Murder in Gold Rush Country
Surefooted despite the lengthening evening shadows, the eager young man reached the bend in the old mountain road. Pale puffs of condensation swirled from his mouth as he made his way into the darkness of the evening forest.
The worn, rutted surface was treacherous under his feet, but he made the turn successfully, despite the lengthening shadows. His pace quickened.
Soon he would drop the big canvas bag from his shoulder, and unpack his gear. This deepening gloom, so intimidating to others, was his friend. The predicted snowfall was hours away. This night was going to be perfect. He knew it, the burgeoning euphoria deep within himself told him it would be so.
The sound of a feminine voice, an echoing calling of his name, bounced off the canyon walls and broke his concentration. He stopped and turned around, peering into the darkness. The faint dark outline of a person walking towards him was barely visible among the shadows. Only the faint yellowy beam of a weakening flashlight flickering in the darkness marked the rhythm of the walker’s body.
He knew who it was. She’d met him out here before. He waited for her.
The young woman drew abreast of him. Her right arm snaked around his waist and her hand crept under the bottom edge of his quilted vest. He turned to continue down the road alongside her, shoulder to shoulder. Quick fingers tugged free the tail of his flannel shirt, and her cold hand ran up his spine.
The unexpected contact of her chilled flesh on his warm back elicited a low growl from the young man. He stopped, turned to her, and pulled her tight to his body.
She dropped the flashlight. It hit the ground with a heavy metallic clunk and flickered out.
The young woman's hands plunged down beneath the waistband at the back of his jeans, and kneaded his buttocks. He moaned, closed his eyes, pulled her closer, and pressed against her hips with his pelvis. She wiggled against his body, then pulled away and danced out of his reach. He swore under his breath, and reached out to catch her.
The swing of his arm as he tried to grab her shoulder marked the last conscious act of his life.
The blow to the back of the young man’s head struck like lightning out of the darkness. An agonized grunt erupted from his mouth. His knees buckled. He knew that he had lost control of his body, and he did not understand why.
He pitched forward onto the hard dirt of the road, oblivious to the heavy grit driven into his eyes and mouth. His world ended, fading away into empty blackness.