Many Brookfield and surrounding town readers will recognize my fictitious Arrowhead Lake as actually being Candlewood Lake. The name was changed to make the plot’s time frame work. Candlewood was created in 1926, but the plot called for it to be 40 years later. As you read on the reason will become very clear.
It has everything to do with the shark.
It had been a tough winter in the Northeast and by the end of April, Arrowhead Lake’s water temperature was only a chilly sixty-eight degrees. But after some coaxing, Bill Pazman had convinced his fiancée Kathy Willis to spend the night on his new boat.
His pride and joy was a new Four Winns twenty-two foot inboard outboard complete with head, propane stove, refrigerator and comfortable accommodations for two. Kathy’s reluctance to go changed when she saw her name carefully lettered across the stern of the boat. It added permanence to their relationship along with the diamond on her finger. Suddenly visions of huddled in a cold boat changed to lovemaking under the warm covers.
So they trailed the boat twenty miles to Connecticut and arrived at Arrowhead mid afternoon on a perfect day to be on the lake. The sky was deep blue with just a few wispy clouds streaked over the mountains in the distance. They launched the boat from Hatter's Cove at the southern end of the lake and started north. Bill opened the boat up to full throttle. Kathy sat beside him, the wind blowing through her hair.
As they sped over the water, Bill thought about what lie below the surface. He knew that on the lake’s bottom were foundations, stone walls and tree stumps from what had once been a fertile valley of farms and two small villages. Forty five years ago Norton Utilities, a large supplier of electrical power to New England, purchased the land from farmers in the valley, then flooded it to create Arrowhead Lake. Each fall Norton lowered the water eleven feet using a billion gallons of it to generate hydro-electric power for its customers. Today the lake was a boon to both the state of Connecticut and Norton. Connecticut had a beautiful lake its residents used for boating, swimming and fishing, while Norton generated profitable electricity while holding large valuable tracts of undeveloped property.
There were few parts of Arrowhead that Bill hadn’t been over before. As a young boy he had fished with his father for large mouth bass and trout that were plentiful in the thirteen mile long lake. With over forty-five miles of shoreline there were many small coves and inlets from which they picked their favorite spots. He remembered that old wooden boat with an Evinrude ten horsepower that took them forever to get anywhere. Now he was cruising along at over thirty miles an hour.
Arrowhead had changed a lot since those days with his father. Connecticut tried its best to preserve its beauty, but over the years the five surrounding towns had succumbed to the pressure of developers. Where once towering pines and maples had dominated the shoreline, now homes worth upwards of six hundred thousand dollars stood in their place. What remained untouched was the northern end where the hills were filled with trees from the horizon to the water’s edge. Bill headed in that direction for Puckett Cove.
Puckett Cove was one of the best anchorages on the lake. The holding was good and tall pines protected it from the prevailing northwest winds. Bill eased the boat in and anchored at the far end.
“What a beautiful spot,” Kathy said looking at the sun coming through the trees as it sparkled on the water. “It’s so calm and peaceful.”
“My dad and I spent a lot of time in here.” Bill said checking that the anchor line was taut.
“Well now it’s our time to enjoy it.” Kathy snuggled up close to him.
Bill kissed her lightly on the lips and they stood together for a moment taking in the peaceful serenity of the cove.
“How about a swim?” Bill asked abruptly.
“A swim. Are you crazy?” Kathy reached around him and put her hand in the water. “It’s freezing.”
“Nah,” Bill said testing it. “I’m going in.”
Bill went below and quickly changed into a bathing suit. Kathy made herself comfortable on one of the cushions at the stern. When Bill came back up, he flipped her a towel and lowered the swim ladder.
“Here goes nuthin,” he said climbing onto it. He blew her a kiss and fell backward into the water.
Kathy watched as he disappeared underwater swimming away from the boat. Finally he surfaced about twenty feet away and let out a yell. “Whooooahhh. Man it’s great!”
“Great for pneumonia,” Kathy said pouring gin and tonics they had made earlier from a styrofoam container. She held up one of the paper cups. “You’re going to need this for medicinal purposes.”
“Hold that thought,” Bill said. He turned and swam farther away from the boat.
Kathy sipped her drink and watched as he swam back and forth parallel to the shoreline. Her attention was drawn momentarily to a flock of sparrows that suddenly flew out of the trees. When she looked back at Bill he was doing the crawl but there was something behind him. She stood up to get a better look shielding her eyes from the sun.
It looked like the fin of a large fish. It was following Bill and getting closer.
Suddenly he twisted from side to side, screaming and thrashing at the water. Kathy knocked the drinks to the floor as she tried to get a better look. Bill’s screams echoed through the cove as he fought whatever was attacking him. Swirling water around him was turning bright red and he kept screaming. Horrible screams. Kathy held her hands tightly against her ears to block out the sound. But they wouldn’t stop. After what seemed like forever, whatever was holding on to Bill’s legs let go and she saw the fin quickly move away.
Bill struggled to stay afloat and managed to call out to her. “Kathy… the life ring…throw it to me.” His voice was weak and she could barely hear him.
The life ring. What was that? She saw something round and yellow tied to the stern rail. Her fingers fumbled with the knot as she untied the rope holding it.
“Kathy!” His voice was getting weaker. “Hurry!”
Finally she got it untied. She was going to throw the whole thing at him, but suddenly realized she needed to hold the end of the line to pull him in. She threw the ring. It landed about half way between the boat and Bill. Should she pull it in and throw it again? Or would he be able to swim to it?
There wouldn’t be time to throw it again and he was struggling now to get to it. Oh please God let him get to it. For a moment he disappeared underwater but then came up again. He was still about ten feet from the ring and she could see he was very weak. With a few desperate strokes he finally got to it and looped one arm through the opening
“Pull, Kathy. Pull!” His voice was so weak now she could barely hear it.
She pulled as hard as she could. Slowly Bill was getting closer to the boat but she could see he was in terrible pain. He could barely keep his arm through the ring and there was a trail of red in the water behind him. When she finally got him alongside the stern he was struggling to keep his eyes open.
Kathy didn’t know how she was going to get him into the boat. Bill was a big guy, six two, over two hundred pounds. She pulled as hard as she could, but barely got his head over the first step of the boat ladder. Then she remembered how Bill had used the cleats on the boat to take pressure off a line of rope.
Quickly she ran the line around the cleat and pulled. Now she was able to stand up and had more leverage. Bill’s body came halfway up another step.
“Pull harder,” he said, struggling to get the words out.
Kathy pulled again and this time fully cleated the line. It would hold Bill’s weight while she used both hands to pull. Her heart was pounding and she thought she would never have enough strength, but now she felt Bill helping her. With one final effort, she pulled with everything she had and he slid over transom into the boat.
When she saw his leg she almost passed out.
It looked like someone had slashed it open. There was a gaping wound that went from the lower part of his thigh, past the knee and halfway down his calf. It was bleeding heavily and now she could see he was unconscious.
Suddenly she was shaking all over uncontrollably. What was she going to do? She had to get hold of herself. If she didn’t Bill was going to bleed to death.
Stop the bleeding was the first thing they told you in first aid. How? A tourniquet. What could she use? The rope from the ring float was right beside her. Quickly she ran it around Bill’s leg above the wound and tied it. Too loose she thought, but she couldn’t do any better with her trembling fingers.
Blood was still oozing out of the leg. She had to get help. Fast. Her cell phone. It was in her bag. Her legs barely held her but she went below and got the phone. Her breath came in gasps now and she wondered if she could even speak. Nine one one. She punched in the numbers and after what seemed like forever a male voice answered.
“Brookdale Emergency, Sgt. Peters speaking.” The voice was male, professional.
“I’m on Arrowhead Lake and my fiancee is bleeding… he got bitten… by something in the water… he’s unconscious… I don’t know…”
“Calm down ma’am, I need to get your location. Where are you on Arrowhead Lake? What’s the address?”
“There is no address,” Kathy said looking around the cove ringed on all sides by trees. “We’re on a boat, in some cove… wait a minute… it’s… it’s Puckett Cove. Yes that’s it.”
“Puckett Cove. All right. Is your boat on the shore or anchored?”
There was a moment’s silence, then… ”I’m going to put you on hold for just a minute. Sit tight, I’ll be right back.”
Kathy waited. What the hell was he doing putting her on hold? But he came back after what she thought was forever.
“Ma’am an ambulance is on the way along with a rescue boat. You say your fiancee was bitten and the wound is bleeding. Bleeding heavily?”
“Yes, yes… I can’t stop it.”
“Listen to me. You need to apply a tourniquet. Do you have...?”
“I already did that. I have a rope around his leg but I can’t stop the blood.”
“All right. You need to tighten it then but only for two minutes at a time. Then release for twenty seconds or so. You have to keep circulation in the leg.”
“Twenty seconds… okay… okay.”
“You say he was bitten. Did you see what bit him?”
“I saw a large fin sticking above the water and then he started screaming. I think it was a shark!”
Sgt. Peters shook his head as he checked to see that the audio tape was recording the conversation.
“You’re on a fresh water lake ma’am,” he said as seriously as he could. “I doubt it was a shark.”
Kathy looked at Bill’s leg again. Some lake fish couldn’t have done what was now causing her to retch. It was a shark.
Look for Chapters 2 and 3 in the coming weeks right here on Patch.
Other books by Brookfield author Bob Neidhardt are Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze, all available as ebooks on Amazon.com.