A cop remembers.*
By Ken Marsh
There in the heart of autumn, that transient season roaring with color, air sweet with berries, hills and skies alive with wild creatures, hung Jessica. By her neck. From a very old, white-barked birch. A hunter stalking moose in the forests north of Trapper Creek found her suspended by a length of nylon rope, her deadness amplified by golden leaves fluttering all around, lighting as a gentle rain upon her shoulders and sandy-brown hair.
The hunter waited in a gravel pit just past Milepost 127. I found him leaning against his pickup, shoulders slouched, face downcast and pale. He told me his eyes were on the ground searching for moose sign when he came around a tree and nearly bumped his face into Jessica’s denim-clad knees. She was just hanging there, he said, dead. I watched the hunter tremble, as if reliving the moment. Fuckin’ crazy, he said, shaking his head.
The area lacked cellphone reception so the hunter had bushwhacked to the highway, thoughtfully marking the route with pink survey ribbon tied around tree trunks and low-hanging branches. He’d then driven nearly 13 miles south to Trapper Creek where reception was available and phoned Matcom in Wasilla to report his find.
Leaving the gravel pit, we walked across the highway to the pink ribbon trail. The body hung nearly a half mile from the road, requiring us to navigate a sea of devil’s club and cranberry shrubs. By the time we reached her, the sun was settling into the trees. Forest shadows rose like smoke around us leaving Jessica – a pretty, 30-year-old single mother of a two-year-old daughter – center stage, her hair and shoulders backlit and glowing in a halo of tangerine light.
*This is a work of fiction. The people and events are not real.