Today's Reading

PROLOGUE

Monday, August 9, 1982 Warsaw, Poland
3:45 p.m.

Janusz Czajkowski wanted to look away from the gruesome scene before him, but he knew that would be worse.

He'd been brought here to Mokotow Prison for the express purpose of watching. This place had a long and storied history. The Russians built it in the early 20th century. The Nazis used it extensively, as did the communists after the war. Since 1945 this was where the Polish political underground, the intelligentsia, and anyone else considered a threat to the Soviet-controlled government was held, tortured, and executed. Its heyday had come during Stalin's time, when thousands had been held at Rakowiecka Street Prison, which was how most Poles referred to it then. Sometimes, though, they spat out the German label: Nacht und Nebel. Night and Fog. A place of no return. Many were murdered in the basement boiler room. Officially, such atrocities had ended with Stalin. But that was not actually the case. Dissidents for decades after had continued to be rounded up and brought here for "interrogation."

Like the man before him.

Middle-aged, naked, his body bent over a tall stool, his wrists and ankles tied to the bloodstained wooden legs. A guard stood over him with legs spread across the prisoner's head, beating the man on his back and bare ass. Incredibly, the prisoner did not make a sound. The guard stopped the assault and slipped off the bound man, planting the sole of his boot into the side of the man's head.

Spittle and blood spewed out.

But still, not a sound.

"It's easy to manufacture fear," the tall man standing next to Janusz said. "But it's even easier to fake it."

The tall man wore the dour uniform of a major in the Polish army. The hair was razor-cut in military style, a black mustache tight and manicured. He was older, of medium build, but muscular, with the arrogant entitled personality he'd seen all too often in the Red Bourgeoisie. The eyes were dark points, diamond-shaped, signaling nothing. Eyes like that would always hide much more than they would reveal, and he wondered how difficult maintaining such a lie must be. A name tag read DILECKI. He knew nothing about this major, other than having been arrested by him.

"To manufacture fear," Dilecki said, "you have to mobilize a large portion of the people to accept it exists. That takes work. You have to create situations people can see and feel. Blood must be shed. Terrorism, if you will. But to counterfeit fear? That's much easier. All you have to do is silence those who call fear into question. Like this poor soul."

The guard resumed beating the naked man with what looked like a riding crop, a metal bearing hanging from its tip. Welts had formed, which were now bleeding. Three more guards joined the assault, each delivering more blows.

"If you notice," Dilecki said, "they are careful. Just enough force to inflict pain and agony, but not enough to kill. We do not want this man to die. Quite the contrary. We want this man to talk."

The prisoner clearly was suffering, but he seemed unwilling to allow his captors the satisfaction of knowing that fact.

"You've forgotten the kidneys," Dilecki called out.

One of the guards nodded and began to concentrate his blows to that area of the body.

"Those organs are particularly fragile," Dilecki noted. "With just the right blow, there's no need to even bind or gag people. They cannot move or utter a sound. It's excruciating."

Not a hint of emotion laced the shrill voice, and he wondered what it took for someone to become so inhuman. Dilecki was a Pole. The guards were Poles. The man being tortured was a Pole.

Madness.
...

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