Blood of Nanking (Part 3 of 4)
Do you remember her? Hasegawa is given the ultimate ultimatum.
Trigger warning: Mentions of assault/violence ahead.
It took him some time to work up the nerve to open his eyes. When he finally did, he slowly looked down at his chest. Rivulets of blood covered his chest, but he could make out a crude, strange symbol: a circle with what looked like a Chinese character in the middle. He couldn't make out the word because Thompson suddenly grabbed him roughly by the chin and forced his head up.
"Did you like it?"
Hasegawa gasped at the audacity of the question.
The man slapped his cheek. Hasegawa flinched.
"Not the tattoo, you idiot. Xiao Yan. Did you enjoy doing her?"
He shook his head violently.
"What? You couldn't get it up?"
Hasegawa didn't understand what the man meant, so he hesitated. Then, he shook his head again.
"Hey! I asked you a question!"
Hagesawa curled in on himself instinctively, his breath caught in his throat.
The man merely smiled and tapped the cane on the floor. "Well?"
"I don't remember," he said softly.
The man scooted forward suddenly and so closely that they were nose to nose. He could smell the tobacco in his breath.
"I'm getting tired of your bad memory. But I'm in a good mood, so I'll jog your memory a little."
Then he took something out of his coat. It was a black and white photo. His eyes widened when he recognized the man in the photo – it was him in uniform and he was grinning. Behind him was a pile of corpses perched at the edge of a pit. And beside him was a Chinese woman. She was beautiful, even with her nose bloodied and her face bruised. Her qipao may have once been refined, but it was torn and one breast lay obscenely exposed. Yet, she stood stiffly with her hands bound behind her, her head held high, her face unsmiling.
"Now, do you remember?"
He did not remember how she came to be by his side at that pit. But he remembered how annoyed he was at her defiance.
"Did you like her? Xiao Yan?"
"I ..." he blushed and then shook his head.
The man's eyes narrowed. "What? She wasn't good enough for you?"
Hasegawa closed his eyes.
"Fine. You don't have to answer the question. But the next question is really important." He heard the man take a deep, shuddering breath.
"What did you do to her after the photo was taken?"
Strangely, he sounded almost afraid.
"What did you do?" The man screamed. Spittle flecked his face. Hasegawa shrank away.
"We ... we..." he licked his lips.
His heart was beating so hard. He could try lying. After all, how would the man know? But when he snuck a look at the man's pale blue eyes, he saw only fury there and he sensed that the man would know if he was lying.
"We pushed her into the pit."
The man's face went slack and he sank back into his chair.
"Was she dead?"
He licked his dry lips.
Thompson lunged forward and grabbed a fistful of his hair. Hasegawa's eyes widened when he saw the revolver in Thompson's hand. The man dug the gun to his forehead.
"Was she dead?" the gaijin screamed.
"What do you mean?"
"What did you do after you pushed her into the pit?"
He swallowed. Should he answer when he knew that this would only anger the man further?
"We ..." he swallowed. Then, he closed his eyes and whispered: "We pissed on them."
The man leaned back, his face unreadable. "She wasn't alone then?"
"No. There were at least 20 Chinese in the pit."
"Then, what happened?"
"We started shovelling soil on them. We had tied their hands and feet, so they could only look up as the dirt came down." He recounted it all robotically.
When Hasegawa dared to look up, he saw a tear slide from the man's eyes. His lips trembled.
"Go on," Thompson whispered.
"It took us an hour to bury them."
His interrogator's eyes were wet and tears now ran unabashedly down his cheeks.
"I don't know what else you want me to say."
"I've been waiting 15 years to know what happened to Xiao Yan. I don't want the abridged version. Tell me more," he said, then cocked his gun and pointed it at him.
The metallic sound was loud in the room.
Hasegawa closed his eyes, and he was then back there at the pit, joking with his comrades, satisfied that the job was done. He may have been laughing with his friends, but he remembered being so angry, and so very tired.
Before the war, he had dreams of becoming a diplomat, but he hadn't known the right people nor did he have enough money to buy his way into diplomatic service. He had thought that being a soldier could help him ease his way in, but he found his way blocked at every turn. And when he had come tantalisingly close to gaining the favour of one royal prince, a jealous superior had him transferred to the division that was invading Nanking. He had seethed with rage at the injustice.
"We could still hear them screaming eventhough the soil was on top of them. Lieutenant Hiro complained that we should have gagged them. Ogawa wondered why we could still hear them screaming from beneath the soil. Hanasawa said that maybe we didn't bury them deep enough."
When he opened his eyes once more, Thompson was calm once more, though he did not bother to wipe away his tears.
"Why didn't you kill her?"
"The Lieutenant..." He couldn't go on. He closed his eyes tightly and sobbed. He knew that his answer would be the end of him.
Thompson grabbed his hair again and pulled hard. He cried out.
"Answer me!" The man roared. His ears rang.
"Lieutenant Hiro said that we shouldn't waste bullets!" he yelled.
He heard Thompson curse and then a flash of movement before the man kicked his chair over.
The world went upside down, and then there was a burst of pain behind his eyes; his vision went white, then red. When he came to, gasping like a fish out of water, he realised that he had landed painfully on his back.
Lee yelled something at him in Chinese. He recognised the word "pig" and "Japanese", because those were the words he heard most besides "don't kill me" and "mercy".
"You shouldn't be crying. What right do you have to cry?" Lee said, this time in Japanese. "You pig! You call us insects, but we are better than you butchers any day!"
Thompson was curiously silent. But when he heard the distinct sounds of a gun being readied, Hagesawa realised that Thompson was pointing a gun at him.
"I suppose I should thank you for being so detailed and accommodating," Thompson said, his voice flat and emotionless. But the hand holding the gun was trembling.
"Hanasawa and Ogawa took hours to cave in. But they did say that you were the least affected by Nanking. I guess you're really matter-of-fact about it all, aren't you?"
He stared at the man.
Thompson kicked his chair hard.
"Aren't you?!" he screamed.
"Please! Please don't kill me!" he found himself saying. And he felt ashamed when he felt a warm trickle down his legs. He had wet himself.
"Why shouldn't I? I mean, you didn't listen when they begged for their lives, did you? Why should I give you any kind of mercy?" the man demanded, his voice rising in volume with each word.
"Because I know you are a good man!" he yelled.
That actually seemed to startle the man. Thompson stared at him, his eyes narrow with confusion.
"I remember! I remember now! You are a priest. No, missionary! You were protecting sick men, women and children. See, I remember now! Please, don't kill me!"
Thompson was silent. Slowly, he lowered his gun. Hasegawa was nervous when the man didn't say anything for a long time.
"It took you awhile to remember," Thompson finally said, his voice so soft he could barely hear it.
Thompson cocked his gun again and pointed it at him.
"But the man disappeared fifteen years ago. He would've spared your life. This one doesn't care."
"Please! Please! Sorry! I am sorry!"
"Look at him beg," Lee said, laughing bitterly.
Thompson squatted beside him and looked down at him.
"No, you're not. Sorry is Suzuki, who ruined his life by telling the truth. What did you do after the war, Hagesawa? You returned to Tokyo and opened a kimono shop. You smiled at the women and children who came to your store months after you raped and butchered Chinese women and children. Oh, I tried to wrap my mind around it for years. How you could just switch off like that," he said, snapping his fingers.
"I can't switch off. Not like you," Thompson said. "Drove me batshit crazy until I found Lee here who gave me a solution to my little problem."
"Solution?" Hasegawa parroted mindlessly.
"Uh-hmm," Thompson smiled, looking strangely smug. "So I'll tell you what I'll do."
Thompson took something from his coat. Hasegawa's eyes widened when he realised that it was a gleaming dagger.
"No, please…." He closed his eyes. There was nothing to be done now, he thought. If he had to die, he would at least give himself the dignity of not dying begging or his life.
He went still, waiting for the death blow.
He opened his eyes again, and to his dismay, Thompson was standing over him, the dagger still in his hand.
Without a word, he tossed the dagger towards him. Hasegawa flinched when the dagger clattered at his side.
"Free yourself. And get back to your life."
Hasegawa wanted to ask Thompson whether this was another sick game or to beg him to leave alone. But he only had enough strength to nod his head.
Without another word, Thompson turned and walked away.
Hasegawa did not dare move until the sounds of footsteps faded away. When they were finally gone, he scrambled for the dagger and hoped that he could cut the ropes fast enough before his kidnappers changed their minds.
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