Estimated reading time — 3 minutes
The two men stood in the crisp, evening mountain air. The woodland that surrounded them on all sides was dense and deep. “So…” the first man turned to the other, straightening up his stab-proof vest. “Where do we go from here?” The other police officer clicked his radio off, and turned to his counterpart. “I think it’s a good idea to turn off our radios, this guy is probably a little skittish after all he’s been through.”
The Colorado mountains stood tall, so tall that in certain places the two officers could see the snow-capped peaks protruding into their view of the slowly darkening skies, where the canopy above them separated. “Really wish we could get search and rescue on this, this isn’t in my job description Rick,” one man grunted to the other, clearly upset with their task. “Yeah, well, we can’t. You know what the Sheriff said. He wants his own guys on this, not some tree-hugger with an SAR badge on his chest.” The men exchanged slightly bemused, somewhat anxious glances, and began to trudge towards the steep incline where the foothills of the Rockies began.
As the two men marched further into the thick woodland, they became hyper-aware. Every snap of a twig, every little animal that bleated, screamed and hollered in the still evening air became a foghorn, alerting them to the presence of everything with a pulse. “How far in do you think Gray chased this poor guy?” asked James. The other man, who was a little older than the first, and whose name was Richard, replied in a calm voice, “God knows, he was pretty pissed when this guy found out about the drugs. We can always ask him when we get back to the station. It’s not like he’s going anywhere.” James nodded in response, and continued the slow march with his fellow officer.
The night began approaching quickly, and the air grew colder and sharper. Every inhale felt like a knife in the throat, and the uphill struggle with their Kevlar vests and heavy boots didn’t help the situation.
Finally, as they crested a large verge, the older man noticed something. “You smell that?” he muttered. “Yeah, it smells like piss. Bad piss. Junkie piss.” The two gave each other a look. The older man began again, “Gray must have really scared this guy to get him to run all the way out here. We’ve gotta be like thirty fuckin’ miles from where we started, and at least 5 miles from the nearest trail.” The younger man shifted uncomfortably in his spot, his hand gripping the butt of his holstered pistol.
Richard noticed his younger officer’s anxiety and placed a firm hand on his arm. “Easy there, boy, no need for that. Just keep your eyes open. Sheriff won’t be pleased if this guy gets spooked and runs off, he wants to see him.” The junior officer nodded and removed his hand from the gun.
Richard led the way, slowly stalking through the woodland, the younger James following behind him cautiously. Suddenly, Richard signaled that he could see something in the distance, and James froze up. With renewed vigor, both men began to pick up their pace, but remembering to take extra care of how much noise they made. “No wonder Gray gave up chasing after this guy. Even if he did want him dead, the terrain out here is hell,” James thought to himself silently as they crept ever closer to what appeared to be a man huddled underneath a tree.
The man was shivering, and only wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He saw the two officers and his eyes widened, a trace of hope in them. “Oh, thank you! Please, you gotta help me! Some guy chased me up here! He wanted to kill me!” the man sputtered. Richard put his arm across James’ chest, to stop him approaching the man. He took a few steps towards him, one hand on his belt, the other splayed and held out in the direction of the man. “I know, son. We know. Just calm yourself down now, and we’ll get you out of here, don’t worry.”
“Oh my god, thank you! Thank you so mu-” The noise was deafening. The crack split the night air, and the flash blinded James. The man’s body slumped backwards against the tree, and clumsily rolled to the floor, blood gushing from the gaping wound in his forehead. James hadn’t even seen Richard pull his gun.
Richard stood with his gun still suspended in the direction of where the junkie once stood. He moved forwards and took a picture with his phone, which he removed from his pocket. He thumbed at his phone, sending a picture, and then made a call. “This is Norton. Put me through to the Sheriff, please.” He stood, slowly clipping the holster strap over the handle of his gun, which was now back at his hip. “Sheriff Gray? Yeah, we found him. I’ve sent you a picture. Was he the only one who saw you with the supplier? Okay, good. We’ll come back in.”