Bangkok City, Excerpts
I have a new book out today – Bangkok City – a noir mystery.
Could you publish an excerpt in your contributions section?
Many thanks and best regards.
THE HOTEL was guest-friendly and had hourly rates. There was enough room to swing a cat, if it were a small cat, and you wanted to swing it. There was a bed. There always was a bed. There was a vanity. There was a chair. Wardrobe. Telephone. Shit. There was an attached bathroom. The tour brochures labeled the room mid-range. Joe had forgotten most of the weeks and months that he’d been living in that mid-range hotel. The coordinator may have telephoned. Joe didn’t care. He had gone AWOL. Trapped inside Edward Hopper. It was home. It was almost home.
Loss. Guilt. Decadence. Shit. Shame. Christ. A long drawn-out tequila hangover with no bloody Mary flashing in the headlamps like the call to prayer. Sure, the west was no better, but sometimes it had greener grass. He dreamed of burned bridges. Forgotten careers. Old flames. Missed directions. Disaster. He came close to calling the coordinator, his old boss in London, but something always stopped him from doing it.
That something was Bangkok City.
It was a tough place to exist. No pension. No fucking trust fund. Shit. Thirty-three years old. No degree. Just a shaky past as a financial fraud investigator. Thailand didn’t need him. What did the west know about bonds and securities? He picked up private cases here and there. He dug about in shit and got a nose for it. He became a private dick. Swam right into it. The jobs were steady. The punters were weird. Two years in Bangkok. The expats either winded up paranoid and edgy or swan-dived into a concrete pizza below their thirteenth floor apartment. Shit. It was a cesspool. It stank. You had to swim in it, sink in it, or take a room on the second floor and learn the language. Did Joe speak Thai? Snake, snake, fish, fish. No one had any real idea which way the fortune cookie would crumble. Twenty-dollar joy and chicken fried rice. Cockroaches. Rats. Meat on a stick. Raw sewage. Broken sidewalks. Shit. Fate was a fickle beast. Many had died trying to tame the city but years in the saddle didn’t mean shit. One thing that made it all ok.
Joe had a case.
Monica. Naked in bed with one hand rubbing her mascara smeared eyelids and the other hand stroking through that beehive. She lit up the city. She dug graves. She looked defeated. ‘You know…’ She said.
‘What do we know?’ Joe said sitting up in the bed, ‘You’re one hell of a dancer and I’m a washed out investigator.’ He wished it wasn’t true. That they’d been cast in the wrong movie and were just waiting for the director to wrap it up. They’d return to real life happy together in some small town with air that you could breathe without choking and traffic that flowed places where you could take your mother. But who was he kidding? She was a neon ballerina. She didn’t have a mother. She needed paying. The money wasn’t his. That kind of blurred the issue. The money wasn’t his.
‘Me and you, we know more about this city than most guide-books or travel agents,’ She said sitting up. ‘But I know one thing you don’t know Mr Detective and that’s a little secret that I heard about,’ She smiled mischievously as Joe glanced over. His eyes drank in those well-behaved breasts and that Khmer tattoo; the one that looked like a tiger gently scratched her right shoulder blade with ink- dipped claws. Buddhist monks designed them at the temples and branded the laypeople in return for donations. She was a well-built woman, and a tattoo could never change that. Shit. Nothing could change that.
‘There’s many.’ Joe told her, ‘Secrets are like mosquitoes. They hover around and then they land on you and bite. Some make you mad like malaria and some just kinda irritate. Some say you’re only as evil as your secrets. Cats that say things like that have it all figured out. The rest of are just scratching around in the dirt pretending we’re cleverer than the average bear while most of us can’t even separate the pepper from the mouse shit.’
‘But there’s a big secret Joe,’ She raised that left eyebrow. The one that moved indecently and made men forget about wives, jobs, families and bank balances. She was a worker. A show girl. Useless junk like houses cars and baseball-card collections disappeared backstage the moment that eyebrow began to budge northwards.
“Monica, you grew up an orphan in the city of sin. If you say there’s a secret it’s probably worth hearing. Kwam Lap aria? What is this big secret?’ Joe asked brushing away a strand of hair from her face. He eased himself up and reached over to the vanity next to the bed and picked up a glass of water. He drank it down.
Monica spoke: ‘There’s two ways to make people love you. One’s a secret and the other involves cash.’
‘Isn’t there a third way?’ Joe drank the rest of the water and put the empty glass back down on the vanity..
‘Yes, but that’s real love and that only happens on TV, in the movies, maybe in Europe or America where the rich people live. Rich people don’t have to love for money because they have enough of it already,’ She said scratching her thigh.
‘Rich people love for money, Monica. It’s just more money that’s all. There’s no such thing as enough money. Especially if you’re rich.’
Monica’s eyes narrowed. She playfully poked out her tongue. Joe listened to the muffled voice of a trader peddling fruit on the street outside the window. Joe figured the fruit peddler had it all worked out. Shit. The fruit peddler knew more about the street than anybody.
Joe spoke: ‘Let me tell you something about money. There was this guy, a Russian client, not the coolest beer in the fridge and no oil painting neither. He got hooked by this professional used to work the road. When I say hooked I mean like a Marlin. He was a big fish you understand. Millionaire. Rich family rolling around in old oil money. This broad took him for the lot including the shirt from his back. It was an expensive shirt, you understand – Italian. Shame what happened to him. He could of inherited a fortune but ended rolling around on the streets of Bangkok. Shit. The family cut him loose. An embarrassment. That’s why men hire me. To stop women like you taking them for everything.’ Joe paused for a moment then continued. ‘Funny how woman’s nest-building tends to end up with men’s wing’s being clipped. This client couldn’t fly away and he was hopeless on the ground. His family disowned him and the last anyone saw of Vladimir was begging on the streets for a ticket somewhere, anywhere, away from Fun City.’
‘What happened to the lady?’
‘There was no lady. The female beneficiary married a Swede and settled down on one of the islands. Started a pleasure boat business. Called it From Russia with Love.’
‘You don’t like your job, Joe?’ Monica purred mockingly. She reached under the covers. ‘I think that lady have bigger brain than man Russia. I like her. She champion.’
‘Well, she who dies with the most toys wins, honey.’ He touched her under the cover. Her body was cold. ‘She was a bitch but she never said she wasn’t.’
‘One day I want to have a boat and sail around the world,’ She beamed like a Siamese eyeballing a tub of freshly clotted cream. She didn’t know much about the world. She just knew she wanted to see it. That smile. So many rehearsals. So many deliveries. It looked almost natural. Maybe it was. Shit. Stop. Joe realized that most women were actresses and the ones that weren’t hadn’t gotten their lines oiled yet. All cats were grey at night. Amateurs found real love. Pros bathed in deception. It was the pro amateur hook up that was most dangerous. Often the John never got that he was one. He thought it was love. Shit. They all played the game. Young. Old. Rich. Poor. They played the game. Monica’s script was written years ago and the film was already in the can. She was looking for the guy that could save her from all the demons in the city. All Joe had was an expired air-ticket and a bitch-load of hard earned wisdom to offer her. ; She would play the game. She knew the rules. Joe didn’t have the ticket to ride. He could only deal with reality. Reality was a bitch but it was the only bitch he had. Monica laid down staring at the ceiling. She wouldn’t get him. Joe was on a roll: ‘You see Monica, Bangkok City is one big game of spider and the fly with neon lights, fake watches and wooden frogs that croak when you scratch their crooked backs with a stick. Bangkok’s a giant processing machine that sucks up innocence and generosity through a green and red seven-eleven straw and spits out corruption and greed on the streets. Baby, you see all these fresh-faced teenagers arriving from upcountry with ideas of making it to the top through the bars? Forget it. Most end up working the streets where they stay until returning to rural destitution shaking their sorry heads. Some fluke it after scratching the backs of a few thousand frogs and hatching a dose of herpes. They end up rubbing the right ego at the right time. Cured like a Texan farmer hitting black gold whilst planting beats. Once they get the condo, the car, the house in the village and the iPhone they go get a check-up. They got the big A. Was it worth it? Who knows. Why worry about something that may happen in ten years when you could be dead tomorrow. Only the very few ever make it. It’s a numbers game and the odds ain’t pretty. It’s like taking a shot at becoming a Hollywood star, booking singing lessons or playing the state lottery. These things are probably predetermined by some bigwig up there calling the shots. If there’s a way to cheat the odds I’d sure like to know about it.’
‘Maybe there is, Joe?’
‘Ok kid. You got me beat. What’s this secret?’ He asked her again. She climbed over him and stood by the bed naked. Joe looked at her. Heavenly. Twenty-four years old with a mouth made for kissing and legs made for dancing.
‘It wouldn’t be a secret if I told you, would it?’ She teased and then walked the four steps to the bathroom. She opened the door and closed it behind her. Joe listened to water splashing on her almond-colour skin for the length of time it took him to realize he had a weakness for a neon-ballerina who could turn his whole world mango-shaped in a Bangkok City heartbeat.
I hope the book sells well!