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.
Read and .
Piccolo went from the cove to Dowd’s Marina just two miles down the road. Pazman’s boat was the only one docked in the water. Hundreds of others were packed into the marina yard covered with blue shrink-wrap waiting to be put in.
Just as Piccolo got out of his Cherokee, a man came out of the yard office. He introduced himself as Tom Dowd, who Piccolo had spoken with earlier. Dowd was about his age, forty, trim, red hair showing under a Red Sox cap. “Towed back Kathy One from the cove earlier this afternoon,” Dowd said. “Didn’t touch a thing except to slip a tow line around the bow cleat.”
“Good,” Piccolo replied. “I’d like to take a look at it.”
“Go right ahead. Saw blood on the boarding steps and in the cockpit. What happened anyway?”
“Don’t know for sure,” Piccolo said dodging the question.
“Somebody got hurt pretty bad. I guess he’s in the hospital,” Dowd said.
“Yeah,” Piccolo replied, "tore up his leg on something.” He was going to leave it at that but suddenly a thought came to mind. “The guy says his girlfriend put the inboard/outboard in gear accidentally while he was in the water and his leg caught the propeller.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Dowd said shaking his head. “Could happen with a stern anchor. The guy goes in the water to check the anchor, finds it loose and has the woman put it in forward to take up the slack. Then she has trouble getting it into neutral when he’s getting back in. She slips back into reverse and the prop nails him.”
“Yeah. That’s pretty much how this fella’ described it,” Piccolo said. The story sounded believable.
“I feel sorry for him. That prop can do a lot of damage even at a low rpm.”
Piccolo nodded in agreement but said nothing.
“Well, we’ll take care of cleaning up the boat once you give the OK. No hurry. Just let us know when you want it done.”
“OK Tom, thanks.” He headed for Kathy One.
Piccolo boarded from the dock and immediately saw blood on the cockpit floor. A life ring lay on the port side next to cushions also bloodied. The line from the ring was cleated on the stern. He was still considering the story he had told Dowd as a possibility when another theory came into his head. Maybe it didn’t happen during anchoring at all. Maybe something happened to Bill while he was swimming. A cramp. Maybe Kathy threw him the ring then backed the boat up to get closer and he went into the prop.
That scenario made sense, but why wouldn’t they say that? Why not say that Bill got caught in the prop? Why a shark story that didn’t make any sense at all?
Piccolo went below and checked out the cabin. People’s stuff always told you a lot about them.
Bill apparently was an avid boater. There were back issues of Motor Boating neatly stacked on shelves along with Chapman’s Boating and Handling. CDs were also carefully stowed ranging from Cheryl Crow to Andrea Boccelli. Coast Guard required life vests and flares were readily available. The rest was pretty ordinary; food and beer in the fridge, prepared meals for a day or two and two bottles of wine.
Piccolo decided there wasn’t anything on the boat that would explain seeing a shark in the water.
The only thing left for him was to see this couple first hand in the hospital and judge whether they made any sense or were totally off the wall.
Piccolo decided to question Pazman and his fiancee without any other investigators present. So far this incident had been taken lightly by the few who knew about it. Someone, probably hysterical, had claimed a shark in the lake had bitten them.
However, the couple that Piccolo met in the hospital the next day was anything but abnormal or hysterical.
Bill was a computer programmer with IBM in nearby Somers, NY, twenty-six years old and seemingly a level headed guy. Although still in some pain and weakened by blood loss, he talked openly about what happened in the cove. He was confined to bed, his leg heavily bandaged inside a plastic cast. IV lines ran into his arms.
Kathy, an attractive woman wearing large round rimmed glasses, was more animated than Bill, but thoughtful in answering preliminary questions.
Piccolo decided to direct his questions specifically about the motor and the prop, the only things that could have rationally caused Bill’s injuries.
“When you anchored,” he asked Bill, “did you have a stern anchor out?”
“No,” he answered, “just the bow.”
“Did you have to back off to set it?”
“Once it set, did you leave the boat with the motor on to check if it was holding?”
“No,” Bill replied. “I backed off it, felt resistance on the line and turned the motor off. I was never in the water with it running.”
Piccolo turned to Kathy. “So you never turned it on again to get the boat closer to Bill when you saw he was in trouble?”
“No,” Kathy said without hesitation. “I wouldn’t even know how to do it. Bill’s boat was brand new. I never drove it before.”
Bill saw where Piccolo was headed now.
“If you think the prop did this to me, you’re wrong,” he said adamantly. “I was about fifty feet away from the boat when I got bitten. And I was bitten, sheriff. Not caught in the prop.”
“The question then is by what?” Piccolo said. He continued with Kathy. “Exactly what did you see in the water?”
“I’ll never forget it,” she said shuddering at the thought. “At first I saw a fin. A dark, gray fin moving quickly toward Bill. Then it went underwater and I saw the hump back body arch over the surface. It was big. I think about six feet long at least. It had to be a shark.”
“What happened then?”
“Bill screamed and I knew he had been bitten by it.”
Piccolo made a few quick notes on a pad.
“What did you feel, Bill?” he asked.
“A tremendous pain in my leg,” Bill said wincing at the thought. “I knew right away I was bitten because my leg was clamped in its jaws. The thing was able to move me around shaking me from side to side. The teeth were digging in further all the time. I was screaming and trying to break free. Finally it let go, but then it hit me again farther down my leg. Now I’m banging away at it with my fists, but I’m getting weaker and weaker. Thank God it let go for good and swam away.”
“That’s when I saw the fin again,” Kathy chimed in, “after all the churning in the water it swam away so gracefully.”
“I see,” Piccolo said wanting to hear more of Bill’s story.
“When you were grappling with this thing,” Piccolo said, still refusing to call it a shark, “hitting it with your fists, what did it feel like?”
“It felt like tough skin. Very slippery. I don’t think it even felt my hitting it. It was big sheriff.”
“As big as Kathy described.”
“Oh yeah, all of that and powerful.” Bill thought for a moment then added,”I know it’s crazy thinking it was a shark in a fresh water lake, but sheriff I’m not putting you or anyone else on. That was a shark! No doubt about it.”
Piccolo closed his notebook. It was clear this couple was telling the truth, but it still was damn near impossible for a shark to be in the lake, he knew it, Pazman and Kathy knew it. But nothing else could have done what Bill described.
The question now was what was he going to do? Sound the alarm that a shark was in the lake? Close it down? No one would take him seriously. He’d be the damn laughing stock of the county.
He decided what he had to do first was make absolutely sure there was no way a shark could have gotten in the lake. His next stop would be Norton Utilities’ hydroelectric plant in New Haddam. That was the only connection the lake had with the Pawkatuck River, which led to the Sound and salt water.
In the meantime he was in a dilemma. What if there really was a shark in the lake and he didn’t warn people? Would someone else be bitten, maybe even killed this time? Again he decided his responsibility was to be responsible; get more information first before he made a hasty decision.
A school of stripers scattered in the north end of Arrowhead Lake. They had sensed the presence of a predator, a fish much larger than them. But the stripers were in no danger. The predator had tasted human blood and flesh much more to its liking. Now it was looking for more.
The lake was his to roam freely. A bull nose shark with a snout nose, it was not the most attractive of its species, but one of the larger specimens. Weighing over eight hundred pounds, it was seven feet long and could swim underwater at speeds up to seven miles an hour. Its jaws were powerful enough to generate pressure of eighty pounds per square inch, enabling it to bite into bone as well as flesh. Its signature feature was a curved dorsal fin that when moving along the surface struck fear into both fish and man.
The shark headed into Sail Harbor, a small inlet with houses valued at one million and up dotting the shoreline. The sensors in its brain, much like sonar in a submarine, were able to detect movement two hundred yards ahead. Now it heard a pulse, a vibration. Distance… one hundred yards. It closed in on it, diving slightly below the surface to hide its dorsal fin. Its keen eyes saw fifty feet ahead in the clear water. Now there were bubbles, in a swirl. The sound… too mechanical… too much volume.
An engine, yes… and the object in front of it too big. The transom of a boat. Large. A prop in the water. Slow revolutions. Almost idling.
It dove deeper under the boat lengthwise passing under the bow to get ahead of the engine sounds. It listened for secondary pulses. There were none.
It determined the object too big to attack, the humans too well protected. There was no one in the water. Its appetite for flesh would not be satisfied this time. But there would be more opportunities, many more. It owned the lake and it was king.
Other books by Bob Neidhardt: Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author, Tarnished Bronze, all available online at Amazon.com.