The sunshine broke through the trees, casting patches of light and shadows on the trail. Shade from the trees helped keep the hot summer day bearable. The trail, mostly used by off-road vehicles, was difficult to follow. Rocks, loose gravel and sandy soil made every step treacherous. It would be easy for her to twist an ankle or trip and fall while trying to keep up with her partner. They had been at it steadily for an hour, only taking short breaks for water.
Cache County Sheriff Deputy Felicity Steele and her K-9 partner, Chance, were training in the hills east of Logan Utah, in the nearby Wildlife Management Area.
Felicity, a stunning platinum blonde with short cropped hair and a lean runner’s body and her partner Chance, a five year old, 90 pound male German Shepard were playing the roles of suspects trying to hide and evade detection in the remote wooded area. Chasing them were Deputy Nikki Voss and her partner Phoenix. Voss and Phoenix were a new team added to the Sheriffs K-9 Unit. Voss was a two year veteran who won out a tight competition for the position. She had spent the past eight weeks bonding and training with Phoenix in Nashville.
Deputy Steele and Chance were now in charge of further training the new team to the various needs of the Cache County Sheriffs Department.
Phoenix’s present task was to track Felicity and Chance in a wilderness environment. So far, he was doing well, while Nikki Voss was struggling to keep up with him.
Chance suddenly stopped and put his head up and sniffed the air.
“Are they close?” Felicity asked as she reached down to pat his side in appreciation of his performance.
Chance started whining, left the trail and headed into the trees and brush.
“ What’s wrong? Come back here!” She yelled.
Chance stopped, looked back at her and barked. He then continued on, with a curious and annoyed Felicity starting to follow. Ten yards further in, Chance stopped and sniffed the ground and started pawing the ground.
“Oh, come on. It’s probably a dead animal!”
Finally catching up. She looked down at the hole Chance was digging. “Come here, leave it!”
Chance stopped, still whining, sat and looked at her then down at the area he had been pawing at.
Felicity got closer, looked carefully and noticed the faint foul smell and something else caught her attention. It was a hand, a human hand, in what appeared to be a recently dug grave covered with dead brush. “Oh shit!” She exclaimed.
Immediately alert and quickly surveying the area, Felicity put her hand on her weapon, she looked for anyone who might pose a danger or a problem. Seeing none, she grabbed her radio and contacted Voss and informed her of their find.
“Nikki, please return to your vehicle and radio in this information, my portable radio won’t work this far out. Chance and I will secure the scene in the mean time.”
After gathering the location information, Voss and Phoenix quickly headed back down the trail to their cruiser.
It took about an hour and a half for Deputy Voss to guide Sheriff Seth Tyler and the Crime Scene Investigation Unit to the location on their all-terrain Polaris RZR vehicles.
Felicity met them on the trail.
The Sheriff, a tall man in his 60’s, had thick brown hair with streaks of grey at the temples, showed concern in his bright blue eyes.
“Tell me what you’ve got.”
“Chance and I did a recon of the immediate area and it appears there are two more, I’d say, older graves about ten yards apart. I’m not positive, but Chance is hitting on something. After the second hit we backed out not wanting to disturb the scene any further than we had already.”
The Sheriff nodded. “Good thinking. We’ll have the CSI team check out what we’re dealing with and go from there. What were you doing out here today?”
“We were getting in some extra training with Deputy Voss and Phoenix to see how they handled tracking in a remote area. It’s usually more physical than an urban search is and I wanted to get them some experience in the situation before it’s necessary.”
“Well they sure got some experience today! How are they doing?”
“Really well. So far, they don’t seem to have any issues as a team, but they’re new to each other and the bond will only get stronger with time. They were a little slower following us up the trail, but I’m sure Nikki’s endurance will get better once she’s been chasing Phoenix around for a while. From what I can tell, Phoenix stayed on track all the way, which, we made quite difficult to follow. So, I give them high marks for today’s exercise.” Felicity said as she scratched behind Chance’s ears.
“That’s good to hear. It’s quite an investment we’re making, adding them to the department. But, you and Chance have shown me how invaluable a K-9 Unit is to us and how much time we lose when you’re off shift or otherwise unavailable. Your input in helping us choose Deputy Voss for the position made my job easier and the process much faster. I had to work with the County Council and strike while the iron was hot to get it into the budget, but your and Chance’s success rate provided me with the proof we needed another team to be added.”
“I think they will be an asset. Here comes Diana de Winter.”
De Winter was in charge of the CSI team. In her mid-20’s she was of medium height and weight with a long blonde ponytail poking out of her CSI baseball cap.
“Sheriff, Felicity, it looks like we have a dump site. We found three graves in the area. The first one being the newest. The other two are older but not by much. The Medical Examiner will need to determine the timing. We’ve uncovered the first and it a female, young, I’d say late teens but that’s just a guess. We’re waiting for an M.E. to arrive so we can move the bodies and while we wait we will uncover the other two to speed things up. I’ve called for another team and for them to bring up portable lights and a generator. It’s going to be a long day. Sheriff, we’ll need to secure the scene until we have everything done. It might not get all done today.”
Seth Tyler looked behind her at the people working, his people, and nodded. “I’ve got it covered. There should be a couple of Deputies assigned, to be here on duty before dark. What else can you tell us about the scene?”
“There are a couple of older partial footprints around the graves but the ground here is pretty sandy and contains a lot of rocks, they are not going to tell us much. We’re searching the area for more, hopeful we’ll find better ones we can make impressions from. Right now, best guess is, male cowboy boots, size unknown. We’re also expanding the area in case there’s more but at this time, it doesn’t look like it. The ground gets rockier the further out you go. So, I think this is it… for now.”