They had been doing this dance for a day now, the first one would ask a seemingly innocent question. The other would give a sarcastic, condescending, or totally insulting answer. Then the first one would smile as if amused and then have his men beat on the man some more or press the little button that would send electric shocks through the bound man’s body, or just hold his head back under the freezing water until the man felt his lungs were going to burst. Then once the bound and beaten man regained his composure, the dance would start again.

The first man, an interrogator with the secret police, was tasked with finding out who this spy was, who he worked for, what he knew, and how many more there were working with him. The second man claimed to be a financial planner from New York on vacation.

The interrogator knew better. A simple financial planner would be begging them to stop and urinating all over himself. This man took the pain in stride and through his insolence asked for more, as if the interrogator’s men would tire of beating him before he tired of being beaten. No, this man was a professional. He did not take pictures of top secret establishments and high ranking political figures by accident. One parliamentary figure or decorated general leaving his mistresses apartment was one thing. Every picture in his camera had someone important or a known home of a “friend” of one of those important people.

The questions was who he was. The west had been sending spies into his little country for decades. Some like this man were caught. Some he imagined completed their missions. But who was this man and who was he with, CIA, NSA, MI6, DGSE, BND, KGB even? The west spies on us because they think we will go back to communism, the Russians spy on us because they want us to go back to communism. Either way, the interrogator knew it was his job to find out which agency.

The second man, the one who was half naked, soaking wet and bleeding from the beating he had been taking for the past few days, was a tourist according to his documents, luggage, and literature about the city found in his modest hotel room. In fact, at first glance even his camera phone seemed to be that of a typical tourist. There were a couple of obvious pictures of a decorated general officer in his immaculate dress uniform, but there were probably plenty of tourists who took his picture that day. There were pictures of government buildings with men and women walking in and out. There were a few pictures of some attractive women. Even some pictures of limousines. Any one or two pictures on their own would suggest he were nothing but a tourist taking in the history and the scenery of the beautiful country. But when put together and carefully examined, every picture could be tied back to a government official or building. Which meant this man was a spy trying to get information on members of the ruling party, or the unluckiest man in the world.

“Are you going to tell me who you are?” The interrogator asked, again.

“You have my ID. Why do you keep asking me the same question? I would assume that you can read.” The prisoner repeated the same answer as before.

“I can read, Mr. Smith. Very original name by the way, Jonathan Smith; Jon Smith.” I would think your American CIA would be cleverer than that.”

“I don’t know anything about the CIA, but my mom Jane and my dad, Jonathan Smith Sr. Weren’t that original.”

“Very well ‘Mr. Smith’. We can continue playing this game if you want. I doubt that we will tire out before you do.” He turned to his men. “Again.”

That was the last thing Jon Smith heard before the shock of iced water hit his senses again. Jarring him into a trance. A trance where he almost did not notice the stinging cold tearing at his eyes, his ears, his nostrils.

Jon Smith had been through something like this before. His military training had him in cold water for long hours. How to free dive for long periods of time on one breath was a big part of it. In his POW training, he had been subjected to waterboarding, mild electric shocks and other various “enhanced interrogation” techniques. This was not his first time at being cold and uncomfortable.

He was of course, a spy. Up until now, he thought he was a rather good one. He did not work for any country or government agency. They simply did not pay enough. No, he worked for a multinational conglomerate. They had been trying to get a manufacturing facility in this tiny poverty stricken Eastern European country for years. They could purchase cheap labor and keep their costs down and even though the pay was meager compared to most western nations, it was still more than most of the country made currently. The problem was the politicians. With dictatorships, aristocracies and oligarchies, it was always the same. They could care less about their people. They wanted their payday too. Unless you greased their slimy palms, they would not let you “exploit” their workers for your “fascist capitalist fat cats”. Besides, they did not want anyone else encroaching on their gig of exploiting the citizens of their country. That was their job.

Jon Smith was sent in to gather enough intelligence to blackmail the powers that ran the country into letting his company build the factory they wanted without the need to pay extorsion money to the already rich politicians. And intelligence he had gathered. Lucky for him, he had just finished transmitting it when the secret police kicked in his door. They did not know that. In fact, they did not know anything. All they knew was what they thought. He was a spy. He worked for some secret service of another country. He was there to do something to one or more of their leaders. All he had to do over the next twelve to twenty four hours was keep his mouth shut. His company would trade him for money or some of the intel he gathered, some unimportant information. That or they would just blackmail the right people with what he found, and he would be released. Either way there was a time limit on how long he would have to endure this.

His head was whipped back from the water and he could breath again.

“Two minutes Mr. Smith, very impressive. Usually we are doing CPR by now. I commend you. Though your ability to take pain will do you no good. All it will do is prolong the pain.” The interrogator smiled as he spoke. He was enjoying this.

Smith kept his mouth shut. His past training was not only in how to hold your breath for over five minutes. It was also when to speak and when to keep quiet.

“What, no snappy comeback, Mr. Smith. I am surprised. I thought you would last longer than this. That’s ok. You will talk. But for now, I will talk. See, we already know who you are and why you are here. Your employer has made contact and already negotiated your release. We know your companies plans and unfortunately the cowards that run my country’s government have caved to your blackmail. They are sending a car for you right now.”

Smith exhaled deeply. The uncontrollable kind of breath that a man lets out when the light at the end of an exceptionally long, dark, and painful tunnel is in view.

“Don’t get too happy, Mr. Smith. The exchange isn’t for another seven hours so we have time. There will be no more questions Mr. Smith. I can’t kill you, but I can make you extremely uncomfortable.”

Jon began laughing, as if the whole thing were a joke to him. The guards looked on as if he had gone mad from the interrogation. The interrogator looked down at his swollen and bloody face and began laughing with Jon. Soon the guards began laughing. Jon Smith looked up at his tormentor. His lips moved but the interrogator could not hear him.

The interrogator moved closer to Jon in order to hear him better.

“You wish to say something Mr. Smith?” The interrogator inquired, curious that his prisoner was willing to speak after hearing that his torment would soon be over.

Jon Smith leaned forward a little to ensure that the interrogator could hear him as he whispered.

“Can you keep a secret?”

August 21, 2020 15:00

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Isaia Mellers
09:48 Aug 27, 2020

The beginning is wonderful, your description about their 'dance' got me instantly hooked. I love the idea of a spy. Jon Smith is an interesting character, along with his company and their work. The interaction between the interrogator and Jon has been finely executed. However, I am a little curious about the ending. Are we supposed to know this secret? Or is it something new? Thank you for answering the prompt and writing this story.


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Mark Edwards
18:19 Aug 27, 2020

Isaia, Thank you for the kind words and critique. I wanted to have it end in the old 1950's "cliffhanger" movie style, but allow the reader to determine what Jon is going to tell the interrogator. Or torment the reader with what they think Jon is about to say. :) I am glad you enjoyed it. It was really fun to write it. Thank you again!!


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