I KILL RICH PEOPLE 2, page 18
A door opened and the gurney stopped, swung around, and then banged through. “Get that off,” a clear voice commanded. It was a captain, he guessed; too young to be a major, but more assured than most lieutenants.
“No can do. Against orders, Doctor.”
Stocky. E5. Keys. Breath smelled of bacon.
A phone clicked being picked up, followed by the dial tones.
“He is a prisoner out there. Inside this clinic, that man is my patient and I’m not working around any hood. So you either modify the security protocol or I take this one further up the chain.”
After a prolonged pause, Spencer heard a door close and sensed that the doctor relaxed as the man exhaled. Spencer felt the lanyard loosen then the hood was tugged away from behind.
When his eyes adjusted, the doc’s face was less than a foot away from his. Full rose-colored lips, marble-white skin, jet-black eyebrows, and piercing glacier-blue eyes—the fine features imprinted upon him like a new hatchling gazing on its mother. He felt himself welling with emotion as the doctor’s warm breath trailed across his face. Spencer looked away.
He scanned the examination room. Another camera was mounted in the corner, but the wire feed had been pulled out and where the green light should have been was dark.
The doctor followed Spencer’s eyes and confirmed. “Big Brother isn’t watching,” he told Spencer.
The doctor lifted a backboard from the floor, called Slim to assist, and gently rolled Spencer away from him onto his side before they wedged the board under his torso. Evidently, Stocky had left the room.
“On three,” the doctor ordered Slim. They counted together then lifted and tilted the board to slide Spencer onto the examination table. Spencer was certain that he revealed nothing of the jaw-clenching, molar-cracking variety of pain that shot through him, but his right leg began to spasm.
The doctor nodded at Slim and pointed. “Hold them both firmly. I don’t have a medical assistant on the floor to help me. That means you’re it.” Slim held Spencer’s ankles as instructed until the shaking passed.
Slim’s eyes were down, how his neck was extended out over the ankles. Spencer’s mind choreographed how he could exploit the vulnerability.
“I’m your orthopedist,” the doctor explained to him. “I’ll be supervising your recovery. You’ve had multiple compound fractures, which means that we’re dealing both with repairing your bones and with some significant tissue damage. The intravenous drips you were getting served a variety of purposes from keeping you well-hydrated to pain mitigation to prophylactic antibiotic treatment to prevent infections.”
It had been weeks since he heard so many words strung together. The sound released warm waves of adrenaline flushing through him.
“Where are we?” Spencer asked.
“Don’t answer that!” Slim interjected instantly. “Medical only.”
The doctor nodded and motioned Slim back with a calm, open upright palm.
“I’m going to use a cast saw to open up both casts,” the doctor calmly detailed to Spencer. “This shouldn’t hurt at all. I’ll have the casts off in two minutes, we’ll snip away some cotton and a stretch sock, and we’ll get a look at my work.”
The cuff harness made his task impossible; he couldn’t reach more than three inches in either direction.
“Get these off,” he ordered Slim.
“No Sir. No can do.”
Military or not? Spencer was confused. Slim was a non-com, looked like it from his haircut down, but a doctor would have to be an officer and that didn’t fit.
“This is ridiculous. Get this contraption out of my way, now!”
“I don’t have keys,” Slim protested.
“Then find someone who does.”
Slim reluctantly retrieved Stocky from the hallway, who was adamant. “He stays cuffed,” Stocky asserted.
The doctor pointed up at the monitor on his wall, pointing his finger toward x-rays with broad white cracks so obvious that anyone could read them. “His legs are fully fractured in eleven places. How’s he going anywhere?!”
“Not going to happen,” Stocky responded.
“Come here,” the doctor instructed. Stocky squeezed along the wall beside the doc, who pointed out the obvious.
“Beneath the fiberglass and the plaster are legs,” the doctor explained in a purposely condescending tone. “The legs went through multiple surgeries, with foot-long incisions and bone grafts and suturing and stapling. Now I need the casts to come off. How would you propose I do that when you have him handcuffed and chained around his crotch?
“Remove the damned cuffs. Now!”
Stocky gave in to the disconnect, grumbled under his breath, and stretched the retractable key chain until he had the cuff-key.
“Zip him,” Stocky told Slim as he pulled on Spencer’s wrists.
Spencer locked the key’s image into his brain. Inch and a half. Stainless steel. Tubular shaft. It was clipped onto the same wide belt holding the Taser and handcuff pouch and several other pouches along with the keys. Spencer silently repeated the data points until he had them fixed in his mind. Blue key one side, brass on the other. Cuff key in between.
From the exam table, Spencer’s eyes followed as Slim withdrew a fistful of white zip-ties from his shirt pocket. Stocky pointed at the metal rails alongside the exam table and Slim fed a long tie through until the first teeth had bitten, still leaving a wide loop.
Stocky unlocked Spencer’s right wrist and grabbed it in a vice-tight grip, then pulled the plastic loop over Spencer’s hand.
“Well?” Stocky challenged Slim, who got the idea and pulled the zip-tie taut, cinching Spencer’s wrist to the rail before Stocky unlocked the left wrist and wrenched at the chain to roughly pull the waist and crotch restraints past the prisoner’s scrotum.
“You satisfied?” he asked the doctor. Without any expectation of an answer, Stocky let the harness clank onto the hard floor and returned to the outside hallway, leaving Slim to keep watch inside the exam room.
The atmosphere changed for the better. It felt like an angry boar had left the room. The doctor raised Spencer’s back to allow him to watch the procedure. An instrument table just beyond the rail holding Spencer’s wrist carried a small cordless circular saw connected to a gray plastic tube attached to a shoebox-sized vacuum set on the floor. The table also held a full syringe beside a tiny still half-full bottle. The container was turned so that Spencer could see only a capital “K” on the label, not enough of a clue to identify the medicine.
“So, starting from here,” the doctor told Spencer as he pointed toward his inner thigh, “I’m going to open things up. Just deep enough to clear the material. Nothing to worry about, ok?”
Spencer nodded and the doctor responded by patting him twice on his forearm.
The doctor leaned toward Spencer’s crotch then jumped back, twisting his face away from the stench. He rolled Spencer just enough to see the caked-on residue and puss-filled ulcers on both his butt cheeks.
“What the hell is this?” he demanded. “This is basic hygiene. Jesus!”
Slim looked down at his feet, wiggling his toes inside his shoes.
The doctor looked like he was ready to go to blows before he composed himself. “This patient has had multiple operations,” he shouted at Slim. “He is on antibiotics to prevent infection. Don’t you get that?”
“It’s not my call,” Slim stammered.
“I see this again, I’ll report you and everyone who touches this man. You hear me? Don’t let it happen or you’ll be looking for another job. I promise you.”
Out looking for another job? Spencer didn’t get it. Nothing about the statement computed. Since when did black-ops personnel get fired for prisoner abuse?
After washing Spencer’s backside, he returned to the sink with the brown washcloth, stripped off his plastic gloves, washed his hands thoroughly, and pulled on new gloves before returning to the exam table.
“When I’m done here, I’ll give you some ointment for that rash,” he told Spencer. “You need to make sure you shift positions. I know it will be difficult, but you need to alter pressure and get airflow.”
Spencer nodded. The doctor glared again toward Slim then went to work.
Starting at the crotch, the doctor moved the buzzing saw down the inside of the leg to his knee, then, starting from the ankle, he made a new cut back up to the knee, and then a third cut to the outside of Spencer’s big toe. A puff of white dust followed behind the saw blade then did a U-turn and was sucked into the vacuum. He moved next to the other side of the exam table, running one long quick cut from hip to toes. When he walked back around he had to pause for Slim to back away, then he efficiently resumed his work, pulling out an extension to the exam table to support Spencer’s ankles as he moved on to the left leg.
In three minutes, both casts and the wrapping were off. Spencer’s marathon-runner legs were unrecognizable to him. Purple, brown, and yellow-tinged skin was crisscrossed by surgical slices and brutal tearing was punctuated by metal staples, glue and sutures.
Spencer knew in that instant that he was never going to be the same. His mind drifted to Captain Sam, suddenly understanding the self-loathing reality of being broken beyond repair.
“Fantastic,” the doctor exclaimed toward him.
Fantastic, Spencer wondered? His legs, the machines that he depended upon, looked like shriveled prunes.
The doctor worked his way along each wound, softly pressing his fingers into the muscles and watching. “No signs of infection. Everything is closing up nicely. Let’s clean you up, we’ll get some new x-rays, and then get you into some fresh casts.”
Using a soapy sponge and warm water, the doctor dabbed and rubbed the patches of dried blood until they were moistened and wiped away. The soft, warm touch was unsettling. The sponge even worked between his toes. He looked at the back of the doctor’s head. The black hair was perfect, every hair evenly in place.
Spencer stiffened against the pain and attempted to raise his right leg before the doctor’s hand came down and checked his movement. “Hold on! You had a bone graft. Until it sets up and is completely joined to the femur, don’t move it. Not at all.”
Minutes later, he had new x-rays shot, developed, and displayed side-by-side with the originals. Spencer focused on the logo of the wall-mounted touch-screen monitor. LG.
“All good,” the doctor assured. “Let’s see if I can remember how to put on a cast and get you fixed up!’
“How long before they can stay off?” Spencer asked.
Before the doctor responded, Slim pointed his slender forefinger at Spencer’s nose. “Shut it!” he ordered.
“Too early to say,” the doctor responded as he broke out his casting mix and wraps. “You’re recovering exceptionally well, but these are multiple compound fractures. I moved bone from your hip to bind the right femur. It’s going to be months, casts and then extensive physical therapy before you’ll have real mobility.”
After Stocky and Slim moved him back inside the cell, Spencer’s cheeks became wet from tears. Time. Another week to ten days before he would be back there. The orthopedist was the only real person who had talked to him. A few minutes talking and now he was all fucked up! All of a sudden, the weight of isolation fell upon him like a heavy barbell dropping on his chest. Once they started, Spencer could not make the tears stop.
Not good, he thought. The brain was a tool also. He needed his to be ready. Only how do you measure your own sanity?
Process. He had more inputs. More data sets. The unplugged camera. The cuff key. The plastic zip-ties.
The outline of a plan began to take shape in his mind. Maybe only the outside frame of the puzzle, but new thinking, new pieces that began fitting together.
Bishop knew the stats. Khalid Sheik Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times at Gitmo and not an ounce of intel came from it. But the APA couldn’t care less about stats.
Jeffers’ employers didn’t care for solid, effective interrogation procedures. They wanted the strong visuals, so Jeffers demanded a good show. Empathetic approaches that actually worked, grounded in basic give-and-take, nope. No humanistic methods. Verboten. So Bishop used sleep deprivation techniques which he punctuated by air horns. He froze the cell for hours-long shifts that drew Spencer’s core body temperature right to the limits for stroke or heart failure. Across four days, Bishop smacked the prisoner until Bishop’s hands were swollen so badly that he couldn’t lift a fork to eat his own dinner afterward. He might as well have been smacking a post. Spencer hardly reacted.
Torture and porn: watch enough of either and it does get monotonous. They could tune into the prisoner and the proceedings on the webcams 24/7. Now, they wanted more waterboarding more often. Sorry if you’re getting bored, Bishop thought.
“I’m getting paid by the hour,” Bishop told Spencer at one point. “So you go right ahead and take all year.”
Paid by the hour? Spencer was puzzling over the comment when the water began flowing, just when he needed to fix on another place, anyplace. Returning to base. After Manchester United. Miller.
Spencer closed his eyes and he tried to recall the scent of patchouli. It was there, spicy and recognizable in his mind, but nothing he could do brought the actual scent. Any scent. Even the food smelled like nothing.
Patchouli reminded him of Mercy. He could picture her on the bed with her legs crossed and her dry-skinned knees poking through the huge holes in her blue jeans. He usually pictured her laughing, throwing her head back and howling at something he said. Nobody else had ever thought he was funny, but somehow she thought he was hilarious. A couple times, when he looked at her longingly, she had shoved him off the bed onto the floor and laughed even harder. She was only two years older, but it seemed like ten.
He used to pick through her crazy tangles for the beads and feathers and other treasures she hid there. After long showers, Mercy brushed her hair wet, sitting in front of the mirror with just a towel around her, wrapped above her breasts. He timed carefully so that he would be in her room practicing guitar when she came back from the bathroom. They both pretended not to notice so he could hang out. He could smell the scent of her shampoo across the room while she brushed. He knew that he would recognize that scent anywhere, but he could not imagine the actual smell of it. He could hear her laughter. Sound was there, vision, too, but her smells he could only imagine.
He tried to imagine how she must look now, all these years later, but she was always the same, like she was too much herself to ever change.
Spencer figured it was April. Trees would be blooming, apples and cherries and pears. The weather there was just getting nice again. Jack would be chaining up and padlocking the van handles and then he’d go inside and pour a cup of cold coffee still in the pot from the morning. He’d take it to the couch without bothering to reheat it, groan as he leaned forward to retrieve the remote, and then lie in front of that old projection TV until he fell asleep. Maybe he’d microwave a frozen dinner. Maybe not. Jesus, Jack.
How you making ends meet? Spencer wondered. I can’t deposit $2,000 a month into your account anymore. I can’t pay your homeowner’s insurance or your property taxes, either. You’re cut off, Jack. Bill a customer, why don’t you!
He hadn’t been home in nearly two years. They went and had dinner at Denny’s in Ruther Glen. Four o’clock in the aft
Jack, you were only thirty-two when she died. You didn’t have to stop living. You were seven years younger than me today.
He was not going to choke, not going to vomit, he told himself every time. But waterboarding means vomiting; discipline doesn’t trump reflex. Acidic muck flooded thick, running over his cheeks and nostrils and earlobes, and gasping hot into his lungs as the water kept pouring. Every interval was a fight to take in air with the plastic clasp on the lanyard tearing into his Adam’s apple. Slow, Spencer intoned, lengthening the vowel sound within his head until the mantra syncopated from his mouth, throat, windpipe, through the hood and deep within both lungs. Breathing became a tightrope walk, tremoring between cooling relief and tearing, rending, searing pain that continued hours after they left him back to the cell.
When he was inside the cloying sack, only these long, slow draws kept the black nylon fabric from sucking against his lips and drawing over his tongue each time he inhaled. The thickening carbon dioxide hinted of suffocation, but struggling against it only drew the lightweight cloth deeper down his throat. Vomit means digestive acids. It didn’t matter if they did it forty times or four hundred, willpower couldn’t prevent the suppurating sores around his lips, his gums, and all the way down the length of his esophagus. A hood means there is nowhere to spit, nowhere to rinse, no options. Salivating stung. Moving his tongue at all, anywhere, produced the effect of holding a hot coal pressing against mucus membrane. But he resisted through every method and every session.