Intermission

“I need a cup ‘o’ Joe,” Cudahy announced at the end of the fourth hour. “Want some?”

Dorian’s head rolled back on his shoulders as he gulped the air in short, painful gasps. “No, thanks…mah stomach’s still a bit off.” Having vomited his dinner in the aftermath of a few blows to the solar plexus, he wasn’t certain that sending hot coffee…or anything, for that matter, down the hatch might be wise.

Now, he was freezing, shivering uncontrollably, whether from the two buckets of icy water offered to “wash away that puke,” or the persistent electrical shocks to his genitals. The tremors weren’t helping his ribs, at least one of which he thought might be cracked from the third or fourth bootheel kick.

Jack Cudahy returned, armed with a mug of steaming coffee. He squatted before his victim, reflectively sipping from his cup. “You know you’re making this way tougher’n it needs to be.”

“Had a shrink tell me pretty much tha same thing.”

“You shoulda listened,” Cudahy lit a fresh cigarette. “I ain’t asked you nothin’ difficult or sensitive, an’ all you’re doing is stonewalling. Makes it damn hard for the network to decide heads or tails about you.”

Adler brought his gaze down from the ceiling. “What network? All Ah’ve seen is Kate and yahself…”

Cudahy shook his head. “That still don’t answer why your whole chain got outed an’ rolled up, old pard. ‘Cept for you.”

“What chain?”

“See that?” Jack pointed with his cigarette. Despite himself, Dorian flinched. The half dozen burns across his chest from each of his inquisitor’s previous smokes all stung. “That kinda behavior ain’t helping either one of us. All we’re doing is trying to figure out who it is killing our folk and ratting out our intel ops to the purple bellies…and that trail points us right at you and your little friend on that boat.”

“So yah’ve said.”

The older man sipped his coffee. “Here’s what happens next. I got me a fresh pair ‘o’ bolt cutters. I put ‘em to the grinding wheel…made ‘em nice and sharp. Still won’t be as sweet as what your mohawk amigo does with a machete, but I get the job done. Now the average man’s got twenty-one little appendages. Depending on my mood, I can either work my way from number one up, or if I’m pissed off, like now, from twenty-one down. Rumor has it you’re a might partial to your twenty-one, so I think you’d be wise to start reversin’ my mood.”

Dorian offered a weak laugh. “Oh of course. Ah start cryin’ an’ beggin’. Soon enough yah get me sayin’ anythin’ just tah keep mah yinjing an’ mah fingers all attached. Yah go home tah Ida an yah Ramen noodles. Whoevah yah workin’ fah tells whoevah they’re workin’ fah ‘case closed,’ and mah body turns up undah a concrete slab in about fifty years. All nice an’ neat…but yah keep losin’ intel chains an’ yah people keep dyin’. Not too smart, ‘old pard,’ if Ah may say so.”

Jack Cudahy rose to his full height. “Damn, but you’re difficult,” he shook his head, before stepping into the surrounding darkness. “I sure hope Marisol’s gonna be more cooperative.” The bolt cutter gleamed in his hand as he emerged. He made a show of working the tool, opening and closing it’s sharpened jaws to plant a seed of both their futures in his victim's mind.

Dorian tilted his head, meeting the inquisitor’s hopeful gaze. “Word tah tha wise,” he said plainly. “Kill me. Do it yahself, so yah know it’s done propah.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Simple,” the hostage replied. “If Marisol sits in this chair, yah want me dead, ‘cause if Ah'm breathin? Whatevah yah do tah her will be replicated…on Ida.”

Cudahy’s face darkened. “You’re the doctor,” he growled as he positioned the open jaws of the cutter over Dorian’s groin. “Blackjack.”

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