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Full Online Book HomeLong Stories100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 82
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100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 82 Post by :sbeard Category :Long Stories Author :Upton Sinclair Date :May 2012 Read :1211

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100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 82

Peter was so busy these days that he missed several nights' sleep, and hardly even stopped to eat. He had his own private room, where the prisoners were brought for examination, and he had half a dozen men under his orders to do the "strong arm" work. It was his task to extract from these prisoners admissions which would justify their being sent to prison if they were citizens, or being deported if they were aliens. There was of course seldom any way to distinguish between citizens and aliens; you just had to take a chance on it, proceeding on the certainty that all were dangerous. Many years ago, when Peter had been working for Pericles Priam, they had spent several months in a boarding house, and you could tell when there was going to be beef-steak for dinner, because you heard the cook pounding it with the potato-masher to "tender it up;" and Peter learned this phrase, and, now used the process upon his alien Reds. When they came into the room, Peter's men would fall upon them and beat them and cuff them, knocking them about from one fist to another. If they were stubborn and would not "come across," Peter would take them in hand himself, remembering how successful Guffey had been in getting things out of him by the twisting of wrists and the bending back of fingers.

It was amazing how clever and subtle some of these fellows were. They were just lousy foreign laborers, but they spent all their spare time reading; you would find large collections of books in their rooms when you made your raids, and they knew exactly what you wanted, and would parry your questions. Peter would say: "You're an Anarchist, aren't you?" And the answer would be: "I'm not an Anarchist in the sense of the word you mean"--as if there could be two meanings of the word "Anarchist!" Peter would say, "You believe in violence, do you not?" And then the fellow would become impertinent: "It is you who believe in violence, look at my face that you have smashed." Or Peter would say, "You don't like this government, do you?" And the answer would be, "I always liked it until it treated me so badly"--all kinds of evasions like that, and there would be a stenographer taking it down, and unless Peter could get something into the record that was a confession, it would not be possible to deport that Red. So Peter would fall upon him and "tender him up" until be would answer what he was told to answer; or maybe Peter would prepare an interview as he wanted it to be, and the detectives would grab the man's hand and make him sign it; or maybe Peter would just sign it himself.

These were harsh methods, but there was no way to help it, the Reds were so cunning. They were secretly undermining the government, and was the government to lie down and admit its helplessness? The answer of 100% Americanism was thundered from every wood and templed hill in the country; also from every newspaper office. The answer was "No!" 100% Americanism would find a way to preserve itself from the sophistries of European Bolshevism; 100% Americanism had worked out its formula: "If they don't like this country, let them go back where they come from." But of course, knowing in their hearts that America was the best country in the world, they didn't want to go back, and it was necessary to make them go.

Peter was there for that purpose, and his devoted wife was by his side, egging him on with her feminine implacability. Gladys had always been accustomed to refer to these people as "cattle," and now, when she smelled them herded together in these office rooms for several weeks, she knew that she was right, and that no fate could be too stern for them. Presently with Peter's help she discovered another bomb-plot, this time against the Attorney-General of the country, who was directing these wholesale raids. They grabbed four Italian Anarchists in American City, and kept them apart in special rooms, and for a couple of months Peter labored with them to get what he wanted out of them. Just as Peter thought be had succeeded, his efforts were balked by one of them jumping out of the window. The room being on the fourteenth story, this Italian Anarchist was no longer available as a witness against himself. The incident set the parlor Bolsheviks all over the country to raging, and caused David Andrews to get some kind of court injunction, and make a lot of inconvenience to Guffey's office.

However, the work went on; the Reds were gradually sorted out, and some who proved not to be Reds were let go again, and others were loaded onto special Red trains and taken to the nearest ports. Some of them went in grim silence, others went with furious cursings, and yet others with wailings and shriekings; for many of them had families, and they had the nerve to demand that the government should undertake to ship their families also, or else to take care of their families for them! The government, naturally, admitted no such responsibility. The Reds had no end of money for printing seditious literature, so let them use it to take care of their own!

In these various raids and examinations Peter of course met a great many of the Reds whom he had once known as friends and intimates. Peter had been wont to imagine himself meeting them, and to tremble at the bare idea; but now he found that he rather enjoyed it. He was entirely delivered from that fear of them, which had formerly spoiled his appetite and disturbed his sleep. He had learned that the Reds were poor creatures who did not fight back; they had no weapons, and many of them did not even have muscles; there was really nothing to them but talk. And Peter knew that he had the power of organized society behind him, the police and the courts and the jails, if necessary the army with its machine guns and airplanes and poison gas. Not merely was it safe to pound these people, to tread on their toes and spit in their eyes; it was safe also to frame up anything on them, because the newspapers would always back you up, and the public would of course believe whatever it read in its newspapers.

No, Peter was no longer afraid of the Reds! He made up his mind that he was not even afraid of Mac, the most dangerous Red of them all. Mac was safely put away in jail for twenty years, and although his case had been appealed, the court had refused to grant a stay of sentence or to let him out on bail. As it happened, Peter got a glimpse into Mac's soul in jail, and knew that even that proud, grim spirit was breaking. Mac in jail had written a letter to one of his fellow-Reds in American City, and the post-office authorities had intercepted the letter, and Guffey had shown it to Peter. "Write to us!" Mac had pleaded. "For God's sake, write to us! The worst horror of being in jail is that you are forgotten. Do at least let us know that somebody is thinking about us!"

So Peter knew that he was the victor, he was "top dog." And when he met these Reds whom he had been so afraid of, he took pleasure in letting them feel the weight of his authority, and sometimes of his fist. It was amusing to see the various ways in which they behaved toward him. Some would try to plead with him, for the sake of old times; some would cringe and whine to him; some would try to reason with him, to touch his conscience. But mostly they would be haughty, they would glare at him with hate, or put a sneer of contempt on their faces. So Peter would set his "bulls" to work to improve their manners, and a little thumb-bending and wrist-twisting would soon do the work.

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