It was a New York Times delivery man tossing a newspaper from his car onto the steps of a lakeshore home who saw a capsized boat near the dock. Two men were struggling in the water beside it. Julio Abrero jumped out of his car and ran toward them. Once he got there, he saw there was blood all around them. One man was holding the other who seemed unconscious.
“Help us please,” Hal said gasping for air. “I can’t hold him up any longer.”
There was a canoe on the other side of the dock and Julio grabbed a paddle from it. He held it out to Hal.
“I can’t take it,” Hal said. “My arm…it bit my arm.”
Julio was about to jump into the water, but what did this guy mean by “it?” What was it?”
Then he realized the shark had done this. What if it was still around? He, Julio Abrero was just a guy making minimum wage getting up at three in the morning to deliver newspapers from his broken down Saturn.
“Help us,” Hal called again.
Julio realized if he was going to save these guys he was going to have to get in the water. They were only a few feet away. With just a few strokes he could get them into the shallow part. He had to try. He couldn’t just walk away.
He jumped off the dock and swam to Hal.
“Don’t let go of him,” Julio said, “I’m going to pull you both in.” He put his hand under Hal’s head, holding him under his chin as he kicked with his feet. Then he felt them touching bottom. Where was the shark? He scanned the water. Nothing.
Julio pulled the two men in the rest of the way and got them up on a small sandy beach. There was blood everywhere, in the water, on the sand, on his hands and body.
“I gotta get help,” he said to Hal. He ran back to his car and called 911. Once he knew an ambulance was on the way he hurried back to the men. Luckily for Hal and Jerry, this wasn’t the first shark attack Julio had ever seen. Five years ago he had witnessed one at Loquilo Beach in his native Puerto Rico. He knew what to do.
He ripped off his wet tee shirt and tore it into two long strips to make tourniquets. One went around Hal’s leg at the hip, the other around his arm at the bicep. With the rest of the shirt he made a pressure bandage to put against Jerry’s leg wound.
“Hold on man,” he said to Jerry, “they’re on the way. You’re not gonna die. Julio is with you.”
The ambulance arrived in less than five minutes with a sheriff’s car behind it. The EMTs took over and upon examining the two men told Julio that without his medical help Jerry and Hal wouldn’t have a chance of surviving.
They were hurried into the ambulance and rushed off to Marbury Hospital, siren blaring.
As soon as they left, Julio called his dispatcher in Marbury and told him what had happened. In just a few minutes he got a call back. “Forget about the rest of the route,” the dispatcher told him. “I’m sending someone to finish it. You get back to the office as soon as you can. A Times reporter is coming up from New Haven to interview you.”
“Interview me?” Julio asked.
“Yeah, so get back here.”
“Holy shit,” Julio thought to himself. His picture might be in the newspapers he was delivering tomorrow.
Piccolo got a call from the 911 operator as soon as he had dispatched the ambulance. Since he and Tillitson were six miles away in the opposite direction, a deputy was sent to the scene. They would go straight to the hospital that was only a mile away.
When they got there they were told both victims were already in surgery with extensive injuries. It would be awhile before doctors would be able to speak to them. Piccolo decided they would wait.
Minutes later the victims’ relatives arrived. Hal Ever’s mother and sister along with Jerry Wright’s fiancee sat nervously beside them in the waiting room. Piccolo and Tillitson tried to console them, but Wright’s fiancee was near hysteria.
“I told him not to go to that lake,” she kept saying. “I told him.”
She sat in a chair with her head buried in her hands sobbing. Piccolo hated the goddamned thing that had done this. Maybe that’s what it was…a thing. It was almost a month now since the first attack. With every day it was more and more unlikely that a bull nose would survive fresh water. But this thing had.
It had taken over the lake. His lake. The lake he had swam in as a boy when his parents brought him here from their home in Marbury. When he got older there were Sunday picnics and waterskiing off a boat his father and mother had saved for. He had met Ann at the Marbury public beach his first year at Western Connecticut State College and they had spent hours looking at beautiful sunsets and dreaming of the future. During his years with the NYPD living in the Bronx, he couldn’t wait to get to get back to the lake on summer weekends to swim with his family. There were many families like his who loved this lake. But now there was a monster in it, a thing, a something that threatened everyone.
How many more victims would there be? Even though they had prohibited everyone from going in the water, the fifty five miles of shoreline were impossible to patrol. The lake was big enough for people to think the odds of a shark attacking them were remote. That’s probably what these two guys had thought. Their boat was too big and the odds too small.
Even if people were smart enough to stay off the lake, the shark would have won. It had instilled enough fear so that some were already thinking of selling their homes at far less than they would have gotten a month ago. But the emotional fear was even greater than the financial loss. Some lakeshore owners had already put up chain link fences at the water’s edge of their property to keep their children out of the lake. Floats with diving boards had been pulled into the shore. Kids, including his own, hated this monster that was robbing them of a summer that had barely begun.
Tillitson’s cell phone rang. He whispered into it, then motioned Piccolo to step outside the waiting room.
“Nobody saw or heard the attack,” he said. “Most of them were still sleeping. A Times delivery guy pulled Evers and Wright from the water and gave them medical attention. Otherwise they would have died before the ambulance even got there. Deputy Walters has all the information. You want to talk to him?”
“No,” Piccolo said looking through a glass door at the grieving families. “We know what did this, we know it’s still out there. There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Yeah,” Tillitson said flipping his notebook closed, but being an eternal optimist added, “sooner or later we’re going to get it. It’s just a matter of time.”
“I’m beginning to wonder about that,” Piccolo said still staring at the families. “How the hell did it find the only two guys out on a lake that’s fifteen miles long?”
Tillitson thought for a moment. “They probably launched at the Marbury town ramp which is what most of these guys do and came roaring up the lake full speed. This time of morning they could have been heard for miles.”
“So you think if we just keep sending our boats out there eventually we’ll get lucky.”
“Well I’m not so sure about that. We need more than luck, we need an advantage, Roy. I’ve been thinking. Maybe instead of being on the lake looking for it, we should be over the lake. Up where we can find it wherever it’s hiding.”
“You mean in a plane.”
“Yeah but not just any plane. A plane like the Navy uses to find submarines. One that can look underwater and find what we haven’t been able to. What do you think?”
Tillitson smiled. “Great if we can get them to do it.”
“Well if they want to be heroes we’ll give them their chance,” Piccolo said directing Tillitson’s attention to a window from which an NBC remote truck could be seen pulling into the hospital’s main entrance.
An hour later later Piccolo was standing before a camera telling reporters that his department would request the Navy’s assistance in finding this killer shark. Jerry Wright would lose the use of his left knee and was lucky to be alive. Hal Evers’s left arm would need further surgery to repair nerves and ligaments in his leg. This had to stop. They needed help from the Navy.
Twenty-four North Lakeshore Drive in Brookdale had the best view of Arrowhead Lake. The house was on a narrow point looking out on the widest part all the way across to New Redding. Built in 1989, it had twelve rooms, three baths, two fireplaces, a gourmet kitchen, and three car garage. Landscaping was meticulous. A lawn ran one hundred feet down to the water’s edge surrounded by manicured shrubs mixed with towering dogwoods. Two deep water docks extended out into the water beyond a newly constructed bathhouse.
Sally and Beth sat in the living room with the owners Mr. and Mrs. Alex Merrill. A large picture window afforded a spectacular view of billowy clouds over a vast expanse of lake sparkling in the sunlight.
“Your home is lovely,” Beth said after she and Sally had toured the house. “It’s in wonderful condition and certainly has a gorgeous view.”
“We’ve done our best to maintain it to get the best price possible,” Mr. Merrill said, alluding to price for the first time.
Sally smiled. They had been in the house for close to twenty minutes now and there hadn’t been one mention of the shark defacing that beautiful picture window view. “Well I’m afraid selling prices on the lake, even in a house as desirable as this, aren’t what they were say a month ago,” she said.
“We realize that,” Barbara Merrill said, “that’s why we called. We’ve heard you have a buyer who’s interested in homes like ours.”
“That’s correct,” Beth said. “We feel we can offer you a fair price on his behalf based on current value.”
“And what would that be?” Alex Merrill said cutting to the chase.
“Seven hundred thousand,” Sally said without any hesitation.
The Merrills looked at each other speechless.
Finally Alex said, “That’s quite low. We were thinking in the neighborhood of one point two million at a minimum. We’ve…”
“That’s not possible now,” Sally said intentionally interrupting. She was tired of avoiding the unspoken issue. There was a shark in the goddamn lake. “We all know that somewhere out there is a shark,” she said gesturing toward the view. “It’s crazy, a shark in a fresh water lake maiming people, but it’s out there and the whole world knows it. And right now, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be caught in the near future. So I would suggest you take the best deal offered to you which is seven hundred thousand.”
The Merrills were visibly taken back by her directness, but at least all the cards were on the table now.
“How do we know it’s the best deal?” Barbara asked innocently.
“Because I’m guessing it’s the only one you’ve got,” Sally replied. “But if the shark strikes again, I’ll guarantee you the price will be even less.” She looked over at Beth who shot her a contemptuous look, but she was only telling it like it was.
“Look, we have three children away at college,” Alex Merrill said, “retirement is still a few years away, but we’re depending on the money from this house to support it. We certainly weren’t planning on half of what we expected.”
“I can understand that,” Beth said sympathetically. “But at the same time you have to realize that all lakeshore properties are suddenly worth much less. Right now no one wants property on a lake they can’t go in.”
Sally knew what Merrill’s response would be, and she was right.
“Then why do you have a buyer whose willing to purchase anything he can get his hands on?” he asked.
Sally jumped right in with the answer.
“Because he’s an investor with unlimited assets who can wait for this market to turn around,” she said. “In short, he can afford to wait for the shark to be found and killed which right now no one even knows is possible.” She paused and then added, “Quite frankly he’s willing to take a risk you can’t afford.”
Merrill’s shoulders slumped as he sank back into the sofa. His wife reached over and put her hand on his knee. “We’ll have to think about this,” he said. His wife nodded in agreement.
Sally looked over at Beth who was now giving her a silent signal they had used for years. She was leaning on one arm with her hand alongside her face. Her index finger pointed upward. Beth wanted her to increase the client’s offer probably by fifty thousand.
Sally shook her head slowly from side to side indicating a negative response while she said to the Merrills, “please don’t take too long. Our client is anxious to move forward on all of these offers.”
The Merrills said they wouldn’t and the meeting ended.
Outside the home, Sally told Beth she would agree to the fifty thousand if the Merrills called back asking for more than the seven hundred. Both of them realized they were getting almost half the commissions they had expected, so Sally’s point was why give away fifty thousand they probably wouldn’t have to.
They both knew this was still a very sweet deal for them. They had two more lakeshore homes to visit that afternoon and when Beth checked the office with her cellphone, three more people had called wanting to sell. And if “Mr. Unknown Investor In Switzerland” was correct, when the shark was killed and the houses sold back to new buyers at original prices, their commissions would start all over again. That might take time, but they could wait.
Other books by Bob Neidhardt include Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author, and Tarnished Bronze, all available on Amazon.com.