Pete Gates walked quickly down the dark street, past the big mural depicting the ascent of man. He had run away from home, and was headed for his favourite sleeping place. He wore a big backpack and a bed roll on his back, and carried an insulated bag in his hand, containing enough food for a couple of days. He whistled softly as he went, looking forward to an adventure.
When he came to what he considered his spot, there was already someone sleeping there. It was hard to see in the dim light from the street light he had passed, but it looked like an older man. He leaned down and shook one of the feet, or tried to. It seemed to be stiff, not like human flesh. Puzzled, he dug in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, turned it on, and used its light to see. What he saw took his breath away, and caused him to step back in horror. Taking a couple of deep breaths, he settled down enough to realise that he needed to call 911.
When a voice answered he reported “There is a dead man here! His face is covered in blood!”
“Where are you, sir?” the voice asked.
“Uh – at the monkey end of the mural on Broad Street. Please, send someone soon. I can’t stay here – it’s awful!”
“The police are on their way now, sir. They should be there right away.” The voice answered. “Just hold on for a few moments, and they’ll take over.” Pete thanked her just as a police car arrived. Two officers got out, one went to the spot Pete indicated, the other came to talk to him.
“Ok, young man, why don’t you tell me how you found him, and what you’re doing here at this time of night? I’m Sergeant Patterson.”
Pete gave his name and explained that he had run away from home, and came to this spot, because it was where he liked to sleep whenever he ran away. “I get fed up with all the rules at home, and like to get out on my own sometimes. This spot is the best I’ve found. It’s sheltered from all but the worst storms, and no one can get at me except from out here. I saw his foot, and tried to shake it, but it was stiff, so I used my cell to look at him. It’s awful! His face is covered in blood!” He shivered, though the night was warm.
The other officer came over. “That is the truth, Dan. He’s dead, still in rigor. I take him to be about forty five, maybe fifty, well fed and dressed. Looks like a big gash just above he hairline on the front of his head. And there is the word ‘Caesar’ sprawled in blood on the wall near his right hand.”
“Caesar, huh?” Patterson said thoughtfully. “Well dressed? Wonder what he was doing in this neighbourhood?” He turned to Pete. “And that reminds me; you shouldn’t be here, either. This is one of the worst, most dangerous areas in the city. Once the medical examiner gets here, we’re taking you home. Your parents have already reported you missing. If you have the sense God gave an ant, you’ll stay home and find more sensible ways to spend your time.”
Pete sighed. He knew he was defeated. “Ok, I’ll go home, but it’s so dull. There’s never any excitement, nothing to do, I feel caged. If only Mom would let me go into socker, or football, like his friends Deke and Vince. Only she’s afraid I might get hurt. All I want is a little excitement, a little adventure. She won’t even let me go hiking with the guys.” His shoulders drooped, and he sighed. “All she lets me do is go to piano lessons.”
“Hmm,” Patterson said, looking at Constable Higgins. “Perhaps we can do something about that. We sponsor both football and socker teams in the city league. And you could join the Venturers, Scouting for boys fourteen to seventeen. They go camping, hiking, and do a lot of other interesting things, and learn a lot that helps in future careers. I’ll have a talk with your parents when we get there. Ok?”
Pete’s face lit up. “Oh, would you, really?” he was so excited he could hardly wait to get home. “If you could just assure her that I’m no more likely to be seriously injured than I am walking to school or piano lesson, I’d be happy to stay home.”
“OK, Pete, we’ll see what we can do. And here’s the M.E., so we can go. You and Higgins get in the car, and I’ll just speak to him and join you. Off you go, now.”