The Consultant: Chapter 8

Barry was dreaming…of being back home in Chicago.

Joyce was in their old kitchen, making breakfast for the kids, Ryan and Tessa. They were seated at the table. 

But wait a moment! That would have been…

Ten years ago. 

Nevertheless, Barry noticed that his children were their present ages: fourteen and twenty-two…and not the young ages they’d been when he and Joyce had split up.

Then Barry realized that it was a dream, and slowly it began to break up.  

The dream was replaced now by a new set of sensations. 

Barry suddenly realized that he was lying on his side, on a hard surface.

Both his arms and his legs were bound. 

Barry pulled against the binds around his wrists and ankles. 

It was futile. 

So he gave up. 

Why would someone have tied him up?

Then he noticed that the floor beneath him was rocking gently.

Why would that be…?

Unless—

Unless he was aboard a ship.

But why—?

Barry struggled to open his eyes. His head was ringing with a dizzy, achy feeling. 

But he had to open his eyes. That would be the first step…

His surroundings were dim. 

He was in a small room, about the size of a typical suburban bedroom. There was a metal door on the far side of the room. On the adjacent wall, a minuscule amount of ambient light filtered in through a tiny round window—a porthole. 

Then he remembered. He was in Japan. The Ichiryu Hotel Restaurant. 

The woman at the bar, Keiko.

The wild goose chase.

Someone had abducted him.

A sudden fury rose up inside him.

“Hey!” he called out. “Let me out of here!”

He knew that whoever had taken him, they were probably dangerous people. 

But Barry didn’t care. 

He continued to yell out. After he had called out perhaps half a dozen times, he heard someone fumble at the latch of the door. The door was pushed open. 

It was Mr. Kim, from the Ichiryu Hotel restaurant. The man who had approached him with that issue of Advertising World Weekly, the one which bore Barry’s face on its cover.

So Nagase had been right about Mr. Kim, too. The Korean man had been working with Keiko, after all. 

“Who—?” Barry demanded. “Who are you? Who are you, really?”

Any minute I’ll wake up, Barry thought. I’ll be in my bed in my hotel room. I’ll look at the clock and find that it’s still the middle of the night, and I have three or four more hours to sleep. I’ll get up and have a drink of bottled water from the minibar. Then I’ll go back to bed.

For the time being, however, this dream revealed no sign of ending. 

Mr. Kim had changed out of his business clothes. Now he was wearing a dark blue utility suit. 

Mr. Kim walked across the room, and knelt down beside Barry.

He reached down and patted Barry’s cheek. His palm felt hard and solid. Like the hand of a killer.

Mr. Kim said nothing. He stood up and walked back toward the door. He opened it and stepped out. 

He closed the door behind him.

“Don’t leave me in here!” Barry shouted. “Tell me what you want!”

Barry lay on the floor, on his side, shouting for a while. They had laid him atop a tarp. At least he wasn’t directly on the floor, but he was far from comfortable. 

“Who are you people?” he called out. 

He heard the sound of the door latch being manipulated again. 

He craned his neck toward the door, expecting Mr. Kim again. He recalled how Mr. Kim had looked at him so coldly, patted his face with that rock-hard palm.

His visitor wasn’t Mr. Kim, though. 

Keiko. 

Keiko had also changed clothing. The black evening dress was gone. She was wearing a dark blue utility suit, too. Her long black hair, which Barry had found so lovely, was tied behind her head in a bun. She had also removed her lipstick and eye shadow. 

“Hello, Mister Barry.”

She gave Barry a little smile.

“You. You bitch.”

“Are you mad at me, Mister Barry?”

“Why don’t you untie me, and find out?

“Oh, I don’t think that is going to be possible.”

He remembered her language at the bar. How when he had invited her to his safe, secure hotel room, she had replied that it was “not possible”. She had told him that improbable story about a brother working at the hotel.

And he had bought it. Because he had wanted to buy it. 

“Your name isn’t really Keiko Yamada, is it?”

She paused for a moment, as if contemplating whether or not to tell him the truth. 

Then she said: “No, I guess there’s no harm in you knowing that now. My real name is Mi-kyung.” A mocking smile. He was completely helpless now. “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, Mister Barry. For real this time.”

Barry felt the urge to curse at her again. He knew, however, that he needed information more than catharsis. 

“Are you Korean, like Mr. Kim?”

“Ah, Mister Barry, you ask too many questions.”

“Tell me who you people are, and why you’ve taken me prisoner. What is this about?” 

“You’ll find out soon enough, Mister Barry.”

“Tell me!”

“You’re going on a little trip, Mister Barry.”

She removed something from one pocket of her jumpsuit. 

Barry could see that it was a hypodermic needle. 

Barry squirmed against his binds as she uncapped the needle. 

“What is that?” Barry shouted. 

“Just a little something to help you sleep, Mister Barry. While you’re traveling.”

Barry made one last attempt to squirm out of his binds. 

Keiko—Mi-kyung—calmly reached down and placed a thumb and forefinger around his neck in a way that caused a wave to pain to roll through his body. It also immobilized him.

She brought the needle to the exposed skin on his neck, all the while keeping him immobile with the thumb and forefinger of her other hand.

“So sorry I have to hurt you, Mister Barry. But you must hold still, so the needle doesn’t break off. This is for your own good, Mister Barry.”

Barry felt a prick on his neck. She injected the contents of the needle. 

Almost immediately, Barry felt woozy again. 

The last thing he saw was her face, smiling down at him. 

Chapter 9

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