At 7:15 AM, Chief Grady’s cell phone vibrated violently inside his coat pocket. In honor of his well-deserved morning off, the ringer had been placed on silent mode and his coat left on the rack near the front door. Seconds after the caller was sent to voicemail, the Grady’s household phone rang sharply. Startled, Sharon tried to snatch the receiver up quickly to avoid waking her husband. She scurried out into the hall and gently pulled the bedroom door closed before whispering “hello” into the phone.
“Marsha? Wait, slow down, I can’t….Just catch your breath and tell me what’s… No, he’s sleeping. This is his first morning off in ages, Marsha; I am not waking him up! Wait, WHAT? Hold on!”
The color had drained from Sharon’s face, resembling a ghost, as she gently shook her husband awake. Chief Grady’s bleary, bloodshot eyes fought to stay open as he rubbed the sleep-sand away.
“Baby? What’s wrong?” He muttered hoarsely while struggling to haul himself to an upright position.
He blinked until the glowing red numbers on the alarm clock came into focus. So much for sleeping in, his inner voice groaned. This is going to be the start of a wonderful day. Sharon handed him the phone but on the other end all he could hear was hysterical sobbing.
“Who is this”, Chief Grady mouthed silently to his wife while pointing to the receiver.
She whispered, “Marsha” then grabbed a note pad and wrote “Mayor Farmington’s secretary” followed by “ask her about the email”.
“Marsha? Can you hear me? Okay, good. I need you to take a deep breath and hold it in. Good girl, now exhale. Good. Now, can you tell me about the email?” Grady asked, speaking calmly and clearly.
“I came into the office a little early this morning. To tell you the truth, I wanted to fax out a resume and I didn’t want Mayor Farmington to see it, you know.” Marsha explained; her voice wavered as if she would burst into tears again any second. “I opened my email and there was one sent late last night… from the Mayor. It was a letter of res- res-”. The sobbing started again then she howled, “He’s dead!”
“Whoa, calm down, Marsha. What makes you think he’s dead? What did his letter say?”
“Please, Chief, you have to go to his house. Please!”
The sobs reverted back to wailing and eventually Grady had no choice but to promise he would drive over to Mayor Farmington’s house and check on him. To make matters worse, Marsha insisted it had to be him because the matter needed to be handled delicately.
“You do realize I’m not one of the Mayor’s favorite people, Marsha. He’s going to be really angry that you sent me to his house.”
“No, it has to be you,” she whimpered. “I know you’ll protect his…his…”
“Okay, okay, please, don’t start crying again. I’m sure this all a misunderstanding but I’ll go to Mayor Farmington’s house right now.”
“But he’s not the mayor anymore!”
A fresh torrent of tears and wails followed so Chief Grady said his goodbyes. It didn’t take long to get showered, dressed, and out the door. The Farmington mansion was only a few blocks away so he decided to walk. The cool air was invigorating but when the breeze blew in from the beach it carried a rank odor of death, rotting, and decay. It made him glad he had decided to skip breakfast. Picking up the pace, he managed to arrive at Dale and Sylvia’s posh home. This is stupid, Grady thought as he pressed the doorbell. I wish I had turned the ringer off on the landline. Dale is going to blow a gasket when he sees me. As his mind played out the impending scenarios, he knocked and rang the bell again but there was no answer. Icy fingers of panic tickled his spine as he pounded louder on the door.
“Can I help you?” A voice called from the driveway.
Startled, Chief Grady whipped around and spotted a woman with a basket full of cleaning supplies. Her hair was tied neatly in a bun and she was wearing a stereotypical housekeeper uniform that vaguely reminded him of Alice from The Brady Bunch. Of course Dale would want people to know he had a cleaning lady. I’ll bet it was his idea that she wears that stupid outfit.
“Hi, I’m looking for Mayor Farmington,” Grady called out. In his mind, Marsha’s voice corrected him. He’s not the mayor anymore.
“I doubt he’s here,” the Alice look-alike answered. “But you’re welcome to come in and use the phone.”
“Thank you; that would be great.”
She unlocked the front door and welcomed Grady inside with a sweeping hand gesture.
“Follow me; you can use the phone in the kitchen.”
A peculiar stench permeated the air, reminiscent of a backed up toilet, and the chief hoped the cleaning lady would be able to air that out before Dale returned. Ex-Mayor Farmington seemed like the type who would chew someone out if he was able to detect something stinky-even if he’d been the one who had fouled the place.
“The phone is right over-”
Her sentence was cut off by a high-pitched, horrified screech. There on the floor, with blood pooling into the crisp, white, grout between the imported tiles, was Dale Farmington.