Monthly Archives: February 2015

Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 10

CUT TO:

INT. A DUSTY CELL

A group of men and women in their twenties and thirties are sitting on the floor of a makeshift cell in a foreign land. There are no furnishings whatsoever, save for a bucket in the corner meant to serve as a toilet. The men and women are dirty and thin, hair unkempt and beards unshaved. Some of them are wearing the uniforms of soldiers, but some are civilians. Among the numbers of the soldiers is a YOUNG GREY MAN.

THE GREY MAN (V.O.)

See, I’ve been where you’ve been, believe it or not.

There is the sound of a door opening and slamming shut. Three MASKED MEN enter the dusty cell, one of them unarmed and the other two carrying rifles. The armed ones train their rifles on the prisoners. The unarmed one carefully considers the prisoners before deciding upon a civilian. With a nod of his head and a few words spoken in a foreign language, he indicates to the armed masked men to grab the prisoner.

One of the masked men steps forward and does so. The other keeps the rifle level, as if daring the prisoners to move. The Young Grey Man watches as they’re taken away sobbing and screaming.

THE GREY MAN (V.O.)

I know what it’s like for the world not to make any sense.

CUT TO:

Another prisoner is taken away.

CUT TO:

And another.

CUT TO:

And another.

THE GREY MAN (V.O.)

I know what it’s like to feel helpless. To be a victim of forces beyond your control.


Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 9

CUT TO:

INT. AN EMPTY WAREHOUSE ROOM

Jimmy looks down at Robert’s severed finger. He glances up at Robert, who has stopped struggling and is now sitting numb and motionless in his chair. He appears to be in a state of shock, unaware of the world around him, but the goons are still holding him firmly in the chair. The Grey Man sighs and shakes his head.

THE GREY MAN

Kid, I’m going to let you in on a secret. You and your friend? You’re not going to survive me and my associates over there going at you full tilt. I’ve got no doubt that you and your crew are a couple of bad motherfuckers, but it’s all relative. I’ve seen hardened killers reduced to sobbing wrecks. I’ve seen men who sincerely believed they had God on their side renounce everything they’ve ever believed. I’ve seen people do shit to another person that was so sick, you could almost call it brilliant. But you know what I’ve never seen?

Beat.

I’ve never seen anybody not crack. Maybe it takes an hour, maybe it takes a day. A week. A month. A year. But it always happens. We’ve got all the time in the world.

Jimmy looks at Robert’s catatonic form.

JIMMY

Why are you doing this? I mean… Jesus Christ, why?

The Grey Man pulls back, disgusted.

THE GREY MAN

Do you think I like this? Do you think I’m the kind of guy that gets his rocks off tying people up and torturing them for kicks? I’m not. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to defend everyone in my line of work, because the fact of the matter is that there really are some sadists out there. At best, they’re bullies. At worsts, they’re monsters in human skin. But me, I’m just a guy who had to make a hard choice.


Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 8

CUT TO:

EXT. AN EMPTY LOT – DAY

Young Robert and Young Jimmy have abandoned their masks. They are standing counting the money they have stolen, and grinning triumphantly.

YOUNG JIMMY

We did it, man, we did it! Francisco’s not gonna believe this!

YOUNG ROBERT

Hell, I don’t care if he does! All I care about is this right here, man.

(indicating both Young Jimmy and the money)

This right here is what I’m talking about, you and me. This is ours, man. We did this. We earned this. Francisco didn’t do nothing.

YOUNG JIMMY

(worried)

You’re not talking about not giving him his cut, are you? We got to give him his cut.

YOUNG ROBERT

(annoyed)

Yeah, I know we got to give him his cut. I know how it works, man. I ain’t stupid. But I’m saying that this is us. This is you and me. We’ve been brothers since we were kids. We don’t need Francisco to tell us that. I got your back for life, man. For life.

Young Robert holds out his fist to Young Jimmy. Young Jimmy looks at it for a moment, hesitating before bumping it.

YOUNG JIMMY

Yeah, man. For life.


Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 7

The sound of the cutter RATCHETING fills the air, as do Robert’s muffled screams. Finally, there is a SNAP.

The Grey Man drops the cutter and walks over to Jimmy. With the careless nonchalance of a smoker discarding a cigarette butt, he flicks Robert’s severed FINGER at Jimmy’s face. Jimmy is helpless to do anything but try and turn his head away.

It doesn’t work. Jimmy vomits in his lap.

CUT TO:

INT. A CONVENIENCE STORE

The store is typical of its kind for the a big city: full of soft drinks and alcohol, magazines and snacks, a few simple groceries. The CLERK is an older woman, unremarkable save for the fact that Young Robert has her pressed against the wall, a gun in her face. The Clerk is wide-eyed with fear, begging him not to hurt her as he alternates between shouting threats at her and shouting at Young Jimmy to hurry up. Young Jimmy is loading the contents of the cash register into a backpack. The two boys are wearing caps and masks to hide their identity, but they have not done a particularly good job of it.

Young Jimmy finishes his task and shouts back at Young Robert.

YOUNG JIMMY

Alright, let’s go, let’s go!

YOUNG ROBERT

(to the Clerk)

You never saw us, you got it? You call the cops, we’re going to find you and kill you! We’ll kill your husband, your kids, we’ll kill your whole fucking family!

YOUNG JIMMY

Damn it, let’s go!

The two boys run out of the store, leaving the Clerk behind sobbing on the floor.


Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 6

Huh. I forgot I haven’t been updating on weekends. Oh, well! More updates for you all!

Realization begins to dawn on Jimmy’s face. He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with yet, but he’s beginning to understand that they’re with the government.

JIMMY

Are you DEA?

The Grey Man smiles, amused.

THE GREY MAN

You’re still thinking too small, kid. But you’re on the right track. I think that’s enough with the twenty questions, though. You still haven’t told me what I want to know. Let’s see if we can’t do something about that.

The Grey Man walks away from Jimmy and steps over to Robert. He gestures to the goons and one of them sets a toolbox on the ground before him. The Grey Man squats down and rifles through it before producing a pair of PLIERS and a KNIFE.

With a nod of his head, he motions for the two goons to hold Robert down tight and then he uses the knife to slice through the bonds on the prisoner’s hands. He grasps the man’s hand and grips one of the fingernails with the pliers.

THE GREY MAN

Alright, Jimmy. The rules are simple. I’m going to ask you to talk. Every time you say no, your buddy here pays the price. This can be as easy or as painful as you want. It’s up to you. But just to prove I’m not playing…

The Grey Man tears Robert’s nail free with a single movement. Robert struggles against the goons’ grip and screams through the duct tape. The room descends into chaos, Robert screaming in pain, Jimmy shouting in anger and fear, the Grey Man asking questions over them both. He pulls another fingernail or two off of Robert as Jimmy refuses to answer any of questions. Only the goons are silent, as they always are. Finally, the Grey Man shouts over Jimmy and Robert both.

THE GREY MAN

You know what? Fine. I can see you’re not taking me seriously. Let’s up the ante.

The Grey Man throws the pliers back into the tool box and pulls out a RATCHETING PIPE CUTTER. He steps back over to Robert and fits the tool around the little finger of his free hand.

THE GREY MAN

I want you to know you drove me to this. You could have just cooperated. Instead you’re being difficult, and now look what you’re making me do to Robert.


Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 5

CUT TO:

INT. AN EMPTY WAREHOUSE ROOM

YOUNG JIMMY (V.O.)

What happens if we break the rules? Like, on accident?

FRANCISCO (V.O.)

You break the rules, you die.

Jimmy shakes his head.

JIMMY

I’m not talking, alright? I don’t know nothing, and even if I did, I’m not talking. Do your worst, pig.

The Grey Man smiles. He steps off of Robert and walks over to Jimmy.

THE GREY MAN

Oh, kid. You really don’t get it, do you? “Pig?” That’s just so wrong that I don’t even know where to begin. Look around the room, kid. Does this look like a police station to you? Does this look like a holding cell or an interrogation room? Do you really think we’re cops?

Jimmy is silent. The Grey Man waves at the goons and points at Robert on the floor.

THE GREY MAN

Put him in the chair.

The goons pick up Robert under his arms and throw him into the chair. He’s too weak to fight back or attempt to free himself, but even so they hold him in place. They don’t tie him down. The Grey Man puts his hands on Jimmy’s face and directs his gaze over towards Robert.

THE GREY MAN

Okay. I want you to look at him. Open your eyes and really look at him. Does that look like standard police brutality? Does that look like the kind of damage the DA can just wave away with, “The criminal was violently resisting and the arresting officers had to take steps necessary to defend themselves?” I don’t think so.

JIMMY

So what? Who do you roll with?

THE GREY MAN

“Who do I roll with?” Like, what gang am I affiliated with? Kid, come on. Don’t be stupid.

(he forcefully shifts Jimmy’s gaze to the goons)

Forget your buddy, and look at them. Do they look like gangbangers to you? Do they look like homeboys? You think these guys hang out on corners dealing drugs and pounding forties and flashing stolen guns at each other like they’re hot shit? Come on, Jimmy. Use your brain, yeah?


Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 4

Where Jimmy looks like he’s been in a bar fight, Robert looks like he was tossed into an MMA match. One of his eyes is swollen shut, his nose broken, his skin cut and bleeding. He struggles to speak through the duct tape gag and tries to wriggle his way over to Jimmy, but the Grey Man puts his foot down on the man’s throat.

THE GREY MAN

I believe you two are acquainted, yes? Anyway, Robert here said he didn’t know anything either. And, much like you, he was lying, so when I asked him again, I didn’t ask nicely. Oh, he held out for about as long as he could, but in the end, he talked. Problem is, Robert didn’t actually know all that much. Once we really put the screws to him… That’s just an expression, by the way. We don’t actually use thumbscrews. Anyway, the point is that after a little while, it became very obvious that Robert didn’t really know what the fuck he was talking about.

Beat.

But he knew someone who did. And that’s you, Jimmy. If I were you, I’d really start talking.

CUT TO:

EXT. A BACK ALLEY – NIGHT

FRANCISCO MELENDEZ is standing in front of a small group of five teens. He has two of his LIEUTENANTS behind him. He is wearing long pants and an oversized t-shirt. His exposed skin is covered in tattoos. He is hard and sharp and thin, like a knife.

The teens look at him with reverent awe. Francisco is still street-level at this time and he has chosen these boys to be his eyes and ears. They all consider it an honor. He is their General Patton.

A YOUNG JIMMY AND ROBERT are among the teens listening to Francisco’s speech with rapt attention.

FRANCISCO

Alright, listen up. We’ve got seven rules. You follow them like they’re the Ten Fucking Commandments, you got me? You follow them, or you got to face the wrath of God: Me. Rule number one, no fighting. We’re all brothers here, you got that? Any shit you had between you and another member before you joined, that’s in the past. You let it go. Rule two, no disrespecting each other’s families. No talking shit, no making moves on each other’s women, nothing. Treat each other right, you got it? Rule three, no snitching. I don’t give a shit if the cops break every bone in your body and put jumper cables on your balls. You don’t talk. Ever.


Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 3

THE GREY MAN

Jimmy, I really don’t have time for this. (to one of the goons) Bring him in.

One of the goons exits the rooms, footsteps as he leaves.

THE GREY MAN

Do you know how I know you’re lying, Jimmy? Because I have guys following you and all your little friends. I have an army of men and women that sit at desks and read your emails and listen to your phone calls and go through your texts. I know which of your utility bills you’re late on. I know how much money you spend at bars. I know which girls you send pictures of your dick to. You and me, we’re basically best friends, Jimmy. I know everything about you.

The goon re-enters the room dragging a bound PRISONER in a hood and shoves the prisoner down to the ground at the Grey Man’s feet.

THE GREY MAN

And if that weren’t enough, your friend Robert here already told me everything.

Confusion fills Jimmy’s face. The Grey Man bends down low and tears the hood off of the prisoner, and we see that the prisoner is ROBERT, a young man of about Jimmy’s age, of the same ethnicity and a similar fashion sense. There is a duct tape over his mouth and his eyes are wide with fear.

JIMMY

Robert!


Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 2

The Grey Man sighs, rolls his eyes. He’s a teacher dealing with a stubborn schoolkid.

THE GREY MAN

Oh, come on, Jimmy. Don’t lie to me. Or if you’re going to lie, at least don’t lie about something I already know. That just wastes your time and pisses me off. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’re not in a good position to be pissing me off.

Jimmy spits in the Grey Man’s face. The Grey Man takes a deep breath as the spittle runs down his face, the very definition of calm. He reaches into a pocket, pulls out a handkerchief, and wipes it away.

Then he stands up and punches Jimmy in the face hard, a vicious hook delivered with a boxer’s skill that knocks over Jimmy and his chair. However classy and delicate he may look, there’s no doubt that the Grey Man is trained in hand-to-hand combat.

THE GREY MAN

(to someone offscreen)

Pick him up.

Two GOONS in khaki pants and casual shirts step forward and set Jimmy’s chair right-side up. These aren’t gang members or even mafiosos. They are wearing balaclavas and have the clean-cut look of private military contractors.

The Grey Man begins pacing in front of Jimmy.

THE GREY MAN

Okay. That was pretty fucking stupid, Jimmy. You’re not going to do that again, are you?

Jimmy shakes his head.

THE GREY MAN

That’s a good boy. Smart. Very smart. Now, are you going to talk?

Jimmy shakes his head again.

JIMMY

I don’t know nothing, man. I don’t know nothing.

Beat.


Prisoner’s Dilemma, Pt. 1

Taking a break from the novel for a little bit because I have something else I’m working on. For reasons. Anyway, here’s a look at that!

INT. AN EMPTY WAREHOUSE ROOM

A MAN is tied to a cheap metal folding chair. Rope restrains his legs and his chest, and his hands are tied behind his back. There is a pillowcase over his head serving as a hood, and he is breathing fast.

The camera zooms in and a HAND descends and roughly pulls the pillowcase from the man’s head revealing JIMMY, a young man on the cusp of his twenties. He has a black eye, bruises, the signs of having been on the losing side of a bar fight.

The hand returns to the frame, and slaps Jimmy across the face. The goal isn’t to injure him, just to get his attention.

THE GREY MAN (O.S.)

Alright, kid. Let’s talk.

An OLDER MAN sits back in a cheap metal chair just like the kind Jimmy is tied to. This is the Grey Man, named for his weathered face, his silver hair, his neatly clipped beard. He is otherwise unremarkable, save for having a sense of class and style that stands in stark contrast to Jimmy’s own attire.

THE GREY MAN

Can I get you anything? Food? Water? A drink?

Beat.

That was a joke.

Beat.

Never mind. Forget it. Let’s just get down to business, shall we? I want you to tell me everything you know about Francisco Melendez’s operation. Producers, suppliers, lieutenants, who’s laundering the money, who’s frotning the money, where the stash houses are at. Anything. Everything. Even if you think it isn’t important, I want to hear it. Do you understand?

Jimmy swells with defiance, as much as he’s able to given how tied up he is.

JIMMY

I don’t know what you’re talking about, man. I don’t know nothing.


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