The first thing Piccolo did the following morning was have a conversation with Roy Tillitson. He wanted to officially tell someone that the shark had reappeared and his son had seen it. The boy’s names were omitted from his official report but Piccolo told Tillitson who they were. They also agreed to waive interviewing the other boys since Piccolo felt they wouldn’t have anything to add to Mark’s story and it would jeopardize keeping their identities secret.
After their meeting, Piccolo called Peter Larkin, Lake Authority chairman and told him they had made the right decision to keep the lake closed because the shark had been sighted and had tried to attack three boys. Larkin urged him to publicize the sighting to keep people who had thought the shark dead out of the lake.
Piccolo then called NBC Channel Four in New York who had covered the story extensively from the very beginning. He was surprised to hear they would only send a reporter, but not a film crew. The same was true for the local media. Interest was waning with just reportings of the shark. People really weren’t interested unless someone was attacked or that it had been killed. Anything less wasn’t headline news.
That afternoon Piccolo briefed the small contingent of press gathered and told them of the incident. As expected they pressed for the boy’s names but they weren’t given. When the press conference ended Piccolo felt he had accomplished his goal; to let people know the shark was still in the lake and defying the law by going into it was extremely dangerous.
He met again with Tillitson, this time to brainstorm who was responsible for the shark. They met in the department’s conference room that was totally devoted to the investigation. There was a large map of the lake on one wall pinpointing where the attacks had taken place, areas tracked by the Navy Orion and Sea Hunt One, (which was practically the whole lake) and the designated boat patrol routes. Manila folders on the conference table had hospital reports on all the victims and photographs of their injuries. The victim’s statements were also included.
“First of all are we sure that the shark was put in?” Tillitson asked.
“I keep asking myself that too, Roy,” Piccolo said looking at the map, “but there’s no way it could have gotten in by itself. Izzo in Norton’s generating plant convinced me of that. There’s no way.”
“And we know it wasn’t transported in,” Tillitson said shaking his head.
“Right and McClosky in Florida couldn’t guarantee that a Bull Nose would survive even if it got here. And we’re talking over three months now.”
“Well the damn thing got in somehow so what we’re saying is we’ve given up on how, and should look for who could be behind it.”
“Yeah, I think that’s what we have to do now,” Piccolo didn’t even try to hide a sigh of frustration that punctuated his words.
“Any thoughts?” Tillitson asked.
“Not really, except what you said weeks ago. That whoever was behind this had a lot of money. That led me to Dolan.”
“Because he could have driven prices down to expand Norton’s lakeshore holdings. But he can’t borrow money anywhere to take advantage of those prices. So the value of what the company owns is going down the tubes with everything else on the lake.”
Tillitson thought for a moment and then said. “So without him as a suspect, we don’t have anything, except…..”
“Except that Dolan and Norton now have lost more money than anybody on the lake. Their thousand acres is worth half as much and their stock is at what now?”
“Down from what? Like seventy-eight, right?”
Piccolo saw now where Roy was headed. He had the same thought a week ago, and it was reinforced from his meeting with Sally Benson. “So you’re saying that Dolan and Norton are the victims in all this. Somebody either wants to bring down Norton Utilities or Dolan personally.”
“Well we know that the numbered account in Switzerland refuses to buy Norton’s undeveloped property,” Piccolo said. (He had reported everything from the Benson meeting to Tillitson yesterday when he got back.) “So yeah, whoever this person is, he could be trying to bring down Norton.”
Tillitson considered the notion for a moment then asked, “But what about all the other lakeshore owners that are suffering financially?”
“Innocent bystanders,” Piccolo replied. “Collateral damage as a result of going after the real target.
“And all the people severely injured and almost killed by the shark?”
“Same thing,” Piccolo said quickly. “This perp, whoever he is, needed to create a scare. Needed to terrify people to drive real estate prices down. The people who were attacked are incidental. The perp has nothing against them.”
“So what we need now is to find out who this guy is hiding behind a numbered account,” Tillitson said, his frustration obvious. “But we’re a dog chasing its tail because we can’t do that unless we can tie him to a criminal act. Christ we don’t know how the act is even being committed. We can’t tie him to the shark.”
“That’s right, we can’t. So the next best thing is to search for motive assuming that Norton is the intended victim,” Piccolo said opening up a yellow lined pad. “Maybe motive will lead us to a suspect.”
“Okay, how about a disgruntled Norton employee?” Tillitson said pushing his chair back to put his feet up on the conference table.
“Possibly,” Piccolo said writing it down, “But someone with money. We know getting the shark in the lake was an expensive proposition. Also he’s got to have millions to buy up the lake fronts. Don’t forget, this guy is not only maiming people, he plans to make millions off it and bring down Norton at the same time.”
“Well then thinking in the rich category,” Tillitson said fiddling with an elastic band left on the conference table, “how about a competitor of Dolan’s? Some guy he stepped over to either get business or maybe even permits to operate in new areas.”
“Could be,” Piccolo said. “A competitor would have the money, but it would be a bizarre way of competing or getting even for something Dolan did.”
“I know,” Tillitson replied. “The guys got to say, screw you I’m going to put a shark in the lake to drive the value of your land down and maim a few innocent people in the process.”
“There’s not enough logic or passion involving Dolan’s competitors,” Piccolo concluded. “Whoever this rich guy is has to hate the lake enough to turn it from a place of enjoyment into a place where terrible things happen to people.”
Tillitson nodded in agreement, but didn’t have another suggestion. He did however have a question. “Exactly how much do we know about Bill Dolan except that he was an ex CEO at Norton, is a major stockholder and still has a lot to say about the place?”
Piccolo thought back over the years he had been growing up in Marbury. Dolan’s name had always been in the papers.
“First of all, he was the one who came up with creating Arrowhead,” Piccolo said.
“He had the vision of flooding the valley to create a lake and get power from it at the same time. It turned Norton from a small power company into a giant and Connecticut ended up with a beautiful lake.”
“So what was there before the lake was created?” Tillitson asked.
“Farmland. Five thousand acres of it that Dolan and Norton bought up. My dad told me once he knew a few of the farmers who sold their land to them. He said at a fair price.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Nineteen sixty seven. It took them two years to build the three dams, tear down every building and tall tree in the valley and then flood it.”
“The water came from the Pawcatuck?”
“Yeah, up through that aqueduct pipe at Norton’s generating plant.”
“So the lake’s been here for forty five years and now it’s got a shark in it,” was all Tillitson could say. “That still leaves us nowhere.”
“Except if we can make a logical assumption that Dolan and Norton are the intended victims, we’ve made some headway.”
“I think we can,” Tillitson said.
“Then we’ve got to talk to Dolan. He came knocking on my door weeks ago, now it’s our turn. He’s a proud guy Roy. He’s going to have a hard time accepting that someone is out to get him.”
“But the thought must have crossed his mind.”
“Yeah but he couldn’t admit to it.”
Piccolo and Tillitson talked for almost another hour, drawing up questions to ask Dolan. It was decided they both would meet with him. Up until now Roy had practically run the department while Piccolo devoted almost all his time to this case. But now he realized that the every day business of the office would have to suffer a little. Roy’s help was needed.
Both men left their meeting feeling discouraged. Identifying the victim had always been the easy part of any case. Nine out of ten times the victim was there when you arrived at the crime scene. But the people bloodied from a shark in this case weren’t the victims. And the shark wasn’t just a shark but a weapon, used by someone who was the real perpetrator.
When Piccolo got back to his office and closed the door, he had another thought. A scary one. There wasn’t any intended victim at all. There wasn’t any perpetrator behind the shark. The shark was a phenomenon unto itself. It was another mysterious Loch Ness monster that they would never find. How long had they been looking for that elusive “thing in Scotland?” Over forty years.
About the same time since Arrowhead Lake had been created.
Jimmy “Jumper” Phelps was an eighty-four year old resident of Lakeview Nursing Home in Marbury. Jimmy had been a star running back for Marbury High in 1937 and ’38 when they won the Connecticut State championship two years in a row. He gained over a thousand yards rushing both years with an unusual style. Rather than go around the defense he often jumped right over them, not just down at the goal line where it was expected, but anywhere on the field. “Jump Jimmy..jump,” the fans would yell from the stands whenever he ran, and he often obliged them.
“Jumper” remained a hometown hero for many years after he left high school although he never went on to college. It seems there were even better players than ole Jumper to award scholarships to. Besides his family didn’t have the money and he was needed to work on the farm. And that’s what he did for thirty years right along side his father. When he wasn’t working he was active in the community rising to lieutenant in the volunteer fire department and raising his two boys.
When his dad died, Jumper took the farm over completely until he finally sold the land to Norton Utilities in 1967. They were buying up everything at three hundred an acre to create their new lake and Jumper was first in line. He couldn’t remember ever seeing so much money at one time when he turned over his eighty acres. But now he was an old man who had outlived just about all his teammates and friends but couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast.
Three times a week Jumper’s great grandson came to visit him at the nursing home. Even though the Altzheimer’s unit was depressing as hell, fourteen year old Jamie Phelps IV came to visit and read the newspaper to Jumper. And that’s what he wanted to be called. Not Jimmy, not great grand dad, not papa, but Jumper. That was his identity, what made him unique all these years, at least up until the time he lost most of his memory along with a stroke. Now he didn’t know what people were calling him and sometimes didn’t even know who the hell they were.
But he remembered young Jamie most of the time. In his somewhat lucid moments he would listen to the young sandy haired boy read from the sports page of the Marbury Register about the high school football team’s miserable season. He would follow along best he could with what the boy read. “They’re God awful,” he’d say, and then in the next breath ask, “what’s the name of that team again?”
Today Jamie had news of a new quarterback transferring to Marbury for the following season. He was from Cheshire which had a winning record the last three years.
“Maybe with this guy they’ll start winning,” Jamie said excitedly.
“Who won?” Jumper asked. His eyes had that glazed over look and he stared off at some spot on the wall to the right of Jamie. The boy knew this wasn’t a good day.
“Nobody won. They’re talking about next season.”
“I was good in that game, wasn’t I. Scored twice.”
“Yeah you were good. Won the game for us,” Jamie said forcing a smile.
“What else ya got in that paper?” Jumper asked. He often asked Jamie to read something other than sports. Not that it made any difference. He didn’t understand much of it anyway.
Jamie looked up to see if he was dozing off. But Jumper sat in the chair beside his bed with an oxygen tube running from a cannister behind him. He wore sweatpants and a short sleeved shirt that showed thin forearms with a network of bulging blue veins running through them.
“There’s another article about that shark in Arrowhead,” Jamie said turning through the paper.
“That shark they can’t find. You remember. I read to you how they saw it in the lake again,” Jamie said, trying to jog his memory.
“Yeah, yeah, that one,” Jumper said fidgeting with the oxygen tube.
“They’re talking about how people are still losing money selling their houses, but the biggest loser is that utility company Norton that owns a lot of land on the lake.”
“I owned land where that lake is,” Jumper said. Mention of the lake sometimes succeeded in getting through the maze of malfunctioning connections that ran through his brain.
Jamie scanned the article looking for the gist of it. “It says that this guy Dolan, he’s the head of the company and is losing a lot of his own money.”
“That bastard Dolan,” Jumper said still staring at the same spot on the wall. “Mean sonofabitch. He was re…responsible you know. It wasn’t all supposed to happen…to happen like that.”
Jamie could see that the mention of this guy Dolan had gotten to Jumper. He didn’t want to upset him further, but at the same time was curious.
“What about Dolan? Did you know him Jumper?”
“We all knew…all knew him,” Jumper said taking deep breaths through his nose to get more oxygen. “Greedy bastard…it was…it was all his fault.”
“It wasn’t the goddamn lightning,” Jumper said. The veins in his neck thickened and his hand whipped across his body almost ripping the oxygen tube from his nose. He gasped for air. “He got us all riled up. And it got out of hand. Out of hand….goddammit!”
“The whole thing!” Jumper’s feet were moving up and down now, even though he was seated in a chair. “The whole damned thing broke down right in front of me.” His hands jabbed at the air. “No blocking, guys comin’ at me. Everyone’s screaming, ‘jump,’ I got nowhere to jump and I get hit. Hit hard.” Jumper slumped forward in his chair catching his breath. With his head down, his hands slapped at his knees. “We lost the game. Lost it! Wasn’t my fault. It was that goddamn Dolan. God damn him.”
Jamie put the paper aside and reached over to his great grandfather. “It’s all right,” he said softly. “None of it was your fault. You did your best.”
“No…no.. I could have…could have stopped them,” Jumper mumbled, his head still down. His voice grew softer and he struggled to look up at Jamie. “Dolan’s fault. Not mine.” His head went back down to his chest and he slumped in the chair. Jamie thought he might have had another stroke, but his heavy breathing could still be heard. He was sleeping.
For the next few minutes Jamie read and reread the newspaper article trying to figure out what had gotten Jumper so upset with James Dolan. What was Dolan’s fault? The article said nothing about him doing anything wrong. He had just bought land from farmers in Candlewood Valley to create Arrowhead Lake. He knew his great grandfather had probably been one of them.
Jamie put the paper down, took a blanket from the bed and put it over Jumper who was sleeping soundly. Whatever this Dolan had done was locked inside his mind with fragmented bits of information disconnected from each other by Alzheimers disease.
He would be careful not to mention this Dolan’s name again. It only agitated his great grandfather.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com