The following night was one of the few that the Piccolo family ate dinner together. Last night Piccolo had gotten home late from the town meeting and gone off to work again this morning before Mark and Mike left for school. But tonight nobody had a baseball or soccer game, he promised to be home by six and said he would barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill.
Ann considered it a minor miracle that everyone was on time and now they sat together on the patio as Piccolo was lighting the grill.
“Okay now whose having what? Mike…a cheeseburger and a hot dog right?”
“Mark…our big eater here…two cheeseburgers and maybe a hot dog.”
“I’ll just have a hot dog. I’m not really hungry.”
“That’s a first. You feel all right?”
“Yeah, I just don’t feel like eating that much.”
Piccolo looked over at Ann who simply shrugged her shoulders. He put the hot dogs and burgers on the fire while Ann went inside to get the rest of the meal.
“So what did you guys do after school today?” Piccolo asked.
“Nuthin’ much.” Mike said. “Hung out at the basketball court.” Piccolo knew what was coming after that. Mike never missed an opportunity to talk about the lake being closed. “We really wanted to go swimming. Geez dad. When’s the lake going to open again?”
“I don’t know,” Piccolo said turning over a burger. “But not for awhile. They voted at the meeting last night to keep it closed until the shark is caught.”
“They did?” Mark said unexpectedly. He seemed happy at the prospect.
“Yeah Mark,” Piccolo said confused with his response. “People are still afraid that the shark is in the lake.”
“That’s bull,” Mike said. “That shark is dead. Everybody says so. Nobody’s seen it for three weeks now. What’s everybody afraid of anyway? We should be able to go back in.”
Mike’s comment was predictable but Piccolo thought Mark’s unusual. He wanted to go back into the lake as much as his brother, maybe even more so. But he seemed happy the lake remained closed.
“What do you think Mark?” Piccolo asked. “Should it stay closed?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I mean like the shark could still be in there.”
“What a wimp,” Mike said.
“He’s right though,” Piccolo said. “A lot of people at the meeting want the lake reopened, but they’d be awful sorry if the shark was still in there and somebody got really hurt.”
Mark turned away and looked at the small sliver of lake they could see from the patio. Yeah, what if that happened? What if the lake opened and people went in thinking the shark was dead. But he knew it was still alive. If he had any guts he would tell his father what had happened to him and his friends.
But now maybe he didn’t have to. The lake was going to stay closed. People wouldn’t be going in. Unless they were like him thinking no way was the shark still alive after all this time. Then it would be his fault if they got hurt because he should have let his dad know it had almost bitten Donny.
Boy the shit would hit the fan if he did that. Dad would be off the wall if he knew he had gone in the lake. He just couldn’t tell him.
But what about Donny and Brian? Would they be able to keep quiet? What if they didn’t? Man it would be worse for him if dad found out because they blabbed what had happened.
“Keep quiet,” a voice inside him said. “Shut up and try to act like nothing happened. The lake is staying closed. Nobody’s going to get hurt.”
Ann came back out carrying a tray filled with food. There was corn on the cob, potato salad and everybody’s favorite, candied marshmallows for dessert.
Having heard the conversation from the kitchen Ann asked: “Are you two still bugging your father about the shark? You know he’s doing the best he can to open the lake as soon as possible.”
“The thing is dead, mom…lying on the bottom somewhere while we waste the whole summer,” Mike said taking his cell phone from his pocket and flipping it open.
“Put that thing away young man,” Ann said. “Not at the table.”
Lately she had relaxed some of the rules as far as phones and watching TV were concerned. If the boys couldn’t spend time in the lake she was allowing them to have fun in other ways. But she drew the line at the dinner table.
Piccolo took food off the grill and they sat down to eat. It was very noticeable to both he and Ann that Mark was acting unusually down. Something was bothering him.
“I heard you were over your friend Donny’s house yesterday,” Piccolo said trying to turn the conversation into something positive. “Did you go in his pool?”
“Yeah,” Mark said, offering nothing more. He’s going to ask me about going in the lake. He knows.
“Well at least you got to swim,” Piccolo said pleasantly.
“In that little coffee can?” Mike said cynically. “Two strokes and you crash into a wall.”
Piccolo ignored him and waited for Mark to rebut his brother which he used every opportunity to do. Being the little brother wasn’t easy. But this time Mark just shot Mike a look and said nothing.
“So did you spend the whole afternoon in the pool?” Piccolo asked.
“Yes,” Mark replied hoping that would be the end of it. He’s got to know because he’s making me lie. Why doesn’t he just come out and ask me if I went into the lake?
Piccolo looked at his son closely for any sign of what was wrong. Mark avoided looking him in the eye.
“Is everything all right between you guys?” Piccolo asked. “You didn’t get into a fight or anything.”
“No dad. Everything’s okay.”
Piccolo decided to let it go. Sometimes Mark got a little moody for no reason at all and this was probably one of those times. He was more sensitive than Mike and tended to keep things to himself. Whatever was bothering him was probably nothing.
“Did you hear that the Carlson’s put their house up for sale?” Ann said changing the subject.
“No, Piccolo said surprised. The Carlsons were casual friends of theirs who owned a large waterfront house in their community.
“I met Cindy at the supermarket today and they’ve decided to sell their home before property values go any lower.”
“The shark again, right?” Piccolo said shaking his head.
“Oh yes. She said they’d be lucky to get sixty percent of what the house is worth.”
“Did they get a real estate agent yet?.”
“Benson & Stanley in Greenwich. That’s who everybody uses. They’ve got a buyer who’ll buy anything sizeable on the water but at a low price.”
Piccolo knew the name well. Their signs used to be all over the place, but they didn’t even bother to put them up anymore. There wasn’t any need to.
He looked at his family and saw a microcosm of the effect the shark had on the community. The lake was closed preventing his sons from using it and friends of theirs were forced to sell their beautiful home at a big loss. And the worse part of it was that he didn’t see any end in sight. Right now he didn’t even know whether the damn shark was still in the lake or not. And if it was, he had run out of ideas on how to kill it.
Maybe that was just as well. Maybe now he would force himself to spend less time on finding the thing and look for who was responsible for it. He remembered something an old homicide detective had told him when he was with NYPD. “Rule number one in looking for a killer was identify the body. Rule number two: find the murder weapon. Rule number three: follow the money. That’s where he was now; at Rule number three. He had to follow the money.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com