Jaws Fanfiction: Novelization of the movie Jaws Summary
Jaws Fanfiction: Novelization of the movie Jaws is a Jaws Fanfiction write by a fan. we do not own the original story. New chapter release will be updated instantly on novelgates.com
Jaws Fanfiction: Novelization of the movie Jaws Summary:
This is a novelization of the movie Jaws, which is based on a screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb. All the dialogue is taken directly from the script.
Jaws Fanfiction: Novelization of the movie Jaws first chapter:
The First Victim
She was the first.
A twenty year old girl called Chrissie Watkins, who was summering on Amity Island, working tables in a local restaurant by day, and getting high at night. She was tanned from the June sun and her body was lithe from daily swimming. Thursday night after her shift she had hooked up with one of the other waitresses, who knew a couple of guys with a guitar and harmonica, who said there was a party down on the beach.
Chrissie was sitting on the edge of the circle around the campfire, where a bunch of locals and vacationing college kids were drinking, smoking weed, making out, or just listening to the sound of the ocean. The summer stretched out ahead of them through July and August up until Labor Day. One of the group – a handsome boy with thick blonde hair – had been eyeing her for a while now. Chrissie sat returning his gaze, waiting for him to make his move. He drained the last of his beer and then got to his feet and came over to her.
The young girl looked out at the ocean and on an impulse jumped up and ran over the dune. The boy followed her, calling out.
‘What’s your name again?’
‘Where are we going?’
With long strides she raced along the top of the dune, weaving in and out of the dilapidated windbreaks. The boy stumbled after her. The ocean glittered invitingly in the moonlight. Chrissie unbuttoned her top and threw it behind her. She paused to unhook her jeans and then slid them off together with her panties. Naked, she ran down the dune’s incline onto the hard wet sand of the beach. Winded the boy stopped to catch his breath and watched the girl’s wide-hipped silhouette race into the water. He tried to hitch his shirt over his head, lost his footing and then somersaulted clumsily half way down the slope.
‘Slow up!’, he called. ‘I’m not drunk. Slow down! Wait. I’m coming.’
He stood up too quickly and felt his head spin. He collapsed onto the sand, laughing.
‘I can swim,’ he giggled. ‘I just can’t walk or undress myself.’
A wave lapped at his feet. He looked up at the starlit sky.
‘I’m coming,’ he laughed. “I’m definitely coming.’ Then he drifted into unconsciousness.
Chrissie was already thirty yards from the shore. She swam with a strong but choppy stroke, kicking up a foamy plume of bubbles with her long legs. When she paused to tread water she could feel the colder current below her waist. She turned back and could just make out the boy’s prostrate form on the beach.
‘Come on in the water,’ she yelled.
The guy must be totally wasted, she thought. Would he be able to get it up, she wondered. They could do it right there on the beach. The thought sent a thrill through her body and instinctively she put one hand down between her legs. Before going back she would swim out to the buoy that marked the beginning of the channel. She knew that beyond there the tide could exert a strong pull, strong enough to sweep even an experienced swimmer out to sea. Here in the bay, though, there was a stillness in the water and the waves lapped comfortingly against her skin. She lay on her back and kicked languidly, her arms stretched out on either side to keep her afloat.
Unseen, thirty feet below, the shark cruised along the sea bed. Curtains of kelp swayed in the currents and some strips adhered themselves to the great fish’s downward protruding pectoral fins. Its eyes were points of black in the underwater blackness, but its whole body was attuned to the minutest changes in its environment. It could detect tiny particles of blood in the water from a distance of miles, and the vibrations of creatures in distress acted like homing signals. It knew no fear, and it moved relentlessly, never resting, never deflected from its purpose to seek out fresh prey.
The shark had come from the depths of the great Atlantic, moving up from southern waters. Now it sensed a disturbance above it. With a flick of its great sickle tail it angled up towards the surface and rose towards the figure silhouetted against the pale moonlight. Its ascent was almost cautious as it approached the swimmer, and it sheered off as it neared the surface, its dorsal fin slicing through the water.
The girl felt her whole body lifted up by a sudden wave, and she righted herself in the water. She looked anxiously about her, the appeal of a midnight swim suddenly evaporating. She turned and began to kick towards the shore.
The shark passed her again, just over an arm’s length away, and this time she heard the hiss of its fin cutting the surface. Another wave lifted her up and salt water splashed into her open mouth. A sudden shudder of fear passed through her.
The shark had turned again, and now, travelling just below the surface of the water, it bore down on the girl. Its jaws were agape and, as it passed below her, they caught her right leg and snapped shut. The force severed the leg below the knee and pulled the girl under. She came up gasping, but before the full panic of realisation could hit her she was dragged under again. Her scream was smothered as she choked on salt water. The horror of drowning flashed in her mind as she fought for air, and then suddenly, inexplicably, she broke the surface, buoyed up by something below which held her in a razor-like grip. It pulled her first one way and then another, and with each jerk it cut like acid into her torso.
‘Oh my God! Please! Please! Make it stop! Make it stop!’
Her arms flayed as the sea seemed to boil about her.
Chrissie’s screams were carried across the water to the beach where the young boy lay in a drunken stupor.
‘Jesus Christ! Oh my God! Help me! Make it stop! Make it stop!’
The pain was unbearable. If only the pain would stop.
The girl lashed out and her hand struck the side of the buoy. She grasped it desperately, but the thing below the water took her again. She screamed once and then with a sudden force was pulled under for the last time. The tumult in the water subsided, and left only the agitated toll of the buoy’s warning bell.
Martin Brody, Amity’s Chief of Police, woke with the sun in his eyes. He could hear the distant sound of a bell and the cry of gulls. The early morning Cape Station news bulletin was playing from the clock radio. Brody swiveled onto the side of the bed and stretched. His wife Ellen rolled onto her side and her eyelids fluttered open. She smiled and pulled down the nightdress that had bunched up around her hips from their lovemaking of the night before.
Brody got up and walked crookedly to the chair where he had hung his pants.
‘How come the sun didn’t use to shine in here?’ he asked, pausing at the open window to take in the ocean. He still couldn’t get over a view that wasn’t of blackened brick and rusting fire escape.
‘We bought the house in the fall. This is summer.’ Ellen propped herself up on one elbow. ‘Somebody feed the dogs, huh?’
Brody grunted and made for the door.
‘Can you see the kids?’ Ellen asked.
‘I think they must be in the front yard.’
‘In Amity, you say yaad.’
‘They’re in the yaad not too faah from the caah.’ Brody leant back into the room with a grin. ‘How’s that?’
‘Like you’re from Noo Yawk.’ Ellen shooed him away and thought about the weekend ahead. She had promised to take the kids to the beach on Sunday, and then there were things to do for Mikey’s twelfth birthday on Tuesday. She hitched up her nightgown and looked at her belly – still soft with fat, it needed some toning before she could get away with that bikini she’d bought at the local store. Amity Island wasn’t quite Madison Avenue – not that she could have afforded much on a New York City detective’s salary. Not for the first time Ellen Brody stared up at the ceiling and checked off all the reasons for moving out of Queens.
In the bathroom, staring into the shaving mirror, her husband was doing the same. He had a little speech he gave on the dangers of the big bad city and the relative tranquility of their new home whenever any of the locals asked why they had come to Amity. And everybody wanted to know. Brody sprayed his jaw with foam and lathered it over the skin. He shaved, patted some Old Spice on his cheeks, and then checked the crown of his head for any sign of a bald patch.
Dressed in his uniform, Brody came down the stairs to the smells of bacon frying in the kitchen. Before he could take a seat, the wall phone rang.
There were, in fact, two phones on the wall by the icebox, one a private line and the other a direct line to the station. Out of habit Brody picked up the top phone, but at once realized his mistake.
The back door opened and his son Michael came in with a big grin on his face, holding up a bloodied palm.
‘Mom, I got cut. I got bit by a vampire,’ he crowed.
‘You guys were playing on those swings,’ Brody said, picking up the second receiver..
Ellen ran her son’s hand under warm water and dabbed at the cut.
‘Well, I think you’re going to live,’ she said.
‘Stay off them. I haven’t fixed those yet.’
There was still a lot to fix around the house: the swings, the picket fence in the back yard, the flue in the chimney. They had moved in last September and had done practically nothing since. Even the goddam yellow drapes in the kitchen, which Ellen hated so much, were still there. It was like they were afraid to settle in and accept the house as their new home.
An urgent voice on the other end of the phone cut into Brody’s thoughts. It was his deputy, Hendricks. Brody listened and lowered his voice in reply.
‘What the hell do they usually do? Wash up or float, or what? Nah, nah, keep him there. I’ll be out in about fifteen to twenty minutes. Alright, gotta go.’
Brody hung up and muttered, ‘Missing person. Season hasn’t even started yet.’
He grabbed a cup of coffee from the table and headed out the back door. Ellen followed him out, covering her bare shoulders with her gown as she felt the morning breeze off the ocean. Sean, their four year old, was playing in the yard, and she scooped him up with a kiss. Her husband, coffee cup still in hand, strode purposefully towards the police vehicle – a beige and white jeep – parked by the mailbox.
‘Listen, chief,’ she called, ‘be careful, will you?’
Brody slid in behind the wheel and cranked down the window.
‘In this town?’ He laughed over the sound of the engine.
‘Hey, I want my cup back.’
‘You’ll get it.’
Brody put the jeep into gear and swung out into the road.
Ellen took her son’s hand in hers and together they waved.
‘Wave good-bye. Bye! Bye!’
Sean squirmed in her arms and she let him down to run after Bruce, their long-haired retriever. Ellen watched as the vehicle disappeared over the rise. Before going back into the house she stood for a moment to look out at the sea that backed onto their property. The water was a sparkling blue shot through with glittering reflections of golden sunlight. A sailboat was crossing the mouth of the bay and from somewhere along the beach she could hear a radio bleating pop music. It was going to be another beautiful day. The eight o’clock ferry from the mainland would already be releasing the first wave of tourists and by noon there wouldn’t be a free square foot of sand on the beach along Old Scotch Road. Larry Vaughn, the town’s major and the island’s leading realtor, had been right about one thing: it was going to be one of Amity’s best summers ever. It was all thanks to Harry Meadows, proprietor and editor-in-chief of The Amity Gazette. He had used his city media connections to get a piece in the Sunday style section of The New York Times. Almost overnight, Amity Island had become a fashionable destination for middle class Manhattanites whose pay-grade could not quite stretch to the rentals for waterfront property on Cape Cop or Martha’s Vineyard.
The breeze coming off the water freshened. Ellen hugged herself and shuddered, and then went back inside to finish breakfast.
Chief Brody had exchanged his prescription glasses for a pair of aviator shades that he kept tucked in the sun visor. The light reflecting off the ocean could be almost dazzling. He took the coast road to avoid going through the town, which even at this early hour would be snarled with traffic from the mainland ferry. At this time of year almost every other license plate was out of state. Two of the main duties of the Amity police force were ticketing for speeding and issuing citations for parking in red zones. Of course, the same rules didn’t apply to Islanders, the people who lived here all year round. Brody had quickly come to understand that there were certain privileges that came as a birth right. He had also learned that you did not become an Islander simply by moving here. There was a subtle but distinct hierarchy at work, and Brody was slowly beginning to appreciate its complexities. He snapped on the radio and caught the tail end of the local weather report: clear skies and temperatures in the eighties. A jingle for Vaughn Real Estate followed: Larry’s snake-oil salesman’s voice describing the investment opportunities in beach-front developments, and ending with the declaration that ‘Amity Means Friendship.’
Brody came to the rise of a bluff, where the road turned and then gently descended to South Beach, one of the island’s bathing spots: a scimitar of white sand that held an achingly blue portion of water. Here overlooking the curve of the bay and commanding a view over the whole southern part of the island, a billboard the size of a movie screen had been erected . It showed a somewhat cartoonish image of a laughing blonde on an inflatable lounger, and bore the legend AMITY ISLAND WELCOMES YOU. Every time Brody drove past it he couldn’t help checking out the blonde’s firm ass in its orange bikini bottom, an anatomical detail on which the artist seemed to have invested a great deal of care. The sign had been up for just over a week and Brody thought that it wouldn’t be long before some bored kids daubed it with crude graffiti.
Brody pulled in beside the police vehicle at the far end of the beach’s parking lot. Hendricks was standing a little way off from his cruiser in conversation with a young man dressed in blue denim. Brody slipped the aviator glasses back in the sun visor pouch and hooked his regular glasses behind his ears. He got out of the jeep and approached the two men. Hendricks introduced the young man as Jack Cassidy. Brody judged him to be in early twenties. The kid spoke with a kind of begrudging respect that was common for those his age when faced with authority. Brody could see that his clothes, though casual, had expensive designer labels. Hendricks gave a brief summary of the events of the previous evening: Cassidy had met a girl at a party down on the beach and they had gone off together. She’d gone swimming and Cassidy had fallen asleep on the beach. He’d woken up with a hangover, with no sign of the girl. All her stuff was still scattered along the dunes, her clothes, her bag, everything. As Brody questioned the boy, Hendricks said he’d take a look further up beyond the dunes and ambled down towards the shore.
Brody got the boy to run through his story twice, checking for inconsistencies, but his story seemed solid. He had Cassidy show him the charred remains of the campfire and the detritus of empty beer cans in a hollow between two of the long dunes that ran between the beach and the road. He could have got the kid on a littering misdemeanor, but he decided to let it go. Idly, Cassidy picked up a piece of driftwood and swatted at some of the clumps of grass growing out of the sand. They climbed up the dune and made their way along its spine. As they went Brody picked up the things the girl had discarded – a gingham top, a faded pair of Levis, a pair of sandals and some white cotton panties. There was also a hemp satchel, decorated with colored beads in some kind of Native American design. The bag held a few toiletry items, a wallet with ten dollars in it, and an out-of-state driver’s license which identified its owner as Christine Watkins.
The Chief could see the distant figure of his deputy two hundred yards up the beach. Brody stopped and looked out to sea, shading his eyes from the glare with the back of his hand.
‘Now, nobody saw her go into the water?’
‘Somebody could have.’ Cassidy drawled. ‘I was so passed out.’
‘You mean she ran out on you.’
‘No, sir.’ Cassidy snapped the rotten driftwood in two and tossed the pieces into the sand. ‘Look, I reported it to you, didn’t I?’
They descended the dune onto the beach. Brody could feel grains of the fine powdery sand seeping into the tops of his shoes.
‘You live here?’ he asked Cassidy.
‘No. Hartford. I go to Trinity. My folks live in Greenwich.’
‘Your folks were born here, right?’
‘Yeah, I’m an islander. They moved off when my dad retired. You an islander?’
The question caught Brody off guard and his response was more abrupt than he had intended.
‘No, New York City. You here for the summer?’
The shrill sound of a whistle came from down the beach.
‘Come on,’ Brody said and set off at a trot.
Up ahead he could see Hendricks crouched on one of the dunes, his head bent forward. But then something else caught Brody’s eye: just above the water line there was a dark clump of seaweed, which, as he drew near it, seemed to start moving of its own accord. He stopped a few feet away and motioned Cassidy back with his hand. Cassidy stared at the writhing thing in the sand without knowing what it was. He looked frantically from the deputy to the chief of police, waiting for them to do something. Brody stepped uneasily forward and bent down to examine the dark creeping thing and recoiled in horror at what he saw. Twisted about in thick ribbons of kelp was the unmistakeable form of a human arm, the fingers of the hand outstretched as if in a plea for help. Crabs crawled over it, their pincers snapping at the raw exposed flesh where the arm had been severed from its body. Hendricks turned to give Brody an uncomprehending stare and then dry retched into the sand. Brody clutched the girl’s hemp bag in his hand and turned his gaze seaward. The sun seemed to have momentarily gone behind a cloud and the light was off the water, which now looked dark and foreboding. Gulls wheeled overhead, screaming.
When Polly Shaw arrived for work at the station at eight fifty nine she found a young man with a glass of milk sitting under the daily bulletin board. He was staring at something in the distance and didn’t even seem to notice her. Short, plump and in her fifties, Polly wasn’t the sort of woman who expected young men to turn their heads when she entered the room, but a simple Good morning would have been nice. She guessed the boy was high on some kind of drug and was waiting on his rich parents to come and bail him out. Deputy Hendricks was sitting at his desk with a similar far away look in his eyes. He at least acknowledged Polly with a nod of the head.
‘Well, you’re up awful early,’ she said. ‘Is the chief here?’
The sound of clumsy two-fingered typing came from the next room.
Polly bustled into the room and headed for the filing cabinet.
‘Well, chief, what you got on?’ Polly prided herself on knowing everything about everybody on the island. Seeing the Chief of Police typing out a report could only mean that something significant had happened.
Brody didn’t look up and continued tapping with his two index fingers.
‘Polly, if this filing system is going to work, you’re going to have to keep that outdated stuff off my desk. Just the pending, alright?’
Polly scooped an armful of papers from the top drawer of the cabinet.
‘Yes, chief. Now, we got a bunch of calls from the karate school. It seems the nine year olds from the school have been karateing the picket fences.’ Polly accompanied her description with a swift chopping motion of her hand, which, she knew from TV, was the way you did karate.
The phone on Brody’s desk rang and Polly snatched up the receiver.
‘Chief Brody’s office?’
Brody reached his hand out to take the call.
‘It’s the medical inspector.’
Brody tilted his head to cradle the receiver on his shoulder and leave him with both hands free. He turned the roller in the typewriter to line up the box marked Cause of Death.
‘Yeah?’ He said into the phone. The voice of the chief medical inspector spoke briefly and confirmed what Brody had already guessed. There was only one thing that could have done that to Christine Watkins. He typed in the words SHARK ATTACK.
He hung up and pulled the report from the machine.
‘Now,’ Polly said, reasserting her authority, ‘the fire chief wants you to go over the fourth of July -‘
‘Polly, I want the list of all water activities that the city fathers are planning today.’ Brody handed her the carbon copy of the report. ‘All right?’
Polly looked down at the report, puzzled.
‘Right away?’ she said.
But Brody was already out of the room.
‘Hendricks, where do we keep the beach closed signs?’
The deputy got to his feet.
‘We never had any,’ he said. He was still feeling a bit queasy.
As Brody made for the front door a man whom he recognized as one of the local storekeepers blocked his exit.
‘Hey chief, chief. I was trying to find you, chief. There’s a damn truck with New Hampshire plates on it smack in front of my store.’
Brody ducked round the store owner and directed him towards Hendricks.
‘Just have him fill out the form. Just fill it out.’ he called, and was gone.
Amity Police Station, like many of the buildings in the downtown area, was of gleaming white clapboard and surrounded by white picket fencing. A wooden sign with a sheriff’s star hung by two chains from a whitewashed pole, otherwise the station might have been indistinguishable from the gift shops and boutiques that lined the block. The street was planted with cherry trees and maples, which respectively provided picturesque pink blossom in the spring, and gold and crimson leaves in the fall. Brody walked purposefully to the corner and turned into Main Street.
Main Street sloped down to the sea in a straight line from the district known as the Hills to Harbor Walk and afforded a view of the ocean beyond. It was dissected at its mid way point by Franklin, one of the several thoroughfares in the town named after presidents. On a normal day a stroll down Main Street would involve a number of conversations with locals on the state of the tourist trade, the weather, the fishing, the economy. Today Brody barely acknowledged passers-by. It was only when Harry White, one of Amity’s ‘characters’ and possibly the island’s oldest inhabitant, came out of his front yard brandishing the wheel of a bicycle that the chief was momentarily deflected from his purpose.
‘Hey, look what the kids did to my fence,’ the old man quavered, indicating several broken spikes. ‘Eight, nine years old, with glasses!’
‘With glasses,’ Brody echoing the non-sequitor without breaking stride.
As Brody marched past the whitewashed office of The Amity Gazette,editor Harry Meadows, dressed for the season in an ill-fitting powder blue linen suit, came out onto the steps. Ever the newspaper man Meadows noticed something about the determined set of the chief’s jaw that could only mean trouble. Licking the sugary remains of his early morning doughnut from his fingers, Meadows wondered what that trouble might be.
A hardware store in a sea town resort is not like any regular hardware store. Amity’s store carried the normal implements you would expect: rakes for raking up the leaves in the fall, shovels for shoveling snow out of driveways in the winter, varnishes and paints for the annual spring task of protecting the exteriors of homes against the punishing salt winds. There was also a large section of the store dedicated to fishing: rods and reels, hooks and bait, flat wide-bladed knives and needle-sharp stilettos designed for trimming and gutting the catch. In the summer months the store also stocked beach paraphernalia for the tourist trade.
The bell above the door tinged when Brody entered, and the storekeeper looked gratefully over the shoulder of the discontented customer he was dealing with.
‘This stuff ain’t going to help me in August,’ the man at the counter was saying in a whining nasal tone. ‘The summer kids come down here in June. You haven’t got one thing on here I ordered. Not a beach umbrella, not a sun lounger, no beach balls. If I can’t get service from you, I’ll go and get service from…’
Brody headed for the paints section. He grasped a number of fine tipped brushes, but pulled them out of their display jar a little too eagerly, and the whole thing toppled off the shelf. The crash gave the storekeeper a chance to escape and he came over to Brody and they got together an improvised list of supplies: blue and red paint, stiff weather-proof sign board, a box of six inch galvanized nails, and some wooden stakes.
As Brody came out of the store with his purchases cradled in his arms, Hendricks drew up to the kerb in the jeep. A passing tourist took out his camera and snapped the two of them, presumably wanting some shots of local color.
‘Hey, chief,’ Hendricks had to raise his voice over the sound of a marching band which had set up a formation at the intersection and were running through their paces for the upcoming Fourth of July parade. Traffic was already beginning to back up along Franklin. ‘Chief, Polly sent me to find you to tell you there’s a bunch of boy scouts out on April Bay doing their mile swim for their merit badges. I couldn’t call them in – there’s no phones out there.’
‘OK, come one, get out of there.’ Brody handed Hendricks the stack of boards with the other materials balanced precariously on top.. ‘Take this stuff back to the office and get to work on those signs: Beaches Closed – No swimming by order of the Amity PD. And let Polly do the printing.’
‘What’s the matter with my printing?’ Hendricks asked sulkily.
It’s about as good as my typing, Brody thought.
‘Let Polly do the printing,’ he said, climbing in behind the wheel.
Brody revved the engine and sped away.
Too late, from across the street, somebody called out the chief’s name, and Hendricks saw the mayor approaching.
Hendricks had to shout to make himself heard over a Sousa march.
‘Listen, we had a shark attack at South Beach this morning, mayor!’
Larry Vaughn’s public smile slipped for a moment and then he took the deputy’s arm and let him onto the sidewalk.
April Bay was on the eastern side of the promontory on which Amity was built, and its stretch of water separated the town from the neighboring community known as East Shore. A flatbed ferry operated across the channel, saving motorists a twenty minute drive around the bay for a fee of a dollar a vehicle. Brody drove down to the dock and right onto the waiting ferry, which rocked under the weight of his jeep. He got out and lent on the rail, scanning the water. A hundred yards away he could make out scout leader Teddy Grossman in a red rowboat calling to a group of boys trailing behind him. Teddy’s voice carried across the water, ‘Kay, Albert. Come on, you goof, keep your arms up!’ Collectively the boys were making enough splashes in the water to attract an entire school of sharks.
‘Charlie, take me over to those kids, will ya?’
The ferry rocked again as another vehicle rolled onto the deck. Brody lit up a cigarette. He felt a hand on his shoulder and a familiar voice – the voice of a snake-oil salesman.
‘Martin?’ When Larry Vaughn used the Christian names of Amity’s public servants it wasn’t out of friendliness.
Four other men were standing by the Cadillac that had drawn up bumper to bumper with the jeep. One was Meadows, a man for whom Brody had some measure of respect partly because they were both exiles from the mainland. Meadows had worked newspapers and local TV in Chicago and New York for ten years. Beside him stood a squat figure with a disproportionately large head. This was Carl Santos, the chief medical examiner. He was wearing a dark suit and a black tie like an undertaker. In contrast, Larry Vaughn sported a pale gray jacket nautically decorated with small white anchors. The cloth looked and felt expensive and Brody didn’t think it was the kind of garment that came off the rack at WalMart. Deputy Hendricks and another selectman made up the party.
‘Martin, you’re going to shut down the beaches on your own authority?’ Vaughn asked.
‘Well, what other authority do I need?’
They were heading out into the channel and Brody felt the sway of the sea beneath his feet. He gripped the rail a little bit tighter.
Meadows stepped forward.
‘Well, technically, you need a civic ordinance or a resolution by a board of selectives -‘
Larry shook his head and gave an understanding chuckle.
‘That’s just going by the book.’ He took Brody’s arm and drew his closer. ‘We’re really a little anxious that you’re rushing into something serious here. It’s your first summer, you know.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Brody disengaged himself from the Mayor’s grip.
‘I’m only trying to say that Amity is a summer town. We need summer dollars.’ Larry grinned as he always did at any mention of money. ‘If the people can’t swim here, they’ll be glad to swim at the beaches of Cape Cod, Hampton, Long Island.’
The mayor gestured towards the sea as if to indicate the geographical position of these rival resorts.
‘That doesn’t mean we have to serve them up as smorgasbord.’ Brody countered with growing tension in his voice.
Meadows, who had been hovering on the periphery, now closed in.
‘We never had that kind of trouble in these waters.’ He sounded like a true islander.
Larry Vaughn sucked on his teeth and looked to Santos.
On cue, the medical examiner took a step forward. His arms were folded defensively in front of his chest and he raised a hand to push back the thick framed glasses that had slipped down his nose.
‘Well, I think possibly, yes, a boating accident. A boat -‘
Brody cut him off.
‘That’s not what you told me over the phone.’
‘I was wrong. We’ll have to amend our reports.’
Oh, boy. Brody could see it now. He imagined them going over this little scenario in the car as they drove down to the dock. Well, he wasn’t going to be the sole carrier of the can on this little cover-up.
‘And you’ll stand by that?’ he challenged Santos.
‘I’ll stand by that.’ The reply was too quick, and felt almost rehearsed.
Vaughn, sensing that Brody was about to capitulate, became avuncular.
‘Martin, a summer girl goes swimming. Swims out a little far. She tires. A fishing boat comes along…’
‘It’s happened before,’ Meadows chimed in.
Irresolution flickered across Brody’s face, and Vaughn’s tone hardened.
‘I don’t think you appreciate the gut reaction people have to these things.’
‘Larry, I appreciate it. I ‘m just reacting to what I was told!’
Vaughn took Brody’s arm again and led him to the blunt prow of the ferry.
‘Martin, it’s all psychological. You yell barracuda, everybody says, huh, what? You yell shark, and we’ve got a panic on our hands on the fourth of July.’ The mayor smiled at his own conceit and patted the Chief of Police on the back.
‘Okay,’ Vaughn called to the ferryman, asserting his authority once again. ‘You can take us back now.’
Brody looked across the water to see that the scouts had reached the harbor wall and were climbing up the stone steps, shivering under their towels.
The Boy on the Raft
Brody watched as a large woman in a striped bathing suit waddled down the beach towards the water. He had the uncharitable thought that, like a hippopotamus, she would be more graceful in that element than out of it. Some women, he reflected, just let themselves go. Not Ellen, though, who filled out her dark tan bathing costume in all the right places. She was sitting on a towel next to him, rubbing suntan oil into her long graceful legs and chatting with Janet Miller, owner of the Seaview Hotel out on Primrose Lane. Michael was playing in the surf with a couple of other kids, and he could see Sean up the beach aways building small mounds in the sand and singing to himself.
It was Sunday morning, two days after the incident off South Beach, and there had been no other sightings of a shark.
Brody shifted in the aluminum garden chair he had positioned in the shade of an orange and white striped beach hut. Technically off duty, he was wearing a black T-shirt and knee-length khaki pants. An MOR station was playing on the radio Ellen had brought with her, the music sounding flat and tinny in the open air. A teenager in a pale lemon polo shirt and dark shorts ran across Brody’s field of vision, brandishing a stick. He gave a whistle and then hurled the stick into the sea. A black labarador raced into the surf in pursuit.
Brody scanned the beach and noticed that the large woman had by now managed to negotiate the well-populated strip of sand and was cautiously entering the water. His attention was then caught by a boy about the same age as Michael walking up the beach, his tanned limbs slick and dripping. The boy plopped down in front of a woman in a knitted canary hat.
‘Can I get my raft and go back out in the water?’
The woman looked up from her book – a fat bestseller about the Mafia – and shaded her eyes from the sun.
‘Let me see you fingers,’ she said sharply.
Her son held out his hands for inspection.
‘Alex Kintner, they are beginning to prune.’
‘Just let me go out a little longer.’
‘Just ten more minutes,’ she said.
Mrs Kintner could be forgiven the tone of irritation in her voice. She had just been through a messy divorce: her husband had left her for a barely legal dental hygienist, and she had had to fight every step of the way for custody of her child. The final deal that had been worked out in May: she got to keep her son, and her ex-husband got to keep the house in the Hamptons, the Manhattan apartment, the Chrysler and the twenty foot yacht called Sara. He had been able to hire a better class of lawyer. The case had dragged on since Christmas, and the strain of it now showed on Mrs Kintner’s features, which had thinned out and hardened. This two week break on the island was the first chance she had had to take her mind off everything.
Her son snatched up the yellow rubber raft and bounded down to the water. She felt a sudden urge to call him back and hold him and tell him that she loved him. Boy, would he be embarrassed. He didn’t like to show his feelings – just like his father – but he was all she had now. She felt her eyes smart with tears. She wiped them away and found her place in her book.
Brody too watched the boy run down to the ocean and launch himself onto the water. The kid paddled out, using his hands on either side of the raft like flippers.
Just beyond the surf the large woman was drifting lazily on her back, kept afloat thanks to the natural buoyancy of her bulk. Brody noticed a movement in the water a little further out and saw a dark hump rise above the surface. He levered himself up out of his chair and strained his eyes to get a better view. The shape revealed itself to be the bathing cap of an elderly swimmer, one he recognised as Harry White.
Brody was momentarily distracted from his watch by the laughter of the women at his side, and he heard his wife say, ‘All I want to know – I just want to know one simple thing. When do I get to become an islander?’
‘Ellen, never!’ Janet laughed. ‘Never! You’re not born here, you’re not an islander.’
Brody’s eyes went back to the water. A young couple were playing around in the surf, the girl screaming as the boy splashed her.
Brody’s view of their horseplay was blocked when Janet’s husband, Frank, ambled over and loomed before him. His barrel chest was thick with silver hair and glistened with oil.
‘Hey, Marty,’ he said. ‘I know you got a lot of problems downtown, but I got a few problems at the house I wish you could take care of. One, I’ve got some cats parking in front of the house, I can’t get down to the office.’
A shrill scream came from the surf and over Taft’s bronze shoulder Brody saw the young girl flounder in the water and then suddenly rear up, laughing, as she tried to balance herself on her boyfriend’s shoulders.
‘And that garbage truck,’ Taft was saying,’next to the office has got be moved. So we’re going to use a red zone. It’s a simple thing. You can take care of it. You’ve done it before. Okay?’
Taft went back to his wife and took another beer from the cooler.
Ellen looked over and asked, ‘You okay?’
‘Yeah, I’m fine. I’m fine.’
‘Listen, if the kids going in the water is worrying you…’
‘No, no.’ Brody said.
‘They can play out here on the beach.’
‘It’s alright. Let ’em go.’
A bunch of kids, with Michael amongst them, raced down to the water, yelling and whopping. They ran into the waves, stumbling as the water came up around their knees. They swam with untutored strokes, churning up the water with their arms and legs.
Harry White was now making his way up the beach, water dripping off the wrinkled folds of his skin. He stopped to towel himself off, blocking Brody’s view of the ocean.
‘It’s cold,’ he shivered as he hunkered down. ‘We know all about you, chief. You don’t go in the water at all, do you?’
‘That’s some bad hat, Harry,’ Brody said, shifting in his chair.
Ellen shuffled over on her knees and came up behind her husband. She put her hands on her shoulders and massaged his neck.
‘Chief Brody, you are uptight.’ She could feel the tension in his muscles loosen as her fingers worked them. ‘That’s good, that’s it.’
From up the beach came the sound of someone calling someone’s name. Brody thought he couldn’t be hearing it right as it sounded like ‘Pippit, Pippit!’ He looked in the direction of the sound and saw that it was the boy in the lemon polo shirt calling for his dog.
At that exact moment, at eleven twenty on Sunday 29th June, there were about fifty bathers in the water, none of them more than ten yards from the shore. The sun was shining and the surface of the ocean was an immaculate blue.
About fifty yards out where the land shelf suddenly dropped to a depth of two hundred feet, the shark swam back and forth. It had come in to the shallows and snatched something from the surface. It made no distinction between man or beast. Anything that moved erratically was potential prey. It had taken the dog in its huge maw and swallowed it whole, and then it had turned back to regain deeper waters. But now the whole ocean seemed to be vibrating. The shark sounded, but the insistent tattoo of splashing on the surface drew it back. It followed the rise of the sandy bottom, moving swiftly from the dark depths to the lighter shallows. The ocean surface was alive with movement: the exposed flesh of soft white limbs hung tantilizingly like ripe fruit. But there was one rhythmic and unrelenting beat that sounded above all the others. The shark rose towards its source: a rectangular shape with flailing arms. Its tail flicked once, twice, and then it was upon it.
On the beach a man looked out at the sea and saw something erupt from the water. Later, he could never quite articulate what it was that he had seen: a flurry of movement, a violent displacement of water and a conical gray mass falling with a splash onto the surface of the ocean. He stood up, pointed and cried out, ‘Did you see that?’ Those around him followed his gaze. It looked as if a small portion of the sea had started to boil with crimson bubbles. In its centre a small figure could be briefly glimpsed before it seemed to be swallowed up by the seething water. Several people rose from their towels and ran down the beach. A woman screamed.
For an instant fear paralysed Brody
‘Get everybody out!’ He gesticulated frantically, running up and down the surf, unable to make himself go any nearer. ‘Get out! Get out! Get out of the water!’
Panic gripped the children when they saw the adults on the beach shouting and waving at them. Brody looked for Michael in the mass of bodies fighting their way to the shore. Some of the younger kids fell in the surf and had to be helped, almost dragged out of the water. Brody found his son and hugged him to his chest. Instinctively, the people moved back, away from the water, parents holding their children, everyone speaking at once, no one exactly sure of the reason for the sudden panic. A woman in a floppy yellow hat moved amongst the crowd, calling her son’s name.
As her cries grew more strident, people drew aside to let her pass. She walked down to the surf and looked frantically about her. It was then that she noticed something had been washed up on shore. It was a torn swatch of yellow rubber flecked and smeared with red.
Town Hall Meeting/Quint
The press of people gathered around the bulletin board in the main hallway of Amity Town Hall was four deep. People strained over the backs of the heads of others to read the note printed in red marker pen that had been tacked up amongst the announcements for swap meets and bridge clubs. It read:
A $3,000 BOUNTY TO THE MAN OR MEN
WHO CATCH AND KILL THE SHARK
THAT KILLED ALEX
ON SUNDAY JUNE 29TH
ON THE AMITY TOWN BEACH
‘Alex Kintner is the kid who was missing at the beach,’ one of the islanders was explaining to another. ‘His mother says it was the shark.’
‘We don’t even know that there is a shark around here,’ Janet Taft said. She had been at the beach when this so-called attack had occured, and she hadn’t seen anything, and that was good enough for her. ‘Look, I can’t argue with you! I can’t talk to you!.’ She pleaded withVaughn, ‘ Larry! Larry! Do something here!’
The mayor had called an extraordinary open meeting for two o’clock. By one every islander with a vested business interest in the summer season (which meant nine of ten businesses on the island) had converged on the town hall. Above the hubbub of voices, Meadows was trying to describe to Brody how that morning Mrs Kintner had burst into his office with an ad she wanted placed on the front page of the Gazette. The woman had been borderline hysterical, openly weeping and calling her boy’s name over and over. Meadows had detected a whiff of alcohol from her breath.
‘We have to talk to Mrs Kintner,’ Brody cut in, ‘because this is going to turn into a circus.’
‘Look, it’s not just the Gazette – she’s advertising in out-of-town papers. Now people all over New England are going to know about it.’
Larry Vaughn was pushing his way through the crowd towards them. Things were beginning to get out of hand – the sooner they started the meeting, the sooner they would be able to get these people out of here and return to some semblance of normality.
‘Let’s go back to the council chambers where we’re going to have more room,’ he said in what he hoped was a commanding voice and led the way down the corridor. The crowd moved as one, pushing Brody, Meadows and Vaughn on ahead of them.
‘I’m responsible for public safety around here,’ Brody said.
‘Then go out there tomorrow and see that no one gets hurt,’ snapped Vaughn.
‘Martin, Martin! Do something here!’ The shrill voice of Janet Taft cut through the general murmur at his back.
Distracted by the remark, Brody bumped his head on the sign hung outside the accounts office.
‘It’s a small story,’ Meadows was saying, ‘I’m going to bury it as deep as I can.’ This went against all his journalistic instincts. It was a banner headline story that had everything: violent death, a grieving mother, a growing threat, maybe even a sex angle with the first victim – she had been skinny-dipping, after all, and who knew what else. In twenty four hours the island would be overrun with reporters and TV crews, all vying for a scoop, and none of them were going to hold back when it came to describing how the victims had met their fates. But Meadows wasn’t going to be the one to rock the boat. ‘The ad is going to run in the back along with the grocery ads.’
They had come to the end of the corridor and Vaughn led the way into the council chambers. Despite its grand name, the room was singularly unimpressive. A collection of chairs set out in rows faced a long table. In back there was a greenish gray slate board and stacked behind that various items of bric-a-brac that had been stored there over time.
‘Right in here, please. Move on in, please.’
The islanders filed in and seated themselves as Vaughn and the other selectmen took their places behind the table. Brody stood uncomfortably off to one side, waiting for the room to settle.
Janet Taft had taken a place in the front row and was saying to her neighbor, ‘Look I have a point of view and I think it speaks for many of the people here. Not only me because I have a motel. How do you feel?’
She turned to a balding man on her left who ran a number of concession stands down on the town beach. His reply was interrupted by the banging of a gavel as the mayor called for order.
‘Please! Let’s have some order! Let’s have order please!’ The murmuring in the room died down. Vaughn cleared his throat, unsure how to begin. Stalling for time, he asked, ‘Any special questions?’
One of the selectman, a fat red-faced man who had a reputation for being the joker of the board, leaned forward and asked, ‘Is that $3,000 dollar bounty on the shark in cash or check?”
There was some laughter from his friends, who had been waiting for him to come out with some kind of wisecrack. The disapproval of others was voiced by Janet Taft, who looked around her and said sourly, ‘I don’t think that’s funny. I don’t think that’s funny at all. I’m sorry.’
Vaughn struck the gavel again and gave the selectman a severe look.
‘Alright! Alright! That’s private business between you fishermen and Mrs Kintner.’ Vaughn motioned Brody to come front and centre. ‘Martin, would you please?’ Then, somewhat unnecessarily, he announced to the room: ‘Chief Brody.’
Brody had never been any good at public speaking and, faced with the crowd of expectant faces, he stumbled over his first words.
‘Uh, I just …uh, I just want to tell you what we’re planning so far -‘
‘What about the beaches, chief?’ Someone called from the back of the room. Other voices echoed the question and Brody had to raise his voice to be heard over them.
‘We are going to put on the summer – the extra summer deputies as soon as possible. And then we’re going to try and use, uh, shark spotters on the beach.’
‘Are you going to close the beaches?’ The one question he had not yet answered came this time from Janet Taft.
‘Yes,’ he said simply. ‘We are.’ His next comment was almost lost in a volume of protest. ‘We’re also planning to bring in some experts from the Oceanographic Institute on the mainland.’
Larry Vaughn, sensing that the mood could soon get ugly, used his gavel again, and shouted, ‘Only twenty four hours.’
Brody turned to face the selectmen, some of whom avoided his gaze.
‘I didn’t agree to that,’ he said.
‘Only twenty four hours!’ Vaughn held the chief’s stare.
‘Twenty four hours is like three weeks!’ Janet Taft whined.
At that moment Vaughn felt he was losing control: everybody was speaking at once, and nobody listening. Before he could strike the gavel again, another sound cut through the chatter. It was a high-pitched scraping noise and it was coming from the back of the room. The protesting voices fell silent and those seated turned in their chairs. Sitting by the blackboard with his legs casually crossed was a man in dark pants and a black seaman’s jersey. Every islander in the room recognised the grizzled features of a fisherman they knew only by the surname of Quint.
Quint had gained the attention of the entire room by slowly and excrutiatingly dragging the fingernails of his right hand down the length of the chalkboard. On the board itself there was a childlike sketch of a shark with a stick figure in its jaws. Quint surveyed the room with a flinty-eyed stare and took a bite from a biscuit
‘Y’all know me, know how I earn a living.’ Quint spoke in a flat emotionless voice. His accent was a strange hybrid, the result of years as an itinerant sailor. There were plenty of stories surrounding him, fuelled by years of island gossip: how he had killed one of his ex-wives with a harpoon, how he had won another in an arm-wrestling contest in Singapore, how he could drink any man under the table with his own particular brand of moonshine. There were stories too about his war record: in the Pacific in World War Two, and later in Korea, where he had been court-martialled for insubordination and punching out an officer. He lived the life of a hermit out on Crab Point. Vaughn recalled there had been some dispute about zoning laws when Quint had had a fishworks built out at his dock. No one in the right minds would live within a mile of the place, the stench of which infected the whole air. Quint chartered his boat for big-game fishing parties: city men with paunches and soft hands looking for some kind of male ego fulfilment by catching sailfish, giant bluefin tuna, and, of course, sharks. His fishing business also supplied the local taxidermist with carcasses which were stuffed, mounted and sold as trophies at exhorbitant prices.
‘I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t going to be easy.’ Quint smiled and took another bite of biscuit. ‘Bad fish. It’s not like going down to the pond and chasing blue gills or tommy cods. This shark’ll swallow you whole. A little shaking, little tenderizing, down you go. Now, we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back the tourists and put all your businesses on a paying basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant.’ Quint’s eyes darted to Brody. ‘I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief! I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten.’ There were murmurs in the room, but no one dared raise an objection. ‘Now you gotta make up your minds. Gonna stay alive and ante up? Or you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates. There’s too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.’
Vaughn looked nervously about the room.
‘Thank you very much, Mr Quint. We’ll, uh, we’ll take it under advisement.’
Quint stood up, scraping the legs of his chair on the hardwood floor. He put a hand to the bill of his cap in ironic salute.
‘Mr Mayor. Chief.’ He smiled. ‘Ladies and gentlemen.’
Vaughn noticed another man standing by the door whom he now identified as the source of the stink of dead fish that was beginning to pervade the room. This was Quint’s mate. Legend had it that the two men had served in the Navy together. They walked down the corridor, neither speaking a word.
Deputy Hendricks was given the duty of posting the Beach Closed signs over the island. Before the Town Hall meeting was brought to a close, he asked for some volunteers to help out and there was a good show of hands. He took charge of the party covering South Beach, and, as he brought down the mallet to drive the stake of one of the signs into the sand, he could not help but recall the grisy discovery he had stumbled upon a few days earlier. The sign read:
By Order of Amity P.D
Hendricks had to grudgingly admit to himself that Polly had done a good job on the printing.
In the Den (Part 1)
Brody stared at the shark, both fascinated and repulsed by its savage beauty. Its open jaws showed rows of razor sharp teeth. The photograph had caught the beast in a moment of pure predatory frenzy as it struck at some unseen prey out of camera shot. Brody turned the page. A simple illustration showed a struggling fish in distress. The accompanying text explained how a shark hunted using sound and vibration.
Brody was on the couch in the den, reading the third of a stack of books he had checked out of the library. He had enrolled himself in Shark Studies 101. The shark was the world’s oldest living predator, a creature that in some form had been around since dinosaurs walked the earth. There was even a theory that in the depths of the deepest oceans there still swam ancestors of the carcharodon megalodon, amonstrous species of shark that could grow to up to fifty feet in length. Brody shuddered at the thought, and at that same moment he felt a touch on his shoulder. He whipped round and gave his wife the shock of her life.
‘Oh, my God!’ She gasped. ‘You scared me.’
Brody lifted one of the shark books off the pile.
‘You know, Ellen, people don’t even know how old sharks are. And I mean they live two, three thousand years. They don’t know!’
Ellen took the book from her husband and closed it.
‘Martin, enough, enough. C’mon. Here.’ She gave him a glass of scotch and took a sip from her own.
Thanks,’ he said, taking the alcohol and setting it down beside him.
Ellen sat on the floor between her husband’s legs and lent back against his crotch.
‘Want to get drunk and fool around?’
‘Oh, yeah,’ Brody said with weary affection.
The couple sat in companionable silence for a few minutes.
The den’s large picture window looked out on the ocean. The setting sun cast a warm honeyed glow over the water and the reflected light softened the room. It had been just such a sunset that had finally sold them on the house when they had viewed it at the end of the previous summer. The realtor told them they could walk right out the back door and into the ocean before breakfast. It was great for the Michael and Sean, both of whom were taking to life on the island. Michael had finally worn his parents down and persuaded them to buy him a sloop for his birthday.
Ellen looked out the window and smiled.
‘Hey, Mikey really loves his present.’
‘Where is he?’
‘Sitting in it.’
‘Good God!’ Brody pushed his wife off him and stood open. He pulled open the screen door and shouted, ‘Alright, Michael, out of the boat!’
His son, wrapped in a life preserver that was almost as big as he was, was sitting in the sailboat secured to one of the wooden pilings. Sean sat on the jetty itself, admiring his brother and wishing he had a boat of his own too.
‘It’s tied up to the jetty,’ Michael shouted in his small voice. ‘ Just sitting in the boat.’
Get out of the boat!’ Brody’s voice had taken on a harder edge.
‘Come on, Dad.’ Mike pleaded. ‘Just a little longer!’
Ellen came out onto the porch.
‘Martin! It’s his birthday tomorrow.’
‘I don’t want him on the ocean.’
‘He’s not on the ocean! He’s in a boat!’ Ellen’s voice was sharper too now. Oh no, she thought, we’re not going to have a fight, are we? ‘He’s not going to go in the water! I don’t think he’ll ever go in the water again after what happened yesterday!’
Brody shook his head and pushed thoughts and images out of his mind.
‘Alright, now don’t say that.’ He felt suddenly deflated of any emotion. ‘I don’t want that to happen, you know that. But I want him to read the boating regulations – the rules, you know. Before he goes out on his own.’
Ellen felt a sense of relief that an argument had been avoided. She looked at the open book that she still held in her hands. Across the two pages was a full color reproduction of a nineteenth century painting of fishermen – probably whalers, like in Moby Dick. The men were in a boat – nothing bigger than a modern day rowboat, the kind you’d see on a lake in a park. The boat was rearing up on a turbulent sea and from out of that sea lunged a huge shark. The wooden hull had been stoved in by its massive jaws. One of them men held a harpoon aloft about to drive it down into armored skin of the monstrous fish. Fear was etched onto the faces of the mariners.
Ellen snapped the book shut. Her voice was loud and clear and commanding.
‘Michael! Did you hear your father? Out of the water! Now!’
Brody looked at his wife, perplexed by her sudden change of behaviour. Better not to ask, he thought and walked down to the jetty to help his son back onto dry land.
The Pier Incident (Part 1)
The night sky and the dark sea seemed to blend into one vast expanse of inky blue. There was no wind to disturb the surface of the ocean and the water was as flat and as calm as a millpond. This particular stretch of Amity coastline was not frequented by tourists, but was popular with fishermen, who beached their craft along the shore and strung their nets up on poles to repair them. The carcases of rotting fish were strewn along the sand and the air was rank with their stench. Towards midnight the sound of oars dipping irregularly into the water could be heard and the silhouette of a small rowboat carrying two men came into view.
Tommy Jenwirder and Charlie Baseheart first met at a poker game in one of the waterfront bars down by the fish-packing plant. They discovered over the course of that evening that they had a lot in common. They drank rye whisky with beer chasers, followed the same football team, drove American cars, liked the movies of John Wayne, were largely unappreciated by their wives, and believed that the spirit of free enterprise meant getting whatever you could lay your hands on without exerting yourself unnecessarily. They had devoted themselves to all manner of schemes – some of them barely legal – to get rich quick. So far, none of them had panned out.
Charlie Baseheart was the one doing the rowing. He hadn’t counted on this when Jenwirder had first outlined his plan for getting the jump on all those fisherman. They were going to catch the killer shark without having to leave the safety of the shore. Listening to Jenwirder explain it over a boilermaker, it had seemed like an easy way of making a quick buck. Now Charlie wasn’t so sure.
‘I’m tired,’ he grunted between strokes. ‘Let’s stop before someone reports us.’
Jenwirder had been over all of this in the bar.
‘Don’t worry,’ he said, leaning back in the stern of the boat. ‘The chief lives on the other side of the island.’
They were approaching a rickety looking wooden jetty, an older but larger version of the type that stood outside the back of Brody’s property, and was, in fact, a common sight all over the island. Charlie strained to look over his shoulder.
‘Am I coming in straight?’
‘Don’t worry,’ said Jenwirder, who was regretting he had not bought along a six pack of brews. ‘Just keep rowing.’
The boat bumped against the wooden pilings and the two men hauled themselves up onto the creaking planks. They carried with them a length of chain, a large meat hook, an outsized inner tube, and a hunk of prime beef.
‘Better catch something,’ Charlie said. ‘ This is my wife’s holiday roast.’
‘Don’t worry about it,’ said Jenwirder. ‘Three thousand dollars buys an awful lot of roast.’
Afraid that a flashlight might alert someone to their activities, they worked in the dark to rig a primitive hook and line with the raw meat as their bait. As Charlie walked to the end of the pier, he could feel the structure give slightly under his weight. With as much strength as he could muster, he hurled the roast out into the sea.
‘Come and get it!’ He called.
The roast made a loud splash and disappeared under the water.
‘Tide’s taking it right out,’ said Jenwirder.
The inner tube drifted out to the length of the chain, one end of which they had knotted inexpertly around the upper part of one of the end pilings.
A breeze blew up from off the water.
‘Can’t we go home?’ Charlie whined.
Jenwirder shook his head and settled down to wait for a bite.
In the Den (Part 2)
It was past midnight. Ellen and the boys were in bed and all the lights except one in the den were out. Brody was flicking through the pages of a large illustrated book. The glass of whisky lay untouched on the table. Sharks, he was learning, came in many shapes and sizes: sleek makos and blues, threshers with their graceful sail-like tails, the savage bull shark, the blunt-headed hammerhead, the swift and aggressive tiger shark. Of them all, the single most feared predator of the ocean was the Great White, sometimes known as White Death. A fully matured adult could grow to twenty feet in length and weigh in excess of four thousand pounds. Its powerful jaws were armed with rows of serrated teeth which it used as a cutting tool on its prey by shaking its head from side to side. The Great White swam in coastal waters off South Africa, Australia, Mexico, California, and, Brody noted grimly, the northeastern seaboard of the United States.
He turned the page onto a photograph that showed a shark spotter perched high above a beach of bathers, his binoculars trained on the ocean on the lookout for a tell-tale dark triangle breaking the surface of the water. There were other pictures taken at close quarters underwater. One image that snagged in Brody’s mind was that of a blue shark with a diver’s aqualung caught in its large sickle mouth.
The next chapter documented some of the historical evidence: old photographs of white-coated ichthyographers posing beside skeletons, and in one case framed by the huge fossil of a monstrous shark’s maw.
Brody turned the page, and the pictures that he saw there made him wince involuntarily. These were clinical photographs of wounds inflicted on the human form by shark attacks: a man’s internal organs exposed by the triangular rips in the flesh left by the teeth of a predator. An accompanying picture showed the same man in recovery, huge uneven scars crisscrossing his back. The worst picture was that of the form of a recumbent man – surely a corpse – whose entire thigh had been viciously savaged, exposing the bone. Brody shuddered at the sight and at the thought that swimming somewhere off Amity Island was a beast with such ferocious and unrelenting power.
The Pier Incident (Part 2)
It was almost one o’clock and the two men were beginning to feel the cold. They had given up conversation and sat lost in their own thoughts, neither wanting to be the first to admit defeat. Jenwirder idly whistled a few bars of Bringing In The Sheaves and began picturing how he would spend his share of the bounty. His reverie was interrupted by the metallic sound of the coiled chain running out with a swift and smooth motion.
‘Hey!’ he said.
Charlie stood up and walked to the end of the pier. He could see the inner tube moving away from the shore.
‘Hey, he’s taking it! He’s taking it! He’s taking it!’
Both Charlie and Jenwirder started cheering as if they were at a Sunday football game.
‘Go! Go! Go! Go!’
The chain jolted taut as it reached its full length. The inner tube bobbed once on the surface and then went under. With a sickening lurch the front end of the pier collapsed into the water, taking Charlie Baseheart with it. Like a small raft it was dragged out to sea so swiftly that Charlie lost his grip on the slippery wood and fell into its wake. His heavy jacket threatened to pull him under and he spluttered as a wave of salt water swamped him. He could hear his buddy calling to him and he struck out in the direction of the shore.
Jenwirder looked in horror as he watched the broken part of the pier come to a wallowing halt just ten yards beyond the splashing figure in the water, and then, with an ominous creaking sound, turn back towards the land.
‘Charlie! Take my word for it: don’t look back! Swim, Charlie! Swim! Keep moving! Keep moving!’
His arms as heavy as lead and his boots like weights on his feet, Charlie Baseheart swam for his life. He could see Jenwirder silhouetted against the night sky, waving him frantically on.
‘Cmon, a little more, Charlie! Atta boy, Charlie! Come here, Charlie! Atta boy, Charlie, atta boy!’
Jenwirder looked back at the dark hulk of wood closing in on the struggling man who was now just a few feet from the pier. The remaining structure had partly collapsed into the sea and formed a slippery wooden ramp at an angle of about forty five degrees. Jenwirder reached down as far he would dare. ‘ Give me your hand, Charlie! Just give me your hand!’
Charlie grasped at the gaps between the wooden planking and tried to pull himself up.
‘I can’t get up! I can’t get up! Help me! Help me!’
The toecaps of his rubber boots could find no purchase on the slimy boards and he slipped back into the water up to his knees.
‘C’mon, Charlie! C’mon, Charlie!’ Jenwirder screamed, straining to reach his buddy. ‘Get your feet outta the water!’
The creaking raft lurched forward at the same moment that Jenwirder caught Charlie Baseheart by the wrist and, with some unknown reserve of strength, pulled him up onto the broken pier.
‘Attaboy, boy, Charlie! Atta boy!’ he gasped.
The raft was lifted up by a rising wave and driven harmlessly onto the sand with a dull thump.
Charlie lay on his back, gasping for air.
‘Can we go home now?’
Frank Silva thought he had seen it all in his twenty seven years of harbormastering, but nothing could have prepared him for the sight that met his eyes when he emerged from his cabin on Wednesday morning. Overnight every available berth seemed to have been taken by every conceivable type of craft: dingies, yachts, skiffs, sloops, trawlers, pleasure boats, motorboats, rowboats, even an outrigger canoe. All that was lacking was a submarine and an Italian gondola. Frank Silva puffed on his pipe as he surveyed the scene and mentally calculated the mooring fees. A trio of strangers, one with a large Grizzly Adams beard, walked past, loaded down with expensive new fishing rods. Behind them Silva saw the town’s two police officers coming down the boardwalk engaged in an animated conversation.
‘So,’ said Hendricks, beginning to laugh as he came to the end of his story, ‘then Jenwirder and Charlie sat there trying to catch their breath, and figure out how to tell Charlie’s wife what happened to her freezer full of meat.’
‘That’s not funny,’ Brody said. ‘That’s not funny at all.’
He had to raise his voice to be heard over the hubbub of activity around them.
‘Mrs Kintner must have put her ad in Field and Stream.’ said Hendricks.
‘It looks more like the National Enquirer.’
Ahead of them an argument between two novice fishermen had broken out. Tempers were already frayed, and it wasn’t even nine o’clock. ‘Alright,’ Brody said. ‘alright, hold it! Hold it! Just hold it!’ The chief stepped in to intervene and did not notice the small outboard motor boat approaching the dock from the other side. It drew up to a vacant mooring post and a young man dressed in blue denim and a dark woolcap disembarked, climbing up the wooden ladder onto the dock. Local fisherman Ben Gardner, a man who could almost rival Quint in the number of stories and legends that surrounded him, had been entertaining himself watching what he called the ‘weekend sailors’ make their preparations. He had made a seat out of an upturned lobster pot and was commenting under his breath on each person who passed by.
He was surprised by the sudden appearance of a young bearded face at the top of one of the ladders at the side of the dock. ‘Hello.’
‘Hello back, young fellah. How are you?’
He looked down at the outboard with professional disdain.
‘Say, I hope you’re not going out with those nuts, are ya?’
The young man pulled himself up together with a canvas tote bag. He removed his glasses, wiped the spots of sea water from them and looked about him. His expression of mild amusement suited his somewhat boyish features. This wasn’t quite the welcoming committe he had expected. The scene on the dock looked like the maritime equivalent of an old-fashioned land rush – it was every man for himself in a race to catch the three thousand dollar prize. He spotted a man in a police uniform and made his way towards him – if this guy wasn’t the one in charge (and it sure as hell didn’t look like it) he would know who was.
Brody was trying to resolve another dispute. Two small craft were locked together, neither willing to give way to the other.
‘Lady,’ Brody shouted, ‘would you – ? The weak top boat’s got to move out first. You have to move out or he can’t can’t get out at all.’
His plea for a little basic courtesy was having no effect. He was beginning to think he might have to stop playing good cop and start playing bad cop.
‘Boys, boys. Don’t raise sail, you’re just going to luff with it. ‘ A young man – no doubt another one of the fortune seekers who had descended overnight on the island – was standing beside him, issuing orders like a sail instructor. ‘Do you have a paddle?’
‘Yeah,’ said the fisherman in the smaller boat. ‘I got a paddle.’
‘So scull out of here!’
Brody did not understood half of what the man had just said, but it seemed to work. He gave a brief word of thanks as he strode off down the dock, having already spotted another potential disaster waiting to happen. A group of local fishermen were piling onto a small craft, which was threatening to capsize under their combined weight.
‘Hey,’ Brody shouted at them. ‘How many guys are you going to put aboard that boat? That ain’t safe.’
The sailing instructor fellow was following Brody to the end of the dock and calling after him, ‘Officer! Officer! Wait a second!’ What the hell did he want – a medal for community spiritedness?
Another fisherman went by, cradling something in his arms. Brody didn’t realise what it was until he heard the young man say, ‘Easy! Watch it! That’s dynamite.’
Brody whipped round and blocked the fisherman’s way. ‘Hey, what are you doing with that?’
He eyed the six sticks of dynamite warily. ‘Where are going with that?’
‘I’m going on the boat.’
‘Oh, no, no, no.’ Brody shook his head.
Where the hell was Hendricks when he needed him? He started to lead the fisherman away to a quiter place where he could deal with the situation: maybe threaten the guy with a fine, or confiscate the dynamite. He called back to the man in denim, hoping he would be willing to perform another small act of public service.
‘Help get those guys out of the boat, will you please?’
‘Sure’, said the young man, shrugging his acquiescence. He called across to the group of fisherman. ‘Gentlemen, gentlemen! The officer asked me to tell you that you’re overloading that boat.’
If anything was likely to rile up the tempers of a group of blue-collar Amity locals, it was a preppy off-islander presuming to know more than they did about sailing.
‘Get outta here! You ain’t going there, what do you care?’
The young man smiled his boyish smile.
‘Well then,’ he called back. ‘Can you tell me if there’s a good restaurant or hotel on the island?’
‘Yeah,’ one shouted, laughing. ‘You walk straight ahead!’
The young man laughed with them and declared to himself, ‘They’re all going to die!’ With this cheerful thought, he walked back along the dock, looking for someone in charge.
Brody had taken refuge in the harbor master’s hut and was on the phone to the station.
‘Polly, listen to me. We got some roadblock signs outside.’
Through the unwashed window, Brody spotted Hendricks. He was standing with an unlit cigarette in his mouth, smiling at the carnival around him. Brody grabbed a handful of tacks and threw them at the window. Hendricks looked in his direction and gave a friendly wave of acknowledgment. Brody beckoned frantically.
On the phone Polly was asking about the road signs, but Brody cut in.
‘You gotta get somebody to help us. Yeah, get those roadblock signs out on the highway because we got more people down here than we can handle.’
Hendricks wore an expression of bewilderment when he came into the hut.
‘Yeah?’ he said.
Brody cradled the telephone receiver to his chest and snatched the cigarette from Hendricks’s mouth.
‘What are you doing out there? These are your people. Go and talk to them!’
Hendricks looked a little crestfallen.
‘Those aren’t my people! They’re from all over the place! Did you see all the license plates out in the parking lot? Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey.’ Hendricks turned his smokey bear hat nervously in his hands. ‘I’m all by myself out there! Um, what happened to the extra help we were supposed to get?’
‘That’s not until the fourth of July,’ Brody said. Today was Wednesday, July first. The Kintner boy had been attacked on the Sunday, and in the space of the intervening two days Amity had become a circus, with open season declared on shark fishing. ‘Between now and then, it’s you and me!’
The door opened and the young man in denim stood there.
‘Ah, you know those eight guys in the fan-tail launch out there?’
‘Yeah?’ said Brody.
‘Well, none of them are going to get out of the harbor alive.’
Brody turned to Hendricks.
‘Lenny, that’s what I’m talking about. You know their first names! Talk to those clowns!’
Hendricks left, happy at last to have some orders.
‘Everybody seems to be having a really good time today,’ said the young man.
‘Tell me about it,’ Brody said. He put the receiver to his ear again and realized that all this time Polly had been speaking on the other end of the line. ‘Polly, I’ll get back to you.’ He hung up.
‘Listen,’ said the man in denim. ‘Could you tell me how I could find Chief Brody?’
‘Who are you?’ Brody asked.
‘Matt Hooper,’ he held out his hand. ‘I’m from the Oceanographic Institute.’
Brody grasped the hand like a lifeline and shook vigorously.
‘Oh, for Christ Sake! You’re the guy we called. I’m Brody! I’m Brody!’
‘Very glad to meet you.’
‘Yeah, I’m glad to meet you, too!’
In fact, Brody had never been more glad to meet anybody in all his life. The story of the boy on the raft had spread like wildfire, fanned by the tale of the bounty on offer for the dead shark. The original sum of three thousand dollars had been inflated by rumor – first it was ten thousand dollars, then twenty, then fifty, and now people were saying there was one hundred thousand for the taking. All you needed was a seaworthy craft and a length of fishing line, and you could become a millionaire overnight. Brody had pressed Vaughn to bring in the extra deputies immediately, but the mayor had stonewalled, claiming there was only so much additional community policing the budget could support.
The Oceanographic Institute had promised to send a shark expert, but nobody seemed to know when he would arrive. He was planning a field trip to Australia and only had a few days he could spare. Now that the expert was standing in front of him, Brody felt a great weight lifted off his shoulders. His own shark knowledge was limited to a handful of illustrated library books – he still did not really know what they were dealing with. This wasn’t like a regular criminal, someone with a motive like greed or a grudge.
Matt Hooper was not exactly what Brody had been expecting. The chief of police had assumed the expert would be an older, taller man with a certain earnestness about him. Hooper looked like a college kid who gave the impression of having more eagerness than experience.
‘Listen,’ Hopper was saying, ‘I know you got a lot on your hands right now, but …’
‘What can we do for you?’ Brody was not sure what the first step was. Did this guy have some kind of plan for getting rid of the shark – maybe nets, or shark repellant like he had read in those books?
‘Well,’ Hopper said, ‘I think the best thing for me to do is see the remains of the first victim: the girl on the beach?’
‘Okay, fine.’ The phrase first victim reassured Brody. Maybe this could be treated like another crime, after all. ‘Just bear with me, will you?’
‘Sure,’ said Hopper, lifting his tote bag.
‘Thanks,’ said Brody and led the way outside into the carnival madness.
Ben Gardner’s boat was leading the motley armada of fishermen out of Amity harbor. The locals followed him in deference to his reputation. The off-islanders followed the locals because they knew no better. Ben Gardner was content to play along – he would be able to shake off his present company once they rounded the headland. He didn’t need any help in catching this dumb fish. He had a pretty good idea where it would be feeding. All he had to do was lay out a line, chum some guts into the current and wait for the shark to take the bait. Then he could just reel it in like a big tommy cod.
‘When we get them silly bastards down in the rock pile, it’ll be some fun,’ he confided to his mate, speaking grudgingly out of the corner of his mouth like a Nantucket W.C Fields. ‘They’ll wish their fathers had never met their mothers when they start taking their bottoms out and slamming into that rock pile.’
The smaller boats were already in danger of getting swamped by the wakes of the larger ones, and there were shouts across the bows as they bumped and nosed each other.
‘Get away from there, you goddam fool!’
‘What’s the matter with you?’
‘You want to swamp us, you crazy sonofabitch?’
The verbal hostilities were interrupted by a small explosion in the water. The man who had had his dynamite confiscated by the chief of police had succeeded in smuggling some smaller firecrackers aboard.
The six men in the fan-tail launch (reduced from the original eight) were already squabbling over who should be in charge. Of the five who were possibly capable of the task, only two were completely sober. The sixth had come along for the ride and, unusually for an islander, did not know much about boats. He saw men in several of the other craft throwing what looked like offal over the side.
‘What are these guys doing out here?’ He asked no one in particular in his high whiny voice. ‘Tell us what in the hell are they doing back there?’
‘They’re chumming right now.’ said his buddy turning the wheel hard to port to avoid a collision with a smaller craft.
‘Chumming? What in the hell’s that?’
‘They’re tricking the sharks out.’
A dog barked from its perch on the bow of a passing outboard launch.
‘Ten thousand dollars divided four ways is what?’ somebody shouted.
‘Watch your starboard! Jesus!’ shouted another.
A fisherman hauled a large plastic bucket of fish guts onto the taffrail of his boat and tilted the slick red contents into the ocean. The motor churned the chum line into a crimson wake.
Probable Boating Accident
The island’s morgue was a single room in back of the medical examiner’s office. It was painted in institutional white and green and was entirely functional. The Chief of Police had been in the room on only two previous occasions, both as a result of traffic accidents. The air was permeated with the smell of formaldehyde and Brody stood by the window in the hope that the air might be fresher there. But, of course, the window was closed in order to maintain an even temperature. Maybe a cigarette would help clear the stink from his nostrils.
‘Let’s show Mr Hooper our…’
Carlos Santos removed a medium sized bowl covered with plastic sheeting from one of the cold storage containers and placed it on the work bench.
Hopper was hooking up an earpiece and microphone to a small tape recorder he wore strapped to his waist. Brody had already warned him that the injuries inflicted on the victim by the accident were severe. Hopper had said he had had two years of med school before dropping out and had seen his fair share of cadavers. Brody found the coroner’s report he had typed out just five days ago and came forward with the clipboard to show Hooper.
Hooper turned on the tape machine and began to record his remarks in a clinical voice.
‘Victim identified as Christine Watkins. Female Caucasian.’
Brody pointed down the space marked Cause of Death.
‘Yeah, now, here’s where we have it.’
‘Probable boating accident.’ Hooper read.
‘Yeah,’ Brody said. He felt suddenly embarrassed and retreated to the window.
Hooper turned back the sheeting and the sight of the dismembered limbs drew a startled gasp from him.
‘The height and the weight of the victim can only be estimated from the partial remains.’ His voice was distant, almost robotic. ‘The torso has been severed in mid-thorax. There are no major organs remaining.’ He paused, his voice polite and controlled, ‘May I have a glass of water, please?’
The medical examiner went to the cooler and siphoned off a small paper cup of water.
‘The right arm has been severed above the elbow with massive tissue loss in the upper musculature.’
Without missing a beat, Hopper took the proffered cup.
‘Thank you very much.’ He drank it down and continued, his words racing to the end of the phrase. ‘Partially denuded bone remaining. This was no boat accident.’ He looked at the medical examiner with barely contained fury, and then at Brody. ‘Did you notify the coastguard about this?’
‘No,’ Brody said lamely, fumbling for a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. ‘It was only local jurisdiction.’
‘The left arm, head to shoulders, sternum and portions of the rib cage are intact.’ Hooper pointed at Brody accusingly. ‘Do not smoke in here! Thank you very much.’
Chastened, Brody removed the cigarette he had put to his lips and looked in horror as he watched Hooper lift the severed arm out of the bowl.
‘This is what happens,’ Hooper said.
Brody was not sure what he was referring to but dared not ask.
‘This indicates the non-frenzy feeding of a large squalous, possibly unjumanus or isurusglaucous. Now, the enormous amount of tissue loss prevents any detailed analysis -‘ Hooper’s words were like the gasps of air of a drowning man. ‘ – however, the attacking squalous must be considerably larger than any normal squalous found in these waters.’ He wrenched off his earpiece and microphone. ‘Didn’t you get on the phone to check out these waters?’
‘No,’ Brody said, hanging his head.
Hopper bent over an enamel bowl of water and doused his face. He turned to look at the chief and as Brody returned the stare he realized that he had underestimated this man.
‘Well, this was not a boat accident!’ It would have been difficult to imagine the phrase spoken with any greater degree of contempt. ‘It wasn’t any propeller! It wasn’t any coral reef! And it wasn’t Jack the Ripper! It was a shark.’
The bloody jaws opened to reveal a wide crimson maw as the dead shark was hoisted up over the dock. News of the catch had spread quickly and a crowd had gathered to see the man-eater. Meadows was dictating orders to his pretty blonde assistant, angling for the widest possible coverage. There would be no burying of this story in back with the grocery ads.
‘Listen Jenny,’ he said as he walked her to the car. He had to shout to make himself heard above the hubbub of fishermen and onlookers. ‘I want to go AP and UPI. I want to get on the state wire and see if Boston will pick it up and go national. Call Dave Axelrod in New York and tell him he owes me a favor.’
Jenny scribbled the names down on a reporter’s pad and disappeared into the crowd. Meadows spotted Brody coming down the dock with a younger man in tow, a man he recognized from a photograph he had pulled off the wire. Meadows, whose job it was to know what was going on on the island, had called a contact at the Oceanographic Institute. It turned out that not only did Matt Hooper have some impressive credentials, but he was also a regular boy scout. He came from wealthy New England stock, but had none of the skeletons in his closet common to that set. He drank in moderation, had a clean driver’s license, and didn’t do drugs, not even the recreational type. There were no hushed-up police reports of DIUs, no paternity suits, no personal Chappaquiddicks. Matt Hooper had survived a privileged Ivy League upbringing to become a regular joe. Anyway, Hooper was irrelevant now. They had caught the fish and life could go back to normal.
Harry Meadows was already thinking how he could capitalize on the story – maybe get his by-line in papers and magazines across the country: summer of the shark, or something like that.
‘Now this is the shot I want,’ he said to the photographer, having persuaded the motley group to form itself into some kind of order. ‘With everybody and the fish in it.’
Brody pushed his way through the crowd and the men broke up and started milling around again.
‘Guys, could we please get organized? I want to get a picture for the paper! Now can we just have the guys -‘ Meadows was beginning to despair. He needed to get the story to bed and over the wire to make the evening news.
Brody was beaming with delight, oblivious to the stench of the fish in the hot sun. The call that the shark had been caught had come through to the medical examiner’s office just as they had been about to leave.
Up close the carcass looked nothing like the monster of Brody’s imagination. This was a big fish, though, maybe ten or twelve feet.
‘Ben Gardner get this?’ Brody couldn’t see Gardner amongst the crowd, and his imposing bulk was not something that was easily missed.
‘Nah, nah, we caught it!’ It was one of the men from the fan-tail launch. ‘We got it! We got him!’
Would you believe it? he thought. These clowns!
‘Congratulations!’ he said, shaking hands. ‘That’s swell! That’s swell! Thanks a lot!’
‘We got it! It’s a beauty, ain’t it?’
Hooper was standing at the head of the fish, stretching a tape measure across the jaws.
Meadows was trying for one last time to restore some kind of order.
‘Okay, guys! Please, I need a picture for the paper! Come on, clear out of the way please. Just the guys that caught the fish. Could you just open it up a little bit please? I want to get a picture with the guys with the fish!’
Everybody was now crowding round, wanting to be on the front page of The Amity Gazette.
‘Come on guys. Come on, please. I need a picture for the paper. Can we get the sign, please? Beach closed sign. Please.’ Deputy Hendricks held the sign aloft by its stake.
‘Come on,’ Meadows was beginning to grow hoarse. ‘ I want to take this shot.’ He motioned to the men in the front row. ‘Kneel down, just like in high school. One row kneeling, one row standing.’
Meadows could see that the shot would be ruined by Hooper, who was slap in the middle of the frame peering into the jaws of the shark like some kind of dentist.
‘Young fella, could you step out of the picture?’ Meadows motioned for him to get out of the way.
Several of the fisherman echoed the command and Hooper withdrew. As he stood to one side and waited for the photographer to take his picture, his attention was caught by the sound of an engine. A fishing boat with a tall mast and a long pointed prow was setting out to sea, and as it passed the dock its captain looked down from the bridge and laughed at the spectacle. For some reason Hooper thought of Father Mapple – the firebrand preacher from Melville’s Moby Dick – giving his blood and thunder sermon from his prow-like pulpit.
‘Can you get that please? How’s that?’ Meadows had finally got his picture and Hooper stepped back into the fray. He noticed Brody running up to a dapper-looking man coming down the dock and heard him say, ‘Larry, Larry, you won’t believe it.’
One of the fisherman prodded the snout of the fish.
‘What kind of shark it it?’
‘I dunno. I think it’s a mako.’
‘With a deep throat!’
‘Yeah, but what kind? What kind of shark?’
There was only so much of this inane conversation that Hooper could stand.
‘Tiger shark’, he said.
‘A what?’ The fisherman – or whatever he was; he sure didn’t sound like a fisherman – let his own jaw drop as if in imitation of the dead shark’s.
One of the other men asked Hooper what he was doing with the tape measure. Was he figuring on making the shark a set of pants? Hooper started to explain and out of the corner of his eye he noticed that Brody and the dapper man had come up to the dock He half-heard their exchange over the angry voices of the fishermen
‘Hey, we can start breathing again. Ben getting plenty of pictures for the papers?’
‘You bet he is.’
Hooper backed away from the men crowding him.
‘What is this bite radius crap?’ said one.
‘That is a big mouth! Look at it!’ said another.
‘All I’m trying to tell you -‘ Hooper started to protest.
‘Why don’t you stuff you friggin’ head in there man, and find out if it’s a man-eater. Alright?’
Hooper was surprised by the mild curse word. It seemed that even the fishermen on Amity Island were slightly more refined.
‘I’m not saying it’s not the shark. I am saying that it may not be the shark. It’s just a slight difference in semantics, but I don’t want to get beaten up for it.’
At that moment Brody pushed through the crowd and grabbed Hooper’s arm.
‘I want you to meet Matt …. Matt, this is Larry Vaughn, our mayor.’
The two men shook hands.
‘Matt’s from the Oceanographic Institute,’ Brody explained.
‘Nice to meet you,’ Hooper said.
He took Brody by the arm and ushered him away from the crush of people around the crucified fish.
‘Can I talk to you for a second?’ Hooper lowered his voice. ‘Martin, there are all kinds of sharks in these waters, you know. Hammerheads, white tips, blues, makos, and the chances that these bozos got the exact shark -‘
There was some infinitesimal change in Brody’s expression before he shook his head.
‘Oh, now, there’s no other sharks like this in these waters!’
What was he now, suddenly an expert on marine life? Yet he couldn’t imagine that a fish this big had been in the water where his sons went swimming.
‘Martin, Martin, it’s a hundred to one.’ Hooper knew it was more like a thousand to one. ‘A hundred to one. Now I’m not saying that this is not the shark -‘
‘Come on,’ Brody cut in, and his voice betrayed his growing suspicions.
The Mayor, who had been glad-handing and pressing flesh like he was running for office, caught the look of doubt on Brody’s face, and, weaving expertly through the crowd, came within earshot of the two men.
‘It probably is,’ the young man from the Oceanographic Institute was saying. ‘It probably is. It’s a man-eater, it’s extremely rare for these waters, but the fact is the bite radius on this animal is different than the wounds on the victim.’
Brody’s sense of euphoria deflated like a child’s balloon.
‘I just, I want to be sure,’ Hopper said. ‘You want to be sure. We all want to be sure.’ He included the mayor in this last remark. ‘Okay? Now what I want to do is very simple. The digestive system of this animal is very very slow. Let’s cut it open. Whatever it’s eaten in the last twenty four hours is bound to still be in there. And then we’ll be sure.’
Brody looked at the mayor.
‘Maybe the only way to confirm it,’ he said.
‘Now, look, fellas,’ Vaughn closed in, aware that anyone might overhear them. ‘Let’s be reasonable, huh? This is not the time or the place to perform some kind of half-assed autopsy on a fish!’ His voice grew more strident. ‘And I am not going to stand here and see that thing cut open and see that little Kintner boy spill out all over the dock.’
The mayor’s choice of verb made the image live in Brody’s brain for a second, almost as if it were a memory. He was aware that the sound of animated conversation had fallen silent and that as one the crowd were looking at a female figure dressed in black who was walking towards them. She was accompanied by an old man in a dark suit.
The woman stopped in front of Brody and lifted her veil to reveal the strained features of Mrs Kintner. Brody could see his own startled expression reflected in the lenses of her large glasses.
‘Chief Brody?’ Her voice was thin and reedy.
The slap came out of nowhere and stung his cheek.
Brody turned his face towards the grieving woman, ready to accept another blow, and another – however many it would take to put things right.
‘I just found out that a girl got killed here last week, and that you knew it!’ The wind whipped at the woman’s veil as she spoke. ‘You knew there was a shark out there. You knew it was dangerous, but you let people go swimming anyway. You knew all those things, but still my boy is dead now. And there’s nothing you can do about it. My boy is dead. I wanted you to know that.’
Mrs Kintner was led away by the old man at a slow funereal pace.
There were embarrassed murmurs from the crowd, which now began to break up.
‘I’m sorry, Martin,’ said Vaughn. He was relived to have escaped any blame himself and felt generous with sympathy. ‘She’s wrong.’
‘No, she’s not,’ Brody said flatly.
‘Alright, fellas,’ the mayor addressed those still gathered around the suspended carcass. ‘Let’s cut this ugly sonofabitch down before it stinks up the whole island. Harv, you and Carl take it out tomorrow and dump it in the drink.’
Hooper remained on the dock, watching the chief of police slink away like a chastised dog. He watched the men cut down the shark and drag it to one end of the boardwalk. It was still too light for what he had in mind, and he would need some help. The first thing he needed to do was check the phone book.
Martin Brody sat at the dinner table, his meal untouched. He had had two belts of scotch as soon as he had got home, but they had had no appreciable effect. Michael and Sean had eaten their supper in virtual silence, sensing something was wrong, but not knowing what. Michael had excused himself from the table as soon as he had finished eating. He was learning seaman’s knots and wanted to go practise out on the dock. He was looking forward to the Fourth of July weekend and his first chance to try out his sailboat on the ocean. Sean stayed where he was, looking at his father and wondering why he was so sad. Ellen had retired to the kitchen to stack the dishes. When she came back, cradling a mug of herbal tea, she saw her husband and younger son seated at the table. Sean, she noticed with a smile, was imitating his father’s gestures, a game they often played together. When Martin reached for his glass, Sean picked up his beaker of milk. When Martin stretched his palms wearily over his face, Sean pressed his hands to his cheeks. Out of the corner of his eye, Martin spotted the shadow play and made some exaggerated movements with his hands. He lent over and whispered to his son, ‘ Come here. Give us a kiss.’
‘Cause I need it.’ Sean kissed him on the cheek, the same cheek that the Kintner woman had slapped.
‘Get outta here,’ said Brody in a mock gruff voice, and Sean ran out of the room, happy that his dad was the same after all.
There was a knock on the kitchen door and when Ellen went to answer it she was surprised by a young man holding two bottles.
‘Hello. Can I help you?’ Was he selling something? Surely not at this hour.
‘The door was open. Mind if I come in? I’m Matt Hooper.’
This was the expert from the institute that Martin had mentioned. He wasn’t quite what she had imagined from Martin’s description. She had expected someone more athletic, certainly taller.
‘Oh, hi. Ellen Brody.’
‘Your husband’s home?’
‘Yes, he is.’
‘I’d really like to talk to him.’
‘Yes, so would I.’ Ellen realised that all this time she had been blocking the door. She stepped back into the kitchen. ‘Come in. Can I get you some coffee? Would you like something to drink?’
‘No, no. Nothing thank you.’ Hooper held up the two bottles.
‘Oh, wine. How nice.’
Hooper took a seat at the dining room table and placed the wine in front of him. Brody acknowledged his presence with a raised eyebrow, but said nothing by way of greeting.
‘So how was your day?’ Hooper asked.
The two men laughed.
Ellen sat down opposite Hooper, who motioned towards the wine.
‘I got red and white. I didn’t know what you’d be serving.’
‘Oh, that’s nice,’ Ellen could see from the labels that the wine was not the regular kind you got from the local liquor store.
Brody grasped the bottle of red by the neck and picked up the corkscrew that Ellen had brought in with wine glasses from the kitchen. Slowly, methodically, he began to open the bottle.
‘Is anyone eating this?’ Hooper asked, indicating Brody’s plate, which he then slid across the table and started attacking with a fork.
Although Martin’s mood seemed to have lifted, he was not inclined to make conversation so Ellen said, ‘My husband tells me you’re in sharks.’
Hooper almost gagged on the mouthful of food he was swallowing.
‘Excuse me,’ he laughed. ‘Well, yes, I’ve never heard it quite put that way. But, yes I am. I love sharks.’
‘You love sharks?’ Ellen laughed at the absurdity of the notion.
‘Yeah, I love them. When I was twelve years old my father got me this boat.’ Just like Michael, Ellen thought. ‘And I went fishing off of Cape Cod, and I hooked a scup and as I was reeling it in I hooked a four and a half foot baby thresher shark. Who proceeded to eat my boat.’ Hooper chuckled and the warmth of his laugh encouraged Ellen to laugh too. ‘He ate my oar hooks and my seat cushions. He turned an inboard into an outboard. Scared me to death and I swam back to shore. And when I was on the beach, I turned around and actually saw my boat being taken apart.’ The story was a comical exaggeration of the truth – as a kid he had once hooked a baby shark and lost a reel to it. The details of the boat attack had been added for effect, and the story only worked when Hooper told it to people who knew nothing about fish. He continued in a more serious tone. ‘And ever since then I, yes, I have been studying sharks and that’s why I know that I’m going to go to the institute tomorrow and tell them you still have a shark problem here.’
‘Why would you have to tell them that?’ Brody asked, smiling.
‘Sorry,’ said Hooper.
It seemed to Ellen that the two men were sharing some kind of private joke.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, genuinely confused. ‘I thought, you told me the shark was caught, and I heard it on the news. I heard it on the Cape station.’ They had interrupted the regular programming to bring a dramatic news report of the killing of the shark, including an interview with the mayor, who did a pretty good job of claiming most of the credit for himself.
‘They caught a shark,’ Hooper said. ‘Not the shark. Not the shark that killed Chrissie Watkins and probably not the shark that killed the little boy, which I wanted to prove today by cutting the shark open -‘
Brody poured the wine into his tall glass, filling it almost to the brim.
‘You may want to let that breathe,’ Hooper began. Again the two men shared a smile and Hooper shrugged. ‘Nothing, nothing.’
Brody poured first Ellen a small measure and then Hooper.
There was a brief but comfortable silence before Hooper said,
‘You know, you’re going to be the only rational man left on this island after I leave tomorrow.’
‘Where are you going?’ Ellen asked, taking a sip of wine.
‘I’m going on the Aurora.’
‘The Aurora? What’s that?’
‘It’s a floating asylum for shark, – uh- pure research. Eighteen months at sea.’
‘Martin hates boats,’ Ellen said. ‘Martin hates water. Martin sits in his car when we go on the ferry to the mainland. I guess it’s a childhood thing.’ She squeezed her husband’s hand. ‘There’s a clinical name for it, isn’t there?’
‘Drowning,’ Brody said curtly, and then to Hopper asked. ‘Listen, is it true that most people get attacked by sharks in three feet of water about ten feet from the beach?’
‘Yeah,’ Hooper nodded.
‘And that – that before people started to swim for recreation …’ The wine on top of the scotch was beginning to take effect and Brody was slurring his words. ‘I mean, before sharks knew what they were missing, that a lot of these attacks weren’t reported.’
‘That’s right.’ Hooper was smiling
Brody held the neck of the wine bottle and began peeling off the remains of the wax seal. He furrowed his brow in concentration, trying to remember some of the facts he had gleaned from his reading of the other night.
‘Now this shark that – that swims alone…”
‘Rogue.’ Hooper provided the word just as Brody asked,
‘What’s it called?’
‘Rogue,’ Hooper repeated.
‘Rogue.’ Brody savoured the word. ‘Rogue. Now, this guy, he keeps swimming around in a place where the feeding is good until the food supply is gone, right?’
Hooper was impressed. For a layman, the chief knew a thing or two about shark behaviour.
‘Yeah, it’s called territoriality. It’s just a theory that I happen to agree with.’
Brody picked up his glass.
‘Then why don’t we have one more drink and go down and cut that shark open.’
Ellen looked at the two men, startled.
‘Martin? Can you do that?’
Brody gave his wife a sly look.
‘I can do anything,’ he said. ‘I’m the chief of police.’ He raised the glass to his lips and drained it in a single gulp.
The blade of the gutting knife Hooper held in his gloved hand glittered in the beam of Brody’s flashlight. It was almost midnight and the two men were crouched on the dock by the discarded carcass of the tiger shark. Brody had given Hooper the keys to the police jeep but by the time they had arrived at the harbor the fresh air had sobered him up. He had to fight from gagging hard as they got close to the dead fish. He rocked back on his haunches as Hooper rolled the dead shark onto its side to expose its soft white underbelly. Hooper pierced the flesh with the point of the knife and pushed it in up to the hilt. With a ragged sawing motion he then slit the belly open, adding a commentary for Brody’s benefit.
‘We start in the alimentray canal and open the digestive tract.’
A viscous milky liquid spilled out onto the dock and the air grew thick with an ugly aroma.
And I thought this thing smelt bad on the outside, thought Brody.
Hooper had thrust his hands inside the gash he had made in the shark’s belly.
‘Just like I thought – ‘ he said.
‘He came up the Gulf Stream. From southern waters.’
Hooper yanked something from the innards of the fish and threw it onto the deck where it landed with a metal report. Brody shone the flashlight on it and saw that it was a Florida licence plate, bent and twisted out of shape.
‘He didn’t eat a car, did he?’
Hooper laughed grimly.
‘A tiger shark’s like a garbage can,’ he explained. ‘They’ll eat anything. Somebody probably threw that in a river.’ He was working his hands along the length of the fish, fighting the reflex to gag by drawing deep breaths of air through his mouth. He rooted around some more before pulling out a metal can and a half digested bonito, which skidded across the wooden planks. ‘That’s it.’
He pulled his hands out of the fish’s belly and sat back on the deck. His arms were slick with the milky liquid up to his elbows, and his pants and jacket were stained damp.
‘Better close the beach,’ Brody muttered, ‘call the mayor.’
They were back to square one.
‘You’ve got a bigger problem than that, Martin,’ Hooper said. ‘You still got a hell of a fish out there, with a mouth about this big.’ He extended his hands like a fisherman boasting a catch.
‘How do we confirm that by morning?’ Brody knew that if Larry Vaughn was going to agree to shut down Amity’s Fourth of July, he would need more proof than the sorry remains that were scattered around them. Hooper was already marching along the dock.
‘If he is a rogue and there’s any truth in territoriality at all, we’ve got a good chance of spotting him between Cape Scott and South Beach.’
‘Where are you going?’
‘We’re going to find him right now. He’s a night feeder.’
‘On the water?’ Brody shivered at the thought of the dark ocean and what lay beneath.
”Well, if we’re looking for a shark, we’re not going to find him on the land.’
Hooper started to climb down a ladder to the lower dock area. Brody halted.
‘Yeah, but I’m not drunk enough to go out on a boat.’
‘Yes, you are,’ said Hooper.
‘I can’t do that,’ Brody looked out into the blackness.
‘Yes, you can,’ Hooper said.
Brody had no way out. He was chief of police. He was responsible for public safety. He had no choice. Before he followed Hooper he went back to the jeep to retrieve the second bottle of wine, which he had brought along in case a reserve of courage was needed.
At night the ocean released pockets of vapours, which wreathed the surface of the waters around the island in shifting banks of milky fog. From out of one of these banks, one mile offshore just south of Cape Scott, there appeared a ghostly white craft, a thirty foot customised cruiser, its sleek lines gleaming in the moonlight. Unlike a regular pleasure craft, it was equipped with the latest sonar technology and its cockpit glowed like the interior of a space capsule.
Brody paced the lower aft deck, trying to keep warm. He held the uncorked wine bottle by the neck, spilling some of the contents with each extravagant gesture that he made to punctuate his speech. He was regaling Hooper with his views of Amity policing.
‘I’m telling you, the crime rate in New York will kill you. There’re so many problems, you never feel like you’re accomplishing anything. Violence, rip-offs, muggings. Kids can’t leave the house – you’ve got to walk them to school.’ He turned and pointed dramatically to where Hooper stood out of sight on the bridge. ‘But in Amity, one man can make a difference. In twenty five years, there’s never been a shooting or a murder in this town.’
Hooper’s head and shoulders appeared over the rail.
‘Do you want a pretzel?” he asked, his mouth half-full.
‘Where are we?’ Brody asked. He was trying not to think about the fact that the only thing separating them from fifty feet of dark water was the hull of the boat. The picture Ellen had shown him of the whaler being battered by a shark flashed into his mind.
‘We’re right in the stretch where he’s been feeding.’
Brody peered at the fuzzy black and white image on one of the small TV monitors.
‘Do you get the late show on this thing?’
‘No, it’s a closed circuit TV system. I have underwater cameras fore and aft.’
Brody climbed up onto the bridge, instinctively wanting to be as high above the water as possible.
The controls of the boat looked both impressive and complicated. The panel of winking lights below the wheel would not have looked out of place on an airplane cockpit. Hooper’s face was a mask of ghostly light reflected off of a small screen in front of him.
‘Who pays for all this stuff?’ Brody asked. ‘The government? The institute? This stuff costs a lot of money.’
‘Well, I uh, I paid for this mostly myself, actually.’ Hooper sounded mildly embarrassed by the admission.
‘Yeah? How much?’
‘Well, personally, or the whole family?’
Brody shook his head.
‘Doesn’t make sense,’ he said. ‘You mean they pay a guy like you to watch sharks?’
‘Well,’ Hooper countered, ‘ it doesn’t make much sense for a guy who hates the water to live on an island either.’
‘It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.’
‘That makes a lot of sense,’ Hooper smiled.
A black box by the screen emitted a small electronic wail.
‘What is that thing doing?’ Brody asked.
‘Well, it’s a fish finder.’ Hooper turned one of the dials on the box and the wailing sound oscillated and then faded. ‘It’s probably just a school of mackerel or something, all flocked together.’
The two men stared out into the blackness. Another stronger electronic wail came from the box.
‘Wait a minute,’ said Hooper craned forward, his eyes darting first to the screen and then to the darkness beyond the bows of the boat. ‘There’s something else out there.’
‘What is it?’ Brody asked
Hooper angled one of the mounted spotlights so that its beam shone directly onto the water.
‘About a hundred yards, south south west.’
Brody followed the direction of the light and through the curling wreaths of mist he spotted something floating on the surface. It was a barrel, the kind used by fishermen as markers and floats. Other items of debris were also bobbing in the waves. A dark shape loomed out of the fog and, as the spotlight caught it, Brody cried, ‘Ben Gardner’s boat. That’s Ben Gardner’s boat.’
Even in the dark fog the craft was easily recognisable. Perhaps only Quint’s boat of gothic perpindicular architecture was more charactertistic. It sat low in the water, half submerged and looked as if it had been abandoned.
As they drew up alongside the fishing boat Hooper played the beam of the searchlight along its length from stern to bow. The wood of the transom had been splintered by a blow of great force. The glass of one of the cabin windows had been smashed.
‘You know him?’ Hooper asked. He seemed to recall that the man who had first greeted him on his arrival had gone by the name of Ben Gardner.
‘It’s all banged up,’ Brody said. ‘Sure I know him. He’s a fisherman. What happened?’
Illuminated by the pale yellow glare of the searchlight the boat seemed almost like a ghost ship, alone and bereft on the sea without a pilot or a crew.
Hooper cut the engines. There was no discernible pull of current or tide here and he was confident he could let the boat wallow for the few minutes he would need to take a closer look. He went below, peeled off his damp jeans and shirt and pulled on a wet suit. Coming back on deck he saw Brody at the side, playing a spotlight over the stricken vessel with morbid fascination.
‘Look Martin’ – already he and the chief were on first name terms – ‘I just got to check something out.’
Brody turned to see him fitting a snorkel to a mask and his eyes widened.
‘Wait a minute,’ he said. Nothing on earth would have got him into the water, not even in broad daylight, but here was Hooper getting ready as if to take a dip in the pool. ‘Why don’t we just tow it all in?’
‘We will, we will. I just got to check something out’ Hooper was fitting a pair of flippers to his feet. ‘Hit the lights for me.’
‘Let’s tow it in,’ Brody pleaded.
‘Don’t worry, Martin. Nothing’s going to happen.’
Brody could see that he was not going to dissuade Hooper. He snapped the switch and pools of light the color of bile bloomed under the boat and surrounded it like a sickly halo.
‘What am I supposed to do while you’re gone?’ Brody asked.
Hooper sat on the transom, his legs dangling above the water. He checked his flashlight and fitted the mask onto his face.
‘Nothing, absolutely nothing. Don’t touch any of the equipment. I’ll be back in two minutes.’
Hooper dropped into the water and sank until he was about six feet below the surface. He could see nothing but the drifting currents of silt in the beam of his flashlight. He was suspended in the darkness, but he felt no fear. He had swum with sharks in open water off the Great Barrier Reef, tagging them to track their migration patterns. Sharks were creatures of great beauty, and of great mystery. There was so much that was still unknown about their behaviour. Like all great predators, they were to be respected for their position in the food chain, but there was no reason to fear them. Hooper kicked towards the dark shape of the hull. He was looking for damage below the waterline and he found it at once – a huge hole in the side of the boat, its edges jagged and splintered. Something in the wood glinted in the beam of the flashlight. He unsheathed the knife strapped to his belt and dug it into the soft wood, prying the object out so that it dropped into his upturned palm. It was a white triangular tooth with serrated edges. Hooper recognised it as the tooth of a Great White. He did a quick mental calulation to estimate the size of the fish from the evidence in his hand: either this was a shark with abnormally large teeth, or it was a shark of an abnormally large size.
Something that felt like a disturbance in the water made him turn away from the hull. The flashlight’s beam failed to penetrate more than a few feet of the dark water. Hooper could feel the pressure building in his chest and knew that in a moment he would have to surface for air. He turned back to the shattered hull and probed the dark hole’s interior with his flashlight.
A whitish object moved into the boundary of his vision and for a split second he thought it was a fish. But what suddenly lunged into the light was the pale dismembered head of the fisherman, one eye lolling lazily out of its socket, the mouth half open in a rictus of fear and despair. The dead face loomed into Hooper’s own and bumped against the perspex of his mask. Instinctively, Hooper recoiled and opened his mouth in a noiseless scream that released the last gasp of air from his lungs. Both knife and tooth fell from his grasp as he kicked backwards and upwards. He broke the surface and gulped gratefully at the night air. The water around him had a sickly yellow pall, the color of a leperous ocean. It took just six strokes for him to reach the boat and he grasped at and pulled himself up the ladder in one swift motion. He looked into the startled face of Martin Brody, but in his mind’s eye all he could see was the ravaged death mask of Ben Gardner.
The next day – Thursday – saw record temperatures for early July. The sun shone brilliantly on the water. As the highest point on the island, the bluff above South Beach attracted those in search of a dramatic sea view. Amongst the regular tourists wandering along the cliff top this morning were three men involved in a heated discussion. They were clearly not part of the tourist trade. The tall lean one was dressed in the brown and beige colors of the local police force. The shorter bearded man, despite an attempt to appear well-presented in a sports jacket and pair of slacks, could not compete with the sartorial elegance of the third member of the group. The three of them were walking up the slope away from the cliff edge and all seemed to be speaking at once.
‘This is a Great White, Larry, a big one,’ Brody was explaining to the Mayor for the third time, and his voice now had an edge of exasperation to it. ‘And any shark expert in the world will tell you it’s a killer! It’s a man-eater!’
‘Look,’ Hooper cut in before the chief had finished, ‘the situation is that apparently a Great White shark has staked out a claim in the waters off Amity Island. And he’s going to continue to feed here as long as there is food in the water.’
‘And there’s no limit to what he’s going to do,’ Brody spoke with a growing sense of urgency. From their vantage point above South Beach they could already see sailboats and bathers in the water. Brody knew that somewhere beneath that sparkling blue surface there still swam a monster. ‘I mean we’ve already had three incidents, two people killed inside of a week And it’s going to happen again. It happened before. The Jersey beach.’
Brody looked to Hooper to confirm that he was not just being paranoid.
‘1916,’ Hooper started to explain. ‘There were -‘
‘1916,’ Brody yelled, as if the year was as resonant a date in American history as 1776. ‘Five people chewed up in the surf!’
‘In one week.’ Hooper added another statistic to the argument, although it was a slight compression of the truth. Three men and two boys had been savaged by a man-eating shark over a twelve day period, and only one had survived. Although it had never been proved that the shark in question was a Great White, Hooper was of the belief that the attacks at Beach Haven, Spring Lake and Matawan Creek had been the work of one fish, and that the facts provided compelling evidence for the theory of territoriality.
‘Tell him, tell him about the swimmers,’ Brody urged.
Hooper could see that the Chief’s mild hysteria was having no effect on the Mayor, and he tried to keep his own voice level and measured as he explained in layman’s terms.
‘A shark is attracted to the exact kind of splashing and activity that occurs whenever human beings go in swimming. You cannot avoid it.’
‘If you open the beaches on the fourth of July, it’s like ringing the dinner bell for Christ’s sake.’ Brody gesticulated towards the ocean behind them.
‘Look, Mr Vaughn.’ Hooper was still trying to be reasonable, but he was finding it difficult to read the Mayor’s passive expression. ‘Mr Vaughn, I pulled a tooth the size of a shot glass out of the wreck of a boat out there, and it was the tooth of a Great White.’
‘It was Ben Gardner’s boat,’ Brody cut in again. ‘It was all chewed up. I helped tow it in. You should have seen it -‘
The boat was now in dry dock and had been impounded by the police department. Brody had seen for himself the huge hole in the hull. To his eyes it could quite easily have been caused by the boat running aground on a rock pile. He knew that the Mayor would pounce on this as the most likely explanation for the damage – another boating accident. But Hooper had said that he had found a tooth and had been confronted face to face with the nightmare remains of another shark attack. The head – the one piece of grisly evidence that not even Larry Vaughn could have ignored – was nowhere to be found. Hooper supposed that it must have rolled out of the hole and sunk to the bottom of the sea.
‘Where is that tooth?’ The Mayor asked, fidgeting with an unlit cigarette. He had made a promise to his wife to quit smoking, but he still carried a pack of Marlboros in his jacket pocket. To help resist the temptation he kept his gold-plated lighter locked in a desk drawer. It was beginning to look like he had chosen the wrong month to quit smoking. ‘Did you see it Brody?’
‘No, I didn’t see it,’ Brody became defensive and almost sheepish. ‘He dropped it. We had a little accident on the way in.’
‘I had an accident,’ Hooper said.
‘But you don’t have the tooth,’ Vaughn was focusing on the least important detail and ascribing to it the most important significance. It was simple. There was no tooth and therefore there was no shark. The shark was dead. It had been hung up on the dock for everyone the see. Meadows had run a four page spread in The Amity Gazette, playing down the details of the attacks themselves and expanding on the catching and killing of the fish. The Mayor himself had approved the final copy. As Meadows had predicted, the story broke wide and requests for interviews were coming in from TV stations. The last thing Vaughn needed now was this so-called shark expert going on record to say that they had caught the wrong fish.
‘And what did you say the name of this shark is?’ Vaughn wanted to be sure of the facts so he would be ready to counter them with a set of his own.
‘It’s a carcharodon carcharias. It’s a Great White.’
‘But you don’t have the tooth?’ Vaughn seemed fixated on this fact. ‘Look, we depend on the summer people here for our very lives.’
Hooper’s patience snapped.
‘You are not going to have a summer unless you deal with this problem!’
‘And if you close those beaches, we’re finished,’ Vaughn was used to hecklers from his days on the stump, and could maintain a level of equanimity in the face of the most vocal opposition.
Both Brody and Hooper were now talking over each other, their voices raised in unison.
‘We’re not only going to have to close the beach, we’re going have to hire somebody to kill the shark!’ Brody was almost screaming in the Mayor’s face.’ I mean we’re going to have to tell the coastguard. We’re going to have to get shark repellant!’
‘Mister, you have to contract a shark research panel-‘ Hooper’s comment (whatever the hell it meant) was drowned out by Brody’s continuing liturgy of expensive solutions.
‘We’re going to have to put extra deputies on because there’s nothing in the world that’s going to come in here! We’ve got to spend money to save what we’ve got!’
‘You have to ring this entire harbor with 100 gauge – ‘
Vaughn held up his hands defensively. He was not going to listen to any more wild schemes for dealing with a threat that in his book had already been dealt with.
‘I don’t think either one of you are familiar with our problems.’ Vaughn allowed his own voice to rise in pitch. How could neither of these men see the difficulties Amity was in? Tourist numbers were down drastically, motels and boarding houses were getting daily cancellations, and he personally had lost three summer lease contracts since the beginning of the week.
‘I think that I am familiar with the fact,’ said Hooper, no longer trying to keep a civil tone to his voice, ‘that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you in the ass!’
Vaughn started to walk away, but Hooper attempted to block his path.
‘Now wait a second, wait a second!’
Vaughn was not going to grace that last remark with a response. He had other things on his mind.
The reason he had asked Brody to meet him here on the bluff had not been to discuss increasing the budget for public safety. The Mayor was more concerned with the sight behind them.
‘Chief? Hey, Chief,’ Vaughn pointed to the billboard behind them.
‘There are two ways to deal with this problem,’ Hooper was saying. ‘You either kill this animal or you got to cut off its food supply.’
‘Larry,’ Brody made one last appeal, ‘ we have to close the beaches.’
‘Brody?’ Vaughn pointed again to the billboard. Overnight some kids had painted a large black fin bearing down on the bikini blonde, whose smiling face had been turned into a scream of fear. A crude speech bubble with the words Help! Shark! was coming out of her mouth. The paint was still wet, dripping from the frame and pooling on the ground. Workmen had already erected a step ladder at the base and were beginning to undo the damage as best they could.
‘Sick vandalism,’ Vaughn said. ‘That is a deliberate mutilation of a public service message. Now, I want those little paint-happy bastards caught and hung up by their Buster Browns!’
Hooper laughed and made a pantomime of bidding farewell.
‘That’s it! Goodbye. I’m not going to waste my time arguing with a man who is lining up to be a hot lunch. I’m going to see you later, Brody.’
The Chief now found himself defending the Mayor.
‘Aw, now please, don’t do this, he’s not…’
Hooper decided to take one more shot at convincing the man.
‘Mr Vaughn,’ Hooper’s voice was coated with a thin veneer of deference. ‘What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks. And that’s all.’ He gestured towards the defaced billboard. The crude dorsal fin was like a giant black sail bearing down on the hapless bather. ‘Now why don’t you take a long close look at this sign. Those proportions are correct.’
Vaughn gave him a wry smile.
‘Love to prove that, wouldn’t you? Get your name into the National Geographic.’
Hooper, whose name had appeared numerous times in that publication, gave a snort of derisory laughter. He backed away and let the laugh build into a parody of itself.
Brody, who still thought the battle could be won, followed the Mayor to his car parked by the roadside.
‘Larry, Larry, if we make an effort today, we might be able to save August.’ The promise of future revenue was the only argument he knew that might win the mayor over.
Vaughn opened the driver’s door and climbed in behind the wheel.
‘August? Hey, for Christ’s sake, tomorrow is the Fourth of July. And we will be open for business.’ He looked at the blue vault of sky above. ‘It’s going to be one of the best summers we ever had.’ Buoyed up by own optimism, he was prepared to concede some ground. ‘Now, if you fellows are concerned about the beaches, you do whatever you have to to make them safe. But those beaches will be open for this weekend.’
He slammed the door, started the engine and drove away.
Brody looked back at Hooper, who was sitting on a large white rock, still amusing himself with the mayor’s last remark.
In the distance, the sound of the docking ferry’s horn announced the arrival of another load of tourists. It would have been more appropriate, as Brody had already observed, if it had been the sound of a dinner bell.
Promenade / In the Den (Part 3)
The ferry from the mainland nosed into dock and when its bow doors opened it released another wave of tourists. First off were the passengers on foot, laden down with backpacks, then came another group wheeling their bicycles, and finally the vehicles – families in station wagons, elderly couples in old Buicks, New Yorkers in their smart city cars. Released from their workday cares they were looking forward to the familiar rituals and totems of the season: barbecues, games of frisbee on the beach, bottles of Budweiser cooling in crushed ice, a ballgame on the radio, watching the kids play in the surf. The traffic quickly snarled as the off-islanders unsuccessfully tried to negotiate the island’s one way system. A summer deputy had been posted on traffic duty and he commanded the main intersection, directing the flow of vehicles with blasts of his whistle and windmilling hand signals.
Brody had put Hendricks in charge of the station house and was now holed up in his den with Hooper. They had plugged in an extra phone and each was working through a list of contacts. Ellen kept them supplied with coffee, and Sean was helping out by freeing the phone lines whenever they got tangled as the two men paced the room.
‘Okay,’ Brody was saying, ‘now I want to know how many men you’re going to send.’
He was taking the Mayor at his word –If you fellows are concerned about the beaches, you do whatever you have to to make them safe – and was busy recruiting shark spotters from among the local fishermen.
On the other side of the room Hooper was calling long distance trying to withdraw from the Aurora programme.
‘Doctor, doctor,’ he was saying, his voice edged with exasperation. ‘There is no need for me to come to Brisbane when I have a Great White Shark here.’
‘I’m telling you we need men to patrol the swimming area,’ Brody was desperate. The locals were hiking the rates for boat hire. ‘We’ve got to have help, anyone with a gun or a boat.’
Brody’s next call was the coastguard. He knew one of the officers, whom he had once stopped for not ticketed. Now it was time to call in the favor. He wanted a helicopter to patrol the beach areas. The dispatcher who answered his call tried to blow him off.
‘Monday?’ Brody knew that nobody wanted extra work over the holiday weekend. ‘Listen. Is Chief Petty Officer Feldman there?’
The dispatcher at the coastguard was new. What did Chief Petty Officer Feldman look like?
Hooper was still on the line to Australia, his extended long-distance call adding more and more dollars to the mayor’s budget deficit.
‘Mishkin,’ he was saying. ‘Mishkin is the guy that feeds the white mice.’
Sean tugged at his father’s sleeve.
‘What?’ Brody shouted, startling both the child and the dispatcher on the other end of the phone. ‘He’s the little guy with the crew cut.’ Instinctively, Brody made a gesture with his hand as he described Feldman.
Hooper had finished his call to Brisbane and was trying to get another connection.
‘Operator? Isn’t there a phone on the island? Could you connect me, please?’
It sounded like another long distance call. To hell with it, thought Brody. I’m going to make Larry Vaughn pay through the nose for his stubbornness. Ellen came in with fresh coffee. Outside in the distance the ferry horn sounded again. More tourists on the menu.
The shark came up out of the blackness, its jaws wide open. Just as it swam within striking distance a rapid blast of gunfire checked its advance. Mortally wounded and bleeding from its flanks, the video image of the dying fish twitched and sank. The kid playing Killer Shark racked up another ten points for a kill.
The traders of Amity had been quick to turn disaster into an opportunity. The owner of the main concession stand on Town Beach had had the arcade game shipped over from Atlantic City, and was cleaning up. He was making even more money from shark souvenirs – a bunch of fish jaw bones that he had got wholesale and were selling for five bucks each. A good many of the tourists on the island this July had been drawn to the resort by the very thing that the Mayor believed would keep them away. There was a ghoulish attraction to seeing the beach where a young kid and a girl had been chewed up in the surf. It was like those motorists who slow as they pass a car wreck to ogle the carnage.
In an attempt to reassure visitors that there was no longer any danger to bathers, a large blow-up image of the captured tiger shark had been pasted to a billboard on the front. Brody passed it as he headed for the beach with Meadows trailing after him.
‘That’s the TV station on the mainland here,’ Meadows was saying, indicating a small camera crew who were setting up their equipment.
‘Oh, all right. I’ll get to them later.’ The walkie-talkie in Brody’s hand crackled. He put it to his mouth and pressed the transmit button. ‘Brody to Scup Bucket, please come in.’ There was a crackled response. ‘Okay. Brody to Daisy, do you read me? Come in. Over. What do you see?’
Five hundred yards off shore a flotilla of boats passed back and forth between the mouth of the bay and the wider ocean. Hooper was one of the crew of the Daisy, a small motor boat that had been pressed into service as a police launch. He responded to the radio call.
‘Nothing here, Martin. And nothing on sonar.’
On the beach the TV reporter was filming the introductory segment to the piece that was due to go out on the six o’clock news. His producer had insisted he wear a blazer over his shirt to hide the dark stains of sweat under his arms, and he was sweltering in the heat as he walked up the beach and delivered his comments to camera.
‘Amity Island has long been known for its clean air, clear water and beautiful white sandy beaches. But in recent days, a cloud has appeared on the horizon of this beautiful resort community. A cloud in the shape of a killer shark.’
Larry Vaughn watched the TV reporter run through three takes before he got it right and each time the mayor winced at the final phrase. He was beginning to regret having agreed to an interview. Suppose this guy made him look a fool on national television. What was needed were some positive images of the community: families enjoying the holiday, having a good time, kids playing in the water. Something to show Amity in a good light and bring in more tourists.
A helicopter swept overhead, flying low along the length of the beach before circling back over the water to make another pass. Vaughn cursed under his breath. The chopper had been the chief’s idea, and it hadn’t come cheap either.
Vaughn made his way along the beach, picking his way around encampments of bathers who had staked their claims with towels, umbrellas, coolers and hampers. A radio was playing, not music but a ball by ball play of a Yankees game. Vaughn hunkered down beside an old man, who greeted him with a mixture of nervousness and surprise.
‘Oh, hi, Larry.’
Robert Fields was on the board of selectmen and, under the Mayor’s careful guidance, had helped to vote in many of the measures that kept the Amity the way Vaughn liked it. Fields had been a mildly dissenting voice on the question of keeping the beaches open, but it had not taken long to make him see the error of his ways.
‘Why aren’t you in the water?’
‘Well,’ he said, gesturing towards the sky, ‘I just put some sun tan lotion on and I’m trying to absorb some of this sun.’ He spoke with the same soft slow tones that made anything he said seem incontrovertible.
‘Nobody’s going in,’ Vaughn whined. ‘Please. Get in the water.’
Only Larry Vaughn could use the word please as an order. Exchanging nervous glances the selectman and his wife led their three grandchildren down to the water’s edge and, slowly, almost reluctantly, began to wade out. On the beach children, seeing somebody at last go into the ocean, started to nag their parents and, as if a spell had suddenly been broken, holidaymakers began to wander down to the water. Within minutes the surf was alive with bathers, running, screaming, splashing. Vaughn spotted his own son amongst them. He watched the kids playing from the safety of land and allowed himself a smile of satisfaction. Let the news cameras take pictures of this: a slice of Americana.
Michael Brody, who was in the same class as Larry Vaughn Junior, was also excited about getting onto the ocean. With a bunch of friends he was carrying his new boat down to the water. So far all he had done was sit in it with it tied up to the dock in back of their house, but today he figured with a fresh breeze on open water he could get up a top speed of fifteen knots. Maybe next year his dad would let him try out in the local regatta. Sailing was fast becoming the only thing he really cared about. This whole thing about the sea being off limits was a real bummer. Now here was his father, coming along the beach to intercept them.
‘Mike, come here.’ Brody guided his son away from his group of friends and bent down to speak to him. ‘Listen, Mike, do me a favor will you?’
‘What?’ The boy put his hands on his hips. He didn’t need to ask. He knew what was coming.
‘You and the other guys take the boat and put it in the pond instead?’
Brody gestured towards the tidal pond that formed a natural harbor on the western side of Town Beach. It was used by the beginners class of the sailing school.
‘The pond’s for old ladies,’ Mike whined.
‘I know it’s for the old ladies,’ said his father, ‘but just do it for the old man, huh?’
‘All right,’ Mike dug his heel into the wet sand.
Brody straightened up and walked back along the beach. He spied Ellen up by the bandstand and she waved, mouthing the words I’ve got Sean. Brody waved back and nodded. The walkie-talkie crackled on his belt.
Michael and his friends turned the boat around and started walking it towards the estuary beach. Sean, who had slipped under his mother’s radar, ran after them, shouting, ‘Michael! Wait! Michael! Wait. Michael, I want to go in the water!’
Out at sea Hendricks lowered his binoculars.
‘Daisy? Daisy?’ He called the other boat on his radio. ‘This is Hendricks. You see anything? Thought I saw a shadow. Over.’ He scanned the shore line again. ‘False alarm. Must be this glare.’
He turned aft and failed to see a dark triangular shape cutting through the waves and heading in the direction of the beach.
The TV crew were wrapping up their filming doing an interview with the mayor. Larry Vaughn was taking the opportunity to promote the island on prime time television.
‘I’m pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have in fact caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers.’ His message was clear: the threat – if ever there had been any real threat – was now gone. ‘But as you see it’s a beautiful day, the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time.’
Behind him kids were waving and mugging to the camera despite Meadows’s best efforts to shoo them away.
Vaughn gave the interviewer his best campaign smile.
‘Amity, as you know, means friendship.’
And that was the moment the screaming began.
Panic on the Fourth of July
The woman’s first thought was that the black fin slicing through the water towards her looked strangely like the one that had been painted onto the town billboard as a joke. With a slight jerky motion it swept past two sophomore girls who were splashing each other and screaming playfully. When the woman herself screamed, the exclamation that was drawn out of her was one of mortal terror.
‘Oh, my God!’
She turned and propelled herself towards the safety of the beach, slamming into a rubber raft and knocking a child into the water. Others too had seen the fin, and echoed with their own screams.
Out on the edge of the bay one of the spotters – a sharp-eyed young man with frizzy hair – raised his binoculars, and cried out, ‘Jesus Christ! Shark! Three five zero!’
Hooper snatched up the walkie-talkie and gave the signal to clear the water.
‘Red one! Red one! Martin! Get the people out of the water.’
The warning was broadcast on an open channel and the lifeguards posted along the beach were the first to respond. They were trained to evacuate the water as quickly and as efficiently as possible, and they went into action with almost military precision. Too late Brody tried to stop them, fearing that strident commands might escalate the sense of panic amongst the bathers. He ran to the base of one of the lifeguard stands.
‘No whistles, no whistles!’
It was too late. Shrill notes pierced the air, and a metallic voice boomed out through a megaphone: ‘Everybody please get out of the water. Everybody out of the water please.’
Brody looked in horror towards the ocean, which was now the scene of a mass rout. Hundreds of bathers were pushing and fighting their way towards the beach. Those furthest out swam with desperate strokes, almost clawing at the water and churning it into a seething foam. When they found the sandy bottom with their feet, they began to wade clumsily, pushing and pulling at anyone slower who impeded their way. Some remained paralysed with fear. A young mother standing waist deep in water clutched her child to her breast and screamed as others pushed past her. In the shallows, several of the elderly and the frail collapsed in the surf from exhaustion and fear. Here they might have been trampled upon and perhaps even drowned had not the waiting paramedics dragged them out of the water and applied CPR on the beach.
Thirty yards off shore the spotter boats were closing in on the fin. Up close the black triangle looked almost comical as it bobbed in the waves and then suddenly it seemed to capsize. From beneath the water two boyish heads appeared, blinking out the brine from their eyes and looking up into the barrels of several rifles aimed directly at them.
The two boys – probably no more than ten and twelve – shivered in the water despite the protection of wetsuits. The younger boy, sensing that he was in a whole lot of trouble, pointed an accusing finger at his brother.
‘He made me do it,’ he spluttered. ‘He talked me into it!’
On the beach Brody was doing his best to restore calm, moving the crowd back from those recovering from their ordeal.
‘Please, please, move back. Let’s move back, please. Give these people some air. Please move back, move back.’
Brody noticed his wife making her way down the crowded beach and with a sense of disquiet he realized that neither of his sons were with her. Hooper’s voice crackled from the radio on his belt.
‘Martin, it’s just a hoax. There are two kids with a cardboard fin. Is everyone there okay? Did everyone get out of the water all right?’
One of the shark spotters was hauling the younger boy out of the water. As he was brought on board the kid noticed that none of the men were smiling. Oh boy, he thought, was he going to get it.
The sounds of panic had brought most bystanders down to the beach, but there were some who had not been drawn by morbid curiosity. One was a young art student called Mandy Brown. She spent the summers painting the island’s popular sights and selling the pictures for twenty dollars a piece. On a good day she could crank out six paintings. The proceeds were helping see her through college. She had come down the beach to do a seascape and had set up her easel at the end of the causeway that ran the length of the pond. She had quickly sketched the horizon and the rock wall on the other side of the entrance to the tide pool. Not even the sounds of panic from the beach had broken in on her concentration. As she started to dab the canvas with brushes of blue her eye caught something moving through the water. It was a sooty gray in color and rose about two feet above the waves. She walked to the edge of the causeway and, by squinting against the glare, she could just about make out that the shape was triangular. She realized with horror what it was. In fact, on seeing a smaller fin following in the wake of the larger one, her first thought was that there were two sharks. But as she looked more closely she realized that this was the tip of the creature’s tail. The dark shape of the fish could be seen just below the surface – surely the refraction of the light made it seem larger. Was it possible that it could be that size?
Even though she was safely on land, Mandy felt fear paralyze her. She wanted to scream a warning to the kids in the pond, a bunch of young boys on a tiny sailboat. She opened her mouth to call out but no sound came. She gasped and stuttered the single word: ‘Sh- shark!’
The commotion on the beach had only just died down. Already people were passing on the news: it was just a couple of kids, fooling around with a plastic fin. When they heard the sound of the young woman’s cry they figured it was just another hoax.
‘The shark! He’s going into the pond! The shark’s in the estuary!’
An exasperated Brody shook his head.
Ellen checked him with a hand on his arm.
‘Michael’s in the pond,’ she said.
Brody began to make his way up the beach. The girl’s shouts were becoming more frantic. Brody quickened his pace, his heart beating faster. He ran through the crowd, the figures around him becoming a blur. There was something in the girl’s voice that told him this was not another joke.
‘Somebody do something! In the pond! In the pond! Shark! In the pond!’
Brody ran along the stone causeway in the direction of the bridge that crossed the estuary. Others followed him, but barefoot they had to proceed more carefully over the stony ground. Brody spied the figure of a young girl on the other side of the pond. She was pointing frantically towards the pool where he could make out the silhouette of his son’s boat wallowing in the water.
‘The shark’s in the pond!’
Michael Brody and his two friends Andy and Tim were oblivious to the drama unfolding around them. All three boys were eager but novice sailors, and they were having trouble raising their sail. Typically, none were ready to admit they were wrong and they had been arguing heatedly for several minutes over how to untie a knot.
‘Hurry up,’ Andy said, ‘get that thing done.’
‘I can’t do a damn thing until we get this thing undone,’ Michael was pulling at a corner of the sail, which refused to go up the mast.
‘I’m doing it!’
‘Get that rope undone,’ said Andy. ‘You got to untangle that up there!’
Scout leader Teddy Grossman worked part-time over the summer on beach patrol and today he was out on the pond in his fire-engine-red rowboat. He had noticed the three boys were having trouble raising sail and had rowed out to within hailing distance.
‘Hey, fellas,’ he shouted. ‘Fellas! The sheet. Make it fast.’
He dipped an oar in the water to turn the boat. Twenty feet to his stern the giant fin of the shark was bearing down on him.
‘Guys? You guys okay over there?’
The shark was traveling at a speed of about twenty knots when it rammed into the side of Teddy Grossman’s rowboat. Its broad snout lifted the craft out of the water and threw its occupant into the sea. With a flick of its powerful tail it surged forward and struck Michael Brody’s sailboat. The three boys fell into the water.
Teddy Grossman surfaced with an expression of both puzzlement and fear on his face. He had not seen the shark but he knew instinctively that he needed to get out of the water. He tried to pull himself up onto the capsized rowboat but he could get no purchase on the slippery sides.
Just below the surface the giant head of the shark tilted and thrust forward. The jaws clamped around Teddy Grossman’s torso. Teddy screamed as the teeth sawed into his flesh and the water around him ran red with his own blood.
From the shore three sunbathing high school seniors looked up from they where they were stretched out on their towels and tried to make out who was horse-playing in the water. Probably some jocks fooling around, trying to get their attention. They re-adjusted their sunglasses and lay back on their towels. Pretty soon the cries that had disturbed them had stopped and they were able to concentrate once more on getting a serious tan.
Teddy Grossman fought to the end, but was unable to release himself from the grip of the four thousand pounds of the shark’s bite force. The shark shook him like a terrier playing with a bone. With one final shake of its massive head the fish severed its prey’s body in two. One leg sank to the bottom and pirouetted lazily in the current. The shark sensed other movement in the water and swam towards it, its jaws still holding the limp torso of its latest victim.
Michael Brody had been thrown the furthest from the sailboat. His two friends had managed to clamber back on board, but he had been caught in the slipstream of current created by the monstrous fish. Paralyzed with fear, it was all he could do to keep treading water as he watched the shark come from below and take the man. And now the monster, with the dead man’s body still in its maw, was swimming directly towards him. Michael could not even close his eyes. He stared as the fish approached, with the inert figure in his jaws lolling like a macabre puppet.
The fish did not strike, but veered away at the last moment and swam towards the open channel. Michael stared at the empty water, now stained crimson.
His father caught his first glimpse of the shark as he raced across the bridge. He saw the monstrous fin slicing through the calm water of the pond. It was heading for open water.
There was a shout: ‘Someone get a gun! Get a gun and shoot it! Does anybody have a gun?’
Brody was not wearing a firearm – he rarely did, although he was a crack shot and had been his precinct’s pistol champion for four years running. He vaulted the railing, dropped onto the sand and raced to the water’s edge. Michael had somehow made it to the shallows and was staggering toward shore.
Brody dragged him onto dry land.
‘Michael!’ It was Ellen who cried his name. She had followed her husband up the beach along the causeway and across the bridge. Her bare feet were cut and bleeding. ‘He’s dead.’
Brody let her cradle their son in her arms.
‘No, he’s not,’ he said tersely. ‘He’s in shock.’
He raced up the beach and grabbed a couple of towels. Ellen wrapped Michael in them and held him close, crooning his name. The boy’s eyes stared unseeing into hers and his lower lip trembled.
Knowing that his son was safe, Brody felt the tension in his body relax. He looked out to sea, the open water framed by the bridge piles, and as he stared at the placid ocean gleaming in the sunlight he knew that the only way to end all this would be to hunt the shark down and kill it.
The staff at Amity County Hospital worked flat out through the remains of the afternoon, dealing with the distressed and the injured who had been brought in from the incident at the beach. Most of the cases had been allowed to go home, after being treated for minor cuts and bruises. One elderly man had suffered a mild heart attack as a result of the panic, but was now sitting up in bed. The partial remains of the estuary victim had been recovered and placed in the mortuary’s cold storage unit alongside those of Chrissie Watkins.
The Brodys were waiting for news of Michael, who had been wheeled out of the ambulance on a gurney and into one of the examination rooms. Ellen was still in her bathing suit and had borrowed a beige cardigan to keep her warm. Brody held a sleepy Sean in his arms. After what seemed like an age, the door opened and a nurse came out, followed by a hospital assistant pushing a bed with Michael propped up on two large pillows.
‘Doctor said he’s okay,’ said the nurse, addressing Ellen. ‘Mild shock. He can go home in the morning.’
‘Thank you,’ said Ellen. She bent over the bed and gave her son’s hand a squeeze. ‘You gonna miss me tonight? You can watch television. Want me to bring you anything from home?’
‘My cars,’ Michael said weakly. He was at that age when he was supposed to stop acting like a kid, but right now he felt very small and weak.
‘Your cars!’ The tone in his mother’s voice was like a big warm hug. ‘What about ice cream?’
As Michael was wheeled away to one of the wards, Brody spied Larry Vaughn skulking in the corridor. He was fidgeting nervously with an unlighted cigarette and seemed to be talking to himself.
Brody handed Sean over to his wife.
‘Do you want to take him home?’ he said.
‘Back to New York?’ Ellen looked at her husband.
‘No,’ Brody said. ‘Home here.’
Ellen shifted the sleeping Sean onto her left shoulder and headed for the exit.
Brody intercepted the Mayor, who seemed to be trying to avoid his gaze and took him roughly by the arm. He steered him over to a quiet corner.
‘You got a pen, Larry?’
Brody’s could barely contain his anger, but he knew enough about local politics to realize it would not look good for the chief of police to be seen tearing his boss off a strip. He pulled the plastic curtain that separated the examining cubicle from the rest of the room.
‘I’m sorry, Martin. I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry.’
‘You got a pen, Larry?’
‘You got a pen? You know?’ Brody went through Vaughn’s pockets as if he were a suspect in a drugs bust. He found a pen in the inside jacket pocket and pulled it out like a piece of incriminating evidence. From his own pocket Brody took out a crumpled form, which he had had Hendricks bring over from the station. ‘Cause you’re going to do what you do best. You’re going to sign this voucher so I can hire a contractor.’ He pressed the pen into Vaughn’s trembling hand.
The prospect of spending more public money had the effect of bringing Vaughn partially to his senses.
‘I ca – I don’t, I don’t know if I can do that without clearance.’ It was the politician’s old trick of stalling for time, but Brody was having none of it.
‘You’re going to hire Quint to kill the shark.’ Brody had already decided that there was only one fisherman on the island who could do the job.
Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. Quint had said. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.
As far as Brody was concerned, ten thousand dollars was a small price to pay. It was time to ante up.
‘August,’ Vaughn was muttering to himself, tapping his lower lip with his cigarette. ‘August.’
‘What?’ Brody was amazed at the man’s ability for self-delusion. ‘What? What are you talking about? Larry, the summer is over. You’re the mayor of shark city. These people think you want the beaches open!’
‘I was – I was acting in the town’s best interest.’
Fine, thought Brody, let him think what he wants. Just get him to sign the goddam voucher.
‘That’s right. You were acting in the town’s best interest. And that’s why you’re going to sign this and we’re going to pay that guy what he wants.’
Larry Vaughn gave Brody a look of despair.
‘Martin. Martin. My kids were on that beach too.’
Brody remained unmoved by this sudden appeal to his better nature. He thrust the voucher into Vaughn’s hand.
‘Sign it, Larry.’
The mayor scribbled his initials on the dotted line. Brody pocketed the voucher. He drew back the plastic curtain with such force that it sounded like a whiplash. Leaving Larry Vaughn to wallow in his self-pity, Brody marched out of the hospital.
‘Ten thousand dollars,’ Quint said. ‘Two hundred dollars a day, either I catch him or not.’
‘You got it,’ Brody replied.
They were in Quint’s boathouse, a Gothic wooden structure that was in strict violation of Amity’s building code. Quint had applied three times for permission to rebuild after the original boathouse – which had become too small for his growing fishing business – had burnt to the ground. Local gossip said the fire had been set deliberately for the insurance. Each application had been turned down, each time with Larry Vaughn’s signature on the decision. Quint, who had a low level of tolerance for any kind of officialdom, had gone ahead and built the new boathouse anyway, and was now locked in a dispute with town hall. The interior of the building was like a barn. There was an upper level of bare boards like a hayloft, reached by narrow steps of fresh timber. A solid framework of beams was hung with ropes and nets and tackle . The lower floor was furnished with a number of workbenches and large metal drums, which were used as try pots for boiling shark meat. The interior was entirely utilitarian and nothing seemed designed for comfort. The one concession to decoration was the adornment of the walls with the bleached jaws of sharks. They seemed to take up almost all available space: small ones, large ones, crooked ones, some bone white, others yellowed or brown. Row upon row of sharp teeth. Beneath the stench of the fish Brody could still smell the recently planed wood of the floorboards.
‘Get the mayor off my back,’ Quint was saying, ‘so I don’t have any more of this zoning crap.’
‘You got that,’ repeated Brody.
Quint was wearing a long leather apron over his fisherman’s clothes and moved purposefully from one try-pot to the next. He had not been surprised to get a call from the police chief. The man was determined to catch this bird, and Quint admired men with determination, even though this one wore a uniform.
‘One case of apricot brandy,’ Quint needled the chief playfully. He liked brandy on his cereal. ‘You buy the lunch.’
‘Two cases,’ countered Brody. ‘You get dinner when you get back.’
‘Champagne,’ Quint said. ‘Iranian caviar, and don’t forget the color TV .’
Grinning, Quint poured out a couple of shots of his own private stock of spirit and handed Brody a glass.
‘Hey, chief, you try this. Made it myself. Pretty good stuff.’
If the fisherman thought he was in danger of the island’s chief of police serving him with a citation for brewing his own illegal liquor, he gave no outward sign of it.
Brody put the glass to his lips and allowed the tip of his tongue to taste it. He gasped at the fiery strength of the clear liquid.
Quint raised his own glass and made a toast.
‘Here’s to swimming with bow-legged women!’ He drained the glass. The rattle of a lid of one of the try pots recalled him to his chores. ‘Excuse me, chief.’
He pushed his way past and with a pair of iron tongs pulled out a set of jaws, stripped clean of its flesh.
‘Can’t get a good man these days for under sixty,’ Quint was complaining about the loss of his mate, who had been taken suddenly ill at the news that there was a charter to hunt the Great White. ‘They’re all going at least thirty five years. Forty five year olds with women!’
Quint climbed up to the upper level.
Matt Hooper, who had been marveling at the range of jawbones on display, stepped forward. Brody handed him the still full shot glass.
‘Don’t drink that,’ he said.
The warning came too late. Hooper downed the drink in a single gulp. When he tried to get the fisherman’s attention, he found his voice had almost gone.
‘Mr Quint,’ he gasped, his eyes watering. ‘Mr Quint! You’re going to need an extra hand.’
Quint looked down with an expression of disdain.
‘This is Matt Hooper,’ said Brody.
‘I know who he is,’ said Quint.
Hooper bristled at the tone of contempt.
‘I’ve crewed three TransPacs.’ Hooper’s family had been members of the Trans Pacific Yacht Club for almost fifty years. His grandfather had sailed in the first race from San Francisco to Hawaii back in 1906, the year of the big earthquake. In 1972 Hooper had set a new record for the two thousand mile voyage, and had made the cover of Yachting Magazine. In maritime circles his achievement was met with admiration.
‘Transplants?’ Quint mocked.
‘No, no, no,’ Brody said, ‘he’s from the Oceanographic Institute.’
‘And an America’s Cup Trial,’ Hooper added defensively.
Quint came down the steps and unhooked a length of rope from a nail.
‘Mr Hooper, I’m not talking about pleasure boating or daily sailing. I’m talking about working for a living. I’m talking about sharking.’
‘Well, I’m not talking about hooking some poor dogfish or sand shark,’ Hooper countered. ‘I’m talking about finding a Great White!’
‘Porkers? Talking about porkers, Mr Hooper? ‘ Quint tossed the coiled rope at him. ‘Just tie me a sheep shank.’
Hooper unraveled the line and made a few swift passes.
‘I haven’t had to pass basic seamanship in a long time,’ he said. ‘You didn’t say how short you wanted it. How’s that?’
He tossed the knotted rope back to Quint, who caught it and threw aside. The fisherman advanced and for a brief moment Hooper thought that the contest might suddenly get physical.
‘Give me your hands.’ Quint took Hooper’s hands in his own and turned them palm upwards. ‘Dogfish? When you get a five thousand dollar net, you got two thousand dollars worth of fisherman.’ Quint squeezed and Hooper felt the fisherman’s rough horny skin clamp his in a vice. ‘And along comes Mr Whitey. By the time he’s finished with that net, it looks like a kiddy’s scissor class has cut it up for a paper doll!’ Quint loosened his grip. ‘ You’ve got city hands, Mr Hooper. You’ve been counting money all your life.’
Hooper yanked his hands free.
‘Alright, alright! Hey! I don’t need this. I don’t need this working class hero crap!’
Brody stepped between the two men.
‘You’re not going to do this aboard the ship are you, Mr Quint?’
‘Maybe I should go alone,’ said Quint.
‘Well, it’s my party, it’s my charter.’
‘Yeah, it’s your charter, it’s your party. It’s my vessel!’
Brody was worried that Quint was about to start in on him now. Was he just playing the two of them like he might play a fish on a line? Did he get some perverse pleasure from seeing people squirm on a hook of contempt?
‘You’re on board my vessel. Mate, master, pilot and I’m captain.’ Quint cast another look at Hooper. ‘Take him for ballast, chief.’
‘You got him,’ said Brody.
Out To Sea
Quint was on the dock, running through the inventory of items needed for the hunt. He ran through the list like a liturgy.
‘Straight jet, killing lance, pair of robi splice with M1 with three d clips, handy billy, pliers, lance…’
Hooper too was making his preparations. He had called the institute and a couple of assistants had come over on the ferry with a station wagon loaded with equipment. The Orca was due to sail in thirty minutes to catch the tide and Hooper had still not stowed the most important part of his gear.
‘I haven’t even assembled all these die-markers,’ one of the assistants was saying. ‘Flares, safety flutes, temperature gauge, spear guns, SMG -‘
Quint watched a young hippie wheel what looked like a stack of metal poles down the ramp and onto the dock.
‘What are you?’ Quint sneered at Hooper. ‘Some kind of half-ass astronaut?’ He chuckled at his joke and then said to his own boat hand, ‘Take that. You latch it secure.’ He looked at the array of equipment. ‘Jesus H. Christ. When I was a boy, every little squirt wanted to be a harpooner or a sword fisherman. What you got there? Portable shower or a monkey cage?’
‘Anti-shark cage,’ said Hooper. He had quickly learned not to rise to Quint’s bait.
‘Anti-shark cage? You go inside the cage? Cage goes in the water? You go in the water? Shark’s in the water? Our shark?’
Hooper punctuated each rhetorical question with a nod and a grin.
Quint shook his head and began to croon a favorite shanty:
Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies,
Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain.
For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston
And so nevermore shall we see you again.
Hooper’s face seemed frozen in an expression of benign imbecility. He was going to take whatever Quint dealt out.
In the boathouse Brody was saying goodbye to his wife. Knowing her husband’s poor record at sea, Ellen had emptied the family medicine chest into an overnight bag.
‘Did you take your Dramamine?’ she asked.
Without something to calm him, Brody knew he would be heaving his breakfast up over the side before they even got out to sea.
‘I put an extra pair of glasses in your – ‘ Ellen was distracted by the sounds of Quint’s cursing from the dockside. ‘Black socks, and there’s the stuff for your nose, the zinc oxide. The Blistex is in the kit.’
Another explosive volley of expletives came from the boat.
‘Son of a bitch! Goddamn women today, they can’t handle nothing…’
Ellen looked at the swaggering man on the dock.
‘That’s got to be Quint,’ she said.
‘Colorful, isn’t he?’ Brody joked.
‘He scares me.’
‘Don’t use the fireplace in the den,’ Brody said, trying to distract her. ‘Because I haven’t fixed the flue yet.’
It was the beginning of July. What the hell was she going to be doing lighting a fire in the den in the middle of summer?
‘What am I going to tell the kids?’ Ellen asked.
Brody put a hand on her shoulder.
‘Tell them I’m going fishing.’ he said.
Ellen put her arms around him and hugged.
‘Break it up, will you, chief?’ Quint shouted. ‘Daylight’s wasting!’
He started barking orders.
‘Front, bow, back, stern. You don’t get it right, squirt, I throw you ass out the little round window. Come one, chief! This isn’t no boy scout picnic! I see you got your rubbers.’ He gave a vulgar laugh as he eyed the blonde haired woman in the chief’s arms. Then, making sure he could be heard, he recited a limerick he had learned years ago:
‘Here lies the body of Mary Lee,
Died at the age of a hundred and three.
For fifteen years she kept her virginity –
Not a bad record for this vicinity!’
There were several more verses, each one more obscene, which Quint would have recited with relish had not the woman turned and ran out of view into the boathouse.
With Brody on board, the lines were cast off, and the Orca set out to sea. As it sailed up the channel and out into the bay, Quint kept up a playful commentary of innuendo.
‘Don’t worry, chief. They may not like you going out, but they’ll love you coming back in! If you see a shark Hooper, swallow!’
Through eyes damp with tears Ellen Brody watched the boat navigate the channel. Her view from the window of the boathouse was partly obscured by a set of open shark jaws that dangled from a hook about the frame. The oval of white triangular teeth framed her parting view of her husband, who was standing in the stern and looking longingly back at the land.
A long trail of red snaked from the stern of the Orca along the surface of the ocean. Brody had been assigned the chumming detail, which involved ladling fish guts into the water at the rate of two gallons an hour. If the shark picked up the scent of the slick, it would follow it right to its source and obligingly poke its head out at the stern of the boat, giving Quint a clear shot with his harpoon. That, at least, was the theory, but Brody wasn’t so sure. He did not doubt that the stench of the chum could attract the fish – God knows it was strong enough – but it was a big ocean. They were already beyond sight of land. In whichever direction he looked, all Brody could see was water. He was keeping the smell of chum at bay by periodically dousing a towel with Old Spice and holding the scented material to his nose.
‘Keep that chum line going, chief. We got five good miles on him.’ Quint was seated in the chair that was bolted to the deck and drinking beer. Hooper was playing out a length of line attached to a green box, which appeared to be giving him some kind of readings.
‘Who’s driving this boat?’ Brody asked, looking towards the unmanned wheel on the bridge
‘Nobody,’ said Quint. ‘The tide. One time I caught a sixteen footer off Montauk. Had to stick two barrels in him. Two to wear him down and bring him up.’ Quint cast a derisive eye over Hooper’s equipment. ‘Nowadays, these kids, they bring everything. Radar, sonar, electric toothbrushes. Hey, chief! Best drop another chum marker.’
The chum markers – yellow flags attached to cork floats – were stowed next to the shark cage. Brody lowered the chum bucket to the deck, thankful for an opportunity to breathe some fresher air.
Quint cracked open another brew. The beer frothed over his hand. ‘Jesus H. Christ!’
He tilted back his head and chugged the beer in one. He stared at Hooper, who had set down his equipment and was leaning against the transom with a Styrofoam cup in his hand. Quint crushed the empty beer can in his fist and tossed it over the side. Hooper closed his fingers around the empty cup and it crumbled to pieces. The two men had been involved in petty displays of oneupmanship since they had left the dock.
Brody tugged at the ropes securing the cage in order to work one of the chum markers free. With one tug the line came loose in his hands and the panels of the cage toppled towards him, sending him scrabbling back to land on his rear. Two metal aqualung tanks freed from their mooring rolled across the deck. Hooper leapt forward and steadied them with his hands.
‘Watch it! Damn it, Martin,’ Hooper picked up one of the tanks. ‘This is compressed air!’
‘Well, what the hell kind of knot was that?’ asked Brody, his pride hurt more than anything else.
‘You pulled the wrong one. You screw around with these tanks and they’re going to blow up.’
Brody got to his feet and removed his life jacket, which had been chafing the back of his neck.
Hooper began stowing the equipment and lashing the cage to the side.
‘Yeah, that’s real fine expensive gear you brought out here, Mr Hooper,’ Quint observed. ‘Course I don’t know what that bastard shark’s going to do with it. Might eat it, I suppose. Seen one eat a rocking chair one time.’
As Brody dropped the chum marker over the side, Quint leaned conspiratorially forward and whispered to him, ‘Hey, chiefy. Next time you just ask me which line to pull, right?’
The incident with the air tanks turned out to be only significant event of the morning. The Orca continued to drift with the tide, rocking gently on the swell of the ocean. By late afternoon boredom had set in. Brody had stopped laying down chum and to pass the time he was learning basic knots. He was trying to master the bowline by following Quint’s instructions, a variation on a mnemonic known to every boy scout..
‘The little brown eel comes out of the cave, swims into the hole, comes out of the hole and goes back into the cave again.’
Brody threaded the end of the rope through the short noose, wrapped it around the base and threaded it back into the noose. This should have given him a fixed loop at the end of the rope, but when he pulled it taut he was left with a useless double knot.
‘It’s not too good, is it, chief?’ Quint said. ‘Well, nothing’s easy, is it? One more time.’
Brody loosened the knot and began another attempt.
Hooper sat cross-legged on the bridge, fitting a lens to his camera.
Quint settled back in the fighting chair and took a bite of biscuit. He noticed there had been a slight change in the wind and soon they would need to correct their course south south east.
At sea there are myriads of sounds competing with each other: the cry of sea birds, the slap of the water against the bows, the creak of the weathered hull, the whistle of the wind and the ping of the wires against the mast. Above all these Quint was suddenly aware of another sound.
It was the soft tick of fishing line playing out from the big rod at his side.
Quint’s gaze shifted almost imperceptibly to the reel. It was still. Had he imagined the noise? No, there it was again. The giant reel made a half turn as another length of line played out. Something under the water had taken the bait.
Cautiously, Quint drew the straps of the chair’s leather harness over his shoulders. He set his rubbers on the foot board, which swiveled on an axis and would give him more traction than the flat surface of the deck. He lifted the rod from its perch and placed it between his legs, inserting the end into a brass cup to keep it stable. He secured the reel to the harness with metal clips. The line clicked again. Quint let it play out and offered no resistance.
His movements were so cautious that Brody, concentrating on his knot, did not even notice the bait had been taken. He slipped the rope through the noose and pulled. The rope tightened into a perfect bowline.
‘Hey,’ he cried gleefully, holding the knot up for inspection. ‘I got it!’
At that moment the fish choose to run. The reel spun and whirred as the line ran out.
‘What?’ Brody shouted.
‘Get behind me!’ Quint ordered. ‘Hooper! Reverse her!’
Hooper had sprung to his feet and was scanning the water for some sign of activity.
‘Taking a hell of a lot of line,’ Quint said. ‘Chief, get the scooper out of the bucket. Wet the reel.’ The line was unraveling at an alarming speed. Brody thought he saw smoke as he doused the racing line.
‘Hooper!’ Quint yelled. ‘Reverse her!’
He could feel the strength of the thing moving away from the boat.
‘Duck your head down, chief,’ he said mildly as he turned to follow the fish. The chair swiveled with him as he played the rod to his right. ‘We’re swinging. Get behind me again. No more water. It’ll only drown me! Hooper, you idiot! Starboard! Ain’t you watching it? Hooper, neutral.’
Hooper killed the engine.
The rod was bending under the weight of the catch. Then suddenly the force relented.
‘Where’d he go now?’ Quint muttered. ‘He ain’t fooling me.’ He pulled back on the rod, reeling in several feet of line. ‘What’s he making out now? Go on, try it!’
Quint looked over his shoulder at Brody.
‘I don’t know, chief, I don’t know. He’s very smart or very dumb.’ Suddenly the line seemed to go slack as if the fish had given up the fight. ‘Jesus Christ. He’s gone under. He’s gone under the boat. I think he’s gone under the boat.’ There was a momentary tremor of doubt in Quint’s voice before he regained his old swagger. ‘Yeah, it’s too easy. He’s a smart big fish. He’s gone under the boat. Keep it steady now. I got something very big.’
‘I don’t think so,’ Hooper said to himself.
‘Chief, chief, put your gloves on. Hey, put your gloves on, both of you.’ The line went taut. ‘Getting ready to run again!’
‘Hey, Quint, let it go.’ Hopper pulled on a pair of gloves.
‘Hey, Hooper? Maybe you’re a big yahoo on the land but out here you’re just super cock. If you don’t want to backstroke home, you get down here!’
Hooper swung onto the ladder and slid down to the deck.
‘Alright,’ he said, ‘you don’t want to listen to me, don’t listen to me. It’s not a shark.’
Brody was leaning over the side, holding the taut fishing line in one gloved hand.
‘The wire’s showing!’ He called. ‘The wire’s showing.’
The wire was attached to the end of nylon line. If it was visible, it meant that whatever was at the other end was not far from the surface.
‘Unbuckle me!’ Quint told Brody. ‘Get on the other side. Grab the reel. Hooper!’
Brody helped a struggling Quint out of the harness.
Hooper had taken the strain of the line and was attempting to secure the wire.
‘Tuna or swordfish,’ he muttered. ‘Wasting our time.’
Quint was out of the fighting chair.
‘Okay,’ he said to Brody. ‘Take this rod.’
Brody took it and felt a shudder pass through the shaft.
‘Hooper, give the chief a hand, will you?’
‘Right,’ said Hooper, still unconvinced the shark was at the end of the line.
‘Oh shit!’ Brody exclaimed as another tremor passed through the rod.
Quint leapt with surprising agility onto the gunwale and shrugged himself out of the leather harness that was still on his back. He shuffled along the outside of the cabin where there was only enough purchase for the front part of his feet. He reached down and took a large curved boat hook from its mounting. Like any working vessel, the Orca used every available inch of space, and there were a number of hooks and harpoons attached to the outside of the cabin on both port and starboard.
Both Brody and Hooper were now exerting their full strength against the weight of their unseen catch, Brody bending the rod and Hopper tugging on the wire.
‘It might be a marlin, or a stingray,’ Hopper said between breaths as he pulled. ‘But it’s definitely a game fish.’
At that moment the wire snapped. The force threw Brody back into the fighting chair and Hopper onto the deck. Quint jumped down from the gunwale and pulled in the remains of the wire.
‘Gaming fish, eh?’ He sneered. ‘Marlin? Stingray? Bit through this piano wire?’ Quint bought the #12 wire from a nice young girl who ran the Amity music store. It had a breaking strain of three thousand pounds and Mr Whitey had just snapped it in half. Quint held up the sheared end of the wire to Hooper’s face. ‘Don’t you tell me my business again. You get back on the bridge.’
‘Quint, that doesn’t prove a damn thing,’ Hooper said, easing himself back to his feet and rubbing his neck.
‘Well, it proves one thing, Mr Hooper.’ Quint glared at him. ‘It proves that you wealthy college boys don’t have the education to admit when you’re wrong.’
Quint shouldered his way past into the cabin.
He was followed by Brody who, nursing the bump on his head, said, ‘What’s the point? Hooks and lines.’
Hooper made an arm gesture to Quint’s retreating back. Feeling this was not enough of a response, he pulled a face by sticking his thumbs into the sides of his mouth and poking out his tongue. The tips of the gloves left an unpleasant fishy taste in his mouth, which made him instantly regret the moment of childishness. He climbed the ladder to the bridge.
In the cabin Brody sat down and lit up a cigarette. He didn’t see how they were going to catch a great white shark with a simple fishing rod.
Quint seemed unconcerned.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘you lose one, you rig one.’
He thumped the cabin ceiling with the back of the boat hook.
‘Hooper? Twelve minutes south south east now. Full throttle!’
Hooper swung the wheel and gave a pirate yell.
‘Aye, aye, sir.’ This was followed by a Long John Silver cry.
Quint ignored the jibe.
‘See what I do, chief, is I trick him to the surface, then I jab at him. I’m not going to haul him up like a load of catfish.’ He hammered on the ceiling again. ‘Hooper – full throttle!’
The sound of the revved engine all but drowned out Hooper’s passable impersonation of W.C. Fields as he declaimed to himself, ‘I don’t have to take this abuse much longer!’
Quint noticed a trickle of blood running down Brody’s forehead.
‘Hey,’ he said. ‘Your head’s bleeding. First aid’s there.’
Brody put his palm to his temple and felt something sticky. No problem, he thought, figuring Ellen would have packed a big tin of Band-Aids. If he came out of this crazy fishing trip with nothing more than a small scar, he wouldn’t complain.
Quint left him to tend to the cut and went back on deck. He scanned the wake of the Orca, knowing that somewhere out there, perhaps just below the surface, swam the shark. It was just a matter of time before he showed himself.
Sea Attack Number One
From the crow’s nest Quint surveyed the ocean. The sea was a patchwork of blue and green, its colors shifting as the summer sun made its slow descent towards the horizon. Three hours had passed uneventfully since the bait had been taken. The Orca was wallowing in calm water, and both Hooper and Brody seemed to be in their own personal doldrums. From the top of the mast, Quint had a commanding view of the boat from stem to stern. Directly below him Hooper sat cross-legged on the deck of the bridge playing out a game of patience. Brody sat in the stern, a fresh cigarette in his mouth, halfheartedly practicing his knots. Quint reckoned they could try another chum line before it got dark. If nothing took the bait, they would head back in, and that would be two hundred dollars in the bank.
‘Brody,’ Quint called. ‘Start that chum line again, will you?’
The chief looked with distaste at the bucket of guts.
‘Let Hooper take a turn,’ he said.
‘Hooper drives the boat, chief.’
Quint spoke with an even tone that invited no further discussion.
Brody craned his neck to look up at the silhouetted figure of the fisherman in the rigging.
Christ, he thought, there’s no way in hell you’d get me up that goddam pole.
He hauled himself to his feet and positioned the chum bucket on the transom.
Quint was descending the mast.
‘Stop playing with yourself, Hooper,’ he cackled. ‘Slow ahead if you please.’
He climbed down on deck and went into the cabin. He took a seat, clamped a toothpick between his teeth and began preparing another reel.
Brody was feeling grouchy from the hours of exposure to the sun.
‘You heard him,’ he called up to Hooper, who had started the engine, ‘slow ahead!’
He caught a nauseous whiff of the chum as he scooped it out of the bucket.
‘Slow ahead, ‘ he muttered, tossing the swill into the water at the stern. ‘ I can go slow ahead. Come on down and chum some of this shit -‘
The giant conical head of the shark reared up out of the water, its jaws agape. Its black eyes seemed to stare right into Brody’s before it slipped back under the waves. Brody snapped upright as if he had been yanked backwards by an unseen force. Not daring to take his eyes off the seething patch of water where the shark had just appeared, he backed slowly into the cabin. He was aware of Quint seated to his right.
‘You’re going to need a bigger boat,’ he said, the cigarette trembling between his lips as he spoke.
Quint looked up at the chief quizzically and then followed his gaze.
The two men came out of the cabin and both stared at the water thirty yards to port. The shark was plowing through the ocean towards the boat, its fin and dorsal tail both clearly visible.
‘Shut off the engine,’ Quint ordered.
Hooper turned at the command and he too saw the fish. It was all that he had imagined, and more. A magnificent specimen, the largest he had ever seen.
The shark swept past the stern within four feet of the boat and for the first time the three men had a clear view of their adversary.
‘That’s a twenty footer!’ said Hooper, leaning over the side.
‘Twenty five,’ Quint corrected him, estimating the distance between the fin and the tail. ‘Three tons of him.’
Brody shuddered at the thought of being in the water with such a monster.
‘You’re going to need a bigger boat, right?’
Hooper jumped onto the deck and ran into the cabin.
‘Got to get to work,’ Quint said. With all his experience of big game fishing, he too seemed momentarily stunned by the size of the beast.
‘How do we handle this?’ Brody asked, needing instructions.
Quint ignored him and darted into the cabin just as Hooper re-emerged. His camera was slung around his neck.
‘How do we handle this?’ Brody was becoming increasingly desperate.
‘Martin, I need you.’ Hooper could barely contain his excitement. ‘He’s circling the boat! The size of him!’
From one of the storage lockers Quint took out the wooden box that held his Greener harpoon gun. With calm determination he began to assemble the pieces. The gun looked like a smaller version of the Winchester rifle except that instead of a barrel it housed a barbed steel harpoon at its tip. The ship’s radio crackled and a voice interrupted his work.
‘Amity Point Life Station to Orca. This is Amity Point Life Station to Orca. Come in, Orca.’
Quint acknowledged the call.
‘Orca. Come in.’
Through the port window he watched as Brody and Hooper walked crabwise along the slippery gunwale, heading for the bow.
‘I have Mrs Martin Brody here,’ the young coastguard said.
‘Put her on,’ Quint growled.
Hooper and Brody had reached the bow area where the yellow flotation barrels were stowed. Here the movement of the boat was more pronounced and Brody clung to the rail. To his left he could see the giant gray fin of the shark slicing through the water. The fish seemed to be on a direct course to cross their bows.
Hooper had taken up position by the bridge and was urging Brody to move up to the pulpit, an extended railed platform that jutted out from the bow, just wide enough to hold a man.
‘Come on, Martin, move, move, move!’
Brody refused to budge.
‘I’m not going out there,’ he yelled.
‘Beyond the edge of the barrels!’ Hooper was struggling to keep his camera steady. ‘Go to the end of the barrels! Further out!’
‘Further out,’ urged Hooper.
‘Go further out.’ Hooper motioned with his hand.
‘Would you go to the end of the pulpit, please?’
The shark was just yards away, its metal gray dorsal fin cutting a diagonal line through the water towards the boat.
‘I need to have something in the foreground to give it some scale!’
‘Foreground, my ass,’ said Brody, starting to retreat.
Quint watched the two men horsing around. He had no time to waste on civilities with the chief’s wife. Without giving her a chance to speak, he gave a rapid-fire response.
‘Your husband’s alright, Mrs Brody. He’s fishing. He’s just caught a couple of stripers. We’ll bring them home for dinner. We won’t be long. We ain’t seen anything yet. Over and out.’
He hung up the receiver and picked up the harpoon gun.
Hooper was still trying to coax Brody to go further out, but his pleas succeeded only in sending him further back. Brody started to edge along the gunwale outside the cabin, acutely aware that one wrong step could send him into the water with the shark. His progress was abruptly stopped by the appearance of a pointed harpoon, held in the left hand of an advancing Quint. Brody was forced to retreat to the bow, where Hooper was snapping away, and coaxing his subject like a high-society photographer.
‘Come here, darling! Come here, darling! Beautiful.’
Quint started issuing orders.
‘Chief. I want you to get up on the bridge. Just take her forward steady.’
Brody blanched at the prospect.
‘I’ve never steered a boat in my life.’
‘Just watch my hand and take her steady,’ Quint’s voice was calm but firm.
Brody climbed up onto the bridge.
‘Mr Hooper!’ Quint handed him a length of rope that was attached to the loaded harpoon gun. ‘Attach the end of this line to the first keg.’
Quint moved forward and out onto the pulpit, unaware that behind him Hooper had simply twisted the line around the top of the barrel and raced back to the cabin. He rummaged around in his gear and found what he was looking for: a short range location transmitter. Hooper activated the device and a flashing light indicated that the signal was working.
Quint stood fast at the end of the pulpit, unperturbed by the pitch and roll of the boat. He put the stock of the harpoon gun to his shoulder and drew a bead on the shark.
‘Better get a good shot at that porker’s head! He’s coming!’ Quint gave a laugh of exhilaration. ‘He’s coming!’
He turned to check that Hooper had done his job, but he saw that the brass eye on the side of the barrel was swinging emptily.
‘Hooper?’ Quint yelled. ‘Tie it up will you?’
Hooper grabbed both transmitter and receiver.
‘Your turn, Quint,’ he muttered to himself.
‘Hooper, where are you?’ Quint’s cry spurred Hooper to hurry back.
The look Quint gave Hooper when he reappeared could have probably stopped the shark dead without the need of a harpoon.
Hooper attached the transmitter to the top of the barrel and grabbed the harpoon line. He knew that the surest knot for attaching the line to the brass eye was the clinch knot. It meant passing the line through the eye before doubling it back and making five turns around the standing line. Then you had to thread the tag end through the first loop above the eye and again through the big loop before pulling the coils tight to secure the knot. Basic seamanship. When tied correctly it was one of the strongest knots there was. Done sloppily and it could lose purchase and unravel.
‘Hooper, hurry it up now, tie it on.’ Quint had the shark in his sights. ‘Hurry up, he’s coming straight for us. Don’t screw it up now!’
‘Don’t wait for me!’ Hooper cried, threading the tag end through the loop.
‘Come on, Hooper’ Quint chided. ‘Come on! Hurry up! Tie it on!’
As the shark cut across the bows its right flank made an easy target.
From the bridge Brody shouted, ‘Now! Kill it, Quint! Kill it now!’
Hooper pulled the line tight and called, ‘Shoot!’
Quint fired as the shark passed directly under the pulpit. The dart struck the beast at the base of its fin, but did not even slow it down. The coiled harpoon line on the foredeck unwound in seconds as the shark swam away from the boat. The line snapped taut and yanked the barrel into the sea.
‘What were you doing?’ Quint started to berate Hooper. ‘You knew I had to get a clean shot right in the head.’
A well-aimed harpoon could pierce the shark’s armored skin, reach the brain and kill it, but a dart embedded in its side would be no more than a mild irritant.
‘Alright,’ said Quint. ‘Let’s see how long that barrel takes to bring him up again.’
In fact, the shark had not yet gone under and the barrel was racing along the surface of the ocean in the direction of the horizon.
Hooper climbed up onto the bridge and took the wheel from Brody.
‘Bring another barrel,’ he shouted. ‘I’m coming around again.’
He spun the wheel, revved the engine and pointed the Orca in the direction of the yellow keg, which was bouncing and skittering over the waves.
As if sensing pursuit, the fish sounded. The turbulent water left by its trail dissolved and the waves rolled over the spot where the barrel had gone under. Unlike the land, the sea left no signs for the hunter to follow.
Hooper scanned the ocean, hoping that the barrel would reappear, but there was no sign that the shark had ever been there. The light was beginning to fade now as the sun went behind the horizon. Hooper could just about make out the grinning face of Quint watching him from the pulpit, where he stood with his back to the ocean, leaning nonchalantly against the rail as if it were a picket fence.
‘What do we do now?’ Brody asked. ‘We’re quitting, right?’
‘We’ve got one barrel on him,’ said Quint. ‘So we stay out here till we find him again.’
The silhouette of the fisherman stood out against the sky, which was streaked with orange and gold. There was a bank of dark cloud on the horizon.
‘Yeah, but we can radio in and get a bigger boat.’
Quint made no reply. He lent back against the rail, the harpoon gun cradled in his arms, and allowed the darkness to swallow him up.
The Indianapolis Story
The Orca was an ink black silhouette against the indigo and midnight blue of the sky and the sea. With neither wind nor tide to carry it, the boat sat motionless on the ocean. Yellow light illuminated the interior of the cabin where the three man had eaten a supper of meat and potatoes, cooked up by Quint in the narrow galley. Brody, still jittery from his first close encounter with the shark, had hardly touched his meal. Even the smell of the stew made him feel a little queasy and he had got up from the table to stand by the wheel. Hooper and Quint sat at either end of the long cushioned seat, each nursing a cup of rum, which was kept on board for medicinal purposes.
The knock on the head Brody had taken earlier in the day still smarted and he put his hand to his brow to feel the size of the bump.
‘Chief,’ Quint said with a grin. ‘Don’t you worry about it, chief. It won’t be permanent. You want to see something permanent? Ba ba boom!’ He mimed a series of upper cuts with his right fist and removed a crown from one of his teeth, which he then stowed in his shirt pocket. The remaining gap-toothed grin gave him a piratical look. ‘Hey, Hoop. You want to feel something permanent?’ He lent across the table. ‘Just put your hand underneath my cap.’
Hooper obediently reached out and felt a large bony protuberance on one side of Quint’s forehead. Between the two men an overhead lamp swung on its cord, obedient to the gentle movement of the boat on the water.
‘You feel that little lump?’ Quint said with pride. ‘Knocko Nolan’s. Saint Paddy’s Day. Boston.’
Hooper was a little tipsy from the alcohol.
‘I got that beat,’ he said, looking first at Quint then Brody. ‘I got that beat.’ He rolled up the sleeve of his pink undershirt to expose an ugly four inch scar on the upper part of his forearm. ‘It’s a moray eel. Bit right though my wetsuit.’
‘Well, Hooper, now listen, I don’t know about that,’ Quint rested his right elbow on the table and rolled up his sleeve. ‘I entered an arm wrestling contest in an Okie bar in San Francisco.’ He flexed his arm. ‘Now I can’t extend that. Do you know why? Get to the semi-final, celebrating my third wife’s demise, big Chinese fella, he pulled me right over.’
To illustrate his point Quint performed a drunken recreation of the moment. Both men laughed. Not wanting to be outdone in the scar contest, Hooper scooted closer. He put his right leg on the table and pulled up his jeans to the knee.
‘Look at that, ‘ he said, pointing to a livid line on his flesh. ‘It’s a bull shark. He scraped me when I was taking samples.’
Quint moved round the corner of the table to sit next to him. He examined Hooper’s scar and gave his leg a friendly slap.
‘I got something for you.’ Quint hauled his right leg up over Hooper’s and displayed his calf. ‘That’s a thresher. You see that, chief? Thresher’s tail.’
‘Thresher?’ Brody asked.
‘It’s a shark,’ said Hooper.
Quint raised his cup.
‘Do you want a drink? Drink to your leg?’
‘I’ll drink to your leg,’ said Hooper.
‘Okay, so we drink to our legs.’ Quint and Hooper laughed.
Brody lifted his black T-shirt and looked at his abdomen. The only scar he had was from an appendectomy as a child – not likely to impress the present company.
Hooper assumed a mock serious tone
‘I got the crème de la crème,’ he said, unbuttoning his shirt. ‘Right here. Hold on. Yeah, you see that?’
He pointed to his chest, which was remarkably hirsute.
‘You’re wearing a sweater,’ Brody joked.
‘Right there,’ Hooper said. ‘Mary Ellen Moffat. She broke my heart.’
All three men laughed now, each of them grateful to ease the tensions of the day’s hunt.
Brody noticed another scar on Quint’s left arm.
‘What’s that one there?’ he asked.
‘What?’ said Quint.
‘That one. There on your arm,’ Brody pointed.
‘Ah, well,’ Quint muttered, turning down the sleeve. ‘It’s a tattoo. I got that removed.’
Brody detected a solemn note in the fisherman’s tone, but Hooper, seemingly oblivious of the shift, tried another joke.
‘Don’t tell me!’ he said, trying to contain himself. ‘Don’t tell me! Mother!’
Hooper let out an explosive laugh and drummed on the table top.
‘What is it?’ he asked, tears in his eyes.
Quint reached out and put a restraining hand on Hooper’s arm.
‘Mr Hooper, that’s the USS Indianapolis.’
Hooper’s euphoria deflated like a pricked balloon.
‘You were on the Indianapolis?’ he asked in a hushed tone.
Brody looked puzzled.
Quint looked at both men in turn. He was grinning and his eyes shone, but there was no humor in the expression. When he spoke, it was with in a deliberate voice that invited neither comment nor interruption.
‘Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. It was coming back from the island of Tinian Delady, just delivered the bomb, the Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know, you know when you’re in the water, chief, you can tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail. Well, we didn’t know. Because our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent.’
Quint snorted, took a swig of rum, and continued with his tale.
‘They didn’t even list use overdue for a week. Very first light, chief, the sharks come cruising. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it’s kind of like old squares in battle, like you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was the shark comes to the nearest man and that man he’d start pounding and hollering and screaming and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark – he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at you, doesn’t seem to be living. Until he bites you and those black eyes roll over white. And then you hear the terrible high-pitch screaming and the ocean turns red, and spite of all the pounding and hollering they all come in and rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I don’t know how many men – they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, chief, I bumped into a friend of mine. Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Basketball player. Bosun’s mate. I thought he was asleep – reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kind of top. Up ended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and saw us. He was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr Hooper here. Anyway, he saw us and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know, that was the time I was most frightened. Waiting for my turn. I’ll never put on a life jacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest. June 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.’
Quint took a swig of rum.
A distant sound – like an alpine horn – sounded across the water.
‘What’s that?’ asked Brody.
‘It’s a whale,’ Hooper said flatly.
Quint was not a man to wallow in self-pity. Although no day had gone by without him thinking of the Indianapolis, he had never spoken of it to anyone before – not even to any of three wives. It had not simply been the rum that had loosened his tongue. There was something about the day’s events that had opened a wellspring in his memory. Fearing that the other two men might now press him for more information, Quint began to sing:
‘Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies,
Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain.’
Before he could continue with the next couplet, Hooper himself began to sing another song in a slow drunken slur:
‘Show me the way to go home,
I’m tired and I want to go to bed.’
Quint smiled and joined in.
‘I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it’s gone right to my head.’
Quint flashed a gap-toothed smile at the chief and raised his cup in a drunken salute.
‘Wherever I may roam, by land or sea or foam,
You can always hear me singing this song,
Show me the way to go home. Home, home, home’
Unknown to the three men ensconced in the warmth of the cabin, something was moving across the dark water towards the boat. The flashing light of Hooper’s transmitter showed it to be the barrel.
Quint and Hooper were singing lustily like two drunken sailors.
‘Show me the way to go home.
I’m tired and I want to go to bed.’
Brody joined them at the table and added his voice to the chorus
‘I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it’s gone right to my head.
The shark rammed the hull just below the waterline. Quint felt the impact in his bones, as if the ship were an extension of his own body. Hooper felt the second blow. The shark had rammed its armored snout into the same spot, splintering the wood and springing a leak. Brody, who was beating time on the table as he sang the next verse (Wherever I may roam, by land or sea or foam. You can always hear me singing this – ), was brought up short by the third and decisive blow, which was strong enough to rock the boat.
‘Start the engine,’ snarled Quint. ‘Fire her up.’
Hooper leapt over the table, but was thrown onto the floor as the boat lurched to port. Cupboard and locker doors swung open and disgorged their contents with a clatter. Brody fell backwards into the galley and with a sudden stab of fear realized that he was lying in two inches of water. He jumped to his feet and grabbed the radio.
‘Chief,’ said Quint. ‘Put out the fire, will you?’
Amongst the things that had fallen from the shock was a lighted oil lantern. It had smashed and spilled its fuel and was now burning, giving off a rich paraffin smell. Brody smothered the flames with an old rag.
‘Pump her out,’ Quint ordered Hooper.
The light above the table dimmed and then went out. The electrics had failed. Probably water had got to the wiring.
‘Everybody on deck,’ Quint said, grabbing his rifle, an old M1 Garand.
‘He ate the light,’ said Hooper
‘Terrific,’ Brody said.
The two men then bumped into each other.
‘Excuse me,’ said Hooper.
On deck Quint was leveling his rifle at the barrel, which was barely visible in the dark. He squeezed off a volley of rounds. The bullets plopped ineffectually into the waves.
‘Quint, what are you doing?’ Hooper tried to restrain him. ‘Don’t waste your time, Quint! Come on!’
The Garand jammed and Quint tugged at the bolt action.
‘What’s wrong with this -?’ He cursed the rifle. ‘Jesus Christ!’ It was a piece of junk, and not worth a damn. He should toss the thing overboard. ‘Hooper, take the wheel. Brody, forward deck – watch for him!’
Brody had grabbed his bag before coming on deck. He was surprised that he was familiar enough with the boat to move along the gunwale in the dark carrying a bag in one hand. He hunkered down by the barrels, pulled out his Webley, broke open the extractor and fed cartridges into the cylinder. Able to load the gun by touch alone, he scanned the dark water for any sign of the shark.
From the bridge, Hooper called out.
‘You okay? Hey, Martin, you okay?’
Brody felt a shudder pass through him, as if someone had just walked over his grave. In the night sky a shooting star, burning out its life millions of miles away, fell towards the ocean.
Three Barrels Under
At first light Hooper and Quint set about fixing the damage done to the engine. Not being able to work in the dark, all three had taken turns sleeping, one man on watch in case the shark returned. By dawn they were all awake. Brody, who had limited mechanical knowledge, took up position on the bridge. Neither Quint nor Hooper were visible, both of them having burrowed below the ship’s deck where the engine lay. An assortment of tools and spare parts were scattered about the two open hatches where the men worked, and occasionally a hand would appear from below to take a wrench or a screwdriver.
‘Hey, chief,’ Quint called from his burrow. ‘Pull left rudder! Pull your left hand down!’
Brody tried to turn the wheel, but it stubbornly refused to budge.
‘I can’t,’ he called back. ‘It’ll only go about three inches.’
‘All our injectors got scored by the saltwater in the fuel,’ Hooper called from his subterrenean workplace.
‘Yeah,’ agreed Quint. ‘The housing’s bent. You can hear it.’
Even Brody could tell that the noises coming from the engine were not good.
‘Start that rudder again, will you?’ Quint shouted to Brody. ‘Pull it! Good. Once again now!’
The sound of a splash from the stern caused Brody to turn around. His first thought was that someone had fallen overboard, but what he saw made his heart beat accdelerate.
The yellow barrel had burst out of the water and now floated just a yard from the boat.
‘Quint! Quint! Quint!’ Brody yelled. ‘There it is!’
‘What did you say, chief?’ Quint emerged to see the chief pointing astern.
‘The barrel is up! It’s right in the stern!’
Even the correct nautical terms were becoming familiar to Brody.
Quint and Hooper climbed back on deck and quickly replaced the hatches.
‘I think he’s right under the keg,’ Quint said. ‘Grab that boat hook.’
Hooper knew at once what Quint intended. If they could coax the shark back to the surface, it would give them a better shot at putting another iron in him. At close quarters a well-aimed pressurised dart gun might knock him out quickly and more humanely.
The coil of rope attached to the barrel floated on the water. The boat hook gave Hooper an extra six foot of reach, but it was surprisingly heavy and not easy to wield. He made two unsuccessful attempts to snag the line.
‘Quint, if we can get close enough, I’ve got things on board that’ll kill him.’
‘We just want to goose him up a little,’ said Quint. ‘Come on.’
Hooper caught the rope with the hook and pulled it up out of the water and towards the boat. He took the sodden hemp in his hands and lent over the rail, coiling the rope like a lasso.
‘Okay,’ Quint said approvingly. ‘When he runs, you drop that rope or you’ll lose your hands. I’ve seen fingers torn out at the knuckles. Old fishermen’s homes full of them.’
Quint knelt down beside Hooper.
‘Hey, boy,’ he spoke with gruff kindness. ‘Give it to me a minute.’
Quint took the rope from the younger man, but before he could coil another length the line was pulled from his hands with a force that stripped the skin from his palms. The water below him erupted as the shark shot vertically out of the sea. Its jaws were open and its ribbed gullet was clearly visible. Its huge trunk fell forward and the force of the impact showered water over both Hooper and Quint. The shark swam away from the boat, leaving a boiling wake behind it.
‘Start the boat,’ Quint said.
Brody, who had watched this re-enactment of his own first encounter with the shark in horror, strode into the cabin.
‘Where are you going?’ Quint asked gruffly.
‘I’m going to make a phone call,’ Brody said. It was a phone call that had started this whole thing – just over a week ago in his kitchen – and a phone call could end it. They were ill-equipped to kill the shark. They needed reinforcements.
Brody picked up the radio receiver.
‘Hello? Hello? Hello, mayday, Orca. Coast Guard? Coast Guard, this is the Orca. Do you read me? Coast Guard, this is the Orca, do you – ?’
In his eagerness, Brody had forgotten to depress the transmit button, and his call for help remained unheard.
Quint had followed him into the cabin with a baseball bat – once the property of Herbie Robinson – and now raised it above his head. Brody became aware of Quint’s shadow behind him at the last moment and he turned to see the bat descend. Once, twice, three times the bat came down on the radio, breaking the outer casing and smashing the valves.
When he was sure the radio was no longer operable, Quint desisted, and handed Brody the bat.
‘Excuse me, chief,’ he said.
Martin Brody was not a man who was easily pushed to the edge. It was one of the things that made him a good cop. He was also a man who had his own self-preservation at heart. Quint, however, seemed bent on his own destruction. God knows what twisted vision he had of this fish, and some blind vendetta going back thirty years.
Brody brandished the bat in front of him and screamed.
‘That’s great! That’s just great! Now where the hell are we? Huh? You’re certificable, Quint! You know that? You’re certifiable!’
Standing before him, his clothes soaked, his features strained and aged, Quint seemed less and less like the fearless shark hunter, and more and more like an old sea dog whose brain had been addled by the sun.
‘Yah, yah, yah!’ Quint waved his hand dismissively.
The two men might have gone head to head had not Hooper called from the bridge.
‘Boys? Oh, boys! I think he’s come back for his noon feeding.’
The shark had surfaced twenty yards astern and was heading towards them.
‘Hook me up another barrel!’ Quint shouted, climbing onto the gunwale and heading for the pulpit.
Hooper leapt onto the foredeck and began to rig another barrel.
The shark drew level with the boat and swam past on the starboard side, measuring its full twenty five feet against the Orca’s thirty nine.
Moving nimbly across the foredeck, Quint grabbed the primed harpoon handed him by Hooper and raced to the end of the pulpit. He held the gun at the hip and when he squeezed the trigger he felt the kick of the pressurized release. The dart found its target, embedding itself in the shark’s left flank. The second barrel flew from its housing and skittered across the water.
With a second iron in its side the shark began to retreat, swimming out to sea.
‘Bring it around after him!’ Quint shouted to Hooper. ‘Full throttle! Get me right up alongside him!’
‘I can’t rev it up that high!’ Hooper shouted over the noise of the engine. He could feel a resisting vibration in the wheel. ‘It’s not going to take it!’
Quint was perched at the end of the pulpit, estimating the speed and the course of the two yellow kegs. He ignored Hooper’s warning. A captain knows how far to push his own boat. There was still fight in the Orca yet.
‘Five degrees port!’ He yelled. ‘All right, hold your course! Five degrees port now! Hold your course!’
There was a sense of exhilaration in Quint’s commands. The hunt was on again and the quarry at bay.
As a precaution, Brody strapped on his gun belt. The rifle had had no visible effect on the shark and a Webley pistol was likely to have even less. Nevertheless, Brody felt a little more confident with the weight of a revolver at his side.
Hooper was pushing the engine to its limits.
‘Fast fish,’ he said, with a mixture of admiration and disbelief.
‘Watch my arm!’ Quint called. ‘You see – watch my hand now! Follow me! Follow me!’
Olivious to his precarious position at the end of the pulpit, Quint had his left arm in the air, signaling the direction for Hooper to follow. No sonar, no transmitters, no fish finding radar – all it took was a simple hand signal and a fisherman’s weathered eye.
The Orca’s prow was plowing through the water.
‘All right,’ called Quint, ‘you watch him now. Starboard! Starboard! Run him down, Hooper!
The Orca bumped against the second barrel trailing after the shark, sending a tremor down the line. On Quint’s command Hooper spun the wheel to starboard. The shark erupted out of the water and swam across the boat’s bows, only narrowly avoiding a collision. As the fish passed the starboard side Brody unholstered his weapon, aimed and squeezed the trigger. Right on the surface and close to the boat, the shark presented an easy target. Brody fired off six rounds. Three of them punctured holes in the creature’s flat shovel-like head, but none had any effect. The shark sounded.
‘I don’t believe,’ Brody said. ‘Two barrels and he’s going down again!’
‘It’s incredible,’ Quint muttered. By rights, dragging two kegs, the shark should have had the fight knocked out of him. Wounded and goaded by its hunters, the beast was following its instinct for survival, and the only way it knew how to survive was to attack.
Fifty yards to starboard the bright yellow barrels popped up.
‘They’re up again!’ Brody yelled.
‘Now what?’ Hooper muttered to himself.
The barrels bobbed violently in the water as if the shark was trying to shake them off.
Brody looked to Hooper.
‘Well, why don’t we start leading the shark into shore instead of him leading us out to sea?’
As if in answer to the question, Hooper directed his gaze towards the figure of Quint on the bridge. Brody remembered Quint’s terms: You’re on board my vessel, I’m captain.
Quint was bringing the Orca round in a wide arc to come up alongside the barrels.
‘Grab a couple of poles,’ he shouted. ‘Hang on now we’re going round! Get the starboard. Easy! I’m going to back her off now. You watch those barrels, boys.’
The barrels were floating in the water just to the stern.
‘Watch em,’ Quint ordered. ‘Alright, gentlemen, snag ’em. Now then, tie them to the stern cleats.’
Hooper and Brody hooked a line each. They felt no resistance as they pulled in enough of the rope to fasten it to the boat.
‘Brody, figure of eight around the cleat,’ Quint instructed. No need for bowlines or any complicated knots. ‘That’s right, it’ll lock itself off.’
In his eagerness to make the line fast on the starboard side Brody had pulled the length of the rope behind Hooper, who was on the port side. The line cut across the stern and hemmed him in against the transom just above the knees.
‘Give him room, Brody,’ Quint yelled, but before Brody could react the line snapped taut. The immense strength of the shark travelled through the hemp. Hooper screamed in agony as the rope cut into the back of his legs. Brody pulled down on the line and was amazed at the resisting power he felt. Hooper scrabbled over the line and dropped onto the deck as the shark began to run.
‘Watch it,’ Brody said. ‘Stand clear.’
The boat now took the strain. Each line was attached to a metal cleat screwed into the transom on the port and stardboard sides. The shark was trying to sound again and the taut lines moved through the water, snapping against the Orca’s side and making her timber creak.
‘Stand away from those stern cleats!’ Quint roared as the lines tightened.
The Orca was pulled down on the starboard side as the hull to port was lifted up out of the water, making the deck canter at an angle of thirty degrees. Both Hooper and Brody lost their footing and anything that was not tied down rolled across the deck. One of the compressed air tanks clanged against the rails of the ladder behind which it was secured. Brody leapt to his feet and put his weight against the ladder.
You screw around with these tanks and they’re going to blow up!
The lines were now running away directly from the stern and the Orca had settled back into the water. Quint put the engine into gear and started to tow his catch back to shore.
‘Back home, we got a taxidermy man, he’s going to have a heart attack when he see what I brung him!’ Quint laughed. He had made good on his word: they were going to get the head, the tail and the whole damn thing. And he would get his ten thousand dollars.
Hooper stood in the stern, checking the cleats. The metal strained in the wood.
‘Throttle back!’ He called to Quint. ‘You’re losing a cleat!’
Ten yards to stern the shark’s conical head reared up out of the water.
‘Look at that mother,’ Brody said.
Hooper moved to the other side of the deck.
‘My God! This one too. They’re both going.’
‘He’s eating his way right through that line,’ said Brody.
As the shark reared up out of the water again one of the lines could be clearly seen snagged in its jaws.
‘Yeah,’ Hooper said. ‘And he’s working his way right up to us!’
Both Brody and Hooper called frantically for Quint. The fisherman was on the foredeck rigging another harpoon. There was no time to turn the boat around and he had to race to the stern.
‘Out of my way,’ he said, the harpoon at his hip ready to fire.
The water exploded as the shark reared up again, exposing for a few seconds its white underbelly. Quint fired and the dart struck home in the underside of the shark’s lower jaw just before it fell back into the sea. Its giant sickle tail struck against the surface and doused the men with sea water.
‘Untie us!’, Quint shouted. ‘He’ll pull out the transom. We got another line in him. Make it fast!’
‘I can’t,’ Hooper yelled back. ‘He’s trying to run.’
As the line ran out, the barrel on the foredeck was jerked violently from its mooring and smashed against one of the cabin windows. Pulled by the immense force of the fleeing fish, it flew over the deck like a missile from a catapult, striking Brody on the side of the head before it landed in the water. Shaken, Brody got to his feet and felt the deck rotating under his feet. The shark was now pulling the boat. Water cannoned off the Orca’s transom as the vessel was dragged backwards.
‘Pull, you son of a bitch!’ Quint screamed. ‘I hope your back breaks! Pull it! Rip your bloody heart out!’
There was only so much punishment the Orca could take. Quint knew that if they did not untie the lines the force could pull away the entire rear section of the boat and they would sink within minutes. Together with Brody he struggled with the line knotted around the port cleat while Hooper tried to release the starboard one.
‘It’s impossible!’ Hooper yelled over the booming water that was slamming against the transom and pouring onto the deck and down the open engine hatch. ‘Boys, it’s too tight! He’s pulling us! You’ve got to cut him loose! We’re breaking up over here!’
The grip of the sodden rope around the cleats was like iron and there was no slack to work with. Not even the strength of a dozen Chinese arm-wrestlers could have untied it.
‘We need something to cut it,’ Brody gasped as the spray and foam flew into his face.
‘Get the ax! Get the ax!’ Hooper yelled. ‘Hurry up! We’re breaking up!’
Quint needed no further persuasion. He ran into the cabin and from its mounting he took a large machete, a trophy from his time in the Pacific. Although he rarely used it on board, the blade was always kept well honed. One strike and it would sever the lines that were threatening to drag them under.
Quint raised the weapon above his head and shouted a warning to Hooper.
‘Watch your hands! Watch your hands! Come on, hold it!’
Both Brody and Hooper, soaked and exhausted, braced themselves for the blow, but before Quint had a chance to bring the blade down the cleats – weakened by the tug-of-war between man and beast – snapped free of the transom. There was the sound of splintering wood and the whipcord swish of the ropes breaking free, and then there was an eerie silence.
The three barrels had disappeared under the water. Agonizing seconds passed before they burst onto the surface in the stern.
‘He can’t stay down with three barrels on him,’ said Quint, ‘not with three barrels he can’t.’
‘What about us?’ Brody asked. The deck was awash with sea water.
‘Hooper,’ Quint said. ‘Get the pump out of the locker in front of you, will you?’
‘We’re going to sink, aren’t we?’ Brody meant it as a statement rather than a question.
Quint took command.
‘Hooper, keep an eye on the barrels!’ To Brody, he added, ‘Pump it out, chief.’
Hooper climbed to the bridge. Quint followed, the machete still in his hand. As he moved towards the ladder, he brought the blade down in a swift chopping motion and the sharp point embedded itself in the gunwale. He left the weapon shivering in the wood, its steel blade reflecting the summer sunlight.
Brody remained on the deck, holding the pump that had been thrust into his hands.
About thirty yards to starboard the three barrels were moving through the water towards them.
‘He’s going to go under,’ Hooper said.
‘I tell you, he can’t with three barrels in him,’ said Quint. All the swagger and confidence was gone from his voice. ‘Not with three barrels he can’t.’
The men watched as the barrels drew nearer and gently slipped below the water, leaving a delicate lacy wake of foam on the blue surface of the ocean. The shark had gone under the boat.
Into the Shallows
Hooper scanned the water through three hundred and sixty degrees. There was no sign of the shark. How long could a fish that size keep submerged with three barrels in him? Quint too was looking nervously for some sign. Hooper came up and stood behind him. The fisherman seemed to be holding his breath, like a man bracing himself for a blow.
‘You ever have one do this before?’ Hooper asked.
Quint’s eyes narrowed.
‘No,’ he said.
From the deck Brody had quickly come to the realization that trying to pump out the water was a fool’s errand. The safest place was up on the bridge with the other two men. He threw the pump to the deck, grasped the rungs of the ladder and began to climb.
Without warning the ship lurched violently to starboard. Brody was almost thrown back onto the deck, but he managed to hold on. Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed the outline of the shark just below the surface of the water. Had it been trying to chew a hole in the hull – just like the one in that book illustration? With grim irony Brody recalled that there had been three men in that boat.
Quint put the engine in gear and set a course for the headland. By his reckoning they were just a mile off South Beach. He could run the Orca aground there. If the shark was dumb enough to follow them, the lines would get fouled by the rocks and the fish would drown. It was not quite the same as a harpoon through the heart, but it would get the job done. He revved the engine higher, putting even more pressure on the bearings.
‘Hold fast!’ he yelled.
Behind them, thirty yards to stern and closing, the barrels were in pursuit.
‘He’s chasing us,’ said Hooper. ‘I don’t believe it!’
Quint kept his eyes fixed ahead and did not run round.
‘We’re going to draw him in to the shallows,’ he shouted over his shoulder. ‘Draw him in to the shallow water, going to draw him in and drown him. We’re heading in, Brody.’
Brody and Hooper stood at opposite sides of the bridge. From their vantage point they could see the barrels plowing through the water behind them.
‘Ever have a Great White do this?’ Brody shouted to Hooper.
‘No,’ Hooper replied. Unusual though the shark’s behavior was, right now he was more concerned the behavior of the captain.
‘How far do we have to go?’ Brody called. He could see the strip of beach in the distance and even imagined that there were figures moving across it. He recognized the lie of the land and realized – again with a certain grim irony – that they were heading for the beach where the first two victims had been attacked.
The sound of the boat’s engine changed in pitch and stuttered.
‘Quint, don’t put that much pressure on her,’ Hooper yelled.
Quint revved the engine higher. The needle on the pressure gauge was creeping into the red zone.
‘Quint! God damn it!’ Hooper started to advance, but Quint spun round and snarled.
‘Shut up!’ His eyes blazing, he grabbed Hooper by the sleeve and forced him back. ‘Get back there! I’ll break the engine!’
Your charter, your party, my vessel.
Hooper could do nothing now but wait for the inevitable.
‘It’s going to tear up,’ he said to Brody. ‘Hold on.’
Quint put more pressure on the throttle. He began to hum to himself and then he sang:
Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies,
Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain.
For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston –
The words were drowned out by the sound of the Orca’s engine dying. Black smoke billowed out of the hatch and filled the cabin.
‘You did it,’ Hooper said. ‘You did it. You burned out the bearings!’ Then he realized that all his equipment was still stowed below. ‘My gear!’
The smoke – black, thick and stinking of engine oil – now engulfed the bridge.
‘Alright,’ Brody choked. ‘Stop the boat! Stop the boat!’
Hooper leapt down onto the deck. In the cabin he found himself up to his waist in water. The build up of the pressure had reached critical point. A sudden small explosion sent debris flying. Fearful another might follow, Hooper began to gather up the things he needed. Quint entered the cabin and took a small fire extinguisher from its clip. He sprayed the smoldering remains of the engine until the fire was out. Hooper grabbed his spear gun and darts and hauled his gear out on deck.
The Orca had come to a stop in water no deeper than twenty feet. Looking over the side of the boat, you could see the sea bed, an undulating expanse of ribbed sand, pocked with rocks and swaying kelp.
The boat, tilted at an angle towards the stern, was slowly sinking. The beach was maybe half a mile’s swim away. But between them and the safety of land there was the shark – mortally wounded to be sure, but enraged to a frenzy from the pain of the darts in its side. They had two options: they could sit and wait for the boat to sink under them, or they could abandon ship and take their chances in the water.
Quint surveyed the damage of the waterlogged cabin. Could the Orca be salvaged to sail again? The engine was shot to hell, that was certain, but the hull was still in one piece. Holes could always be patched up, broken glass mended. Ten thousand dollars could buy you a lot of fresh paint. Quint put these thoughts from his mind. He had not come here to get all teary-eyed. He had come for one thing. Life jackets.
Quint emerged from the cabin as if he were enjoying a pleasant afternoon’s cruise.
‘Hooper! Chief!’ He tossed a sodden life jacket to each man and then calmly lent back against the gunwale.
Neither Hooper nor Brody made any attempt to put on their life jacket. The horrors of Quint’s Pacific ordeal were still fresh in their memories. Better to drown than end up like Herbie Robinson.
The three men shared a moment of contemplation, each one of them caught up in their own private thoughts.
Quint picked up one of the spear guns that lent against the transom.
‘Hooper, what exactly can you do with these things of yours?’ he asked.
‘Well, I think I can pump twenty cc’s of strychnine nitrate into him,’ Hooper replied. Among the things he had rescued from the cabin was a small khaki bag. From this he now took a thick syringe filled with a dark viscous liquid. ‘If I can get close enough.’
Quint examined the point.
‘You get this little needle through his skin?’ His voice was skeptical.
‘No,’ said Hooper. ‘I can’t do that. But if I can get him close enough to this cage, I think I can get him in the mouth – ‘
‘That shark will rip that cage to pieces!’ Brody erupted with fury and frustration, hurling his life jacket to the deck.
Hooper whirled round, spurred by the same emotions.
‘You got any better suggestions?’
Cage in the Water
Brody’s face betrayed his exhaustion. His features were drawn and his eyes slightly glazed. Like the two other men he had had little sleep in the last thirty six hours and the physical strain of the hunt had taken its toll. The task now in hand – the assembly of the anti-shark cage – required him to summon up his last reserves of strength.
Under Hooper’s instructions Brody and Quint began the work, raising the first of the four sides upright on the deck. The bars were one inch anodized aluminum and Brody was surprised at how light the cage felt as it was assembled and then maneuvered over to the side of the boat. The floor of the cage was a grid of galvanized steel and the heaviest component. It felt reassuringly heavy and made a solid sound as it clattered on the deck.
It took almost an hour to ready the cage and haul it over the side. It was left to Brody and Quint to do most of the construction work, tightening the screws and adjusting the joists, whilst Hooper changed into his wetsuit and prepared the dart. This was a delicate operation that required him to transfer the strychnine from the syringe into the dart chamber. He capped the dart with a rubber cork as a further precaution. If the sharp point pierced his wet suit and skin, even a single drop of the poison would be enough to kill him.
Quint helped Hooper on with his oxygen tank. The spare tank, Brody noted as he gathered up the other equipment, rested on the life jackets in the cabin. Ever since the incident with the broken line he had felt jittery about the compressed air tanks. They made him nervous, just as a hand grenade skittering across the deck would.
Although it was now Hooper on whom they all depended, Quint could not relinquish the role of captain, and he continued to issue instructions – ‘Easy! All right, up! Up she goes! Ease her down!’ – as they lifted the cage over the gunwale and tilted it into the water. Hooper climbed into the cage through the hatch at the top and lowered himself into the water up to his waist. Brody tapped him on the head and pointed to his glasses. Amazingly, through all the physical exertion of the chase, the thin wire frames had not come loose. Now though he would have to do without them. He could see things close up, but anything at a distance of five feet would be blurry. Given the circumstances, maybe that was not a bad thing.
Brody took the glasses from him and, having no free hand to hold them in, gripped the end of one of the frames in his mouth. He handed down the dart gun.
Hooper was trying to clean his mask.
‘I got no spit,’ he said with a chuckle.
Quint looked down from the deck the Orca. His expression might have been one of respect.
‘Try to keep him off me until I’m lower,’ Hooper said. ‘Okay. Okay, I’m ready.’
He fitted the mask and bit down on his mouthpiece, experiencing the familiar rubber taste of hundreds of dives. The hatch above him was secured and the case was lowered into the water.
A block and tackle suspended the cage two feet away from the side of the boat and when the chain was lowered to three-quarters of its length the cage was suspended about ten feet underwater. Additional nylon lines tethered the cage to the boat.
Hooper shook his head and blinked, acclimatising himself to his new environment. The bars of the cage were solid enough but the water beyond was vague and shadowy. As his eyes adapted to the gloom he was aware of a dark object moving towards him from the extreme edge of his vision.
With the glare of the sun on the water Brody and Quint could make out nothing below the surface. The yellow barrels that had become as emblematic as a dorsal fin were now approaching the boat.
Underwater the dark shape was growing larger and more solid. The shark was swimming directly towards the cage, propelling itself through the water with lateral sweeps of its crescent tail. It moved slowly, almost sedately, and, as it passed within a foot of the cage, Hooper was able to admire its full brutal majesty. The huge conical snout drew level with the cage and as it passed the creature’s black eye – like a doll’s eye, Quint had said – seemed to stare into Hooper’s own. The lower jaw was slack as if to display the rows of sharp serrated teeth. Hooper remembered the one he had pried free from the shattered hull of Ben Gardener’s boat. He had not been wrong in estimating the size of the fish from that single tooth. As the creature’s long flank slid past, Hooper was able to observe its coloring: the upper body a sooty gray, the lower part the ghostly white that gave the creature its name. Its gills were deep slashes in its side. Its tail was like an elegant sail, silently propelling the vast bulk through its element.
Hooper turned slowly in the cage as the shark swam past and out of his vision. He could have quite easily darted the fish on that first pass, and with the creature moving at such a leisurely speed he would have been sure of a successful hit. But for all the horror and terror that this beast had unleashed, Hooper could still see something noble and beautiful in it. Still, he knew that it must be killed, and so before it could return – as surely it would – to satisfy its curiosity, and to determine whether he was potential food, Hooper began making his preparations. Grasping the dart by the mid section with his left hand, he carefully removed the rubber cork from the poisoned tip. He transferred the dart to his right hand and then slid it between the bars of the cage in order to allow himself the best possible aim. The only sound was that of his own regular breathing expelling bubbles of air.
The calm was shattered by a sudden movement and sound. The movement was that of the cage been thrust forward and upward by a violent jolt from the rear. The sound was that of something striking the aluminum bars of the cage.
The shark had not swung round to approach in the same manner as before, but had rammed into the back of the cage. Hooper was thrown against the front bars by the force of the impact and the dart slipped from his grasp and spiraled down to the sea bed. He spun round to see the snout of the shark nudging through the gap it had made in the bars with its first powerful thrust. Hooper’s eyes widened in fear as the shark struck again and the bars were bent a few more perilous inches. Brody had been right – the shark was going to tear the cages to pieces. Hooper’s fingers grasped at the steel grid that made the floor of the cage. He could see the dart twirling lazily ten feet below him in the sand. He tugged at the metal, but knew it was useless. The shark had retreated but only in order to attack again. This time its head thrust between the bars and its snout nudged the belt around Hooper’s waist. Its jaws snapped at the water.
Hooper snatched his diver’s knife from its holster and stabbed at the the tough broad head of the fish. The blade pierced the skin and blood gushed from the wounds, but Hooper knew that these were just pinpricks to a creature of this size. In fact, it was the enclosed space that seemed to enrage the shark more and it shook its head violently, almost tearing the cage from its moorings. Finally, it shook itself free and turned to come around for a final strike. Hooper knew this was his only chance. Pushing down his fear, he thrust himself through the opening made by the bent bars and swam desperately down to the ocean floor. He had first thought that he still might be able to kill the shark if he could retrieve the dart, but he knew that in open water he would have no chance against such a swift and ferocious adversary. He swam towards a rock covered with clumps of kelp and took shelter behind it. It was only a temporary refuge – he knew he had about fifteen minutes of air left – but it was all he could think of. He looked back up at the cage and what he saw almost made him almost physically sick with fear.
The shark had become trapped in the empty cage and was thrashing desperately in an attempt to free itself. Its tail beat against the bars, sending shuddering waves of sound through the water. Its body arched and shook with the barely contained power of its own helpless fury as the water was churned into a maelstrom of foam.
The Death of Quint
From the deck of the Orca Brody and Quint watched the shark’s attack. Despite Hooper’s plea, they had been unable to keep the creature off. The fact that they could not make out what was happening below the surface of the water made the ordeal seem worse. The chain that held the cage to the block was being pulled violently to and fro, and the sea directly below the boat boiled with frenzied motion.
‘Bring him up, Quint,’ Brody yelled, tugging on one of the tether lines. ‘God damn it! Bring him up now! Pull it up! Pull it up!.’
The shark’s tail slammed against the Orca’s hull as it struggled to free itself.
Brody could see an outline of the cage being twisted violently in the water.
‘What’s in there?’ Brody shouted to Quint. ‘Bring him up! Bring him up! What are you waiting for? Pull him up! Come one, Quint! Bring him in.’
Quint was trying to turn the winch’s hand crank, but it would not budge. The strain on the main arm of the pulley was too great. There was an ominous creaking sound followed by a splintering scream. Quint had time to shout a warning to Brody – ‘It’s giving way!’ – just before the wood snapped and with a sickening crunch the severed arm came crashing down on the gunwale. Had it fallen six inches to the left it would have struck Brody a fatal blow.
The collapse of the block and tackle slackened the hold of the lines on the cage and with the loss of tension the shark was able to break free and swim out into the open water.
‘Come on, rig something,’ Brody said. ‘Rig something.’
Quint hooked up the hand crank to a section of the splintered arm and was able to get enough purchase to start bringing the cage up.
‘Alright,’ said Brody, leaning over the side. ‘Bring him up. He’s coming.’
The empty cage, its bars twisted and bent out of shape, emerged from the sea. Brody and Quint said nothing. There was nothing to say – except that the shark had claimed another victim. Their last chance – the poisoned dart – had come to nothing. Brody headed towards the cabin where he knew Quint’s rifle was stored. It was the only weapon left.
Quint, standing on the raked deck of the sinking boat, turned towards the stern at the sound of a huge quantity of water being displaced. At the same moment the shark shot out of the sea, its entire body clearing the surface to come crashing down on the Orca’s transom. The prow of the boat reared up as the weight of three tons of fish landed on the stern. Both Brody and Quint lost their footing and slipped down the wildly cantered angle of the deck. Brody managed to halt his fall by bracing both hands against the door jamb of the cabin. Quint too grasped at one side of the door. His fingers – strengthened by years of pulling on fishing lines – had a good grip . They could perhaps have saved him had the full weight of the remaining scuba tank not rolled onto them and crushed them. Quint let out a yell of pain and instinctively let go. Brody reached out to grab his hand but though Quint strained to clasp the grip his own numb fingers slipped away.
There was no purchase on the slippery wood of the deck. Kicking frantically with his heels, Quint tried to halt his descent, but to avail. He slid mercilessly towards the gaping maw of the shark. The fish had landed squarely on the stern and was half out of the water, its huge jaws drawn back to reveal a cavernous gullet. Even at this extreme moment of fear – as images of his Pacific ordeal flashed through his mind – Quint kept his wits about him. He spied the machete lying in a coil of rope by his side and grabbed its haft. He kicked wildly at the snout of the beast, trying to deflect himself from slipping into its mouth. The shark shook its head and its jaws seemed to widen even further to receive its prey. Quint felt the wet warmth of the fish’s gullet around his legs. He grasped the huge snout in an attempt to prevent himself from being swallowed alive. In the last few seconds of his life he made several desperate thrusts with the machete before the jaws closed around his waist, and he felt an indescribable pain constrict his torso. He screamed a terrible high-pitched scream. The shark bit down. Quint’s final scream was choked by his own blood.
The shark’s eyes rolled over white as it slid back into the ocean, taking the body of Quint, its arms outstretched unresistingly.
Brody watched all this in horror from the cabin. He recalled the first time he had met the man at the town hall meeting, and how he had somehow strangely predicted his own fate. This shark’ll swallow you whole. A little shaking, little tenderizing, down you go.
Well, Brody wasn’t about to go the same way. There was still the rifle and if it wouldn’t work on the shark, he could always turn it on himself.
The boat lurched to one side as the shark slid off the stern and the weight was lifted. One side of the cabin went down until the base of the port window dipped to the level of the ocean. The shark’s head erupted out of the sea and shattered the glass. Up to his waist in water Brody still managed to recoil in horror. The black eye of the fish stared again into his own. He looked about for some weapon to defend himself. The only thing he saw was the tank of compressed air.
An image flashed into his mind. Suddenly he was back in his den, late at night, a glass of whiskey on the table, and a book in his lap. He was looking at a picture of a shark with an aqualung wedged into the side of its mouth. At the exact same moment another memory was triggered by his synapses: Hooper on deck, reprimanding him for his clumsiness. You screw around with these tanks and they’re going to blow up!
With a sudden sense of purpose Brody grabbed the tank and pounded it like a battering ram against the portcullis of the shark’s teeth. The jaws opened and he thrust it into the gaping maw. The shark slid back out into the sea. The boat gave another lurch as it settled deeper into the water. Brody grabbed the Garand, praying that the firing mechanism would still work after its exposure to salt water, and opened the forward window hatch.
The sea was eerily calm. Its placid surface gave no sign of the savagery it contained. Sunlight winked on the waves and their sound, lapping against the sinking structure of the Orca, would – in any other situation – have been a calming influence. The boat was by now almost completely submerged. The prow and the pulpit pointed to the sky and the mast was raised at an angle of about forty five degrees over the water.
Brody had armed himself with the rifle and, as an extra precaution to keep the shark at more than arm’s length, a long wooden gaff with a sharp barbed hook at its end. He knew that a bullet would not be enough to kill the creature on its own, but if he could get a shot off at the tank, he could blow it out of the water. That is, if it didn’t swallow the damn thing first. It was a pretty half-assed plan, he had to admit, but it was all he could think of.
He had slung the rifle over his shoulder infantry-style, but the gaff only allowed him one free hand for climbing over the cantered side of the bridge and onto the mast. He ascended rung by rung and as he climbed he could feel the mast give a little under his weight.
Suddenly the water directly below him exploded, and the snout of the shark reared up, its jaws snapping. The tank was still firmly wedged into the side of its mouth. Brody stabbed at the fish with the boat hook. The barb pierced the skin and fresh blood ran from the new wounds. Brody’s final thrust went deep and the shark shook its head violently. The force of the sudden movement snatched the gaff from Brody’s grasp and it fell into the sea. The shark submerged and swam away from the boat.
Whether it was as a result of the struggle or simply due to the natural forces of gravity, the Orca was sinking further into the sea. Almost the entire structure of the boat was now underwater, and the mast was suspended at a twenty degree angle just a few feet above the waves. Brody positioned himself in a reclining position and shouldered the Garand. A favorite of General Patton, the rifle had been standard issue for the military in the Second World War. Brody hoped to God that this model did not date back that far. It certainly looked as if it had been through a war. He remembered Quint had cursed it for jamming when he had first fired it at the shark. There was also the possibility that the mechanism would have sustained water damage. Brody put these thought from his mind and scanned the sea for any sign of the shark.
He saw it almost immediately. The large dorsal fin was slicing through the troughs created by the waves further out. Brody checked the safety at the front of the trigger guard. He knew that by loading the clip a round was automatically fed into the chamber. A full clip held eight rounds. Only one of them had to count.
‘Alright,’ Brody muttered to himself. ‘Alright. Alright, come on. Show me the tank.’
The shark was swimming directly towards him, riding high on the surface of the ocean. He estimated the distance at about fifty yards – In Amity, you say yaad. – and he took aim down the front sight. The first shot he squeezed off did not even find its target. The shark’s snout plowing through the water created a wave of foam that made it impossible for Brody to distinguish any clear feature. He fired again, and again the bullet plunged uselessly past the advancing fish. He knew that the tank was wedged into the left side of the creature’s mouth. His aim depended more on instinct than precision.
‘Show me the tank. Blow up. Blow up.’ He spoke the words almost like a mantra, willing the act to happen.
The shark was picking up speed. If he failed to stop it, it would plow right into him. He fired again, and again, and even though his target was larger he still remained wide of the mark.
Brody gripped the stock and braced his shoulder for another round. He drew a bead of the shark and placed his finger on the trigger.
‘Smile you son of a – ‘ He squeezed off his final round.
Immediately following the crack of the rifle shot there was an almighty boom. The ocean exploded as if a depth charge had been set off.
The bullet had found its target and the pressurized tank went up like dynamite, blowing the shark’s head apart and sending shreds of its carcass into the air. Water from the explosion rained down on Brody as he screamed with relief.
The headless body of the fish sank slowly to the bottom of the sea. Huge billows of blood incarnadined the water, spreading across the surface like an enormous chum slick. Seabirds wheeled above it, screaming as they dived to pick at the grisly flotsam.
Farewell and Adieu
The Orca had settled in the water, temporarily kept afloat by whatever buoyancy remained in the shattered hull. Hooper, who had watched the final confrontation from below, now emerged by the pulpit, two feet of which still stuck out above the waves. He had felt rather than heard the explosion and then had watched the shark’s carcass disappear as it sank amidst its own blood. With precious minutes of air left in his own tank, he had kicked towards the surface to see Brody perched on the mast. Hooper shrugged off the empty tank and swam towards him.
Brody turned at the sound of Hooper’s approach and laughed.
Hooper grasped the mast and chuckled. He looked about him.
‘No,’ said Brody, shaking his head.
The two men shared the same regretful thought for a moment.
‘Can we get in on those?’ Brody asked, indicating with a tilt of his head the flotation barrels that bobbed on the surface.
They were able to lash two barrels to a length of wooden flotsam. By resting their arms on the wooden cross section and kicking together they were able to propel the makeshift raft towards the shore.
‘Hey,’ Brody asked, ‘what day is it today?’
‘It’s Wednesday,’ Hooper said and then corrected himself. ‘It’s Tuesday, I think.’
‘I think the tide’s with us,’ said Brody. He could feel a swell behind them, guiding them in towards the safety of land.
‘Keep kicking,’ said Hooper.
‘I used to hate the water,’ Brody said.
‘I can’t imagine why.’
Above them the seabirds wheeled and cried. The two men lapsed into companionable silence and concentrated on the task in hand. They kicked toward the shore.
You are reading Jaws Fanfiction: Novelization of the movie Jaws on novelgates.com. To read more Jaws Fanfiction or Movies Fanfiction please check the tags bellow chapter list.
The original author of this fanfiction is Daisy Wicker