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.