After all the before-and-after food was arranged for in the "Greens" freewrite, Commissioner Scott and Mr. Jetson Black finally meet ... and find the meeting surprising!
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, and day 22!
9:45am – Commissioner Scott kept pacing the floor, then sitting down – “Let not your heart be troubled – I believe, Lord, please help my unbelief! I'm not even 24 hours born again, and I've got to deal with Mr. Black in all his Blackness, and I can't do what White men like me used to do – I can't just force my way to what I want. I've got to negotiate somehow, and I don't know how – please help me, Lord, help me!”
Mr. Black strode into the building at 9:55 and wondered what in the world was going on … the whole atmosphere was subtly different. He couldn't quite place it until he saw the gravest, most serious-looking man in the place: Captain Lee, who still looked grave and serious as he rounded the stairs coming down from the third floor to the second, but also looked ten times more relaxed in his body language. He almost looked like he might smile, sometime that week.
“I guess the Free Voice was getting on these people's nerves more than I thought,” Mr. Black said as he climbed on, the captain not having seen him (at least, not officially). “They ought to keep up the pressure if taking it off can do all this.”
Commissioner Scott got the buzz from Ms. Thornton, and prayed what he knew to pray: “Lord, help me .. they said You would and I believe You will … I need You … please help me ...” and then saw that he was helped when Mr. Black strode in. Aside from his bigness and Blackness – just the ability to not be threatened by that – and Mr. Black was friendly, easygoing, and reasonable. He came bearing a far bigger gift than a threat.
“We see what you are doing right, Commissioner, and we see that you are paying attention to the evidence exposed about your own department before you came. The Innocence Project would like to partner with your department to help you right the wrongs you and we are interested in righting, and we want to do it in a way that won't tie up your whole department.
“What I would really like to do is shadow Captain Lee in his work to learn his methods in dealing with masses of old data so successfully, and I'd like to share those methods with those working at the Innocence Project so we can right the wrongs we are both interested in righting sooner. I'd also like to bring a few interns down to learn as well, and borrow the captain on a few weekends so he can teach a few more people.”
Silence for a long moment.
“That's all you want?”
“Yes, sir. And, in return, we share information we have that helps the cold case division crack more cases like the Soames case, which leads to more and better success for the division and your department … and also better media coverage. Your department is having a really bad time with some of your local news outlets.”
Commissioner Scott thought to himself that he had to be careful … the police officers association, and also Internal Affairs, were going to start giving him a really bad time if he gave too much to any organization that might further upend what had been going on so profitably. Not that it all had not been exposed, but the corrupt elements in each wanted the matter to blow over as soon as possible, replace him, and then get back to business as usual as soon as possible.
There was also a matter of a bunch of officers' widows and wives of jailed officers after the Gilligan House Burning who simply refused to see that their husbands' fates were just – they, too, were increasingly vocal in their opposition to the commissioner, who they felt was giving aid and comfort to everyone but them and their families. Not that all these combined had the sheer hurting power of the Lofton County Free Voice, but they were another force that was pulling the department apart, and they were much less reasonable than the Free Voice and its friend Mr. Black, because for the corrupt elements, widows, and wives, it was also a question of access to resources – money.
Not that Mr. Black and the rest were not interested in money … Commissioner Scott knew that in his soul … they were setting a stage … first, expose the wrong done … second, exonerate the innocent … third, demand compensation. The problem for Big Loft, and Lofton County, was that there had been so many innocent snatched up to feed that private prison in the county next door. Assume $100,000 apiece, and it would be a strain. Assume $1,000,000 or more apiece, and Big Loft was at risk of bankruptcy.
But then Commissioner Scott came to himself. Right was right. Wrong was wrong. The words also came unbidden to his mind … “Take no thought for tomorrow … sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” There were wrongs that could begin to be righted that day. That was enough. All the fears – about job loss, about Big Loft being bankrupted by the sins it had so wantonly indulged in toward the city and county's Black people – were not binding. They did not have to be binding … again, the commissioner heard, deep in his spirit: “Fear not. I am with you.”
Commissioner Scott reached for his telephone.
“Captain Lee – step up here,” he ordered, and then put down the phone.
Mr. Black smiled.
“Is that a yes?”
“90 percent of it,” the commissioner said. “Captain Lee is not the kind of officer you just order to do this kind of job; he works very particularly, and things work better if he has some say in things.”
Mr. Black kept his smile. He knew Captain Lee somehow had survived four more commissioners after outright killing the one who had been involved in hiring him … one did expect the Angel of Death to be treated with respect, even by his mortal superiors. He also knew Captain Lee was already on board with the plan, and was intrigued to see how the captain would – or would not – make that known to the commissioner.
One did not expect the Angel of Death to have to hide his position on anything. Mr. Black had overheard how Captain Lee had suspended Mrs. DeVille in gravity for attacking him – it just tickled Mr. Black to think of that wicked old woman, finally realizing she had met that one man in her life that would not be manipulated or emasculated, and that he had the power to stop her permanently, without consequences, because he too was a White man! The same violence she wanted against Black men, now with her in its grip!
Yet Captain Lee had not dropped Mrs. DeVille, despite her provocations … he was not a proponent of the license to kill for White men just because he himself was White, and of a family America had never called to proper account. He could do whatever he wanted … but for whatever reason, the man was for the right. Mr. Black looked forward to observing this exception to the rule ... .
Captain Lee strode in, with his usual grave but easy confidence, and after listening to why he had been summoned, spoke.
“I met Mr. Black yesterday, sir. He asked me to introduce him to you that he might propose his plan, but I am glad to know that you have reached out to him yourself, sir.”
“What do you think of his proposal, Captain?”
“I think it is the right thing to do, since we know our department has a past of putting many innocent men behind bars. I also think the proposed work will do much to cement the impression among all those interested in doing right in Lofton County that we are concerned with getting the right men behind bars instead of just filling the prisons with Black and Brown bodies. I referred him to you because the decision is yours, of course, but I am in support of his proposal.”
Commissioner Scott finally cracked a smile, and Mr. Black saw a small sigh of relief.
“You two gentlemen get together and structure what you plan to do, and bring it back to me tomorrow. Please bear in mind the sensitivity of the situation – there is going to be a lot of support but also a lot of resistance, and so please be wise as serpents, harmless as doves.”
Mr. Black cracked up laughing, and Captain Lee smiled slightly.
“That has got to be the most original usage of that advice I have ever heard,” the captain said.
“Took me right back to Sunday School days!” Mr. Black said.
“Yeah, I was in Sunday School too,” the commissioner said. “Just now beginning to understand what all that meant.”
Mr. Black thought to himself that maybe the commissioner did. It was still a rare experience for him, that White men checked in with God before checking in with their desire to live like gods on the earth. The commissioner was 60. Better late, than never.