Sunday, 29th March 2020 - 6:30:29 am
After two hours of enjoying the pleasures only a lady such as Nat could provide, I was standing in the arrivals hall of Nakhon Ratchasima Airport. Baey’s flight was delayed twenty minutes so I decided to grab a coffee and touch base with Pete to see what the situation was with his car or, more specifically, his keys. I flipped out my phone and hit the speed dial for his number.
“Hi Mike, I’m just leaving the police holding yard now. Det managed to sort things out and I’m back behind the wheel of the Fortuner,” said Pete sounding a lot more upbeat.
“Did you give it a once over before driving out of the yard?” I said giving him a light-hearted ribbing.
“You can be sure of that mate.”
“Well at least there won’t be any issues with the workshop keys now, save for the possibility additional locks having been put in place if any.”
“That’s entirely possible. Now I’m back out on the street and the house deal is getting closer to being closed, Amm’s stepping up her efforts to try and thwart my progress,” said Pete sounding a bit peeved again.
“Yeah, what’s she done now?”
“Nothing that’s really a big deal, she’s just taken out a restraining order on me that’s all. The implication being, if she’s at the house, I can’t go anywhere near there. She knows I need that chanote so she’s doing all she can to put barriers in my way and hoping she’ll be able to force me into some sort of compromise.”
“Little does she know,” I said as we both laughed simultaneously.
“Yeah, paybacks are a bitch. Anyhow, are you with Baey yet?”
“No, the flight’s late. I’m still at the airport.”
“Okay mate, then wait there. I’ll come by and pick you up.”
“Cheers,” I said hanging up.
Thirty minutes later Pete was standing next to me as the first passengers, from the flight Baey was on, began trickling through the exit doors with their bags. A couple of minutes later Baey’s thick set physique with his shaved head, was ambling towards us with a black duffle bag over his shoulder. I hadn’t seen him for a few months and he looked as lean and mean as ever.
“Hi mate, great to see you again. Thanks for coming. This is Khun Peter,” I said as we shook hands vigorously.
“Sawasdee Krap Mike, good to see again. Hello,” he said as he reached out to shake Pete’s hand.
“You’re looking fit Baey. Are you getting ready for a fight?” I said impressed with his physical condition.
“C’mon Mike you know I’ve never been into sport martial arts. Nat’s uncle has been providing me with well-paid bodyguard work for some high ranking police over the past few months. I’m working less, earning more and have now got more spare time for training and teaching Muay Boran,” said Baey as we made our way out into the car park.
“Sounds good mate. Are you still doing work for Barry?”
“Not so much now Mike. To be honest, tailing people is fairly uninteresting work and he’s got a few guys who are more suited to it than me,” he said as we put his bags in the back of Pete’s SUV.
“Fair enough mate. You’re probably over qualified for that mundane type of stuff anyway,” I said as we climbed into the vehicle.
Pete wound his way through late afternoon traffic as we continued to chat away about what we’d both been up to over the past few months. The dramas of Pattaya, although occurring well over a year previously, were still fresh in our minds and it was hard not to cast our thoughts back to those dark days.
“Have you been back to Pattaya since then Mike?”
“No, not at all mate. I’ve kept well clear of the place. Nat would probably go nuts if I even suggested going down there.”
“Probably just as well. People like Ning and her relatives, can hold grudges for years. It’s a real possibility, if you did go there, someone might want to take revenge for the loss of face,” said Baey thoughtfully.
“I’ll keep that in mind mate.”
A few minutes later we were pulling into the car park of the Ratchapruk. I suggested Baey get himself settled in and freshened up, before meeting back down in the lobby for a cold beverage and a chat about what we needed him to do. An hour later we gathered around a table in the restaurant with a cold Singha each.
“Where exactly is your house located?” said Baey as we got comfortable with our beers.
“Down towards Pak Chong, about two hours south of here. It’s on an Estate which backs on to a golf course and the golf course is right on the edge of Khao Yai National Park.”
“Well at least it’s in a reasonably remote location so there probably won’t be much in the way of movement in the small hours of the morning. Even so, we’ll need to take a recce down there so I can decide if it’s doable. Can we drive onto the estate?” said Baey beginning to warm to the task.
“You could but the gate security will recognize my car straight away,” said Pete chiming in.
“That’s why we won’t be taking your car down there. We’ll need to rent one. Not only that, you’ll be staying here in Korat while Mike and I go down to do the recce,” said Baey giving Pete a no nonsense look.
“Okay, if that’s the way it’s got to be,” said Pete resignedly.
“It’s the only way it can be. It’s a small community down there and if there’s one thing Thais love to do, is gossip. If anyone recognises you it’ll be around the area like wildfire and our cover will be blown even before we get through the front gate.”
“Okay Baey, you’re the professional here. I’ll go along with what you think is best.”
“Good, what’s the layout of the estate? Is it completely enclosed in a perimeter wall?”
“Yeah, there’s a six foot high wall running around the entire estate with each house separated by a dividing wall of the same height,” replied Pete.
“Okay. What about the gates on the back wall?”
“Double sliding type with a chain and padlock securing them in the middle.”
“Those things have are prone to making a noise when being opened,” I said.
“No problems Mike, I’ll go over on my way in and use the gate on the way out,” said Baey.
“Be careful about that mate, there’s broken glass cemented along the top of the wall,” said Pete almost as an afterthought.
“No problems, I’ll take an empty rice sack with me. Now you say there’s a private boundary road, along the edge of golf course, which all the properties have access to?”
“Yeah, that’s right mate. The gates on the rear walls of each property open right onto the boundary road.”
“What’s the layout of the house?”
“All the houses, including mine along the boundary road are on an incline. The living areas are in the upper levels. The workshop is on the lower level at the rear and just a few meters inside the back gate.”
“Good, we may not even need to drive into the estate. Mike, what’s your golf handicap?” said Baey with a smirk.
“Probably over a hundred. Does it go that high? Jeez, I haven’t picked up a golf club in years. What have you got in mind?”
“We could get a good look at the property by playing a round of golf?” said Baey.
“A round on that golf course is damned expensive if you’re a single day visitor. You might get a cheaper rate though if you check into the hotel which is just down the road and part of the golf complex,” said Pete coming up with a flash of brilliance.
“That might be even better. We can recce the property in the daylight and, if it looks like a straight forward operation, do the job in the early hours of the following morning.”
“Why do you think it may not be a straight forward operation?” said Pete.
“Two words. Security measures and dogs,” said Baey.
“I’ve installed alarms on the upper levels of the house but not on the workshop. The neighbours to the right have dogs but they’re only those damned yapping Chihuahuas. But that shouldn’t be a problem as the pesky things are normally inside the house at night.”
“That should be okay but I won’t take it for granted. We’ll get a better idea of what to expect when we do a run by during the round of golf. Mike told me you’ve got the keys to the locks on the roller door and the side door?”
“Yep, here they are?” said Pete passing them across to us.
“Good, we’ll get copies made first thing tomorrow morning and we’ll also need to pick up some extra insurance,” said Baey examining the keys.
“Extra insurance, what do you mean by that?” I said.
“A large set of bolt cutters Mike. There’s no guarantee these keys will open the doors. Pete’s wife may have installed extra locks or, even worse, changed the locks.”
“Yeah, I suppose we should be prepared for anything that may eventuate,” I said acknowledging Baey’s attention to detail.
“Precisely. I don’t suppose you’ve got that miners headlight with you?”
“No, didn’t think I’d need to use one up here. We might be able to pick one up in town here somewhere?” I said looking at Pete.
“That sounds like a specialist item Mike, it might be difficult to find here,” replied Pete.
“Mai bpen rai, I’ve got a Maglite with me. Assuming I’m able to get into the workshop, where have you got this chanote hidden?” said Baey prodding Pete for more details and producing a pen and notebook.
Pete spent the next few minutes describing the exact location of the chanote, where it was secreted and how to access it, as Baey asked detailed questions and scribbled notes.
“Okay, that sounds fairly straight forward. We’d better pick up a short length of metal rod when we’re buying the bolt cutters as well,” said Baey folding away his note book.
“When do you plan on driving down there?” said Pete tentatively.
“Probably later tomorrow afternoon once we’ve been to the hardware shop and sorted out the rental car. We can arrive there and hopefully book into the hotel just before it gets dark. That way there’ll be no chance anyone will recognise Mike. We’ll play a round of golf the following morning, recce the property and, hopefully do the job that night,” said Baey with the confidence born of military strategy.
“Great. Hopefully you’ll be back here to receive your payment in two days’ time,” said Pete.
“Well, even if we might have the chanote we won’t be coming back here,” said Baey determinedly.
“Why, where will you be?” said Pete looking a bit perplexed.
“We’ll be in Bangkok. As soon as we’ve got that chanote, we’ll leave the hotel and hit the road back to the big mango.”
“This doesn’t make sense. Why can’t you just bring the damn thing back here?” said Pete getting hot under the collar again.
“Baey’s right. If we run into a problem we need to go in the opposite direction to which people may suspect we’d go. Pak Chong and Korat are the two nearest and most obvious destinations for anyone to run to. Bangkok isn’t. I’ll take possession of the chanote and, once I’ve secured it, I’ll call you,” I said as Baey nodded in agreement.
“Fair enough. It looks like a trip to the big smoke is on the agenda then. Anyone up for another beer?” said Pete.
We sat there chilling out over another round and discussing a few other minor details about getting the job done. I told Pete I’d front the money for Baey’s services and he could square me with the rest of the payment he owed me. Pete said he’d take us to a decent hardware shop, to pick up the items we needed, and then out to the airport to Avis Car Rentals, both of which we needed to get first thing the following morning. Eventually Nat arrived back at the hotel and cajoled us all into putting something into our stomachs besides beer. Nat seemed to be back to her bubbly self and kept us all entertained with her sharp wit. She hadn’t seen Baey for a while and, naturally enough, she spent a good bit of time grilling him on what he’d been doing over the past few months and more specifically, his employment for her uncle. We were all having a good laugh when Pete interrupted us all with an expletive deletive.
“What’s up mate?” I said taking note of his sudden change of mood.
“I’m not sure but it may not be good. I’ve just had an SMS from Det saying something about Amm wanting to see me about the chanote?”
“Well, it’s probably she wants to try and negotiate about the one that’s in the safe,” I said with a smirk.
“Whatever it is I’m going to see Det now. His message was marked urgent,” said Pete rising from the table.
“Okay mate, keep us posted on any developments.”
“I’ll call you later,” said Pete as turned to leave.
“Mike, what’s the deal with the one in the safe?” said Baey giving me one of his no nonsense looks again.
“Pete had a copy of the chanote made down on Khao Sarn Road. It’s an exact replica but with a different land registration number. It’s in a large industrial safe, built into the walls of the master bedroom, and Amm thinks it’s the real one. Pete said there would be no problems though because she didn’t have the code and she’d have to wreck the structure of the house to remove the safe.”
“I wouldn’t bet on Amm not being able to crack that safe Mike,” said Baey raising an eyebrow at me.
“There are still professional thieves in this country who are quite capable of doing it.”
“Mike, this is turning into another mess and I don’t like it. Falsifying government documents is a serious offence in this country. If Peter’s wife is able to somehow open that safe and take the fake chanote to the land office, he’s going to be in serious trouble,” said Nat getting her hackles up.
“I understand Nat but there’s no point jumping to conclusions until we’ve heard back from Pete,” I said trying to placate her.
There was an uneasy silence between us for a few seconds.
“I think I’ll crash out Mike. I was up early this morning training and I’m feeling a bit zapped. If Pete calls you please keep me posted on any developments,” said Baey breaking the impasse.
“Okay mate, if I don’t hear anything from Pete I’ll see you in the morning for breakfast,” I said as he took his leave.
“I’m going back to Bangkok in the morning Mike and I want to get an early night,” said Nat preparing to depart as well.
“Probably a good idea as I’ve got quite a bit happening tomorrow as well,” I said as we waived over the waiter to pay our bill.
A few minutes later we were back in our room where Nat continued to give me the cold shoulder. She wasn’t happy about my involvement in Pete’s problems; that was obvious.
“Look Nat, I don’t want there to be bad feelings between us on what might be our last night together for a few days. I know you’re not happy about my involvement with Peter but the fact is I’m not going to change my mind. The bottom line is there’s really no other way if I want to get my money back from him. Peter is broke and this is just as much about me getting back the bail payment as it is about him selling the house. Sitting here in a bad mood won’t solve anything. I promise, as soon as he pays me back, I’ll have nothing else to do with him. Now, perhaps some champagne might lighten up the mood a bit?” I said in effort to spark her up.
“Do you promise Mike,” she said with the hint of a smile.
“I swear on Buddha.”
“Okay, where’s that wine list?” she said as she moved in against me with her ample bosom.