Leon in the Badlands

Leon found a bone on the side of the highway. He was in the badlands, and he knew that any bone you found there was possibly a dinosaur. There was always a chance.

So, he showed it to his dad, who didn’t seem that convinced of the bone’s importance. He said that if it was just on the side of the highway, the paleontologists would probably have looked at it already. Besides, it didn’t look like a dinosaur bone. It was long and not fossilized. To be honest, it looked like a femur or something.

And then Leon showed it to his mom. She was a little more receptive to the idea that it might be a dinosaur, but he knew that she often just humoured him. She liked for him to feel some wonder about the world, and that often seemed to mean that she went along with ideas that just didn’t work. He needed an objective opinion.

He took the bone to his older brother. Often, he and his brother didn’t really get along very well, but when he wanted an honest opinion, Leon knew who he could trust. Dad often seemed too distracted, and mom didn’t want to disappoint. Only Sam would be straight with him. He was young enough to still see possibilities, but not interested in sparing Leon’s feelings.

Sam said it didn’t look like a dinosaur bone. Besides, those weren’t just lying around on the side of the road. They put those in museums. Sam was quiet for a moment, and then said that he agreed with dad. It looked like a leg bone or something from the pictures of skeletons in books. Sam thought maybe he should take it to the police.

Leon had never been fond of the police. They were even more authoritative than his father, and his father was already plenty authoritative. Nonetheless, as he looked at the bone, he couldn’t help thinking that it was probably the right thing to do. The RCMP would be able to check databases and things. He didn’t really understand everything they might do, but he knew that they’d have a better chance than him of finding out where the bone came from and who it might belong to.

He took the bone into the cop shop and got his dad to come with him. Leon told him that it might be human, and that had interested his dad, so he agreed to come along. If he’d been by himself, they probably would have just taken the bone, thanked him for bringing it in, and then forgotten about it. But his dad ensured that they would actually pay some attention.

The RCs took the bone, and promised they’d test it, though even the officer who first took it had to agree that it looked human, regardless of any test. But it would still need to be tested. If it was human, they’d check the files for any missing persons or unsolved murders in the area.

While he still was disappointed that it wasn’t a dinosaur bone, the fact that it might be involved in crime made it up to Leon. He told Sam when he got back, and his older brother was impressed. Sam was almost never impressed, so that was kind of a coup.

They were just camping, but it wasn’t long before the RCs called to confirm that it was human. They asked Leon’s family to stick around for a few extra days while they checked the files. They also asked Leon to show them where he had found the bone.

Leon took them out to the side of the road where he’d found it in the first place. They cordoned off the area, and then called in some crime scene experts from the city. Not only was this just a big deal generally, but it looked like it might be one of the bigger cases the town had ever seen.

After a few days, Leon and his family were allowed to leave. They kept up their itinerary for a few days, but then his dad decided that it was just time to go home. They drove back to Hinton, which was only a day away. The side roads would have been faster, but they had a trailer to haul as well, so his father decided that  just sticking to the main highway would be best.

They were home for a few weeks, when they saw that the police had found more bones in the area, culminating in a skull. From the skull they could piece together the identity of the man who’d been killed. He’d been missing for about a year, and no progress had been made on his case, to the point where it had been given up and gone cold. When they were first investigating, they found out that he had been out at a local bar, and the bartender remembered him being picked up by another man. The bartender didn’t recognize the other man. No one else seemed to have seen him at all, and the trail had gone cold right there.

But apparently the guy had been killed instead of going wherever he’d thought he was going. From the skull, they could tell that he’d been killed with a blunt object, but the bones couldn’t tell them much more than that. They kept track of it for a while, but the case went cold again. The bones told them that he was dead, but not much else. They still couldn’t find the man that had picked him up, and it was still just the bartender who’d even seen the other man.

Leon was glad that at least he’d found the bone. He realized it didn’t really lead to much, but at least they’d found his body.  At least they had something to bury, and they hadn’t even had that before.

But he also felt very odd about having handled the man’s leg bone. He no longer felt any thrill about it being part of a criminal activity. For his own sake, he kind of wished that it had simply been a dinosaur bone that he’d found.