She quietly ate a soft breakfast bar while she waited for his breathing to even out, and then she ate a second. She washed it down with a box of apple juice out of the minifridge.
When she reentered the tent, Daniel was gazing despairingly at the egg-foam ceiling. She walked quietly to the computer and touched a key.
“I’m sorry you had to go through that, Daniel.”
He hadn’t heard her enter. He cringed as far away from the sound of her voice as he could.
“Let’s not do it again, okay?” she said. She settled back into her chair. “I want to go home, too.” Kind of a lie, but also mostly true, if impossible. “And, though you might not believe me, I’m not actually a sadist. I don’t enjoy watching you suffer. I just don’t have another choice. I’m not going to let all those people die.”
His voice was raw. “I don’t… know what… you’re talking about.”
“You’d be surprised how many people say that – and keep saying it for round after round of what you just went through, and worse! And then on the tenth round for one, on the seventeenth for another, suddenly the truth comes pouring out. And I get to tell the good guys where to find the warhead or the chemical bomb or the disease agent. And people stay alive, Daniel.”
“I haven’t killed anyone,” he rasped.
“But you’re planning to, and I’m going to change your mind.”
“I would never do that.”
She sighed. “This is going to take a long time, isn’t it?”
“I can’t tell you anything I don’t know. You’ve got the wrong person.”
“I’ve heard that one a lot, too,” she said lightly, but it touched a nerve. If she couldn’t get the other Daniel to appear, then wasn’t she truly torturing the wrong person?
She made a snap decision to go off script again, though she was out of her depth when it came to mental illness.
“Daniel, do you ever have blackouts?”
A long pause. “What?”
“Have you, for example, woken up somewhere and not known how you got there? Has anyone ever told you that you did or said something that you can’t remember doing or saying?”
“Um. No. Well, today. I mean, that’s what you’re saying, right? That I’m planning to do something awful, but I don’t know what it is?”
“Have you ever been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder?”
“No! Alex, I’m not the crazy person in this room.”
That didn’t help at all.
“Tell me about Egypt.”
He turned his head toward her. His expression made the words he was thinking as clear as if he’d spoken them out loud: Are you kidding me, lady?
She just waited.
He sighed a pained little gasp. “Well, Egypt has one of the longest histories of any modern civilization. There is evidence that Egyptians were living along the Nile as early as the tenth millennium BC. By about 6000 BC —”
“That’s hilarious, Daniel. Can we be serious now?”
“I don’t know what you want! Are you testing to see if I’m really a history teacher? I can’t even tell!”
She could hear the strength coming back into his voice. The nice thing about her drugs was that they wore off quickly. She could have a focused conversation between rounds. And she’d found that the subjects had a greater fear of pain when they weren’t feeling any. The high-ups and deep-downs seemed to speed things along.
She touched a key on her computer.
“Tell me about your trip to Egypt.”
“I have never been to Egypt.”
“You didn’t go there with Habitat for Humanity two years ago?”
“No. I’ve been in Mexico for the past three summers.”
“You do know people keep track of these things, right? That your passport number is logged into a computer and there’s a record of where you’ve gone?”
“Which is why you should know I was in Mexico!”
“Where you met Enrique de la Fuentes.”
She blinked her eyes slowly, her face very bored.
“Hold on,” he said, staring up like an explanation might be posted on the ceiling. “I know that name. It was on the news a while ago… with those DEA officers that went missing. He’s a drug dealer, right?”
She held up the picture of de la Fuentes again.
“Why do you think I know him?”
She answered slowly. “Because I also have pictures of you together. And because he’s given you ten million dollars in the past three years.”
His mouth dropped open and the word came out as a gasp. “Wha… ut?”
“Ten million dollars, in your name, scattered around the Cayman Islands and Swiss banks.”
He stared at her for another second, and then anger suddenly twisted his face, and his voice turned harsh. “If I’ve got ten million dollars, then why do I live in a roach-infested walk-up studio in Columbia Heights? Why are we using the same patched volleyball uniforms that the school’s had since 1973? Why do I ride the Metro while my ex-wife’s new husband drives around town in a Mercedes? And why am I getting rickets from eating a steady diet of ramen?”
She let him vent. The desire to talk was a small step in the right direction. Unfortunately, this angry Daniel was still the schoolteacher version, just not a very happy schoolteacher.
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