“Come back here, Prince! You’re running ahead too fast!”
Excited by his early-morning freedom in the park, and exhiliarated by the cool, crisp autumn air, my golden retriever reacted like a prisoner just out of jail. He pretended not to hear me and kept on running. I know I should have kept him on his leash, but no one was present at such an ungodly hour, so I took advantage of our solitude. He was penned up so many hours of the day and night in our nearby condo, I took pity on this beloved pet of mine.
Suddenly, Prince stopped. His nose twitched. Something had piqued his interest. Panting by now, he ran over to a small wooded area, then disappeared through a clump of bushes. When he started to bark, I assumed he was after a squirrel or a bird.
The barking continued, and I commanded, “Come here, Prince! Immediately!” His barking stopped, and after a few moments, he struggled back through the bushes, but with something in his mouth. He dropped a shoe at my feet. A woman’s white jogging shoe that was smeared with blood. Then, just as quickly, he ran back into the wooded area, and his barking continued. “This time,” I thought, “I’d better see what all the commotion is about.” I worked my way through the thicket, my sweater catching on the dry branches. When I reached my noisy dog, I stopped, horrified. My hand went instinctively to my throat as I looked down. There lay the body of a young woman, her blond hair fanned out on the leaf-strewn ground. Her torn and bloody raincoat showed there’d been a terrible struggle. Some of her clothing had been removed. She had just one white jogging shoe, on her right foot.
Frightened, and with trembling fingers, I fastened the leash on Prince. It was no small feat dragging him back through the bushes and onto the path. No one was in sight as yet, and I was shaking like an aspen in the wind. But I managed to pull my cell phone out of my fanny pack and call 911. “Police Department?” My voice quavered. “I'm in Hastings Park walking my dog, and we’ve found a body in the bushes. A young woman. Looks like she was murdered.”
The gruff voice at the other end of the line warned me, “Don’t touch anything! Stay close by, and we'll send a squad car and ambulance right there.”
I found a nearby bench to sit on, as my knees were buckling. I was cold, but beads of perspiration had formed on my brow. Prince was tugging at his leash. Thank heaven he was there with me. If I had been alone, I think I’'d have fainted. The wait seemed an eternity until I heard the approaching sirens. They drove their vehicles right into the park. “Show us where you found the body, Miss.” Prince was only too eager to lead them to his gruesome find. Then one policeman thoughtfully put us in their car while they examined the corpse. I watched as they put the loose shoe Prince had brought out into a plastic bag. I couldn't bear to watch anything else. A small, curious crowd, attracted by the sirens, had gathered, seemingly from out of nowhere.
Prince and I were driven home after they had finished. The evening paper and news broadcasts mentioned the mystery woman who was found murdered in Hastings park. And not until weeks later did they report that the murderer had been apprehended. A rapist and thief with a police record. And how did they find him? A bloody fingerprint on that shoe Prince had brought to me! The police had found its match in their police files. The criminal is now serving a life sentence.