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.”