Throughout the village, Snapper was a legend, and as elusive as Loch Ness. He had been seen several times over the past ten-years and of one those times, the teen who told the story was not to be trusted.

Last September, local hunter, Farley Jacks, claimed he shot down a pheasant along the edge of the pound, and by the time he got there to retrieve the bird, Snapper had beaten him to it. Farley said, "That fucking Snapper is bigger than a manhole cover. When I got close to'em he hissed and charged at me. I nearly pissed my pants! I was so scared, I forgot to take a shot."

Another sighting came last summer in late August. Ricky Combs was walking his husky along the pond when Snapper leapt out of the muck and bit into the dog's left flank. Ricky said the yelping was horrific. The dog fell on its side and Snapper tore into its flesh. Ricky hit it in the head with a rock. It let go and raced back to the pond, but not without a chunk of dog meat in its jaws. The wound got infected and the dog died a few days later.

After that, Mayor Gunner ordered warnings signs along the pound and swamp until Snapper was caught. There was a $5,000.00 reward for his capture, dead or alive.

It's been ten-months since the dog incident, with a few dozen prize-hunters failing to bring Snapper in. He hasn't been seen since the attack.

It was the middle of June. Carter and Dylan were walking home from their last day of high school before going to college. They were talking about the legend of Snapper and the five-grand prize.

"We could split the cash …" said Carter, "Think of all the girls we could have if we buy that old '57 Chevy at the end of town and take it to college. It's only fifteen-hundred!"

Dylan smiled, "Yeah, and all the sex we could have in the back seat. And we'd be local heroes. Mayor Gunner would decorate us! Girls would be crazy hot for us!" They shook hands to form a partnership, then went to Carter's garage to layout plans for bringing Snapper in.

They'd have to build a raft, make spears and take their crossbows. They also made a pact to not mention this to anybody, and shook hands again, then they spent the rest of the day going over plans for building the raft, and how to steal the wood from the lumber company near the creek.

That evening, they used part of the night for guiding the stolen lumber along the waterway until they had enough. Then they set up camp in the woods near the pond, and waited until first light —Carter's golden lab was with them.

At dawn, and chained to a tree, Barney was barking manically. There was screaming and squealing. Carter woke first, then Dylan. They ran out of the tent to witness a racoon being dragged into the pond. It was bleeding profusely. Snapper had the coon by its hind leg. It didn't stand a chance. Snapper pulled the coon underwater and it was gone.

"Quiet, Barney, quiet!" shouted Carter.

"Holy crap!", screamed Dylan, "What the fuck! Did you see the size of its head? It's as big as a basketball! Holy crap!"

Dylan grabbed a bow and carefully walked to the edge of the pond. Nothing. Not a sign of coon nor turtle.

The boys settled down after the adrenaline rush and started to build the raft. By noon it was done. Their first plan was to float along the banks of the pond and then into the swamp to see if they could find Snapper feeding on the coon. They took their bows, spears and some rocks, and left Barney back at camp chained to the tree.

Leaving the pond, and about halfway into the swamp, which is six-square miles, they spotted the remains of the coon along a muddy bank. Chills went up their spines. There was nothing left but fur and a chewed-open head. All the meat, guts and brains were gone.

"What in hell are we dealing with?" whispered Dylan, "Maybe we should call this off."

Carter countered, "Nah, we're smarter than Snapper. Besides, we're heavily armed."

Suddenly, they heard Barney growling, like when he's crazy angry. They heard the attack. The fight. The struggle. Yelping, howling and hissing. Then silence.

"Barney!" screamed Carter, "Barney!"

They maneuvered the raft out of the swamp and into the pond, and in the distance they saw the scene: Snapper was feeding on Barney's guts while Barney was still struggling.

Carter screamed, "No, no, no!"

He aimed the bow and took a shot. It hit near Snapper's head. Snapper continued feeding. Carter shot again and hit Barney's head. The dog stopped moving. Snapper dragged the carcass toward the pond, but the chained dog could only go so far. Ripping Barney apart, Snapper hurried into the water carrying a chunk of dog with him. Carter took another shot. It hit the mud.

After the burial of Barney's remains, they sat in shock. It was hot, muggy and moving into early evening. The sun was on its way down, the air was sweltering.

Carter was weeping and asking, "What am I gonna' to tell my parents? What!?" He was crying harder but managed to say. "My dad loves Barney. What am I gonna to tell'em?"

Dylan was lost for words. Shaking and sweating he stood up, bent his head down, and started crying. Then in a low wicked tone, He said,

"I'm gonna' kill that bastard. I'm gonna put an arrow through its skull. I'm telling'ya, straight through its skull, and then two more. I'm gonna slaughter that fucker." He walked to the raft, got on and shoved off.

"Dylan, wait! No!", Carter ran to the water's edge, but it was too late. Dylan was on the move.

"Dylan!" shouted Carter, "This is crazy. We need to tell our parents." He was crying more, "Come back!"

Dylan rounded the corner to where the pond turned into the swamp and then he was gone.

Carter fell to his knees sobbing, and then got up and ran home.

When the police and parents arrived at the pond it was eight-thirty in the evening, still light out, but in twenty minutes it would be dark. Everyone was calling Dylan's name. Police walked along the edge of the pond with hand-held spotlights and pistols. More people came with bigger lights. A four-wheel pickup truck pulled up with a massive motorized rubber raft on the bed.

Mayor Gunner said, "It's too dangerous. Snapper could rip into it. There are canoes and rowboats coming, and hunters with shotguns. I called for a State Police chopper."

A half-hour later the pond was crowded with a dozen canoes and rowboats filled with men, women, spotlights and guns. In the clear depths of the pond there was no sign of Dylan nor the turtle, but the chopper was needed for a visual on the swamp.

In the reeds the chopper spotted the raft pulled onto a bank, like somebody dragged it there. Four ex-Seals were dropped into the swamp. Near the raft, in the mud, they located one of Dylan's sneakers. The bows, arrows and spears were gone. For three days the State and local police dragged the pond and searched the wooded area, with the ex-Seals diving extensively through the pond and swamp. With the positioning of the raft pulled onto the bank, the found sneaker, and the missing weapons, the FBI's investigation into the teen's disappearance called it a possible kidnapping.

Dylan was never seen again.

About three miles from the pond the Feds swept through a homeless camp turning up a small amount heroin and a few illegal handguns, but nothing of Dylan, nor his gear. A few weeks later, the village fathers voted to fence-off the pond permanently, ordering people to stay out.

Six months to the date of Dylan's disappearance, Carter's body was found by hunters near the pond. A self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A note to his parents and Dylan's parents was found in his pocket:

I'm sorry for the grief I've caused. Dylan was my best friend.

I'm sorry about Barney. I hurt so much.

A year after Dylan's disappearance, a life-sized bronze monument of the boys and the dog was placed in the village park in honor of their memory. The plaque reads:

Carter Trevor, Dylan Stone, and Barney
----------------friends forever

As for Snapper, he was never seen again, dead or alive.


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