Angler’s Boat
Prologue

In Twilight, the surface of the lake was as smooth as dark blue crystals. The water was calm, and no tide brought motion up the human-made lake. Benjamin sat in the prow and watching fishes swimming in the crystal clear, dark blue water. Some were restless catfish, some frightening looking centipedes and some were dark fish, of a definite form, and amusing to watch. The cool breeze that ran unchecked over the lake surface blew his brown hairs from his forehead, and he detected the aroma of moist air with the fragrance of pine trees that encircled the lake, growing so close that some had toppled in and others dangled thick roots into the water. Benjamin’s fishing kayak was creating ripples in the calm water. He stopped the engine in the middle of the lake and looked around. He saw the silhouettes of pine trees at the edge of the lake, except the northern boundary, which had no pine forest, but a long, narrow creek connecting the lake to the Flushing River.

Benjamin always liked the intersection of the lake and the creek. He usually received most of his catches from the junction. He again started his Jet Angler. The light was already failing when he approached the creek. He stopped the engine and picked up the fishing rod. It was his favorite place for fishing, but today the place was looking creepy rather than tranquil.

Suddenly a sharp and shrill noise broke the tranquillity of nature. It sounded like a flute initially, but later he realized that it was a siren. Benjamin walked towards the edge of his kayak overlooking the fishing line, which had already tied around his leg. He saw a dingy boat in the creek, partially concealed behind water bushes. Before guessing anything, he felt a sharp blow on the back of his head and fell onto the boat like a dead man. Before losing his sense forever, Benjamin heard the shrill noise louder than ever before. He just uttered, “Good Gracious!” And a shadow loomed over him like a tombstone.

Part-I

“Marie this is the third murder in Meadow Lake. Again, the dead body was rescued from a Jet Angler Kayak. It was floating near the creek.” Jamie said in one breath.

“So, what do you think?” Marie asked lazily. Her glance was still fixed on her android phone, and she was playing Candy Crash with immense attention.

“You are not listening to me, dear,” Jamie complained. “You are just playing.”

“I have no other work to do, Jamie.” Marie did not look at him. It was partially true. Last month she did not get a single case, which could bring some income.

“That’s not my fault, Marie,” Jamie complained.

“I am just pulling your leg,” Marie looked at him and set aside her mobile phone, “So, all the bodies were found from the same place?”

“Yes, near the creek. The caretaker saw those bodies early in Sunday mornings.” Jamie replied, “It connects the lake to the river and is a hotspot of fishing.”

Marie looked at him carefully, “Tell me frankly, Jamie, why are you telling me all these? Do you want me to help you in this case or just narrating?”

Jamie chuckled, “No, I want your help.” He admitted, “We initially thought that the first murder was a mere accident or a case of suicide, but the second one questioned our assumption. The third one raised the alarm. Now no one wants to visit the lake even in the daytime, and some people saw creepy things on the shore. The Angling Club is facing a huge loss, and they want a smart private detective to solve the case secretly.”

She stared at him for a few minutes and said, “Let’s go to the lakeside and on the way we can discuss the case.”

Jamie’s face brightened. He left his chair and took the overcoat from the hanger. Marie took her purse and walked towards the door. Jamie’s new Audi was standing before the gate. They got into the car and fastened their seatbelts before Jamie started his car. It was already late afternoon and post autumn days were short.

So, Marie asked, “We are already late.”

“I just want to show you the exact time when all these incidents happened.”

“But, you said that the bodies were rescued in the morning,” Marie said.

“Yes, they are.” Jamie replied, “Benjamin, Gordon and Abel, they were three young men from different walks of life and all were anglers by hobby. They all had membership in Meadow Lake Angling Club.”

“You said that all the victims were killed by a blunt weapon, and….”

“The third one had a fishing line tied around his right ankle.” Jamie said, “I have seen all the bodies.”

“And, all of them preferred to sail alone?” Marie asked an entirely different question.

“Yes, unfortunately,” Jamie nodded.

The car stopped before a large notice board depicting a gigantic map of a lake and its surroundings. Marie realized that they had reached their destination, and she got down from the car. As she stepped onto the ground, she noticed a well-maintained hut-shaped building with a large signboard declaring that it was the office of an angling club, where annual membership was more than five hundred US Dollars, and Premium Membership was no less than seven hundred. Only the Premium members were allowed to use new Jet Angler kayaks.

She looked at the building structure; it was a round shaped brick structure looked like an indigenous house with the roof trusses met in a center ring, producing inward and outward pressure which held the roof in a state of compression. It was a two-story building with a spiral iron staircase coiling around the building from the outside like a giant serpent.

A man in an expensive white long-sleeved dress shirt and a brown blazer walked down from the iron staircase yielding a rhythmic noise of his big black Wellington Boots against the iron stairway. His Wellington Boots were covering the lower part of his woolen trousers from the lower leg. Marie noticed a distinct personality of the man depicted through his stern wrinkled face, high cheekbones, and symmetrical.

His gray and brown hairs were combed back, revealing retreating hairlines on his broad forehead. He was cleanly shaven without any stress of mustache and beard. He met her gaze, not with curiosity, but with disbelief.

He stood before them, waved at Jamie and asked, “You must be detective Marie Claire? Glad to meet you.” Though he said so, but, his stern face did not reveal any pleasure.

“Yes, I am.” She politely said, ‘Nice to meet you, Mr….”

“I am Bugsy Williams, the secretary of this Club.” He introduced himself. He politely asked them to follow him.

“Last month, we discovered Abel Jones’s body near the creek. It was on the boat, his head had a severe injury, and the fishing line was tied around the ankle. It was a Sunday morning when Rafael Drake, the caretaker of our club, discovered the mishap. The Post-mortem report said that he died fifteen or sixteen hours ago, probably on Saturday evening. We did not find anything suspicious, and the police declared it an accident.” Bugsy told.

Marie was listening to him carefully while walking through a narrow forest trail. After walking a while, the trail grew wider where the soil was soft and covered with dry leaves of the pines.

“And the second one?” Marie asked eagerly.

“Gordon White’s body was also discovered on Sunday morning from the creek, and last morning, we discovered Benjamin Raynott’s body. All of them had injuries on the head, and the fishing lines tied around their right ankle. We can no longer overlook the incident. I think it is an incident of planned serial killing or there is something odd in the creek. We have temporarily closed our angling club.” Bugsy, William finished his words.

“In each case, the fishing line was tied around the right leg?” She asked.

“Yes, the killer must be a psychopath.” He remarked.

Marie looked at the end of the trail and saw a wooden dock and a dozen angling boats of various sizes and shapes. They were heading toward the dock. As they came closer to the water body, she smelled a sweet fragrance of wildflowers and water lilies. Gradually a clear view of the Meadow Lake appeared in front of her. Its water was deep blue but crystal clear. From the shore, one could see fishes were swimming and playing in the water. It was a human-made lake, with an artificial connection to the River Flushing through a creek in the north.

Bugsy started walking on the wooden platform, creating a heavy and regular rhythmic sound against the wooden base with his heavy boots. Marie and Jamie followed the noise silently and stopped at the end of the jetty.

“All three of them took kayaks,” Marie uttered the words under her breath.

“Yes, the newly imported Jet Anglers.” He pointed towards a small fishing boat that could hold only one man.

“All of the fishing boats have modern equipment.” Marie noticed no oars near around.

“Yes and this Jet Angler Kayaks are of an entirely new thing. Each one of them has four Stroke gasoline engine; it can run at thirty kilometers per hour speed with one person. Its flat bottom hull is ideal for shallow water as well….”

Marie was not at all hearing all this description but trying to figure out something. Suddenly she said, “All of the victims were Premium members, right?”

Bugsy looked at her curiously. She smiled and replied, “I read your front board, Mr. Bugsy, which says that only Premium Members are allowed to use Jet Anglers.”

Bugsy looked relieved, “Yes, ma’am; single fishing is reserved for them only.”

“I think most of your Premium members come on weekends?” Marie inquired.

“Almost all the members prefer weekends, but we don’t allow anyone to roam near the creek, because the place is dangerous, full of water weeds. Gordon and Abel were our board members as well as experienced anglers. So, we did not bother….”

“We like to see the spot.” Jamie said, “Though I have come here already, Marie needs to see.”

“No problem you can take a dingy or a sailboat,” Bugsy said. He brought out his android phone and called someone named ‘Rafael.’

A tall, middle-aged man dressed in a sports shirt and trouser appeared on the scene. So, he was the caretaker. Bugsy introduced him and revealed that the caretaker lives on the watchtower. Marie now noticed a pillar-shaped structure partially concealed in the pine forest. It was looking like a castle’s watchtower.

“Mr. Bugsy, may I visit the watchtower first, please?” Marie pleaded. Marie’s request sounded odd to him, but he agreed.

They crossed the jetty and again took the forest trail to reach the watchtower. The man named Rafael was describing his experience. It was his regular duty to patrol the entire lake in the morning, especially the creek side. The canal joining the lake with Flushing River was an artificially developed one, but the creek existed long before the river rejuvenation project. It had lots of water weeds and sustained a large variety of fauna, especially fishes and turtles. So, anglers’ considered it as a fishing hot spot. However, very few were allowed to go near the creek. It was not only for Angler’s safety but also for the wild aquatic animals who might not like the sound of engines.

“So, what do you use? Rowboat or a paddle one?” Marie asked.

“I am a good sailor, and oars are like an integrated part of my body. I never use engines. It breaks tranquillity of the lake.” Rafael proudly announced. “I also worked as a sailor and remained caretaker of an aquatic zoo for a long time.”

“Why have not you have done this regularly check-up before closing the club rather than doing it in the morning?” Marie asked.

Rafael remained silent for a while. Bugsy chuckled, “He usually does but not on the weekends because he leaves early and is some of our Premium members prefer to watch the sunset from the boat.” He lowered his voice and added in a whispering tone, “The man is alcoholic and addicted to many things.”

“Well, let’s go upstairs,” Marie said.

The watchtower was an old structure, but well-maintained. As she went to the top, she saw a picturesque view of the lake and the city surrounding. Three sides of the lake had a thick belt of pine plantation, and beyond that, one could see outlines of the city’s skyscrapers. At the north, the lake gradually merged with a narrow creek, partially covered with long grasses and water weeds.

“Boats cannot go in the creek. It has water weeds.” Jamie remarked.

She took some photos of the landscape. “Beautiful,” she said. It was a sunny afternoon, and the lake mirrored the sky above, both of them deep blue. The cold breeze ran unchecked over the rippled surface blew her long bangs from her eyes.

“We have to visit the creek before the dark,” Bugsy said.

They again came down from the watchtower and started walking towards the jetty. Rafael arranged for a small dingy boat which could hold three or four persons together, but Marie contradicted, “I want to use one of these kayaks.”

“It is risky to go alone,” Bugsy said, “especially for a lady.”

“I am a detective.” Marie contradicted.

Bugsy shrugged his shoulder, and Rafael arranged boats accordingly. Marie started the engine, and the kayak ran towards the inner lake at an incredible speed. Initially, she got afraid but later got fun. Her hairs were blowing in the opposite direction of the wind. The jet angler was creating small ripples and mild turbulence in the calm water. She directed her kayak towards the north and gradually approached near the creek.

Something big and black dived into the creek water making huge turbulence in the water. Marie noticed a pair of human-like eyes and a nostril before it plunged into the deep water. She balanced on her undulating boat, but when stood upright again could not see anything odd. A shrill noise of sirens broke the tranquillity of the lake, but Marie found nothing except a few fishes in the water and undulating waterweeds.

She understood that it was almost impossible to enter the creek on the boat. The water was not only shallow but full of weeds.

“Marie,” Jamie’s voice was heard from the back. Marie carefully turned around and found three kayaks were gradually approaching towards her boat. Jamie was on the first boat and Bugsy on the second one.

“Did you find anything unusual?” Jamie asked.

“Is the creek accessible from the other side of the lake?” She raised another question without answering Jamie’s question.

“The creek is opened to a human-made canal which joins the Flushing River and finally connects the Bay. It is not inaccessible, but some parts of it have weeds and whirlpool, so, normally no one sails through it. Moreover, we, the Angling Clubs, restrict lake access for preserving fish species and water faunas.”

Bugsy paused and again said, “Only amateur fishing is allowed here, not the commercial one. This water also has turtles and various other water creatures.”

Marie tried to recall whether she saw a turtle or something else, but turtles are not usually that big, and they did not have wide eyes like humans.

“We always remain careful. Water life poaching is a very popular crime here. Turtles are the main victims.” Bugsy added.

“Not only from lakes and bog,” Jamie said, “Two manatees were stolen from a local aquatic zoo. The police are still on the hunt.”

“Yeah, I also read the news on Facebook. I think it happened only a month ago.” Bugsy said in a feeble voice.

“Yes, and it is quite impossible to conceal such large animals without raising the alarm,” Jamie said.

“We can return now,” Bugsy said abruptly.

They again started the engines of their boats and creating ripples in the calm water three kayaks started running towards the jetty. Rafael was still on the shore. He helped them to get into the jetty from those small narrow boats. Bugsy dismissed him, “Close the fishing point and the outer entrance. Put a notice board as well.”

“Are you planning to close it, Mr. Bugsy?” Marie asked.

“I am helpless; I cannot take risks.” Bugsy shrugged.

“How many staffs and members do you have Mr. Bugsy?”

“We have only a hundred members, but ten were Premium members. Three of our Premium Members have died in the last month, so, now it is only seven.” He replied, “I am the Secretary of the Club but cannot stay regularly. Rafael is the caretaker as well as the operation manager. He comes here regularly.

Abel Jones was our elected as the Chairman, but Gordon White wanted the post. They were close competitors for the chairmanship. Gordon became Chairman for a week after Abel’s death.” He said, “Now the Chairman’s post is vacant again.”

“What about Benjamin? Did not he aspire for any post?” Jamie asked

“No, he was a peaceful man, occasionally came for fishing, but his main objective was to explore the nature. He was a professional painter. Angling was just one of his hobbies.” Bugsy recalled fondly.

Marie and Jamie came out of the angling club and walked towards the car, standing in the parking place. Jamie asked, “What do you think of this case?”

“I have not got any solid evidence against anyone, not even a clue.” She admitted. “Jamie, cannot we visit any of the victim’s family for further inquiry?”

“Gordon and Abel have no family in this city. Gordon’s wife stays outside New York, and Abel was a bachelor without any prominent relative. Benjamin has a wife, and she stays in this area only. We can visit her.” Jamie said.

“Do you know her address?” She asked.

“Yes, we visited her apartment. Jennifer is a compassionate woman with two young children. It is really unfortunate that she lost her husband in this age.” Marie did not like Jamie’s soft corner for Benjamin’s widow but did not say anything.

Benjamin’s apartment was far away from the lake, and it was in the suburb. Jennifer was in her apartment only, and she did not surprise to see Jamie and Marie.

“I know the sheriff, and you must be famous detective Marie Claire?” She drew a thin smile on her somber face. “Did you get any clue?”

Marie felt bad for the young widow. Jennifer was no more than thirty, and she had an innocent look on her face. The house interior and her ordinary dress depicted financial constraints. She politely asked them to sit on an old sofa and offered coffee.

Jennifer was a ceaselessly, talkative woman who spoke more than she listened. Without any provocation, she started saying a lot about herself. How she met her husband in an art gallery and how she married him against her parents’ will. Benjamin did not have any stable source of income; he mainly depended on her income. Jennifer worked as a teacher in a local school. She invited them to see his paintings.

A room within the apartment was kept separately for Benjamin’s artworks. The room was developed like a studio. Its walls and even the floor were crowded with paintings. Marie started examining the paintings, most of them were landscapes, and only a few were portraits. Suddenly her glance fell on an unfinished one.

“This one is his last work. Is not it a masterpiece?” Jennifer asked.

It was the scene of a lake, probably taken from a great height. The crystal clear blue water had a perfect reflection of the sky above and the pine trees. She noticed the creek. It had long grasses and weeds and a beautiful mermaid floating in the water.

“What is it?” Marie pointed out.

Jamie replied, “A mermaid.”

“No, a Siren,” Jennifer added, “See its facial features look like birds and humans, though the body looks like a fish. My husband’s wild imagination!”

“It’s unique,” Marie admitted, “None of his paintings depict any fantasy objects or mythological creatures.”

“True enough,” Jennifer added.

Marie could not understand why Benjamin imagined Siren in this painting.

For a while, Marie tried to imagine what she had seen near the creek. A huge black animal or something unusual and a pair of wide human-like eyes. She closed her eyes and tried to recall the shrill whistle sound she listened for a while.

Part-II

Marie had already finished drawing the map of Meadow Lake when Jamie rang the doorbell. She shouted, “It is open; please come in.” Jamie entered the office within a few seconds and asked, “Did you get any clue, Marie?”

“Not yet, but very soon, I’ll get.” She said.

“Mr. Bugsy has closed the club for an indefinite time.”

“Jamie, can’t we go there again, but not from the lakeside, but the other side of the creek.”

“Are you crazy, Marie?” Jamie could not understand what she was thinking.

“I am not crazy; you know my way of investigation is quite different.” She said.

“I have to take help from my colleagues, patrolling water bodies. But, as far I know, another side of the creek is not accessible. It is risky enough, and part of it falls in private property.” He said.

“Part of it falls in Bugsy’s club. Now it is closed, and you are investigating their case only.” Marie said stubbornly. Jamie brought out his phone and dialed a few numbers. After a few minutes talk, he said,

“Well, Miss Claire, everything is arranged.”

“I hope you did not say anything to Bugsy?”

“No, not yet, but if we want to access the creek, we may have to.” He said.

“Please arrange for a scuba diver too.” Marie requested.

They did not delay anymore and started the operation. Jamie had arranged a patrolling vessel. It was a raft where four people could travel together. Jamie introduced Allen and Rebecca to Marie. They were efficient divers as well as experienced sailors.

Their raft started sailing through the Meadow Canal. An artificial canal developed decades ago for rejuvenating the Flushing River. Both sides of the canal had a plantation, which created a forest somewhere. Beyond the tree lines, one could see large skyscrapers of the city. They sailed smoothly for a few kilometers and finally stopped before an abandoned creek, “It is the point, Miss Claire,” Rebecca said, “This creek connects Meadow Lake, but we cannot enter, it is risky.”

As she finished her words, the boat jerked mildly. “What happened?” Jamie asked.

“Don’t know,” Rebecca replied. Really, there was no cause for the sudden turbulence. Suddenly, Marie noticed something black emerged from the water and vanished within seconds. Perhaps Jamie too noticed it.

“What is it? A fish?” He shouted.

Allen nodded, “I have never seen such a large fish. Rebecca, we have to enter the creek.”

“It’s risky, Allen.” She replied.

“Damn your risk; we are the police. We cannot overlook anything unusual.” He started the engine but kept the speed very low. Carefully avoiding weeds and long grasses the raft entered the creek.

“I cannot understand why the management authority did not bother to remove weeds from the creek,” Rebecca told unpleasantly.

“They thought about it and tried to apply chemicals, but environmentalists gave objection. Application of chemical may disturb the aquatic food chain.” Jamie replied, “A long legal battle is going on over this issue, Rebecca.”

However, Allen stopped the engine after some time and said, “Good Gracious! We really cannot go further.” Marie noticed thick mat like green weeds at the lake bottom. Here the water was not crystal clear, but a bit dirty and had greenish shade.

“If we go further weeds will damage the propeller,” Allen said.

“No need of going further, we can see the lake from here,” Marie said.

“It’s two kilometers away from the spot,” Allen replied.

“What are we searching for?” Jamie finally asked.

“The big black monster Jamie,” Marie said.

“I think it is an illusion.”

“No, I saw it too,” Allen said. Rebecca also added that she had seen it too.

“I saw it on the second time.” Marie disclosed, “Yesterday when I went to the creek from the Lake, I saw two black creatures dived into the water, and they created sudden turbulence.”

For a while, everyone remained silent but did not notice anything odd. Suddenly Rebecca said, ‘I can hear a faint sound of whistle or flute.”

They focused their attention. She was not wrong. A faint sound was coming from somewhere. Marie tried to hear clearly, and Jamie said, “My God, it is coming from the water, and the sound is growing louder.”

As he finished his words, they felt a sudden undulation. A big black creature emerged from the water almost crashing the raft by its head.

“Be careful,” Allen shouted. The raft inclined dangerously, and Jamie was almost about to drown. Marie caught his hand tightly, and he somehow managed his balance.

For a while, Marie saw the creature’s ugly face, wide eyes like human and thick fins like hands. Allen brought out his gun and was almost about to fire. Suddenly Marie caught his hands and said, ‘Don’t kill it. It is a Manatee, the lost Manatee.”

Jamie looked at her disbelievingly, but very soon, he realized that she was not wrong. Two fully grown manatees appeared before the raft as they were expecting food from them.

“These creatures were smuggled out from the zoo, and someone kept them here. I am damn sure men come here regularly for feeding them.” She said.

“As far I know these creatures are herbivores and the creek water is full of weeds and herbs. Why do they need feeding?” Allen asked.

“They were raised in a zoo; I think that is why their food habit has changed slightly,” Marie said.

“Captivated animals often preferred processed foods.”

“I want to arrest them,” Jamie shouted.

Marie did not bother; she affectionately touched the coarse skin of a manatee. Two of them moved their fins and touched the raft just like human beings. Their fins were as thick as a man’s hand.

“Jamie, I suspected it when I saw Benjamin’s painting. Why did he imagine a mermaid in Meadow Lake? He saw a manatee. Yes, manatees are the creature that once invoked the imagination of mermaids and sirens in our folklore. He wanted to see the creature from close and decided to go near the creek.”

“Well, but what about the previous two murders?” Jamie asked.

“I think smugglers killed them too.” Rebecca said, “Let me inform the police station. We have to transfer these poor creatures to the zoo.”

“Hold on, Rebecca,” Marie requested, “If you want to reveal the killer as well as the smuggler, we have to take a little more risk.”

“What else we can do?” Rebecca asked.

“I need a diver’s costume and want to hide myself within the water.” She said.

“No, it is risky, Marie. I cannot allow.” Jamie shouted.

“Well, do you have enough training, Miss Claire?” Allen asked.

“I have,” Marie admitted.

“We have two costumes. Sheriff Jenkins asked us to arrange for scuba divers, but I never imagined that you’d go.” Allen paused and again said, “Take any of us with you. We are experienced divers.”

Marie nodded and preferred Rebecca. “But your raft cannot stay here. We have to leave the creek as soon as possible.” Marie looked at the sky. Sunlight was fading out gradually. She looked at her wristwatch; it was four o’clock.

“We have only an hour in hand. I am sure something happens here in the Evenfall.” Marie said.
Allen started the engine and tactfully came out from the creek avoiding the weeds. Those two manatees again dived into the water. Within half an hour they again found themselves in the canal. Marie and Rebecca wore diver costume and plunged into the water. They started swimming towards the creek. Rebecca again warned her against the weeds; they could tie around the ankles.

They went into the creek. The water was shallow there, but soft mud and weeds could choke divers if they were not careful. Marie again saw those manatees. They made siren-like sound from their mouth and came closer in a playful manner.

‘Extremely playful creatures and well trained,’ Marie thought.

The lake bottom was a fascinating place. It not only had lots of fishes and small turtles but also had numerous underwater plants. She continued swimming. Rebecca showed a hand signal, not to lose track of her.

After some time she realized that they were almost out of the creek and swimming in the lake’s crystal clear water. There was no angler’s boat today because the club closed its operation. So, the lake was perfectly calm. Orange sunrays were falling on the water, and the water droplets were scintillating in the fading light of Twilight. Very soon, the entire surrounding would submerge in darkness.

Suddenly Rebecca made a different signal. Marie knew the meaning of it. A boat was approaching from the lake towards the creek. They remained inside the water and realized that a sailing boat passed above the water. It stopped before the creek and remained standstill. It was not possible for them to guess what was going on the surface. Rebecca took her ultrasound device and sent messages to her colleagues. Suddenly she gave a signal and asked Marie to emerge out of the water.

Marie followed her advice and suddenly emerged out of the water. She perplexed to see that a dingy boat with two men was floating onto the water. Two more NYPD boats were sailing towards the creek with high speed. She recognized the two men, Bugsy and Rafael. Both of them were in scuba costume.
None of them noticed her and Rebecca, but their glance was fixed at the approaching NYPD boats.

“How can they chase us like this? Did not you close the gate properly?” Bugsy asked.

Rafael nodded, “I did, but I think they trespass. Wear the diver’s costume and dive.”

“We don’t have time.” Bugsy plunged into the water. Rebecca chased him. He suddenly realized that two more divers were following him. Rafael was more skilled in scuba diving. He swiftly entered the creek. Rebecca stopped Marie to chase him in the creek. There were NYPD boats in the canal too.

Suddenly one of them hugged Marie from the back and forced her to emerge out of the water. The man forcibly removed her oxygen mask and showed her face to the police.

“If anyone dares to touch me, I’ll kill the woman first.” He roared. Marie recognized Bugsy’s voice.

“Mr. Bugsy…”

“Yes, I am Miss Claire, keep calm and allow us to escape.” Bugsy hissed, “It was my mistake that I took a woman detective lightly.”

Marie felt cold steel against her forehead’s skin. She realized that the man had a pistol too. Two boats of NYPD stopped in front of her. Flush light fell directly on their faces, but the police could not fire.

Suddenly, Marie felt underwater movement. A large gigantic creature pushed Bugsy against the rocky lake bottom. He lost his balance, and the pistol dropped into the water. Marie freed herself and swam away from the man. Police helped her to get into the boat, and another one threw a net on Bugsy.

Epilogue

“Finally Bugsy admitted his crime in the police custody. Though we arrested him in charge of rare animal smuggling, Rafael admitted that Bugsy was using the club for poaching and smuggling of rare turtle species found in the creek. That was why they kept the creek isolated from the canal. It was the original habitat of bog turtles, and he used to smuggle those animals.”

“I think Rafael is directly involved in this smuggling. He once worked in an aquatic zoo.” She said.

“Maybe,” Jamie said thoughtfully, “but, the matter became serious when one of the smugglers asked him to hide two manatees for a few days. These two creatures were supposed to smuggle outside the US, and it was their temporary home. Gordon and Abel saw those creatures in the creek. Bugsy killed them. He was in diver’s costume, so, he suddenly emerged from the water and hurt them from the back with stones. He used fishing lines to tie their ankles, so, they could not turn back.” Jamie told the story in one breath.

“Really, we initially suspected a serial killer.” Jamie again said.

“I did not, because serial killers or psychopath always keeps their modus operandi same. But, in this case, the killer did not. Did you remember I asked Bugsy in which leg the fishing line was tied of the victims? Is it always the right leg? He said yes, but you said that only in Benjamin’s case, the fishing line was tied around the right leg. But he said something else.”

Marie again said, “I suspected Bugsy when he pointed out Gordon and Abel’s competitive attitude and tried to prove that Gordon gained from Abel’s death. I also noticed his pale face when you mentioned about the zoo burglary.” Marie added. “But I am feeling bad for Benjamin. He was a talented artist, and if he did not draw mermaids, I could not associate the zoo burglary with those anglers’ death.” Marie sighed deeply and looked outside the window. Pale white clouds were sailing lazily across the sunny autumn sky just like kayaks on a lake.

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Mala Mukherjee was born in Kolkata, India and began her literary career in her mid-twenties when her short stories were published in various websites during Halloween. She is an academician by profession. She has completed her Doctoral Degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India and currently working as an Assistant Professor in a research institute. She is an author by passion, an impulsive writer, who enjoys writing the horror story, paranormal and fantasy fiction.