PJ stood with her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide, and emitted little squeaks. Punk turned and looked up the cliff.
“I wonder if he fell from up there.” He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed 911. He put his hand over his other ear and moved back down the canyon toward the main path, trying to make contact. PJ followed. No way she was staying with a dead body.
He closed the phone and turned to her. “Can’t get through. We’ll have to get back to the campground.”
At the entrance to the campground, one of the rangers was manning the check-in booth. Punk drew himself up and leaned in the window toward the very young-looking ranger.
“We’d like to report a body—”
“He doesn’t mean that we like it but that we have to—,” PJ put in.
Punk gave her a look. “He knows that.”
“A what?” said the ranger, looking from one to the other.
“There’s a body—”
“Wait. You said that before. A body of what?”
Punk sighed. “Of a person.”
The ranger just stared at him.
“Dead,” Punk said. “The body is dead.”
“His head is like—,” PJ added, crooking her neck and giving herself a cramp. “Ow!”
“We were on that hiking trail—um—in the canyon…,” Punk began as PJ whipped the campground map out of her pocket. She spread it out on the ledge in front of the ranger. She jabbed her finger at it.
“Here. Meadow Sage Canyon. He’s on this trail.”
Understanding began to dawn on the ranger’s face as he picked up the phone and dialed. “Someone died?” he asked as he waited for the dispatcher to pick up. “And you’re sure he’s dead?”
Punk and PJ both nodded, as he spoke into the phone.
“Yeah, this is Ranger Goetz out at Cliff Edge Park. We’ve just had a death reported. It’s on one of the trails…I have the people here at the check-in booth who reported it. Thanks.” He hung up.
“I have to ask you to wait here for the sheriff,” he said to them. “So, does it look like he had a heart attack or something?”
“It looks like he fell off the cliff,” Punk said.
“He might have had a heart attack and that’s why he fell,” PJ said.
Punk thought about it a little more. “So many people hated that Conniver guy, maybe somebody pushed him.”
“Wait!” said the ranger. “The dead guy is Con Conniver?”
“Yeah,” said Punk. “Did you know him?”
“Just that he’s a big RV dealer and he’s sponsoring all the Halloween activities this weekend. Wow.”
It wasn’t long before a sheriff’s car pulled into the park, followed by an emergency vehicle. The sheriff jumped out of the car and strode over to the booth. He was slight, brown-haired, and also looked very young. PJ considered that perhaps the perspective of her senior citizen status made everyone in authority look very young. Either that, or there had been a revolution she hadn’t heard about. His gun belt holding the usual law enforcement paraphernalia appeared to weigh him down.
He stuck out his hand to Punk. “Jackson Turner—that is, Sheriff Turner. You the folks that found the…body?”
“Yes,” said Punk. “On a hike this morning. This is my wife, Patty Jo.”
The sheriff nodded. “Can you lead me there?”
The sheriff motioned the EMTs to follow and they set off down the path with Punk and PJ in the lead. Before long, they reached the point where PJ had first spotted Con Conniver.
Sheriff Turner said, “Are you sure it’s not just someone who is sick?”
“Yes, we’re sure,” PJ said. A little exasperated. They may be old, but they weren’t batty. “He’s quite dead.”
The sheriff took the lead and the EMT team moved ahead of Punk and PJ. Once they had gathered around the body, PJ couldn’t see anything anyway and stood looking around at the scenery. A flash of white in a witch hazel bush a little ways from the body caught her eye.
She moved closer and realized it was a scrap of paper. Pulling it out, she read at Black Hawk Point or you’ll be sorry. The message was printed in block letters and seemed to be torn from a larger piece of paper.
“Where’s Black Hawk Point?” she asked.
Punk, who was reading over her shoulder, said “I dunno.”
But one of the EMTs heard and looked over, and then pointed at the cliff above her. “Up there.”