Sequence: Drawn Upon Imagination (part three)
“Now, Bruner, of course, has a character. Character is only a generality. But the right person, placed in the right circumstances, won’t need telling what to do. He will do it. That is…there are things Bruner was taught to do, things his nature inclines him to do; on the other hand, his choices can be tempered by, or even made averse to, a specific set of conditions.”
Summers, alert to pedagogy, found the moment ripe for direct speech. “If you showed up, in other words, someplace Bruner had been sent to run an errand, that would throw him off his stride. Bruner doesn’t like you. No offense.”
“No, you put your finger on it. Part of my job was to tell Bruner a lot he didn’t want to hear.” Van Nest chuckled. “He wasn’t trusted around the old place. Well, the trick to making people like you is to tell them what they want to hear before they’ve said it themselves. But, yep, exactly…that’s one of the ways Bruner can be counted on. I give him a bad feeling. I could get him on the phone, catch him in the middle of his work. Now, you can’t guarantee results, but you know, accidents happen. Even though overt churlishness, for the most part, goes against his character.
“Boardman, once we get him started, will be having his meetings with Bruner. Bruner will take names, make his report to whomever…not necessarily the same person every time. Boardman, with his politics, will not be agreeable to helping us, not at all, even though he understands we can bring Stanley out as a witness. He’s not all that Red, ideologically, but he’s an iconoclast of an aggressive type, happy to martyr himself…for the sake, I figure, of martyring himself. He would like going to jail, he would see the experience as reality, something authentic to write about. It’s not fear of being exposed as a homosexual that will hold Boardman in check. He needs to have done something intolerable to his own ethics…if ethics is the word. Something criminal. In this case, something that might have―so far as Boardman knows―amounted to manslaughter. But even that, Summers, isn’t the key to Boardman. The key is that he believes he’s committed an act of brutality against someone weaker than he is, someone helpless. That’s the failing Boardman wants to forget, what would kill him to see publicly proved.
“Bruner’s job is to detach Boardman from his certainties, raise doubts in his mind about his own story. Boardman went home that night and knocked himself out with alcohol. Bruner told him Stanley was following Talou, and that Desanges can testify to it. A thousand miles away, a year or two later, it gets easier. Maybe Boardman remembers things wrong. Maybe Stanley did it, after all. But Bruner is the only one who says these things to Boardman.
Drawn Upon Imagination
(2016, Stephanie Foster)