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.
Kathy Willis sat in the waiting room at Marbury Hospital awaiting word on her fiancee Bill’s condition. The last four hours had been a horror. It had taken five minutes for the ambulance to get to Puckett Cove and more time for a boat to take them across it to an ambulance. During that time Bill had lost a lot of blood even with the tourniquet.
They had almost lost him on the trip to the hospital. He went into shock and had to be given intravenous medication that finally stabilized him. It had been touch and go all the way.
The EMT technician in the ambulance had asked her what had bitten Bill. When Kathy told him she thought it was a shark, he had looked at her like she was from Mars. “The biggest thing in that lake is a wide mouthed bass,” he had said, “and it really doesn’t have any teeth to speak of.” He rolled his eyes and didn’t question her any further.
Once they got to the hospital, Bill was rushed into emergency surgery. That had been hours ago and she hadn’t heard anything yet.
Finally the door to the waiting room opened and a Dr. Carl Morton, whom she had spoken to earlier, came in. He was in his fifties with graying hair. Kathy had been impressed with that. The emergency room doctor had looked about twelve. Morton immediately told her Bill was stable and they had repaired his knee.
Kathy let out a sigh of relief and a grateful “thank you doctor.”
Morton’s congenial manner changed though when he added, “Bill had considerable damage to his knee. Much of the cartilage was torn. We did the best we could, but he’ll need more surgery. I think in any case he’ll lose partial mobility in the knee.”
“You mean he won’t be able to walk?” Kathy asked fearing the worst.
“Oh he’ll walk, but probably with a limp. Physical therapy can help it some,” Morton said offering the best prognosis he could.
“How long will he be in the hospital?”
“Another day or two. He’s still weak from blood loss and we want to keep an eye on him.”
“I see,” Kathy said, thankful for the fact that Bill was even alive.
“I’m curious though,” Morton said, “as to what could have caused so much damage to his leg. The laceration was far more severe than what we see from any kind of bite.” The ambulance EMT had told him Kathy said Bill was bitten by a shark, but he had discounted that as coming from a distraught woman. “The only bite I’ve treated that comes close was from a pit bull. There wasn’t a dog in the water was there?”
“No,” Kathy replied. “I told the ambulance driver I saw a fin and thought it was a shark.”
“Yes, I heard,” Dr. Morton said shaking his head, “I’ve never treated a shark bite, but I would imagine it very much like what Bill experienced. But as we both know, it’s next to impossible for a shark to be in the lake.”
“I know,” Kathy said avoiding his eyes, ”the ambulance driver pretty much thought I was nuts.”
“Well you were very upset,” he said putting his hand on her shoulder. “However I have to report any suspicious wounds to the county sheriff’s office. They’ll probably be in touch with you.”
“I see,” Kathy said not knowing how much more she could tell him. She had definitely seen a fin coming at Bill, something attacking him, and then the fin moving away.
One thing was for sure… she’d never go back in that lake again.
Fairfield County Sheriff Gary Piccolo received Dr. Morton’s report later in the day over the department’s fax machine. The first thing he noticed was the heading at the top of the page stating that an injury had occurred on Arrowhead Lake. It was unusual though that the report hadn’t been copied to any other law enforcement agency but his. Typically all lake accidents were copied to the five police departments of the towns surrounding the lake. For some reason Dr. Morton only wanted his office involved. After reading the entire report he understood why.
Morton had reported what might have been a shark attack on a Bill Pazman in Puckett Cove. A shark attack? What was Morton on something? Piccolo read further. “The wounds sustained were deep lacerations inflicted by teeth that left clear markings. The arterial vessel along the left cruciate was completely severed along with the transversal artery. The force on the leg was considerable having penetrated these strong ligaments and arteries.” The only experience the doctor had with similar bites was from a pit bull. However, the victim’s fiancee Kathy Willis, stated she didn’t see a dog, but did see a fin that looked like a shark’s. Yeah sure, a shark in a lake. That would be a first.
Morton concluded by saying his report was only sent to the sheriff’s office because he didn’t want to raise undue alarm. He admitted it did seem preposterous that a shark could have been in Arrowhead Lake, but the injury sustained by Mr. Pazman was consistent with what he knew a shark bite to be.
Piccolo put the report down. The idea was crazy. The lake was almost fifty miles from Long Island Sound, the nearest salt water. The Pawkatuck River flowed upstream to New Haddam where Norton Utilities had a power plant. But there was no way a shark could get into the lake.
Morton had been right not to raise any alarm because the whole idea was off the wall. Nevertheless Morton was a respected orthopedic trauma surgeon at Marbury Hospital for years. He was also correct in not notifying the local departments. If any of the newspapers got hold of the story, they would have a field day with something that ridiculous.
Piccolo, a handsome forty-year-old with wavy hair, dark eyes, chiseled features, had run into strange things, but nothing like this. Having spent ten years as a lieutenant running a homicide squad in Manhattan, he thought he had seen everything. Coming to Fairfield County five years ago was supposed to limit him to predictable cases, not the tough stuff he had run into every day that had given him premature graying hair. He had packed Ann and their two boys off to the country where murders rarely happened and traffic accidents were caused by deer running across the road. But now he had a shark in a lake. His fellow officers in the city would split a gut over that one.
For the moment he wouldn’t tell anyone about this, not even Roy Tillitson his deputy sheriff. There was no need to spread panic before he knew for sure what the hell was going on.
He decided to go to the hospital in a day or two when Pazman had more time to recover and see what he and Ms. Willis had to say. Either something other than a shark had attacked him or they were concocting a big fish story. One thing was for sure though: there weren’t any sharks in Arrowhead Lake.
Seven hours later Piccolo pulled his department Jeep Cherokee off to the side of the road overlooking Puckett Cove. He had called Dr. Morton earlier in the afternoon and he hadn’t offered much more than what was in his report. But Piccolo just had to hear this unbelievable story come out of somebody’s mouth rather than reading it from a piece of paper.
He now felt compelled to visit the scene of “the attack.” Maybe he would find something that would enable him to write this whole incident off as ridiculous.
It was four o’clock and the sun was behind tall pines on the far side of the cove casting triangular shadows on the water. The cove was horseshoe shaped about a hundred yards across at the widest point. Hills rose up sharply on three sides covered with white birch, pine and spruce. Its quiet beauty made it a popular anchorage where up to twenty boats would fill it on a hot summer weekend.
But no one was in it but Pazman and his fiancee yesterday when a shark supposedly attacked them. The boat was gone now having been pulled out by Dowd’s Marina for temporary storage. He had told them it wasn’t to be cleaned until he got a look at it. As far as Dowd’s was concerned, the owner had been injured but the cause was yet unknown.
Piccolo looked down into the crystal clear water. The far end of the cove was very shallow gradually deepening to ten feet in the middle. It remained at that depth until it broadened into the open lake. The rocky shoreline was a favorite spot for bass fisherman to cast off from.
Even now, small fish splashed up out of the water looking for insects on the surface. Most of these fish were new to the lake. Two weeks ago the state of Connecticut Department of Fisheries had completed stocking it with over five hundred small mouth bass, perch and trout. This made Arrowhead one of the best fishing lakes in the Northeast with over one hundred tournaments from April to late September.
But none of the fish could be mistaken for a shark. The bass were big, but not that big. And certainly nothing could bite with enough force to inflict the wounds Dr. Morton described.
Piccolo walked down a small path to the shoreline at the end of the cove. He saw footprints where Pazman was taken from the rescue boat and carried up by stretcher to the ambulance on the road.
The small fish continued to jump out of the water and the thought of a shark in the lake became more outrageous to him. He climbed back up the hill to his Jeep taking another path back. On the way he passed two small headstone markers that he hadn’t seen before. They were covered with undergrowth from neglect, but he was able to read the name Puckett on both of them. It was obviously the Pucketts that the cove had been named after.
They probably would roll over in their graves laughing at the thought of a shark being in their cove.
Other books by Bob Neidhardt include Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author, and Tarnished Bronze, all available on Amazon.com.