The shark was at the southern end of the lake. The more populated end. Where lakeshore houses started at seven hundred thousand and had docks in four feet of water. Here it could get closer in to prey on people sitting with their feet dangling in the water.
It roamed the shoreline looking for movement. Its sonar senses picked up a short blip. It was a small fish up ahead breaking the surface for food.
The water was very calm now, the wind having subsided from earlier in the morning. The shark was able to hear movement over greater distances as it sped down the lake. The sun had settled behind the hills so glare was lessened, increasing its already keen vision. Conditions were ideal for attacking human prey.
A sound. A steady hum in the water off to the right. The shark moved to the surface and scanned the horizon. A boat. Moving at high speed that would pass about fifty yards away. It quickly submerged, but only to a depth of two feet. Now it heard a secondary sound, different from the boat. There was something behind it moving at the same speed. But no. Now there was a loud whooshing sound underwater and then quick staccato sounds. The boat had sped away, but there was still something in the water.
Fourteen-year-old Nick Jansen cut over the wake of his father’s boat on one slalom ski. He loved the feel of the wake lifting him off the water and sending him through the air to make a perfect landing on the other side. Then he would shift his weight the opposite way into a sharp turn sending spray shooting out from under his skis. Man, it was just like the pictures in the water skiing magazines. Oh was he good.
But now dad, behind the wheel of a Cobalt 18 powered by a one hundred and fifty horsepower inboard, was challenging him. And his brother Brian was egging him on. Dad’s turns became sharper at higher speeds. Nick kept up with him jumping the wake and getting whipped around the turns at nearly forty miles an hour. It was like being on one of those octopus rides at the carnival where you got spun around like crazy. Man, it was cool.
Nick’s dad went into the next turn. This was the sharpest one of all. Nick flew over the wake but then his father made a mistake. Instead of staying in the turn until Nick fully cleared the wake, he started another turn in the opposite direction. It immediately slackened the towrope in Nick’s hand. He tried raising it over his head to take up the slack, but couldn’t compensate enough. There was a sharp tug on the rope throwing him off balance, tumbling into the water.
Just a split second before it happened, Brian the spotter, had looked to his father knowing he had turned too sharply. By the time he looked back and saw his brother in the water, they had gone another hundred yards from where they normally would have begun to circle back to Nick.
The shark moved toward the secondary sound now stationary in the water. Below the surface the sound was almost rhythmic. Ahead were arms and dangling feet. Unmistakably human arms and feet. There was no need to check for danger nearby. It went straight in for the kill.
Nick heard a splashing sound and turned to see a dorsal fin heading right for him. Behind it he saw the glistening gray skin of a shark. It hit his legs with a force that sent him reeling underwater followed by a searing pain in his left arm. He thought it was being ripped from his body. His muffled underwater screams sent bubbles to the surface as he was spun around. The shark in its frenzy heard the loud sound of the boat as it returned for Nick. It released his arm, as the boat came to a stop. The shark backed away desperately trying to resist the smell of blood all around him. But its safety came first. It waited.
Nick was screaming and waving one arm frantically when his father and Brian got to him. “A shark,” he screamed. “A shark got my arm.” He had managed to get the good arm over the ski floating next to him, but all the strength was being sapped from his body. “Help me,” he kept saying, “help me.”
The incongruity of a shark being in fresh water passed through Dave Jansen’s mind, but he was intent on saving his son. He and Brian reached over the transom and pulled Nick head first onto the boarding steps. His mangled arm was bleeding heavily and was nearly shredded at the elbow. While they both looked in horror, they realized Nick’s legs were still in the water. “Pull him in quick!” Dave yelled to Brian.
Just as they did, the shark came up out of the water and lunged for Nick’s legs. Its eyes were wide behind its bull nosed snout and its moist teeth caught the sunlight. The mouth clamped shut just missing Nick’s legs as he was pulled into the boat.
Dave ran forward and put the engine in gear. Still dragging the towrope, he sped toward Dowd’s Marina just a quarter mile away.
Nick lay on the floor writhing in pain. Not knowing what else to do, Brian wrapped a towel around his brother’s arm which became bloody in seconds.
As they pulled into Dowd’s outer docks, Dave got nine-one-one on his cell phone. The Brookdale dispatcher answered. Sheriff Piccolo’s office was monitoring the frequency.
Meanwhile the emergency meeting with the Arrowhead Lake Authority called by Sheriff Piccolo and Tillitson was being held in the town hall. The room was normally used for finance meetings and had a long table with two microphones on it, metal folding chairs and a videotape camera off to one side that recorded meetings for the local cable channel. This meeting was far less formal. The six Authority members along with Piccolo and Tillitson, grabbed some chairs and sat in a semi circle.
The meeting was not going well. The Authority chairman Peter Larkin was agreeing to close the lake pending a full investigation, but the town board members couldn’t accept the possibility of a shark being in Arrowhead.
Earl Lenker the New Haddam representative, was the most outspoken. “God Almighty sheriff, you want us to believe we got a shark in our lake,” he said looking toward the other representatives. “Well I’ll tell you I’ve heard big fish stories, but none as big as that.” He got a few chuckles and then continued. “Who the hell is going to believe it anyway? People will still go into the lake even if we close it. Nobody is going to believe this shark story. Hell, I don’t believe it. It’s not possible.”
“I gotta go with Earl on this one,” John Berger, the New Redding representative said. “Do you realize how much the lake supports the economy of the five towns? I’ll tell you, you better be damn sure you got a shark in there before you send lakeshore property and loss of taxes into a tailspin we’ll never recover from.”
“Our first priority is to protect our citizen’s safety,” Piccolo countered. “Besides we can’t do a full blown investigation unless the lake is closed.”
“Well you better find a way to do it,” Lenker said, “ because you don’t have enough to go on now.”
Piccolo’s cell phone rang. He had cancelled all incoming calls except from his wife or his office. The duty dispatcher also had orders not to disturb him unless nine-one-one reported an emergency. The call was from his office.
“You’ll have to excuse me, but I have to take this,” he said dreading what he might hear.
While Piccolo took the call on the far side of the room, Tillitson and the group continued the meeting keeping their voices low. But their conversation began to wane when they saw the expression on the sheriff’s face.
Piccolo hung up and walked back to the group. He took a deep breath and said, “that was my dispatcher. He monitored a nine-one-one call from Dowds’ Marina. A fourteen year old boy waterskiing with his father and brother almost lost his arm and leg to a shark. And it definitely was a shark. It came up out of the water and all three of them clearly saw it.
“We have a shark in our lake gentlemen. Now what are we going to do about it?”
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt: Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com.