#FridayFlash: Plea Bargain

Plea Bargain, Part 1

by Tony Noland

"It doesn't do any good to lie in therapy, you know."

"I'm not lying."

"But you're not telling me the whole truth, either."

"You don't need to know the whole truth."

"But you need to tell the whole truth, don't you? I can't help you otherwise."

"You don't want to help me. You're only here because they pay you."

"And you're only here because it's part of the plea bargain you negotiated."

"And? The public defender they gave me was a moron. That plea bargain was bullshit."

"It wasn't bad work for a moron. With your mother killed, your father missing and eight other unexplained disappearances hanging on you, that plea bargain was the only thing that kept you off death row. Pretty potent bullshit, Jesus."

"I didn't kill anybody."

"So you've said. Listen, every three months I file a report with the DA about the patients they send me. If I tell the DA that you're not making a good faith effort in these sessions, then the deal is off."

"The DA is a bastard."

"So you've said."

"How much do they pay you per session?"

"Not enough. Describe your father's hands."

"My... what? What does my father have to do with anything?"

"Indulge me. What did your father's hands look like?"

"How the hell should I know? He was in prison until I was twelve. And when he got out he was an abusive drunk. End of story. It wasn't like we played basketball together in the school yard."

"See, that's what I'm talking about. Is that the whole truth? Is that everything you can say about your father? Just for a minute, forget about what he did or didn't do. Forget about who he was, or the things he said or didn't say. Just take any memory you have of him where you can see his hands and freeze it, like a single frame from a DVD. No action, no talking, no emotions, no nothing. Have you got it?"

"Yeah, whatever."

"No, not 'whatever'. Make the effort. Do it for real or I'll throw you over to the DA. Now, have you got an image of your father? A still frame?"

"Yes, I've got one."

"Is it a clear image? Jesus? Is it a clear image?"

"Yes, it's a clear image."

"Good. Hold the image steady. Fix it in your mind. Keep it fixed and zoom in on his hands. Just his hands. Can you see them? I said, can you see them?"

"Yes, I can see his hands."

"Describe them."

"They're hands. What do you want from me? They're hands."

"Are they large? Scarred? Tanned? Look at the image and describe his hands. Tell me what you see. Not what he'd doing or what he's wearing, just his hands."

"They're hands. Regular size, dirty. Some cuts and scrapes. The knuckles are pretty scraped up."

"Are they bandaged?"

"No, just scraped up and bloody."

"How bloody? Is there a lot of blood or is it just some scraping?"

"Pretty bloody. Some has run down onto his wrist. He's got one bad bite on his... I mean, one bad cut on his right hand. It's bleeding."

"Are you on his right or his left? How are you seeing him?"

"I'm on his right."

"What is he holding?"

"It's a... nothing. A cigarette. He's holding a cigarette."

"No, he isn't. What's he holding?"

"I told you, a cigarette."

"Is it in his right hand or his left?"

"Uh, his right."

"That's not the truth. Stop running from it. Look at his hands. What's he holding?"

"It's... a gun. He's holding a gun."

"Right or left?"

"Right."

"And in his other hand? What's in his other hand? Calm down, don't run from it. It's a freeze frame, no action. Nothing is happening. It's a frozen moment, nothing is happening. Your father's hands are bleeding, scraped and cut and bitten. Blood is on his hands. It's a frozen moment. Do you see it?"

"Yes..."

"In his right hand he's holding..."

"A gun."

"What kind?"

"A Glock. A big tactical Glock. Plastic grips, blackened action, mounted laser sights."

"Good. Look at the scene, but remember that it's frozen. There's no action. Whatever he just did or might do in a moment, this scene is frozen, like a single image from a DVD on pause. OK?"

"OK."

"Here comes the hard part, Jesus. What's in his other hand?"

"I... I can't see it."

"Where is his other hand? What's he holding?"

"He's holding... I can't see his hand. It's in her hair."

"Where is his hand? What is he holding?"

"Her hair. He has her hair wrapped up in his fist, his left fist. She's screaming. Her hands are tied behind her back and she's screaming -"

"Jesus, calm down. The scene is frozen, remember? No movement. Nothing is happening. Freeze the scene in your mind."

"OK... OK."

"Can you see the gun? Where is he holding the gun? Remember, the scene is frozen. Nothing is happening. It's frozen. Where is the gun?"

"It's in her mouth. He has the barrel shoved into her mouth, shoved far back in. He's got her mouth forced open with it. She's... her lips are pulled back and... she's..."

"And what? What do you see?"

"She's laughing. She's daring him, not scared at all. Until..."

"Until what? What is he doing?"

"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 story continues with Part 2.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

35 comments:

  1. Seriously, "Whoa!", Tony. I was trying to anticipate what the thing was that the therapist was trying to get him to see, but never in a million years did I expect that. Great work.

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  2. Oh wow Tony - this is OUSTANDING! At first I thought it was going to be a humor piece and then it got deeper, and deeper, and....I was on the edge of my seat. And then that ending - a pow of a twist! One of your best, no doubt about it.

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  3. I love what you've done with this! I liked it the first time but that ending really brings it all together and makes it a knockout piece.

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  4. Pretty slick Tony! You could probably produce a collection of work that's all dialogue.

    End twist is super neat btw (I'm assuming some kudos to Icy here too).

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    1. All dialogue... maybe I should write a screenplay?

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  5. I don't know why, but I read the plea-bargainer as a nasal Jerry Seinfeld.

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    1. Interesting. I don't much care for Seinfeld, so if he got the chair, I wouldn't weep much.

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  6. I really liked the interrogator's disarming of the terror of recall by freezing the key frames of recollection so that they weren't played out again. I thought that was outstanding. Therefore I felt the vampire ending a bit glib by comparison, a lot of the psychological power you'd built up just ebbed away with this lightening of tone, well not lightening, but well I hope you know what I'm trying to say- it works better as a prison story than a vampire one IMHO

    marc nash

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    1. I'm glad you liked the therapist's approach! The vampire ending is sticking in the craw of other readers, too. Thanks for the thoughts and comments.

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  7. You did an excellent job with these all dialogue piece. Never any confusion as to who was speaking. Plus I really believed I was there. Very believable.

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    1. Thanks, Michael. Working without any dialogue tags is a challenge I'm enjoying working with of late.

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  8. I kept expecting some twist related to the crime and then came the bloody fangs and the wooden bullets. What a dangerous therapist though - he got his guy to sing.

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    1. The therapist is almost hypnotic, isn't he?

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  9. Not many can write dark like Tony writes dark! That's some intense stuff there…

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  10. Well, that kept me reading! Interesting ending, not where I thought this was going. You could rewrite the ending and make it powerful noirish prison piece. Not sure a shrink, even a prison-type shrink, would use profanity. Potent stuff. Peace...

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    1. The ending is giving a lot of people trouble. Must consider.

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  11. Great story, Tony! Psychological drama and then, wham, drop in a vampire. Niiiiiice.

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  12. Oh man. Very very interesting. Way to go from Psychological drama to urban fantasy/horror. LOL

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    1. That whipsaw ending is something else, eh?

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Great stuff Tony. Really didn't see the vampire ending coming. Only one query - why wooden bullets? I thought silver bullets did for em...

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  15. Great stuff Tony. Really didn't see the vampire ending coming. Only one query - why wooden bullets? I thought silver bullets did for em...

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    1. Thanks! It's werewolves who can't abide silver. A set of bullets made of silver wouldn't do anything to a vampire. However, slugs carved from wood would do some damage. Be sure to use ash, hawthorne or oak to carve the slugs.

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  16. Great, great stuff. Great voices for both characters.

    My first reaction after reading was an rather intense wave of sympathy for the plea bargainer. It definitely left me wondering what the rest of the story was, although given that the father has a bite on one hand I can probably guess a lot of it.

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  17. Holy frick, that was intense... Nice twist.

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  18. Tony,

    First and foremost, another triumph for an all dialogue #FridayFlash. Very well done!

    I read it twice. I enjoyed it immensely the first time through and the tension you built was palpable. After reading it though the vampire angle didn't quite seem to mesh, so I read it again. It was still enjoyable, but the sudden twist to vampirism felt a bit too contrived. It seemed more like a rush to an ending than what was actually planned.

    That being said, I remember reading Scalzi talking about suspension of disbelief. He noted, and I'm paraphrasing here, that it wasn't always the point for it to withstand close scrutiny so much as to get the reader through it without them noticing the gap. That, in all honesty, I think you accomplished.

    I think it also says a great deal about how far you have come in your writing if you think about it. For most of us I think such an ending would be fine, but I think we have a higher expectation of what you're going to do with it. So while it may have left some of us unsatisfied, I think it is only because of how high you have raised the bar on your short fiction.

    And, perhaps most importantly, critiques aside, I really did enjoy it, and I enjoyed it enough that I thought others should read it as well!

    All the best,
    Paul

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    1. Paul, I appreciate the detailed and thoughtful comment. I'm glad you liked it for the most part, and I'm glad you were able to articulate for me what didn't work as well for you.

      This piece was intended all along to have a magical twist ending, to contrast with the slow psychological buildup. Did the vampirism work? It did for some readers, not for others. I took the unusual step (for me, anyway) of having this story beta read before posting. It's improved by Icy Sedgwick's comments, and any failings it has are mine alone.

      Even if this ending didn't work for everyone, I will try to write so as to keep everyone coming back for more.

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  19. Nice twist, I never expected her to be a vamp. Very tense writing.

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