By the time Chief Grady and Grandma Rose arrived at the hospital, the ER was in a state of chaos. Ever since they revived him, Poole had been screaming at the top of his lungs. In his frazzled state of mind, he’d already attempted to strangle a nurse and hang himself with his IV tubing. They were in the process of transferring him to the psych ward when Grady arrived. He tried to convince the concerned woman to remain in the waiting room while he sorted things out but only succeeded in rousing her ire.
“Now you listen to me, Chief,” she snapped. “That’s my boy in there. I raised him after his momma and daddy died and there is no way on God’s green Earth I’m gonna wait out here while you sort things out. You hear me?”
“I meant no disrespect to you, Mrs. Poole. It’s just….well, Doug looked pretty bad when I last saw him and I wanted to make sure they’d spruced him up a bit before you saw him. I know from personal experience, seeing a loved one in that condition is downright traumatic. It’s my job to protect the community. If I’d know what Doug was up to, I would have put a stop to it but I didn’t. The least I can do it look out for your wellbeing.”
“You’re a good man. If you really want to help me, give me your arm and we’ll walk in there together.”
Despite Grady’s warning, Grandma Rose nearly fainted when she saw her grandson. In the deep recesses of her mind, she had hoped the chief was only being dramatic. Sadly, he was not and knowing that her baby had looked even worse earlier caused her great pain. Even though the medical staff had pumped sedatives though the young deputy’s IV, his body’s adrenalin counteracted the drugs, allowing him to continue screaming. Once Rose steeled her nerve, she crossed the room and took her grandson’s hand. At first he flinched away but she gathered his hand again and started to sing a Louis Armstrong classic. It was the same song she always sang to him when, as a young boy, he was frightened or sick.
“I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom, for me and you. And I think to myself….what a wonderful world.”
Midway through the first verse, Doug Poole stopped screaming. By the second verse he was sobbing and clinging to his grandmother’s wrinkled hand. She held him as he wept, singing all the while. By the end of her song, an audience gathered just outside the door, each touched by her lovely voice.
“I think we need to make you a part of our permanent staff. You’ve managed to calm this entire ward with your beautiful voice. I’m Dr. Garrett. Can I assume you’re family?”
The doctor stepped forward, extending his hand and Rose nodded, refusing to release her gentle hold on Doug’s blistered hands. She bristled, just a touch, at learning the doctor specialized in psychiatric medicine and suppressed the urge to scream that her grandson wasn’t crazy.
“Please understand that we believe your grandson has seen something terrible and that has caused an otherwise healthy man to want to remove himself from reality. There’s always the chance that with the right medications and some therapy, he might choose to come back to us.”
Grady could tell the doctor was lying through his teeth but he said nothing. Right now, Rose needed hope more than she needed the truth. Still, he was certain that the Poole he’d known would never come back, at least not fully.
Grady remained at the hospital until Rose’s oldest son arrived. He’d made exceptionally good time considering he lived out of state but it was already morning when the chief finally bid them farewell. More than anything, he wanted to drive straight home and climb into bed but there was work to do and questions that needed answering. Instead, he drove to the station, noticing a shocking number of “For Sale” signs staked in front yards as he cruised through town. Whoa; Kitty and Dave Harris, the old Wilkes place, Mike and Gina Marietti, the Koslowskis; that’s a lot of homes for sale, Grady noted as he passed. He wondered how many others would follow suit.
Inside the station, deputies Kline and Barker were wading through piles of paperwork. They both had worried scowls etched on their faces.
“Is it true? About Poole?” Barker asked.
“Depends…what have you heard?” Grady answered wearily.
“He went crazy, burned up a bunch of trash and killed himself.”
“It’s like ‘Whisper Down the Lane’ in this town. Half of the information gets twisted and then they add more on, just to make it more interesting but as of right now; this office does not have an official statement. Got that? We’re gonna get all the facts first and then issue a statement…That’s your official response until I tell you otherwise! Now, I need one of you to come with me down to the beach. The other is gonna personally call every single member of this community and invite them to a town meeting at the high school auditorium. Get Francine to call the school principal and the BOE, get them on board. So who’s coming with me?”
The deputies stared back at him blankly for a moment. Abruptly they turned to face each other.
“Rock, Paper, Scissors, for it.” Barker insisted.
“I’m surrounded by idiots,” Grady muttered softly but his words were drowned out by the shouted words, “rock, paper, scissors”.
“I’ll be in my car making a phone call. By all means, come out when you’re ready.” His biting sarcasm was ignored as the deputies continued their decisive best-out-of-three game.
***Please return Monday, April 21st for the next installment of Ocean***