It was the smell that drew Aiden Fairweather to the shore that day. He was at his old pub at five in the morning, the usual time since he’d had to let the cleaning lady go a few months back.
At first the old man thought someone had dumped a load of rubbish into the water. Wouldn’t have been the first time.
But as he approached the murky blackness he noticed a shape lying on the water’s edge. It was a twenty foot long mass of tissue. It was nothing he’d ever seen before. And it was most certainly dead
It stank to high heaven.
Covering his nose with a handkerchief, he hurried back to the pub as fast as his old legs would take him. Aiden fumbled with the keys for a moment or two–damned arthritis–and finally got the door unlooked.
He threw the light switch and entered. The place smelled like cheap cigarettes and stale beer. The smell comforted him.
He shuffled around the large oak bar and grabbed the phone.
“You’ra up a bit early Aiden,” a croaky female voice said on the other line.
“Ya Breda,” he said, slightly out of breath,” Listen love, could ye put me through to Doc MacAllister?”
“Old Rex finally ready to be put down?” Breda coughed. Aiden could practically see the fag dangling from the phone operator’s mouth.
“Bite yer tongue, lass,” Aiden said. “That pooch will outlive us all.”
She laughed. It was a disgusting, phlegm-laden sound.
“Hold on hon. I’ll get the Doc for ye. And tell ‘im my granddaughter is still available. Twenty-two and no man in her life to be seen.”
Aiden waited a moment before a young, sleepy voice came on the line.
“Doc, it’s Aiden Fairweather.”
“Ya Aiden, Breda told me,” he said through a yawn. “Rex again?”
“Nah. The old boy’s fine, Doc. Something’s washed up on shore. You should come see it.”
“Gotta be at the Montgomery’s’ in a couple hours. New foal’s due.”
“It’s twenty feet long, Doc.”
Aiden waited. “Doc?”
“You’ve got to be mistaken.”
“My eyes aren’t as good as they once were, but I’d swear to it in Parliament. Twenty feet.”
Aiden waited again.
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
* * *
The doc’s 1927 Morris Cowley pulled up to Aiden’s pub around six, sputtering and wheezing as it came to a jerky halt.
“Damn piece of shite,” MacAllister grumbled as he hoisted himself out of his car. “Only five years old and already falling apart.”
“Good horse’ll last you ten. Make less noise too. But you’d know that bein’ a vet an’ all,” said Aiden crewing on his pipe. “Coulda had the whole pub cleaned by the time it took ye to get here.”
The Doc tried to feign a look of disgust at the old man. Both men burst out laughing at the attempt.
“C’mon inside Doc. Kettle’s on and I’ve got a fire goin’. A good cuppa will sort out your carriage problems.”
MacAllister shock his head. “Would love to Aiden, but have to make me rounds. Let’s see this twenty foot beastie of yours.”
The old man shrugged his shoulders. Knocking his pipe against the side of the barrel he’d been sitting on, he stood, grabbed his cane and without another word started toward the shore.
The day had brightened from a charcoal black to a dull grey. The stinking mass on the shoreline was much more visible now than when Aiden had first ventured toward the water.
The old man wrinkled his nose. “That’s not gonna be helpful for business,” he said. MacAllister grunted.
The creature was a blackish grey. The vet could see a bloated torso with four large fins. A long tail curled into the water and the head of the creature lay at the end of an equally long neck that bobbed in harmony with the small waves.
The vet slowly made his way around the corpse.
Finally, he looked up at Aiden. “N’er seen anything like it. But I can tell you what killed it.”
“Oh?” said Aiden, raising one eyebrow.
“Trash. Its gut has been torn open and the wee beastie’s gut is filled with garbage. Whether it be poison or some sort of blockage’ll have to wait until I do a more in-depth exam and autopsy.” MacAllister was speaking rapidly in excitement.
The vet started back up the hill when Aiden blocked his way with his cane.
“Hold on laddie. Let’s think about this for a mo’,” he said.
“What’s there to think about? This is a great discovery…”
“Mmm. Maybe. But gutting and stuffing this beast isn’t the answer.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, folks around here have been hurting for a while as you well know, Doc.” The old man said thoughtfully. “You go and announce this to the world and sure a few people will come to take a look. Five years from now, that poor creature will be gathering dust in a museum somewhere.”
“What’s your point Aiden?”
“This poor creature is a passing fancy. Now legends, that’s where real money can be made.”
“Think about it doc. People have been talking about a beast in these waters since St. Columba and that was thirteen hundred years ago.”
MacAllister rubbed at the stubble on his chin. “But that legend hasn’t helped folks here very much,” he said slowly.
“Like any good idea, all it takes is a little press. Maybe a blurry photograph or two. A few folks scared outta their wits by ‘Somethin’ in the water.’ Trust me, we could make this into a full-time business that will help everyone around here.”
The vet looked back at the sad creature slowly decaying on the shoreline.
“What’s a more fitting legacy then? ‘Monster killed by trash’ or ‘The Legend of the Monster at Loch Ness?’ Come up to the pub and have that cuppa and we can chat about it a little more…”