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.”