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The following are Chapters 1 and 2 of the interim draft of the fiction mystery novella entitled

"The Secret of Soda Bay"
(A 'novella' is a short novel, usually around 20,000 words plus)

"The Secret of Soda Bay"  is the second book in a Series entitled the "CHP Officer "CD" Dixon Series", with additional books in the series to be published in the future. 

"The Secret of Soda Bay"

Lt. Steve Davis

Copyright © 2013 - Steve Davis
All Rights Reserved. 


INTERNET DISCLAIMER

"The Secret of Soda Bay”  is a work of fiction set against actual and fictitious locations which are intended to be represented as historically accurate as possible.  Names, characters, business locations and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, either living or dead, business establishments, or actual events, is entirely coincidental.


Chapter 1 – Drought Year 1978.

The car fishtailed violently as she ran the stop sign and turned onto Soda Bay Road “Oh, my God! Go faster Beverly, he’s gaining on you, she said under her breath.

Beverly Todd regained control of the car and floored the accelerator.  Instead of roaring ahead, the powerful motor just spun the rear tires on the wet pavement, causing her to fishtail again before the rear wheels gained traction and the car took off.  In the meantime, the vehicle chasing her had gotten much closer.

“Oh my God,” she repeated.  “I thought he said this car was a ‘hot rod’?  Where did he get a gun?  I didn’t even know he owned a gun.”

The vehicle in the mirror, a powerful 1970 Dodge Challenger, the same vehicle featured in the movie ‘Vanishing Point’, quickly closed the gap between them in spite of the driving rain and puddles in the roadway.

“Find someplace safe, Beverly, before he kills you, too.”

Her thought was interrupted by a loud ‘POW’ behind her, and the sound of the rear window cracking and a ‘thud’ as a bullet passed by, inches from her right arm, and lodged in the dashboard.

“We knew he would be mad, but this — he’s crazy!”

The next curve scared her even more, as the car slid sideways across the centerline and barely stayed on the roadway as she rocketed through a tight left corner near the Clear Lake State Park.

“Oh my God!” she cried aloud as she powered through a right curve, nearly hitting the embankment to her right.  She looked up into the rear view mirror and saw the rear window was now a spiderweb of broken glass with a large gunshot hole in the middle.  She shuddered and glanced to her left into the side mirror and saw his headlights were now just a few feet behind her rear bumper.

She knew the next curve in the road would be the most dangerous.  The yellow speed sign with the large black letters ‘25mph’  announced the forthcoming sharp right turn with a mountainside on the right and a wide shoulder leading to a sheer drop off into Clear Lake on the left.  As she slowed to make the turn, she felt the pursuing Challenger hit her rear bumper, causing her head to slam backward into the headrest.  The Challenger began to push her faster toward the curve, and then, just as quickly, she felt him back off and her car started to spin as she attempted to regain control.  The car looped around one full rotation, enough so that as it turned, seemingly in slow motion, she had one last chance to see the hatred in his eyes before it completed its rotation and plunged off the cliff, striking a huge boulder head-on, and catapulting upside down into the muddy winter water of Clear Lake.

In that instant, the scene, utter chaos only seconds before, became eerily quiet as the car settled into the lake.  The glimmer of its headlights lighted the otherwise murky greenish, algae covered waters of the stagnant cove.

The Challenger pulled onto the shoulder of the road and a young man got out.  He walked slowly and deliberately back to the location where the Buick had left the road.  There was no sign of the woman escaping the wreck, but he had to be sure.  He pulled a loose cigarette from his leather jacket and, shielding the lighter from the rain with his back, he lit it and took a long draw of smoke into his lungs, and slowly exhaled.

He stood there staring into the lake.  The rain pelted him as he lifted his collar to cover his neck while he watched for any sign of life from the lake below.  The sound of the rain and the belching air from the vehicle were all that was audible.  Escaping air continued to bubble to the surface, as the car purged itself of the only chance the occupant might have had to survive.  The vehicle slowly settled to the bottom, until the lights went out and extinguished the only evidence of the car.  He estimated about five minutes had passed; long enough that surely no-one could have survived underwater for that long.

He casually ripped a branch from a nearby manzanita bush and using it like a broom, he swept the tire marks from the dirt and gravel shoulder until there were no telltale signs that a car had left the roadway.

He took one last glance at the lake, got into his car and drove away.

The air bubbles had stopped completely now, and the sound of the incessant rain was all that was audible.  Horseshoe Bay had claimed the car and its victim with open arms, and soon, as if it had cradled it to its bosom, with one last belch of air, it was as if it never happened.

 

Chapter 2 – Thirty-Six Years Later.  Drought Year, 2014.

The early morning sunrise on Clear Lake is always spectacular in February, especially when it is overcast, and this morning was no exception.  But the sight of nature’s splendor was interrupted by a snagged fishing lure for Paul Nicholson and Dave Tunney, two bass anglers who were out early this morning to pre-fish the local hot spots before the upcoming Clear Lake Anglers Invitational Bass Tournament.

“A little closer, Paul.  I don’t understand why the tire won’t dislodge, at least a little.”

“It looks pretty stuck and I can’t see below the surface.  Maybe we should just cut it loose before we hit a rock or something.”

“No.  I’ve almost got it.  I can see it stuck to the tire.  Just a little closer and I can reach it.”

“These assholes who push tires off the cliff just for the thrill ought to be shot,” he said as he inched the boat closer to the protruding tire.  “That algae is pretty thick.”

“It always is here in Horseshoe Bay this time of year.  It’ll break up in a month or so.  ”

“Well, this drought doesn’t help.  This is the lowest and murkiest I’ve ever seen the lake.  Normally we wouldn’t be this close to rocks.”

“I don’t give a damn about any drought right now.  Get closer in so I can save an eight dollar lure.”

As Paul carefully maneuvered the boat closer to the submerged tire, he continued, “The lady at the Cottage said the lake level was at its lowest since 1977.  That’s a long time ago.”

Just then, the boat struck something hard just below the surface coming to a stop with a thud.  Dave, who was reaching for the lure, pitched forward, barely catching himself from flying out of the boat.

“What the ….”

“My boat!” exclaimed Paul.  “What the hell did I hit?”

Dave lay across the bow and reached down into the green layer of muck and felt what appeared to be the bumper of an automobile.  He ran his hand along the surface to confirm his suspicions, then sat back very quickly.

“Uh.  Hey Paul, there’s a reason that tire isn’t moving.  It’s attached to a car upside down in the lake”

“Bullshit, Dave.  Quit screwing with me.  What did we hit?  Forget the lure.  I’ll buy you a new one.  I’m not going to tear up my boat on the rocks for an eight dollar lure.”

“I’m serious, Paul.  It’s a car.  Come check for yourself.  And look.  That’s an old radial tire.  It might have been here awhile.”

“Do you think anyone is inside?”

“I don’t know, but I’ve lost my fishing appetite, let’s go back to the State Park and call the Highway Patrol.”

 

 

Chapter 3 – The Call

Officer Corbin ‘CD’ Dixon was working the morning shift at the Clear Lake CHP Office near the rural community of Kelseyville.  He was  just putting the finishing touches on an accident from the day before, when the direct line from the Ukiah Dispatch Center rang.

CD picked up the phone.  “Dixon,” he said.

“CD, we have a couple fishermen in Horseshoe Bay who say the just found a vehicle upside down in the lake below Soda Bay Road about one mile east of Clear Lake State Park.”

“Do we have any missing vehicles?”

“No.  The caller says he thinks it’s been there a while.”

“Do we have any outstanding stolen cars in the area?”

“Last week there was a stolen from Lakeport that hasn’t been recovered.  It could be the one, but the caller was emphatic that it has been there a long time, possibly years.”

“Where is the caller now?”

“They will meet you at the boat ramp at the State Park.”

“10-4.  Put me enroute from the office.  I’ll swing through the area on the roadway and look for fresh tire marks off the roadway on the way.”

“10-4.”

Soda Bay Road is the old highway between Lower Lake and Lakeport.  Once it was the only highway around the south side of the lake, but since the state highway was built decades ago, it is now primarily used as a back road for residents from Kelseyville to the community of Buckingham.  It is a winding two lane road carved into the side of Mount Konocti, a dormant volcanic peak overlooking Clear Lake. 

The uphill embankment on the south side of the road extends almost straight up to a point about 300 feet above the asphalt.  The north side of the highway is a steep drop off into Manzanita trees and scrub brush clinging to the mountainside and covering the rocks along the shoreline of Clear Lake.   The road is protected by a steel guardrail installed in the 1980’s.

At that point, the waterline of Clear Lake is inaccessible from the highway due to the steep terrain, and is only accessible by boat.

CD followed Soda Bay Road along the lake and saw no evidence of vehicle tracks or skidmarks that would indicate a recent accident. 

A few minutes later he pulled into the Clear Lake State Park, where the Park Ranger was waiting alongside the entry kiosk.  “Good morning officer.  The two fishermen who called are waiting at the boat ramp.”

CD nodded and waved and headed for the boat launch ramp.  Two men who were standing next to a bass fishing boat tied up at the dock came over to greet the officer.

After hearing their story, CD agreed to accompany the men in their boat back to the scene.  He notified dispatch he would be off the air while checking the location with the fishermen.

Once they arrived back at the location of the car,the passenger in the boat pointed out the tire sticking out of the mud.

“There it is, officer.  It still has my lure stuck to it.  Any chance I can get the lure back.  It cost me 8 bucks.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” said CD.

  As the boat operator carefully maneuvered the boat into position, CD said, “Normally the water wouldn’t be nearly low enough for that tire to even be seen.  This is the lowest I’ve ever seen the lake; supposedly the lowest in decades.”

“And check out that old bias ply tire,” he continued.  “It’s got good tread on it, not what youd normally see if the car had been dumped.”  On the black sidewall, he could make out the moss covered formerly white lettering and the familiar GoodYear logo.

“This is as close as I can get,” said the boat operator.  “This is where we hit the bumper, right there.”  He pointed into the murky water ahead of the boat.

CD took off his gun belt and long sleeve shirt.  “Don’t dump me into the water,” he said, as he stretched out on the bow of the boat and leaned over and put his hand into the green algae that hid everything below the surface.  As he moved his hand through the water, he felt the bumper described by the fishermen.

“Yes, it is a car, alright.  And you are right.  It doesn’t look recent.  There is no disturbance to the layer of algae in front of or covering it.  I wonder how long it’s been there, and how it got past the guardrail up on the highway without leaving damage or tracks down the embankment?”

“Do you … think anyone is in there?”

“I doubt it.  We haven’t had any missing drivers in the five plus years I’ve been here in Clear Lake.  It’s probably an old stolen that got pushed into the water somehow.  We can go back, now.  I’ll arrange to get a “big rig” tow truck; that’s what it will take to pull it out.  I will get a statement from each of you and you can go.  The Sheriff’s Boat Patrol Squad will help me from here on.”

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