After a long day filled with stinking, mutilated human remains and panicked phone calls from potential relatives of said remains, Chief Grady longed for the comforts of home. With more lost and lonely souls pouring into town by the minute, he knew it would be late in the evening before he’d be able to call it a day. Just like the night before, they would have to deter as many people as they could with their limited resources. Even though it was technically supposed to be Kline’s day off, the young deputy met up with his fellow law enforcement personnel to corral the downtrodden and keep them far away from the beach.
“Hey Chief,” Kline called over the radio. “Where do you want me to patrol?”
“It’s supposed to be your day off,” Grady wearily replied. “What are you doing here?”
“Same thing as you,” Kline called back without missing a beat. “When’s the last time you took a day off.”
Both Grady and Barker expressed their thanks as they each took their positions, dividing the beachfront property into three territories. Unlike heartless trolls like Sue Taylor; Grady, Kline and Barker believed that any life saved was worth their effort. They tried not to let the fact that, statistically, for every one person saved ten more slipped through and ended up a lifeless slab of regurgitated gristle, wear away their resolve.
“Hey, is just me or are the ‘For Sale’ signs multiplying? I didn’t think there were this many yesterday.” Barker wondered aloud.
“Nope, you’re not imagining things, people are high-tailing it out of here faster than a politician can backpedal.” Kline responded. “Just on my street alone, four different families moved out today. You know, I would’ve gotten here sooner but I was stuck behind a trail of U-Hauls.”
The word heavy hung in the air while all throughout their once-quiet community; year-round residents were packing up and moving. Other than the hospital and a majority of the hotels, businesses were closing up shop- permanently. Their proprietors opted for seeking greener pastures. This phenomenon wasn’t only noticed by the local police. Both the Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce noted the drastic changes to their once tight-knit community. In an effort to stem the flow, an emergency meeting was called for all members of the Town Council and Chamber of Commerce which, coincidentally, were essentially one-in-the-same. The Council/Chamber members were instructed to arrive at 5:00PM but the Mayor was told the meeting would start at 6:00PM.
At precisely 5:45PM, Mayor Farmington pulled into his designated parking spot at town hall and was surprised to see that the lot was full. Nervous, he double-checked his email and confirmed that the meeting was set for six o’clock. Still on edge, he dashed through the lot and entered the building. When no one was milling around in the lobby, Dale Farmington’s heart skipped a beat then rapid-fired in a staccato rhythm coursing adrenalin-fueled blood through his veins so fast he could almost hear it. Something is wrong, his inner voice insisted over the thrum of his heart rate pounding in his ears. A cold sweat dotted his forehead. Feeling a bit light-headed, he crept to the door of the main conference room and, holding his breath, pressed his ear against the wooden frame. Muffled voices and random coughing was all he could hear. Feeling ridiculous, he backed away from the door, straightened his tie, and took a deep breath. I’m the Mayor, for crying out loud. Now get a grip and get in there! Without knocking, he walked straight into the room as if he hadn’t a worry in the world. A dozen pairs of eye instantly bore into him and the urge to turn-tail and run was overwhelming. The council chairman, William Sterling III also known as Bill, rose and the attention shifted to him.
“”Dale, glad you could make it. Come on in and grab a seat.” Bill called out.
Though his tone was friendly, it had not gone unnoticed that William Sterling was sitting in the seat usually reserved for the mayor. Rather than make a scene, and also because his legs felt rubbery, Mayor Farmington slid into the closest chair.
“Before we get started, I’d like to introduce you the newest member of the Chamber of Commerce. Better yet, make that our town’s savior. His development company has bought a majority of the homes that have be put on the market and he’s going to renovate them and make this community great again. Dale, this is Harold-”.
“No need,” Harold Martin interrupted. “Dale and I go way back. We met through his wife, Sylvia.”
Mayor Farmington glared at Sylvia’s cousin, Harold. There was no hiding the burning hatred he felt, making the others shift uncomfortably in their seats until William Sterling took control again.
“Well, anyway, let’s get back to the reason we’re all here. We, the council, have some concerns, this business with the beach and all those dead bodies is…well, it’s a huge problem. Year-round residents are fleeing this town in droves. More property has gone up for sale in the past month than in the past ten years. Ten years compared to one month, Dale, and on top of that we come to find out that Chief Grady petitioned for more help and you denied him.”
“At your instruction, Bill!” Farmington shot out angrily. “Don’t you dare try to pin this on me.”
“Dale, there are other concerns,” Reggie Meeker, one of the council members added. “I’ve got a buddy over at Neighborhood News and he gave me a heads-up about the piece they’re running tonight. He sent me a video clip. Mark, would you hit the lights. I think we owe it to Dale to show him before the rest of the country sees it.”
The lights dimmed and Reggie Meeker fiddled with his laptop for a moment before an image flickered on the screen that hung on the far wall. The Neighborhood News team’s logo faded and one of the anchors was standing outside a hospital room door.