Page 97 of The Moneychangers

"How much you found out? What'd you tell him?"

"About… the club… the games… who went there."

"Including me?" "Yes." 'You son of a bitch!"

Tony Bear reached over and dammed his clenched fistic Miles's face.

Miles's body sagged away with the force of the blow, but the strain tore at his hands and he pulled back desperately to the painful, bent-over position he was in before.

A silence followed, broken only by his labored sobs and groans. Tony Bear puffed his cigar several times, then resumed the questioning.

"What else you find out, you stinking turd?" "Nothing… nothing!"

Every part of Miles was shaking uncontrollably.

"You're lying." Tony Bear turned to Danny Kerrigan.

"Get me that juice you use for the engravings." During the questioning until now, the old printer had been eying Miles with hatred.

Now he nodded. "Sure thing, Mr. Marina."

Danny crossed to a shelf and hefted down a gallon jug with a plastic cap.

The jar was labeled NITRIC ACID: Use for Etching Only. Removing the cap,

Danny poured carefully from the jar into a half-pint glass beaker.

Being careful not to spill the beaker's contents, he carried it to the table where Tony Bear faced Miles. He put it down, then laid a small engraver's brush beside it.

Tony Bear picked up the brush and dipped it in the nitric acid. Casually he reached over and dabbed the brush down one side of Eastin's face.

For a second or two, while the acid penetrated surface skin, there was no reaction.

Then Miles cried out with a new and different agony as the burning spread and deepened. While the others watched in fascination, the flesh under the acid smoldered, turning from pink to brownish black. Tony Bear dipped the brush in the beaker again.

"I'll ask you one more time, asshole.

If I don't get answers, this goes on the other side.

What else did you find out and tell?" Miles's eyes were wild, like a cornered animal's. He spluttered,

"The counterfeit… money." "What about it?"

"I bought some… sent it to the bank… then drove the car… took more to Louisville."

"And?" 'Credit cards… drivers' licenses' "You know who made them?

Printed the phony money?" Miles motioned his head as best he could. "Danny."

"Who told you?" "He… told me." "And afterwards you spilled your guts to that cop at the bank? He knows all that?"

"Yes." Tony Bear swung savagely to Kerrigan.

"You drunken stupid fact! You're no better than him." The old man stood quaking.

"Mr. Marina, I wasn't drunk. I just thought he…"

"Shaddup!" Tony Bear seemed about to hit the old man, then changed his mind. He returned to Miles. "What else do they know?"

"Nothing elsel" "Do they know where the printing's done? Where this place is?"

"No." Tony Bear returned the brush to the acid and withdrew it.

Miles followed every movement.

Experience told him the expected answer. He shouted, "Yesl Yes, they know!"

"You told that bank security bum?" Despairingly, Miles lied. "Yes, yes" "How'd you find out?" The brush stayed poised above the acid.

Miles knew he had to find an answer. Any answer which would satisfy.

He turned his head to Danny. "He told me." "You're a liar! You lousy, stinking goddammed liarl"

The old man's face was working, his mouth opening and closing and jaw quivering as emotion gripped him. He appealed to Tony Bear.

"Mr. Marino, he's Iyingl I swear he's Iyingl It isn't true."

But what he saw in Marino's eyes increased his desperation. Now Danny rushed at Miles.

"Tell him the truth, you bastard! Tell him!" Demented, knowing the potential penalty for himself, the old man looked around him for a weapon.

He saw the acid beaker.

Seizing it, he tossed the contents in Miles's face. A fresh scream started, then abruptly stilled.

As the odor of acid and the sickly smell of burning flesh mingled,

Miles fell forward, unconscious, across the table where his mangled, bleeding hands were nailed. Though not wholly understanding what was happening to Miles, Juanita suffered through his cries and pleadings and finally the extinction of his voice.

She wondered dispassionately, because her feelings were now dulled beyond the point where more emotion could affect her if he were dead.

She speculated on how long it would be before she and Estela shared Miles's fate.

That they would both die now seemed inevitable. Juanita was grateful for one thing: Estela had not stirred, despite the uproar.

If sleep would only stay with her, perhaps she would be spared whatever awfulness remained before the end. As she had not done in many years, Juanita prayed to the Virgin Mary to make death easy for Estela Juanita was aware of new activity in the adjoining room.

It sounded as if furniture was being moved, drawers opened and slammed, containers set down heavily. Once there was the jangle of metal cascading on cement and curses afterward.

Then, to her surprise, the man she had come to recognize as Lou appeared beside her and began unfastening her bonds. She supposed she was being taken somewhere, exchanging one perdition for another.

When he had finished, he left her where she was and started to untie Estela.

"Stand upl" he ordered both of them. Estela, coming awake, complied, though sleepily.

She began crying softly, the sound muffled by her gag. Juanita wanted to go to her but could not yet move forward; she supported her weight against the chair, suffering as blood flowed through her cramped limbs.

"Listen to me," Lou told Juanita.

"You got lucky because of your kid. The boss is gonna let you go.

You'll be blindfolded, taken in a car a long ways from here, and then let QUt. You don't know where you've bin, so you can't bring nobody back.

But if you blab, tell anybody, we'll find you wherever you are and kill your kid. Understand?" Hardly able to believe what she was being told, Juanita nodded. 'When get gain'." Lou pointed to a door.

Evidently it was not his intention to blindfold her yet.

Despite her inertia of moments earlier, she found her normal mental sharpness coming backs Partway up a flight of concrete stairs, she leaned against the wall and wanted to be sick. In the outer room they had just passed through, she had seen Miles or what was left of him his body slumped across a table, his hands a bloody pulp, his face, hair, and scalp burned beyond recognition.

Lou had pushed Juanita and Estela quickly past, but not fast enough to prevent Juanita taking in the grim reality. She had also learned that Miles was not dead, though he was surely dying.

He had stirred slightly and moaned. "Move ill" Lou urged. They continued up the stairs. The horror of Miles as she had seen him filled Juanita's mind.

What could she do to help him? Clearly, nothing here. But if she and Estela were to be released, was there some way she could bring aid back?

She doubted it. She had no idea where they were; there seemed no chance of finding out. Yet she must do something. Something to expiate at least a little her terrible sense of guilt. She had betrayed Miles. Whatever the motivation, she had spoken his name, and he was caught and brought here with the consequence she had seen. T

he seed of an idea, not wholly thought out, came to her. She concentrated, developing the notion, blotting other things from her mind, even Estela for the moment.

Juanita reasoned: it might not work, yet there was a slim chance. Success depended on the acuity of her senses and her memory.

It was also important that she not be blindfolded until after getting in the car.

At the head of the stairway they turned right and entered a garage. With cement block walls, it looked like an ordinary two-car garage belonging to a house or business and, remembering the sounds she had heard on arrival Juanita guessed they had come in this same way. There was one car inside not the big car in which they had arrived this morning, but a dark green Pord.

She wanted to see the license number but it was beyond her view.

In a quick glance around, something puzzled Juanita

Against a wall of the garage was a chest of drawers of dark polished wood, but like no other chest that she had seen before. It appeared to have been sawn vertically in half, with the two halves standing separated and she could see the inside was hollow.