See Phuket And Die, Chapter Fifteen
Captain Ritak had slept soundly on the small cot in Hussein’s rented warehouse. He rose slowly and peered around the large area. Everything looked as it was and he thought he could make out the doctor slumped over the steering wheel, his hands still bound together with plastic locking strips but it was hard to tell with those damned tinted windows on the Toyota. Ritak opened the front door as the doctor lifted his head. Can you untie me now. My arms are killing me.’
Yeah, yeah. Take it easy. Ritak sliced off the strips with a pocket knife. The doctor rubbed his wrists. Is there anything to eat? I have to go to the toilet.’
You should know if there’s anything to eat or not. There isn’t. We’ll have to wait. We can’t go out for food now; we can’t take the chance. After you give me the money you can do anything you want.’
The doctor headed towards the tiny rest room and the squat toilet thinking that it would be a great pleasure to kill Ritak tonight.
Let’s get a move on. It’s almost midnight.’ Ritak was irritable and anxious to get this over with and get his hands on the money. He would snap the damn doctor’s little neck as soon as he had produced the five million baht and that would be the end of that. He had only one more person that he needed to kill and that was Jipthep. He would pretend to be friends with the man until the right time came. Then he would put a few bullets into him and dispose of the body far out to sea. Weight it down and feed the fishes.
The doctor came out of the restroom wiping his hands. The bar does not open until midnight. If we go ow it will be empty and I said that there must be a crowd of people there for my protection. We need to wait an hour, let the bar fill up.’
Where is this damn bar anyway?’ Captain Ritak scowled impatiently.
You want me to tell you so that you can kill me now and then search the lockers yourself? I don’t think so. I’ll drive to the bar and we’ll go in together. I don’t trust you anymore that you trust me, tying me to the steering wheel while you slept.’
They waited a half hour more and then climbed into the black Landcruiser. It would take a good twenty minutes to even get to Patong and then they had to find the bar. Hussein sat behind the wheel and buckled his seat belt, silently giving praise to God. Ritak sat in the passenger’s seat with the big automatic weapon pushed down between him and he door. The doctor drove slowly and carefully. He was so close to succeeding; he didn’t want anything to go wrong now.
Doctor Hussein drove south, through Kamala and over the huge hill. Patong lay before him; his goal was in sight. He drove down the hill past Da Maurizios Restaurant and Baan Rim Pa to the small traffic circle just on the north end
of Patong. He drove onto to Rat-U-Thit Road towards the bar that he had in mind. The traffic was even worse than he had expected and it seemed to be coming to a dead stop. Well, that was nothing unusual.
Suddenly, he saw the reason for the tie up, a road block ahead. The police were looking into every vehicle. The doctor jammed on the brakes. What are we going to do now? Shall I turn around?’ Alarm showed on his face and fear in his eyes. Not fear of the police but fear that his plans might be ruined.
Ritak made a face also but it was anger. Nothing was going to prevent him from getting the money. Keep going and be quiet. Keep your window up and don’t open your door. Just do as I say.’
As they approached the traffic barricade a police officer stepped in front of them and held up his hand.
Stop here,’ Ritak said as he opened his door and stood on the running board. What the hell is going on here? Why are you stopping my car?’ Get out of the way.’
The officer saluted. Sorry Captain. We didn’t know it was you. We have orders from Captain Jipthep to stop every black SUV.’
Captain Jipthep? When the hell did he make captain? Never mind. I don’t care. Jipthep surely didn’t mean for you to stop my car and I am still your ranking officer so get out of my way before you have more trouble than you can handle.’
Sir.’ The officer saluted and waved the other policemen out of the way as Ritak stepped back into the car and slammed the door.
Hussein stepped on the gas and the car moved forward. The road ahead was almost clear of vehicles because of the police barricade. The street was lined on both sides with brightly lit bars, restaurants, clothing stores, souvenir shops and more bars and restaurants each with their own colorful neon sign. The sidewalks were crammed with people: tourists, shoppers, vendors, hookers, katoeys, voyeurs and visitors. Hussein dropped the transmission into four wheel drive and the car hesitated for a second as the gears took hold and the engine growled.
What did you do? Captain looked over suspiciously.
Nothing, I’m just slowing down, looking for a parking space.’ Hussein peered through the window looking for the turn off. He was almost there. He stomped on the gas as he turned the wheel and the car shot forward, crashing past the thin red and white pole that prevented anyone from driving through on the narrow soi. His fender slammed into a waitress carrying a huge tray of seafood, throwing her body into a table full of customers, knocking them and the table to the ground. He ran over three more people on his short sprint as Ritak shouted and grabbed for the wheel but the doctor was bent over holding on with both arms, his shoulders hunched, making a quick grab impossible and then the car was bounding up the steps, crashing through a large wooden beer bar, scattering girls and customers, then across the aisle way, mowing down a half dozen people before crashing into another bar, killing five tourists and six bar girls. The Tiger Disco above on the second floor would have well over a thousand people there now, all oblivious to the commotion below. The first floor where the black Toyota had crashed to a halt was all open air with cement posts instead of walls, holding twenty-eight small bars filled with customers and girls all of whom were screaming and running for the exits.
Captain Ritak, not having re-buckled his seat belt after the police stop had crashed into the windshield and was dazed, moaning slightly, blood on his mouth and face. Doctor Hussein fingered his mobile phone, ready to send himself to Paradise but something came over him. If he left now he would not be able to savor his victory or to carry on God’s work here on earth. Hussein grabbed the keys and jumped from the car. There was no one to stop him, no one was looking into to the car, worried about the occupants, trying to help them, everyone was panicking, fleeing for their lives, running away.
He stepped over the bodies and pressed the door control on the key ring; the door locks clicked shut as Hussein ran down Soi Bangla towards the beach as fast as he could. Crowds of people ran in the same direction, panic overcoming bystanders as they ran too. Hussein reached the beach road and turned left, in the opposite direction of the Safari Hotel which was just a half block away. The sidewalks were still full of people most wondering about the mass of people pushing their way onto the beach road. The doctor stepped into the street and ran against the traffic, making better time. He ran until he was out of breath and could hardly stand. He found himself leaning against a pole in front of Mc Donalds. He staggered in gasping for air and found the restroom sign. He entered the small room and then a stall where he crouched next to the toilet and took the mobile phone from his pocket, said a short prayer and pushed the letter A’ for Allah.
The blast was louder than a sonic boom from a jet plane breaking the sound barrier and was heard all over the island of Phuket. The Tiger Disco, a thousand people inside and another thousand in the immediate area didn’t hear a thing; they simply vanished along with a half block square of cement buildings, bars, shops and stores. One minute they were there and the next second, gone, disappeared forever. There wasn’t even much rubble, just bits of cement and debris on the ground.
Farther on from the blast for another block, buildings, shop-houses and hotels crumpled over, falling on themselves, onto the streets.
Cars and motorcycles were lifted and flung into the air. Three blocks away buildings shuddered and plate glass windows were pushed inward slashing into people. Fires sprung up everywhere turning the night sky red. Crowds of people began to flee in earnest now, running in all directions, their only thought to get out of there before another tsunami flooded over them.
Jipthep was on his way to the police station when the blast came. He felt the shock wave go through him as his bike shook and a monstrous thunderclap filled the air. Jip turned to see the sky, once white with electric lights, now dark except for the flicking yellow and red fires in the center of Patong Town. Jip drove another block to the police station where his sergeant was standing in the doorway in shock.
Get on the phone, call every hospital, fire station and doctor you can and then start calling the hospitals in Krabi, Surat Thani, Chumphon. Get hold of everyone available.’ Jip took out his own phone and called Police General Chavali and told him what had happened.
I’ll call the Nation Security Command and the prime minister and request the army. I’ll have the tsunami emergency procedures begun, portable medical centers brought down and tents erected for the survivors. Hold on as best as you can; we’ll be flying down immediately.’ The general clicked off and began his own frantic round of phone calls.
A terrible tragedy to be sure but what an opportunity. He would fly down as soon as possible and throw himself into the task of helping the survivors. There would be TV newsmen there and photographers from the all of papers. A little cash placed by his aids and he would have full coverage; what tremendous publicity. He could just picture himself, feeding babies, helping homeless old women, working in the trenches so to speak. The Saviour of Phuket had a wonderful ring to it. He could have his aids suggest it to the media. He would only bring one uniform, his excuse being that he had dropped everything and rushed down.
In a few days he would look like he had been in the blast himself, all except his hair of course which would be wavy and as beautiful as ever.
Jipthep called a half dozen of his men. No answer. Their phones didn’t even ring. Jip walked to his Honda Dream still dazed by the overwhelming events and started to drive towards the scene of destruction. The first thing that he noticed was that all the street lights were out and there was no electricity anywhere. And then he saw the crowds of people running, entire families running down the streets and sidewalks all following each other. The back road leading towards Soi Bangla was filled with cars, trucks, motorcycles and people on foot all running away from the explosion. The exodus had begun.
There were fires everywhere. Houses, stores and cars all were burning. There was not much he could do and Jipthep keep moving towards the blast area. Two blocks from Soi Bangla, the road was filled with walking wounded, people covered in blood, people torn apart by the blast, with limbs missing, people sprawled on the ground. It was here that Jip stopped to administer first aid. He heard sirens in the distance as he turned a badly hurt woman over onto her back but she was dead and Jip went on to the next person, a woman walking aimlessly, covered in blood from some terrible wound that he couldn’t see.
He gently guided her to lay on the grass. He was afraid that she would faint at any moment. If she was bleeding it had to be stopped immediately. The bomb blast was the loudest thing that Hussein had ever heard. Even sheltered in the restroom of McDonalds, crouched next to the toilet, the sound was deafening. The building shook and the doctor heard screams as the front window collapsed onto patrons. Hussein emerged from the store which was four blocks away from the blast and still standing.
He walked against the crowds running madly away from Soi Bangla, people thumping against him, shoving into him, brushing past him, stepping over people on the ground covered with blood, making his way towards the scene, anxious to see the devastation that he had caused. Just the fact that he was a doctor did not make him feel any pity towards the wounded, they were after all, infidels non-believers who needed to be sanitized, collateral damage.
When the doctor reached the middle of Soi Bangla he was amazed at how much it resembled the picture of Hiroshima he had seen in school as a child. Only here on Soi Bangla it was worse than the photo. Here was Hell on earth, fires raging everywhere, body parts, pieces of flesh, hands, arms and whole bodies tossed along the street, burnt, shattered and torn. There were some firemen and police in the area but no one paid any attention to the doctor.
He was free to wander through the madness as much as he wanted. It occurred to him that he had no plans whatsoever for survival or escape but it didn’t matter that much, he had succeeded, the government would be at it’s knees. He started walking along the road towards Kathu, dazed by how much he had achieved. His brain seemed to be working in slow motion, smoke filled the air with the smell of burning flesh, people screaming and crying, flickering light only from the raging fires and the stars in the sky. It was just so amazing that he had wrought all this, it made him dizzy to think of it. He had to stop and think, pull himself together and get himself to the warehouse. It was still there and it was the only place that he could think of to go.
He could not walk that far of course and would pick up another small motorcycle along the way as he had done before. He kept on strolling away from town amazed at all the wounded this far from the explosion. People just bleeding to death in the street while others rushed past them. There appeared to be some people helping out but on the whole that was not the case.
There – there was a small motorcycle parked neatly on the side of the road with the keys still in it.
It was just a matter of time before he picked up a bike and his good luck was still holding. He would drive to the warehouse and rest for a day before slipping out of Phuket with the mass of people leaving. There was no way a search could be mounted for him now and he still had enough money left. He would buy passage out in a truck filled with Thais and disappear in Bangkok.
Money would procure a new passport and he would fly back to his country a hero. He swung his leg over the seat and reached for the key to start the engine. He would be free and clear and no one could stop him now.
Jipthep was bent over a woman on the ground turned away from his motorcycle when he noticed movement behind him. He looked up to see a man sitting on his motorcycle. Jip rose to his feet.
What are you doing?’ Jip took a step closer. The man seemed oddly familiar.
Nothing,’ the man said and turned the key in the ignition the motor purring to life.
Step off the bike.’ Jip reached over the handlebars and turned the key, shutting down the motor.
I have identification if that’s what you want.’ The man reached for his back pocket.
It’s you!’ Jipthep couldn’t believe it.
The man took out a leather billfold and undid the zipper. Here it is.’ The man slashed out his arm.
Jip instinctively jerked his head back like he did in the gym when his opponent threw a punch. The scalpel flashed past an inch short of his throat. Jip took a half step closer making the situation more inviting for the doctor.
Is that how you murdered Officer Nopi? Killed him by surprise, in cold blood? You coward, you yellow dog.’
he doctor didn’t answer but instead stabbed out at Jip’s neck with the razor sharp instrument.
Jipthep grabbed the doctor’s wrist, twisted his arm and knocked him to the ground, still keeping a firm hold.
You picked the wrong man this time,’ Jipthep said as he lifted up his knee and brought the doctor’s arm crashing down, snapping the arm at the elbow. The doctor screamed in pain and rolled on the ground. Jipthep kicked the billfold away and removed a plastic strip from his pocket, tying the doctor’s wrists together. He grabbed the man by the shirt and hoisted him off the ground.
The police cars are all busy taking the people that you hurt to the hospital. I’m going to bring you in on the motorcycle. If you struggle or try to escape the bike will probably go over. If that happens I’ll break your other arm.’
Jip picked up the doctor in a fireman’s carry, slung the man over his shoulder and drove towards the police station.
here was a huge crowd in front of the station house; eighty or a hundred people seeking help, people wanting answers, mothers missing children, people with no place to go. Jipthep tried to push his way through but could not make it.
He called out for the sergeant standing on the steps helplessly attempting to get the crowd to disperse. The officer pushed his way down into the mass of people and grabbed the man from Jip's shoulder, standing him upright.
My God, it’s him. The man who set off the bomb,’ The police officer gasped in surprise.
No, it’s not him, it’s not him,’ Jipthep shouted and put his arms around his captive but it was too late, the crowd surged over them, ripping the man from Jip’s arms, pushing him and the sergeant aside. Jip shouted to the sergeant, stay on your feet, try to stay on your feet,’ Eventually they were pushed out of the melee, their clothes torn, their muscles week from the struggle. Twenty minutes later it was over, the crowd had moved on, leaving the two officers alone with the beaten and trampled body. The clothes had all been ripped off in the struggle of the crowd trying to get their hands on him, shoving and pulling, stomping and kicking, he had been almost torn to pieces. The man was flat and crushed, like a tractor had run over him covering him with dirt, blood and footprints.
Great Buddha, they must have killed him five or six times.’ The sergeant shook his head.
At least.’ Jipthep grabbed the doctor’s wrist and dragged the body to the side of the parking lot.
Let’s go to work, we’ve got people to help. Welcome to Thailand doctor, home of summary justice. Not the glorious end that you expected; rather ignominious and wretched, wouldn’t you say.’ Jipthep kicked the body solidly in the side, Damn you,’ and wept softly at the horror the man had wrought, the people dead and torn to shreds and he wept for Thailand.
Jipthep and his sergeant did help, working for three days and nights without rest. The hospital lobbies were filled with wounded, the line going out far into the street, doctors doing triage, trying to save those they could but it was an impossible task. By the end of the second day, help had arrived and the fires were put out. A dozen countries sent aid in the form of doctors, nurses, volunteers, tents, food, money. It took weeks for everyone to be attended to, put into shelters, tents, fed and clothed. General Chavali worked hard directing his forces. The governor and the prime minister put in appearances and International Red Cross organizations from many foreign countries worked tirelessly.
A month later there was a small story in the Bangkok Post. General Chavali’s secretary announced that the contraband turned in by Captain Jipthep had been counted; there was two hundred-thousand baht in cash along with a hundred-thousand capsules of Oxy Contin. The drugs would be destroyed and the cash turned over the government.
Another announcement below mentioned that Captain Jipthep had been demoted to Lieutenant and relieved of his command for failing to properly protect the town of Patong.
As for the island paradise of Phuket, tourists had fled and not returned. Tuk-tuks had stopped running for lack of customers. One driver tried to continue to make a living by charging realistic prices but was laughed out of business by his friends. Hotels closed up, first the smaller ones and then some of the bigger names. Six thousand massage parlors closed their doors and Isaan towns were flooded by returning women. The bar scene? There wasn’t any. No visitors returned to pay inflated prices and the locals couldn’t afford to go out. Every dive shop on the island shuttered their doors, most never to reopen. Long-tail boat drivers had to return to fishing instead of ferrying tourists to the local islands at overpriced rates. Soi Bangla was never rebuilt and the locals went back to eating rice and coconuts instead of living high off the hog from the tourist influx. With business largely nonexistent, crime increased: theft, robberies, break-ins and gambling ran rampant. All of Thailand experienced a huge drop in tourism. Towns as far away as Chang Mai were hurting, businesses closing, sex workers going back to the rice farms. Thai Airways slashed flights to Phuket and then had to curtail flights to Thailand. Air Asia, Nok Air and One Two Go simply closed. Bar girls, hostesses, dancers and freelancers drifted from Phuket to Pattaya and Bangkok and then went home for lack of customers.
Thousands of people in related jobs were laid off. Thais that cleaned the airplanes, swept up in the bars, delivered supplies in trucks, sold food in roadside stands, salespeople working in small and large stores, kids making garlands of flowers, Indian tailors, Chinese gold shops, German, Swedish and foreign restaurants all fell by the wayside. Neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines experienced a rise in tourism as the visitor count in Thailand fell to numbers to small to count. Thousands of beach chairs lay abandoned and empty. The prime minister sent troops to the South and cracked down even harder on terrorist activity and everyone wondered if the golden goose of tourism was dead.
A truly superb story and one which really ought to be published for it is every bit as good as most of the published Thailand related novels out there.