By Shelley Johnston
Jack and Lennie looked at the dilapidated barn. A look of dismay covered Lennie's face, while Jack tried to hide his amusement.
"That son of a...grrr...," Lennie barked.
"This is the nest egg you plan to retire on?" Jack chuckled.
"Well, it was in better condition the last time I was here."
"And when was that, during the Carter administration?"
Lennie grimaced at the DA and replied, "It was only five years ago. It was thriving with activity back then."
Lennie had received word that his old friend, Danny Sullivan, included him in his will. When the lawyer told Lennie that he had inherited Danny's horse farm, Lennie couldn't help but imagine an early retirement. For weeks now, he kept throwing hints at Ed, Anita and everyone at the 27th precinct, that he might leave the daily grind of police work behind. No one took his comments seriously.
When Lennie put in his request for some time off, he called Jack to see if the counselor could accompany him to upstate New York. Jack was hesitant, at first. But Lennie used the bargaining chip he was holding onto for just this moment.
"Okay, Lennie, I think I'm being punished enough for that stunt I pulled at the Rivera grand jury hearing," Jack said.
"You think so, huh? Having Rivera think I ratted him out was such a wonderful feeling," Lennie said sarcastically.
"I told you how much I wanted Rivera's testimony. And you should know by now, that if I want something bad enough..."
"Relax, counselor. You probably saved me from bending the truth again."
Jack looked at him and realized Lennie wasn't holding any grudges.
Lennie laughed. "Look, I invited you along in case I ran into any lawyerly problems."
Jack grinned. "Well, according to this lawyer, all the papers were fine. And you now own all of this," Jack said with a sweep of his arms.
Lennie scanned the small farm. The land was in serious need of some improvement. He remembered when it was a bustling horse farm. Nothing on the grand scale of Claiborne Farms, but it did okay for its size. When he learned that Dan left the farm to him, Lennie started to envision himself hobnobbing with the moneymakers of the horse world. That dream faded when he found out the place was a shell of its former self. He shook his head in disbelief.
Jack, sensing Lennie's disappointment, tried to reassure him. "Hey, the lawyer did say the neighboring farms were interested in the property."
"Yeah, that would be the sensible thing to do. Even if it was still a workable establishment, I would've had to learn the ropes. And in this condition, I would have to make the ropes to learn on, too."
The sound and vibration of thundering hooves stopped their conversation. Both men noticed two riders atop chestnut colored horses heading in their direction. They watched as a man in his fifties and his female riding partner alit from their mounts and strolled over to them.
"Hi, is one of you the new owner?" the man asked with an extended hand.
Lennie shook the man's hand and replied, "Yes, that would be me, Lennie Briscoe. And this is Jack McCoy."
"Hi," Jack said as he took the stranger's hand.
"Nice to meet you. I'm Joe Nickson, and this is my daughter Katie."
"Hello," Katie said with a wave.
Lennie and Jack acknowledged her greeting with a smile.
"I was in town when I heard that the new owner of Sully's place was here. I wanted to introduce myself and to welcome you to the neighborhood," Joe said.
"That's very kind of you. Thanks," Lennie responded. "Do you own the farm next door?"
"Me, no. I'm one of the hired hands."
"Oh, well, maybe you can help me set up an introduction to your boss?"
"Sure, no problem," Joe said with some hesitation. He looked at his daughter and saw her quietly urge him to continue.
"Hey, call me Lennie."
"Okay, thanks," Joe coughed out and tried to steel his nerves. "Lennie, would you mind if I ask you what your plans are with this property?"
Lennie looked at Jack, confusion evident on his face.
"Lennie was considering selling," Jack proffered.
"Oh," Joe whispered.
Katie stepped forward and put her hand on her father's shoulder. She looked at both men with sorrow in her eyes.
Lennie and Jack both noticed the Nicksons' disappointment, and knew they weren't there just to exchange pleasantries.
"Joe, were you thinking about buying this place?" the detective asked.
"I'd like nothing better than to be able to do that, but I really don't have the money."
"Then, what did you have in mind?" Jack inquired.
Katie spoke up this time. "My father was hoping you'd repair the place and would be in need of a few ranch hands."
"I'd love to keep the place going, but I really don't know how to run a horse farm. Besides, who's going to entrust me, a cop from New York, with their four-legged property?"
"Well, you could start with these two right here," Joe said as he pointed to the two horses.
"What are you saying? Don't those beauties belong to my neighbor?" Lennie asked.
"No, Dan willed them to me and Katie. I used to work for Danny until he had to let me go."
"You want to bring your horses here even though you've never met me?" Lennie asked with bewilderment.
"I don't know how to say this, but when I learned that Dan gave me CathyBGood and ClarAsABelle, something told me I had to bring them back home."
Lennie and Jack stared at each other. They both felt the eerieness and expected to hear the 'Twilight Zone' theme song at any moment. But they also sensed that the cynicism that they were so accustomed to seemed to dissipate, and in its place was a feeling that something brought them to this moment.
"Joe, would you consider a partnership?" Lennie asked. The offer was so spontaneous that the detective was surprised that he had even suggested it.
"Uh, my cash flow hasn't improved any in the last few minutes."
"Well, you do have those fillies."
Joe thought about the offer and smiled. He looked at his daughter and knew she approved of the idea. "You've got a deal, but I'm not sure how much we'd need to get this place up and running again?"
Lennie looked at Jack. "Counselor?"
"Joe, you know the area, and the people we can consult with regarding repairs and such, right?" Jack asked.
"I can give you some names."
"Okay, let's see what we're looking at and go from there. And if you need a third party, I'd be glad to help out," Jack offered with a twinkle in his eyes.
Lennie and Joe looked at Jack and laughed. Joe shook Jack's hand while Lennie slapped him on the back. Katie smiled at Jack and he returned the gesture.
"Maybe I can persuade a few people back home to join the party?" Lennie joked. "Ya think Mikey's getting tired of Staten Island yet?"
Jack guffawed. "I don't know. Mike probably thinks he's too big to settle down in a small town."
"You're probably right. C'mon, let's go make some phone calls," Lennie said as he led the group to the house, his mood much brighter than when he first arrived.