Paulo’s Journey (Part 2)

    Finally, the van stopped. The two young men got out carrying the gym bag and the toolbox, and Paulo followed. He found himself in a carpark behind a warehouse. Colin got out of the van with a revolver in his hand. He checked the weapon then slipped it into his jacket pocket. When he saw Paulo watching him, he winked and pointed Paulo toward the warehouse. Paulo walked inside. The huge room was bare but for a few men in poorly worn suits, standing around a wide square platform that rose about three feet. Colin went and spoke to a short, miserable fellow who had greased and slicked back what little hair remained on his head. The man peered over at Paulo, then nodded to Colin. For the first time since the previous night, Paulo saw Colin smile. He took Paulo and the two young men to a small empty garage adjoining the warehouse. Colin sat on a wooden bench with his back to the wall and nodded off to sleep. One of the young men sat and put on a massive set of headphones and listened to music with his eyes closed, while the other paced the room, gently swinging his arms around and stretching his shoulders. Paulo stood and watched out the window as vehicles began to fill the carpark.

    In about half an hour the carpark was full. As loud rock music began blaring inside the warehouse, Colin woke from his nap. He nodded to the young men, and they instantly became serious and focused and removed their shirts, exposing their rippling torsos. A queasy fear swirled in Paulo’s stomach as he suddenly suspected an unwanted sexual encounter. He eyed the door. Colin chuckled and shook his head, reading the look on Paulo’s face. With simple words and inventive hand signals, Colin assured Paulo nothing sexual was going on. Then he told Paulo to take off his clothes.

    Still uncertain as to Colin’s motives, Paulo stripped to his underwear. He noticed the other young men had changed into baggy shorts. Colin took another pair of baggy shorts from the gym bag and gave them to Paulo, who gladly put them on. Colin then took fresh white bandages from the bag and began wrapping the young men’s hands and wrists. The old man had a specific pattern to how he wound and layered the bandages, leaving the fingers free. His hands were swift and precise. Paulo watched on curiously. Had his little village back in Italy possessed a television set or a movie theatre, Paulo by now might have seen Rocky, or some other boxing film, and he would have recognised what was happening.

    Colin bandaged Paulo’s hands, and then a tall, thin man with a handlebar moustache and a neat white shirt entered the shed. The man inspected the bandaged hands of the three shirtless young men before him, then nodded and left. Quickly, Colin grabbed Paulo’s hands. He peeled back and cut off three layers of bandage from his hands with scissors from the toolbox. He then opened a hidden compartment in the side of the toolbox and took out two thin, solid metal pieces about three inches long. He placed the metal pieces over Paulo’s knuckles, then cut off a fresh strip of bandage and wrapped over the metal pieces until they were unnoticeable. He curled Paulo’s hands into fists and checked the positioning of the metal and the security of the wrapping. Satisfied with his handiwork, he nodded and told Paulo to sit and wait. A man stuck his head in the door and spoke to Colin. Colin and one of the young men left and went into the warehouse. The other young man waited in the garage with Paulo.

    The music from the warehouse ceased, there was an announcement, and soon after, the shouts and cheers of a thousand voices shook the walls. The shouting continued three minutes, then died off, before erupting again after another minute. The ebb and flow of the boisterous crowd lasted three and a half such cycles, and then a mighty cheer went up. After that, the noise simmered down. Soon, Colin and the young man returned to the garage. Colin was sombre; the young man was glistening with sweat, out of breath, and his left eye was swollen shut. Colin patted him on the back, and the young man sat down and hung his head. The other young man stood up. He and Colin went out the door and into the warehouse. Paulo gathered his thoughts, remembered his English words, then attempted to ask the young man in the garage what was going on. Before he could get two words out though, the crowd in the warehouse drowned out his voice. Within a minute a cheer went up. Soon after, Colin stormed back into the garage, cursing and throwing his arms in the air. The other young man followed him, covering the lower half of his face with a towel stained bright red. He stumbled to a bench and sat down. Colin shouted something at him, and the young raised his head to answer. As he removed the towel from his face, Paulo saw the young man’s nose was crooked and gushing blood. Paulo felt faint. He decided to run out of there as soon as got the chance. He looked up to see Colin staring at him. Paulo stood and backed against the wall. Colin motioned for Paulo to follow him into the warehouse. Paulo shook his head. Colin glared at him and slipped his hand into the pocket with the handgun. Paulo felt sick. In a low, cold voice, Colin insisted Paulo follow him. Paulo’s legs trembled beneath him, and his breathing raced. He whimpered and lowered his head. Colin grabbed him and shoved out the door.

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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