Authors: Andrew Peterson
Tags: #Snipers - United States, #Mystery & Detective, #Intelligence Officers - United States, #Intelligence Officers, #Fiction, #Suspense Fiction, #Undercover Operations - United States, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Undercover Operations, #General, #Espionage, #Snipers
Harv disappeared down the hall and returned twenty seconds later. “Clear.”
“Okay, let’s get them situated.”
Harv grabbed a couple of chairs from the eating area. Nathan was hesitant to think of it as a dining room because these two didn’t dine, they merely ate, and from the look of things, didn’t get all of it into their mouths. He removed his night vision, turned it off, and reached into his pocket for the lens cap.
“NV off?” he asked.
Harv reached up, turned his unit off, and capped the lens. Harv took both NV visors outside and placed them the front porch. Nathan flipped a switch on the wall and a bare bulb on the ceiling came to life.
“Oh, man,” Nathan said. He hadn’t expected to see Wayne Manor, but this place belonged in a hall of shame museum. He’d seen the mess in shades of green through the scope, but in Technicolor the true nature of this pigsty took on a whole new dimension. The family-room table consisted of three bald tires stacked atop one another, capped off by half a sheet of painted plywood. Household trash was strewn everywhere. Beer bottles. Empty soup and chili cans. Milk cartons. Wadded paper towels. Apple cores. Peanut shells. Candy-bar wrappers. Half-eaten hot dogs and hamburgers. Microwave popcorn bags. Dirty dishes. Crusty silverware and girlie magazines. Clothes were thrown on every available surface. Shoes. Work boots. Socks. Soiled T-shirts. Old blue jeans. Mechanic’s overalls. Several cases of motor oil were sitting under the living-room window. Cleared paths through the clutter and filth connected the various rooms like worn trails on college campus lawns. And the smell: It was like a landfill in here. Nathan shook his head.
“You should see the bathroom,” Harv said. “I don’t know how people can live like this.”
“That’s just it, they don’t live. They survive.”
“I’ve never seen anything this disgusting before.”
“Ever watch the show
? Let’s clear an opening on the floor and set them up right here.” Nathan kept his gun up while Harv went to work. After a minute or so, he’d kicked enough crap out of the way to place two chairs about three feet apart. Harv hauled the two men into sitting positions and wrapped several layers of duct tape around their chests and the backs of the chairs to keep them from slumping over. The guy on Nathan’s left was thin and lanky and might weigh one-fifty with his clothes on. Blood was seeping through a gauze bandage taped on the triceps portion of his arm. That bandage looked uncharacteristically clean, Nathan thought. It didn’t track with this environment. Beneath the guy’s shaved head was a narrow, pointed face with a mustache shaped like a horizontal butter knife. His brother was compact and fit. He had a square face with strong cheekbones and short dishwater-blond hair that looked like he’d combed it straight up with bacon lard. This guy weighed two hundred, and looked somewhat formidable.
“Knife and Fork,” Nathan said, nodding toward them.
Harv stepped back, stared for a few seconds, and smiled.
The Bridgestone cousins were dressed in dirty blue jeans, white tank tops, and scuffed work boots. Their hands, arms, and faces were smudged with motor oil and grease. The bigger guy had a tattoo on his arm that looked like it had been etched with copper wire and a blowtorch. It was impossible to tell who was older—they both looked twenty years past their actual age.
“Let’s bring them around,” Nathan said. He reached down, grabbed an empty beer can, and crumpled it in his palms. As if shooting a free throw in basketball, he tossed it at Fork. It bounced off Fork’s forehead with a metallic
sound. A few drops of stale beer splattered the man’s nose and cheeks. His eyes fluttered open, then grew wide with terror.
“Nothin’ but net,” Harv said and gave Knife a firm shake. Knife’s eyes registered fear, then changed to rage. He whipped his head back and forth, trying to dislodge the tape covering his mouth.
Nathan dragged a chair over and sat down. Without taking his eyes off Knife, he pulled a thin pair of black gloves from his front pocket and slowly pulled them on. Harv did the same.
“Here’s the deal,” Nathan began. “We aren’t going to play good cop, bad cop with you two miscreants. For one, we aren’t cops and the other, we’re both bad. We don’t work for the FBI, CIA, NRA, PTA or the ASPCA. We’re…” He looked up at Harv. “What are we?”
“We’re independent contractors, so your Miranda rights are not in play here. In fact, this is an anti-Miranda situation. You absolutely do not have the right to remain silent. Oh, and the Eighth Amendment of our beloved Constitution is hereby suspended until further notice. If you’re curious, it has to do with cruel and unusual punishment being inflicted. Now, before we get started, is there anything you’d like to say?”
Knife began nodding furiously, but Fork stared straight ahead, refusing to make eye contact. Nathan leaned forward and yanked the tape from Knife’s mouth. It came off with a sound like tearing fabric. Knife’s poor mustache didn’t fare so well. It had been reduced by a good 20 percent. With an expression of revulsion, Nathan held the strip with his thumb and forefinger and tossed it aside like a plague bandage.
“You stupid motherfuckers,” Knife hissed, “I want my phone call.”
He looked at Harv. “He wants his phone call. Would you bring me the phone, please?”
Harv walked into the kitchen and yanked the phone off the wall, cradle and all. Its cord dangling uselessly, he handed it to Nathan.
Without warning, Nathan swung the phone like an oversized palm sap.
“Oh, man,” Harv said. “That’s gonna leave a mark.”
Blood began streaming from Knife’s nose.
* * *
Out in the surveillance van, Holly Simpson and the two techs looked at each other in the glow of the black boxes. They’d heard the impact. As promised, nothing was being recorded.
* * *
“Would you like to make another call?” Nathan asked.
“You son of a bitch. You broke my fuckin’ nose!”
“In about ninety seconds, the mucus membrane of that pointed beak you call a ‘nose’ is going to swell to twice its current volume. Breathing through it will become quite labored. If I have to tape your mouth again, you’ll start choking on your own blood.”
Nathan sighed. “I am truly disappointed.” He peeled another six-inch length of tape from the roll.
Cursing like a madman, Knife began whipping his head back and forth.
Harv maneuvered behind Knife while Nathan retrieved a filthy washcloth from the kitchen counter. Harv grabbed Knife by the ears and held his head still while Nathan wiped the blood from Knife’s mouth before jamming the strip of tape into place. He held his wrist up in an exaggerated manner, looking at his watch.
Knife’s face turned a bright shade of crimson and his chest began heaving for air. Nathan raised an eyebrow, silently saying
I told you so
. Knife coughed behind the tape and was forced to inhale his own blood. His body wrenched in a violent spasm.
“It’s only going to get worse. Soon, you’ll be aspirating blood and vomit into your lungs. That’s a bad situation. You could get pneumonia, and after I’ve broken all your ribs, coughing is going to be a tad uncomfortable.”
Fork’s bladder quit. The liquid ran down the legs of his chair and soaked into the carpet. The pungent smell of urine drifted.
Knife’s desperate wrenching reached a peak and Nathan knew the guy was close to passing out. He yanked the tape free, reducing Knife’s mustache to 60 percent. Vomit spewed.
“That’s disgusting.” Nathan looked at Harv. “Garden hose, please.”
Harv walked out the front door and returned a few seconds later, dragging a green hose with him. He handed the business end to Nathan and stepped back out outside. “Say when.”
Nathan removed the glove from his right hand. “When,” he called.
There was a faint squeak from outside.
Knife wrenched in his seat. “What the fuck you doing?”
Nathan used his thumb to form a jet of water and summarily hosed the two men down like dogs. Water flew in every direction. As if washing off a driveway, he used the hose to spray the vomit in front of Knife’s chair aside, then soaked the carpet under Fork’s chair, diluting the urine. Knife shook his head back and forth, trying to clear his vision.
“Okay,” he yelled to Harv. Another squeak.
Harv returned from outside.
“Once again, here’s the deal,” Nathan said, keeping his tone even. “We have all night and there are all kinds of things in an everyday household that are perfectly suitable for inflicting pain. Almost anything works. Take your pick. Scissors, screwdrivers, pliers, lamp cords. I once beat a guy senseless with a twelve-inch salami and then made myself a sandwich. Ever had your fingers inserted into a toaster? A frying pan is effective too. You know, those heavy-duty cast-iron jobs? What we do is heat it up several hundred degrees and then lovingly place it in your lap for safekeeping. Let’s see, what else works?”
“A grinder,” Harv said.
“Go take a look in the garage. I’ll bet they’ve got one.”
Harv took a step toward the door.
“Okay. Okay. What the fuck do you want from me? I don’t know where they are. My cousins are crazy. I don’t have nothing to do with them. I swear.”
Without looking, Nathan reached over and yanked the tape from Fork’s mouth. “Is there anything you’d like to add?”
“Tell him about the cabin!”
Nathan squinted at Knife. “What cabin?”
Knife twisted toward his brother. “You dumb shit.”
Nathan asked again, slower. “What… cabin?”
“There’s no cabin,” Knife said.
Nathan picked up the phone and held it an inch from Fork’s nose. “Would you like to make a call?”
“I don’t know where it is. I swear I ain’t been there.”
There was fury in Knife’s voice. “Shut the fuck up, Billy.”
Nathan nodded to Knife. “He’s been there?”
“Lots of times. He goes hunting up there. It belongs to our dad’s sister, but she don’t want nobody knowin’ about it.”
Nathan tore another piece of tape from the roll and secured Fork’s mouth. Avoiding the empty soup cans and milk jugs on the floor, he strolled into the kitchen and started rummaging around. He opened cabinet doors, tossed pots and pans aside, and purposely made all kinds of noise. He found what he was looking for, set it on the front burner with an audible
, and twisted the knob. The rapid clicking of the stove’s igniter was followed by the distinctive
of the gas catching.
Harv said, “Uh-oh.”
He returned to the living room and winked at Knife.
“My cousins will kill me.”
“He’ll do it,” Harv said. “I’ve seen this before. It’s pretty bad. It fuses the denim to your skin.”
“They’ll kill me!”
“Your concern should be more immediate,” Harv said.
After a minute or so, the odor of burned cooking oil drifted into the room.
Knife jerked against the chair. “Son of a bitch. You motherfuckers.”
“Warming up nicely,” Nathan said.
“Son of a bitch, son of a bitch!”
“I’m going to tape your mouth. I just can’t stand the sound of a grown man screaming.” Harvey jammed the tape over Knife’s mouth and pulled his Predator from its ankle sheath.
Knife’s eyes grew.
“Hold still,” Harv said, and cut a slit in the tape.
The tape hissed with each breath Knife took.
Nathan returned into the kitchen. With the frying pan’s handle protected with a dish towel in one hand and a small cup of water in the other, he approached the bound men. Blue-gray smoke belched from the pan’s black surface.
Knife began whipping back and forth, nearly toppling his chair.
Nathan stood in front of Knife and held the pan six inches above his lap. He poured an ounce of water onto its flat surface. The liquid burst to life in a macabre dance of boiling rivulets that hissed and sizzled like tortured snakes.
* * *
Out in the van, Holly Simpson held her breath.
“Last chance,” Nathan said. “Are your cousins really worth it? Do you think they’d take this kind of pain for you?”
Knife shook his head.
“Are you ready to talk about the cabin?”
He closed his eyes and nodded.
Nathan tossed the pan aside. It simmered on the wet carpet, belching steam. He tore the tape from Knife’s mouth. “Well?”
“It’s three hours from here. Up Highway Seventy near Quincy.”
“What’s the address?”
“It don’t have an address.”
“You’re going to show us where it is. Is there anything else we should know about?”
“That’s it man, I swear. I don’t know nothing else.”
Nathan knew when someone was lying to him. It was hard to describe. Maybe it was in the eyes, or micro changes in body language, but whatever it was, it didn’t matter. This guy was holding something back, something he was willing to risk a great deal of pain over.
“Okay,” Nathan said. “This isn’t personal, you understand that, right? I’m just doing my job.” He walked behind Knife’s chair and began cutting the duct tape. He sensed the man relax a little. Good. Now take it away. He stopped cutting the tape and grunted as though something wasn’t quite right. “What about the cash?” he whispered in Knife’s ear.
Knife stiffened a little.
“The cash,” Nathan said, watching Knife’s reaction. A bull’s-eye. A direct hit. Knife gave it away as clearly as a kid who looks down after peeing his pants. Cash. Emergency money. Probably lots of it, and without a doubt, it was hands-off as far as these two mutts were concerned. It made perfect sense. The Bridgestones probably had stashes all over the place. The Bridgestones were many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. They hadn’t been able to come here because the FBI stakeout had started before the raid on the compound.
“There’s no cash,” Knife said, but it sounded weak, unconvincing.
Nathan shook his head and looked at Fork, who was nodding furiously. “I think your brother has something to tell us.”
Nathan yanked the tape from Fork’s mouth.
“It’s buried near the garage. Leonard told us if we ever touched it, he’d kill us.”