Read Jaws Online

Authors: Peter Benchley

Tags: #Sharks, #Action & Adventure, #Shark attacks, #Horror, #Seaside resorts, #General, #Fiction - General, #Marine biologists, #Sea Stories, #Thrillers, #Horror fiction, #Fiction, #Police chiefs, #Horror tales

Jaws (2 page)

"Okay, Mr. Foote. We'll get on it. As soon as we find out anything, we'll contact you."

Hendricks hung up the phone and looked at his watch. It was 5:10. The chief wouldn't be up for an hour, and Hendricks wasn't anxious to wake him up for something as vague as a missing-person report. For all anybody knew, the broad was off humping in the bushes with some guy she met on the beach. On the other hand, if she was washed up somewhere, Chief Brody would want the whole thing taken care of before the body was found by some nanny with a couple of young kids and it became a public nuisance. Judgment, that's what the chief kept telling him he needed; that's what makes a good cop. And the cerebral challenge of police work had played a part in Hendricks'

decision to join the Amity force after he returned from Vietnam. The pay was fair: $9,000

to start, $15,000 after fifteen years, plus fringes. Police work offered security, regular

hours, and the chance for some fun --not just thumping unruly kids or collaring drunks, but solving burglaries, trying to catch the occasional rapist (the summer before, a black gardener had raped seven rich white women, not one of whom would appear in court to testify against him), and --on a slightly more elevated plane --the opportunity to become

a respected, contributing member of the community. And being an Amity cop was not very dangerous, certainly nothing like working for a metropolitan force. The last dutyrelated fatality of an Amity policeman occurred in 1957 when an officer had tried to stop a drunk speeding along the Montauk Highway and had been run off the road into a stone wall.

Hendricks was convinced that as soon as he could get sprung from this God-forsaken midnight-to-eight shift, he would start to enjoy his work. For the time being, though, it was a drag. He knew perfectly well why he had the late shift. Chief Brody liked to break in his young men slowly, letting them develop the fundamentals of police work --good sense, sound judgment, tolerance, and politeness --at a time of day when they wouldn't be overtaxed.

The business shift was 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., and it called for experience and diplomacy. Six men worked that shift. One handled the summertime traffic at the file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt (4 of 131) [1/18/2001 2:02:21 AM]

file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt intersection of Main and Water streets. Two patrolled in squad cars. One manned the phones at the station house. One handled the clerical work. And the chief handled the public --the ladies who complained that they were unable to sleep because of the din coming from the Randy Bear or Saxon's, the town's two gin mills; the homeowners who complained that bums were littering the beaches or disturbing the peace; and the vacationing bankers and brokers and lawyers who stopped in to discuss their various plans for keeping Amity a pristine and exclusive summer colony. Four to midnight was

the trouble shift, when the young studs from the Hamptons would flock to the Randy Bear and get involved in a fight or simply get so drunk that they became a menace on the roads; when, very rarely, a couple of predators from Queens would lurk in the dark side streets and mug passersby; and when, about twice a month in the summer, enough evidence having accumulated, the police would feel obliged to stage a pot bust at one of the huge waterfront homes. There were six men on four to midnight, the six largest men on the force, all between thirty and fifty years old.

Midnight to eight was usually quiet. For nine months of the year, peace was virtually guaranteed. The biggest event of the previous winter had been an electrical storm that had set off all the alarms linking the police station to forty-eight of Amity's

biggest and most expensive homes. Normally during the summer, the mid-night-to-eight shift was manned by three officers. One, however, a young fellow named Dick Angelo, was now taking his two-week leave before the season began to swing. The other was a thirty-year veteran named Henry Kimble, who had chosen the midnight-to-eight shift because it permitted him to catch up on his sleep --he held a daytime job as a bartender at Saxon's. Hendricks tried to raise Kimble on the radio --to get him to take a walk along

the beach by Old Mill Road --but he knew the attempt was hopeless. As usual, Kimble was sound asleep in a squad car parked behind the Amity Pharmacy. And so Hendricks picked up the phone and dialed Chief Brody's home number.

Brody was asleep, in that fitful state before waking when dreams rapidly change and there are moments of bleary semiconsciousness. The first ring of the phone was assimilated into his dream --a vision that he was back in high school groping a girl on a

stairwell. The second ring snapped the vision. He rolled over and picked up the receiver.

"Yeah?"

"Chief, this is Hendricks. I hate to bother you this early, but –“

"What time is it?"

"Five-twenty."

"Leonard, this better be good."

"I think we've got a floater on our hands, Chief."

"A floater? What in Christ's name is a floater?" It was a word Hendricks had picked up from his night reading. "A drowning," he said, embarrassed. He told Brody about the phone call from Foote. "I didn't know if you'd want to check it out before people start swimming. I mean, it looks like it's going to be a

nice day."

Brody heaved an exaggerated sigh. "Where's Kimble?" he said and then added quickly, "Oh, never mind. It was a stupid question. One of these days I'm going to fix that

radio of his so he can't turn it off."

Hendricks waited a moment, then said, "Like I said, Chief, I hate to bother..."

"Yeah, I know, Leonard. You were right to call. As long as I'm awake, I might as well get up. I'll shave and shower and grab some coffee, and on my way in I'll take a look

along the beach in front of Old Mill and Scotch, just to make sure your 'floater' isn't cluttering up somebody's beach. Then when the day boys come on, I'll go out and talk to Foote and the girl's date. I'll see you later."

Brody hung up the phone and stretched. He looked at his wife, lying next to him in the double bed. She had stirred when the phone rang, but as soon as she determined that there was no emergency, she lapsed back into sleep.

Ellen Brody was thirty-six, five years younger than her husband, and the fact file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt (5 of 131) [1/18/2001 2:02:21 AM]

file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt that

she looked barely thirty was a source of both pride and annoyance to Brody: pride because, since she looked handsome and young and was married to him, she made him seem a man of excellent taste and substantial attraction; annoyance because she had been able to keep her good looks despite the strains of bearing three children, whereas Brody

--though hardly fat at six-foot-one and two hundred pounds --was beginning to be concerned about his blood pressure and his thickening middle. Sometimes during the summer, Brody would catch himself gazing with idle lust at one of the young, longlegged girls who pranced around town --their untethered breasts bouncing beneath the thinnest of cotton jerseys. But he never enjoyed the sensation, for it always made him wonder whether Ellen felt the same stirring when she looked at the tanned, slim young men who so perfectly complemented the long-legged girls. And as soon as that thought occurred to him, he felt still worse, for he recognized it as a sign that he was on the unfortunate side of forty and had already lived more than half his life. Summers were bad times for Ellen Brody, for in summer she was tortured by thoughts she didn't want to think --thoughts of chances missed and lives that could have been. She saw people she had grown up with: prep school classmates now married to bankers and brokers, summering in Amity and wintering in New York, graceful women who stroked tennis balls and enlivened conversations with equal ease, women who (Ellen was convinced) joked among themselves about Ellen Shepherd marrying that policeman because he got her pregnant in the back seat of his 1948 Ford, which had not been the case.

Ellen was twenty-one when she met Brody. She had just finished her junior year at Wellesley and was spending the summer in Amity with her parents --as she had done for the previous eleven summers, ever since her father's advertising agency transferred him from Los Angeles to New York. Although, unlike several of her friends, Ellen Shepherd was hardly obsessed by marriage, she assumed that within a year or two after finishing college she would wed someone from approximately her own social and financial station. The thought neither distressed nor delighted her. She enjoyed the modest wealth her father had earned, and she knew her mother did too. But she was not eager to live a life that was a repetition of her parents'. She was familiar with the petty

social problems, and they bored her. She considered herself a simple girl, proud of the fact that in the yearbook for the class of 1953 at Miss Porter's School she was voted Most

Sincere.

Her first contact with Brody was professional. She was arrested --or, rather, her

date was. It was late at night, and she was being driven home by an extremely drunk young man intent on driving very fast down very narrow streets. The car was intercepted and stopped by a policeman who impressed Ellen with his youth, his looks, and his civility. After issuing a summons, he confiscated the keys to Ellen's date's car and drove

them both to their respective homes. The next morning, Ellen was shopping when she found herself next to the police station. As a lark, she walked in and asked the name of the young officer who had been working at about midnight the night before. Then she went home and wrote Brody a thank-you note for being so nice, and she also wrote a note to the chief of police commending young Martin Brody. Brody telephoned to thank her for her thank-you note.

When he asked her out to dinner and the movies on his night off, she accepted out of curiosity. She had scarcely ever talked to a policeman, let alone gone out with one. Brody was nervous, but Ellen seemed so genuinely interested in him and his work that he eventually calmed down enough to have a good time, Ellen found him delightful: strong, simple, kind --sincere. He had been a policeman for six years. He said his ambition was to be chief of the Amity force, to have sons to take duck-shooting in the fall, to save enough money to take a real vacation every second or third year. They were married that November. Ellen's parents had wanted her to finish college, and Brody had been willing to wait until the following summer, but Ellen couldn't imagine that one more year of college could make any difference in the life she had chosen to lead.

file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt (6 of 131) [1/18/2001 2:02:21 AM]

file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt There were some awkward moments during the first few years. Ellen's friends would ask them to dinner or lunch or for a swim, and they would go, but Brody would feel ill at ease and patronized. When they got together with Brody's friends, Ellen's past

seemed to stifle fun. People behaved as if they were fearful of committing a faux pas. Gradually, as friendships developed, the awkwardness disappeared. But they never saw any of Ellen's old friends any more. Although the shedding of the "summer people" stigma earned her the affection of the year-round residents of Amity, it cost her much that

was pleasant and familiar from the first twenty-one years of her life. It was as if she had

moved to another country.

Until about four years ago, the estrangement hadn't bothered her. She was too busy, and too happy, raising children to let her mind linger on alternatives long past. But

when her last child started school, she found herself adrift, and she began to dwell on memories of how her mother had lived her life once her children had begun to detach from her: shopping excursions (fun because there was enough money to buy all but the most outrageously expensive items), long lunches with friends, tennis, cocktail parties, weekend trips. What had once seemed shallow and tedious now loomed in memory like paradise.

At first she tried to re-establish bonds with friends she hadn't seen in ten years,

but all commonality of interest and experience had long since vanished. Ellen talked gaily

about the community, about local polities, about her job as a volunteer at the Southampton Hospital --all subjects about which her old friends, many of whom had been coming to Amity every summer for more than thirty years, knew little and cared less. They talked about New York polities, about art galleries and painters and writers they knew. Most conversations ended with feeble reminiscences and speculations about where old friends were now. Always there were pledges about calling each other and getting together again.

Once in a while she would try to make new friends among the summer people she hadn't known, but the associations were forced and brief. They might have endured if Ellen had been less self-conscious about her house, about her husband's job and how poorly it paid. She made sure that everyone she met knew she had started her Amity life on an entirely different plane. She was aware of what she was doing, and she hated herself for it, because in fact she loved her husband deeply, adored her children, and --for most of the year --was quite content with her lot. By now, she had largely given up active forays into the summer community, but the resentments and the longings lingered. She was unhappy, and she took out most of her unhappiness on her husband, a fact that both of them understood but only he could tolerate. She wished she could go into suspended animation for that quarter of every year.

Brody rolled over toward Ellen, raising himself up on one elbow and resting his head on his hand. With his other hand he flicked away a strand of hair that was tickling Ellen's nose and making it twitch. He still had an erection from the remnants of his last dream, and he debated rousing her for a quick bit of sex. He knew she was a slow waker and her early morning moods were more cantankerous than romantic. Still, it would be fun. There had not been much sex in the Brody household recently. There seldom was, when Ellen was in her summer moods.

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