Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Maria’s Story Pt.3

Neto did not stay out of it. He did not keep what he’d heard to himself. He made, or tried to make, trouble for Ken Sneed.

The trouble he made didn’t amount to much. By the time he went to the sheriff with what little he knew, they had already picked up Mike Boone and built a case against him as the murderer of Tomas Coates. The sheriff knew Ken Sneed. He didn’t like him, but he didn’t care to cross him on the word of a distraught Mexican who did not even reside in his county. He sent Neto away and told him to keep his story to himself.

For three weeks after Neto’s death, Maria would wonder if Ken Sneed knew her brother had spoken to the Sheriff. Could Sneed have had something to do with the way her brother died? Was it really an accident? But how could Ken Sneed make a truck roll and catch fire without anyone knowing? How could he make Neto drive drunk? And how would he know that Neto had gone to the Sheriff?

The sheriff didn’t believe Neto, but he did think Neto believed himself. He used to hunt with Ken Sneed. Used to. Ken was an asshole. An asshole with booze. An asshole with money. An asshole with his wife, his children, and his mistriss. An asshole with his gun and to the men who carried guns with him. So, one-on-one, in the family room of Ken’s battered old stucco farmhouse, recently outfitted with a new oak bar and a custom made pool table, the sherriff confronted Ken with what he’d heard.

“Who told you that Tim?”

“I’d rather not say Ken.”

Ken straightened from the pool table and looked at the sheriff, his big, clumsy, too-nice-of-a-guy-for-his-own-good, childhood friend. He looked at the man’s Wrangler jeans and dark green golf shirt with the golf course logo on it and knew how how much his campaign had cost and how many votes he had all but purchased. “Well, why not?”

“Ken, there’s a lot of upset people over this thing around here-“

“And I’m one of them.”

“That’s right and…and upset people don’t always think straight- Let me finish here, real quick. And it doesn’t do anybody any good to have this become some kind of thing.”

“My name’s brought up to the county sheriff, it’s already a thing, goddamnit.”

“Only if you make it one, Ken. Only if you make it one.”

“Fine.” Ken took his shot and missed. “Your shot.” He went to the bar to pour himself another drink.

And the sheriff leaned over the table to line up his shot, wondering as he did if he should risk asking Ken if it was true even though he knew already that Neto hadn’t lied to him. He heard Ken slam down his glass on the bar behind him and then three steps across the floor. Ken was running. He felt the slate under the pool table’s expensive red felt crack as his forehead slammed down against it. Ken’s pool cue pressed against the back of his neck, holding him there.

Before he could reach back and try to work himself free, Ken kicked his legs out from under him and shouted, “You goddamed dumbfuck. What the fuck do you think this is, Timmy boy? Did that little bitch tell you this? Did she?”

“No.”

“Who was it? Trot?”

“No.”

“Who?” Ken kneed him in the ribs.

“The brother. Her brother.”

The sheriff felt Ken bearing down on his neck and he knew he had forgotten about his legs. He found purchase and stood up and back with a single thrust. Ken was smaller and drunker and gave way more easily than he expected. The sheriff took his pool cue from him and threw it across the room. Then he worked Ken Sneed over the way he’d always wanted to, the way that would destroy every part of his life that men like Sneed had bought and paid for, and he hit knowing that he would walk away the loser even if the winner could not stand of his own power.

Ten days later, Neto was dead. Taking a tight turn too fast, his truck had crashed through a barbed wire fence in the foothills outside of Brenlee. He was drunk and had apparently lost control. The truck had gone over a bare, steep ridge and rolled down to the river. They found him because Andy Currie and another volunteer fireman had smelled the smoke and later spotted the flames.

Three weeks later, the sheriff went to Maria’s house. He didn’t introduce himself or explain why he’d come. He told her about hunting with Ken Sneed and about growing up with a mean, weak little boy who would one day have all the power. Then he told her about playing pool at Ken’s house.

The sheriff’s term ended that June. He had chosen not to run again. He had lived his entire life in Brenlee, but moved away. He never came back and the few people in town who ever caught up with him, said many of the same things: he hadn’t settled anywhere long, never took another regular job, and he was not the man they knew.