Thump, thump, thump, thump.
With Margie just behind him, Chalmers paused at the front door. He flexed his hand a couple of times as he slowly reached out for the knob. The approach was hesitant, as if he almost expected it to burn him the second he touched it.
He looked to Margie. She put her hand on his shoulder, first with a light squeeze and then with a slight rub back and forth. She offered a slight smile of encouragement. The gestures poured a flood of familiarity into him. It was a signature move for her and one he remembered finding great comfort in. They were never overly expressive back in the day, but the subtleties of their actions always spoke volumes. It was the shot of courage he needed.
Chalmers grabbed the now less than intimidating door handle, turned it and opened the door wide enough to include Margie in whatever awaited them.
Officer Telly Granger filled the doorway in full uniform. With a clipboard and pen at the ready, he greeted the man and woman inside with a serious demeanor, but he hoped not without an essence of compassion. In his six years, he never had this duty before.
“Officer,” Chalmers said.
“Sir, I’m looking for a Chalmers Elk.”
“Sir, might I come in? I have some information I need to share with you.”
“What sort of information?”
“Sir, as you are probably aware, the recent flooding has caused a level of damage not common in this area.”
“My house was checked out. I was told I could return.”
“Yes, sir,” Granger said. “There is no known problem with either your house or your being back in the area sir.”
“Then I don’t understand.”
“Uh, the problem sir, is with the Cardington cemetery.”
Chalmers stiffened at the sound of the words. His breath hitched and his heart began to beat a little harder in response. Once again, a slight squeeze on his shoulder from Margie, triggered a greater calm in him that worked to quell the uprising of anxiety.
“Please,” Chalmers managed. “Come in.”
Margie offered coffee as they moved into the kitchen and toward the table. Granger declined. She couldn’t miss his eyes catching sight of the doll that sat perched at the far end of the small table.
Once seated, Granger first apologized, for as he understood it, this duty would not normally fall to him, but since recovery efforts were still underway and some parts of the area were still underwater, this task was his as part of the community relations effort.
With Granger on one side of the table, Chalmers and Margie sat on the other. Instinctively, their hands entwined.
“Sir,” Granger said. “The extraordinary flooding we’ve seen from recent storms has caused a substantial amount of damage to homes, businesses and other properties.”
Chalmers and Margie sat still and quiet.
“As the waters continue to recede, we’re finding unprecedented instances of disruption and destruction.”
“I’m sorry,” Chalmers said, interrupting. He had become more of a “pull the bandage off quickly kind of guy” over the years and grew weary of the build up. “What does this have to do with the cemetery? With us?”
“Yes, sir,” Granger said. “The cemetery saw water flow and activity that created a level of damage that might create certain health and safety concerns. You see … several of the burial plots were washed out or severely damaged. I understand you have a relative buried there.”
Chalmers bit down, his lips tightened. His hand tightened around Margie’s.
“Our daughter,” Margie managed softly.
“Yes, ma’am,” said Granger. “I’m terribly sorry to bring you this news, but if at all possible, we would like you to come down and help us identify the remains so that they can be returned to their proper resting place.”