Interview with a Villain

Grinning as if I’d just won something, which I never do, I push my office chair back from the desk and toss another ball of wadded paper toward the trash can. Whoosh, it falls through the opening without touching the sides. A good omen; one which cannot be ignored.

“Woo-hoo!” I pump my fist up and down. My pulse quickens, and I glance at my watch.

Today’s the day. In precisely six minutes, I will interview a murderer.

I couldn’t do such a thing on just any day, you understand. It must be a day filled with good omens, a day in which I feel physically energized and psychologically pumped.

A day like today.

In preparation for the interview, I drag a woven cane-bottomed dining room chair into my office and situate it directly across from my seat. The straight, ladder back should prove uncomfortable enough to keep my guest off balance, thereby ensuring more spontaneous responses to my questions. The distance of five feet between chairs, give or take a few inches, will allow unimpeded eye contact.

I take a deep breath and blow it out through puckered lips then drop into my chair. With less than two minutes to go I peer at the screen of my laptop.
My mouth goes dry as I consider the questions that seemed insightful minutes earlier but now appear insipid and pointless. Do they zero in on the villain’s motivation like a professor’s laser pointer, or are they so ambiguous as to allow room for sloppy evasions? Are any of them redundant? Will they elicit responses that help my Readers understand human nature while chilling their bones?

I chew my thumbnail and shoot a look toward the office door. A shadowy figure stands in the opening, back-lit by the hallway light.

“You’re early,” I say.

“Insightful,” the murderer says. “Anything else, or is that it?”

“Thanks for showing up.” I point to the chair opposite me. “Have a seat.”

The villain saunters to the rattan chair. She stares down at it, snorts then grins and shakes her head. “Such an obvious ploy. Contrived. Best be careful or I’ll disappear before you have what you need.”

“Sorry.” I hold my hand up, palm out as if to stop a charging rhino. “Is there anything you’d like to tell me?”

“No, no, no.” My murderer moves her index finger back and forth imitating a clock’s pendulum. “That’s not how this works. While allowing me freedom of expression is important, it’s up to you to ask the right questions. Otherwise, you risk making me predictable, or worse, cliché. When I have something unexpected to say, as I most assuredly will if you do this right, I’ll jump in and it’ll be up to you to keep up.”

“Okay.” I take a deep breath.

For the next hour or so, I shoot questions at my murderer, furiously typing her responses into my laptop. I’ve just finished memorializing her umpteenth impromptu stream-of-consciousness monologue when she falls silent. I glance in her direction just as her shadowy form retreats through the office door.

“Thanks,” I call out.

Wordlessly, she waves an arm over her head then is gone.

My pulse pumps like a race car piston as I review the transcribed pages that will set the stage for my suspense novel.

“Not at all what I expected,” I murmur.

The fragrance of lilacs suddenly fills the room. I breathe deeply, sensing another presence.

“My turn,” says my Protagonist.

“So it is,” I say. “Please, have a seat.”

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