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“What is it Andy?”

Andy pointed inside the cave. Not waiting for an answer I walked into the cave. It was dark inside and I turned on my flashlight so I could see. The cave went straight back for twenty feet before it curved. The strong smell of decay assaulted my senses.

I turned the corner and saw two bodies lying in the cave. The ground was soaked with dried blood. I stopped in my tracks and looked around the ground of the cave. I didn’t want to contaminate the crime scene with my footprints all over the place. I noticed quite a few sets of tracks on the ground.

The two bodies were male and looked to be in their mid to late twenties. The one closest to me was lying on his back, while the other was on his stomach a few feet in front of him. I worked my way cautiously into the cave, skirting around the blood on the ground trying to avoid the footprints.

The stench of decay was strong as I bent down to look at the first body. There were multiple stab wounds to his chest and belly. His clothes were twisted and looked out of place on his body. By the look of things, there must’ve been a struggle. As I was looking at the body, Andy walked behind me.

“That’s Roy Jenkins.”

“The kid that went missing two weeks ago?” I asked.

“That’s the one. His father Tom has been looking for him ever since.”

I nodded. “Any idea who the other person is?”

Andy walked over, careful not to step on anything. He bent down to look at the face.

“Earl Jacobs. Roy’s friend.”

I looked at Roy’s face and noticed his left ear was missing.

“Check to see if Earl’s ear is missing.” I said to Andy.

Andy looked at the head. Then he turned it over to see the other side.

“The right ear is gone.” He said when he was done looking. “You think these boys stumbled upon Doogan Ashe and he killed them?”

I shook my head.

“I think it was made to look like Doogan did this, just like Sheriff Myers. Roy’s missing his left ear, but Earl’s missing his right. You know Doogan collects left ears. He wouldn’t do one of each.”

I bent down closer to look at the stab wounds in Roy.

“I’m no expert, but these wounds look straight edged, not jagged. Looks like the same weapon that killed Josh. We won’t know for sure until Doc checks them out.”

Andy got up and headed towards the exit of the cave.

“You stay here and make sure nothing disturbs this place. I’m going to head back and get the evidence kit, camera and a few other things. I’ll call Doc as well and tell him to come.”

I followed Andy out of the cave, but something was bothering me.

“Hey Andy, What were you doing here? How did you find them?”

Andy stopped and turned to me with a puzzled look on his face.

“That’s the strangest thing. I got an anonymous call from a hunter saying he noticed a few kids hanging around the cave. He said he recognized one of them as Roy Jenkins. Obviously someone wanted us to find these bodies. I got the call this afternoon, a little while after I talked to you.”

I nodded. “Did you recognize the voice? Anything out of the ordinary during the call?”

Andy shook his head.

“The voice didn’t sound familiar. I heard a lot of wind, like the person was driving with their window open. The voice was muffled. I could barely make it out except when he said where he saw the kids. That part came in loud and clear. I looked at the caller id, but it said unavailable. I’ll be back within the hour. Sit tight.”

I just nodded and thought about the call. Why would someone want us to find the bodies now? It didn’t make sense. Roy Jenkins was missing for two weeks. The bodies look like they’ve been dead for a while.

After forty -five minutes the rain was beginning to let up. I was thinking about the whole situation and I knew it wasn’t Doogan. It’s probably the same guy that killed Josh. Why would he kill these two kids? What does Roy Jenkins, Earl Jacobs and Josh Myers all have in common?

I turned and started walking back in the cave when I heard a gunshot. The wall next to where I stood exploded with rock fragments from a bullet impact. I dove to the ground and pulled out Louise. I crawled on my belly to the edge of the cave and looked out along the trail. I couldn’t see much. The sun was beginning to set and the woods were getting dark. I strained to hear anything out of the ordinary. I thought I heard movement and looked in that direction. Another shot rang out and the bullet whizzed into the cave hitting the wall. The shooter couldn’t see me where I was laying down. I thought I saw movement up in a tree and took a shot at it.

“Andy, you there?” I whispered into the radio, hoping he had it on.

“I’m here. I’m leaving the office now. Why you whispering?”

Another shot was fired into the cave close to where I was. I slid a little further back into the cave.

“Jesus, was that gunfire Tony?”

“Someone is shooting at me. I’m pinned down in the cave.”

“I’m on my way, be careful. Stay put and don’t get yourself killed.”

I gave a nervous chuckle.

“I’ll try not to. Hurry!”

I scanned the tree line looking for any movement. After a few moments, I thought I saw something move about 70 yards away. That was well past my range of accuracy with Louise, but I took a shot hoping to get lucky. I must’ve come close. The leaves started moving and I heard someone curse loudly. I stood up and inched my way closer to the cave entrance. Nothing happened. I ran full speed down the trail in the direction of the tree.

I got to where I thought the shooter could be and scanned the ground. Since the rain came, the ground was muddy. I found a deep set of footprints at the bottom of one of the trees along the trail. This was where the person probably jumped out of the tree. I couldn’t see anything along the trail. I scanned the area and noticed some broken twigs and bent leaves. I wasn’t the best tracker in the world, but I could tell when someone passed an area recently. The path led away from the trail along the top of the gorge.

I followed the trail as best I could, keeping low to the ground with Louise at the ready, always listening for any sounds. I made it to the edge of the gorge and stopped at a tree and peeked my head around the corner. Up ahead I could see someone in the distance limping away with a rifle in his hands. He was far enough away that I couldn’t make out any details, but I could just barely see his shape. He kept turning back looking to see if he was being followed. I dashed out into the clearing and tried to hurry and make up some of the distance. The ground was muddy and the going was slow. On one side was the edge of the gorge. One slip and I would plummet to my death. On the other side of me was a wall of trees. I could make better time along the edge of the gorge. The attacker turned his head and saw me. He spun around and took a shot at me. I slipped back into the forest, not wanting to get shot.

I made my way through the forest, now and then poking my head out to see how far ahead the man was. With his bad leg, I was gaining ground. I came to a thick brush and had no choice but to head back onto the edge of the gorge. The man was much closer now. I could see a lot more detail. I took aim and fired Louise, but missed. The man spun around and tripped losing his footing. I ran forward trying to close the gap between us. I was about 40 yards away when he regained his footing and took a shot at me. Nothing happened. He cursed loudly as he began to reload his rifle. I made my way to him rapidly, closing the distance in record time. The ground was treacherous in this area, with tree roots sticking out of the ground and the muddy conditions. Just as the attacker lifted his rifle, I dove trying to tackle him. I hit him right in the midsection, knocking us both to the ground.

He dropped his rifle and I dropped Louise. We struggled on the ground. He was a bit taller and probably had a good thirty pounds on me, but I was betting my background in wrestling would come in handy. My ribs were starting to hurt from the exertions and I was getting winded. I flipped him over and got on his back, throwing my arm around his neck trying to choke him out. He threw back his elbow into my ribs and I cried out in pain. I was able to keep my hold on his neck though.

“Who are you? Who sent you?” I gasped as we struggled.