The huge shipyard had clearly seen better days.
Bracken ocean water slapped listlessly against crumbling piers littered with long-dead parts and corroding barrels, scattered amongst grubby containers.
Few of the poorly dressed Asian workers did anything more than stand around chatting or playing cards. Even the intense midday sun had no chance of brightening up the depressing surroundings, its dazzling rays largely absorbed by omnipresent rust and dirt.
Into the dusty silence, a flash, black limo with tinted windows slowly cruised towards a large concrete building with huge loading bays and a row of dirt-encrusted windows on the upper floor. Behind the nondescript driver sat two “don’t fuck with me“ stereotypes, sporting black tailored suits, monochrome ties and dark sunglasses.
“What do you think?” Kato asked in a low voice, as dead as the decrepit shipyard surrounding them.
Completing the Hollywood cliché, his partner, Ethan, did not move a muscle. He had already decided he did not like their mission, and it seemed to get worse with each shipyard. But he wasn't paid to think or voice opinions, and the money was good. Very good in fact. It would enable him to finally afford the new luxury house and lifestyle his wife had been nagging him about for the past three years. It even compensated for Kato's annoying presence.
This was the biggest shipyard they had visited so far. Stretching along the coast over nearly three kilometres and covering an area of several square kilometres, it boasted
four dry docks of varying sizes up to seven hundred by ninety-five metres. Three large-scale floating docks, all equipped with huge gantry cranes, could accommodate vessels with draughts up to fourteen metres and an impressive one million deadweight tonnage. Two assembly halls, several large pre-fabrication sheds, automated
steel-cutting lines and a painting shop completed the picture.
A bit of brushing up, and there wasn't much this shipyard could not deal with, Ethan mused. But first, they would have to dispose of a minor problem.
The limousine drew to a halt, and Ethan adjusted his tie. “Let’s go,” he finally replied sternly, completely ignoring Kato’s question.
Yong watched their approach from up above through one of the tatty bamboo blinds adorning the grimy windows.
Frowning, the Asian ran his fingers through his greasy black hair. His expression watchful, he subconsciously wiped the soiled hands on the already greasy shirt that loosely covered his slender torso.
Yong’s beady eyes followed as Kato and Ethan got out of the limo and went up the fire escape. To him, they looked like an odd version of the Blues Brothers without hats
Although Kato was short, he made up for it in body mass. Putting Rambo to shame with his stocky build and muscular body, he looked like he could easily kill someone with his little finger. By contrast, at nearly two metres tall, Ethan was of an impressive height not borne out by his skinny stature and gaunt face.
Yong slightly shook his head. Did they really expect him to deal with those two goons?
Of course, Yong had anticipated the visit. He just had not reckoned on it being so soon. Nor had he envisaged his visitors to be what quite obviously were mere servants. Surely they knew he wouldn’t deal with underlings. Although he would never let anyone know it, the thought disgusted Yong. His dignity did not allow him to negotiate with anyone below his own level. They would simply have to leave empty-handed until their boss came to his senses and they spoke face to face.
After letting them wait for a few deliberate seconds, Yong opened the dilapidated door, carefully ensuring it did not fall off the only remaining hinge. Without as much as a greeting nod, he motioned Kato and Ethan into his office.
Yong watched in anger as Kato went straight past him, sat down in the only chair and leisurely put his feet on the desk. Yet something in Kato’s manner stopped the complaint rising in Yong’s throat from actually leaving his mouth.
He suddenly had a very bad feeling.
Countering the unbidden emotion, Yong straightened beyond his full height and tightened his face into an icy stare. He would be damned if he showed any fear to those goons.
Legs akimbo, Ethan planted himself with his back to one of the windows, careful not to touch the filthy blind with his immaculate suit.
Despite all shades being drawn, neither Ethan nor Kato bothered to take off their sunglasses.
“What is your answer?” Ethan asked without preamble. He knew there was no need to explain.
“The offer is an insult,” Yong replied in what he considered a quiet but superior tone. “Have you brought me a better offer?”
“As you well know, this is the only offer.”
“If you do not have a better offer, please tell your boss I will discuss the matter with him personally. And only with him personally. Please leave now, I am a busy man.”
“Somehow I don't think so,” Ethan said, suddenly a distinctly menacing air about him. “And as to your message, no can do. You see, my boss is a very nice lady. That is, when she is not angry. Going back with your message would make her angry. Very angry.”
“This is not my problem.” Yong grew impatient. He had more pressing concerns than two pussies working for a woman. Time to get rid of the goons. He reached for the phone. The guards would take care of it.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Ethan appeared by his side. Quick as a flash he clamped his hand around Yong’s wrist, holding him firmly in place.
With exaggerated patience, he explained. “Oh, but I think it is. Let me lay it out for you: you refuse the offer, I tell my boss. I tell my boss, my boss is pissed off. My boss is pissed off, I lose my job. That's if I'm lucky. Now, I don’t want to lose my job, never mind vital body parts. It's that simple.”
“Clearly this isn’t the busiest of shipyards by any means,” Kato chimed in. “So all things considered it seems to me this offer is more than generous. You really should reconsider.”
“You have taken up enough off my time. Leave now.
Both of you.”
“You still don’t understand,” Ethan said, narrowing his eyes. “Let us help you make up your mind.”
As if on cue, Kato produced a gun and calmly shot Yong first in the left ankle, then in the right.
His ruined legs no longer able to support his body weight, he collapsed on the floor.
The shock at the abrupt turn of events momentarily blocked out any feeling. Then a sudden overwhelming wave of fear and nausea went through Yong, the terrifying realisation of his situation turning his blood to ice. But Yong was a proud man. He was not given his name, which roughly translated as 'the brave one', for nothing. He would not give these hooligans the satisfaction of showing his fear or suffering. When the pain struck, he clenched his teeth and merely waited in silent agony.
“Next will be the knees,” Ethan calmly commented.
“Then the wrists, followed by the elbows and so forth. You get the picture.”
Despite his pain and terror, Yong remained defiant. Surely, they would come to their senses. After all, they were mere servants, and their boss would not be impressed by their attempts to intimidate an important business partner such as himself.
“You forget who you are dealing with,” he said with as much emphasis as he could muster.
“Do we?” A hint of excitement crossed Ethan’s normally impassive face. “Looks like we got ourselves a little wannabe hero here, Kato. This could take some time; go get us some coffee from the limo.”