Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

The Part-Timer

Well, where is he?”

I don’t know exact­ly, Dennis.”

He must have radioed in.”

He did. From the Sneed farm around sev­en. Then again about ten min­utes ago.”

Does he real­ize school has start­ed?”

Yes, I’m sure he does.”

Well, this is his deal.”

He said you could han­dle it. Just fol­low the ques­tion­naire.”

The ques­tion­naire?”

Yes, the ques­tion­naire.”

What ques­tion­naire?”

The one he left on your desk this morn­ing. I typed it up. He made a hun­dred copies last night. They were on your desk.”

Shit.”

Den-”

Sorry. Sorry. I didn’t check my desk this morn­ing.”

Well, Dennis…”

Winnie, is there some­one there that can bring ‘em to me at the school?”

I’ll have Marty run them over.”

Thanks. Tell him to hur­ry.”

What’re you going to do in the mean time?”

I dun­no. Tell these kids what’s goin’ on, I guess.”

Be care­ful, Dennis.”

Don’t wor­ry, Winnie. I’m just gonna talk about the ques­tion­naire, that’s all.”

Good luck.”

Thanks.”

Officer Dennis Plaster looked out at the school play­ing fields one more time. He didn’t grow up here in Brenlee, but a few towns over in Atwater. It all felt famil­iar enough. Just small­er. He took this job for the pay­check not the work, but he had it now. He want­ed a cig­a­rette. No time. Ninety kids and as many par­ents were wait­ing in the Brenlee Elementary School Library. The door opened and closed behind him.

Dennis.”

Yes, Ms. Schmidt.” Ordinarily, he only worked for the Brenlee Police part time.

When will we start?”

Well… I’ll go in and tell them what we’re gonna do.” Hernandez had called him in last night.

What are we going to do?”

I’m going to take each stu­dent aside in the Library office and ask them some ques­tions.” For some rea­son, Hernandez trust­ed him.

With their par­ents present?”

Yes, ma’am. With their par­ents.” Hernandez called him ‘Old Reliable’ because he always cov­ered extra shifts and nev­er bagged out ear­ly.

May I or their teacher also be present.”

Sorry, no. They may have things to say that might get them in trou­ble with you.” He was mak­ing this up, but it made sense. When he was a kid he wouldn’t have said any­thing impor­tant in front of his prin­ci­pal or teach­ers.

Okay. If you think that’s best.”

Yes, ma’am. Yes, I do.” Plaster had no for­mal law enforce­ment train­ing as such. One crim­i­nol­o­gy class in col­lege because he thought it would make a cool elec­tive. A year on the cam­pus secu­ri­ty force and sum­mers work­ing at a sport­ing goods store, some of the time behind the gun counter, pret­ty much sealed his fate.

Well, should we get start­ed then?”

Uh, yes, I was just check­ing in at the sta­tion.” He held up his cell phone. “Marti is bring­ing over some paper­work.”

Oh. Should we wait?”

No. No, need. I can brief every­one about the process with­out the paper­work.” He start­ed for the door, then stopped. “One thing though, maybe we ought to have some kind of activ­i­ty for the stu­dents and par­ents while they wait to go in.”

I’ll set up the TV and DVD play­er. They’ll be hyp­no­tized until you’re ready for them.”

Uh, good.” Plaster could tell the vice prin­ci­pal didn’t think much of him. She had taught his girl­friend in fifth grade and made it clear that she didn’t approve of him. He opened the door to the library for her and fol­lowed her inside. Truth was, he didn’t think much of her either.

Marti arrived with the ques­tion­naires just as he fin­ished telling the kids and par­ents what to expect. “Can you stick around for a while Marti?”

I dun­no, Dennis. I got a guy in the lock up.”

It’s just Foltz. And it’s just like 15 or 20 min­utes while I get this thing going.”

Okay, sure.” Marti was earnest but pli­able.

Just kind of incon­spic­u­ous­ly watch the door while I’m ques­tion­ing these kids.”

You mean make sure no one is lis­ten­ing in?”

Yeah, that and maybe just see who it is.”

Anyone in par­tic­u­lar?”

Parents. Teachers. You know.”

Sure.”

After the fifth stu­dent, Marti came in to get the next name to call from Plaster. “She still out there, Marti?”

Yep.”

Same place.”

Yep.”

She know you’re watch­ing her.”

I dun­no. Maybe she thinks I actu­al­ly believe she’s read­ing a Hardy Boys book. She gave me a ‘D’ in English one quar­ter, but I’m not that dumb.”

Ask her to step in and be kind of quick about it, so she can’t put the book down.”

Marti smiled. “Right.”

Ms. Schmidt came into the librarian’s office hold­ing a small paper­back book. She thought she was still in charge, “How can I help you Officer Plaster?”

Plaster didn’t say any­thing for a long minute. He hoped she would sim­ply apol­o­gize and promise to stay out of his way for the rest of the day. She didn’t. He stood up. He was at least a foot taller than this lady. He held out his hand. “Give me the book.”

Ms. Schmidt hand­ed Plaster Hardy Boys #186 — Hidden Mountain with­out blink­ing. “Big Hardy Boys fan, Ms. Schmidt?”

I like to know what my stu­dents are read­ing.”

Maybe. I think you also like to know what they’re say­ing to the police.”

What’s that mean?”

You know what it means. Hell, I did bet­ter lying in front of the prin­ci­pal back in Atwater when I was ten than you’re doin’ right now.”

Are you accus­ing me of lying?”

I thought that was clear. Maybe what’s not clear to you is that if you keep hang­ing around that door, I’m going to have Marti here take you in for inter­fer­ing with an offi­cer of the law in the per­for­mance of his duty.”

You wouldn’t. Officer Hernandez-”

Don’t bet on it. ” Plaster want­ed to tell her a lot of oth­er things too, but none of that mat­tered at the moment. Not real­ly. It was enough to know that he had her cor­nered. “I’m not the right guy for you to play prin­ci­pal with and I don’t think Officer Hernandez is either. So, let’s play by my rules.”

Ms. Schmidt didn’t say any­thing more for a moment and then asked, “Are we done here?”

Sure. Here’s your book.”

Marti snick­ered.

The vice prin­ci­pal took back the book and left the library with­out a word to any­one. Plaster want­ed to call Hernandez, but he wasn’t sure what he would tell him. People are keep­ing tabs on the inves­ti­ga­tion? Old ladies are read­ing Hardy Boys books? Watch out for the 5 foot 1 inch six­ty-plus year old vice prin­ci­pal? Maybe the kids know some­thing? Maybe Ms. Schmidt knows it too?