Police Chief Grady along with Deputies Poole, Barker and Kline were at the station bright and early. Their paperwork had gotten seriously out of hand. In the past couple days, fourteen deaths, each attributed to shark attacks had occurred. They had been so deeply engrossed in their work; they hadn’t heard the soft knock at the door.
“Excuse me, can any of you tell me where I might find Chief Grady?” A short, stocky man in a woolen cap announced.
“I’m Grady. How can I help you?”
“I believe my assistant at the Oceanographic Institute contacted you yesterday. Rumor has it you have a shark problem and sharks are my specialty.” The man stepped forward and shook Grady’s hand. “The name’s Hooper, Max Hooper. Hopefully we can work together and get this resolved before anyone else is harmed.”
“Really?” Grady chuckled. “Your name is Hooper and you study sharks?”
“Yes…I know. Ha-ha. Just like the movie, Jaws. Yeah, I never get tired of hearing that.”
“Sorry, Hooper, I meant no offense. At least your first name isn’t Matt, right?”
Max Hooper’s lips pressed together in a firm line as if he was biting his tongue to hold back a scathing retort. Instead, he nodded his head and attempted to change the subject.
“It would be helpful for me to see the bodies first so I can get a better idea of what type of shark you’re looking at. If you could you point me in the right direction, I’ll get outta your hair.”
“I’ll do you one better,” Grady responded. “I’ll take you there myself and fill you in on what’s been happening on the way.”
“I’d be much obliged, Chief.”
On the ride across town, the two men became better acquainted and bonded over their mutual hatred of the New York Yankees. They arrived at the Coroner’s Office just as he was pulling into the parking lot. Grady made the introductions as they reached the door.
“Bob, I’d like you to meet Max. He’s an oceanographer, here to help us with our shark problems. He said he can get a better idea of what we’re dealing with if he can see the bodies. You know, bite radius and stuff like that.”
“Oh…I wish you’d have let me know in advance. I don’t generally allow the public to tour my office, Tom.”
“Look, we’re both here on official police business. This isn’t, ‘take your kid to work day’, for God’s sake. We’ve got a problem and Hooper here can help so….why don’t you let us in and let’s see those remains, okay?”
Reluctantly, the coroner opened the office and let his visitors inside. He took his time puttering around and setting up the coffee pot. While the coffee brewed, Bob organized forms and booted up his computer.
“C’mon already, Bob, let us do what we came to do and we’ll get out of your way,” Grady proposed.
Finally, he was out of stall tactics and he begrudgingly took the men to the refrigeration room and opened all the drawers of the shark victims.
“What the hell is this?” Hooper demanded. “You’re kidding me, right? You called this a shark attack. Let me tell you something, this wasn’t any shark attack and it wasn’t boating accident either.”
“Really,” sneered the coroner. “What qualifies you to determine cause of death? These remains have been scavenged by every imaginable creature in the ocean and on the beach. But by all means, please, in your expert opinion what was the cause of death? I’d be fascinated to hear your theory because I’ve never seen anything like this and I’ve been doing this job for over thirty years!”
Before the heated argument could escalate to blows, Chief Grady decided to intervene as the voice of reason. The last thing he needed was to arrest the two men who would be able to help him the most.
“Hey! If we’re going to keep people alive, we’ve got to work together. Besides, I’ve already got more than enough paperwork without having to arrest you two knuckleheads for assault. Now, you boys play nice while I take this phone call, ya hear?”
The two combatants nodded in agreement. Before either of them had the chance to utter a word, Grady was already in action.
“Hooper, come with me. I just got a report of another body on the beach!”