The Slippery Slope

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The Slippery Slope

A short play by

Ron Campbell

SETTING:

An Interrogation Room in a Police Station

CHARACTERS:

Brophy……….A cop. Small, anemic.

Taggert………A cop. Big, hulking.

Sims………….A man in his 50’s.

The lights come up on an interrogation room. Grey walls. A chair, a table and a single overhead lamp. Two cops enter. TAGGERT is a big man with the build of a prizefighter. BROPHY wears glasses and has the build of an accountant. He holds a clipboard.

TAGGERT

Okay. What’s the plan?

BROPHY

Same as usual. We bring him in, get him to confess, we’re done. Clock out, no tears. The quicker we break him the quicker we can go to lunch. I’m the good cop, you’re the bad cop.

TAGGERT

Really? Again?

BROPHY

What, you got a problem?

TAGGERT

I’m always the bad cop. Couldn’t I be the good cop for once?

BROPHY

But that’d make me the bad cop. And who’s gonna believe that? It’s not in my temperament. It’s bad casting. Besides, that’s how we do it. I’m always the good cop, you’re always the bad cop. You rough him up a little, I get him a juice. You spit in his face, I bring him a wet nap.

TAGGERT

I perpetuate the police brutality stereotype, you go home with a clear conscience.

BROPHY

Okay brainiac, How ’bout we both be good cops? Yeah, that’ll work. How we gonna get a confession outta him that way?

TAGGERT

Um.. Compassion?

BROPHY

Compassion? Are you nuts? This is an interrogation room, not the Dalai Lama’s yurt or wherever the hell he lives. What, you want to smile him to death?

TAGGERT

(Chuckles) That’d be grinterrogation.

BROPHY

Okay fine. We can both be good cops. Tell you what: I’ll be the good cop, you be the good cop who’s also a bit of a dick.

TAGGERT

How ’bout I be the good cop, you be the good cop who’s also really annoying. You seem to have that part pretty much down.

BROPHY

(Drizzling sarcasm)Tell you what: Maybe you’re on to something. Maybe we both be the bad cop. Two hard asses with nothing left to lose. Just two crazed sociopaths hiding their sadist tendencies behind their badges. A pair of psycho killers conducting their own kangaroo court in a room equipped with nothing but a table, a chair and a lamp with a thousand watt bulb. Remorseless men, dead inside, inflicting their hatred of humanity under the guise of justice.

TAGGERT

C’mon Brophy. Just try it. You might even like being the bad cop. Besides, it’s good to stretch. Get you out of your comfort zone.

BROPHY

Taggert. I don’t have a comfort zone!

TAGGERT

Please?

BROPHY

Allright already. I’ll be the bad cop.

But that means you have to be the really bad cop.

The kind of cop that finds me, the bad cop’s blatant cruelty too permissive and considers an eye gouge lenient, a groin punch a love tap and a bar arm choke hold too touchy-feelie.

TAGGERT

But it’s all relative. That’d still make you the good cop by comparison.

BROPHY

True. Okay how ’bout I be the good cop, you take on the demanding role of the the crusty bad cop with the soft chewy center?

TAGGERT

You mean like a bad cop with a lot of heart, right? A kind of Liam Neeson kind of thing. Where I, like, wipe away a tear as I jam my nightstick into his larynx. Offer him a baggy for his broken teeth?

BROPHY

No, that’s my job. I’m the good cop. I offer him the baggy for his broken teeth. Otherwise we’re sending a mixed message. That’s psychological. That’s torture. We do not want to go there.

TAGGERT

It’s a slippery slope.

BROPHY

Exactly. And the good cop/bad cop formula is our tradition. That’s why it works. Things get too intense the good cop comes in with a Capri Sun or a pudding cup. Soon as the perp feels comfortable- Bam! The bad cop arrives with a fistful of persuasion and a cheese grater.

TAGGERT

But I’m not that guy.

BROPHY

Of course you are! Look at you. Classic Bad cop. Prehensile forehead, granite jaw, shoulders like a Yeti.

TAGGERT

I don’t have shoulders like a Yeti.

BROPHY

Not Yeti you don’t. But you will.

TAGGERT

But we’re questioning this guy today, right now. And I got to tell you I’m just not comfortable with the whole bad cop paradigm. Just let me be the good cop, just this once? Please? If it doesn’t work out I promise to be bad from now on.

BROPHY

And if you’re really bad? At being good, I mean.

TAGGERT

Then I promise to be good at being bad ever afterwards.

BROPHY

…Okay. Just this once.

TAGGERT

(Calling off) Allright Sal, bring him in.

( Enter SIMS.)

SIMS

Hello gentlemen. I believe there’s been some mistake. You see I’m-

BROPHY

Sit down. (TAGGERT nudges him.) …Asshole.

TAGGERT

Can I get you anything? A juice? Some pudding?

BROPHY

Pudding? We have pudding?

TAGGERT

I do. I packed it in my lunch. Butterscotch. (To SIMS) You like butterscotch?

(BROPHY pulls TAGGERT aside, whispers fiercely🙂

BROPHY

Are you kidding? You’re going to give some scumbag your own butterscotch pudding?

TAGGERT

I’m in character!

BROPHY

You’re in something. Remember: We’re here to get a confession, not win brownie points-

TAGGERT

I have some brownies too-

BROPHY

No! You’re missing the point! We play these roles to keep the perp unbalanced. Keep him guessing. Eventually he’ll crack. I’m the bad cop. All right? You’re the good cop. Not some lunch lady at a Montessori school. Just follow my lead.

(Returns to SIMS, checks clipboard.)

So Mr..?

SIMS

Sims. Clifford F. Sims. I-

BROPHY

Douchebag. You’re Mr. Douchebag in here, got it? ‘Til I say so you’re Mr. Douche F. Bag. Capiche?

SIMS

If you like.

BROPHY

I like. Now it says here that they brought you in for first degree robbery and disorderly conduct. You want to tell us what happened, Mr. Bag?

SIMS

Nothing really, I-

BROPHY

(Consults clipboard.)

It says here they caught you on a bus with your hands in a pocket that didn’t exactly belong to you. Care to explain?

SIMS

I’d be glad to. You see if the fellow who pressed charges just looked in his pocket he’d find some money. Sixty dollars I believe.

BROPHY

Aha! So you were trying to get the cash, eh?

SIMS

Oh no. You see, I put it there.

BROPHY

You put the cash… in his pocket?

SIMS

Yes. You see, I’m a Put Pocket.

BROPHY

A Put Pocket?

SIMS

Yes. I put things in people’s pockets.

BROPHY

What kind of things?

SIMS

Sometimes cash, or candy. A nice clean pair of socks.

(To TAGGERT: )

Maybe even a pudding cup. I hadn’t thought of that.

BROPHY

Wait. You go around randomly putting random things in the pockets of random people?

SIMS

Oh no, not random. You see I’m also a great observer of people. I had to be in my former profession. You might say I’m fluent in body language. When I first saw the gentleman on the bus he was clutching his grocery bag in a certain way. His shoulders were hunched in a certain way. He was counting his change. But he was neatly dressed. There was a crease in his pants though his cuffs were slightly frayed. Clearly this was a man who had fallen on hard times but had retained his pride. Such a man would not be likely to accept charity. As I sat observing him he let out a huge sigh. I know that sigh. It is a sigh that says these groceries I’m clutching have to last me a week. And they won’t.

So I took the opportunity. I put sixty dollars in his pocket. But the bus lurched at that moment. So clumsy of me! He grabbed my wrist- quite forcefully I must say- and before I knew it the police were there and the gentleman was pressing charges. Not wanting to embarrass him further, I said nothing. Until now. Until I met you and this nice gentleman who offered me pudding. Is that offer still standing? I love butterscotch-

TAGGERT

Sure, I’ll go get it-

BROPHY

NO! You can’t have any pudding!

SIMS

Are there any other kinds of snacks? I haven’t eaten since-

BROPHY

NO! You’re in jail. This is an interrogation. You’re accused of the serious charge. There are no snacks. Unless you want a knuckle sandwich. That I can arrange. (Rolls up sleeves.)

TAGGERT

Wait a minute. How can it be robbery? He didn’t steal anything. He gave somebody sixty bucks. Somebody who needed it.

BROPHY

According to him. And how did he know? Hell, I need sixty bucks. Why don’t you slip sixty bucks into my pocket?

SIMS

Because you don’t need it.

BROPHY

How can you tell?

SIMS and TAGGERT

(Together:) Body language.

TAGGERT

You didn’t do the sigh.

SIMS

Exactly.

BROPHY

Well maybe you didn’t actually steal anything. We still got you on a disorderly conduct charge.

TAGGERT

What’s disorderly about giving people money?

BROPHY

Strangers. Giving strangers money. That’s disorderly. Hell, that’s anarchy! It’s a slippery slope. Giving friends and family your hard earned money is already crazy. You wanna add strangers? What’s next? Politicians? Causes? Ideas?

SIMS

You mean like a Kickstarter campaign?

BROPHY

I’ll give you a Kickstarter campaign. I’ll start to kick you ’til you give me all your money! How’s that, Pudding Boy?

(TAGGERT pulls BROPHY aside.)

TAGGERT

Hold on a minute. All we’re here to do is get a confession out of him. Well we got one. He admits it. He got his hand caught in the cookie jar. Only thing is he was putting the cookies in– not taking them out. This is a first. This guy’s a Put Pocket. And we’ve got him against the ropes. The good cop/bad cop routine still works.

SIMS

Actually I do have a bit of a confession if that’s what you gentlemen are so keen on. I wasn’t always a Put Pocket. For many years I was, I’m ashamed to say, the opposite. I, indeed, was a professional pick pocket. I stole. Many times. I was never caught. Almost. But I always slipped through their fingers. But then I realized. There must be balance. Symmetry. I had been bad long enough. I reversed the polarity. I started using my skills for good. I became a put pocket. Who knows? It might catch on. Think of it. Masked gangs breaking in to houses they once robbed and leaving flat screen TV’s and fully stocked refrigerators. Roving bands of anonymous window repair men. Secret Samaritans. Hoodlums of happiness. Grifters turning into gifters! Who knows? It’s a slippery slope. Balance may yet be restored!

BROPHY

Enough! Get him out of my sight. We’ll get the charges dropped on the grounds that you’re fucking nuts! Just promise to not get caught. Can you do that for me?

TAGGERT

Here, I’ll see you out. There’s a pudding in my lunch box that has your name on it, Mr. Douchebag- I mean Sims.

SIMS

Thank you.

(He starts to go. BROPHY lets out a big, deep sigh. SIMS goes over, gives him a brief hug.)

SIMS

It’s a slippery slope. Balance may not always come easy. But it will come, my friend. It will come.

(SIMS and TAGGERT exit. A beat. BROPHY feels in his pocket. Pulls out three crisp twenties. Almost smiles as the lights fade…)

End of Play.

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