Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dammit, Jim!


I know I should be all PC and what not and tell you that your protagonist has to be crafty and clever to get some malefactor to talk, to spill the beans. That the days of Mike Hammer busting through a door and slapping a goon silly for info are gone. Okay. I mean, I believe in the Constitution and abhor when the rights of any body is violated with fists. But in the words of Dr. Leonard McCoy of Original Star Trek, the One True Trek I might add, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not an astral engineer!” Which is to say I write what I hope are dramatic scenes and thus at times I might have to set aside my ACLUness.

Most graphically, a quick look at the world of super heroes and super spies gives us some hints to loosening the tongue of a recalcitrant witness who more often than not, the set up is they are an underworld type who has certain valuable information.

Batman. Smart. Observant. Trained in the forensic arts. Virtually a modern Sherlock Holmes as he routinely picks up fibers or lose dirt particles from a crime scene and tapping a vast storehouse of knowledge in his protean brain, can identify said item. His arch-enemy (by whose daughter Talia he has a son, a smart ass little twerp who is the new Robin, but I digress) Ra’s al Ghul simply refers to him as “The Detective.” Bats even has a big ol’ fancy computer in the Batcave that analyzes particles or chemical compounds the dastardly Joker is using to cause people to literally die laughing to break down its components and provide a clue to the manufacture of said component. You know what else he has. Big Muscles. He’s trained in various fighting arts and uses a combination of these night in and night out.

However there are times when he asks a ruffian where might he find Two-Face's latest hideout, he might have cracked this chap once or twice in the jaw, loosening a tooth or two. Then he might suspend this vagabond by hanging him upside down from his heels by a thin Bat Wire some 40 stories above the grimy street of Gotham…yelling into this guy’s face his questions.

There’s even a lawyer or two who are super heroes. Matt Murdock is a blind criminal defense attorney by day, and when darkness falls, he’s the grim protector of Hell’s Kitchen, Daredevil. Who with his radiation-produced “radar sense,” can often tell when a witness is lying in court as he can detect their increased heart rate. A living lie detector I tell you. And don’t you know sometimes later that same reluctant witness gets a call from The Devil (blood red costume, horns) as some hoods call him. Again there’s that hanging them from the rooftop thing to help them remember.

Manhunter is a prosecutor, Kate Spencer. Frustrated that the bad guys, often minor super villains, got off becasue of bleeding heart, psalm-singing jurors or those pesky technicalities, she donned her guise as Manhunter and with her electrified staff, beat the holy hell out of those guys. She didn’t just go over their house and do this to them on their front lawn, but did wait for them to commit another crime and be able to catch them in the act – usually robbing a bank or some such activity during the day. Given they’re over-confident having gotten away with it before. So that fortunately there would be corroborating witnesses as being in a mask, let alone she was the prosecutor who couldn’t put them away before, testifying in open court was not an option.

Or what about the famous question that arose during the heyday of Jack Bauer and the TV show 24. Was torture of a suspect ever justified? Certainly Jack freely and frequently beat, shot, tortured, electrocuted, drowned and dragged a suspect to get them to talk. The fate of the United States was at stake.

Well, I’m glad we had this talk. And it didn’t involve neither of us having to scale a building and hang upside down from a stone gargoyle screaming our lungs out.

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