Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Five men stood in a semicircle in the centre of the laboratory.  I recognized Groom and Nikolai, with his arm still in a sling, amongst them; but it was the man in the centre of them who held my gaze.  Lashed to the chair in which he sat, he appeared to be a mechanic for he was wearing brown dungarees.  His head was lolling on his chest and he looked as if he were unconscious.  This, I guessed, was the one who had screamed.  I was soon to know why.  One of the group advanced threateningly towards the seated figure weighing what looked like a short stick in his hand.  Then I saw the stick whip as the man brandished it and realised that it was a rubber truncheon, the totschläger or “beater-to-death” of Nazi Germany and the persuasive element in many a Third Degree The man with the truncheon made a show of hitting the mechanic across the knee with it.  The man’s head rolled back and he let out a hoarse shout of terror.   I understood.  A blow on the knee-cap is bad enough at the best of times.  When that blow is dealt with a rubber truncheon the pain is unbearable.  Moreover, the knee-cap does not numb as easily as other parts of the body, so that the repetitions of the blow will intensify the agony.  The device, a New York detective has told me, is far more demoralising to the victim than many of the more elaborate tortures.

Note:  I’m happy to report that I have never been hit with a rubber truncheon. One came close once when I was caught in a riot outside the Parliament-Funkadelic concert at Madison Square Garden and the guy standing next to me got hit. The cops merely lifted me off the ground and threw me through what had previously been a glass door before the rioters shattered the glass.  I have been assaulted with a blackjack, howeverTwo terrible blows which left me with cartoonish-comical, painful bumps on the top of my head.  That was when we were kidnapped in Mexico City.

Text:  Eric Ambler, The Dark Frontier (1936)

ACravan: Being Kidnapped  (Link)

ACravan: Being Kidnapped 2 (Link)

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