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Saturday Night at the Cinema
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Even from the beginning I thought it was all about those yakuza that Joel had pissed off a couple of weeks before.
Well… I pissed them off too as Joel’s accomplice that night but the fact that Joel got us out of it really seemed to be the pisser that might have put one of them over the top.
We had been warned to stay away from that bar.
They said it was owned by the mob… the japanese mafia… the yakuza.
They shouldn’t have told us that because it put it right on top of our list of places to hang out.
It wasn’t like we’d planned some big hiest to screw the mobsters over.
It just happened.
I guess you could call it ‘a crime of opportunity.’
Booze is expensive in the ‘Japanland.’
A double shot of tequila was running 40,000 yen at the time.
That’s forty bucks.
So when the cute bartender started taking a liking to Joel she sort of told him that by giving him back all of his money in smaller bills when he’d buy us a round of tequila.
You’d have thought we’d hit a gold mine right there and we really started digging that vein as fast as we could.
It was a bad case of ‘gold fever’ alright.
‘Cuervo Gold Fever.’
I don’t know how many of those tequila shot’s we’d drank.
No one was keeping track.
Or so we thought.
I’m sure between the two of us and some of the new friends we’d made that we knocked back about a thousand bucks worth of tequila that night.
Without paying a single yen for it.
The audacity of our actions was something akin to eatin’ a steak dinner in the middle of a lions den.
We were too stupid to see the danger in what we’d done even while we were sober and after all that tequila… well… we didn’t have any ‘guard’ left to let down.
We partied on and on without any idea that some really bad people drew a bead on us and we were just sitting ducks in their cross hairs.
Sitting ducks that were downing more and more of their tequila.
In their house.
Without paying for it.
The clock was ticking and we were about to find ourselves in a situation that you’d never want to find yourself in if you were as sober as a judge much less rocked off your ass on the fermented agave nectar.
They were watching as I excused myself to hit the bathroom and relieve myself of some of our ill gotten gains.
That was the moment when it all pretty much went disasterously wrong.
In my obliviated state I was oblivious to the danger I was about to find myself in.
Heading to the bathroom down a dimly lit hallway I was jumped in the most perfect way by a couple of guys in shiny suits.
They didn’t have to tell me who they were.
They didn’t have to tell me why they jumped me.
But they got me and they got me good.
With expert precision.
and perfect teamwork.
One second I’m finding my merry way to the bathroom and the next second I’m pushed through a door into some kind of storage room.
Welcome to ‘Crime Scene Number Two.’
You never wanna let them get you to ‘Crime Scene Number Two.’
That’s where the really bad shit happens.
I was bigger than both of them by a great margin and in a fair fight I probably could have taken care of myself against the two of them without getting hurt.
But the skill of a professional is making sure that the fight is never fair and that all the chips are stacked in his favor before his adversary even knows that the fight is on.
I’d been jumped by a professional.
The very sharp edge of the small knife pressed up against my jugular vein taught me instantly that lesson.
I was pushed up against a wall… the door was slammed shut to the hallway and I was about to have my throat cut while my buddy entertained our new friends and drank free tequila forty or fifty feet away.
I’d never had a knife held up to my throat that way.
I never had a knife held to my throat any way before that.
It wasn’t something I’d given much thought to.
I’ll tell you what…
it’s a pretty wicked position to find yourself in.
There was nothin’ I could do to get out of it.
While the guy held the edge of that knife to my throat the other guy emptied my pockets.
He threw all of my money down on a little table.
My passport too.
The way the edge of the blade was pushed into my skin was the thing.
That knife wasn’t held to my throat as a warning.
It was held to my throat in such a way that if I even moved I’d be cutting my own jugular.
With all of the mental force I could muster I willed my throat to become thinner and relieve the pressure of the knife on it.
I even tried to keep my breathing shallow to avoid pushing my throat into that knife any more than it was already.
When I swallowed I can remember how the motion in my throat changed the way that the blade felt up against it.
I wondered how quickly my lights would go out after he sliced my jugular open.
Would I feel strange as he opened me up and my blood pressure dropped as all of the blood that was supposed to be going to my brain spouted out of the gash in my neck?
Or would it be painless and instant unconsciousness for me after he did his dirty deed?
There was gonna be none of that shit like in the movies where I do some sweet move and get that knife off of me…
if I moved it was all gonna be over.
It was a very powerless place to be.
The only thing that remained to be seen is when the guy’s muscles would tense up and he’d make the move that’d be the last that I ever felt.
The slice that took my life.
I don’t remember seeing my life flash before me like every one says about situations like that.
I just remember thinking how stupid I felt for getting myself in that position.
It wasn’t fear that I was filled with at all…
it was regret.
I regretted that my mother’d be informed by the State Department of my murder…
and that she’d have to make arrangements to have my body shipped back to the United States wrapped in plastic and in a cardboard box in the cargo hold of a commercial airliner.
I felt sorry for her in that moment.
Ashamed at the stupidity that I’d let myself fall into that would bring this moment upon her.
The only thing I really understood was that these guys were gonna kill me unless I was granted some miracle really fast.
My thoughts became much more local when the second guy started playing around with the mop and the mop bucket.
That all kind of put things into perspective.
I was about to be killed and they didn’t want there to be a really big mess to clean up.
It was another sign of their ‘professionalism.’
That’s when I got scared.
When one guy’s got a knife to your throat and another guy’s getting the mop bucket it’s hard to see the glass as half full.
Of anything except for your own blood.
I was trying hard I suppose to maintain my optimism but that moment was one of the few in my life that I just couldn’t find anything to be optimistic about.
I was about to piss my pants.
I really was.
At that moment I think it had to be the knife that was pushed into my throat holding me up against that wall… I know it wasn’t my knees.
Everything about me was starting to accept my destiny in the moment.
Strange feelings flowed within’ me and I felt everything fading.
The gig was up.
And this was where it’d end.
Over a bunch of tequila.
I didn’t see that miracle coming…
but it came in the form of my drunk buddy barging through that door that led to the hallway.
Mother of gahd I’ve never been so blessed in my life as at that moment!
When he plowed through that door the way he did…
both of the guys that had thrown me into that room sort of turned towards him instinctively.
That pressure of the edge of the blade that I’d been focused on through the whole episode let up and I knew I had one split second of a chance to get my ass out of this.
I don’t remember what I did to do it… if I even did anything at all…
but as soon as that knife was off of my throat I made my move.
Don’t remember what that move was either but I must’ve made one because in all of that confusion somehow I ended up pushing open a fire exit and heading down the fire escape with all of the speed of a gazelle drunk on tequila being chased by a tiger high on cocaine.
Joel was behind me tellin’ me what to do… not that I really heard anything more than his yelling… I didn’t need very much encouragement to hightail my ass outta that scene…
but holy shit the night air felt good filling my lungs as we ran down the sidestreets of Osaka.
We ran until we couldn’t run any more… which was about three blocks.
When we looked behind us and we weren’t being chased we sort of half collapsed in a fit of laughter.
That’s all we did was laugh.
Maybe we hugged or high fived or fist bumped… because that was they way we we’re feelin’ right there in the moment… I don’t remember.
I looked at my buddy gasping for air there and I just shook my head laughing.
Not only was I the most grateful guy in the world…
I was proud of him.
That was some shit he pulled right there alright.
I would brag about his skills for a long time after that.
Dude was ‘The Man.’
Someone’d told him that a couple of bad guys had thrown me in that backroom and he didn’t waste a second thinkin’ it out…
He got up from the table, ran down the hallway and came through that door like a fucking hero.
Shit… he was my hero.
I’d never forget that moment as long as I lived.
I owe the guy my life.
Those are the kind of guys you want on your crew.
I was really diggin’ my buddy and I was really diggin’ the moment.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better he looks at me… reaches into his pocket… and he pulls out my freakin’ passport!
‘Hey… you forgot this’ he said as he tossed it to me.
The dude had the balls and the skills in those few moments to see it there on the table and grab it.
I was so fucking impressed I hugged him right there, slapping his back a couple of times too just for emphasis.
‘Dude’ I said… in the way that you say it that captures everything you’re feeling in that moment in one word.
He knew what I meant.
That was all I hadda say.
Then just because we’re ‘those kinds of guys’ I asked him if he’d grabbed my fifty thousand yen off the table too.
I felt like buying him a drink all of the sudden.
To show the sincerity of my appreciation of him as a friend right there.
And that was all of the money that I had.
‘No… I didn’t see any money on the table’ he said to my dissapointment.
‘What the fuck’ I said ‘there was fifty thousand yen of mine next to my passport and you didn’t grab it?’
‘We gotta go back there’ I said jokingly.
Joel gave me a disgusted look.
I never missed an opportunity to buy the guy a drink after that.
And every time I bought him a drink I never missed an opportunity to badger him about not grabbing my dough off of the table as he saved my life and my passport.
‘I really appreciate what you did for me that night man… you really got some balls… but I would’ve appreciated it a lot more if you wouldda grabbed all of my cash on the way out’ I’d tell him again and again.
Then our glasses would clink… he’d give me a dumb look as he shook his head and I’d kind of nod with a smile.
It was a scene that would be played back on quite a few happy occasions.
I paid him back a couple of times for what he did that night after that… with interest.
If the guy called me up right now and told me he was in a fix somewhere in Norway at this very moment I’d find a way to be on the first plane outta Chicago.
Even if I had to fly it myself.