The day the Wagstaff boy came in and said he’d found a little negro kid dead by the river we were all hunched over our lunches dreading getting back out in the heat to work. The village was just a few yards from the water and some of us went back with him where some of his buddies were standing guard over the body.
Sanchez and I had both been in the war and a dead body wasn’t anything particularly strange other than it’s always sad in a way to see a dead kid. He was wearing raggedy clothes and couldn’t have been more than maybe seven or eight. When we flipped him over Sanchez said Jesus, that it was no mayate at all, but a little Indian from Mexico. Some of the families had been in the area lately for field work and odd jobs. This must have been one of their kids.
What should we do, one of the boys asked? I told him to go fetch the cops and we would stay there. All three of the boys ran off and Sanchez and I crouched down to inspect the tiny dark face. Around his mouth was a crust of filth and snot caked on his nose; the small dead black eyes glazed over staring into space. Hard to think how they must live in those shitholes, Sanchez said. I nodded. What do you think did him in? I said I wasn’t sure, but best to not mess with the body and leave that to the cops.
Jake Nelson, who’d been sitting in his squad car by the park came back with the boys. He nodded a greeting; boys, he said. Hiya Jake, how’s things? He looked beat, which wasn’t strange since his wife just had a baby not too long ago. Okay, he replied. Don’t think I’ve got a good night’s sleep in six months though. What do we have here? Luke says it’s a negro? Indian, Sanchez corrected.
Jake crouched down over the body and felt the vitals as if there was any chance the kid could still be alive. Don’t think he’s been down here long, Sanchez said. Goddamn, he’s a filthy thing, isn’t he? Though it was doubtful, Jake checked to see if there was any clue that might lead to who the kid was. He told the boys to stand back and as he shifted the body to check the little pockets the ragged pants slipped down revealing the nakedness of a girl. Well I’ll be damned, Sanchez said.
Jake was quick to act. Get out of here and go find sheriff Lewis! He barked to Luke Wagstaff and his pals. And tell him to get the coroner out here too. The boys lingered momentarily, startled at the sudden order and confused as to what had just happened. Git! Jake repeated. The three of us didn’t say anything but it was obvious what had happened as we saw the dribble coming out of the little girl. Jesus, Sanchez whispered. Jake didn’t say anything and hiked the dirty trousers back up. We knew what he was thinking, it being that his kid was a daughter too.
You want us to hang around until they get back? I asked. Jake sort of shrugged indifferently, his eyes not leaving the body. Damndest thing, ain’t it? Can’t say I’ve ever come across this sort of thing… he trailed off. I noticed that the neck was darker than the rest of the skin and I had my ideas but I kept quiet. I could tell Sanchez wasn’t so sure what to do either which is why we were relieved when we heard them coming back down through the brush.
Well, I guess we better get going back to work now, Sanchez said. Jake and I both nodded, only he still hadn’t looked back towards us. Take care, Jake. I said. As we passed the sheriff and the coroner we nodded but didn’t say much since we didn’t know them the way we knew Jake. We just pointed down the hill and kept going on.