Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Up Against It

Walt Bishop enjoyed the impres­sion he thought his long grey pony tail made on the law enforce­ment squares he worked with every day and was cer­tain it afford­ed him some nat­ur­al hip­pie inti­ma­cy with any offi­cer or coun­ty employ­ee of col­or that came out as a “hey I’m an out­sider too” atti­tude. Hernandez didn’t get it, but he wasn’t above using it.

Hola ami­go.” Walt’s stands and extends a hand across his clut­tered coun­ty issue met­al desk for a soul broth­er grab.

Hernandez plays along. He match­es the hip­pie Assistant Coroner’s grip and says “Hola hom­bre. Que paso?” in a low voice that he knows white peo­ple think is reserved for home­boys.

Hey, man. Sorry to see this thing you’re up against.”

Yeah. It’s the job, right?”

You wan­ta see him?” He jabs a thumb in the direc­tion of the morgue around the cor­ner.

If it’s not too much trou­ble.”

No trou­ble at all, hom­bre.” Walt push­es up his wire-rimmed specs and reach­es across his round bel­ly to dig the keys out of his clut­tered desk draw­er. He leads Hernandez to the morgue. “You want the straight dope?”

What’s that?”

Come on, it’s 6:30 in the morn­ing, bro. I know you’re not out here just to see the kid. You saw him before. You want the dope before it goes through the offi­cial sieve and into the report.”

If you can, hom­bre…”

No prob­lem.” He paus­es before open­ing the door and looks back at Hernandez. “Brace your­self. Kid’s still on the table, bro. None of them TV show sheets cov­er­ing him either. Organs in trays, the whole nine, right?”

Hernandez swal­lowed, he hoped imper­cep­ti­bly. “Alright.”

Walt pulled his lips into a half smile that made his droop­ing eyes seem sad­der still. “Okay.”

The boy’s hands were at over his head and open to the bright floures­cents above him and though it made him long enough for the adult size table, this strange death stretch only made him seem small­er and more frag­ile than in the orchard.

Walt cleared his throat and rat­tled the keys as he clipped them to a belt loop. “Yeah, the arms were in a weird posi­tion when he came in and in the pho­tos, so I thought I bet­ter check under them, you know. Plus it kind of helped open up the chest. Small. Anyway, noth­in’ too weird. He was in good health, didn’t smoke, doesn’t look like the fam­i­ly did much either, though he’d been around it like every­body. He had a school lunch in his stom­ach — if they served hot dogs and tater tots like mine did. You alright, man?”

Hernandez was star­ing. “His hands…”

Yeah, you know, some bruis­es don’t show ’til after death-”

What bruis­es?” The hands looked pale, rough, but unbruised.

Anyway, yeah, he worked hard looks like. Those cal­lous­es there.”

What bruis­es?” Hernandez picked up the boy’s left hand and felt its cold weight in his own. Something, some life force, lighter than breath and dark­er than blood, drained from his chest.

I was get­tin’ to that. Look at the wrists. Real close. You’ll see some slight dis­col­oration there. Usually that’s a big nasty bruise even after a bleed out, right? And then over on the face here, same thing, real light mark maybe from a hand or fist or some­thing that size. More marks on the ankles, but there we got abra­sions and rope fibers. Cheap black nylon shit, prob­a­bly pret­ty old with the size and num­ber of strands. Though it looks like some­body tried to wash all that off. In fact, the whole body was rinsed, prob­a­bly as he bled out.”

Hernandez care­ful­ly set the boy’s hand back on the table. He let go of the boy and focused on Walt, but still felt thin­ner than when he had arrived. “The clothes were clean.”

Right. Here’s what I think. I don’t know what the offi­cial report’s gonna read, but… who­ev­er did it, stripped the body down, no signs of rape or any­thing. Gagged, though. Hung the vic­tim upside down and then cut through the throat, hit­ting both arter­ies, like an old farm butch­er. Then they grabbed the head by the hair back here and let the blood drain out. Body’s prac­ti­cal­ly dry inside. You prob­a­bly noticed there wasn’t any­thing pooled in the ankles at the scene. The way I see it, the blood nev­er went any­where but out the throat. Being upside down caused some prob­lems with the bow­els. Didn’t quite drain ful­ly. The vic­tim was rinsed pret­ty thor­ough­ly but I couldn’t find any traces of soap or sham­poo. According to Shelia on the day shift, the hair near the scalp was still damp when they brought the vic­tim in and the skin was soft and pli­able.”

Then they dried him off and put his clothes on.”

Yeah, looks like they used an orange or maybe peach col­ored tow­el. Lots of fibers on the body.” And Walt’s hand reached down for his keys.

That it?”

For in here, any­way.” He start­ed for the door.

Hernandez looked at the boy’s face, calm, emp­ty, but not peace­ful. He jerked his head away and moved quick­ly to catch up to his white-coat­ed guide. “What else?”

I did some research.”

He knew where this would go. “Yeah?”

Yeah, man. You know, any­thing this weird, the guy’s got­ta be kin­da psy­cho, so maybe it’s not the first, right?”

It’s not.”

Walt stopped and held the door open to the hall­way. He looked at Hernandez. “You know?”

Hernandez walked past him into the hall.

Of course, you know. Shit, man. Win said you were good, but-”

Hernandez stopped and looked back at Walt. “Can you get me the details on the old case?”

Not now.” The hip­pie Assistant Coroner looked wor­ried and kept walk­ing towards his office with hard­ly a pause.

Tomorrow?”

Sure, but-”

Don’t tell any­one what you’re doing. I’ll pick it up ear­ly tomor­row morn­ing.”

Early, like now? ‘Cause you know, this is late for me, bro.” Walt sat in his desk, which faced the door­way where Hernandez now stood, but wouldn’t look at him.

Right, bro. Early for you. Late for me.”

After a moment, Walt looked up at Hernandez. “What’s going on?”

Hernandez need­ed Walt on his side, so he did some­thing he nev­er thought he could do with a straight face. “The Man fuckin’ with the inno­cent same as always.”

A mil­i­tant steely-eyed jus­tice pushed the wor­ry from Walt’s face. Hernandez stepped to him, hand out and they held a soul grip tight and solemn over the desk. Walt whis­pered deeply this time, “You get ‘em broth­er. Cut ‘em down.”