By Nancy Dailey
He ran, slowly now, breathing in ragged gasps. He stumbled on a tree root and fell. Jack Hughes had been geocaching, following his GPS, trying to locate the "Bum Cache." He had made it to within thirty feet of the cache.
Jack had gone online that morning to see if there were any new caches listed near his hometown in southwest Missouri. There were three. He had entered the coordinates into his GPS, along with the cache names, before leaving home and heading into the woods on the north side of town.
Geocaching was a new hobby for Jack. It was like a modern day treasure hunt, but the value of the "treasures" was minimal. For Jack finding the caches was the main thing. But he did carry small items with him to trade. That was the rule: take something, leave something.
He’d had no idea when he left home that less than an hour later he’d be running for his life.
A twig snapped. Jack looked for cover. There, ahead, was a lot of brush. He got up, staggered a few steps, and fell into the undergrowth.
As his breathing quieted, Jack thought about what he had seen. At first he thought it was another geocacher and he stayed back to let him make the find. But the guy, dressed in dirty overalls was using a shovel. Caches were to be hidden, but not buried. Then he noticed the long, lumpy, dirty blue sheet tied at both ends. Was that a person wrapped in that sheet? A dead person? I’ve been watching too many movies, Jack thought. But then the guy tossed the shovel aside, bent down and rolled the lumpy sheet into...a grave?
Jack stepped back; the movement caught the guy’s eye. He looked straight at Jack for a full second, then calmly reached for the double curved bow leaning against a nearby tree. He chose an arrow from the quiver, then slung the quiver over his shoulder.
"Yer trespassin’, son. Ya know what I do to trespassers?" he growled. He fitted the shaft of the arrow against the bowstring. Jack ran.
Now he carefully raised his head to look around. He heard the arrow as it whizzed past. He didn’t wait to see where it went; he ran, crouched, on a zig-zag course from behind one tree to another. Suddenly he was sliding down into a ravine. He heard laughter from somewhere above.
Frantically he looked around. There was a large outcrop of rocks on his left, with a thick stand of cedar trees on the other side. Jack scrabbled his way around the rocks and pushed his way into the cedars. He held his breath, listening.
Facing the gully, he could see a large patch of sunshine at the edge of the trees. He slid the GPS along the ground into the sunshine, pushing buttons until he was back on the page for the "Bum Cache." He changed the name. He then checked the location of his car, thankful that he had actually marked it. The arrow pointed across the gully.
Jack dashed across the bottom of the gully and into the trees on the other side. He reached the top of the embankment without further incident. There was the gravel road; he could see his car parked about fifty yards away.
Just as he reached for the door, a voice behind him boomed, "Goin’ somewhere, sonny?"
Jack whirled around. Less than twenty feet away stood the guy with the bow and arrow.
"Naw, you ain’t goin’ nowhere." The guy grinned.
They both heard the sound of tires on gravel and glanced toward the sound. The guy in the overalls quickly lowered his bow. The County Sheriff’s car appeared around the curve, slowed then stopped.
The Sheriff got out and walked over.
"Mornin’, Clint," said the guy with the bow and arrows.
"Mornin’, Bud," replied the Sheriff. "You boys seen Miz Lucy’s Doberman? He’s loose again."
"Naw," said Bud. Jack shook his head.
"Been huntin’ this morning’?" asked the Sheriff, eyeing Bud’s bow and arrow.
"Jest some rabbit," Bud replied.
"No, Sheriff, that’s not true!" countered Jack. "This man’s trying to kill me."
"That right, Bud?" asked the Sheriff.
"Naw, this feller got hisself lost and I was jest tryin’ to help him outta the woods. Scared him, mebbe, tha’s all."
"Sheriff, I saw him dump what looked like a body wrapped in a sheet into a shallow grave he’d just dug. Then he saw me and came after me."
"Aw, this feller’s got a big imagination," drawled Bud. "It wuz a big loada garbage I wuz getting’ rid of."
The Sheriff nodded. "How’s the wife, Bud?"
"She’s off visitin’ her aunt in St. Louis again. Don’t know why anybody in their right mind’d wanna go there."
"I heard she came back last week," said the Sheriff. "Miz Jones said she saw her get off the bus in town Wednesday afternoon."
"Yeah, well she got some more clothes and went back," said Bud.
"Isn’t that rather strange for her to just go right back?" asked the Sheriff.
Bud shrugged his shoulders.
"That might be his wife he buried," suggested Jack.
"You cain’t pin nuthin’ on me," growled Bud.
The Sheriff looked at Jack. "What were you doin’ in the woods, anyway?" he asked.
"I was geocaching, looking for a hidden cache, using my GPS to help me find it when I saw this guy. He dumped the body, then saw me and came after me with his bow and arrows."
Jack handed the GPS to the Sheriff. "Check this, it will lead you to the body."
"Looks like I’m gonna have to take you in, Bud," said the Sheriff as he pulled out his handcuffs.
"I didn’t do nuthin’," protested Bud. "You ain’t got nuthin’ on me."
"Better get in the car, Bud." The Sheriff radioed for backup. Then he turned to Jack.
"Geocaching’s usually a pretty fun sport," he said, taking Jack’s GPS. "I like to do it some, too." He quickly went to the waypoints page. "Which one, son?"
"You’ll find it under waypoint Murder," said Jack.
Published in Caching Now, October, 2009.