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David Gillette's picture

The Great Escape

By David Gillette in Arrest Us

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Two bank robbers with unusual methods of procurement find themselves at the end of the line as a Special Agent of the FBI tracks them to West Hollywood.


David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan June 24, 2014 - 8:34am

And fixed

Robert VanCleave's picture
Robert VanCleave from The Land of Ice And Snow is reading "Sex Lives of Siamese Twins" by Irving Welsh June 23, 2014 - 10:38pm

You can go in and edit that into the description (Small tab on the top left right above the big "Arrest Us" banner")

David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan June 24, 2014 - 7:22am

Thanks for the help. Just getting acquainted with the site.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 25, 2014 - 10:59am

Hey David, 

I quite liked this, though I'll admit that there were several moments were I was a bit confused by the story. 

You're writing flows well, and there's some really good lines spread through the story. There's also a few parts where I wasn't sure if you were parodying the hardboiled writing of the genre or not. Things like;

A figurative grand piano now dangled over them like a Looney Tunes skit. Hell was around the corner because the devil was coming to get his due.

He was everything she needed in a life full of fear.

Like I said, the rest of the story seems to be played pretty straight (or a straight about a story of folks that can go into dreams can be), so I think either you need to dial back on some of the description, or amped up the other parts of the story. 

I'm generally not a fan of multiple POV's in short stories, but I think it's handled quite well here. And I like the details you sprinkle through the story, stuff like the things that are always near the apartments Annete holds up in, or Wood's reactions to the drag queens. 

Still, a really good, different read than my usual. Kudos.

David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan June 25, 2014 - 11:56am

Thank you for the wonderful feedback, Hector. I call this style of writing Quantum Noir. I wanted to find that fine line of leaving enough to the reader's imagination. I like a little mystery and ambiguity in story. But it will take some more work to develop that rhythm and inutition for me.

jorjon21's picture
jorjon21 from Wisconsin is reading Shotgun Lovesongs June 26, 2014 - 7:07am

I had to re-read the first page a couple of times to understand who the characters were, but overall I enjoyed the story.  Does Annette's positive influences on shady neighborhoods or the FBI agents reaction to the drag queens add or take away from the story?  You never detail what Annette is doing to impact where she lives - is it through dreaming as well?  And Annette and Jackie know the FBI is on to them so does the FBI agent need worried about being exposed?

Good story though - some Inception level storyteling.

Scott MacDonald's picture
Scott MacDonald from UK is reading Perfidia June 28, 2014 - 8:30am

Hi David,

I enjoyed reading your story.  You have some nice turns of phrase, although I agree with Hector, the hard-boiled descriptions could be wound back a bit, either that or that perhaps should be spaced out more as they came in such quick succession at times that it felt a little too forced at that point.  I liked the characters, and thought that they were well developed.  Agent Wood came across as a mix between Fox Mulder and Nelson Van Alden and that worked fine for the story you were telling.

I agree with your comment above about leaving a lot to the reader to make connections and that worked fine, although a further hint or two about Jackie's military experience that changed him so much wouldn't have gone amiss in my opinionm - nothing major, just a hint to where specifically he served and maybe who he encountered.

The psychic element was original for this sort of fiction and I think you pulled it off well. 

I do think that maybe your formatting could be tweaked a little so it was clearer when we were jumping between perspectives and locations (but this is a very minor quibble and easily fixed).

Please don't take any of the above as major negatives as this was a well executed story, well paced and some flourishes that really brought it alive.

Good stuff, and I look forward to reading more of your work.



David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan June 28, 2014 - 9:09am

Thank you for the thoughtful criticism, Scott. I feel like I'm learning so much from having this story out there.Time to polish this up a bit more.

stevezip's picture
stevezip from New Jersey is reading Thuglit June 28, 2014 - 2:22pm

Well David, your story reads well and the pace is good. However, by the end, I must admit, I'm somewhat perplexed. I think you need to flesh out the setting for the reader. We get the inner city, the homeless, etc. but is this the '70s and Jackie is fresh back from war? Or have Jackie and Annette been pulling these jobs for decages and only caught up to over the last 3 years? What's with the mystical Mexican connection, and the doorway cracks? As they stand they are red herrings. How did Jackie's dog tags end up with the dead guy? Also I think the readers need some example of how Jackie & Annette manipulate reality through dreams, if indeed they do, before before that final revelation "... Through dreams." Finally, I have to echo a concern from a prior comment, I'm not thrilled with the the block paragraph format you've chosen. I think it causes some confusion.

On the whole your story is intriguing, but can use some tightening.

I hope this helps.

David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan June 28, 2014 - 8:25pm

Thanks for the feedback, Steve. I don't think it really matters when the story takes place. I left only one small reference to that with an out of business airline. Your comments on the block paragraph formatting were helpful. My background in journalism left me with that habit. I can see how that might throw off a writer.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 30, 2014 - 7:26am

This is an interesting story. The constant perspective shifts are a little jarring, but you handled them well and it's always (almost) immediately clear who you are following. The circular element to the story is an interesting dynamic, but the (SPOILER) 'it was all a dream' destroyed a lot of the impact for me. Also, the conversation in the airport between the agent and Jacky didn't flow particularly naturally, a lot of the lines felt forced or scripted. It was good, and there's a really intriguing concept here, but it feels like it needs a bit more polishing to bring out the excellence. My commendations for going with something different. A little more Suspect Zero or Primer and a little less Next (with Nicolas Cage) and you're onto a winner.

David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan June 30, 2014 - 8:48am

Thank you for the thoughtful feedback, Seb. I've never watched any of the movies you mentioned. I'll have to give them a watch though. Regarding the ending, think about that one again. I think there are a few clues that indicate it's more than just a dream.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 30, 2014 - 9:52am

Yeah, I got that it was a cyclic repeat thing, part premonition, part loop; both a dream and real, quantum storytelling (as you mentioned before, I think). It's not that I didn't like the idea, nor that your execution was poor, as it wasn't. It just didn't blow me away, which I was hoping it would. All the way through I was awaiting this amazing spherical conclusion, 12 Monkeys style. It's still a good story, just needs a little more work. Anyway, of the three I mentioned watch Primer. I think you will not only get it, but love it.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 8, 2014 - 10:40am

This is a very interesting tale. I very much love the psychic crime aspect, and I would love to see that in more detail (not possible in a short story of course, sadly). I feel like there are some really strong ideas here that just don’t get the chance to properly breathe, so I genuinely hope you are planning to do something with them over a longer story.

There are two parts to this story, and one is stronger than the other. As a character, Agent Wood isn’t a patch on either Jacky or Annette, who are both fascinating characters. He brings a lighter element to the story that seems at odds with the rest of it, with his tingling scrotum. It feels like he is there purely to provide the exposition, and ultimately to cause the carnage at the end. His entry into the story leads to a lot of info dumping, and I just wonder how much that information is needed. A lot of it could come across while concentrating on your protagonists, instead of switching perspectives.

Thirty nine bullets seems overkill as well, especially for federal agents. Anyone can make mistakes, but this is well out of character for well-trained agents. That paragraph is very passive as well. “Suddenly, a barrage of bullets ripped through him and Annette” – I’ll confess that use of ‘suddenly’ is a pet hate of mine for narrative, but this is also telling rather than showing. Also, “Special Agent Wood flew into a rage” is another example. I get that you need these two to die, I just wonder if there’s a better way to do it.

The potential here is vast, and I did really enjoy this, especially the parts concentrating purely on Jacky and Annette. Wood didn’t do it for me, and I just wanted to spend more time with these two. Thumbs up from me though.

David Gillette's picture
David Gillette from Tustin, CA is reading Transmetropolitan July 9, 2014 - 8:02am

Thank you so much for your thoughtful feedback, Adam. You round on some details I had questions about myself through writing it. Special Agent Wood is someone I would develop more in a longer format. When the contest was originally 2000-3000 words, I had written a small part into it for him. I had to adjust on the fly, but I agree that this really would work better as a longer story, which I will be chipping away at. Your comments really strike a chord, which I find instructive and helpful.

Interesting thing over here in the States: you would be shocked how many instances there have been of cops firing way too many bullets for no appreciable reason. Amadou Diallo, was shot by four NYPD cops 41 times with 19 bullets hitting their mark. He had no weapon. I hear stories like this all of the time over here. Out in California, a hunt was on for a cop killer, and 2 police shot up a truck with 2 women in it with 100 shots. Anyhow, cheers!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 9, 2014 - 8:42am

Thank goodness ours are armed only with tazers. That is utterly mind-blowing.

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations July 20, 2014 - 3:08am

Hi David,

I like the idea, psychic crimes, a creative writing cop. But however weird you choose to go, the story needs to still sell itself, and be self-consistant. That, plus big sections of info dumping, and not the most sparkling of dialog, makes this a slightly tough read, promise, bags of it, but it's not there yet, and so it's (I'm afraid) a downvote from me. Hope some comments help.

Careful now. 3 mins 42, 3.32 am... too similar sounding, and very precise.

Jacky Hanoi pulled over

His car came to a slow - what, AFTER he had pulled over? A chance to trim here. Go straight to the air misted telephone booth, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars...

You introduce the name annette after the phone call, after her deep thoughts on the life/death divide, only when the FBI are watching her. Sooner is best.

POV - it's usually safer to stick with one. You're flipping between Jackie Annette and the agent. You can do this, of course, but it's harder to get right, what would this be like if it was told entirely from the Agents POV? You'd have to work at making him slightly more likeable, but your back history is what he turns up in his police reports, which makes that work better. You lose SOME of your mysticism, but still keep it weird. Or Annette, all the way through, she's allowed to see the cops (via dreams). Maybe try it a couple of different ways?

consistent aggression from the Hare Krishnan pamphlet pushers - aggression to whom? The undercover FBI agents? Better to simply say there was a Krishna temple or house nearby? Or just trim the jarring "constant aggression"

THe FBI's agents scrotum is allowed to do anything exactly once, and once only. Otherwise, we're going to begin thinking you're fixated. You MAY let the dreamers refer to it, but instead of proving them right, how does this correct and VERY personal observation make the agent feel?

Ugly sentence : He had a self-appointed reputation on the line that he hoped to increase within more than just his own mind. - there's a few of these. Did you try reading your work aloud? It often helps.

I'd ease off on giving the game away, you can list the peculiarities of the heists, but having the agent think Twilight zone thoughts... I like the idea that the agent has a degree in creative writing, but have him think of the thing in this mode - an improbable story. Maybe an impossible story - but CONSISTANT within it's own rules, which only he is willing to piece together. That's the idea, yes?

One moment he's describing meeting Annette for the first time, the next it's in the airport, no break, no clue to the reader.

This outburst cautioned Special Agent Wood’s men. ?

The ending - is no great thing. The dream plays out as it was always going to, the two seem to go happily to their death, and the disclosure of the how - "dreams" you've already given to us.

Couple of other things - You don't explain - and leave it confusing - who was the vet that Jackie's dog tags were found on. You don't really explain why these two are doing what they are doing - given just being in the neighbourhood seems to calm it down, or is that ONLY because of the money they liberate? And you don't actually take us through one of these heists as it is done, which might be quite fun.

Keep at it. Deliver us the weird story that also hangs together as a good read and you have a cracker.


YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 20, 2014 - 3:43pm

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down from me. A good premise but needs work on the execution. I was certainly hooked by the set up, and I enjoyed both following Anette and her initial attraction to Jacky, and Agent Woods. I don't necessarily think the story suffered from mixed POVs, but one thing I would have liked is more fleshing out of how, e.g., Agent Woods conducts the investigation: it was a bit info dumpy otherwise. And as above, I would maybe liked to have seen a heist in action, or more elaboration on these psychic powers. It didn't help that, while the voice and dialogue were good between Jacky and Annette, the final confrontation with Agent Woods felt a bit wooden; I couldn't imagine anyone being like 'They must be psychic' with a straight face: I get he's obsessed but I don't think you chart the development of this obsession or the conflict this might create with other characters/agents, so it comes off a bit flat.

Overall I think the first half was rreally strong and it's a problem of execution not ideas--and this sort of thing always comes with practice, re-read and re-edit and this could definitely be a v good story. It was engaging, and I read it through to the end no problem, but these issues preventing me from properly 'liking' it. 

Hope the critique's not too harsh, thanks for the read