Nick Carter Excerpts — Operation Starvation

Nick Carter #17, Operation Starvation,
Award Books A197, 1966
Nick’s great muscular body crossed the room in a catlike leap that brought him down softly next to the table on which his Luger rested. He heard Arthur chuckling again.
He felt the.stunning force of something on the back of his head. For a frac­tion of a second he hovered on the edge of consciousness, fighting for the use of his facilities, then the outraged cells of his brain gave up the unequal battle and every­thing fell into darkness.

Hours later, days perhaps, he felt himself coming to, aware of light and sounds. He would much rather have stayed under but he felt repeated pains in his cheek. His eyes opened and met the slim, almond eyes of Arthur at close range, his pudgy face folded into its ever-present grin. He understood, then, that Arthur was slapping him. Nick reacted at once and discovered that his hands were well tied.
Nick smiled gently at Arthur.
“Arthur,” he said in his most friendly tone. “If you don’t stop that now, I’ll tear your head off and bounce it back to you like a basketball, do you understand?”
The next slap was considerably harder. In the back­ground someone was chuckling. Nick recognized the deep baritone of Johnny Wu.
“He seems to be coming around. You’d better have a care, Arthur. He is a resourceful and dangerous man.”
Arthur hit Nick again, backhand with his knuckles. Nick was puzzled. Although he was in no great hurry for things to get started, he didn’t see why Wu didn’t start shaking up the castor oil and heating the branding irons. He must have known Nick wasn’t going to answer his questions.
Wu lit a long slim cigar and regarded Nick thought­fully.
“It is to be regretted,” he said slowly, “that I was forced by circumstances to leave the interrogation to my idiotic compatriot. He has his virtues, but lightness of touch and good judgment are, regrettably, not among them.”
Nick heard Arthur giggling at this reference to him­self.
“Well, Carter?”
“I can’t help you, Wu,” Nick said groggily.
“You are a fool.” Johnny Wu’s voice was contemptuous. “Your option is to remain here with Arthur who is under orders to extract the information from you. I hadn’t thought between professionals such a statement of the obvious would be necessary.”
“Buzz off, Wu,” Nick heard himself saying in a sur­prisingly controlled tone of voice. “I have things to think about.”
He heard Wu say, “Very well. Carry on, Arthur.”
Arthur’s giggle in­terrupted Wu’s monologue as the rotund Chinese started toward Nick.
“I will plant the bamboo shoots under his nails and answers will sprout,” was Arthur’s cheerful suggestion.
In the middle of the room stood a fully equipped, electronically motorized operating table. “Every kid ought to have one of these, hey Arthur?” Nick drawled. Arthur giggled again and continued shuffling bottles around.
There was one factor on Nick’s side. Time. Wu had told Arthur that he could go with the truck when he had gotten what they needed out of Nick. Presumably the truck couldn’t wait around forever if the Chinese ex­pected the cops. Still, if Arthur was in a hurry, God knows what he might think up.
Now the little fat Chinese was coming around from be­hind his table with his hands behind his back. Nick braced himself. He had already tried the knots half a dozen times. Whoever had tied them knew his business.
Arthur brought the chloroformed rag up quickly. Nick had time to take one quick, breath, heavy with the odor of the rag before the compress was pressed hard against his face. Nick pushed with his head against the rag but Arthur was amazingly strong for such a little butterball. A minute became a half minute and Nick feigned unconsciousness. He had gone without breathing for four minutes before—when his lungs had been full of fresh air to start with.
“The foreign devil sleeps peacefully,” Arthur oozed out in his rubbery chuckle. “But how is Arthur to be. sure?”
Suddenly something struck Nick in the stomach, as hard and as unexpected as a rifle slug. He doubled over gasping for air but drinking in the choking fumes of the chloroform instead. Out of the corner of one eye, Nick saw Arthur lift the heavy sashweight and strike again. Again he felt the agonizing shock and pain and then the fumes had him. He sank into darkness.
He came to on the operating table. It wasn’t too un­comfortable except for a light shining directly into his face. This was a special table. The patient’s hands and feet were shackled.
He had been stripped. Taped onto him at various places around his body where the major nerve endings came closest to the surface, were electrodes.
“I bet it wouldn’t do any good to tell you everything I know right now,” Nick said. “You can’t do without your bit of fun, can you?”
“You tell, you tell vellee soon,” he heard Arthur say.
“This has really been a red letter day for you, pal.”
There was no answer. Nick’s eyes faced straight ahead out of the room’s single high window. He could see lacy tops of trees and a sky full of fat fleecy clouds. He thought of Dominique, then it started.
An electric motor hummed and Nick felt the current through his body simultaneously at half a dozen different places. His heart stopped with the jolt and his great body smashed against the leather shackles, spine arching like a steel hunting bow, his skull filled with the silent noise of brain cells discharging frantically along the wrong cir­cuits. The machine stopped as suddenly as it started and Nick’s body relaxed. He drew long shallow breaths. His head ached violently, and if he were not in the peak of physical condition, the agonizing spasm would have broken his back like a matchstick. Sweat stood out on his forehead and rolled down his limbs.
He could hear Arthur’s delighted giggle. By now, he realized that Arthur’s inhuman laughter had nothing to do with humor but was an individual neurasthenic reaction and of definite sexual origin. Arthur, by some strange twist of psychology would like to have been where Nick was.
“I just testee eqlipment. One . . . two . ..thleee, …” he giggled.
Again came the blinding unearthly buzz through Nick’s body, and his mouth worked in a scream that the short-circuited brain was unable to deliver. When he had recovered sufficiently from the second dose of voltage
he said, “Better not overdo it, comrade. Dead men tell no tales and then where’ll you be?”
Arthur himself seemed to have grasped that simple fact and abated his enthusiasm a trifle. For the next few minutes he amused himself by disconnecting various electrodes and shooting individual currents of electricity into Nick’s body. After each one he would peer curiously at Nick and ask a question.
Nick got tired of thinking up wisecracks and just re­fused to open his mouth. He knew that he was only going to be able to take a limited amount of this before the brain was thoroughly burned out and the great robust heart failed to start up again.
Arthur’s giggle contained a new note, filling Nick with foreboding. He felt the electrodes being removed. Then Arthur clamped just two of them onto his genitals. The cold touch of the metal on his person transmitted a knowledge of the agony to come throughout his body to his brain…

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