The Die Is Cast Part 6
Part 6 Khun Carrot
By the time Alan and Rose had come down from packing their weekend bags a small crowd had gathered around the hotel entrance. The flashing lights of two Police cars illuminated the scene. The leather jacketed miscreant was already in the back of an ambulance. The two other assailants had begun to regain consciousness and were being helped to their feet by a group of police officers before being unceremoniously bundled into the back of the police cars.
Joe was speaking to the senior police officer who appeared to be listening intently to his account. Seeing Alan and Rose, Joe nodded to the officer who gave him a respectful wai. Joe beckoned Alan and Rose towards his vehicle on the car park. As they got into the car Alan could not believe Joe was not in handcuffs.
Joe drove the car away from the scene in silence for the first few miles. Alan had a series of questions running through his head but felt it advisable to wait until Joe was ready to tell him. Joe finally broke the silence “I admire your patience so I will answer your first obvious question… who am I?” Joe paused for a moment. “I am a member of a special Thai army unit that includes Royal protection and counter terrorism in its brief. We are linked to, and work closely with the Royal Thai Police’s Arintharat 26 and Naresaun 261 units. I am the deputy director of the unit but my particular role is liaison with the American, Australian and British intelligence services”. He laughed “so I was not being completely untruthful when I said I worked in a desk job”.
Joe continued “I was fascinated why this Osamu character, if he was allegedly so well connected with the Yakuza, would go to so much trouble to take control of a relatively insignificant automotive plant unless there was an ulterior reason. I suspected shipping drugs like Ya-Ba methamphetamines from Thailand to Japan but have found absolutely no evidence. But whatever he wanted it seemed important enough to hire those thugs to attack you”.
Alan put forward his opinion that Osamu had no absolutely no connection with any crime syndicates and was merely a posturing fraudster who implied the connection to intimidate everyone. Alan continued “When confronted he was a bloody wimp, a petal dick pussy cat who was even scared of me…and no one is scared of me”. Joe laughed “I would be a little anxious of you because of your red hair, I know plenty of red haired Brits particularly a few in the British SAS… and they certainly scare me.
To entertain them on the journey Joe told them a few amusing stories of the ineptitude of the senior men in the western intelligence organisations which were only equalled by the utter incompetence of the politicians who were supposed to provide their leadership. Joe put forward the opinion that if it wasn’t for the guys at the lower levels in the intelligence community the barbarians would already be at the gates. The journey fled by and as they entered the environs of Pattaya Joe suggested “it would be best if you did not mention this incident to Edward, if he thought his daughter Rose had been threatened he would order a cruise missile attack on Chonburi”.
Alan booked into the Marriot whilst Rose ostensibly returned to the room she had previously shared with her young cousin Kwan. Kwan was very discrete in keeping from the family that Roses bed was never slept in that weekend as she was happy to continue having the room to herself. It was an exhilarating and happy weekend for Alan. Rose effectively moved in with him and for a middle aged bachelor used to living on his own the intimacy was a novel experience. It was the little intimate things that delighted him. Rose laid out his clothes every morning, soaped him down in the bath, and trimmed his hair and fingernails. Unprompted she even put toothpaste on his toothbrush. Feeling a little guilty he asked her about her selfless behaviour.
Rose smiled at his question. “Because I have lived in the west I am often teased by my Asian friends that I am a banana… yellow on the outside but white under the skin but I really don’t think I am” Looking earnestly at Alan she said “It is difficult to explain but I will try”. She continued “I have seen the behaviour of English and American girls; they claim to be liberated and empowered but are constantly dissatisfied and discontented. Most of my western friends are unfulfilled and lonely. Then I see my mother and my auntie Khae, they idolise their husbands and take care of everything for them. They appear subservient to the western mindset but if you look closely they have everything they could ever need and can get my father and Uncle Joe to do anything they want just by the power of love alone. In my opinion they are truly empowered and I want to be the same as them”.
The two days were Idyllic and the happiest Alan had experienced in his life. On the rare occasions they were not exploring each others bodies they went swimming or eating in the company of her entertaining and convivial family. They finally got to go bowling on Sunday night although Alan’s contribution fell short of Roses expectations so he was teased mercilessly.
On Monday Joe gave them a lift back down to Amata Nakorn. Joe told them he had received a phone call from the police in Chonburi. The three miscreants were petty criminals well known to the police authorities and under a gentle interrogation they had admitted they had been paid by Osamu to scare you. They had also put their hands up to a few unsolved cases to the delight of the Chonburi constabulary. Joe had promised to give a full report to the police after he had dropped them off.
They arrived at the plant to be welcomed by Woody who on seeing Joe with them made a great fuss offering drinks and food. Woody was deliriously happy not just because of Alan’s help but in Joe he now had a friend in exalted Thai circles. Joe stayed long enough to drink some green tea and ensure Woody gained sufficient face with his office staff. He then left to visit the police station before returning to Pattaya.
Alan was pleased to see the Japanese technicians had not returned. Woody informed them they had two casters and a full assembly team working 10 hour shifts just for that week in an attempt to make 2000 units by the weekend. Alan still wanted to tackle the 20% rejections so took a stroll to the testing area. He noticed the castings that were still leaking displayed a slight frosting on the surface which could be evidence of sub surface shrinkage. He suspected this may be due to a slight variation in die and metal temperature. It was clear their control of the process although improving was not yet robust enough.
He watched Somchai making castings for a few hours and noticed every ninety minutes a run of about 9 or 10 castings with frostiness appeared then after a few more shots the frostiness would disappear as quickly as it arrived. He put these castings on one side and later took them for testing. He found they leaked but at least he had an indication. Alan speculated that a little bit of late gas evolution would “blow out” the section replacing the shrinkage void with finely dispersed gas. He knew hydrogen pinholes being spherical and if discrete and finely dispersed would not offer a leak path like shrinkage voids did. However he was not sure how to generate gas in such a controlled manner. He experimented with pouring temp and a propriety gassing powder but it wouldn’t dissolve. At the end of the shift the results were still inconsistent.
In the hotel that evening over dinner Alan explained to Rose some of the Science involved. Aluminium’s affinity for hydrogen increased with increasing temperature. If not controlled it formed pores or gas porosity which would be exposed once machined. These pores can be very small and hardly noticeable or quite large holes that were unsightly and possibly detrimental to the casting properties. However most aluminium casters knew that a little gas porosity was significantly less detrimental to properties than shrinkage was. Alan explained that sometimes adding hydrogen gas can disperse or mask the shrinkage but he also made it clear this was something you would never read in technical text books. He told Rose “I remember my father showing me a little trick many years ago to introduce gas but I just can not recall it”.
Rose seeing he had a mental block changed the subject and asked him about his father. Alan explained “I had a great affection for my father who was an enthusiastic and intuitive foundryman. I remember him once plunging green sticks (which were birch poles soaked in water) into the melt to generate gas.” He gave her a wry smile as he continued “this certainly gassed out any shrinkage defects which were ok for castings that were not machined or did not have a structural requirement but the gas levels induced in the melt would be totally unsuitable in our application and the process is inherently dangerous”. Alan realising he had exhausted his line of thought suggested they take a gentle stroll to a small bar nearby where they knew a local singer regularly murdered some old western favourites.
Alan slept fitfully, he was missing something and it was playing on his mind. He woke in the middle of the night sat bolt upright and exclaimed “we need vegetables”. Rose worried for a moment that he was considering adopting the strange sex practices of her Japanese acquaintances. Alan quickly explained that he now remembered a story his father had told him about once using potatoes and carrots to put controlled amounts of gas into a melt. Rose was pleased for Alan and climbing on top of him suggested that now he was awake it seemed a shame to waste the time.
The next day on the way to the plant Alan asked the taxi driver to stop near a market. Rose jumped out and within a few minutes had returned with a bunch of carrots. At the plant they went directly to the casting station. Alan trimmed the green from the carrot and handed it and a small knife to Somchai who looked bemused. Using Rose to translate Alan explained to Somchai that when he noticed any frostiness on the casting he should cut off a couple of coin sized pieces of the carrot and drop them in his hand ladle before filling it with molten metal. As soon as it began to bubble he was to pour the die as usual. Somchai initially thought his farang mentor had lost his mind possibly through too much sex with the delightful Rose. However he trusted Alan’s previous judgement so gave it a try. He removed the resultant casting from the die to see the frosty effect had gone. Alan instructed him to cast just 5 shots using the carrot addition then stop.
On the 6th shot even without the carrot addition the castings showed no frostiness. Whatever caused the variation, be it die temperature, metal temperature or a combination it seemed to correct itself within 6 shots. This type of variation was universal in any process and is known as the natural pattern or common cause variation to statistical practitioners. What Alan had done would be scorned by TQM purists for applying a special cause fix to a common cause problem. However they were scrapping 10 castings every ninety minutes, so if his quick fix saved 66 castings a day from being rejected he was happy. Let one of the ubiquitous statistical experts sort out the niceties at a latter date he thought.
Alan later had his carroty castings tested and they were completely leak free. Alan accepted it needed fine tuning but felt confident he now had a solution. He returned to the casting station and through Rose told Somchai their carrot stew had worked and to instruct the other caster to do the same. However he cautioned them to use it for only 5 shots and only when they spotted the frostiness.
That evening Alan was in high spirits he asked Rose what she wanted to do that evening. Rose declared she wanted to see the sea. They hired a driver and took a ride along the coast road exploring the numerous little bays. They found one particularly inviting beach and enjoyed a barefoot paddle under the light of the moon. It was almost midnight when they returned to the hotel exhausted but contented.
Next day they went direct to the testing area where Phanon was waiting to report the reject rates which were now less than 5 %. They were making real progress at last. Alan went to see Somchai at the casting station and was greeted with huge beaming smile and a “Sawati Khap Khun Carrot”. Alan thinking it was a reference to his red hair returned the amiable greeting. Rose smiled to herself; she was pleased Alan had acquired an affectionate nickname from the Thai workers.
By Thursday evening with the two shifts in the foundry producing almost 600 castings per day and the machining and assembly areas working like beavers they already had 2000 assembled charge cooler units ready. Woody was ecstatic now he knew the capabilities and was making consistent castings he could supply Hirota’s demand comfortably on a single shift and had even created a little capacity for new work.
On Friday Alan and Rose went to Hirota where Takeshi reported Osamu had gone missing and it was thought he had returned to Japan. News from the car plant was they were happy with the quality of the first 1500 units they had supplied. With the news that the next 2000 units were on target Hirota (Thailand) had maintained face and Makota’s reputation with his masters in Japan remained intact.
Makota and Takeshi knew they were indebted to Alan so showed him the drawings of a new product they were developing. They explained they would require 96,000 units per year and had a target price of $35. The product was an oil cooler which was basically a cast aluminium tube with inlet and output ports on the side with two aluminium caps at each end. It was an elegant design but Alan could see it would need a sand core in the casting to produce the cavity for the heat exchanger. Within a few minutes of perusing the drawings Alan had worked out how to make it. He probably couldn’t make it for the target price in the UK but they could certainly make it profitably at Siam Chonburi once he had proven the process. Alan confirmed he could make it and Makota promised he would guarantee he got the contract if he could meet the target price.
Alan asked Makota about his interest in Woody’s company. Makota informed him he had a 10% interest which had cost him $60k. Makota also confirmed it had turned out to be a huge embarrassment to him. When Alan inquired if he would be interested in selling his interest Makota declared he would do so happily and for a discount,.Alan speculated that if they got the new oil cooler business Woody’s company would be worth considerably more. Alan offered Makota $40k for his shareholding which Makota agreed to with somewhat indecent haste.
On Friday afternoon they returned to the Siam Chonburi plant. Alan informed Woody of his agreement with Makota which pleased Woody no end. Alan then proposed a deal with Woody for a joint venture on future projects. This would involve Alan’s company Artemis, designing and producing the tooling and making the initial prototypes. They would develop and prove the production methods then transfer the tooling and technology to Thailand. With Thai wages and overheads the production of the volume numbers should be very profitable. Alan further proposed Siam Chonburi pay a 3% commission to Artemis on any turnover generated.
Woody agreed in principle to the idea. Alan knew he would have to employ a Thai solicitor to confirm the agreement as he knew the potential hazards of doing business in Thailand but he was happy they had a gentleman’s agreement. It could be a very profitable enterprise for both parties. Alan imagined even his accountant brother Peter would be comfortable with this agreement.
Woody was also pleased with the agreement, having seen him in action he had confidence in Alan’s abilities. With a western partner and access to European technologies he relished the thought of the face he would gain in the local business community.
Alan and Rose walked out of the reception to be met by Osamu with two huge Thai thugs. Alan could not believe Osamu was stupid enough to repeat his previous stunt and in broad daylight. He was particularly surprised that the odious wimp would have the backbone to actually appear himself. Alan was now more angry than scared and went to grab Roses hand to direct her back to the safety of the office but she pulled away and walked towards the two Thai men. She pointed her finger at them and began to address them in a calm but authoritative voice. Alan had no idea what was being said but in next to no time they gave her a very respectful wai, turned around and walked away with as much dignity as they could muster.
Osama was now alone so Alan stepped up to him, grabbed hold of the front of his shirt with his left hand and gave him a straight right handed punch to his mouth just to get his attention. He hadn’t cracked any teeth but his lip was split and blood began to fill his mouth. Alan then gripped Osamu’s left nipple and gave it a vicious twist. Osamu screamed like a little girl both at the pain and shock at Alan’s unexpected action. Alan maintained his grasp and stated “right you worthless piece of shit I want the answer to a few questions “Are you really involved with the Yakuza and why did you want Makota’s job so badly? Osamu gave a grimace “Please let go of me and I will tell you” Alan released his grip on Osama’s nipple.
Osamu began to relax but Alan grabbed his ear giving it a brutal twist. “tell me now or I will tear your ear off” Osamu finally realised he was not going to escape so declared “No I am not anything to do with the Yakuza, it is just a coincidence that my family name is the same as a notorious gangster in Japan”. Reconciled to confession he continued “I joined Hirota as a commercial trainee but quickly saw the reaction my name had amongst the stupid company men so I used it to my advantage. I could not believe how quickly I got promoted even some of the top managers were intimidated”.
Alan released his grip slightly and asked “so why did you want Makota’s job? Osamu gave a small laugh “Why not…it is an extremely well paid position in a beautiful country with lovely women everywhere, I got myself a transfer here and when I saw Makota was involved with the Siam Chonburi foundry I saw the opportunity to embarrass him and eventually take his job”. Alan then asked “So there was no plan to ship drugs or transfer the work to Amata Nippon?” Osamu smiled “no I am not stupid enough for that and I have absolutely no interest in the Amata Nippon operation”.
One last question “Why did you set those three thugs on me?” Osamu now looked worried “I had stupidly got involved with a bunch of local petty thugs who offered to give you a beating, I needed to keep face so paid them…but I told them just to scare you” Alan took a grip on both of Osama’s ears and administered a powerful head butt to Osama’s nose. As Osamu fell to the floor Alan declared “Well it obviously didn’t work”
At that a police car turned up on the car park, Woody’s receptionist had been watching Alan and Roses departure and on seeing Osamu on the car park with two ruffians immediately phoned the police sergeant who had left his card with her. The sergeant had taken a fancy to the receptionist on his last visit so decided to immediately respond much to the surprise of his young colleague.
As the two policemen got out the car Rose explained what had happened. The two officers helped the battered Osamu to his feet and into the back of the police car. Alan heard the sergeant make a comment to Osamu which he assumed was the Thai equivalent of “come along mi lad we have you bang to rights this time and no mistake”.
Alan gave Rose a big hug of relief. Rose laughed “I saw you whip Osamu, I think you have spent too much time with my Uncle Joe” Alan was inquisitive as to what she said to scare off the two thugs. Rose replied with a grin “I told them that although Osamu had told them his family was Yakuza, my family was Naresaun. If they laid a finger on you or me the boys from the unit would spend the remainder of their lives hunting them down”. She laughed “being Thai they were definitely more scared of the Naresaun than the Yakuza”.
Alan was due to fly back to UK on Saturday afternoon. With all the excitement of the past week Alan had forgotten about booking an alternate flight home so was resigned to a repeat of his inward journey. Rose’s family were due to return to Bangkok and as they lived near the airport her father Edward had offered to drop Alan off on the way.
Friday was their last evening together. It was a bittersweet sensation and they spent all evening sharing their dreams and aspirations. Alan promised Rose he would return to Thailand and her as soon as he could. Having sampled a taste of paradise the thought of returning to his lonely life the UK filled him with anguish.
Early the next morning they checked out of the Chonburi hotel. Edward and Kanita were waiting for them in their Ford Explorer. They threw their bags in the cavernous rear. Alan sat in the back seat with Rose and observed you would have to wear a Stetson or oilman’s steel hat to drive such a vehicle. He told Edward about the success of the project and proudly confirmed the crucial role Rose had played. On the journey they discussed Osamu. Edward remarked he still had a few contacts in Japan and had arranged to have his legs broken when he surfaced but with him already incarcerated in a Thai cell he had cancelled the contract. Alan suspected he was not joking. Edward mentioned he found it amusing that his brother in law the professional spy catcher had got it wrong whilst a total amateur like Alan had guessed Osamu was a fraudster. He laughed “but don’t tell Joe I mentioned it”.
As they approached the outskirts of Bangkok Alan told Edward about his plan to invest in Siam Chonburi and his ideas for a joint venture and technology transfer agreement. He added “I think it could become lucrative and will give me excuse to return to Thailand on a regular basis.” He saw Edward and his wife exchange a knowing smile.
Alan expressed how sad he was to be leaving but promised he would soon return and sort out a visa for Rose to visit the UK. Edward gave a chuckle and exclaimed “why you are worried about visas?” Edward looked at Alan in his rear view mirror and continued “forget what your mongering pals have told you about the problems they have getting UK visas for the bargirl fiancés. Rose is an American Citizen and has a US passport so she doesn’t need a visa to visit the UK”.
Edward turned to his daughter “Honey do you have your passport up to date and would you like to go back to England with Alan?” She replied with a firm “Oh yes” Edward then asked “Do you want to go to back by Uzbekistani air or whatever it was the tight fisted Jap buggers bought your ticket with?” Alan entering into the spirit answered “Hell no sir”. Edward then turned to his wife “Phone your friend…you know the bossy broad that works for Thai airways and ask if she can get them a decent flight to London”. Kanita gave her husband a stern look and said “I think you mean my dear friend Phattraphorn” as she dialled she smiled “yes I suppose she is a little bossy”.
Kanita connected to her friend and a conversation ensued. The phone call completed she informed them her friend had reserved two seats on the Thai flight direct to London which leaves just after midnight. She told Alan “You can pay with a credit card at the Thai desk when you get there”. Rose squealed with delight and gave Alan’s arm a squeeze. Alan thanked Kanita and declared that he could not face a repeat of the excruciating journey he made to get here and it was excitement of being with Rose made him forget. Edward then asked his wife “can she get them an upgrade?” Kanita gave her husband a withering look “my bossy friend has arranged that already”.
Rose gave a cry “but I have nothing to wear” Edward sniggered “Rose you have four wardrobes rammed full of nothing to wear” He nodded towards his wife and laughed “and don’t get me started me on Imelda Marcos here and her collection of shoes” Kanita just smiled and made no comment. “Anyway” Edward continued “with that organised you can come back and have dinner at our house. It is only half an hour from the airport so t will get you there in plenty of time”.
Alan smiled to himself and reflected what a difference three weeks had made to his life. The visit had ended up as a resounding success and he was taking the loveliest girl he had ever known back to the UK with him. He was determined to make her stay enjoyable so she would want to remain with him. He also wondered what his family and friends would make of her. What he suspected was they would be very surprised that boring old Alan had found himself an exotic and clever Asian beauty. He was certainly looking forward to showing her off and enjoying the effect she would undoubtedly have.
To be continued