While Pancras does his spiel, Auren Han drinks his Coke and watches. He’s not watching Pancras. He’s in the deep field, watching something else, not Pancras, who is describing dangling a reticent witness–an attorney–out of a small propeller plane.
Beyond the booths and the snack bar, spreading out to Han’s left, is the rest of the gym, looking unsure of its purpose, full of new amenities and filtered light. The smell is right, though, and the sounds, the almost crystalline sound of the load dropping back into place on the rack, the muted sounds of sparring from the somewhat makeshift matted area where Asian-looking guys kick heavy bags.
Han has already decided that Pancras, who looks too hopeful to have spent much time dangling people out of airplanes, is full of shit. But Pancras is also an avid talker, which suits his purposes, because the guy he’s really waiting for, the guy he came here to see, hasn’t come in yet.
Now Pancras is in Venezuela, rescuing kidnapped cocaine heiresses, all of whom, apparently, wanted to lick his balls.
There’s not a lot of ways to confirm his hypothesis, or even to gather data to further a hypothesis. Dance of Knives is just the name the subject goes by in the States. That, by itself, gave Han pause. He (Auren can hear Barret working on this: “So he’s Mister Knives? Mister-of-Knives? Sounds like a dude from a Scott Pilgrim comic.”) is not FOB enough that Han can dismiss the name as some kind of error of an immigration translator. Arty: Barret, again, in his head. It’s a strange direction, a strange choice, particularly if–
Sudden, turbulent movement in the matted area. Someone falls hard, makes a big slapping noise on the mat; tight, Han thinks, way too tight.
Three people fall down in swift sequence. The last person gets tossed back into the cloud of attackers. That person trips, rolls quite competently over his neighbors, rises to attack again, and is clotheslined.
Not clotheslined, Han corrects himself. Lighter than that, what Aikido smartalecks call a touchless throw. Han has not seen much of that working outside of the confines of a traditional dojo. This is a motley group of guys who don’t seem to know each other well. Mixed styles. A lot of flashy tats in odd places on their bodies. Except the guy in the middle–
The guy in the middle is his guy, and Han makes a private personal confirmation. Must have come in from the dressing room while Pancras was in Venezuela, catching Han a little off-guard with the reference to his balls.
A very strange move, unexpected even in a traditional dojo, and very strange in a fancy gym: coordinated. You show up, towel over your shoulder, in sweats and bare feet; step on the mat, and wham! Four guys are all over you, all at once. Like a movie, Han reflects.
One of those tattooed guys out there has a cinematic imagination, maybe wanted to test him, the guy in the middle; surprised there aren’t bamboo swords out there, big wooden sticks, bowls of water balancing on doorjambs.
The guy in the middle, the guy nobody landed a punch on, is holding his hands out, laughing.
It’s already clear to Han that this is not the same guy whose files Bennie pulled out of the mess in Russia, despite the resemblance.
And the resemblance is there, right down to the burn marks on his cheekbones. Just angled differently, by about an inch. Same family nose. Same arches, same toe bones. But what he’s built himself is all new. The shoulders don’t lead the parade like a bull, there’s no vodka slung on his middle. No sad fists of fury, busy hammering a bag, day in and day out.
This one, it’s all mileage put onto those legs. He’s queer, of course. If this is Ahn Ha-Neul’s little brother, the thick sullen thug will never admit it.
Nobody in the gym, here, seems to give a damn.
His guy makes sad wry faces, swift gestures of his own mistakes, and they laugh too. His arms are built up from hours of practice, all right–after Barret, one ought to recognize the signs. String player’s forearms ridge up as the guy talks with his fluid performer’s hands.
Not the thick pro boxer knobs from the Russian files, the ones that left those pulpy marks in the forensic shots. No consolation to the families of the dead girls. Diplomatic immunity, hell.