First You Die, Chapter 4: Thai Policeman Jipthep
First You Die, Chapter Four: Thai Police Captain Jipthep
Police Captain Jipthep hung up the phone and stared at the stack of papers on his desk. Every police movement in his district was reported to the station and then checked by him. He would have to make recommendations for action on the reports and then send them on to his superior, Colonel Wansina.
Jip sighed at the hopelessness of it all, the never-ending crime, the senseless violence and the lack of performance in certain instances. Most of the time, he was stuck here in the office and was only assigned to investigate specific cases.
He looked through the reports: a woman held a cast iron frying pan, waiting next to the front door for her husband to come back from a night of drinking and bashed his head in when he stumbled home at four in the morning. An eighty-year old man stabbed his wife because she had served him tea that was only warm and not hot. One of the Ravana brothers had badly beaten a young girl in a nightclub because she had refused to dance with him. His bodyguards had attacked her boyfriend when he attempted to help the girl.
Jip would recommend immediate arrest in this last case, but knew that he might as well toss the entire file in the wastepaper basket. This kind of thing had been going on for years with the brothers who were grown men and not teenagers. Witnesses were always intimidated and refused to testify. Police reports used the name Ravana for the brothers because the senior member of the family was the leader of a powerful political party and even the police were afraid to incur the wrath of the overzealous protector of his wayward sons. There were three of them and were referred to as Ravanadum, Ravanadee and the last was called Running Ravana because he had allegedly murdered a police officer in a nightclub and fled. Jip thought about Ravana, who was a figure in the Ramakian, a classic tale of good and evil. Things often end up right only in fairy tales, he decided.
Two female university students were found dead in the toilet stall of a busy nightclub. There was no sign of violence. He recommended holding the bodies for an autopsy before the parents could rush them off for cremation.
Jip had seen many complaints of gambling houses when he had first arrived a year ago. He had recommended raids and investigations but nothing ever happened and soon the gambling complaints had stopped entirely. Jip could walk down almost any street and find a place to play jap-yi-ki, the popular twelve-card game or larger houses that offered free drinks, food and even women to its customers. Jip had to send a report to Colonel Wansina before he was allowed to raid a gambling den and was always told that these places were under surveillance and that no action was to be taken at this time. The colonel drove a large Mercedes sedan to work, other officers had new BMWs or Hondas, according to their rank and Jip did not have to wonder why.
Jip called his wife and told her that he would be late for dinner. They had an eleven-year old girl and eight-year old boy. Jip enrolled his children in the Police Athletic League. They learned how to swim and play soccer but more importantly studied
Muay Thai. It was a difficult and demanding task. The children studied hard as they worshiped their father and delighted in the fact that he was light-middleweight champion in the Police League for the past five years.
Jip was anxious to go home and see his wife and children but first he would go to Soi Four, Sukhumvit, to check on the missing girl that Rick had called about. It took another hour to go through the rest of the files. Captain Jipthep rubbed his neck and pushed his chair back. It had been a long day and the pathology reports should have been on his desk by now. He stood up, stretched and picked up the phone, dialing a number.
‘This is Captain Jipthep, where’s the reports on yesterday’s cases?’
‘Sorry, Captain, they’re on the way.’
‘Tell me now, so I can get out of here.’
‘There was the man that came home late—he died of blunt forced trauma to the head and the lady that was stabbed, she died of-’
‘Never mind that, what about the two girls?’
‘Clear evidence of cerebral hemorrhaging in each instance.’
‘Do a toxicology report for me on those two.’
‘Sorry, I can’t. The parents picked up the bodies today.’
Damn, he knew this would happen. Thais hated to have their relatives bodies violated in any way. Jip hung up the phone and signed off on the reports and dropped them on the colonel’s desk. He changed into his street clothes. He knew that it would be very difficult to get any real answers at a bar in his uniform.
Jip went out the back door to where his 100 cc Honda Dream was parked. He wanted his wife to have their Toyota automobile so that she would be safer in the fierce Bangkok traffic. Jip started the little bike and headed towards the Taksin Bridge; he would take South Sathorn Road towards Nana Plaza.
Rick woke up around ten the following day. Sonia was in the girl’s part of the loft. The English teacher came from ten until eleven. The girls did their homework until noon. This was perfect for Rick as it gave him some peace and quiet in the morning. Coffee and croissants from Balduccis were on a tray by his bed. Rick put on a light blue linen shirt, pleated pale yellow slacks and a navy blue sport jacket that he had picked up at Beau Brummel on West Broadway. He clipped the Glock on his belt. The jacket would keep it out of sight.
His office above the restaurant held his suits and ties and other nighttime dress clothes. He had been living over the restaurant for the past few years after his ex-wife had taken his apartment. Last year he had gone to Bangkok on vacation and met Sonia. She came back to America with him and had purchased the entire floor of a co-op building in Tribeca which was now very fashionable.
An area of land formed a large triangle below Canal Street hence the name. Maria Carey, Harvey Keitel and Scorsese all owned lofts on the same block.
Sonia had found two suitcases of drug money in a jeep in Chang Mai. The loft had cost her 950,000 US dollars. Rick paid the monthly maintenance and all of the expenses.
Rick stuck his head in the next room, said goodbye to Sonia, grabbed the Jag and drove east towards the restaurant. The first thing that he did on arrival was to go to the kitchen and say hello to his chef Danforth Rogers. Rick had hired Danforth twelve years ago when Dan was a sous-chef at Fiorellos and Rick managed the Lions Rock Restaurant on the Upper East Side. Rick had given Dan his first shot at running a kitchen and Dan had never let him down. Together they made the Lions Rock famous and then went on to open Ricks Bar downtown on Layfaette Street in SoHo. SoHo being an acronym for South of Houston. Houston Street runs from east to west, dividing lower Manhattan from midtown.
Rick had bought the run-down bar ten years ago in a crummy neighborhood. It was all that he could afford. It was previously named Le Zinc by the frogs that opened it. The French food was too fancy for the area and they went bust. It was a huge place on
the corner and had ceiling to floor glass windows in the front and on one side. The zinc- topped bar was still there. Rick had given up trying to clean the stains from it and decided that it added character to the joint. He changed the name to
Ricks Bar. Ricks Café would have been just a little too cute and that movie was overdone anyway. He put hamburgers on the menu and served food until four A.M.
Rick gave a troupe of girl dancers free drinks whenever they came in. The kids acting in the off-Broadway plays started hanging out after the shows. He got busier. Peter Allen was a regular at one time and Lisa Minnelli always shouted ‘Hey Rickey!’ when she stepped in the door. Robert De Niro and Drew Nieporent came by when they wanted to get away from their own restaurants and usually brought some famous faces with them.
Yuppies and Wall Street suits inflated with cash started buying up the lofts and old tenement houses. Rick didn’t appreciate the idea but business was great and he was doing pretty well.
Chef Danforth was a huge bear of a man, about thirty-five years old, with red hair and a red beard. He was a real sweetheart of a guy and eventually made quite a name for himself among the New York foodies, ending up with his own show on the TV Food Channel. Dan had done Asian fusion cooking years ago and when Sonia came in with her girls and wanted to add some authentic Thai food on the menu, it was no problem for him.
‘Hey Dan, what up? Rick said as he picked up the invoices from the day’s deliveries.
‘Chilean sea bass in papillote, soft-shell crabs tempura with asparagus wasabi and duck confit with black truffle risotto.’ Dan’s voice boomed across the clatter of pots and pans and knives chopping away in the busy kitchen.
Rick nodded to Dan and then at Miguel, who was leaning over the stove and busily stirring diced vegetables in a large stainless steel pot.
‘Cross training my friend. The dishwasher is learning how to make salads, the salad man- soups and the broiler man goes on sauté. They can cover for each other and move ahead from station to station when there’s a chance. Besides, Miguel doesn’t want to be a dishwasher the rest of his life.’ Dan smiled and tossed an oval loaf of bread to Rick as if he were making a football pass.
‘Sounds good. Hey, great bread, hot and crispy.’ Rick headed out of the kitchen with his catch.
‘Oh, yeah, there were a couple of Thai guys here asking for you about an hour ago.’
‘What did they look like?’
‘They had on baseball jackets and jeans and NY Yankees caps. One guy had his arm in a sling. They walked around like they owned the place. Didn’t answer when I spoke to them- just said your name a few times.’
‘If they come back, go upstairs and call the police. Don’t mess with them.’ Rick walked over to the reservations desk by the front door and picked up the phone. The second phone started to ring. Rick ignored it. If he started to answer the phone he’d be taking reservations all day. Rick had a private line in his upstairs office so his suppliers and friends could get in touch with him. Rick took out Detective Verrone’s card and punched in his number.
‘Hi, this is Rick Randel. There were two Thai guys here today, looking for me. Can you send someone over here- keep an eye on the place?’
‘Where are you now?’
‘At the restaurant.’
‘Can you see out the window?’
‘What do you see?’
‘Nothing, no one’s around except some hippy across the street. Looks like he’s selling hash pipes and love beads spread out on a blanket.’
‘That’s Dana Inamerica, the best undercover man we’ve got. He’s had your place under surveillance all morning. When those two guys left, Dana tailed them to The Mercer Hotel. Seems they are in a couple of suites with a bunch of other Thais. We’ve got the place staked out now. You didn’t tell me last night that someone shot up your hallway. All three of these three cases are probably tied together. The Captain really chewed my ass out for not bringing you in last night. You’re going to be here at four, right?’
‘Right, see you then.’ Rick hung up and walked to the stairs past the end of the bar. He could hear his private phone ringing as he unlocked the door. Rick threw the invoices on the desk and picked up the phone, ‘Rick speaking.’
‘This is Jip. I checked out Nana Plaza last night. The girl is definitely missing. I spoke to the owner of the bar and he says she’s very dependable and if she had left with some guy for three weeks, he would have had to bar fine her out. They’re getting five-hundred baht a night bar fine now and for three weeks that’s over ten thousand baht.’
Rick did some fast calculation in his head, at forty baht to the dollar it would come to over two hundred bucks. A hundred for the bar and a hundred for the girl. It’s unlikely that she would have left without getting the cash first.
‘And,’ Jip continued, ‘she lives with three other girls, they said nothings missing. She didn’t take as much as a toothbrush, so she’s on no vacation. I would say it’s a street snatch but when they grab girls off the street to work in the brothels up country or to sell them abroad they’re usually much younger.
The only clue we have to go on is that she was on her way to the Double Lucky Health Clinic to pick up the results of her blood test but apparently she never reached the clinic. Sorry for the bad news. I’ll nose around a little more, see what I can dig up.’
‘Thanks Jip, what about Johnny Wou?’
‘I found out that he’s still here in Bangkok. How you doing on your end?’
‘I think the two guys tried to blast down my door last night were just here and now I have to go to the police station. Other than that, things are fine. I’ll keep in touch.’
‘Okay, love to Sonia.’ The connection clicked off.