Standing near the entrance of the community center, Sheriff Thomas Spade snubbed out a cigarette with the heel of his shoe. For the past hour he had been watching the townspeople flow into building, making a mental note of every face that he could. Many he knew, but many he didn't. This large gathering had quickly made him realize just how many new faces had flooded into Emerald City recently. Once there had been a time when he knew everyone in town by name. Now, that just wasn't feasible. It was unfortunate, but he understood why people were attracted to this humble little city. It was too bad that it would be ultimately ruined by them all if this "fad" continued, though. In no way was Thomas happy about the disappearance of Miss Turner, but deep down he did hope that it stopped or slowed this influx of people. Maybe some would even leave if they thought a serial killer was on the loose...
Thomas looked to behind him to find his deputy, a younger man who had been his partner for at least a decade. He nodded, knowing what was being asked of him without having to speak. Reluctantly, he headed to the back stage where the Turner family waited.
"Here he is. Fashionably late, as always. Hmph." William Turner raised his hands in the air in exasperation, clearly not happy that Thomas had waited until the last minute to arrive.
"Apologies." Thomas barely muttered out the word as he passed by the mayor, unfazed by William's impatience. The two had a long history with each other; both good and bad, though he didn't like to discuss it often. His deep blue eyes then found Jackie Turner, who had been chain-smoking in the corner by herself for what seemed like hours. She had been a wreck, though she hadn't said it out loud. She dealt with these sort of things in silence, while William huffed and puffed like the Big Bad Wolf. He loved to let everyone know when he was unhappy.
"Isn't it time to go out there? Lets go!" William glared at Thomas from across the room now, gesturing to the curtain. Beyond it, the voices of hundreds of people filled the room as they all talked over one another.
Thomas nodded, his eyes moving from Jackie to Nathan Turner, who sat near his mother and kept silent as well. However, the look on Nathan's face told him that he was just as impatient as his father. "Let's get this over with..." He put a hand up to stop William in his tracks as the older man began to cross the room, "Remember... I speak, you speak, then I speak. Don't answer any questions...please."
"Of course, of course. Do you think I'm a goddamned idiot, Spade?" William's glare turned colder as he shoved Thomas' hand from his path, though he stayed frozen in place for the moment, eyes locked with the sheriff.
Thomas kept his gaze, giving him a look of knowing. William was normally composed during public appearances, but this was different than some political debate. Emotions were high for everyone.
"Then lets go." He pushed open the curtain, making way for the Turners to appear on stage.
Immediately the crowd fell silent aside for the unmistakable sound of camera shutters going off one after the other. The Turner family quickly took their front row seats on stage, next to the majority of the Emerald City police department. Thomas, on the other hand, made his way to the podium. Being sheriff had been nice, once, but now it involved being the front-man for things that he was never truly prepared to handle in this small town... good thing his term was nearly over.
"Thank you all for coming." He adjusted the microphone height, seeing the notes left on the podium for him to go by. He cleared his throat and looked up, scanning everyone who was sitting in the front row of the audience. Nearly all of them looked like they had been through hell. Although Thomas felt empathy for each of them, he also knew in the back of his mind that killers typically showed up to these sort of events. They offered help, they acted innocent, and they liked to show up to the scene of the crime; this was all entertaining to them. Anyone in the room could be Lillian's murderer.
"Our community has been gutted recently and I know many of you are asking for answers. Trust me when I say that we have been working tirelessly, day and night, to try and get those answers for you. Lillian Turner meant a lot to so many of us..." He let that sit for a moment, moving his eyes to the people who stood further in the back of the auditorium.
"Today, we are calling upon our towns people for help in solving this case." He could hear whispering spread throughout the crowd, seeing people looking to one another. No doubt they were being reaffirmed in their speculation that Lillian was dead by now, especially if the police hadn't found her yet. "Lillian Turner was last seen on the night of March 13th. If you heard or saw anything, I urge you to call our office. Our tip hotline will be completely anonymous." He glanced down at his notes for a brief moment, "Within the next few days we will be sending out a few teams to conduct interviews with many of you. Please don't be alarmed if police show up at your door. We ask that you please cooperate with them. You are not being specifically targeted if we interview you, we're only trying to piece together any information we can for this investigation."
"With that said, I'd like to give the stage to the Turner family." Thomas stepped back and stood off to the side, hands behind his back in an "at-ease" position and his eyes continually scanning the audience.
The family of three made their way to the podium, Jacqueline to the mayor's right and Nathan to his left.
"Thank you all for coming, from the bottom of our hearts... I know Lily would appreciate this- will... will, appreciate it." William looked down for a moment, gripping the edges of the wooden podium while he mentally tried to pull himself together. He refused to think of his daughter in past tense.
Beside him, his wife leaned into him for support. Her eyes were bloodshot as she dabbed a tissue at them and occasionally sniffled, but she was trying her darnedest not to openly cry in front of the entire town. Nathan stood in silence, rigid and cold, just as he had been for the past week.
"Please, if you know anything... call the police department. Anything at all. We know someone out there must know something. There just has to be... someone."
"Please, someone find my baby! Tell me where she is!" Jacqueline suddenly burst out, pushing her husband back a bit in order to get closer to the microphone. Her eyes welled with tears once again as she pleaded, looking to the audience and then to all the media cameras.
"Mother..." Nathan moved from his fathers side and grabbed her shoulders, taking her into an embrace. Jackie broke down then, sobbing into her sons chest.
William frowned, watching his family for a moment before stepping back up to the podium, "As... as you all know, Lillian was deeply involved in the community. For months, she has been planning an event for the town. A fair. She has already planned for many game vendors to come in, for roller coasters to be set up, for a variety of food to be served." He paused, sighing heavily as if the words were weighing heavy on his soul. "In her honor, we have decided to keep the fair going. All of the proceeds are still going to be going back to the town, specifically to help fund our school systems." More whispers spread throughout the crowd as people shared their opinion on this news with one another. "Everything should be set up by tomorrow. Some of you may have noticed things being set up already..."
Suddenly, William realized he had no idea how to end this. There was no good ending to this. No script for him to read off of. "Just... please, help us if you can. Keep us in your prayers." He turned and put an arm around his son and wife, caressing them and gently nudging them to return to their seats among the police force.
Sheriff Thomas stepped up to the podium once again, "I will take questions now..."
The media members all yelled out their own questions at the same time, a mishmash of voices blending into white noise with only a few standing out above the rest.
"Sheriff Spade! Has there been any evidence found as to Ms. Turner's whereabouts?!"
"I'm sorry, we cannot answer that at this time. Next?"
"Is it true that an article of clothing was found within the forest not far from Opal lake?!"
Thomas stared at the man who had asked the question for a moment, wondering where they had gotten their information from. Who in his department was answering questions they shouldn't have been? "This is an open investigation, I cannot confirm or deny any information that may or may not help a suspect in getting one step ahead of us. I'm sure you all understand." His voice was cold, clearly losing his patience with the media quickly.
"Sheriff! What is being done to find Lillian?"
"Everything in our power. We have also begun communications with the FBI to request their assistance. Things are in the works... Next?"
"Sir," Thomas heard that familiar voice behind him once again. He turned away from the media, finding his deputy with a stern look on his face. The deputy leaned in closely, trying to whisper so that his voice didn't pick up on the microphone. "We have an emergency. The mayor's house is on fire."
Thomas was taken aback for a moment, then looked to his police force. Most of them were here aside for a handful of people to man the station. "Fire department is on their way, but I think we should check this out."
Thomas nodded, "Tell William. We'll give them an escort." He turned back to the media as his deputy walked towards the Turners, trying to whisper the news to them as well.
"I'm sorry, everyone. We have to cut this short. There's been an-"
"My WHAT? MY HOUSE?!" William jumped to his feet while his other two family members stared at the deputy in disbelief. "What the fuck. Let's go, Spade!"
Apparently all public formalities had gone out the window. Thomas couldn't say he blamed him. "Thank you all, again. Call the hotline, it will be passed out on business cards near the entrance of the buildin-"
Thomas spun around and gestured for the Turners to follow him back through the curtain. "My car is around back."