Red Mist, Stage 2, Chapter 4
Updated: May 15
Ali was the bigger of the two, but that didn’t deter Max Koga a bit; in fact, he preferred larger opponents. Keeping a tight grip on the syringe, Max led with a low kick, which Ali blocked with his leg. The self-proclaimed Jordanian countered with a straight left to the face, which Koga dodged by leaning back. Unfortunately for Koga, he failed to notice a small puddle of water on the floor behind him, which caused his heel to slip, sending him stumbling backwards.
Ali didn’t let the opportunity pass as he wrapped his arms around Koga’s thighs and drove forward with his shoulders, sending both men onto the cold hard floor. Ali quickly mounted Max's torso and unleashed a barrage of punches to the head.
Instinctively, Koga raised his arms to block the blows, keeping the heavy punches at bay, but sooner or later, one of them was going to break through. As Koga saw it, he had only one option: Turn over onto his belly and get to his feet or else get beaten to a pulp.
Koga arched his body and rolled onto his stomach, keeping his head covered the entire time. As expected, Ali immediately went for the neck, looking to put Koga in what mixed martial artists call a sleeper hold. Before he could lock it into place though, Koga managed to slip his left hand between his throat and Ali’s forearm, which eased some of the pressure from his cartoid arteries. But Ali simply squeezed tighter...and tighter. With the syringe still in his other hand, Koga desperately tried to stab the point of it into his opponent's leg, but couldn’t generate enough thrust to prick the skin with the needle.
Max could feel the strength start to drain from his body. The canister dropped to the floor as he lost sensation in his extremities, and in a few seconds, he would pass out. As the black veil of unconsciousness began creeping in, for some unknown reason, he felt Ali’s grip loosen. He thought he was imagining it at first, but a moment later, Ali released his choke hold and completely lifted himself off of Max's back.
Turning over quickly to see what was going on, Koga saw Ali holding his hands near his shoulders with his legs flailing in the air. Someone had put Ali in the same exact hold that he had Koga in. As Max struggled to his feet, he saw Stockton Clay, on the floor, holding Ali’s torso between his legs from behind, with his arms wrapped around the Arab’s neck.
“Holy cow, this guy is strong,” Stockton shouted. “Little help, please.”
Quickly, Koga picked up the syringe. “Just hold him for another second,” he said as he buried the needle into the Arab's chest.
A second later, Ali’s eyes rolled back, and his arms dropped lifelessly to the floor.
Stockton let out a long sigh, pushing Ali’s limp body off of him. “That’s some potent stuff you got there. What is it?”
Koga shoved the empty canister back into his pocket. “It’s a prototype knockout drug. Thanks for the assist. I thought I was a goner.”
“I suspected something was up—the way you abruptly left the table—so I decided to check up on you. Glad I did. So, now what?”
Koga knelt next to the unconscious Ali. “Can you make sure that no one comes this way for the next two minutes or so? I need to get him out of the building.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“By the way, where’d you learn that hold?” Koga asked.
“I have a black belt in judo,” Stockton replied.
“You are full of surprises, aren’t you?"
Stockton smiled. "Good luck," he said as he stepped out of the room.
After sending out a quick text to Donald Rawlings, Koga threw one of Ali’s arms over his own shoulder and wrapped an arm around his waist. With nearly all of the stocky man’s weight on his right hip, Max dragged him out of the bathroom. The coast was clear; there was no one between him and the elevator, but Ali’s thick, heavy build made the short journey slower and harder than anticipated. Just as he reached the elevator door, a voice stopped him in his tracks.
“Are you guys okay?”
It was one the Japanese video game execs at his table. His nametag read Tak.
Koga smiled. “My friend here had a few too many, so I’m taking him back to his hotel.”
“You need any help?” he asked in surprisingly good English.
Koga shook his head. “I can manage. He does this all the time. Could you get the down button for me, though?”
Tak hurried to the elevator and pushed the button. The bell rang as the doors slid open. “I won’t tell anyone I saw you leaving,” he said.
“Domo arigato,” Koga replied, wondering what exactly Tak thought was happening. Max stepped into the open carriage and gave his new Japanese friend a curt nod as the doors shut between them.