Everything about the yakuza--his words, his tone, his movement and posture--screamed Attack! But the man was too frozen, either by fear or denial, to move off the line of assault. And although he was holding a ten-kilo iron plate with edges considerably harder than the yakuza's cranium, the man did nothing but drop his mouth open, perhaps in surprise, perhaps in inchoate and certainly futile apology.
The yakuza blasted into him like a rhino, his shoulder driving into the man's stomach. I saw the man try to brace for the impact, but again he failed to move off the line of attack and his attempt was largely useless. The yakuza drove him backward into the wall, then unleashed a flurry of crude punches to his head and neck. The man, in shock now and running on autopilot, dropped the plate and managed to raise his arms to ward off a few of the blows, but the yakuza, still bellowing, slapped the attempted blocks out of the way and kept on punching. I saw one of his shots connect to the left side of the man's neck, to the real estate over the carotid sinus, and the man began to crumble as his nervous system overcompensated from the shock of the blow by reducing blood pressure to the brain. The yakuza, feet planted widely as though he had an axe and was splitting logs, continued to hammer at the top of his victim's head and neck. The man fell to the floor, but retained enough consciousness to curl up and protect himself to some extent from the hail of kicks that followed.
Huffing and swearing, the yakuza bent and caught the prostrate man's right ankle between an enormous biceps and forearm. For a moment, I thought he was going to apply a jujitsu leglock and try to break something. Instead, he straightened and proceeded to drag the man's prone form to the club's entrance and out into the street.
He returned a moment later, alone, and, after taking a moment to catch his breath, resumed his rightful place on the bench without looking at anyone else in the room. Everyone returned to what they were doing: his affiliates, because they didn't care; the civilians, because they were unnerved. It was as though nothing had happened, although the silence in the club indicated that indeed something had.
A part of my mind that's always running in the background logged what I saw as the yakuza's assets: raw strength, experience with violence, familiarity with principles of continuous attack. Under weaknesses, I placed lack of self-control, shortness of breath after a brief and one-sided fight, relatively minimal damage caused despite ferocity of assault.
Unless he was a borderline sociopath, which was statistically unlikely, I knew the yakuza would now be feeling slightly uneasy about what people must have made of his outburst. I took the opportunity to stroll over to the bench-press station and ask him if he needed a spot.
"Warui na," he thanked me, grateful, I knew, for the comfort this simple interaction afforded him.
"Iya," I replied. It's nothing. I stood over him and helped him get the bar in the air. I noted that he was moving a hundred and fifty-five kilos. He managed two repetitions, with some assistance from me on the second. He would still be fully adrenalized from his recent altercation, and I made a mental note of the limits of his strength at this exercise.
I helped him guide the bar back onto the uprights, then whistled quietly through my teeth in slightly theatrical deference to his power. I moved to the foot of the bench as he sat up and told him that if he needed another spot, he should just ask me. He nodded his head in gruff thanks and I began to turn away.
I paused as though considering whether to add something, then turned back to him. "That guy should have checked to see if you were done with this station," I said in Japanese. "Some people have no manners. You taught him a lesson."
From Hard Rain: A John Rain Novel by Barry Eisler, copyright © 2003 Barry Eisler, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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