Giving the dog a bone
Lilly had no idea how long she had been sitting in the forest. She had stopped crying some time ago, but her anger toward the man that had buried her, was still simmering deep within her. The strange solar shadow, and the racing dark clouds remained, and had remained unchanged the entire time she had been here.
She had paced out the distance from her grave to the invisible wall of overwhelming dreed that seemed to be keeping her leaving the scene of the crime. It was about twenty feet and encompassed the entire burial site. No matter how hard she tried to get past that distance, she found it impossible to do. She couldn’t fully explain the feeling that would overcome her, but she got the distinct impression that something really bad would happen if she left her gravesite. The idea that she was even thinking about her gravesite, just seemed so surreal to her. She kept waiting to wake from this hellish nightmare, but her alarm clock never went off.
She finally grew tired of sitting. She got up and moved to her grave site and tried to dig herself out again, but as before, she found she couldn’t touch the dirt covering her body. She wasn’t even able move a single twig, or fallen leaf.
Her father would have had his hands full by now, raking all of the leaves that would fall in their yard. He always made her help him, and she hated it. It was times like those that she had wished that she was not an only child. Having a brother sure would have made her life easier. She wondered if her parents even knew that she was missing yet? Did anybody, except for the man that killed her, know that she was missing?
They had to know, she told herself, looking up to the darkened sky. How long had she been here? It felt like days had passed, but with no sun or moon to judge the passing of time, she could have been here longer, but surly not that long. And even if her parents were looking for her, no one would ever find her out here in the woods. Her parents knew that she would have been running in the park, which was only about a mile from their house, but the problem was that the park was huge. It was over five hundred and sixty acres of land, and had large areas of heavy woods, with numerous nature trails and wild life. That was if she was even still in the park, she suddenly thought.
Slamming her fist down on the ground, she sprang to her feet, and screamed out loud again. She knew that no one could hear her, but the overall act made her feel a tad bit better. Why was she still here, she wondered? She hadn’t been a bad person in life, so she was sure that her soul should be going to heaven, but why hadn’t it? What if there wasn’t a heaven, or a hell, she thought? What if there was no life after death? What if this was it? She screamed out loud again, before crumbling back to the ground, tears streaming down her face.
The sound of rustling leaves pierced the eerie stillness, like a lighthouse in the fog. Lilly stood and began to look through the trees for the source of the sound, and after a few minutes a medium sized white and black dog came trotting into view. Lilly’s first thought was that the man had returned, and brought his puppy with him, causing her to become filled with fear, but she remembered that Gunner was yellow, not white and black, and that he was a small puppy, and not a medium sized dog. The realization that the man was not coming back flooded her with relief. The dog moved closer to where she was siting, and Lilly could see that it was wearing a collar. Maybe its owner was out here with it? But would its owner be able to see her, she asked herself, remembering how the man that had killed her had looked right through her?
The dog stopped at the edge of the clearing, and raised its heckles, staring at the area where Lilly had been buried. It sniffed at the air, before letting out a low rumbling growl. “Right back at ya,” Lilly huffed, sitting back down on the ground next to her grave. The dog raised its head up high, perking its ears, before tilting its head in confusion, at the sound of Lilly’s voice. The young girl’s eyes widened in surprise, as a shimmer of hope formed in her unbeating heart. “Can you see me?” she asked.
The dog tilted its head to the other side and let out a slight whimpering sound, as its tail slowly wagged back and forth for a few times, before stopping. “You can, can’t you?” Lilly cried out, springing to her feet, which caused the dog to take a few cautious steps back. “Hey, it’s ok. It’s ok,” she called out in a calming voice, seeing that her quick movements had spooked the dog. “Come here,” she said, bending her knees and clapping her hands.
The dog took a wary step forward, sniffing at the air, and keeping its heckles raised. “That’s it. I won’t hurt you,” Lilly promised, holding her hand out. The dog inched closer, and sniffed the dead girl’s hand. Taking a step back, the dog gave her a confused look, before sniffing at the ground.
“You can smell me, can’t you?”
The rate of the dog’s sniffing increased, as it began to circle the area right above Lilly’s body. “That’s it, that’s it,” Lilly stated, reaching down and patting the ground. The dog started to dig at the earth.
“Wrigley!” came the voice of a man standing at the edge of the clearing. Lilly’s heart skipped a beat at the sound of the voice. Her first thought was that her killer had in deed returned, but then she saw this man’s face as he took a few steps closer. He was younger than the man that had taken her life, was somewhere in his thirties, and had a full brown beard.
The dog looked up to see its master standing there, and knew that it was in trouble. It lowered its head and began to slowly walk toward the young man. Lilly’s one chance at being found was slipping away, and she knew it. She had to do something and fast, but what? “Wrigley!” she called out. The dog came to a skidding halt and looked back upon hearing its name. “Come here,” she said, throwing in a little whistle in for good measure.
Wrigley ran back to the hole it had started, and continued to dig. “Wrigley! Come on, you’re getting all dirty,” the dog’s owner began to complain, but upon seeing that his dog wasn’t listening to him, walked over and grabbed the dog’s collar and began to pull it away from the hole.
“Come on Wrigley!” Lilly called out, again.
The dog started to twist about, trying to break free of its owner’s grip. “What are you doing?” the owner asked. Wrigley managed to slip off it collar, and immediately ran back to the hole and pawed at the dirt in a feverish pace.
“Wrigley!” the owner scolded, grabbing the dog by the scruff of its neck and trying to pull him away from the hole, but the dog resisted the effort and kept digging.
“That’s it! You’re almost there!” Lilly cheered the dog on. “Find me, find me.”
“Wrigley, I said enough!” the man said, taking a firm stance and pulling the dog away from the hole. Wrigley turned, and snipped at his owner’s hand. Not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough to say “let me go”, causing the man to take a step back, allowing the dog to stick its head back into the hole.
“What’s gotten into to you?” the man asked, rubbing his hand. The dog answered by pulling something free from the hole and dropping it at his owner’s feet. The man looked down and gasped out loud at the sight of a skeletal foot.
* * *
It didn’t take long before Lilly’s once empty clearing was swarming with people. Police officers had taped off the clearing with yellow caution tape. They took pictures, and had slowly, and methodically removed all of the leaves that had been used to cover her grave. Investigators in yellow hazmat suits, began unearth Lilly’s body, piece by piece.
The pungent smell of decaying flesh reached her nose and made the young girl gag. She felt so morbid, watching them dig up her body. Large lights were brought in, and placed around the clearing, telling her that nightfall must have come, but the sky above her never changed. Wanting a change of scenery, she looked over toward the edge of the clearing and saw that Wrigley’s owner, was talking to man dressed in a black suit.
“Mr. Haas, I’m Detective Brandt,” the man could be heard saying, as Lilly approached them. “Can you tell me what happened?”
“I was out walking the trails with my dog, when he just took off into the woods. I ran after him and found him here in this clearing, digging at the ground. Then he pulled out that foot… That’s when I called 911. Is it real?”
“I’m afraid so,” answered Detective Brandt, handing Mr. Hass a business card. “If you think of anything else please don’t hesitate to call. An Officer will walk you back to the head of the trail.” Mike Brandt placed his hands deep into his pants pockets, and watched the Evidence Technicians, take the last of the body, a mostly skeletal head, with strands of long blonde hair, out of the hole. The head was placed in a black plastic body bag, with the rest of the remains.
Mike ran a hand over his bald head, and gave it a hard rub. Twenty years with the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Department, and he had never investigated anything like this before. Things like this didn’t happen in rural Ohio. Sure, he had investigated a fair number of homicides in his career, but this one was different. This one, the killer had taken his time to dispose of the body, which meant that the killer had had a plan. It wasn’t a spur of the moment killing, where the ones responsible flee the scene as soon as the crime had been committed. Killers that have plans are the most dangerous one, and judging by the condition of the remains, he had carried out his plan some time ago. If it hadn’t been for that dog, how long would have this body gone undisturbed? What were the odds, Mike wondered?
A man in a yellow hazmat suit approached him and took off his mask. “We’re wrapping things up here Detective.”
“Find anything useful?”
“A partial foot print on the far side of the grave. Looks like it was made by some kind of work boot, but I don’t think there’s enough there to be of any use.”
“What about the body?”
“Female, judging by the hair. Mostly skeletal. Pretty sure she was naked when she was buried. We didn’t find any clothing, or jewelry. Won’t know much more until the autopsy.”
Mike blew out a loud, frustrated breath. “Alright, get her to the morgue. Tell the Doc I’ll be there when I can.”
The man nodded and walked back to an ambulance stretcher that had been brought to the scene. He, and another tech, lifted the body bag placed it on the stretcher, and started to secure the straps.
Detective Brandt, his hands still in his pockets, looked over the clearing. They were deep in the woods, at least a mile from the dirt road, which was the nearest thoroughfare. Nothing out here but deer and mosquitos. The killer would have had all the privacy he needed, as well as all the time in the world to bury the body the right way. The hole had been just deep enough to mask the scent of decomposing flesh, and to keep any wildlife. The area appeared to have been swept clean of any foot prints, and the grave was covered with leaves, to make it blend in with the surrounding area. Just how familiar was the killer with this area he wondered? He couldn’t recall any recent missing person’s cases. Was it possible that the killer had just used this area as a dump site? A frightening idea slowly made its way into his head, causing him to quickly take out his cell phone.
“We’re going to need some cadaver dogs out here.”
What’s a cadaver dog, Lilly wondered, still eavesdropping on Detective Brandt’s conversation? The two Evidence Techs wheeled the stretcher, holding Lilly’s remains past her, each trying their best to navigate across the dirt of the forest floor. She wondered what she was supposed to do now. Should she follow her body, or stay with the Detective? In a way she wanted to stay with the Detective to see what he had found out, if anything, but she found herself being overwhelmed by that feeling of dread again, the farther the stretcher moved away from her.
“Twenty feet,” she told herself, remembering the distance between her grave and the invisible wall of foreboding, making her think that the wall wasn’t put there to keep her trapped in the forest, but that her spirit was still attached to her body for some reason. But for how long she wondered, as she ran off to catch up the stretcher, and her body.
The two Evidence Techs finally reached the road, where they found a van from the Coroner’s Office waiting for them. Lilly had to move fast in order to slip past the two Techs as they loaded her body into the back of the van.
“She’s all yours,” said one of the Techs, slapping the back of the van, signaling that they were done. “Detective Brandt’ll meet you guys down there.” The van lurched forward, and Lilly, who was hunched over, so that she could stand next to the body bag, nearly fell over. She sat down on the cold metal floor of the van, wondering how a ghost could lose her balance, as the van seemed to hit every pothole in the road.
Eventually the van slowed down and came to a stop. Lilly heard the sound of a backup alarm, as the van slowly reversed its direction for a few seconds, before coming to a stop again. She heard the driver’s side door open, and then close, before the back doors swung open, revealing a scrawny looking guy, who somewhere in his twenties. He had short red hair, a face full of zits, and was wearing a long white lab coat, which had a name tag that read: Brad.
“Final stop, the Morgue,” he said, in a sarcastic tone, pulling the stretcher from the back of the van. Lilly climbed out of the van and found herself standing in the loading dock area of a rather old looking brick hospital. She started to take in her new surroundings, but found herself rushing after the scrawny van driver, who was wheeling the stretcher into the building.
Lilly followed a few steps behind, making sure to stay within the twenty-foot range of her body. She could smell Brad’s body order, his zit medication, as well the odor of sterilization and death that seemed to permeate from the very walls of the old building.
Brad maneuvered the stretcher down several long hallways, until he came to a door, with a sign that read: Exam Room One. Pushing a large button on the wall, the heavy door swung open allowing him to wheel the stretcher into the exam room. The room’s lighting system was controlled by a motion detector, and flickered on automatically, as the door swung open.
In the center of the room was a large stainless steel table. The outer edge of the table was raised, giving it a large lip, while the inside of the table was a few inches lower, and covered with numerous small holes throughout its surface. There was a large light directly above the table, and at its foot rested a metal sink, with an attached spray nozzle.
Brad swung the stretcher around and pushed it over to wall on the left side of the room. The wall held six metal doors, stacked two high and three long. Lilly had watched a lot of crime dramas on television, and knew that the metal doors were part of a large refrigeration system used to keep dead bodies, like hers, cold, to prevent further decomposition, until an autopsy could be performed. Brad opened one of the doors and pulled out a long metal shelf. Reaching over, he grabbed the body bag with both of his hands and pulled it on the metal shelf. When he was done, he pushed Lilly’s body into the cooler and closed the door, before wheeling the stretcher out of the room and vanishing from sight.
Lilly stood off in one of the far corners, wanting to be as far away from the exam room table as she was allowed. She stood there for several minutes, until the lights automatically shut off, leaving her alone, with her own body, in the morgue, in the darkness.