Love Nest Bar
was not something anyone found in the bar.
for nest - it was more of a pit than a nest.
Bob slumped over the bar, his arms collapsed around his head
as if he had heard an air raid siren. He squirmed on the bar
stool shivering with the cold sweats. His pants were wrinkled
and soiled, and he smelled like he hadn't had a bath in a couple
of days - in the tropics that amounted to a month of neglect.
knew that kid. Hutton. And one more thing, I used to know his
whore. I think I even used to know you, Calvino. From the old
days. They fucking killed him," said Bitter Bob. "And
you wanna know why they killed him?" Because Hutton was
Bitter Bob's mind "they"were unknown people, mostly
Thai thugs, always out on the edge, waiting like toilet flies
to attack a farang with his dick in his hand. If they got Jerry
Hutton, the way Bob's mind reasoned, then they might have targeted
him next. And they were waiting for him outside the bar, lurking
in the back of tuk-tuks or slouched over a motorcycle in the
shadowy areas in between street lamps on Soi 23.
did you get a look at the guy Noi went out with?"
Bob raised his amber bottle of Singha beer. He sucked on it
long and hard, not taking in any air, until he set the bottle
back on the counter and ordered another round.
fool," said Bitter Bob.
country was this fool from?"
you're asking me whether this fool was a foreigner, then I guess
I'd have to say he was. Foreign, I mean. He didn't speak English
like an American."
he French, Aussie, German? Think, Bob." Calvino was thinking
that Bitter Bob had about as much ability to identify the nationality
of a farang as the average upcountry bargirl *
thinking but nothing inside my mind. I ain't good at spotting
accents. He was just another shitfaced fool. A stranger and
that's all I know."
had talked to Bitter Bob at the Love Nest Bar around ten. He
had missed Noi by fifteen minutes; she had been bought out for
a short-time. When Calvino came back after eleven Noi still
hadn't returned. He looked at his watch and ordered a Mekong
ain't back, if that's of any interest to you," said Bitter
bought him a beer.
mamasan said she went short-time," said Calvino.
my opinion that could mean just about anything from ten minutes
to ten days in Bangkok. The Thais gotta different way of telling
time. I've got a theory about that," said Bitter Bob.
waiter set down Calvino's Mekong and Bitter Bob's beer. He wasn't
in the mood to hear Bitter Bob's theory about the passage of
time in Thailand. So rather than sitting at the bar, he took
his drink and sat alone on a long bench in the back. He liked
having his back against the wall. A waitress in high heels and
a bikini top brought him two chits stuffed in a bamboo cup and
put it on his table. He nursed his Mekong and soda. Noi was
a business woman, he thought. For her a short-time averaged
one hour and that included travel time. As he drank his Mekong
he saw Bitter Bob clocking him in the bar mirror. Bob's bloodshot
eyes stared as if wondering whether Calvino might know who "they"
were; and he was toying with Bitter Bob, trying to egg him on,
draw him out, he was part of the plan for the Thai bikers who
waited outside. The moment ended when Bitter Bob lifted his
hip on the stool and farted, making the sound of a tire at high
speed hitting a nail on the road. He chuckled in his hand, then
Bitter Bob's attention moved back to the TV screen where his
favorite movie was playing.
video was one Calvino thought was tailored for Karl's specialized
interest - vivid color close-ups of smashed, burned, and punctured
human bodies. Bodies pulled from cars, planes, rivers, lakes,
sand pits and streets. Doctors in white frocks performed autopsies,
using a workshop worth of tools, scalpels, tongs, and a special
stainless steel saw. He watched as the saw cut through a skull
and the brain fen out with a nudge from the doctor's gloved
hand. The video was an all-time favorite of the Bitter Bobs
and the other leftover drunks who floated on alcohol vapors
through the Soi Cowboy dead-zone hours. Farang zombies - the
third shifters gone paranoid - sucking down drinks and trying
to hold it together watching teams of doctors ripping out hearts,
lungs, livers, and miles and miles of guts. Hutton's video of
the Burmese executions of the students was a sweet piece of
innocence compared with the slow-mo of the yellow ooze spurting
along the edge of a doctor's knife slicing through a diseased
drank inside the dead zone of a Soi Cowboy night. In that concourse,
farang cut adrift from all moorings applied alcohol to their
pain of losses which could never be recovered. The dead zone
was the time warp between the end of happy hour and the run-up
to midnight. Nothing much happened. The energy level reduced
to the basics of breathing, eating bar nuts, drinking and watching
videos - and discussing theories of time. During this down period
the bar girls - who had done one or two short-times - got their
second wind and began moving in for another kill before the
night ran down.
that flickered during this period was the same video repeating
how messy it was, like eating pudding with your fingers, to
open and disassemble the organs of the human body. For hours
on end customers and girls watched livers, spleens, brains,
guts spilling into plastic containers.
at the bar with Bitter Bob were a couple of dark, hunched over
figures looking like they were shaking off the effects of a
tranquilizer gun. The fun games they had thought brought pleasure
somehow had gone wrong. Their expressionless, yellowish faces
glued to the tube looked the same as what was left of the faces
on the bodies in the video. Hardcore credentials were earned
by witnessing one gory video autopsy after another and never
breaking into a sweat or throwing-up on the bar. They gathered
at the Love Nest, and dozens of other places like it, these
menof indeterminate age who carried their emotional dart marks
in public like war wounds which never properly healed.
that night Bitter Bob had the cold sweats, and it gave Calvino
a bad feeling. He kept thinking of what Tommy Loretti had said
about his treatment not having a hero or a linear story. It
was the Bitter Bobs who wanted the hero. Someone to look up
to, someone who could tell him who "they" were, and
show him how to protect himself when they came at his face.
He was thinking Tommy had a point when he had an overpowering
urge to see joy.
want to see the dog," said Calvino to the waitress in tight
jeans and a red knit shirt that dung to her breasts. "And
don't tell me joy's gone out on a short-time."
waitress replied to his request with a fake smile and then studied
Calvino's face, trying to remember where she had seen him before.
Was he a Cheap Charlie on the make, or could she squeeze him
for a few baht? A light came on somewhere in the back of her
eyes. Yeah, yeah, she remembered Calvino. He had taken Noi a
couple of times some years ago. And this was the same guywho
had given her the German shepherd; she had scored. One farang
was dead and another had taken his place in less than a month,
confirming that the universe was perfectly ordered in Bangkok
bars. The girls had taken bets that Calvino would come checking
after the dog; farang had that way of not letting something
go. Farang had a strange relationship with dogs, always patting
and kissing them, forgetting they were animals, talking baby-talk
to them. No wonder they believed just about anything a girl
would tell them about mother's broken leg, nong with the unpaid
school fees, and the water buffalo about to die unless a vet
was called in.
upstairs," the waitress said. "Sleeping. She not go
out with farang. Her pussy too small."
that Joy was a dog; it was simply a question of size ratio.
It came down to a practical question of throw-weight. If a farang
wanted to buy out Joy, then there would be a price. So far there
had been no request, but the question was left open.
said the waitress. "Why you want to take dog? Take girl.
She's much better for you. Look there and there." Her finger
stabbed the air as she circled around the bar, pointing out
the girls in red rayon Chinese house coats with white piping
along the collar and the front. Love Nest Bar was printed in
big white letters on the back.
baht, you go upstairs, wake up Joy, and tell her an old friend
has come to scratch her ears," said Calvino, taking a fifty
baht note from his wallet and holding it out.
waitress slipped away - not slipped, she skipped, pranced away,
because she had scored, and when anyone scored they clutched
the money and did an end-zone victory dance across the floor
to alert the other girls that money had gone through the goal
posts and landed straight into her pocket. Without a hug, a
kiss, or a fuck. Lucky money, free money.
few days had passed since Calvino had delivered the German shepherd
to Noi. He had changed his mind a couple of times, and finally
walked over with Joy, knocked on her door and walked home with
an uneasy feeling he had been thinking American in the gesture
when he should have been thinking like Noi in Thai. She looked
out with a pack of relatives at the door and shrugged her shoulders,
as if to say, "What are you saying? I gotta pay to feed
this fucking monster? Look at all my hungry relatives behind
me. And you're saying this royal dog has more right to food
had given her money for the dog food but he was certain the
dog would only get left over rice, fried grasshoppers, and chicken
bones. he had been smart enough not to tell her the dog was
worth at least forty all-night pump and grind sessions in some
cheap hotel or rundown guest house on Soi Ngarn Duphli where
the geeks and shitkickers who shot up with heroin hung out.
The "Croaks" who unlike Karl didn't pump iron or shoot-up
steroid chasers. The "Croaks" never worried about
AIDS because they were already dead. "Buying this dog meant
a lot to Jerry," Calvino had tried to explain to her. "He
thought you could change your life. Breed the dog. Sell the
puppies and make money. Enough money to stay off Soi Cowboy."
He was talking to stark cold stone; something talk never could
stared at the dog and thought about what Calvino, was saying,
working it over in her head, trying to figure out what was in
it for him and how to get some cash. "Jerry's dead. Never
mind. Everyone dy-laow. Jerry not help me now. So what you say
I do? I sell dog pussy, no problem Sell, can. But I cannot sell
my pussy? I think very stupid. Jerry think like you. Farang
don't know how Thai girl think."
let anything bad happen to the dog," said Calvino. "You
know what I'm saying. The dog gets hurt, then there is gonna
be some trouble. And I know you don't like problems . I'm trying
to help out here. Do the right thing. All I'm asking is that
you do the right thing. What Jerry would've wanted." After
he finished his little speech he knew that b asically he had
wasted his breath; but he owed it to Hutton to try. Noi's relatives
shrank into the shadows, as Noi tensed her entire body in the
buy the dog for me. None of your fucking business. I eat dog.
Can. I let farang fuck dog. Can. I sell my pussy. Can,"
said Noi, as if she had earned an MBA degree in supply-side
a buyer's market, a smart seller like Noi knew that fast money
was the only money worth getting up for, or going into the sackhead
first for. It had ended in direct confrontation. The worst of
all sins in Thailand: he had challenged her, implied she was
less than trustworthy, and suggested she would be accountable
for her actions. Calvino, had been in Thailand long enough to
know Calvino's law of accountability: never tell a bar girl
she's accountable for her actions unless you are prepared for
Noi, he had broken the cardinal law.
had an edgy, sinking feeling as he saw joy sitting near a mosquito
net with several relatives crawling over her that he had made
a mistake. He had heard that Noi had returned to her old bar.
What disturbed him was the rumor the German shepherd had entered
what the Japanese called "The Water Trade" -the night
life. Joy had become a bar dog. He had phoned Bitter Bob who
had confirmed the dog was not just hanging out at the Love Nest
Bar, she had become a star attraction.
dunno if it's true or not. But some fool said that German shepherd
cost more than two of these girls. You know, if you go upcountry
you c an buy a girl for twenty, thirty thousand baht. That's
what some fool said joy cost."
would you put your money, Bob?" asked Calvino.
that's a tough one. For good balling you'd have to go for the
girl. For loyalty the dog. You can't really piss off a dog.
A girl gets pissed off and she's liable to take a knife to your
cock. So I guess the best thing is just to keep drinking and
not think too much," said Bitter Bob.
bar girls at the Love Nest Bar liked Joy. They cuddled, teased,
kicked, hugged, kissed and ordered joy around the bar. There
was more than a little sadism when the girls pounced on Joy.
Some deeper anger that the life of the animal was more highly
valued than their own life. The customers such as Bitter Bob
liked Joy, and the marnasan decided joy was good for business.
Customers were buying drinks for the German shepherd. The first
night on the job, joy got drunk on beer. The Love Nest was one
of the few remaining single shophouse bars left on Soi Cowboy
where the girls slept like firewood stacked in cords; the others
had become large entertainment centers for tourists.
waitress who disappeared upstairs with Calvino's fifty baht
had been gone ten minutes. Enough time for Calvino to have a
good look around the bar. In the two years since he had stopped
coming around, little had changed. He recognized most of the
half dozen hardcore customers who mixed with nearly two dozen
bargirls. Customers and girls were the same old faces from before.
was a time warp kind of bar. He had paid the bar fine for Noi
a couple of times in those days. A year later, Jerry Hutton
had bought her out, fallen in love, and made the traditional
farang one-man rescue mission into the never-never heartland
of the Bangkok sex world. This was the coal face, the miners
in g-strings, deep inside the shaft, chipping away through the
night. If Hutton had lived long enough, he would have understood
that the kind of people who worked and camped out in the Love
Nest Bar could never be saved; they always returned to the same
sinking ship like rats which had evolved water-wings - they
would never drown, there was always another ship in the port.
Calvino's law of Bangkok fables Cinderella never went short-time
waiting for her Prince Charming to arrive with her lost glass
Love Nest had no Cinderellas or Prince Charmings. What the bar
did have was a pedigree German shepherd which was a cheap drunk
and drank beer, scotch, and gin chasers. Joy had made adiversion
from the go-go dancers, the mirrors, and the autopsy video.
drank, stared at the go-go dancers, and the mirrors. Behind
the dancers were concave wraparound mirrors constructed inside
a cylinder like Star Trek "Beam me up" cubicles. The
bar girls rarely danced; they hung motionless like bus commuters,
a hand grabbing the floor-to-ceiling silvermetal pole. The only
rotation of hips occurred as they shifted position, getting
a better place to watch the TV screen at the opposite end of
the bar. If the medium was the message, then the mirrors did
a hellish job of conveying a possible message from the future.
optics in the mirrors enlarged the girls' thighs and bottoms
five or six times, and created a distorted illusion of the front
and back of the bikini-clad teenage dancers. The bar girls on
the platform wore the regulation bikini and highheels. But that
all changed in the mirror. Mirror, mirror on the wall who's
the most beautiful girl of all? The Love Nest mirrors answered
the question with a nightmarish vision of the future twenty-odd
years down the road when she was pushing forty and her ass had
expanded five-fold. For guys like Bitter Bob who glanced between
the dancers and the autopsy video, the special effects of the
mirrors confirmed their view of the world in three time frames:
a hostile past, a hopeless present and a bitter future. And
in the center were two beautiful dancing girls who were half
in the present and half in the future - more guts dropped into
the bucket on the screen - and in this Bar Jerry Hutton had
thought he could change one life.
bounded across the floor and jumped over a bar girl, landing
on Calvino's lap. Her paws resting on his shoulders, she licked
his face and pushed her head against his neck.
her head whipped around and she stuck her snout into his Mekong
and drank, her tongue splashing Mekong over the table. She sneezed
a couple of times. Calvino stroked her long, thick brown and
black coat. The fourteen month old puppy pulled away from Calvino,
and swung her large front legs with enormous paws over the small
oval table in front of the bench. The mamasan came over and
sat on the bench a few feet away from Calvino and made sloppy
kissing sounds. Calvino knew a power-play when he saw one. This
one worked. In a reflex action, joy leaped over Calvino, and
nuzzled the mamasan, her jaws gnawing gently on the mamasanís
large, floppy breasts. The mamasan, half drunk, pretended to
punch joy's face with her fists. As she laughed and turned her
red face away, joy chewed on her hair tied in a bun.
rammed at her head and snapped off one of the mamasan's earrings.
This caused near panic. Bar girls and mamasan grabbed at joy,
pulling open her mouth, searching the throat for the earring.
A teenaged bar girl pulled down the top half of her bikini and
offered a breast to the dog - she pinched her pinkish nipple,
sticking it in Joy's face, then pulled back. She returned with
a cigarette lighter, flicked it under Joy's nose, Joy barked,
and playfully chewed on the bar girl's arm. A pimp at the bar
leaned back from his stool and patted Joy, fed her a handful
of bar peanuts. He reached back to the counter, then returned
with a lighter. Joy barked, as the flame came dose to her face.
Calvino on the second sweep of the lighter came across from
his table and grabbed the pimp's wrist. Calvino raised the flame
to touch a cigarette clenched between his lips. He saved the
pimp's face and made his point with a single gesture. At the
same moment, there was a further diversion, as one of the bar
girls, on her hands and knees, found the mamasan's earring on
obedience school post-graduate scholar was regressing fast working
in the bar. Joy was acting like a cheap drunk and going down
as fast as any young girl brought in from upcountry and put
in a bar. it wasn't a ride downhill; it was being dropped off
a cliff. Calvino wondered what Rolfo would have thought, seeing
the German shepherd with papers going back one hundred and fifty
years getting sloshed on bar scotch in a bar called the Love
Nest. After he gave Rolfo ten thousand baht for Joy, Rolfo said
there was one confidential piece of information that as joy's
new owner he was entitled to receive. He said it was a code-word.
kind of code-word?"
wrote it down on a piece of paper, tore it off the pad and handed
it to Calvino. The word was - Bismarck.
you say that word in a sharp, firm tone, this dog will kill.
I trained my dogs for the special forces. And when I finish
they are no longer man's best friend. They are one man's friend.
The owner who controls and disciplines the animal."
patted joy on the head. "A killing machine?"
hundred percent guaranteed," Rolfo had said. "So you
must careful never to use this word. Not even as a joke.''
saw the pimp on the edge of taking a stand. He thought the word
to himself - Bismarck.
girls beat up on the dog; the customers cuffed her on the ears,
and flicked lighters in her face. These weren't wanton acts
of cruelty as much as acts of pure boredom.
ain't right, I told Toom," said Bitter Bob, nodding at
the mamasan. "If she doesn't watch that dog, the girls
are gonna kill the poor bitch. You give booze to a dog and it
ain't gonna live long. You ever see a dog liver? lt doesn't
arnount to a hill of beans."
Bangkok police didn't arrive at the Love Nest Bar until about
twenty after one. Lt. Col. Pratt had been looking for Calvino
for nearly two hours when he remembered the matter about the
dog. Bitter Bob and most of the dead zone characters had fled
into the night, alone, and in the brokendown condition which
made neither sex nor sleep likely alternatives.
found her at Hotel 99. She had been dead two, maybe three hours,"
said Lt. Col. Pratt.
you're not telling me the rest." Calvino stroked joy, her
large head on his lap. The girls in the bar were huddled in
a dense clump at the far end of the bench, crying.
is some rough play, Vincent," said Lt. Col. Pratt.
He had Noi killed, shit."
points to Hatcher. It all points to you."
course. That's how he works," said Calvino.
doing the best I can, Vincent."
happened?" asked Calvino, wishing a waitress would take
his order for another drink.
operators who ran the short-time hotel had reported the murder
to their contact in the force, who passed the information along,
until someone who worked for Lt. Col. Pratt saw a connection
was being made between Noi's death and Calvino. Noi had been
found dead in a short-time hotel - the kind with white plastic
curtains which drop behind a car so no one can identify the
car or the registration plates. Hotel 99 was located deep inside
Soi 11. An attendant had checked out the room after he knocked
a couple of times and no one answered the door. He used a master
key and let himself inside. He had called out in Thai. There
had been no answer. The sheets on the bed were in the usual
tangled state and the scent of bodily fluids circled in the
air. Noi was found in the bathroom. More precisely, she was
inside the bathtub. The taps had been left on. The bathroom
was flooded. Noi was deep inside the tub, the water covering
her body. Her hands had been tied behind her back, and she had
been held down with some force. When the attendant looked over
the edge, Noi stared up with dead eyes.
attendant had identified the john who arrived with Noi at the
short-time hotel. It was a photograph of Calvino. Noi's relatives
had already given a statement about the conflict between Calvino
and Noi over the dog. Most murders in Thailand were the result
of a gambling debt, a business conflict, or a failed love affair.
Circumstances pointed to Calvino being guilty on at least two
was here at ten, and then again at eleven and never left. Bitter
Bob was at the bar Toom was here. That waitress over there was
serving me drinks," said Calvino.
between ten and eleven?" asked Lt. Col. Pratt.
had gone to Rolfo's house and talked with Karl again.
a man about a dog," said Calvino.
attendant at Hotel 99 has fingered you, Vincent."
much you figure Colonel Hatcher paid him, Pratt? Two thousand
baht? Maybe five thousand?"
can handle the attendant for now," said Lt. Col. Pratt.
sooner or later this asshole is going to take us, Pratt."
you hear the news?"
shook his head; he didn't want to admit that he had been watching
the bar blood and guts video.
army has sent a thousand more troops to the Burmese border,
and the air force bombed the Burmese about an hour ago,"
said Lt. Col. Pratt.
you're saying is Colonel Hatcher, and this guy Oxley, and their
friends have won?"
Col. Pratt leaned over and patted the dog.
blame you not; for you are mortal, and mortal eyes cannot endure
the devil,'" said Lt. Col. Pratt, quoting Rkhard III.
was the most Thai of answers wrapped in the most elegant of
Shakespearian prose. Calvino was not accountable under either
Thai or English emotional sensibilities for searching out the
devil while avoiding the blame laid at the feet of mortals.
What Lt. Col. Pratt didn't tell his friend was the bargain he
had made or the devil he had made that bargain with. He would
be attending no more pro-democracy meetings. There was that
most Thai of all Thai things which had faced him - personal
loyalty on the one side and personal conviction to an abstract
idea. The Italians had something like this when they greeted
each other with the word paisan. There was no other choice in
his mind but to help Calvino. It was the Thai in him. Like it
had been Calvino's decision not to tell him about the threatening
phone calls he had received over helping Dex. Calvino's law
about the hardest lesson to learn was to stop talking when you
had nothing to say. Pratt had his own law of silence don't start
talking about threats received unless you need to be rescued.
There was nothing that Calvino as a farang could do, or could
be expected to do about the phone calls. There was no rescue
mission Calvino could work or blanket of protection he could
offer. Dex had invited the threats through his actions; and
Pratt, by going along to the meetings thought he might be able
to create a shield from harm. Only it didn't work out that way.
But Calvino was a farang and had crashed the Mad Hatter's Tea
Party. There were broken plates, shattered tables, and sharp
edged swords sweeping through in the night.
not on the menu," said the March Hare.
mad," said the Mad Hatter.
think we should vote on it," said Alice.
her. She's mad. After her."
Calvino thought the party was in jest; a celebration of fun,
until the chase had begun.