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Damaged – Ch. 8

He couldn’t tell how long he was in the car or how far they drove, he just knew he was glad the ride was over when the vehicle finally lurched to a stop. He could hardly breathe, his face against the floor mat. He was dragged out of the SUV, a man on each arm holding him up as he was rushed along, the spike in his neck now taking residence in his hip as he limped and stumbled.

He was gasping for breath, the air inside the hood hot and stale, when they finally stopped. He was shoved down onto a hard wooden chair and the bag was jerked off, leaving him blinking and squinting into the suddenly bright light. Without his glasses, he could make out little more than colors and blurry shapes, but he was pretty sure he was in a hotel room, the bed sitting just a few feet in front of him, three men in dark suits standing against the wall to his right, near the door.

“P-please, don’t hurt me,” Finch whispered. “If it’s money you want, I can pay-”

“Where’s John?” The voice was quiet, calm, and made Finch’s blood run cold. Per Reese’s request and against his own better judgment, he’d been keeping an eye on Carter, making sure the CIA didn’t come down on her, so he had no trouble recognizing the soft, emotionless voice of Agent Mark Snow.

Finch licked dry lips. “John who? I- I know several men by that name.”

“The one in the photograph.” Something was held in front of his face, but it was just a blurry gray rectangle.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have my glasses. They were knocked off when someone put a bag over my head. Who are you people? What do you want with me?”

“I’ll ask the questions, Mr. Wren,” Snow said and Finch inwardly cringed. That was one of his oldest aliases, the one Will knew him as, and now he’d have to burn it, destroy all evidence, erase all data- “Or do you prefer Finch? Or is it Burdette? Do you ever have trouble remembering who you are on any given day?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Finch said. “My name is Harold Wren, I sell insurance, and the only Johns that I know are my doorman, a guy at work, and the doctor who does my physical therapy every week. I can’t help you.”

“All right, Mr. Wren, we can play this game for a while,” Snow said, walking over and taking a seat on the end of the bed, facing Finch. “You’re not going to like what happens when I get tired of playing, though. The man I’m looking for is tall, in his early forties with dark hair starting to go gray and blue eyes. I have here a picture of him, standing beside a man who looks uncannily like you, at a fundraiser for that congressman who was assassinated a few months ago. Do you remember that?”

“Of course.”

“And do you remember meeting this man?”

“I-I think so, but he said his name was Jack, not John.”

“And what else did he tell you?”

“Not much,” Finch said. “Some political small talk, the weather, traffic – nothing important. Can I go now?”

“Sure. Just tell me where John is and you can go.”

“I don’t know where he is. We just talked for a few minutes that one time. You have to believe me.”

“No, Mr. Wren, I don’t have to. And I don’t believe you, either. I was trained to recognize liars and to get the truth out of them. I’m tired of this game now, so either tell me where John is, or I’ll find another game to play, one that I guarantee you will not win.”

Finch was well aware of CIA interrogation and torture tactics from Reese’s file, and for the first time in his life, he found that knowledge was not power. Knowing what was going to happen to him did not make it any easier to face. But he could not hand Reese over to these people. The man had been betrayed enough in his life.

“I don’t know where he is,” Finch said. He jumped as a sudden loud sound shattered the silence, a sound he struggled to place until a strip of duct tape was placed across his mouth. If they wanted him to talk, why gag him? That defeated the purpose…unless the purpose was to keep him from screaming. He sucked air greedily through his nostrils, his heart pounding as the tape was wrapped around his ankles, binding his legs together. He looked up at the blurry face of Agent Snow as the black hood was placed back over his head.

“You might be interested to know that it was John who perfected this technique,” Snow said as Finch felt himself being lifted and carried, that inhumanly calm voice following. “He saw what was being done in Guantanamo Bay, the waterboarding of prisoners suspected of planning terrorist activities, and he felt he could improve upon it. And he was right.”

Finch was set down on something cold and hard, something with curved sides- He was in the bathtub, Snow’s voice echoing in the enclosed space. “This is going to be rather unpleasant, but don’t worry, the quickest we’ve ever killed anyone doing this was an hour and a half, and he had a heart condition. So just sit tight and think about what you’ve done to get yourself in this predicament.”

Finch drew a sharp breath through his nose, sucking the heavy cloth up against his face, as the shower sputtered to life, cold water raining down upon him. It soaked into his clothes and into the hood, wetting him to the skin and making him shiver. The cold made the damaged muscles in his hip ache and he shifted about, trying to relieve the pain, his wet leather shoes slipping against the porcelain, squeaking and sliding.

The effort left him out of breath and he lay struggling for air, the bag getting harder and harder to breathe through as the fibers soaked up the water. He was freezing, his teeth chattering behind the tape, the water running through the bag and down his face, the saturated material clinging to his skin. He drew a hard breath and sucked water into his nostrils. He snorted, trying to clear his nose, but the next breath was the same. He choked, coughed, but the tape wouldn’t let him clear his throat. He squeezed his eyes shut, his heart pounding against his ribcage.

The water shut off and the bag was lifted, the tape ripped off, making the skin around his mouth sting and burn. Finch hacked and choked, spitting water and mucus into the bottom of the tub where he lay. He could feel the water in his lungs, the heavy rattle when he breathed, but he managed to look up at Snow, crouched beside the tub.

“That was ten minutes,” the agent said. “Do you want to see what half an hour feels like, or are you going to tell me where John is?”

“Do your worst,” Finch gasped, his voice harsh and raspy, “because I will never tell you where he is.” There was no point in pretending anymore; even if he’d been telling the truth, Snow wasn’t going to let him go.

Snow leaned close. “Are you sure you want to die for him? He’s not worth it.”

“Yes, he is,” Finch replied. He closed his eyes, trying not to flinch as someone used a towel to dry his face before applying another strip of tape over his mouth. The wet hood was placed back over his head and the water hissed back to life, colder than before, if that was even possible. Finch tried to stay calm, to control his breathing and keep from inhaling the water that seeped through the hood, but the cold made him out of breath. He snorted water, his sinuses burning, the liquid running down the back of his throat.

“Keep an eye on him,” he heard Snow say. “I’m going out for coffee.” Finch heard a door close. He turned his head from side to side, as far as his neck would let him, but the pain just made each breath sharper. He choked and tried to swallow the water and mucus that filled his airway. He squeezed his eyes shut, fighting the panic that clawed at the inside of his chest, but he couldn’t breathe. His legs kicked out, the soles of his shoes squeaking across the wet porcelain, finding no purchase, the muscles in his injured hip cramping from the cold, knotting up, a tight tangle of barbed wire beneath his skin.

He sucked air through his nostrils, a wet, rattling sound. He couldn’t breathe. He choked, coughed through his nose, expelling mucus onto the inside of the bag, which stuck to his skin as he drew another thick, desperate breath. He couldn’t breathe. There was a crash and shouting, a loud pop pop…pop pop, but he just wanted air, he wanted to breathe, nothing else mattered.

He flinched as the hood was suddenly jerked off his head, cold water splashing against his face, but only for a moment. A figure leaned over him, clawing at the tape over his mouth, ripping it away, and Finch gasped, his lungs rattling. It felt like someone was sitting on his chest. He coughed, gagged, and vomited, spitting up water and phlegm all over himself.

“I…won’t…tell you,” he panted, barely louder than a whisper.

“Harold, it’s all right,” said a familiar voice. “I’m getting you out of here.”

“John?” It couldn’t be. There was no way Reese could have found him. “How-”

“Not now,” Reese said, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him to his feet. Finch cried out in surprise and pain as Reese suddenly jerked him off balance, lowered his shoulder to Finch’s gut, and lifted the smaller man off his feet. Hardly able to breathe, Finch fought the urge to vomit again as Reese turned, the room spinning around him. Finch let himself hang, head down, watching Reese’s blurry feet run upside-down along a dark green carpet, down a long hall and outside into a bitter, biting wind. Finch tensed against the cold, sending a burning lance of agony sliding down his neck, all the way down his spine and into his hip.

“Hang on, Harold,” Reese said, and Finch squeezed his eyes shut as the world suddenly righted itself. Reese set him on his feet and leaned him back against the side of a car. With Reese’s shoulder no longer depressing his diaphragm, Finch drew a loud, rattling breath and coughed, feeling like his lungs were being shredded as he spit out another mouthful of viscous fluid.

Reese stood beside the open door, one hand on Finch’s shoulder, his head turning back and forth as he kept a look out. “Finch, we gotta go,” he said, finally. “You can cough it up in the car.” Finch allowed himself to be helped into the back seat of the vehicle.

“John!” The shout was punctuated by a gunshot and the echoing ping of the bullet striking metal.

“Get down!” Reese ordered, shoving Finch over onto his side across the back. The door slammed and another shot rang out. Finch jumped as the window shattered, spraying him with tiny squares of safety glass. Two more gunshots echoed inside the car, seeming to come from right above Finch’s head. The car roared to life, Finch almost rolling off the seat and onto the floor as Reese slammed it into reverse, tires squealing as he pulled away from the building.

Finch heard the sound of breaking glass again and another gunshot so close it left his ears ringing. The car screeched to a stop and Finch yelped in pain as his head snapped forward. “Hold on,” Reese cautioned, a little easier said than done since Finch’s hands were still cuffed behind his back. Reese threw the car into drive and stomped on the gas, flinging Finch back against the back of the seat as he sped off, another salvo of gunshots ringing out behind them.

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