Tragedy in the Park

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
An elderly site host in a state park deals with an unruly visitor.

Submitted: March 03, 2019

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Submitted: March 03, 2019

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Tragedy in the Park

 

By

 

Gayle Phipps

 

 

 

 

Jesse lay drowsing in bed that morning inside the borrowed camper at a State Park. She reflected on how her life had changed recently. Six months ago, she had been moping around dwelling on her recent widowhood. Without any motivation to do much at all in a semi-fugue state of mind. She finally realized that was enough of that and she needed to get on with her life. She looked around and assessed her opportunities to get out and about, do something interesting that involved interacting with new people. She was retired, with a pension and savings she and her husband had invested for their old age, so finances weren't an issue. She researched volunteer positions for retirees and decided on trying the site host for the visitor center at a petroglyph location in a State Park. So here she was in an older but still functional RV in an isolated area of the state with spotty cell service, no water on site except what was hauled in. She enjoyed the dry and uncrowded beauty of the place. Talking with the people who came to see the petroglyphs from all over the world was entertaining and broadened her horizons.

Getting up she went out of the door in her nightgown, looked at the fresh new morning and thought she'd like to take a fast trip to town to pick up her mail and some groceries before opening the visitor center for the day. She got dressed, had a quick bite to eat then went to start her car. " Damnit" she swore. Her car wouldn't start! The battery seemed to be dead. She checked and sure enough, she'd left the radio on the last time she'd driven it. She grabbed her phone and as she expected there was no service. Sitting there frustrated and totally disgusted with herself she wondered what to do. "I guess I'll just have to wait until some sightseers show up who are willing to help me out" she muttered to the sagebrush surrounding her campsite.

After puttering around doing some morning chores she brought a book with her to read and went to open the visitor center. It was glorious late spring weather. The bluebirds were gathering material for their nest in the bluebird house on the utility pole near her trailer. Rabbits were hopping around nibbling on the vegetation. It was still pleasantly cool with a slight breeze. She thought a walk down the trail to the petroglyphs was just the thing. She stopped to enjoy the sparkling dance of the sun on the water in the creek that ran below the cliff. Gazing across the valley to the opposite cliff and following the meandering course of the stream with her eyes filled her with contentment. She continued walking glancing at the drawings on the cliff face, wondering about the people who chipped them out of the stone through the long winters in camp. Did their spirits still walk the paths through the land they once inhabited?

"Enough dallying Jesse. Time to get back in the visitor's center before the first guests arrive" she admonished herself as she reached the end of the trail. She turned around and strode back up the hill and through the parking lot to the open door. She settled inside with her book to read for about a half hour before the first sightseer arrived.

An old van drove into the lot and parked between the building and the restrooms. A tall, thin somewhat scruffy looking white-haired man got out of the driver's side and went up to use the facilities. A few minutes later he returned to his truck opened the back and let a medium-sized collie type dog out. He put a leash on the dog and proceeded past the building and down the trail. He was gone about forty-five minutes when he returned, put his dog back in the truck, stopping by the trash to deposit a doggie poop bag in it. He then came into the visitor's center to look at the exhibits for a while.

She had been marginally paying attention to the old man while she continued to read. Occasionally she'd chuckle because it was a humorous book. To her surprise, the elderly gentleman came over to her desk looking angry and accused her of spying on him and laughing at him.

"I'm reading a funny book, not laughing at you," she said. "And it's my job to pay attention to what people who are visiting the park are doing."

"No, you're just pretending to read. You're really watching me and making fun of me." He asserted as his face started to turn red.

She started to become alarmed, wondering if he was on drugs or alcohol, or possibly mentally unstable.

"I assure you that I'm not doing any such thing." Jesse declared firmly.

At this point, he started ranting about how badly she was performing as a representative of the park treating people like that. That she needed to go to training on how to do her job properly without offending people. He got right up in her face jabbing his finger at her while declaiming all this.

"You need to leave right now.!" Jesse told him in her sternest voice.

"You can't make me leave." He said getting even more belligerent.

Now truly worried about her safety Jesse said: "If you don't leave here, I'm going to call the ranger to come out here and deal with you." hoping she wouldn't need to since there was no cell service. Her brain was scrambling to come up with a plan if he became a physical threat. She had no weapon of any kind. They weren't allowed at the park.

The threat to call the ranger seemed to work though. He stomped out the door slamming it behind him while calling her names. She quickly got up and locked that door and the other door to the picnic area, watching while he got in his vehicle, slammed it in reverse then accelerated forward out of the parking lot. He headed up the access road hill at an unsafe rate of speed. She hoped he wouldn't meet another car driving in on his way out. It was a narrow, graveled road with a few feet of clearance between it and drop-offs on either side. There were large boulders lining the edges though and the clay soil was reasonably dry and hard.

She felt relieved that this encounter was over and was considering a cup of tea to calm her nerves after the unpleasantness when she saw an antelope come out of the scrub brush on the right side of the road just ahead of his van. The animal started across, he saw it and jerked the wheel to the left to avoid hitting it at the same time as stepping hard on the brakes. He was going too fast and lost control of the machine. It skidded to the left diagonally as I watched horrified. It reached the cliff edge, teetered for a second and then went over. A couple of seconds later I heard a metallic crash. It's a fifty-foot drop.

I unlocked the door and rushed out wondering what I was going to do. The man and his dog were most likely dead or seriously injured. I had no cell service and a nonworking car. I headed for the trail down to the bottom of the cliff hoping and praying the gas tank didn't explode or catch fire. I got there a few minutes later and found the van had rolled a few times and landed a bit on the other side of the trail but thankfully hadn't rolled far enough to go over another cliff to the creek bed. The man had been flung out the door and landed ten feet away from the vehicle. I cautiously approached and noticed his neck looked broken. I tried to take his pulse, there was none. He appeared dead. I then looked around for the dog. It was in the van unmoving dead or unconscious.

"Damn," I said out loud. I'm going to have to walk out five miles until I get cell service and call 911. Just then I heard a couple of cars coming down the road and into the parking lot. I thanked God for that and hurried back up there relieved I would now have help dealing with this awful event.

 

 

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