Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

A Man of Visions

Yesterday (Tuesday, right?), he took the call out at the Sneed’s place. He saw the boy’s body, Gabriel Velasquez’s body, mur­dered some­where and then care­ful­ly arranged in the Sneed’s peach orchard. Small and still.

Last night, after a day of towns­peo­ple, coun­ty offi­cials, teach­ers, par­ents, and Gabriel’s fright­ened peers, he received a let­ter from an old news­pa­per man, writ­ten well in advance of yes­ter­day. In that let­ter, the old man told a sto­ry about anoth­er mur­der of anoth­er boy com­mit­ted here in the same town and in much the same way 20 years ago. Friends he has made here in Brenlee knew that boy, saw his body (arranged just like Gabriel’s), and told him of jus­tice gone unserved.

This morn­ing, before he could even enjoy a peace­ful break­fast, a man attacked anoth­er man after learn­ing about Gabriel’s mur­der. The man he assault­ed was lat­er accused of, at the very least, aid­ing and abet­ting the pre­vi­ous mur­der. He took the attack­er to jail and learned lit­tle along the way. He went to the morgue to see Gabriel again, to learned just how he had been butchered.

And then, the vision. A peach. Visual and olfac­to­ry hal­li­c­i­na­tions. Simple. Not even a mes­sage, as such. But he took it as one. Went where it point­ed. The orchard where old Mr. Sneed had found Gabriel. And from Mr. Sneed he learned that the oth­er boy, 20 years ear­li­er, had been found in exact­ly the same way only a few feet away.

Driving away from that orchard, trac­ing the path of the per­son who brought Gabriel and that oth­er boy to rest among those trees, here on the canal bank, anoth­er vision. The knife. Its blade still awash in the child’s blood. The met­al rat­tled and point­ed him like a com­pass to the canal.

Hernandez meant to dri­ve away and ignore this vision, to get on with his day and the seri­ous busi­ness of inves­ti­gat­ing this mur­der in some way that might hold up in court. The knife rat­tled and then as he drove away from the canal, stopped rat­tling, dis­ap­pear­ing entire­ly.

Most peo­ple would have been relieved.

Hernandez wasn’t.

Like an emp­ty riverbed, the knife’s abs­cence left bare a path to its source. It appeared when and where it did for a rea­son. Hernandez turned back only two blocks from the police sta­tion, less than a minute from resum­ing his day as sched­uled, and returned to that canal bank. He radioed his loca­tion with strict instruc­tions for no one to know where he was for the next two hours. He parked the squad car in the Sneed’s orchard and walked back up up the canal embank­ment. Shirt, gun, radio, shoes, ankle hol­ster and spare .38, belt, every­thing but his badge and his car keys, he wrapped up in a bun­dle and tucked into the crook of a tree.

Only 10AM but it must be well over 80 degrees out. Even the water in the canal looked sleepy and warm. The entire world felt obliv­i­ous to itself, which, he reflect­ed for the first time, is pret­ty much the nor­mal state of affairs. The steep cement banks of the canal made it tricky to wade in, espe­cial­ly with all the moss mak­ing the slides so slick. How did he do it as a kid? Just jumped in, prob­a­bly. Always with cheap sneak­ers, shorts and shirt on too. Shoes would be a good idea. There’s always glass and met­al in the muck on the bot­tom. He’ll have to step care­ful­ly.

Okay, let’s just do it, ass­hole,” he tells him­self. And Officer Hernandez steps to the edge of the canal, where the cement hold­ing in the water ris­es slight­ly over the dirt embank­ment hold­ing up the cement. He crouch­es down and slides feet and ass first down the mossy cement into the slow mov­ing irri­ga­tion water, going com­plete­ly under before get­ting his foot­ing on the mud­dy bot­tom. It is a Brenlee Irrigation District canal and small, just over five feet deep and maybe 20 feet wide at the top. The water smells of frogs, moss, and silt and now so does he. He looks out over the sur­face and with­out wait­ing long, his demen­tia, or what­ev­er it is in charge of things now, oblig­es him with a vision. A red stream with­in the stream twist­ing at and then past him looks like a long thin strand of smoke divid­ing a dead star­less night stran­gled by moon­light. He moves, half swim­ming, half walk­ing, towards the source of all this blood.