Cutter woke to total darkness. The last thing he remembered was walking out of the police station and heading for the E train home. Now, something was covering his face that stank of stale sweat.
“Are you finally awake, Mr. Coles?” a man’s voice said in an accent that Cutter couldn’t identify but sounded vaguely European.
The thing covering his face was a sack and it was snatched off his head. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the light and to regain his senses. Standing directly in front of him were four men wearing balaclavas and dressed in all black, with holstered sidearms. Cutter tried to move but found he couldn’t because his body was strapped to a gurney that had been tilted at an angle so that his feet were higher than his head. He was in some sort of abandoned warehouse, big enough to house a black van with tinted windows parked in the distance.
If he wasn’t scared out of his wits, he would have laughed at how cliché it all was.
“Who are you? Where am I? What do you want from me?” Cutter asked the questions in rapid succession.
One of the balaclava men stepped up, the one with the indistinguishable accent, and said, “I wish to make one thing perfectly clear before we begin, Mr. Coles: I have no grievance against you. I recognize your part in all this. You are an innocent man caught in the web of deception spun by a cunning woman you knew as Michelle Clarke. Were she still alive, I would be having this conversation with her instead.”
“Was it you, you sonuvabitch? Did you kill Mickie? I fucking swear I’ll make you pay!” Cutter meant it to sound more threatening than it did, but fear made his voice crack.
“Spoken like a true friend, but your anger is misguided,” the balaclava man said. “We had nothing to do with Miss Clarke’s demise. In fact, we first arrived to see you being escorted from her apartment in handcuffs by the police after you destroyed her apartment looking for something. What were you looking for, Mr. Coles?”
“I’ll tell you like I told the police, I didn’t trash Mickie’s place, it was like that when I got there! Somebody came in through the window! How do I know it wasn’t you and your goons?”
“We have not been properly acquainted, Mr. Coles. You may call me, Mr. Vex. I will be your interrogator for the evening, and I have but one pet peeve, I hate liars, therefore I do not lie myself. Behind me are my associates, Misters Rampage, Bedlam, and Blitz. They will be offering assistance during our tête-à-tête.”
“This can’t be real,” Cutter mumbled to himself. “I’m not about to be tortured by some faux Bond villains with codenames ripped from a Tarantino script.”
Vex said, “I assure you this is very real. As for the torture, that does not need to take place.”
“Great! So how about you untie me and we can talk about this like civilized men? I’ll tell you everything I know, which’ll be a short conversation because I don’t know a goddamned thing.”
“I will make you a promise, Mr. Coles: if you tell me what you were searching for in that apartment, I will release you unharmed. You have my word on that.”
“But that’s the thing, you see, I don’t know what I was looking for. I was hoping to find a clue or something that would help the police find Mickie’s killer!”
“Why is it that I do not believe you?”
“I don’t know, man, but I swear I’m telling you the God’s honest truth!”
Vex seemed to consider this for a moment before saying, “Perhaps you might reconsider your answer if you saw things from my point of view. Your friend, Mickie, illegally obtained something that did not belong to her, something that was meant to be delivered to me. Fearing that I was coming to collect my goods, she undoubtedly hid it somewhere she considered safe. It was too valuable to be left in her apartment, so she would have entrusted it to a person that she groomed to care for her because that was what she was trained to do. And all signs point to you, Mr. Coles. Now, all you need do is to tell me where I can find my property. I will consider this matter closed, and you can return to your normal life.”
“I don’t know anything about any stolen property.”
“The last time you saw her, she gave you something.”
“She didn’t give me anything. But wait…let’s say she did…now, if I had this thing, why would I need to tear her place apart looking for it? I mean, what sense does that make?
“Perhaps you left it behind by mistake,” Vex shrugged. “Or you somehow realized what she had given you and you became greedy and returned looking for more? Whatever the case, I will have the truth from you. And since you refuse to be cooperative, you leave me with no other choice.”
Mr. Vex signaled to Rampage, Bedlam, and Blitz, who picked up metal buckets of what appeared to be water, as he fitted the sack over Cutter’s head again. Then something else was placed on top of the sack, over the areas covering the nose and mouth, a towel, perhaps?
Cutter felt a slow cascade of water going up his nose, and he held his breath for as long as he could. He was not a swimmer, had never done any breathing exercises in his life, and had no idea how many minutes he could go without air, or how much time had passed since he last took a breath, but eventually, his lungs began aching for air and his body gave him no other option but to exhale. On the inhale that followed, the wet cloth clung to his face and he was breathing in water.
Cutter, at one point or another, most likely after watching films with interrogation scenes in them, had constructed a belief that he could retain his manhood up to a certain level of torture. That delusion was shattered the moment water entered his lungs and his gag reflex kicked in. He was in the grip of a sheer panic like he had never known before.
The water pour stopped, and Mr. Vex said, “That drowning sensation must be a horrible experience. Tell me what your friend gave you and where I can find it, and I will make this stop.”
“She didn’t give me anything!” Cutter sputtered, coughing up water with each syllable.
The pour started again and Cutter’s body flopped and squirmed on the gurney as if he was having a seizure.
While this was happening, Mr. Vex said, “Did you know this process causes lung and brain damage from oxygen deprivation, and even lasting psychological damage? The adverse physical effects can last for months, and psychological effects for years.”
The pour stopped again and this time Cutter was expelling water and snot as he was vomiting. The pain was excruciating.
“Where is my property, Mr. Coles?” Vex asked.
“I don’t fucking know!”
The pour began again, and Vex said, “I was being kind by having the water poured intermittently to prevent permanent injury. However, if you continue to be uncooperative, the water will be poured uninterruptedly which will lead to death by asphyxia.”
Suddenly there was a noise, a loud explosion and the pour stopped abruptly. Vex ripped the sack from Cutter’s head, as Rampage, Bedlam, and Blitz ran out of Cutter’s field of view. There were gunshots and sounds of commotion in the distance.
“You have to tell me where I can find my property now before it is too late,” Vex said.
Cutter couldn’t concentrate on Vex’s words because the bits of the man’s face visible in the holes of the mask, his eyes and mouth, seemed to be melting and sliding down his face and disappearing into the mask.
Before he could question it, there was another explosion and Cutter’s world went white in a blinding flash, before it went pitch black.
To be continued?
Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys