Deborah Tadema                                     

 Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult, Urban Thrillers, Fantasy and Historical Novels  Book Reviewer




Bessie: The Monster in Lake Erie

Port Stanley has a feature that no other town on earth has; its own sea monster. Bessie lives in a cave on the other side of Picnic Hill and calls Lake Erie her home. Hidden from those who would harm her, yet close enough that her two keepers can come to her aid when she's in danger. Mason Brooks didn't realize that he was one of them until he met the man some would call the devil. Mason had inherited the ring, known as the blood stone, from his father. He had never been told about the powers it had or about the connection to Bessie.

Black Tom wears the second ring, called the sky ring. His sudden appearance keeps the people on edge, for there is no record of him prior to this summer. It soon becomes clear that Tom is mistreating Bessie, giving her meat when she's a vegetarian and injecting her with powerful drugs. There are several deaths out on the lake which Bessie is being blamed for. But no one can blame her for the murders that take place on Picnic Hill. Mason suspects Tom. Yet Tom knows how to beat the system and is never convicted of any of them. And Mason has to prove one thing...that Black Tom is not his brother.

The two rings need to work in harmony in order to keep Bessie alive. She eats the algae that grows in the lake and helps to balance the ecosystem. If she doesn't die a natural death Lake Erie will perish.

Bessie: The Monster in Lake Erie

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     From beneath the waves, Bessie watched the man struggle, his face contorted in pain as he bounced off the hard clay rocks. Water splashed over him, pulling him under. Arms and legs flailed madly about. He coughed and braced for another wall of ice-cold water that came straight at him. Fingertips scratched at the packed gravel on the cliff wall. The lake took him under again. When he surfaced, he choked, spit out mouthfuls of water, waited for the next assault.

     The man managed to pull himself along the side of the cliff to the outer edge of the outcrop. From there, the lake opened up before him, the beach too far away. There was no fear in his eyes, just raw determination.

      Bessie crawled along the bottom to get a closer look. She had watched humans drown before. They were weak and tended to give up too soon. Not this man. He took several deep breaths, swam out past the clay rocks and rode the large swells. The man didn't get far when he stopped for a rest and shivered. She saw his breath in the wind. He hugged his side and winced at the hazy sun then tried again. She followed.

     Humans had poor eyesight. Bessie had been able to get right up next to them before they saw her. Shock and fear would appear on their faces. They'd panic. Some died.

     A huge wave grabbed the man and pulled him back out. She had lost him. Bessie skirted across the lake bottom in search for him. Waves thundered overhead. She found him again as he bobbed on the surface, eyes closed, head on his chest. He barely moved, barely breathed. She stopped and watched him and waited to see how long he would hang on.

     A wave crashed down in front of him, splashing his face, and jerked him awake. His eyes, the color of a cloudy sky, squinted down at her. She thought he had given up by this time, he looked tired. Or maybe he knew she was there because he moved closer; near her head and gawked at her with wide eyes.

     She did not breathe; did not flick her long tail. Nor did she blow bubbles. Could he see her this far under water, through the muck that the lake had stirred up? Did her big bulk cast a shadow that shimmered as she moved? Bessie closed her eyes and waited, listening to the roar of the waves overhead. After several seconds, she opened them and watched him fight on. This time he seemed panicked, as if suddenly, he wanted to live. There was fear in his eyes now. He got caught in an undertow and was dragged down only to surface far out in the lake. He gasped for air and looked back at the shore. Did she read defeat in his eyes?

     His arms and legs didn’t have enough strength to keep him up anymore. Too exhausted to lift his head, he sank and was pulled out further. He had stopped his courageous fight. Bessie moved in close enough, so he could see her. His eyes were closed, his arms floating above his head as he drifted. She nudged him with her snout. There was no response. She pushed him toward the shore and lifted him up with her nose and rolled him onto the sand.


     Port Stanley was at the mouth of Kettle Creek, nestled in between two large hills. It was an era of big flowered dresses, high boots and the miniskirt. Men wore single-breasted suits with collarless jackets, hats were becoming scarce. Bell bottoms had arrived, and someone had invented polyester. The Beverly Hillbillies played on television, along with Star Trek and the Twilight Zone. Color was new on the TV screen. Antennas stretched high into the sky like sentinels from every rooftop which replaced the set of rabbit ears that sat on top of the TV in the fifties.

     Rock and roll were all the rage with the young crowd. Shangri-Las, Doors, Byrds and the Bee Gees were just a few of the bands whose songs blared from transistor radios and jukeboxes. Teenage boys banged on guitars and drums in garages and basements. Little girls played with Barbie dolls. Nobody wore seatbelts in the chrome laden cars. They didn’t think twice about drinking from the garden hose or sharing a bottle of Coke. If you got into trouble at school, the punishment was twice as bad when you got home. And a loaf of bread was twenty-five cents.

     Kettle Creek sliced the town in half where two fourteen-year-old boys sat on the edge of the dock swinging their legs. School had just gotten out for the summer. “You think it’s still too cold?” Troy Jackson asked his friend. They had worn their bathing trunks under their pants today, just in case.

     “Yeah, I do.” Jason Webster answered as he looked longingly at the murky water below. “I really wish I could be practicing my diving. Remember last year, when I did a somersault?”

     Troy laughed. “Yeah and all I could do was a belly flop.”

     “I bet I still can.”


     “Why not? It’s been hot out for two whole weeks. I want to cool off.”

     “You just said it was still too cold,” Troy reminded him. “Besides, I heard there’s a sea monster in there.”

     “Do you believe in monsters? Are you still a baby?”

     Troy watched a log float down the creek. “No, I just heard. That’s all.”

     “I’ll bet you a milkshake I can do it.”

     “You’re on.”

      Jason stood, pulled down his pants and lifted his shirt off, dropped them on the dock to reveal his new red bathing trunks. “Count down,” he said, as he flexed his arms and legs, showing off his scrawny body.

     Troy backed out-of-the-way, counted down from five. Jason took off at zero and flew past him, landing in the creek with a big splash.

     Troy ran to the end of the dock. A few seconds later his friend came up and spit water out of his mouth. “You did it, Jason,” Troy said, excitedly. “Now you can get a blue ribbon at school if you can do it in the pool.”

     “Come on in. It’s not that bad.” Jason clenched his teeth.

     Troy noticed they chattered and placed his hands on his hips. “Why are your lips turning blue?”

     “It’s not that bad down here, once you get used to it.”

     “You’re nuts.”

     Jason ducked under and swam around, spurted water out of his mouth when he surfaced. “Come on, I’ll give you the milkshake back.”

     “I don’t even have the money to buy a milkshake,” Troy told him. “Okay. I’m going to cannonball, so watch out.” He threw off his clothes, determined not to show his friend his fear that the rumors might be true. He let out a loud “Geronimo!” And hit the water with a huge splash, surfaced and spewed water up at Jason.

“You’re right.” He realized Jason was gone. “Jason, where did you go?”

     “Up here.” Jason walked to the end of the dock pulling his T-shirt over his head. “I’m freezing.”

     Troy swam round to prove to himself that he was just as brave as Jason. A few yards out, he turned and smiled up at his friend.

     “That’s enough, Troy. You’re going to get pneumonia or something. Come on out.”

     “I’m coming.” He swam out further instead.

     Jason suddenly started to yell. “Get out! Troy, get out now!”

     “Why, it’s not suppertime yet? The water's not that bad.”

     “Troy! Get out!” Jason’s frantic voice finally sunk in.

     “What’s wrong?” Troy headed toward the ladder.

     Jason pulled Troy up by the shoulders. “Hurry, Troy, get out of there.”

     “Man, you’re scaring me, Jason. Don’t do that.”

     “Look.” Jason pointed to the center of the creek where Troy was only minutes before.

     A huge shadow moved slowly under the water.

     Troy gulped. “What is it?”

     “Maybe it’s that sea monster of yours.” Jason’s voice crackled.

     “I thought you didn’t believe in sea monsters.” Troy tried to hide the panic in his own voice.

     Jason shivered. “Well, I didn’t.”


     Bessie felt a pulse through her like never before. The blood stone the man on the beach wore called her, disrupting her thoughts. She had to get away to clear the ringing in her head.

     She swam up the creek where the boats slept. She went back out into the lake, hid under the water and watched her man. His chest rose and fell ever so slightly so she knew he was still alive. The blood stone was their connection. A ring with a red stone embedded in it. Bessie sensed he was vital to her very existence. She could not kill this man if he had it. Bessie knew what had triggered the instinct to save him from drowning.

     From further down the sand, she sensed something else. Another pull, from a different source. This confused her. Tom, her keeper, had walked up to her man on the sand. She stood guard. He had a ring with a stone the color of the sky and the water. It also called to her, in an unusual way. This stone, Bessie knew, made her lightheaded. It made her feel as if she could lift her flippers and soar into the clouds.

     The two stones had come together. This Bessie sensed was important. Something was going to happen. She needed to keep these men safe, as long as they wore the rings.


     Chilly water surrounded the man when he became aware of the scratchy sand underneath him. His legs raised and lowered with each swell of the waves that rushed to shore. Seagulls squawked overhead in the gray sky. A hazy sun filtered through the clouds. Unconsciousness threatened to overtake him again. Every inch of his body cried out in agony. The last thing he remembered was that his sailboat blew up. After that; everything was a blur.

     A dark shadow crossed his face. Big hard hands grabbed his shoulders, dragged him on top of a dune, dropped him without ceremony. A grunt escaped the man’s lips. The stranger paid no attention to him. Instead, he stood and glanced out at the lake.

     In the faded light of late afternoon, the stranger he would come to know as Black Tom posed an eerie figure. A tall, ridiculously thin man, who wore all black, from his long coat to his big boots that he planted only inches from the man’s head.

     Tom scratched the stubble on his chin and sneered at him with stained teeth. “Looks like you’ll live after all, eh?” When he bent down, alcohol and body odor emanated from him, made the man turn his head away. “For now.”

     Tom’s deep voice sent ice picks down the man’s back, which made him want to bury himself under the sand. All he could do was lie there, helpless and in excruciating pain. He moaned in agony.

     Tom spat on the ground beside him. “You upset her, didn’t ya?”

     “I don’t know what you mean,” the man said through clenched teeth.

     “I said you made Bessie mad.”

     “I was just sailing my boat, minding my own . . .”

     “How did mind’in your own business sink your boat?”

     “It exploded. I didn’t . . .”

     Tom’s deadly look made him stop. After a few seconds, Tom turned his attention to the lake again.

     Curiosity got the better of him; the man asked who Bessie was.

     “Bessie, I told you,” He spat again. “Yep, you made her mad, you know. You of all people can’t afford to upset her. That’s the last thing a keeper needs to do.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” The man sucked in his breath as pain shot up his side. Through clenched teeth, he said, “What a lunatic.”

     Tom heard him. The pupils in his eyes grew as big as quarters. He flexed his fingers and his nostrils flared. He let out a deep laugh that penetrated the man’s nerves. He got no answer. Instead, Tom bent down and riffled through his pockets.

     “Hey! What are you doing? Get your filthy hands off me, you bastard.”

     Tom grinned at him and stuffed his wallet, a set of keys and change into his coat pocket. The man tried to twist away, the pain held him back. He wanted to kick Tom when he was being robbed of his watch and a priceless ring. Instead, all he could do was watch in horror when the stranger stepped back. The last thing he remembered was a big black boot aimed at his head.


     Bessie surfaced above the water. Tom squinted out at the lake and smiled as if he knew she was there. His smell was quite different from the other one. Bessie was puzzled. There were too many smells that surrounded Tom this time. Smells that drove her away. She went back under. She couldn’t put this new smell to memory.

     That’s when she saw Tom take the blood stone from her man on the sand. That wasn't supposed to happen. Why would he do that? The magic of the blood stone faded. Bessie didn't like it and got ready to defend her man. Tom ran away. She settled herself down to slow her breathing and waited.