Stickman Readers' Submissions September 16th, 2014

The Die Is Cast Part 5

Part 5 Alan San

Rose sat alone in her Chonburi hotel room and reflected on the events of the past week or so. She framed her thoughts as if she was explaining them in the form of a letter to Mitsuki her closest friend back in Kadena.

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“I liked the look of Alan from the moment I first saw him in the restaurant near the Marriot. He was a little older than me but was not fat and looked good. I liked his sandy red hair and gentle face. He looked lost with the three Japanese men he was with. It was as if he was their prisoner. He was shy and I noticed he blushed like a young boy when I gave him the glass of whiskey and a flash of my legs.

He is so different from all the other men I know. The Thai boys of my own age are like spoilt children who now consider me an old lady and only want younger girls. One of the older Thai men I worked with wanted me as his Mia Noi (mistress) which my father would never allow for sure. The Japanese men I meet have very strange sexual tastes and some of the things they suggest totally horrify me. I like the American boys I know but half of them are afraid of relationships in general and the other half is terrified of my father.

I know it was silly the way I behaved in the Lucifer and Tony bar, I was testing Alan’s patience like a child tests their parents but he was very firm with me. I know my mother adores him and even my father likes him and he seems to have become big friends with my uncle Joe which is unusual as he does not make friends easily.

The last two days have been lovely, I am enjoying the job as his assistant and I love the way everyone in the factory treats me with respect and considers me clever even though I am only translating what Alan has told me. It is charming how Alan explains everything carefully to me. Most of what he tells me is very technical and difficult to understand but he says I am learning quickly. What we are doing is fascinating and it is exciting that we are challenging a yakuza gangster. I am a little fearful but Alan does not seem scared of him at all. I just hope he is careful.

When he first talked about me being his interpreter I thought it was just to get into my panties but he is courteous and a real gentleman to me all the time. I wish now he would hurry up and make an advance on me or I will have to give him a little push”.


On Wednesday morning Alan and Rose took a leisurely breakfast and arrived at the plant around 9.30. On seeing the Japanese technicians still measuring everything that moved and generally getting in the way of the poor caster, they made their way to the owner’s office. Woody welcomed them updated them and offered them some green tea. Alan was delighted to hear that the technician Phanon had taken it upon himself to grind the dies to reproduce the profiles of the castings from the UK and had already delivered the dies to the preparation area. Alan suggested they do some casting trials on the altered die when the Hirota technicians had disappeared. Woody confirmed he would have no trouble getting some of his team to work a night shift out of the sight of their Japanese tormentors. Once he had drunk his tea Alan went to watch the dies being prepared for casting.

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With Cast Iron dies the molten aluminium reacts with cast iron and eats it away so a barrier is applied in the form of a ceramic coating to prevent the reaction. The process involves first cleaning off any residual coating with a blasting operation. The die is then heated and sprayed with a coating using a spray gun. The coating is usually a mix of talc and mica with a sodium silicate binder suspended in a water solution. The water evaporates leaving the coating on the die surface. If the die is too cold the coating would not adhere, if too hot a layer of vapour prevents it sticking. He gave Rose a wink and said “my simple test is I spit on the die and watch how it rolls” Actually” he continued “this is how the Indian fakirs can walk on hot coals because the sweat on their feet forms a vapour which acts as a barrier to the heat of the coals, it is called the Liedenfrost effect. Rose was clearly fascinated at this snippet of information.

However Alan used an optical pyrometer rather than spit to help the operator find the best temperature. They soon established an optimum temperature around 180 C and the operator began applying the coating. Alan noticed he was applying it too thick so demonstrated how to flick his wrist whilst spraying to apply a very thin coat. Once they were happy with the coating Alan suggested they mount the dies on the tilt machines as soon as the Hirota technicians had left.

Alan gave a little smile as he later watched Rose animatedly explaining how Indian fakirs walk on hot coals to a group of enthusiastic Thai workers. She clearly had them mesmerised. Alan was happy; Rose was already turning out to be a real asset to this project with her popularity.

As it was lunchtime Woody suggested he take Alan and Rose for lunch. He drove them to a pleasant little restaurant on the edge of the estate. Alan was beginning to appreciate Thai cuisine and learning that in Thailand often the more modest the establishment the better the food. If he saw cheap plastic seats he felt he was in for a treat. Over lunch Woody told them his background using Rose to translate He was born in Korat and after he completed his military service he ended up working in a large engineering company in Ayutthaya. They had a sizeable Aluminium casting facility which was where he learnt his trade. He explained how he later went into partnership running a small foundry on an estate on the outskirts of Bangkok and picked up a lot of work from the newly arriving Japanese operations.

Woody continued his story” The Hirota Corporation approached us to produce a few simple castings like brackets and covers in reasonable volumes and we began to outgrow the premises. I met Makota and he told me about the Amata Nakorn estate and the tax incentives to move there. Makota needed a foundry near to his operation and even offered to buy a few shares in the business. So I moved here a few years ago into the current premises. It had been a success until this latest project and Osamu’s interference. He gave a huge smile “but your arrival has given me fresh hope”. Alan felt a little embarrassed as Rose translated this remark.

With lunch over Woody informed them he was going home for an afternoon nap and would meet them at the plant around 7.00 pm. He gave Alan and Rose a lift back to their hotel. Alan lay on his bed and within minutes was asleep. An hour or so later he awoke to find Rose lying beside him her arm draped across his shoulder. She noticed he was awake and remarked “come on sleepy head we have appointment” seeing Alan’s bemused expression she explained “I came in and saw how comfortable you looked so I lay beside you and fell asleep myself”. Alan shook himself and asked Rose to give him five minutes and he would meet her by the street vendor near the car park and grab some street food to eat.

It was 7.00pm when they arrived at the foundry to see Woody waiting with Thanom his machine shop supervisor. Alan was also surprised to see Somchai from the day shift but it seemed they all had something to prove. Woody said he would saw off the runners and risers which were the channels used to introduce metal into the cavity. He would pass the trimmed castings to Thanom to machine then to Phanon who would operate the pressure test.

Alan instructed Somchai that when the metal was ready to add the modifier and grain refiner as he usually would but not to perform the hydrogen degassing process to the extent the Japanese had imposed on them.

The removal of hydrogen from the melt involved inserting a hollow graphite lance and bubbling nitrogen gas through it into the melt for a time between 15 to 30 minutes. The hydrogen gas in the molten metal migrates into the nitrogen bubbles and is carried to the surface by the rising bubble until released into atmosphere at the metal surface. The resultant hydrogen gas levels are monitored by use of a gas density test or “densometer”. In this test two samples are cast, one in air and one under vacuum. They are then weighed in air and in water. Using the Archimedean principle of displacement the relative density of the samples can be compared and a “gas index” determined which gives an indication of the hydrogen content.

Index levels of 0.5 to 1.0 are considered good practice for high integrity applications. The Hirota technicians were attempting to get below 0.3 which Alan felt totally unnecessary for the application and required ridiculously excessive degassing cycles. He instructed the furnace man to de-gas for no more than 10 minutes and aim for an index above 1.0.

Whilst the metal was being prepared, through Rose Alan spoke with Somchai and explained that without the Japanese technicians hindering him he could get into his own work rhythm. A consistent and regular casting cycle was more important than a fast but intermittent one as it allowed the die to achieve stability in its temperature. Alan suggested he aim for a 4 min cycle. Somchai was happy he was at last working with someone who clearly knew what he was doing.

By 7.30 everything was ready Somchai quickly got into a routine and his own rhythm. The first few castings were incomplete due to low die temperature but by 8.00 the die was in equilibrium and Somchai was making complete castings. At 8.30 the first 10 or so castings were cool enough for Woody to dress and pass onto Thanon to machine on the CNC then pass to Phanon to test for leaks. Rose stood with Phanon at the test rig in eager anticipation with her measles chart ready to record results. Alan had never seen her so excited.

The results were encouraging the first three castings still showed some leaking but it was now only in one position, the next seven castings however were completely leak free. Alan left Phanon to the task and returned to the foundry with Rose. Unprompted by Alan Rose relayed the encouraging results to Somchai. Somchai beamed a huge smile and seemed to grow a few inches as he returned to his casting. Rose scurried back and forth between the foundry and the testing area all night. Alan was amused and delighted how Rose had got involved and had entered into the spirit of things with such enthusiasm.

At midnight Woody called them all into the small canteen area where he had laid out an array of food for them all. Alan had already learnt the importance of food to the Thais. As they ate they took the opportunity to review their progress. Since 8.00pm Somchai had poured 50 shots and with two impressions the die he had produced 100 castings. Phanon had tested about 50 of them and had only rejected 12 so far which gave a 25% scrap rate. This was a promising improvement. Phanon also suggested he would grind a little more off the dies to enlarge the feed path to the leaking area at the first opportunity in the morning.

Although Somchai was keen to continue casting Woody suggested they call it a night as soon as they had returned the casting station back to how the Hirota technicians were expecting it the next morning. For the next hour the team tidied up and hid the evening’s castings away in a store ready for a repeat of their clandestine activities the following evening. By 1.00am Alan and Rose were back in the hotel. At her bedroom Rose gave Alan a huge hug and a kiss before leaving him at the door.

Alan and Rose took a late breakfast but were still in Woody’s office by 11.30am. Woody was sat at his desk and informed Rose that Osamu had been in looking for Alan and had promised to return. Woody described how the Hirota technicians had returned this morning and the normal chaos had continued as before but they hadn’t noticed that half the workforce was missing. Most of Woody’s workforce had volunteered to join the covert evening shift. They discussed progress and the plan to repeat the previous evenings exercise that night but with a bigger team. Their discussion was interrupted by the receptionist urging Woody to come out urgently

They walked into the reception area to find Osamu standing with two Thai police officers. On seeing Alan he pointed to him and screamed at the officers to arrest him. As the two boys in brown advanced towards Alan Woody gave the senior officer a wai and politely invited him into the office to discuss the problem. Woody introduced Rose to the officer and she joined them. The sergeant told his colleague to remain in the reception and keep Alan and Osamu in his sight.

Alan noticed that his antagonist looked terrified of him and did not move very far from the young police man. Any deference Alan had to Osamu had long evaporated so he amused himself making mildly obscene gestures with his fingers and buzzing sounds in imitation of the rotary grinder he had threatened him with the previous day. Even the young policeman had difficulty containing his smile at Osamu’s discomfort.

Within a few minutes Woody and Rose emerged from Woody’s office and the police sergeant barked instructions to his colleague who grabbed Osamu and frog marched him out the door. Rose spoke to him in Japanese….”we will explain to Makota what has happened but I am sure it will not look good for you being arrested by the police and making false accusations.

The sergeant then walked with Woody and Rose into the foundry. Rose calmly explained to the Japanese technicians in their own language that they should leave immediately and go back to the Hirota plant as they were technically trespassing. She instructed them that they should not return to this plant unless specifically invited. Even the police officer seemed impressed with Rose’s air of authority.

Within five minutes the Hirota technicians had departed the plant. Woody exclaimed they could start their programme and it need not be covert any longer. He stopped production and instructed everyone to prepare for the evenings activity when the main team would arrive. It was not long past midday and Alan was not sure how to spend the afternoon constructively until the team came on at 6.00pm. Rose suggested they return to the hotel and take a nap for couple of hours.


Back at the hotel Rose asked Alan to remove his shoes and step into her room. She removed her lab coat and safety shoes and asked him to wait whilst she used the bathroom. Alan sat on the bed unsure what she wanted. Within a few minutes she came out naked with a towel around her. Alan was mesmerised as she removed his clothes, led him by the hand into the bathroom and directed him into the shower. She then dropped the towel to reveal a perfect body slim with small firm breasts. Alan noticed although not shaved, her pussy was neatly trimmed and decidedly inviting. He stood in the shower as she soaped him down; he reciprocated savouring her soft warm body and exploring her sweet little crevices.

As they lay intertwined on the bed in the post coital languor Alan could not believe his good fortune. Rose lay on his shoulder and gave him an affectionate kiss on his cheek. “That was wonderful” said Alan “but totally unexpected” Rose smiled “I was tired of waiting for you to finally get around to it so decided to give you a little push”

It was later whilst they were dressing that he asked her what had happened that morning in the office. Rose described how Woody told the policeman that Osamu was obstructing their business. “He showed him my Uncle Joe’s business card and explained Osamu was probably under investigation”. At that the police Sergeant decided to arrest Osamu instead of you”. Alan asked Rose “just who is your uncle Joe that every one jumps for him?” she answered “he is my kindly Uncle Joe who I love dearly” she continued “I know he is still in the military but has a clerical job, I often hear him and my father talk about covert operations and the intelligence community but have always assumed my father was teasing him about having a desk job”. She went quiet for a moment then declared “Maybe I have had it completely wrong all these years”

At 6.00 they returned to the plant giggling together in the back seat of the taxi. At the plant the no longer clandestine team were raring to go. Somchai had begun casting and was in his rhythm. Castings were being dressed and machined with a determined effort. The pressure testing was well underway. Alan worked a while checking the metal and everything was working well. By midnight 160 castings had been made. Results from the pressure test still showed 20 % rejects but they were making progress. However Alan felt he was missing something. At midnight Alan and Rose decided to return to the hotel to continue where they had left off that afternoon.

On Friday morning they awoke early. Their new found passion meant they couldn’t keep their hands off each other so it was midday before made their way into the plant. Woody greeted them with news that 900 castings had arrived from the UK. He had begun assembling them onto the heat exchanger cores and had a team to work throughout the weekend to continue assembling them. With the 500 units they already had and a further 200 or so they had made in the past few days they were confident they would have 1500 completed units and would meet the schedule requirement by Monday morning


Alan phoned Takashi informing him he would like to meet him and was on his way to the Hirota plant with his assistant. When they arrived Takeshi was waiting for them and quickly ushered them into Makota’s office. They remembered Rose from the restaurant in Pattaya but were surprised to see her with Alan. As they took their seats around the conference table Alan took great pleasure in informing him that Siam Chonburi would be delivering 1500 units to schedule on Monday morning. He also told them about Osamu turning up at the plant with Thai Police officers and how he was removed with little dignity by the same officers. After the way he had been treated Alan was relishing their discomfort so continued to describe how the Police officers had also ejected the Hirota technicians for trespassing.

He got to his feet stood silent for a moment then slammed his fist down on the table “Now tell me what the hell was been going on…..I have three questions, why did you allow Osamu to sabotage the project, why did you allow him to treat me as he did and why bring me here in the first place?”

Takashi was the first to speak “Alan I am sorry but the situation was more complicated than you can imagine” Alan was about to lay into him when Makota raised his hand and spoke directly to Rose, after a few minutes she stopped him to give a translation to Alan “it would appear that Takashi was correct and the situation is complicated” she explained that Osamu came from a very powerful influential family in Japan with an intimation of involvement in organised crime. When his masters at Hirota in Japan sent Osamu as his assistant, Makota was disturbed and intimidated by his reputation. It was clear Osama wanted to take control of this plant for some reason they were unsure about. It was Takashi’s idea to bring you here as a wild card. They thought as an outsider you would not be intimidated by Osamu. They hoped your natural stubbornness and western ways would obstruct Osamu sufficient to delay his scheme.

Rose gave a smile before continuing “it would seem you were more successful in thwarting him than they anticipated”. However she had a frown as she informed Alan that Makota was concerned that Osamu may attempt some retribution for his indignity.

Takashi informed them he had sent a letter to the vice president of Hirota Corporation in Japan detailing Osamu’s deceit. Despite his alleged yakuza connections now the Thai Police were involved the directors could not now ignore Takashi’s accusations. Osamu would be recalled to Japan where he was sure to be subjected to some disciplinary investigation which would severely reduce his future influence in the Hirota Corporation. Takashi thought someone at a high level in the corporation would be expected to fall on his sword about this incident or at least resign.

Takashi was contrite and in apologising to Alan expressed the hope it hadn’t affected their friendship. Alan said nothing for a moment he could not deny he remained a little aggrieved at the way they had treated him in that first week. However Alan gave a smile and declared “the jury is still out on that but I do understand your position.” He continued “now Osamu is out of the way we can make progress with production at Siam Chonburi and let you and Makota save face…..but be assured you now owe me and big time”.

Alan and Rose made their farewells arranging to meet the next week. As they left the office Rose received a call from her Uncle Joe on her mobile informing them he was coming to see them and suggesting they meet at 6.30 in the restaurant just around the corner from the hotel.


They had just enough time to take a shower together and dress for the meeting with Joe. It was 6.25 as they walked down the hotel steps into the car park. As they reached the road their path was blocked by a Thai man with a pockmarked face and wearing a leather jacket. He pulled out a large chef’s cleaver and screamed at Alan “farang I will carve you into pieces”. Alan took Rose firmly by the hand and turned to return to the safety of the hotel but found another two burley Thai men blocking his way. The one was wearing a tee shirt and a bandana on his head, the other wore a singlet and a baseball cap. Both men had their arms crossed with smug expressions on their faces. With nowhere to run Alan was terrified.

Then suddenly a shadow emerged from the bike shed to his left. The shadow walked purposefully towards the man with the bandana who turned to see who this intruder was. As he turned the newcomer jammed the heel of his hand in a fluid upward motion into bandana mans nose. The crunch of bone shattering was as horrible as the spurt of blood that ensued. The bandana man fell to the floor, unconscious before he reached the ground.

Without breaking step his assailant stepped over the inert body. Singlet went to take a swing as the shadow gave him a firm kick between his legs. The squelching sound made Alan wince. As singlet doubled up in agony the shadow dropped his elbow onto the side of his head. The glazed eyes indicated he was also out for the count before he touched the ground; the whole incident was over in seconds.

On seeing his colleagues routed the leather jacketed ruffian lifted his cleaver and made to move towards their assailant. As he did so the shadow pulled a revolver from his back pocket and loosed off two shots in what is described as a double tap. The first bullet hit him in his arm the second in his shoulder. The screams of agony could be heard for miles as he fell to his knees. The shadow took four steps forward and pistol whipped the screaming thug around the head rendering him immediately unconscious.

Alan was relieved but confused and exclaimed “Bugger me Joe where did you come from?” Joe gave a smile and declared “I saw these three unsavoury characters hanging around the hotel entrance and suspected they were up to no good. I hid myself in the shadows of the bike shelter to see what they were going to do”.

Joe quickly instructed Alan and Rose to go back to the hotel and pack a few things as he intended to take them back to Pattaya for the weekend. He told them “I will explain things to the Police when they arrive and will wait for you here”. Alan was still shaking like a leaf and asked “bloody hell Joe you talk like an Oxford professor you quote Sun Tzu you know of Machiavelli and you fight like a Ninja warrior…..just who the hell are you?

To be continued

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