by: Mark Jones
It’s often said the only thing better than a good night’s sleep is two or three more. I was feeling human again after the recent series of late turn-ins but knew another decent night’s slumber would see me back firing on all cylinders. The nine hours had been good but the head was still a bit foggy so a strong Lavazza or two was in order. Nat had messaged me, while I was still out to it, so I called and arranged to meet her for lunch at Terminal twenty one. I was just onto my second coffee when the phone started buzzing. It was Pete with, no doubt, another round of intrigue.
“Hi mate, what’s up? Are you on your way to Pak Chong?” I said settling back into the sofa.
“No, not yet. I’ll be setting off in a couple of hours. It looks as though I won’t be down in Bangkok until tomorrow at the earliest.”
“Oh, what’s happened? I thought the plan was to drive on through once Dave had looked at the house?”
“Well, that was my original intention but he’s thrown a spanner in the works.”
“Says he doesn’t want to get caught up in the late afternoon traffic jam going into Bangkok and wants me to drive him back to the airport once he’s inspected the house. He’ll catch the evening flight back to the big mango.”
“Can’t say I blame him, that traffic is a bloody nightmare in the late afternoon” I said having a bit of a chuckle.
“Yeah well I can’t really say too much, even though it’s a bit of a time wasting exercise, because he might say “bugger it” and ‘can’ the purchase. I’ve got to play along with him until the deal is done.”
“What’s the situation with the bail?”
“That’s sorted. I was down at the police station, earlier this morning with Det, getting the restriction lifted. The only thing was I had to give them an intended address in Bangkok.”
“Jesus H. Christ mate, you didn’t give them mine did you?” I said having an instant anxiety attack.
“I’m not that bloody daft Mike. No, I gave them the address of my old digs in On Nut. I’m actually going there anyway as I booked a studio couple of days ago.”
“Cripes mate, Amm could quite easily find out where you are?”
“Yeah I know it’s a bit of a risk but as soon as the money is in the bank, and the transfer is sorted, I’ll disappear pronto.”
“Well you could always doss out at a cheap hotel somewhere nearby?”
“Yeah I was considering that. It’s all in the timing, that’s all. I’m using Det as the lawyer for the transfer so he’s going to know exactly when the deal is done.”
“You still suspect him of being in collusion with Amm?”
“Not only in collusion with but also in bed with her.”
“Jesus mate are you sure that’s not just an over active imagination?”
“Well I can’t say I’m one hundred percent certain but I’ve got a couple of spies around Korat who seem fairly sure about it. Can’t say I blame him though as Amm is one attractive bitch. The pity is she’s a complete nut job.”
“I guess he’s figuring he can’t lose if he’s got a foot in each camp?”
“Yeah clever little bugger isn’t he? Whichever way it pans out he’ll end up with a payout. The thing is I can use this to my advantage,” said Pete coolly.
“Play one off against the other. I can use Det to diffuse any curve ball crap Amm might want to throw at me. That’s why I’m taking him down to Pak Chong as well. If there’s any connivance between the pair of them, she’ll probably be a bit more subdued at his behest. It’s kind of worked out well in a way and I’ll be able to the test the connection between the two of them once we’ve finished the house inspection this afternoon.”
“What have you got in mind?” I said becoming more interested in the permutations of the situation.
“I’m going to casually mention, just before I drop Dave at the airport, that I’ve got the real Chanote.”
“Mate, that doesn’t make sense. If Det is in collusion with Amm he’ll relay that onto her straight away. You might be opening a big can of worms there?”
“True but the thing is if there is any kind of reaction to that slip of information, it will confirm their collusion.”
“Keep your friends close and your enemy’s closer,” I said impressed by his cunning.
“Exactly. Anyhow, I’ve got to get over to the Ratchapruk to pick up Dave and Det. I should be on the road to Pak Chong in an hour or so. If you don’t hear from me later today I’ll probably see you for a beer tomorrow evening.”
“Cheers Pete and good luck,” I said ending the call.
Two hours later I was having lunch with Nat at Bangkok’s latest trendy shopping mall, Terminal 21. There was no doubt she was keen to see my involvement with Pete come to an end as we sat there picking through our meals as she continued to browbeat me with snipes which said as much.
“You know Mike the longer your involvement with him continues the greater chance there is that something bad will happen,” she said in her motherly tone again.
“How can you be sure of that?” I said beginning to get a bit irritated with her persistence.
“Because money, and especially hot money like this, attracts trouble in this country, that’s why.”
“Yes Nat you’ve made that quite clear a number of times. It’s nearly over now so I’ll just have to see it through. Pete will be in Bangkok tomorrow so the money shouldn’t be too far away from being back in my bank account,” I said with a degree of curtness.
“Do you really think a woman like Amm is going to give up so easily because if you do, you don’t know Thai people very well?”
“Well there’s not much she can do if Pete disappears is there?”
“Peter needs to be careful his wife doesn’t make him disappear permanently. Thai people hate losing and a woman like that, even more so. Do you really think she’s going to let a few million baht slip away from her?”
“To be honest Nat I don’t know and the fact is, I don’t care. As long as I get my money back is all I’m concerned about. Pete’s made his own mess and it’s up to him to sort it out. As soon as he gets here I’ll hand over the chanote and hopefully it won’t be too long before I get my money.”
“I think you’re being a bit naïve and too trusting there Mike?”
“You should hold onto the chanote until Pete’s put the money into your bank account.”
“Hmm, that’s probably the smart option. Pete won’t like it of course but it will be a guarantee I’m paid back.”
“Precisely and he’s only going to need the chanote when they go back up to Pak Chong to do the transfer.”
“Go back up to Pak Chong? Can’t they do that down here?”
“I doubt it Mike. The property transfer needs to be completed in the Amphur Muang the house is registered in.”
“Jesus that’s going to make things tricky for Pete. I bet he was hoping to avoid going back up there. He’ll be heading back into the lion’s den, that’s for sure. I wonder if he’s considered that?”
“Things are never so simple in this country Mike and even more so for farang.”
“No doubt,” I said considering the implications of what Nat had told me regarding the transfer.
We finished our lunch meeting with a coffee at Starbucks and agreed to meet later for dinner. I had nothing happening so I chilled out back at the apartment for a few hours. Nat swung by at eight p.m. and we went for some Italian and a few wines at a fairly swish restaurant over on Soi Twenty Three. By midnight, and feeling slightly sozzled, we were back in my apartment for another round of animal lust.
Bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, bzzzz…..
“Mike it’s your phone,” said Nat giving me a dig in the ribs.
“Christ its Pete,” I said grabbing the phone and feeling like a stunned mullet.
It was a few minutes after three am and I’d been absolutely out to it. I could only wonder what the hell he wanted at this ungodly hour.
“Crikey mate; do you know what time it is?” I said in an annoyed tone.
“Yeah, sorry mate but there’s been a bit of a drama here.”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“Some bugger’s trashed the apartment.”
“Tonight some time. I’m not sure, I’ve only just got back.”
“From Pak Chong?”
“No, I went out for a few celebratory drinks after dropping Dave at the airport,” said Pete with a noticeable slur.
“Shit mate this is starting to get messy. How did they get in?”
“There’s no sign of forced entry so I’m figuring they used a key?”
“What did the security or reception staff say? Surely they must’ve seen something?”
“Well I bellowed at them but they’ve all sworn on Buddha’s grave they had nothing to do with it. The thing is I think they’re telling the truth.”
“How can you be sure of that?”
“Reception staff generally don’t give out room keys to total strangers. I think someone made a copy of my door key while I was in the lock-up.”
“Well that’s certainly a possibility given the influence your missus has down there. You figure her father got a hold of your keys and Amm made a copy?”
“I’m fairly sure that’s what happened. Anyhow, one things been proven tonight?”
“Det is a definite security leak.”
“Oh, so you let slip that tidbit of information about the real chanote?”
“Yep and as sure as shit Amm, or one of her minions, had a good rummage through my apartment. It’s a bloody mess.”
“Nope, well nothing that was immediately obvious which only confirms the fact that, whoever entered the apartment, didn’t find what they were looking for.”
“I think it might be wise for you to get out of there as soon as possible?”
“Yeah, I’ve just spent thirty minutes packing some personal gear into the Fortuner. I’m dog tired though, after the run down to Pak Chong, so I might grab a few hours kip at a hotel before I set off to Bangkok.”
“How did things go with the house inspection?”
“Yeah, no problems, all was pretty much in order and Dave was happy with the state of the place.”
“Did Amm give you any grief?”
“Well, that’s the funny thing, she wasn’t there.”
“Probably a good thing she wasn’t?”
“Yeah? Well that certainly removed the potential for any agro during the hour we spent inspecting the house. No doubt though, while I was there, she was busy organising a raid on my apartment. The only thing which pissed me off was finding out an expensive set of golf clubs has gone missing from the workshop. I don’t suppose you’d know anything about that would you Mike?,” said Pete with more than a hint of accusation.
“Golf clubs, why would I need them? I’ve got no interest in that game mate,” I said trying to suppress a snigger.
“Apparently so. Anyway, I need to get my head down. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow.”
“Okay mate. Give me a call when you get settled in down at On Nut,” I said ending the call and flopping back down next to Nat.
“More problems for Pete?” said Nat giving me her “told you so” look.
“Yeah, the plot thickens. Someone trashed his apartment.”
“I told you his wife will not give up easily.”
“So it seems. Anyway, that’s his problem. He’ll be down here tomorrow so I’ll be free of him soon.”
“Don’t be so sure of that Mike,” said Nat as I spooned up next to her.
“Let’s get some sleep,” I said as she reached around and took my growing erection in her hand.
“You don’t seem so tired Mike,” she said with a lustful laugh.
The following day was uneventful. I hadn’t heard from Pete by late afternoon and was beginning to think something had gone wrong again. Just as I was considering giving him a call, he beat me to it.
“I’m here mate, thank fuck. Jesus, Dave was right. That traffic coming into Bangkok is a bloody ball ache. Anyhow, I’m settled in down at On Nut and I’m meeting Dave at seven at the Landmark. Do you want to join us?”
“Yeah, for an hour or so.”
“Great, can you bring the chanote with you? Dave wants to see it and I want to put it to safe keeping.”
“Well I can show it to you Pete but, to be honest, I’m going to hang on to it until you’ve paid me back.”
“Fuck, that’s a bit hard ball Mike. Are you saying you don’t trust me?”
“I don’t trust anyone in this country mate.”
“Fair enough. Can’t say I don’t blame you. I’d probably be the same as well if I was in your position. Look, there’s a good chance I’ll be able to TT the money into your account tomorrow afternoon. Dave started transferring some of the money yesterday. By rights, it should start showing up in my account tomorrow morning. The thing is he needs to see the chanote and verify its authenticity before he pays me the bulk of the purchase price.”
“Fair enough mate. I’ll bring it along but I’m going to hang on to it until a million baht of what you owe me, shows up in my account. You can sort me out with the rest once you receive full payment from the house sale.”
“Sounds like a fair deal Mike. I would still be in the lock-up if you hadn’t helped me out so I can’t complain too much. I’ll see you at seven then mate.”
Two hours later I was making my way up the steps, brief case in hand, to the patio of the Landmark. Pete and Dave were at one of the tables set back from the sidewalk and looking fairly relaxed with a tall Heineken each.
“Hey, it’s our man about town?” said Pete, nodding towards the brief case, as I joined them.
“Just a bit of extra security,” I said placing it on the table.
“What’s your poison?” said Dave.
“The same,” I said nodding towards their Heineken glasses.
“Well, I suppose we’d better have a look at it,” said Pete looking keen to get proceedings underway.
“No problems,” I said rolling the locking tumblers into the open position.
“If you don’t mind Pete, I’d like to have this verified by my lawyer,” said Dave as I passed the document across to him.
“There’s no problem with that mate but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow,” said Pete as I gave him a neutral look.
“Hmmm, I was hoping to hang on to it and see the lawyer first thing in the morning. What’s the reason for the delay?”
“Well, it’s just that I owe Mike some money and we agreed he’d hang on to the chanote until I pay him back. I’ll be squaring him up with some of the money you’re sending me.”
“I should be able to start dropping money into your account tomorrow sometime. I started wiring from Australia yesterday so it with a bit of luck it will start showing up in my account in the morning. Any chance you can come with me to the lawyers office tomorrow?” said Dave handing me back the Chanote.
“Yeah, no problems mate. What time have you got in mind?”
“It’ll have to be reasonably early. Maybe meet here for breakfast at eight? I’ve got a fairly full day tomorrow with the bank, after the lawyer, and I’ve got the missus arriving in the evening.”
“Once a decent chunk of the purchase price lands in my account mate we can probably think about heading up to Pak Chong to do the transfer,” said Pete as another round landed on the table.
“Back up to Pak Chong? I was hoping we could sort out the transfer down here,” said Dave looking less than enthusiastic about the idea.
“No such luck mate. Unfortunately we need to go to the Amphur office, of the area the property is located in, to complete the transfer and register the house in your wife’s name. I know it’s a bit of a ball ache but that’s the way it is unfortunately. If everything goes alright with the money transfer we could probably head up there the day after tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be able to pay you back tomorrow Mike,” said Pete giving me a frosty stare.
“Mate, if that’s the case, I’ll be more than happy to see the back of this,” I said flashing the chanote and then placing it back in the brief case.
“The way you say that Mike, I could be forgiven for thinking there’s been a problem somewhere along the line?” said Dave raising an eyebrow.
“You might say that. Anyway, all that beers got the bladder a bit stretched,” I said as I stood up in an anticipated move to the toilet.
As I made my through the lobby area towards the toilets the only thing going through my mind was an anticipated sense of relief the whole ordeal was almost over. Nat had been right, once again, about hanging onto the chanote until I’d been paid back. As much as I didn’t want to acknowledge it, it was quite obvious Pete wasn’t all that keen on paying me back. Well fuck him, I thought. It just proved once again how few genuinely trustworthy farang there are in this country. I’d gone out of my way to help him and, by the looks of it, it hardly meant that much. With a bit of luck, by this time tomorrow, I’d be rid of that damned chanote and I’d have my money back. A few minutes later I was on my way back to the outdoor patio when my phone started buzzing. I thought it might have been Nat but it was a number I didn’t recognize as I hit the receive button.
“Hello Mike,” said a voice that stopped me in my tracks.
“What do you want Ning,” I said feeling my blood pressure beginning to rise.
“Just saying hello, darling. Maybe I see you soon,” she said in a threatening tone.
“How did you get this number,” I said as the line went dead.
Fuck, fuck, fuck that was all I needed, that psycho bitch with my number. I scrolled through the details of her call only to find there was no listing. Either her number was set on private or she’d called using a land line. Either way it was an extra problem I didn’t need in my life right now and I was feeling pissed off that somehow she’d been able to get my number.
“You must’ve filled the bowl,” said Dave as I sat down to finish my beer.
“Yeah, I was busting,” I said smiling and trying to maintain modicum of composure.
“Are you up for another one?” said Dave as I downed the last of my beer.
“No, I’m meeting the girlfriend for dinner. I need to make a move,” I said grabbing the brief case and pushing my chair back.
“Okay mate, I’ll see you here for breakfast at eight then,” said Dave standing up and shaking my hand.
“No worries Dave. Hopefully I’ll be able to drop this off to you later tomorrow,” I said patting the briefcase and looking at Pete.
“No problems Mike, as soon as I’ve got the money I’ll wire it through to you,” said Pete giving me another pissed off look.
“I’m sure you will mate,” I said with a shit eating grin.
As I moved off down the steps the thought suddenly crossed my mind that they may have raided the briefcase during my trip to the restrooms. A quick check of the security tumblers told me otherwise. I’d remembered to lock it after putting the chanote back inside. As I ambled towards the BTS platform I was still feeling agitated from Ning’s call. I was going to have to get a new SIM card at my earliest convenience.
Three hours later I was back in my apartment with Nat relaxing over a glass of red, and mulling over the meeting at the Landmark. Getting my money back from Pete now appeared to be the least of my worries as I recounted Ning’s phone call.
“This is definitely not a good situation Mike,” said Nat as she massaged the back of my neck.
“You can say that again,” I said beginning to feel myself relax as she worked around the tense muscles.
“Do you have any idea how she managed to get your number?”
“None whatsoever. I changed all my numbers after our adventure down in Pattaya. The only person with my new number is Brian and I’m one hundred percent certain he wouldn’t give it to anyone,” I said reaching for my phone.
“It’s very strange,” said Nat as I hit the power button to turn it back on.
The phone beeped twice and an incoming message flashed up on the screen. There was no senders name to indicate who it was from and my pulse rate quickened as the short message appeared before my eyes.
“You will pay, you damned farang.”
It could only be from one person; Ning. And, once again, there was no number in the caller’s details.
“Shit,” I said passing the phone to Nat.
“Oh Mike, you need a new SIM card as soon as possible,” said Nat shaking her head.
“First thing in the morning,” I said switching the phone off.
“This is very worrying Mike. If you don’t know who she got your number from there’s a possibility she could quite easily get any new number you activate.”
“Yeah, that’s the worry. I guess I’ll need to have one number strictly for work contacts and another for everyone else. Christ, this is a bloody hassle as I’m going to have to send out my new contact details for work.”
“Mike, I hope you’re not including me in “the everyone else list?” said Nat as she slowly worked her hand under my shorts towards my manhood.
“No, Nat,” I said downing the last of the red and leading her towards the bedroom.
I met Dave for breakfast the following morning as we’d arranged, and after short visit to his lawyer to confirm the authenticity of the Chanote I was down at MBK by eleven a.m. shopping for new numbers. By midday I was sitting in a coffee shop, with new SIM cards installed in both my phones, and set about SMSing the new numbers to my most important contacts. Pete was on the line a few seconds after I’d sent it off to him.
“A new number, what’s the scoop?” he said.
“I didn’t mention it last night but while I as at the landmark with you and Dave, I got a message from someone I thought I’d never hear from again.”
“That psycho bitch in Pattaya who arranged to off Chris.”
“Jesus mate, how the hell did she get your number?”
“I don’t know. The only person in Pattaya, who knew the old number, was Brian and I know for sure he wouldn’t give it to anyone.”
“What about his missus?”
“Of that I can’t be sure but I’ll call him later to check. What’s the situation with the money?” I said trying to put Ning to the back of my mind.
“I should have it to you later today. Dave’s just called to tell me the transfers have started showing up in his local account. He’s down at the bank now organising the foreign currency certificates. Once he’s done that he’ll start transferring some money into my account. If it all goes according to plan I should have the money into your account later today. Once you’ve got the one million can you give me a call to confirm and we’ll organise a handover of the chanote.”
“No probs mate. For the sake of convenience I may as well just bring it up to On-Nut. We can have a beer at the restaurant later.”
“Sounds like a plan Mike. Anyway, I’ve got a few things to organise so I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Oh, before you hang up, one last thing,” I said.
“Not trying to tell you how to suck eggs mate but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t give this number to anyone.”
“Goes without saying mate,” said Pete sounding slightly pissed off I’d even mentioned it.
“Cheers Pete,” I said ending the call.
I took a big gulp of the last of my lukewarm Americano and scrolled through my contacts until I found Brian’s number.
“Hello,” said an affable Californian voice at the other of the line.
“Oh, new number. What gives?”
“Somehow Ning got a hold of my old number.”
“Holy shit, when did that happen?”
“Yesterday. She called me late in the afternoon and then sent me a threatening message saying something about ‘I will have to pay.’ Look, I don’t want sound rude but is there any way your missus could have mistakenly passed on my number?” I said feeling a little guilty for asking the question.
“No way in hell mate. I’ve never given out your number and she knows well enough to stay out of my phone.”
“Okay mate, sorry for asking but it’s got me buggered how the hell that bitch got hold of it. Have you heard anything of what she might be up to?”
“Funny you should say that Mike. Apparently she’s left town.”
“Any idea where she’s gone?” I said thinking Ning might be in Bangkok.
“The word on the street is she’s gone up to Korat.”
“Jesus H. Christ mate, are you sure about that?”
“Well the girlfriends a cashier at a go-go bar, frequented by Ning’s buddies, so that’s the rumour she picked up,” said Brian as my heart rate started to climb.
“Thanks mate, I’ve got to go,” I said ending the call and slumping back in my chair.
If Ning was in Korat it was, more than likely, purely a coincidence. And yet, when all things were considered, there was a very strong possibility of a connection to the unfolding situation with Pete’s house sale. The fact was the only person with my old number, other than my close circle of friends and work contacts, was Det. And Det was in Korat. The troubling part was, if there was some connection between the pair of them, how an earth it had come about? My imagination, of course, may just have been reading too much into what Brian had told me but over the years that I’d been in this country, caution was never an unwelcome companion. From here on in I knew I was going to have to have my wits about me when it came to any dodgy situations involving Pete.
By late afternoon I was back in the condo chilling out and checking on-line, every few minutes, for any sign of the money Pete owed me. By six pm I was just beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen when a few minutes after six, another scan of my account showed a deposit of five hundred thousand baht, only half of it. I was a bit pissed off to say the least and grabbed my phone with the intention of giving Pete a call to ask why. Just as was about to hit the dial button the screen flashed up with his number.
“Yeah mate?” I said in a neutral tone.
“Sorry Mike but the daily transfer limit on my account is five hundred ‘k’. I’ve just wired that a few minutes ago.”
“What about the rest?”
“That’s what I’m calling about mate. I’ve got it in cash for you. If you come up to On-Nut in an hour’s time, with the chanote, we’ll do a trade,” said Pete sounding reasonably apologetic.
“Fair enough mate,” I’ll see you in an hour at the restaurant.
“Cheers mate,” said Pete ending the call.
Ten minutes later, with the Chanote securely tucked away in a back pack, I was out the door and on my way. Even though it was a relatively short run up the Sukhumvit BTS line to On-Nut the peak hour after work commuters, on their way home, would mean serious crowding on most of the terminal platforms. And the Sukhumvit stop was no exception. Fifty minutes after leaving my condo I was pulling up a seat, and ordering a beer, at Pete’s condo complex. As I sat there relaxing over the cold Heineken I cast my mind back to times past. I’d been a resident three years previously when I was shacked up with one of the hottest dancers from Soi Cowboy. It had been a hell of a ride, an emotional roller coaster, which only ended after a private detective I’d hired got photos of the little harlot taking one of her paramours into the apartment while I was away at work. It seemed an age ago now. How times change? The very thought of entering into a relationship with a bargirl now sent a shiver down my spine.
Pete still hadn’t shown up by the time I’d finished my first beer so I ordered another. By seven fifty pm he still hadn’t shown up and I was beginning to get pissed off. He was late and hadn’t called. I pulled out my phone and hit the call button on his number. To make matters worse, not only was there no answer, his phone was off. By a few minutes after eight, and another beer, I’d had enough. It was time to head up to his unit. Three minutes later I was on the fourth floor and hammering on his door. After a few rounds of increasingly louder thumps there was still no answer. It was obvious he wasn’t anywhere about. I tried calling him again and the line was still dead. Fuck he was an annoying bugger sometimes. I went back down to the reception to see if they’d seen him. The only thing one of the staff could tell was she’d seem him, about two hours previously, heading across to the laundry. A quick check of the laundry room revealed nothing except his wash basket with his dirty clothes still in it. It was puzzling to say the least.
I walked out into the car park and noted Pete’s Fortuner parked in its normal spot. An easy pull on the door handles confirmed it was locked. Something was odd, that was for sure, and it looked as though, for all intents and purposes, Pete had disappeared. I went back to the restaurant, sat down and pulled out my phone to call Dave.
“Hello,” said Dave’s chirpy voice.
“Hi mate, what’s up?”
“I don’t suppose you’ve seen Pete within the last hour have you?”
“No mate. The last I saw of him was just after lunch time. Anything wrong?”
“I’m not sure mate. I was supposed to meet him at his condo to give him the chanote. I’ve been hanging around here for nearly an hour and a half and he’s nowhere to be seen. Not only that his phone’s off and that, for Pete, is an absolute rarity.”
“Seems a bit strange if he was meeting you to take delivery of the chanote. Perhaps something came up and he had to dash out?”
“Well if he has it’s on foot. His SUV is still in the parking bay. One of the reception staff saw him going down to the on-site laundry but the weird thing is his clothes are still in the basket. If he was going somewhere in a hurry you’d think he’d at least drop his washing into the machine before leaving?”
“That does seem a bit odd mate. Well I hope he turns up before tomorrow morning. We were supposed to be going up to Pak Chong to complete the property transfer. If he doesn’t show it’s going to create more unnecessary delay,” said Dave sounding a little annoyed.
“What do you want me to do with the chanote?”
“You may as well hang on to it for the moment mate. If Pete’s sorry ass materialises by the morning I’ll call you to arrange a meeting point so you can give us the chanote before we head off.”
“Fair enough mate. Hopefully I’ll hear from you in the morning.”
I sat back, ordered another Heineken and resigned myself to the idea Pete had gone off on one of his benders. I was about to take a good swig of the amber fluid when Simon, a long term resident and one who was around when I was still at the complex, dropped into the seat opposite me.
“How’s things mate, up for a beer?” I said as we shook hands.
“I’m not too bad thanks Mike. What’s the occasion?”
“Nothing, boredom more than anything else. I’ve been hanging around here for near on two hours now waiting for a mate of mine to show up.”
“You don’t mean that Aussie guy who owns the Fortuner parked out there do you?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. Have you seen him?”
“As it happens, I have.”
“It was just before seven. I was sitting on my balcony enjoying a late sundowner when I saw him heading out the side gate there with three unsavory looking Thai males.”
“That sounds a bit odd mate. Are you sure?” I said.
“Yes, very sure and what was even odder is I’m certain it was at gun point,” said Simon nodding thoughtfully.
“Hey?” I said just about choking on my beer.
“I didn’t actually see the gun but one of the escort had his hand in a jacket pocket and was digging, what appeared to be a hand gun, into Pete’s rear rib area.”
“Fuck, if you’re right, that doesn’t sound good.”
“No, not at all. What are you going to do?”
“To be honest I don’t know. His phones off and I’ve got no idea where he’s gone.”
“Are you sure you’ve got no idea, I mean has he got any enemies you know of.”
“Well actually I’ve got my suspicions but until I get some conclusive proof there’s no telling where he might be. For all intents and purposes he could be dead now.”
“Hell, that’s a bit drastic Mike,” said Simon as well started into a fresh round.
“True but you can guarantee, if he’s been marched off at gunpoint, his present situation won’t be good.”
We continued to while away the hours into the warm evening, rehashing old times and enjoying a steady flow of the amber fluid and by ten thirty pm I still hadn’t heard from Pete so I decided to call it a night. During the course of the evening I’d contemplated hitting the panic button, and making a few calls, but realised I’d just be offering innuendo and rumour until something conclusive turned up. As I ambled up the road towards the BTS platform I was suitably inebriated enough to put the whole affair to the back of my mind until the following morning but, just as I got to the top of the escalator, my phone started buzzing; it was Pete.
“Jesus mate, what the hell’s going on? Someone at you digs in On-Nut said they saw you leaving the premises under an armed escort?” I said veering off to the edges of the BTS platform.
“Ah, there’s been a bit of a delicate situation come up Mike,” said Pete with what I could distinctly hear were Thai voices in the background.
“What’s going on mate?” I said trying to remain calm.
“Mike, I need you to bring the Chanote up to Pak Chong,” said Pete sounding completely out of sorts.
“As soon as you can. Come up in the Fortuner, the keys are in my room.”
“What’s the problem Pete, where the hell are you?”
“I’ll tell you once you’re on the way. I need you up here ASAP otherwise someone could get hurt. And bring the briefcase that’s behind the driver’s seat.”
“It’ll have to be in the morning, I’m drunk and in no fit state to drive,” I said getting a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Standby on one mate,” said Pete as I heard him pull away from the phone and talk with the people in the background.
“Hey farang, get the fucking Chanote up here quickly. If you not here tomorrow your friend and his fucking bitch wife are going to be hurt too much,” said a badass Thai male voice.
“Who the fuck is this?” I said as the line went dead.
I took a few deep breaths and a moment to steady myself. My head was spinning and I wasn’t sure what my next move would be. I was considering calling the cops but knew I only had the phone call to go on. They’d probably just laugh about it. I needed to talk to someone with a level headed approach to things. Nat would have a realistic Thai take on the situation so I fired off a quick SMS asking her to meet me at the condo. An hour later we were sitting in my lounge room going over what had just occurred while I was at On-Nut.
“I don’t want to say I told you so Mike but, I told you so,” she said looking at me and shaking her head.
“Yeah, I know. Shit, I was so close as well. He wired me half of the bail payment and I was supposed to collect the remainder in cash. That’s why I went over to his condo.”
“Well there’s a good possibility you won’t get that now. What are you going to do? Are you going up to Pak Chong?”
“I’m not sure. I certainly don’t want to go up there on my own. The whole situation doesn’t feel right for some reason.”
“Well, that’s obvious. Some bad guys are going to hurt your friend if you don’t give them the chanote.”
“There’s more to it than that,” I said deep in thought.
“Why do you say that?”
“Well think about it, why would a bunch of crooks want a chanote? The only person angling for a share of the property sale was Amm and she’s being threatened with harm as well. It doesn’t make sense?”
“Hmmm, maybe something backfired on her?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well she may have done a deal with these people or even borrowed money from them, and now they want a bigger slice of the pie?”
“That’s entirely possible. During the phone call Pete also told me to bring the briefcase behind the driver’s seat of his car.”
“It’s probably full of cash and he wants it to help pay his way out of the problem,” said Nat assuredly.
“Christ what a mess.”
“Why don’t you call the cops?”
“There’s no point at the moment, I don’t know where they’re holed up.”
“Well how will you know where to go if you drive up there?”
“Pete said he’d call me tomorrow and tell me once I’m on my way.”
“So you’re going then?” said Nat giving me one of her no nonsense looks.
“I don’t have any choice. If I don’t go Pete, or Amm, may get seriously hurt by these assholes. The thing is, if I do go, I’m not going alone.”
“Don’t include me in this mad scheme of things Mike, I’ve already come close to dying once and don’t want a repeat of it.”
“I wasn’t thinking of you babe,” I said flipping out my phone.
“Mike, please don’t tell me you’re going to get Baey involved in this mess?” she said looking even more pissed off.
“I don’t want to but he’s the only one who has the ability to deal with this type of situation,” I said as I scrolled through my list of contacts. Just as I was about to the hit the call button the screened flashed up with a number that looked vaguely familiar.
“Hello,” I said unsure of who might be calling at such a late hour.
“Khun Mike,” replied a voice in a whisper.
“Det? What the hell’s going on mate?”
“Listen Mike I don’t have much time. We’re all being held captive. Amm has made a big problem from her greed. She gave some loan sharks, from Pattaya, that fake chanote for five hundred thousand Baht then stupidly revealed her plans to get the rest of Peter’s money from the property sale. Now they are here to get it all for themselves. If you bring the chanote up here Mike you must be careful because these bad men bought a crazy lady with them and she says she know you.”
“Is her name Ning?” I said with my heart in my mouth.
“Yes, she says you made a big problem for her in Pattaya before and she says she wants to kill you.”
“Where are you Det?” I said hoping to know their location before driving up.
“We’re at, ahhhhh,” he said as the conversation ended abruptly.
I held the phone to my ear listening to Det’s painful screams as the thugs laid into him. A few seconds later the screams tapered off into the background and I held my breath listening for what might come next on the open line
“Hello Mike, I’m waiting for you darling,” said a female voice dripping with pure menace.
I pulled the phone away from my ear and flopped back onto the sofa. Det’s call at least confirmed how Ning had been able to contact me.
“Jesus Christ, what a goddamn mess,” I said dropping the phone onto the coffee table.
“Who was that? What’s happened?” said Nat looking worried.
“It was Det. Pete, him and Amm are being held captive by a bunch of thugs from Pattaya somewhere in Pak Chong. At least that goes some way to explaining how Ning was able to get my number,” I said shaking my head.
“I don’t understand Mike. Who’s holding them captive?”
“According to Det, Amm did a deal with some loan sharks from Pattaya. She gave them the fake Chanote, for five hundred thousand Baht, and I guess they found out later it wasn’t what it was supposed to be. They know Pete is cashed up after the property sale, and they’ve come looking for some payback. Amm’s greed has really back fired on her this time.”
“I did warn you Mike.”
“Yes, and that’s not the worst of it.”
“Ning is in cahoots with those loan sharks. Amm must’ve mentioned my name somewhere along the line and Ning has put together some kind of malicious plan for getting back at me. If I go up to Pak Chong it won’t be just about those thugs getting their hands on Pete’s cash, it will also be about Ning getting revenge for what happened in Pattaya. Well, fuck her, it’s time for me to go on the offensive,” I said grabbing my phone again and looking for Baey’s number.
“Hello,” said Baey sounding still half asleep.
“Apologies for the late call, it’s Mike.”
“Oh, you got a new number. What’s up?”
“A bit of a problem up in Pak Chong.”
“Let me guess, something to do with your friend Peter?”
“Yes mate, that and more.”
“His wife got tangled up with some loan sharks from Pattaya. Apparently they gave her half a million baht for the fake chanote and after finding out it was a dud, they’ve gone up to Pak Chong looking for some payback. Det called me about thirty minutes ago, telling me as much, that Amm told the bad guys Pete was cashed up after the house sale. As we speak Pete, Amm, and Det are being held hostage at some location in Pak Chong, until I go up there and hand over the real chanote and some cash.”
“Well unless you want to get the cops involved, which will just mean more money being handed over, it seems fairly straight forward Mike. If they want to get out of that situation you may have to give them what they want?”
“I would but there’s a spanner in the works in the form of Ning.”
“Ning? How is she tied up in this?”
“She’s in cahoots with the loan sharks and up in Pak Chong as well.”
“How do you know that?”
“Det mentioned it during his call. He warned me she was there as well and saying she wanted to kill me.”
“If Det was being held hostage how was he able to make a call? That sounds suspicious to me.”
“I’m not sure. He must’ve secretly got hold of a phone somehow. He was about to tell me where they were located when the bad guys sprung him and beat the crap out of him.”
“So you don’t actually know where they’re located right now?”
“I’d put money on it they’re at the house by the golf course,” said Baey assuredly.
“What makes you think that?”
“It stands to reason. It’s in a quiet, remote location and thugs, like those loan sharks, aren’t all that clever when it comes to covering their tracks. They’re short term thinkers and planners, and tend to do things off the cuff. They’ve got street smarts for bullying weaker people but, when it comes to planning a more intricate operation, their movements are fairly predictable. Are you going up there?”
“Probably although I was hoping you could provide assistance.”
“Mike, if Ning’s involved, this could get nasty.”
“I understand that mate. I also understand it could be another very dodgy situation and for that I can offer you a substantial fee for your time.”
“How much are we talking about?” said Baey sounding more interested.
“Half a million baht, maybe more.”
“Hmmm, where are you going to get that sort of money from Mike?”
“From Pete, he’s got a brief case full of cash at the condo in On-Nut.”
“How do you know that?”
“I went there earlier this evening to pick up a load he owes me but, when I got there, he’d already been abducted. Also, during his call from Pak Chong, he told me not to forget his brief case when I go up there with the chanote.”
“Well, that certainly is a good incentive. With the amount of money that’s involved there’s almost a certainty this could get ugly. I’ll sleep on it tonight and meet you at Pete’s condo at eight a.m. If the money’s there then it’s all systems go. If not, I think you might be better off getting the cops involved.”
“Okay mate, fair enough. I’ll see you at eight,” I said as we ended the call.
“If you go up there Mike, there’s a good possibility you might get killed,” said Nat breaking down in tears.
“I know that but there’s also a good possibility Pete, Amm and Det might also get seriously hurt if I don’t. Anyway I need to end this saga with that bitch Ning, one way or the other,” I said with a completely focused look in my eyes.
“You are crazy,” she said shaking her head.
“More than likely Nat, more than likely.”