“Chief Grady, we have a serious problem here,” Mayor Farmington announced as he stormed through the front door of the station. “I think we need to call a town meeting immediately!”
“I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Mayor. That’s why we organized one for this evening. Francine cleared it with the principal over at the high school and got the Board of Education’s approval. Kline’s been personally calling every single year-round resident in town to personally invite them.”
“”I don’t appreciate being lied to, Chief. I never got a call and I’m at the beginning of the alphabet.”
“I spoke with your wife earlier, Mr. Mayor,” Deputy Kline interrupted. “She said you’d both be there and she even volunteered to bring some refreshments.”
Believing he was calling their bluff, Mayor Farmington pulled out his cell phone and dialed his wife. He was disappointed to learn that Chief Grady and his deputies were one step ahead of him, again. Their personal phone calls were sure to give the chief the upper hand, undoing Farmington’s plans to hand out some pink slips. Someone needed to be held accountable for the rampant, horrific deaths plaguing their community and the mayor’s office had conspired to dump that blame on their chief of police.
“Yes, well, very good… I’m glad to see you’re on top of things. I suppose I will see you this evening then.”
Frustrated, the Mayor and his entourage departed. They would need to go back to the drawing board and find another scapegoat. Realtor listings had gone through the roof and their tight-knit community was in danger of being overrun with the wrong element. If they could lay blame on the right fall-guy then there was still a chance of retaining many of their residents, as well as sweep the recent ugliness under the rug long before the summer season. Summer dollars kept their community afloat during the winter months so the bottom line had to be protected at all costs.
“Hey, Chief, do you know what you’re gonna say to everyone tonight?” Kline asked after the Mayor was gone.
“Not exactly, but I’m working on it. Just keep making those calls for me, okay?”
“Sure thing, Chief.”
As Grady headed out the door he placed a call to Hooper and one to Barker. He had to stop over at the hospital first and then he’d meet them at the beach. Counting on Poole’s ability to give him any insight was a gamble but Grady knew he was running out of time.
Deputy Poole had been moved to the psych ward and was under constant surveillance, as a danger not only to himself but to others. His drab room was stripped of anything that could potentially be used as a weapon or to inflict bodily harm. There were no curtains on the windows, and no sheets or pillowcases on the bed. Instead of artwork hanging on the walls, someone with very little artistic talent had painted a mural to give the room a touch of color. Not that Poole could see it anyway; the damage he’d done to his eyes was most likely permanent. Grandma Rose met up with Grady in the hallway and relayed the latest information from the doctor.
“It took quite a while to get Doug settled once they moved him up here to the ninth floor. He started screaming again and they loaded him up with sedatives. I forget what all they said they were pushing through his IV. They say he might never be able to see again and his mind is so far gone they aren’t sure he’ll ever really come back to us.”
“Have they tried asking him about what he saw? Has he said anything…anything at all about what attacked Josh?”
“Most of what comes out of his mouth is pure gibberish. The only thing that sounded remotely like a real word was ‘eyes’. He keeps muttering about eyes. You mentioned Josh…I assume that means you found him then.”
“Well, we found a body on the beach but it will be up to the Coroner to determine if it’s actually Josh.”
“Oh, that’s right. You’ve never met him. Here, I have a picture of him in my wallet.”
“Ma’am, that won’t be necessary,” Grady replied, trying to soften the blow.
“Oh yes it is! I need to know if my grandson is dead. Bob is a good coroner but he moves slower than molasses in January!”
“You don’t understand. A picture won’t help. What we found on the beach is unrecognizable as a person. Just pieces, really.”
Rose’s face paled and she reached out, clutching at the wall for support. Grady gathered her in his arms and held her until she steadied. He had to give her credit; she held it together and didn’t cry. Rose had always been a strong woman, proud in the best way; she would save her tears for the privacy of her bedroom.
“Is there any way I can question Doug?”
“I think you should try. If he knows something; it could save lives, right?
Grady nodded. He needed to know what Poole saw but there was no guarantee they’d be able to penetrate through the madness to get any answers. Still, it was imperative that he try.
“Should I ask the nurse first?”
“No,” Rose whispered back. “I think we’ll have a better chance without strangers in the room. Besides, they’d most likely say no. After all, it only makes more work for them if Doug gets upset again.”
Finding solid truth in her words, Grady and Poole’s grandmother slipped back into room 908 without drawing much attention. To help ease the trauma, Grandma Rose took her grandson’s hand and spoke softly to him.
“You’re looking much better today, Doug.” She offered, then air-kissed above his head to avoid touching his sore, blistered skin. “Guess what! Chief Grady came to visit. He’s been worried sick about you. In fact, he was here all night, sitting with you and me, watching out for us.”
“That’s right, Poole. The guys at the station send their regards, too. They’re real concerned about you. We all miss you and can’t wait for you to come back to work. It’s just not the same without you, buddy.”
Doug Poole shifted slightly and groaned from the pain. A strand of drool dribbled from his mouth onto his hospital gown. Grady threw Rose a nervous glace but she nodded her encouragement.
“Listen, buddy, the video equipment you had has been burned beyond repair. We called in an IT specialist and he said there was no way we’d be able to pull off anything you recorded. I need your help. Please, people’s lives are depending on you. I need you tell me what you saw.”