A/N: COVID-19 did not take place in this story line.
The Lady of The Lake
The month of April was too early in the season for many of the year-round Sun Rise Lake residents to put their boats on the water but Nancy Scott was a seasoned veteran and she didn't have a problem dragging the rowboat out of the shed when her ten year old son Bobby wanted to do some Saturday fishing.
The boy helped his mom bring the boat down the front yard to the shoreline even though they hadn't had the dock put in for the season yet. Nancy lugged the small electric outboard motor and recharged battery from the shed to the lake and she attached the motor to the back of the silver metal boat while Bobby got his fishing gear together, including a pole for his mom.
Spofford Point was their favorite fishing place, about two hundred yards from their lake front house, along a stretch of the lake that was marshy with no houses on the shore, just a stretch of Lake Shore Road along the bank.
Nancy let Bobby steer the boat as she sat in the bow. Both were wearing life preservers over their sweatshirts and coats. The sun was out but it was cool on the water. Bobby cut the engine and Nancy dropped the make shift anchor (three paint cans full of sand tied together on the end of a rope) over the side to keep the boat from drifting.
Bobby handed his mom one of the poles and they cast their lines over the side, Bobby starboard and Nancy port (she was facing the shore). An occasional car passed along the shore road about twenty feet from the shore but it was otherwise quiet and peaceful.
Bobby talked a little about school but mostly they were quiet and relaxed as they waited for a potential fish bite. Nancy valued her quiet quality personal time with her son during moments like this.
She stared at Bobby's long brown hair sticking out from under his blue wool cap and while it might be time for a haircut Nancy certainly wasn't going to bring that topic up now. He was a good kid who adapted to divorced parents fairly well all things considered. Bobby had his father's face but, thankfully, not his disposition and Nancy was happy for that.
Nancy cast her line out one more time and she felt a tug on the hook which got her excited. She pulled on the line and she worked the rod reel with expertise. Whatever her line had caught gave way and suddenly Nancy was reeling what looked to be a car's license plate from the water.
"Nice catch, Mom!" Bobby laughed.
She unsnagged the license plate from the fish hook. It was faded orange with blue lettering: 5793-ARN. NEW YORK was written along the bottom and there were a couple of screws still in the plate which was odd. The screws and plate were rusted and the metal was covered with much as well.
"I thought New York plates were white with the Statue of Liberty on them," Bobby said. "The Empire State written on the bottom."
"Those are the new ones," Nancy replied. "This is one of the older ones."
"Well, throw it back!" Bobby said.
"No," Nancy said, dropping the license plate into the bottom of the boat. "That would be littering."
"Somebody already littered," Bobby pointed out.
They continued to fish. Bobby got several nibbles and two catches, but the fish were small and he threw them back into the lake. Eventually, Bobby motored the boat back to the house and they beached the craft on the sand in front of the yard, hoping to go out again.
Nancy picked up the license plate from the bottom of the boat, planning to hang it on the inside wall of the shed that featured a few other outdated plates from previous generations along with some old advertisement signs that had washed ashore over the years.
But the screws still in the screw holes of the plate bothered her for some reason. Who Frisbees a license plate into the lake with the screws still attached? Nancy brought the plate to her car and tossed it on the front seat floor before going about her business.
The next time she was in the village, Nancy stopped at the small Police Station adjacent to the one bay fire station. The Police Department was comprised of two officers – Chief Robbie Barbomb and his assistant, Meagan Clark, whom Nancy was friendly with because Meagan's son Carter was friends with Bobby. Both boys had divorced single moms so it was easy for them to bond.
The Police Station consisted of an outer office behind a counter, a couple of small offices in the back, and a fair sized jail cell. That was about it. Meagan was seated at her desk while Administrative Assistant Kristy Velasquez typed away on a computer keyboard.
"Hi Nancy," Meagan said cheerfully, looking up from paperwork on her desk. Officer Clark always looked impressive when she was in uniform. "What do you have there?" She asked when she noticed that Nancy had something in her hand.
"A license plate," Nancy replied, placing it on the counter. "I accidentally fished it out of the lake the other day. I was going to hang it in the shed but I wondered if maybe it was from a stolen vehicle or something. The screws are still there I thought was weird."
Meagan approached the counter and took a look at the plate. "Looks like it's been in the drink for a while."
When Meagan was in uniform, her hair was pulled back in a ponytail or a bun on top of her head. She rarely wore makeup. Her uniform made her look tough and rugged. When she stopped by Nancy's house off duty in civilian clothes with her hair down and make up on, she was a completely different looking woman.
"Maybe you can check the system to see if there's a history," Nancy suggested.
"Sure," Meagan agreed. "Thanks for your citizenry concern."
The two women made small talk about the boys for a few minutes and then Nancy was on her way with a cheerful goodbye.
But an hour later, Officer Clark was knocking on Nancy's door, having arrived in the Sun Rise Lake Police SUV.
"Where exactly did you find that license plate?" The Officer wanted to know, sounding serious, professional and urgent.
"Spofford Point," Nancy answered.
"How far out from the bank?"
"Maybe twenty yards," Nancy shrugged.
"Can you be more specific about where you were?" Officer Clark asked.
"Pretty much right in front of the 'Sun Rise Lake Inn two miles ahead' sign," Nancy replied.
Officer Clark spoke into her microphone on the shoulder of her uniform. "Spofford Point, Chief," she said. "About twenty yards out, across from the Inn sign."
"What's going on?" Nancy asked.
"That license plate was registered to a woman who went missing twenty-four years ago," Officer Clark revealed. "We think maybe the car could be in the lake."
"With her in it?" Nancy asked with shock.
"That's what we're going to find out."
"Oh My God!" Nancy said. "That's awful."
"But you could be responsible for solving a twenty-four year old mystery," Officer Clark said with encouragement as she turned and headed for her SUV. "I'll let you know."
Nancy felt a little spooked knowing that a car could have been submerged in Sun Rise Lake for nearly a quarter of a century. How many times had she fished in that very spot over the years? And how could a sighting of the car be missed for so long?
Nancy noticed a couple of State Trooper SUVs pass by the house so she wheeled her bike off the side porch and took a ride down Lake Shore Road until she reached Spofford Point.
Several state troopers and the state trooper dive team were standing along the shore of the road. A large tow truck arrived just as Nancy arrived along with a hearse from the County Medical Examiner's Office.
Nancy spotted Chief Barcomb and Meagan standing with some of the staties and she joined them just as a diver popped his head out of the water and gave the thumbs up sign.
"What does that mean? Nancy asked Officer Clark.
"There's a car down there," Meagan replied, shaking her head with surprise.
"How could a car be in there for so long without being detected?" Nancy wondered.
"It's pretty deep right there," Chief Barcomb replied.
He was an older man who retired from the Greenville Police Department several years earlier but became Police Chief of Sun Rise Lake to stay involved. He was tall with a shaved head and he always wore sun glasses even when the sun wasn't out. He usually wore jeans with his uniform shirt and a blue ball cap with 'Chief' written across the front in white letters.
"Pretty mucky down there too," he added. Nobody swims or snorkels in this part of the lake. It would be easy to miss."
Nancy watched with the others as the tow truck driver worked with the two divers in the water to hitch the tow line to the underwater car. The driver began to recoil the line that was hitched to a high lift crane on the back of the truck that lifted the car straight up out of the water instead of dragging it along the bottom to the shore. Out from the water came a muck covered car.
"Toyota Camry," Chief Barbomb confirmed. "That's what she was driving."
"Can't tell if it's green with all that slime on it," Officer Clark replied.
Several officers and the driver made sure the car was set on its wheels on the (now blocked off) roadway.
"Now we find out if she's in there," The Chief sighed.
"You might want to step back and look away for this part," Officer Clark suggested to Nancy. "This becomes an investigation if there's a body in there."
Nancy walked about twenty feet down the road and stared out at the lake, feeling anxious about the possibility of a body being inside the car. She heard a commotion and looked toward the car but the officials had placed a tarp around it.
When she saw the coroner wheeling a stretcher toward the car, Nancy knew a body had been found. She felt sad and briefly nauseous but she was glad that she hadn't seen the victim, unable to image what the body would look like after twenty four years in a submerged car.
"Who was she?" Nancy asked Megan when the officer returned.
Officer Clark pulled her notebook out of her shirt pocket. "Hannah Abrams, 25, from Rochester New York. She was supposed to be in Boston for a job interview."
"How'd she end up here?"
"We'll have to see if we can figure that out," Meagan responded.
Nancy returned to her bike and rode home trying not to think about poor Hannah Abrams, missing for twenty four years, entombed in her car at the bottom of the lake.