Frank recalled his own thoughts as he had left the police station the day before. Sure, he was an ex-Para and sure he didn't frighten easy, but something about those last words uttered by the bearded menace leaning over him sent a shudder through his whole being. There was little he could do. His hands were free, but with his legs spread uncomfortably wide and his feet tied painfully to the brass rail at the foot of the bed, he had few options. He was also sure, given the opportunity, Jasim would be only too pleased to blow his brains out. "So what d'you want me to say?" he said, his mouth dry.
"Your mother," Harry growled. "Where is your mother?"
"I've already said, as far as I know she is dead."
Harry pushed himself angrily up from the chair. He said nothing, just glanced quickly toward Jasim and turned his back. Frank, realising what was about to happen, threw up his arms to protect his face, but too late, the barrel of the pistol caught him just below the left ear. A searing pain coursed through his head and the force of the blow sent him reeling onto his back. For some moments he must have lost consciousness because when he again became aware of his surroundings his hands were again tied to the head of the bed. The pain to the side of his face was abominable and his ears roared. He was shaking from head to foot and his eyes watered copiously, blurring his vision.
"As I said, Mr Barnes, Jasim can be a little impetuous at times." Harry's voice was distant, his image little more than a blurred outline. "Sometimes I really do find it difficult to control his enthusiasm. I will do my best, of course, but if you do persist in being so unco-operative I am not sure how successful I will be."
Slowly Frank's vision cleared. He looked up at the man standing over him.
"I told you," he croaked. "I don't know any more than you do." His own voice sounded a million miles away, muted by the screaming in his head. "You've followed me everywhere. You've seen what I've seen. Everything except that stupid recording, which is probably a fake anyway, says she's dead. That's all I know, and that's the truth."
Harry put his fists on the bed and leaned down, his face just inches from Frank's face, his hot breath rancid in Frank's nostrils. "At one time we may have believed you, Mr Barnes," he said softly, "but you see we do not believe the recording was a fake. We believe it was your mother, and what's more we have reason to believe you have been in touch with her. So you see, despite your pathetic denials, I'm sure there is a lot more you can tell us."
"You're wrong," Frank groaned, lamely, pain searing through his brain. "I'm telling you the truth. I don't know any more than you do and that's the truth."
Harry sighed. "You were picked up by the police and handed over to others," he said. "Who were they? What were their names?"
Frank was trying to think, to reason beyond the thundering in his head. He was telling the truth; they did know as much as he did, but how could he make them believe that? His skin crawled as he thought of Wainright and the vicar. So what could he say to prevent more injury? What could he tell them that would stop the eager Jasim from again going to work on him? He remembered his training for undercover op's in Bosnia and Iraq. What happens if we're taken? The question was always the first to be asked. The answer always the same. You're on your own. The security instructors never pulled their punches. Given time and the right interrogation techniques--and they all knew what that meant--everyone talks. But what was it they said? Always hold something back. However small, however insignificant, always hold something back. To do so instils a sense of personal triumph; you're not totally beaten, all is not lost.
"I don't know who they were. They never told me their names," Frank finally answered. He saw Jasim move tight lipped toward him and continued quickly. "Why should they?" he blurted out. "They're no different to you two. You haven't told me your real names either, have you?" But his words had little affect. Jasim moved swiftly, a vicious, chopping blow smashing into the side of his neck, spinning his head to one side, the force of the blow temporarily blocking his windpipe, cutting off his air supply.
Frank gagged frantically, unable to draw breath. He swung his head frantically from side to side, the roaring in his ears increasing to a crescendo, consciousness almost leaving him again. Then slowly, thankfully, precious oxygen again begin to splutter its way into his desperate lungs. He gulped gratefully, his glazed eyes unable to leave the blurred vision standing over him; now unable to raise his arms to protect himself from another attack which he knew was imminent.
But the blow never came and, in a semi-conscious state, Frank was unaware someone had entered the room. He only realised Jasim had dropped his arm to his side and was no longer looking down at him. Frank twisted his head to one side, his eyes gradually focussing on the figure standing in the doorway. It was the woman who had previously brought the soup. Other than her eyes, her face was still covered by the silk scarf.
Harry spat angry, unintelligible words in the woman's direction. Dropping her eyes, she replied meekly. Harry sighed resignedly and dismissed her with an abrupt wave of his hand. He turned to Jasim, still standing menacingly over Frank, and nodded briefly. Jasim reluctantly pocketed the revolver, glared menacingly down at Frank for some moments then swung on his heel and left the room.
"Well, Mr Barnes," Harry said, the smile back on his face. "It seems our little talk will have to wait until tomorrow. More important things have occurred. I do hope you aren't too disappointed. I suggest you relax, enjoy a good night's sleep. I do believe you will need it. Tomorrow could be a very trying day." He turned to leave the room, then hesitated, looking back. "By the way, you should know the window in this room is completely sealed. I would also advise you desist from embarking on another bout of shouting. Firstly, we are in a far too remote location for it to be of any use, and further, if necessary, I will again resort to our little friend the syringe." Suddenly the smile fell from his face. "We will, one way or another find and deal with your mother, Mr Barnes, and who knows, if tomorrow you choose to co-operate, you may even come out of this alive."