Chief Grady sat in his office with his head in his hands. The thought of cutting either Barker or Kline had made his stomach turn. Unbelievable! These kids come in on their days off and work hours-upon-hours of overtime without complaint, Grady stewed. And what thanks do they get? They get canned. Ah, who am I kidding? It’s only a matter of time before we’re all handed our walking papers. His brain continued the rant until a knock at the door offered a much needed distraction.
“You okay, Chief?” Barker asked as both he and Kline entered the office. “We were starting to worry.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks,” Grady replied, though his tone didn’t support the words.
“So, which one of us is getting sacked?” Kline laughed.
“How did you know?” Grady asked
“Are you kidding? You look like someone just ate your last bear claw, Chief. So, who’s it gonna be?”
“Not sure. They don’t really care which; they just said one of you had to go.”
“Rock, Paper, Scissors, for it” Barker and Kline said simultaneously.
Chief Grady had to laugh as he watched his two deputies battling it out. More often than not, the pair ended up throwing out the same object. Each time, they’d laugh even harder until they’d forgotten it was supposed to be a somber moment.
“Ha! Paper covers rock,” Kline hooted triumphantly.
“Best out of three,” Barker challenged.
The laughter continued as they proceeded with their game. Grady covertly sent a text to his wife alerting her to the situation, knowing he’d need her to cheer him up when he got home. Sharon did one better and prepared a home-cooked meal, complete with dessert, and brought to the station for lunch. The deputies were still battling it out when she arrived.
“Rock! Paper! Scissors! Shoot,” they called out in unison.
“What’s going on?” Sharon asked, pointing at the deputies.
“They’re deciding which of them is going to stay and which is headed to the unemployment line.” Chief Grady laughingly answered. He shook his head and stepped in between them. “Take a break and let’s have some lunch.”
Hours later they were still talking, laughing, and eating. The phones remained dead and Chief Grady wondered if somehow they’d messed up the switchboard. For that brief moment, he didn’t care. There’s virtually no one left in this desolate community anymore, anyway, his inner-voice offered in consolation. Though he tried to make light of it, in truth, it broke his heart.
“Hey! You guys haven’t heard anything from Hooper have you? I mean, if they can just figure out what’s out there; it could save our town.” He exclaimed, reaching for the phone. “I’m calling him right now!”
Hooper had left both his office number and his cell number so Grady dialed both. The cell number went straight to voicemail but the office number was answered by a pleasant-sounding secretary. She was quick to explain that Dr. Hooper, as he had just completed his doctoral thesis, had been awarded a grant and his team was now in the middle of the Indian Ocean on a special study of the Mustelus manglorensis shark.
“Oh,” Grady sighed, seeing his hopes crash and burn. “I don’t suppose he left any messages for me then, Chief Thomas Grady?”
“Hmm,” the cheery voice answered. “Let me see…Grady, Grady? Oh! Here’s something… uh-oh. There’s a letter here that I was supposed to mail out over a week ago. Oh my, I’m so sorry. I’m new here.”
“That’s okay,” Grady replied, trying to keep the frustration from his voice. “We were all new once, right? Why don’t you just go ahead and open it and read it to me. You can mail it afterwards and no one will be the wiser.”
“Oh, I don’t know…Isn’t tampering with the mail a federal offense?”
“It hasn’t been sent through the mail, yet so it doesn’t really count. I promise, I won’t say a word. Now, be a lamb and read that letter for me, please. It might be a matter of life and death. Hooper was working on something for me and it sure would be nice to know what he found. Besides, I’m the Chief of Police. Would I tell you to break the law?”