First You Die, Chapter 5: Death In Bangkok
First You Die, Chapter Five: Death In Bangkok
Jip was finished with work for the day and he drove his Honda Dream home to eat dinner with his wife Nui. The children were in bed already. Jip was three hours late but Nui kissed and hugged him and hurried to warm dinner. She never ate without him. She had fed the children hours ago and put them to bed.
Jip sat at the small table in the kitchen and opened the Bangkok Post. He enjoyed the few minutes of peace and relaxation. Nui served him rice soup with fish and coconut and then sautéed squid, ginger, onions, and plenty of vegetables and steamed rice on the side. It was a humble but healthy meal. Jip enjoyed the simple meals that his wife cooked. She never once complained about not being able to afford a chicken or whole fish more than twice a week. Many times the children ate the fish and she made soup with the head and leftovers for herself and her husband. Nui never spoke first at dinner. Jip knew this and often would start a conversation even when he preferred to eat silently.
‘I might have to go out later tonight. Two girls died in the restroom of Club 44 Magnum. I want to go over and take a look around.’
‘Why can’t you send someone?’ Why do you always have to get involved in these things?’
‘Our daughter is eleven years old. Soon you will not be able to keep her home all of the time. We need to make Bangkok a safer place for everyone.’
Nui nodded her head. She knew that arguing with him would be futile and that he would go anyway, no mater what she said. They both knew that she would not sleep until his return.
Jip finished his dinner. ‘I’ll try not to be late.’ He changed into a black T-shirt and tight black jeans. He had an athlete’s body and the confidence that goes with it. Jip quietly entered his daughter’s room and picked up a jar of hair jell, dipping his fingers into the goo, spreading it through his hair and then pulling up, spiking his hair. Buddha help me, I am too old at thirty-three to be visiting discos, he thought. But he knew in the darkness he could pass for someone younger. Jip picked up his wallet and badge, his gun would have to stay home, in this outfit there was no place to conceal it.
Jip started his motorbike and drove towards the highway to the nightclub. Even though Magnum was in his police district, he doubted he would be recognized dressed like this. After twenty minutes he pulled into the large parking lot. Uniformed attendants held flashlights and blew whistles waving him towards the area for bike parking. There were hundreds and hundreds of motorbikes parked in rows four deep.
Jip turned towards the very end of the lot, wanting to be able to find his bike again among the mass of motorcycles. The club was licensed to hold a thousand people but late at night the crowds swelled to almost double that. Jip locked his bike and walked
slowly towards the huge club, not anxious to be jammed in among the kids and the noise and the smoke.
Jip passed car after car, Mercedes, BMW’s, pick-up trucks painted bright colors, lowered so near to the ground that they would not be able to go over even the smallest speed bump. Jip knew that many of the vehicles contained speakers and amplifiers that would be more fitting in a disco or a nightclub and had the power to blast music halfway across the city. There was a couple close together in the car ahead. Many of the kids made-out in the cars after a few drinks or smoked some grass. Jip was not here to hassle anyone for something like this and merely glanced over as he walked by.
Jip looked again; there was something about the angle of the driver’s head. The girl’s head slumped over on his arm. Sleeping? Jip tapped lightly on the window. Nothing. Jip tapped again. No one moved. Jip tried the door. It was locked. Jip banged on the window now. No response.
‘Hey, over here,’ Jip shouted to a parking attendant. A man in a brown uniform strolled over. Jip grabbed the flashlight from the man’s hand and using the butt of it, smashed in the window. He reached in and opened the door.
‘Stop you can’t do that.’ the attendant put his hand on Jip’s shoulder. Jip shoved him back without looking. Jip grabbed the boy under the arms and pulled him out and laid him on the asphalt parking lot. ‘Call an ambulance,’ Jip shouted as he dragged the girl across the front seat.
‘I can’t call anyone with out my boss’s permission.’
Jip grabbed the cell phone from the man’s belt, punched in the emergency number for an ambulance – ‘there are two people unconscious in the parking lot of Magnum.’
‘You shouldn’t do that; my boss is going to get mad. He does not want a fuss here.’
Jip ignored the attendant and placed his hand on the boy’s face, bending over to breathe air into his lungs. The coldness of the body shocked him. He felt for a pulse. There wasn’t any. Jip pulled the girl out of the car and gently laid her on the ground next to the young man. He picked up the girl’s wrist. Nothing – damn. Jip gave the girl mouth to mouth, completely covering her lips with his, holding her nose shut with his fingers. The girl’s lips and nostrils were tinged with blue and her nose was cold to his touch. Jip took a deep breath and forced air into the girl’s lungs and then pressed down gently on her chest, making her exhale as he inhaled again and repeated the process. He kept going, not knowing how long he was at it, breathe, breathe he prayed as he labored. He was unaware of the screaming of a siren as an ambulance screeched up, lights flashing.
Two white-uniformed men jumped out and examined the bodies. One placed an oxygen mask over the boy’s nose and mouth, turning the round valve on top of a cylinder, forcing oxygen into his lungs. The other attendant continued to help respire the girl. The minutes passed slowly as Jip watched, a helpless sick feeling creeping over him, twisting and sinking into his stomach. The ambulance driver and his helper stood up and looked at Jip. He knew what it meant. He had seen it too many times before.
‘Where will you take them?
‘They have to go to the King Rama Public Hospital first. It’s only a formality. We’ll contact their parents, let them come there, easier for everyone that way.’
Jip opened his wallet. ‘Here’s my card. I am officially requesting an autopsy. Tell the hospital I want the results to be delivered to my office as soon as possible.’ Jip turned and walked back towards his motorcycle. Loud music and dancing were off the program for tonight. He left his helmet strapped to the back of his seat, letting the wind blow into his face and over him, hoping it would cleanse his thoughts, blow away the smell of death and the grievous scene from his head.
Jip drove directly to the hospital and went into the administration office. He filled out form A-10, Request for Autopsy. This could not be ignored. The poor inconsolable parents would not be able to take their children home with them or even to make arrangements for a cremation until the autopsy request was fulfilled. These kids were too young to die and by God this time he would find out why.
Jip went home not feeling any better having completed his task. He showered and slipped into bed with his wife and they wrapped their arms around each other; Jip silently giving thanks for his good fortune with his family.
Jip was at work early the next day, typing his own report about the occurrence last night on an incident report form. That’s what they called it until they had better information. The inter-office buzzer rang on his phone and he picked up the receiver. It was his boss, Colonel Wansina.
‘Come in here please.’ Then a click on the line.
Great Buddha, what now? Jip rose from his chair. It seemed it was never good news when the colonel called him into his office. Jip knocked on the opaque door window and entered the colonel’s office, saluting and standing at attention before the colonel’s desk.
The colonel had both hands spread flat on the desk as if he was about to spring up at the person in front of him. ‘Jipthep, you know you are not authorized to investigate any cases without my approval. What were you doing at the Magnum last night?’
‘Just out for a drink Sir.’
‘You? A health fanatic? A married man? Out for a drink at a nightclub? You expect me to believe that?’
Jip stood silent and waited for the tirade to be over.
‘Damn it. I will not tolerate disobedience. Do you understand me? The club has been under surveillance for some time by our undercover agents and I do not want you to set foot on the property. Do I make myself clear?’ The Colonel’s
voice rising now, almost to a shout.
‘Sir, yes Sir.’
‘Dismissed.’ The colonel waved his hand and picked up a paper from his desk, not looking at the officer in front of him.
Jip saluted, did a smart turnabout and opened the office door almost knocking over a sergeant carrying a brown envelope.
‘This just came for you.’ The officer held out the package.
Jip read the return address. King Rama Hospital. He took it back to his office and slit open the flap, and unfolded the autopsy report. Death by carbon monoxide inhalation. Jip looked at the bottom of the page for a doctor’s signature. The report was signed by a Doctor Bouy. Jip dialed the hospital and asked to speak to him. Jip was put on hold and after listening to elevator music for five minutes, he was told that the doctor could not be located.
Jip rushed out to his motorbike and sped towards the hospital, thoughts careening around in his head like errant ping-pong balls. He went directly into the brightly-lit administration office and showed his identification to the girl at the desk.
‘Captain Jipthep. I was at the scene of the accident last night involving a young couple. May I see the paper work on that please?’
The office girl wore a light green uniform with a round collar and beige stockings. She opened a file cabinet and after a brief search, handed a cardboard folder to Jipthep.
He thumbed through the papers, looking for a list of items owned by the deceased. He found the boy’s first. Paiboon Nilapaijit, age 22. Articles accounted for: wallet, four thousand and eighty baht in cash, Thai Farmers Bank ATM card, student ID card, two condoms, car keys, handkerchief, breath mints and a final item that was crossed out in black ink making it impossible to read.
‘Where can I find Doctor Bouy?’ Jip snapped the folder shut.
‘Second lower level, pathology department. Wait, you can’t take those files with you,’ the girl rose from her desk holding an arm out to him, a worried expression on her face.
Jip was out of the door almost running down the hallway. He pressed the elevator button and then 2B when the door opened. Jip tapped the folder impatiently against his leg as the elevator moved slowly downward into the bowels of the hospital. The elevator door glided open, the air filled with the smell of alcohol and disinfectant. Jip saw a sign pointing to the pathology department. He opened a door. There was a nurse and two doctors in a small office. ‘Who’s Doctor Bouy?’ He demanded.
The nurse and one doctor were seated and they rose to their feet, unsure of what was happening and of the tone in the man’s voice.
Doctor Bouy was tall and heavyset, about forty years old. A white button-down collared shirt and maroon striped tie under his white jacket. He was not a man to be put off by anyone rushing into his office. He looked down at Jip with a mixture of curiosity and scorn.
‘I am. How can I help you?’
Jip waved the file in the man’s face. ‘You did the autopsies? Death by carbon monoxide poisoning? Is that what you sent me?’
The man folded his arms across his chest. ‘What about it?’
Jip smacked him across the face with the file, then brought his arm back and slapped him with the file again. The doctor reacted immediately, swinging his fist down like a hammer. Jip stepped inside of the blow, grabbing the doctor’s shirt with one hand, still holding the file with his other hand, turned, put his side into the doctor, bent slightly and swept the doctor off his feet and onto the floor. He made it look ridiculously easy.
‘Give me security,’ the nurse had picked up the phone, her face distorted in fright.
The doctor rose to his feet, straightening his tie, brushing the sleeve of his jacket, ‘Hold on. We can talk this over. Will you both step outside for just a minute please?’
He turned to face Jip. ‘So you’re the famous Captain Jipthep, are you? The policeman’s answer to proctology. A pain in the ass to everyone. You have a big problem now. There’s nothing wrong with that autopsy. I did it myself.’
‘The motor was off. I was there, or didn’t you know?’ Jip cocked his head looking at the doctor.
‘The car probably ran out of gas. They may have been out there listening to the radio, poor kids.’
‘You stupid buffalo. A doctor in someone’s pocket? You don’t make enough money? You’re supposed to save lives. Here,’ Jip shouted, throwing the files on the desk. ‘Look at what the kid had in his pocket. Keys. Car keys, you dog-shit. So he died and then put the keys back in his pocket?’ Jip clamped one hand on the other, marshalling his self-control, trying not to hit the doctor again.
‘Listen to me, Jipthep. You’re in over your head. Orders came down on this. Don’t mess in things that don’t concern you. These deaths were an accident, I swear to you. Don’t worry about it. It may not happen again.’
‘What’s the item on this list that’s crossed out?’
‘Doctors do not make lists of patient’s possessions. Things like that are done by the attendants,’ the doctor sneered.
Jip picked up the files, pointing them at the man’s face. ‘But changed by the doctors? I’ll get you for this.’
‘The only thing you’re going to get is a world of trouble. Leave the files here, they’re hospital property.’
Jip stormed out of the room past the nurse and doctor just outside the door. He spoke to himself as he walked to the elevator and then out of the hospital to his motorcycle, trying to keep calm.
Twenty minutes and he would be back at the precinct. Jip turned on the highway, crowded as usual. He had to have some time to himself, to think about this. Kids were dying and no one was interested? Why? Was it the Magnum or was it happening other places too?
Someone got to the doctor. Who else did they get to? And who are they? Jip drove directly to his office and stewed in his office, fuming. Not go back to the club? Not investigate deaths? What was he doing as a policeman? He had to clear this up, think of a plan of action. He would try to calm down, let it rest, let the answer come to him and it would come, like a secret in the night, unbidden and unexpected.
He had an hour to go before his shift was over and he pulled out the Bangkok phone book. He worked on solving the murder of his father everyday. It was twelve years ago that his father had been shot down on a deserted street. Jip was just graduating Kasetart University when it had happened. He changed his plans and joined the police force; his degree in international business meant nothing to him now. In the interim, the street had disappeared, a shopping mall obliterating all trace. The houses had been torn down and the people living there had been displaced, dispersed to God knows where.
Jip had recently obtained a list of subscribers to the Naew Na Newspaper. The list was very old and had been dug out of a warehouse by a former employee of the paper. It had taken Jip three years to find the man and pay him for the list.
If Jip could find the name and address of someone that had lived on the street he could see if they were listed in the current phone book and interview them. He had run into more dead ends than leads. But he had found some names and a few facts by carefully
interviewing the residents of the street or their children, who were grown now and living in other parts of the Kingdom. There were six families on the old street that had once subscribed to the newspaper. Jip had exhausted four of the names,
matching them in the phone books. He was currently working on the surname of Somboonsap. There were eighteen listings of Somboonsap in Bangkok and he had called most of them yesterday.
He glanced at the stack of phone books on the floor under the desk. When he had gone through the Bangkok book he had eleven other cities to check. Jip picked up the phone and dialed a number. He didn’t worry about the first names, if he could only find a son or daughter or relative that remembered something-anything about that night. A woman answered the phone.
‘Good evening. This is Khun Jipthep from the Naew Na Newspaper.’
‘Not interested. I don’t read the papers; entirely too much violence and I want to tell you that those photographs on the front page of all the accidents and dead people are disgusting. How can you print such stuff?’
‘I’m calling about a return of an over payment. Have you or anyone in your family ever lived on Soi 77, Thanon Ekachai?’
‘I lived there with my parents when I was a little girl.’
‘You may be due a few thousand baht from your old subscription to the newspaper, but it was probably your parents that subscribed. May I speak to your mother or father please.’
‘My father died years ago and my mother is very old now. Can you just send us the money in the mail?’
‘I’m sorry. I have to check with your mother to see if she is the proper person. Where does she live now?’
‘She lives with us here, but I don’t want you to bother her.’
‘It would be a great help to me if I could just put these accounts in order and it would only take a minute. I will bring the money with me. When would it be convenient for me to come?’
‘How much did you say it was?’
‘Two thousand baht. I need to reconcile the books; it’s been a long time. I may need to ask your mother just a couple of questions.’
‘Tomorrow night about seven o’clock would be all right. Do you have the address?’
‘Yes, tomorrow will be fine. I’ll bring the money with me. Thank you very much.’ Jip replaced the receiver in its cradle, a satisfied look on his face. He never identified himself as a policeman any more. He had found out the hard way that it was a path to instant rejection. The average Thai person wanted nothing more to do with the police than they did with evil spirits. Dealing with the police always cost money and caused unnecessary grief.
The inter-officer buzzer rang. Oh no, not again. Another meeting with Colonel Wansina? Jip sighed, he could accept anything now. He had run out of steam for the moment. Whatever the colonel had to say, it could not be as frustrating as what happened at the hospital. As Jip entered the office, Colonel Wansina looked up at him, pity and wonder in his expression, his head shaking from side to side.
‘You were at the hospital today? You took hospital papers that did not belong to you? Colonel Wansina folded his thick fingers together into a double fist. He was a solidly built man, almost chubby with heavy black hair combed straight back.
He stared at Jipthep as he banged his fists on the desk. ‘They told me that you would be difficult when you were assigned here. ‘I under estimated you. It would be demeaning for a captain of the Bangkok Police to be directing traffic. How stupid would you feel? Or your only duties-to feed the prisoners here, drunks, petty thieves-giving them rice gruel twice a day? I need you here in the office and on the job.’
Wansina stood up, his voice roared, ‘This is the last time I will speak to you before taking action against you and make no mistake. You will be very sorry, very sorry indeed. You will curse the day you thought to disobey me. Get out of here. I don’t want to see your face again.’
Jipthep saluted and left the office. He wanted to go home. He wanted to be with his wife and children. He was thoroughly depressed. Jip rushed out of the building, kicked his Honda motorcycle to life and sped out of the parking lot, down the drive and headed towards the highway. It was rush hour and the traffic became even thicker on the main road. An old blue dump truck tailgated him-not unusual in Bangkok. The truck came closer and bumped into the back of Jip’s bike just as Jip accelerated. A close call, the bike wobbled from the nudge as Jip turned the throttle and sped around the car in front of him. It was always nerve-wracking to drive home at this hour. After a few minutes, the huge blue truck pulled alongside of him. Jip could see the driver looking down at him. Jip instinctively quickened his speed, just as the driver wrenched the wheel to the left, the truck’s big front fender missing Jip by centimeters. Jip scooted in-between the cars ahead, opening the distance between him and the truck. There was no mistaking the look on the driver’s face. Jip had heard the expression in court more than once; malice aforethought would be the proper expression. Jip took the next turn off the highway and kept an eye in the rear view mirror all the way home.
If only I had time.