Readers' Submissions

First You Die, Chapter 22: Heading Home



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

Chapter Twenty-two

Heading Home

Jip was having his morning tea when the phone rang. He had been home with his wife, undisturbed for three days. It had been a very pleasant time of rest and peace for him. He felt a great sense of satisfaction. The minister had personally commended him on a good job well done and Wou was somewhere in prison, he was sure of it. All that need to be done was to tie up a few loose ends, make formal reports and testify.

The phone call came from the Chief Prosecutor's office. Jip was ordered to appear as soon as possible. He made sure his silver was gleaming and his uniform starched, his shoes polished to brilliance. An hour later he was standing at attention in front of the prosecutor's desk.

The man shuffled a stack of papers looking up from behind wire rimmed spectacles. He had been chief prosecutor for eighteen years and had a reputation for being tough. His steel-gray hair was combed straight back and slicked down as if it knew better than to misbehave. The perfect guy for this case Jip thought. Wou is a dead duck.

‘Well Jipthep, quite a mess here, lots of charges. Let me read them to you. Left your precinct with out proper authorization. Acted out of your jurisdiction. Attacked an innocent tourist in an airport men's room, injuring said tourist with a fire extinguisher. Really Jipthep- and it gets worse. You invaded a legitimate business in Phuket, leaving three men dead, a respected doctor, the warehouse manager and an unidentified civilian.'

‘That was Neung Rawy. An infamous gangster. Everyone knows who he is.' Jip face burned. He could feel the blood racing through his body, his heart pounding.

‘Please remain at attention until I am finished. Let me continue. You broke into a respected businessman's apartment, beat and kidnapped him, bringing him to the Minister of Justice's home. Your actions are absolutely unforgivable.'

The prosecutor pushed a few papers towards the end of his desk. ‘Here, these are for you. It's a court order, forbidding you to come within a hundred meters of Khun Wou, his hotel, homes and any of his businesses.'

‘What about the tapes, the dead people, the drugs?'

‘We reviewed all of the tapes, nothing but popular movies, Spiderman and so on. We did find some bottles of vitamins, perfectly legal.'

‘There's been a huge mistake,' Jip gasped. He couldn't believe it. His head swirled. He looked around the spinning room. His eyes focused on a framed photograph behind the prosecutor's desk. He could make out four men, their arms around each other, some leaning on their golf clubs. They were all smiling.

‘Yes there has and you made it. You're lucky you're not in jail right now, Lieutenant. You've been demoted and your assignment has been changed. Report directly to the Minister of Education's office. You'll be giving safety lectures to schools and believe me; you have a very busy schedule. Dismissed.'

Jip moved closer to the photograph. Yes, he recognized all of the men, only slightly surprised to see Colonel Wansina. A small mustached man, Johnny Wou was in the middle and seemed to be looking right at him through the photograph, laughing at him. No surprise to see the chief prosecutor, it was his office after all and the minister of justice looked dignified even in golf attire.

Rick felt the sun on his face as he lay in bed and without opening his eyes he knew it was about eleven in the morning. Sonia was naked next to him, her head on his chest, her hair falling on his stomach, one leg up around his thigh and one of her arms around him. He ran his hand along her leg, trying to memorize the curves and the smoothness of it, trying to imprint the feeling in his memory.

His hand kept on along her hip, down to her waist, up her torso and along her breast. He kept his eyes closed and thought, ‘What could be better than this; foie gras with Chateau d'Yquem, Godiva chocolate truffles and Tattinger, front row seats at a Pavarotti concert?' Hell, nothing came close to having Sonia's naked body wrapped around him.

Rick often had thoughts of loosing her and wanted to be sure he had these moments to remember. He knew that he couldn't stir without waking her. If he got up to go to the bathroom she would know it. He felt that if he was a thousand miles away she would know what he was doing – thinking. He never felt as close to her as now, having almost lost her, and having her so near to him now. It had been a blissful three days in the Atlanta Hotel on Soi Two, Sukhumvit.

He had driven the Ford Explorer to the Oriental Hotel, confident with his American Express card, wanting a suite and room service and Sonia to himself forever. To his amazement, she had refused to leave the car when he drove up the circular drive to the front door.

‘I'm not going in there.'

‘I want to stay in a nice place, celebrate, have a great dinner.'

‘Are you crazy? We're covered in mud. They'll never let us in.'

‘Those people at the door only work here. Don't worry about them.'

‘I don't care. I want to go the Atlanta .'

‘If you say so.' Rick was miffed and jammed the shift into first gear. But he saw her logic. Once you were a guest at the Atlanta you were a friend forever and the service was as gracious as at the Oriental. You were truly at home in the Atlanta .

Rick had been to the Oriental on his last trip to Bangkok and had dinner at the highly touted Le Normandy . He ordered an expensive five course meal that came with a glass of wine with each serving. The food was ordinary, the wines ill chosen and the service intrusive. Sonia was right once again and besides, Auberge Dab- a superb French restaurant was just down the street from the Atlanta on Ploenchit. They would have lovely romantic dinners there instead.

They spent three days in bed and at the pool in the rear of the hotel, surrounded by tropical foliage, communing not with nature, but with each other. Rick had never been so contented and so in love. He knew the blissful relaxation had to end, that he had to go back to New York , back to work. The restaurant would not be the same with out him and Sonia. Christ, might as well say without Sonia. It was his restaurant and people still came to see him but it wasn't like before. Sonia was the star now and rightfully so. Customers said hello to him and then headed for Sonia, wanting to be mesmerized, welcomed, loved, and noticed by the most charming hostess in the city. Not that Rick was complaining; he knew that public relations were everything. More than food, more than anything -was the social aspect of it.

He often teased his chef Danforth. At first Rick had a hard time getting Dan to come out to the tables. Have him speaking to the customers. Later he teased Dan that once he had gotten him out of the kitchen, he couldn't get him back in; but it was a great relationship and Dan was a superb public relations man, after all, who would want to speak to the mere owner of the restaurant when the chef came over to say hello, smiling, inquiring about the meal. One night when Dan was at the bar drinking a glass of Johnny Walker Blue, twenty year old scotch, Rick kidded him, ‘I have good news and bad news for you. This is the best job you will ever have.'

Rick knew that some day Danforth would leave him to start his own restaurant. All the chefs eventually did it. Rick knew he would still continue to be successful, especially with Sonia in the front of the house but he would miss Danforth terribly.

Rick let his hand come to rest on the curve of Sonia's leg- the part he wanted to remember best, the smoothness and the firmness of it. He wanted to keep her with him forever. But would she stay?

The phone rang interrupting his reverie. Sonia stirred as he leaned across her to pick up the receiver. It was Jip. Rick listened for ten minutes without saying a word and then told Sonia the bad news. Johnny Wou was free, an innocent man.

Sonia jumped up and stomped around the room, wrapping a towel around her at the same

time. ‘What do you mean he's free? He's got to pay for what he did to my girl friend; kidnaps her, kills her, takes her heart, ravages her body and then feeds her to the animals. I'll be damned if he's going to get away this.'

Rick had seen her like this before and there would be no quieting her down; she meant every word that she said. He eased out of bed and turned on the shower letting the water run, not hurrying. When he came out Sonia brushed past him into the shower.

‘Want to have breakfast by the pool?' He knew it was hopeless but he had to try.

‘No, God damn it, I do not want to have breakfast by the pool. What are you going to do about it -is what I want to know?' Sonia glared at him, her face inches from his.

Rick took a deep breath and spoke softly. ‘What can we do? The Police Superintendent destroyed all of the evidence. Wou is off the hook. I'm going to make plane reservations to back to New York . We've got a business to run.'

‘Not all of it.'

‘What are you talking about?'

‘There's still one tape left.'

‘What do you mean? Rick stopped in the middle of putting on his pants, he knew, unfortunately that he had no chance of making love to Sonia this morning- the state she was in.

‘I saw a tape with Porn's name on it in Wou's apartment and took it. I wanted to keep it private, maybe take a still shot from it while she looked like she was sleeping and make a photo for a shrine for her.'

‘You mean you still have one tape? Where is it?

‘Right here.' Sonia reached into one of the white go-go boots. ‘I dropped it in on the way out of the apartment; but what can we do with it when even the police won't help us?'

‘A piece of cake. There's only one man in all of Bangkok that I know that can get the job done.'

‘Who?'

‘Jerry Ebie, that's who.'

‘You're kidding,' Sonia eyed Rick doubtfully.

‘No I'm not kidding. I'll get Jip on the phone and ask him to meet us at Ebie's art gallery. Get dressed.'

A half hour later Rick and Sonia climbed out of a cab in front of the Old Siam Art Gallery on Soi 23, Sukhumvit. The front was all teak wood and it had a peaked, wood shingled roof in the Lanna style. It was a replica of a three-hundred year old house with a large plate glass window in the front of it. Rick could see oil paintings on the walls and wood statues covered with bits of colored glass from Chang Mai. They peered in the window, but the store appeared empty.

‘Jip must be buried in the traffic.' Rick put his hands on his hips and stared across the street. The art gallery was directly across from Soi Cowboy, a small street filled with girlie bars. The curbs were lined with taxies and tuk-tuks waiting to pick up a fare. One of the tuk-tuk drivers was leaning against the side of his three-wheeler, arms folded against a filthy T-shirt. He sauntered toward the gallery, taking his time, looking around.

‘Tell this guy to get lost will you. Next thing, he'll be wanting to come inside, get a commission.' Rick turned the doorknob. Damn it was locked. He pushed his finger against the buzzer.

‘Tell him yourself, why don't you?' Sonia teased.

What a pain, Rick thought and as he turned he saw Sonia smiling for the first time today. The Thai man climbed the stairs, coming closer to Rick. The Thai had a dark blue bandanna tied around his head and wore the sleek wrap around sunglasses that the kids favored.

Jerry Ebie's smiling face appeared as the door opened and the tuk-tuk driver shoved in ahead of Rick. ‘He's not with us.' Rick pointed to the driver.

‘Ricckkk.' Ebie dragged out Ricks name, gave him a big hug and then true to form, ignored him completely as he held Sonia's hand and complemented her dress, figure, make-up, babbling on about how much he missed her and how long it had been since he had seen her. Sonia smiled delightedly at the attention while Rick kept an eye on the intruder who was examining a buffalo-hide shadow puppet.

‘Listen, get this guy out of here and lock the door again we've got important business to discuss. Rick grabbed Jerry's arm. ‘Jip should be here any minute.'

‘Well, let's not waste any time then.' The Thai man stepped into the light, removed his glasses and faced Rick. Sonia laughed and Jerry's grin grew even wider.

‘Damn, what are you doing dressed like that?' Rick had to grin in spite of himself.

Jip moved towards the back room. ‘Let's not stand by the window.'

Jerry opened the rear door and led them into an art gallery of a different sort. The wall on Rick's right was lined with videos sorted as to language. English, German, Korean, Thai and Japanese. Rick glanced at a few of the titles: Debbie Does Dallas, Deep Throat, Bad Girls. The wall on the left was lined with various adult toys. Dildos of all sizes, colors and shapes. Hard or soft rubber, with or without batteries. There were black leather restraints lined with sheep's wool, black leather masks, leather chaps, shorts and selection of leather and chamois bikinis neatly arranged on a long glass counter. Jerry gathered a few chairs and Sonia ran a hand over a leather bikini.

‘You like it, it's yours, just try it on, see how it looks.' Jerry smiled.

‘Maybe I'll try this on–you.' Sonia smacked Ebie's arm with a leather riding crop. ‘Or this.' She pulled a black leather whip from the wall.

‘Cut it out you two.' Rick had to smile again.

‘Coffee, tea, or me? Jerry grinned at Sonia.

She advanced a step towards him, raising her eyebrows and the whip at the same time.

‘Jerry, where did you get all those tapes? You didn't import all of them did you?' Rick took a seat and motioned to Sonia to sit.

‘No, too dangerous and too much trouble. I just bring over one of each when I go back to visit the family in America and I copy them here.'

‘Here? Like right here?' Jip sat down also.

‘Yup. Why?'

Rick made a gimme sign to Sonia, waving his fingers palm down. ‘We need a dozen copies as soon as possible.'

‘Take about six hours, no problem. What's on it?' Ebie turned the tape over in his hands.

‘A dead girl and Johnny Wou. We're going to cook his goose. Got a typewriter or computer here?'

‘Sure.'

‘We're going to send a copy to every newspaper in town and a few TV stations along with a letter and a listing of who we sent the tapes to. If anyone of them is going to back off on this, they'll have to go on record as cowards. I'll bet CNN will be the first on the air with it, or part of it. Most is unprintable. But it's enough to screw Wou.

‘Okay Nick and Nora, let me get this on the machine right away.' Ebie jumped up and disappeared.

Sonia wrinkled her eyebrows. ‘Was he talking to us?'

‘Either he's been watching too many of his old black and white movies or he's trying to tell me that I lost weight.'

‘What are you talking about?'

Rick ignored Sonia and turned to Jip eyeing him suspiciously, ‘Why are you dressed like that?' I know you guys don't get paid much but are you working overtime or what?'

‘Working overtime is right. I'm undercover and on my own. I've been sitting in front of the Double Lucky Health Clinic. Sooner or later some poor girl is going in there and not coming out. I'll make a move then.'

‘You may not have to. I'll type a letter including everything that happened including the transplants at the clinics and the crystal-meth. You can translate it into Thai. We'll make a bunch of copies. All we can hope for now is an enterprising reporter to dig into the details and an editor brave enough to print it. How are we going to deliver the tapes is the question. We have to make sure they get into the right hands.'

‘How about a lowly tuk-tuk driver.' Jip said.

‘Do you happen to know one that has a college education and is also tough and smart?' Sonia laughed.

‘I'll take care of it. After you print out the letters, I'll look up the addresses on the computer. You two had better head home to America. Bangkok is going to be as hot as a pistol when this hits the fan.'

Stickman's thoughts:

Will Jip survive to the end?