“You found what?” Andy Eckhoff froze, just halfway out of his leather jacket.
“A deer – a teal deer. All mushed up and rotten like last week’s loaf o’ bread. And that’s the least ‘o it.”
“Hold on. The professor said this was an urgent research matter.”
“It is, Mr. Eckhoff! Come, have a seat.”
Andy eyed the man. He was fat and grizzled and look more like a biker than an academic in his crusty denim jacket. But Andy had looked him up and found a few reputable publications… from the 70’s.
“Doctor Fizzbarrow, is that right?”
The man spread his arms. “The one and only.”
“Look doctor, I’m sorry, but I only drove down here because the boss said there was some catastrophe brewing off the coast.”
“Aye, I know, lad. Sarah, bring ‘im a pint already! And a whiskey for me.” Doctor Fizzbarrow swung his arm in the get on with it motion, then pulled out a chair for Andy in front of a sticky barroom table. The place was rustic to say the least: a fisherman’s pub, complete with rusty lanterns and a marlin mountain above the bar. At least the bartender was cute, in a middle-aged sort of way.
Andy looked at the set of keys in his hand, then slid them into his jacket pocket and took a seat.
“OK. I’ll stay for a beer, but come one man. You don’t expect me to use the submersible to investigate dead wildlife, do you?”
“It’s not just wildlife, Mr. Eckhoff. There was the cat last week, and then the dog on Monday. And now…” Fizzbarrow shook his hairy jowls.
Meanwhile, the bartender gave Andy a sympathetic look and set down his pint. He took a gul of the pale, bitter ale and closed his eyes. He could have been at colloquium, or grading exams, or banging his head on his office wall… there were so many better options and grad students had so little time.
“Doctor, this hardly merits a dive off the coast.”
“And the missing girl?”
Fizzbarrow conjured a newspaper and slammed it onto the table. A grainy photo of a high schooler lay beneath the headline, Girl’s Mother Pleads for Help!
Andy fingertips pried the paper from the sticky wood. “Why’d you bring up the deer, first?”
“I’d assumed you’d heard. She’s been gone near two days.”
Andy grimaced at the paper. It was The Yachats Shopper and only a few pages thick, with a tagline that boasted of the dozens of coupons hidden inside. He massaged his forehead, then gulped more of his beer.
“Look, I’m no expert, man, but what if she’s run away?”
“The sea here is a dangerous thing, Mr. Eckhoff. They say the shadows beneath the waves consume man and beast alike.”
Andy’s narrowed his eyes. “You’re saying she’s drowned?”
“Drowned? Hah!” He downed his whiskey in one shot and pounded his fist on the table. “Not young Emily. A strong swimmer she was, by all accounts. And the animals know how to swim. No Mr. Eckhoff, I don’t think they’ve drowned.”
Andy took another glance at the goth-looking girl on the Shopper’s front page. He had his own doubts.
“Look, I understand where you’re coming from. This is a small town and people are scared. But if Emily is lost, there’s nothing a submarine can do to help.”
“Wrong again, lad.” Fizzbarrow grinned and his yellow teeth glistened in the lantern light. “Folk here have long told tales of an ominous presence by the sea.”
The bartender replaced Fizzbarrow’s empty whiskey glass with a full one and turned to go, but Fizzbarrow caught her sleeve.
“Tell him of Yachats, Sarah.”
She shot Andy a look that said see what I suffer though. “They think it’s a monster.”
“It is a monster, Mr. Eckhoff! A monster most foul.”
Sarah groaned. “For Pete’s sake, Doc. Can’t you leave well enough alone? Nobody really believes in…”
“Believes in what?”
The wind gusted outside and the lanterns flickered.
“Since ancient times, folks here ‘ve known of the dark one.”
Andy massaged his brow with one hand and held up another to stop the man , but Fizzbarrow went on.
“Do you know what Yachats means, Mr. Eckhoff? ”
“No, but you’re about to tell me.”
“In the Siletz Language it means ‘dark water at the foot of the mountain.’”
“OK. Suppose it is some sort of… kraken.”
“Worse than that, lad.”
“Look, how can I possibly help? And what good is our tiny submersible?”
“We’ll finally have proof, Mr. Eckhoff. Proof of what the government’s denied for near two hundred and fifty years! There will be a paper for you in this, to be sure.”
“Oh yes, a paper about missing cats and a runaway girl. And all it’s cost me is a day of driving and–” he checked his watch, “– a Friday evening in the nearest motel.”
“Aye, take some time to sleep on it. You’ll come around.” The old doctor patted him on the side, than stood up abruptly.
“What’s that PhD of yours in, Doctor?”
“Cryptozoology, from Pale Mountain College.” He gave a bow. “Used to mean somethin’, years ago. Anyways, I’ll be seeing you tomorrow, sure as day.” He lifted Andy’s jacket and handed it to him.
Andy sighed and glanced over his shoulder. “How long you open?”
“Till 10,” Sarah called.
Fizzbarrow sauntered out the door and Andy heard an engine start as he took a seat at the bar.
“The Pines Motel is just down the road,” Sarah said. “Don’t worry, it’s not too musty.”
Andy nodded. “School will cover it, at least.”
“You’re not the first he’s lured out here, you know.” She smirked.
“And not the last, I suspect.”
“You know, last time…” a shadow came across her face.
“Was that a car I heard?”
Andy’s eyes went wide as his hand shot into his jacket pocket. He ran to the door, but the truck and the submersible were already gone.
© RW 2020