“Mr. Scott, I wonder how you'll feel about your precious sharks when they begin to bite into your body, tearing your flesh from your bones. Really doesn't matter I guess. You don’t get a choice. And you’ll never know anyway. You’ll already be dead,” Scully said as he looked at Mike Scott across the deserted warehouse floor, bound to a chair with duct tape. “It really is too bad. I wonder if they would respect you for trying to save them? Or simply behave like the mindless eating machines they really are?”
For his part, Mike sat stonily silent, his broad shoulders straight with a glare on his face. The warehouse was used to process fish for sale to local restaurants. It stank of fish, sweat and a deeper decay. At the moment, it was empty except for Scully, a couple of his men and Mike. Scully used the butt-end of his pistol a few times to try to make Mike talk. He wanted to know who Mike had told about the finning operation and if copies of Mike’s photographs existed. Mike was having none of it.
“Since you won’t tell me how to erase your other photographs, I think it’s time we end this,” Scully said as he raised his 9mm Glock and pointed it at Mike's head. Partly to postpone what was coming while he looked for a way out of this mess, Mike licked his lips to clear the congealed blood from his mouth and looked his captor in the eyes.
“You’re not the first person to act tough while I’ve been tied up. You’re a brave man holding a gun. Does it make you feel big and strong?” Mike asked with a sneer.
Mike’s taunt earned him another blow from the butt of the Glock. His head was pounding and he saw stars for a few moments as everything in front of his eyes turned red. Finding his bearings again, Mike felt blood running down his face from the blow. The blood matted down his dark, wavy hair.
“You might be important in America, Mr. Scott, but right here and right now you are nothing. You are simply going to die. My men will use you as chum to bring in more sharks for the slaughter. Your death will actually help us kill more of them. Does that make YOU feel important?”
Mike felt the hard muzzle of the pistol press into the skin on his forehead as Scully pushed his head backward, bending his neck and forcing him to look at the ceiling.
The Day Before
These were the days Mike Scott really loved his job. After a series of stressful assignments, his editor gave him a cherry assignment as a reward. He had Tiger sharks circling over his head, weaving in and out in front of his camera. He was having a blast.
It was a perfect day on Grand Bahama Island… like most of them are. The sea was flat calm, warm and clear and the sharks appeared as if on cue from an off-stage director.
For Mike, there was nothing better than watching sharks cruise slowly through the water. To him, they looked like sleek sports cars cruising the open road. The Bahamian Tiger sharks had slate gray torpedo-shaped bodies with wide mouths, white bellies and cold black eyes. The sharks surrounding the divers were all 12 to 14 feet long. Apex predators, they were perfectly suited to patrolling the Caribbean waters, culling weak and dying fish and keeping populations in check.
Mike knew they weren’t pets and never took them for granted, but opportunities like this one were something he treasured. Even when a shark got a little too close for comfort, Mike knew he could redirect the animal with the front of his camera, pushing it onto a new path. It could sense the electrical fields given off by his camera and knew Mike and the camera weren’t food.
Mike was an international news photographer for First Account magazine. He traveled the world photographing wars and other examples of man’s conflict. But he hadn’t always been a news photographer. After graduating college, he ended up as a photopro on Grand Cayman for a few years photographing undersea life before he decided he liked to photograph people better. He told stories with his camera. But when he wanted to get away and relax, he still liked to jump in the water and go diving. Occasionally, like now, he had the opportunity to mix business and pleasure. Mike’s editor asked him to join a film crew from the Discovery Channel. As it turned out, the primary cinematographer on the job, Frazier Nivens, was an old friend of Mike’s as well.
The dive operation provided Mike with a divemaster to watch his back. Both of them, and the rest of the crew in the water, were wearing the latest in chainmail dive suits as well to protect them from an errant bite. Dasha, the divemaster, carried a shark stick as well. It was simply a weighted PVC pipe wrapped in red tape she could use to redirect a shark that got too curious.
After 20 minutes of photographing the Tiger sharks, Mike noticed he was suddenly alone. The sharks disappeared. Mike looked around and signaled to Dasha: What happened? Where did they go?
Dasha pointed over the reef and then shrugged her shoulders to indicate she didn’t know why. The film crew began to head back to the boat, but Mike signaled Dasha that he wanted to see what was going on.
For a few minutes, Mike and Dasha didn’t see anything and Mike was about to signal that they should return to the boat when he saw a flurry of activity out of the corner of his eye. There were several Tiger sharks darting in and out behind a coral head.
Mike signaled to Dasha that he wanted to see what was going on. Dasha was less enthusiastic, but agreed. They swam to the side of the massive coral head to approach the scene from the left and Mike was shocked by what he saw. He immediately lifted his housed Canon 5D Mark III to his eye and began shooting. The animals were in a feeding frenzy. He knew these would be tremendous photographs.
Mike moved closer, trying to capture the excitement and chaos of the scene. The water was cloudy as the Tiger sharks dived in, took a bite of what they were eating, and then spun off. There were bits of carcass, sand and teeth floating all around. A particularly hard bite from one of the predators spun the carcass away from the scene and Mike realized they were feeding on a shark. It must have died and the sharks are doing what comes naturally, he thought.
Something looked strange about the dead shark, though. For a moment, Mike couldn’t place it. And then he realized what was wrong. The dead shark was missing its fins.
Dasha signaled that Mike should move to another angle. Mike agreed and they both slowly backed away to approach the scene from the other side of a large coral head. From that angle, they could see the whole scene. There wasn’t just one dead shark. There were five. And they were all missing their fins.
Mike quickly realized the fins had been cut off with a knife, not by the jagged teeth of the feeding Tiger sharks. This wasn’t a case of sharks feeding on a weak or dying shark. It was a man-made event. Someone killed these sharks for their fins and threw the bodies back in the water to die.
Mike took a few more photos of the scene and then turned to Dasha to signal it was time to head back to the boat. Facing away from the scene for a moment, Mike saw Dasha lunge directly at him, leading with her shark stick. Mike’s threat sense went into overload at the same time and he attempted to dodge to the side. They were both a second too late. Mike felt the crushing force of a shark’s jaws bite down on his arm. The chainmail he wore spread out the pressure from the bite and kept the shark’s teeth from reaching his skin. Just as quickly as the shark bit his arm, Dasha smacked the shark on the snout with her stick and the animal peeled away. The combination of the metal mouthful and the hard blow to his nose told the Tiger that Mike was not food.
Dasha immediately grabbed Mike’s camera from the sand below them and began helping Mike back away from the scene, swimming as quickly as they could. Mike was stunned for a moment, but then recovered his senses and began swimming on his own. His arm felt numb from the bite, but he couldn’t see any blood leaking out from his wetsuit. They made their ascent to the surface, turning in all directions to make sure none of the Tiger sharks followed them and quickly boarded the boat.
As soon as they broke the surface, Dasha shouted to the boat crew that Mike had taken a hit. The crew quickly stripped Mike to his waist to check his arm. Nothing was broken, except a little skin where the metal rings were driven into his arm. It was already bruising and was going to be sore for a while, but other than that, Mike was going to be okay.
The excitement of the shark bite had everyone distracted so Mike didn’t mention what he saw. The boat captain headed the boat back to shore quickly and Mike knew a bouncing boat was not a place to open his camera housing to study the images. It would have to wait.
Tune in next week for chapter two…
Second Edition September 2015 by Eric Douglas
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Visibility Press, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Tiger Shark Cover Photograph by filmmaker Frazier Nivens at Tiger Beach, Bahamas. You can learn more about Frazier at OceanImaging.com
This is a Visibility Press Original
Copyright 2015 Eric Douglas
All rights reserved.