All day Deputy Doug Poole was on edge, cursing himself for agreeing to another one of Josh’s stupid schemes. I’m gonna end up fired, his inner voice admonished. Through out his entire shift, the words of warning played over and over in his head, like a broken record. With less than an hour until quitting time, Poole felt the bile rising from the pit of his stomach up to the top of his throat.
“Hey, Poole,” Chief Grady called out, making his deputy jump. “Sorry, kid, I didn’t mean to startle you. Are you feeling okay? You look a little green around the gills.”
“Yeah, I’m okay, Chief. I think I might’ve had a bad clam or somethin’ last night. We took my Grandma out for dinner. Geez, I hope she didn’t get food poisoning! I didn’t even think to check on her.”
“I’ve got some Pepto in my desk if you want some. Better yet, why don’t you go ahead a scoot out a little early? Things have been quiet today and we’re nearly caught up on our paperwork. You should get some rest while you can. Go ahead, it’s no big deal.”
“If you’re sure it’s okay…yeah, I’ll cut outta here early. Maybe I’ll just stop by on my way home and check on my grandma too.”
“Hope you feel better,” Grady called out as Poole scurried to the door.
The unseasonably warm, muggy, air slapped the deputy’s face as he stepped outside.
“Ugh, it’s like an armpit out here,” he grumbled to no one in particular.
As he drove to his grandmother’s home, Poole wondered why there was never any traffic on days when he didn’t need, or in this case want, to be on time. It was all green- lights and smooth sailing, the entire way. Sure enough when he arrived, Josh was already there, ready and waiting.
“Check it out! A buddy of mine has some state-of-the-art equipment that he’s letting us borrow. I’ve got a couple different kinds of video cameras all with low-light sensors and/or night vision. We’re going to set two of them up on street level and I’m taking one down to the water with me. I’m also going to build two large bonfires to help with lighting but earlier today I took some of those solar powered lanterns down to the beach and they’ve been soaking up power all day.”
“I got a bad feelin’ about this, Josh.” Poole grumbled. “I really think we should leave this to Chief Grady.”
“God! You are such a chicken. Do me a favor and grow a pair, would ya?” Josh scoffed. “Awww, is widdle Dougie afwaid?”
“Screw you, I’m not afraid, Josh. I just happen to be a grown-up who respects authority, unlike you.”
“Yeah, well, right now you sound like a big wuss. Man up and let’s go. Just think about how this is going to help your career. If you’re lucky, I won’t tell anyone what big sissy you are because this is definitely going to impress the ladies.”
Poole snorted derisively but held his tongue. After all, he wasn’t personally going to be anywhere near the water so he wasn’t violating Chief Grady’s directives. For a brief minute he imagined the possibility behind Josh’s words. He wondered if solving the case would catch Amanda Boyd’s attention. It was almost too perfect; yet he could practically see it now. The gang at Shark Bait’s Bar & Grill is buying him a round of drinks as he catches her eye from across the bar. She smiles as she sashays across the room, her eyes fixed on him. Seemingly of its own accord, the crowd parts and Amanda is standing in front of him. Poole can almost feel her soft curves pressing against him as she whispers, “my hero”.
“Hey, space cadet, pay attention!” Josh barked, shattering his cousin’s daydream.
Deputy Poole halfheartedly listened as Josh prattled on, mostly technical jargon about the cameras, while driving toward the beach. He still can’t seem to quell the storm raging in his gut, warning him that he’s making a bad decision. After popping two more antacids into his mouth, he puts his vehicle in park. No turning back now, his inner voice declares as he helps his cousin unload the equipment.
In no time, Josh has the cameras set up. Never once did his inner voice of reason express concern, unlike his quivering cousin. He was absolutely certain that his plan would work and he’d finally command the kind of attention his brilliant mind deserved. He felt excitement surge through his veins like a jolt of electricity.
“Okay, you’re sure you understand how to work these, right Doug? Good. Here, we’ll use these walkie-talkies to communicate. For some reason, my cell doesn’t get good reception on the beach. I checked it out earlier today and I got nothing, but these seem to work just fine.”
“Aren’t these the ones we used to play with as kids?” Poole’s voice had a warm tinge of nostalgia. “I can’t believe they still work.”
“Get ready, Doug. This is the moment that will change our lives forever. One day, we’re gonna look back on this and…”
“Oh for cryin’ out loud, Josh! We’re not curing cancer or something like that. Get over yourself,” the deputy interrupted. “You’ve got one hour…starting now.”
Incensed by his cousin’s lack of respect, Josh trudged through the sand toward the pile of wood he’d stacked earlier for the bonfire. His inner monologue was spurting out platitudes to salve his wounded pride; something about prophets in their hometown and pearls before swine jumbled together in an incoherent train of thought. We’ll see who’s laughing when I win a Pulitzer, he thought, as he doused the wood with lighter fluid and set it ablaze.
By the time the second pile was lit, the sun had begun its descent below the horizon. Josh was too busy working to notice that the once-brilliant colors painted across the sky had taken on a deeper indigo hue but his cousin, Doug, noticed. Looking through the camera lens, the beach seemed as if it was being swallowed slowly by darkness. When the very first star sparkled in the sky, Deputy Poole made a wish. His wish, more like a prayer, was short and to the point, “Please, let me make it through the night alive”.
With his hour nearly up, Poole started to relax. He chuckled at his overactive imagination and wondered why he’d let himself get so worked up.
“Everything okay up there?” Josh’s voice crackled through the walkie-talkie speaker.
“Yup, everything’s cool here. How ‘bout you?”
“So far, so good. See, I told you there was nothing to…hang on. Did you see something?
**Please return Monday, April 14th for the next installment of Ocean**