27. Major Baston tastes his own medicine|
"Don't just stand there, man! Take these chains off so we can get out of here."
Baston lifted his legs, "The fetters! Remove them immediately! You
don't expect me to walk out of this god-forsaken jungle shackled like a circus
"I don't expect you to walk out at all."
"What are you saying, man? You bet I'm walking out, and you're going
with me - as my prisoner, of course."
"Your prisoner? You must be insane."
The major sat up, rested his broken arms on his knees, a fire glowed in his
eyes. Still an imposing man despite the weight he'd lost and his deplorable
condition. "Look here, Fagen, we've got no bad blood between us. Think
back. What'd I ever do to you? Nothing! Did you ever see me abuse
a colored man? No!
"I realize an enlisted soldier doesn't love an officer. Hell, that's
the army, but that only goes so far." Baston paused, thinking it over. "Truth
be known, it's probably not natural for a colored to love a white, and visa-versa. We
all stick with our own kind, that's natural too. It's not my fault there's
differences between us, it's the way God made us, but after everything's said
and done, aren't we Americans first?"
Fagen turned his back and faced the wall, too drained of feeling to respond. Baston
continued, seemingly drawing strength from Fagen's weakness, a vampire as well
as a demon of destruction. "Consider this. We go back together,
and I'll work to get the charges against you reduced. I'll tell them
you saved my life. We'll say you were a prisoner too, forced on pain
of death to serve the rebel cause. We were both captives, but together
we pooled our resources and managed to outwit the enemy. You'll be re-instated. I
can get you a promotion, maybe even a medal. Do you hear me, man? A
commendation! Picture yourself walking down Main Street in your home
town wearing a shiny medal."
There had been a time when Fagen feared Major Baston, paid attention to everything
he said, if for no other reason than to avoid crossing his path. Now
no longer the case, now the white man was shit-scared, dodging the inevitable,
prattling on about the glorious future he could engineer. Fagen wasn't
buying. He walked over and leaned in close. "Do you think that's
what I want, a copper disk on my chest? A trinket on a ribbon to show the world
I was a good little soldier-boy? If that's what you believe, then you're
even more ignorant and insensitive than I'd thought."
Baston realized he was on the wrong tack and looked away, his turn to face
the wall. Finally, he said, "I could order you to release me, Private. Technically,
you're still the property of the United States Army, and I outrank you by a
mile. To refuse is a hanging offense."
"Give all the orders you want, Major. You can only hang a man once,
and as I recall, you've already made those arrangements."
"God damn you and your impertinence! You villainous bastard! By
all that's sacred, I'll live to see you before a firing squad."
"You're going to have to try very hard just to live until sunrise. In
fact, the only reason you're still breathing now is because Colonel Torres
said you had information important to the revolution. Let's have it."
Baston reached out and pulled a corner of his blanket over his legs. He
needed to cover his shriveled manhood to regain his composure, if not his dignity. Importunity
and intimidation having failed, it was time for negotiation. "Supposing
I do have certain information," he tried to smile, but swollen lips and broken
teeth turned it into a hideous grimace, "what do I get in return?"
"Why should I give you anything?"
"Come on, Fagen. You know how the world works. Quid pro
quo. I scratch your back, you scratch mine."
"The question still applies. Why should I give you something in exchange
for information I can just take?"
"So that's how it is." Baston glared, unfazed by the threat. "I
assure you, you traitorous whoreson, if that murdering savage Torres couldn't
get me to talk, you won't either. Besides, you haven't got the stomach
for his method of interrogation."
Fagen walked to the front of the tent and opened the flap. Sargento Canizares and a platoon of riflemen snapped to attention. He looked
back at his prisoner and said, "I don't know Colonel Torres' methods of interrogation,
Major Baston, but I know yours. Sargento Canizares, prepare
the water cure!"
Canizares gave an order and the Filipino riflemen scattered. Gleeful
shouts of "Prepare the water cure!" and " Prepare el tormento de agua " echoed
throughout the camp.
Baston flushed, and then turned pale and his whole body trembled. Suddenly
unconcerned with his injuries, he let out a savage cry and lunged for the opening,
but the heavy leg chains pulled him violently to the ground.
"FAGEN, NO!" he screamed, his voice as barbed and serrated as a rusty bolo. "Please! I
beg you to have mercy!" Tears welled up, and then rolled out the corners
of his swollen eyes, little muddy pools formed on the dirt floor beneath his
cheeks. Wave after wave of convulsive sobs racked his entire body. His
bladder and bowels let go simultaneously, fouling the air in the tent. Weeping
turned to wailing when he heard the men outside repeat, " Prepare el tormento
de agua !" "Prepare the water cure!"
When he hit the floor, he'd shattered the splint on his left arm and the bone
had snapped again, this time puncturing the skin just below his left bicep,
but he didn't seem to notice. Fagen knelt over his prostrate body, gripped
a handful of hair and whispered in his ear. "I don't make deals with
men who try to murder me, Baston. If you've got something to say, you'd
better start talking fast."
"For God's sake, man, have mercy on me!"
Sargento Canizares entered with three men. "We're ready, Capitan ."
Canizares unlocked the leg irons, and the Filipino soldiers got the major
to his feet and dragged him outside.
"Fagen, make them stop!"
Fagen stood outside the tent and watched the Filipinos dance around the notorious
American, finding grisly joy in their opportunity for revenge... " Prepare
el tormento de agua !"
Just as they reached the dark jungle that bordered their camp Baston screamed. "It's
General Funston. He's gone after Aguinaldo."