Generally I love watching hibachi chefs while doing their craft, but this one... he makes me nervous every time I glance up. That is how much negative energy he has. Tension is everywhere. Maybe this is the first time he is has a shift alone? I’m trying to smile and make senile observations about the restaurant to put him at ease, but nothing works. He has to have the worst case of anxiety that I have ever seen. I am regretting coming in to eat, and if he it wasn’t for my own social anxiety and would say screw it and walk out the door. I noticed the restaurant was empty when I came in, but I had falsely assumed it was because of the time, not because the chef was emitting waves of stress.
“Five more minutes and your order will be done,” he states, disrupting the inane chatter I have forced myself to create in order to ignore the almost crippling anxiety the chef has imposed on the room. If I had not been speaking on my phone when I walked in, maybe I would of noticed the energy before ordering and could of left like the two people that came in after me.
“Thanks, it smells great!” I exclaim with false excitement, but genuine gratitude. I am that much closer to snarfing down my food like a starved animal and booking it out of here. I continue to just look all around me or at his hands, anything to avoid those frantic eyes. By all rights I should give in to social pressure and find something to occupy my time on my phone, but my belief that it is rude keeps my hand from reaching for the device. At this point I have run out of observations about the restaurant and anything I know about grilling and have actually started to rant about everything I still remember from my childhood obsessions. Hopefully the chef is somewhat interested in marine biology because he is getting a crash course. I still am refusing to look at his face to see how he is taking the subject change.
Suddenly, right before my food gets transported to a plate, the door slams open, rattling the hanging frames on the wall. I pause my monologue regarding sea snakes so that the chef can do whatever greeting is required at this establishment while mentally screaming at him as he freezes. Just a little bit more movement on his part and I can grab my plate and proceed with my evacuation plan. As the silence…and stillness continues, I slowly turn my head to the entrance and find myself looking down the muzzle of a gun. Well fuck. If this is why the chef has been nervous this whole damn time he should of thought to close the shop. Now I really want to scream at him, only that gun and the masked gun man is stopping me. Now I am involved in whatever this is.
I continue to inwardly berate the chef, the gun man and myself as the gun man breaks the silence, “Did you really think I wouldn’t come just because you have a costumer?” Apparently I am not the only one who realizes that I should not had the opportunity to come in Heian-kyō to eat today. “Both of get in front of me with your hands up,” he growls.
The chef starts following orders as soon as he turns off the grill with an ashen face. I however don’t move a muscle. Not because I wish to put my life in more danger by disobeying, but because I can’t. I am frozen. The gun man looks exasperated with me, but I still can’t move. At least the gun isn’t in my face anymore. Now it is directed at the chef. What the hell happened to flight or fight? He looks behind me and starts shaking his head right as pain erupts in the back of my head. Next thing I now I am on the ground holding my head trying to fight off dizziness. I shake my head and the dizziness diminishes…and I realize I am finally moving, I am not stuck. I vaguely hear yelling as I scramble to my feet and scurry to the front door. I need to get out of here and into the fresh air and around more importantly other people.
Hopes are dashed as I am grabbed from behind, a gun shoved to my head. Words are menacingly spoken in my ear, but I can’t make them out. I am still too focused on the front door as I try to fight my captor. I cry out in despair as the door gets blocked from my vision as I am taken to the back of the restaurant. A dirty hand quickly covers my mouth so there is no encore to my cries. Looking around, I don’t see an out. A masked man on each side of me are yanking me forwards. I can barely breathe with the way one of them is not only covering my mouth, but also slightly obstructing my nose.
As we exit the building into the back ally, I see the chef. It is not a promising sight. Not that anything so far has been. He is tied and gagged, feet hanging outside the back of a non-descript van. And I thought his eyes were frantic earlier when he was cooking my food. Now he looks like he is facing death. For all know we are.
In my peripheral I can see two more people dressed similarly to the masked men, but without mask. Their backs are facing us, and unfortunately for me they are blocking anyone from sighting what is happening here in the ally. If I wasn’t so scared it would be infuriating how casual they look while hiding a crime.
The two men with me in tow quickly move towards the van and I am pulled in by the original gun man as the chef is dealt with by my forceful escorts. The back doors of the van are slammed shut before I can scream, too busy trying to catch my breath as my air passages are finally unblocked. I close my eyes waiting for someone get ropes and tie me as well. After a few seconds of hearing nothing, I open my eyes to the sight of the gun man casually sitting in front of me, holding his gun in his lap pointed at the bound chef instead of me despite the fact that I have free range of motion. I look up warily into his eyes, which seem to glow from under his ski mask.
“Don’t move. Don’t say anything,” he states with a calm monotone. I don’t respond and continue to stare, hoping that nothing horrible will happen to me. Even though I know realistically that something will. They already hit me hard on the head. My hope is based on two things right now: one, because without hope I would be going insane right now and two, the fact that the gun man shook his head before my head was smashed like he was communicating to the other men to not hurt me. However, the chef is chafing at my hope as he shakes and hyperventilates next to me. Glancing at him as he whimpers reminds me that they also chose to not tie me up. Though the reasoning behind that could be as simple as the fact the chef looks like he spends all of his time doing weights in the gym when he is not in the kitchen while I do not.
I wish that I had worn my watch today so I would least have some idea of how long the van has been moving. Instead all I can do is stare at the four men I am sharing the back of the van with. I don’t think I would want to talk even if I wasn’t basically told to keep my trap shut. No one else is talking either. Occasionally my five captors make hand motions to each other, but that is it. I am guessing that the two men who blocked the view into the ally are the ones in the driver and passenger seats at the front. They have mask on now, so I never got to see their faces. I wish I knew what the hand motions meant. Anything to have any idea at all to what is going to happen when we get to out destination.
After one of the spurts of hand motions the gun man looks back at me and breaks the silence with, “Did anyone know that you were in Heian-kyō?” I shake my head. My brother only knows that I was in the city to go shopping for furniture. I wish I had told him what restaurant I was going to when I was telling him about my finds and what I decided to purchase for my new home. My brother loves to cultivate relationships and has connections everywhere. If he knew what happened there is no way that I wouldn’t be rescued somehow. “Good.” Good for him. I look away from him again and just stare at the floor. My head is starting to pound wildly as the adrenaline fades. I reach up to touch the bump but change my mind and drop my hands again. As soon as my hands drop I jump as the gun man reaches forward to feel my head himself. I jump in pain as he feels the bump then jump again as he growls at what he feels. A very long hand conversation takes place after that. After that all is quiet and still with the exception of the chef who is still shaking.
Finally the van is coming to a stop and maybe the question of what is going to happen to me will be answered. I can hear the front doors open and shut as I become tense with worry about what will happen to me after spending all this time in the van. I keep my eyes on the gun man even as the back door is opened. Once again he leans forward, this time to grab my arm and tug me into the unknown.
I observe my surroundings as he continues to tug me forward. We are in the middle of abandoned factories that I think are found north of the city. I can’t help the shiver of fear that goes down my spine as I realize how isolated we are. This can not be good. The gun man is maintaining his hold on my arm in such a way that I can not turn easily to see behind me as he himself stops walking and turns around. I then think I am going to have a heart attack when I hear a muffled gunshot followed by an equally muffled scream. I instinctively turn my head toward the sounds and immediately wish that I hadn’t. The chef was jerking his upper body back and forth in pain while trying to not move his leg. His leg had an expanding pool of blood under it. All of the fear that slowly ebbed away through the van ride comes hurling back and I can not stop shivering as I try to jerk my arm out of the gun man’s hold. He switches his hold from my arm to my chin, forcing eye contact. I try to jerk my head away this time only to freeze as he growls while retaining his hold. “Stay away from the police. Tell no one where you went to go eat. You tell someone I will find out, and you will meet the same fate,” he states as he spins me around and lightly pushes me, “My buddy over there will take you where you need to go.” I start to slowly trudge towards the masked man he push me towards, listening to his footsteps in the gravel as he walks away back towards the van.
Emotions are battering me, I don’t even know how I feel right now. Until I hear him walk back towards me and fear floods me again as I fear he changed his mind about letting me go. I slow my steps until I am completely still, having no idea what I should do. He grabs my arm and spins me around to face him and I flinch as he extends his ladened hand towards me only to sigh in relief when I see that it is my purse. Gingerly I take it, not removing my eyes from his face.
“Thanks”, I whisper as I take a few steps back.
He nods in acknowledgement as he softly says, “You will get your phone back when he drops you off.”
With that I turn around towards my chauffeur and his vehicle to finally escape the hell my day has turned into.
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