“You are telling me, I’ve travelled all this way. Bought loads of clothes, learned how to ski, used up two weeks of my holiday time, and now we are stuck in this room?”
“It is not a room it is a chalet.”
“Whatever. I would rather be working in my air-conned office than stuck in ice and snow.” He had plans when they returned.
Beam was far from beaming. She grew up in Bangkok; she had finally gained a degree in accounting. Her father promised her a holiday, anywhere she fancied. She could go with any female friend she wanted. Daddy would pay.
“But not that ‘falang’ boyfriend.”
Beam swore her friend to secrecy and went with the ‘falang’.
The foreign boyfriend was Chris. Chris didn’t like snow or cold. Coming from London, where there was not much snow, but cold enough to make him love the heat of Thailand.
They booked a flight to Tokyo and drove to Niseko. The chalet had a marvellous view of Mount Fuji. Chris even enjoyed sushi and saki on their first evening. The following morning was a struggle, neither wanted to move. Hangovers rendered the slopes unemployed, at least by Beam and Chris.
Beam stirred, the hot shower made her feel human again.
Until the door would not open.
It was frozen, and snow had drifted up the door. Chris turned over and snored.
Beam tried to free the wooden door. Then she tried to shift Chris.
“Have we got any coffee?” he asked.
She shuffled to the kitchenette.
“Was that you?” she called.
“Did you throw something at me?”
“Of course not, I don’t want you to spill my coffee,” he smiled.
“Well, you missed.”
“I threw nothing.”
“I felt it,” she said.
“What was it?”
“I don’t know, it’s gone now.”
Beam busied herself clearing the glasses from last night. Mopping around the sink and finishing a half-eaten biscuit.
“What are you doing? It’s not funny,” she said.
“I’m enjoying the wonderful drink you gave me, nothing else. Except thinking what we are going to do today.”
“If you keep that up, we won’t be doing anything. You know what I mean.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Chris as he slurped the remains of his cup.
“A joke’s a joke. Okay, it’s not funny anymore,” said Beam, glaring at him.
Chris forced himself up and took the few steps to his girlfriend, she screamed and bent double.
“What’s the matter?”
“That hurt.” She clutched her calf muscle and rolled her tracksuit trousers.
“Christ, you’re bleeding. How did you do that?” Chris asked.
“I didn’t do it, you idiot.”
“Neither did I.”
“I believe you, but something did.”
Chris leaned closer, “God, how in hell?”
“What is it?”
“The back of your calf… has been sliced. Little cuts, one above the other. What could have done that?”
“I don’t know, but it hurts like paper cuts on your fingers.”
“Do we have a first aid box? You had better disinfect your calf.”
He started opening and closing cupboards. Slam, slam, slam. “Nothing, I’ll look in the bathroom.”
He heard a whimper. “Hold on, I’ve found something,” he rushed to the main room.
Beam was flat out, face down, with her legs bent. Both calves were now streaming with thick red goo.
“Rub that on the wounds, I’m going to find help.”
“What is it? The writing is Japanese.”
“I don’t know, smell it.”
Chris turned the door handle. It was frozen solid. He shook and rattled the brass; it did not budge. Nothing.
Grabbing the phone, no dial tone. He slammed it into the wall.
He looked in at Beam before he decided whether or not to break a window.
She had pulled off her leggings. The cuts now reached her knees.
“Christ, it is as if someone is nicking your skin with a razor. I can see it happening, one flick after another.”
“Stop it!” She screamed. Blood was gushing down her legs.
Chris picked up a vase, checked its weight.
“That will do,” he mumbled, as he hurled it at the door-side window.
The chunky pottery shattered and fell back onto the carpeting. The glass is still in one piece.
He ran and picked up the granite chopping board. Swinging with all his might. The stone bounced back.
Beam screamed as her hamstrings were sliced.
A helpless Chris pulled his hair, tears running down his cheeks.
“What can I do?”
Beam’s fear was beyond words, she was shaking, dribbling, quaking in pain. Chris ran from the door to each pane of glass. Hammering, thumping and finally screaming as he collapsed to the floor, he rolled up to Beam. She was still.
He felt the first knick at the back of his calf. Then another.
Back at Mae Sapok Village in northern Thailand, Beam’s father was resting after an eleven-hour drive. He dozed as his elderly brother lifted his legs onto a stool.
“There, there, dear brother. I know you have worries. Rest, then we will meet the ‘Mor Duu.’ He will fix everything.”
A cup of black tea was at his side when he awoke.
“Are you ready, brother?”
“I’m still dozy, but let’s complete this task. Then my life can return to normal,” he said, wiping his sweaty face with a cloth.
They climbed into the rusting hulk of a truck and chugged for twenty minutes to a shanty in the forest.
“My friends, I have been expecting you,” the ‘seeing doctor’ said. His room was dark, but cool. He counted the folding money and stashed it with a heap of banknotes.
“Have you bought what I mentioned?”
Beam’s father handed over a carrier bag of Chris’ belongings. In one pocket was an engagement ring. After their holiday, they were to be engaged. Beam’s father discovered their plan. And could not allow it.
Incense was burning, candles lit, the chanting began. Beam’s father was nodding, fighting to stay awake. Her uncle signalled the witch doctor to continue. He danced, waving a razor, over and around his head. Then he sliced his calf. One leg than the other. There was no blood. The cuts opened, then healed immediately.
A pair of Chris’ shorts were dipped in the fluid then torched, other items met the same fate.
Today we start a new chapter with Dark-Novels – Literally a new chapter. Weekly we’ll publish a part of one of our full-length novels. Here we go with the Prologue and Chapter 1 of a story set in Thailand. Let us know what you think?
THAILAND INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT
In the early 1950s and through the 1960ʼs, groups of Thai communists went to Beijing. They were to learn and train in ideology and propaganda. Many of those attending the camps went further. Not only learning how to get their arguments across by talking or writing.
Groups of Pathet Lao insurgents infiltrated north Thailand. Local communist party cells formed and strengthened themselves. These gangs went to Laos and North Vietnam to learn more vicious methods to pass on their thoughts. Skills in terror tactics and the armed struggle gobbled up.
Some Chiang Rai Thailand Independence Movement (TIM) members crossed the border into Burma. They then moved south to Prachuabkhirikhan, the provincial capital of Hua Hin. To keep their banned party from failing, they planned one final stand.
One of their leaders, Pu Yai, was busy creating mayhem. He didn’t care how, anyway or anywhere. He would destabilise the government of Thailand.
Who was behind the anti-government stand, and why? Where, or more to the point, who did the money come from?
For several years, they thought that the instigator was a non-Thai, and likely to be British.Chapter 1
Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok
“IT IS NOW TWENTY past two in the afternoon! Where is my mate? The plane landed two hours ago. What have you done with him? Is he drunk? Have they have arrested him? Or was he kidnapped? Where the hell is he? Everyone else has retrieved their bags and gone.”
An exhausted and frustrated young Englishman stood and scratched his head. He wished someone, anyone, would answer his questions.
He would also like to stop muttering to himself. No one else was listening to his questions, anyway.
Kev decided he needed to walk around, cooling his rising frustration. A cup of coffee? He needed one; particularly when he saw the look of amusement on the face of the latest man he had confronted.
“I am sorry, sir, I cannot tell you anything,” stated an airport security officer. Whether he knew anything about the flight or was clueless about most things. Whatever, he was gawping, standing in his over-ironed shirt. Over ironing had turned the cheap material shiny brown. Leaving it to the imagination or a plausible guess how the seams of his shirt remained attached.
The airport emptied; the hubbub was quieting. Still no Nick.
Kev was not happy. Usually, he is a very reasonable individual; he was not prone to talking to himself. Today he was on the verge of becoming volcanic, not only that, he had answered himself. Kev had read Lonely Planet. Here in Thailand, you should not show your feelings, happy or wild. Any sign of temper wins you a frown, from all angles. Kev was wearing his brand new L plates.
He felt an overpowering need to moan and whine; he tracked down an information kiosk.
“Before arriving at the airport I had spent four and a half hours on a bus with a broken air conditioner. Can you please help me?”
The look on Kev’s face had the information lady signalling to the nearby security man. He came over and stood next to Kev. He carried on with his rant to the lady, and himself.
“You know it was cool enough when I boarded the bus in the early morning. The mercury rose as the miles passed. So did my temper.” She was looking puzzled.
Kev’s frustration was clear for all to see. The security guard had placed his right hand on his pistol. It was an over-reaction, but Kev was making everyone nervous.
Kev went on with his complaint.
“By the time we reached the outskirts of the city, not only was it hot enough to make the devil jealous. There was not a whiff of a breeze.”
He remembered the perspiring Westerners, or ‘falangs’ as they are known in Thailand. They were leaning across his upper body to remove their bags from the overhead storage. Overloud Thais, front and rear, left and right, all jabbering. Relating something earth-shattering, like the next-door neighbour’s dog peeing on the washing. Or telling their whole life history to fellow travellers. People they had met only five minutes earlier. True Thai style. Thai people love a good yarn. Whatever they were saying Kev did not understand.
“Christ, the Westerners body odour wafting makes it all worse.”
The security man had released his grip on the pistol, the lady seemed more relaxed.
He knew all too well that the surrounding foreigners needed some scented soap and water. They were all grateful they could disembark. And sample another of the country’s many delights, be it edible, visual or beddable.
“Whatever, get away from me!” That was the thought that crashed around inside his head. With that unspoken thought, he wandered on. Solving nothing. Leaving the two on the desk looking at each other wondering if all ‘falangs‘ were like that.
Kev had travelled up from Hua Hin, the sleepy seaside town which was now Kevʼs, and soon to be Nickʼs new home. Kev was happy soon to be seeing his oldest mate but worried that Nick would not fit in, in more ways than one. Nick would not be comfortable in the flight’s ‘economy’ section for a start. Twelve hours squeezed into a seat built for a person half of Nick’s size. Would he cope with the heat? Could he keep his temper when necessary?
Earlier that day Kev had travelled by bus. Aiming north to Bangkok, the country of Thailand’s capital city, the City of Angels. Now after a lengthy wait at Don Mueang Airport’s arrivals area, he still had not seen Nick, let alone an Angel. The arrivals sign had promised the plane had arrived and on time.
Thailand’s population was under that of Britain, but over fifty million people. Both countries are proud to boast a working democracy. In Thailand, a good proportion of the people loved and adored their King. Thailand’s King is considered by most of his people, as a demigod. In every country, some people would change their system of government. Thailand is no different. It does not take many firebrands to cause a country serious problems.
What could have happened to Nick? The man was not built to enjoy thirty degrees Celsius. Household weighing machines are not built for people of his girth. One leg on the equipment and the little arrow already nudged twenty stone. Nick was a lad who enjoyed his food. And not the healthy choice, although he would take it if there was nothing else. Chips and pies, Chinese or an Indian with crisps and a large slice of sweet cake to follow would be his pick. All that to go with a few pints of lager. Unlike Nick, Kev could go for hours without sustenance.
Small jerky movements of his neck, eager eyes flicking left and right. Panic was welling up, churning inside, battering his empty stomach.
“How long since I last ate? Come on Kev, get a grip.” He said almost kicking himself.
“What would you do if you had lost something or somebody at Heathrow?”
So, he went in search of a policeman. There were men in uniform everywhere, he chose the alert looking one busy chewing gum.
“Oh, a big man, yes?” He answers in schoolboy English. Another officer with an overworked uniform had no information. What do they feed these guys? In a country full of slim people, why do all the overweight people have jobs with a uniform?
Kev found a sensible-looking woman in a uniform that fitted well, she smiled at him, asked if he was looking for a big guy. “Yes!”
Came Kev’s eager reply. But still no useful facts on Nick’s whereabouts.
“Yes, you are correct, that’s the person! Where is he?” Kev pressed her further.
He was getting so desperate he was running to the next person in uniform. Anyone in uniform, he quizzed an airport cleaner who he mistook for a flight Captain. Nice uniform for a cleaner. Kev had read in a guidebook that in Thailand you should always smile, even in tricky situations. This tested that theory. One last try–a man with a clipboard.
At that, a big smile spread across the man’s chubby chops. Kev did not like him, or what he was about to hear. Which turned out to be nothing helpful.
“Well? I am waiting.”
Kev’s forced smile was slipping. He told his tale of woe.
“Ooh, a big man,” said the uniform, as he marched off.
Kev’s smile slipped further.
This would be a long and frustrating wait. Another hour passed. He then failed in his inquiry, trying to discover if Nick had been on the plane.
“I cannot tell you, security rules.”
The airport emptied further, there were few people left in sight, still no Nick.
Then laughter rang out all around, echoing from the glass and concrete walls. Airport staff appeared from each doorway, all sneaking a glimpse at Kev, and they were all smiling. Thais, unlike Kev, found fun in every situation. They are great at grinning.
Don Mueang airport had opened in 1914 as the Royal Thai Air Force base. In 1924, it took commercial flights, making it one of the world’s oldest airports. None of that information made Kevʼs wait any easier.
The grand entrance of Nick followed the spontaneous outburst of clapping and cheering. It was as if he had finished conducting an opera. Bowing his head combined with his newfound skill of performing the wai. Placing your hands together, the Thai gesture looks like someone in prayer. The wai can mean, hello, goodbye, and thank you, amongst other things. Someone in uniform must have passed on the art to Nick. He had been enjoying himself. Kev was thinking of a new use for the wai.
Nick had made friends. With the immigration police, the airport security, even the well-dressed cleaners. They must have offered him food, they had. Not any food, actually what he sampled was somtam. A Thai favourite dash. So spicy it can melt glass. This salad features fermented fish. They can turn the strongest stomach and assault the unwary nostril.
A rumpled Kev could not hold back his moan.
“I have been here for hours, what the hell happened to you?”
“First, they looked me up and down, they then enjoyed touching my beard. Do Thai men have beards? It was as if they had never seen one before.”
Nick was warming to his first time in Asia having enjoyed his experience.
“Then my size impressed them. Are there no large people here? They wanted to know how much I weigh. I do not know, as you remember I break normal bathroom scales, so they got me on the airport weighing machine! That was interesting. Someone summoned airport staff and quite a crowd gathered. They all enjoyed that, particularly when a man ran a book on the announced weight!”
Nick was wobbling with mirth. Kev was not.
“Then they wanted to know what was in my bags. Nothing illegal but, when the Marmite jar appeared, well, they could believe no one would eat it. They all wanted a taste.” He chuckled. “Which I offered. After all, they had shared some of their food with me. They were laughing so much. The whole department joined us and even more people appeared from somewhere. Then I had to prove I could eat and enjoy it! Sorry mate, I know it was for you, and you’ve been missing your favourite breakfast spread. I ate the whole jar, again money changed hands. A female cleaner seemed very pleased with both results. Were they gambling?”
Nick stopped wobbling, he looked at his mate.
“Anything the matter? You don’t look happy.” The airport staff looked like they had enjoyed their shift, cheery waves all around as they left for home.
At that, Nick hitched his waistband, untucked the part of his shirt that was not already untucked.
“Now, what’s next?”
He was almost skipping along the terminal corridor. A thought crossed Kev’s mind.
“So who is it that would not fit in?” Kev mumbled.
There was the sound of clicking and speeding heels from behind them. People usually rushed towards departure, not when they had arrived.
“Strange, what’s going on?” asked Kev.
A tourist hurried past, dragging his suitcase along the floor. A young father was pushing his children ahead of him. Peering backwards as he shoved his youngest forward.
Kev no longer notices the fear in the eyes of new arrivals. He was busy admiring a beautiful air hostess, adjusting a tight jacket and skirt. The reason for the rearrangement of her clothing soon became clear. She then sprinted, a feat difficult to do in a pencil skirt.
Kev had turned to say something to his friend about her lovely legs. When he spotted the unusual flight path of a plane filling the window behind them.
“Christ, look out,” shouted Kev.
The sounds of terror grew. People could see that the craft was coming at the terminal building. Shrieks and screams were growing in volume. People turned to see a cargo plane’s wings dipping one, then the other. It hurtled toward the unprotected building. The pretty hostess hitched her tight skirt even higher and ran faster.
The white propeller-powered plane filled the windows. It appeared to be coming straight through. It fell short of the building as it dipped and then crashed into a fuel tanker parked outside. Some empty cars parked alongside the building lifted into the air. The explosion shattered glass for a hundred yards all around.
A fireball burst from the destroyed fuel vehicle. Black acrid smoke choked the life of any birds unfortunate enough to be flying past. People in the airport were running as fast as the slippery tiled floor would allow. They could hear glass crashing to the floor as the shattered panes came loose from their frames. Passengers screamed. Uniforms ran in all directions.
Angie was the new girl at Pert Exports, she brewed the office tea. That wasn’t her job, she was head of international sales. But, as the new girl, she made the tea.
Suk was the daughter of PE’s owner. She ran the show
“Today we are going out for our afternoon ‘cuppa’, I’m taking you to a tea shop. Okay?”
Suk led Angie by the arm to her chauffeur-driven BMW.
“Where are we going?”
“We are going to Yaowarat Road, Bangkok’s Chinatown. They know about tea, the tea we export to Europe. It is about time you sampled our best seller.”
“Oh,” said Angie. She was brought up on Lipton’s, or PG Tips if there was no Lipton’s.
The car crawled through Bangkok’s late afternoon traffic. There was no parking, the ladies jumped out.
“I’ll call you when we need you,” Suk waved the driver on.
“That’s not Thai lettering?” said Angie, pointing above the red door.
“No, it is Chinese.”
They ducked through the bamboo curtain and into a cramped room. Tables and chairs jammed together. People sounded as if having a row. Gesticulating, flapping their arms, they turned and greeted Suk with their hands together as if in prayer. An elderly lady led them to a back room. The table had a red cloth cover. Two steel chairs with red cushions match the red curtains on the windows at the back.
“They like red, I see,” said Angie with a smile.
“Sit,” said Suk.
A pot of tea arrived, small cups with no handles accompanied it.
The old lady could not speak Thai or English, Suk translated.
“She said, welcome to Yum Chas, her tea shop. She will send us some jasmine eggs presently.”
“Oh,” said Angie, not knowing what to expect.
“The tea in front of you grows in Mae Hong Son. A beautiful region of Thailand, mountainous, and cooler than Bangkok,” Suk laughed. “Anywhere is cooler than here.”
“Why am I here, and why are you telling me all this?”
“Because I need you to go up there.”
“I don’t even know where it is?”
“You will fly to Chiang Mai, then our driver will take you to the border with Myanmar. I need you to write an article about the area, particularly about our tea plantation. You leave tomorrow.”
Their conversation was a Q and A session, with Angie answering.
With a final, “Oh,” Angie was driven back to her condo.
Angie checked Mae Hong Son on Google. She packed an overnight bag, she would need a sweater. What she read thrilled her and scared her.
“New day, a new adventure,” she said as she locked her door. Suk’s driver was waiting, flight ticket in hand.
“One way only?”
The chauffeur shrugged and drove to the airport.
Angie called Suk while waiting for take-off.
“We don’t know how long it will take you, do we? There is a lot to see and learn. The manager will arrange your ticket when you are finished. Don’t worry,” said Suk.
The plantation manager’s driver was waiting, flapping a board with her name on.
Angie was surprised to see it was a woman. Her English was passable. She introduced herself. “My name Ju, it means Daisy.”
They wandered to the car park, a shiny Honda saloon waiting patiently. Ju opened the back door, Angie clambered in. Then Ju pointed out some sights to see as they passed them. They travelled between hills out of the city of Chiang Mai. Angie fell asleep.
“Where are we going? It seems we have passed the city?” asked Angie.
“Yes, we left Chiang Mae hours ago. Our tea grows in a place called Mae Aw. Our neighbours are Myanmar and China.”
“Yes, I’ll show you on the map,” said the driver.
“There don’t seem to be any hotels?”
“No, there aren’t any. Don’t worry, we have bungalows built into the hill.”
“It’s beautiful here,” said Angie.
“Yes, not the same as Bangkok or London, is it?”
“I don’t recall mentioning London to you?”
“No, all foreigners say they come from their capital city. They think we’ve never heard of any other place,” she said, checking the mirror. “Down there is a lovely stretch of river,” changing the subject.
Tourists were paddling canoes, waved as they saw the car. The scenery was green and raising to the sky. Clouds were now blanketing the peaks. Driver and passenger were quiet as they motored on.
“Are we there yet,” laughed Angie.
A puzzled driver said, “Won’t be long now.”
“Sorry, I’m not laughing at you. English children get bored on a long trip and ask how much longer?’
“I didn’t know you had children?”
“You didn’t ask.”
“Does it matter? No, I’ve never been married and no children. Anything else you want to know?”
“Sorry, I’m not being nosey. We Thais like to ask questions.”
A sharp left turn, up a steep incline.
“We are here. Look, you can see our tea growing on both sides.”
“Can we stop, I’d love to take pictures?”
“Don’t worry, up there is better for snaps.”
They kept driving for another fifteen minutes.
Below them were twenty bungalows built into the slope. And tea as far as you could see.
More homes were scattered between bushes.
“Wow, is this all Suk’s?”
“Yes, well, her family own it all.”
Angie snapped away with her iPhone. A lady lifted Angie’s holdall from the boot.
“Oh, it’s okay, I can manage,” said Angie.
The lady smiled and walked off with the bag. Her red cheongsam’s silk shone in the evening sun as it burst between the grey cloud covering.
“Beautiful dress,” said Angie turned, to see her driver slipping on her red silk jacket.
“Come on, I’ll show you your room.”
Insects chirped as they strolled past bushes.
“Do you have an alarm on your phone? We have an early start. There is no tv or Wi-Fi, so no excuse for a late night.”
“And the food?” asked a peckish Angie.
“It will be brought to you in an hour. I hope you like Chinese food?”
Angie sat on her bed, flicking through books and magazines. She was disturbed by a tap at the door.
A red-dressed lady hung a white suit in the wardrobe. A short while later, the woman returned with a plate of dumplings, and a pot of tea.
After eating, Angie went for a stroll. The travelling had worn her out. She turned to return to her room. The driver appeared and said, “Wear the white suit tomorrow. It will be good in the photos. I’ll come for you at first light. Better set your alarm.”
“Strange room, strange place, strange people,” was Angie’s thought as she dozed.
It was dark when the tapping started. Angie looked at her phone. “Still another ten minutes. Please.”
“Don’t forget, white suit.”
“What is this?” said Angie as she stumbled to the bathroom.
Dressed in white, Angie opened the door. Twenty or more red-clad women bowed to her.
They stood back as Suk smiled and greeted Angie.
“I didn’t know you were coming.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”
The group solemnly marched to vehicles, they all clambered in. Angie noticed the drivers were women.
“Everyone I’ve seen here is female?”
“Because we get the best tea by using female labour.”
The vehicles pulled up at a bare patch of ground.
Angie was puzzled, “With all the beautiful greenery, why show me this?”
“Come here,” Suk led Angie to the next plot, green leaves were bursting out.
“That is what I expect, look over there.” Suk pointed back.
Angie touched the tea leaves and took a deep breath. She glanced down.
“What is this?” she scurried the earth with her foot.
“That my dear is part of a virgin’s skeleton. The bones increase our yield.”
“What?” Angie grinned, expecting the punchline. Red-clad women rushed her into a shallow grave.
The earth was patted down.
“We expect great things from this plot,” said Suk as she wandered back.
“I don’t know why, but I get a funny feeling when I’m near her,” Chas said. He was sitting looking at his shoes. Not that his shoes were anything special. Scuffed school footwear.
“Yeah, I can see it in your face,” Patsi answered. “You fancy her, you’ve got no chance!”
Patsi, was Chas’s oldest friend at the school, his only friend. He and his family had moved from London to Thailand a year ago. He had struggled with his Thai tones, the other kids giggled.
“No, I don’t. There is something about her.”
Patsi looked at her shiny shoes. “Forget her. There are plenty of girls here that would love to have you as their ‘friend’. What about Dokmai, she’s nice?”
“I’m not looking for a girlfriend, it’s just… Oh, I don’t know.”
Patsi got up and joined the female gaggle walking past. Chas was alone and lonely. He played cricket, the Thai lads played tak rao, an athletic game, you needed to be a gymnast to be any good. Chas wasn’t. Too many pizzas, and not enough larb salad. He liked Sci-fi, the local boys watched soap operas.
“Hello, all alone? Can I join you?” The school’s prettiest girl asked.
“Is this a prank? Have you won a bet or something?”
“No, Chas, I want to invite you somewhere,” Anong said, leaning towards him and blowing in his ear.
“Now I know you’re joking.”
“As you wish.” She straightened her skirt and skipped away.
Chas trembled, he shivered, then quaked. “What the hell?” he said in English. Anong made him feel funny all over.
Patsi breezed up to him.
“Uh ha, what did she want?”
“She was hoping I’d fall for her game,” he answered.
“Yeah, what game?”
“Come on, what did she say?”
“She wanted to invite me somewhere? As I said, it was a trick.” Chas turned and studied his shoes once more.
“She never invites anyone, anywhere. Must be a silly stunt,” Patsi said.
“Do you think Anong is knock-down dead gorgeous?” asked Chas.
“Yes, she is the second most beautiful girl in the school.”
“You don’t mean, you’re the prettiest?” He laughed and was soon joined by Patsi.
Chas, serious again, asked, “But why has she no friends?”
“Could be that everyone fears her looks? They can’t compete.”
“Yeah, for the girls, but why no male friends?”
“Maybe they think she’s too good for them?”
“Yeah…” Chas drifted into memories of his English school. A girl who was also too good looking, she too had no friends.
Patsi bounced back to her friends. Chas strolled home.
Anong was waiting outside his door.
“Hello again,” said Chas.
“I want us to go somewhere, together,” she said.
“Where? When? I can’t go now, I’ve too much homework.”
She giggled, “Not now, I’ll let you know.” She turned, lifted her right hand as a farewell, and wandered away. “Say hello to Sharon.” She shouted over her shoulder.
He shivered, goosebumps danced the jig. His head was spinning.
“How the hell does she know what happened to Sharon?”
He went back two years in his head, memories play tricks, but not this one. Sharon was his first love, they were inseparable. She was gorgeous, friendly, and funny. She lived next door; they saw each other daily, same school, the same year, even the same class. Their parents were friends too. Until it all changed.
He pinched himself.
“Wake up,” he said to himself, “Get real.”
It was hard to concentrate on his homework. He was behind all the other children in Thai lessons, that was expected, but at maths? He struggled. There was too much tinkering about with his thoughts.
“Did she ask about Sharon, or was I imagining it?”
His schoolwork was slammed back in his bag. He went in search of food.
“Hello dear, did you have a good day?” asked his mum. “There’s a curry on the table.”
He grunted and sat down.
“What’s the matter? You don’t look happy. Were the boys picking on you again?”
“No Mum, it was the gir…” he began.
“The girls? What happened?”
“Nothing Mum, forget it.”
“It is hard to forget what happened in England.”
Chas scraped his chair back and stalked upstairs.
Showered, and cool, he slipped under the duvet, trying to find sleep, it evaded him. Tossing, twisting his quilt into knots. Hours passed. A gentle tap at his window disturbed his dozing. Was he dreaming at last? No, the tapping continued. He looked at his clock, 5 am.
Anong’s face was against the glass, framed by a mist of breath.
“It’s okay, it’s me, not Sharon,” she said as the window opened. He gasped, tremors shook his limbs, she smirked. The murky first light made him squint.
“How do you know Sharon?”
“Never mind. Come on, I want to show you something.”
He pulled on shorts and a t-shirt and stepped onto the overhanging roof. They clambered down to the lawn. Silently, he checked if anyone was awake.
She led him away.
“Where are we going,” he asked.
“You’ll soon see.”
They left the main road ducking into a forest of rubber trees. She pulled him forward. The line of trees ended abruptly, sloped to the water’s edge. Still, except for the flutter of wings, a gentle splash, as the bird caught its early feed.
“What are we doing here?” he asked, looking around, expecting a prank.
“You do remember Sharon?”
“Of course I do. How do you know her?”
“She comes to me in dreams.”
“Did you find copies of the British press on Google? Is that how you know?”
“No, we are like sisters. We have a lot in common.”
“Don’t do this, it is not fair,” Chas shook uncontrollably.
They had been speaking in Thai, she then switched to English. Her chin jerked left, then right, her eyes were white marbles.
“You are my best friend, the best mate any girl could have.”
“Stop it,” he called. “She is dead! Stop it now.”
The beauty of Anong’s dark brown eyes returned.
“I want the same,” she said in Thai.
“I can’t,” Chas said, tears were rolling down his cheeks. “Please don’t do this.”
She pulled two tightly folded bags from her pockets. Made a show of unfurling the cloth and cracked them open.
“Help her complete her dream,” she said in English.
“Please, Sharon, no more,” he cried.
Soon the bags were stuffed with rocks and stones.
Chas turned to run, his feet were rooted. He watched in silence, as she tied the heavy sacks to her wrists.
The quivering and shaking became more violent. His hands pointed out across the still, flat water’s surface.
Anong stood and faced him, her back to the water, her feet, dabbing the cool dampness.
“No,” wailed Chas.
Anong’s body rose and floated a foot above the water. Gradually, she spun around to move to the centre of the lake, speed increasing.
“Goodbye, Chas. See you soon Sharon,” she called.
She glided to the middle, then a splash and she was gone.
Chas rolled into a ball and wept.
The workers found him, still trembling and moaning, when they came for their rubber.
“Happy New Year!” he shouted from the hole in the broken glass of the 30th-floor condo window. Fireworks exploded below, rockets screeched around. His sarcasm was wasted on the heavy Bangkok air.
He turned and saw her stooped, broken and bent across the dining chair, knees on the carpet, stomach and chest flattened on the seat, her head hung uncomfortably as if watching her thighs under the cushioned seat. Her long dark hair dragged on the ground. Her slim arms were pinned by her ears, wrists bent, one hand clutching at something hidden in her palm.
Three hours earlier she looked gorgeous, newly trimmed hair, minimal make-up, slim gold earrings almost touched her shoulders, they matched the skinny chain hanging loosely around her shapely throat. To say her neckline plunged, was like saying a dolphin dived. The dolphin did not quite reach the waistline of her painted on miniskirt. Black and glistening, as were her high heels almost competing with the skyline of her condo.
Bangkok had allowed drinking until 1 am. This party would dance and drink as long as they wished. The only police here were acting as security. COVID had closed Thailand’s bars, but tonight was New Year’s Night. Tonight was party night. Not that it mattered in Gingging’s life, she could party whenever, wherever she wished. And she did. An admirer had gifted her a top of the world condo, she loved it. The address to live in, a bubbling home for the rich and hope to be famous gang.
“Come on, let’s dance,” asked Ruben. Dragging her away from a clutch of clucking females who breathed in her every comment.
Ruben was Ging’s latest boyfriend, he had done well, still with her, lasting over a month.
“Yeah, Ruby baby, let’s burn up the floor,” she breathed in his ear. “And then later?”
“We must hear the chimes at midnight with everybody, then I’m all yours.”
The ear-shattering hip-hop tunes blasted out by the hottest new band on Bangkok’s club scene. The owners of the condo block hated it, but they were not here, and they would do anything to get trendy newly rich young buyers to also encourage their friends to join them with a unit.
The cellar club was so well soundproofed, the screeching Mercedes wheels in the car park on the floor below could not hear the pounding above the electric sunroof.
Three hundred of Bangkok’s bright young things had begged or bribed their tickets for tonight’s year ending bash. Pop stars, movie actors and YouTube influencers wanted to be seen. Channel 7 interviewed some well-known faces for a live link to television and smartphone screens of the ‘I wish’ brigade.
Ruben and Gingging hugged like pandas to trees. Smiles and cheeky winks sparkled. Their legs moved in time with each other, tapping and skipping, fast or slow, as if controlled by a computer. The watching females smiled and clapped, the men could not remove their gapes from the low-cut black and silver top. If Ging knew of the effect she was having, she pretended not to.
Ruben’s golden locks flicked and bobbed across his unshaven face, his tightly buttoned shirt showed his sculptured physique, straight tan strides ended with handmade loafers. Channel Seven did not harm his modelling career.
A glow from Apple’s latest mobile vibrated on a golden cord that hung next to Ging’s left breast. She pulled apart from Ruben, covering the screen, holding up an index finger, mouthing ‘just a sec’, then spotted the message. ‘In a minute’. Her face changed as if a fiery dragon had swooped on the dancers.
Exactly sixty seconds later, “Excuse me, ma’am, a gentleman sent this for you,” said the top and tails server, handing across a flute of champagne. An unseen slip of paper passed hands as they briefly touched.
Ruben’s collar suddenly warmed, what had he spotted? Then he saw Ging peak at the hand-written note. It was impossible to read in the flashing strobe, especially as she didn’t want her beau seeing it.
“Just going for a pee,” she said. Striding between dancers as they moved aside. The exit doorway gave her the light she needed.
‘See you upstairs!’ it said.
She rushed to the lift.
Ruben sat alone, not for long, he glanced at his watch, eleven-fifty.
“Bloody women, I suppose she’s checking her lipstick?” he murmured.
“Drinks and glasses ready?” asked the DJ. “The countdown starts in five minutes.”
Ruben stamped and marched to the restrooms. Peering up and down the corridor.
“What’s this,” he picked a scrap of paper from the otherwise pristine floor.
‘See you upstairs,’ he read. “Not if I see you first!”
He pushed the floor button hard enough to puncture the steel.
“Come on,” he shouted at numbers. Once more, checking his watch. “Eleven-fifty eight,” he ran to her open door.
Chimes around Bangkok rang out, rockets took off, rainbows of colours lit the city sky.
A different glow caught Ruben’s eye. He ran to the broken window, small red and white dots turned and disappeared towards Silom Road. “What the f…”
He turned and crunched broken shards of glass. Looking around he saw Ging, crumpled as if hugging the chair seat.
Pulling her back and hugging her tightly.
“Oh, my God. Ging…” he shook her fiercely.
Blood spurted from a gaping hole in her stomach. The spurt became a pump. Pints of sticky, warm fluid swamped his arms.
“Oh my God,” he repeated, gently laying her down and hunting his phone. He banged in emergency numbers. And he sweated.
He rushed to the doorway, grabbing the condo phone he screamed for help. Rushing back thoughts crashed in his head.
She was not breathing, no pulse. Nothing.
He spotted her right hand holding a scrunched paper in a tight ball; her left hand flat open.
Gently he tried to prise her rigid fingers open, gradually he eased a handwritten note free.
‘Look out of the window you will see my Christmas gift to myself. I may feel like a drone in your life. You will feel the drone in my life. Happy New Year!’
A FREE short story by Colin Devonshire, this time set in London.
“As they say, ‘Better Late Than Never’, whatever that means?” Alfred said to his wife. He wasn’t sure if she understood. She gave no sign. He hoped for a smile, even a glint from her sightless eyes. He could wish. His memories drifted back to their wedding day, all those years ago.
“April 1st, 1962, it was sunny and warmish for the time of year. Why did we get married on All Fools’ Day? Her father suggested it, I remember,” he muttered to himself.
“He never wanted us to be wed. Silly old man, he didn’t understand us.”
Alfred sat down on the edge of his wife’s bed with a grunt. She didn’t move. He swept the lank greasy lock away from his eyes. Another moan. As aches gripped his back, he forced himself to a stoop and onto the bedside chair.
“I’m spending most of my days here.” Patting the chair’s arm, talking as he would to a friend, not an aged piece of furniture.
Thoughts ran haphazardly as he dipped in and out of his mid-morning nap.
“The twins were born in November,” a chuckle escaped. He pictured his father-in-law’s face when he worked out that his precious daughter was no virgin on her wedding night.
“The best three years of my life, the boys giggling, crawling and then walking, the first mispronounced words, the fun baby games, and getting them to try various foods. What great days? Then what happened? Their japes began as fun, then rudeness crept in, the naughty pranks started getting serious…” He dozed off.
The dream got real as the boys were sticking needles in their mother’s fat behind. He screamed and chased them, their laughter drowned his snore.
He awoke with a start. “That took me back. Their pranks got worse. Lumps of coal rubbed on the neighbours’ washing. The teacher glued to his seat. My ticking off from the headmaster, and then laughed at by their classmates.”
The teapot was calling, Rich Tea biscuits were rattling in the tin as the kettle whistled. He looked around his kitchen; it was okay, clean and boasting all the appliances that they needed. Unlike the rest of their three-storey home. They were so proud when they moved in, sharing a huge bedroom at the top, the boy’s rooms on floor two and a small games room, a dining room and a comfortable lounge next to the spacious kitchen on the ground floor. Huge windows opened out onto the manicured lawn. He could visualise her kneeling and picking weeds from the flower beds.
He rarely went upstairs to the second floor. It was now battered and tacky. One bedroom had been turned into a makeshift kitchen for the twins. The top floor was now two bedrooms, with a vast bathroom shared by the boys.
“God knows what they get up to?” he thought.
After escaping jail sentences, with some luck and a clever solicitor, who used their identical identities as cover because the police could not point to one or other and place them at the scene.
Luck had pursued the boys through their criminal careers. The Jags in the drive were witness to that.
The only visitors banging the front door were CID teams. Alfred just showed them to the stairs. Why did the boys never speak to their father, not even looking at their mother?
“Where did I go wrong with those two?”
His mind drifted in time. He had hosted a lavish 21st birthday party, over one-hundred guests turned up. A lovely buffet which his wife had organised, live music performed by Top of the Pops hit band. Each guest received a small memento to go with the bruises most received in an all-out punch-up with local louts and police batons as they tried to break it up.
“What an embarrassing night that was,” he grumbled to himself. “Could we have done more? The best schools, everything they wanted, we even bought them new cars because they were fed up with the old ones.”
The pound of the music from upstairs vibrated the whole house. And that smell?
“What is that?” Every week or two, the same scent drifted downwards. “What is it, quite nice actually?” he said.
He walked across to his wife, placed his hand on her brow, gently touched her eyelid. No twitch, no tremble, only icy cool flesh.
“Goodbye, my dear. I tried to be a good husband. I tried to be a good father, but clearly failed there. Well, it is time, my dear.”
He pushed himself up to a standing stoop and plodded back to the kitchen.
He rooted amongst the drawers, even though he knew exactly where everything he needed was.
He rested on the post at the bottom of the stairs, gulped in air.
“Not as fit as I thought,” he said, grinning.
Gently and quietly, he took one step at a time.
“I don’t know why I’m creeping. With that racket hammering away I could be a full battalion marching up and down,” he laughed louder this time.
He considered sitting and resting on the steps, but decided he would not get up. With a deep breath, he carried on, step by step.
On reaching the middle landing, he was gasping. He put his holdall down and shook the stiffness from his arm.
He remembered his sons had linked a light and a bell to the door.
“We don’t want to be surprised,” they had told him.
“And I don’t want to surprise you, at least not yet.” He sniggered like Tom Cat.
He squeezed super glue into the locks. Stepping back to admire his work. Then he placed an old t-shirt at the bottom of the door. Then, the heaviest item, a gallon container of petrol, was opened. He doused the cotton shirt, then splashed fuel up and down on the door. Puddles of 5 Star liquid flooded the carpet.
“Only the best for my boys,” he said.
He was puffing and struggling to control his breathing.
Alfred started crying, “You stupid old fool.”
His lighter was downstairs, next to his wife. He had wanted to hold her hand as he flicked the flame. Now, he realised he had no strength to get down the stairs. He looked around for anything that would make a spark. Nothing but dust.
After five minutes of hoping for inspiration, he edged on his belly to the top stair, sprinkling petrol as he went. A smile spread across his face as he slid headfirst down, bump, bump. He hit the tiles at the bottom hard, but a cut head was not a worry. Splashing the last from his canister, he rolled over to his wife.
Stretching up to reach the Zippo, he flicked the lid as he grabbed her lifeless hand.
“My granddad was in Burma with the Chindits during the war.”
“What are the Chindits?”
“Were, you mean, they were called ‘The Forgotten Army’, because they used to get lost behind enemy lines. My granddad was sent to India, but soon, off he went to Burma to fight the Japanese,” Chop said, he looked up dreamily, remembering the man he adored.
“Anyway, what do you mean he found your dad?” Chop’s best friend asked.
“My dad was found walking alone in the jungle, he had burns all over him and his clothes were falling to bits. Granddad, took him in, fed him and got the army doctor to treat his burns and all the other things that were wrong with him.”
“That’s why you always say you are half Thai?”
“Yes, dad grew up here and married my mum.”
“Why are you looking through all that old stuff?”
“My granddad died aged ninety-nine, he would have been one-hundred today,” Chop’s face fell, tears pricked the corners of his eyes. He didn’t allow anyone to see him cry.
“My granddad became a Buddhist in Burma, that’s why dad and I follow the faith.”
He changed the subject. Still looking at his memorabilia box.
The boys both looked at their watches, “I’d better go.”
Chop returned to his box.
“What is this, I’ve never seen that before?” he whispered to himself, fingering a slip of paper peeking from the diaries cover. He gently eased it free. Carefully unfolding the brittle stained paper.
“What is all that?”
Japanese lettering, the ink, bold and clear, with scrawled English notes in pencil. Faded to near-nothingness. A thought struck Chop, like a spark from an underground train.
“Show no one, I won’t, but I must find out what it says.” Talking and answering himself became a habit, especially when his grandfather was involved.
“Who do I know that is Japanese or speaks the language? School? No. At the Sushi Restaurant? Yes, but we never use it. And, I don’t want to show people.”
He looked again at the pen work.
“That is not a letter, what is it? Is that a lion with wings?”
He had seen the hand-drawn logo.
“That is the badge of the Chindits. But why had the person, scrawled it alongside Japanese writing.”
Chop was no longer answering himself, but Google didn’t answer verbally, it did show images and reams of articles about Burma during the War.
Chop learned more about lions and eagles, but the Japanese lettering was still a mystery.
“Dad, did granddad tell you about his time in Burma?” he called as he jumped down the stairs.
“He did, but I’d rather not think about those days,” said Chop’s dad.
“Please dad, I can’t stop thinking about him.”
“I didn’t know what was happening, I was young, alone and injured. I spent most of my time sleeping. How about we get a cake with 100 candles?”
“I want to know more about his life especially in Burma?”
“Did you ever see his tattoo?”
Chop nearly fell from his seat, “What tattoo?”
“You never saw him with his shirt off?”
“No, even at the beach he remained covered up. I asked him why, and he said he gets a sunburn.”
“Maybe, but he had an inking across his shoulders.”
Chop was panting, “Go on, what was it?”
Chop’s father took his time, breathed in and said, “A lion carved from stone with wings. A monk did it, with a sharp blade.”
“Come on dad, tell me more.”
“You’ve seen granddad’s army stuff, his badges and some paperwork? Well, the tattoo was similar, not the same, the lion’s face was, like a stone lion, and the wings were more pronounced.”
“Was the tattooist an artist?”
“In a way. He was a Buddhist monk. Burmese believe that monk’s tattoos have magical powers like bullets won’t enter your body, things like that.”
“Did granddad ever get shot?”
“There were no scars on his body when he died.”
Chop was deep in thought, then he ran upstairs, the thump of feet in the hall signalled his return. He thrust the paper at his dad.
“What is this?”
His father grabbed the chair’s arms, all colour washed from his face.
“Where did you get that?” he said, gasping for breath.
“Dad, Dad, wake up,” Chop said as he shook the fallen man. His dribble added to the carpet’s pattern.
A piece of old and creased sheet of brittle paper floated down and landed on the feinted father’s forehead. Chop leapt backwards, gasping for air, the man’s eyes opened, as big as golf balls spinning around the hole, two bounces as the irises were lost upwards, orbs of white jelly aimed at the sweating Chop.
A mumbled unrecognisable language spurted from trembling lips of stretched pink. Skin cracked dry, blood dampened the tiny splits appearing above and below chattering teeth.
“Dad, Dad, what’s the matter?” The boy fell to his knees and hugged his father.
“I am the devil’s spawn.” It said.
“Dad, what do you mean?”
“The paper you found…” he was speaking English, soon changed to wild and croaky jabber.
Chop looked around, left, right, up, and down, nothing in view could help.
“That paper was hidden for a reason,” he said.
“Shall I get an ambulance?”
Chop’s father’s eyelids, flickered, hatred filled the gap between father and son.
“Dad, what does the paper mean?” asked Chop.
“That you will never know,” croaked a strange Asian accent, spitting and gargling.
Chop was, for the first time, crying openly.
“Weep boy, you should,” it said.
The head shook, each ear bounced from the floor, then the head battered the carpet, faster and faster, side to side, then the voice Chop knew returned.
“Your grandfather did not meet me on a road near Rangoon, that was a lie, I was a young prophet in a temple. In a trance, I would tell believers their fortunes, the villagers loved me as I told them the truth…”
His eyes disappeared into his head once more, the shaking began again. As did the croaking.
“Die child, die,” it spat.
Chop’s tears fell like monsoon rain.
“Quick, son, fetch my lighter, and some of my holy water from the Buddha image. Oh, and I’ll need the Chindit blade.”
Chop ran to the shrine on the shelf next to the tv.
“You are too late,” croaked the stooped, unrecognisable shape that once was his father.
The boy turned in fear, tripping forward, the blade stabbed deep. The croaking stopped.
Chop’s crying halted, a thin smile crept on his lips.
“Found at last, a new host,” spat out a strange Asian accent.
FREE short story by Colin Devonshire – not dark, sorry, this one is supposed to be funny!
“By the sound of it, we have a full house.”
“What do you mean, ‘by the sound of it’, how can you tell from back here?”
“Experience, my dear boy,” Georgie Boy panted. Years of beating the boards told him. He had lost the status of leading man a year ago, now, he was one of the cast. Did he mind? Yes, nobody wants to get older, especially when looks fade. As hard as he coloured the grey, another hair fell out.
The new leading man had been picked, not because of his acting skills, which were okay, but because, he looked the part. That, and he was the director’s latest fling.
Marcello, or Mark, to those who knew him off stage, was the ideal, tall, dark looker who winked and cheekily smiled his way between sheets. Unbeknown to him, he had been groomed. Showing some talent in school plays, he caught the eye of Mr Franks the director.
Mr Franks took him from his parents’ tatty council house to live in his second London pad and to The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Marcello acted his way through the course, getting good reviews, not raves, okay at least, good enough to perform as the devoted boyfriend of Mr Franks.
The audience hushed as the curtain opened. Marcello swept to the front of the stage, gulped and ducked out of sight.
“Christ, what’s wrong with him,” screamed the director.
Georgie Boy, smirked, “Don’t worry, they think it’s part of the act.” He thumbed the crowd, as he walked to the wings. “I’ll go see to him.”
Marcello was throwing up as Georgie Boy put his arm across his shoulder.
“What’s the matter, Dearie, first night nerves?” he gushed.
After spitting in a bucket and gargling with water, Marcello found his voice.
“Didn’t you see that?”
“What, we have a full house, as I suspected.”
“No, idiot, the dead body, sat in the middle of the front row?”
“Don’t be daft. Do you mean somebody died just now? As the curtains opened, and he’ll miss the show?” Georgie Boy laughed as he peered at the front row. “Get out there, get on with it, and stop playing about, the man in the middle is cheering and clapping.”
Marcello glimpsed around the heavy drape.
“Eh, how come, he was dead?” Marcello said as he gathered himself together and stalked on stage to the laughter and cheers of the surprised crowd.
Gradually Marcello shook off the fright, he began moving with grace, his voice boomed his velvety lines to Milly, the beautiful leading lady. She smiled and egged him on to better himself.
The audience was enthralled, gasping and grinning, smiling and gawping, shocked and stunned at the skill of the performers.
Georgie Boy swept across the stage as Milly exited towards the end of Act One.
“Curtains,” called Marcello as he dashed offstage to the shock of fellow actors, they attempted to carry on as if the abrupt exit of the leading man was planned.
Marcello ran to the gents, sloshing cold water on his face, gasping for breath, sweat ran in rivulets.
“He is dead?” he panted to the stagehands, rescuing him.
“Nobody is dead,” they answered.
“He is, I saw him keel over, he is on the floor.”
“No, Marcello, maybe he dropped something and bent to retrieve it?”
“He went white before my eyes and froze! I saw him.”
The lads guided him to his dressing room as Georgie Boy burst in, “Do you want me to take over? I can you know.”
Marcello slurped a lukewarm mug of tea, calmed himself once more and marched back to the stage.
“Are you sure no one died?” he whispered to a stagehand as he passed.
He was answered by a puzzled shake of the head.
The heavy drapes reopened as Milly led Marcello out to a burst of applause.
The 1930s set heavy with puffed furniture, antique table and chairs begging for action, as Marcello guided Milly to the settee, she breathed her undying love for him as Marcello’s arms tangled with hers as the evil landlord burst in, brandishing a pistol.
“Pay me what you owe,” he screamed, the gun blasted, smoke escaped the barrel.
The audience gasped and booed, catcalling the baddie.
Marcello hit the floor.
“That’s not supposed to happen,” whispered the landlord.
“Follow my lead,” answered Milly.
“Oh, darling, love of my life, don’t die, please don’t leave me,” she acted.
“I didn’t mean to kill him,” said the landlord. “I only meant to scare him.”
Milly needed a second to think of her new made-up words.
“Did he shoot that man in the front row?” whispered Marcello as he came around.
“Oh, thank the lord, he’s alive,” said the actress.
The landlord recovered his composure and found his place in the lines, “I still must have the money you owe me.”
Marcello staggered to the front of the stage, “He shot him,” he screamed as he pointed at the front row. He turned and ran off stage.
Milly and the landlord stood and stared at each other arms outstretched, Milly signalled the curtains to close.
“What is wrong with him?” asked the landlord as they marched to the dressing rooms.
The stage manager was flapping a towel above Marcello’s head, who had passed out again as he left the stage.
“Get an ambulance,” he ordered.
The director appeared, “What about my show?”
An announcement was read out.
“Sorry, but because of sickness to one of our stars we will have to cancel. Please keep your tickets, you can use them when we reschedule. The new dates will be published on our website.”
“Call the police, there has been a murder,” Marcello asked one of the ambulance men as they drove from the theatre. The puzzled man did as requested, soon a police car pulled up at the hospital.
Marcello explained what he had witnessed. The police went straight to the theatre.
They found a trail of blood from the middle of the front row back and up to the gent’s toilets. A bloody shirt was found rolled in a bin and puddles of blood spilt across the floor. The actors and stage crew were all recalled, and the questioning started, detectives arrived and asked the same questions.
“We’ll start with you, eh, Mr Georgie Boy…”
“You think it was me? Because he nicked my leading man role?”
Mr Franks was next to be grilled.
“But, but, he’s just a fling.”
A police radio crackled.
“What, pig’s blood?”
Milly sat at her favourite bar, hugging her sixth gin and tonic. And her toy boy who is brilliant at playing dead.
“I know why you love me, I’m not only beautiful, I’m smart too. The dopey leading man will never act again. The gay director will be arrested for murder and that hideous Georgie Boy will crack up. Leaving me, yes me, darling to run the show! Do you want a job?”
A FREE short story set in Thailand by Colin Devonshire
“There’s a delivery guy here asking for you,” Chok Dii called up the stairs.
“Sign for it can you, I’m tired,” Dan shouted.
“No, you must, he said.”
“Oh, all right, I’m coming.”
Dan covered his boxer shorts with a towel picked from the bathroom floor.
A man in a green uniform looked him up and down. “Khun Dan?”
“Yeah, what do you want? My passport?”
“Sign here, please.”
Dan grunted, scribbled his name, threw the small, but neatly wrapped box to the sofa through the living room door. He stomped up the stairs, dropping his towel, slumped onto the bed.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” His girlfriend asked.
There was no answer. She picked it up, shook it gently. Studying his typed name and address. Noticing the back had no return address. “It had better not be from that tart in his favourite bar.”
She shook it harder, no clue.
The temptation was great, “Dare I?” she asked herself. She fingered the sticky tape, but couldn’t tear it back without ruining the paper wrapping. “I need my scalpel and fresh tape, then he’ll never know.” She checked for sounds upstairs before going to the kitchen.
Armed with the razor, she slipped the blade along the paper joins. Gently she prised it open. Under the paper was a vacuum-sealed pink container. There was no way she could open it without giving the game away. “Unless he doesn’t know about this container?” she thought.
“Then I can see what’s in there. Repacking it perfectly, no one will know.”
Her phone trilled. “Not now, I’m busy.” She looked to see who the caller was. Name withheld. “Who the hell?”
Then a message, ‘Do not open it. I won’t hear of it!’
She trembled as she hastily taped the package again. “Good as new.” Gently replacing it as she found it.
“Wake up, you lazy git. I must know what’s in it, and who it’s from?” She mumbled to herself.
The kettle popped, she made two mugs of coffee and took them upstairs.
“Wakey wakey, sleepyhead,” she said as she delivered the drink.
“I’m still sleeping,” he said, twisting and turning away from her.
They had been together exactly one year that day.
“Remember last year?” she asked.
“Yeah, of course. You had just started running your market stall, selling fake football shirts. How could I forget.”
“And you came by, wearing a real one.”
“Yes, my favourite Spurs shirt,” he smiled.
“You were with your blondie girlfriend.”
“Then, I returned alone, with a gift for you.”
“The shirt, your best shirt and ideas for my stall, genuine Premier League football kits.”
“Yes, my great idea worked well. Get the tourist drunk and offer him a wager, his real shirt against my 1,000 Baht note, in an unbeatable bet.” He snorted at the memory. “And low and betide our great little market stall started with real shirts. And pays the rent here.”
“Yes, and we fell in love and here we are with our own house,” she grinned.
“The best year of my life, really I mean it. Now let me sleep,” Dan asked.
“What happened to your girlfriend?”
“She got a taxi. Now can I sleep?”
“What about your coffee? It’s getting cold.”
“Okay, okay, no peace for the wicked,” he groaned.
“Don’t forget you have a present.”
“What makes you think it’s a gift?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Is it for our first anniversary?” he asked.
“I didn’t send it. But I wonder who did?”
He sensed jealousy creeping into the conversation.
“Come on, let’s open it together.” He didn’t worry about the towel for this trip downstairs.
“Don’t forget your coffee,” she grinned.
He tore off the paper and raised his eyebrows at the inner packing.
Her phone’s ‘do not’ message was ringing around her head, making her desperate to see deeper.
The pink plastic container was welded shut. He shook it, something wobbled, eyebrows lifted higher.
“How am I supposed to open this?” he asked. She handed him a scalpel.
He looked up at her as if to say, ‘How did you know I’d need this?’ But taking the blade without a word, he prodded, searching a spot in insert the steel tip.
The blade skidded and jumped, nicking his finger drawing blood.
“Shit!” he yelled. Slamming the table, “I should throw the damn thing away.”
Calming he tried again. This time, he eased a small opening wider, the weld cracked, splitting into two halves. Tissue paper and cotton wool spilt, revealing brown bloodstains and an ear.
Dropping his gift he leapt backwards, knees bent to his chest, arms clutching his shins, sitting like a newborn, the coffee mugs jumped and smashed as the table tipped over.
He trembled, pushing to the back of the sofa, Chok Dii bent to see what scared him. Picking up her scalpel, she flicked at the paper, uncovering the ear, small and dainty boasting a diamond stud, and a few strands of blonde hair. She prodded it with the knife blade, stood the table, then studied the pink flesh.
Turning and staring at Dan, questions flowed. Dan stammered, eventually he calmed and sat next to her.
“I used to wear that earring, I gave it to her.”
“Did you cut her ear off?”
“Of course not!”
“I’m ringing the police.” She hunted her phone. It rang before she touched it.
Chok Dii snatched at it only to see a message. ‘Do you want another gift?’
She ran to the sink and threw up.
Dan sat, head in hands, remained still as the doorbell rang. Chok Dii rinsed her mouth before answering the bell.
A green uniformed man held out a well-wrapped package, looked at her, “Mr Dan?”
The paperwork was signed; the package rested next to his brother on the table.
“Don’t open it,” Chok Dii yelled.
“I’m not going to, phone the police, let them deal with it.”
Her smartphone beeped a message.
‘Do you know Vincent van Gogh?’ She read. Before handing her mobile to Dan.
“Who sent it?” asked Dan.
“No idea, some quiz or game app? What did the message mean?”
Dan’s skin lost all colour. He rushed to the kitchen sink.
“What’s the matter? Who is Vincent whatever?” she asked as he cleaned his mouth.
“He was an artist who hallucinated because of his depression. One day he cut his ear off.”
“Oh, my God, you mean…?”
The doorbell chirped and rang again as if stuck. Dan rushed to the door.
Not a male in a green uniform this time. A blonde girl stood with a hairbrush sweeping her locks across her shoulders.
“I’ve gone one better than him. You said you’d love me forever, I never want to hear those words again,” she said, smiling.
“Thanks a lot,” Jazza said to himself, he was unhappy with his bosses comment, even less happy with her suggestion. His latest task was handed via email which ended ‘my office door is open’. The other reporters hid their grins behind papers. He trudged towards the door at the far end of the building.
It was tough getting his work permit, now it seemed even harder keeping it. He was stumped. His boss was the editor of a provincial newspaper. Jazza was only the second non-Thai journalist working for them. To gain the work permit, he needed to prove he was doing a job that a local could not. He was sent on missions no Thai journalist would want. Garbage collection outside schools was the latest no hope article, two thousand words nobody will read. The editor’s newest scheme was to blow open the growing trade in ‘night-life’ workers from the provinces.
Her bright red lipstick annoyed him, so did her tight skirt and her blouse stretched the buttons beyond belief.
“Christ, mutton dressed as lamb, what would my mum say?” He could imagine his mother telling her neighbours, ‘My Jeremy, he’s doing so well, a high flying journalist in Thailand. Imagine?’
“Yeah, she wouldn’t be so proud now.”
He snorted, shook his head and marched through the door into the editor’s cluttered office.
“You want me to pretend to buy underage girls to learn their trade in a pretend massage parlour?”
“Yes, but not only girls, but boys can also be good at massage too, you know?” She laughed.
“Are you serious? You’ll get me shot,” Jazza was on the verge of walking out.
“Did you know that footballer you keep on about, he is coming to The Crest Hotel,” she flipped a finger at the window behind her, “over the road, with his wife when the season ends. I’ll need him interviewed. How do you fancy that little job?” she said.
Jazza suddenly perked up. “Really?”
“Yes, but I want an award-winning story about massage kids first.”
“I’m not saying no, but this seems perilous?” said Jazza.
“Look, we can’t use a Thai person, the girl’s dad won’t believe our story, it must be a European or American. You’re the man for the job. Remember, I have a contact high in the police force, he will be eh… monitoring your progress from a distance.”
“And expenses? I’ll have to spend, car rental, maybe entertaining and for the poor unfortunate child.”
“Yes, yes, you will need cash, the parents won’t have it any other way. For any bar or restaurant bills, you can use the company credit card.”
“Won’t that be a giveaway?”
“Yes, yes, it will. Use your cash, I’ll pay you back when you get back. And I need receipts.”
“I don’t think they give receipts in the places I’ll be going,” Jazza said.
He grumbled his way home, “Early to bed, early to rise,” he said to himself, preparing himself to meet the challenges of the next day. He was dreading buying food and drinks for some pimp. He had been given the name and phone number of the in-between contact.
Jazza could speak passable Thai but never mastered reading or writing. He had met up with the contact, short military haircut, immaculately dressed, a very upright person, at least in his demeanour if not his trade. He drank wine and enjoyed the steak dinner he was offered as he handed over details of the poor girl to be bought.
He was thinking about his chosen career, the good, meeting famous people, and the bad, having to deal with wicked folk.
“No problem,” he said to the car’s mirror, “I doubt if I need to read a contract with the farmer or his daughter,” he laughed, as he reached the up-country village.
As much as he hated the idea of taking a fourteen-year-old girl away from her family and school friends, he was excited by the cloak and dagger thrill of working undercover. He had drafted the skeleton of the article in his bed. Now he needed the bones, and a few shots with his iPhone camera secreted in his pocket.
Not only did the farmer not want a contract, he barely spoke. Dragging the young girl from a shed behind the house, she struggled and cried as she sat in the front of Jazza’s hire car.
The farmer counted the thousand Baht notes, grunted, and stomped inside.
“Don’t worry,” Jazza said to the girl, as the car moved off. “My boss promised to find you a safe and friendly care home where you can finish your schooling.”
An uncertain smile flicked across her face. Jazza wondered if she doubted his comment or was she laughing at his poor language skills.
The road was cracked, and the edges are broken and missing, as Jazza manoeuvred around potholes. Flashing lights caught his eyes ahead.
“Oh, no, I hope that’s not an accident?” he mumbled.
It wasn’t, police cars surrounded him in an instant.
He was bundled into the back of a pickup truck and cuffed to a railing.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
The uniformed officers sneered at him without reply.
“I want to speak to my boss, no, I want the embassy.”
They laughed, tapping each other playfully, high-fiving, happy with their arrest. His phone and wallet were confiscated, as he was charged with kidnapping at the station.
Later at the newspaper building, a well-dressed police captain strolled into the editor’s office, he threw his cap to a spare chair and plonked himself down and stretched his feet up onto her desk.
“That all went well.” He breathed. “I’ve got rid of a pain in the arse Brit for you. A new member of staff for my massage parlour, and recovered all your money. Happy now?” He asked as he leant forward and kissed his mistress full on the lips.
“Not in front of my staff,” she laughed.
“Oh, I’ve placed the farmer in the same cell as Mr Jeremy, do you think they’ll get on?” They both roared. She tore the work permit in half.
“Wait, you may need to use that again.”
“A permit for a female called Alice Drabble to use, ha, I doubt if I’ll be lucky enough to find another half-wit who can’t read!”