Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Negotiation

“Before I do this, I want you to know I never meant it to be this way.”

He holds the gun on her, but his grip is loose and hand shaky. It isn’t the ironclad grip of a black heart. Maybe he means what he said. Maybe that gives her some leverage. It’s worth a shot anyway. At this point, she really has nothing to lose.

She pauses for a minute really looking at him this time. She had been afraid to before, afraid that if she really saw him, he’d never let her go, but she realizes that was the wrong approach. Right now, if she is going to live through this and fuck did she never realize just how much she wanted to get old until tonight…if she is going to make it, she has to get personal.

He has long, brownish hair that needed a good wash. His face is lean, gaunt really, like he hasn’t been eating too well for quite some time, but the baggy, ragged clothes he has on kind of hid the rest of him from view. She can’t tell just how thin he is. His hair hangs around his ears almost touching his shoulders. There is some patchy fuzz on his face that can’t really be called a beard, dark circles under his sunken eyes. His cheeks are pock-marked and a band of sores wrap his brow with more on his chin. He isn’t well. Drugs, maybe. Meth? Crack? She doesn’t see track marks on his arms. No scars. No tattoos that she could locate. His clothes are stained, black in places, worn, ripped. If she had to guess, he has no job, no ability to get one, no food, no money, and a hell of a need to get his fix, whatever that fix might be.

“Don’t look at me. I can’t do this if you’re looking at me like that. You’re creeping me out. Turn your fucking head.”

She doesn’t do what she’s asked and makes eye contact instead. He’s the one to turn away from her, and she thinks that’s good. She doesn’t think he’s done this before. He certainly doesn’t act like a killer not that she’s ever kept company with one to know. She thinks maybe he would be more deliberate, less hesitant, less shaky if he really wanted to do it, if he started this with the intention of doing it. If it wasn’t a big deal, he wouldn’t care if she looked at him. He wouldn’t even see her as a human being. In theory, at least. She could be wrong. She hopes not, but she could be.

Her words come out in stutters when she finally says to him, “You don’t have to do this, you know.”

“I don’t know anything, bitch. And neither do you. You’re all banged up. You’re tied up. Just how the fuck am I going to get out of this if you’re alive?”

“I would tell you that I’ll never call the cops, but that’s what they always say in the movies and it never works.”

“Do you think I’m stupid?”

Even in this moment, she is about to burst with sarcasm. Her mother always told her that her mouth would cash a check her ass couldn’t handle one of these days, and this was almost it. The words were almost pouring out of her mouth faster than she could blink. She closed them off, almost painfully, and thought for a second trying to gain her composure.

“Okay, look…I know you think that killing me is the only way to solve all your problems, and believe me, if I could have avoided coming home, there’s no way I would be here right now. You could have it all. All of it. Take it. But, what if you kill me and it doesn’t solve things? What if you kill me and you get caught like a lot of people get caught then you go to jail for like, I don’t know, forever. for life. No parole. Or executed. Doesn’t this state have the death penalty? I don’t think you want to die any more than I do. Think about it. We can come up with a solution for this where both of us don’t end up dying because my date was a total shitbag…”

He starts pacing then. Full on pacing back and forth, shaking his head. She watches him more scared than ever. He was slapping himself in the forehead with one hand mumbling thinkthinkthink under his breath. No sane person would be doing this, right? And how was she ever going to rationalize with a mentally deranged man.

“There’s no way anybody would ever figure out it was me. No fucking way.”

“There’s CCTV several different places along this street. You aren’t wearing gloves; do you have a record? You have long hair. I’m sure some have fallen out. Don’t you watch those CSI shows? I mean, that’s not the way things really work all the time, but there’s ways. It’s possible. More than possible really. You might get lucky and get away with it, but think about it. Really think about it. You’re not cut out for prison, man. I can look at you and tell.”

“Bitch, you don’t know a fucking think about me.” He pauses, stops pacing for a minute. “What the fuck is CCTV?”

“Closed cameras or whatever. The couple of stores along the street on the way here have cameras that show every minute outside. There’s a bank, too. And the apartment building across the street has some too that show, I think, the entrance to this place. It might not, but it’s possible. And they’ll end up getting all the tapes and trying to figure out who was in this neighborhood that didn’t belong here during the time they figure I died.”

“What if I don’t leave your body here, cut it up and throw it in the woods somewhere or put you down in the river?”

“Well…they’ll probably still figure out who I am and then where I lived. Depending on when my body is found, the CCTV might have been recorded over, so you might be safe. Might not. It’s still a risk.”

He paces again. She marvels at how she is keeping calm while saying things like my body, while he talks about maybe cutting her up into little pieces like a bad horror flick.

“I can’t just leave you to it. I walk outta here and 10 seconds later you call the cops before I even got a chance to get off this block.”

“I won’t if that means I’ll live. But, I don’t know how I can convince you of that which is ultimately our dilemma and that’s what we need to come to an agreement about.”

“Miss, just what the hell do you think you can come to an agreement about with the man who beat and robbed you?”

“If I knew that already, I would have said so. But, I’m thinking. If you mean to kill me anyway, why not give me 10 more minutes to work on it. Like a dying wish. Do you grant those?”

He stares at her for what feels like forever almost staring through her. “I ain’t done this before.” It’s almost a whisper. “But you got 10 minutes against my better judgment.” He barks a laugh then. “Who am I kidding? I don’t have good judgment any other time. Might as well keep the tradition alive.”

She watches him sit down across from her. He looks exhausted. Her brain circles maddeningly searching for a solution, for THE answer, for anything that might save her life. But there was nothing. She circles and circles, a whirlpool of thoughts threatening to pull her down into the exact state of panic that would end with him shooting her. She is reaching frantically for a branch that might keep her from drowning and seeing nothing much at all except an occasional rock that would surely quicken her exit from the world. And then out of nowhere she finds something. It’s a twig really. Nothing stable for sure, but the words are out of her mouth before she really even thinks it through all the way.

“I’ll give you a job.”

His brow furrows. He looks at her like she must have looked at him when he was slapping himself in the forehead.

“What in the fuck are you talking about?”

“I own a shop in town. Like a thrift store. I don’t need someone full time, and obviously right now you can’t handle the money side of the business, but I need someone to help me put out stock and go with me to pick things up because I want to start getting some bigger furniture pieces. I need help keeping the place clean and doing little odds and ends.”

“What’s it pay?”

“Do you really have room to negotiate?” A bit of anger flared in the pit of her stomach before she could control it.

“Do you?”

“Point taken. It would be…I don’t know, man…like $8 an hour…..” He starts to interrupt her but she barrels through, “but that could be negotiated later on. And here’s the thing, I’d send you to rehab too. I have some money saved up. Maybe it’s not what you want to do right now. But, you look like you need help. I don’t think you meant for all this to happen. I don’t think you’d be able to live with yourself if you kill me tonight at least I hope not to be honest. And this is a chance at a full, clean fresh start. Sometimes people need that, you know? And maybe if you take a chance on this and I take a chance on you, we’ll figure it out as we go.”

He sits there for a long time. Quiet. Head down. The gun is at his side on the floor now and that’s good she thinks but the quiet scares her more than anything. Her head has never hurt her as badly as it does right now. He clears his throat. She looks up at him then. His eyes are swimmy, she notices. He opens his mouth then stops getting choked up a bit.

“Why?” he finally manages to ask.

“Why not?” she says.

This has been another Sunday Confession with More Than Cheese and Beer. The prompt was "before." Sometimes when I sit down to write, I don't know where the story is going or what's going to happen. The words just tumble onto the screen in an outpouring with my hands flying fast on the fast my brain can barely follow the story. The ending is just as much a surprise to me sometimes as I imagine it is for people reading it or at least hope it is. Anyway, hope you enjoyed it. It might not be terribly realistic, but as someone who has a lot of contact with offenders and who wants a career working with offenders, it's interesting to consider just how much getting a fresh start would mean to someone who has nothing. Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out MTCAB for the other blogger link ups and the facebook page for some other confessions. 


  1. Jenniy! I like this and the turn the story took a lot ❤

  2. So awesome I was watching, waiting, and reading to see if the man would redeem himself. So beautifully scripted, how I love you fiction and the way your brain operates Jenniy 😃