Sheriff Piccolo reluctantly agreed to meet with the Lake Authority executive committee at Marbury Town Hall. During the past month they had held weekly meetings while Piccolo kept them up to date on attempts to find the shark. Like him, they had become optimistic when the Navy agreed to help in the search. Now that they had failed, he knew the representatives from the five towns were pushing to reopen Arrowhead. There couldn’t possibly be a live shark in the lake.
Recent meetings were a far cry from the first impromptu one held when the shark was discovered. Now they were formal with the press invited at a seven clock time convenient to the working public.
Piccolo was seated at a dais with the five executive members. As he looked out over the packed room he recognized Tom Dowd and three other marina owners on the lake, Brian Kane owner of Lakeside Grill, and many other business owners from the five towns. The last time he had seen the room this full was when the annual budget was turned down last year. Even with the air conditioning going full blast the over filled room was stifling.
Lake Authority Executive Director Peter Larkin opened the meeting stating its purpose: next steps in the search for the shark given that attempts by Lake Authority patrols and the Navy had failed. He then called upon Piccolo to speak.
Piccolo had dreaded this moment. He didn’t have the slightest idea where the search should go and had resisted holding the meeting until a new direction could be found. However, he had been outvoted. Now he pulled the microphone closer as he began to do the only thing he could: fake it.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. “As you know we’ve been searching for the shark for over a month now without success. Besides our daily patrols and the help of the Navy on two occasions we still haven’t found it. You may have read in the papers, that the Navy has said there couldn’t possibly be a shark in the lake or they would have seen or heard it. But we still don’t have a dead shark as proof that the lake is free from danger. As far as further investigation is concerned, we’re now looking at other means of finding it. We plan to put out more chum to attract the shark and be ready with shotguns if it takes the bait. Other than that, we want to talk to Frank McClosky, the marine biologist in Florida, to see if he can suggest any other ways of finding it. In the meantime I would strongly urge that the lake remain closed.”
That brought an outburst from the audience with several people talking at once. Piccolo raised his hand in an attempt for silence. “I know that the lake being closed is a hardship for everyone,” he said over the crowd, “but personally I don’t think it’ll be safe until it’s proven the shark is dead.”
“And when will that be?” an unidentified man said in the audience followed by support from several others. He stood up.
“Mike Peterson,” he said, “from New Haddam. First of all Sheriff, you’ve put chum in the lake before and you didn’t attract a damn thing. Second of all, the Navy combed the lake from end to end with its high tech stuff and they say there isn’t any shark. Thirdly I read that the shark is probably a bull nose and couldn’t have lived a month in fresh water or so they think. So don’t we all think that maybe its dead? That it’s rotting on the bottom somewhere that nobody sees it. Like maybe we’re all wasting a summer of enjoying the lake while our real estate prices go down. That’s what I think anyway.”
There was a round of applause and voices of support from many in the audience.
Before Peterson could sit down, a woman stood up to speak.
Marge Novick from Brookdale,” she said. “Let’s face it Sheriff, if the Navy couldn’t find this thing it’s gotta be dead. I think a month without any sign of it is long enough. I’m sick and tired of being afraid of something that isn’t there anymore. I say open up the lake. The sooner the better.”
Again there was applause and a few whistles from the back of the room.
Piccolo turned to the five town representatives next to him and saw they weren’t going to be any help. He waved his hand for silence, didn’t get any, so he spoke louder into the microphone.
“How are you all going to feel if we open the lake and the shark happens to still be in it? Suppose it maims or kills somebody. Do you want to take that responsibility? I sure don’t. I want to see that thing with a bullet in it hanging on a hook somewhere. Then I’ll be satisfied to let my two kids back in.” Piccolo thought for a moment and then added. “In fact I’d like to know how many of you would let your kids go into the lake tomorrow if we opened it. C’mon, raise your hands, how many would?”
People in the audience looked around to see how many hands were up. There were a few and that prompted a few more, but less than half were raised
“Well I guess that says it,” Piccolo said happy with the response. He was about to press on with keeping the lake closed, but Ann Mosley, the Sherman town representative on the board interrupted.
“I want to add my support to what Sheriff Piccolo has said,” Mosley began. “I have two grandchildren visiting me this summer and they’re dying to go in the lake. Will I let them? No way. Not until I know that thing is dead.”
An elderly man stood up sitting in the front row.
“I’ll second that, but at the same time more has to be done to find and kill the shark. I agree the lake shouldn’t be open yet, but it can’t stay closed forever either. I don’t hear any suggestions from the sheriff except the same old stuff.”
“What about trying to find out how the thing got in here anyway,” another man said. “According to the papers there’s no way it could have gotten into the lake unless somebody put it in. Who’s looking into that?”
“We haven’t found anybody with any motive yet,” Piccolo said, although he knew more time would have to be spent in that area. Too much of it was being used looking for the shark instead of who was responsible for it.
There were more suggestions about how the sheriff could go about that, some of them good ones. Piccolo promised himself he would devote more time with the motive part of the investigation.
Sally Benson arrived late at the meeting and stood quietly at the rear of the room. She paid particular attention to those speaking about who was responsible for the shark rather than the search to find it. Sooner or later the sheriff would start investigating who was benefiting from all this. She and Beth were certainly on that list, but Union Suisse in Switzerland and the person behind the numbered account were at the top of it.
When the meeting ended, the Lake Authority voted by a narrow margin to keep the lake closed. There would be more money to be made by her and at least for now nobody would get hurt in the lake.
Deep down she hoped the thing was dead, then there wasn’t any danger at all. She would make money just from the threat of it. Like someone had said, the thing was probably rotting on the bottom of the lake.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are
Kill The Author, Mr Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com