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.