8. The water cure|
A sergeant and a corporal dragged the blind man's body into the cave. Captain Baston turned to the two remaining prisoners and shouted, "I know Aguinaldo was here! When he learned of our approach, he fled into the jungle like the yellow dog
coward he is and left you poor wretches to fend for yourselves. He has
betrayed you and all the Filipino people. Tell me now where he has gone. Tell
me the location of his jungle lair and no harm will come to you."
In shock and speechless, the boy's eyes locked on the black pool of blood
and brains where the blind man had fallen, but the amputee surprised everyone. When
the captain stepped in front of him, he spat on the officer's boots and cursed
him in his native dialect. Captain Baston blinked, shook his head twice,
and then grabbed a rifle from a nearby corporal and swung it hard against the
butt-end of the amputee's stump. The man screamed in agony and passed
"Prepare the water cure!" he shouted, and a sergeant began dragging the amputee
toward the mouth of the cave. "Not him, you fool. The boy."
The men of H Company didn't know the water cure, but Captain Baston's Kansas
volunteers did. In no time the camp came alive with activity. Three
men carrying ropes scurried up the rock ledge to the edge of the outcropping
high over the mouth of the cave. Reaching the top, they dropped the
lines down to men waiting below. The soldiers built a sling, placed
an empty sixty-gallon barrel in it, and then hoisted the barrel up and positioned
it on the highest spot they could find.
The sergeant and two others stripped the boy and staked him out on his back,
the barrel twenty feet over his head. The rest of the men formed a chain
and passed buckets of water from the nearby stream up the line and fed the
barrel until full. This done, a soldier attached a long hose to the
spigot at the bottom of the barrel and tossed the other end to the sergeant
Captain Baston shook the amputee awake, and then dragged him to the mouth
of the cave near where the boy was pegged down. He'd lost a lot of blood
from his stump, his face pale and drawn tight with pain. The captain
knelt down in front of him while a soldier fisted a handful of hair and raised
his head. "I would like to know your name," the captain said.
The man croaked, "Antonio Salud."
"Tell me where Aguinaldo is Mr. Salud, and you will save this boy's life."
The man looked down at the boy on the ground next to him. "He is my
nephew, Captain. I beg you to let him live."
Baston shrugged. "His life is not in my hands, it's in yours. I want
Aguinaldo, not you or this boy."
Antonio Salud pleaded through his tears, "I cannot tell you what I do not
Captain Baston stood and turned to the sergeant. "Proceed."
The sergeant placed one of his big hands under the boy's neck and lifted his
head. Another soldier pried his jaws open, while a third jammed the
rubber hose deep into his throat. The young Filipino screamed in horror
and struggled desperately against the ropes that held his arms and legs.
"Lay still you slope-headed gook bastard," the soldier cursed and shoved the
hose deeper. The boy wretched and coughed blood, tried to turn away
from his tormentors. When the hose would go no farther, the soldier
looked up at the captain. "Ready, sir."
Baston gave a signal to the men on the rock outcropping over the cave, and
one reached down and opened the spigot.
In the moments that followed a strange silence settled over the camp. The
only sounds the popping and hissing of the fire, its flames lighting the faces
of Captain Baston and the men as all eyes followed the invisible flow of water
through the hose from the barrel high overhead down to the boy on the ground. For
a long moment nothing happened. Fagen wondered whether something had
gone wrong, maybe they'd made a mistake somewhere. Even
the boy had stopped struggling against the hose, although his eyes still darted
in panic from one soldier to the next.
Then it happened. The sergeant saw it first and smiled up at the captain. The
rush of flowing water suddenly reached the boy's stomach and forced his mid-section
to swell and grow, and then become so grotesquely extended it looked ready
to burst. The boy let out a wild, animal scream, his face turned blue,
and his eyes bulged as yellow water gushed from his nose. His stomach
grew to four times its normal size, and still the water continued to flow.
Fagen was sure the boy would drown in his own bile, but somehow he stayed
alive. Another minute passed. Fagen thought then the boy must
have been driven insane. He'd stopped struggling against the ropes,
but his eyes had rolled up in his head, and his body twitched and flopped like
a fish out of water.
Finally, the captain gave a signal, and the sergeant pulled the hose out of
the young rebel's throat. Baston squatted alongside the boy for a moment,
and then turned to the amputee and said, "Mr. Salud, are you willing
to let this boy die? By the looks of him, I'd guess you have another
ten seconds to decide, and I should warn you, if he dies, you're next."
The amputee looked up at the captain through tears of shock and pain. "Please,
no more. I beg you for mercy. I will tell you. Aguinaldo
has a jungle camp, like this one, three days northeast of San Isidro near the
big waterfalls. I think that is where he has gone."
"Well done, Mr. Salud," Captain Baston smiled, then with a little flourish
said, "now observe while I bestow the gift of life on this young man."
The captain rocked forward and pressed both knees deep into the boy's bloated
stomach. The youth's choked, agonized screams filled the night and echoed
through the jungle mountains as a torrent of water gushed from his nose and
mouth. The captain pressed harder, bloody vomit pooling around him. Then
he let up for a moment and looked around. As the boy choked and struggled
for air, the officer stood up and motioned to one of his men, "Finish
this," he said. "I've got what I wanted." Then he walked casually into
his tent and closed the flap.