Black Lake - Best trout in the world


The first half of the road from Greenwell to Black Lake led along the boundary of the savanna and the southern forest, which was followed up by a section leading through the thick of the majestic forest. Larry drove at a leisurely pace, confident that we would arrive by mid afternoon. No one on board seemed to care to enjoy the view though.

Philippe was sketching a bull while Gabrielle wrote extensive notes about our journey. Helga and Paul sat in the back exchanging life stories and drawing jealous glances from Mara who pretended to be reading. Even Costas ignored the view, instead spending his time managing the recordings on his camcorder.

It was barely 2 PM when we caught sight of our destination. Black Lake is a small town of roughly ten thousand people, built along the shore of the lake for which it was named. Founded in 1805, Black Lake started out as a fishing village and grew from there. Despite the appealing scenery which prompted the founding of the tourist magnet Camp Black Lake, the town never quite reached the same heights in tourism as Greenwell. Nevertheless it attracts plenty of visitors as Black Lake has a reputation of being a nice quiet town with a caring community of peaceful and friendly people.

As planned, Larry drove the bus towards our accommodation as soon as we passed through the town limits. When he made the announcement of our impending arrival, Keiko went up to the upper level of the bus and returned in a trench coat, a recent purchase from Greenwell, so recent that the price tag was still on it. She stepped beside the driver's booth and told Larry to drive straight to the fishery. Larry, preferring to stretch his legs at the hotel first, declined her request.

In response Keiko pulled a brand new McKilsky Scattershooter machine pistol on him, another recent purchase with the price tag still attached. When Larry expressed his doubts that the weapon was even loaded, Keiko let loose a burst into the ceiling of the bus. One of the bullets ricocheted and swept past Larry's ear. Then she pointed the weapon at Larry and repeated her request, while the remaining passengers stared at her in deathly silence.

*

The Con City Acclimatization Syndrome is one of the biggest medical mysteries of the 21st century. It is defined as the onset of violent behavior in tourists who visit Con City or its surrounding towns, brought on by prolonged exposure to the extreme levels of violence and other illegal activities in the area.

Had a psychiatrist been on board the bus, they would have been quick to diagnose Keiko with the Con City Acclimatization Syndrome. They would have been mistaken.

In reality, Keiko was completely healthy. She was simply stressed out and her poor experiences of Con County tipped her over the edge. She had sought stress relief in her holiday, while she wound up with the exact opposite. Her reaction was not all that surprising, and certainly not the onset of the Con City Acclimatization Syndrome.

Of course the moral of her story is that stressed out people should never come to Con County for vacation. Chris made that same mistake, as evidenced by his reaction to the encounter with the fans of Terrence Blunt, and paid for it dearly. Chris, on the other hand, did not have the foresight to buy a machine pistol before poking the bear.

*

Keiko's sense of self-preservation extended to much greater lengths than we first thought, as it turned out she had bought not one but two McKilsky Scattershooters. Her convincing power thus multiplied, Larry grudgingly gave in and drove the bus towards the fishery.

The drive took only five minutes as Black Lake is a rather small settlement. We went past a series of small family homes similar to the ones in Desert Rock until we arrived at a two-story factory-like building at the shore of the lake. Keiko ordered everyone off the bus, concealed her weapons beneath her trench coat, and nodded to the group to walk towards the building. As she looked at the large sign that said, "Sloan Fishery", and beneath it, "Home of the Black Lake trout", her body visibly shivered.

Sloan Fishery is the oldest company in Black Lake. Presently run by Albert Sloan, the fishery is the only official supplier of Black Lake trout in the entire world. Local residents are allowed to go fishing for personal use, but they are required to hold a permit and are limited to a set annual quota of trout they can catch. These rules give Sloan Fishery a monopoly on Black Lake trout trade, which explains the outrageous costs of Black Lake trout in the restaurants of Con County. It also explains why the Black Lake trout is so hard to purchase anywhere outside of the county, despite that recent decreases in export tax hoped to promote global trade of Black Lake trout.

Keiko was utterly unconcerned by the rules of trout trade or Sloan's monopoly. She just wanted to taste the fish of her dreams. She ordered the group into the fishery where a receptionist informed us that the next guided tour would not start for another forty minutes. Keiko took Larry by the arm and walked up to the receptionist desk, expressing her desire to purchase some Black Lake trout. When the receptionist explained that samples of the trout are sold at the end of the tour, Keiko pulled one of the machine pistols on her and demanded to know the location of the sample desk.

The receptionist pointed down one of the corridors and Keiko told her to lead the way. After two corners the sample desk came into view.  The desk was covered in samples of fish that looked like ordinary lake trout. This was no reason for concern as the only way in which the Black Lake trout differs from ordinary lake trout is that it lives in Black Lake and has a slightly different taste.

A security guard stood beside the desk. When he saw the Scattershooter in Keiko's hand he reached for his gun, but Keiko shot him in the knee and the man collapsed with a yell. She took his gun and pointed her machine pistol at the woman standing behind the desk.

"I'd like some Black Lake trout for takeaway," she said.

The woman behind the desk trembled slightly.

"What... what sort of Black Lake trout would you prefer? We have... smoked... lightly smoked... poached... and grilled varieties."

Keiko's hand shook and her lips began to twitch. A single drop of tear slid down her cheek.

"All of them..." she whispered, then she cleared her throat. "I'll take one of each. No, make that two. Of each. And I think my friends will want some as well."

She handed her credit card to the confused woman and said she would pay for everyone, then she put away her machine pistol and picked up a slice of smoked Black Lake trout from the table.

She took a bite and shivered in ecstasy. Tears of joy poured down her face and she chuckled like a happy schoolgirl.

It took a few moments for us to realize that she wasn't chuckling but choking. The problem became more evident when she collapsed to the ground and started shaking uncontrollably.

Costas immediately reached for his pocket, meaning to take out his camcorder and start filming. He forcefully slapped his forehead when he realized he had left the camcorder on the bus.

The receptionist ran off to get a doctor (not for Keiko, but for the security guard), but by the time the doctor arrived Keiko was already dead. As he patched up the security guard's legs he took a passing glance at Keiko's face and shook his head.

"Did you know that in every one million people there is one who is allergic to the Black Lake trout?" he asked. "Quite rare, but unfortunately it is fatal."

None of the other members of the tour group dared to touch the Black Lake trout Keiko had bought for them before her untimely end.

*

The sheriff of Black Lake showed up five minutes after the doctor. He confiscated Keiko's weapons and berated Larry for allowing things to get out of control on his tour.

"This used to be such a nice, quiet little town," the sheriff said. "I don't need troublemakers like you. Young women start running around Black Lake waving submachine guns and before long we'll have bank robbers and drug dealers running our fair town. Or worse, black ops military might invade the town, taking all of us hostage to blackmail the President into censoring the internet. I don't need this shit. Now get the Hell out of my town!"

We were promptly evicted from the friendly and welcoming community of Black Lake. The sheriff ordered a deputy to escort us to the town limits and watch us drive away. The deputy took his job seriously and fired off numerous warning shots into the air to urge us to keep moving. Larry set off at top speed, shattering the speed limit, which then prompted the deputy to pursue the bus in order to give Larry a ticket.

Costas filmed the police car during the chase from the back window of the bus. The whole endeavor looked hopeless as the police car was a good deal faster than the bus. Eventually Paul and Mara walked up to the driver's booth and offered their expertise to Larry. Since Larry was in no mood to deal with the deputy again, he handed the wheel over to Paul.

The long time Australian road train driver put the pedal to the metal while his cousin kept an eye on the distance between the bus and the deputy. When she deemed the positioning good, she signaled to Paul who sharply turned the wheel and stepped on the breaks.

The bus executed a miraculous U-turn, jerking everyone on board around in their seats. While Mara successfully held on by the handles next to the driver's booth, Costas was violently tossed against the window in the back of the bus, shattering his nose. Stavros rushed to his brother's aid with a handkerchief, while Paul stepped on the gas and attempted to ram the approaching police car head on.

Philippe and Gabrielle questioned the wisdom of this decision, and urged Larry to intervene. Larry sat in a passenger seat with his legs crossed, smoking a cigarette, and simply waved it off.

"Carry on, Paul!" he said. "You show that bastard!"

Paul hardly needed the encouragement. He drove as fast as the bus would go. The deputy held his course true, but eventually he concluded that the collision would hurt his car more than it would the massive tourist bus, so a couple of yards before impact he pulled on the wheel and evaded the bus. The police car landed in a ditch and turned upside down. The deputy crawled out of the wreck and fired off a shot at the bus, cracking the glass in the back window. That was the last we saw of the Black Lake police force.

Larry took the wheel after he finished his cigarette, and Paul retreated to the back of the bus where Helga gave him a hero's welcome. Nearby, the injured Costas was sulking over the fact that he missed out on the best part of the car chase. Gabrielle and Philippe looked slightly pale, as if they were wondering about the Con City Acclimatization Syndrome and whether Paul and Mara were exhibiting its signs.

Had a psychiatrist been on board the bus, they would have diagnosed Paul as a chronic case of the Con City Acclimatization Syndrome.

They would have been right.



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