BUS PLUNGE KILLS 37. The headlines were bold, stark sensational.

But nobody, not even the back-country police who had pulled the unidentifiable, bloody lumps of flesh and bone splinters from the twisted wreckage, knew if that was the case. There were too many goats and too many people fallen from too great a height, and not enough left of any of them.

The man in charge, a plump, rural sergeant with a drab uniform and an ancient Webley revolver hung on an even older Sam Browne belt, was more used to quelling alcohol-triggered domestic disputes by barging through the front doors of low adobe huts in the heat of battle, and unceremoniously drinking the combatants under their own tables. This filling out of endless forms regarding mass death, he had no comparable stomach for.

Finally, after much internal confusion and debate, he threw a dart at the dartboard hanging in his office, doubled the number, and added one for good measure. He scrawled a violet '37' into the last blank of the official form with a leaky fountain pen, licked the envelope shut with a swift, deceptively practiced gesture. Then, taking the whole distasteful business to the post office, he mailed it, and immediately bushed with the village postmaster for drinks.

Not surprisingly, the postmaster lost.