The semi-leafless, agile trees reach toward the shadow-drenched hiking path, and it grows darker, more ominous as the last rays of the sun slip behind the veil of darkness.
A child running haply along bouncing his basketball sees a stooped figure ahead on the path, runs forward and taps the person on the shoulder. The figure slowly turns around and the child, eager to impress this hooded stranger, passes the basketball through his legs, around his waist, weaves, and bobs back and forth with the bouncing ball.
The man reaches out, grabs the bouncing ball, and twirls it on the tip of his finger. He flounces around, and around, the ball spinning endlessly on his finger, as if an invisible hand held it in place.
The naïve child claps and laughs, his eyes riveted on the spinning ball.
Leaves crunch under the man’s feet as he moves startling the child, and while he looks, squint-eyed, at something behind the man on the path, the man circles him, turns suddenly, and shoves the ball hard into his chest.
The child falls backward onto the ground and his breath catches in his throat when he sees the body. He tries to get up and run, but can’t.
The man pulls out a long shiny knife with a bloody serrated blade and holds it up to the moonlight, slowly turning it back and forth while the light striations dance across the child’s face.
The basketball lands in the blood that has pooled on the sidewalk, and then rolls casually into the grass.
The whimpering child scoots backwards; his hands slick with the blood from the corpse. The man lunges at him grabs him by his hair and drags him down the path toward some bushes. The child screams, kicks wildly, gouges at the man’s hand, sinking his fingernails in deep, eventually drawing blood.
The man screeches and clutches his injured hand and as the blood trickles down encircling his fingers, the knife falls, and the child wiggles free.
Hysterical, the child starts to run, trips over the dead body, and falls in the grass. The man grabs him by the back of his shirt, picks up the knife with his injured hand, and puts it to his throat. The child’s body goes limp. The man slowly lowers the knife, lifts the child up by his shirt, and again moves toward the bushes, but this time the child is clutching a pointy-edged rock, and he twists around, swings his arm, and shoves the point of the rock hard, into the man’s eye. The man lets out a shrill cry, drops the child and the knife, rips off his hood, grabs his eye, and doubles over howling in agony.
The child is hyperventilating, his screams guttural. His legs are rubbery but he still musters up the strength to bolt, half crawling half running. The man holds his eye with one hand, lurches forward, and catches the child by his foot with his free hand. He falls on the grass next to the bloody basketball, grabs the ball, and hurls it at the man catching him on the side of the head. He staggers backward, and the screaming child runs blindly down the path into the arms of a Police Officer.
Two gunshots ring out in the darkness. The shrouded figure falls, and his face makes a loud thud when it smacks the cement.
The Officer holds the clinging child and a flashlight with one arm, his revolver in his free hand.
The child buries his face in the Officer’s neck, sobbing uncontrollably while the Officer warily surveys the surrounding area with his flashlight, and then walks over to the body lying in the pool of blood.
The flashlight falls from his hand and his knees start to buckle. He steadies himself and tightens his grip on the child as the moon casts silvery shadows on the body of a blond curly-haired girl, approximately five, the Dora the Explorer decal on the front of her pink sweatshirt saturated with blood, and the bloody basketball has come to rest next to her pink and white Dora the Explorer tennis shoe.
The Officer draws the child closer, places his hand on the back of his neck to console him. He holsters his gun and his hand trembles as he takes out his radio and calls for backup.