“You’re not going to die here, Jack,” Thorn continued. I won’t give you that satisfaction." He moved back to the chair he had been sitting in and sat down. “The thing I couldn’t figure out about you is why you’d have a problem with all of this. You do Hoffmann’s bidding just fine. You don’t have any issues with them. You have no idea what their greater plan or grand designs are. You do the work. You get your check. Fair enough. I am offering you the same thing and still you balk. I’m not asking you do anything you haven’t done before. Just do it for me. Be a good little soldier, Jack.”
There was so much Jack wanted to scream back at him. But his mind was going too fast and he was never good with this kind of banter. Better to just get free of the chair and smash it over Thorn’s head. But he couldn’t. Jack didn’t understand the supernatural. He was still trying to come to grips with it even existing. He knew enough to know that there was some power in this chair that made the pain worse. If Thorn wasn’t going to stop and Jack wasn’t going to give in the only thing left, the only answer he could see, was him dying in this chair. It was only a matter of time.
The door opened and one of Thorn’s men came in. He was wearing some sort of metallic headgear. It looked like a cross between a spaghetti strainer and a football helmet without a mask. He walked over to Thorn and handed him a similar device. Thorn put it on and stood up.
“She’s ready,” the thug said to Thorn.
“Perfect,” Thorn replied. “Let’s get this started.”
Jack turned his head to the right to see the door. His head throbbed and his jaw felt like it was on fire. If it wasn’t broken after all of the abuse it would be a surprise. He tried the leather straps at his wrists again to no avail. He knew it but he had to keep trying. He prepared himself for who was coming through the door.
Just hang on, as long as you can, he thought. No matter what they do you gotta hang on.
He didn’t know who he had imagined coming through the door. But whatever he had pictured, this was not it. A diminutive and frail woman shuffled into the room. She walked as if it caused her pain. Or maybe it was light. Or people. It was obvious to anyone who looked at her that being uncomfortable was part of her daily existence. Thorn’s man ushered her into the room and she winced though he never even touched her. She continued over to Jack and stood above him. She glanced quickly over to Thorn who stood and remained where he was, the device now on his head.
“Are we ready, Haifa?” he asked.
She turned back to Jack and replied, barely above a whisper, “Yes.”
“You know what I want from Mr. Cooper. I have been clear, correct?”
“Yes,” Same whispered, painfully response. It was as if his words hit her like a painful jab in the ribs.
“And we have come to an understanding?” He insisted more than asked.
She closed her eyes. Jack felt a cold sensation in on his forehead. No, in his forehead. It was like a bad version of an ice cream headache.
“Yes,” she said and her eye locked on Jack’s. “I understand.” Her tone became assertive and commanding.
Jack screamed as his head exploded in pain.
She was pushing herself into his mind. It was terrifying. He felt an overwhelming instinct to crush her. He strained against the chair and heard the leather straps creak. The veins in his neck bulged and he tried desparately to break free.
“Jesus,” Thorn’s man said quietly.
“Shut up!” Barked Thorn.
“Both of you be quiet!” Haifa snapped. Her voice exploded inside Jack’s head. “I need silence.” Her tone belied her stature and earlier discomfort. “He will do what I tell him but it takes time. If you distract me I may only end up destroying his mind.”
Jack was terrified. He had never been scared like this. He couldn’t escape and now this…woman as burrowing into his head and there was nothing he could do. For a brief second he considered trying to choke on his tongue. He had to get out of here, one way or another.
“Now be quiet while I bend his will. He is strong, but not nearly strong enough.” Her voice was everywhere in his head. It was too loud. His ears and eyes felt like they would pop, like something was pushing out from the middle of his brain.
He screamed again. Thorn’s man looked away. Thorn just watched and waited.
Deep within the sound of his own screams Jack heard a tiny and insistent voice. It was calm and quiet but somehow pierced the noise with easy. Hearing it felt like cool water pouring onto the fire in his mind.
“Jack,” it said. I need you to keep fighting. But I need you to hear me."
It was a female voice. Motherly, calm and soothing.
“This will be hard for you to understand. I know. It’s awful. But I need you to scream. Don’t stop. Keep fighting. But listen to me.”
He was going insane and he knew it. He wanted Thorn to put a bullet in his head. if he tried, maybe he could escape, take Thorn’s gun and kill himself before his mind was completely gone.
“No, Jack. Don’t do that,” the voice said. “It is me, Haifa. I am here because Thorn made me but I am not doing his bidding. Listen to me. Fight, but listen. I am here to help you. But you need to work with me. The pain you feel, I am doing that to you because I need them to believe that I am taking what they want against your will.”
Jack’s eyes flashed wildly around. He could hear the voice didn’t know where it was coming from. He looked to Haifa. She just stared at him, saying nothing. Thorn’s man looked at the floor, uncomfortable. Thorn just stared at Jack. pain flashed though his head again.
“I am sorry for that,” Haifa said again in his head. You must trust me. Anna sent me to help you. She said this is Hoffmann’s only hope until they can locate your loved ones."
Pain again. Jack screamed.
“I can stop that if you can pretend. You need to listen but you need them to believe your pain. If you can do that…say something.”
“I am going to fucking kill all of you!” he screamed.
“Good, Jack. Good,” she said soothingly. “now we can begin.”