Chapter 11: The Big Report
Terra and Abbey had finished their paper on the History of Bridgetown, which received only a mild applause, which might have been due to Zachery and Christopher having done a similar paper before them.
“All right class” said Vatusia, checking her schedule. “Next up is…”
She paused, then a big grin came on her face. “Rick Arbuckle and Caroline Whitney.”
The entire class was shocked by this. No one knew Rick and Caroline had partnered up for the project. In fact, the only thing they knew about the two, besides Rick’s asocial behavior and Caroline’s blunt rudeness, was the fact that they hated each other.
Yet the two triumphantly stood up from their seat, trotted to the front of the class, and plugged their flash drive into Vatusia’s computer. There they had a Powerpoint presentation ready for their big paper, titled, “The Legend of Bish Bash Lake”. Rick sat at the computer, piloting the presentation, while Caroline stood in front of the class.
“Bish Bash Lake, as many of you know, has quite the history here in Bridgetown.” Said Caroline, starting off the presentation. “There’s a whole community of fishermen and sailors relying on the lake for their daily earnings. However, in recent weeks, there has been a shortage of fish on the lake, and no one knew why.”
“And to make matters worse.” Said Rick, as the slide changed to a screenshot of the original Strange, Isn’t It article that featured Dale and Chuck’s story. “Two fishermen reported something in the lake that had capsized their boat while they were night fishing.”
This seemed to catch the class’s attention, for none of them had even heard of this story before.
“Due to the unexplained disappearances of the fish and the attack on Dale Freeman and Chuck Morris’s boat, the fishermen of Bridgetown started to blame their woes on a legend that had been passed down around Bridgetown for years.” Explained Caroline. “That being a lake monster simply known as the Bish Bash Lake Monster.”
“Or Bishy for short.” Said Rick, flipping to a new slide, this one of the old 1980s article. “The first ever sighting, or even mention, of the Bish Bash Lake Monster happened on April 28th, 1980 by a man named KW Brewster. He claimed to have seen the monster out on the lake in the morning hours while he was doing some early fishing.”
“Between then and the attack on Freeman and Morris’ boat, there had never been any reported sightings of a lake monster in Bish Bash Lake.” Explained Caroline. “So that begged the question, was there really something big and unknown in Bish Bash Lake, or was this all a hoax?”
Rick flipped the slide to a photo he had taken the day where he and Caroline first asked Dale about the monster. Rick looked smug while Caroline looked annoyed.
“My first theory was that Dale Freeman and his friend made up the story in order to cover up the accident.” Said Caroline. “That they had hit a bunch of rocks and decided to blame the mythical beast in order to brush off any embarrassment they might have had. At first, Freeman refused to talk to us, but Rick was able to persuade him to tell him everything about the incident.”
“He also let us borrow his canoe and fish finder!” added Rick. “With it, we were able to pin point where the attack happened and searched the area for rocks.”
“However, we did not find anything.” Continued Caroline. “Not only that, but we also saw a large hump rise out of the water!”
Now the class was interested. Caroline saw that Terra and Abbey were paying attention to her presentation, something that never happened.
“So we went to the library to learn more about the lake’s ecosystem to see if there was anything that could have been mistaken for the lake monster.” Said Caroline, as Rick flipped to a new slide that showed the two of them studying in the library. “Sadly, that lead to a dead end too. For there was nothing in the lake big enough to be what we had seen, let alone overturn a boat.”
“That when we got two leads.” Said Rick. “I was told there was a cave near Sandy Beach where a large shadow had been seen moving in and out of. Caroline, however, overheard two fishermen talking about a submarine.”
Caroline, though nervous about this part of the presentation, kept the show going. “Yes… I had thought that some rich fella had bought a sub and was using it to attack rival fishermen. But… I was wrong.”
Now the class couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Caroline Whitney, admitting she was wrong about something.
“Though I did not find anything on my search, Rick however, did.” Said Caroline, passing the buck to Rick.
“Yes. When I explored the cave, I discovered a fish farm of various species. It was then I ran into a man named Carl, who told me he was the original person who saw the Bish Bash Lake Monster! Only… He admitted that he had made the whole thing up!”
“Not only that, but he told me something broke into his pen and ate all his catfish, including his prized catch, a Mekong Catfish named Big Bertha.”
“But here’s the thing!” chined in Caroline. “Something didn’t break into the farm, it was Bertha who broke out!”
Rick then flashed a picture of a Mekong Catfish on the screen, though this one was way smaller than Bertha.
“This is a Mekong Catfish.” Continued Caroline. “It is a large, critically endangered species of catfish native to the Mekong basin in Southeast Asia. Unlike other species of large catfish, the Mekong lacks barbels and teeth. But they are more widely known for growing to massive lengths, with the largest ever recorded clocking out at eight feet and ten inches long.”
Rick flashed a picture of the Thailand fishermen holding the massive catfish, the same one from his cryptid hunting book. The class was astonished by the large fish.
“Though this species feed on zooplankton, they can be cannibalistic.” Said Caroline. “So we think this is what happened. Carl’s prized catch, Big Bertha, devoured Carl’s other catfish and then broke out of its farm in search of more food. This catfish then grew to even bigger proportions exceeding the average length of the species.”
“Though it was a great theory, it was worth dirt without proof, so me and Caroline gathered the Bridgetown fishing community together to hunt the fish!” said Rick, then flashing a picture of Rick and Caroline standing with the fishermen. “Before we knew it, we were out in the middle of the lake at night. Fishing boats patrolled the waters, looking for the catfish. And right when we thought it was hopeless…”
The screen showed the picture Rick took of the catfish on that night. The class gasped at the massive head.
“After that, the fishermen were able to corner the catfish into Carl’s fish farm cave. They then trapped the fish inside using nets.” Said Caroline, as a picture of the fishermen, Rick and Caroline posing in front of Big Bertha appear on the screen. “And thus ending the rampage of the Bish Bash Lake Monster.”
“So wait!” interrupted Terra, before she raised her hand. “What happened to the fish?”
“Well, the fishermen wanted to eat her. However, we decided that such a specimen should be reserved.” Said Rick. “So one of the fishermen contacted their nephew, who worked at the New England Aquarium, to set up a team to transport the catfish to their headquarters. It is now comfortably living life in its own exhibit, opening soon to the public in the summer.”
The class mumbled to themselves in excitement, and Jimmy had raised his hand.
“What happened to Carl?” asked the boy.
“Well, apparently operating a fish farm without a permit is against the law in Massachusetts.” Said Caroline. “Thankfully, it’s a light one, he was only given a fine. Granted, it was a big fine, but at least it’s not jail time.”
“And what about the fishermen?” asked Abbey. “What are they going to do now that there’s no more fish?”
“Well, that’s the thing.” Said Rick. “When Big Bertha broke into the cave, she accidentally broke some of the fish farm nets, releasing more invasive fish into the lake. But environmental agents have agreed to pay the fishermen for bringing in any of the invasive species. So they will have a steady of income. Well… For now at least.”
“Any more questions?” asked Caroline. Only one kid raised their hand.
“So wait, I’m confused, was there ever a Bish Bash Lake Monster?” asked the student. Rick took a deep breath, and turned to his class.
“No… There isn’t a Bish Bash Lake Monster.” Said Rick. Now that was shocking. Hearing Caroline say she was wrong was one thing, its another thing to hear Rick say a cryptid wasn’t real.
Yet this wasn’t a victory for Caroline. She looked onto Rick with pity, especially seeing him in that sad state of defeat. It was then that she decided to but in with her opinion.
“Now hang on!” said Caroline, cutting into the conversation. “So what if the original sighting wasn’t real? And the recent boat attacks was just Big Bertha. That doesn’t mean lake monsters don’t exist.”
Rick turned to Caroline in shock. Now that was surprising to hear.
“I mean, I don’t believe there is, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stop looking. If we didn’t, then we wouldn’t have solved this mystery. So, in a way, it’s good to question things, even things that seem like a no brainer. Cause you never know. But if there’s one thing I learned from all this, its that you can’t solve problems by being divided. You can only do it working together… As a team.”
Right after Caroline finished her sentence, the class erupted into applause. The presentation wasn’t even done, but seeing the reception they got, Rick and Caroline decided that was a perfect spot to end it. They took a slight bow and made their way back to their seats.
Vatusia asked Rick and Caroline to check back to her classroom at the end of the day so she could personally congratulate them on their paper.
“I can’t tell how much I’m proud of you two!” proclaimed Vatusia. “This was a phenomenal paper, and a fantastic presentation! I knew you could do it!”
“Well, we make a pretty good team.” Said Rick, turning to Caroline. Caroline gave Rick a smirk and nodded back.
“I guess we do.” Replied Caroline. Rick then looked down at the floor, a little sad about something.
“So, that’s it then? The project is over. We can part way?” asked Rick. Caroline nodded slightly, though she seemed off put by this too.
“It was great working with you Rick.” Said Caroline, holding her hand out for a handshake. Rick stared at her hand in shock, then smiled, and shook her hand.
“I was wrong about you.” Said Rick. Caroline tried not to show it, but she was touched by this simple comment. Rick nodded back to her, and left the room.
“Oh Caroline!” hummed Vatusia, causing Caroline to turn back to her. “I almost forgot! Someone wants to meet you!”
Caroline didn’t know what Ms. Rook was talking about. Then she remembered. She completely forgot about her deal with Ms. Rook. She frantically looked around the room for her expected guest, but of coarse, there was no one else in the room besides Ms. Rook and her. She turned to her teacher, confused.
“Where is she?” asked Caroline. Vatusia chuckled and walked behind her desk. She then pulled out a tablet computer, placing it on the desk so the screen faced Caroline. Vatusia, looking around from behind the machine, turned on the tablet and went into the Face-cam feature. There, after making a few minor inputs, was able to bring the guest of honor to the screen. There, sitting there in her home office, was Caroline’s idol, Jill Orville.
“So you must be Caroline Whitney!” said the journalist. “Vatusia told me much about you.”
Caroline couldn’t breathe for a second upon seeing Jill for the first time. She almost couldn’t believe it. For a split second her brain told her she was staring into a prerecorded message and not the real Jill Orville. But nope, she was real, since by this time, she was waiting for Caroline to respond.
“Oh yes!” said Caroline, frantically breaking out of her trance. “I am such a big fan! I’ve read all your books! More than once!”
“Ah, thank you!” said Jill. “And is it true what Vat told me? You pulled a giant catfish out of a lake?”
“Oh yes!” said Caroline. “Rumors were going around that there was a lake monster in Bish Bash Lake, but I was able to debunk it!”
“That’s great to hear!” proclaimed Jill. “It’s very important to squash these types of stories before they can get out of hand. One moment it’s just an urban legend shared by locals, the next it’s a world wide sensation being featured on major news broadcasts. Once quackery like that hits the fan, then there’s no way to clean up the mess. I’m proud of you, Caroline!”
She couldn’t believe her ears. Jill Orville, the woman she had idolized since the fifth grade, had said she was proud of her.
“And I hope you keep up the good work!” added Jill, though this additional comment confused Caroline.
“What do you mean?” asked Caroline, scratching her head.
“What do I mean? Simple! Bridgetown is the cryptid capital of Massachusetts! You didn’t know that?”
Though Caroline had lived in Bridgetown her entire life, she had not heard of such a thing.
“No, I haven’t.” Said Caroline, shaking her head.
“Well, I had something to do with that.” Jill bragged. “But that’s a story for another time. What I mean is, there’s probably dozens of cryptid stories just like the one you solved. Only these are… You know, not solved yet. I hope you take an interest in them.”
Caroline had never thought about this before. In fact, she pretty much disregarded every story of the paranormal that was told to her. But after what happened, maybe she should.
“Yeah! Definitely!” said Caroline. “I won’t stop until every piece of quackery in this town has been disproven!”
“That’s my girl!” cheered Jill. “And keep me updated! I want to hear more about your mysteries and adventures!”
“Of coarse!” said Caroline with a big grin on her face. “I won’t let you down!”
“That’s great!” Said Jill while nodding. “All right Vat, I think that’s it! Mind logging me out?”
“All right, Jill.” Said Vatusia, hovering her finger over the “end call” button.
“Have a great day, Caroline!” Said Jill right before Vatusia cut her off. Caroline just stood there, starstruck. Yet what Jill said lasted in her mind. And she was right. There was work to be done.
“What’s wrong Caroline?” asked Vatusia. “I thought you’d be ecstatic.”
“I am!” said Caroline, quickly turning toward her teacher. “But I don’t know anything about Bridgetown’s legends! I don’t know where to start! Heck, I didn’t even know about legends in Bridgetown before all this! Or what could be done! But I don’t want to let Jill down either! What should I do?”
“Well…” said Vatusia, with a sly smile on her face. “I know someone who knows a lot about monsters and what not.”
“Really? Who?” Asked Caroline. Then she realized who Ms. Rook was talking about.
Rick was half way down the West Hallway of the school, the one that lead out to the parking lot. It was empty since most of the school had already left while he and Caroline spoke to Ms. Rook. Before he could pass through the front door, Caroline came running over to him.
“Hold it Rick!” yelled Caroline, causing Rick to turn to her in shock. He half expected her to yell at him, like the old days. But she wasn’t there to do that.
“What’s wrong?” asked Rick, not sure why Caroline would run through the school just to talk to him.
“Can I ask you something?” asked Caroline while catching her breath. “Are there more mysteries in Bridgetown?”
“Oh yeah!” perked up Rick, always glad to talk about his favorite subject. “Ever since the 80s, there have been reports of all sorts of strange things in Bridgetown. Ghosts, aliens, strange abductions, disappearances, but most importantly… Cryptids!”
“And have any of these been solved?” asked Caroline. “And do they still happen?”
Rick had to think for a moment, for though he read anything he could about Bridgetown’s paranormal scene, even he had a hard time keeping up with the legends.
“Well, not all of them are solved.” Said Rick. “And last time I checked, there were still sightings of cryptids in Bridgetown. Though not as much as it was back in the 80s.”
“Well, then…” replied Caroline, almost embarrassed to ask this. “If you want… Or if you’re interested… You want to solve more mysteries together?”
Rick didn’t know how to reply. Just a few days ago, he hated Caroline with ever fiber of his being. Yet now here she was, asking him to go on more Cryptid Quests with him. And the strangest part about it, he did want to.
“If you want…” asked Rick, with a smile. This brightened up Caroline. And seeing this, also brightened up Rick.
“Yes! Absolutely!” said Caroline. “You have any on the top of your mind?”
Rick had to think about it again, but after some seconds of thinking, sadly, he did not.
“I’ll have to do some research.” Said Rick. “But something always pops up! I’ll let you know if it does!”
“Sweet!” said Caroline. “And how about we make the Bridgetown library our headquarters! We can do our research there, it’s quiet, and we can arrange with the librarian to save a table for us!”
“Sounds like a plan!” said Rick, giving Caroline a thumbs up. Caroline nodded.
“I guess that’s it, right?” said Caroline.
“I mean… I’ll need your phone number.” Said Rick, which caused Caroline to blush.
“Oh, right! My number!” said Caroline as she pulled out her smart phone. As the two exchanged numbers, they could hear someone walking up to them from behind. They turned to see it was Vatusia, holding a box in her hand.
“Oh kids!” said Vatusia, holding the box out to them. “This came for you!”
“Ms. Rook, you didn’t have to give us anything!” said Caroline, though she was flattered by the gift. But Vatusia shook her head and handed the gift over to Rick.
“No, it’s not from me!” she explained. “Someone left it on my table before school.”
“Was it Jill?” asked Caroline with a yelp to her voice. But Vatusia shook her head again.
“I doubt it.” She added. “Jill is all the way in California at the moment. Hence the video meeting. It’s impossible for her to deliver this.”
Rick and Caroline turned to each other with a puzzled look. Rick then opened the box, and much to his pleasure, saw an assortment case of chocolates, one for both of them.
“Sweet!” said Rick, reaching into the box and pulling out a case. “It’s them fancy chocolates!”
“Wow.” Said Caroline, though still confused. “Who would part with these?
Rick then pulled out a sheet of paper that was lodged between the two cases. Rick read it over, and a look of concern came onto his face. Caroline snatched the paper out of his hands and read it out loud.
“A thank you for your work.” Said Caroline, turning to Vatusia with the same puzzled look as Rick. “Ms. Rook, you’re not pulling our leg, are you?”
“Absolutely not!” Vatusia said while shaking her head. “Like I said, I found it on my desk!”
Rick and Caroline looked at each other. Who else benefited from their discovery? Was it the fishermen? No, cause they would have signed their names. Nor would they just say, “A Thank you for your work”. Was it from their parents? Nah, cause neither of them had told their parents about what happened to them. They wanted to wait until they got a glowing grade from Ms. Rook before they dropped the news to them. Another student? No, cause nobody knew Rick and Caroline did this. It didn’t show up on the news. It was mostly kept between Rick, Caroline and the fishermen.
The two kids were stumped. But at the end, they just decided to shrug it off. Who ever it was, there was no need to worry about them. After all, they brought chocolates. So how bad could they be?
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