First You Die, Chapter 3: A Missing Friend
First You Die, Chapter Three: A Missing Friend
A MISSING FRIEND
Rick turned the big forest green sedan towards the loft. He put the Glock on the front dashboard. Sonia rested her head on his shoulder. ‘I was so worried about you. If anything happened to you, I don’t know what I would do.’ She leaned up and kissed his face.
Rick put his arm around her. ‘Did you get a chance to talk to that guy before you shot him?’
‘Not much, he said he had a message from Johnny Wou.’
‘No kidding? Did you tell the police?’
‘What could I tell them? How we copped two and a half million bucks? That we almost trapped him in a drug bust in the Grace Hotel in Bangkok?’
‘We were a long way from trapping Johnny Wou and he did get his amphetamines back from the bust, complements of Colonel Somchai. And what do you mean we, it was you that ran out with the cash.’
‘I had to. You didn’t think that Jip was going to just hand it over to me, did you. He’s much too honest to be a policeman in Thailand. I bet the drug warehouse that we found near Chang Mai belonged to Wou and the two suitcases of cash were his.’
‘Probably right. You know that the money was supposed to be turned into the Thai government, like the speed pills.’
‘Oh yeah, and how far would the money actually go, do you think?’
Rick wanted to change the subject. He tried never to argue with Sonia; it was just too frustrating. ‘Your English is excellent. How long has it been now?’
‘I’ve been here more than a year and the girls about nine months. It’s having the teacher come for an hour everyday that does it. I spoke pretty good English when you met me in Bangkok.’
‘Your getting the girls to work in the restaurant really made a difference. I was busy before, but now with them waiting tables in Thai silk dresses, and with you at the door, the place is packed every night.’
‘And why not? The girls are all beautiful and none over twenty years old. If you want to take one for a second wife, I’ll understand.’ Sonia put her head down and held Rick closer. ‘I know that I’m getting older.’
Rick had to laugh to himself. Thai girls thought they were over the hill at thirty. Sonia was all of twenty-four and would be beautiful the rest of her life. He wondered if Sonia was offering to let him have one of the girls. He knew that it would not be a gift; that was for sure. She was turning the conversation around to where she wanted it to go. He decided to let her run with it.
‘I can’t take a second wife. I don’t even have a first one.’
‘That’s what I was thinking.’
‘You know what.’ She snuggled closer. ‘We’ve been living together for over a year. It’s about time we made a permanent commitment to each other. You tell me that you love me but you have never asked me to marry you.’
‘Not now Sonia. We have too many other things to worry about.’
Sonia sat up in the car and crossed her arms. ‘Not now Sonia, not now Sonia,’ she mimicked, moving her head from side to side and making a face at the same ‘You’re always too busy to talk about our future.’
‘Let’s try to stay alive so we have a future. I’m calling Jip when we get back home- see if he knows anything about Johnny Wou.
Rick pulled into the entrance of the twenty-four hour garage, across the street from his building. He left the motor running. The attendant came out to take the car. Rafael was Puerto Rican, short and skinny looking in his blue work uniform.
‘Hey Rick, there was a load of cops at your apartment. They came just after you scrammed out of here.’
‘Did you speak to them?’
‘Yeah, they came by, wanted to know if I saw anything.’
‘And I said you went flying out of here like a bat out of hell.’
‘I was going to pick up Sonia. Did you see a few guys come around before I ran out?’
‘Naa, I was sleepen.’
‘Do me a favor, will you. Keep your eyes open. Give me a call if you see anybody hanging around here, especially Asians.’
‘You mean besides those cute little cupcakes you got up there?’ Rafael grinned at Rick.
Sonia took a few steps closer and stared down at him. ‘You can look. No touch. No speak. Understand?’
‘Yesss, Miss Sonia. I think you mention this to me once or twice before.’
‘Just so you know.’ Sonia didn’t feel right unless she had the last word and she knew that he knew very well that she would cut his balls off if he even came close to one of her girls.
Sonia had gone back to Isaan in Thailand to pick them out. She flew them here with visas and work permits. The girls were never so happy as they were now. They were making plenty of money and earning it honestly. They weren’t allowed to date and had one day off a week on Monday when the restaurant was closed. They did an hour of school and an hour of homework everyday, along with Sonia, except on Mondays when she would drive them to the seashore and state parks in the summer and to the museums in the winter. Included in the itinerary were trips to the theatre, the Statue of Liberty and baseball games. Sonia bought a Ford van and they all went together. She didn’t want them to get split up in taxicabs. They were all expected to go to college and to send money home to their families. Sonia used the time together in the van to tell the girls about the strange farang ways in America. The girls would not be able to pick their teeth at the table, even if they held their hands over their mouths like they did back home. No cleaning out your nostrils in public. Both these chores had to be done in the privacy of the bathroom or bedroom. You must say thank you often and if given a present it would not be bad manners to open it right away. Above all, no lying, fibbing or bragging, as in ‘that customer love me too much, leave me big tip. Want to marry me.’ Sonia knew that Thai girls loved to lie and brag to the other girls. Actually most of the Thai girls that Sonia knew would lie, as a matter of course, for no reason. She was determined to educate these girls to better ways. But then again, Sonia realized that most of the girls that she knew before were in the escort business in Bangkok, the same as she had been. Sonia had met Rick in Bangkok when she was freelancing out of Angles Disco in the Nana Hotel on Soi Four off Sukhumvit Road. He was just another client to her until something very unusual happened. She fell in love.
Sonia and Rick walked across the street to their building and took the big freight elevator to the fifth floor. It was the top floor of a classic old building that was once a sewing machine factory. Rick saw a wide yellow tape across the hallway.
There was also one on the stairwell door. Crime Scene was printed continuously along the tape in large black letters. Rick ripped the tape down and put his key in the lock. The door and frame were covered with black fingerprint powder and the brass casings had been picked up. Rick noticed a few nicks in the blood spots where samples had been collected.
All of the girls were in the living room and most jumped up and ran to Rick and Sonia. It was clear that they had been crying.
‘We worry you. We hear shots and Rick go.’
‘Sorry girls, I went to pick up Sonia. It was kind of an emergency.’
‘The police come here.’
‘What did you say?’
‘We don’t know what say. Tell them maybe you go restaurant.’
‘Good girls, now everyone go back to bed please.’ Rick waved both hands towards their part of the four thousand square foot loft. The girls had half the floor and he and Sonia had the other half.
Joy was one of the more talky girls and she spoke up again, rubbing a tear from her cheek with the back of a hand. ‘And when they come in, they leave their shoes on. Shoes all dirty from the sidewalk. Why do they do this?’
Sonia put her arm around Joy, who was still sobbing. ‘Farangs don’t know any better my little sister. They are not as clean as Khon Thai. Be a little forgiving and don’t worry.’
‘Thanks girls, good night now.’ Rick kept waving his hands for attention. ‘Sonia, can you get Jip’s number? It’s about five in the morning now so it should be five in the afternoon in Thailand.’
Rick’s living room was fifty by thirty feet with four over-stuffed sofas covered in beige-colored raw silk. A huge carved teak coffee table was in the center of the floor. The girls usually ignored the sofas and sat on the floor around the table when they shared a meal.
Rick heard sobbing coming from someplace in the living room. He looked around and saw two girls huddled together with their arms around each other on one of the sofas. The crying was coming from that direction.
‘Sonia.’ Rick signaled her to go over to the girls.
Sonia sat down and encircled both of them with her arms and they started talking animatedly in Thai.
Rick opened the freezer door and pulled out a bottle of Absolute vodka. He poured some of the thick opaque liquid into two rock glasses, squeezed in a few pieces of lime, walked back and handed one to Sonia. Rick went to the bedroom, took off his clothes and turned on the shower.
He took long sip of his drink and stepped in. The hot water felt good and he let it run down his back, putting his arms against the wall stretching, pushing against it and staying there, letting the room fill up with steam. Rick was hoping that if he stayed in long enough Sonia would join him as she usually did.
Rick was in bed by the time Sonia came into the room and sat next to him. She looked worried as she leaned over. ‘Nui’s sister is missing. She’s very upset. Something must have happened to her.’
‘Missing from where?’
‘Bangkok. She works in Nana Plaza.’
‘Hell, she’s probably in Ko Samui with some tourist. I wouldn’t worry about it.’
‘They speak to each other almost every day by E-mail and it’s been three weeks now, she hasn’t heard from her. She was a friend of mine in Bangkok and it’s not like her-not to call her sister or me. Can you call Jip and ask him to look for her?’
‘Come on Sonia, she’s probably on an island somewhere.’
‘Her name is Porn and she works at Rainbow as a dancer. Just ask Jip to go and look for her.’
‘Okay, but I think you’re worrying for nothing.’ Rick reached over to the nightstand and pulled out a card with Jip’s work number on it. He punched the international code numbers into the phone and then the Bangkok number and waited for the connection.
A familiar voice came on the line. ‘Sa wat dee, Jipthep thee nee krup.’
‘Hi Jip, it’s Rick. How are you?
‘Great. When are you coming for a visit?’
‘I’m not sure but I want to ask you a few things. First, be careful. Johnny Wou sent a few men to pay us a visit. You may be on his list too.
‘Are you and Sonia okay? Are you safe?’ The concern in Jip’s voice was evident.
‘Yeah, we’re fine. Listen, I hate to ask you but Sonia’s worried about one of her friends. Her sister is a waitress for us and she says she disappeared, her name is Porn, works out of Rainbow in Nana Plaza.’
‘Hell, she could be anywhere. You know how transient these girls are. Most of them are on a circuit, Bangkok -Phuket -Pattaya and then back to the Big Durian.’
‘I know but I promised I would ask you. Also Sonia thinks that Johnny Wou may be here in the States. See what you can find out, will you.’
‘No problem, I’ll get back to you in a couple of days. Take care of yourself.’
Rick replaced the receiver and lay back on the bed. Tomorrow was Thursday, another busy day. The weekdays were when the locals packed Ricks Bar. This way they avoided the crush of the bridge and tunnel crowd coming into Manhattan from the outer boroughs on the weekends. Rick knew it would be a hectic day, with the phone ringing constantly for reservations. The chef would experiment with exotic specials, things that would not sell on the weekends. Shark curry with coconut cream, stuffed goose neck and Chinese cabbage.
On the weekends, the chef usually did entrees that sounded exotic but weren’t so the visitors to the city would be happy on both counts- things like porcini polenta or monkfish with lobster veloute. The prices on the specials also got jacked up a bit; the weekend traffic out for a good time in the big city wouldn’t mind.
Sonia usually drove all the girls in the mini-van and got to work at two in the afternoon. Rick went in at noon to check the deliveries, open the mail and sort out the previous night’s receipts. Rick knew that he could expect a good number of celebrities dropping in without a reservation. That was okay as Rick had learned by now to hold back a few tables. The room would normally have a half dozen TV news anchors, music people or movie stars. They usually only came on the weekdays when they knew that they would not be pestered by the other customers. Most people that lived in Manhattan thought that they were pretty important themselves and would not make a fuss over a mere actor or singer.
Sonia came out of the bathroom in a white terry cloth robe, rubbing her damp hair with a towel. Sonia was blessed with perfect white teeth and full sensuous lips.
Rick smiled at her, realizing how lucky he was. ‘I spoke to Jip. He’s going to get right on it. Come on to bed, it’s been a long day.’
Sonia let the robe slip from her shoulders revealing firm, full breasts and a flat stomach. She leaned over Rick, her lips touching his, her breasts grazing his chest.
‘It’s not over yet.’ She pressed down onto him, kissing him full on the mouth.
Taking shape nicely!