Country roads. Dark, like tree-lined tunnels.

Speed. Telephone poles and mailboxes pass quickly. A blur.

Handcuffs swing from spotlight handle. Metal hits metal. Tap, tap, tap.

Winding curves. Driver training. Hit the apexes. Feed the wheel. Don’t cross your hands. Is it hands at ten and two, or three and six? Eyes darting from ditch to ditch, watching for deer.

Moon back lights trees. Tall gnarled fingers disappearing into a sky blackened by night. Blue strobe lights transform fog into winking, blinking azure cotton candy.

“Are we close?”

“No, not yet. We was a long ways in the country. Maybe three more miles.”

Radio lights blink in sequence. Dispatcher speaking in monotone. Stolen car on interstate. Disturbance in West End. Shoplifter at convenience store, Third and Bellview. More blinking.

“There. Right there. The body’s in the woods to your left. Drug him across the ditch right there. See where the weeds are knocked down?”

Entourage stops. Guns drawn. Flashlights.

Walking. Don’t disturb scene.

Gun belt leather creaking. Keys jingle. Twigs snap.

“Where’s the body?”

Shrug. “Thought it was here.”

Humidity high. Sweating. Vests like dense clay around torso.

Hours pass.

Spider webs.

Cadaver dogs. Noses to ground.

Mosquitoes. Hundreds of mosquitoes.

Sun sends night home for the day. Pushes through tree canopies like translucent yellow wands.

“I found it!”

Man – no, a boy – lying in leaves and pine needles. Eyes closed, mouth open. Hands bound in back by gray duct tape.

Insects in and out nose and mouth, like cars traveling the 101.

Flies everywhere. Sickening.

Cameras. Measuring. Gathering.

9mm casing in roadway.

Execution.

Gansta wannabes.

Interrogation.

“Didn’t know gun was loaded. Took it from Dad’s nightstand.”

“It was a joke. Honest.”

A joke.

“We just wanted to scare him.”

Teenagers. One dead. Four in prison.

Life sentences.

A joke.