The Unusuals

Chapter 6

HENRY approached the cell bay door and listened for a buzzing noise that would tell him the lock had been released. Tapp was right on his heels, breathing down his neck like a bull ready to enter the ring. Between the two of them, they had interrogated well over a hundred terrorists, informants, and enemy combatants. On nine previous occasions, they had combined their talents and pried open the minds of men such as Idris Thungani and Mohammad al-Haq. Sucked them dry over a period of months. Individually, Tapp and Henry were very effective. Combined, they were like a hurricane; relentless, swirling, pounding, and then the final surge. There was no doubt they could break them, the only question was, Could they do it in such a short period of time?

There was a clicking noise and then a steady buzz. Henry shoved open the door and they moved into the cell bay. There were four cells on the left and four on the right, with a wide walkway down the middle. Each cell was a self-contained cube, elevated one foot off the ground, with a gap of a foot between each pair of cells. In addition to the cells being wired for video and sound, the doors were made out of one-way Plexiglas.

Henry and Tapp marched the length of the cell bay and stopped at the last door on the right. Henry reached out and hit the light switch. If it had been up to him the lights would have stayed on 24/7, but the air force was running the show.

Tapp looked in on the prisoner, the wrinkles on his brow showing his disapproval. ”They didn shave his head or beard? ”

”No. ”

Tapps frown deepened and he mumbled a few curses to himself. ”The Detainee Treatment Act says its degrading, ” said Henry with feigned earnestness.

”Degrading, ” Tapp said gruffly. ”The guy lives in a cave nine months out of the year. His specialty is convincing the parents of Down syndrome kids to let him use their children as suicide bombers. The word degrading isn in his vocabulary. ”

Henry would make no effort to defend the rights of an animal such as Husseini, but tonight would be unlike any of their previous efforts. He needed to keep Tapp from going too far, from leaving marks that would be seen by the military interrogators in the morning. ”We both know hes a piece of shit, and any other time I couldn care less what you do to him, but you
e going to have to pull your punches tonight. ”

The only assurance Tapp was willing to give him was a slight nod. ”Lets get started. We
e wasting time. ”

Henry grabbed a small digital two-way radio from his pocket, clicked the transmit button, and said, ”Pedro, open number eight for me, please. ”

As soon as the door buzzed, Tapp yanked it open and stepped into the small cell.

In a booming voice, he yelled, ”Good morning, sunshine. ” Tapp snatched the covers off Husseini and screamed, ”Time to get up, you piece of shit! ”

Idris Thungani was wearing an orange prisoner jumpsuit. He rolled over with the look of a feral dog on his face and let loose a gob of spit that hit Tapp in the chin.

Tapp blinked once before letting loose a slew of curse words.

”I forgot to tell you, hes a spitter, ” Henry cautioned.

”Goddammit, ” Tapp yelled as he drew his sleeve across his face, his temper flaring.

Husseini kicked his legs and began thrashing at Tapp. Tapp jumped back quickly and almost tripped over Henry. He caught his balance and then caught Husseinis right ankle as it came within inches of striking him in the nuts. Tapp grabbed the foot with both hands and took a big step back, yanking the terrorist from his bed. Husseini hit the floor with a thud, and before he could recover, Tapp twisted the foot ninety degrees to the left. The move caused Husseini to straighten out and expose his groin. Tapp turned 180 degrees and brought the heel of his jump boot crashing down. There was a whoosh of air as the wind was driven from Husseinis lungs. The man groaned loudly and reached to protect his crotch.

Swearing loudly in Dari, Tapp dragged a far more cooperative Husseini from the cell and started down the hall. Henry rushed ahead and opened the next door. As Tapp reached the threshold, Husseini came to life again. He pulled himself forward and grabbed onto Tapps right leg. He opened his mouth wide and went for Tapps thigh. Tapp saw it coming, and just as Husseinis teeth were about to connect, Tapp unleashed an elbow strike that caught the Afghani above the right eye. The blow hit with such force that Husseinis head snapped back and then his whole upper body collapsed to the floor. His eyes rolled back into his head and his entire body went limp. A thin line of crimson about an inch long appeared where the terrorists right eyebrow ended. Thats all it was for a second or two, and then the blood began cascading from the cut.

”For Christ sake, Mitch, ” said a wide-eyed Henry.

”Whatd you want me to do? Let him bite me? ”

”No, but you didn have to cut him. ” Henry bent over for a closer look. ”I think hes gonna need stitches. ”

”Theres nothing we can do about it now. ” Tapp grabbed Husseini by the feet again and pulled him through the door, down the hall, and into the interrogation room on the left. Two men were inside, waiting. ”Put him in the chair and tie him down, ” Tapp ordered. ”I don want him moving, and if he spits on you, you have my permission to slap the shit out of him. ”

Tapp walked back out in the hallway and into the cell bay. Henry was waiting in front of the first cell on the left. There, sitting on the edge of the bed with prayer beads in hand, was Mohammad al-Haq. The forty-nine-year-old senior Taliban member looked more like he was seventy. His hair and beard were almost completely gray. His posture and gnarled hands spoke to the harsh life he had lived while fighting for almost thirty straight years — first as a revolutionary in the seventies, fighting against his own government, then for the Soviets in the early eighties when it looked like they would win, and then for the mujahideen when the tide turned against the Soviets. After the conflict with the Soviets, al-Haq worked with the various factions of the Northern Alliance, including General Randel, before he yet again switched sides and jumped over to join up with the Taliban as they rolled to victory. Al-Haq was the ultimate opportunist. His past indicated he would be very easy to turn.

Henry opened the cell door and said, ”Mohammad, Im afraid the time has come. ”

The bearded man looked up at him with nervous eyes. There would be no spitting or kicking. ”For? ” he asked in English.

”To reacquaint you with your old friend General Randel. ”

The man looked heavily at his prayer beads, and then, at the urging of Henry, got to his feet. The three of them left the cell bay and entered the other interrogation room. Henry placed al-Haq in a chair with his back to the door. Tapp walked around the other side of the table, leaned over and placed both hands on the surface, and stared into the prisoners eyes. In Dari he asked, ”Mohammad, do you know who I am? ”

The prisoner hesitated and then looked up. His eyes searched Tapps face for a moment and then he nodded.

”Do you think you have been treated well during your stay with the United States Air Force? ” Henry asked.

”Yes. ”

”Well, the party is over, Mohammad, ” Tapp said as he moved around the table. ”I brought your old buddy General Randel down here from Mazar-i-Sharif. He is eagerly anticipating your reunion. ”

He glanced warily at Tapp and with as much conviction as he could muster, said, ”I do not believe the general is here. If he was, he would be standing in front of me right now. ”

Henry and Tapp shared a look that al-Haq construed as nervous. The terrorist wiped his sweaty palms on his jumpsuit and added, ”I have become a student of your country. I see how important it is for your leaders to feel that they are enlightened and compassionate. They would never allow me to be turned over to an animal like General Randel. The senators I met with earlier in the week assured me that I would be treated humanely. ”

Tapp laughed. Henry shook his head. Al-Haq allowed himself a smile at what he thought was a small victory.

”Your thinking, ” Henry said, ”is not far from the truth, but you left out one important thing. We
e CIA. We don play by the rules. Our job, our only job as ordered by the president, is to hunt down and kill you and your merry band of backward, bigoted nut jobs. Now, you may have found some comfort in the assurances of those politically correct senators who visited you earlier in the week, but let me tell you something, they have the shortest memories of any animal on the planet. We have assured the president that in our opinion an attack on the continental United States is imminent. He has talked to each of those senators, two of whom are up for reelection, and asked them how they are going to explain their behavior to their constituents if the U.S. is hit by a terrorist attack. ”

Henry was making all of it up. There had been no discussion with the president, and therefore the president had not gone to the senators in question. They were way off the reservation, but the prisoner did not need to know that.

”Those senators bailed on your ass like that. ” Tapp snapped his fingers. ”So its down to two choices for you. You either talk to General Randel or you talk to us. With us, its only going to be as painful as you make it. With General Randel it will be painful. You will sleep in your own shit for as long as he keeps you alive. He will allow his men to do unspeakable things to you. You will experience pain that you didn think possible. You will beg him to kill you, and after he has had his fun, he most certainly will. ”

Tapp took a step back, folded his arms, and shrugged. ”With us, as long as you cooperate, you will most certainly live. In twenty years or so you will probably be set free. You can even look forward to playing with your grandchildren someday. ”

”The choice is simple, ” said Henry, almost pleading with the man to make things easy.

The Afghanis face was pinched in thought, like a card player trying to decide if he should fold or put everything in the pot. After a long moment he looked up and said, ”I do not believe you. If General Randel was here, he would be standing in front of me. ”

”Well that can be arranged, ” said Henry as he moved across the room. He opened the door and left the small interrogation room.

Tapp smiled at him. ”You
e an idiot. The general wants you so bad hes offered me money. Fifty thousand cash if I look the other way and let him take you back to Mazar-i-Sharif. And you know how much this man likes his cash. ”

Henry returned with the general a few seconds later. Randel approached al-Haq from behind and placed both hands on the mans shoulders. There was an obvious physical contrast between the two men. Randel was carrying an extra twenty pounds at least, whereas al-Haq was emaciated from years of living on the run in the mountains.

”Mohammad, I have looked forward to this for years. ” Randel spoke in Uzbeki, which Tapp and Henry did not understand as well as Dari. ”I have many things planned for you. There are many of your old friends who can wait to see you. ”

Henry watched al-Haq close his eyes. He tried to stand but Randels powerful hands kept him in place. Henry cleared his throat. ”I think we should allow you two a few minutes alone. ”

”That is a wonderful idea, ” Randel said, switching to English. ”Please send in my bodyguards. ”

As Tapp and Henry started for the door, a terrified al-Haq began pleading with them to stay.

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