First You Die, Chapter 9: Johnny Wou
Sonia let two days pass and phoned the Double Lucky Clinic in Chinatown. The Thai nurse answered. ‘I’m so glad that you called. It’s your blood. The doctor needs to see you as soon as possible. When can you come in?’
‘What is it?’ Is wrong? How test come?’
‘I can’t tell you over the phone, it’s confidential and very personal so it’s better not to mention this to anyone, do you understand?’
The strain showed in Sonia’s voice. ‘Yes, I come now,’ Sonia managed to get out between sobs.
Sonia smiled as she hung up the phone. She had a full check-up last month at Manhattan Hospital. It cost fourteen hundred dollars including the lab work. She knew that she was the perfect specimen of heath. Sonia dug out some junk clothes and took the van. It was twelve noon and she had plenty of time to get back to the apartment and take the girls to work.
She wasted a half an hour finding a parking space, ending up on Mott Street, three blocks away from the clinic. There were a few people in the waiting room when Sonia arrived and she quietly took a seat. The nurse waved Sonia in ahead of the others as an old man left the doctor’s office.
The doctor motioned for Sonia to sit down. ‘Did you know that you have a most unusual blood type? We’ve been dying to find someone like you for quite a while now, pardon the expression. Sorry, I forgot that you don’t speak English.’
A short muscular Thai man came out of an adjoining room and stood near her. Sonia knew that she had RH Positive, from her recent exam. The other doctor had remarked on it. Sonia just stared at the doctor, not speaking. The doctor was smiling as he rolled up her sleeve and dabbed at her arm with an alcohol soaked ball of cotton.
‘What’s going on?’ Sonia stood up, grabbing at the doctor’s hand.
The short Thai man wrapped his arms around her, holding her fast. She felt a sharp prick in her arm. “Call Bangkok” was the last thing that she heard before she passed out.
Johnny Wou sat back in his plush leather chair and put his feet up on his antique six-foot carved mahogany desk. Behind him was a two hundred-gallon tropical fish tank built into the wall. In Asia, a tank like this was a sign of success.
He turned to watch the multi-colored rare fish laze by. It was soothing to him and so was his reflection as he admired his small pencil-thin mustache and perfectly groomed black hair. He was not a large man, only five feet four inches tall and of slight build but in his reflection he saw a giant and he knew that he was right. He had everything he had ever wanted: wealth, power and prestige.
His main source of income: drugs, heroin, amphetamines and opium, was going nicely and now he was expanding globally. His thoughts went back to his parents. His mother was a beautiful Thai masseuse when she met his father, a Haka Chinese smuggler. Dope, people, gold; whatever there was money in. His father was well established in Chinatown before he died. Johnny modernized and expanded the operation, first to the greater Bangkok area and then to all of Thailand.
He also owned the largest gambling den in Bangkok, a warehouse in Chinatown, protected by steel doors, barbed wire, narrow passageways and dozens of armed men. Police raids were notified well in advance and they found only an empty warehouse. Johnny Wou had thirty businesses in Chinatown and was invested in hundreds more. Wou did not think of himself as a ruthless killer and gangster. He was revered and even loved by many, many people.
He opened the doors to a warehouse there every year on Loy Krathong and gave twenty-pound bags of rice to every resident; in addition anyone may come and ask a favor; anything, money, help, connections, introductions. No one is turned away and everyone leaves with something. The crowds started forming a day ahead of time.
He was insulated by layers of middlemen and impervious to arrest. His legitimate business included hotels, massage parlors and nightclubs, importing, exporting and shipping businesses. The police in his area protected his interests along with their own. He donated large amounts of money to politicians and political organizations. His influence reached far into the inner circles of the Prime Minister and even into the Palace itself. Johnny Wou wore expensive Brioni suits, Armani ties and Turnbull & Asser shirts imported from England.
He was able to turn life into death with a snap of his fingers. He employed a small team of deadly killers and hundreds of soldiers that could be called up in a matter of minutes. No man would dare to call Mr. Wou by his first name.
He owned a palatial villa on the outskirts of Bangkok; a large walled in compound that held three houses, a seven-car garage, two swimming pools and a helicopter pad and he owned a luxurious penthouse in the city on the Chao Phraya River inhabited by a former Miss Thailand. His offices were on the same floor of the nightclub in his hotel. Most of the time instead of going home to his wife and family, he stayed in a suite of rooms on the top floor of the hotel.
Wou felt especially fortunate tonight after the phone call from New York; not that he ever answered the phone himself or even spoke on the phone. Fourteen lines went into his office and the accounting room next door where he employed twelve full time people to keep tract of his investments. The phone call from America had first gone to Kanchanaburi, a few hundred kilometers from Bangkok. Eight phone lines were registered there and the calls were routed to his office.
Anyone tapping the phones and wanting to make an arrest would rush to Kanchanaburi and find a small grocery store with a great deal of electronic hardware in the back room. Anyone forcing open the door would be greeted by the detonation of two pounds of C-4 explosives, erasing any trace of the phone connections and anything else in the area.
Johnny pushed a button on his desk and in a few seconds the door to the accounting room sprang open, revealing a row of men busily working on a bank of computers. His chief comptroller, Pratheep stood near the entrance. He was a small man about sixty years old in a white shirt, sleeves rolled up, a plastic pocket protector filled with assorted pens, necktie pulled loose, thick eyeglasses, , and a perpetual worried look on his face. He was holding a stack of printouts in his hands.
‘Come here. Are those the reports?’ Wou shouted.
There were silk covered sofas and chairs across the room but none were by Wou’s desk. He never invited anyone to sit in his presence. The comptroller rushed nervously to the front of the desk and gingerly set the papers down.
‘Get our client on the phone. Use a secure line and tell him that we have his package coming. I will send a doctor to his residence to help him get ready. Convey my regrets that due to unforeseen circumstances the cost of our transfer arrangement will be five hundred million baht instead of the one hundred million first agreed upon.’
Prathep bowed his head and scurried out. Wou turned to the fish tank again, more to admire his reflection than to watch the fish. He had read last week that the client, a member of parliament had signed a deal to purchase land from a Wat in order to build a golf course and a housing development. One clearly could not buy temple land for such things in Thailand and somehow the MP had gotten around this. The important thing to Johnny Wou was the price reported in the papers, over five hundred million baht. If the man could raise this kind of money for an investment, he could surely do it for his own life.
Wou swiveled his chair around and picked up the reports. Bangkok was divided into five districts by the crime families. He controlled three out of the five: Chinatown of course, then Klong Touey encompassing the all-important shipping docks and lastly Sukhumvit. He perused the reports and was annoyed to see the millions and millions of baht paid out each month to the police. He realized that it was a business expense and that a man became powerful through the cooperation of others, still it was annoying that last week he had to seek police permission to open a gambling house in one of his own districts.
Klong Touey was an area full of warehouses and factories. When the container ships docked there, many people had disposable incomes and Thais loved to gamble. Johnny Wou had built a luxurious eighty million baht casino inside of a dingy warehouse. The district superintendent of police received two million baht a month in protection fees: the chief of police a million a month, then there were the captains, lieutenants, sergeants and patrolmen. The amount paid out came to sixty percent of the profits. Highway robbery Wou thought angrily, but there was no way around this.
Possibly America would not be so expensive. He already had brothels set up in New York and California. Neung Rawy was his chief enforcer for years, killing anyone that would not listen to reason. Wou had made him a captain in the organization for a reward and now Neung Rawy had started to oversee some of the North American operations: the exported cars, the health clinics to be opened, heroin and amphetamines coming in. Wou had no doubt that his man would be successful in obtaining the Chinaman’s distribution network and now he was bringing him a great prize, the girl from America.
It was two-thirty in the afternoon and Sonia was not at the restaurant with the girls yet. Rick looked at his watch again at two forty-five and punched a number into the phone.
Blossom answered. ‘Sorry Khun Rick, Sonia no come home, we do not know what to do.’
‘Can you all get into a few cabs and come to work? I’ll pay the drivers when you get here.’
‘Yes Khun Rick, we come now.’
Ten minutes later Rick was in front of the restaurant with a hand full of cash. Three cabs later, all of the girls arrived. The last cab had taken an extra fifteen minutes as the driver, a chubby man with a bushy black beard and a red turban wrapped around his head, had come by the way of Central Park. Rick was annoyed as it was without this nonsense. He grabbed the driver by the shirt and pulled him halfway out the window. ‘Listen dick-head, stick to the tourists. We live here.’
Rick threw five bucks at him instead of the fifteen that was on the meter. ‘Beat it.’ Rick turned, searching the faces in front of him. ‘Okay girls, Where’s Sonia?’ He was alarmed. Sonia had never been late before.
‘We no know, Khun Rick. We worry.’ Joy looked frightened.
‘Everyone go to work. You know what to do. Blossom, if Sonia does not show up, you are the hostess tonight.’
Rick went back to his office. He called the apartment every ten minutes. By ten o’clock he was frantic. He called the garage.
‘Yes sir, Mr. Rick, Sonia took the van out around noon. No, she’s not back yet.’
Rick called Louis Verrone. ‘Sonia’s disappeared. She took the Ford van. It’s dark blue.’ Rick gave Louis the license plate number.
‘I’ll put out an APB on it right now. Maybe we’ll come across it. No sense in taking chances at this stage of the game. By the way, we had to take the guys off your apartment and restaurant, got a lot of cases out there, and we’re short on manpower.’
‘Okay.’ Rick slammed the phone down and called his apartment again, there was no answer.
After a long and annoying night, Rick locked the restaurant doors an hour early and asked Danforth to stay and close up. They usually served dinner until one in the morning and served drinks at the bar until two at which time the doors were locked to prevent late night customers from entering- late night customers might include normal people or drunks or would-be thieves. By law, one could serve until four in the morning but Rick knew that if he served drinks until two, the customers usually would not leave until an hour later and getting out of there at three was late enough. Now that he had an all girl front of the house staff, Rick stayed and was the last one out-the last person to put the key in the door and close. In the old days, before he had met Sonia, Rick slept in the office upstairs. That was after his wife had taken his loft in the divorce settlement. At that time, he knew that whatever bartender he had was not going to ring up at least half the drinks if left alone in the restaurant. Rick accepted this as a fact of life. With the girls he had no worries about this.
Rick shepherded the girls into cabs and got everyone home safely. He took the Absolute from the freezer and called Detective Verrone every half-hour until he fell asleep.
Neung Rawy answered the phone in his suite at the Mercer Hotel. It was in a good location, not too far from his business meetings in Chinatown. His suite was luxuriously furnished. The living room held two sofas, four upholstered chairs, desk, computer, fax machine and two telephones. The large dining area held a mahogany table with service for six and a sideboard with a fully stocked complementary bar.
‘You have the girl sedated? Good we’ll be there shortly.’ He replaced the receiver and sat back in a leather chair with his feet up and gazed out of the window at the Statue of Liberty. Land of the free, the land of opportunity, he thought. How nice, he smiled. His work had not gone exactly according to plan but that would be rectified tonight when Soopis and Rick were murdered.
It was his good fortune to be here when the girl with the rare blood type was found. Rawy smiled again, he had heard that the politician would pay a hundred million baht for such a person. The man was wealthy but money couldn’t buy everything- or could it?
True, he would be forced to wrap up his business transactions tonight and take the girl to Thailand; such an important delivery could not be entrusted just to his men. He poured another snifter of twenty-year old cognac for himself and thought about his good luck. Johnny Wou would put the entire American operation in his hands if he could convince that stinking Chinese pig to agree to the offer. And why not? He had worked faithfully in Wou’s service for the past twelve years, earning the name Khun Neung Rawy. As a sign of respect, his friends called him Khun Rawy and he knew that on the street, he was respected and feared. His name meant Mister One Hundred. It was said that he had personally killed one hundred men and the number was about right. He didn’t mind the nickname. It gave him an edge, a prestige, an aura among men.
Rawy pushed the concierge button on the phone. ‘My friends and I will be leaving shortly. Please make reservations for a flight to Bangkok as soon as possible. Unfortunately one of my companions has been badly hurt and he will be transported in a wheelchair. Please ask the airline to make the necessary arrangements. I want to get him home to his family as soon as possible. Pet,’ he shouted, putting the phone down.
A huge brutal-looking man appeared in the doorway. The man’s nickname meant duck. He was so muscular that he waddled a bit when he walked, his inner thighs rubbing together. Pet stood silent waiting for instructions.
‘We’re leaving the hotel. Bring me Big Moo’s passport. I’ll use it to transport the girl to Bangkok. That idiot can stay here, letting himself get killed by a girl. First, we’ll go to the Golden Dragon Restaurant on Canal Street. Then I want you to move to the Globe Hotel on the Bowery. You’re not to come back to Thailand until you have taken care of the couple that has eluded us. Get the car and that stupid dog shit that got hit with his own bullets. We’ll go to the restaurant first; then you will come with me to the clinic and you can pick up the gun there.’
Rawy settled the hotel bill and climbed into the back seat of the rented Lincoln sedan. Rawy closed his eyes and thought about his plans. It wouldn’t take long to finish his business meeting at the restaurant and arrive at the clinic. By that time, the girl would be completely wrapped in bandages. He had plenty of work ahead of him and it was an auspicious sign that the girl was found.
He was off to a good start except for that stupid Moo- getting himself killed. Rawy knew that Big Moo loved to murder women-cutting them to pieces. He only kept him around because he would do anything asked of him, the more foul the job the better he liked it. Rawy would have sent him back to Thailand last week, if he hadn’t needed him.
He had walked into Moo’s room and found him masturbating on the bed, holding a girl’s bloody vagina wrapped around his dick. Moo was holding something in his other hand, up to his mouth. It was the dead girl’s lips.
Disgusting- the foul pig. Rawy was so nauseated that he slapped him in the face a half dozen times and then kicked him in the head, the worst insult that he could think of-to put his foot against the man’s head. ‘I swear to Buddha, you’ll be lucky to be a dog or a snake in the next life.’
Rawy knew that he would have to return in a few days and travel to Florida and California to open more clinics; then there were the cars to check on, make sure they kept coming. He hated going to New Jersey to do business with that uncouth Italian. What was his name, Tony Singer, Tony Sinatra? No, but it was something that started with an S and he was sure it had something to do with music. The big slob couldn’t talk without waving his hands around or having a stinking cigar in his mouth-the ignorant Farang bastard. The Italian supplied him with stolen BMW’s, Porsches and Mercedes that were shipped to Thailand, smuggled in and sold at a great profit.
Khun Wou had ships bringing illegal immigrants at twenty thousand dollars a head to America. They worked in kitchens or whorehouses for years to pay back the debt. And then there were the hundreds of kilos of heroin produced cheaply in Laos and shipped to Khun Wou in Bangkok and also sent to America on the ships. Wou had thought of exporting the stolen cars as a way to make even more profit on the return trip.
The sedan stopped in front of the Golden Lion Restaurant. It was large and brightly lit with hanging crystal chandeliers, red velvet wallpaper and waist-high statues of golden lions guarding the door. Rawy left one man behind the wheel and took Pet with him. Pet carried a leather suitcase and walked behind Rawy into the restaurant. Rawy pushed pass the headwaiter, going towards the private dining room.
Ran Chinn would be having dinner there now as he always did. Chinn controlled all of the tongs in Chinatown under an organization called the Chinese Businessmans’
Association. Chinn directed not only the tongs but controlled most of the street gangs too. His money, here in Chinatown, came from gambling houses and protection. Every single business in Chinatown had to pay tribute.
There were two men on the door. Rawy pushed past them and entered without knocking. A very fat man sat at a large table with a dozen dishes in front of him. The man wore a shiny long sleeved white shirt, the unbuttoned cuffs flapping over the backs of his hands. In front of him were a huge steamed fish, two lobsters, a whole duck, a platter of shrimp, boiled chickens, steaming bowls of soup, dishes of rice and sautéed vegetables. Two waiters served him and two bodyguards stepped forward as Rawy stood in front of the table.
‘Forgive my interruption Khun Chinn. I must depart immediately for Thailand and I wanted to conclude our talks.’
The fat Chinese man motioned for Rawy to sit down. Waiters rushed to place dishes and chopsticks on the table. Rawy swept them away with a wave of his hand as he sat. ‘Have you thought about my offer?’
The fat man continued eating, staring at Rawy. ‘Why should I accept your proposal?’ A bit of rice sprung from his mouth when he said proposal and landed on the table.
Rawy folded his hands in front of him. ‘Soon your sources of heroin will dry up. I know that your supply comes from Afghanistan and Iran through Tajikistan. You can forget about getting a sack of sand from that country after the World Trade Center disaster and the United States invasion of Iraq. The sky is full of satellites and observation planes- everyone is still scared to death of biological weapons coming out of there.
As for your kilos coming from Burma into Thailand; you know about the massive aid program supplied by the United States to my country. Soon the borders will be completely sealed. If the generals in Myanmar expect to do any international trade they will also have to help curtail the drugs.
We, on the other hand, have an inexhaustible supply of heroin coming in from Laos. We have access to most of the poppy fields in the North. Over five hundred Hmong and Mien villages, six thousand families, farming in eight provinces and sophisticated refineries turning the opium into heroin. You have a strong distribution network in place already and we want it.’
‘So you insult me with an offer of thirty percent of the profits?’
‘We can do many things for you. We have a huge shipping company. Your snakeheads have been bringing immigrants in and dumping them off at the beach. That’s a joke. We can ship them in safe air-conditioned containers and get them inland- past customs. How many people are you bring in now? Five thousand a year? We can triple that. We have legitimate businesses for imports and are opening many more here in America. We can bring in all the girls you need for the brothels. You can have a share in this.’
Chinn did not stop eating. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say ‘who cares’ and picked up one of the whole chickens, ignoring his guest, taking a huge bite out of the breast, the juice running down his cheek and dripping on to the table.
Rawy stood up and took the suitcase from Pet. ‘Forgive my impatience. I am in a hurry. I have a gift to show my good faith. I hope you will accept my offer. I’ll call you in a few days. All you have to say on the phone is yes, or no. After that–,’ Rawy let the sentence hang in the air. Who knew what could happen? Rawy placed the package on the table, turned and walked out with Pet close behind, and got back into the car.
‘Clinic,’ was all that he had to say when he climbed into his seat. Rawy had put a good deal of thought and effort into the success of his plan. He closed his eyes imagining Chinn opening the suitcase. It contained one million dollars in crisp hundred dollar notes; all wrapped in neat ten thousand dollar packages. Good-will money to smooth over Chinn’s feelings. He imagined Chinn greedily counting the stacks of money first, pushing the red envelope aside, recognizing the gold Chinese characters running around the edges.
The car glided to a stop in front of the clinic, interrupting his thoughts. The doctor was waiting with a figure completely wrapped in bandages and a blanket, sitting on a collapsible wheelchair. There was no way anyone could tell that a girl was underneath all of that wrapping and not the man whose picture appeared on the passport.
The doctor handed a black leather bag to Rawy. ‘Inside is a white lab coat, stethoscope, thermometer, and in the small blue container are two syringes, a solution of liquid Valium. If the patient starts to stir, just jab her in the leg or hand and push down on the plunger. One is strong enough to keep her sleeping for another eight or ten hours.
Rawy motioned to the attendant, ‘Get the girl in the car and get a gun for Pet.’
The smaller muscular Thai came out with a short rifle, holding it by a handle on the top of the weapon. ‘Here, take one of these. We’ve got a few of them-made here in the States.’
Pet examined the piece, which looked small in his huge hands. It was a new Colt M-4 assault rifle with a thirty round clip, Polymer handgrips and retractable stock. It fired a small round, a .223 cartridge. The projectiles did not fly smoothly to the target. The excessive amount of powder in the cartridge forced the bullet to tumble end over end, careening savagely, tearing flesh and bone to pieces when it struck. Pet slipped the weapon under his jacket. It was perfect for the kind of close work that he had to do.
The driver picked up the wrapped body and set it on the back seat, folded the wheelchair and placed it in the trunk. Rawy looked at Pet. ‘You know where to go. Do not fail.’
Excellent, as always.