“Code Gray, nine-oh-eight. Code Gray, nine-oh-eight. Code Gray, nine-oh-eight.”
The overhead announcement could barely be heard over the shrill screams reverberating out from room 908. The hospital staff, all trained to recognize “Code Gray” to mean a combative patient followed by the room number, sprinted to Douglas Poole’s room. Dr. Garrett and the two closest nurses arrived first to find Grandma Rose, blood dripping from her swollen lip and scratches over her eye, being disentangled from Doug’s iron grip by Chief Grady. They jumped in to help as one of the nurses retrieved a syringe from her pocket. While Dr. Garrett wrestled Doug off of his grandmother, the nurse jabbed a needle into their patient’s thigh. Within seconds he had gone limp and the medical staff was able to turn their attention to Rose. Though she insisted she was fine, they carted her over to the nurse’s station to clean up the wounds, and apply an ice pack.
“Just what the hell happened in there?” Dr. Garrett demanded. “He was perfectly calm less than fifteen minutes ago.”
“I asked him some questions about what he saw.” Grady answered without a shred of remorse. “I don’t have a minute to lose here, Doc. I need answers and I need them now.”
“There is no way he can withstand those kinds of questions right now. Mentally, he is entirely too fragile.”
“Fragile? Did you get a look at his grandmother ‘cause that didn’t look too fragile to me. How long until he regains consciousness? We need to try again but this time he’s going to be restrained. I’ll cuff him to the bedrails if we have to but I’m getting answers one way or another.”
“Chief, please, I know you’re trying to save lives but this isn’t the way. If you push him too hard right now we may never be able to bring him back. Please, give me a little time to work with him…at least a couple of days. I’ll personally see to his therapy then you and I can try again. Deal?”
Seeing no other alternative, Grady agreed. He stopped at the nursing station to check up on Rose before he left. She seemed to be fine and insisted they were making a fuss over nothing.
“Making a mountain out of a molehill is what this,” the elderly woman joked, though Grady suspected she was still rattled by the attack. “You have real patients to fuss over now so I’m going to get out of your hair. Thank you, dear ladies, for your care.”
Against the nurses’ wishes, Rose stood and gingerly made her way to Chief Grady’s side. He extended his arm in a gentlemanly fashion and she graciously accepted it. She allowed him to support more of her weight this time as she walked with him to the elevators.
“Would it be too much of an imposition to ask you to see me home, Chief Grady? I think I’d like to lie down for a bit and I don’t want to wait for a cab.”
“It would be my pleasure, Ma’am. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I dragged you into this. I never would have imagined that he would lash out like that, least of all to you.”
“Don’t worry yourself about that. I’ll be just fine; a little nap and I’ll be right as rain.”
After seeing Rose safely to her door, Grady headed straight for the beach. By now he had expected a majority the evidence to be gathered and the physical remains, most likely of Joshua Austen, to be on its way to the Coroner’s office. Instead, he found Barker fiddling with a broken video camera while what was left of the body baked in the sun’s harsh glare.
“Barker! What the heck have you been doing all this time and what in God’s name is that body still doing here? Why hasn’t it been picked up and taken to the Coroner’s office?”
“I was waiting for you, Chief.”
Barker stammered, trying to think of an acceptable excuse. He’d never seen his boss so livid and if Poole wasn’t in the hospital, there might have been cause to fear for his job. Rather than try to justify his foolishness, Barker pulled out his cell phone and made the call.
“Say, Chief, do you want me to try to pull the memory card from this camera and see if we can pull any of the images?”
“You can do that? Really, you know how?”
“Sure, I do. I don’t know if it’s been wiped by the combination of sand, salt water, blood and…” Barker sniffed loudly and repeatedly. “And possibly lighter fluid…at least that’s what it smells like. I don’t know for sure. It might be damaged beyond repair but it wouldn’t hurt to try, right?”
“Finally! A ray of hope…yes, go do that right now. I’ll stay here and wait for the ambulance. Good job, Barker. Way to think on your feet! Oh, hey, did Hooper say where he was going and when he was coming back?”
“I dunno; he said something about enzymes or something and that he’ll call you later tonight.”
Chief Grady just hoped something positive would turn up before the town meeting. He had a bad feeling in his gut and the Mayor’s visit certainly hadn’t helped decrease his stress. As he waited for the ambulance, he wished he’d remembered to bring his bottle of Pepto Bismol along with him.