After a morning entering data, Captain Lee goes up to make his report to Commissioner Scott, who is running behind ... but that's all right because that means the captain gets to hang out with Ms. Magdalena Thornton and turn the wait time into a kind of first date ...
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, and day 34!
At 1:45, Captain Lee went up to deliver his full report in person to Commissioner Scott, but the commissioner's previous appointment was running a little over. Captain Lee was not disturbed by that, being a man of great patience, and also because Ms. Thornton went out of her way to make anyone who had to wait feel at home.
There was also that element about Ms. Thornton – actually Mrs. Thornton, a young widow – that had caused the captain to write in his personal data book (not quite a journal), “Mrs. Magdalena Thornton – she resonates.” She was an exceptionally strong woman, having lived on the other end of the fall of five commissioners – she had kept that office together for six successive men without participating in any of the corruption of Commissioner Scott's predecessors.
You would never know while dealing with Mrs. Thornton that anything had possibly been wrong, ever, because she simply cordoned off her space from it …
“How goes the disaster today?” Captain Lee said gently as Mrs. Thornton poured him some coffee and pulled out some hard-boiled eggs (because Captain Lee never touched donuts).
“Under control, Captain Lee,” she said, with a smile. “Inside that inner office, Commissioner Scott is hearing that the lawsuits are cascading – the three newest cases out of the Blue Ridge neighborhood have opened up the floodgates. Folks have been reading the Lofton County Free Voice and finding out they are not alone … we've got eleven lawsuits worth $156 million going on, up from three yesterday and nine this morning.”
“So, since there will be no payroll for us to be on next year,” Captain Lee said mildly, “what are you thinking of for your next career move?”
“Praying about it,” she said. “I was a top-level corporate secretary before my marriage, and I'm still getting job offers from that sector. So, I could go back. It would be easier than what things have been here. But I know that I was supposed to take this job, and I'll have it until the Lord says otherwise. Back to you: what's your next career choice? Going back to the Army full-time, Colonel?”
“No,” Captain Lee said, with more firmness than he expected from himself. “I am retiring after completing my 24th year of service in the Reserve. I have several options to consider in both data management and also some intriguing teaching offers, one of which comes to me through Mr. Black. My thought would be to roll all of that up into a consulting business.”
“Sounds interesting – you'd be paid very well to travel and have a variety of good civilian experiences, widen your circle, build a stellar team ... .”
Captain Lee started.
“I had not even considered building a team,” he admitted.
“Oh, Captain, building a consulting business is not a solo Special Forces type mission – you don't want to be managing all the data you are consulted about and also then doing the back-end work for the business – legal stuff, research up front and data afterward on what's most profitable for you to do so you can hit trends in your field – yes, you could find plenty of work and just live job to job, but you have too much to offer to get haphazard about all that.”
“And I do hate haphazardness – that would drive me insane,” he said.
“Right, so, in your case, if it were me, I'd start looking for the business team and saving up from the checks we're getting while we are getting them,” Mrs. Thornton said. “Did you want some mustard for those eggs, Captain?”
“Oh, yes, thank you – did you used to work in the startup field?” he asked.
“No, not directly – but that was the passion and business of Greg Thornton, my late husband. He used to help people set them up, and I learned by helping him.”
Captain Lee already knew Mrs. Thornton was a widow, but they had never discussed the matter. He could see the pain in her face, and the love … .
“My deepest condolences to you, on the loss of your husband,” he said softly.
“Thank you, Captain Lee. My condolences to you, on the loss of your wife.”
He had not known she knew that, and she saw the surprise in his face.
“It isn't like everybody in the office knows,” she said, “but the single women do. Everybody is talking about you not having your gold chain on today, and I know that if a man like you put a memorandum like that aside, you had to have closed a big, big door.”
Captain Lee was speechless for a moment, and then found a response … .
“They ought to tell Sherlock Holmes that his services are no longer needed – half of mankind is apparently up on the secrets of the quietest of men.”
Mrs. Thornton cracked up laughing, but then became serious.
“You have a ton of admirers who are in hopes of any sign that their chance may arrive,” she said. “Looking every which way.”
“Every which way but loose,” Captain Lee finished, and Mrs. Thornton was rolling again. “That's all they would want if they got what they think they wanted.”
Mrs. Thornton stopped laughing with a sweet, sad smile.
“Remember, Captain,” she said, “most people here are terrified. Things have improved to the extent that the active corruption is being shut down, but we're getting beat to death because of all that coming out, and everyone is trying to figure out what's next, but everyone can't afford to lose this job and be out for a few months finding new work.
“Not only that, Captain, but everybody doesn't have what we have. The way you act tells me you have loved and been loved by a bunch of good women, and I have a great father and had wonderful grandfathers and a fine husband. So, we don't worry about the future in that respect. We also have skills that are evergreen, so we know we'll land on our feet. We also know the Lord, that He will take care of us – oh, let me top that coffee off for you – so we're not terrified or desperate.
“But the women who check daily about your chain – they knew from the beginning that you were holding a torch for someone, and that you've put it up now. The news was through the building in 15 minutes... so, that's how I knew you were a widower, and all I've got is condolences, because putting the torch up that you've held for a while is a big deal, and you must have really loved her and it must have hurt a lot to lose her.”
Captain Lee was astounded.
Lord, have you revealed my heart to this woman in order that she be revealed to me?
What he said was, “It did. I am here because the Lord upheld me.”
“Same here – if you've been through it, especially young, you know,” she said. “But hey – having been through all that, we know we can get through this here!”
“Right,” Captain Lee said, and surprised himself by smiling. “Easy stuff.”
“Easy stuff,” Mrs. Thornton said, “although we don't want to repeat that to the commissioner just yet...”
The commissioner's voice was rising.
“What do you mean we're going to fight it – with what? I sent out whole protocols about how to work carefully with all the communities in the county weeks ago, but I can't get any progress made on getting things calmed down before somebody does what comes naturally and roughs up some dark-skinned people like it is 1819 and gets us in trouble again! Do you know how much progress was just destroyed yesterday – and the extent to which the half has not yet even come out yet? Fight with what? The minute you get up and start palavering on about the media blowing things out of proportion, there will be another revelation of the cold, hard data of what y'all were doing before I ever got here – or, somebody will go burn some Black artifact – or go rough up some Latinos to go with the Black folks for variety! Have you been paying attention to what has been going on for the last six months at all?”
“He's doing well,” Mrs. Thornton said. “The Spirit of God is doing good work on Commissioner Scott. He hasn't cussed anybody out today, although his private washroom has surely heard some things.”
“Every reason I could never be a general,” Captain Lee said. “The minute you take me out of the field and have people reporting to me what tomfool thing they did instead of following my carefully thought-out orders, I'm done. I don't know how my family's most famous generals survived even four years with that situation. I couldn't do it. I just don't have that kind of patience. I couldn't ever put up with what Commissioner Scott puts up with every day.”
“But you don't have trouble with your lieutenants, although in essence you are their general.”
“Of course not. We mess up, we make corrections real-time, and we move on – small unit work. That, I love … which makes the idea of building a business team very appealing, now that I think about it.”
“Oh, I think you would do really well in that,” she said. “Oh – here we go.”
The commissioner's guest departed looking like a scalded cat, without a glance to the right or to the left, as the commissioner came to the door after him.
“Remember what I said, Counselor – if you want to play the fool, we won't even have enough money to pay you by March!”