Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Before The County Arrived

After Mr. Sneed goes inside, Hernandez takes a new package of yellow crime scene tape from his car and marks a large rectangle around the body, looping the tape around the thick branches of mature peach trees on one side of the dirt road and the green tips of the almond saplings on the other. Then he paces along the road opposite the body, trying to decipher the freshest tire tracks. It looks to him as though a truck stopped next to where the body lays. He walks around the body, carefully looking for footprints other than his own or Mr. Sneed’s which come no closer than ten feet. He finds none. In fact, it looks to him as though someone has intentionally wiped the ground clean around the body, maybe with a broom or piece of heavy cloth.

He looks more closely at the small body, both arms out stretched, face buried in its lap, legs and knees tucked under as though the boy had been kneeling. He can see only the ends of what must be one long deep slice across the boy’s throat, but even without moving the body he knows that the clothes have no blood on them. The killing has taken place somewhere else and then the boy brought here and arranged this way. He takes pictures of all this until his stomach turns.

He stands upright and takes a few steps back away from the body, taking in what was still cool of the morning air, looking around this spot. Why here? Then he sees something in the mature orchard. Nothing moving. Something in one of the peach trees. Nothing reflective. Just something out of place. He takes a step forward to find the right tree and bring it into focus. Two cars come up the driveway and turn down the road. They will stop at the yellow taped perimeter, but he needs to greet them. He’s the officer on the scene. What is he seeing? Maybe nothing. Probably nothing. He can’t even name it. It’s simply wrong. A flaw in the fabric of this reality. He takes another step towards the orchard but in the corner of his eye the first unmarked car from the county has stopped. Men are getting out. If he looks away he’ll forget this probably unnamed detail, this feeling of something escaping him, like a road sign passed too quickly to read or the name of a childhood friend. Someone speaks and he turns.

Mrs. Sneed is offering the men coffee. She carries a silver percolator pot in one hand and styrofoam cups in the other. She won’t move more than a few steps past her back porch. Hernandez glances back at the tree, looks down at his feet to see where he is standing. Why is he here? Nothing. Just the stress of the situation or something. He turns the digital camera off and goes to greet the county homicide investigation team.