His rebel captor paced, muttering to himself in Spanish. He slapped the back of his neck and inspected the squashed bug in his palm. Sweat flowed down his forehead. He undid the top button of his camouflage uniform shirt, removed his holster, and slammed it on the table.
"When are they coming?" the rebel said in a thick Hispanic accent. He unsheathed his dagger and touched the tip of the blade to the prisoner's nose. "I will not ask again."
Brightman ignored the question as he had for the last few hours. The longer he could delay, the better chance he had of getting his hands free--it was clear his captor wasn't willing, or didn't have permission, to get more forceful.
As he continued working the rope, he looked deliberately at the rebel's shirt and the letters D.U.M.I. stitched on the pocket. He grinned. "Sorry, dummy, I don't know."
The rebel looked at the letters, struggling to read them upside down. "I ... Iwu ... Imud?" He kicked a metal trashcan across the room and forced a slew of Spanish curses through clenched teeth, but he quickly composed himself when he noticed that a man dressed in a double-breasted tan pinstriped suit, polished wingtip shoes, and a maroon velvet fedora was standing in the doorway. A leather satchel hung from his shoulder. Behind him was a slight man with an unassuming look.
The rebel returned his knife to its sheath and rushed to the well-dressed man. "Señor Joros," he said. "My apologies. I did not know you were there."
Scourge Joros was a titan of the American fashion industry who chose to use his money and influence in the world of politics. Little was known about him and he liked it that way. In fact, he demanded it. When a news story had the nerve to publish his birthday--October, 31--the billionaire with a penchant for social justice executed a hostile takeover and immediately shut the paper down. It was the first, and last, time his name ever appeared in the media.
"Did he talk?" Joros asked.
"No," the rebel said. "He is tough. Very tough. I don't think we will get anything out of him. It seems he would rather die than talk."
Joros pulled a three-legged stool in front of Brightman and sat. "It is not 'dummy.' It is simply the letters D-U-M-I."
"That would be 'dummy.'"
"No," Joros said. "If anything it would be 'doomy.' Perhaps 'doomeye.' But it is not a word. They are just initials. D-U-M-I: Democrats Under My Influence."
"They aren't Democrats, they're socialist rebels."
"Tomato, tomahto. Socialist rebels, Democrats."
"It still spells 'dummy.'"
Joros sighed in annoyance. "I suppose you could read it that way, but I didn't notice until after the shirts were made. Enough of this."
He removed a video camera from his bag, then placed it on the table, pointed it at Brightman, and pressed the "Record" button. "We will get the information out of you sooner or later," Joros said. "It is in your best interest if you make it sooner."
Brightman remained silent. His men were out there, and nothing would make him jeopardize their safety. He wouldn't turn on them, and he wouldn't turn on his country. The rebel was right. He would rather die than talk.
Joros took a pair of latex gloves from his jacket pocket and pulled them onto his hands. "Give me the truth serum," he said to the man that accompanied him.
The man placed a syringe in Joros's palm. Joros held it up, squeezing the bottom until a single drop of fluid overflowed from the tip. "Now," he said to Brightman, "you will talk."
"What's the point?" Brightman asked. He knew it was a stupid question, but it was the first thing that popped into his mind and he needed to buy more time. The rope around his left hand was loosening.
Joros relaxed. He seemed to enjoy the question. "Once you give me the information, my rebels will drive back your forces and take over this government. Then, I will control the country."
"For what purpose?" Another dumb question, but his thumb was almost free.
"The purpose is practice."
"Yes," Joros said, rolling up Brightman's sleeve to reveal his right bicep. He lifted the needle to the captain's arm, then paused and lowered it.
"I think it is high time there are more victors for the world's spoils. That, of course, cannot happen with the political, social, and economic structures we currently suffer. It can only be achieved through fundamental transformation. Unfortunately, fundamentally trans-forming the world is not easy. But, after some practice on a couple of smaller countries, one could transform a larger country. The USA, for instance."
Brightman's blood boiled. To a man who had dreamed of serving his country since childhood, following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, Joros's words were enraging. "We have laws," he said. "A governing document. It's not the kind of country you can just walk into and take control of."
Joros smirked. "You're governed by people, and people are far more weak-minded than you give them credit for."
Brightman shook his head at his captor's arrogance. "I suppose you have some kind of control over the weak-minded?"
"I have a gift," Joros said, lifting his chin in the air. He brought the needle back up to Brightman's arm. "This will hurt a bit less than I would like it to."
Brightman gave one last, strong twist.
His left hand came free. He swung it around hard, landing it on Joros's head and knocking him to the ground. Then he lunged at the rebel, sending him reeling back. He grabbed the gun from the table, shoved it into his beltline, and then kicked the door open.
A wave of thick, humid air pounded him as he rushed outside and raced across the dirt road, toward the jungle.
A commotion arose as rebels followed, but Brightman continued into the thick brush, slapping heavy leaves and thick branches out of the way as he forged his own trail. Every step drained strength from his already weakened body.
He stopped at a clearing where a dirt road ran left to right in front of him. He would be a clear target in the openness as he tried to cross. But if he made it, and the rebels followed, they would be in the open, giving him a clear shot.
He sprinted across.
Bullets flew by.
When he reached the other side, he dove, head first, over a fallen tree. He scrambled to his knees and peered over the log, steadying his weapon on top of it, waiting for his enemies to cross.
But they didn't. They stopped and scattered, taking cover in the brush.
For now, the temporary standoff was the best Brightman could hope for, and he took the opportunity to rest. If he started to run again, the rebels would follow--and it was a race he was sure to lose.
He kept his eyes glued to the jungle across the road, monitoring the movements of his enemies by the way the leaves rustled. As the minutes passed, there were more rustles--reinforcements were coming.