The Truth Machine: A Novel of Things Comeby James L. Halperin
It is the year 2004. Violent crime is the number one political issue in America. Now, the Swift and Sure Anti-Crime Bill guarantees a previously convicted violent criminal one fair trial, one quick appeal, then immediate execution. To prevent abuse of the law, a machine must be built that
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Prepare to have your conception of truth rocked to its very foundation.
It is the year 2004. Violent crime is the number one political issue in America. Now, the Swift and Sure Anti-Crime Bill guarantees a previously convicted violent criminal one fair trial, one quick appeal, then immediate execution. To prevent abuse of the law, a machine must be built that detects lies with 100 percent accuracy.
Once perfected, the Truth Machine will change the face of the world. Yet the race to finish the Truth Machine forces one man to commit a shocking act of treachery, burdening him with a dark secret that collides with everything he believes in. Now he must conceal the truth from his own creation . . . or face his execution.
By turns optimistic and chillingand always profoundThe Truth Machine is nothing less than a history of the future, a spellbinding chronicle that resonates with insight, wisdom . . . and astounding possibility.
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TRUTH MACHINE: EXCERPT
CHAPTER 1: CHAIN OF FURY
Massachusetts State Prison
September 6, 1991--The cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union has just ended following an unsuccessful coup against Mikhail Gorbachev's reformist government. Gorbachev remains in power, but Boris Yeltsin, whose heroic actions during the coup may have saved Gorbachev's government, is now a force with which to be reckoned. Communism, for all practical purposes, is dead.--The United States, in the midst of economic recession after the Gulf War against Iraq, is entering a dangerous time of increasing isolationism. Many voters resent seeing America's resources exploited to solve the problems of other nations and insist their leaders focus attention on problems at home, particularly the economy and violent crime.
"According to your file you were raped by your father and you murdered your mother. Tell me about that."
Those were the first words Daniel Anthony Reece, Jr. heard from Dr. Alphonso Carter. Reece was shocked. Carter didn't ask if he had been happy in school, or what his childhood had been like before the "incident," or any of the other standard questions. Just my luck, Reece thought. Affirmative action. This monkey should be flipping hamburgers, but instead he's my goddam shrink.
In fact, Dr. Carter was famous in criminal psychology circles, and well known even outside his field. Just 31 years old, he had co-authored the best-selling book, Chain of Fury--The Cycle of Savagery in America, and so could afford to pass up the financial enticements of private practice. AtMassachusetts State Prison, Carter immersed himself in the study of violence--and those who commit it. Thus he had developed a depth of understanding of the criminal mind exceptional for a man of his time.
Carter's voice boomed and his diction was perfect, like that of a trained actor. As a boy he had stuttered horribly, the butt of cruel and inevitable teasing by the other kids in the neighborhood, until a drama teacher from the Booker T. Washington Middle School discovered his concealed talent. By the time he graduated from high school, Carter had played the lead in "Othello." Even now his speech often seemed more like performance than conversation. Never did he use contractions or resort to street lingo.
Reece sat back in his chair and sucked on a kitchen match. The two were less than four feet apart, separated by nothing--not a desk, not a coffee table. Carter's legs were crossed, his hands folded, his massive head shaved above a face so black that when he smiled his gums seemed blue.
Reece glared. Defiance showed in his eyes-and something else.
Contempt, Carter thought to himself. Mr. Reece is a racist. He plied his sense of timing and patience. Perfectly still and silent, he gazed at Reece with such intensity that the inmate felt as though Carter was peering straight into his brain.
Reece had always enjoyed therapy sessions. In a way, he was addicted to them. Talking about himself with the various psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers made him feel important, as though his life meant something, and as if there might be some hope for him. The more he disclosed, the better he felt.
He now realized that this new shrink wasn't going to utter another word; it was up to Reece to say something next, or there would be no further discussion.
Finally he blurted, "I was only nine, but I knew there was gonna be trouble. Dad got mean when he was drunk and I knew he'd been drinkin' a long time 'cause he got home so late. I heard them arguin'--my mother and him I mean. Then I heard her go. She just left me with him. I never forgave her."
Did I just tell him I blamed my mother for what happened?
Suddenly Reece wasn't enjoying himself at all. He had never said that before. Not to anyone. What's this black bastard doing that's so different?
"You never forgave your mother, but it was your father who brutally raped you. Tell me your thoughts about him."
Again the words came in a rush, unconsidered and unedited: "I didn't really understand what was going on. I was in shock. He was like a runaway train and I was the track. Nothin' could stop him. He smelled so bad. And it hurt. It hurt like hell."
Carter leaned toward Reece from the edge of his chair.
"Are you absolutely certain your mother knew what was happening?"
"Certain? Shit yeah. My mother was a goddam coward, but she wasn't dumb. She knew exactly what would happen if she left me alone with him. She knew. Next day, she wouldn't even take me to the doctor. Scared shitless he'd call in the Child Protection--maybe lose them their precious welfare checks. Fuckin' right she knew."
"Did you ever tell anyone else?"
"Yeah, I sure did. I told my best friend, Joey DelGreco. Know what he said?"
"Joey says, 'Well I think that means you're a queer now.' That's what he said. But he never told anyone else. Even after we stopped bein' friends which was right around then." Reece laughed. "Maybe he was afraid everybody'd think he was a fruit, too."
"So what Joey DelGreco said caused you anxiety. You felt..."
"Haven't you read my file, dumbass? I come home one day about eight years later and my mother's talkin' on the phone. I ask her what's for dinner or somethin' like that. Anyway, she says 'Hold your horses, you little faggot, I'm busy.' and I snap. I just snap. Musta stabbed her 100 times. Carved her up like a goddam side a beef. Afterwards, my arm's so tired I can't even move it. So yeah. Yeah, motherfucker. I guess what Joey DelGreco said caused me some anxiety."
Of course Carter had read the file quite carefully. And as he played back earlier tape recordings of Reece and the state psychiatrist, he realized that Reece had been lying in previous therapy sessions. Before today he had always told the story differently, claiming he blacked out after arguing with his mother. "And then I just remember the police came."
The police came because Reece had called them about 45 minutes after he carved up his mother. It was an action consistent with temporary insanity. Too consistent, Carter believed. Reece's attorney had used the threat of an insanity defense to plea-bargain his case to second degree manslaughter.
Reece would be out of prison in less than four years.
Carter now suspected that matricide had not been Reece's only violent crime. Unknown to Carter, Reece, as a teenager, had been responsible for a string of animal mutilations and two sexual assaults on younger children.
Also, just 16 days ago Reece had stabbed Kendall DeLoach, a fellow inmate who had tried to sell him "protection." Reece's response was to slide a wooden blade he had stashed earlier clean into the inmate's throat. Miraculously DeLoach survived. In keeping with the twisted code of prisoners, the injured inmate told the authorities he had been attacked from behind and therefore couldn't identify his attacker.
In 1991 video cameras were about the size of a man's cap and cost a few hundred dollars each; large and expensive, but not prohibitively so. Yet because of privacy rights, these cameras could not be used in prison cell areas in the United States. So officially the assault by Reece didn't occur. Many of the inmates and a few of the veteran guards knew the real story, but nobody acted on it. They just left Reece alone.
If they hadn't, our world might look very different.
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Meet the Author
Like his protagonist, James L. Halperin was born and raised in Massachusetts, attended Harvard, and eventually settled in Dallas, Texas. There the similarities end. He now directs the world's largest rare coin company. This is his first novel; he is already hard at work on his next.
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