Mission to Shangri-La

Mission to Shangri-La
by Jeff Brennan
     “We need you to find the best man you have,” George V said, with a tone of questionable confidence. “The interests of the Empire and the personal security of thousands of our subjects have been placed in jeopardy by the antics of this renegade, who calls himself Fu Manchu. We nearly lost our supremacy in the China trade when their internal turmoil destabilized the balance of power in Asia.”
     “Your Majesty may rest assured,” countered the British Prime Minister. “We have been pursuing every avenue to come to grips with this illusive demon. One of our very best, a chap named Nayland Smith, is on such a mission to Burma, as we speak. He has sailed from Bombay and ought to be in Rangoon by now. Despite his comparative youth, I’ve seen fit to grant him a roving commission with the authority of the crown behind him.”

   “I’ve heard the name, Mr. Asquith. He’s been mentioned in a number of the dispatches we’ve seen. Denis Nayland Smith, as I recall.”
   “The same, Your Majesty. It was he who procured invaluable intelligence after the disintegration of the coalition that broke the Boxer Rebellion.
     “But Burma? Is not the demon of Manchurian background? It was the Manchus who overthrew the Ming Dynasty, in 1644, I believe.”
     “Yes, Your Majesty, your memory from University serves you well, sir. He may well be a member of the royal family of the Qing dynasty, but his background is shrouded in mystique. ‘Fu Manchu’ translates ‘Warlike Manchu’, so one would assume that he is a Manchu. He did fight with them during the rebellion at the turn of the century, but his specific ethnicity could be one of his obscure deceptions. More recently, he has been a menace to our interests in Burma, and we fear his extended influence even into India.”
     “So I understand. It is apparent that he is obsessed with eliminating Western presence in Asia, and he has got to be crushed. He is much more, though, than a sword-rattling aggressor. I understand he is quite an educated man.”
     “That he is, sir. Unfortunately, though, his talents are channeled in unscrupulous directions. Some of his “inventions” are quite diabolical. He is not only brutal, it is said that he is uncommonly sadistic, in aberrant ways. I have heard stories, hopefully apocryphal, of unspeakable tortures that he delights in inflicting on men of Western cultures. This is why I chose Smith for the mission.”
     “You have utmost confidence in this Denis Nayland Smith, do you?”
     “Utmost, sir. Not only is the man brilliant, but he is also a stunning figure of a man. Sometimes I fear a little too much so; his physical appearance hardly blends into a background.”
     “Is it possible that this factor might make him vulnerable to the wiles of an imaginative temptress of the East?” the king asked. “Many a battle has been lost in a boudoir, and I am told that Asian women are particularly adept at seduction of even the most steadfast.”
     “I have no fear of such a circumstance, Your Majesty. Nayland Smith’s heart is as hard as his magnificent physique, and his devotion to duty is absolute.”
     “I’m sure the Prime Minister is intimately conversant with the threat to civilized nations, of unrest among peoples of lesser consequence. Our cousin the Kaiser has called this menace the “Yellow Peril”. From the vague reports of this Fu Manchu’s exploits, I’d say “Yellow Terror” might be a better term.”
     “Rest assured, sir, His Majesty’s government shall leave no stone unturned in defeating this, and all, threats to the security of the Empire.”
     “Very good then, keep us advised as events transpire.”
     The PM took his leave of the royal audience.
         Smith’s cabin on the ancient “rust bucket” was his private sanctuary. The voyage across the Bay of Bengal aboard the M/V Torquay had been quite miserable in the oppressive heat, the sea voyage to Rangoon being wretchedly slow. Lying naked on the bunk, savoring the welcome but inadequate relief of an oscillating fan, he reviewed in his mind, the briefings he had received and the reports he had studied regarding this Fu Manchu. He carried no information on paper, so sensitive was his mission. The dreadful boredom of the voyage overpowered his anticipation of a dangerous but exciting new mission for King and Country. In brief excursions topside to stretch his limbs and loosen his joints, he exposed his muscular upper body to the sub-tropical sun. His golden locks had been bleached almost silvery. Standing on an upper deck, he couldn’t help but admire the deck hands. The old refrain, “There is something about a sailor…” crossed his mind, and he smiled to himself as the ripped musculature of their mocha torsos glistened in the sun. He watched the sea for a while, fascinated by the flying fish as they performed. He tousled his hair, breathed deeply, and went below. Back in the stifling cabin, Nayland went over in his mind for the thousandth time, it seemed, the essential thrust of his mission: infiltrate Fu Manchu’s hideaway, which he calls Shangri-La, and supplement known intelligence regarding his paramilitary capability and his economic support. The trouble was, this Shangri-La was not an actual place. It was, apparently, wherever he was, a mystical and illusory refuge.
     Continuously gnawing in the back of his mind, was Fu Manchu’s reputation as a tyrannical sadist. It was said that he tortured others purely for his amusement, whether or not there was anything significant for him to gain. Discovery… capture… torture. That was a certainty. Nayland had been tortured before, by a rebellious Rajah in Calcutta. As he lay on the bunk, he gently cupped his balls, thinking, “Yeah, it does take a pair of balls to survive.” He’d damn near lost them in that frightful incident in Calcutta! He stretched his awesome physique, then relaxed. He stroked his magnificent chest, ran one hand down onto his sinewy thigh and fingered his manhood with the other. Pride, confidence, strength, a sense of powerful masculinity surged through him. His left hand served his arousal, his right clutched his meaty muscular pec and pinched. Yeah, he mused, “a man… fucking he-man…” as he brought himself to fulfillment.
     Smith sat in the office of Sir Percy Rohmer-Jones, at the British East India Company in Rangoon, nursing a gin and tonic. He disliked gin, or any other potent potable, but to decline when it was offered might have seemed rude.
     “Dr. Fu Manchu,” Sir Percy murmured the name. “Dreadful man, devoid of scruples, not a modicum of human decency. I certainly don’t envy you, Mr. Smith. I should enormously dislike the prospect of pursuing this devil.”
     An orderly announced the arrival of Dr. Petrie, the Company’s incumbent historian and intelligence official. The men rose.
     “Denis Nayland Smith, meet Dr. Flinders Petrie. Dr. Petrie will bring you up to date on the latest reports, admittedly primarily rumors, about our elusive friend Fu Manchu.” The men resumed their seats after the traditional how-do-you-dos.
     “My first question is not a tactical one, but perhaps a political one,” Nayland Smith began. “Why Burma? Isn’t Fu Manchu’s quarrel, as it were, with the commercial exploitation of the Chinese, by the West in general, and specifically the British?”
     “True, Mr. Smith, but when one says ‘commerce’ one means, principally, Shanghai. That part of the country, the populated, metropolitan southeast, is controlled by their government.”
     “Yes, since the Qing dynasty ended, a couple of years ago, the republic seems to be stabilizing, after its shaky beginning.”
     “Quite. And since the Manchus were on the losing side, their operations have become clandestine, out of necessity. Their insurgencies are quite insignificant, because they must be confined to the northeast of the land. This Fu Manchu, though, is a renegade. He operates on his own. His is not a guerrilla war, it is random acts of terrorism. It is pillaging, assassinations, kidnappings, torture. ‘Why Burma?’ Since Burma was annexed to India some quarter century ago, hostile actions here have a great psychological impact; they are an assault on the brightest jewel in the British crown.”
     Smith tried very hard to absorb Petrie’s briefing, but he had to fight the distraction of his physical appearance. “Damn,” he thought, “this man is so outrageously handsome!” He would soon learn that Petrie was thinking the same about him. Subliminal to the important discussion, each was mentally undressing and fantasizing about the other.
     As the men were leaving Sir Percy’s office, Nayland Smith’s search for a remark that would sound casual but not intimate, was relieved by Petrie’s suggestion, “Shall we take tea before you leave?”
     “Delighted, Doctor. Lead on.”
     They chose a table in the Company refectory. A servant poured their tea. Petrie handed Smith a scone and asked, “Jam? Raspberry, strawberry or marmalade seem to be the options.”
     “Thank you. Marmalade, please. By the way, ‘Dr.’ is a bit formal. Might I call you… Flinders, is it? I use my middle name, Nayland.”
     Petrie chuckled. “Please don’t. The story behind my given name is dull, at best. I prefer ‘Pete’, Nayland.”
     “Right, Pete.”
     They sipped their tea, each trying to work up an “accidental” bumping of knees or some such ruse. Petrie accidentally swept a spoon off the table as he unfurled his napkin. Both reached for it, their heads colliding gently. They returned upright with a simultaneous, sheepish “Sorry.”
     Trite, non-committal conversation filled nearly an hour before Nayland remarked that he’d not yet engaged quarters.
     “I’m told I can be accommodated at the officers’ barracks,” he said.
   “Nonsense,” Petrie put in. “I’d be delighted to share my flat. Not much luxury in this part of the continent, but superior I’ll wager, to the army’s lodging.”
   “That’s very kind of you, Pete. Thank you,” Nayland replied. “Sometimes young officers are displeased, sharing quarters with a civil servant. My kit is here in the care of the receptionist.”
     “I’d say you are far from the stereotypical image of a civil servant,” Petrie joshed.
     “No high stool, eye shade and quill pen,” Nayland laughed.
     As they rose, heads turned. Dressed nearly identically in khaki tunic and Wellington boots, they radiated masculine sexuality, and each felt a warm surge coursing through his loins.
     “I’ve never moved on a man so fast in my life,” Petrie confessed, as they lay nestled together in his bed. On his side, supporting his head on his elbow, he stroked Smith’s broad chest, squeezing his muscular pecs with lustful admiration.
     “And I have never been seduced so quickly,” Smith chuckled. “You are the first that I’ve ever found absolutely irresistible.”
     With that, Petrie rolled on top of him and they ground their pelvises together, breaths becoming more labored and rapid, arms tightening their embrace of each other, as they yet again attained the zenith of masculine fulfillment.
     After coming down off this sexual high, Nayland turned serious.
     “Do you suppose these reports of Fu Manchu’s cruelty are accurate? Could they not be influenced by ulterior motives, stirring hate believing that we are further denigrating the Asian race? Propaganda, of sorts?”
     “It must be true, most of it anyway. There are bodies to attest to his murders, there are many unaccounted for that strongly attest to his profuse alleged kidnappings.”
     “My mission is to locate this place he calls ‘Shangri La’. Trouble is, it appears to be a moving target. I suspect the term applies to his current location, wherever that may be.”
     “I’m sure that’s the case. Which is why I tend to dismiss accounts of his elaborate torture chambers. They usually aren’t portable!”
     “The word ‘chamber’ ought not to be taken literally here. I was tortured in a ‘chamber’ in Calcutta that was nothing more than a shed.” As they’d explored each other’s bodies, Smith had explained the scars beneath his balls. “Thought I was going to get the Edward II treatment, for a bit.”
   “Say what?”
   “He was the king who was tortured to death with a red hot iron. Sodomized with it, actually. Seems that was the punishment in those days for sodomizing with another chap.”
     “Egad. And I’ve dreaded a few lashes in the basement of a gaol, were some of my adventures to be made known,” Petrie shuddered. “You’re right. The racks and iron boots and cages that one associates with that term, are quite out of style in this enlightened year of 1913.”
     “But torture will never be outdated. Not as long as men require secrets held by other men, not as long as severe corporal punishment is imposed, but most of all, not as long as there are men who find torturing other men to be amusing.”
     “Such as Fu Manchu.”
     “So we assume.”
     Petrie turned toward Smith and hugged him close. “Please don’t let him get his hands on my man.”
     Smith ran his hand through Petrie’s hair and smiled. “Come on, let me show you again what a man he would be dealing with.”
     Their few days in Rangoon were exhausting. Nayland spent hours poring over filed reports regarding the movements and the atrocities, of Fu Manchu. Petrie delved more deeply into his archives, but found little more that would enlighten them, beyond that with which he was already familiar.
     It wasn’t only the days of research and study that were tiring; the dynamic, energetic sex they repeatedly engaged in each night would have exhausted Hercules. It was pure animal magnetism that fused their awesome bodies into a single mass of torrid masculinity that vibrated, shuddered and then virtually exploded in a climactic torrent of exquisite gratification… time after time.
     Sometimes, after a return to reality from an ecstatic high, their thoughts would return to the impending mission to Shangri-La.
   “I wish I could go with you,” Petrie mused.
   “Yes, that’s all we’d need, for Fu Manchu to catch us doing this,” Nayland said with a chuckle.
   “I’m serious. Two heads are better than one, four fists in a fight are better than two.”
   “But one man is easier to conceal, less vulnerable to exposure.”
     “Of course,” Petrie said, turning on his side, slipping an arm under Nayland’s neck, a leg across his thighs. “I don’t have your training, nor your sharply honed reflexes that are so vital to survival. I fantasize…” his hand ran across Nayland’s chest, down over his abs, and cupped his now passive organ, “because I have a hard time dealing with the thought of your being alone, and in peril. I can only be with you as far as Mandalay.”
     Nayland ran his fingers through Petrie’s hair, smiled, and then closed his eyes. They remained silent for some time. Nayland played out, as if in a dream, what this mission was likely to entail. How could he get as close as he needed to, how could he learn what he needed to learn, and still remain undetected? He could not get that word, that lingering threat — torture — out of his mind.
   “Perhaps I should arrange to get kidnapped,” Nayland said, after several moments of silence.
     “Huh?” Petrie asked, unaware of what Nayland had been thinking about.
     “I mean, if I were kidnapped, I would learn what really is inside this Shangri-La. I might find a way to influence his future exploits more to our favor.”
     “Do you think you would ever get out again? And remember, one doesn’t need a castle to house it, if he wants a torture chamber at his disposal.”
     “I’m assuming he will torture me, but if he does it for his amusement, he will want it to last…”
     “Are you saying you hope the torture will be ‘nice and slow’?”
     “Not really, but if it were to last, I mean for his continued enjoyment, he wouldn’t inflict life-threatening injuries. I’m saying that if I had time, perhaps I could convince him to look at a long-range picture, how British power can influence events. Perhaps I could make him think that we might see it to our advantage to help the Manchus return to power.”
     “Forget such nonsense. Go to sleep. Only a couple of days until you sail up the Irrawaddy River to Mandalay.”
     “You’re not coming with me?” Nayland anxiously asked.
     “Not on the boat. We don’t want to make ourselves obvious as a team. I take the train. Just as uncomfortable as the boat, but it doesn’t last as long.”
     “All right,” Nayland said, with an affectionate punch to Petrie’s ribs. “I’m the one who is going to suffer ‘nice and slow’.”
     An East India Company motorcar took Smith and Petrie to the quay, where Nayland was to board the riverboat. He was clad in clean, but unkempt attire that would attract less attention to him than his usual immaculate tunic. This was a compromise. He didn’t dress in typical Burmese garments because that would only emphasize an attempt at deception; there was no way that this blond Adonis could be mistaken for an indigent. The boat had provisions for two days, but no ice chest was provided, to preserve their palatability. Mandalay lies a bit more than 700 kilometers north of Rangoon, so it would be a journey of nearly three days, assuming their most primitive of gasoline engines survived that long.
     “I’ll get the train tomorrow,” Petrie said, as they got out of the car. “That will get me there in time to meet the boat.” Then with a sly smile, he added, “Kipling called this river ‘the road to Mandalay’. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it?”
     “Real effing romantic,” Nayland scoffed. “Perhaps it will soften me up for that ‘nice and slow’ torture that I’m risking.” With that, they traded seductive smiles and shook hands, suppressing the urge to hug.
     The river transit turned out to be bearable, if not comfortable. The craft was a larger version of the typical longtail boat of Asian rivers. He was alone with the crew of two. They stopped only for short naps, not overnight, and he was able to exercise his athletic body, and to enjoy the traditional mohinga,a fish and rice noodle soup, at various towns along the way. He also enjoyed reading Kipling, a recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature. One with Nayland’s experience could really relate to Kipling.
     There was no way, though, that he could block from his mind, the nagging dread of impending torture. It was no longer a possible, or even probable, circumstance. As the mission drew closer, it was assumed. What would he do to him? Where? Would Shangri-La be a clearing, a ravine perhaps, in the Heng Duan Mountains? Why would an educated man choose to live as a nomad, terrorizing not only his enemies, but also innocent people who got in his way?
     It was not with relief, but with heightened trepidation, that Nayland saw his friend waiting on the dock, when they reached Mandalay. Now, he was going to be sent on his way to a rendezvous with terror.
     It was late in the day, too late for a detailed briefing, when Smith and Petrie were reunited in Mandalay. Petrie did have news, though. Fu Manchu was in control of a secret society called Si-Fan. Their objective was to throw Europeans out of Asia. This had been known to be Fu Manchu’s goal, but a connection with an organized effort had not been made. It had also been confirmed that he had a daughter, Fah Lo Suee, who competed with her father for control of the Si-Fan. There was bad blood between the two, and she was at least as dangerous as he. Sporadic contact with Fu Manchu’s followers (or victims) indicated that he had crossed back into China. Nayland Smith was to infiltrate across the border to locate Shangri-La and ascertain its capabilities. Because of a fairly hot trail, and more new information that needed confirmation, he was to depart from Mandalay immediately.
     With just a few hours to rest and assemble his small entourage, there was no opportunity for the testosterone twins (as they’d dubbed themselves) to enjoy a passionate farewell. They ached for contact, for intimacy, but realized that it was impossible. At first light, a young wild game hunter using an alias of Sebastian Harrison mounted his nondescript horse and led a minimal train of guides and bearers out of the city. The mountains of eastern Burma were home to an abundance of wild game, making his assumed role sound plausible.
     The Mekong River follows part of Burma’s 2185-kilometer border with China, but crossing it would be inconsistent with his ruse. He was to cross into Yunnan province on land, not far from the Chinese city of Ruili, careful to remain clear of populated areas.
     Progress was slow in the mountains, which could almost be called a jungle. The hired hands were, of course, not privy to the mission, so they could not understand why this Harrison did not react to numerous opportunities. Deer, tigers, antelopes, leopards, all were there for the taking.
     Well into the second week, soon after entering China, Nayland began to feel discouraged. He had always assumed that he would eventually find the illusive Dr. Fu Manchu, but he was beginning to have doubts. His cover was sounding less and less feasible. He wasn’t in Kenya; expeditions such as his were quite foreign to this part of the world. Three of his retinue had deserted out of fear, abandoning a goodly portion of his supplies. Physical discomfort became more pronounced. Nights were cold at the elevation they had reached, even in this latitude. He was no longer confident of his navigation, with the inexact maps Petrie had provided. Pete. How I wish he were here to help me, Nayland thought, a heavy sensation in his heart illogically coexisting with a spark of arousal, as his mind focused on his beautiful friend.
     When an unexpected stream materialized before them, Nayland checked his map. Apparently this was a branch of the Mekong that wasn’t charted. The crystal clear, bubbling water looked refreshing, and he suddenly realized how disgustingly derelict he had become in his personal hygiene. He dismounted and began to remove his reeking garments. When he had stripped naked, he eased his aching body into the icy water. The sensation was beyond refreshing, but it was effective in renewing his sense of wellbeing.
     His horse whinnied as the foliage rustled. He heard his remaining two porters scamper into the underbrush. As if out of a mirage, three ominous figures appeared on the bank, a scant ten feet from him. They wore fur boots, deerskin trousers and black tunics, wool, it appeared. A mortified and thunderstruck Denis Nayland Smith, aka Sebastian Harrison, was unable to speak. He stepped out of the water to retrieve his clothing, but was stopped by a bamboo lance thrust against his chest.
     “The Doctor will like this one,” the leader of this group said, through a sadistic leer. The bamboo shaft struck his shoulder, then his thigh, forcing him to slump to the ground in pain.
     Now, he was going to find Shangri-La. Now, he was going to be tortured.
   When they arrived at their destination after an exhausting trek of more than a day, Nayland was surprised to see that it was a small village, but not, apparently, intended to be permanent. The buildings, to stretch the term, were nothing more than huts, animal skins and foliage covering frames of hewn logs. “Logs”, too was a stretch; they were branches, not trunks, of trees, that formed the framework of the huts. He had expected that Dr. Fu Manchu would maintain more elaborate surroundings. Surely this could not be Shangri-La.
     Exhausted by the discomfort of the trek, Nayland wished despairingly to rest before facing whatever uncommon ordeal awaited him. Having consumed only the small ration of rice that he was provided, and having been forced to walk, naked and barefoot, while one of his captors rode his horse, he was totally spent. The humiliation of being abused in his nakedness intensified his misery. Sweating and attracting bothersome insects by day, shivering uncontrollably by night, it was only the imaginary but   vivid image of his stalwart and passionate friend, Pete, walking beside him, buoying him up, that had enhanced his determination to show them British tenacity, and had kept him from collapse.
     Any hope for relief was dashed when, entering the village, he was seized and dragged into one of the huts. The two men who subdued him backed him up to a tall post, you might say a stake, that stood firmly implanted in a corner of the structure. He groaned as his arms were raised and his wrists roped together overhead, behind the stake, painfully stressing his shoulders and thrusting his magnificent chest out, emphasizing its implication of male power. His body glistened with fresh sweat in the indirect light of the enclosed space. Twisting his body, flexing against the ropes that held him, Nayland saw that the stake to which he was bound was as firm as the trunk of a tree. Not a very elaborate torture chamber, for one of Fu Manchu’s reputation, but neither had the scene of his encounter in Calcutta been.
     A woolen curtain to the side of the room parted, and a stunning woman clad in shimmering dark green silk, entered. Her garment was emblazoned in gold thread depicting the serpentine form of a fierce dragon. “So, enter the ubiquitous Dragon Lady,”Nayland thought, almost smirking to himself.
     She stared lustily at the bound prisoner, then stepped forward and ran a hand across his chest. Her dark gray eyes shone, her perfect creamy complexion was that of a classical Oriental beauty. Painted a rich red, her full lips parted slightly as she breathed her seductive sighs.
     Her other hand slid down his abdomen and brushed his exposed manhood. “I could save you a great deal of pain,” she said, her breath warming his neck. “My father has new, what he calls modern, devices he is working on, to torture a man, and one as strong as you will afford him a great deal of research.” One arm behind his shoulder, she leaned against his chest and toyed with the nipple on his left pec, with long painted fingernails. Easing her mouth onto the other, she purred, “Mmmm, yes… great pain…” and clamped her teeth upon the firm pap. “I could mmmm save you… “.
     Nayland cringed in embarrassment, and with disgust at the woman’s bold advances. Beautiful she may be, but any hope he might have had for a reprieve from his impending torture was overridden by his aversion to her fondling him in his nakedness. She gripped his shaft of manhood, expecting it to stiffen and swell, and was bewildered when it seemed to shrivel. She stepped back, looked Nayland in the eye, her tone hardening. “What will it be, my handsome young Englishman? Pleasure, or pain? Ecstasy, or punishment?” When his face remained impassive and cold, she motioned to the two guards. “Beat him!” she demanded. And Nayland Smith learned that Fah Lo Suee was indeed her father’s daughter.
     Powerful fists pummeled Nayland’s torso, hard knuckles rammed into his ribs, open palms struck his face, snapping his head back and forth. As if beating on a drum, fists rammed into his abs in a regular cadence, preventing his breathing between punches. Only choked, desperate gasps emanated from his constricted throat as the pounding of his midsection, his rib cage, his broad chest, continued.
     “Faster, faster!” Fah Lo Suee hissed. “Harder! Beat him harder!”
     Nayland slumped against the stake, his tormented groans weak, his strength sapped as the relentless beating took its toll on his senses. He was hanging limply by his roped wrists when Fah Lo Suee ordered the beating stopped, and stepped forward to wipe the blood seeping from his mouth.
     “You foolish man,” she whispered. “You will curse the day you spurned my offer of succor, long before my father has finished his experiments on you.”
     Nayland didn’t hear her. He had eased his ravaged body into merciful unconsciousness.
     Undulating waves of consciousness flowed as a sine wave through Nayland’s senses, as he gradually became aware of his surroundings. He lay on a hard surface, a board, a tabletop of some sort. He tried to lift a hand to his forehead, but his arm would not move. Neither could he move his legs, nor raise his upper body to look around. Turning his glance to the side, he saw the post to which he had been bound. The stiffness, the dull pain in his abdomen, was explained by the lucid memory of one horrendous gut-punching session. His breathing was shallow; to inhale deeply was to renew the agony of his beaten body. Turning his head the other way, he saw unfamiliar metal and glass objects, somewhat like laboratory utensils, implements, whatever. He was barely able to speculate what might transpire next in this ill-conceived adventure, as his mind gradually cleared.
     The table on which he lay began to move. It apparently was mounted on gimbals of some sort, permitting it to be rotated as it balanced on a central axle. As it was oriented more upright, he felt his weight upon his feet. A step at the end of the table, perpendicular to it, provided a platform on which to stand. When the rotation reached about a 60-degree angle, he felt the pressure of wide leather straps holding him in place. Buckled restraints held his wrists by his sides, and his ankles. Broad straps ran across his upper chest at his armpits, and held him at the hips, just above the pelvis. Not surprisingly, he was still naked.
     “Enough, Hop Sing,” a voice said, and the rotation stopped. Several seconds passed before a figure emerged from the shadows. Nayland was tense with dread, helplessly strapped down, naked and vulnerable. Now… would it start now? he wondered.
     The man who had spoken was a large Asian, dressed simply in a white cotton smock over loose black silk paijamas. He was impressive in appearance, quite unlike the image of the savage barbarian published in propaganda pieces. His features were more Mongol than pure Chinese, Nayland thought. Perhaps there was an ethnic connection between the Manchus and the Mongols, both of which had been a dominant force in northern China. Still, it had not been confirmed that Fu Manchu was in fact a Manchu. His eyes, though, were the betrayal of any attempt at civility. His eyes virtually defined sadism.
     With a nod to his servant, Fu Manchu was provided a chair, and sat in front of his prisoner. “Mr. Denis Nayland Smith,” he began, in a moderate tone of voice. “We have been aware of your movements since you left India. How droll your masquerade as a hunter, in the Heng Duan mountains! Mr. Sebastian Harrison indeed,” he read from the false passport. Nayland felt a lead weight in his chest as Fu Manchu continued, in less of a conversational tone. “I can understand why Western powers desire trade with the East, but we cannot accept the subjugation of our people, the superior attitude that is held by those who continue to treat us, in your monarch’s often quoted phrase, as ‘people of less consequence.’ We are experiencing civil strife at this time, to be sure, and the new president, Yuan Shi Kai is turning into a tyrant, but we will solve our problems and regain the respect of the world; we, whose civilization and its contributions to mankind decry the claims of the West.” The rising resentment subsided, and Fu continued.
     “Since you were to be the source of information that is not yet in the East India Company files, there is little you can tell me that I don’t know. It is your chum Dr. Petrie who would give me hours of amusement, were I to have the opportunity to interrogate him. But nonetheless, you have a valuable duty to perform here. I have experimented in my laboratory with the fascinating phenomenon of electricity. I am sure its characteristics can be adapted to marvelous new devices of torture. You, my handsome British spy, are to be the focus of my experiments.”
     In reply to another nod, Hop Sing brought the table level again, Nayland’s captive body supine at waist level. “Hop Sing, the phaser.” Fu took from him a tubular device, perhaps two inches in diameter and ten inches in length. Two silvery prongs protruded from one end of the tube.
     “I discussed my experiments with our provisional president, Dr. Sun Yat Sen before he fled to Japan,” Fu began. “He is a medical doctor, as you probably know. I told him how enamored I am with big manly chests, and how prisoners sometimes flaunt them as a symbol of virility”, he intoned, prodding Nayland’s chest with the evil device in his hand. “Well, really I like to concentrate on their chests in the prelude to more severe torture. I told him I wanted to see how painful electricity would be, surging through a man’s chest. He warned me that the heart is a natural electric motor; applying external shock to it could damage, even stop it. But, he said if the two electric terminals are close together and the current does not flow through the body, it is safe. Well, Mr. Denis Nayland Smith, now we know it is safe, so you will show me whether it is painful.”
     A flick of the thumb caused a crackling spark to flutter between the two prongs. It was lowered, and for a brief second, made contact with a nipple on Nayland’s chest. “Yaahhh!” Nayland screamed before he could brace himself for the unexpected jolt. Again… again… moving over his pectoral muscles, down his torso to his navel, back to his nipples…
     Now, Fu Manchu was torturing him.
   The cruel “phaser” sparked again and again, but only involuntary gasps passed Nayland’s lips. He jerked against the straps that held him, he flexed and strained but could not evade the devilish assault on his body. His initial outburst had been in surprise rather than pain, and he was determined that his tormentor would not get another sound out of him. As the process continued, Nayland rationalized through his extreme discomfort, that it was more stimulation, more reflex, than pain, causing the spasms of his body.
     And this Fu Manchu was good at what he did! Varying the frequency of the zaps, several in rapid sequence, then more dispersed, gliding the device over Nayland’s entire torso, he kept his victim unable to anticipate or to brace for a hit. The tenderness of his ruddy nipples offered the most exciting cringes. His navel, too, seemed particularly sensitive as the experiment progressed, but the expanse of his broad chest had an irresistible appeal.
     Fu paused for a few moments, luxuriating in the rapid rise and fall of that majestic chest as Nayland panted in exhaustion; his fingertips traced the random pattern of little burns that decorated it.
     “Raise his arms,” Fu Manchu said to his attendant. Hop Sing unbuckled Nayland’s wrist restraints, snapped them together and pulled his arms overhead, fastening his wrists beneath the head of the table. The movement arched Nayland’s chest higher, pressing the strap across it tighter, further immobilizing his body. Elbows bent, his head lodged between his biceps, Nayland realized the reason for the change in position when the phaser began to ravage his armpits.
     “Yaahh…”, close to, but not quite a scream escaped from his throat, as the wicked sparkler seared his left pit, then danced across his chest to have at the other. His head bouncing from one bicep to the other, instinctively turning away from the crackling contrivance, Nayland no longer thought of this as “stimulation”! The effect was cumulative, the pain more intense as his body became more sensitive, more tenderized. His eyes closed, teeth grinding, his mind pictured an ancient stone altar of some long-ago civilization, his naked body spread upon it, being viciously burned with fiery torches by brilliantly clad pagan priests.
   The crackling stopped when Fu set aside his new toy, and Hop Sing again strapped Nayland’s wrists by his side. Invisible swords were thrust into his shoulders as they were rotated, and his irritated pits seemed to smolder. Nayland tried to make the most of this respite; still filled with dread, he could not anticipate what Fu Manchu might do to him next, because it was an unknown. It was no consolation to know that he was helping to perfect experimental torture techniques! At least Fu had kept that damned gadget above the waist. Ever mindful of the vulnerability of his nakedness, he feared abuse of his precious manhood more than anything.
     “Well? What is your assessment?” Fu knuckled Nayland’s shoulder as a sign he was talking to him, not to Hop Sing. “Is it painful? Is it worth pursuing, perhaps improving?”
     “It tickles,” he answered, sardonically.
     Firm hands pressed upon and harshly rubbed his ravaged chest, evoking anguished groans. “Does this tickle too?” the voice of sadism asked.
     Nayland wanted to curse him and all the Manchus who ever lived, but reason prevailed; being a laboratory instrument was a lesser evil than being subjected to the furious punishment he would surely get if he failed to cooperate. “It is painful,” he offered.
     “But not very, it seems. Correct? I didn’t hear any screams, you didn’t beg for mercy.”
     This remark pushed Nayland’s attempt at forbearance over the brink. “Nothing you can do will make me beg!” he declared.
     Fu Manchu smiled. He knew better.
     Fu Manchu had left without a word, but Nayland had no doubt that he would be back to conduct more “experiments”. Even though his ravaged chest fairly sizzled, Nayland began to shiver. The temperature was dropping as darkness fell, and he was damp with sweat after his physical exertion during the torture. Evaporating sweat chilled him further, and its salt irritated the burns on his chest. Burning, itching, quivering, his discomfort was extreme. He was frustrated that he could not move his arms; touching his tenderized chest would probably have worsened the pain, but he desperately wanted to try anything that might alleviate his misery.
     The touch of a person he’d not heard entering, startled him. It was a young man, hardly more than a boy, who then poured several drops of some sort of soothing lotion onto his chest, and began to rub, gently, obviously trying not to hurt him. Nayland sighed in relief, and looked up into the lad’s sympathetic eyes. “Food comes,” he said. “I free you but do not please try to leave. Many men stop you, we both be punished.” When Nayland nodded agreement, the lad unbuckled his wrist and ankle restraints, and the straps across his hips and his upper chest. “Something to wear,” he said, holding a pair of black paijamas and a light woolen blanket. “Dr. say no blouse, bare chest only, but wrap allowed.”
     Nayland winced, groaned audibly as he swung his legs clear of the table and sat up. He was not quite ready to try standing. “Do you have a name?” he asked.
     “Tan Song,” the lad answered, holding the garment for Nayland to step into. “Sit please here,” he added, indicating the chair Fu Manchu had been using. “I get soup, get rice.”
     Nayland eased into the chair, drew the welcome blanket over his shoulders, and tried to make some sense of where he was, why he was there, and how he was ever going to get out of wherever he was. Shangri-La? No way. No place as rude as this would induce the curiosity, even awe, that the name Shangri-La bore in the minds of inquisitive Westerners. He felt a flash of anxiety as his mission came back to the forefront of his mind: locate Shangri-La and determine its paramilitary and economic significance.
     Tan Song soon returned. The rice was soggy, the soup lukewarm and tasteless, but he devoured it as though it were a feast fit for the king.
     “Men not tie you up in the night but no try to go,” Tan Song advised him, with a look of some trepidation. Perhaps he was thinking that it was improbable that so powerful a man would remain passively obedient, particularly when he likely faced further torture the following day. “Many guards. Guards mean.”
     “Thank you, Tan Song,” Nayland said, with a hint of a smile. “I no go.” He knew the guards were “mean”. They had beaten him unconscious!
     Alone then, he lay on the woven reed mat that would have to pass for a bed, and contemplated the motivations of this mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu. Concentration was difficult, he could not dispel the longing he felt for Pete Petrie. The remark he’d made to Pete about being “safe” as Fu Manchu’s prisoner as long as he provided amusement for him, seemed prophetic, now. More than a prized toy for the man’s obsession with causing pain and suffering, he was the instrument, one might say the apparatus, that would provide an evaluation of more inventive and refined tortures!
     Finally succumbing to exhaustion, Nayland drifted off. His last conscious thought was regret that he’d challenged Fu Manchu to make him beg.
     Nayland’s new bat boy roused him with a mug of green tea, which had both a stimulating and a medicinal effect. “Men come soon,” the lad warned. “Doctor busy with strange men, come later.” He had hardly spoken when Hop Sing and his sidekick entered the hut, and the lad scurried away. Nayland rose and faced them, his expression impassive, while he was thinking, “So here we go again?” He stood his ground as they approached him, knowing he could not overpower both, and even if he could, there was no place to go. The second man, whose name he didn’t know, was the more muscular and malicious looking of the two. He deftly eased himself behind Nayland and with a lightning move, thrust his arms under Nayland’s armpits, and locked his own hands together behind the Englishman’s neck. Taking advantage of his immobility in this paralyzed cruciform position, Hop Sing reached for the drawstring that held Nayland’s garment secure at the waist. The threat of these bastards exposing, no doubt then abusing, his privates, spurred a sudden spark of rage in him. A superhuman burst of strength broke the lock on his neck, and a vicious kick to Hop Sing’s crotch brought the bully to his knees. Nayland hesitated long enough for the firm   lock to be put back on him; there was no alternative to submission. “Get cane,” his adversary said to Hop Sing, whose facial expression of surprise had turned to one of fury.
     Almost in a flash, Hop Sing returned with a thin stalk of bamboo. He energetically swung it back and forth, the ominous whistle instilling dread in Nayland’s gut. He smashed it against the torture table a few times to shred the end, making it “better” for hurting a man. With a cackling sneer, he brought the improvised lash across Nayland’s raw chest, as hard as he could. As Nayland choked back the sob that he refused to let out, Hop Sing again yanked at the drawstring in the waist of his paijama. The garment fell to the floor. The probing rod gingerly poked at the exposed anatomy. “Nice willy,” Hop Sing taunted, with a tap tap tap on the unprotected cockhead. He stepped quickly to the side and let fly a sudden crack of the cruel rod across Nayland’s thighs, stinging the shaft of his manhood as well. Nayland would have doubled over in agony, but for the iron grip in which he was held.
     Nayland was manhandled toward the post upon which he had been beaten two days ago, stumbling as he was led, hobbled by his lost garment. His wrists were bound, the rope made fast to the top of the post. He was trying to hold back to keep his tender chest from contacting the post, when a bolt of lightning seared his buttocks. The “swish” was so brief, there wasn’t time to brace. The rapid, barbarous, lashing continued relentlessly, igniting his bare ass with ferocious pain. Forced by reflex and frustration, he couldn’t help rubbing his devastated chest against the post, just because a man lacks the will power to stand unflinching when he is being so viciously whipped. Subliminally concerned for his precious “jewels”, he hugged the post with his thighs to shield them, inadvertently adding to the severity of the lashing by being unable to “give” when he was struck. The shame of getting his ass whipped by these beasts intensified his agony, mental as well as physical. He was desperately holding back a scream for mercy, when a commanding voice ordered, “Stop!”
     Fu Manchu took the stick from Hop Sing and threatened him with it. “You were to prepare this man for me. I don’t want him weakened with amateur punishments again. Now get out of here until I send for you.” He himself untied Nayland’s wrists, and Nayland thanked the fates that brought Fu here at this moment. Bending to pull up his short garment, he pushed from his mind the reality that he had not been rescued; the Orient’s master sadist wanted only to ensure that his incredibly handsome prisoner would last, during many hours of exquisite torture… torture that was going to be nice and slow.
     Fu Manchu sat in his chair, looking very tired and somewhat angry. It was a very awkward moment for Nayland Smith. Fu had just caused the cessation of a brutal caning he’d been getting, but he knew that Fu’s intention was to resume his “experiments” here in this makeshift torture chamber. Minutes ticked by. Nayland had the odd thought that, in literature, this would be called a “pregnant pause.”
     Apart from the pain, Nayland was weak from the combination of physical abuse and malnutrition, and he gingerly rested against the table, not really sitting but taking some weight off his feet. Fu looked up at him, but didn’t see him; he looked right through him, deep in thought. Seeing a cushion on a small trunk at the side of the room, Nayland sat, very timidly. He felt a bit like a schoolboy who had been sent to the principal’s office, but he knew he’d get more than the rap of a ruler on his knuckles for punishment.
     Tan Song had said earlier that Fu was meeting with strange men. Nayland had not had time to find out what this supposed secret society, Si-Fan was all about, but perhaps there was dissention in the ranks that was bothering Fu. It could be any of a number of things, in these unstable times. The arrogant president, Yuan Shi Kai was not widely popular, and China was basically ungovernable anyway, as a unified political entity. The ingrained warlord system in China’s expansive territories was a significant factor. Another factor, foreign intervention, was the vehement target of Si-Fan.
     Nayland decided to tread where he was not expected to tread, and spoke.
“Perhaps you would be less troubled if you could accept the advantage of bringing China into the community of nations, as a partner, rather than working to isolate it from the rest of the world.” The words out, Nayland immediately regretted his audacity, but Fu Manchu did not erupt in anger. Thoughtful for a few minutes longer, he then spoke.
     “A partner? What sort of partnership exists when the world is allied against you?” Fu continued with bitterness in his voice, “It’s 70 years since the damnable Treaty of Nanking opened our ports to residence and trade,” he lectured.
     “Canton, Amoy, Foochow, Ningpo and Shanghai,” Nayland put in, trying to make a conversation of this confrontation, and to sound familiar with the subject.
     “And Hong Kong went to Great Britain,” Fu added. “More was conceded less than 20 years later. It is not only the British. The Germans and the Dutch and the Russians all got in on the rape of Asia. Our neighbor Japan has taken Korea and Formosa, the French are assuming control of the eastern Indo-China peninsula.”
     Fu arose from his chair. He approached the table and began to tilt it vertical. Nayland’s heart sank. The torture table was being readied. “Perhaps a day will come when we can communicate as equals,” Fu said, “but until then we will remain enemies.”
     “Let it start here then.” Nayland was getting desperate to stave off whatever was coming. “Would it not make us better men if we tried, instead of doing… this?”
     “Doing ‘this’ has nothing to do with politics nor with foreign interference nor with absurd stunts such as the adventures of a big game hunter in our mountains.”
     The bizarre conversation was over. He called for Hop Sing and his sidekick, who quickly got Nayland stripped again, backed him up to the vertical board and began to fasten the straps, on wrists and ankles only, this time. Fu Manchu stood in front of him and rested his hands on Nayland’s shoulders. “There are three reasons why men torture other men,” he said in a conversational tone. “Interrogation, yes. I could learn more about your clandestine incursion, I could learn what your interest is in me, but I don’t care. Second, men are tortured for punishment, but I don’t desire to punish you, although I have good reason to. No,” he continued, his visage softening, as though his consternation was turning into pleasure. “No, there is a third reason why men torture other men… because they like to!” The table fell horizontal with a bang, and Fu Manchu prepared to resume his favorite recreational pursuit.        
     On his back on the hard surface, Nayland tried to think away the extreme distress he was experiencing. Hunger, thirst, stiff and aching joints, taut muscles, not to mention the aftermath– it was an annoying itching now– of Fu Manchu’s sparkler game on his chest. Most bothersome of his physical afflictions right now was the sensation of sitting on a bed of smoldering coals. In India, he’d seen fakirs walking on hot coals. He wished that whatever they did to their feet to make this possible, he could do to his ass right now! If it was all in the mind, their powers of concentration were a great deal more focused than his. His physical discomfort, though, severe as it was, was overridden by his mental anguish. Here he was again, strapped down, naked, at the mercy of a satanic fiend who likes to torture men, who prides himself on developing novel ways to make men suffer.
     Nayland could only hear what transpired behind the partition in the room. Fu Manchu and his henchmen were fiddling with whatever bizarre devices made up their inventory of diabolical toys. It sounded like a handyman arranging tools to be used for some sort of repair job. Mind you, it was not the repair of his body that they had in mind. Squirming to adjust, to “balance” the pain, his midsection told him he’d not yet recovered from the battering he’d got at that post. He turned his head. That post, the stake he’d been strung up on, was but a few feet away. It might be better if they hung me there again, he thought. At least he’d ended the beating by losing consciousness. Lying here, he couldn’t rely on that relief. It’s not possible to faint when one is lying down. Still, “fainting” isn’t the same as being beaten senseless. Just as well he was lying down.
   To avoid thinking about the impending confrontation with Fu Manchu’s next insidious research project, Nayland forced his mind elsewhere. Might there be a chance, he tried to evaluate, either to connect with Fu in a rational discourse, or simply to escape from his captivity. His reverie was abruptly cut short. “Place the dynamo on the shelf next to Mr. Smith,” Fu was saying. “I have connected the leads and I have the attachments here.”
       Stepping from behind the partition, Fu set several objects on the table next to Nayland’s leg. “I wish we could be back in my main laboratory,” he said. “But if this goes as expected, there will be plenty of opportunity to refine it when we get there.” A hand on Nayland’s thigh, the other on his chest, the architect of agony looked in his eyes and added, not sarcastically but in a matter-of-fact tone, “My research indicates that you might enjoy this.”
     Nayland was astonished by such a revolting idea. Enjoy it! No sane man on this Earth could enjoy being tortured.
     (He thought.)
     The cabriolet bearing Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming turned into Downing Street, its occupant nervous about having been called to the Prime Minister’s residence. Having served as head of the Secret Service Bureau since its establishment in 1909, he had never experienced disfavor with the cabinet, certainly not with the Prime Minister. There might have been friction between the several sections of the organization, but it seemed to him to be functioning ably. Reining the horse to a halt at Number 10, the driver made use of a hitching post and turned to assist his distinguished passenger as he alit.
     After exchanging pleasantries, as English gentlemen do, Mr. Asquith got right to the point. “His Majesty is displeased that he is not being kept better informed about the villainous Chinese, Fu Manchu. I assured the king not long ago that you had your best man onto him, but nothing of significance on the subject has reached my office.”
     “I’ve got the Home Section handling this…”
     “That’s Kell, is it not?” the PM interrupted.
     “Quite so, Captain Vernon Kell, very fine chap, excellent record. I feel certain he is doing his utmost, knowing that the palace itself is interested. You are aware that the man you asked be assigned in the field, Denis Nayland Smith, has undertaken a clandestine penetration into Yunnan Province, the quarry’s last reported location.”
     “Yes, and I recognize that timely action was critical in view of this demon’s propensity for vanishing into thin air when being approached. But the device that Rohmer-Jones came up with, was absurd. A big game hunter! Indeed! And what mission was the man given? He was not a designated assassin, but basically a spy. Since I have heard nothing further about this ill-conceived expedition, I am assuming the worst.”
     “We are encouraged that there has been no propaganda release exploiting an exposure of Smith’s attempt to infiltrate,” Cumming-Smith offered, defensively.
     “If he has been discovered, he might have been put to death without further ceremony, but my worst fear is that Fu Manchu might make use of his legendary powers of persuasion on him. Nayland Smith does not know any state secrets, but could compromise some of our more delicate undertakings, if he were to be tortured.” The Prime Minister went on, “This is not a military operation. We can’t afford to get them involved and spark armed conflict. This must remain under the exclusive purview of our civilian infrastructure.”
     “The man is without political nor military authority. He is a renegade of first order, and yet he is generating more harm to European efforts than an army might. I prefer not to consider his ‘powers of persuasion’. Some of the things I have read in dispatches regarding his abuse of human beings would make a strong man ill. I do fear for our man if he has been captured,” Cumming-Smith admitted. “Fu Manchu is reported to amuse himself by devising unusual and unspeakable ways to torture the men on whom he practices his obsession.”
     As the distinguished helmsmen of the British ship of state were talking, on the other side of the world it was late that night. Fu Manchu was, indeed, amusing himself in “unusual and unspeakable ways”, not as “persuasion”, not for whatever information he might gain; he was simply doing what he most enjoyed doing, and doing it to the most captivating victim he had ever had.
     Nayland’s mind raced with anxiety, his dread mixed with a persistent curiosity, as his most intimate parts were handled. Fu Manchu’s touch was gentle; it was more the touch of a skilled physician examining a trusting patient, than that of a demon preparing his unwilling subject for an agonizing experiment.
     Nayland felt a metal ring being eased onto the shaft of his cock, cold until his body heat warmed it. Nimble fingers squeezed the top of his ball-sac as a thin wire was tightly wound around it, tightening the squeeze of the flesh over the sensitive glands within. Hop Sing marveled at the undulations of the “nice willy” as it cringed in aversion to being handled. Nayland tried to raise his head for a glance down his torso, but the effort was too great.
     “Now,” Fu Manchu said to Hop Sing, “just a short burst from of the dynamo.”
   “YAAAH”. A knifelike slash of pain shot through Nayland’s genitalia. He cut off his vocal reaction as soon as he realized he had uttered it, again resolving that he would not enhance Fu’s amusement by crying out.
     “It appears to be working,” Fu observed, causing Nayland to think to himself, “No shit!” Pleased that the “dynamo” was producing the intended result, he instructed his aide to turn the crank slowly, but steadily. A warm, not unpleasant sensation began to flow gently through Nayland’s reluctant cock. He began to sweat, his knees involuntarily tried to come together as if to capture the sensation between his thighs. His balls were pleasantly warm, his cock came to life with a tantalizing tingle. He began, without conscious intent, to gyrate his hips, pump slowly as though trying to fuck the metal ring.
     In response to a gesture from Fu, Hop Sing increased the rotation of the crank. The dynamo produced a stronger current. “Ahhh,” Nayland moaned. Suddenly he became acutely aware of the reality of the situation. It couldn’t be pleasant, he reasoned. It just couldn’t be arousing him. He’d been stripped naked. He was strapped down at the mercy of a fiendish sadist, but… he couldn’t fucking help it, the bastard was getting him hard!
     His head flopped from side to side, his handsome face grimacing in anguished humiliation. He tugged clenched fists at the straps that held his wrists, he flexed and strained, but could not squelch the maddening response. A little faster, Fu signaled, and the current increased again. It was beginning to hurt but it hurt so fucking good! He was reaching a peak of pleasure-pain, his cock throbbing, thicker and longer and harder than it had ever been. He could feel his loins beginning to boil in anticipation of release, he was on the brink of a most sensational orgasm when… the current stopped. He sank back onto the table, unfulfilled, frustrated, panting, slithering in sweat. Then the current began to tease him again. The metal ring fit loosely, as his erection had abated, but the slight burn and the tingle swelled it again until it solidly gripped his cock. Anticipating another ride to ecstasy, he surrendered to the intense sensation of wanton sexual pleasure. He didn’t quite comprehend that he was being tortured… and he was enjoying it.  
     After yet another ride to the brink of fulfillment on Fu Manchu’s hellish roller coaster, and again thwarted before release, Nayland was becoming exhausted. His clenched fists opened and relaxed weakly, his thighs quivered, rivulets of sweat flowed down his ripped torso as his magnificent chest expanded, then fell, in labored breaths. He shook his head in an attempt to dispel the sweat that was irritating his eyes, he tensed and relaxed his limbs to combat the onset of cramping. For all of his exhaustion, though, the warmth continued to glow in his balls, his cock refused to go soft. Kept hard by anticipation, by determination to reach the fulfillment he’d been denied, his proud ramrod remained rigid, even as it ached painfully from the cruel abuse it was enduring.
     Responding to Fu Manchu’s tacit signals, Hop Sing again sent the current surging into Nayland’s precious manhood. The metal ring clamped itself tighter on his hard cock. Now it was really beginning to hurt. He felt his balls being crushed, his cock hacked to pieces, but he stayed hard. Damn, it hurt… but it hurt so fucking good! The metal band dug tighter into the pulsating shaft, the more it hurt the harder he got, and the harder he got the more it hurt.
     “Ahhh…yaaahhhh…” He moaned as the unyielding battering continued. “Yaaahhh, do it… yaahh… just fuckin’… torture me…!” he panted, in exquisite agony, as he approached the release that would end his torment. His body vibrated like a tuning fork as it teetered on the edge, but the dynamo backed off. He was again denied.
     “No! No!” he gasped, lacking the strength to cry out. Seeing that he was ready to break, Fu Manchu signaled for the current to increase… slowly. “Ahhh… yaaahhh…” Nayland’s body tensed again, his engorged cock threatening to break the steel ring that held it in its grip. Closer, closer he came to that supreme expression of masculinity. He pulled himself into a crunch position as he fought the straps that held his wrists. He was almost sitting up, staring madly at the mesmerizing cockhead that strained to reach him, as it pulsed with the beat of his powerful heart. “Yahh… yeah…” he continued to pant. He just couldn’t fucking stand this for another second! “Please,” he muttered, then as he felt denial approaching again, louder; he somehow found the will to scream. “Please, PLEASE LET ME COME!”
     With a thud, Nayland’s body collapsed onto the table, his broad chest nearly covered with the whitish milk of manhood that he had ejected in his exquisite achievement. Gradually recovering from this most exhausting experience, it struck him that Fu Manchu had made him beg. He had to rationalize to maintain his self-respect. He had not begged for mercy under torture. He had begged for release in the most powerful demonstration of masculine strength that there is. There just had to be a difference. No way, had Fu Manchu made him beg for real.
     Another detail of which Nayland was unaware, was that behind a curtain shielded from his and her father’s view, had stood the evil Dragon Lady, Fah Lo Suee. She was thrilled with what she had seen. Her devilish mind too, had been set in motion to plan new ways for this handsome Englishman to beg for mercy
     The British East India Company office in Rangoon was buzzing with intense arguments and speculation. Sir Percy Rohmer-Jones was at a loss to categorize and prioritize the comments and suggestions that were being offered in response to demands he’d got from the Secret Service Bureau. “I need to be alone for a time, to think,” he said, prompting the others to leave. He called after Dr. Petrie, asking him to remain, because he was “the only one who made any sense.”
     “What baffles me the most”, he said to Petrie, “is, with all the turmoil that’s going on in China right now, why is Fu Manchu a thousand miles or more from Peking? It’s only a little over a year since the boy emperor was ousted, and if Fu Manchu really is a member of the Qing royal family, why isn’t he there to look out for their interests? This Yuan Shi Kai, the president of the new republic, is turning out to be a disappointment. Just a few weeks ago we were saying that the situation seemed to be stabilizing, but now this chap is making more and more like a dictator. I tend to accept the allegation that he might have been behind the murder of the parliamentary leadership.”
     “Yes, sir, I think that his then dissolving the Parliament quite well suggests that. I would not be surprised, either, if Fu’s absence were out of fear of a similar fate. Remember, his side lost! But back to the issue at hand,” Petrie tried to refocus the discussion, “apart from his objective of ridding China of foreign influence– he might be more direct and call it subjugation– he apparently has an undiscriminating obsession with causing pain and suffering. It seems not to matter what nationality, what profession, what race, even his own, a man is.”
     “And so imaginative, so unconventional,” Sir Percy put in. “Not the usual sort of thing at all. Have you read the reports, gory as they are?”
     “I have, sir. Firearms, explosives, these are not his weapons. He kills in bizarre ways, poison insects, reptiles, bacteria, in at least one case, venom tipped bamboo spears. Quite the accomplished scientist though, brilliant man, really, I understand. His reputation has taken on aspects of the supernatural, actually. Some have attested that he’s been able to assume diverse identities by manipulating men’s minds.”
     “How absurd,” Sir Percy scoffed. “Illusory manipulation of the mind, indeed.”
     Petrie suddenly thought of a line he’d heard an American friend use, “You ain’t seen nuthin yet.”
     As he stirred, Nayland realized that he lay on the woven mat he’d slept on before, but his most vivid consciousness was of pain– dull pain, sharp pain, constant pain. His torso bruised, his ass still tender from the caning, his “privates” raw with a searing inflammation, every joint, every muscle, hurt. Trying to lie still to alleviate his discomfort, he shuddered as he recalled the terror he’d endured the previous night. After being teased with the arousing sensual effect of mild electric current in his genitals, a sensation that became so intense it forced him to beg for release when orgasm was denied, he then was viciously tortured with the unbridled fury of Fu Manchu’s “dynamo”.
     He became aware of some sort of commotion outside. He heard animals wheezing, cart wheels squeaking, and unintelligible Chinese chattering. A man stepped inside, carrying garments, accompanied by the youth Tan Song who bore a tray with tea and rice, then returned momentarily with a bucket of hot water. “Quickly, eat and dress,” the stranger said. “Fu Manchu has gone to meet with others who opposed the government. We must make haste for we know not how long he will be gone.” 
     Confused by this turn of events and somewhat disoriented by the torture he had suffered, Nayland stammered, “Wha… where… going? And who are you?” The man was gone, seeming to fade away rather than leave. “I help”, Tan Song offered, gently sponging Nayland’s ravaged body, then holding the outfit out to him. He donned the cotton trousers and silk embroidered tunic, thinking how out of place, his blond locks and fair complexion quite at odds with his raiment.
     Once outside, the strange man indicated that he was to get into a waiting conveyance– it was neither a coach nor a wagon, but apparently an accepted means of transport. “We will go to Kunming,” the man said. “That is the nearest place that we can board a steam train.” Then he moved on. There were others in the vehicle with Nayland, but none appeared to be in a mood to talk, and he wasn’t proficient in the language on a conversational level anyway. He sat in silence, trying to figure out why the strange man seemed so familiar. He was certain that he’d never seen him before. He was tall, slight of build, he was well spoken in English, and had an air of intelligence and confidence about him. In a way, he resembled Fu Manchu. 
     The distance to be covered required that the group stop for the night at a small village. The next day found them at the railhead in Kunming. Mr. Mystique, as Nayland was beginning to think of him, indicated the car in which he was to ride. It was an impressive car, quite luxurious actually, and he was given private accommodations, his own compartment. Soot filled the air as the locomotive shuddered to life, and the train, seemingly reluctantly, slowly gained momentum. Mountainous terrain gave way gradually; they would in time approach miles of terraced rice paddies, as time and distance progressed.
     Nayland questioned the lack of food, and rose to look about in search of sustenance, as well as of information. He tried the ornate handle on the door to his compartment. It was locked. He beat on the door for attention, but received none. It grew dark. He had no lantern, nor other source of light. He was hungry, exhausted, confused, apparently a prisoner on a train to wherever. He had only one thought… “What the fuck?”
     Stumbling around in the dark, Nayland managed to locate the cupboard that held a chamber pot that he’d seen before. At least he was able to relieve the pressure on his bladder. With intermittent light from villages they passed through, he got his berth open and stretched out on the first decent bed he’d known for several weeks. Sleep would not come, though, the “what the fuck” question dominating his mind. He got off the bed and tried the door again. Locked. The upper part of the window that was hinged was too small and inaccessible as an escape hatch. He tried to conceive of some way to get off this train. But what good would that do? He didn’t know where he was, in the great expanse of China, he could not communicate well, and, simply because he was British, his presence would be suspect. They had not traveled far enough to be anywhere near the port cities where British offices could give him refuge. He had no identification, no “papers” of any description, no money.
     Lying down again, his hunger overshadowed the residual pain he still suffered, from his dreadful experience. Oh, if only Pete could be here! Between them they could surely entwine the problem with their devious minds and devise a solution. His heart ached when he thought that Pete’s mind was not the only thing of his that he’d like to entwine, cling to, hug. He was near tears of frustration when he heard the door latch click.
     “Mr. Mystique” entered, a chimneyed kerosene lamp in his hand. “Sorry to be avoiding you, but we are very busy. Put on your clothes and come with me. There is a café of sorts in the car behind this one.” His gnawing stomach overriding his innate suspicious nature, Nayland hurried to comply. He would hold his questions for later, he thought. He wasn’t going to pass up a chance to get something to eat.
     They navigated the swaying railroad car’s narrow passageway, the man leading with his lamp. They took seats at a small table after the lamp had been placed on a sideboard, putting the table almost in darkness. Nayland could barely see his mysterious host. As the food, quite delicious actually, was brought, and eagerly consumed, Nayland tried to act as though this trip were not unusual, pretending that he was not totally dumbfounded by his predicament. “Where are we going?” he ventured to ask, breaking the monotony of the “clickety-clack” of the train. The only answer was, “It will take a few days.”
     The train continued its laborious excursion along the rudely constructed tracks. Nayland’s mysterious host remained quiet until the meal was almost over. He then asked, “You are familiar with what is called in the West, the Boxer Rebellion, that took place at the turn of the century?”
     “Yes,” Nayland replied. “It was a rebellion against Christians and foreigners, supported first clandestinely and then openly, by the Dowager Empress and her court.”
     “It would have succeeded in ridding China of the pestilence of these abhorrent creatures, had it not been for the combined might of the Western World acting in concert, despite their many selfish disagreements among themselves.”
     These words, although spoken softly, made Nayland very uncomfortable. Bloodshed had been great in the Boxer Rebellion. Many foreigners, as well as many Chinese Christians, had been killed. Great Britain was one of the eight nations in the opposing coalition. Was that what he was being punished for? Nayland wondered.
     Mr. Mystique rose, and beckoned Nayland to follow. Standing, the man looked different, somehow, although Nayland couldn’t put his finger on it. As he was steered toward the next car on the train, Nayland was asked, “Do you know why they are called, in the West, ‘Boxers’?”
     Urgently suppressing a tremor in his voice, Nayland said, “Yes, because of their martial arts skills, and their intricate calisthenics. They remind people of those who engage in pugilistic contests.”
     Opening the door to the next car, (damn, he looks different all of a sudden! Nayland thought), the man said “I brought some of them with me.” The car, dark until now, became dimly lit as a generator sputtered, then began to hum, and small incandescent lights glowed. Nayland looked at the mysterious man andholy shit! Fu Manchu! The supernatural illusion had been dropped. Standing with their arms crossed on their bare chests were three quite handsome, muscular Chinese. Speechless, Nayland looked around what he’d thought was a baggage car, a cargo car of some sort. Some cargo! It was a well-equipped gymnasium, but besides the mats and pulleys, chinning bar and other apparatus, there were several frames and wood structures that could be used in conjunction with the gym equipment, for quite another purpose.
     Nayland Smith was Fu Manchu’s prisoner in a mobile torture chamber, chugging across China, destination unknown.
     Fu Manchu stood in front of Nayland and the two men who held him by his biceps, and addressed the third “Boxer”, who stood to the side. “I don’t want this man to be injured,” he directed. “You are to train hard for the competition in Canton, and you are free to use him however you like in your training. Make him hurt, but see that no matter how uncomfortable you make him, he will remain strong and healthy for my use in the laboratory.”
     He turned his attention to the captive Nayland, whose predominant thought remained “What the fuck?”, and continued. “Hung Chan is the team captain here. He learned English while he was studying in Hong Kong, so there should be no misunderstanding his orders. You, Mr. Denis Nayland Smith, have two assignments here. You are a practice dummy on which my team will hone their talents, and you present the opportunity for them to channel their fury, which mind you is considerable, upon a foreign devil.”
     Again, Fu Manchu faded from view.
     His two “bookends” immediately reached with their free hands to tear at Nayland’s clothing, eager to “channel their fury”, but Hung Chan squelched their intentions with a sharp rebuke. “Come,” he motioned to Nayland. They settled onto a gym mat in a dark recess of the car. The weak incandescent bulbs cast a shadowy aura of mystery over the scene, making it even more bizarre for Nayland.
     “I am sorry we have to do this,” Hung Chan started, his apologetic tone apparently sincere. “The situation is, as I’m told they say in England, you have to ‘pay the piper.’ We must obey without personal choice, without feelings. We are heavily beholden to Dr. Fu Manchu for his support.”
     Nayland was quick to point out, “I heard what he told you. Your friends wasted no time in moving to abuse me.”
     “They are brothers. They lost their parents in the Uprising. It was more than a decade ago and they were too young to understand but they carry the hatred they were taught.”
     “So they enjoy beating people? I have learned that Dr. Fu enjoys, shall we say, hurting people. Is that becoming a national characteristic? Have the Western powers made it so oppressive for China that the people want revenge at any cost?”
     “It is more a case of attitude than of oppression,” Hung Chan answered. “When we hear ourselves referred to as ‘these impossible Chinese’, and other similar belittling epithets, we see beyond the commercial benefits of trade, and rebel with a profound resentment. Two thousand years ago, the Han dynasty ruled an empire greater in scope and accomplishment than that of their Roman contemporaries…”
     “But where do I come in?” Nayland interrupted. “I know the history, but what has this got to do with me?” He could not help noticing Hung Chan’s powerful physique, nor his handsome classical oriental features. He asked, with more than a little dread of what this man appeared capable of, “What are you going to do to me?”
     Hung Chan looked at Nayland with admiration, perhaps a little lustfully. “You are strong. You will not be injured. Now sleep, for tomorrow you will suffer. You will suffer, but you will not be injured. I tell you this to encourage you to bear up, so that you will not be ashamed.”
   He should sleep, Hung Chan had said. The man had a strange sense of propriety, telling you to sleep now because you are going to be beaten in the morning! It was obscure in his mind, just what part in their “training” would cause him to suffer. Would he be kicked and punched as they worked on their martial arts skills? Or would they be working on other skills, skills that Fu Manchu might approve of… practicing skillful ways to torture a man? The two younger Boxers, “Chip” and “Chop”, as Hung Chan called them, were obviously anxious for something more than honing their athletic finesse. He would suffer, but he would not be injured. What does that mean? Was Hung Chan really encouraging him, or was he leading him on, setting him up for a huge let-down?
   Nayland lay awake, not really resigned to his fate because he didn’t know what his fate was. He did not feel remorseful about being submissive, because he realized that there was no alternative right now, and preservation of one’s strength was the best defense.
     In just a few short weeks, his world had turned upside down. As it did so often, his mind drifted to the image of Pete Petrie. How Nayland wished he had Pete here to lean on, to draw strength from. But no, he would not want Pete to be in the predicament he was in. He wondered whether Pete ever thought of him.
   (Nayland could not know that Dr. Petrie was also on a special mission.
At the very moment that Hung Chan was rousing Nayland from his fitful sleep, for his first day of his extreme new employment, Petrie’s ship was entering Hong Kong harbor.)
   “Time”, Nayland hear a quiet voice say. He stirred. Hung Chan stood over him, barechested, hands on hips, clad in a white paijama. Nayland felt a lead weight in his chest, dreading the undefined “suffering” he’d been promised, yet he could not deny how handsome Hung Chan looked, how powerful. Western men did not develop their physiques to emphasize such ripped
torsos. Hung Chan knelt, reached behind Nayland’s shoulder and drew him to a sitting position. He opened Nayland’s shirt and slipped it off him. Nayland was further disoriented when Hung Chan eased them both onto the mat, and held Nayland close. Nayland on his back, Hung Chan lay beside him, his head resting on an elbow. His free hand gently touched Nayland’s cheek, ran down his neck, across his chest. Strong fingers kneaded Nayland’s muscular pec, hot breath from between vibrating lips swept across his shoulder, down the other mound of chest flesh. A tongue flicked, teeth closed ever so gently on an erect nipple. Hung Chan eased himself on top of Nayland, rubbed his chest across Nayland’s torso and held his head between his palms. He looked down at Nayand’s quite expressionless face and smiled ever so faintly. “Beautiful man,” he murmured. “Strong man.” He rose, reached to help Nayland stand, then held him close. “Brave man. Be strong for us. Make us proud. All of us.”
     Chip and Chop slapped leather straps on Nayland’s wrists almost before he could blink, and in a flash, his feet were off the floor and he was swinging, a pendulum responding to the rhythmic swaying of the railroad car, a “practice dummy” whose purpose was to absorb the brunt of their “exercise.”
     Unaware of what was happening in a railroad car a few hundred miles to the west, Dr. Petrie stood on the foredeck of the tramp steamer that had brought him to Hong Kong. The ship eased its way past a huge floating armada of Chinese junks, most of which were home to indigent families. Pungent aromas of exotic victuals permeated the still air. Petrie stood in awe of the splendor of the morning sun reflected off Victoria Peak. The beauty of the moment, though, did not assuage his dilemma. He had a case, not of mixed emotions, a concept that suggests two opposing alternatives, but rather of confused emotions, which involves uncertainty, a lingering doubt, a feeling of having done a foolish thing in coming here. An inexplicable sense of foreboding, yet tempered with a ray of hope, was the basis of the confused emotions in his mind. The lack of plausible intelligence, the fear that disaster had come to Nayland Smith, overrode all else in Petrie’s mind. He had to try, somehow, he had to try to find his friend, and heaven forbid, to learn what fate might have befallen him.
     Unlike the several ports where England had negotiated trading rights, Hong Kong was an actual British colony. Here, the government itself would be sympathetic, even if not helpful. As soon as the vessel was moored, he proceeded to Government House to present his petition to the authorities.
     To his surprise, the staff here in Hong Kong was quite familiar with the threat, the insidious menace, of this Dr. Fu Manchu. Petrie sat with the appropriate staff members to exchange information and speculations.
     “Fu Manchu is not merely interested in ridding China of foreigners,” Petrie was told. “His real goal, that of the secret society Si-Fan that he leads, is to dominate the rest of the world. No, we are not faced with a threat to our commercial interests, we are faced with a deliberate plan to overthrow Western governments and replace them with the Yellow Peril of the East!”
     Petrie had never heard this extreme position expressed before. With the government of China in uncertain hands, becoming more dictatorial every day, unrest and insecurity were bound to weaken the nebulous status quo.
The conventional wisdom in the West had always been that the black, brown and yellow races of the East occupied a lesser rung on the ladder of consequence. To hear that they had aspirations to dominate the West was catastrophic news. No way, Petrie thought, no way could such an unlikely circumstance come to pass. Its infeasibility tempered the threat.
     In a rattling railroad car, pressing along eastward, Nayland Smith neither knew nor cared what the Si-Fan hoped, or planned, to do. He was the hapless “dummy”, the punching bag, the unwilling participant in the wu shu training of China’s entry in the approaching International Games of 1914. He swung, rotating with the vibration of the chugging train, to and fro before his antagonists. He ached, his suspended body alternately felt pain and numbness in his exhaustion. He had been kicked, jabbed, slapped, all in the name of sport. Being a “brave strong man” was not enough. Somehow, all this had to make sense, to have some meaning other than the peculiarities of a madman, some day.
     Another day of training coming to an end, Nayland stood against the wall of the railroad car, wrists tied overhead. He breathed a little easier, thinking the usual routine would follow. It was Hung Chan’s practice to take Nayland alone to a private section of the car, draw water from a reservoir on the roof, and permit him to bathe, before sending one of the others to fetch a meal. When Nayland had been beaten more severely than was intended (this was training, not a professional performance), Hung Chan would tend to him, tenderly massaging his bruised body with ancient techniques that had been developed over the ages.
     Now, Hung Chan’s two young protégés seemed to be pleading with him, so rapid and impassioned were their words. It was all gibberish to Nayland, whose limited knowledge of Mandarin could not possibly accommodate the rapid, idiomatic chatter. He twisted his torso and shook his extended arms, to combat the onset of cramps, and breathed deeply and rapidly to relax the defensive tension he automatically summoned as protection against body blows to his midsection.
     Hung Chan made eye contact with Nayland, his expression quite neutral, and then nodded slightly to his men. Chip eagerly undid the waistband of Nayland’s trousers, and he and Chop pulled them off, pulling Nayland’s legs forward as he hung by the wrists. Again standing, arms overhead, Nayland tensed his muscles and took in a deep breath, expanding his chest in a display of masculine beauty that was not unnoticed. All this time, Nayland had been stripped only to the waist; now he stood naked in front of the duo who were his evil adversaries.
     “The men are worried that their efforts will not be rewarded because they do not have good Feng Shui,” Hung said. “The arrangement here in this unusual venue cannot work for them without departing somewhat from the prescribed routine. We need to vary our activity beyond the search for athletic excellence in order for them to attain good Qi”.
     Nayland’s familiarity with the concepts that were mentioned was limited, but not nonexistent. In his studies of the East he had learned that Feng Shui was a system of esthetics that defied description; it was good or it was not good, for no particular reason beyond the impression in one’s mind. In fact, one of the grievances that had brought the Boxer Rebellion to a boiling point was the Europeans’ violation of Feng Shui by the construction of large, poorly designed structures, including, ironically in view of the present situation, railroads, that disturbed both the landscape and a sense of tranquility. If Feng Shui was not good, one could not have good Qi, a subliminal flow of energy that sustained living beings. The concept was dismissed in the ethnocentric point of view of the Europeans. Nayland was to learn that it ought not to be dismissed.
     Nayland didn’t speak, but he again felt the lead weight in his chest that accompanied uncertainty as to what was going to be done to him. Hung, who had developed a genuine affection, beyond just respect, for the handsome Englishman, released his bound wrists and held him close. “It cannot be good Feng Shui until this beautiful man releases the inner strength of his sexuality at our beckoning,” Nayland was told. “You must show us, and you must allow us to assist you in showing us, that you are the embodiment of masculine sexuality that is powerful enough to complement your fascinating beauty and obvious physical strength.”
     Hung held Nayland close as they stood and watched Chip and Chop set a cylindrical leather punching dummy (which Nayland had replaced!) across a wooden cargo pallet. “Remember, you will not be injured” Hung whispered to Nayland, as he was eased onto his back, arms and legs extended, wrists and ankles strapped, his naked body spread-eagled, arched over this quickly improvised rack. In all the humiliating and painful experiences he had suffered, Nayland had not had a more profound sense of dread. He would not be injured… but he would be tortured! And the sinister threat that the torture would involve sexual abuse imparted anguish to his inner being. He was getting some bad fucking Qi.
     Returning to Government House in the morning, Dr. Petrie found the staff in a somewhat frenzied state. It seems the German consul in Canton, which was not far from Hong Kong, had been murdered. He’d not been gunned down and he’d not been kidnapped and abused; most such assassinations were marked by one of these circumstances. His death had been quite sudden and quite mysterious. Some sort of poison had apparently been administered, but neither the precise substance nor the manner in which it had been dispensed, were known. Because of the bizarre situation, Dr. Fu Manchu was suspect. Purely c0njecture, but he fit the mold. His strikes were unanticipated, his methods were unorthodox, and his imagination was boundless in its fetishes.
     While Great Britain, because of its dominance in the foreign intervention arena, was the principal antagonist, Germany too had made many enemies. It was the Kaiser, Wilhelm II, who so arrogantly proclaimed after the Boxer Rebellion was put down, that they would “make the name German remembered in China for a thousand years, so that no Chinese will ever again dare to even squint at a German.” Whoever had struck down the German consul, it could not be said that the act was irrational.
     Petrie walked over to a huge map on the wall. If Fu Manchu had indeed been in Burma only a few weeks ago, it seemed improbable that he could be in Canton now. The immensity of China was staggering. Actually, much of it was not really “China”, but from Manchuria in the northeast, across Mongolia to Tibet, non-ethnic Chinese peoples shared the history and culture of China. Much larger than Europe, which had myriad nationalities, languages and cultures, this vast area had remained a single political unit through the ages, its deeply rooted governmental systems bonding together those millions who share a way of life.
     Petrie looked at another map on the wall, one that displayed the few successes at industrialization that the Western Powers had engineered. Communication, reaching out, was accomplished in two major ways. The railroads provided a meager but growing means for both transport and expansion of a growing economy, and telegraphy kept the major cities linked in real time events. As he perused the map, the graphics of railroad completions highlighted, he put a nebulous two and two together. The nearest railhead to Burma was the city of Kunming. The elapsed time between Fu Manchu’s last sighting, after which Nayland had begun his mission, and the present, made a rail trip from Kunming feasible as a possible route for him to have relocated to Canton. That railroad fascinated Petrie; it was the only way that the sighting of Fu Manchu in Burma, and his postulated assassination of the German consul in Canton, could be connected. Petrie’s dilemma then, was whether he should focus on Canton, or go all the way back to Yunnan Province for clues to Nayland’s fate. He decided to take a boat to Canton. Any track that did not include Fu Manchu would be a cold track by now.
     That railroad held more than a casual interest for Nayland Smith. In a non-descript boxcar on that railroad, his naked body was arched over an improvised rack, vulnerable to a most unusual practice of defining Feng Shui. It had to be done right. It had to validate his powerful masculinity in terms of endurance and fortitude. It had to be done in a way that would not injure him. Nayland would again experience the agony of torture, “nice and slow”, torture that involved a mortifying display of his sexuality.
     Hung Chan sent Chip to fetch Fu Manchu, should he desire to witness, perhaps to oversee, the mystic venture they were about to consummate, designed to give them good Feng Shui. Chip returned, nervously reporting that Dr. Fu Manchu had not been seen; he had apparently left the train. The train had not stopped; it had not even slowed, for more than a day. Who were they, to question the actions of their patron, Hung thought, even though it was mystifying to think that Fu Manchu had been able to leave the moving train. He turned his attention back to the naked man who was tightly spread-eagled over a leather cylinder, vulnerable to any imaginative violation of his person that his captors decided to inflict.
   Verbal directions were not necessary. The men knew what needed to be done and set about doing it. Looking at the world upside-down from his awkward position, Nayland could discern only a part of the preparations. Wires were involved. Electric cords were involved. Nayland shuddered at the possibility that there would be a repeat of Fu Manchu’s “dynamo” treatment of some weeks ago. It would be similar, but it would be “better”.
     Hung Chan caused sparks by tapping two wires together. There was no humming of a generator; the power source was a bank of batteries that occupied a bay in the car’s interior. Recalling the burns he had suffered from metal rings on his cock, Nayland recoiled in dread.
     This time there were no heavy metal rings. The lads deftly wound a thin wire around his ball-sac, and another the length of his impressive cock. The tantalizing current began to flow without sparking, without mechanical sputtering. It was warm, it was erotic, it teased Nayland’s proud manhood. His cock began, despite his determined resistance, to swell and stiffen. Damn, it felt good! He forgot for a moment, the severity of his torture when Fu Manchu had manipulated his dynamo and unleashed the terror of sizzling agony upon him… this felt so, so good.
     The current stopped. Nayland’s heart sank, not with terror this time but with disappointment. He recalled the agony of being taken to the brink of fulfillment, only to be denied, as Fu Manchu had tortured him. This time, though, it was not blazing torment from a dreaded instrument that caused him to lose his arousal; it was the silence, the absence of any sensation that made his hard-on disappear. Then came the warmth again, the sensuous pressure, the tingling pulsations that could drive a man wild. Nayland wriggled in his spread-eagled bondage, his limbs quaking, as he again approached a masculine climax.
     The current stopped. Nayland, soaked with sweat, trembling with anticipation and hope, was helpless to maintain his erection as strength was sapped from his struggling body.
     The current flowed. His undefeated cock again responded. Once again he ascended toward the pinnacle of sexual fulfillment, teetered there, then sagged in frustration as the current stopped.
   “I can’t fucking stand this!” he screamed, wasting strength that might better be used to endure. The current started again. His cock swelled again. He became harder, the wire dug in, his throbbing cock bulged through the spaces between the turns of wire, he pumped his hips, screaming in exquisite agony, but… the current stopped.
     Totally exhausted, tears of frustration accompanied his desperate sobs as his tortured cock deflated again. It was not the cruel device, but the internal seething testosterone that demanded but could not achieve expression, that fueled the blatant aching in his entire crotch. No branding iron, no hot pincers, no sizzling acid, no physical pain could be more intense than the indescribable agony of a frustrated hard cock.
     Nayland was whimpering, trembling in distress, when he was finally released from his severe bondage. Hung Chan carried him to the mat where he slept, and lay him gently down. He lay beside Nayland, holding him, comforting him. “You have given this experience good Feng Shiu,” he said. “Tomorrow we will be in Canton. I will get us away from this place.” He tapped his fingertips on Nayland’s forsaken cock, he maneuvered his body closer and caressed Nayland’s neck, his chest, his abdomen, as he more vigorously attempted to bring that tortured cock to life. Nayland finally responded, and with the indestructible carnal desire of a “fuckin’ he-man”, he shared a powerful orgasmic explosion with his new friend.
   Awakened by the clunking of the couplings between the cars as the train slowed, Hung Chan sprang to life. “Wait, I shall be back in a few minutes,” he said to Nayland. “I’ll fetch something for you to wear.” Telling the others to prepare their kits for departure, he left the car.
     As promised, it was only a few minutes before Hung Chan returned. “None of this came from Saville Row,” he quipped, as he helped Nayland into the garments he had “liberated”, “but at least you’ll be decent. Can’t do much about the blond hair, apart from trying to conceal it with this rather frumpy looking tam.”
     The lurching of the train finally stopped, and all was ready for departure. “I can’t understand how Dr. Fu Manchu got off the train,” Hung Chan said, again expressing his confusion over that apparent fact. “But we are fortunate that he is not here, lest carrying out our plan be impossible.” Then, to Chip and Chop, “Now you have your instructions. I will join you at the Academy as soon as I deliver our guest to the British consulate.” The two younger men glanced at each other uneasily, then picked up their effects and left.
     Hung Chan cracked the large sliding door in the side of the car away from the station, just enough for the men to squeeze through. After he’d looked cautiously around in the early morning’s half-light, he and Nayland jumped from the train and ran as swiftly as they could, across adjoining tracks toward the periphery of the yard. Although he was young and athletic, Nayland’s recent experiences rendered him no match for the magnificently tuned martial arts expert who was his companion.
     Pausing behind a warehouse that faced a busy thoroughfare, they exchanged glances with eyes that smiled with unspoken admiration. Then they eased around the edge of the building, preparing to cross the wide street.
     “Ooooof…” Hung Chan gasped, and before Nayland realized what was happening, he, too, was knocked breathless, and felt a burning sting in his abdomen. Hung Chan fell to the ground immediately, clutching his belly. He kicked his feet for just a few seconds, then lay still, lifeless eyes staring into space. Before Nayland lost consciousness and collapsed, he saw someone, two men, he thought, scurry hastily away.
     Warehouse workmen were arriving for their day’s labor. It was not long before someone noticed the two bodies lying on the ground at the corner of the building.      
     The jinrikisha carrying Dr. Petrie from his rooms to the British consulate was delayed by a crowd gathering in front of a nondescript warehouse along the way. As his runner maneuvered his way around the cluster of onlookers, Petrie saw that there were two bodies on the ground, which explained the group’s gathering. Insensitive to his own xenophobic inclinations, which existed only subconsciously, he dismissed the situation as a not infrequent violent encounter between Chinese competitors, perhaps rivals in the opium culture of the time. He proceeded with no further thought to the matter. He had not, there being no reason to do so, looked closely toward the bodies.
     A horse-drawn conveyance, an ambulance of sorts, had been summoned, even though the men apparently were dead. As the bodies were lifted onto it, one of them appeared to exhale, then moan very faintly. A chorus of excited chatter arose, conflicting suggestions adding to the confusion. A Chinese constable arrived on the scene. He directed that the men be taken to the hospital with all haste, since one had a chance to survive; the other would be examined in an attempt to ascertain the cause of death. That man, in fact both men, appeared to be young and robust, making foul play suspect. It would not be until Nayland was examined in the hospital, that his previous mistreatment would be evident. This would add to the mystery; why was only one bearing bruises and further evidence of physical abuse, the other extremely fit? If they had been on opposite sides in an encounter, why would both now be targets of an assassin?
     The doctors were mystified by the apparent use of a poison that bore the characteristics of none with which they were familiar. The Chinese practice of medicine had a history of thousands of years. Many Europeans would dismiss the quality of it in comparison with their own, but the Chinese supplemented current practices with traditional alternative procedures that often produced significant favorable results. Here, though, there was no explanation. The young Chinese athlete had succumbed to a massive dose of a poison they could not yet identify, and the same substance existed in the blood of the unidentified foreigner. For some fortuitous reason, although the man was gravely ill, he had not received a lethal dose. Similar punctures on the abdomens of both men, a pattern in the shape of concentric circles, indicated that a crude implement, apparently coated with some sort of venom, was the device that had been used to deliver the substance. The indentations on the deceased were deeper than those on the survivor, showing that the foreigner had not received the full force of the would-be assassin’s thrust. It was a mystery, too, whether this attack was related to the physical evidence that he had previously been badly beaten.
     Several appropriate Western consulates answered the request that they observe the patient in the hospital, but none, including the British, recognized him. He had no papers of any sort to prove, or even to suggest, who he might be. Most important for Nayland Smith, were he to awaken and try to exert authority, was his having lost evidence of the roving commission granted him by the Prime Minister, which authorized him to speak for the Crown with seniority over any other British Subject. Surely, no one would believe that a man of such youth would have been so empowered.
     Nayland’s identity, and particularly his authority, would remain a moot point for the foreseeable future. As he breathed in shallow, weak breaths, a woman slinked into the hospital room. She was a classical Oriental beauty, tall, statuesque, clad in a richly embroidered silk garment. An expression that belied a recognizable emotion adorned her face as she gazed at the unconscious man. Was it admiration, attraction, even lust? Was it revenge? Could it have been ambition, hope for a successful coup of some sort? It could have been any of these. Time would tell.
     Nayland Smith would not remember being in a hospital, he would not know until told later, that Hung Chan was dead. He would not know that his antagonists Chip and Chop were stealthily abducting him from the security of this hospital. He would know, though, that he was going to be tortured by order of Fah Lo Suee, insidious daughter of Dr. Fu Manchu.  
     Dr. Petrie left his office soon after arriving, hurrying to visit the German consulate. There, he learned that no progress had been made in analyzing the poisonous substance that had killed the German official, or in identifying a possible perpetrator. It was agreed that the murders bore the stamp of the infamous Dr. Fu Manchu, but Petrie’s intelligence sources had him hundreds of miles to the north, near Wuhan in Hubei province. They had lost track of him for weeks, but had recently picked up his trail with the assistance of railroad dispatchers who had recognized him.
     Upon returning to his own consulate, Petrie learned that another similar attack had taken place that very morning, the victims being a Chinese athlete and a Western male in his twenties. The latter had survived, although he was in serious condition. The man’s nationality was unknown; he was unable to speak and he had no papers or other identification. Petrie sought out the official who had seen him in the hospital, and was told that he could be British, or perhaps American. He did not look French or Mediterranean, but could have been from central Europe.
     “For God’s sake, man, what does the patient look like?” Petrie demanded. America was one of the eight nations who had put down the Boxer uprising, but was not affected by the Si-Fan’s plan to rule Europe. The Germans had not recognized the man and had no desire to claim him. He must be British.
     “He’s a young man, athletic looking but a bit wan. I’d say between eleven and twelve stone. He has an impressive body, from what I could tell, but appears to lack adequate nourishment.” the nervous administrator replied. “Oddest thing, he was covered with a sheet below his shoulders, but a nurse said his body bore numerous bruises and marks of abuse.” He hesitated, flustered. “Perhaps… sexual abuse.”
     “But his face, his hair, his general ‘looks’, anything about him that a casual passerby might notice?”
     “Quite a good-looking chap, really; blond hair, handsome, almost in a ‘pretty’ way. His hair is quite long, as though not tended to for some time.”
     “Nayland”, Petrie murmured, then darted from the room.
     His frenetic dash to the hospital was in vain. The patient had disappeared. After uttering an uncharacteristic racial epithet, Petrie sank into a chair. An overwhelming surge of remorse and dread practically paralyzed him. He’d seen him lying unconscious on the ground that morning! Oh, the tragic irony! Had Nayland found Fu Manchu? If Fu Manchu had been in Burma and was now in eastern China, how did he get so far? His latest known location was learned from railroad dispatchers. Had he relocated from Yunnan province by rail? Petrie’s analytical mind continued to evaluate the possibilities. Could Nayland have been his prisoner on that journey? If Nayland were indeed the missing patient, then how and when had they been separated?
     So obsessed was Petrie with the horrid vision of his friend in the hands of the sadistic Fu Manchu, that he overlooked the fact that there was an equally depraved daughter in this equation. Indeed, it was Petrie, in his research back in Mandalay, who had learned of her competition with her father for control of the Si-Fan.
     Right now, this depraved daughter had no interest in Dr. Petrie’s anguish. In one of her father’s several laboratories, this one just outside Canton, she was admiring the beautiful man who was strapped to a gurney, naked and helpless to resist the torments that were taking shape in her devious mind.
     As Nayland began to stir, consciousness slowly returning, he clenched his teeth and grimaced. An intense burning sensation reverberated in his abdomen. A strange aroma, some sort of incense, permeated the air. As his perception became more lucid, he saw that flickering torches inserted in sconces on the walls, were the source of illumination. With difficulty, the pain being quite severe, he turned his head so as to discern where he was. Only when he tried to so move, did he realize that he was strapped down, and he was naked. A sense of foreboding competed with one of curiosity, as his primary emotion. His last memory was of running away from detention on a train, which was a total disconnect with being strapped onto a table of some sort in this bizarre place.
     A long bench, a counter, waist high, lined the wall to his left. Burners of some unknown fuel source kept several beakers and other vessels hot, their pungent odors conflicting with the wafting incense. A soft voice broke the eerie silence.
     “I see the antidote is working,” Fah Lo Suee said, as she approached the gurney on which Nayland lay, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I know it is painful, Denis Nayland Smith, but I need to know the effect of this and other experimental substances that my father is working on. And, I need to do this while he is not here.”
     It was not difficult for Nayland to associate the blurred image of the Dragon Lady, with his pain. He couldn’t remember how long it had been, but he recognized her as she who had him beaten, on the first day of his captivity. The memory cleared, then, of his having been briefed, back in Mandalay; Fu Manchu had an estranged daughter who competed with him for leadership of the secret society, Si-Fan. Too weak to speak, he waited in languid indifference for the next development in this absurd saga. Right now, all he could comprehend was the pain, the riveting pain.
     Fah Lo Suee reached for an ominous looking syringe that lay on the counter. “You are fortunate that my dilution of the dosage meant for you was correct,” she said. “I wanted you to live… but I wanted you to be in pain. I want you, and all Europeans, to be in pain. I wish I could make you all suffer, all at once, and with horrifying agony.”
     “Wha… why…” Nayland could not get out a coherent sentence. He tensed instinctively as the barbaric syringe neared his torso. Then an involuntary muffled scream escaped from his throat as the needle injected a new fluid into him. Surprisingly, his abdominal pain abated immediately, and his head swam in renewed disorientation.
     Fah Lo Suee looked down on him with a sardonic smile. “You will be alert very soon, and without pain. That is the essence of my project here. I will test, and improve upon in his absence, the potions my father has been developing. I will cause you incredibly excruciating pain, and then alleviate it, perhaps eliminate it, before I conduct the next experiment. I am pleased with the success of my most recent test; Hung Chan succumbed to the concentrated krait venom, but you survived the diminished version.”
     A sorrowful “Ohhh”, followed by a mumbled “vicious bitch” was Nayland’s reaction to learning that his tormentor-turned-rescuer had fallen victim to one of these monstrous experiments. The krait, perhaps the most deadly of venomous reptiles, was native to southern Asia, Siam particularly. If Fu Manchu had developed an antidote to that horrific venom, he could be a celebrated humanitarian. Obviously, that was of no interest to him.
     Fah Lo Suee donned large insulated gloves, making her hands resemble those of a robot. “My father’s notes indicate that this solution, absorbed into the pores of the male genitalia, will substantially increase his sexual prowess.” She wrung out a cloth that had been dipped into a container of the solution, and approached the cringing subject. “Later, I should like for you to test the result. In the interest of science,” she added, with sarcastic derision, “I am willing to be the requisite partner.” She then opened the cloth and began to rub the liquid it held, onto and under Nayland’s testicles.
     “Yaahhh….sheee…” son of a bitch that burned!
     Delighted at the desired reaction, Fah Lo Suee wrapped the cloth around the shaft of Nayland’s cock, and squeezed. As he panted in desperation, she tugged at his cock, as though she were masturbating him. Choked gasps were replaced by undulating screams, as Nayland’s very manhood sizzled in blazing torment. Oh, shit! If only I could pass out, he thought. He doubted that his cock would ever function again, as the fiendish torture continued.
     Involuntary tears of pain and frustration welled in Nayland’s eyes, as Fah Lo Suee so deftly attended to his most personal parts. Held by wide leather straps at shoulders, hips, and thighs, he was not totally immobilized. He could squirm beneath the straps, and kick his feet, and squirm and kick he did. It was as though kerosene had been poured over his crotch, and lighted, so intense was the searing pain.
     Nayland couldn’t tell, he wasn’t really interested, that the fiery liquid had somehow engendered an erection of remarkable dimensions. Fah Lo Suee’s eyes widened, she stared in awe at what she had accomplished. She regretted having to cleanse him of the experimental extract before she could enjoy the penetration of that magnificent organ. She threw aside the cumbersome gloves and, fostering her arousal, she unbuttoned her silk blouse, and leaned over her suffering prisoner. Easing the mocha tips of her creamy breasts across Nayland’s chest, she ran her fingers through his hair, rubbed her lips across his, and blew soft wisps of lustful breath onto his neck. In her feverish apprehension, she momentarily overlooked the source of Nayland’s agony, and reached for his sizzling ramrod.
     “Yipe!” she bellowed, her fingers burned by her inattention. She rushed to reach a pitcher of water to cool her scalded hand, and in her frantic haste, carelessly knocked one of the torches out of its bracket. As it fell, it upset a beaker of some liquid, unlabelled but obviously flammable, causing a fireball to erupt over the laboratory counter. The blast knocked her, holding the water pitcher, against the gurney on which Nayland was restrained. The spilt water brought blessed relief to Nayland, as it soaked him and washed much of the terrible potion away. Flailing awkwardly to maintain her balance, Fah Lo Suee struck the gurney with a hip, turning it onto its side. Unhurt, or rather not further injured, Nayland felt the shoulder strap loosen. Its bracket was smashed, allowing him to wriggle free, and unbuckle the other two straps.
     Seeing that trying to fight the fire was futile, and nearly overcome by the acrid fumes, Fah Lo Suee fled to safety, and into mysterious anonymity. Her departure was propitious. Immediately thereafter, a chemical explosion blew out a wall, and sent Nayland soaring amidst the rubble.
     A curious crowd gathered. Fire brigades were responding. A team of medics arrived at the scene. Once again, a half-dead Englishman was rushed to the hospital. When they began to clean him up, they realized that it was the same man who had recently disappeared. The chap had a propensity for getting into extreme distress, it seemed. This time, he was found naked, and bore even more unexplained wounds. This time, though, fate would permit Dr. Petrie to catch up with him, and hear his fantastic tale.
     It was several days before Nayland was able to recognize, let alone communicate with, anyone in the hospital. Pete Petrie, though, kept a nearly constant vigil by his bedside, lest he not be present should Nayland become alert. He was ecstatic when, early one evening, a hoarse voice uttered a barely audible “Pete… Pete.”
     For the next several days, Nayland’s strength improved so rapidly as to astonish the doctors. His anxiety to get away, and to be alone with his friend Pete, nourished his recovery. The new year, 1914, found them comfortably ensconced in the rooms Petrie had let, in Hong Kong. Since arriving there, they had deliberately avoided talk of Fu Manchu, letting nothing distract them from rejoicing in their reunion. Petrie vigorously dispelled Nayland’s apprehension concerning possible adverse effects of his torture, on his masculine abilities.
     The time came, though, when they had to accept reality, and plan for whatever the future might hold. Petrie slumped in a chair beside the bed where Nayland lay, and they discussed, philosophized really, about the mystique of the villainous perpetrator of such rampant misery.
     “I’m not sure you ought to continue this crusade,” Petrie lamented. “China, for which we had such high hopes, is in turmoil. The centralized authority of the Imperial dynasties was to have given way to more localized representation, but President Yuan Shi Kai has betrayed the emergent republicanism. He has wrested control and made himself a virtual dictator. He believes in the traditional concept that authority must have a single source, and so has practically replicated the former structure with himself as the despotic ruler. I dread the unknown calamity that 1914 will bring.”
     “I too, have had moments of doubt, but remember, I have a title, I am ‘Commissioner Smith’; the Prime Minister himself has granted me a roving commission that authorizes me to speak for the Crown. I cannot change my mind now. I must find Shangri-La. Twice I have thought I might have found it, but twice these were mere field laboratories for use in extended operations far from the home base.”
     “And for use as torture chambers, to the distress of intruding ‘spies’,” Petrie added with consternation. Then after a pause, “If you insist on pursuing this fantastic adventure, I insist on sharing the risks with you. I want to be with you when you find Shangri-La. Perilous as it may be, I want to meet this notorious hellhound.”
     “It was indeed interesting to meet him,” Nayland allowed. The word was clearly inadequate, but meeting him had such profound effects on a person that “interesting” had to embrace them all.
     As he heard more of Nayland’s account, Petrie realized that he had but a vague mental picture of Fu Manchu. Nayland said much about him, but never actually described him.
     “You are the only one we know of who has seen him!” he said to Nayland. “I would not recognize him if he were to walk past me on the street. It is the most basic question, one I can’t believe I’ve not asked.
What does he look like?”
     Nayland answered, “Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government– which however already has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu Manchu, the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man.”
     Petrie reflected on this description, and considered the awesome challenge they faced. “He is dedicated to making vassals of the governments of Europe!” he exclaimed. “He is impossible to track down because of his ability to assume phantom identities. He has more knowledge of chemistry, physics, mathematics, history– you name it– than the most respected professors.”
     “Don’t forget medicine,” Nayland interjected. “It was his antidote to the krait venom that saved me.” (Saved me for more of his psychotic daughter’s
deviant passion, he mused to himself.)
     Nayland responded to Pete’s pensive gaze with a glow of affection. He threw back the covers on the bed. “Fuck Shangri-La. Get in here, you pathetic civil servant.”
     A steamy consummation of masculine lust again rocked the Crown Colony.
   Several weeks would pass before Nayland was ready to resume his mission. Actually, he was very anxious to do so, but he acquiesced both to Pete’s admonition that he was not as fit as he might wish to believe, and to his own reluctant but unexpressed concurrence that such was the case. Strange, he thought, how some factor, perhaps metaphysical, can permit a man to exceed all reasonable limits of endurance, and then the stress being removed, the body virtually collapses. He was quite perplexed to experience so slow a resumption of his physical dexterity. Both he and Pete, though, were reassured that he had not lost his ability to share his powerful sexuality with another man of similar capability.
   Motivated by the mystery surrounding the death of that German consular officer in Canton, they sought the acquaintance of a German official who was posted in Hong Kong. The demise of the German officer in Canton, having been accomplished in so typical a Fu Manchu style, suggested that perhaps there might be something to be learned from the German investigation thereof. That occasion and the assault on Nayland having been so close together, one might assume that they were part of a single operation.
   Unlike in the attack upon Hung Chan and Nayland, the substance used was not venom of the deadly krait. The poison that had killed the German was determined to be the juice of a rare orchid. In a further demonstration of the fallacy of Westerners’ tendency to underestimate the proficiency of Chinese research, it was a Chinese laboratory that came up with this conclusion. Found in the rain forests of South Asia, this flower, an orchid, but almost green in color, yielded a deadly and very fragrant sap.
     The fact that different substances had been used in the two incidents, left inconclusive a determination that Fah Lo Suee might have been the assassin in both cases. Dr. Fu Manchu himself had not been seen for many weeks, nor had additional murders been reported. These were factors that added to the dilemma.
     The German they’d befriended, Dieter Klaus, was pragmatic about the confusing and contradictory machinations of European politics. Deke (a logical nickname for one whose initials are D.K.) was unaware– and would remain so– of Nayland’s status of roving commissioner. He assumed that the two Englishmen were mid-level civil servants such as he, and chatted amiably off the record. Nayland felt a tinge of guilt at taking advantage of the German’s candor, in view of deteriorating relations between their two countries. He did, though, as did Petrie, enjoy their unofficial analyses and “what if” scenarios. (Both the Englishmen also enjoyed visualizing what role the handsome Deke might play in their fantasy ménages a trios.)
   European politics had been a confusing, constantly realigning muddle at least since the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. There were six major powers: Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Russia. One needed a scorecard to determine who was allied with whom, at any given time. It was curious that the situation was largely a family affair. The most conspicuous relationships were, King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Empress Alexandra, the wife of Czar Nicholas II, were all grandchildren of Queen Victoria, and hence, first cousins. Both the Czar and his wife were cousins of the King of Denmark, and Victoria’s other offspring (there were nine in all) were married to lesser European nobility, most of them interposed among branches of Europe’s ruling houses. Yet, it would soon be shown that politics is thicker than blood. Fu Manchu was the focus of Nayland Smith and Flinders Petrie’s obsession, but he was to be overshadowed by other events on the world stage. Being half a world away did not lessen the concerns felt by the great powers regarding Asia. In fact, competition among them, for colonies and for trade, was as prominent in their fortunes as were territorial and philosophical disputes on the continent. Nayland Smith wanted to act, and to act now in his pursuit of Fu Manchu, but circumstances were not conducive to timely action.  
   “Deke is a pretty decent chap,” Pete remarked, as they prepared tea following one of his visits. “In a more perfect world, we might have been able to become close friends.”
   “I’d like to get close to him, too,” Nayland said, with a sly grin. Then, his mind revisiting the more challenging experiences of his captivity, he mused, “I suppose he could take a great deal, should his tenacity ever be tested.”
   Setting the tray between them, Pete poured a cupful and handed it to Nayland. “You mean he’d be a hard one to break with torture.”
   “Not only the physical. Sometimes the more stressful experience is the mental, the psychological. A man like Deke can steel himself to deal with pain, but if it is accompanied by fear of the unknown, it can be quite overwhelming.”
   “I can see that the fear of breaking and betraying a trust might devastate one’s self-respect,” Pete commented. “The shame of being made to ‘talk’ would be a strong incentive to resist.”
   “That’s not exactly what I meant, Pete. Remember back in Burma when we first met, and talked about the probability that I would be tortured if Fu Manchu got hold of me?”
   “Yes, I remember. I remember you said that perhaps the best way to get the goods on Fu Manchu would be to get captured intentionally…”
   “Because since he would torture me for his amusement,” Nayland interrupted, “he would not make it ‘terminal’, I would be secure of my survival in order for his amusement to be prolonged.”
   “Until he grew tired of you,” Pete pointed out, then added, glibly, “or until he found somebody better looking, such as Deke.”
   Nayland was a little annoyed at Pete’s taking what he meant to be a serious discussion, so lightly, but he had already implied that Deke would most probably “last” if he were ever interrogated under torture.
   “I suppose your point that he’d grow tired of me is a valid one, but my point was, and what he said to the chaps who beat me on the train, supports it, is that without fear, a man can endure more than he otherwise might. When a man is tortured, he is likely to break, not because it ‘hurts’, but because he is afraid. He fears for his life, he fears being maimed, he fears for loss of his physical dexterity, and especially for loss of his sexual virility. Free of those dreadful possibilities, he can focus all his energy on absorbing and dealing with the pain, knowing that his suffering is to be relieved.”
   Pete thought for a moment, his gaze resting on his friend, who rose from his chair and lounged on the couch. Pete’s admiration of this man bordered on love, but he fought against emotional involvement. The physical contact, the incredible masculine sex, was splendid, but neither dared to permit his judgment to be impaired by emotion. “Yeah,” he said in a whisper, not intending it to be heard.
   “Say what?” Nayland asked.
   Embarrassed, Pete said, “Just thinking.”
   Nayland stretched and flexed, showing off the splendid body beneath his lightweight shirt. Pete didn’t have to imagine, he had covered every inch of that body, quite passionately. Yes, that man could take it, he thought, as he visualized him confined in chains. He could take anything!
   “I wonder if I could,” Pete thought aloud, then regretted the admission.
   “Could what?”
   The subject had been broached. No retreating from it now. “I wonder if I could take the torture you endured.”
   “Not as though one has a choice,” Nayland said, sardonically. “Once he’s in a position he can’t get out of, I mean.”
   “I can see your point about not having to fear for life and limb, but I just wonder if I could so stoically endure the pain. I have a fear, I fear that I would blubber and beg for mercy.”
   “Sure you could, big strong man like you. It makes you proud of your strength, actually. It’s a trip, shoving it in the face of the torturer… ‘Show me what you got, fucker. You’ve got a real man here.’ That’s the attitude you have to maintain. I’m sure I’d be proud of you.”
   Nayland’s support gave Pete confidence that he could deal with pain. Then he focused on another aspect of Nayland’s torture. “You told me you begged once. Not for mercy, but for relief of a raging hard on!”
   Nayland blushed at the reminder. “Yes, that truly was the most intense torture of all. Pain, a man can deal with, but a cock on the verge of exploding cannot be ignored. Not even when it is being electrified and diabolically abused.”
   Pete was getting hard himself, thinking about his friend’s experience. “I need to find out,” he said, hesitantly. “I need to know…”
   “You need to be tortured?” Nayland asked.
   “Not broken on the rack,” Pete replied. “I need to know what you have called ‘the most exquisite torture of all’, the denied climax of masculine arousal.”
   Nayland had a job to do.
   It was moodily quiet in their flat for the rest of the day, and both men slept fitfully that night. Pete was remorseful for having suggested his compulsion to experience sexual torture, which stemmed from the fantasy he’d incurred after hearing Nayland describe it. It was far from mere curiosity. He couldn’t explain it, he couldn’t define it, but it gnawed at him. A psychoanalyst might detect envy mixed in with Pete’s overt admiration of Nayland. He enormously respected him for his grace under fire, and he craved a similar respect from Nayland, not really understanding that one doesn’t normally earn respect by asking for torture.
   As for Nayland, he was torn between conflicting frustrations. He wanted to give Pete the satisfaction he craved, but he couldn’t imagine ever bringing himself to actually “do it” to him. Apart from the concern tugging at each of them, there were the practical issues or, better said, the impractical constraints. Where, how, could Nayland arrange for such a trial? Where, other than in Dr. Fu Manchu’s “laboratories”, does a device such as his “dynamo” exist? Even if he knew what it was made of, he had no idea how it might be assembled and operated. Nayland knew little about electricity, but he did know that it is dangerous. The best thing to do, he decided, is to do nothing. In time, realizing the unfeasibility of the whole notion, Pete would get over this fanciful idea.
   “So what are we going to do for the Empire today?” Nayland asked, his cheer a bit contrived, as they sat for the breakfast he had prepared.
     Pete picked up on the tentative mood. “Perhaps we ought to start by telling Deke that there is no way his Kaiser’s navy is ever going to displace the Royal Navy as mistress of the seas. He did a bit too much bragging about it yesterday.”
     “They do build some beautiful warships, though,” Nayland commented. “Their naval architects are quite talented.”
     “I think Willy is just jealous of his cousin George’s assets. He knows the English have a lot more class, and he’s trying to outshine them. The visibility of a strong fleet can intimidate, and it can be impressive.”
     “But you know, Pete, this naval thing goes back long before George.” Nayland wanted to keep away from the unspoken subject, and getting involved in a real world discussion might do that, for a while anyway.
     “Victoria was still alive when Wilhelm began construction of a modern battle fleet. In fact she chided him, a couple of times at least, in her ‘Dearest William’ letters, regarding the implications his actions were sending. They were, though, quite fond of each other. Having come from Germany to see her, Wilhelm was present, with his uncle the Prince of Wales, when Victoria died”.
   “Yes, he’s been around a long time. Still in his twenties when he became emperor, what, 25, 26 years ago? King George, just a few years younger than his cousin the Kaiser, succeeded his Father less than four years ago.”
   Changing the subject, which was becoming too academic and forced, Nayland suggested they go to Government House for an updated briefing on the intelligence picture. He wanted to get out among others, which would preclude any talk of torture-for-fulfillment.
   “I wonder if Fu Manchu has made an appearance anywhere,” Nayland commented, as they maneuvered their way through the bustling mass of humanity that was ever present in the streets of Hong Kong. The sights, sounds and smells of Honk Kong were unique in all the world. Government House was on the waterfront, close to the business and financial buildings that made Hong Kong a prized jewel in the Empire. Nayland and Pete stopped for a minute, to absorb the atmosphere that exists nowhere else on earth. Ships’ wakes splashing upon the sea wall, moaning and dinging buoys, whistles of maneuvering vessels, chugging of boat engines, hawking of fishmongers; these just a few of the port’s sounds, echoing through the morning mist that would soon be dispersed by the sun.
   Ascending the stairway to the governor’s offices, they overtook a portly police officer, who seemed to be taxed by the effort of climbing. The officer smiled meekly as they entered the outer office.
   A bored looking civil servant recognized the men, and greeted the officer, whom he ushered into a conference room. “Perhaps you gentlemen would find interest in the police report,” he said to them, aware that they were investigating mysterious homicides. “You are welcome to attend the briefing.”
   “Thank you,” Nayland replied, and they took seats around the table.
     The briefing was opened by an aide to the governor, who explained that they had been covertly attempting to verify what were considered aberrant activities here in the Crown Colony. “We know we cannot eradicate the use of opium among the indigent population,” he said, “nor squelch rampant prostitution, as it exists in every port.” The officer, though, would address more distressing practices, they were told.
   Opening a manila folder and shuffling the papers it contained, the officer began his presentation. “We wish we could be more definitive,” he said with hesitation, “but all we have are innuendoes and rumors. The few whom we suspect refuse to confirm what reports we consider reliable.”
   “What’s he talking about?” Pete whispered to Nayland, who frowned a “hush” at him. He was as curious as Pete was, but didn’t want to miss anything. Then, it became clearer why the officer was so cautious with his words.
     “We have reason to believe that, right here under our noses, men, and perhaps women too, are holding revolting ceremonies, if that’s the word, involving sado-masochistic practices.”
   Every pair of eyebrows around the table was raised, as incredulous expressions, sincere or otherwise, appeared on the listeners’ countenances– but not on Petrie’s. His was more of interest, than of disbelief, a fact that was not lost on Nayland.
   The officer was quite general in his descriptions, as much out of his discomfiture as his lack of specific information. There were apparently no crimes of violence being perpetrated; it appeared that participation in these vulgar activities was voluntary, and whatever punishments the participants endured were consensual.
   Pete couldn’t restrain his curiosity. “You mean, men go to this place willingly, and are subjected to physical punishment?”
   “That seems to be the case,” the officer replied.
   “The intention, the motive, then, would be sexual fulfillment?” Pete continued.
   “So I would assume,” he was told. “Our department psychologist thinks there is no other feasible motivation. Rarely has anyone been injured, that is, so as to require the attention of a physician.”
   “Are you, I mean are the authorities, intending to take legal action should they obtain competent evidence of participants’ identities?” Pete asked.
   “I am told that no laws are being broken,” was the answer.
     Pete interpreted this as a “no”, Nayland as a non-answer; his interpretation was that they would, if they could. Nayland suspected that Pete fancied another reason why men might do this– to prove they can take it!
   Disturbed as he was by Pete’s apparent interest in this sado-masochistic group, club, society– whatever, Nayland had an obsession of his own– Fu Manchu, or more specifically right now, Fah Lo Suee. He quickly weighed in his mind, the consequences of their being exposed, involved in such a circumstance– disgrace, humiliation, banishment from wherever gentlemen congregate, would be among the consequences. Few in the circles to which they belonged would be sympathetic to such activity, unless it was unmistakably in the line of duty… and successful!
   Nayland made a difficult decision, but it had to be made. Rising to address the staff as well as the officer, Nayland revealed his roving commission which gave him authority to act for the Crown, superior to all government officials. He elaborated on his quest to find and neutralize the Yellow Peril personified by the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, and without specifically describing the tortures to which he had been subjected, he stated the rationale for his intent to pursue, quite under cover, this “aberrant activity.” Key factors in his decision were: it was suspected that women, as well as men, participated; Fu Manchu’s daughter was as dangerous as the Doctor himself, since she was attempting to wrest control of the Si-Fan from him; the Si-Fan’s objective was domination of all European governments. Further, these two were known to have committed shocking abductions and murders. It was within the realm of possibility that circumstances such as had been described, might be indoctrination, a training mechanism, for their treacherous pursuits. It was feasible that recruits might be identified among the participants.
   They proceeded to Police Headquarters, where Nayland and Pete were told all that was known, or could be hypothesized, that might bring about an infiltration of this organization. They were told the suspected location, and the frequency of meetings there. As a matter of fact, tomorrow was Wednesday, and most reported activity had taken place on a Wednesday. Their being Caucasian was not to be a problem, participants were of numerous races. One Portuguese sailor had admitted his fantasy of being tortured by Orientals! Hearing this, Nayland averted his eyes from Pete, afraid of seeing evidence that he might be sporting an erection. As hopeful as he was about the success of this operation, Nayland had, somehow, to impress on Pete that it was in pursuit of their prey, not for fulfillment of his fantasies.
   Having learned all that was available for them to learn, they returned to their flat to make plans.
   It was near midnight when Nayland and Pete left the flat, upon the adventure that had been conceived with dubious judgment. Clad in dark, somewhat unkempt clothing, they hoped to blend with whatever Caucasian riffraff might be seeking fulfillment of a most uncommon nature. Such were the few souls who ventured along the quay wall, whether hurrying to a destination of questionable repute, or plodding quite aimlessly, nowhere to go.
   They eventually came upon the alley that had been described to them, and entered it with a confidence that was really bravado. Warned that the activity they hoped to observe was thought to be accessible only through a dreadful opium den, they anticipated an unpleasant introduction to their ominous experience. The access was apparently located above a barber shop, the proprietor of which was named Shen Yan.
   From behind a quite filthy curtain that spanned the entry to the barber shop, appeared a Chinese, clad in a loose smock, black trousers and thick soled slippers. “Too late, shop shut!” he declared. Nayland called upon his latent xenophobia, and roared with surprising gruffness, “Don’t you come wi’ none o’ that to me.” Shaking a fist under the man’s nose, he slipped a coin into his hand and ordered, “Get inside and gimme an’ my mate a couple o’ pipes. Smokee pipe, you yellow scum, savvy?”
   Pete watched, frightened, really, by his friend’s uncharacteristic performance.
   “Keep me waitin’ an’ I’ll pull yer dam’ shop down.”
   “Place full up, no room,” Shen Yan protested. “You come, see.”
   He disappeared behind the dirty curtain, Smith and Petrie following, and ran up a dark stair. The next moment found them in an atmosphere that was literally poisonous. It was all but unbreathable, being loaded with opium fumes; they had never experienced anything like it. A tin oil lamp on a box in the middle of the floor dimly illuminated the horrible place, about the walls of which ten or twelve bunks were arranged and all of them occupied. Most of the occupants were lying motionless, several noisily sucking at the little metal pipes.
   “No room, same as tell you” said Shen Yan.
   Nayland walked to a corner and dropped cross-legged on the floor, pulling Pete down with him. “Get pipe quick, no need bunks,” he said.
   Egged on both by Nayland’s continued harassment and by a dreary voice from one of the bunks, telling him to give them a pipe to shut them up, ShenYan shrugged, and shuffled to the box that held the smoky lamp. Holding a needle in the flame, he dipped it, when red hot, into an old cocoa tin, and withdrew it with a bead of opium adhering to the end. Slowly roasting this over the lamp, he dropped it into the bowl of the metal pipe which he held ready, where it burned with a spirituous blue flame
   “Shouldn’t we try to get all the way inside,” Pete asked nervously, as they waited. “They said go through here, not take part here.”
   “This looks like a place where we can learn something else, first,” Nayland replied. “This could be where men acquire the ‘courage’ to enjoy being tortured!” He took the pipe when it was offered and pretended to suck heartily. Passing it to Petrie, he whispered, “Whatever you do, don’t inhale!”
   Acting the part, they gradually slouched, then sprawled on the floor. With nothing further to accomplish, Shen Yan noiselessly withdrew.
   Nayland began to whisper softly. “We seem to be successful so far,” he said. “I see there is a stair right behind you, half concealed by a ragged curtain. We are close to it, and well in the dark, but let’s not move until the others are far under.” Then he pressed Pete’s arm with a warning, “Shhh!”
     Through half-closed eyes they perceived a shadowy form near the curtain. He moved slowly into the room with a curiously lithe movement. The smoky lamp in the middle of the room afforded scant illumination, but they were able to make out a ghastly parchment face with small, oblique eyes, an oddly shaped head crowned with a coiled pigtail, surmounting a slight, hunched body. From Nayland’s earlier description, Pete realized that Fu Manchu in no way resembled this crouching apparition, but instinct and his intelligence training assured him that this was one of the deranged doctor’s followers, perhaps a member of the murder group. Indeed, in the files in Rangoon he’d seen a description of such a hunchback.
   Hoping that the other opium smokers had drifted off, Nayland nudged Pete, as the loathsome man left the room. “Let’s see what’s up the stairs. I see no other way to get beyond here.” They were at the threshold of Pete’s fantasy, and he felt giddy with a delicious mix of dread and desire, somewhat tempered with trepidation.          
   As soon as the steps bore their weight, they gave way. Hinged at the top, the entire staircase pivoted, and the men tumbled down them onto a hard floor below. Rubbing bruised knees and elbows, they eased into the darkness at the edge of the room. Surely, their dramatic entrance could not have gone unnoticed, but no one approached them.
   Huddling in apprehensive silence, they hear the sound of whiplashes, and guttural grunts coming from within the cavernous space, beyond a stone partition. Various ominous appurtenances registered in their consciousness, as they became acclimated to the dim light. It was as though they had become time travelers, whisked back five hundred years in time, to the Tower of London or a Borgia palace. They were in an awesome torture chamber.
   Huddling in the dark, they heard the frightful lashing continue, the choked voice gasping in desperation. Despite the danger, Pete was compelled by curiosity to peer around a thick column and see the source of the intriguing sounds. A chandelier’s flickering tapers illuminated the scene. A man, stripped to the waist, was stretched upon a large upright wheel. To demands of “Confess, confess!” he defiantly answered, “Itch bin keen Feigning English!”
   No, that man was not an English coward, as he was vehemently insisting. It was Dieter, from the German consulate, who was being tortured.
   Pete nodded to Nayland, and they exchanged “What the fuck?” looks of confusion. Was Deke here voluntarily, a “client”, so to speak? Or was he an actual prisoner, enduring a brutal interrogation? Who wanted to know what, from whom? Other prisoners (or “volunteers”?), all Orientals, were restrained in various forms of bondage throughout the dungeon, but only Deke was of interest to them.            
   A tingling in Pete’s loins, brought on by the erotic display of the handsome German stretched tightly on the arched rack, his magnificent chest crises-crossed with darkening welts, rapidly dissipated when an unfriendly voice spoke.
   “I see you gentlemen understand directions.” It was, in plain clothes, Officer Jonas Baxter, one of the police officers who had briefed them the previous day. “We have been expecting you.”
   The men stood, still quite confused. “I thought you were trying to force this sort of place out of business,” Nayland said.
   “And what is our German friend doing here?” Petrie asked.
   “There is very much more to it than you would have realized,” they were told.
   He nodded to two of the several muscular Chinese who were supervisors of the activities. They approached and stood flanking the intruders.
   “We have numerous purposes here. Some men simply enjoy pain, others such as Herr Braun; have need of enhancing their ability to resist. He comes in every few weeks and challenges us to make him admit that he is an English coward. We haven’t broken him yet, but of course it would be quite inconvenient if he were made unfit for duty, so his torture remains ‘safe’, you see.”
     Petrie could not subdue the renewed stiffening he felt, as he looked at Deke’s sensational body, arched over the torture wheel. Bare-chested, not stripped naked, he apparently sought only psychological, not sexual gratification from his abuse.
   “So… clients, if that’s the term,” Pete hesitated, trying to find the words, “are tended to as they, um, feel some sort of, ah, interest…”
   “There is a fee, of course,” Baxter interrupted, “and the more restrictive the terms, the higher the fee.” What he didn’t say was that for those who are here involuntarily, there is no fee; their suffering is payment enough.
   Nayland, sensing that Pete was on the verge of negotiating an implausible realization of pure fantasy, and uncomfortable with the tacit hostility of their two attendants, searched for words that might extract them from the premises. Before he spoke, though, another player entered the scene.
   “There is more, that Mr. Baxter has not told you,” said a sultry feminine voice. “You’ll remember, Commissioner Smith, that I like big strong men.”
   Holy Dragon Lady! Thought Nayland. It was Fah Lo Suee! Nayland’s intuition had been on the mark, this place was somehow connected to Fu Manchu’s broad scheme of terror. The presence of the hunchback confirms it; there must be some indirect communication between father and daughter.
   Dressed not in one of her extravagant silk gowns, but in a dark shirt, jodhpurs and tall boots, Fah Lo Suee approached. As she spoke, the two heavies moved to seize the Englishmen. In a flash, Nayland drove a fist into the gut of his guard, and followed up with a rabbit punch, while Pete similarly attacked the other man. Reinforcements were immediately on the scene, for which they proved no match, and they were soon held in steel grips at biceps and wrists.
   They hadn’t noticed that Deke had been released, and was toweling himself, with a smug expression of satisfaction. Still the Teutonic hero, he was thinking.
He did, though, see them, and his interest was immediately piqued.
   Fah Lo Suee approached Nayland, lay her hands on his chest, and pouted. “You spurned me once, when I tried to help you,” she purred.
   “I found out in Canton what your help consists of,” he replied.
   “And you destroyed my father’s field laboratory,” she accused. “As much as I despise the man, I do think you ought to repay him for that.”
   She turned to Petrie. “I think I need some fresh meat to amuse myself.” Her smile was alluring, if cold. “Ah, yes,” she breathed, unbuttoning his shirt, slipping her hands inside, cupping his pecs, pinching a nipple.
   “Bitch!” Nayland shouted, earning a powerful punch to the solar plexus.
   “Take him away!” Fah Lo Suee ordered. “Hire a boat and take Commissioner Denis Nayland Smith to my father at Shangri-La.”
   “It will take time to arrange a charter, and it is the middle of the night,” Baxter commented. “Might I suggest, Princess, that we enjoy a little sport with these gentlemen, while transport is being arranged?”
   “I’ll see you in hell, you bloody traitor!” Nayland shouted, earning another powerful fist into his abs.
   “Excellent, Constable. The night will be long.” Looking around, Fah Lo Suee mused, “What to do…?” Seeing shackles suspended from a pulley overhead, she smiled. “Get their shirts off. We’re going to have a little sporting contest here.”    
   Petrie was having some pretty bad Qi. All that registered in the turmoil of his mind was the thought… I say, this has been a shitty day all ’round.
   Minutes later, the two Englishmen, stripped to the waist, were suspended by the wrists in the center of the chamber. They hung a few feet apart, their shoes just off the floor. Fah Lo Suee had directed that they face each other so they could better savor the camaraderie of suffering their floggings together.
   The traitor Baxter assumed the privilege of whipping the Prime Minister’s commissioner, and he suggested to Deke, who was standing off to the side wondering what this was all about, that he whip Petrie.
   “Surely you have some latent resentment toward the British that would inspire you to lay it on,” he offered.
   Deke demurred, saying he had no quarrel with these men. Unsaid, was that he rather liked them.
   “Oh come, Herr Klaus,” Fah Lo Suee chimed in. “Just whose national policy is it to belittle their German cousins, in Prussia and elsewhere? Who counters your country’s every move to colonize, to better its trade balance, to expand its world markets?” She was orating passionately now. “Who has kicked your Kaiser in the teeth with his alliances with France and Russia, who played his unfriendly hand in Turkey and Morocco, let alone the south of Africa? Who is the renegade German who calls himself King and Emperor? George is the name, George V of the ‘British’ House of Saxe-Coburg, son of the late despicable Edward VII, and here are two of his most valuable assets, two big strong men who thrive on disparaging everything you hold dear. Do it, Deutchlander! Whip this deceitful spy!”
   “There is no doubt who is the better man, here,” the treacherous Baxter added. “Didn’t you just demonstrate to us on the torture wheel, that you are a man whose courage is to be admired, a man who submits to us to prove his manhood?”
   “I do not submit!” Deke exclaimed, angrily. “I agree. I am not submissive. There is nothing submissive about agreeing to be tortured.”
   A bit flustered by the rebuke, Baxter added, “But you can make this cowering Englishman submit. When, again, will you have the opportunity to punish a major official in the British clandestine intelligence service?” He held out the coiled whip to Deke. “You know what you want to hear… ‘Ich bin Feigling Englisch’, make him admit that he’s an English coward!”
   Caught in a no-win situation, the muscular German took the lash, a braided cat, from Baxter. He hadn’t known of the status of these two, he’d thought they were administrative civil servants of some sort, at Government House. Perhaps now he was less reluctant to stripe the broad back of the man he’d thought was a friend.
   As the others gleefully anticipated the show, Deke stood beside Pete, his arm stroking his back as though teasing the target. He whispered, “Make it look good.”
Petrie knew he looked good! Was this a derisive challenge, or was it meant as encouragement to bear up like a man?
   Then they stepped back and swung. The first lashes were almost simultaneous, Baxter’s cat snapping off Nayland’s back, Deke surprisingly adept with his. The suspended men twisted, squirmed, in a vain attempt to evade the searing sting of the whips. The lashes assumed a rhythmic cadence, a crackling snap on a bare back, followed by a choked gasp, these echoed as the other felt another stroke of the vicious cat. An occasional lash would wrap around, strike a tender pit, perhaps a nipple, punctuating the litany of gasps and “uh”s with a more emphatic “Yaagh”.
It was a symphony of lust to the sadistic Baxter; to his reluctant accomplice, it was, at first anyway, a cacophony of injustice. He hated doing this to a man, he thought, but for an inexplicable reason, began to enjoy doing it. It was his first encounter with a realization known to those who practice this manly activity: there is no sport in torturing a wimp, but it can be very exciting when you have a real man, a defiant man, a man who can take it.
   “Faster, faster!” Fah Lo Suee demanded. “ Make them say it! English cowards, admit it!” she shouted with lascivious enthusiasm.
   Reflexive jerking in suspension caused the men to swing, occasionally to bump against each other. Their despairing gasps gradually abated, became weaker as the floggings continued. Lurching and kicking became less energetic, they hung more limply, flexing less as they obstinately resisted. Pete was determined to hold out, but he knew that Nayland would never break, so holding out only prolonged Nayland’s torture too! Fuck! he thought. Fucking sadistic bitch! Fucking bastard traitor! He also knew that he could never take this, had he not the inspiration of Nayland’s determined defiance strengthening him. Despite the inferno raging on his ravaged back, seeing his friend endure the same ordeal so impassively, Pete felt that familiar warmth of admiration surge into him. What the fuck, he thought… how can seeing my man suffer, be erotic for me? He subconsciously knew the answer; watching a fucking he-man take it, watching his defiant refusal to break, was erotic! Especially if he were your hero… especially if you shared his torture.
   The effort was taking its toll on the malevolent Baxter, too. He suggested that a new phase might “liven up this mundane performance.” Handing his whip off to one of the attendants, he told Deke to do the same. He called for another of the attendants. “One of the long belts and two leather strops,” he ordered.
     “What we are missing here, is humiliation,” the turncoat constable declared. “These men are, we must admit, strong both in body and fidelity. If pain will not break their unyielding spirit, perhaps humiliation will!”
     He reached around Nayland, undid his belt, and pushed his trousers down over his hips. Obeying a nod from him, one of the attendants did the same for Petrie, his effort made easier by Fah Lo Suee’s having already unbuckled Pete’s belt. Baxter took the long leather belt he’d asked for and slung it around the thighs of the suspended prisoners, cinching it tight, drawing their hips and their naked manhood, into close contact. If Pete had been bewildered by his reaction to simply watching Nayland being tortured, it was mind-bending now, to feel his thighs pressed against Nayland’s, to have his cock solidly in contact with Nayland’s own, to feel his and Nayland’s balls crushed together. It was not an entirely new sensation for him; they had had many a raucous night of masculine sex and knew each others’ bodies intimately… but never in public, never in bondage… never in a torture chamber! His emotions torn between fear and lust, each battling to subdue the other, Pete could not suppress the swelling and stiffening that pressed him harder against Nayland’s imposing cock. He was soon to learn an important truth that has helped many a man deal with torture: arousal masks the pain.
   Dexter handed one of the broad leather strops to Deke. “Now, let us awaken the latent pleas for mercy that these men have within them. Fuck the ‘Feigling Englisch,’ let’s hear some begging from these cowards. We can bring it out!
Let’s whip some ass!
   “What are you doing? Don’t let them down!” Fah Lo Suee screamed, when she saw one of the supervising attendants slacking the hoist that held the men suspended. Baxter saw what the man was doing, but although he would not have ordered it, he had not objected. The staff was accustomed to working with consensual clients who came here for their own private reasons, (and paid well for the experience!), and it was a usual practice to ease off between scenes in a lengthy act. An attendant wiped their brows with a soft terry cloth, to relieve the sting of salty sweat that likely was irritating their eyes. It was the irrational conventional wisdom that “a man doesn’t want to be uncomfortable while he is being tortured!” Nor does he want to be desensitized so he doesn’t feel it, as is the case with prolonged suspension, the limbs being numbed by one’s weight on his restraints.
   The respite was not without its own torments, though, as spears of pain shot through their shoulders, tingling needles jabbed at their arms, when movement was again possible, and when blood again flowed normally. They were unsteady on their feet, swaying as balance shifted from one to the other. Being tightly bound together at thigh level, they were hobbled, and unbalanced because the attachments overhead were fixed, so they were arched backward, chests not in contact. The motion, like standing on a rolling deck at sea, rubbed Pete’s hard cock against Nayland’s. Pete could feel Nayland swell, but consciously adding to the friction with his own pumping hips, he could not generate an arousal to match his own.
   Baxter nonchalantly walked around his prisoners, taking a couple of moderate preliminary swats at the exposed buttocks. It amused him to observe that Nayland’s ass was firm, muscular, while Petrie’s was more supple, little waves of flesh were generated by the impact. Nice asses, though, both, no argument there.
   Pete continued to luxuriate in the contact with Nayland’s nakedness, but his excitement was not shared. Nayland’s eyes seem unfocused; it was as though he could shift his consciousness into neutral and ignore what was being done to him. Pete had, unfortunately, let a hard cock overcome reality, which returned with a jolt as they were roughly yanked into suspension again.
   WHUPPP the sadistic constable walloped Nayland’s bare ass, then          THWACK Deke’s powerful swing sent a bolt of lightning into Pete. The pendulum of agony resumed its irregular swing, as the leather strops struck again and again, the suspended targets thrashing in pain, desperately twisting to and fro. Despite his stoicism and refusal to show emotion, Nayland could not control the spasms of his suspended body as it was so deliberately beaten. Pete didn’t try to dampen, but to increase the effect of their bodily contact. With every impact of the relentless leather, more intense pain shot through his body, straight into his raging cock, throbbing, pulsating in ecstatic agony. Awww… sheeeit… he was totally enraptured… aw, shit… yeah… he was being tortured… and he was… oh man… Panting, his lungs bursting, he strained against his shackles, desperately trying to make contact with that chest. Ah, yah, that fucking chest, that most beautiful chest stretched right there before him. Man, he wanted to lick that chest, he wanted to nuzzle into those extended pits. Ahh, yaahh, Pete’s jumbled mind rambled… man… cock… fuckin’ cock gonna burst… c’mon man, get hard … hard for me, man… THWAAK   yeah I want it man… THWACK   oh yeah… SWAAATT   yeah man… just fuckin’… torture me man… WHAACK   “Yaaahh”, his passionate arousal became verbal,   SMAAACK “Yahh… SWAATT   Yeeee…   WHUUUPP Oooh, yeah… WHAAAP   yeh… C’mon… WHAAAK   man… yeah   THWAAACK   just…”
   Pete’s body stiffened as the relentless hard leather strop brought him screaming to the brink. “Yaaggh… WHOMMP just fuckin’… SWAAATT   yeahh, yahh …
SMAACK just fuckin’ torture… THWOMP   torture… me… man!   WHAACK
Yeeeooowwww!!!   Yahh… yeah…”
   The exhausted man vibrated in the convulsive throes of a monumental orgasm, the geyser spewing up onto both their bare chests. Then… WHAAACK
Dr. Petrie learned something else that practitioners of this manly sport have known for a long time: not only does arousal mask the pain, but when arousal is spent, after you come, it hurts like a son of a bitch! The fantasy of dealing with torture gives way to the reality of suffering torture… and there is a huge difference.
   Given the total collapse of this prisoner’s enthusiasm, it was time for the beating to cease. “If I’d seen that coming, I’d have backed off and denied it. That’s the most diabolical torture of all,” Baxter said. Hearing this, Pete’s heart sank. This is what he was all about, he had to experience the exquisite torture of orgasm denial, but he had got off on it, it had not been denied.
   Damn, Deke thought, maybe I have been missing something all this time. I get a wonderful sense of accomplishment, when I deal with it, he reassured himself, but, wow, I learned something today. Could never let this crowd see me turn on to it, though. Maybe these guys…maybe another time…
   The strap that held them together was released, and the beaten and blistered prisoners swung apart, then weakly stood, trembling in exhaustion when their feet reached the floor. Not only did Pete’s sexual release bring on the reality of pain, but it also brought on abject humiliation, having these people, particularly a Chinese woman, see him soaked with his own semen, and worse, having them see his best friend made the victim of his wanton performance
     Nayland was still uncommunicative. Had Pete lost him? Could he be forgiven? Perhaps Nayland was just in his neutral state of mind, quietly dreading being taken to Fu Manchu.
   Providentially, Fah Lo Suee said she had to get back to unfinished business in Canton, so at least she would not be witnessing whatever further degradation they were to suffer. Then too, her men returned from the docks, having procured a boat for the transit to Shanghai, thence to proceed to Shangri-La. She was pleased that she was still there to see Nayland taken away.  
   Baxter was disappointed that his “sport” was to be cut short. He longed to work on the two majestic bare chests that rose and fell in an inadvertent display of their stunning beauty, as the Englishmen recovered, breathing heavily and rapidly. He had just the tools to bring those chests to new peaks of blazing torment. Well, at least he still had the East India Company spy to play with.
   Desperate as his situation was, Nayland was about to attain one goal; he was going to find the real Shangri-La. As his captors dragged him away, Fah Lo Suee shouted after them, “You are free to amuse yourselves on the voyage, but be sure he is hale and hearty when you deliver him.” Then she left by another exit.
   Trying to comprehend what he had got himself into, Pete’s heart ached as Nayland was taken away. He might never see him again! And he was still captive in this terrifying place. He needn’t have wondered any longer what they were going to do to him. Constable Baxter snarled at Deke, “Klaus, help me get that Englishman on the rack.”
   Nayland lay face down on a blanket that had been spread for him, in the hold of a small intra-coastal cargo ship. It was really an ocean voyage from Hong Kong to Shanghai, but the weather forecasts were favorable, and the captain could not resist the lucrative payment he was offered, to get the British government official, Denis Nayland Smith, to Shanghai. The captain was assured that his ship would be met by individuals who would handsomely compensate him for his loyalty.
   Nayland lay face down because it was painful to lie on his back. Although not bloody, the skin not broken save a couple of minor cuts, his back was extremely tender. It was well that he could not look in a mirror and see his ass, the creamy smoothness of its firm muscular globes, quite raw. In his compassion, the captain had sent a man to massage Nayland’s ravaged body with a soothing aloe lotion. This was a far cry from the treatment he had expected, after Fah Lo Suee had told them to do what they wanted with him, provided he was kept healthy. Nayland almost chuckled when he’d heard that; it was not the first time his captors had been told, “Torture him but don’t hurt him!” When he first saw the crew’s lecherous smirks as they carried him aboard, he’d expected to be bound over a capstan and sodomized, this said to be a common fate of British men… especially if they were strong and handsome, as he was… who were so unfortunate as to be at the mercy of Chinese sailors. Too, this might have been racist rumor.
   On the second night of the voyage, Nayland was invited to dine with the captain. “Dine”, it turned out, was a euphemism for nearly gagging on spongy rice and boiled fish, reeking of soy sauce. The captain’s quarters were small, dingy and unbearably hot, but Nayland was well trained in appearing comfortable under adverse conditions. They discussed trade, world markets, but the captain’s many years of commerce in this part of the world had shown him the one-sided benefits of “trade”. He was not sympathetic to European imperialism. They talked too, of the sometimes violent competition among Europeans, as perhaps symptomatic of instability on the continent itself. Nayland found the captain to be much more cognizant of, and with more comprehension of international affairs than might be assumed for a man in his position.
   “The arrogance of you British, while exerted perhaps in a more gentlemanly fashion than by others, is nonetheless the major element in our animosity,” the captain declared. “At this point in time, one fifth of the world’s land and one fourth of its people are under British rule. There is, apparently, more stability among the six great powers since the emergence of the current balance, but that balance could be easily tipped by a minor aberration.”
   Nayland knew he was referring to the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and the Triple Entente, France, Russia and Great Britain. It was true that the balance of power was a key element in avoiding hostilities, but that “minor aberration” was unpredictable. The Balkans, Nayland postulated; it was in the Balkans that the balance was most likely to be upset. Russia and Austria had the greatest designs there, and they had allies who were bound to support them.
   The captain had, probably unintentionally, seduced Nayland into a false sense of security with his intelligent camaraderie and concern for his comfort. It was an abrupt letdown then, when “the other shoe” was dropped.
   Now that his soreness had subsided, Nayland could understand, the captain was sure, that his crew deserved a little recreation, unfortunately at his expense. It was a rare treat for them, to have so handsome a European embarked, and they would so enjoy admiring his remarkable physique. Their admiration might at times be a bit uncomfortable, but not really hazardous to health. He did understand, didn’t he?
   Nayland understood only too well. He was going to be tortured, but he would be delivered to Fu Manchu in good health. He had to hand it to these Orientals; they knew incredibly painful ways to “not hurt” a man!
   With controlled sarcasm, Nayland thanked the captain for his hospitality and accompanied his two escorts back to the hold where he had been detained. Minutes later, he had been stripped naked, and stood against an inner bulkhead with wrists roped to a cargo hook above. The sailors, excited and chattering, had left, no doubt to retrieve whatever ingenious devices they planned to use, to “admire” his naked body. What of Pete, he wondered, as he tried not to dwell on what the eager young sailors planned to do to him. Pete had been constantly on his mind since his abduction. Was Pete still a prisoner or had he escaped? Had Deke remained allied with the turncoat police officer? Why did the Chinese have a Western-style torture chamber for their fun and games? They knew particularly intense, imaginative ways to inflict excruciating pain. Why were they not practicing their finesse in traditional oriental ways?
   Back in the Crown Colony, Petrie was no longer a prisoner, but Nayland could not know how it had played out. Neither could he know that, in Rangoon, Percy Rohmer-Jones was frantically trying to locate him, and his intelligence officer, Flinders Petrie. Rohmer-Jones had received an insistent communiqué from the Prime Minister. A Serbian had assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the House of Hapsburg, and turmoil was the order of the day on the continent, as all Europe anticipated the explosion of the huge powder keg that was the Balkan Peninsula. So far, cool heads prevailed among the leadership of the great powers, but the slightest miscalculation, even a minor misunderstanding, could plunge the world into chaos. The Prime Minister was demanding that Nayland’s mission be aborted and that he immediately proceed to London. Immediately proceed? London was thousands of miles away and Jules Verne was not here to provide transport. Fu Manchu was going to have to idle on the back burner, and Mr. Asquith was going to have to wait for Denis Nayland Smith to be located.
   Nayland could not know all this, lashed to an iron hook in the hold of a ship in the East China Sea, as three sailors entered the hold. One carried a burlap sack that contained, judging by the rattling, metal objects of some sort. Another, older and apparently more experienced, manipulated a coil of rope. The third man reached out to “admire” Nayland’s impressive naked body.
   The man with the burlap sack set it, with a thud, on a workbench. Nayland
decided his name would be Tar. The older man, who carried the rope, was working it, separating the strands and braiding another, thicker line. He would be Bosun. As he worked, Nayland saw that he was creating a flexible series of braided strands, that could be, probably was, a whip. The third sailor, youngest of the three, was getting his kicks rubbing his bare chest against Nayland’s naked body and teasing his manhood with tapping, stroking fingers. The boy– he was hardly more than that– was ecstatic as he nuzzled, licked, pinched and nibbled. Nayland named him Boy. This naming thing was a psychological way to relate to the sailors, and tacitly communicate with them, while they were doing whatever they had in mind. The illusion that he knew them made it easier to deal with whatever they did; it was as though he were participating with them, rather than being used by them.
   The sailors said little, and Nayland had no idea what they were saying anyway. It would have been nice, though, to have an idea what they planned to do.
   They led him up a ladder to the well deck, in the forepart of the ship. Here, they were not in view from the pilot house, nor from fishing vessels that might pass close aboard. It wouldn’t matter if the captain saw them, except that he preferred not to. Then, he had no direct knowledge that such activity occurred on his ship.
   Bosun and Tar picked up a section of grating, about six feet square, and leaned it against the after bulkhead of the well. After tying a long line onto his makeshift whip, Bosun tossed it over the side and let it stream in the bow wave while they got Nayland spread-eagled on the grating.
   “Ship… flog.” It was Bosun’s first attempt at English. He was saying that this is the logical punishment on a ship– flogging. Nayland’s wrists were cinched to the top corners of the grating, and his legs spread as far apart as they could be without tearing his thigh muscles. It felt as though he was being pulled in four directions by water buffaloes, so tight was his bondage. His chest pressed hard against the grating, as did his hips, and his balls were crushed against the solid wood. The summer sun beamed down, and Nayland’s body shone with sweat.
   He couldn’t see what they were doing, but the sounds were descriptive; the whip, heavy with sea water, was retrieved, feet shuffled on the deck, and… “Yaagghh!” the innocuous looking braided rope exploded across his shoulders. He was stretched so tightly that there was no “give” as the vicious lashing continued. Obviously Bosun had done this before. He paced the lashes so Nayland could take a few panting breaths between them, but his strength was rapidly sapped. Nayland didn’t try to suppress his screams, letting it out relieved some of the agony. What if they did make him scream, it’s no disgrace to scream when men are torturing you! This wasn’t a test of endurance, a challenge to hold back, a “make him talk” interrogation. This was blatant, ball-busting, brutal torture.
   The only movement his extreme bondage permitted was turning his head, and he snapped it back and forth with every searing lash. Hey, it was only a little more than two days since he’d been whipped with a regulation Royal Navy cat. No wonder this improvised implement was so fucking intense.
   Nayland was close to passing out, his back ablaze, his muscles cramped beyond pain. He would have slumped in exhaustion, were he not so tightly stretched. If he’d thought of it, he’d have wondered why they didn’t whip his bare ass, but perhaps their orientation was more “manly”, they weren’t into whipping ass.
   His feet were released first, so he could close his legs and stand tall, easing the tension on his wrists, which also were soon untied. He brought his hands down to shoulder level and leaned, panting, against the grating, taking in deep, rapid breaths. If they had sprayed kerosene on his back and ignited it, it couldn’t be more painful. Yeah… they were good at “torture without hurting!”
   Tar spoke. “Front now please.” Nayland was shuffled forward where the foremast of the ship rose through the deck from the keel, where it was anchored. He was pushed back against the rigid mast, the ropes still on his wrists were wrapped around it. The mast was too thick for his wrists to be tied together; he was embracing it behind him, in such a way that his arms nearly broke, his shoulders were sharply stressed. Bosun pressed on his shoulders, making Nayland cringe and gasp. Yes, Bosun, Nayland thought, yes it does “hurt good.” Fortunately his ankles were tied together so he could stand upright, his weight not on his bound arms.
   Bosun pressed the handle of his whip into Nayland’s navel and chuckled, then stuck it between the mast and Nayland’s bicep, freeing his hands. With his left, he massaged Nayland’s abs, then let loose a powerful right just below the navel. This was followed by another just above. Nayland’s arms strained in protest, Bosun laughed again and motioned to Tar to try it. Tar’s fist was not as powerful as Bosun’s but it was more proficiently deployed.
     Smiling broadly, Bosun took the whip from its niche and handed it to Tar, nodding his assent to use it. Boy held up a hand indicating “Wait”, and stepped close. He looked up at Nayland with adoring eyes. “Like,” he said, and caressed that magnificent chest. He licked and nibbled, biting hard on the firm nips, dark and round, the size of an English penny, that capped his muscled pecs. Nayland grimaced as the lad chewed on him, until Bosun pulled him back.
   Tar swung. SNAP! Holy shit that fucking hurts! Nayland’s curses could almost be heard back in Hong Kong. Tar stood beside him so the lash would strike the breadth of his chest, then stepped back and alternated forehand and backhand strokes that concentrated on his biceps and snapped across his pecs. Nayland let out an undulating scream that made his lungs ache, which delighted the lads no end. Rivers of sweat cascaded down his naked body, his eyes stung, his throat was afire. He could not evade, he was tied too tightly even to squirm as the relentless lash seared, ravaged his bare chest.
   It seemed forever, but it did end. He looked down. No, no blood. Irregular stripes, but no cuts, just an invisible raging inferno on a red and raw expanse of a man’s chest. Yeah, man, he knew. He knew all too well what it was to be tortured. Without being hurt! Tomorrow, he suspected, he would find out what was in the burlap sack. They hadn’t yet abused the most vulnerable target for man-torture.
   Later, confined but no longer bound, as he sat on a box in the hold– it was too painful to lie down– he longed for Pete. He worried about his sexual attraction to physical abuse, and about how he would stand up to it without Nayland’s support. Oh, shit, he thought. I hope my guy didn’t get anything like this. Pete hadn’t been exposed to the seamier, more brutal side of life as Nayland had; he wasn’t as experienced in the lustful intrigue and perils that were inimical to life in the Secret Service Bureau.
   It had been a couple of days, but soon after they had put to sea, Pete had indeed been tortured. Nice and slow. And Dieter Klaus had made it happen.
   The last thing Nayland had heard as he was being taken away from Petrie and the others, was Baxter telling Deke, “Help me get the Englishman on the rack.” While he was being taken to the docks and confined on the ship, activity continued in the fantasy dungeon that had become very real:
     “Damn, Mr. Baxter,” Deke protested. “I need a break. It’s not just from whipping a man all this time. Don’t forget, two of these goons of yours had me on that wheel for a few hours before that!”
   “And a beautiful sight it was,” Baxter said with a sadistic smirk, admiring the shirtless German’s impressive torso. “One of these days, though, I am going to get you stripped before you get arched over the wheel.”
   “As long as I am paying for it, I get it my way,” Deke answered. “And I want my trip for free in exchange for what I have been doing here.”
   “Deal,” said Baxter. “I’ll let the boys give you what you like getting, no charge next time. We aren’t through with this spy yet, though. Let’s get him strapped down before I leave. He just might have enough spunk left to try to take you on alone. I need to rest too, and check in at the office, so Liang here will go out and get you some food, and then you can do what you want before I come back.”
   The classic rack was in an alcove next to the wheel Deke had been on. Not just too weak, but too sensible to try to resist, Pete was secured on his back, ankles restrained at one end, wrists snapped into shackles that were attached, but loosely, to a chain that wound around a drum at the head of the forbidding contrivance. The drum was operated by a simple ratchet mechanism, and was now backed off to where he had enough slack to reach down to his chest, but no lower.
   “I don’t want any serious work done on him while I am gone,” Baxter said, and he and Liang left. All the others had already gone, and would not be back because the place would not be available for anyone’s use that day.
   When they were alone, Pete asked, “Why don’t we just get out of here?”
   “I’m surprised Baxter trusts me to keep you here,” Deke replied. “I guess, though, that he doesn’t know that we know each other.”
   “But why do you keep me here? Are you really looking forward to ‘doing’ me on this thing?”
   After an awkward pause, as though trying to decide what to do, Deke said “It’s complicated. I learned a lot today. About this… about myself.”
   “You learned that you like beating the shit out of a friend?”
   “Not that. About your reaction, and I wonder if I could react that way.”
   They were not so well acquainted as to share intimate thoughts, but Pete felt he had to assure Deke that his “reaction”– he knew Deke meant his getting off on it– had not been brought on by the flogging, but by the passionate fervor of sharing torture with Nayland.
   “I am not sure what happened,” he said. “I was suddenly overcome by the physical intensity of the situation, such close contact forced and inescapable.” He looked away, embarrassed. His explanation was only partly true; he’d got himself into this with the fantasy of emulating Nayland’s experience of “the most exquisite torture of all”, orgasm denial while getting his cock electrified. Instead, he was going to suffer vicious tortures on the rack.
   Deke picked up the previous thought. “Perhaps, too, we are not such good friends. I didn’t know you were an intelligence officer.”
   “We never asked what you did at your legation. We only enjoyed your companionship at the Ale House, and at our flat when you visited.”
   “We have the other connection, too, the reason we met, whether Fu Manchu had been behind the deaths of several of our associates.”
     This was getting to be too much “cat and mouse.” Pete was chained, naked, on the rack, forcing conversation with the man who had beaten him into exhaustion. He tried an indirect approach, not wanting to make it an appeal.
   “Perhaps we could catch up to Nayland’s kidnappers, and follow them to Shangri-La… and take down Fu Manchu!”
   “Perhaps. But not before we see this through.”
   “What will you do if Baxter wants you to torture me, not do it himself?”
   “I think that is what he intends.”
   “And you will do it. You want to do it. Will you… hold back?”
   “I will be careful. You know that I agree to this myself– you saw me– because it strengthens my self-respect. I know how far I can go. It can be painful, of course. But it is ‘safe’, as they say.”
   Pete recalled Nayland’s comments about fear; one can deal with torture if he has no fear for life and limb, whereas he might break and beg if that fear existed.
   “I heard him say that you could have another session on the wheel, after you were through with me. What does being ‘through with me’ mean?”
   “I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”
   Deke rose and paced, nervously. “I wish it were the other way around!” He walked over to the torture wheel, reached his arms up onto it, and leaned his bare chest against it. “I wish you could bring out of me what was brought out of you.” He looked at Pete, lying naked on the rack, and felt himself getting hard. “I want to see you take it like I have… and I want to be able to get from it what you got.”
   He came back to the rack, which stood just below waist high, and lay one hand on Pete’s thigh, the other on his chest. What might have become a definitive, decisive moment was lost, when Liang returned.
   “Chinee take-out, much good.” So much for the magic moment.
   With the strong, agile Liang there to assist if Petrie should rebel, Deke released him from his restraints to eat, and to allow him to do what people have to do, and then to rest on a wrestling mat in some semblance of comfort. The hour that Baxter would return was unknown; he would probably have to be seen at the police station for most of the day. Time passed agonizingly slowly in this strange arena of sado-masochistic play. The tension, the lead weight of apprehension in the pit of Pete’s stomach, grew heavier as the time passed. Pete vowed not to appeal to Deke again, not realizing that Deke’s resolve had weakened, he might well have succumbed to the strength of reason over capricious pseudo-sexual fantasy.
   Deke arose to break the discomfort of the attraction he felt to the man lying beside him on the mat. He approached the rack, going through the motions of checking to see that it “worked”. The drum rotated easily, the ratchet clicked and held as designed. He tested the foot pedal that raised metal hobnails through holes in the surface, pressing them into the back of a man so restrained. The handwheel that raised a lateral bar under the small of the man’s back, was functional. This feature of the device would arch his back, stretching him more intensely and emphasizing the vulnerability of his nakedness.
   Gazing at Pete’s stunning physique on the mat, Deke was moved to make this a truly special session. This would not be a routine “scene”. He was going to play this rare opportunity to the fullest. He exchanged his trousers for a leather peplum from the costume collection they maintained for clients’ special fantasies. Many liked the pretend status of being a slave in a Roman dungeon. His was to be the most sensational slave ever to be tortured in all of Rome’s turbulent history.
   It had to be nearly time…
   Baxter found little excitement at police headquarters concerning action in the Balkans. The Government House, though, was teeming with excitement. Reports were sketchy and confused, there being no direct communication with London. The Brits’ information was the most current, simply because of the extent of their empire and the number of ships they had at sea. Telegraphy was available across vast stretches of continent, and wireless communication between ships rendered valuable updates. While the principal responsibility for action in the China theater resided at Peking, the capital, Hong Kong was British territory and hence decisions made there required no diplomatic coordination. The potential for hostilities so far removed from Europe was real; foreign interests in Asia could become entangled in fallout from actions of European parent states. It was hopeful that general war would be avoided by intelligent diplomacy, but Austria was ready to march against Serbia, Germany was pledged to aid Austria, Russia would not permit Austria’s aggression nor German intervention; the fuse still burned on the powder keg.
   Constant demands from the highest levels of government continued to frustrate Government House– find Denis Nayland Smith and send him to London. Orders to locate Flinders Petrie and arrange for his return to Rangoon, were only slightly less urgent. They couldn’t know that Smith was being held on a ship, taking him on the first leg of his journey to Shangri-La, and Petrie was at that moment, awaiting the sadistic whims of one of their very own law enforcement officers.
   Pete did not resist when Deke reached out his hand to him. He took the hand and rose, obediently following as he was led to the rack. He mounted the awesome instrument himself, lay back and placed ankles and wrists beside the restraints that were to be locked onto him. Liang at his feet, Deke taking his arms, Pete was secured in his chains. The drum was rotated. A sudden flash of panic shot through him as he felt his body drawn taut. He had been assured that he would be “safe”; he knew Deke was going to impart indescribable pain to his naked body, but he would survive intact. Baxter, though, was the master of this dreadful place. Baxter had made no such assurance. Baxter had referred to being “through with him”. He wanted to trust Deke, he even wanted to please him, but Baxter was a true sadist. Liang was an unknown, but presumably would obey. Now that he was inescapably fettered and there was no reprieve possible, Petrie knew fear.
   Deke saw the fear blazing in Pete’s eyes. He ran a hand across his chest and onto his shoulder, gripping it lightly, meaning to put him at ease. Pete detected a slight smile on Deke’s handsome face. Was it a signal of reassurance? Or did it reflect his anticipation, his lustful pleasure? Two, three more notches on the drum…
   As Pete’s body drew taut, his chest arched high, his abs were flattened, the musculature of his beautiful physique emphasized under tension. Suddenly, Deke vigorously turned the drum, drawing Pete’s body more rigid. Pete was taken by surprise, knowing that they were to wait for Baxter, but his surprise turned into reality as his body tightened on the rough wood, his thighs stretched, he felt painful tension in his shoulders. “Hey… man…” his voice a whisper, so great was the pressure on his diaphragm.
 “Fuck Baxter,” Deke muttered .This was his man, this was his time, he had the most beautiful slave in all of Rome on the rack and he was going to torture him.
Strong hands stroked Pete’s chest. “Ja, mein Sklave, been flogged, ass belted… now… schone Brust, beautiful chest, meine Sklavin.” Deke leaned over the stretched torso, twisted one stiff nipple, bit hard on the other, running his free hand up and down the man’s arm. “Ja, beautiful man, my man.”
   He stood and reached for a short whip of several knotted strands, and “Ja!” he brought it crashing down across Pete’s bare chest. Click… click, just a couple more notches, just to get his man stretched to the limit of sanity. He delighted in making the schone Brust arch higher, as though daring him to whip it, to burn it, as it begged for the lash. Deke worked himself into a fury, lashing the chest that was boldly thrust at him until it became a sizzling expanse of pain, bruised, reddened, salty sweat sputtering as it boiled in the inferno that blazed on the man’s chest. Pete gasped, choked, but was unable to scream, so tightly was his body stretched.
   The whip was replaced with a small spiked mace, tapped, gently at first, then with increasing force onto the muscular mounds of his pecs, the hard round nips that crowned his magnificent chest burning as though seared with a branding iron. Deke’s fervor was fed by the guttural, choking sobs he drew from his man’s throat, as the intensity of the torture continued to increase.
   Deke backed off on the drum, the chains slackened but far from offering relief, new stabs of pain pounded through Pete’s joints as his position changed. His torso no longer stretched tight, Deke was able to grip the pads of his chest and screw ribbed c-clamps onto his nipples. The loosened chains rattled with Petes’s thrashing in response to this further torment. Deke then rotated the crank that raised the horizontal bar under Pete’s back, stretching him in a different way, arching his body, his arms bent back. As his chest muscles again stretched, the clamps became tighter, then the pain incredible as the clamps slowly slid off the most tender nips, and fell onto the rack; then more, varied tools were put to use.
   Deke fought the temptation to fondle the erection that had throbbed under his peplum since he first saw Pete’s naked body chained down. He wanted this to last, he wanted the torture to be “nice and slow.” Free to do anything he wanted to this beautiful man, it wasn’t raw sadism that inspired him, but a surge through his own body, of sensual masculine pride. He wanted Pete to feel the pride he felt when he himself was tortured (although he’d never been tortured like this!), and this was the man he’d whipped to orgasm, something he now longed for himself, to experience and to share.
   In the raised position of Pete’s body, his cock was right in front of Deke, and it was obvious that Pete was not “into” this. His normally virile manhood was lying dormant between his legs, balls hardly visible as they shrank in fear of abuse. This was a challenge for the powerful Folterknecht, the vibrant torturer.
   Sharp spikes, flexible needles tapped and teased Pete’s balls; wire, abrasive files, a small whip designed to beat a cock into submission, had the opposite effect when used erotically. Yes, it isn’t pain, it is stimulation, when it “hurts good.” Deke unlatched the bar under Pete’s back, letting his body down flat onto the rack, putting slack in the chains. Gradually, with his adept manipulation and provocative teasing, he made the balls distend, the proud shaft swell and begin to stiffen. Pete’s moans softened, his body began to vibrate with arousal.
   Deke unbuckled the waist of his peplum and flung it aside. He tossed the whip he’d used on Pete’s chest to Liang, who needed no further instruction. Deke flung himself on top of Pete’s stretched, naked body, gripping him under his extended arms, feeling the scorching heat of Pete’s ravaged chest as he rubbed his own back and forth on top of him. Liang’s lashing stung his back, every stroke tightening his grip on Pete’s arms, putting more desperation into the hot gasps that brushed Pete’s neck. So slippery with sweat was Pete’s body, that Deke easily jammed his pulsing ramrod between his taut thighs, beating his balls with his pelvis as he pumped his hips and tormented Pete’s hard-on with his quivering abs. As if in response to a silent signal, Liang moved his relentless lashing from Deke’s back onto his bare ass, sending the impulses of pain right through him, fueling the passion of his wildly throbbing cock. Lash after lash stung his ass, his thighs, then his back again.
   Crushed under the weight of this frenetic assailant, Pete could barely expel his gasps, “Yeh… Yuh… man…”
   Liang aimed at Deke’s ass again, bringing the lash down furiously, in hard rapid strokes. Deke tensed, on the brink. When he felt Pete’s hot juice pumped between them, he stiffened and screamed in agonized ecstasy, his powerful masculinity released, multiple spurts ejected with every lash of the whip.
   Liang was experienced enough to know to stop whipping him when he went limp. Arousal does mask the pain, but afterward… no shit, then it hurts!
   After the several minutes it took for the totally spent men to come down off their intense sexual plateau, Pete mumbled, “Get off me, you fucking Kraut bastard, and let’s get the fuck out of here.”
   Both looking like unkempt ruffians, Petrie and Klaus ducked into one of several waterfront saloons where they would attract little attention. They chose a particular one because Liang had said he would meet them here with news about Nayland’s abduction. They had not learned of the assassination in Sarajevo, nor that both Pete and Nayland were being summoned. Neither had spoken since they had parted from Liang and hastened away from the chamber of deviant pain and pleasure, thankful that they had evaded Baxter.
   Deke finally spoke. “Baxter will be supremely pissed.”
   “Fuck Baxter,” Pete replied. Trite, but what could be more appropriate to say?   Not sure himself if it were a question or a taunt, the glow of attraction he had for Deke made him ask, “Do you still want the free ride you were to get”?
   “The mood he’ll be in, I don’t think I could take it if he had me on that wheel.”
   “He’s going to get you stripped naked, you know. Like it or not.”
   Deke shrugged, unable to make any rational comment at this point. “I won’t admit that I’m afraid to do it,” he said, “but I’m not sure the fulfillment would be commensurate with the price of it. In pain, I mean.
   “Considering, as you say, the mood he’ll be in, I might be a little concerned about the ‘safe and sane’ rules, too.”
   “No, he’d be a cyclone from hell, but I don’t think he’d lose control.”
   “At any rate, I don’t think the scenario would include getting you off on it.”
   “Far from it,” Deke said with a sarcastic chuckle. “Might never get off again.”
   “You know,” Pete said, hesitantly, “I have to admit, you got me pretty fucking sizzling hot, and it was a sensational orgasm. Never had it like that, chained down, crushed under a grausamer Teutonic Hercules. But I still want something else.”
   “Hey, I don’t mind being a Teutonic Hercules, but I have never been cruel.”
   “Sorry, didn’t mean it in a literal way. But… I really didn’t want to get off.”
   “I’d say it was a remarkable imitation of one who desperately wants to get off.”
   “As I said, it was sensational, and the weight of your big strong body gave it just the right touch of domination, without my having to act submissive. I never would have thought it, but your line, ‘There is nothing submissive about agreeing to be tortured’, made a lot of sense, from the viewpoint of one who does what we did.”
   “But that isn’t the scene you want?”
   “No. I have an intense fantasy to be tormented by having a raging hard-on that is not allowed to reach climax. It doesn’t ‘hurt’ as does the physical torture, but Nayland told me it was ‘the most exquisite torture of all’, the nth degree of masculine suffering. Fu Manchu gave him a sample of it, but he got him off when he’d made Nayland beg for relief, which was his objective. He got the real thing then, from Fu Manchu’s goons when he was captive on the train to Canton.”
     [When he told Pete about it, Nayland had apparently left out the part about having sex with Hung Chan after the torture.]
   “He won’t do it to me so I can experience it, though; says he doesn’t think of me ‘that way’.”
   Deke thought Pete was leading up to asking him to “do it to me”, but they were interrupted by Liang. Some of the more undesirable clientele of the establishment voiced their racist displeasure at having a Chinese on the premises, so to spare him the taunts, they went outside.
   Liang knew a man who could lead them to Shangri-La, which was not far from Shanghai. Moreover, the man knew a boat, quite a fast one, that could be made available. The man was from Macao; the boat flew the Portuguese flag. Since it had been less that twenty-four hours, perhaps they could overtake Nayland. It sounded good until Liang mentioned the price the man wanted.
   “Damn, where will you get that kind of money?” Deke asked.
   “From the British East India Company,” Pete replied, without hesitation. This made Deke realize how little he knew about his “friends”.
   “I wish I could go with you,” Deke said.
   “I know, I also wish it, but we both understand why you can’t,” Pete replied. “I guess this is it for us, then, for a while anyway.”
   “Viel Gluck, mein Freund.” They shook hands.
   “And good luck to you too, my friend.” Pete felt a choking in his throat that prevented his saying more, but he hoped they’d meet again when he came back.
   Returning to the rooms he shared with Nayland, Pete tried to sneak in a rear entrance so as not to attract attention to his slovenly and beaten appearance. No luck there; men were posted to watch for him at every entrance. He was told by the manager that he and Nayland were both wanted immediately at Government House. This was the first he had heard of the crisis in Europe. He was told that he was wanted back in Rangoon, and Nayland in London.
     Hurriedly bathing and dressing, he then made for Government House at a brisk stride. He paid no heed to the gathering clouds, the oppressive humidity, nor the white caps that crowned the wavelets in the harbor. He didn’t notice the creaking of mooring lines, the mist caused by blowing spray as water beat heavier than usual against the quay wall. He didn’t miss the normal odor of fish and soy sauce that usually permeated the waterfront, from the charcoal stoves on the moored junks that were Hong Kong’s equivalent of a Rangoon slum. The only thoughts that occupied his mind were how could he get to Shanghai, and how could he find Nayland. The hell with Fu Manchu, he’s old news. Now, Nayland was the top story in Pete’s consciousness. He had the authority to act here in the name of the East India Company, but unlike Nayland, with his commission from the Prime Minister, he could not overrule the governor.
   The governor listened, and agreed in principle with Petrie’s assertion that in view of Nayland’s rank, it would be in keeping with their orders from London, to fetch him and spare him the fate that awaited him in Shangri-La. It would be infeasible to mount a military incursion; that would cause troubles that London didn’t need right now. The governor would think about it. He was relieved that he didn’t have to make a decision immediately. The worsening weather was headed northeast, and would make a voyage in so small a vessel as Petrie suggested, quite hazardous. The storm would cross the sea lane that Nayland was traversing, in about two days.
   Pete looked out at the swaying masts in the harbor, his heart aching for Nayland, who at that moment, was sitting down to dinner in the captain’s cabin, on the second night aboard his prison ship.
   The storm blew through, in a couple of days. Tropical storms are not unknown in the Pacific, but are less frequent than in the Atlantic. Hong Kong is in the latitude of the Bahamas, although with a less tropical climate. The storm headed for Taiwan, a frequent target of such depressions, and by the time Pete sailed, the storm had overtaken the coastal steamer Nayland was on.
   The governor had been talked into letting the East India Company provide for Petrie’s mission to Shangri-La, rather than sending him immediately back to Rangoon. The twenty-four hour lead that Nayland’s abductors had had was now more than three days, so there was no hope of intercepting them, but there was a contact in Shanghai who could get them to Shangri-La. Pete was up for anything that had a chance of success, even if he risked being abducted himself.
   Nayland was doing his best to hang on, in his corner of the hold, as the small coastal freighter rode out the storm. His prison was reminiscent of a coal bin in a rural home in England. It being oppressively hot in the enclosed space, he propped himself against the bulkhead, naked, as near a vent blower as he could get. He thought that at least his new friends would be either too seasick or too uninterested in him, given the violent rolling and pitching of the vessel. He was wrong. The experienced sailors didn’t get seasick, and it was too rough to get work done, so when least expected, they appeared, Tar again carrying his little canvas sack. They could torture Nayland without any exertion on their part.
   He was taken to the larger section of the hold, where there was open space between crates of cargo. An iron bar was placed across his shoulder blades, held in place by his biceps when his arms were placed behind it. Ropes around each wrist were drawn in front of him and tied across his chest, forcing his arms against the bar, immobilizing his upper body. The iron bar was lifted into the hook of a cargo hoist, which was raised, suspending Nayland, his weight on his pits, arms and his back. The sailors sat on the deck and watched with delight as Nayland’s body swung with the motion of the ship.
   Boy said something to Tar, and they rose, staggering on the unstable deck, with the canvas sack. Bosun slid a small metal table closer, on which Tar emptied the bag. Among its treasures were heavy alligator clips from the electric shop, and lead weights the Bosun provided, from the lead lines in his gear locker. When Tar gripped the meaty pads of his chest, Nayland realized why they’d hung him in this position, rather than by the wrists; they could get a good grip on his pecs, and “Yaagghh” the alligator clips bit into his tender nips like the teeth of a moray eel.
   It was too “static”, the sadistic sailors wanted a more “dynamic” torture. Lead weights were hooked to the alligator clips; their weight responded to the ship’s motion by tugging on the crowns of his chest, swaying, beating against him.
   The sailors braced against the bulkhead and gazed in awe as this beautiful man suffered, Boy expressing his admiration by violently jerking off. In time, Bosun dragged over a cargo gripe, and with a manila lanyard, hung it from Nayland’s balls. So basic the gear, so simple the equipment; who needs a torture chamber?
   It was fortunate for Nayland that some of the crates began to break loose, so the men had to get serious with the cargo lashings. Boy lowered the hook, easing Nayland’ s weight onto his feet. Tar came over and released the weight from his balls, and then removed the steel clips from his nipples. “Sheeet!” that hurts when they come off! Boy licked his battered chest and tongued his nips, as if to soothe, but it was meager relief from the pain they had caused, which remained severe.
   They led Nayland to his cubby hole and lay him on his blanket. Totally exhausted, he fell into a deep sleep, his last thought, “Pete, Pete…”
   Pete was three days behind, in his chartered yacht, as Nayland dreamed.
   Nayland was lying on his back, naked, on a stone platform, an altar of some kind. He was under a huge dome, that arched high above. There was a soothing sound of water running, bubbling, as in a brook. Soft music, strings, seemed to be borne by the gentle zephyrs that wafted through the enormous space, carrying with them a faint aroma of spring flowers. He tried to look around, but his arms were restrained. He could turn his head just enough to see wide silver bracelets on his wrists. He couldn’t move his legs, either, and assumed they too were shackled.
   A voice, faint but desperate, echoed off the enormous dome, reverberating through the huge cavern. “Nayland… Nayland… please… Nayland.” He couldn’t tell where the voice emanated from, but its pleading continued.
   Then there was a burst of blue flame high above; it faded to white, then shone red, and from it something began to descend. The voice was coming from that form, but did not grow louder as the form came closer. “Nayland… please. Nayland.” In another moment, he could see that the form was a naked man, who was suspended by his ankles. “Pete!” he called to him, sure it was he, but no sound came from his throat.
   The shackles on his ankles unlocked, he levitated over the altar, his wrists still in the silver bracelets but free of the platform. An invisible force raised his wrists, his body rotated to the vertical and began to ascend. He stopped, held motionless opposite the man, indeed Pete, hanging by his ankles. They hung in a classical soixante-neuf position. As though by magnetism, the suspended bodies moved closer together, until they touched. Again, he tried to say “Pete”, but had no voice. Although suspended, there was no tension on his wrists; he was weightless in this mystical place.
   A voice, quiet but insistent, spoke. “Suck.” A second voice, similar but not from the same entity, repeated the demand, “Suck!” The voices did not shout, but became more commanding with every utterance, “Suck!” “Suck cock!” They somehow rotated in the air, and being weightless, it was irrelevant who was the six and who was the neuf.
   Nayland’s face was pressed hard into Pete’s crotch, and he felt Pete’s breath in his own. The voices then seemed to be emphasized by bolts of lightning that struck them on their backs, imparting a searing pain that spread across them, as a raging fire. Strangely, there was no thunder. The echoing voices continued, “Suck cock”, “Suck cock”, each utterance followed by the scorching lightning. Nayland tried to twist his head, tried to get his tongue under Pete’s deflated cock, but he had no control of his own body.
   With the next bolt of lightning, there finally was thunder; a roar that resounded from all sides, then died. The dome seemed to disintegrate, but soundlessly. It did not collapse, it simply began to disappear. The eerie shimmering illumination faded, Nayland began to feel his weight on the shackles on his wrists. As out of a fog, stone walls loomed, a timber ceiling replaced the disappearing dome, and dim illumination was provided by the sputtering flames of torches imbedded in the wall.
   The lash of a bullwhip crashed across Nayland’s back, another brought an agonized curse from Pete. The mystical dome was totally gone; they were now swinging under the whip in a no-shit torture chamber. The violins were replaced by groans and screams, the wafting zephyrs by stifling heat, the floral scents by the stench of sweat and humanity. Now in a very different tone of voice, the demands continued. “Suck!”
   It was impossible to get a good look at the two who wielded the whips, but they were heavy set , large men. They were a little darker, more coffee colored than most Asians, perhaps Pacific Islanders. Regardless, they were adept with the whip and Nayland had no desire to contemplate their origin, as his back was being sliced by the vicious lash.
The naked suspended bodies bounced off each other as the cruel whip encircled them; they couldn’t control their motion so as to comply with the insistent “Suck, suck cock”.
   Nayland tried, he rubbed his cheek against Pete’s thigh and tried hard to suck the appendage in, but Pete was too flaccid. He felt moist breath on his balls, he tried to wiggle, perhaps to make it easier for Pete to get a hold, but he too was totally deflated. He was afraid that, if he did get Pete’s cock in his mouth, he would reflexively bite when he clenched his teeth under the impact of the lash.
   Nayland’s strength was drained, he was about to lose consciousness, when he felt a slight tingling; some extreme attention was being paid to his manhood.
   Nayland began to come groggily awake. As he shook his head to dispel the image of his dream, he suddenly recognized the source of the tingling he felt. Boy was nestled between his thighs, his hands sliding up and down over his hips, and giving a quite decent blow job. In his weakness, his chest still afire, his stomach aching after the abuse of his balls, Nayland couldn’t respond, nor did he really want to. He slid back, away from Boy, and shook his head. He reached for his trousers and slipped them on, noticing by the stability of the ship that the seas were calm. The pitch of the engines indicated that they were making a slow speed.
   “Shanghai,” Boy said. They were there. Nayland was going to see Shangri-La at last. In his anxiety to see it, he was only peripherally conscious of the probability that he was going to be tortured there, or that there had been a prophetic significance to his dream.
   Nayland awoke in a comfortable chair, its back slightly reclined, in an ornate room filled with myriad artifacts and works of art. This was a room in a quite fashionable home, its décor of a distinct oriental flavor. A faint aroma of incense lingered, a bowl of luscious looking fruit sat upon a table next to his chair. The walls were adorned with tapestries, the floor was apparently of teak. Skylights, and narrow horizontal windows beneath the ceiling, lighted the room; candles were plentiful in silver holders, for illumination after dark. He shook his head, he slapped his own face, to dispel a suspicion that this might be another dream; in his otherworldly existence, life itself was a mirage.
   He pressed a lever that straightened the chair back, and stood. Reflected in the glass front of a cabinet, he could see that he was clad in black trousers and a silk brocaded blouse, of the style called a smoking jacket, in the West.
   A woman, a quite handsome woman, young and refined looking, entered. From the silver tray she carried, she set a steaming bowl of soup and a cup of tea on a table in the center of the room. “I am Karamaneh”, she announced. “Please enjoy this refreshment.”
   Realizing that he was famished, Nayland sat and eagerly partook of the sustenance, while the pressing questions were asked: “Where am I? How did I get here?”
   “This is Shangri-La, the estate of the revered Dr. Fu Manchu,” she replied. “I have the honor of being his servant. You were transported here from the vessel in which you arrived in Shanghai. The doctor intends to interview you directly.”
   Nayland sat in silence when the woman left. He must have been drugged, not to recall his transport, but how long had it been, where did he acquire these garments, and with some consternation he wondered, who had bathed him, dressed him? The impact of the simple statement “this is Shangri-La” was less profound than he might have imagined, after all he had endured in his quest to find this place. And, hearing Fu Manchu referred to as “revered” seemed quite outrageous.
   The meal finished, he returned to his comfortable chair and tried to recall the last several hours, to no avail. His last recollection was of waking to the sexual attention of a young sailor, his naked body dull and aching after a night of torture.
   So silently did Fu Manchu enter the room, that Nayland started when he realized the demon was standing by his chair. “We meet again, Commissioner Smith.” Taking a seat opposite Nayland, he continued, “It was unfortunate that we had to make your arrival here quite without ceremony, but I am sure you did not find the transfer uncomfortable. I am somewhat jealous of revealing the precise location and the access route to my principal laboratory.”
   “So, you still use the word ‘laboratory’ as a euphemism for ‘torture chamber’.”
   “Come now, Mr. Smith. Certain of my experiments do involve discomfort for the subject, but that discomfort is not the motivation for the experiment.”
   “You appeared quite ecstatic as you observed the effect of your experiments on me; you obviously relished my suffering the several times you tortured me.”
   “Admittedly, seeing a strong, defiant subject such as yourself, a European, in the throes of agony is, shall we say, a side benefit of the research.”
   “I presume that I am here to participate in more of your research?”
   “If you were honest, you would admit that you are here as a result of your pursuit of a crusade to interrupt my international program. Of course, I am not averse to taking advantage of your presence; I was afraid I would not have another opportunity to work with you. Quite coincidentally, you are an ideal subject for two of my current projects.”
   A sudden sharp pain in the back of his neck, followed by immediate grogginess, gave Nayland the briefest realization that he had again been drugged. He slumped in the chair as his assailant entered and removed the dart.
   The next several hours were in large part, marked by a déjà vu perspective. Fu Manchu had been working to perfect his instant-cure salves and ointments, of which Fah Lo Suee had given Nayland a sample, in Canton. The substances were formulated to burn away wounds and abrasions, restoring the area to a healthy state. They were quite amazingly effective, if one could endure the process of being cured. Since, in order to cure a wound, there had to be a wound to cure, Nayland was subjected to the imposition of cuts, abrasions, scrapes and bruises upon which was then applied one or more healing elixirs. The experiments began with treating the residual evidence of his torture aboard the ship. In his now familiar position, strapped to a table at wrists, ankles and upper chest, Nayland first suffered the “treatment” of penetrating lotions applied to the friction burns on his scrotum. Apart from the intense pain involved, the expectation that the “subject” would participate, as a critic, was quite diabolical. During, and after each of the experiments, Nayland would be asked questions such as “Which is more painful, this or the last? Which of the substances burns the longest?” Nayland learned that failure to participate resulted in the experimentation’s being prolonged.
   The nipples that crowned his magnificent chest were raw from the abuse of weighted clamps that had gripped them during his ordeal at sea. On these, Fu Manchu “tested” several variations of his medicinal concoctions, bringing delightful outcries from within that chest as Nayland’s psyche felt red hot irons being pressed into him. “Which? The left or the right? Which burns hotter? Which lasts longer?” The questions continued, the experiments continued, until only gasps and barely audible groans, “ahh, fuck… awww… yuugghh…” came from the tortured “subject.”
   After a break– Fu Manchu himself needed an occasional break in the intense concentration he was exercising– Nayland realized that he suddenly felt good. The fucking torture worked! It cured injuries, bruises, and afflictions, it gave a new definition to the word purged, as the body was restored to health.
   “You have done well, Mr. Smith,” the man of mystery and mysticism said. “We have validated several of my minor pursuits. I did say, though, I believe, that you are an ideal subject for two of my current projects.”
   “It honors me to be a worthy ‘subject’,” Nayland replied sarcastically.
   Fu Manchu ignored his impudence, and continued. “For centuries, while you in the western world dabbled in the structure and function of physical beings, making what you considered monumental advances in medical science, we who were dismissed as inferior humans, if not sub-humans, cured many afflictions and alleviated many others, with the basic practice– it cannot be called technology– of acupuncture. Needles, placed properly, can activate, monitor, control and direct the inner human being. Tomorrow, Mr. Smith, you are going to validate my theses regarding the addition of heat to imbedded needles in the human body. It is simply logical, that, since the application of heat to muscular strains does relieve pain, the direct application of heat, deep into the musculature of a man, might ease the impact of various physical impairments. Tomorrow, Mr. Smith, your assessment of the technique of hot needles inserted into pertinent parts of your exceptional physique, will advance medical science for the good of all mankind. I am sure you will bear the necessary discomfort with compassion for those for whom your suffering will be of great benefit.”
   Fu Manchu was generous in his treatment of his “subjects”, apart from his requirement that they participate in his experiments. That is to say, they were made comfortable as honored guests when they weren’t being tortured! Nayland was quartered in a palatial room, tastefully furnished, and provided with a diverse library of books and major periodicals in several languages. He was permitted to ring for service at any hour, and was brought meals that were both delicious and nutritious, of whatever ethnic style suited him. His closet contained a wardrobe of the finest quality, and was maintained by the best Chinese laundry he’d ever dealt with. It was broadly implied that he was welcome to summon bed companions, but his inclinations did not pursue that sort of thing. His service in the laboratory involved several hours each day, but those hours always ended with the application of one of Fu Manchu’s wonder drugs, which almost made the torture worthwhile, because for the rest of the day, and the night, he would know only comfort and excellent health, enabling him to enjoy his other amenities.
   A typical day began, following a hearty breakfast and ample privacy for his natural needs (his Western style indoor plumbing superior even to that in the Mayfair Hotel), with the attendance of a “footman”, who bade him to don only a loose knee-length tunic to cover his nakedness, and permit himself to be escorted to the laboratory. The staff who attended Fu Manchu were all models of superb fitness, on the same order as those who had abused Nayland on the long train journey. Fu Manchu had an eye for beautiful male bodies, of whatever race.
   This particular morning, Nayland found that a different, longer table was situated in the center of the laboratory. At first he thought it was a stretch rack, but there was no drum nor other mechanism for stretching a man. He was soon strapped down on his back, arms overhead and restraints at wrists and ankles
   “I need to determine whether my theory is valid,” Fu Manchu began. “I once indicated that, because heat applied to damaged musculature is an effective therapy, then it seems logical to me that combining heat with ancient techniques of acupuncture ought to be quite more effective. It will be necessary, though, to impose certain traumas upon your body in order to effect their relief.”
   Nayland learned that this was more than stretch rack; it was a “pull you and twist you in every painful position possible” sort of device. Long cables ran from an adjacent room, in which there apparently was, by the sound it made, a gasoline-powered engine, perhaps a generator. A control panel of sorts was positioned next to the table, on which were numerous levers and knobs. Cables from the generator were led into this panel. Fu Manchu stood beside his restrained subject, gripped his biceps with one hand and ran the other up and down his immobilized thigh.
   “For the next few moments,” he said, “I shall simulate the effect of hours of strenuous hard labour upon your impressive physique. Only a man as strong and superbly developed as you, could validate this experiment.” With that, he moved behind the control panel and began manipulating the monstrous device. Worm gears moved the restraints on Nayland’s wrists, drawing his body taut. Pincers emerged from the surface, gripped his biceps, and twisted. The surface of the rack rose and fell in sections, stressing his back, wrenching his torso, straining and punishing every muscle in his magnificent body. Fu Manchu’s brawny assistants were less sophisticated in their part; they merely pounded his joints and beat his muscles with wood mallets. For perhaps a half hour that seemed an eternity, he endured the combination of brutal beating and mechanical torments. He could not refrain from relieving his agonizing frustration with vocal profanities and even screams, in response to the most severe pain that was inflicted on him, but he was confident of his eventual survival. He tried not to consider what might occur when his usefulness had run its course. Even though he was an infamous murderer, surely Fu Manchu would not eliminate so valuable an asset. Still, Nayland wouldn’t be kept here forever. Perhaps he would disappear without a trace, after all, as so many had. Fear began to emerge.
   But for now… “Yaagghh!” his mind knew no consciousness except the pain, the overwhelming pain, as he was racked, beaten, twisted, stretched… tortured!
   The generator sputtered to a stop. Nayland’s bonds were unfastened and he was told to stand. Stiff, aching, lame, nearly paralyzed, it was only with the assistance (and not exactly gentle assistance) of the laboratory staff, that he was able to get up off the table. Orders to run in place, to perform various common calisthenics were met with a sarcastic chuckle, and a predictable muttered “Fuck you.” He was not just being recalcitrant in his refusal; he was unable, despite his youth, his health and strength, to control his ravaged body and make it respond.
   “The man is in need of therapy for his debilitating trauma,” Fu Manchu commented. “Now we will see how our ancient procedures are augmented by the application of heat.”
   The long rack was wheeled out of the way, and replaced with a gurney of sorts, such as used in a medical facility. With the assistance of his muscular handlers, Nayland lay on his back while straps secured him to the gurney. Fu Manchu bent over him, stroking his body with the flat of his hands, teasing with his obscenely long fingernails. Then he began the methodical acupuncture treatment… which Nayland would remember as the hot needle torture. Each needle was attached to a thin wire. Fu Manchu assured his subject that electricity was not involved, the wire only provided heat to the needles, which is why he was wearing gloves.
   Nayland winced as the hot needles sent their stabs of pain into his thighs, like branding irons on both his legs, framing his manhood. “I could tell that the quadriceps femoris were lame,” Fu Manchu commented. “This should help you walk better.” More needles were added, the experiment continued up into his abs. “Abdominal external obliques,” the doctor said. “Your abs took quite a beating. I noticed that it was painful to twist your torso when you got up. This should help.”
   Help! Sheeesh, Nayland thought, who needs this demon’s help? He breathed in short gasps, emitting muffled sounds that might have been screams if he could have spared the energy to eject them. There were brief surges of more intense heat at irregular intervals, alternating with icy, freezing thrusts, which Fu Manchu explained as “effects of experimental reverse polarity”. The torture needles then sent their evil daggers into his delts as he squirmed and strained against the straps that held him.
   “Turn him over,” Fu Manchu ordered, and Nayland was, more roughly than necessary, flipped face down, his head between his outstretched arms. The torture continued, treating his deltoids from the opposite side. Fu Manchu intoned the anatomical identification of each insertion. “Trapezius… latissimus dorsi… biceps femoris,” as the intensity of the procedure moved down his body again to his legs.
   Satisfied that adequate treatment had been accomplished, Fu Manchu had the restraining straps removed and his men helped Nayland to his feet. The residual pain of the “treatment” was rapidly diminishing, and as it did, he felt surprisingly more agile and free of both pain and muscular stiffness. Again, he thought to himself, The fucking torture works!
   Offered his garment to cover his nakedness, Nayland was congratulated for his forbearance and cooperation… as though he’d had a choice!
   “Tomorrow,” Fu Manchu advised, “we will begin the experiments designed to assist in control of the population.”
   Nayland returned to his other life, as an honored guest, with some trepidation. To him, controlling population suggested controlling fertility. What bizarre plans might they have for his fertility? He would have spent less time pondering that question, if he could have known that just hours ago, the hunchback from the opium den had met a yacht flying the Portuguese flag, in Shanghai.
   Breakfast came a little earlier than the accustomed hour. The steward, a pleasant lad, announced that the laboratory would open earlier than usual this day, because the doctor had a very important experiment to perform, and since a new subject would be joining them, he was anxious to get started. Nayland’s ears heard “the laboratory would open earlier”, but his mind registered, “you will be tortured earlier”, which presumably meant “you will be tortured longer”. The significance of a “new subject” being involved did not register; he wasn’t attuned to the idea that two men might be tortured together, for some experimental reason.
   When he was led into the chamber, Nayland saw a canvas curtain that resembled a square topsail, dividing the room, shielding the opposite half from view. Of more immediate interest to him, though, was the heavy X-shaped cross that stood facing the curtain. After surrendering his garment, Nayland was spread-eagled in shackles upon the structure, and for the first time in this bizarre series of “experiments”, he was gagged, with heavy tape covering his mouth.
   Fu Manchu entered. “For today’s experiment will you be upon my Chi-frame,” he offered, apparently so-called because of its resemblance to the Greek letter chi. “Your Saint Andrew, I am told, was martyred upon such a contrivance, and so it is sometimes called by his name. I prefer the practical description of Chi-frame. By whatever name, it will adequately hold you for the duration of the experiment.” Turning to one of his assistants, he said, “You will please remove the barrier.”
   Holy shit! Pete! Perhaps two meters in front of him, spread-eagled, naked on a similar cross, and also gagged with tape, was Dr. Petrie. Now they both knew why they were gagged; they could not communicate, could not question the extent of their adventures, could not encourage nor support each other as they were tortured, which surely was to be the next event.
   Fu Manchu began to speak, as if lecturing. “Today’s is the first in a series of experiments designed to enable us to control the population of China, and to ensure that the majority of births are of males. The eventual objective will be to ensure that the male in adult sexual intercourse will suppress his X-chromosome and transfer the Y-chromosome with certainty, thus ensuring that a male child will be conceived. First, we will investigate the effect upon fertility of the frequency of ejaculation prior to the sex act that is intended to impregnate the female. We already know that the probability of pregnancy is increased if the male abstains from sex for several days, and then performs numerous times in succession. Here, then, we will examine the chemical potency of semen both in successive, frequent ejaculations, and in that which has been denied ejaculation over time, and may have built up its strength in the male. I have read of similar processes having been practiced in ancient Memphis, although for a somewhat different purpose.”
   A cart was wheeled forward, which held several heavy batteries from which numerous wires protruded, and two cylindrical devices that neither Petrie nor Nayland recognized, although Nayland had a premonition that their purpose was similar to the “dynamo” with which he had been so exquisitely tortured, so many months ago. Pete, seeing wires and batteries, put two and two together and surmised that the experiment would involve electrical torture.
   “This is my ‘Eljac’, or electrical ejaculator”, Fu Manchu explained. Two of his assistants began to attach the devices to the men’s genitals, as he continued. “When I manipulate the dials on this console, I control electricity that is imparted to your sex, which creates in your body an uncontrollable urge to ejaculate. In your case, Commissioner Smith, we shall collect load after load of your masculine essence, so as to evaluate whether or not it weakens after repeated drawings.” He turned to Pete and continued, “You, Dr. Petrie, are to provide for us the data to determine whether or not the strength of your semen is increased by extended denial of its ejection. I assure you both that, except possibly in the initial stages, neither of these experiences will be pleasant, but the results will be invaluable.”
   Pete cringed as he felt metal rings slipped onto his cock, and wires wrapped around it, and others, more tightly, around his balls. He couldn’t see what they were doing, but it was obvious that he was in for a rough trip. His mind battled the conflicting senses of dread and yearning, but as his cock was roughly handled he could not will it not to get hard. This is what I’ve fantasized about, for so long, he thought, but he’d imagined Nayland, or perhaps Deke, doing it to him under erotic conditions, their bodies touching, taunting him with sensual stimulation; he never fantasized it being done to him in the private torture chamber of Fu Manchu!  
   Nayland too, was hard as his cock was manipulated; he remembered the exciting innovation of getting off with electrical stimulation, if they let him come. He knew also, the agony that Pete would experience, having had his tormentors on the train do it to him. Getting to the brink, then denied, yes, the most exquisite torture of all!
   Fu Manchu stood behind his console and sent mild current into both captive cocks. Nayland twisted his hips in anticipation; Pete tensed but then relaxed when the pleasant warmth flowed into him. Trying to banish the reality of the situation from his mind, Pete savored the spectacle of his handsome friend’s sensational naked body, the beauty of his magnificent chest enhanced by his spread-eagled position, his musculature accented as he flexed against his chains.
   “This is really very difficult for me,” Fu Manchu said. “Making one man come while preventing the other, is a challenge that requires concentration here.” If they had not been gagged, both men would have voiced biting sarcasms. Seeing them breathing heavily, Fu Manchu ordered the tapes removed; they needed more air than they could get through the nose alone. Indeed, the subsequent pants were loud and rapid, their squirming and straining became more vigorous.
   When Nayland stiffened and tensed his body, his raging cock about to explode, a man slid a rubber sheath onto the quivering ramrod, just in time to contain his torrential ejaculation. Nayland slumped, exhausted, as spurt after spurt of the fluid was captured. His respite was brief; the current surged through him again. Fu Manchu added another accessory, a thin silver rod was inserted just inside his rectum. “I am told the effect is stronger when the prostate is involved,” he said.  
   Pete, meanwhile, knew the agony of sexual frustration, but it was just the beginning for him. When he was seen to be thrusting his hips and stiffening his stance as orgasm approached, the current would stop, leaving him sagging in anguish. Sweat cascaded down his naked body, his pubic hair a sodden mop, a puddle forming between his spread feet. The pleasure, the frustration, the pain, came in waves of vicious torment. He was sure that his balls were being crushed in a vise, his cock being diced by a meat cleaver; he could not resist responding to the enticing electricity, even knowing that the arousal would be replaced by pain before he could climax. Clamps on his succulent pecs, fists beating his firm torso, a cane on his steel thighs, all contributed to knocking arousal out of him so the sequence could start over again, each cycle more intense than the previous.
   Nayland hung in exhaustion after expelling his second load, he too glowing in a sheen of sweat, and panting in short, gasping breaths. “Again! Again!” Fu Manchu demanded. “Get it up again, Commissioner Smith, or you will feel wrath more furious than you could ever imagine.” Nayland struggled to stand as erect as his spread legs would permit, he shook the cramps out of his outstretched arms, closed his eyes, and willed his tortured cock to rise again. The tingle under his prostate, the waves of current as the pulse width was varied, the pounding sensation as the frequency was reduced while the undulating intensity of the power increased, kept him thrashing, beating his ass against the cross as he wildly pumped his hips, symbolically fucking the “Eljac”. He tuned out Pete’s pathetic sobs and brought forth a third, then in a heroic effort of sheer will power, a fourth load for the sake of science, so violent in its expulsion that it awed his tormentors.
   When both men were beyond any reasonable limit of human endurance, the experiment was interrupted; they had to regain the strength to continue. “Take them down but keep them tied and separated so they cannot fuck with each other,” Fu Manchu ordered. “I don’t want Dr. Petrie to get off; he has more to do for us. And tape them again so they cannot communicate.”
   The exhausted prisoners lay on the hard floor, wrists and ankles bound, the bulky apparatus still attached to their genitals. They would not have the respite of their palatial quarters just yet; their torture was to continue much longer.
   Commissioner Smith and Dr. Petrie sat at the desk in the stateroom they had been assigned, on board HMS Collingwood, composing a report to be presented to the Prime Minister. The cruiser had been dispatched by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to transport them from Shanghai.
   “I am not sure how we ought to describe the last day,” Petrie said. “I am quite uncomfortable visualizing the Prime Minister, perhaps even His Majesty himself, reading an account of my inability to produce semen on demand!”
   “I am sure they are sufficiently wise to the ways of the world, as not to be disturbed by such an account, particularly in view of the circumstances under which our debasement took place,” Nayland assured him. “Your not producing can be interpreted as a refusal to contribute to validation of Fu Manchu’s data.”
   “But you ‘validated’ all fucking day,” Pete said, with an admiring smirk.
   “Actually I think the Prime Minister will be more interested in Fu Manchu’s political tirade, than in his laboratory analysis of what he extracted from me.
There is time to decide on the wording; this will be a long transit, halfway around the world, and it’s not likely that they want such a report transmitted by wireless.”
   Diverting from the wording of their report, they recalled:
   After they had been lying, bound, on the floor for several hours, Fu Manchu returned. “The dysfunctional Western minds that rule Europe have plunged that continent into a senseless and irreconcilable catastrophe,” he declared. “The only good that can come of it is, it gives us the opportunity to infiltrate and to disrupt, in furtherance of our goal. I cannot selfishly pursue my own research when the Si-Fan desperately requires my leadership.” As an aide removed the Eljac apparatus from Petrie, slipped a rubber sheath onto him, then untied his wrists, Fu Manchu continued. “Now, Dr. Petrie, you will manually extract your strengthened semen, after which you will be of no further usefulness to me.” Then he left.
   Try as he might, Petrie was unable to get hard, unable to deliver. Nayland pondered what he’d just heard. Since they were of no more usefulness, what was to happen next? Would it be poison, would it be the venom of one of the exotic insects Fu Manchu was known to have bred? Would it be a quick execution or one of prolonged suffering? Surely they would not be tortured further, if Fu Manchu were not to be here to enjoy it.
   As it turned out, their trepidation was unfounded; they were returned to their quarters, where they were attended by Fu Manchu’s Egyptian servant, Karamaneh. They were told to select whatever garments they wished, and then, blindfolded so as not to reveal the route, they were taken by motorcar to the British consulate. There, they received back wages and current passports. They bought appropriate effects for their kits, and were then ferried to the cruiser, which was steaming outside Chinese territorial waters.
   “I still don’t understand why we were released,” Pete commented. “Here we are, on the way to England, I fortunately having been released by Rangoon so I can be with you. Our testimony as to Fu Manchu’s barbarism can now be publicized. He could so easily have made us disappear, and the world would never have known.”
   “I am not sure that the government will want the public to hear of our exploits,” Nayland replied. “The fewer who know that we even exist, the better.”
   “You are right, of course.”
   “I think too, that since there were many witnesses to my abduction, he may have realized that the scrutiny of an investigation could harm the efforts of the Si-Fan.”
     “Perhaps, then,” Pete continued, “Fu Manchu wanted us free so that he might have the pleasure of our company on another occasion. It is quite obvious that he did immensely enjoy torturing us.”
   “Quite so. Still, there was a reason, apparently, beyond simply his sadistic recreation. Bizarre as it sounds, his ‘science’ might have been serious.”
   “Oh, I think no doubt, in his mind. We found his private torture chamber to be an authentic laboratory, equipped as it were with ingenious devices, but not on the order of, say, the Borgia chambers of torment.”
   “No, Hong Kong was much more authentic,” Nayland recalled.
   His statement made Pete recall sharing himself with Deke. “That was an experience of contrary perspectives,” Pete commented. “I wish we could have got back there. But back to Fu Manchu,” he gazed lustfully at Nayland. “I think his pleasure was in observing your sensational body and physical might, if not to say masculine beauty.”
   Nayland dropped all thought of the report he was working on, and savored the suggestive implication of his equally handsome friend’s words.
   “Bet I can make you ‘deliver’ now”, he said.
   “What will the stewards think when they see one of the bunks so thoroughly disheveled?”
   “So, we’ll be sure they both are properly devastated.”
   “Right. We can fuck around in the upper and then sleep in the lower.”
   Turned out, they fucked around in both of them and slept hardly at all.
   Fu Manchu would have been astounded by the data they could have provided.
The End

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