Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Poor News Badly Delivered Pt. 3

It’s the same man. No doubt.”

How do you know that?” The whole time they talked, Hernandez kept look­ing at the skin of old Mr. Sneed’s hard, ancient, cal­loused hands and the fad­ed wear of the old man’s cot­ton shirt.

The way he done it. The way the boy was layin’ there.” The old man answered this as he answered every­thing the offi­cer asked, as though patient­ly stat­ing the obvi­ous and with a touch of sur­prise that he even asked the ques­tions.

How do you know it wasn’t some­one who saw the boy lay­ing that way? A copy cat.”

No one saw that boy before me. ‘Cept the one done it.” It was a blue shirt with long sleeves.

Are you say­ing you saw the killer put the body in your orchard, Mr. Sneed.”

I shouldn’t say so, but I’m sayin’ so.” Though thin and light now, it had prob­a­bly begun as a heav­ier, dark­er shirt meant for work.

Did you or do you know this per­son?”

Yes and no.” The third but­ton down had been replaced. The new but­ton didn’t match, but it held the shirt togeth­er all the same.

What does that mean?”

He’s from here. Oh, he’s from here. Family’s before my time.” Someone had tried to scrub away oil and grease stains from the cuffs. The marks remained, but the shirt looked clean.

You seem fright­ened.”

Well, I ough­ta be. You ough­ta be, too. He’s no lit­tle man. Nothin’ like the good-for-noth­in’ they sent away.” All of his fin­ger nails were bent and yel­low, the tips of his fin­gers wide and rough.

So, you’re say­ing you know Mike Boone didn’t kill that boy?”

Every ass­hole knows that.” Mr. Sneed fin­ished his cof­fee. “Sorry, but it’s plain as mud.”

Right. But no one said any­thing.”

No one could.” As rough as the fin­gers and palm of his hands were, the backs looked soft, almost sup­ple with wrin­kles and dark spots.

Why not?”

You got­ta under­stand. We were afraid. Besides peo­ple wan­ta believe some­thin’ that makes more sense.” Someone had patched the right elbow with what looked like the den­im remains of an old pair of jeans.

Makes more sense?”

That Boone boy made more sense.” He rest­ed his hands on the table in front of him, the fin­gers of the left cov­er­ing the ones of his right hand. When he rubbed his hands togeth­er: the sound of paper or sand.

Sure.” Hernandez drank his cof­fee and tried to think of some bit of train­ing that would help him deal with this man and what he knew. Nothing came to him, so he went with the obvi­ous, “Who was it, Mr. Sneed?”

It looked at first as though the old man smiled, but there was no hap­pi­ness in the way his face con­tort­ed. As he bent his head for­ward, Hernandez could see the old dark blue of the shirt on the inside of the fad­ed col­lar. “I wan­ta tell you.”

I want to know.”

So you say. But it… you won’t believe it.” He sighed and mum­bled, “And it prob­a­bly won’t do no good even if you do.” Almost as though he knew Hernandez’s pre-occu­pa­tion with his hands and shirt, he rubbed the palms of his hands across his fore­arms. He gripped his fore­arms and spoke from behind clenched teeth, “It’s Currie.”