Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Todo es…

Is Gabriel real­ly dead?”

I’m afraid so.”

Have you seen him?”

No.”

Then you don’t know for sure.”

Sick today, huh?”

No. Not real­ly.”

Didn’t go to school, though.”

Am I in trou­ble?”

No.”

It’s against the law to skip school.”

Not today.”

Why?”

Plaster didn’t answer. He didn’t make a sound.

Because of Gabriel. Right?”

Yep.”

Did they find his body?”

Yes. Yes, they did.”

The tarp shift­ed and then some­thing met­al under it. Mac Taylor had moved away, fur­ther under the work­bench. Neither of them spoke for a long time. Then Plaster offered, “It’s kin­da nice in here.”

No, it’s not.”

It’s cool any­way.”

You mean like cool­er than out­side?”

Yeah.”

I guess. It gets hot in sum­mer.”

I bet.”

Mac start­ed tap­ping some­thing against the dirt floor. Something met­al. “What killed him?”

Plaster didn’t hes­i­tate. “A knife, prob­a­bly.”

You don’t know?” The tap­ping remained steady.

Not for sure. Not yet. We’re look­ing into it.”

So, you guys don’t know shit.” Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Only a lit­tle hard­er now.

Plaster caught half a chuck­le. “A lit­tle more than that, any­way.”

Right.” Tap. Tap. No break in the rhythm. Tap. Tap.

He liked this kid more and more. He played with noth­ing to lose. “What don’t we know?”

Who killed him? How they did it. Where they did it. Why they did it. Shit. All that shit. Todo es chin­ga­do, señor.” Almost bang­ing.

You got that right, kid. Plaster wait­ed and then start­ed with the only ques­tion on the ques­tion­naire that made any sense to him giv­en the sit­u­a­tion, “Where did you see Gabriel last?”

By the canal. Over by that old wind­mill that doesn’t work.” Faster now, but not so hard. Tap. Tap.

What were you doing over there?”

His answer start­ed strong, but devolved quick­ly into a mum­ble. “Riding my bike. Messing around and stuff…” The tap­ping switched from met­al against dirt to met­al against met­al.

Stealing sprin­kler heads.”

The tap­ping stopped.

Is that what you and Gabriel were doing there, Mac? Stealing?”

No.”

Come on. Don’t lie to me.”

We weren’t steal­ing. Not the oth­er day.”

The day before yes­ter­day?”

Yeah.”

What were you doing?”

Just above a mum­ble, “check­ing things out and stuff.”

What? Checking what out?”

The house and stuff.”

What stuff?”

The house and this barn thing.”

By the wind­mill?”

Yeah.”

Plaster wait­ed for more, but it didn’t come. “You two shouldn’t have been over there.”

Mac Taylor final­ly poked his head out from under the blue tarp. He had dark, curly hair all in a mess. He was still in his paja­mas. “We didn’t take any­thing.”

What did you see?”

The boy watched Plaster, looked into his face try­ing to tell him some­thing, but only let­ting out a pre-ver­bal “uhh­hh.” Tears swelled his eyes and he began blink­ing, blink­ing and squint­ing. “Uhhhhh…”

Plaster crouched down, to try to put the boy at ease. “What was it, Mac?”

And the boy bolt­ed from the shed into his house and went straight to his moth­er who was watch­ing from a win­dow in the rear util­i­ty room of her house. It didn’t take a genius to know the boy was cry­ing and wouldn’t have much to say until his moth­er calmed him down. Plaster checked his watch. Not quite 11:45. He need­ed to talk to Hernandez. This wasn’t enough for a war­rant, but cer­tain­ly worth a look around. Kids shouldn’t be this freaked out. Cops shouldn’t have this many sim­ple ques­tions unan­swered.