Negotiations by Trey R. Barker

…into the first hour.

“Anna, please, come see me.”

“Ernesto, I can’t. You know that. You know how this works.”

“I know how you make it work. You’ve done face to face before.”

“Yeah…. But…I can’t. Ernesto, don’t do this to me. Don’t ask me to do that.”

“Ok. But turn off the recording, this is between you and me, no one else.”

[she pauses]

“Ernesto, are you trying to get me fired? Or suspended? We have to record.”

“We don’t always fucking record and you know it. We didn’t record in Montbello last week. Didn’t record in Compton a month ago. Turn that shit off.”


“Anna, the phone you gave me has five motherfucking cameras on it. So how about this? You see this? Got a nice, clear view of this?”

[presses the gun tight against his temple]

“Ernesto, don’t do this.”

“Turn off the damn recorder.”

[cocks the hammer]

…into the second hour.

“I need to see your face, Anna.”

“It’s not going to happen, Ernesto. I can’t and you know that.”

“You can and I know it. Face to face ain’t no fucking problem. If the situation calls for it, we can do it sure as shit. Come on, Anna, I didn’t suddenly forget all my training, I’ve been doing this for fourteen years.”

“Not from that side, you haven’t. I need you to put the gun down, step out of the car with your hands empty, and let’s get this worked out.”

“Nothing to work out.”

“There is. You haven’t committed a crime, no one is hurt.”

[he breathes harder…more quickly]

“They’re asking, Anna.”

“Who’s asking…what are they asking?”

“Didn’t cover my tracks very well.”

“Ernesto, what are you talking about?”

“Face to face.”

“Not happening.”

[puts gun under his chin]

“Played this scene already, Ernesto. If you shoot you’ll be dead. If you don’t die, my boys will storm your car. Put the gun down, Ernesto, and step out of the car. Do it with your hands empty and do what the deputies tell you to do.”

“Well played. But you don’t have to use my name so much. Personalizing me won’t help, I’m beyond that now.”

“Because of the questions?”

“If I can’t scare you into seeing me, let me just ask. Anna, will you please come see me? We’ve got history, we’ve got days and days and days behind us. Doesn’t that get my any rhythm?

[listens to her talking to someone else]

“Ernesto, they’re – “

“Yeah, yeah, telling you they’re going to storm the car. Whatever. But you remember this: the only thing that will keep cops from dying is you coming to see me. Come on, Anna, I know their tactics. Hell, I trained most of those guys. I promise you at least three will die.”


“Can you sleep with three on your conscience?”

…into the third hour.

“We’re goddamned going to do this my way, okay?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’m carrying a weapon. I’m coming from the passenger side rear. Your hands will stay on the steering wheel. If they move, I’ll shoot you. If you move, I’ll shoot you. If you fucking sneeze, I’ll shoot you. And then, when you’re dead, I’ll shoot you again for putting me through this. Do you fucking understand?”

“Yes, Anna. Thank you.”

[she approaches the car. his hands are on the wheel. he doesn’t move. will she shoot? maybe she should]

[she’s suddenly at the driver’s window, gun screwed painfully into his ear, hand around his throat.]

“You’re better than I thought you were, Anna.”

“You don’t know me at all.”

“I know enough. I can smell your fear, Anna.”

“Sure it’s not yours?”

“Could be. I’m pretty scared.”

“Take your right hand, Ernesto, and push that gun onto the passenger floorboard. If your finger slides into the guard, I’ll shoot you.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good boy. Just like that. Exactly. Well done.”

[releases his throat, keeps the gun up but no longer against his head.]

“You need to step out of the car.”

“I’m not going to do that, Anna.”

“I’ll drag you out.”

“You always loved the physical part of the job, didn’t you? Never understood why you wanted to be a negotiator.”

“I hate the physical part. I’d rather talk you off the cliff than throw you off the cliff.”


“I’ll do whatever I need to do.”

“That’s right. Good woman.”

“Step out of the car.”


“Ernesto, why are we here? You have the entire team out here. The roads are blocked. Fucking news ‘copters flying around. Why are we here? You wanted an audience…well, you have it. Make your play.”

“I hear frustration, Anna.”

“Sure, because I don’t fucking know what’s going on.”

“We never do, that’s part of the gig.”

“But those are mopes. You are my sergeant.”

“I was your lover once, too.”

“A long time ago, Ernesto. Why are we out here?”

“They’re coming for me. Internal Affairs. Heard through the grapevine they’re talking to people.”

“Ernesto, the grapevine is for shit.”

“No, they’ve got it. I’ve seen the warrants for my financials.”

“You didn’t cover your tracks?”

“Apparently not very fucking well.”

“Ernesto, how could you not – “

“I’m scared, Anna, shitting-blood scared. Prison? Shit, I’d rather be dead.”

“Prison isn’t necessarily – “

“They’ve got it all, Anna. There’s no way I stay out of prison. They’ll start comparing financials to cases and those to…fuck…to everything.”

[looks at her, licks his lips]

“They’ll break me, Anna. Promise of a soft prison, something with decent ad-seg? I’ll sing like a fucking warbler. I’ll – “

[fires a single shot, keys the mic on her radio]

“Captain, he’s dead. Tried to shoot me. No, no, I’m fine. Yeah, the gun fell into the floorboard. I haven’t touched it. Yeah, I’ll wait. I can hear ‘em coming.”

Trey R. Barker has published just about every kind of fiction imaginable.  Most recently, he's been seen on or in ThugLit, Hardluck Stories, Crime Spree, and the antho On Dangerous Ground.  His current books are the non-fiction The Cancer Chronicles and a collection of dark crime fiction, Remembrance and Regrets.  Once upon a time he was a pizza cook, a karaoke salesman, a doll assembler, and reporter.  He now patrols the back roads of northern Illinois as a deputy sheriff and also happens to be a crisis negotiator, though he has yet to experience a call-out quite like the one in this story.  Visit him at


David Barber said...

Trey, I absolutely loved this piece. As some people will know, I'm a lover of dialogue and I'm excited when a writer can pull off a full story in dialogue alone. This was tense and gritty with a great ending. I'm glad Matt Funk talked you into submitting. Well done, indeed!

Paul D. Brazill said...

Really, really fantastic. So bloody tense. So well done.Made my night.

Christopher Pimental said...

Something different. Nice to see.

Ron Scheer said...

He said, she said. Well done.

Sue H said...

Masterful! On the edge of my seat reading this - completely ignored the glass of wine in my hand -absolutely brilliant!

More, please?

AJ Hayes said...

Snappy twist that I didn't see coming -- though you did give us a bit of foreshadowing a couple of line before she did the deed. Great job letting the dialog show the scene.

Mike Wilkerson said...

Dug the push it gave me. Dug the dialogue.

Garnett Elliott said...

Hey Trey, I remember your stuff from the Hardluck days.

Escalating tension all the way through. Very smooth.

Benjamin Sobieck said...

Bit by bit, the suspense cranks up throughout this piece. A great effect in a short amount of time. I enjoyed this thoroughly.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Can't add much to what has already been mentioned, other than it was a great read and the style was unique and worked very well.

Trey R. Barker said...

Thanks all, for the kind words, I appreciate them. I'm also interested in anything that didn't work in the story...always looking to get better. I've got a fairly-thick skin so let me know if there's something.

David - I've always been a huge dialogue fan. I have a few stories that are just dialogue. I love trying to fit in as many participants with as few attributions as possible. It's like a crazed Merry-Go-Round.

Sue H - Is there a higher compliment? Ignoring your wine? I hope you had two, then, when you were done!

Garnett - From the Hardluck days? That's a little while back. The late, lamented Hardluck. Fortunately, guys like David have stepped in to fill that void.

Thanks again for letting me play in you guys' sandbox. Hopefully, I'll be back again!

William Dylan Powell said...

Loved it!

Susan Condon said...

REALLY enjoyed this - great, believable dialogue - and LOVED the end.