1 second later . . .
We’re up and moving towards the unsuspecting vampires, pistol and machine guns raised and posed for action. I’m on Juan’s right side, about a meter or two behind him. I have the resolve to put these monsters down if they do anything other than freeze.
As we race quickly past the trees, children tied for feeding and torture all around us, I try to keep my mind focused on the moment.
Bad guys first, kids second!
The man, probably no older than 30, doesn’t see Mr. Green coming as he stabs at the fire’s ashes with a long stick. The guy is tall and thin, wearing a pair of worn jeans and a ragged green sweater. His hair is jet black, his eyes as dark as a starless sky, and by the time he sees Mr. Green appear from the darkness, there is a red laser dot dancing on the man’s upper right chest.
Like they’ve done it a hundred times before, Juan takes the woman by surprise at the exact same time that Mr. Green is signaling for the man to get down on the ground. Juan isn’t quite so polite as he grabs the woman’s long black hair like a rope and yanks her backwards, off her feet, and slams her to the cold, hard ground.
“Por favor, no!” she yelps as her body crashes down.
“No entiendes! No entiendes!” the man begs as Mr. Green kicks his feet out from underneath him, sending the man to his stomach with a grunt.
“Calla se, todos!” Mr. Green loud-whispers.
Shut up, everyone.
“No comprendes esto,” the woman tries to explain, as Juan puts a knee across her throat, applying just enough pressure to gain her cooperation. Juan looks like a man possessed as he spins his MP-5 around so that it hangs off his back and pulls his pistol out in the same motion, putting the barrel into her hair until it thumps the back of her head.
“Mis hijos,” the man pleads.
Yeah, I bet they’re your kids.
And then Mr. Green pulls out a horrible looking knife from his vest and in a flash it’s pressed against the man’s neck. He kneels down and whispers, “Te voy a cortar en un mille pedazos, si no te calles.”
I’m going to cut you into a thousand pieces, if you don’t shut-up.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that Mr. Green is just a breath away from making good on his promise.
We’ve got them. That’s good. What I don’t understand is why none of the children are reacting. Nobody’s crying or screaming or even paying us any attention.
“Something is not right,” I say slowly as I look around.
I jog over to one of the children. There are dried blood stains running down the insides of this little girl’s thin legs and bony arms. I turn back to Mr. Green, “Keep your knife pressed to that asshole’s neck.”
This frail, motionless child, has a slow but steady pulse. Her brown eyes are so dilated that they might be white marbles. She looks like a coma patient.
I feel her head, it’s blazing hot. I run to another tree, another child. Same vacant, lifeless eyes, as if they’re all on autopilot. Same scorching-hot body temperature. Same unnaturally low but consistent heart rate. I turn, “I think they’ve drugged these kids or something.”
Three minutes later the couple has been searched, separated, hog-tied and cuffed with plastic zip-ties, and silenced with black hoods. Mr. Green is adjusting their hoods so that they can breathe. We haven’t given Mr. Blue the all-clear sign yet because something is missing.
“There’s only two, here,” I say. “ . . . where are the other Evils. Should be a couple more?”
“Maybe they’ve gone to collect more children,” Mr. Green says. “there’s three empty trees. There’s probably three more bodies that are going to turn up at some point.”
“There’s an easy way to find out,” Juan says, pulling out his knife. It’s got a black blade with an edge so sharp it looks like it would cut oxygen molecules in half.
Mr. Green looks at me, “This is your show, Jack. You’re call. But we’re on a bit of a time crunch, here. I don’t know exactly how much longer we can—”
This low rumble shakes everything, us included, sending the grass and trees swaying erratically.
“The volcano is angry,” Juan says as we all look around nervously.
“Start cutting off their fingers!” I say as we steady ourselves, “ . . . we don’t have the luxury of a long interrogation.”
67 seconds later . . .
The man is on his back, his feet elevated while Juan pours water from his canteen onto the hood that covers his face. The man tries to rock back and forth, coughing as he fights for breath.
“He’s slowly aspirating water,” Mr. Green says calmly as he presses down on the man’s sternum. “This is like drowning, only a thousand times worse and a hundred times more painful. It’s bloody terrifying.”
“Waterboarding,” Juan says as he watches for Mr. Green to nod and then he pours again.
Mr. Green explains all of this, his eyes relaxed and almost thoughtful. It’s like we’re discussing a good book he just read, or a museum exhibit. “I see if he’s trying to hold his breath and cheat us. If he does, I wait until he gasps for another breath and I signal the water.”
I ask, How long do we do this for? I mean, at what point do answers start flowing out? I know how awful drowning is, so . . .
“Most people, and that’s even trained soldiers, last for about a minute,” Mr. Green smiles. “We had a Pakistani warlord make it a minute-thirty-six.” He and Juan share a nostalgic laugh.
I look at my watch, “We’ve been going over four minutes, already.”
“Si,” Juan says with a satisfied look on his face.
The noises that this blood-sucking bastard makes, I’m sure they’re nothing compared to the fright and suffering those innocent children felt every second after their abductions. I wish we had hours to do all of this, but the ground is shaking and groaning impatiently and I think we’re down to minutes now, not hours. The Inca’s head is about to explode.
Mr. Green looks over at me, “You trust me, Jack?”
I nod, Yes.
Juan sits the man up, pulling his wet hood off as the man convulses and fights for air. He sets the man against a pile of rocks and walks over to the woman, yanking her to her feet by her arms. Her shoulders pop and crackle as she is jerked upward.
Mr. Green looks at the man, then takes a slow breath. He turns to Juan, “Mata la.”
Without any hesitation Juan drags the girl, kicking and screaming, behind a thicket of trees. Moments later, a single gunshot shakes us all as it echoes through the forest.
Juan walks back, holstering his pistol . . . alone.
The man’s eyes close as he begins to scream and cry. I wish I had some pliers to pull this asshole’s teeth out. I’d like to shove bamboo shoots between his fingernails and the soft, painful part of his fingers. I’d like to hook-up a car battery to his testicles and . . . never mind.
Mr. Green lifts the razor-sharp point of his knife and places it just a fraction of a millimeter from the man’s panic-stricken face, slowly nearing his eyes.
“Ahora, nosotros vamos a hablar . . . ”
Now, we’re going to talk.