The Partner - Page 3

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ANOTHER SHOT to rouse him. Then a shot to desensitize the nerves.

The door opened loudly and the room was suddenly lit. It filled with the voices of many men, busy men, all with a purpose, all with heavy feet, it seemed. Guy gave orders, and someone growled in Portuguese.

Patrick opened and closed his eyes. Then he opened them for good, as the drugs found their mark. They hovered over him, busy hands everywhere. His underwear was cut off, without much finesse, and he lay bare and exposed. An electric razor began buzzing, hitting his skin sharply at points on the chest, groin, thighs, and calves. He bit his lip and grimaced, his heart hammered away, though the pain had yet to start.

Guy hovered above him, his hands still but his eyes watching everything.

Patrick made no effort to speak, but just to be safe, more hands appeared from above and slapped a thick strip of silver -duct tape over his mouth. Cold electrodes were stuck to the shaved points with alligator clips, and he heard a loud voice ask something about "current." Tape was then applied over the electrodes. He thought he counted eight sharp spots on his flesh. Maybe nine. His nerves were jumping. In his darkness, he could feel the hands moving above him. The tape stuck hard to skin.

Two or three men were busy in a corner, adjusting a device Patrick could not see. Wires were strung like Christmas lights across his body.

They were not going to kill him, he kept telling himself, though death might be welcome at some point in the next few hours. He had imagined this nightmare a thousand times in four years. He had prayed it would never happen, but he always knew it would. He always knew they were back there, somewhere in the shadows, tracking and bribing and looking under rocks.

Patrick always knew. Eva was too naive.

He closed his eyes, tried to breathe steadily and tried to control his thoughts as they scurried above him, preparing his body for whatever lay ahead. The drugs made his pulse race and his skin itch.

I don't know where the money is. I don't know where the money is. He almost chanted this aloud. Thank God for the tape across his mouth. I don't know where the money is.

He called Eva every day between 4 P.M. and 6 P.M. Every day. Seven days of the week. No exceptions unless one was planned. He knew in his pounding heart that she had moved the money by now, that it was safely hidden in two dozen places around the world. And he didn't know where it was.

But would they believe him?

The door opened again, and two or three figures left the room. The activity around his plywood cot was slowing. Then it was quiet. He opened his eyes and the IV drip bag was gone.

Guy was looking down at him. He gently took one corner of the silver duct tape and pulled it free so Patrick could talk, if he so chose.

"Thanks," Patrick said.

The Brazilian doctor appeared again from the left and stuck a needle in Patrick's arm. The syringe was long and filled with nothing but colored water, but how could Patrick know?

"Where is the money, Patrick?" Guy asked.

"I don't have any money," Patrick replied. His head ached from being pressed into the plywood. The tight plastic band across his forehead was hot. He hadn't moved in hours.

"You will tell me, Patrick. I promise you'll tell me. You can do it now, or you can do it ten hours from now when you're half-dead. Make it easy on yourself."

"I don't want to die, okay?" Patrick said, his eyes filled with fear. They will not kill me, he told himself.

Guy lifted a small, simple, nasty device from beside Patrick and displayed it close to his face. It was a chrome lever with a black rubber tip, mounted on a small square block with two wires running from it. "See this," Guy said, as if Patrick had a choice. "When the lever is up, the circuit is broken." Guy delicately gripped the rubber tip with his thumb and index finger, and slowly lowered it. "But when it moves down to this little contact point here, the circuit is closed and the current moves through the wires to the electrodes attached to your skin." He stopped the lever just centimeters from the contact point. Patrick held his breath. The room was still.

"Would you like to see what happens when the shock is delivered?" Guy asked.

"No."

"Then where's the money?"

"I don't know. I swear."

Twelve inches in front of Patrick's nose, Guy pushed the lever down to the contact point. The shock was instant and horrific-hot bolts of current ripped into his flesh. Patrick jerked and the nylon ropes stretched. He closed his eyes fiercely and clamped his teeth together in a determined effort not to scream, but gave up after a split second and let out a piercing shriek that was heard throughout the cabin.

Guy lifted the lever, waited a few seconds for Patrick to catch his breath and open his eyes, then said, "That's level one, the lowest current. I have five levels, and I'll use them all if necessary. Eight seconds of level five will kill you, and I'm perfectly willing to do that as a last resort. Are you listening, Patrick?"

His flesh still burned from his chest to his ankles. His heart pumped furiously and he exhaled quickly.

"Are you listening?" Guy repeated.

"Yes."

"Your situation is really quite simple. Tell me where the money is, and you leave this room alive. Eventually, we'll take you back to Ponta Pora, and you can carry on as you see fit. We have no interest in notifying the FBI." Guy paused for drama and toyed with the chrome lever. "If, however, you refuse to tell me where the money is, then you'll never leave this room alive. Do you understand, Patrick?"

"Yes."

"Good. Where's the money?"

"I swear I don't know. If I knew, I'd tell you."

Guy snapped the lever down without a word, and the currents hit like boiling acid. "I don't know!" Patrick screamed in anguish. "I swear I don't know."

Guy raised the lever, and waited a few seconds for Patrick to recover. Then, "Where's the money?" he asked calmly.

"I swear I don't know."

Another scream filled the cabin, and escaped through the open windows, into the crevice between the mountains where it echoed lightly before losing itself in the jungle.

THE APARTMENT in Curitiba was near the airport. Eva told the cabdriver to wait in the street. She left her overnight bag in the trunk, but carried her thick briefcase with her.

She took the elevator to the ninth floor where the hallway was dark and quiet. It was almost 11 P.M. She moved slowly, eyes looking in all directions. She unlocked the door to the apartment, then quickly disarmed the security system with another key.

Danilo was not in the apartment, and though this was not a surprise it was still a disappointment. No message on the phone recorder. No sign of him whatsoever. Her anxiety reached another level.

She could not stay long, because the men who had Danilo might be coming there. Though she knew exactly what to do, her movements were forced and slow. The apartment had only three rooms, and she searched them quickly.

The papers she wanted were in a locked file cabinet in the den. She opened the three heavy drawers and neatly placed the paperwork in a handsome leather suitcase he kept in a nearby closet. The bulk of the files contained financial records, though not much for such a large fortune. His paper trail was as narrow as possible. He came here once a month to hide records from his home, and at least once a month he shredded the old stuff.

And for the moment, Danilo couldn't know where his papers were.

She rearmed the security system and made a hasty exit. No one in the cramped building had noticed her. She found a room in a small hotel downtown, near the Museum of Contemporary Arts. The Asian banks were open, and it was almost four in Zurich. She unpacked a compact fax and rigged it to the phone jack in her room. The small bed was soon covered with sheets of instructions and wire authorizations.

She was tired, but sleep was out of the question. Danilo said they'd come looking for her. She could not go home. Her thoughts were not on money, but on him. Was he alive? If so, how much was he suffering? How much had he told them, and at what price?

She wiped her eyes and began to arrange the papers. There was no time for tears.

WITH TORTURE, the best results come after three days of episodic abuse. The more obstinate wills are slowly broken. The pain is dreamed of, and looms larger as the victim waits for the next session. Three days, and most people break and crumble into small pieces.

Guy didn't have three days. His prisoner was not one taken in war, but a U.S. citizen wanted by the FBI.

Around midnight, they left Patrick alone for a few minutes to suffer and think about the next round. His body was drenched with sweat; his skin red from the voltage and the heat. Blood trickled from under the tape on his chest where the electrodes had been stuck too tightly and were burning into his flesh. He gasped for breath and licked his dry shriveled lips. The nylon ropes on his wrists and ankles had rubbed the skin raw.

Guy returned alone, and sat on a stool next to the sheet of plywood. For a minute the room was quiet, the only sound was Patrick breathing and trying to control himself. He kept his eyes closed tightly.

"You're a very stubborn man," Guy said finally.

No response.

The first two hours had yielded nothing. Every question had been about the money. He didn't know where it was, he'd said a hundred times. Did it exist? No, he had said repeatedly. What happened to it? He didn't know.

Guy's experience with torture was extremely limited. He'd consulted an expert, a really twisted freak who seemed to actually enjoy it. He'd read a crude how-to manual, but finding practice time was difficult.

Now that Patrick knew how horrible things could get, it was important to chat him up.

"Where were you when your funeral took place?" Guy asked.

There was a slight relaxing of Patrick's muscles. Finally, a question not about the money. He hesitated and thought about it. What was the harm? He was caught. His story was about to be told. Maybe if he cooperated they'd lay off the voltage.

"In Biloxi," he said.

"Hiding?"

"Yes, of course."

"And you watched your graveside service?"

"Yes."

"From where?"

"I was in a tree, with binoculars." He kept his eyes closed and his fists clenched.

"Where did you go after that?"

"Mobile."

"Was that your hiding place?"

"Yes, one of them."

"How long did you stay there?"

"Off and on, coupla months."

"That long, huh? Where did you live in Mobile?"

"Cheap motels. I moved around a lot. Moved up and down the Gulf. Destin. Panama City Beach. Back to Mobile."

"You changed your appearance."

"Yeah. I shaved, colored my hair, dropped fifty pounds."

"Did you study a language?"

"Portuguese."

"So you knew you were headed here?"

"Where's here?"

"Let's say it's Brazil."

"Okay. Yeah, I figured this was a good place to hide."

"After Mobile, where did you go?"

"Toronto."

"Why Toronto?"

"I had to go somewhere. It's a nice place."

"Did you get new papers in Toronto?"

"Yeah."

"You became Danilo Silva in Toronto?"

"Yeah."

"Did you take another language course?"

"Yeah."

"Dropped some more weight?"

"Yeah. Another thirty pounds." He kept his eyes closed and tried to ignore the pain, or at least live with it for the moment. The electrodes on his chest were smoldering and cutting deeper into his skin.

"How long did you stay there?"

"Three months."

"So you left there around July of '92?"

"Something like that."

"And where did you go next?"

"Portugal."

"Why Portugal?"

"Had to go somewhere. It's a nice place. Never been there."

"How long were you there?"

"Coupla months."

"Then where?"

"Sao Paulo."

"Why Sao Paulo?"

"Twenty million people. A wonderful place to hide."

"How long did you stay there?"

"A year."

"Tell me what you did there."

Patrick took a deep breath, then grimaced when he moved his ankles. He relaxed. "I got lost in the city. I hired a tutor and mastered the language. Lost a few more pounds. Moved from one small apartment to another."

"What did you do with the money?"

A pause. A flinch of the muscles. Where was the wretched little chrome lever? Why couldn't they continue chatting about the chase and lay off the money?

"What money?" he asked, with a passable effort at desperation.

"Come on, Patrick. The ninety million dollars you stole from your law firm and its client."

"I told you. You got the wrong guy."

Guy suddenly yelled at the door. It opened instantly and the rest of the Americans rushed in. The Brazilian doctor emptied two more syringes into Patrick's veins, then left. Two men huddled over the device in the corner. The tape recorder was turned on. Guy hovered over Patrick with the chrome lever in an upright position, scowling and angry and even more determined to kill him if he didn't talk.

"The money arrived by wire to your law firm's account offshore in Nassau. The time was exactly ten-fifteen, Eastern Standard. The date was March 26, 1992, forty-five days after your death. You were there, Patrick, looking fit and tanned and posing as someone else. We have photos taken from the bank's security camera. You had perfect forged papers. Shortly after the money arrived it was gone, -sent by wire to a bank in Malta. You stole it, Patrick. Now, where is it? Tell me, and you'll live."

Patrick took a last look at Guy, and a last glance at the lever, then he closed his eyes tightly, braced himself, and said, "I swear I don't know what you're talking about."

"Patrick, Patrick-"

"Please don't do it!" he begged. "Please!"

"This is only level three, Patrick. You're halfway there." Guy pushed the lever down, and watched the body bolt and straighten.

Patrick screamed with no restraint, a scream so fierce and horrible that Osmar and the Brazilians froze for a second on the front porch. Their conversation stopped in the darkness. One of them offered a silent prayer.

Down the road, a hundred yards away, a Brazilian with a gun sat by the dirt trail and watched for approaching cars. None were expected. The nearest dwelling was miles away. He too offered a small prayer when the screaming started again.



Tags: John Grisham Thriller
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