#FridayFlash: Plea Bargain, part 2

Plea Bargain, part 2

by Tony Noland


"The barrel of the Glock... he's pushing it into her mouth. She's smiling, wide. Biting into it... biting into the metal. Her fangs... my God, the fangs are all bloody. She's not scared until he says 'Wooden bullets, babe.' Now she's trying to pull away, but she can't..."

The psychologist paused the DVD, freezing Jesus Ramirez on the screen. The video was in low-res black and white, which made the prisoner's anguished, twisted face resemble a cathedral grotesque.

"Well?" he said. "What do you think?"

"The question is, what do you think?" The assistant district attorney sipped his coffee before reaching for the file on his desk. "I'm predisposed to have an opinion about Mr. Ramirez's veracity, but you're the doctor. Is he crazy or is he lying?" He flipped through the thick file, looking for something as he spoke. "Don't get moral on me, Tom. He's no different than any other thug we've got locked up, and no more deserving of your protection."

"No more deserving of unwarranted condemnation, either."

"If he's still lying after two years in psychiatric holding, then I'm going to push for willful obstruction of justice and get him back on death row. If he's crazy, he gets another two years with you. Look, don't try to save his life just to be a nice guy, OK? Some people kill and then lie about it. It happens. Calling it what it is makes the wheels of justice turn." From the thick file, he lifted a set of stapled papers and began to read them, adjusting his glasses to peer at them more closely.

"I don't think so. This session was the first one where I felt like he was telling the truth. I mean it, Quan," he said, overriding the snort from the ADA, "and that's not just wishful thinking. He's got his tells and body language cues just like anybody. I went back over the recordings of this session and the three after it, where he repeated this same scene in different ways. When I analyzed them, he was telling the truth each time."

"What he believed to be the truth, you mean."

It was the psychologist's turn to snort. "Of course that's what I mean. We're not talking about vampires here. We're talking about someone who's divorced enough from reality to believe that his father killed his mother because she was a vampire. Ramirez is smart and tough, and barring this replay, he tests out as normal in world-perception, and negative as a psychopath, sociopath or autopath."

"What's an autopath?"

"Someone who doesn't see himself as a real person, but as an object of loathing and hatred to be destroyed. Autopaths do all kinds of weird stuff, all to get themselves in trouble. They cook up the craziest lies and then believe them with all their heart, despite all external evidence. I thought that he might be one, but he doesn't fit the patterns at all."

Absorbed in reading, the ADA said, "So what are you telling me? Is he crazy or not?"

"He believes crazy stuff. If he were unshakably convinced that he were Theodore Roosevelt, or that he could fly, I wouldn't be hesitating. Delusions like that permeate a patient's entire worldview. This, though... aside from the vampire stuff, it's a description of his mother being murdered before his eyes." He shrugged. "That could be enough to snap somebody into a delusion. You know, she wasn't really my mother, she had to die for some other reason, etc. That kind of psychological distancing from a painful event can lead to psychosis. But again, he doesn't fit the patterns."

"Did you read the coroner's report on the mother?"

The psychologist blinked. "I glanced at it, but I was more interested in Ramirez than in the forensics. Why? It was a gunshot to the head, right?"

"Three gunshots. One delivered from inside the mouth, two into the forehead from different angles. First one blew out the back of the skull down low, where it meets the spine. The other two ripped off the top of the skull and the right side." He turned a page, kept reading. "The entry and exit wounds are consistent with the version Ramirez is telling you. Also..."

"What? Also what?"

The ADA read on for a little while before answering. "Also, the coroner reported that no bullet fragments were found, either in the remaining soft tissues or embedded in the bone. However, he did report finding wood fragments."

"You're kidding."

"Nope. Little slivers of..." he turned a page, "... hawthorn wood. The coroner thought identifying the wood might help somehow. He makes a note here about maybe looking for evidence in a woodshop or someplace where sawdust or wood slivers might be found. But, he also says that, quote, 'the explosively destructive exit wounds cannot have been caused by a wooden implement, as they are consistent with copper-jacketed slugs, tumbling high-velocity slugs or other comparable impact rounds', unquote." He tossed the report back onto the file. "The guy's a goddamn poet. So, Tom, what is this? Sounds like the killer used wooden bullets, maybe alternating rounds with something special, maybe something military grade. Is this our boy? Did he do it?"

"I... I just don't know."

"Let me rephrase that. I think he did it. I think the whole 'my dad did it' thing is bullshit, and I think the vampire angle is bullshit, too. The question is, how bullshit is bullshit? Is he in it up to his eyeballs, or is he crazy? Come on, I've got other cases to try. I can't spend all day on this."

"OK. He's traumatized by seeing his mother demonized and murdered right in front of him. Induced psychosis that made him unaccountable for his subsequent actions."

"That's your conclusion?"

"Yep. Give me more time with him and I'll get to the bottom of the psychosis. Then he can go back to prison."

The ADA closed the file and said, "Good enough. He's yours, and you're welcome to him." He stood and came around the desk to walk his colleague to the door.

"Oh, hey," said the psychologist, "one other thing. Did the coroner notice anything about the mother's teeth?"


Read PART 3


  1. I like the stuff about an autopath - I'd never come across that before. Now you've distanced the vampire mythology by reacquainting it with a psychological profile, it works better for me. Now we have to see what others think!

    marc nash

  2. I never heard of an autopath before either. (Did you make that up?) Anyway I am hoping his mother really was a vampire. Would be nice. I am not sure now, which irks me. Looking forward to part three.

  3. I think you have created a very cool concept here. The autopath angle complicates things in a tempting--and believable--way. Peace...

  4. I'm really looking forward to the answer to the last question, along with the rest of the story... Nice work, Tony. (p.s., why hawthorne? I thought I remember the vampire killers in Salem's Lot using ash, for some reason).

  5. I didn't have a problem with Part 1's ending, and I love the closing line here too. Hawthorn? Ash? I always thought it was supposed to be oak.

  6. Great idea and I like the variety between to two conversations. On the whole I prefered the pace of part one which built up a lot of excitement and suspense. Any chance of part 3?

  7. I like part one better mainly for the tension you built. Still not sure how I feel about the vampire angle, but using wooden bullets seems excessive. If you can get close enough to the victim to put a gun in her mouth it seems like you could just use a pointy stick instead.

  8. I liked part one better, but I think part two opens the door for more. Tim has a good point about the wooden bullets, if you were that close to a vampire you'd stab 'em through the heart, wooden bullets are when you want to slow 'em down - that's how it works in Vampire Diaries tee-hee ^__^

  9. Part ones tension was built fantastically, whereas this one has new concepts and great language. I like both and welcome a third. Well done Tony

  10. I liked both of the entries in the serial. Wooden bullets somehow seem more "badass", stakes more old-school. Even without the vampire angle, it's interesting -- how the heck does an eyewitness with a motive prove they were just the eyewitness, not the perpetrator? Especially since the perp is the father and the victim the mother. I'm not sure how close the DNA has to be before matching gets complicated.

  11. I love where you're going with this. Please say there will be more?

  12. I think part one stands on its own more than part two but is still an enjoyable read. I liked the 'autopath' too.


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