Before long we'd reached downtown Los Angeles and were off the freeway and looking for parking. The streets were lined with shops with both English and Japanese names, from restaurants to bookstores. This was my first visit to Little Tokyo.
The car safely parked in a nearby multilevel garage, Rann led me to a nondescript little shop with all kinds of interesting stuff in the window. Among other things I saw a white ceramic cat with paw upraised and a large Japanese character on its front.
Inside the shop we took a narrow stairway to the second floor. As we rounded a corner I gasped in surprise, taking in a solid wall of compact discs and multiple racks of laserdiscs (along with a few DVDs) down the center. "Konnichiwa," Rann cheerfully greeted the elderly woman at the counter. "Konnichiwa, Parker-san," she responded politely with a bow and a smile. The two were soon deeply engaged in locating a number of items on the shelves, which were all in Japanese and in no discernable order that I could see. Meanwhile I browsed through the bins of laserdiscs, finding them all to be animation of one sort or another, and all in Japanese.
It was obvious to me that I wasn't going to find anything here to buy, so I waited with some impatience as the two finally finished gathering an immense pile of compact discs and laserdiscs and the woman set about adding up the totals. After paying, Rann slipped the wallet back into his boot.
On the way out, Rann now loaded down with three bags of discs, I bought the cat I'd seen in the window. "That is a manekineko, or 'beckoning cat,' " the clerk explained politely. "It brings good luck." I also picked up a jade hair comb for my mother, jade supposedly being another love-attracting stone.
As we loaded our loot into the trunk of the car, Rann casually asked if we could make a small side trip. Aha, I thought. A few minutes later we were navigating the crowded streets towards the skyscraper section of Los Angeles. Once again we located a parking garage, this time considerably less well lit than the one in Little Tokyo. Los Angeles has definitely gone downhill, I reflected.
As we walked from the garage to our destination, I took in the increasingly patchwork personality of the city. Brand new office buildings were located next to empty, derelict ones with obscenities scrawled in dust on vacant store windows. Although as a general rule I'm not a particularly timid person, I found myself glad to have Rann at my side.
We ended up in the lobby of a busy, modern looking office building. "Would you mind waiting for me here?" Rann asked apologetically.
"But--" I protested.
"Please. It's important that I do this alone," he said earnestly, taking one of my hands in both of his. It was the first time he'd done that, and I have to confess that at that moment he could have asked me to jump into a trash compactor and I would have willingly complied.
"Uh, sure, okay," I mumbled, and by the time I regained my senses he'd vanished into an elevator. I plopped down on one of the luxurious leather couches in disgust. Haley, you sap, I thought to myself. You're a fine one. Just putty in his hands. But I found myself suppressing a snicker.
He was only gone for a few minutes. When he returned I put on my most petulant face and stood there impatiently tapping one foot. "That was a dirty trick," I announced.
"What was?" he responded innocently. He looked so guileless that I finally broke into a grin and took him by the hand as we left the building. Tit for tat, I decided as we walked down the street holding hands.
When we reached the car, which was parked in an awkward corner of the garage, I was almost to the door when I suddenly realized that someone was crouched by the handle jimmying the lock. "Hey!" I exclaimed, and he stood up facing us. He was a thoroughly unpleasant looking character, with greasy hair, unshaven face, and a dirty sweatshirt. More to the point, in his hand was an evil-looking handgun wavering back and forth between the two of us.
"All right, brats, put your hands where I can see 'em," he said, waving the gun menacingly. "Do as he says, Rann," I gasped. He did. Of all times for my first mugging, I found myself thinking. Please, oh, please, Rann, don't do anything stupid.
The thug ordered us to empty our pockets onto the car's hood, one pocket at a time, the whole while his gun pressed against Rann's chest. I assumed he was looking for money or a wallet; instead he came up with the cylindrical gadget I'd seen earlier. "No wallet, huh?" he grumbled ominously to Rann. "Where ya got it hidden, dude? And what's this thing?" he added, curiosity getting the better of him.
"It's a flashlight," Rann explained calmly.
"Yeah? Pretty weird-looking flashlight. Hey, I could use this." He fumbled with it for a few seconds with his free hand.
"The switch is the little red dot," Rann said helpfully. A dull orange glow appeared inside the thing, accompanied by an odd feeling in my ears, like the one a dog whistle produces.
"It needs new batteries, dude," he said, tossing it aside. "Now find that wallet, and fast, got it?" He raised the gun towards Rann's head.
"I'll take that now," replied Rann, reaching out and grabbing the barrel. "Rann, no!" I blurted out. The thug uttered an expletive, and a moment later I heard the click of the hammer on an empty chamber, followed by several more. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief as I realized that the thief had been using an unloaded gun as a bluff. An instant later I heard a loud grunt as Rann landed a fist square in his midriff, followed by a second directly to the jaw, and right on cue the hoodlum crumpled to the pavement, out like a light. Rann still held the gun, having retained his grip the entire time. Calmly he unloaded several bullets into the palm of his hand and pocketed them.
"Rann," I practically screamed. "You mean that thing was loaded?"
"Bad bullets," he remarked with a perfectly straight face as he picked up the discarded plastic cylinder and returned it to his other pocket. "Shall we go?"
This page last updated 2/5/2010.|