Indie Author Answers #66: Nuanced Dialogue

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And now, your section of TPV:

 

19: Megan

 

Megan spent two, maybe three hours handcuffed to a metal ring on a concrete bench at the police station. She did not know exactly, because they had taken her phone and the holding room contained no clock. Enough time passed for her to sober up a few shades, and long enough for the concrete bench to make her butt so sore that every movement added a new dimension of ache.

After the fingerprinting and paperwork, she had imagined they would throw her in some kind of drunk tank where she might sleep on a cot and have a metal toilet to use. But the reality was much less functional. Her room had four white walls, two doors with reinforced windows, and two white concrete benches. Occasionally a cop would come in one door, say nothing, and go out another door. She was just another part of the decor and not worth recognition.

As time passed, Megan devised ways to keep herself busy. She imagined her therapist sitting on a bench across from her.

“Megan,” Dr. Foster would say. “How do you think you ended up here?”

“I got drunk and I got pulled over. It’s as simple as that.”

“Is it that simple? Or is it possible that prior actions placed you in certain situations?”

“Are you saying that it’s my fault that Derek beat me up?” Megan would say.

“Certainly not. No one deserves to be abused, for any reason. But what I am saying is that you should take a look at your actions, and think about how you ended up here.”

“I cheated on my husband.”

“That’s a good start. Now, what else?” Dr. Foster would say.

“I cheated on my last boyfriend before him. And I cheated on my first boyfriend in high school. I cheated on pretty-much all of them, actually.”

“And…?”

“And why don’t you just tell me, Dr. Foster. Obviously you have an opinion.”

In real life, Dr. Foster would never give her opinion outright. But this was Megan’s fantasy, and she wanted the good doctor to lay it all out.

“Your husband said you were untrustworthy. What was your response? You ran out and hopped into bed with Brian. You perpetuated your cycle… you didn’t like the way you felt, so you ran to a man to make it better. And in the process, you betrayed everyone around you, including yourself.”

Much about what she had thought true about herself turned out to be lies and justifications. Megan pulled on the cuffs, enjoying the tension from the unforgiving metal edges as they raked across her wrists. The pain was good and she deserved it.

A door opened, and along came an officer who removed the cuffs from her tender wrists and helped her stand. Her legs long since asleep, pins and needles attacked her at every step when she finally escaped the bench. She hoped to be able to sleep, or to go home, but the cop (who turned out to be another mute), escorted her to a simple room with two chairs and a table, and a mirror on the wall. He placed her in one of the chairs, and then disappeared from the room without saying a word.

Different surroundings, same situation. Megan smiled at her reflection in the mirror, then winked at whoever was on the other side. Thirty more minutes passed in silence while Megan fixated on the hum of the room’s forced air heating unit. Constant, repetitive sound, like a meditation. The door behind her opened, and Megan expected another mute cop, but then instead found the familiar click of high heels on the floor. Megan turned towards the dark grey pant suit and blond ponytail of Walker as she strolled into the room. Megan laughed. “Oh, perfect,” she said with as much sarcasm as she could manage.

Walker, a manila envelope in her hands, sat down in the chair opposite Megan. “Hello, Megan,” she said. “You’ve had quite a day, haven’t you?”

“I guess. I was wondering when you were going to show up. Nobody’s talked to me in forever and I’ve been here for hours. No one will tell me what’s going on.”

“Things seem to have changed a little bit from the last time we saw each other,” Walker said, nodding towards the makeup-covered bruise on Megan’s face.

“You know, I kept your card. I keep it in a locked box under my bed. I would take that thing out once a week or so and just stare at it. I mean, really just stare at it. If I could add up all the minutes I spent staring at that damn thing…”

“It’s a shame that you didn’t use it one of those times, instead of just thinking about it. We wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

“Oh yeah? Where are we?”

Walker laid the envelope on the table.

 

20: Alex

 

On the drive over to the apartment in Wiles’ Jeep, Alex focused all of his energy on the task at hand. His fear evened out to a low, rumbling agitation, and he shifted his attention to inventing a justification for what he suspected would happen once they arrived at the apartment. Brian knew everything about Wiles, Alex, and the drugs, and if Brian had talked with the cops, he had to go. No other way around it.

Kevin Werner was a problem so he had to go. Brian is a problem, and he has to go. Drug dealers only get caught when they add someone that can’t be trusted to the mix. Brian can’t be trusted.

They drove into the apartment complex and stopped at the gate. When Alex opened his mouth to tell Wiles the code, he realized that opening his clenched jaw felt like tearing a strip of rubber in two. He remembered he had some muscle relaxers in his bathroom. A Flexeril or two sounded like just the thing right now to get him back to normal.

They settled into a parking spot a few doors down from the apartment. “Brian’s car is gone,” Alex said.

“I know. Mitch and them took it, those stupid crackheads. They’d sent it to get chopped, but they’re going to bring it back tomorrow.”

Alex stared up at the closed door to his apartment complex and reflected on the day they struggled to move the couch upstairs. Brian had deflected every idea Alex proposed, as if Alex were just some novel inhabitant in Brian’s world.

Everything had to be his way.

Alex withdrew the gun from his waistband, checked the weight of the clip and clicked off the safety. The heft of the weapon now felt comfortable in his grip.

“Easy there, killer,” Wiles said. “We’re not going to run in there, guns blazing. We’re in an apartment complex in Boulder. Look at all the cars around us in this lot and think about that for a second. What did you think was going to happen in there?”

Alex’s finger rested on the trigger of a loaded gun, but he did not know why. Get angry, gun comes out. “I guess I don’t know. What is going to happen?”

Wiles sucked on his teeth, then said, “well, I’d like to convince him to go for a drive with us. That would be the best outcome. But we’re going to talk to him first because we need to make sure he knows how serious this is.”

Moment by moment, Alex alternated between uncertainty and resolve. Right now, resolve. “I’m in. Fuck that controlling, self-righteous cocksmoker. I’ll put the bullet in him myself,” Alex said, looking to Wiles for validation.

Wiles glowered. “You don’t even pull that thing out unless I tell you to, okay?” he said. “Now that I think about it, you don’t do shit unless I tell you to. Do what I say, and this is going to work out. We’re the ones who determine how this goes, do you understand me?”

“Should we have brought backup with us?”

“No, I keep telling you, we’re just going to talk to him. Now put that gun back down your pants before you shoot one of us in the damn face.”

Alex obliged as he and Wiles exited the car. Each step towards the apartment hitched Alex’s heart rate another notch. By the time they reached that familiar white door, his hands were shaking and he fumbled the keys, almost dropping them. With a grunt, Wiles snatched the keys away from Alex.

They entered and Alex flipped the light switch. The apartment was empty. “He’s not here,” he said.

“I figured that out already. If not here, then where is he?” Wiles plopped down on the couch and put his feet on the coffee table, just as casual as could be.

Alex thought about it. No car, nowhere to go. “I’ll bet he’s at the construction site,” Alex said. “What do we do now?”

“Why don’t you get me a beer, if you got one,” Wiles said as he turned on the television. He flipped through some channels until he landed on the front gate feed. “Excellent,” he whispered to himself. Alex returned from the kitchen with a bottle.

“Should I go get him? What do we do now?” Alex said.

“Now you calm the fuck down, and we wait.”

 

 

 

 

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