by: Mark Jones
The following morning I was back down in the hotels’ restaurant putting the wheels in motion to get Baey’s help in retrieving the chanote from Pete’s house. Nat and I had retired early after our long day, leaving Pete to his own devices. Knowing his form I was sure he’d probably gone out to a karaoke bar seeking a willing lady of the night to join him back at the hotel. Nat joined me for a breakfast before scurrying off to see a couple of clients in the local area. She still wasn’t too keen on the idea of me becoming more involved in Pete’s problems and her less than agreeable mood said as much. But, the fact was, without the chanote Pete’s property sale wouldn’t happen and the chances of me getting my money back quickly would also diminish accordingly. I’d arranged to meet with Pete for breakfast but as I sat there stirring my second coffee he was already an hour late and, to make matters worse, his phone was off. I wanted to get more info from him before I called Baey. There was always the chance, of course, Baey wouldn’t accept the job but even less so if I couldn’t tell him much about the place we needed him to break into. In the end I just decided to call him and be straight up. That way he could decide for himself if he wanted to get involved. I pulled out my phone and hit the speed dial for his number.
“Sawasdee krap Mike, how’s things?”
“Good thanks Baey. I’m in Korat with Nat.”
“Everything okay with your friend?”
“Well, yes and no.”
“There was no problem getting him released. I paid the bail yesterday afternoon and he was out on the street an hour later. Something else a bit tricky has come up.”
“Would I be right in saying that you might need my help Mike?”
“In a word, yes.”
“Well, nothing at the moment. How would you feel about a bit of cat burglary?” I said.
“A kamoy (thief)?” laughed Baey.
“Well, yeah, if you put that way. Yes, a kamoy,” I said breaking into laughter as well.
“That’s not my normal line of work Mike. What is it you need me to do?”
“It’s fairly simple really mate, I need you to break into my friend’s house and retrieve a chanote that’s hidden in his workshop.”
“Things like this always sound simple Mike but believe me, when it comes to the time, something usually occurs to make it not so simple. If I agree to it I’m going to need to case the place for movement, egress and an escape route. Is the property in a busy area?”
“Luckily it’s not mate. It’s on one of those golfing estates down in Pak Chong and backs directly onto a golf course. If you go in under the cover of darkness there will probably be no one around, save for the security on the gate. To be honest mate I can’t tell you much else about it. I was supposed to be meeting Pete this morning for more details but he hasn’t shown up yet. Basically, what I’m asking is you fly up to Korat today to meet with us and get the full picture. I’ll book the flight for you. Pete said he’ll pay you fifty thousand baht for doing the job regardless of getting the chanote, or not?”
“Hmmm, the fifty thousand would be nice. Before I take any money from you I think it would be fair to have a look at the property and assess the risks. If I think it’s too dodgy I’ll let you know. One thing I will say though Mike.”
“What’s that mate?”
“If I do go ahead with it I’ll do my level best to get your friend his chanote.”
“Cheers Baey. I’ll book your fight right away and SMS you the reservation code. See you this afternoon.”
Thirty minutes later I’d done an on-line booking for Baey and just as I was texting him the reservation code Pete stepped out of the lift looking decidedly worse for wear. He was still reeking of booze as he took a seat opposite me and ordered a coffee.
“It was a big one then?” I said feeling a bit non-plussed about his late arrival.
“You could say that Mike,” replied Pete as he looked at me through bleary eyes.
“Christ, did you get any sleep?”
“A couple of hours. I’ve been over at the condo most of the night. I came back here just before seven am.”
“Why? You had a decent room booked here.”
“Well, I bumped into a little friend at a bar near the condo so it just seemed more convenient at the time. And besides, I didn’t want to take the chance of people around the hotel seeing my entertainment package. There may be some who know Amm,” said Pete as another round of coffees landed in front of us.
“Fair enough. I just think it might be a good idea for you to keep your head down until this mess is sorted out.”
“Don’t worry mate, I just wanted to blow off a bit of steam after spending forty eight hours cooped up in that shitty holding cell. Anyhow, did you ring your mate in Bangkok about getting the chanote?”
“Yeah, all sorted mate. I just sent him his flight details about thirty minutes ago. He’ll be here by about four p.m. this afternoon. He’s probably going to want a fairly detailed explanation about where exactly you’ve got the chanote secreted so, ideally, it would be good if you were here when he arrives. Have you got anything lined up for this afternoon?”
“Only an appointment with Det, but he’s fairly flexible on that. He’s helping me process the paperwork to get my car out of the police pound. I’m meeting him just after lunch so it should be no problems getting back here by around five pm.”
“That should be enough time but just in case one of those Thai idiosyncrasies throws a spanner in the works I think it might be a good idea if you give me all the info now. That way, if you are held up for any reason, I can put Baey in the picture as soon as he gets here. A word of warning though mate,” I said looking at Pete neutrally.
“What’s that?” he replied warily.
“Baey hasn’t actually said he’ll do the job yet.”
“Well why the heck are you flying him up here then?” said Pete looking a little bit peeved.
“Because he’s the only guy I know who’s capable of doing something like this in a professional manner. More importantly mate, he’s the only one I trust. He said he wants to collate the info and assess the risks of doing the job first. He’ll need to make a recce of the property and see where his entry and exit points are. The last thing he wants is to get sprung. He’s said if it looks too dodgy he’ll let you know beforehand so you won’t lose fifty grand for nothing.”
“Fair enough. At least he’s being up front about it,” said Pete relaxing again.
“He’s one of the straightest guys I know mate. He puts most of the farang trash in Thailand to shame in that regard. Anyway, as far as I remember, that workshop is in the basement level of the house and faces the boundary road around the golf course doesn’t it?”
“That’s it mate. It’s on the bottom right hand side of the structure. The main entry is a roller door but there’s standard door just to the right of that.”
“Hmmm, are those doors normally locked?”
“Yes, but I’ve got the keys to both.”
“Well that’s a positive,” I said, thinking the task might prove easier than I first envisaged.
“Not exactly,” replied Pete sheepishly.
“Why, what’s the problem?”
“They’re on the same key ring as my car keys. If the police won’t let me have my vehicle back there’s not much chance of getting those door keys.”
“Shit. What about a set of bolt cutters?” I said with renewed optimism.
“No good, the lock on the roller door is one of those inbuilt type.”
“And the one on the side door?”
“Well, we’ll just have to hope like hell the Police will let you have your car back. Failing that maybe Baey will be able to work something out. I suppose, in the event you can’t get your car, you could always just ask for the keys?”
“That might arouse suspicion.”
“To be honest, I don’t entirely trust Det.”
“He seems for too cozy with Amm for my liking. Did you see how quickly he diffused that situation in the car park yesterday?”
“Well, I had to admit Amm did back off fairly quickly as soon as Det spoke with her. Maybe he’s backing both horses.”
“Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me. It doesn’t matter anyway, Amm thinks the Chanote is in the wall safe in the master bedroom. As long as Det doesn’t know the keys are for the workshop it’s not a problem.”
“Mate, you’ve lost me here. Why does Amm think the chanote’s in the wall safe and, furthermore, why doesn’t she just break in and get it?”
“It’s one of those big industrial ones that are almost impossible to crack the code on and Amm doesn’t have the code. To physically break it open would cause too much damage to the house. That’s why she’s got relatives there twenty four hours a day. She may not be able to get into the safe but she knows I can’t go anywhere near it to open it. As long as the chanote remains there, she thinks she’s got the upper hand.”
“But why does she think the chanote’s in the safe? I thought you said it’s in the workshop?”
“It is, there’s a fake one in the safe. I had a rinkydink copy made down on Khao Sarn Road. It’s a perfect replica except for one little detail,” said Pete sniggering.
“The land registration number.”
“You cunning bugger,” I said beginning to laugh as well.
“All hell will break loose if she turns up at the land office with it though. I’ll probably have to disappear for a while,” said Pete continuing to laugh.
“Anyhow, assuming I am able to get those keys it’s no guarantee the doors will open. Amm may have changed the locks or installed sliding bolts on the inside.”
“Possibly. I seem to remember some louvered windows along the side of the building?” I said casting my mind back to the layout of the house.
“There is but there’s one of those security grills over it now and the heads of the dyna-bolts are spot welded to the frame.”
“Hmmm, looks as though Baey was right after all?” I said.
“Right about what?”
“Things that are supposed to be simple, and straight forward, often never are,” I said beginning to understand there was a chance Pete may not get his chanote.
“I guess we’ll just have to send him there as well prepared as we can and hope for the best,” said Pete trying to sound optimistic.
“Anyway, supposing he is able to get in, where have you got that chanote hidden?”
“In one of the tool drawers half way along the work bench on the left side of the workshop as you go in.”
“The narrow one for screw drivers; it’s the uppermost in the center of the work bench.”
“Shit mate, anyone could of rifled through there by now and found that document?” I said starting to think that Pete was taking the piss.
“Calm down Mike, I’m not that bloody stupid. It was a specially designed drawer with a secret compartment. The screwdriver tray conceals a narrow cavity beneath. The chanote is in a waterproof folder in the cavity. To get at it you count across three slots from the left and then push one of the screwdrivers, or a small diameter steel rod, firmly into the rear of the drawer. That will activate a release beneath the tray which will then pop loose. It’s just a matter of removing the tray and grabbing the folder.”
“Ingenious, to say the least,” I said appreciating the intrigue.
“Yeah, not too shabby if I don’t say so myself,” said Pete feeling pleased with himself.
“Assuming Baey can get it for you, what are you going to do once you’ve got the chanote in safe keeping?”
“Disappear from this place for a while,” said Pete looking thoughtful.
“Probably a good idea I think. Bangkok?”
“What about the gate on the properties perimeter fence?”
“That’s just a padlock with a chain.”
“Is the key for that with the car keys as well?”
“No, it’s always kept at the house.”
“That’s where the bolt cutters will come in handy then,” I said as my phone started buzzing.
“Miss beautiful keeping tabs on you?” sniggered Pete.
“It’s not really like that mate but, to be honest, she’s not too keen on the idea of me getting more involved in your personal situation. She left the hotel with the hump this morning because she thinks it’s going to be a repeat of my little escapade down in Pattaya last year,” I said as I scrolled through Nat’s SMS.
“Fair enough, it was a bit of a hell show for her down there. Nothing to worry about here though mate. Once I’ve got that chanote safely locked away you can leave me to my own devices. I’ll TT the money to your account as soon as the property sale is finalised. Is Nat going to stick around or is she heading back to the big smoke soon?”
“Probably tomorrow morning, she’s got clients to see. I’ll hang here for as long as it takes Baey to get the job done. Anyhow, I’m going to have lunch with Nat and I want to go for a swim beforehand,” I said waving the waiter over to our table.
“No worries mate, I’m heading back to my condo to get a couple of things squared away. I’ll see you back here at around five pm hopefully.”
I paid off the waiter and made my way back to the room to grab my bathers and a towel. I had a couple of hours to kill before joining Nat for lunch and I wanted to chill out with a swim and a bit of sun for a while before meeting up with her. She’d left the hotel in one of her silent moods and I needed to make sure I was in a non-reactionary state of mind when she started niggling me about my extended involvement Pete’s personal issues. Two hours later, feeling refreshed after a swim and a nap, I was back down in the lobby restaurant enjoying another delicious Thai meal with Nat.
“Mike I’ve accepted the fact I can’t stop you going ahead with this crazy idea of helping your friend get that damned chanote. I just hope once he’s got it you will leave him to his own devices?” said Nat between mouthfuls.
“That’s exactly what I plan to do Nat. As I said earlier, if Pete can’t get that chanote there’s no chance he’ll be able to go through with a legitimate sale of the property. And if he can’t sell the house, I might be waiting for quite a while to get my money back,” I replied noting her tone was more agreeable than a few hours earlier.
“Good because there’s no way I could go through another adventure like the one down in Pattaya again.”
“That’s not going to happen Nat, it’s a completely different situation here,” I said a bit surprised in her interpretation of things.
“Don’t be too sure about that Mike,” she said giving me one of those looks again.
“What makes you say that?”
“Khun Peter’s wife is emotionally unstable, I saw that clearly yesterday. She displays the most negative character traits of Thai people. She is too ego driven and I’m very sure she is going to do everything she can to create difficulties for your friend. I’ve seen Thai ladies like her before. All she cares about is winning financially. Be very careful Mike, she will be a dangerous adversary.”
“You make her sound like one of those ying leeo’s on those silly Thai TV soap dramas,” I said thinking Nat was just over-reacting.
“That’s only acting Mike, Amm will be a whole lot worse,” she said with complete certainty.
“Okay, I’ll keep that in mind,” I said considering her warning a bit more seriously.
“Never underestimate a Thai woman like Amm. Look how she is thwarting Khun Peter so easily. He is reacting to her plays.”
“Well, he is for the moment. That will change once Pete gets that chanote.”
“Yes Mike and it will make her even more vengeful and determined.”
“Well, that’s for Pete to deal with. Anyway, do you have any meetings this afternoon?”
“Yes I do Mike I and know you need to go to the airport to meet Baey. I can give you a ride out there but I won’t be able to wait around as I’ve a couple of important deals to finalise. To be honest I’m surprised Baey has agreed to help you and Pete to do this, he’ll be illegally entering a house to steal something.”
“Baey hasn’t actually said he’ll do it yet. He’s coming to assess the risks involved. I’ve already told Pete if Baey thinks it’s too risky, he won’t do it. Anyway, it’s not technically illegal entry as the property is in Pete’s name and he’d be acting on instruction. It’s just Amm’s got a bunch of her family camped in the house and Pete can’t get past the front door,” I said doing my best to justify our planned break in.
“Mike promise me once you get your money back from Khun Peter you will leave him to sort out his own problems for himself? I care a lot about you and I don’t want to see you getting into another adventure like you had in Pattaya.”
“Okay Nat, I promise. As soon as Pete’s paid me back I’ll steer clear of him,” I said beginning to understand we both had genuine feelings for each other.
“Good, now let’s finish our lunch and head up to the room to relax for a while before I take you to the airport,” she said giving one of her seductive, mischievous grins.