Even once he enters the room, even once he chooses the method of punishment, the Inquisitor does not begin right away. Every moment is extended, such torture, such desire. He walks around his bound suspect, teasing. Weapon of choice lingering on his flesh but not biting, not yet.
“You’ve been a naughty one.” Not a question, but a fact.
“And you want to be punished.” Again, just a fact.
And suddenly the cat o’nine whips out, striking Rodgers on the leg, just his leg. He flinches, but does not scream. It is painful, but not too painful. Pleasure quickly dwarfs the sting. His blood rushes. Endorphins flow. And he leaks even more.
“Now, now, we’re just getting started. You can’t finish so soon.”
“Yessir. I’m sorry sir.”
“You’re going to tell me everything you know. What you want… what you don’t want. You’re going to beg for release"
And if you’re good, I just might give it to you.”
Rodgers waited. And in the hours that passed he wet himself. He held on for as long as he could, but eventually, despite his best efforts, stinging warmth dampened his legs, his cheeks, his spirits. And yet the torture had not even begun. And yet the sharp, gleaming tools waited in the dim, unused. The depravity they hinted at might have excited him in any other context, but not that night. That night, no consideration would be given to his needs, to further exploration of his dark masochist. They would only be used to take, and take, until nothing endured but what he knew.
Until only a traitor remained.
Eventually the door creaked open, throwing a sliver of light onto the journalist. A young man threw buckets of water over him until Rodgers thought he might drown in the cascading torrent. The Inquisitor would come soon, he knew. They wanted him disoriented and pliable. They wanted him desperate. They wanted him to spill all he knew, before anyone noticed he was missing. Despite his desperation, he had to remember. He too had leverage. A well regarded editor, a popular columnist. His disappearance would be noted before long.
And perhaps, if I’m lucky, he'll be the one to… he always said he was the best. If they have any inkling of what I know, they’ll want the best.
And the best, at least a part of him, belongs to me.
The door opened. The small lithe shadow darted in once more, disappearing in the blackness as the iron door shut behind him. From that blackness, a torrent of water washes away Rodgers sin, the sodding stench of urine.
"The Inquisitor comes soon, prisoner," A mousy voice chides him, "He wants you ready. Are you ready to be made clean?"
Rodgers closed his eyes, muttering a silent prayer to the forgotten Gods of this land. The Mistress, the Maiden, the Lord, Gods of chastity and passion who encompassed all of man. Who loved them despite their sins, because of their sins, who existed on the fringes of a monarchy that would deify its line. But men and women die. These Gods endured, even when they were forgotten, they lived. In the throes passion we still called to them. He smiled.
Lord protect me. Mistress please maiden. Maiden absolve me. I stand before you a chastened man. Let me stand before them, let me be strong, let me say nothing until the time is right.
"I am already clean, young one."
Instead of leaving after dousing Rodgers, as he had done the many times before, Parsons, the Inquisitor's apprentice, walked up to the bound suspect. Regarding his naked form in the lowlight, Parson caressed Rodger's thigh. And, despite himself, he swelled at the ministration.
"I can see your sin traitor," He sniffed, the washings-cum-waterboardings had not fully washed away urine's scent or fear's stench. "I can smell it."
Parsons tilted Rodger's head upwards until their noses almost touched. "Nothing about you is pure."
And behind the apprentice, the door opened. Into the dark slid a masked, berobed figure. The mask had a long, curved nose, two sunken black eyes that beckoned like bottomless pits. He stood in the doorway, blocking the light like an eclipse. It surrounded the Inquisitor’s dark frame like a halo. Then he entered, approaching the tray of tools. His slinking gait looked so… familiar.
Could it be? Could it be?
"Thank you squire." The Inquisitor nodded his head toward the door, indicating that Parsons should leave he and Chuy to the dark. Parsons turned to leave, but before exiting, he leered in the light cast through the open door.
"He will make you name your sins, traitor. You will cry them out like you cry the name of your favorite whore. You will go to the noose, clean at last."
The door slammed shut behind him. Like a death knell, like the turned back of God, leaving him in darkness and, so Parsons thought, hopelessness.
But Rodgers knew. Where there was still breath, there was always another chance.
The Inquisitor lit a candle, and his shadow flickering behind him made him even more inhuman, his form shifting, growing, shrinking on the wall behind him. Like what Rodgers saw merely hid what truly stood there. A monster in the Wolf's cloth.
“Rodgers, Chuy Rodgers, editor of Truth to Power, 'voice' of the people. Here you are in our grasp.” The voice, filtered by the mask, sounded obscured and unnatural. But it was unmistakable. Rodgers smiled, here lay hope. Here lay his escape.
Leverage. I have leverage. Oh Tomas, it has been too long.
“Wh-what do you want with me Inquisitor?” He continued to play the fool, and the fear trembling his voice was not all a lie. His life still dangled by a thread, a thread wrapped around his neck. All it would take is the slightest fall. All he had to bet was that… Tomas, yes it was Tomas, was under strict orders not to end him here and now.
He had to play the game just right. There was enough rope for both their necks.
What I know is too important. He told himself, with less conviction than before. They will not let him end me. He must make me talk, and what I might
“It stinks of your piss in here Rodgers. How far are you willing to go to defend the acts of terrorists?”
“I know no terrorists, Inquisitor.”
“Freedom fighters then, whatever you call them. We know you know them, and what they’re planning. You've advocated on their behalf for too long. We've heard too many whispers. Make no mistake, we will find out what you know. What you must endure beforehand... well that is up to you.” The rough hands traced the blades, the cudgels, the electric instruments of coaxing. Rodgers struggled mightily to swallow his apprehension.
“We both know things, Inquisitor. They say knowledge is power, and power… power is dangerous to both the wielded and the weld.”
This gave the masked man the slightest pause. Does he know? Know who I am? He must be wondering thus, he must. Will he tell?
But he paused only slightly, and as his hands caressed his toys of the trade, they came to rest on a bronze tipped stick, silver looped handle on the other end.
"You know what this is, don't know?" Inquisitor Tomas whispered, his own subtle acknowledgement that they knew each other.
A picana. Oh you bastard.
"You know I do, you already know… Tomas."
Rodgers feels spit flecking at the corners of his mouth, though whether it is from the pain, the small welts the cat o'nine tails left behind on his thighs and chest. Or the pleasure, the pain forces him inward, scours his soul. Here he atones. For his sins he is punished, and is cleaned. He throbs, but this masked man, this master, keeps him dancing along the edge, without plummeting over into oblivion.
"You've done well," Tomas, his guide into this torment, breathing heavily, places the multi-tailed whip back in its place on his tray, and reaches for an unassuming looking stick, tipped in bronze. The Inquisitor hooks his finger through its silver loop, swinging it around as he advances back to the bound journalist. His lover, his co-conspirator in a relationship between two men on opposite sides of the law.
Pressing the button on its side, the stick crackles, electricity jumping between the small prongs on its tip. Rodgers lets out an involuntary moan, from anticipation? From fear? Not even he can say.
"How far are you willing to go? What are you able to withstand, my dear? Let's find out together. Are you ready?"
Rodgers takes a deep breath. He was too far gone to stop now, physically aroused, emotionally engaged. He nods.
"I can't hear you… boy," The last word, though it diminished Rodgers, calling him a child, is spoken with nothing but love.
"Yes… yes sir."