Chapter 22

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Large portions of noodles and rice filled each table they passed, offering aromas of basil, ginger, or the unmistakable tang that could only come from sweet chili sriracha, and when they entered the kitchen, those aromas grew substantially.  New and clean with lots of stainless steel, the kitchen was an organized pandemonium of saffron bloused wait staff along one side and a line of scurrying cooks along the other.  Large bright white ceramic tiles covering the walls echoed back all of the clanging and chirping of the busy hour.  Nicole ducked her head down to see below the many pans hanging above a center counter to see what she could of the gas stove tops shooting flames against the far wall and the three short Thai cooks that each appeared to have three to four arms at the speed which they were moving.

Halfway through the kitchen the orange haired man slipped around the end of a stainless counter that hugged the wall and pushed a tall stainless steel metro rack forward to reveal a pocket door.  He then slid open the pocket door and disappeared into the wall.  The three followed him inside to a small room.  To the right was a stack of empty crates and large bags of onions and rice, to the left dozens of plastic containers full of dried spice filled another metro rack.  The orange haired man pulled the spice covered rack away from the wall revealing yet another pocket door.  Behind this door was a stairwell that led back toward the front of the building, lit only by a small window at the top of the stairs.  Close behind each other, Cameron, Marie, and Nicole squeezed through the space between the metro rack and the doorframe and climbed the creaky wooden steps.

Standing below the small circular window on the top landing, the young man’s orange hair looked dirty brown and his blue suit no longer had sheen.  Without the flamboyant props and animated smile Cameron saw the young man for what he was, a boy in his late teens.

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