They walked on for several more minutes in companionable silence. White was lost in his memories until Peters spoke up. “What's that sir?”
He paused and followed the line of the sergeant's pointing finger. Bones, poking from the soil beneath a beech tree. He felt his heart skip a beat. They'd only just been talking about Sally Fields and now he'd found her after all these years. The power of suggestion, Beryl always said. Like repeating the name of something you were looking for. Your eyes glossed over the obvious, but if you repeated 'car keys, car keys' the chances of finding them on the coffee table where they'd been dropped the night before were greatly increased.
White cast around for a stick and found a serviceable one a few feet away. He used it to part the emerging fronds of bracken from the bones to establish a perimeter, then squatted to carefully scrape away the leaf mound and accumulated soil from the bones. “Ribs.” He brushed the dirt from the area and moved up the body.
“Human?” Peters crouched a couple of feet away to avoid contaminating the crime scene, if it was one. “They look a bit narrow to me.”
White brushed more soil away. The recent rain had mare the ground soft, almost spongy like the surface of an an old pine forest. He uncovered the skull and huffed with what was either disappointment or relief, he couldn't tell which. “Not human. A dog, I think. Something large, anyway. Perhaps a badger.”
“That's good, then.” Peters stood. “Though I thought we'd found your missing kid for a moment there.”