But Atwater also represented the mistakes of the past. For that’s where Henry and his pal Hannah had decided to bury the body. They didn’t bury it on the beach, but in the woods to the northwest. They had thought about what to do with Danny’s body late one evening by a fire on Atwater beach in the summer of 2002, when they were both 13 years old. Neither of them knew what else to do, so they built a fire out of twigs on the sand and discussed it.
It had been an accident, of course. Danny, a tall, skinny kid with sandy blond hair who was only 11 but acted like a teenager, had found some coins in his father’s garage a few days before, underneath a bunch of rotting newspaper, cardboard and dirt. They looked to be worth at least $500, because there were many sheets of old dimes and nickels and a couple gold coins, including one from the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Henry and Hannah had only wanted to share in the wealth.
Upon showing the coins to Henry and Hannah, Danny bragged about what he could buy; he planned to cash them in at a local dealer. “I’m not going to tell my dad because he would just take them from me,” Danny had said.
“Cool, well thanks for showing us, Danny,” Hannah said that day as they left. Slyly she had grabbed a hammer from a shelf in Danny’s father’s garage and slipped it in her bag as they walked away.
“Meet up in a few, then,” said Henry. Henry and Hannah didn’t hang around with Danny regularly, but he seemed older than he was and he liked good music.
A few days later, the talk about the coins led to an argument that led to a skirmish in the woods. They were going to threaten him, scare him into giving them a cut. Danny refused to share. He wanted to buy a new bike for himself and a new video game system, maybe. Hannah pleaded with Danny, but Danny refused. She pleaded some more; Danny refused. It seemed impossible. But Hannah had gotten impatient and struck Danny hard several times, hard enough to split his skull open.
Danny didn’t cry or wail. He yelped briefly and dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Blood started oozing out of his head, spraying a little bit on nearby foliage. Hannah and Henry had stood there in shock for several minutes. Then, as if waking up from a dream, Henry said, “Quick, get some branches. We gotta hide him.”
Hannah looked around and found some leafy branches and some evergreens. Thank goodness it was June and leaves had returned to the trees. They both pushed Danny’s body up against a nearby log and covered him with the branches. Luckily, it was about 7pm and the beach was no longer busy. No one had seen or heard anything in the woods to the northwest of the beach.
“Let’s go back to the beach and figure out what to do now,” Henry said urgently. He looked at Hannah who just stared at the lump of branches by the log.
“Yeah. Uh, OK, let’s go, responded Hannah, a few minutes later.