ONE To His Most Excellency Don Diego Veles de Maldonato y Pimentel, Conde de Priego, Marques de la Marche, Knight of Santiago, Viceroy of New Spainby Appointment of His Most Catholic Majesty Emperor Felipe, our Lord King As Capitan of the Guard for Your Most Excellency's prison, it has been my duty to examine one Cristobal, known to all as Cristo the Bastardo, a notorious bandit, seducer of women and leader of rabble. As Your Excellency knows, this Cristo is of tainted blood, specifically that category of mixed blood the law defines as a mestizo because his father was a Spaniard and his mother an Aztec india. As a mixed blood, he is without the protection of the law given to Spaniards and indios, and there are no legal prohibitions against either his torture or execution. The examination of this thief and murderer of uncertain parentage and tainted blood has been neither pleasant nor profitable. Your instructions to me are to pry from his lips the location of the great hoard of booty that he seized by banditry, treasure acquired by insult to His Most Catholic Majesty in Madrid and to you and other citizens of New Spain, the rightful owners thereof. You also commissioned me to obtain from his lips the whereabouts of the Aztec india who is said to be his mother. The woman has publicly denied birthing the bastardo but whether that is the truth or she has contrived such a story because of his tainted blood will not be answered until we find her and give her a taste of the truth-extractors we have in this dungeon prison. I confess, Most Excellency, that the task you have given me is more difficult and odious than the Herculean labor of cleaning the cattle stables of King Augeas. It is most repugnant to have to question this half-caste son of a puta, a street whore, as if he were a legal person, rather than simply hanging him. However, the dead tell no tales and despite my ardent wish I am forced to simply seek the information by torture rather than dispatching him toel diablo, his master. We began the interrogation with the cord-and-water method. As Your Excellency knows, we place the knotted cords around the prisoner's limbs and twist them with a rod. Five twists are generally sufficient to elicit the truth, but it did nothing to this madman except excite laughter. We then increased the twists and wet the cords to create shrinkage, but still no words of confession or repentance spilled from his mouth. We could not use the cords on his head for fear it would pop his eyes out and prevent him from being able to lead us to the treasure. The water-and-cord treatment works well on shopkeepers and women, but it is not the equal of a determined rogue like this bastardo. Our small, colonial dungeon lacks the implements of a large prison. I have requested on a number of occasions instruments more suitable for the third degree of questioning than what we have available. My special interest is in one I observed when I was a young guard in Madrid's Saladero, that most famous of all prisons. I speak of the "Bull of Phalaris"; the mere threat of it often loosens the most silent tongues. The bull is said to have been the invention of Phalaris, the tyrant of ancient Acragas in Sicily. To create this monster, Phalaris had a great bronze statue of a bull constructed, with the inside of the beast hollow. Those put to the question were shoved inside the bull through a trapdoor and roasted by a fire built underneath. Their shrieks thundered from the bull's mouth, as if he were roaring. It is said that Perilaus, the designer of this fiend's delight, was the first person to experience his own creation when Phalaris had him placed in it. And that Phalaris hJennings, Gary is the author of 'Aztec Blood' with ISBN 9780312862510 and ISBN 0312862512.