A Cloak of Lies Ch. 11bySweetWitch©
Camille tasted bile rising in her throat. Glaring at the man she once trusted with her life, she felt as if the world were spinning out of control.
"You heard me," Gerhardt said. "Strip."
"You go to hell."
She said the words with far more conviction than she felt. There was no way out except through him. The door that he blocked was solid steel and not likely to be opened easily. Still, she had no intention of doing what he demanded of her.
"You can either do as I say, or I'll have your little friend brought down here to take your place. It's your choice."
Camille wanted to kill him. He smirked at her, knowing he'd get his way, knowing she would do anything to keep him from hurting Lorette. She had never taken her clothes off for any man except the one she had married. The thought of undressing in front of this particular man made her want to puke.
"I'm waiting," he said, "and I grow impatient."
"I'll kill you, Gerhardt," she said softly, reaching up to the first button on her dress. "I'm going to cut your heart out."
He crossed the room so quickly that she didn't have time to react before he backhanded her. She fell across the table next to her, her mind reeling as she felt the cold steel of the surface against her burning cheek. His hand gripped the back of her dress, tearing it from collar to hem before he grabbed a handful of hair and dragged her upright again.
"You will obey my every command, Camille," he growled. "I'm your master now, got that? You exist solely to please me."
"You're as demented as that creature up there that holds your leash," she spat, knowing it would only anger him further and not caring. "If you think you can scare me, you're sadly mistaken. Fuck you. I should've listened when Niko's friends tried to warn me about you. What a con artist you are."
He grabbed the front of her dress, tearing it from her body. She lashed out, fighting him with everything in her limited arsenal. Her nails raked his face, her knee barely missed his groin. When she sank her teeth into the flesh of his upper arm, he tossed her across the room where she landed with a thud against the wall.
Camille was on her feet again, picking up a wooden chair to hurl at his head. He ducked it easily, coming at her with his arms outstretched. She dodged away, putting the table between them.
"That's it, baby," he grinned from his side of the table. "I like my women with a little fight in them. Makes it so much more fun to beat them into submission."
"Submission?" she screamed. "I'll never submit to you. Niko couldn't believe it when I told him you'd never touched me. I think he figures you're gay or something. Do you prefer men, Dougie? Or are you neutered like your boss?"
"I still have my equipment, bitch," he snarled, lunging across the table at her. "I'm going to show you."
He seized her arm, pulling her over the table and off the other side. She hit the floor hard, slamming her knees into the tile. With one hand tangled in her hair, he wrenched her head back while his other hand worked to open his pants.
"I'm going to give your mouth something to do besides talk," he yelled. "Open up."
Clenching her teeth shut, she fought back, grabbing his exposed manhood and twisting viciously. He yelped in pain, releasing her hair, raising his fist to deliver a dizzying blow to her head.
Camille fell against the cold floor, panting hard as she tried to gather her wits about her again. Rolling to her belly, she pulled herself up onto her hands and bruised knees. She made an attempt to haul herself to her feet, only to yanked upright by her hair.
"You'll pay for that," Gerhardt hissed in her ear. "I'll make you sorry you were born."
"You don't have that much power over me," she countered. "You can't make me sorry for anything except meeting you. Do your worst, Dougie. In the end you're nothing more than a little boy throwing a tantrum."
"Bitch," he snarled, dragging her back to the table by her hair. "I was just going to fuck you and call it done, but now I'm going to teach you what real pain is."
The air left her lungs in a rush when he picked her up and slammed her on the cold surface of the table. He produced a piece of rope, using it to tie her hands together. Gasping, trying to get her wind back, she did what she could to fight him off with little success.
He stepped back, jerking her off the table by the end of the rope. Camille hit the floor hard, groaning with agony and rage as he dragged her to a corner of the room. Hauling her upright, he slipped a dangling hook between her wrists.
"Let's see how you do with a little bondage and torture, baby," he chuckled.
Gerhardt walked to the wall, unhooking the end of another rope that extended to the ceiling. Glancing up, Camille saw the pulley over her head, felt her arms jerked sharply upward. He continued to pull the rope until her feet dangled more than a foot from the floor.
Moments later, he had placed a large tub under her, lowering her again until she was on her toes inside it. He disappeared, coming back into view with a bucket in his hand.
"Water's a wonderful conductor," he laughed, pouring the contents of the bucket over her head. "I have to tell you, in all those months I put up with your simpering and fawning, I dreamed of having you in this position."
Camille gasped against the shock of the cold water, shaking her head to dislodge the droplets from her eyes.
"I love the way your nipples turn hard for me," said Gerhardt while running the tips of his fingers over her bra. "Shows me how much you want me. Are you wet, baby?"
His fingers moved down, digging into her skin as they burrowed into the waistband of her panties. She struck out with her feet when he found her most intimate flesh, harshly jamming a digit into it.
"So dry," he said. "Don't worry, darling, I'll fix that for you."
He stepped behind her, beyond her view. She tried to turn herself but her toes kept slipping on the bottom of the tub. The next sensation she felt was a burning jolt of pure hot electricity when something touched her back, causing her muscles to lurch and shake. Pain shot through her convulsing body until the current was removed, allowing her body to sag defenselessly.
"You liked that, huh?" he said, laughing manically.
"I... will... kill... you," she said, her voice catching on her panting breaths.
"I'd like to see that," he returned, hitting her briefly with the electricity again. "Now, Oleander wants me to ask you a few questions. I'd like to think that this little demonstration has proved to you that I intend to have answers. First, tell us where to find your husband."
"Go to hell," she hissed, blinking to focus her eyes again.
"Wrong answer," he said just as another jolt of burning current exploded through her. "Let's try again. Your husband has gone underground again. Where has he gone?"
"How," she panted, "should I know? He was gone for eight ye..."
Another powerful shock seized her muscles, silencing her voice. The jolt stopped only to start again, scrambling her thought processes and stealing her breath.
"It's apparent that I'll have to use more drastic methods," he said, tossing down the long black rod with which he'd been torturing her. "Of course, Oleander wanted me to use truth serum, but I find this technique so much more fun, don't you?"
Gerhardt stepped back in front of her, moving to a cabinet and removing a knife. When he returned to her, he made short work of cutting away her undergarments, leaving her completely naked.
"You do have a lovely body, Camille," he mused while removing other items from the cabinet. "Do you see this, darling? It's an anal probe. I'll shove it up your pretty bottom and attach it to my little machine. There are other accessories, too, but I'll get to that in a moment."
She felt the cold metal of the rod when he stepped behind her. The minute it came into contact with her anus, she renewed her struggles, kicking and screaming with her remaining strength.
A knock at the door was her saving grace, or so she hoped. Gerhardt laid the rod onto the table, moving to the door to unlock it. On the other side were Oleander and his faithful servant, Olaf.
"Well, my dear," Oleander began, crossing the room to lift her chin with a well-manicured finger, "I see that our Mr. Gerhardt has decided to disregard my suggestion about using sodium pentothal. I hope he hasn't been too hard on you."
"I'll bet it just tears you up," she whispered.
"Oh, but it does. I hate to see you in such pain. I know how humiliating this all must be for you. Why don't you just tell him what we need to know so we can put an end to this unfortunate misery?"
"I don't know anything," she said, pulling her face away from his touch. "I don't know where he is, but if you just wait, I'm sure he'll find you."
Oleander laughed, a sound that caused Camille's blood to run cold. He took a step back, clasping his hands behind his back.
"You really are precious," he said, smiling broadly. "Men have been searching for me for decades and they are still no closer to finding me than they were in the beginning. I can assure you that we're quite safe here on my little island."
"Then why so desperate for answers?" she asked, struggling to pull her weakened body up straighter. "Could it be that you're getting a little scared? I'm sure if you had any balls, they would be crawling back up inside your body right now."
The man's smile faded, giving her a brief glimpse of rage before he masked it again behind a stoic expression.
"Mr. Gerhardt, if you please," Oleander said softly, "teach this woman some manners."
Gerhardt retrieved the cattle prod from the floor, waving it before her eyes before tapping her left nipple with it. Her body jerked and convulsed with the biting pain and current that coursed through her. When he removed it, she sagged forward, hanging limply from the bindings that held her wrists.
"Now, Mrs. Pavli, tell me where your husband is," Oleander said.
"On... his way... here," she stammered, struggling to breathe.
"Olaf, lift her head," Oleander ordered. "I can't hear her."
The butler did as he was told, lifting her face gently with his gloved hands. When she looked into his eyes, she saw something unexpected on the silent man's face – pity.
"Where's you husband, Mrs. Pavli?" Oleander asked again.
"I said... he's on his way."
"Your faith in your husband is admirable, my dear, but you still haven't answered the question," Oleander said. "Mr. Gerhardt..."
Olaf released her carefully as Gerhardt stepped forward again. This time he placed the pronged end of the device against her labia, grinning viciously when he hit the switch. The pain was unbearable, seizing her body in its grip, sending her mind into hell. Even after the current was cut, her muscles still convulsed.
Gerhardt grabbed a handful of her hair, yanking her head back to see the drool oozing from her lips. He laughed as she struggled to breathe, trailing the prod menacingly down her body.
"Tell us everything you know about your husband, Mrs. Pavli," Oleander said. "I want to know where he might have gone, who he might contact. Also, if you can think of it, where would he hide something important? I can assure you, Mr. Gerhardt is an expert in female torture. He's made a study of it in his life. Young Marissa was most fond of his cruel attentions, but I fear you may not survive him, especially in light of your having killed the poor girl."
The words Camille mumbled were unintelligible, spoken with a swollen tongue. Her eyes rolled around in her head, refusing to focus on any one subject. A hand slapped her face; a voice near her ear told her to pull herself together.
"I'm afraid I did not quite catch that, dear. What was it you said?"
She blinked her eyes, forcing them to focus on Oleander's face. Licking her lips, she swallowed hard, taking a deep breath to steady her pounding heart.
"I didn't kill the bitch," Camille rasped. "She was standing over me when I lost consciousness. Gerhardt lied."
"Interesting, Mrs. Pavli. But what I asked for was information about your husband."
"I don't know. All I know... he needs to get to someone named Hansen. That's all I know."
Gerhardt released her hair, allowing her head to loll forward. He raised the prod again, aiming for her face when Oleander stopped him.
"She knows nothing, Mr. Gerhardt. Olaf, tea in my study. Mr. Gerhardt, you will join me."
"How's it feel?" Camille whispered as Oleander turned toward the door.
He turned to face her again, raising a brow when he asked, "What's that?"
"How's it feel to know the world is closing in around you?" she asked, trying to form a smile with her swollen lips. "The end is near, Oleander."
Gerhardt jabbed her midsection with the prod, holding it there while her body contorted uncontrollably. After several moments, he finally switched it off. The men filed out of the room, leaving Camille hanging while the world grew dark around her.
The longer he stood outside the dilapidated shack, the more impatient Niko became. The sounds of Lansky's screams filtered through the thin walls, echoing off the rocky buttes in the silvery moonlight. Niko thought again of returning to the scene of grisly torture but thoughts of Camille in similar pain kept him outside.
The door opened giving escape to Olan from the scene and the sudden silence inside. Niko didn't remember ever seeing his partner look as green as he did at this moment.
"Rough stuff, huh?" Niko said, glancing away from Olan.
"Yeah," Olan agreed, running a hand over his face. "I wonder how many lives Lansky destroyed with that poison he peddles. Wonder how many mothers've lost their children to addiction."
"Enough that he likely deserves what he's getting. Is he talking?"
"Yeah, he spilled everything," said Olan, flipping a small notebook closed.
"Did he give up Oleander's organization?"
"He'd give up his own mother. Brick's finishing up now."
Niko splayed his fingers, scooping his hair back from his forehead. He knew what Olan was saying. The tortured man was out of his misery now. Niko tried to put the horror of it all out of his mind, focusing on his objective – to find his wife.
Both men turned at the sound of Brick's heavy footsteps. The giant had a piece of Lansky's tattered shirt, using it to clean the blade of his knife. He tucked the weapon away in its scabbard at his hip and turned to scrubbing at his hands with the cloth. Tossing the bloodied rag down in disgust, he stalked toward the vehicle without sparing either of his companions a glance.
Brick fired the engine, jamming it in gear while Niko and Olan were still climbing aboard. Spraying a cloud of dust and sand over the entrance of the shack, he drove like a man possessed, heading for the road.
"O... kay...," Olan said, eyeing Brick from the back seat. "Lansky said that this Oleander is holed up on some island in the Pacific. Says it's not on any charts or maps, but he gave up the coordinates."
"What else?" Niko asked, turning in the seat to better see Olan.
"The man spilled his guts, pal. There's stuff about that scientist Johnny was talking about, and about holding the man's daughter hostage until he finishes some kind of technology thing that Lansky really didn't know much about. Said Oleander's in a snit over something that was lost and he wants back."
"You remember that caper a few years back when the CIA blew up that yacht that was carrying some foreign dignitaries? You know. The one that was carrying that group of Arabs."
"Yeah? What about it?"
"Well, it gets kinda hazy," Olan said, scratching his head as he tried to make out his notes in the thin light of the moon, "but it seems there was some hotshot computer whiz on board and he was carrying some plans or something. Anyway, the guy and his plans were destroyed. According to Lansky, there was only one other copy and Oleander can't find it. That's why he's holding that scientist or whatever he is and his daughter. He's been trying for a couple of years to duplicate the work, but hasn't had much luck."
"That doesn't tell me where Camille is."
"No, but it explains why he's been trying so hard to haul you in alive," Olan said. "According to Lansky, Oleander thinks you took it and have it hidden somewhere. He put a huge bounty on your head. Do you have something like that?"
Shaking his head, Niko sat back in his seat, lost in thought. After a few moments he turned back to Olan, fixing him with a meaningful expression.
"What else did he tell you?" Niko asked.
"There's a lot here. No one seems to know who this Oleander guy is. He doesn't seem to have a past or even an identity. Seems he just showed up one day and decided to try to take over the world. Lansky said the guy is certifiable, but he's got more money than God. And...," Olan let his voice trail off, watching Niko's face closely.
"What?" Niko asked.
"He said Oleander... He said the guy is a bad one. Said he has no conscience. He likes to hurt people, Niko."
There was a stab somewhere near Niko's heart. The urgency to find his wife became almost overpowering, momentarily sapping his reason. Shaking his head to clear it, Niko turned back to the front of the vehicle. He felt sick to his stomach thinking of what Camille must be going through. Saying a silent prayer to the gods of his ancestors, the Virgin and God, himself, Niko hoped she was still alive.
It was dawn when Brick brought the vehicle to a halt near the airstrip where they'd left the jet. The men worked in silence, unloading the vehicle, putting the weapons on board the plane.
"Think she'll get off the ground?" Olan asked, eyeing the pile guns and explosives.
"She'll fly," Brick growled, heading for the cockpit.
"I think I'll try to grab some sleep," Olan said, rubbing his aching shoulder.
"Good idea," agreed Niko, following Brick.
Niko sat in the copilot's seat, strapping himself in while Brick ignited the engines. Something about the big man's demeanor was unsettling. He just didn't seem to be his usual gruff self. Once airborne, Brick threw off his seatbelt, tearing at his blood-spattered shirt until he had it off. Wadding it into a ball, he pitched it into the floor of the plane behind his seat.
"You all right?" Niko asked. "You been awful quiet."
"I hate the smell of blood. Can't get it out of my nose," Brick said quietly.
There was a moment of silence while both men watched the rising sun. Brick let out a stream of oaths, his big body shuddering visibly.
"What I did down there," Brick said, "makes me sick. That's why I retired. I don't have the stomach for it anymore. I just want peace in my life."
"I'm sorry to drag you back into it, Brick. I didn't know where else to turn."
"Do me a favor. Go someplace else next time."
Niko had no response. He could see how troubled Brick was, didn't want to upset him further. The truth was Niko needed Brick's help. He had to use every means at his disposal to get to Camille.
"Is there such a thing as peace in a man's soul – for guys like us, I mean?" asked Brick, staring out at the clear sky.
"I feel it every time I hold my wife, Brick."
"I ain't talking about getting laid, asshole. I'm talking about finding something that gives a man hope."
"That's what I mean, Brick. Haven't you ever loved a woman? There's nothing like the love of a real woman to complete a man. When I hold her, when she smiles at me, I know that everything's gonna be all right."
"Bet she doesn't smell like death and blood and misery, either."
"No," Niko chuckled. "She smells like spice and summer rain. She smells like love."
"You're scared for her, ain't you?" Brick asked, turning to glance at Niko.