Within two weeks of Kline’s dismissal, Barker was gone too. The few remaining members of the Town Council/Chamber of Commerce had quietly sold their homes to Harold Martin. Eventually, the only people left in the entire town included “acting mayor” William Sterling III, Harold Martin, Chief Grady and Sharon Grady. Though he had tried to send Sharon to stay with her mother, she refused to bail on her husband.
“Besides,” she insisted. “Someone has to pack up our stuff. We need to be out of here long before the first snow. I’m not driving nearly an hour just to get groceries when the weather gets bad!”
The Grady residence had been part of his contract when he was named the Chief of Police. Technically, the home belonged to the Council so he didn’t need to worry about trying to sell it himself. His days consisted of wrapping up the remaining paperwork and organizing files in the event people ever returned to the beach-side community.
Harold Martin was fully engrossed in the Herculean task of tearing down many of the old, sprawling, homes to make way for cheaper townhouses and apartment complexes. It gave him great delight to turn Dale Farmington’s exclusive beach-front community for the wealthy into an every man’s, blue-collar town. He paid no attention when the fleeing townspeople warned him that no one would return; no matter how cheap the sales prices on his renovated homes. Harold spent hundreds of thousands, not just on the homes but setting up a community boardwalk. Yet, no matter how much money he sank into advertising, no one, not a single soul inquired about the homes. Nursing a wounded ego and finding no one else around to offer solace, Harold Martin wandered into the police station.
“Chief Grady? Hi, I’m Harold Martin.” He declared, extending his hand to the harried lawman. “Listen, I’m trying to drum up some sales. You know, bring new blood to our community and-”.
“New blood, huh? You’ll probably want to rethink that statement going forward, Mister Martin.” Grady scoffed. “It sure as hell won’t help you sell real estate here on ‘Suicide Beach’. In fact, unless you can find someone to hunt down and kill whatever is out there; you’ll never unload these properties.”
“What do you mean…out there? Out where?”
“You don’t watch the news much do you? Not to pry or anything but don’t you believe in researching before you delve into a huge land purchase?”
Harold Martin’s face paled and his stomach sank. He’d attended the town meeting where his old nemesis, Dale Farmington, tried to throw Chief Grady under the bus but he’d always assumed that the killings on the beach had been a shark attack. Harold was sure that the grainy video had been some kind of scam. It was becoming obvious now that instead of swindling all those rich people out of their homes; he had been the one who was swindled. The painful reality that he owned acres of worthless beachfront property hit Harold like a ton of bricks. He sank every last penny he owned into refurbishing, renovating, and building the town of his dreams only to learn it was a tragic nightmare.
“Look, Chief; you have to do something, here. I-I-I mean, it’s your job, right?”
“No, I don’t have to do anything, anymore. Back when there was a chance at getting something done, no one listened to me. Instead of getting me more help, they cut my staff. One man could not possibly fix all these problems and now it’s too late. Even if there was any funding to hire some deputies no one in their right mind would take the job because no one wants to live here. Face it; this entire community is dead!” Grady growled.
“Well, that’s a crap attitude for the Chief of Police.” Harold whimpered. “Perhaps you’re not the right person for this job. Maybe I’ll just have a little chat with Bill Sterling and see about releasing you from your position since you think so little of our community.”
“Too late,” Grady laughed, taking a swig of whiskey from the bottle on his desk. “Mister William Sterling the third just left.” He chuckled while imitating Barker’s exaggerated emphasis on ‘the third’. “There is nothing left in the municipal account so I have been relieved of my duties on the basis that my paycheck is going to bounce. Therefore, I am packing up my personal belongings, and anything that can be sold to replace my non-existent paycheck, and then I’m getting out of this God-forsaken death trap. So…good day to you, sir.”
Harold stood there gaping as Grady hauled boxes out the door and loaded them into his car. Without a word, ex-chief of police Thomas Grady tossed the station keys to Harold Martin and waved goodbye.
Grady spread an old police department windbreaker over the sand and sat down. He watched the sun shimmering off the waves as they rolled in one by one. Between the sea gulls and the crabs, any lingering human remains had long since disappeared. Even the rank stench had blown away and left behind clean, crisp, salty air with a chill of late autumn settling in the breeze. With his winter coat zipped tight and the collar flipped up against the chilly air, Grady sipped his whiskey in silence. Overhead, fluffy white clouds warmed to a pink tinge and a lone gull cried out. The pristine beach had once been a source of joy and tranquility but now it only held sadness. Grady blinked to fight back the tears threatening to spill over.
“Hey! You almost ready?”
Thomas Grady turned to acknowledge the voice. His son, Tommy; no longer the little boy who begged to stay in the water “just a little longer” despite chattering teeth and pruney fingers, strode toward him. Nostalgia again prickled Thomas Sr.’s eyes with moisture and left his throat parched and tight.
“Mom said you might be down here. The car is all packed up and ready. We’re just waiting for you.” Tommy extended a hand to help his “old man” up and smiled. “I’m gonna miss this place too, Dad. C’mon, Mom’s probably getting antsy.”
Tommy draped an arm across his dad’s shoulder and gave a little squeeze. For the last time, Thomas Grady looked out at the water and sighed. He reached into his pocket, fished out his badge and tossed it down onto the sand.
“Let’s get out of here.”
The Grady men had departed from the beach long before sunset. As if bidding them farewell, an explosion of vivid colors burst across the immense expanse of sky, even more breathtaking than normal. When the last hints of pinks, purples, reds, and oranges melted together into a deep pool of inky darkness, kissed by sparkling diamonds and a full, round moon; the ocean stirred once again. From the depths, the tide churned and waves swelled higher, crashing violently onto the sand. Black, soulless eyes scanned the beach, settling on a lone object glinting in the moonlight. A shapeless, almost snake-like form, dark and clammy, inched across the hard-packed sand. It slithered through the powder, settling on a metallic gold badge with engraved wording “Chief of Police T. Grady emblazoned across its center. It coiled around the trinket and pulled it back into the murky water of the OCEAN. The End.
*Ocean may be over but a new nightmare begins next week. Be sure to join me*