mood turned vile and nasty. “I pay for sex in Thailand because
free sex is too fucking expensive in America.” He pushed his
floppy Truman Capote hat forward, maximum attitude position,
just over his eyebrows as he stood in front of the hotel,
his bare, tattooed arms raised palms up like a country preacher.
His eyes surveyed the gnarled rose bushes, the chickens, the
goat, the sleeping dogs, the peasant burning garbage at the
end of the driveway. “But the hotels in America are better,”
he said. The Grand Rose Hotel had been his dream; his chance
to set up business that dovetailed with the Cause, his own
private escape penthouse on top, a pied-?-terre, the ultimate
hong to impress yings. As he surveyed the grounds, Naylor
couldn’t help but wonder who among the causemembers in their
right minds would come for a Monster Fuck in a hotel occupied
by the Adams family; they had patents pending on greed, stupidity,
sloth, and corruption.
want a joint venture! Are they out of their fucking minds?”
He turned away from the garden. “Did you see that guy do that
bending thing with his fingers? The whole family is weird.”
held the rear door open. Calvino was already inside the car.
He switched on the engine and checked his rear view mirror.
He rolled down his window and gestured at Naylor to get in.
suspect they will want to keep the roses,” said Calvino. “Let’s
go.” Not doing due diligence on a deal ran the same level
of risk as not doing due diligence on a ying only to find
out down the road that what she had promised bore no relationship
to what she was prepared or able to deliver. Blinded by the
beauty of the rose, the buyer had forgotten about the hidden
treasure of thorns ready to draw blood.
kicked the toe of his boot in the dirt, sending up a small
cloud of red dust. He waved his fist at the hotel, huffed
and muttered, and then climbed into the back of the car. Jess
shut Naylor’s door, walked around to the opposite side and
got in. Chickens flew in all directions as Calvino gunned
the engine, peeling out of the Grand Rose Hotel grounds. Calvino’s
car looked like it belonged to the hotel; it fit into the
overall ambience of broken objects, things gone to ruin, the
rewards of neglect and accident. Naylor stuck his arm out
the window and gave everyone in sight the finger, only no
one in particular noticed. None of this acting up had improved
Naylor’s mood, if anything he was more agitated, slamming
his hand against the seat. Calvino said nothing as he felt
the muffled blow. After all, Naylor’s Hollywood show of anger
was more for Jess and him than for the family of owners who
were nowhere to be seen.
don’t think you gained anything by showing your tattoos,”
said Jess. “Or giving the street vendors the finger.”
them. I felt like a monkey in a bag hung on a shithouse door.”
caught Naylor’s flash of anger in the rear view mirror. Where
the hell did he get that expression? “Monkey in a bag? Or
was it money in a bag? “How does that feel, Wes?”
monkey in a bag. Monkey is money with a “k” jammed in the
middle. I had this ying last year. Fon was her name. You know,
‘Rain’ in Thai. She gave the best blow jobs in the entire
fucking world. Rain would just keep at it. Three, four times
in one day she would go down. I mean again and again. She
was relentless in her desire to go down. Fon had a pet monkey
she called ‘Lucky Luke’ – a guy had given it to her along
with the usual gold and fridge – and that goddamn monkey went
everywhere with her. It thought the world of her, Luke was
crazy about her. And she loved the monkey like it was her
kid. It put me off to have Lucky Luke watching her going down
on me. Her moaning and Lucky Luke looking like he had some
strange rain forest disease. She said it was just an ear infection.
But I couldn’t keep an erection. So I made her put the monkey
in the bag she used to cart it around in. But Lucky Luke wasn’t
stupid. He knew how to get out of the bag. There I would be
with my pants around my ankles with Rain falling down and
that monkey would jump on her shoulder and fucking stare.
Those big monkey eyes, and Lucky Luke’s upper lip riding up
slowly and showing razor sharp teeth.
Fon couldn’t understand why I made such a big deal about her
goddamn monkey. I told her Lucky Luke was jealous and one
day he was going to take a run at me. I finally figured out
that after putting Lucky Luke inside the cloth bag, that if
I pulled the string tight at the top of the bag and hung it
on the back of the bathroom door, he couldn’t get out. Then
I could get down to concentrating on business with Fon. All
the time, I could hear Lucky Luke struggling inside the bag
on the shithouse door. This dull thump, thump against the
wooden door. Lucky Luke screaming in total monkey rage. There
I was in the bedroom with Fon on her knees and her goddamn
monkey banging the bathroom door, trying to find a way out
of the bag, knowing it was stuck in the dark, shut out, cut
off from the world, and for the life of that monkey, Luke
had absolutely no fucking idea why he had been tied into a
bag and suspended in mid-air on the back of a door. Afterwards
Rain would say, ‘Lucky Luke pai nai? Where did Lucky Luke
go?’ She knew full well that Lucky Luke was in the bag hanging
on the door. But she pretended not to know. That way she didn’t
have to take any responsibility. Today, I understand exactly
how that poor bastard monkey felt. Kitti was doing the same
thing as Fon. He was pretending not to know how I got in the
bag. And he just let me bang my fucking head on his shithouse
door while he and his crazy family were jerking off.”
through the telling of his Lucky Luke story, Naylor started
to unwind, grow calm, his voice smoothed out with the rough,
hard edges sanded down by the memory of all those blow-jobs.
Like a lot of angry people without someone to fuel the fires
of rage, and left alone to think about what had happened,
he put the experience in the context of what he knew. Getting
a blow job with a monkey kicking up a storm in a bag. Naylor
looked contemplative as he stared out the car window. Thinking
about Kitti, and Lucky Luke, and remembering Rain on her knees,
eyes looking up making those sucking noises as her monkey
screamed bloody murder from the bathroom.
left you for the monkey,” said Calvino. He was thinking: what
goes around comes around. He liked the idea of Naylor being
the monkey in the bag. There was some justice in the world
nodded his head. “I hate to admit it but she did. I trust
Rain and Luke are happy in some upcountry jungle hovel. Enough
of monkey business,” he said. “Tell me again why we are stopping
at this shopping mall? After meeting these assholes, you want
to go shopping? Dr. Nat’s four grand is burning a hole in
your pocket, right?”
they got into the car, Calvino had laid the groundwork for
the diversion, casually saying he had to meet someone for
a few minutes at the Emporium. As they left the conference
room, Naylor was still too upset with the hotel owners and
had not focused on Calvino’s request and certainly had been
in no state to respond to this request. It took a monkey story
for him to remember Calvino had been leading up to something.
have a personal problem I need to fix. It will take ten minutes
and then I buy lunch,” said Calvino. After looking over the
family, the threat to Naylor had diminished in Calvino’s eyes.
Not that he was easing off – after all, someone had taken
a shot at them on the expressway – but right up close none
of them seem capable to doing much of anything but argue over
their share of the family pie.
I thought you were working for me. Now you have a problem
and I am supposed to approve your plan to ruin my lunch with
say I’ve got a monkey on my back,” said Calvino.
pass the Emporium on the way to hotel,” said Jess.
of the blue, back-up was coming from LAPD; something Calvino
had not expected. Maybe Jess had tired of baby-sitting this
Asset, with Naylor’s attitude, the tattoos, his murky business
connections, his degrading ying stories, so any excuse to
shove back had to make Jess feel as good as landing a foot
to the jaw of a kick-boxing opponent. “I need to buy a new
battery.” He was playing with the machine that picked up transmitting
minutes, Wes,” said Calvino.
minutes should be more than enough time, thought Calvino.
But nothing in Bangkok ever happened in ten minutes. It was
a way of speaking, a time span that meant a short-time, not
that other short-time where a ying was selling her sabbai
time. Calvino had planned out what he was going to do – he
would first find McPhail and Noi, and even before finding
them, he would have Gabe on his mobile phone ready to talk
to Noi. He’d walk straight up to Noi, and say, ‘How’s it going,
Noi? Glad to see you. Gabe’s on the phone from LA. Just tell
him hello. That’s it. No other commitment.’ Then he would
put the phone to her ear. She’d say a few meaningless words
and listen to him plead to come back, she’d refuse and then
it would be over. Some yings were queens of the quick brush
was about to say something when Jess cut him off. “And you
can buy something nice for Jep at one of the shops.”
smiled to himself, exchanged a glance with Jess in the rear
view mirror. “You don’t want to go back to the room with nothing,”
I have any choice?” asked Naylor as Calvino pulled into the
underground parking lot of the Emporium.
and purpose were the two elements missing from the known universe
that no scientist would ever locate; they were not permanently
lost, they had never existed, thought Calvino.
followed the down ramp into the underground parking lot, slowing
to take the ticket from the uniformed security guard. With
no place to park, he turned right, taking the ramp down to
B2, and pulled into a parking spot within sight of the entrance
for the elevators. The B2 parking lot level was half-full.
Not many people were shopping in the middle of the weekday.
The recession had cut the power on their aircraft, turning
most of them into glider pilots. Naylor was out of the car
last. He slammed the door hard. “I could use a drink. You
think that is going to be a problem here?”
buying,” said Calvino.
right you are buying,” said Naylor.
was out the other side of the car, closed the door and leaned
against the side of the Honda. “I’ll stay with the car. Pick
me up a new battery, will you?”
it,” said Naylor. “This Italian is buying both of us a beer.”
smiled. “I don’t drink on duty.”
I’ll drink your fucking beer if that makes you feel any better.”
won’t take long,” said Calvino. “Come along, Jess. No one’s
going to bother the car.”
tapped his fingers on the roof of the Honda, then broke into
a smile. The car was a write-off, a wreck. Who would bother
with such a car? “Okay.”
crossed the parking lot, Jess taking point, then Naylor with
Calvino following behind. Jess pushed open the glass door,
looking around before waving Naylor to move forward.
buy the Lucky Luke story?” Jess asked through the mic. He
was scanning the area for transmitting devices. There was
always the possibility someone was intercepting their radio
are jealous,” replied Calvino, looking over the parking lot.
“And they are curious. And on the whole much better companions
than someone like Naylor. The girl made the right choice.”
watched as Naylor came through the door. “I am feeling better
already,” Jess whispered into the mic.
breathed deeply, waiting for Calvino to catch up. He was smiling.
The recovery had been rapid. He had already shaken off the
meeting with Kitti and his nutty and dangerous brothers and
sisters. For a moment he had stopped wishing that he had never
met Dr. Nat and invested in a hotel venture in Thailand. Fon
had reminded him of why he had come in the first place – to
buy hongs and to hunt yings.
rode the elevator to the second floor. As the door opened
Calvino dialled Gabe’s home number. All he had to do was press
the ‘yes’ button and the call would connect. As they walked
out of the elevator, a farang in a cowboy hat, late 20s, muscle
shirt and no gut, swung at Naylor, landing the punch smack
on the side of his jaw, sending him reeling against the wall.
Naylor hit the wall, looking like a stunned prize-fighter.
Calvino moved in front of Naylor, waiting for the farang to
come in. He didn’t have to wait long. Jess reacted with a
kick-boxing manoeuvre, coming off the floor, his right leg
hitting the cowboy as he moved in to hit Naylor again. The
farang absorbed the blow, which caught him in the chest. He
threw a series of punches at Jess, who easily ducked away
from the blows, waiting for the precise moment when the farang
was off balance, and then Jess nailed him three, four times
on the neck and head with his fists, and, spinning him around,
brought his foot up hard under the farang’s jaw. The sound
of the jaw cracking echoed off the walls and windows of the
lobby near the elevator. The farang hit the marble floor.
He wasn’t moving. Unconscious.
knelt down in front of Naylor. “You all right?”
crowd of shoppers gathered around.
was that sonofabitch?” asked Naylor, gasping to catch his
doesn’t look Chinese to me,” said Calvino. “What I am saying
is that he’s not part of Kitti’s family. These people don’t
hire farang to whack farang.”
had a gut feeling that coming here was a mistake,” said Naylor.
helped Naylor to his feet. “Here’s your hat.”
get out of here,” said Calvino. The crowd swelled as the farang
started to move his head on the floor.
never seen anyone hit someone so fast or so hard,” Naylor
said as he took the hat. “Where’d you learn that fancy shit?”
had won the kick-boxing championship of LA county at age fourteen.
He had learned the art by the time he was twelve. His dad
had built shelves to proudly display all of Jess’s trophies.
But none of this mattered at the moment.
don’t know this guy?” asked Jess, deflecting the “fancy shit”
seen him before. He must have confused me with someone else.”
went straight for you,” said Calvino. “It didn’t look much
like a mistake.”
fingered his hat, looking for damage, smoothing it out and
then carefully putting it on, he smiled, using his hand to
work his jaw from side to side. He stepped forward and kicked
the farang in the groin. A huff sound like air going out of
a tire came out of the man’s mouth. When it looked like Naylor
might have one more shot, Calvino took his arm and pulled
already.” The farang was coiled up on the polished marble
floor in front of the ATM machine. He looked like he had passed
out or was sleeping.
bastard tried to mug me,” said Naylor. “Just one more little
time Jess came alongside Calvino and together they ushered
him away from the unconscious farang. Calvino knew this was
not a stalker, a mugger, a crazy, no, this was a deliberate
planned assault and, like the truck on the expressway, the
intent was to intimidate, throw them off-balance, lead them
to make conclusions that others wanted them to make.
they were walking away, Calvino said to Jess, “You’re good.”
don’t think we should be here, Vincent. Someone doesn’t come
swinging at Naylor without a reason. How did that farang knew
we would be here now?” Jess held out a small device that looked
like a remote control. “He was picking up the Ghz from this.”
He held out his own anti-transmitting device. “They were tracking
us the whole time.”
road from Damascus to Tel Aviv also goes from Tel Aviv to
Damascus,” said Calvino.
you guys protecting me or holding a committee meeting?” asked
walked past the imported designer shops: tall walls of glass
and inside the robes and gowns for priestesses of fashion.
As they entered the fashion hall, McPhail spotted them and
shouted Calvino’s name. “Vinee, over here, man.”
my guy. We’ll be out of here in a minute.”
stood next to a ying who was dressed to kill in black tight
fitting slacks, high heels and a halter top, bare smooth shoulders
showing. She looked like an entertainer backstage, distracted,
smoking a cigarette, looking at her watch. Long red fingernails
set off her hands. She looked like she could be a singer or
a model with her fresh, shiny black long hair falling half
way down her back. In the advertising business such yings
were called “Pretties”, the good-looking yings who were hired
for car shows, conferences, conventions. Pretties attracted
crowds, and crowds wanted to be around beautiful yings and
the things Pretties were selling. Calvino recognised Noi from
Gabe Holerstone’s photo. Calvino hit the dial button as he
approached. The phone was ringing and Gabe picked up the phone
on the third ring, answering with a slow, husky voice dulled
one in the fucking morning, who are you, asshole?”
Calvino. I have Noi here and she wants to talk to you.”
Where did you say you are?” He sounded like he was drugged.
know in Bangkok, but where?”
am at a shopping mall,” said Calvino. “So talk to her. That
was our deal. Find the girl, put her on the phone. That was
the assignment. Now the case is closed.”
held out the phone and she stared at it and then at Calvino,
slowly sucking in a long hit from her cigarette, one arm folded
around her waist, her elbow resting on her folded forearm.
Smoke coiled out of each nostril like she was the Queen in
Alice in Wonderland.
Gabe, he’s in LA and he wants to talk to you.”
does he want from me? I don’t work for Gabe any more.” A bored
look crossed Noi’s face like a late afternoon shadow. As if
a group of fans was hassling her an autograph. Her voice broke
slightly as she uttered the word “me”; the amount of gravity
attached to that simple two letter word was enough to pluck
the moon from the night sky. She said it in a way that seemed
to indicate there was no room for anyone else in the world
him yourself.” He stood beside her, his arm outstretched but
she made no effort to reach for the phone.
what I mean,” said McPhail. “This is one awkward fucking ying.”
put the phone to his ear. “She wants to know what you want
want to talk to her.”
stared directly at her. “He says that he wants to talk to
the ying doesn’t want to talk, she doesn’t want to talk,”
is this asshole?” asked McPhail.
fucking boss. What fucking rock do you live under?”
situation was becoming complicated beyond Calvino’s wildest
expectations. McPhail and Naylor had taken an instant dislike
to one another. Calvino swiftly moved between Noi and McPhail
as if he were back in New York on a Sunday afternoon and happened
upon a pick-up baseball game and people were choosing sides.
friend is right,” said Noi. “I don’t have to talk to anyone.”
screamed in Calvino’s ear, “Put that goddamn Vine Street bitch
on the phone.”
approach isn’t working, Gabe. Maybe you ought to come up with
a reason to talk to her,” said Calvino. “What’s the message?”
want her to come back to LA. I’ll give her a raise. Tell her
watched Noi light another cigarette from the one she was just
finishing. “He wants you back in LA and you get a raise.”
thought about this. “How much of a raise?”
heard her response and shouted in the phone at Calvino. “Two-hundred
and fifty a week.”
fifty a week,” repeated Calvino.
edged in with the phone until a moment later it was against
her ear and she was talking to Gabe. McPhail rolled his eyes.
“Jesus Christ, she’s entering into collective bargaining on
your dime. Can you believe it?”
hundred,” said Noi. “Otherwise I am on the plane to Hong Kong.
I can make more than three hundred a day in Hong Kong.”
heard that?” asked Calvino.
course he had heard it. “Noi, okay, just come back to LA,
motioned for her to hand back his mobile phone. She pretended
to ignore him. “There was nothing in my deal with Gabe for
you to carry on a long distance salary negotiation. Phone
him back collect.”
almost finished,” she said.
bye, Gabe,” said McPhail taking a swipe at the phone but he
missed as Noi stepped to one side.
don’t like the way you treated me.” She spoke into the phone.
rolled his eyes. “How are you going to make that kind of money
finished. We can go now,” said Calvino. “Let’s get back to
was watching yings in short skirts ride the escalator.
were buying us a beer,” said Naylor, looking away from the
two yings riding the escalator. “Forget the beer, let’s go
back to the Brandy.”
that he wanted to check on Jep. He was still on compassion
alert, and telling himself that technically he hadn’t really
breached the YINGS as he had administered care. There had
been no sex.
suited Calvino fine and he nodded, turned to Noi, gesturing
for his phone, as a loud boom echoed through the second floor.
An explosion shattered glass. Calvino immediately pushed Naylor
down. The force of the blast sucked a massive volume of dust
and debris through the main shaft of the atrium. The explosion
knocked out the electrical supply and the emergency lights
came on, flickered and then cut out as well. The air was dirty
and the light dusk-like; darkness descended inside the mall.
the fuck was that?” asked Naylor.
was no fucking electrical transformer exploding,” said Calvino.
“That was a bomb.”
get Naylor out of here. Now,” said Jess, pulling Naylor by
reached to take his phone from Noi. “I am not finished talking
time to go. Give me the phone. Don’t make a problem,” said
Calvino. He grabbed at the phone but missed.
laughed. “You’re right, that was no transformer. Someone has
set off the heavy shit. Look at the shoppers run like rabbits.
Where the fuck do they think they are going?” He shook his
head, pulled out his pack of cigarettes and offered one to
Noi. “Anything else you need, just give me a call. If you
can get your phone back.” With a quick flick of his wrist,
McPhail snatched the phone from Noi’s hand and tossed it to
Calvino. “See you around.”
Calvino’s mobile phone spun in the air, Jess was already in
a half run holding onto Naylor’s arm, directing him back to
the emergency stairs next to the elevators. The elevators
had already been shut down. As Calvino caught up, they ran
into a wall of customers and staff pushing and shoving to
get down the stairs. Security guards tried to maintain order
with the crowd; yings were crying and screaming, clutching
children, and shop clerks were pushing against each other
to get to the stairs. A strong herd mentality pushed the shoppers
into a crowd – it was difficult to bring any order or provide
direction to the people. They ignored orders from a whistle-blowing
twenty-year-old security guard. The guard waved his hands,
trying to control the flow of people as they ran around him.
The smell of Bakelite, dust, and stuff burning – plastic,
upholstery, electrical wiring – filled the air in the staircase.
People choked on the debris they inhaled, coughing as they
staggered forward, their eyes and throats burning from the
has been an explosion,” said a voice over a loudspeaker system.
The disembodied voice echoed up and down the five floors of
the shopping mall.
second bomb this week,” said Calvino. He had followed the
recent history of bombings: an explosion at Democracy Monument,
another inside a police station, someone had bombed a bar.
No one knew exactly what combination of dark forces were setting
off the bombs, how they were selecting their targets, or their
demands or what concession would be required to stop the terror.
The motive for the attack remained murky; any number of candidates
might have had reason to plant a bomb to settle a power struggle.
Calvino took some comfort from this history of bombings as
strong evidence that the blast was unrelated to Wes Naylor
and his business activities in Thailand.
personal,” Calvino said to Naylor. “We just happened to be
in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
about the detector Jess found on the guy at the elevator?”
had picked up the conversation off Calvino’s mic. “Naylor’s
right, Vinee. That guy could have been one of the bombers.”
get out of here,” said Calvino.
crush of frightened people all pushing and shoving each other
down the same narrow escape route made it nearly impossible
to move. It seemed as if most of the fashion show audience
had headed for the same exit. Timing was everything. And now
was the time to shift direction, find a different way back
to the parking lot, thought Calvino. Jess wanted to believe
Calvino’s assessment of the situation. Yet there was a Calvino
law that said there were no coincidences, when two unrelated
events occurred at the same time. In Thailand there was always,
underneath the surface, a thin coil connecting the events,
an aggressive hard-wired connection that only the people directly
involved understood. Reach far back enough, or dig deep enough
and original hatreds, jealousies, rivalries were embedded
in the original DOS system of Thai government and society
and all the modern updates had done nothing but patch the
old flaws and the old flaws were what made the system crash.
was Jess who had a bad feeling. Someone had set off the bomb
to do a job. But had they finished what they set out to do?
don’t think we should take any chances,” said Jess. “We need
to get Naylor out of this crowd.”
know a short-cut,” said Calvino.
followed him, “Then let’s take the short-cut. I hate fucking
crowds. Get me out of here.”
ran ahead, taking two steps at a time, climbing up the stalled
we want to go down, not up,” said Naylor following, choking
on the dust. “Jesus, I can hardly breathe.”
want to keep breathing? Then get your ass going now,” said
Calvino. Like the universe, Naylor’s middle-aged body was
expanding and if he didn’t keep moving he would die.
followed right behind Naylor. He wasn’t so sure that going
away from the crowd was the right thing. Sometimes it was
easier to protect an Asset in a crowd than in an empty place
that one did not know. Calvino had already committed them
and he had no other plan.
the time they reached the fifth floor, the fast food area
was deserted – no shoppers, no clerks, no lighting except
a dim shaft of dusty light from the atrium. The lights had
likely been cut, thought Calvino. The distant sound of people
screaming, crying, and yelling filtered up the atrium. Sounds
of people running on the escalator, their feet hitting the
cleated metal steps. Calvino stopped, knelt down. Jess and
Naylor knelt down beside him. Naylor started to say something
and Calvino put his hand over the big man’s mouth, and with
his other hand, he pressed his index finger against his lips.
Slowly he took his hand away from Naylor’s mouth, reached
in under his sport’s jacket and pulled out his .38 Police
Special. They took refuge in Burger King, moving quickly,
passing through tables, and ducking behind the counter. Naylor
reached up and grabbed a hamburger out of the bin, opened
the wrapper and started to eat. “I guess it would be too much
to ask for a beer,” he whispered to Calvino.
it would,” replied Calvino. They stayed together, securing
a position with the best view of the two escalators.
couple of moments later, the sound of male voices came from
the direction of Dairy Queen. Three men spoke Thai using short,
clipped sentences. They stood near the escalator that led
to the sixth floor and cinemas. One of them was making a command
decision on how to sweep the floor and who should go where
next. The three men fanned out with automatic weapons. CAR-15s.
The short version of the M-16 assault rifle, easy to sweep
inside confined spaces, the barrels didn’t get snagged on
weeds, branches, or on the electrical cords hooked to coke
and coffee dispensing machines.
looked around the corner of the counter, leaned back and showed
Calvino and Naylor three fingers. Naylor kept chewing the
burger. They had moved into the kitchen. Then Jess crooked
his fingers into the shape of a weapon, he moved his hands
up and down his chest, signalling they were wearing bullet-proof
vests. They were armed, protected, and fanned out from the
escalator. One was going left towards the elevators and restrooms,
another swept through the tables in front of Burger King while
the third guy moved quickly to the right and down towards
the Food Hall. Calvino was pretty sure that the hit squad
must have followed them from the second level, taking the
escalator, knowing they had gone exactly where they wanted
come out,” yelled one of the men in English. “We are security.
We take you down to safety.” Broken English, broken promises.
they will, thought Calvino.
crouched low, leaned forward, and watched as one of the men
knocked over one of the tables and stood only a couple feet
away from Naylor. The next move belonged to Calvino. For the
moment, they had the element of surprise on their side. The
question was how to use surprise and to keep alive.
was thinking something along the same lines only his was tailored
by his LAPD training. “Awareness. Balance. Self-control. Skill.
Timing.” The words went through Jess’s mind like a mantra.
They were the core of his training on the force. “Apply them
and you live, forget them and you die. They must become part
of you. The way you think and feel. You must dream them. You
must live them every moment of every day.” His instructor
at the Academy said the elements were New Age nonsense. Jess
had told the instructor they had come from an ancient age.
is what Buddhism teaches.
had stopped chewing and he wasn’t showing his Chinese Triad
tattoos now. He curled up into a ball, holding onto his fifteen
baht gold chain.
will not be harmed,” said the same Thai voice.
just one element, leave it out of your consciousness, and
discover how unforgiving life can be. Being forgetful of one’s
training is not forgiven, thought Jess. The guy coming in
their direction was only a couple of feet away, standing erect,
confident, holding his weapon against his side, slowly observing
an arc of 180 degrees as he walked ahead. He was walking into
the kitchen. Calvino reached over and grabbed a coffee mug
and dipped it into the vat of oil. Two wire baskets holding
raw French fries were balanced above the oil. He waited until
the member of the squad was next to him. He stopped, turned,
and appeared to leave. Jess followed Calvino’s eyes and he
nodded. Calvino crawled forward. Slowly he edged himself around
the end of the counter, holding his breath, watching the Thai.
The man seemed to have had second thoughts and doubled back
through the kitchen and walked straight at Calvino without
seeing him. The Thai male wore khaki trousers and a bulky
vest under his brown shirt. Then, as he turned to his left,
Calvino threw the hot oil in his face. The man dropped his
weapon, and covered his face with his hands. Off balance,
he fell to his knees. Calvino had never seen anyone move as
fast as Jess as he crawled out the other side of the counter
with a kitchen knife, which he plunged deep in the fallen
guy’s throat. He pinned the guy down with his knees and waited
until he was dead. Five, six seconds. Except in the movies,
no one ever died in an instant. Five seconds was enough time
to kill another man. Jess never gave him that chance. He rolled
off the inert body and behind a set of cupboards. Jess grabbed
the dead man’s CAR-15 from the floor.
other two members of the team came running, firing their automatic
weapons as they ran. Spraying rounds into the fast food restaurants.
Muzzle flashes streaked across the fifth floor. This was undisciplined,
undirected fire, showering broken glass and plastic everywhere.
The huge plastic ice cream cone in front of Dairy Queen exploded,
taking several direct hits. Pieces of the overhead plastic
signs rained down on top of Jess and Calvino. As they looked
around they discovered that Naylor had vanished. There was
no time to look for him.
dipped the coffee mug back into the oil and waited behind
the counter. He saw the second Thai emerge, his black high-top
boots catching a glimmer of light. He was shooting random
bursts. More muzzle flash as glass exploded from the cinema
ads above the elevator. Calvino crawled to his left side,
slowly set the mug on the floor, rolled underneath the counter,
edged out the other side, and lying on his back squeezed off
three rounds. Two of the shots from .38 hit the second member
of the squad just above his right ear; the impact of the bullets
sent him crashing over a table and chairs. He was dead before
he hit the floor.
to go,” thought Calvino.
had crawled out in time to see the last member of the team
running to the other end where all the electronics, washing
machines, fridges and TVs were sold. Calvino took the CAR-15
off the dead man he had shot and shouldered his .38. Jess
fired several rounds at the fleeing man. None of the rounds
he’s coming in your direction,” said Jess, who was now on
his feet, running down the outer perimeter, past the automotive,
the sheets, blankets, and towels near the elevator. Squeezing
off rounds as he ran. Calvino ran the opposite side past all
the glassware and expensive crystal. As they converged at
the back, they had the third man trapped.
many more men came with you?” Jess said in Thai.
member of the team rose into sight, his hands raised over
his head. He was a farang. A sheepish grin spread on his face
as he stepped forward. The question was whether he was the
only surviving member or whether there were others.
man don’t fucking shoot. I’m American. Who were those guys?
Jesus, first a blast and now those guys. Hey, what's going
many others, asshole?” asked Calvino, who squatted low, looking
around for other members of the commando team. But the floor
was silent. He looked back at the farang.
looked like the same guy who had hit Naylor in the face as
they had walked out of the elevator. But in the low light
it was difficult to tell. This farang was dressed in commando
gear, which made it difficult to play the innocent tourist
your hands against the back of your head,” said Jess. “Do
it now.” He had the CAR-15 pointed at him. The blond-haired
man stepped forward, his hip touching the metal railing that
wrapped around the side of the atrium.
I under arrest or something?”
move. Just stand very very still and everything will be okay.”
had come around the opposite side past the kitchen appliances
and mobile phones. The farang’s back was turned in his direction.
you guys hear that bomb? Man, that was something.”
did you know it was a bomb?” asked Jess.
was close enough to see the farang was palming a small hand-gun
at the base of his skull. Another two steps was all that separated
him from the farang who was moving in closer. Calvino was
now sure this was the same guy who Naylor had kicked in the
balls. He was sorry now that he hadn’t let Naylor kick him
a couple of more times. Now he pressed the barrel of the CAR-15
in the farang’s back. “Drop it.”
seen Naylor?” asked Jess.
probably eating chicken at KFC,” said Calvino.
brief conversation was a distraction. A split second in which
the farang had to make a decision. On one side was Calvino
with a CAR-15 and on the other Jess holding the same kind
of weapon on him. He knew the other two members of the team
were down. Was he running or was he looking for Naylor, thought
Calvino. But where was Naylor? The question hung unanswered
in the air. The farang had committed himself to a course of
action, and once the momentum of action started one’s fate
was sealed. It didn’t matter that this was absolutely the
wrong course of action, much like his assault that had backfired
at the elevators. The man had learned nothing. At the first
twitch of the farang lowering his gun from the base of his
skull, Naylor rolled out of a cupboard where he had been hiding
and put the full weight of his shoulder into the farang, striking
him hard from behind, knocking him against the railing. The
farang struggled to break free of Naylor as Jess and Calvino
moved in. They were a couple of seconds too late. In a superhuman
feat of strength, Naylor had hit the farang from behind, pushing
him forward, knocking him off balance; now he raised him up.
The farang was screaming as Naylor shoved him forward and
the momentum carried him over the railing like a diver coming
off a three meter board. But it was more than three-meters
and there was no swimming pool at the other end. The farang
dropped five floors, hitting the marble floor with a dull
thud. A body hitting with such force ought to have made more
noise. Flesh and bone smashing hard and splattering across
the floor was barely audible. The three men stood at the railing
and peered down. The farang, splayed out on the floor, was
barely visible in the half-darkness. Naylor reached up and
put his arm around Jess and Calvino’s shoulder.
the bodyguard in this crowd?” he asked, wiping his hands together
as if cleaning off dust. “Thought I had run away? You don’t
know me. I never run from a fight.”
better check him out,” said Calvino, looking over the railing.
He had a strong feeling that the team hadn’t been sent to
it. We are getting the fuck out of Dodge,” said Naylor.
right. We check him out first,” said Jess. “That was the same
guy who attacked you outside the elevator.” This was more
of a question than a certitude.
looked like him,” said Calvino.
course it was him. Why do you think I threw his ass overboard?”
matters is finding out who was behind this hit,” said Calvino
looking directly at Jess. “And we might even find who they
were sent to hit.”
were after me,” said Naylor. “Who do you think they were after?”
looked straight at Jess who had the CAR-15 cradled in his
arm. “Naylor, you are no doubt a really important guy. But
I don’t see any reason why or how a dysfunctional Chinese
family would hire a commando team to make a military-type
assault just because you came to buy their hotel. The expressway
shooting, yeah, that I can buy. That is their level. A couple
of Isan cowboys in a ten-wheeler who can’t shoot straight.
Now let’s go.”
who were they trying to kill?” asked Naylor.
don’t know,” said Jess.
nodded. “He’s right. We don’t know. That’s why we need to
check out the guy you shoved over the balcony.”
ain’t gonna be answering too many questions,” said Naylor.
was no need to say anything to Naylor about the drug case
in LA. The last thing Jess needed was Naylor’s big mouth broadcasting
to the world that he was part of an undercover drug bust in
held the bloodied head of the dead farang in her arms, and
sitting on the floor, she rocked back and forth, crying, tears
streaming down her face. Calvino squatted beside her, put
a hand on her shoulder. “You are mixed up with some very dangerous
didn’t know. Danny never told me he was going to do this.
Now he’s dead. I don’t understand why he used me. You have
to believe me.” Her sobbing continued.
it would be safer for you if you came with us.”
can’t leave him like this.”
no time to argue. There’s no time to mourn,” said Calvino.
It wouldn’t take long for others to find out that the three-man
squad had gone down. Others would be dispatched. That’s how
these kinds of people worked.
wouldn’t do anything. I did what they asked. I didn’t know.”
She quickly lost her English and slipped into Thai, the natural
storage bay of words to express her feelings. She didn’t even
realise she was speaking Thai, saying that she was afraid,
as the full implication of what Calvino had said sunk in.
She gently laid the farang’s head down on the marble floor.
who were they? If there were no other reason to pull her along,
it was to find the answer to that question.
are lucky to still be alive,” said Jess in Thai.
attention turned away from the dead man. She rose to her feet.
“You won’t let them hurt me?” Her eyes searched Calvino’s,
then she looked across to Jess.
going to have to help us,” said Jess. “Tell us about your
friend and his friends.”
nodded, fumbling with a cigarette and staring down at the
came down the escalator clutching a Tower Records bag.
fucking jumper, man.” He looked down at the dead body. Then
opened his bag. “I wonder if they would take these back. There’s
bound to be a big sale. Bomber special. Hey, Noi is still
here. Now that’s a miracle. First you couldn’t find her, now
you can’t seem to get rid of her. That’s true of all yings.”
level B2 of the parking lot, dozens of uniformed police and
military personnel worked the crime scene; a large part of
the lot had already been cordoned off and no civilians were
being allowed inside the taped-off area. Police and military
vehicles blocked the exits. The wall of tall glass wrapped
around the lobby had been blown out. After the explosion all
the dust and fragments of metal, paint, fabric, and flesh
had been pulled up the atrium like hot air shooting up one
very large updraft ventilation shaft. To the side of the entrance,
the electrical unit housing the main power supply was shattered,
sparking and spitting talons of fire from a melted core made
up of the smouldered maze of broken wires and cables. Inside
the immediate blast zone – several meters wide – the scene
was one of complete destruction. Shards of glass and twisted
pieces of plastic, metal, rubber had ripped through cars,
splattered against the pillars and walls. No question about
it: someone had set off a large amount of explosives to cause
this much damage. Even seventy meters away car windows had
walked ahead looking for his car. Noi and McPhail walked together
behind Naylor and Jess. Calvino couldn’t remember exactly
where he had parked. They had come out a different entrance
in the parking lot from the one they had earlier taken into
the shopping mall. Finally he spotted it. Calvino stopped
and motioned for the others to stop. His car, or what was
left of it, was ten feet ahead. Emergency service personnel
were removing bodies from the wreckage. And body parts. On
the driver’s side an intact head was still attached to the
spinal column and shredded meat and organs clung to the outer
edges of the spine and the femurs. The shoes and feet, like
the head, were recognisable as human; but the parts of the
body between the head and the feet didn’t look like parts
that belonged to a human being. On the passenger’s side was
a limp, damaged body – the left side had been sliced away
from the force of the blast – but the second victim was in
one large chunk. A headless torso with ragged flaps of flesh
where the head had once rested. The torso was minced around
the edges and scorched black from powder burns. An emergency
unit, its members wearing protective clothing, masks, and
gloves placed the pieces in large, black plastic bags. Uniformed
police stood guard around the car waiting for the owner to
get out of here,” said Jess.
nodded and a couple of minutes later they had blended into
the crowd of shoppers, clerks, security guards, a great exodus
of people walking, half-dazed, taking the Soi 24 exit ramp
which led out of the parking lot.
toasted your Honda,” said McPhail. “What the hell is this?”
he asked, kneeling down and picking up a round steel ball.
looked at the steel ball rolling inside McPhail’s cupped hand.
“Claymore,” said Jess. It looked like an ordinary steel ball-bearing.
shit,” said McPhail. “No way your insurance is gonna cover
this. The war exception clause fucks you every time.”
seen enough,” said Calvino.
are we getting to the Brandy?” asked Naylor. “I’ve got a meeting
this afternoon, remember? And I want to see Jep before we
meeting has been cancelled,”said Calvino.
can’t do that, Calvino. I came to Bangkok for that meeting.”
was probably somewhere between a half and three-quarters of
a lie. But it was no time or place to argue. “Jess, Noi goes
with us. McPhail, take Wes to the Brandy, then go along with
him to his meeting.”
and McPhail looked each other up and down like a couple of
soi dogs marking their territory. McPhail had that “fuck you”
expression on his ultra thin upper lip, making it curl into
a sneer as he clutched his Tower Records bag.
did I start working for you, Calvino?” asked McPhail.
fifteen minutes ago.”
can’t assign bodyguard duty like a maintenance contract on
a crummy apartment,” said Naylor, suddenly becoming lawyer-like.
you’ve seen Vincent’s apartment,” said McPhail, smiling.
don’t need a bodyguard. You need a business agent,” said Calvino.
you’re not going along with this shit, are you?” Naylor looked
me put you straight, Mr. Naylor. If those men were trying
to kill you, it was for reasons undisclosed to me. If it is
just the hotel deal, Calvino’s right. If it is some other
deal, then he’s still right. You don’t need us because nothing
is going to save you.”
opened the rear door of a taxi. Others were banging on the
door, trying to get in the cab. Holding a taxi was a New York
City art form. Calvino stood in the way of several others
who tried to push their way through. Jess and Noi climbed
inside. Calvino shut the door and got into the front, looking
at the driver, a small, dark skinned Thai with a thick head
of badly cut hair. “Rama IV Road,” said Calvino.
broken,” said the driver, grinning. “Five hundred baht.”
handed him the extortion money for the fare. “Go.”
IV Road was a vague, opened-ended destination that made it
clear to the taxi driver that Calvino knew where he was going
but wasn’t going to tell the exact destination until the last
moment. Such contradictions were natural components of life
on the street.
was heading for Klong Toey, a vast slum built under expressways,
along canals, beside the Port of Bangkok.
Toey was the last place he wanted this driver with the stupid
grin and appetite to know was his destination. The five hundred
baht rip-off fee told Calvino all he needed to know: the driver
would take the first opportunity to tell anyone who asked
and paid for the answer, exactly where he had taken them.
And no doubt, there would be men with their hair cropped short,
guns in their waistbands, making the rounds, asking taxi drivers,
offering money, for information on where a group of farang
had been taken.