Slumped low in the driver’s seat of his car, Josh Austen watched the exchange between Chief Grady, Blake Warren Sr. and Eric Downey. He’d been the anonymous call; tipping off the police that there had been yet another death. He waited, of course, until after he’d taken plenty of photos for the paper. It was purely coincidence that he happened to take a walk on the beach and an even greater coincidence that he happened to walk in that one particular spot. Josh wondered just how much the chief really knew and he was curious about the new visitor to their quiet community. Like most of the “mature” ladies who lived there year-round, Josh’s grandmother was a champion gossiper. So, when the man named Hooper check in at the EconoLodge; all the old biddies were abuzz. Chuckling to himself, he wondered if it was her “nose for news” that had sparked his interest in journalism.
Even though the rumor mill was grinding faster than normal, Josh still hadn’t managed to get all the fine details he needed for his first official story as a full-time employee. With Chief Grady still on the beach, the prime opportunity to dig deeper had presented itself. He put his car in reverse and headed toward the police station.
“Just the man I’m looking for,” Josh called out as he entered the station.
“Who?” Deputy Poole replied, looking around.
“You’re the only one here, aren’t you, Dougie?” Josh replied, his voice lilted in jest.
“C’mon, Josh, you know I hate being called Dougie. Can’t you just call me Doug like everyone else? Or better yet, you can call me Deputy.” Poole grumbled, rolling his eyes. “Keep it up and I’ll tell Grandma you’re not respecting my authority.”
“Is that any way to talk to your favorite cousin?” Josh demanded.
“Oh!” Poole gasped, “I didn’t know Jeff was in town! Sweet!”
“You suck,” Josh scoffed. “Even if I’m not your favorite cousin, we can still help each other out.”
“Fine, what did you have in mind?”
“Well, for starters, I saw the remains on the beach and I don’t think that was a shark attack. I want to figure out what’s out there and blow the lid off this story.”
“Really,” Deputy Poole rolled his eyes and snorted in derision. “And how ya plannin’ to do that? Oh wait, let me guess; you want me to feed you information from whatever the chief digs up.”
“Not entirely… Look, I’ve noticed a few things and if we work together we might be able to get all the evidence we both need but I just saw your boss pull in so why don’t you come to Grammy’s for dinner and we can work out all the details. She’d like to see you, ya know.”
“Whaddya talking about? I see her all the time and at least I don’t make her slave away over a hot stove. We’re gonna take her out for a nice dinner at Madeline’s first and then I’ll come back to the house and we can discuss your big ideas. Oh, and Josh, this time you’re paying!”
At his cousin’s bidding, Josh made reservations at one of the few elegant restaurants that actually remained open year-round. Grandma Rose wore her favorite purple pantsuit with an embroidered rose on the lapel. Her “charming escorts” kept their business on the back burner until long after their dessert plates and coffee and been cleared. That’s when Josh revealed that his “favorite cousin” Doug, the brilliant deputy, was helping to further his career.
“I’ve always said, there’s nothing greater than family,” Josh declared, as the waiter dropped off the check. “Without family, I never would have made it this far and with family, the sky’s the limit. Isn’t that right, Doug? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just have to pop over to the little boy’s room. I’ll be right back.”
Ever so subtly, Josh slipped the little vinyl folder containing the check in front of his cousin and disappeared.
“Here, Dougie, you hand that to me,” Grandma Rose ordered. “You boys are just getting started and there’s no cause for you to be spending your hard-earned money on an old relic like me.”
“Are you kidding? You’re the prettiest date I’ve had in ages.” Poole vowed as he leaned over a placed a kiss on her cheek. “You’ve done so much for us, lemme do this for you.”
Inside, Deputy Douglas Poole was seething but he couldn’t allow his grandmother to see it. He paid the check but planned to take it out of his cousin one way or another, and with interest. Josh conveniently waited until his family was getting up from the table before returning. With mock concern, he pretended to be surprised that his cousin had paid the bill.
“Gee thanks, Doug. You didn’t have to do that,” he lied.
Once they went back to the house, Grandma Rose put on her favorite television program while the boys sat in the kitchen discussing Josh’s plan.
“You boys aren’t planning to try to hunt that shark, are you? They said on the news to stay away from the beaches and off the water.”
“Don’t worry, Grandma, we’re not going after any sharks. I promise!” Josh replied.
Ten minutes later, their grandmother had fallen asleep watching television; leaving Doug and Josh free to discuss their plans.
“From what I can tell, there is no danger walking on the beach during the day. I’ve seen the joggers; Chief Grady, you and the other deputies do it. Heck, I even walked on the beach myself this morning and went in up to my knees.”
“Hey! There are signs posted to stay out of the water. Why would you do that?”
“Relax, as you can see; I’m fine. From what I can tell, the only time people are in danger is when they’re on the beach at night. Let’s start with Adam Miller and Erin Crayburn. Adam’s roommate confirmed that they were having a picnic on the beach at sunset. He was planning to propose to her under the stars. Then there were those high school kids. Tracy Westbrook confirmed that they were having some kind of a party on the beach but that her mother didn’t let her go. The others went and now they’re dead. Lastly, we have the local burn outs. After a busy day of smoking dope they decide to go shark hunting. According to their buddy, the last he’d heard from them was at sunset. By morning, their remains are scattered all over the beach and the boat was smashed. I suggest we set up video cameras at street level, looking down onto the beach then one of us goes down to the water and we get it all on film.”
“I have real police work to do, Josh, I can’t play around on the beach for half the night. Besides, I’m supposed to be setting a good example. Going down on the beach after the chief said we need to stay away is a one way ticket to the unemployment line.”
“Fine, I’ll go on the beach. I just need you to make sure the zoom is working. One hour, that’s it. Whether I get it or not you can leave. Please….”
“Fine, one hour and not a minute more.”