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'Summer of the Shark' Chapters 43-44

Is there a shark in Candlewood Lake? There is in "Summer of the Shark," which takes place in a lake just like Candlewood. The story continues weekly Sunday mornings.

Chapter 43

Piccolo arrived home that evening earlier than his normal eight o’clock. Usually Ann held leftovers for him after the rest of the family had eaten, but this afternoon he had called to say he would be there for dinner. She had told him that Michael had a friend over who would be eating with them so she had planned to make her special homemade pizza. “Fine,” he had said, “count me in for three pieces.”

On the way home he thought about his day. After yet another busy morning with the press and most of the afternoon on the lake in a patrol boat, he had gotten a call from state Attorney General Roehrig. Roehrig told him he was going to make a concerted effort to find out who was behind the Swiss numbered account and wanted his help. Specifically he wanted the information Sally Benson had given him, namely the contact’s name.

Roehrig was very careful in explaining that he wasn’t stepping on his toes as far as the investigation was concerned, but felt it was moving into an international financial area where he could bring political and legal power to bear. He indicated that Senator Matson was eager to help and his assistance would be of great value.

Piccolo said he welcomed all the help he could get. He would continue to search the lake for the shark and would pass any new information on. Roehrig said he would do the same as far as his efforts were concerned.

When Piccolo hung up, he felt good about the conversation. Once again he had been trying to cover the entire investigation himself. (Which Ann continually advised him not to do.) Now he was getting help in an area that wasn’t his expertise. He knew that it was Dolan who had pushed the buttons to get Roehrig more involved and that was okay. The guy was only trying to save his company and his own ass.

Piccolo pulled into the garage and went into the downstairs family room where he found Mike playing a video game with his friend while Mark watched. They were playing Backyard Baseball that Piccolo had played with both Mark and Mike a couple of times and had gotten beaten badly. He had been a pretty good baseball player in his day, but when it came to swinging a bat with a joystick and a control button, he (as the boys said) “sucked.”

Now he looked at the score and saw Mike was losing six to nothing in the top of the ninth with two out.

“Your friend is beating you up pretty badly,” he said, “shutout in the ninth.”

“Hi dad,” Mike said without acknowledging the comment. Another fastball was being thrown at him.

“Hi dad,” Mark echoed, also without looking up from the game.

Mike swung and missed. The game was over and now the boys turned to him. Piccolo stood over the three of them lying on the floor, controllers in their hands.

“And your friend is…..?” Piccolo said encouraging his boys to complete the question.

“Oh yeah,” Mike said, “Jamie Phelps. He’s a friend of mine from school.”

“Nice to meet you Jamie,” Piccolo said bending over to extend his hand. Jamie shook it, looking over every inch of Piccolo’s uniform.

“Yeah same here,” Jamie said taken back by the formal introduction.

“There have been some pretty good ballplayers in Marbury by the name of Phelps,” Piccolo said. “Any relation to them?”

“My dad played semi pro baseball in New Haven,” Jamie said, “and my great grandfather is Jumper Phelps.”

“Well everybody’s heard of Jumper, even though he played football a long time ago. Scored a lot of touchdowns. Great player.”

“Thank you,” Jamie said awkwardly.

“Well you guys better get upstairs in a few minutes, dinner will be ready.”

Piccolo went upstairs where Ann was waiting in the kitchen. Nora Jones was playing in the background to block out some of the noise coming up from the family room. He put down his briefcase and kissed her on the lips as he had done upon entering or leaving the house every day of their sixteen year marriage.

“Good day?” she asked.

“Better than most,” he said.

He told her about his talk with Roehrig and as expected she was happy to see he was getting some help. Ann was always happy over any news that might keep her husband’s working day down to reasonable hours. They talked about her day and that she had met Ray Marione’s wife who told her Ray was coming along better than expected and would be home from the hospital in a few days.

Soon everybody was seated around the kitchen table and Ann took the pizza from the oven. Piccolo and the boys weren’t surprised but Jamie was. There wasn’t just cheese on it, there was pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, onion, black olives, the works.

Piccolo cut through the crisp crust dividing the pie into equal pieces. As usual Mike reached for the first one.

“Where’s your manners, young man?” Ann asked stopping his hand in mid air. “We have company here. Jamie, you go first.”

Jamie took a piece and the rest of them joined in. Ann poured Cokes for the kids and she and Piccolo shared a beer.

“So Jamie, are you in Mike’s class?” Piccolo asked. Mike hadn’t ever mentioned his name as far as he could remember.

“No, I’m in ninth grade,” Jamie said. “But Mike and I have been playing basketball together down at the field.”

The field was the community property at the end of their street that had a full sized basketball court as well as a baseball field. It was busier now that the lake was closed.

“Yeah it was hot dad and we were dying to go in the lake,” Mike said without looking up from his pizza. “When’s it going to be open again?” He never missed a chance to ask the same question.

“When the shark is caught,” Piccolo replied while Mark said the words along with him to irritate his brother.

“We’re going to get more help,” Piccolo continued. “The state attorney general is going to get involved to try and find out who put the shark in the lake.”

“What can he do?” Mark asked.

“He can look into legal things that I can’t,” Piccolo said keeping it as simple as he could.

“I’ve been reading in the paper that someone is trying to ruin the power company,” Jamie said suddenly. Both Piccolo and Ann looked at him, surprised at his knowledge of what was going on in the investigation.

“How do you know that?” Ann asked.

“I uh..I read the paper to my grandfather. He’s at Dunphy Nursing Home. He’s got a bad heart and Alzheimer’s, but he likes me to read to him.”

“That’s very nice of you,” Ann said. She couldn’t imagine any of her two boys doing something like that.

“Yeah, well he likes the sports section, but I read to him about the lake too.”

“So what did you read about the power company being involved?’ Piccolo asked.

“I read the power company’s stock is going down because they own a lot of land that’s losing money?” Jamie’s words came out as a question rather than an answer.

“That’s right,” Piccolo said. “They’ve lost a lot of money.”

“And this Dolan. He’s the head of the power company?”

“Used to be,” Piccolo replied. “He’s retired now, but he still owns a lot of stock.” He was watching Jamie carefully now. The boy knew more about what was happening at Arrowhead than some adults.

“So he’s losing money too, right?”

“Right.”

Jamie hesitated for a moment and then added. “That’s what I thought.”

Mike asked for another piece of pizza and the subject changed to the Yankees and the Red Sox series that had just started. But Piccolo felt that Jamie had wanted to ask more questions. The boy avoided his glance a number of times during the meal. Maybe it was just because he had felt awkward asking grown up questions in front of Mike and Mark.

There were many more questions Jamie would have liked to have answers to. What did Jumper mean “that the lightning hadn’t caused it. Caused what? Why had it all “gone too far?” What had been Dolan’s fault?

But he was afraid to ask them. They were the jumbled ramblings of an old man with Alzheimer’s and would have been too silly to bring up. He knew he should forget them, but he couldn’t.

 

Chapter 44

Senator Harold Matson sat in his Washington office looking out at the Capitol Building bathed in golden light from the setting sun. Two days ago he had spoken with Attorney General Roehrig who asked his help in identifying the Swiss numbered account holder allegedly responsible for the shark in Arrowhead Lake. He claimed the individual’s goal was to bring down Norton Utilities.

“Allegedly” was the operating word here. No one had any proof of either allegation.

He had told Roehrig he would try to look into the matter with the Swiss, but the reality was that as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee he would have to go through protocol. There would have to be a formal request asking the Swiss to take exception to their discreet banking principles. For them to do so would be highly unlikely.

But he knew that the “incident” at Arrowhead was national news and the more he got his name involved, the better to raise money for his Senate campaign this Fall. If he could help to reveal who was behind this terrible act it would be very beneficial to him.

In thirty minutes he would meet Senator Brett Pierce, chairman of his committee at the Barclay Athletic Club where they ran three times a week. Pierce was not only the chairman of Foreign Relations, but a good friend who had been his mentor ever since he was appointed to the committee two years ago. He would seek his counsel on how best to approach the Swiss.

He found Pierce in the club locker room changing into his running shorts. The seventy year old senator was in good shape. His pace for four miles often left Matson panting thereby ending their conversations. Over time Matson had learned that if he wanted to question Pierce on anything he had to do it early. Today he decided to get it out of the way before they got to the track.

“I’ve got to tell you this is a bad time to be asking anything of the Swiss,” Pierce said after hearing what Matson had to say. “Senator Marquardt told me they reluctantly got a consortium together to agree on financing for investment in Iraq with the World Bank. It took a lot of prodding, because as you know they were against the war to begin with. So quite frankly Hal, I think your shark has to take a back seat because we’ve got bigger fish to fry right now.”

Pierce smiled at his little pun, but Matson wasn’t amused.

“I understand that in the total scheme of things it doesn’t seem that important, but it is to my state,” he said. “Whoever is behind this numbered account is not only bringing down part of Connecticut’s economy, but also a major supplier of power in the state.”

“I know that Hal. I’ve been all for the Swiss to do away with their so called discreet accounts, but now isn’t the time to ask them to.”

Matson knew that was his final word. He had learned to recognize the senator’s tone of voice that said, “the subject is closed.”

“C’mon, “Pierce said patting him on the back, “let’s get out there and get the old heart cranking.”

Matson followed him out of the locker room onto the indoor track. As usual Pierce took off at a good clip and it took him a half lap to catch up. When he did, he took the unusual step of bringing up the subject again. He was surprised at Matson’s response.

“Maybe Marlee Atkins can help you,” he said.

Marlee Atkins was the newest member of the Washington social scene. A former columnist for the Washington Post, she had married Philip Atkins a wealthy investment banker. Together they had bought a Georgetown mansion where her parties had become a “hot invitation.” It was said that if agreement couldn’t be reached on Capitol Hill, the next step was negotiation in Marlee Atkins’ study.

“She’s originally from Connecticut you know,” Pierce said not losing a step in his stride.

“I didn’t know that,” Matson said struggling to keep pace.

“You were at one of her dinner parties last year weren’t you?”

“Yes, two of them.”

“Well I’ll see that you get invited next week. I’m sure your presence will immediately bring up the subject of the shark, if only as an opportunity for some bad jokes.”

“This isn’t a joke, Brett,” Matson said irritated at the comment.

“I know it’s not, and hopefully one of her important guests will feel the same way.”

“Who’s that?”

“Swiss ambassador Franz Kuehl is going to be there. I’m sure an introduction can be arranged where you can talk to him informally. Off the record.” Pierce smiled and then added, “discreetly about discreet accounts.”

*

Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are

Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.

All are available on Amazon.com

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