by: Mark Jones
After a fitful night’s sleep interspersed with bouts of lust and tears from Nat, I was sitting at the outdoor area of the restaurant at Pete’s condo complex, a few minutes before eight. The perspiration was already rolling off me from the humidity thick in the air, giving an indication the brief respite provided by the cool season was almost over. The shade from the stand of old growth trees, scattered around the seating area, provided cover from the glowing yellow orb inching into the clear skies above. I needed a coffee but due to the later opening hour of the restaurant, had to make do with the bottle of water I’d brought with me. As I sat there it all seemed fairly relaxed as the condo staff arrived to begin another day at their service jobs. Some, recognizing me from times past smiled and greeted me like a long lost friend, the innocence of the moment giving little indication of the dark scenario behind my reasons for being there. Bang on eight am Baey strolled casually through the front entrance and joined me.
“Hi Mike,” he said sitting down and placing a large black, canvas bag on the boarded walkway.
“Thanks for coming mate. What’s in the bag?” I said reaching across and offering my hand.
“Let’s just call it tools of the trade. Did you manage to have a look in Pete’s car?”
“I had a quick glance on the way in. The tint on the windows made it difficult to see inside but I could just make out the top of a brief case behind the driver’s seat. What’s the plan of attack?” I said keen to get on with things.
“I think we should try the car doors first just in case there’s a remote chance it’s open. Failing that we’ll need to get the vehicles keys,” said Baey deliberately.
“I tried the driver’s door last night, it was locked,” I said looking back across the car park towards the car.
“Okay, we’ll need to get the keys and my guess is they’ll be somewhere in his condo”
“Probably. Do we ask the staff for his room key or pick the lock to the front door?”
“Neither. The staff will want some reason why we need to get into Pete’s room and, more importantly, why we’re about to drive off in his car. How well do you know the manager here?”
“Reasonably well, why?”
“The minor staff don’t need to know what’s going on. I’ll speak directly with the manager and tell him it’s a matter of life or death and utmost urgency. I’ll also make it clear if he doesn’t allow us to have those vehicle keys the police may become involved and I’m sure he’ll want to avoid that at all costs.”
“How can you be sure he’ll agree to what we want?”
“Take it from me Mike, the last thing any Thai business owner wants is to have an issue with the police,” said Baey nodding assuredly.
“Fair enough then, the manager’s office is a few meters up that laneway,” I said pointing to a cement path sloping away from the boarded floor.
A few seconds later we were standing in the reception area making a polite request to the secretary to see the manager. After taking a moment to assess our request she poked her head through the manager’s office door to advise him of our presence. Unbeknown to the secretary the manager/owner, Khun Thanit, and I were on fairly good terms. When I’d first moved in, five years previously, we’d got chatting and quickly established we had a common interest in terms of career backgrounds. We’d both had a lengthy involvement in the offshore oil and gas industry. It was because of this I was fairly confident there wouldn’t be too many problems getting the key’s to Pete’s SUV.
“Sawasdee khrup khun Mike,” said Thanit as he came through the door sporting a wide smile and giving us the standard wai.
“I’m good thanks mate, sabai dee mai khrup?” I said as Baey and I returned his wai.
“I’m fine thanks Mike. Is this a social call or is it something to do with the disappearance of your friend?” said Thanit seeming to know our intentions already.
“Wow, news travels fast,” I replied feeling a little gob-smacked by his intuition.
“Bad news even more so. The hotel staff had knowledge of what occurred shortly after he was abducted but, in the normal Thai way of not wanting to get involved, kept it to themselves. I found out about it this morning and, knowing you’d been hanging around here for a considerable amount of time last night, was expecting your visit. Have you heard anything of your friend’s whereabouts?”
“I have but I can’t really say too much at the moment. Look, I don’t want to appear rude Khun Thanit but I think it might be better if Khun Baey explains the situation to you.”
“Yes, of course. Shall we?” said Thanit indicating towards his office and making it obvious privacy was paramount.
As we filed through Thanit told the secretary to make some coffees and made it clear we weren’t to be interrupted. As we got comfortable Baey and Thanit began exchanging pleasantries in Thai, the normal procedure of establishing a pecking order, or who held rank, in the complex world of the Thai social strata.
Even though Thanit professionally, and educationally, was the senior, it wasn’t missed by him Baey was a physically imposing character for a Thai. His military background and bearing wasn’t hard to notice. The coffees arrived and, as they continued their dialogue, I could tell from the snippets I picked up things were looking favourable for us. A few minutes later we were making our way across to the lobby with Thanit. The desk staff handed over Pete’s room keys with a minimum of fuss and, with Thanit still accompanying us, we continued up to the fourth floor. Pete’s room was a bit of a disappointment. Granted he’d just moved in but it was Spartan to say the least. The car keys were sitting on the coffee table in amongst a box with a half-eaten pizza and a number of empty Singha cans. I picked them up and did a quick survey of the rest of the apartment. There was nothing of note. Back in the lobby we thanked Thanit and then moved over to the Fortuner. I pushed the remote and the security system chirped twice as the vehicle unlocked itself. We opened the rear doors and threw our bags on the back seat, both noting the aluminum briefcase behind the driver’s seat.
“It might be better if you drive mate,” I said handing the keys to Baey and reaching for the brief case.
“I think you should leave that where it is for now Mike. We’ll go to a place less conspicuous before we try to open it,” said Baey looking about.
“Fair enough , what’ve you got in mind,” I said shutting the rear door and moving around to the shotgun seat.
“The car-park under the Big C over there,” said Baey hopping into the driver’s seat and nodding towards the top of a large building two hundred metres distant.
Five minutes later we were pulling into one of the endless rows of parked vehicles in the acres of parking beneath another Bangkok super mall. I think we were both brimming with anticipation as I reached behind the driver’s seat, grabbed the briefcase and stood it upright on the large arm rest between us.
“How do you want to do this?” I said noting instead of a central tumbler lock it had key locks at each outer edge of the case.
“Keep it simple,” said Baey unzipping his black kit bag and pulling out a battery powered angle grinder.
“Shit mate, you are well prepared,” I said impressed by his readiness.
“Well, the fact you’ve got another briefcase makes this option the easy one. I take it you’ve got the chanote in that?” he said as I held Pete’s briefcase firmly in preparation for Baey to go to work.
“What would we have done if I didn’t have mine with me?”
“Nothing different, we’d just buy another,” said Baey as he hit the power button and began sawing along the small gap where the two halves of the briefcase locked together.
It was a bit agricultural to say the least as the alloy filings flew around inside the cab. A few seconds later the first lock parted and with a look of grim determination, Baey moved straight onto the next. As soon as the second lock popped Baey powered off the grinder and removed his shades.
“The moment of truth,” he said throwing the grinder onto the back seat.
“Holy shit,” I said as the case halves dropped open to reveal a large number of one hundred thousand baht bundles.
“Wow, there’s probably about three million baht there Mike,” said Baey with widened eyes.
“Great, let’s count it first and we can then separate out our share,” I said reaching over to the back seat and grabbing my briefcase.
“How much is our share?”
“A million each, what do you reckon?”
“Hmmm, I think you’re being a bit too generous for our cause. There’s a group of people in Pak Chong whose lives are at risk. The thugs are expecting a substantial sum in exchange for sparing Peter, his wife and Det. I think we might have to make do with five hundred thousand a piece at the moment,” said Baey with a more down to earth take on the situation.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right mate but my share is not really a share, it’s what Pete owes me anyway. I was just considering topping it up. No worries, five hundred each it is then,” I said as we started counting the bundles.
Less than two minutes later there was three million baht stacked in my brief case along with the chanote.
“Okay mate, that’s your share,” I said passing five of the bundles across to Baey
“Thanks Pete,” said Baey as he hefted the stack of cash in his hands.
“And this is my share,” I said grabbing another five bundles for myself.
“Mike, I think we should...”
Bzzzz, bzzzz, bzzzz.
The ringing of my phone startled both of us.
“Cripes it’s Pete. Probably checking to see if I’m on my way,” I said looking at the phones screen.
“No problems, tell him you’ve just left,” said Baey reaching across and turning on the radio.
“Mike, are you on your way yet mate?” said Pete sounding really out of sorts.
“Yeah mate. I had a few problems getting the keys from your room but it’s all good, I left your condo about ten minutes ago.”
“Good, it’s a tense situation here Mike. We need you up here as soon as possible. These bloody thugs are borderline psycho’s. Fuck...” said Pete as his voice faded out.
“Pete?” I said fairly sure he was being dealt to by one of the hoodlums.
“Listen you godamn farang, you be here in four hour with the chanote and money or else we going to hurt your friends. Khao jai mai (understand)?” said a psychotic sounding voice on the other end of the line.
“Where do I need to go?” I said with more than a hint of anger.
“Ha, you think I’m ngor (stupid)? Send SMS to this number when you get to Pak Chong and I’ll give you instruction,” said the psychotic voice again.
“Ok, understood,” I said as the line went dead.
“I know you’re fairly anxious to get moving Mike but we need to invent some kind of a delay so we arrive there just as it’s getting dark,” said Baey.
“Cripes I don’t know if they’ll agree to that mate, Pete, Amm and Det could be dead by then.”
“That’s a real possibility Mike. However, it won’t happen while those scumbags think they’re a chance of getting a payout first.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because those loan sharks are desperate to get their hands on this money, that’s why. I think we’ve got at least until tomorrow morning before they get desperate. You should understand Mike that even if these criminals do get the money, they’re probably still planning to off Pete, Det and Amm.”
“Because live victims can identify their captors and identification will mean a serious loss of face. The bottom line is we have no other option than to do as we are planning now if we want your friends to remain alive,” said Baey looking at me with the utmost seriousness.
“Jesus H. Christ mate that means I’m in the hot seat as well. Anyway, why do we need to arrive there in darkness?”
“Because it’s the best chance we’ve got of surprising those thugs and freeing their captives.”
“Hmm, it sounds as though you’ve already hatched some kind of plan?”
“You could say that.”
“Any chance you can give me an idea of what you’ve got in mind?”
“Later, once we’re on our way. Right now I think we should stash our share of this cash before we head up to Pak Chong.”
“Yeah, that’s probably a smart move. What do you want to do with yours?”
“Well, considering we’ve got at least another nine hours before it starts getting dark I figure we’ve got plenty time to put this money into safe keeping. How about we head over to your condo first and drop by my place for some lunch. While we’re there I’ll explain what I’ve got in mind when we get up to Pak Chong.”
“Sounds good mate. I can’t wait to hear your plan for rescuing the gang of three.”
“You may not be so enthusiastic when you hear it,” said Baey as he hit the ignition.
Just over two hours later we were pulling up in front of Baey’s house. After a short stop at my condo we’d then negotiated the packed roads leading to the outer suburbs of Bangkok. Baey’s place was on a small estate to the North West of the of the city center and, luckily, not too far off the main highway up to Pak Chong, our intended destination. My primary dislike of residing in the Big Mango is getting caught up in the never ending morass of the city’s traffic jams. It’s always a test of patience. It was just on midday as we walked into his living room and sat down to chill out for a while. His wife, in the traditional Thai way, was immediately welcoming and attentive as she placed large glasses of cold water in front of us. As Baey continued chatting with her in Thai I couldn’t but help be impressed by how completely different normal, decent Thai woman are compared to the types unfortunately, so many farangs seem to get tangled up with. The difference couldn’t be starker and it made me realize I’d wasted far too much time in this country chasing woman who didn’t even seem human compared with the traditional types like Baey’s wife. My Thai is fairly basic but I could tell by the tone their conversation was taking on a serious edge. There were no raised voices but their lack of smiles was an indication Baey’s missus wasn’t too impressed with the idea of us going up to Pak Chong. The occasional serious glance at me said as much. In the end Baey stood up and handed her his share of the cash to soften the situation. She shook her head and, with a half-smile and a tight grip on the small stash bag, walked off to the kitchen to begin preparing lunch for us.
“Everything alright mate?” I said when I was sure his wife was out of ear shot.
“Yeah she just worries too much, that’s all,” said Baey with a bit of a chuckle.
“They all do mate. I guess that’s an indication of their true feelings?”
“Yes, she’s a good wife. She’s stuck by me through some tough times.”
“Good luck for you then mate. Anyhow, what’s this plan you have in mind?” I said eager to know what skullduggery we were going to engage in.
“Nothing too complicated Mike but you’ll have to become a captive for a short period of time.”
“Oh shit, that sounds a bit dodgy?”
“I know but it’s necessary to create a distraction to enable me to hit them when they least expect it.”
“What do you plan to do?”
“Well it all depends on whether they are holed up in Pete’s house. I’m fairly certain they are so, the fact I’ve been in there before, makes it a simpler exercise for me. To increase the element of surprise I need the cover of darkness. That’s why we’re going to have to fabricate some kind of excuse for arriving there late. Any ideas?”
“Well we could just say we’ve got a fault with the Fortuner. How about a buggered alternator?”
“Yeah that sounds reasonable. As soon as we’ve eaten we’ll drive down the road to a mechanical workshop, owned by a friend of mine, and SMS Pete from there. If those hoodlums call us to check on our story we’ll have the background noise of the workshop to provide some cover.”
“Do you want to fill me in on some of the finer details of your plan to tackle these loan sharks?” I said as Baey’s wife began placing plates of freshly cooked Thai food on the coffee table.
“Let’s just say it will run something similar to a last foray up there. I’ll jump off at that side road and you can continue on to the estate in Pete’s vehicle. I’ll give you a more detailed description of what I plan to do once we get closer to Pak Chong. That way it’ll still be fresh in your mind,” said Baey as we started tucking in to his wife’s delicious cooking.
“It’s crossed my mind a number of times I might just be better off handing this over to the police,” I said as we were finishing off the last morsels on the plates.
“There are pros and cons for that Mike.”
“Well the Police would sort things out fairly quickly but you do realise all the money in the SUV will probably end up in their retirement fund. Not only that, the business with the house sale would get real messy due to Amm’s high placed connections. And then there’s the unfinished situation of you and Ning, which is an entirely different problem.”
“How do you figure that? I thought this was all part of the same game with a bunch of grubby little criminals trying to get their hands on an instant wad of cash.”
“Little you know about the intricacies of revenge in Thailand my friend.”
“Revenge? I just thought she wanted what she thinks she’s owed?”
“Well there’s that but there’s also the extreme loss of face she’s suffered with her friends, family and criminal peers. The police may resolve the issue of your friends being held captive but that doesn’t mean your situation with Ning will be resolved.”
“I guess you’re right mate. I never considered that,” I said as two more large glasses of cold water were placed in front of us.
“Well you need to because she’s a genuine psycho. How far are you prepared to go to end this?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You know what I mean Mike,” said Baey holding my gaze.
“Jesus, you mean offing her?” I said feeling slightly shocked at his suggestion.
“Yes Mike. Terminate her for good.”
“But how, and where?” I said feeling perplexed about the situation.
“Let’s just say there’s the possibility of rounds being fired in the dark tonight and people may get in the line of fire,” said Baey measuredly.
“Well I hope like fuck the wrong people don’t get caught in the line of fire,” I said shaking my head at the seriousness of the situation I was walking into.
“You won’t as long as you remember to do exactly as I tell you,” said Baey as he stood up.
“And what would that be?”
“I’ll tell you when we get closer to Pak Chong but the main thing to remember is, when the action starts, no matter what position you are in you must go to ground immediately, without hesitation. Anyway, we’d better get moving,” he said walking out into the kitchen to see his wife.
Fifteen minutes later we were pulling up in front of a mechanical workshop. It was one of those standard Thai back lane operations set up in a run-down double shop house. We locked the SUV and walked through the entrance to find a car over a floor pit with a mechanic banging away on something underneath. As Baey said, it was the ideal cover to pull a ruse. A middle aged Thai in a set of worn coveralls spotted us from a work bench and waved us over. I gathered it was probably Baey’s friend. They wai’d each other and then got stuck into a good natured conversation, no doubt they hadn’t seen each other for a while. After a couple of minutes of talk and laughter Baey’s mate broke away and poured a three fingered measure of Mekong, into a grease smeared glass on the work bench, then downed it in one gulp. He shook his head, in satisfaction at the burn, then picked up the bottle and offered us a slug. Baey laughed, shook his head, then wai’d his friend again before turning to me.
“I gave him a simple explanation of why we need to be here. I think you can send the SMS now. Tell Pete we’re in Saraburi getting the alternator replaced but it might take a couple of hours,” said Baey as I pulled out my phone in preparation to send the message.
Two minutes later a message, saying as much, was on its way to Pak Chong. We didn’t have long to wait before the phone started ringing. It was Pete’s number. I nodded to Baey and he yelled out to his mate standing nearby at the work bench. I hit the answer key and lifted the phone to my ear expecting the worst.
“Pete?” I said as Baey’s mate began pounding away behind us with a lump hammer.
“Mike, what’s the story? These bloody thugs are getting really pissed off. What’s the problem with the Fortuner?”
“It’s got a buggered alternator mate. I’m in a small workshop in Saraburi and the head mechanic here said it’s going to take a couple of hours to fix because they’ve got to buy one from a dealer across town,” I said feeling the tenseness of the situation.
I heard Pete turn away and relay the information to someone in the background; no doubt the hoodlums were close at hand.
“They want to know what time you’ll be in Pak Chong?” said Pete coming back to the phone.
“Well, if everything goes according to plan, probably around five or six. But you know how things are here mate, there’s always a damned delay.”
I heard Pete turn away and talk with whoever was standing next to him again.
“Someone wants to talk with you, mate.”
“Okay,” I said expecting the same deranged sounding voice as last time.
“Hello Mike. If you’re not here by six pm I’m going to let one of the boys here have some fun with your friend’s wife,” said the nasty bitch Ning.
“Fuck you bitch,” I said as the line went dead.
“Sounds like that didn’t go too well?” said Baey raising an eyebrow to my parting shot at Ning.
“That bitch is threatening to have one of her thugs rape Amm if we aren’t there by six pm,” I said as Baey waved to his mate to stop hammering.
“If it was anyone else threatening to do that I’d say it probably wouldn’t happen but she’s a psycho and hell bent on revenge which makes her completely irrational. Six p.m. is too early. It needs to be at least seven otherwise it won’t be dark enough. Once we get near Pak Chong we’ll SMS them just before six and try to buy another hours delay,” said Baey as we bade farewell to his Mekong drinking, mechanic buddy and made our way out to the Hilux.
“You can drive Mike, I need to chill out and relax before I swing into action tonight. I’ll give you directions to the highway,” said Baey throwing me the keys.