A selection of Thai stories
BEAT THE BEACH
A Collection of Short Stories
Thai Characters, Thai Settings
“YOUR SEAT, SIR,” the air hostess cleaned some imaginary dust from its cushion.
The passenger looked around before answering.
“Thanks, I’d like to sleep, with no interruptions.”
His crumpled Daily Mail hit the floor. The headline glared up at him, ‘Guitarist – Dead.’
“I know you,” wailed a girl sliding into a seat nearby.
Mr Giles Goodly tutted and glared at the hostess. The Thai Airways lady offered an embarrassed smile.
“You’re the drummer! I know you. Why have you cut your hair?” she continued.
The once bouncy black curls were now styled as a grey crewcut.
“Excuse me, young lady. Please leave him in peace,” said the hostess. “We are about to take off, sit and fasten your seat belt.”
“Your hair didn’t fool me, I recognise your hand tattoos,” the young girl said, sitting down.
Giles Goodly, better known as Beat-Em Up, or Beat for short, was the drummer for chart-topping, ‘Forsaken’. An ageing band of hell-raisers. He was wearing a blazer and Levi jeans. His long-sleeved denim shirt covered his arms, his jacket now stowed above.
“You should have worn gloves,” laughed Amy, his neighbour, for the long flight to Thailand.
“Next time, I’ll take your advice,” he grinned.
“You look good without the curly bonnet,” she noted. “Pity about Pots, I loved his voice, and how odd and sad about the guitarist, what was his name?” she asked, judging Beat’s facial reaction.
“Please let me rest,” he said, reminding him of his friend did not improve his mood.
“Sure, sure, I bet you are still upset? Half the band dead!”
He closed his eyes and hoped to drift to sleep. Without thinking about the group’s leader, with whom he’d had a love-hate relationship. Once more, he started visualising the Ferrari. It’s spinning and smashing into an M4 barrier.
“What happened to Jethro?” he wondered. That was news to him.
Beat’s relationship with the fastest fingers in London had been far friendlier than with their leader. He slept fitfully the rest of the way to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Amy rushed to join him at the exit, “Where are you heading?”
“A day in the city, then down to Phuket for a party. Are you alone? You are young. I hope someone is meeting you?” he asked.
“I’m fifteen, quite old enough, thank you,” she answered, almost stamping a young foot.
“Okay, be careful. Bye, have a wonderful trip.” Beat jumped into a taxi.
“I will,” she mouthed. “It will get better.”
“Follow that one,” Amy ordered her taxi driver. She felt like James Bond as she entered the hotel. Keeping back, she tracked Beat into the reception. She scribbled a hasty note on hotel headed paper, ‘Your bass player is dead too!’
Folding the paper in four.
“Please deliver this to that man’s room,” she asked the receptionist, pointing to Beat as he entered the lift.
As soon as the porter left, Beat read his note, then checked Google on his phone.
“Oh, no. ‘Bassist found dead in his bedroom. There was no trace of foul play. Police suspected he died following an overdose. Time of death approximately forty-eight hours ago,’ Oh God, oh God,” he said, fighting back tears.
He went to the room’s mini-bar and downed all the spirits collection.
“Should I go back to London?” he asked himself, before ringing his manager.
“There’s nothing you can do. Stay there, we’ve got a new release to sell. Imagine the sympathy sales we’ll get? Do it for the band,” said the manager.
“Take me to the airport,” Amy said as she signalled the next taxi cruising to head the rank.
Checking all the following day’s flight times, she bought a ticket for the next plane to leave for Phuket.
It took only two phone calls to hotel receptionists to discover where the Drummer Hammer Night, was being held. An international gathering of the world’s renowned drummers.
Pleased that she needed only one further call to find out if he was staying in the same hotel.
“Has Mr Goodly told you of his dietary requirements. As his private assistant, I need to check that he keeps to his regime,” said Amy. Her spy skills did not reveal his room number.
“Are you press?” asked the receptionist. She disconnected the call.
She then checked in to the hotel herself.
Excited, she whispered to herself, “Not long now.”
After a much-needed shower, she planned the next day’s activities. Before sliding back the quilt, to enjoy a refreshing night’s sleep.
“Good morning, madam, you’re the first in for breakfast,” grinned a server.
Amy sat patiently waiting for Beat to arrive. She flicked through the pages of a pop magazine, whistling to herself.
“Khun Giles, welcome, welcome to our little hostelry,” gushed the manager. “I hope you find everything to your liking. We will do everything to make your stay happy,” continued the limp man.
Amy watched them enter the nearest elevator in a bank of four. The lit number said floor seven. She jumped into the next door lift. Pressing button seven. She arrived as the grinning porter exited room number seven-one-zero, pocketing his hefty tip.
Downstairs, the drummers started arriving at the party before eight o’clock. They were seated around large circular tables. All chairs face an enormous stage. They had positioned ten drum kits awaiting attention. Lights beamed and flickered as a spritely drummer leapt from one kit to the next as an athletic, warm-up act.
All seats occupied but one. The backing music quietened, guests turned to face the entrance doors. Lights dimmed, a drum roll started, applause began, gradually increasing in volume. They saw their hero, Beat. Striding in, arms above his head, hands waving. He grinned at the attention given by his adoring fellow drummers.
Young drummers took to the stage, banging out star favourite solos. Beginning with Buddy Rich. Then on to Ginger Baker, Phil Collins, and Ringo Starr. Ending on a twenty-minute tribute session to the late, great Keith Moon. “Stars of the future, playing great oldies,” said their host as the applause rang out.
“And now in a change to our published programme, a young lady, all the way from London, please welcome, Miss Amy. Another big hand please.” The compere bowed out, as leather-clad Amy walked across the stage. Throwing drum sticks spinning high in the air, beaming. Without looking up, she caught the sticks, one in each outstretched hand. Taking a hasty bow, she took her time adjusting her seat. She glanced around, then hammered out Moby Dick. An exact copy of John Bonham’s 1970 Led Zeppelin performance. Silence. The stunned audience, speechless, the management unsure how to follow that. Time stalled. And then, cheers, claps and whistles rattled the ceiling for ten full minutes. With a tear in her eye, Amy ducked the congratulatory back slaps to dash out of the back door.
“That was the girl I met on the plane! Who the hell is she?” asked Beat.
Nothing but shrugs answered him.
Beat left without a word. The manager tried to get his show restarted. The guests were no longer interested; they had seen an unbeatable performance.
“What could cap that?” he said in the mic, signalling to servers to deliver food and beverages. “Quickly, move, get the dishes out.”
“Where did the girl in leather go?” Beat asked at reception.
They pointed to the beach. Beat ran, looking both ways as he raced through the coffee shop out onto the moonlit sand.
“Stop, please stop,” he yelled at the black shadow nearing a rocky outcrop. She disappeared out of view. Beat searched, squeezing between rocks.
“There you are,” he said.
“Yes, I’m here. I’ve waited for years for you to talk to me.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “Should I know you?”
“I am not one of the thousands of girls screaming your name. I cry in anger at the sight of you.”
“Why, I don’t understand?”
“You and your band killed my Dad,” she answered, tears dropped in the sand.
Beat studied her face, struggling to see a resemblance to any man he had ever known.
“Who was your father?” he asked.
“He died because of your thoughtless behaviour? You never gave him a chance.”
“I’ve no idea what or who you are talking about?” he said.
Half sitting, half standing, leaning back against a rock she bent forward and gripped her ankles. With her head on her knees, she wept.
“Oh, Dad, I miss you.”
Beat, unsure if he should hug her, and try to comfort the little lost girl. Nervously, he edged closer.
Striking fast as a cobra, she pulled stilettos from the cuffs of her trousers. Flashing in the moonlight, the blades sliced behind his knees, slashing his hamstrings. Left and right, he collapsed to his knees. Her hand clamped his mouth, halting the screams.
“Mr Drummer Man, how hard do you think it is to tamper with a sports car’s brakes? Flash git. Easy. How stealthy do you have to be when adding poison to alcohol? And how difficult is it to doctor heroin for an addict? Easy, believe me. Especially when we have an alcoholic, a drug taker who likes solitude by hiding away for days on end. And now, Dear Beat, it’s your turn, the last member of Forsaken,” she smirked. “All superstar musicians who didn’t give my Dad a second thought.”
Beat’s jaw dropped as a distant memory glimmered.
“My Dad taught me to bang on drums, but he could do so much more. He was a genius with guitars, and my God was his voice sweet? Freddie Mercury learned from him. All he wanted was a chance. You laughed at him. He would have made ‘Forsaken’ the best band ever. All you had to do was listen, and you laughed at him. He died holding my hand. You will die looking at my feet!”
Amy left Beat pinned to the wet sand by the blades that slashed his throat.
She skipped along the beach, whistling the latest number one hit.
A PIERCING SCREAM cracked the bedroom mirror.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” asked Billy, panting, as his fingers searched for his wife’s hand.
Khmer expletives were yelled at him, none he understood. Breathing too fast, the young expectant mother regained her composure. Her chest lifted and fell in time with her oxygen intake.
“Where am I?” Nipa said as she looked around the bedroom.
“Babe, you are okay, we are at home, in bed, calm down. You are sweating. It must have been a nightmare?” said the shaken young husband.
He flicked the bedside lamp on.
“Christ, look at the blood. What happened?” he asked.
“I, I, I can’t talk…” she coughed up more blood.
“Keep still. What is that?” he asked, pointing to a cord hanging from the corner of her mouth. She coughed again, this time spewing streams of red. The cord remained as if stuck deep in her stomach. The visible end swung like a one-legged ballet dancer.
The girl bend double, head between her knees, made more difficult as the six-month-old lump was in the way.
“Let me look,” Billy said as he touched the blood-soaked shoelace. A boy tugging a worm from its muddy home.
Gently pulling, releasing its deep grip, a knotted chain of razor blades slid up and out of her throat. Another stream of vomit soaked her husband.
“Got it!” he called, examining the item as a stamp collector sees a Penny Black.
Nipa rolled on her back and rubbed her unborn baby bump.
Billy held his prize to the light, “It looks like uncooked bacon rind, a huge one. What the hell have you been eating?”
At seven AM Billy left his wife to her troubled sleep in their Nong Bo Village, northern Thailand. He went to check on their livestock. Clucking and grunts accompanied him. Passing the spiky bamboo fence surrounding their property, he wondered. “Why have we got such an ugly and useless fence?”
He quickened his pace to the chicken hut. Sensing something was wrong, he sprinted.
“Oh no,” he wailed.
His prize cockerel gutted open, spread and pinned on the fence post. The beautiful comb had gone, along with the rest of the head.
“I loved that bird,” he cried.
The usual pleasure of Billy’s morning ritual, his early inspection of their farm. Drinking a mug of Nescafe, relaxing before easing into the day’s work, ruined. He often daydreamed about the night he met the love of his life. Three years before, he had fallen head over heels with a gorgeous and vivacious nightclub hostess. They dated for the rest of his holiday. Then returning to England, they enjoyed a long-distance romance. He proposed via Skype; she left the club; they married at her father’s farm. Billy bought a farm nearby. They settled and began married life together. She became pregnant. What could be better?
“How are you feeling?” Billy asked his wife, as she slumped next to him at the table, shattered. Her coffee skin was milky, the night had drained her colour.
“Yeah, sleepy, at least baby slept well,” Nipa answered as she prepared rice soup for breakfast.
“Hold the breakfast, we should go to the doctor? We have an appointment, we don’t want to be late.”
“I need to eat, I am starving,” she said, dipping sticky rice into last night’s curry.
“Do you want to know the baby’s sex yet?” Billy asked, excited to find out.
“It’s a boy,” she answered bluntly.
Billy, puzzled by her answer, decided not to question her. That could wait. He also wanted to find out more about his and their neighbour’s fences. That too could wait. His wife’s breakfast could not. He waited in front of his laptop.
“Come on, Wi-Fi, don’t let me down,” he said. Their connection was rarely reliable.
He checked Google.
“Krasue fears spikes as they get their entrails tangled!” My God, now I’ve heard it all,” he chuckled, not understanding the text.
Once more, he ducked the chance to query things.
“That can wait,” he said to himself.
“Good morning, have you come for your check-up?” asked the doctor’s receptionist.
“Yes, we need to ask him something else as well,” said Nipa.
“Your appointment’s booked for a scan and consultation, is that correct?”
“I know, but we need to see him about something else too, if possible?”
The receptionist showed them in.
“Hello, no problem with junior I trust?” said the doctor.
As they explained what had happened the night before. The doctor looked worried. Changing the subject, he stated, “The baby’s heartbeat is strong, the scan is fine. You have nothing to worry about the baby. I can see if it is a boy or girl, do you want to see?”
“It is a boy,” said Nipa.
“Yes, how are you so sure,” he asked.
Billy asked, “What about the blood last night?”
“I can’t see where it came from. No cuts in her mouth or throat. Any stomach pain?”
“None, doc,” answered Nipa.
“I don’t suppose you kept any of the blood, or the curious thread?” asked the doctor.
“No, we cleaned up and threw away the other thing,” answered Billy.
“I’ll run some tests, roll up your sleeve, please,” the doctor said.
“Fantastic, a son,” said Billy as they walked back to their truck.
“Yes,” said an unsmiling Nipa.
Billy studied her blank face, riveted straight ahead. He decided not to ask what was worrying her. They bumped along the track to their home.
“Hungry?” she asked solemnly.
“What is the problem? I thought you would be happy, you haven’t even phoned your dad to tell him.”
“You couldn’t understand.” She stormed inside, leaving her husband to check the remaining chickens.
“Your lunch is on the table, I’m going for a nap,” she called from the stairs.
Billy was used to the fiery, sometimes weird North-Eastern food. But they had never served him live maggots.
“What the hell is this?”
Insulted, he stormed up the stairs.
“Don’t pretend you are asleep, you’ve only just got into bed,” he said as he shook her.
Her eyes opened wide, staring sightlessly. The baby bulge moved, rocking from side to side.
Shocked, he forgot his anger.
“What’s the matter?” he yelled, placing the back of his hand on her forehead. “Christ, you are burning up.”
He patted his pockets, “Where is it?” panicked he hunted for his phone.
“Did you enjoy your lunch?” she asked suddenly, as bright as the morning sun.
Her calmness stunned him for a minute before he could speak.
“Are you sure you are okay?” he asked again, feeling her temperature.
“Yeah, I’m fine. How long did I sleep? Better get on.”
She leapt from the bed and sauntered downstairs.
“Oh, you haven’t touched your ‘larb’?”
Larb was one of her dishes he loved.
“No, it was…” he looked over her shoulder at his lunch.
“I thought you like the way I prepare that dish?”
“I do, but it had… Never mind.”
Not seeing any maggots, he played with the dish before pushing it to one side.
“The chicks were fine, I’ll check on the pigs now,” he said, hopping out the back door.
Later in the day, she asked, “You wanted to know about our fences?”
“Yes, true, but how did you know?”
“If you don’t like them, rip them down,” she said.
Puzzled, he went back to his animals. He sensed something was wrong. The pigs were unusually quiet. He quickened his pace. Speechless, as he approached the mess nailed to the gatepost. Once a boar, now a blood coated carcass of rotten and stinking pork. Flies buzzed in a cloud. The prized father of dozens of piglets pinned on its back, slit from throat to the anus. The guts missing from the fetid bulk.
“Call the police, somebody has killed Arsene, our boar!”
“Don’t worry, dear, these things happen,” she said, beaming.
That evening, eating on their patio, Billy decided the time was right to get answers.
“You seem different. Have I upset you?” he asked.
“No dear, you are perfect.”
“Is something wrong with the baby?”
“No dear, everything is fine,” answered Nipa.
“Did you mean what you said about the fence?”
She turned glaring, red in the face. “Yes, get rid of the damn thing.”
“Um, okay,” he stammered.
Instantly her mood changed, “Would you like some mango?” she asked, as sweet as the fruit.
The next morning, Billy set about ripping down the ugly, pointless fence he hated. ‘Pointless, as it does no useful purpose, but not pointless, as it offers nothing but points’. He chuckled to himself, losing concentration.
“Shit, shit, shit!” screamed Billy as thorns embedded in his thigh.
Limping back to the house, Nipa hid her mouth as she beamed.
“Oh, darling, what has happened?” she asked.
“It is pretty obvious, isn’t it?”
She sat him down, gently pulling the points from his leg.
“Steady, that hurts,” wailed Billy.
She smiled, putting splinters aside. She sucked on the wound, loudly, like a child with her first lolly.
“What the hell are you doing?” asked Billy.
Between slurps, she answered, “Traditional Thai healing,” she licked her lips.
A battered Honda motorcycle rumbled up to the house. An elderly man jumped off, fuming.
“Now, what are you doing? First, you marry a foreigner, now you’re removing protection for the entire village.” Bellowed Nipa’s ageing father in the Khmer language.
He threw his half-smoked roll-up cigarette to the ground, “Get it fixed!”
“What did your dad want?” asked Billy. “He didn’t seem happy, did you tell him it’s a boy?”
“He was checking how the baby is, and delighted the family has another male,” she lied sweetly.
The sun dipped below the horizon. Billy limped as he lit a fire and burnt the fence remains with some dried leaves he had swept up. Nipa took a mug of coffee out to him.
“Thanks, babe. Can you see those lights near our entrance?”
“Yes, it is my father and other villagers.”
“How can you see them, I only see movement and dull lights?”
“I’ve been eating my carrots,” she laughed.
“What do they want, why don’t they come in?”
“I’ll find out,” she said as she started walking the long driveway.
Billy went back to his raking. A car’s horn sounded as a vehicle turned into their entrance. It stopped near the fire but kept the engine running.
“Oh, it’s you, doc. Any problem?” asked Billy.
“The villagers have been calling me, they want me to talk with you about your fence.”
“Yes, they worry there is a Krasue nearby,” said the doctor.
“A what? I thought that was a joke.”
“Where must I start?” queried the doctor.
“Do you want to come in, have a drink?” asked Billy.
“Oh no, thanks. I won’t be too long.”
“Okay, tell me.”
“There is a belief around these parts. Not only here but also in Lao, Cambodia, throughout Thailand and down into Malaysia. Usually, but not always, a female spirit leaves her body and searches for another place to live. She or it, needs blood, rotting flesh or intestines to survive on,” said the doctor, rushing his words.
“I read something on the web. You mean like a vampire?”
“But vampires are good looking,” he chuckled more confidently. “A Krasue is head and entrails, it floats around farms and scrubland.”
“You have to be joking? How can an intelligent man like yourself believe that tosh?” asked Billy.
“I didn’t say I believe it, but all these folk does. They want you to replace the spiked fence.”
“Is that what all the fuss is about? Okay, I can make another.”
“Great, that’s all I wanted to hear,” the doctor stammered.
“Come in and have a beer, I’d love to find out more.”
“No, no thanks, I must go.”
The doctor dropped his phone as he clambered into his car. Driving away too fast, he clipped the hedge as he skidded past the villagers.
“I’ll return his mobile tomorrow,” Billy thought. “What was the rush?”
“Is your dad coming in?” Billy asked as his wife returned.
“No, they all have a few bottles of home-brew waiting. Talking of which, do you want a cold one?”
“Yes, join me on the patio. Let’s talk about baby names.”
“Yeah, okay, do you have any ideas?”
“Not really, there are a couple of male names that keep cropping up in my family, but they are old-fashioned. Why not have a Thai name?”
“Why not have both?” she said.
She placed a second beer in front of him, smiling and cool.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you, I was talking to the doctor, and agreed to replace the fence.”
She spilt the beer, no longer calm, Nipa went to bed without a word.
Billy lifted the bottle and drained the remains. Sitting alone, he thought about his day, life, and the future.
Creeping up the stairs, he peered in at his sleeping wife. Sliding under the sheet next to her, he turned to his side. Sleep would not come. Tossing and twitching he lay on his back sweating. Moonlight illuminated the room.
He sensed a breath on his face.
Opening his eyes, he stammered, “What… How…”
His ashen wife floated inches above him. Pointed teeth opened, “Shh…”
He fell to the floor, banging his head against a cupboard.
“Quiet, I’m trying to sleep,” said Nipa.
Billy sat up, rubbed his bruise, and looked around. Clambering back into bed, suffered a fitful sleep.
Breakfast was quiet, Billy had questions he dare not ask, Nipa was sluggish through lack of sleep.
The chicks and pigs were quiet as he left the house.
“What? There are no eggs,” said Billy to himself, as he went to the pigpen.
They had nailed ten of their piglets to the wooden door. Slit like the boar, their entrails dragged in the mud.
He rushed to the kitchen, “Come quick.”
“Are they male?” she asked.
“Are what male? Do you mean pigs? I didn’t look. Why?”
Nipa helped her husband clean up the small bodies and prepared them, ready to offer the meat to a local butcher.
“While we’re in town, I want to see the doctor,” said Billy, as they delivered the package.
“He’s busy all day,” said Nipa, bagging her phone.
“Really? I’ll try tomorrow,” he said.
“What’s so urgent about seeing the doc?”
“Nothing much, something he said about our fence.”
“Forget the fucking fence,” she glared, before turning around.
“It’s unlike you to swear. What’s wrong?” asked Billy.
“Nothing darling,” she said. “Let’s go home.”
“I want to know who is killing our livestock. I need you to translate for me,” said Billy.
“Why waste your, or should I say our time? No one will tell tales on their neighbours.”
“I have got to try. I need to show them I mean business, otherwise we’ll have no farm.”
Grunting, she nodded, “Okay, let’s go.”
At the first farm they reached, people scuttled inside the house. Slamming doors and closing windows.
“It must be them, look they are so scared. They won’t even talk to us,” said Billy.
“Right, let’s go home,” smiled Nipa.
“No, I’m going to the police.”
The police station was a two-man hut constructed on the main road’s junction. Pulling up, Nipa stayed in her seat.
“Come on, I need you to help. I don’t suppose they speak English, do you?” he said, temper rising.
Slowly, she walked to the sliding glass of the office. Two officers’ feet up on the shared desk looked at them wide-eyed.
Billy opened his mouth to speak as the officers sprang from their seats and stood behind the chairs.
Puzzled, he continued in English, “We’ve had problems with our neighbours. I need you guys to tell them to stop killing my animals.”
The men remained rooted and speechless. Nipa stared at them. The men looked around them, wishing they had an escape route behind them. The only door was between themselves and their visitors.
Nipa moved towards the door, the police crouched, quaking.
“Come on, you’ve scared them. They must have heard about an aggressive Englishman.” Laughing she strode back to the truck.
“What was all that about? Did they think I would hurt them?” he asked, puffing out his chest.
“Yes, dear, you can intimidate sometimes, you know?” said Nipa, grinning behind her hands.
Proudly Billy drove home, expecting an end to the killings.
Back at the farm, Billy searched for tools, a saw, a hammer, and some nails.
“What are you doing,” asked Nipa.
“I’m repairing the fence I tore down.”
“I thought it was clear, I don’t want the FENCE,” she screamed.
Billy returned his tools to their chest.
“Would you like a coffee, darling,” Nipa said.
“Is the pregnancy getting too much for you?” asked Billy.
“No dear, I’m fine, enjoying thinking about our son.”
There were still no eggs for Billy to collect.
“How about an early night?” Nipa breathed.
The clock ticked to one am. The baby moved uncomfortably for its mum. Salty moisture ran into her eyes, sweat dripped from her nose. The baby jumped inside, its tiny hands and feet searched for an escape, poking and kicking. Nipa rolled to her side, easing the pain. But not for long.
Billy slept unaware.
On her back again, readjusting her bulge, her eyes rolled up into her head, she was now floating above the bed.
She turned again, spinning face down, she floated a few inches above the sheets. She was now nose to nose with Billy, not touching, just there.
His eyes opened, the rest of his body frozen in place. Staring as if in a schoolboy competition, who could last longer. This was no fun game. He wet himself.
She floated lower, drifting towards the foot of the bed. His eyes followed her until she reached his groin, he could watch no longer, forcing his eyes closed. Her nose twitched. He sensed her movement, not daring to open his eyes again until her fetid breath invaded his nose. Quaking, he saw she was eye to eye with him. Hers were empty, empty of empathy, empty of colour. Clear glass marbles watched him, before floating down once more. Only a few inches this time, she slowed and stopped at Adam’s apple.
“Please be a dream,” he begged.
Her mouth opened, revealing rows of pointed teeth. He knew it was no dream as the first bite clamped his throat.
Tearing, ripping, and chewing, he was dead. She was ravenous, taking clump after clump of his throat, opening up to her goal, his intestines.
The gorge continued until sated. His stomach, intestines, and tendons were missing. She drifted into a seated position next to her husband’s body.
Looking at him, she smiled and rested, knowing her task was unfinished. She waited less than a minute.
She was calm and precise as she drew a fingernail sharply across her bulge, “You are next, my baby son.”
Opening her belly, spreading flaps of skin and fat, she lifted the boy out. She clamped her needle-like teeth down on the still attached baby. Leaving nothing but a skull and a few bones.
The Krasue floated out of the open window and swept across the gap of missing fencing.
“I told him not to fix it!” she sniggered.
Howling into the night sky, it echoed across rice fields, waking terrified farmers.
She found a new home, high in a Pinus Kesiya tree. Settling comfortably on a branch until she needed her next feast.
What Will? Who Will?
“WHAT? WHO?” BUDGIE asked.
“Yes, Mr Um… Budgie, it is strange, but I am only passing on instructions as requested by my client,” said Mr Paulson.
“Call me Budgie, everyone does, no need for formality.”
“Um, no, I suppose not. Mr Kanom told me you are the man he wanted to turn his daughter into a ‘decent’ person.”
“Look boss, I don’t know why I’m here, I came because I thought you wanted me to quote on a building job.”
“My letter was quite clear, I needed to speak to you about a delicate matter,” said the aged lawyer.
“I assumed your girlfriend needed her room painted,” Budgie sneered.
The lawyer sighed, “I don’t have a girlfriend. He asked me to talk to you, and that is what I’m trying to do. Let me start again. Mr Kanom has died…”
“Oh, sorry to hear that. Who is Mr Kanom,” asked Budgie.
“It appears that Mr Kanom’s wife had some er, um, friendship with your father. Were they related at one stage?”
“What is her name? My dad was a sailor, he had many friends.”
“What was her name, you mean. She passed five years ago. Her name was Khun Wan. She owned the instant noodle business that made them wealthy,” said the lawyer.
“Wealthy? So, why am I here?”
“As I said, Mr Kanom was fearful about his daughter, her future and her somewhat wayward lifestyle. He named you as a beneficiary in his will.”
Mr Paulson now had Budgie’s full attention. The lawyer sighed and lifted the paper that had been waiting more patiently than the solicitor.
He started reading, “I, Mr Superit Kanom, in full control of my mental faculties…” he read on. Budgie twitched in the leather chair.
“If it is proven that my daughter, Miss Jak Kanom, no longer uses drugs or alcohol. And is in full control of her life, to Mr Paulson’s satisfaction. I bequeath my home in Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, one-hundred million Thai Baht, all contents of said house and the three cars parked there to Mr Budgie Regar.”
“How much is one-hundred million Baht? Sounds a lot?”
“It is. Somehow I guessed you would ask,” he said. Shuffling through the Telegraph financial section.
“Today one UK pound is thirty-two Thai Baht,” he said, sliding the calculator towards him. As Mr Budgie was playing with his fingers.
“Three million, one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds, said Mr Paulson.”
Budgie feinted, his head bounced on the highly polished desk.
“Jane, please come in with a glass of water and lean Mr Budgie backwards in his seat. Thank you.”
The secretary rushed in and gently slapped Budgie’s cheek as she pushed him backwards in his chair. She stared at her boss with questions in her eyes, then retreated as Mr Paulson’s weary eyes told her to leave.
“I’ll make some fresh coffee,” she offered as the door closed behind her.
Mr Paulson slid several photographs across the desk. A groggy Budgie’s fingers trembled as he looked at a Jaguar, a BMW and a sports Mercedes. Room after room filled with Asian antiques, with uniformed staff smiling in attendance.
“There is a twenty-metre pool, oh, and a well-stocked wine cellar,” said Mr Paulson.
“This is a prank,” he looked around for hidden cameras, waiting for a show host to leap out grinning.
“It is not a trick. Mr Kanom was a wealthy man, and he wants only the best for his daughter. He chose you to straighten her up.” He ran his fingers through his thinning hair, before whispering, “God only knows why?” he controlled himself, “Then, and only then can you take possession of the listed items.”
Budgie leant back, dreaming of holidays on Thai beaches, cocktail in hand.
“Do they have Singapore Sling in Thailand?” he wondered.
Eventually, he asked, “Who is the daughter and when can I meet her?”
“I thought you would never ask,” said Mr Paulson.
“Miss Jak? Hi, just to let you know, Mr Paulson and his client are ready to meet you at one. They will be in ‘The Club’ awaiting your presence,” said the secretary with a cheeky grin.
“I thought my father was the client?” said Jak.
“Er, yes, technically,” Jane answered.
“Don’t worry, I’m only messing around. I’ll go as soon as they finish my nails.”
The Club, established in 1887, was busy. All diners wore suits, except Mr Budgie. The grandeur hushed the conversations. Servers wore tail-coats as did the bar staff.
“Yes, sir, are you ready to order?” said one of the long tails.
“We are awaiting a lady, we will order then. A small sherry for me, and my guest will…”
“A beer for me, mate, do you have Carlsberg?”
Budgie leaned back and grinned at those who tried to hide their gaze. Mr Paulson attempted small talk and failed badly. Budgie wasn’t listening, he was too busy dreaming.
A minor disturbance broke through the muted chatter.
“That must be them,” a stylish Asian lady pointed a newly varnished nail at a central table. She marched in, leaving the Maitre De struggling to keep up.
“Hi guys, I’m Jak.”
Mr Paulson stood and delicately touched her hand. Budgie smiled but remained seated.
“Vodka for me,” she waved at an open-mouthed server. Sitting at the proffered chair. Mouse-like Paulson returned to his place.
The dishes were delicious; eating stunted the talk. Budgie was lost for words, Paulson uncomfortable hearing a young woman swearing. It all bored Jak.
“I’ve gone through Mr Kanom’s wishes, I trust it was all clear? May I suggest that you both exchange contact details? The quicker you can prove… follow your father’s wishes, the quicker I can ensure we tick each item. Good afternoon, I have other work that needs my attention.”
“Hang on, who’s paying for all this?” asked Budgie, grabbing Mr Paulson’s jacket.
Jak covered a snigger.
“I have an account here, no money needs to change hands,” said Paulson, stalking out.
“I didn’t know, did I?” said Budgie.
“Come on, let’s get ourselves a proper drink,” suggested Jak.
Hailing a cab, “Take us to Xteme please,” said Jak.
“Xtreme? What’s that?” asked Budgie.
A monster of a man with Maori facial tattoos opened the undecorated door.
“Is he coming in?” he said, nodding at Budgie.
“He’s my guest. Do not question me like that again.”
“Sorry mam,” he answered quietly.
The club didn’t open until ten pm, but the staff had to prepare, some days their boss would turn up early.
Beaming greetings to her staff on the way to a private office above the empty dance floor. Mouse-like Budgie followed speechlessly.
“Sit,” she ordered, pointing to a low leather chair.
Looking around nervously, Budgie did as he was told.
“I assume you expect to collect on my father’s will?”
“Um I, I..”
“I’ll take that as a yes. We will both collect if you follow my instructions, okay?” she breathed, crossing her legs, tight buttocks perched on the corner of her mahogany desk. Her guest did not realise her red-soled shoes cost more than he earns in a week.
Budgie looked at the lack of plaster on the bare brickwork. Boasting brass designs between modern oil paintings showing off a huge drinks cabinet.
“On my say so, you will mail a letter to Mr Paulson. Saying that I joined AA. You never saw me with white powder on my nose, etc, etc. In fact, please forget that I’ll write it myself, you sign it.” Jak looked at him, considering if he could read or write.
“Will he believe me?” asked Budgie.
“Jane, could you bring my schedule in?” called a more relaxed Mr Paulson.
The secretary had a paper in one hand, something tangled the other in her wavy hair.
“Sorry, sir, could you help me, I’ve got my hair caught in my earring?”
Paulson grunted, unsure about how to approach this problem.
“You seem to have…” he started.
The top two buttons on her blouse popped open.
“Oh my goodness,” she fiddled, another came unclasped.
Jane pulled Paulson’s head between her breasts as she pulled her phone from her skirt. The mobile camera took its shots soundlessly.
“Come to my nightclub, I’ve some news you will be happy to hear,” said Jak to her mobile.
Budgie took less than twenty minutes to change his jeans and search for a clean shirt.
“These are the keys to my little Merc, they park it in my Bangkok driveway.”
She slid an envelope across the desk, “First-class air ticket on tomorrow’s flight. Have fun.”
“You mean, Paulson agreed?” asked Budgie.
“Naturally, enjoy Bangkok,” she waved him off.
“Sir, are you okay?” the pretty air hostess asked.
“I’m fine, maybe too much free champagne?” he stammered.
They whizzed him through passport control and into a waiting taxi.
“Ah, Khun Budgie, welcome to your Bangkok residence. I’m your butler, here to serve. Please let me take your bags. Which bedroom would you like?”
“I’ve got a choice?”
“Why, of course, the um… highly decorated one is Khun Jak’s. Her mother and father had the biggest, as they no longer need them, may I suggest one of those?”
“Let’s have a look?”
“Follow me, I will hang your clothes. Dinner at seven? Would that suit?”
“Sure. I want to take the Merc for a runaround. I’ve never had a car like that.”
“Can I suggest later, the jams are worse at this time of day,” said the butler.
“Never mind, I can’t wait to give it a run.”
Budgie searched his pocket for the key.
The engine hadn’t run for a while, but it burst into action. Budgie felt at home in the bucket seats. He deserved it. He roared down the driveway, only to inch into Sukhumvit Road’s famous jammed traffic. He crawled two-hundred yards before a police officer jumped in front. His hand demanded he stop.
“This is a bus lane,” he shouted in Thai.
“Let me see your license?”
Often the pro-offered license discretely holds a five-hundred Baht note. The problem disappears. But Budgie was a ‘newbie’ on matters of graft.
The car impressed the police officer, “Nice motor,” he was expecting payment. When Budgie sat staring at him, the officer spoke on his radio.
A more senior man joined them, “Ni alay?” pointing at Budgies’ holdall containing his paperwork.
“Oh, this? It’s my passport,” Budgie guessed, as they led him to a waiting vehicle.
“In,” he used the one English word the officer knew.
An hour waiting for processing, “What a joke, I can pay any fine they hit me with,” Budgie grinned.
“Sir, we have found class A drugs in your holdall.”
Budgie hadn’t learnt that they gave the death penalty for serious drugs offences. He never used drugs, beer was his vice.
“No way, they are not mine,” he shouted as the cell door slammed.
“I have a welcoming gift for you Jane,” Jak tossed the keys to the sports car to her.
“I’ve been waiting so long for this moment,” gushed Jane as the girls hugged.
The Thai girl led her wife upstairs to her father’s computer room.
Jak typed in the password, a part of her father’s bequeathment. A video film clicked into life.
“My darling daughter,” he said, smiling, “I knew you’d gain control of the family’s wealth. Even if I made to work for it. I wanted you to prove you could. To win the password, you had to be exceptionally clever, you did it. Now you are in control of everything your mother and I owned. The big prize? Well, the shares in the noodle company. Congratulations, and good luck running the business. One last thing, whatever you do, don’t marry that idiot Budgie,” he said, grinning. She had never seen him so happy as she clicked the off button.
A tear slid down her cheek as the girls cuddled.
“HERE COMES THE Sun. Watch this,” he whistled.
The couple sat on a rock arm in arm.
“Beautiful, you know I’ve never seen the sunrise like this in England?”
“You mean not over a flat lake? You’ve seen it plenty of times, but over council house roofs.”
“Yes, on my way home after a late shift at the hospital,” she laughed.
“Not quite the same, is it?”
“No dear, I feel a lot will change now we’re living here.”
“And think, on your sixtieth birthday you can celebrate by watching nature’s beauty in Thailand.”
“Thank you, darling, for a wonderful surprise, and the many I’ve had married to you,” she smiled at him and carried on. “I’ve one for you.”
The steel needle plunged between ribs deep into her husband’s heart.
His last word as he rolled forward. Mrs Murphy strained as she sat him back on the rock.
“Come and get us,” she said to her iPhone.
The long-tailed speedboat roared into view. The front of the craft scraped over small stones as he cut the engine.
Its driver, Khun Jojo, jumped out grinning.
Mrs Ann Murphy returned the warmth of his smile. Opened her arms and hugged him.
“Let’s get him in the boat, then we can enjoy my birthday,” she said.
Difficult, but Jojo was a strong young man. Between them, they rolled Mr Murphy into the weighted fishing net. The sun already glistened darting bolts across the lake.
“Jeez, Jojo, it’s going to be a hot one,” she said.
“This is Thailand,” he answered, twisting the steering bar. The boat slowed and drifted in the middle of the enormous lake. They humped the net over the chipped wooden edge of the speedboat. The package slid rather than splashed and sank out of sight.
“Goodbye dear husband, safe trip wherever you are going,” she giggled.
Jojo started the engine. Black clouds of diesel fumes drifted on the breeze, earning Jojo a glare from his passenger.
Flapping the smog away, she brightened, “Do you want breakfast?”
“You mean your English version? Toast and jam? No thanks, I’ll go home to my wife’s Thai breakfast.”
“Suit yourself, when do you want the balance of your money?”
“I’ll return my brother’s boat, then I’ll come to you. After you’ve had your toast. Okay?” he chuckled.
Finishing the last mouthful of toast, Ann counted out the thousand Baht notes, one hundred of them.
“Haha, two thousand quid well spent,” she said to herself.
“Thank you, Ann,” said Jojo, stashing the notes in his truck, “Are you going to live here now?”
“Oh yes, I enjoy living here, we can do things we would never get away with at home.”
“After a couple of holidays, you have decided?” he asked.
“As you know, my husband came here alone ten times before he invited me, so it was he who decided we should retire here. But, I love the place. So yes, I’ll stay.”
“If you need me for anything else, you know where I am.”
Ann waited until lunchtime before she reported her husband missing.
“I’m sorry, madam, there is nothing we can do at the moment. He may have gone for a walk… or something?”
“Yes, officer, I understand. Thank you,” mopping the fake tears.
Out of sight, she rubbed her hands and went home.
Their home in England had fetched the expected price, and the money invested.
“Leave it to me, I know the stock market,” her husband had promised. She had no reason to doubt his judgement.
To own a home in Thailand was not as simple.
“I’ve bought us a lovely bungalow,” he told her on his return from one of his regular trips.
“Look at the pictures,” he had said.
A cute two-bedroomed property on a new estate smiled at her.
“It’s lovely,” she said. “I thought foreigners can’t own houses in Thailand?”
“True enough, my dear, but there is always a way. Don’t worry.”
Ann often wondered why her husband chose Songkhla to retire to. It boasted the lake he loved and was near the sea. Bangkok, a busy capital, would not have been suitable after living in London. Pattaya had a bad name with a good deal of ex-pat wives. Phuket sounded lovely, a touch expensive, Hua Hin would have been her pick. She wasn’t offered the choice.
“Ah, it’s morning in England, I’ll ring Lucy before she goes to work.”
“Lucy darling, are you sitting down? I’ve got some worrying news.”
Ann sniffed back pretend tears.
“What is it, mum?”
“Your dad, he has gone off. He wasn’t in bed when I woke. His phone is here. God knows what happened. I thought he may have gone to buy his paper. No sign of him. I’ll ring you later.”
They always deliver his Bangkok Post at eight am, Lucy didn’t know that. As usual, Ann turned it over.
“Anything happening in England,” she wondered. Then reminded herself to check the share market.
The phone was ringing, “I hadn’t finished. Mum, I’m worried. Have you been to the police?”
“Yes, they told me there have been no accidents involving British people. I’m worried too, what must I do?”
“Sit tight. I’m sure if anything happens, the authorities will contact you. It may be… he met a friend and forgot the time?”
“Yes, dear. I’ll ring you later, or tomorrow.”
The Bangkok Post’s financial pages didn’t offer any information of use. She didn’t know what she was looking for, anyway.
Her phone rang.
“Hello,” answered Ann.
A woman spoke for an entire minute without stopping.
“Sorry, love, I don’t speak Thai.”
She cut the connection.
“What the hell was that about?”
The fridge boasted fresh salad ingredients to which she added half a can of tuna. Sitting down in front of the tv, she tucked in.
“Why don’t I open a bottle of wine? A small celebration for a job well done.”
She was no wine expert, and a locally produced white was adequate.
An urgent rap at the door disturbed her cheery mood.
“Sawasdee,” said the lady offering the traditional Thai greeting, the wai.
Ann had been in Thailand long enough to know they expected her to return the bow. Her hands were together as if in prayer.
“Hello, can I help you?”
The slightly built, well-dressed woman spoke non-stop to the vacant face of Ann. She then politely peered over and around Ann’s shoulders.
“Do you want to come in?” asked Ann.
The woman ducked away, got in a car and drove off.
Scratching her head, Ann returned to her now warm wine. The mobile was ringing again.
“Yes, hello,” said Ann
“Mum, the bank is trying to track you down.”
“Er, why? They know where I am.”
“Did you know dad changed his next of kin?”
“What do you mean?”
“They wouldn’t tell me, but as they are my bank too, I was told a little. The manager asked me who Khun Su is? I do not understand. Do you know?”
“The only Su I know is our driver’s niece.”
“The Su the bank mentioned is a baby. Is that her?”
“I’ll call you later, there is someone at the door.”
“You again? And who is this?”
The gentleman answered, “I’m Tanai Geek, this lady’s lawyer. Can we come in?”
“And who is she?”
The two guests made themselves comfortable, Ann was dreading the next conversation.
“You are no doubt aware that foreigners may not own property? It is against the law in Thailand.”
“Yes, I know, my husband organised it all safely. We own this house until we die.”
“That is not quite true. It was your husband’s for now. But when he dies, they pass it to his daughter.”
“Okay, and our daughter wants me to live here. What is the problem?”
“His daughter is not old enough to speak. Not old enough to decide on property matters. So, her mother has power of attorney.”
Ann was not listening.
“Of course she is, I spoke to her in England…” the truth dawned on Ann, a hammer blow struck as she lost the power of speech.
“His new Thai daughter will take possession of all his belongings on his death. We know he is dead, as do you? Now, do you want to hand over the keys? Or do you want to explain photographs we took this morning to the police?”
Her phone was ringing again. She threw it into the lake.
“You got the better of me again. You always did. I thought finally I had won. Let’s call it a draw.”
The moonlight bounced off the water’s ripples as she strode into the tepid wetness. Her pockets were full of rocks.
All I Want Is A Coffee!
“Ni, Khun och!”
My head felt like a wasp’s nest, large, noisy and thumping with activity. The man was not happy. He was pointing to the bus’s door. It seemed a light year away in the distance.
“Where am I?”
He grunted, I was none the wiser, and in no state to push this any further. Wobbling to my feet made my way juddering to the front. There were no other passengers, no luggage.
“Did I have a bag? Must have?”
A shrug was the answer. He glared as I peered at the back seat. The reason for his unfriendly behaviour became clear. A puddle of acrid smelling vomit appeared to be rotting the plastic floor. A scene from ‘Alien’ flashed before my eyes.
It was all coming back; I had been in Bangkok for a Lasik retina operation. My eyes? No glasses!
“How in Hell’s name did I end up here? Wherever I am? At least my vision was wonderful.”
There was no bag, at least not in sight, even with new eyes. Making my way to the front and checking my wallet, a small plus, there was some cash, not a lot, but some.
Heavy footfall disturbed my brief rest on the buses step. The man didn’t like me. That was clear. Staggering off, left, right, up the road or down it, made no difference to me. Making the wrong choice, there was nothing in view. No shops, no houses, no other vehicles. After passing a rubber tree plantation, I turned back. Hopefully, there would be something in the other direction?
On reaching the unattended bus, I noticed a coffee stand, “Was that there before?” I couldn’t be sure, anyway. It was closed.
It was hot and getting hotter. A swirl of warm dust twisted its way into a field. There must have been a storm in the night? The road had dried. The fields were still wet. A clattering motorbike shook its way past me. Carrying on in a hunt for coffee, I picked up my pace. Must be something ahead? Another battered and bruised 100cc machine cruised along. The rider and three passengers looked like they knew their way.
At last, shops, people, life.
Was it me? The people turned and closed their doors. The reason for the activity soon became clear. A convoy of military rattled past, and a soldier mounted an unfriendly-looking weapon. He looked and shouted something. The truck carried on.
My best hope for a drink had closed its doors. The wasps in my brain were back. Only stopping their hum when a flash of lightning rattled from one side of my skull to the other. Flopping onto a battered bench, I studied the cracks and broken concrete that was now my seat. Thinking how odd, my vision was clear, I studied patterns in the cracked seat.
A man walked across the road, stopped and looked at me, not caring how I may feel about someone staring at me. I studied his flowing chequered cotton and beautifully crocheted skull cap. He was carrying a biscuit tin. Thinking some ‘Rich Tea’ or even better ‘Digestives’ would go well with my drink.
He tilted his head and asked, “What you want?”
“First, I want a coffee, then a chemist, and then a ride back to Bangkok.”
“It looks like Starbucks is closed.”
“Oh, head problem.”
Gently pointing above my ear.
“You help me, I help you?”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“Take this cake to my mother. The army looks for me, I must go.”
“And how are you going to help me?”
“My mother makes excellent coffee. And she has a phone, call a taxi.”
“Won’t a taxi to Bangkok be very expensive?”
“Yes, but no bus for a week.”
It didn’t take my addled brain long to work out how to arrange the cash when I arrive back in the city.
“Okay, where is your mum’s house?”
The directions were simple enough. Follow the road, when I see a big white house, turn left and see his mother in the field.
The man disappeared in the opposite direction.
After twenty minutes of plodding, there was a large off-white structure. As I neared it, people were tending goats nearby. One of those people must be his mum I thought. Daydreaming of my prize, it might have to be black, not sure if I liked goat’s milk in coffee.
The people were standing with their trousers rolled to the knee. An odd thought flashed in my mind, ‘Were they Freemasons?’ Chuckling at my limp joke. They all looked puzzled, silently questioning this strange foreigner, “Alay?” a woman shouted. I held up the biscuit tin, hoping someone would claim the gift.
To my surprise, the group dived into the mud, hands on their heads.
Some of their arms moved to sodden pockets, searching for something. Muttering in a foreign tongue to each other. I moved forward to ask, “What’s the matter? What is wrong?” Nobody answered.
Having no intention of muddying myself, “Christ, all I want is a coffee,” I said, standing rooted to the driveway.
With a squeal of tyres from behind, we all turned our heads. An army truck kicking stones behind it screeched to a halt thirty yards short of me. A camouflaged man opened the passenger door. He hid behind it and waved his pistol, finally pointing it to the ground.
“Did he mean me, or the cake box?” I raised my free arm, bent my shaking knees and placed the tin on the road and raised my other arm. Now four soldiers aimed their weapons at me, three rifles and a pistol pointed at my heart.
The leader patted me down, forced my arms behind my back, cuffed my wrists and forced my face down in the dust.
Gingerly, a soldier moved and lifted the tin he threw it into the muddy field opposite. He then raised his rifle. A single shot, then muck flew in all directions, splattering back to earth.
I was roughly shoved into the truck. Plenty of unanswered questions burst from my mouth. The uniformed men either couldn’t or wouldn’t speak English.
Twenty minutes later we arrived at a base. Prodded and poked, I sat behind a desk, not understanding a word screamed at me. The desk phone was ringing. Orders issued, my guess only? Once more, they placed me in a military vehicle. This time alone in a metal box with a wire grill allowing fresh air and an interrupted view of the outside world.
All I wanted was a cup of coffee, but at least I was on my way to the city!
The Jet Pee Nong Hotel
“JET PEE NONG, what the hell is that?” asked the walk-in customer.
“That, my friend, is the name of a magnificent hotel. At a brilliant resort, on the holiday you’ve been dreaming of.” Answered the overly keen sales agent at Rickets Travel Bureau.
“I noticed the ‘deal of a century,’ you’ve been plugging on social media recently. Tell me more.”
“You are in luck. We only had one spot available, and it had been booked.” The young man answered. He wore an oversized bright yellow blazer, with the oversized letters, RTB, plastered over the breast pocket. Below the logo was a pin screaming ‘Jethro’.
“I was in luck, but it had been booked?”
“Yes, tragedy in the customer’s family. She had to cancel. So, it’s yours, just give me your card and I’ll get on with booking it for you,” Jethro beamed.
Nigel Peters scratched his chin, “I’ve never been to Thailand before, what’s it like?”
“Oh, you’ll love it. It will be hot. The beaches are clean. The food is to die for… And Thai ladies are beautiful, say no more,” RTB Jethro was getting on Nigel’s nerves. He considered the reason he was there in the first place, he needed a break.
“Okay, book it.”
“Splendid decision, Mr Peters, you fly out Wednesday from Heathrow. Have a lovely holiday.”
Nigel settled himself in the middle seat in the central aisle and halfway back of the Thai Airways Jumbo.
“There’s always one, and he is always next to me,” Nigel mumbled to himself as a scruffy younger man tried stuffing his over-large holdall in the crammed overhead container.
“Sorry mate, they buggered my ticket, panic all around,” he said, squeezing next to Nigel.
Pulling his jacket free of his neighbour as he sat.
“You’re here now, enjoy the flight,” Nigel sneered, making it clear he wanted no further conversation.
A man was waiting at Suvarnabhumi Airport with a small sign boasting, ‘Mr Peter’, hand-written in black marker pen.
“But I’m Peter,” an elderly man stated.
“No, sir, I meet Mr Nigel Peter,” said the mini-bus driver.
“Excuse me, are you looking for me?” asked Nigel, looking at the clipboard and seeing ‘Peters’.
Nigel was directed to his seat on the bus.
The mini-bus took no time to become snarled in Bangkok’s infamous traffic.
“Hello again, mate,” Nigel heard from behind.
“Yes, hi, you again, it seems we are destined to sit together.”
“Where are you going? I’m going to the beach, I deserve sand and sea after what I’ve been through,” said the scruffy man.
“Me too,” Nigel said, dreading the next question.
“Are you going to Hua Hin?”
“Oh, God,” Nigel breathed as he studied the overhead vinyl. “Yes, I think that’s what it’s called.”
The mini-bus pulled up outside a newly painted building. ‘Jed Pee Nong Hotel’ in foot-high letters hung above the entrance.
“Don’t tell me we’re both staying here?” thought Nigel.
“This way, gentlemen,” said a young receptionist, pointing to the front desk. The driver lugged the luggage into the hotel’s trolly.
“Can I see your passports please,” she smiled.
Nigel rushed his document out of his pocket. Hoping to escape his travelling companion.
“Thank you, Mr Peters. And yours, Mr Jackson?” she looked as Mr Jackson searched his pockets and then his small shoulder bag.
Mr Peters was getting used to studying ceilings, planes, buses, and now the fresh paint of the hotel foyer.
“No problem sir, the police station is over the road,” she pointed, “I’ll report it missing. Here’s your key.”
“Where’s my key?” asked Nigel.
“Oh, we only give one key per room,” she answered.
The men looked at each other, then at her.
“What?” yelled Nigel.
“I’ve got you down as a couple? That’s what the agent told us,” she said.
“Oh, no, I had to sit next to him on the plane, shared the bus with him, there is no way I’m sharing a room!”
The girl busied herself with a huge ledger. “We are full tonight, but, tomorrow lunchtime we will have a room free?”
Mr Jackson shrugged okay. Mr Peters did not, as they trudged to the lift.
“You have got to be kidding me?” as Nigel saw the double bed.
“Which side do you want? I prefer to sleep near the window. If that’s okay with you. Oh, can you keep your noise down? I need to nap,” called Mr Jackson to Nigel’s fast disappearing back as he stormed back to reception.
“I am sorry, sir, but…” she started.
“Where can I get a drink?” fumed Nigel.
A folding map was handed to him, with bars and restaurants circled. Nigel marched in the sea’s direction and hopefully cold beer.
After sampling some strong Thai beer, he got chatting with a few friendly bar girls. The beers soon changed to shots of local whisky. Nigel had calmed down and was enjoying himself with one young lady. They agreed to meet up the following day.
“My God, it’s gone one o’clock,” slurred Nigel as he staggered back to his hotel.
“Can I have my key, please?” he said, proud that he didn’t appear as drunk as he felt.
“The key is with… um, your friend, sir,” the receptionist from earlier reported.
“Let me in, Mr Jackson,” Nigel spoke to the door. “Come on, hurry, I need a pee,” he asked louder.
No answer, no sound from inside, Nigel’s firmly crossed legs made it to the WC in reception.
“Have you got a spare key, please,” said a much relived Mr Peters.
“Yes, sir, I can let you in. He must be a sound sleeper.”
The room door pushed back, and the lights flicked on.
“Where is he?” asked the puzzled receptionist.
“Where are my bags? My passport?”
An instantly sober guest opened the wardrobe, and then the bathroom even looked under the bed.
“Please sir, accompany me to the police station, we must report this. At least then, you will have the bed to yourself,” smiled the girl.
No smile joined her across the road. A furious snarl marched back after spending an hour with the bored night officer.
“Why did I have to keep repeating myself, as he scribbled notes?” whined Nigel.
“His English is not so good, you were speaking too fast,” said the girl.
“So, all this is my fault?”
“No, sir, please take the hotel key and have a good night,” she offered, thankfully her shift had ended.
A hammering woke Nigel at eight o’clock. “Sorry, sir, but you didn’t answer your room phone,” said the receptionist, standing next to a police officer.
“I unplugged the phone, as I wanted a full sleep!” said Nigel as he glared at his visitors.
“Do you mind if I come in,” the officer strode to the coffee table and sat down, pulling the other chair back for Nigel.
“I need you to prove who you are, sir,” said the stern man in the brown uniform.
“I haven’t got my passport, as you well know,” glared Nigel, pulling his wallet from the trousers he had slept in.
The police officer held out his hand, Nigel passed the wallet over.
“No credit cards? No driving licence? No cash?”
“What? Give it here,” stormed Nigel, snatching it back.
The empty wallet hit the far wall. The receptionist’s eyes widened. Her ears glowed at English terms she was unused to.
“Calm down, sir. You had better go with me across the road,” said the officer, hand on his pistol.
Nigel slumped to his knees, head in hands, “Christ Almighty,” he wailed as he was guided to the police station.
After a lengthy telephone conversation with the British Embassy and proving who he was, he could enjoy the rest of his stay in Thailand. A friend sent him cash via PayPal, making life easier with cash in his pocket. Nigel loved Thai food. He enjoyed watching monkeys steal fruit. He even saw a dolphin when he took an interesting boat ride as part of a trip to the nearby mountain. His guide was the young lady he met his first night. They were getting on as if they’d known each other for years.
On his third day in Hua Hin, he relaxed in a deck chair on the beach; he unfolded the Bangkok Post.
“What,” he sat up instantly, as a headline on an inside page jumped at him, like a cold fish’s revenge. He felt the slap across the cheeks.
“RTB owner found dead in her home.”
For a reason only known to him, he looked all around him. He read, “Well-known travel agent and business owner, Mrs Eastman, was found battered to death in her bedroom. Her husband, Mr Eastman’s whereabouts, were unknown.”
Nigel cringed behind the newspaper, suspecting Mr Eastman could watch him. He carried on reading the report aloud. “Young sales assistant, Mr Jethro Jenks, is helping police with their enquiries. Mr Eastman had boarded a flight to Bangkok. ‘We lost track of him there,’ said a detective headed the case.” Nigel folded the paper on his thighs. Then a voice he recognised, shouted from behind, “Keep your noise down, I’m trying to nap.”
If You Work For Big Al?
“I NEED TO SEE you, now!” whispered Big Al. A whisper that melts phones.
“On my way.” JD knew better than to argue with the man who paid his wages. He also knew that when Big Al whispered you had better move… fast.
JD needed a shower, there was no time for a shave. There was no dress code for this meeting. He slung on last night’s jeans and t-shirt. Sniffing the Levis. He changed his mind and quickly found some clean, light brown canvas strides and a denim shirt. Satisfied that his body odour would not insult Big Al’s nostrils. He grabbed a leather jacket and drove the short distance to North London.
Big Al’s busty daughter was waiting by the window.
“Go straight in, he is upstairs… Waiting,” Marilyn said. With the cheeky smile that got several men in serious trouble with her father. JD knew better than to tempt fate. He smiled and studied his trainers.
“No need to knock, get in here,” whispered Big Al. Coughing cigar smoke from behind the elaborately carved door. The horse whisper was loud enough to rattle lesser men’s nerves. JD heard a snigger from behind, Marilyn was signalling she wanted to talk on the phone. JD shook his head and marched in.
He remembered to sit as fast as possible. Big Al didn’t enjoy guests towering over him. Big Al’s sized five handmade brogues had the number seven stamped on the sole. They appeared to dance on the antique desk as he twitched his knees. His hands slammed onto bony knees as Big Al leaned forwards snarling.
“You know Geordie Jenkins?”
JD was unsure if that was a question or a statement. He nodded anyway.
“He is your next task.” Big Al raised his reading glasses to eyebrow level, his hands to shoulder height. “Don’t but me,” he snarled.
“Bu… I was going to ask a question. Is Geordie home?”
“No, and he has been upsetting my plans. I want it stopped.”
“B…” JD started again. “Last I heard, he was in Bangkok?”
“Correct. Thailand has stopped all tourism. That is not my problem. My customers are locals, ex-pats, Thai business people, and Asian gents who seem to creep under the immigration net with too much money to lose. That prat, the Geordie git is struggling for business with no tourists. He is trying to nick my punters. So, my dear JD, I need you to stop him,” said Big Al, leaning back. His glasses slipped down his nose as the Bangkok Post headline appeared on his computer screen.
“See, the Thai government will not open their borders for the foreseeable future. I want Geordie stopped now,” Big Al whispered the words.
“How can I get to Bangkok?” whimpered JD.
“That is why I pay you so handsomely. You must complete the job. Not some unknown monkey. Get me?”
“Yes, Al. Let me work out the difficulties. I’ll let you know ASAP,” said JD.
“Be here tomorrow with the details. Same time.”
“Can I come with you? I love the food and beaches in Thailand,” giggled Marilyn as JD trudged past her to his car.
The screen on his car’s dashboard lit up. It was Big Al’s daughter. “Dad has gone out. Why not come back so we can plan your next move from here? I’ve got all the encrypted passwords with details of all Dad’s colleagues and customers. We can find someone to do the job there for you. You disappear for a few days, then turn up with a smile and put your hand out for your payment,” said Marilyn.
“How do you stand it?” said JD. “I need the money, that’s clear, so I must work for him, but you?”
“It’s a long story, but I also have no choice,” said Marilyn as she slid a chair toward JD.
An hour later, they were beaming with their choice. A French national who was more than capable of completing the task. However, there was another problem. Pierre lived next to the beach in Phuket, people weren’t allowed on or off the island. This hitch was overcome by employing the services of a Micro plane pilot to drop him on the mainland. Costs of any backhanders, if either man were apprehended, were allowed for.
“Perfect,” they agreed.
“See you tomorrow at noon,” smiled JD.
The next day JD was whistling as he rang the doorbell. It was unlocked and opened to his touch.
“That’s odd,” he breathed. Instantly alert, he peered around the door. Suspecting an unhappy customer was paying a visit. JD then heard a whimpering upstairs.
“Marilyn, are you okay?” he called as he mounted steps three at a time.
“Join us,” was whispered from behind the door.
The stunted barrels of a sawn-off shotgun was rammed into his spine.
“On your knees,” whispered Big Al as he moved between Marilyn and JD. Big Al could now look JD in the eyes.
Marilyn strained against the slipknots which were cutting into her wrists and ankles.
“I consider myself a fair man, a generous boss and a loving father. Why do you two not respect that?” The whisper sounded like two bricks scraping together.
“We were trying to find the best way to complete your task.”
“Oh? You were going to use a half-wit Frog who couldn’t even get off the island without you arranging it for him.” Brick dust was clouding.
Marilyn was shaking her head. “How do you know? I disconnected all the cameras?”
“My darling, sweet, untrustworthy daughter, you only disconnected the ones you know about.” His laughter sounded like the bricks had crumbled.
JD fidgeted, which earned him a mouth full of stock. He rolled to the floor.
“It’s not the ‘task’ is it?” Marilyn breathed. “You just don’t want me to have a boyfriend, right?”
Her father stood across JD with the gun pointed at his face. “Your mother had enough lovers for both of you,” he wheezed.
“Dad, I’m twenty-four. It is time I settled down with a husband. Like JD.”
“He works for me, he is not good enough for you.”
“But Dad, we love each other.”
“You love him, haha, so much that you’d go against your father’s orders?” he snarled.
“We were getting your job completed most speedily and cost-effectively way possible with the pandemic hanging over us all.”
“God, you argue as your Mum did.”
“I don’t remember too much about her. Perhaps I should keep my trap shut? Will I vanish too?”
“You’ve both got one last chance.” Big Al pointed. “He will join a tanker leaving for Bangkok tonight. If the task gets fulfilled to my satisfaction, he can come back and I’ll consider employing him full time.”
“And you can see him. He’d better not break your heart.”
“Oh, Dad, I love you.”
It was her turn to whisper, “Sometimes.”
His Stanley knife sliced through her ties, and she ran to the groggy JD. Big Al went downstairs to the reception desk and made a call.
“JD will be ready for you to collect, he’ll be in a huge golf bag. He is packed with water and some sandwiches. Let him out when you sail, he may be groggy,” Big Al coughed. “Easy enough to add him and the clubs to personnel belongings. Get him ashore, follow him, and ensure the task is completed. Then my friend,” Al looked around and whispered even quieter, “I don’t want him to return, let’s say he went out of bounds. Got it?”
Upstairs, Marilyn soundlessly replaced the receiver. She calmly picked up the weapon from the desk. Checked the shotgun cartridges, then crept down the stairs.
Big Al picked his choice claret from the rack and moved to the kitchen to find his favourite goblet. A wide smile greeted his daughter until she aimed the gun.
“Glad you were in the kitchen. Makes it easy to clean,” she smirked.
The lorry with the shipping container arrived. From the window, Marilyn pointed at the golf set on the drive. The driver waved and muttered, “Lighter than I expected?”
Only in Bangkok!
“THAT’S THE THING about this city, you can do anything here,” said Pope.
“Why do they call you Pope?”
“The simple answer, it’s my name.”
“Yeah? I don’t believe you.”
“And I’m supposed to believe Gratis is your name?”
The two men laughed and drained their beers.
“You were saying about the city?” asked Gratis.
“You can get away with a lot more here. We have a similar problem.”
“You don’t know me, how can you know about my problems, if I have any?”
“Because I can read,” said Pope.
“What do you mean?”
“You are on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, are you not?” Pope ordered two more bottles of Leo. “Make sure they are cold this time.” He grinned at the scantily clad girl with the sexy bob-cut, who pretended to be embarrassed at his leer.
Bottles clinked as if friendship was sealed.
“You posted a pic of yourself, ‘Plastered and pickled’, did you not?” asked Pope.
“You entered a conversation with the world. All laughing at your unhappy role as a husband in the world’s playpen for bachelors,” said Pope.
“What of it?” asked Gratis.
“You want to be a free man. I have a similar wish,” as Pope stared into the eyes of his companion.
“What exactly are you suggesting?”
“Do you know the word mariticide or perhaps uxoricide? The look on your face tells me you are thinking of a joke? Am I correct? The words mean, killing your spouse,” said Pope as he finished his beer.
“That is not a joking matter,” said Gratis.
“No, and I am not joking. I will kill your wife, you kill mine.”
The thumping hip-hop music slowed, any surrounding movement was slow-motion, the bob-cut frozen.
“Are you serious?” Gratis mouthed as life returned to normal.
“We both need to free ourselves, my plan will leave us able to get our lives back.”
“It would stop my misses whinging about not having enough cash,” said Gratis, dreaming of bliss.
“And mine kicking up about ‘suspected’ girlfriends.”
“It was not my original idea. Other guys have got away with this scheme in fictional books,” said Pope. Failing to mention the men got caught in the end.
The men shook hands, sealing the deal.
Pope explained, “Just to show my determination, I will go first. When you are satisfied she’s dead, it will be your turn. When we set the date, I suggest you book a few days away, somewhere plenty of folks will see you.”
The music got louder; the lights got brighter, and bob-cut got prettier. The men got drunker.
Two days later, Gratis and his wife were arguing, “My mum is ill, she needs to go to the hospital,” Daeng said.
“So?” said Gratis.
“I must send her some money for the doctor.”
“Tough, I have got none.”
“You are lazy and useless,” Daeng was looking for something to throw.
He held his arm up to defend himself as his mobile beeped.
“Yeah, Pope, perfect timing,” he chuckled.
“Well now, my darling Daeng, it looks like our problems are over. I have a job interview, I’m off to Pattaya on tonight’s bus.”
“Ee, heer, you lousy bastard,” she screamed part in Thai. “You’ve got no money for my sick mum, but you can afford a trip to Sin City.”
Cutlery, coffee mugs, anything within reach rained onto the fast ducking husband.
Two hours later, Gratis checked into the Sithole Hotel on the beach road. He always stayed in that place, not because it was top-class, or anywhere near, he loved the name. And they knew him.
“Back again Khun Gratis? Good to see you.”
“Yeah, I need a break from the wife,” he grinned at the night manager.
Gratis slung his shoulder bag in his room before dashing to the lively bar next door.
“You buy me a drink?” said one of the mini-skirted bar girls.
“Come on darling, sit with me,” he said as he signalled for a ‘lady drink’. Smiles all around as the ‘mamma san’ passed over the oddly coloured little drink to her newest girl, Pinky.
Drinks flowed, the Brit in the Arsenal shirt got louder. “Give it a break, mate,” shouted Gratis.
“And what are you gonna do about it,” as he lunged to grab Pinky.
A half-empty Leo beer bottle crashed on the Arsenal fan’s head. Stools, tables, customers and staff flew in all directions.
“You can go in the morning after you have paid for the damage,” said the police officer.
After spending a more peaceful day on a boat trip to a nearby island. Gratis nursed his cuts and bruises with a gang of youthful backpacking Dutch tourists. His last evening was enjoyed with Pinky. His mobile beeped.
“You had better return home. The police have been hammering on your door,” chuckled Pope.
On the bus back to Bangkok, Gratis upset his neighbouring travellers as he practised his sad face. He acted in a tearful display and various displays of emotions.
“Oscar, coming my way,” he laughed to himself.
He took the lift to his single-bed condo, “Hi, Daeng, darling, I’m home, give me a kiss.”
One stern police officer stood at the door.
“Khun Gratis, sorry, but have bad news. Come to the station.”
Gratis looked over the brown-shirted uniform, “What has happened? Is that blood, oh, my God, where is Daeng?”
A message beeped, “Now, it’s your turn.”
After answering questions about his trip to Pattaya. He was allowed home, “Very sorry, Sir, we will do everything to solve this terrible crime.”
His phone bleeped again as he reached his front door.
“What is that? Who is she? You had better be joking?”
The message continued below the photo of the fortyish European women.
“My wife,” the details, name, address and make of her car followed, “Tomorrow at six pm”.
“But, but, she’s English, that’s not fair, the police and the Embassy will go mad to catch the murderer!” he screamed at the Samsung.
He answered the first bleep, “That was not the deal.”
“Why? Because she is not Thai? What’s the difference? She will meet at her school at four pm, she will be home straight after that, make sure you are there.”
All the next day, Gratis was thinking how? Also, how did he get caught by Pope? The police would be keener to catch the killer of a teacher at a swanky international school than a girl with a bar background.
“Pope is right, I’ve no connection to her or her snooty school,” the more he thought he calmed and got on with planning.
“Plastic bag over her head? Got to be. It is quiet, easy from behind, as soon as she gets out of her car. That’s it!” he congratulated himself. “Oh, and don’t forget to take her things, make it look like a theft.”
At four-thirty pm, a taxi dropped him at a row of shops near his target’s home. He ordered a coffee and studied the surrounding area. Dressed in jeans and a Bangkok t-shirt, he looked like any tourist. The only difference was the bulge in his trouser pocket. A large and sturdy plastic bag. He walked past her address and back again. The home was a tidy-looking terrace, narrow, with three floors with a garage, and no sign of a dog. He clapped his hands.
At five minutes past six a Japanese saloon pulled up, and the driver lifted the garage door. Gratis leapt from behind the bins and deftly swung the bag over her head.
“Stop fighting you silly bitch,” he squealed. This was not as easy as it looked in the movies.
Her outstretched leg crashed into the bins, and Gratis was struggling to keep his balance.
“Christ, you’re a battler,” he sweated, as she lost power and slumped to the drive. Gratis held on for a full minute. As he unwrapped his hands from the plastic. He straightened, panting.
He heard, “Bastard!” shouted behind him, as pain ripped into him, his skull cracked as he hit the driveway, blood pooled as he died.
Pope pulled his phone and called the emergency number.
“Police, ambulance,” he shouted, neighbours ran to his assistance.
Two ambulances took away the bodies. The police led him gently to the station for questioning.
Later that evening, Pope made another call.
“Daeng, it’s all clear, you can come home. We can be together at last.”
“Oh, darling…” she gushed.
She calmed herself and made one more call that evening. She didn’t know the name of the person she had called, just his profession.
“I’ve sent half the money to your account, you’ll get the rest when you complete the job.”
Great Prank, Frank
“AND AS I was saying,” Frank droned on. Frank’s brother had heard enough about how glorious life in Thailand is.
“Oh, yeah, did I tell you about Jojo’s new motor-scooter? Brand new, would you believe it? We had to take it back to the dealer. And, guess what? The petrol station down the road from us has been tampering with the fuel. I wondered how they could undercut the others. Anyway, they soon fixed it. Oh, better go, I’ve just had a great idea. Cheers.”
Frank deep in thought slipped his mobile into his pocket as he strolled to his hobby workshop in the garden.
“Jojo, come here please,” called Frank.
“What? Frank, I’m watching tv,” his new bride answered.
“Is your brother still trying to sell that heap of junk he calls a car?”
“It is not junk, he loves that car,” snarled Jojo.
“Yeah, why is he desperate to sell it then.”
“He has had a few problems with it and can’t afford to fix it.”
“I’ll buy it off him if he drops the price,” said Frank.
“Yeah? What do you want it for?”
“We are going to prank that idiot with cheap petrol. Okay?”
They struck a deal. The car crept its way to Frank’s workshop. Banging and clattering upset the neighbours for days.
“Well, what do you think?” asked Frank.
“It looks the same to me,” answered Jojo.
“Good, it’s supposed to.”
“Frank, what have you done, why are the seats over there?” she pointed to a pile of discarded car parts in the corner.
“Look inside, we have improved seats,” Frank grinned.
“They are metal, they don’t look very comfortable?”
“No, my dear, they do not need to be comfortable,” he banged on the hollow steel. His wife shook her head.
Frank crouched and pointed under the chassis, “Look.”
A grumbling girl looked at metal boxes all linked to the underside of the car.
“Yeah, and?” she said, thinking of her spicy lunch.
“Those are tanks too,” Frank announced proudly.
“It will be better to leave it until tomorrow,” he said.
“What are you talking about now?” asked Jojo.
“Tomorrow is April the first,” stated Frank.
“April Fools Day, don’t you Thais know anything?”
A less than impressed wife stalked back to her soap operas. Frank was beaming at his project.
After tutting, Jojo clicked to Channel Seven with the handsome young star.
Frank, proud of himself opened a bottle of Singha beer and daydreamed of tomorrow.
Bright and early the next morning Frank called up to the bedroom, “Hon, splendid news for you. That burger joint you love is offering left-handed burgers. Shall we try it later? I’ll have a normal one, you can try the cack-handed one.”
“Don’t be so bloody stupid,” she turned over.
“It says here in the Bangkok Post and they offer a cut-price if you mention the ad. I’ll see you later, I’m off to get some petrol.”
Frank slammed the door and kicked it as he got out and walked around the aged saloon.
“Start you bastard,” he screamed at the car.
After calming himself, he slid across the seat and tried turning the key again.
Cough, cough, splutter, splutter, it fired.
“Great, now the fun starts,” he rubbed his hands as the car crawled to the petrol station.
Other vehicles tooted at the slow-moving saloon. The under-chassis tanks scraped on bumps in the road. Frank found it tricky to stop himself from sliding off the seat. He had stripped the indicator wiring along with all unnecessary equipment to allow for more tank space. The car turned left (without signalling), and up to the forecourt offering five-star premium petrol.
“Fill her up, shall I?” smirked the garage owner.
“Yeah, and wash the windscreen,” smiled Frank. Unlike the UK, Thailand’s petrol garages offered assisted fill-ups.
With the nozzle in place, Frank slid out.
“I’m popping to the convenience store to get some fags, won’t be long,” he pointed next door.
Crouching behind the wall, he sniggered. The garage owner mopped the windscreen and noticed the seating inside.
“Foreigners are all mad,” he said, “How can you be comfortable with those?” shaking his head as he chucked the rags into the bucket.
He glanced at the gauge’s needle spinning round. Scratching his head, he wondered what his record sale was. A petrol soaked handkerchief wiped the sweat out of his eyes.
“Bloody boiling again,” he cursed Thailand’s hottest month even at that early hour. “Still not full, how big is that tank?” he muttered.
Frank was taking photographs with his phone from his hiding spot. “My brother will love this,” he chuckled.
The garage owner noticed liquid seeping under the car, “Christ, that’s a lot of water coming from the air-con?”
“Oh, no,” he could smell petrol. He rushed to the nozzle.
He grabbed the handle and pull as he might it would not budge. Frank laughed as his final adaption proved to be a great success. The tanks were still filling.
Frank’s phone was now taking video shots as he edged closed. A cigarette hung loosely from his mouth.
The business owner had not noticed him walking towards his car. He was pulling and twisting at the disobedient nozzle.
“Haven’t you finished yet?” Frank shouted.
Fear smacked the petrol man like a police truncheon to the teeth, “Put that cigarette out!” he wailed. The split liquid soaked his flip-flops. Panic took hold of the man as he held the nozzle to stop him from toppling backwards.
“What’s the matter,” Frank started speaking as the cigarette bounced loosely lip to lip before it fell. Frank moved to catch it, before snatching his hands away from the heat. The glowing tobacco hit Frank’s shirt front before sparking its way to the concrete.
The petrol station owner turned away like a prima ballerina. Before tripping his way between pumps, past his office door and leaping into the bushes beyond hands on head.
The cigarette turned from explosive danger to damp squib; it fizzled to nothing in the puddle.
Frank struggled to control his wobbling girth as he roared. Tears of laughter splattered his scorched shirt. He bent down and turned off the water main, disconnected the water pipe from the semi-hidden petrol tube and left it hanging.
He left his car where it was. “There was water in the petrol before, now there is petrol in the water.” He chuckled as he walked home, checking his videos. “Enjoy bro,” he added to the comments.
Kith And Kin
SHE TOOK A deep breath and said to her boss, “I quit!”
“But you begged me for a raise,” said Travel Tim.
“Yes, and I thanked you. Now I want to see the world,” Tina was panting. Her managing director thought she was about to have a fit, another fit.
“Sit down and relax, please don’t get worked up.”
Tina gulped her tea. Swept her hair away from her overlarge glasses and started a three-minute monologue. She then smiled at him.
“I am sorry to let you go. But as you’ve explained at length. Great length, that you are fed up with booking other folk’s holidays, you want to take one yourself. Correct?”
“How about we extend your leave?”
“No, thank you,” she stammered. “I want to feel free.”
“Fine, and I understand that, what about your epilepsy?”
“I have pills for that.”
“What about last week?” he asked.
“I forgot to take them, that’s all.”
“You forgot them and…?”
“Okay, I was dealing with a difficult customer.”
“Don’t go on, I was having my period and yes, I had a hangover, okay?”
Tim puffed. “Where are you planning to go?”
“I’ve worked here, for three years and have not set foot on a plane,” she started with another long speech, Tim cut it short.
“So, France? Spain? Maybe Italy?”
“No, Thailand!” she beamed.
She worked her month’s notice and set off to Heathrow. Tim and her Mum went to see her off.
The flight was twelve hours, the time difference confusing. Her mobile phone calculator was needed to judge her medicine timing.
“Oh, bollocks to it,” she said as she swallowed the pills.
The elderly Thai lady next to her looked puzzled, “Are you okay, my dear,” she asked.
“Oh, sorry, yes fine thanks, I’ve never felt better,” smiled Tina.
From then until they reached Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, they didn’t stop talking, when they bumped onto the tarmac they were best of friends.
“Forget hotels, they are so expensive, come and stay with me,” Khunying Far offered.
The Thai Air staff were polite and efficient to Tina. They fell over themselves when aiding her neighbour. Not because she was in her seventies.
For all the chitchat on the Jumbo, the kindly Thai had failed to mention that Khunying is a Thai title. Much like ‘Lady’ in the UK.
The immigration queue was longer than Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. Tina gasped.
“Come with me,” Khunying Far signalled.
Ten minutes later, with a Mercedes saloon waiting outside, a polite ‘wai’ greeted them as the rear doors opened.
“This is Khun Daa, my driver. He is yours to use when needed. Can I suggest we skip a Bangkok tour? I’m tired, we’ll go straight to my home in Hua Hin?” asked Khunying Far.
“Yes, of course. How far is Hua Hin?” she knew from the travel brochures it could take three hours.
Both ladies dozed in the luxurious German leather. Sleeping most of the way south. As excited as she was, Tina’s head dropped before leaving the city.
“Nearly home,” nudged Khunying Far, as they skirted the seaside town of Cha-Am.
“Oh, it’s gorgeous, everyone is smiling,” said Tina.
“The weather helps, unlike London,” her companion said, smiling. “You must be hungry?”
“Are we stopping?”
“No, dear, what would you like?”
“Oh, I don’t know, something Thai?” answered Tina.
Khunying Far chatted at her mobile.
Khun Daa took the bags to the bedrooms. A middle-aged woman came out to help him.
“This is Pi Yah, she can help you find anything you need, towels etcetera,” said Khunying Far.
“Can I wash and brush up before we eat?” asked Tina.
“Of course, take your time. Don’t forget your medication.”
Much refreshed, Tina studied her room. The house appeared old and made of teak wood. Polished planks on the floors and painted in creams and light browns elsewhere.
“Gorgeous, like a dream house,” breathed Tina as she moved to the open windows. “Oh my, look at the view!”
Below her window was a sandy lawn with rocks dividing small rose gardens leading to a low wall. Beyond were a handful of fishing boats gently bobbing on the waves.
“This is heavenly,” thought Tina as she planned her first email to her Mum.
There was a tap at the door.
Pi Yah pointed downstairs, “Can you speak English?” asked Tina.
A lost look was her answer. Tina followed her to the dining room.
Aromas met her as the door opened.
“Come in, Yah is a superb cook, I think you’ll agree?”
“It looks and smells wonderful. What is it?” asked Tina.
“My favourite, green chicken curry. I hope you like it. Yah always cooks this dish if I’ve been away.”
Pi Yah backed away through an open door on the far side of the room. Tina sat down and copied her hostess, using a spoon and fork to attack the feast.
The women heard a car on the gravel. Then cutlery dropped behind them.
“Khaw mah, chan ja pai noow!” said Pi Yah.
“Pai, pai,” signalled Khunying Far, flapping her arms. The driver took his wife the maid home.
The front door opened and slammed against the wall. An immaculately dressed man burst in firing words like splinters from a rotary saw.
“This is my son,” said Khunying Far.
He spotted Tina, halted his torrent of Thai. Staring at her, then turning into a gallant charmer.
“Oh, hello, who are you?” he said in accentless English.
“Hello, I’m Tina,” she stammered.
The man stared at his mother.
“Meet Khun James. As you’ve seen, he scares away my staff, and I’m sure he’ll try to scare you, too.”
“Not me mother, I would never scare a friend of yours, especially one so beautiful.”
Tina blushed and wished she could hide behind her glasses.
“What do you want, James?”
“Can I eat? I’m sure your cook would have added a little something if she knew I was coming,” he laughed, reaching for a plate. “I want what I’m due, that’s all. And I’m not talking about food.”
Tina thought she should leave, slid her chair back, “I’ll go to my room if you’re having a family discussion.”
“Stay where you are, I want you to see James at his worst.”
Tina hid behind her spoon, shrivelling.
“Mother dearest, you know this is my house. I’ve offered to allow you to live here. But I want what is mine.”
“Dearest son, I could not live in the same house as you, here or elsewhere. That is the end of the discussion.”
“I am not prepared to wait for you to die and bequeath it to me.”
A smirk turned into a giggle, then a full belly laugh.
“What is so funny?” asked James.
“I have willed this house to a dog’s charity. All the ownerless beach dogs can live out their lives in peace,” she roared with laughter.
“But you can’t,” stammered James.
“Can and have,” stated his mother.
“Show me the will.”
“You can see it when I die,” she snorted.
James grabbed the serving spoon, pulled his mother’s short hair backwards, and thrust the cutlery into his mother’s stretched jaw.
Tina, frozen to the chair stared at the nightmare scene. Looking around for a weapon, but finding nothing. She took the curry bowl from the centre of the table in both hands and crashed it against his head. Curry splattered everywhere, but the china was not strong enough to stop him in his mad quest. It burst into shards. He turned and grabbed Tina’s throat and squeezed. Khunying Far, choking and coughing fought to clear the spoon from her mouth. She ran to the kitchen behind her and pulled open the first drawer. Grabbing a cleaver, she turned and plunged it into her son’s unprotected back. He arched and screamed in agony, stretching backwards as he dislodged the steel. Kneeling, he stared with unfocused eyes, “Why mother?” he croaked. “Everyone thinks you are perfect, but I know better. I remember what happened to Dad.”
He collapsed forward and bled to death.
Tina coughing and panting started shaking from head to toe. Khunying Far had seen somewhere that people suffering a fit could swallow their tongues. She knelt next to Tina, pushed her over onto her side. Grabbing the cleaver used the rounded corner of the spine, she forced her teeth open. Pressed the tongue down. Slowly the tension lifted, the woman relaxed and began thinking.
She removed the blade and tipped Tina onto her back. Then using the cleaver’s handle poked the tongue down Tina’s throat. Now there were no witnesses.
She considered burying the bodies in the garden next to her husband.
“No, too much like hard work, I’m not as young as I once was,” she thought with a smile.
She hunted for her phone, “Police please,” she said with a quivering voice.
Before two minutes had passed, she heard wheels on her gravel.
“Thank God you’ve come,” she said, showing the officers through. They showed the Khunying the respect she deserved, then got on with their task.
“I was dressing for dinner upstairs. We had a lovely meal planned, my wonderful son was going to introduce me to his new girlfriend. Then I heard shouting and screaming. I rushed down to this…” she collapsed in tears.
Oh, To Have A Choice!
“YOU’VE GOT IT all. Why look so miserable?” asked Micky.
“I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“You’re worried one girl will find out about the other,” laughed Micky.
“Yeah, I guess it could be worse,” said Jones.
The two men had been friends since junior school. Both are unmarried and set for life financially. Micky earns a packet on the stock market. His Cockney accent is no handicap, no one hears him buy or sell. Jones, has a relaxed life, he has told no one where his money comes from, nobody asks, even Micky.
“Oi, son, send us another bottle of champers,” shouted Jones.
“You love this bar don’t you?”
“Yeah, I love the way the snooty uni guys cringe when they hear us talk.”
The friends laughed loudly. As they crashed their hands together as they briefly jumped from their barstools.
The bar was full of men in tailor-made suits and silk ties. Their female partners wore Paul Smith frocks or tiny mini-skirts. Micky had slung his jacket and tie into the back of his Aston Martin before he entered the building. He had rolled up his sleeves as he came through the door, and looked anything but business-like. More like a prizefighter. Jones wore jeans and a plain black t-shirt. The all too perfect women glanced his way every few minutes. The bar staff gave them full attention.
“So, come on mate, what’s the problem?” asked Micky.
“I’ve reached a stage in my life. I must decide. Chumpoo or Jilly?”
“What a dilemma, a beautiful Thai restaurant owner or a gorgeous English lass whose family own half of Buckinghamshire?”
He almost said, “Tough at the top,” but refrained.
“You mean, not letting them know they do not have 100 per cent of your passion?”
“Yeah, eventually I’ll be caught out.”
“You’ve done pretty well. What is it? Three years of enjoying Thai food and luxury holidays to Bangkok and all the delights that offer. And, on the other hand, what? Three and a half years of free tickets to Ascot and Lords? Tough decision I agree.” He snorted.
The men were enjoying their talk and the humour that went with it. As the champagne flowed, the talk became more serious.
Jones pulled his friend closer, slung an arm around his shoulder and whispered.
“I have shares in the London restaurant, plus a chunk of a hotel in Thailand. Chumpoo has signed documents giving me the rights of ownership to some of her businesses. Jilly’s father wants her to settle down with a hard-working fellow like myself. He too has offered me a spot on the board.” He smirked, and Micky couldn’t keep a straight face. Jones carried on. “I am beneficiary on her life insurance policies, plus a percentage of her endowment. Which becomes due any day now. Hence my imminent problem, I must decide. I can’t go on like this.”
“Why the hell not? You’ve done all right up to now,” said Micky.
“My dilemma is not which one to dump. It is how to get rid of both without losing out financially!”
He had said too much. He shook his head and turned, realising he had quite enough talking and booze. He waved a hasty goodbye and flagged a black taxi as he tripped on the step.
At home, he guzzled a pot of coffee and began thinking.
The next morning he called Jilly, “Hi, babe. Fancy a trip to the Big Smoke? Come for lunch at my flat? I’m cooking.”
His next call was answered in Thai, “Sawasdee, ka.”
“It’s me. I still haven’t mastered your language,” he laughed.
“Oh, Jonsey, I’m sorry, I thought it was a customer.” She giggled the only way she could. Shielding her mouth with her delicate slim fingers, even though no one could see her.
“How are you fixed this afternoon?”
“I’m always free to see you, Tilak.”
Jones knew enough Thai to understand the word for darling.
He went shopping. There were things he needed to progress his plan. Cocaine was first on his list. The girls didn’t use it, but they would today. Also, the dealer handed across a bottle of chloroform. The ageing hippy promised the liquid would knock out a bull. Jones sniggered to himself. He imagined all three of them becoming braver thanks to the powder. Then he saw in his mind the girls both passed out thanks to the liquid. He paid cash to his regular dealer and left happy. Then he made his next purchase, two razor blades for cutting the drug. If his plan worked, they would also be weapons. He stopped at the chemist for strong pain killers. Last, food shopping, he wanted his guests to feel at home. He embarrassed himself by laughing out loud in the grocers. Looking around at the other customers gawking at him. Head down, he studied his handmade shoes.
Back at his flat he prepared tasty snacks and put the white wine on ice. The pain medicine was added to the trendy green bottle. As always, he would drink red. The girls preferred crisp white. He opened the floor to ceiling glass doors onto his balcony. It was warm and bright. He pulled up a third chair and puffed cushions. A mother hen would be proud.
A doorbell rang.
“Chumpoo, darling, come in.”
He led her through and presented her with a glass of wine.
“What’s the occasion?” she asked.
“Oh, nothing, I wanted to see your gorgeous smile.”
“Normally you have only two chairs here. Today there are three. Are you expecting someone else?”
“Is that the bell?” he asked, leaning back indoors.
“Jilly, lovely to see you, come through, I’ll get your wine.” He ducked into the kitchen and left Jilly at the balcony door.
“Someone’s here?” she queried.
“Cheers,” Jones said, as he clinked glasses with hers.
“Who is that?” asked Jilly.
She walked forward. “Hello, I’m Jilly, Jones’ fiancé, pleased to meet you.”
“Hello, I’m Chumpoo, his fiancé too.”
She stood too quickly and disturbed the table decoration.
The girls glared at each other. Their host smirked. As the ladies moved within scratching distance.
“I thought it was time for you girls to meet each other.”
He had made a mess of his timing. Chumpoo had only sipped her drink, Jilly had slammed her glass untouched on the table. There was no way he could offer the girls a line of coke, he would love one. This was not the time. Or, maybe it was. He hoped they would start fighting? He could then administer the chloroform by pretending to break them up.
The girls started pushing each other.
“He is mine!”
“No, we are going on honeymoon soon.”
They stopped, turned, and both lunged for him. Knocking him to the ground, like a helpless kitten.
Chumpoo pulled a hidden blade from her blouse sleeve and poked the point into his Adam’s apple.
“You must think we are idiots?” she breathed.
Jilly got up from her knees, smiled at her comrade, and searched. First, his pockets, then the kitchen.
“Look what I’ve found,” she smiled. Sniffing the brown bottle top.
“You are more stupid than we imagined. Chloroform only works in movies, unless you expect your victim to lay still for ages.” She huffed.
“Neither of us uses drugs. How on earth did you expect us to snort cocaine?” asked Chumpoo.
“I eh,” started Jones. It hurt too much to talk as the point dug deeper.
“Shall we kill him?” asked Jilly innocently.
“Please pass the cocaine,” asked Chumpoo. “I’ll hold him, you make him breathe the coke in.” Her hand clamped across his mouth. As Jilly tipped the powder up his nose, he tried snorting, which made the girls laugh. He could only just breathe in as the powder worked its way into his pipes.
“Now drink,” said Jilly, as the white wine bottle was forced into his mouth. With every mouthful, Chumpoo’s blade dug deeper. Finally, the wine was gone, some spilt, most downed. Jones’ eyes clouded.
“Let’s move him to his bedroom,” said Chumpoo.
They lifted him by his underarms and dragged him inside.
“What now?” asked Jilly.
“Do we want to kill him?” asked Chumpoo.
“What do you suggest?”
“He had powder all over him, he looks and is, totally wasted. Why don’t we stage him?”
“How do you mean?”
“Would any girl date a failed suicide?”
“Exactly, if we posted pictures all over social media, nor would anyone else.”
“Especially if we use his phone to do it.” Clapped Jilly.
The girls placed a razor blade in each of his hands and nicked the skin of each wrist. As a final touch, Jilly tipped some talc down his front.
“It’s not cocaine, but who would know?” she laughed.
“Will we call the police, or leave him?” asked Chumpoo.
“Leave him. Oh, wait, one last thing.”
She undid his trousers. Pulled them to his ankles, and used the blade once more before replacing it in his right hand.
The girls walked off as best of friends, in search of an untampered bottle of crisp, sparkling wine.
The River of Jewels
GORDON JUMPED OFF the train, alone as ever. The ticket collector looked him up and down, taking the sweat-damped piece of paper. He nodded forward as his passenger strode towards the exit of the throbbing station.
From the end of November to the beginning of December, Kanchanaburi celebrates River Kwai Bridge Week. At the same time, the Red Cross is hosting a fair. Perfect for Gordon’s needs.
He checked into The River Flow guest house.
“I booked six months ago. Mr G. Bank,” he said at the desk.
The pretty young lady flicked through several ledgers worn pages.
“Ah, here we are. May I see your passport, please?”
The small burgundy book slid across the plastic topped workstation. Their eyes met. Gordon broke contact. The girl handed back the passport.
“One week, yes? Have a pleasant stay. Do you want some literature…” she said.
Gordon had turned and was looking for room nine on the second floor.
He slumped to the bed, throwing his backpack into the corner in one movement. Head in hands, he wept as he fingered the key he wore around his neck. He then forced a smile, remembering how it set off the metal detector at the airport. The key was unusual, wider than the norm. Allowing for three decorative prongs serving no useful purpose. He liked it. Shaking himself from morose feelings, he fetched his notepad from his bag.
‘Dear Diary,’ he laughed. There were only a few paragraphs in it. ‘Today, my dad died. I held his hand as he spoke his last words to me.’
Gordon stood, stretched and went downstairs in search of a Coke. The receptionist looked up and smiled at him. Gordon nodded, jumping two stairs at a time. Keen to get back to his notes.
‘My dad told me about my granddad’s war experience. He was a prisoner in a Japanese camp at the River Kwai. One day he was forced to join a group of Aussie soldiers and assist the guards to move heavy crates into a cave. Names were shouted out. The men stood. Granddad was tired and slow. There was another G. Bank, an Aussie. He stood sharply, scared of a beating. He followed the guards. The men were never seen again. Granddad was lucky. He attempted to escape. He failed and was tortured, but he kept hold of a key he had lifted from an officer. The key was stolen on the day he was moving grates. That key I wear around my neck.’
Gordon sighed and flicked the next page open.
‘Today, I bought an air ticket to Bangkok.’
He remembered the trouble he had with the online booking system. “Supposed to be easy for people my age,” he chuckled to himself.
The next four dates were blank. Then, ‘Taxi to the airport, arrived on time. The plane was thirty minutes late taking off.’
He wondered why he bothered writing rubbish like that. Bored on the plane? Who would be interested?
‘Today I will travel to the river, by bus from Bangkok. The hunt begins here.’
“Not the classic diary of Anne Frank, or even, Samuel Pepys,” he chuckled to himself. “But it’s a start.”
He had noticed some leaflets in reception earlier, deciding he should look through those. “You never know.” He said to himself.
At home, he had read page after page about the lost Japanese treasure. Hours of research gave him little hope of finding the gold. But he had to try. His father poo-poohed the idea. He had done nothing about the story G. Bank senior loved telling and retelling. The last G. Bank in the family line would do everything in his power to find out the truth.
Sitting in reception, he helped himself to the advertising material offering river trips on boats. Or walking treks through the jungle and a voyage on the famous railway.
“That’s the one I want to experience,” he said to the girl.
“Sorry, sir. You have missed today’s trip. But they run every day. How about tomorrow?”
“Please book me in.” He answered. “What can I do now?”
“You can go to the museum?” said the helpful girl, smiling.
She drew a map, explaining it was only five minutes walk away.
Gordon kissed his key and set off.
He entered the museum. Looking up, down and all around, he felt his grandfather’s presence. As if he was leading him deeper and deeper as if a donkey tugged by the nose. Gordon put up no resistance, and he walked to the back of the building.
A man spoke to him in Thai, stopping him at a locked door. His jacket had the museum logo stitched on his pocket. The man looked as if he was here when it first opened. Gordon reached past the man and tried to turn the handle. The man placed his hand on Gordon’s forearm. He applied no pressure but looked deep into Gordon’s eyes.
He stood back as if holding an electric eel. “Khun!” You, he mumbled in Thai. Time stopped.
“Hello, hello, anyone in here?” a young lady asked, repeating her enquiry in Thai.
She saw the men and walked to the back.
“Hi, Mr Gordon, I finished my shift and have to walk this way home. I thought I’d see if you had found the place. Lovely isn’t it? My name is Petal, if you hadn’t noticed my name tag at work.”
Gordon hadn’t paid the girl any attention before. Now he saw her, saw her beauty. She was gorgeous. Out of the stuffy uniform and now dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Her hair bounced around her shoulders not tied into a prim bun.
The man still gawped, not at her, but at Gordon.
“Is anything wrong uncle,” she asked. Speaking Thai, she addressed him politely.
“It can’t be him? I helped him in the camps,” said the old man.
Petal and Gordon looked at each other, then at the man.
“No, you must be mistaken. The light is playing tricks with your eyes,” she said.
The man shook his head and started acting. He pretended he was opening a door, twisting and turning a handle. Gordon and Petal were confused by his actions.
Then he reacted, this time unlocking a door.
Gordon pulled the chain from his neck. A key hung and dangled. The man staggered back nodding and mumbling in Thai.
“Uncle, sit, please sit.” Pedal led him to a chair.
The man mopped his brow, and stuffed the handkerchief into his pocket. He stood and grabbed Gordon’s wrist and led him to the back. He unlocked the door and pushed it back. Signalling to follow him in.
If Gordon was expecting a room full of antique treasure, he would be disappointed. Boxes upon boxes coated in dust and spider webs. The man walked further back before abruptly turning right, stopping, and pointing down.
There was another dust-covered box like all the others, but this one was longer and slimmer.
The man tugged it clear, swept off the dust and began unwrapping its greaseproof paper. Gordon and Petal silently watched as a solid steel container became free.
The man shoved it to Gordon, who turned it this way and that. He passed it to Petal. She too saw nothing but a hunk of polished steel. Scratched and dented with several pitted holes from years of service, whatever it was. She gave it back.
The man twisted his wrist, acting as if turning a key.
Gordon pulled the chain over his head and gave the key to the man.
It was a key, like any old key. The man knew better. He held the key at each end and forced the middle. A tiny hinge bent. Pinpoints were sticking out, one larger than the rest. He handed the key back to Gordon, pointing to the steel.
Gordon scratched the key backwards and forwards across the metal. Searching for a hole. Click. The key stopped. Its insignificant points locked into small holes on the box surface. The top and bottom separated, revealing a standard keyhole. Gordon needed no telling what he must do. He bent the key to its original shape. It entered the hole, sliding to a stop. Click.
Petal gasped. The man needed support from the shelving. Gordon stared, open-mouthed.
In front of them was a beautifully cut ruby. Blood red, begging for light to be seen in its glory.
“Christ,” stammered Gordon. “It is the size of a paperback novel. It must be worth a fortune!”
The old man was mumbling in Thai.
“He said forget the ruby.” She looked at the man, who nodded. “That is the key to a real and unbelievable fortune of gold and gems hidden in caves!”
“JEN, YOUR BREAKFAST is ready. Do you want it down here, or shall I bring it up?”
“Thanks, mum, can I eat it here?”
Mrs Perks tightened her cheeks and forced her eyes to brighten. A thin smile battled its way across her mouth as she entered the girl’s bedroom.
“Here we are, darling. Oh, you are not in bed?” The bed was patted firmly as the tray was slid across the bedside table.
“Come on, Jen, away from the mirror. Put the brush down, you’ll wear it out.”
The girl was led back to bed, settled with a pillow propped against her back. A sturdy wooden tray was placed across her legs.
“Smells good, mum, Khao tom?”
“Yes, dear, as you like it. Not too spicy, a squeeze of lemon and still piping hot. Be careful you don’t burn yourself. Enjoy, I’ll see you later. Your dad and I have to go out, don’t worry, we won’t be too long.”
Mrs Titima Perks was born in Bangkok. Her father owned a gem factory, Titima worked for him when she finished her university degree. Her language skills proved invaluable to the company. She then married one of her customers, Mr Bertie Perks, a jeweller from London. He sold his shop and moved to Bangkok. They now ran the business when Titima’s father retired.
Life was good. Their daughter was everything they could hope for. She looked like her mum, which pleased Bertie. Unfortunately, her cute, but, ‘Thai’ flat nose did not please Jen. She wanted a bridge, a ‘falang’ nose. She loved her father’s nose, strong and prominent.
The family arguments started two years ago.
“I want a nose job,” Jen announced one morning.
“No, you are too young,” said her mum, stamping her foot almost cracking tiles.
“Your nose is beautiful,” said her father. “It is like your mum’s.”
“Exactly, that’s why I want to change it.” If eyes could burn. “Come on dad, the operation can be my birthday present.”
“You are not having an operation for looks at your age. And that is final,” said Titima.
“Soon I’ll be sixteen, then I can do whatever I want.” Jen ran to her room. Tears followed her up the stairs. It didn’t stop there, even though she didn’t mention it again. Daily fuming, pulling and poking at her hated nose. She saved and planned.
The office door opened for them. “Mr and Mrs Perks, lovely to see you again. Please take a seat.” The white-clad man showed them to seats around the coffee table. “Did you think any more about my suggestion?”
“Yes, Doctor, we’ve done nothing but consider your ideas. Can we meet the person you mentioned?”
“I thought you’d say that.” He leaned across and pressed a button on his phone. “Ask Khun Samalie to come in, please.”
At the door stood a striking lady, dressed in a fitted business suit and silk blouse. Her lively hair was far from fitted, it escaped any clip and bounced across her shoulders.
“Please call me Sammy,” she said. Offering the traditional Thai greeting, the wai, with a respectful bend of the knees, hands to the nose. She slid to the free seat at the table.
Jen finished her breakfast. Wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her nightie. She found her way back to her favourite seat at the dressing-table mirror. Before sitting, she leaned forward and touched the glass, checking the angle. It was set perfectly. Smiling, she made her way to her parent’s bedroom. The curtains were closed. She felt her way to her mum’s make-up drawer. She opened a lipstick and sniffed. She ran the soft, waxy material on the back of her hand.
“That’s the one,” she said.
Her mirror welcomed her back as any old friend would.
“The operation will not be an easy one. The doctor here, and his team, will doubtless succeed. Of that, I do not worry. My concern is the mental effect on your daughter. I must meet with her several times to judge the likely effects. I hope you agree?” said Sammy.
Mr Perks clutched his wife’s hand, almost pleading. He muttered, “Darling?”
“We must do whatever you suggest. When can we start?” Mrs Perks asked.
“How about now?” said Sammy. “Please tell me what happened?”
Mr Perks nudged his wife.
“I refused to allow her to have plastic surgery. She was so desperate to change her looks. So, she went ahead alone.”
“If we’d agreed, we would have made sure the operation was completed professionally,” said Mr Perks.
“You were against it as I was,” said Mrs Perks.
“Please, never mind who was at fault. What happened?” asked Ms Sammy.
“Jen had saved up her pocket money, and found a surgeon she could afford on the web.”
“Yes, she told us she was going to stay with a friend.”
“But she didn’t stay with a friend. She went to a clinic in Petchaburi, where the quack had his business.”
“Our little girl went all alone to have the op.” Mr Perks touched the corner of his eyes.
“The untrained ‘doctor’ opened our girl’s face and stuffed in silicon.” Mr and Mrs Perks were both crying. Sammy tried to calm them. Urging them to continue.
“The doctor left the room to answer a call. Jen couldn’t wait to see the result of the operation. She started unwrapping the bandages. The sun was at its hottest. It brightly lit the room. Jen needed her glasses to find a mirror. She scrabbled around, finding them in her bag. She held them by one arm in her mouth as she fiddled with her bandages. She looked around and grabbed a small mirror from the table. Then she lay back, tired from the exertion after the op, and admired her swollen face. Her glasses caught the sun’s beam and acted as a magnifying glass for the glare. We guessed some spirits used in cleaning caught the bandages alight. She didn’t feel a thing because of the painkillers. By the time she saw flames, she was in shock and failed to remove the wrappings in time. There was no one to help her.” Sniffing, she shook her head. “It’s all my fault.” Mrs Perks crashed her open palms against her temples.
“No, dear, let’s not go through that again,” said Mr Perks.
“Please come home with us and meet our little girl?” asked Mrs Perks.
“Or should we bring her here? Would that be better for you? But I warn you she may be against that idea,” said Mr Perks.
“Really? Why?” asked Sammy.
“It is difficult to get her away from her mirror.”
“But she has no eyes!” said Sammy.
“OH, MUM, CAN’T I watch TikToc a little longer?” asked Patsy.
“You’ve got school tomorrow. After this long break, aren’t you excited to see your friends? I want you asleep before I leave for work.”
“You’re leaving me alone tonight?”
“Darling, you know I must go back to work. You are a teenager now, not a baby,” said Hathai Chantawan, Patsy’s mother. Chantawan was not her legal name. Fifteen years ago she had married a foreigner, taking his name, Peters. It was thought better in her job to use her maiden name.
“Don’t but me. I’m needed at the station, I must go. I’m sorry your dad is not here. He would always care for you when I worked nights. Well, we must get on with our lives. So, sleep. And I mean now.”
“Do I have to go to school? What time will you be home?”
“Patsy, why do you bombard me with questions you know the answers to?”
“But I don’t want to go back to school.”
“You have to return sometime. The quicker the better, and I’ll be home in time to get you off to school. Now, sleep.”
Hathai half-closed the curtains. Turning, as she bent to kiss her daughter goodnight, a movement outside caught her eye. Returning to the window, she peered long and hard into the darkness. She shook her head and returned to her motherly task of pecking Patsy’s forehead. Patsy hugged her mum like a baby koala with its mother.
“That’s enough. I going to my room to shower and change. I want you asleep when I look in.”
Hathai was pulling off her sweatshirt before deciding on her outfit. As a detective in the Royal Thai Police Force, she wore plain clothes. Tonight she expected to be catching up on a backlog of unsolved cases. Jeans and a t-shirt would suffice.
“You are supposed to be sleeping,” said Hathai. “Get back into bed this minute.”
“But mum, I saw someone.”
“You shouldn’t have been looking.”
“I had my eyes shut… But, sensed something. I had to look,” said Patsy.
“What did you see?”
“It is dark out there, so nothing clearly, but somebody, I think a man, who ducked behind the coconut trees.”
“And what did you notice about this person? What was he wearing, for example?”
Hathai’s detective skills piqued.
“As I said, it is pitch black. I could make out the shapes of vegetation. Then a grey shape moved. It looked like he was wearing a hat.”
“A hat like your father wore?”
“I didn’t want to say that, but yes. And no, I wasn’t dreaming of dad.”
“I’m going out to look, you stay here.”
Hathai strode out of the room and stamped down the stairs. Grabbing a torch as she went out the back door, flicking on the bright beam as she hit the grass.
“Anyone out here?” she asked loudly.
The coconut palm rustled in the wind.
“I have a gun. Come out at once,” she lied. Her gun, lying forgotten in the kitchen.
She was answered by insects and leaves, all sounding louder as if they were partying at her expense. Patsy and Hathai’s unfenced back garden reached the neighbouring farmer’s land. Packed with heavily laden fruit trees. The only fears Hathai had experienced outside work, were snakes. Snakes did not wear hats. Especially like her husband’s.
The shadow she had seen, appeared to be wearing a straw trilby. Like the ones available in tourist resorts.
Her husband did not need to dress for work. He wrote articles for the travel trade.
“Get a grip woman,” she said to herself. “There is nothing here.”
Moving back inside. “Thank God, no one has touched my weapon.”
She was talking to herself again as she unlocked the drawer. She checked the safety, dabbed a spot of oil on the trusted friend, and then holstered the weapon with a good luck tap. She called up the stairs, “Okay, babe, nothing there. I’m off now. See you in the morning.”
She didn’t wait for a list of questions. Driving the short distance to her office she started another conversation with herself.
“Am I being too hard on Patsy? Maybe she needs to toughen up? We’ll see.”
She tried to concentrate on the pile of case files, sitting there, taunting her. Trilby hats doffed to her memory.
“Returning to work is like Patsy going back to school. Tough at whatever age.” She tutted as she pulled the details from another file.
Patsy was back at the window. She prayed to see her father whistling to himself in his favourite garden seat. ‘Just cogitating,’ he would say, smiling at her. But a school prankster playing a joke was far more likely. The boys ribbed her, not because her father was English, but because her mum was a police officer.
“When will they grow up?” Patsy said, staring into the blackness.
She grabbed a tissue, dabbed her sad eyes.
“Come on, girl. You’ve got to face the other kids tomorrow,” she whispered. A smokey shadow flicked past the vegetation.
“What was that?” she asked, leaning to the glass, grabbing the window sill with white knuckles.
Neighbours, teachers, pupils and fellow officers all had their theory about what happened to Patsy’s dad. A happy home, loving relationships, no shortage of money and a cheerful daughter. What went wrong? Where did he go, and why did he leave them?
He was there one day, gone the next. Hathai’s police training and all her colleagues failed to discover where he went. The British Embassy had been informed. Prodded and questioned. They had been polite, but with nothing to add, except that he had not used his passport.
“I going to chase them up again,” Hathai said to another officer. “They are hiding something, I can feel it.”
Patsy called from her bedroom doorway, “Mum, are you home?” knowing she wasn’t back, Patsy crept down the stairs. The back door was locked, the key, hanging from the door handle. Finding her flip-flops, she unlocked the door and edged her way out. The insects and the wind, breaking the silence.
She saw it again. A smokey shadow hid between palms. Low branches rustled, twitching against the breeze.
“Who is that?” she called.
“It’s me, darling.”
Kicking off her shoes, “I’m home, are you up?” asked Hathai from the hallway.
“Hi, mum, how was work?”
“It was fine, thanks. Busy, but had to be done. How about your sleep?”
“Really? Are you ready to go back to school?”
“Oh, yeah, can’t wait.”
There was a gentle pad, pad, pad down the stairs.
“My goodness, you are dressed already? Hair fixed, very smart, good girl.”
“Yes, mum, I’ve eaten, there’s some for you, warm it up when you’re ready.”
If Hathai’s eyes got any bigger and rounder, they’d be Frisbees.
Patsy talked non-stop on the short way to school.
“I can’t wait to see my friends. They will tell me what I missed, what they’ve been doing…”
A peck on the cheek and she ran to join the gang of girls waving wildly at her.
“That was easy,” muttered Hathai to herself. “Now to quiz the Embassy again.”
The drive was sluggish to central Bangkok. Jams and confused drivers clogging the lanes. She parked and sweatily flashed her badge, made her way into the secure building.
She was led through to a private office.
“Please take a seat. Mr Jenkins will be with you presently. Can I offer you a drink?”
She glanced at Windsor Castle in a travel brochure. “Hmm been there,” she said as a fit and an immaculately dressed man entered.
“Handsome, but with an embarrassed smile?” she said. “You’ve got bad news for me,” said Hathai.
“Yes, I’m afraid I have. I’m sorry. Your husband’s body has been found in Yangon. There is no mistake. His partner, when working for us, escaped and got back here yesterday. He is here if you want to talk…”
Here I Am
THE BUS RUMBLED like an empty stomach. We missed the bus stop by ten yards. It did stop. I got off alone. I didn’t wave; I trundled on; I had a hand-drawn map; it was damp with sweat, was it the right place? I thought so. She told me her farm would be easy to find. There was nothing here. Miles of green paddy fields. Or were they her farm?
People with hunched backs picked at the water, lifting, stabbing, planting. One after the other, heads turned and peered at me. Should I wave? Head down I trudged on.
At last, buildings came into view. An elderly man cycled past, turned, gawped, and nodded his head. The wide-brimmed bamboo hat tried to fly, he clamped it hard to his grey hair.
Wooden structures lined a single-lane road. Colourful awnings shaded piles of goods. As I approached, no girlfriend was in sight. Her shop house was 18/34, where the hell was that? There were no house numbers in view.
Inquisitive heads popped out. All I had been told was to meet in a coffee shop. I didn’t expect Starbucks, but there was no coffee outlet in view.
“What am I doing here?” I asked myself.
“Geordie, Geordie, I’m here.” A big two-handed wave and a beaming smile met me, a grin bright enough to light a cave met me.
“Jesus Belle, I have been walking for miles.”
“Why did you get off down there?”
“Because that’s where you told me.”
“You should have told him you were meeting me. He would have dropped you off at the coffee shop.”
“What coffee shop?” I asked.
“This one silly, you’re in it.”
I looked around, okay there was a table, and four chairs, and I could smell coffee brewing.
“Do you want one?” Belle asked.
“Yeah, why not? I was looking for a sign or something.”
“We don’t need any signage, everyone knows us and what we do.”
“What do you mean? I thought you had a farm?” I asked.
“We do, but it’s a long walk to the buildings,” she giggled.
“So, you own a farm and a coffee shop?”
“Yes, and a few other things.”
“Great, good for you, that’s why you could afford a British University?”
“Yes, and no. Come on, I’ll show you around.”
I was dragged by the arm, leaving half a mug of rather tasty coffee.
“Yeah, but my drink?”
“Don’t worry, we have a whole plantation up the road.”
“You…” I didn’t finish my question, the answer was clear.
Everybody was whispering as I passed them.
“Belle, I read ‘The Backpacker’s Guide to Thailand.’ Plus every article about Thailand I could get my hands on. They all say, how cheerful and happy-do-lucky Thai people are. But here…”
I let the criticism hang.
“Yes, Geordie, that’s why I invited you here. Come on, we’ll go to my house and I’ll explain.”
We walked the short distance to huge cast-iron railings which led us to massive shut gates. Smoothly they opened, and a uniformed man pointed to the front door.
Belle grinned, “This is our home, what do you think?”
“It’s a castle, a stately home, a mansion.”
“Not quite, but my ancestors have worked hard over the years.”
We moved from the hall to a marble-floored living room.
“Come on, we’ll go to the garden,” Belle said.
The garden was packed with fruit trees, neatly trimmed lawns and an Olympic-sized pool.
“And we thought you were a poor little Asian girl,” Geordie said.
“I was taught not to show off,” she answered.
“I’m happy to be in your country, but…”
“You thought you were going to meet my dad?”
“You are, but not for what you imagined. We have an unusual problem. We need your help.”
We sat in wicker chairs, and a mug of home-grown coffee arrived.
“Will I finish this one?” I asked.
“Joking aside, the village’s problem started slowly but has now grown. We can do nothing. But, you can.”
“Okay, but how?”
“You studied theology, right?”
“We are Buddhists here, we know nothing about Christianity,” she said.
“We have a witch,” she said. Without a hint of a smile as I expected the punchline.
“You have a witch? What can I do about it?”
“She is a Christian witch. She came here years ago as a backpacker. She loved this village and settled. All was well. And as you said earlier, we Thais are a cheerful bunch, we love to laugh at one another’s gossip. All of that stopped when some ladies here gossiped about ‘her’ the witch.”
I kept my mouth shut; I didn’t want to be accused of gossiping.
“One of our farmers took a shine to her. She wasn’t interested in falling in love.”
“So what?” I asked.
“The farmer started spreading filthy lies about her. The farmer’s wife was even worse, accusing the Christian woman of twisting his mind.”
“I still don’t see where I come in?”
“The woman is English, her name is Doreen. She hexed the village. We don’t talk to each other anymore and I’m the only person who smiles. I think because I was the only one away at the time of the curse,” Belle said, sweat dripping from her nose.
“I still don’t see where I come in?”
“We need an exorcist!”
I was fit to burst, looking around for the hidden cameras, where was the tv host ready to jump out? I didn’t want to laugh I was a guest in a friend’s home.
“I am not a priest, I only studied religion, I can’t perform an exorcism,” I said.
“You are our last chance.”
“Where is she?”
I was led past the fruit trees, over the grass, and into a bamboo grove. A small shelter stood alone, and then the screaming started. When the witch saw me, she stopped.
“Who the hell are you? Are you going to get me out?”
The shelter was open-fronted, with a door leading inside, a bench with plates and a jug of water, all very homely. Doreen was chained to a central post, I assumed the chain could reach inside to a bed and amenities.
“I’ve seen worse prisons,” I said.
My hostess started twitching.
“I’ll leave you to it, if you need anything come to the house,” said Belle, as she scarpered.
“Are you going to free me, or laugh at me?”
“You had better tell me what happened?”
“I was looking for a place to escape and write my book. I settled here.”
“A book? Did you finish it?” I asked.
“Never mind the bloody book. Get me out.”
“I have to ask, are you a witch?”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, of course not,” she answered. “My book is about black magic around the world. Here was to be the last chapter, one of the farmers saw some pictures.”
“So they believed anything you said?”
“Yes, I told them not to gossip about rubbish. From then on, they couldn’t chit-chat or smile. At first, I thought it was a joke.”
I sat next to her, “What have you got at your digs?”
“Not much, my book, I hope, and some clothing, plus my passport.”
“Follow whatever I say, I’ll get you out of here, okay?” I said.
I picked up her things from the place she had rented.
“Belle, as you can see I collected Doreen’s bag and her belongings. That was my part of the deal. Now she will remove the hex. Then you must allow her to go to the city by taxi. Then the village will be cured, and you will no longer see her.”
Belle kissed me.
As the taxi disappeared from view, the villagers couldn’t stop chatting.
“Did you see…”
“Her dress my god…”
My phone bleeped a text, “I am seeing a publisher at noon tomorrow,” Doreen. “Oh, yes, if I was you, I wouldn’t wait around.”
I laughed and enjoyed a beer with Belle.
“You can stay here, have a break for a few days, there is plenty to see,” she offered with a cheeky grin.
I couldn’t say no, okay it was a guest bedroom, we’ll have to see what tomorrow brings.
The clock ticked to noon. Suddenly there was silence, even the birds were quiet.
I touched my lips. They were stuck together. Belle came rushing in, lips sealed. The servants, her parents, and the whole village had glued lips.
My phone signalled a text.
“I hope you left the village?”
“I’M GOING NOW. To Thailand I mean, I’m going to find him,” said Arthur.
“You are as mad as our son,” said Mildred.
“Our son is missing, for God’s sake.”
“Not according to the Embassy in Bangkok when you pestered them.”
“We have not heard from him for one year. No Christmas cards, no birthday wishes. And you say he’s not missing?”
“This morning you got an email from him, so what’s the panic?” said Mildred.
“That email was sent one year ago. It was the same one we opened exactly one year ago. Don’t you think that’s strange?”
“Okay, but before you buy a plane ticket, check with, what’s ‘is name, at the computer shop.”
“Yeah, yeah, his mate, Steve. I will. Are you coming?” asked Arthur.
Mildred popped into the butchers, next to ‘Caversham Comps.’ Arthur looked at the boxes of the latest Apples and packs of electronics. He didn’t know how to open the packaging. Let alone know what to do with the stuff in them.
“Ah, Steve, just the man,” he said, leaning on the counter.
“Hi, Mr Stone, how are you? Is Mickey coming home?”
“We hope so. I need to tap your brain.”
“Sure, what can I do for you? Do you want an iPad?”
“A what? No, no, some advice about emails, Mickey send me one this morning.”
“Great, what’s his news?”
“Uh, nothing. It was the same one he sent a year ago. Strange, eh?”
“It happens if you set a date to resend. Is it your birthday?”
“No, the message was nothing like that, saying he was okay and asking about us. That’s all, why send it again?”
“Strange? I still see some of the old mates. No one has heard from him for ages. Wait a minute, I’ll check and see when he last contacted me. It was some time ago,” said Steve, tapping at his phone. “One year ago today, he told me it was hot, that was all. Hey, what’s this? A new mail, and it’s from Mickey, the same as last year. And, oddly, at the same time, eleven minutes past one.” Steve was scratching his head.
“How about his other mates?” asked Arthur.
“I’ll ask Alison.”
Mildred wandered in with bags full of pork chops.
“Do you know an Alison?” asked her husband.
“No, and I don’t want to. She is a weird girl. I’ve heard all about her and her crazy aunt,” answered Mildred.
“That was the girl, wild about him. Not a girlfriend, even if she wanted to be, but he was nice to her, even if the rest of us weren’t so kind. Maybe he kept in touch to keep her happy?” said Steve.
“Can you contact her?” asked Arthur.
“Her family brought stuff here, so I should have details.” He clicked at a keyboard. “Here we are.”
Steve waited a few seconds, then looked at his mobile.
“That’s funny, a photo of Mickey comes up, but no answer. I’ve also got her mum’s number, I’ll ask her.”
Steve showed them the picture, then called the new number.
“Hello, Mrs Albescu, sorry to trouble you…”
“Don’t you dare call this number again.”
“Please, I need to speak to your daughter, Alison. Please.”
“Her name is Albie, she only changed it because of you lot teasing her.”
“I didn’t know. Sorry, can I speak to her?”
“Because she’s not here. She’s gone to Asia,” said Mrs Albescu.
“Has she gone to Thailand?”
“Some island called Samui. Don’t call again.”
Steve looked at his phone his chin dropped, ping, ping, ping. Emails streamed in.
“What in hell’s name? Excuse me, let me see what these are.”
Arthur and Mildred waited patiently.
“Look at this. Six hundred and sixty-six emails, all saying the same. ‘White Romanian, Orange Brit’, what the hell does that mean?”
Arthur and Mildred shook their heads.
The shop’s door almost came away from the frame. Black and grey hair flying in all directions, scarlet lips snarled, teeth snapped.
“What is the meaning of this? Where’s your boss, I’ll have your job,” she screamed.
“Hello, Mrs Albescu, what can I do for you?” stammered Steve.
“You may think this is funny?”
“Wasting my time, sending stupid mails.”
“I didn’t. I just received a load of nonsense too, what does yours say?” asked Steve.
She blurted a sentence in Romanian.
“Can I see?”
“No. In English it is a curse,” she said slightly calmer.
“Mine says, ‘White Romanian, Orange Brit’, does that make sense in Romanian?”
“The first part of my name, Albe, means white. Does that help? Is it from my daughter?” she said, tidying her wayward locks.
“There is no way of telling who it is from. But the mails come from a contact centre in Samui.”
“White Romanian must be Albie,” said Mrs Albescu. “But orange Brit?”
“Has she met an Englishman called Mr Orange?” asked Mildred. “What’s orange in Romanian?”
“Nah, I think the orange refers to Thai monks?” said Arthur. “I’ve seen their pictures. The monks always wear orange. Do we know a Thai monk?”
“Of course, we don’t know a monk. You never even go to church, where are you likely to get a religious fanatic.” As if a thunderbolt struck home. “Unless our boy is now a monk! That’s why we haven’t heard from him?” said Mildred.
“Can you go home and get our mobile? Maybe we’ve got messages too?” said Arthur.
“I need to put all this in the fridge anyway,” said Mildred as she trudged off.
“You seem anxious about your daughter, anything we should know. Odd both of them are in Samui, don’t you think?” asked Steve.
“Yes, you are right. She is not an easy child. I shouldn’t tell you our family secrets. But I’ve plenty to be worried about. My witch of a sister, for example. Albie believed every word she breathed. She was even learning gipsy tricks,” said Mrs Albescu.
“Come on tell us more, anything that could affect Mickey?” asked Steve.
“He was all she talked about. Mickey did this, Mickey said that. She… no I’d better say nothing.”
“How do you work this thing,” Mildred said as she bumbled in, passing the phone to her husband.
“Shall I,” offered Steve. “Yep, you got the same as us. Hundreds of messages. Wait a minute, you’ve got a new one. Christ, is that Mickey?”
“What has he done,” said Arthur.
“Let me see,” said Mildred, snatching the phone. Her son, head shaven, with no eyebrows, glared from the screen. “Look at his robes.”
Ping, ping, ping called phones all around the shop. Even boxed and uncharged mobiles were vibrating, all begging to be answered.
Mrs Albescu, Arthur and Steve answered theirs while the rest in the shop kept bleeping.
This time a video was displayed. Again it was Mickey, but this time he had a rope around his neck. He was tied to a tree. The thick nylon cord was strung over a high branch. Struggling to keep his balance on an overhanging rock, above the crashing waves. Mickey wriggled against tightly tied wrists. Then Albie’s face appeared. Sweat streamed down her panting cheeks.
“We were to be married. Look what he’s done. Look at him. How can I marry a bald religious nut? He won’t even leave the temple. He is wed to his new faith.”
She kicked him off the cliff. Watching him dangle, she turned back to the camera.
“Maybe next life?”
She collapsed to her knees, laughing and cackling aloud as the connection was lost.
See You Later
“ARE YOU COMING tonight?” Jake asked. He guessed the answer but didn’t want to hear it confirmed.
Johnny turned with a smirk and that ‘you’ve gotta be joking’ look.
“Come on, it’ll be fun.” Knowing it wouldn’t be fun for his best mate.
A garish purple and green taxi pulled up. The window lowered. “Where you go?” The driver asked in his best English.
Jake looked at Johnny. “Well?”
“You go on. Maybe I’ll join you later,” Johnny answered, pushing his mate into the cab. They had been putting in the hours, selling non-existent shares in non-existent companies. It was Friday night, bonus night. Jake at least, felt they deserved to celebrate with a few beers. Better still Champagne, but where he planned on visiting, don’t stock any. Their wine came in tacky boxes.
The taxi pulled away. Jake’s ‘Fuck you then’, middle finger salute earned a brief smile from Johnny. He walked on through the busy crowd of office workers. Mixing with a smattering of tourists hunting street-side bargains of fake designer shirts and shoes. Johnny earned enough to buy the genuine gear from Bangkok’s upmarket stores. He didn’t.
Turning left, between two high-end boutiques. He was soon away from five-star tourist traps, bank head offices, and glitzy hotels. He was where rats lived side by side with three-legged dogs and cats with broken tails, and his friend, Busaba. She was dying.
“Hello, Khun Maah, how is your daughter?” Johnny’s spoken Thai was enough for day-to-day conversation.
Khun Maah’s tears said enough.
Johnny moved to the back room, he caught his breath, and Busaba’s chest rose and fell. She was gasping for air. Eyes shut, the nasal tubes and clear plastic face mask barely moved. The rasping oxygen intake agony for the once beautiful girl.
Unashamedly, tears ran down his cheeks. He looked around at her mother, his words would not come.
“Khun Johnny, thank you for all you’ve done for her. All the medicine, and the oxygen machine, everything. It’s not working.”
“Let me take her to the hospital?”
“It’s too late. The doctor came earlier. There is nothing they can do. Better she dies here.”
Johnny thought back to one month ago. Jake fired her with the words, “You are no good to this company, here one day, sick the next. Better you find a new position. Goodbye.”
Busaba, too proud to cry in the office, merely touched Johnny’s hand as she walked past.
She had dated Johnny for a month before telling him of her mother’s tough life. How she bowed and scraped to get her through school and finally complete her accountancy degree. How she had sold the family Buddha image to buy clothes suitable for office work. How she owed her mum the world, only to fall sick. Her sister, older by a year, didn’t finish school, she worked to help her mum and little sister. She wasn’t proud of her job. She worked in a bar, offering drinks and extras. When Busaba started a job and soon after found a boyfriend, she treated herself to a rare gift. A glow-in-the-dark fluorescent tattoo.
“I want to end Busaba’s misery,” Khun Maah said.
“What do you mean?”
Khun Maah looked at the electric switch. Johnny followed her glance to the emergency generator. Thinking what a lifesaver it had been in the regular power cuts.
“I’m a Buddhist. I cannot take life,” she said.
Johnny knelt and grabbed Busaba’s right hand, Khun Maah held her left hand, tears flowed. Briefly, Busaba smiled and opened her eyes. She mouthed goodbye in Thai, then in English before closing her eyes.
The generator chugged to a stop.
Johnny kissed her forehead, his wai to her. Then he turned to her mother, repeating the gesture. The most painful actions he had ever experienced. Khun Maah got busy on her battered phone, she spoke to a monk about funeral arrangements. Johnny grabbed a container of powerful painkillers and slipped it into his pocket. Ducking, he went past the three-legged canine back to the flashy high street and signalled a taxi.
He steeled himself before tapping a number on his phone.
“At last. Are you coming?” asked Jake. “What the hell have you been up to?”
“Oh, nothing much, I’m on my way.”
“That girl with the fluorescent tattoos is here. Waiting for you!”
“Good, I want to speak to her,” said Johnny.
“Only talk, haha,” smirked Jake.
A few minutes later Johnny straightened his shirt and checked his cheeks were dry. He marched into the seedy club, offering huge fake smiles all around.
“Ah-ha, here he is. Get us two more beers. Make sure they are cold this time.”
Jake eased the scantily clad lass from his lap.
“Now, let us enjoy that bonus,” Jake shouted. The pounding hip-hop music failed to drown his excitement.
Beer bottles clinked. “Heres to another big bonus,” said Jake.
“I’m looking for a little extra tonight, where is the flashing tattoo lady?” asked Johnny.
“She’s waiting for you. I told her you were coming. Here she comes with our beers.”
“Tilak, ja,” she joked with Johnny.
Johnny smiled and winked.
“I need to talk to you. Wait until I signal you,” he said in Thai, knowing Jake never learned the language.
She skipped back to the bar, tattoo glistening with the strobe.
“Fancy a short?” Johnny asked.
“Why not, brandy and coke?”
Jake turned and gave the order to his conquest. Johnny undid the container in his pocket and counted out six of the pills. Jake’s ‘friend’ returned with a small bottle of Sang Som, two bottles of coke and an ice bucket. She mixed the drinks, and then kissed Jake, long and hard. Johnny used the ice claws to smash his pills to powder. The powder was sprinkled in Jakes’s glass. Then the girl broke from Jake’s embrace, pecked his nose, and started stirring the drinks, handing them to her customers.
“Cheers,” said Johnny, as he downed his glass in one. Jake copied. The girl was already mixing the next glass.
Before the brandy bottle and pill container were empty, Jake was empty of life. His girl tutted, “Drunk foreigners,” and stalked off. Johnny signalled Miss Tattoo across.
“He is dead. Don’t panic. He deserved it. Your sister died tonight. It was his fault,” pointing at his ex-friend. “You and your bouncer friend get rid of his body. As payment for that service, you keep his diamond-studded Rolex, his gold chains, rings and his credit cards. I know the ATM numbers, they are his birth year. So, for ridding the club of, what looks like a drunk, you can profit nicely. If your mother needs anything, she has my number.”
Miss Tattoo was fighting tears. She sloped to her bouncer pal, when they returned to the table, Jake held a piece of paper in his teeth, bank code numbers.
There was no sign of Johnny. He never returned.
“THE TRAFFIC GETS no better, I see, rot tit!” Philip Rinn said as he walks into his new office.
“Oh?” Anong said.
“Oh, what?” Philip asked.
“I must have made a silly mistake when I typed up details of your interview in London.”
“How so? You type up information on all the staff?”
“Yes, it is company policy. It said on your info sheet that you cannot speak Thai and that you have never been here before.”
“I see, let me clear that up. I learned a few words of your beautiful language, and I’ve never worked here. I came for a holiday once. I picked up the term for traffic jam, as I spent most of my time in one,” he said, smiling at Anong.
“You have a corner office, with the best views of the city. If you need any supplies, ask and I’ll arrange them. My office is next door.”
“Can I have a coffee before you go?”
“There is a machine in the corridor, the coffee is free.” She turned her back.
Philip sat behind his desk and checked the desk drawers. Empty. The filing cabinet was bulging. There was a calendar opened for this month. A blue and a red pen with the company logo stamped on them.
“Lovely, pity the secretary doesn’t make coffee. Now, I wonder what they expect me to do?”
At Rank Insurance, it didn’t take a genius to guess what they offered. Health, property and vehicle cover. They also had an investment department. Philip’s only experience with insurance was a failed attempt to claim on his car when it crashed in bad weather. He was drunk.
He wandered to the coffee machine, smiling and nodding to the office workers he passed. Anong kept her head down. She answered the phone, keeping her head frozen in place.
“Yes, sir, I’ll tell him.”
Her head lifted, “Mr Rinn, the boss wants a word. Top floor.”
“He can wait until I finish my drink.”
“Up to you, but I wouldn’t keep him waiting.”
Philip shrugged and flipped his feet on his desk. Arms behind his head leaning back, he smirked at the cooling coffee.
The plastic cup became the first item in his bin as he took the lift upstairs.
On his return, he was tempted to fill the bin with the folders and leaflets presented by his boss.
“Miss Anong, please come in here,” he asked.
“Yes, Mr Rinn,” she said, remained standing.
“Please sit. I want you to give me the gist of all this stuff.”
Anong was Thai, normally polite and helpful, cheerful and generous. She was a good judge of people.
“I believe you should read it, find out what we as a company do.”
“I have better things to do. Give me a summary.”
She started sorting the papers.
“We can start with the fun bit, Rank Insurance takes its employees for a long weekend in the jungle.”
“Ah, ha, I’ll get to use my military training,” he said.
“Brush up your skills, as luck would have it, we go to Kanchanaburi, next weekend.”
Rinn snorted, legs on the desk, he signalled for her to continue.
She explained the coverage of each policy. Rinn was daydreaming. Finally, she placed the leaflets and brochures on a shelf, and then flicked open a folder.
“I thought you’d finished?”
“You need to know the company’s rules.” She started reading the do and definitely do not of office behaviour and how to treat each client.
She crept out of the office, leaving Philip snoring gently.
As the clock hit four-thirty, “Bye Anong, see you tomorrow,” he said, waving goodbye.
“But we don’t finish until six.”
“I have something planned.”
Office chatter caught fire. Anong busied herself with Philip’s photograph and Google search programme.
During the following four days, Philip spent his time with his head buried in his file cabinet. He pulled file after file, flicked open the details and copied them onto his iPad.
“If you are going to watch me work, at least fetch me a coffee,” said Philip.
Anong, did as requested. Then asked, “Why you are checking the documents of our English clients?”
“You have good eyesight, reading the names from your office?”
“I organised the files, I know who goes in which drawer.”
“Brilliant. If you must know, I aim to run an advert, in English, in the Bangkok Post. Is that okay with you?”
“We have an ad department that handles that,” she answered as she stalked to her desk.
The clock in Philip’s office ticked its way to six pm. He hadn’t found the information he wanted.
A note was placed on each staff member’s desk. ‘Kanchanaburi Trip. Staff are requested to meet outside the building at nine am tomorrow. Casual clothes, strong walking shoes and a hat will be needed. Alcohol will be served. Have fun, but please remember the company’s good name!’.
Philip snorted as he balled the paper.
“Shit, shit, shit. What do I do now?” he asked himself.
“Gather round, please,” called the office manager. “I have some great news,” he pointed to Philip’s office, “the lady who graced that office, will be joining us tomorrow. As you all know, she left us to settle down to married life.”
Philip’s ears pricked up. “All may not be lost.” He grinned.
The phone’s alarm rang at eight. Philip sprang up and readied himself.
“There is extra food this morning, don’t eat it all at once, I will be gone awhile.”
The condo door slammed.
“Good morning, Mr Rinn, you seem much happier this morning?” said Anong.
“I’m looking forward to this excursion. I’m keen to meet eh, Mrs?”
“Oh, Miss Whitely, now Mrs Jacobs, she will be joining us at the boat.”
Philip sat alone on the coach’s front seat. Thinking, planning how to phrase his questions. The noise, chatter, and Thai songs didn’t disturb his scheming.
The coach arrived at the river. Its passengers poured to the pavement. They bounced and bubbled down the bank to the wide, open-sided craft, ready to whisk them to the River Kwai’s famous sights.
“Philip, please sit next to Miss… sorry, Mrs Jacobs,” said the office manager.
“Please call me Lily.” She smiled with her hand outstretched.
“Lovely to meet you, I’m Philip. New to join this happy bunch of insurance experts.”
Talk of a honeymoon on Phuket, the possibility of starting a family, and river life punctuated with Leo beers, relaxed the pair.
“Do you mind if I ask you a work-related question?” said Philip.
“But first, where is Mr Rinn? I expected to see him today?” asked Lily.
“You know Mr Rinn?” whispered Philip.
“Oh yes, we were great friends in the London office. I recommended him for this job.”
Philip looked at the group getting louder and merrier. No one heard her. He decided he should stay close; he didn’t want her to talk to Anong.
“Oh, no, looks who is coming,” he stammered.
“Anong, darling, you look great. Married yet?” asked Lily.
“No, no one will have me, will they, Mr Rinn?”
With a burst of laughter, all heads turned to see who fell overboard. Mr Rinn splashed his way to dry land, he slipped and fell back, before he clambered to the rocky edge. On knees and hands made it to the top. Soggy Baht notes paid for his trip to Bangkok.
“Where did my ex-wife hide her money?” he screamed at the helpless, tightly bound Philip Rinn. His untouched food bowl smashed on the tiles.
Mr Rinn shook his head and mumbled as he tried to speak with a parched throat.
“Please release me,” he said.
“What did the silly cow do with it before she died?”
“I don’t even know her name,” said Mr Rinn.
“She had insurance with your company. I deserve that money.”
Sirens broke his concentration, he grabbed a kitchen knife and held it under Philip’s throat.
The door burst open, as two police officers tumbled through. A third fired, the bullet hit the standing man between his eyebrows.
The real Philip Rinn blinked and shook the blood from his eyes.
THE LANKY PALMS swept the top of the cracked tiled roof. A frond whispered its way to the parched grass. Bangkok’s heat throbbed and drained strength. Newcomers suffered, veins pumped, sweat dripped in torrents.
“Oh, be careful that just missed you,” Justin said, pulling Mondtree back. The pull became a hug. She shrugged him away, tutting.
“Not here, not now,” she said.
He led her to the wooden steps to the porch.
“Nung, song,” she counted. “Nung, song, sam, si,” two steps, and four paces to the door, she said. “I don’t like even numbers.” Her Thai is still perfect even after spending years in London.
Justin flicked through the brass ring of twenty-six keys, he knew how many, Mondtree had told him.
“It must be this one, look at the size of it.” He held the old key on display.
It wouldn’t fit, he jiggled and joggled, stooping to look through the keyhole. Finally, after blowing away the clogged dust, the key turned. The door swung back.
“Come on then, let me carry you over the threshold to a new life.” His arms were outstretched, soon limp.
“Don’t be so daft,” she said, giggling. He grabbed at her. She fought herself free. “Someone may be watching.”
“So what? We are married.” He said as he entered the dark brown teak gloom. “Come on, we must open the window shutters, let some light and air in.”
Mondtree looked around. She heard palm leaves rustle, something else stirred her senses, what was it? Dry bamboo leaves sounded like rain, didn’t they? Bamboo stalks bobbed and danced. What else? She ran outside, back to, but not on the steps. Then she stepped to one side, pulling at, and lifting dry and green branches. Something scuttled below, unseen beyond the vegetation. Slowly she walked back to the front door.
“Come on,” called Justin, “what are you doing out there?”
“There was something out here.”
“A cat, I expect?”
Justin continued fighting the rusting hinges of the shutters, hooking them secure.
“That’s better, homely, don’t you think?”
“It’s not like the picture you showed me,” said Mondtree.
“That was an old one, the agent sent it to me. The house has been empty for a while.”
She grunted and wiped her finger through the dust on the window sill.
“Come on, darling, let’s look around,” Justin said.
The main living room was spacious, doors led to an outside kitchen, a small bathroom and a smaller room.
“That can be my office,” Justin said.
Stairs grew from the centre of the main area, leaning back away from the front door directly in front.
“Bad start,” she said.
“What are you on about,” Justin said, as his grin got wider. “I’ve heard enough of your outdated Thai beliefs.”
“Two steps up, then dead ahead is a staircase. And I bet there is an even number of stairs?”
“No house should have a ‘ghost entrance’ like this.” Mondtree shook her head in disbelief, “Who would build like this?”
Justin shook his head, then nodded.
“Up we go.”
They took the stairs carefully, highly polished wood covered with dust felt like an ice rink. She counted to twenty-six. The handrail was sturdy and swept left and right at the top. Five doors greeted them. Mondtree ran to and from each.
“Oh, no,” she said, “as I dreaded, four bedrooms and a cupboard!”
“It is unlucky, don’t you know anything?”
“What if we made two rooms into one? The bridal suite?” He scratched his chin.
She snorted louder this time.
“We’ll need another bathroom upstairs. The other one is not enough, we could make the fourth bedroom into a bathroom?” he said
“Why did you buy this place? Without even asking me, and without even seeing it?”
A year earlier, Justin had fallen in love with the chef in his favourite Thai restaurant in Knightsbridge. After a whirlwind romance. Mondtree’s father, the restaurant owner, had allowed her to marry the shy Englishman. Her father expected them to take over his business and allow him to retire. The day after the wedding, Justin stated his plan to move to Thailand and sell products online. Photographs of an aged property on the outskirts of Bangkok did nothing to cheer his in-laws.
The aged two-storey house was built with Thailand’s long-lasting, termite-free, teak wood. It was tucked away at the dead-end of a Soi, far from the screaming, tooting jammed traffic. More modern homes had been built nearby. But not within 100 metres. The weeds and trees were left by the previous occupant. They are still there, growing unhindered.
“Good job we didn’t decide to open a restaurant.” She snorted. “There’s not too much in the way of passing trade,” she glared at him.
“All I need is my laptop and a decent Wi-Fi connection,” said Justin.
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll both be flat-out renovating. When settled, we can think of something for you.”
“I don’t want to live in a place with two steps leading up to the front door, or with four bedrooms.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’ve already told me. Don’t you think there are more important tasks, like sweeping up before we move our furniture in?”
“That’s another thing, why order all the stuff without letting me pick some bits?”
“I only ordered the basics, you can choose the rest. I wanted to get started, that’s all.”
They relaxed, as her phone vibrated.
“The furniture shop is calling me, hold on,” said Mondtree, with her hand up in a quiet gesture.
She stared at her husband, hands-on-hips, mouth open.
“What?” asked Justin.
“They will deliver, today as promised, but will they will not set foot in this house. All our new stuff will be left outside.”
“I suppose that’s because of the two steps?” he sniggered.
She playfully slapped him across the shoulders.
“Now we will have to lug everything upstairs?”
“You wanted something to do.” He said as another slap accompanied a half-hearted smile.
A pickup truck pulled up. The men started placing boxes outside the gate and tried to sneak off and disappear.
“Why won’t you shift it all inside?” called Mondtree from the house.
She was answered with ducked heads shaking.
“Please sign this. Out here,” the driver asked.
Most of the furniture was flat-pack, far too modern to suit the house, but easy to shift. The plastic-wrapped mattress was not so easy. Heavy and unbending, Justin’s sweat dripped from rivulets. Before they began the furniture construction, Mondtree swept while Justin mopped.
“Look after my cigs and lighter, I’m sweating all over them.”
They smiled at each other.
“Let’s try the bed?” suggested Justin.
“I’m not sleeping here tonight, and not until you sort out that step.”
“Who said anything about sleeping?”
“Is that all you think about,” Mondtree said.
His grin switched from jokey playmate to a slow-motion sneer. The corners of his mouth pointed south. His shoulders trembled as his head tipped from side to side.
She took a half step back and looked deep into his eyes. His lips began vibrating and twitching. His eyelids flicked up and down, and his eyes glowed a steamy pink. Anger throbbed.
She pushed him away, turned, and ran.
He bounded after her, room to room, slamming doors in the chase.
“Where are you?” he bellowed.
Panting, Mondtree skipped across the upstairs hallway and took three steps at a leap. Panting for breath on reaching the bottom, unable to scream. Catching a glimpse across her shoulder, she opened the door and froze.
“Come in, come in, my pretty,” he stood at the top and pointed at the bed.
His back had hunched, his hair jutted at all angles, his fingers were gnarled like broken cutlery.
“Come on my darling, I won’t hurt you.” He beckoned with bent fingers.
Mondtree looked around, the hated two steps were bobbing up and down, like a dinghy on the sea. One step rocked up, the other dipped, both moving in and out. Hands to mouth, eyes popping, she measured her chances. Slim to none. She couldn’t stay, she dare not attempt the steps.
Taking a long step back, as his outstretched claws scratched at her, she sprang forward. Tumbling and cursing, rolling in the weeds, gasping for air. Peering for a chance to run.
Her sprint took her as far as the gateway. Stopping as an idea hit her. She gathered the furniture’s wrapping paper, nylon rope, together with dried broken branches she formed a loose ball.
Using Justin’s lighter, she torched the ball and flung it at her deformed husband in the doorway. Dust, rubbish and his clothes caught alight. He laughed at the fire; he danced jumping up and down.
Not stopping to watch. She formed another ball, turning back, she threw it at the window, smash; it shattered as teak burst alight. Flames licked everything it touched, catching the antique wood afire. And all inside creaked and groaned as it burnt. Spitting blackened splinters.
Smoke billowed as she wailed.
“What have I done?”
Even numbers ticked in her brain.
The two steps stopped wobbling. Still, unmoving were the two steps, but two steps she would never step on.
(X-rated story. Not suitable for everyone.)
“YOU LOOK HAPPY today?” said Busabong.
“Yeah,” answered Mark. “I always look forward to Thai religious days, tomorrow is the start of Buddhist Lent. Which means I’ll be happy for the long weekend.”
“Why? You’re not Buddhist, or are you thinking of becoming a monk?” she asked, giggling.
“No, that will never happen, I’m not religious at all.”
“Then why will you enjoy this weekend more than others? Not because you can’t buy alcohol I’m sure?”
Mark’s colleague was sniggering behind her slim hands. She knew Mark drank too much, not because she had been out with him, nor had anybody from the office. He stank of booze Monday mornings and often on other workdays. Daily, Busabong dressed immaculately, her job was phone marketing.
“Why do you always look so smart, not that customers ever see you?” asked Mark, changing the subject.
“If you look smart, feel smart, you will sell smart. That’s what they told us at training,” she answered. She was Thai, Thai’s are rarely rude. That’s why she never mentioned or even hinted at his dress. She tried not to allow him to see her looking at his denim shorts and filthy t-shirt.
“How come I head the sales table?”
“It helps that you speak English like a native, not like an Asian,” she said, holding her breath.
“I’m only joking, keep cool.”
“Why have you not made any friends in the office?” she asked.
“I like to keep my friendships outside work. Don’t worry, I have loads of pals here in Bangkok.”
Mark ticked another sale on the chart. He knew they were watching him. He smiled before he turned, all heads were hastily ducked behind computer screens.
“Goodnight all,” he waved as he skipped to the doorway.
“Taxi,” he called, ordering a ride the short distance to his condo.
His shirt was flung into the washing basket, shorts soon followed as he grabbed his Gillette. A steady and careful shave preceded his step into the steaming shower. Clouds of talc soon joined the steam. ‘Straight To Heaven’ aftershave was dabbed behind his ears.
“Bloody expensive stuff, don’t waste it,” he said to his steamy reflection in the cloudy mirror.
Flicking between hangers, suit or blazer? He decided on a tieless shirt and business trousers. His handmade brogues were gleaming, no rain in the city, no filth on the leather. Unless he made them dirty in some other way.
A taxi pulled up as he exited his condo foyer, “Pat Pong please, no rush.”
He was dropped at the Sukhumvit end of the red-district road.
“Ideal,” he whispered to himself, “no need to be hasty, take your time old boy.”
Three years earlier, he had walked across the same road from his hotel. A naïve tourist alone because his travel mate had been struck down with food poisoning. Or was it overdoing the alcohol intake? Whatever, Mark had decided not to waste an evening of their precious two-week holiday. He looked different in those days, with long hair, bearded and broke. His mum had paid for the holiday to get ‘him from under her feet.’
Tonight was going to be very different. He wanted savage revenge.
Three years earlier, the novice girl hunter had met one of Pat Pong’s unbelievably beautiful ‘lady boys’. When this gorgeous night worker stroked him, whispered sweet something in his ear, leading him astray. ‘She’ led him to a ‘short time’ hotel.
All his planning was moving in Mark’s expected direction. Both tops flung to the floor, little silver package unveiled a sheath of gossamer rubber. They both fought to slide it onto Mark.
Mark gently slid his hands under the mini-skirt.
“What is that?” He screamed.
“I thought that’s what you were looking for?”
Mark punched ‘her’ on the nose. The plastic improvement to the bridge snapped. This followed an ear-piercing squeal which equalled Mark’s wail of agony as a bony foot parted his legs, leaving him rolling in agony. Within seconds, Mark was set upon by a gang of ‘lady boys’, all high on ‘meth’, they punched, kicked, then took turns to rape him. Worse was to follow.
Three-year-old memories had not faded. Every face, every tattoo and every scar even every scent, throbbed at his temples. He had scouted the bars since his arrival. He had visited the famous haunts, spotted some of the gang that changed his life.
Tonight was the get-even night. He had learned enough Thai to get his point across, loud and clear.
Earlier, he had checked into a modest three-star hotel under a false name and paid cash for two nights. He had picked a hotel that didn’t worry if you brought ‘a guest’ to your room.
He breezed into a pulse-quickening thump of booster speakers which vibrated the walls of the ground floor club. His target was directly ahead, arms draped over a clueless tourist. A man who thought he had met the ‘girl’ of his dreams. She left him open-mouthed with lipstick dappled ear lobes. She had spotted the well-dressed Mark’s one-thousand Baht note being flapped at a pretty female topless server.
“Tilak ja,” Pippi breathed at him, “what can I get you?”
“Tilak ja? What does that mean?” asked Mark.
“It means, darling, politely. I can be very impolite if you prefer. Let’s get out of here, keep that money for me. It will be well worth it.”
“I only wanted a drink. My friends told me about these places, I wanted to see for myself.”
“Let me give you something far better than watered-down booze.” Pippi winked and slid her hand along his thigh, moving up and across as Mark grabbed her wrist.
“Not here, we can go to my hotel?”
“What hotel?” she asked, knowing she would not be allowed in most.
Mark feigned forgetting the name of the place, he described the building and its address.
“Oh, I know it, it’s a very friendly, lovely place. Let’s go,” she said.
Nodding at the night manager, who didn’t lift his head from his paper, his key was handed to Mark. As any well-dressed, polite man, Mark opened the door for his ‘guest’. As she got inside, she was clubbed from behind with the handily placed hammer.
She was tied and gagged. Mark left by the fire escape at the back. He slipped a sheet of plastic in the locking mechanism ready for his return.
Hours later, he was happy with his hunt, four of the five people who attacked him were now in his room. Sluggish and drowsy as they came around dripping blood.
“Where is Lilly,” he asked. “Do not scream,” he said, as he flashed the blade under each chin.
They looked at each other, shaking heads.
“Where? I won’t ask again.”
Mark held his knife to the nearest eyeball. “Where is she?”
“She is dead, she died in jail.”
Mark looked at his prisoners, they all nodded slowly.
“Lucky for her,” said Mark.
Three of the four were gagged and blindfolded. The fourth quaked as Mark produced a dark brown bottle and unscrewed the top. He covered his mouth and nose as he filled a syringe. The girl gaped as he squirted the liquid in her mouth.
The previous weekend Mark had visited a silk fair. Not that he particularly enjoyed the feel of the material against his skin. He wanted a liquid used in the dyeing process.
Sulphuric acid melted his captive’s tongue. She tried to spit the throbbing mucosa off her muscular organ, her whole body trembled. Fear almost popped her eyes, the pain left her gagging, struggling for breath.
“Steady on girl, we’ve only just started,” said Mark, as he ripped open her blouse.
“Let’s see what we can do with silicone breasts.”
The clear fluid worked its way through skin and plastic implants.
Each captive suffered, grunting and groaning in their helpless agony.
“Now ladies, before I start the final stage of this little operation. I want you to know what you did to me. I can no longer make love and I pee in a bag. Are you happy?”
He squirted acid onto each face. They were blind, mute, and unrecognisable.
Mark was late for work the next day, saying he had a busy weekend. When he turned up dressed in shorts and a scruffy t-shirt, he broke all sales records.
“CHRIST ALMIGHTY, LOOK at this rain, it hasn’t stopped since I left Bangkok, and it’s getting worse,” said Arpa to the mirror. She grabbed the steering wheel tighter as the truck behind her flashed its lights.
“What’s up with you?” She screamed as the vehicle sped past, hitting a deep puddle overloading the hire car wipers.
Calming down, she flashed at a car coming towards her, “Bloody idiot, turn your lights on.”
At four pm and dark already, the cloudburst followed her. Other drivers had slowed, and their headlights were on. She felt better.
She had driven for ninety minutes, on a dry day she would have made the distance in sixty.
“No problem, no rush.”
She was keen to show off her science degree papers to her parents. The flight from Heathrow was painless. It was only when she arrived in Thailand; the weather changed. A tropical monsoon downpour, she did not miss them. London’s rain was bad enough.
“At least the rain here is warm,” she laughed to herself.
She tooted the horn and pulled across to the dark shadow with his thumb out.
Her mother’s warning flashed across her mind. “Don’t stop for strangers, at home or in England.” She remembered promising she would take care.
Then she recalled the local Abbot saying, “We must take care of those less fortunate.”
She opened the door.
“Get in quick,” she called.
“Oh, great, you can speak English.”
“I know that in England you ‘thumb a lift,’ but it won’t work here,” Arpa said, smiling.
“Ah, that explains it. I’ve been walking for hours,” the man answered.
“You are soaked, why not take your jacket off? I’ll turn the heater on to dry it.”
The man attempted to wriggle out of the sleeves. It was then Arpa realised how big the man was. He was built like a bodybuilder, his arm muscles restricted shaking his jacket loose.
“Why are you walking? No one except monks walk in Thailand,” she asked.
He grunted himself free and settled, looking straight ahead.
“Where are you going?” Arpa asked.
“South,” he replied.
“South can be a long way, all the way to Singapore.”
“Prachuab… somewhere or other,” he said.
“Prachuabkhirikhan, you mean, lovely part of the world,” she smiled at him. Noticing he had a facial tattoo and many piercings.
“Can I ask again, why are you walking? We have plenty of buses and even frequent trains travel south.”
“… Eh, my bag was stolen. Money, passport the lot all gone.”
“You have an Embassy in Bangkok, why not tell them?” she asked.
The splatter of rain was the only answer she got.
He stretched his arms out. Hands resting on his knees, she glimpsed, ‘LOVE and HATE’ inked across his knuckles.
She felt under the dashboard, for a second she had forgotten this was not her car. Her BMW stored a ladylike pistol. This rental had no such thing.
“Where are you heading?” He said, facing her for the first time. She gasped, one fluorescent sky blue eye and one green cat’s eye peered at her. His lips parted enough to reveal pointed teeth. The incisors boasted diamond chips.
“I’m going to my parents’ home, sorry, but not as far as Prachuabkhirikhan, I’ll have to drop you off soon.”
“Has anybody told you, you are beautiful?”
She tried to cover her knees with her skirt. The cotton didn’t stretch. His eyes did. His smile widened.
Arpa’s mind was spinning, how to get rid of this freak? ‘Why didn’t I listen to mum?’ she thought.
“The rain is easing,” she said.
“Are you trying to throw me out of your car?”
“No, it’s not that. I need to stop for petrol, I’ll buy you a coffee and give you enough cash for the bus which can pick you up at the station?”
“I can see you have half a tank of fuel. Are there no more stations?”
“It, it, it’s not that, I like the convenience store at the next petrol station,” she mumbled.
“How about we keep moving, also, let go of your skirt too. I prefer it when you have two hands on the wheel. Much safer, don’t you agree?”
She did as ordered. A tense silence filled the car, he stared at her legs; she wondered how to press the alarm signal on her phone. ‘I never needed it in London, back home the first person I meet and I am desperate to try it out.’ Her mind in a twirl.
“The turning for my home is coming up. You’ll have to get out soon.”
“What if I ask you to take me all the way?” he said, smirking at his poor joke.
“Sorry, that is not possible.”
He turned awkwardly to face her. “I think it is.”
She realised how huge his shoulders were.
A thought from nowhere nudged her overactive mind. Remembering her dad’s coded warning.
“What work do you do?”
“Are you offering me a job?”
“Ever been in the movies?” she asked.
A weird sound spluttered out like a dog caught under a bus.
“Whatever made you ask that. Of course, I’m not a film star,” he said.
“Would you like to be one?”
“I’ve never thought about it. I’m a bouncer in a nightclub, if you must know.”
Silence returned. Both were deep in thought. He was dreaming of flirting with instant fame. She dreamt of escape.
“My father is a movie producer,” she said.
“He could find you a role, maybe a hero, or even as a villain?”
“I can’t speak Thai, it would have to be a non-speaking part.”
“No problem, my dad will know a way around that little problem,” Arpa said, feeling more at ease.
She started rooting in her bag.
“Oy, what do you think you’re doing?”
“I looking for my phone, I need to tell my dad you’re coming.”
“Okay, but speak in English, I don’t want you tricking me.”
“Dad’s English is good enough, but he’ll think it odd for us not to speak Thai.”
“Just make it quick.”
She tapped in a number.
“Hi dad, it’s me, I’m nearly home. I have the next star for your movie with me now.”
The mobile went back into her bag.
The rain stopped as they left the main road, turning left onto a winding offshoot lane. Passing pineapple fields, then mango orchards, on through farmland. Ahead was a huge property, with three-metre-high walls surrounding it. Automatic gates opened and closed behind them as they swept across the gravel driveway.
Dogs were barking.
“Don’t worry, they are in cages,” said Arpa. “I don’t even know your name.”
The huge teak front door opened back.
“My name is Philip.”
A whistling sound was heard for a second before the crossbow bolt buried itself into Philip’s heart.
“Great shot dad,” she called as she ran to cuddle her father.
“All thugs think they should be stars, good job you remembered our code. What a fantastic specimen. A good job I stocked up with formaldehyde, but I’m not sure I have a glass cylinder big enough,” Arpa’s father laughed.
And You Said
“TIME FOR BED, young lady.”
“Ow mum, it’s too early,” answered Maew.
“You have exams tomorrow, only two more days, then you are on holiday, and you can stay up later. But not too late, like last time.”
“That wasn’t my fault, Granny forgot to look at the clock.”
“And you forgot to tell her your bedtime.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m sorry.”
“Forget it. What do you think our new neighbours will be like?”
“Don’t know mum, I hope it’s not the man I saw there last Wednesday.”
“I didn’t like the way he looked at me.”
“The agent told me an Englishman had bought the house, was it him, I wonder?”
“Mum, how do I know? He wasn’t Thai, that’s all I know.”
“Okay, that’s enough, bed and sleep, we’ll know soon enough. Good night, darling.”
The mobile phone’s alarm rang at seven, Maew, rubbed her eyes and crept to the bathroom. She prepared her uniform and school bag and joined her mother, father and elder brother for breakfast.
“How is BoBo?” Maew asked.
Daeng, her elder brother snorted and didn’t look up from his cereals.
“Better, he’s still asleep, but not well enough for school,” said her mother.
“Lucky him, no exams. I bet he’ll be better when his school breaks up.”
“Don’t be like that, your brother has a fever, he didn’t plan it,” said her father.
Maew slung her bag on her shoulder, “See you all later.” She waved and strolled to the path.
A pickup truck laden with furniture slowed as it reached the next-door house. A new saloon stopped behind it. Two ‘falangs’, jumped out and ran to the door, keys in hand. The bigger of the two had cropped ginger hair. He turned and walked back to the gate, whistled and signalled to the pickup driver to park in the driveway. Then, his eyes connected with Maew’s. She turned and hurried off to school.
“God, it is him!” she breathed.
“Oh, darling, you’re home from school. Look who’s here to see you,” Maew’s mother said excitedly.
A tall ginger-haired man stuck his hand out.
“Hi, I’m Roger, and this is Don. We will be your new neighbours.” He looked her up and down.
The other man moved closer. “Yes, I’m Donald, you can call me Don. I’m an English teacher, I can help you with your homework if you like?”
“Hello. I’d better change and start my school work,” said Maew, rushing off.
“Why are you dashing off, darling, these nice men offered to go over your exams with you,” said her mum.
“Yes, you look fine in your school uniform.” Three people laughed. Maew ducked out and ran for the stairs.
She heard chatter and the clink of coffee cups as she shut her bedroom door firmly.
“BoBo, come down here, please. Don and Roger have brought you some English sweets, come and try some,” shouted his mother.
Maew opened her door a crack, “BoBo, get in here now.”
“I don’t trust those two.”
“So? They’ve got chocs,” said BoBo as he skipped to the stairs.
Maew shut the door soundlessly. She didn’t want to draw any attention to herself.
An hour later, her mother tapped at the door and stuck her head around.
“Finished your revision?”
“I wonder if you’d mind popping next door to collect your little brother?”
“Don’t tell me you let him go with them?” said Maew.
“Why ever not? They are very nice.”
“Mum, I don’t know why, but I don’t trust them. Please don’t allow BoBo to go to their house again.”
“What are you talking about? They are respectful people, one teacher and the other is a programmer, whatever that is?”
“It probably means he has a website. Just because they have jobs doesn’t mean they are perfect.”
“Whatever, will you fetch BoBo?”
“Yes mum, won’t belong.”
“Come in, come in, welcome to our new home,” said Don.
“I need to get BoBo, no reason to come in, thanks.”
“Please do, he will be a few minutes, he’s finishing his ice cream. Would you like one?”
Maew, peeked left and right, “Where’s my brother?”
“He’s upstairs in Roger’s room.”
Maew ran up the stairs, opening each door as she reached them.
“Ah, there you are. What are you doing upstairs?”
“Hi, sis, look at all these computers. They’ve got tons of great games,” said BoBo, without looking up.
“Come on, mum wants you home. I’m sure the gentlemen have better things to do?”
“No rush, let him finish his ice cream. Don doesn’t start until next term, and I work at night.
Maew pulled up a chair and watched over her brother’s shoulder.
“What game is that, I’ve never seen that one?” she said.
“Oh, that’s one of mine.”
“You invent or develop games?”
“Yes, that’s my business.”
As the bowl was cleared away, BoBo stood and followed Roger, Maew looked around. At last, she found what she needed. She slipped the business card into her pocket.
“Did you have fun kids?” asked their mum.
“Yeah, great ice cream,” answered BoBo.
Maew ran straight to her room. Google became busy as she tracked down websites, with names close to Roger’s company name. There were a few similar ones, but they sold children’s clothes.
“Ah-ha,” she called. “You have to be eighteen to view this site.”
She slipped into big brother Daeng’s room. “I hope he hasn’t changed his password?” she breathed.
“I’m in.” She typed in the over eighteen only site name.
“My God! He’s been reading it.”
Her hands dropped to her knees, she leaned back and took a deep breath.
“Oh no! Is that him?”
A picture of a teenager appeared. She looked closer.
Running downstairs, she shouted, “Mum, Mum, come and see.”
“What is it Maew, I’m busy.”
“Those lousy men from next door run a filthy porn site!”
The door opened, “Hi, mum, little sis.”
“Why are you on their site?” screamed Maew, pointing next door.
Daeng ran upstairs and slammed the bedroom door.
“Go look, mum,” Maew said.
Her mother brushed flour from her hands and marched upstairs.
“Open this door,” she called as she banged on the wood.
“What is it, mum?”
“What have you been doing with those people next door?”
“What? I don’t even know them, what are you talking about? I’m writing an article for college.”
He showed her his screen.
His mother stalked back to the kitchen, “What are you talking about? Are you dreaming up stories to get him in trouble again?”
“Oh, mum, why don’t you ever believe me?”
She stormed outside and sat on the wall, deep in thought. She heard BoBo’s laughter from next door.
“Right,” she said, as she rushed to Don’s door.
“Alright, alright, you don’t need to bust the door down,” said Roger.
“Let me in, have you got my brother in here?”
“Which brother do you mean?” he sneered. “Daeng called me, he said you’re prying into his private matters.”
“Leave Daeng out of it. I want BoBo, get him, please.”
“BoBo is having a shower with Don.”
Maew shoved Roger aside and ran upstairs. BoBo’s laughter rang out.
BoBo was standing in the bath, shower water rained on him, steam filled the room. Cameras and sound equipment packed the small room. Don was next to her brother, squirting shower gel over him. Both were laughing.
“Why not jump in with them?” asked Roger.
“Get out now!” Maew screamed at her brother.
The little boy ducked and slipped past his sister, hunting for his clothes.
“You perverts were filming my little brother?” she screamed.
She grabbed one poll supporting a powerful light and threw it in the tub.
Sparks burst from the shattered glass. An adult scream pierced the steam, as Don fell, hitting his head on the taps. He was shaking as he hit the water. Roger rushed to his aid. Maew grabbed another ellipse light and tipped it into the shower. More flashes and sparks spat at the water. Two men fried.
BoBo’s head popped from the bedroom as Maew shut the bathroom door.
“In a minute, tell mum you had another ice cream. But you don’t want to play with the men anymore. Okay.”
We Need Rain!
“GET UP! WHAT the hell do you think you’re doing?” Puyai shouts as he shakes his daughter.
“Dad, it is hot, what do you want me to do?” Manao ducks as a stick whistles over her head.
“This farm will die if you don’t help me.” This time the stick clipped her above the ear. Blood dripped. She ducked and ran for the shed.
“What can I do? We have no water and no seeds. Stupid old man,” Manao regretted she had said that. Then wiping away the blood, she regretted nothing.
“Come out of there, let me teach you a proper lesson.”
Puyai banged on the battered, rusting shed, he moved around looking for a broken panel.
“Go away. Leave me alone,” Manao said, croaking back tears.
“If only your sister was here, she’d show you how to respect her elders. And,” he quaked, “She’d have this place running properly.”
Manao’s tongue ran across her teeth until it jarred on the gap. A year ago Puyai punched her, knocking out her front tooth.
“Won’t someone marry me? Take me away from here.”
At seventeen, her chances were slim. The boys on the neighbouring farms were like her father, but quicker, stronger, and nastier. She had to escape. She wiped away a tear with rough and scarred fingers.
She thought about her sister, Pi Nang. Two years ago she left. Sold to a foreigner, the money would have saved the farm. Lao Khao, cheap alcohol, and gambling debts swallowed it all.
“If you can’t grow any crops, at least make my food,” her father called at the door, before shuffling to their home.
Manao sat on the dusty floor for a short time, before judging it safe to go back. Hens scuttled across her path, cackling angrily.
“Ah, at least that means there will be eggs,” Manao said to herself. Bending to a battered and dry flower pot, sure enough, there were two eggs. She took them to the outside kitchen. Two cups full of rice were added to the water and boiled. Scavenged vegetables boiled in a separate pan. Then chillies popped in to complete their next feast.
Most people would jump at the sight of a Krait snake. Manao knew better. The creature was lazy in the daytime heat, her chickens were safe until the evening gets cooler. She picked up both venomous reptiles and placed them away from her chicks.
She grinned at the thought, “At least I won’t get fat!” she laughed, weighing the underweight eggs in her palms.
“What’s that?” groaned her father, looking at the flat light yellow offering.
“That is all we’ve got. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve had no rain for weeks. No rain, no pond fish, no crops!”
Her father slammed his palm on the table, Manao kept the battered table between them. She noticed a birthday card on the floor.
“That’s mine. You have no right opening my mail.”
“I’m your father, I do what I feel in my house.”
Manao bent and picked up a colourful card.
“Where’s the envelope?”
“You think I stole some money from it? Well, bad luck, there was nothing.”
“My sister is not stupid enough to let you get it,” said Manao, reading the message.
Her father swung at her but failed to reach her. The note said in Thai, ‘Happy Birthday, little sis.’
Manao turned the card front and back. Nothing more. “That’s odd?” she mumbled.
“Haven’t you got work to do?” growled her father.
Manao stood the card on a shelf, cheering the room with its brightness. She grabbed a broom and went outside.
She crept back in on tip-toes, not wanting to wake her father. Deciding to look at her card. The day’s heat had separated the stiff paper. She peeled it more. Her sister had spray-glued the sheets together.
‘Tomorrow at 7 pm!’ was handwritten in English inside.
Her father stirred, she quickly stashed her card from sight, rushing to her room.
“Pi Nang knows I can’t read English? Ah, it’s in case he tore open the card!”
Her bookshelf only boasted ten volumes, all battered and torn. One, she’d owned since her school days. An English-Thai, Thai-English dictionary, small, fat and green, she loved it, not knowing why. But, today, it would come in useful.
“Prung nii, nung toom. Seven tomorrow? What does she mean?”
Manao went to bed. Sleep was hard to find. The number seven rattled around her head, and unanswered questions kept her awake.
Until “Get up you lazy bitch. Is my breakfast going to cook itself?”
“Sorry, dad.” She scuttled outside to hunt for eggs.
Rubbing her eyes, the question reappeared.
“Wait for tonight, silly girl,” she told herself.
Her father was in a foul temper, and she couldn’t do anything without being shouted at.
“What do you call this, it’s filthy!” He screamed at her.
Manao turned and glared at him. Pushing his shirt sleeves up his arm, he stormed after her. Grabbing her by the throat, “Don’t you dare look at me like that. You have a lot of your mother in you.”
“Yeah, rather her than you,” she stood her ground. He lashed out like a boxer, cutting her lips, making her nose bleed. She stared at him through droplets of blood but, keeping her arms at her sides, her eyes burnt him.
Turning away, “And clean up that mess!” he shouted, storming to his chair.
She washed her face, touching the tender broken nose, she silently wept.
The fight had tired him; he snored. It was six pm.
Manao went outside, she picked up a stout stick and scraped the dirt with it.
“Come on, you little devils,” she whispered.
The stick was struck at, and the Krait also didn’t enjoy being disturbed. Manao was too quick, she grabbed it by the tail; she felt its strength; it writhed and wriggled as it was poked into a sack. Soon, a second joined it in the dark.
She crept up to her father; he coughed in his sleep and stirred. Manao jumped back.
Gently she moved nearer again, opening her sack as she got closer to the sleeping man.
She held the top of his shirt open and tipped in the Kraits. Holding the shirt’s neck in place, she poked and pushed at the reptiles. Her father’s eyes opened, fear silenced him as the first snap of flesh ripped. The snake injected its lethal fluid. Her father’s ashen skin shocked her. His normal coffee colour faded away for seconds to be blood red as bite after bite drew its prize.
She stood as the sound of thunder cracked. Lightning brightened the gloom. She smiled as she ran for her small holdall. She went out in the rain, arms stretched she beamed and soaked up the water.
A BMW tooted and flashed its lights on the drive. It was seven o’clock.
CHAEM CHOI LOOKED at her body, it appeared she had been dipped in the sea. She squeezed her long hair, and a small puddle formed on the tiled floor, like a puppy’s pee. Her bed was drenched, she dropped her quilt and pillows to slop next to her drenched pyjamas.
“What the?” she said, brushing dampness from her arms. She tenderly fingered the cuts and bruises on her wrists.
“That was some dream,” she muttered, as she tipped the mattress angled against the wall. Then pushed the windows fully open, hoping the breeze and sun would dry it before bedtime.
“Christ, I’m bloody starving.” She hunted for her watch, but it was gone. “I put it here every night, where is it?”
She grabbed a towel, wrapped herself and went to the bathroom and hunted in her washing basket.
“Thank God!” she said as she found her phone in her shorts pocket. It was dry.
Tapping in a well-used number.
“What happened last night?” she asked Khao, her friend since school days.
“I was going to ask you the same. Why haven’t you answered my calls?”
“I just woke up.”
“What? It’s 3 pm.”
“What happened last night? I can’t remember anything,” Chaem Choi said.
“At 9 pm we went to the restaurant under your condo. We shared a large beer, or three, talked about the people we work with, and then you went home. You were tired. And that was it. Did you not go to work today?”
“No, I woke up minutes ago. Are you at work?”
“It’s my day off. You forgot?”
“Come round, I’m starving. See you downstairs?”
Khao parked her new car and spotted her friend, menu in hand. There was a group of people near her, talking animatedly.
“What is going on?” Khao asked, sitting and ruffling her freshly cut, short hair.
“No idea, I’m annoyed they haven’t taken my order.”
She clapped her hands, “Excuse me, we’d like to eat.”
“Sorry, sorry, the server’s brother died last night.” The restaurant owner stammered, fighting back tears.
“That’s sad, what happened?” asked Khao.
“We don’t know. The police have taken his sister to the station. We’ll know when she gets back.”
“Do we know the man?” asked Chaem Choi.
“I’m sure you do. He was here last night, pestering, no, sorry, I shouldn’t say that. He came to ask his sister for money. Good-looking lad, everyone around here knows him.”
“Red football shirt?”
“Yes, that’s him.”
“He kept staring at me,” said Chaem Choi.
“He always had a girl on his arm. I wonder why he didn’t last night?” said the owner.
“He was trying it on with me.”
“What do you mean?” asked Khao.
“Last night, he was standing behind you, winking at me,” said Chaem Choi. Realising she remembered a small part of last night.
“Hey, you remember. What else?”
“I paid the bill,” she said laughing, “I showered, got in my PJs and slept. That is it.”
“Then you slept for at least fifteen hours?”
Their food was delivered as a police car dropped off the crying server.
The owner put her arms around her and led her to a seat near the girls.
“What did they say?” asked the owner.
“He drowned. How? He was a good swimmer, but died in one of the condo’s pools? In his full clothing, I don’t understand?”
Chaem Choi turned and asked, “What about the other girl?”
Three open mouths faced her, “What other girl?”
Chaem Choi, was as shocked as them, “Did I ask that?”
“Yes, what do you mean?” asked Khao.
“I don’t know, it is all a blur. A girl, wearing a hat and dressed in dark clothing, appeared in my mind. I feel I know her?”
Khao scratched her head, “Which pool was it? Most of the condos around here have pools. I want to see the place, it may jog your memory.”
The server pointed behind and told them the way. Khao and Chaem Choi wandered off.
“To go into these condos, you need id. How did you get in?” asked Khao.
“I don’t know, I’ve never been in any of these places.”
“Ah, here it is. No security guard and a filthy, unused pool. You came in here?”
“I can’t remember. Look, a boy is watching us. Up there,” pointed Chaem Choi.
Khao waved at him, “It is possible he saw something?”
“Come on, I want to go home,” Chaem Choi pulled her friend’s arm.
The boy ducked out of sight.
“Wait, I think he’s coming.”
Chaem Choi edged away nervously.
“What is wrong with you, don’t you want to find out?” said Khao.
The boy’s curtains opened wide and an older woman started banging on the glass. Flapping her arms.
“She doesn’t seem happy?” said Khao.
“Let’s go, I don’t feel well.”
Two police cars screamed to a halt, front and back of the girls. Officers jumped out guns drawn.
“We are arresting you for the murder of Khun Silla.”
The girls looked at each other, then at the police. “Who and why?” they both said.
“Both of you. Hands-on the car’s bonnet.”
The girls were separated, as a woman came rushing up.
“I phoned you. They scared the life out of my son.”
The woman was shaking with fury.
“We will need you and your son to come to the station, please,” said the officer,
An hour later, the police had the boy’s statement. An eyewitness report of a murder and attempted murder. They had proof. The skin was taken from under the nails of the accused.
Silla was a self-styled playboy, he could not afford his lifestyle. His sister fed him when hungry, but could not give him any cash, she had her problems. But when a pretty girl with a car, took his fancy it was too good to be true, until he started on her friend.
Khao wanted him dead. She didn’t want to be jailed for murder, so she got her friend drunk enough to witness her being threatened. During the scuffle, nails scratched skin and broke a watch strap, the boy ran down later and retrieved it. He also called an ambulance. Chaem Choi saved her pal by shoving Silla into the pool. He hit his head and drowned. Chaem Choi tried to save him, jumping in. Khao was happy for her to drown next to him. She left them both there. Somehow, Chem Choi made it home. And dreamt.
You Call That Fun?
“YOU WANNA DO something fun?”
“Yeah, I’m bored, what have you got in mind?”
The boy’s school was about to break up for the long annual holidays.
“You two at the back, stop talking. If you’ve finished your exam, sit quietly until the time is up.” Mr Jacobs said. Further disturbing the unfinished papers.
“Wanker,” mouthed Geoff.
His best friend, Mart, snorted. The snort shifted to full laughter as Geoff was pulled out of the exam room by his ear.
A bell sounded, pens were retired, except for one girl’s that kept scratching until grabbed by Mr Jacobs.
“Time’s up. Please pass your papers forward. I will collect Geoff’s although I don’t expect there is much to see.”
The grinning students filed out. Sweating or punching the air, depending on their expected mark.
Mart slapped his friend’s shoulder as he joined him outside the headteacher’s office.
“Bastard, I hate him and the rest of them. They think they are clever. Because they have a well-paid job in a fancy school.” Geoff was fuming, his dad would not be happy.
“Cheer up mate, holiday next week.”
“Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach,” Geoff smiled.
A glass window slid back. “You can go in now.”
“Good luck with your dad. I’ll see you later,” Mart said as he turned, leaving his friend to his fate.
“Hi, dad, me again.”
“Don’t dad me in this office. Here you call me sir. Especially if you have been sent again. What is it this time?”
“Mr Jacobs thought I said something to offend him. He misheard.”
“What about the exam?”
“I didn’t complete it, I was sitting outside,” Geoff said with a smirk.
“What am I going to do with you? You don’t know how lucky you are to attend a school like this.”
“What’s lucky about it. I miss my mates in England.”
The dressing down ended with Geoff having to run around the school grounds. Filling a bin with every piece of litter seen or imagined. The older boys laughed as they threw sweet wrappers behind him.
An hour later, he returned to the head teacher’s accommodation, dripping sweat and tired.
“Could have been worse?” Mart said, sitting on the school statue outside.
“That is it. It is time for revenge. Are you with me?”
“What are you planning?”
“Not sure yet, but it starts with Jacobs! Tomorrow I’ll tell you the scheme.”
Geoff spent the night sleepless thinking and planning.
“Don’t shave this morning,” said Geoff.
“You’re ringing early. And, as you well know I don’t need to shave every day. Anyway, why?”
“We will need to look older than we are.”
“Sounds like fun. What are we doing?” Mart was itching to know.
“See you at school. Don’t forget, last day, we finish early. Have clothes to change into. Smart casual, not shorts.”
The final day passed without incident. Mart badgered his friend for details hourly.
“Wait ’til we get to mine. Have you got any money with you?”
The bell rang, and all students rushed for the gates, except Geoff and Mart. They strolled across the sports field to Geoff’s room.
“Come with me,” said Geoff as they dropped their bags.
Geoff’s dad had meetings and handshaking to occupy him in the staff room.
The boys entered the head’s office.
“Should we be here?”
“Of course not, no, but all the staff are at the farewell party.” Geoff tapped at the desktop computer. “I’m guessing my dad uses the same password for everything.”
Private details of all staff were displayed.
“Here we are, Mr Jacobs, what does it say about you, and where do you live?”
Newer members of staff were gifted rooms on-site, they soon found their accommodation away from school. Mr Jacobs lived nearer the city centre. Geoff jotted down information. He was surprised to see some teachers even listed their social sites.
The boys started back to Geoff’s.
“Nip to the girl’s changing room, please. Check it is not locked.”
“When are you going to tell me your plans?” asked Mart.
“The camera on your phone is better than mine, yes?”
“You know iPhones are the best.”
“This will be fun,” proudly stated Geoff. “Come on, time to hit the city.”
The taxi dropped them in Silom Road after twenty minutes slog across Bangkok’s congestion. It was 5 pm. Not dark yet. While most office workers were thinking about braving the traffic. Other working girls were arriving at their clubs and bars.
“Sit here, fancy a coffee?” asked Geoff.
“I’d rather have a Coke.”
“We are supposed to be wealthy business owners, not children. Two coffees please,” he signalled the serving girl.
His eyes studied the people walking past their curbside table.
“Who are you waiting for?” asked Mart.
“We are looking for a pretty young lass, who needs to earn a few thousand Baht. Eyes open.”
“How about her?”
“That’s my girl. Talk to her in Thai, yours is better than mine. Offer her three thousand, to pose for pictures. Only photos, nothing more.”
The girl snorted and walked past. Eventually, a girl agreed, but only if her friend came too.
“Wow, we are going to school,” grinned the pretty mini-skirt.
“Yes, now duck down, don’t let security see you.”
The taxi drove to the sports field. The four passengers giggled as they entered the girls changing rooms.
Inside the girls changing area, they had a lost and found office. Geoff, rooted around until he found school blouses, ties and short uniform skirts. The boys were embarrassed as the girls happily changed in front.
“Get your camera ready,” ordered Geoff. As he covered part of each girl’s face with other bits of clothing, masking their eyes.
“Now, tell them to act like pupils from this school, shy, but flirty, you know what I mean.”
The camera flashed, the girls were worth Oscars. They were instructed to mouth sentences. They pocketed three-thousand Baht each, plus five-hundred tip and the fare home.
Geoff and Mart rushed to Geoff’s room.
“Hi, Dad,” he called, waving as he passed him.
“Link up your phone to my laptop, while I show you a new app.”
They were ready for action.
“This app is brilliant, watch this. You type in words or sentences, then add the accent you need, male or female. We need a high-class London girl. Then listen,” Geoff beamed at his mate as the app said. “Come on, darling Mr Jacobs.”
“Do it again, Mr Jacobs.”
“Now I know. It’s not true you only like boys!”
Mart was stunned and open-mouthed in awe as he linked the voices to the video he took.
“Now, Mr Film Director, we upload to dear Mr Jacobs’s social media sites. Facebook may not be shocked, but LinkedIn will be.” He laughed until coughing stopped him.
“Er, I’m not sure we should go that far,” mumbled Mart.
“If you don’t like it, go. I’ll do it. Oh, but, don’t forget whose phone it is on!”
Mart grabbed his iPhone and stormed out.
Geoff concentrated on his task. Then, sitting back, congratulating himself, he beamed.
Within days, pupils, staff and parents were trying to put names to the well-spoken girls featured.
The head’s phone constantly rang with school fee cancellations. The governors wanted answers. A meeting was arranged. Mr Jacobs expected to answer questions.
Mr Jacobs did not show, he had been murdered by a jealous boyfriend.
Are You There?
“HEY, WHERE DID you go?”
Sam banged his phone on the counter. He listened and stared at the Android.
“Hello, are you there?”
He looked around, hoping someone, anyone, could help.
“Now what?” He asked the ceiling.
The plaster above and the screen in front, blank, had no answers.
The patrons of the upmarket coffee shop were unaware of Sam’s daily drama. He felt like throwing the cheap unit across the room. The people at the next table read his mind, they hid behind menus. A limp smile calmed them.
“Phone’s not working,” he said, shaking it wildly.
“Try turning it on,” said the school uniformed teenager at the next table to him.
Sam gripped it tightly as if squeezing the life out of it, then pressed and tapped. The screen lit, and Sam smiled at his neighbour, who grinned at her friend. The smile said, idiot.
“It’s working!” he squealed.
A man burst in, “I need a large Americano please.”
He looked around, wiping sweat from his brow. His jacket tightened as he loosened stressed shoulders.
“Hey, it’s you,” he said, glaring at Sam.
“Sorry, do I know you?”
“No, but I saw your face.”
“Eh, yes, I’m sitting here,” said Sam.
“I mean, I saw you on a telephone screen,” the man was panting.
“I don’t know what you are talking about?”
The man calmed, “Sorry, I should explain. A phone crashed to the pavement, missing me. It fell from the sky, hitting electric wires on the way. Then thumped into the man in front of me, bouncing off him, then crashing into me. I glimpsed the screen, it showed a picture of you. The same cap, the same shirt. It was you.”
“I was talking to my girlfriend. Was it her phone?”
“I’ve no idea.”
“Where is the phone?”
“A road-sweeper collected the bits and binned it.”
Minutes before, high up, a heated conversation was taking place. Thirty floors above the coffee shop.
“See ya, dad.”
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Oh, I’ve got university work to research,” said Chinsao.
“I thought I heard you saying you were about to meet that idiot ‘gweilo’ boy.”
“His name is Sam, and I can meet who I wish.”
Chinsao’s father grabbed her wrist. He dragged her across the spacious living room.
“Come with me,” he fumed. Leading the way past the open-plan kitchen. From four doors to the bedrooms to a little-used doorway tucked at the back of the property.
“Where are you taking me?”
The door creaked.
“To the roof, I want you to be clear about something.”
He pushed her gently up the dusty steps to another firmly shut steel door, which complained at the opening.
“And what is up here, that is so vital for me to see?” said Chinsao, dusting her skirt of cobwebs.
“Yes, it is important darling, when I was your age, I didn’t have a comfy uni to attend. I didn’t have friends in designer gear, I had to graft, getting covered in filth and dust. You should be grateful for the life you have.”
“It was sad what happened to her. I’m sorry, she couldn’t cope.”
“Mum hated you and the life she endured.”
“It was business, I worked hard. No wife should complain about a husband like me,” he said, walking to the edge of the roof. Concrete blocks, steel pipes and wiring littered the space.
Chinsao looked around, fixing her eyes back at the doorway, judging if she should dash for it.
Her phone bleeped.
“Give me that,” her father said as he snatched it. “Him again, has he no work to do?”
Sam’s beaming face filled the screen as it flew over the edge of the building.
“Dad, that’s mine!” She spluttered as it disappeared.
“I’ve brought you here for a couple of reasons.”
“What if I’m not interested?”
“You damn well should be. You are the last in the family. You are heir to my wealth.”
He spread his arms, looking left, right, up and down.
“On every rooftop you can see, and in every room below us you know, they have electronic elements made by my company. Every satellite dish, every box of tricks that supply internet, each tv and radio, have parts supplied by me. And, my dear daughter we own property up and down the country, as well as this, magnificent tower block,” he pointed behind them. “We live in luxury, the whole top floor of this block, why could your mother not wait? We own the most desirable part of Bangkok.”
“Yeah, yeah, dad, well done,” she clapped in slow motion. “I’ve heard it all before.”
“Which brings me to the second part of my little speech. The part you haven’t heard before.”
She looked around again for an escape route, guessing what was coming.
“Next week, my great friend and business associate from Beijing is coming here, to visit you. He is bringing his son. A dazzling and independently wealthy business executive, to meet you.”
Chinsao’s eyes looked at clouds.
“No way, dad. I’m not interested in anyone else.”
“You, my dear will do as I order.”
The talk in the coffee shop buzzed about the dangers of living below sky-touching buildings. Sam checked the time, his watch and his phone, both told him, she was late.
Coffee drinker’s eyes were drawn to the window. Pedestrians ducked and dived sideways, forwards and backwards in fear. As a heavy object bounced from telegraph pole to advertising board and on a tangled clump of wiring. Out of view from the windows but all too clear to the people outside. A body was spinning on its downward spiral to crash to the street.
People covered their eyes and turned in horror as sirens raced to the scene. The police quickly covered the mess.
Sam, leaning on one person’s shoulders, peered between other customers’ heads. They could see a gathering of people stepping away from a spreading puddle of blood.
The back entrance of the coffee shop burst open.
“Hi, all,” said Chinsao, “Coffee is on me. Who wants another one?”
“What?” asked Sam.
“My dad left me this business, amongst other stuff.”
“What are you talking about?”
“That’s him, over there, behind the police screens. He jumped off the building.”
Is everything Ready?
“EVERYTHING WAS READY for the ritual. What have you done?” Mr Kirkwood asked.
“Sir, I don’t feel right about this,” Khun Daw answered.
“You may not, but I am the General Manager of this hotel. And if the owner’s wife wants a, eh, different party to celebrate, eh, her special day. Well, we do our best. Okay?”
“Sorry sir, not okay, I am Thai, and we don’t celebrate death like this.”
“The owner and his wife are Thai, I believe they know what they require. Rearrange the ritual or hand in your notice.”
“But I’ve got a new baby and a mortgage.”
“Tough, what is more important? Reset the, eh, display, and make it better than before.”
Mr Kirkwood stamped out of the hotel’s Celebration Hall. Ignoring his staff’s greetings as he stormed past them. Fighting to hold his bubbling temper and longing to discard his traditional Thai uniform jacket.
“Against hotel policy!” he mouthed as he slumped behind his desk.
“One cappuccino, and make it snappy,” he called to his secretary.
Peering around and seeing no one, he poured himself a large Scotch under his desk, knocking it back in one swallow.
“Also, against hotel policy,” he snorted, then grinned.
His coffee arrived, “How are the bookings looking for next month?”
His secretary, bowed her head, “Sorry, sir, not good.”
“Don’t give me ‘not good,’ I want figures.”
“We only have the owner, his wife, and her friends staying after the party. There are no tourists because of the COVID situation. The Indian company cancelled their staff holiday. Sorry, sir. The F & B manager also requests a meeting.”
“What does he want?”
“His staff can’t manage on their salaries without tips.”
Kirkwood snorted, “Okay, I’ll see him later, not that there’s much I can do.”
In the Celebration Hall, Daw was scratching his head as he studied the layout plan. Snatching his phone.
“Get up here, and bring three strong workers, we’ve got to redecorate the hall. Again.”
The second call organised black paint from the warehouse and yards of black material from housekeeping.
His third call was to the nearby slaughterhouse.
“Yes, you heard it right. Ten gallons of fresh blood, nine ox heads, nine pig heads, and buckets of offal. Yes, I mean it. All to be delivered tomorrow morning. Add the cost to your monthly bill.”
Hammering quick as machine-gun fire cloaked the psst, psst of the stapling. Battered planks of aged wood lay still long enough to be sawn. The hotel’s artists balanced on ladders as they splashed fluorescent designs onto black drapes.
Daw stood back, impressed with his team’s work if he was unhappy with the theme.
Mr Kirkwood arrived and nodded his approval. “That’s better, let’s hope she likes it.”
“Sir, I know it is Halloween for the westerners, but why for Thais?”
“I’m a manager, I do as ordered.”
“But it is unusual for a Thai to celebrate death in a fun way.”
“That is not my problem.”
“Sir, do you mind if I call in monks, to, eh, say a prayer?” said Daw hopefully.
“What? Are you mad? It’s only a party.”
“I’ll do it at my expense. And on my own time.”
“But why?” asked Kirkwood.
“It is embarrassing.”
“What is it?”
“My wife has been suffering from depression since our daughter was born disfigured.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, but what has it to do with this hotel?” Kirkwood asked.
“My wife blames my work for our child’s deformity.”
“That is crazy. How can it be the hotel’s fault? You mean because I make you work too many hours?”
“Yes, and no. My wife has always had an interest in, the rituals of magic. The magic certain elders perform.”
“You mean ‘black’ magic?” asked Mr Kirkwood.
“Maybe not what you think. In Thailand, most people believe in Buddhism but are tainted with magic. Believers can be educated, even university qualified, some are rich. Wealthy or poor, their souls crave. They crave prizes from the world of magic. There is good magic, chanting, and special oils are used. But there is also a place for evil. Black magic in Southeast Asia has a more nefarious intent and is often fuelled by all that glitters. A wild lust for power and control is the evil twin desire that drives people to the doors of a shaman. The measure of these men is his use of power. People don’t like to talk about the darker side of magic in this region. Those who dabble in black magic guard their identities zealously. After all, these are people who often want harm and woe to befall others, so they hide in the shadows. There will always be people who want quick money without having to work for it. They believe strongly in mystical and spiritual powers. So they are drawn to black magic. ‘White magic’ practitioners work hard to dispel the maledictions brought on by the black magic masters.”
“Wow, you certainly know your subject. And your command of English is better than I thought,” said an impressed boss.
“I should be good at both.”
Daw stared at Kirkwood’s puzzled eyes.
“We should not encourage this at a joke party,” he continued.
Kirkwood’s mobile rang before he responded.
“Yes sir, yes, sir, of course, sir,” he stammered. Clicked off the call and replaced it in his pocket. “You will not like this. The owner has instructed me to collect pre-cooked and raw dishes from the kitchen. Plus, we’ve to display a collection of red wine bottles on the head table at exactly ten minutes before eleven pm.”
“That’s not so difficult.”
“Normally, you’re right. But on Halloween night only you and I are to work. The hotel must be empty, with no guests, no staff. Just us, and the party guests.”
“Okay, we have no guests and the staff will welcome a night off.”
The hall’s doors swung back, delivery men struggled with two bulky packages. Sweating, they placed them on the stage.
“What the hell are those?” asked Daw.
Kirkwood’s phone rang again.
“Yes sir,” he said.
“Daw, unwrap the chairs please, and set them next to each other.”
“A throne and its baby sister,” laughed Daw.
At nine o’clock on the 31st of October, all the staff packed their things and left. Mr Kirkwood and Khun Daw were presented with new uniforms for the party.
They had matching white dinner suits.
“What the hell is all this?” Kirkwood moaned, “I haven’t served wine since I was food and beverage manager.”
As instructed, Daw laid out the covered dishes on the tables.
“No cutlery? Should I get some?” asked Daw.
“We are to follow the orders to the letter, there is no mention of knives and forks, so no. Maybe it is just sandwiches?”
Kirkwood began opening and pouring the wine. Daw stood by the Hall’s grand doors and waited for the knock. He heard the buzz of chatter approaching.
He swung back the decorated wood and showed the guests to their tables.
The guests were all female; they wore dark purple full-length gowns. The women remained standing in silence, even when the hotel’s men pulled back the chairs for them.
Daw returned to the front with his boss and lined up glasses at the edge of the table.
Chanting began, soon the women were bellowing out the wail. Some screeched, some cried. Then silence.
A woman entered from the back of the stage, dark purple robes flowed, a tall headpiece graced her tall stride.
“Gentlemen, if you look down, you will see loops of rope by your left feet. Put your foot in the ring. Thank you.”
A guest stepped forward and checked the rope was tightened.
The hubbub restarted increasing in volume the chanters remained standing. Instantly silent once more, another purple-clad woman entered.
“The owner’s wife,” whispered Kirkwood.
A woman dressed in white followed her out. She was carrying a tiny baby.
“My baby, my wife,” screamed Daw.
The ropes were tugged, tightening painfully, and snatched by a pulley above their heads. Slowly they were lifted by their ankles until they were swinging heads down above the serving table.
The owner’s wife, taking the role of black queen, offered a seat to Daw’s wife, who gratefully accepted and cuddled her daughter.
The girl screamed as she wriggled in her towelling.
It was only then that the men realised the ropes were the ones Thai boxers of old wrapped around their fists. Glass embedded rope.
The men tried to reach each other to free themselves, only causing irritating cuts to legs, hands and anywhere the rope touched.
As the ropes swung, the white suits darkened.
“The deformities to this beautiful girl were caused by them.” She pointed up.
Blood dripped. The guests wandered to the table and uncovered the food, trying to catch some red liquid in the cartons. One lady held her glass directly under Kirkwood’s foot, she gulped the contents of her goblet. Licking her lips and fingers, stood back, offering her place.
Kirkwood suffered a stroke and died, Khun Daw lasted an hour longer. The women kept eating and drinking.
The baby stopped crying. Her cleft healed.
“TODAY’S THE DAY I change,” I said to myself. Swinging my right leg and booting Mrs Ricketts’ gnome from the front of her pristine garden. I chuckled as it smashed in the road. Her front door opened. She came out waving her walking stick shouting and calling me names you don’t expect a woman of her age to use.
It made me laugh as I jogged backwards, waving my middle fingers at her. I guessed she knew what it meant.
I tripped and fell backwards over an overfilled shopping bag by the bus stop. The owner was not happy. I turned and ran. He was bigger than me. My guess was correct, he wouldn’t leave his shopping spilt over the pavement. My exaggerated laughter rang as I ducked around the corner.
“Where the hell have you been?” shouted my father, hands-on-hips.
“I’ve been saying goodbye to my oldest friends,” I lied.
“We haven’t got time. I had to pack for you. So if anything is missing, tough. You’ve had weeks to prepare.”
We are going to fly to Bangkok. God knows why? He possibly does. My dad, Dr Jacob Smithson, has a new job. Not as a GP, he is something to do with chemicals. I never understood, he has told me, but I wasn’t listening.
Oh, and we are going to rejoin my mum. She couldn’t cope with London, I got some of the blame for that too. She went back to Thailand. Now after two years apart, she hopes I’ve changed. I told her I had. I mean to. New home, new school, new me.
My dad tugged my ear, forcing me to release next door’s kitten. That cat enjoys being held by the tail.
The taxi arrived on time, and we arrived at Heathrow with two hours to spare. I wandered off in search of something to do. Dad had his nose buried in The Telegraph.
Some bloke in a uniform marched me to the seat next to dad.
“Keep your eye on him, please, sir.”
Dad looked up, and then quizzically at me. I shrugged.
Our plane was delayed by thirty minutes. “So what?”
The Thai customs and passport people all looked at me as if I was a wanted criminal. Mind you, so did the Brits. What is up with these people.
“I hope your mum is here to meet us,” said dad.
There was no sign of her.
Another taxi, the traffic is worse here than in London; it was hotter too. Thank god the cab had air-con. Dad and I were tired, the endless rabbit in a foreign language was boring. When did dad learn to speak Thai? I wondered.
“Well, son, here we are.”
“What? It’s a bloody factory,” I said.
“Less of the swearing. It’s only temporary accommodation. We can start looking for somewhere this weekend.”
Our new, if only for a short while, the home was two rooms, a tiny kitchen, and a shower jammed in next to an odd-looking toilet. Dad told me it was an old fashioned Thai squat effort. I didn’t want to use it, and old Mrs Ricketts couldn’t. At least there was something to laugh about.
Dad got himself connected to the phone system, there was no need for me, as I had no one to call. He spent ages on Line and e-mailing my mum. Eventually, she agreed to house hunt with us at the weekend, does that mean she’s moving in with us?
Dad took me to my new school yesterday. The kids were a mix, about half of them were Thai, at least they could all speak English. I will start next week. I’m not sure what the homeroom teacher meant when he said, “I’ve spoken to your last headteacher, we don’t want the same behaviour here. Got it?”
Trouble seems to follow me across the world, but I’m determined to change.
My dad left me at home. “I’m going to meet your mum,” he said.
“Can’t I come?” I asked.
“It is better if I go alone. I’ve bought you an electric game, that’ll keep you busy this evening. Don’t forget we’re home hunting tomorrow. Tonight, I hope I can convince your mum to join us.”
The game was boring, so I attempted hacking into dad’s laptop, I had little success. But was getting somewhere with it, I gave up and decided to go for a walk. Hot and sweaty outside and no kids playing. People were sitting outside their doors, all looking at me as if I’m a space creature.
Dad had found three houses to view, all had three bedrooms and were much cheaper to rent than London. He said it depended more on where the places were and how difficult the trip to school and his work were. Traffic in Bangkok can be dreadful he said. What do I know?
And yes, mum was joining us at the first address.
We arrived early, dad had rented a car, so thankfully we didn’t need a taxi. The agent was already there; she gave dad a tinned coffee and me a coke; I liked her. After showing us around, she handed dad sets of keys and a piece of paper with addresses on it.
“I must get back to the office, sorry I can’t show the other two. Take your time and then pop back and let me know your choice.”
With that, she disappeared. Shame, it was nice following her up the stairs.
There was a knock at the door. It was mum.
She had put on some weight; I kept my mouth shut, maybe I am changing?
“You’ve grown,” she said.
“So have… yes, I guess I have.” At least I smiled at her.
Dad put his arm around her and tried leading her in. She shrugged him off.
“Well, mum, what do you think?”
She glared at me and snorted, “I’ve only just walked in.”
“Come and see the bedrooms,” said dad.
“What makes you think I’m sleeping here?”
My dad dropped his shoulders. “Look at the lovely kitchen then, they have a western one inside and a Thai kitchen outside,” he carried on bravely.
“Has he learned any manners?” she said, pointing at me.
“Eh, um, he…”
“I’ll take that as a no. So he’s as bad as before?” She still refused to look me in the eye.
“Please darling, I want us all to be together.” My dad was quaking. It was sickening to see.
She looked at the ceiling as dad dropped to his knees, begging.
I had seen enough. I took a few steps across the kitchen, opening a drawer, first try, and first time lucky. An eight-inch carving knife stuck to my hand.
It soon found its way across dad’s throat. Mum hands to face, then opened her fingers, looked at me for the first and last time, as I slashed her windpipe.
I had the keys to a car, keys to three houses, not sure what to do with them yet, I’ll think of something. Now I must pop back to our little hovel and continue with hacking dad’s laptop to arrange some funds. Then I think I’ll travel south to the beaches.
I said I was going to change. I didn’t say for the better!
Did You Hear?
“LISTEN…” TOM TILTED his scared and misformed head until his ear rested on his shoulder. He smiled, a crooked grin, he was happy.
“Listen to what? All I can hear is the distant rumble of thunder and the occasional crack of lightning.”
“No, it’s nearer. Listen.”
Tom’s changed ears and shoulders.
Brian hated it when his brother did that. “You look madder than normal,” he whined.
“I may be mad, but at least I can hear.”
Brian smiled down sadly and moved behind Tom. He started pushing the wheelchair towards their home. It rained. A few drops at first, in Bangkok at this time of year it meant a storm was coming. Brian hurried across the grass to the path which led them out of the park.
“Can you hear it now?” asked Tom.
“No, just the thunder above and thunder of traffic in front,” Brian said as he judged a gap in the traffic.
“Stop!” shouted Tom.
“What, why? We’ll get splatted by a lorry if we stop here.”
“Back to the park, now!” Tom pointed behind. Pointing behind was difficult, it was easier to aim his nose. Brian knew what he meant.
“It will pour down any minute.”
“I don’t care.”
“At least the rain is not cold here,” said Brian, shaking his head, as he retraced his steps.
“Now, listen,” Tom’s ear eased its way to the welcoming collar bone.
“I still can’t hear anything odd.”
“It’s a whisper, someone is trying to tell me something.”
Brian tutted and shook his head. “Come on, mum will worry.”
Tom leant further and further back with each turn of his wheels. Desperate to hear the whispers clearer.
Brian, one arm raised and waving madly, ducked between the traffic. Thunder broke above them, within seconds, they were soaked; they splashed to the other side.
“I want to go back. I can’t hear the whispers,” said Tom.
“Don’t be daft, you’ll catch your death of cold.”
“I’d rather die.”
They were in moody silence on the ride up in the lift. Tom fidgeted.
The condo door closed behind them. Tom rocked his chair and wept.
“What happened, what’s the matter with your brother?” said their mum.
Brian looked at her and shrugged his shoulders. He told her, what little there was to tell.
“Tea, coffee, hot chocolate?” she asked after drying Tom and Brian returned from his hot shower.
Brian gratefully accepted a coffee, Tom ignored his mother. She placed a hot drink in his favourite mug on the table in front of him. He swept it to the floor.
“Tom?” she wailed, looking at Brian.
Once more, Brian shrugged.
The storm eased, boding farewell with a tremendous rumble.
“If it has stopped raining, pop to the store and pick up a few things, can you?”
He stuffed some cash and a shopping list into his pocket. He was pleased to leave his brother and his mood to their mum.
“Do you want to watch Netflix while I shower?” She turned on the movie channel, finding a Super Hero picture for Tom.
Tom smiled the first time for hours. He listened to the bathroom door click and let himself out. The lift was no problem to go down, coming up was impossible for him as he couldn’t reach the number ’32’ button. That didn’t worry him. Their condo block had a ramp at the rear entrance, he went that way. He wheeled to Convent Road. Crossing proved difficult, there was no break in the slow-moving traffic. Eventually, there was a gap, he edged out, horns blasted. His middle finger flashed at drivers. He would not stop. On reaching the other side, he had a new problem. Not only was sweat stinging his eyes, but the kerb was too high, he was stuck. Brakes screeched and horns blasted. A taxi driver jumped out swearing at him, but aided him up, quickly jumping back in his cab.
A huge smile spread across Tom’s face as he rolled to the park.
He cupped his ear and followed the sound.
“Whissss, whissp, wis.”
It got louder.
At the condo, Brian dumped his shopping on the kitchen counter.
“Did you get everything? All fresh I hope?”
The tv was blasting a Marvel character as she flew across the screen.
“What are you watching, Tom?” he called.
“He’s still in a foul temper,” called his mum, as she straightened her skirt.
“Where is Tom?” asked Brian.
They ran from room to room.
“I bet I know where he’s going. Do you want to come with me, or had you better stay here?” asked Brian.
“I’m coming, if he comes back, he can wait outside,” she grabbed her phone and followed Brian to the main road.
They danced between queues of traffic nearly colliding with a food delivery motorbike.
“There he is,” pointed Brian. They ran to Tom.
“Thank God, he’s safe,” his mum panted.
Brian slowed, holding her back.
“Who is he talking to?” he asked.
Tom’s arms were waving, pointing, and flapping up and down. He was holding a one-way conversation.
“No, mum wait, we don’t want to shock him. What is he saying?”
They crept closer, ears alert.
“That’s terrible, I am so sorry,” Tom said. “Who would do that?” He carried on.
Once more, Brian stopped his mum from grabbing his brother. He showed her he had opened Google on his mobile. He plotted in their position and looked for news.
The one-way chat continued. Tom was talking to a young Scottish lad. He had a new and beautiful girlfriend. Tom was now talking in Thai.
“He only knows, yes and no, good morning and goodbye. Where did he learn that lot?” asked his mum.
“Shh, he is talking to the girl, her name is Noo.”
Brian’s Thai was slightly better. “She was here with the British tourist. At least I think that’s what she told Tom.”
He started playing with Google.
His face suddenly changed, no longer interested in his brother’s daydream. Fear crushed the smile from his face.
“Look,” he showed the small screen, then read aloud.
“A UK tourist was murdered with a female friend, in Bangkok’s largest park.”
“Did Tom read the paper, or maybe he saw it on the tv?” asked his mum.
“I doubt it. The gruesome murder happened ten years ago,” Brian said.
The traffic was crawling past, squeals, and toots were heard in the distance. Tom fell silent, his arms dropped to the sides of his wheelchair. Frozen for a second.
Suddenly, Tom stood, he shoved his chair backwards with all his might. Brian and his mum dodged the flying wheels.
“Where is she?” Tom screamed.
“Who darling? Please calm down,” said his mum.
“My lassie, ma hen,” the Glaswegian accent was unmissable. Tom stormed off towards the red-light district.
“A club owner was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Khun Noo, and her Scottish friend,” read Brian.
The Good Old Days
“BACK IN MY day, we didn’t accept any bad language. On our black-and-white tv, they hinted at foul jokes without saying the bad words. Adults would get the point without upsetting the children,” granddad said, before drifting off in another nap.
I loved granddad; it was always fun to be with him. He showed us paper and pen games, sometimes with one or two dice. Nothing electronic.
My brother, John, and I grinned and nodded at each other. John liked his phone games more, but would always join us, laughing and fooling around.
We messed about with our granddad, he always had a joke, with no bad language. He brought us the best presents for Christmas or our birthdays.
“God, is he sleeping again?” mum said as she popped her head around the door. Mum didn’t like granddad, we never knew why. He wasn’t her dad, maybe that was all? Or maybe because he used to sneak us extra chocolate bars? We would always welcome him, my dad, too, but not mum.
Granddad stirred, “Whose turn is it to make the tea? Must be you,” he waggled his finger at me.
I smiled and clicked on the kettle. I knew a goodie would be waiting as a reward.
“Do you want a cuppa, mum?” I called upstairs.
“Thanks, Jonty, can I have mine up here?”
She didn’t want to sit with us; I guessed.
“Now where was I?” asked Granddad.
“You were telling us about your old telly. They never swore in those days, you said.”
“Yes, and they never showed lady’s bits, either,” he said, we covered a snort.
John quickly covered his mobile’s screen, mine was in my pocket, I knew the topic would come up. Granddad always wanted to know what we were watching.
“You never told us what happened to our Nan? She died before we were born, tell us about her,” said John.
“Oh, you would have loved her, she was the prettiest gal in her village. She was clever too, had her own business at twenty. Very few girls ran businesses in those days. Men did all the work, women ran houses. Cooking, cleaning and having children. But not your nan, she…” he drifted into another thought. “Did you make me a tea yet?”
“You drank it.”
“Granddad, you started telling us about your tattoo, but you never finished?” I asked.
“This is the paratrooper’s badge,” he explained, rubbing his forearm.
“Were you in the paratroops?” asked my brother.
“Yes, I signed up when I left school.”
“So, you jumped out of planes?”
“Of course, we all had to.”
“Wow, that’s exciting, can we sign up?” John asked.
“Don’t joke about it. You may have a war to deal with,” Granddad said.
“Did you go to war?”
He sighed. I noticed mum leaning at the door.
“No, he ran away!” she said.
“I had my battle to deal with, back then,” he grunted.
“Yeah, sure, you started another family in Thailand,” mum said.
Granddad looked down and didn’t answer. Mum snorted and retreated to the kitchen.
John and I played on our phones. John played Fortnite, and I searched Google. The war granddad spoke of must have been the Falklands War, I guessed he must have been in his early twenties. I wanted to find out more. I would find out where Thailand was later. A strange thought struck me, ‘why had we never been to grandad’s house. I mean we had been there, we had been in his living room. But, nowhere else. Why?’ I wondered. I jumped up, signalled silence to my brother, and crept out. Rifling through granddad’s jacket pockets, I found his house keys.
Quietly I closed the back door and jogged the few streets to granddad’s house.
Looking around, to see if any neighbours were watching. I slid the key in the lock, click. I was in. Nosing in the downstairs rooms, nothing unusual. I don’t know why, but I silently went upstairs. Three bedrooms, the third was a box room, stacked high with stuff, taped and secure. The middle room boasted a double bed and not much else. The master room, granddad’s, was tidy, a made bed, a table with a book, James Bond, old and tatty, thumbed many times. In the far corner was a wardrobe, tall doors reached the ceiling, it was the drawers low down that caught my eye.
Looking around, like all the burglars I’d seen on tv. Inside was a battered briefcase. Locked. Oh, no! I whispered.
My hand searched my pocket, on the keyring was a tiny key. And yes, it opened the case.
Inside were several scrapbooks. Not my grandfather’s, his father’s. The early pages boasted of a youthful boy winning races, cups, and other sporting events. A few pages on was a splash of a wedding, granddads. My grandmother looked beautiful, better than I could have imagined. She died before I was born. As I flicked further, a newspaper clipping of paratroopers preparing to leave for the Falklands. And there he was. Granddad is ready for war. Then there were official-looking papers. Mr J Jones is summoned to appear at Aldershot Military Court, on a charge of desertion.
There, glued to a page of the scrapbook was a section of The Pattaya Mail. In it was a picture of granddad with a young Thai lady. Getting married. What? There were more booklets, papers, bits and pieces, I couldn’t face more news.
I let my tears stream, wetting the pages as I read of Mrs A. Jones was found dead after committing suicide. My grandmother held a postcard with a Thai stamp, as she put her head in the gas oven. Granddad, what have you done?
The doorbell sounded along with a tap. Oh, no, I’ve been caught. In two minds, I decided to face the music; I started down the stairs. There were two people at the door.
“Hello, can I help you?” I asked.
“Eh, yes, we are here to see Mr Jones. Is he here?”
The men weren’t English. Their accents were odd, they were dressed against the cold, even though it was warmish.
“He is not here. Why do you want him?”
“We need to see him. It’s personnel, where is he?”
“Um, can you wait here, I’ll get him?” I made sure the door was locked as I ran home. I looked back, the men had sat on the step.
“Mum, two men are waiting to see granddad.”
“Who are they? What do they want?”
“I’ve no idea, they seem quite nice.”
“See if your granddad is awake.”
I popped my head around the door. He was snoring peacefully.
“Come on then,” she said, “let’s see who these men are.” Mum lead me across the road.
“Hello, can I help you?” said mum politely.
“Eh, yes, but we need to talk to our father. Mr Jones.”
“What? Your father?”
“Yes, do you know him?”
“Not as well as I thought. I’m his daughter-in-law.”
“Hello sister-in-law,” they said together. “It seems we are family.”
“Jonty, wake him and bring him here, and I mean now.”
She guided the men through to the lounge, as I trotted off.
Granddad woke from a dream with a start, “What is it?”
“You’d better come quick. Some men want to see you, they say they are your sons.”
He lost all colour to his cheeks; he needed to steady himself on the armchair. Off we went.
“Hello boys,” granddad said.
“Hi dad, you look well,” one of them said. “It’s been a while?”
“We have a lot of catching up to do,” said the other.
“Should we go?” asked mum.
“This might take a while,” said grandad as he pointed to the door.
I was full of questions for mum as we sat in our kitchen.
“Not now,” was all I got. Google searched for Thailand. After reading about the sights and nightlife, I left mum in thought and returned to granddads.
I peered through the front window. The young men opened a bottle of what looked like alcohol, anyway, it wasn’t granddad’s favourite Scotch. Three glasses were handed around and they toasted each other. I pressed my ear to the glass.
“It’s taken a long time to catch up with you,” said one as he poured more drinks. I noticed my granddad was the only person knocking it back.
“Our mum worked herself into the ground when you left. She got us through school and then university. She begged you for help, you didn’t reply.” Both Thai men remained calm, as they poured more booze.
“She became sick, we worked to pay the hospital bills. She hated seeing us struggle for her. So, she ended it. It has taken until now to clear our debts and earn enough to visit you. Our long lost dad.”
“We are here now, have you anything to say to us?”
One man walked towards the window, I ran.
Dad came home from work, mum and I told him what happened. I admitted to spying.
“Leave them to their discussion. When the men go, I’ll see dad,” he said.
It was dark and past my bedtime, “Dad, I’ll pop over and see if they are still there?”
The bottle was empty, granddad sat still, the men looked like they were preparing to leave. I ran home.
“Okay, give it an hour and I’ll find out what happened,” said dad.
John and I were sent to bed. A short while later, sirens woke us, police cars and an ambulance hurried past our house.
My mum was crying as we went downstairs. “Your grandfather died this evening,” she said. I ran to granddads.
Dad caught me at the door, “Don’t go in.”
A policeman wanted to know what I’d seen. I told him exactly.
“But there was no whisky bottle on the table or in the bin, no glasses on the table or in the sink,” he said.
I pushed past him and rushed upstairs.
All the papers, the case, the lot, gone.
The policeman was on his radio, “Could be murder, put me through to Heathrow Airport security.”
“THANKS A LOT,” Jazza said to himself, he was unhappy with his boss’s 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.
“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 met up with the contact. A short military haircut, immaculately dressed, greeted him. 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 bit, 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!”
“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. He 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. 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.” 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 were 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 for a spot to 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 on the table, and 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 for 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, and 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, and looked at her, “Mr Dan?”
The paperwork was signed; the package rested next to its 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 as he read her message. 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.
Happy New What?
“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. Her slim gold earrings touched her shoulders. 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. 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, and 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 to see it.
“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, 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!’
Don’t Know Why?
“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 Anong? 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. I know, but 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, and 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 invites no one 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, and 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.
“I’M GASPING FOR a cuppa,” said Angie.
“We will not have your usual,” Suk answered.
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 it.
Angie was surprised to see it was a woman. Her English was passable. She introduced herself. “My name Ju, it means Daisy in English.”
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 have 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, turning 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.
“YOU HAVE GOT to be joking?”
“No, I mean it, we are stuck.”
“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.
“Thank Buddha she is not with him, nowhere near him.”
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 her holiday with her best friend, they were to be engaged. Beam’s father discovered their plan. And could not allow it.
“She is out of the country, does that help?”
“It doesn’t matter where she is as long as she is not near him,” answered the witch doctor.
Incense was burning, candles were lit, and 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, and then healed immediately.
A pair of Chris’ shorts were dipped in the fluid and then torched, other items met the same fate.
Beam’s dad struggled to open his eyes.
“The ring?” he asked.
The uncle and the ‘doctor’ looked at each other.
“We thought you took the ring before he gave it to her and she never saw it? That’s why we added it.”
“SO, WHAT DO you think of the new house?”
“Yes, but look, character dribbles out of the teak.”
“Has it got Wi-Fi?”
“Not yet, but soon, the engineer will fit it, he’s booked. Relax.”
Austin couldn’t wait to leave central Bangkok. His girlfriend, Hathai, was not so sure. She had been born in the city, schooled in the city, all her friends and family lived in the city. Now she was going to a ‘hick town.’
“Petchaburi is not too far, we can drive back any time you want,” said Austin.
“It’s two hours away.”
Petchaburi city was built up and thriving. It had more temples per capita than any town in Thailand. Because of the number of murders per year?
Austin and Hathai’s home was not in the small city. It was nearer the beach, which to Austin was a huge plus. Hathai was still kicking herself for being talked into the purchase.
When Austin saw the ad on Facebook, there was no holding him. He fell in love there and then. He bought the house without even seeing the place. The agent was so convincing, her sales skills could have sold him London Bridge.
A foreigner cannot own property in Thailand, but Hathai could. It was in her name. The family were pleased for her, but not pleased when she said she was going to live there!
“Wow, look at that wood. Teak I guess?” Austin asked. He was proudly tapping each bannister, each panel, and each plank.
“Yes, of course, no other wood can survive termites.”
“Come on, show me how you arranged the kitchen.”
“There is not much to see. The cooking was done under the living area, with open walls!” she moaned.
“How about a coffee?”
“Yes, you can thank me for wiring up our kettle, to a two-point plug in the hall.”
She pointed to a small table, two mugs and the lonely kettle.
“You’ll have to go down there if you want milk,” she thumbed below, “it’s in the fridge. Outside in the open air.”
“Come on Hathai, we can soon fix it up, and to your liking,” Austin said, smiling.
“How are we going to work? We’ve only got unsafe electricity.”
“I’ll have the whole place rewired. We can work on our phones for now.”
“What about the garden, it’s huge? Who will look after it? And don’t look at me.”
“Are you happy with the bedrooms?”
“The bedrooms are lovely. It’s a pity about the bathroom.”
“Anything else you’re not happy with?”
“No, it will be lovely eventually. What is the funny square room downstairs, next to the fridge?”
“Oh, yeah, I meant to look at that.”
“You can’t it’s locked.”
“I must have the key, the agent gave me a bunch.”
He led her down the steps and tested each key.
“That’s funny, nothing fits. It looks like an old-fashioned lock?”
“Like the rest of the house,” she said.
Two children were giggling at the front tree. They ducked behind a bush.
“We saw you. Come and say hello,” called Hathai.
The children smiled shyly and stood still.
They were dragged away by an elderly lady. She grabbed their wrists and hauled them off.
“Strange woman,” said Hathai. “Maybe she doesn’t like Englishmen?”
“Come on, let’s get that door open.”
The keys were all far too small. Austin shook and banged the door.
“This wood feels different from the rest of the house, and it sounds different. More solid, rigid, like it is painted steel?”
“Yeah, I see what you mean. No windows, not even a gap under the door.”
“What do you think is in there?” asked Austin.
“Full of gold, I hope.”
Austin found a loose floor tile, he chipped it free. The concrete was not loose. He worked his way around the cube. The far side edged the garden, he scraped away soil and roots until he felt a lump of broken cement. He pulled it free. Behind it was a metal bar. He ran off.
“Where are you going?” Hathai asked.
“I need a shovel and tools.”
“Do know how to use these,” she laughed.
“Even I can use a shovel. The other things, I not so sure,” he laughed.
Hathai, returned his smile, “Can I help?”
“I’m scrapping away the soil. Look you can see the bars under here, they are rusting. I will cut a few and we can climb in.”
“You are going in there?” She pointed at what looked like a giant cage.
“I want to know what that room was used for? Can you pass a torch, please?”
Enough earth had been removed, the light was shining through the bars. The bulk of the room was deep underground.
“That’s a disappointment, there’s nothing in there,” said Austin.
“What were you expecting? Wait a minute, what’s that?”
The couple peered in.
“Is that a bundle of clothes?”
“Yes, and something is glinting,” said Hathai.
“Somebody got undressed in here. But, where is she or he?”
“They are girl’s clothes and maybe jewellery?”
The soil was cleared to the edge of the room, he could now see bars of rusted iron.
He had roughed up his palms in his eagerness to cut away enough metal to slide through.
“Are you coming?” Austin asked.
“Yes, but how will we get out if we’re both in there?”
“Good point. We need our new stepladder. I’ll get it.”
Austin slid the stepladder down and jumped after it. He then angled it against the inner wall and helped Hathai’s toes reach the top rung.
He flashed the torch, crossed the room, and marched up the stairs to the door. “Maybe the door can be opened from inside?” He tried to unlock it from inside.
“There is no handle, and the keyhole has been sealed. What the f…”
“Look at this,” said Hathai, as she lifted the gold bracelet, chain and three rings.
“Who do they belong to, and where has she gone?”
A low hum caused the couple to look at each other. The buzz became louder, as a purple glow floated. A fog drifted towards them.
Long, dank locks of hair flopped out of the mist. Hathai froze, rooted to the concrete.
A white skull burst from the purple, it had flesh like melted Cheddar dripping from the jaw. It floated nearer and could be seen clearly.
There was no body just a head, dragging fetid entrails behind it. It came towards them, bobbing and dipping.
“What is that?” wailed Austin.
“Krasue. Like your vampire, but she eats rotting meat.”
Their screams were heard by nobody. As Krasue clamped her teeth on Austin’s throat, blood splatted Hathai. Her mouth hung open as her blood mixed with Austin’s.
Silently the purple haze floated up and out. The first fresh air Krasue had tasted for decades.
“WHOA, THAT WAS close,” Jeah breathed.
The door frame splintered above his head.
“His bodyguards must have had shooting practice?” he whispered to himself.
Jeah ducked and rolled sideways, laying on his front he fired two shots in quick succession. The guards crumpled. Walking towards the car, the driver stretched his arms through the window and put his empty hands up.
“Get out,” Jeah ordered.
The front of the driver’s trousers was wet. “Go.”
He scampered away. The real target sat in the rear seat.
Jeah opened the door and studied the man’s face. He knew who he was, and he didn’t make mistakes. The man didn’t have time to beg. A bullet entered between his eyes. A miniature puppy yelped beside him.
“Aw, who’s a pretty boy, then?”
Jeah threw the pistol into the front seat. He walked away, peeling nail varnish from his fingertips.
The gun had been stolen from one of his rivals. Jeah much preferred the police tracked it back, without his prints on it.
A single-worded message was posted on Line. “Dead.”
“Good. Come and see me,” was the answer.
Jeah was in no rush to see his boss. He would be given payment and another job. First, he had to visit his temple and talk to his favourite Abbot. The monk didn’t ask questions, he listened, and offered prayers.
“Am I getting too old for my job? Should I quit?” Jeah asked.
“You’ll know when to stop,” said the Abbot.
When ready, Jeah would drive to Bangkok and collect his fee.
His boss, Khun Kiat, sat with his feet up, smiled, stood and signalled for Jeah to sit.
“Well done, young man.”
“I’m not so young, I’m feeling my age,” said Jeah.
“You’re still young enough to handle the tasks I give you.”
“The last task’s guards took shots at me. That has never happened before, I’m still picking out wooden splinters from my head.”
“Haha, could have been worse,” Khun Kiat said.
“What? You can’t.”
“I can and I will.”
“Look, I’ve got two more tasks for you. Double pay, and then retire, how about that?”
“I don’t know, I’ve been lucky, I feel the luck is running out.”
“Okay, I understand your feelings. You’ve been great for me, and I’m sorry you want to quit. But I’ve two urgent tasks. The first is simple. A movie star has embarrassed my client. He wants to make sure she only stars on the front page of the newspapers as a corpse.”
“But, you know, I never kill women.”
“Yes, this woman was born a boy. He has had major reconstruction. Hence the problem. Not everyone knows yet, and it must stay that way. My client is not happy, he thinks people are laughing at him. That must stop.”
“Okay, and the last job?”
“That is still a mystery to me. I have no names. But a hefty deposit and a date.”
Jeah, looked puzzled, screwing his face. “I don’t like the sound of that.”
“I agree, let me find out more, the last thing we want is for you to walk into a trap.”
“When is it?”
“It’s to be this Saturday. Not only that, but it needs to be before dark.”
“Let’s refuse it.”
Khun Kiat, smirked, “I have never failed a client. Certainly in the work you’ve handled for me. I’m not happy about it. I don’t aim to start now. Let me find out who we’re talking about and why. Then we’ll decide. Okay?”
An envelope slid across the desktop. A collection of posed photos were pulled out.
Jeah stared at his boss. “That’s a boy? Christ, who would know?”
“It’s been confirmed. We don’t want the world to know.”
“As long as he’s a male, I’ll do it. Where and when?”
“Tomorrow there is the premiere of that new movie. He/she will attend. So will the press. We don’t want one of the hacks to spill the beans. Make sure our star doesn’t get there. The press will have something else to write about.”
“Leave it to me.”
Jeah marched back to his car, considering his next move.
‘Superstar with an unbelievable secret,’ Jeah imagined the front pages.
He rewrote them, ‘Star goes missing.’ “Much better,” he mumbled.
Jeah’s closest friend and aide was a computer programmer. A mugging left Tam disabled and started Jeah’s hit-man career. The first jobs were unpaid. The guys who crippled his friend, won’t cripple anyone else.
“Can I come in?” said Jeah into the intercom.
“Yeah, yeah, you’ve got a key,” answered Tam.
Jeah showed the photo to his mate.
“Yeah, what about her?”
“What do you know about her movements?”
“That’s easy, the first time I don’t even need to flick on the comp.”
“Because every Thursday morning she gives a press meeting in her local Starbucks. The reporters fawn all over her and spread her name on social media. Easy.”
“For your information, she is a he, and her is him.”
“Really? And Mr Big Shot football team owner is not happy?”
“You got it.”
Thursday morning he/she didn’t make Starbucks. Weighted ropes were tied on her limbs and hooked under one of the gambling barges on the Chao Phraya River. These barges only moved when the police raided them. As the police controlled all illegal gambling, they remained in place. ‘Movie star lost to the world.’ Another headline danced across Jeah’s mind.
Jeah’s bank account swelled. “Okay boss. One to go, or not?”
Khun Kiat roared with laughter. “You will not believe this one. What a job to go out on.”
“So we are going through with it? It’s not a trick?”
“No my friend, it’s no trick.”
“Come on then, who is it?”
“It’s Phu Ying.”
“I told you, I never kill women.”
“You won’t have to.”
“And how do you work that out? Phu Ying means lady, does it not?”
“Yes, it does. I need you to kill, my client’s enemies’ favourite female.”
“I’ve never killed or even injured a woman or girl in my private or business life. And I won’t start now. For you or anyone else. I quit.”
“Steady on. This Phu Ying is a cat. A Kanchaburi gangster owns a private zoo. He has upset my client. His revenge will be to kill his puma!”
“I also don’t kill pets.”
Coming soon –
Short stories – not in Thailand, here is one sample, see what you think?
“She pointed at the wardrobe. She said a few words, not in English. And then died,” Anne said as the tears flowed.
The ambulance men removed the body on a stretcher.
“It’s sad, but she had a long life,” Mags answered.
“How old was she?”
“Nobody knows, she wasn’t even sure.”
“How can that be?”
“You said she spoke before she died? What did she say?”
“I’m not sure, it sounded like, ‘Inima,’ what does that mean?” Anne said.
“She was from Romania? Is that right?”
“I think so, but she never liked to talk about her youth. Even her more recent past.”
“Where is her passport?”
“Never seen one, she didn’t go anywhere.”
Mags was busy with her phone.
“Google tells me, ‘Inima’ in Romanian means ‘heart’. Why did she say that as her last word, I wonder?”
“She was pointing over there? Let’s look.”
They opened the wardrobe, shifted faded clothing, slid skirts and blouses sideways.
“What about up there?” asked Anne.
She pulled over a stool and climbed up, peering at the shelf.
“What a load of junk, wait a minute, how sweet.”
Anne pulled at a faded red heart.
“Look, how lovely. She must have had an admirer?”
“Yes, to keep it for all those years,” agreed Mags.
“Let’s have a look, what’s inside?”
The girls sat on the bed with the chocolate box between them.
“How odd, strands of hair, all different colours?”
“Why would you keep them? Maybe she had loads of boyfriends?” said Mags.
“Or girlfriends, it’s long hair?” suggested Anne.
“No girlfriends in those days, not in the open at least.” The girls giggled.
“What else is in here?” Mags put the hair onto the bed.
“What does ‘scholomance’ mean?”
“No idea, what are you looking at?” asked Mags.
“There is a piece of paper, it has that word and a list of names. Nine with ticks next to then…”
“Yeah, and what?”
“Let me see.”
“And what is all this?” Mags looked at both sides of the hand-written scrap.
“A load of gibberish. Is it Romanian?”
“My God what have we found?” asked Mags. “And how did she know my full name?”
“Maybe the care company told her?” said Anne.
“But why am I listed?”
“There are nine female names listed with ticks, and then you. No tick?”
“How many strands of hair are there?”
“Nine, you were number ten. What does that mean?”
“She wanted my hair?” asked Mags.
“Let’s find that fortune-teller who leaves stickers all over the place, I think she is Romanian?”
“Can we come to see you?”
“No.” A female answered.
“We have questions for you,” Anne said.
“Meet me at the petrol station’s coffee shop, in thirty minutes.”
Thirty minutes later the girls sat with coffee in front, looking out of the window, no sign of a gipsy. A few men filling their cars, a light flickered, a dog chasing a cat, nobody selling pegs.
Both girls felt a touch on their shoulders. “Where’s my coffee?”
Shocked, they looked into the eyes of a beautiful young woman.
“Where did you come from?” Anne asked.
“I have been here a while,” answered the lady.
If the girls expected a crystal ball, and Tarot cards they were disappointed. A modern, smartly dressed businesswoman, smiling as she joined them at the table.
“What can I do for you?” she asked. “Let me guess, you are going to ask what is written in a diary, or on a notepad?”
“Close, what does this mean?” The paper slid across the table.
“Where did you get that?”
She pushed back in her seat, appearing to jump backwards. Her skin whitened, she trembled, before sliding down, open-eyed shock.
Anne told her the details. Then asked, “What is scholomance?”
The gipsy calmed herself, “Let’s start again, I’m Marie. Pleased to meet you. Yes, I have a crystal ball, Tarot cards the lot. I’m a medium and can foresee the future. But, I have to admit, I didn’t see that coming.”
“Go on, we have asked you a couple of questions.”
“The second was easy, scholomance is the Devil’s school of black magic. Only the best, or worst, practitioners passed beyond the test stage.”
“And the writing on the paper?”
“As you thought, it is written in Romanian, an old, old language.”
“What does it say?”
“It is a seldom-used spell. You chant those words, and cut a lock of hair from your victim.”
“Yeah, and then what?”
“The witch gets another six years, six months and six days of life.”
Anne and Mags studied each other face’s then Marie’s.
“What happens to the victim?” they asked in unison.
“Our old lady gained another, what? About nearly sixty years? Jesus, how old was she?”
“It appears that way,” said Marie. “She must have used the spell when young, possibly when she left Romania?”
“And you were to be tenth?” said Anne.
Coffee cups were drained, all three in deep thought. Each with different ideas knocking at their heads. Marie held her hand out for payment.
“Thank you ladies, best of luck to you both.” She was gone.
“It seems I had a lucky escape,” said Mags.
“But why, how did she pick you?” Anne asked.
“I’ve no idea. She knew you for as long as me, why me?”
“Yes, we both started caring for her at the same time.”
“Were all the hairs different colours?”
“Yes, but no ginger, like yours. That must be it?”
“Where are the hairs and the spell?”
“Oh, no, they’ve gone. How have I lost them?” said Anne.
“Did you bring it all here, I only saw the paper?”
“They must be in the room? Yes, yes, I thought for a moment I had the hair in my pocket. Did we pack it all back in the chocolate box? We don’t want anyone else getting hold of it.”
“What can anyone do?”
“We had better go back,” said Anne.
The old woman’s room had been cleaned, the bed looking fresh and tidy.
They rushed to the wardrobe. Empty, cleared out.
“Who cleaned out the old lady’s room?” Mags asked the landlady.
“I got lucky, a new tenant moves in tomorrow.”
“Good for you. Where is all her stuff?”
“That’s where I got really lucky, she helped me dispose of it all.”
“Yes, a well-dressed girl.”
“Oh, well, nothing more we can do. See you tomorrow?”
“Yeah, have a good evening.”
They made their separate ways home.
At midnight, Mags was awoken by the sound of scissors opening and shutting. Clip, clip, clip.
Please email Colin at
for more details. Thank you for reading my short stories, how about full-length thrillers?
The ‘No Worries’ series has 4 thrillers all set in Thailand.
Book one is:
Not Far Enough From Worries
Here is a sample:
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.
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.
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.
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