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The Prisoner

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Citizen Kang # 26 The Prisoner Chet Kimbrough, Congresswoman's Kang's chief of staff, is bound and gagged, and it isn't because he belongs to an S&M club. There is no safe word for him.

About the Author

Gary Phillips
Gary Phillips's short stories have appeared, most recently, in Los Angeles Noir (Akashic) and in Full House (G.P....

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In this last episode we mostly wrap things up, but leave a few strange matters for earthly or cosmic interpretation.

Breakfast turns violent, more is revealed, and while a decent president gets elected, there's no rest for Congresswoman Kang.

It wasn't as if Chet Kimbrough figured screaming would do any good. His captor had installed soundproofing fiberboard and foam about the walls and ceilings of the tiny space. A horizontal slit of a window up high on one wall allowed for a shaft of sunlight during the day, but Kang's imprisoned chief of staff couldn't hear any traffic beyond. Overhead, a lone fluorescent was continually on. Behind him was a door, because he had heard that opening and closing several times--as he did now.

His jailer stepped in front of the bound man and removed the duct tape he'd put around Kimbrough's mouth. The tape was perfunctory, Kimbrough realized, used to show who was in control.

"How long?" Kimbrough asked, trying to ignore his need for water.

"We're into the fourth day," the other man said blandly.

"You intend to starve me to death?"

"I intend to get to the truth."

"A little waterboarding, something like that?" There was nothing else in the room except the sturdy wooden chair Kimbrough was bound to by cable like that used on a wench, padlocked in various ways. The coarse metal strands of the cable had dug bloody ruts in his arms and legs through his clothes. He stank badly, since he hadn't been allowed the use of any facility and had shat and pissed on himself. But he was long past feeling embarrassed about that. For, oddly, he'd shaken his fear. Now it was the slow fire of outrage burning in his gut.

"You're a wack job, you know that?"

"You've mentioned that a time or two," the man replied. He frowned, walking around the captive, clenching and unclenching his knotty hands. "You've held up better than I would have given you credit for, Kimbrough. All that wine and organic cheese you liberals eat, I wouldn't have put much stock in that providing enough fortitude," he snorted.

"I get my share of red meat, don't you worry none." He tried to shift in the seat but only irritated the raw areas where the cable dug into him. At least conversation was a distraction from the discomfort. "This all part of your method, is it?" he spat. "Make me mess myself, make me wonder when you're going to bring the pain so I work myself into a goddamn tizzy and then I blather the secret ingredients to my grandma's blueberry cobbler for you?"

The man leaned his face closer to Kimbrough. "I have to be sure."

"Yeah, I saw Marathon Man too. You going to yank my back teeth out now?" It surprised him how sharp he sounded--that he was inviting a violent reaction other than the disturbing evenness of his would-be Deep Throat's manner. A true sociopath or a man completely in control of his every move and emotion?

The other one gave him a puzzled look. Kimbrough should have known this hump wasn't much for movies. No doubt the twisty tableau playing in this man's head in high def was his own daily epic. "Look, aren't you supposed to be the man of action or some shit? You flew into Tahiti and sent a very clear message to the head of the Shindo. Why the long drag-out with me?"

"What's your hurry?" He held up the soda can he'd carried into the room. In the can was water with a flexi-straw sticking out of it. He let Kimbrough drink. He'd done this twice each day, Kimbrough noted. He'd even fed him some crackers and dry salami yesterday. What the fuck was this crazy loon up to? No beatings, no electroshock with a car battery and alligator clips on his nuts. Slow-motion psychological wear down? Was that the drill?

The can was withdrawn after Kimbrough drained it. The former Gilmore enforcer was careful not to leave extraneous items in the room. But, Kimbrough reflected, wasn't he in that category? Wasn't he an item to be removed? He said, "You looking for Countryman to come rescue me?"

"Not sure," the other man answered. "But I need to make sure though."

"What, that no one else knows what I know? It's a little late for that."

"Your boss you mean?"

"Yeah, and snatching a federal public official is instant death penalty, so get that out of your head." Kimbrough didn't know if that was true, but it sounded right.

"Wouldn't think of it." He paced about the room, considering his next words. "Why did you reach out to me again? I told you after what happened in the parking structure in Century City, we were through." Kimbrough and the enforcer were surprised by two men sent by the billionaire Mace Gilmore.

"It's my job to be persistent," Kimbrough said. "Beside, there was no way for anyone to trace my message to you. I'm not a greenhorn, I know how to be cautious."

"Those two found us," his captor pointed out.

Kimbrough flexed his arms. "Okay, but isn't this a bit of an overreaction? What do you hope to accomplish?"

The man had his back to Kimbrough and said, "I need to see who's going to come out of the woodwork."

"You mean the two, Mutt and Jeff, from Century City? I told you I'm not working with them"

"They were sent by Gilmore to fetch you."

"I didn't go with them, did I?"

"I was out of there, so how would I know?"

"Then why don't you hunt them down and ask them? I'm supposed to be the goat you stake out, that it?"

The other one turned his head toward Kimbrough, a thin unpleasant smile on his face. He then exited the room.

Shit. At least arguing with the maniac broke up the monotony. Now he was stuck with himself and his gruesome imagination. But there was no compartmentalizing scenarios that included when and if the nut job was going to simply let him linger and die tied up. He'd become mummified and discovered years later on a reality TV special, like when that clown Geraldo Rivera went in search of Al Capone's vault. Or maybe G.I. Joe would finally snap and rush in to pistol whip him for kicks or because he was bored too and needed a change.

Suddenly, through the door behind him, Kimbrough faintly heard a Dodger game. He could tell it was on the radio from the way broadcaster Vin Scully was describing the play-by-play. Getting into the game, at some point Kimbrough could hear live voices as well. He was pretty sure it was his jailer, but who was he talking to?

To Be Continued...

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