Jerry Nevins banked his seaplane to take a final look at East Bay on Arrowhead Lake. He was one of six seaplane owners with permits to land during daylight hours. It was a lot easier now that the lake was free of boat traffic because of the shark scare. In the past he would have to wait for boats to get out of the way, now he had plenty of open water.
With the lake clear below him, he lowered the flaps and reduced power heading into the wind. Slowly the plane skimmed the surface of the water, the pontoons settling in gently to reduce his speed. When his forward motion stopped, he throttled up to taxi over to his dock that was right next to the restaurant Bottoms Up’s dock spaces. As usual there were no boats in them and just a few customers on the terrace.
Jerry stopped the plane just forward of his private dock. The wind would drive it backward while he got out of the cockpit and climbed onto the left pontoon. By then the plane would be alongside the dock and he would simply step onto it and tie up. He had done it hundreds of times.
But this time he misjudged the wind. It gusted and drove the plane away from the dock. Jerry stretched out and tried to grab it just as the wind carried the plane sideways. He fell into the water.
The shark had followed the plane as it taxied across Echo Bay thinking it was a motor boat. There were humans in boats. Human flesh and blood.
It followed the whirring sound to the dock. The engine stopped and it saw pontoons bobbing overhead.
Suddenly there was a splash and a man’s arms and legs were dangling above him. It reacted quickly. With a thrust of its tail fin it lunged forward between the right pontoon and the dock. Its teeth bit into flesh and it tasted blood.
The man struggled, his free leg kicking violently. The shark heard his screams muffled by the swirling water.
It clamped down again on the leg as the man beat its head and body. The blows were hardly felt. It wanted more blood, but now the plane was drifting back toward the dock. After one more violent thrust and bite of its sharp teeth, it released the man and swam under the plane toward open water.
Jerry felt the shark let go but couldn’t stop screaming. He couldn’t feel his left leg and thought the shark had bitten it off.
“Help me. Somebody please help!”
He held on to the dock for dear life. He was getting so weak. If nobody heard him he would lose his grip and drown.
“Help me please!”
“Did you hear that?”
Ellen Tracey turned away from her Michelob. Sitting on Bottoms Up’s outdoor patio she and her husband had watched the plane land on the water and taxi toward them. They both thought it pretty neat, but had lost their interest when the plane came up to the dock and pilot stepped out to tie it up.
But now she saw he was in the water screaming.
“Alan, the pilot’s in the water and he’s in trouble.”
Alan Tracey saw him thrashing. So did Brian Kane owner of Bottoms Up. The two of them raced along the restaurant’s docks to Jerry. Together they began to pull him up.
As soon as they got him on the dock Jerry passed out. His right leg was a mangled mess from the knee down and bleeding heavily. Rob grabbed his cellphone and called 911 immediately. The Brookdale dispatcher sent an ambulance that arrived in just a few minutes. By then Jerry had gone into shock, but was stabilized on the way to Marbury Hospital.
Dr. Carl Morton was the orthopedist on duty, the same doctor who had treated Bill Pazman. As soon as he examined Jerry he knew his wound was severe and that his leg was broken. X-rays verified it. It took Morton over four hours of surgery to set the leg using a titanium sleeve to hold it together. There was however damage to several nerves that couldn’t be repaired and would cause problems with Jerry’s gait in the future.
Piccolo was called as soon as Jerry had recovered enough in the ICU for him to speak. He didn’t describe anything different though from what Pazman had said. Jerry also had grappled with the shark trying to fight him off and his description was the same; slippery smooth skin, tremendous power in its body and jaws.
But then Morton mentioned something interesting.
He had researched shark bites after the attack on Pazman even though he hadn’t been involved in subsequent cases. He had found that all shark bites, involved deep lacerations severing arteries and ligaments, but never severing bones. With Jerry’s X-rays clipped on a viewing box, Morton explained the injury to Piccolo.
“You can see here that the shark bit right through the tibia actually crunching it in the process. Not only that, he went through part of the fibula. The only thing keeping Jerry’s leg together was this thin piece of the fibula. That’s all that was left.”
“And you say that’s unusual?”
“Highly unusual. You don’t see bones broken through like this except in severe skiing accidents. There you’re talking about tremendous weight and pressure being forced on the bones from impact added to the person’s own weight. But for that pressure to be applied by a bite, that takes some power. I haven’t seen it in any of the research so far.”
“Which again leads me to wonder why this shark never has killed. It certainly has the power to,” Piccolo said still looking at the X-ray.
“Oh yeah,” Morton replied. “This thing could easily kill somebody by crushing the torso or even higher on the body around the rib cage. The ribs are a lot smaller with vital organs protected by them.”
Piccolo just nodded. Actually he wasn’t surprised by what Morton was telling him. This shark had survived living in fresh water for a much longer time than any on record, had survived the winter under the ice and now it seemed that its bite could sever bones that other sharks couldn’t or at least never did. Not only that, it was cunning. It had hidden from daily lake patrols, an Orion sonar plane and a submersible sub. How was he ever going to destroy it?
As soon as he left Morton, he headed out into the hospital lobby where of course the press was waiting. It was going to be another summer like the last one. Only last summer there had been the hope that winter would destroy what he couldn’t. But that hope was gone now.
When Tillitson returned from Massachusetts to Marbury, he found the office in the same state it had been in all last summer. Daily patrols were again searching Arrowhead, and the ever constant press was craving for news twenty-four seven.
When he finally caught up with Piccolo in the conference room now called the “shark den,” they closed the door and compared notes. Tillitson went over his conversation with Evelyn Caprio and showed the photo album he had brought back. Piccolo immediately saw the importance of Tom Puckett’s lock of hair that Tillitson had carefully put into a glycene sealed packet.
Going through the picture album gave them insights into the character of Dale Puckett and his son. The boy was always looking at his father, but Puckett stared straight at the camera, never smiling. In every picture it was always Tom relating either with a smile or loving look. Dale was always aloof, stoic, devoid of expression.
“Looks like the kind of guy who would defy Dolan and hold out selling his farm,” Piccolo commented.
“Yeah a tough cookie to say the least,” Tillitson added. “And the kid looks up to him, you can see it in every picture.”
“So do we think he loved his father enough to go after the ones responsible for killing him?” Piccolo asked. That was the key question right now and they both knew it.
“Well that would be the firemen who started the fire, Dolan and Norton Utilities,” Tillitson said. “But this is a kid we’re talking about. Time heals they say. It’s been forty five years.”
“Maybe, but the scars of seeing your father burned to death might not go away so easily.”
Piccolo leaned back in his chair. Tillitson could see that the strain of a second summer of the shark was taking its toll on his boss. It was taking it on him too. “What did you find out at MIT?” Piccolo asked.
Tillitson consulted his notes.
“Thomas Puckett graduated magum cum laude in 1976. Majored in electrical engineering and was offered several jobs from companies recruiting at MIT that year. General Electric, Perkin Elmore, and Westinghouse were among them. He didn’t take any of them. The school has no record of where he went after graduation. The alumni has no record of where he currently resides even after computer searches. And from what his Aunt Evie and even her lawyer said, he disappeared from the planet after going out west.”
“Out west where?”
“She didn’t say, but I’d start with California.”
“I already did.”
Piccolo opened a folder and removed a computer printout from it.
“I checked phone records in California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado and found nothing under Thomas Puckett. Those state’s motor vehicle departments also came up dry. Rent a car companies have no record of him. Same for banks, insurance companies, major stores…nothing. He never had a criminal record. Then I expanded the search to a national level. Still nothing. The guy didn’t exist after he left college.”
“Any false leads?” Tillitson asked.
“Yeah some. Thomas Puckett’s not that unusual a name. But they all turned out to be the wrong age or race.”
Piccolo looked up at the walls around him. They were covered with information and pictures, but nothing was coming together yet. Right now they were assuming that Tom Puckett was behind the shark in seeking revenge for his father’s death. But where was he now? And was it possible he could have ever amassed the resources necessary to buy up millions of dollars in lakeshore property and put a shark in the lake? And how had he gotten the shark in?
“So where do we go from here?” Tillitson asked.
“We go to wherever this takes us,” Piccolo said picking up the packet containing Tom Puckett’s lock of baby hair. “Hopefully this hasn’t been contaminated enough for us to still get a DNA sample. If we get one, we’ll have the FBI run it through their data base. Maybe…maybe if we’re real lucky we’ll get a match that tells us where Puckett is.”
As was customary after all their conversations in the “Shark den,” the two men walked around looking at all the information tacked on the four walls. The one clue that would tell them how the shark had gotten into the lake was still there. They wouldn’t see it though until they had more information about the man responsible for it.
FBI Electronic Identification Center
An FBI identification specialist sat before a computer screen in a dimly lit room. The dull whir of computer drives all around him was the sound of seventy other high speed computers matching fingerprints or DNA to other entries in the FBI’s vast database. Specialists worked twenty-four hours a day matching this information to requests from government agents around the world as well as U.S. enforcement agencies. They were all looking for faces and names to match with the intertwining swirls of fingerprints or the long dot like strips of DNA.
The search in process was for DNA sent by the bureau office in Hartford on behalf of the Fairfield County Sheriff’s office. So far the search had scanned over six hundred thousand possible matches and was now in its final phase. This phase would take approximately ten minutes so the specialist relaxed sipping the remains of his coffee.
Minutes passed as the encoded DNA taken from a lock of hair forty two years ago, sped through the powerful computer’s program seeking a match made up of thousands of genetic codes. And then, with less than sixty seconds left, the image the specialist was looking for appeared on the screen: MATCH FOUND.
He quickly entered the code to identify the name behind the match. However the computer didn’t respond with its usual quick reply. Instead an unfamiliar message appeared on the screen, one the specialist knew existed but had never seen before.
CLASS 1 PRIORITY
A Class 1 priority required the immediate attention of his supervisor. Within seconds he was at the specialist’s side. The supervisor punched a code into his computer that appeared as a row of x’s on the screen. The code would immediately transfer the DNA and the match results to the supervisor’s personal security file. Even then the identity would not be revealed. It would have to pass up to the deputy director of the FBI before a name would appear.
That process took less than an hour. Once the deputy director saw the name, he contacted his counterpart at the CIA.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt include
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com