The forest was crisp and still, after the horrific storm that had hit it the previous night. Damp dew dropped from the dripping leaves on the trees, and a pleasant, weak fog drifted here and there through the ferns. Had PC Simmons not been there for the reasons he was there, he would probably have enjoyed the early morning atmosphere, the occasional tweet of a bird in a tree, the healthy, outdoor sensation that reminded him of waking up on a Scout camp in his youth, the delightfully cold, still breeze that drifted through his short, blond hair.
Unfortunately, he knew that this scene was just a simply a mask, to hide the horrifying events that had come to pass in Johnson’s wood the previous night.
Simmons checked his watch, it was 8:30 Monday morning, the team of forensics that had descended to Taylor’s pass to retrieve what they had come for had been gone an hour now, and Simmons was beginning to worry. He had not been given full details, but had picked up enough to know that this was not a simple accident, the group of soldiers that had made for the pass with the group where enough to say that, had it not been for the uncertain whispers back at the station.
While Simmons longed for a chance to prove himself as a lawman, he had to admit he was the feint hearted type, and was glad he was here warding away any suspicious member of the public, as opposed to retrieving the target. Give him an AK47 and ask him to chase down a squad of bank robbers any day (not that that sort of thing ever happened into Hallington), but he was not sure he was quite ready to cope with... this sort of thing, yet.
All of a sudden, there came a crackling on his radio, and he quickly took it from its holster on his belt and placed it to his ear, to hear the cool yet commanding voice of the sergeant that had accompanied the team down to Taylor’s pass. The sergeant was a friend of Simmons, Sergeant Richard Hawks; they had both grown up in Upper Hallington, and still met for a drink whenever Hawks was at home from the long training weekends in the countryside that surrounded the village. Whilst Simmons lived the urban life in Upper Hallington, however, Hawks had chosen the quiet life of Little Hallington in amongst that of a soldier, where Simmons knew he lived with his wife and two children. Simmons knew Julia quite well, but had only met the children once or twice, the lad he believed to be the oldest, about seventeen, whilst the girl was a few years younger, probably around fifteen-sixteen these days.
“Simmons,” said the voice of Hawks over the radio, and Simmons grinned, despite being old friends they were required to address each other on a professional basis while working, and this was one of the first times they had ever worked together, the job of a small village copper hardly ever colliding with that of an army sergeant.
“Hawks,” replied Simmons “I read you”
“We’ve got the body, returning to the road now”
“Okay” Simmons responded, and ended the call.
Simmons could see the road quite clearly from where he stood at the edge of the woods, and could hear a car glide past every few moments; rush hour was never a big thing in Hallington, particularly on the Little Hallington side, where Simmons now stood.
Suddenly, he heard a small rustling in the bushes beside him. He turned, alarmed, but his panic was erased when he heard a slight cough from inside the clump.
“Alright,” he grinned “who’s the Solid Snake then? Come out!”
There came a muffled “Crap” from the bush, and two teenage boys tumbled out, covered in branches and wriggling to get free of each other.
One of the boys was known to Simmons, he recognised the long, dark hair and slightly Asian features faded through being raised in England as that of Simon Hawks, the sergeant’s son. The boy with him was fully unknown to Simmons, with a face that looked younger than it was, and a massive tuff of blonde hair covering most of it. It was Simmons’s guess that the boys where sixth or seventh years in the school at Upper Hallington, and as both sported a bag it was a safe bet that that was where they had been heading when their curiosity got the better of them.
“I told you this was a bad idea Matt,” said Simon unhappily, as the two climbed to their feet, brushing themselves down”
“You’re the one who squealed” argued the blonde boy, Matt.
“You stood on me” retorted Simon hotly.
“Simon Hawks,” laughed Simmons “is it a coincidence that both you and your father are here this morning?”
“His dad’s here?” said Matt, in what was obviously an attempt to sound surprised.
“He mentioned he was doing something in the woods,” admitted Simon, “and since we always walk through here in the mornings, he” he shot a dark glance at Matt “suggested we ‘check it out’”
“Well you can take the road to your class this morning,” Simmons said “the woods are off limit to the public this morning. I suppose you conveniently missed the part when your father explained that”
“Erm... maybe” said Simon sheepishly.
“Well now that we know we won’t be making that unfortunate mistake again will we?” Simmons told him, and after Simon nodded he shot a sharp glance at the other boy “will we?”
“Err... repeat the question please” said Matt.
Simmons opened his mouth to tell the boys to leave, but at that moment there was a rustling and sergeant Hawks emerged from the deep wood with two privates flanking him either side.
Hawks did not resemble his son much, the boy had taken on more of Julia’s Asian features than Richard’s decidedly Western appearance, the only thing that the two had in common was the dark hair, although Richard’ s was cut down to a standard army crew-cut, as opposed to Simon who wore his down to his neck.
Sergeant Hawks looked confused for a moment to his son and his son’s friend present here, but then grinned, Simon winked back.
“I was just telling the boys to leave Serge” Simmons said, almost forgetting to address his friend professionally.
“Drop the act Daniel,” laughed Hawks heartily, although Simmons could tell this was an act, something was certainly bothering him “and,” he looked down at Simon and Matt “maybe you could explain what you’re doing here you two”
“Walking to school,” piped up Matt, “of course, Simon forgot to tell me that we weren’t supposed to today!”
“Do you want me to push you into the river?” asked Simon.
“Listen boys,” said Hawks, anxiously glancing over his shoulder as he knelt to put his hand on the boy’s shoulders “you really shouldn’t be here at the moment, this is serious now, you have to move on quickly”
“Now we really want to-” Matt began, but stopped when Simon slapped the back of his head and began to push him towards the road.
The two boys stopped, suddenly, however as a group of ambulance workers passed them, gripping a stretcher. A limp, cold hand dangled from underneath the sheets as it passed the two teenagers, and they watched as the stretcher was taken to the nearby ambulance parked at the side of the road.
Matt let out a short “Woah!” which prompted Hawks to hurry to the boy’s side and talk quickly to them.
“I guess there’s no point hiding it from you both now,” Simmons heard him say “someone was killed in Taylor’s Pass last night”
“What?” Simon said, shocked.
“I know, I know,” Hawks went on, “he was found in the early hours of this morning by a ranger, him and his dog”
“How did he die?” Simon asked.
Hawks bit his tongue “looks like an animal attack,” he said finally “now hurry up, get out of here”
Knowing they’d get nothing more out of the sergeant, the boys made to leave.
“Before you go,” Hawks said, stopping them “just listen. This is top secret information, if there public find out they’ll be rumours and stories and those legends about the blocked tunnel, it’ll all lead to panic and superstition. Do not, I repeat, do not mention this to anyone!”