Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

The Car In The Orchard

Hernandez turned the squad car out of the Grady’s parking lot and looked in the rear view mirror. Perry Foltz’s tears and laughter cooled to a dull simmer. The cowboy was calming himself down. Hernandez decided to take the long way around to the station. He turned off the the main route through town, onto a side street with more orchards than addresses.

“Ya’ gonna take me out and teach me a lesson pachuco?”

“Where’d you learn that word?”

“I dunno. Too much TV, maybe.”

“My name is Hernandez. Officer Hernandez.”

“Okay. So, you gonna take me out and teach me a lesson in one of these orchards here, Officer Hernandez?”

Foltz’s eyes held Hernandez’s glance in the rear view mirror. “I could.” He slowed the car. Foltz didn’t look worried. He turned right down a narrow dirt road only slightly wider than the regular spacing of the rows of almond trees. Once hidden from the main road by the trees, he stopped the car and turned off the engine. Hernandez undid his seat belt and turned around to look at Foltz through the plexiglass divider.

“Okay, jefe. You’re startin’ to worry me.”

“You should be worried if I decide to search you.”

Foltz shifted forward in his seat. “I don’t know what yer talkin’ about.” Hernandez only suspected he was holding before, but now he knew it. But he’s not as dumb as he lets on, this cowboy.

Hernandez took a piece of cinnamon gum from the pack on the seat next to him.

“Hey, howzabout you slide me one of them pieces through an air hole here, Officer, sir?”

“I’ll give you one at the station.”

Foltz leaned back in the seat. He was sitting on his hands now. Hernandez smiled. “Don’t bother.”

“What?”

“Your hands, put ’em behind your back. There’s no point, Foltz. We probably won’t keep you long.”

“Ya’ know what? You’re overly suspicious, that’s your problem. I’m just a little uncomfortable here, that’s all.”

Hernandez’s tone changed. “I’m not suspicious enough.” The bullshit was over. “And you know it.”

Foltz sat forward and moved his hands behind his back again. All traces of his habitual smirk closed and went away for the duration.

Hernandez didn’t look away. He seemed hardly to breathe in the moments he didn’t speak. “You had me fooled. Right up until you did that skip step.”

Foltz didn’t blink. “I don’t know what yer talkin’ about.”

“Sure.”

After a fat, distended minute of staring at one another, Perry smirked again.

Hernandez continued at last, “If you had wanted to hit Buedall, you would have gone right up to him at the start. You wanted Andy. Or maybe me. But I think you wanted Andy. You barely know me.”

“Now, why would I wanta hit good ol’ Andy Currie?”

“You tell me.”

Foltz leaned back in the seat and looked to his left down a long row of trees. He shook his head. “Uh-uh. You better just take me out and kick the shit outta me here or whatever you wanta do…or…or run me on in to the station for whatever you got. I’m ready. Whatever.”

Hernandez did not move.

Foltz looked at the officer and badge and then out the window again. “I’m just a drunk, stupid cowboy is all. I got nothin’ against Andy Currie. I’ve known him my whole life. Andy knows it, too.”

“You’re not drunk. Not that drunk, anyway.”

The smirk departs again and Foltz is blinking back tears, but not from grief this time. Or booze. When he speaks again, it comes from the back of his throat, a deep whisper that reminds Hernandez of a schoolyard bully surrender, “What would I have against Andy? Andy Currie…he’s a good man. A goddamned angel. Whole family’s a bunch of angels. And Kenny too. Goddamned angels.”

Hernandez shifts in his seat. “You’re afraid.” He’s whispering too. Surprised.
Foltz turns to him and looks him in the eyes. His voice is more ragged still. His eyes look burnt red. “You bust me down or whatever. But you tell ’em, I didn’t say nothin’ but they’re good men.” He looks down at his boots. “Because they are…good men. Kenny’s good…Andy is a good man. I’m just a drunk, stupid cowboy’s all.”

“You’re not stupid, Perry.” He could have waited some more, but Hernandez knew Foltz was too tired and bent – maybe too broken – to make a stand. A kid like Perry Foltz might never be able to say what he knew, but he’d done what he could. He took his swings in the moment and gave Hernandez some direction to go looking and two men to watch for along the way. He drove him to the station, but never searched him or booked him. Andy never filed a complaint.

No one signed Perry Foltz out upon his release that night. A small bookkeeping error that made the moment of Perry Foltz’s diappearance feel to Hernandez slightly more than natural, slightly less than honest, and entirely inevitable.