Sunday, 29th March 2020 - 8:00:18 am
As the taxi pulled away from Marks’ condo I looked at the ring on my right hand; it had been quite a while since I’d last worn it. After successful initiation, into the first degree of the order, I’d employed the services of a reputable goldsmith in Bangkok. To the unknowing it would just be another gold ring. To those that knew what the set square and compass signified, it could be as important as life itself. I’d eventually removed it when I realized that my hedonistic lifestyle, in Thailand, was putting me at odds with the moral code that the order expected its members to uphold. Last night I’d successfully completed initiation into the third level. I looked at the ring again; I felt like I had some focus back in my life. The past couple of years had been all about taking what I could get. Maybe now I could redeem myself by giving something back.
The taxi pulled up at the entrance to the Nana Hotel a couple of minutes after eight am. There was a no-nonsense, fit looking, late thirtyish, Thai male standing there with a couple of bags. I wound down the window.
“Baey, is it?”
“Chai krap (yes)” he said moving towards the rear of the vehicle.
The driver popped the trunk and, after making sure that everything was securely stowed, Baey joined me in the rear set. We shook hands as the driver maneuvered the taxi towards Sukhumvit Road.
“You speak English?”
“A little; do you speak Thai?”
“A little” I said as we both laughed.
“Did Barry tell you anything about what I want to do?”
“Yes. I’ve got my camera gear with me” said Baey nodding his head.
“What do you think?”
“About the idea of snooping around taking photos of a lady who’s the girlfriend of a mate of mine?”
“I’m sure you have your reasons for doing this. It’s not for me to say if it’s a good idea or bad idea. I just try to do my job in the best way I can” he replied
“A professional attitude, that’s good. Barry tells me you were doing a lot of Border Patrol work in the army?”
“Yeah, but that is something I do not like to talk about much” he said looking at me warily.
“Can I ask you why?” I said being the nosy farang.
“Okay, but I want you to tell me what that ring is about” he said with an endearing Thai smile.
“Okay, deal. You first” I said feeling myself warming to his straight up manner.
“The unit I was in, the Thahan Phran, had a bit of a bad image a few years ago”
“People say we commit atrocity”
“Is it true?”
“Not that I know of. The unit I was in never did anything bad. We just did our jobs professionally and kicked ass when we got into contact with any Khmer or Burma units. I think a lot of bad story’s started because many of the recruits were from criminal backgrounds”
“Yes, even me. I was small time mafia and getting in trouble with the police here in Bangkok. I was told I could go to the monkey house or join the Thahan Phran”
“Hmmm, what do you think about that?”
“It was okay because it kept me out of trouble and gave me some discipline. Most of the guys I hung out with, before joining up, are either dead or in the monkey house now”
“Your life is better now?” I said more of an observation than a question.
“Yes, thanks be to Buddha” he said reaching inside his shirt for his gold Buddha pendant and kissing it.
“Now your turn, what is that ring about?”
“Why do you think it’s about something?” I said smiling and looking him in the eye
“I’ve seen that mark somewhere before and I know it has a lot of power”
“It’s not really about power. It’s more like the people who are members of the order, or group, that this mark signifies, have a moral duty to be honorable, to live with integrity, to always be truthful, and help others where they can. We are bound to this code and, therefore, we have a duty to help fellow members in times of need. We must also profess a faith in a god of our choosing who is generally called the supreme architect of the universe”
“So, you are a little bit like Buddhist then?”
“Yes, we should follow what you call the five precepts; don’t lie, steal, deceive, get drunk or be involved with bad sexual practices”
“Hmmm, you are farang. Can you stop yourself being involved with bad sexual practices around here?”
“No, not entirely” I said as we both laughed.
“Maybe those girls can gain some merit for me when they go to the temple” I said laughing again.
“No matter how many times those girls go to the temple they can never gain enough merit. Their sinful ways will follow them, and those who profit from their sinful activities, into their next life. Karma is a continuous, unending cycle. We are born, grow old, become sick and die. The pattern can only be broken by attaining Nirvana and that is something that even a monk, who meditates twenty hours a day in a cave, can barely attain. The severity of the cycle is determined by how we live in our previous life”
“So you are saying that the most sinful of people will have the most wretched lives in their next life?”
“Yes. That is what we Buddhists believe. I think what you are doing for your friend is your way of making merit for your past sins” he said looking into my eyes.
“Yes, there is some truth in that” I said looking away.
“And you?” I said turning back to face him
“I have to make merit a lot. I have my past actions to answer for” he said nodding thoughtfully.
“What’s the best way of making merit? Is it by going to the temple, burning a few incense sticks and giving money?
“No. That is a false path for those that just want others to see them going through the routine of appearing to make merit. That’s just for show. As the Buddha says, real merit is gained by doing what you can for others less fortunate than you and expecting nothing back in return”
“Well, a lot of those bargirls could say that they’re doing what they can to help their families?”
“No, that’s simply about laziness and greed. Most of them give very little of what they earn to their families. Most of the money they make is wasted on entertaining themselves and their Thai boyfriends. There are many good girls in the same situation who don’t resort to selling themselves and they seem to survive okay on a normal Thai salary” said Baey with conviction
“Interesting, I’ve never got an opinion about that sort of thing from a Thai person before” I said considering what he’d just told me.
“Believe me, most respectable Thais know what is going on but our politeness keeps many from saying bad things because that’s not the real Buddhist way. We all know that their karma follows them into next life so there’s little need to point out what is already known. As I said, they are just wasting their time when they stand in the temple holding the burning incense. That gives them very little merit”
“What can bring them merit?”
“By stopping their sinful activity and starting to use their own abilities to earn money instead of lying and deceiving as they do”
“Hmmm, khao jai (understand)” I said
Baey smiled and nodded as the driver gunned the taxi along the motorway towards Pattaya. We sat there in silence for a while locked into our own thoughts.
“There are a few things I want to do when we arrive in Pattaya. I’ll give you a rundown on what I’m planning and you can tell me if you think it’s practical”
“Okay, what are you planning” said Baey looking at me with a measure of seriousness and putting on his military thinking cap.
“Well I guess the first thing we’ll do is get a place to stay. I was thinking of using the Eden Hotel. It’s just beyond Pattaya third road but it’s only a short distance to downtown Pattaya” I said.
“Is this Hotel having plenty of farang around?”
“Well the bar that’s next to it has but the hotel itself is reasonably quiet most of the time”
“Okay, that’s sounds good. What are you going to do for transport?”
“I was considering renting a couple of decent enduro bikes, something like Yamaha two fifties. What do you think?” I said valuing his input
“Good. Where do we get them from?”
“Well after we check into the hotel we can hire a Song Thaew (Baht bus) to take us over to the dark side”
“What’s the dark side?” said Baey looking slightly bemused.
“It’s local expat terminology for the area that’s on the far side of Sukhumvit Road”
“Why, is it dark over there?” he said laughing.
“No I think it’s just a funny description for an area that’s a bit out of the way where most tourists never get to. Kind of like an unknown area”
“Hmmm, okay. The dark side, I like it. What do you want to do about comms?”
“Ahh, good question. I just happen to have these two phones already” I said reaching into my small rucksack.
I pulled out two identical, non- descript looking Nokias.
“Hmmm, anything special about these” said Baey as he took one of the phones.
“Yeah, they’re 3720’s. Waterproof and shock proof. We just need to pick up a couple of SIM cards when we hit Pattaya”
“I’ve never seen this model before. Did you buy them in Bangkok?”
“As it happens I picked them up at TukCom in Pattaya”
“Any reason why you would want a water proof phone?” said Baey smiling and giving me the impression he already knew the answer.
“Yeah, a two syllable word and it happens every April” I said laughing.
“Song Kran” said Bae shaking his head.
Song Kran; a time of year which elicits a good deal of mixed feelings for most foreigners visiting, or residing in Thailand. The visitors seem to enjoy the revelry while most expats, including myself, do everything we can to avoid the whole chaotic madness. My last experience with Thailand’s annual water festival left a lasting impression burned deep into my memory. I was in a taxi heading up Pattaya South Road, at about seven pm, on the last day of the festival. The traffic congestion had bought our movement down to crawling speed and, therefore, one was able to take in all of the little pockets of water throwing mayhem - much of it alcohol fuelled - as we inched our way towards the main road. Sometimes we were at a complete standstill and this allowed me to really see what was going on. A young Thai lad, maybe no more than eighteen, moved slowly past me, on his moped, and received a full barrage from a mob of drunken, tattooed young punks.
The guy, against better judgment, soaked and feeling pissed off, no doubt, stopped to tell them what he thought of their inconsiderate stupidity. Out of nowhere one of the punks runs up and launches into a flying side kick to knock the kid of his moped. He bounces up only to find that, within seconds, the rest of the mob are about to set upon him. Looking for a way out, he runs towards a shop front but gets corralled by the mob who waste little time, or sympathy, laying into him. One of the assailants also has hold of the kids’ motorbike helmet which he used as a weapon to inflict greater damage. As the taxi moved forward the last thing I remember seeing is the look of abject fear, on the kids’ face, as half a dozen drunken punks wailed into him. Song Kran? No thanks.
“Is there something else we need to do before we begin surveillance operations?” said Baey bringing me back to the present.
“Oh yeah, a couple of things but I’m figuring we’ll do those tomorrow” I said mentally going over everything we needed to do.
“What else do you have planned?”
“The key to what I want to do is whether we can rent a room in the condo building that’s next to the one where my friend lives. Both buildings are on dead end Sois that run off the road from Buddha Hill to the main road over to Jomtien. My friend’s condo building fronts the beach and is at the bottom of Soi five. The building we need to find a room in is at the bottom end of Soi four and sits about seventy five meters from the other” I said considering the odds of a room being available.
“Hmmm, do you think we can get a room?” said Baey seeming to read my thoughts.
“Well at this time of year, being the low season, we’ve got as good a chance as any” I said not wanting to consider the implications of not being able to get what we wanted.
“The thing is I want a room on the correct side of the building so we can observe peoples movements in my friend’s condo. The condo we’ll be watching is on the right hand corner of the sixth floor so, ideally, we need a room, in the building we’ll be in, a couple of floors above. It’s a big ask I know but hopefully things will fall into place” I said more in hope than certainty.
“Well, sometimes things can work in our favour if we have good intentions”
“I sincerely hope so” I said nodding in agreement with what he’d said.
Baey seemed to understand our need for good fortune and, in a moment of sincere respect for his god and Buddhist principals, he revealed his gold Buddha pendant, again, and clasped it in a Wai to his forehead for a good thirty seconds.
“Maybe I should do that as well” I said smiling.
“You’ve got your ring” said Baey looking down at my hand.
“Oh yeah” I said lifting it to my lips.
“If we get the room you want. What then?”
“Well I’ve got some camera gear with a really high powered lens that we can zoom right in on the condo with”
“Hmmm, what’s the lens?”
“A Nikon five hundred millimeter zoom” I said.
“That sounds good” said Baey suitably impressed.
Yeah, I figure it will get the job done. We can set it up on a tripod and hopefully get a few shots. The thing is I don’t expect to get anything incriminating there on his girlfriend. It’s more for knowing when she leaves the condo and, when she does, that’s when you get to earn your pay” I said.
“I’ll be tailing her then I suppose?” said Baey.
“Yes but more specifically if she meets up with the cop who’s supposed to be her brother”
“Okay. You’ve got photos of her I can use for initial I.D?”
“Yeah, in my notebook. I’ve got all the info on the vehicles that Chris and Ning drive as well. I figure you’ll need to hang out, each morning, in one of the restaurants near to their condo’s entrance, waiting for her to leave and then tail her to wherever she goes. If she meets up with her Pua Noi (minor husband), or anyone else suspicious for that matter, you can bang off a few shots” I said feeling reasonably happy with the theory of what I was planning.
‘Hmmm, the problem with this is that, after the first couple of mornings, she’ll begin to notice the same guy on the same bike. We’ll need to use a car for a couple of days to break things up” said Baey with certainty of an experienced professional.
“Yeah, okay I see what you mean. That Soi isn’t all that busy so you’ll be noticed fairly easily”
“The first two days will be okay but after that suspicion will be aroused”
“Okay, we will look at hiring a car after the first two days”
“What sort of photos are you looking for?” said Baey smiling.
“Well the ultimate would be her and the cop doing the business in a hotel room somewhere but I figure shots of both of them going into a room would be good enough”
“If there’s a window I’ll try to get some good porn shot’s” said Baey shaking his head and laughing at the thought of it.
“Good man” I said admiring his daring.
We continued passing the time with small talk on everything from Thai food to Thai politics. After a quick pit stop at a seven eleven we were on our way again. I was hoping that I’d be able to persuade Baey into going to see Fon but, first, I needed to find out which hospital she was at. I flipped open my phone and hit the speed dial for Brian’s number.
‘Hey buddy, it’s Mike” I said hesitantly.
“You still in Bangkok?”
I was considering telling him what I was up to but decided against for the moment.
“Yeah” I said after a slight pause.
“Safest place for you to be at the moment mate” said Brian as a matter of fact.
“Why do you say that?” I said feeling more than slightly worried.
“Because the Pattaya News Service is still running a photo of you with the report on Fon’s assault”
“That doesn’t make sense mate. How the fuck would the police have a photo of me?”
“I don’t know mate but someone, maybe that cop that doesn’t seem to like you, has given your photo to the Pattaya news service. Every time there’s an update about Fon’s condition, your photo is up there larger than life as well. Even though no one’s actually saying that you were responsible, the point is being made that you were her farang boyfriend and you can’t be located at this present time”
“Fuck” I said knowing that this was going to create extra tension in my planned surveillance operation.
Baey looked at me with a look that said ‘something wrong?’
“Look mate, I need to have someone drop by and check on Fon. Any chance you know what hospital she’s at?”
“Pattaya Memorial mate. Look Mike I can’t tell you what you should, or shouldn’t, do but if you come back to Pattaya you need to tread very warily. Even though you’re not being directly blamed at the moment, for the assault on Fon, the inference, that people are making every time they see that news broadcast, is that you’ve got something to do with it. If you are planning on returning here mate you’d better wear a disguise”
“Yeah, okay mate. Good advice. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll keep in touch” I said.
“Okay mate, take care” said Brian.
I closed my phone and sat back to consider the implications of what Brian had just told me. The difficulty factor, in achieving what I wanted do, had just gone up a notch.
“What’s the problem?” said Baey calmly.
I repeated what I’d just heard from Brian.
“Mai bpen rai (never mind). Just wear a pair of shades and a baseball cap wherever you go”
“Yeah, I suppose that will do the trick” I said agreeing with his unworried take on the situation.
“Anyway Mike, I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to try to go and see that lady at the hospital” said Baey.
“I’m not going to mate. I was hoping that you could go and check on her for me. I’d like to give her some money as well for her medical and living expenses” I said considering the risk that such a visit may entail.
“It should be okay if I drop by there late in the evening or sometime close to the close of visiting hours. That way we’ll reduce the chances of attracting attention because, whoever might be watching, may have already got tired and be either sleeping or gone home”
“Okay, that sounds good mate. Greatly appreciated if you could do that for me. Just to let her know that she’s being looked after” I said looking at Baey and nodding my head.
“You are gaining merit already Mike” said Baey with a sincere smile.
“I hope so mate, I really hope so” I said looking out across the expanse of rural land punctuated with industrial estates.
Forty minutes later we were walking into the lobby area of the Eden Hotel. Baey seemed to like the setting; there was an outdoor patio area that overlooked the pool.
“Hmmm, it seems fairly quiet here Mike. That’s good” he said taking in the layout of the place.
“The fact is mate that most of the business here is predominantly from the bar across the other side of the pool there. The rooms here are mainly used for short time action” I said reflecting on the regular that I’d had in the bar a couple of years ago.
“What was the name of the one you used to bring up here” said Baey as though reading my thought processes.
“Meow” I said smiling at his intuition.
“Ahh, the cat” he said nodding and smiling back.
“Yeah, she liked to bite and scratch” I said thinking of the craziness of it all.
“Hmmm, she still working in the bar” he said nodding towards the far side of the pool.
“No, she went to the UK a long time ago” I said looking towards the bar reflectively.
“Good, you need to be making merit not wasting it”
“True” I said as we both laughed.
We checked in, stowed our bags in our rooms and then met up on the patio for some lunch. During the ride down Baey had worn a jacket but, with the increasing heat of the day, he removed to reveal a toned, muscular physique. He was sitting there looking fit and relaxed. The muscle shirt he was now wearing revealed a tattoo - some kind of insignia with an inverted sword crossed by three horizontal lightning bolts - on his right shoulder.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the tattoo on your shoulder there?” I said curious to know.
“That’s the insignia for the Thahan Phran. It says Chad – Sassan - Pramahakasat or, in English, Nation – Religion – The King” he said nodding with a determined looking demeanor.
“I know that Thahan means army, or soldier, but what does the Phran mean?” I said.
“Well, Thahan Phran literally means ‘Hunter Soldiers’ but we also have a nick name” said Baey starting to become a bit more comfortable with my questioning.
“Yeah, something nasty like kick ass motherfuckers” I said smiling back at him.
“No, the locals just called us Nak Rob Sua Dum which roughly translate to Black Shirt Warrior”
“Your lookin’ fairly fit. Do you work out or do some Muay Thai” I said.
“Not Muay Thai, Muay Boran”
“Muay Boran. What’s that?”
“It’s the original Thai martial art. Muay Thai is derived from Muay Boran. Muay Thai is a sports version and has taken certain parts of Muay Boran for use in the ring. Muay Boran is a more complete fighting system though which also includes throws, take downs, holds as well as all the striking blows from the feet, knees, elbows, hands and the head.”
“Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve seen that anywhere”
“You probably have but just don’t know that it’s Muay Boran. If you’ve seen Ong Bak then you’ve seen Muay Boran” said Baey nodding assuredly.
‘Oh yeah, Tony Jaa. I love that guy. He’s incredibly skillful.”
“Yep, that’s Muay Boran. Anyway, when are we heading off to pick up these bikes?”
“As soon as we’ve eaten. I called the rental shop, while I was in the room, and they’re expecting us. They’ve got a couple of Yamaha two fifties available. They’re a bit pricey but the manager said that he’ll include full insurance for the eight hundred baht a day fee. I figure we’ll just get them for a week and see how things are going. If we need to continue hiring them, we’ll just extend the rental contract” I said as our orders arrived on the table.
“How well do you know these guys?” said Baey looking happy as he started tucking in to the Tom Yum Goong.
“Fairly well. I’ve rented their bikes a few times. Don’t forget to take your driver’s license as well” I said spooning out some chicken and cashew nuts onto my plate.
An hour later, after a bumpy ride in the back of Song Thaew, we were signing our rental agreements for the bikes. After a cursory check of the condition of the bikes, and a bit of air in the tires, we wheeled them out onto the driveway.
“These will be good for concealing our identity’ said Baey looking at the full face helmets we’d been given as part of the deal as well.
“Yeah, and they’ll come in really handy for keeping the damn rain out of our eyes as well’ I said as the first drops, of the approaching dark skies, began to fall.
‘Where you want to go now” said Baey as we donned our helmets and fired up our bikes.
“We’ll head over to TukCom to pick up those SIM cards. Have you been over there before” I yelled over the din of the revving bikes.
“Chai krap” mouthed Baey with a voice that was barely audible.
“Okay, we’ll park these at friendship and walk up to TukCom. See you there” I yelled out again.
We both pulled down our visors. Baey gave me a thumb up, in acknowledgement of the plan, and then we powered out onto the road. After a fairly uneventful fifteen minute ride we pulled into the friendship supermarket car park. We removed our full face helmets and immediately replaced them with the dark shades and baseball caps. I laughed.
“Arai na?” said Baey.
“You ever see any Pink Panther movies?” I said as we moved off in the direction of TukCom.
“It’s not so bad. We not wearing trench coats you know. Lots of tourists wearing the same thing” said Baey impressing me, once again, with his uncanny knack to be able read my thought processes.
“Yeah, true. It just makes me feel as though I’m making it obvious I’m trying to conceal my identity” feeling self conscious.
“I could get you a trench coat and a news paper” said Baey smiling and impressing with his sanuk (fun) take on the situation.
We both laughed. A couple of minutes later we were walking through the main entrance doors to TukCom. I veered off towards the bank of ATM’s standing to the right hand side of the escalators. I removed my small rucksack in preparation for the large wad of cash I was about to withdraw. Baey stood to one side of me and , no doubt, was probably a little surprised by the time I’d pushed my plastic into the machines’ slot for the tenth and final time.
“Planning a big night out?”
“Let’s just call it the fighting fund” I said as I stuffed the final twenty thousand baht withdrawal, of the two hundred I’d taken, into my rucksack.
I motioned towards the escalator; our intended destination being the Telewiz shop, one level up.
“Have you got a good memory for numbers?” said Baey as we stood in the queue at the shop counter.
“Hmmm, to be honest, no” I said.
“I know it might be a bit more expensive Mike but, if you have a problem remembering phone numbers, you’d better buy a couple of SIMs with easy numbers to remember”
“Why’s that?” I said not quite understanding what he was getting at.
“Because the numbers that we get must never be written down anywhere Mike. We have to remember them” said Baey once again with his military experience coming to the fore.
“Yeah, okay. Makes sense. Let’s spend a bit of time looking for a couple of numbers that are easy to remember then” I said.
A few minutes, and three thousand baht later, we had our new, easy to remember numbers loaded into the phones I’d bought with me for the surveillance operation. We also had the Telewiz staff activate our numbers as private; meaning they (the numbers) wouldn’t show on the phones of whoever we called. A unanimous decision was made to grab a coffee, before moving onto our next task, so we made our way back down to the ground floor and pulled up a seat in Starbucks. I sat down and, feeling myself relax a bit, removed the shades and baseball cap. Baey looked at me questioningly.
“It’s better if you leave those on all the time, even when we’re inside” he said in a fairly serious demeanor.
“You think I really need to?”
“Yes, especially in a spot as popular as this”
“Okay, fair point” I said throwing them back on.
“What have you got in mind with the condo you want go and look at?”
“Actually I was thinking that, as we’ve got plenty of daylight left, we may as well go over there and see if we can rent one today”
“Seems like a good idea. There’s no point wasting time if we not have to” said Baey nodding in agreement.
“If we can get what we need, we can then do a quick recce down on Soi five and check out the condo building where my mate lives” I said.
“Yeah, I could have a look around some of the little restaurants there as well for a good place to conceal myself but which also gives an unrestricted view of the entrance to your friend’s condo building”
“Holy shit” I said under my breath
“What?” said Baey looking suddenly far more intense.
“I’ve just seen Ning, my mate’s girlfriend, walk into the main entrance of the building” I said.
“She may not be heading here. Be cool, we’ll get up and casually walk out” said Baey calmly.
“Okay” I said as we both got up and pushed through the exit doors.
I looked along the landing and Ning was nowhere to be seen; she must have gone inside somewhere. Baey and I walked down the stairs and started to make our way along the sidewalk back towards Friendship Supermarket. As we passed the entrance doors I looked in and caught a glimpse of Ning; she had her back to us and was standing at one of the ATM’s on the ground floor. As I was about to step off the curb she turned side on and started conversing with a couple of sleazy looking Thai males. All I could think of was thank fuck I was wearing the shades and the baseball cap; well done Baey, again. We got back to our bikes and, after donning our helmets, made a rapid exit out of the car park and swung left onto Pattaya South Road. As we passed the TukCom entrance I saw Ning out on the footpath still in earnest conversation with the sleazebags. I turned my head and looked directly at her as we slowed with the movement of the traffic. For an instant, she lifted her head and looked straight at the tinted visor of my helmet; we were eyeball to eyeball for what seemed an eternity but, in reality, was mere seconds. She had no way of recognizing the face under the visor but she kept looking, perhaps vaguely recognizing something about my physique. It was like time standing still. My heart was pounding through fear that the whole point, of what I wanted to do, would be decided by how I reacted to this single moment. I kept my composure and slowly turned my head back to face what was in front of me as I inched the bike further along the road. Baey had already disappeared through a break in the traffic and was well ahead of me. And then I heard a voice yell out my name. I kept looking straight ahead but was almost at a complete stop. I was desperate to get the hell out of there but couldn’t because I was stuck behind a tour bus in the most congested stretch of South Pattaya Road; the entrance to the temple was on the right and a myriad of fresh produce, hawkers stalls pushed into the road on the left. The bus inched forward but I couldn’t get around it due to the fact that there was a stream of Song Thaews squeezing through from the other direction. The voice yelled out my name again but this time sounding closer. I glanced slightly to my left to see a tall, thin, tattooed thug, wearing dark shades, weaving his way towards me through the hawkers’ stalls. The bus jumped forward as the last of the Song Thaews squeezed its way clear. I revved my bike as the thug was almost upon me. Ten feet, six feet and then I heard his voice again.
“Hey farang, I fuck your girlfriend”
He reached towards me just as I accelerated away. My heart was pounding but I gave no indication of reacting to what I’d just heard him say even though all my instincts were telling me to turn the bike around and run the scumbag over. I accelerated down the road and around the corner to the left at the intersection. Baey was a couple of hundred meters ahead, parked up, on the side of the road. I stopped and quickly told him what had just occurred.
“We better get out of here now. You know somewhere quiet we can go?”
“Yeah, follow me” I said.
We gunned the bikes down the road and, after a couple of sharp turns, we were back at the far end of walking Street and weaving our way through the speed boat parking area towards the light house at the Southern extremity of Pattaya Bay. After parking the bikes we took a seat in the open air restaurant that sits twenty meters, or so, from the light house. We ordered another two coffees and just sat there, for a few minutes, taking in the ambience of the ocean in front of us.
“What do you think?” I said looking at Baey.
“She may have thought she recognized you but there will still be doubt there because you stayed cool and didn’t react” he said appearing to be deep in thought.
“It was a near run thing though” I said still feeling a little uneasy about what had occurred.
“Yeah. Do you still want to continue on?”
“Yes, but how do you feel about it though?” I said as our coffees landed on the table
“I think the advantage is still with us but we’re going to have to steer clear of the popular spots around here. It’s just too much of a risk” said Baey nodding as if to emphasize his point.
“Hey farang, you keeneow (cheapskate). Why you not drink beer?” said a drunken Thai voice to the right of us.
We looked across. There was a group of young Thai guys, probably part of the speed boat group, enjoying a few beers. They had the look of a potentially aggressive lot if the drinking got out of control. Baey shrugged and took off his jacket. One of the group saw the tattoo of his unit insignia and quietly said “Nak Rob Sua Dum.” Everything went quiet as all the Thai’s in the restaurant were looking at Baey with what seemed to be a mixture fear and respect.
“You’ve certainly got some mana there bro” I said suitably impressed.
“It’s a word the natives of New Zealand, the Maori, use. It means you’ve got a presence that demands respect and recognition” I said.
“Well that maybe so in New Zealand but the truth is that a lot of Thai dislike the Thahan Phran. Mostly they are probably just scared. I think we’d better go” said Baey as we finished off our coffees.
“Okay, we’ll head over to that condo building now. It’s not too far from here” I said dropping a one hundred baht note on the table.
We fired up the bikes and took off up the hill. The road we were on was the back road to the recreational park, on Pattaya Hill, which eventually finished next to the entrance to the Buddha Hill view point. We veered to the right and, after another couple of hundred meters, turned right, again, into Soi four. The condo building we were heading to was at the bottom of the hill. A few meters beyond the condo building the road took a ninety degree turn to the right and ran parallel to the beach. A hundred meters, or so, further on there was a turn off to a parking area on the beach. At the left hand extremity, of the car park, there was a bunch of trees which provided cover. We parked the bikes and looked through the trees to both condo buildings beyond. The one with Chris’s condo was roughly seventy five meters further along the beach from the one we were hoping to get a room in.
“You can see my mate’s condo from here. It’s the corner one, on the sixth floor, on this side of the building. The problem is that the other condo building is set back a bit so we’re never going to have a front view into the unit, only the side balcony view’ I said as we hid behind the trees.
“To be honest, if we can’t get a room on the corner that’s nearest to your friends unit, we’re not going to be able to see much” said Baey considering the positioning of both buildings.
“Yeah, well I guess we better just go down there and see what they’ve got available” I said motioning towards the bikes.
A couple of minutes later we were in the covered parking area of the building we wanted a room in. We casually strolled into the lobby area and approached the receptionist sitting at the desk.
“Sawasdee ka. Can I help you” she said in a friendly manner.
“Yes, do you have any units available for rent?” I said.
“Yes, we have a few. It’s the low season so things are a bit quiet” she said politely.
As if to emphasize her point, the rain began to fall from the heavens again.
“Okay, have you got any units on the right hand front corner of the building?” I said holding my crossed fingers behind my back.
“The right hand front corner, let me see?” she said as she started typing into her computer.
My anxiety level was beginning to peak. The success, of what I wanted to do, would be improved by having a corner unit.
“Yes, we’ve got one on the ninth floor. It’s a bit expensive though because it’s a two bedroom unit?” she said smiling.
“Okay, how much is it?” I said expecting the worst.
“Fifty thousand Baht a month”
“Hmmm” I said.
“The units with a beach view are all more expensive”
“Okay. Can you ask the owner if they will take thirty thousand for two weeks?”
“Okay, bap neung na ka (just a moment thank you)”
She spent the next few minutes talking on the phone.
“The owner says that’s okay but he wants a security deposit of the same amount”
“Yeah okay, no problems. Can we see the unit please?” I said feeling my excitement levels rise.
After getting a set of keys from the drawer we followed her to the lift; a key card was needed to operate it. A couple of minutes later we were shown into the room on the ninth floor. It was probably one floor too high but it was as good as we were going to get. The living area overlooked the beach and the corner of the condo building that Chris’s unit was situated on. I pulled open the curtains and looked down onto the balcony of Chris’s condo; it wasn’t perfect but it was a lot better than I’d expected. Baey looked across as well and nodded his head as if to read my thought processes once again. As we were standing there the sliding doors on Chris’s condo opened and he stepped out onto the patio. I hadn’t seen him since the hospital and I was shocked to say the least. He didn’t look to too healthy. We both pulled back from the curtains and looked at the secretary.
“When we came through the entrance I noticed there was no security guard on duty” I said turning to face the receptionist.
“Yes, that is correct. We have a swipe card system in place for the entrance doors of the building and also for the lifts. At the moment the management has decided that the security we have in place is adequate. Is this okay for you?” she said gesturing through the expanse of the unit.
“Yes, it’s very good. We’ll take it now” I said moving towards the door.
We spent the next 30 minutes going over the rental agreement and, when everything was paid and signed for, I was handed two sets of keys and two swipe cards. Baey and I walked out into the covered parking area where I handed him one set.
“We’ll come back later tonight and move in under the cover of darkness” I said.
“That would be best. Do you still want to go and do a recce on the next soi over?” said Baey as we looked out into the gloom of the late afternoon drizzle.
‘”Yeah, the rain will keep people off the streets. Maybe it’d be better if we go down there one at a time. You head over there first and check things out. I’ll give you a few minutes head start. Half way back up this Soi there’s a connecting Soi across to Soi five. Soi five is a dead end with the condo building right at the very end of it. If you see anything that looks dodgy, give me a call and I’ll just wait here” I said considering the close call I’d already had this afternoon.
“There’s probably no real need for you to go over there Mike. It might be better if you just head on back to the Eden hotel. I think, after what happened this afternoon, it’s probably a good idea for you not to be anywhere near a location that has the risk potential for being spotted. I’ll give the area a good recce and I’ll see you back at the hotel” said Baey deliberately.
“Okay mate that sounds like a much better way to go” I said as he jumped onto the bike and readied himself to head off.
He hit the start button, pulled down his visor and, after giving me the thumb up again, he took off back up Soi four. Three minutes later I was on my way back to the Eden Hotel. The rain was still falling when I pulled into the car park. After a quick shower and a change of clothes I was back out on the patio, of the lobby area, enjoying another coffee. Within minutes of making myself comfortable my phone started to buzz.
“It’s me” said Baey.
“Okay, how are things over there?”
“Good. I’ve found a place which has a direct line of sight to the condos’ entrance. It’s a small outdoor noodle place with a low thatched roof. I can sit back inside a bit, and remain unsighted, but still see directly up the driveway into the covered parking area on the ground floor”
“That sounds great. Are you coming back now?” I said knowing he’d probably be quite hungry.
“Heuw Kao (hungry for rice)” said Baey confirming what I suspected.
“Okay mate. Good job, I’ll see you soon”
I sat back, took another slurp on my coffee and looked out into the darkening haze as the light rain continued to fall. Glancing at my watch I noticed that it was just after five pm: so far we’d managed to get quite a bit done. I was hoping that Baey would agree to going over to the Pattaya Memorial Hospital to see Fon later in the evening. I picked up the phone again; even though I didn’t really want to, I felt obligated to call Barry.
“Hello” said Barry in a businesslike manner.
“Okay. There was no number showing when my phone rang. Is that for any reason?”
“Yeah, Baey and I have got new numbers and we don’t want anyone knowing what they are. I’ll SMS you both numbers after we’ve finished talking”
“That would be most appreciated Mike. How are things going down there?” said Barry.
I told him everything that had happened since we’d arrived in Pattaya including the near miss down at TukCom.
“Hmmm, that’s going to up the ante a bit mate. The fact that you didn’t react, or acknowledge what was being said to you, means there’s still doubt there. You’ve still got the advantage, just. Whatever it is you want to achieve you better get on with it because I’ve heard, through my contacts here with the Boys in Brown, that something big is about to go down, drugs related, with Ning and her band of cohorts. The last thing the cops want is some rogue third party getting in the way”
“Okay mate, I hear what you’re saying. I’ll try and get what I want within the next couple of days. If it doesn’t happen for me, I’ll pull back and leave it for the cops to sort out” I said feeling a bit pissed off that I may not achieve anything.
“Thanks Mike, I think that would be far better in the long term”
“Okay mate. I’ll get these numbers off to you then”
“Cheers Mike. Keep in touch”
“Will do Barry. Cheers” I said ending the call.
A few minutes later the tell tale sound of an enduro bike indicated that Baey had arrived back at the hotel. I followed his movements as he made his way up the stairs and sat down opposite me. He was soaked through from the rain.
“Do you want to clean up first before we order?” I said a little concerned at his shivering condition.
“Yeah, I think so. Maybe I order now” said Baey as I called the waiter over.
Twenty minutes later he was back at the table enjoying a Saeng Som and coke.
“There’s not much cover down there Mike. The place I told you about is okay as it has a low, thatched roof and is not well lighted inside. I can remain hidden quite okay but the bike will be noticed after a couple of days. That’s why I said we may need to get a car to break up the routine”
“Okay, if we gotta do that, then we will” I said resigning myself to the fact that there was no way around that potential problem.
“I don’t think we got any other choice really Mike. There’s very little traffic at the bottom end of that soi”
“I called Barry earlier to give him an update of what we’re up to”
“Okay, what did he have to say?”
“He told me I’d better hurry up and get what I want otherwise I was going to run the risk of seriously upsetting the Police?”
“What do you think about that?”
“Well if we can’t get the shots that I want, in the next couple of days, we’ll have to call it off?”
“Okay. Let’s hope we can something fairly soon then” said Baey as the food began arriving at the table.
“How do you feel about going over to the Pattaya Memorial Hospital after you’ve eaten?”
“No problem. Is there anything you want me to say?”
“Yeah, and you can also give her this” I said reaching into my rucksack and dropping a thick envelope onto the table.
“Wow, how much is in there?” said Baey raising his eyebrows.
“There’s Fifty thousand baht. Tell her if she needs more, for the hospital expenses, it’s no problems” I said nodding my head.
“Okay. Your merit is improving all the time Mike” he said taking the envelope and dropping it into his small rucksack.
“Tell her that I’m going to make sure she’s okay and not to worry. I just can’t come to see her”
“Okay Mike. I think she might understand that anyway”
“I hope so”
“When do you want to go over to the condo?”
“We’ll do it when you come back. Our movements won’t be so obvious under the cover of darkness”
Thirty minutes later Baey took off to the hospital and I went up to my room to organize my gear for the move. I finished repacking my bag quickly and then lay down for a well needed rest. The next thing I knew I was being woken by rapid banging on the door. I jumped up and looked at my watch; I’d been out to it for an hour and a half. In a state of semi-shock, from being jolted awake from a solid sleep, I pulled the door open to find Baey standing there with a ripped shirt and a bruise to the side of his face.