By Robert Pobi
About the book:
An homage to the blockbuster Jaws and the classic American novel Moby-Dick, MANNHEIM REX tells a tale of obsession, healing, and man versus nature as the characters struggle to find meaning and purpose in their own lives. Following the sudden death of his wife, horror writer Gavin flees New York City for the quiet of the country, where he soon learns that many people have gone "missing." Thirteen-year-old Finn, who is dying of cancer, knows that the truth: There's a monster in the lake. And Finn's last wish is to go down in the record books for catching it. Battling demons of his own, Gavin joins Finn on his perilous quest to slay the nightmarish leviatha.
Praise for the book:
O, The Oprah Magazine, called Pobi's debut novel, Bloodman, “a very suspenseful novel" and The Library Police has this to say of MANNHEIM REX: “Assured, confident, surprisingly funny, shockingly creepy writing and prose…a riveting read, filled with characters I was truly involved with and a story that I couldn't put down.”
Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground.
—William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Lake Caldasac, New York
Frank Knechtel slowed the boat and swiveled his head in the direction of the approaching storm. He took off the battered gold Ray-Bans and squinted into the ugly mass of clouds, trying to get a feel for her vitals; he had fished this lake long enough to know that when it came to weather, shit turned on a dime out here. The summer storms were the worst, screaming in from the north, washing out roads and downing trees like a malevolent force in a science-fiction movie.
As he turned, the thick rolls of stubbly flesh on the back of his neck squeezed out sweat, and a small part of him was happy that rain was coming— maybe it would cool things down a bit. Then he saw the ugly flash of lightning and his relief was short-circuited by the electrical charge he saw dancing in the clouds. It was going to be a bad one.
The slate thunderhead rolled in fast, devouring the land in great spasms of rain and wind and lightning. Behind the jagged cliff of stormcloud, brittle snaps of white pulsed in the dark body like the irregular firing of a vast volcanic heart. The cloud bank had flattened the horizon and the atmosphere was pregnant with the electricity beating in its chest. Ten miles off. Maybe less.
Frank slipped the throttle into neutral and pulled the big St. Croix musky rod out of the holder bolted to the oarlock. The cork handle was slick with warm beads of moisture, as if it too were sweating. While he worked, he kept glancing at the anvil head moving in, hoping that he wouldn’t run out of time. A flash of lightning detonated and the lake went from blue to white for an instant. A few seconds later the sound wave screamed in and it pushed the oxygen from the air and he tasted the electrical charge in the atmosphere. He spit over the side, hoping to get rid of the metallic film that seemed welded to his teeth.
Frank pumped the handle of the reel and the big spool recovered line quickly. He felt the lure biting the water and the braid sung through the guides on the rod. There was another mortar round of thunder and the boat actually shook. He doubled his retrieval speed and spat again.
And then his lure snagged on something.
He yanked back on the heavy rod, the hundred-and-thirty-pound line twanging with each jolt he put into it, then checked the Lawrence fish finder with a precise pivot of his massive head. The bottom was fifty feet down. What the hell could he have hooked out here in the open water? Submerged log, maybe. If the storm hadn’t been coming, Frank would have circled around and tried to work his lure free, but the wall of darkness had touched the far end of the lake, swallowing the dam, and he could see the glint of rain hammering down. Then he saw the rainbow shards of light dancing like sparks and realized that it wasn’t rain at all; it was hail. Sonofabitch. If he didn’t want to get stuck out in the middle of an electrical storm with bullets falling from the sky while waving his own personal lightning rod, he’d have to cut loose and head for shore right now. But at forty-five bucks he hated to let the big handcrafted lure go. Another jolt of electricity cracked the sky and made his mind up for him. He reached for his knife just as the snag started to move.
The bright slash of the line cut through the water and Frank yanked back, leaning into it. The rod tip bent, and he pulled with his shoulders, feeling the unmistakable throb of muscle at the other end of the line, telegraphing out to him. It was massive, sinuous, sure.
A wave sloshed over the gunwale as the wind set in. The line zagged back, then pulled taut, and his reel screamed against the strain on the drag.
Frank had spent four years stationed at Subic Naval Base in the Philippines and he’d eyeballed everything from giant bluefin to Mark 48 torpedoes slicing through the water, and nothing he’d ever seen had moved this fast. Not even close. He pulled back again and the whine of his reel rose above the howl of the wind that had started to wail.
The boat swung like a compass needle, pulled by the force he had hooked.
He couldn’t stop it. Hell, he couldn’t even slow it down. The motor was gurgling in the irregular swells, coughing blue smoke thick with the smell of oil. The pulse of the sky at the edge of his vision caught his attention once again and he glanced up.
The wall of hail was thrashing across the surface of the lake, bearing down on him. There was another shot of lightning and the world lit up in eerie blues and the air ripped open with the roar of thunder. He had to cut loose and head for one of the shallow bays to wait out the storm or he’d get chewed up out here. Whatever the lightning didn’t fry, the hail would smash to bits.
He slashed at the line with the big Buck knife.
The world went supernova again as Mother Nature slammed a billion volts into the lake. The shockwave hammered him back over the bench, and he tripped. He reached out to steady himself. Line wrapped around his wrist and for a second he felt a pinch. There was another violent surge from the lake itself and the line dug into his arm. Then the tension let go and he stumbled back. There was a splash.
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