Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

The Perfect Downtown Location

By the time Oliveri left Hernandez’s apart­ment the street lights down­town had come on. He walked down 5th street and turned right on Oak Street and stepped into one of those lights. In any oth­er town Oak Street would be called Main Street, but Main Street in Brenlee was res­i­den­tial except for a church or two. In two blocks he would walk past The Brenlee News store front. He would turn right down the alley between the News build­ing and the phar­ma­cy, walk up the iron stairs on the side of the build­ing and go to work in his office in the back cor­ner of the build­ing. The clut­tered old office had a view of the defunct train sta­tion and rail yards in one direc­tion and the town hall, police and fire sta­tions in the oth­er. Old man Bergoyan or who­ev­er chose this loca­tion for the paper, knew what they were about. Between the editor-in-chief’s office and the store front, lit­tle of any sig­nif­i­cance could hap­pen with­out some­one at the paper know­ing.

The only busi­ness­es still open on Oak Street tonight — the piz­za par­lour, the video rental store, and the Duck Inn Bar — all looked qui­et and emp­ty. He saw a car parked in front of the News build­ing, some light blue American thing attempt­ing to look wind resistent and big at the same time. Who was it and how long would they wait to see him? He checked his watch. Almost eight o’clock. His quick errand to Hernandez’s place had tak­en the bet­ter part of two hours.

How many times had Hernandez asked him, “What am I sup­posed to do with this?” Five times? Ten? It felt like twen­ty.

He asked at least three times before Loof took a guess, “Don’t go along.”

But that didn’t do it. That cop kept right on ask­ing, “What am I sup­posed to do with this? What does he want me to do?”

What could he do? Loof’s reply was ada­ment, if not use­ful. “Don’t lock up some­one inno­cent. Again. Don’t let ‘em rail­road some­body like Luke Bettis.”

That kid would lose a lot of card games before he learned not to show his hand so ear­ly and Hernandez would win a lot with his ter­ri­fy­ing eyes and springloaded anger. Oliveri mum­bled out loud to him­self as he passed the video store, one block from his office and his guest with the light blue American car, “I shouldn’t have opened by big mouth.” But he had to help Fran’s boys.

So, he spoke to them like he was some wise old codger in a Frank Capra film, “Luke Bettis could no more kill a child, then he could hold a steady job for more than a month. His whole prob­lem is he lacks any pur­pose or what peo­ple call ’self-dis­ci­pline.’ Besides that, he’s a thief and a cheat. There’s no mon­ey in this for him.”

Hernandez sound­ed con­fused. “Bettis wasn’t even on my list.”

And Mike Boone wouldn’t have been either.”

Who’s Mike Boone?”

The one they locked up the last time.”

They locked some­body up for it?” Hernandez sat down on the edge of an worn wood­en-armed reclin­er with cush­ions cov­ered in Mexican blan­kets. He looked out of breath. He scanned the let­ter. “Why doesn’t he say that?”

He moved away before the case was closed.”

Before they even arrest­ed Mike.”

Hernandez leaned back in the chair and looked at the ceil­ing. “Shit.”

Oliveri went reflex­ive­ly into inter­view mode. “I guess they didn’t tell you about Mike Boone down at the sta­tion?”

No.”

What did they tell you?”

Hernandez glanced at him. “Now’s not the time for your sto­ry. This is all off the record.”

Fair enough.” And he could have left it there. Could have let them work it out. Might have head­ed back to his office and not found his vis­i­tor wait­ing for him on the iron steps up to the out­side door to his office. But he didn’t leave. He had to ask one more ques­tion, “Hernandez, what are your ambi­tions?”

My what?”

You aren’t the typ­i­cal Brenlee cop. You have a col­lege degree. You worked on a real city police force for a few years. You don’t want to be a reg­u­lar cop for­ev­er do you? Even if you do, you must be smart enough to know you won’t be. This case is already a pro­mo­tion for you.”

I get it.” Hernandez cut him off.

And Oliveri stood in front of iron stair­case and wait­ed for his vis­i­tor to speak or to move. The light bulb over the out­side door of his office cast strange shad­ows down the woman’s face. “Are you the edi­tor?” She asked.

Yes.”

Good.” The woman stood up. She wore a slight­ly rum­pled busi­ness suit and looked the kind of attrac­tive Oliveri always asso­ci­at­ed with expen­sive shoes and city primp­ing.

How can I help you?”

Something about the way she dust­ed off her hands and squared off to face him told him she was a lawyer. She took a legal doc­u­ment and pen from her purse. Oliveri and the woman were the same height, so she looked him in the eye. “Mr. Charles Oliveri?” Her voice was low and hard.

Yes.”

I am here to inform you that Michael Jesse Boone, for­mer­ly of Brenlee, California, died this after­noon by his own hands in San Quentin State Prison. If you could please sign, date, and note the time where indi­cat­ed on these doc­u­ments. There are three copies, two for me and one for your records. Thank you.”