Properly equipped examination rooms, dungeons or jails are sometimes difficult to find throughout France. Considering the difficulty in keeping the faithful parishioners safe from evil, debauchery, witchcraft, heresy and sedition, I sometimes wonder how the Church maintains its authority at all at times. It seems there are examples of horrible evil lying hidden in every town I visited.
Such was the town of Lyon. My patron and I visited here at the request of the Bishop, as there had been some problems with the jail. The primary complaint was that there had been rumors that two heretics had been executed without proper confessions. Our investigation showed that the jailer hired by the church was new, and not versed in the proper techniques of interrogation. Thus, several prisoners had been released for lack of evidence, and indeed, two men had been hung as heretics when no confession had been obtained.
This situation was made more unacceptable for we found, secreted in a basement room under the jail, a perfectly good, working rack. We contacted the jailer and the Bishop, and resolved to demonstrate proper techniques of interrogation to the jailer. The Bishop was invited to observe but declined.
The prisoner selected for our interrogation was a woman that was known to be the leader of a local heretic sect, who held meetings in her home with others, and blasphemed the Church of Rome by positioning herself as a religious leader in contradiction to all Church teachings and authority.
The room was perfect for the examination, as it was deep in the back of the jail, underground except for several small windows high in the walls that let in bits of air and light and allowed escape for the smoke from the torches prepared for us to make sure the area was well lighted. We caused other preparations to be made, which would be used later as the interrogation progressed.
When we were ready, the woman was brought to us. She was tall, perhaps six feet in height, with long black hair that looked to be very beautiful though it was much disturbed and dirty because of the time she had spent in prison. Her face was long, smooth and light skinned, and was beautiful in the dim torchlight. Though tall, she was very thin, perhaps because of a prolonged time in prison though her body appeared very healthy.
Her clothing was stripped from her body, and as she stood naked before us her head bowed down in shame. One arm covered her breasts as best it could, the other extended down to the dark patch of silky hair between her legs. Her light skin was smooth and unblemished with small breasts, a thin waist and good hips. My patron smiled at me, knowing how I felt about the examination of heretic women.
We gave her one chance to confess fully before examination began. She responded in a quiet husky voice that she did not and could not confess to something which she did not understand. A nod from my patron, and the guards dragged her over to the table, pulling her lengthwise on top of it. She began begging, crying piteously for mercy as her wrists were tied to the ropes and her ankles were placed in the stocks at the bottom of the rack.
I checked the bonds securely, taking time to observe and touch the young woman’s body carefully, for I wished to have a good sense of how it was at rest, so I could compare it when it was stretched to its fullest and taut on the rack. She was smooth, and her curves were lovely. I became aroused, though I hid it well. It would not do to become affected by a heretic and possible witch.
Positioning myself at the head of the rack, I took hold of the spokes which afforded leverage in turning the wheel to which her wrists were tied. A good turn and the ropes tightened, pulling her body toward the wheel. A further turn and her ankles reached their limit and strain was put on her body. More turning of the wheel brought the first true cry of pain from the woman, as the muscles of her body felt the stretching power of the rack.
The woman’s torture was just beginning, and I stopped to observe her closely. Her buttocks were still supported reclining on the table, though her shoulders were now slightly raised off the table as her arms were pulled to the top of the stretching wheel. Little movement was possible for her, though she breathed well, as indicated by her cries. Most of the tension was on her arms and shoulders, and I examined these with my hands, feeling the tight muscles and distended joints. My hands wandered from her shoulders to her breasts, perhaps the one place in her body safe from the torture which had begun.
One more goodly turn and her entire body became tight and stretched like rope holding a sail in full wind. Her buttocks rose in to the air, and she was suspended completely by the pulling of the ropes and anchors holding her ankles. Sliding my hands under her I felt her back, stretched and raised above the table, and felt each rib that was covered by the stretching skin. Her hip bones protruded in the pointed, sharp look of someone stretched in torture, as her legs moved one way, and her upper body moved the other.
I sat with my patron and the two jailers who assisted us and listened to the heretic woman’s moans and cries for mercy. They were annoying, she was behaving as if some great pain was upon her but had yet to experience the full effect of the rack. We sat and ignored her for a while, instead playing a simple game of dice, in which I had very bad luck. Finally, we turned back to her, and I rose to increase the pressure on her body.
A goodly turn on the wheel took some effort, I pressed down on the spokes with strength and was rewarded by a scream from the girl. My efforts had the desired effect, and as I watched carefully, one of her shoulders slowly shifted oddly and then suddenly popped out of place, dislocating and causing another agonized scream. Anticipating the same with the other shoulder, I gave the wheel a slight tightening turn and then kneeled to observe the dislocation which came moments later. We were gratified by not only two disjointed shoulders, but her elbows soon came apart as well.
Her screams took on a more panicked tone, a horrible, frightened, hysterical note that heralded a breakdown in her will to resist. Afraid she might succumb and confess before I had the opportunity to fully rack this lovely creature, I pressed hard on the spokes with the assistance of one of the guards, and her body was literally torn in several more places as her hips and back cracked loudly with breaking bones and joints.
Silence suddenly possessed the interrogation room. The dark hard woman had fainted, her head limply hanging back from her stretched position above the table. Water was brought, though it was water that was scalding hot having been boiling on a fire. It splashed over the unconscious form, and roused her to another round of screaming as the burning water created even more agony in her pain wracked body.
Another bucket of scalding water was thrown on her, followed by a cold one. Each caused refreshed screams. The woman was unable to talk, so hysterical were her screams.
My hand felt her hot skin, heated and burned from the water. It slid down between her legs, playing with her delicate folds of skin. I pressed down gently on her bare stomach, which pulled her joint bones further apart, and then returned to the table. She had been on the rack for barely an hour, but my patron said that he was sure she would break very soon.
He was correct, as she began babbling between sobs, confessing, and I began writing her words quickly. Her confession was long and rambling, interspersed with cries for mercy and screams, and because of her hysteria I had to reorganize and make clear her thoughts and words in the confession document. Just as I completed it, she fainted once again.
Water was applied to her body three more times before she revived, and we slowly released the tension from the rack. Her ankles and wrists bled freely, and the release of tension did not relieve the agony, as many of her joints had been torn apart. With the slow movement which showed his age, my patron pressed and pulled her arms and legs until the joints were back in place. It was no certainty that they would be usable again, but in case she was interrogated later by the clergy, she needed to be presentable. She was half unconscious with pain when she signed her confession, and the jailers dragged her from the room, still naked, back to her cell.
Once again, my patron and I had served the Church well, providing the proper evidence it needed to root out and destroy the evil within our midst. We returned to our apartments where we dined on cold turkey, cheese and grapes.