I KILL RICH PEOPLE 2, page 20
Work. Make yourself do it.
Beginning from his toes, he tightened every muscle from feet to his buttocks and back down to his feet. One hundred times. Followed that by flexing and stretching. Do a hundred, and when you’ve done that, do another hundred.
The casts weren’t getting wider; the gaps were growing because his legs continued to shrink away. Don’t think of them; not the way they are, not the way they were. Work with what you have. Rebuild them. Rebuild them and they can take you away.
Spencer pressed his left fist against the left side of his jaw and pushed his head against it, holding the pressure for two minutes before alternating to the right side. Then he positioned both fists below his chin and squeezed down, forcing his arms and shoulders to fight against the neck muscles. Using his elbows, he pressed himself upward and shrugged his shoulders through fifty rep sets. He reached his left arm across his chest, grabbed hold of his right shoulder and pulled against his latts, alternating sides five minutes at a time. He jerked himself over and tried to work his core abdominal muscles with plank exercises, intending to hold it for two minutes before he felt something tear. From then on, he concentrated on tensing isolated areas from his pectoral muscles down to his lower abs, counting each day how long he could hold the positions and tension to gauge his progress.
He initiated a complex breathing routine for cardio and endurance. Spencer forced himself to inhale as deeply as he could then he exhaled forcefully, imagining there were birthday candles on the ceiling and repeating the cycle until they were all blown out or he collapsed, whichever came first. After he recovered and his breath came back, he initiated a quick series of breaths, in and out, repeat, until he could not do another and collapsed in a bath of sweat. Then rapid puffs, in-in-in-in-in-out-out-out-out-out; inflating his cheeks like Dizzy Gillespie again and again until his back spasmed from the exertion.
The breathing exercises released endorphins that in turn triggered waking dreams. He sometimes dreamed of Afif, of falling asleep face down, of hearing something but waiting that critical split-second that allowed the knife blade to plunge. At better times he dreamed himself back with Captain Sam, lying on the grass beneath their tree. But whenever he settled into that cool calm it seemed like an air horn would shriek or they would come to take him again. Sometimes they dropped the temperature until the cell felt like a meat locker. He discovered that the cold has its own sound, a deep organ note that hummed its tone inside his bones. He had never considered that temperature could have a sound, but it did.
He was burning more calories than he was taking in, but he was building back muscle, too. The casts began to get tighter. He knew each muscle and tendon in each leg by heart, had them challenged in every way that he could imagine.
One-and-a-half to two months of therapy for each month in the casts? Bullshit.
He could feel his body inching back.
“Our forensics audit is running in parallel to your interrogations,” Jeffers reminded Bishop. “First to the result. That’s all I care about.” The APA had that down cold, pressing, pressing, pressing. Looking down through that camera, bullying 24/7.
When you want results, Bishop thought, you hire your expert and let me do my thing, you don’t micromanage and threaten and constantly dog me. Don’t keep saying I’m one move away from being thrown out with the garbage. Fiji water and compliments. Fuck you. Spencer was alone, whether or not you choose to believe it.
“There’s no radical Islam imprint to any of the attacks,” Jeffers expounded. “Not even Sands Point, where every victim was a Jew. Nothing inherently anarchistic or communistic, either, except the implied raison d’être, IKRP, I Kill Rich People. “
“Raison what?” Bishop asked, his Texas twang stretching each vowel.
“Raison d’être,” Jeffers repeated. “It’s French, Sheriff, boils down to ‘why.’ We’ve got nine dead billionaires, every one of them with his hands into something that translates into profit and loss at his demise. They’ll find out what. Even the Russians or the Chinese can’t hide it forever. Irregular options trades, derivative placements; something is going to surface.”
“I don’t think this was about money,” Bishop judged.
“It’s always about money,” Jeffers interrupted. “Between SEC, NYSE, and NASDAQ trades and the after-markets, plus side-book private action between bigger players bypassing the exchanges, they’ve got mountains of data to run through, but they’ll get there.”
Jeffers made no attempt to disguise the message. Either he produced deliverables soon or his project was going to be a one-off and so-long gravy train.
Hitting Page Down, Bishop jumped straight to the file record for his most recent interrogation and pulled it up on screen. Bishop used his touch pad to expand the biometrics insert until he could see the graphics clearly. The vivid colors contrasted with the white background and the dim images on the screen. Spencer had to know that he was about to be flipped backward then doused. Cold water would be flooding into his sinuses and rushing down his throat. He should have been terrorized. He was not. The hooded subject was calm. Blood pressure 110/70, respiration four breaths per minute, heartbeat at 56 BPM.
Tapping several keys, Bishop altered both screens into a graphic display showing the subject’s vitals from initial interrogation through to the most recent.
“Effective interrogation is not one-size-fits-all,” Bishop argued. “It doesn’t work that way. If it did, you wouldn’t need me.”
Jeffers stared back at Bishop through his laptop screen, saying nothing. When the consultant’s best argument is “I’m the expert,” Jeffers was generally inclined to take things in another direction.
“The U.S. Army is really good at cracking a man’s willpower,” Bishop explained. “They threw everything they had at him across three different elite training programs and he came through every one. Let me translate that into your medium. The odds against becoming Master Sergeant Jonathan Spencer, getting through three of the military’s toughest elite training environments in three tries, never failing, are roughly parallel to the odds against starting from scratch and becoming one of your Vision Partner billionaires. No networking, no shortcuts, no lucky breaks.”
Bishop tried to put it in words Jeffers would understand. “Spencer took it, took the roughest challenges the army can think up, and got through them on skills and determination and guts. Pain won’t sway Master Sergeant Jonathan Spencer. I need you to turn the cameras off and let me work this my way.”
“Mr. Bishop, you have had twenty-two days. I have been backing your hire since day one.”
Twenty-two days of constant pressure was breaking Bishop down more than the prisoner. Eagle Arms, Bishop recalled. The most effective day of all and they pulled the rug out from under him because Spencer looked like he was having too good a time.
“I have never had basic autonomy since day one!” Bishop countered. “Results and a good show are two completely different aims. How can you have any idea what my hands feel like after forty or fifty hard smacks at a man’s skull? I stick them in an ice bucket for an hour before I can use them to write up your briefs!”
“Give me two days,” he finally said through his laptop. “I can deliver value and get this moving forward.”
Jeffers nodded in the screen. “Two days. Bring us the organizational structure.”
Deliver or die. Bishop flashed on his ex-wife; wouldn’t she have a field day if their daughter’s $25,000-per-year private school tuition couldn’t get paid? She just loved any chance to tell their daughter that her father is a loser. But the minute she heard he was making money, she’d call the lawyer and drag him back to try for more spousal support. He could see it coming from a mile away.
Darcy and Ferrell trudged past him out the door;
Bishop entered with the electric rod gripped in his right hand. Underneath the black hood, Spencer’s face lifted and turned, alert to the sound of Bishop’s soles hitting the concrete. But Bishop didn’t walk into the room. Instead, he pressed his back against the wall and slid along until he was directly below the camera, where he craned his neck and looked up to where the USB cord was plugged in. He stretched out his arm and reached with the electric rod and came up more than a foot short. Bending his knees and waist, he tried to recall the old motions of jumping to tap the basketball rim and leapt up, swinging at the cord and missing short. He tried again, this time mashing his lips and tightening every muscle group before springing, then coming up lower than the first time. This time he took off his shoes and toed them along the wall, being careful to keep them outside the camera’s viewing angle. When he came up short again, he reached back and angrily threw the rod at the camera, scoring a direct hit that snapped the neck of the plastic bracket in two. The camera swung on a pendulum, dangled by the USB connection for a moment, then crashed onto the floor.
Spencer followed the thumps and smacks and the hollow clatter of cracking plastic without any idea what was meant by the noises.
Footsteps crossing the room. Thick fingers touched at his windpipe. He twisted side to side and strained at the Velcro restraints, then the pressure of the lanyard eased and the hood slipped up and away. He blinked at the light until the shape of Bishop’s broad face came into focus like the first sight he was seeing after emerging from the egg.
Spencer was confused, embarrassed even, and shifted his eyes around the room. He saw the broken camera; the green light was snuffed out, and he looked up at the severed bracket high on the wall.
“Look at me, Jonathan,” Bishop told him. “We’re just going to talk, man to man.” Bishop’s fingers reached under the Velcro arm grips. “I want to release your arms. Can I trust you?”
Spencer’s eyes studied the face that went with the baritone Texas accent, filling in the vision and realizing for the first time how his brain had already set another image entirely. This man was graying, at least ten years older than the voice. The jaw and beard line were similar, as was his height, but this man’s lips were more delicate. Spencer could see the pores and the blood vessels on Bishop’s nose, the white hairs inside both the wide nostrils and the dark tunnels behind them.
Bishop’s blue irises locked onto Spencer, readying himself to jump out of reach at the slightest pupil contraction in Spencer’s eyes while he slowly ripped back at the first Velcro restraint.
“I know to the hour when you were stabbed,” Bishop explained. “I know about Landstuhl and Madigan and Walter Reed. I know your whereabouts for much of the past twenty years. A week after you left Walter Reed, you hit Sands Point.”
Spencer felt the pressure released along his forearm but held it down along the armrest. While the blood supply returned to moving freely into his left hand, he eyed Texas while the man stepped back from the chair and carefully moved around to his right side.
“I don’t see how you worked with accomplices. The profile doesn’t fit with your mission reports, either.” Bishop ripped open the second Velcro restraint and gingerly stepped back beyond Spencer’s reach. Slowly, Spencer lifted his arms from the armrests and massaged weakly at his forearms to speed the blood flow and the strength it brought back to his numbed palms and stiffened fingers.
“You going off the reservation?” Spencer asked him, throwing his chin toward the broken camera.
“I’m my own man.”
“Who’s on the other end of the camera?” Spencer challenged.
“Work with me or you’re going to find out,” Bishop warned. “The devil you know…”
“Your back’s against the wall,” Spencer chided. Outlasting Texas felt good.
“Yes it is,” Bishop admitted. “Get with the program, Sergeant, before it gets worse. One hell of a lot worse.”
“Why are you doing this? For whatever money they’re paying?”
“You killed two dozen people!”
“Did you know any of them? Were they friends of yours? Family?”
“What the hell does that matter?” Bishop argued. “The law is for everybody. I don’t enforce the law just for people I know.”
“So you’re doing your job?”
“You enforce the law,” Spencer reiterated, “Except those guys behind the camera get to pick the laws you enforce! What about the laws saying I have the right to an attorney and a trial? What about illegal torture? Is that how you all do things down in Texas?”
Bishop’s face flushed red. He stepped closer then quickly lifted his toes and reversed, remembering the head-butt and remaining outside Spencer’s lethal radius. He smiled, like a man who had stopped short of stepping into a minefield, turned and opened the door behind him.
Spencer watched him whispering something into Slim’s ear in the bright hallway and then passing along two dollar bills.
“Good job, Sergeant,” Bishop told Spencer. He reached the lone straight-backed brown metal chair from across the room, turned the back toward the outstretched casts, and straddled it to ride with his stomach facing the seatback. He wasn’t rising to the bait. “I hope you like a cold Pepsi. Straight from the machine. I’m buying.”
Vending machines at a black-ops rendition site? Using dollars? What the hell?
Slim opened the door and stepped inside with the Pepsi cans, immediately noticing that the hood was off and Spencer had both his arms free.
After Bishop took the cans, he nodded for Slim to go back the way he came. Slim saw the camera on the concrete floor and glanced up at the broken bracket on his way out.
Bishop popped open one can and sucked down a long gulp. “You want this,” he said after his ahhh. “I need your word that you’re not going to pitch at my head.”
Bishop offered the can out to the end point of Spencer’s reach, watching his eyes as Spencer’s fingers wrapped around the Pepsi. Spencer opened it and listened to the fizzing sound. A flush of pleasure coursed down both sides of his neck, tickling under his clavicles. He sniffed at the aperture, took a tiny sip, ran it around his mouth tasting the drink and feeling its carbonation across his tongue, and then poured half the can into his mouth, lustily enjoying the cold on his teeth and into his throat.
“Tell me about the PEB,” Bishop continued. “Nineteen-and-a-half years and they cut you loose. That had to hurt.”
“Nothing I can’t handle,” Spencer snapped back at him, but the reaction in the prisoner’s eyes made plain how deeply Bishop had touched a nerve.
“They took away your pension. Thirty-two grand for your kidney and adios compadre.”
“You think I give a shit about money? I don’t.”
“Then why ‘I Kill Rich People’?” Bishop probed.
“Because everything doesn’t have a price! Name anything that is important and nobody can ever own it. Because their money makes us small; they isolate us and they squeeze us and they try to turn everything into a quantified commodity that they buy and sell. You really think they give a shit about America? They’ve got mansions and yachts all over the world and jets to take them, just like Saudi princes. If they loved their countries would they offshore everything? Huh? No they would not!”
Spencer gulped again at the Pepsi; suddenly he felt startled, tricked into saying more than he had spoken in months.
“They? Meaning the rich?”
“Tell me about Samuel Hall. Major Davies, at Walter Reed, says that you helped him. I understand he lost both his hands and his eyes.”
Bishop rose and smacked the chair to the floor. “Boy, you just don’t get it,” he shouted in frustration.
“Fuck you!” Spencer shouted right back.
Bishop stayed up through the night rehashing and second-guessing each of his approaches. When he finally got into bed he was trying so hard to get sleep that he became too angry with himself to keep his eyes closed. Everything ahead was outside his comfort zone. Jeffers wouldn’t extend so he had put it all on the line.
He had to turn to the thiopental sodium, but thiopental sodium offered a narrow window; too little would have no effect, too much would kill. Zero room for error and any mistake would probably kill Spencer and kill his own meal ticket. Years of intense physical training aside, Spencer had been lying on his back with zero activity for almost two months. Bishop could not predict or control, but he had no other way to deliver and no wiggle room. No deliverables, no further contract.
The suggested maximum total dosage was 500mg; initial dosage to induce anesthesia 100mg at 2.5% solution injected over ten to fifteen seconds, 5% maximum solution in resistant patients. Bishop reviewed the recent surgical notes and went back into Spencer’s army medical file, confirming no reference to allergies. Spencer’s weight had been measured before the surgeries on his legs. One hundred sixty-seven pounds.
At three a.m., he realized that Spencer couldn’t have food in him. Bishop texted orders to the guard station. “No morning meal in 22. Confirm in reply!!”