Author's Note: This is the first chapter of a work in progress that I expect (and hope) will be much longer. The story is set in 2008, but I have assumed that everything about the characters from ITHOTN is the same as it was near the beginning of the show (Chief Gillespie is still chief, Tibbs is still around, etc.). You know, author's liberties and all that. Hope you enjoy the first little taste!
Lindsay pulled the garden hose to the end of the dock, being careful not to drag her feet because of the thousands of little splinters on the wood. Damn, one more thing I need to fix around this place, she thought. She dropped the hose near the edge of the dock and walked a few steps back to the closet on the dock to find a sprayer nozzle. As she attached it to the hose, she looked out over the lake and saw boats lining up across the water near the landing. Lindsay turned and called up toward the house, "All right, y'all, the parade's gonna start! Get your kids and your butts and your bloody marys down here before you miss it!"
The Purvis Lake 4th of July Parade was a tradition in Sparta, Mississippi, or at least that's what Lindsay had heard at the Magnolia Café. This was Lindsay's first holiday in Sparta, and really, her first full week. She had bought a house on the lake just outside of town, a cozy little place with white siding and blue shutters and a screened porch on the top level. The lower level opened onto a patio with a grill and a hot tub, though she couldn't imagine why anyone in Mississippi would have a hot tub, seeing as how it seemed to be hotter than the nailed down hinges of hell at all times. She had really bought the place for the dock and the view of the boat landing across the lake, however. So far, she had been swimming in the lake every night, and she loved to just backstroke her way across the water, looking up at the stars and enjoying the quiet sounds of the night.
Lindsay heard the screen door slam and saw her friends Amie and Melissa come down holding red Solo cups in their hands. The girls came down to the dock, Amie putting on her sunglasses as she stepped onto the wood, and Melissa slinging a few beach towels across the railing.
"Where are the kids?" Lindsay asked.
"Oh, Justin's putting sunscreen on them," said Melissa. "Or at least that's what I told him to do," she laughed.
"And Travis is filling up the cooler with water balloons, but I think he'll be down in a second," said Amie.
Sometimes Lindsay was just a tad jealous of her friends and their adorable kids and charming husbands. The three of them had graduated from Ole Miss together five years before, and Amie and Melissa had spent that time getting married to nice, respectable boys from their hometowns in Mississippi and having babies. Amie had four-year-old twin boys, Jackson and Cooper, and a two-year-old baby girl named Marie. Melissa had a three-year-old daughter, Cara, and a baby named Ava who had just turned one.
Lindsay had majored in psychology at Ole Miss and had decided to forego the marriage and babies route after graduation in favor of going to law school at the University of Georgia. Even though she had grown up in Athens, and her parents desperately wanted her to stay close to home after she graduated from law school, she had grown attached to Mississippi and the friends she had made there during her undergraduate work, and she just had to go back. She had clerked for a judge in Jackson for a year after graduation, and had always pictured herself staying in the larger city permanently, but she hadn't been able to pass up a fairly well-paying position as an assistant district attorney in Sparta. Though she might have made more money in Jackson, it was just too tempting to take the opportunity to argue her own cases in court and really make a difference, rather than sort papers and do research for a partner at a big firm.
The screen door slammed again and Travis came down the steps and across the yard, carrying a big cooler full of water balloons. Justin was close behind him, yelling, "Kids, don't run on the stairs!" as Jackson and Cooper flew toward the dock, ghostly white with sunscreen smeared all over their faces and chests, and green and orange Super Soakers in their hands. Justin had a baby on his hip and Cara and Marie came toddling down the wide wooden steps behind him, speaking to each other in a secret language they had developed over the past several months. No one was sure if they could actually understand each other, but it seemed to work for them, so the adults just laughed as the girls babbled away happily.
Lindsay ran to the end of the dock and turned the water to the hose on, preparing for the parade. Apparently, the July 4th Parade was more of a battle than a nice, low-key parade one might expect. Everyone decorated their boats with as much red, white, and blue as they could find and rode past all the docks wishing people a happy Independence Day. As they pelted people with water balloons and soaked them with water guns, of course.
So, Lindsay had all the troops out on the dock, with as many supplies as she could muster. She personally planned on wielding the hose, because if there was one thing Lindsay couldn't stand, it was losing. But she began to realize that Jackson and Cooper probably wouldn't be much help, seeing as how they were already squirting each other with their water guns.
Lindsay finished off her bloody mary, set it down on the dock railing, and braced herself for the line of boats that was beginning to make its way around the perimeter of the lake. This is going to be fun, she thought.
Lonnie turned the ignition in the blue and white ski boat while Bubba pulled the truck into a parking spot at the boat landing. "Parker, you got ahold of the dock, right?" he said.
"Yes, sirree," said Parker, grinning back at Lonnie as he knelt at the front of the boat, hanging on to a metal cleat bolted to the dock. "You got those water balloons ready?" he asked.
"Yeah!" yelled Corey, Parker's six-year-old nephew. He was standing on the back seat of the boat, looking out over the lake, trying to make sure that they weren't missing any of the action of the parade.
Bubba jogged back down to the dock and climbed onto the boat after he parked the truck. "Okay Lonnie, let's go. Can't miss any of that parade, can we, Corey?" he said.
"Nooo!" yelled Corey, jumping up and down a few times to emphasize his point. "I wanna throw water balloons!"
"Alright now, well you just get yourself ready," said Bubba.
"Yeah and you can start by sittin' down," said Lonnie. Kids always made him just a little nervous, especially around water. There was just too much potential for accidents to happen.
"Oh come on, Lonnie, we're gonna have fun today," said Parker. "He'll be fine, lighten up a little bit."
"Yeah I know, I just don't want any accidents is all. But we're gonna have a good time. Somebody hand me a Bud Light," said Lonnie, thinking he might as well take their advice and relax a little. It was rare for all three of them to have the day off together, especially on a holiday, so Lonnie figured he might as well enjoy his vacation time with his two closest friends.
"See, that's more like it," said Parker, digging around in the cooler for some beers as Bubba traded places with Lonnie and backed the boat away from the dock.
Parker and Lonnie took seats near the front of the boat and Corey remained glued to the back seat, next to several buckets of water balloons that Parker had filled earlier that morning. Corey's blond hair stuck up in a cowlick in the front and his little chubby arms gripped the vinyl of the backseat as he sat facing the back of the boat, leaning over the seat on his knees.
"Oh man, I almost forgot," said Parker. "Corey's gonna need some back-up out there." He walked to the middle of the boat and pulled two huge water guns from behind Bubba's seat.
"Alright now, there we go!" said Lonnie, holding his Bud in one hand and taking the red water gun from Parker with the other.
Parker and Lonnie stationed themselves on the front of the boat as Bubba pulled into the line of boats circling the docks on the edge of the lake. Parker yelled, "Okay Corey, you cover the rear, we're locked and loaded on the front!"
As they drove by the first few docks, the guys exchanged water gun fire with the people on the docks, and Corey threw water balloons as hard as he could. They all laughed and wished each other a happy 4th as they drove by, everyone enjoying getting soaked under the hot noontime sunshine in Mississippi.
They rounded the first corner, and Corey kept flinging water balloons from the back of the boat, as hard as he could. He had yet to actually hit anyone, but he thought that if he climbed on the back of the boat and stood closer to the edge, he could get the balloons further, with better aim.
As they drew close to a dock with several couples and what seemed like a thousand little kids, Lonnie and Parker were busy admiring the women, who despite seeming to all be moms, still looked pretty amazing in bikinis. Lonnie was aiming his water gun at the dock and Parker was reaching over the side of the boat to refill his reservoir when they heard a yelp and a splash.
Lonnie looked toward the back of the boat and his breath caught for a moment when he realized that Corey was gone.
Lindsay was entirely soaked, and she was having the time of her life. For someone who was supposed to be a tough prosecutor, she was certainly letting loose now. She figured she could get used to this laid-back, small-town atmosphere.
"Come on Cooper, here comes another boat, get your next balloon out!" she yelled across the dock.
"Okay Aunt Lindsay, we're ready!" said Jackson, his little tanned arms poised to launch a balloon.
As the next boat came closer to their dock, Lindsay couldn't help but notice the guys on it. She particularly liked the one standing on the front with a big red water gun. Naturally, she grinned and aimed the hose at him.
Just as she was about to pull the trigger on the spray nozzle, her gaze flashed to the back of the boat, where a little blonde boy was standing on the now-soaked vinyl sundeck behind the back seat. As he raised his arm and leaned back, preparing to throw a water balloon, he lost his footing on the wet vinyl and slipped forward, falling head first off the boat and into the water. He managed to thrash a few times on the surface, but then the little blond boy slipped below the surface.
Everyone seemed to be frozen for a moment, amid all the laughter and noise around them. Without even pausing, Lindsay threw down the hose and dove off the dock, breaking into a few strokes of front crawl, reaching the spot where the little boy had slipped below the surface.
Lindsay had actually gone to Ole Miss on a swimming scholarship and she had made extra money since she was 15 working as a lifeguard at summer camps and at the YMCA in Athens. It was second nature for Lindsay to go after a kid in distress, but all those hours spent at the pool didn't make it any easier for her to see in the murky water, which she knew was around seven or eight feet deep.
After what seemed like thirty minutes, she found his little body and wrapped her arms around his chest. Lindsay kicked off the muddy bottom and brought both their heads above the surface. She treaded water with her legs, still holding the little boy up, who didn't seem to be conscious, until she could get her bearings. She realized that she was only a few feet from the blue and white boat the little boy had fallen from, so she pulled him up on her chest, leaned back and kicked as hard as she could, pushing both of them toward the boat.
When they reached the boat, Lindsay looked up to see three men leaning over the back of the boat, all reaching for her and the boy. A sweet-faced, balding man immediately grabbed the little boy by the arm and lifted him into the boat, saying "Oh Corey, Corey, you're okay, you have to be okay, come on, wake up…" The man Lindsay had been eyeing as they drove past her dock grabbed her arms and lifted her onto the back deck of the boat. She was winded and her adrenaline was rushing harder than it had in a long time as she saw the little boy stretched out next to the boat's steering column.
She heard the boat's driver talking on a radio, calling for an ambulance, and she said, "Pull over to our dock, we need to get him off this boat."
"Yeah, I'll do that," he replied, and began steering the boat parallel with Lindsay's dock.
Lindsay knelt next to the boy and the man who had pulled him out. She felt for a pulse as the other two men hovered over them, and she breathed a sigh of relief when she felt a strong heartbeat. Lindsay leaned down to listen and feel for breathing, when the little boy opened his eyes, turned to the side, and threw up about ten gallons of lake water all over the boat deck and Lindsay.
"Well, nice to meet you, buddy!" she said.
"Oh ma'am, I'm so sorry about that," said the man kneeling next to the boy.
"No, no, nothing a little water won't fix, and we have plenty of that handy," Lindsay replied. "I'm just glad I could help."
The driver got back on his radio and said, "Yeah this is Bubba again, out here at Purvis Lake, we're not gonna need that ambulance, send 'em back into Sparta."
"Corey, are you okay?" asked Lonnie, kneeling down by Parker.
"Yeah, Uncle Parker, my tummy just hurts," said Corey, wearily.
"Aw buddy, I'm so glad you're okay," said Parker. "But you have got to be more careful! You scared the heck out of all of us."
"Sure scared the hell out of me," said Bubba.
"Well, we sure do appreciate your jumping in after him so fast like that. I don't know how you found him so quick underwater," said Lonnie. "It couldn't have been more than ten seconds 'til you had him out of there."
"It sure didn't seem like ten seconds. More like a hundred years. But I guess I've had a lot of practice with stuff like that. I don't hold the Ole Miss record in fifty meter freestyle for nothing," Lindsay said with a little smirk. She wasn't sure why she felt the need to tell him that at a time when there was a poor little kid still looking pale and generally horrified sitting not more than a foot away from her, and when she was covered in said child's vomit, but it just seemed to slip out somehow. She gave herself a mental kick to get it together.
"Wow, guess that explains the speed," said Bubba. "None of us even had a chance to get to the side of the boat before you were already in the water."
"Oh, it was nothing, just a reflex I guess," said Lindsay. She turned to look over her shoulder at her guests on the dock behind her, who were all staring agape at the boat. She turned back out toward the water and realized that the parade was taking a distinctively different tone as it passed her dock, with people craning their necks and staring at all of them. Then it occurred to her that she was standing in front of three attractive guys. And that she was half-naked. And that she probably looked (and smelled) like Swamp Thing.
"Okay well I'll let y'all get going, don't mean to hold you up," she said, awkwardly.
"No, no, you're not, we'd love for you to stay," said Parker.
"Yeah, ma'am, we didn't even catch your name," Lonnie said.
"It's um," mumbled Lindsay, wondering what in the world had become of her usual spunky ex-athlete, hard-ass prosecutor self, "it's ah, Lindsay. Lindsay Cagan. And it was real nice to meet y'all…I mean I guess not under the circumstances, but you know. Anyway, I'd better be going…you guys have a nice 4th. And be safe and all that."
All of the guys mumbled their thanks, wondering why she had suddenly become so shy. It seemed strange for a girl who had just jumped from her dock and rescued a little boy. They were relatively close to her dock, so Lindsay just jumped off the boat and started swimming back toward her ladder on the side of the pier. She needed to wash Corey's little gift off of her anyway. All of the guys sort of sat and stared for a second, watching Lindsay's small frame in her red bikini as she climbed the ladder and grabbed one of the towels that Melissa had put on the railing earlier.
Bubba cleared his throat and said, "Well, ah, boys, what do you say we call it a day a little early?"
They all snapped back to reality and Parker started toweling Corey off and made sure he was seated securely next to him in the front of the boat.
"Yeah, Bubba, I think that's probably a good idea," Lonnie said. "Turns out we had a lot more excitement than we planned on."
"Ain't that always the way?" said Bubba.
"Yeah, I guess so," Lonnie said. Everything seemed a little deflated after that, and no one was really in the mood to cruise around the lake.
Lindsay got back on the dock and dried off with a towel that had been hanging over the railing.
"Damn, Linds," said Amie. "That was crazy. Good work out there!"
"Oh you know, I can be useful every once in a while," replied Lindsay, brushing off Amie's compliment.
"Well did you at least get some phone numbers?" asked Justin, with a playful gleam in his eyes.
"Oh come on, Justin, I'm not totally inappropriate," Lindsay said.
"I'm just sayin'…" he trailed off, as he went to scoop up a sniffling Cara, who Lindsay suspected had probably acquired a nice splinter from the dock in her foot. She really had a lot of work to do around this place. Sometimes it all seemed a little overwhelming.
"Aunt Lindsay, that was SO cool. Can I jump in and you can practice rescuing me?" said Jackson, excitedly.
"No, no, Jackson. I think you know how to swim well enough, maybe we can make a good lifeguard out of you one of these days," Lindsay said.
She looked out across the water to where the guys were pulling the blue and white boat out of the water and hooking it up to a pick-up truck and she couldn't help but wish for a moment that she had gotten a certain phone number. She was a single, 26-year-old woman, after all. She didn't shave her legs every morning and do 100 sit-ups every night for nothing.
Lindsay kicked off her black patent heels underneath her desk at the office and ran her fingers through her long, brown hair. She stared at the legal pads strewn around her desk, wondering where to begin on her first solo case. It was unbelievable to her that they were actually letting her argue a case, in which a criminal might go free because she felt as if she knew nothing about law. Lindsay was beginning to realize that there is a big gap between graduating in the top 20% of her class at Georgia law and staring in the face of an armed robbery case that she was somehow supposed to argue.
As she was sitting cross-legged in her chair, despite the fact that she was wearing her nicest charcoal Brooks Brothers pants, and propping her head in her hands on the desk in front of her, the phone rang. "Well, son of a bitch," mumbled Lindsay, sure that this would be some other crisis she'd be responsible for dealing with.
"Sparta DA's office, this is Lindsay Cagan, how can I help you?" she chirped into the phone, despite the fact that her face looked weary. And it wasn't even three o'clock yet.
"Well, hello there, and how are you doing on this fine Mississippi summer day?" said a man's voice on the other end of the line.
"Um, I'm well, thank you, and I hope you are," said Lindsay.
"Oh yes ma'am I am doing just wonderfully," said the voice. "You probably don't know who this is, do you?"
Lindsay was tiring of this man's game, but she couldn't fight the endearing qualities of his raspy, lilting voice. "Well, no sir, can't say that I do," she responded.
"This is Chief William O. Gillespie, Sparta Police," he said. "And I hear you are our newest district attorney and I do believe that has earned you an invitation our policemen's ball this upcoming weekend. Now, please forgive me for not sending you one in the mail but I just learned that you were gracing our lovely town with your presence and I was afraid you wouldn't get it in time."
Lindsay's mind started processing quickly. A policeman's ball sounded like just the sort of thing she didn't have the time or the desire to go to, but at the same time, she knew she'd be working closely with the police department, and the last thing she needed was a department who was less than eager to help her. "Well Chief, it is so sweet of you to think of me, but I had better check my calendar and get back to you," she said. Best not to commit right away. That meant more time to think of a good, believable excuse as to why she couldn't go.
"Oh, I'm sure there couldn't be too much else going on in this little town on Saturday night. We start at 8, and we will sure be hoping to see you then. Alright, bye now," said the chief, and hung up before Lindsay could respond.
What an odd exchange, Lindsay thought. He had been so nice, but in a way, he hadn't really given her any options. It seemed that she was expected at the ball, even though she had never accepted at all.
Lonnie was standing at the front desk, finishing up his reports for the day, since it was near the end of his shift. Parker was in his usual spot by the phone, and Bubba was at his desk in the back corner, getting ready to start his evening shift.
"You know, Lonnie, I just can't stop thinking about that Lindsay girl that pulled Corey out of Purvis," said Parker.
"That's because you don't know everything about her like you do everybody else in this town," said Bubba.
"Yeah but I might like to know a little more about her myself," said Lonnie, without looking up from his paperwork.
"One thing's for sure, she is a pretty, pretty little girl," said Bubba.
The chief and Virgil stepped out from their office, and the chief said, "Y'all are worse than some sorority house out here. Every time I come out here, y'all are runnin' your mouths about somethin' or someone that is absolutely none of your concern."
"No, Chief, see this girl we're talkin' about rescued my little nephew Corey out at Purvis Lake on the 4th," said Parker.
"Well, who is this hero of a lady? Maybe we need her on the force, get her to show you little gossips a thing or two about public service," said the chief.
"Her name's Lindsay Cagan," said Lonnie. "We figure she's new in town, no one's heard of her."
"Well then, turns out that a certain someone I know has heard of her," said Virgil, with a grin.
"Virgil, do you have to tell everything you know?" said the chief, good-naturedly. Virgil just shrugged. The chief continued, "I s'pose y'all might as well know that we probably gonna be seeing a lot of Lindsay Cagan, because she's the new assistant district attorney here in town. Just moved down here last week or so from Jackson. But I think she's originally from Georgia."
"Well I'll be damned," said Lonnie. "Looks like we got ourselves a regular little Georgia peach." And with that, he closed the folder of his last report, dropped it on Parker's desk, and walked out the door.
The chief watched him walk out the door and then shook his head and said, "Oh Lord help us, we've lost that one." He shook his head and then plopped his white cowboy hat on it and said, "Don't call me unless at least eight people have been murdered. I'm goin' home to have dinner with Beauregard."
Lonnie walked out to his Corvette just as the sun was setting behind the church tower on the square. It wasn't like him to act like this over a girl. That was Bubba's department. But damn, he couldn't stop thinking about the way that Lindsay had looked as she dove into the water, or how he wanted to see her for a just a few more seconds as they had pulled away from her dock.