"God..." Cathy sighed getting out of her vehicle at the Madison High School. The Village Hall meeting had to be moved to the gymnasium due to the crowd that was expected. She pulled her duster sweater tighter around her as she looked at the nearly full parking lot. Everyone was here. She took out a pack of cigarettes and with a shaky hand, pulled one out and lit it.
"We have to stop meeting like this..." Officer Dugan said with a sad smile.
Taking a deep drag, Shelly looked at the ground. "I just can't believe this is all happening."
"I've never seen anything like this in my career... it's been a shock to the entire community." The senior officer ran his fingers through his grey hair and stared up at the sky. It was nearing dusk and the stars were starting to appear. "Let's get this over with" he said, gesturing to the school doors.
Cathy flicked her barely smoked cigarette into a puddle. They made the slow walk to the side of the building. As soon as they opened the double doors they were met with stale, hot air and the noise of an angry crowd.
"WE HAVE CHILDREN WHO PLAY IN THE SQUARE." Several middle aged women were yelling to anyone and no one in particular. "HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!"
Others were quiet, but furious, staring at their phones then up at the podium. It was like Mayor Britton to keep everyone waiting. The minutes drug on and finally the members of the Village Council appeared and took their seats at the chairs spread out on either side of the podium. They looked nervous as the energy of the room focused on them. The shouts came from all directions and the thrumming of the under chatter was almost deafening with the gym's acoustics.
Only when the crowd was near a fever pitch did Mayor Britton appear and called the meeting to order, close to 15 minutes after its expected start time. Cathy rolled her eyes. Typical....she thought bitterly. He'd left her hanging for 15 years, after all.
"OK everyone, I know we're all frustrated and just looking for some answers" the mayor began with a smile that seemed to come too easily. "Let's just be calm and we'll get to everyone's questions and concerns. I have Chief Trux here to confirm the timeline and what we know about the situation.
The crowd settled somewhat as the Chief of Police made his way to the podium. He adjusted his bullet proof vest away from his neck, an odd showing of force, but perhaps it was worn to settle some nerves.
"As you all know, the...incident..." he grimaced "happened April 14th at about 2pm. We are told by witnesses that the vehicle came off River Street heading north, likely just exiting the highway. The truck and trailer parked next to the Arts center on Park Street and remained there for the...uh...duration."
"HOW COULD THEY GET INTO OUR VILLAGE LIKE THAT" shrieked a woman from the bleachers. "WE JUST LET CRIMINALS WALK RIGHT BY IN BROAD DAYLIGHT?!"
"Rhonda, no one is monitoring traffic in and out of here" one of the council members stood to address the hysterical woman. "It's a small town. We weren't prepared for something like this, hell, who could have even predicted this?!."
"ORDER, PLEASE" the mayor shouted, adjusting a stray hair that fell as he stood.
The Chief took a deep breath and continued. "We have several photographs of the incident and eye witness accounts. We're still sifting through the details."
"What more do you need to put together what happened, Chief?" asked a man leaning in the double doorway.
"Folks, police work takes time, we can't just...magically fix this."
The crowd shifted and anger crackled in the air. They were looking for some finality, someone to blame, for justice, and it was looking like they might not get it.
The Mayor bounded back over to the podium. "OK, OK, thanks Don. Like Chief Trux said, this will take time and we're working on bringing in those responsible."
"I HEARD THEY JUST DROVE OFF!" yelled someone from the crowd.
"YOU MEAN THEY DON'T HAVE ANYONE IN CUSTODY?!" another shocked voice responded.
The murmurs turned to shouts. Cathy looked nervously at Officer Dugan, who was wide eyed, and his hand hovered above his pistol.
"Everyone needs to calm down so we can work through this..."
"How long was the guy in town for?" asked the man in the doorway again, his voice soft but somehow rising above all others. The crowd hushed and looked expectantly at the mayor.
"I...uh...we have conflicting reports..." he stammered.
"Bullshit." The crowd followed with a cry for an answer.
"..A...a gentleman told me — he's one of our walkers who is down there everyday — that they were in the park for probably about... an hour and a half."
Shock and awe struck the crowd. Cathy heard someone start to sob.
"And who cleaned up the mess? How many people did it take, Mayor", the interrogator at the door pressed. The crowd's eyes flew to the podium, panicked.
"....We dispatched village Road Department employees and-" shouts and screams interrupted what was said next
"THE ROAD CREW!? WHAT WAS THE ROAD CREW GOING TO DO?!
"Please, everyone..." they Mayor looked down at his hands.
"Is it true, Mayor, what we heard about the Gazebo?" the man from the door was now stalking closer to the podium.
"YES THE GAZEBO! WHAT ABOUT THE GAZEBO!?" the crowd hissed.
"...Well, we uh...have confirmed....that one of the scenes of the accident was on the stage. So I called the road crew in, and then we started going through the park. And that's when we found...more...uh...more than one."
Any sense of control broke down then and there. Screams ricocheted off the rafters. People prayed openly, some even pulling out their rosaries. A young officer began to throw up in a trash can in the far corner.
"I'm....I'm so sorry..." the Mayor whispered into the microphone. But nobody heard him.
Cathy ran out into the parking lot gasping for air. She bent over, holding her knees, trying to ground herself.
"You know what April 14th was, don't you?" a familiar voice cooed right behind her.
Cathy straightened, the hair rising on the back of her neck. She closed her eyes and braced herself.
"It was...hump day."
Cathy fell to her knees and wailed in anguish. The Village of Madison would not forget.