The two college students attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He was Native American, tracing his roots back to the mysterious Anasazi Indians. She was European, from somewhere in Eastern Europe or so it was said.
Arriving at the Mogollon Rim, the Colorado Plateau’s southern escarpment, Martin spread a blanket in front of the giant pine that overlooked Walnut Canyon, a narrow gorge that housed traces of pre-Columbian Sinagua pueblos. Nadya opened their picnic basket and arranged the sandwiches and drinks.
Finishing their light repast, they settled against the pine to watch the afternoon sun over the western mountains. Nadya nestled in the crook of Martin’s arm as they chatted about their studies. During a pause, she lifted her face seeking affection, but Martin put his hand over her lips. “I can’t.” He said. “I’m a member of an Anasazi sect that is cursed. If I kiss you I may lose control and breathe your life force. Unable to stop, I will inhale your soul and you will crumble into ashes.
Nadya stiffened as she absorbed Martin’s tale, and then kissed his neck gently. “I too have a spell.” She said. “I’m Romani, a Gypsy.” And with that she sank her teeth into Martin’s pulsating neck. His blood splattered from the gaping wound as she gorged herself, only pulling back a second to take a breath. In that pause, Martin jerked his head and planted his mouth on hers, inhaling violently. Instantly, Nadya went limp as he sucked away her life force. When he hesitated, she gathered her strength and fought back, biting his lips.
An owl perched above in the pine tree gazed down at the struggle on the blanket and hooted. The sun touched the mountains, reds and gold streaked the evening sky. Night creatures crept forward, watching the lovers clinched in their deadly embrace.
A sheriff’s deputy met the state investigator as he pulled into the trail-head parking lot. The deputy led the way to the fatal picnic scene. “Possibly a homicide, but hard to tell what happened. Might be an animal attack, but I have no idea what animal did this.”
The two law officers arrived at the scene and the state investigator paused considering the young man dead against the pine tree overlooking the canyon. Sandwiches and drinks were laid out for two on the blanket. The lawman went forward and bent carefully, studying the dead student with the jagged neck gash and chewed lips. Taking his pen, he poked at something on Martin’s clothes
“What‘s that?” The deputy asked.
“Ash,” the investigator answered, pointing to the debris on the student’s lap and on the blanket. Gazing around the quiet pines, he wondered aloud.
“Where’d all these ashes come from?”