A matter of life and … what’s worse than death – Episode 9

This is a story inspired by a visit to an old castle in Italy. It was, of course, written while travelling on a plane, though I’m not sure if it was from Calgary to Toronto, or New York to Vancouver.

But, there’s more to come. Those were long flights…

And sadly when I read what I’d written, off the plane and in the cold hard light of dawn, there were problems, which now in the second draft, should provide the proper start.

 

They always come for you just before dawn.

I could hear the words being spoken by Sergeant Major during lesson one of torture training.  Not us giving it to them, but them giving it to us.  Why?  For some reason at that hour of the morning, you were still asleep, or half asleep, and totally unprepared.

So, lesson number one, if you found yourself in that situation, waiting, you needed to prepare.

Easy to say, not so easy to do.  He then went on to outline the methods to employ when faced with an imminent interrogation.  The problem was, he also told us the methods that would be employed, and that was basically terrifying.  I saw men stronger than me wilting at the thought.

And, right there, sitting in that cold cell, it was not only the cold that was making me shiver.

I wasn’t a brave man.  I think sometimes I might classify myself as stupid, and with a devil may care attitude, to life and other situations; in war, every day could be your last, but I’d always considered it would be a bomb or a bullet.

Something instant, with no time to go through an agonising process of extreme pain, before dying.  Everything that went against the purpose of torture.

But not today.

I heard the sound of a key turning in a lock, in a door that was at the other end of the passage, the sound of the captors coming.

For me?  Or for someone else?

Was it selfish of me to want it to be someone else?

The door swung open with a groan, it had been oiled, but the rust was still thick enough to impede progress.  I was glad of it, it gave me time to compose myself.  I think by then I had convinced myself it was time.   Wallace wasn’t happy I was still alive, and I suspect Johansson had stopped Jackerby killing me for him because I had useful information.

That usefulness would end if I didn’t co-operate.

I could hear the boots on cobbles coming towards my cell, then felt, rather than saw the guards.

I stood and took several steps back from the door.  I could see one of the guards had a gun, trained on me, ready to shoot if I tried anything, flattered that someone thought I might try to resist or escape.  I had given it some thought, weighed the possibilities, and the odds were I’d be shot before I got 10 yards.

“Don’t try anything or you will be shot.”  Surprisingly unaccented English, but an unsurprising threat.  

A different guard, standing back from the door, key in hand, and in the light so that I could see him.  Why?  This one didn’t look German, and he was someone I hadn’t seen before, obviously one of the new arrivals.

Jackerby’s handpicked torture squad?

The door was unlocked and swung outwards, held onto by the man who issued the threat.

The other guard had stepped back two paces.  “Follow him.  I’ll be right behind.  Don’t try anything.”

He didn’t have to add anything to that command.  He was seven inches taller and 60 pounds plus heavier than I was.  Implied message understood.

I followed the guard in front.

© Charles Heath 2019

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