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.