First You Die, Chapter 12: Bangkok Bound
Pet knew what he was going to do and he had an address. He flagged a cab. ‘Two two seven Franklin,’ he told the driver. Pet wondered why in Bangkok, all of the cab drivers were Thai and here in America, he had not seen one American driving
a cab. A strange place, New York, filthy trains that ran underground while Bangkok had the Sky Train that rode above the streets and was much cleaner. He would be happy to go home.
‘Stop here,’ he said when the cab was a block from his destination. He wanted to walk the rest of the way and look around. He had been there before to kill Rick but they couldn’t gain entrance. This time he would simply wait outside until he saw Rick or Sonia and shoot them down in the street like dogs. The garage across the way was dead quiet, as was the entire area.
He couldn’t understand; if Rick and Sonia had all that money they had taken from Khun Wou, why did they live in an area that was plainly industrial? It looked like it was full of factories or old warehouses, almost like Klong Toey. He would never be able to figure out these stupid Americans.
A rat ran across the street as Pet stepped over a bum slumped against the stairs. Pet decided to stand in the shadows, against the side of the steps, out of sight. He didn’t have to wait long. Pet smiled as a green Jaguar pulled up to the building. He gripped the small assault rifle underneath his jacket. He thumbed the selective fire switch from three shot bursts to full automatic. He’d cut this Farang to pieces and his passenger too if need be. Pet was startled to see Rick jump out of the car holding a shotgun and he hesitated. By the time he had decided to shoot him, Rick was inside the building.
The elevator was on the ground floor as Rick had hoped and he pushed the metal folding gate to the side, stepped in and punched the number five. The old elevator slowly creaked its way up. Rick ran to his apartment and threw his Glock and the shotgun on the bed, grabbed his passport from his desk and a stack of cash from a shoebox in the back of his closet.
He was almost out of the door when Blossom appeared. ‘Khun Rick, policemen come here look for you.’
‘You know, one man very big, other man look like cowboy.’
‘Thanks.’ Rick ran down the steps. He could make it faster than the elevator. The girls loved American culture, he thought, especially that cowboy and Indian stuff, although Rick suspected that they always rooted for the Indians when they watched the old movies. Rick knew that Blossom also thought Detective Verrone looked like Kenny Rogers. Rick opened the front door of his building. Soon he would be in Bangkok.
‘Haaay, Misteeer, can ya gimme a dollar?’
Pet turned, the bum was stumbling in his direction. Pet eyed him with distaste. The homeless man fell towards Pet, grabbing onto him, staggering around, trying to stay on his feet. Pet smacked him in the face and sent the man flying to the gutter where he rolled over and groaned. Pet did not need the interference. He had to concentrate. He was sure that Rick would be coming right down as the car engine was still running.
As Rick came bounding down the stairs towards the Jaguar, the man in the car sprang out and ran directly towards Pet.
‘Rick, get back.’ It was a Thai man that shouted.
No problem, Pet thought, raising his automatic weapon. I’ll kill them both. There was an explosion and Pet felt a surge of pain ripping through him, throwing him back against the stair railing. He wondered what had happened and tried to raise his weapon again. Two more slugs tore into his body and he crashed face forward on the sidewalk.
Jip stopped a few yards from where the large man was sprawled dead and turned to see the homeless man holding a pistol in one hand and digging into his pocket with the other.
‘Dana Inamerica, New York Police.’ The bum pulled out a leather billfold and flipped it open, revealing a gold detective’s shield.
‘I’m Captain Jipthep, Bangkok Police.’
‘Good. You did hear me identify myself as a police officer and shout to this man, drop your weapon or I’ll shoot, didn’t you?
Jip smiled. ‘Absolutely, I heard you loud and clear.
‘Okay, brother,’ Dana held out his closed fist.
Jip knew enough about American culture to give it a smack with his own.
Rick came down and shook the officer’s hand. ‘I thought you guys were called off us.’
‘We were. I’m on my own time; thought I would stick around a few more days.’
‘Thanks, you have to bring your family in for dinner, eat with us when we get back. I want to thank you properly,’ Rick said opening the door to the Jag.
‘Wait, you’re a material witness in a shooting. You have to go to the station house with me,’ Dana shouted as the Jaguar screamed away from the curb.
Detective Dana Inamerica was the most highly decorated cop on the force and it had been years since he had been in uniform. He and every other officer had only one thing in mind when they joined the department and that was to get out of the uniform as
soon as possible. Oh, he was proud to be a New York City Police Officer, as proud as he could be. But he and every other recruit had only one thing on their minds and that was the big time, making big arrests and large seizures and there was only
one path to that, detective and plain clothes assignments. They called it plain clothes but the undercover cops wore everything but that.
The selling and transfer of drugs is where the big time crime exists and also a path to promotion if you could make some arrests. Mostly black or Hispanic officers went undercover in these circumstances, dressing as street gang bangers, kerchief, jeans and t-shirt.
Dana was as clean-cut looking as could be; beautiful white teeth, bright blonde hair, tall and slim. He looked like a typical FBI agent or someone that should be guarding the president. He knew this and knew that it would be very difficult for him to get into undercover work.
His first year as a uniformed patrolman brought more arrests than any other officer in the history of the department. He had been assigned to the Bronx in a run down neighborhood dominated by drug dealers. Every corner was owned by gangs that sold crack cocaine. The dealer’s main concern was a rival gang moving in on them and when a tall, very white police officer in a spanking new uniform asked them to pack up and leave some of them rolled on the sidewalk laughing and jiving. It wasn’t long before they stopped laughing.
In those days the police carried standard issue six-shot revolvers and the street gangs had an enormous advantage of firepower. Mac-10s-thirty shot automatic weapons just a bit larger than a handgun; the new 14 shot Nines just coming out and even M-14 automatic rifles. Officer Inamerica was not impressed, having seen more action and gunfire in Vietnam than these kids could ever imagine.
Dana had re-enlisted in the army after his two-year tour of duty was over. He signed on for a three year re-up because he would have his choice of assignments. This was in 1970 when the war was full-on and the service was desperate for experienced soldiers.
He requested Ranger training and then went on to the Green Berets. When he joined the police force they gave him credit for time served in the army. Now he was just another rookie on foot patrol-that is until he started dragging in the street peddlers and then the higher ups in the gangs.
Dana knew that he had to get to the top of the organizations. To do this he started making the small collars, pressuring them to give up their superiors, not an easy task when they knew they might be executed for getting arrested or even speaking to cop.
He made so many arrests that his sergeant and precinct commander complained that they were kept too busy making out all of the paper work. They wanted him out of their jurisdiction, it just wasn’t worth it, all the trouble he was causing. How could he stop the flood of drugs in the neighborhood? They weren’t surprised when the patrolman was ambushed one evening by three members of the Crips that had come from California to stake out New York turf.
The corner dealers were not that easy to arrest as they only accepted the money and then pointed the buyer in the direction of an accomplice that was holding the drugs. Dana was about to arrest a dealer for loitering if it came to that just to get him
off the street when a large black Range Rover screeched over to the curb carrying three men sporting red bandanas, big smiles and nine millimeter handguns.
The man in the front passenger seat had his gun out of the window and fired as the driver leapt out and steadied his arms on the car hood holding the pistol with both hands firing four times in three seconds. The front passenger’s first shot ripped through Dana’s chest shoving him back against a telephone pole. Dana cleared his weapon at the same time and shot the man in the face.
Bullets flew past the officer as he tried to stay on his feet. He turned slightly in the direction of the driver and fired two shots into the man. The third Crip sprang from the rear of the car firing as rapidly as he could pull the trigger. The street dealer caught a few slugs and crumpled to the ground as bullets whizzed by Dana’s head. One projectile raked across the side of his face and another creased his hair. A third bullet took off the back of a knuckle.
Dana had his arm extended, his entire body leaning in the direction of the target, his pistol reaching out for the man as he felt himself starting to slide to the ground against his will, splinters from the old wood pole jabbing into his back. He squeezed the trigger twice and the third man got two in the chest, black circles appearing almost on top of each other on the man’s shirt pocket.
Dana found himself sitting on the ground feeling very tired. He slowly dug out his radio as he tried to stay conscious. He gave his position first and then requested an ambulance then rolled the street dealer over but the man was beyond any help that he thought he might have given him.
The mayor visited Officer Inamerica in the hospital as did the commissioner and all of the newspapers. The front page headline in The Daily News read “Cool Under Fire.”
Dana reported back to duty after three weeks and was cleared by the departmental hearing that was conducted every time an officer fired his weapon. The shooting was determined to be justified and that deadly force was deemed necessary.
He was called downtown the next day and that was cause for concern as no one ever wanted to go to One Police Plaza. Inamerica’s shoes and brass were always polished and he was fairly self-confident. He went with only a small amount of trepidation but he knew it could mean trouble. He reported to a Chief Inspector and then was sent above to the higher floors. He knew that this meant more brass and wondered what was about to happen.
He was escorted into a comfortable outer office decorated like a living room with leather couches, overstuffed chairs, coffee tables, and paintings of sail boats on the wood paneled walls. He jumped to attention and saluted when Commissioner Policarpio abruptly entered the room.
‘At ease. Want some coffee?’ Policarpio walked over and shook hands with the officer. ‘Sit down. What do you think you are doing out there- making all those arrests? Building up statistics? Stopping crime? Making a name for yourself?’ The Commissioner hovered over him. Dana was six feet two and taller than the Commissioner- but not now, sunk into a sofa.
Taken back for a minute, Dana paused and then thought the hell with it. ‘I’m stopping crime and it can be done if everyone would get up off their asses.’
‘Meaning who?’ Policarpio hands were on his hips it didn’t take an expert to read his body language.
‘Begging your pardon Commissioner. Everyone. I need the help of the chiefs, mobilize all of our forces, arrest everyone in sight.’
‘Civil rights be damned?’
‘This is war and you can win only one way. That’s not to be held back by the bureaucrats. You want to win the war on drugs you have to go to war.’
‘I have your file. Don’t give me any of that war crap. I know your record. Big shot hero-don’t mean shit to me here. I’m going to lunch. Write out a list of recommendations and wait right here. I’ll be back in an hour.’ Policarpio flung a yellow pad at him and stormed out.
Patrolman Inamerica wrote a detailed plan for clearing the neighborhood of drug dealers. Hell, it wasn’t much different than Vietnam. Cordon off the ends of the streets, seal off any exits, make a sweep of the area, and grab up the drugs and dealers before they knew what hit them.
The Commissioner was already interested in what the officer was doing and was hoping he had the right man for the job. He bumped him to Sergeant and ordered his superiors to cooperate. Dana brought the drugs to a halt and with that the neighborhood crime
almost ceased to exist. The residents were happy along with the newspapers and politicians.
Everyone was pleased except Inamerica’s commanders who felt they were made out to be fools. They subjected him to every indignity, every inspection and every crappy assignment that they could think of.
That is, until a few months later when he earned the respect of every officer in the precinct along with the nickname elephant nuts. Not that anyone ever referred to him by that name to his face and the only time that he heard it was the day after when he found two huge brass balls taped to his locker.
He was back on foot patrol, still in the Bronx when his radio sounded and he was commanded to a gas station two blocks away. He ran to the scene and saw three squad cars surrounding the station.
‘Inamerica, get out there- help cordon off the area.’ The police captain threw a roll of yellow tape to him and pointed. People were crowding the sidewalks and street to watch the proceedings. Dana grabbed a couple of officers and pushed the bystanders back. The smell of gasoline was overwhelming. Fire trucks were arriving now and firemen tumbled from the trucks clutching pressurized canisters of fire retardant. Some of the firemen resembled sea divers with oxygen tanks strapped to their backs and masks on their faces. They rushed forward only to be held back by the police line.
Dana turned to see a Puerto Rican man holding a woman with a baby, one arm around the woman’s neck. At the end of arm, the man’s hand held a pistol. With the other hand he held a gas pump nozzle and was spraying gasoline all over, turning his head from side to side with a crazed look in his eyes. The man and his hostages were standing in a huge pool of gasoline and it was getting deeper every second. There were dozens of officers with guns drawn but no one dared to fire. A black van screeched to a stop and the swat team sprang out in full gear, helmets, vests, automatic weapons. A loud speaker blared, ‘throw your gun down and put your hands up.’
Dana thought that the situation could only get any worse. He pushed his way to the front and collared the captain. ‘Where is the hostage negotiator?’
‘God damn it Inamerica, get your ass back to the sidewalk. He’ll be here in a few minutes.’
‘I don’t think we can wait. I know the guys pretty deranged looking but I think he’s just scared.’
‘He should be, for Christ sake.’
‘I think I can bring him in. Let me go talk to him.’
‘No way. Get back on the damn sidewalk.’
Dana brushed past the chief and the squad cars, holding up his hands as he approached the gas station. The suspect turned his arm and pointed the weapon at him. ‘Keep away or I’ll shoot.’
Dana kept walking and unbuckled his belt. He was nearer now and his gun, radio and summons book splashed into the gasoline along with the big black leather belt.
‘Take it easy. I just want to talk to you. I’m not armed.’ Dana took off his shirt and the T-shirt underneath, holding his hands up, still coming closer, gasoline sloshing into his shoes as he approached. How many gallons were down there he wondered. Already the black pavement was inches deep in the liquid; the fumes burning into his eyes and nostrils.
The captain had stopped screaming at him and the bullhorn was quiet. Everyone watched in silence. Dana turned his back on the man and yelled to the officers, ‘Everyone holster your weapons. We’re going to surrender.’
The man’s hand still tightly gripped the lever of the nozzle; gasoline rushing out like a fountain, splashing on the officer’s shoes, soaking his pants, pouring past him and spilling into the huge pool that they were all standing in.
‘If you come any closer, I’ll blow us all to kingdom come.’
‘No one will hurt you, I promise. I guarantee your safety if you come with me. Let’s both stay alive.’ Dana spoke gently and edged closer, reached out and pried the man’s fingers from the nozzle.
‘I’ll help you, don’t worry.’ Dana slipped his hand over the man’s revolver, forcing his thumb into the gap between the cocked hammer and the pistol. Dana’s feet were really stinging now, his shoes completely filled with gasoline. The fumes were dizzying.
The man looked dazed but relieved when shirtless cop put his arm around him and walked him out of the gas station. The woman ran with her child and was quickly scooped up by two emergency technicians. Police officers stripped the crazed man of his gas soaked clothes and started taking Dana’s pants and shoes off.
The captain grabbed his arm. ‘God damn you Inamerica. I’m going to kick your ass for not listening to me- you son of a bitch.’ The captain’s face broke into a wide grin. ‘But I do have to say you have the biggest set of balls I’ve ever seen.’
Sergeant Inamerica was awarded the detective’s shield for his bravery and was advanced to the homicide division without having to spend time in complaints or robbery or chasing down juvenile offenders. He gave up hope of undercover work and spent his spare time going to The John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the upper west side of Manhattan. He was majoring in law courses with business and art as his minors. He knew a law degree would be an immense help towards a promotion but he got sidetracked along the way.
He was required to take minors in art and history and discovered that he loved reading about the old painters. When he was assigned to see an opera he was annoyed, the Eagles being his favorite singing group. To Inamerica’s amazement he loved it even if he couldn’t understand the language. The first opera he saw was Carmen, a tale of love, dishonor and revenge and he was hooked. He had never dreamed that opera could be so exciting. He had thought that it was only for old rich folks and the music was wonderful too. He continued his law studies and became an art major also.
A gallery on Madison Avenue called in a tip that a man had come by with what looked like a stolen painting. Police Commissioner Policarpio had kept in touch with Dana and tapped him to act as a buyer and that was the start of the undercover assignments. White collar crime was on the rise in a big way. Dana was sent to Merrill Lynch to study the Wall Street market and further his education. Organized crime was invading upper class business and he blended in perfectly as a yuppie stock broker.
Dana made some big arrests and recovered millions of dollars worth of stolen bonds. The Commissioner owed him, and that was how he got back on the street, dressing like a bum, stumbling around, looking dead drunk.
Rick drove towards Kennedy Airport. When he had gone through the Queens Mid-Town Tunnel and was on the highway making good time, he picked up the mobile phone and punched in Detective Verrone’s number; he certainly knew it by heart now.
‘Hi Louis, you were over to see me tonight?’
‘We were wondering what you’ve been up to-Dutcher and I. There was a shooting at the Double Lucky Health Clinic earlier this evening. One man was killed and the doctor was seen being forced into the trunk of a car and the doorman and the nurse have disappeared. I want you to come down here to the precinct. Word has it that an Asian and a white male attacked the clinic and murdered the attendant.’
‘I don’t suppose the attendant was holding an automatic weapon in his hands.’
‘No. We didn’t find a body, just a lot of blood. We also found a few shotgun slugs in the wall, but no empty casing which means that the perpetrator either used a double barrel and had another shot left so they didn’t eject the spent shell or if they had an automatic or a pump they picked the shell up- something your average hold-up guy would not think of. So it wasn’t your ordinary robbery.’
‘Jeeze Louis. Is that why they call you guys’ detectives? Figure that all out by yourself or did Dutcher help you with it?’
Louis ignored him. ‘What I was getting to is- I checked the NYC gun permit records. You own a shotgun. A combat magnum? Afraid the deer are going to shoot back, are you?’
‘Hey, New York is a tough place. I wouldn’t be surprised at anything.’
‘Me neither. Are you coming down here, or do I have to come and get you?’
‘I’m on my way to have some Thai food and then I’ll be over. Will that be all right?’
‘Sure, if you say so, and by the way, one of our men, Detective Inamerica, just shot someone in front of your apartment tonight. But of course, you know that. You were there-and with an Asian man. What a coincidence. So you can see why we’re anxious to talk to you and your friend.’
‘I understand perfectly and I appreciate your sharing this with me. You understand, of course, that finding Sonia is my first priority.’
‘Yes, that’s why we want to talk to you. You understand that solving a murder, no matter who commits it, is our first priority.’
‘Since we’re on the phone, I want to clue you into something. The stainless steel tanks at the clinic- are they still there?’
‘Yeah, what makes you ask?’
‘It’s anhydrous ammonia. You know what that is? Fertilizer. It’s used to make explosives. Big explosives.’
‘Christ, I’ll get the bomb squad over. What are these guys- terrorists?’
‘Looks like it.’
‘Okay, I owe you one. So I might as well tell you now. We sent Detective Nizzer to the health clinic today for a check up.’
‘Probably could use one.’
‘Yeah well, it wasn’t much of an exam. But the Nizzer is a pretty smart cookie.’
‘You mean the way he behaves is just an act?’
‘Joe’s a special individual. But anyway, he goes into a bar, orders a shot of Jack Daniels, pays and walks out. Then he lets the whiskey dribble out of his mouth onto his shirt. By the time he gets to the clinic, since he has on his regular street clothes he not only looks like a bum but smells like one. So they listen to his heart, tap him on the chest a few times and give him a blood test, make him wait twenty minutes for the results. And get this, they ask him to jerk off in a bottle. Joe gets insulted and says what kind of a jerk do you think I am? Ha-ha. Anyway they end up offering him twenty-five bucks for his sperm.’
‘Well, the sign on the window said fertility clinic but who the hell would want to have a baby and have it look like Joe Nizzer?’
‘You haven’t asked about Sonia yet.’
‘What about Sonia?’
‘It’s just that you’ve been on the phone with me every ten minutes asking about her, and now nothing.’
‘So, you know something we don’t know. That’s why you didn’t ask. What is it you know?’
‘I don’t know what you’re taking about.’
‘You don’t hun? And how do you know about the anhydrous ammonia?’
‘See you soon,’ Rick hung up the phone.
‘They are trying to say we murdered that attendant and abducted the doctor.’
Jip shrugged his shoulders. ‘Well, they’re half-right. We did abduct the doctor and with good reason I might add.’
‘And shot the little fucker with the gun too, and with good reason I might add.’ Rick held up his hand in a closed fist and Jip smacked it.
‘What’s new in Bangkok? Are you working on any cases?’ Rick kept his eyes on the road. The car was flying along now.
‘Mysterious deaths. Young people just dieing and I can’t determine the cause of death or even get an autopsy without interference from higher-ups. But I have a good lead that I’m going to follow up on as soon as we make sure that Sonia is safe.’
‘Can you tell me about it?’
‘Of course. I’m working on this case unofficially too, so no problem. I spoke to the man in black and-
‘Johnny Cash? You couldn’t have spoken to Johnny Cash.’
‘No, no. Let me explain. I got a tip from a very reliable source and I don’t want to mention his name but sometimes people refer to him as the man in black as he usually wears black slacks and a black shirt.’
‘So what was the big tip?’
‘He said to look for Eugene O’Neill. Said I would find it edifying but there’s no trace of the man in the Immigration records. I’ll have to search for him when I have the time.’
‘That name sounds familiar.’
‘Do you know anything about this O’Neill guy?’
‘Only that there was a writer years ago, wrote some famous stuff but I doubt it’s the same person.’
‘What did he write?’
‘It’s hard to say. There’s so many of them. “Mourning Becomes Electra,” “Long Days Journey into Night.”
‘Tell me about them.’
‘Electra is taken from a Greek legend about suicide and death. His most famous one might be “Long Days Journey.” It’s a play about a day in the life of a dysfunctional family. People say it’s based on his own experience.’
‘Doesn’t sound like what I’m looking for.’ Jip shook his head.
‘What are you looking for?’
‘I don’t know, but I bet there’s information in one of the books about the mysterious deaths in Bangkok.’
Rick looked doubtfully at his friend. ‘That’s impossible. They were written over fifty years ago. Eugene O’Neill’s been dead for a long time. No way there could be a connection.’
When they reached the airport, Rick put the car in short-term parking. It was much closer to the terminal. They picked up the tickets and boarding passes at the counter and headed towards the departures sign, walking down an arcade filled with stores
and shops selling souvenirs and last minute purchase items. Jip suddenly remembered something, strode away from Rick and into a bookstore. It was filled with dozens of newspapers, magazines and a few hundred paperbacks. He went directly to the
counter. ‘I would like to have a book by Eugene O’Neill please.’
‘Is it a best seller? Fiction or non-fiction?’ A young blonde girl smiled at him from behind the register.
‘I don’t know.’
‘How about Tom Clancy or John Grisham? The most popular books across the store are on that rack over there’
Rick had caught up and put his hand on Jip’s shoulder. ‘Not a likely author for an airport bookstore; not exactly vacation reading. His plays are mostly psychological drama, troubled lives and so on. We need to get to a library.’
‘Do you remember anything else about O’Neill? Any other stories?’
Rick put his arm through Jip’s and they continued on their way, passing through metal detectors. ‘Not much. It’s been a long time since I was in college.’
They entered the plane and settled back for the long flight. Rick buckled his belt and said a silent prayer that they would arrive in time to save Sonia. He didn’t give a rat’s ass for all that crap about O’Neill. Sonia was his only concern.
A flight attendant came by with a tray of orange juice.
‘Can I have two vodkas, please?’ Rick looked up and gave her his best smile.
‘As soon as the flight is in progress Sir.’
Rick gave Jip a poke. ‘Hey, can you order two vodkas for yourself when the flight attendant brings mine.’
‘I don’t drink.’
‘I know.’ Rick sat back in his seat and closed his eyes.
That Inamerica fellow is trouble!