Content warning: child abuse.
There was a long moment of total silence.
The mechanic was staring at Galt; he was holding Galt’s glance — and even he was able to recognize the nature of the sparkle in the dark green eyes; it was a sparkle of contemptuous mockery.
“I know that look,” the mechanic said.
The men of government swiveled to face him. It was as if a chair or a desk, an inanimate participant in the workings of industry, had suddenly spoken.
“That’s the look my brother had in his eyes every time Dad came home drunk and told him or me or my sister to ‘choose.’ And then Dad died and he had to go to work. He pulled double shifts, four, five, six days a week, so me and sis could stay in school. He crossed the country to take a job in Ellis Wyatt’s oil fields, so he could wire us money, and we could have food on the table, and Mom could have her insulin.
“My brother died, Mr. Galt, putting out the fires that Ellis Wyatt started. ‘I am leaving it as I found it,'” he quoted.
And then he spat in John Galt’s face.
The mechanic turned and walked to a cabinet against the wall, favoring his right leg, just slightly. “You know,” he said, “lots of the staff here were a little spooked when we heard they were bringing you in. They didn’t want to deal with you. Me,” he said, opening the cabinet and pulling out a duffel bag, “Me, I volunteered.”
The bag made clinking noises as the mechanic carried it back across the cellar. It settled, loudly, not unmelodically, when he set it on the floor, beside the place where Galt was restrained. The mechanic opened the bag and withdrew a long, sturdy wooden dowel. He held it for a moment before Galt’s face. Then, he set the dowel on the floor and withdrew from the bag a steel wrench. This, too, he showed to Galt, and then set on the floor. Finally, he withdrew a leather belt, with a heavy, tarnished buckle. He stretched the belt between his hands.
“Dad never left marks that other adults could see,” the mechanic said. “Even the cigarette burns, never on the hands or the face.”
The men of government were silent. Dr. Ferris, standing beside Jimmy Taggart, realized that an experiment was in progress. They were about to discover, by empirical methods, what would happen when a man was denied Paradise.
“So, Mr. Galt,” the mechanic said. “Round one. Choose.”