B.K. lowered his bullhorn a moment.
“Is that so awful? A nice cup of coffee, for those who drink it?”
His underling nervously shook his head.
“No,” said B.K. “TALL PEOPLE!”
“This obsession with coffee is ruining the world,” said Maddox to Roger.
“Yep. That and leaking nuclear submarines off the coast of Norway.”
“The pulp mills and water dams in Canada destroying sacred aboriginal lands.”
“And using cyanide off the Great Barrier Reef to catch fish.”
“And stupid bloody political thinking resulting in coal plants going up in China faster than Hagen Daaz ice cream parlours in Hong Kong.”
“What could be worse?”
“A revitalized Nazi party. “
“Gives you the chills. “
“A HOT, TASTY BEVERAGE!”
“And the dumping of untreated industrial waste into the rivers of Mexico that feed the broccoli the Jolly Green Giant loves so much. Eeugh!”
“Absolutely!” screamed Maddox.
“It’s your last! GET ME? No more thirst-quenching beverages. NO! You’ll be feeling a bit weak on account of you being DEAD!! I want them ALIVE!!” shouted B.K. with sudden switch of audience. “ALIVE! So’s I can kill ‘em in a most foul and upsetting manner!”
“God! He’s obnoxious,” said Roger.
“I tell you what,” sighed Maddox with a deep and immediate weariness, “he rates three out of ten as far as his crazy laugh goes. Reminds me of weak and tepid tea made all the worse with big dollops of cold, sour milk.”
“Gosh. The imagination you have.”
“I didn’t ask for it, believe you me.”
“Well… um. Do… um… do you believe the claim by some tuna manufacturers,” asked Roger, “that they’re dolphin friendly?”
“Ah, there you are!” said a B.K. soldier with outstretched rifle.
“Looks like we’ve been nicked, old son,” said Maddox. “Just when it was getting interesting.”
“Well, at least it’ll shut up B.K. for a while.”
Back at B.K.’s place stuff was happening.
Preparations were underway for an intimate meal. The setting was a small, single room hut, big enough for a table and two chairs, the food delivered to the table through a small wooden window frame, haphazardly cut into the wall opposite the door, facing onto the compound. The kitchen, it seemed, was elsewhere on the grounds.
B.K. stood on the bottom step outside this small room, praising Bembol, his favourite B.K. Soldier, who stood on the top step, his arms limp as B.K. shook them warmly, ingratiatingly.
“You know you are my best interrogation tool, Bembol. It is with great skill that you defeat those who resist you. It makes me proud to have you serve under me. I cannot help but think of you like a son. Go, Bembol. Bembol, who is like a son to me, and do what you do best. Interrogate the enemy.”
Bembol had heard it all before. He took the faint praise and smiled as proud a smile as could be mustered. He had his comrades to keep in mind. As long as he could keep Maddox here, his comrades would have an easy time of it. No early marching drills, no manic sentry duty directly following dinner. It would be an interrogation of unparalleled protraction. Bembol learned that word in school and enjoyed the many inferences it contained: protraction. He used the word with self-assuredness and always with perfect enunciation when around B.K., it allowed Bembol to maintain his high ranking amongst the men. It delighted and sustained B.K. no end to think he had an intelligent right-hand man in the front lines, maintaining and preserving morale in his private army. Bembol was accorded many privileges and responsibilities to help his comrades. Bembol! A definite favourite with both men and leader.
Maddox was tremendously entertained by the attempts to throw him off his guard. The lighting of candles, the placement of a linen napkin on his lap, the complimentary basket of bread rolls…but it didn’t phase him, he knew it was all a crock. You see, the butter was actually margarine. If they’d been serious about tricking, even wooing Maddox for information, they’d have provided full cream, lightly salted butter. He knew he was being prepared for a sucker-punch. He had his plans. He had his timing. These idiots were no match for Maddox’s Ferrari-like tuned mind. Bring them all on, he thought. Bembol quietly entered and closed the door.
“Huh?” thought Maddox.
“Please, no!” exclaimed Jim from a cell a stone’s throw from the dining hut, “Not Bembol!”
“What!? What!?” Roger clamoured from behind to see what Jim was seeing.
“And he’s brought his guitar!” moaned Jim in defeat. He slumped down to the floor, allowing Roger to leap to the cell window to try and assess this new and scary situation.
Bembol sat down and placed his guitar against the wall behind him. B.K. pushed as much of his bulk through the small window as he could and addressed Maddox.
“This is Bembol. Bembol, say hello to our adversary.”
“Hello,” said Bembol as instructed, flashing a warm smile at Maddox.
“A pleasure,” responded Maddox.
“Well, it won’t be for long. Do you know what these are?” exclaimed B.K. as he thrust a medium-sized sack of food at Maddox.
Maddox looked into the sack and pronounced them to be dried peas.
“Wasabi peas. They are Wasabi peas. Do you know where they come from?”
“I love Japanese food,” added Maddox. “May I?”
“No interruptions!” hollered BK. “I hate Smart Alec’s. Yes, JAPAN! Okay. Here’s a question for you…Why did I give them to you?”
“They’re for my dinner, I expect.”
“No! Ha! Not as smart as you think, are you! They’re for Bembol’s dinner. Pass them to Bembol. Bembol is eating. You are not eating.”
Maddox picked up a dinner roll.
“Not even a dinner roll?”
This caught B.K. off guard but he agreed to it.
“No! Well, all right. But just two.”
B.K. wrenched himself out of the window frame and turned to his left, made a sharp gesture with his head and stepped aside.
A B.K. soldier donning a chef hat stepped up to the window with a tray. On the tray sat a large jar of chili sauce, a spoon and a large pitcher of water. Bembol quickly rose to take them from the chef.
“And what, pray tell us, Mr. Smarty Pants, is this lot for!” yelled B.K. from out of view.
“Well, on first impressions, FATSO,” said Maddox mischievously, “I’d have to say more dinner for our dear friend, Bembol. Am I right?”
B.K. flew into a rage. “Seal the area!”
“But the nearest zoo…” said the chef. “Oh!”
The chef threw his hat onto the steps and ran around the small dining room hut with sheets of opaque-blue, bubbled packing plastic, creating an almost hermetically sealed dining area within a matter of minutes.
Maddox was utterly bewildered.
“They’ve wrapped the hut in blue plastic, Jim,” said Roger.
“Cover your ears,” advised Jim, following his own advice. “Worse than the bloody Sirens of old.”
“This is a little something I whipped up just for the occasion, Mr. Maddox,” said Bembol, picking up his guitar.
“Call me Maddox, please.”
“And you can call me Bembol, supreme Minstrel, and breaker of women’s hearts,” tittered Bembol, strumming his guitar.
“That’d make quite a business card, old son,” chuckled Maddox.
“A love song, Maddox, for you from my heart, but please allow me to strum a bit more as I eat my dinner.”
“He’ll eat, then he’ll sing.”
“What?” asked Roger of Jim.
“Allow me to demonstrate,” said Bembol to Maddox.
“Then it’ll be ghastly. Awful. Poor bastard, Maddox,” said Jim.
Bembol strummed. Bembol ate. Bembol finished and began singing. It was the most beautiful voice any of them had ever heard. It was serenading Maddox at close range – a simple, rhythmic chant, soft and low. Maddox was in shock. The guitar playing was also beautiful. Bembol was a man of immense talent.
Maddox was bawling his eyes out. He couldn’t stop. He felt as though his heart would burst if the beauty didn’t stop. So when the lyrics ceased for a moment to allow Bembol a moment to indulge himself in wondrous guitar playing and pea munching, Maddox had a moment to collect himself and meditate; breathing deeply and exhaling. Frantically tantric. He’d defeat this torturous bastard. He’d retreat into the deepest recesses of his soul and hope to God it wasn’t a full scale concert they had planned for him, but his deep sobs were uncontrollable. He was losing to Bembol. What the hell could they have in store for him when he had succumbed? Why such charming torture? But he mustn’t give in. Think bad thoughts. He must think bad thoughts. Rid himself of this beguiling monstrosity. Hellish thoughts were attempted, but to no avail. Such beautiful and imposing music! He must try deep breathing and meditation instead.
No sooner had Maddox started in on his deep breathing exercises than the immense beauty was interrupted by flatulence from Bembol. Bembol apologized to Maddox in the midst of all his chanting. Maddox wailed to Bembol not to worry, that it was quite all right. Then the smell hit him. Maddox clutched at his throat, gasping for air, trying to stop blubbering, trying to calm down through rhythmic breathing. Angelic voices mixed with sulfurous hellions. What kind of horror was this? He lifted his head off the table to plead with Bembol but Bembol looked back at him through a gas mask.
“Sorry, Maddox, It’s my other talent.”
The guitar playing, the beautiful but muffled singing, the wasabi peas and chili sauce munching continued through the night.
Maddox, despite his self-proclaimed intelligence, fell insensible after the third set. Bembol took only one toilet break the entire night.
“God have mercy on his soul,” uttered Jim, barely audible.
Roger couldn’t answer for crying.
The morning brought with it a very angry B.K. Anger directed at Bembol.
“Why did you protract the interrogation? Look at him. We’ll never get anything out of him now.”
Maddox was a crumpled heap in a puddle of tears, staring weakly out of the hut at Bembol being reviled in an indelicate manner.
“Kick him, B.K., right on the bastard’s shins,” murmured Maddox.
“Then fall down a mineshaft yourself. Bastard, you.”
“Release him. And the others. Now!”
Bembol knew this meant a fifteen minute head start on foot then a savage manhunt and death by rifle fire from a speeding jeep. B.K. might be unpredictable in most ways, but his favourite form of killing was always the same.
Bembol had overdone it. He should have made it quick and lied about the resulting cache of information from Maddox. Now his compatriots would have to kill all three men. This would be a sad day indeed. Bembol strained with all his reckoning to figure a way out of the situation. He had no time to lose. He had, in the end, no chance of winning.