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.