked to meet at the park. Half of Sparta thought that he was seeing Monica. The other half wanted him to be seeing Lana. Lonnie felt that a meeting in a public place during the day would keep both teams guessing while he figured out what he was doing. He was waiting for Lana on a bench when she finally showed up.
"Hey there," she said.
Lonnie stood and waited for her to sit down before he took his seat again. "How you doing, Lana?"
She wrinkled her face at him. "I'd be better if I knew why you looked so stressed out."
Lonnie ran his hand through his hair and started speaking. "I wanted to talk about us."
Lana looked a little confused. "I didn't know there was an 'us'. I mean, I like you and all, but I don't think of us as serious."
"You don't think it's serious to sleep with somebody?"
"It can be. But not all the time. You trying to tell me you were in love with every woman you slept with?"
Lonnie was both shocked and angry. While he agreed with her, he was shocked to hear a woman actually say those words. He was also angry that she seemed to be blowing him off when he was attempting to treat her like a lady, even though she had no problem sleeping with him without asking any questions.
"No, I wasn't." he started. "But I've got a strange habit of trying to respect the women I deal with, whether it's serious or not."
Lana shrugged her shoulders and said, "Okay. What's on your mind?"
"I'm seeing somebody. It's real serious and pretty complicated. She's not in town right now. But she is very important to me. I don't know what you and I are doing exactly. But I can tell you that I consider you a friend at the least. And I wanted you to know my situation because…well, I just think it'd be wrong not to tell you."
Lana considered everything Lonnie had said. After a moment, she finally spoke. "Do you think it's also important to let her know? Do you think it's wrong not to tell her that you've slept with me?"
"No ties, no lies" Lonnie whispered.
"Nothing. I know this sounds like a line, but she and I have somewhat of an understanding. We're both doing what we need to do to make sure that we're what the other wants. Like I said, there are some complications with our relationship and we're making sure that we know what we're doing. In the meantime, we don't ask questions."
Lana smiled slyly and responded, "And what if one of us falls in love with the other?"
Lonnie looked at her strangely. With all of the figuring, analyzing, and questioning he had done about this situation, he had never asked himself that question. He looked at Lana and answered her honestly. "I didn't know you wanted that as an option."
Lana grinned. "I'm not saying I do. I'm just asking. You know, for the purposes of conversation."
Lonnie was trying hard to hide his frustration. Lana could be a lot of fun, both in and out of bed. But she had an evasive demeanor that could really get on his nerves sometimes. She just got finished making him feel stupid about their relationship, whatever it was. And now, a whole two minutes later, she was leading him to believe that she might want to be serious with him. He was asking himself a lot of very serious questions that could change the life of someone he really cared for. This was no time for dating games.
"Look," he said, "I just want to make sure that we're being straight with each other. Just because we're not exactly a couple doesn't mean we shouldn't show each other some amount of respect. So… is there anything you need to tell me?"
Lana shrugged her shoulders again and answered "Nope. You know everything there is to know."
Lonnie nodded. "I know we were supposed to get together tonight, but I think I need some down time. I'll call you?"
Lana smiled. "What? Is my competition showing up tonight?"
Lonnie jerked his head and responded. "Don't. Don't ever do that again." He noticed the blank way Lana was staring at him so he continued. "I will never, ever discuss her with you at all. Even with our understanding, that would be more than wrong. You know everything you need to know about her. I hope you think enough of me and our friendship to understand that."
Lonnie stood up as Lana walked away. Just as he was mentally noting that Lana had not responded, Chief Gillespie almost knocked him down.
"Hey Chief! You all right?"
Gillespie looked at Lonnie, noticed his daughter getting into her car, and then looked back at Lonnie.
"You better watch out, Jamison. I think she likes you."
Lonnie smiled. "I don't know about that, Chief. But she is a sweetie."
The Chief eyed Lonnie closely. "Uh huh. How's Monica Styles these days? I'm assuming you've heard from her?"
Lonnie looked directly at the Chief and answered quickly. "Yes, sir. And she's fine."
"And Lana. Is Lana fine, too? "
"She says she is."
Gillespie nodded his head. "Well, if she says she is, then I suppose she is. Good afternoon, Jamison."
Lonnie watched the Chief walk into the station. The man looked upset. Lonnie was sure it was because of this strange situation with Lana. But that wasn't it. The Chief had just left Harriet's office. And she had given him some very bad news.
The first thing Lana did when she got home was check her mail. She was still having mail forwarded to Sparta since she didn't know how long she'd be staying. She flipped through all of the junk mail and bills and finally saw what she was looking for. She had received a letter from her friend, Monica.
She and Monica met a few months ago on her way in to Sparta and for some reason she and the girl just clicked. Lana found it fairly hard to communicate with anyone other than adults. She was an only child and her only companions were her mother's boyfriends of the moment. When she saw how quickly she and Monica got on with each other, she decided that meant something; they'd kept in touch every since.
The two young women were a lot alike. Lana realized that just by reading her letters. Even though they liked each other, neither of them was forthcoming with a lot of personal information, and they didn't ask each other a lot of personal questions either. So Lana had no idea that Monica was from Sparta; and Monica didn't know that Lana was there.
What Monica did know was that Lana was seeing a guy off and on and that she also 'sort of' had a boyfriend; Monica knew because Lana had told her so in her last letter. Lana had written that she liked the guy she was seeing now, but she wanted to keep her options open. They were sleeping together, but neither of them had made a move to actually commit to each other. In the meantime, she still had feelings for her 'sort of' boyfriend, even though she had no idea where he was. Lana was glad to have received Monica's reply today, especially in light of the conversation she just had with Lonnie.
Lana read the letter and found the first area where she and Monica were very different. Monica suggested that she tell the new guy about her boyfriend. Even though they weren't committed, they were still in a relationship of some sort, even if it was primarily sexual. And for that reason, the new guy deserved to know. Monica also said that Lana needed to hurry up and decide exactly what her feelings for the old boyfriend were before she slipped up and fell in love with the new guy. And of course, Monica said the boyfriend, whether he's on or off, deserved to know about the newbie. In short, Monica told her that she was playing this all wrong.
Lana sighed, and filed the letter in a box in her room. She liked Monica a lot, but the girl must have grown up on Fantasy Island. Just because she managed to find the one perfect man in the world, didn't mean real life worked that way for everyone else. Men did exactly what she was doing all the time, and no one said a word. Besides, if she told Lonnie and Lee exactly what was going on, she'd lose them both and end up branded a slut. Lana decided she wasn't saying anything to either of them until she felt the time was right.
"Hey there, Chief!" Bubba called as Gillespie entered the police station.
"Uh, Bubba, can I see you in my office for a minute?"
Chief Gillespie went straight into his office while Bubba hung back for a minute. The entire front area of the station was completely quite. Parker, Dee, and Ken Covey, the newest officer on the force, just stared at him. Finally, Parker spoke. "Go ahead, Bubba. It might not be bad news. Think positive."
Bubba patted Parker on his shoulder and headed into the Chief's office.
"Shut the door, please." Gillespie instructed.
Bubba remained standing and waited for the Chief to begin. Gillespie took off his glasses, laid them on his desk, and finally spoke. "It'll be in tomorrow morning's edition of the Sparta Herald."
"What'll be?" Bubba asked.
"The announcement." Bubba felt he knew what was coming, but he couldn't bring himself to ask the question out loud. The Chief sensed his hesitation and continued.
"I'm out, Bubba. Effective two weeks from today, I will no longer be the Chief of Police for the City of Sparta. My replacement will arrive on Monday."
The next week at the Sparta police department was filled with sadness. The newspaper did indeed announce that Chief Gillespie was being replaced. They were bringing in a man from Memphis, TN named Hampton Forbes to replace him. All of Sparta knew that Bill was being replaced because of his relationship with Harriet. The City Council made an ugly and very obvious attempt to cover that fact. Hampton Forbes was black.
Hamp, as everyone called him, was nice enough. He appeared to be tough, but fair, and was taking things very slow in the way of running the station. He even made a point to spend time with Bill and it looked like the two men would become friends. Hamp made it clear that he had no illusions regarding why he was really hired and that he disagreed with it completely. But at the same time he intended to do his job. The guys tried very hard not to treat him badly. None of this was his fault. But their personal attachment to the Chief sometimes got in their way. Bubba noticed this and since he was the Captain, he felt it was his responsibility to keep the rest of the team in line. He started making extra efforts to include Hamp, and even started asking for the man's advice. And just as Bubba suspected, the rest of the guys all followed suit. Hamp was made to feel at home at Sparta PD.
Lonnie was standing outside when he ran into Sarah Halisey reading the Sparta Herald. They had run another story about Gillespie leaving, since this was Hamp's first official day on the job.
"I guess you knew this was coming, huh?" she asked.
"I'm never informed of such things, ma'am." Lonnie responded.
Sarah just shook her head. Just then she noticed Gillespie having a conversation with a nice looking blonde across the street. "Who's that?" she asked.
"Oh, that's Dee Shepherd, a police officer."
Sarah smiled sarcastically. "She's the right color for the committee. If Bill had been having an affair with a woman who looked like that, he'd still be Chief. Good afternoon, Lieutenant."
Lonnie watched Sarah leave and then turned his eyes back to Dee and Bill. He knew what they were talking about. As his last official act as Chief, Bill had promoted Luann, Dee, and Parker to the rank of Sergeant. The three of them found their stripes on their desks that very morning.
As he walked back towards his car, Lonnie began to think about what Sarah had just said. Not that he was surprised by it. She had told the truth and he knew it. But actually seeing it happen was a whole different matter. And he couldn't help but think about his own future, with his career and with Monica. The two things he wanted most in the world were to be with her and to become a detective. Watching this thing happen to Bill made him wonder if he would really have to choose between the two. Maybe Monica was right. Maybe this whole thing was more complex than he thought. Maybe he wasn't strong enough for it, wasn't willing to risk enough for it. Maybe that's why he was…
The yell interrupted Lonnie's thoughts long enough for him to turn around and see Lana Farren smiling at him.