With his wife’s help, Chief Grady worked on his speech for the better part of the afternoon and into the evening.
“Sweetie, take a break and have some dinner,” Sharon Grady called from the kitchen. “It’s never a good idea to go into a big meeting hungry.”
In spite of the violent churning in his gut, the chief managed to choke down enough food to placate his better half. What he wanted was a stiff drink but that would have to wait until after the meeting. Showing up stinking of liquor would be a one way ticket to the unemployment line.
Together, the Gradys arrived at the high school twenty minutes early and the auditorium was already packed. Even those who had their homes up for sale were in attendance, curiosity had gotten the better of them. For the first time in his life, Police Chief Thomas Grady felt the butterflies of stage fright but at precisely 7:08PM he made his way to the podium.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here tonight. Our community is under a threat that we’ve never before known and I pray we never will again. Now, I’m not what you’d call a religious man. Pastor Burton can attest that I’m not in church half as often as I ought to be but I’d like to take a minute to ask Pastor Burton of the First Presbyterian Church, Father Francis from St. Luke’s Catholic Church and Rabbi Friedman of the Ben Ezra Synagogue to come forward and lead us in a word of prayer. Right now, regardless of your religious affiliations…or lack thereof, let’s just come together as a community. Tonight we’re not separated by what we believe but joined together in a fight for the safety of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones.”
Much to Grady’s shock, what started as a smattering of applause grew into a standing ovation. The religious leaders of the community came together and even managed to maintain brevity. They each said their own blessing over all in attendance and those unable to be there. Particular mention was given to those who’d lost loved ones and to those left behind to carry on. There was not a dry eye in the building. Finally, the meeting was turned back over to Chief Grady.
“Folks, I’m going to be completely honest with you. We don’t have all of the answers, yet, but here’s what we do know. We know that there are never any attacks on the beach during the day. Myself, my deputies, and countless others have been on the beach for hours while the sun is shining and none of us have been harmed; however, anyone on the beach or in the water after sundown has died. Let me be clear about this, they do not die a pleasant, painless death. No, I can assure you this is not something you want to endure. To be even more blunt, the sole witness we might have had has completely lost his mental faculties as a direct result of the horrors he’s seen. I can’t make it any more clear, you cannot…not for any reason, go on the beach at night. Boating after sunset is out of the question. In fact, until we are sure what we have on our hands, I’d like to issue a curfew for the entire town but we’ll put that up to a vote. I only suggest it because I just can’t bear to lose one more member of our community.”
Seated in the back of the auditorium, Mayor Farmington was gritting his teeth in frustration. Not only did their Chief of Police have absolutely no idea what was happening, the townspeople accepted his shortcomings; they loved him for his honesty. It made Farmington sick to his stomach. He knew if he’d been the one presenting that speech, they’d vote him out in a heartbeat. Someone has to be held accountable and I’ll be damned if it’s going to be me, he thought solemnly. Chief Grady was just about to bring their meeting to a close when Barker sprinted through the doors, shouting.
“Chief! Chief! We’ve got something!” he screamed, waving a flash drive in the air.
With baited breath, the entire community waited as Barker and some of his tech-savvy friends hooked into the school’s A/V equipment to play the video from Josh Austen’s abandoned camera. Once it was all set up, Barker joined his boss at the podium.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, the video quality isn’t the greatest. The camera was exposed to the elements and, well, that’s not good for it. Also, it’s probably not a good idea for kids to see this so… Chief, how should we handle that?”Chief Grady managed to secure a few volunteers to take the young children to the gymnasium so that everyone else could view the video. As the little ones filed out, he hoped against hope that there would be answers on the video.