It wasn't the cop in him; nothing like that. Just plain puzzlement that set Nathan to investigate. He moved down the valley through the trees, silently enjoying the game. He felt like he was out to count coup with the ghosts of his ancestors - a night raid on an enemy camp. As he neared the tree line, the voices grew louder but he still couldn't make out the words. He heard the noise of stone on stone, like men building a wall, but then came the slamming doors and even as he broke the tree line, the sound of an engine being turned. It fired and in the next instant the headlights stabbed into the wood raking across Nathan as the truck swung round. Evidently he wasn't seen, for the truck - it looked like a Dodge - drove away back down the valley, taillights bucking furiously.
Nathan's world became one of total darkness, the moon's light blocked out by the forest. Whatever they had been up to, it would stay a mystery until morning. The illusion of the game faded as Nathan made back for camp. He became hopelessly lost and it was only by luck he stumbled into his camp after casting around in the dark for hours. So much for the inbred sense of direction, he thought as he drew himself close to the embers to enjoy what was left of the night.
Then came bright morning shouldering with it the consequences of a dark deed.
It wasn't the way things were supposed to happen. Cops were not supposed to find dead people direct. Look, this is the way of it: an old hobo say, out early to be first in the soup queue, would stumble over the corpse, and mindful of his civic duty he would phone it in (probably anonymously) or trot off to the nearest precinct house. A day shift cop, bleary eyed before his first coffee break would get the call 'John Doe between the trash cans in the alley between 4th and 5th half a block south of Where-ever Avenue.' The cop would have a good idea of what to expect - he would be ready, steeled for the worst.
Nathan was neither ready nor steeled. He felt mildly sick and faintly ridiculous, dressed as he was. For once he wished he were in uniform. But all these feelings were blocked out by a mounting fury. This young man, this boy, lying twisted and broken below him had been murdered.
It was clear now why they had driven all the way into the wilderness in the middle of the night; they hadn't been burying treasure or stashing drugs; they had come to throw away this beaten boy like an empty and worn out potato sack. Oh, they had been so clever, tipping him headlong into a stony gully and carefully placing a few boulders about him. And had the coyotes eaten a bit more of him, the whole thing may have passed off as an accident: they had even put a rucksack on him, but it cut no ice with Nathan.
The boy was thin, would have been about five-nine. One shoe was off and wedged between two rocks. Under a fleece-lined denim coat he wore jeans and a heavy-duty plaid shirt. The coyotes had ripped the shirttails out and torn open the jeans at the top: they had made a good start on their meal, emasculating the corpse and opening the abdominal cavity. One shoe was in place on a foot that pointed the wrong way on a leg smashed below the knee. The head bore a wound on the crown but the face was untouched. The fall had left it unscathed, and for some reason the coyotes hadn't even scratched it.
The partially opened eyes, dirty windows to an empty room, showed more than anything else that this thing, this body, was no longer an object of beauty; no longer an abode for part of the Great Spirit. The temple had been desecrated, the spirit evicted and all that remained was moldering clay.