By Jacky Cowper
Graham picked his way through the undergrowth.
“Cassie”. He shouted. “Come here, girl.”
He sighed as the brown and white spaniel failed to put in an appearance.
“Bloody dog,” he said, and looked around for somewhere dry to sit and have a fag while waiting for her to chase the rabbit or follow the scent or whatever else it was the stupid animal got up to every Sunday in the woodland behind his house.
There had been a lot of rain recently and the fern leaves were dripping. Dry spots were few and far between.
He leaned against a fallen trunk instead and drew the smoke down into his lungs.
No chance of an accidental blaze today anyway, he thought, flicking the lit end off into the muddied trail his boots had made.
“Cassie!” He yelled, angrier.
There was a muffled barking somewhere, but it was too far away to determine which direction it was coming from and whether it was even Cassie.
The woods were a popular destination for dog walkers in the district, though they were thick and dark and autumnal today. In the summer they were usually full of children playing on the tree swings, teenagers sitting round bonfires, even some campers braving a night in the woods.
A bird squawked somewhere nearby and something rustled in the leaves nearby.
He started nervously. He wasn’t really scared, but they were big woods and though there were no dangerous animals in Britain, he still got the creeps from time to time. He was conscious that he was alone, isolated.
He decided to press on a little deeper, thinking perhaps if he got the serious heeby-jeebies, he could find a nice protected spot and hide there and watch to see what was that he had heard.
He moved quietly, pushing leaves aside with his hands and occasionally his knees, careful where he stepped.
As he moved, he became conscious of an odd creak. It sounded almost like a tree being moved by the wind, but there was no wind. It didn’t belong here.
As he kept going, the sound got louder.
It was in front of him, somewhere through the bushes and the massive ferns.
Then his eyes were drawn by a strange movement, towards the top of his vision. A large growth on the tree, but the light filtering through the leaves was in his eyes and he couldn’t make out details.
He straightened up and shaded his eyes with his hand.
There in the tree, was a body. It was, or had been a man he thought, judging by the top and sports bottoms. Standard uniform for round here, he thought, but the face was dark, purple and swollen. The hands hung limply and one trainer had fallen off. It lay on the ground below the hanging corpse, on its side, a pool of water soaking in to it.
Graham thought he was going to have a heart attack. He yelped loudly and shot backwards out from under the tree and ran back, his hands wind-milling wildly, to the fallen tree where he had had his smoke.
He grabbed his phone out of his pocket, dropped it, then swept it up and dialled 999.
His hands shook so much that he hit the wrong number twice and had to lay it on the tree to keep it steady enough to press the screen.
“Emergency,” the clipped and professional male voice replied. “Which service do you require?”
“Police, police. Now. Please hurry. I don’t want to be alone with it.”
“What is the nature of your emergency, sir?
“There’s a body, hanging. On a rope. I’m in the woods in Blairveggie estate.”
“There’s a squad car on it’s way to you now sir,” the voice said. “What is your name and your exact location?”
“My name is Graham. Henderson. I live round here. I was just walking the dog. Hurry up. This is so scary. Come quickly, I don’t want to be here alone.”
“The police will not be long Graham. Tell me about the body. Are you sure they are dead?”
“I think so. He was all purple, black, swollen. I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Can you still see the body?” asked the controller.
“No,” Graham said. “I ran away.”
“That’s alright. It’s a normal reaction. Will you be able to lead the police to where he is?”
“Maybe, I guess.”
“What is your exact position? They will be with you very soon.”
“I’m about a quarter mile off the main path towards the back end of the estate greenhouse. I was looking for Cassie. She’s run off again. It’s pretty thick undergrowth round here.”
He heard a siren in the distance, but coming closer. “They’re here,” he said, and ended the call to wait for the police.
Still shaking and jittery, he pulled another cigarette from the packet and lit it, noticing how much his hand was jerking.
He could hear two, maybe three policemen crashing about in the woods somewhere nearby.
“Over here.” He shouted. He waved his hands, feeling a bit stupid in the darkened wood, but wanting to do something.
He spotted a peaked cap just through the leaves and yelled. “This way, this way. Come now. I’ll lead you.”
Then he turned away from them and started back along the path he’d created in the undergrowth as he ran from the body.
The police followed along the path and stopped when they spotted the corpse in the tree.
Graham just stood aside to let the professionals take over.
“Been there a few days I reckon.” Said the tallest of the three men. “Maybe a suicide. We’d not have found him without that call.”
The one with the beard got on his radio and requested an ambulance and the crime scene team, just in case. They’d take the photographs anyway.
Graham moved away, feeling ignored, but glad he no longer needed to look at the bloated body.
He’d done his bit. He’d been a good citizen. He shivered, conscious of the dampness around him.
The police were on their radios again, and he could hear another siren coming towards the woods from the opposite direction.
One policeman was shaking his head. “No, no sign. We’ll give him a ring. What’s the number again?”
One of the others took out a mobile phone and pressed several digits.
Graham felt the vibration in his pocket and pulled his phone out.
“There,” one policeman shouted. “Shit.”
Graham stood and began to walk back to the clearing, finally pleased they wanted to speak to him.
But the policemen were standing looking at the hanged man.
And listening as the bleeping tone, clearly audible, rang out from the left hand pocket of his jacket.