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As the newly-widowed Ellen Flanagan hurtled down I-95 in her Lexus RX towards Storrs, her only daughter, and the University of Connecticut, Detective Tom Lang stood on his pool deck in New Canaan, struggling to get the pH level in his in-ground pool to where he needed it to be. It was late September, and in Connecticut that typically means that it’s well past the time for folks to begin winterizing their pools.
Tom enjoyed the process of winterization, but this year he had put off the chore of doing it because the east coast had been enjoying something of an Indian summer. He had taken this Monday off of work at the Darien Police Department to accompany his wife to her first ultrasound, where they learned that she would be giving birth to a baby boy.
The place the two of them had bought together was something of a starter home, but it was far more affordable to live in nearby New Canaan and have Tom drive the 20 minutes to DPD every morning then it was for them to live within the pretentious confines of Fairfield County.
When the couple arrived home from their appointment early in the afternoon, Tom’s wife being pregnant had suddenly become very real in a way that it hadn’t felt before. Here, now, there was tangible proof of a human being grown inside of her stomach.
She was twelve weeks into the pregnancy, and when the doctor asked if they wanted to know the sex of the child, the couple looked at one another for a brief moment, smiled and simultaneously said “Yes” to the ultrasound technician. At the moment, the pool was helping Tom take his mind off of the fact that his world was about to be changed forever in a few short months.
He found it relaxing in a way that he wasn’t quite able to explain – a challenge to get that perfect 7.4 pH level while making sure to keep alkalinity balanced. It was a tricky dance, and it was one that he was still getting a hang of.
He knew that he had a long way to go before he could head inside for the evening. Following a successful balancing of the water chemistry, Tom needed to remove the skimmer basket, wall fittings, and two ladders that sat on opposite sides of the pool.
Following that, he’d need to clean and skim the entire thing, while also making sure to lower the water level about 15 inches below the skimmer. The biggest pain in the ass (and a huge reason why Tom didn’t want to buy this house in the first place) would be getting the pool cover on. A tight fit was essential, and keeping that pool cover clear of snow, rainwater, and outdoor debris throughout the winter was a daily chore that Tom loathed.
At the moment, his pocket colorimeter which measured the pH level was reading a 6.7. The water still looked a bit cloudy, and so Tom walked purposefully to the pool house where he grabbed a large bucket and filled it with about a gallon of water from the hose on the side of the house.
He needed to raise that pH level ever so slightly, and he estimated that a gallon of water with about a half a pound of soda ash would get him to that elusive 7.4-meter reading that he so desperately wanted.
He dumped the water and soda ash mixture into the pool, checked on his wife in the living room who was now asleep on the couch, and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator. He would have to wait an hour for the soda ash to circulate throughout the pool and alter the pH level, and now Detective Lang – with a beer in hand and a pool chair to lie back on – looked out onto the expanse of his backyard, a man alone with his thoughts. It would be getting dark soon and he had to finish this pool business up before dinner. Something told him that he’d need to be well-rested for work in the morning. .