Reversal of Fortune

by Jack Peacock

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© Copyright 2022 - Jack Peacock - Used by permission

Storycodes: F+/m; mpov; bond; cuffs; prison; kidnap; punish; hum; susp; trick; electro; training; sold; nc; XX

Continues from

Planning

My situation was not improving. They had me kneeling on a mobile platform, ankles and knees held down with leather straps. Behind my back my wrists were clamped together with manacles attached to a cable. That cable went to a winch mounted on a beam over my head. My arms were pulled up behind my back, forcing me to bend over till my head nearly touched the platform. Otherwise I was sure to dislocate my shoulders, or worse.

As long as I stayed in my head down posture the strain on my arms was tolerable. My torturer in chief, the guard named Edith, stood to one side, to make sure I remained properly humbled. If she decided to tighten that cable behind my back I’d be in serious trouble. Not that it was pleasant in my present circumstances, but I had no intention of giving her any excuse to make it worse.

There was a table and chair to one side of my platform. Only one chair, which I took to mean I wasn’t going to be invited to sit down. I had no idea of what was going on. I wasn’t about to ask either; Edith‘s instructions had been to, in clear language, “shut up or we’ll make you wish you’d never been born.” I had learned from experience she didn’t bluff.

My current location was still a mystery, as were the reasons for my abduction and my captor’s intentions. About all I’d figured out is I was in some bizarre sort of prison, and that supposedly I was going to be put on trial. No one had bothered to inform me of the crimes I had committed, though from what I overheard there appeared to be a list of charges. The term kangaroo court kept coming to mind. In another life I’d write it off as one of the more common TV show plots. Unfortunately whoever was holding me prisoner had the means to enforce their peculiar interpretation of the law. Willing or not I was going to be a participant.

The door to the room opened to reveal a new arrival, my lawyer, or Advocate, as she referred to herself. Sally was her name. She was small, under five feet tall, blond hair and blue eyes, pretty in a country girl sort of way. Today she was dressed for the legal role in a tailored business suit with a narrow, knee length skirt and low heeled shoes. I don’t know if she was real but she certainly looked like someone familiar with a courtroom.

Before she sat down Sally waved a hand at Edith. “I realize you have to be present but that doesn’t mean stand over my shoulder. Why don’t you go sit down in that corner?” There must be a chair behind me. I didn’t have a good vantage point to look around the entire room.

After Sally sat down next to me she laid a hand on my shoulder. “Sally is so sorry about all this. I tried to convince the judge that you don’t need to discuss the case this way. Her Honor still ordered that all pretrial discussions must be accompanied by physical persuasion, even if it’s with your advocate.”

She had a peculiar way of talking, often referring to herself in the third person. And the way she stressed certain words was a distraction. I found myself trying to anticipate which particular words or phrases she emphasized.

She put a finger to her lips. “It’s best if you don’t talk except to answer my questions. Edith,” she nodded to my tormentor, sitting out of sight behind me, “is here to ensure all the procedural rules are followed. You are allowed to answer my questions but please, stick to what I ask and don’t try to slip in anything else. If you don’t cooperate I can’t prevent Edith from doing what she thinks is necessary to obtain your compliance.”

I managed to nod my head in agreement. I had a long list of questions. How I was going to obtain answers to those questions, and somehow get out of this agonizing position, didn’t seem to have an immediate solution.

“Excellent! Sally wants to do everything possible to help you. Your assistance makes my job so much easier. I know it’s been hard for you, in here, but don’t lose hope. Sally cares what happens to you, even if no one else does.”

I grimaced in pain. In my present position it was difficult to be optimistic, despite her cheery expression of sympathy. I was hungry, thirsty and so tired I could barely stay awake. The guards kept waking me up at night so I never got more than an hour or two at a stretch. They weren’t very generous with food and drink either.

Sally must have known about that. She took one of those foil packets of fruit juice out and stuck in a straw. When she held it close to my mouth Edith bolted out of her chair, her electric prod extended and aimed at me. I spit out the straw and cringed, waiting to be worked over one more time by that slim, snakelike wand with the terrible bite.

“Back off, Edith!” Sally stood up and confronted my guard. “I can’t discuss his case if his mouth is too dry to talk. I know your tricks. When was the last time you gave him some water?”

To my relief Edith didn’t carry through with her intentions. “Okay, but that’s all,” she conceded. “Don’t give him anything else without my permission. He has to learn to respect my authority.” She turned around and disappeared from my sight, presumably back to her chair.

I grabbed the straw with my mouth and sucked on it. Apple juice, not my favorite but I wasn’t going to turn it down. To my dry throat it was pure heaven. Tricks? Were they deliberately starving me? It was obvious once I thought about it. Sleep deprivation, bad food, little water, it was all part of my mistreatment. They were trying to break me down so I’d confess. Confess to what? I was still just as clueless as the moment I woke up in here.

Time and Place

“The judge hasn’t set the date for the proceedings yet,” she explained. “Sally asked for some time to prepare your version of the events when I present your explanation for what occurred. It’s important that we ensure your story matches with the evidence. It must show you were justified in how you acted. If the judge catches you in a lie, or even a half-truth to cover up your actions, well, you’ll lose all credibility. It won’t go well after that.”

Her little speech left me more confused than ever. What evidence, and why did I need to defend myself with an excuse when I didn’t know what she was talking about? Bent over, with my shoulders throbbing I couldn’t think straight.

Sally took out some papers and looked them over. “Let’s start with the facts we know. Can you tell Sally exactly where you were, the night of the first reported incident? And why you were there, obviously.” She leaned over, till we were face to face.

“What incident?” I asked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She shuffled the papers in her hands. “Sally understands if you aren’t comfortable talking about it. Do you want to start with one of the other reports instead? That’s okay with Sally, too. We have to go through all of them, but it might be easier to start with the less disturbing ones. Just tell Sally what you remember, so she can help you present your side.”

It felt like we were going in circles. From the way she talked it sounded like she thought I was guilty of the unspecified crime, or crimes, she was supposed to be proving I didn’t commit. In frustration I said as much to her.

She pulled back in shock. “Sally is disappointed you think so little of her. Sally believes in you, and wants to help you get past this ordeal. Sally is your advocate, speaking on your behalf to defend you against these horrendous accusations. That’s why it’s so important we review these allegations. The prosecutor has assembled a powerful case against you; we have to refute each of the charges, line by line, to sway the judge in our favor.”

What evidence, what incidents, what charges? I was bombarded with more and more questions, yet none were being explained to me. I decided to force the issue. “That first report, what’s the date when it was supposed to have occurred?” If I could just pin down one specific, that would be a start towards making sense of why I’d been kidnapped and brought to this place. Then I’d be able to climb out of this rabbit hole of legal distortions.

Sally looked annoyed but went ahead and picked up the first sheet of paper. “I don’t see how you could forget this day. The incident was on the Fourth of July, the holiday. Surely you recall?”

Aha! I had her now. The last Independence Day holiday I was in the stands at the stadium, watching the fireworks while drinking a nice, cold beer with two of my buddies. All that happened was me spilling mustard from a hot dog on my shirt. I carefully went through the day with her, hour by hour.

When I stopped the only reaction was for Sally to sigh and shake her head. “Why are you wasting Sally’s time? Misdirection isn’t going to work; the judge won’t stand for it. You know very well the report refers to the events from seven years ago. Sally is so disappointed you are trying to dodge the truth.”

Seven years ago? I tried to think back but it was a blank. Whatever might have occurred wasn’t significant enough to leave an impression on me. “Help me remember,” I asked, “what does that piece of paper say?”

“What do you think it says?” She leaned towards me. “Tell Sally what you can recollect from that day. Sally promises she won’t repeat it, but she has to work with the facts, not denials.”

“I’m not denying anything. I just want to know what I did, so I can understand what’s going on.” This was an exercise in frustration. No matter what I said it all came back to me confessing some dark secret that didn’t exist.

“Good! You finally admit to the facts! See, isn’t that better than denying the obvious? That wasn’t so difficult. Now, Sally can help you. Can you tell me about the bodies…”

Before she could finish Edith walked up from behind me. “Your time is up. You,” she poked me with that prod, “shut up. I’ve heard enough of your whining. Pack up and leave, Sally. If you want more time with him,” she poked me again, “then talk to the judge. You heard him; he’s not denying it all happened just as described in the witness statements. I see no reason to prolong this any further.”

Impromptu Reunion

The moment Sally left the room Edith wasted no time in starting on me. “You think you’re going to get away with embarrassing me? You’d love it, wouldn’t you, if I got a reprimand from the judge for not feeding you? Feeling a bit hungry? How’s that working out for you, being on the receiving end for a change? Well, your Sally is gone but I’m still here.”

Receiving end? What was that about? And bodies? If only Sally had finished the question. Plus I was now at the mercy of an angry Edith. This was not going to end well for me. Desperate, I tried begging for some compassion. “Please, I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.”

Whack! The sudden sting of that metal wand across my backside was more of an unexpected shock than painful. And another whack! This one did hurt. A few more like that and I wouldn’t be able to sit down. I grunted in pain but tried my best not to react. It was better than her using the business end of that thing on me. I was still sore from the last time the guards worked me over with those prods.

Edith didn’t stop. Instead she switched to the soles of my feet. Two more lashes with that metal rod followed. I did cry out on the second one. Why had I been assigned Edith as a guard? I wondered if there was some vicious streak in her that delighted in brutalizing me.

My feet throbbed from the beating. I wasn’t sure if I could stand up, especially if she delivered a few more strokes. When would I meet with Sally again, and what did the guards have planned for me the rest of the day? I didn’t want to think about tonight.

I felt the end of her wand touching my face. “You’re going to be a good little boy, aren’t you?” She pressed the tip against my cheek. “Maybe you’d like a kiss? You find me attractive, don’t you? Perhaps I could come to you tonight, we could sleep together. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

I was in a quandary as to how I should answer her. If I said no, she’d take it as an insult. Yes, and she’d act offended for treating her as a sex object. Damned either way, so I chose to remain silent.

Edith started laughing. “You are pathetic. A real man would show some backbone. Instead you grovel, afraid of your own shadow. Imagine me hopping into bed with the likes of you. What a waste.”

She released the brakes on the platform wheels before pushing me out into the corridor. Like all the others in this place there were no signs, no markings to figure out where I was. Edith took her time, wheeling me along the hallway at a slow walk.

There were other people passing by, all women, and most dressed in guard uniforms. Every one of them stared at me as they passed by. More than once I heard derisive laughter along with whispered comments if there were two or more. Edith seemed to delight in my humiliation.

I heard a phone ringing behind me. We came to a halt in the middle of the hallway. Edith put on the brake and started to walk away, judging by the way her talking faded out. My arms were killing me. If she had even a little humanity in her soul she could have lowered my arms just a bit, yet it was not to be. All that kept me going was the hope I’d be freed from this platform when we reached my cell. Whatever Edith did after that, I didn’t much care.

A woman approached me while I was waiting on Edith’s phone conversation. She glanced down at me, stopped and came over to stand in front of the platform. Grabbing my hair she jerked my head up.

“I know you from somewhere.” She stared at me, waiting for an answer.

At first I didn’t recognize her, but then it came to me. “A few days ago, you came out of a door while I was in the hallway. I was chained to the rail on the wall.”

She thought for a minute. “Oh yeah, I remember now. You’re that stupid one.” She frowned. “Weren’t you taught some manners?” She pulled back, forcing my head up even more.

I’d made another mistake. It was so difficult to concentrate. “Forgive me. Ma’am,” I replied, trying to sound contrite and self-effacing.

“Sorry about that, I had to take that call. Is he causing a problem?” Edith had returned.

The woman shook her head. “No, other than he was insolent and disrespectful. I don’t know how you can work with dimwits like this. It seems like he can’t remember his lessons for more than a day.”

“Do you wish to discipline him immediately?” Edith asked. Yet more bad news; what else could they do to me?

The woman didn’t answer right away. She kept tapping that prod against her leg, debating what my fate should be. “No, he isn’t worth my time.” She turned and walked away. Waving a hand in the air she announced, “Do whatever you want, Edith. I’ve heard you can be quite creative.”

Progress Report

Sally used the remote control to pause the camera feed. So far everything was proceeding according to her script. The guards had left him in a solitary cell, chained to the wall by the neck, and his ankles fastened to the floor. He couldn’t stand up or lie down. The unceasing bright lights overhead didn’t help either. Nor was he aware he’d be in isolation for the next thirty-six hours.

By the end he’d be exhausted, sore, hungry, thirsty, and forced to sit in his own filth for hours on end. She didn’t envy the cleaning crew after he was removed from the cell. They’d wash him down first, with cold water from a hose, before hauling him off to a shower. It was a classic degradation technique, classic because it worked so well. Nothing ate into self-esteem like being denied access to a toilet, along with being exposed to ridicule after the fragrant results.

The client wanted a progress report on the status of Sally’s guest. She liked that euphemism, guest. It had the connotation of an extended vacation to an exclusive resort. This place, an undisclosed location in a nameless country, was a sort of resort; mostly a last resort for interrogating particularly uncooperative individuals, with space rented out to other organizations to reduce operating costs. The prisoners, well they did receive free room and board, even if it might not be up to five star hotel standards. As for the extended vacation, their stay could be quite lengthy, for years if need be.

He wouldn’t be here that long. Her practiced eye spotted the first signs already. The slumped shoulders, weighed down by the depression that comes with the realization there was no escape, and his misery would never end; plus the sullen obedience that came with a broken spirit. This one wasn’t particularly difficult but Sally was reassured whenever those signs of progress appeared. Feedback was essential in both the timing and severity of the incremental changes to further his misery.

What would be his ultimate fate, when the client was through with him? She didn’t get personally involved with those kinds of details, once her job was finished. The usual procedure was to put him in some old clothes, give him a little bit of money, and then dump him on the streets of one of the more progressive big cities. Eventually the social service vultures would latch onto him and run him through the system, doing their best to preserve his status quo as a homeless statistic in order to boost their funding. If she judged the client correctly, that ceaseless, day after day living as a virtual zombie would more than satisfy the vindictive streak that must lie behind her client’s stated wishes.

Whatever happened to him, and she couldn’t even remember his name, was no concern to her. He might have done nothing wrong to deserve his treatment; it was entirely possible her client was the mental case out for unjustified revenge. The possibility changed nothing for Sally. He was just another contract, funding her real desire to seek out victims to prey on.

She was an expert at her work, with a worldwide reputation among those who were in need of her considerable talent. Her process took time but nearly always yielded the goals within the terms of the contract. She left it to others when quick results were needed; her specialty was rendering the subject incapable of leading any sort of opposition to her client’s agenda, whatever it might be. She was apolitical; ethics, morality, right and wrong were only abstract concepts to her. Sally lived for that moment when her subject’s ego cracked and the personality began to disintegrate. In between paid jobs she often went hunting for victims on her own. They weren’t hard to find.

She picked up her copy of the agreement. The client, known only as Party of the First Part, contracts with the Party of the Second Part, an anonymous reference to Sally, to induce behavioral modifications to one Subject by the name of Murray Wainwright. That was his name, Murray. No one in this place would ever use his name. That was part of the process, to strip him of his identity, his individuality. He was already treated as an object, a thing, not a person. Destroying his self-esteem step by step acted like an acid, slowly dissolving his ego.

Her remuneration was generous, as befitted her talent and experience. The initial payment was already in her Cayman Islands numbered account, with the balance on completion. In her line of work clients never defaulted on payment; the penalties for non-payment typically led to the disappearance of the Party of the First Part. Sally had never encountered a deadbeat client, though she did know of one of her peer group who managed to extract his payment through the full use of his considerable skills.

She picked up her dinner tray to finish off her meal. The aroma of fresh couscous and tender lamb brought back fond memories of her prior culinary adventures in North Africa. Her meal was nothing fancy, semolina wheat mixed with a few vegetables, some herbs for seasoning, and locally raised lamb, not too greasy. This location employed some native Berber staff; the cook must be one of the locals too. It was simple village food, no fancy gourmet plating with ten syllable French names; that’s what Sally preferred, simple.

Sally applied the same principle to her own work. She liked to keep it simple, tried and true techniques, no fancy technology to get in the way. Her craft had a long if notorious history, extending as far back as the ancient Sumerians. As long as someone withheld information someone else needed, there would be a demand for her kind.

She learned this would be her calling from an early age. The time at school, when one of the other children broke an arm, and they all saw the bone sticking out of the kid’s skin, that was the moment she knew she was different. The other kids ran away in revulsion at the sight of blood and bone, yet Sally felt nothing while she watched the teachers rush to help. And afterward, when the school brought in a grief counselor, Sally listened but merely went through the motions in the boring sessions. She felt no sympathy toward her injured classmate, why should she pretend to be sad about it?

In the report she arranged it by sections dealing with each of the enumerated goals in the contract. The first, which convinced Sally her client was a woman, specified the subject should have his sex drive frustrated by instilling a fear of women. That spelled revenge with a capital ‘R’. Judging from the video, that phase was on schedule. Sally’s use of an all-female staff to torment him, especially with use of the electric prods, must be affecting him. She noted in the report that her choice of Edith, who had a reputation for being enthusiastically sadistic toward men, had significantly advanced his fear of punishment at the hands of a woman.

The second goal, to humiliate him, showed signs of early success. That was another old yet simple technique. Take away his clothes leaving him fully exposed to attractive women, and then have those same women laugh at him and make jokes about his virility; that was a virtual death of a thousand cuts for a man’s self-image. For Murray it was only the beginning. Sally made a note in the report about the next phase, and how it would further undermine his confidence.

Then there was the last and most complex goal. Sally shook her head and laughed at the way it was succinctly stated: “reduce him to a drooling idiot.” Anytime she was given a job like that it invariably stemmed from a passionate if irrational hatred for the subject. Somewhere in his past Murray had crossed a woman who never forgot what he did, assuming it was his fault, or even real, not imagined. But reasons were irrelevant. When it came to the task of destroying a personality there were none better than Sally.

Getting into the subject’s head was no simple matter. The human mind was surprisingly resilient. She had purposely lowered the client’s expectations for quick results for this particular goal. It took patience to win trust, open that door, and then enter and tear everything apart. Sally had no doubt she’d fulfill the last goal too, but it required time. She did note the subject had not exhibited any impediments to her stated plan of action. He was no religious fanatic or political extremist. There was no ideology he could latch onto for spiritual support.

She closed off the report and emailed it to her employer. Paperwork completed, she had some free time coming. Maybe she’d get a ride into town tomorrow and take a walk through the souk. There were always a few stalls with something exotic to catch the eye. The town was off the usual tourist routes so the marketplace catered entirely to locals. Her command of the local dialect was non-existent but a fistful of money was a universal language. Meanwhile poor Murray would be getting a day off too, but not in the most pleasant of circumstances.

Good Times

It was an immense relief when the guards released me from that platform. There were four of them, all with those prods at the ready, when they unlocked my hands. I had to continue kneeling for a few minutes, to recuperate, before I was able to undo the straps on my legs. I had a fleeting impulse to rush them and try to get out of this place. Fleeting because I knew I’d never make it. At least one of them would get to me with a paralyzing shock, and after that they’d easily subdue me. It was frustrating but I had no option except to submit to their orders.

For once I wasn’t that bad off. I was chained to the wall by a few links attached to a steel collar fitted around my neck. It left me in a sitting position on the floor. My ankles were clamped together by rigid cuffs, also fixed in place with a short chain running to a ring embedded in the floor. For some reason my hands were left free, without any explanation. This wasn’t usual procedure but I wasn’t about to complain.

There were wrist shackles dangling from rings in the wall, above and to either side of my head. That concerned me; they certainly weren’t there for decoration. My best guess is someone, probably not Edith, decided my arms and shoulders required time to recover after my ordeal.

Why didn’t they just dispose of me, instead of conducting this charade? Hope springs eternal; as long as I was breathing there was a chance I’d be found. The authorities must know I was missing by now. How long before they tracked me down? It was a slim thread but enough to keep me going. An operation this size couldn’t stay hidden forever.

I was left alone in my tiny cell. Unlike the previous room this one was completely enclosed except for a heavy, solid steel door. Even if I could reach it there was no way to open it on this side. I actually had some privacy, or at least the illusion of it.

I had no way to track the time. After a while the door opened, with Edith standing in the doorway. By reflex I tried to draw up my legs and cover my head with my arms in a futile gesture, to protect myself from her wrath.

Seeing me hunched up like that she started laughing. She even gestured for some of the other guards to come and look at me. While the other women crowded round the open door Edith strode in and stopped in front of me, slapping that terrible wand in the palm of her hand. When she pointed it at me I began to shake in terror. What was wrong with me?

Edith shook her head. “You’re pitiful. Look at you, cowering there like a frightened little boy. Do you want your mother to come and make it all better?” The laughter from the other guards stung as much as Edith’s sarcasm.

“What do you think, girls? Should I poke this worm and see if there’s any life left in him?” I nearly screamed when she touched my leg with that wand of pain. The jolt of electricity I anticipated didn’t arrive.

“You’re in luck today. Thanks to Sally intervening with the judge we have to be nice to you. Don’t count on it lasting very long.” Edith collapsed her prod, hooked it to her belt, turned around and walked back to the door. “Go ahead and let him eat before hooking him up to the wall.”

Food? They weren’t going to starve me after all? The doorway cleared so one of the guards could bring in a tray. Two more guards came in with her and took up positions on either side of me, prod out and at the ready. When the first guard placed the tray on the floor I was careful to keep my hands in my lap. I was hungry, and chained in place there was nothing to be gained by grabbing one of the women.

All three backed out of my cell. The last one, who brought my food, warned me, “When you finish everything goes back on that tray. I find anything missing, you'll regret it.” She closed the cell door when she left.

The moment they were gone I didn’t hesitate. I grabbed the tray and pulled it closer. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The plate contained a huge double cheeseburger, loaded with lettuce, tomato and pickles on top. When I uncovered the large bowl it was full of macaroni and cheese, still warm too. They even gave me a generous one liter plastic bottle of water. Compared to the barely edible meatloaf substance I’d been given the last few days this was a royal feast.

Edith and her friends would never treat me this way. It had to be Sally, delivering on her promise to help me. At last I had someone on my side in this hellhole. She must have some influence, since not only were they feeding me but I hadn’t been beaten after the meeting, despite the incident in the hallway.

I gobbled down the burger first, followed by the mac and cheese. By the time I reached the bottom of the bowl I was stuffed, but I still forced down every last bite. I had no way of knowing when I’d eat again. Same for the bottle of water; I drank every last drop.

The best I saved for last. On the tray was a full size chocolate bar in a plain wrapper, for dessert. I ate it slowly, savoring the rich chocolate taste in every bite. It had a faintly fruity taste; a hit that a few cherries were mixed in with it. I wished I could save half of it for later, but my instructions were clear. Everything had to go back on the tray. I had no way to hide the candy bar; use it lose it, I figured. When it was gone I licked the residue off my fingers.

They gave me plenty of time to eat. When I finished I made sure everything was back on the tray before pushing it across the floor, out of reach. I figured if I acted in as non-threatening a way as possible they might ease up on me.

When they returned it was the same procedure: a guard on either side of me while a third took the tray away. My heart sank when it was Edith that came back instead of the original guard. “The prosecutor wants to talk to you. For security reasons we have to hook you up to the wall.”

By that I gathered she meant locking my wrists in the manacles above my head. My moment of partial freedom was too good to last. I raised my arms over my head, anticipating her next order.

Before approaching me she handed her wand to one of the other guards. Both waited outside my reach, limited by the collar around my neck. Using a key she unlocked the right shackle, snapped it around my wrist and closed it. Then she repeated the same procedure with my left hand. I felt some twinges from my shoulders due to their earlier mistreatment, but it wasn’t that bad.

After Edith finished with me she retrieved her wand and waved off the other guards, leaving us alone with no witnesses. She stood at my feet, towering over me, waving her pain dispensing wand back and forth.

“Listen up, naughty boy! Around here we all respect and admire the prosecutor. So you’re going to be on your very best behavior, aren’t you? You will sit up, keep your mouth shut unless she asks you a question, and you better show her more respect than what we normally get from you. If I learn of any more insolence from you, well, we have long memories here.” To emphasize her last point she jabbed me in the groin with the tip of her prod. “Do we understand each other? Answer me!”

“Yes, ma’am,” I blurted out, petrified at the thought she might activate the prod where I was the most sensitive.

She withdrew the wand, collapsed it and placed it on her belt. “Did you ever have a backbone, or were you born this way? You are a contemptible creature…but that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” The door slammed shut when she left. Then the lights went out.

Outing

Sally adjusted the jilbab so it completely covered her hair. Checking in the mirror she decided she could pass muster with the locals, if she kept the gloves on. She was headed to a village bazaar, not the big city. Foreigners were tolerated, as long as local customs were respected. For Sally that included the local variant of modest dress, in this case covering head to toe, and fingertips too. At least she didn’t have to wear a burqa, or niqab style veil to cover her face. This country wasn’t quite that conservative.

She grabbed the remote to check on her subject before leaving for the day. His cell was still in total darkness but the infrared cameras revealed plenty of detail. He was fastened to the wall, no change there. The position was carefully chosen to make it difficult to sleep.

There were blotches around him. She had a good idea of what it was. After that big meal nature would take its course, helped along by the mild laxative in the chocolate bar. The lack of toilet facilities meant he had to sit in his own waste. The cell floor was designed with an imperceptible slope to ensure nothing drained away. It was extremely difficult to maintain any dignity in that environment. They never think ahead, she mused.

It was a good start to his extended solitary confinement. One night was bad enough; he had another full day to go. The darkness and the silence, sensory deprivation, would slow down his perception of time; minutes became hours; hours became days. There would be plenty of time for the demons in his head to pay him a visit.

She switched off the display. Did he still expect a visit from the prosecutor? It would happen, but not today. Forces in his own mind would be working against him now. The constant abuse, the humiliations, the contempt every woman showed toward him, it all piled on to break him down. And when it reached the peak, Sally would be there to toss him a lifeline. He had no idea that lifeline had an anchor tied to the other end. She smiled in the mirror. The main course was baking in the oven. It wouldn’t be much longer before it was ready for the table.

The Prosecutor

My arms hung limply from the shackles. I didn’t have the strength to hold on to the chain anymore. I was so tired my head kept slumping forward when I dozed off. That wasn’t good because invariably I started choking when the collar pulled taut. My backside was numb from sitting on the concrete. That was just as well considering what else surrounded me.

Very clever, giving me all the food and drink I could manage. The discharge from my feast encircled me like a moat fed by a sewer. The smell was overpowering. One benefit of being in the dark, literally, was I couldn’t see how bad it was.

How long had it been, two days, three, four? What was going on? Had they forgotten about me, just left me here to wither away? And what about the prosecutor? Edith had left me with the impression a meeting was only minutes away. Instead no one came back, not even to check on me.

Sally must know I’m in here. Where was she? If she wanted to help, now was the time to step up. I was near the end of my endurance. Eventually I’d be too weak to hold up my head; at that point I’d choke on the collar around my neck.

The lights came on, bright. I had to turn my head and close my eyes against the glare. They hadn’t left me for dead after all. I heard a key in the door.

A smartly dressed woman strode in with an air of confidence that told me she was in charge. She started to approach me but stopped suddenly, before hastily backing up.

“What is that odor?” she complained. Was this the prosecutor?

Mindful of Edith’s warning I kept quiet. I saw her eyes narrow while she looked me over, then suddenly go wide open when she realized what I was sitting in. She reached into her purse for a cloth to cover her nose.

“I’ll make this quick. I’m prosecuting your case. Your advocate asked for a meeting to discuss plea negotiations. I wanted to inform you directly there will be no deals. I read through every complaint from your victims, as well as the stack of witness statements, including the pictures. This one is personal. I’m going to do everything in my power to see you suffer the maximum penalties, and serve the full term of your sentences. If I never try another case I can retire content in the knowledge you’ll never see daylight again. What you did to those kids…”

I was taken aback by the intensity of her hatred toward me. What did I do? I wanted to scream it, to demand an answer, but when I saw Edith standing in the doorway my resolve evaporated in less than a second.

“Edith?” The prosecutor turned toward the door. “Hose him off and use plenty of disinfectant. I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t know whether to blame the smell or being in the same room with that creature. And see what you can do to housetrain him. Use diapers if you have to. I don’t want to see this when we’re in the courtroom. If Sally complains, tell her to take it to the judge.”

No End

I settled into a sort of routine existence. Pre-trial detention, that was the term Sally used. Most of the time I spent stuck to the floor of the cell. One improvement, I was given a bedpan, though I had to beg permission to use it. That was the catch; a guard didn’t always check on me before it was too late, so often I wasn’t able to ask in time.

The food returned to jail quality, meaning nearly inedible. The water was a rusty color and smelled of chlorine from purification tablets. I was kept in solitary 24 hours a day, and chained to the wall on top of that. That was the sum of my daily routine.

Did it wear me down? Sure, no one can receive that kind of treatment and not be affected. Would it improve when the trial started? Much as I’d like to hope, I had to accept Edith and her group would find other ways to bump up my gloom index to make up for time in court.

I was slipping into permanent despair. I recognized the symptoms, not that it made a difference. Would the trial exonerate me? It was all contrived, a sham; what chance did I have?. Once it was over I’d go from bad to worse, if that was possible.

All that kept me going was the anticipation I’d be found and rescued by the police. Every day I waited for the door to my cell to burst open, revealing a SWAT team that would rush in and free me from my chains.

Till then Sally was my one beacon of light in a fog of darkness. I was positive she was fighting on my behalf, trying to improve my condition. I’d seen it, the time she forced Edith to back down. It did lift my spirits, knowing there was at least one person in this place that didn’t hate me.

I had plenty of time to think while staring at the walls in my tiny cell. Everyone except me seemed to know about the terrible deed I had committed seven years ago. The prosecutor was confident she’d convict me, and even Sally acted as if I was guilty. They had witnesses and evidence. I was starting to believe there was something to it after all.

Why couldn’t I remember? Did I block it out, one of those mental defense mechanisms to keep me from being wracked with guilt? If it were true, did I deserve to be locked up, shut away from decent people?

In frustration I jerked on the cuffs holding my wrists against the wall. I was so confused. If I was innocent, then where did the guilt eating at me come from? Why did all those women, people I had never met, recoil from me in disgust? There had to be a cause to explain why I felt humiliated and ashamed whenever they stared at me. What was I hiding from myself?

The prosecutor’s parting remark, about children, why did she say that? I was no child molester. Like the rest of society I regarded them as monsters, the very worst the human race had ever produced. In my opinion anyone who harmed children deserved society’s unqualified hatred. It was no different than the way the women in here treated me.

Leaks in the Dike

Sally put down her tablet when she saw the subject stirring on the camera feed. That apparent slip from the woman playing the part of the prosecutor was starting to sink in. In reality it was no mistake. Everything in her speech was scripted in advance, and delivered with superb timing.

Sally was well aware there were no children involved. Nothing happened seven years ago; in fact there was no case, no witnesses, no pictures and no evidence. She was making it up day to day, always keeping the hints vague but suggestive. She had a crew of support actors to lend credence to the fabrication; he had no one on his side to refute the innuendo. Repeat a lie long enough, get enough people to echo it, and any falsehood starts to take on the veneer of truth.

It was like a river of misinformation relentlessly pushing against the dikes of his mind. Plug one leak, two more burst open. Soon enough he’d be underwater, drowning in self-loathing over imaginary crimes too barbaric to mention. The leaks grow into cracks, until all his mental defenses wash away. That was Sally’s moment, capturing the instant when the bright spark in her victim’s eyes was extinguished, leaving only ashes of mental breakdown behind.

She picked up the tablet and continued making notes. The judge was about to start proceedings. Everyone would need their script to make it a memorable event.

08.08.2022

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