Murder in the Woods

Submitted into Contest #95 in response to: Start your story with someone being presented with a dilemma.... view prompt

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Crime Fiction Mystery

The sound of a shot ripped through the silence of the shack.

What the hell's going on?

I waited a few minutes in the chilling interior of the shack.

Finally, I eased open the door and stepped cautiously on to the shaky step.

Where's the guy? Has he taken off? Where did the shot come from?

"What's up?" I called.

The dense forest surrounding me remained silent.

"Need help?"

I walked a short distance over wet, snow soaked Fall leaves.

"Bruce, where are you?"

This could be my chance to clear out. Get out of this place where I did not want to be. A place where I'd been forced to stay by a guy holding a gun. I could walk away but what if....?

Then I saw the form, in the dense undergrowth, beneath a towering pine. Arms flung wide. Not moving.

I took a few hesitant steps closer.

Is this a trick? Is he faking it?

"You okay?"

Blood leaked on to the ground beneath Bruce's head.

I heard movement deep in the woods, something, someone crash through the underbrush.

Bruce was not breathing. There was no pulse.

After what seemed forever in an endless attempt to revive him, with CPR, I stopped.

I've got to get our of here but I can't leave the body. It will be ripped apart by animals.

There will be questions. Where did I spend the night and why?

I looked around-no shovel, even a pick or axe. Damn. I've got to dispose of the body before I head back.

There may be a search organized. May have found my car at the trailhead. I'll get phone reception down the trail a ways.

They don't need to know about Bruce-wrong place, wrong time. No body. No crime.

I took the ragged blanket from the shack, rolled the body and the backpack in it and secured any loose edges. It was heavy and would take a while to move it even the short distance.

I would drag it along the path to The Gut. Shove it into the river.

Adrenalin kicked in. I was close to freedom. Escape from the fear that gripped me over the past twenty-four hours.

Bruce was living a dream. His plan was to form a partnership, take on the developers who were trying to build a highway to bypass the town, build a mall, offices, mega-homes, a sports complex, a casino and more.

Tear the heart out of the town: its historic buildings stamped by the Scots: in architecture, parks, trails, boutiques, restaurants, theatre and music that nurtured the community and made it the most desirable tourist site forever. Bruce was an idealist.

As a lawyer, I was a realist. Follow the money. Finally, I will step back into that reality of life.

I'll sort out what I've been through. Get it organized in my mind and set it aside to move on. It's the past and it will stay in the past.

I reached the bridge.

It used to be a solid short cut to another section of the trail. Definitely not solid now. Those five planks still in place looked shaky but stable enough and solid to take my weight. One step at a time, place each foot safely until I'm half way across and beyond the embankment. I'll shove my load into the river. Railing's flimsy so I'll slide it under, push it to the edge until it tips and falls into the water.

The river followed a path across county lines, around swamps and low areas, eddies and rapids. In the spring the water would overflow the banks. First day of spring, kayakers and canoeist put in to race the water's route to the the lake. I trusted this river, it carried my security, it carried hopes and joys.

As I watched, it plummeted into the surging river, the current caught it, swept it along and tossed it on and off the submerged rocks. For a few moments, I sat on the bank to catch my breath and remember how the day had unfolded. His plan would not have worked. We could have talked until the cows come home. Nothing would have worked as he imagined. Poor bugger.

My heart pulsed in my throat as I remembered the shot, the body on the ground, blood colleting on the earth. Could have been a hunter rushing the season. I felt flushed and weak as I leaned against the pine.

It was all about choices. I had to make a choice. Was it the right choice? My dilemma. Are there right choices or do we make them right by our actions that follow? There will be consequences. Of that I'm sure.

Then I saw it, clinging to a rock that jutted from the edge of the bank, too steep, impossible to access and retrieve. The rock held it fast and it beckoned like a flag: my scarf. Bruce had worn it when he went to chop kindling.

After the 911 call I knew a constable would be waiting in his cruiser. Maybe it would be Stokoe, my buddy from high school. We had each others back, then. Do we still have each other's back? He has been promoted to Detective. A new Detective from Toronto, not a small town friendly guy, has joined the force. Rumor has it their relationship is good cop/bad cop. Aware that lawyers and police do not always have a good working relationship, I would step carefully.

Tell the truth Dave. I hear Stokoe's voice in my head. Always tell the truth. I must get my story right. Must be convincing. I felt the car keys in my pocket and shouted: I'm Dave Warner, the guy who makes things happen. I'm not a victim. I'm getting on with my life.

My true story with some details deleted, some revisions.

I had needed time away from the office. Decided to take a walk. The weather turned, rain and wind, then fog settled in. No phone access. Decided to get out of the elements and spent the night in the shack. My story.

May 25, 2021 18:25

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