Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

The Boy Who Stopped Breathing

Hernandez looked at his desk. He didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want to work. There was no more work to do today, anyway. Everything would happen tomorrow.

Tomorrow he would have a coroner’s report and a report detailing all of the other evidence from the crime scene. He would know what make of tires were on the vehicle that brought Gabriel to the orchard, he would know more about what material the person used to cover his or her footprints (the investigators could identify patterns in the way the fine dust along the side of the dirt road had been moved around), he would know the size and likely shape of the knife used to slice through the boy’s throat and whether or not that cut had killed him, he would know how much blood the boy lost, what he ate last, and what kind of rope had burnt his small wrists.

Tomorrow he and two other officers would begin calling the parents of Gabriel’s classmates. How well did your son or daughter know Gabriel? Did you know Gabriel? What did you think of him? When was the last time you saw him? May we speak with your son or daughter? Yes, you may be present, though we would prefer to interview him or her individually. If he was lucky, they would begin interviewing the kids tomorrow.

Tomorrow the county would release a full statement to the press. He would receive a dozen or more phone calls and who knows how many emails requesting a statement of his own. He would point them to another tomorrow and they would wait.

Tomorrow he would track down Gabriel’s parents, probably in the evening, in plain clothes. Someone would help him find their house. Maybe one of the other officers. Maybe one of Gabriel’s friends or someone like William. Maybe, though he doubted it, they would find him. Everything they said would be off the record. He would not report them. He couldn’t. No one in Brenlee would ever trust him again, even the ones who said they were tired of all the ‘illegals.’

Tomorrow he would wake up groggy from the sleeping pill and shot of Jack Daniels he would need in order to sleep tonight.

Tomorrow he would call Theresa and tell her what happened. She would be angry at first, coming off 24 hours at the hospital, but she would understand. She would probably wait to remind him that he should have stayed in San Jose. All of this would never convince her that being together would be worth moving to Brenlee.

Tomorrow maybe he would eat something finally and stop thinking of Gabriel’s open hand reaching across the dust and dirt of that orchard, reaching, he thought he knew, for him. And maybe tomorrow he would at last feel able to clear his throat and take the full deep clean breath that had eluded him since seeing the body that was once a boy.