Mason walked along the country road enjoying the crisp fall morning. Smoke from the farmhouses in the distance hung across the valley. Bright orange and red leaves created a patchwork of color as far as Mason could see. It was the perfect fall day, the sort of scene people buy and hang on their walls. Here he was walking through it, a part of it.
The sun was low on the horizon. Like most created things, it preferred to rise later in the crisp morning. Mason soaked everything in and kept a quick steady pace not only to burn calories but to keep himself warm. Just ahead on the left, he saw a blue tarp and ragged clothes piled together. They stuck out like a sore thumb on this beautiful fall day. Mason crossed the street. To his horror, there was a man inside.
The man was pale, and cool against Mason’s fingers. Mason felt terrified he was touching a corpse. Then he noticed a faint movement in his chest. Whoever he was, he was alive. Mason heard a vehicle coming up the road and went to flag them down. A rusty old pickup truck with two men pulled up and stopped. Mason walked around to the driver’s door. Both men appeared to have spent the night awake. They weren’t drunk, but the circles under their eyes told Mason they had been up since yesterday. Their dirty and worn coveralls let him know they had been hard at work.
Mason leaned in towards the driver’s window that was only partially open. “Please, you need to help me get this man to the hospital.”
The stranger in the pickup scowled at Mason. “What business is he of yours!? I suggest you just keep on walkin’ mister.”
That’s when Mason noticed the broad blade of the hunting knife sitting on the passenger’s lap. The dried blood let Mason know it had recently cut into some flesh. “I see. Okay, boys, I’ll keep walking.” Mason turned on his heels and started walking back opposite of the truck. The truck sat there for five minutes until they were satisfied Mason was far enough away, and then sped off in the opposite direction. He walked until the truck’s engine was no longer disturbing the still morning air.
Mason turned back around and ran as fast as he could to the injured gentleman in the ditch. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911. “I found a stabbing victim on Grove Church Road. I’m near the old Lewis farm. The men who did it are nearby. Tell the police to look for the blue tarp. I will be in the bushes hiding.” Mason drop the phone in his pocket.
He gingerly removed the tarp. The man’s tattered clothes and dried blood showed the efficiency of the knife cuts. Thankfully his external bleed had long since ceased. Likely helped somewhat by the cold air. Mason carefully dragged the man into the bushes. He took off his warm coat and grabbed some branches. He wrapped the tarp back around those, praying it looked real enough from a passing car. Mason went back into the foliage and covered the injured man with leaves and dead brush to help hide him and keep warm.
Then he heard it. The familiar sound of the old pickup engine. It was in the distance, but running loud and fast. The volume increased at a much quicker rate than it initially had. He could hear the rattle of the rusty old truck bed as it grew nearer. The engine began to slow. Mason hid a few feet from the dying victim, praying God would blind the men’s eyes to his ruse. He held his breath as the truck slowed to a stop next to the tarp. Both strangers got out.
Mason recognized the large hunting knife in the passenger’s hand. His eyes went wide with horror as the driver pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. The driver walked around without hesitation and fired into the pile of brush, and Mason’s favorite jacket, under the tarp. He fired again, and the tarp blew off from the shot and the concussion of the blast. Both men cursed and looked down at the ground. The driver pointed to the bushes.
Mason sat frozen in fear as they cautiously began to step in his direction. Then they froze. All three men heard it at the same time. The unmistakable whine of a police siren. The men cursed, and the passenger spit. They ran back to their truck to take off. In his haste, the driver slipped the clutch of the old manual transmission and killed the engine. The passenger was hollering something in panic when the truck roared back to life. The driver threw gravel and left rubber in his haste to put distance between himself and the scene.
Mason peaked out and smiled. The police pulled up just as the old rust bucket was dipping below the site line. The policeman got out of his car. “He’s in the bushes!” Mason pointed to where he had hidden the man. “They just left. One has a shotgun and another a knife.” The policeman radioed for backup.
The cop nodded, “I’m officer Henry.” He headed into the bushes and began to clear the cover off of the victim. Henry keyed his mic and told the ambulance to hurry. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Mason. Is he going to live?” Mason watched while the policeman took off his coat and covered the man to help warm him.
Henry turned around and smiled. “He will now. You just saved a life! How is that for the start of a new day? I don’t suppose you got a good look at who did this?”
Mason smiled. He told him about the two men and the rusty pickup. The EMTs arrived. Mason and Henry walked over to Henry’s patrol car. “I don’t suppose you got a tag number from that old truck?”
Mason started to laugh. “I did, and you won’t believe it, OLDTRCK.”
Henry chuckled. “Well, I believe we can find that without too much of a problem. In fact, I think I already know who they are. Old moonshining bunch. Usually nice boys unless they think you lied or stole from them. I guess I’ll find out more about that later.”
Mason stretched his legs. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to walk back home. It’s a beautiful day.”
Henry shook his head. “Sorry, Mason. Not today. I’ll drive you home. Until I pick those boys up, I recommend you refrain from walking down the road.”
Mason’s shoulders slumped. “How long do you think that will be.”
Henry looked up with a half grin. “One hour, two hours tops. I’ll call you when we have them in custody. These men aren’t hard to find. Hop on in my car, and I’ll give you a ride home.”
Mason soaked in the beautiful fall morning from the passenger side of the police car. He had saved a life. Helped catch the men responsible. Somehow the perfect beauty of the fall morning just got better.