Chapter 11 (part 3)
I woke with a start. It was still dark and when I checked the mobile it was only 3am. I lay still and listened. Nothing! I needed to take a leak. I got out of the car and walked to the edge of the roadway and relieved myself. I was zipping my trousers up when I felt something very hard and cold press into my neck.
“Keep very still Mr Steele!” The voice was low almost matter of fact!
“Put your hands behind your back. Bend forward at the waist and be sure if you try any of your fancy Japanese moves you will die now rather than in a few hours’ time! Ha ha ha!”
I had seen no one as yet. I was bent at right angles and my hands were obviously pointing upwards towards the sky. The plastic ties were looped over my wrists and pulled tight. I didn’t appreciate his humour!
Assessing my situation I didn’t like what I had realised. They knew my name and my Japanese ‘abilities’! Now was that because of the moves I had pulled at the villa when they caught me or because they knew about Sumisu san. My name was no secret and they probably got it from the hotels I had stayed in.
I was led to my car and put in the back seat. My captor got in next to me and we set off. I could only see the back of the head of the driver. As we eased out of the firebreak and back to the road I realised there was a car behind us. They had arrived mob handed – rather appropriate for a gang of Italians! We drove back towards Cuneo for about ten minutes and pulled into a driveway. It was gravel, about fifty yards long, lined with overgrown bushes and trees and led to an old two-storey villa. The gravel drive was full of weeds and the house looked in a poor state of repair. Broken shutters and peeling paint adorned the front of the house. No doubt in the past it had been a much grander property. There were some dim lights in the front rooms downstairs.
I was bundled out of the car and unceremoniously pushed very quickly up the steps and into a cavernous hallway, then into a large reception room, with a high ceiling, decorated in ornate plaster coving. The only furniture was a plain table and a couple of dining chairs. I was stripped naked with a knife. They weren’t going to risk me getting my hands free so the clothes were cut off me. It was cold and I shivered but it wasn’t altogether down to the temperature!
If I’d been in their shoes I would have done the same. Stripping someone has a powerful psychological affect. It makes the most able opponent just a little more vulnerable than normal. Gives the captors the edge! Being aware of that situation does not make a great deal of difference. I did all I could to concentrate on my situation rather than my condition. I thought back to the meditations involved in Aikido and focussed on that to take my mind towards the difficulties I was now facing. It took quite a few minutes of single-minded concentration. I turned my mind inwards and slowly started to reach out into my immediate environment and my predicament. I was sitting on an un-upholstered dining chair it was cold and hard. The room was also cold and rather sombre. They had left me alone, which in their minds was no risk. I was tied to the chair with nylon garden ties, both arms pinioned to the back above and below the elbow and my ankles to the front legs. I wasn’t going anywhere quickly! Then there was the room and the villa. I had seen two men but was betting that there were more. So if I could get myself free I would have some prepared guards, who are undoubtedly armed, to deal with! Finally, If I could escape those hazards, I still need to get out of the country and this time quickly.
I now had to try and put myself in their shoes. They obviously had me down for the death of the members of the family Torino. However, there was no reason for them suspecting me to be involved with the wounding of the family member in Gateshead. They could have just killed me now and that was that but they obviously needed something else. I reckon it had to be more than idle curiosity! There is only one reason and that must be my ‘masters’. They needed to know who was pulling my strings. Why was someone trying to damage the family and to what end. They had no idea that my actions and my presence could be linked to a fairly small-scale affair in the north east of England. From their point of view, was it another mafia family, the authorities or enemies they had created themselves? Or even all three! I had got into their headquarters but had not wiped out the whole family, so probably not a vendetta. The authorities would have arrested and not killed. Another family! Would that be their turn of mind? How could they tie an Englishman to an Italian family? It is that anomaly that I hope would be keeping me alive a little longer. Even so I think I might be in for some pain. What sort of treatment was I going to receive and how strong was I?
It was full daylight now and warming up. I had probably been sitting here an hour. Nothing made a sound. I concentrated on what noises could be heard in the vicinity. The drive had been quite long and so there would be no traffic noise from the roads. There wasn’t much in the way of birdsong or wildlife noises. I heard the occasional footfall from within the building. Empty rooms tend to echo and distort sound, so there was no distinguishable conversation. In fact it was eerily quiet. I had been placed in the centre of the room facing a large, ornate fireplace. My back was towards the door and on my left was two floor to ceiling windows covered with what looked like brown paper that allowed a hint of daylight. The overall effect being sepia! Still no sound from my captors. Maybe they were doing two things by leaving me alone. Waiting for the Torino family and making me become more apprehensive. I had a good level of control over my head at the moment thanks to my training, but there was an edge caused by frustration at getting caught again and wondering how I was going to get out of this. For the thousandth time I examined my bonds and position in the room. There was no give in the plastic ties that was the nature of the material, and they had been put on with an uncomfortable degree of enthusiasm. There were no objects near me and even what was in the room would be of no assistance. Nothing small and sharp or the slightest bit scissor or knife-like!
I sat very still because I had just heard footsteps. The door opened and I heard someone approaching but nothing was said. I just felt the shock of what must have been a bucketful of freezing cold water. The affect was immediate and shocking. It had hit me in the back and head like an iron fist, and was running down my face and over my shoulders. It felt as if it had been super cooled and it made me gasp. My heart rate shot up, the pain in my head was excruciating and my skin was covered in goose bumps. I was panting for breath as if I had run a mile in 4 minutes. The cold water had chilled me right down again and I was shivering. The water had run down my back and I was sitting in it also.
While I shivered I considered how long it would be before they came to talk to me. If they were waiting for the Torinos it could be this evening before I was subjected to any questioning. It had taken me long enough to get here. Goodness I was cold. What was I going to do? I had an inkling as to what they were doing in the meantime. They were trying to soften me up. Keep me uncomfortable and, without any crude beatings, break any resolve I might have. In all honesty, not having ever been in this position before, I do not know how much of that I have myself. Physically I am very fit and the Aikido training had me operating at a high level of efficiency from a mental standpoint. No one had ever tortured me before so I was in unknown territory. Thinking this way was playing their game! I focussed on my condition remaining as mentally detached as I could. My body was beginning to warm up slowly and when all said and done it was only water! The question is – what next? More water, heat, electricity! My imagination could run wild fed by a plethora of rubbish movies with dubious plots. I must engage my mind and focus on internal peace and cool thinking, as my sensei would insist.
I was focussing on each part of my body and the condition I was in when the door opened and another bucket of ice-cold water was thrown over me! The shock wasn’t as great as I was expecting something! No voices or conversation and not even a self-satisfied snigger! They were giving me nothing to latch on to and just increasing the physical discomfort. The tactics were good. If I was in their position I would do the same with more variations, but maybe that was yet to come. The afternoon progressed with the same treatment until I noticed it getting darker in the room. Dusk changes into night very quickly in this part of the world and I knew this close to the mountains it would get very cold. I was beginning to shiver, but whether this was psychosomatic or a matter of fact I couldn’t tell. I was hungry and thirsty also. All that water and I was thirsty! My head was beginning to throb with the dehydration. It is my feeling that nothing else would happen today and that my treatment would continue when the family arrived. I am also sure that there would be no supper and soft comfortable bed for the night. What I didn’t bargain for was more treatment. It continued until I was shivering uncontrollably. I drifted in and out of sleep as the night wore on and eventually they must have left me for a while because the next time I woke the windows were a paler shade of grey. Morning was arriving!
My head was aching, my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth and I couldn’t open my eyes properly. My hands and feet were numb as was my behind. If they let me go now and gave me a half hours start I wouldn’t be out of the room before they came after me! I am a wreck! I could smell coffee. Someone was up and about. Today would be a crunch day. That I know. I didn’t have to wait long. The door opened and I knew there was more than just the water boy coming in.
“Good morning Mr Steele,” the voice was understated and only slightly accented. “You seem to be a real man of mystery. No one seems to know anything about you. You are a tricky customer, used to handling weapons and obviously are physically very fit. So why are you killing members of my family Mr Steele? Who are you working for? You may as well tell me because you are going to die anyway. You will not gain anything by keeping quiet. Tell us now and we will finish you quickly and humanely otherwise….! We will let you think on that a little longer.”The door closed and I stopped cringing – I had been expecting more water! I was stunned. I was under the impression that I would be able to exercise some level of control and here I was in the last few minutes of my life! I focussed on my condition. My head was thumping, I felt sick and I was securely fastened to the chair. Wasn’t I? I surveyed the bindings and they were still tied but there was a difference. They didn’t feel quite as tight, they weren’t biting as before. Of course! Dehydration causes weight loss and flaccidity in the cells. I hadn’t eaten or drunk for a day and a half. The chair legs tapered slightly toward the floor. I have to think. I have very little time. If I tilted the chair over I may be able to free my legs! They would hear the crash so I would have to work quickly, but it was either that or die. I would have to try and break the chair to get my hands free. I have to go for it what other choices have I? If I fall forward or backwards I could have a problem moving. It would have to be on the side. I would have to rock until the chair over balanced and landing on a shoulder might allow me to control the level of noise. I didn’t have much time. I experimented moving my arms and there was some give but I had, at this moment in time, no idea how I was going to free them from the back of the chair even if I could get my legs free. Hobson’s choice! The alternative was to sit still and die or to make an effort!