STEVEN JERAL HARRIS
EMERALD BLUE OKIKI
Night matures as Frank drives away from Rochester and into a secluded town that has no buildings, and the small homes, which are made out of wood, are acres apart. The town is mostly full of thick dark woods that stretch for miles and miles. The sky is free of clouds, making the full moon look grand and vivid behind the towering pine trees. He cruises his way down a pitch-black road with his headlights revealing only what’s 40 yards ahead of him. He continues to drive down the lonely winding road until a faint light can be seen peeking through the pine trees from afar.
He slows to a halt at an illuminated area blocked off by two squad cars, an old pickup truck, a couple of sedans, and burning road flares. There he sees three state troopers, an old man, and this tall casually dressed fellow talking together. The tall man, who is dressed in a gray suit, approaches and greets Frank as he exits his vehicle.
‘What we got Jones?’ Frank asks the tall fellow as he steps out of the car.
Jones shrugs his shoulders and shakes his face with a mystified expression.
‘We don’t know just yet, but its looks like an animal attack. It’s a bad one. Something is really strange about this one Frank’ Jones says as they cut between the squad cars and walk into a lit trail that goes deep into the thick forest.
Frank follows behind Jones as they carefully walk through the narrow trail. Shortly they arrive at the scene of the incident, where four people, two men and two women, are examining the area for evidence and taking pictures. Frank sees the body of the victim laying awkwardly twisted on the forest floor. This body belongs to a 25 year old college graduate woman named Adrian. She’s wearing what appears to Frank as hiking gear. Dry leaves are sticking out of her dark hair, her shirt is ripped horribly and covered in blood, and her eyes are frozen in absolute dread. Her blood is still fresh enough to appear crimson on her clothes and on the ground.
Frank immediately calculates the time of death in his head by the shade of her blood. In his head he estimates that she died around 4 hours ago. He also begins to take other things into consideration like the amount of mud on her boots, the twigs protruding out of her clothes, and how her personal belongings are not with her body. This tells him she had to be running for a while before her death. Also, by her frightened eyes, she died terrified.
‘Found her just like this,’ Jones informs. ‘Her personal belongings are at a camping area a half mile from here.’
Frank kneels next to the woman’s lifeless body which is constantly being illuminated by camera flashes. He then takes out a small flashlight from his pocket to observe the area better.
‘Any I.D?’ He asks.
“Yeah, Adrian Singleton, already notified the parents. They say she came up here from Buffalo with her boyfriend.”
‘Hiking?’ Frank asks.
‘And her boyfriend’s whereabouts?’
‘He’s missing too,’ Jones answers.
Using a pen, Frank lifts up her badly torn shirt while holding the flashlight in the other hand. The light helps reveal a series of deep claw marks around a large cavity in her torso.
‘Holy shit,’ Frank says automatically when he sees the opened wound.
He covers her wound again and takes a second to gather his thoughts. The sight is so gruesome it manages to stupefy Frank, and for someone in his line of work, that doesn’t happen very often. As he stares at her frightened eyes, his mind attempts to form a scenario, but he can’t seem to connect the dots.
‘What do you think?’ Jones interrogates.
‘I have never seen anything like this,’ Frank replies both dumbfounded and appalled.
‘Tell me about it. What animal would rip someone open like that?’ Jones asks Frank.
‘I don’t know, but I’m gonna find out.’ Frank says with a newly found determination.
His eyes searches around the forest floor for clues. He begins to prowl close to the ground searching for what he can find. He scatters some pine needles and notice several boot prints, probably belonging to the victim.
‘She ran for some time and was caught. There was a struggle that didn’t last very long.’ Frank assumes as he continues to hunt down clues.
He then spots something rather unusual and freezes at the first sight of it. It looks like a footprint.
Actually, it’s a pair of footprints and it’s not that far from the victim’s body.
‘Someone else was here. The soil is really disturbed. That means, whoever it was, they stood here for a while. But why?’
As Frank takes some time to ponder, Jones kneels next to him.
‘Maybe it’s the boyfriend’s prints.’ Jones adds.
Frank considers that fact, but when he scatters more pine needles away from the imprint to observe it better, Jones’s accusation slips from his mind. He moves closer to the footprints and concentrates the light onto it. The footprint is unlike any humans. It’s larger with claw marks.
‘These are not human feet.’ Frank declares. ‘Have you ever seen a print like that?’ Frank asks with a baffled expression.
Jones bathes in his own thoughts for a moment or so. Awhile after, his mind then gives up on Frank’s question, and then he shakes the confusion from his head.
‘Bear?’ Jones says the first thing that sounds reasonable to him.
‘Don’t look much like a bear print either. Whatever it was, it tracked her down. She fought it, well, tried to at least,’ Frank tells him with a hint of remorse towards the end of the sentence.
Frank stands to his feet with his partner following him and brushes his palms clean.
‘Jones, you know I never say this, but I have a bad feeling about this one,’ Frank admits as he continues to look at the body.
‘Same here,’ Jones agrees.
Suddenly, those peering eyes become busy again. Frank shines the light around and finds yet another suspicious indentation. He moves closer to observe it. It’s another boot print but the pattern in these boots is unlike the other.
‘Okay I see her boot prints but these belong to someone else.”
‘Yeah, it’s old man Duncan’s boots.’
‘Come again?’ Frank backfires.
‘You know the old man who lives on the lake a couple clicks down the road. He’s the one who found the body. You should talk to him.’
Shortly, Jones and Frank exit the forest and walk over to three state troopers talking to a very upset bearded elderly man in the middle of the road. The old man is wearing brown hunting clothes and rugged leather boots on his feet. The cops are trying to lower the old man’s irritation but they only seem to be adding fuel to his fire.
‘Sir please calm down for a second.’ Frank says in a dominating tone.
Frank’s demanding tone works to an extent, but the old man is still ranting underneath his breath about how the troopers are too stupid to understand anything.
‘Officers may I have a second.’ Frank asks.
‘Sure.’ A trooper replies and steps aside.
The others step back making space between Frank and the older man.
‘Stupid son of a bitch,’ the old man backfires to one of the troopers.
‘Hey! There’s no need for that kind of language. Take a breather.’ Frank orders the old man.
He manages to persuade the old man to calm himself although his face is still red.
‘Start from the beginning please, without yelling.’ Frank tells the old man.
The old man sighs before starting over.
‘I heard some screaming. It was just before sunset. I was across the road here.’ He points behind himself towards the other side of the forest.
‘What were you doing out here?’
‘Hunting. Didn’t get any game so I decided to head home early. And that’s when I heard the screamin’. Man she was screamin somethin fierce too. Then I crossed the road here. I had my gun ready because I knew someone was in trouble. Then that’s when I saw her laying down. She was probably forty feet away from where I was standing,’ the old man forces his emotions back before continuing. ‘She was just killed because her body was still shaking a little.’ Tears gather in the old man eyes and this time it takes longer for him to continue the story.
‘Only if I was there a minute before, you know,’ grief begins to grip the elderly man.
‘Did you see anyone?’
‘Yes I did,’ he replies timidly. ‘I saw someone squatting down near her body, whistling. I thought it was a man at first glimpse but I don’t know what the hell it was.’
‘It?’ Frank asks uneasily.
‘I saw its back. I mean the damn thing even squats down like a man and everything. It was looking down doing something. I couldn’t figure it out at first.’
‘Hold on, what are we talking about here?’
Frank digs deeper.
‘Sir, I have no idea. It wasn’t no man though, I’ll tell ya that much. It looked like a man, had a body like one, but its head was all wrinkly. Then it stopped whistling and started to sniff the air like a damn animal.
Watch out for the next episode... New episode reads on Tuesdays.