Bring Out the GIMP (Girls in Merciless Peril)
Stories


BY THE BOOK

By Eda Chang


Chapter 1

"Meeting. 11 a.m. Room 11."

Captain Yon Li read the short note directed to the five members of the Council on Control of Organized Crime of the Pyongyang Civil Division of the Army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The North Korean capital's police department. The CCOC led the war against those who sought -- mostly through drug and gambling operations -- to gain wealth and power beyond what the government wished, lest such persons pose a threat to the government itself.

At age 29, Yon was the CCOC's youngest member. Her rapid rise through the department's ranks had been aided by her reputation for conducting as brutal -- she preferred the word "intense"-- an interrogation as necessary to gain the confessions and information that she wanted from those whom she interrogated. Whether the confessions were true was another matter, but that made little difference in her mind. The department commanders wanted suspects to confess and she got the confessions that they wanted -- and they were impressed that such a small woman -- barely 5'4" and weighing no more than 115 pounds -- could intimidate not only to those brought before her for questioning, but also those working under her in the department. Of course, her police uniform -- white shirt, dark blue jacket and skirt, red tie and low black heels -- gave her at least an air of authority. [see Yon Li pic]

That the meeting was called on only 15 minutes notice meant that the suspect to be questioned was important, perhaps even someone with information against the powerful Jin Hwan. So far, the police had been unable to gain evidence against him. A lack of evidence normally would not deter them from taking a suspect into custody. After all, it was the department's duty to protect the public and its officers didn't need hard evidence to know who was a threat to the state. But Hwan had high level political connections, which meant that the police needed actual evidence against him before it could bring any charges.

Yon headed out of her office, down the corridor and two flights of stairs. There was only one room in this area of the basement. Room 11. That the meeting was in "The Serious Room," also indicated that this would be a special prisoner. Maybe the noose was finally tightening around Hwan's throat.

Yon was the first to arrive. She noticed nothing out of the ordinary in the room that might hint at the events to come. The visible portion of the room was 15 feet square. The far wall, though, was curtained. When the curtain was opened, it revealed a much larger room. Not knowing what was behind the curtain helped intimidate the prisoner. >P> In front of the curtain was a semi-circular table that spanned most of the room's width. Behind it were five chairs. As the Council's most junior member, Yon sat on the near end. Just outside the center of the semi-circle created by the table was an empty space. Well, almost empty. Two metal bolts in the floor held two short chains that ended in metal ankle cuffs. When the chains were fully extended, the cuffs were about four feet apart. And hanging from two metal bolts in the ceiling, just over the metal bolts in the floor, were two other chains, these ending in wrist cuffs. When secured by these cuffs, the limbs of the suspect were spreadeagled, but not stretched enough to cause pain. That would come later. Inevitably. No, the purpose of this initial questioning was not to cause physical pain, but only to make the prisoner aware of just how totally vulnerable he ... or she ... was. This was usually enough. Not that it mattered.


Chapter 2

Commanders Gi Park and Bae Kim arrived together. Gi was in his 30s, Bae in his late 40s. Both had served on the CCOC since before Yon first joined the force five years earlier. Their uniforms matched Yon's except for the required differences. Yon and Gi had briefly been lovers after Yon joined the force, and she still thought of Gi as a decent man. He had supported her appointment to fill the most recent vacancy on the Council.

In contrast, Bae was a rather odd man. Reserved, with a high-pitched voice that seemed at odds with his large, and overweight, frame, Bae certainly did not look like what one would think a police officer should look like. Still, Bae was smart, and his brains had vaulted him to the upper echelons of the department despite his appearance. But behind the scenes. Bae was no threat to Gi's ultimate succession to Commandant of the entire department, since the Commandant was the voice and image of the department, a role that Bae could never fulfill.

The two Commanders took their seats immediately to the left and right of the center seat, Gi, who was Yon's Commander, on Yon's near side. "Have you heard anything?" she asked him.

"No. You?" Yon shook her head. "We'll find out soon enough, won't we?" Gi smiled. It was that smile that had first attracted Yon to him.

But when Captain Hea Kang entered the room, it was clear why Yon's relationship with Gi had not lasted. His eyes turned immediately to Hea, whose charms could not be hidden even by a drab police uniform, but left the men wondering only how the body under it created such curves and bulges in its plain material. [see Hea Kang pic] Yon thought that Gi would also have to imagine the color of Hea's eyes, because his gaze never rose to that level.

"Commanders." Hea greeted Gi and Bae warmly. "Captain Li." Her greeting to Yon was equally warm, unusual given that these two highest ranking female officers were clearly rivals in the department who were not particularly fond of each other. Hea -- though junior to the three male Council members -- had several years seniority over Yon. Hea took her seat at the far end of the table, next to Bae, the Commander of her division.

Chin Jo, Commandant of the entire police force and head of the Council, entered the room a few moments later. Without a word -- but a stern glance at the cheerful Hea, whose smile instantly evaporated -- he took his seat at the center of the table. "Time for work."

Chin stared at the others one by one before speaking. "As you all know, we have tried for a year to gather evidence against Jin Hwan. We know he is guilty of numerous crimes, but we do not have the evidence that we need."

Six months ago," Chin unnecessarily continued the background briefing with which the others were already too familiar, "we decided that there must be a mole in the department who has been tipping him off to the nature and timing of our investigations and sting operations." The other four nodded, remembering how painful that conclusion had been. "So we cut off the entire department from our operations against Hwan and used outside military personnel."

"As we all know, Chin went on, "even using completely different personnel for our operations, we could not catch Hwan. In fact, he grew stronger, more confident and more daring. He even started talking with the press about his large contributions to humanitarian causes throughout the country. Flaunting our failures in our face. If we do not destroy him soon, he will have become too ingrained in the establishment for us ever to destroy him."

Chin's voice showed his agitation with their lack of success. "So two months we determined that the mole had to be someone still involved in our operations after their handover to outside military personnel." Chin paused again, but they all knew what Chin's ultimate conclusion had been. "Which meant it had to be one of the five of us." The other four had not agreed with Chin, believing several other explanations far more plausible. That an outside source had tapped into their computers or phones, for example. But Chin was the Commandant.

"After much debate ... and some dissent," Chin looked to the side of the table where Gi and Yon were seated, "we decided that each month we would exclude one of us from involvement in our operations, reasoning that, if that person was the mole, did not know our operations that month, and so could not warn Hwan about them, we might succeed in catching him. Commander Park was excluded the first month, Captain Li the second month." Chin had obtained Bae's vote in support of this exclusion plan, and Hea had felt forced to side with her boss.

"But this plan too was not successful." Yon looked at Gi, who rolled his eyes at her. Gi and Yon had reasoned that, even if the excluded member was the mole, he or she would tell Hwan what was happening, and he would simply lie low that month. The group then could not know if they had failed to catch him that month because the excluded member was not the mole or because Hwan had been tipped to cease his activities temporarily. But the idea had passed by a vote of 3 to 2. As a result of their negative votes, no doubt, which seemed to raise Chin's suspicion, Gi and then Yon had been the first two Council members excluded.

Chin now ventured into new territory. "So we are left in a very difficult situation for which I have decided to take what might be called drastic measures."

Hea boldly interrupted. "I thought that we must have captured a new suspect. Isn't that why we're here? Isn't that what we do when we meet here in the Serious Room?"

"In fact, we have more than one suspect." The others looked at each other. "And, as we always do, we will interrogate these suspects strictly according to our rules of questioning." The others were uncertain as to why Chin felt a need to add this last statement. They conducted all of their questioning strictly under such rules.

The heavy door to the room opened, and four armed uniformed soldiers entered. Bae, Gi, Hea and Yon tried to see if they recognized the suspect who would be surrounded by the soldiers.

"Don't strain your eyes," Chin told them. "There is no suspect among them." The others looked back at him surprised. The suspect was always brought to them in this fashion. But their surprise was magnified by Chin's next words. "The first of these suspects is ... Commander Park."


Chapter 3

The others let out sounds of disbelief. "Me? Why? Just because I voted against your exclusion proposal?" Gi was horrified. "And I have already been excluded, unlike most of you."

"No. You are not being singled out," Chin explained. "We will all be questioned. We know that it is one of us. We will all be questioned. Even me, if need be." Chin paused. "Do any of you believe that this is not appropriate? Do any of you believe that there is another way?" Chin looked around the room.

Hea spoke. "No. This is the only way. We have tried everything else." She knew that Bae would back Chin again.

"At the risk of sounding like I'm trying to hide something, which I'm not," Gi spoke next, "I've said this before. I disagree that it must be one of us. There are other, better explanations. So I think this is going to fail just as the exclusion plan failed, a plan that we seem to have abandoned even before three of you have been excluded. All this new plan is going to accomplish is to humiliate each of us in front of the others. And I again am the one who must go first."

Chin took a deep breath. "I think this is what we must do. Vote. In favor?" Bae and Hea raised their hands with Chin's. Yon saw the three raised hands, already enough to carry Chin's proposal, and slowly raised hers. Gi slumped in his chair, then stood up and walked resignedly to the center of the semi-circle. He moved his hands to the buttons of his jacket, removed his jacket, his tie and finally his shirt, revealing his toned upper body. Gi looked at Chin, who stared expressionless back at him.

Gi reached down, pulled off his shoes, stood back up, unfastened his belt and pushed down his pants until they fell to his ankles. He stepped out of them and stood before the others wearing only his white undershorts. Gi positioned himself between the two metal bolts in the floor and raised his arms. Two of the soldiers walked up behind him and secured his limbs to the chains. One returned to the wall behind him, while the other remained standing behind him.

"Name," Yon shouted at him. As the most junior member of the CCOC, it was her role to ask the preliminary questions, which were always shouted at the prisoner to add to his intimidation. It seemed silly and unnecessary now, but her orders had been to proceed strictly by their rules.

"Gi Park."

"Association and position."

"Member of the CCOC of the Civil Division of the army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. And Commander of the West Pyongyang Division." Gi looked straight at the curtain over Chin's head, not wanting to meet the stares of any of the other Council members.

"Do you know why you're here?"

"Yes."

"Why are you here?"

Gi took a deep breath. "I am here because the Council has been totally ineffective in gathering evidence against Jin Hwan, suspects that one of its members is a mole for Hwan's organization, and has therefore decided to question all of its members."

Yon looked over at Chin, who nodded, confirming that the answer was acceptable and that the preliminary questioning was over. Gi closed his eyes.

With Chin's nod, the soldier standing behind Gi grabbed the left side of his shorts, flicked a small knife through it, then, holding the material in the back, cut up through the right side, and pulled the material down and away from Gi's body, leaving him spreadeagled and chained naked before the other Council members. The idea behind their rules was to have the interrogators humiliate the captive by making him strip himself to the barest essentials, but then they inflicted the final humiliation to remind him of their power. This was obviously effective, as Gi's body trembled slightly. Though he certainly had nothing of which to be ashamed. His nakedness revealed why he was such a successful womanizer.

It was now Hea's gaze that did not reach Gi's eyes for several seconds before she continued the questioning. "Have you ever met Jin Hwan face to face?"

"You mean alone?" Gi asked.

Hea's eyes widened and she looked at Chin. "Strictly by the rules?" She looked at Chin.

"Strictly by the rules," Chin replied.

Hea rose from her seat and approached Gi, who muttered a curse under his breath. "That wasn't an answer to my question," Hea looked at him, and, at the same time, grabbed his testicles hard with her hands. "I'll ask again, and, if I don't get a proper answer, I'll squeeze very hard."

"Yes, I have met Hwan face to face." Gi quickly replied.

Hea continue to hold Gi's testicles in her hand. "How many times?"

"Twice. The first time ..."

Hea squeezed hard, and Gi let out a streak. "Wait until I ask ... or you might not be able to use this for awhile. And that would be a shame." Gi was breathing hard and starting to sweat. The rules of interrogation required a direct answer to all questions and nothing more.

Hea released her grip. "Tell me about the first time." She walked slowly behind Gi.

"At his home. I and three of my subordinates questioned him about a car accident in which one of his employees had been involved. We were there about 10 minutes. Hwan said that he was out of town at the time and knew nothing about it. We confirmed that he was out of town." Gi stopped, knowing better than to explain about the second time before being asked.

"And the second time?" Hea obliged.

"At the police station. Hwan came in to bail out one of his men who had been involved in a bar fight. He passed me in the hall and nodded hello, then proceeded to the desk of ... the officer in charge that day." Gi turned his gaze on Hea.

Hea moved back to her chair. "How long ago was the first time?"

"Five or six months."

"Have you ever been to Hwan's house any other time?"

"No."

"Have you ever called his residence?"

"No."

Hea looked back at Chin, who turned to Bae and then to Yon. Neither indicated any interest in questioning Gi. Chin nodded to the soldiers, who released Gi from the cuffs. They handed him his clothes. He tossed away his torn undershorts, put on his pants and shirt, and, holding his jacket, tie and shoes, sat back down in his chair.

The others waited nervously for Chin's next selection.


Chapter 4

"Captain Kang, you seem to be the only one taking this seriously. If that is the case, you too may get off relatively easy. Depending on whether Commander Gi can gain some revenge." Chin nodded toward her. Hea immediately rose from her chair and walked inside the semi-circle. A murmur of anticipation could be heard from the soldiers in the back of the room, who had obviously been hoping that Hea would be next.

Hea looked at the other Council members, removed her jacket and stepped out of her heels. She again looked at them, removed her tie, undid the buttons on her shirt, pulled it off and tossed it aside. Her breasts consumed the plain white bra, and a murmur of approval arose from the soldiers in the room. Hea stood, undid her belt, paused to watch the men behind the table, and then pulled her pants down to the floor and stepped out of them, leaving her wearing below the waist only her white formless panties. She took a deep breath as she reached behind her back to unhook her bra, then lowered her hands to let it fall to the ground. Her breasts were large ... and natural ... and she seemed to enjoy the effect her striptease had on the men in the room. She spread her feet the required distance and raised her arms straight over her head, looking directly at Chin.

The soldiers quickly grabbed and secured Hea's ankles and wrists. She pulled on each to confirm that they held her tightly in place.

"Name," Yon shouted, wanting to get Hea's display over as quickly as possible. The soldiers also appeared impatient with her to get her preliminary questions out of the way so that they could finish their work.

"Hea Kang."

"Association and position."

"Member of the CCOC of the Civil Division of the army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Captain of the East Pyongyang Division." Hea looked directly at Yon.

"Do you know why you're here?"

"Yes."

"Why are you here?"

"I am here because the Council suspects that one of its members is a mole for Jin Hwan's organization, and has decided to question all its members." Hea had obviously remembered Gi's acceptable answer and quoted it without its unnecessary subjective commentary.

Yon looked at Chin, who nodded. A soldier immediately approached Hea from behind, cut each of the sides of her panties, and pulled them down and off, revealing the thin line of dark hair between her legs.

Chin looked at Bae, who shook his head, but had begun to sweat in anticipation of his own turn before the Council. Chin then turned to Gi, who rose from his seat and moved to stand directly in front of the chained Hea. He stared into her eyes, then moved his gaze downward and back up. She stared back at him, watching as he surveyed her naked body.

"When was the last time that you met Jin Hwan."

"About three months ago."

"Where?"

"The police station," Hea replied. Gi cursed silently. He wondered if, had he not been forced to remind her of that occasion, she would have remembered that she had been the officer in charge that day. In which case he could have treated her as she had him.

"And the time before then?"

"There was no time before then."

The rules did not allow him to touch her as long as she answered his questions directly. Gi turned and sat down. A murmur of disappointment from the soldiers.

Chin looked at Yon, who shook her head. Chin himself then asked, "Captain Kang, has your unit conducted any investigation of Hwan beyond what the Council has conducted?"

"Yes, sir." Yon and Gi were surprised. Although Chin asked this as a question, it seemed that he already knew the answer.

"Are there any written reports of that investigation?"

"Yes, sir."

"When will you share the results of your investigation with the Council?"

"As soon as it is completed. Which may be as soon as this week."

"Do your results in any way implicate any member of this Council?"

"It would be counterproductive for me to answer that question now, before the investigation is finished. Announcing any results prematurely might compromise the investigation." Yon looked at Gi.

"I understand." Chin nodded. The soldiers released Hea from her bonds. She put her pants and shirt back on, but left her jacket, tie, bra, panties and shoes on the floor as she returned to her seat behind the table. One of the soldiers bent over and picked them up, but made certain to put the torn panties into his pocket before he dropped the rest of the clothes by the near wall.

Bae and Yon both knew that, if Chin did allow himself to be questioned, he would be last, which meant that one of them would be next. Neither was yet ready. Bae feared comparison of his body with Gi's. And Yon did not relish comparison of hers with Hea's.


Chapter 5

"Captain Li." Chin nodded to her side of the table.

Yon rose slowly, walked to her place in the middle of the semi-circle and turned to face the table. Her body started to shake visibly. She looked at Hea, who stared back at her. Yon looked away. She raised her hands and fumbled with the buttons on her jacket, removed it, and then loosened and pulled her tie over her head. She knelt to remove her heels. Still trembling, she stood back up, slowly unbuttoned her shirt, pulled it out of her skirt and removed it. Yon took off her belt, unclasped her skirt, pulled it down and stepped out of it. A woman officer's uniform obviously included its undergarments, as Yon's matched Hea's, at least in its material, although not in how the top half of that material was filled. Yon instinctively crossed her arms in front of her chest. For the first time she felt a bit of the fear that she had brought upon countless prisoners, even though she had seen that the questioning of both Gi and Hea had been straightforward and brief.

Yon looked at Chin, who nodded at her. Yon forced herself to reach behind her back, and unclasp and remove her bra, which she handed to one of the soldiers. Her small breasts were nicely shaped, Still shaking, Yon separated her feet the required distance and held up her arms. In fewer than five seconds the soldiers had her fully secured. The sense of total helplessness and exposure sent a large shiver through her body.

"Name." The voice was Hea's, the second most junior Council member. The question came sooner than Yon had anticipated.

"Yon Li."

"Association and position."

Yon swallowed hard. "Member of the CCOC of the Civil Division of the army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." She looked at Chin. "Oh, and Captain in the West Pyongyang Division."

"Do you know why you're here?"

"Yes."

"Why are you here?"

A slight pause. "I am here ..." Yon wanted to use the same words as Gi and Hea, "... because the Council suspects one of its members is a mole for the Hwan operation, and is questioning all its members." The shaking in Yon's knees would have been more noticeable had her legs not been restrained.

Hea looked at Chin, who nodded. The soldier standing behind Yon slashed through the sides of her panties, and pulled them down and away from her body, exposing a small triangle of dark hair between her legs. Yon immediately gasped. In her terror of being forced to strip to her panties, she had forgotten that she was not yet totally naked. The reminder came instantly, and her trembling increased. The preliminary rules of interrogation devised by the Council were indeed effective. Yon tried to see if she could close her legs at all, but she could not. She looked up at Chin, who was staring at her body.

Chin looked around the table. Bae shook his head, as did Gi. Without waiting for Chin's nod in her direction, Hea turned to Yon.

"Have you ever met Jin Hwan?"

"I have no recollection of ever meeting Mr. Hwan."

"You've never been to his house?"

"No."

"You never met him at the station."

"No. I was not at the station the day that he came in." Too much information, Yon realized, but still, she had directly answered the question. Hea seemed to be pondering, but finally continued.

"Have you ever talked with him on the telephone?"

"No."

Hea rose from her seat and walked around the table, holding a photo. Yon tensed, but relaxed when she saw that the photo was of a man she had never seen. "Do you know this man?"

"No."

"His name is Ri Song," Hea explained. "He is ... or rather was ... an associate of Jin Hwan's." Hea looked for a reaction from Yon, but there was none. "Song defected from Hwan several weeks ago and has been cooperating with my investigation."

Yon realized that her questioning had already gone on longer than the others'. She remembered that Hea had said something about conducting an investigation. Her body began to shake more noticeably again.


Chapter 6

"Captain Li," Hea continued, "wouldn't you agree that it is a very brave and dangerous thing for an assistant to Jin Hwan to defect his organization."

Yon considered her answer. "Yes, it would be," she finally responded.

"And even more dangerous for him to contact the police to tell what he knows about Mr. Hwan?"

"Yes. I would think so."

"Now would you think that a man is going to run these risks in order to provide the police with false information?"

Yon was confused. "That is a difficult question to answer."

"Oh," Hea smiled. Yon immediately realized that she had not provided a direct answer to the question. A simple "I don't know" was all she need have said. Hea moved close to Yon. She grabbed between Yon's legs. "Of course my questions are difficult, Captain Li. I don't need you to tell me that. I need you to answer them as best you can." Yon could feel Hea's middle finger pushing up into her.

"I don't know the answer to that question," Yon stammered.

"So you would have doubts as to whether Mr. Song's information is truthful?" Hea finger continued to probe.

"I ... I would need more information from him and others. To decide whether I had doubts, I mean." Yon barely saved herself from the more serious consequences that she knew she would face from a second failure to answer a question directly. Hea's face registered its disappointment and she removed her invading finger.

"Let me give you more information, then," Hea offered. "Suppose that Mr. Song told the police that he had taken several telephone calls for Mr. Hwan from a female caller using the name 'Weil' and that each call proceeded in the same fashion. Would you know anything about that?"

"No."

"That, on each of these occasions, Mr. Song gave the phone to Mr. Hwan." Hea paused, looking at Yon. Yon remained silent. Hea had asked no question.

"That Mr. Song stayed in the room and heard Mr. Hwan say 'go ahead' when he took the phone." Another pause, a stare and silence. "That Mr. Hwan remained silent during the entire phone call, which lasted about a minute ..." Pause. Silence. "That Mr. Hwan hung up without saying another word ... And that, after each call, Mr. Hwan handed the phone back to Mr. Song, saying 'that was my police contact again' or words to that effect. Would you believe that there was any reason for Mr. Song to lie to the police about such information?"

"I ... I can't be sure, but I can't now think of a reason that Mr. Song would lie about this information."

"Good. We're making progress now." Hea turned her back to Yon and slowly walked back to the table. "And what do you make of the code name that the caller used? 'Weil'? Does that mean anything to you?"

"No."

Hea put down the photo of Song and picked up another photo, but held it away from Yon. "Let me suggest its meaning, then, and you tell me whether you agree with me or not. Will you do that?"

Yon's body was now glistened in sweat. "I will do that."

"Good. Good. Here's what I think. The name that the caller gave Mr. Song was not the name Weil ..." Hea stared into Yon's eyes. "What the caller gave to Mr. Song ... were her initials. Y. L. Not the name Weil. But the initials Y.L. Do you agree with me?"

The purpose of Hea's questions suddenly became clear to Yon, as did the charade of the interrogations of Gi and Hea. A set up to put Yon into the interrogation frame to face Hea's questions without any chance to prepare or think. Or even know much ahead of time that Hea had been conducting her own investigation "I can't answer that question," Yon stammered, "because I did not hear the way the caller said what she said."

"Oh, I think that you did, Captain Li. Can you name for me a member of this Council with the initials Y.L.?"

Yon's heart raced as panic and fear consumed her body. She did not respond.

Hea walked over to Yon's shaking body, and squeezed her left breast. "No response?"

"No. No. I never made any such call. I never made any such call." Yon looked frantically around the room. She saw Gi and Bae and Chin slowly shaking their heads. Hea squeezed harder and Yon screamed.

"That wasn't the question, Captain Li. Can you name a member of this Council with the initials Y.L.?"

Yon started to weep as Hea held her grip. "Yes."

"And Captain Li, when you said that you had never met Jin Hwan, you were not telling the truth, were you?" Hea squeezed Yon's breast hard.

"No. I was telling the truth. I have never met him. I was ... I am telling the truth." Yon screamed out the words.

"Captain Li," Feeling imminent victory over her foe, Hea released her grip on her breast, "can you identify the people in this photograph?" Hea turned the second photo around to show Yon a clear photo of Yon standing next to Hwan in a grocery store.

Yon's mind exploded. So intently had she focused on confirming in her mind that she had never met Hwan in the station or in his villa that she had not focused on whether she had ever seen him elsewhere. Her chest heaved and she pulled harder against her bonds. "I forgot that I saw him there !! That was months ago. But I can explain. I can explain. We never spoke. It was just for a second. I looked up. He was there. He looked at me and left !! We never spoke. That was not a meeting !! So I didn't lie !!"

Hea moved back to her seat, ignoring that Yon had not answered her last question. Yon continued to scream her innocence to the others. All met her gaze with shakes of their head.

Hea spoke next. "I believe that the evidence is sufficient to hold Captain Li over for the second stage of questioning." Yon could not believe what she was hearing. The second stage of questioning took place in the area behind the curtain.

"Agreed?" Chin asked. Four hands raised. "This meeting is adjourned until we have the report of the results of the second stage of Captain Li's questioning."

"No. No," Yon continued to protest, twisting her body as she watched the four other Council members stand and walk to the door. But she knew what was coming next. In a second, her world was dark, as a soldier placed a black hood over her head and secured it at her neck. It was porous enough to allow air through it, but not much more air than its wearer would need. After she heard the door close, Yon's world was also quiet, although, as she knew, two of the soldiers remained stationed in the back of the room. Prisoners were left this way -- chained spreadeagled, naked and hooded -- for a period of time to weaken further their resistance before the second stage of questioning began. How long a prisoner was left this way depended on the urgency of obtaining information from her. In this case, there was no urgency at all because there was no information to obtain from Yon, only her confession. So she might be left this way for a long time.

Within her dark and silent world, Yon wondered which Council member would be in charge of the second stage of her questioning. But she thought ... and feared ... that she knew.


Chapter 7

When Hea opened the door of the Serious Room five hours later, she found Yon Li's head slumped to her chest. "How long like this?"

"A little more than two hours," one of the soldiers answered.

"So she can give it out, but she really can't take it herself, can she?" Hea walked toward the chained figure. "How long do you think it will take me to break her?"

The two soldiers looked at each other before the same soldier, a Corporal, spoke again. "Captain. I've worked with Captain Li for several years now. I don't think that you will break her."

"Really?" Hea raised her eyebrows, as she untied and removed the hood, then let Yon's head slump back down to her chest. "You've never seen how brutal I can be, have you?"

"No, Captain," the Corporal replied, "but I've seen how tough Captain Li can be."

"But only from one side of the hot irons," Hea lifted Yon's chin to stare at her face. "Your Corporal thinks that you are tough, Captain. We're just going to have to find out how tough, aren't we?" Hea removed her hand, letting Yon's head again fall to her chest. But this time there were stirrings of consciousness.

Hea grabbed the center of the curtain, and walked to the far side of the room, pulling open the entire curtain to reveal the large portion of the room behind it. Had the flickering lights along the middle of the walls not been electric, the entire room could have been described as a medieval torture chamber. Its most prominent feature, in its center, was a long, narrow rack, designed to hold its occupant stretched with wrists and ankles chained together, rather than spreadeagled. While this prevented the interrogator from raping his captive, the straight pull inflicted greater pain on the shoulders, hips, wrists and ankles than a rack that held its victim spreadeagled. And wasn't that the main purpose of interrogation? The infliction of great pain? Other equipment in the room could be used to position the subject for rape, if that added torment was desired. And for many other punishments focused on different parts of the body.

Hea walked to the rack and fingered the chains wrapped around the roller at its head, then looked back at the soldiers. "We'll start here."

The Corporal moved to the right side of the chained Yon, while the other soldier, a Private, moved to the left. They released her limbs from the metal cuffs. Yon's eyes were open now, blinking hard, trying to clear her head, trying to regain full consciousness. But had the soldiers not held her, she would have fallen to the floor, no longer having the strength to hold herself upright.

The soldiers dragged her to the waiting rack, and easily lifted her light frame onto it on her back, then they chained her ankles to the single metal cuff at the foot of the rack. As they did, Yon slowly lifted her upper body to see what was happening, bracing herself on her elbows.

Now again aware of her situation, Yon moved her glance to her right and saw Hea, just as the back of Hea's closed fist crashed across the right side of Yon's face, sending her body back down to the rack, her arms flying above her head. Before Yon could shake the cobwebs from her mind, Hea chained her wrists to the metal cuff at the end of the chain wrapped around the roller, and turned the roller's handle several times to pull Yon's body taut.

"Well, now, Captain Li, it seems that all we need from you is your confession. You may give it now and save yourself a tremendous amount of pain. But I hope you will not, because I very much would like to show you and the soldiers that your reputation as the most brutal interrogator in the police force is not deserved."

Hea touched Yon's stomach with the backs of the fingers of her right hand, sending a spasm of fear and disgust down Yon's spine. Hea then gradually moved her touch up to Yon's breasts, feeling the sweat already glistening from Yon's stretched body. Fear already and she hadn't even started. Hea wondered why the Corporal thought that Yon could resist. Nothing suggested that she had the strength ... physical or mental.

"So what will it be, Captain?" Hea lifted her knee up to the middle of the left side of the rack, then swung her body over Yon's until she was sitting on her stomach, straddling her with her knees on each side. Yon gave a loud grunt.

"Yes, I know. The rack doesn't just break limbs, does it? It also makes it difficult to get air out of your lungs. But you know that. And having me sitting on your stomach, well, I guess that also makes it hard for your to get air into your lungs. So you must be having a tough time breathing already, no?." Hea leaned forward, putting her hands to the sides of Yon's face, and brought her own face down close. "I haven't heard that confession." Yon stared defiantly into Hea's eyes. Her only sounds were her gasps for air.

Hea motioned to the Corporal, who moved to the head of the rack, and, without warning, turned the roller to the next click. Yon gurgled in pain as the stretch of her body was extended another half inch. "We have the evidence," Hea again sat upright on Yon's stomach. "I don't need your confession, you know. I can just call in a second member of the Council. We can hold your trial, declare you guilty and execute the sentence. You know all that. But that would be too easy for you." Hea began to massage Yon's breasts. "So let's go over the evidence again."

"You know ..." Yon had only enough air to speak for a second before having to struggle to refill her lungs," ... that evidence ... is false ...." she protested.

"Oh," Hea smiled. "Do you mean you did not see Hwan in the grocery store? Do you mean that the photo of you and him is not real? Do you mean that you did not lie about never having met him?"

"No ..." Yon's mouth remained wide open between her short bursts of response. "... Set up. I was ... set up .... Why a photo ... that very second? Set up ...."

Hea's middle fingers now circled Yon's nipples, hardening them even more than the fear had already done. "So your defense is that it was just your bad fortune that a photo was taken, not that the photo is inaccurate. Strange defense, if you ask me. You know as well as I that good police work usually requires both skill and luck. Unfortunately, you were the victim of both." Hea swung her leg back over Yon's body and dismounted the rack, then walked next to the Corporal at the head of the rack.

Yon tried to brace herself for the next click of the roller. But she could not. The next half inch pulled her body so taut that she expelled the little air in her lungs with a loud scream, as the pain in her shoulders suddenly consumed her.

"Yes, the shoulders are the first to give." Hea leaned down to touch Yon's right shoulder. "It's turning a bit purple. One more click should dislocate them both." Yon's entire body was now twitching, from her chest to her legs, but most obviously in her quivering stomach.

Hea returned to Yon's field of vision, standing at the left side of the rack. Hea grabbed Yon's hair and turned her face toward her. "And what about all the phone calls from the government traitor to Hwan. The traitor who called herself Y.L."

"Why? Why ... would an informant ... use her real name .... or initials?" Yon sputtered out her challenge. "It ... makes no ... sense."

"Ahh," Hea responded, "so now your defense is that you were not a very good spy. That you were a stupid one. Is that really the best you can do in your defense?"

"That's ... all you have ..." Yon repeated her two points. "A too ... convenient ... photo .... and a too stupid .... I'm not stupid. Someone else ... is trying ... to frame me."

Yon's argument now became clear to Hea. She turned to the Corporal. "I want the two of you to find Bae. It is time for Captain Li's trial." The Corporal looked quizzically at Hea. "Yes, both of you," she repeated. "I'll be fine here alone. It shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes to find him and bring him back." The Corporal and Private immediately obeyed. The loud slam of the heavy door behind them startled Yon, now alone in the room with Hea.


Chapter 8

"Nice try, Captain Li," Hea began coldly as soon as the soldiers had left the room. "Trying to plant in the soldiers' minds that I am trying to frame you." Hea moved to a table and picked up a very long chain with serrated metal alligator clamps on both ends.

"I ... I didn't say you." Yon strained to try to see what Hea was doing. "I ... I just said someone."

"You didn't have to say me," Hea held the long chain in front of Yon's face. She opened one of the clamps and closed it around Yon's left nipple. The added pain to Yon was minor compared with the great pain in her shoulders, so her wince was barely noticeable. Hea dropped the chain to the floor and kicked it under the rack to the other side.

"But I know that I didn't frame you," Hea slowly walked around the rack to the other side and picked up the other end of the chain. "And, since you know that you are guilty, you certainly know that I didn't frame you." Hea pulled the chain's second alligator clamp to Yon's right nipple. When it wouldn't quite reach, Hea gave the chain a final tug, attached it to Yon's right nipple, and then released it. Yon gave a loud gasp as she felt both her nipples pulled to the side, stretched in opposite directions.

"I ... I'm not guilty." But Hea had already walked back to the table and picked up two solid bottle-shaped metal objects with hooks on top, "These," Hea held returned to the rack and held them up for Yon to see, "are each five-pound weights. I'm betting that, when I attach them to the bottom of the chain holding your nipples, they will give them even a nicer stretch, but will not pull them enough to tear them off your body. Care to take the bet?"

Hea bent down, leaned under the rack, and attached the two weights to the chain about a foot on each side of its center. When she let them drop, Yon immediately felt her nipples pulled much harder. This time she screamed loudly.

"I won my bet," Hea proudly declared. "Stretched, but not torn. Now comes the fun part." Yon's open mouth gasped for breath. Her eyes followed Hea as Hea walked to the front of the rack and placed her hand on the handle that controlled the roller. "You're not going to confess just yet, I hope, are you?" Yon's eyes were wide open, her head turned as far as she could to watch Hea's hand holding the roller handle. Yon continued to gasp, but made no attempt to say anything. The shaking of her body, now totally bathed in sweat, was quite noticeable once again.

"Well, then, Captain. Are you ready?"

Hea gripped the handle tightly, and Yon screamed even before she turned it. Enjoying Yon's terror, Hea held the handle motionless for three, four, five seconds, until Yon was nearly out of breath from her screams. Then Hea turned it to the next notch.

Yon's screams now filled the room as she sucked in quick shallow gulps of air. Two popping sounds made it obvious -- if the screams didn't -- that both of Yon's shoulders had been dislocated by the last stretch to her already taut body, which instinctively rose off the rack to try to relieve the pressure and pain in her shoulders. In so doing, however, the clamps tightened and pulled even more on her already stretched nipples, sending Yon into even louder convulsive screams.

While Yon's screams continued, Hea walked to the side of the rack to watch Yon's face and eyes. Yon's face was streaked with tears and her throat was growing raspy. Hea began to slide and stroke Yon's skin from her breasts to her belly button. "So very tight, Captain Li. Such a wonderful position. I've never seen you look more beautiful. Perhaps one more turn of the handle?"

Yon began to shake her head wildly as Hea moved back to the head of the rack and gripped the roller handle. "Anything to tell me?" Hea laughed her question at Yon, and waited a few seconds while Yon's screams continued. But there was no other response.

Hea turned the handle until it caught the next notch. Yon's screams intensified, barely sounding human. The cracking sound in her shoulders left no uncertainty that this last turn had separately both completely. "I could turn it a few more times and remove your arms completely from your body, you know," Hea's voice was icy. "But I'm growing rather tired of all this. And of you."

Hea gripped the handle once again. Yon's eyes focused on Hea's hand, but could mutter no more than loud grunting sounds. Her stomach twitched uncontrollably, but her body, its arms useless, remained on the rack. But this time Hea turned the handle in the opposite direction, releasing the catch ... and the stretch on Yon's body. Yon's mouth remained wide open as her body fell to the rack.

"So, Captain Li," Hea walked around the rack, releasing Yon's limbs, one by one, from the chains holding them to the rack, "I am afraid that I must give you credit for being tougher than I thought you were. Not that it matters. I would have liked your confession, but I don't need it, as you know. I will proceed with your trial as soon as Bae returns with the soldiers." Hea then released the clamps holding Yon's nipples.

Though her body was now free of all restraints, Yon remained sprawled on the rack, her useless arms still high above her head.


Chapter 9

When the soldiers returned with Bae a few minutes later, Yon was still struggling to regain control of her breathing.

"A confession?" Bae asked as he walked up to the middle of the rack on the side opposite where Hea stood. Bae stared at the large purple marks engulfing Yon's shoulder joints.

"No." Hea nodded in the direction of the table from which she had retrieved the nipple clamps, and Bae saw that a single typed sheet of paper remained untouched ... and unsigned. "Quite frankly, I didn't even come close," Hea's voice trailed off, "and you can see that I was not timid in my efforts." Bae looked at the bluish purple color of Yon's shoulders and nipples.

"You want more time?" Bae asked.

"No. We have more important things to do than listen to a traitor who will say anything and accuse anyone to try to save herself or justify her actions."

"All right then. Let's proceed. I assume that is why you brought me here."

"Yes." Hea nodded toward the Corporal and Private, who were standing a few feet behind Bae. "Take her over there." Hea signaled toward the wooden horse on the left side of the room, just behind where the curtain would have been had it been closed.

The Corporal walked to the rack and grabbed Yon's left arm. She screamed as loud as her strained throat would allow as the pain shot through her separated shoulder. The Corporal then released her arm and grabbed Yon around her back, pulled her body up to his and flung her over his shoulders, her arms freely hanging down.

The Corporal carried Yon to the wooden horse, where the Private grabbed her around her waist and slid her body in position at its center, one leg on each side. As the Private held her, the Corporal moved to the nearby table and picked up a set of ankle cuffs, joined by a heavy metal chain, and a large metal loop attached to which were two smaller metal loops. He returned to the horse, opened the large metal loop around Yon's waist, and then closed it tight. He then secured Yon's wrists to the two smaller loops attached to the larger, which held her wrists against her hips.

"You're too kind, Corporal," Hea offered, noting that the position put no strain on Yon's useless separated shoulders.

The Corporal looked at Hea, but said nothing. He attached the ankle cuffs and then pulled the chain tight under the horse so that her legs were flush against the horse's angled wooden sides. As he tightened the chain, the Private lowered Yon down onto the horse, which cut into her between her legs deeper and deeper as the Corporal continued to tighten the chain holding the ankle cuffs. Before long, Yon was again offering her raspy screams.

The Corporal finished his work, then turned to Hea. "This should complement the work that you did on her upper body." He and the Private moved back. Bae and Hea could see that tears were running down Yon's face, and that she could not decide whether it was more painful to try to reposition herself on the horse or not to move at all.

"Although you know the rules of trial," Bae stood directly in front of Yon, who was now raised to a height equal to Bae's standing figure, "I will go over them for you because we are doing everything strictly by the book. Hea is your prosecutor. You are your defender. She will present her witnesses and evidence. Then you will present yours. At the end of the trial, the members of the Council who are present and not charged with this crime will vote. If the vote is unanimous against you, you are convicted and will be immediately sentenced. Otherwise, you will be freed."

Yon paid no attention to Bae. She knew how it worked. Chin and Gi would not attend. Bae and Hea would be the only votes. Hea was her prosecutor, so her vote was already known. Which meant that Bae would be her sole judge. And in the Serious Room, all defendants but one had been found guilty. And that one had avoided a verdict of guilty only because, somehow, he had managed to grab a gun from one of the soldiers and shot himself in the head before a verdict was rendered.

Hea and Bae moved near the door of the room. The Corporal moved behind Yon and placed a black cloth blindfold over her eyes, to ease any fear that any witness might have that she would somehow seek retribution against them for testifying against her. As if it were a real possibility that she would ever be able. The Private released a clip in the middle of the curtain, and pulled the lower half of the curtain across the room. This separated Yon from everyone else, but still allowed the witnesses to see Yon's face and the upper portion of her body. While the half curtain was supposed to give the illusion that the accused was simply standing on the other side of the curtain, so that the witnesses could not see what had already been done to them, in fact anyone in the room could tell, even from a distance, that the accused had been stripped to the waist and her nipples abused. Plus whatever other tortures had created the red eyes and tear-streaked face. That the accused was now seated on a wooden horse that dug deeply between her legs, however, was not apparent to the witnesses.

Hea and Bae resumed their seats behind the long table at which the five Council members had sat that morning. Although the witnesses would testify from the same spot from which the accused testified, and see the wrists and ankle cuffs, they would not be bound or stripped. Still, the location was very conducive to getting from them the desired testimony.

Hea's voice began the trial. "I call as my first witness...."


Chapter 10

" ... Ri Song." The Private opened the door to the room, and a small man was ushered in by a soldier who had been waiting with him in the hallway outside. Song shuffled into the room and immediately saw Yon's pained face. He studied it for a second and then looked toward Hea and Bae.

"Stand over there, Mr. Song," Hea beckoned in the direction of the witness "stand." Song immediately obeyed, his eyes darting back and forth among Bae, Hea and Yon.

"State your name and position," Hea's voice was calm and soothing, unlike the barked orders to suspects.

"Ri Song," the man replied. "I am ... was an assistant to Jin Hwan."

"You are no longer his assistant?"

"No, ma'am. Er ... no, Captain."

"During the time that you were his assistant, did you ever receive telephone calls from persons who wanted to speak with Mr. Hwan?"

"Yes, m .... Captain."

"Did any come from persons whom Mr. Hwan identified to you as government officials?"

"Yes, Captain."

"Tell me about those."

Song looked at Yon for several seconds, then back to Hea. "Several months ago, I think it was around October, I used to receive a call every Tuesday afternoon, about 3:30 p.m., for four or five weeks. On Mr. Hwan's private line, a number he gave out to very few people. A female voice asked to speak with Mr. Hwan."

"What did this female say to you when you answered the phone?"

"'Mr. Hwan, please.' That's all. "Mr. Hwan, please.'" And I asked "Who is calling?" And she said, 'Weil.'"

"Mr. Hwan, please. This is Y.L.? Was she telling you her name or her initials or some code word or what?"

"I have no idea. She just said, 'Weil.'"

"Could you tell if she was trying to disguise her voice?"

"I don't think so. No. She wasn't trying to disguise her voice."

Hea then confidently asked, "You just heard me say, 'Mr. Hwan, please. This is Weil' without trying to disguise my voice. Was it my voice that you heard on the phone?"

"No. It was high-pitched. Tinny. Not your voice. Not like your voice."

"OK. And then what happened?"

Song again glanced at Yon. "Mr. Hwan took the phone. He said 'go ahead,' and then listened for a minute. Then he hung up without saying anything else, handed the phone back to me, and said that the caller was his police contact. That's it."

Hea looked at Yon, who had managed to adjust to the great pain that she was in enough so that the obvious tension in her body seemed as likely to arise from her concern over the charges against her, rather than from its actual physical cause. Hea knew that Yon too must have realized that Song's testimony had matched what Hea had earlier told Yon that Song would say. And that Song made a very credible witness.

Hea turned back to Song. "And did anything happen after the call ended?"

"No. Except for once. Once Mr. Hwan told me immediately after he hung up the phone that we were going to take a trip to the grocery store. So I drove him to the grocery store."

"The store where you usually shopped for groceries?"

"No," Song responded. "That was a strange thing. It was the Ki-Jo grocery outlet. And not the one closest to Mr. Hwan's home, either, but one in the next town. About five miles away."

"Why that one?"

"Mr. Hwan did not say. I certainly did not ask. I never questioned Mr. Hwan's instructions to me. He said that was where I should take him. I took him."

"And what happened at the store?" Hea rose and began to pace behind the table, moving first behind the seated and silent Bae, and then close to Yon, so that Mr. Song was looking toward Yon when he responded.

"Well, Mr Hwan told me to wait in the car. He went into the store, and came out about five minutes later. With no packages. Then he said that I should drive him back home."

"Did he tell you what he did in the store? Whether he saw anyone?"

"No. He just said drive home. So I drove home. As I said, I didn't ask Mr. Hwan any questions. If he wanted to tell me something, he told me. If not, not."

Hea now moved back to her seat. "That's all the questions that I have. Your turn, Captain Li."

Yon turned her blindfolded eyes in the direction of Song's voice. The pain was still racing through her body, but she knew that she had to challenge his testimony. "Mr. Song, please listen to my voice. 'Mr. Hwan, please. This is Weil.' Was mine the voice that you heard on the phone?"

Song stared back at Yon, his face confused. He did not respond immediately. A "no" answer, Yon thought, and Bae would have to realize that it was not she on the phone. Finally, Song answered. "Ma'am. It was not a raspy voice like yours, but a clear high-pitched, tinny voice. I can't say more than that. If that is your natural voice, Ma'am, then it was not you. But that doesn't sound like your natural voice."

Hea looked down and smiled. She had made Yon scream enough that, while Mr. Song could not confirm that it was Yon's voice, he could not deny it, either. His answer would not help Yon win Bae's support.

Yon deflated instantly. There was nothing else that she could ask Song that would help her.

Seeing Yon pause, Hea waited a few seconds, before addressing Song. "It appears that she has no further questions for you. You are dismissed."

Yon offered no protest. She had not gotten the answer that she wanted, but, still, Song could not confirm that the voice had been hers. So if she could challenge whoever this second witness against her would be, perhaps there was still some hope for her that Bae would realize that the evidence against Yon could also be used as evidence against someone who wanted to frame Yon. Someone like Hea.


Chapter 11

As Song left the room, a slim and plain woman of about 40 entered, and the Corporal moved her to the witness stand. When she saw the chains hanging above her, she started to scream in protest, until the Corporal whispered in her ear. But when she looked over at the blindfolded Yon, and could clearly see that Yon was naked at least from the waist up, and that her nipples were discolored from what exact punishment she could not say, she again started to scream. This time the Corporal stood in front of the woman and shook her hard until she regained her composure.

"Name and position." Hea's words were louder to make certain the woman heard them.

"Nona Buzo. I work at the Ki-Jo grocery."

Hea walked up to the witness and handed her the photo of Yon and Jin Hwan. "Have you ever seen this photograph before?" Although she couldn't see it, Yon did not have to be told which photo it was.

"Yes."

"How did you come to see it?"

"You came to the grocery last week. You asked if we had security cameras. I told you that we had three. You said that you wanted to see the tapes from each camera for each Tuesday last October between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. I got the tapes and ran them at high speed for you. During the tape from one of the cameras taken on the second or third Tuesday in October, you told me to stop the tape. You had me re-run it several times and you studied it. Then you asked me to make this photo for you from that place in the tape, and I did."

"Do you know why I asked for this photo?" Hea inquired.

"No. I just did what you asked. I wanted to cooperate with the police."

"Do you know who either of the people are on the photo that you made for me?"

"No."

Hea needed nothing more from Ms. Buzo, but added for Bae, "I used Mr. Song's testimony to narrow the dates and time that I was looking for, but I'm sure that you already figured that out."

"Questions from you, Captain Li?" Bae spoke his first words since the trial began, but Yon could not read into them anything about how he evaluated the testimony against her.

"Have you ever seen either of these people in your store before?" Yon asked.

"I think that I had seen the woman before," Nona stared at Yon, trying to see if she might be able to identify her as the woman in the photo, but, with the blindfold, she could not. "I don't think that I had ever seen the man before."

It was not much for Yon, but at least she could make the argument that she needed to make. How Bae would react she could not predict. "That's all," she said.

The Private escorted a relieved Nona of the room, and then returned.

"Any more witnesses?" Bae glanced at Hea, who shook her head, then at Yon, who was also shaking her head. "Very well, the trial is over. Captain Kang, you may summarize."

Hea rose. "Commander, we know that the police informant is one of the five members of the Council. Mr. Song testified that the person who called Jin Hwan was female. That leaves only Captain Li and myself. Mr. Song testified that the person identified herself as "Y.L." Those are Captain Li's initials, not mine. Mr .Song testified that, after one of the calls, Mr. Hwan had him drive him immediately to a particular location, the Ki-Jo grocery store, at which he did not normally shop because it was five miles away in the next town, past a closer Ki-Jo store. Mr. Hwan was inside for only five minutes. He purchased nothing. Instead, as the photo shows -- dated the second Tuesday in October, 3:52 p.m. -- what Mr. Hwan did in the grocery was meet with Captain Li. Now Captain Li, I am sure, is going to claim that I, and not she, is the police mole in Mr. Hwan's organization. But Mr. Song testified that the voice that he heard on the phone was not mine, but he could not say the same thing about Captain Li's voice. That's because I was not the caller; Captain Li was. I was not the person whom Mr. Hwan met at the Ki-Jo grocery store immediately after one of those calls; Captain Li was. The police mole, the traitor was not me, but it was ... and is ... Captain Li." Hea sat back down.

"Captain Li, what have you to say in your defense?" Bae's voice still gave no clue as to his thoughts.

Despite the continuous pain shooting through her body, between her legs, in her shoulders, Yon began. "No one has identified me as the caller, and it would make no sense for me to use my real initials rather than a code word to identify myself. I was not the caller. But it does make sense for someone who wants to frame me to use a name that might identify me. And the only person with an incentive to do that is Captain Kang, who must also be considered a suspect. What better way to shift the focus from her than by shifting it on me? And, if Captain Kang is working for Jin Hwan, why not call him to tell him that I am at my usual grocery store doing my usual shopping at my usual time, so that he can go there and, without saying a word to me, show himself with me in sight of a security camera? So as to create more supposed evidence against me. All of the evidence that Captain Kang says points to me points more strongly to her. It is she, not I, who should be on trial."

Looking at Yon, Bae could not see Hea squirming in her seat as Yon ended her defense.


Chapter 12

"My vote," Hea offered, as if anyone in the room needed to hear it, "is guilty. The final decision, Commander, is therefore up to you."

Bae rose and walked around the far end of the table. He pulled the lower half of the curtain open, and signaled that Hea, the Private and the Corporal walk with him as he circled to the near side of the room in front of the once-again fully revealed Yon, about 10 feet away.

"Captain Li." Yon turned her head in the direction of the voice. "The evidence against you is very strong. It is direct. It is first hand. It comes from impartial witnesses."

"But the very same evidence damns Captain Ka ..."

"Hush," Bae screamed at her, "you have had your trial. You have presented your evidence. I have considered it all."

"But not considered it impartially," Yon screamed back. "Not considered it fairly."

Bae walked up to the side of the horse holding Yon and slapped her hard across her face. "My verdict is guilty," he said, holding his face within inches of hers. "And the sentence is death."

Yon started to wriggle her body in a hopeless effort to free herself, but all that her struggles accomplished was to dig the sharp wood between her legs deeper into her. Bae moved off to the side, looked back and ordered the other three, "Ready your weapons." Hea, the Colonel and Private drew their weapons from their holsters ... Daewoo K5 9 millimeter semi-automatic pistols. Not many in North Korea law enforcement had these South Korean-made weapons. But the members of the Council did. Yon could not see, but could hear, the action. And then she realized ... "Wait !! Wait !! I know !! Captain Kang !! I know."

"Aim." Bae's voice lacked all emotion.

"Captain Kang," Yon screamed. "The traitor ... the mole ... It's not me. It's ..."

"Fire."

Three bullets struck Yon at the same time. One just below her left breast. One in her left breast. And one just below her ribs, about three inches above her belly button. Her body immediately lunged backward until its top half struck the top of the horse, her legs remaining in place, held by the chains to her ankles tied underneath the horse, her wrists cuffed to the sides of her hips. As her body bounced back upward, three more shots rang out. Two of these struck her in her right breast, the third between her breasts just under her throat. Yon's body fell back again, this time, though, twisted, so her back did not land on top of the horse, but to its side, and the top half of her body slid down the side of the horse until her head was just inches above the ground, her legs still held in place, but her left ankle pulled underneath the horse and her right ankle raised on the opposite side of the horse from where her upper body now rested, her hips and cuffed wrists just below the top of the horse.

Bae walked over to the horse, and reached down to Yon's neck to check her pulse. He then looked to her executioners and nodded. "The sentence has been carried out."


Epilogue

Jin Hwan heard the first two rings on his private line before he remembered that Song was not there to answer it for him. It hadn't rung since Song had betrayed him. Finally, he answered it himself. "Yes."

"Mr. Hwan, please."

Hwan heard the high-pitched voice. "Go ahead."

"This is Y.L. The plan went perfectly. After six hours of torture, Captain Li was found guilty of passing to you confidential police information to help you avoid capture and trial. Immediately upon her conviction, she was executed by firing squad. So the Council now is satisfied that it has found and eliminated the mole in its midst, and you need have no fear of interference with your operations for a long time."

Hwan said nothing, but waited to see if the caller had anything more to offer.

"During her trial," the voice continued, "Captain Li made a strong case that she was not the traitor, but had been set up by Captain Kang, who was the real traitor. So, when the Council finally realizes that Captain Li was innocent, and that it has not eliminated its mole, all suspicion will immediately fall on Captain Kang. After she is ultimately questioned, tortured and executed, there will be another lengthy period of time during which the Council will once again be satisfied that it has disposed of the traitor, so you will have even a lengthier period in which you can operate without fear of arrest."

Hwan again waited for more, but this time there was just silence on the other end of the line. Hwan hung up the phone.

Hearing the click on the other end, Bae Kim also hung up the phone. He had not spoken during Song's testimony for fear that Song would recognize his voice. But he had been forced to speak when he confronted and convicted Captain Li. She had figured it out at the very last moment. Fortunately, she had been a few seconds too slow.

Now Bae controlled Captain Kang's fate. And he expected that, when the time came, Captain Kang's final hours were going to be as delicious for him as had been Captain Li's.

END




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