See Phuket And Die, Chapter One
'There's a body lying on the beach face up if you can call what's left a face.'
'Where? By the beach road?'
'Near that little park towards the end, past the library.'
'I'll be there in five minutes; cordon everything off, keep everyone away.'
Police Lieutenant Jipthep snapped his phone shut and shoved it back in his shorts. He wore a T-shirt, sneakers
and hadn't stopped running while he answered the phone. It was six-thirty in the morning and he was doing his usual five kilometers. He liked to run along the beach and was headed in the right direction. He would be there in a few minutes.
Lt. Jipthep never jogged; he ran the entire five K. If he was chasing a bad guy the man had better be able to run at least that far without stopping if he expected to get away from Jip as his friends called him.
He could see a crowd of people already, twenty or thirty in a circle, more curious than concerned, just looking, doing nothing as usual. Jip pushed his way through and found the police officer that had made the call. The officer wore plastic gloves and clutched a bloody metal rod. An ambulance was there with two men in grey jumpsuits trimmed with orange florescent strips waiting to take the body to Vachira Phuket Hospital. If you were alive you went to emergency on the first floor. If you were dead you went downstairs to the morgue. Made no difference to the uniformed men, it's just that now they could drive slower; there was no hurry.
The sun was just coming up on the other side of the island, sparkling and dancing on the ocean as a cool breeze rippled along the branches of the casuarina trees lining the beach. Beautiful days like this were as common in Phuket as shells on the beach.
Jip saw a petite girl lying face up on the sand with long brown hair and good sized breasts underneath a tank top. Her shorts and underpants were pulled down past her knees. Her crotch was a mass of bloody flesh. Her face had been bashed in with a piece of rebar. The amount of violence inflicted indicated a lovers' quarrel, an uncontrollable rage that could only be produced by intense feelings. It could be an attempted rape as her pants were still almost on and rapists were violent. It was the nature of their obsession but Jip doubted it had happened that way. There must have been a half-dozen hard blows to the face with the rebar.
Jip checked her pockets for an identification card. There was a few hundred baht and that was all.
Jipthep turned to one of the officers. 'Make sure they take enough pictures then get the body to the hospital. Tell them that I want an autopsy right away. An officer will be over as soon as possible. I still have to go home, change my clothes and report into work.'
Jip lived in a small one room apartment on Na Nai Road. It was the back, back road as they called it. The further away from the beach the cheaper the rent was and the apartment was not far from the police station. Jip ran towards his room and pondered how he came to be in Patong. They used to send you to an inactive post but this was definitely punishment duty with his home, wife and two children so far away in Bangkok. Jip could not bring himself to make his children change schools and he would not want his wife to live in Patong. He had a two year tour of duty and hopefully when it was over he could go back home to Bangkok.
Jip had a university degree in business and his English was excellent; another reason he was sent to Patong where tourists and expatriates got into some kind of trouble every single day. Jip was called out at all hours of the night to settle disputes. In fact he was thinking of asking for the night shift just for this reason as most arguments and crimes happened after midnight. Jip planned to take a bus up to visit his family if he ever had two days off in a row. He missed his family terribly and he had only been here two weeks.
It was going to be a long two years for him.
Jipthep had arrested a powerful crime boss in Bangkok, ruined his business and cost him millions of dollars but the man, Johnny Wou, was never convicted. Wou hobnobbed with members of parliament, politicians of both parties and even the prime minister.
It was a cinch to have Captain Jipthep demoted and banished as far away as possible.
Lt. Jipthep showered and changed into his brown uniform. It was tailored tight as was the style. Jip started his Honda 125-cc motorbike and headed towards the police station. He had been the light-middle weight muay thai kick boxing champion of the Bangkok Police League and was in good shape at thirty-nine years old. Girls, now and then, would smile and wave to him but he paid them no attention. He was here to do his job, send as much money home as he could and nothing more than that.
Jip parked his bike near the side of the station and when he went inside, the desk officer made a grimace at him and pointed to Chief Inspector Lt. Col. Sanitasut's office.
'Great Buddha, can I be in trouble already?' Jip thought to himself. He knocked lightly on the frosted glass of the door
window, stepped in, saluted smartly and stood at attention.
The chief inspector's uniform was also tailored tightly even though he was quite fat. He weighed a good one-hundred
and twenty kilos. He wore a gold watch, two heavy gold chains on his wrist and a total of four gold rings. It said that power was wealth and wealth was power.
'Jipthep, since you were the first ranking officer on the scene, I'm going to assign you the case. Get yourself over to
the morgue, the coroner has a surprise for you. Lt. Col. Sanitasut smirked at him then shouted 'Dismissed, get out!'
Jip saluted, did an about face and stepped into the hallway. The desk officer was trying hard not to laugh.
'Why does he always shout at everyone? Jip whispered.
The officer shrugged his shoulders and said, 'He likes it.'
It was a long ride to the hospital, over the steep back hill, slick with rain or oil, trucks with failing brakes, kids zipping
along at a hundred kilometers an hour as if they were invincible. During the trip Jipthep mused that the police officers
called Lt. Col. Sanitasut the sanitation man because of his name. This term soon degenerated into the garbage man and then because of the way he ate he was referred to as the garbage can and then simply the can. Jip kept out of this terminology. Nothing good could come of it.
Jip arrived at the hospital and parked his bike in the rear. The morgue was not only in the basement, it was as far back as one could go which made some kind of sense he supposed. Jipthep pushed through the double doors into the main room of the morgue.
The doors were green colored as were the tile walls. Jip remembered reading some place that green was supposed to have a calming effect and wondered if it had been done on purpose. It didn't matter as the smell of disinfectant and alcohol filled the air assaulting your eyes and nose. The reek was always shocking and seemed to serve as a warning to those who entered here that there would be more unpleasantness to come. Jip walked through a pair of sparkling metal doors with crisscross lines. He was in the operating room now and he saw the body on a stainless steel table. The coroner turned and waved hello to Jip. No one shook hands in an environment like this, it just didn't make sense and that was for Westerners anyway.
Doctor Vichit was about sixty years old with a round body and hands as soft as a baby's. Jip had seen them once when the doctor's surgical gloves were off and was amazed to see how pink and smooth they were. Jip was sure the man had never washed a dish at home or ever picked up a garden hose. The doctor was a cheerful man, always friendly and smiling, light skinned, probably half Chinese. Jip wondered how the man could be so consistently pleasant in the midst of all the daily horror. The body had a large Y incision down the torso that had been sewn up, washed and cleaned.
'Come over and tell me what you see,' the doctor smiled.
Jipthep had seen more bodies than you could count so he wasn't bothered but this one was different. He could tell that the genitals had been cut off but there was something odd about the wound.
'It's a man, isn't it?'
'Yes, I told that to Lt. Col. Sanitasut. But there are a few more interesting aspects of this case. Of course you can see that the jaw has been broken, the nose is smashed, the skull has four fractures. The body is clean now but did you see it at the scene?'
'And what did you notice about the body, tell me.'
'The body itself? It was lying face up and was covered with sand and debris and -'
'Precisely. That's it. Now give me your hand.'
The doctor took Jip's hand and placed it underneath the back of the skull.
'There, do you feel that slight indentation, a few inches long? This person was first hit from behind which made
him fall on his face. It was only meant to stun him.'
'Not to kill him, just to knock him out?'
'When this happened, the body fell face first into the sand and then was turned over, otherwise there would have not
been so much sand on the front of the body.'
'I imagine that the killer was quite surprised when he started pulling the victim's pants down.
'Yes, and this is interesting also. Move down a bit and use this.' The doctor handed Jip a large round magnifying glass.
'The penis and scrotum were sliced off but not by a knife, nothing so crude. Not even a straight razor, which would make one large clean slice. This was almost a surgical operation. A scalpel was used I would say, carelessly and quickly but a scalpel never the less. Very clean short slices. What do you make of this? What are your thoughts?'
Jip returned the glass. 'It had to be premeditated. People just don't walk around with scalpels in their pockets.
Pieces of rebar are everywhere with all the construction going on here but a piece of surgical equipment as you say puts an entirely different light on it.'
'And what light is that?'
'The question is, did the killer know that the girl was actually a boy. I think not and if my presumption is correct how could the murder be premeditated? Now that the body has been cleaned up, try and push the face together a bit and take some photos for me. I'll show them around, find out who she is, won't be too hard, the coconut telegraph must be working overtime by now. You know how the gossip goes on these things. One more thing. Which was done first, the blows to the head or the removal of the genitals?'
'Judging from the amount of blood between the legs, I would say his organs were cut off when he was still alive.'
That's a really great start!
* Readers, please note that this story will be uploaded chapter by chapter each Saturday.