See Canyon Fall Hike by Randy Cockrell October 2014
Jean Hays was doing what she came to Arizona for, hiking. The fall colors here were muted, for the most part. Yellow dominated the central mountains fall color scheme unless you hiked down into a canyon. Then, the hiker saw all the colors of an Eastern fall day. Fallen leaves rustled underfoot and the smell was pure autumn, dusty, leafy, and woodsy. The sky was cloudless and she didn’t have a name for the color, but only was seen in October.
Her hiking partner was her friend, Karen Carver. They’d first met when Jean joined the Hise County Fair board. Karen was a Superintendent at the fair in charge of Homemaking Arts. They’d hit it off right away. The Fair was over for the year. It was time to enjoy the countryside.
The stream bed they’d been following had a trickle of water in it. It caught the sky above and reflected that glorious blue. Red and yellow maple leaves floated along with the water. When they came to a small pool, Jean called a break. Karen slipped her pack from her back and pulled out a well used Girl Scout sit-upon.
“Looks like you’ve had that awhile,” Jean said when she saw Karen spread it on a fallen tree trunk.
“I have.” She sat down and pulled a granola bar from her pocket. “It was my daughter, Peggy’s. It’s still good, so I use it. I don’t know if she even remembers I still have it.” She looked at what Jean was pulling out of her pack. “What’s that?”
“I cut up a foam floating mat to fit in the back of my pack. It’s the perfect size, good protection from wet, cold,” she examined a snag on the trunk and moved down a few inches, “and sharp things.” She pulled a baggie of Sungold cherry tomatoes out of the pack. “The last of the garden cherrys, want some?” Jean held out the bag.
Karen took four and popped one in her mouth. “Oh my, those are so good.”
Jean pulled a water bottle from the pack outside pocket and drank. Her eyes focused on something on the opposite side of the pool. “That doesn’t look natural.”
She walked around the pool and scrambled part way up the canyon’s side to a tree. “It’s a duffle bag,” she called down to Karen. “It’s a big duffle.”
“Who’d carry a duffle bag on a hike?” Karen wondered.
Jean tugged at it. It came loose from where it had lodged against the tree and rolled down the slope. The rotten canvas, discolored and moldy, split open when it hit a rock. Jean slipped down the hill and looked inside. “Oh my, God.” She danced away from the bag, back around the pool and stood panting beside Karen, now standing.
Jean stared at the bag. “It’s a body.”
Two hours later Greyson Chief of Police Nick White was standing with the women while police officers, EMT’s and Search and Rescue people milled around the area. “Two bodies in two months, Ms. Hays. I think that’s a record.”
Jean shrugged, annoyed with him. She’d found a body at the fair in September and stirred the whole town up. What could she say? It wasn’t her fault.
“In fairness, Chief,” Karen interceded for her friend. “We were just enjoying the day.”
“Huh,” he grunted. He pointed up the side of the canyon were police officers were taking pictures and measurements. “So you just pulled on it, it rolled down hill, hit the rock and split open?”
“Yeah.” She looked up at the sky, still blue but now spoiled somehow. “I grabbed the left end of the bag, where it’s cleaner than the rest. My feet were slipping on the leaves so I didn’t have a lot of control over it.” Jean still wasn’t over how he’d treated her during the Fair murder. It was as though he thought she was a bubble head or something. His tone of voice irked her now.
The coroner called out. “We have ID in the bag, Chief.”
“What’s the name?”
“Anson Prentiss. License is from 2003, 42 years of age, 5 ft 11 inches. Address is in Greyson.”
Nick White sighed. “Not going to look good on our stats, two murders in one year.”
Jean’s right eyebrow raised. Karen whispered, “I’ll explain later.”
“OK, get him to the morgue. Give the address to Boles, he can go check it out.” He turned to Jean and Karen. “You’re free to go. We have your statements.”
The women pulled on their packs and hiked out the way they came in. “What do you think?” Jean asked her friend.
“Anson Prentiss doesn’t ring a bell. But you know Greyson has a lot of new people move in each year. Or he could have been a summer person. Who knows?”
“Do you know the address?” Jean asked.
Karen stopped in the middle of the trail and turned around to stare at her friend. “Seriously? After the last time? You want to get involved?”
“Sure, why not?” Jean’s eyes twinkled with mischief. “If only to annoy Chief White. The guy’s attitude bugs me.”
Karen rolled her eyes and turned to continue hiking. “Yeah, I know the address, well, sort of. It’s in the old part of town, on the northeast side. You really want to go there?”
“Why not? We can just drive by; we don’t have to knock on the door or anything.” She grinned even though Karen couldn’t see her. We solved the last murder, didn’t we? We’ll just look, I promise.”
That statement made Karen snort. Jean could see her shake her head. “OK, we’ll drive by. That’s it.”
“Hoo!” Jean whooped. “We can stop for ice cream afterward.”
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