Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Drying Off

By the time Hernandez gets back to his squad car, the low­er half of his pants are dry. He bags the knife he found in the canal gate as evi­dence. He makes notes for the report he will have to file on its dis­cov­ery, try­ing to come up with a plau­si­ble expla­na­tion for the way he found it as he does.

Investigating like­ly routes into the Sneed farm by sus­pect or sus­pects or any who may have aid­ed in the muti­la­tion and lat­er place­ment of the Gabriel Velasquez’s body… like­ly route to the body’s ulti­mate loca­tion would have tak­en the dri­ver of the vehi­cle through the orchard — back­track­ing this route, came to canal bank… there, stopped car to look for tire tracks up or down the bank that might resem­ble those truck tire tracks found near vic­tim… walked canal ser­vice road in search and stopped at irri­ga­tion gate (get num­ber) where some­thing caught my eye…

Something caught my eye? Better come up with some­thing bet­ter than that for court.

At this point, Brenlee’s mid-day siren goes off. Noon. His sched­ule is com­plete­ly blown. This whole side trip to the Sneed’s and the swim in the canal has used up his morn­ing. He puts his note­book aside, but­tons his uni­form (decid­ing not to tuck it into the still wet waist­band of his pants) and straps on his belt with radio, flash­light, small first aid kit, and gun. He puts on his shoes and takes a last look around the imme­di­ate area. This must be where the killer came down from the canal access road.

He pulls the car up the steep embank­ment, bot­tom­ing out, but mak­ing it and dri­ves to the irri­ga­tion gate where he found the knife. It’s num­ber is just bare­ly leg­i­ble in the cement box, 092 B.I.D. Hernandez jots down the num­ber in his notes and dri­ves along the canal bank until it inter­sects with Quarry Road. He won­ders if he should con­tin­ue along the canal bank or turn right and head back into town to put on a dry pair of pants.

He picks up the radio to check in with Winnie when he hears a loud, slight­ly mud­dled sound­ing, pop — a shot­gun. A few hun­dred yards in front of him, a small flock of mud swal­lows swirls up into the sky head­ing to his right and away from the direc­tion of the shot. The squad car clunks into Drive and rolls down the easy grade to Quarry road. Down on the back top road for a brief moment he feels how low the val­ley real­ly is, earth and all her crea­tures at the mer­cy of the tallest things here, the trees. We are held in their shad­ow. He dri­ves quick­ly up the grade on the oth­er side of the road to rise up those few feet of the embank­ment and regain some sem­blance of com­mand over the area. Proceeding cau­tious­ly, Hernandez reminds him­self that, tech­ni­cal­ly, fir­ing a gun is no crime out here on the edge of town. Farmers do it all the time, rid­ding them­selves of squir­rels, skunks, and unwant­ed birds.

His squad car rounds a bend in the canal, turn­ing in the direc­tion of an old, defunct met­al wind­mill pok­ing up out of the orchards to his left. He hard­ly notices the wind­mill because parked there on the access road in front of him is one of Brenlee’s two oth­er squad cars. He speeds over to the car, but before he can radio in his posi­tion, over­hears Plaster’s call in to Winnie. It’s a 914s. Suicide.

Then anoth­er of today’s strange thoughts, none of them com­ing in ways he is famil­iar or com­fort­able with think­ing, pass­es into Hernandez’s mind: Too much blood runs for this water.