Sunday, 29th March 2020 - 6:02:56 am
I leaned back on my seat and took a slurp of my ‘café rawn’ – it was a standard Thai breakfast time coffee; strong and lukewarm – as I looked out across the pool and followed the lovely shape of Fon’s figure walking away from me towards the hotels’ exit. We’d woken late - around ten am – and, after another round of horizontal folk dancing, we’d come out to poolside for some much needed sustenance. We’d filled ourselves up on scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and baked beans while I’d considered the best way of asking about whom Ning’s Thai man, or Pua Noi (minor husband), might be. I didn’t want to give Fon the impression that I had some ulterior motive for wanting to know so, in the end, I’d just casually asked her if she knew who he was. Her answer hardly surprised me and, as such, was to be more or less expected. Turns out she’d didn’t actually know the guy; she hadn’t even seen him. She’d just overheard other girls, at the go-go bar, talking; girls that didn’t particularly like Ning and were doing the idle bargirl chit-chat thing. It was her final remark that left an impression though; the girls had said he was a ‘Tumbra wat’ – a policeman – and that he worked over at the Jomtien Police Station. It figured; Ning’s family lived over at Jomtien as well. They were part of the jet-ski/speed boat mafia that worked the beach there. They were the type of people to be very wary of; the type of people who got involved in illegal activities; drugs and gambling. The type that would pay to have somebody whacked and probably had connections with bent cops.
I looked at my watch, it was 11.30 a.m.
‘Check bin (the bill)’ I called to the waiter.
I paid the bill, grabbed my rucksack and headed to the lobby. After handing back the room key, and getting my cash deposit back, I made my way to the exit. The rain had stopped, the sun was out and, as it usually was at this time of year, the air was thick with humidity. As I stepped out onto the sidewalk the usual posse of Baht buses slowed, and tooted, as they passed by looking for a ten baht fare. As it was only a three hundred meter walk I decided to leg it, to the roundabout, to catch one heading to Naklua.
As I walked I thought about the previous night. I’d been pretty conservative with my alcohol intake; something, which lately, I’d been making a conscious effort to keep to. The days of getting totally wasted on black label were gone. I’d seen what that kind of lifestyle had done to a few guys around this town; they spent every day on a bar stool, usually starting just after midday, and didn’t stop until stumps. Most of it was due to the sheer bloody boredom that one eventually finds from living here and it was a club that I wasn’t interested in becoming a member of. Staying healthy was now the number one priority and my drinking was now down to a maximum of four beers on any one day.
My thoughts returned to Fon. She was a good hearted lady; friendly, happy and fun to be with and I’d developed a bit of a liking for her. The problem was that I knew that if I started spending more time with her, in the end, it would probably be same as with the others. It wasn’t really her fault of course; it’s just the way it was here. In the end it’s the ability to communicate that really matters in a relationship; the ability to express ideas and feelings and be understood. After a while the bargirl pigeon English just annoyed me to the point that I became totally bored. Still, my poor command of Thai didn’t help. I’d been living here long enough by now and there were no excuses; I had to make an effort to improve my Thai language skills.
I crossed the road to the northern side of the roundabout. The traffic was its’ usual congestion of frenzied mayhem as I flagged down a baht bus. Ten minutes later I got down at the junction of Soi twelve and was walking towards my ‘digs’ at the Golden Sea Apartments. I’d moved in here the day they’d first opened the doors and I’d picked out the best room. The rent was reasonable and the building was in an out of the way location. My room was on the second floor and well away from the manager’s office which, in the normal Thai way, tended to be a focal point for noise. Noise created by the comings and goings of the bargirls that lived in the building. Of the little night time drinking sessions, and loud music, they had occasionally and the group gatherings at meal times. It’s something that you just get used to once you’ve lived here for a while; Thais and their liking for loud noise.
I entered my room and turned on the air conditioning. It was starting to get really steamy out there again; a sure sign that another round of rain wasn’t too far away. I was due to see Chris again in about three hours. I had time to kill and I figured a massage and a sauna would go down well. Another shower and a clean change of clothes were in order before hitting the road again though. I opened the fridge, looked at the rows of cold Heineken, decided that I’d wait until the sun went down, before cracking one, then powered up the laptop and made myself a coffee. Just as I sat down the phone rang. I looked at the number, it was Fon.
“Hello Fon, sabai dee mai (Are you good)”
“Mai sabai (Not feeling good)”
“Kitaung khun (Missing you)” she replied.
Oh shit, here we go again. She’s starting to get attached. No, stop being naïve, she’s just doing business.
“What do you want to do Fon?”
“I want see you tonight”
I decided I’d try and turn it to my advantage.
“I’m not going out to a bar tonight Fon, I’m staying at my room. If you want to come that’s up to you, but I’m not giving you song pun baht (two thousand baht)” I said, trying to fob her off.
“Okay. You just pay bar and I come your room” she said.
The bar fine was only six hundred baht. What the heck, it was a cheap night of shagging.
“Okay, what time are you coming?”
“About ten p.m. Where’s your room? In Naklua is it?”
Just because a Thai bargirl tells you she’ll meet you at a certain time, doesn’t mean it will happen. Nothing is written in stone with these girls and plans can change in an instant, particularly when a better offer comes into view.
“I’m at Golden Sea Apartments on Soi twelve. Room number twenty five” I said.
“Okay, I see you at ten p.m.” she said.
“Okay babe, I’ll see you then”
I put the phone down and immediately regretted telling her where the apartment building was. Normally I never bring bargirls to my room anymore as I really didn’t want them knowing where I lived in case they decided to make a problem for me. I’d already moved once after that commotion with Ning. There was always the possibility that Fon wouldn’t turn up so I just left the arrangement as it was and got back to my emails. I picked up the phone again and scrolled through until I found Barry’s number.
“Hello. Barry speaking”
“Barry, its Mike”
“Hey Mike, what’s up?”
“Well, I was just thinking that I could email some stuff to you now so that you could give it some thought before I see you on Saturday”
“Yeah, that’s probably a better idea. I’ll have a look at it and give you an answer later tonight. It could save you a trip to Bangkok”
“I coming anyway, regardless of what you decide mate”
“Pattaya starting get a bit small for you is it?”
“It has for a while unfortunately. Always seem to be bumping into the same crowd and I always seem to be doing the same old shit; nothing new to see or do. There’s just something about Bangkok that I like. I guess it’s the idea that I can go there and nobody knows me, I can get lost in it for a few days”
“It might seem like that now mate but, believe me, spend a few years here and it becomes just the same only on a bigger scale”
“No doubt but still, it’s got more action”
“If you mean that there are more than just Isarn girls to choose from then, yeah you’re right. What you need to keep in mind though Mike is that good looking Bangkok pussy is not a cheap commodity by any stretch of the imagination”
“Yeah, I’ve already had a taste of that”
“Mate, believe me, there’s much better pickings’ around than what you’ll find at CM2”
“Well, if I’m going to hang around there for a few days, maybe you can point me in the right direction”
“I think that might be possible. Anyhow, we’ve still got a couple of rugby games to watch and three or four cold beers to get through first”.
“Yeah, it’s always a good afternoon down there on Soi Thirty Three. Anyway, back to the original reason for calling you”.
“You said you were going to email me some info”.
“Yeah, I’ve got some photos of the subject and I’ve managed to gather some ‘dirt’ on her over the past twenty four hours”
“What was the source of this dirt? Is it reliable?”
“Well, I would say some of its reasonably reliable. However, I’ve got to admit that some of it’s just second hand info passed on from bargirls that know the subject”
“To be honest mate, bargirl gossip is normally not very reliable. Have you got anything else?” he said flatly.
“A mate of mine told me something which was corroborated by a waitress who works at the go-go bar where the subject used to work”
There was a pause from Barry.
“Look mate, I know it sounds a bit flimsy at the moment but I’ll write down everything that I’ve heard, and seen, and you can make an evaluation on whether it’s worth following up” I said.
“Okay Mike. I think that’s probably the best way to go at the moment. If I consider there’s something that’s worth following up, I’ll let you know ASAP”
“Can I give you a bit of advice Mike?”
“Be very careful about what you say around bargirls”
“That goes without saying”
“It’s more than just giving away personal info about oneself though. Asking questions about other Thais, particularly if it’s to do with things that are not supposed to be mentioned, invites suspicion”
“What exactly are you saying?”
“I’m saying that word could filter back to the wrong people. If that happens, you may have a real problem”
“You mean I’ll need to make myself disappear before someone else arranges it for me”
“That’s a very distinct possibility. Look, even if there’s something in this, the chances that it will go somewhere with the authorities aren’t that great anyway. You know how things are here mate. There’s so much corruption, and cronyism, in the police force that they’ll more than likely just close ranks and nothing will be done about it, particularly if it involves a farang. In the end, the loss of face bullshit could mean a backlash against you”
“I’m aware of that. I’d just like to be able to hand my mate some photos that expose his conniving bitch of a girlfriend so that he can extricate himself out of her clutches”
“Okay, here’s the deal. I’ll look at all the info and, if it’s worth following up on, I’ll move forward with it. I’ve got to warn you though it might take a while to get the proof you’re looking for. If, and when, I get that proof, you can then decide what you want to do about it”
“Okay, that sounds reasonable. I’d better get this stuff off to you then”
“I’ll be in touch” he said and hung up.
I sat down and took a slurp of my coffee. What Barry had said was a fairly accurate assessment of what might happen even if he was able to put together an incriminating file on Ning. I realized that, at best, the only thing I would have the satisfaction of is seeing Chris dump her. Even so, if she, or her pua noi, ever got wind that I was in some way involved in spying on her, or them, then I would certainly have made some serious enemies. Enemies who can, and do, seek revenge for the loss of face. In Thailand revenge, quite often, is something that is considered a normal part of life.
I scrolled through my laptop and spent the next thirty minutes assembling all the relevant information I had on Noot and Chris. Finally, I typed up an email, attached some photos, and a word document, and sent it off to Barry.
After completing my little email assignment I got dressed and walked back out to the main road. I looked at my watch; it was just after one thirty p.m. so I figured I had enough time to head down to Soi Three, in North Pattaya, for a sauna and a massage before going to see Chris. I caught another baht bus, which was heading back towards the roundabout, as the gathering clouds, and strengthening wind, indicated that rain wasn’t too far away again.
The baht bus dropped me off at the roundabout and I walked back along second road towards Soi Three. The beer bars along the road were, for the most part, empty. The only signs of movement were from the odd alcohol delivery trucks, restocking some bars for the coming evenings’ activities. I had an inward chuckle to myself. Beer bars; it was a matter of love em or hate em for most guys here. Even from my first days in Thailand, I’d never particularly liked beer bars. Aside from the fact that they’re noisy and hotter than Hades, when you’re sat in one, you’re constantly subjected to a never ending barrage of street hawkers, and vendors, trying to sell you sub standard trash. I learnt quickly that, for me, an air conditioned pub, or bar, seemed to be a far better option.
I turned right at Sabai Sabai Land massage parlor and walked down Soi Three towards the entrance of Siam Sauna and Massage. Rumor had it that when the girls working at Sabai Sabai Land got a bit long in the tooth, they moved fifty meters down the road to Siam Sauna and Massage. If you wanted a ‘Pattaya sandwich’, you went to Sabai Sabai Land. If you wanted a ‘rub and tug’, then you went to Siam Sauna and Massage. Generally speaking, a massage at Siam Sauna usually wasn’t much of a massage; it was just an oil rub down for an hour with hand relief at the end. Still, sometimes you never knew what would eventuate – that old chest nut of unpredictability again. A couple of years ago I’d injured a shoulder doing weights. I was told it was a damaged rotator cuff. Whatever it was, the result was a shoulder which had a severe lack of mobility. I’d tried having an expensive course of physio, at Bangkok Pattaya Hospital, and it hadn’t done much good. The shoulder was ‘frozen’ and, as much as I didn’t want to, I was looking at having surgery to correct it. About twelve months ago, I’d gone to Siam Sauna for a ‘rub and tug’ and had, by sheer good luck, picked a girl that actually knew how to do injury rehab massage. It was absolute agony for the first few sessions as she went to work on my shoulder with everything but the kitchen sink. She used a combination of Thai and oil massage to loosen it up. At one point she had her knee pushed into the rear deltoid while she stretched the socket. Eventually, after ten sessions, enough mobility returned to the shoulder that I was able to start doing a bit of exercise again.
I entered and paid my 150 baht deposit. The deposit will get you the use of the sauna; steam and dry, a towel, a plate of sliced fruit and as much iced tea as you can drink. I changed into a pair of shorts and made my way out to the lounge area. Compared to other Saunas in Pattaya, Siam Sauna has a well worn look to it. Most of the clientele are regulars; local expats and retirees who fill in their otherwise boring afternoons with a sauna and a massage. I indicated to the staff which table I wanted and waited for my fruit and iced tea to arrive.
“Hey, where you been”
It was Gino, a seventy year old retiree from Italy.
“Hey Gino, how’s things?”
“You know, same bloody shit. These bloody people drive me crazy”
“Jai yen yen Gino. What’s bugging you today?”
“That bloody missus of mine and her family up in Udon Thani. It’s just a never ending demand for money”.
“Sorry to hear that mate. Unfortunately, that’s the trade off though for marrying a girl from a rice farm” I said.
“You mean I’m just a life support system for that bloody lot of leaches?”
“Young pussy is a commodity and it comes at a price in this part of the world. Surely you were aware of that before you married her?”.
“Yeah I knew that but I didn’t think that the demands for cash would be never ending”.
“The problem is mate that she’s, more than likely, the major bread winner for the family and they’ve become dependent on her”.
“I’m just getting so bloody tired of it. Sometimes I think she’s just waiting for poor old Gino to die so she can get it all”.
“She wouldn’t be that blatant, would she?”
“They’re all that bloody blatant. Just the other day, a friend of hers asked me if I had any rich old friends, about seventy, that she could marry. Christ, that girl’s only bloody well twenty nine”.
“Well yeah, that is kind of blatant I suppose” I said.
“What about you Mike, have you got yourself a girlfriend yet?”
“I’ve had a couple over the past few years but, luckily; I’ve been able to extricate myself out of those relationships”.
“Good for you buddy. Getting out of a relationship with one of these bloody bargirls is like a trip through hell. How did you manage it?”
“Not that difficult actually Gino, I just disappeared”.
“Really, is it that easy?”
“I’d just go to a job overseas for a couple of months and never contact them again” I said matter of fact.
“Christ, I wished I could just disappear. The problem is that the house in her bloody name” he said shaking his head.
I felt sorry for poor old Gino but I was also getting bored. It was a story that I’d heard so many times in the past, while I’d been in Thailand, that it becomes monotonous. If it was a movie, it would be the most predictable script you’ve ever read: old, lonely retiree comes to Thailand and within a month of being here meets, and falls in love with, a bargirl that’s at least thirty years younger than him. The girl is from a poor rice farm somewhere up in Isarn. She has limited life skills and a low level of education. Before he knows it, he’s heading up north and a marriage is being planned. After the marriage he finds out that there are never ending demands for money from the family who seem to think that he is their life line to a better life.
“I’ll catch up with you later Gino” I said as I stood up and moved towards the sauna.
“Okay Mike, see you later”.
I sat down in the steam sauna and wrapped a towel around my head, relaxed and closed my eyes. It’s often said that the average farang that comes to Thailand, on arrival at the airport, disengages his brain and leaves it there. I shook my head and wondered why it was that so many guys just didn’t get it about bar girls. The rules of engagement were simple really, you pay to have fun with them and that’s it. For a relationship with a Thai woman you need to look elsewhere. Still, I’d been down that road and learnt the hard way. I just felt fortunate that I’d been able to avoid the kind of trap that Gino had fallen into; even worse if children were involved. The thing is though that so many guys you’d think would know better, Chris being an example, still get caught out. At the end of the day I was convinced that boredom had a lot to do with it. If you live in a place like Pattaya and you haven’t got some kind of hobby, or interest, then it’ fairly easy to fall into the mundane cycle of hanging out at a bar in the afternoon and getting shit faced while the lovely little nymphet’s go to work on you. Making an effort to get out and do something was a way of avoiding falling into the trap. Playing golf, going to the gym, scuba diving, whatever, it all helps when it comes to beating boredom. Being a confirmed Ki neow (cheap Charlie) was also part of my defense mechanism. Money, as far as I was concerned, was hard enough to earn and I could never see the point of throwing it away on some second rate piece of pussy from the north east of this country. Small, dark skinned girls with stomach stretch marks just weren’t my cup of tea. I looked at my watch and noted that I probably wouldn’t have time for a massage now if I wanted to get to the hospital on time to see Chris.
I stepped out of Siam Sauna and was hit with the full intensity of a steamy, wet season afternoon. The rain had eased up and the sun was rapidly drying up the residue of the last showers. The hospital was just a short walk around to the next Soi. I turned into Soi four and was making my way towards the entrance of the hospital when I heard my phone start ringing.
“Hey Mike, its Chris”
“What’s up mate, I’m nearly at the hospital entrance” I said.
“Okay, no problems. You better be quick though because Ning’s coming back at four to pick me up”
“Right mate, I’ll see you in a minute” I said.
I pushed through the entrance door and made my way up to Chris’s ward. The door was open as I entered.
“Hi mate, how you doing?”
“Fair to middling” he replied.
“What’s the deal, I thought you were going to be in here for another couple of days for observation” I said.
“To be honest, I’m not sure. The hospital has decided that I’m not too bad and I can go home”.
“Are you feeling okay? How’s the shoulder?”
“There’s a bit of pain there but I should be okay if I take it easy. No booze or short times for a few days though” he said with a wry grin.
“Yeah, well I hope nobody’s holding their breath over that”
“Yeah, life’s a bitch sometimes. No worries though, I’ll be up and about in no time”
“Hey, have the police got any leads on who it was?”
“No mate nothing at the moment but Ning’s brother was in here at lunch time asking me if I recognized the boys on the motorbike” he replied.
The plot thickens. Once again I wondered if I was just being paranoid. The thing was though that you didn’t have to Einstein to work out that if Chris was able to give some kind of description of the assailants, and those assailants were eventually picked up and could, in some way, be associated with Ning and the brother, then things could get decidedly tricky for the pair of them. My thoughts were interrupted by Chris.
“The funny thing was mate he was asking me about you”
I kept a straight face, trying to not look concerned.
“Really, what was he asking about?”
“How long I’ve known you and where you were living”
“Strange, I wonder why” I said somberly.
“I’m not sure. I couldn’t tell him much though mate as I don’t actually know where your digs are. Somewhere down in Naklua isn’t it?”
“Yeah mate, down on soi sixteen”
I tried not to look worried but the fact is I was. The old saying of ‘loose lips sink ships’ was never more appropriate. The full implications of my seemingly innocent questioning of Noi were now starting to sink in. I now understood what Barry had told me about the wrong people overhearing things that they shouldn’t. No doubt Mint had probably been in touch with her friend, Ning, to give her a nice juicy account of what she’d overheard when Brian, Fon and I were discussing Ning’s gambling problem and her choice of pua noi (minor husband). To compound things, I’d given my address to on earlier in the day. I now knew that I had to be on my guard at all times. It was also a distinct possibility that I’d have to get out of Pattaya for a while.
“Anyway mate, Ning’s coming by in half an hour to pick me up. It’s probably better that you weren’t here when she arrives”
“Yeah, probably better”
“What are you doing tomorrow, do you want to hook up for lunch”
“Yeah mate, that sounds good. Give me a call”
“Okay mate. Catch up with you tomorrow”
I walked out of the hospital contemplating my next move and grabbed my cell phone. I punched in Fon’s number and got a voice message telling me that the number was unavailable. Fon was probably asleep or out with her friends eating, or shopping. Whatever it was, it was Murphy’s Law that whenever you needed to talk to a Thai bar girl urgently, they’re never available.
I was going to tell Fon not to come to my apartment tonight. I tapped out an sms, saying as much, and pressed send. I then switched off the phone. I grabbed my other phone and pushed the speed dial for Brian’s number.
“Hey Mike, how’s things”
“Yeah, not bad. Yourself?”
“Yeah, good. Just wondering if you’re still going to Tony’s?”
“Over there now. Are you coming down?”
“Yeah, no worries. I’ll just grab a motorbike taxi. See you in a few”
“Okay buddy, catch you soon” he said and hung up.
I flagged down a motorbike taxi on Beach Road and told him to head to Tony’s Fitness Centre. I needed time to chill out for a while and consider things rationally. I also wanted a second opinion and I figured Brian would give me a level headed take on things as they were. The traffic at that time of day is hectic, to say the least, and a motorbike taxi is the quickest way of getting around Pattaya when the vehicle congestion is almost in a state of gridlock. After twelve minutes of dodging and weaving our way around a thousand, or so, baht buses, we pulled up outside Tony’s Fitness Centre. I paid the forty baht to the driver and went into the reception area of the Gym. I handed over my cash deposit, received my towels, and made my way to the locker room, where I changed into my bathers, and then headed towards the poolside restaurant. Brian was sitting there checking out the talent in the pool as I approached.
“You got a bit of a liking for Russian pussy these days mate” I said as I pulled out a seat.
“I wouldn’t say no if I was given the opportunity. The problem is though that sooner or later the girlfriend would probably find out. Pattaya is, unfortunately, a small town and the girlfriend’s got a lot of relatives here”
“Ah, the old jungle drums” I said with a grin.
I ordered a coffee.
“How did things pan out last night with Fon?”
“Very good actually, I think there’s some chemistry there between us”
“Yeah, I got the impression that she had a bit of a liking for you. Is there any chance that you’re thinking of something more long term with her?”
“Not at the moment. I’m enjoying the life of a single man too much to be getting into another relationship. If you don’t mind mate, I need your opinion about a potentially tricky situation”
“Something to do with a Thai woman I suspect”.
“Yeah but, it’s not what you think” I said.
“You’ve got me interested, fire away”.
“I know we had a few last night but do you remember the conversation we had regarding Chris Lane”.
“Most of it. Why, have the cops caught the assailants?”
“Not yet. Look, I’ll come straight to the point. I suspect the hit may have been set up by his girlfriend, Ning”
Brian nodded his head while he considered what I’d just said.
“Ordinarily I’d of said you were just over-reacting to what has happened to Chris because he’s a good mate of yours. However.”
“However?” I said.
“There was something that I forgot to mention to you last night which, taken into consideration with the other bits of info, make it quite plausible”.
“What do you have” I asked looking a bit more concerned.
“I’ve got a friend, a Brit by the name of John Turner, who works at a small insurance office on Soi Buakow”.
“Well, he told me yesterday that Chris had taken out a life insurance policy, about 12 months ago, for five million Baht”.
“You don’t have to tell me who the recipient will be if he dies” I said shaking my head.
“Yeah, it all kind of adds up doesn’t it” he said nodding his head in agreement.
“Yep” I said hardly surprised at this turn of events.
“How do you prove it though, that’s the tough part” he said taking another slurp of his black coffee.
“I’ve set a couple of wheels in motion. I’m hiring a professional to try and dig up some dirt on her”.
“Jesus, be careful with that mate, Ning’s got some real nasty connections. If she gets wind of it you could get yourself into a bad situation”.
“It might already be heading that way now” I said.
“Why, what’s happened?”
“Nothing to worry about at the moment but, before coming here, I went to see Chris at the hospital”
“Chris told me the cop, who’s supposed to be Ning’s brother, was asking if he knew where I was staying. It could just be a routine enquiry though”
“Do you really believe that?”
“I’m not sure. What do you think?”
“What do I think? I think you’re being a bit too bloody naïve for your own good. Why is somebody, who knows you’ve got nothing to do with the attempted hit on Chris, trying to find out where you live?” said Brian.
“Yeah, I guess it doesn’t really make sense. I was nowhere near the scene of the crime when it happened. Still, I keep thinking I’m just being paranoid”
“Think about it logically. You’ve been living in Thailand for a few years now mate. Nothing is ever as it seems here. Thais are masters of deception and they’ve had centuries to perfect guile and intrigue. And, they do it so damn well. The smile is the perfect disguise. The things that we talked about last night would have been taken in, one hundred percent, by that bird that was sitting with me, the one called Mint”.
“Yeah, I keep thinking about that little scene with her and Fon last night”
“Well, considering what she said before she stormed off, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’s already been in touch with Ning and relayed on what she picked up, during our conversation about Chris, and our suspicions about Ning”
“You don’t really think that she’d send some thugs after me, do you?”
“In this country mate, always consider the worst case scenario because, if you don’t, you might end up with a bullet in the head” said Brian.
“Don’t you think you’re over dramatizing things?”
“Like I said, you’re being naïve. Life is cheap here. You can get somebody whacked for 10,000 Baht”
“The thing is though I gave Fon my apartment address earlier today”
“Why is that a problem?”
“Well Ning, and that cop boyfriend of hers, don’t actually know where I live but they could try and intimidate someone that knows me, to get that information”
“That’s quite possible. Although, if somebody does come looking for you, it’s not like it’s going to be part of an official police operation is it?”
“True. More than likely it will be a couple of paid thugs waiting for me late at night, somewhere near the apartment”
“I think you’ve got the drift. You need to keep your wits about you at all times from now on mate”
I looked at the pool and it looked inviting. Even though it was late in the afternoon, the sun still had plenty of sting in it.
“I’m going for a swim mate, I need to burn off some stress” I said.
“No doubt. I’m going to have to make a move buddy. The girlfriends’ waiting for me to pick her up from work. Take it easy and tread warily. Give me a call and let me know how things pan out”
“Roger that mate. I’ll keep in touch”
Brian took his leave, from poolside, and I jumped in to thrash out a few laps to burn off some stress.
By the time I checked out of Tony’s it was getting close to six thirty pm. The traffic was still thick on the road so I decided to grab another motorbike taxi for the long trip back to Naklua. The ride back to my apartment was a bit of a blur and I hardly noticed the mayhem of the peak hour traffic. All I could think about was why an earth would that cop, who was supposedly Noots’ brother, be trying to find out where I lived. The fact was the more I thought about it the more I was sure that someone was intent on doing me harm; I knew I’d be better off getting out of Pattaya for a while.
It was beginning to get dark as I paid off the driver at the corner of Soi twelve and Naklua Road. I was starting to get paranoid and I didn’t want the driver knowing where I lived. As I walked towards the apartment entrance it started to rain again. I quickened my pace and made it to the cover of the lobby area just as the heavens opened up. I had a couple of cold Heinekens’ left in the fridge and was in no doubt that they’d go down very well.
As I unlocked the door I checked my watch; it was ten past seven. The days just seem to fly by in the LOS and it always feels like I never really get anything, of any real substance, done. I shut the door and moved towards the fridge, thinking of the cold green bottles behind the door. Just as I reached for the door handle, my alternate phone rang; it was the one I use for bargirls and acquaintances. I looked at it; it was a number I didn’t recognise.
There was no answer for a few seconds. Then I heard what sounded like sniffling, or somebody crying.
“I sorry Mike”
It was Fon’s voice and she was sobbing.
“Sorry about what Fon, what’s the problem?”
“Mike I like you mak maak, I’m sorry”.
“Fon, please tell me what is the problem”
“Mike, you must go out from Pattaya now”.
“Fon, what is the problem”
There was more sobbing, then a stuttering explanation.
“Two man see me today and tell me if I not tell where your room, they hurt my baby”
“Which man Fon and when did this happen”
“Two Thai man. Very bad, same like mafia. They take my phone and tell me they kill me if I call you. I use friend phone now”
“When did this happen?”
“About fifteen minute before. Maybe they come see you now”
“Where did they see you?”
“Near my room in Jomtien. Mike, I sorry. I…”
I cut her off as I turned off the phone. My heart was pounding, as the adrenaline kicked in, and I went into overdrive. If they were in Jomtien fifteen minutes ago, it meant they probably weren’t far away. I looked at my kit bag; it was unpacked from the trip back a couple of days ago. I grabbed my laptop and stuffed it into the back pack I had for it. I swung the kit bag over my shoulder, grabbed the backpack and, as I moved towards the room door, I looked at the fridge; the cold Heinekens’ would have to wait. As I stepped out into the corridor I looked back into my room. I had a few possessions; the hi-fi, flat screen TV, and DVD player but not much else, luckily. I probably wouldn’t see those things again as, no doubt, I wouldn’t be back for while; if at all.
I locked the door, made my down to the ground floor dropping the key on the unattended reception desk as I walked out into the heavy downpour. To say it was bucketing down was an understatement; it was coming down that heavy that the rain droplets were bouncing back up off the ground. By the time I’d walked fifty meters I was completely soaked. I sloshed my way through the puddles as I strode towards the main road. The weather was grim and there was little in the way of traffic on the road. I was worried that I’d have to wait to flag down a baht bus and, in doing so, get spotted by the hoods that were coming over to see me. Luckily, just as I reached the main road back to the roundabout, a baht bus was coming up from Naklua. I stepped out onto the road and the driver pulled over to the curb. I threw my kit bag into the empty, covered seating area then jumped in and tapped on the back of the cab for the driver to move off. I started shivering, from the soaking I’d received, but it was good to be out of the rain. As we moved off a black SUV slowed and turned into Soi Twelve and, even though my imagination was already convincing me that the bad guys were going directly to the Golden Sea Apartments, I couldn’t be sure because the baht bas was already too far up Naklua Road for me to have a clear line of sight. As the baht bus made its way further along Naklua Road I knew I had to get out of Pattaya right away but I wasn’t going to make the mistake of taking a bus; there was a possibility that the people who worked at the ticket sales counter would remember me. I took out my phone and called a travel agent I use on Soi Seven.
“Eastside Travel, Ae speaking”
“Hello Ae, this is Mike” I said through shivering teeth.
“Hello Mike, Sabai dii mai ka”
“Sabai dii Krap. Ae, I need a taxi to Bangkok tonight. Can you get me one?”
“What time Mike?”
“Ik neung cha mong, dai mai? (In one hour, can do?)”
“Dai ka. (Can, yes)Pick up where?”
“No pick up Ae, I come to your office now”
“Kao jai (Understand) Mike”
As I slid my phone back into the rucksack the baht bus halted to pick up another customer. As I alighted, to talk with the driver, two others got on. I needed to go directly to Soi Seven and would have to negotiate a solo hire, after the roundabout, to get there. We were only half way up Naklua Road and I wanted this negotiation to go as quickly as possible. The driver’s assistant, in the passenger’s seat, wound down the window only a couple of inches to keep out the rain. I said I’d give them two hundred baht if they’d take me straight to Soi seven after the roundabout. There wasn’t much haggling at all and they agreed straight away. I jumped back in and we sped off into the downpour. I was soaked to the skin and feeling decidedly weary.
Fifteen minutes later I was standing in front of Eastside travel. The rain had eased up as I grabbed my bags and walked into the office. The air conditioning hit me with an icy blast.
“Hello Mike, piak mak maak (very wet)” said Ae.
“Chai, naow duay (Yes, cold as well). Can I change my clothes and have an apnam please?”
“No problems Mike. The hong nam (Water room) is around the back there” as she pointed towards the other end of the building.
I walked out the office and around the back of the building. I was met by the standard aluminum door that most toilets, in this part of the world, are closed in by. I flicked on the light and opened the door. It was as I expected; clean and basic. There was no shower of any description, just a large plastic drum – basically a garbage bin – that was filled with cold water. A small plastic bowl floated on top; that was the baler for rinsing with. I stripped off, filled the baler and gritted my teeth.
Twenty five minutes later I was sitting comfortably in the back of a Toyota crown and watching the lights of Pattaya slide past in the drizzle as we sped up Sukhumvit road towards the motorway turn off. I felt more at ease and, even though I was feeling refreshed after my invigorating ‘shower’, I knew that it wouldn’t be too long before the weariness kicked in and I’d be dozing off. I sat back and considered what had happened. The old saying that ‘loose lips sink ships’ came to mind again. I realized that asking questions about the wrong people, in this country, can, and often does, have severe consequences. I was fairly certain that Mint had passed on what she’d overheard Brian, Fon and I discussing about Chris and Ning. I also had no doubts that Ning, and whoever her cohorts were, saw me as a threat. In Thailand, threats to people’s livelihood, dignity, or position in society, are dealt with, all too often, through the barrel of a gun. I pulled out my phone and scrolled down until I saw Marks’ name. I pushed dial and waited.
Four rings later and I was listening to a friendly Californian voice greet me with “hey dude, what’s up?”
“Not a hell of a lot. I’m in a taxi on my way to the big smoke. I was just wondering if that spare room of yours is still unoccupied”.
“Yeah, no problems. What time will you get here?”
“Well, I’m just getting onto the motorway now so it should be in about two hours, give or take a few minutes”.
‘Hey great buddy. It’ll be really good to catch up with you dude. It’s been a while. Call me when you turn into the Soi and I’ll meet you down in the lobby”.
“Will do buddy. See you soon”.
“Yeah, see you soon” said Mark.
The thing was that it was probably going take me a bit longer than the two hours to arrive at Marks apartment building on Soi four. What he didn’t know and what I couldn’t tell him, during our phone conversation, was that this taxi was only taking me as far as the On Nut BTS station. I’d told Ae that I was going to take the Sky train down to Silom because it would be much easier than wasting time sitting in the congestion of Bangkok’s roads. The simple truth was that I just didn’t want anyone to know what my intended destination would be. I looked down at my watch; it was almost eight thirty pm. I’d been back in Thailand less than seventy two hours but it felt like an eternity already. I needed to relax otherwise the stress was going to take its’ toll. A few stiff drinks and some female companionship would be on the agenda.
I opened my phone again and pulled up Brian’s number.
“Hey Mike, what’s happening?”
“I’m in a taxi half way up the motor way to Bangkok”
“No shit, what’s going on?”
I explained what had happened; the phone call from Fon and the hasty exit from my apartment.
“I think you’ve done the right thing in getting out of Pattaya. Self preservation at all costs mate. Keep your head down and lay low for a while”
“I’m starting to think that this is becoming personal for her, Ning that is”
“The loss of face thing is a powerful motivator for revenge in this country. Thai’s, with a vengeful nature, can harbor grudges for ages before getting some payback on someone considered an enemy. Has there been anything that happened between you and her in the past?” Brian ventured.
“Well, there was an incident that happened not long after I’d arrived in Pattaya”
“The long and the short of it was that she attacked me with a knife while we were having a heated discussion about her fee for the night. I defended myself by putting an arm lock on her, to make her release the weapon, and then threw her out of the room without paying her”
“That would probably do it. That, combined with the fact that you’ve been sniffing around for ‘dirt’ on her, would have her sights set on seeing you eliminated. Hell, I didn’t really think there was a lot to worry about when we were talking barely four hours ago at Tony’s. I don’t think there’s any real debate about this now mate. It looks as though that nasty piece of work see’s you as a threat to her long term plans. What are you going to do?”
“My immediate plan is to get some much needed shuteye. Longer term, I’ll see that private investigator I told you about and hopefully he’ll be able to get me something incriminating on her over the next few days or so”
“He might need to get moving on that ASAP mate”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because the worry is now that her, and her associates, might start to get a bit more desperate to achieve what they want”
“You mean they might have another go at eliminating Chris”
“I wouldn’t discount that. If her ultimate aim is to have total control of the business, and the cash jackpot from that life insurance policy, then you should be very concerned”
I considered what he’d said and knew that it was a very real possibility.
“I’ll try and get some kind of warning to him as soon as I can. The problem is that he thinks the sun shines out of her backside and, unfortunately, won’t hear of anything negative about her” I said.
“If that private dick can get some incriminating photos of her, you should be able to email them to him” said Brian.
“That’s exactly what I want to do. The problem is that she and that cop boyfriend of hers are going to be a bit cagier now, I’m sure of that”
“No doubt. You’ll just have to tread warily and hope that he can get the evidence you need. Anyway, I don’t mean to be rude but I’ve got to meet up with a couple mates for a beer. Keep in touch and let me know what’s happening”.
“Will do buddy” I said and hung up.
I was considering making one more call to Barry but decided against it as I was feeling really zapped and just wanted to shut the eyelids for an hour or so. I put on my head phones, pushed play on the IPod and settled in for a much needed sleep for the rest of the ride to Bangkok.