Disclaimer: I don't own any of there 'Close to Home' characters. I don't own any product or label mentioned for the purposes of telling this story. Any similarities to situations or persons living or dead are purely coincidental.
Spoilers: Any Season Two episode up to and including 'Truly Madly Deeply'.
A/N: I've been thinking about his for some time now, wanting to put a real Indiana stamp on Jimmy Conlon. None of this is show canon; it's just what I imagine the Indiana side of Jimmy Conlon might be.
October 7, 2006
Eastern Standard Time
Jimmy Conlon drove his black Chrysler 300 out of the circular drive of his secluded Meridian Street home. It was one of the historic Bedford stone homes that graced the old neighborhood. It had been restored and remodeled a few years before Jimmy purchased it. It was situated high on a hill, its drive braced with two lighted Bedford stone walls, covered his deep green foliage. It was nestled so deeply into the trees, that it could only be seen from Meridian Street in the winter and early spring. His mother told him about Sunday drives with her parents into Indianapolis just to look at the beautiful homes that lines each side of the street. Buying the home had been a fulfillment of a dream, an opportunity to become that 'big fish in a little pond.'
He had been in the process of settling in over the past few weeks, he could honestly say now that he had made this place his home. He only wished he could say the same for his daughter, Jesse.
It was a real catch 22 for him, he didn't want to take her away from her mother, or the life she knew in New York, but he wanted her to know this side of life, as well. He wanted her to learn what he had from his parents and grandparents all those summers ago, when he was growing up. He was sorry he had waited so long to come here, now that he was finally back. It was probably too late; Jesse was already on her way to being an adult. She had chosen her college, and her choice placed her nowhere near him or the state of Indiana.
The Sexton case was one of the more disturbing that he had ever witnessed. Even though they were able to convict Tim Sexton and his wife, and solve another murder in the process, it left him with little peace or satisfaction. He couldn't see how devastated their latest victim and her family were and not think of his own daughter, so far away and so oblivious to the true evil that existed in the world.
As he exited onto 65 and took it south, he tried to clear his mind and focus on a project he had begun shortly after he returned to Indiana. He had a Jeep stored on his grandfather's farm. His grandparents had passed away long ago, but the home place was still intact, though it had been deserted for years, until he opened the house over a month ago. The house had been modernized, sided in yellow, and trimmed in white, with the same gingerbread trim his grandmother had been so proud of.
As he drove he was deep in thought, it seemed when he was really troubled about something, the long talks he had with his grandfather always came to his mind. One in particular was coming to him now as he thought of the major changes he'd made in his life over the past year.
His mind turned to his 14th summer, he had returned to his grandparent's farm, a sullen adolescent, difficult to reach and motivate. After a month of grunting answers to questions and brooding in the background of every activity his grandparents tried to get him to participate in, his grandfather decided it was time to find out what was really on his mind.
He told Jimmy he wanted him to take a walk in the fields with him and as they walked along the rows of corn, his grandfather reached to pull a stray weed in the row.
"Why don't we walk the rows, see if we missed anything."
Jimmy hadn't realized it had the time, but there was no need to weed the row, he just wanted to give Jimmy something to do while they talked.
"Uh, huh." He didn't even look at his grandfather when he answered.
"Your grandmother is making your favorite pie for desert, this evening."
"Hmm" He acknowledged what his grandfather said but it was hard to say whether his answer was positive or negative.
His grandfather stopped, and then carefully stepped into the row in front of him. "Have you learned a new and abbreviated language in New York young man, or are you so miserable here that you just want to go home?"
Jimmy was surprised by his grandfather's blunt question. "No, I don't want to go home."
"Well, at least I got a complete sentence out of you. What is the matter, son? You don't seem to be yourself at all." Jimmy had always loved being on the farm.
He wasn't himself, he didn't realize it but he was deep into his terrible awkward stage. He was miserable and had no clue how to stop feeling that way. "I don't know."
The tall and lanky young boy stood before his grandfather, self consciously tugging his ear, the one that made him feel like Dumbo, because it stuck out at an awkward angle.
"Sure you do." His grandfather waited patiently. "This isn't a test Jimmy, there is no right answer."
"I don't know, I just hate it in New York…I hate it here. I don't know…I don't feel like I belong anywhere…I hate it." Jimmy just blurted it out, wondering what ever possessed him to say he hated anything. Everything he said came out wrong.
His grandfather listened and the corners of his mouth turned up slightly as he thought of what he could say to his grandson.
He stepped back from him and reached down into the loose ground beneath the young plants. He picked up a handful of the rich dark soil and closed his hand around it.
"Give me your hand, son."
Jimmy did as he was told and his grandfather placed the soil in his hand.
"James Conlon, you belong here, this soil…this land belongs to you. This farm has belonged to this family for generations, even when Indiana was still considered a territory. Never say you don't belong anywhere, it will never be true." His grandfather's eyes blazed with determination, so much so that Jimmy found it difficult to hold his gaze when he looked into them.
Jimmy swallowed hard. "Yes, sir."
"You belong in New York too son, your parents want to give you every chance to learn from the world you live in and you'll be the richer for it. The way I see it, you'll have one foot in Indiana and the other in New York." His grandfather grinned at him, "the best of both worlds."
"It may be difficult to shift from one part of the country to the other, but it can be done and you are the young man to do it. You're a Conlon."
His grandfather winked at him and at that moment, Jimmy felt better than he had in days. "Come on son, we've got a lot to do before dinner."
From that day on, Jimmy worked with his grandfather on the farm, no more sulking around the house passing the time. His grandfather understood what he'd needed then, he needed a purpose. By the end of the summer, he felt as much a part of the farm as his grandfather was, much of his awkwardness had disappeared. He'd even learned to drive, but only on the farm, like most of the kids in the community. Some of his best memories of that summer were of him and his grandfather hopping around those old dirt roads in his old pick up, while Jimmy learned to drive a manual transmission.
As Jimmy left the interstate, the flat land that surrounded Indianapolis gave way to the more hilly landscape and farmland in the southern counties of the state. It was a perfect fall day. It was about 70 degrees, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the trees were just beginning to turn gold and russet. The further he got away from Indianapolis the more at ease he was beginning to feel.
The satellite radio filtered into the quiet space inside his vehicle, it was jazz café, all instrumental; he didn't want to hear any words, not even lyrics in a song. He just wanted peace.
From the interstate, Jimmy could see the combines, clearing the fields of corn. He wondered if anyone he knew from the summers he spent in Elliottsville were still around.
He doubted anyone would remember him if they did. He had driven through town and stopped at a little gas station that along with a small grocery across the street seemed to be the hub of activity in town. He didn't see anyone he recognized. It wasn't quite a ghost town, but more than one business had closed down since the last summer he spent there, before college.
It wasn't long before he drove up in front of his grandparent's home. He left his car running as he went to open the old but well maintained white barn. He pushed the huge sliding door to the side, and then drove his car into the barn. He opened the trunk of his car and removed his casual but fashionable shirt, leaving only a white T shirt and jeans. He sat carefully on the bumper of the car and removed his custom made leather boots, replacing them with the more sturdy work boots he had in his trunk. The transformation was complete, he was no longer the ADA, of Marion County, he was just Jimmy Conlon, old Sean Conlon's grandson.
In moments he was behind the wheel, in his open Jeep with the sun warming him as he blew out of the back of the barn and onto the rough trails that wound around the farm. He'd been ready for this all week. During his last visit, he'd finally got his old CJ 7 running, and this weekend, with the weather cooperating so well, he was going to take it out on his property and see if it still had what it took to take the uneven terrain of this old farm.
He wasn't disappointed with his afternoon, tearing up the dirt road that connected the fields of his grandfather's old farm. At one time, it had been over 300 acres, now it was just under one hundred. Much of the farm land was leased out to other independent farmers in the area. The business side of the farm had long been managed by his uncle, a man he barely knew and had seldom seen. Jimmy had been told by his father that he hadn't been on the place in years. So much the better for him, as far as Jimmy was concerned, it was one less person to deal with and one more reason to like having this farm to himself.
Later in the afternoon, as dusk began to fall, Jimmy stopped near a field that was being cleared. The combine had its lights on, giving it an almost menacing look out in the darkened field. He could see inside the compartment of the combine, a man, with a ball cap pulled low over his eyes. It had to be nearly 8 p.m. and these guys were still at it. He knew they'd been going strong since dawn this morning. As the combine passed more closely to where he had pulled the jeep over on the side of the lane, it stopped and the Plexiglas door opened. A man, who looked to be nearly his age, stepped out onto the fender of the huge machine. He jumped down from the huge machine and walked toward him.
As he approached him he pushed the bill of his ball cap back and called to Jimmy, "Hey…this is the Conlon farm, what are you doing out here?" The man nodded toward Jimmy's Jeep. "You can't use the trails on this property without the permission of the family."
Jimmy recognized the man's voice right away. It was Tom Sanford, his family owned the closest farm to his grandfathers, or at least they used to.
"Tom?" Jimmy crossed the road and walked over to the edge of the field.
The man stopped, recognizing him "Jimmy Conlon?"
"That's right…How are you Tom?"
'Well I'll be damned; I didn't think we'd ever see you back here again."
Jimmy scoffed, "I didn't either."
"Saw you on TV though, Assistant District Attorney…James Conlon."
"Can't believe you left New York."
Jimmy cut him off, "It's a long story" Jimmy changed the subject, nodding toward the combine. "How much longer?"
"I'm nearly finished with this field; I suppose I could take a break then."
Jimmy remembered what his grandfather had always told him, you had to work while the weather allowed it. There were no breaks for farmers, not this time of year.
"Need any help?"
"Still know your way around the farm, Jimmy?"
"I can hold my own."
Tom Sanford turned back toward his combine and called to him, "Come on then."
Two hours later…..
Jimmy sat at a small table with Tom Sanford. Tom was having a 'pop' and he drank bottled water. They were inside an establishment called the Pop Stop; it was a combination gas station and pizza parlor. Elliottsville was coming up in the world; the town had even acquired a stop light since a few years ago.
The two old friends were deep into conversation.
Tom leaned across the table frowning at Jimmy. "Iron man? Triathlon? Why would you put yourself through something like that? Hell…they don't even pay you for it"
"It's about pushing your body to its limits; because you can…it's hard to explain to someone who hasn't participated in one."
Tom laughed, "Hey, I push my body to its limits every day, especially this time of year."
Jimmy chuckled and thought about how different they were, they were the best of friends as kids, now it was as though they were speaking two different languages. There was no point in trying to push the issue.
"Bet I can still out do you bailing hay."
"I don't know about that." Jimmy leaned back in his chair.
Jimmy and Tom were always in some kind of competition; Tom was a year older and stronger than Jimmy. At least he was stronger than him the first year his grandfather allowed him to bail hay. By his second summer at the job, Jimmy finally caught up with him. He had never worked so hard in his life, but the strength he gained that summer changed his life. He even grew 3 inches that summer. He returned to New York that fall, in better shape than he'd ever been in his life. He was lean, mean and seventeen.
It was, as had been said of many young men who called themselves Hoosiers. 'You could stack hay, swim in the pond to clean off, and then have the strength to play hoops, all in the same barn lot, on the same day.'
Jimmy looked around the gas station/ pizza parlor.
"Hey, whatever happened to Darnell's?"
"Old man Darnell sold it over 20 years ago, the town just sort of died out. No families with kids coming to buy candy or soda."
Jimmy shook his head. "Did he ever update that old jukebox? I think he still had stuff from the sixties in 1982."
Tom laughed, "No and hey, don't knock the classics man."
"I'm not knocking the classics."
"I'm proud to say, disco never made it to Elliottsville."
Jimmy raised his water bottle, "I'll drink to that."
Tom raised his Coke and as they both took a drink, a familiar and feminine voice came from the other side of the store.
"You'll never get me back here; I wouldn't be caught dead in the state of Indiana once I'm finally on my own." The teasing feminine voice mocked Jimmy's very words the last summer he spent here.
Both men looked in the direction of the voice, Jimmy sat a little straighter and as realization dawned on him, he couldn't keep the smile from his face.
Things were definitely looking up…..down state.
I can't say when though, it will difficult to write more, until I get a better handle on who this guy is.
A/N: I don't think there is any such place as Elliottsville, I was just playing around with the name and thought it might be fun to put it in this way.
A/N: The quote about Hoosiers was from a list I found on google, 'You know you're a Hoosier when…'