Bring Out the GIMP (Girls in Merciless Peril)
Stories


LIBERTY

By King Diocletian


She had known this day would come but that didn't mean she was prepared for it.

There had been those who had said the fact her father was American, the fact she was a US citizen, would protect her, but she had known, deep down, that eventually they would come for her. The junta couldn't allow her to keep condemning them, to keep exposing their abuses, on television and in print. She had known they would come to silence her. What she hadn't expected was that they would come for her then, at the New Year's party at the swishest hotel in town.

It made sense, though. Not for her the dawn raid, the mysterious disappearance. The regime wanted people to know she'd been arrested, that nobody was immune: it wanted to make a statement. And what better way to make people believe she was part of a neo-con US conspiracy than by seizing her when she was at a fancy party for foreigners, done up in an expensive ball-gown. Look, they were saying; she's one of them.

And so she sat now in a cell, dressed preposterously in a sumptuous blue dress that left her right shoulder bare. Her wrists were cuffed painfully behind her, and her feet were bare, her shoes having fallen off as they'd hustled her from the garden of the hotel into the van.

She stood up and paced across the dusty floor again. Keep moving, keep sharp. The cell was perhaps 12 feet long and eight feet wide, bare but for the bench – a thick plank supported by two chains – on the back wall. The only light came from a grimy bulb set into the ceiling, streaked with cobwebs and the flickering bodies of a couple of desultory moths. The door was solid, cased in metal, but she suspected they were watching her through the peephole, waiting to see how she'd react. She was pretty sure knew where she was: the notorious Petra Negra jail in the capital.

She sat down again. They'd hooded her in the van, of course, but the distance made sense. The fact there was no window troubled her. Of course it was possible this was just an interior room on the ground floor, but she feared this was a cell in the basement. She hadn't been taken down any stairs, but she thought the van may have gone down a ramp before they'd bundled her out. And the basement at Petra Negra meant only one thing: the torture cells. Of course they'd torture her, she told herself: she had to be prepared for that.

The thought of torture, of course, made her blood run cold. She had to be strong. This was one of the reasons she'd kept herself so physically fit with runs and gym sessions. She wasn't an athlete by any means, but she was healthy and toned, able to drive herself on runs till she was retching with the effort. She just had to steel her mind as well.

*

Colonel Garcia pushed aside the guards, irritated by their ribald laughter, and peered through the eyehole. He didn't understand why the order had gone out now; he was just delighted that it had. They had the bitch and they could make her suffer. They should have picked her up a year ago. She was pacing back and forth, looking thoughtful and calm. He wished she looked more distressed, that she'd broken down, but there'd be plenty of time for that. He wanted her begging for mercy and was tempted to go in there and start beating her himself, but he knew this had to be done by the book. She'd go before the tribunal and it would decide what was to be done to her.

She sat down again; maybe there was an anxiety about her. He hated her, hated her campaign for democracy and against human rights abuses, hated her absurd naivety about these things, but he recognized her as an astoundingly beautiful woman. The evening gown she wore emphasized what a fine body she had: tall and well-proportioned, her breasts high and generous, her waist narrow and her legs long.

How much longer before they could start? There was so much politicking to be gone through, so many different voices, all wanting a part of the famous Juliette Hartman, all thinking they knew the best way to teach her a lesson. It wasn't just about that, though: he wanted information. Who were her sources? How did she always seem to know just what they were up to?

*

It was about 6 am but that seemed to make little difference to the heat in the basement. Carlos Diaz wiped the sweat from his upper lip. The Minister for Justice had always hated his visits here before, but this was different. Juliette Hartman was different. For months she had tormented him with her articles, her appearances on television, her speeches. She was beautiful, intelligent, articulate, well-informed and – worst of all – half-American. Anybody else they'd have arrested last year, broken in the cells here and then spat out to one of the camps in the interior but they had to be careful with Americans.

He understood torture was necessary to quell dissent in times of emergency but he didn't much like being near it. Some of his officials seemed almost to relish watching the guards here dealing out beatings, or seeing them hold the picana against subversives, but he'd seen enough battered faces screaming as the electricity pulsed through their flabby testicles to be disgusted by it. But if anybody deserved to suffer, it was her. The way she'd started to name him, to call on him to explain what was going on in Petra Negra and the camps. The way she knew – knew which prisoners were where and what had been done too them. Yes; he'd watch as they started on her, watch them knock that arrogance out of her.

The tribunal was ready: three colonels sitting behind a desk on the dais at one end of a not overly large room, a space in front for her, with desks for the stenographers just behind. There were seats down either side for the politicians and senior military personnel who wanted to watch and, at the back, a mass of soldiers, supposedly there to guard her but really there for the spectacle. It was stiflingly hot.

The door opened and two soldiers walked in. Then came another two and between them, her. Another two soldiers brought up the rear. A sack covered her head, so it was hard to be sure, but she seemed relatively calm, walking without needing to be dragged as they led her in front of the dais. She was tall, about 1.80m, and slender, the dress she was wearing emphasizing the length of her legs. It stopped perhaps 10 cm above her knees, exposed toned calves. Diaz was no expert in these things, but the design seemed unusual to him, mid-blue cloth sweeping down from her left shoulder on a diagonal to her waist, leaving just a flimsy navy silken dress – almost a slip - to cover her right breast and her lower back. With her arms chained behind her, her chest was thrust out a little and he admired the swell of her breasts. In fact, was that the vague outline of a nipple he could see beneath the navy silk?

The sack was pulled off. She blinked and shook the hair back from her face. Diaz watched that right breast quiver under the silk. He couldn't wait to see it for real. She looked composed, her dark eyes taking in the room, focusing mainly on the desk on the low dais. A door opened and the three judges filed in.

*

Juliette looked up at the three men who would determine her fate, although she was hardly in doubt as to what that would be. All three were in the uniform of colonels. She vaguely recognized the one on the left; the one in the center she knew was Colonel Raul Martinez, a man she had criticized regularly in the past.

A functionary called the court to order. She looked around, taking in three senior politicians, a handful of other bureaucrats, numerous military officers and she guessed around 30 soldiers. Perhaps 60 men in the room, two female secretaries and her. She wished she wasn't wearing such a revealing outfit, although she doubted she'd be wearing it much longer.

"Can you confirm you are Juliette Hartman?" Martinez asked, peering over his half-moon glasses.

"Yes sir." Her voice, to her relief, was clear and calm.

"And can you confirm you wrote the articles the clerk is now showing you?"

A thick manila folder full of newspaper cuttings was opened in front of her. Slowly, the clerk turned over clipping after clipping. Some were from underground local publications, most from newspapers in the US and Europe. She saw the headlines: "New disgrace for Diaz", "Dissident alleges systematic torture", "Police use live rounds on demonstrators". And on each there was her byline. She had been so proud of that once.

"Yes. I did, sir."

"Then we need detain the court no more. Under section four of the emergency penal code you are guilty of sedition. This court passes a provisional sentence of six months detention to be reviewed following further investigation and interrogation."

It was exactly what she'd expected when they'd arrested her: a military tribunal essentially handing her over to be tortured; and when they'd finished with her they'd extend the sentence on the basis of the new evidence they'd uncovered and send her to the labor camps. Or execute her.

"Take her and process her," Martinez said.

That was it. The hood was pulled back over her head and she was led away, back to the cell she'd been held in before the trial. How long had it taken? Five minutes? That was enough to condemn her to half a year – minimum – of back-breaking toil in the jungle, probably with beatings and rape thrown in. And before that, torture.

This time she just sat in the cell, her heart thumping.

*

Garcia wished the politicians and hangers-on weren't there, but there wasn't much he could do. They crowded round three sides of the room, he sat behind his desk on the other side. She stood before him, tall and beautiful, massaging her wrists. She held his gaze when he looked at her.

Slowly and precisely, he went through her details, checking them off on a form. Her name, date of birth, address, passport number. She answered, clearly and precisely. When he finished, he pushed the form towards her. "Sign at the bottom, please." She stepped forward and obeyed with a hand that was almost steady.

"OK. Back where you were."

She returned and faced him, meeting his stare with her dark brown eyes. "You will remove your clothing item by item," he said and she didn't flinch. "You will place them on the ground in front of you and an official will describe them. If you are happy with the description, say, ‘Yes'. Then we can be sure of returning all your possessions to you when we're done. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"OK. Strip."

"Sir. Is it really necessary to have quite so many men here to see me strip?"

Garcia smiled. "This is a prison," he said. "You are a prisoner. You obey orders or you are punished."

She swallowed, and took off her belt, throwing it down on the floor in front of her. A soldier picked it up. "One belt, black, fabric," he said.

She nodded.

"Speak, Miss Hartman," Garcia snapped. "Do you confirm the description?"

"Yes, sir." Why were they doing this? Did they always drag out the process, or were they doing this deliberately to unnerve her?

The guard placed the belt in a black canvas bag. A secretary wrote on a form. And the eyes of everybody else in the room turned on her.

She unhooked the outer part of her dress and let it fall to the ground, pooling at her feet. She stepped out of it and tossed it forwards.

Diaz licked his lips unconsciously; he took off his glasses and polished them on his tie. She wore now just a navy silken slip. Her toned shoulders were bare but for the spaghetti straps, her legs uncovered from mid-thigh down. "Dress, blue, fabric," the guard called.

"Yes, sir," she said, a slight tremor to her voice.

The air was electric with anticipation. "Carry on," said Garcia, smiling as she lowered her eyes, unable at last to hold his gaze.

She could feel their eyes on her. All of them, 40 or 50 men staring at her. It was a futile gesture she knew, but she decided to put off the moment of nudity as long as possible. She squatted a little, reached under the dress and, with as much dignity as she could muster, took off her panties.

Garcia could barely repress a laugh. He liked this one; she was going to be fun. "Panties, black, lace," called the guard.

"Yes, sir." It was almost a squeak. She saw one of the politicians take a pair of glasses from his inside pocket and put them on, peering at her intently. She hated them. Hated this process, the way they'd formalized a way of humiliating prisoners. She knew looking at them was probably a bad idea but she couldn't help herself. She saw their leers, their lascivious faces. She saw Diaz, a slight smirk on his face as he relished her humiliation.

So this was it. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She took another one. She looked up to the corner of the room and then reached for the straps: right hand to left shoulder; left hand to right. Diaz noted, oddly, how graceful her fingers were as she peeled the strings over down to her biceps. There was a moment when the swell of her breasts prevented gravity taking its course, but then the silk slid over the curve. Slowly, her nipples were exposed and then, in a flash, the dress fell and she was naked. Deliberately, doing everything she could to appear calm, she reached down, lifted the dress from around her feet and threw it in front of her. She stood, head lowered, shoulders slightly rounded, her arms hanging limp by her sides. There was no point covering herself, she reasoned; they would see whatever parts of her they wanted.

She was as spectacular as promised. Garcia admired the smooth skin, the full, round breasts high on her chest, that slender waist, the long thin legs. "Dress, dark blue, silk," came the shout.

"Yes, sir," she said in a croak. She was shaking inside but did her best to hide it.

The secretary passed the form to Garcia. He read it slowly then signed it. "Come forward and check this," he said.

She swallowed and walked the three paces to the desk. They were the hardest steps she'd ever taken. She was horribly conscious of her breasts, the way they wobbled on her chest. She bent forward to check the form and felt them just lifting from her chest. She flushed – and then saw his smile and felt the humiliation. She knew his smile was matched by every man in the room, that she was now their toy. Her hand shook as she signed the form.

Garcia watched her walk back, the slim legs, the firm thighs, pert high buttocks and a back like a sculpture, smooth and lightly-muscled. Physically she was tough; she'd take a pounding. The question really was how she was mentally. She turned back to face him, keeping her arms down. Her head was lowered and she wouldn't meet his gaze but she wasn't cowering in her nudity.

"Head up, please."

Shifted lifted her head, and with what seemed like an effort looked at him. "Run your fingers through your hair."

There was something almost erotic in the gesture as she swept her glossy black mane back from her face with those long fingers. She looked calm, but Garcia knew the signs. Her breathing was shallow, he face just a little flushed. "Hands behind your neck; lock your fingers," he said.

She obeyed, looking at him balefully with those large dark eyes. "Squat."

Slowly she lowered herself. He saw the muscles in her thighs stand out as she went down; gym toned, as he'd thought. He saw the crinkled lips of her cunt as he legs parted. She closed her eyes and swallowed. "Jump," he said. There was almost a snigger from some of the soldiers in the room, but she obeyed. Her breasts leapt, trembling as they came to rest. "Again." She had no defense; she was exposed to the stares of every man in the room. "Again."

*

Juliette knew what was coming next, but it was still a sickening moment when she heard the snap of surgical gloves. A slightly plump, balding man, a white coat over his white shirt and dark trousers had appeared beside the colonel. The doctor pulled on the other glove calmly, making sure it was tight over his fingers. He took a small torch from his pocket and flicked it on and off as though checking it. "Bend over please," he said. "Hold your legs just above the ankles."

The doctor approached. "Keep your legs as straight as you can," he said. She gave a deep breath and bent over, gripping her shins, grateful she was flexible from regular yoga sessions but equally horribly aware of the view she was giving to the men behind her. Making her squat and jump had been gratuitous, done for no reason other than to humiliate her – although they'd say it was to shake loose anything she was hiding in her cavities; but this, justifiable as it was to a point, was worse.

He stood for what seemed like an age behind her then, placing the end of the torch in his mouth, spread her arse-cheeks, pulling her anus painfully open. He used two fingers on his left hand to hold the cheeks apart, then used the right to shine in the torch. She tried to stay calm, not to resist, but instinctively she clenched. Unfazed, he simply returned the torch to his mouth and thrust a finger inside her. She squirmed as they went deeper and deeper, her whole body tensing, but she stayed down, even when he began prying and wriggling his finger.

How long was he staying in there? Twenty, thirty seconds before he finally withdrew his finger. She could hear sniggers and laughter, but immediately he was pushing he legs apart and then spreading her labia. She jammed her legs shut; she couldn't help it. She regretted it as soon as she'd done it, but he just kept going, squatting down and shining in the torch and then poking in his fingers – first two and then three. He probed and prodded and twisted and she whimpered. And then, at last, it was over and she could stand up. She was flushed, her chest heaving and she bit her lower lip, her chin on her chest.

"Head up," the doctor ordered and she obeyed. He stood in front of her, a leer on his face that somehow made her feel her nakedness all the more. "Open wide," he said, and she obediently opened her mouth. He shone in the torch. "Tongue up," he said. "Good. Now, Tongue down." She obeyed, and then he put his fingers in her mouth, the same fingers that had been in her anus and her vagina. The main taste was merely of latex, but she gagged instinctively, and only just stopped her jaws snapping shut. Her teeth made contact with the glove though and he withdrew his hand. "Now then, let's be sensible," he said. "You have lovely teeth; let's not have to take any of them out, eh?" His fingers went back into her mouth and he poked them round her gums, round her tongue and it seemed almost down her throat.

"Good," he said. "She's clean." He walked to a leather bag that lay by the desk. She stood, trying to calm her breath, but she could hear the tremor in it. She stared at the floor, trying to ignore the reality of 40 men starting at her naked body, 40 men starting at her as her own shit was smeared in her mouth.

The doctor returned with a stethoscope around his neck. He lay the bag down beside her and stood in front of her. He reached out with his right hand and, with thumb and middle finger, squeezed her left breast. "Don't!" she squawked. "Please... don't." She sounded pathetic, she knew, and he squeezed again. "Lovely and firm," he said. She bit the inside of her lower lip hating him and his snide smile. Still holding her breast, he pressed the stethoscope against her chest. It was cold and she gasped.

"Good," he said. "Good and strong." His hand moved to her arm and he squeezed her toned bicep. "You work out?"

"Yes, sir."

He let his hand fall and caress her firm buttock. "Impressive," he said. "You'll take a lot." He patted her flat belly and went again to his bag. He took out two syringes and dropped them in the top pocket of his coat, then bent again and withdrew a brown glass bottle and a small ball of cotton wool. She smelt antiseptic as he unstoppered the bottle. He tipped a little onto the cotton wool then swabbed it on her upper arm. "We don't want you getting infected now, do we?" he said mockingly.

He took the syringes from his top pocket and filled them both with her blood. "Just to make sure you're as tough as you seem," he said. "So we know just how much treatment to give you."

She gave him a look of disgust. She wanted to ask how he could put his medical art to the service of torture, but she didn't dare. What was the point? It would only bring a beating or more humiliation.

*

Diaz followed the crowd. They'd hooded her again, then led her out through the door and down the corridor, soldiers in front of her, soldiers behind her and two soldiers holding each arm as though she were somehow about to mount an escape. He couldn't help but stare at her buttocks – high and round and smooth and perfect; he wondered how much time it took in the gym to get them looking like that. He'd never seen a body like that before, so obviously physically fit, so lean, and yet so rounded in the right areas.

With the other officials he went through a door and up some stairs into what was effectively a viewing gallery, looking down on what they called the tank. It was a tiled room with a fence of thick wire mesh running all the way round about a meter in from the wall – a square cage essentially, about 4m by 4m. In one side was set a gate and in that, as the center of the other three sides, was a small window through which they would fit hosepipes. In theory the tank was to sober drunks or to calm rowdy prisoners, but it could also be used for torture or, as today, as an alternative to the shower-block for a new arrival.

The door opened and she was pushed through, the guards slamming her against the mesh. Diaz stared at the way the rusting iron pressed into the soft flesh of her breasts. They locked the door and opened the gate, then pulled her hood off and shoved her into the cage, slamming the gate shut as she stumbled into the center. She stood, uncertainly, and this time her shame led her to try to cover herself. Her right arm went across her breasts, her left hand over her pudenda and she huddled against their gaze, her shoulders hunched, her head bowed. She'd been naked for almost half an hour and he wondered why then: had her humiliation reached a critical point, or was it that standing alone, away from soldiers who might restrain her, an instinct for modesty kicked in – if she'd stood exposed before them here, it wouldn't be because she was being forced into nudity but because she accepted it?

She fascinated him, standing there, not just because of her beauty. What must it feel like, knowing what they were about to do, waiting, naked, for pain? Knowing all these men were staring at your nakedness? Knowing you were alone, about to go through hell?

*

Juliette couldn't face the taunting faces, this crowd that had turned up to watch her suffer. She stared at the tiled floor, vaguely aware of them fitting the hoses through the openings. She should have known they wouldn't be satisfied with giving her a cold shower, but would inflict maximum pain and discomfort on her by putting her in the tank.

She heard the order and braced herself. A jet of icy water stuck her in the stomach, winding her. Instinctively she brought her hands down to try to deflect it, stumbling backwards as she did so. Immediately another jet struck the small of her back, then another her ribs on the right hand side. A moment later the fourth jet hit her left thigh. There was nothing she could do to protect herself. The water was so cold, so powerful, that it stung and she brought her hands back to defend her breasts, her thighs pressed tight together, body hunched against the assault.

A jet dropped lower, striking the back of her right thigh and then her knee. It knocked her off balance and she fell, slipping on the wet tiles. The water continued to pound her as she lay, curled up, knees to chin. They worked up and down her back and legs, seeming to delight in targeting her genitals and face. Finally, they turned the hoses off. She relaxed, but still lay, exhausted and cold, her whole body feeling bruised. She was shivering, teeth chattering slightly.

"Stand up, Miss Hartmann," came a voice. She pushed herself up onto her knees, and rested for a moment on all fours, water dripping off her nose. Slowly she got to her feet until she stood, shaking. Four soldiers came in, locking the cage door behind them. Two took her arms, holding them out as though she were being crucified. The other two held plastic bottles and flannels. One walked behind her, the other stood in front of her, a mocking smile on his face. He squirted some blue gel out of the bottle onto the flannel, bent down and started rubbing it on her feet and ankles. The one behind started with her arms.

They took their time, working up a lather on her goosepimpled skin. First her legs and arms and then, as she'd known they must, her ass and her genitals. As their hands got closer, she desperately tried to relax, to pretend it didn't matter to her, but of course it did.

The lather came to the tops of her thighs and her arms were fully soaped. They paused. They added more soap to the flannel and she smelled the disinfectant. She saw the soldier in front of her smile mockingly and then he moved in. She knew up above they were staring at her, waiting to see her reaction. First came the touch on her buttocks, the soldier behind soaping the firm cheeks, kneading and stroking and then, joining in, the one in front. He soaped her hips and the shallow depressions at the top of the thigh muscles. Then his hands drifted more central. He soaped the trimmed strip of hair and then reached down, the flannel chafing on her outer lips and then, as she stood so tense she thought she might burst, inside, his fingers prying and rubbing through the cloth as the soldier behind ran the flannel over her anus. She closed her eyes as they rubbed and rubbed, biting her lower lip as she felt waves of shame crash upon her.

*

Diaz watched the soaping with undisguised interest. The girl deserved this humiliation – but she was coping with it remarkably well. Other women, he knew from the tapes, broke down completely even being made to shower themselves naked in front of male guards – and this had to be a thousand times worse, designed to emphasize her helplessness and subjection.

They moved up, washing that flat stomach and the toned back, before the soldier in front had the delight of soaping those firm round breasts. Diaz saw him tweaking the nipples, caressing the underside of each breast, squeezing them as she, eyes closed, teeth gritted, forced herself not to react. Then it was up to the lightly muscled shoulders, and her graceful neck. The one in front added more soap to his flannel; the one behind emptied his bottle straight into her hair. One scrubbed her face, forcing soap into her mouth and nose and even, as much as he could as she held her eyelids tight shut, into her eyes. The other, pulling her hair in occasional painful yanks, washed her scalp.

Finally they were done and they backed away, leaving her covered in foam. She stood uncertainly for a few seconds, her eyes closed, and then carefully began to wipe some of the soap from around her eyes. Even as she was doing so, though, the water struck her again. She shrieked. It seemed more powerful than before and, as the first jet struck her back she was driven, her back arching, a couple of paces until she met the blast from the hosepipe in front of her. That hit her in the stomach and she doubled over and then fell, lying on the tiles as water pounded her from all sides.

On and on it went, the soldiers clearly taunting her with their aim, deliberately directing the jets into her face and genitals. She squirmed hopelessly until finally, six or seven minutes after it had begun, they turned the water off. Hartmann lay still for a moment and then began coughing, rolling onto her knees as she rasped up water that had got into her lungs. She was shivering, kneeling with her hands on the tiles in front of her, her smooth back parallel with the floor. Diaz watched the water pour from the tendrils of hair that shielded her face, saw it dripping from her breasts, which hung alluringly. Then the soldiers were on her again.

"Get up! Up!" one shouted as six of them entered the cage. She looked dazed as she got to her feet, shaking and crossing her arms across her chest: the great Juliette Hartmann, writer, campaigner, beauty, naked and trembling with cold and fear. Two of them grabbed her arms and shoved her towards the other four. She stumbled towards them, still hugging herself, and they surrounded her, pulling the hood over her head and dragging her off down the corridor.

*

Once the hoses had been turned off, it took only a few minutes for warmth to return, but that wasn't really the issue. She felt tender, bruised and sore, and she felt a sense of shame stronger than anything she'd imagined possible. Standing in that room stripping and being examined by the doctor had been bad enough, but what had happened in the tank had been far worse. That had been systematic cruelty, hurting her for the sake of hurting her, degrading her for the sake of degrading her. Even if they'd put her in the tank rather than giving her a shower, there was no reason for them to have scrubbed her. That, she knew, had been done to show her that if they wanted to put their hands in her most private places, they could: that however popular or eloquent she was, she was defenseless before them.

She tried to compose herself, to put that behind her, to regain her equilibrium before what was to come, but it was difficult when you were being marched naked down a corridor with a hood over your head. The wetness from her hair seemed to have permeated the bag and breathing was hard. She hated the constant touch of their hands on her arms, the reminder she was under guard. Finally they stopped. She heard a door open and she was pushed through.

The door slammed, she heard key turn in the lock and the hood was removed. Apart from the six soldiers, there were just three other men in the room: the one who'd ordered her to strip before and two others, one of whom sat behind a camera. She ran her fingers through her hair, pushing it back from her forehead, then she brought up an arm to cover her breasts, the other hooked over her pubis.

They shoved her against the whitewashed wall in front of the camera, forcing her hands down. "Shoulders back, head up, look straight in to the lens," came a voice from one of the officers. She had little option but to obey. There was a flash and then a series of smaller ones. She realized, to her horror, that the soldiers were taking pictures themselves on their phones, for their own amusement. The big flash went again and then she was forced to turn to her right and to her left.

A solider came forward and handed her a prison gown. She seized it gratefully and put it on. It was a shirt really, a very pale grey and not especially clean. It had loose elbow-length sleeves and came down to mid-thigh, six buttons down the front the only fastening, but it was at least something. She put it on hurriedly, realizing only three of the buttons were actually there, and then they photographed her again. These, it occurred to her, were the official prison photos; what they were going to do with the shots of her naked she didn't want to think about.

*

Garcia peered over the top of his glasses at her. She clasped her left hand over her right wrist and stood at a slight angle to him, her right leg in front of her left, enticingly bare from mid-thigh down. She seemed calm and he admired her courage. Her hair was almost dry and hung loose, framing her face, which was angled towards the floor, the only real sign of shame. Her eyes peered up, though, and she held his gaze.

"Miss Hartmann," he said. "As you probably know, it's customary for new arrivals at the jail to be beaten, to give you an idea of what will happen if you make trouble."

She didn't flinch. She really was an impressive woman. "Now, personally, I'd rather get on with questioning you, but your case has raised a deal of interest and there are a number of people wish to see you flogged. So, later on this morning, you will be taken to the correction room and beaten."

She swallowed and he saw the muscles of her jaw tighten. "You know what a palmatoria is, I assume?" She nodded. He opened a drawer in his desk and took out a dark brown leather paddle. It was perhaps 40 cm long and 15 cm wide, with a round handle about half that length. The business end was half a centimeter thick and stiff, dotted with three rows of six holes. "The holes stop a cushion of air forming between the paddle and your buttocks," he said, mildly. He raised the palmatoria and, with a flick of his wrist, brought it down on the desk. There wasn't a huge amount of power in the stroke, but the leather struck the desk with a crash that seemed to reverberate around the room.

She flinched. He smiled at her, and crashed it down with greater force. She turned slightly away, biting her lower lip. "You'll take 100 strokes," he said. She looked up at him, her mouth open with horror. She obviously knew 100 was a dreadfully harsh sentence. Most new arrivals were given a dozen, maybe two, but he'd been told the politicians wanted to see her really suffer before he got to work on her in private. He would rather have treated her like a normal prisoner – give her a taste of pain and leave her strong for torture; then let them take their revenge on her when he was finished. Not that 100 ‘was too big a deal, although held never seen that many administered to a woman before. It would be agony for her, because blows on bruised flesh were terribly painful, but the damage wouldn't be too bad. And he understood that they wanted to watch her howling with pain, to see this girl who'd caused them so much trouble humiliated and screaming. And after seeing her buttocks, pert and muscled, he was quite keen to see them flaming red. And then he'd get on with the more sophisticated methods.

*

Juliette sat anxiously in the cell, almost unconsciously pulling down on the shirt to hide herself. She suspected they'd be watching through the peep-hole to see how'd she reacted to the news of her flogging. After the colonel had told her what they had lined up, she'd been hooded again, her wrists shackled behind her and led into this cell. The guards' glee had been clear. They'd kept repeating the figure. "100 strokes, 100," and patting her buttocks, mostly on the outside of the shirt but occasionally reaching under to touch the skin.

She shuddered to think of their hands on her. She'd thought when they'd first made her strip that the first moment would be the worst and that if she could get through that she would get used to nudity, but she still felt shame now. She thought of the doctor's fingers inside her, of the soldiers washing her, of them photographing her naked and it was all she could do not to weep. And in a few minutes she'd be naked again, strapped to a frame and given a severe beating.

The door opened and she stood. Six soldiers walked in; another two stood in the doorway. They approached her, turned her round and cuffed her hands behind her. "100 strokes," one said, running his hand over her buttocks, his hand thankfully outside her shirt. "That's going to sting." The hood was pulled over her and a hand patted her ass. "In an hour that little pat will have you howling," another said. Another made the noise of a whip in the air and clapped his hands. She tried to stay calm; she didn't want to give them the satisfaction of seeing how terrified she felt but the truth was she felt sick. As they led her out of the cell she wondered if they could see how hard her heart was beating.

In the corridor their mocking stopped. It was only a few seconds before she heard another door being unlocked and she was taken through. Even before they'd removed her hood she knew it was packed. She could hear their breath, smell their sweat. The room was much larger than the cell she'd come from. In the center, beneath a light bulb that seemed to serve as a spotlight, was a slatted table perhaps ten feet long and four feet wide, the top three feet or so from the ground. Only the leather bolster across the middle and straps fixed to its surface gave an indication of what it was for. She'd heard of the flogging bench, of course, had taken testimony from prisoners lashed upon it but she'd never actually seen it. At one end was a desk behind which the colonel sat, the doctor alongside him. Next to that was a video-camera, presumably set up to record her punishment. That made her all the more determined not to give them a show. On the wall the colonel was facing was a rack from which hung a range of whips, canes and paddles. She realized there was another camera facing that end of the bench; they wanted to record her face as they flogged her. And all around the table and behind the desk there were people: the ranks of politicians and soldiers who watched her stripped and hosed swelled by even more officials and even, she saw, a couple of journalists.

She was taken in front of the colonel and her handcuffs removed. "Juliette Hartman," he said softly, a thin smile on his face, "you have been sentenced to 100 strokes of the palmatoria." There was a ripple through the audience; clearly not all of them had heard how severely she was to be beaten. She started at the colonel, trying to shame him, but he just looked back at her. "Strip," he said.

Juliette closed her eyes and looked down at the floor. She wasn't going to let them defeat her. She was going to retain her dignity. Her fingers felt as though they were made of rubber and she struggled to focus, but she unfastened the top button – or rather the top button that was still stitched on, which was at breast height.

*

Diaz stared at the girl. It was only three hours since he'd seen her naked, being hosed down, but he was desperate to see her naked again. He had thought he'd be dispassionate, but the desire to watch her suffer had overwhelmed him. Her legs were so long there must have been 20 cm of thigh showing below the dress – and not just long but smooth and toned. She seemed remarkably composed at least until you looked closely and saw her fingers were trembling as they undid the buttons.

The shirt hung open and, in one sudden movement, she slipped it off to reveal that long, golden body. Diaz could hear the intakes of breath from those who hadn't been there before as she stepped forward and lay the dress on the desk. Four soldiers advanced. They turned her round to face the bench and he saw again those marvelously firm, round breasts. They led her up to it. She stared straight ahead, at a point on the wall above the spectators. Two soldiers took her arms and the other two knelt down in a practiced movement. Simultaneously they lifted her legs and so she was held by her limbs at waist height, parallel to the ground, breasts hanging from her chest. She remained limp, unresisting, as, with almost casual efficiency, they tossed her onto the bench, shucking her up so her hips rested on the bolster, her buttocks raised for the palmatorias. A long strap, perhaps 10 cm wide, was fastened over her lower back and they then moved with great coordination to her legs and arms, fastening her elbows so her arms were angled at 45 degrees up from her shoulders, the wrists then strapped so her forearms were parallel to the edges of the bench. Her legs, similarly, were pulled out, the thighs splayed so her knees were buckled perhaps 50 cm apart then the shins pulled straight down and the ankles fastened.

When they'd checked the bonds, they tightened the band across her back so her buttocks seemed to stand even higher on the bolster, which was probably 20 cm in height. A wheel at the bench's center was turned, tipping the slatted surface until she was at about 30 degrees from the horizontal. The effect was rather as though she were doing breast stroke, or was a frog pinned out for dissection. Aside from her buttocks, that was: forced out by the bolster they looked taut and muscular, even more alluring than before.

*

Garcia had rarely felt such an atmosphere before. The sense of expectation was palpable, but he waited. Let them look at her. Let them remember this, Hartmann naked and perfect on the flogging bench, her long limbs spread out, her tawny skin perfect and unblemished, her dark hair hanging loose over that smooth back. The buttocks a little paler, pure and firm. Not a bruise on her – yet.

The two soldiers charged with administering the first 50 strokes walked to the back of the room. Hartmann watched them as they took down a palmatoria each. They were new – stiff but supple leather. Garcia wondered what she must be feeling. Terror, surely, yet she seemed resigned, tough enough not to kick and scream. Or piss herself – he'd seen plenty of prisoners of both sexes do that. The soldiers walked back towards her, swishing the paddles through the air, taunting her with what was about to be done to her. She lowered her head. She was naked, she was vulnerable and she was about to go through intense pain for the amusement of about 100 men. But she deserved it.

The soldiers took their positions on either side of her. She seemed calm. He saw her take a couple of deep breaths. He was quietly impressed; she might be a challenge. She was certainly physically tough enough to take severe punishment. The left-handed flogger lay his palmatoria across her buttocks. She tensed and then relaxed.

"100 strokes," Garcia said. "Proceed."

The soldier raised the paddle, held it for a moment and smacked it down. There was a slap that echoed round the room. She flinched, her knees trying to jerk inwards but restrained by the straps. The firm flesh quivered, the outline of the paddle showing on the smooth skin. "One," said Garcia. She had given a slight grunt – little more than a heavy exhalation – but had remained essentially unmoved. The right-hander struck. "Two," he called. There was always a rhythm to floggings – the palmatoria tended to be used quickly, the blows delivered in rapid bursts. When they moved to canes or the proper bullwhips it was always much slower, making the victim wait for the lash.

Three... Four... Five... Six…. Already there was a pinkness to the smooth skin. Seven… eight. They were leaving only three or four seconds between blows. If he were torturing her he would drag this out, make her think, make her fear the lash. Nine… ten. Her buttocks were extraordinary, the pert roundness springing back into shape after each stroke. They paused and he could hear her breathing – shallow, frightened. She shuffled as though trying to find a more comfortable position. They began again.

*

Remain calm. Relax. Don't give them the satisfaction. The strap landed, she flinched, lifting her body a fraction from the frame. Eleven. The cold voice calling out the strokes. Twelve. The pain was worse than she'd thought possible. The first had been bad enough. Thirteen. The slaps impossibly loud, the noise reverberating around the room. The rational part of her knew that energy lost in sound at least wasn't being transferred into her ass but the noise seemed to enhance the sting. Fourteen. Her knees twitched. The pain was getting worse as the palmatorias landed on skin that was already smarting. Fifteen. She was desperate to remain calm, determined not to shout. But it hurt. Hurt far worse than she'd imagined. Sixteen. Her fists clenched. She gritted her teeth, pushing her forehead into the frame. She didn't want to look, didn't want to see them watching her, to see them enjoying her nakedness and her pain. Seventeen. A sharp exhalation left her mouth - a gasp or grunt of pain. She hadn't realized how hard they would hit her, how the soldiers would smash the leather against the skin with all their might. Eighteen. It was relentless. Left buttock then right. She tried to steel herself but she could feel the pain engulfing her, each new blow sending her closer to cracking. She shuffled, thinking if she could raise her right buttock as the left hander struck it might ease the pain. It didn't. "Nineteen," he called as the strap slapped across the center of her buttocks, driving her pelvis into the bolster. She was horribly aware of the sexuality of the flogging, of how even in the bonds she was thrusting up and down. Twenty. A break. She took a deep breath.

Control the breathing. Deep breaths. Slow and deep. Not the shallow scared breathing she'd been doing. She wriggled as far as she could in the bonds. Her buttocks stung terribly. She'd had no idea what the pain would be like, how her ass would burn. Don't think of them watching her. Don't think of her enemies standing round watching her being beaten, enjoying her humiliation and pain. Don't think of the fact she was naked, ass in the air, her most private parts visible. Don't think of what was to come, of eighty more strokes and days of torture.

The strap came down again, the slap ringing out. She gave a grunt. Twenty-one.

*

Rodriguez brought his palmatoria down again, snapping his wrist to achieve the maximum possible velocity. It landed, perfectly flat, across the lower part of her right buttock, sending tremors through the firm flesh on either side. "Twenty-two."

He'd only been told at breakfast that morning that he'd been selected for the plum job of flogging Hartman. He and Angel. When they'd heard of her arrest there'd been a suspicion she'd be beaten and of course there'd been the possibility he'd be chosen. He knew he was good. He wasn't a particularly big man but he was athletic and he had powerful forearms. Flogging backsides wasn't what he'd come into the army to do but there were worse jobs. Most of the time he just smacked away, regarding it almost as a workout. Not today though. Women didn't come his way that often but when they did and they were young and pretty, the buttocks pert and smooth, he relished it.

He took two paces forward and struck a little higher than previously, in the center of the cheek. She gave a slight gasp and the flesh shuddered delightfully. "Twenty-four." And this, of course, was special. They'd all watched her on television making her speeches, seen her cheekbones and fine figure. Of course she was an enemy of the state but she was a beautiful one. And now here she was, the elegant, intelligent, self-assured woman of her public appearances reduced to this: naked and bound, her buttocks pink. Flogging her was an honor. He went low again, enjoying the wobble as the cheeks flattened and sprang back again. "Twenty-six."

He admired her toughness. Most new prisoners took only 10 or 20 strokes and were howling by the end, especially the women. It wasn't just the pain, he knew; it was the shock, the sense of helplessness, the humiliation – and most of them didn't get a crowd like this, all these men in suits watching and enjoying her punishment. But the pain was bad enough – especially now as each blow landed on tender flesh. He reached a little higher and smacked the rounded top of her buttock where the cheek jutted out from her back. She gave a slight gasp and her head jerked up a little, but essentially she remained as still and unyielding as she'd been throughout. "Twenty-eight."

Angel's palmatoria struck hard across the middle of the buttocks. "Mmmphh," came the grunt and the shudder seemed to go on for longer. Rodriguez put his shoulder into the last of the batch striking hard and low. Her whole body tensed and her saw her fists clench, but she held back the scream. They paused. He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow and watched as she slowed her breathing down. Really an admirable girl. He wondered what else they had lined up for her that day – they made a pretence of keeping the actual torture secret but they all knew about the cells where they broke dissidents; they'd all flogged prisoners who'd already been savagely beaten, had their nails ripped out, had electricity pounded through them. He imagined they'd flog her again when they'd finished interrogating her before sending her to the camps.

*

Diaz adjusted his glasses and as he did so he caught her eye. There was pain and reproach but also great strength. She'd taken on the regime and she must have known eventually this would happen. The left-handed flogger – Angel, he thought he was called – raised the palmatoria and smacked it down again. He was a powerful man and he clearly was putting all his strength into the blows. The slap was the leather struck her skin was extraordinary. It almost made him flinch just to hear it. Her body jerked, her shoulders lifting from the slats momentarily. He could see how she pressed her lips together, cutting off the shout that welled inside her. "Thirty-one."

She lowered her head, pressing her brow against the wood. Rodriguez struck her. He heard her teeth knock together, saw a slight tremor pass through her, but her only acknowledgement of the stroke was a gruff sigh through her nose. She swallowed and shuffled. Angel hit her again and her head jerked back again. Her eyes were wide with pain and there was a little mucus oozing from her nostrils, but she remained silent.

And then, finally, her resistance was broken. Rodriguez's strap landed flush across the middle of her buttocks. Her shoulders snapped back as far as the bonds would allow, giving him just a flash of her breasts as he looked from his position just in front of her and to the right. "Thirty-two." She tried to hold it in but couldn't. "Nnnngggyyyyuuurggghhhhh," she yelled, spittle dripping from her lips and clinging there till she shook it away. She relaxed, but before she'd settled back onto the frame, Angel had struck again. She grunted, her body twitching, and then she fell back. "Thirty-three." Her breath clearly came in pants; there could be no doubt of her suffering.

The strap landed again and again. Diaz shuffled round. He wanted to see her backside but there were too many people in the way. Each stroke she twitched, her body trying to rise, the strap across her waist the only thing that held her down. Rodriguez smacked low, over the crease where her buttocks met her thighs. She grunted, a spasm passing through her thighs, as though she were trying to press her knees together. She kept her head down. He wanted eye contact. He wanted to see her suffering. From where he stood, though, he could just make out the fleshiness of her right breast as it pressed into the wood. He gazed at it intently. There was another crack as another stroke landed. Her body lifted a fraction and he saw more of the shape of the breast, its firm curve, before she fell back onto the slats. "Thirty-six."

He'd known how beautiful she was of course. That was part of her appeal. "Thirty-seven." She was intelligent and charismatic, a calm and lucid public speaker, but most of all she was a woman with whom men wanted to spend time. He thought back to those meetings, the times she'd asked difficult questions, raised awkward points, made him look a fool. "Thirty-eight." He'd hated her then and yet at the same time he'd often found himself staring at her when somebody else was speaking, admiring her pretty smile, those cheekbones, the way her dark hair flowed around her face and, yes, her breasts, high and pert and round. "Thirty-nine." And now here he was getting to see her naked; and her body hadn't disappointed; she was just as long and lean as promised, just as rounded and curved where she needed to be. "Forty." The last of the set lifted her again and he briefly saw a flash of nipple before she fell again, gasping for breath.

*

The pain was worse than she'd ever imagined possible. She felt exhausted, she could feel her heart pounding and a sheen of sweat covered her. This was a test of endurance as much as anything, the long, slow incremental increase of pain. She shook her head, trying to regain control, forcing herself to take long deep breaths.

They started again.

SLAP!!

The shudder passed from her buttocks through her legs. She wished she weren't bound as tightly. Not only was the position degrading, but her knees and the muscles down the inside of her thighs were aching as the instinctive desire to close her legs battled with the bonds.

The right-hander struck. She gritted her teeth, fighting the urge to yell, desperately trying to keep her body pressed into the frame. "Forty-two." Why give them more flashes of her breasts than she had to? She knew they were getting off on this, knew her nakedness and humiliation were part of their revenge. But the pain was awful. She shuffled, wondering if she could somehow spread the pain. But it was no good. The next blow landed across the middle of her buttocks and something inside her broke. Her head and torso snapped up and she let loose a roar from deep inside her, spittle flying from her lips. She fell back down with a thump and threw her head back, pressing her breasts into the slats and howling as she stared at the ceiling. "Forty-three." She hated herself. Why had she cracked? The next struck and she pushed her head into her left shoulder, grunting with pain. "Forty-four."

She could feel tears pricking her eyes. She wanted to scream and howl to give in to the pain, but that would be to let them win. She had to fight it. The next landed low, almost on her thigh. "Gah-" she shouted, just checking the full scream. "Forty-five." It was agony now even when they weren't hitting her, in the brief gaps between the strokes. She closed her eyes. She would keep them closed until they reached fifty. Five more. That was all. "Forty-six." She strained at the strap across her waist. She could feel the sweat running down her brow. Just four more. The trouble was, each stroke was an event, the sound of the blow echoing in the room, the pain getting worse all the time. "Forty-seven." She held herself down, her whole body tense. Keep the eyes shut. The forty-eighth landed. She grunted, her eyes flicked open for a second but she held it together. Two more. The flogger seemed to reach round a little more. This one hit over the hollow beyond the meat of her buttock. She wriggled, but kept her eyes and mouth shut. The last of the set was hard, aimed centrally where the pain was at its worst, she bucked, grinding into the bolster. She let out a gasp and the first half was over.

She opened her eyes and blinked away the tears. She was panting and tried to calm herself, to take deep breaths. She looked around, saw the men chatting, a couple pointing at her, discussing her. It sickened her. She was vaguely aware of the two floggers stepping back, of new floggers preparing, flexing their palmatorias. Her buttocks burned. The thought she had to go through the same again was horrific. She saw a flash of white to her left and realized the doctor had approached her.

He brushed her hair aside, placed two fingers against her neck and took her pulse. "She's fine," he said. He examined her ass, tapping each buttock a couple of times with his fingers. There was pain as soon as his fingers brushed her skin, but when he pressed, her cheeks felt oddly numb. Then, as he turned away, he jabbed his two fingers inside her labia, twisting slightly. She squirmed and grunted, then he patted her sore backside and walked away. She gritted her teeth. She wanted to shout abuse at him but she knew that was what they wanted. She knew the whole point of that was to remind her that she was naked, that she was in their power and that they could do what they wanted with her, to remind her that this wasn't just a flogging but also a way of humiliating her.

*

The second left-hander was a tall, broad, slightly tubby soldier called Cabrera. He considered her ass for a moment, then brought the palmatoria down hard. There was the usual smack and again she gave little more than a cough. "Fifty-one," said Garcia. He was impressed. Her buttocks were scarlet; she must be in agony, and yet she was holding it together. Breaking her might be harder than they were expecting. "Fifty-two." Just as important, though, maybe more important, was her physical toughness. If she could soak up punishment like this, her system would probably be strong enough to let him torture her with real rigor. "Fifty-three." And then of course there was the post-torture. It was conceivable they'd execute her but he thought it far more likely she'd be whipped and sent to the camps. And if they did that, there were all kinds of ways they could make her life in the camps miserable. With her figure she'd be working night and day as it was. "Fifty-four."

He stared at those round buttocks. Cabrera struck her again. The muscles quivered and she pushed herself up with a gasp. Even from behind he could see her effort to hold herself together. The right-hander was a wiry man of about 1.75 in height, hair cropped close and cheeks thin; Munoz, he thought his name was. He struck low, sending both buttocks and thighs wobbling. "Fifty-six." She curled her toes, shaking her feet. The next brought a howl, not a scream as such, but a roar. "Nyooorrr, noyooorrrrrr, nyooooorrrrrrr," she yelled, her shoulders back, her head up. Oh to see her tits from the front as she held that position. Even before she'd slumped back onto the frame, Munoz struck her again. This time her shout was higher-pitched. "Fifty-eight." She forced herself down before the fifty-ninth landed and remained silent and the sixtieth brought just a grunt.

They paused. The only sound in the room was her breathing, slowing gradually as she regained control. Garcia nodded. The smack seemed louder than ever. She wriggled, distress showing in her inability to stay still but she remained silent. "Sixty-one." Her feet were flicking and twitching constantly now, her toes flexing and unflexing with each stroke. "Sixty-two, sixty-three, sixty-four…"

*

Cabrera hated her. He remembered the days before the junta, knew what the leftists had done before they were crushed. He recalled the car-bombs and kidnappings, the mood of fear that had haunted the city. And she attacked the government that had brought peace. She was a stupid, misguided girl, not old enough to know any better and yet she arrogantly thought she could tell them how to live. A Yanqui. He brought the palmatoria down with full venom. The buttocks quivered and she yelped. "Sixty-seven." A spanking like this was what she should have had years ago. Might have helped her learn her place. He could feel his shoulder beginning to ache; that was the problem when you laid into the lashes. But he wasn't going to go easy. This arrogant little bitch deserved everything she got. "Sixty-nine."

He paused and wiped the sweat from his brow. She was tough; he couldn't deny that. He'd seen hardened criminals, men, weeping long before their asses got as red as that. But they'd break her. She'd be begging for mercy soon enough. Garcia gave him the signal to carry on. This time, at least, he drew a stifled grunt from her, forced her to raise her head. He watched Jimenez's strap land, saw her shudder, and knew that her resistance was weakened.

Her buttocks were flaming now. They must have been agony - a deep red. He struck had across the center and her head snapped back, her back arching against the strap. "Grrraaaahhhhhh!" she yelled. "Seventy-three." Jimenez laid the palmatoria on quickly. "Oh God!" she shouted. And let out another roar. He hit her low. She repressed her scream to an elongated grunt but he could see the effort in her now. Her back kept tensing and releasing, spasms and twitches passing through her. And each blow brought a new grunt. "Seventy-five, seventy-six, seventy-seven, seventy-eight…"

*

Very slowly, she relaxed. Eighty gone. The pain was far, far worse than she'd imagined. She thought of all that time in the gym, all the time running laps of the park, to prepare herself for this. She was fit, but the pain… and still 20 to go. If they'd asked her then for a name, for information, would she have given it? Would she have been able to take twenty more? She didn't know. At that moment, she'd have done an awful lot to get them to release her. She shuffled, trying to find a relatively comfortable position. She saw the soldiers step forward again, took a deep breath and braced herself.

The palmatoria landed. The force of the blow on her tender skin was horrendous. She felt her legs twitch, but she held in the scream. She gritted her teeth, pushed her forehead into the wood. "Eighty-two, eighty-three, eighty-four…" But the next was too much. She could hold it in no longer. A scream broke from her, half curtailed, and her torso lifted. Her head had dropped but her body was still up, tight against the strap, breasts loose above the wood when the eighty-sixth struck. She howled. She desperately wanted to hold it in but the agony was atrocious. She hadn't stopped screaming when the next struck. She dropped back onto the slats, fingers clawing at the wood. The eighty-eighth landed and her knees jerked hard against the restraints, sending a jarring shudder down the inside of her thighs. She was moaning constantly, spittle flying from her lips as she tried to regain control. "Grrrraaaaahhhh….!" she shouted, her head flying back again. Then, finally, the last of the set. She was left trembling, sweating, grateful for the brief break. She spat, trying to get rid of the thick skeins of mucus that hung around her mouth.

*

Diaz wondered how she'd behave under torture. There was something wonderful about seeing this enemy of the state squirming naked and in pain, that maddening self-assurance of hers ruptured. He decided he would sit in on her interrogation, at least once they'd got beyond the preliminaries. He usually found the torture distasteful but her, well, watching her humiliated and screaming after what she'd put them through, that might be quite entertaining.

They started on the final batch. The first drew a grunt, nothing more, her back arching. She clearly worked out, he thought; there was something alluring about the olive curves of her shoulder, the toned roundness of it, that expanse of smooth back. They landed quickly, ninety-two, ninety-three, ninety-four. Each one brought a grunt and then keep a deep, throaty groan

She was jerking and twitching all over the place now. Cabrera brought the strap down again. He could almost feel the heat coming off her red cheeks. He'd never flogged such a beautiful woman, never flogged such firm buttocks. Ninety-five. Two more to deliver. He wound up hard and forced a scream from her even as she gritted her teeth to keep it in.

Juliette was shaking. She felt sick. Her buttocks burned. The pain was worse, far worse, than anything she'd imagined possible. She wanted to beg for mercy, to plead with them, but something within kept her strong. Another explosion. The scream wouldn't stay in. Her shoulders wouldn't stay down. Ninety-nine. She felt her breasts bounce, knew she must be giving them a show. And then the last. Grrrraaaghhh! "One hundred." She fell still, her body limp, torso heaving. There were beads of sweat on her brow and her upper lip. Her ass felt somehow both numb and aflame but she'd done it; she'd survived.

*

The doctor checked her. Fine, he confirmed. And so Garcia put the final part of her welcome into practice. They tipped the bench back to the horizontal and unfastened her bonds. She didn't move, lying still, as though still coming to terms with the beating. "Get up," he ordered.

Very slowly, she obeyed, dropping first left leg, then her right to the floor, seeing if her legs would take her weight still, and then turning, slowly, uncertainly, to face him, arms moving hesitantly, stiffly, to cover her breasts and her strip of pubic hair. Good; he wanted her still to feel shame. He walked to stand about 2m from the door. "Come here," he said and, looking anxiously about, she obeyed, shuffling as though trying to limit the movement of her legs. She stood in front of him, tall and beautiful, breathing a little heavily but otherwise elegant despite her nakedness. "Bend over," he said. "Hands on your knees." She looked at him, suddenly understanding what they were doing do her, but having no option she obeyed. Her hair fell forward, surrounding her face and revealing, at the very top of her spine, a tiny cluster of freckles. There was an intimacy in seeing that, Garcia felt, a sense that they were seeing every last part of her.

He walked around her, examining her long tanned back. He placed a hand between her shoulder blades, enjoying the smooth warmth, enjoying even the way she tensed at his touch. Her breasts hung from her chest, deliciously round and full. He stood behind her. "Legs straight, please," he said, and she pushed her buttocks back. Her legs were splendidly long and taut, the golden skin shifting suddenly into a deep purplish red. And between her legs, her lips were clearly visible.

They opened the door and the audience began to leave, filing past her. Some paused to examine her, staring at her red ass, at her genitals, moving on to look at her breasts. Garcia smirked; the humiliation must be intense.

*

Diaz stood alongside her. God, she was beautiful. He placed a hand on her back, feeling the vertebrae beneath the smooth skin. He ran the hand down her spine, towards the buttocks. They were a violent red, almost burgundy. He let his fingers run over the swollen skin. They were hot to the touch. She shuddered and he patted her, drawing a gasp of pain. He walked around her so her stood behind her. He heard her swallow; she knew he was staring at her cunt. He let his hands caress her long slender thighs, tautly muscular beneath his fingers. He stabbed his fingers between her lips, giving her a sharp prod as she grunted and then he walked round the other side of her till he stood by her shoulders. He stroked her neck, feeling the bone and the soft down, then seized a hank of hair so she looked at him. The movement caused her breasts to wobble and he stared at their wondrous roundness and then he turned his gaze to her eyes.

Her cheeks were flushed, her dark eyes glinting with tears. He'd stared into those eyes before, looked on that beautiful face as she'd denounced him; this time he could sense her shame even as she gritted her teeth. "How about a clever speech?" he taunted. "While don't you tell me what a monster I am?" Her eyes burned with fury but she said nothing and he let her go, patting her head as he walked out.

*

She lay face down on the bunk. It had been two or three hours now since the last of them had filed from the room and she'd been allowed to put her shirt back on. The flogging had been bad enough but the humiliation afterwards, making her stand like that, felt far worse. Her ass throbbed with pain, but the thought of them standing around laughing at her, talking about her nakedness, made her sick with shame. What was worse was that she knew that was the point: she knew they wanted to emphasize she was their plaything to be prodded and poked as they desired. And of course the contrast to her defiance of them made it far, far worse for her and far, far more enjoyable for them.

She tried to focus, to gather her thoughts. She knew they'd start the interrogation soon. She knew it would be exhausting and she knew they'd torture her. What did they want to know? What could she give them that wouldn't break the democracy movement? Could she satisfy them or would they batter her into madness? Was there any way she could avoid incriminating her friends? Her sources would be the first thing they'd want, she suspected. What could she tell them? She tried to come up with stories, tried to think up tales of anonymous deliveries and phone calls, tried to remember who'd already fled the country or was already dead or in jail. And then she heard his voice, the flippancy as he'd said, "OK. Strip," as though being made to take her clothes off was nothing out of the ordinary. And then she heard him say, "This is a prison. You are a prisoner. You obey orders or you are punished," and her flesh crawled. They'd planned this. Planned her humiliation from the arrest in a fancy dress to the stripping and the searching – she shuddered at the thought of the doctor's fingers inside her – and the hosing that had left her battered and cold and exhausted.

She shook her head. She had to think clearly. Could she claim she was a stooge? Could she really claim she'd been sent all the information anonymously? Maybe she couldn't, but it was a lie to stick to. She shifted her weight and ran a hand over her buttocks. They felt hot but were oddly numb. She rubbed gently, but that just awoke thoughts of the soldiers fondling her as they brought her back to the cell. They'd brought her some water, some soup and some bread a few minutes later and then left her to wait.

Think. Think of what they might ask. But all she could think of was cowering naked in that cage as they all stared at her before they turned the hosepipes on. And she knew, of course, exactly what they did to their victims: beatings, electric shocks, the dreaded Petra Negra barbecue. What would electricity feel like? She heard the door open. Instinctively she pulled down the shirt and stood. Four soldiers filed in. This was it then. This was what she'd put herself through all those sessions in the gym for. To toughen herself for this. The pain of lifting that extra set of reps, the pain of pushing herself in the final mile, all that was for this. Her wrists were cuffed behind her, a hood pulled over her head, and then they led her into the corridor.

The stripping, the hosing, the flogging, the mockery. All that was prelude. The real event was about to begin.

And yet the guards seemed almost gentle with her. They led her rather than marching her. They didn't taunt her or fondle her. They even allowed her to walk slowly as she tried to ease the pain in her swollen buttocks. She passed through a number of doors before finally they stopped her in an air-conditioned room. The chains and her hood were removed and she saw she was in a cell, perhaps 10m x 6m. Two soldiers stood guard at the door and another half dozen stood around the walls. In front of her was a desk, behind which sat three officers. A stenographer sat at a smaller table to their right. A wooden chair faced the desk but she stood just in front of it. "Miss Hartmann, welcome," said Colonel Garcia. "Sit down if you like or if you prefer to stand you may stand."

"I'll stand if you don't mind," she said.

"Perfectly understandable," he smiled. "How is your bottom?"

"Sore," she said.

"Ah well. It'll fade. Would you like a drink of water?"

She accepted and was given a plastic beaker of water. "Now, obviously there's been some unpleasantness today but if you cooperate there's no need for you to suffer any more," Garcia said. She stared at him. She'd expected to be naked by now, cattle prods poking at her. Was this for real? Or was this a trick? She gulped down the water and handed the beaker back.

"Just say if you want some more," Garcia said. "Talking can make your mouth dry, I know, and I hope you'll be talking a lot."

*

She talked a bit, but not a lot. The first session was always about background and she knew they knew about that. Garcia had files and files on her, but the first one, about her life and her family and her parents was only about 150 pages long. He read slowly through it, checking with her the details. She stood uncertainly about three meters from the desk, tugging down on her shirt as though to cover more of her slender, strong thighs. His two fellow colonels, Juarez and Bochini, chipped in with the odd question but essentially it was him talking at her. He interrogated her for three hours, let her have some more water and ordered a coffee for himself, and then interrogated her for three hours more. There were worse things, he supposed, than having a beautiful girl dressed in just a shirt in his power, but he couldn't wait till they got on to torturing her. He loved the way she'd shuffled from foot to foot, clearly humiliated, tugging the shirt lower over her thighs. Her thighs! They seemed to go on for ever, so smooth and toned.

She'd agreed to sit down after an hour or so, but of course that made the issue of the shortness of her shirt all the more evident. And sitting down, she occasionally bent forward so he got a look down her cleavage. It was odd that he'd seen her naked only that morning and yet the slightest glimpse of those round breasts got him excited again. She'd sat primly with her knees together, constantly smoothing down the shirt, squirming with the pain in her buttocks. So then she'd had to ask to stand up again.

But she'd given him nothing. She was smart. She'd denied direct links with the insurgents, she'd told him only of sources he already knew about. There'd barely been even a flicker of alarm in her. She'd been calm, measured. A matter of hours after she'd been flogged and pawed at, forced to show her nakedness to her enemies, she seemed wholly unperturbed. Well, so much the better. When she did break, it would be that much more fun to see her degradation.

*

She lay face-down on the bunk and looked across her cell at the wall six feet away. She felt exhausted, but the swelling on her buttocks was receding. Maybe tomorrow she'd be able to lie on her back. She felt confused. She'd expected torture and aggression, fearful beatings and sexual assault, but from the moment they'd let her put the shirt on after her flogging, she'd been treated relatively well. After that first day of questioning, she'd lain awake in the cell, fearfully listening for the tramp of feet and the opening door that would signal rape or torture, but it had never come. She'd had only two visits; the first to give her dinner – a lump of rather tough beef with watery vegetables – the second to take away her dish and the plastic cutlery. When they'd come again, it had been with bread and weak coffee for breakfast. Then she'd been led out – hooded, of course - and taken to a shower-room where, under the gaze of two female soldiers, she'd been unhooded and allowed to wash under a luke-warm shower and clean her teeth. They'd hooded her and taken her from there to the interrogation room where they'd pounded her with questions.

They'd taken turns; Garcia taking the lead but the other two contributing, going over and over her story, checking who she'd met, asking for details of her sources. They'd allowed her water whenever she wanted it, let her go to the toilet, hooded, when they'd stopped for lunch, and then continued the interrogation in the afternoon. They'd let her stand when she wanted and sit when she wanted. In the evening she'd been brought back to the cell and given dinner. That night she'd slept. And so it had gone on the next day, and the day after that, and the one after that. Was this it? She couldn't believe they wouldn't torture her, and yet they seemed content with lengthy interrogation. She dozed off, comforting sleep enveloping her.

*

The door crashed back and she woke with a start. The light was turned on and as she blinked, startled and still not fully awake, she felt rough hands on her arms and her legs. She was flung to the floor, landing heavily. Cowering, she watched as they rolled up the mattress and took it and her blanket and pillow away. Then they folded the bed up against the wall, locking it securely away with a small padlock. One of them stood over her. "Serious stuff begins now," he shouted, and then they left her, turning off the light as the bolts slammed shut.

Juliette curled into a foetal position. So this was the start of it. She had no idea what time it was but she knew it must be early from the darkness. She tried to calm herself. She breathed deeply and deliberately, but she felt sick, a knot of fear in her belly. What would it be first? A beating? Electric shocks? She thought of the journalist she'd met, his fingers broken and burned with acid after a session with them. She tried to compose herself, to work out what information she could give them. The truth was, of course, that she did know members of the opposition and she knew who their people were on the inside – or at least she knew some of them. Mainly information was passed on to her through anonymous drops or through a couple of trusted go-betweens. They, surely, would already have been protected. But she also had suspicions about people further down the chain and that was what she couldn't afford to give away. But she also knew this was as much about teaching her a lesson as about getting information.

The waiting was hideous, but she knew that was part of their game. Scare her, make her fear the pain. Disrupt her sleep patterns. Make her lie on the hard floor waiting and waiting. Make terror a constant in her life. She acknowledged the cleverness of letting her get used to the cell, to giving her the mattress and the blanket, of treating her civilly. The contrast now, as she stared at the bed, locked back against the wall, was worse. Tell them what they wanted to hear, they were showing her, and she could have her bed back.

How long had she lain there? She had no idea. She'd drifted into a strange half-sleep when the door opened and four soldiers came in, another two standing guard at the door. She cowered away from the, huddling into the corner. They said nothing, just pulled her to her feet, calmly cuffed her wrists behind her and pulled a hood over her head. They marched her firmly but not roughly out into the corridor, through three more doors that she heard being locked and unlocked before finally she was pushed through one last door and the hood was removed.

*

Garcia looked at her as she blinked in the sudden light. She must have known she was about to be tortured, he realized, and yet she seemed calm, taking in her surroundings. The room wasn't large, nowhere near as the public room where she'd been beaten, and contained a bath, a bench on which she could be restrained and the desk behind which he sat. She looked at him calmly, and he admired her beauty, the dark slightly mussed hair, the intelligent brown eyes, the smooth skin, the swell of the breasts beneath her shirt, and her long, slender legs.

"You have not been cooperative," he said. "And so we must encourage you."

She pursed her lip and drew back her shoulders. He took a clipping of one of her stories. "Who was your source for this?" he asked. "Who fed you these lies about the Mosconi contract?"

She gave a slight toss of her head to flick a tendril of hair from her eye but said nothing. "I admire your spirit," he said. "But we will break you."

*

Juliette felt terrified. She was desperately trying not to show it but she was in a torture chamber with three officers, a man who appeared to be a doctor and perhaps half a dozen soldiers. She stared at Garcia, trying to make him feel her humanity. He walked over to the bathtub. "Come here," he said and she shuffled the four or five paces it took to stand by the bath. He took a length of hosepipe that led from a tap in the wall and lay it over the edge of the bath, then turned the tap on. She watched as he pushed the plug into the hole and water level began to rise. Immersion in cold water, then; that was how they'd start.

"A nice bath for you, Miss Hartmann," Garcia said. She couldn't take her eyes from the rising water level.

"Now, then, you don't take a bath with your clothes on, do you?" She hated his calmness, his mockery, his obvious delight at the thought of seeing her naked again. "Come on, now, take your shirt off."

She'd stripped for him twice before; why was this so difficult? She breathed out and stared straight ahead at the concrete wall. At the bottom of her vision she could see the water level rising. Her fingers felt numb, clumsy, as she unfastened the top button. She kept trying to breathe easily but each button was a step nearer torture. The second came undone. An ice bath. Dunking. Nakedness. Then what? Beatings? Electricity? She knew their methods all too well. She undid the third button. Keep calm. Keep thinking. Why Mosconi? What was that what they cared about. She slipped the shirt back over her shoulders and suddenly she was naked again. She held her shirt in her right hand then handed it to him. He took it with a smile and hung it over a peg on the wall. The calm she'd felt before had gone. She hooked her right arm over her breasts and cupped her left hand over her genitals. She could feel tears pricking at her eyes.

He stood next to her. She thought of those minutes after her flogging when they'd humiliated her, their hands running over her. She pressed her knees together. The water level was rising. Why the Mosconi piece? Why?

Garcia put a hand on her shoulder. "It does fill slowly, doesn't it?" he said. She hated him. He ran his hand down her back. She closed her eyes and swallowed. He let his fingers run over her left buttock. "Your bottom's recovering well, I see," he said. "Only a little swelling." He patted her gently. "We can probably give you another 100 or so before too long."

He left her and turned off the tap. "In you get," he said.

She swallowed again, looked at the bath, looked at him and summoned her courage. She dropped her arms and threw her shoulders back and stepped up to the bathtub. She hesitated for a moment then lifted her left foot over the side. The water was icy but she got in and forced herself first to sit and then to lie down. It was longer than a usual bath so she lay flat, long legs stretched out, her left arm covering her neat strip of public hair, her right arm crossed over her nipples. She could feel her breathing had changed immediately. It was terribly cold, painfully so. Goosebumps pricked her skin. He took a stool and sat by the side of the bath, looking at her, his pleasure in her nakedness undisguised.

He kept talking, asking about Mosconi. Who had told her? She kept blocking him, kept saying it was an anonymous tip-off. So long as she stayed still, it wasn't too bad. How had she checked the information? It tallied; she'd checked the accounts. The water immediately around her body must have warmed up, she realized. Keep thinking, keep alert. Had she checked it in government? Had papers been leaked to her? They'd been sent anonymously, she lied. He stood up and walked out of sight. She closed her eyes: what was coming?

*

Garcia sat down again. The two other interrogators stood over the end of the bath. Of course they did: who wouldn't want to see this one naked? He held in his hand an envelope. Slowly, letting his eyes drink in her shivering body, the olive skin taking on a slightly grey tinge in the cold, he withdrew a photograph. "This was taken two days before your newspaper published your lies about Mosconi," he said. He looked at it; it showed Hartmann accepting a folder from a short man in what appeared to be a shopping mall. She was dressed in jeans and a grey T-shirt, and half-faced the camera. He had his back to the camera, showing only a squat frame clad in a rumpled suit and a bald patch beginning to emerge from his greasy dark hair.

He showed it to her. She blinked. "Was this your contact?" he asked.

She shook her head. He tried to read her expression. "I'd never met him before," she said. "He came up to me as I was shopping and handed it to me. I don't know why. I don't know how he knew I'd be there. I've never seen him since."

"How long did it take you to learn that speech?" he said. She remained silent.

"Stand up," he said. She'd been in there almost quarter of an hour, he thought; long enough. Awkwardly she got to her feet and stood, facing down the bath. She was shivering and he could hear her teeth chattering but there was something magnificent in her nakedness as she defied him, even keeping her hands by her sides. He knew the pain would intensify as the blood began to flow again so waited, watching the water drip from her cold-hardened nipples.

He had two of the soldiers shackle her hands behind her. She kept staring straight ahead. "Lie down again," he said. "Face down this time."

She glanced at him, then sank to her knees in the cold water, turning to face away from the wall. He couldn't stop staring at her breasts as they quivered, the nipples just beginning to soften as she warmed up. She fell awkwardly forward, splashing, then lay, holding her head out of the water. He walked round to stand by the head of the bath. "Who is the man in the photo?" he asked.

"I don't know," she said.

The soldiers took their positions, one on each side of her. The one to her left placed his right hand over her left bicep and placed his left hand on her head; the one to the right the reverse. They pulled her back so she looked at him. He raised an eyebrow but she said nothing. He nodded. The soldiers pushed her down, holding her under the water. She resisted a little but then fell calm. He watched the bubbles rise from her mouth as she tried to release the air calmly; she'd trained for this then.

He gave her 20 seconds. "Up," he said, and the soldiers yanked her head out of the water. Her breathing came in sharp gulps. "Who is that man?"

She said nothing, just looked at him defiantly, impossibly gorgeous with her back bent back and her breasts thrust towards him, the nipples hard again with the cold. "Down," he said, and they pushed her under again.

*

She'd managed to draw a breath, and lay, allowing the air slowly to bubble from her mouth. Victims she'd spoken to her had told her about this and she'd practiced in the kitchen sink in her small flat just a couple of miles from Petra Negro, holding her head in the water, letting the breath out slowly, counting in her head. But this was different. She was cold, terrified, naked. She couldn't just lift her head when it got too much. She felt the shortness of breath, began to panic, and then she was yanked up again.

"Well?"

She shook her head, water dripping from her chin. Down she went again. A voice in her head wondered if she might perhaps mercifully drown under here and avoid whatever else they had planned for her, but then, as a pain began to well in her chest, survival instincts kicked in, and she writhed in their grip. Their hands twisted her hair, and they held her a few more seconds, before jerking her out of the water again.

She panted. "Who is the man in the photo?" he asked. She said nothing and they thrust her under again. Was it getting longer or did it just feel like it? She told herself he wouldn't let her drown but the tightness began to well at the back of her throat. She felt the constriction in her chest, a pain beginning in her forehead. She tried to stay calm but, despite herself, she began to struggle. Finally they hauled her out again. She was shivering, her body red and covered in goose pimples. Snot oozed from her nose as she painfully drank in the air. And then the same question and the same lack of answer, and they pushed her under again.

They definitely held her longer this time, and as the band of pain tightened around her chest, she could feel herself beginning to lose consciousness, could feel the emptiness in her lungs as dark shapes began to dance before her eyes. But then the pulled her out again, and shook her violently so it seemed they must tear her hair from her head.

"Who is that man?" he asked.

She could barely speak by now, but, through chattering teeth she muttered: "I don't know."

And so they forced her under again.

This was the last time, though. When they released her this time, he ordered her to stand. She struggled to her feet, her limbs, numb with cold, refusing to respond to her brain. But eventually she stood, and, as he ordered, stepped out of the bath.

*

Garcia gazed at her. She was even tougher than he had imagined. There she stood, dripping, shivering, sniveling, her body a sickly purple and her nipples swollen and red, but she had not cracked. That was a hard session he had given her, as evidenced by the way she still gulped in the air between her sobs, but she had withstood it unbowed. So, to the next stage.

"Come over here," he said, walking to the bench. Slowly, hesitantly, she obeyed. He loved watching a naked woman walk, seeing her breasts wobble. It was erotic and yet it somehow emphasized her vulnerability.

"Lie down."

She looked at him, glanced at the door and the soldiers and, accepting she had no option but no obey, she sat on the bench and then stretched out. She must know what this was for, he thought, in which case her calm was astonishing. Soldiers fastened her, methodically pulling her arms down at right angles to her body and strapping them in leather cuffs to the legs of the bench, then fastening her ankles about a foot apart at one end. A further strap was buckled over her waist, just below her belly button, holding her flat to the polished surface. Garcia pulled up a stool and sat level with her chest. He let his hand fall on her right breast and kneaded it gently, admiring its firm elasticity. He flicked her nipple and sat back. "Who was he?" he said.

She looked at him directly, her dark eyes staring at him. "I don't know," she said. "And I won't know however much you torture me."

"OK, then. Maybe you could tell me about your links with armed resistance groups?"

"I told you before. Anonymous phone calls. Letters to the office. No personal contact."

He raised his fist and smashed it down into her belly. She grunted, almost retching. He stood up and walked away.

*

Juliette gasped, desperately sucking in air. Her abs were strong but she hadn't expected the punch and was badly winded. She was strapped down for the picana, she knew that. She heard the squeak of a wheel and knew he was bringing it towards her. She'd heard countless victims talk about this, the trolley with the generator and the cattle-prod.

She watched him approach, the two other interrogators alongside him. She saw the trolley with its two stainless steel shelves, on the top a battered metal box equipped with a couple of dials and a switch, wires leading from it. And on the second shelf a smaller box and a plastic tub. He stood over her and smiled. She was still shivering from the bath but she felt a shudder pass through her. He took a wire that lead from the generator and held it up for her to see – at the end the black rubber had been pared back to reveal bare copper wire. He took up the picana, a stiff rubber shaft perhaps two feet in length with a copper tip. He flicked a switch on the box, and then touched the copper wire to the end of the picana. There was an immediate sizzle, a flash of sparks. She looked away, staring at the ceiling. There was a tightness in her chest, a bitter taste in her throat; she knew true terror for the first time. She'd spoken to enough people who'd been through this, she knew what they said about the pain. She swallowed and tried to calm herself but phrases kept coming back into her mind. "The worst pain you'll ever know… it feels like your bones are on fire… you think you'll die but they keep doing it and you never do… You'd do anything to stop it." She had to be strong. She had to think positive thoughts.

Garcia took the lid off the tub, and took up some unguent on his fingers. She watched each action mechanically. He smeared it on the wire. "It aids conductivity," he said with a smile. "And hopefully it'll stop you burning." He moved to her right foot and slowly, methodically, wrapped the wire around her big toe, pulling the loop tight and coiling the wire six times. He pulled it to check it was tight and then ran his fingers over the sole. "Lovely and soft," he said. "Do you have pedicures?"

She said nothing. Her heart was thumping. She felt sick. He returned to the trolley and took up the picana again. He smeared a little of the unguent on the tip. He checked a dial on the generator. "Level one to start," he said, smiling. "Leave us with plenty of new places for you to go."

* Garcia had dreamed of this. Dreamed of having her naked before him, helplessly waiting for the picana. He had no intention of rushing. "Water, please," he said, and one of the soldiers, taking a plastic jug, dipped into the bath before splashing it over her legs. He took another jugful and tipped it over her stomach, her majestic chest and then her face. She shuddered with cold and fear, blowing the water off her mouth. Garcia took a pace towards her so he was directly over her head. He saw her swallow and looked down into the terrified dark eyes. Her wet hair perfectly framed her beautiful face.

Juliette stared at him. Could she make him realize what a dreadful thing he was about to do?

"Who is the man in the photo?"

She tried to keep her breathing steady. "I don't know."

Garcia touched the picana against the inside of her left ankle. She flinched. He stroked it up the shin, circled the knee, ran up the center of her thigh. She closed her eyes. He was caressing her. He ran the tip of the picana over her hip, up the edge of her ribcage and across her belly. She could feel herself trembling. She opened her eyes again. He was smiling. The other interrogators stood there watching, the soldiers stared at her nakedness. She felt the helplessness of her position.

He circled her bellybutton, admiring the flatness of her stomach, the smoothness of the skin, the pertness of her breasts even as she lay on her back. He pushed the tip onto her navel and pressed the button.

The pain was worse than she'd ever imagined. There was a terrible stabbing pain around her belly button, but her whole body tensed, shimmers of agony running down her nerves. She couldn't breathe, her teeth clenched and she shook, straining at the bonds. He lifted the picana and her muscles relaxed. She felt weak and cold, a strange tingling still running through her. She blinked, taking in great gulps of air.

Garcia smirked. "That was about two seconds, Miss Hartmann," he said. "We can let you go a lot longer." She looked appalled, fear and horror written all over her face. But defiance too. He would have to work to break her.

"Tell me about your meetings with la Resistencia."

She seemed barely to hear him, staring at the ceiling. He ran the picana over her stomach. "Your first meeting with one of their leaders. When was it?"

Juliette looked at him. "About four years ago," she said. Her mouth felt dry.

"Good. With whom?"

"I don't know. I took a call on my cell late in the afternoon and was told to go to the fifth floor of the car park on San Martin and Bolivar at 11pm. When I got there a man in a mask got into my car. On the back seat. Another car with blacked out windows boxed me in."

"Registration?"

"I don't know."

He ran the picana down her ribcage and, at the bottom, pushed the button. She gasped, her body stiffening, eyes wide open. He though he saw fear there but most of all he saw pain. He released the button and she fell limp, panting so her chest heaved. "That was about five seconds," he said. "We can go longer." She shivered but held his stare.

"And what did this man in the mask say?"

She wanted to say she couldn't remember, but she knew what that would mean. "He told me they liked what I wrote, that they wanted to work with me." Her mouth felt terribly dry, her breath unsteady.

"And what did you say?"

"That I would value any information but that I wouldn't be their mouthpiece."

He ran the picana down the inside of her right thigh. He didn't think he'd ever seen a woman with longer legs, certainly never tortured one. Although it wasn't just their length that was impressive; it was their toned nature. And she wasn't lanky; with those firm round breasts there was a wonderful proportion to her. "And yet you became exactly that," he said.

She said nothing. Her mind was whirring. What did he actually want? Where were these questions driving?

"What happened next?"

"They gave me a bag, a briefcase really, full of documents. Maybe 250, 300 pages. They left them on the front seat and told me not to look at them till they'd gone. Then the man in the mask got out of the car. A few minutes later the other car drove off and I drove back to the office."

"Did you see the man in the mask? How tall? Build? What was he wearing?"

"It was dark." She felt the picana press into the flesh of her right thigh. "It was difficult to see," she continued. "But a little over average height. He wore a dark suit and a dark coat. It was difficult to judge build but not fat."

"Good," he said. "And what did you do next?"

"I drove home."

"Did you look at the documents?"

"When I got home, yes."

"What were they?"

"Government papers. Contracts. Minutes."

"Tell me more." He ran the picana up and down her thigh.

"From the ministry of the interior. They confirmed corruption and collusion in logging contracts."

"And whose initials were on them?"

Shit. The initials, she knew, narrowed down the source of the leak. She knew the papers were initialed. Could she remember them? Should she reveal it even if she did? She heard the hum of electricity and then the jolt. Everything tensed. The pain was terrible, firing through her thigh and up and down her leg. Her teeth were clenched and she emitted a low dry gurgle from her throat. Finally he stopped. She shivered. She was sweating but cold. Her ankles, wrists and hips hurt where she'd strained against the bonds.

He snaked the picana up her damp stomach, seeing the sweat part for the metal tip. He circled around her right breast, majestically firm and round, the puckered nipple a rich brown. He prodded, feeling the elasticity, the springiness of the mound. "Initials?" he said.

She closed her eyes. This was going to be hell. She clenched her fists and set her jaw. "Brave," he said. "But silly." She pressed the button. Her back arched. The pain was staggering. Lights seemed to flash in her eyes. Her breast felt like a thousand needles were being stabbed into it. On and on the pain went.

He lifted the picana. He'd counted eight seconds. She relaxed and let out a howl. Her body was drenched in sweat. She shivered. He touched the picana to her left breast, caressing the nipple. "Well?"

She barely had time to register the question before the pain was lacerating her again. Through her tightly clenched teeth she let out a strangled roar. She felt intensely cold even as her chest exploded. This was like nothing she'd dreamt of, an intense agony that somehow cut her from the inside.

Garcia counted slowly under his breath. She was thrusting up against the bonds, back arched, muscles taut as though in sexual ecstasy. She was soaked with sweat, eyes wide, teeth bared. He counted eight and lifted the picana. She slumped and lay, panting, tremors passing through her. He placed the picana back on the trolley and ordered them to give her water. She was shivering, her tanned skin an unhealthy grey. She gulped as a water bottle was held to her mouth. He placed his left hand on her left breast and gentled caressed it. The nipple was semi-erect, the skin around it puckered. She was cold to the touch and wet. He squeezed gently and she gave him a look of anger and disgust.

Juliette felt awful. It was as though every nerve in her body had been fried. Shudders kept overcoming her. And as she suffered, he was fondling her breasts. "The initials?" he asked. She closed her eyes. "OK, then," he said softly. "We'll step this up." She watched as he took a towel from the trolley, folded it so it into a square perhaps three inches thick, and placed it under her head. His touch was gentle and he smoothed her damp hair away from her forehead. What was this? She felt a surge of panic. Step it up? She couldn't take more. Maybe she should give him fake initials.

He went to the trolley and turned back to her, holding up a strip of tattered leather perhaps six inches long and two inches wide. He stepped over to her. "I'm going to give you a shot of level two," he said. "It's probably wise if you bite on this. We don't want you biting your tongue." She considered resisting for a moment but almost before she knew it the leather was in her mouth. It tasted of vomit and she instinctively gagged. "Bite it," he said, and she obeyed.

She watched, terrified, as he turned back to the generator and turned a dial. He picked up the picana and stood over her. "Initials?" he said. She shook her head a fraction. He placed the picana between her eyes and slowly ran it down her nose. He could hear her whimpering, her breathing shallow. He ran over the leather bit, over the chin, down the neck, over her chest, between her breasts, slowly, tauntingly, never allowing the possibility that he would not shock her. He touched her belly button, then stopped. "More gel, I think," he said.

As Garcia turned again to the trolley, he heard her half-suppress a sob. Good. The point of this was not just to get information but to break her. To hurt her physically and destroy her mentally. He let her see as he smeared the unguent over the tip of the picana. He lowered it gently onto her belly-button and ran the baton over her flat belly, through the thin strip of pubic hair and onto the crinkled outer labia. He pressed the button.

She screamed properly for the first time, a nasal roar emitted as her teeth clamped on the bit. Her back arched, groin thrust up as high as the straps would allow, limbs thrashing within the bonds. He saw terror in her eyes and then his eyes fell to her breasts, wobbling deliciously as her torso shook with the strain. After three seconds he took his thumb from the button. Her back fell onto the bench with an audible slap. She lay, twitching, panting, eyes glazed. "Unfasten her," he said, and four soldiers stepped forward.

*

Juliette sat against the wall in her cell, hugging her knees to her chest. She felt dreadful, weak and nauseous. Tremors still passed through her even though it must have been a couple of hours since the torture had finished. Four soldiers had lifted her from the bench and dropped her in the bath, making her lie in the icy water for a few minutes before pulling the shirt over her wet body, hooding her and shackling her wrists behind her. They'd pretty much had to drag her back to her cell, her legs unresponsive and even after they'd left her, taking the hood and the chains, it had taken several minutes before she'd been able to fasten the buttons on the shirt.

How many more sessions would there be? She feared there would be many. And she knew that that last shock, which had felt as though it would kill her, like it was the worst pain possible, had only been on level two. The generator went up to five. But even level one shocks were hideous. And she knew that ice baths, dunkings and electric shocks were only some of their tricks. The thought of the barbecus terrified her. Garcia was patient, painfully so, dragging every detail out of her. She knew he would force everything from her, even things she didn't knew she knew, and she knew that even if she gave him everything now it wouldn't be enough. She was going to suffer dreadfully and she was going to betray everybody she knew. And then what? More flogging. Life in the camps or hanging. For the first time she felt truly defeated. She knew she had to be strong, that she had to resist, that every five minutes made a difference, made her knowledge less relevant, and that if she could somehow last a week or a month longer they might give up on her, allow some small fact to remain undiscovered. But she doubted she had the strength for that.

She rubbed her ankles where the bonds had chafed and her writhing had left bruises. On the big toe of her right foot there was a pink ring where the wire had been wrapped. Her wrists were sore and bruised as well and her stomach ached, both from his punch and from her struggles. But she knew the marks would fade. She knew they were being careful. They wanted her unblemished so that they could present her making a confession that she was a spy and had made her up her stories of atrocity on television and make it seem as though she'd given it of her own free will.

She heard the bolts shoot back. The door opened and as six soldiers entered she cowered hopelessly.

*

Her attitude had changed. Where she had been confident and defiant, she now seemed cowed. She knew what torture was; she knew what he could do to her. She stood with her head bowed, her responses muttered. She was still resisting, though, telling him only a certain amount, keeping key details back.

He, Juarez and Bochini kept pounding her with questions. It was a long-established ritual. Start on one topic, go through it in mind-numbing detail, then suddenly switch tack and ask about something else entirely. Who had told her about the four students shot in San Martin three years ago? Where had she got the details? Who had given her that name, this date? And then, where had she been going when they'd photographed her on June 6 last year? They had her diary: who was the LM she'd met on August 4th at 10:30?

If she was evasive about anything, he made a note on a separate pad; something to talk about when she was next in the torture chamber, something to check against the details they had from her phone and her laptop. She kept claiming tip-offs were anonymous, that she was sent documents in unmarked envelopes. She'd been annoying efficient in covering her tracks online. She claimed she had no idea about the initials on government papers. She said she hadn't been to visit la Resistencia. She claimed, ludicrously, never to have met members of the organization.

"And the bombing of the Interior Ministry last year," Juarez asked. "Had you knowledge of that before it happened?"

She looked up sharply. She tried to disguise it, but Garcia had seen it. "You did?" he shouted. "You did?"

"No," she said. "I heard rumors, no more."

"And you said nothing?"

"I hear a lot of rumors."

"Miss Hartmann, you have just bought yourself an awful lot of electricity."

She swallowed. "Who?" he asked. "Who was involved?"

"I thought you executed three people for it?"

"Strip," he said. He had to be careful not to get angry but he had known people who had died in that blast. He took a breath. She had to be broken slowly. Reluctantly, her hands went to the buttons and began to unfasten them. She looked down. "Look at me," he said. She raised her head. There was still defiance in her eyes. She took off the shirt and held it in front of her until a soldier seized it. She held her right hand across her breasts, her left hand over her pudenda. He felt his tongue flick along his upper lip. She was delectable. "Insolence is not an attractive quality," he said. He wanted to flog her, let that ass taste the cane, but he knew he dare not mark her.

"Hang her," he ordered and the soldiers seized her, dragging her back a couple of meters. Chains were lowered from the ceiling and leather cuffs fastened around her wrists. They backed off, and a guard by the controls raised her. Soon she was stretched, standing on tip-toe and then, as the chains kept rising, she hung, perhaps 20 cm off the ground. Garcia walked over to her, admiring her long body, stretched out before him.

He placed his hands on her narrow waist, taking in the nervousness of her breathing, the way she slightly pulled her head away from him. Her position flattened her breasts slightly, but they still stood, pert and prominent and he let her see him relishing them. She'd been naked most of the morning, of course, and he'd played with her breasts with his picana, but it never hurt to remind her that every man in the room was staring at her. He gently stroked the soft skin below her ribs and then, tightening his grip, he applied a little downward pressure, pushing on her hips.

He felt her tense, saw her grit her teeth. He pushed down harder and she gasped. He let his hands wander to her buttocks, his fingers tracing the firm muscles beneath the skin that was, he suspected, still slightly swollen. "Who was involved in bombing the Interior Ministry?" he asked, as his hands ran up her ribs. "Who?"

"I don't know," she said.

His hands moved to her breasts, lifting them slightly, enjoying their soft weight. He stared into her eyes, letting his fingernail trace the areola. He saw her shame, felt the nipple hardening slightly, then squeezed hard between thumb and forefinger. She grunted and looked away. He punched her, hard, in the pit of her belly. She coughed, gasping for breath. He punched her again and she began to retch. Garcia stepped back, admiring the long slender body as she kicked and coughed. He returned to his desk, took off his glasses and polished them with a handkerchief. Slowly he replaced them and started with his questions again.

*

How long had she hung? Half an hour, maybe? An hour? All she knew was that her wrists were in agony, her arms and shoulders ached and she kept getting stabbing pains through her chest. She tried to keep her breathing steady, but as the pain got worse it was becoming increasingly difficult. How ridiculous her gym sessions seemed now, how inadequate. What did it matter whether she could do six pull-ups, or seven or eight when compared to this? On and on he went, mundane questions about office life, occasionally questions about la Resistencia or specific stories she'd written but it seemed almost as though he were deliberately boring her. She answered dully, mechanically, her mouth dry, her head throbbing.

There was no respite. She tried moving her head or flexing her shoulders but the dull, numbing pain remained constant. She did everything she could to keep her voice steady so he didn't know how much he was hurting her but she could feel the pitch rising. It wasn't even, though, that he was asking her things she wanted to hide from him. Was that part of the plan? To show his power over her, that he could hurt her during the most mundane questioning? She tried to concentrate, to see patterns, to work out what he didn't already know but pain dominated everything. He stood and walked towards her and she wondered if he might be going to release her. He had a smile on his face as he approached. Two fingers flicked out and he ran then down from her belly button over the strip of hair and then sharply jabbed them inside her.

She grunted, then swallowed, trying not to let the disgust and shame she felt show. She closed her eyes, her body recoiling as he moved his fingers back and forth, and then slowly began to tease her clitoris. Whatever she did, she had to make sure her body didn't respond. She could feel her cheeks going red but she managed to hold off arousal and, as though frustrated, he withdrew his hand and slapped her sharply on her perineum. He returned to his desk and the questions went on.

It was probably another hour before they lowered her. Her arms felt numb, pain welling in them as the bloodflow returned. Her chest was in agony; even breathing hurt. Her wrists were grazed and bruised. She was so sore she could barely put on her shirt as it was returned to her. She'd only just got it fastened when the hood was pulled on, her wrists were cuffed behind her and she was hustled back to her cell.

She slumped in the corner, the taste of bile in her mouth. She looked through the gloom at the bed, folded up so she couldn't sleep on it and wanted nothing more than to lie down properly. All of her upper body ached. She felt exhausted but the pain and fear was appalling and she couldn't find a comfortable position. Would they torture again the next day? It was the electricity she feared most, not just the pain, which was overwhelming, but the lack of control, the sense of her body being taken over by this other force of the pain eating her up from within.

Why had she antagonized him about the bombing? It was a stupid thing to have done – but even as she thought that she realized she had exposed a weakness in him. How could she use it? If she could make him lose his temper, could she turn that to her advantage?

*

She must have fallen asleep, for she woke with a start when the cell door slammed open. The soldiers were on her before she could move, cuffing her wrists as they dragged her to her feet. A strip of black cloth, folded over three times, was tied around her eyes before the hood was fastened. Why were they doing that? It was even darker, even more disorienting than that fucking hood. They pushed her around, laughing at her helplessness, then marched her into the corridor.

She tried to concentrate. Were they taking her to the torture room or the interrogation room? She had no idea. The torture chamber was a little further, a right turn just before the interrogation cell. But they took her the other way out of her cell, walked her around and around, upstairs and downstairs. She was taken into a room, pushed down into a chair and the hood removed. A water bottle was held to her mouth and she was encouraged to drink. Porridge was spooned into her mouth. It was demeaning, and the soldiers taunted her, talking as though she were a toddler. "Choo, choo, choo… the train's going into a tunnel,' one laughed, pushing the spoon between her lips. She hated them, but she ate greedily, suddenly realizing how hungry she was.

Then suddenly they were gone, the door slamming shut. She sat, bound and blindfolded for what seemed like an eternity before they returned, the hood was pulled over her head – always that hood, suffocating and demeaning – and she was lifted to her feet. Her sense of direction had gone totally and they confused her further, marching her along corridors, going through doors, taking her up and down stairs, until finally a door slammed shut behind her and the hood was removed again. She was pushed to her knees and she heard his voice. "Up straight, please, Miss Hartmann." She pushed herself upright, feeling the concrete on her knees, and then the questions began again. Was this the torture chamber? She had no idea, and she understood the point of the blindfold; the hood muffled her speech; here he could continue to question her, see her reactions, hear her responses, and yet she had no idea if he could, in a matter of seconds, have her in a bath of icy water or stretched out on the bench for the picana.

*

She was weary now, Garcia could see that. Kneeling for protracted periods hurt and she was too scared that she was about to be shocked not to stay upright. She was tired too of the questioning, endlessly circling round the same points, teasing out inconsistencies. They'd interrogated her for four hours in the morning, allowed her to sit down for half an hour, had the soldiers feed her and give her water, and then they'd begun again, he and Juarez and Bocchini constantly probing. There was the temptation, of course, to strip her so he could look at her fabulous body again, but it was important she didn't become desensitized to nudity. Shame was a weapon and it was important she feared it still.

She was good. She revealed what they already knew, held a little back and then, seemingly reluctantly, gave a little more. She was clever, focus strong despite everything, But he was building the picture, creating the network of contacts and connections. And, most importantly, he was working out the key points, working out where she was hiding information she had so that he could better direct his questions the next time he held the picana in his hand.

*

Juliette was exhausted. Three days had passed since her torture. Each had followed the same pattern: the long walk, the food, blindfolded interrogation for hours, sometimes on her knees, sometimes standing, but never able to relax. Three sessions each day, each lasting she estimated three or four hours. She was hungry, her brain ached and, what was worse, she knew that at some point they would strip her again and start giving her electric shocks. She knew as well that the questioning was preparing the ground, so that when they started inflicting pain on her they knew exactly what to ask.

She sat again on the chair having been fed. It hadn't been enough, of course – just enough to keep her awake. She ached. She was still blindfolded. She would have loved a proper bed and a proper night's sleep rather than the fitful dozing on the concrete. She wanted a shower as well. Her hair was lank and greasy and she could smell the sweat on herself. The door opened. The hood was pulled back on. She hated that hood, hated the sense of helplessness. She was hustled along corridor and into a cell. She was pushed to her knees and the bag removed. The questioning began again.

"What were the initials on the documents?" It was after about half an hour when the question came and she knew it meant she was about to be tortured. "I don't know," she said. He must have signaled, for hands grabbed her, and pulled her up, removing the shackles and the blindfold. She blinked in the light, slowly realizing she was standing by the bath. Garcia turned the tap on and she watched the water running from the hose, slowly filling the tub.

"Get undressed, please," he said with a smile. She looked at him, looked at the other men and their eager, expectant faces and felt a wave of revulsion. She stood, hugging herself. She saw Garcia nod and suddenly a hand struck her ear, hard. She staggered, but managed to stay on her feet, and then they were on her, four soldiers roughly stripping her. "Naughty girl," he said as she stood, naked, hands covering herself as best she could, head bowed in shame.

Her arms were wrenched behind her and her wrists fastened. She felt a wave of panic and she was surprised how humiliated she felt, standing naked before them. Garcia stood in front of her, placing his right hand on the side of her left breast. He caressed it gently and then moved his hand to her face, lifting her chin to stare into her eyes. "You don't have to go through with this," he said.

Part of her wanted to start screaming out names, to tell him that the initials read AAG, to tell him Gaston Hernandez had organized the bombing, to tell him la Resistencia regularly met in a room behind a bar on the corner of Mendoza and Bolivar, but she stared down at his slightly creased shirt and remained silent.

*

Garcia didn't even ask a question at first. He'd seen this before: the first session she'd been brave, resistant. Now she knew what it meant to be tortured, realized there was no escape, and she was terrified. If it hadn't been so important to keep her unmarked, he'd have had her flogged for refusing to strip and he was concerned that by failing properly to punish her for that the cycle of discipline had been broken. She'd tried to pull back as they'd led her to the bath, four soldiers eventually picking her up and dropping her in, then holding her under.

They pulled her up and, almost as soon as she'd begun to draw breath, forced her under again. Up and then under. He raised a hand. The next time they let her stay up, one soldier holding her left arm, the other her right and a hank of hair that he twisted so she looked at Garcia. She coughed, chest heaving. He could see the goosepimples on her flesh, a few fine golden hairs standing up on her tanned round shoulders. Water dripped from her nose and lips, running down her chin. "Now," Garcia said. "Perhaps you'd like to give us some answers?"

She kept looking straight ahead, panting. "Whose initials were on those documents?"

She didn't react. Garcia nodded. They forced her under. She didn't resist. He saw the bubbles slowly popping to the surface as she controlled the release of air. He admired the long body, only a little pinkness on the buttocks showing she'd been beaten. She began to twitch and then to struggle. He waited. "Up then straight down," he ordered. They pulled her up, she took a rasping breath and then was shoved back under. There was no controlled release this time. Her legs kicked. She was fighting them properly now. "Up and down," he said.

Her eyes bulged as they pulled her into the air and she'd barely gasped when they forced her down again. There was desperation in her thrashing. He let her suffer for 10, 20, 30 more seconds. "Okay," he said. "Up." Her face was beet red, she coughed and spluttered, vomited water noisily. She was shivering, teeth chattering, snot oozing from her nose. "Again?" he asked. She was panting, breasts quivering as her chest heaved. He lit a cigarette. "The initials?" he said. She looked down and he nodded again.

. *

Diaz was worried he'd be late. He was surprised by how strongly he felt this, but he was desperate to watch her under torture. He'd seen her when she was in control, when she'd opposed him, when her questions had mocked him and he'd gazed on her tall slim perfection with awe – and now he wanted to see her naked and begging for mercy. The flogging had been good but he'd been forced to witness a couple of sessions with the picana before and he knew this would be better. He knew the pain was worse but the damage less, that a prisoner could be taken to a pitch of agony again and again and again and yet could be left whole, could be made to fear the pain. He was annoyed he'd missed her first session, that they hadn't felt it necessary to tell him. Of course, they didn't tell him every time they were torturing a prisoner – quite apart from anything else, he had to maintain plausible deniability – but Juliette Hartmann was different.

The soldier opened the door for him and he immediately saw her. She was sitting, naked and wet, hugging her shins, knees up to her chin, on the bench. She was shivering, panting for breath, her olive skin pink with cold. Garcia, he saw, was wheeling the trolley with the generator over to her. He was just in time. There was something extraordinary, he thought, about the way she just sat, like a pretty girl at the beach, waiting unresistingly for her torture. Was it resignation? And if it was, what did it mean? That she was about to break, or that she wasn't afraid?

At a nod from Garcia the soldiers, four of them, grabbed her. They seemed needlessly rough, absurdly so, four string men and one naked girl, as though desperate to shake her from passivity as they stretched her out and strapped her down, her nipples standing up from her breasts, chilled into erectness. Garcia, soundlessly, smeared his ointment on the copper wire then wrapped it around her big toe. Hartmann closed her eyes and swallowed; clearly she was afraid.

Diaz walked closer. She'd clearly seen him but was staring intently at the ceiling. He drank in again how magnificent her body was, the long, toned legs, the flat stomach, and those firm round breasts, full but not huge. Garcia stood where she could see him, applying the ointment to the tip of the picana. "The initials, Miss Hartmann?" he said with sarcastic politeness. She said nothing. "OK," Garcia said. "We'll begin with level one again."

He played the picana down the ribs on the left side of her body. Diaz usually hated witnessing torture sessions. He regarded torture as a necessary evil of suppressing dissent, the only real way to keep the insurgents at bay, and found the reality – the screaming, the pathetic broken bodies of the victims, the smell of sweat and fear – distasteful. But she had humiliated him, she deserved this. And she was beautiful. Garcia touched the picana against the side of her knee and pressed the button. She tensed, a look of fear crossing her face as the current pulsed through her. Two seconds, three and the button was released. She relaxed but her breathing spoke of her pain.

Garcia traced the picana down her shin, over the sole of her foot, up the inside of her left leg. "This is silly, Miss Hartmann," he said. "Tell us whose initials they were and we can stop all this. A couple more questions and you can put your clothes on and be out of here." He pressed the button mid-thigh. Diaz saw her teeth clench, her head thrust back as her body lifted off the bench, straining against the leather. Three seconds and it ended. She was panting, sweat standing out from her brow and on her stomach.

Diaz thought of her as she'd appeared on television a month earlier, hair perfectly styled, dressed in a smart black suit, confidently setting out questions the government needed to answer over an arms deal. And here she was, naked, shaking, sweating, terror in her eyes, a cattle-prod caressing her soft flat stomach. Garcia pushed into her belly-button and pressed the button. She tensed, seeming to push her cunt towards him, a strangle roar emitting her lips. Four seconds, five, then down. He could see her heart pounding as her chest heaved and yet, for all the fear in her eyes, there was also anger.

*

"Miss Hartmann," Garcia said, "you leave me no choice. We must move on to level two."

She watched as he turned the dial on the generator, saw the numbers 3, 4 and 5 beyond what she was about to endure. Everything hurt. She felt weak. She wondered how easy it would be to die. She felt cold. The folded towel was placed under her head. A soldier almost gently brushed her damp hair from her forehead. She saw Diaz looking with interest, admiring her body. She remembered his hands jabbing at her vagina after she'd been flogged. Before she'd regarded him with contempt as a weak man serving a corrupt and illegitimate government. Now she hated him, hated the way he was clearly relishing her humiliation and suffering, and that gave her strength.

Garcia applied more unguent to the tip of the picana. He let it run over her breasts, teasing and probing. She braced herself but after a minute or so he lifted the cattle-prod. "I wouldn't forget this," he said, turning to the trolley and lifting the leather bit. "Last chance to tell me something worthwhile." She said nothing as he pushed it between her lips. There was no choice now. She had to take the pain. She bit down, tasting again the vomit and fear it seemed to have absorbed. The letters AAG thumped in her head. He began teasing the picana around her thighs. She was breathing through her nose which seemed to emphasize how terrified she felt, as though a band were constricting her chest. She wished he'd just get on with it. The prod ran over her labia and she flinched, then up, over her belly button. Finally, between her breasts, he pressed.

The pain, for all she'd experienced it before, still surprised her with its force. It ripped through her, every synapse shrieking, her head tipped back, body tense and straining against the cuffs. On and on it went until suddenly it stopped. Her body fell flat, tremors passed through her and she gasped for breath, panting as he removed the bit. She felt icily cold, and yet sweat stood out on her skin. Her mouth was bone dry. "That was three seconds," Garcia said. "We can go longer if you want?" He turned to the generator and flicked the dial back down to one. "Some more gentle ones?" he asked.

*

Garcia gave her water, let her recover. Every now and again she would shudder again. He talked and talked, pounded her with questions. This was a key time, he knew; while she was worried about the big questions and terrified of the next shock, he could squeeze details from her. For 15, 20 minutes he worked her like that, sitting on a stool beside the bench. Then, gently, he placed his hand on her breast, feeling the firm softness, tweaking the nipple. "Now, then," he said, "those initials?"

She just closed her eyes. He stood and walked slowly to the trolley. He picked up the picana and smeared gel on the tip. He turned. Her eyes were still closed. He nodded to a soldier who sprinkled cold water on her. She clenched her fists but kept her eyes closed. He walked up to her, placed the picana deliberately in the middle of her forehead and pressed the button. Her head rocked back, thrusting her chest up. Her teeth clenched and she moaned. He held it and held it and held it and finally, after six or seven seconds, released the pressure. She dropped back, spasms passing through her.

She shivered and he continued the questioning, shocking her every four or five minutes. He was impressed by how tough she was but he knew the shocks had an attritional effect. Each one emphasized she was in his power, that the only way out was to confess. After about half an hour, he had them splash her again. Fine, he said, and she snorted in fear and disgust. He applied more gel to the picana and slowly, deliberately, turned the dial to three. He took the leather bit in his hand and walked over to her.

Hartmann was trembling, her breath coming in short gasps. Garcia let his fingers play on the underside of her left breast – so firm, so smooth. "Whose initials?" he asked. He saw terror in her eyes but she said nothing. He touched her lips with the bit and she opened her mouth. He pushed it in and she gagged, a dry heave passing through her. She clamped her teeth around it, though. Garcia returned to the trolley and picked up the picana. Where to apply it? Cunt or tits? He decided he wanted to see her face close up, and he knew what was coming for her cunt if she didn't crack soon.

He played the tip of the picana around the base of her right breast. He was amazed by the firmness of it, the way that even as she lay on her back, it retained much of its shape, just flattened a little rather than slopping back. He teased the nipple, circling the nub before bringing the picana against it and pressing the button. The reaction was impressively violent, her body tensing and rising, the muscles standing out, a roar whistling down her nose. She bucked, jerking against the bonds. Two seconds he held the button down before releasing it. She slumped and twitched and gasped and sobbed.

*

Juliette saw everything through a haze. She felt desperately weak and her muscles kept spasming. The pain of level three had been beyond her imagination, as though every nerve in her body were on fire. She coughed as the bit was removed from her mouth. Soldiers, she realized, were unfastening her. Breathing seemed difficult. Nothing seemed quite real.

She was pulled to her feet. She had no strength to stand but they dragged her to the bath and dropped her in. The cold water enveloped her but she felt so cold anyway it barely registered. She just lay, waiting, wondering if the twitching would ever stop. She began to shiver and she saw, as though from far away, her body turning a pale shade of purple, goosebumps rising. They hauled her up, out of the bath, and she felt in her legs a little strength. She could hear her teeth chattering and she felt desperately thirsty. Her nipples and labia ached with the cold; her feet felt numb. Water dripped from her. They forced her behind the bench, where three large bricks had been stacked. She knew deep down that this was part of a new torture but her brain refused to tell her what it was.

They shackled her wrists behind her and ordered her to stand on the bricks. It took an effort to lift her leg but she did so. Their combined height meant she was about a foot off the ground. The bricks were about a foot long and six inches across, so her toes curled over the edge. A blindfold was wrapped around her eyes. She felt another chain being attached to the chain that linked the cuffs and, abruptly, her arms were raised. Pain shot through her shoulders and she bent forwards, gasping. Instinctively she shuffled her feet, but there was, of course, nowhere to go. She stood, back arched, head down, arms up. A hand tapped her right breast as it hung out from her chest, knocking it into the left breast. There was laughter, and another hand knocked from the other side. She could feel her face flushing with embarrassment. "We're off for lunch," Garcia said. "More shocks when we get back." His fingers closed around her left nipple and he pulled down, hard. She yelped, partly at the pain and partly at the sense she had of her helplessness.

She heard the door close. Were there any soldiers left? She didn't know. She wanted to cry. She felt exhausted. She hated this enforced darkness, the sense of not knowing who was where. Tremors still passed through her. She had to concentrate every second just to stay on the bricks, shuffling constantly to try to relieve some of the strain in her shoulders and back. And every time she moved, she felt her dangling breasts move and she felt acutely her nakedness. She couldn't take any more. Surely this was enough. Surely nobody would blame her for giving in? La Resistencia had had enough time to do what they needed to do to protect themselves. They would understand. She couldn't take another shock. Even the thought of the picana on her body made her feel ill.

Level three had been awful, an extraordinary immersion in pain. Her muscles had tensed so much she'd thought her bones might break. And she knew from the testimonies of others that they could keep doing it, keeping shocking her over and over. She couldn't take it. She lifted her head slightly and immediately felt a pain in her neck.

"When do you reckon we get to rape her?" There were soldiers in the room. Close to her.

"She's a fine piece of ass. I can't wait."

They were going to touch her, she knew. "Look at those tits. Have you ever seen a sweeter pair?"

"That ass. When they flogged her I could have cum there and then. So tight."

She knew they were walking round her, leering at her. Couldn't they leave her alone for just five minutes? But she knew this was part of the torture, just as making her bend over by the door after the beating had been. A hand ran down the back of her thigh. "Muscular," one said. "No flab there." She squirmed at his touch. His fingers ran over her buttocks, which still felt sensitive from the beating. "Smooth," he said. "No cellulite. She'll be a great fuck." Then suddenly, as she knew they would, his fingers prodded forward. He gently parted her labia, and eased two fingers inside. "Nice tight cunt," he said. "The officers will get her first but we'll get her eventually."

He kept teasing her as the other soldier began playing with her breasts, stroking, squeezing, kneading. It was hard enough anyway to stand on the bricks; this felt intolerable. How long did they taunt her? Five minutes? Ten? It felt like an eternity. She was beaten, she knew that. She would have given them the initials just to be allowed to stand straight, just to put some clothes on. She ached terribly. How much longer? The room fell silent again. She knew this was a technique – to make her dwell on what had been done to her, to make her dwell on what would be done to her: more ice baths, dunking and shocks. She shuffled her feet again, desperately seeking comfort.

*

Garcia enjoyed a long lunch. Let her suffer. Let her think about what awaited her. She was tougher than he'd expected but she would break soon enough. He'd left her there almost two hours when he returned to the cell with Diaz and with Dr Fernandez who would make sure they didn't go too far – which was always the danger with electricity. He heard Fernandez gasp as he walked into the cell: she was a striking sight, bent forward, naked, those delicious breasts just hanging away from her torso, the long legs straining to stay on the bricks.

He walked over to her, hearing in her shallow breathing both fear and pain. "Initials?" he asked. Her jaw tightened and she gave a slight shake of the head. "OK," Garcia said, and addressed one of the soldiers. "Take out a brick."

"No!" she yelped, but she said nothing more as the soldier bent behind her and, using both hands, eased the top brick off the pile. Her toes scrabbled on it desperately as it slid backwards and then, as it was removed, she fell four inches onto the one beneath. She gave a gasp of pain and whimpered as her toes sought purchase. The cleverness of this was that she had to choose: stand on tiptoe and relieve the pain in her arms while increasing the strain on her legs, or stand as near to flat as she could and take the pain in her shoulders, chest and arms. And all the while she knew that at the end of it there was a cold bath and more shocks.

Garcia pounded her with questions. Sometimes he shouted, sometimes he was gentle. He went over old ground and he broached new. He teased information from her. He asked her things to which he knew the answers to check her honesty and he asked her about matters that weren't important to confuse her. She shuffled and fidgeted, shifting her weight, seeking vainly a position that didn't hurt. Juarez and Bocchini chipped in. And then, after about half an hour, he asked her about the bombings at the Interior Ministry. "I heard rumors," she said. "That's all."

She felt immediately a brick being shifted. "Please," she said. "Please believe me." She held her toes on the brick for as long as possible, even as it was pulled backwards, falling painfully, almost missing the one brick that remained. Her shoulders screamed in pain, her chest ached, but on he went, probing her about what she'd known and when. AAG, she wanted to shout. AAG. But she stayed silent. She was polite. She answered his questions and those of the other two. And then, without warning, he kicked away the other brick. It was so sudden, the pain so sharp, she thought for a moment her shoulders had dislocated. Her toes scrabbled desperately for purchase as her arms took all her weight for a fraction of a second. She felt as though she couldn't breathe, a few coughing gasps all she could manage until she managed to take at least some of her weight on her toes. She was stretched, the balls of her feet only just on the ground.

Her head tipped forwards. The pain was awful. Her breath came in short agonized gasps. The questions continued. She could barely process them, so great was her discomfort. She left his hands on her breasts, finger nails scraping her nipples. "On June 4 last year," he said, "you met a woman in a café on Calle Moreno. Who was she?"

What? Where had that come from? She had no idea. June 4? It could have been anybody. "Who was it?" he said, grasping her hair and twisting to force her head up. "I've no idea," she said. "I… June 4?... I don't…" And then it dawned on her. She had met a contact around then on Moreno, a woman who had links to la Resistencia: Maria Soler. She couldn't hand her over, though. For one thing, she had no idea how well connected she was. For another, she was only a student, 20, 21 at most. She couldn't give them her name and know that she would undergo this. "I don't remember," she said, but it didn't sound convincing even to her. The thought of what might happen to anybody she betrayed, though, gave Juliette new strength. She wouldn't let them arrest a pretty, delicate brave girl like that, strip her naked and pump electricity into her. She just wouldn't.

*

Hartmann had clearly been suffering badly, Diaz thought. Well, good; that's what she was here for. He could tell Garcia was getting frustrated as she answered his questions with difficulty, whimpers of pain interrupting her speech. It was about two hours after lunch when Hartmann was finally unfastened. She collapsed, hugging herself and moaning, curled in a ball on the ground. She was given no more than a minute's respite. The blindfold was wrenched off and she was dragged to the bath, made to stand and watch as it slowly filled. Her face was a blank mask. He imagined there was fear behind the eyes, but she stood looking numb, unresisting as her wrists were shackled behind her. "Well?" asked Garcia.

She just looked at the bath. When it was full and Garcia ordered her to get in, she did, obediently lying face down. And so the cycle began again. Fifteen times they dunked her, in three sets of five. She seemed genuinely distressed, her breathing difficult, her face grey, shivers and shudders passing through her as she coughed up water she'd swallowed, but she said nothing. Diaz wondered if she were becoming desensitized. They hauled her, shaking, to the bench. She seemed to resist just as little as she was strapped down again. The doctor examined her, holding a stethoscope to her wondrous chest, the nipples erect and the skin goosepimpled with cold, before pronouncing her fit to take more shocks. She groaned at that but otherwise remained silent. Diaz was worried. Was she somehow gaining the upper hand?

Garcia, though, remained calm. Slowly, he positioned the trolley beside her, then reached into a box on the bottom shelf, withdrawing a ball of wire wool. He smiled, and held it so Hartmann could see it. She squealed. "No….! Oh God, no…!"

Diaz didn't quite understand. What was it that provoked such fear in her? Wire wool? Then Garcia took the copper wire that previously he'd twisted round her toe and pushed it through the ball, looping it back so it was secure. Diaz still didn't get it, but he saw Hartmann did and that her terror had increased. Garcia bent over her and reached his left hand between her thighs, stroking them gently. Then he opened her labia with thumb and forefinger and Diaz realized what he was doing. It appalled him, yet it also thrilled him.

"No! Oh God no! Please!"

She struggled but the bonds held her tight. Garcia paused, patted her genitals and turned back to his trolley. Slowly, so she could see, he unscrewed the top of the jar of ointment and tipped the wire-wool in. "Nearly forgot," he said with a smile.

"Please, please, please…."

Garcia held up the ball of wire, now smothered in the ointment, and bent over her. She looked away, clenching her fists as he parted her lips with one hand, and inserted the wire-wool with the other. Her body went tense, her face twisted in – in what? In pain? Or in shame? Or terror? Or all three? – as Garcia poked it inside her. She was sobbing, chest heaving, and Diaz was struck by the contrast between her composure when she used to hector him and her humiliation now. Garcia, working with almost mocking slowness, returned to his trolley and took up a narrow pair of pliers. "Stop! Stop this…" she wailed as he returned and carefully, using the pliers, pushed the wire-wool as far inside her as it would go.

*

Garcia picked up the picana. Hartmann was whimpering. He knew they were getting to a critical stage. It was a matter of balance. You ground them down with discomfort and shame and you terrified them with pain. She was near the edge, scared and humiliated. He would take her even closer but it was important not to go too far. Too much pain could destroy her. He would give her no more than four or five more shocks today, then he'd make sure her night was miserable and it would probably be the morning when they cracked her. If not, he might have to give her a couple of days' break from torture and then get her back down here.

"The initials?"

He could almost see her thinking. She was staring at him, fear written all over her face. She wanted to give in, was fighting with herself. He stepped up. He began playing the picana over her breasts, enjoying their firmness. She looked away, turning her head to the right. He moved the picana up, tracing it up her chest and neck, over her jaw and her lovely cheekbone to her ear, the dark hair swept above it. He pressed.

Her whole body tensed. He saw the muscles in her neck stand out, the strain in her face. She pulled at the bonds, hopelessly. A low, keening whine left her mouth, spittle flying. He held her like that for a count of four, then lifted the picana. She panted, her body shiny with sweat, a series of moans escaping her lips. She closed her eyes and lay as though exhausted. A little blood, Garcia saw, had escaped from between her legs.

"You know we can keep doing this?" he said. "You know this will go on till you give in?"

*

Juliette drank thirstily from the bottle that was held to her lips. She should just tell them. She'd lasted long enough. Everything, everything hurt and she felt as though she couldn't focus properly. The doctor was checking her heart rate, playing with her breasts as he did so. It was so much worse with the wire inside her, the wool scraping against her most sensitive parts. AAG, AAG, AAG. She wondered if it would leave her barren. Not that it mattered; she doubted she'd ever get out of jail even if they didn't execute her. The thought galvanized her; she had nothing left but resistance.

"She's fine," said the doctor. "Wonderful tits, aren't they?"

The torturer began caressing her breasts with the picana, circling the nipples, teasing and poking. And then, without warning, with the prod on her left nipple, he pressed the button. A wave of pain engulfed her, seeming to radiate from deep inside her. She felt her muscles tense, felt a burning everywhere and realized she was making an awful croaking scream through jaws that wouldn't open. On and on the pain went until finally after what – five, six seconds? – he lifted his thumb. She shivered, her limbs aching where she'd pulled against the straps, her jaw saw with clenching it and her vagina on fire. She was soaked with sweat, her body twitching and covered in goosepimples. He gave no warning, just touched the picana to her right nipple and shocked her. Even with every muscle tense a rasping scream was draw from her. She twisted and tossed, sweat flying off her body until finally he released the button. She felt desperately weak, hot and cold at once, her hair soaked. Twitches and shudders past through her and she realized she'd urinated. She had to pass out, she thought, but no and when the doctor checked her heart he declared her ready for more.

The questions continued but she could barely answer, so exhausted did she feel. "Ok, then, just one more for today," Garcia said, and had more water sprinkled on her. He took the leather bit and forced it into her mouth. She barely had the strength to clamp her teeth around it. She knew what this meant: level three. AAG, AAG, AAG. She was terrified. If level one hurt so much with the wire-wool inside her, what would three be like? She shivered and she saw his smile as he applied more ointment to the copper tip of the picana.

He walked up to her and ran his hand over her forehead, smoothing back her hair. "Ready?" he said, and touched the picana to her nose. She bit hard on the leather, jaw shaking in fear. AAG. He walked slowly down the side of her, teasing the picana over her, running it over her chest, probing her breasts, snaking it over her stomach. Why couldn't he just push the button? AAG. He went down the inside over left leg and then got over her toes. She whimpered in terror. He pushed the picana against the ball of her foot and pressed. It was like hot knives were being plunged into her. Her vision clouded. Pain overwhelmed her. She went stiff but jerked, sweat flying from her. It felt as though she couldn't breathe. She panicked, terrified of what was happening. He held it for ever and when he cut the current she flopped, screaming for several seconds, shaking, urine dribbling from her. She began to cough and soldiers suddenly were on her, unfastening the bonds and pulling her to her feet then throwing her down. Only half conscious she fell on all fours, vomit spewing from her, sweat dripping off her as tremors swept through her.

As she fell still, soldiers pulled her upright. The torturer stepped forward, holding a pair of narrow pliers. What was he going to do? He bent down and she feared he was going to pinch her clitoris, but he simply reached inside her and, with a sharp tug, extracted the wire-wool. She shrieked in pain. She felt icy cold and she couldn't stop sobbing. Her wrists were manacled behind her and the hood pulled over her head. That fucking hood. "Good night, Miss Hartman," he said. "I'll see you tomorrow."

She still felt weak, but as rough hands bundled her out she was horribly aware of her nakedness. "My dress…" she said pathetically as they hustled her away. She wasn't even to be allowed some dignity overnight, then. Their hands went all over her as she was marched along the corridor. Doors opened and closed and then suddenly her wrists were unfastened and the hood removed. She was shoved forward and fell, blinking in the half-light. This wasn't her cell, she realized. Where was she? Then she saw the tiled floor and heard a metal door clang and she realized she was in the tank.

She lay, curled up on the tiles, tears dripping from her face, knees pulled up to chin. She knew what was coming: regular sessions with the hosepipes to stop her sleeping. She couldn't take it. She clutched her crotch. It hurt dreadfully, her tenderest parts scoured by the wool. Her shoulders and chest ached from the strappado. But that was only part of it. The dunkings and the shocks had broken her. She just felt dreadfully weak. She thought she might be sick again. How could she take more? Even the thought of stepping in the ice-cold water again horrified her.

It wasn't comfortable but at least she was alone. She felt so tired she began to doze. And then they turned the hosepipes on her, four powerful jets, striking from all sides. She cowered, trying to protect her genitals with hands and feet, but the water was ferocious. It battered her – between her legs, her breasts, her face. For three or four minutes they pounded her and when it was over she was left curled in a ball, teeth chattering with the cold. Slowly she straightened. She was covered in goosepimples, her skin pink, sobs racking her body. She lay on the wet concrete, exhausted, unable to sleep, terrified, tears rolling seemingly incessantly from her eyes. Then they were back. The same again: four hoses blasting at her for three or four minutes, leaving her winded, cold, hair plastered to head. She thought of the torture victims she'd interviewed, remembered their tales of agony and humiliation, and tried to draw strength from them. She was an inspiration, she knew; people looked to her. She had to stay strong. She thought of the brave people she'd spoken up for, the beatings they'd taken, the days of shocks. She couldn't let them down.

*

Hartmann was already pulling back as the soldiers dragged her through the door. He was struck, to his surprise, by how beautiful her body was, her skin still golden through the greyish cast that all prisoners eventually took on. They forced her over to the bricks and helped her stand on them, then hooked up her wrists so she was bent painfully forward. Garcia pulled off the hood but left the blindfold in place. She must be exhausted: hosed down every half hour all night, denied sleep and clothing. He could hear her whimpering as he ran a finger down the line of her jaw.

"I'll do you a deal," he said, feeling the tension in her shoulders. "I admire you. You're showing great courage. If you remain stubborn like this, they'll make me torture you for weeks. It won't end until you're dead, and we won't kill you. When you get too weak, we'll send you to hospital. When you're better you come back. It'll effectively be eternal agony. Imagine that: 40 shocks a day for the rest of your life. Cold baths. Nakedness. Strappado. Beatings. Rape. The Petra Negra barbecue. Your fingernails pulled out and, when they grow back, pulled out again. I don't want to do that to you." Her breasts dangled from her chest and he took them in his hands, feeling their delicious firmness as though weighing them. He saw her bite her lower lip and turn away, although given she was blindfolded, the gesture was largely symbolic. "So confess," he went on, squeezing gently. "Admit you're a CIA plant. Admit you've systematically lied. Admit the opposition is smaller than you've claimed. Admit you made up evidence of government corruption and abuses. We'll put you on television. People will know you've been tortured into it. Nobody will blame you. And I won't ask you for any names. You won't have to betray anybody."

He teased her nipples. "How does that sound? We'll stop torturing you. We'll send you to a camp but we'll make sure that after a few months you're quietly released back to the US. I'll even make sure you're not treated too harshly at the camp. Why not, eh? Save yourself. We wouldn't even have you whipped first. And you must know they're planning a severe whipping."

She said nothing. "Just one thing," he said. "Don't tell anybody I offered you this. I'm not allowed to. They want you broken. They don't realize how tough you are. They don't realize that if I work on you as I need to break you that you'd be gibbering, a vegetable. So don't mention the deal if anybody else is here. Just say, ‘I give in,' and I'll arrange it. All unofficial of course but… you and me: a pact. OK?"

Her mouth felt dry. "Water?" she whispered. For a moment there was silence, then she heard a tap running. A water-bottle was held to her lips and she drank greedily. "What's in it for you?" she asked. He gave a snort of laughter. He pressed the outside of each breast, squeezing them together. "I respect you," he said. "But, to be honest, it's bad for my reputation if I fail to break you. We do each other a favor."

He thrust his face into her cleavage and kissed the crease where he'd pushed her breasts together. "Have a think," he said, before kicking out the top brick. She grunted as the strain on her shoulders was increased, cheeks tightening as her head snapped back with the pain. He patted her cunt and she squawked as she desperately adjusted her legs, already stretched and taut. "Speak later," he said and walked away.

Juliette heard the door clang shut. She thought about the offer. It seemed to make sense. Did he mean he'd rape her? But even rape would be better than this – and she knew he could rape her any time he felt like it anyway. Everybody would know she didn't mean it. Avoiding a whipping. She'd known it was likely but it terrified her to hear him say it. She couldn't take being whipped. She'd seen what their whippings did. Yes, it would be a propaganda coup for the government but she wouldn't have betrayed anyone. And when they released her from the camp she could go to the US and write what had happened, tell everybody about the flogging and the dunking and the shocks and this awful semi-hanging. Yet she didn't trust him. She tried to think of reasons he'd make the offer.

The truth was, though, she was exhausted and scared and standing naked on bricks with her arms twisted cruelly behind her. She couldn't think. She wanted simply to give in, to do what he wanted. She heard the door open and footsteps approach. Hands pawed at her, squeezing her breasts, patting her ass, fingering her cunt. Nothing was said, but a brick was removed. She shouted in pain as her shoulders straightened. She couldn't even breathe properly like that. She heard them leave and her mind was nearly made up: she had to give in.

*

Diaz cursed his driver. He was late because of a meeting and the traffic was terrible. He knew he was missing her torture. When he finally arrived, she was already in the bath. He walked in just as the soldiers yanked her up. The first thing he saw was her face, a strange purplish shade, as she gasped for breath, spluttering and coughing the water from her lungs. Her dark eyes barely registered him as he stared at her breasts, revealed just above the level of the bath, round, sumptuous and, goosepimpled with the cold, capped by erect nipples. They thrust her back under. He saw her begin to struggle and then, finally, she was hauled up. Water poured from her. Her eyes were wide and she retched, coughing up water, taking in horrible, rasping breathes, teeth chattering. Under she went again. She was clearly panicking, legs kicking, splashing. This time, when they pulled her out, they pulled her from the bath and tossed her down, uncuffing her wrists. She sprawled, shivering and coughing, vomiting up water. She tried to push herself up but seemed too weak, finally dragging her knees up to huddle over, still spitting out water.

The soldiers lifted her. She hunched, shivering, as they dragged her to the bench. They didn't fasten her to it but made her stand by one end, water dripping from her. Another soldier carried over an electric grill from a cupboard. He placed it by the end of the bench and then plugged it in to the wall. The notorious Petra Negra barbecue. Garcia flicked a switch. "We'll just let it warm up," he said. There was a look of terror on her face. "You want to tell me those initials?"

Diaz could see her horror. Her head was bowed but she couldn't stop staring at the barbecue: a flimsy thing, just four spindly legs and an electric element covered with a grille. He could sense the heat coming off it and then, slowly, the element began to glow, first deep red before gradually transforming to bright orange. "Who did you meet on Calle Moreno on June 4 last year?"

She said nothing. Garcia nodded. "OK," he said. "Lie on the bench. Face down."

She looked at him and for a moment Diaz thought she was about to break down. But instead, with astonishing dignity given the circumstances, she took the two or three paces to the bench and lay down, those long smooth arms hanging limply, beads of water running down them to the floor. The soldiers fastened the straps around her: wrists to the legs of the bench below her shoulders, ankles a foot or so apart, and the large strap around her waist, just above the best buttocks he'd ever seen. Garcia stroked her hair, pulling it straight down her back and then twisting it into one rope that he used to yank her head up. Diaz walked round to he could see her face. She was trembling as Garcia made her watch Juarez take four skewers, each about 20 cm long with a loop of plastic at one end, and lie them on the grill, the handles protruding so they wouldn't get too hot.

Garcia released her hair and took a couple of paces towards her feet. He placed his hand on her wet buttocks and gently wobbled them, clearly relishing the pert muscularity. "Hot skewers in your anus," he said. "The Petra Negra barbecue. Is that what you want?"

She said nothing, her right cheek pushed into the bench. "The initials?" Garcia asked.

He patted her, then ran his knuckles up her spine. The girl's terror was clear. Surely she wouldn't let them do this to her? Diaz decided he wanted to see her face. He walked alongside the bench, drinking in her magnificent body, the breasts pushed flat against the wood, the skin deliciously smooth. Her eyes were closed, lips tight. He could feel the heat from the barbecue. Garcia ran his fingers down her ribs, tweaking the soft flesh above her hip bones. "Just the initials," he said. "That's all we need and you can be spared." She swallowed. "Imagine. A hot iron inside you. On your sphincter. So that every time from now on, every time you have a shit, you remember us."

Garcia put on a glove and picked up a skewer. It glowed dully. With his other hand he took a clump of her hair and pulled her head up. He held the skewer close and her eyes widened in terror, staring at the hot end six inches or so from her nose. Garcia nodded at two guards, also in gloves, and standing either side of the bench, they pulled her buttocks apart. Juliette whimpered. Garcia released her hair and walked slowly behind her. Diaz couldn't quite believe that this was going to happen: he had heard of the barbecue of course, but he had never seen it in use, never quite believed in its reality. She twisted but the straps held her tight. Her terror was clear. A soldier placed a hand on either side of her face and held her head still. A she did so, Garcia softly lay the skewer on the trolley and took up another that had been lying there. He approached and the soldiers stretched her buttocks wider, revealing the puckered ring of her anus. "Final chance," Garcia said.

She made a terrible gurgling noise and then he plunged the cold skewer against her anus. She shouted instinctively, clenching her buttocks around the metal. Her head snapped up as everybody else in the room laughed. As the guffaws died down, Diaz could hear her whimpering still. Garcia prodded her a couple more times with the cold skewer, then withdrew it. She was shaking, her breathing rushed. Garcia took up the hot skewer and returned it to the grill. "Let's warm it up again and then we'll do it properly," he said.

"No!" she shouted. "No." Then with desperation, "Can I talk to you? Please, let me talk to you."

*

Juliette felt numb. The torturer had sent everybody else from the room and now he stood in front of her. She stared at his trousers, too weak to lift her head higher. She was limp on the bench. She couldn't take any more. Nobody would blame her, surely? She couldn't let them singe her asshole.

"Ok," he said. "What do you want to say to me?"

"I'll do it," she said. "I'll appear on television. I'll say what you want."

"What will you say?"

She took a breath. "That I'm a CIA spy. That I lied. That I spread propaganda." She could feel tears burning at the back of her eyes.

He knelt beside her and held a water bottle for her to drink from. "Good girl," he said.

*

Juliette felt ridiculous. She was dressed in her blue gown and high-heeled shoes again and felt wholly out of place in a prison cell. After she'd given in, she'd been unfastened from the bench and examined by a doctor who had given her two injections. What they were she didn't know, but she'd immediately begun to feel stronger. She'd been given her shirt back and taken back to her cell, where they'd unlocked the bed from the wall and allowed her a mattress, pillow and blanket. She'd been given proper food to eat. She'd slept soundly, for all her misgivings, and this morning she'd been given a couple of rolls and coffee and allowed a hot shower with soap, shampoo and conditioner. Her hair was glossy again and fell in loose waves either side of her face.

The torturer came in. "You look beautiful," he said, and kissed her cheek, as though greeting a colleague. "Are you ready for your confession?"

She swallowed and nodded. "Good," he said. "Now, just to be clear: if you mess me about, you will be severely punished. A hot iron won't even be the beginning of it. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

She was taken out into the corridor and led to another room, the soldiers treating her gently, almost with respect. They pushed through a curtain and suddenly she was in what could easily have been the corner of a lobby of a smart hotel. They sat her down in a smart armchair and fussed around with lighting and makeup. A microphone was clipped to her dress. It all felt terribly surreal. Less than a day earlier she'd been naked in a torture chamber. She was given a sparkling water. A man in a suit with immaculate hair sat down opposite her.

"Look at me," he said, "not the camera."

She bristled slightly - as if she'd never done interviews before – but she knew it was a ridiculous thought. Then he began to question her.

*

Garcia watched with satisfaction. She had tremendous presence – a way of speaking that gripped an audience, even those who weren't gawping at her beauty. And she looked stunning. Nobody would believe she'd been tortured. She looked young and fresh, those legs ridiculous – so long and so toned even if there were abrasions round her ankles; the shoulders smooth and just hinting at the taut muscles beneath. He listened as she explained her guilt, spoke of her links to the CIA, admitted that she'd played up the strength of la Resistencia and fabricated stories about the government. The camera adored her: she was believable and charismatic.

She was also fucked. She was giving up the only thing she had to bargain with. Now he had her confession, he could do what he wanted with her. And he knew that even beyond the information she had, the government wanted her to suffer. There'd be no quick trip to the camp for her.

The interviewer glanced at him. He nodded. There was more than enough there. Soldiers helped her to her feet and led her from the set. "Well done," he said as she passed him.

*

Juliette lay on the mattress. It was over. She hated them, hated the way they'd made her strip again and put on that shirt, hated their eyes dancing over her body as she'd turned away from them. She felt relief, and perhaps a little guilt. Could she have taken more? Another day? But what good would it have done? They would know, wouldn't they, her comrades in la Resistencia? They would understand why she'd said what she'd said. After all, she hadn't given any of them up. Now all she could do was wait. How long had she been there?

The waiting was maddening, just lying there. She felt herself lethargic, beginning to doze. She should start exercising again, she knew, but for now she decided just to let herself drift off…

The next thing she knew there were hands on her, pulling her from the bunk, tossing her to the floor. She landed heavily, with a shriek. The hood was pulled over her head, her wrists shackled, and she was dragged out into the corridor, shouts abusing her from mouths close to her head.

"Whore!"

"Slut!"

"Bitch!"

"Traitor!"

What was happening? She'd thought it was over. Was this the beginning of her trial? But she knew, deep down, they were taking her for more torture. He'd lied. He'd tricked her. The bastard. She wanted to cry but she willed herself to resist. She would show them. She'd use her anger to hold out for longer. Let them burn her, let them do their worst: she would resist.

*

Garcia waited patiently. He'd dined well, waiting for her to fall asleep before beginning the next phase. Always best to have them disoriented. He let her sleep for almost an hour before sending the men for her. They hauled her in. She seemed to be resisting more than she had previously, but that was only natural. He expected that as she realized what was happening. They pushed her and she stumbled to keep her feet, clear unsure which way to face.

He nodded at a guard and he pulled off the hood. She half-turned to face him as he sat behind the desk. In her fury, she was gorgeous, eyes flashing, chest heaving beneath the shirt, a hint of cleavage just visible.

He smiled. "Now then," he said gently, "why don't you tell me about those initials?"

She seethed. He was enjoying this as she stood, wrists shackled, forcing her breasts forward to strain against the shirt, the full acknowledgement of what had happened dawning on her. "You promised," she hissed, the shape of her nipples clearly visible.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said.

He looked at a guard. "Unfasten her wrists, please," he said. She dropped her head as the cuffs were removed, then brought her hands across herself, one arm half-covering her chest, the other pulling down the hem of the shirt. Interesting, he though, given all she'd been through, that she still felt shame.

She stood on the concrete floor, looking hopelessly alone. "The initials?" he said.

She said nothing. He got to his feet and walked up to her. He brushed her hair back from her face. He could almost feel the fury radiating from her. He lifted her chin, thinking how astonishing soft her skin was, and stared into her dark eyes, seeing fear and hatred. "Tell me about the initials," he said. She looked away. Slowly, he lowered his hands.

He unbuttoned the top button of her shirt. He sensed her tense as a little more cleavage was revealed. He took his time, drawing this out, taunting her with the inevitability of her nudity. He unbuttoned the second button. He could see clearly now the curves of the inside of her breasts. He was breathing heavily. He ran a finger down her chest, stopping at the third button, pulling the shirt away from her skin. "It's really no hardship to me to interrogate you more," he said. She said nothing. He unbuttoned the third button. The shirt hung open.

He looked her up and down. She stared at the floor. He placed his hands inside her shirt, just above her breasts, and running them over her chest and shoulders, peeled the shirt away from the golden skin. He felt the smooth muscles of her shoulders and upper arms and then yanked the shirt away. Slowly, it slid down her arms to leave her quite naked. His hands returned to her breasts and he mauled them hungrily, delighting in their firm roundness. He squeezed, then gently lifted them. He rolled her nipples between thumb and forefinger, teasing them out. He could feel her trembling with shame and fury. He gently slapped the outside of her left breast with his right hand, watching as it quivered. He slapped the other breast, then began knocking them both from side to side. They were magnificent.

"The initials?" he said, teasingly.

"You fucking bastard!" she blurted. "You fucking lying bastard!"

"Oh dear," he said. "Such ill manners."

He looked at the soldiers. "Take her to the punishment room and prepare her," he ordered.

They seized her eagerly, cuffing her wrists behind her and hooding her, then hustling her out into the corridor. Their hands, inevitably, played over her breasts and between her legs as she was marched along the corridor.

*

They yanked the hood off and she found herself staring, blinking, into a laughing face. She was fastened on the same bench where she'd been flogged before, straps holding her wrists, knees and ankles, and the broad strap across her waist, holding her on a bolster that elevated her buttocks. Why had she riled him? What was he going to do to her? She felt exhausted anyway and now she'd got herself a flogging. A finger darted between her labia, probing upwards. She squirmed and they laughed at her discomfort.

She hated this. She was about to be beaten, about to be put through who knew what, and yet they just saw her as a toy to be played with, a sex object. She knew that being tortured was probably the only thing stopping her from being raped. One of the soldiers caressed her buttocks, stroking the smooth firm curves. "Such a spankable ass," he said, and slapped her gently.

She thought back to the first flogging, writhing in pain as the palmatoria had come down again and again, stroke after stroke after stroke, taking her to agony through repetition. She looked up and she saw the camera trained on her. Did they pass round videos of her being tortured? Was that their idea of fun?

The door opened and she looked across as Garcia and the other two officers walked in. The soldiers, four of them, backed away quickly, as if they weren't supposed to have been abusing her. Garcia smiled to himself. Humiliating her, reminding her of her nakedness and helplessness, was all part of the program. And he couldn't blame them: what a sight she was fastened like that, the curve of her breast just visible, the upward jut of her buttocks magnificent. He walked over and placed his hands on her ass, feeling the smoothness of the skin, the firmness of the muscle. The cheeks were still slightly pink, perhaps a little swollen from her introductory thrashing, but that was no matter. He took up a position behind her. "Ten strokes of the grade three cane," he said. "I won't have insolence."

There was a knock at the door. A soldier opened it and two other soldiers walked in. They walked to the rack on the wall and each took down a cane about 1m long and 1.5cm in diameter, the third most severe of the five grades. Grade one was thin and whippy and would sting without doing much damage; grade five a fearsome and heavy rod of almost 2m in length that could leave permanent scars. Grade three was harsher than would usually be used on a woman for a simple breach of discipline, but Garcia wanted to hurt her. This was a severe penalty that would leave marks that wouldn't fade for a few weeks. Now she'd confessed on television, though, it didn't matter.

As soon as the canes in their hands, the soldiers began swishing the canes through the air, creating a dreadful whooping noise that sent shudders through her. Juliette felt her innards turn to water. This, she knew, was going to be far worse than the palmatorias. Her heart thumped. She swallowed and stared into the bench, focusing on a small knot in the wood. One soldier paused to her left. Against her better judgement, she glanced at him and saw a powerful man in his early twenties, hair neatly parted and muscles bulging beneath his short-sleeved uniform. Catching her eye, he smiled at her, and casually bent the cane, showing the flexibility and whip it had. She pushed her head down into the bench.

Garcia waited for the left-hander to take his position. It was luck, just the soldiers who happened to be on duty that night, but he had two of the best wielders of the cane in the regiment. The right—hander, Alvarez, was an athletic man, never out of the gym, but the left-hander, Monti, was something else, cruel and possessed of an incredibly powerful wrist. He looked at her buttocks; it would be a while before they were that smooth again. "Ten strokes," he announced. "Proceed."

Juliette tried to relax. She knew tense muscle would be damaged more than soft muscle. But how did you relax when you were about to be caned? She closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. Think of a happy place, they always said. The right-hander touched her buttocks with his cane. She shuddered. What was a happy place? She thought back to a holiday she'd taken in Mexico when she was still a student, before all this madness. The cane whooshed through the air, and struck the center of her buttocks with a dull thud. For a moment there was nothing, and then suddenly the pain exploded.

It was worse than she'd imagined possible, a line of fire that left her staring open-mouthed at the top of the wall, just above the grins of the two colonels who assisted with the interrogation. "One," she heard Garcia announce with evident relish. She realized she was holding her breath, her fists clenched. A whimper left her throat as she slowly relaxed and the pain, very slowly, ebbed. She tried to control her breathing; that, she knew, was what the manual said. Relax. Be calm. Accept the pain don't fight it. There was no delay in feeling the pain as the second struck, just below the first. She shrieked, her torso lifting as far as the bonds would allow, legs kicking at the straps.

Garcia adjusted his glasses. "Two," he called. The way her legs were pinned out gave him a wonderfully intimate view and he knew increased the humiliation of the prisoner. They were made to appear to be grinding into the bolster as they writhed. He could hear her breathing, see from the rise and fall of her back – toned and smooth, like a slab of marble but with the color of honey – her distress. Slowly she sunk back onto the bench.

The cane flashed down, hissing through the air before smashing into her buttocks. Garcia watched as it seemed to cut through her, slashing into the flesh before springing back. A white line appeared, edged with purple and slowly, as the blood flowed back, it became a dark streak beneath the two others. "Three," he said as her scream died away. He could hear her breath coming in short sobs, her torso heaving. What an ass it was, so pert, so neat, as though it were made for thrashing. He saw her settling, the shock of the third stroke beginning to fade. Monti waited, letting the anticipation build. She glanced at him and as soon as she had he stepped into the lash, the cane striking low, on the crease where buttock met thigh. Her knees jerked in but, held by the straps, the effect was simply to send shudders using through the muscles of her long thighs. Her head had snapped back and she'd made a sound midway between a cough and a scream. "Four."

Juliette lay her cheek against the bench and stared at the inside of her left elbow. She wanted to shout out names, to confess to everything, to give them whatever they wanted and more, but she knew this wasn't even torture; this was punishment and she would take 10 strokes come what may. The cane flashed down again, striking the space just above the previous stroke. She found herself staring at the two other officers again as they looked dispassionately on. Her back was arched, her limbs straining at the bonds. The pain was awful. This wasn't just the sting of the palmatorias; it went much deeper. She knew the muscle was being damaged but she also knew from her work with those who'd been beaten in the camps that the thick canes rarely broke the skin.

Garcia strode round to stand beside Juarez and Bochini. Monti glanced at him and he nodded almost imperceptibly. A blur of white, a dull pfft as her buttocks absorbed the energy of the blow, a shout of pain and he saw what he'd wanted as she jerked upright, breasts bouncing on her chest, knocking together and rippling as she fell back. "Six," he announced. She was sweating and shaking now, the pain clearly intense. It was about to get worse, as well. Her buttocks were streaked with six broad strokes; the next blow couldn't but strike bruised flesh.

The cane swept through the air. The noise was dreadful, but the pain was far worse. She bucked, shrieking with the agony and thrusting into the bolster. She couldn't stop shaking. She clenched her fists and pushed her cheek into the bench. She was panting and tried to bring her breath under control. But the pain, the pain was terrible, the whole of her buttocks roaring in agony. She heard the hiss and flinched, but that only made her buttocks tense as the cane smashed into the crease at the top of her thighs. She thought she was going to be sick. Her vision blurred, bright spots flickering. "Eight," he called above her screams.

Garcia could see the battle going on in her. She wanted to shout and beg but she also wanted to resist. Different prisoners reacted in different ways. It wasn't just pain that got them: the bath wasn't painful especially but the sensation of dying undid some of them. Similarly hanging them by their arms hurt less than electric shocks but the protracted nature of it made it harder to endure. And some who could take the shocks would crack under a beating because the sense of their body being mangled was so much greater. Perhaps Hartmann was one of those: certainly her sobs, the way she clenched and unclenched her fists, suggested she was nearer breaking than she had been with electricity pulsing through her. The great thing now, with her confession already recorded, was that he could flog her essentially when he wanted.

Garcia walked to take a more side on view. Alvarez raised the cane for the final time and smashed it down. It struck across the heart of her buttocks, already streaked purple, the white rod biting deep into the flesh before the pert muscles sprang back. Her body jumped. "Nine," he said. She was shaking. He could see her face beyond the crook of her elbow as she rested her right cheek on the bench, eyes closed, waiting for the lash. A trail of snot ran from her nose and the hollows below her eyes shone with tears. Monti delayed, letting the tension build, then whipped the cane down low, catching again the crease where buttock meets thigh. She shrieked, grinding her pelvis into the bolster, neck muscles taut as her body snapped up. "Ten," he said."

*

Juliette was in a daze. The hood was removed and she found herself, wrists shackled, back in the torture room. She was naked, and the bath was filling. Her buttocks burned, horribly. Those strokes had been far worse than the palmatoria, loaded with a terrible sense that not only was pain being inflicted but that damage was being done.

"Tell me what the initials were," his voice said.

She stared ahead at the rising water, trying to steel herself for what was to come, trying to rouse the anger at his betrayal that has prompted her outburst. He began to play with her breasts again. She felt nauseous, heart thumping. Her hands could feel the heat rising from her beaten buttocks. "Come on," he said. "Initials. Just two letters."

Was he testing her? Did he think it was two? She tried to look impassive, but then their hands were on her and she was being flipped into the bath. And so it began again.

How often did they dunk her? She had no idea? She stopped counting? Her world was just cold water, the white bottom of the bath, pain in her head and lungs, a sense of panic, coughing, being shaken, and more water. When they finished, she sprawled on the floor, vomiting and sobbing, shivering, her toes, her breasts, her genitals aching with the cold, her lungs screaming of mercy as she retched. She couldn't take any more. A boot kicked her hip and she squawked in pain, then fell back to coughing. She was done. She would give in, but she didn't give in.

*

Garcia gazed down at her. She was twitching and sobbing, gasping for breath but he was struggling to focus. All he wanted to do was lay his head between her breasts, to feel this long thighs wrapped around his waist. He wanted to remove the wire wool and take her there and then, to thrust into a passage scraped raw by his torture and consume her. But he couldn't. None of that till she was broken. He had the doctor check her. He'd given her six more shots of level one, the final one lasting almost ten seconds. She'd thrust up at him, waist straining at the strap as though offering her labia to him as he held the picana against her hip. He took up the leather bit. A blast of level three, he decided, and then he'd leave it till the morning. It wasn't just that she was struggling: it was the need psychologically to let her process his deceit, to know she was finished.

Dr Fernandez gave the go ahead. Garcia made to approach her but then remembered his training. He put down the but and took up the pliers instead. He reached inside her and, as she gasped in pain, withdrew the wire wool. In places it was stained pink with her blood. He took it to the trolley and coated it once again in the unguent: no point burning her if he could help it. His back was to her but he could hear her uneven breathing, her pain and terror.

He turned to her and smiled as he reinserted the wool, taking care not to dislodge the electric wire. She grunted with pain as he shoved it deep but there was defiance in her eyes. He ran his fingers through her pubic hair, then twisted sharply. "Give me the initials and all this stops," he said, but she tossed her head and stared resolutely at the ceiling. He shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant although she was beginning to concern him. He gave her the leather to bite on, turned the dial up to three, applied more unguent to the picana and stood over her. God, he wanted to fuck her. He touched the picana to her left nipple and pressed.

*

Juliette hadn't believed they'd have found a way to make it worse, but they had. He'd held her at level three until she'd passed out, pain beyond comprehension, searing through her, making her muscles tight to the point that she still ached now. When she'd awoken she'd been in the tank, cold and trembling. Somebody had written the word WHORE on her chest but after a few sessions with the hosepipe it had washed off.

She had been exhausted. She'd lain there, shivering on the wet floor, too weak to move, desperate for, if not death, than at least unconsciousness. Her buttocks were still in agony, blazing in pain as the rest of her ached in a way that made her wonder if it could actually get any worse. She would give in. She would tell them everything. She couldn't take this. Maybe she could last one hour more, maybe two, but they would break her eventually. What did an extra few minutes matter? But she knew they did. Every second was a second more for her friends to escape. Every second more was a chance for them to cover their tracks, was a second they weren't torturing somebody else.

She thought of her arrival, how hot it had seemed down here. How she longed for heat now. She coughed and the effort sent spasms of pain through her torso. Was she dying? She knew now they wouldn't stop until she'd given them everything. There were no more deals. She thought of how he'd lied to her, how skillfully held played her, and she hated him. She would resist. It was all she had.

The door clanged open. Six guards, with their blindfold and their shackles and that fucking hood. She let them chain her and cover her eyes, unresisting and too weak to do anything other than be manipulated as they wished. It was a great effort to take the long walk along the corridors, but still they insisted on spinning her round, confusing her, to the room where they gave her food. They made her kneel, sparing her buttocks. Even now it was a relief when the hood was removed.

She was desperately hungry and thirsty she realized. She tried to remember when she'd last eaten but couldn't. Before the interview was it? A bottle was held to her mouth and she drank gratefully. But something was wrong. The taste was bitter, sharp. For a moment she was uncomprehending and then as they laughed she understood: urine. She spat out what remained in her mouth, retching in disgust. The fuckers. The absolute bastards. They laughed, slapping her tits in glee.

Hands grabbed her head, pulling her wet hair to tip her head back. A thumb and forefinger clamped her nose shut. She knew what was coming, but fought it, clenching her teeth together. A punch to her ribs made her shout in pain, though, and as her mouth opened, they rammed the bottle in. She resisted but they were too strong. It splashed over her but worse was her inability to stop it gushing into her mouth. She tried to close her gullet but eventually she had to breathe and began gulping, drinking mouthful after mouthful of piss just so as not to suffocate. Eventually it was over and all that remained were their taunts.

She retched, gasping for breath. A hand slapped the back of her head. "Piss-drinker!"

"You fucking disgust me!" Another slap. Hands on her breasts. More insults and then they were pulling her to her feet. The hood was pulled over her head. She realized to her horror that that was it. No drink, no food. Just piss. Her mouth felt shriveled with the taste.

She was dragged into the corridor. A hand smacked her buttocks and she yelped in pain. She screwed her eyes tight, fighting back tears. She would hold on. She would hold on. She would not let these bastards win. Another slap to her buttocks and she fell, hands chained so she was unable to protect herself, thumping painfully to the concrete. They kicked her a couple of times, not hard, then hauled her along, prodding her buttocks repeatedly, making lewd suggestions, laughing about her drinking piss.

She was taken into a cell and pushed to her knees. For a few minutes there was silence but she dared not move, kneeling upright, back straight. Then she heard a click and a hum. The hood was removed. Even through her blindfold she was aware how bright it was. She heard feet approaching. Hands rested on her shoulders. His hands, she was sure. He kneaded gently with his thumbs. "Miss Hartmann," he said, and she knew it was him. "We're going to take the blindfold off. Look straight ahead."

He walked away and a soldier removed the cloth. She was staring into a pair of Krieg lights. "And so we go on," he said. "Did you sleep well?" She said nothing, just looked ahead and slightly down, trying to ease the effect of the beam without actually closing her eyes or turning away, both acts that she feared might lead to further punishment.

He began talking from behind the lights. "Good breakfast?" he asked. She could just make out the shape of three men so she knew his lackeys were with him. The questioning began. On and on. The same questions. Different questions. Initials, dates, details, people. She was too exhausted to think. Her mouth tasted foul. On and on it went until they blindfolded and hooded her, turned off the lights and went away for lunch, leaving her kneeling, aching, scared. It was warm and she was perspiring. She was desperately thirsty.

After an age of kneeling in silence, she heard them return. The hood and blindfold were removed and he gave her water. Actual water this time. She drank with desperation. Then they began again. Every time she began to slump, he shouted at her. Her knees screamed in pain. Her thighs and calves throbbed. Her back ached. A headache was thumping in her skull as the light seared her soul. Her eyes felt dry and scratchy. Shapes danced across her vision. More questions, question upon question. She felt numb. She couldn't think.

At last he gave her more water. "You've done well," said his voice from beyond the lamps. "You've lasted a few days. Nobody could expect any more. But how much more pain can you take? More electric shocks? The barbecue?"

She didn't know. She just knew her buttocks were aflame and that she had no intention of speaking. She felt hands on her arms. The shackles were removed. She heard chains clinking, and slowly realized her wrists were being fastened into leather cuffs. She looked at her hands in incomprehension. When would the pain end? Her arms were lifted, her body was stretched out, until she could stand only by extending her toes to balance on the balls of her feet. He was there in front of her. She willed resistance.

"Let me take you back," he said, "to January 3rd last year."

What? What was this? She was sure he'd never mentioned that date before. What had she done that day? She remembered New Year, a quiet drink with a couple of friends. Then what?

"What did you do that day?"

"I don't know," she said.

He walked up to her and punched her, hard, in the pit of her stomach. She coughed, winded. He pushed her so her feet couldn't gain purchase and she swayed back and forth. "Try again."

It was hopeless. "I don't know." He walked behind her. Suddenly she realized what he was about to do. She was powerless to stop him. He placed his hands on her buttocks. Even that was agony. Then, gently at first, he began slapping them. She heard herself whimpering as he hit her harder and harder, each blow following a question. When he finally stopped, she was shaking and sobbing.

*

For two hours, Garcia worked her over. He found something very satisfying in inflicting pain directly, punching or slapping rather than simply pressing a button. He knew a slap, even on bruised buttocks, hurt far less than an electric shock, but he also knew the psychological impact of feeling a hand directly on the skin. He didn't overdo it. He kept backing off, letting her anticipate the pain, trying to develop a conversation.

He sat back on his desk and looked at her naked figure hanging there, her weight all taken by her wrists, head limp. He thought back to her television appearances, the controlled rage she had shown, the fire and the beauty. And now he had her; his frustration might have been mounting with her but there was something satisfying in having reduced her to this. It was late and he was tired. He nodded at the guards and watched as they lowered her, shackled her wrists and hooded her. Another night in the tank would soften her up further. Then in the morning came the beginning of the crucial session: a long gentle talk followed by the picana and the barbecue in the late afternoon. If that didn't take her to breaking point, he feared nothing would.

*

Rough hands shoved her and she tumbled forwards, falling painfully on the wet concrete. Back in the tank. She pulled her knees to her chin and curled up, waiting for the first blast of the hosepipes. How much more could she take? Every second she wanted to give in, and every time she resolved to do so, a new insistence grew up that she had to resist. She would let them kill her. She would encourage them to kill her. She would die a martyr and her example would inspire others. She would endure whatever they had in store for her; she would show them that the will of the resistance was strong.

And yet she knew that the next day they'd hammer her with electricity, that they'd dunk her and hang her, maybe beat her again. And that they'd strap her down and insert a red-hot iron in her ass. She knew that there would be no release, that they would torture her remorselessly until they had every last drip of information, until every drop of resistance had been shaken from her. And then what? Death? Would she end on the gallows like so many before her who had resisted? Or would they send her to a camp, to be worked half to death in hellish conditions, just in case she had anything left to tell them, just in case they had more evil to inflict upon her?

She lay, curled up, waiting and then, just as she'd begun to drift off, the water struck her. She heard their laughter as she squirmed, trying vainly to escape the four jets. Her buttocks burned with pain as the water drummed off them, but to protect the bruised flesh was to expose her breasts and stomach. How long did it go on for? She had no idea: there was just a time of remorseless pounding and then it was over and she was left shivering and sobbing for a few minutes before they did it again.

*

Garcia had had a lie-in. He'd eaten a long and leisurely breakfast and hadn't gone in till nearly lunchtime. He looked in on the interrogation room. She was there, sat on a chair, blindfolded and dressed in her shirt again, wrists shackled behind her. He watched for a few minutes as Juarez and Bochini worked on her, question after question, coaxing answers from her. She answered wearily in a dry voice. They'd given her eight hours in the tank, hosing her down every 30 minutes, in theory for three minutes a time, although he suspected the guards probably let her have longer, then dressed her and given her breakfast before beginning the interrogation. Ease back: give her hope. Fuck with her. Stop her descending into despair. This was about mentally exhausting her, making her fear what was coming. Juarez had asked if they could strip her but he'd told them not to; better to make her worry about that, better that she should have to go through the shame of stripping again before they began hurting her. He'd seen her naked often enough, but her legs still amazed him, so long and smooth. And the hint of cleavage where her shirt hung open. He went out to get lunch before he lost control and got started early.

He gave it two hours. She was still sat on the chair when he returned. Her head bowed, her body slumped. She was dully muttering answers, seemingly exhausted. He beckoned to Juarez, whose chair scraped on the concrete as he stood. Hartmann flinched at that: the endgame was close. Garcia wondered how her buttocks were, sitting for so long after the caning.

In the corridor, Juarez gave his report. She'd offered odd details, little more. He felt she was on the verge of cracking, but that so far she hadn't given them the information they most wanted: the initials on those documents, where la Resistencia met or what she knew about the bombing of the Interior Ministry. Garcia nodded and strode back into the room, slamming the door behind him. He saw her jump. "Stand up," he said.

*

Juliette struggled to her feet. She was exhausted and her ass was sore. She'd been shuffling all day, trying to find a position that didn't hurt, aware she was probably exposing her genitals to her interrogators. "I'm sure you know what's coming," he said. Her head was bowed. "You have a final chance to avoid the pain. Tell me the initials." Everything told her to tell him, but she resisted. She swallowed, and she felt the hands of the soldiers on her arms. She heard the door open, and she was hustled out. She knew exactly where they were taking her. Panic seized her and she fought against them, twisting and trying to pull loose, but they were too strong – or she was too weak – and soon she was in their power, being marched to the torture room.

The shackles were removed, the blindfold taken off, and she found herself standing by the bath. The trolley with the generator was already by the bench, and she saw the barbecue waiting. This was it, then; this was when they brought out all their toys.

"Get undressed," he said, placing the hosepipe in the bath and turning on the tap.

There was nothing she could do. She unbuttoned the shirt and slipped it off, standing naked before him. Her heart was thumping. She couldn't go through this again. Instinctively, she brought up her arms. "Keep them down," he said with a leer and she began to drop them. He nodded at a guard who cuffed her wrists behind her. She'd thought she might get used to it, that she'd be able to accept nudity and pain, but this was as bad as ever. She knew they were staring at her, and she dreaded getting in that icy bath, the awful feeling of drowning, the panic. And this, this waiting… watching the water level rise. She knew it was part of the technique, but she also knew it worked.

He approached her. She looked down. He ran his hand down the outside of her left breast. She tried not to show it, but inside she squirmed. He ran his nail around her nipple. "Just imagine," he said, "a nice warm bath. A nice warm bed. Soft sheets. Sleep. Breakfast waiting for you when you wake up. Coffee. Medialunas. Orange juice." He softly squeezed the breast. "You could wear clothes. You wouldn't be standing naked waiting to be tortured. Imagine that. All you have to do is tell me about the initials."

She closed her eyes and focused. She would resist. She would resist. She would resist. Her head throbbed. Even closing her eyes brought a little relief. He slapped her, hard, around the side of her head. She felt her teeth clunk together, and her left ear pulsed with pain where he'd caught the top of it. "Tell me whose initials were on the documents."

She said nothing. She heard the water being turned off. "Get in the bath," he said. She walked forwards, legs like jelly. She would resist. She could do this again. Every minute helped. She stepped in. The icy water burned. She felt her heart thumping. Slowly, she lowered herself, first kneeling, then pitching forwards with a splash. She could hear the tremor in her breathing, then the hands grabbed her and she was forced under. She tried to remain calm. She released air slowly through her nose, but as they held her and held her, panic began to set in. She began thrashing. She was going to drown. She saw spots before her eyes. A tight band gripped around her chest. At last, they pulled her up. She blinked away water from her eyes. She was shivering, her skin goosebumped. She panted desperately, the air rasping on her throat. She waited to be thrust under again but they pushed her into a kneeling position. She gritted her chattering teeth.

Garcia smiled. Her breasts were magnificent, so proud and pert and round, the nipples hardened by the icy water. She was covered in goosepimples, shivering, fear written in her eyes, but she was superb. "The initials?" he said, watching her chest heaving as she gulped in air, the water dripping from her hair. She said nothing and he nodded. She barely resisted as they plunged her under, holding her and holding her before at last puling her up. The water cascaded from her hair as it hung over her face. He gave her a couple of seconds and then nodded again. He watched until she began to struggle. He waited until her legs kicked in panic, counted slowly to five in his head, then ordered her up. She coughed and spat water and her breath came in rasps. He nodded and she went under again.

*

The soldier at the door admitted Diaz. As he entered, Hartmann was hauled from the bath. Her body was a pale purple and her teeth chattered audibly above her moaning breath. They let her kneel, and she vomited noisily, water splashing from her mouth as it dripped from her hair. So they still hadn't broken her.

The soldiers pulled her up by the arms and dragged her to the bench. She wasn't resisting: she just seemed too weak to walk. She had, he thought, the best buttocks he'd ever seen, even streaked as they were by bruises. They flipped her over and lay her down, her limbs hanging limp, chest heaving as they strapped her in position. Diaz walked over and gazed down at her long body, wondering how she could possibly endure any more. Garcia moved the trolley into position and took up a ball of wire wool in his left hand. He stepped up to her and slapped her across the face with his right hand. Her eyes opened, and Diaz saw a profound weariness: perhaps she was close to breaking after all.

"Do we really have to go through this again?" Garcia asked her. She said nothing. Garcia touched the wire wool to her nose and slowly ran it down over her mouth. He traced a line down between her magnificent breasts, the nipples erect from the bath, the skin goosepimpled, over that flat stomach, over the belly button, and through her strip of hair. He turned to the trolley and took up his jar of gel, the lid already removed. He dipped the wool into it, all the while making sure she could see the meticulous preparation. "Give her tits a squeeze if you like," Garcia said with a smile.

Diaz flushed. He didn't like the crudeness, but at the same time he was fascinated. He took a couple of paces forwards and bent over her. He thought of how he'd fondled her after her flogging, of her shame and his enjoyment of it. Now she just seemed exhausted, but as he cupped those breasts, weighed their soft springiness in his hands, he saw her humiliation. "How about a speech?" he said. He thought of how often he'd faced her, argued with her, of how much he'd desired her, how he'd wanted to see her tits. He squeezed them, tweaked the cold, rubbery nipples. "Tell me why human rights are so important," he taunted. She gritted her teeth and he realized she was on the point of tears. "So silly," he said. "So arrogant. To think you could win. Come on, where's your oratory? Where's your famous American education? Didn't you win medals at debating society? Debate me." He slapped the outside of her breasts hard, both at the same time, seeing them squeeze together and bounce apart, then stepped back to allow Garcia to get on with the torture.

A few inches above her face, Garcia threaded the wire through the wire wool. Methodically, he moved to her waist and parted her lips with thumb and forefinger. Diaz heard her whimper. "It doesn't have to go in," said Garcia. "Tell me the initials." She closed her eyes. Garcia gripped the wire-wool in his pliers and pushed it inside her. She hissed at the pain as he prodded it higher, the metal chafing at delicate flesh that was already raw. Garcia turned to the trolley.

To Diaz, she seemed strangely calm, the wire stretching out from between her legs, her eyes closed, dark hair falling back from her face. He loved the curve of her shoulders, where her arms were drawn back to the cuffs. Garcia took up the picana and smeared his ointment over the top, then approached her. He teased her with it, stroking her ribs and her stomach, probing her breasts. "OK," he said. "Initials?"

She said nothing, didn't move. Garcia touched the tip to the edge of her collarbone and pressed.

*

Juliette wanted to die. Resist, resist. He'd given her three shocks on level one – her collar bone, her left knee and her right ear, each one tearing through her for two or three seconds, causing horrific pain. She felt icy cold, her heart was pounding, her mouth was dry, her insides ached, she suspected she was bleeding from her vagina and she knew he was about to up the dose. She tried to take deep breaths, to calm herself, but all she could hear was the mockery of Diaz. God, she hated him. She'd thought he was just an incompetent and venal man; she'd enjoyed embarrassing him in debates, and now he stood in his greasy suit, smiling as he watched her being tortured like it was some spectator sport.

She wanted to answer back, to tell him it was easy to debate with an opponent who was bound naked with electrodes stuck up their cunt, but she was too exhausted, her breathing too rapid. She didn't think she could speak, still less formulate a coherent argument. And besides, if she angered them they would probably just flog her again, or find some other way of making it worse.

Garcia approached and she saw in his hand the leather bit. Shit. She heard herself whimper. He smiled at her. "Open wide, Miss Hartman," he said. She closed her eyes and turned her head away, but it was no use. He simply took hold of her nose and squeezed, then jabbed her sharply in the stomach. Her mouth opened, and he shoved the bit in. Slowly, deliberately, he walked to the generator. He turned the dial. To two. He paused. To three. He paused. To four. "Level four," he said. "Ouch." She clenched her fists, closed her eyes and bit hard on the leather.

He walked back to her, and squatted, gently stroked her forehead, brushing her hair back from her head. "Why?" he asked. "Why do this to yourself?" Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, she thought, but she kept her eyes closed. The doctor checked her over and gave his approval. He played the picana over her breasts. "She has the most wonderful tits, doesn't she?" he said to Diaz. With his fingers he teased her left nipple, still hard from the icy water. He squeezed the nub, then caressed the underside of the breast. "Quite lovely," he said. Then he touched the picana to the nipple and pressed the button.

Fire burned through every nerve. Every muscle tensed. Her teeth felt like they would explode. She felt her body lift off the bench, felt her breathing stop, felt her heart clench. Even her brain seemed to pulse with agony. White lights flashed before her eyes. It was pure pain, and then suddenly it was nothing.

*

The soldiers lifted Hartman's limp body from the bench and carried it to the empty bath. The doctor took her pulse and checked her heart and gave the all-clear. Garcia had them lie her down, then took up the hosepipe positioned it over her head and turned the tap on. After a few seconds she came round, coughing and spluttering. "Ok," said Garcia. "Back to the bench."

The soldiers hauled her to her feet. She seemed numb, her legs barely responding as they lifted her and dragged her over to the bench. She looked exhausted and terrified. Garcia followed her. Diaz stared at her buttocks, striped from the caning, as Garcia made her stand by the barbecue. She seemed unsteady on her feet, swaying until Garcia slapped her across the side of the head. "Stand up, for fuck's sake," he said and she stood with head bowed, watching the grill as Garcia turned it on.

"We'll let that warm up, shall we?" Garcia said. "Then we'll heat up the irons and roast your anus." He patted her ass and she gave a gasp of pain. "Your ass will still be spectacular," he said. "You won't even see the mark. But you'll feel it. Yes, you'll feel it."

Diaz saw the shudder go through her. He walked round, impatient to see her breasts again, so firm, so proud. She look distraught, the emotion far clearer than he'd seen it before. Garcia lowered a hand towards the grill. "Nice and hot," he said, approvingly, and lay on it four skewers. "Lie down."

She looked at him and she looked at Diaz and, as if accepting there was no alternative, slowly took a couple of paces to the bench and lay. Diaz loved the way her breasts swung, how they fell away from her chest as she lowered herself. The soldiers stepped forwards and fastened her, buckling the straps over her, making sure she was securely fastened. What a vision she was: the smooth skin dotted with the odd bead of water, the bruised taut buttocks, the light ripples of muscle of her shoulders and back. Garcia walked away from the grill, straddled her and sat down, so his buttocks rested just above hers. Diaz heard her gasp at his weight. Garcia began to run his fingers through her wet hair, pulling it back, then twisting it into a rope and lying it over her left cheek. He began to massage her shoulders, digging his thumbs in deep. "Oh dear," he said softly. "We're very tense, aren't we? Are you scared?" She said nothing. He let his hands fall and play with the outsides of her breasts where they jutted slightly from beneath her torso. "A hot iron in the anus? I'd be scared."

He ran his hands over her back then, abruptly, seized her hair, yanking it back so she was forced to raise her head. "Or you can tell me what the initials were?" For a moment there was silence, interrupted by nothing but the sound of her breathing. "OK, then," he said eventually. "Agony it is." He stood up and gestured to two soldiers. "Open her buttocks," he said. "Let me see what we're aiming at." They grabbed at her cheeks and wrenched them apart. How Diaz would have loved to have had that job. She yelped, seemingly as much at the pressure of their hands on her bruised buttocks as anything else.

*

This was the worst. Juliette felt the air on her anus, felt the humiliation of knowing they were staring at it, felt the terror of knowing they were sizing up how to hurt it. She willed herself to take this, willed herself to be strong. Every minute, she knew, would help. She'd already lasted longer than anybody could realistically expect and every second they spent on her was a second they weren't spending on somebody else. But this was awful: beatings, dunkings, hanging her by her wrists, even electric shocks she would recover: being branded would be there forever.

He picked up one of the skewers. She felt a wave of nausea. She'd never been so scared. In one hand he had a beaker of water. He thrust the skewer into it and there was a tremendous hiss. Steam billowed up. "A couple of more minutes," he said with a smile. She was shaking. This was going to happen. She pressed her cheek against the polished surface of the bench and tried to breathe deeply.

She closed her eyes. Calm. Be calm. She tried to imagine somewhere far away, where there was no pain, but all she could think of was this grim concrete room with the bath and the bench and the chains hanging from the ceiling. She sensed a movement. A hand grabbed her hair and yanked her head up. She sensed heat near her face and opened her eyes to see a skewer three or four inches away. It seemed to glow dully, smoke drifting from its dark grey surface. "Look how hot it is," he said. "Look." She looked. She could feel the heat radiating from it. Her heart pounded. "Imagine that burning inside you."

Garcia dropped the skewer in the beaker. It hissed violently. "Last chance," he said. Juliette lowered her head, pressed her forehead into the bench. Garcia nodded at the soldiers who flanked her. They stepped forward and spread her buttocks. She tensed, but their grip remained strong. Diaz scurried towards her feet to get a better view. Garcia picked up another skewer and walked swiftly behind the guard to her right. He lowered the skewer slowly, keeping a careful grip on the plastic handle. She could feel the heat approaching, She squirmed but she was held too tight, by the straps, by the soldiers. She realized she was holding her breath. The heat was profound, only an inch or two away. Diaz leaned in, peering closer. The tip of the skewer was close, low enough that a movement left of right would have burned a buttock. But Garcia's aim was good. She felt the heat intensify and then, suddenly, the pain. She screamed and screamed: it was worse, far worse, than anything they'd done to her up till then.

Diaz saw her buttocks clench, her legs straining at the ankle cuffs. He saw the difficulty the soldiers had keeping a grip on her. Her howl was horrible, a long roar from the depths of her being. It went on and on, breaking only occasionally as she gulped a breath. He saw her fists balled, her shoulders tighten. And he smelled burning flesh. He didn't know how long Garcia kept the skewer there – 30 seconds maybe, 40? – but he knew he would never forget the smell or roasting flesh or her screams, the pain and terror they conveyed, and how different that was to the calm, sardonic figure who had debated with him.

Eventually, Garcia pulled the skewer away. The screams went on, only slowly subsiding into sobbing. He walked back to stand by her head, grabbed her hair and forced her to look at him. "There's one skewer left," he said calmly. He could see an emptiness in her eyes and he knew she was done. "Do you want that as well?"

For a moment the only sound was her rasping breathing. When she finally spoke, it was in a hoarse whisper. "No," she said. "You win. I'll tell you everything."

"Ok," Garcia said. "The initials?"

She looked away. He shook her. "Stop! Stop…" she sobbed, and then came the betrayal. She swallowed. "AAG," she said softly, her soul breaking.

"Say it again. Clearly."

"AAG." She broke down into paroxysms of sobbing. Garcia released his grip, directed Juarez to check if that was possible and gave orders for Hartmann to be unfastened. She seemed to be in a daze, weeping, lying limp on the bench until the soldiers pulled her to her feet. They held her upright, each with a hand under her armpit and a hand on her elbow. Garcia lifted her chin and looked into her eyes. "If you've lied, I will put 10 skewers inside you," he said. "Are you telling the truth?"

"Yes," she said. "Yes, I am." She looked away.

*

Juliette had hoped the initials might be the end of it, but it wasn't. She'd been hooded and cuffed and taken back to the interrogation cell, where they'd removed the hood and chains and made her kneel with her arms outstretched in front of the desk, a bright lamp illuminating her, making it difficult to see. Her anus was in agony, her vagina was raw, she was cold and she ached. Her position was highly uncomfortable, putting yet more pressure on her knees and thighs and, after a few minutes, her shoulders. And it was humiliating. She had barely slept for days. Her brain felt numb. How much sleep had she had? An hour maybe, the night of the broadcast? But she'd been in the tank the two nights after that and now it must be getting late again. On the questions went from the two assistants, nagging away at her. She answered as best she could. She told the truth, kept nothing back. She told them about Gaston Hernandez organizing the bombing, told them that la Resistencia regularly met in a room behind a bar on the corner of Mendoza and Bolivar. There seemed to be an understanding that she was co-operating. They were gentler with her, but still she was kneeling naked in their spotlights.

Her arms ached. When would it be over? Her knees were sore. Slowly she shifted position, relaxing slightly. Immediately there came a shout from behind her. "Up! Straighten your arms!" She obeyed. So he was there, watching, as his subordinates questioned her. "If you do that again I'll have you flogged," he said. On the questions went. She was so tired she could barely speak. She lowered her head and was order to lift it again. She mumbled her answers and they told her to speak clearly. She didn't know what she was saying. Her head dropped. A hand grabbed her hair and shook her violently. "Last fucking warning," he shouted. She blinked desperately, raising her hands to try to protect herself. She needed to sleep. He threw her forwards and she sprawled on the concrete. She began to sob. Soldiers grabbed her and forced her back into a kneeling position.

For a few minutes she held out, but the ache in her arms soon became too much and she began to lower them. She heard him give the order to prepare the punishment room. How could he do this? After everything else. She lifted her arms again. The questions went on. She barely knew what she was saying. They were asking her about everything: old schoolfriends, her parents, other journalists. She told them where la Resistencia met. She couldn't stop herself. Her head felt woolly. Her eyelids drooped. She was vaguely aware of falling forwards and the next she knew, their hands were on her and a hood was being pulled over her head.

*

When the hood was removed, she was in the tank. They opened the gate and shoved her in. She fell and sprawled on the tiles and for a moment she felt relief as her eyes closed. And then the water hit her. She cowered, half curled as the icy water drummed off her. She was too exhausted to curl up properly, just protecting her face until blasts on her breasts and genitals made her bring up her knees. She cried. She was so cold, so tired, the force of the water so great… why wouldn't it end?

Garcia knew she was nearing the limit. He let them hose her for 10 minutes then gave the order to take her to the punishment room. She was hauled up, hooded and her wrists cuffed, and then dragged along the corridor, barely able to walk.

The hood came off again. They were going to flog her. She was in that dreadful room with the bench and almost before she'd taken it in they were lifting her up and fastening her on it. She felt the familiar straps oh her wrists and her knees, the thick one over her waist. "Forty strokes of the palmatoria," he announced. She shuddered.

Garcia stood by her feet. Her skin was goosepimpled, beads of water still dotting her skin. The first flogger lay his palmatoria on those fine, plump buttocks, still streaked by the bruises of her caning. "Proceed," he said.

At first she seemed too tired to scream, the loud slaps of the palmatorias eliciting little more than gasps and grunts, but as her buttocks took on a livid hue, her distress became more obvious. She began pulling at her bonds, turning her head from one side to the other and then, at last, at little over halfway through, there came a deep groan, followed by a roar of pain. He had them slow the strokes at that, relishing how she bucked and screamed, any semblance of control lost. By the time they'd finished, exhaustion had taken hold and she lay limp, each blow just bringing a twitch and a groan.

*

Juliette barely knew what was happened. Hands lifted her from the frame and when they let go she crumpled, falling to the concrete floor. She lay, too weak to move, her brain itself seeming to ache. She was aware of feeling desperately cold, of her buttocks burning, and yet at the same time there was something comforting about the concrete, about lying on it, consciousness drifting away. Somebody kicked her, hard, in the ribs. She was lifted off the ground a couple of inches, then slumped back. A voice cautioned against breaking any bones. She coughed, winded. She ached everywhere. Even breathing hurt. Hands pulled her to her feet. Her head fell forwards. She could see her breasts and her feet and a patch of concrete, framed by her hair as it fell over her face. Nothing quite felt real. Her body seemed tremendously heavy. Her head was yanked back by the hair and she saw her torturer's face, although she couldn't focus on it. She felt his hands on her breasts, first stroking them and then gently slapping them. She knew she should feel revolted but she was too tired. She felt the hood being pulled over her head, her wrists being cuffed and the next she knew she was lying on the floor of her cell.

She was still naked, but they'd draped her shirt over her. Had she been asleep? She had no idea. She pulled the shirt on, stiffly. Her head ached dreadfully. It took an age to force her fingers to button the shirt. Her buttocks were sore, her ribs ached, the burn at the base of her spine was a constant pain. What more could they do to her? She was shaking and she still felt exhausted. She stood, slowly. Her body was agonizingly stiff. She felt the pain in her vagina where the steel wool had grazed her tenderest parts. She began to cry. She stretched, then lay down again. A disturbed sleep soon overwhelmed her again.

*

Garcia looked at Diaz. "What do you want?" he asked.

"What do you mean?"

"She's done. There's nothing else. We can check some details, maybe make her confess some crimes, but basically she's finished. She's given up what she knows."

Diaz nodded. Garcia was irritated by him. These politicians were all the same. They never took responsibility. Maybe they could squeeze her for more. "What do you want me to do?"

"What do you mean?"

"We can keep torturing her. If you want her to suffer, we can keep going. Or we can give her medical attention and get her ready for trial. Or we can have her commit suicide if that's easier."

Diaz looked blank. "Or maybe you'd like some time with her alone?" Garcia said spitefully.

*

Juliette had lost all sense of time. All she knew was that she had the hood back on and was being dragged down a corridor again. She'd given up her efforts to work out the layout of the building. She just wanted it to be over. A door opened, and she realized to her horror she was back in the torture chamber. The hood came off, and she saw the bath being filled, saw the bench lying empty, the straps hanging down, the trolley and the picana standing by. Her legs felt suddenly weak. She turned away, as though there might somehow be an escape, but the soldiers were there.

"Strip," the main torturer said, unemotionally. She turned back and saw the three of them standing alongside Diaz and the doctor.

"What else do you want?" she said, but she'd broken down into tears before the end of the question. She had nothing left.

"Strip," he said again, but she fell, her legs giving way. She couldn't bear any more. At first there'd been a heroism in resistance, in denying them knowledge, but now she had no more knowledge to give. The soldiers seized her arms and pulled her to her feet. The torturer walked up to her. "When I give you an order," he hissed, "you obey. Or do you want more time in the punishment room?"

What was the difference? It was all pain. But Juliette was too exhausted to follow through the logic. Her fingers went reluctantly to the buttons of her shirt and she undressed, letting the shirt fall slowly from her shoulders. They wrenched her arms back and cuffed her wrists. He slapped her, hard, on the outside of her left breast, then on the outside of her right. He gave a thin smile and then repeated the action. "Your tits are marvelous," he said, then gestured with his head towards the bath. Juliette resisted, but it was pointless. Four soldiers simply picked her up and dropped her in.

*

Diaz knew this was his doing. He had demanded they carry on the torture. He knew Garcia thought it pointless, and he knew Garcia knew this was personal. But he wanted to see her suffer. After all the times she'd embarrassed him, this was his revenge. They were strapping her down to the bench ready for the picana. She was shivering violently, her breathing coming in desperate gulps after the longest session in the bath yet. Her skin was a sickly purple, her nipples bright red, mucus oozing from her nose and yet still she struggled as they fastened her down. She was terrified, and he relished that, her composure gone, panic setting in. What had Garcia meant when he asked if he wanted time alone with her? Would he let him rape her? Is that what he meant?

The doctor checked her and nodded at Garcia. He'd barely asked her anything as the dunking had gone on, but now he stepped up to her. "Anything more to confess?" he asked.

"No!" she shouted, her voice hoarse. "I don't know what you want. Tell me what you want."

"Tell me about the bombings at the Interior Ministry."

"I told you. Gaston Hernandez arranged it."

He kept asking, when had she known, why had she done nothing, who else was involved. She seemed to know nothing more. There'd been rumors a week or two beforehand: that was it. Garcia took up the wire-wool and slowly dipped it in the gel. "Please," she shouted. "I don't know anything. Pleeeaaseee!" She began to cry. Garcia slipped the wire through the wool. He parted her labia and inserted it. She howled in pain. Diaz didn't care if she knew anything more. He just wanted to see he suffer some more. He moved closer, staring down at her breasts, flattened slightly against her chest but still wonderfully pert.

Garcia took up the picana and coated the tip. "Please…" she begged. "Please…" Diaz saw the terror in her eyes. Garcia stroked the picana over her stomach, up and down. "No…..!" she begged.

"More names…" said Garcia. He pressed the button and released, pressed and released, pressed and released. She jolted three times and then he touched the picana to her belly button and pressed again, holding it this time. Diaz saw how every muscle tensed, back arching as the electricity flowed through her. Garcia held it for what seemed an eternity – ten, twelve seconds – before he let her down. She trembled, panting, eyes closed. As her breath returned, she whimpered. "No more.." she whispered.

Diaz looked at Garcia. "May I...?" he asked. Garcia shrugged. Diaz reached out and placed his hands on her breasts. It was the second time he'd felt them, but this time he was determined to get the full sensation. He ran his fingers around the undersides, feeling the smooth firmness of the skin. He let his fingers trace the areola. He knew she was looking at him. He tried to smile at her but he could sense how he disdained him. Surprising himself, he punched her, hard, in the pit of her stomach. She lurched up against the straps then fell back, retching. Diaz slapped her hard on the outside of her left breast with his right hand and then on the outside of her right breast with his left. She gave a sob of exhaustion. Garcia motioned him away and pressed the picana against the sole of her foot.

*

Juliette saw him pick up the leather bit and she knew what was coming. She knew it was hopeless but she began begging again. "What do you want?" she gabbled. "You want me to confess to things?"

"I don't know," said Garcia. She saw Diaz polishing his glasses behind him. "What have you done?" "I know," he smiled. "Open wide."

"What do you want? What? You want me to say I planted bombs myself?"

"Did you?"

"No."

"Open your mouth."

"Yes. Yes, I planted bombs."

"Think very carefully, Miss Hartmann. If I find you've been lying, it's 100 strokes of the palmatoria."

"No, then, I didn't." What the fuck did they want?

He shoved the bit between her teeth. She felt terror. She thought she might piss herself. She bit on the leather, tasting the sourness. She realized there was one thing left, one thing she hadn't told them. Maria Soler. She hadn't handed her up. Not that she'd protected her deliberately; her name just hadn't come up. Her one victory. The doctor stepped over and listened to her heart with his stethoscope, casually stroking her breast as he did so. She closed her eyes. "Level five, Miss Hartmann," said the torturer. "Very few get this far. You should be very proud."

He tapped her cheek with his left hand. "Last chance," he said. She couldn't answer even if she knew what he wanted. Would it help to give them Maria? Sweet, naïve Maria. Or would that just mean they thought she had more information she was holding back? He walked back to the trolley and took up the picana. He applied the ointment carefully to the tip and approached. "Level five," he said teasingly.

She turned her head away from him. Exhausted as she was, she didn't want him to see the terror in her eyes. Slowly, he brought the picana down on her left nipple. He waited. Then he pressed. The pain was like nothing she'd ever felt before. It surged through her, liquid fire on her nerves. Her body tensed and juddered, a solid mass of agony. She felt her eyes would burst. Her teeth felt on the brink of shattering. She saw only white light and then, mercifully, there was nothing.

*

Garcia let her sleep. There was no urgency now. They were just hurting her to hurt her. His job was to get information and confessions and he'd done that. Now his job was to do what Diaz told him, and Diaz just wanted her to suffer. Level five was dangerous. It could kill her, even with the doctor on hand. "What do you want me to do?" he asked the minister.

"She may be holding out," he said. "What do you suggest?"

"She's not holding out," Garcia replied. "She's broken."

"One more session," said Diaz. "Just to make sure."

*

Garcia had never thought he could feel sorry for her, but that last session had been terrible. Even after a night's sleep, she'd seemed dull-witted, and she'd been sobbing in terror almost before they'd made her strip. He thought of her standing there naked, hunched over, pitiable, shivering with fear as the bath filled. Of her begging for mercy, literally kneeling, clinging to his knees before the guards had dumped her in the ice water. Of her terrified eyes as her soaking, shivering figure, gasping for breath, retching was dragged to the bench. Of the way she pleaded with him for mercy, panting, long arms wrapped across her chest, whimpering as he made her wait at the end of the bench. In fact that was the image of her he knew he'd remember, wet hair clinging to her scalp, a couple of strands across her face, knees bent, utterly wretched.

He'd had the doctor check her over and then had confirmed with Diaz that he wanted the torture to continue. And so she'd been strapped down and almost mechanically he'd dipped the wire-wool in the gel and shoved it inside her. She bled freely, so chafed was the inside of her cunt. She was too beautiful, her breasts too magnificent, for him to say he hadn't enjoyed working her over again and of course he knew what she'd done, but he couldn't taunt her as Diaz did, mocking her convulsions under the shocks. He'd built up slowly on level one: two seconds, four, six, eight, ten until she lost consciousness on the way to twelve.

The doctor had given her an injection and they'd given her another soaking in the bath, and then they'd worked her over again, shorts blasts of level one, then a level two, more level one, then a three. She'd been babbling by then, inchoate noises of pain and terror before passing out. And this time, finally, it was all over.

*

How long was it since they'd stopped torturing her? A couple of weeks, maybe? Three? She'd spent a couple of days – more maybe, given she'd been sedated - in a hospital cell, and then had been returned to her own room. They'd dropped the bed for her, restored the mattress and blanket, and she'd assumed a daily routine: breakfast, exercise, lunch, exercise, shower, dinner, sleep. She couldn't really remember the last sessions after she'd given them the initials. She had vague memories of being beaten, of endless electric shocks, of Diaz's hands on her breasts. Had she given up Maria? She didn't even know. She knew she'd suffered, knew they'd done something irrevocable to her that would haunt her always, but for now she was resolved to recover, to make herself as hard as she could, to endure. That was how she could defeat them. Already her strength was returning. She had terrible dreams and she was overwhelmed at times by an ill-defined sense of terror, but she was determined, quietly, to fight back. She would go to the camps. She would survive and she would tell the world what they had done to her.

*

The more Garcia saw of her, the more she impressed him. What they'd done to her, those last sessions, had been pure sadism. They'd taken her close to death, but now, a month later, she was exercising, redeveloping the muscle she'd had when they'd arrested her. She had extraordinary mental strength. Should they maybe have tortured her more? Part of the point of torture, after all, was to break the victim, and she clearly wasn't broken. Maybe he should suggest that: get her naked on the bench again, heat up the irons, give her a couple more shots of level 5, another hundred strokes of the palmatoria. But he knew to do so would be to admit failure on his own part. And, besides, she was booked in for trial.

*

Hartmann looked at the four officers behind the desk with a degree of hatred. It was they who would determine her fate. Would she die, or would she be sent to the camps? She wasn't even sure which was worse. It was all very well to have resolve here, she knew, quite another slaving in the jungles, the threat of beatings and rape hanging always over her. One of them, who she recognized as General Osorio, looked at her over his half-moon glasses. "We have read your confession, Miss Hartmann," he said, his tone stern. "Can you confirm it was freely given?"

She glanced at Diaz, who sat in the front row of the audience, next to her main torturer. "It was, sir," she said. This was farcical. She wore just the shirt and stood anxiously in the dock, one had gripping the wrist of the other arm, trying to cover herself as much as possible.

"Is there anything in your confession you wish to amend?"

"No, sir." The general nodded. "It has been decided, then, that, based on your testimony, you will be charged on four counts of treason, eight of conspiracy, thirteen of sedition, sixteen of failing to report anti-government activity, thirty of collusion with banned groups, eighty-two of libel and 114 of propagating misleading information. You will further be charged with being accessory to 382 murders and with sexual deviancy. Do you wish to contest any of these charges?"

She paused, but what was the point? She wondered what on earth she'd said that had made them charge her with sexual deviancy, but it hardly mattered. She knew it was a slur on her name designed to turn people against her but, really, who cared? Anybody with any sense knew this trial was a sham, a way of legitimizing either hanging her or sending her to the camps. She could contest them, but she'd just be taken back to the torture chamber until she decided to plead guilty. "No, sir," she said.

"You are pleading guilty on all counts?"

"Yes, sir."

"Take her away. Sentence will be announced in the morning."

*

Diaz hadn't slept much. Hartmann bothered him. He stood next to Garcia outside the cafeteria, coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other. "Will it be death?" he asked.

"I don't know," Garcia said. He sounded irritated. "Probably."

"And that'll be it?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, hanging seems a little… a little easy," he said. "Painless."

Garcia stubbed out his cigarette and looked sharply at him. "What would you do?"

"Flog her, maybe? Give her one last session with the picana. Make her suffer for her crimes."

"I'm sure you can arrange what you want," said Garcia and walked smartly away.

Diaz looked down. Garcia was right, he supposed; he was just after revenge for how she'd humiliated him, but he wanted to see her suffer, wanted her dignity shredded before she died.

*

Now that she'd been found guilty, they left her in chains, wrists shackled behind her as she stood on the raised platform that served as a dock, horribly aware how much of her legs she was exposing. There was a solider either side of her and two behind her, and the small courtroom was full, of military, of police, of politicians and a couple of tame journalists who, she was sure, would report how she had begged pitifully for mercy.

Osorio read though the charge sheet again, confirming she had been found guilty on all counts. Then he addressed her directly. She felt her heart thump, fear as she waited to find out what they would do to her next. "Your crimes," he said, "are of an extremely serious nature. If you were to be punished for each of them, you could be executed twelve times and serve a hundred or more life sentences. So it was with some difficulty that the tribunal reached a decision."

This was it. She swallowed, heart thumping, but she knew what the sentence would be. "Juliette Hartmann, the sentence of this tribunal is that you be put to death by hanging."

She closed her eyes and looked down. Part of her knew that the camps would have meant constant agony and shame, that they'd have taken every opportunity to beat her and humiliate her, but the major part of her was terrified of dying. "Sentence will be executed four days from today," he went on. "Had you been sent to the camps, you would have been whipped before departure. It is customary for those under sentence of death to be spared flogging. However, your crimes are so severe I see no reason to be merciful."

Fuck. Whipping. She'd seen the backs of those who'd been whipped, the scars, the grooves, the tales of agony on the post. "Before you are hanged you will receive upon your naked back 60 lashes of the grade three bullwhip."

She began to weep. It might kill her, but she knew they didn't really care if it did. Sixty lashes. She'd heard of twenties and thirties. Sixty was monstrous. "Before then," the colonel went on, "I encourage the prison authorities to take action against you for any breaches of discipline of which you have been guilty while in their custody."

What did that mean? She knew what it meant. It meant he was giving them carte blanche to hurt her again, to make up offences she had committed and punish her for them. Essentially she had been sentenced to be tortured to death for four days. Hands took her arms. "Take the prisoner away," he said.

*

Diaz adjusted his tie. He felt strangely nervous. He straightened the white tablecloth. The door opened and two soldiers escorted her in. He felt his chest tighten as he saw her. He'd ordered them to wash her and have her wear the dress she'd been wearing when she'd been arrested. He stood up and pulled back a chair. Come and sit down, he said. She looked stunning. She was barefoot, but other than that she looked as she had at the New Year's gala: the blue dress with the silken navy slip beneath, her hair pulled away from her face. She wore a look of disgust, but sat as he indicated. The soldiers took positions by the door. "Wine?" he said, lifting a bottle of Chablis from the ice-bucket.

She said nothing but he poured her a glass anyway. He sat down and smiled at her, his eyes drawn to the very slight vale of cleavage visible above the silk. "You look ravishing," he said.

"What are you doing?' she asked, her voice angry and weary.

"I'm having dinner with you," he said. "And after dinner you can join me in my room, or you can go back to your cell and see what the boys do with a prisoner on death row."

She looked away, disgusted. "I don't know," he said, "but I imagine it's pretty painful."

*

What could she do? She ate. It was good food – a fish mousse to start, then good steak with an excellent malbec – but she could barely swallow. They were going to kill her in four days and they put her through this parody of a date. She loathed him, but how could she resist? She just resolved to make sure he had as little fun as possible. She barely spoke, barely listened to his idle chatter. He finished his malbec, set down his glass and smiled. "I don't think I want any dessert," he said. "You can be my dessert." She shuddered.

He got up and stood behind her, his hands slowly massaging her shoulders. She felt revulsion. He stroked her bare arm, then took her hand. "Come on, my dear," he said. She stood. What came next? He led her out of the room and along a corridor. The soldiers followed. He took her into another room, where a bed had been made up. A bottle of champagne sat in an ice-bucket. The soldiers closed the door behind them so she was alone with Diaz. He put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her neck. Instinctively, she turned away.

"Don't be like that," he said, drawing his fingers through her hair.

He slid the dress from her shoulder, pulling it down. She stood perfectly still as it fell at her feet, leaving her in the silk slip. He ran his hands over the outside of her breasts. "Are you wearing anything under that?" he asked.

"No," she said.

He stood in front of her and placed his hands under the thin straps. He smiled at her. She felt a rush of loathing. She should kick him, she thought, but she knew that would lead only to punishment. He peeled the straps down over her arms and stepped back, watching as the slip slid off and left her naked. He'd seen her naked in the torture chamber of course, and in the tank and in the punishment room and when they'd first stripped her, but this was different. This was just the two of them. What a sight she was. She gave a slight toss of her head and stared back at him, arms held by her sides, no attempt to cover herself. He reached out and ran his fingers over her breasts, then down her toned stomach. He placed his hands on her arms, feeling the firm muscle of her biceps and pushed her gently towards the bed. She fell limply on her back and closed her eyes. He lowered himself onto her, his hands exploring her smooth skin. He pushed back her hair from her face and kissed her softly on the forehead. He let his fingers run over her features and then fall to skirt her flanks and grasp her waist then her buttocks as he kissed her firmly on the lips. How he'd desired to do that when she'd sat with him in his office. He squeezed the taut muscle of her ass as his tongue forced her mouth open before coming up against the solid wall of her teeth.

"Kiss me," he said.

"Fuck you," she replied.

He punched her, hard, in the stomach, a sharp downward blow. She jerked up, instinctively, but he shoved her down, hands on those smooth shoulders. She was winded, struggling for breath, and her open mouth allowed him to kiss her. His tongue pushed against her tongue and he wondered if she might try to bite, but the struggle to breathe seemed too much. His cock was hard, pushing against the waistband of his trousers, and he fumbled to unfasten his belt. He got his trousers and shorts down and knelt over her, one knee either side of her waist. His hands returned to her breasts and she raised her hands, pushing at his arms. He slapped her, but she kept writhing. He put his hands on her wrists and pushed them down above her head, but that was no good – he wanted to play with those breasts. He kneed her in the stomach. His position meant he couldn't get much purchase, but it dulled her resistance.

"What are you doing?" he asked. "Do you want me to hurt you?"

She spat in his face. Diaz was stunned, and not a little humiliated. "Fuck me and the next four days will not be hell," he said, plaintively. She spat again. He slapped her, but she wriggled, trying to get free. He pushed himself up and, glad he was still wearing his shoes, kicked her between her legs. But she was up and off the bed. What should he do? He didn't want to call for help. That made him look weak. He pulled up his trousers and fastened them. He lunged for her, but she was too quick. He couldn't let her do this to him. He made a decision and headed for the door.

*

Against four soldiers, she was helpless. She hadn't even had time to begin to dress when they came in and overpowered her. They carried her out of the room, along a couple of corridors and into a bare cell. They fastened her wrists in front of her, clipped a chain to the cuffs and hoisted her so she was stretched, standing on the balls of her feet. Diaz thanked then. "I You can have her when I'm done," he said.

He waited till they'd gone, then approached her. She wondered whether to kick him, but she knew her position meant she would get little purchase. Already her arms and shoulders were beginning to ache. He ran his hands over her ribs. She shuddered at his touch. "Such a beautiful figure," he said. "Such a silly girl." He spat in her face.

She blinked and shook her head and watched as he walked to a cupboard at the back of the room. He opened it and she saw inside were a number of palmatorias and canes. Shit. She should have just let him fuck her. When he returned, though, he was carrying a small black plastic box from which two copper probes protruded: some kind of stun gun, she realized. Shit.

"I'll fuck you," she said, hurriedly.

"Yes," he said coldly. "You will." He touched the machine against her ribs, she heard a crackle and she was suddenly hit with an intense pain. She jerked violently, momentarily winded. It had been a fraction of a second, and it perhaps hadn't been as bad as even the level one shocks from the picana, but the effect had been disabling. He looked at the stun-gun, then at her, then touched it to her belly.

*

He wanted to make sure she was broken, but he didn't want her to pass out. He shocked her again and again. Her breasts, perter than ever as she hung, her cunt. He measured her screams, the volume slowly dropping as she became exhausted. Finally, as she stopped begging for mercy and was reduced to little more than whimpering, he decided she had enough. But he still felt anger. She'd denied him his night with her when he could pretend she was his lover and she'd humiliated him. He stepped back and looked at her, dangling limply, strain showing in her shoulders and upper arms, body damp with sweat. He punched her, hard, in the ribs with his right fist, and then again with his left. She grunted, but hardly reacted apart from that. Her beauty suddenly overwhelmed him, even as she hung, hair lank across her face. He stripped, rapidly, then threw himself at her, pawing and biting, mauling her breasts. He seized the buttocks that had always fascinated him, remembered how they'd flogged her on the day she'd arrived, and then pulled her legs around his waist.

He found his way inside her, fingers digging deep into her buttocks as he thrust back and forth. It wouldn't take long he knew, but this wasn't just about his own gratification. He wanted her to know he'd won. He slowed and holding her waist with one arm, lifted her chin with the other hand. Her eyes radiated shame. He smiled. He kissed her lips, unresponsive now, no attempt to draw away. "Tell me about your human rights," he said. She just kept staring down. He seized her buttocks again.

*

Juliette hung, legs no longer strong enough to bear her weight. The pain in her wrists was dreadful but she could do nothing to relieve it. And far worse was the pain where he'd fucked her. That man, that fucking pathetic creature whom she'd beaten in debate after debate, had raped her. Not once, but three times. First quickly and brutally and then, after a spell of squeezing her tits and slapping her around, more carefully. It would have been bad enough anyway, but she was still tender from the wire-wool. It had been agony, burning inside her. And then, after disappearing for a few minutes he'd returned, given her a few more shocks and fucked her from behind. She felt broken, revolted, truly defeated for the first time. And she knew what was coming next.

She'd been left alone for what seemed like an eternity but was probably about an hour when the door opened again. There were six of them, laughing, joking. She heard the door lock and then they were on her, touching and squeezing, taunting and probing. "You're ours for the night," one said, holding her by the cheeks so she couldn't help but look into his rat-like face. "You did us a favor, fighting him because that meant he needed us, and that means we get you as a reward." Juliette considered spitting on him but even as the thought crossed her mind, he punched her hard in the pit of her stomach.

*

Garcia wished there was something he could do to stop this, but the processes were greater than him. He had no problem with torturing prisoners, with getting them to reveal details of their plans, encouraging them to hand over their fellow conspirators. He understood the need for strong government. But what they were doing to Hartmann was barbaric. The first time he saw her after the trial was the following morning, when she was being dragged, naked and shackled, along a corridor. She had a bag over her head, but her body was unmistakable, even when it was in the abused state it was. She looked desperately weak, there was bruising about her belly and her ribs, and her thighs were streaked with semen.

He followed as they hauled her limp form along to the tank, staring despite himself at her ass, knowing he'd see that flogged again before she died. He didn't even know where the orders were coming from now: it was as though every part of the state apparatus wanted its own revenge on her. And the men, of course, were only too happy to oblige, especially if they got to rape a woman as beautiful as that as part of her punishment.

They opened the door and shoved her into the mesh gate. She yelped, clearly realizing where she was, and showed some signs of fight. They pulled the sack off her head and her hair tumbled loose, but even as he was admiring how the dark tresses fell across her olive shoulders, the gate was opened and she was shoved through, stumbling and then falling heavily to sprawl on the tiles. She'd just started to push herself up when the water struck her, the four jests pummeling her so she fell again. She barely even curled up as the water hammered into her and after an initial gasp she lay silently.

Garcia glanced up and saw Diaz standing in the viewing gallery, arms folded, a look of satisfaction on his face. After ten minutes or so, they turned the hosepipes off, and her shivering sobs could be heard. "Get her on her feet and give her five minutes more," Garcia heard Diaz order.

The soldiers rushed to where she lay, trembling on the tiles. One of them kicked her and she groaned, then by her hair and her arms they dragged her upright. She looked exhausted and stood uncertainly, shaking, arms half covering herself. The soldiers departed and the hoses were turned on again. For perhaps ten seconds she stayed upright, then fell, first onto all fours so her breasts hung down and then into a heap on the floor.

*

She looked so exhausted she could barely raise her head. Her wrists were cuffed behind her and, although her shirt had been returned, she'd still been wet when they'd put it on her so it clung to her body. She stood facing a desk where three officers sat. Diaz was one of perhaps a dozen observers as she faced this tribunal for offences committed within the jail.

"The evidence," the colonel who sat in the center said, "is indisputable. You have been convicted of gross insubordination."

She barely glanced up. She knew her lot was agony. "You are sentenced to 250 strokes of the palmatoria." She sighed.

Diaz thought of how she had looked receiving 100 when she'd arrived, of her howls of pain, of how red and sore her buttocks had looked after the flogging, the heat that had come off them. This was magnificently harsh. He hurried along to get a good position.

*

So here she was again. How long was it since she'd arrived? Six weeks? Two months? Three months? She had no idea. But yet again she was naked, fastened down on the flogging bench for the worst punishment she'd ever heard of. 250 strokes. 250? Why couldn't they just hang her? They approached, slapping the palmatorias against their hands. She shuddered and braced herself. Still within her there was the desire not to give them the satisfaction of seeing they'd beaten her, but she knew this was going to be hell. 100 had been awful and she'd been fresh then. This was going to be far, far worse.

"250 strokes," said her torturer. "Proceed."

She closed her eyes and told herself to block out the present. Then the leather slapped into her buttocks for the first time and she knew she couldn't. The sting was instant, but it was worse than that. The pain seemed to cut through her, following the bruising from her caning. They delivered the strokes, as they had before, in batches of ten. By the time the first set had been delivered, she was in agony, squirming on the bolster, her breath coming in uneven spasms. And then they began again.

*

Diaz watched in rapt attention. He remembered her resistance the first time round, how she'd held off from screaming, had made a point of demonstrating her defiance. There was none of that this time. Almost immediately, she was twisting in the straps, her body jerking up at each stroke to give a fine view of her breasts bobbling on her chest, her face taut with pain. By the time she'd taken 20, she was yelling with pain. She sounded scared in a way he hadn't expected, as though she knew the pain was going to get worse and worse and she didn't know if she could take it. On it went: slap, slap, slap: 30 seconds for every batch of 10, then a 30 second wait for the next set.

She was soon thrashing and writhing, her buttocks scarlet. Her dignity had gone. This was just a victim, pathetic, beaten, broken, naked, screaming. After 30 strokes she was begging for mercy, by 50 when they paused to change the floggers, she was wailing semi-coherently, her body shaking, her breathing unsteady. Diaz watched the heaves of those smooth shoulders and stepped over to her. He grabbed her hair and pulled her up. Her eyes were red, her mouth covered in spittle. Her breasts trembled as she gulped for air. She smiled. "Just 200 more," he said mockingly, seeing her fear and horror and shame.

*

Cabrera smacked the palmatoria against his palm. Hartmann was in a bad way. That first flogging she'd taken with stoicism; this one she was in clear distress, body trembling as she howled. Well, it served her right. 250 was an astonishing sentence – he couldn't remember anybody having taken so many – but she deserved it. He waited for the doctor to give the go-ahead then he and Munoz stepped forward. She'd fallen calm, but her buttocks – still magnificently round and firm - were bright red with a slight purplish cast around the edges and it was clear that a slight touch would cause agony. And she still had 200 to go. Munoz began. Slap! Fifty-one. Keep the rhythm. Cabrera struck hard across the center of her ass, enjoying the sight of the scarlet cheeks depressing and springing back with a wobble. She had a magnificent ass, whatever crimes she'd committed. He wondered what they'd done to her that the spark that had been so evident when he'd flogged her the first time has been so extinguished. He struck again, low, almost on her thighs, and saw the tremors of her flesh. She was tense, her breathing forced as though she were desperately trying to hold herself under control. His third stroke was good, the best yet, his wrists snapping at just the right point to send the palmatoria with maximum force into her left buttock. He was rewarded with a sharp slap and a yell of pain. "Fifty-six."

By the time they got to 60, she was shaking. Well, if any bitch had ever deserved it, she had. Cabrera wondered if she'd have been put through quite so much if she hadn't been so beautiful, if this monstrous flogging would have been ordered if her buttocks hadn't been quite so alluring, but then she'd used her looks as she'd attacked the government. Would people have given her the information they did, would she have been given the air-time she had been, if she'd been fat or ugly? Anyway, his job wasn't to think: it was to flog whoever they told him to flog and to do it professionally.

*

As the count neared 100, she broke completely. Diaz watched transfixed as she twisted and thrashed in the bonds, screaming and sobbing, begging and shouting. But the straps held firm, her buttocks positioned immobile for the punishment, and all her struggles did was to put on a delightful show for the audience as her hair tossed back and forth and her breasts danced on her chest. Each stroke caused her to buck, jerking up, screaming, tits bouncing.

The count reached 100 but for a time she kept moaning as though unable to believe there was respite. How long had it taken? He glanced at his watch. About 20 minutes, but that included the 10-minute break after 50. A doctor assessed her. She'd fallen quiet, head down, shoulders still shaking. It would take over an hour to complete the flogging, he calculated. God, to suffer like that for so long. He could barely keep the smirk off his face. Nobody deserved to suffer as much as she did, and he would enjoy another personal revenge that night. He imagined her hanging, buttocks purple as he grabbed them and forced himself inside her.

The doctor pronounced her fit and, returning to the original floggers, they began the third set of 50.

*

Garcia was appalled by what they were doing to her. When she'd arrived, he'd enjoyed the 100 strokes she'd been given. Even that had been gratuitous, but she was strong and the beating perhaps softened her for the interrogations. But this was a mindless, savage revenge. She'd lost, she knew that. She'd been tortured and humiliated and they would kill her in three days. Putting her through a flogging like this was unjustifiable. He saw Diaz almost salivating as she bucked and screamed, twisting desperately to try to escape the lashes, each batch of ten a new level of agony, each break another hell of anticipation. Had he ever seen a man given 250? He had no idea, but he knew that if he had it would have been conducted in an atmosphere of grim brutality, whereas here there was a palpable excitement as Hartmann writhed naked, her spectacular buttocks reduced to swollen mounds of torment.

"128, 129, 130," he said mechanically.

They paused but her howling went on for several seconds before she fell still, gasping for breath, half-sobbing. They began again, merciless, relentless. She tossed her head and her shoulders, arms, legs, waist pulling at the bonds, desperate for relief but unable to find it, her buttocks exposed to the lash. They were an even deeper shade of red, almost visibly glowing. By the time they got to 150, her voice had almost given way, her screams more of a rasp.

*

Juliette slumped over the bolster, spittle, snot and tears covering her face. She was shaking, her buttocks burning, like no pain she'd ever known. Was it worse than the electricity? Perhaps not, but it went on, and was getting worse and worse. She was nauseous, her throat sore, and she felt desperately weak, body damp with sweat. The doctor inspected her, the lightest touch of his fingers a fresh torment. He checked her pulse and then, to her horror, although she'd expected it, pronounced her fit to take the next 50. 100 lashes more. 100! Although she knew it would do no good, she heard her voice hoarsely begging for mercy.

Soldiers checked her bonds. The leather was damp now with her sweat. Her breathing was labored, her buttocks so sore the slightest breath of air caused her to twitch. Then they began again, that firm, unbearable slap on the right cheek and a fresh explosion of pain. Her head and torso flew back and she howled. She felt her breasts bounce and, as she slumped back, she caught a glimpse of Diaz smirking. How she hated him. But almost before she could process the thought, the palmatoria had landed from the right and the fire was burning again in her left buttock. And then the right and then the left. She was writhing and screaming, aware even through her agony of the sexualization of the punishment.

*

Cabrera smashed the palmatoria down again, watching the quiver of the firm red buttocks. He'd never seen an ass like that, and he'd never seen one punished like that. The skin was beginning to blister, and her thrashing around was so violent that even with her bonds he wasn't always easy to hit the exact target. She was suffering horribly, but it wasn't his job to judge that. It was his job to beat her as hard as he could.

His arm was beginning to ache. He rarely had to deliver even as many as 20 in the same day and he was already up to 32 on her. He struck again. 180 came the count and he had a few moments to recover. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his cuff. She was shaking and whimpering and he realized a little urine had leaked from her. Then they began again. 181, 182. Her screams, perhaps were diminishing, her writhing becoming less violent as her strength was sapped.

There was a damp sheen to her buttocks by then as the fluid that had begun to form in the blisters was released. He wondered if she would bleed. Her ass-cheeks were a vivid magenta, horribly swollen. She was bucking on the bolster, rather as though she was fucking. 190. Only five for him to give. He redoubled his efforts. Her screams sounded increasingly desperate, and yet at the same time distant, as though her mind was losing its grip on what was happening. 200. He was panting as he stopped. There was, he saw, a small patch of blood in the center of each buttock, where the skin had simply worn through.

He clapped his palmatoria against his palm and was a little surprised to discover how warm it was.

*

Diaz could see the spots of raw flesh. Good. It was supposed to destroy her. The doctor checked her over. "We'll need to disinfect that later," he said, "but she's fine for now." It hardly mattered if she wasn't: they'd be hanging her soon enough. The beating began again, the familiar rhythm of 10 strokes then a pause, her howls starting loud and fierce and gradually diminishing. Soon, she wasn't even thrashing, her body slumped limp over the bolster, hair damp with sweat, her screams reduced to a continual low moan. 229. 230. A shudder past through her and she pissed herself. He'd have her flogged for that later, he decided, watching as the urine splashed through the slats on the frame and onto the floor. The raw spots had grown to about two inches in diameter. They'd literally whipped the skin off her ass.

As the trickle of piss slowed to the odd drip, they began again. For two or three strokes there were screams, before they too subsided to sobs. There was no resistance any more. 238, 239, 240. She lay limp, too exhausted to thrash, shivers wracking her body, her once beautiful buttocks swollen and bloodied. And her punishment was only just beginning. There was far more he'd put her through before the release of the noose.

She regained a little strength during the pause, but only enough to moan a couple of times as the assault was renewed. By the 250th, she seemed barely conscious, right cheek pressed into the slats, drool coating her lips, snot oozing from her nose. They'd barely finished when he suggested the doctor apply some iodine. Garcia, he knew, disapproved, had developed some sympathy for the girl, but he didn't care any more: he would make her suffer.

Garcia nodded at the doctor who took a bottle from his bag. ‘Iodine," he said, "Is a little old-fashioned. But this antiseptic will work. He tipped some onto a swab and touched it to her bottom, first at the base, where the skin was merely swollen and red. Diaz saw her eyes open wide as she realized what was about to happen, but she no longer had the strength even to pull at her bonds. As the antiseptic touched raw flesh, she howled, a deep rasping cry from the depths of her soul. She twitched against the straps, but there was no strength left in her: a flogging that had taken an hour had exhausted her. The doctor was implacable, patting his swab across her buttocks, broken skin or not, as though death to her screams. When he'd finished he put two fingers to her neck and checked her pulse. "She'll be OK," he said. "Give her a little while to calm down."

*

Juliette groaned. Hadn't they done enough to her? Wasn't this punishment enough? Perhaps the electric shocks had hurt more, had been more terrifying, but this flogging, endlessly drawn out, the pain building and building and building, somehow seemed worse. If she would be dead in two days, why not now? Why do this to her, to leave her drained and in agony, every drop of energy beaten form her body?

Soldiers unfastened the straps that held her down, but she had no strength left to react. She was limp. Unbound, she simply lay on the bolster too exhausted even to wipe the snot and tears from her face. Their hands were upon her again, lifting her off the bench, hauling her by her arms to the door. "Stand for inspection," the officer said. "Legs straight, hands on your knees. You remember the position."

But as soon as they let go of her arms, she fell to the floor and lay, sprawled on the concrete. "Note the prisoner has refused to stand," the officer said wearily. "She will take 10 punishment strokes for that with the cane."

More beating? It was unreal, but for now she hardly cared. As hands pulled her up, she heard Diaz's voice. "She also urinated, Colonel Garcia." Garcia? That was his name. Well, it hardly mattered now.

"And a further 10 strokes for soiling the punishment bench," Garcia said in a tone of voice that suggested he had no great desire to see them inflicted.

Two soldiers held her, one on each arm, a hand on her elbow and another under her armpit, sustaining her enough, her legs trailing on the floor, that the audience could examine her as they left – staring at her bloodied buttocks, but also fondling her breasts, generally poking and prodding her, mocking and humiliating. By the end, another guard had joined them, a hand in her hair making sure her head didn't just fall limp.

Eventually only Diaz and Garcia were left. The soldiers threw her down and she lay on the concrete, too weak to move, aware of how awkward her position was, of how cold the concrete against her breasts and belly, how her buttocks were still in agony. It felt as though her mind were shutting down.

The next she knew, her wrists were being shackled behind her. A cage had been brought, placed in front of her and opened, the top hanging away from her from three strong hinges. It was formed of thick wire, 18 inches square in cross section and perhaps a foot longer than that. They forced her in, pushing her into a kneeling position. She saw a small arc had been cut from the top of one of the ends and covered with leather and that it matched a similar section cut from the lid. They forced her shoulders down so she was a compressed Z-shape, rested her neck on the leather and slammed the lid so her head was outside the cage. The rest of her was squashed tight, the pressure on her knees unbearable.

She was helpless. Her neck was pushing uncomfortably on the leather. Diaz laughed and bent down, patting her head, ruffling her hair. "Good girl," he said. She didn't even have the energy to hate him.

They lifted the cage up and clipped it onto a small trailer, then he took a dog lead, lifted her hair out of the way and fastened it around her neck. He patted her again and scratched the back of her neck. Then he pulled, and she was dragged along by the neck, his pet. Fury welling inside her, she wept again. For about quarter of an hour he dragged her back and forth in corridors, bouncing her down stairs, all the while jeering at her before finally she was taken into a small cell. The wheels were removed and clips were fastened to the four corners at the end from which her head protruded and she was lifted so she hung, about four feet off the ground. Her weight, having pressed painfully on her knees, was now taken by her feet and, cruelly, her savaged buttocks.

Diaz stood before her, a smirk on his face, then gave the cage a push. She swung back and forth, enhancing the pain in her buttocks, the sense of being trapped. "Another flogging this afternoon," he said, pushing her again. "And then more fun."

They pushed her a few more times then filed out, leaving Juliette hanging, alone. How could they do more to her, how? She had never thought it possible she could be desperate for death, but she was now. She had less than two days left to live, and she knew they would be filled with nothing but pain and humiliation.

*

Garcia looked on with pity as they pulled the girl from the cage. She'd cramped up after three hours in there and looked half-mad with pain, her eyes wide with terror. She was back in the punishment room, ready to be caned, hard strokes to be delivered to buttocks that were already red and weeping. Mercilessly, the soldiers dragged her to the bench and strapped her down. To say she fought them would be an exaggeration for she was too weak for that, put she resisted as best she could, long limbs flailing in the grasp of the guards.

"What grade of cane are you going to use?" Diaz asked.

Garcia was a little startled by the question. For twenty strokes, he would usually use a grade two, otherwise there was a risk of permanent damage. "Two," he replied.

"Only a two? I'd like to see a five."

Garcia was sickened. Diaz's lust for revenge was something he'd never witnessed before. "Sir," he said cautiously. "Twenty strokes of a five even on fresh buttocks would be extremely severe. After the flogging she took earlier…"

"Make her suffer," he said. "Let her know she's lost."

"She may not walk again if we give her twenty with the five."

"Then we'll carry her. So long as she's still alive when they put the noose round her neck."

Garcia walked over to Hartmann, who lay whimpering on the bench. It wouldn't be Diaz who'd carry her. He touched the raw, swollen buttocks, drawing a shudder of pain. He remembered vividly how beautiful her buttocks had once been, their firm smoothness as he'd inserted the heated skewer. "Doctor?" he asked. "What do you advise?"

"I'll give her a shot of adrenaline," he said. "That'll make sure she feels them. Then use a heavy cane if you wish, but they'll draw blood almost immediately. This skin will split."

Reluctantly, Garcia nodded. He would substitute a three for a five and Diaz would never know.

*

Diaz placed his hands on her cheeks and lifted her head. Her eyes spoke of shame and terror. "Twenty lashes," he said. "Now you're getting what you really deserve. That ass of yours will be destroyed but I'll always remember it." He slapped her, a pointless addition of pain that nonetheless made a satisfying noise and provoked a spark of anger. The adrenaline shot, clearly, was livening her up. He stepped back, and the two floggers stepped forward, each holding a cane the diameter of a forefinger and about six feet long.

The right-handed one rested the cane upon her buttocks, itself enough to cause a gasp of pain and a tensing of her body. He heard her whimper as the cane touched the raw flesh, shiny now under the lights. The flogger stepped back, raised the cane and smashed it down. Her whole body seemed to spasm, jerking at the bonds. For a moment she made no sound. Diaz saw blood immediately. Then she gave an exhausted sigh. Each breath became an expression of pain and hopelessness. "One," said Garcia. They waited, the only sound her moans. The left-hander struck low on her buttocks, as though deliberately avoiding the skinless area. Her body jumped, she howled and fell back, sobbing.

*

Cabrera had flogged countless prisoners. He'd beaten some of them so badly, he knew they'd never walk again. But he'd ever felt sorry for a prisoner before. What they were doing to this beautiful girl was inhuman. She deserved punishment, yes. Maybe she even deserved to hang. That they'd tortured her didn't bother him. They needed the information. But to treat her like this after she'd given in, to destroy those buttocks, to ensure her final hours on earth comprised nothing but pain and degradation? That seemed wrong to him. He still beat her as hard as he could.

The skin had been raw before they'd begun, the buttocks terribly swollen from her strapping that morning. The lightest touch would have been agony, but these were horrible canes. Cabrera had never used a three on a woman before. They bruised and they broke the skin. If she'd been 100% fit, her buttocks still as smooth and springy as they had been on that first day, he'd have been interested in seeing the effect. But smashing cheeks that were already destroyed – what was the point?

She started off with screams and terrified writhing. He couldn't imagine what the pain must be like. But by the time she'd taken a dozen, by which time her buttocks were a mass of blood, she was slumped almost still, too exhausted to do anything more than jump a little as the canes struck. She was weeping constantly, her spirit broken. Blood spattered with every stroke by the end, so the canes were pink, the area around her buttocks covered in a fine red gauze. When they'd finished, she lay semi-conscious, her back a firm expanse of tanned smooth skin, her legs as long and supple as ever, but her buttocks were ravaged. Cabrera felt as though he'd slashed a razor through a great painting.

*

Even as Juliette lay on the frame, her buttocks in more pain than she'd imagined possible, heart pounding, so exhausted that she barely even registered as their hands poked her genitals, she remembered his words. More fun. This flogging had been only a prelude: there was more to come. She wanted to die. The hands unfastened her and then cuffed her hands behind her. Had they no idea how weak she was? The hood was pulled over her head and as her breathing was impaired she wondered if this might be a way out.

She was hauled along the corridors, limp in their hands, blood dripping from the buttocks. She heard the clang of a gate and knew she was in the tank. The hood was yanked off and they left her, wrists shackled, sprawled on the concrete. The door slammed shut and she heard the bolt being slid home and then the water hit her. She was too weak to do anything other than lie there as four powerful jets hammered her naked body.

She lost consciousness. When she came round, she was lying face down on a bed, wrists and ankles fastened to the frame. The mattress, at least, was a comfort. She was naked, still, but some sort of dressing had been applied to her buttocks, which still throbbed, but perhaps not quite with the intensity of before. A drip led into her left arm. What was this? She couldn't think. She just accepted the comfort. But slowly a sense of dread came over her. They were strengthening her for something more.

How long till she died? She'd lost track. She wanted nothing now but the noose. She'd never thought she'd long for death but the pain and humiliation was too much. She drifted again into unconsciousness.

*

This was his masterpiece. He'd fuck her later, but this was the climax of what Diaz had planned and he was looking forward to it. Was it a risk? Perhaps, but who really was going to report him? He'd arranged an alibi anyway. Plausible deniability. And the men would enjoy this. The punishment room was full – a handful of his political friends but mainly soldiers. Garcia was there, looking disapproving.

They dragged her in, naked of course, shackled and hooded. When the hood was removed, he was struck by how exhausted she looked, cheeks hollow, eyes rimmed with red. "Unchain her," he said. "I think we can probably overwhelm her if she acts up." There was laughter. Many of the men had been there when she'd been tortured or flogged, but for some it was a first sight of Juliette Hartmann, the great crusading journalist and, weakened as she was, it was still a compelling sight, her breasts still high and firm, her stomach still impossibly taut, her legs still impossibly smooth and long.

"You believe in freedom, Miss Hartmann?" he said as she was brought before him.

She looked dazed and said nothing. He slapped her. "I said, do you believe in freedom?"

"Yes," she croaked, her eyes never leaving the floor.

"And your father is American I believe?"

"Yes."

"Then we will dress you as the statue of liberty. That would be appropriate, don't you think?"

She didn't react, standing still head bowed. A soldier gave her shoulder a brusque shove and she staggered a couple of paces forwards.

"Go ahead," he said to the soldiers behind her.

They took a stars and stripes and draped it over her left shoulder, pulling it round and under her right armpit, tying it off so it mimicked the statue's robes. It was a shame to cover her nudity, but Diaz suspected being wrapped in the flag humiliated her more. There was more laughter, more jeers. Then, the coup de grace: a crown of barbed wire. It was a hideous device: four circles just wider than her head, with the wire then wrapped cruelly round the circle, each new loop perhaps an inch from the last. As he took it from a box, holding it carefully, she saw her shudder and her head dropped.

He handed it to a soldier who wore gloves. He walked behind her as the other guards pushed her to her knees. He yanked her hair so her head tipped back, then smoothed the hair from her face. With great consideration, he lowered the crown onto her head, pressing it first against her lovely clear forehead and then pushing down at the back. It was just the right size, the barbs pricking her skin but not digging too deep. There was more laughter as they pulled her to her feet. Already blood was bubbling where the spikes dug in.

They made her clamber onto the desk, two soldiers standing on it to haul her up. She moaned as her buttocks were pushed by soldiers below. A picana, unconnected to a generator, was thrust into her right hand. "Hold it up," Diaz said, "like a torch." She looked at him with infinite sadness then raised her right arm. They gave her a clipboard, making her hold it in her left hand. "Read!" he commanded. It was as though she couldn't quite understand the instruction. She just stood, blood running over her forehead, right arm lifted.

"Read!" he shouted.

She looked baffled for a moment and then saw what was on the clipboard. The corners of her mouth bent down and she began to cry. A soldier with a small cattle-prod pressed it to her calf. She shrieked and would have fallen but for the two soldiers who stood alongside her. "Read it!"

The two soldiers hopped down as she began. "The history…" she said haltingly, "of man's…"

"Louder!" There were hoots and jeers. "…inhumanity to man… is long…. and grim, but what is happening…"

Blood ran down her face. She tried to blink it away but it stung her eyes. It dripped onto the flag. She kept reading. Her legs felt weak. Her right arm ached. What else did they have lined up for her?

"Prisoners are beaten as a matter of course, with flat leather paddles, canes and cruel bullwhips." They enjoyed that, her tormentors. "They are stripped and humiliated." Cheers. "Torture is commonplace." A roar. "I have spoken to a dozen victims, men and women." Wolf-whistles. "Who describe being ducked in icy water..." Laughter. "Being hung by their wrists for hours…" Cheers. "And, worst of all, being strapped naked to a bench while an electric prod is applied to their genitals." She broke down in tears at that. It wasn't the worst of all. Worst of all was them holding a heated iron in your rectum, was thrashing you when you were already half-dead, was continuing the ice baths and the electric shocks day after day. Worst of all was being raped by your enemy. Worst of all was being stripped and flogged and paraded like a toy. Worst of all was reading your own fine words while dressed up as the Statue of Liberty.

Another shock. She felt she would collapse at any moment. Her buttocks burned with a worse pain even than the first electricity, even than the skewer in her ass. And it was all made worse, so much worse, by the way they had defiled everything she held dear: the flag, her journalism, the notion of liberty itself. "Who knows what drives these men?" she went on. "What is it that enables them to place aside usual modes of behavior and commit these despicable acts?" She looked down on a sea of laughing faces. "What justification exists in their minds for their crimes? All that is sure is that they have become barely human." They hooted in mockery.

Hands clawed at her. They pulled her down from the desk, tore the flag from her so she was naked but for her crown. The cattle-prod was jabbed into her ribs. She felt the familiar internal burn, the tightness of her muscles, the inability to breathe. Her eyes closed. What was next? A mass rape? They held her arms and legs, but her buttocks and lower back were on the ground. She opened her eyes. Grinning, jeering faces everywhere. Some spat.

She saw Diaz, smiling. A soldier approached. He held in his hands four round tubs. What was it? It looked like… it was… supermarket pate. What were they going to do…? And then she understood. She felt sick. "No!" she shouted. "Please!"

"Barely human," Diaz said, smirking.

Another guard stepped over her, clamping his knees to her waist. The first soldier removed the lid from the first tub, the peeled back the silver foil. He dipped his hand into the pate. She could smell the slightly foetid meat and felt waves of nausea rush over her. He rubbed it over her genitals, smearing it on her perineum, pushing it deep inside her.

Diaz grinned, cock hard. This was magnificent. She was sobbing and screaming, blood running down her face, all dignity gone. The soldier backed away, having clearly relished his task. Diaz saw the grey sludge liberally applied over her pudenda, matting the thin strip of hair, packed deep inside her. Then they brought in the dog.

It was a huge German Shepherd, eyes a little rheumy, drool already hanging from its large mouth. He saw the long white incisors and for a moment was concerned that this might be a step too far, but then he saw her fear and shame and knew they were right.

The dog looked a little confused, panting, glancing about, clearly disconcerted by the number of people, but the noise of laughter. A soldier led him forward on a lead and suddenly he caught the scent of the pate. His ears stiffened slightly and he advanced, seeing the screaming girl but not really understanding, the advanced, nose twitching until he located the source of the smell between her legs. "Nooooo!" she screamed. ‘Please, no!" The dog glanced about and then, realizing nobody was going to stop him, pushed his nose into her crotch. She kicked, trying to free herself, but the soldiers held her tight. The dog reached out its tongue and licked. She squirmed in humiliation.

Juliette felt the tongue touch her, felt its rough dampness, felt the panting breath of the dog. She could see their laughing faces, hear their taunts as the dog licked her. They were filming her on their phones. Her buttocks were still agony, every movement sending spasms of pain through her but she would have taken another 250 lashes in that moment if they'd taken the dog away. This was the most degrading thing that had ever happened to her, far worse than everything she'd been through. The dog pushed deeper, probing inside her. She wanted to be sick. She twisted but they held her firm and her gyrations only increased the pain in her ass. She felt the teeth on her skin, but she would rather have been bitten that this, as the dog sought every last fragment of pate. The tongue was rough, reaching deep inside her, scraping over the abrasions form the wire-wool which still hadn't entirely healed. Finally, it was over and the dog backed off. And then they approached with more tubs of pate.

Diaz would never forget the look on her face: the horror, the shame. She still wore the crown, her buttocks were still raw and she writhed in indignity, trying to free her arms and legs, sobbing as the soldier packed her cunt with more pate, smearing it over her, reaching round even to her bloodied backside. He would still fuck her later, but he would make a point of doing it doggy style.

He'd never seen anybody so humiliated. She wasn't just embarrassed, it was as though her world had collapsed. She was naked, surrounded by laughing, jeering faces, convulsing with sobs as the dog lapped at her. He wondered if she derived any pleasure from that, if there was a chance her shame could be increased by her body responding but as she dry-heaved in self-disgust he knew there wasn't. It clearly hurt, as well, as the tongue reawakened the agonies in her raw buttocks. Finally the dog raised his head, drool dripping from its muzzle, tail wagging, although even in its delight it seemed to know that there was something wring, as though it wondered if it might perhaps be about to be told off. The dog's day, though, was about to get even better.

Juliette was in a daze of shame. What could they do worse than this? She curled on her side, cheek pressed against her upper arm to keep the barbs form pressing into her scalp. She was sobbing uncontrollably, the sense of violation far worse than mere rape had been. She felt hands on her pulling her up. She saw boots and uniformed legs, then grinning faces. The crown was yanked off, causing more blood to drop down her face. She felt a great heaviness inside, a crushing sense of humiliation.

They pushed her to her knees. Her buttocks raged in pain. "The dog's shown you a good time," a voice said. "It's only fair you pay him back." There was laughter. She didn't understand. They shoved her onto all fours. She heard their jeers, but in her numbness she still didn't grasp what was happening. She saw Diaz's smirking face. A stun gun was brandished in front of her. They were threatening her, she knew, put she didn't grasp what they wanted. They dragged her forwards and she saw the dog, tongue hanging out, tail wagging.

"Give him a blow job!"

Nausea exploded in her gut. Surely not. They couldn't make her do that. Not even them. This couldn't be real. But it was. The stun gun was pressed against her neck. She hesitated. Suck a dog's cock or take electric shocks. But she knew it wasn't a choice. Resist and they would just hurt her more and still make her do it.

She crawled forwards, feeling the roughness of the concrete on her knees, feeling the pain in her ass, feeling their eyes all over her. She knew she was blushing. After all she'd been through, she was still embarrassed. She saw mobile phones and knew they were filming her. She felt the heat of the dog's breath, and shuffled round. She heard their jokes as she worked out the logistics, then slid underneath. Guards held the dog still. She looked at its ugly pink penis. She swallowed. How could she do this? She tried to compose herself.

"Kiss his balls!" The stun-gun jabbed at her ribs.

She stretched up and kissed the tight little scrotum. The dog gave a strange whimper. He was baffled. She had to be careful, she knew. She kissed the scrotum again and then, giving in, ran her tongue up the short stubby cock. The taste was the foulest thing she'd ever known. How could she do this? How? Blood ran down her forehead. Her stomach revolted, but fear kept her going. She could sense the dog's unease. "Go on, whore! Show him a good time!"

She took the cock between her lips. The dog barked in what she thought was alarm and she stroked his flank, trying to calm him. She worked her tongue around the rubbery shaft, heart pounding as she fell into a deeper sense of shame than she'd known possible. She heard their laughter and their jeers, but all she could see was the sparse fur of the dog's underbelly. It didn't take much. The cock stiffened. The dog, after another whine, gave in to instinct and humped vigorously. All she had to do was keep her lips still. Within a few seconds, she felt a hot spurt. She forced herself to swallow. She knew that's what they'd demand. Then revulsion overcame her and she fell away, retching, sobbing, sprawled on the concrete, surrounded by their leers and jokes.

*

Diaz made himself ready. After they'd made her blow the dog, they'd taken her and hosed her down, made her wash her mouth out, then dressed her again as the Statue of Liberty. He could see something had died in her. Her movements were sluggish, as though weighed down by humiliation. Numbly she'd read more of her journalism as they laughed and called her dogfucker. And now he was going to have her again.

She was brought in, head bowed, encircled by the crown. They pushed her down onto the mattress and bound her in position although there was no resistant about her anymore. He'd provided a pillow this time so the barbs didn't dig too deep into her scalp. The men left and he was alone with her. He approached and pulled back the flag to reveal again her nakedness. He stood over her, determined to remember this moment, her beautiful long body stretched on the red and white material, from the front still all but perfect, her dark hair pressed down by the barbed wire, blood drying on her forehead, her eyes red with crying. He knelt over her and stroked her soft cheek. "Who won, Juliette?" he asked. "Who won?"

She just looked at him, her deep brown eyes radiating an unimaginable sadness. Her chains were loose. He reached round her waist and turned her over, pulling her to her knees. She didn't resist. Her back was still gorgeous, firm and smooth and ready to be savaged by the whips, but her buttocks had been ruined. They were swollen and bruised, cut by open wounds. He ran his hands over them, feeling the corrugated surface, aware of the pain he was causing her. He unbuckled his belt and slid down his trousers and knelt behind her. "Doggy-style," he said with a laugh. "Just as you like it."

*

Garcia walked into the room. This was supposed to be their triumph but he was deeply ambivalent about it. He'd had Hartmann cleaned up – he didn't want Diaz's mess on his cock – but he was still struck by how broken she looked, exhausted, defeated, lying on a Stars and Stripes, barbed wire wrapped around her head. But she was still beautiful, her breasts still magnificent, her skin still firm and healthy. Diaz had had her for an hour, then he had her, then she was to be given to four groups of three men, each of which would have her for half an hour. After that, she was to sleep to try to get her ready for her flogging and execution. 60 lashes was a joke: she'd be half dead by then anyway.

He squatted down beside her, ran his fingers along her jaw. Slowly she turned her eyes to look at him. What a beauty she was. He let his thumb play over her lips. "I'm sorry," he said. "You didn't deserve this." She said nothing.

"I tortured you because it was necessary," he said. "And I'll fuck you because I want to. But the extras were uncalled for." She looked away.

"I'll be more gentle than the others," he said, and began to explore her breasts.

*

When Juliette woke there was a moment when she didn't know where she was. All she was aware of was pain: in her ass, most agonizingly, in her vagina, in her head. She was stiff and sore. They'd raped her again, she thought wearily – ­ and then she remembered. She began to retch as she thought of what they'd made her do with the dog, and pushed herself up from the bed. She'd been lying on her side, of course – her ass was too sore for anything else – but the fact she was in a bed intrigued her. The last she remembered she'd been chained down on a mattress covered in the Stars and Stripes. The crown had been removed and she could feel dried blood on her forehead and scalp. An ankle was cuffed to the bed, but other than that she was loose, although there was a drip feeding into her arm. And then a second thought struck her: this was the day she died.

She wondered what time it would be. They had to whip her first. Would they do both together? Death she was reconciled to. She'd lived a good life, a worthy life, and if it had been short at least they would say of her that she'd done her part. And for the past two, three months, whatever, it hadn't been worth living. The pain and shame had worn her down. She couldn't live as an object to be raped and tortured. She couldn't live as a dogfucker. They would put the noose around her neck, she would fall through the trapdoor and her neck would break and in a few second sit would be over.

What came next? She had little faith in an afterlife, but if there was one she confident she would be judged kindly. She had sacrificed herself for the greater good, had suffered for the rights of others. She'd already experienced hell. No, death didn't scare her.

But the whipping. She feared that. She had hours to live and she intended to pass them with whatever dignity she could still muster whatever dignity a woman who had engaged in oral sex with a dog, who had been paraded naked in the garb of the Statue of Liberty, still could. But she knew they would strip her to be flogged and that she suffer dreadfully, that at least once before she died she would be naked and begging for mercy as they inflicted hideous pain upon her.

*

Diaz had put on his best suit. This was his day, the day of his triumph. It was damp and drizzling, but it didn't matter: this was a day to be spent indoors. His wife, of course, knew what he'd been up to that week. She was used to him taking mistresses, but here she seemed not even to mind. She hadn't ask directly but she had referred obliquely to "making sure that whore gets what she deserves".

There were a perhaps 30 or 40 politicians in the room, with around the same number of senior military officers, sat on chairs arranged in rows. A row of soldiers lined each wall, all armed, all wearing helmets. It seemed a little ridiculous for the flogging of a woman who had already been tortured into submission. There was a low stage at the front, raised to the right hand side where the gallows stood, a noose hanging from the cross-beam. A post, perhaps 18 inches in diameter in diameter stood slightly to the left of center. It was on that that she would be whipped.

They'd let her have a hot shower that morning. "It's your last ever shower," one guard had said. "It may as well be nice." Her hair had been pulled back into a pony-tail and she'd been given that shirt to wear again. They'd shackled her wrists behind her and taken her into a small room with a bench along one wall. They'd told her to sit, but she couldn't, instead leaning against the wall, waiting and waiting to be taken out for punishment.

It was six soldiers who came for her eventually. Two in front, two behind and one on each arm. They took her a short distance along a corridor where they were followed by two other soldiers, each clutching a hideous, long bullwhip. Juliette felt a qualm of terror. Those whips were huge, black coils with thick stocks perhaps an inch and a half thick. She gagged in fear, but the guards kept her walking. They opened a door and she was led through. She didn't resist, didn't think of resisting. She walked through, and found herself on a raised platform. First she was aware of the audience to her right, but then she saw the gallows, the coarse rope noose hanging beneath a hurdle. Was this it, then? Was she to be hanged straight after the flogging? She might be less than an hour from death. None of it seemed quite real.

Garcia sat awkwardly at the end of a row. The atmosphere made him uncomfortable: the chattering and the gossip, the talk of her torture, the anticipation of her being stripped and lashed. None of them had a clue what she'd been through. None of them knew how brave she was. None of them had any idea what she was about to suffer. She had to die, he understood that. Perhaps she even deserved to die. But whipping her was a grotesque addition. Especially 60 lashes.

A lieutenant and a doctor walked up onto the stage. Hartmann was pushed to her knees. The scars on her forehead were clear, but she still looked good. Garcia thought of her last night, humiliated beyond belief, as he'd enjoyed her extraordinary body. Her face now was a blank, as though she'd lost the capacity to feel.

"Juliette Hartmann," the lieutenant said, "you have been sentenced to 60 lashes of the bullwhip." He nodded at two of the guards. "Prepare the prisoner," he said. 60 lashes, Garcia thought. Who decided these things? Who decided this was 100 with the palmatoria or 20 with the cane or 60 with a bullwhip? How could you measure out pain like that?

They pulled her to her feet. One soldier unbuttoned the shirt and another uncuffed her wrists. Quickly, without ceremony, they stripped her. A murmur passed through the audience as her nakedness was revealed, the long golden form, the fine high breasts, the narrow waist. She bit her lip and looked down. She was surprised at how embarrassed she felt, that she still had shame left to feel after everything they'd done to her, but she could feel this crowd sizing her up, feel their relish. They turned her round and led her to the post. There was a gasp as her ravaged buttocks were revealed, but there was no roughness in the soldiers. This was calm efficiency. She hobbled across the stage and reached around the post as she got there. There was no point resisting. They fastened her wrists at a little above waist height so she hugged the post, the polished wood pressing against her breasts. She knew this was going to be horrendous. She pushed her forehead against the wood and tried to calm her tremulous breathing.

The lieutenant pushed her ponytail over her left shoulder, letting his hand linger momentarily on her back, as though regretting the smooth beauty that would soon be destroyed. She was shaking, her fear obvious. Diaz felt a warm satisfaction. He had won. The two floggers took their positions behind her, each in short-sleeved military uniform, each holding the heavy bullwhips, eight feet of dark, oiled leather. Whipping was still only a semi-official punishment, one open to tribunals but not the public courts under the emergency legislation that permitted "extreme measures to quell indiscipline". This part of her execution would not be reported, and could be denied if need be, but it would be known. The lieutenant gave the order to begin. Her whimper was audible.

She waited. How bad was this going to be? Her life has been pain for longer than she cared to think. Her buttocks were solid agony. After everything they'd done to her, after the dog, what had she left to feel suffering? She heard the whoosh of the whip, and then it hit. Harder than she'd imagined. Pain, immediately. She yelped. She gritted her teeth, eyes wide, and the pain grew and grew, a line of agony across the center of her back. "One," came a leisurely call. And she waited, a horrendous understanding dawning that this was going to be slow and going to be terrible.

She shuffled her feet. The time to think was terrible. The whip exploded on her back again. Her left leg flicked up involuntarily. For a moment she couldn't breathe and just gawped open-mouthed at the post. The pain was terrible. As her body slowly began to relax, she thought, ridiculously, of the West Wing. She held the post tighter. It was a scene from a film President Bartlet loved. Two sons of an English king in a dungeon. One had given up and the other was encouraging him, telling him that if falling was all you had, then it was important you fell well. Was that it? Something like that. She set herself. She would fall well.

But each lash took her breath away. Each lash was an unbelievable horror. Each lash exploded in fire on her back, knocked the breath from her body and took her to the limits. The pain was terrible, the sense of her body being mutilated was terrible, the knowledge of what was to come was awful. "Eight!" came the call. Eight!? How could she take more? How? Her arms trembled, her legs threatened to give way. How could you fall well when it hurt this badly? Her head dropped back and she screamed.

Diaz was enjoying this immensely. He had been worried when the first lash had landed that it hadn't been enough. Her back was magnificent, smooth lightly muscled. He'd enjoyed running his hands over it. Even when she'd opposed him, he'd loved to look at it if her dress left some of it bare. Destroying that purity was part of his victory. First the ass, then the back. But the first blow, although fearsomely hard, had left just a pink line. Or at least, he'd thought it had. But even as she was thrown into a classic pose of agony, that line began to darken, and there was a little blood where the tip had bitten. By the time the second lash was delivered the first had turned a livid red-brown.

Her suffering was obvious now, the back criss-crossed with welts, blood dribbling freely. As every lash she would freeze for a fraction of a second as though her body shut down briefly as it processed the new assault. There was a whoosh, a slap, a gasp, and then a scream. She'd begun trying to hold out, but the situation had soon become hopeless. She was howling and bawling, shaking and sobbing. "Eighteen," came the call. Her back was criss-crossed with red, blood dribbling from a series of deep welts. Each blow provoked greater writhing, the trauma so great she was shaking as though bitterly cold. This was the destruction of what little spirit she'd had left.

Garcia felt slightly sick. He had no qualms torturing prisoners. He'd become used to seeing suffering. He inflicted pain when it was needed and he wasn't naïve enough not to recognize that the job was a little more pleasurable when the prisoner was a beautiful woman. But this was horrendous. The lashes were brutal, as hard as any held ever seen. The nineteenth flashed into her shoulder, sending up a slight spray of blood. "Grrreaaaaaahhhhh, greaaaaaah!" she shouted and he saw the wound begin to develop on the golden skin, pink becoming a deeper and deeper red as she shuddered, blood oozing where the tip had bitten. There was nothing he could do to help. He just hoped they wouldn't do too much more to her before hanging her.

He looked round the hall. What did these people think? He saw the politicians and officers, selected specially, presumably, so they would relish this, so they wouldn't later complain. These were people who actively wanted to see a woman savagely beaten. True, it was a woman who had provoked and aggravated the regime, who had worked for the wrong side, an enemy, but he doubted they'd have been keen to see a male journalist whipped, or even an old woman. He heard the twentieth land, heard the smack of leather on skin, her gasp and shout, the cold announcement of the number. He saw a plump politician look mildly horrified by what he had seen, sucking in through his teeth as though disgusted or shocked, but then his face relaxed and he turned to the besuited man to his left with a laugh. This was like a film to them, enjoying the horror of the spectacle, while on the stage a beautiful and brave woman suffered horribly. What did they know of pain? What did they know of her courage?

His eye fell on a young colonel, eyes wide. The whoosh, the crack, the shout, the sobs. The colonel's tongue flicked out and licked his upper lip. His mouth hung open with undisguised lust. Garcia turned back to the stage. She was visibly cringing now, shaking, sobbing, her back red and streaked with darker lines. He could see the edge of her right breast against the post. The flogger crossed his vision, the whip whistled through the air and exploded on her back. Her head few back, her knees twitched and her saw her arms momentarily take the strain. "Twenty-two." She bowed her head, pushed her forehead against the post, pony-tail swinging. He thought of her on the bench, of pressing the picana to her breasts. He sat back. He may as well enjoy the show. She was fucked and there was nothing he could do. What skin she had, so warm, so smooth. Her buttocks were ruined now, but her remember what they had been like, and her thighs were still lovely, long and slender, the calves firm and shapely despite everything. As the next lash landed and her mouth opened in another scream her saw a flash of her white teeth. She had had everything. Looks, body, intelligence and she had wasted it on her silly campaigns to die here. His eyes flicked up to the gallows where she would die later that afternoon.

Juliette hugged the post. The pain was awful. Her whole torso felt like it was on fire. Another lash landed. She tensed. More agony seared through her. She felt sick. Her vision clouded. She was sweating, trembling. She was aware of the polished wood against her breasts. She began to relax. She pushed her head into the post. Her eyes were closed. She heard the call. "Twenty-eight." She wasn't even half way. This was impossible. After everything she'd been through, they'd still found a new way to hurt her. She'd be dead that afternoon. But that seemed a terribly long way off. She heard the terrible noise, the shuffle of feet, the whistle of the lash and new pain, terrible pain. She found herself shouting, looking up at the grubby ceiling, muscles tight. Stars danced before her eyes. She heaved, sliding her cheek to the left of the post, great spasms passed through her. The 30th reached across her, biting into her ribs, splitting the skin where it was stretched because of her slumped position. She roared with pain, leg flicking up, head rolling back. This was awful. This was the worst yet. She was aware of her crotch pushing against the post, her weight falling back. She felt faint. When she opened her eyes she couldn't focus. She retched again.

Slowly she realized that she was still waiting. The next lash hadn't arrived. She felt cold, intensely cold from the inside. A hand had her hair. What was happening? A man in a white coat was speaking to her. A small bottle was held under her nose. She coughed. Smelling salts. Did they still use them? She felt more alert. Half-way, she realized. This was a check at halfway. Another doctor took her pulse while the first one prepared a syringe. It was plunged into her thigh. "Keep you awake," he said with a smile, slipping the bruised buttock. She shouted in pain. A water-bottle was held to her mouth. She drank, water dribbling down her chin, mingling with the drool. A hand reached between her legs and lifted her. Disgust, belatedly, assailed her and she squirmed. "Stand up straight," said a voice. She had little option. Her bonds were tight, her arms pulled out in front of her. Through the daze of pain, she felt an ache in her shoulders from the strain. Thirty more. Thirty. It was hideous.

They stepped back. It was beginning again. She pressed her forehead into the wood. Fall well. Don't beg. Keep it together. The whistle, the strike, the pain. Her body tensing, leg kicking up, shudders rolling through her. Nausea. She hugged the post tighter. The pain, the pain. And more to come. Her body was slick with sweat, sliding on the post. Another lash. White lights spun before her eyes. Her breath was knocked from her. She retched and gasped for air. Her world was swimming. An ocean of agony. The stage felt unsteady beneath her feet.

Diaz folded his arms. What a triumph this was. Her screams rang through the hall. The screams that marked his victory. He had done this. He had taken this enemy and broken her. There was a lot of blood now but the floggers were relentless, the whips snaking out and tearing at her skin. The leather was stained now, blood spraying from the whips as they flashed through the air. The wet thud, the howl, the sobbing. Finally, her legs gave way and she slid down the post to hang by her wrists. Her screams, though, showed she was still conscious, still feeling it all. There was no let up. Forty-six, forty-seven. Others in the room perhaps felt he was going too far. Garcia, certainly, thought so, but he hadn't been embarrassed on television by this woman. People would know now you didn't mess with him. Word would leak out. His enemies would know they risked not just the noose but whipping, torture and humiliation. She had gone now. She was a carcass, hanging, trembling, screaming, too weak to stand but strong enough still to suffer.

Garcia thought of the stately, elegant woman she'd been when they'd arrested her, of how beautiful she'd been as he'd forced her to strip off the ball gown, and he looked at her now. He remembered the thrill of seeing her naked before him, than long, lean body with the full breasts and rounded cheeks. Now she was battered and bleeding, the smooth skin of her back ripped, her buttocks swollen and bruised, her face haggard with pain. Her legs were still impossibly long, wrapped awkwardly under her as they were, those powerful shoulders now taking all her weight.

Her cries were growing weaker, agonized sighs rather than screams. Each lash struck and her body jerked at the force but she was no longer flinching. The life was being drive out of her. Her head lolled back so they had to stop to move her pony-tail out of the way. The doctor approached and waved the bottle of smelling salts under her nose again. It was ridiculous. Why insist she feel this suffering? She would be dead in a few hours anyway. She retched noisily.

Waves of pain swept over her. Retching sent spasms of agony through her back. There were hands on her, lifting her up. She could feel them sliding on her wet body. They forced her to stand again, but her legs felt numb. Her forehead pushed against the wood. She looked down and saw her damp breasts flattened on the post, saw streaks of sweat, saw the lines of blood running down her legs, the floor at her feet stained red, smeared by her shuffling feet. She understood somehow that they hadn't finished, that there were more lashes to come, more pain. She heard the whip. It hit her under her right shoulder blade. Her head flicked up and more agony was added. She felt her legs tremble. And there was more to come. More to come. She felt cold. She wept. Death could not come soon enough.

Still three more. Diaz folded his arms. He would enjoy these. There was blood, a lot of blood. From the left, shwack, into her left shoulder. A dull twitch as spray shot up, a moan, another flicker of her legs. The wait, the delay, letting her anticipate. Another blow, savagely hard, cutting across the center of her back. Thicker blood. Blood running down her body, dripping from her. One to come. She was shaking, weeping, all control gone. The left hander, with noticeable effort, the tip of the whip tearing at her ribs. A half turn of the body, a gurgled scream. "Sixty." Her body sliding down the post, hanging by her arms, whipped to within an inch of death. The flogging over. His victory almost complete.

*

She was only semi-conscious as they picked her up and carried her out of the hall. She heard somebody say she would be back to be hanged that afternoon. She knew she should be terrified, but she was so weak, in such pain, she just wanted it to be over. She was taken into a cell and laid down on a bench. She flopped, arms and legs hanging loose as she felt the atrocious pain in her back and buttocks. She felt herself beginning to drift, but then the guards were on her again, fastening her wrists and ankles to the legs of the bench. This wasn't just to secure her, she knew. There was no more need for that. No. This was for more torture. She sobbed again.

She heard guards barking like dogs. She heard them watching videos on their phones, videos of her, squirming as a dog licked her, of her shamed into sucking its penis. She heard their laughter. Mostly she felt pain. Ever slight movement, every whisper of air over her back burned like liquid fire. One held his phone before her eyes and she saw herself, legs pulled part, barbed wire wrapped around her head as the dog lapped away.

Then silence. He was there again. Diaz. He pulled her hair so she was forced to look at him. He grinned at her. "Nearly done," he said. "Maybe a speech? Some fine last words?"

She looked away. He wretched her head up and she saw in his hand he held a bottle of chili oil. Fall well, she told herself, but how could she? She lay her head down on the bench and waited for the agony. It came soon enough, with laughter and more mockery as he poured the oil over her ravaged back. It burned with a terrifying depth, agony reaching deep inside her. He splashed it up and down and left and right and she screamed and screamed and screamed, her heart thumping, sweat beading again on her bloodied brow. Her throat was sore with screaming, her eyes sore with crying, her soul sore with everything.

The wounds were horrible. Thick and bloody, inflamed so he didn't want to touch them. But she deserved it. When the oil had run out Diaz ordered her flipped over. He hadn't intended to fuck her again but he couldn't resist. He made sure she was strapped down tightly. Arms, legs, waist. Then he sent them all from the room.

He smoothed her hair back from her head, feeling the scars where the barbed wire had bitten. He ran his fingers over her lovely soft cheek. He kissed her. She didn't resist, didn't react. She just moaned in pain. He took off his jacket. "Your final fuck," he said, running his thumb over her lips. He straddled her and sat down on her belly, enjoying the spasm of pain as she took his weight. He played with her breasts, so soft, so lovely. He stood again and took off his trousers. He had to be careful. He didn't want to get blood on them. He removed his tie and his shirt. He slapped her, hard. She gave a slight grunt. He ran his hand over her smooth belly. "So lovely," he said. "For a dog-fucking traitor."

He kissed her again, enjoying her soft lips. He teased her breasts, finger circling the nipples. He slapped them, punched her, pounded his fists into her breasts. And then he could wait no longer. He pulled down his boxers and entered her. She spasmed in pain, seemingly to clutch at him. Every thrust he made increased her distress and thus his pleasure. He came quickly, but lay on her for a minute or two, hands caressing her breasts. He rolled off her and dressed. He took a cigar from his pocket and lit it up. He leaned over her, blowing smoke into her face.

"Where do you think I might put this out?" he asked.

He blew on the lit end so it glowed. He held it by her face. In her eyes he saw some recognition, less panic than resignation. He teased her, holding the cigar near her nose, then her chin, then her breasts, but there was only one place it was going. He returned the cigar to her his mouth and stoked the inside of her long thighs. Then with his left hand he held her thighs and, as she whimpered in fear, he took the cigar from his mouth with his right and touched it to her clitoris. Her body tensed, bucking in pain and she gave a silent hiss. As he ground the cigar, finally, unconsciousness overcame her.

*

Juliette was dazed. Nothing fully made sense any more. Doctors. She was vaguely aware, were attending her but her brain couldn't process everything. She kept seeing Diaz's leering face as he raped her one final time, kept hearing the barking of dogs. There was pain everywhere. Had they sedated her? She didn't know. She just knew she was going to die and that she would welcome it.

At some point they had dressed her, in a loose black prison dress. The blood, she realized, wouldn't show. Her hair had been retied in a pony-tail. She was helped to her feet by soldiers, not gently, but not with the mocking roughness she had come to expect. Her wrists were shackled behind her, an absurd precaution when they had to hold her upright, almost carried her to the hall where she was to be executed. There was an emptiness within her. When the fall is all that remains, fall well.

Garcia watched grimly as Hartmann was shoved to her knees. It was much fuller than it had been for the flogging. A couple of hundred pairs of eyes stared at her. What did the politicians think of the scars on her forehead? Did they realize what had been done to her? An official read out the sentence. "Juliette Hartmann," he said, "You were convicted four counts of treason, eight of conspiracy, thirteen of sedition, sixteen of failing to report anti-government activity, thirty of collusion with banned groups, eighty-two of libel and 114 of propagating misleading information, with being accessory to 382 murders and with sexual deviancy. You were sentenced to death."

A priest approached and performed the last rites as she looked at him with exhaustion, the guards marched her up the steps to the gallows. She could barely move, had to be lifted. They held her as the noose was draped over her head, not in case she tried to escape, but because she was too weak to stand. They tightened it and her head jerked slightly. There was a blank look of terror on her face. She deserved to die. He accepted that. He approved of it. But what she'd gone through…

They stepped back and her legs looked as though they might give way. She swayed but the rope held her up. There was something wrong. For a moment Garcia couldn't work out what it was. But as the order to release the trapdoor was given, he realized. The rope was taut. He shook his head at the cruelty. She kicked, desperately, the noose tightening around her neck. They lowered her slowly to the level she was supposed to be, hanging beneath the stage, but her neck wasn't broken. She thrashed, eyes bulging. It would, he knew, take her several minutes to die.

Diaz had denied her dignity even in that.




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