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.