Marcus was right; the lady deputy was coming around. Tori’s bullet had plowed a furrow down the left side of her scalp. Little old .22 long rifle cartridge or not, the impact had obviously been enough to knock her out, but she was starting to moan, her eyes fluttering.
Then I noticed something else. Fifty different things crashed through my mind at once–or maybe that was just the headache–and I snapped, “Get her in back, out of sight. Now.”
I wasn’t the boss of Marcus Grady, but he didn’t even blink, just picked up the deputy’s top end carefully, so that her injured head rested in the crook of one massive elbow. Hiram hopped to it, grabbed her feet, and they carried her down the hallway. Past the meat locker; too cold in there for an injured prisoner. To Grady’s bedroom, most likely. They were back in moments. Had it been anyone else, I would have asked how he’d secured the woman, but Marcus knew his stuff; I wouldn’t insult him that way.
Cam Staten, the something else I’d noticed, heaved himself up from the floor, assuming a sitting position and gingerly testing the lump on the back of his noggin. He hadn’t been shot at all; I was guessing he’d startled when the shooting started, crashed over backward in his chair, and hit his head on the neighboring steel topped table on the way down. For a long moment, he didn’t seem to know where he was. Then his eyes cleared. He took in the room, Sheriff John Penney slumped face down on the table, the Double Crosser priest sprawled splatter-brained on the floor along with four dead deputies. It occurred to me to wonder, briefly, whether Marcus Grady had accounted for all four or Hiram had gotten his licks in, but that line of thought was cut off by Staten’s scream.
“Murderer!” Even as he scooted back as fast as he could, he was pointing at us, one after another. By the time he fetched up against the wall so hard that his injured skull struck sheetrock, his index finger had zeroed in on me. “Killers! Lawbreakers!” He wasn’t exactly frothing at the mouth, but close to it. His eyes were wide in horror, an expression on his face worthy of director Steven Quinn or writer Holbeck James. “You-you-you had no right!” He froze then, staring, glaring, a caricature of every alien-monster-comes-to-Earth stereotype ever filmed.
The man was terrified of us. He was truly terrified.
“I have to admit,” a voice said, “I didn’t see that coming.”
We glanced in surprise to table number five. Staten’s breakdown had brought Judge Walt Norcross out of his shock trance.
“Which part didn’t you see coming,” Marcus asked in an exaggerated drawl, “the shootout or Cam’s meltdown?”
“Either. Or. Both.” Walt looked like his old self. I guessed it took a lot to keep a lifetime high school Superintendent out of it for very long. “Tori, do you have any more of that tea? I could use a drink.”
Some of the others looked a bit bemused by his request, but I got it. The Judge was doing what he could to latch onto some sort of normal activity, certainly as a way to keep himself from losing it as Staten had, quite possibly in the hope he could bridge to the freaked out auctioneer. That last, however, was a lost cause. We were not going to get Staten back, at least not any time soon. I cast back carefully, thinking over what I did and did not know to be fact about the gibbering idiot still seated on the floor, pushing himself against the wall as if he hoped to go through it and out the other side. Politically, he’d been a lifetime liberal progressive, donating prolifically to our last elected far left President’s two campaigns, driving the greenest eco-trucks on the market. He’d even espoused gun control, a rarity in these parts. People had mostly overlooked that; he was a damn fine auctioneer, known throughout four, maybe five states for getting his sellers top dollar for their goods.
A pacifist. Against the death penalty? Probably. A believer in big government? Most assuredly. And now he’d seen…what? From his viewpoint…yes. As Cam Staten saw it, we were criminals gunning down the established order. A devotee of Sheriff Penney’s? Doubtful. A follower of the militant One True Church? No way. Crap. I had to stop thinking and start acting; the man’s finger was still pointing rigidly, right at me.
“Boo!” I grinned mirthlessly at the man against the wall, pulled up a chair, turned it around to rest my elbows on the back, and stared right back at him. “You figure I’m the lead boogey man, right, Cam?” His finger wavered a bit. His eyes, crazed as they were, flickered just slightly. He might not really be listening, but one way or another, my words were hitting him. “Out with it, man. You believe this was uncalled for?” I swung an arm wide, taking in the carnage.
And then I waited, my torn ear throbbing.
Oh, it might take a while. It might not even work at all. But we couldn’t just gun down one of our own when he wasn’t even armed–which he didn’t appear to be–and we couldn’t leave him in the state he was in. So I waited, locking eyeballs, never blinking. As a kid in school more than a century earlier, I’d developed the best staredown record ever. Prefight MMA warriors had nothing on me. I could refrain from blinking while my eyeballs dried to dust and drifted over with sand if need be; nobody, not even a budding zombie like Cam Get-a-Grip Staten was going to beat me.
The others left us to it. I could hear Staten’s ragged breathing, but over that came the sounds of people straightening the room, lugging bodies outside, and–just once–a small caliber weapon discharging. Marcus must have found a breather among the deputies; my two kills were certainly no longer threats. Neither Cam nor I flinched; we were locked alone together in or own separate universe. Full darkness arrived, which I noted peripherally without breaking my concentration, and still we stared. Chairs and tables shuffled, sounds of washing and scrubbing and cleaning came and went. Still we stared. The magic aroma of coffee wafted through the dining room, making me salivate–where had Marcus found that?. And still we stared.
Until, finally, more than an hour into it, Staten broke. He blinked. I waited, still staring. He blinked again. Cleared his throat. And spoke, albeit with a ragged edge to his voice, put there at least in part by his earlier screaming at us.
“Why?” He asked quietly, and I knew the old Cam Staten–or what was left of him–was back.
It was my turn to blink. “Do you truly believe,” I asked, “we had any other option?”
“Of course you did.”
“Ah. Would I be right in guessing that option, in your mind, would have been to go along with Sheriff John, let him have his way?”
“You’re trying to answer questions with questions,” he replied tiredly, “but of course I believe that. He’s the elected head law officer of Park County. You just shot the Sheriff.”
“There’s a really old song by that title. But yeah, I did shoot the Sheriff. Cam, do you really not know why that had to happen?”
He exploded. “It didn’t have to happen!”
“All right, then. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, it didn’t. If we’d let him have his way, what would have been the result? Can you answer me that?”
“The result?” He looked incredulous. “We’d have needed to have a new trial, you’d have given up a car the town didn’t even know you’d been hoarding, and that would have been that! Nobody would have died!”
“You really think so?” I raised an eyebrow, gestured for Marcus to join us. “Marcus, you’ve been around a bit. What do you believe would have happened?”
The former Army Ranger took a seat at the table. Staten still had his butt parked on the floor. “I can guarantee a few things,” my friend said, his voice low but fierce. “Right now, the town of Derringer is starting to feel good about itself. The worst of the bad guys have been corralled, the worst of the worst is on trial as we speak, and there’s order in the community for the first time since the Chinese hit Colorado Springs. If Penny had arrested us and turned Potter’s bunch loose, everything would have been destroyed. The Sheriff and his little posse would have gone back to Fairplay sooner or later, taking us with them in handcuffs or not, and Potter would have set out to take revenge on the whole damn town. Give it another year with him in charge, there’d be nothing but a ghost town here.
“But that’s not even the worst of it. You heard him. Matter of fact, you’d have to be blind not to see it was the priest who was calling the shots; for whatever reason, Big John Penney was nothing but his puppet. Don’t know why, but the why of it don’t matter. The way I read it, the Crossers, they have right in their charter that their goal is to establish church dominated societies, not unlike the radical Muslims with their Caliphates. Those two, working together, were not standing up for American justice; they were planning a county level–to start with, anyway–a county level structure responsible to no higher authority, not even the State of Colorado.”
He paused, studying the resentful look that had taken up residence in the auctioneer’s eyes. “Now, you heard Harrison ask the Sheriff about Highland West, and what was Big John’s response? He dismissed them out of hand as unimportant. Which they’re not; believe me, we’re going to be have to be ready for those folks when they show up. So what would be the result if we’d let them have their way?
“Well, to sum it up–I hate these long speeches–by the time Highland West, or God forbid the Chinese if they recover from the shellacking they took at the Springs…if/when either group shows up here, we either have to be standing strong for the United States of America or we might as well just commit suicide right now and be done with it.”
That was all Marcus had to say, nor did I have anything to add to it. Cam Staten made it to his feet, steel resolve burning in his eyes. “Gentlemen,” he said softly, “you are a bunch of filthy murderers. You are also dead wrong. Tonight, you took the lives of better people than you’ll ever be. I’ll see you in court.”
With that, he walked unsteadily to the door. We watched through the front window as he untied his borrowed horse from the hitch rail Marcus had installed, climbed into the saddle, and headed back toward town under the light of a full moon. Marcus and I looked at each other and shrugged.
“Do you think he’ll talk?” I directed the question to Walt Norcross, who was seated back at his same table, this time working on a piece of dried apple pie.
The Judge shook his head. “Probably not,” he decided. “Never can tell for sure, but Staten never has been one to run his mouth. Staten Sr., that is; Teddy’s another matter altogether. But Cam has always seen Derringer as his town, you know? I don’t believe he’ll want to shake up that particular apple barrel any more than it’s already been shaken.”
Well. We could hope. “What did you do with the bodies?”
Hiram spoke up. “Stacked them in that same little draw with the remains of the Chinese. Marcus suggested we let them ripen a bit until we get a conviction on Dag, then after he’s executed, people will be expecting us to run him through the incinerator just like every other corpse. If we start the cremation around dusk, we can load the others on pack horses and bring them in after dark to follow suit. Moonlight or no moonlight, there’s a route we can take that won’t run us in front of any of the homes that are currently occupied, and folks have gotten the habit of staying inside after dark. By the time the sun came up, we’d have them all cleaned up, nothing but ashes.”
That sounded good to me, especially since I figured I could skate out of the actual grunt work on that one.
Marcus clapped the young Chief Deputy on the shoulder. “Hiram done good when the shit hit the fan. Took out Mr. Handsome with a round right through Pretty Boy’s left eye. Not bad for his first time under fire.”
“Killing a man isn’t anything to be proud of,” Hiram protested, but the blush that ran clear up into his hairline gave him away. “Besides, he was giving Holly the eye.”
Huh. Here I’d thought it was Tori who’d drawn the Greek God’s attention. Anyway, that meant I’d killed the two men that had concerned me the most, Marcus had popped three before they could return fire, Hiram had done for one, and–“Holy crap! Tori and Deputy Butch Bitch, they shot each other and both of them are still alive. Am I wrong about that?”
“Nope,” Marcus smiled, a wicked expression that should have warned me what was coming. “You ain’t wrong, brother. And before you ask, the deputy’s very much wide awake, hogtied and gagged to keep her quiet, looking mad and scared by turns. At least from Tori’s reports; she’s been checking on her from time to time. Matter of fact, both she and Holly are back there right now, trying to convince the woman she’s not going to be executed or tortured before the night’s over. But that brings us to the point. We can’t keep her in town and we can’t keep her here.”
Damn. He was right. My places, both the down country house everybody knew about and the Quonset nobody knew about…they were safer places to stash a prisoner than anywhere else. I was going to end up with two women under my care, each of whom had already winged the other with hot lead. Yet there was no other realistic option. We couldn’t execute a fellow American who’d been defanged, one who was our helpless captive. As part of an armed force trying to take us over, you betcha, but not now. Nor could we afford to pass up the opportunity to interrogate her at length, find out what she knew about this, that, and the other thing.
There’s an ancient Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” If I wasn’t mistaken, my times had just gotten interesting.
We pulled the Chevy into the garage at 10:03 p.m. and locked up. I made my routine check of the house and took a look to be sure the horses were okay out back, then we popped the trunk lid. There’s something about being stuffed into a car trunk, gagged and bound, and taken for a ride; our captive’s anger had fled and fear had taken over. She followed my instructions as obediently as she could; lifting 140 pounds of dead weight out of the trunk would not have been my back’s idea of a fun time.
Inside, with her wrists and ankles cuffed to a chair, she held perfectly still while I untied the dish towel Marcus had used as a gag. An effective gag, too, triple knotted in the center to make a mouth-filler before being rolled into the semblance of a thick rope and secured behind her head with a square knot.
“We can talk now,” I told her, “as long as you’re polite about it.” Tori was busying herself with the woodstove; she’d have hot tea and a late snack ready in short order. I waited to see if Mabel cared to converse. Not “conversate”; I hated that ignorant usage. Mabel? Yes, Mabel. The ID in her belt wallet named her Mabel Lamesa, 31 years old, D.O.B. 09/13/2089. Which cracked me up, though I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone yet. La mesa being Spanish for “the table”, it reminded me of the old–19th century?–ditty: Get off the table, Mabel; the two bits is for the beer!
She did speak, finally, her voice feminine and small for such a strongly built woman. “What are you going to do with me?”
I’d figured that ought to be her first question, at least if she had a brain in her head. Still, I took a moment to make sure I said it right. “That depends, Mabel. First off, your life is not at risk. It was in the café; it’s not now. Secondly, you will not be tortured. Thirdly, however, you will not be let go, either. Ever. Whoever you left behind in Fairplay, that life is behind you. Do you understand why?”
She nodded. Didn’t look all that sad about it, either; her brown eyes were clear, maybe even thoughtful. There was a story there, I thought, but it could wait. “You can’t have a witness telling tales, right?”
“Right,” I nodded. “Good girl. You’re no fool.” In part, I said that to gauge her reaction, and I was not disappointed. It was subtle, but I’ve been reading people for twelve decades now; she definitely responded to my praise. The Stockholm Syndrome looked to be taking hold early with this one. “Now, since you’re with us for better or for worse, what are your options? Basically, there are two: You can stay on prisoner status, which is where you’re at at the moment, or you can become my slave.”
She started at that…but not all that sharply. “Your slave? And slave to your daughter?”
Tori and I both laughed. “Tori is my slave, not my daughter.”
Mabel’s head jerked around, studying the blonde who was smiling as she got out the Nestossin Ranch cheese for making grilled cheese sandwiches. “She’s your slave?”
“Can I ask her–?”
“Do you…” she hesitated, watching Tori. “Do you like it?”
Tori nodded. “I love it. Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Do you know something about Master/slave relationships?” I asked.
“No,” Mabel admitted, “but then I don’t really know much about any kind of relationships. I’m a virgin.” Her eyes flew wide; she hadn’t expected to hear that personal data come flying out of her own mouth. “I don’t even know which option would be better or worse. I don’t doubt you can hold me.” She jingled her cuffs to make her point. “After all, you wiped out the entire Sheriff’s Department.”
“The entire Sheriff’s Department?”
“Pretty much. There’s nobody left at Bailey, you know.”
“No. We hadn’t heard.”
“Too close to Denver. Refugee raiders fought it out at Bailey in early December. By the end of it, the whole town was burned down. Everybody left alive had to head for somewhere else, and nobody wearing a badge was left alive. The Sheriff chickened out, too. Our deputies still had radios that worked. They called Fairplay for help, but John wouldn’t authorize it.” Her tone turned bitter. “Three of our guys went anyway, tried to get through. They never made it back. One of them was my fiancé.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, and I meant it. Death is an illusion, but the loss of a loved one strikes the heart anyway. An image of Rains, smiling as we surveyed the final arch panel erected on the Quonset, flitted through my inner vision.
“I thought about killing him, you know. Maybe we’d have all died if we’d gone with Tommy and Lance and Donald. Maybe he made the right call. But I didn’t care. That was more than eight months ago, and right up until tonight, I still didn’t care.”
She didn’t say Thank You in so many words, but the message was there. Getting her to talk freely, which I’d thought might be the hardest part of the task that lay ahead of me with this woman, had turned out to be simplicity itself. She hadn’t quite been able to assassinate her boss, but she wasn’t terribly unhappy to see somebody else do the job for her. Still….
“Mabel, what about the other deputies that died tonight?” I was thinking about Mr. Heartthrob in particular; he’d seemed like the type the girls would go for. And with Butch Girl turning out to be interested in guys after all….
I had to give her credit. She looked me right in the eye and said, “If it had been my town, I’d have done exactly what you guys did. If I’d had the guts, that is. Which I didn’t. I blamed John Penney for Tommy’s death, but I didn’t turn in my badge, now did I? Nor did I exact my revenge. So what am I, a wuss? I don’t know, Mr.–”
“Polson,” I interjected. “Harrison Polson. And that’s Tori Connors.”
“Mr. Polson. I don’t know what I am. Right now, part of me is saying I don’t care if you do decide to kill me. My parents lived in Cañon City, but the last we heard, somebody broke all the prisoners out of the 13 prisons there and the inmates took over the asylum. Mom and Dad weren’t that old, but their health wasn’t good; I can’t imagine they’re still alive. I’ve got two brothers, or had, but they both lived back East, so they’re dead or as good as, too. So yeah, part of me says I got nothing to live for, I don’t care, knife me, shoot me, feed me to the crows. That’s one part. The other parts all say I’m a lying bitch and want to live, except I’m not sure I know how. Slave? I’ve been a slave, one way or another, for as long as I can remember. Prisoner? Same thing.”
I held up a hand. She quieted. Inwardly, I thought, Oh God, got me another talker! Tori wasn’t a chatterbox, nor had Rains been, but I’d had a couple in my long life that drove me right up the wall. Of course, I could always gag her; there was that.
“Soup’s on,” Tori announced. Not that there was any soup; it’s just an expression. Rather than uncuff a wrist so she could feed herself, I required Mabel to take food from my hand, bite by bite. Tori, of course, recognized this immediately as a basic slave training technique; you make the girl dependent on you for everything, right out of the box. Mabel looked at me kind of funny until her teeth closed down on that first bite of grilled cheese. After that, her hunger and the excellent quality of the sandwich took care of business.
We had court in the morning, so we had to get some sleep. Mabel admitted to being afraid of being alone in the dark, though, so I had to rethink the arrangement I’d had in mind. In the end, I threw a mattress from the spare bedroom down on the floor, screwed a couple of sizeable eyebolts into the wall, secured her to those, warned her not to take out the earplugs I’d duct taped in place even if the tape did itch, and that was that.
Impairing our captive’s hearing wouldn’t have been necessary if Tori and I hadn’t needed to talk. We spooned up, turned off the light, and I whispered in her ear. “Her scalp looks like it’ll heal.”
“Marcus disinfected it,” she whispered back. “Said the skull bone got grooved just a little, but not enough to be life threatening.”
“He should know. What do you think of her?”
She hesitated. “I’m not sure how to answer that, Master.”
Oh. Right. I could have meant a lot of things. “Vibes.”
“I…don’t think she’s evil or anything….”
“Bottom line, honey, can we live with her? One way or the other, be it slave or prisoner?”
“Well now, we have to, don’t we?”
“You know me better than that. If she’s not somebody who’ll be compatible once she’s broken and trained, you know I’ll find a way to get rid of her. Without killing her. I’m not jeopardizing what we’ve got, ever.”
“I never meant–”
“Sh-h. What do you think of her?”
This time the silence stretched for ten seconds or more. “I think she’s lost. I mean, I think she’s been lost for a long time, since her fiancé was killed. But I think…I think she’s got potential. Maybe.”
“Could you eventually be friends?”
“I…I think so. Maybe.”
“Okay, baby. ‘Nuff for now. We’ll have to leave her in the garage when we head out in the morning, you know. I can put the space heater on, chain her with enough reach to use the bucket toilet. Don’t dare leave her in the house; it did get broken into once.”
We drifted off, me making plans for witness presentation in the trial and plans for Mabel’s breaking and training. First impressions were good, but first impressions can fool you. Not every girl makes a good slave if taken by a Master. Some horses work well under saddle, others buck, and some go insane despite the best efforts of even a talented Horse Whisperer. Women are no different. Enslave the wrong one, turn your back, and she’ll slice out a kidney for breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast, we skipped that. We left Mabel a few slices of buttered bread to gnaw on at need and a water dish to drink out of like a dog if she got thirsty enough, chained her to the Chevy’s bumper, and warned her against hollering for help if someone did happen to meander by–because that someone might not be the nicest person and because I didn’t care to have some idiot trying to crack the hardened door. Then we saddled up and rode for town, trotting the horses the entire distance. Moon and Dolly Parton both did well; we walked into the Community Center courtroom at 7:59 a.m., one minute ahead of schedule.
Cam Staten, we were relieved to see, was there ahead of us, conversing earnestly with his client. Or should we be relieved? After the way he’d acted last night, there was no way to even guess what he might or might not have up his liberal sleeve today.
“All rise,” Marcus intoned in his role as bailiff, and the race was on.
It didn’t take long to figure out Staten’s game plan. He cross examined witnesses with a ferocity I’d seen in a few of the best trial lawyers, never hanging himself or his client out to dry but not going easy on his fellow Derringer residents, either. He was, for the first time, actually trying to win the case.
He almost did it, too. We wrapped up at 2:03 p.m., sending the jury backstage–there was nowhere else they could be guaranteed privacy–to deliberate. They did come back with a guilty verdict on all counts but one (one of the rapes, Marnie Quagstrom, known in Derringer as a roundheel of the first order)…but it took them more than three hours to do it. Based on what they’d seen and heard, it shouldn’t have taken them more than three minutes. Cam had obviously swayed a juror or two; it had taken the rest of the jury a while to convince the holdouts.
The verdict was read at 5:17 p.m. Judge Norcross passed sentence at 5: 23 p.m., execution by firing squad to be carried out immediately. I didn’t realize Norman Nestossin had been working behind the scenes to make sure a squad was available and ready. Execution was carried out at 7:31 p.m., five of the six shooters with blanks in their rifles and Norman counting down, “Ready…aim…fire!” Every member of the squad was a hunter familiar with his own weapon; the fatal bullet cored the bullseye taped over the condemned man’s heart, and Dag Potter’s slovenly body slumped against the ropes that held it to the post.
The crematorium had been fired up as soon as the verdict was read. Potter’s corpse was consigned to the oven at 8:48 p.m. with the necessary witnesses present to sign off, confirming the deed had been done.
Dusk into night. The witnesses left, the crematorium attendant was informed by Chief Deputy Hiram Jacobson that he could take off, and the way was open; Sheriff John Penney, his deputies, and Paladin Charles Pierson of the One True Church would be ashes by morning, uniforms and robes and all. The three former law enforcement vehicles were temporarily stashed in Dead Cow Draw; Tori and I would eventually ferry them, one by one, up into the mountains. Like former Deputy Mabel Lamesa, they could not be seen running around Derringer, at least not any time soon.
Thankfully, Tori and I were free to go once the verdict was read. Marcus and Walt and Hiram all felt we’d done more than our part; we could take the rest of the week off. With Dag Potter out of the way, we had considerable leverage with the remaining seventeen prisoners. They now knew that if they went to trial, they would die. Which might not have been true; Derringer now had in Cam Staten an avenging angel on the side of any accused individual. But they didn’t know that, and they would be open to plea bargaining. Derringer needed to plant a huge truck garden this year if it was going to survive, and it was getting close to planting time. In return for guilty pleas, the Court would be amenable to taking the death penalty off the table, sentencing the guilty to x number of years at hard labor in the garden and/or other tasks throughout the seasons.
The town would have, in effect, its own agricultural slave labor force.
Slave labor meant slave overseers, of course, but there was no shortage of citizens willing to see that the prisoners worked hard, did not escape, and did not give free men any lip. Some of those volunteer overseers had malicious glints in their eyes and fingers that itched to wield whips against those who had persecuted them these past eight months. We would have to set up safeguards to prevent undue prisoner abuse.
But we had control of our own destiny as a community. We’d not had that under the past dozen administrations. We would not have had it if we hadn’t gunned down an elected Sheriff, an ordained priest, and a bunch of deputies. We might not have it after Highland West finally came to call. But we had it for now, and that was enough for the moment. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
Getting our prisoner up to the Quonset looked to be a problem, but Tori solved it neatly enough. “She can ride double behind me on Dolly Parton,” she pointed out, “if you can figure a way to secure her behind the saddle so she can’t do anything stupid. Dolly’s so gentle she wouldn’t buck even if Mabel gigged her in the flanks.”
That made sense, but I took a few precautions nonetheless. In the end, our stocky prisoner had a set of cuffs on each wrist, tied hard and fast to the saddle strings that secured the saddle bags. Her ankles were uncuffed for the ride, but she lost her heavy law enforcement boots; if she tried kicking Dolly, it would be with nothing but socks on her feet. A piece of clothesline rope was tied around her waist with the long tail ends secured to the saddle bag strings–which pretty well ran those strings out of leather, but it got the job done. And finally, she was blindfolded. It would be some time before we decided to trust her, if we ever did. She could not be allowed to know the location of the Quonset in which she would be held.
She’d never been on a horse before. By the time we’d covered the nine uphill miles to our home sweet home, she was utterly convinced I’d lied about not using torture.