Not Far Enough from Worries

Full-length thriller, set in Thailand. By Colin Devonshire

Prologue

THAILAND INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT

In the early 1950s and through the 1960ʼs, groups of Thai communists went to Beijing. They were to learn and train in ideology and propaganda. Many of those attending the camps went further. Not only learning how to get their arguments across by talking or writing.

Groups of Pathet Lao insurgents infiltrated north Thailand. Local communist party cells formed and strengthened themselves. These gangs went to Laos and North Vietnam to learn more vicious methods to pass on their thoughts. Skills in terror tactics and the armed struggle gobbled up.

Some Chiang Rai Thailand Independence Movement (TIM) members crossed the border into Burma. They then moved south to Prachuabkhirikhan, the provincial capital of Hua Hin. To keep their banned party from failing, they planned one final stand.

One of their leaders, Pu Yai, was busy creating mayhem. He didn’t care how, anyway or anywhere. He would destabilise the government of Thailand.

Who was behind the anti-government stand, and why? Where, or more to the point, who did the money come from?

For several years, they thought that the instigator was a non-Thai, and likely to be British.Chapter 1

Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok

“IT IS NOW TWENTY past two in the afternoon! Where is my mate? The plane landed two hours ago. What have you done with him? Is he drunk? Have they have arrested him? Or was he kidnapped? Where the hell is he? Everyone else has retrieved their bags and gone.”

An exhausted and frustrated young Englishman stood and scratched his head. He wished someone, anyone, would answer his questions.

He would also like to stop muttering to himself. No one else was listening to his questions, anyway.

Kev decided he needed to walk around, cooling his rising frustration. A cup of coffee? He needed one; particularly when he saw the look of amusement on the face of the latest man he had confronted.

“I am sorry, sir, I cannot tell you anything,” stated an airport security officer. Whether he knew anything about the flight or was clueless about most things. Whatever, he was gawping, standing in his over-ironed shirt. Over ironing had turned the cheap material shiny brown. Leaving it to the imagination or a plausible guess how the seams of his shirt remained attached.

The airport emptied; the hubbub was quieting. Still no Nick.

Kev was not happy. Usually, he is a very reasonable individual; he was not prone to talking to himself. Today he was on the verge of becoming volcanic, not only that, he had answered himself. Kev had read Lonely Planet. Here in Thailand, you should not show your feelings, happy or wild. Any sign of temper wins you a frown, from all angles. Kev was wearing his brand new L plates.

He felt an overpowering need to moan and whine; he tracked down an information kiosk.

“Before arriving at the airport I had spent four and a half hours on a bus with a broken air conditioner. Can you please help me?”

The look on Kev’s face had the information lady signalling to the nearby security man. He came over and stood next to Kev. He carried on with his rant to the lady, and himself.

“You know it was cool enough when I boarded the bus in the early morning. The mercury rose as the miles passed. So did my temper.” She was looking puzzled.

Kev’s frustration was clear for all to see. The security guard had placed his right hand on his pistol. It was an over-reaction, but Kev was making everyone nervous.

Kev went on with his complaint.

“By the time we reached the outskirts of the city, not only was it hot enough to make the devil jealous. There was not a whiff of a breeze.”

He remembered the perspiring Westerners, or ‘falangs’ as they are known in Thailand. They were leaning across his upper body to remove their bags from the overhead storage. Overloud Thais, front and rear, left and right, all jabbering. Relating something earth-shattering, like the next-door neighbour’s dog peeing on the washing. Or telling their whole life history to fellow travellers. People they had met only five minutes earlier. True Thai style. Thai people love a good yarn. Whatever they were saying Kev did not understand.

“Christ, the Westerners body odour wafting makes it all worse.”

The security man had released his grip on the pistol, the lady seemed more relaxed.

He knew all too well that the surrounding foreigners needed some scented soap and water. They were all grateful they could disembark. And sample another of the country’s many delights, be it edible, visual or beddable.

“Whatever, get away from me!” That was the thought that crashed around inside his head. With that unspoken thought, he wandered on. Solving nothing. Leaving the two on the desk looking at each other wondering if all ‘falangs‘ were like that.

Kev had travelled up from Hua Hin, the sleepy seaside town which was now Kevʼs, and soon to be Nickʼs new home. Kev was happy soon to be seeing his oldest mate but worried that Nick would not fit in, in more ways than one. Nick would not be comfortable in the flight’s ‘economy’ section for a start. Twelve hours squeezed into a seat built for a person half of Nick’s size. Would he cope with the heat? Could he keep his temper when necessary?

Earlier that day Kev had travelled by bus. Aiming north to Bangkok, the country of Thailand’s capital city, the City of Angels. Now after a lengthy wait at Don Mueang Airport’s arrivals area, he still had not seen Nick, let alone an Angel. The arrivals sign had promised the plane had arrived and on time.

Thailand’s population was under that of Britain, but over fifty million people. Both countries are proud to boast a working democracy. In Thailand, a good proportion of the people loved and adored their King. Thailand’s King is considered by most of his people, as a demigod. In every country, some people would change their system of government. Thailand is no different. It does not take many firebrands to cause a country serious problems.

What could have happened to Nick? The man was not built to enjoy thirty degrees Celsius. Household weighing machines are not built for people of his girth. One leg on the equipment and the little arrow already nudged twenty stone. Nick was a lad who enjoyed his food. And not the healthy choice, although he would take it if there was nothing else. Chips and pies, Chinese or an Indian with crisps and a large slice of sweet cake to follow would be his pick. All that to go with a few pints of lager. Unlike Nick, Kev could go for hours without sustenance.

Small jerky movements of his neck, eager eyes flicking left and right. Panic was welling up, churning inside, battering his empty stomach.

“How long since I last ate? Come on Kev, get a grip.” He said almost kicking himself. 

“What would you do if you had lost something or somebody at Heathrow?”

So, he went in search of a policeman. There were men in uniform everywhere, he chose the alert looking one busy chewing gum.

“Oh, a big man, yes?” He answers in schoolboy English. Another officer with an overworked uniform had no information. What do they feed these guys? In a country full of slim people, why do all the overweight people have jobs with a uniform?

Kev found a sensible-looking woman in a uniform that fitted well, she smiled at him, asked if he was looking for a big guy.
“Yes!”

Came Kev’s eager reply. But still no useful facts on Nick’s whereabouts.

“Yes, you are correct, that’s the person! Where is he?” Kev pressed her further.

He was getting so desperate he was running to the next person in uniform. Anyone in uniform, he quizzed an airport cleaner who he mistook for a flight Captain. Nice uniform for a cleaner. Kev had read in a guidebook that in Thailand you should always smile, even in tricky situations. This tested that theory. One last try–a man with a clipboard.

At that, a big smile spread across the man’s chubby chops. Kev did not like him, or what he was about to hear. Which turned out to be nothing helpful.

“Well? I am waiting.”

Kev’s forced smile was slipping. He told his tale of woe.

“Ooh, a big man,” said the uniform, as he marched off.

Kev’s smile slipped further.

This would be a long and frustrating wait. Another hour passed. He then failed in his inquiry, trying to discover if Nick had been on the plane.

“I cannot tell you, security rules.”

The airport emptied further, there were few people left in sight, still no Nick.

Then laughter rang out all around, echoing from the glass and concrete walls. Airport staff appeared from each doorway, all sneaking a glimpse at Kev, and they were all smiling. Thais, unlike Kev, found fun in every situation. They are great at grinning.

Don Mueang airport had opened in 1914 as the Royal Thai Air Force base. In 1924, it took commercial flights, making it one of the world’s oldest airports. None of that information made Kevʼs wait any easier.

The grand entrance of Nick followed the spontaneous outburst of clapping and cheering. It was as if he had finished conducting an opera. Bowing his head combined with his newfound skill of performing the wai. Placing your hands together, the Thai gesture looks like someone in prayer. The wai can mean, hello, goodbye, and thank you, amongst other things. Someone in uniform must have passed on the art to Nick. He had been enjoying himself. Kev was thinking of a new use for the wai.

Nick had made friends. With the immigration police, the airport security, even the well-dressed cleaners. They must have offered him food, they had. Not any food, actually what he sampled was somtam. A Thai favourite dash. So spicy it can melt glass. This salad features fermented fish. They can turn the strongest stomach and assault the unwary nostril.

A rumpled Kev could not hold back his moan.

“I have been here for hours, what the hell happened to you?”

“First, they looked me up and down, they then enjoyed touching my beard. Do Thai men have beards? It was as if they had never seen one before.”

Nick was warming to his first time in Asia having enjoyed his experience.

“Then my size impressed them. Are there no large people here? They wanted to know how much I weigh. I do not know, as you remember I break normal bathroom scales, so they got me on the airport weighing machine! That was interesting. Someone summoned airport staff and quite a crowd gathered. They all enjoyed that, particularly when a man ran a book on the announced weight!”

Nick was wobbling with mirth. Kev was not.

“Then they wanted to know what was in my bags. Nothing illegal but, when the Marmite jar appeared, well, they could believe no one would eat it. They all wanted a taste.” He chuckled. “Which I offered. After all, they had shared some of their food with me. They were laughing so much. The whole department joined us and even more people appeared from somewhere. Then I had to prove I could eat and enjoy it! Sorry mate, I know it was for you, and you’ve been missing your favourite breakfast spread. I ate the whole jar, again money changed hands. A female cleaner seemed very pleased with both results. Were they gambling?”

Nick stopped wobbling, he looked at his mate.

“Anything the matter? You don’t look happy.”
The airport staff looked like they had enjoyed their shift, cheery waves all around as they left for home.

At that, Nick hitched his waistband, untucked the part of his shirt that was not already untucked.

“Now, what’s next?”

He was almost skipping along the terminal corridor. A thought crossed Kev’s mind.

“So who is it that would not fit in?” Kev mumbled.

There was the sound of clicking and speeding heels from behind them. People usually rushed towards departure, not when they had arrived.

“Strange, what’s going on?” asked Kev.

A tourist hurried past, dragging his suitcase along the floor. A young father was pushing his children ahead of him. Peering backwards as he shoved his youngest forward.

Kev no longer notices the fear in the eyes of new arrivals. He was busy admiring a beautiful air hostess, adjusting a tight jacket and skirt. The reason for the rearrangement of her clothing soon became clear. She then sprinted, a feat difficult to do in a pencil skirt.

Kev had turned to say something to his friend about her lovely legs. When he spotted the unusual flight path of a plane filling the window behind them.

“Christ, look out,” shouted Kev.

The sounds of terror grew. People could see that the craft was coming at the terminal building. Shrieks and screams were growing in volume. People turned to see a cargo plane’s wings dipping one, then the other. It hurtled toward the unprotected building. The pretty hostess hitched her tight skirt even higher and ran faster.

The white propeller-powered plane filled the windows. It appeared to be coming straight through. It fell short of the building as it dipped and then crashed into a fuel tanker parked outside. Some empty cars parked alongside the building lifted into the air. The explosion shattered glass for a hundred yards all around.

A fireball burst from the destroyed fuel vehicle. Black acrid smoke choked the life of any birds unfortunate enough to be flying past. People in the airport were running as fast as the slippery tiled floor would allow. They could hear glass crashing to the floor as the shattered panes came loose from their frames. Passengers screamed. Uniforms ran in all directions.

Welcome to Bangkok!

If you need help with editing or proofreading mail – writebetterokay@gmail.com