The interrogation room was dingy and dark, lit by a single flickering bulb that bathed the two men in a sickly yellow and failed to creep past the damp darkness of the far corners of the room. Reginald Fauster sat upon a small rickety chair in the centre of the room in his thin cotton nightclothes, keeping his face in his hands and his eyes tightly closed. He did not know the name of his interrogator, nor could he discern the reason for his presence in that cold and hourless place.
The interrogator walked slowly round Reginald's chair, pensive and calculating. His face was smooth and handsome, ageless and foreign. Everything about him was neutral, from his haircut to his shoelaces, and his clothes betrayed neither military nor civilian allegiances. The only definite indication of his authority was his unobtrusive sidearm.
"Reginald," he said smoothly, "do you know why you're here?"
"I don't," Reginald answered meekly, like a small child, frightened and confused. His fingers parted slightly and he ventured a peek at the world outside himself. His shoulders slumped as if the weight of God's own fists pressed down upon them, and he shuddered quietly.
"Think, Reginald," insisted the man in his cool, accentless voice. "Think: where were you yesterday?"
Reginald heard the shuffling of heavy feet and knew that his interrogator had repositioned himself behind him. He was certain that when the man spoke, he would feel hot breath on his neck and hands bearing down heavily upon him. But when he did speak, the man's voice came from further back, and Reginald relaxed ever-so-slightly in relief.
"I can't understand you when you speak with your hands in front of your mouth." Reluctantly, Reginald removed them. "That's better." Reginald imagined that he heard a satisfied smile resounding in the inflections of his voice. "Now, let's try this again: where were you last night?"
For a long, horrifying moment, Reginald froze in the realization that all he could remember of anything was this ten-by-thirteen cell in which he sitting, a dim and airless world that went on forever in his memory. Time slowed. He tried to swallow and found that he couldn't; he felt perspiration bead on his brow.
'He's going to say something,' he thought, panicked. More than anything, he wanted the man behind him to stay silent, and the only way he knew of assuring that was to begin to speak himself.
"Yesterday... yesterday _night_, I was... _not here_," he stammered out quickly, his tongue and vocal chords uncooperative. He licked his cracked lips nervously. Jerking his head up and around, he looked into the skilfully guarded eyes of the man behind him, willing him not to open his mouth. "Yesterday, I was—" he paused, then started weeping as he suddenly remembered _exactly_ where he had been the night before, when the world had been sane and the stars had come out at night one by one and he had been too busy to notice them. "I was at a business party!" he cried out miserably, suddenly feeling ashamed. "That's where I was: a business party." He looked back down at his hands and began to shake. "Only a business party..."
The interrogator walked back around to face him, and lifted Reginald's chin firmly, forcing him to look him in the eyes. His skin was warm and dry to Reginald's clammy, stubble-covered face. "Do you know why you're here, Reginald?"
A wave of nausea washed over the man in the chair. Sickly, he shook his head. His interrogator sighed and backed away, rubbing his eyes. It was the first show of genuine emotion on his part since Reginald's ordeal had begun. Without another word, he walked briskly to the door, opening and closing it quickly behind him, bolting it shut from the outside.
Reginald half sighed, half sobbed in relief, his pent-up emotions suddenly let loose. It was not so much that he was afraid of his interrogator as an individual, but rather of what it was that he represented. Shaking, he reached down to his shoes and began to untie his laces, willing his numbed fingers to cooperate. He breathed a prayer of thankfulness to a God he didn't believe in that when the men had come after him in the middle of the night they had allowed him to put his shoes on before leaving the house.
"I have to leave," he mumbled thickly. "I have to get out of here." Half-formed plans danced wildly in his mind, and his desperation grew with every passing second. He _knew_ why he was in that cell, had known ever since that first flash of insight had struck—and more importantly, he knew that he wasn't made of the stuff of heroes. There was no way that he would be able to remain strong enough to keep his knowledge from his interrogator.
He remembered the business party all right; he also remembered the false pretences under which he'd been there. He especially remembered the envelope that he'd taken from his coat and placed into the eager young hands of his contact. Back then—it seemed aeons ago—it had all been fun and games. The men they had pledged themselves against were ruthless and powerful, letting nothing get in their way, but the men with whom Reginald associated never really believed they would be in any danger. The world was civil, after all, and nothing bad happened to you so long as you were born into a good family. Except that, of course, these men didn't care about Reginald's good family—these men were concerned only with their own agenda. "They mustn't know!" he cried aloud. "They mustn't know!"
Weakly, he yanked the laces from his shoes and stood up. His mind resolved to the approaching task, he tried to keep his stance noble. 'I'll get him when he comes through the door,' he thought dazedly. 'He won't even see me.' He shivered, chilled in his pyjamas, and took up his post outside the door. "He'll come back," he told himself feverishly. "He always does." He smiled, amazed at his loyalty to the cause. It had always been all well and good to say how far he would go while he was sipping champagne in respectable company, but deep down inside, he'd always had the horrible suspicion that if the time ever came, he'd act in a cowardly fashion and put them all to shame. But when it came right down to it and he knew that he had but one real choice, there was no question as to what had to be done or whether he would carry it through. 'After all,' he reasoned, 'if he does torture me—and he will—I'll end up telling him everything.'
The door opened, and the interrogator walked in, a bizarre smile on his normally serene face. In his hands was a black box; it looked like a toolkit. His smile soon turned into an alarmed frown. "Reginald?" Next he was reaching for his throat, desperately trying to loosen the grip of Reginald's shoelaces at his neck. His attacker grunted and kneed him in the small of his back, knocking him to the floor. In one surprisingly swift motion, he grabbed the other man's gun and cocked it. His hand shook unsteadily as he gripped the firearm tightly. The interrogator's eyes widened in sudden terrible understanding, but he had been rendered temporarily mute by the improvised garrotte. He lifted one hand hesitantly in front of him, as if to block the path of the bullet he thought to be inevitable.
Reginald took one step forward, then one step back. He gazed down resolutely at the helpless man at his feet, and realized bitterly that he still didn't know his name. He chose his next words carefully, knowing they would be the last the man on the floor would ever hear from him. "I will not," he said, "tell you one solitary thing—nor will I let you beat it out of me." Both men briefly glanced at the black box, now dented and turned on its side where it had fallen. Reginald smirked sadly. This was accompanied by one last burst of stubborn fire in his eyes that flickered, then died, and he calmly aimed the gun at his own head and pulled the trigger.