Excerpt Two-Waterboarding

In the previous excerpt, CIA agent Brian Hunt, who had been part of the Russian hacking investigation of the US elections, was mountain biking in Northern Virginia when he was suddenly attacked by masked assailants and chloroformed. The story continues:

When he regained consciousness there was a pounding in his head, a blindfold covering his eyes “Where am I?” he groaned. He tried to move, but couldn’t. His arms and legs were bound. He could hear the gurgle of water filling some kind of basin, and two or three murmuring voices. One of them seemed to be a woman’s. The emerald green eyes?

“Okay, let’s go,” he heard her say. 

“Why the fuck is going on? ” he rasped, fighting the pain in his skull.

“We want to know what you are up to.” She seemed to be standing over him. “What you and your friends are planning.”

“Up to---about what? Who the hell are you?”

She spoke with a southern drawl, but her voice had a metallic edge to it--military.

“We know you’re trying to organize something.”

“Organize—to do what?”  

“Overthrow the president.”

“Stokes? You’re crazy!” he yelled.

“We heard you plotting.”

“Heard me what?” What seemed like a nightmare was actually happening.

“Trying to get your agency friends to commit treason.”

“That’s bullshit. We were arguing over drinks. I was upset, angry. But no one’s doing anything. Nothing! Who the hell are you, anyway?” he repeated

“Okay--let’s do it,” she said.

Whatever he was tied to was picked up, carried towards the sound of flowing water.

“You’ve seen water boarding,” she said. “So I don’t have to tell you what to expect.”

Of course, he’d seen water boarding—at the Bagram prison in Afghanistan. He’d never done it himself, but he’d watched on several occasions when he was stationed there. It was a technique used by other groups, very rarely by the CIA itself. He knew some Special Forces guys who underwent water boarding as part of their training. They lasted an average of 14 seconds before they panicked. To a man, they testified to its horrors.


He was in the air now, above a basin of water or bathtub he supposed. His body was tilted, his feet a few inches higher than his head. Terror filled his being. “This is crazy!” he screamed.

One part of him, knew they wouldn’t want to completely fill his lungs with water--to asphyxiate him. He knew their purpose was to trigger an instinctive reflex in the body—a terror of drowning, of death. So that he would plea for the torture to end, would tell his captors anything they wanted. But there was nothing to tell them. His heart pounded wildly.

A rag stinking of grease was placed over his face. His mouth was forced open, and water poured in and over the rag into his nose. It would keep the water clinging to his face, filling his throat, mouth, and sinuses. His inclined head kept his throat open; made it easier to pour water into his nostrils.

“No! Don’t!” his scream was smothered by the putrid rag. It would act as a one-way valve, opening to let more air out then closing again to prevent inhalation. He gasped then gasped again as water poured through the cloth.

He knew that trained CIA officers tried to outlast the torment by exhaling slowly through the upturned nose. That would keep water out, but only for a few seconds. He felt the water surging through his sinuses and larynx, and fought desperately for breath. He could feel his lungs collapsing. There was no breath left in his body. No way to get the water out. He was drowning. No one could hear his screams. He could feel himself defecating.

Then suddenly they lifted him up and removed the cloth over his face. He fought for air and vomited. Water spewed from his throat and sinuses. He couldn’t stop retching and gasping.

“Horrible, isn’t it.” said the woman. “You know you can’t fight it. So why keep trying? Why not talk?”

“About what?” Brian wheezed. He was shivering uncontrollably. Still filled with panic.

“Don’t play stupid. You’ve nothing to gain. What are you up to---you and your friends in the agency?”

“What friends?” Brian rasped.

“The ones who worked with you on the hacking investigation?”

“We’re doing nothing! Nothing!” He was still trembling, on the point of tears. “You have to stop. I’ve got nothing to tell you.”

“But you will.” she said. “Everyone does.”

Again, the filthy rag was placed over his face, his mouth forced open, the water cascaded into his throat and nostrils; again the frantic gasping for breath---the panic and terror.

He lost track of how many times they repeated the hellish procedure. He was hallucinating now, delirious, in and out of consciousness. Between each session, he could feel her hand on his throat, checking the pulse, ensuring he had enough oxygen in his blood to remain conscious.

“The prick’s not going to talk,” he heard her say when they removed the rags again.

“End it.” She ordered. If he could talk, he would have blessed her.

The board was lowered into the water until he was completely covered. This time there was no rag on his face. This time the water flooded into his lungs. For the last time, the terrifying reflex of drowning kicked in. He alone heard his scream.

They pulled him up again after five minutes. The woman leaned forward and again put her thumb on his neck. No pulse. She took off her mask. She was wearing khaki dungarees and black boots. The left side of her face was very attractive--high cheek bones, up tipped nose, lustrous green eyes.

It was the right side that was straight out of horror film: from her eyes to her chin the skin was fiery red latticed with white scars and scales almost like the skin of a snake, her scabrous right ear looked as if it had been torn off and partly replaced. 

Her name was Captain Jeanne Swanson. She’d served three tours of duty in Special Forces in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, as an intelligence officer. She’d been severely injured and burned in an attack on a firebase near Kabul. The medics at first through she’d never recover, After two years and 18 different surgical procedures she returned to active duty.

I will be posting further excerpts in the coming days. Meanwhile, if you want to purchase the book, it is available on Amazon as a Kindle download, or softcover.