Saturday, March 7, 2009
Wordzzle 53 - Moving on in year two of Wondrous Wordzzling
Stop by the Raven's Nest to get all the details and see all the other stories.
This Week's Ten Word Challenge: chopping block, reading list, bangles, oracle, plan, fandango, spelling bee, calendar, utilitarian, flower pot
Mini Challenge: Siberia, citrus fruit, roofer, shamrock, twinkle twinkle little star
This weeks Episode: Revelations
Dan and Carla stopped for lunch in a small arroyo. Dan picked a spot 2/3 of the way up the shady side. He had learned to plan for the worst in desert hiking and that included being prepared for flash flooding. It was surprising how many novices drowned in desert washes from thunderstorms miles away and not visible over the horizon. He didn't bother to explain this to Carla. He knew desert survival manuals were not on her reading list. She expected him to handle that part of the hike.
She took care of what she enjoyed, which included packing, provisions, sun block, first aid and sports fashion. When they hiked they never lacked citrus fruit for nutrition, proper socks and underwear, quality sun protection and decent looking hiking togs. Her father had been a roofer for a while and she knew the need for protection from solar radiation. Carla opted for leather banded watches in lieu of more fashionable bangles for hikes in the wilderness. As her one concession to style while hiking she wore the shamrock medallion given to her by her Mom for high-school graduation. She stored the fine gold chain on which it had come and used a utilitarian leather thong around her neck for safety and comfort.
The spot chosen for lunch was directly beneath a large boulder that resembled an upturned flower pot in a giant's garden. Dan had seen pictures of boulders like this in Siberia near the spot of the 1907 Meteor explosion. Funny how regions so far apart could have similar geological features. The couple consumed sandwiches washed down with water and each had a power bar for desert. The hike continued through the afternoon and still the buzzard circle was some distance.
The moon had risen along with Venus on the horizon and Carla softly hummed "Twinkle, twinkle little star" as they stopped at a rise with a view of the valley floor and the circling vultures. They rested just below the crest and Dan pulled out binoculars to take a look at the scene below. Just at that moment a helicopter came from over the horizon towards them but set down in the valley next to whatever the scavengers had been eating. From this distance all Dan could make out was an individual leaving the chopper and using a shotgun to scare away the big birds.
The shot could be heard across the valley to the height of their perch. Dan looked to the aircraft for tail rotor numbers but couldn't make them out. The man (it looked to be a man from the distance) was removing something from the ground that appeared to be cloth and then quickly returned to the chopper. The aircraft lifted off, made a sharp 180 degree turn and was headed off in the direction from which it had come. Carla watched the distant action and then asked Dan "What was that all about?" "I'm not sure" he replied. "How do you feel about making camp a little later this evening?" he asked. "I'd like to find out what's left down there." “We should be able to get down there in under and hour" he finished. "OK sugar, I'm curious myself" Carla answered. Each took a sip of water from their canteens and headed down into the valley.
By the time the couple arrived at the site of the remains, the scavengers had returned. Dan yelled and waved his hands and the band of vultures took to the air. It was just as well. The bones remaining had barely any flesh on them. Indeed the skeleton itself was incomplete. The only thing that was obvious was that it was human. The skull was missing as well as some fingers, but enough remained to be sure. The decision was made that pictures were needed. Dan wasn't sure what they had stumbled upon, but for safety's sake they would document the whole fandango going forward. Dan's experience in law enforcement didn't make him any kind of Oracle of bad tidings exactly, but it had taught him to not put his head on the chopping block needlessly. In this case a solid dose of CYA would also be good citizenship. Kind of a twofer.
Carla volunteered to photograph the skeleton and Dan took the scene and surroundings. Daylight was fading and they still wanted to head back up out of the valley to camp. The site was bound to attract bigger nocturnal scavengers and predators with which neither was willing to share a sleeping bag. It was while taking shots of the perimeter that Dan found the skull. It must have been dragged by a Vulture away from the body of the corpse for more relaxed dining, he thought to himself. He took several pictures and then noticed a glint of gold inside the skull. At first he thought it might be an old fashioned gold tooth filling, but upon closer inspection he found it to be a necklace of some sort with what appeared to be a tiny golden calendar as the pendant. What Dan couldn't know at the time was that the pendant was a replica of the Stonehenge "Lozenge calendar, famous mostly to history buffs, spelling bee contestants and math geeks.
The owner had somehow kept the pendant in his or her mouth (how did you tell from a skeleton which sex it was anyway? All his experience had been with dead people with flesh and the forensic folk took over with bones) This could well be a crime scene and if it was why the Chopper today? The victim had been dead for a few days, at least long enough for the buzzards to strip the flesh from bone. What had they come back or to this spot for? And what was the cloth they took? Whatever the reason it seemed like a good idea to finish up and get back up the trail.
Dan knew they were exposed out here with little cover if someone else came back and at this point he wasn't willing to make their presence known if they didn't have to. Back at the truck he had a radio that could reach the ranger station and then he'd turn the film and the investigation over to them. Dan signaled to Carla that they were leaving and she joined him. "Let's get back up the hill for the night" he said. "Sure sugar, but why the rush" "Don't you want to look around some more?" she asked. "I think we've got enough to help the authorities and I'm concerned we might see the folks in the chopper again." "That might not be such a good thing" he finished. "Oh" Carla replied with a sudden look of enlightenment. "You thinking what I'm thinking?" she queried. "Only if what you're thinking is that whoever came all the way out here in a Helicopter to take something off a days old corpse might be involved with the victim's death" he answered. "I'm right behind you darling, let's boogie on up outa here" she replied as they started back towards the rise.
Within 15 minutes they had made it to the large boulders at the edge of the valley. Within the confines of the rocks the sound of a helicopter's engine echoed loudly. Dan and Carla took up positions out of sight but enabling them to view the scene with Dan's binoculars. It was too dark by now to see much, but from what Dan and then Carla (she demanded a turn at the Binocs this time) could make out the remaining bones were picked up and carried to the chopper. It looked as if a swift search with the bird’s searchlight was made of the surrounding area. Perhaps the chopper people realized the skull was missing too, because they set back down and retrieved it as well. While doing that they must have noticed the couple's tracks because the next thing Dan and Carla knew the Helicopter was coming straight at them. Dan shoved Carla under the lip of a rock, and then found his own hiding spot. "Was this just a murder being covered up?" Dan wondered as the Helicopter approached.