As Chief Grady walked through his front door, his wife, Sharon, threw herself into his arms.
“Thank God you’re okay! I’ve been worried sick. You didn’t answer any of my calls or texts,” she sobbed; then pulled away slapping angrily at his chest. “You scared the crap out of me!”
“What happened to ‘thank God you’re okay’?” He laughed, still rubbing the spot where she’d hit him even though it hadn’t hurt. “You know…I could book you for assaulting an officer.”
Sharon Grady was wearing her patented “I’m not amused face” and had no trouble resisting his attempt at humor. Mayor Farmington had called her and told her the whole story so, for hours, she’d feared the worst. Now, her head was spinning with conflicting emotions.
“Is Sylvia…” she paused, to afraid to finish her sentence.
“Sylvia is fine. I took her to the ER and they pumped her stomach. They admitted her to the, you know, the ninth floor.”
“You save her life, Tom.”
Again, Sharon Grady threw her arms around her husband and held him close. This time she did not smack him but, instead, she savored the embrace. They enjoyed a quiet dinner together, thankful that they had each other and a marriage of mutual love and respect. Later, they cuddled up on the couch for a little television before bed.
“Why do we have all these channels and there’s still nothing to watch?” he grumbled.
“We could always put in a movie or see if there’s anything new on pay-per-view.” Sharon responded but was cut off by a detached voice from the television set.
“We interrupt this program to bring you a breaking news story. Live from the news desk, your own Neighborhood News team digs deep into the tragedy on the beach to bring you breaking stories first. Good evening, I’m Sue Taylor. Today, crisis on the beach was averted thanks to quick action by our Chief of Police, Thomas Grady. As you can see in this amateur video, Chief Grady risked his own life to save a woman on the beach. At this time, it is unclear who this woman is or who alerted Chief Grady to her presence but this reporter is left wondering if we are now living by ‘Suicide Beach’. As we uncover more to this story, we will keep you informed. This is Sue Taylor and you’re watching Neighborhood News.”
“I can’t believe this! Suicide Beach? Are they in-freaking-sane?” Grady snarled. “If I find out who fed them that quote-unquote amateur video I’m going to…I don’t know what I’ll do just yet but you’d better believe they’ll be sorry!”
Chief Grady’s rant was cut short by the telephone’s shrill ring. Though he’d motioned for Sharon to let it go, she answered anyway. With an apologetic grimace, she held out the receiver to her husband and mouthed, it’s Mayor Farmington. Scowling, he took the phone from her.
“This is Grady.”
“How dare you,” Mayor Dale Farmington spat hatefully. “I’ve been waiting here wondering what happened; terrified that both you and my wife might be dead and instead I have to hear about it on the evening news! You are a smug, self righteous sonofa-”
“Hey! If you had even a shred of decency you’d have gone down there are saved Sylvia yourself, Dale.” Grady interrupted. “And, for your information, she told me not to call you.”
“Well, put her on the phone. I want to speak with her this instant!”
“She’s not here.”
“Where the heck is she? She’s clearly a very sick woman. Did she leave with Harold? I command you to tell me right now.”
Annoyed with Dale’s tone, Grady simply hung up. Command, huh? Sit and stew over that, Mister Mayor, he thought while turning the ringer off. He felt a certain satisfaction, as if somehow his defiance was in honor of Sylvia and her first step toward recovery. That night, he slept better than he had since they’d discovered the first bodies on the beach.
Ever since the mutilated bodies of twelve high school students had been discovered on the beach, the entire nation watched with morbid fascination as the residents of the tiny beachfront community suffered horrific and untimely deaths. The live feeds from the Neighborhood News team were beamed all across the country. So, shortly after the news update, calls started pouring in to the local hotels. Within hours, the previously empty establishments were booked to almost summertime reservation numbers, yet none of them were families or even couples. All were single bookings and, in the morning, when the patrons arrived their purpose appeared crystal- clear. The first establishment to telephone Chief Grady was the Bayside Inn. Bayside’s proprietors, Charlotte and Ian Donovan, were startled by the influx of less-than-savory clientele to their swank summer hotspot.
“Chief Grady, I think you ought to come over here, right away, Charlotte insisted as her husband fed her the words to say. “We’re quite concerned. These people, they’re… what was term you used, Ian? Disturbing, yes. They’re disturbing.”
“What have they done?” Grady questioned.
“No, it’s not what they’ve done, per se, it’s well… you’ll just have to come see because I can’t explain it!”
The frazzled innkeeper hung up, leaving Grady with no choice but to go see what had rattled the Donovans. On the drive, he noticed a dramatic rise in out-of-state license plates cruising through town and a plenty of packed parking lots.
“Hey, Chief,” Francine’s voice called over his radio. “When you’re done at Bayside, you’re presence has been requested at The Sand Dollar, Coral Reef Cove Inn, Ocean Vista Motel and the EconoLodge. Barker is on his way to The Wayfarer Motorlodge. After that he’ll hit his aunt’s B&B and that dive over on Second Avenue. I can never remember the name of that place. Chuck and I always call it the Fleabag.”
“Francine, I’m not the only one who can hear you on this frequency! How many times do I have to remind you? Sheesh! What if they heard you?”
“Then, hopefully, they’ll hear this. Call my cousin, Vic, he has an exterminator business and he could help you out.”
“Oops, sorry, Chief!”
Grady was still shaking his head as he pulled in to Bayside’s parking lot. The motley collection of misfits outside gave him a subtle hint as to the issue. Though they all looked different; men, women, old, young, thin, heavy, rich and poor, there was one common thread. Each and every newcomer had the same look in his or her eyes that Sylvia Farmington had - the look of despair. Instead of warding people away from their ocean-side community, the newscasters had appealed to the desolate masses, like a beacon, welcoming them to “Suicide Beach”. Give me your tired, poor and huddled masses, Grady thought flippantly, and we’ll line ‘em up like a hot buffet for the Kracken, or whatever the heck it is out there.
After doing his best to spin a silver lining to the worried proprietors, Charlotte and Ian Donovan, Chief Grady drove to the other locations and churned out the same words to the other innkeepers.
“Essentially,” he told them. “There’s nothing I can do unless these out-of-towners start acting up. As of right now, these people aren’t breaking any laws by coming here. When, or if they try to set foot on that beach, that’s when there will be an issue and I’ll have grounds for arrest. Until then, what do you want me to say? You own a hotel and people want to stay here…you should be happy.”
All arguments levied were immediately dismissed. The Chief and his Deputies had bigger issues to tackle.