His search done, Henri gave the clothes back to the girl, extending his arm. She took them, and put the shirt on, with that expression girls adopt when pissed off by an abuse they assume redressed. In a hurry for taking her parts out of the sight and attention of those rude men, she didn’t button it up but tied it with a knot, just over her abdomen. That was enough to conceal her naked breasts from them. As he could ascertain during the long visual examination he had subjected her to, she had an athletic body, fittingly to an ex-swimmer, taut and flexible as the stave of a longbow, though not lacking in curves; an unmarred skin well tanned from exposition to salt and sun, though some speckles could be seen here and there; and a beautiful face, with big, round blue eyes, a solid nose and chin and perfect lips, with long chestnut hair. For a moment she had thought that she would be gang-raped virtually on the spot; but now the threat seemed at least to have been put in stand-by. Though she had been raised as a California beach girl and easy or promiscuous sex was not entirely unknown to her, even from an early age, being forced into it was a completely different proposition.
“Now that you know we are serious, you will tell us who you work for,” said Henri.
She looked puzzled.
“I do not work for anyone, you know… it is just David and me.” He didn’t ask about the location of the wreck; she wondered why. David, her partner in the search of the “Santa Clara”, was held by two thugs with a knife to his throat, just outside her visual arc. Neither of them had the ampoule containing the morphine, as the Haitian had to admit not before thoroughly examining her. To his utmost pleasure, clearly. The slimy Treece must have taken it from them during their short visit to the phare.
“For a moment I had hoped this could be solved amicably, Gail. But it looks it will not. Do not think I regret it completely.”
He made a small gesture with the eyebrows. One of his men –in fact the same that had searched her previously- took the girl by the wrists, made her stumble back into the chair. Before she had time to react, he put her arms over its back, tying the wrists with electric tape.
“What the fuck…?” she protested, but Henri made her shut up with a gesture.
“We have… information… which we have… shared with David… that you were leaving messages to someone at the hotel… imagine we can cover almost any place just by tipping some employee,” he said slowly, as if each word were a palatable appetizer.
She turned to David, but, to her amazement, she saw that the thugs had released him. He was no longer restrained, but sitting on a stool. He lit a cigarette.
“Sorry, baby,” he said calmly, as he expired the smoke. “You better tell ‘em everything,” he added, with an ironic gesture.
“So… who were you giving information to? An agency? A dealer? Just some… competitor treasure hunter?” As he spoke, he began teasing the girl by playing with her hair. The thug that had tied her was restraining her altogether, resting his hands on her shoulders and forcing her down into the chair, caressing slightly her neck at the same time.
“I… I don’t know what you ‘re talking about,” the girl protested, showing signs of panic in her face. “You know who we are, we were just looking…” but Henri interrupted her.
“ … for the 'Santa Clara'… and her gold… and stumbled into my morphine… good story, but we both know it is not true.”
“What you mean, 'not true'?”
“That guy you see, David,” he forcibly turned Gail’'s face towards him holding her chin. “He is… an associate of some partners of mine, let'’s say… he had better clue about the cargo ship than about the galleon, I’m afraid… What do you say, David?”
“Yeah… that'’s true,” said David, with a “what the fuck I care” gesture. Gail realized she had been betrayed. That was why the Haitian was not interested in her telling the location… because he already knew it!
Then Henri turned the girl’s face towards himself.
“You see? But you knew, and that’s why you courted him and became his partner… both under the water and under the sheets, so to speak.” The ghastly joke managed to extract some unwilling smiles from his men.
“That’s not true,” protested Gail. “I was attracted to him and wanted to take part in the search for the 'Santa Clara'.”
“Yeah, yeah…” The Haitian took a file and pretended to read it. “Gail Berke, swimming juvenile champion, University League of California… candidate for the Olympics… a training wound put an end to all that… recruited by some unknown US government agency… yet unknown, I should add.” He looked briefly at the girl. “Took part in an operation in… Haiti, nonetheless… a minor part, yes… a good friend of mine was caught… does the name Bellerive mean anything to you?”
The girl denied with a movement of the head and she was most probably saying the truth, but it didn’t matter. Henri Cloche had someone on whom avenging his friend. Gail remained silent. The man left the file on a table at his side and closed the stool he was seated on to the girl.
“Now, Gail… you are telling me everything. Who you work for, how you pass your reports, what they know about us… I mean… everything.”
The girl looked extremely distressed, and moving her head in denial, she said:
“I… I… swear I have nothing to do with all that.”
Henri made a half smile and looked to David.
“You told me she was tough, eh? Old boy… you have a good taste for women, let me tell you.” David smiled and acquiesced with an ironic gesture.
“You see, girl, you are nice.” Henri started slowly untying the knot that held her shirt in place
“I would hate having to hurt you.” He very carefully set the two sides of the shirt aside, letting them fall at ease. The girl started breathing heavily. “The more in front of your… lover?” He allowed his gaze to move away from her, looking for David, who smiled while smoking nervously.
The girl started to tremble. Again, very carefully he started putting away one of the shirt’s halves, taking it over the girl’s shoulder. She shivered and tried to move, but the thug at her back held her firm. Henri repeated the operation with the other half, leaving the girl’s breasts at sight once again. Her breath was heavy, moving her entire torso up and down; the fear, nerves and movement added to the oppressing heat to produce a fine coat of sweat over her naked upper body. Then, almost casually, he released the first button of the girl’s trousers, pulling down the zipper. She had her knees virtually glued one against the other; but loosening the trousers at the waist would help increasing the workable area of her body, revealing the upper part of her blue beachwear underneath.
“Yes, now that I see you well, you are a pretty girl, Gail. You look as a former swimming champion should, cannot be denied.” He started caressing her breasts, first lightly, the nipples with just the reverse of the fingers, then more and more heavily, until he was virtually massaging them with their whole hands. Confirming his earlier visual appreciation, they were terse and firm. The girl’s lips were trembling, and tears started filling her eyes, while she took them off the man’s face. He went on.
“I can imagine your body was a source of much pleasure, for you… and for others.” Again he diverted his gaze onto David, who was visibly perturbed, smoking nervously and looking down. Henri smiled, genuinely amused.
“I would hate to have to damage it, but… you leave no choice.” He squeezed a nipple and the girl made a sudden movement.
“Yeah, very sensitive. If that’s the effect of a casual move, imagine something more… deliberate.” He left the girl’s breasts and turned to the table beside him. Now he had two options. He could go for a gang rape, or he could directly start hurting the girl in earnest. The first was good for his own boys, but not an effective way of interrogation; a tough and determined girl, as Gail looked to be, even if she was not expected to have any formal training, could endure a lot of it, and time was not exactly on his side. He chose to go straight to the torture. He took a pair of pincers and waved them in front of Gail’s face.
“Look, even very simple… implements… can have a great effect on a soft skin like yours, Gail, and there are lots of very sensitive parts in woman’s body. This simple thing can bite, squeeze, stretch and eventually tear any part of your skin; that operation could be repeated once and again for hours, literally. Do you know what I mean, girl?”
She looked to David and desperately opened her mouth in a silent plea, but David was looking down, under the watch of a thug. If one looked at him closely, he was repressing a tremble.
“I… I… no, please,” she pleaded Henri, but to no avail. He started caressing her chest in between her breasts with the pincers; soon he extended the movement to the base of the breasts and the abdomen. The girl involuntarily moved as if to deny the contact of the pincers with her skin, but the man at her back easily controlled her movements. The hard edges of the closed pincers and the relative coolness of the metal sent signals through her nerve system, in anticipation of the pain she was expecting. Henri was no professional, just a sadistic thug with more imagination and probably self-restrains than average, but he was instinctively aware of the effect the pincers produced even with this limited action. He took the left breast (probably a natural choice for a right-handed man) and rubbed the nipple with the pincer; it went hard almost instantly. The breast went up and down slightly under the pressure. He smiled.
Suddenly, he went down the girl’s abdomen and grabbed a piece of skin just above the button hole. She opened her eyes wide in terror; when he tightened the grip she clenched her teeth, and when he started squeezing the skin (clockwise, another natural movement for a right handed man) she closed them, tightened her neck up and hissed in pain. Henri let go and went a bit down.
“No! Please!” she cried, and then screamed low, as the Haitien grabbed the soft skin under the button hole. He pulled it and then hold it tight, while the girl contorted; the man grabbing her by the shoulders put his weight on her and kept her under control. She clenched her teeth, but let go a scream when Henri squeezed the taut skin, to one side and to the other, repeatedly.
When he finally let it go, the girl relaxed, putting her shoulders down and moving her head slowly from side to side, moaning and sobbing. Her breath had quickened and her whole skin was shiny in sweat. A red bruise was developing quickly on her abdomen, showing internal bleeding where the little teeth of the pincers had damaged the internal tissue. Tears were beginning to flow from her eyes, carrying down the little make up she had been wearing on her eyelids, mixing with sweat.
“So, girl… shall we go on, or will you tell me who you work for?” There was not much originality in the whole proceedings… it always came to that, though for Henri it was probably a new thing. Though he was an accomplished thug with a long career of killing and maiming, he had never had the opportunity of slowly and leisurely torturing a beautiful white girl as this one, nor was he sure it will come back another time. He was not yet conscious of that, but he had shown a great deal of self control to this point; a lesser man would have probably given the girl to his crew for gang raping, taking of course the first place in the line, reducing her to a babbling, speechless, useless blob; or started beating her pretty face, putting her in a state of shock and eventually breaking her neck too soon.
Gail recovered a bit, enough to open her eyes and look to David first, who was nervously looking at the floor while smoking and moving his knee apparently uncontrollably; then to her tormentor.
“I… don’t know… what you re talking about…” she said, taking deep breaths as she spoke.
Henri shrugged and grappled the skin over the hipbone, just over the white trousers. This was not so sensitive but it gave ample freedom for pulling, twisting and squeezing. He took some time, while Gail contorted, hissing, moaning and screaming low in pain. He released the pressure; the girl’s face came down.
“It is an agency? Which one? Who is your contact?” He asked, pulling her face up to make her look into him. Her face showed extreme distress; tears were all around her eyes, mixed with makeup, and dark patches were starting to show under her lower eyelids, usual when someone experiences pain.
“No… please… stop…” she whispered; Henri adopted a grave expression and moved his head disapprovingly.
He carried his instrument up over her abdomen, without losing contact with her skin, to the base of her left breast. It formed a perfectly round, tender shape; it took no effort to make it dangle a little sideways. Suddenly, he grabbed the skin just at the lower juncture; he could feel the greasy internal tissue while he started pulling and twisting. The girl screamed and contorted, as if trying to put a distance between the simple tool that was tormenting her and her skin, hissing and holding her breath alternatively. At last her tormentor let go, releasing the skin; another ugly bruise, reddish and purplish, began to form. Gail dropped her head and shoulders, exhausted, sobbing continuously. The thug at her back put his hands in her neck, pushing her face up with the fingers, forcing to look straight into Henri.
“Will you tell me who paid you?” he said, but the girl kept on sobbing, so he took his tool up again, while his partner fixed her up and against the back of the chair once more.
This time, he started from her neck, going down the chest, making small pressures randomly, to which the girl reacted with a short, high moan. He took the pincers down the gentle slope of her left breast, which went naturally down and a little outwards to the nipple. He went around her aureole, to finally grab the nipple, without yet exerting any pressure.
“No…” she whispered, staring at him, but Henri tightened the pincer and started rotating it clockwise, carrying the nipple and the whole breast with it. The girl screamed, swaying her head from side to side. He easened the pressure; she tried to recover breath, looking at him with watery eyes, while whispering “Stop”, almost without sound. But then, as he started squeezing again, she contorted wildly, letting go a guttural scream. She could feel the internal tissue tearing apart.
“Stop… I… shall… tell you! Please, stop…” she managed to articulate. Henri immediately eased the grip.
“Good, Gail, high time to decide doing so. You know, if you let me go on, your nice pinky nipple may even get ripped off. I’m all ears.”
She swallowed and coughed repeteadly. The Haitian was still holding her nipple tight, but not to the point of causing pain; however, he could resume it at will.
“Herr von Beck… Herr von Beck paid me… to keep your operation under surveillance… I have never met him, just a representative of his at the Bermuda marina… I would tell him whenever we hit with something big…” said the girl with an agitated breath. Herr von Beck was a well known collector who would balk at nothing in order to get a valuable piece. But Henri looked unimpressed, and wouldn’t let go. He stared at her in silence.
“It’s the truth! I would leave messages for him periodically at the hotel desk! You can check that!” Gail looked at the verge of panic. The Haitian, without loosening the pressure on the pincers with his right hand, held her chin with his left one. Soon, he started caressing her mouth with his thumb.
“Brave story, girl. Amazing you dared use it in your… condition. But I have no need to check it. Herr von Beck is actually like an outside partner of one of my patrons… I have several of your… messages left at the hotel front desk… just printed touristic pictures… clever deception”
He moved his head as if admiring the girl’s bravery, however he immediately applied pressure on the pincers, this time pulling the breast and slamming it sideways violently. The girl went again into a frenzy of contorting and screaming. She could feel the internal tissue tearing apart. Blood started to show from the tortured nipple in between the pincers’ jaws, as the skin started to give way. Suddenly, he stopped. Gail almost fainted, and he revived her shaking her chin. Her breath was very weak and intermittent. Though she had always been noted for her stamina, and, as a sports woman, had a very high pain threshold, the torture had been appalling, even for her.
“Will you tell the truth now, Gail?” he said calmly. In fact, his coolness would have been noticed even by professionals. But he had none in the audience there.
“Yes… yes…” she said, in a whisper. He gave her time to recover, loosening the grip. She was too weak even for sobbing or weeping; all her remaining strength went into breathing.
“DEA… I work for the DEA… they recruited me through a boyfriend… shortly after I quitted swimming… I took part… in the Cape Haitien job… but in support only… I just had to keep some guys distracted… I had nothing to do with what happened to your brother...”
Henri assented. “Distracted” she must have kept them, which such a body. She was now speaking the truth, though not yet entirely broken. Gail coughed, hissing in between words.
“Who was your contact?” he asked. She opened her eyes and tears flowed; he saw her reluctance to talk, so he again took the pincers and caressed with them her tortured nipple.
“No… no… I… can’t…” she said, so Henri, again gripped her nipple and squeezed it. But with not nearly the same force; he knew it was not necessary. Nevertheless, it was enough for the girl to scream loud; the skin was extremely sensitized.
“A girl… a girl from the American Consulate… I would met her… at the hotel pool… in the lady’s change room,” she said, and started sobbing.
“I don’t know… I don’t know… please… believe me…” she said, sobbing continuously. That was pretty believable; an agent wouldn’t reveal her true name.
“How did you call her?”
“Alexandra… she had me call her Alexandra.” The false name didn’t mean anything to any of the present, as it should be. Not even to Gail.
“How is she?”
Gail again started weeping, for she realized she was giving her mate away.
“Tall, blonde, something like 25 years old…” and wept. Henri arched his eyebrows; it might be he would have another chance at a pretty white girl after all. But all in due time. That description would be enough to locate her, if not at the hotel pool, at least in the consulate.
“What do they know? Do they know the position of the wreck?” he insisted. Gail sobbed.
“I… don’t know…” But Henri immediately squeezed the nipple hard. The girl screamed in pain.
“I… told them… the position… as we knew it… last week… I can’t tell you anything else… please… stop…” she pleaded, sobbing and hissing. That meant they had the approximate position but not the updated one. He and his men should move quickly.
Now Henri dropped the tool and took Gail’s face with both hands, caressing her.
“It would have been much, much easier to talk before all this started… you’ll have spared yourself of much pain and some nasty wounds.” She couldn’t answer. She had never been subjected to such a treatment, nor had she imagined that such a pain could be inflicted to her, with so little.
“Now… what I shall do with you? You have been cooperative, in the end, but…” She wept silently; she was sure she would be killed. However, she did not plea.
“You know,” he continued, staring straight into her eyes “What we really, really hate, it’s being double-crossed… do you see what I mean?” And his eyes almost imperceptibly strayed in David’s direction. Gail understood immediately. She closed both her eyes in an unmistakable affirmative sign. Henri released her and stepped back, relaxing. He then very carefully buttoned up Gail’s shirt.
“Take her to that moron Treece. Tell him to keep her safe for the next week. And that it is he who owes me.”
Two men took the fainting girl away.
“I would keep her here, but I do not trust you, guys… nor myself!” he said, for the general amusement. He then very slowly went up to David, who had laughed nervously as he smoked. The two thugs behind him got tense.
“As I told your girl –brave girl, I must say- is that what we hate most is being double crossed. You see, rivals, adversaries… you can cope with, but traitors… “ He made a slight gesture to his men; one of them got hold of David, while the other smoothly passed a lace round his neck and secured it to his wrist at his back.
“What the f…?” he protested, but Henri silenced him.
“Put him away. Drown him. It is too fitting a death for someone who fancies himself a diver, but who is only a piece of shit. Be quick, we have a lot of work to do.”
As the two men dragged David away, he sat down and lit a cigar. “How I miss a good bottle of good Barbancourt rum…” he thought.