Monday, July 24, 2017

25 No one of consequence

The new prisoner was trundled in and his manacles were locked to a heavy, weighted iron chair.  Then the guards left.  The Major affected not to notice for at least ten minutes.  Then he hit record on his pad, set it upon his desk and rocked back in his chair.  “Who are you?” Major Nakba asked the blind man.

“I am Ch’Byartha, Major.  I work in the mess tent.”

“Yes, I know.  You showed up on our doorstep about two weeks ago looking for work.  Before that you were a scullion in the House Al-Ghafil near the citadel.  Before that you were a vagrant beggar, suspected pickpocket and confidence man, and a street performer on the wharves.  You bought passage here on a skiff owned by the Lightfoot Street Mercantile Collaborative in East Avalon, where you were also a vagrant beggar, suspected pickpocket and confidence man, and a street performer on the docks.  It is who you were before you washed up among the flotsam and jetsam that collects in such places I am most curious about.”

“No one of consequence, I can assure you.”

“And the prisoner we have in the Mausoleum.  Is she no one of consequence?”

“To some I suppose.”

“To you?”

“Hardly even that.”  The cook’s voice was even and smooth, he didn’t miss a beat.  If he was lying, he was skilled.  Exactly as one might suspect an actor or confidence man might be.

“She seems to think you are someone.  What was it she was apologizing for when you brought her meal yesterday?”

“Damned if I know,” he shrugged.  “Sounded as if she was dealing with some guilt issues.  A heavy conscience is difficult to bear.  Perhaps she sees what she wants to see, someone to confess to and unload her burden.”

“A very pat and probable theory.”

“A simple one, major.  The simplest answer has the best chance of being the correct one, I find.” 

“Do you?”  The Major sat silent for a bit to see what the blind man would do.  Silences, long, awkward and the more uncomfortable the better, were some of his favorite interrogation tools.  The human imagination, especially a guilty one, was his greatest ally.  They could concoct greater horrors than he could if he just gave them time.  Anticipated pain hurt more than the real thing.  And apparently, guilty consciences felt a need to unload their burdens.  This one however sat and smiled like a saint with a golden ticket to Elysium and the utmost confidence in the train schedule. 

Which meant he was guilty as sin.  Even the innocent sweated in interrogation.  Take the right tone with a dog and it still tucked its tail and bowed its head as if it has peed on the rug.  This one was wagging his like he was deaf as well as blind.
“I’ve heard,” said the Major, breaking the silence first, as abruptly as he could to see if the man would jump.  He did not.  “that those who survive Fever, sometimes go blind as a result.”

“I’ve heard that too.”

“Did you?”

“Go blind?”

“Contract Fever,” the Major answered.

“Not that I recall.”

“Have you sailed the Sea before, Mr. Ch’Byartha?”

“A time or two.”

“Have you ever been to the Last Caravanserai?”

“I don’t know, what does it sound like?”

“Do you know any royalty?”

“I know some who act like they are.”

“Did you sail on the catamaran sloop Advisor with the Viceroy’s daughter in the spring of last year?”

“If she’s pregnant, then the answer is, ‘no.’”

“Are you the Merchant Prince Kurga Din Allorowro Vela D’Pomani D’Moro?”

“Lord, I hope not!  I should never learn to write down a name that long.”

“A pity, his family is looking for him.”

“If I see him, I’ll be sure to tell him.”

“You are a witty fellow.”  The Major stood up, walked around the desk and sat on the arm of the interrogation chair.  His bulk loomed over the prisoner.  His face now only inches away.  “A sense of humor can be of great use during torture.  At least in the early stages.  You will tell me what I want to know.  Eventually.  We can force you to admit the truth.  Lies can be peeled off as easily as skin.”  He ran one finger along the manacled arm.  “Boiled away.  Cut from a guilty conscience slice by slice.”

“Oh I don’t doubt that.  What I do doubt is your great concern over the identity of a vagrant beggar, suspected pickpocket and confidence man, and street performer who now moonlights as a scullion.”

“I tire of your games Mr. Din Allorowro.”

“Then perhaps you should ask me something you actually wish to know.”

“Who is she?”

“Oh dear.”  The blind man looked genuinely disappointed.  “Yesterday I would have told you that with relish.”

“And today?”

“I’m afraid you’ve caught me at a bad time.”

“I will have the answer.  How devoted to her are you, merchant?”

At last, the blind man betrayed a hint of fear.  The patient hunter was the most successful.  “I would guess we are both about to find out.”
[author's note: (which i cannot write without feeling pretentious and over-inflated)
[Note from me: i feel the most satisfaction and joy from writing conversations.  i like telling the story through conversations.  i think i'm just naturally inclined toward being a playwright.  Which is weird, cuz i don't go to plays at all.  Though i like movies.
That's it.  Nothing earth shattering.  Back to your lives, citizens.]

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