“Or Badger, don’t forget Badger” Stretch chimed in sounding much like a child at the check-out counter.
“Him too” said Slim.
“How could anyone turn that mean and evil?” Stretch continued, not really noticing I was supposed to respond. “You would have to be born that way. It couldn’t just happen to you one day.”
“Reputation is wind through an anus” I said in a thoughtful, teaching tone. Giant and Slim started laughing but Stretch gave me a shocked face.
“It’s true” offered Henry. “A puff of smoke from a pipe and a fart out one’s own ass have the exact same weight as reputation in this business. We put on legends. We become them. Reputations are created for those legends and a goodly number of people believe each reputation to be fact. Didn’t you ever ask yourself how it is the reputation of a legend could be fact?”
“Not really . . . no . . .” said Giant. “Our legends haven’t generally been that deep.”
“You can’t fake the reputation of a psychopathic killer who carves people up as an interrogation technique. Keeps cutting on them for days, even after he got what he wanted” challenged Stretch. “Either he was born that way or something tripped him like one of those freaky Viet Nam soldier movies.”
“Why are you so freaked out about cutting people up? I thought that was a course in training these days?” I asked.
“Cutting up a body, not while it is still breathing, mostly to see how we would be working as cleaners and so we will have the fundamentals in case cleaners aren’t available” stated Slim in a serious tone.
“Hmmm” I stated quietly.
“What?” asked Henry.
“Nothing important. It’s just the first time I managed to stop brain from firing mouth with inappropriate comment fully loaded. A more important question would be if you guys are able to compartmentalize reality?”
“Compartmentalize what?” squeaked Stretch.
“Reality” piped up Henry. “It was the primary required skill back in the day. That you be able to put everything which made you, you in a mental box and store it in a closet in your mind. Then you take the box which came with the legend and unpack it in your mind, fully becoming the legend. If you were Jewish and your legend was to become a pedophile priest you became it.”
“If your legend required you to be a psychopathic torturer cutting on people for days in pursuit of information” I continued, “that’s what you became. I will cede the point that being able to keep a person alive for 180 days of that takes an awful lot of skill and knowledge. That’s why the company has, or at least had, a department for such things.”
“They have what!” spat Stretch.
“He’s not kidding about that” Giant softly uttered. “I’ve heard of them too. Met a couple of people who claimed to have actually worked with them. Those people weren’t wearing legends though. The people in that department are the kind of animal you keep caged until needed.”
“So Badger is one of those who kept getting out of the cage?” questioned Stretch.
“Badger has a wife and two kids” I answered. “A daughter that is six and son which is nine. I’m the only company man to attend his wedding and the only one at the company to know he ever got married. On the day of his wedding his sister sewed his zipper shut just before the ceremony. Last time I visited his wife was nagging at him about having another child because they don’t stay little forever.”
“There are many things I know about Badger” I continued without yielding the floor. “The only question I’ve ever had about him was how he managed to go his entire wedding ceremony and reception without having to use the bathroom? It befuddles me to this day.”
“Wait” interrupted Giant. Everyone turned to look at him before he continued. “You have friends?” Giant. Not only was he the size of a cartoon court jester, he could actually be one. Even I had to chuckle before replying.
“Many of them actually. Most work for the company these days. I try not to make friends outside of the business or it’s suppliers because too often they get killed by someone trying to get to me” I answered. “Were you just being court jester or did you have an actual question about that?”
“I have quite a few questions, but, the first would be ‘what was your friend doing here?’ and the second would be ‘how, why, what-the-Hell is a sister doing sewing her brother’s zipper shut before his wedding?’”
The court jester brings more laughter and tensions ease. I can even see Stretch starting to calm down.
“You would have to ask Henry about Badger’s time here. I have no clue. I can tell you if he came here to kill me, the company has his family. That is one piece of information I hope to cut out of Dimitri tonight” I answered.
“You mean get out of Dimitri, don’t you?” asked Slim.
“No, I mean cut out. If this is Henry’s back yard he knows of a basement kitchen we can use for a few days. One with electricity, running water and a floor drain. You call me Old Timer to make fun of my age, but you don’t stop to think that I worked for this company before we had all of these departments. We had to do our own recon, killing and cleaning. When a client paid for advanced interrogation, we had to be Turkey Masters or something very close to it.”
“Turkey Masters?” queried Stretch with a wrinkled nose.
“It’s a term from pulp culture” Henry answered. “If we live through this I will point you to some very old paperback books which tend to glorify this life. Basically a torture expert who didn’t bother with shoving things under people’s finger nails or any of the things you see in movies. They snipped and cut and burned from the get-go. In many cases people weren’t sent for interrogation, only to serve sentence. Someone would be sentenced to a certain number of days and it was the Turkey Master’s job to cut/burn on the person while keeping them alive for that many days. Some were left as visible deterrents so others didn’t engage in the same unwanted behavior, others were simply killed after.”
“The theoretical or fictional, depending on your point of view, record/limit was 180 days” I continued. “At the end of that time what was left of the body would look like a turkey and it would weigh less than 35 pounds. Rumor has it the company now has 2 in the department capable of achieving that goal. I am not. Mine always die within the first month. Badger might have actually achieved it a time or two. It’s difficult. You need access to lots of banana bag IVs and IV injectable prescription antibiotics.”
“How come nobody has ever heard this about you?” challenged Stretch.