Piccolo took the news with bitter disappointment. As a professional he was supposed to accept set backs but this was very hard to swallow. The second he finished his conversation with Wilson, he slammed the phone down nearly knocking it off his desk.
This goddamn shark had become a nemesis. It was Moby Dick and he was Ahab, obsessed with its destruction. Now there would be more sleepless nights, more victims pulled from the water if they were lucky enough to survive.
The financial aspect of the shark’s presence was secondary to him, only important because it led to who was behind all this. His prime consideration was the suffering the shark inflicted. Five victims last season; all potentially life threatening.
He called Roy Tillitson into his office and gave him the news. Roy was as disappointed as he was. They agreed the first order of business was to get the lake closed again. The signs that had been removed for the winter would have to go back up, preventing people from going into the water for yet another summer.
Next they would call the press. The Marbury Register would get first crack at the news that would quickly spread to the wire services, local TV and the national network. It wasn’t that the two of them wanted media exposure, God knows they hated it, but they had to get the word out to alert people to the danger of going into the lake.
After making the necessary calls, they went out to Wilson’s to speak to Ed and Ray. Ray had promised he wouldn’t leave until they got there.
Piccolo and Tillitson found the two of them in the store crowded with people who had heard the news. Everyone stepped aside to let them through, a few offering encouragement knowing both men were frustrated. Ed Wilson and Ray Marione met them in the back room. Ed closed the door.
“Sorry to have to give you the bad news,” Ed said apologetically, “but we thought you ought to know right away.”
“You were right,” Piccolo said. “Can you show me outside where it happened?”
The four men walked out to the back of the building. Harold could still be seen floating in the water partially held up by the chair under him.
“The damn thing came up out of the water and grabbed onto Harold’s leg and pulled him under,” Ray said. “Chewed it right off.”
“I’ve got the whole thing right in the camera,” Ed said holding it up. “Got some of it in closeup too.”
“Can you show it to us?” Tillitson asked.
Ed flipped out the small screen from the camera and showed the four shots of the attack. When shown in quick sequence it looked like a short movie, the shark coming up out of the water, grabbing Harold’s leg and pulling him under. Ed showed it several times.
“The press is going to want those pictures,” Piccolo said. “Before you give any to them I’d like you to print me each of the shots as large as you can. All right?”
“No problem sheriff. It’ll have to be eight and a half by eleven.”
“Yes,” Piccolo said. “Can I use that rowboat over there to go out to Harold? I’d like to take a closer look.”
“Yeah sure, but do you think it’s big enough? The shark could still be out there.”
“Maybe it would be better to wait for a Lake Authority boat that’s bigger,” Ray suggested.
“Parts of the lake are still covered with ice Ray,” Piccolo said. “I don’t think they could get through. If they trail it, it’ll take over an hour. Harold will probably be completely under by then.” He put his hand on his side arm. “I’m going out in the rowboat and you know what? If he’s out there I hope I get a shot at him.”
“That may not be enough,” Tillitson said. “I’ll get the shot gun from the Jeep.
When Tillitson returned Ed gave them oars kept under the store and they went down to the dock where the rowboat was tied. Tillitson rowed out with Piccolo guiding him. When they got to Harold, Piccolo reached over the side and pulled him into the boat. One leg of his jeans had been chewed off at the knee exposing the now soggy rags that had been used for stuffing inside. The front of his shirt was in tatters and there was a big hole where his chest would have been. But what surprised Piccolo the most was that one leg of the chair had been completely snapped off. “Goddamn powerful teeth,” Tillitson said, “to have gone through that.”
“Yeah, but we saw signs of that in Pazman’s leg bone. The teeth almost went all the way through that too.”
They pulled the chair into the boat then looked for other pieces of Harold that might be still floating. All they found was his hat partially submerged.
“We better get back,” Tillitson said, “before we push our luck out here.”
Piccolo agreed. Having seen the force of the bite into the chair made him fully aware of the power of this shark. He was feeling first hand the dangers of being in a small boat. But on the other hand he wished the goddamn thing would come after them. He wanted to meet it face to face. To pump every round in his Glock at the bastard. Between him and Tillitson’ s shotgun they could blow him away.
But that wasn’t to be. They made it back to shore where Ray was waiting. He helped them get Harold out of the boat and they laid him out on the grass next to the store. Looking at him was weird. There wasn’t any blood and Harold still had a smile on his face.
Ed came out of the store with four large color prints generated by his computer printer. These were the first images Piccolo and Tillitson had ever seen of the shark. Prior to this they had only heard descriptions by the victims ( and not very good ones having been given under extreme duress.) But now there he was, the real thing in living color.
None of the pictures showed the entire shark, but judging by the size of the head in relation to Harold’s body, it had to be all of the seven feet Pazman had described it as. Ray agreed, having been one of the few to meet it face to face. The features were typical bull nose as Piccolo remembered from reference pictures. One shot with its mouth open, prominently showed sharp teeth. Piccolo counted them. Eighteen on the top of one side of the mouth, twenty on the bottom.
He put the pictures in an envelope. Ed then took five more shots of Harold on the grass which he said he would send to Piccolo’s office.
“What are you going to do with Harold now?” Tillitson asked Ed.
“What else,” Ed replied. “We’ll sew him up and put him back together for next winter. I think by then it’ll be safe for him to go back on the lake.”
Piccolo wished he was that optimistic. There was a lot of work to be done between now and then.
When he got back to his office, Piccolo pinned the four pictures up on a wall of the conference room dedicated totally to the shark investigation. Next to them was a large map of the lake with the location of each attack pinpointed. Each one had a picture of the victim and his wounds plus their description of the attack.
Norton Utilities’ lakeshore land holdings were outlined in red as well as each lakeshore property sold as a result of the attacks.
Four red push pins marked where the sonar buoys had been dropped by Orion, and a yellow outline identified the areas searched by Hunter II’s sonar and underwater cameras. Ninety-seven percent of the lake had been covered.
Piccolo and Tillitson stepped back to take a look at it all.
They didn’t recognize it, but before them was the key to unlocking how the shark had gotten into the lake and who was responsible.
James Dolan sat in Norton Utilities’ boardroom listening to his directors discuss the hostile takeover bid by their largest competitor Patriot Power & Electric Energy. Patriot had offered Norton shareholders $1.70 a share, forty-five percent of what the value was one year ago. One year meaning before the shark.
At that time Dolan had proposed the company develop a “poison pill” in the event of such a takeover. The pill would have meant the issuing of massive amounts of shares to dilute their value, making it very difficult to affect a takeover. They also could have elected a “staggered board,” whose elections in staggered years would again make it difficult. The board hadn’t listened.
As the largest shareholder in the company Dolan stood to lose eight million dollars. He would have to sell his mortgaged home on Arrowhead Lake as well as his condominium in Florida. The takeover wouldn’t leave him broke, but it certainly would alter his lifestyle.
Worst of all, he would lose the company he had built from scratch. For forty- five years it had been his life, his whole identity. It was what had earned him the respect of his peers, relatives and friends.
He was losing everything because of a shark. A shark that somehow had been put into a freshwater lake, his lake, the lake he had created. And by whom? Who had wanted to destroy him and his company? And who had been clever enough to succeed?
The only person in his past who would have reason to hate him was dead. At the time there were rumors he was responsible, but they could never be proven. However that was water under the bridge. The man was dead and there certainly wasn’t any relative he knew of that had the financial capacity to destroy him and his company.
Dolan listened as Charlie Blakemore, the company CEO, recommended that Patriot’s offer be accepted. Like many others on the board he had been hopeful that a cold winter would kill the shark. When that didn’t happen, they were faced with another year of declining value on the lakeshore property. Everyone knew that would be the knockout punch for a company already on the ropes. Charlie, like the others was trying to salvage whatever he had left.
“Is there anything you’d like to say Jim, before we vote?” he heard Blakemore ask.
Dolan rarely stood up to speak, but this time he did. He was seated at the foot of the conference table while Blakemore was in the CEO’s seat at the opposite end. Dolan had sat there for forty years directing practically every move the company made. He wasn’t the CEO any more but still had power; the power of twenty per cent of the company stock, the largest bloc.
“I would just like to say that the bizarre situation we find ourselves in is unprecedented; a shark in a freshwater lake gentlemen, that has devalued our company. I know we had other difficulties before, but it’s what’s forced us to consider this offer. I don’t know how it’s survived into a second season, nor who is responsible for it, but whoever it is, he wants to destroy Norton Utilities.
“I for one will fight on to discover who’s behind this. But I don’t believe the shark can escape being caught or killed forever. Sooner or later it will make a mistake. When it does it’ll be eliminated and the value of our lakeshore property will be quickly restored.”
He paused for a moment waiting to see what impact his words had made. Some heads were nodding.
“Don’t you think Patriot believes that? Why else would they buy us now? So the value of the property can fall even more? Of course not. They realize they can make a tremendous profit, over thirty million dollars once value is restored.
“Consider this for a minute. Whoever is behind this shark is also buying up all lakeshore residential property for sale at rock bottom prices. When the shark is gone, and sooner or later it will be, he’ll resell them at a large profit. Do you want Patriot to profit on our land? No. Of course not.
“I say we hang in there gentlemen. We wait along with this Swiss numbered account holder who is going to make big money once he’s scared every one else off. I say we call his bluff. We stay in the game so in the end we can regain the value of our property. Meanwhile I can assure you that Sheriff Piccolo, the state of Connecticut and our senators are doing everything possible to find out who’s behind this. But in the meantime I will not support giving away our land and destroying our company.”
He paused for a moment to make sure he had their strict attention.
“And by the way,” he said slowly and forcefully, “did you ever think who’s behind all this might very well be the people that are trying to take us over….Patriot Energy.”
He sat down to silence in the room.
Finally Blakemore asked that a vote be taken. When the results were tallied, it was six against Pilgrim’s takeover bid and five for it. Dolan had won a reprieve for the moment.
As soon as the meeting was over, Dolan made a call to Sheriff Piccolo. After a few minutes into the conversation he saw that the sheriff really didn’t have any new approaches to finding the shark or who was responsible for it.
“My company’s survival depends now on your killing that thing and finding out who’s behind it,” he told Piccolo. “If no one else can handle the job I will, by whatever means necessary. Do you understand me sheriff.”
“I do,” Piccolo replied. “But I would suggest Mr. Dolan that you leave the investigation to us. And above all…don’t do anything outside the law. That would be very foolish.”
“It may be,” Dolan said, “but I may not have any other choice.”
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com