As the object neared, Bert could see the same cloth as he had previously “caught”. It was ragged, old cotton; the white now a muddy dark brown. The tatters were streaming out behind it, emulating the lure. Something round bobbed in the water at the place where the material ended. For no discernable reason Bert’s body began to shake and the queasiness returned with force. He imagined that a putrid smell filled the air and began breathing through his nose. As soon as it arrived with a sickening thud against the prow of the boat, Bert grabbed the net with quivering hands and leaned over the side. What he saw would inhabit his dreams for the rest of his life.
In the water lay the armless torso of a woman. Clumps of the pale blonde hair had fallen out and the skin was sloughing off the face, making it look like a burn victim. Underneath the skin, Bert could see wriggling maggots. The empty eye sockets stared at him accusingly. Bert catapulted his body to the opposite side and became violently ill. Try as he might the stench lay in his nostrils like a dead thing, refusing to budge. His thoughts chaotically caromed around in his brain and he had to take several deep, calming breaths in order to restore a semblance of order. Bert fished his mobile phone out of his jeans’ pocket and had to dial the number repeatedly before his fingers found the correct sequence that would connect him to the police station. He stuttered the story out with great gasping ventilations to still his racing heart. They told him to stay right where he was. This made the area in which the divers would have to search both smaller and easier as Bert could indicate the precise spot in which the sinker had gone down.
While waiting, he steeled himself and looked over the side at the horrific “catch”. Around the pale, bloated neck, Bert noticed something eerily familiar. Affixed to the taut gold chain a ruby encrusted cross shimmered in the light that played hide and seek in the gentle, windblown waves. He distinctly remembered seeing it before. It was the exact replica of the cross James had designed and made for his wife, Patty at the jewelers’ in town. It had cost him a pretty penny too.
Two weeks ago Patty had apparently left for a two months’ visit to their daughter in London. He vaguely remembered his wife saying something about it being rather fishy as Patty would surely have discussed it with her. Bert thought that it was a spur of the moment thing and that she shouldn’t be overly worried about it, yet Patty had never phoned or contacted her in this time. James had asked to have the use of the boat that weekend too and had borrowed his chain saw. Bert made a mental note to let the police know of this nauseating tidbit. James had surely not taken something out of the lake but had rather been putting something into the murky depths. He had also been acting strangely the last couple of days, complaining of being sleepless and not able to eat. Everything seemed to fall into place like a precision cut jigsaw puzzle..
The police arrived within thirty minutes and recovered the rest of the body in various black bags, weighted down by concrete blocks. James was taken into custody and pled guilty; he would spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. Out of towners and lifelong inhabitants streamed to the lake to see the place where Patty had found her last resting place. The lake was no longer a privately held secret. They sold the boat within the next month; all having lost their interest in fishing and specifically in the lake. They kept imagining Patty’s body lying in the bottom of Little Titanic; in the muddy bottom of the lake, food for the fish. For Bert, Paradise Lake became a parody of nightmares and interrupted sleep. It was fouled by James’ deed. He would never in his life pick up another fishing rod for fear of discovering horrors instead of fish.
Be careful when you go fishing, dear reader as you never know what you might catch.
Word Count 2144