“ACE!” I yelled out the back door of my house and into the dark woods of Laramie, Wyoming. “Ace!” I yelled again as I stepped onto the wet wood deck. I yelled one more time before I turned back and stepped into my tall boots. I hopped down the wet steps onto the damp mixture of soil and leaves. I walked down the trail, calling out. I walked even further down our usual trail. “ACE!” I called, hoping I would hear something back. I snapped my head to the left as something scuttled in the underbrush.
I took a step forward and craned my neck to see behind a tree. There he was, sniffing frantically around a patch of leaves and decaying wood. I walked towards him as he looked up, with a look of terror in his eyes. He nosed down into the leaves, sniffing and pushing with his snout. I walked over and crouched next to him, watching as he started to use his hind legs to push away the dirt. Tattered clothes started to show in the gaps in the leaves that Ace was creating. Slowly, a body started to emerge from under the dark leaves. I stood up, walked to the other side, and looked around into the woods around us. A broken twig drew my attention towards path of twigs and large footprints. I walked over and picked up the broken stick.
I took it back to where Ace was still frantically uncovering the body. I looked down at the body; a young man with a lumberjack beard and deep blue eyes looked back at me. I walked towards his feet and pulled off one of his muddy Timberland boots. I took the heavy shoes back to where the footprints started and turned the boot over. I held the boot down next to the footprint on the ground. They didn’t match.
I stood up, muttering to myself about what in the hell I had just found. I started walking back towards the trail.
“SHIT!” I yelled as my feet flew out from under me. I landed on my back, splattering mud all around me.
“Great! This day is going great,” I muttered sarcastically to Ace. I stood up, looking back towards the body. I stared down at the crater in the mud. A brown triangle protruded from the side of the crater.
I bent over and pulled at the triangle; it lifted out of the leaves easily. I brushed the dirt off of the unmarked leather wallet. I pulled open the two flaps of leather, a Colorado driver's license showed through a dirty, glossy plastic window. I read the name George Yost through the plastic. My heart skipped a beat. That was my dad’s name.
I ran frantically back to my house, Ace at my heels. I sprinted up the stairs. “Danny!” I yelled down the hall towards his room. “I need to talk to you.”
“Coming,” he retorted. I pulled out the wallet as he lumbered down our hallway.
“Take a look at this,” I said, tossing the wallet to him.
“What the hell is this?” he asked as he looked inside. “This is Dad’s. Where the hell did you get this?”
I told him about everything: the body, the wallet, the twig and the footprints. “Holy shit,” he said as his face went blank with confusion.
I stepped into my tall boots that lay on the mudmat as Danny did the same. I slid open the big, heavy glass door and stepped out onto the porch. I walked down the slippery steps, still wet from the spring rain.
“Which path is it?” he asked as he shivered in the wind. “Hold on, I’m gonna grab a sweatshirt.” He turned back to the house and opened the door.
I looked out into the dark mass of wood and leaves that made up my backyard. Something scuttled behind the first line of trees. A small crack rang out and the scuttle resumed. A figure rose from the leaves; a dark silhouette against the trees. The shape darted to the left, crossing the path and sprinted deep into the woods. Danny stepped out of the door, now wearing a sweatshirt.
“Did you see that?” I asked, my voice nervous and urgent.
“No, was I supposed to see something?” he asked.
“No, but some weird shit is happening.”
I led him down the steps and into the woods. The dark path squished below our feet as we trudged down the trail. The scuttle returned and I turned back, beckoning for Danny to stop walking.
“Listen,” I whispered, hoping it would happen again. Nothing.
“Damn!” I muttered as I resumed walking.
“What!” Danny asked, now picking up on my emotions.
“You missed it again!” I exclaimed. “Wait, listen.” My body froze up like a rock. A shape scampered from behind a tree into the dark corner of our vision.
“What the hell Luke? What’s happening right now?”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said as I craned my neck around, hoping to see the figure. Nothing. I kept walking, trying to figure out what in the hell was happening. We finally made it to the tree where the body lay.
“Here it is,” I said, turning back towards Danny. “Take a look for yourself.”I walked towards the body. I stood, watching Danny kneel, examining the body. “I found the wallet over here when I slipped on the wet leaves. There were footprints over there, like somebody else came and dropped him,” I finally said.
“Was there anything else?” he asked.
“There was a broken twig, but that’s all that I found,” I replied. I walked over towards the footprints that led away from the body. “Are we just gonna go on with our lives and tell someone or stay here pondering about why our dad’s wallet was by this body?”
“We shouldn’t tell anyone yet. There has to be some explanation for this. I know you never really knew Dad, but we can’t tell anyone yet.”
“Why not? What if he actually murdered this guy?”
“He’s family; you don’t know him like I do,” Danny said.
“Well when I find a dead body in the woods with my runaway dad’s wallet nearby, what am I supposed to think?” I said with added snark and frustration. “I don’t care how well you knew or know Dad! I still think we need to at least tell Mom. We’re 14 and 17.This is a homicide, and it happened IN OUR BACKYARD! Not even counting the fact that there’s a creature or person running around, scaring the shit out of me!”
“Whoa, Luke, chill out a little. It’s gonna be okay,” he said as he looked around, now realizing what he was supposed to see earlier. I stood up, sucking in deep breaths and looking around. I went back over to the body, looking for a different clue. I dropped onto my knees next to the body and stuck my hand into the left jean pocket.
I pulled out a set of car keys. It was a carabiner with miscellaneous bronze keys and a big black Ford remote starter. I crawled around to the other side and dug my hand into the right pocket. I pulled out a thin, black leather wallet. I pulled open the flaps and removed an Idaho driver's license.
“Buck Roscoe,” I said as I threw to keys to Danny. “Only 22.” I stood up, brushing the dirt off of my knees. “We’ve gotta get home.” I walked past Danny who stood, examining the keys.
“Yeah, let’s get going.” We made it back to the house, with Ace wagging his tail at the door. I slid the heavy glass open and stepped out of my boots. I walked into the living room and flopped down into my beanbag chair and powered on my controller.
Minutes later, I stood up from the beanbag chair as a thumping came up the front porch steps. I pressed pause on the PS4 controller and went to the window to see who it was. All I could see was a big dark figure. I walked to the front door and cracked it open. I saw a face and immediately recognized him. I swung the door all the way open. It was my dad.