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First You Die Chapter 14: Answers OR More Questions



First You Die, Chapter Fourteen: Answers or More Questions

Sonia was floating in the air, relaxed and calm. She felt as if she was drifting along and was just settling down on a huge feather bed. She had the oddest sensation that she couldn’t move her hands or feet. After a few minutes she opened her eyes. That’s funny the ceiling is green now, she thought. She wanted to get up and go to the bathroom but it was very difficult. She went back to sleep. Later she awoke again. She still couldn’t move. Something was wrong with her arms; she couldn’t lift them. She was just tired, that’s all, she thought dreamily.

She turned her head to the side and saw the thick leather straps on her wrists. She lifted her head and looked again. Her wrists and ankles were fastened to the sides of the bed. She remembered going into the clinic in Chinatown, and now she was strapped to a bed.
‘Hello’, she yelled. Nothing; only silence. She looked around. She appeared to be in a hospital room. ‘Help,’ she screamed. No one came.

Sonia lay there thinking. There was some information about her blood test. She couldn’t remember what it was. She felt like going back to sleep. She forced herself to stay awake, squeezing her fists together and wriggling her toes.

She heard a door open and footsteps approaching the bed. A man bent over her. He was a very good-looking Thai man about thirty years old. His brown hair was combed to the side and he wore a white lab coat. The front pocket held two pens, a pencil and a small notebook. Under the coat, he wore a white shirt and a blue patterned tie. He gently placed his hand on Sonia’s forehead. ‘How are you feeling?’ He spoke in Thai.

Sonia answered in the same language. ‘I want to get up. Let me up. Untie me.’ Sonia’s voice sounded strangely slurred and slow.

‘Just rest for a while,’ said the man from a distance. He was already walking out of the door.

Sonia made faces and wiggled her toes for the next ten minutes, until she heard the door open again. She heard a chair scraping the floor beside the bed. An older Thai man in a navy suit and dark tie sat beside her. He looked very serious.

The man held her wrist, feeling her pulse and looking at his wristwatch. ‘How do you feel?’ he asked solicitously.

‘Do you care?’ Sonia was starting to wake up now.

‘Oh yes, very much so.’ The man let go of her arm and shined a small penlight into one of her eyes.

‘We’ve taken you off the Valium. If you become disturbed or too emotional, I will have to put you back on it. Do you understand?’

‘Where am I?’ A touch of fear crept into Sonia’s voice.

‘You’re in a hospital. You’re not well. You became hallucinatory and were a danger to yourself and others. That’s why we have you strapped down. So you don’t hurt yourself.’

‘I want to speak to someone in charge. There’s nothing wrong with me.’

‘I’m the person in charge here. My name is Khun Vichai.’ He smiled and patted her shoulder, ‘just rest for now.’

As the man opened the door Sonia heard him speak to someone in the hallway. ‘Keep her quiet for now; we’ll operate as soon as our client arrives.’

The Thai Airways plane arrived at Don Muang, Bangkok at twelve noon. Jip and Rick continued through customs and immigration and to the limousine service counter.

‘We need a car to the Thon Buri Police Station on Soi 127, please.’ Jip said as he put four one hundred baht bills on the counter. He was given a coupon and they were led to a waiting cream-colored sedan.

After they were seated, Rick turned to Jip. ‘That’s on this side of the river isn’t it? I remember the last time I was here; you were closer to the action.’

‘Yes, and I was carefully watched by my boss, Colonel Somchai. After his accident and my promotion, they shipped me out here. Not all that much happening.’ Jip smiled, ‘I’m as far away from Silom and Surawong as you can get and still be in Bangkok. The officers there are making huge amounts of money from the nightclubs and illegal businesses. Every bar, and there’s thousands of them there-and off Sukhumvit, have to pay if they want to stay open later at night. The higher-ups in the department would have heart failure, having an officer not accepting tea money. Only these days, it’s more like Mercedes money.’

‘You mean to say after you shot and killed Colonel Somechai, don’t you?’

‘It was either him or us. Would you have let him live and have all of us killed, including Sonia?’

‘There should have been another way out. You can’t just shoot down an unarmed person like that. Are we going to the station house to get a team together, raid the clinic?’

‘We need to pick up some weapons at the station house. As for getting a team together, we have a team already-us.’

‘Why can’t we get some help, make a big raid, swoop down on these guys.’

‘It’s not in my district, that’s why. You can’t just run across town, raid a place that’s under some other precinct’s protection.’

‘Can’t you call them for help?’

‘Sure, and find an empty store when we get there. We need to do this unofficially.’

‘I’ve been thinking that there’s something wrong with this whole set up. The transplant thing. If Johnny Wou is so rich and has everything going for him; why bother to kidnap people. He’s going to get caught if he keeps on taking these chances.’

‘I don’t know why. It probably sounds like a good deal to him and besides, like the doctor said, there’s plenty of money in it.’

The limousine stopped alongside a large two-story stone and cement building. They walked up the stairs and went inside. There were uniformed officers and civilians milling around in the lobby. An old wood desk with an officer sitting behind it was right in front. The officer wore a tight fitting brown shirt with a white round-necked T-shirt underneath. He had assorted ribbons on his chest with some silver insignias and had a revolver on his hip in a black leather holster. Jip waved as he and Rick passed and walked down the hallway to his office.

It was a small plain room with a desk, two chairs, a few filing cabinets and an old computer. Jip glanced at the stack of papers on his desk and one caught his eye. There was a phone message from the desk sergeant that said call the art dealer and a phone number. Jip jabbed in the number and held the phone to his ear. The phone connected.

‘Captain Jipthep here. Do you have anything for me?’

‘Only that you were right. There are lots of people dropping dead. It’s all very hush-hush. Any attempts of investigation have been curtailed. I’m afraid that’s all I’ve been able to find out. Not much I’m afraid.’

‘That’s alright, thanks. I owe you one.’ Jip started to lower the phone then shouted, ‘Wait, wait.’

‘Yeah?’

‘What do you know about a writer, Eugene O’Neill?’

‘How much time do you have?’

‘There’s a connection between a book or a play that he wrote and this case. Can you give me some names?’ Jip scribbled on a pad for a few minutes while the man spewed out a dozen tittles. ‘Okay thanks.’

‘Who was that?’ The impatience in Rick’s voice was clear.

‘Your pal Ebie is investigating people dropping dead for me but he didn’t get too far. However here’s a list of plays and books that he knew about.’

Rick glanced down the list; Beyond the Horizon, The Emperor Jones, The Hairy Ape, Anna Christie, Desire Under The Elms, The Iceman Cometh, Strange Interlude, Mourning Becomes Electra.

‘Christ we don’t have time to read all of these.’

‘Aren’t there any familiar to you? You’re an American and went to college or so you say.’

A title caught Rick’s eye. ‘Look here. I’ve seen this one before.’

‘Which one?’

‘Here.’ Rick stabbed the paper with his finger. ‘The Iceman Cometh. The entire play takes place in a bar.’

‘Sounds interesting.’

‘Very. It’s probably always playing somewhere in the States. A bunch of losers are sitting around and they each in turn talk about their own pipe dreams.’

‘That’s it, that’s the one.’ Jip fairly shouted. ‘They’re all smoking opium then?’

‘No, no, pipe dreams are illusions, dreams that will never come true.’

‘Is the phrase in the play?’

‘A few times-as I remember. But don’t tell me that people in Bangkok are dropping dead from smoking opium?’

Jip rubbed the front of his head in frustration. ‘No, not from smoking opium, but this is the play we’re looking for. I’m sure of it.’

‘What else do they die from smoking over here then- besides heroin and cigarettes?’

‘Ya-bah, you know-amphetamines.’

‘That’s it,’ Rick shouted.

‘The ice man cometh- of course – of course. Crystal-meth.’

Jip strained to understand as Rick rapidly strung his words together.

‘Ice is crystal meth- it’s called ice because it comes in crystal chunks, not brown or white powder like ya-bah.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘It was around in the 70’s. The biker gangs in the mid-west were cooking it up in their kitchens and making a fortune until the government came down hard. It’s dangerous to make. Very volatile- and they use all kinds of chemicals. I know they cook hydrochloric acid and if they can’t get the acid they use drain cleaner, anti-freeze or battery fluid. It’s bad shit for sure.

If you smoke it, you get an intense rush that explodes in your head with the whoomph of an instantaneous combustion, and then it rages through your body like a forest fire. It’s an incredible feeling, like climaxing after sex for minutes and minutes. Lots of users snort or swallow because it lasts longer and produces euphoria, much like opium does. The thing is that; it’s extremely addictive and once you start using it you never want to get off, just stay on a binge. If the iceman is really coming-Thailand’s in deep shit. This makes ya-bah look like bubble-gum.’

‘How do you know about this stuff?’

‘What stuff? If you go to college in America or live in the city you’re bound to come across O’Neill.’

‘Cut it out Rick. Okay, that- but I meant about the ice. Have you ever tried it?’

‘You come across a lot of things in New York. I did try it and after I did the word addiction took on a whole new meaning for me. I felt the same way when I smoked opium outside of Chang Mai. You know they say that you can get hooked on only one try and I never believed that either. I always thought that addiction meant getting cramps in your stomach and pains when you couldn’t score. But that’s not it at all. Addiction is the simple realization that what you’re smoking is incredible and that it’s so good, you think why wouldn’t you want to smoke some opium or ice everyday when you came home from work?’ Rick held his hands out for emphasis as if he was holding a huge bowl. ‘You’re filled with a warm, loving, euphoric feeling. I only tried it once and then never touched it again. You know why?’

‘Why?’

‘It was so magnificent that I wanted to do it all the time. In fact I still think that it was one of the best experiences in the world- except that it will certainly kill you.’

Jip sighed. ‘It’s coming all right. I just don’t know how or where.’

‘How about the guy that gave you the O’Neill tip. Maybe he has a lead on where they are making this stuff. It’s got to be stopped before it spreads.’

A huge problem for sure Jip thought. He opened a desk draw and took out a revolver in a small leather clip-on holster and attached it to his belt.

‘Whatcha got?’

‘You’re going to have to speak slower. This is Bangkok not New York.’

‘I said what kind of gun do you have there?’

‘Standard Smith & Wesson, thirty-eight caliber.’

‘You guys still using six-shooters over here?’

‘It’s what most police officers carry. If you want one of those fancy automatics you have to buy it yourself. But there are a few advantages over your Glock.’

‘I don’t see how. Six shots against my seventeen.’

‘One thing is that my revolver is never going to jam ejecting a spent shell. And I am never going to have to worry if the safety is off or on. No safety because it’s not a target pistol or one of those fancy semi-automatics that you have to have cocked before you can fire it. Besides, most gun fights take place in a distance of less than six meters- about the size of an average room and they happen all of a sudden. All I need to do is just draw and pull the trigger and I know it’s going to fire. If you can’t take out your man with six shots you had better be in another business.’

‘O K. I’m convinced.’

‘Don’t worry I have something with a ton of fire power for you.’

Jip unlocked a closet door and took out two M16 automatic rifles, four clips of ammunition and two round gray cylinders about the size of soda cans. There was a small ring and lever on each one.

‘Stun grenades and extra ammo. It’s amazing, the weapons we take off criminals. Supposed to turn everything in, but some things I keep here in the closet.’ Jip had an old duffel bag and stuffed it with the weapons. They left the office and went to the rear of the building and out the back door. Jip put a key in the door of one of the cars in the parking lot and threw the duffel bag on the back seat. Rick climbed in the passenger seat. Jip put the car in gear and drove onto the street.

Khun Vichai entered Sonia’s room and felt her pulse again.

‘What are you going to do with me?’ Sonia said, trying to speak as calmly as possible.
‘I told you not to worry.’

‘I heard you say operation.’

‘Well.’ The doctor hesitated, ‘you’re going to have an operation soon- a bone marrow transplant.’

‘There’s nothing wrong with my bone marrow.’

‘Yes, I know. That’s why we need it.’ Another smile appeared on the doctor’s face.

‘You mean you’re going to take marrow out of my bones? What about me?’

‘You’ll have no use for them, you’ll be dead. Don’t worry it doesn’t hurt. It’s just like going to sleep.’

‘I have over a million dollars the bank. Let me go and I’ll give it to you. I can take you there now.’

‘Ha-ha, that’s very funny coming from a homeless person. I read your report, you’re destitute, and have no friends or relatives. Besides, do you think I would betray the trust of my superior for a million dollars? How long would I live? Probably not long enough to get to the airport.’

‘So you’re scared to death of Johnny Wou?’

‘That name is never to be mentioned-ever. It’s against the rules. It’s absolutely forbidden. The last man to inadvertently mention his name in a conversation about this business ended up dead.’

‘What business?’

‘This one. The one that you and I are in, so to speak. It started with kidney transplants. Then we did hearts, liver, skin transplants for burn victims, bone marrow for cancer patients and even corneas. The trouble with us Thais is that we simply don’t donate enough organs. Most of us believe that we would suffer in the next reincarnation without our bodies intact; no one wants to take the chance. Oh, there are some donors here in Thailand but not that many. Family members make the best donors and many give a kidney to a brother or father. A person can even donate part of a liver now to a family member. But if a heart is needed the donor must die and no one is willing to do that so we have found a way to help people, even you. You’ll never have to live on the street again or worry about where your next meal is coming from.

‘We’re in Thailand?’ Sonia was surprised. She had assumed that she was still in Chinatown. ‘How about you take just a little bone marrow, leave me the rest and everyone will be happy.’

Vichai was amused at her audacity. ‘Interesting idea, but sooner or later you would go to the police and anyway we need all of it.’

‘My bone marrow? Why?’

‘We’re going to feed about two pints of it into the patient’s bloodstream. A client of ours has acute lymphocytic leukemia which destroys white blood cells. He’s been subjected to large doses of chemotherapy and radiation. This helps kill the cancer but it also destroys the white blood cells. Almost a no win situation. The most suitable treatment would be to use a close relative’s bone marrow. We would take just a little every week and drip it into the patient’s vein like a blood transfusion. In this case however that’s impossible. The man’s parents are dead and he has no brothers or sisters. The next best thing is a blood match like yours and to use a great deal of the marrow which will replace the cells that have been destroyed. It will help the patient recover from the effects of the cancer treatment. I think that we’ve talked enough for one evening.’

The young doctor was waiting in the hallway. ‘May I have a word with you?’

Khun Vichai nodded his head towards the office and led the man down the hallway, not speaking until they were settled in. Vichai sat behind his desk and motioned for the doctor to sit in a large easy chair to one side.

The doctor looked uneasy and leaned forward putting the tips of his fingers together, bowing his head slightly. ‘I’ve been having troubling thoughts.’

‘What is it?

‘I have doubts about what we are doing. Doctors are supposed to save lives, not take them.’

‘You are saving lives.’

‘And killing someone to do it. But that’s not what’s been bothering me.’

‘What then?’

‘Last week we had a young boy in here to donate organs. The recipient never showed up.’

‘So?’

‘The same thing happened a month ago. What are the chances of that happening twice?

I’ve never heard of anyone not showing up for a new heart or liver.’

‘That’s their tough luck.’

‘Tough luck for the kidnapped victim. We had to put him to sleep and ship his body to Bangkok for disposal. We couldn’t just release him. That’s the pity of it.’

Vichai rose to his feet. ‘As you have just mentioned, we have not done a transplant in months and we will not be doing anymore. We have much more interesting and profitable work to do. Go and count your bank balances and give me some peace and quiet.’ He nodded to the door and the younger man walked slowly out, deep in thought with his head still down.

Handsome man, as Sonia thought of him- the man in the white jacket, came into Sonia’s room and put his hand on her forehead. ‘Would you like something to help you sleep?’

‘No, I’m alright now. I’ve done things in my life that were very bad. This is my karma and I can accept it. Buddhism teaches us the impermanence of everything, especially our fleeting existence here. I hope to have a rebirth in a more pleasant world. How about you? Are you Buddhist like myself?’ Sonia smiled hopefully at the man. ‘Can you sit and talk to me for a minute. It would make me feel better.’

He pulled a chair closer to the bed. He was starting to feel very sorry for this sweet girl but there was not much he could do to help. ‘I am also Buddhist. I will pray for you at the temple tomorrow.’

‘Thank you so much. I am not a good disciple and I know it. I have not been able to follow The Eightfold Path and adhere to all of the four noble truths. I have not suppressed my desires yet. I have tried to eliminate my craving for sex but I can not.’

The man did not know how to reply to such a personal revelation and stayed silent.
‘If I had one last wish, it would be to have sex just one more time before I die,’ Sonia spoke softly and wistfully. ‘I don’t suppose you would be willing to help me with a last request would you? Sonia turned her head, looking into the man’s eyes.

‘I don’t see how that would be possible, even if I wanted to.’ The man felt a stirring between his legs.

‘All you would have to do would be to get on top of me and put yourself inside of me. It would give me a great deal of pleasure. I’m sure that a man as nice as you has many women. I hope I’m not asking too much.’ Sonia took a breath and her breasts rose almost imperceptibly, two large white mounds moving upward under the sheet.

The man was definitely hard now. ‘I can’t get undressed here. They would kill me if they found out. Don’t ask me to untie you either. I’m not stupid you know.’

Sonia smiled invitingly at the good-looking man. ‘Just unzip your pants and climb on the bed. It won’t take long.’ Sonia opened her mouth and ran her tongue along the tops of her teeth.

That does it, the man thought. He unzipped his fly and clambered onto the bed, his member sticking straight out of his pants.

‘Oh my god, it looks so good, can you just let me taste it? Slide up farther and let me give it a good kiss.’ Sonia opened her lips.

The man was on his knees facing Sonia and edged up towards her, sticking his penis into her mouth. Her lips were warm and wet and he was very excited. Sonia immediately began gagging and choking, pulling her head to the side.

‘I’m sorry; I can’t do it lying down. If I could sit up a bit, then I could really give you a good smoke.’

The man looked at her, hesitating, his penis throbbing.

‘Just loosen one hand and I’ll edge up a little; that should do it. I’ll be able to touch you too,’ Sonia’s voice was thick with lust. ‘Please hurry, I’m so excited.’

The man reached over and untied the strap from Sonia’s wrist. He could feel his heart pounding. She couldn’t overpower him with just one hand. She was only a girl and was firmly tied to the bed.

‘Kiss me, kiss me now,’ Sonia pleaded, her mouth reaching for his.

The man leaned forward and kissed her. Sonia caressed the back of his neck, running her hand down the small of his back, over his side, along his organ and slowly up his chest, kissing him passionately.

She slipped the pencil from his front jacket pocket, put her thumb on the eraser and plunged the pencil into the side of his eye. The man bolted upward, gasping, grabbing for his face. The pencil was sticking halfway out of his eye. Sonia reached up and slammed the flat of her hand against the pencil. It rammed all the way in, completely penetrating his brain. The man quivered and fell to one side, emptying his bowels.

Stickman's thoughts:

Excellent, as always.