It was dark. No, it was hazy. He realized why when he touched his swollen left eyelid with his right hand. He felt like he must have really tied one on. Perhaps, he wondered, I offended the wrong wife this time. He rolled out of bed and realized his second problem. This wasn't his room. It wasn't even a nice room.
"Oh, boy." He said to himself.
A quick swivel showed that he was in a room that was about six feet by eight feet. He was laying on an iron cot with military linen. Not a good sign. There was a door on one of the shorter walls that had no handle on the inside. The opposite wall had a combination toilet, sink and mirror. Like the kind you'd find in a prison cell. The other two walls were bare, except for the scratch marks. As he began to rise off the mattress, it was then that he realized two of his left fingers were dislocated. A couple of quick pulls put things back in place and he ripped a piece of the sheet to wrapped them up to prevent further swelling.
Stumbling to the mirror confirmed something else. He was still ugly. Fleshy nose, beady eyes, pocked skin. Regular Frankenstein's monster. His lip was swollen as well as some abrasions to his forehead. He was pleased to see that all the blood on his hands wasn't his. It made him smile. Which made him frown when he saw the new missing teeth in his mouth. He was dressed in a neutral gray coverall with slip on canvas shoes. He went to the sink and ran the water. It ran clear, so he scooped up some in his hands to clear the dust out of his throat.
He crossed the room and slid his fingers around the jamb of the door. Smooth, no breaks, no finger holds. Whoever made this knew what they were doing. He banged on all of the walls. He felt and heard no echo. Solid cinder block. Ten feet above was a single bulb behind a mesh of metal that threw blinds of light around the cell.
What could he do but wait. He did a self-check of his injuries, not finding anything significant to be concerned about, so he did a hundred pushups to kill some time. Then he sat down on the middle of the floor facing the door and waited. He didn't have to wait too long.
After twenty minutes or so, he heard the bars retract from the other side of the door. There were a lot of bars, someone must know his skill set. From his position, he could launch at whoever opened the door in an instant, snapping their neck and making his way out of here.
One good hand was enough.
The door slid out two feet first before sliding across. It was dark in the hallway beyond, making it difficult to see further than a couple of feet. He braced himself to make a move.
And then it happened.
"Hello, Marcus," she said.
"Crap." This situation was worse than he thought. "You're the last person I expected to see today."
"I'm sure," she said, "but we have a serious issue on our hands and we need you to pull out some information for us. We don't have a lot of time to get it."
"Then what are we waiting for?"
By the time Marcus cut off the guy's third finger, his level of pain was so high, there's doubt he even felt the last digit come off. A gruesome tactic of revelation. The Yakuza do this to members who talk too much. The Americans do it to get people to talk. They were in America.
Specifically, they were in a basement located in a very nondescript split level home, located in a very nondescript neighborhood in Anywhere, USA.
Unlike the showmanship of the upper levels, the basement was sparse and made for business. The bare concrete foundation was displayed around the area along with the steel piping that held the beams of the floor above in place. In the center of this was an aluminum chair with a typical child's desk you'd find in any under-funded ghetto elementary school in front of it.
The man of the hour was strapped to the chair resting his arms, if you could call it resting, upon a piece of cut plywood that extended across the width of the chair. It made the task of cutting his fingers off easier for Marcus who was using a cleaver, wearing a splash mask and butcher's neoprene apron. He also cauterized each of the man's nubs with a handheld blowtorch, like the kind you would brûlée with, as he went along so the man wouldn't bleed out.
There were other people in the room. Two soldiers dressed in black stealth and combat boots armed with standard M4A1 rifles and a woman similarly dressed, with a standard sidearm, who the others deferred to. She was the same woman who brought Marcus into this venture. Her name is Monica. Most people called her Colonel.
The Colonel moved her cigarette from her right hand to the left and smacked the man in the chair in the face to regain his attention. "Mr. Harvey. Let's get down to business. I need information. You have information. You will give me the information or you will lose more pieces of your body. Do you understand me?"
Mr. Harvey didn't respond, so she snapped her fingers, blew smoke in his face and gave him a right jab to the solar plexus. This got his attention.
"I ain't tellin' you nuttin'."
Mr. Harvey was a terrorist. He was a twenty-three-year-old, under-educated, anti-government, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, conspiracist, mysogynist, racist, dumb-ass. To most people, Mr. Michael Harvey was just an average white American from Connecticut, but Monica knew that he was a social misfit. A misfit who could associate with the wrong sort of people, but wasn't above his own conspiracies and had been arrested in the past for arson. The one thing the Colonel was sure of was that he knew how to make effective bombs. The bomb that exploded in a Danbury mall injured eleven and killed six teenagers.
That was yesterday.
The other problem was that he claimed he had four other devices stashed around the state. Further fubaring this problem was determining whether he was working alone, with someone or perhaps with an organized group.
Time was ticking.
Marcus, still with the cleaver in his hand, spoke. "Colonel?"
"Start with the knee," she directed.
Harvey tightened up as Marcus put down his instrument and picked up a syringe with a lengthy, thick needle. Since Harvey's legs were similarly strapped, he didn't have to worry about him moving.
Marcus came from the side of the knee, moving under the kneecap with precision. Harvey shuddered in agony. Spittle was flying everywhere. He pushed the needle in until it reached the syringe and left it there.
The Colonel spoke to Marcus, "Meaney. Soften him up a little more." To which he began repeatedly hitting Harvey in his face until at least two of his teeth fell out.
The phone on the Colonel's hip rang. She answered without taking her eyes off of Harvey and stiffened moments after. "Are you sure? When? Where? Run it down." She paused, giving Harvey a baleful look. "No, but we're close. Yes, I understand. You'll have it as soon as I do."
Marcus spoke. "Colonel?"
"Another bomb went off. Elementary school in Waterbury. An entire classroom of students and their teacher blown away." The Colonel was uncharacteristically shaken. Marcus reflexively picked up the cleaver again.
Harvey began to laugh, throwing his head back in a maniacal glee of victory. "I told you. You'll never find them all."
The Colonel took matters into her own hands and began beating Harvey silly. She picked up a nightstick from the child's desk and began wailing on his arms and legs. "Tell me where they are or I swear to God....!"
With a wistful look, Harvey asked, "Or you'll what? You've got nothing to bargain with. Nothing. I win."
The Colonel dropped the stick without moving. "Skin him."
By the time she told Marcus to stop, Harvey had lost the skin off of both his arms from wrist to shoulder and halfway around his neck. His jugular was throbbing in rhythm to his erratic breathing.
The phone rang again. This time it was a municipal building in Hartford. Thirty-nine people reported dead or missing.
Through a bloody mouth, Harvey said, "More people are going to die. There's nothing you can do. You can't break me."
"You've left me no choice, Harv." The Colonel flicked her fingers to one of the soldiers who went upstairs. In the basement you could hear a scuffle occurring above, then the soldier returned dragging someone along with him. A woman.
The other soldier who was left in the basement dragged another chair in front of Harvey as the soldier plopped the woman in the chair. Together, they deftly tied her to the chair in a similar fashion to Harvey.
The woman's fear turned from recognition to horror as she looked at the man across from her. "Michael? Oh my God, what have they done to you?"
Harvey deflated, swinging his head in denial. "Mom?" He pleaded to the Colonel. "She doesn't know anything. She's not involved in this. Let her go!"
"I want to know where that other bomb is," the Colonel shot back.
"Bomb?" Mrs. Harvey was confused. "What bomb?"
"Your son is responsible for the multiple terrorists attacks that we've experienced in the last two days. Tell her, Michael. Tell her what you've done. Tell her how there's more out there and how you don't want to tell us where they are."
"Michael, is this true?" She was hysterical. "How could you do such a thing? All those innocent people. How could I have raised such a monster?"
"A good question Mrs. Harvey. Maybe you should have provided more quality time." The Colonel then pulled her sidearm out, pointing it at Harvey's face. He stared the barrel down defiantly. The Colonel then swung the gun over his mother and fired a shot into the meat of her leg.
"Moooommmmm!" He struggled to free himself. "Leave her alone! Leave her alone! She hasn't done anything."
"Neither did those people you killed, Michael. But they're all dead too. Just like your mother will be if you don't tell me what I want to know." The Colonel put the hot end of the gun barrel against his raw flesh, causing him to scream.
"I'm never going to tell you anything! This country deserves this. Because of people like you!"
Despite her pain, Mrs. Harvey spoke up. "What is wrong with you? They're going to kill me, Michael. Tell them what they want to know. Now!" Micheal bolted his lips in a firm line of silence.
The Colonel put her gun up to Mrs. Harvey's temple. "I'll do it. I really will. I've got nothing to lose."
Harvey lost any semblance of rationality. "I'll kill you. I'll make you burn. I'll burn down this whole country before I'm through. Let her go! Let..her..go!"
"Five." The Colonel began her countdown.
"I'm dead serious. Two."
"You can't." He pleaded.
"I can. She cocked the gun. "One."
Harvey called her bluff and remained silent.
The Colonel fired a round through Mrs. Harvey's temple. Michael went into shock staring at the part of his mother's head that remained.
"Cut her loose," the Colonel told the soldiers. They did so and the Colonel kicked Mrs. Harvey's body out of the chair.
Harvey spit on the floor before giving the Colonel the evil eye. "You've got nothing now. More people are gonna burn."
The Colonel feigned surprise. "You don't think I would just give away my only bargaining chip would you? You needed to know how serious I was about this."
"Wha-what are you talking about?"
Two snaps of the Colonel's fingers and the soldier went back upstairs. Again, he didn't return empty handed. This time he dropped a young woman in the chair. She was about fifteen.
Harvey was in shock. "Lisa?"
Lisa came out of her panicked reverie to recognize him. "Michael?" Then she saw the body on the floor. "Mom? Mom?" She tried to move to her mother, but the soldier held her down at the shoulders. She lost control. "What did you do to her!"
"The same thing I'm going to do to you if your brother doesn't start cooperating," The Colonel said.
Harvey hung his head, defeated. "Stop. Don't hurt her. I'll tell you." Then he stopped.
"I'm waiting, Michael." The Colonel tapped the gun against his sister's temple.
Harvey looked up at them. "First you get her out of her. Not just upstairs, I want her gone. Away from this." He looked around the room. "What time is it?"
The Colonel looked at one of the soldiers who checked. "Fifteen forty-six."
"You've got a short amount of time, Colonel. Take my sister out now. And I want confirmation from her that she's away."
The Colonel nodded her head towards the soldier and he took the girl away. You could hear the back door open and close. Several minutes later, the radio on the other soldier's belt squawked.
He handed it to the Colonel.
"Michael?" It was Lisa. The Colonel held the radio to Harvey's face.
"Go ahead, Lisa? Are you away? Are you far? Where are you?"
"I don't know, we're driving. I don't know where they're taking me."
"Ok, Lisa. Everything's going to be ok. Everything's alright now. I love you."
The Colonel cut the connection. "I kept my end of the bargain. Tell me, where's the last bomb?
"What time is it," he asked.
"Fifteen fifty-nine, Colonel."
Harvey smiled. "I still win, Colonel. The next bomb was in your sight the whole time."
The clock rolled to the top of the hour.
Then Harvey went boom.