Sweet Home Alabama
Copyright© 2013 by Robert McKay
Cecelia took in a deep breath. "I shall remind you of what you have never forgotten – I am a Christian, as are you, and we are engaged in activity the purpose of which is to ultimately punish crime, not perpetrate it."
"You've known for years, C, that sometimes – not often – I find myself having to at least bend a rule or two in order to accomplish what I've set out to do."
"And you have known that this troubles me."
"It troubles me too, C. You know I don't casually break the law. You know I don't like giving money to pimps for information, knowing that the money will go to perpetuate their hold on their hookers. You know that I don't like paying drug addicts for information, knowing that they'll just buy more drugs with it. You know that I don't like lying, or any of that stuff. Unlike the average fictional PI, I don't go around committing crimes just 'cause it's an easy way to clear a case."
"I am aware of this. And let me anticipate you: Your next point, I apprehend, will be that your goal and your standard is justice, and that sometimes in order to achieve a just result, you must do things which are either legally or morally dubious, if not both."
I couldn't help grinning, in spite of all the unpleasantness of the day and the conversation. "You read my mind again, Cecelia. That's exactly where I was going."
She nodded. "I know you quite well, beloved. And I find your argument, solely as an exercise in cogitation, convincing. But now we are considering not an intellectual matter, but a practical one; you propose to actually violate the statutes. And that is a different thing."
"Yeah, it is." I looked at her, and saw she was looking out the windshield. Occasionally someone passing on the sidewalk would glance in at us, and then pass on. "I don't need to lecture you on the difference between an ivory tower and the real world. Nor do I need to remind you of the necessity of ideals, if life in the real world isn't to become a cesspool of corruption and cynical self-interest." I shrugged. "I'm not entirely sure what I'm getting at here – you know my mind and where I'm headed and why I'm headed there about as well as I do, I think, and when it comes to things like this you're more articulate than I am."
"This is true," she said. "Nevertheless, I shan't articulate it for you; there is no need; we both know what you mean, even if you find it somewhat difficult to utter it comprehensibly. A question: when do you propose to commit this illegal act?"
"Late in the night, when it's nice and dark out an' the subject of it's sound asleep."
"Then I have time to ponder. I do not wish, Darvin," she said, turning in her seat and putting a hand on my arm, "to dither, nor to hamper you in your investigation. I asked you to engage yourself in the matter, and I can hardly now recall you simply because I have a matter to settle in my mind. But I do have to settle that matter. I shall, therefore, refrain from asking, now, what the act is, or upon whom you intend to inflict it. If I can settle my mind in your favor, I can ask at that time, and perhaps even aid you. If I cannot ... if I cannot, my darling, I will then have to take up the question of whether I can, in good conscience, proceed to obtain my license and join your firm on that basis."
"I didn't mean to put you in a spot," I said, and held up my hand to prevent her from answering. "I know you don't mean to blame me – you're just telling me where things lie. I spit out my notion, and suddenly you had to face the hard way the same thing I had to face way back when I left the police department and went out on my own. I settled it in my mind years ago, and it doesn't often come up again. An' so I didn't think before I threw it in your face. I probably should've made a point of bringing it up, plain and clear, a long time ago, but it never occurred to me.
"So," I said, and took another breath, "here we are. Let's go home, since I don't think any further interviews would do us any good, an' you can go off in the field or take a walk or whatever, or talk to Mama and Daddy or Darlia if you want, or whatever it takes, an' settle this thing for yourself."
"I can, and do, heartily endorse that plan, Darvin. And I sincerely apologize for, at this juncture, suddenly hurling a sabot into your efforts."
I couldn't help grinning a little at her image of the origin of the word sabotage. "You ain't got no need to apologize, but I accept. An' I apologize for not takin' care to deal with this at a better time."
"You also have no need to tender an apology – but I also accept. And now, Darvin, let us indeed go home; I have a sudden powerful desire to isolate myself, and work the matter out – with recourse not to Mama and Daddy, wise though they are, but to my Father, who is wiser still."
While Cecelia did something she doesn't often do – went for a long walk – I sat down in the porch swing, where Darlia already was. She dogeared her book, which I saw as she laid it aside was a history of the American Revolution. I don't know of any school besides Calvin Academy which not only teaches American history, but sends its students that deep into the subject – there may be hordes of such schools, but I don't know of them.
"You've got something on your mind, don't you Dad?" she asked.
"Yeah, but it's even more on your mom's mind."
"Where's Mom at?" If Cecelia had been there she would have corrected the English, but she wasn't and I didn't.
"She's out praying and thinking."
"Oh." Darlia thought for a minute. "You know, I've had something to think about too."
"Oh?" I said.
"It's probably not as important as what you guys are thinking about, but for me it's pretty important. You probably know that Memphis has given me a Lahtkwa name."
"I don't know that you've mentioned it, but I do have the vague impression that you've got one now."