“Now, you little son-of-a-bitch,” said Perkins, “listen to me. I been lookin’ into this business of yours, and I got the names of most of them Bolsheviks you been dealing with. But I want to know them all, and I’m going to know—see?”
In spite of all his terror, Jimmie’s heart leaped with exultation. Perkins was lying! He hadn’t found out a thing! He was just trying to bluff his prisoner, and to make his superior officer think he was a real “sleuth”. He was doing what the police everywhere do—trying to obtain by brutality what they cannot obtain by skill and intelligence.
“Now, you’re goin’ to tell,” continued the man. “You may think you can hold out, but you’ll find it’s no go. I’ll tear you limb from limb if you make me—I’ll do just whatever I have to do to make you come through. You get me?”
Jimmie nodded his head in a sort of spasm, but his effort to make a sound resulted only in a gulp in his throat.
“You’ll only make yourself a lot of pain if you delay, so you’d better be sensible. Now—who are they?”
“They ain’t anybody. They—”
“So that’s it? Well, we’ll see.” And the sergeant swung Jimmie about, so as to be at his back. “Hold him,” he said to the two men, and they grasped the prisoner’s shoulders; the sergeant grasped his two wrists, which were handcuffed together, and began to force them up Jimmie’s back.
“Ow!” cried Jimmie. “Stop! Stop!”
“Will you tell?” said the sergeant.
“Stop!” cried Jimmie, wildly; and as the other pushed harder, he began to scream. “You’ll break my arm! The one that was wounded.”
“Wounded?” said the sergeant.
“It was broken by a bullet!”
“The hell you say!” said the sergeant.
“It’s true—ask anybody! The battle of Chatty Terry in France!”
For just a moment the pressure on Jimmie’s arms weakened; but then the sergeant remembered that military men who have a career to make do not go to their superior officers with sentimentalities. “If you were wounded in battle,” said the sergeant, “what you turnin’ traitor for? Give me the names I want!” And he began to push again.
It was the most horrible agony that Jimmie had ever dreamed of. His voice rose to a shriek: “Wait! Wait! Listen!” The torturer would relax the pressure and say: “The names?” And when Jimmie did not give the names, he would press harder yet. Jimmie writhed convulsively, but the other two men held him as in a vice. He pleaded, he sobbed and moaned; but the walls of this dungeon had been made so that the owners of property outside would not be troubled by knowing what was being done in their interest.
We go into museums and look at devilish instruments which men once employed for the torment of their fellows, and we shudder and congratulate ourselves that we live in more humane days; quite overlooking the fact that it does not need elaborate instruments to inflict pain on the human body. Any man can do it to another, if he has him helpless. The thing that is needed is the motive—that is to say, some form of privilege established by law, and protecting itself against rebellion.