Hinshi, and everyone in his group, growls as they all concentrate on the short guy, defending himself with the bloodied brick. He gobbles down the food in his hands as they move towards him.

Meanwhile, “At what time do you usually finish these food fight of yours?” asks Anton. “You need to finish eating and give us the bowl so they can also dish for us. We are also hungry!”

Hinshi and his group stop, look at us and laugh. It is laughter full of ridicule; they fall to the floor clutching their stomachs and point at us.

“Give him the bowl,” says Hinshi, tears of laughter streaming down his face.

The empty bowl flies from their side to ours.

“The next ration will be ours, and ours alone. We will show you how everyone can have a share if food is distributed fairly,” says Anton.

“That was the only food we’ve been given in two days,” says Hinshi. “You don’t realize what this is, do you? This is not a hotel or restaurant. You have been kidnapped by evil men who want to control each and every aspect of your life. The sooner you see that the better, Anton. There is no more food coming today. Or tomorrow.”

Now I hear Nqo groan and sniffle. She is holding her knee with both hands and crying.

“Nqo! What is wrong?” I say.

“My knee is killing me!”

“What happened to her knee?” asks Hinshi.

“She slipped and fell when we jumped off the truck,” says Anton.

Hinshi and everyone in his group come across to surround Nqo.

“Let us see,” Hinshi says, as he gently rolls up the leg of Nqo’s track pants.

There’s a collective gasp from all of us when we see Nqo’s hugely swollen knee.

“Do Kapo and Wufen know about this?” asks Hinshi.

“No,” Nqo winces.

“Did the guards see that you are injured?”

“No,” says Nqo.

I look at all of us surrounding Nqo and find only gentle compassion in every face.

“That is good, otherwise …” Hinshi shakes his head and tails off. We all understand what he doesn’t say. Then he continues, “Did you guys try to straighten her leg? Maybe she needs to have the leg stretched for the kneecap to settle back in place.”

“How were we going to do that when there were rifles prodding our backs?” says Anton.

“What’s your problem, Anton? Must you always speak even when someone is coming with a solution?” I ask. I hear the anger in my voice echo in the room.

“What’s my problem? First of all, what is your name?”

“Londi!” I say.

“Am I lying when I say rifles were prodding our backs?”

“Anton, please shut–”

The door flings open. Wufen enters with a guard. Everyone quickly backs away from Nqo, except for Hinshi. Nqo’s swollen knee is exposed; Hinshi is still holding her leg.

“What’s wrong with that one?” Wufen barks.

“She is injured, Wufen,” says Hinshi.

“Were you fighting?”

“No, she arrived like this.”

“Hinshi, do I look like a fool to you? I remember this girl. She was not injured when I saw her in Kyoto.”

“She fell when we got off the truck,” I say.

Wufen’s eyes turn fiery with rage. He turns to the guard next to him, points to Nqo and says, “Grab her! She is coming with us!”

My heart is beating so loud I can feel it thud on the wall that I’m leaning on. I remember what the man said when Nqo fell off the truck and struggled to get up: ‘Stand up. If you can’t stand up straight we have no choice but to kill you right here and now!’

Are they going to kill her … right now?

Wufen is looking at us with an expressionless face. “You, you, you and you!” he barks, pointing at me, Hinshi, Anton and the short Japanese guy who had the bloodied brick in his lap.

“What is your name?” Wufen points to short Japanese guy.

“I am Matsui.”

“I know Hinshi. Girl from Africa, what is your name?”

“I am Londi.”

“And you Russian?”

“I am Anton.”

“All of you have been selected by Kapo to go to Nagasaki on a mission. I just hope you come back in one piece,” says Wufen.

We are left standing in the middle of the room, looking at each other in stunned, terrified silence, as Wufen leaves and locks the door.


Tell us: Are the gangsters succeeding in making their fighters tough?