FBI Director Fritch was having problems.
Papers had been filed in Federal District Court in New Haven for a search warrant and wiretapping against the person on their Restricted Access list suspected of criminal activity on Arrowhead Lake. The documents listed evidence gathered mainly from Piccolo which agents Auletta and Rosen had deemed inconclusive at the time. Well the District Court was saying the same thing. There was not enough evidence linking the person to the shark on the lake to justify a search and wiretapping.
The FBI case would have been stronger if they had been able to prove their suspect was also the holder of the numbered account used to buy real estate on Arrowhead. But the Swiss had denied the FBI information citing lack of evidence. They had however, agreed to reveal the account holder’s identity if the circuit court granted them permission to pursue their case. Fritch had argued vehemently with the Swiss Banking Commissioner. “This is a Catch 22,” he had said. “How do you expect us to prevail with the circuit court if you withhold key evidence?”
“We do not have enough evidence to indicate criminal involvement in this matter,” the Swiss Commissioner told him in the politest terms. “The goddamned Swiss,” Fritch thought after the call had ended, “so polite and proper. And so non-commital.”
This would delay him in eliminating the shark in Arrowhead, but it wasn’t a “game breaker” as he used to tell his agents when things went wrong. There were other ways of getting the evidence he needed. They would just take a little more time. He was still way ahead of the local sheriff who Senator Pierce had told him was not giving up the case.
Unfortunately he wasn’t aware that Piccolo was about to get the very evidence the FBI needed.
As soon as Piccolo and Tillitson returned from the Hanrahan’s they went straight into the “shark’s den.” Piccolo grabbed a magnifying glass from a drawer and put it over one of the pictures of the shark attacking “Harold” taken by Ed Wilson.” The shark’s head was out of the water and its mouth open about to bite into the stuffed figure. Piccolo moved the magnifying glass across the shark’s head as Tillitson watched over his shoulder.
When Piccolo got to the dorsal fin, he pulled the glass back to get greater magnification. And there just behind the fin, well hidden from a frontal view, he saw it. There was a thin line coming out of the shark’s skin that followed the curve of the fin. A tiny ball was at the top of it. It was an antenna.
“Holy shit,” Tillitson said. “The goddamn thing isn’t real.”
Piccolo didn’t reply. He scanned the other pictures that Wilson had taken, but none of the views showed the well hidden antenna. He took the picture down from the wall and put it on the table. He and Tillitson sat next to it still staring at the image.
“Remote controlled. I don’t believe it,” Tillitson said shaking his head. “I can’t believe it.”
“Yeah but a lot of things are beginning to make sense now aren’t they,” Piccolo replied. “Sometimes I felt the shark had a mind of its own, it was so clever. Like how did it escape the Orion plane when it searched the whole lake? Did it read the papers and know the plane was coming?”
“And it did,” Tillitson said now laughing. “The newspapers advertised the Orion coming days before it got here.”
“Same with the sub Hunter Two. All over the papers. So whoever was operating this thing had plenty of time to hide it.” Piccolo said. This was like the final pieces of a puzzle coming together for both of them.
“So he hid it in a boathouse or something where sonar under the water couldn’t find it.” Tillitson said.
“Same for the sub,” Piccolo said excitedly. “The thing was hidden that day too.”
“It’s one hell of a sophisticated mother,” Tillitson said pointing to the picture. “It’s got to have remote cameras in it, complicated electronics that are all radio controlled, and made of materials that look very realistic.”
“Remember Pazman and Marione both said the shark felt rubbery? It’s probably made out of a rubber like material.”
Tillitson was still shaking his head. “Just think what went into this thing to make it swim through the water and act like a shark. It had to be powered electrically with the movements of the real thing. And controlled from a distance away. The person behind this was very clever.”
“Clever enough for him to be on the Fed’s Restricted Access list,” Piccolo said immediately.
“Yeah and why would that be?” Tillitson said leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head.
“Because he’s an expert in remote controlled objects,” Piccolo said. “Name some.”
“Well there’s all kinds of laser guided stuff. Missiles, smart bombs, even our own bomb disposal robot, torpedoes, laser guided artillery, a whole bunch of things used by the military.”
“But what’s the most sophisticated of all those?” Piccolo asked.
Tillitson shrugged. “I don’t know. There all pretty sophisticated.”
“Right,” Piccolo said. “And they were controlled from hundreds of miles away by satellite.”
“Had to be heavy duty frequencies used to fly them,” Tillitson said.
“Enough to overpower the frequency Hanrahan was using and knock his plane out of the sky. But his signal must have been strong enough to hinder whoever was operating the shark. That’s why he was more interested in destroying the plane than going after Hanrahan.”
Piccolo turned his attention to the large map of Arrowhead on the wall. “But the guy operating the shark has to be doing it from somewhere right on the lake,” Piccolo said getting up from his chair.
“Why do you say that?” Tillitson asked.
“Because he has to be close enough to pick his victims. He has to be where he can know they’re out there.”
Piccolo walked up to the map. Every place where a victim had been attacked was marked by a red pushpin with his name written underneath.
“Pazman, the first victim was attacked in Puckett Cove. But Pazman launched his boat from Sunset Cove over here,” Piccolo said, tracing the route from one cove to the other, a distance of about four miles. “The second victim Nick Jansen was waterskiing here, between Arrowhead Shores and Arrowhead Isle, but the boat came out of Echo Bay. Then we closed the lake. That must have made it harder to find victims. But Hal Evers and Jerry Wright went out anyway and were attacked here on Stoney point, but they launched their boat again from Sunset Cove.” Again he traced the route from one point to the other. “My son was almost attacked here by Rock Island, Harold over here by Ed Wilson’s store. Jerry Nevins by Bottoms Up. Now what’s the common denominator as far as the routes taken by the victims?”
“Most of them traveled between Arrowhead Shores and Pine Island on the way to where they were attacked,” Tillitson replied.
“So our guy had to be somewhere between Sunset Cove and the middle of the lake,” Piccolo said drawing an imaginary line with his hand between the two points.
“That’s a lot of lake, Tillitson said, “with a bunch of lakeshore houses on it. Must be close to three hundred. How the hell are we going to check them all out?”
“And we need a warrant to do it. The same warrant that the Feds weren’t able to get,” Piccolo said staring at the map. “What both of us need is proof that a signal is coming from one of those hundreds of houses. Then we’ll go in and get our guy.”
“But…” Tillitson said drawing out the word, “the Feds know who the guy is and where he lives, so they must be watching him very carefully.”
“Exactly. So the first thing we do is start patrolling the lakeshore streets from Sunset Cove up to Arrowhead Shores. We watch them very carefully looking for signs of a transmitter and the Feds themselves.”
Piccolo sat back down next to Tillitson.
“We have to get him before the Feds do,” he said. “because if we don’t he’s going to get away with what he’s done to seven people.”
“Eight,” Tillitson corrected.
“Yeah eight,” Piccolo replied. “I wasn’t counting Mark as a real victim. He wasn’t bitten but he’s still suffering. Just in a different way.”
“There’s one other thing,” Piccolo said looking toward the closed door. “The fact that the shark isn’t real has to stay in this room. If it gets out the press will be on it like a pack of wolves. It’ll also lessen our chances of getting to Tom Puckett aka whoever he is now, before the Feds do. If this guy’s going to do time, we’ve got to get him first.”
“It’ll mean keeping all the troops out of the loop. That’s going to be tough.”
“I know but it’s necessary,” Piccolo said reluctantly. ‘They’ll still be going out on lake patrols looking for the real thing, but you know what? This mechanical monster is just as dangerous.”
Connecticut Attorney General Roehrig hung up the phone in his office. The call had been from a friend who clerked for Federal District judge Robert Ferrell. He told Roehrig that the court had denied the FBI’s request to a wire tap and search warrant. Although Roehrig was against Piccolo pursuing a case that now belonged to the Feds, he knew it would be welcome news to him. He called Piccolo’s office and found him just as he came out of the “shark’s den” with Tillitson. Piccolo thanked him for the information. It bought him some time in his race against the Feds.
Jim Dolan walked out of Norton Utilities headquarters in downtown Marbury a defeated man. The Norton board of directors had voted yesterday to accept a takeover bid from Patriot Power and Electric at a dollar ninety a share. Today was his last day at the office. He had lost the company he had built and over twelve million dollars in stock along with it.
The house on the lake he had created from farmland would have to be sold. Good. He couldn’t stand to look at the lake anymore. The shark in its waters had won. Correction: whoever was responsible for it had won.
He hadn’t heard from Piccolo since their last meeting when he told him about the volunteer firemen ratting on him. After all he had done for them. That fire department never would have survived without his backing. And they never would have gotten the thousands they got for their land if Puckett hadn’t been removed. But the stupid bastards didn’t have to wait until his barn burned to the ground before they showed up. They were only supposed to scare him, not kill him.
Now he wondered what more Piccolo had found out. Was Puckett’s kid behind the shark? He found it hard to believe. How had he gotten the shark into the lake and how had he gotten the millions it would have taken to buy up all the lakeshore property to devalue Norton?
He probably would never know. What concerned him more was whether or not Piccolo would charge him with Puckett’s murder.
A Mercedes SUV pulled up to a traffic light in downtown Marbury. The driver gripped the wheel tighter as he looked across the street to his left. The man he had hated since he was thirteen was coming out of Norton Utilities headquarters.
His heart began to beat faster as Dolan walked slowly down the street, his body stooped, shoulders sagging. He looked older than his pictures in the newspaper. Good. He hoped he had contributed to every gray hair in Dolan’s head, every strain on his heart, every aging cell in his body.
But now Dolan was beaten. Beaten by him. Ever since he had seen his father lowered into the ground, he had vowed for revenge and now it was his. But he had sacrificed much and worked hard to achieve it. It had meant becoming another person, changing his identity in Canada then returning to the United States to build a company from scratch. That company had grown and the financial rewards from it had made him a multi millionaire. But more importantly the skills he had developed in the field of remote control electronics had enabled him to create a shark, realistic in every detail, guided by radio wave technology he personally developed for the military.
Thirty-five years ago his father, lying on the ground while their barn burned had told him, “we Pucketts get even.” He had promised him he would. Now his revenge was complete. He really didn’t care what the consequences were, but felt they would be minimal. He was too important to the government. They weren’t dealing with just another CEO of one of their top secret suppliers. They were dealing with the man who had literally invented the use of remote technology to create one of their most important weapons. Not just one for today, but one that represented the future of remote aircraft.
Dolan stopped at the intersection waiting for the crossing signal. He looked almost directly at a man behind the tinted glass of an SUV but couldn’t see who it was.
The man inside smiled. He was the one Dolan suspected had brought about his downfall, but Dolan would never know for sure. The shark he had created had done it. Inside the lake Dolan had created.
His father would have loved it.
Piccolo turned into Arrowhead Shores on his way home after another long day. He and Tillitson had been going up and down every lakeshore street from Sunset Cove up to the Shores taking note of any tall antenna mounted on rooftops or garages that might be sending a signal to the shark. Satellite dishes were also noted. There were a number of those, as many people had converted to satellite tv since cable costs had risen. So far twenty radio antennas had been seen along with twenty-three satellite dishes.
What frustrated Piccolo was that the FBI already knew which house was sending the signal. The irony was they didn’t have any evidence that made a connection to the shark. He on the other hand, had the connection to the shark (his photograph of the antenna on the shark’s dorsal fin) but didn’t know who the hell was sending the signal.
But somewhere, somewhere in one of these innocent looking lakeshore homes, was Tom Puckett, now using another name, controlling a shark that had maimed six people.
Ann had encouraged him to allow the government to settle the whole thing. She had suggested he hand over the picture of the shark showing the antenna on its back, along with all the evidence needed to tie Puckett to it. “Then let them do what they want with him,” she had said. “This is another example of your taking on more than you’re responsible for.”
He had made his argument that Puckett had to pay for what he had done. That night Mark had woken up again shaking from another nightmare about the shark attacking him. She had gone to him and calmed him down. When she returned to their bedroom she was shaking. “You’re right,” she said getting into bed, “that guy’s got to pay.”
Piccolo drove up North Lakeshore Drive passing number eighty-two. It was one of the larger lakeshore homes on the street. There was a pole alongside the garage with a long antenna mounted on it. He had seen it yesterday. The name on the mailbox was Pasternak. A check through the FCC database had confirmed a Mr. George Pasternak as a licensed ham radio operator; call letters WPKKR, 65 megahertz.
The owners on the nineteen other radio antennas had checked out also. One hadn’t at first since a previous owner had left the antenna after moving. An eighty year old woman lived in the house now for over ten years.
As Piccolo drove by he realized that just because someone had checked out as a ham operator didn’t necessarily mean he still wasn’t using the antenna to send out a remote signal. According to expert information that was possible. It also was possible to be sending the signal from a dish. The same expert had also said that unless he was able to eliminate possibilities down to one or two, he would never be able to monitor them for a signal.
Piccolo continued to drive down the street looking for the next number identified as a possible suspect. But he had missed something about eighty-two North Lakeshore. Fifty yards from it was an unmarked car parked across the street from the house. An FBI agent sat inside waiting for the owner to return. Once he did, a van would be summoned to monitor the antenna on his house.
If a signal of eighty-three megaherz was recorded, the agent had a direct line to FBI headquarters in Washington open to him. What concerned the agent was the presence of a sheriff’s vehicle surveying the street earlier in the day followed by a second one just now. His instructions were to avoid them, but were they suspicious of a radio signal coming from somewhere on the lake? If so, the Director Fritch needed to know about it.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt include
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author, and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com