by: Mark Jones
I probably should’ve been dead but through the will of the gods, fate, or dumb luck I’d survived being washed down a river like a rag doll. I didn’t remember much after being blown over the falls by the powerful surge of water. I vaguely recalled dropping into the pool below but after that it was a blur, as I was sucked along with the raging torrent. I must’ve slammed into rock and blacked out. Somehow I’d washed up, alive and safe, along the rivers’ edge. At least that’s how it appeared as I regained my senses. I was beginning to hear voices and then felt something stabbing at me. Pain registered in the deep, dark recesses of my mind and suddenly I was fully awake and screaming as my nervous system finally reacted to an attack on my right leg.
“Ahh, so you are awake you fucking farang. Surprise, surprise it’s the rescue party. Hahahaha.”
I opened my eyes to see Ning and her boyfriend standing in front of me.
“I thought I’d seen the last of you scumbags,” I said taking a few moments to assess the situation.
“No such luck darling. You should be grateful to us for pulling you out of the river. Now where’s the money, you fucking asshole,” said Ning.
“I’ve got no idea, you fucking whore,” I said, realising I was tied to a tree with my hands bound behind me.
“Oh, I think you do, Here’s something to help you remember,” said Ning as she stabbed the sharpened stick into my lower right leg again.
Instantly the searing pain shot to my brain and I roared in anguish. As I looked closely at my leg I could see something wasn’t right. My shredded cargoes revealed the misshapen tibia and I was certain it was broken. The only consolation being it was a clean break and not a compound fracture. Ning and her boyfriend had obviously noted it and were now using my weakened state as a bargaining point. I needed to buy some time.
“I think my friend Peter has the money,” I said hoping to stave off another round of pain.
“Oh, you mean this one here,” said the muscled thug dragging Pete’s motionless body from behind a boulder.
I looked at Pete’s battered carcass and realized he hadn’t made it. Another foreigner checks out unceremoniously in Thailand, poor bastard.
“What a shame, I don’t think your friend can tell us much,” said the thug turning Pete’s head to reveal a face with glazed eyes and pallid skin.
“Now where’s the fucking money?” he said, pulling out his revolver and firing two rounds into the cadaver.
There was no doubt these two were a complete match for each other. Both were total psychos. By rough estimate I figured it was mid-morning, perhaps around nine. The rain had cleared and was quickly being replaced by a steaming, humid landscape. As the suns’ rays began to intensify I felt the weariness of night’s exertions begin to overwhelm me. I knew Baey was out there, it was just a matter of bluffing these two until he showed up.
“Where is the other one?” said Ning advancing towards me with the sharpened stick.
“Who?” I said playing dumb.
“The one who was standing on the waterfall and insulting us,” she said, prodding my broken tibia again.
I bit down on the bottom lip to suppress the pain.
“He is Thai?” said the boyfriend moving in beside her.
“Yes, but he’s probably someone you don’t want to meet,” I said allowing myself a moment of pleasure thinking about Baey “offing” these two pieces of trash.
“I fear no man,” he said with a crazed look in his eyes.
“Her last boyfriend said the same thing,” I said with a shit eating grin.
As soon as the words left my lips I could see the instant mood change between the pair of them.
Ning suddenly looked worried as the memories of Pattaya came flooding back. They looked at each other and for the first time there was doubt. Fuck you both, I thought as they began a serious discussion in Thai. Whether it was bravado, or the old maintaining face situation, I’ll never know but the boyfriend picked up a machete, hidden behind a log, and suddenly began bellowing at the top of his lungs into the jungle. Just when I thought he’d got it all off his chest he ran at me, full tilt, and swung the machete horizontally towards the top of my head. I stopped breathing for a moment, in shock, as the heavy blade thwacked into the tree trunk millimeters above my scalp.
“When he gets here I’ll chop off his head, then yours,” he said, spitting in my face.
As his spit dribbled off my chin I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths to get the heart rate down. When I opened them I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, he was hacking into Pete’s body with the machete. Thwack, thwack, thwack, the guy was insane. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more bizarre the madman pulled Pete’s severed head off the body.
“Now, call out to your friend to bring the money,” he said throwing the head at my feet.
In a moment of apocalyptic coincidence the skies went dark as the morning sun disappeared behind a huge bank of black cumulus. As I sat there composing myself to yell out to Baey a deep growl of thunder rattled across the peaks, followed almost immediately by a massive lightning flash. As they stood there looking at me with evil grins I was totally convinced it was now a ‘me-or-them’ situation. Only two people were going to leave this ravine alive. Baey, if he managed to save my sorry ass, and I, or these two pieces of shit. I decided to try one last psychological ploy to create doubt and buy some more time.
“It’s not too late you know,” I said as heavy rain swept down the valley.
“Pah, not too late for what?” Spat out Ning.
“Not too late to walk away and save yourselves,” I said as the torrential downpour obliterated visibility.
“You’re the one who needs saving you dumb farang,” said Ning’s boyfriend as a mud covered wraith climbed out of the river behind them.
By the way he moved, I knew it was Baey. I was also conscious of not wanting to alert Ning and her boyfriend by reacting to his presence. Even though their backs were turned he still had a few metres to cover before he would be upon them. I kept my eyes to the ground only noticing, in my peripheral vision, the revolver hanging from his hand.
“We’re waiting,” said Ning.
“For what?” I said as Baey crept closer.
“For you to call your friend to bring the money,” said Ning placing the point of stick on my broken tibia again.
I smiled at the absurdity of what she was saying. I was just about to tell them “be careful what you wish for” when dumb luck struck again. There was a small gradient, three to four meters behind the pair of them, and, as Baey stepped onto it, he slid back and lost his footing. The slight noise of him dropping to the ground was enough to alert Ning’s boyfriend. He spun pulling his revolver from his waistband at exactly the same time Baey sprung upright. It was a Mexican standoff as they leveled their weapons at each other at the same moment. For a few seconds they stood there silently squaring off and looking for a lapse in each other’s concentration. Eventually Baey started talking in a quiet, measured tone. The thug answered in a more hyped voice but it seemed they’d come to some sort of agreement as they both slowly bent down and placed their guns on the ground. The thug still had the machete in his other hand and as he started swinging it about, Baey unsheathed his Rambo blade. This was it then, a no quarter asked, or given, hand to hand scrap to the end. They moved towards each other with deadly intent. As the thug swung his machete in big arcs through the air Baey ducked and weaved to avoid the heavy blade. There was not much finesse about the thug as he went at it in purely untrained, agricultural manner. He may have had youth and muscularity in his favour but Baey had the training and experience, of someone who’s done the business for real, many times before. Eventually he found the opening he was looking for. Stepping around a tiring machete swing, he slashed the forearm of the thug opening a large wound. The thug, completely surprised, dropped the machete as Baey moved in for the killer strike. Unfortunately the trickery of a bitch like Ning can never be overlooked. Just as Baey was about to run his blade into the gut of his adversary, a rock crashed into his temple and stopped him in his tracks. The thug, seeing a window of opportunity, grabbed Baey’s hand. With his superior strength, he forced the blade towards Baey’s torso as he put him in a headlock.
Baey was doing everything to resist but was being overpowered by the strength of the younger guy. In the few seconds of their stalled struggle Ning raced in and grabbed the machete. Thinking she was going to hack into Baey I was truly worried but then, even more worryingly, she turned and walked towards me raising it above her head. The old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” was entirely appropriate for what happened next. The Rambo blade jabbed into Baey’s stomach but, because he still had the Kevlar under his shirt, it wouldn’t penetrate. The thug must’ve relaxed his thrust in an attempt to try again. That was all Baey needed as he dropped to his haunches then launched his opponent over his shoulder in a judo throw. The force of impact released his grip on the knife and, in one swift movement, Baey dropped his knee into the thug’s solar plexus then drove the blade straight into his windpipe. Ning had the machete raised and was about to hack into me when three shots, in quick succession, slammed into her back stopping her in mid swing. The machete fell from her hands as she dropped to her knees and, with blood gurgling from her mouth, fell face forward into my lap.
“That’s for Chris, you fucking whore,” I said as she lay there gasping.
Each gasp was a dying breath as the life faded out of her. Baey, looking physically drained, staggered over to me and took hold of her legs.
“Thanks mate, I thought I was about to check out there,” I said as he dropped her, face up, two metres away from me.
“It’s not your time yet Mike,” said Baey as he slashed the bindings on my hands.
“I think my leg’s broken mate,” I said stretching to get the blood flow back into my arms.
“No problems, we’ll rest for a while. I’ll get a splint on this as soon as I can,” he said crouching down to inspect my damaged leg.
“I think we could do with that bottle of blue label now mate,” I said as we both looked across at Ning.
Her chest stopped moving and, with a final gasp, she lay there motionless. We both knew she was gone. Any elation I may have felt at seeing her eliminated from my life was balanced by the fact I’d lost two good friends in Chris and Pete since that fateful night, almost four years ago, I’d bar fined her.
“Her karma finally caught up with her,” said Baey, seeming to read my thoughts.
“Revenge is a dish best eaten cold,” I said as the clouds parted and the sun lit up the ravine.
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger,” said Baey thoughtfully.
“Perhaps she should’ve taken more time to read Buddha’s teachings?”
“Some say destiny is ordained Mike but I truly believe we create it by our thoughts and actions.
Our lives become an extension of our compounded thoughts. Her path has been the road to hell for quite some time now.”
“Perhaps mine is as well mate. Too many have died, undeservedly, since those days in Pattaya,” I said looking at the carnage around us.
“They set their own course before you met them Mike. It was just your willingness to help which brought you into their poorly managed lives. You cannot be held accountable for their deaths my friend. That has been their own doing.”
“Perhaps Nat’s right, I need to stop helping the wrong people,” I said looking at Pete’s dismembered head and feeling a pang of remorse.
“That would probably be a good idea Mike.”
“Any chance you could put the head back with the body?”
“Yeah, no problems. I need to retrieve the rucksack from where I stowed it as well. Take this,” said Baey, standing up and handing me his revolver.
“Are we expecting more company?” I said as he picked up Pete’s head.
“Just in case. I should be back in around twenty minutes,” he said, walking towards the remains of Pete’s cadaver.
As Baey disappeared back along the track the reappearing sun lit up the landscape to reveal the damage the flash flood had left in its wake. Most of the surrounding vegetation, two meters above the river bed, had been torn up and replaced by a deposit of mud, tangled debris and logs. The three dead bodies added a ghoulish emphasis to the scene of destruction spread before me. Natures beauty, and serenity, had been interrupted first by the violence of nature and finally by that of man. I tried moving my leg and, as the pain of the injury registered again, found myself considering how I was going to get out of this predicament. No doubt I eventually would but walking out was certainly going to be a tough assignment. My self-pity was interrupted as Baey reappeared with the ruck sack.
“I think we should get a temporary splint on that damaged leg,” said Baey pulling out the VHF radio.
“Calling for help?” I said as the comms crackled into life.
“You could say that,” he said as he walked towards the river looking for some clear ground.
After a couple of attempts there was a response to his mayday. He was too far away for me to hear what was being said but I figured he was probably explaining the situation and giving an indication to our location. Five minutes later he was walking back towards me with the radio securely back in the ruck sack.
“Mate, do you want to tell me what’s going on?” I said as he broke Ning’s torture stick in half to use as a splint.
“What do you mean?” said Baey crouching next to my damaged leg and checking the stick for length.
“Aren’t you concerned about all the dead bodies?” I said as Baey removed the belt from the waistband of the thug’s unmoving body.
“Let’s get this done first and then I’ll explain everything. Take off your belt; I’ll need it to tie on this splint.”
Ten minutes later the makeshift splint was in place providing support for the damaged leg. There’d been some pain involved in straightening it but Baey, with his background of medical training in the army, had minimized the trauma of getting it stabilized and correctly positioned.
“A chopper will be here soon Mike with a team to remove the bodies,” said Baey sitting next to me and relaxing.
“You said you were going to explain all of this,” I said as we both looked out across the river.
“Ning wasn’t released early on good behavior, Mike,” said Baey as a matter of fact.
“Then why, I don’t get it. Why was she let out so soon?”
“Because we needed to know who her associates were in that drug cartel she was involved with in Pattaya. She was our only lead after Pradeep, Chalermchai and their associates were taken out. She was let out so she could lead us to the other drug dealers.”
“Who are we?”
“I’m part of an undercover task force, put together not long after our Pattaya adventure, to try and deal with the growing drug problem in this country Mike.”
“What about the security work for Nat’s uncle?”
“It’s just a cover for our movements around Thailand. We often go up to the border areas to try and root out the supplies coming from the main manufacturing factories in Burma. I was asked to join the task force because of my knowledge of those border areas.”
“Who else is on this task force?”
“I can’t say but most of us are ex Thai Special Forces. Drugs, and especially methamphetamines, are becoming a very big problem in Thailand Mike. It’s destroying the soul of the nation and we’ve basically been given a free hand to eliminate the big drug dealers anyway we can. Ning’s associates were major players in Pattaya. After you told me about her involvement with those loan sharks I reported it to my superiors. We were fairly sure they were some of the mafia moving big quantities of “Yaba” through Pattaya.”
“If that was the case why would they bother coming up here to get involved in a bit of small time extortion?’
“I don’t know Mike, perhaps it was the lure of some quick, easy cash. Perhaps Ning saw it as a chance for some payback on you. Whatever the case, we were onto them shortly after you told me about the hostage situation at the Golf Course.”
“Are you saying you were given a green light to take them out?”
“That’s about the bottom line, Mike.”
“Geez, I thought all that business had finished when “Boxhead” got relieved from his post?”
“Not entirely, it’s just kept very quiet and most of it is covert. The police don’t get directly involved and we are working under the premise of deniable ops.”
“So you are telling me you went there with the intention of offing them?”
“Yes, if the opportunity presented itself.”
“Well, it certainly presented itself alright,” I said as we picked up on the faint sound of an approaching chopper.
Baey pulled the radio from his rucksack again and set about guiding the chopper in. As it swung over the tree tops, and moved up the ravine, he lit up a hand flare to pinpoint our position. As Baey stood there with the incandescent red light held above his head my thoughts drifted back to the surreal scene, a few hours previously, when he stood at the edge of the falls with another flare held high in the black of night.
“Mate, what did you really say to make them so desperate to get their hands on the cash?”
“I challenged that fools manhood. I told him we’d all fuck his bitch before handing over the money,” said Baey as the beating chopper blades began drowning out our attempts at further conversation.
The helicopter held position roughly ten metres above us, with the rotors throwing a powerful downdraft, as three ropes dropped from the open passenger compartment. A head appeared and gave a thumb up to Baey before throwing three green vinyl bags to the ground below. Baey moved into retrieve them and then stood back as two black uniformed Thai males dropped out of the chopper and abseiled down the ropes. A few seconds later they were on the ground and moving clear of the choppers wash. Another thumb up to the pilot looking down at us, and the chopper moved clear of our position. Baey joined his two colleagues and, after a brief conversation, they began the somber work of putting the three lifeless forms into the body bags. A few minutes later, with the bodies zipped up and out of sight, Baey was back on his radio again and calling in the chopper. He nodded to his colleagues and then moved towards me.
“When the chopper comes back they’ll drop the winch and take the bodies first.”
“Where are we heading to?”
“Not too far, the golf resort. What do you want to do with this cash?” he said holding the mud covered ruck sack in front of him.
“Take a million of it mate. You’ve earned it, that’s for sure,” I said as we noted sound of the chopper moving up the ravine again.
“And the rest?”
“I reckon I’ll need it to cover my hospital expenses,” I said looking down at my leg.
“You may need some for your marriage as well Mike,” said Baey having a laugh.
“I reckon I’ll need more than that mate,” I said having a laugh as well.
“More than you might imagine Mike. What about the chanote?”
“I’d like to burn the damn thing. I suppose I’ll have to give it to that bloke from Sydney seeing as how he’s already paid most of the money for the house. Any word on Det and Amm?” I said as the chopper moved in over us.
“Both are in a critical but stable condition and have been taken to a hospital in Korat,” he said as a winch wire with an attached metal framed basket, descended from the chopper.
As soon as it touched the ground Baey’s team mates began loading the body bags into the elongated frame, designed for conveying a prone human figure. It was all a fairly smooth operation as the chopper held station and winched its dead load, one at a time, up into the passenger’s compartment. A few minutes later, with all the body bags safely stowed away, it was my turn. Baey helped me up and, with the pain of the broken leg still registering, I hobbled over to the waiting winch wire and harnesses. One of Baey’s team mates helped us to dress in and with a thumb up to the cockpit crew we were being winched the short distance up to the passenger compartment. Five minutes later the final team member was on board and we were rising out of the ravine. As the chopper banked quickly away from the jungle topped peaks below us, and dropped towards the open ground beyond, more rain came sheeting in.
“Looks like it’s the beginning of the rainy season,” said Baey, breaking the somber mood.
“And, hopefully, the end of the revenge season.”