'Summer of the Shark' Chapter 76

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 76

George Pasternak emerged from eighty-two North Lakeshore Drive to pick up his Wall Street Journal delivered to his doorstep. As he picked it up, he looked down the street to check if the van with a digital dish mounted on top of it was there. It was, three houses away, close enough to monitor any signal coming from his house. Yesterday it had been up on Mountainview Drive, still close enough to monitor and watch the house. But today Pasternak needed whoever was in it to clearly see his Mercedes SUV in the driveway.

He had discovered the truck four days ago when he had turned on the C-Band software that powered up a radio signal sent to an orbital satellite. The software performed a security check and had shown that the C-Band was being monitored. It wasn’t difficult to determine the source. He had found a suspicious truck a block away with its dish antenna up. It was fortunate that he always ran the security check before connecting to the satellite. Whoever was in the truck never knew he had been discovered. The security radio signal appeared to be a ham radio call on sixty-five megaherz.

What disturbed him was the fact that he was being monitored by someone and didn’t know who. He doubted that the county sheriff, whom he had eluded for over a year, had discovered the shark was in reality a radio controlled replica of the real thing. He also doubted that Piccolo had the capability to monitor him with any sophistication.

That left the government. As far as he knew, they were totally unaware that he had anything to do with a shark threatening the lake. His relations with the Pentagon remained cordial and businesslike. In fact they had recently renewed a lucrative contract with his company.

Twenty years ago Pentagon brass had thought radio controlled aircraft were just for hobbyists and had no military value. He had proven them wrong. His company Avionic Industries began building bigger and better pilotless aircraft until today they were the sole supplier of the three and half million dollar planes.

During Desert Storm they had been used only for reconnaissance but now they were pilotless fighter planes remotely guided to targets where their Multispectral Targeting Systems could fire four different types of missiles.

The basic crew for the plane was one pilot and two sensor operators. The three of them sat in a control room thousands of miles away from the plane guiding it to its target. Flying along a Ku-Band data link, a color nose camera with a variable aperture infrared lens sent back images to the pilot and controllers. Once the target was located, the pilot attacked it with laser-guided Hellfire missiles. The plane was then remotely guided back to its base.

Despite its wingspan of forty-nine feet and twenty seven foot length, the RQ-1A Predator could be disassembled into six main components, put inside a C-130 and flown quickly to any potential target in the world. This provided the Pentagon with great flexibility in terms of deployment and made the Predator ideal for twenty-first century warfare.

The plane had made millions for Avionic and himself personally. As George Pasternak, he became the founder and now CEO of the company. The Predator had become a valuable weapon for the government, but it had only become a means to an end for him. For thirty-five years his goal had been to get revenge for his father’s death. The aircraft’s development only served for him as technology to be used toward that end. The prime use of every new guidance system he developed for the Pentagon, had been for the shark. Its line of sight data links had been its guidance system that he adapted to be used underwater. It’s propulsion was a variation of the Predator’s Rotax four cylinder engine, not one that drove a propeller, but mechanical systems within the shark which used its tail for thrust through the water. The Predator’s variable aperture cameras became the shark’s eyes so he could see his targets up to one hundred meters underwater. The spectral linkage system in the plane’s wings became the shark’s jaws that could bite down with fifty pounds of pressure per square inch.

Every movement the shark made was controlled in a room he had personally equipped. The eight by twelve space had originally been a wine cellar off the basement, but now was a maze of wiring, rows of video screens and computers. All of it was hidden behind a bar in a finished family room. The back of the bar contained bottles and glasses that concealed the door to the control room.

The shark itself was inside a boat house underneath a twenty foot Chris Craft runabout. He had submerged and anchored a plastic drainage pipe four feet in diameter, fourteen feet long, closed at the back end. This was the shark’s home, protected from the wake of passing boats and high winds on the lake.

But now someone had discovered the shark wasn’t real. They were waiting for a radio signal to originate from his home. Whoever they were had to feel they were very close to stopping the shark from attacking again. But that wouldn't happen.

Even if someone had discovered it wasn’t real, they would never prove he was behind it. He had already gotten his revenge against Dolan and Norton Utilities. The company was finished financially and Dolan had lost millions. Tom Puckett had kept his promise. Now the last part of his plan needed to be completed; he needed to escape detection, return the lake to normalcy, and resell every lakeshore property at a profit.

But the shark couldn’t be eliminated as a threat yet. In order for him to escape detection the shark needed to be launched one more time.

Pasternak went inside, ate his breakfast and changed into shorts, polo shirt and sneakers. He took a specially designed laptop computer from his home office and went out the back door on the ground level. A folding beach chair was leaning against the house. He took it and headed across his back lawn. Beyond the lawn was a path leading through woods that led out to the entrance to Arrowhead Shores. He walked along a sidewalk with maple trees between him and the road for just over a mile and a half to Brookdale Town Park.

The park wouldn’t officially open until Memorial Day. There were a few people taking in the warm afternoon sun at a small beach area, just what he had hoped for. They paid little attention as he headed for a wooded area away from them. He was just a guy carrying a laptop out to do some work while enjoying the good weather.

He sat down under some pines at a spot that looked across the lake at his house. Right where he was sitting now had been one of the boundaries of his father’s property thirty-five years ago. From here you could look across a wooded valley full of pine, hemlock and towering oak trees. Beyond the trees the neighbor’s farm started. There wasn’t any need for fences between the properties then; just a single strand of wire to keep the cows from mixing into the wrong herd.

It was also on this spot where he had looked down on his father’s grave the last night before he moved to his aunt’s house in Massachusetts. That night he had made promises and plans that had led him to where he was today. Almost all of them had been carried out.

He opened up the laptop and brought up the specially designed program that enabled him to operate the shark’s basic functions away from its home base. With a click of the mouse, the shark’s Rotak 914 engine started and across the lake the shark slithered out from the drainage pipe under his boathouse. He punched a few keys that kept it submerged two feet below the water heading toward the town park. Speed: seven knots, heading: forty seven degrees, range: 1.63 miles.

The laptop screen showed a small blip moving toward an outline of Oak Point where he was sitting in the park. Limitations of this portable program prevented the shark from performing complicated functions involved in an attack, but it would not be necessary for it to attack today, just to be seen.

At 0.25 miles Pasternak brought the shark to the surface, at the same time slowing its speed to three knots. Then he adjusted the heading to fifty-three degrees to bring it closer to the people on the beach.

Now it was visible, its dorsal fin showing above the water heading straight toward a mother in ankle deep water playing with her child. Pasternak watched her through an opening in the trees to his left. She was tossing a red and white beach ball back and forth to her toddler. He checked the depth under the shark; twelve feet still moving at three knots.

The woman looked up. At first she wasn’t sure what was moving toward her, but then the memory of the sign warning: BEACH CLOSED! SHARK ALERT! at the entrance to the park hit her with full force. She screamed, “Oh my god,” snatched up her child and ran from the water. With the child safely beside her on the beach she continued to scream, “the shark, it’s out there in the water!”

“Where?” a man asked scrambling out of his beach chair.

“There. Over there!” she said pointing to the dorsal fin.

Four other people stood up shielding their eyes to find it.

“Holy Christ, she’s right,” the first man said moving backward instinctively.

“Somebody call nine-one-one,” another woman said.

The man fumbled for a cell phone inside a beach bag and Pasternak heard him yelling into the phone at the nine-one-one dispatcher. He turned the shark in a slow arc in front of the beach so everyone got a good look at the size of it.

“My God, it’s bigger then I thought,” the woman said clutching her child.

The people stood frozen looking at it until Pasternak suddenly plunged it underwater. Everyone shielded their eyes from the sun straining to see it, but it was now headed back across the lake. Within several minutes Pasternak had it backed safely to its hiding place under the boathouse.

It was time for him to leave. He closed the laptop and headed for the park exit which took him near the beach

“Did you see the shark?” an elderly woman approaching him asked.

“No, I’m afraid I was working,” he replied holding up the laptop.

“Oh my,” she said, “You didn’t hear all the commotion?”

“I guess I was too busy,” Pasternak said.

“Well the sheriff will be here any minute now. My son called him.”

“That’s good,” he said,. “I’m afraid I won’t be any help to him. If you’ll excuse me.”

The woman shrugged and walked back to the group still standing at the water’s edge.

Pasternak left the park and retraced his steps back to Arrowhead Shores. Along the way he heard sirens in the distance and two sheriff’s cars raced by him. Once they had passed he continued on his way. He came through the woods back to his house which he entered through the rear basement door. Safely inside, he went downstairs to the family room through a door into the boathouse. He climbed into the Chris Craft, went to the stern and peered down into the water. The shark was back in its hiding place, positioned exactly inside the drain pipe. Once it had gotten within fifty feet from the boathouse, sensors had guided it in.

Back upstairs he went outside to put some letters in his mailbox. The van was still parked down the street with its dish antenna up. Pasternak wondered if whoever was inside was totally bored with his assignment. Soon things would be getting very busy for him.

Other books by Bob Neidhardt include

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

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