ARC V PART III: It Can't Be Helped
Aoto scrutinized his surroundings, trying to see if anything around him would suffice as a makeshift weapon. Assuming, of course, that he could get off the handcuffs around his wrists. Granted, Aoto could've gotten them off ages ago, but that would require that he break his thumb, and he'd prefer not to do that. A broken thumb meant a weak punch, and Aoto needed all the strength he had to fight the triad thugs outside the door, especially since they had taken his tranq guns. The stitches on his stomach ached, and Aoto silently cursed his injury.
"How long do you think they'll keep us here?" Rubén asked Aoto.
Aoto shrugged as much as the handcuffs would allow him.
"Where do you think we are?" Rubén asked.
"Storage closet," Lills replied.
Rubén gave her a look. "I meant where in the city," he said.
"Southside, about twenty minutes from the Cathay," Aoto replied. "Probably in the back end of a nightclub, judging by the contents of this closet."
"Nightclub?" Rubén said. "That means there are people! If we shout for help, someone might hear us and come."
"No good. The guards would hear us first," Lills said.
"Well, do you have any suggestions, then?" Rubén retorted. "At least I'm trying to think of a way to get out!" There was a bang on the door, warning him to keep it down.
"Thank you for trying, Rubén," Aoto said with a comforting smile. The mild praise seemed to calm the Spaniard. Good. Aoto needed silence, and as entertaining as Lills and Rubén's banter was, it wasn't helping. He reviewed what he had so far: there were six thugs, four of which were full-fledged triad, while the other two were newbies. The newbies were the most dangerous. They were eager to prove themselves, which often meant that they were eager to pull the trigger. So Aoto would avoid them. Of the other four, Aoto found that two were willing to engage in conversation, and one of them happened to be the ringleader. With his broken Mandarin, Aoto hadn't gotten far, but he suspected that the leader understood English to a degree. If the leader would engage, then perhaps he could be manipulated.
Guilt pricked Aoto's heart, but only for a moment. The triad was hardly innocent, and manipulating them was necessary if Aoto wanted to get Lills and Rubén to safety without causing any bloodshed.
The door swung open, hitting the wall with a metallic bang. Lills and Rubén jumped. All six triad members filtered in, and Aoto cursed. It would be much harder to talk to the leader with the others breathing down his neck.
Then, to the surprise of all three of them, the leader looked at his watch and said in accented English, "Hour is up. Let them go."
"Sorry, what?" Lills exclaimed.
The leader grinned. He adjusted his spectacles as his men undid their cuffs. "We were instructed to detain you for an hour. The hour's up."
"Who hired you, sir?" Aoto asked. As soon as his own cuffs were off, he stood and walked towards the leader. The leader shrugged and leaned against a supply rack. "A fellow in a kimono," he said.
"Thank you, sir," Aoto said, bowing his head. Lills and Rubén gave him a look. "He gave us information and is letting us go. Bow," he muttered to them, and instantly they followed his direction.
The leader chuckled. "You're the politest yakuza I've ever met," he remarked. Seeing Aoto's surprised, the leader elaborated, "I saw your tattoos peeking out from underneath your shirtsleeve. You should do a better job hiding them if you don't want people to find out."
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