On your 13th wedding anniversary, if you’re a writer like me, the present you give your wife is a sneak preview of the first chapter of Lee Child’s forthcoming book called ‘Torture Room’. Well actually, it’s a tribute chapter that I wrote to celebrate my wife in the style of her favourite genre. She loves Lee Child (I don’t) and she loves the TV series 24 (I claim not to but always get sucked in).
So I presented her with this story, mocked up with advance praise cover blurbs and everything. She loved it. Best thing is that it only really means anything to her. I’m sharing it here anyway, just in case someone else enjoys it. It’s quite a sacrifice to write something for only one person!
Chapter One – from Lee Child’s Torture Room
Reacher pulled the dart from the back of his neck but it was too late. The sedative was already working. He looked at the dart, a 2ml casing, probably gave him 15 seconds. Not enough time. He would be out for at least two hours. He turned and saw a man walking towards him. About six foot, large build, carrying a 25 round glock pistol. Must’ve smuggled it into the country. Why here? His vision swarmed, he fell to the ground and darkness overtook him.
His wrists were strapped to the arms of a metal chair. His ankles were tied and there was a metal chain around his waist and chest. He tested the strength of the set up. Secure.
A man stepped into view, same guy. Reacher’s focus was returning. Jumper leads attached to his chair snaked along the floor to a bench with some kind of control panel on it. He was in a warehouse. Opposite Reacher, strapped to an identical chair, was a woman, late twenties-early thirties maybe. Blond pony tail, athletic body, a steely gaze watching him. She was tense but not terrified. Reacher liked her already.
The man was wearing a mask, a flimsy plastic clown face. “So!” said the clown, rubbing his hands together. “Allow me to explain the rules of the game.” He leaned in to Reacher’s face. “I will ask you a question. You will answer it correctly. A correct answer and the pretty lady does not suffer.”
“I’m no good at quizzes,” said Reacher. “Ask someone else.” The clown continued gazing at close proximity as though deciding whether or not to laugh. Then he said, “First question: New World or Pak ‘n’ Save, which is better value for money?”
“That’s your question?” said Reacher. “Why don’t you just read their junk mail?”
“It’s not for my benefit, it’s yours,” said the clown.
“I’m not that big on shopping,” said Reacher.
The clown nodded. “I don’t think you’re taking this seriously.” He walked over to the bench and put his hand on a lever. “I’m going to give you a small taste, just so you can see what the lady is in for if you continue on this path.” He plunged the switch. Reacher saw the jumper leads spasm. An electric buzz sizzled around his chair. His teeth clamped together, his muscles contracted and his chest felt like it was about to explode. Just when he thought he could take no more it stopped, leaving him gasping.
“That’s just little object lesson to help us get oriented,” said the clown. “The next lesson will be more … comprehensive.” He clapped his hands. “Right, question two, again for the gentleman,” said the clown. “When is the best time of year to plant broccoli?”
“What kind of question is that? What is this anyway, have you never heard of the internet?” said Reacher. The clown drummed his fingers together. “Still not taking this seriously? I can see this is going to be tough on the lady,” he said. The lever was pulled, the electricity roared. Her neck went taut, her mouth was wrenched open as though it were being cranked apart by hand. But then Reacher realized it was not the effects of the shock he was seeing; she was yawning. She was actually yawning.
“Is this supposed to be torture?” she said. “I’ve got three little boys at home, get on with it, I’ve got stuff to do!” The clown stared at her. “Intriguing,” he said. He swung a dial and watched as the electricity increased. “Seriously,” said the girl, apparently unaffected. “It’s been a long night. Our oldest boy’s got a cold and I had to help some American guy stop a international terrorist plot.”
Now the clown laughed. He walked across the floor and pulled away a tarpaulin to reveal a blond man, unconscious on a third electric chair. “You mean this American?”
The girl sighed. “Oh, Jack,” she said.
“How do you know my name?” said Reacher.
“Not you, I was talking to him,” said the girl. “Jack Bauer. The counter terrorism guy.” She turned to the clown. “What have you done to him?”
“Me? Nothing. He’s just really, really tired. He’s been up all night.” A snore came from the chair. The clown returned to the console. “I’m bored now, the rules just changed,” he announced. “I’m simply going to kill you all, maximum power, no questions. Mr Bauer too.”
Reacher struggled. He heard the clatter of chains, and when he looked up, to his surprise, the girl was standing. The chains and wrist straps lay broken and limp on the floor. “Enough mucking around,” said the girl. “I’ve got dinner to cook, washing to do, kids to bath, a vege garden to manage, a house to tidy, a half marathon to train for, friends to look after and a husband to pash.” She strolled over to Reacher, bent down in front of him and snapped his restraints with her hands. Reacher said, “husband?” She winked. “Sorry buddy. He could kick your arse any day. And so could I. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a clown problem to sort out before I go.” The clown was already backing away, a shotgun in his hands. She turned to face him. “Come on, motherfucker,” she said. “Let’s have a wee talk.” Reacher thought, whoever this girl’s husband is, he’s the luckiest guy in the world.