Author's note: the characters aren't mine (Captain Rausch is a one-time character from "The Knightly Murders" episode), and the story is! This fic was largely inspired by the Genesis song "Ripples," as well as the basic concept of the Eight Instruments of the Sirens from The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Many thanks to LuckyLadybug for encouragement and plot help! I should also like to say that Tony's mumble of "Madre mia" was inspired by something similar he said in the Zombie episode.
Carl Kolchak grudgingly wrung out the jacket of his seersucker suit as he stood outside his yellow Mustang. Water from Lake Michigan dripped from the jacket, soaking into the ground.
"Forget it, Carl," said the annoyed voice of Tony Vincenzo as he got into the passenger seat. "We're both soaked, and we may as well get back before we get hypothermia from staying out here, too."
"It's not that cold," Carl countered, but he got in the driver's seat. "Can you hand me the tape recorder, Tony? It's in the glove compartment."
"Kolchak…" the other man groaned, wincing. "I have to put up with this after everything I've been through?"
"My night was much worse than yours," Carl reminded him.
"And whose fault is that? If you had just stuck with Julius Caesar like I had told you to, this wouldn't have… Oh, all right," Tony muttered, handing him the recorder. "Just try to keep it down, huh?"
Carl merely smirked in reply as he clicked it on. He held the recorder in one hand as he drove with the other.
"When you're dealing with beings of origins unlike those you are familiar with, you'll often come across something surprising—something that goes against all the stereotypes you've heard. Yes, sometimes, you end up learning that there is more to a monster than the tales you hear, and that, sometimes, all they want is a little help—even if, inadvertently, they end up causing too much trouble, and nearly kill you in the process."
"Oh, Madre Mia…"
"Tony!" Carl chided.
He rewound the tape to resume where he had left off.
"Do you really think you should be driving while talking into that?" Tony asked. "There's got to be a law against it somewhere!"
"Well, until I get pulled over, I'm going for it. …Unless you'd like to hold it so that I can have both hands on the wheel…"
"Just put it on top of the dashboard!"
"It'll fall off when I brake!"
"Oh, fine—I'll hold it," Tony grumbled. "Just get us back in one piece…"
"Great; now if you'd just hit 'record,' that'll do it…"
Tony obliged, albeit in exasperation, and Carl continued.
"My involvement in this affair was within little more than the last 48 hours. However, for some of the parties involved, it started much earlier…"
"February 24, 6:37 AM—fifty-year-old fisherman Frank Tully went boating out on Lake Michigan to catch the big one. But something caught him. No one knew exactly what had happened; they found his boat, rod, reel, and tackle box… but no Tully.
"February 28, 8:23 AM—another angler, Ralph Bryce, age 48, disappeared on the lake next. They didn't find anything of him this time; his boat had turned over, with no other visible signs that would have suggested that he had ever been there.
"March 4, 7:07 PM—fishermen have been staying away from the lake after the first two disappearances, but two of them decided to try the buddy system—Kyle Raymond, age 52, and Edgar Wilton, age 49. Whatever system they had failed them, as did their seemingly good idea of trying to fish in the evening instead of the morning. Both of them vanished, their boats left behind, with their equipment untouched.
"March 9, 3:25 PM. Boater Henry Nolan, age 55, decided to take a small ride on the lake on his sailboat. He hasn't made any decisions since; he hasn't been here to make them, having vanished just like the fishermen.
"Even if no one wanted to admit it before, there was no denying it now—something was in Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, no one was sure what it was—there were no witnesses at the times of the disappearances…
"…At least, not until yesterday morning, March 14, at 7:48 AM. Despite the warnings and the disappearances, Chip Marvin, age 56, and his son, Roland, age 29, went fishing. What happened there was the break I needed to step in and enter this case, for it was the elder Mr. Marvin who had vanished, leaving the younger as the valuable witness I had been hoping to talk to. The only thing left would be to convince a certain Mr. Tony Vincenzo to give me the story in question."
The task of convincing Tony had been more difficult than Carl had expected; Tony was adamant that Carl take the story on the local independent theatre's Ides of March performance of Julius Caesar.
"I want to go back to what we were trying before—try to present a more positive outlook on Chicago life," Tony said. "That's why I want you to cover this local theatrical group; they're supposed to be excellent."
"Positive outlook? With Julius Caesar? Tony, the man gets stabbed to death in the third act! There's nothing positive about that!" Carl protested. "Meanwhile, another person has disappeared on Lake Michigan, and you're worried about the Ides of March? That's tomorrow—why can't I just go cover this until the play tomorrow night?"
"Because I know the way your mind works, Carl," Tony said. "You'll get so caught up with those disappearing people, you'll either completely forget about the play or send Miss Emily in your place!"
Carl folded his arms, a bemused expression on his face.
What can I say, Tony? You've got me pegged.
"And that's why I want you with a clear mind for tomorrow night," Tony went on. "Here is your ticket. I want to see you there at 8:00 tomorrow evening."
"If that is what you so desire, then Marc my words, Anthony," Carl teased, suppressing a smirk as Tony groaned at the pun. "I'll be there tomorrow night. But I'll be at Lake Michigan today, if you'll excuse me… And I'll be sure to keep a clear mind."
"Carl! Carl! I just said…!" Tony sputtered as his employee gave him a cheery wave as he departed out the door. "Kolchak!"
With a frustrated sigh, Tony sat back down at his desk.
"Why do I still keep you here, Carl?" he wondered aloud.
It was a question he hadn't quite been able to answer; anyone else would've fired Carl long ago; he had seen it happen in Las Vegas, and then in Seattle—that time, to the both of them.
He sighed, getting back to going over the articles that had already been submitted. He was already having his doubts about Carl showing up the next day, but he decided that he would cross that bridge when he got to it.
"Tony had made his position clear, and I set out to Lake Michigan with every intention of being at the theatre the following evening. But I had other things on my mind, too—like getting a chance to talk to Roland Marvin.
"Unfortunately, my talk with Mr. Vincenzo had put me a little bit behind schedule; I happened to arrive just as the police had finished addressing the assembled reporters. Though I was sure I hadn't missed much."
Carl exited his yellow Mustang, scanning the area. He could see a worried-looking young man speaking to a police captain. The reporter knew that the young man had to be Roland Marvin, but Carl recognized the mustachioed captain all too well.
"Captain Rausch…" he muttered. "We meet again."
He was not at all happy to see him again; Carl was often quite resentful of Rausch's lazy tactics—the captain seemed to live by the law of minimal effort, preferring to use intimidation tactics on members of the press and other informants in order to further his investigations. Having a knack for getting into places he ought not to be and finding out information meant to be unknown, Carl was often the target of Rausch. Though the reporter had vowed that he would refuse to cave in to the crooked captain's threats of harsh interrogation methods, Carl was disgusted with himself for having broken that vow every single time so far. This time, he decided, would be different.
He also had to figure out how to speak to Roland Marvin without Rausch listening in. But first, it was time to test his luck and see how much he could pick up without saying anything at all.
Using the assembled people as shields to block himself from Rausch's view, Carl made his way to where Marvin and Rausch were talking, tape recorder in hand to pick up the conversation.
"Son, I want you to keep in mind that you're supposed to be giving me all the details," Rausch was saying. "It's the only way I can help you find your father."
"But that's just it, Captain," Marvin said. "I thought I heard singing, but it was very faint, like someone playing a radio far off. And that was when I heard the splash—my dad fell into the water."
"And he never resurfaced?"
"No, Sir. I dove in to look for him—pretty stupid, I suppose, given what had just happened, but I didn't see anyone down there. Of course, the water was murky at the time; I know I saw some large fish—I could tell by their tails. But… my dad had just vanished without a trace."
Rausch mulled over this for a moment.
"Sharks," he determined.
Carl fought the urge to slap his forehead. Sharks in Lake Michigan? Unless someone had pillaged the zoo and set them loose, he knew it couldn't be possible—one or two, maybe, but certainly not a whole bunch of them. There was something else in that lake—perhaps Lake Michigan's own Nessie; whatever it was had to be incredibly streamlined to move that fast. True, sharks were streamlined, but there hadn't been any report of missing sharks or water reptiles from zoos or aquariums—and if there had been cases, they surely would have been brought to light around the time of the first disappearance. Not to mention, the weather was cold; whatever was in that water couldn't be cold-blooded, like a shark or a reptile. That didn't leave much else…
And there was something else to ponder over. Why had the mysterious whatever-they-were taken only Chip Marvin while leaving Roland? That case on March 4th had reported two disappearances, so it was well within the creatures' power to take more than one person from the boat.
There was so much that didn't make sense…
Carl's thoughts were interrupted as he found himself shoved roughly from his hiding place, out into the open and in full view of Rausch by one of his men, who looked none too happy to be seeing him again.
"Carl Kolchak…" he said, glaring at him. "We meet again."
"Funny—I had just muttered the same thing about you earlier," Carl countered, keeping his voice calm.
Rausch just grunted, his eyes narrowing.
"If that's your way of saying that this is a small world, then I agree," Carl said, deciding that he may as well milk whatever little enjoyment he could out of the situation. "Though I highly doubt that a suit of armor is involves in it this time."
The captain's mustache twitched.
"How much do you know?" he inquired.
"I just got here, Sir," Carl said. "If you doubt my word, then you might like to confirm it with my editor, Mr. Anthony Vincenzo, who had kept me from coming here on account of an assignment concerning a performance of Julius Caesar tomorrow."
"I know that it is pointless to doubt your word with the confidence in your voice," Rausch replied.
"I can tell by the sound of a man's voice when he is telling the truth, and when he is not," Rausch insisted.
"I'll bet you can…" Carl said, trying not to roll his eyes.
"One just has to look for subtle clues in body language. For instance, you didn't believe my last statement."
"Well, bravo," Carl said. "It's nice to know that I'm being so well understood by you, Rausch. It certainly takes my mind off of the possibility of a failure of communication. Those aren't fun."
"Neither is this," Rausch said, suddenly gripping the reporter's arm with a force that was clearly a threat to twist it, prompting Roland Marvin to stare on in some amount of shock and disbelief. "And now, I am going to say something that I hope you understand, Kolchak. I am in no mood to deal with you. Should you end up crossing me during the course of my investigation, I will make life very miserable for you. Can I assume that you have no doubts about those words?"
Carl stared into the taller captain's eyes, refusing to let himself be intimidated. He was through being bullied by Rausch.
"No doubts at all," he said, his voice barely refraining from a hiss of disdain.
Satisfied, Rausch released him.
"I would leave now, Kolchak, before you accidentally end up crossing me right off the bat," he said.
He ushered Marvin along, leaving Carl to stare after him as he massaged his arm.
"Et tu, Brute?" he muttered.
This was going to be far more difficult that he first realized.