Which will yet become something new.
Today I’ve decided to post something I wrote in February of 2005. Well, at least, that’s the last time the document was saved. Regardless of the medium it will eventually become, I’ve noticed that all of my stories begin by writing down the scene that inspired it – in vignette form. Because that’s how we see snapshots, yes? Yes. Anyway, I have done nothing to revise or edit this – I’m just transferring it from the document to the blog. Maybe later I’ll say what I think about it, what I would change if it were really going to stay in this form.
I am not posting this because it is useful or well-done. I’m just sharing it. Which is immediately strange to me, since I assume such actions have a point. But. I guess if I don’t need a reason to blog, this shouldn’t seem so strange, yes? Let’s just do this before we over-think it.
The morning I went to the home of Carolyn Lennox, I understood what it means to love a child. See that? I got it wrong already. I have to do this right. At least this.
I didn’t understand it that morning. I witnessed it. And I began to have an idea of what I know now.
Charles Lennox disappeared from outside of his home two and a half years before I met Carolyn. He was seven years old, dark haired and gray-eyed. It took his mother half a day to come up with a picture for the broadcast because she wanted to find one that showed how he smiled with his eyes. Smiling gray eyes. I guess they would’ve haunted me, too. She said she knew we’d find him because anyone who saw him would remember those eyes. She barely left the station, convinced that as soon as she did, someone would arrive or call or email or fax in that they’d seen his gray eyes and would return him to her doorstep safe and sound. But that was only for the first year. After that, she just waited by her phone. Tried to gather information on her own. Quit her job so she’d be available around the clock, in case there was a break in the case.
It did get hot for a moment, somewhere near the beginning. But only because a registered sex offender was found to be living on Charles’ street. His last name was Burke. I always remember his last name in bold, blood red letters on Carolyn’s picket sign. Never could recall his first name. Never wanted to.
After that, the trail – and the case – went cold. God only knows who Burke had in that meat-locker of a basement, but it wasn’t Charles Lennox. Still, I don’t pity him the broken windows he got when the neighborhood found out about his past. I understood their outrage: a monster moves in next door, watches your children board the school bus or play street hockey and no one gives you so much as a ‘By the way’.
I didn’t think Carolyn would let it go. Burke, I mean. I thought she’d stay focused on him, on something tangible to cry out against, to direct her anger at. But, unlike a lot of parents in her position, Carolyn Lennox didn’t want just anyone to pay for what she was going through. She wanted the person who was responsible to pay. Two and a half years after she last laughed at the sparkle in those gray eyes, I showed up on her doorstep to tell her the debt could never be repaid.
I didn’t go to the house alone. I wouldn’t have. My promotion was less than twenty-four hours old and I didn’t know anything about the Lennox case. I was ready to ride along, not to deliver the news. It wouldn’t have been as heavy a burden as I’d expected, since it was never officially delivered.
“So, you’re just gonna…” I raised my shoulders, searching for a phrase or gesture.
“I’m just going to tell her.” She had already begun nodding, eyes fixed on the road ahead, hands at two and ten. Gail wasn’t nervous. Just focused. “I know her, Julius. I couldn’t ask her down to the office. She would’ve been a wreck if she’d have driven. If I offered to send a car…She would’ve made me tell her over the phone,” she changed her mind, thinking better of the woman she’d come to call a friend over the last couple of years.
“I don’t know. The doorway, maybe. She can close the door if she wants us to leave. Or she can invite us in if she wants to hear it all right away.”
“How much would you tell her?”
“For God’s sake, Julius, everything!” She wiped her cheeks but they were dry. You don’t get to where Gail is by wearing your emotions on your sleeve. But, here, in the car with me, she could gesture that she wanted to cry. She calmed down almost instantly, licked her lips and looked both ways before proceeding to turn onto Carolyn’s street.
“Who is it?” came a distant voice, a hint of amusement in it as it drew closer to the door.
“It’s Gail, Carolyn,” Gail looked up as she leaned into the door, as though she were addressing the mantle above it. A moment later, Carolyn was standing before us, a smile slowly tapering from her lips, canned laughter erupting from the room behind her.
“Good afternoon, Gail,” Carolyn stepped forward to touch her arm and then, just before reaching over the threshold, stopped. Cocked her head to the side. I didn’t know what had transpired in that instant, but she had seen something. On one of our faces. I wish now that I could say for certain whose. And that it wasn’t mine.
“This is Detective Julius Leonard.” Gail motioned towards me and I offered my hand. Stupidly. As though actually expecting this woman, who had seen what I hadn’t known was being displayed, to accept my worthless attempt at delay.
“Detective Leonard.” She barely glanced in my direction.
“Carolyn,” Gail only hesitated for a moment.
“Wait a minute!” She suddenly threw her hands up, flushed as though someone had thrown scalding water in her face. And then, just as suddenly, it drained. A hurricane of tears draining from somewhere around her eyes. I couldn’t say where they all came from. One moment, her face was dry and the next it was melting. “Just wait a minute, Gail!” She spat at the woman beside me. She began to back away from the entrance and Gail lifted her foot, hesitantly, as though not sure whether she should follow. “Give me one damn minute, Gail!” She thrust her arm out to halt any movement. “Give me one…” Now she’d turned away and was returning to the room with the laughter. “Give me one…” She could be heard speaking in fragments as the laughter abruptly stopped. And then all we could hear were footsteps, shuffling, as though she weren’t completely lifting her feet.
For a long time – or what seemed like a long time – there was nothing. No laughter, no shuffling, no fragments. I wasn’t even sure Gail was breathing beside me. And then, from deep inside the house, there was a popping sound. And a thud. And Gail snapped out of civilian mode and was on her mic before I had finished turning my head in her direction.
“Shots fired at 614 Keller Drive. Resident is Carolyn Lennox,”
And I just stood there. I didn’t go in while Gail finished talking to dispatch. I didn’t lower my brows from their position of shock on my forehead. When I finally moved, it was to retrieve the picture of Charles Lennox’s body from my breast pocket.
And the next thing I remember, a medic was asking me to clear the porch as though he’d already asked me once before.