Nick Carter Excerpts — Trouble in Paradise (Part 2)

Nick Carter #121, Trouble in Paradise,
Charter Books, 1978
 
Excerpts, Part Two:
   The bastards had managed to work their way around behind me. Without am­munition, there was nothing I could do but run.
   This I did with all my might, right into them. I don’t know how many there were—the jungle was thick with them. I fought like a Hun, feeling my fingers digging into eyes, my knees flattening scrotums. It was a futile exercise. No sooner would one go down than another would come at me. At one point I broke loose and ran, but I was overtaken by others. They just kept coming at me out of the darkness. A well placed rifle butt finally subdued me.

   I came to just as they were carrying me out of the jungle. They had me lashed to a sturdy bamboo shoot, hands and feet, like a dead boar. Two of them carried the shoot on their shoulders. At Pet­tibone’s orders, they cut me loose and threw me in the back of a land rover. He told them to be careful—Ali Rahkmon wanted me alive.
   THEY DIDN’T BOTHER to blindfold me this time. The land rover came to a halt in the parking area of the fortress, and as they dragged me out of the back seat, I could see that poor Masters’ Bentley had already arrived. They hustled me past the spot where I had bid my last goodbye to Kelia.
   Once they got me to the top of the wall and through the first gun emplacement, I retraced the route that Kelia and I had taken the night of the escape. Except for a few dry blood spots, there was no sign of the short, violent battle that had erupted on top of the wall.
   They had my arms tied behind my back, and as we moved down the corridor, the guards took great pleasure in hurrying my pace with occasional shoves from their rifle butts. Other guards posi­tioned along the hall grinned as they saw me com­ing, and when I passed them, I received stinging swats up the back of my head. I was still dizzy from the blow I had received back in the jungle and these sadistic slaps didn’t help me any.
   I made a mental note of each one, because I knew I’d be passing back this way again and fully intended to return the compliment. We reached the winding stone stairway that led to the tower tor­ture chamber. I could feel the tips of their gun barrels poking me in the back, urging me on. I could hear their moronic giggles each time one of them happened to push me off balance. It pleased their simple minds and they used me as the object of their childish game.
   The heavy oak door was swung open and I was shoved into the chamber. Nothing had changed. My seatless wicker chair awaited me.
And so did Pettibone. Several other officers were leaning against the walls, smoking as my guards marched me to the center of the room and stood me in front of the chair. I had a flash of panic when I saw the damn chair again. Two of them stood on either side of me holding my arms, while a third yanked down my pants. I had the urge to kick out at them and fight, but I knew I had to conserve my energy for later.
   They ripped the front of my shirt open. I was completely nude down the front; my pants lay in a heap around my ankles. Quickly, they untied my hands and pushed me into the chair. Then they lashed my arms to the back of the chair. The room was hot from the burning torches and I was already covered with sweat.
   A whiskey bottle was being passed among the guards and officers alike. Finally it was handed to Pettibone, and he held it aloft toward me, as though he were making a toast.
   “Welcome home, Mr. Cartah,” he said, taking a long swig. He wiped the back of his hand across his ugly mouth and drank again. Everyone laughed at his comment and the bottle was passed around.
   The flickering flame of the torches highlighted the long jagged scar on his cheek, making it look even more grotesque than it was.
   I could hear the eager anticipation in their voices as they chatted softly. I tried to keep my breathing even—I didn’t want them to see the fear I felt. Pettibone didn’t seem especially hurried, as he accepted the bottle again and took another drink. He studied me intently, sipping the whiskey casu­ally, an engrossed expression on his face. Much as a matador studies his bull from behind the barrera before entering the ring. I wondered why he was waiting so long. After taking a final swig, he passed the bottle to one of the others and lit a cigarette. Pettibone looked approvingly at the cigarette and smiled at me. Not only did he have Wilhelmina, but the sonuvabitch was smoking my gold-tipped cigarettes too.
   “Dey be good cigarettes and you not be needing dem, Mr. Cartah,” he told me, chuckling softly. He walked over to one of the other officers, speak­ing quietly so that I couldn’t hear him. The other officer looked over at me and laughed. Then Pet­tibone looked at me pensively, rubbing his chin.
   “What be de matter, mon? You look eager,” said Pettibone. “You miss your torture on de balls?” Everyone laughed heartily at this.
   “It be not long now, you see,” said Pettibone. I knew it would begin soon—he was just enjoying his little game of anxiety. Like a bad boy enjoys taunting a tied dog.
   “We have something new for you,” he said threateningly. “Something you be enjoying very much, you see.” As mad as he was, the little bastard had a genius for psychological torture. He was enjoying the moment very much, but, I knew, not half as much as he would enjoy the physical torture. In a moment I heard footsteps echoing up the stairway. All of the guards suddenly became alert with anticipation. The heavy door banged open and Ali Rahkmon stormed into the room. Now I knew why Pettibone had been waiting.
   Ali Rahkmon’s head was still bandaged from the blow I had given him the night I escaped. I knew I could expect no mercy from him. His dark eyes blazed with anger as he stood glaring down at me. His thin lips were pressed firmly together and his large curving nose made him look comically like Captain Hook. There the comedy ended. His black eyes burned into me as he removed the black leather gloves he was wearing and stood twisting them nervously in his hands. No one spoke and the suffocating room was quiet with tension. Then suddenly he smiled. A soft, benign smile.
   “I am so sorry to have kept you waiting, Mr. Carter,” he said pleasantly. “But I was having a late dinner and I’m sure you understand—I hate to leave anything unfinished. To have wasted all that good food would have been sinful. There are so many suffering, less fortunate people in the world.”
Rahkmon lashed out and struck me several times across the face with his leather gloves, mak­ing me blink. I could taste the blood where the leather had split my bottom lip.
   “You are a fool, Carter, you understand? A fool,” he screeched, his voice pitched high like a woman’s. “I offered you the world and now you will get nothing! Not even I can keep them from killing you.” He looked around the room, indicating Pettibone and the others. “. . . Unless you are intelligent enough to give us the information we desire. Where is Mr. Hawk?” Rahkmon screamed. I looked up at him, trying to blink the sweat from my eyes. Rahkmon struck me again.
   “Where is he, Carter? Answer me, where is he?” Ali Rahkmon was shaking with rage as he turned away from me disgustedly. My head was hanging down and I watched as a drop of blood landed on my thigh. I knew that in moments some other terrible torture would begin. I breathed in deeply, sucking what little air there was into my lungs, trying to calm myself and clear my head. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand much torture, whatever they had planned for me. I also knew that I couldn’t give in too quickly or they’d know I was lying.
   “Begin!” I heard Rahkmon’s voice shout. Someone behind me grabbed me by the hair, yanking my head back. A thick piece of wood, about eight inches long, was inserted between my teeth. For the moment I didn’t understand why. Rahkmon saw my confusion and grinned evilly.
   “You better keep that in your mouth, Mr. Car­ter,” he said, standing in front of me. “We wouldn’t want you to bite your tongue off. Then you wouldn’t be able to tell us when you want to.” He stepped aside and I saw Pettibone standing there leering at me. My heart leaped into my throat. Sweet Jesus, I thought. Those evil, diabol­ical bastards. They were going to use an electric cattle prod.
   I tensed my whole body and waited. Pettibone stepped forward, touching me with the prod along my left cheek. I heard the electrical hum and felt the zap of the instrument as it snapped my head back. For those few seconds the pain was unbear­able. It felt as though the top of my head would come off. I passed out immediately.
   They revived me by throwing a bucket of cold water over me. I shook my head groggily. There was no way I’d be able to endure much more of that. Pettibone’s face was slick with perspiration and he was already dribbling with glee. This time he touched me on the chest, giving the jolt time to sear through my body before he removed the prod. A jolt to my stomach sent me heaving up from the chair. He removed the prod only to jolt me again in the stomach seconds later.
   Again and again I heard the fearful hum of the electric instrument and felt the horribly painful shocks as the current ran through me. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before in my life. The pain came so fast and was so erratic that I was disoriented. I couldn’t think straight. My body had jerked so violently from the shocks that I had moved the chair almost a foot off the spot where it had been when the torture began. I saw Ali Rahkmon raise his hand, signaling Pettibone to stop.
   “Perhaps, Mr. Carter, you might have had a change of mind,” Rahkmon said. “Maybe now you are ready to answer us.” I slumped forward in the chair. My arms were almost numb from where the bindings had cut off my circulation. I was breathing hard. The sweat burned into my eyes and I tried to think of something that would stall Rahkmon for precious time.
   “I have no taste for this business, Mr. Carter, but you are being most uncooperative,” he said.
“For your own sake be sensible. Tell me, where is Hawk?” I looked over at him. Ali Rahkmon watched me expectantly. I had to stall longer. To answer them now would only convince them I was lying. Maybe I could endure another session of Pettibone and his new toy. There was no other choice—I had to attempt it.
   “Well, Mr. Carter?” asked Rahkmon.
   “I don’t know,” I slurred. ZAP! Pettibone placed the rod on my groin and my body heaved convulsively against the bindings. He held the in­strument against me for a long period of time, so that instead of short, quick jolts, this shock seemed timeless. I clenched the stick tightly in my mouth, feeling my teeth sink in to the wood, and let out a loud, agonizing scream. In seconds I was out again.
   When I came to this time, I was aware of the odor of burnt meat and hair. Realizing that it was the smell of my own flesh and singed hair, I be­came violently ill. I retched and gagged until my throat was raw. Seconds had gone by without another jolt. They wanted me to be fully con­scious so I would suffer the full extent of the torture.
   Basil Pettibone, the sadistic little captain, was enraptured with joy as he went about his work. His dark face glistened in the dim light and spittle clung to the corners of his mouth as he giggled and talked to himself. He moved back and forth in front of me, the electric rod hovering threateningly in the air. The rod taunted my shoulders, touching first the right, then the left in quick succession. Fast enough so that the pain was excruciating, but not enough to put me out..
   I had never seen anyone enjoy another human being’s suffering with such religious fervor. Pet­tibone was no longer human but a wild beast as he danced around watching my suffering. He began to move around me, encircling me like a jungle cat toying with his wounded prey. I closed my eyes and slumped forward, pretending to pass out.
   ZAAAP! The terrible rod hit my testicles from behind, sending a violent spasm of pain shooting up through my body. I reared up on my feet, carry­ing the chair with me, the long bloodcurdling scream that came from me seeming distant, as though it were someone else’s. Two guards caught me before I fell forward on my face and eased me back to a sitting position. As I blacked out I could hear Pettibone’s insane laughter.
I don’t know how long I had been out, but it seemed like only minutes. Pettibone was in front of me again, bent over and staring up into my face, a look of maniacal glee on his. Across the room, one of the guards had vomited against the wall and two others were bent over, retching. Pettibone stepped back, holding up the rod again, his mouth twitching excitedly.
   “Enough!” Ali Rahkmon shouted as Pettibone prepared to shock me again. “I said enough, Basil! You fool, we don’t want him dead yet!” Pettibone stepped back and threw the rod on the floor. He looked angrily at Rahkmon, pouting like a little boy who had just lost his favorite toy. A guard handed him a towel and he wiped the sweat and saliva from his face. Angrily, he ordered the sick guards from the room.
   “Mr. Carter, have you had enough?” Ali Rahkmon asked. He was holding a perfumed handkerchief to his nose. The room was heavy with the stench of vomit and my own burnt flesh.
   “Mr. Carter, are you ready now?” asked Rahkmon. When I didn’t answer, he had someone throw a bucket of water over my head. I coughed and sputtered, gasping for breath. I was fully re­vived now.
   “Well, Mr. Carter?”
   “Enough, I’ve had enough,” I mumbled through the stick.
   “I think you have made a wise decision,” he said, motioning to a guard to remove the wooden stick. I knew that Hawk was no longer at Oakes Field by now. It was standard procedure for an AXE agent to leave the scene of a rendezvous if the other agent fails to appear within fifteen min­utes. So it was safe now to tell them. Ali Rahkmon watched me patiently, giving me time to catch my breath. Except for a dull headache and a stinging sensation in my groin where the rod had burned me, I didn’t feel too bad. I slumped forward in the chair. I didn’t want them to know I wasn’t still under the weather. I blinked my eyes, pretending to be groggy.
   “Well then, Mr. Carter,” said Ali Rahkmon. “Where is David Hawk?” I paused a moment, looking up at him with a dazed expression.
“The airfield,” I mumbled.
   “What airfield?” Rahkmon asked doubtfully. “Come, come, Mr. Car­ter, I’m losing my patience with you,” Rahkmon said threateningly.
   “Oak . . . Oakes,” I said.
   “Yes, of course. How very clever of Mr. Hawk,” said Rahkmon. “How long has he been there?”
   “Since that first night you captured me.”
   “Well now, you have been very helpful, Mr. Carter,” Rahkmon said. “I am only sorry I cannot return the kindness.” Rahkmon struck me sav­agely across the face with the back of his ringed hand. I slumped forward and didn’t move.
   I knew it would take Rahkmon over an hour to discover that I had sent him on a wild goose chase. My only hope was that somehow Hawk would know where I was. And that the Marines had arrived.
   “Captain Pettibone, do not feel left out,” said Ali Rahkmon. “I am giving you the pleasure of disposing of our friend Mr. Carter….

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