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?