Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

The Dog Would Not Stop Barking

This is for you. From my pre­de­ces­sor.”

Hernandez looked at the old dusty enve­lope. It was addressed “The Next Investigator.” The return address was a sligh­ly off kil­ter rub­ber stamp that said “The Brenlee News” and under it, the paper’s down­town address.

I don’t get it.”

Read it.” Oliveri want­ed to see Hernandez’s reac­tion to the let­ter.

Have you read it?”

No, I don’t need to.”

Why not?”

The old man told me what it said.”

Why don’t you tell me what it says.”

First, I don’t know exact­ly, and sec­ond, a promise is a promise.”

Hernandez start­ed walk­ing to his front door. Oliveri and William fol­lowed. “What’s that mean?”

William piped up. “It means he promised the old man he would give you the let­ter and not tell you what it was about.”

That’s about right.”

The short train of men stopped at the front door to Hernandez’s apart­ment. Hernandez hes­i­tat­ed. Open the let­ter now? Open the door? Send Oliveri away? Bring them both in? Why was every­thing such a pain in the ass? He unlocked the door and brought them both in, Oliveri stood near the door and William relaxed into the couch.

Just a minute.” Hernandez went to his bed­room and changed out of his uni­form and into jeans and a t-shirt. He heard William ask about the for­mer own­er of The Brenlee News. Oliveri said he was liv­ing in Fresno, but didn’t get out much. He returned to the liv­ing room with the let­ter.

Hernandez asked Oliveri, “Why now?”

Because of what hap­pened today.” The edi­tor-in-chief took out a cig­a­rette, but didn’t light it.

William told him, “It hap­pened before.”

What?”

Twenty years ago.”

That’s what’s in this, then?”

Oliveri waved his a cig­a­rette in one hand and his lighter in the oth­er. “That and some oth­er things, I imag­ine.” He turned to William, “What are the chances I can smoke in here?”

Nil.”

Hernandez stared at the enve­lope in his hand.

You gonna read it?” Oliveri asked.

If I do, I might not tell you what it says.”

Sure, but you might.”

Don’t you have a paper to get out?”

It’ll wait.” The news­pa­per­man smiled at the cop and William watched and wait­ed.

Hernandez opened the let­ter. From where he sat, William could see that it was a one page type-writ­ten let­ter, sin­gle spaced and signed at the bot­tom. Hernandez looked but found noth­ing else in the enve­lope. The two men watched him read it. They heard the front door of the upstairs apart­ment open and close and muf­fled foot­steps cross the car­pet. Outside a dog start­ed bark­ing, prob­a­bly the one they had seen wan­der­ing down the street.

Inside, they couldn’t hear Hernandez breath­ing. His only clocks were dig­i­tal — the cable box and the microwave — so there was no tick. Time seemed to pass around rather than through them, the dig­i­tal num­bers watch­ing and report­ing on some­thing out­side. William remem­bered col­or pho­tographs he saw in a mod­ern art muse­um, por­traits of lives frozen in a too real world, rich in col­or and all the peo­ple watch­ing some­thing beyond the frame of the pic­ture. The shud­der would not close, the dog would not stop bark­ing, time would not move through this apart­ment again, until Hernandez fin­ished read­ing.