It feels like an eternity has passed. But it’s only been minutes. It doesn’t matter. To him. Or to her. They sit on opposite sides of the short, rectangular table, staring intently at each other. In that moment, they are adversaries, this much they both know. Both with their own purpose, their own agendas.
In the ripening silence, the battling duo reach an impasse.
As the depth of the stillness grows, the burly man with his weathered features leans forward and places his scarred elbows on the cheaply finished surface of the table, his calloused palms flat, fingers spread wide.
Pressing his fingertips downward, they blanche and the once delineated half moons of his nail beds disappear into the whiteness, the blood forced out. The hardness and coldness of the scuffed table sends a small jolt into his awareness. A reflexive flash of movement is visible across his face; his jaw clenches as he ignores the discomfort, focused on the seemingly insurmountable task at hand.
He shifts his immense frame forward to create proximity but not enough to induce threat, his biceps straining against the weight they are now tasked with holding up, the cuffed short sleeves of his polo shirt stretched to their limit. With this simple act, the man brings himself closer to his worthy opponent, trying to find common ground from where they can start the process anew, where he can salvage this interaction.
“Look, I don’t have all day…”
There is an edge to his voice.
She looks up at him, her fixed eyes barely flicking upward to register his voice as it cuts through the quiet. Instantly, he feels his face flush with heat, the rising anger bubbling up from deep within his belly. He manages to choke it back down almost instantly. His years of training as a high risk interrogator enables him to catch himself before he loses his cool, his control. Before the visible ticks and tells, the ones we all have, can be used by his worthy opponent to chip away at his smooth external veneer. Before she can expose all the cracks below his unblemished exterior, thereby gaining the upper hand.
A quick thought flashes through his mind. It has been a long time since any of his subjects have stirred this response in him, awoken it in such dramatic fashion. He takes a deep breath and exhales slowly, counting to five.
He is one of the best in the industry with accolades and awards liberally sprinkled through his storied 20 year policing career. He is directly credited with brining down indoctrinated terrorists and deranged gunmen in high stakes standoffs in his life as a public servant. He deals with some of the most cunning, cerebral miscreants, always managing to find a way in, to gain the upper hand in the weaponless battle of wits, never once unholstering his weapon, or requiring his charges do the same.
A week away from retirement, his incredible record now looks to be completed with a question mark.
The failed last stand.
She struggles against her restraints, pushing her body against the snug nylon straps that tether her in place, arching her back hard. The sturdy straps hold fast, unyielding. Her body falls back limp into her seat, his prisoner. Her eyes blaze in rage. The dark pupils dilated, reflecting the solitary light that hangs from the ceiling above.
She doesn’t care fo anyone but herself. She has demonstrated that time and time again.
Although she finds herself stuck, she still understands she is in the power position. That she has the ability to bend him to her will, whenever she chooses to do so. He is merely a pawn, a disposable piece in her game.
She remains silent, her eyes still lit with the angry fire.
“Why won’t you…”
He starts but doesn’t get a chance to finish, interrupted by the cup that hurtles towards him through the air end over end, it’s contents initially suspended in the air like a fine art tableau of paint blotches. Spatter on an ethereal canvas.
He had offered her a beverage when their delicate dance had begun, and it was commanded by gravity to the now dirty floor below his feet, droplets of the tawny liquid soiling his crisp, freshly pressed trousers, staining them.
Her eyes are alive now, knowing she has struck a chord, engendered a response from him. Her own little Newtonian experiment. Action. Reaction.
“You little sociopath.”
A low guttural growl escapes under his breath. She is laughing silently, her dark eyes dancing, the corners of her eye lids crinkled. Taunting him. Demanding he engage in this high stakes game of brinkmanship.
He’s never faced anyone like her before. She is impervious to his techniques, his negotiations. They’ve been at it for over an hour and he’s no closer to his end game than when he started.
Reciprocity. Rapport. Threats. Engagement. He’s tried it all. Good cop. Bad cop. The carrot. The stick. Nothing is working. She is the Moriarty to his Holmes, but far more sinister.
“Why won’t you eat your breakfast?”
He finally cries in exasperation as he brings another airplane full of food on a spoon through the air in for a landing in her mouth.
The little girl, her lips sealed in a tight, thin line, slaps the spoon away as her head turns, rejecting her father’s offering.
Photo by duong chung on Unsplash
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