Nathan had risen before the sun and had breakfasted on raisons and water. Eager to solve the mystery of the night he jogged down the valley with the first light behind him. He found the scene almost immediately, it's location marked by the patient group of buzzards who waited upon the pleasure of the coyotes. Nathan put them all to flight. He feared the worst before he came to the edge of the shallow gully, but the sight was still a shock.
A terrible, terrible accident. Somewhere this kid's folks would be thinking of their son, wondering if he was having a good time, and here he was all smashed up.
Then, as Nathan slid down gravelly sides, he saw the boys' face. There would be no worrying parents for this one. His death would inconvenience very few, if any. Perhaps the Wilbur's would be a little sad for a while, but they would cope - as they had in the past.
He had been dead maybe a day. Certainly not more, for the animals would have made a better job of him. And then Nathan remembered the visitors and their pick-up. The cop in him stirred, and in seconds he suspected. This was a set up.
The body lay on its side on a slope head downwards. There was a massive wound, but where was the blood? Then Nathan noticed the bootless foot, and how strange it was that the sock was all twisted with the heel uppermost. And then again, where the coyotes had laid the midriff open and torn the clothing, there was a label on a shredded and bloodstained flap of cotton; the shorts had been put on back to front.
Nathan was in full cop mode now. He checked the laces of the boot on the other, broken, foot. Yes, they had been tied from the front, unless the victim had been a sou' paw. Nathan thought back, saw in his mind this boy when he walked and breathed and cussed. Nope, he was pretty certain; he'd been right handed.
Then came the clincher. Nathan carefully and reverently checked the corpse for signs of foul play and all too soon found them. Each wrist showed signs of having been tied up; marks and skin abrasions. Ankles too, while under the shirt was the mark of the cut of death. Small, neat and in line with the ribs, a half-inch cut above the heart. Here, steel had slipped in through young flesh and between sound ribs to rob away a life.
Nathan climbed to the gully's edge and looked down. How could anyone be so sick, so evil, so warped as to be blind to the sanctity of life? What was it that raged inside them? How did they feel afterwards? Oh, the clever bastards! In a day or so the animals would have destroyed any sign of...
Nathan was suddenly struck by a further horror. Ten months or so back, a couple of hikers found a skeleton, lying in a ravine just a few miles from here. It had never been identified, the file shut up and put away. Of course, the poor man had fallen, broken his leg, and died of exposure - probably. And what was he doing way out here? He had a backpack, didn't he? Well, must have been a lone hiker. What a shame. Poor man. And according to the medical examiner he must have only been in his late teens or early twenties. Such a tragedy. But these people will insist on going it alone, against all the rules.
Nathan hardly allowed himself to think it. Hell, some sick Hollywood shit would be screaming for the film rights before this boy was in his grave. Nathan had to sit down. On the edge of the gully with his legs crossed, he refused to look away from the horror. 'What the hell was the matter with people?' he thought as internal tears added weight to his heart.
He would bury the kid with rocks, then get back to civilization and call it in. The detectives would give him hell for disturbing the scene of a crime and failing to preserve evidence, and he would say, 'What do you want? A slightly re-arranged corpse with all the marks intact, or a coyote-chewed bag of rags and bones.' They would cuss rather than apologize and dig deeply into their ever-open box of hindsight. He would give them the finger and tell them to piss up a rope.