Updated: Sep 17
Preening her face upwards, Sally closed her eyes to feel the warmth of summer on her skin. As she skimmed her hands over the glass top of the waist-deep water, she felt lucky to be in such a beautiful place after years of toiling away at a desk job. The smell of the salt air, of her sunblock, and of the ocean reminded her that she was no longer trapped in purgatory.
Retirement, she thought with a smile, has it perks. I’m free at last. Thank goodness I wore my bathing suit today.
As her husband bantered with some other retired suit-and-tie on the beach, Sally was also thankful to have some peace and quiet to herself just when a warm breeze flowed past her. Opening her eyes as she tilt her head back into place, Sally was able to admire the crystal-clear water before her.
No waves to knock my old bones and wrinkled skin down today.
Tiny slivers of fish began jumping a few feet in front of her, mesmerizing her and taking her attention away from the dark figure lurking nearby: predator to the bait fish.
The figure, about seven feet long, had a streamlined body with what looked like giant, pointed wings at its sides. Also unbeknownst to Sally was that it was a particularly bad season for bull sharks.
With only several scattered tourists on the beach, all in her group, none of them had seen the disfigured sign on the beach warning them of this. There were also no lifeguards around as the beach was closed. In fact, the tourists had taken it upon themselves to knock down the chain-link that crossed the only access point to the beach.
What a beautiful beach, they thought. It’s our lucky day - our own, personal beach.
Sally felt a bump on her shin when the roar of her husband’s screams abruptly came from the shore. That’s when she saw the triangle sticking out from the water’s surface - stealthily moving past her. Stalking her.
In the background she could hear the splashing of what she supposed was her husband coming to the rescue, but she wasn’t facing the beach, she he was facing the sea.
Too frozen to move an inch, she felt another bump, this time at her backside.
I’m going to die today, she gulped as a thousand nerves seemed to burst open at once, her hair standing on edge. The next bump will be the last.
Seagulls cawed from above the middle-aged Asian man trekking the overgrown path behind the tree line of the beach. His dog, a golden retriever, ran ahead with his tongue hanging out. The man looked disheveled, or more so disquieted, and was drenched in sweat. He wore gray khaki shorts, a white T-shirt, netted sandals, and a floppy straw hat that sat just over his eyebrows.
Breathing deeply, he hesitated at the edge of the trail's end, investigating the beach as his dog sniffed the coastline up ahead.
"Haruki!" he called after his dog, fearing that he was getting too close to the water's edge. In a blind panic for the dog's safety, the man stumbled forward onto the beach, finding himself facing the tranquil water once and for all.
His face dropped, and he stood in place unable to move until a chiming buzz came from his pocket. Fumbling through his pocket, all the while staring at the crystal-clear water, he put a small flip-phone to his ear, answered in a lull of Japanese, and then slammed it shut. His eyes went from the water's surface and up to the tree line where his dog was sniffing as he shoved his phone back into his pocket.
A nervous smile crept across his face while he made his way across the sand and towards his dog. Bending down to investigate the sand that Haruki was sniffing, the man saw just what he was looking for: his lost and forgotten crab pot.
After getting a lick to the face, the man patted Haruki on his head, saying the equivalent to "Good Boy" in Japanese, then busied himself with pulling the trap out of the sand. It took a few tries, but on the last and final pull, the man was able to pull the trap out by wedging his legs against the ground and pulling with his straggly arms.
With a sigh, he admired the trap sitting in his hands before calling for Haruki. But the dog didn't come to his call, causing the man to look across the beach, all the while squinting his eyes against the shining sun.
There was no Haruki, he realized, as he heard a faint splashing.
Slowly, and as the color drained from his face, the man turned towards the water - only to see Haruki swimming away and becoming a small yellow dot.
Dropping the trap, the man screamed as loud as he could for Haruki to come back. When that didn't work, he called again, taking half a step forward as if to make a full sprint into the water, but stopped himself.
That's when Haruki's head went underneath the surface, and when the man collapsed.
It wasn't until several minutes later when the man was awoken by a wetness upon his face: Haruki's kisses. Opening his eyes, the man jolted upright and took Haruki into his arms when remembering something: the man pushed Haruki back onto the sand and inspected his entire body.
Another sigh of relief escaped the man as he was assured Haruki was unscathed and reached for the wayward pot, balancing himself to stand up and shaking off the sand.
That's when he saw it.
Next to Haruki was what could have passed as a log covered in seaweed to a passerby, but the man saw it for what it was: the pale, blood-drawn arm of a man.
Terrified, the man started to make a sprint for it when he saw something glinting in the seaweed wrapped around the arm. Immediately dropping to his knees, a new expression came across the man's face: one of wonderment. Picking the minuscule object out of its entanglement and bringing it to his face, the man suddenly yelped with excitement.
In between his fingers was gold.
He quickly hid this treasure inside his pocket and dug his cellphone back out. After fumbling several numbers into his obtuse keypad, the man held the phone to his ear and looked with exasperation at the water.
After two rings, the man breathed out a heavy Japanese accent, "The Roku is back."
Voices then arose in the distance, coming from the access point just behind the man's position. He quickly stood up, hiding his phone, and brushed the sand off his shorts and knees.
"Haruki," he called after the dog who was now pacing around the broken chain-link, barking.
An elderly white man who was wearing nothing but swim trunks and wielding an American accent appeared, marching onto the beach and pointing to the water.
"There was a shark! It took Sally and Frank. Come - come on," he called back to a group of policemen standing on the other side of the access point, towards the mainland. "Come on!" The man waved; his eyes filled with defeat. "They're in the water! You have to help them. Please, they’ve been missing since this morning," he pleaded, throwing his arms down in desperation. "We’re just tourists celebrating our retirement. Please!"
The police hesitated and shared nervous looks, speaking in rushed Japanese, as Haruki continued to bark from just behind the man, sniffing at his heels and growling.
The American man, previously lost in his desperation, suddenly noticed the wet snout on the back of his feet. He turned and scrunched his face at the dog, kicking it away before looking up, finding himself stunned when met with the Asian man in the straw hat.
"Haruki," the man in the straw hat called, nodding at the dog to come to his side. "He mean no harm," he said with narrowed eyes at the American who just returned his stare with an equally dirty look.
Puffing out his chest, the man in the straw hat marched up to the access point, ignoring the seething American man, and spoke to the police in Japanese.
A few grunts escaped the group of policemen and in wary agreement, they all made their way over the access point and across the broken chain-link.
"Come on! They're this way!" the American, now flustered, demanded as the police walked past him and along the tree line, nowhere near the water's edge.
That's when the man in the straw hat cleared his throat and looked into the American’s eyes to say, "Just thought you should know, arm was found over there. Shark bite." He pointed towards the group of now crouching policemen, each speaking in a fearful tone and often glancing back towards the water's edge.
The American man looked perplexed at this, turning to study the calm, sea glass next to him.
"Come on, Haruki. We have meeting," the straw hat wearing man finally said, walking with his crab pot in hand and dog in tow, past the American. But before he was out of earshot, he muttered, "Should listen to direction better."
As the gathering and arm disappeared behind him, the Japanese man smirked down at his dog.
On the other side of the village that the beach was located in, a man drinking a cup of coffee at an indoor, tropical bar, periodically checked his watch and whereabouts as if waiting for someone. He had a pair of white Oakleys on top of his buzz cut hair and a button-down Hawaiian shirt, paired with beige steel toed boots and cargo shorts. He was the color of a graham cracker, his sunglass tan showing his true pinkish-white color.
On the seat next to him was a camera bag, and behind him a group of elderly Americans sitting at a wooden table, talking about the very thing he was there for, sharks.
“I saw it take Frank and Sally. It must have been twenty feet long, a great white!”
“Oh Tom, stop making things up: It was a rip tide.”
“Kate, you’re just blind. Zip it.”
“Tom don’t talk to your wife that way. I didn’t see it either. I think they’re pulling a prank on us to get our old bones riled up.”
“Larry, I saw the dorsal fin and the shadow. I’m not crazy you old bat.”
“Larry, honey, I saw it too. Tom isn’t making it up. One-minute Sally and Frank were in the water, the next they were gone. I saw the dorsal fin for a split second, but I’m sure it was a shark.”
The man at the bar half-turned his head to glance at the group behind him. All of them were decked out in the attire of a fancy pool club, each with a martini or scotch in hand.
“There’s Alfred, over there!” one of the men abruptly shouted and pointed towards the door. The man at the bar followed their gaze, but a palm tree was blocking his view. One of the women in the group cleared her throat, getting the attention of the man at the bar and giving him a look.
He smirked in defeat and turned back towards his coffee, listening to every little movement behind him.
A chime sounded as the door opened; the man at the bar could hear heavy footsteps approaching.
“Alfred! Any news from what happened this morning? Jesus – you look like you saw a ghost.”
“An arm was found,” the newcomer replied, piquing the interest of the man at the bar. Turning around, he saw a shirtless elderly man going to sit next to the group and putting his head into his hands.
“Well it can’t be Frank or Sally’s arm, for goodness sakes!” one of the women resounded.
“I told you, it was a great white!” a man interjected, a smug look coming across his face.
The woman who had given him the dirty look before met the man at the bar with eyes again, but before he could turn around the newcomer shouted, “That’s the man who found the arm! There!”
Just outside of the window, a small Asian man was walking with a crab pot in hand, followed by a golden retriever. Without hesitation, the man at the bar grabbed his camera bag and left two one-hundred-yen coins on the counter for the coffee.
The bell at the door chimed as he chased after the man in the street. As he passed the tiki bar from the outside, the man from the bar could feel the eyes of the group hot on his back, but he didn’t care. He needed answers.
Just before he could catch up, though, the Asian man disappeared into a small hut right after telling his dog, Haruki, to stay put and be a good boy and placing his crab pot down on the ground.
The man from the bar sighed, and sat on some steps near the hut, waiting for the Asian man to come back out.
Meanwhile, the Asian man was greeted by a rugged, middle-aged man sitting at a miniscule, folding table inside the hut. Sitting in the chair directly across from the rugged man, his straw hat flopping as he sat, the Asian man spoke.
“The Roku is back.”
“Proof,” the rugged man responded in an English accent, his golden tooth shining in a ray of sunlight.
“Legend say treasure reappear for just few week, every fifty year, and last time someone saw Roku was my father.” He looked into the English man’s eyes, pausing to say, “Fifty year ago.”
“Proof, I said.” The rugged man folded his hands into each other, leaning forward to say, “Or did you just call me here for nothing?”
“Here.” The Asian man paused to ruffle through his pocket, taking his phone out first and then the golden spec. “Found gold on arm today. Some tourist were swimming. Dumb tourist. Roku got them.”
The rugged man grinned down at the spec, reaching out to grab it, when the Asian man quickly confiscated it and put it back into his pocket.
“I want the gold as proof, or the others won’t go with me to find the treasure.”
“Five-hundred,” the Asian man replied.
“Five-hundred?” the rugged man raised his eyebrows, scoffing.
“Five-hundred for gold and five-hundred for intel. American money.” The Asian man looked intently back at the rugged man, not budging on his price.
Still scoffing, the rugged man nodded his head, searching through his wallet and throwing ten one-hundred-dollar bills onto the table. “The gold?” he asked, resting his hand across the table.
Without saying a word, the Asian man smiled and took the money into one hand while producing the gold spec with the other, dropping it into the man’s outstretched hand.
“Good luck,” is all he said before leaving the rugged man alone inside the hut.
“Excuse me? Sir!” the Hawaiian shirt man put his finger up to stop the Asian man as soon as he left the hut. The Asian man looked up in speculation as Haruki joined his side, jumping up to kiss his arms.
“Yes?” he raised an eyebrow at the man before him, taking in his tan skin and sky-blue eyes, admiring his wrinkle-free skin and noticing his abnormal height.
“Hi. I’m Roger, a shark biologist from Woods hole, Massachusetts. I’m researching bull sharks and was told there’s a hot spot at one of the local beaches here.” He reached out a hand to the Asian man who just raised both eyebrows this time. “Oh yeah, sorry.” Roger withdrew his hand, remembering the Japanese customs.
The Japanese man nodded in response, his straw hat flopping slightly with the motion, and started walking away, forgetting his crab pot behind.
“Hey, sorry again,” Roger walked along the Asian man’s side, a full foot taller than him, and followed him through the village. “I just got to Japan yesterday and am still kinda jet lagged.” He shrugged at the Asian man but got no response. “What’s your name?”
From that question, Roger got a forced chuckle in response.
“Katsumi,” the Asian man replied, glancing at Roger from underneath his straw hat.
“I heard about the arm,” Roger said breathlessly. “I was supposed to meet with someone from the police force of this village at the bar, but I got stood up. I could have prevented…”
“It because of arm,” Katsumi cut him off, looking at Roger from beneath his straw hat again. “They are all at station looking at it. And it not bull sharks, it bull shark.”
“Okay, the police thing makes sense but the shark thing? Unless it was a rogue shark that attacked the couple that group at the bar was talking about,” Roger said to himself before directing his attention back to Katsumi. “It’s just strange to me that only an arm washed up on shore. What about the rest of the body, or bodies? How are the currents? The tides? There must have been blood in the water. Where are the divers?”
“No. No. And no.” Katsumi threw his hands to his sides and stopped momentarily, Haruki sitting off to the side and wagging his tail nervously. “No,” he repeated, looking into Roger’s eyes with a truth he couldn’t find the words for. “Follow me. I take you.”
“Take me where?” Roger asked.
“To Roku,” Katsumi replied and started walking off again.
“The what?” Roger asked from behind him.
“So you’re telling me that this local legend of the Roku is real? That the spirit of a bull shark is protecting treasure worth millions of dollars and reappears every fifty years for only a short time. And that anyone who enters the water near the treasure will die, but your family has been able to crab pot at this ghost shark beach, unscathed, for generations?”
“Yes, it scariest job I ever had,” Katsumi grinned at Roger who by the look of his face, wasn’t buying it. “It okay, don’t believe me. I show you,” he winked as they continued to walk along the beaten trail.
Roger could make out the Pacific Ocean from behind the thicket of trees blocking his view, giving him a feeling of excitement.
“Where are the signs for bull sharks, you know… warning people?”
“This trail is only known to locals. We know legend very well.”
“Mhmm,” was all that Roger said as they came to a halt.
“Through there,” Katsumi pointed to an interlocked gathering of branches from two trees. “Glass jetty is that way. Take off boots because will get wet.” Katsumi pointed down at Roger’s feet, Haruki sniffing them all the while, and said, “Jetty is one-inch under water.”
“Right, and that’s how I’ll see the Roku?”
“Yes. Good luck,” Katsumi nodded his head, his straw hat flopping again, and patted Roger on the back. “This as far as I go.”
“Okay, well thanks. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.”
Katsumi smiled, and then busied himself with separating the branches, giving way to a secret, sandy path. Roger stepped through and turned around for one last look at Katsumi, but the branches were already back in place.
“The Roku,” he scoffed to himself and followed the path to the underwater jetty.
“Well I see why they call it the glass jetty.” Before him, a line of connected pilings going out one-hundred meters looked as if it was covered in fine glass, which was actually clear-blue water. “I’ve never done anything like this before, but the shots I can get will be amazing: maybe even enough to get me a research grant. Maybe I’ll even see a dead body,” he continued talking to himself while setting his camera bag down onto the ground and taking his boots off. He then took his professional camera out of the bag and put its scope on.
Once ready, Roger dipped his naked toes into the ocean.
“Not bad,” he muttered and planted his foot firmly onto the first piling of the jetty. “Just enough room for one foot, this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done,” he said while planting his other foot onto the next piling, balancing with his camera in hand. “And this isn’t even waterproof.”
Shaking his head at himself, he continued to make his way out like a wounded ostrich until he was at the last piling. The water seeped around his toes as he stood with his legs apart and camera to his face. Through his scope he could see the beach clearly, down to the logs. But to be fair, from his vantage point, he could probably make the logs out without his scope.
He continued to scan his surroundings for half-an-hour, seeing nothing but sand and water, before deciding to take a break and pulling the camera from his face. Sighing, he looked back towards the path he took to the glass jetty, then back out to the ocean, and then down at his feet and into the abyss below him.
“I’m a man standing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean,” he said to himself with a laugh, and even though he worked with the ocean for a living, and sharks, he was still somewhat nervous. “Let’s hope I don’t fall into a school of bull sharks, Roger,” he said to himself when the sound of a motor roared from behind him.
Turning around ever so carefully, Roger could see a sports fishing boat approaching. Putting the camera back to his face, he used the scope to inspect it. Gasping, Roger put the camera down.
“Guns?” he breathed out after seeing a boat filled with rugged men carrying assault rifles. “Pirates? I better go before they see me.” His pulse quickened as he made his way back across the pilings like hot coal. It wasn’t until he was halfway back to land when he saw the shining substance beneath him.
Bending over to get a better look, Roger was startled by a large shadow scraping against the pilings just a fathom below him. Losing his balance, Roger fell in and sunk towards the bottom of the ocean floor.
In a fit of panic, Roger put his camera to his face as if to get a better look at his surroundings while using his legs to get back to the surface.
Through his scope, the shadow crossed again, this time from the surface and then from directly next to him. Roger could clearly see an adult bull shark with gold-colored tribal patterns all along its body and molten gold eyes.
And that’s when he lost consciousness.
“Roger,” Katsumi called from above him as Haruki kissed his face. Gaining consciousness, Roger groaned and propped himself up onto one arm, finding himself in the surf with his Oakleys lying next to him.
Before Katsumi could say anything else, they both looked out to the glass jetty where the sports fishing boat now was, and where men were screaming. Without warning, the boat and screams vanished into the ocean without any signs of the men resurfacing.
“The Roku chose you to share it legend with world, shark biologist; To write about him,” Katsumi then said, breaking the silence and helping a shaking Roger up from the surf. “Here your camera, look through it,” he goaded Roger. “I found it on beach.”
“It should be broken,” Roger remarked to himself while turning on the playback screen, where an image of the tribal pattern, bull shark appeared.
“How is this possible?” he asked, looking at Katsumi in disbelief, the reality of the situation hitting him, and then out to the ocean where the sun was descending.
“This is your gold,” Katsumi answered, pointing at the screen. “And this is mine,” he then added with a grin, holding up a block of gold.