THE LIDO BAR
splattered motorcycles and UNTAC Land Cruisers lined both sides
of the road in front of the Lido Bar. Calvino studied the action
curbside for a few minutes. The girls and non-UN personnel came
and went on the motorcycles for hire ľall the drivers had second-hand
50cc Hondas imported by the container load from Japan. The UNTAC
Civ Pol on their hundred-thirty a day pay check operated in a
different world, coming and going like Third-World warlords in
high-class Japanese motoring style. Calvino worked his way down
a row of motorcycle taxis, showing Fat Stuart's picture to the
drivers. They smoked cheap cigarettes and huddled under the balcony
of the Lido, keeping out of the rain.
was the kind of crowd that had looked at photos of dead people
before. In fact, looking at photos of the dead seemed normal in
a country which had preserved more pictures of the dead than the
living. The first driver stared blankly at the photograph of Fat
Stuart, turned it around upside down, passed it down the line
to the next driver, each one in turn had a vacant, the lights
are on but no one is at homelook. The last motorcycle driver smiled
and demanded money. Calvino handed him a soiled five-hundred dong
note - which worked out to be less than one cent. The driver's
smile fled the scene as he handed Calvino the photo, and pocketed
the money. "He look like you," said the driver, laughing.
Calvino thought about this. He had been insulted before but this
guy was in a league of his own.
shrugged and turned away from the motorcycle drivers. Showing
them the photograph was a long shot - but sometimes guys working
the street had a good memory for anyone out of the ordinary. And
there was no question a Khmer weighing in at one-hundred-twentypounds
wouldn't easily forget a man the size of Fat Stuart. This was
the kind of weight range which could buckle the frame of a 50cc
motorcycle, blow out the tires and bend the wheels and frame,
putting its owner out of the transportation business. His four-hundred-thirty
pounds required specialized transportation. Calvino glanced at
the four or five UNTAC Land Cruisers. He wondered if Fat Stuart
had had a friend or two on the UNTAC police force. So far he had
more questions than answers.
walked through the entrance. The Lido Bar was on the second floor
of an old, squat building. The red carpeted stairs, frayed at
the edges, stained, faded, spotted with cigarette butt burns like
the hide of a torture victim. It was around eleven as Calvino
climbed the flight of stairs, and walked into the bar. It was
dark inside. like the Thermae Bar in Bangkok, the Lido catered
for men who wanted a hassle- free meeting place which had wall-to-wall
women for hire. Young girls, or older ones who kept to the shadows
so their excess mileage couldn't immediately be spotted in the
had drunk in bars like this one. It was a place that made you
want to drink. No one could stay sober and sane in a place like
the Lido. This bar wasn't the last stop on the road for women
who had worked in a bar or massage parlor. It was the end of the
road. There was nothing on the other side waiting but the grave.
The end of the road women had a certain look of sadness laced
with excitement. It was like a drug, pulling them back, making
them lazy for normal work. And there were the semi-pros - the
girls with day jobs who needed some quick cash for a birthday
present or the rent. Looking around the bar, it was not difficult
to spot the sharks among the newcomers, the runaways and castaways,
and the drug-addicts. Calvino threw back another drink. One of
the women eyed him, he looked away and she walked on, looking
for money for a fix, to feed her baby and pay the rent. Who knew?
interior of the Lido was vast. The room looked like it had been
gutted, stripped clean of large, oily nineteenth century machinery,
chains, wires and electrical switches and then converted with
some paint, tables and chairs, a bar counter and jukebox. There
was a dance floor in the middle. To the right of the entrance
was a long bar with stools, and on all three sides of the dance
floor were tables occupied by working girls and clients. Dim lights
and dark comers turned the figures seated at the tables into shadows.
The Lido was like aback alley, a place one could slip in and out
of without being noticed or stopped. There was no cross-table
talk; the men kept to themselves, looking over the women. Privacy
was an obvious attraction. For the girls. For the johns.
sat at the bar and ordered another Tiger beer. After the beer
arrived he counted about a hundred women. it was a rough count
because there was a balcony overlooking the street and a load
of women were outside, drinking and talking. Calvino sipped his
beer and thought about how Lido was a familiar name that had been
hung on a number of places. He remembered Lido Beach, Long Island
where the wise guys who worked on mob crews took their girlfriends
on the weekend. The Lido Cinema in Bangkok which someone burnt
down. The Lido Guesthouse in Singapore. Another fire trap waiting
to go up in flames. The Lido on the Champs- in Paris had half-naked
women dressed in four-foot high feathered head dresses and knee-high
silver boots. The kind of high-class French joint where Fat Stuart
L'Blanc would have had dreams of scoring one of the girls. But
he would have never gotten in the door. And now Calvino was inside
the Lido Bar in Phnom Penh, where wise guys in uniform had a girlfriend
for no more than twenty-four hours, and civilians like L'Blanc
could also indulge their desires, recycling Vietnamese whores
who had been with a uniform the night before.
action was happening next to him. A half dozen blond-haired, blue-eyed
men formed a semi-circle at the bar. They wore sidearms strapped
to their hips. They started singing a German song, and clinking
their beer bottles as they sang. Their green fatigues had small
flag patches sewn on the left shoulder-a black, red and yellow
striped flag. They were in their late twenties.
are German doctors," said someone who had moved in on Calvino's
right. "They are singing a German drinking song. They come
here most nights, drinking, singing, and then leave together.
like a wolf pack on the hunt. But I have never seen them take
turned around on the stool.
Shaw," said the newcomer, introducing himself. "I'm
from Ireland. Dublin, to be precise."
Calvino. From Brooklyn. Residing in Bangkok, to be precise."
Shaw eased into the idea this man was from Brooklyn, drinking
his beer, watching the Germans, looking out at the dance floor.
The music was courtesy of Madonna and a couple of young girls
were moving seductively to the music. At the edge of darkness
beyond the dance floor were a couple of crew-cut men at a table.
Civ Pol can't carry firearms. But in Cambodia the German doctors
are armed. You might call that an irony. Cambodia is a place filled
with irony. Irish irony blessed us with poets; Cambodian irony
has cursed them with mass killers. Irony has an ambiguous, sometimes
nasty, sometimes kind edge. It can go either way," said Shaw.
was middle-aged, blue-eyed like the Germans, but he had the kind
of eyes that tracked like a hunting dog; eyes that locked onto
a detail, played with it, turned it over, didn't let it go until
he had no choice. He had no gut hanging over his belt, his dark
hair was short, and the half-light showed high definition on his
muscular forearm clutching the beer. john Shaw looked like someone
who kept in shape, lifted weights, and played on the police football
team. NGOs had softer, anxious, frightened faces; they wore their
soft bodies as badges of honor, showing that they belonged outside
the field of personal danger, safe inside an office. And if they
ran, it was from danger and not for exercise.
you a cop or a philosopher?" asked Calvino, knowing the answer
before he put the question.
a sergeant back home in Dublin. If you're born in Dublin then
you're a philosopher from birth. A poet by simply walking the
streets. What's your profession is neither here nor there. My
tour of duty ends in six weeks. Can't say III miss much about
this place. The missus and kids, now that I'll be glad to get
home to see."
Singh wouldn't happen to be your boss?" asked Calvino.
how would you be knowing that?" asked John Shaw, trying to
look surprised but the big smile spoiled the effect.
you knew the Germans were medical corps." Lt. Col. Pratt
and Ravi Singh had arranged for an Irish babysitter, he thought.
I buy you a beer?" asked john Shaw. "Forget the Tiger.
Try the VB. It's a larger can for the same money."
Germans had finished their drinking song. They faced each other
and had that kind of look of men in a huddle between plays in
a football game. Then gave a final shout in unison, clapped their
hands, turned and marched out of the Lido without taking any notice
of the women hovering at the door.
Germans have always had discipline, will-power," said Calvino.
"Qualities you want in a doctor or mechanic."
can't really vouch for their discipline. But I know doctors shouldn't
be walking around with guns," said Shaw.
America guns have become a necessary dress accessory," said
Calvino. "like jewelry."
like jewelry is on everyone's mind," said john Shaw,
comment had almost drawn Shaw out but then he returned to his
beer. Calvino saw him think this over and then back off. John
Shaw was one hell'va a cop, someone in control; he wouldn't spring
for something as obvious as this, and he smiled and raised his
put the Lido off limits for our boys," explained john Shaw.
"We've got policemen from thirty-two countries on the UNTAC
force. I have to be honest with you. Not all of our colleagues
here have the same police training and experience. And when they
come here, take out girls, put them in UNTAC vehicles, before
you know it, what is a personal matter gets reported in the press.
And that's a bit of a problem. The missus in Dublin reads in the
newspaper about how all the foreign cops in Phnom Penh are sleeping
with Vietnamese prostitutes. She doesn't much like that. Not that
she's got anything against the Vietnamese. She doesn't, I must
say, and I don't much like what goes on here either. You should
go around to the health clinic, and see all those lads standing
in line with their dicks out, looking real sad. Tonight, I'm having
a little look-in. Checking out who is being naughty and who's
could stop bullshitting each other," said Calvino.
Shaw sighed. "Now why would I be..."
cut him off. "It's doesn't matter why. I'm looking for someone.
He is well connected..." He let it ride.
to what, Mr. Calvino?"
what I don't know. But if I had to guess, I'd say it's likely
army and some other influential people on the inside track in
Phnom Penh and Bangkok."
know how hard it is to send someone home from Cambodia?"
asked John Shaw, shifting gears as the music changed to heavy
metal. "It's all politics here. How can you run a police
force when you can't control your men? Run them out of the force
if you have to? You know how much one-hundred-thirty a day is
for some of these lads? One year in Cambodia is like working eighty
years back where they come from. And don't think they're keeping
the full amount. Most of it gets all divided up and passed down
a line as long as this bar with hands out all along the way. Some
end up living on four dollars a day. In their mind, they aren't
much better off than the Cambodians. Of course, the Cambodians
are much worse off, but they don't see it that way."
man I'm looking for had the right background to startup sideline
business," said Calvino.
lot of men have done that."
man had opportunity and access to several military product lines
for which there is a world market. He was in business with a jeweler
in Bangkok. The jeweler's dead. He used to come here. Maybe you
saw him. He was a fat French Canadian."
lot of people come in and out of the Lido."
would have remembered Fat Stuart."
Shaw dropped one shoulder, leaned over the bar, the wheels spinning
in his head as he raised the VB beer to his lips. "Some of
our boys might bend the rules to their advantage if they had the
chance. It's cat and mouse. The Lido's off limits, but you saw
the Land Cruisers parked outside. They know we can't hardball
them. Send them packing for whoring. They would just laugh in
our face if we threatened them. But they also know that some activities
can get them a one-way ticket out of here as fast as you can get
a dose from a Lido girl."
would do it."
about selling AK47s?"
would be history."
have your suspicions?" asked Calvino.
I have, my friend," replied the Irishman, setting down his
nothing you can prove?"
l had proof, then l wouldn't be sitting at the bar, talking with
you. Now would I"
broke out in a big smile. John Shaw had a certain quality. Call
it sincerity or honesty. He had a little of the Irish storyteller
in him as well. Someone who had been on the force long enough
to know that it often made no difference what the truth was; like
love and hatred, the truth was unstable, shifting. Calvino remembered
what Pratt had told him about police work. You studied close-up
people straddling the thin line, some working both sides against
the middle. Sooner or later someone always fell off. Patience
was waiting for that moment, not forcing it and being ready to
catch those unlucky enough to fall. But, as in most parts of the
world, in Phnom Penh, it was easier to define the line than finding
who was sitting in the shadows, talking to the whores.
looking for a Vietnamese girl," said Calvino.
came to the right place. Not that many Khmers working at Lido.
That gives you a wide choice," replied john Shaw.
was right. The Lido girls were overwhelmingly Vietnamese hookers
- faces painted, in cheap dresses they sat at tables, hovered
around the bar, spilled onto the dance floor, friends dancing
in groups, looking over the men standing with beer on the edges.
Not long after the German doctors left, a couple of foreigners
- Africans not much smaller than Fat Stuart and decked out in
their traditional dress - were dancing, their huge bellies pumping
up and down with teenaged prostitutes. The African peacekeepers
towered above the girls who giggled and pointed at the bouncing
stomachs. Calvino tried to imagine what was going on inside their
heads as they danced.
eased off the stool.
going to have a look around," he said.
Shaw shrugged. "By all means, help yourself."
walked along the edge of the dance floor, and then slipped out
the back and onto the balcony which overlooked the street and
main entrance below. He stood at the railing, looking down. The
rain pelted the canopy above the balcony.
behind him came a familiar English voice, "The trick is to
stay away from the gaping holes in the canopy."
looked up and saw the hole and stepped to one side.
whores can spot a newcomer," said the Englishman. "They
always stand under a hole, and the rain falls on their head. It
makes the whores laugh. They think a man who doesn't know enough
to keep his head dry probably doesn't know the co st of screwing
either. It'd be difficult to know if this is actually true. But
the whores believe it's true. And that's really all that matters.
what are you doing in Phnom Penh?" asked Calvino.
Scott smiled, tilted back in his chair, touching the wall, his
feet pressed against the floor, smoking a cigarette and drinking
a beer straight from the can. His gray eyes and short-cropped
gray hair gave him a boyish look for someone pushing fifty. He
had on his jogging outfit - Nike shorts, Reebok tennis shoes,
and a faded white singlet with a Singha Beer ad on the front.
Scott was in perpetual training, working out with weights but
mostly long-distance running. He entered iron-man contests for
men over forty-five years old and sometimes finished in the top
ten. Not bad considering a lot of guys in that age bracket didn't
whore or drink, and had been in professional. sports. In Bangkok,
he had tried his hand at running a couple of bars, thinking he
would have his private stable of girls. Only it didn't turn out
that way. Toward the end, Scott had once said that the age of
bar girls had to be calculated like dog years. Each six months
working in a bar equaled five years in a normal woman's life.
By the time a girl had worked five years in a Bangkok bar she
was twenty-four going on fifty-four. Scott had been drunk when
he said this made all the women far too old for him once he realized
their true age. Calvino thought he would have said the same thing
stone cold sober.
was an old story repeated a hundred if not a thousand times over-he
drank too much and didn't have enough cashflow to pay both the
landlord and the police. Calvino hadn't seen Richard Scott for
nearly a year. Once or twice they had run into each other at the
forty-baht lunch at the Lonesome Hawk Bar in Washington Square.
Then Scott disappeared from the Bangkok scene. One rumor had Scott
double-crossing an influential person who had him killed, his
body tied down with iron and cement and dumped in the Chao Phraya
River. Another rumor had Scott going back to London, and working
for a house removal company. That rumor had few believers; Richard
Scott never liked heavy lifting unless it was either in a weight
room or a bedroom.
I ask why you're here?" asked Scott. "Part of a larger
American conspiracy to give the Cambodians back to the KR? After
all, it was your country who financed them. Armed them. Said,
look at all those fields, why not do some killing? You might be
good at that. But you probably don't want to talk about who is
financing you in Phnom Penh. Did I say that? I take it back. It's
raining and it's never a good time to talk about politics when
you're trying to stay dry."
started to remember why he hadn't missed Scott. Richard had a
religious faith in working out, staying fit, and secure in his
belief that the Ms of the world lay at the feet of the American
Government. Every American was an agent, someone sent with specific
instruction either to convert or failing conversion, to subvert
and overthrow other governments so they would have a market to
sell weapons. There was no such thing as a private eye or private
agent; he had Calvino pegged as a secret agent. A kind of at-large
First Secretary who talked shop with people like Alice Dugan.
heard you were in England," said Calvino.
a couple of months. It was pretty grim. No work. And one day I
packed it in. Since I'd had enough of Bangkok I thought why not
try Cambodia and Vietnam."
you see Fat Stuart about a month ago?" asked Calvino.
Scott dropped the front legs of the wooden chair forward and made
a grab for one of the girls, pulling her onto his lap. "He's
a bit difficult not to see."
dead," said Calvino.
once said if Fat Stuart died at the rate of one pound a year,
he might live to be a thousand."
died all at once," said Calvino.
first time he came to the Lido, the girls freaked out. Almost
all the whores are from Saigon. You've heard about the boat people.
This little one on my lap is one of the bus people." He gave
her a kiss on the cheek, and she curled up, playing with his chest
hair, twisting and braiding it with her fingers. "Think how
bad it's gotta be for these girls in Saigon for them to get on
a leaky old boat or in a broken-down bus. For a few bucks they
are riding with chickens and pigs for hours. They've heard that
Phnom Penh is lousy with rich farangs who will fuck them for money.
Some of them end up at the Lido. Their worst nightmare must have
come true when Fat Stuart came through the door. He has dimples
on his knees larger than their face. He spoke a strange kind of
French. That's the hellish thing about poverty for a woman. Either
you starve or accept money from a thousand pound jelly-fish-like
creature to climb on top of you. Evolution is a strange business."
Stuart was four-hundred something," said Calvino.
that to a girl who weighs ninety pounds."
Calvino stood back from the rail, automatic gun fire erupted from
about fifty meters up the road. AK47 fire in two, three round
bursts. This was followed by a moment of silence and return fire
came back from the opposite end of the street, making the I-ido
near the dead centre of the cross-fire. The motorcycle taxi drivers
on the street below had dived under their bikes for shelter.
Vietnamese girls fled away from the hand-railing and stood erect,
their backs touching the far wall, clutching their handbags against
their chests. One was crying. Most were shaking, eyes closed,
lips quivering with fear. They looked like the condemned at the
wrong end of a firing squad. Being caught in cross-fire on the
balcony of the Lido was not what they had in mind as a good evening
of fun. They didn't talk, joke or look at each other. Richard
Scott finished his beer and told the girl on his lap to go and
fetch him another one. But she was too afraid to leave his lap,
and she tightened her arms wrapped around his neck each time he
tried to pry her loose.
freak out every time there's a little gunfire. It's nothing really.
Most of the time the Khmers are shooting at the clouds."
I've heard, they think it makes the rain go away."
Scott nodded. " Maybe it does. Who knows? Has anyone ever
studied the problem of rain clouds and bullets? Maybe the CIA."
Additional gun bursts knocked out some windows in the building
across the street.
seem to have a hard time hitting the sky," said Calvino,
his hand instinctively reaching in for his own gun. He crouched
down near the balcony and looked down the street.
just a little shooting from near the market. The military's probably
put up a checkpoint," said Richard Scott. "And some
asshole forgot to stop. You have to stop for them. You can't just
keep on going or they get pissed off. The soldiers want cigarettes
or cash. It seems reasonable. The government doesn't pay them.
The Americans won't pay them because they don't like their politics.
So they have to pay themselves. It seems to work out all right.
Soldiers shoot people who don't pay. Who is going to mourn a cheap
Charlie? Besides they don't have to shoot all that many before
the word gets out."
couple of the Vietnamese whores crept beside Calvino and bent
over the balcony, straining to locate the source of the gunfire.
But most of the whores stayed back, pressing against the wall;
they wanted as much distance as possible between themselves and
the exposure of being in the open near the edge of the balcony.
Scott explained that most of the girls worked day jobs in the
local beauty shops, changing into their party dress and whoring
by night. They were what Scott called the Saigon bus girls. He
explained how they were afraid at night, and they had every reason
to be scared. The Khmer Rouge had machine-gunned men, women and
children, killing scores of Vietnamese some months earlier. A
great hatred of the Vietnamese had been whipped up during the
election. Killing Vietnamese was socially acceptable behavior
among a lot of Khmers. One of the few activities which seemed
to unify the populace. Killing had a different meaning, a different
history but roughly the same purpose in Cambodia. To create terror
and submission, nothing ever worked better than summary executions.
think I can get a beer?" Scott shouted at one of the girls
inside the door, She disappeared and a moment later returned with
a Tiger beer.
really not bad people," said Scott. "I kind of like
the Vietnamese. The whores are like us, Calvino. Outsiders. They
don't fit in. They hang around, do their job, and try to find
some decency in their lives. It's not their fault the Americans
fucked up their country. It's not the Cambodians' fault the Americans
dropped more bombs on Cambodia than were dropped during World
War 11. just because you say a war ends doesn't mean it ends."
figured out in his head that in bar girl years Richard Scott must
have been well over one-hundred-sixty years old. Long enough for
a heart to go hard, black and cold.
the street from the Lido were crumbling buildings -not buildings
in the conventional sense but concrete shells. Calvino felt the
anger rising inside. Richard Scott's one-track condemnation of
America masked some deeper pain or hostility. Blaming America
was an easy way out for problems; it meant there was no more work
or thinking to do about trouble. Like bashing Jews, a ready-made
audience existed for this kind of hatred. With the blood and dirt
on American hands, why bother, it was easier to sit on a balcony,
drink beer, and bitch about how the Yanks had fucked everything
up. He started to count what looked like bullet holes, controlling
his anger against Scott. The buildings were so run down the holes
could have been caused by anything. The condition of the buildings
showed that human beings were prepared to live in a city like
animals. These were animal holding pens; nests with brick walls;
structures so ugly, flat, and squat they seemed broken. A four-story
hovel which housed people with a shattered history. Suffering
and misery domes built by a tribe that tried to kill itself.
the ground floor the metal gate was pulled tight with a large
Yale lock. Peeling paint, the windows splotched and stained, making
one feel the damp ache of those inside. There were no lights in
the windows; not even a candle. The rooms looked abandoned; the
building looked as if it contained no living thing. Calvino could
imagine the Khmer Rouge taking people out of the rooms, and loading
them into trucks. They never came back. The building waited for
on the street it was business as usual. The Lido motorcycles pulled
up with whores and customers. A moment later, another driver,
whore and customer seated on the back of allonda 50cc disappeared
out of sight down the flooded street. Several UNTAC Civ Pol vehicles
were parked opposite the Lido An off-duty cop -who looked Eastern
European loaded two whores, who were drinking beer, into the front
seat of an UNTAC Land Cruiser and drove away. Then Calvino saw
John Shaw, the Irish cop, walk alone across the street, keys in
his hand, climb into his land Cruiser, and follow after the first
didn't happen to see Fat Stuart here with Mike Hatch? " asked
Calvino, turning back from the railing. There wasn't an immediate
reply, so Calvino rephrased the question, "Have you seen
Hatch around lately?"
Scott frowned, rubbing the side of his face. He had a nervous
condition which made his eye and cheek twitch whenever he felt
tension coming on hard. Hatch's name had twisted some of the nerves.
"I've been waiting for him to come around. Let's see, it's
been a couple of weeks. We have some business plans," said
Scott. "And these things take time to organize."
kind of business?" asked Calvino, pulling up a chair directly
kinda personal, isn't it?" The muscles in his face pulsated,
and Scott gulped beer from the can
not asking for trade secrets, Scott. And I'm not working for the
US Government if that's what you're worried about." Calvino
could see the approach wasn't working. He pulled out his wallet
and showed Scott a check payable to Mike Hatch in the amount of
forty-five thousand dollars. It was dark on the balcony. And Scott
used his cigarette lighter to read the check. "I'm looking
to deliver this to Hatch."
did you become an investment banker?" Scott asked.
Hatch went into the gun business," said Calvino.
didn't much like this answer, and he quickly pulled the Vietnamese
whore off his lap and leaned forward in his chair.
said Hatch was in the gun business? Patten? Because if he did,
he's a lying sonofabitch." He looked Calvino straight in
the eye with a look which approached genuine surprise. His gray
eyes had betrayed his claim that he didn't know the game Patten
was playing. He handed back the check payable to Mike Hatch.
remained silent as he folded the check and put it back in his
wallet. Several of the Vietnamese girls watched over his shoulder.
There was a constant stream of girls circling from the dance floor
to the balcony. Some UNTAC personnel in civilian clothes sat with
girls at the opposite end of the balcony.
business venture is in Vietnam. We are putting together the deal
of a lifetime. We are planning yuppy treks down Highway One. Do
you know how many American yuppies would pay through the nose
to have someone lead them down Highway One? Thousands and thousands
of Americans who heard something about the war. This is their
chance to follow in Charlie's footstep s. It can't miss. Forget
about guns. The money is in tourism. Mike and I are planning the
first Highway One Marathon. We are working on a cableTV deal.
Reporters from all over the world will come to cover the Marathon.
Guns! Who in the fuck cares about guns? Except gun-crazy Americans.
You people are obsessed with guns. You're all armed to the teeth.
In. England we don't really like guns, and we don't like people
carrying them around in public. And that includes the police."
scheme sounded like one Richard Scott would be interested in doing.
He was a jogger. He loved Vietnamese women. He was finished with
Bangkok and this was his opportunity to combine his avocation,
hobby, drinking, and whoring and to get paid at the same time.
It had the ring of truth. What didn't we into the equation was
what is real connection was with Mike Hatch. He seemed to be covering
up for Hatch, holding back information about Hatch's whereabouts.
If Scott wouldn't tell him the truth, then Calvino thought there
was an outside chance one of the Lido girls was serving Hatch
and for the right price would take him directly to his room.
of these girls did Fat Stuart take?" asked Calvino.
question caught Richard Scott off guard and made him laugh unexpectedly,
making beer shoot out of his nose. "The one who when she
turns to the side is so flat she disappears."
wiped his nose and looked around the balcony for a couple of minutes.
The girl he had pushed off his lap crawled back on, dangling her
legs on his bare legs. "I love it when they do that,"
took out the photograph of Fat Stuart's dead face and showed it
to the girl. He held Scott's lighter close to the photograph.
He asked her if she recognized him. There was no reply.
girls only speak Vietnamese. And a little French," said Scott.
He then translated the question into Vietnamese, and the girl
stared hard, and finally pointed at one of The girls in a red
mini-skirt and white blouse who sat with the off-duty UNTAC personnel
at the far end of the balcony. Her blouse was half-unbuttoned
and she was necking with one of the men who was running his hand
up and down her leg. "She says the shy one over there went
with Fat Stuart."
years ago, "replied Richard Scott.
bar girl time?" asked Calvino.
Lido time. Here six days is one year. This one here is about a
thousand years old. But looks pretty good for her age."
other girls go with Fat Stuart?"
and the girl on his lap spoke in Vietnamese for about a minute.
"Apparently not. This girl apparently specializes in rather
large men. Though Fat Stuart was a little big even by her standards."
got up and walked over to where the girl sat, with her head back,
showing a long, slender throat. He tapped the UNTAC soldier on
the shoulder. "I don't want any trouble. I just want to ask
your girl a few questions. It will only take a couple of minutes.
"He held his hands palms up as a gesture of peace. But it
was a wasted effort, the soldier' s. eyes looked from Calvino
to the girl, and then came off the chair with his fists flying.
He had been drinking and that made his reaction time a couple
of ticks too slow. He threw a couple of useless fatman's windmakers,
missing Calvino, who stepped to one side. Calvino caught him with
a heavy right into his midsection, and the fight immediately left
him The soldier grabbed the railing, struggling to get to his
feet, and instead leaned his head over the side and vomited beer.
Once again the motorcycle drivers below ducked for cover; they
were having one very bad night. Calvino pulled the girl over to
where Richard Scott was sitting.
won't make you popular with the motorcycle taxi drivers. They
hate it when foreigners vomit on their heads."
this girl if she knows Mike Hatch."
asked her, and nodded to Calvino. "Of course, she could be
lying. But Mike knows a lot of Lido girls, so she might be telling
her if she knows where Mike lives."
Scott smiled. "Now why didn't I think of that?"
asked the girl, and she said she knew where Mike Hatch lived and
it was not far from the bar. All she wanted was some money for
her time and effort. That seemed like a fair deal.
was after midnight when Calvino and the girl walked down the tattered
red carpeted staircase and into the street where some of the drivers
were cursing the vomit and combing their hair with plastic combs.
Their faces looked like the nerve endings had been cut. Like they
didn't feel much of anything. And they didn't miss the pain.