Jim Dolan’s trip to Norton Utilities in Marbury, Connecticut found the company in an even bigger mess than he had anticipated. His board of directors was bickering over how to prevent Norton stock from plummeting further. In two weeks it had gone from seventy-eight and three-quarters to fifty one dollars, a loss than translated into over a quarter of a million to him personally. This was his retirement and inheritance to his children they were screwing with and he wanted action.
The company was troubled on two fronts. The first being increased competition from Patriot Power and Electric in Boston that had broken into the southern New England market. Their rates were lower and they were loaded with capital investment money. Norton had already lost customers to them in neighboring Litchfield County.
The second problem was Norton’s real estate holdings on Arrowhead. Its one thousand acres of lakeshore property had been worth close to a billion dollars. Based on residential sales by some real estate company in Greenwich, the land was worth only sixty-percent of that now. News of it had been all over the media which loved the fact that it was because of a killer shark in the lake.
Dolan told his directors that until the second problem was fixed, the first would be impossible to solve. Without the capital from selling land on the lake at full value, they would have no means of countering Patriot's expansion into their area. “The problem is simple,” he told them, “however the solution isn’t. But I’m going to twist a few arms and get that goddamn shark out of the lake.”
A few phone calls revealed who was in charge of trying to do just that. And apparently failing miserably. It was the county sheriff’s office for Christ’s sake. What the hell did they know about getting a shark out of a lake?
Piccolo had met Connecticut State Attorney-General Howard Roehrig only once since he had been elected sheriff three years ago. That had been when Roehrig swung through Fairfield county campaigning with Governor David Charney. Since then Piccolo had been in contact with the attorney-general’s office on various matters, but they hadn’t dealt directly with each other. Until two days ago when he called.
Roehrig had been pleasant, reminiscing about his trip to Fairfield county and their meeting. He talked about the tragic incidents resulting from a shark being in Arrowhead Lake. He was complimentary in regard to Piccolo’s efforts to find it and also his handling of the media. (Which Piccolo himself didn’t think he was doing a great job of.) But then Roehrig subtly implied that possibly Piccolo and his people would at some point need more help.
He was careful to say that it was not directly in terms of the investigation itself, but that certain resources such as additional funding for it, or even sophisticated technical assistance might be needed from the state. In that case it would be prudent that he be open to support and meeting influential people that could give it. One of those people was Jim Dolan, former CEO of Norton Utilities. He explained that Jim was retired but still very involved with Norton. More importantly, he was influential within the state legislature. “Jim raised a lot of money for people serving the state,” Roehrig had said “and has the ear of a lot of them.”
Piccolo didn’t need to hear about Dolan’s influence. Everybody in the Marbury area knew about his donations to party coffers over the years and the favorable court decisions he had gotten for Norton. But he had wondered where this conversation was really going.
Roehrig then got to the point.
He said that Dolan’s company was affected by the “shark problem” and wanted to know what the state was doing about it. Roehrig told him the investigation was being carried out by the Fairfield County sheriff’s department and that he should contact Piccolo. Two hours after he hung up with Roehrig, Dolan called for an appointment.
Now Jim Dolan sat across the table from Piccolo in a small conference room adjacent to his office. He was an impressive man, impeccably dressed in a dark business suit, with a maroon kerchief tucked in his breast pocket. At seventy he seemed very fit with a deep tan that contrasted his full head of snow-white hair. Both his arms rested on the table revealing expensive cuff links and a Rolex watch.
“I’d like to thank you for seeing me Sheriff,” Dolan began. “I know you’re very busy dealing with this shark situation and I appreciate your taking the time.”
“That’s quite all right,” Piccolo replied. He and Dolan both knew he didn’t have much choice.
“I won’t take up much of your time,” Dolan began. “As you probably know my company Norton Utilities owns one thousand acres on Arrowhead Lake, land that we’ve held for thirty-five years. That property along with everybody else’s is quickly losing its value. It’s affecting Norton stock and undermining the company.”
“I understand,” Piccolo said. Everybody else’s property values were suffering too.
“I just wanted you to know, Sheriff,” Dolan continued, “that Norton Utilities is prepared to offer any assistance necessary to facilitate your ridding Arrowhead of this shark. Whether it be financial or use of my influence in Hartford, just let me know what you need.”
“I appreciate that, Mr. Dolan,” Piccolo said. He didn’t expect much in the way of money, the company was in financial danger. As for Dolan’s influence, he had already experienced it.
“You know that lake is my baby,” Dolan said proudly. “I created it out of farmland in the valley. Did you grow up around here?”
“Yes I did.”
“Then you probably enjoyed it. A lot of people did. And I can’t stand what’s happened to it. We’ve got to get rid of this terrible creature. I’d like to know what’s being done as far as your investigation is concerned?” Dolan asked.
Piccolo took him through everything his department had done starting with patrolling the lake to currently requesting the U.S. Navy to do an aerial search. Dolan listened intently, nodding his approval several times.
“So I see you have sought outside help,.” he said when Piccolo finished.
“We’ve had to,” Piccolo said. “Patrolling the lake all day and sometimes into the night hasn’t gotten us anything. This creature has turned out to be very wily. It’s going to take sophisticated means to find him and that’s the direction we’re headed in now.”
Piccolo watched Dolan carefully as he spoke. He knew that Norton’s ex CEO was here not just to find out what was being done to find the shark, but to make sure everything possible was being done. If it wasn’t, Dolan would certainly use his influence to take the investigation away from him. He wouldn’t allow that to happen. This goddamn shark was his to find. It was in his lake as much as Dolan’s and he would find it.
“Do you have any idea how it got into the lake?” Dolan asked. “You mentioned contacting a transport company.”
“Yes I did. We believe now that it didn’t get here by itself. We think somebody must have put it in the lake even though there are still questions of how it could survive fresh water.”
“Who would do such a thing?” Dolan asked surprised at the prospect.
“We don’t know. At least not yet.”
“What could a possible motive be?”
“We don’t know that either,” Piccolo said with a shrug.
“Do you have any suspects?”
In fact Piccolo thought Dolan himself could be a suspect. Norton’s land holdings had lost value, but again so had everyone else’s. Although Norton was failing financially, if it could borrow money from an outside source it could buy additional property on the lake at bargain prices. Land they never could have afforded otherwise. When the shark was killed, and eventually it would be, they would stand to make a handsome profit.
Piccolo knew a financial analyst in Manhattan who could watch Norton carefully. If they tried to borrow money, he would find out about it.
Dolan may very well have created Arrowhead, but he may have also put a shark in it.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt: Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com.