Adventures With Dick – Death Of Bargirl, Part 1
Unlike some of the other stories in the Adventures with Dick series, my personal involvement was merely one of observer, a shoulder to cry on and somebody who listened to yet another of Dicks crazy war stories. As I have said before he was very much the larger than life characters, having lived his life to the full. The following is what Dick related to me probably several year after the events, over several boozy evenings at The Golden Bar and Big Dogs in Nana Soi 4.
Dick had been living in the Philippines for many years, right there on Burgos Street, or as he liked to call it, ‘The street of dreams’ – whose dreams you might ask? Well obviously, those of the many girls that work in the bars and clubs on that same street. Their dream being to find a wealthy foreigner to take them (and inevitably, their family) out of the poverty of the provinces.
As an ex journalist Dick was a naturally good story-teller, so in its telling he built it slowly and with much drama, lots of emotion – another of his many abilities was that he was always a master of the dramatic.
Although we were of an age, and him being an American citizen he somehow missed the Vietnam draft, so had little exposure to death and tragedy prior to arriving in Asia. However he quickly discovered that life in this part of the world is tenuous at best and very soon both death and tragedy were to become all too familiar to him, as were the feelings and emotions associated with them.
He had been living in Manila for several years before coming to The City of Angels – Bangkok on a year-long consulting contract. In typical Dick fashion he set himself up in a small, but luxurious apartment at the top of Soi 33. Remember these were the days when Soi 33, the Dead Artist Soi was home to the likes of the hostess bars of Renoir, Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, The Office and many others. As he put it, he could just pop downstairs for a take-away should he feel the urge.
So it was on this, the dead artist Soi that he met Tasanee, (meaning Beautiful view) or Tas as he called her. I only met her once, very briefly, when I had a one-day layover in The City of Angels during the time that he was living there. She was a small light-skinned girl from just outside Bangkok, with a bubbly and fun personality … I could see why Dick was so taken with her. She had a more profound effect on him than any of the other many women that he had ‘known’. I had been friends with Dick for several years at that point and I don’t recall him being as besotted with any one woman as he so obviously was with Tas.
He told me that first night of the story that when he saw her slowly slipping away in that hospital bed, he was reminded of the lines from Dylan Thomas’s poem,
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”
Sadly Tas wasn’t the type to rage against the dying of the light and as he watched her through a foggy haze of tears, she slipped gently and quietly through that thin curtain that divides us all from life to death.
He recalled that when he saw Tas pass gently into the night, he didn’t know what to do. He was overcome with emotions and was bombarded by countless feelings and maybe even recriminations. He felt sad and helpless, anger at the futility of the situation and in his inability to do something about it. He felt like someone had taken a part of his life away, cut out part of his soul and torn it out of his body through his rib cage.
The way he described it, she had left an emptiness in his life. And he tried to assuage himself with the usual platitudes such as the only thing in life that is certain, e.g. death/she’s gone to a better place/she is out of pain now etc. which he knew were a load of crap. But these sort of platitudes do of course serve their purpose as they provide psychological support and help us manage the intense emotions produced by someone’s passing. The sad reality is though that they cannot hide the fact that someone is dead and can never stop the feelings of grief and anguish that stricken those left behind.
Like us all, he asked himself the inevitable, “what if he had done something different”? He didn’t know what, but just something to have changed the situation – a stupid question to ask yourself he said. The feelings of remorse and guilt, but above all, the emptiness, the numbness set in – the denial, it can’t really be happening. This is the brains way of handling something that is just too big to take on in one go. But the conclusion and eventual realisation is that you know you will never see that person again. All that’s left are the memories.
He told me that he remembers walking zombie-like out of the hospital, totally devoid of any rational feelings. He was on auto pilot, his body was there and functioning but he was somewhere else trying to come to terms with what had just happened. He told me that he vaguely remembered reaching the front door of the hospital when someone grabbed his arm and pulled him back to the main reception area where he was asked to sign some papers which were shoved under his nose. He also remembered giving his address in Soi 33, with instructions to send whatever medical bills had been incurred to him there. After that he left the hospital and hailed a cab to take him back to his apartment, where he fell into several bottles of Jack and stayed there for several days – he couldn’t remember exactly how long he locked himself away with his grief.
That first evening of him telling the tale, he told me that he played and replayed those last scenes in his mind as he sat there with Tas, watching her slowly slip away. He told her that she couldn’t go yet, don’t leave this life yet, there is so much more for you. He begged her not to leave him, he wanted to see her quirky little smile and hear her halting English just one more time. He even admitted to me, that he had told her that he loved her and wanted her to be the Tas he knew and loved. But his protestations were all in vain, as she faded away in front of his eyes, leaving only memories.
It was maybe a week later that a fellow American, James a buddy from work awoke him from his drunken stupor by hammering on the door of his apartment.”We were worried about you, you haven’t been to the office in days, are you OK” he asked, to which in typical Dick fashion he replied, “I will be once I’ve had another bottle of Jack” and promptly downed another gulp straight from the bottle.
It is said that the passing of a close friend, relative or loved one, that those left behind need a period of grieving and mourning. It is also said that to drown ones sorrows is good temporary relief and in Dicks case that was certainly true. However James realised that it would not be wise to leave Dick to his own devices and several bottles of as yet unopened bottles of Jack, so he sat with him that afternoon. Dick told me that James had been his saviour, listening to him pour out his heart, only interjecting when he felt it necessary.
Eventually he stumbled to his bed and passed out, until he was awoken the next morning by insistent hammering on the front door. He remembers weaving his way to the door holding his throbbing head to be confronted by two uniformed men in brown. “Is your name Mr Dick” they asked him, to which he obviously answered in the affirmative. “Mr Dick, we would like you to accompany us to the police station”. Confused as he was, he asked them “what the hell for”, their response being, “to assist us with our enquiries into the death of Miss Tasanee sir”.
Now I’m sure that we can all imagine how Dick felt, dealing as he was with his grief, a huge hangover, which must have felt like jack hammers pounding inside his head, all allied to a lack of sleep. And there are two uniformed cops asking him in halting English to accompany them down to the police station “to assist them with their enquiries.” He remembers that he had answered the door with only a towel draped around his waist. He must have looked a terrible sight as he recalls that they were visibly taken aback by his appearance and agreed with his request that he take a shower, shave and have a caffeine fix of coffee before accompanying them. They informed him that they would be waiting outside the door. Half an hour later, feeling half human he was downstairs with one of the cops holding his arms and was pushed unceremoniously into a waiting windowless police van. He humorously recalled noticing that they both had guns and distinctly remembered wondering if they would have used them should he have attempted to run. Fortunately for him he did not test their resolve !
The ride to the cop shop was not exactly a luxury limo and it didn’t help matters not knowing where the hell they were taking him. The two ‘arresting’ officers just sat beside him stony faced and silent. It was extremely hot inside the paddy wagon and as he started to sweat one of the cops gave him a half-hearted smile as if to indicate he was thoroughly enjoying Dicks discomfort. These guys were not exactly a laugh a minute types, keeping their hands particularly close to their holstered guns, as if he were some sort of dangerous criminal.
After about 40 minutes they arrived at the police station where he was pushed out of the van. Once outside both cops seemed to visibly puff up their chests, both grabbing an arm each and marched him into the station house. Without letting go of him they took him to the front desk where some rapid Thai was spoken, from where he was then marched along a corridor into a room with two chairs and a single wooden desk and told to wait.
After a while the door opened and in walked a well-groomed bespectacled, portly man who introduced himself as Captain Something or Other and motioned for him to sit once again as he had some questions he wanted to ask..
Captain Something or Other was carrying a small tape recorder, turning it on before he started his questioning. Dick recalled that as he did so, he looked Dick straight in the eye, with one of the most piercing looks he had ever had the misfortune of seeing. Something or Other also had a number of papers which he made a point of looking at and shuffling around before beginning the questioning. Those of us who have lived and worked in Asia will well know that Thai and other Asian bureaucrats love of paper. It’s as if it somehow makes them feel important and validates whatever their official position is. After a prolonged paper shuffle the Captain raised his head and held Dick’s gaze as he started his questions.
He started by mispronouncing Dicks name and then got him to write it out in full, together with his date of birth, address and other such details. He then asked, “Mr Dick, can you speak Thai”? to which Dick replied, “no sir, a little Spanish maybe but that’s about it I’m afraid”. “Very well then Mr Dick, I will question you in English, my English is much better than your Thai” he replied. Although the Captain was trying to belittle him by his reference to his English language ability, Dick knew that having to speak only English would give him a small psychological advantage.
Captain Something or Other had obviously decided a somewhat subtle approach was called for and began his questioning tentatively. “Tell me Mr. Dick when and why did you come to Bangkok ? Dick told him that he was in Thailand for a contract period of a year and for whom he was working. “How long have you been here so far…” asked the captain, Dick responded by telling him, “about four months so far”. The next question stumped Dick as he couldn’t see where this was going. “What have you been doing these past four months”. Dick thought this was a stupid question as he had already told the Captain that he was here working – fortunately he didn’t voice his opinion. DIck with ever a flair for the dramatic, started telling Captain Something or Other about the work that he was doing with the well-known company that had secured his services for a 12 month period. He wondered if the Captain would ask about a work permit, which fortunately he didn’t, as this small detail had been omitted from Dick’s planning and he was doing a monthly visa run to either Cambodia or back to Manila. He also mentioned that he was good friends with one of the high-ranking diplomatic staff at the US Embassy, whom he had called immediately prior to accompanying the two officers collecting him. He mentioned this merely as a sort of bluff, but also had the foresight to throw into the conversation that he was sure Mr X from the embassy would be concerned and take suitable action should Dick not return timorously.
Evidently this last bluff did not seem to go down too well with the Captain as he just smiled and responded with words to the effect of , “at this stage it is not necessary to involve your embassy, we are only holding you for questioning, you are not under arrest“. This obviously made Dick feel a lot better and thanked the Captain for the clarification. He went on to assure him that he would be pleased to do anything to assist the police with their enquiries.
As Dick recalled, ‘the battle lines were now drawn’. “Mr Dick where did you meet the recently deceased Miss Tasanee ?” In answer to the question he relayed the story how he had met her in a bar near his apartment and how they had become good friends. He then asked if he thought that she was in love with him said Dick. He replied in typical cynical Dick fashion, “Captain what man knows what a woman is truly thinking or feeling”. Evidently the Captain was momentarily taken back by this answer but quickly recovered his composure to try another tack as he asked “how would you describe your relationship with the deceased”, Dick responded openly and honestly, by telling him that they were very good friends and lovers. The Captain asked if he would describe Tasanee as an emotional woman, to which Dick again replied openly and honestly, “compared to what? All women are emotional but Tasanee did not seem any more emotional than any other woman I’ve known”.
By this time he was wondering what the Captain Something or Other was going with all of this; it was obvious he was trying to work some sort of angle but he couldn’t see what it was. The questioning continued and Dick was asked how much time he had spent with Tasanee, he told the good Captain of their trip to Pattaya together for the golf tournament that he hosted every year. The Captain then evidently postured that he was close to Miss Tasanee and in turn that she was close to Dick. He replied very honestly reiterating that they were indeed very close friends and even lovers.
At this point Captain Something or other obviously decided he was not getting anywhere with this line of questioning and promptly switched to another tact by asking what were the pills that Miss Tasanee took? Dick explained that as an ex Pro football player he had some serious injuries which still gave him some pain and that these were fairly strong prescription pain killers. Evidently the Captains response were words to the effect of querying why Dick had left the pills lying about. Dick told him that they not in fact left lying about, but were in a small bag which he kept in his suitcase – it had never occurred to him that Tasanee would actually go searching through his suitcase kept in a cupboard.
Obviously at another dead-end, the Captain once again changed tactics by asking if Dick knew that Tasanee was pregnant to which he answered “yes I knew that, but it was not my baby”. Upon hearing this the Captain queried that if he knew that the baby was not his, why did he take her to Pattaya. Dick explained to him that he never knew about the baby until they were actually in Pattaya by which time it was too late to do anything about it. The next question was, “how did you feel about the baby being another man’s“. In typical Dick forthright style he replied, “to be honest sir I was actually quite relieved because I don’t think I’m ready to be a father again (at this stage Dick must have been in his late 50’s) “Were you prepared to take responsibility for the baby?” he asked. Dick told him that he was prepared to help Tasanee when the baby was born, because she was a nice person and a good friend but that was all, but under no circumstances was he prepared to accept parental responsibility for a child that was not his.
The questioning went on for another half hour with the Captain trying a variety of different tacks, but it soon became obvious there was nothing he could pin on Dick. However the good Captain was not through with him yet, standing up and preparing to leave the room with the parting shot of, “Mr Dick I believe from what you have told me and the evidence in our possession that this was indeed a crime of passion and therefore we are going to hold you here in our detention cells until we have completed our investigations”. Dick was by now seriously sweating and said, “but I’ve done nothing wrong, Tasanee committed suicide and that has nothing to do with me, I am innocent of any wrong doing”. The captains response being, “Mr Dick the Thai legal system will be the one to decide your guilt or innocence and until that decision is made you will be held here by the Royal Thai Police.” At this stage Dick knew he was in deep shit, but at the same time realised that they didn’t really have anything on him because he wasn’t handcuffed and had not been officially charged with anything.
To be continued …
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