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Hostage - a Short Story by Andrew Vachss

Essay by seline  •  November 20, 2018  •  Essay  •  1,160 Words (5 Pages)  •  75 Views

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Hostage is a short crime fiction story written by Andrew Vachss. The main character – Walker is a negotiator, and he is called upon a hostage situation in Brooklyn. A young man is holding his mother hostage. The detective, who is already at the crime scene briefly tells Walker about the case, hereafter leaving Walker in charge of the situation.  

Walker is a former Vietnam soldier, and he has worked with the police for a long time. During this time, he has changed his occupation a few times. But due to his reckless and impulsive behaviour, they sent him to the department shrink. He broke into the shrink’s office in Manhattan. According to the shrink, Walker had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, fundamental lack of empathy, blunted affect and addicted to taking risks. Eventually, they took away his gun, and the police gave him a choice – he could either take early retirement or he could learn hostage negotiation work. He chose the latter.

Walker calls the 23-year-old man – Mark Weston. He tries to negotiate with him, and the young man wants the police gone from the neighbourhood, and Walker makes it happen. After that Walker convinces Mark to let Walker come up to his apartment. When Walker steps into his apartment, he sees Mark holding a gun to his mother’s head, who is sitting in a wheelchair. Mark’s hands are trembling, which indicates that he is nervous and scared. Mark is scared that he will end up in jail, so when Walker tells him that he wouldn’t go to jail, and the police don’t have a reason to send him to jail, Mark relaxes a bit. Walker once again convinces – or more like manipulates – Mark to release his mother, and he then walks the disabled women down the stairs of the apartment. When they walk back up to the apartment, they sit and have a talk about life. Mark tells Walker about his abusive past, and about his father leaving soon after Mark’s birth. Walker is sympathetic, and when Mark starts crying, Walker walks up to him and gives him a hug, while taking the gun away from him. He points the gun at Mark, and shoots him twice. He claims that it was self-defence, and that the police might give him his gun back now.

As mentioned before, the main character in ‘Hostage’ is Walker. Walker has been a cop for a long time. Before he became a cop, he came from Vietnam, where he was a soldier. His first assignment was vice, and then he worked narcotics. The first week on the job, he had killed a dealer in a gunfight, but the Review Team cleared him – said that it was self-defence. Since he had been a sniper in Vietnam, they moved him to the SWAT team.

As mentioned before, his psychologist had diagnosed him with several disorders – he shows symptoms of sociopathic behaviour. He doesn’t show any empathy for those he has killed. For example, when he worked in narcotics, he had caught two guys coming out of a bodega, where he shot them both. All he said was; “Turned out one was thirteen years old. How was I supposed to know?”[1] His reaction makes it even worse, because he doesn’t show any reaction or even feel guilty.

He also comes across as manipulating. He manipulates Mark, and acts as if he feels sorry for him. Nevertheless, as a negotiator, that’s what you are supposed to do, therefore he did his job. Even though he got the woman and himself safely out, he decided to kill Mark – for his own benefit, which once again makes him come across as a sociopath.

Mark Weston is the young man who has taken his mother as a hostage. He is a twenty-three-year-old man, and he lives off his mother’s social security check – he doesn’t a have job and he dropped out of school as a teenager. Mark is also seeing a psychiatrist, which could be because he has some mental issues. He has an abusive past, and he didn’t get to meet his father, because he left right after Mark’s birth.
We don’t hear much about the other characters other than Mark’s mother, who is in a wheelchair, and we hear about a ‘big detective’ whose name Walker has forgotten.

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