EARLIER THAT DAY.
Genghis is walking towards Jimmy’s Pancake House. The air is cold but the sky is clear and the streets have not packed up yet for the morning rush-hour. Genghis stands in front of the 24-hour pancake house; he looks at his own poor reflection on the glass doors and fixes his long black coat before he walks in. He pushes the door open, and the little chimes jingle. A waitress in a long dark-blue apron looks at him with some reverence. Genghis shaves his head bald, has a black thick but short goatee and a black tattoo of the Chinese character ? under his left eye. “Table for one?” the waitress asks. Genghis smiles at her, as he calmly says to her: “No, umm… I just spotted my friends’ table.” He opens his coat and walks towards a square table with four seats. Genghis sits at the vacant seat opposing Remi. To his right sits Ali and to his left sits Veronica.
- “It’s 6:20 already, man”, says Remi to Genghis.
Genghis ignores Remi and talks to the waitress who had followed him with the menu.
- “I’ll have the three-stack pancakes, and uh… a vanilla shake, please.”
After the waitress leaves, Ali speaks in a low voice: “Guys we’ve been very successful so far. But tonight is the night. This is gonna be the beginning of the climax. We’re getting really close, and so we must be more alert than any other time. They’re going to be desperate, and they’re going to escalate. If we just follow our plans to the letter, nothing will go wrong.”
- Remi: "So is everyone ready?”
- Genghis: “Yes. But did Jake get me the stuff I asked for?”
- Veronica: “Yes, don’t worry. It’s at the cafe’s basement. Everything’s in order. You’ll come pick it up at 5:00, right?”
- Genghis: “Yes”
Everyone goes silent, staring at Genghis. Genghis looks back at them and says: “What? I said I’ll be there at 5:00, which means I’m gonna be there at 5:00.”
- Remi: “Don’t you think the van will look suspicious at all?”
- Ali: “It’s a Fox News van, with that little dish on its roof. There’s nothing to worry about.”
- Genghis looks at Remi, irritated by his naïve phrases and questions, and says: “You know…. I don’t know what it is about you. It’s just that your face is too pretty, or maybe I’m jealous of your gelled black hair, or your big blue eyes.”
- Ali: “Genghis, stop.”
- Genghis: “I just can’t stand you. I’m trying to figure out what it is exactly. Maybe it’s your stupid fucking questions, or maybe it’s just the way you ask those questions or the tone of your voice. Like the idiots munching popcorn at the movies who always interrupt their friends asking them ‘how did he do that?’ or ‘what did she say?’…”
- Ali (interrupts whispering audible to the table members): “Genghis, Just chill! You’re making everyone at the restaurant uncomfortable. This is not about Remi or you or me. This is about what we are all here to do. So let’s just do what we are here to do. You don’t have to talk to him, alright?”
While Ali was whispering all this, Genghis had sighed and stopped talking. But now he is still staring at Remi, who has had his eyes lowered onto the table the whole time, with his hand gently and slowly spinning the saucer that has the cup of coffee on it. When Genghis finally stops, Remi just picks up his cup and sips his coffee, without eyeing anyone at the table.
Ali successfully defuses the situation, and then looks back at the group and talks like nothing has happened: “Alright. After Genghis and I pick up the equipment from Jake’s, we’ll go to pick you up [looking at Veronica], as well as Kim and Vega.”
- Veronica: “You don’t have to do that. The three of us will be at the cafe when you arrive. We’ll come out of the back door.”
- Ali: “Ok that’ll work, too.”
- Remi: “And Luke and I will meet you at the temple after we’re done with our hit.”
- Ali: “Good luck with that. Send my regards to Luke.”
- Remi: “Thanks, I will.”
Remi pulls out his cell phone and dials a number to check the weather forecast. He puts the phone on speaker-mode and places it on the middle of the table. Each one of them grabs a white napkin and writes down the weather forecast. When they’re done, Ali collects cash from each and heads to the cashier to pay the bill. The waitress asks Ali: “How was everything?” to which Ali answers: “As always, tasty and filling.” The waitress rings the cash register and asks: "Did you want me to call Jimmy again?” and Ali responds: “No, no. It’s getting packed and he’s busy in the kitchen. I’ll catch up with him another day.” Moments later, Remi and the rest stand up, stretching and yawning, gradually making their way out of the restaurant. Ali follows last after he had dispensed a toothpick and put it in his mouth. It’s his habit.
The door closes behind them and the chimes stop jingling. The cold, dry wind blows, and the sound of car engines fill up the sky. Veronica hugs Ali, and then hugs Genghis. Ali shakes hands with Remi. Then Veronica and Remi head north, while Genghis and Ali head south walking on the sidewalk of the street that has begun to get crowded. They reach the bus stop and stand there waiting for the bus while they continue chatting.
Genghis: “Did you see how dumb his question was?”
Ali: “Yes. He might be dumb when it comes to social skills, but not so dumb when it comes to fighting. He’s very skilled.”
- “I don’t care. The guy is intimidating. And did you see how Veronica was melting all over him?”
- “So that’s what it is. You have a crush on Veronica.”
- “No, but I have a lot of respect for Veronica. What does she see in that idiot?”
- “Ah. Look, just drop it. He’s not worth discussing. All I need to know is that he’s been friends with Luke for several years now, and together they did over 10 missions. Look, we all share the same belief and fight for the same cause. We didn’t get together so we can socialize or bond with one another.”
- “I’ll drop it if you admit that he’s annoying.”
- “I already said that I agree with you on that point.”
Bus arrives, and Genghis and Ali hop on. They find two empty seats separated by the bus’s wide aisle. So they sit and continue their conversation in a voice audible to the remaining 20 passengers on the bus. Genghis says:
- “You still don’t use fire-arms? You’re sticking to your daggers and Saracen sword?”
- “I’m sticking to my character. You do know that the historical Ali had a very unique sword, don’t you? I just designed my sword based on the sword mentioned in his biography. This crescent-shaped double-edged sword is scientifically sharper and swifter. But what about you, Genghis Khan? Where is your machete and bow?”
- “I do have them hanging on the wall of my bedroom… as souvenirs! I prefer my two automatic shotguns. They are light and much more scientific than your blades. I don’t understand how you manage with no firearms?”
- “It’s the one who draws first that wins, whether it’s a gun or a knife. But if they do draw first, I can always use this shield.”
Ali puts his forearms together, covering his face and chest. And when his two steel forearm-guards are fastened together, they release a dozen blades connecting with one another, creating a large armored disc of steel. A little kid on the bus watches Ali’s demonstration and can’t help but express his fascination; unlike the adults who have no difficulty of being expressionless. Ali looks back at the kid and smiles. A middle-aged lady asks with an exaggerated smile: “Are you performers?”
“Yes,” answers Genghis, “You can tune in to our performance tonight.”
- “Oh really!” exclaims the jolly-faced lady, “on which channel?”
- “It’s gonna be on every channel” says Genghis with a smirk.
- Ali: “No he’s just kidding. It will be on Fox, the local channel.”
- “I’m looking forward to it” says the lady.
- “Yes, so are we” answers Genghis, still unable to hide his smug.
- Ali: “Ok, this is my stop. Drop by my place at 4:30 PM, sharp!”
- Genghis: “See you then.”