Jamie Phelps decided he had to tell Sheriff Piccolo what Jumper had said about James Dolan before he died. His parents had taken it as just an old man suffering from Alzheimers ramblings, but he couldn’t. Every time he saw an article in the paper saying that Sheriff Piccolo didn’t have any more leads in the shark investigation, he felt he had to tell him what he knew.
Tonight was the perfect time. Jamie was playing a rec league baseball game with Mike Piccolo who was on his team. Jamie’s father was bringing them both to the game but wasn’t available to pick them up, so it had been arranged for the sheriff to do it. Piccolo got out of work a little early and showed up at the end of the eighth inning.
There was a good crowd at the game. The bleachers were filled, leaving the overflow to sit in lawn chairs they had brought with them. Piccolo walked along the first base side of the field acknowledging hellos from many people he knew in the stands. Somebody behind him called his name and he saw Ray Marione.
“Hey Sheriff, got an extra seat here,” Marione said pointing to an empty lawn chair.
Piccolo went over to him.
“My father was going to come tonight but he called on my cell to say he wasn’t going to make it. Have a seat,” Marione said.
Piccolo thanked him and sat down. “How’s the hand?” he asked.
Marione held it up. There were scars on his wrist where it had been reattached all the way up into the palm.
“I don’t have a lot of movement with my middle fingers, but I still think I was pretty lucky.”
“Well you were lucky there was ice on the boat.”
“That’s for sure,” Marione said turning back to the game. “You got here just in time. Tie score…two up. It’s going to be a big finish. Your kid hit a home run in the fourth that tied it up.”
“Mike hit one out?”
“Yeah a shot over the center field wall. Well hit.”
Piccolo looked over to third base and saw Mike playing his usual position when he wasn’t pitching. His buddy Jamie Phelps was playing first. Jamie was closer to him than Mike and gave him a little nod of recognition.
The inning ended with a ground ball to short. Piccolo settled back to watch the ninth.
It was times like these that he enjoyed more than ever. Just to get away from the constant pressure of the shark investigation was a welcome feeling. He took in the fresh night air and the sight of the enthusiastic crowd under the lights cheering on their kids. He knew during the day there was fear within these same parents to keep them out of the lake. He and Ann had gone through it last summer and had almost lost Mark when he disobeyed them. Kids for the most part were fearless and optimistic. Even if there was a shark in the lake, it was big lake and it would never find them. Not true. For some reason this shark was able to find almost anybody who ventured into the water.
The top of the ninth started with the first two hitters grounding out. But then Jamie Phelps hit one down the left field line and it stayed fair by inches giving him a double. The next hitter got a single in the gap between right and center and Jamie scored. The next hitter flied out.
With Mike and Jamie’s team up by one, the last of the ninth began. The first guy flied out, but the next kid got a single. With one out, the next hitter chopped one down the third base side which Mike scooped up, threw to second where Marione’s kid whipped it over to Jamie Phelps for the double play.
End of game. Mike’s team won three to two.
The kids rushed off the field where the coach ran them through the ritual of high fiving the opposing team.
Piccolo called Ann on his cellphone and told her about Mike’s home run along with the final score. He said he would be home inside half an hour after dropping Jamie off. But it was longer than that before Piccolo ever left the ball field parking lot.
He and the boys no sooner got into his car when Jamie said he had something important to tell him. Piccolo thought it was about the game, but Jamie just started to blurt out this story about his great grandfather. It seemed like he would burst if he held it in any longer.
It was a continuation of the story he had told at the dinner table months ago when he had mentioned James Dolan’s name in relation to the power company. But now he had much more to say about Dolan. Jumper had told him that Dolan had been responsible for some terrible act, something that Jumper hadn’t been able to prevent. There was a fire involved that he had gotten to late. The police had said lightning was the cause, but Jumper said that wasn’t so.
“Where was the fire?” Piccolo asked.
“He never said. I don’t think he remembers.”
Jamie apologized for Jumper’s Alzheimers that kept the story so fragmented. Piccolo said he was glad to hear it anyway and thanked Jamie who was now in tears. Mike, to his credit, put his arm around his friend to console him. Piccolo knew Jamie’s tears were because he had gotten this off his shoulders along with the sensitivity of his youth. So he made an effort in front of Mike to make it appear that Jamie was only crying for his departed great grandfather.
“I know how tough it must have been to lose him,” Piccolo said starting up the car. “I never knew my great grandfather. He died when I was very little. You were lucky to have known him.”
“Yeah I guess so,” Jamie said brushing away his tears.
They drove a ways with nobody saying anything until Mike said, “hey you know you made a great snag out of the dirt to get Marione’s crummy throw from second.”
Jamie turned to Mike in the back seat and said, “was pretty neat wasn’t it.”
The conversation all the way to Jamie’s house continued to be about the game. But as soon as they left him off Mike brought the subject back up.
“Do you think that stuff his great grandfather told him makes sense?” Mike asked.
“I don’t know,” Piccolo said. “But it’s something I definitely have to check out. And you know what Mike? It’s just about the only thing I have to check out.”
Whatever this terrible incident was, it must have been important to have remained in Jumper’s limited memory. Why was Dolan to blame for it? And why hadn’t Dolan told him about it?
Looking into these questions would represent a new direction for them. For over a year they had been searching for the answer to the shark while dealing in the present.
Maybe the answer was in the past.
The next day Piccolo filled Tillitson in on his conversation with young Jamie. Roy agreed it was worth checking out and suggested a visit to The Marbury Register to look at their back issues. Piccolo had been thinking the same thing, and although Roy volunteered to go, Piccolo said he wanted to visit the newspaper personally. Roy would go to the Marbury Historical Society that was known to have a lot of information on the creation of Arrowhead.
The Register editor-in-chief Dave Hallstead brought Piccolo into an unused office and had back issues brought to him starting with October 1964 when the first news of Norton Utilities’ plan to create a lake made the paper. He explained to Piccolo that he was somewhat familiar with the back issues because they were used periodically as reference for articles concerning the lake.
“The paper reported extensively on the creation of Arrowhead,” Halstead explained. “It was going to be the largest man made lake in the Northeast so it was big news.” He flipped through neatly organized issues inside plastic sleeves, each one holding a week of papers. “You’ll notice that for the first six months there was an article practically every day, but once the land started to be cleared, not much was reported until the dams were built and the lake flooded.”
Even so, there were a lot of papers to go through and Piccolo could see it would take him some time.
“Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?” Halstead asked.
“Yes there is,” Piccolo said remembering that they were the ramblings of an old man with Altzheimers. “I’m interested in the period where Norton was in the process of buying up land.”
“That would be around June of ’67,” Halstead said. He took a binder from the pile and put it front of Piccolo. “I’d start here.” When Piccolo opened the binder, Halstead excused himself. “Got to get back to work,” he said. “If you need anything else, just let my secretary know. She’s familiar with all this stuff. Good luck.”
Piccolo thanked him and dug into the folder Halstead had pointed out.
The first articles he saw all dealt with the size of the proposed lake and the engineering difficulties it posed. Subsequent issues talked about the land needed for the project. Norton was offering major land owners, mostly farmers, three hundred dollars an acre which was considerable at that time. There had been a good response. Owners having hundreds of acres were going to make a good profit on their land. All were eager to sell.
Piccolo flipped through article after article describing the sales. One issue had a map of the entire valley with each parcel of sold land outlined. Within three months, everything had been acquired by Norton, except one parcel of five hundred acres smack in the middle of the valley. The land was owned by a Dale Puckett who refused to sell at any price.
Piccolo scanned the article.
FARMER REFUSES TO SELL LAND TO NORTON
Mr. Dale Puckett of Nabby Road in Brookdale has refused offers by Norton Utilities to purchase his land for the creation of Arrowhead Lake. Mr. Puckett’s five hundred acres are critical to the lake development as his property lies in the center of the proposed project.
Mr. James Daley, CEO of Norton Utilities said he would continue to negotiate with Mr. Puckett who is the only holdout among ninety-three farmers who have already sold to Norton.
There are reports that the other farmers have expressed anger over Puckett’s refusal to sell. A Mr. Jaimie Phelps, owner of thirty acres already committed to Norton, said, “Puckett is holding up the development of a lake that’s going to be good for us all. Good for the power company and the people around here for fishing and boating. He’s got no right doing what he’s doing.”
Piccolo focused in on the name Jaimie Phelps. Jumper had been involved. But what had he meant by “it was all Dolan’s fault?” and “it wasn’t the lightning that caused it. Caused what?” A fire? Where?
Piccolo finished the issue for the month of June and went on to the next month. On page three of the July sixth issue he found the answer.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com