There is nothing more beautiful than a Loch Ness sunrise.
Few alive would doubt Betty Wilson's words. As the man stood there, staring out over miles and miles of open water, he couldn't stop the smile from spreading over his lips. Betty had sailed many rivers, lakes, lochs, and oceans in his fifty years, but the expanse before him would always be his favorite.
Betty's loving gaze and fond memories were interrupted by the screeching of a car behind him. Betty spun around and started walking across the tiny dock towards his new partner.
"So you know to call me every six hours on the dot?" the curly-haired woman in the driver's seat asked the teenager in the back.
"I'll call you when I can, mother," the young man said with a roll of his eyes.
"And you'll wear your life jacket at all times?"
"As much as it embarrasses me, yes momma, I'll wear it all the time."
The woman smiled and gave her son a hug just as Betty stopped in front of the car. He got a good look at the dame; she was just a few years younger than he but still a looker. He offered a pleasant smile, but she pulled back a slight after spotting his golden tooth. Ay, why can't all the ladies appreciate the finer things in life? he thought in amusement.
"You must be Betty, the man in charge," she offered while releasing her son.
"Aye, I am," Betty agreed. "And don't worry, I'll take good care of your boy."
"See that you do," she sternly instructed. "I may not look like much, but I'm worth two of you in a fight."
"I don't doubt it," Betty said with another grin. This time the woman smiled back before wishing her son one last farewell and driving away.
Man and boy stared at each other after the car had turned around the road's bend. Alone on a tiny dock of Loch Ness, with only the occasionally whishing of the wind or lowly wave making noise, they felt like the only two people on Earth.
Betty studied the teen intently. Short and curly brown hair was covered with a fitting black beret. A baggy white jumpsuit covered whatever clothes the boy was wearing underneath. A tiny suitcase, looking as if it had been battered by dozens before the lad, was clutched in his right hand. Betty couldn't help but smile at the boy's expression; he seemed simultaneously ready for anything but frightened of everything.
"So, I guess I need to ask. How old are you?" Betty inquired with a crossing of his arms. The lad's boyish features were undeniable. "Because I'm not looking to violate any labor laws on this trip."
"I'm eighteen, sir," the teen steadily answered. "Birthday was last month."
"And your name? I must confess I've forgotten since I hired you."
Betty cracked a smile and held out his hand, which Timothy immediately shook. "Well, Timothy Murrary, I'm glad to have you aboard. Let's get your things loaded up. I don't think it'll take but a moment."
Timothy nodded, clutched his luggage tighter, and tried to follow Betty to his boat. The young man was caught aback when his boss refused to walk in front of him, instead Betty kept slowing his pace so the two might walk side by side.
"I assume that was your mother dropping you off?" Betty asked while they climbed aboard his ship.
"Aye, it was. She can be a handful," Timothy said with a nervous laugh, "but I love her."
"She certainly seemed a wee bit worried," Betty said with a chuckle of his own. "Let me guess, y'all are a slew of landlubbers?" Betty noticed Timothy slouch out of what he assumed was embarrassment. "Nothing matches the fear of a mother watching her boy touch water for the first time."
"We lost my father to the sea, actually," Timothy quietly remarked while staring down at the battered suitcase.
Nothing but gulls crying out filled the foggy air for a long moment.
"I'm truly sorry," Betty sincerely offered at last. He watched the lad exhale deeply and then turn away. "I…"
"You didn't know," Timothy said with a sigh while turning around. He plastered a weary smile on his face and then gave the boat a good look.
The craft was small, probably a thirty-footer. The bow held two small seats, one behind the steering controls. The small open stern left little room for fishing, but with only two people aboard Timothy supposed it would work. Down below was a tiny bathroom. Next to it was a the small dining area, which had a small booth and table. Next to that was a white counter with a sink and microwave. Aft to the kitchen was a single small bed. Rust adorned the side of the vessel, and Timothy thought without a hint of sarcasm that the craft was older than he was.
"What do you think?" Betty asked with a wide smile.
"It's…lovely," Timothy uttered with the slightest of sighs. "One bed, huh?"
Betty let out a deep belly laugh that was so pure in its joy Timothy couldn't help but share in it. "Don't worry lad, I'll take the booth. I don't think I'll be doing much sleeping on this trip." Timothy nodded in relief as Betty gave the dock one last look around.
"So," Betty went on, "you ready to set sail?"
Timothy gave a ready nod. "Absolutely, uh…mister…" Timothy let his voice trail off. His employer wasn't the only one forgetful of names.
Betty offered a friendly smile. "You can call me Cap'n Betty."
The sun was halfway up the sky as Timothy leaned his elbows against the port rails. He enjoyed the rhythmic churning of the ship's ancient engines and watching the steady stream of waves the craft left in its wake. Most of all, he loved closing his eyes and smelling the loch's air, pretending he was on the open sea his father had so often been.
"Timothy, would you head to the baitwell!" Cap'n Betty's shouting interrupted his thoughts.
Timothy shook his head hard to clear his mind and then hurried to the small compartment beneath the starboard rails. "What kind of bait do you want, Captain?"
"I think we'll aim for some pike. Grab the creek chub!"
Timothy nodded and scooped a half dozen of the tiny fish into a tiny container. He brought the bait forward as Betty cut the engines and grabbed two fishing rods. Timothy accepted a rod and they both slipped their bait onto their hooks. The duo stepped out out of the helm and walked aft side by side.
For a few moments the two fishermen stood silently at the stern of the ship with their rods in the water. At last, Timothy spoke up. "Captain, do you mind if I ask you a question? Actually, I've got a few."
"Fire away, boy-o."
Timothy cleared his throat and moved his line from side to side. "Why exactly did you hire me for this trip? You, uh, seem to know your way around a ship enough to handle this journey yourself. It's only a two-day outing. And it's not like you need a crew for a boat this size."
"Maybe I like the company," Betty answered. He suddenly felt a tug on his line and quickly pulled in his first catch. "Not bad, eh?"
"Not indeed," Timothy agreed as Betty tossed the wriggling fish into a bucket.
"That's one to zero. Best not let me get too far ahead," Betty playfully smirked while threading another chub onto his hook and casting his line.
"And the advertisement you put out," Timothy went on with his inquiries. "You said the applicant should have a thirst for adventure. Were you being poetic?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, not to degrade the fun we're having, but a two-day fishing trip isn't much of an adventure."
Betty's eyes sparkled with mischief as he answered. "We're on Loch Ness, boy-o. Don't you think any trip here has such potential?"
Timothy let out an uneasy laugh. "Don't tell me you believe in the monster."
"Have you lived here your whole life, Timothy?" Betty asked. The seriousness in his tone gave the boy pause.
"Aye," he eventually answered. "Born and raised in Drumnadrochit."
"I'm from Foyers myself," Betty countered.
Timothy couldn't help but chuckle. "Guess we have some of that east-west coast rivalry, eh?"
Betty smiled at the boy's pluck. "Aye indeed. But as I was saying, you can't be brought up along Loch Ness without feeling some of old Nessie's magic. There's something special about this place. And whether it's from a monster or not, you can't deny it exists."
Timothy stared out over the glistening blue water and nodded in understanding. "No. I guess you can't."
Timothy groaned while tossing the thin blanket to the side. His eyes popped open and he stared up at the roof two feet above his head. After blinking a few times he looked down at his pajamas and wearily sighed.
There was nothing Timothy hated more than sleeping fully clothed. He normally preferred the airy freedom a comfy pair of boxers brought, but that wasn't an option on this trip. Betty seemed harmless enough, but there was no way Timothy was sharing a berth with an eccentric old man in just his skivvies. So there he lay, covered and buttoned up, which made it impossible to get just the right temperature. The blanket on left him too warm and the cover tossed aside left him shaking in the wind.
"Just perfect," Timothy muttered while getting to his feet. He decided a glass of water might clear his head and let him drift off. As soon as his feet touched the floor, the boat snapped starboard. He lost his footing and crashed down.
"Captain?" Timothy cried out while rubbing his aching arse and rising up. No sooner had he steadied himself than the entire craft shifted port and sent him stumbling. This time he kept his balance and made his way above deck.
"Captain Betty?!" Timothy shouted as his eyes dilated in fright. The ship was shifting in every direction and the sound of angry waves was masking the engines.
"Timothy, you might want to keep that promise to your mother!" Betty's voice cried out.
Timothy spotted his life vest out of the corner of his eye and quickly put it on. "What the hell is going on?" It was hard to tell under just the moon and star light, but the loch's waters seemed to be coming alive around them.
"Grab the fish we caught and get over here!"
Timothy's jaw dropped at the insanity of this request, but the seriousness in Betty's tone left little room for argument. Timothy grabbed the nearby bucket of pike and wobbled across deck to the steering controls.
"Cap'n, what -"
"Hold the controls and keep us steady," Betty eagerly ordered while snatching the bucket from Timothy's trembling hands. Before Timothy could say a word Betty had dashed over to the port rails and chucked a fish into the water.
"Are you bloody mad?" Timothy screamed while grabbing the wheel.
Betty displayed a grin of pure ecstasy as the fish disappeared with a splash. "The water's going to be cold," he hurriedly said while snapping his gaze back to Timothy. The lad pulled back in shock at the joy in Betty's eyes and the tear falling down his cheek.
"Seriously, answer about the madness!" Timothy countered.
Betty shook his head and grabbed the bucket's handle tight. "It'll be a shock but you won't be in it long. Don't panic; the vest will keep you afloat and you'll be taken care of. It's time for that adventure, Tim."
"What in the -" that was all Timothy had time to say before the boat was knocked hard to port, sending him and Betty flying into the water.
Betty hadn't lied. In the dead of night, falling into Loch Ness was like being thrown into a pit of daggers. His brain shut down and he became still as a block of ice as the temperature overwhelmed him. Only spotting the battered suitcase racing by him snapped him back.
He forced himself to swim forward and desperately latched onto the luggage. They both floated to the top of the water and Timothy sucked in a lungful of precious air. "Betty!" he roared in fear and rage. "Cap'n Betty!"
What he saw next was beyond belief. A dark mass, larger than the boat it had sunk, barreled straight towards him. Nessie, Timothy struggled to think as his grip on the suitcase tightened. A lifetime of skepticism was shot in an instant. Before him was the Loch Ness monster.
The creature came closer, and as the dark mass seemed to splinter apart, Timothy's eyes somehow widened further in complete disbelief. As the creature e set upon him, all he could think was, My fate is sealed. And in spite of everything, that one thought sent a grin over his icy lips.