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The Missing Fish: A Teri Cole Watergardening Mystery

By Robyn Rhudy.

Copyright 2003 Robyn Rhudy. All rights reserved. This book cannot be reproduced without permission from the author. This book is an original work of fiction. Any resemblance to people, events, or organizations is purely coincidental. With the exception of Ellicott City, Maryland and Colorado Springs, Colorado, any resemblance to places is purely coincidental. There are no koi clubs near Ellicott City.

This is a fiction mystery story that I wrote. I never got past the first chapter but decided to put it on-line 5/25/05. I did not earlier because I thought I might finish it or someone could steal it but this book is as dead as its characters.

Chapter 1: And Heron Makes Two
Chapter 2: Oh Where Oh Where Have My Fish Gone
Chapter 3: The Mystery
Chapter 4: Pond Genies
Chapter 5: The Dead Librarian
Chapter 6: Overload
Chapter 7: Chessie

Cast of Characters

Teri Cole = the main character, 34-years-old, 140 pounds, single, moved from Colorado Springs to Ellicott City (Zone 7), installed a 3000 gallon koi pond, works at the library.

Bruno = Teri's male dog, Rottweiler and Labrador Retriever Mix, 75 pounds.

Fred and Ethel = Teri's two goldfish, 8 and 10 ounces.

Michael Lero = Teri's boss at the library, 42-years-old, 220 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes.

Herb Bryce = owner of Pond Genies pond maintenance service.

Carly Jones = Teri's neighbor, 8-year-old girl.

Paul Jones = Carly's father, 32-years-old, 190 pounds, 6 feet tall, divorced, computer programmer.

Great Blue Heron = himself, eater of yummy fish.

Tim Brady = member of local koi club who helped Teri build her pond.

Alice Cole = Teri's mother.

Dave = Teri's ex-boyfriend.

Suzie Frazier = Teri's friend, 35-years-old, married with one daughter and one son.

Joe Tucker = Herb's partner at Pond Genies.

Chapter 1: And Heron Makes Two

Teri had just about had enough. Bruno wasn't sitting still! How was she supposed to clean out his ears while he was dancing all around. "Ow, stop it!" Bruno slammed his 75 pound frame into Teri's 140 pound body, knocking her over. "Come on, boy, just one more second, I promise!"

It was hard to imagine that just a year before, Teri was in a different world. She was happy living in Colorado Springs with Bruno and a 50 gallon tank with her goldfish, Fred and Ethel. Then, she got a call from a lawyer. Her great aunt, Charlotte had left her her home and $10,000. For Teri, who was struggling to make ends meet working as a filing clerk, this was a dream come true. So, she moved from her small apartment overlooking Pikes Peak (which she had managed to hike up once) to a half-acre lot in Ellicott City, Maryland. Bruno, of course, came along. Teri had found him at a Denver animal shelter a few years ago. They said he was a Rottweiler but he seemed a bit peculiar to her. Perhaps he was part Labrador Retriever. Bruno was the most frisky puppy in the litter. "Ok, you're done, my sweet monster!"

It was time to go to work. Since moving to Ellicott City, Teri's days had been jam-packed with excitement. Two weeks after moving, she was offered a job as a librarian at the new Waverly Branch. She readily took it and seemed to be enjoying her new life. Teri put on a new sweater as the one she was wearing was now covered in dog hair and ear cleaner. After putting herself together, she greeted the crisp morning of a day in September. Before getting in her car, she had to grab a peek at her pond. The pond was her pride and joy. Where else would she spend her $10,000?

Ever since she got her red and white comets Fred and Ethel in their spacious 50 gallon tank, she had shown an interest in having a pond, at least for them. One day a year before moving, she starting searching the internet for pond information. Teri learned that both her goldfish were male as they had tubercles or white bumps on their gill covers. Teri also became hooked on koi ponds. She so much wanted to have such beautiful fish but her wish was financially out of reach. As soon as she saw her new 50-year-old home which had been nicely repaired recently but with a messy yard, she knew she had her work cut out for her. Teri had the inspiration to replace the back lawn with a real koi pond. She already had the fantasy plans from before so she only had to find a way to do it.

"Bye, bye Bruno!" Teri hopped into her 1994 Pontaic Sunfire and pulled out of her hole-ridden asphalt drive. On the way to work, she wondered what she might expect from her superior today. Michael Lero was ten years older than her and twice her size but what bothered her the most about him was that he always got a little too close to her while she was trying to work. He was virtually on top of her. His cologne gave her a headache. She pulled into the library a little before 8 am. Sneaking past where Mike usually worked, she hoped to avoid him first thing.

"Hey, Ter, how ya doing?" "I'm fine Mike." He gave her the once over. "And how's that dog of yours and his problem?" "Bruno is fine. His swimmer's ear is almost gone." Mike grimaced. "You know if you didn't have that darned pond, your mutt wouldn't have an ear problem. He must want to eat your fish." Teri was tired of this. "I don't want to argue over it. Do you need me to file those books over there?" Mike huffed and sent her on her way to shelve some books. This was the part of the job that Teri relished the most when she was all by herself. Since she had been working there almost a year, she now knew almost every book it seemed. Normally, the high school kids would shelve books but school was back in session.

After filing some books and tidying up, the doors opened for the day. Today, Teri was working behind the reference desk. "Excuse me, Miss. The copier isn't working." Teri helped the gentleman remove the jammed paper from the machine. "Oh, you're copying some pages from a book on ponds?," queried Teri. "Yeh, I am in the pond maintenance business," replied the man. "Really, I have a large koi pond myself! My name's Teri Cole." "Hi, I'm Herb Bryce. I run Pond Genies. Maybe you might need my services some time?" Teri did all her own maintenance. "No thanks, I clean my own pond."

Herb was finished copying. "Ok, but here's my business card if you ever change your mind. What kind of pond do you have?" Teri was used to reciting her pond's attributes. "It's a 3000 gallon koi pond with three show-quality koi that are about 16 inches long and about 30 goldfish. Water comes in by two bottom drains and a skimmer. It goes to a vortex, a brush filter, and a UV light and then to a 500 gallon vegetative filter over a waterfall into the main pond." "Wow, sounds like a good setup," Herb replied. They chatted a few more minutes before Herb left.

The rest of the day, Teri spent helping an elderly lady find a book on crochet and then fielded the teenagers coming in with their first assignments for the new school year. She also helped interview a few of them to work part-time after school. Mike left her alone most of the day, for which she was grateful. Finally, at six o'clock, Teri headed home. She picked up a pizza for dinner and filled up her gas tank. This was a pretty good day.

Teri opened the front door and was greeted by Bruno who really had to go. Normally, she has her eight-year-old neighbor, Carly Jones, walk him after school but she was at a girl scout meeting this afternoon. Teri put down the pizza and headed out back with Bruno.

"Oh, my God! Get away, shoo!" The bird had one of her prized koi in its mouth! Bruno started barking and pulled away from her. The great blue heron dropped the koi and flew to a tree in the neighbor's yard. "Oh, no, my Showa!" Her Showa koi was partially gutted. Bruno was running around, trying to reach the heron through the fence. The heron flew off. Teri started to cry. Her 3000 gallon pond only had three koi in it, a Kohaka, a Sanke, and the now-dead Showa. These were expensive fish. She had been lucky to get them for a reduced price from Tim Brady, an Ellicott City Koi Club member who had helped her build the pond.

Teri composed herself and dug a hole to bury her koi. Then, she pulled out the leaf net she had been planning to put on the pond in a few weeks. She was going to put it on now to prevent another death by heron. Before putting on the net, she pulled out some of the excess water celery from her vegetative filter. The net was a pain to put on but she was trying.

"Need some help?" Teri shot up, surprised by the sound. It was Carly's father, Paul. "Yeh, sure, just come through the front gate." Paul and his daughter met Teri when she was having the koi pond built. He was a few years younger than her, divorced, tall, dark, and handsome. His job as a computer programmer allowed him to afford the new nice house next to hers.

Paul came in through the gate a few minutes later. Bruno jumped up on him. "Get down, Bruno. Hi, Paul. A heron just ate my Showa." "That's one of the multi-colored koi, right?," asked Paul. "That's right; I'm glad you remembered." Paul helped Teri position the leaf net over the pond and anchor it with plastic pins and rocks. Even though the sun was setting, it was a warm night, and Teri noticed Paul sweating. When they were done, they sat down next to each other and rested a few minutes.

Then, Teri remembered, "Shoot, I forgot about my dinner! I got pizza, and it's probably cold by now!" "I like cold pizza," Paul said. "Do you want to join me?," Teri said, hoping he would agree. "No, I have to go pick up Carly. I'll tell her about your fish. I'm sure she'll want to come pay her condolences." Paul almost laughed but instead just smiled at Teri as he got up to leave. Bruno escorted him to the gate. Teri went inside and tried to eat some cold pizza but couldn't take it. She tried microwaving it but that just made it slimy. After eating a few pieces, she gave one to Bruno who smeared the tomato sauce on the linoleum. "What am I going to do with you?"

The phone rang. "Hello?" "Hi, honey, it's your mom. How are you?" Teri was starting to feel nauseous from the pizza. "I'm fine mom. Except, a heron ate one of my koi." "Oh, poor baby! Teri have you met anyone yet? You know how much I want a grandchild!" Teri winced. "No mom, I'm still too busy with settling in." "What are you talking about," her mother asked, "You've been living there for a year." Teri wanted to rest but needed to satisfy her mother enough to get her off the phone. "Mom, I'm still getting over Dave so give me some more time, okay?" After a few more exchanges, Teri finished on the phone. She went to relax and watch some TV but fell asleep. She had a nightmare that her pond was pumped dry overnight, and her fish were left flopping on the bottom but that Paul came to the rescue.

Chapter 2: Oh Where Oh Where Have My Fish Gone

The next day, Teri checked on the pond and all was well. She fed and walked Bruno and headed off to work. It began to drizzle. Arriving at work, Teri found that Mike was busy. The pile of paper work on her desk was calling her. She tried to get some work done but Teri started to daydream about her pond and then Paul. The phone ringing woke her up.

"Hello, this is Teri Cole. May I help you?" "Hi, Ter, it's Suzie-Q here! Guess what?" The caller was Teri's best friend from Colorado. "Hi, Suzie. How are you?" asked Teri. "I'm doing great. You'll never guess where I am right now!" Teri had no idea. "Where are you Suzie, getting a manicure?" "Of course not! I'm in Baltimore and want to come see you," exclaimed Suzie. "Really?! That's great! Did you bring the kids?" "Nope, it's a business trip. I can't wait to see you!" Teri and Suzie talked for half an hour about their lives and decided that Suzie would take a taxi to Teri's house and meet here there after work. Teri called her other neighbor who was retired and had her spare key to let Suzie into the house.

Now that her best friend was coming for a visit, Teri couldn't concentrate on work at all. Mike sneaked up on Teri. "Hey, Teri. How are you today?" Teri jumped in her chair. Mike seemed to have improved his attitude. "Hi, Mike. My Showa died, " Teri answered. "Did you call the plumber?" "Showa Mike, a type of koi, not shower!," Teri yelled in frustration. "Okay, okay, don't get your pants tied in a bundle, " Mike retorted. "I don't know what I'm going to do if something happens to my other two koi," said Teri.

Teri had to keep busy or she'd go crazy. The place was empty so she decided to find a book to read. Like most of us, when given the opportunity, she will avoid working. She found a book on Feng Shui. It was hard for her to understand but yet simple. Understanding the content required her to really concentrate which got her mind off of Suzie and Paul. Feng Shui is the "Chinese art and science of living in harmony and being at one with nature." It says that there is a relationship between water, earth, rocks, and other natural entities as they relate to space and form in your home and garden. There were a few photos of oriental gardens and ponds that gave her a few ideas. Her pond could use a pagoda.

Teri went out to an Italian restaurant for lunch which was a rare treat but kept her from going insane on this day. Finally, it was time to go home.

...[Section not finished.]

"Teri, why don't you have any fish in your pond?" queried Suzie. "What are you talking about? I've got two large fish in there," Teri responded. "I didn't see any fish in there." Teri ran out the back door to the pond. The pond was empty. The fish were gone. Teri started screaming and cursing. Her first thought was the heron but the net was still on and secured in place. The fish had simply vanished. Teri crumpled to her knees and started to cry.

Chapters 3 and 4 were not written at all.

Chapter 5: The Dead Librarian

...[Section never written].

Teri arrived at work on Tuesday. It was awfully quiet. She went to ask Mike what she could do today even though she really didn't want to do any work. Arriving at his office, he was sitting in his chair, facing away from her. "Mike, what do you want me to do?" she asked. He didn't answer. "Mike?" Teri went around to face him. He stared blankly at her. There was a red hole in the middle of his head. "Oh, God, no! Mike!" She ran from the room, scared to death. Teri ran across the street to the senior center. After much babbling, they figured out that someone was dead and called 911. There wasn't much they could do though. Mike was dead.

[The remaining chapters were never written but I know who stole the fish and killed Mike! Do you? Well, probably not since I never fleshed it out! Anyway, I might as well give it away. Mike stole the fish. Herb killed Mike.]

A Potential Sequel to The Missing Fish:

The Green Frog: A Teri Cole Watergardening Mystery

Chapter 1: It's a Green Frog

What kind of frog is it?" "It's a green frog." "I know it's green but which species is it?" "That's the name of the species, the green frog, Rana clamitans, " explained Teri. "Oh, okay, " said Celeste Montagne. Teri had been studying up on all facets of pond keeping over winter in preparation for spring ever since joining the Pond Genies company. She and her boss, Joe, were at Mrs. Montagne's watergarden to do a spring cleaning.

The pond was about 2000 gallons with lots of plants that needed to be repotted. Teri was envious of those with plants in their ponds. Her pond was dedicated to her six prize koi. Joe lugged pots of water lilies, sweetflag, lizard tail, and water lilies to the side of the pond which Teri lifted out. They both repotted them into fresh 2 gallon pots with clay dirt, a few plant fertilizer pills, and topped with fresh pea gravel. Celeste had told them they could take the extra marginals.

...[Section never written.]

Teri went inside to ask Celeste if she wanted to save all of the excess water lily rhizomes from the repottings. Unfortunately, she wasn't going to answer. She was laying on her stomach in the foyer with a knife sticking out of her back. On the floor next to her sat a figurine, of a green frog.

Last updated: 5/27/05.

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