I look around. Everything is surreal. I quickly scan the faces of the Japanese men in this hall. I don’t know if it is the state I’m in … but I’m sure I see lightning darting across their eyes. And their lips are dry – waiting for blood … or water … or money, I wonder.

I look away and can’t look again. I can’t bear it, but I can still feel the rage and contempt of their stares.

When they shout orders to each other there is a sudden smell of blood … as if they are bleeding inside, and the smell is carried on their breath. Or is the smell coming from the blood stains on the ceiling? I’m confused.

The man with the gold teeth is by far the oldest in this hall. He looks to be about 55 years old to my shocked eyes. Everyone follows his stare as he turns to look at Nqo and me.

“Where are you from?” he asks Nqo and me.

I can feel all eyes on us.

“We are from South Africa,” I say timidly.

“Speak up! I can’t hear you,” he demands.

Nqo is gripping me; I can feel her trembling hands on my shoulder.

“Both of you?”

“Yes!” says Nqo.

“What took you so long to answer?”

I feel Nqo’s head on my back as she looks down, behind my shoulder, trembling now even more than before.

“I’m s s s orry,” she says in a shaky voice.

“How rude of me! I just remembered I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Kapo. Understood?” the man says, in a suddenly light tone.

“Yes Sir!” we answer simultaneously.

“Good. Everyone in their places!”

We stand around, confused, as the Japanese men and teenagers march into three groups. The men with rifles form a group; the Japanese teenagers another; and the men we arrived with form their own group. They are all well drilled because they do all this in less than five seconds.

“This group,” Kapo says, and points to the men who kidnapped us from the hotel. “These are my eyes and ears. They know everything that happens in the country before even the reporters find out. If the police are coming for me, they warn me. When interesting visitors, like you, land in Japan, they let me know.”

Kapo then points to the group of armed men. “These are my hit men. Their job is to guard me, and all of you. They also kidnap anyone I want kidnapped, especially the rich, and whistle blowers. No-one can get away from them, no matter how hard they try. They execute the bank robberies and kidnappings that fund this place. They are our first line of defence when we are attacked. They are my money-makers. Plus, they kill when I need people wiped off the face of the earth.”


Tell us: Are the narrator and Nqo worth kidnapping? Why else might they be in this situation?