I KILL RICH PEOPLE 2, page 14
“I don’t have the autopsy.”
“For an officer from your department killed in the line of duty? You don’t have the complete report?”
“Hey look Owen, I’m on your side.
“It wasn’t my call. Hell, I wasn’t here yet! But this is bigger than any one person, even an officer on duty. The guy killed two dozen people for Christ’s sake,” Allen tried to explain. “This is federal, Lieutenant.”
“No, this is bullshit is what it is! Tremaine and I were after a U.S. Army sniper named Jonathan Spencer, not some communist or Islamist foreigner, and we got cock-blocked every single fucking step of the way. Somebody collected DNA, only we couldn’t get to the results. What happened to that? And what about Spencer? Where is he? We don’t even have a statement from the guy. If this Vosilych killed my partner, why can’t we find Jonathan Spencer and interview him?” Owen insisted. Owen’s eyes were burning red. “I’m telling you, Commander,” he insisted, “one man isn’t moving Tremaine Bull over that railing. And Tremaine’s gun was emptied. I checked every reported gunshot wound from here to Canada and south to Florida that day and three days after. Nothing checked out.”
Allen pressed down on his telephone. “James, come to my office. Bring Gordon, too.”
He waited for the two detectives to enter before responding. “Lieutenant,” he told Owen, “I’ll put in a file request right now, but I’m also making you an appointment to sit down with a Department psychologist. Guy, I’m your new boss and you’re coming in throwing f-bombs. I’m on your side, only I need you to dial it back. You need to get right and healthy, and I’ll go to the mat to help you get there.”
Owen noticed the two men standing behind his chair on both sides.
“What I need is that file!”
“Owen, right now what you need is help.”
His mouth was brittle, so dry that he stretched his tongue out giraffe-like, seeking moisture. The interior of his throat felt like a potato chip; it was covered with minute lacerations that did not compute at all. Nothing processed, not where he was, not how he got there; he owned no self-concept at all and no curiosity for answers. He had no means to know that he had undergone sixteen hours of orthopedic surgeries, that his legs were bolted, pinned, and plated, that bone from his hip had closed gaping centimeters along a shattered femur.
Across the backs of both his hands were purple and black bruises ringed with jaundice-yellow patches where intravenous lines had been feeding him. Now that the breathing tube was out, his entire throat, from his tonsils down, felt like a drying scab.
Bare gray concrete walls rose twelve feet to the top. He was flat on his back, immobile as an overturned tortoise. From the upper corner of the wall, a black dot came into focus, a tiny green bulb beside it. A pleasant color. Green. The camera lens shifted, looking down as he looked up at it.
A thick steel door outfitted with slots at center, top, and bottom along the floor clanged metal-on-metal, jolting his senses while a stick appeared to push a cardboard tray through the floor slot and across the slab floor. The stick vanished. Another metallic clang. Spencer’s eyes shut.
He remembered the food tray when he next awakened. It was gone. His right arm was against a cold gray wall. He stretched his left arm across the space and was just short of the opposite wall. Reaching behind, he could feel a third wall. The door was toward his feet. He slowly tipped his face forward; again, the plaster casts reaching up to his crotch. Tensing the muscle groups in his legs yielded shuddering agony. No, he definitely was not paralyzed.
What he estimated to be a twenty-four-inch long fluorescent bulb hung inside a ceiling fixture. He made out the GE logo on the bare tube. He forced himself to twist enough that he could see the stainless steel toilet bowl hanging off the wall just behind and to the left of his face. It was stamped ‘American Standard’. The concrete was finished smooth. He also surveyed the welds on the hinges of the heavy door; these were cleanly ground. Western standards.
He began to smell himself on the third day, the same day that he reached out for food.
The flavors coming from orange juice out of an elementary school-sized plastic container exploded over his tongue. He could feel the calories surge, energizing his arms and outward to his fingertips. His ears tickled. When the carton was empty, he reached down to French toast, grabbing up the soft contents and mashing his fistful into his mouth, only reviving the action of chewing when he couldn’t swallow it whole. Raisins followed, sweet between his teeth. American food.
His hands measured eight inches from palm to fingertips. The plywood sleeping pallet measured four hands. Two pallets would have filled the width of the room. Grasping the finite excited him; 5.5 feet wide, 7 feet long, and 12.5 feet to the ceiling, he guessed, each equation accelerating in his head.
He began a mental inventory of each leg beneath the casts, carefully moving from bottom up along his left side and making it up to the shin bone, where the pain intensified, skipping forward to the knee then twisting a fraction left and right, enough to know he should not press more. He could sense no other specific injuries above the knee. He was not so fortunate on his right side, where Rice Krispies snapped, crackled, and popped inside his ankle joint from even the slightest contraction. The right knee felt strong, comparatively so, then his right thigh dared him to play at all with its erector-set assortment of rods and plates and bone grafts taken from both hip bones. The idea of even standing suggested pain beyond comprehension; moving under his own power was not going to happen.
He rolled his head around; even the neck muscles felt diminished. He tested his right shoulder, then his left. He spread his fingers wide and balled them back into fists, twisted the fists and turned them back toward his chin, tensing and flexing his forearms and biceps. He pumped his pectoral muscles and spread his latts despite the crackling cartilage, and rippled from his upper abs down to his groin.
A deep humming sound penetrated the walls. He concentrated on the noise but then it was gone. After hearing it for the first time, he often recognized the sound and sensed the vibration, but the inconsistent intervals offered him no further clues to its origin.
He could have been anywhere. The GE logo on the fluorescent bulb, the American Standard emblem on the toilet, the foods, and even the cleanly machined welds on the heavy door hinges suggested America, but after days passed he knew better. No police questioned him. No attorneys. No human contact. He could be anywhere, anywhere except the USA. The food was one hundred percent American industrial food. It could have been coming from any contract food services at any base or U.S. facility worldwide.
Two meals per day. One was French toast or oatmeal or Raisin Bran and a century later the next one would have turkey with gravy or Salisbury steak, again with gravy, or macaroni with cheese. Nothing that was fresh or had a limited shelf life.
Their intention will be to isolate and break you. Your job is stay alive for the time that they drop the ball. Stay focused. When that time comes, be ready.
The steel door sounded like a Chinese gong whenever it was opened, thumping inside his ear against the silence. The hinges were violins in the hands of monkeys, their shrill pitch knifing into his brain.
Two men moved in, one tall and slim, the other hard-muscled and stocky. They barely fit inside the narrow cell. They registered as military to him as Spencer took in their crisp, deliberate movements, but no rank insignia showed nor any sort of identification. Clean shoes. He caught that much. No mud or dust to indicate unpaved streets. No sweat stains, no musk or stinging odors coming off their bodies. No bug bites. The steady electricity, the U.S. foods, the elevator—all these left him betting on Eastern Europe. A city. Where? Not proof, but indicative that the black ops prison where he was held was either urban or on a sizeable base. Urban would be better, so long as he could fit in
Then everything went black. Rough knuckles violently pulled a black hood down past his nose and lips then cinched tightly. He felt a lanyard cutting against his Adam’s apple then, suddenly, he was breathing through a straw, laboring against the fabric to bring back the air that was shut down to a trickle through the dense fabric. He recoiled, thrashing his head from side to side, tensing his fists against the restraints, tightening his abdomen and feeling for the distant musculature of his glutes and thighs and calves. Tortured nerve endings shrilly reminded him of every screw and plate and bone graft that was piecing Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Stocky’s thick hands dug into Spencer’s armpits. Slim’s long, thin hands reached around both ankles. Excruciating stabbing intensity shot up his legs through his brain. Even his ears and scalp felt like they were doused with gasoline and lit aflame as they lifted him onto a half gurney-half chair with extensions to keep his casts supported. He recognized the distinctive sound of Velcro ripping apart, and then each of his arms was clamped down from elbow to wrist within the Velcro constraints along the chair’s steel arms.
Spencer fought through the pain to focus, to catch any sound that might define where they had him. Discs the size of quarters were pressed into his forearms. Wires ran through soft straps that were like supersized blood pressure cuffs.
When the pain subsided, he was able to distinguish between Stocky’s grunts and Slim’s deeper sucking breathing. Slim was behind him, pushing, while Stocky was at their front. Slim was subordinate. Spencer figured Stocky for an E5, Slim for a PFC.
Eight seconds before they stopped; he counted. Another heavy steel door clanked like a Chinese gong then creaked open in an excruciating agonizing shriek. The chair was wheeled inside a room, spun around what he thought to be 180 degrees, and then it shivered and stiffened, locked into place facing back toward the door.
“You have no friends, no family, and no lawyers,” a deep voice explained with calm finality. “You are totally alone.”
The round end of an electrified rod jammed upward below his ribcage, punching toward his lungs. The jolt of current contracted his muscle groups one after another leaving him stiffened, statue-like, losing all sense of time, holding that petrified agony like a Vesuvius victim choking on hot ash. Then the pain resided, stiffening into the hinges of his jaw and just above both knees. His throat blazed like a hot coal had been pushed inside.
“No one will hear you scream or care if you do,” Bishop explained. He reinforced each bullet point of his introductory monologue by applying another careful jolt along Spencer’s nerve clusters. “These walls are soundproof.” He pressed the rod beside the C8 vertebrae and observed as Spencer’s fingers spread and extended involuntarily, responding just the way Bishop knew they would.
“You can fight this until you will want to die, but suicide is not an option.” Bishop pressed the rod behind the prisoner’s back until the tip lodged up along T9. Spencer’s abdomen cramped into a rippled washboard.
“There will be no negotiation. You exist to answer the questions. Answer truly, thoroughly, and you can stop the pain.” The rod tip angled upward below his crotch. Spencer stretched his neck backward. He would have screamed, but his vocal chords had cramped against the voltage. Just silent terror emitted through his gaping mouth. The agony shot against his eardrums, cramped his inflamed throat until he choked, ached inside his knees and in the last joint of every finger. Even the metal staples holding his right thigh together inside the right leg cast absorbed the current and heated until they were cooking the flesh immediately around them.
When the current stopped, Spencer bit down through his tongue and hyperventilated, each inhalation drawing fabric into his nostrils. Spencer had the feeling that a highway tunnel had been drilled between his temples. Iron-rich blood skimmed over his tongue and made its way through his lips. Eventually, it would saturate the black hood and begin dripping. Then the electricity resumed; with the rod pressed behind his right ear, Spencer strained involuntarily, feeling every vertebrae pop inside his neck.
Bishop stopped to allow Spencer to consider his reality. In that minute, through his grimace Spencer centered upon mission clarity. Spencer’s taut muscles rippled from his toes up through his shattered legs, up through his sinuous forearms, met between his pectoral muscles at his breastbone, and stiffened along his neck and jaw. He knew exactly who he was. He had been through pain and he could get to the other side. Never give up.
“Pain or absence of pain,” Bishop reminded him, slowly enunciating every syllable. “We’ll start with one name, your most immediate contact. Answer me and there will be no pain.”
“Spencer, Jonathan,” he shot back. “Master Sergeant, United States Army.” Fuck you.
The rod tapped his forehead, just a quick love tap. “We know who you are. Name and rank? That is over. I’ll repeat myself this one time. You were asked for one other name. One contact. Just one.”
“Who are you? Where is this?” Spencer demanded. Black ops somewhere. Just give him anything. It could be that they’re so confident in themselves they wouldn’t care what they revealed.
“You don’t ask questions,” Bishop instructed. Bishop answered by pushing the electric rod into the hip incision where bone had been taken for the graft. The current surged through Spencer’s pelvis and buttocks and coursed up his spinal column. “To me, your body is just a vessel. I don’t care that surgeons put you back together. You can give what I ask or I can break you again to get it. Think on that. After the first time, it only gets worse.”
First prisoner interview, prisoner uncooperative. BP 170/122. Heart Rate 151. Rapid respiration. Advise interrogation officer to implement measurements for Galvanic Skin Response in next interview session.
After Stocky dropped his head onto the plywood pallet in the cell and removed the hood, Spencer gulped for air like a baby bird. His raw throat flashed on fire, but it was still worth it to feel his chest inflating freely. He inhaled as far as his lung could stretch. Air. Air was everything. Soft, cool air drawing deep inside his chest. Everything.
He could still hear the slow-paced Texas baritone echoing out from the darkness inside the hood.
“Not your first rodeo,” he whispered. He’d been through pain before. You’ve got this.
Spencer waited until his breathing normalized, then pressed his right fingers against his left wrist to locate his pulse. He knew his resting pulse rate. It always ranged from fifty-nine beats per minute to sixty-one; he called it sixty. He was breathing every fifth beat. Twelve breathes per minute. Start with the left little toe and move right = ten minutes. Right pinky to left thumb = one hour.
When you only way of measuring time is your own heartbeat, you know that you are alone.
He needed to get his head right. Rendition: Bastards grabbed a U.S. soldier on American soil and they dumped him in some overseas hellhole. OK. Draw from it. Why? Because you touched them. You got to the untouchables and they didn’t like it. No surprise.
Set the routine, he told himself. Rise to the challenge. He concentrated and it all came back. Establish control. Whatever the environment, fix your location, know the time of day, track the day of the week and the date in the month. Every milestone makes you stronger. Your captors will make an error. Your duty is to be ready when that time comes.
He could hear Senator John McCain’s gravelly description of five and a half years in captivity as a POW in North Vietnam: the dysentery, diarrhea and starvation, the pain of witnessing what they were doing not just to him, but to other GIs. Torture is horrible. It can take away your manhood and turn people into animals, but you can fight it. Hold tight onto anything that they can use to harm your brother soldiers or aid them. Observe their patterns, probe their habits, and use everything,
Concentration. Discipline. Competitiveness. Through Airborne School and Ranger School and Special Forces Training and every level of sniper training at Harmony Church Spencer reminded himself that he had measured off the charts in every one of these traits. You made it through the cold room and the hot room in training; you held up until they had to pull you out. You never tapped out, never.
Dinner dropped inside the lower door slot then was pushed across the floor with a long dowel with a curved end that looked like a craps stick. Spencer twisted from his waist and stretched out to reach it, bringing the food tray back close enough to where he could look and smell what was on it. Thick egg noodles with a pale sauce containing chunks of white meat. Canned green beans machine-cut in uniform lengths. A muffin. He sniffed and guessed corn. A plastic cup of yellow-colored liquid sealed under a peel-off aluminum cap. SunPride Apple Sauce. 100% Organic. Real Fruit. No Sugar Added. 4 Oz (113g). 100% USA Apples. A spork was wrapped inside a single thin-ply napkin.
Spencer tasted the noodles, started to take a heaping sporkful, and then dropped most of it back onto the tray. Eat slowly, he told himself. The camera was watching, always watching. Look indifferent. Don’t hand them leverage. Twelve breaths per minute. He would take twenty minutes…every toe twice around…before the plate was finished. Test No. 1; he slipped the spork inside the top of his left cast. Not much of a shank, but were they going to notice that it was gone?