Dan Fletcher and Cindy Oster laughed as they drank another Keystone beer from the cooler inside the hatch of the Honda Fit. Both were 16 and had taken the beer to a somewhat secluded area of the Erie Canal just outside the rural town of Clinton Landing. It was a popular site for Buffalo, NY area high school students to drink. The scattered beer cans next to the car confirmed that others had recently been to the same spot. Neither Dan or Cindy cared about the filth lying around them.
“You know what Cindy?” Dan said as he finished his Keystone. “We should swim in the canal.”
Cindy looked perplexed at the suggestion. “We didn’t bring swimsuits Dan.”
“Who needs suits?”
Cindy giggled and blushed as she realized the young man’s motivation. “You aren’t going to get any of what you are thinking.”
“What? I just want to have a nice swim with you.”
“Right. And you think I was born yesterday.”
Dan stood up and removed his shirt. “Suit yourself Cindy. I am going in.” And with that he striped and went jogging toward the canal.
Cindy hesitated for a moment and then called out. “Hey, wait for me.” She removed her shirt before running toward the canal. She decided that she would swim in her underwear. No need to encourage the young boy any more than that.
By the time Cindy reached the canal, Dan was already in the water. He saw the young girl hesitantly moving toward the water and called out.
“Hey, skinny dipping means no clothes.”
“This is all you get,” was the young girl’s reply as she removed her shorts. “I know what’s on your mind.”
“I just want to swim Cindy.”
“Yes. And I still want to become a nun.”
Dan sighed and shook his head. His hopes of seeing Cindy naked didn’t look like they were to be.
As Dan waited for Cindy to enter the water, a large growl came from behind him. He turned to see what the source of the noise was and saw a large splash in the water about 40 yards away. Something was emerging from the water. Something big. Something menacing.
Dan didn’t wait to get a better view of the disturbance. He had seen all he needed to see. He rushed for the shore and called out to Cindy. “Run!!”
They ran to the Honda Fit and got inside. The noise continued for a few moments and then stopped. They sat quietly as Dan thought about what to do. After 45 minutes of silence outside (and continual shaking inside), Dan Fletcher decided to call 911. They got dressed as the police arrived at the site.
Sergeants Charles Keegan and Tom Warren explored the area as Chief Jeffrey Rowdan took statements from Dan and Cindy. The two kids attempted to tell the facts to the police chief as calmly as they could but shaking and halted speech told Rowdan that both were still in shock.
Rowdan cleared his throat as he asked his first question. “So this monster came out of the water?”
Dan didn’t know how to reply. “I didn’t say it was a monster. It was a thing.”
“A thing?” replied Rowdan as he made notes in his police log book. “A thing that growled? Like a dog?”
“Yes. I mean no. I mean it growled but not like a dog. I am not sure how to describe it.”
“So this growly thing attacked you?”
“No. Not exactly. We ran from the water edge as soon as it appeared.”
“And it was scary?”
“Yes. Very big and dark.”
“And it was so frightening that it scared the pants off your girlfriend?”
“What??” Dan didn’t understand the comment.
Sergeant Charlie Keegan held up Cindy’s white shorts, apparently retrieved from the water edge near the canal. Upon seeing the shorts, Cindy looked down and finally realized that she had been standing before the police in her pink panties. She had put her shirt back on but had forgotten about the shorts which had been left near the water.
Cindy Oster tried to cover her groin with her hands but was not very successful. Turning completely red with embarrassment, she grabbed the shorts and ran behind the Honda to put them back on.
Dan sighed and looked back at Rowdan. “We were skinny dipping. Or rather, preparing to skinny dip when all this occurred.”
“Uh huh,” replied Rowdan as he made more notes. “And then the monster came out of the water.”
“I didn’t say it was a monster. It was a thing.”
“A thing. That growled like a dog.”
“It growled but not exactly like a dog.”
“Chief, I am not making this up. You have got to believe me.” The frustration in Fletcher’s voice was clearly apparent.
Rowdan looked up from his notes and glared at Dan Fletcher. “Young man, you want to know what I think? I think all these cans beside your car show that both of you were drinking. A lot. And in your drunken state, you heard a dog growl and mistook that for this monster. That is what I think.”
“But there were disruptions in the water. I saw them.”
Chief Rowdan took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Look buddy. Here is what I am going to offer both of you. Clean up all your cans and leave. I will overlook the underage drinking and won’t call your parents. This time. Don’t come back to this spot and stay out of my jurisdiction.”
“These aren’t all our cans. We just brought a couple of six pack.”
“Uh huh. And all these cans are from other people.”
“Yes. This spot is popular with high school students. It’s secluded and good for drinking.”
“Uh huh. All these high school students come here to drink Keystone because it’s so good.”
“No. The bring Keystone because it’s cheap.”
“Young man, I suggest you accept my offer and clean up this spot and just leave.”
Cindy Oster pulled at Dan Fletcher. “Dan, let’s just go.”
Fletcher sighed and started picking up the empty cans, placing them in his Honda hatch since he didn’t have a garbage bag. 3 minutes later, he started the car and headed back toward Buffalo, anxious to leave Clinton Landing behind. The town’s reputation for unusual phenomenon clearly supported the nickname “Eerie Landing” that paranormal investigators sometimes gave the small hamlet. As far as Dan Fletcher was concerned, he would be happy never to return to the area.
Chief Jeffrey Rowdan and Sergeant Charlie Keegan watched as the car left the area. Keegan then spoke.
“What do we do now chief?”
“Nothing. We wrap up here and write a report on the incident. No follow-up.”
“But chief, this is the 4th time....”
“Keegan, you have to learn when to drop things. I said that this is a wrap. Drop it.”
“No buts. Wrap it up.”
The next evening, Charlie Keegan returned to the Erie Canal site with an infrared camera. Keegan was convinced that the story told by Dan Fletcher was truthful and that something lived in this area of the canal. He just needed images to convince Rowdan that the stories being told about this area had some truth to them. He was convinced that he could get those pictures.
Keegan walked quietly along the bank of the canal for about 20 minutes without any observations or disturbances. He then sat down to rest for a minute and after doing so, a large disturbance in the canal occurred. A monster nearly 9 feet tall and with sharp fang-like teeth came out of the water and approached Keegan. Startled, Keegan fumbled for his camera but it was too late. The monster grabbed his upper torso and tossed the 190 pound man around like a sack of potatoes. Keegan cried out briefly and then went silent.
Chief Jeffrey Rowdan found the half eaten corpse of Charlie Keegan the next day. Sergeant Tom Warren vomited as he realized the corpse was his friend. Rowdan consoled Warren as he looked around the canal. All was quiet and nothing was out of place.
“What do we do now?” asked Warren as he looked away from the corpse.
“We write this up as a boating accident, the victim being cut up by propeller blades after falling into the water.
“Chief, we have no evidence of that.”
“That is our best theory.”
Warren nodded and called for an ambulance to take the body to the Clinton Landing morgue.
“Tom? One more thing.”
Warren looked up at the chief wondering what the older man would say.
“Ask the Department of Public Works to put new ‘No Swimming’ signs along this part of the canal. The last ones were taken down by all these kids.”
“And Tom. Have them place on the signs ‘Unsafe Water Conditions. Pollution’. We need to do that.”
“Chief, we have no evidence of water pollution.”
Rowdan signed and nodded. “I know. But do it anyway.”
Author’s Bio: Tom Schmidt is a Chemical Engineer working in medical diagnostics in upstate New York. He enjoys creative writing and has been published on www.short-story.me in the past and is scheduled to be published on www.overmydeadbody.com later this year. He is currently working on the “Paul Garigan Crime Mysteries”, a collection of short stories centered around a Malibu based police detective which he hopes to publish in the future.