Red Mist, Stage 2, Chapter 3
Updated: May 15
The scorpion was small and integrated into a larger design, making it hardly noticeable by a passing observer, but to Koga, it might as well have been highlighted in fluorescent colors.
“A Perrier, please,” said the man, who was about the same height as Koga, but looked at least twenty pounds heavier, all of it muscle. His complexion was dark, and he wore a thin beard.
“That’s a great tattoo you got there. I’m thinking of getting one, too. Where’d you get it?” Koga asked.
“Nowhere,” the man replied, pulling down his sleeve over his wrist.
“I’m Mack,” Koga said extending his right hand.
The man hesitated, and then shook it lightly. “Nice to meet you.”
“And you are?” Koga asked.
The man frowned and looked for the bartender who had disappeared into a back room. “Ali,” he said without looking Max's way.
“Who do you write for? I’m with Automobile Digest.”
Ali let out a long sigh. “You Americans are so incredibly talkative. What does it matter?”
“Hey, it was just a question. No offense, bro.”
“I’m a blogger from Jordan. Satisfied?”
“I didn’t know Jordan had much of a car culture," Max responded taking a sip of his drink.
Ali glanced impatiently at his watch and breathed a sigh of relief when the bartender returned with his bottle of Perrier.
“Sorry for the delay,” the bartender said as he poured the mineral water into a glass.
Without saying a word, Ali tossed him a ten-dollar bill, took his drink and headed to his table.
“See you around,” Koga called out, but Ali didn’t respond.
With most of the guests already seated, Koga searched for his table, which he found on the far side of the dining room. Before Max could sit down, Stockton introduced him to a fifty-something man with a tanned face and a head full of wavy dirty-blond hair.
“Mack, this is Mark Tyler, the editor-in-chief of Car News Weekly. He’s a good friend of mine. If you need an introduction to anyone here, he can provide it,” Stockton said.
Koga shook Tyler’s hand, while stealing a glance at the other side of the room where Ali sat.
After a lengthy toast by Xavier Qiu, a waiter brought out the first course: a truffle salad with walnuts and olive oil. Stockton and the others picked up their forks and dug in, as two Japanese video game executives who were also at the table, commented on how wonderfully balanced the ingredients were. But Koga just sipped his whiskey and kept his gaze set on Ali.
“Any cool car you’ve driven lately?” Tyler asked Koga.
Before he could answer, Koga noticed Ali standing from his chair and walking out of the dining room.
“I’m sorry. Will you excuse me for a second?” Koga replied, getting up from his seat.
Tyler held up his hands. “Was it something I said?”
Ali headed toward the restrooms, which were located outside the dining area in a semi-secluded part of the floor. Max quietly followed him into the men’s room, where Ali walked up to one of the urinals. Koga quietly strolled past him, pushing lightly on each of the three stall doors to check if any were occupied.
Max then took up the urinal immediately next to Ali and pretended to unzip his fly. "Hey man. Nice to see you again,” he said.
Ali ignored him.
“By the way, do you know of any hot titty bars in the area?”
Ali shook his head in disgust and mumbled something in Arabic.
Koga reached into his front pocket and held the canister containing the knockout drug. “Oh, that’s right. You Aqarib scumbags prefer sex with goats.”
Ali’s eyes opened wide, and the look on his face told Koga all he needed to know. In one fluid motion, Koga pulled out the canister and popped the cover off with his thumb. He went straight for the back of Ali’s neck, but the Arab’s reflexes were quicker than anticipated; he ducked under the attack and threw a short right hook, which landed on Koga’s chest, knocking him backwards.
So, the boy knows how to fight.