By Ethan Chapman
Camera gradually fades in to a windowless room lit by a pair of exposed overhead bulbs. One man, mid-thirties, with tattoos up and down his arms visible because the sleeves of his state-provided orange jumpsuit have been pulled back, leans back in his chair as far as the handcuff attaching his right wrist to the room’s single table will permit. His naturally oily hair has been smoothed back and he shoots the room’s only other occupant a smug grin.
SCUMBAG: Might as well throw me back in, pig. I ain’t givin’ you nothin.’
CHAPMAN: Grammatically speaking, that means that you will give me something. It’s a double negative.
Chapman is a rugged 40 something decked out in full suit and tie, movie-star handsome, with just-beginning-to-gray hair that can only be described as presidential. His impossibly deep, dark eyes betray the pain within. He is a man who has seen things and can never forget them.
SCUMBAG: Huh? What’s that mean?
CHAPMAN: It means we’ll get you to give up the Fratellis, one way or another. Only question is: are you going to cooperate?
SCUMBAG: Oh, I get it. You’re gonna do the whole good cop/bad cop thing, right?
The scumbag spits on the floor, sneering. Chapman chuckles and slowly removes his jacket.
CHAPMAN: Nah, that’s not really our style. My partner and I prefer bad cop/worse cop.
SCUMBAG: Bad cop… worse cop?
Chapman unbuttons his sleeves and rolls them back, loosens his tie, then throws his jacket over the camera. The room goes black. We hear footsteps, slow and deliberate, followed by the queasy-making sound of bone hitting meat. A gasp of pain is heard. Then the sounds of a beating begin in earnest.
CHAPMAN: Doesn’t have to be like this.
SCUMBAG: Fuh… fff… fu—
A sickening sound like bones snapping splits the room. The scumbag screams, then is reduced to impotent whimpering.
CHAPMAN: No more rough language out of you. The next words out of your mouth better be something I can use in court.
SCUMBAG: Help! Is anybody watching this? Somebody do something!
CHAPMAN: Wrong words.
More bone-breaking sounds followed by screams.
CHAPMAN: No one’s coming to save you. The only one watching is my partner, and you must be starting to wonder: is he the bad cop, or the worse cop?
We hear a metal door swing open as if on cue, followed by footsteps.
MESSENGER: Oh good, he’s still got some teeth left.
Screaming resumes at a higher pitch.
Cut forward eight hours. We see Chapman and Messenger in their shirtsleeves, sitting on a balcony overlooking the Mon River as the sun rises. There are empty beer cans and cigarette butts scattered around them and a police scanner murmuring softly at their feet. We get our first glimpse of Messenger: a man on the wrong end of a misspent youth, facing his forties with grim resolve and an unpredictable nature. His curly hair is pulled back in a short ponytail and his wild beard wouldn’t look out of place on the men he’s put behind bars. You can tell from one look that he’s as comfortable in SWAT gear as he is in his dress blues or a t-shirt and jeans, and he’s practically dripping charisma.
MESSENGER: Chief’s not gonna like what we did last night.
CHAPMAN: I don’t like what we did last night. How am I supposed to explain the state of my knuckles to the wife? Not to mention the blood on my tie.
Messenger lights another cigarette, but you can tell his heart’s not in it.
MESSENGER: You know, I don’t get you, Chapman. I’ve seen you cave in a purse-snatcher’s skull with a child’s tee-ball bat. You’re maybe the toughest cop I’ve ever seen. But then you go home and you beat yourself up over this stuff. What gives?
Chapman takes another swig of flat, lukewarm beer.
CHAPMAN: We can’t all be loose cannons, my friend. I’m just a good cop trying to make it in an uncooperative world. If the system worked, it wouldn’t have to be like this.
MESSENGER: Things are tough all over; only way to survive is to get even tougher. Thought you knew all that.
Chapman crushes his beer can with one hand and drops it to the ground.
CHAPMAN: Yeah, well. Being tough doesn’t help me sleep.
The voice on the police scanner, audible throughout the conversation, subtly picks up in volume.
SCANNER: …double homicide in Sunnyside. All units respond. Suspect last seen fleeing on foot near corner 4th Street and Beechurst. All units…
MESSENGER: Guess it’s a moot point, since we won’t get sleep any time soon. Sounds like our cue.
CHAPMAN: You mean ‘because’ we won’t get any sleep. Also, ‘Moot’ actually means that it’s debatable, not that it’s unimportant. Both common mistakes.
MESSENGER: I hate you.
The ragged pair collect themselves and turn to leave, rubbing exhaustion and ennui from eyes bleary with a mild buzz and tobacco smoke. Chapman takes a final look over the sun-streaked river, the barest hint of a smile playing at his lips.
Stay tuned for more Dirty Dealins’ in a future installment of That was College!