Amanita

It was the mushrooms that gave it away. It was cold, and it was wet, and it was mushroom season, and Martin saw them from yards away, even through the fog, even as nightfall slunk through the trees, and he went over to look.

He didn’t know one mushroom from another, would not know a button from a morel from a deathcap. He had a cousin, once, used to go mushroom hunting for food and probably to get high, although he never told Martin that, of course. The cousin got really sick one year and stopped doing it. Probably best that way.

These were big mushrooms, white, almost glowing in contract against the dark of the oak leaves in the ground. There were dozens of them, clustered in fairy rings, laced and concentric fairy rings. But only in this one spot, this one small clearing in the oaks. As if someone had dropped a stone into the forest floor, right here, and the mushrooms had rippled outward. All from this one spot.

He kneeled down, and the leaves were wet and smelled of moss and damp. The fog spun away from his hand as he reached out to a small hillock where the largest of the mushrooms was growing. He tipped the mushroom to one side and it delicately broke off from the stem, the gills underneath the cap glistening white and streaked with dark blue. He pushed the leaves aside. Under the mushroom, a flash of skin. White, streaked with blue.

He let out his breath, slowly, and the mist clouded his face. “Charlie,” He called to the other man whose hat he could just still see through the dusk, bobbing over the crest of the hill. “Charlie, I’ve found her body.”