See Phuket And Die, Chapter Two
‘Hold on a few minutes and I’ll have the photos for you.’ The doctor opened a file cabinet and took out a canvas case.
He put it on a table and opened it. He removed a jar of soft putty and filled in the shattered indentations made on the face by the metal bar. He covered the black and blue skin with a tan colored grease pencil and brushed a light coating of make-up powder over the whole face. Doctor Vichit pulled a fat digital Nikon with a large professional flash from another drawer. He stepped back and took a half a dozen shots and then stood on a chair and took some looking straight down. The doctor plugged the camera into his computer and the photographs appeared on the screen. ‘Which one do you want or would you like more than one shot?’
‘That one right there. Ten copies will be fine.’
Doctor Vichit clicked on the photo and then on print. The color pictures started to slide out of the printer.
Jip had picked a full frontal head shot that showed the hair and shoulders. All of these girls knew each other and it would not be too hard to find her friends and where s/he lived. He would search the boy’s apartment and go through his belongings. He would be able to find out who s/he was. Maybe there was a jealous boyfriend who wanted revenge. Most people knew the person that had killed them. Patong didn’t really come to life until at least ten in the evening so there was no sense in trying to show the picture around now. Jipthep decided that he would try tracking down the scalpel.
The International Hospital in Phuket Town was not far away and he knew the administrator, Marc, an American doctor.
There were many jobs not open to foreigners in Thailand. Professions as humble as cab drivers and boat operators were not available.
Being a doctor was out of the question unless you had some obscure type of speciality. Marc was a handsome young man that wanted to work in Thailand and he fitted into being the manager of the hospital. One could not take a job away from a Thai person and you could only have a career if the company was unable to find a qualified Thai. Jip jumped on his motorcycle and was at the International Hospital in a matter of minutes. He showed his identification to the girl at the desk even though he was in full uniform.
It was just a matter of courtesy. Marc’s office was on the ground floor and his secretary came out to escort Lt. Jipthep into Doctor Shiffern’s office. Jip opened the door and they both waied at the same time and then shook hands.
‘Jip, good to see you. What are you doing here? Is everything all right?’
As Marc sat down behind his desk, Jip slipped into a large leather chair. ‘I want to know where a person can buy a scalpel.’
‘What do you need a scalpel for?’
‘I don’t. A person was killed this morning and we think a scalpel may have been used in the death.’
‘There’s only one company in town and they do not sell medical equipment like that to the public. You may be able to buy wheelchairs and beds but anything like syringes and scalpels are out of the question.’
‘How about here in the hospital? What happens to the scalpels after they are used? Do you throw them in the trash?
‘They are disposed of, but they are placed in a sealed container with a slot and the scalpel can’t be retrieved.
A company comes by every day and picks up items like this along with bloody bed sheets and other possibly hazardous materials and they are burned in a contained environment.’
‘Suppose I really wanted to get my hands on a scalpel? What would I do?’
‘Every small town has a public clinic or two. You could steal one or buy one. They are not really that hard to come by.
‘Okay, thanks.’ Jip stood up and shook hands with Doctor Shiffern. It looked like a long dead end but it would have to be pursued. He would go back to the police station and write up a partial report. The important work would come tonight.
He was sure he would be able to identify the dead person. Jip drove back to the station and started to type up his report for his superior officer, Lt. Col. Sanitasut.
Jip’s office was the size of a small bathroom but it was private and quiet. The door opened and before him stood a very large man, about six foot tall, very big for a Thai. He wore a police uniform, tightly cut like everyone’s but his uniform bulged with muscles. Obviously the man worked out and was very fit. ‘I am Captain Ritak.’ He did not bother to wai or to offer his hand. ‘The end of the month is in two days and I invite you to join our club, Phuket Civic Association. We collect a thousand baht dues every month. It goes to help the less fortunate here in Phuket.’
‘I can’t afford it but I can offer my time for a good cause if you like.’
‘You can’t afford not to join. If you need money, stop five farangs on motorbikes and fine them two hundred baht each. Pull over a couple of backpackers and ‘find’ some ya-bah or marijuana in their pockets. There’s your dues, easy as pie.’
‘I’m not going to steal from people just to join your club.’
The man leaned on Jip’s desk with both hands, his face close to his. ‘You don’t have a choice.’
‘Take your hands off my desk and get out.’
‘Ask around about me before you decide to say no.’
Jip finished typing the rest of his report for now. His shift was over at six. He would change into his street clothes and show the pictures of the dead katoey around. In the mean time he would go home and catch a few hours sleep before he went out for the night. On the way out he stopped at the front desk. The old time desk sergeants knew every thing that was going on.
‘What is it with this guy, Captain Ritak? He wants me to join a club for a thousand baht a month. I can’t afford it.
‘Bad news. It’s his private money making machine. The money goes nowhere but in his pocket.’
‘How many members does he have?’
‘About sixty, we all have to pay.’
‘What? How does he get away with this?’
The sergeant motioned to Jip to come closer. ‘You didn’t hear this from me but some of the money goes to The Can.’
The desk sergeant nodded towards Sanitasut’s office.
‘So he’s extorting sixty-thousand baht a month from his fellow police officers?’
‘The last person that refused to go along – on payday – at the end of the month when the shifts were changing, about six o'clock, and everyone was out of uniform, Ritak gave him a beating, broke his nose and some ribs, put him in the hospital for a month. Everyone paid after that.’
‘I’m not going to pay.’
‘It’s going to be a problem. The man is more than twice your size.’
Lieutenant Jipthep typed out a report as to his daily activities and left it with the desk sergeant for Lt. Col. Sanitasut.
Jip went back to his room, took a shower and laid on the bed for a nap. It had been a long day and was about to get longer.
He wondered if the parents knew that the boy was transsexual and was working the streets in Patong. Probably yes to both questions.
Who knew what would happen to the body. The only thing for certain was that the family would miss the five thousand baht or so that the boy was probably sending home every month.
Jipthep dressed in civilian clothes about ten o’clock. No one wanted to see a police officer walking towards their bar; it was always bad luck. Jip clipped his revolver on his belt underneath his shirt, put the photos in an envelope and grabbed his badge and wallet. The parking was better on Rat-U-Thit Road, the back road. He would start there and work his way down Soi Bangla.
The spaces on the beach road were all illegally taken by the car and motorbike rental agencies. Jip found a spot for his bike and began walking down Bangla towards the beach. There would be no shortage of places to search. Soi Bangla had narrow sois on both sides crammed with bars. There was a soi just before the Tiger Nightclub on the right with katoey bars and underneath the Tiger were a dozen bars, one named ‘Katoeys R Us.’ Farther down on the right was the famous Soi Katoey, always packed with tourists. On the sidewalk in front of the soi were a dozen ‘girls’, all of them tall, dressed in long gowns, plenty of make-up, blocking the walkway, having their photos taken with visitors for a hundred baht. The soi had bars on both sides jammed with girls and guys that wanted to be girls, all calling out to passers by.
The dead girl was plainly dressed and probably did not fit in at Soi Katoey. Jip went to the first bar that ran along side the Tiger. An attractive girl or was it a guy behind the bar asked him what he wanted to drink. At the same time, one sat down beside him. ‘You can buy me drink?’ Her hand rested on his leg.
Jip opened the folder and took out a photo. The girl gasped and moved back.
‘I need to find out who this girl is. She was killed on the beach road last night.’
‘Oh, is that the one?’ The girls all gathered around to see the picture.
Jip flashed his badge. ‘We need to notify her family. Do any of you know her?’
The girls all shook their heads no and moved away. This photo would bring bad karma for sure. Jip moved to the bars on the ground floor, under the Tiger. There was a famous katoey bar there with the girls dancing on a small stage behind the bar.
Jip looked for the owner or momma-san. She was a tough old bird sitting at the far end of the bar, watching everything.
‘Can you help me? Jip discreetly flipped open his wallet to reveal his badge and edged out a photo. ‘I need to find who this girl is.’
The woman nodded her head. ‘She’s new here. I don’t hire pre-ops. She only had implants. We have the real deal here, all the way,’ she said proudly. Jip waited patiently. ‘She was freelancing on the street. Ask the girls in front of Soi Eric. One of them should know her.’
Soi Eric was just before Soi Katoey. There were so many transgender challenged persons in front of Soi Katoey that now many of them stood on the street in front of Soi Eric which was a regular bar girl’s soi. The girls here tended to be more petite and most had their eyes and noses done. A clinic in Patong would do both for under fifteen thousand baht. A tiny cut was made behind each nostril, some of the flesh removed and then the skin was tucked back in. The scar was very difficult to see and a wide Isaan nose became more delicate. A plastic bridge was inserted through the nostrils and then you had what all the girls wanted, a European nose. Tissue was removed from around the eyes which made them wider and larger but they still had a bit of a slant to them, giving the girls more of an oriental look. The Korean and Japanese tourists would go wild for these beauties which were so available to them here. With breast implants and a naturally slim waist and hips the girls were in great demand. Jip wondered if the men taking the s/hes back to their hotel knew what they were.
There were three of the girls together, talking to each other in the street but keeping an eye on the the traffic walking by at the same time. They paid no attention to Jip. He was obviously Thai and not well dressed, not looking like a tourist with cash in his pockets. Two of the girls had short dyed blonde hair; all wore shorts with bare midriffs. They were adorable and aggressive at the same time.
Jip approached them and edged out a bit of the photo.
‘Do you know who this person is? She was killed last night.’ He pulled the photo all the way out.
‘Oh my God. It’s Saa. She never came home last night.’ The girl gasped and started to cry.
‘Where does she live? Does she have a room mate?’
‘Baan, Baan,’ one of the girls shouted and more girls came running over.
Baan grabbed the picture and began screaming and crying.
Jip grabbed her arm and shook her. ‘How do you know her?’
‘She’s my room mate.’
‘Okay, take me to where you live.’ The girl was dazed and Jip pulled her by the arm towards his motorcycle.
She lived on Soi Paradise just off Rat-U-Thit, not far away. They stopped in front of a cement four storey building. Baan opened the door with a key and they climbed the stairs up three flights. She opened the apartment door. It was just a small room with one large mattress on the floor. There was a dresser and two metal stands full of clothes, mostly t-shirts and shorts. There was not a sink, toilet or even a window in the room. Posters of movie stars and rock groups covered the walls along with some photographs.
‘Does anyone else live here with you?’
‘We had a third girl but she left two weeks ago. Now I’ll have to pay the rent all by myself.’
‘Where are Saa’s personal possessions?’
Baan opened the top drawer of the dresser. In it were a mobile phone, cheap jewelry, earrings, bracelets and a wallet.
Jip opened the billfold. It contained the girl’s identification card, actually it was a photo ID of a boy.
‘Please give me a plastic bag. I’m going to take everything with me and I’ll need to see your ID also.’
Jip copied down Baan’s information and phone number, noting that Baan was also a boy.
‘When is the last time that you saw Saa?’
‘Last night. We were on Bangla together.’
‘Did she leave with anybody?’
‘She left twice with men but came back both times an hour later and everything was all right.’
‘What did the men look like? Farang? Asian? Tourists?’
‘They were Korean I think, both of them. They looked okay.’
‘And then what?’
‘I left about four o'clock and she said she might try the beach road. That’s the last time that I saw her.’
Baan started crying hysterically. Jip let her go on for a few minutes and then pulled the girl to her feet.
‘Here’s my card with my mobile number. If you see either of those two men again call me immediately or if you remember any details, let me know. Be careful out there. Remember she was murdered.’
The girl sat down on the mattress and started sobbing again. Jip walked out with the plastic bag. Tomorrow he would have to call the girl’s family or rather the boy’s family.
Very enjoyable story, this one!