Read Jaws Online

Authors: Peter Benchley

Tags: #Sharks, #Action & Adventure, #Shark attacks, #Horror, #Seaside resorts, #General, #Fiction - General, #Marine biologists, #Sea Stories, #Thrillers, #Horror fiction, #Fiction, #Police chiefs, #Horror tales

Jaws (3 page)

Just then, Ellen's mouth fell open and she began to snore. Brody felt himself turn

off as quickly as if someone had poured ice water on his loins. He got up and went into the bathroom.

It was nearly 6:30 when Brody turned onto Old Mill Road. The sun was well up. It had lost its daybreak red and was turning from orange to bright yellow. The sky was cloudless.

Theoretically, there was a statutory right-of-way between each house, to permit public access to the beach, which could be privately owned only to the mean-high-water mark. file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt (7 of 131) [1/18/2001 2:02:21 AM]

file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt But the rights-of-way between most houses were filled with garages or privet hedges. From the road there was no view of the beach. All Brody could see was the tops of the dunes. So every hundred yards or so he had to stop the squad car and walk up a driveway to reach a point from which he could survey the beach.

There was no sign of a body. All he saw on the broad, white expanse was a few pieces of driftwood, a can or two, and a yard-wide belt of seaweed and kelp pushed ashore by the southerly breeze. There was practically no surf, so if a body was floating on

the surface it would have been visible. If there is a floater out there, Brody thought, it's

floating beneath the surface and I'll never see it till it washes up. By seven o'clock Brody had covered the whole beach along Old Mill and Scotch roads. The only thing he had seen that struck him as even remotely odd was a paper plate on which sat three scalloped orange rinds --a sign that the summer's beach picnics were going to be more elegant than ever.

He drove back along Scotch Road, turned north toward town on Bayberry Lane, and arrived at the station house at 7:10.

Hendricks was finishing up his paper work when Brody walked in, and he looked disappointed that Brody wasn't dragging a corpse behind him. "No luck, Chief?" he said.

"That depends on what you mean by luck, Leonard. If you mean did I find a body and if I didn't isn't it too bad, the answer to both questions is no. Is Kimble in yet?"

"No."

"Well, I hope he isn't asleep. That'd look just dandy, having him snoring away in a

cop car when people start to do their shopping."

"He'll be here by eight," said Hendricks. "He always is." Brody poured himself a cup of coffee, walked into his office, and began to flip through the morning papers --the early edition of the New York Daily News and the local paper, the Amity Leader, which came out weekly in the winter and daily in the summer. Kimble arrived a little before eight, looking, aptly enough, as if he had been sleeping in his uniform, and he had a cup of coffee with Hendricks while they waited for the day shift to appear. Hendricks' replacement came in at eight sharp, and Hendricks was putting on his leather flight jacket and getting ready to leave when Brody came out of his

office.

"I'm going out to see Foote, Leonard," Brody said. "You want to come along?

You don't have to, but I thought you might want to follow up on your... floater." Brody smiled.

"Sure, I guess so," said Hendricks. "I got nothing else going today, so I can sleep

all afternoon."

They drove out in Brody's car. As they pulled into Foote's driveway, Hendricks said, "What do you bet they're all asleep? I remember last summer a woman called at one in the morning and asked if I could come out as early as possible the next morning because she thought some of her jewelry was missing. I offered to go right then, but she said no, she was going to bed. Anyway, I showed up at ten o'clock the next morning and she threw me out. 'I didn't mean this early,' she says."

"We'll see," said Brody. "If they're really worried about this dame, they'll be awake."

The door opened almost before Brody had finished knocking. "We've been waiting to hear from you," said a young man. "I'm Tom Cassidy. Did you find her?"

"I'm Chief Brody. This is Officer Hendricks. No, Mr. Cassidy, we didn't find her. Can we come in?"

"Oh sure, sure. I'm sorry. Go on in the riving room. I'll get the Footes." It took less than five minutes for Brody to learn everything he felt he needed to know. Then, as much to seem thorough as from any hope of learning anything useful, he asked to see the missing woman's clothes. He was shown into the bedroom, and he looked through the clothing on the bed.

"She didn't have a bathing suit with her?"

"No," said Cassidy. "It's in the top drawer over there. I looked." Brody paused for a moment, taking care with his words, then said, "Mr. Cassidy, I file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt (8 of 131) [1/18/2001 2:02:21 AM]

file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt don't mean to sound flip or anything, but has this Miss Watkins got a habit of doing strange things? I mean, like taking off in the middle of the night... or walking around naked?"

"Not that I know of," said Cassidy. "But I really don't know her too well."

"I see," said Brody. "Then I guess we'd better go down to the beach again. You don't have to come. Hendricks and I can handle it."

"I'd like to come, if you don't mind."

"I don't mind. I just thought you might not want to." The three men walked down to the beach. Cassidy showed the policemen where he had fallen asleep --the indentation his body had made in the sand had not been disturbed --and he pointed out where he had found the woman's clothes. Brody looked up and down the beach. For as far as he could see, more than a mile in both directions, the beach was empty. Clumps of seaweed were the only dark spots on the white sand. "Let's take a walk," he said. "Leonard, you go east as far as the point. Mr.

Cassidy, let's you and I go west. You got your whistle, Leonard? Just in case."

"I've got it," said Hendricks. "You care if I take my shoes off? It's easier walking

on the hard sand, I don't want to get them wet."

"I don't care," said Brody. "Technically you're off duty. You can take your pants off if you want. Of course, then I'll arrest you for indecent exposure." Hendricks started eastward. The wet sand felt crisp and cool on his feet. He walked with his head down and his hands in his pockets, looking at the tiny shells and tangles of seaweed. A few bugs --they looked like little black beetles --skittered out of

his path, and when the wavewash receded, he saw minute bubbles pop above the holes made by sandworms. He enjoyed the walk. It was a funny thing, he thought, that when you live all your life in a place, you almost never do the things that tourists go there to do

--like walk on the beach or go swimming in the ocean. He couldn't remember the last time he went swimming. He wasn't even sure he still owned a bathing suit. It was like something he had heard about New York --that half the people who live in the city never go to the top of the Empire State Building or visit the Statue of Liberty. Every now and then, Hendricks looked up to see how much closer he was to the point. Once he turned back to see if Brody and Cassidy had found anything. He guessed that they were nearly half a mile away.

As he turned back and started walking again, Hendricks saw something ahead of him, a clump of weed and kelp that seemed unusually large. He was about thirty yards away from the clump when he began to think the weed might be clinging to something. When he reached the clump, Hendricks bent down to pull some of the weed away. Suddenly he stopped. For a few seconds he stared, frozen rigid. He fumbled in his pants pocket for his whistle, put it to his lips, and tried to blow; instead, he vomited, staggered

back, and fell to his knees.

Snarled within the clump of weed was a woman's head, still attached to shoulders, part of an arm, and about a third of her trunk. The mass of tattered flesh was a mottled blue-gray, and as Hendricks spilled his guts into the sand, he thought --and the thought made him retch again --that the woman's remaining breast looked as flat as a flower pressed in a memory book.

"Wait," said Brody, stopping and touching Cassidy's arm. "I think that was a whistle." He listened, squinting into the morning sun. He saw a black spot on the sand, which he assumed was Hendricks, and then he heard the whistle more clearly. "Come on," he said, and the two men began to trot along the sand. Hendricks was still on his knees when they got to him. He had stopped puking, but his head still hung, mouth open, and his breathing rattled with phlegm. Brody was several steps ahead of Cassidy, and he said, "Mr. Cassidy, stay back there a second, will you?" He pulled apart some of the weeds, and when he saw what was inside, he felt bile rise in his throat. He swallowed and closed his eyes. After a moment he said, "You might as well look now, Mr. Cassidy, and tell me if it's her or not." Cassidy was terrified. His eyes shifted between the exhausted Hendricks and the file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt (9 of 131) [1/18/2001 2:02:21 AM]

file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt mass of weed. "That?" he said, pointing at the weed. Reflexively, he stepped backward.

"That thing? What do you mean it's her?" Brody was still fighting to control his stomach.

"I think," he said, "that it may be part of her." Reluctantly, Cassidy shuffled forward. Brody held back a piece of weed so Cassidy could get a clear look at the gray and gaping face. "Oh, my God!" said Cassidy, and he put a hand to his mouth.

"Is it her?"

Cassidy nodded, still staring at the face. Then he turned away and said, "What happened to her?"

"I can't be sure," said Brody. "Offhand, I'd say she was attacked by a shark." Cassidy's knees buckled, and as he sank to the sand, he said, "I think I'm going to

be sick." He put his head down and retched.

The stink of vomit reached Brody almost instantly, and he knew he had lost his struggle. "Join the crowd," he said, and he vomited too.

Chapter 3

Several minutes passed before Brody felt well enough to stand, walk back to his car, and call for an ambulance from the Southampton Hospital, and it was almost an hour before the ambulance arrived and the truncated corpse was stuffed into a rubber bag and hauled away.

By eleven o'clock, Brody was back in his office, filling out forms about the accident. He had completed everything but "cause of death" when the phone rang.

"Carl Santos, Martin," said the voice of the coroner.

"Yeah, Carl. What have you got for me?"

"Unless you have any reason to suspect a murder, I'd have to say shark."

"Murder?" said Brody.

"I'm not suggesting anything. All I mean is that it's conceivable --just barely

--that some nut could have done this job on the girl with an ax and a saw."

"I don't think it's a murder, Carl. I've got no motive, no murder weapons, and --unless I want to go off into left field --no suspect."

"Then it's a shark. And a big bastard, too. Even the screw on an ocean liner wouldn't have done this. It might have cut her in two, but..."

"Okay, Carl," said Brody. "Spare me the gore. My stomach's none too hot already."

"Sorry, Martin. Anyway, I'm going to put down shark attack. I'd say that makes the most sense for you too, unless there are... you know... other considerations."

"No," said Brody. "Not this time. Thanks for calling, Carl." He hung up, typed

"shark attack" in the "cause of death" space on the forms, and leaned back in his chair. The possibility that "other considerations" might be involved in this case hadn't occurred to Brody. Those considerations were the touchiest part of Brody's job, forcing him constantly to assess the best means of protecting the common wealth without compromising either himself or the law.

It was the beginning of the summer season, and Brody knew that on the success or failure of those twelve brief weeks rested the fortunes of Amity for a whole year. A rich season meant prosperity enough to carry the town through the lean winter. The winter population of Amity was about 1,000; in a good summer the population jumped to nearly 10,000. And those 9,000 summer visitors kept the 1,000 permanent residents alive for the whole year.

Merchants --from the owners of the hardware store and the sporting goods store and the two gas stations to the local pharmacist --needed a boom summer to support them through the winter, during which they never broke even. The wives of carpenters, electricians, and plumbers worked during the summer as waitresses or real estate agents, to help keep their families going over the winter. There were only two year-round liquor licenses in Amity, so the twelve weeks of summer were critical to most of the restaurants and pubs. Charter fishermen needed every break they could get: good weather, good file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt (10 of 131) [1/18/2001 2:02:21 AM]

file:///C|/My Documents/Mike's Shit/utilities/books/pdf format/Benchley, Peter - Jaws.txt fishing, and, above all, crowds.

Even after the best of summers, Amity winters were rough. Three of every ten families went on relief. Dozens of men were forced to move for the winter to the north shore of Long Island, where they scratched for work shucking scallops for a few dollars a day.

Brody knew that one bad summer would nearly double the relief rolls. If every house was not rented, there wouldn't be enough work for Amity's blacks, most of whom were gardeners, butlers, bartenders, and maids. And two or three bad summers in a row --a circumstance that, fortunately, hadn't occurred in more than two decades --could create

a cycle that could wreck the town. If people didn't have enough money to buy clothes or gas or ample food supplies, if they couldn't afford to have their houses or their appliances

repaired, then the merchants and service firms would fail to make enough to tide them over until the next summer. They would close down, and Amity's citizens would start shopping elsewhere. The town would lose tax revenue. Municipal services would deteriorate, and people would begin to move away.

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