I was at the Henry Sibley Historic Site in Mendota. The old limestone homes of early state settlers and statesmen — like Sibley and Faribault — are located here. I find it to be a great place to get work done. Several picnic tables are placed on the shaded lawns and they make a perfect, uncluttered outdoor desk.
Of course whenever one is working, one must also take a break, a line of reasoning I never fail to respect. The Minnesota River is just across a line of railroad tracks. A trail runs along the river and I like to walk a mile or so of the trail on my breaks.
Yesterday I noticed a string of bloody drops on Lower D Street (which I think is what it is called, but I remember it as Water Street). It started from the lawn near where school buses unload children on historical field trips and wandered more or less directly toward the tunnel that passes beneath the railroad tracks.
Judging on the spacing of the spots, I estimate whatever was bleeding, was moving at an even speed, perhaps not too quickly because the spots were round and even, but I don’t really know.
I lost the spots at the tunnel. A television crew was there and of course I thought I had stumbled upon some crime of some sort only to be disappointed to learn that it was the local public television station on a scheduled shoot. I chose to keep my discovery to myself, said my hellos, and moved on.
Sure enough — although I was a bit surprised to see it — the trail of blood continued. It remained more or less consistent with what I could more clearly see on the pavement of D Street. In fact the trail was so easy to find it wasn’t possible to feel much like a skilled tracker. Find one dot, look ahead a few feet, find another. That was about it.
To make it interesting, I let my imagination run.
I presumed whatever was bleeding was fairly large, maybe a large dog…or a person. A smaller animal surely would have bled out if it were leaving behind half-dollar blotches of blood every few feet over the course of a hundred yards or more. In the end, this trail would extend to well over a quarter mile. Every time I found another stain, I figured I had to be near the end, but I tracked the trail under the Mendota Bridge and then far down the trail to a point where it turns into some river bottom woods.
I’ll admit getting anxious a few times. The spots looked relatively wet and fresh, sticky wet. I regret — just a bit now — that I didn’t touch a spot. A real tracker would have done this. More than once blood had fallen on a leave and that could have easily been picked up and inspected. I didn’t do this either. I just too photos.
I began to worry about what I might find if I reached the end of the trail. I really didn’t want to see a suffering animal or even a suffering man for that matter. But I couldn’t really stop tracking either, could I?
As I thought more about the trail I started to draw more definitive conclusions. I didn’t see any animal tracks near the blood stains because whatever it was seemed to stay clear of puddles and mud. It struck me as odd enough that an animal would stay on a clear trail if it were wounded. A wild animal, I concluded, wouldn’t do this. Perhaps a dog would.
But would a dog avoid mud? No dog I ever had avoided mud.
And the spots stayed clear and strong. Must have been a big animal.
So I concluded I was tracking a wounded person, someone who didn’t want to hide in the brush or get his Bruno Magli’s dirty. (Where is O. J. anyway?) This made me nervous, too. What if I found a badly wounded hobo or abused lover? Still I pressed on…
(This would have been so much more exciting at night, by the way, but as a practical matter, finding and tracking spots of blood on a trail might not work as easily in the dark.)
Anyone reading this blog recently knows that I am a Columbo fan. I started playing Columbo and wondered how often Columbo got nervous. I was in a suit, but lacked the raincoat and cigar, mistakes I won’t make again. Still, it occurred to me that a desperate criminal might mistaken me — yes, me! — as a police detective on the hunt. I liked the sense of danger it added to my search…
I liked it until I heard a lot of thrashing in the shrubs immediately next to me! I looked down and to my horror, the blood trailed backed up! Whatever I was trailing appears to have stopped at this spot and stood for a moment. Oh, god…what I had I found? Nothing. Squirrels chasing in the underbrush. And to my relief the trail resumed a few feet ahead of me.
As you can guess, this went on and I managed to survive. It went on for more than a quarter mile as I have mentioned where…poof…it stopped. And it ended in a strange place. The trail divides a cattail marsh, not really the best place for man or beast to get off the trail, but the blood stopped there. I looked around, even pushed aside some grasses and brush to get a better view. Nothing. And no track in the marshy dirt near the trail either.
Walking back to my car I felt a little disappointed, but no less curios. There they were plain to see, dot after dot of blood. A mystery.
When I got back to my car a woman was getting ready for a jog. I decided to play up the Columbo bit a little. I leaned over in the middle of D Street with my camera and snapped some photos before standing and scratching my chin and shaking my head. I even tapped the side of my nose in as thoughtful of a way as I could.
I opened my car door, pulled out my laptop, and tapped some nonsense into a client database I have, hoping she might think I was checking a police report, obviously. I even said: Good day, ma’am” as I expected Columbo might.
I think she thought I was nuts and was happy to have had been wearing running shoes. She quickly jogged down the road and disappeared through the tunnel and onto the trail that tracks the blood. I wonder if she noticed it.
- Thursday Night Update (alittletourinyellow.wordpress.com)
- Columbo: He Was the Best! (tentmakerstips.wordpress.com)
- Why Columbo is a secretly terrifying character (thatguythatreviewsstuff.wordpress.com)
- Siegfried Farnon or Lieutenant Columbo? (alittletourinyellow.wordpress.com)