The Cuckoo Murders

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Chapter 20

Castor Oil is often used in very small doses by parents to punish misbehaving children, mainly because it tastes awful, but for centuries it has had much darker uses as a form of slow torture, especially in Mediterranean countries. Mussolini before the Second World War used it regularly to humiliate and frighten opponents. His Blackshirts were infamous for force feeding ’l’olio Di Ricino ’ which caused unrestrainable diarrhoea followed by dehydration and often death. In Italy words such as l’olio Di Ricino and mangenello still have political connotations and can cause severe offence. Castor Oil contains ricin, a highly toxic substance.

Boucher was experienced in its use as a form of torture. In the past he had used it in Paris and that afternoon had been feeding it slowly to Ronnie for several hours. Ronnie was now shivering naked in a stinking basement wet room, being jet-hosed with freezing cold water every time he lost control. The floor was littered with drenched faeces. It was a cold foreboding place, walls course bricked, floor tiled with granite black and white tiles, the only lighting provided by a single fluorescent tube. Ronnie did not know where he was.

Boucher was relaxed, jacket off, tie loosened, leaning against a wall, smoking a cigarette. ‘Who killed Markovic?’ He asked calmly for the umpteenth time.

‘I don’t know!’ Ronnie cried, turning his back and covering his genitals with both hands as the freezing stinging water from the power hose drenched him again.

‘We can continue all night Ronnie. You, on the other hand, will die shortly, which will be regrettable but inevitable if you don’t tell us what we want to know. Who killed Markovic?’

‘I swear I don’t know! Please, please let me go.’ He ended in a whimper.

Boucher sighed theatrically. ’Clearly you are not understanding us Ronnie. We know you are informateur, you live on le potin, you collect it and then you sell it to feed your habit. We understand you Ronnie, and now it is time you understand us. For the last time, who killed Markovic?’

By now Ronnie was crying, his spirit broken. He was prostrate on the reeking wet tiles, head in his hands, shoulders shaking. ‘I don’t know! You have to believe me. I swear I don’t know!’

Boucher pushed himself away from the wall, stubbed out his cigarette, and said with finality, ‘Eh bien mon ami, have it you way.’ He signalled to one of his men, ‘enough of these games, bring in the batteries.’

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