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 out.

"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 below.

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 know, sir."

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.

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1. Fagen arrives in the Philippines

2. White soldiers bring their prejudice with them

3. Fagen hears another side of the story

4. Dinner with Colonel Funston

5. Fagen's first taste of combat

6. Fagen meets Clarita

7. More than fair?

8. The water cure

9. Fagen gets his fortune told

10. Imperialism exposed

11. Sergeant Rivers speaks his mind

12. Genocide

13. Fagen meets El Presidente

14. Bad news comes to Fagen

15. Fate takes over

16. San Lazaro leper hospital

17. An offer Fagen can't refuse

18. Funston makes a plan

19. "Capitan" Fagen

20. Funston assembles his team

21. Morality, ethics and war

22. Jungle encounter

23. Commencement

24. Benevolent assimilation

25. Colonel Bloody Shirt pays a call

26. Fagen declares war on God

27. Major Baston tastes his own medicine

28. Funston on the march

29. Fagen goes home