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.