Lieutenant Longstreet, a former merchant seaman, notices that all is suddenly not well with Captain Lee's ship of state, while Captain Lee has visions of fire for the first time in 27 years ...
To get totally caught up on The Posture of Innocence, here are the prologue, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 3.5, day 4, day 4.5, day 5, day 5.5, day 6, day 7, day 7.5, day 8, day 9, day 9.5, day 10, day 10.5, day 11, day 11.5, day 12, day 12.5, day 13, day 13.5, day 14, day 15, day 16, day 16.5, day 17, day 18, day 19, day 19.5, day 20, day 20.5, day 21, day 22, day 22.5, day 23, day 23.5, day 24, day 24.5, day 25, day 25.5, day 26, day 26.5, day 27, day 27.5, day 28, day 28.5, day 29, day 29.5, day 30, day 30.5, day 31, day 31.5, day 32, day 32.5, day 33, day 33.5, day 34, day 34.5, day 35, day 35.5, day 36, day 36.5, day 37, day 37.5, day 38, day 38.5, day 39, and day 39.5!
Lieutenant Lightfoot knocked on the door and walked in with a sheaf of folders under his arm. Before long, Captain Lee, Mr. Black, and the five lieutenants took over the conference room, and the table, and started pulling things apart and together.
“Oh, if these people knew that Captain Calvert didn't get to burn all these other records, and now all these things are coming together – they would run like the fires of hell were licking at their heels!” Mr. Black said when finally Captain Lee called a break for lunch.
Four of the five lieutenants were up like a shot and were out the door, as was Mr. Black, still laughing. Captain Lee did not move, and Lieutenant Longstreet, having seen the captain's sudden expression out of the corner of his eye, turned back...
It so happened that as Captain Lee was himself an orphan at two years old and had lost a son who would have been 27 in 2019, so it was that Lieutenant Longstreet, 27 years old, had lost his father to an accident when he was 14. Captain and lieutenant thus resonated with each other closely, and Lieutenant Longstreet was watchful, conscious of the fact that although Captain Lee had great strength, he also was mortal, and that the stress of the way things had been was wearing on him.
Lieutenant Longstreet had taught himself to read the subtle clues to his commander's moods despite his commander's perennial marble front. In nautical language: Lieutenant Longstreet was a thoughtful first mate, ever mindful of the needs of his captain and aware that as went the captain, so went the ship. To this point in the day things had gone well, but there was a grim blankness that had suddenly come over Captain Lee's face, the kind of look a calm captain might have should a sea monster rise up and open its mouth wide enough to swallow his entire ship.
“Captain,” the lieutenant had said firmly, seeking to cut through the fog he sensed had come over his commander's mind.
Captain Lee was having a flashback – 27 years to that place in his mind when he envisioned what he was going to do to his Slocum-Lofton relatives and their entire neighborhood. Fire runs uphill 16 times faster on a windy day than it runs down … had the then 18-year-old cadet's Lee grandfather not realized that his grandson had temporarily gone stark raving mad, a sheet of flame would have swept up the Blue Ridge such that nobody in the target area would have escaped in time, for their routes would have been blocked by fire … and it would still occur. He had seen the future correctly, as had Mr. Black.
“Captain,” said the voice through the flames … the voice of his son … no, that was Lieutenant Longstreet, the first of those Captain Lee had come to cherish as his sons on the force … .
“Yes – Lieutenant, my apologies – I had a thought from the past … and the future...”
Lieutenant Longstreet watched with concern all day … whatever Captain Lee's thought had been, it had changed his mood entirely. It was subtle – if you didn't know to look you wouldn't see it – but Captain Lee's gravity was at full strength again for the rest of the day. Lieutenant Longstreet put his eye on the clock – he knew Captain Lee had his support group in Roanoke that night, and began feverishly working to make sure there would be no reason for Captain Lee to need to stay overtime. The other lieutenants picked it up, and all five got into step to get everything taken care of well before 5:00.
Lieutenant Longstreet was the last lieutenant to leave, falling immediately into doing the last security checks with Captain Lee, whose gravity suddenly lifted like the sun coming through the fog as they finished.
“Thank you, Lieutenant Longstreet. I know you were a merchant seaman for a few years … some sea captain's loss is my gain, for you are an excellent first mate. Thank you.”
“You're welcome, sir. Any time, any weather.”