Chapter 9 of Paradise on the Morrow
Carol Ann Cole
Paradise has to juggle her detective work and the growing complexities of her home life. Lenny is part of the work world, but wants to be much more...
Lenny saw her waiting at ‘their spot’ along Mavillette beach. The hour was early, the beach was empty and he was carrying two very hot cups of coffee. This was their daily ritual and he loved it.
“Did I tell you Lenny Calhoun isn’t my real name?” Lenny’s birth name was dead to him. Family members would be safer thinking he was dead as well. Everyone in his immediate family had been murdered. He’d had a ringside seat to the show and nightmares to ensure he would never forget that day.
Paradise had asked Lenny to tell her about his life after he left 2.0 and eventually arrived in Cape St Mary.
“Hold on to your hat, Paradise. I’m gonna spill the beans and tell you a few things about me.”
“It’s about time,” said Paradise, but she was smiling as she said it so Lenny figured he might actually get through this.
“First of all, you know why I left 2.0 and showed up here pretty much on your doorstep.”
“That much I know and I think you’re stalling. Out with it, my friend.” “Friends, yes, and don’t remind me that’s all we are and all we’ll ever be.”
“I won’t if you tell your story.”
“Everything I did was a big thing for me when I left 2.0. Everything. I opened my first bank account and deposited all of my paychecks. As you know I lived within the walls of the warehouse twenty-four-seven so I had spent none of my money. Not one penny.”
“Lenny, how did you first get your job at 2.0? I remember Jalen telling us they didn’t advertise. They know the type of person they want to attract and go after them. That seemed strange to me, but clearly it works. How did it work for you?”
“I had some help there, but I might not get everything in during this one walk.” Lenny was looking for another smile and he got it, so he went on. “You know I had a rough life growing up and you also know I was part of a gang for a while and did all kinds of stuff. When the Government was finished with me, after they had used me up, someone knew someone who knew someone. That’s how they explained it to me.”
Paradise jumped in. “And we both know Jalen has a soft spot for people he feels got a nasty start at life.”
“Now you’re telling me something I didn’t know. Someone reached out and the job was mine. Commander Lexis did seem to know more about me than I ever told him. I remember him explaining that it wasn’t a job interview that first day because I already had the job. He just wanted to talk and since I’m not much of a talker that meeting ended pretty much before it began.”
“Keep talking, mister, I’m almost finished my coffee and I’m cold so walk a bit faster and talk a bit faster, too.”
“I rented a tiny hovel on the beach. One day when I went to the bank to get a few dollars I was stunned to see the size of my bank balance. I knew I would eventually be compensated for the work I did while undercover tracking criminals for the government. The check was huge. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, so let’s not go there. But it’s important to me that you know I have my own money.”
“You’re rich,” said Paradise. “I get it. Tell me more.”
“First I moved to my first-ever apartment. Then I bought a map of Nova Scotia. I heard you mention the Cape often enough. You have been my singular focus, I swear, since the day I first met you.”
Paradise looked at Lenny, but said nothing.
“What else can I tell you? I don’t drink. I had my share of booze before I turned sixteen. Before the government released me from my contract I had to agree to see some doctors. Shrinks.”
“They don’t like to be called that, by the way.”
“I learned that quick,” Lenny said. “They told me I was bipolar. I had never heard that word before. They told me what it meant and I said I thought that was bullshit. They told me I would receive no reference for any job if I didn’t agree to see a doctor who would report back to the government. I agreed and got the reference I was after. I still think all of that is bullshit.”
“Language, Lenny. You know I don’t like that.”
“Sorry, friend. I grew to like one of my doctors and he helped me realize that my extreme anger, my mood swings and the terrible things I felt inside were all treatable. I thought that’s just how life was.”
He made a gesture with both hands like a flasher opening his raincoat. “I’m medicated to this very day. Bet you didn’t know that.”
“I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through, Lenny, but I will say the medication works for you. That’s just a personal opinion. We were on twelve-hour shifts together and I never saw any bad stuff. Do you feel well now?”
Paradise touched Lenny’s arm. “Promise me you won’t ever stop taking your medication without seeing a doctor first. I’m positive we have shrinks, as you call them, here, and I would be willing to find a good one for you if you like. In fact, I’ll look it up just in case.”
Lenny walked with his head down and seemed lost in thought. Paradise gave him the space.
Finally, without looking up, he said, “It’s hard for me to do simple things. I learned early to never look anyone in the eye. I could shoot a man in the eye but I couldn’t look him in the eye. ‘Lay low,’ that was my motto. Until you, Paradise. Everything changed when you arrived in the kitchen looking for a cup of coffee around 6 am after your first night shift at 2.0.” He stopped and took her arm, turning her toward him.“I know you have to get Hope off to school. I won’t keep you. I will tell you one final thing, though.”
Paradise could feel the strength of his hand on her upper arm. She would not be able to shake him off easily...even if she wanted to.
“I’m in love with you, Paradise. I know you have a boyfriend, but seeing as you live here and he lives in Hawaii, I think you’re kidding yourself about who you truly care for.”
Sudden anger made it easier to get her arm free than she had thought it would be. “Easy, boy. I’m in love with Thomas and you know it. I have always made my intentions perfectly clear.”
Paradise turned to head home, but his hand clamped on her arm again like it was welded to her.
“See how I can screw up so easily, Paradise? I’m sorry. Please let me explain.” Len knew he should have saved his ‘I love you’ for another day but he’d been waiting for so long to say it.
He released her arm and Paradise slowly raised her hand like a stop sign. Then she turned and marched off toward her house.
Lenny watched her go. He knew when she gave him the hand she was done with him, for now.