“Grady, and this better be good at,” Police Chief Thomas Grady growled into the phone as he squinted at his alarm clock. “Six-friggin’-fifteen AM.”
The lovely Mrs. Grady rolled over, stifling a groan as her husband berated the unfortunate caller for ringing his line at the crack of dawn. After a few grunts and a couple of uh-huhs, Chief Grady rolled out of bed and shuffled down the hall toward the bathroom. In record time he’d showered, dressed, and dashed outside to his car, chugging a bottle of Pepto as he went.
When he reached the beach, the sun was peeking over the horizon burning off the morning haze. His newest deputy was down near the water. A collection of joggers had congregated in a semi-circle around Deputy Poole. Scuttling through the sand, Grady rolled his eyes at the early-risers.
“Joggers…I should have known. They’re the bane of my existence; those get-up- at-the-crack-o’dawn and run, even-though-no-one- is-chasing- you, health nuts. Why can’t they just sleep in like normal people?”
Poole ran up to join his boss and met him halfway down the beach. The young deputy seemed more nervous than usual so Grady apologized for his less-than-friendly telephone etiquette.
“I-I-I didn’t know what else to do, Chief. I ain’t never seen nothing like this before.” Poole stammered.
Grady took a deep breath and bit his tongue. Poole’s horrendous grammar was a point of contention and inside, the chief silently wept for the state of public education. Before he even had the chance to see what had gotten everyone so worked up, he was under attack. The barrage of questions levied at his person, at such an ungodly hour, was an all out assault on his senses.
“Whoa! One at a time!” He barked. “And, just a thought but…. how about letting me see what you’re all up in arms over before you give me the third degree, okay?”
The small crowd quieted and stepped aside to clear a path for their brave chief of police. Just having Chief Grady there seemed to soothe Poole’s jagged nerves and that calm carried over into the crowd. They were certain that the chief would know what to do. They were wrong.
Grady swallowed hard, staring at the pile of mangled human flesh and splintered bones. It looked like something had chewed them up and spit it back out again. Scavengers of the land and sea had already begun to feast on the remains. From the looks of it, there was a good chance parts from two different bodies were in the mix but he couldn’t tell for sure. For several minutes, he was speechless; his mind reeling with possibilities. All around him, a growing unease settled, making the joggers fidget nervously. Finally regaining his composure, Grady mustered his most official sounding voice.
“Poole, I need you to call the EMT’s. We’ve got to get these bodies to County Hospital and contact the Coroner’s office ASAP to get them identified. Next, we need to get this area cordoned off to keep anyone else from tracking through the crime scene and potentially destroying evidence.” Grady spoke calmly despite the turmoil churning in his gut. “Now, if you kind folks would follow Poole down to the station, we need to get reports from each of you. I’m sure you’d rather give your statements in a less grue… er…um…in a more pleasant environment.
Poole dialed quickly, relieved that he was being sent to the station to take statements and even happier to get far away the gelatinous muck of human sludge marring an otherwise pristine beach. The jogger brigade learned very quickly that they had no other choice but to follow the deputy downtown. Rosalyn Lander; wife of Dr. Mitchell Lander, queen bee of what passed for society’s elite in their quaint community and all-around pain in the rear, balked at the idea of inconveniencing herself to obey the chief’s wishes.
“Look, Mrs. Lander,” Chief Grady hissed. “The way I see it; you’ve got two choices, here. You can do the right thing and follow Poole down to the station, with these other fine folks. Or, if you keep giving me a hard time; I swear to God, I will slap some cuffs on you, throw your pampered, liposuctioned ass in the back of a squad car and book you for obstruction of justice. Oh… one more thing…don’t forget, all arrests are published in the Neighborhood News. I imagine that would make things a little awkward down at the country club, wouldn’t it? So, on behalf of all of us who have to work for a living, quit giving us such a hard time just because you think you can.”
The crowd stared at Grady; some attempted to conceal amused smirks while others were unable to hide their shock. Poole did a poor job of stifling a chuckle and had to pretend he was coughing. Rosalyn Lander’s cheeks burned scarlet but she said nothing as she fell in step behind Poole. With the gawkers out of his way, Chief Grady was able to let his brain process the crime scene. In his twenty years of wearing a badge, he had never seen anything like the revolting deluge of rotting remains strewn all over the beach.