“You see, even the gods won’t let you kill yourself”

It was up to him: his head or his nipple. Michal had to choose. Either he could mutilate himself and cut off his own nipple with a flame-heated pocketknife blade they held out to him, or the others could slice his head off. Michal opted for the nipple. It took three tries.

It was barbaric, a horror and no one, aside from Michal and the others, knew why he had to endure all this. Was it a debt? Honor? Could it have been a woman, as one of his tormentors suggested yesterday in front of the 47th chamber of the Brussels criminal court? The others were an obstinate wall of silence. The judge wouldn’t get a word out of them.

Michal J. himself was not present during the trial. He’s laying low – terrified. He told detectives that he had already suffered like that once before. One day during a session of pillow talk, he told his mistress that Zbigniew R. and Andrzej S. were involved in arms and drug trafficking with Poland. The woman ratted on him.

On the evening of August 10, 2012, Michal got a call on his cell phone. Zbigniew wanted to meet with him at “the Polish parking lot,” just a few steps from the courthouse.

Michal had barely arrived when they grabbed him, put a scorpion-handled knife at his throat and stuffed him into a black Audi. Michal J. knew right away that he was dealing with Wojciech S., known as “Scorpio,” one of the heavy hitters of the Polish underworld. Wojciech, a gigantic man, was sitting in the car with the other three: Andrzej S., Michal Z. and Zbigniew R.

They drove for about twenty minutes. The Audi pulled up in front of a warehouse in Anderlecht. They took the plastic bag they had used as a hood off his head, and all hell broke loose.

They kicked and punched him repeatedly. Then they brought in the “gégène”, the pet name for their battery charger, and clipped the clamps to his nipples. The machine failed: no juice. So they began to pretend to hang him with a yellow towing cable. They then took turns whipping him with the cable.

They would pause between beatings to drink Julipers and vodka Red Bulls. They urinated in a half- empty can and made him drink it. Sometimes they were going to cut off his head, other times, only his tongue. Isn’t that the treatment usually reserved for snitches?

Finally, they settled on having him cut off his nipple. Would it hurt? They had a great thing, they said laughing, to ease the pain. They injected him with “nitro,” a liquid coolant they found in the warehouse.

They left it at that. For now. According to them, Michal owed the men, €2,000 “for wasting their time,” and that would be the end of that. They gave him a cigarette and a whiskey and coke and called it a day.

No hard feelings? He soon found out otherwise. Two days later, Michal J. woke up to brutal kicking at the home of an acquaintance where he was hiding on rue Goffard in Ixelles. They were back. “Wojciech asked me how I felt about having only one nipple”, Michal told the police. They were quite jovial as they inquired of Michal how he would like to be relieved of the other one. In their own ferocious way, they seemed to be in a playful mood that morning. Michal would be their dog.

They made him lie down under the table. He had to circle around a thousand times between the chairs. Then they had him lap up their urine from a dog bowl. They even made him eat the dog’s feces that Wojciech collected in the yard. “I was begging,” said Michal, “but Andrzej was whipping me with an extension cord.”

Wojciech was recording each scene with his cell phone just as he did two days previously in the warehouse. The images were uploaded to Internet. The investigators discovered that the cell phone contained pictures of an unknown individual who had apparently been subjected to the same treatment as Michal J.

There were more blows, more abuse. There was talk about burying him alive. The torture lasted twelve hours. Michal, exhausted, attempted to slit his vein with a kitchen knife, but the dull blade just barely scratched him. “You see, even the gods won’t let you kill yourself!” Wojciech roared with laughter. “They want me to do it for you!”

 STÉPHANE DETAILLE

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