Two weeks later Sally Benson was having breakfast in her Greenwich home watching the morning news before she headed to her office. As usual she had on the local channel that today focused on a news conference in Brookdale, Connecticut. The county sheriff, a good looking guy named Piccolo with wavy salt and pepper hair, was standing in front of the camera with local officials. They were closing Arrowhead Lake to the public. Well, that wasn’t anything new. Parts of it had been shut down before during the summers because of high bacterial levels, but that wasn’t it this time. They were closing the lake because there was shark in it.
At first she thought she hadn’t heard right. A shark? In the lake? She turned up the volume. They weren’t kidding. This was the second time someone had been bitten. They hadn’t believed it the first time, but now this sheriff said there had been a second attack on a young water skier. There was no doubt he had been bitten by a shark. The Brookdale selectman and the Marbury mayor said the lake would be closed for the public’s safety until a full investigation could be made.
What was this going to do to real estate prices? She and Beth had just signed a contract bigger than any they had ever dreamed of to sell houses on the lake. Now the goddamned thing was being closed?
Sally watched as the news media asked all the obvious questions. How could a shark get into a lake and survive nonetheless? How were they going to look for it? The town officials didn’t have many answers, but were intent on keeping the public out of Arrowhead in the meantime.
The news conference ended with an appeal for everyone to stay out of the lake until further notice. It was punctuated with pictures of the young victim’s badly injured arm and the leg of the earlier victim. Sally turned off the set. In twenty years of selling real estate she had never run into something as screwy as this.
What the hell was she and Beth supposed to do with three properties they were about to negotiate for the Swiss client? Who the hell wanted a waterfront house on a lake with a shark in it? The guy behind the numbered account wouldn’t want one either.
She decided to call Beth at home. Beth answered on the first ring.
“Have you been watching the news?” was her first question.
“Yes,” Beth replied practically out of breath. “I was just about to call you.”
“Do you believe it? A shark in the lake.”
“I know, I was watching Channel four in New York. It’s all over the news.”
Sally hadn’t realized word of the shark had reached national proportions, but apparently it had. “Those three lakefronts for the Swiss just lost a bundle in value,” she said, knowing she was stating the obvious.
“I know,” Beth said. “Do you still think Welty’s client still wants them?”
“I have no idea, “Sally said, “but you know what? If he does, he’s going to get them for a hell of a lot less than a million apiece.”
Beth mentioned that their commissions would of course be lower, but who cared. With a shark in the lake, they would be thankful to have any buyers at all.
When they were finished talking, Sally called Welty in Zurich. Welty had heard the news and had spoken to his client immediately. He was not deterred in his desire to purchase property on the lake. “On the contrary,” Welty said, “his reply was that the shark would only serve to drive real estate prices down to his advantage. But he was certain the threat to the lake would end resulting in considerable profits later.”
“So he hopes to make money on other people’s fear,” Sally said accusingly.
“Or you could say on other’s optimism,” Welty countered. “Once buyers are confident there’s no longer a shark in the lake. Or possibly that there never was in the first place. It does sound rather preposterous doesn’t it Ms Benson.”
It certainly did. But somebody hiding behind a Swiss numbered account was betting that this shark would scare the hell out of rich people on the lake. He was also betting that the whole thing would later turn around and he could sell at high profits. If he was right, she would be making big commissions on both ends.
Her call to Welty ended with her thinking that his client knew something about this shark that no one else did. What was it?
Rolf Welty wondered the same thing. It had only been three weeks from the time he had met with his client that the news had broken about the shark in Arrowhead. Welty had found him not overly concerned about the news and had quoted him exactly to Ms Benson, “the shark scare would drive down the value of lakeshore property that could later be sold at considerable profits once Arrowhead was safe again.” But when Welty expressed the risk involved in the venture, the client’s response surprised him.
“I believe Mr. Welty,” he had said confidently, “when the time is right for profits to be made, there’ll no longer be a threat to the safety of Arrowhead Lake.”
To Welty that sounded more than confident. It sounded suspicious. But for the moment, as long as there was no criminal intent on his client’s part, his financial dealings with Union Suisse would remain confidential.
Seventy seven year old James Dolan sat on the porch of his retirement home in Sanabel Island, Florida reading the Marbury Register sent to him daily. For over a week now the Register had been running articles on the shark found in Arrowhead Lake. Like everyone else, he had no idea how a shark could survive in fresh water none the less how the thing had gotten there in the first place.
What concerned him more was the sale of lakeshore homes after the first report by the Register, followed quickly by the national media. The “shark scare” had snowballed all the way to the New York Stock Exchange with Norton Utilities’ shares dropping fifteen percent in one week. The smart analysts knew that the value of Norton’s thousand acres on the lake, always considered valuable lakefront holdings, were plummeting in value.
As former CEO of Norton, Dolan still held twenty-five thousand shares which were the basis of his comfortable retirement. Rather than taking a sizeable sum when he left two years ago, he had opted for shares, which he felt made a statement about his continued commitment to the company. That commitment also included serving on the board of directors in much more than an emeritus position. Even though he was the oldest board member, he had plenty to say about the way the company was run. Especially when it involved the lake. Arrowhead was his baby. He had created it from valley farmland into not only a recreation playground, but a real estate bonanza for Norton.
Forty five years ago under his leadership the company had expanded from a small local power supplier to one that served much of the Northeast. It had grown so quickly that it was in danger of not being able to supply all its customers with electricity. The Candlewood Valley Project was a solution to at least part of the problem. Generating hydroelectric power from the lake via a draw down during the winter peak period was a stroke of genius that many said he couldn’t pull off. But he had done it. The state of Connecticut was happy that a man made lake would be created for recreational use and had been quick to grant permits.
Under his guidance through the years Norton had sold off lakeshore acreage forcing zoning permits through the five towns. He had sold just enough to establish those permits for larger sales as lakefront property values increased. Now it was at an all time high just when the company was experiencing fierce competition in providing electricity to the Northeast. The stock had suffered from that competition and now it was suffering again with losses to its real estate holdings on the lake; all because of a shark.
He looked across his manicured lawn that led to a strip of oceanfront beach. Two years ago a Maco shark had been spotted offshore and a large section of beach had been closed off. No one was attacked and two days later everybody was back in the water. And that wasn’t the first time. Ever since he had retired to Florida four years ago, there had been shark scares and even some attacks resulting in deaths. But that was to be expected. Sharks lived in salt water and were a risk one took when venturing into it.
But a shark in a lake? Like everyone else he wondered how it had gotten in and more importantly how it was surviving. At any rate it had to be killed. It was hurting him and Norton Utilities.
He picked up his cell phone and called company headquarters in Marbury, Connecticut.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt: Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com.