Fear and loathing in Pattaya. Part Nine: East and West
A few minutes later I was sitting in the back of a Mazda Utility vehicle and heading down beach road. We turned into Soi Nine and then into the parking area of Pattaya Police station. Noot’s boyfriend got out of the vehicle and, instead of walking through the main entrance doors of the reception area, climbed onto a motorbike. As I was about to push through the entrance doors I glanced back in his direction and received a look that, more or less, told me that, if he had of been on his own, I’d be dead by now. Fuck you I thought as I turned and followed the other cop through the doors. I was told to sit down in the waiting area and, thirty minutes later, I was led into an interview room and asked to take a seat in front of two fairly senior looking cops. They gave me a friendly greeting and introduced themselves; both spoke good English. I was also told that the interview would be recorded. The senior one of the two, Colonel Prasert, started the ball rolling by asking me a few basic details about who I was, where I was from, and how long I’d been in Thailand. Then we got down to business.
“Some serious allegations have been made against you by the girlfriend of a man who died this morning over in Jomtien. We were informed that the man, Mr. Christopher Lane, was a friend of yours?”
“Yes, he was a friend of mine but I had nothing to do with his death”
“Well, that’s not what his girlfriend told us” said Colonel Prasert.
“No doubt; if you don’t mind can you please tell me what the allegations are?” I said beginning to warm to the task I’d set myself.
“She said you killed Mr. Lane because of your jealousy. She said that you loved her and couldn’t stand the fact that she was with him” said the Colonel looking into my eyes.
“Hmmm, an interesting little story which, unfortunately, is a complete pack of lies. What else did she have to say?” I said shaking my head and smiling at her audacity
“Well her version of events is that you arranged to meet Mr. Lane, at around two thirty am in the parking area under their condo, and that you killed him by hitting him over the head with an iron bar”
“Like I said, a complete pack of lies and I can prove, beyond doubt, that she was the one responsible for Chris’s death”
“Ah yes, the camera in the room overlooking Mr. Lanes condo. Can you please tell us why you were spying on your friend?”
“Because I was fairly sure that she was the one behind the attempt to kill my friend a few days previously”
“What reasons did you have for believing that?”
“She had significant gamboling debts and she would be the beneficiary of a substantial insurance payout in the event of my friend dying”
“Can you provide solid evidence to back up these allegations” said Colonel Prasert not looking completely doubtful about what I’d just told him.
“Unfortunately I can’t. I have nothing in the way of documentation, only information passed on to me by people who have knowledge of what I’ve just told you”
“Well at the moment we can only consider that as hearsay. However, while we’re conducting our investigation into your friends’ death, we won’t discount any allegation if it leads us to hard evidence. What were you hoping to achieve by spying on her?”
“I was fairly certain that she has a Thai boyfriend who’s a policeman from Jomtien. I wanted to get some shots of them, in a compromising situation, and give those photos to my friend, Mr. Lane, to expose her duplicity” I said feeling myself losing ground a little bit.
“Well yes we do know about him; Sergeant Chalermchai. We’ve got an ongoing investigation into their drug dealing activities. Did you get any evidence showing the two of them in a compromising situation?”
“No, my assistant was picked up by your people before he could get any shots”
“Ah yes, the ex Thahan Phran man. I believe he is quite a handy fighter? Unfortunately he wandered into a surveillance operation of ours and we had to detain him for a while before sending him back to Bangkok. Is he still there, or did he come back to Pattaya?”
I was considering telling them Baey was still in Bangkok but decided against it. If they found out I was lying they’d have even less inclination to believe me.
“No, he’s here in Pattaya. He saved my life this morning” I said.
“Really, what happened?” said Colonel Prasert’s assistant.
“I witnessed two thugs throwing my friend off the balcony of his condo. I went down to check on his body and they spotted me. I took off on a motor bike and they chased me down to the lighthouse where they shot me in the leg while I was trying to get away from them. They eventually cornered me but my friend, Baey, turned up just in time to help me” I said.
“Well that’s not quite the same as their version of what happened” said the Major.
“Surprise, surprise. What was their version?” I said shaking my head at their spuriousness
“Well, according to them, they chased and shot at you because you killed their friend”
“Yes they certainly did that” I said showing them the bandage on my calf.
Colonel Prasert laughed.
“The other guys looked in worse condition than you when they came in this morning. It appears that someone gave them quite a beating. Someone who, perhaps, might be an ex Thahan Phran member” he said.
“Nothing less than they deserved for what those evil bastards have done to Chris and Noi” I said showing no pity.
“Ah yes, the young lady who was found on Jomtien Beach after being sexually assaulted. How do you know it was them?”
“Because that tall guy, the one with all the tattoos, boasted to me that he’d done it”
“Well if that’s true it wouldn’t surprise me. He is well known for his criminal activities. We just haven’t been able to pin anything on him as yet. Look, what you’re telling us certainly has to be considered seriously. However, without any hard evidence, what you’ve told us is still only one man’s word against theirs. If you have photos of your friend being murdered, we really need to have them to clear you of any wrong doing. Unfortunately there was no memory card in the camera when we opened it up. Would you like to tell us where that memory card is now?”
“Let’s just say that it’s in a safe place” I said.
“I hope you’re aware that withholding evidence from us is a serious offence” said Colonel Prasert’s assistant.
“I’m not withholding it, I’m just making sure that nothing happens to me before I present it” I said looking at both of them.
“Hmmm, are you saying that you don’t trust us?” said the Colonel looking mildly offended.
“To be honest I believe a certain member of the Thai Police force would probably like to see me eliminated”
“That wouldn’t be Sergeant Chalermchai would it?”
“Yes. When he came to the hospital this evening, the first thing he asked me was where the memory card was” I said starting to feel a bit stressed out.
“Well, until you are willing to hand over the memory card, we have no way of proving that what you are telling us is true, or not. For that reason we’re going to have to detain you here for a while” said the Colonel.
“On what grounds?” I said feeling shocked by the turn in events.
“As a suspect in the murder of Mr. Lane”
“But it’s only her word against mine” I said feeling my blood pressure beginning to rise.
“Unfortunately not. She had two other witnesses backing up her story”
“The two friends who chased me?”
“Yes they came in here with Miss Ning this morning and made witness statements as well. Look, we’re not actually charging you with anything yet however, given the information that you’ve provided us with, I believe it’s in your best interests to stay here overnight. You really need to consider handing over that memory card to us as soon as possible. If you can’t provide us with real proof, that absolves you from killing your friend, then we’ve got no option but to consider you as a suspect in his death” said Colonel Prasert as a matter of fact.
I considered what he was saying and realized that I was between a rock and a hard place. Knowing that the bad guys were now out there looking for me it would probably be safer for me to stay at the police station over night. However, I didn’t want to remain here indefinitely. I also didn’t want to hand over the memory card without having a copy of the footage.
“Okay, fair enough. How long will I be detained for?”
“At the moment it will be overnight. We’ll review things in the morning” said the Colonel.
“If that’s the case then can you show me where I’ll be sleeping? I’m feeling tired and I’d like to get some rest” I said resigning myself to the idea that I’d be spending the night locked up.
“Okay, we’ve got some single cells out the back” he said as he stood up.
We filed out into the waiting area again and I was told to follow a junior officer, through the building, to a dingy row of holding cells at the rear. The officer approached one of the cells and flicked a switch. A light came on behind a heavy gauge metal door which he proceeded to unlock. It had a barred viewing window in the upper half. I looked through and saw an uncomfortable looking steel framed bed; this was not going to be the best night’s sleep I’d ever had. The officer opened the door and, as I stepped into the Spartan eight by ten cell, I was immediately hit by the odor of the toilet. To make matters worse it was a traditional, Asian style pan; at floor level with a foot pad either side. The officer came in, indicated to the control switch for the ceiling fan, then stepped back out and locked the door.
I turned the fan to maximum speed, as rivulets of sweat were beginning to run down my back, and sat down to consider my situation. I didn’t really quite know what was going on. I was a suspect, in Chris’ murder but I hadn’t been officially charged with anything. Who knows, maybe I was about to be squeezed for some unofficial bail money? Colonel Prasert had appeared to be quite friendly although it was probably the good cop, bad cop routine as the other guy seemed to take up the aggressive side of the partnership. Whatever the case, I didn’t intend to stay in this shitty cell indefinitely; I needed some help. I pulled my phone out of the travelers pack and punched in Nat’s number.
“Hello” said that husky feminine voice that I knew well.
“It’s Mike” I said noting the background music.
“Hello Mike, I was beginning to think you weren’t going to contact me. What have you been doing?”
“If I told you, you probably wouldn’t believe me”
“Try me” she said seductively.
“I’ve been shot in the leg and I’m now locked up at Pattaya Police station”
“Wow, you have been busy. I did warn you though didn’t I?”
“Yep and I suppose I’ve only got myself to blame for the mess I’m in now”
“It’s a bit of a long story Nat but the bottom line is that I witnessed my friend being killed and then the killers chased, and shot, me. The thing is I’ve got evidence showing what happened but I need help to get out of the cell I’m locked in at the moment. I remember you telling me you had relatives with influence?”
There was silence for a few seconds.
“Yes I did say that Mike but there’s no guarantee my uncle will agree to help. I can ask but he will need to be assured, one hundred percent, that you are an honest man and free of guilt or bad intentions”
“Fair enough. All I can say is that I’m a man of integrity and I’ve done nothing wrong in regards to the death of my friend. All I’m trying to do is see justice done” I said feeling the enormity of what had transpired, over the past few days, beginning to overwhelm me.
“Yes, I believe I’ve seen a lot of honesty in you Mike. That’s very important because my uncle has a position which is constantly scrutinized for honesty, and integrity, and it would harm his career badly if he was found to be associated with someone charged with a criminal offence”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what does he do?”
“He’s a policeman?”
“Hmmm, perhaps the police in Pattaya won’t be overly impressed with a police man, from Bangkok, coming here to help a farang who’s a suspect in a murder case” I said feeling a bit let down.
“They will” said Nat confidently.
“How can you be so sure?” I said surprised at her unwavering confidence.
“Because he is not an ordinary policeman, he’s in the Arintharad”
“Who are they?”
“They are a special police unit whose primary assignment is protection of the Royal Family”
“Wow, I guess you were right in what you told me, you do have some influential family members. I take it that the other police units are very wary of the Arintharad?” I said.
“Yes, that’s it. Most other police are scared of them” said Nat with a bit of a chuckle.
“Well, that’s a good start” I said laughing as well.
“Mike, please don’t take this lightly. The Arintharad have enormous moral duty. They are expected to be unwaveringly loyal and above any kind of questionable activities which, quite often, taint the normal police”
“You mean they cannot be bribed?”
“Yes they are expected to be free of corruption at all times. That’s why many normal police units don’t like them”
“Well I can understand that if they have a duty to the Royal family. I would imagine that their loyalty is highly regarded”
“Yes it is. That’s the reason why I’m willing to ask my uncle if he will consider helping you”
“How do you mean?” I said feeling a little unsure of what she was saying.
“Before you left Bangkok you told me that you had to help your friend. When I asked why you said something which impressed me”
“Which was?” I said trying to remember what I’d said to her.
“You told me that you had no choice, that you’d taken an oath of fellowship and that you had to help your friend even if it led to your death”
“Yes, I remember now. Luckily I managed to avoid getting killed last night but I got a bullet in the leg for my troubles. Anyway, I’m feeling really tired and I’d like to get some sleep babe. Enjoy the party” I said feeling a hint of jealousy creep over me.
“Don’t worry; it’s just some girls getting together for a few drinks. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can and let you know if my uncle is willing to help”
“Okay Nat, most appreciated. Talk to you soon”
“Okay Mike, take care”
I stretched out on the sprung wire bed and closed my eyes. It was about as an uncomfortable a bed as I’d ever been on; the mattress was like a board. The ceiling fan was beginning to have the desired effect of cooling off my perspiration soaked T-shirt as I closed my eyes and tried to relax. The mind was still racing with the turbulence of what had occurred in the past twenty four hours; I knew, at best, I was in for a fitful sleep. Buzz, buzz. I sat up slowly, picked up my phone and checked the time; forty minutes had elapsed since I spoke with Nat.
“Hello, Mike speaking” I said wearily.
“Hmmm, that was quick. I thought I’d be waiting for a while before hearing back from you. What’s up?”
“I just finished speaking with my uncle”
“And?” I said hesitantly
“Well, initially he was very reluctant to offer his assistance but then I mentioned something that you had told me?”
“I said that you were committed to helping your friend because of an oath of fellowship”
“What did he say to that?”
“Well he said something very strange; almost immediately” said Nat enjoying the intrigue.
“He said if you are coming from the West, he will join you from the East”
“Wow” I said suddenly coming to attention.
“What does that mean Mike?”
“It means that I couldn’t have a better person to help me, Nat”