First You Die, Chapter 23: Celebrations
It was Sunday night and Ricks Bar was packed as usual. Rick was at a table for twelve having a coming home celebration and had invited some close friends and people about to be close friends.
Detective George Dutcher was there with his wife and Louis Verrone had brought his girlfriend, a frizzy-haired blonde from New Jersey . Rick knew that lipstick and makeup were plentiful in that state and this girl seemed to have more than her share. Rick
also knew that Louis loved to go to the lap-dancing bars and was amused when Sonia leaned over and whispered that she figured that this girl would feel more comfortable at dinner if she had a chrome pole to hold on to.
‘People in glass houses Sonia.'
‘Never mind.' Rick looked around the room, trying to ignore Sonia's question. It would difficult, not to mention unrewarding, to explain.
It was getting crowded and even late on a Sunday night, it was busy. All of the detectives were unusually subdued and on their best behavior, quite surprised to be at the same table with Police Commissioner Joseph Policarpio and his wife. Larry the Lawyer
sat next to Sonia as he was without a date and for a good reason as everyone found out later in the evening.
The commissioner's driver was leaning against the bar facing the door. He was unconcerned with the party and did not care if his boss was having a nice dinner or not.
The job was a piece of cake and a reward for past performance. It was a prestigious honor that every cop wanted except Detective Dana Inamerica. He would rather be out in the real world putting the bad guys away. However the Commissioner had requested
him and it was a request that one could not turn down.
After one of his more spectacular Wall Street arrests, he called the Commissioner and got his permission to go on surveillances and knock down doors with the Tactical Squad. Everyone on the team was over six feet tall and weighed over two-hundred pounds.
It was a high risk appointment, volunteers only and the squad was called in when there was likely to be shooting. They saw action almost every night, unlike the SWAT guys who were on reserve for mostly hostage and terrorist situations. Dana loved
the street and the action.
Policarpio had been keeping tabs on him. “First one in the door,” was what he was always told. Crap, the last thing I want to read in the papers is hero cop killed in the line of duty, he thought. Let me get this son of a bitch off the streets
for a while; let him calm down a bit. And so the fateful call came from the commissioner detailing Inamerica to be his driver.
Dana leaned on the bar watching the room through the large back bar mirror and made circles with his glass of Perrier. ‘Hey Joy,' he signaled to the bartender. ‘Why are you so excited tonight?'
‘Why you say that?'
‘I've been coming here for a long time. You're always smiling but tonight you're positively beaming.'
‘Oh Khun Dana, I'm so happy. I'm dieing to tell you.'
‘So, tell me.'
‘Larry and I are going to get married and he is going to announce our engagement tonight.'
‘Does Sonia know?'
‘No one knows.'
‘What's going to happen?'
‘Larry's going to ask Sonia to let me marry him and I'm sure she say yes. I'm so happy.' Joy's face was bright with elation.
‘Best wishes.' Dana saw movement at the door and turned around. A half- dozen young Asian men stumbled through the door laughing and talking. They made their way to the
bar and ordered a bottle of Crystal . The detective listened to them chatting animatedly about a big real estate deal they had just made. All of them wore suits and ties. Most had suspenders. Two had eyeglasses and one wore a bow tie. Two or three of
them were effeminate. Sissies, one would think, looking at them.
However, Dana having been in the business world knew that gay people were the big spenders. Anyone tapping into that market, whether it was real estate or stocks, would be making good money. The gays were the big spenders and they knew what was happening,
what was current and what was about to happen, what would be the next big thing.
‘Christ, Asian yuppies, what's next?' he thought. Or was it guppies?
Tap, tap. Larry stood up and banged his fork on a wine glass. ‘May I have everyone's attention? I have the honor to announce that Joy has consented to be my bride and I hereby ask for her hand in marriage.'
Everyone at the table stood up and applauded. Joy squealed with delight. Sonia gave Larry a kiss and ran over to the bar and hugged Joy.
‘Best wishes my little sister. I am very happy for you.' Then she turned to the table, ‘You have my blessing but I tell you now, she must continue her education and graduate from college. Nothing can interfere with that.'
Larry bowed deeply with both hand up to his face in a wai. Rick was on his feet holding up his glass, ‘ Champagne for every one.'
The entire restaurant was witness to the proceedings and everyone stood up and applauded among shouts and whistles. Three of the men came from the bar with full glasses and toasted Larry and Joy. ‘Many children and a long life.' Every one
laughed and drank champagne.
It had been a wonderful night and they went through eight bottles of Dom Perignon. Dutcher and Louis had left as had most of the customers.
The girls were stripping the tables and the bus boy had started to sweep the floor. Rick was sitting with his arm around Sonia feeling warm and comfortable and very happy.
‘Rickkeeey,' Sonia whispered in his ear. ‘Wouldn't it be nice if Joy had a double wedding?'
‘She can't marry two people. This is America , not Thailand .' Rick sensed what was coming, trying to head it off.
‘I mean if another couple got married with them.' Sonia held Rick closer.
‘Us, of course. If one of my girls gets married before I do, I will loose much face. I'll join the monastery. I'll become a monk. I'll go back to Thailand , I swear to god, I will.'
‘If you do, will you have to shave your head and wear a white robe.'
Sonia sat up a bit and looked Rick right in the eye, her face an inch from his. The room seemed very silent.
Rick could feel her breath on his face. He leaned closer.
‘Before you go I want to say one thing.'
‘What?' Sonia's eyes filled with tears.
Rick got down on his knees and held Sonia's hand. He looked up at her with a bright smile and mischievous grin.
‘What are you doing? Why are you kneeling down?'
‘This is how we do it in America .'
‘If you would be quiet for a minute and let me get on with it you'll find out.
Now listen.' Rick paused for a second and then began. ‘Sonia, will you make me the happiest man in America and do me the honor of…'
Rick saw Joy out of the corner of his eye waving furiously to him. She was banging a tiny fist against her ear, the signal that he had a phone call. Rick waved his hand no to Joy who grimaced, picked up the phone and furiously waved it to him.
‘Wait one second honey. This is important and I don't want to rush it.'
Rick went to the front of the restaurant and picked up the extension at the maitre D's desk, ‘Rick speaking.'
‘It's me Jip. I want to update you on what's happening here. The story about Johnny Wou broke in the papers last week- headline news. Thai TV showed some of the video tape and it was pretty gruesome. He bit into the victims flesh as he
was having sex with them. There was such a public uproar that the police were forced to issue an arrest warrant for him. A crowd gathered in front of his hotel and bombarded it with stones and garbage.'
‘Was he arrested?'
‘Not yet, he's gone into hiding. He'll be torn apart or strung up if the mob ever gets their hands on him. His high-placed friends seem to have deserted him after the newspaper reports. He won't escape justice this time. His face
has been splashed all over the papers. He can't get far with out being recognized.'
‘Okay, thanks for the news. I have some myself. Sonia and I are getting married I was just in the process of proposing to her.'
‘Wow that's great. I knew she'd get you. Give her my love. See you soon.'
‘Take care.' Rick replaced the receiver and turned to go back to the table.
One of the Asian men from the bar was headed his way. He was slightly built, almost frail looking with thick horned rimmed glasses. He held and glass of champagne and wore a goofy grin on his face.
‘Please may I shake your hand and wish much happiness.'
The small man slurred his words and stumbled a bit towards Rick, champagne sloshing over the top of his glass. ‘Excuse me please. Let me wipe my hands first.' The man set his glass on the desk top and reached into his jacket. He grabbed Rick's
hand moving closer, speaking softly. ‘You see my friends over by your table? Take a good look at the one standing behind Sonia.'
‘Yeah?' Rick looked towards the table and a man was leaning casually over Sonia one hand on her shoulder, chatting and laughing with her.
As the slight man with the goofy grin continued talking, he pressed a gun into Rick's stomach. ‘If you don't do as I say he is going to cut her throat with the razor he is holding in his other hand. Come with me quietly. We're going
for a walk.' The man pushed Rick in the direction of the door.
One of the men standing by the table pressed a gun to Commissioner Policarpio's head. ‘We don't want to kill you. Don't move an inch.'
Larry jumped up and was smashed in the face with the side of a pistol. He fell to the floor. The fourth man at the bar pushed a gun into Dana's back. ‘Be still and mind your own business.'
Dana turned swiftly, pinning the man's gun hand to the bar with his body, reaching up, slamming the man's head into the bar with his forearm. Joy screamed, holding her hands to her face.
Policarpio jumped up, pushing into the man behind him, throwing him back against the wall. Policarpio drew his weapon as one of the Asian men slammed his gun against the Commissioner's head. Dana pulled his pistol and fired two shots into the man
behind the Commissioner. Two of the Asian men returned fire as the detective turned his pistol towards them. Bullets slammed into Dana, pushing him against the bar. He got off one shot on his way down, killing another intruder.
‘Come with us or die here.' One of the men grabbed Sonia's arm, pulling her up, pushing his gun into her back. There were four Asian men left alive and they hustled Rick and Sonia into a waiting car.
Joy jumped up from behind the bar and ran to Larry. His face was covered in blood and she cradled his head in her arms. ‘Larry, Larry. Are you alright?' There was no sound save for Joy crying hysterically.
Police Commissioner Policarpio felt his head. His hair was matted with blood. His brain reeled as the fog started to clear away and the room came into focus. He saw an Asian girl next to him crying and screaming, holding on to a man laying on the floor.
‘Easy, take it easy. Let me take a look at him.' Policarpio gently pushed the girl aside and felt the man's pulse. It was strong and he seemed to be only unconscious.
The Commissioner stood up and looked around to see his driver sprawled on the floor, his blood shining against the small white tiles. Policarpio gently turned him over. Two black holes in his white shirt were clearly visible. Dana Inamerica stared motionless
at the ceiling. There was no sign of Rick or Sonia.
Policarpio punched numbers into his cell phone calling Central Dispatch. ‘This is the Police Commissioner. Get a few ambulances over to Ricks Bar , 1240 Layfaette. Send a couple of squad cars too. Notify all cars to be on the look out for Asian
men, well dressed, holding a white male and Asian female hostage. The men are armed and to be considered very dangerous. Put this out right away. Then notify the Third Precinct on Grand Street that I'll be over and setting up a command center
there. Call The Deputy Commissioner and the Chief of Detectives- tell them to meet me there and notify the Transit Authority and all bridges and tunnels. Any car containing Asians and a white male are to be stopped and searched, approach with
extreme caution. I want Manhattan to be sealed off.'
Policarpio knelt beside his driver. ‘Dana, Dana, listen to me. Wake up. Wake up damn it. Don't die. Stay alive.
Larry the Lawyer stumbled toward the front of the restaurant. ‘What happened?'
‘They took Rick and Sonia. Don't worry we'll get them back.'
Sirens screamed as two blue and whites screeched to a stop in front of the restaurant. Police Officers leapt from the vehicles with their guns drawn and ran into the restaurant. Ambulances screeched in right behind the cars.
‘Take care of this man immediately. Get the stretcher in here. Keep this area secure,' Policarpio barked. ‘You- take me to the Third Precinct.'
‘I'll go with you.' Larry had his arm around Joy.
‘Get that head looked at. There's an ambulance here now. Stay with your girl. We don't know what's happening yet. No wait. Better yet. Tell her to let you into the office or go to Rick's apartment and get me a photo of Rick
and Sonia. He signaled to one of the officers and went out the door. ‘Let's go.'
The Commissioner picked up the radio receiver in the car as they sped towards the precinct. ‘Get me Detectives Dutcher and Verrone. Tell them to report directly to me at the third precinct, forthwith, and get me some TV stations and reporters down
Policarpio sat back, took a deep breath and cursed to himself. ‘God damn it. I'm going to turn the city upside down. No rest for anyone until these people are found.'
Rick and Sonia were jammed together in the trunk of the car. It was pitch dark. ‘Are you all right?' Rick reached for Sonia.
‘I'm fine. Where are they taking us?'
‘I don't know. See if you can find a lug wrench or something. Lift up the matt and feel around.'
‘It's a metal bar. Feel around will you.' Rick jammed his foot into one of the tail lights and felt it crack.
‘What are you doing?'
‘I'm going to kick out the tail lights. May be the cops will stop the car for not having lights. If the car stops we'll call for help.
A few minutes later the car stopped and Rick and Sonia both called for help as loud as they could. There was a banging on the trunk and a Thai man shouting just before the car drove off again.
‘What did he say?'
‘He said to be quiet or they'll shoot us.'
‘I don't think so. If they wanted to kill us they would have already.'
‘What do they want?'
‘We'll find out soon enough.'
The car stopped again and Rick shouted as loud as he could. The car started again and drove a few meters and stopped. Rick continued to shout. The trunk opened and hands reached in and roughly pulled them out.
They were inside a garage or warehouse. ‘I told you to be quiet.' One of the men slammed Rick across the face with his gun. Rick was dazed from the blow and felt himself being forced into a chair. Two of the men tied Rick and Sonia to chairs
with tape, wrapping their arms and legs securely.
‘You pigs. What do you want? Sonia pulled against her bonds.
The men ignored her and walked off. Rick looked up and saw a dozen new cars in the building. Christ, looks like a Lexus showroom he thought.
Sonia turned a bit in her chair. ‘Look at all the cars. Do you think we're in a car factory?'
‘Just a garage probably. There's not much we can do now.'
Hours passed and daylight seeped through the cracks in the doors. Rick pulled and pushed at the tape but it was no use. Five men came towards them from the far end of the room. As they came closer one of the men seemed very familiar.
‘How nice to see you again. This time things are a bit different.' Johnny Wou smiled at them. ‘We have some unfinished business. Let's see, where were we when I last saw you? Oh, I was in hand cuffs. I mean before that- in my bedroom.
Let's start from there shall we. I was about to have a visit with your girlfriend.'
Wou snapped his fingers and a chair was pulled up for him. He sat down and reached into his jacket for a gold case and lit a cigarette. ‘Life just goes on, doesn't it? For some of us that is.'
‘Where are we?' Sonia demanded.
‘We're quite safe from prying eyes. We're in one of my warehouses off Canal Street , close to the docks on the Westside. So you have not traveled very far and a good thing as your friends seem to be searching quite diligently for you.
The stolen cars are stored here until they are ready to be shipped to Thailand . Speaking of which, it's a bit uncomfortable there for me now but I will return; you can be sure of that. A pity that I had to leave my video equipment behind,
but this being New York I am sure that I can rectify that. As you know I like to record my conquests.'
‘What are you going to do with us?' Rick asked.
‘I am simply going to continue where I left off, with your girlfriend in bed with me.' Wou put his feet up on Ricks knees and exhaled smoke in his direction, smiling.
‘I'd rather be dead,' Sonia spat at him.
‘I wouldn't have it any other way my dear.'
‘Take me and let her go. I'll give you the restaurant and my apartment. You've had sex with men before.'
‘Well, that's a nice offer but you're a just a bit long in the tooth shall we say.
I like my lovers much younger. You can have a hand in the excitement though. What I'll do is put your girlfriend to sleep. Permanently that is, and after I'm finished with her you can watch the tape.'
‘If you touch her I'll kill you.'
‘Ha! If you're angry now, wait until I tie your head firmly in place and slice off your eyelids- makes for better viewing you know. You'll have to watch the entire affair and then you can die also.'
Wou held up his hand and a man came forward and they spoke. Wou turned to Rick again. ‘I have just asked for video equipment and lights and then Sonia and I will go into my office upstairs where we will not be disturbed. You seem to have disposed
of my doctor here in New York so a simple overdose will not be possible. I suppose I'll just have to suffocate the girl. Maybe I'll enjoy the new experience,' Wou smiled again.
‘You'll never get away with this. You'll be captured, either here or in Thailand .'
‘ Thailand did you say? Oh they have such short memories there. I'll go back, face the charges, be released on bail and be cleared. There are no eye witnesses, just doctored tapes, completely false.'
The faint sound of a band could be heard. Drums and gongs and cymbals. Rick looked up. Wou grinned again. ‘Just a Chinese ceremony of some kind. We're still downtown you know. Someone has died or is getting married or there is a store or business
being opened. Good luck to chase away the evil spirits.'
Wou waved to one of his men who went to the double garage doors, peered out and came back. The man waied, ‘Khun Wou, three dragons and a parade are coming down the street.'
Fire crackers exploded, a long string of them drowning out the rest of the conversation. The two guards outside watched the procession come closer. The dragons, each brightly colored huge red paper and cloth creations with three or four men in each one,
danced and wove their way down the street. There were about three dozen people in the parade. The dragons were in front with an eight man band close behind.
Revelers and well wishers set off fire crackers to chase away the evil spirits and the dragons weaved back and forth to throw off any spirits that might want to follow them with the band making as much noise as it could. Gongs, cymbals and drums sounded
loudly along with stringed instruments. The music almost drowned out by the constant explosion of the firecrackers, the white smoke rising up to meet the red banners and large yellow flags swinging merrily about on long poles.
The dragons stopped in front of the warehouse and danced in place, swaying to the music. The scowling papier-mache beasts shook their immense heads brandishing fierce teeth. This was good karma as they would ward off any bad luck and bring good fortune.
The guards knew that they were expected to make a small cash donation and reached into their pockets. Firecrackers exploded, smoke and sparks filled the air.
Short blasts of fire also came out of the mouths of the dragons. The guards fell to the ground.
One of the followers opened the garage doors and the procession danced their way into the building, taking their time, cavorting from side to side, approaching Wou and his men; the dead guards dragged in behind the crowd.
‘What the hell? Give them some money and get them out of here.' Wou turned around, shouting, annoyed at the interruption. The dragons moved closer, dancing in front of the guards. Automatic pistols poked out between the fierce fangs of the
dragons and the monsters spat fire without any warning, the bodyguards falling to the floor, bullets ripping through them.
Sonia, Rick and Wou gaped in stunned surprise. A half-dozen men rushed Wou and held him tight. ‘Let go of me. Get out of here. Are you crazy? I'll have you all killed.'
The dragon dancers threw off their costumes and stood silent, waiting.
The group crowded around the threesome. Rick and Sonia looked at each other in wonderment. From the back of the gathering a very fat man slowly waddled forward. He wore a cheap rayon shirt. The sleeves were too long and flapped over the backs of his hands.
His belly strained against the shirt as he spoke. ‘So nice to finally meet you.'
He looked at Sonia and Rick who stared back dumfounded.
‘I have been in your debt for some time and I always pay my debts. You have done a great service for me and I in turn shall do one for you.'
The fat man waved his hand and men rushed to untie the couple from their bonds. A chair was brought for the fat man and he held up his hand to accept a large piece of roasted duck. Warm grease dribbled over the back of his hand as he bit into it.
‘Who are you?' Rick rubbed his arms to get some circulation going.
‘That doesn't matter. What matters is that you removed a threat from my life. I have businesses all over the world and some contacts too, much like our friend here. I am not without resources and this Thai dog underestimated me. One of his
men, Khun Rawy, threatened and insulted me. I have been keeping close watch over all of you. Unfortunately you were too far away for me to reach out for you, but here, in America , things are different. The Thai will pay for his insolence and
you will go free.
The fat man turned to Wou. ‘You wanted to go into business with me and so you shall, but the terms will be a bit different. Thirty percent for you and seventy percent for me. That's seventy percent of all your business affairs, here and in
Thailand and the clinics will close and you my friend will be kept on a very short leash indeed.'
‘I'll kill you. You won't live out the day.' Wou pulled against his captors.
‘You'll be my guest here for quite some time.' The fat man continued. ‘Your attorneys will come over and you will sign over your holdings to me and we will continue business as you suggested.'
‘That will never happen.'
The fat man nodded his head patiently. ‘Oh, yes it will. By tomorrow you'll be begging me to either kill you or to go into business with you. The choice will be yours.'
He turned to Rick and Sonia. ‘The police seem to be quite anxious to speak to you. I am going to leave now with Mr. Wou and my friends. You will never have to worry about him again. If you ever have any problems, call this number.'
The fat man handed a folded piece of paper to Rick. ‘I only request that you never speak of our encounter and remain here for ten minutes. Then you are free to leave.'
Sonia gave a very low bow and waied with her hands held high. Rick nodded and held up the paper. ‘Who shall I ask for?'
The fat man merely smiled and walked towards the door with his men.
‘Wow. That was really something.' Sonia hugged Rick.
He took her by the hand. ‘Let's get back to the restaurant as soon as possible.'
‘You go. I want to go home to see if the girls are alright.'
Rick put his arms around Sonia. ‘We'll stay together. I never want to be away from you again.'
Sonia's arms went around his neck and she pressed against him, looking into his eyes. ‘I just want to know one thing. What were you doing on your knees in the restaurant? You were about to say something to me.'
Rick kissed her tenderly. ‘That's another whole story.'
A superb story.