They came for him at dawn. Not the rats, at least not the four legged kind, more like the picayune with power type. Of the two, Jack almost preferred dealing with the rodent variety. But apparently this decision was not multiple choice, he decided, as he was escorted at gunpoint down the hallway and into a small brightly lit office.
“Hail, hail the gang’s all here,” Jack quipped as he noted that every officer on the force appeared to be crowded into the room and none of them wore enduring smiles which said, ‘Sorry this has been a huge mistake and you’re free to go now.’
Nope. These faces wore looks that said, ‘Jack, you are in shit so deep, your eyes couldn’t get any browner.’
One of the guards gestured for Jack to sit in a wooden chair in the middle of the room.
With a shrug of complete indifference, Jack walked nonchalantly over to comply. Happens every day. No big deal. Just out for a stroll in a room full of hostile armed men in a third world country. Half dressed, barefoot, unarmed. Could whistle Götterdämmerung if you want, but you probably wouldn’t appreciate it. Just passing some time.
Apparently, the nonchalant routine didn’t work with these guys, Jack decided when one of the guards gave him a hard shove into the chair and another bound his arms tightly behind his back.
“I bet you’re all wondering why I called you here this morning,” Jack said.
One of the men, the leader if the amount of braiding on his uniform was any indication, stepped forward and delivered a stinging backhand across Jack’s face which snapped his head to the side.
“You will be silent until you are told otherwise, Americano,” he ordered in broken English. “You will learn what happens to spies in this country. What happens to those who interfere where they have no business.”
If the situation hadn’t been so serious, Jack might have been tempted to laugh at the entire clichéd mess, but the image of the boys he and Frank had found on the road was far too fresh in his mind not to take this threat seriously.
Ignoring his stinging jaw, Jack looked the man in the eye and lied through his teeth. Thank God for cover stories.
“Spy? Are you kidding, amigo? You’ve got the wrong guy. My name’s Bob Valentine. My brother Joe and I hail from Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. That’s the town of Pequot Lakes in Sibley township, Crow Wing County, not the lake. It’s a great place to fish. The best. It even has a water tower painted to look like a fishing bobber if that tells you anything. We were in the greeting card business until recently when the bottom fell out of the card industry. So Joe, says to me why don’t we get into coffee beans. Importing, that’s the way to go these days. Importing. So we start looking into beans of the coffee variety and you’ll never guess what we found out. Go ahead, guess. No? Well I’ll tell you then. Nicaragua grows coffee beans! Some of the best damn coffee in the western hemisphere. So Joe and me, we came down here to get the ball rolling, or the pot perking, so to speak. And that’s how we ended up in your charming little town.”
The dumbfounded look on the captain’s face almost convinced Jack that he had muddied the water enough that he might be able to slide out of this mess.
Before another stinging slap told him the entire performance had been for naught.
“You will be silent,” the man said, punctuating his order with a third hard strike which made Jack’s eyes water and his nose bleed. “Lies, and nonsense! You are trying to confuse us with your words.”
Maybe el capitán wasn’t as stupid as he looked. He’d nailed that little diversion on the head.
The blood dripping from his nose, down his chin and onto his chest was distracting. But thoughts of that evaporated like water off a hot tin roof when one of the other guards walked over to Jack and without warning delivered a powerful punch to his unprotected mid-section. The chair rocked before Jack was able to balance his weight enough to keep from crashing to the floor. Unable to bend over, he sat painfully trying to suck in needed air.
“Hey you son of a bitch,” he finally gasped, “you’re wearing my boots.”
In hindsight it probably wasn’t the time nor place to bring up that fact, but Jack was pissed and he was worried and these yahoos were standing between him and the answers he needed.
He was unprepared as the man favored him with a calculating grin and said, “You are right, señor. Here, I will return them to you.”
With no other warning he raised a booted foot and stomped savagely down on Jack’s bare toes.
Jack couldn’t stifle the yelp of pain that escaped as the heavy boot ground the crushed nails into the sensitive bleeding quick.
Oh yeah, that hurt.
“That is for the brother I lost because of you and your interfering country, señor,” the guard spat. “He died at the hands of the stinking Contras which you are protecting.”
The hatred raging in the man’s eyes was duplicated five-fold in the faces of the others standing around the room. Faces that told of pain and suffering, of loss of loved ones. Faces that could have been reflections of a thousand, a hundred thousand others in this land of civil war. Faces that wore resentment toward a country like the United States, for interfering and prolonging the suffering, whatever their good intentions might be. Faces that told Jack he was a convenient scapegoat for the bitterness, pain, and loss in their lives.
And suddenly Jack felt dirty deep down in his soul.
When Jack awoke, he found that he was back in his familiar cell, lying in the ever-so-comfortable muck, smelling all those wondrous odors he had come to associate with his home-away-from-home.
And he hurt.
After Imelda Marcos, with the boot fetish, had done his number on his feet and toes, the situation had gone south rapidly. All the boys in the band had decided to get into the act and before it was over Jack was beginning to feel like the side of beef in Rocky, that movie he and Sara had watched at the drive-in a few years ago. Sara’d had a fit about the violence and said Rocky’s face, after the fight with Apollo Creed, gave her bad dreams. She sure as hell would’ve had fucking nightmares if she could see his face now.
Not that he’d ever allow that to happen. As long as he had breath in his body he’d protect Sara from the shit that he dealt with in his career.
Through swollen eyes, Jack watched roaches, millipedes, and a garden host of other insect life skitter about the ceiling and dirty walls of the cell. He thought about Mickey the Rat and the probability that he would return with his friends. He thought about the guard who had looked at him with such hurt and hatred when he told him of the bloody death of his son at the hands of the rebels using a gun provided by the U.S. Jack almost felt that he deserved it when the man pistol whipped him to unconsciousness.
He knew that if any one of them were to decide to crawl, chew, or beat on him, that there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to stop them. All he could do was lie there stunned and numb and hope and pray that Frank was okay.
Frank, please don’t be dead, buddy. I could really use a hand now.