The Porsche Cayenne Turbo S edged into the chaotic Bangkok traffic on Sukhumvit Road. On the rear seat of its air-conditioned sanctuary Dominic Hallcroft-Smythe looked up from his iPad and surveyed the grid-lock around him without a hint of emotion. He’d already calculated that he would be on time for the gala dinner, in aid of Thailand’s many orphans, despite the awful traffic. He calmly placed the device into his attache case and helped himself to a stiff Dalmore from the vehicle’s custom-built drinks cabinet. He briefly regarded his driver-cum-bodyguard, Somchai, an ex-military man, as he guided the 4×4 deftly through the stream of brightly coloured taxis and tuk-tuks. Then, taking a sip of the single malt, he settled back into the soft leather and relaxed.
As the Sukhumvit sideshow, as he liked to call it, glided slowly past the bullet proof windows, Dominic drifted into reflection. It had been 10 years now, almost to the day, since he’d first arrived in Bangkok as a young man of 22, with a few thousand baht in his pocket and Interpol on his tail.
He’d been an ambitious little punk in those days. It was that ambition, combined with a complete lack of morals, regard for the law and a conscience that had gotten him into hot water and led to unpleasantness back in his hometown in one of the more exclusive corners of leafy Surrey. Sometimes he missed England. But home also brought back painful memories – memories of failure, memories of shame. They were best left forgotten.
Cruising the chintzy farang hangouts of Patpong and Nana Plaza in those first few weeks, he had been horrified by what he had seen. The crude, drunken, tattooed neanderthals leering at the whores who would fight for punters like soi dogs fighting over scraps of meat. The disease. The stink – sweat mixed with other bodily fluids, cigarette smoke and cheap perfume. But from that depressing setting had come the first glimmer of an idea – a gap in the market.
Soon he was delivering high-class girls to a more discreet clientele – those that could not afford to be seen trawling the more sordid sois of Bangkok. They wanted their Thai takeaways delivered to their door, and they didn’t want worn out street walkers with tramp stamps and badly dyed hair. They wanted young, fresh, pretty girls, and they got them. Pretty soon he was even providing high-end apartments too – no tacky short time hotels for his clients. They were more interested in a luxury penthouse, with a city view, and all the mod-cons. And they were prepared to pay for it. After all, these were top company CEOs, successful entrepreneurs, actors, politicians. They were married for the most part, with families. They could not afford anything other than the utmost discretion. Of course he’d spent a lot of money having the rooms bugged and video cameras installed – a little insurance never hurt. You never knew when that might come in handy.
It also hadn’t been that long after he’d arrived that he’d picked up the nickname The Choirboy. His floppy blond hair, ruddy cheeks, affable manner, cherubic face, and plum-in-the-mouth private school accent all helped to create the image. He had laughed out loud when he’d first heard about it, tickled by the fact that he had indeed been a choirboy while at Eton.
Over the years he’d expanded business to the point where he was now running a dozen escort agencies, meeting the needs of every vice and perversion imaginable, as well as the more run-of-the-mill sexual demands – which seemed almost quaint by their normalcy. It never ceased to amaze him what some people were into, but who was he to judge – he just provided a service.
All he knew was his businesses had generated cash – a lot of cash – and he had needed somewhere to make that cash look a little more legitimate – or at least less deserving of scrutiny by the authorities. You never knew what regime change could bring, and regime change could happen at any moment in Thailand. It was best to be prepared. He now had just shy of forty legitimate businesses – restaurants and food stalls, hotels, small apartment blocks, beauty salons, laundry services, car and condo cleaning, education and even a mobile phone repair business.
The small businesses dealt mostly in cash, and some even made a profit in their own right, a welcome bonus, but their main job was to act as a way to make dirty cash appear clean. He’d never thought of himself as a money launderer, but it turned out he had a talent for it. Pretty soon he was helping out “associates” who had similar needs. From there the money found its way into accounts in Singapore, Zurich, Cayman Islands and beyond. He owned elegant homes in Singapore, London and Perth, and had a small but lucrative portfolio of investment properties.
He had found making money in Thailand almost easy. Sure there had been some difficulties, like the incident with the two Koreans who’d tried to shaft him. He’d had them both shipped back to Korea in tins of dog food. He still got a laugh out of the irony of that.
But mostly he had thrived with the simple working philosophy that everyone that needed to be bought off could be. He saw it as a cost of doing business, much like taxes. It was as much a part of life in Thailand as rice and noodles.
The General was a case in point. The priceless Buddhist artifacts “sourced” by The General from various temples in the North were proving extremely popular with newly minted Chinese businessmen. Of course, he never questioned The General on the exact nature of that sourcing process. To do so would have been impolite. He simply concerned himself with selling the artifacts on to his contacts in Hong Kong, for a large profit.
He realized with a dry smile that the artifacts weren’t exactly priceless after all. One of the many lessons Thailand had taught him was that everything had a price. He’d never met The General in person, although he felt like he knew him. He’d read the dossier on The General garnered by his small team of surveillance operatives. The General’s penchant for young boys would get him in deep trouble one day no doubt. The General’s hi-so young wife would not be pleased about that. Dominic considered how the information could be useful. Maybe one day, when certain strings needed to be pulled.
His iPhone suddenly buzzed discretely, gently bringing him out of his reverie. It was his fiance. His pulse quickened as her face appeared on the small screen. She was breathtakingly good looking. An exquisite Chinese girl, just 24 years old. It had been lust at first sight. He’d known he had to have her. She wasn’t having any of it until she had a ring on her finger. So be it. Of course it helped that her family were rich and powerful beyond his wildest dreams. Their wealth made his own fortune look like chump change. But he hadn’t known that until he’d had her researched. When he’d seen the size of their business empire he knew it really was true love. She now wanted to know where he was. He assured her he would be there on time, despite the heavy traffic.
A few moments later he was back to his reverie.
In these moments of calm and clarity, he realized that what he had seen as his character flaws, that had hindered him so much in England, had turned out to be huge advantages in Thailand, allowing him to thrive. Rather than feeling like he was constantly battling upstream, he now felt like he was flowing downstream on an airbed, with a glass of chilled Champagne in his hand. It was a pleasant feeling.
Despite its bulk the Porsche accelerated at an impressive rate to take advantage of a sudden break in the traffic. Glancing at his Breitling, Dominic smiled with satisfaction, he would arrive earlier than anticipated.
Very nice start!