Short story selected for the 2011 New Asian Writing Short Story Anthology
“These little jobs from Khun Pairote have been getting worse and worse, Pon. If my wife weren’t pregnant, I would’ve turned this one down. Where’d Pairote say he wanted us to take this girl?”
“Samitivej Hospital,” Pon replied with a sigh. Their brown and white police truck was stuck in heavy late night traffic on Thong Lor road. The compressor for the truck’s air conditioner remained broken due to the police station’s budgetary problems, so Pon and his good friend, Tan, had to conduct their shift this evening with the windows down. Along Thong Lor were throngs of beautiful light-skinned Thai women and their well-dressed companions, wandering out of the late night clubs and karaokes, looking this way and that for the next party. Envious, Pon wondered how these people could possibly afford to have so much fun every day of the week. Did they even have jobs at all?
Suddenly, an obese farang gentleman with a girl about half his age placed his hand on the hood of the truck to gain his balance. The man crowded Tan’s passenger-side window and abruptly asked, “G’day, boys. Which way to the Nightglow afterhours club?” While Tan and Pon were familiar with the English language, the man’s drunken Australian accent was completely incomprehensible.
Tan fielded this one in English. “Excuse me, sir. You need help, yes? Where you go?” The man rocked back and forth, balancing himself in his intoxicated stupor.
The Thai woman with him seemed embarrassed by his disrespect for local culture. Pon spoke over to her in Thai, “Young lady, you need to get this gentleman back to his hotel room, because he is far too drunk to be out this evening. Tell him that being loud and obnoxious in public can lead to problems on his holiday, and he should watch his mouth when addressing police officers.”
“Excuse me.” The Thai woman acknowledged the officer with a polite wai.
While trying to grab the hulking slob by the arm, she spotted the woman sprawled out behind Pon and Tan inside the truck. Her eyes instantly lit up with excitement. “Oh! Is that Sriporn?”
“No. No it is not. Have a nice evening,” Tan said as he hastily rolled up the windows.
The woman unconscious in the back was indeed Sriporn, the beautiful and famous soap opera star. Tan looked back to see how she was doing and noticed her loose black dress was hitched up, exposing her purple lace underwear. Tan gently pulled down her dress to cover up the indecent display.
Sriporn had been partying at Zoom, and her boyfriend, the wealthy heir of an agribusiness tycoon, had decided it would be fun to give her two ecstasy tablets while drinking a bottle of red wine. She had been passed out on the dance floor for some time when Tan and Pon received a phone call from the club’s owner, Khun Pairote. He was a well-known mafia boss who owned four clubs in the Thong Lor neighborhood alone, all very profitable. Since he was a former Royal Thai Police Deputy Commissioner, he had good connections within the police force. This was particularly true at the Thong Lor police station where Tan and Pon worked. Pairote had paid them 2,000 baht each to take her out of the club immediately because it was “not helping business.”
The current Superintendent of the Thong Lor police station had made it clear to each of his law enforcement officers privately that performing “little favors” while on duty was acceptable, just nothing blatantly criminal. The Ministry of Interior had cut the budget for all Metropolitan Police stations this year. The current Minister was trying to expand his political base in the northeastern provinces, and Bangkok had been written off by his political party as “uncompetitive” in the upcoming election. On paper Pon and Tan only made 15,000 baht per month, and they had to pay for their own uniforms and sidearm. So it was no wonder the police performed these extra “favors” to help make ends meet.
Once traffic began moving again, Pon made a phone call to an orderly he knew at Samitivej to arrange dropping off the young starlet one block from the hospital. Pulling into the hospital’s front entrance and rolling her out of the police truck would have raised too many questions from bystanders and hospital staff, thereby drawing the ire of Khun Pairote.
As Pon made a left turn, Sriporn suddenly lurched up and vomited all over the back seat. After purging herself, she spat three times onto the floor mats and looked out the rear window with a stupid grin on her face.
Tan thought all this was great entertainment, probably because Pon would be stuck with cleaning up the truck before their shift was over. Tan, still chuckling, asked his friend, “So what are you going to do with the money?”
“I need to get Lek’s half-baht out of the gold shop again. Now that I have this 2,000 baht, it should be enough.”
Tan politely remained quiet as he noted this was the third time in the past two months his friend had to retrieve his girlfriend’s gold necklace from the shop. Pon had given this present to her the first week they met, and, to Pon, it was a symbol of the struggle he endured to convince Lek to love him. But to his dismay, Lek would sell this sentimental object whenever she needed quick money. She had a serious yaa baa addiction. She would often play cards for eight hours straight, or at least until her money ran out, and then curse Pon for her bad luck.
Time and again Pon had approached his neighbors at the Baan Nguu apartments in an effort to forbid her from playing cards with them. However, many of these residents were “working girls” who led extremely reckless lifestyles themselves. No way were they going to take any instructions from a low-ranking police officer. Pon would sooner blame these girls for Lek’s bad behavior than accept that his girlfriend was not a good girl in the first place.
Tan and Pon met up with the Samitivej Hospital orderly in a dark soi and carried Sriporn into an unmarked car. Pon handed the orderly 200 baht for his troubles, and the car sped off toward the hospital.
“I can’t wait to see her show on Tuesday night,” Tan joked. “Well Pon, I’m going to take a taxi home. My wife just texted me, and she gets worried when I’m out on the late shift.” Pon was slightly jealous, since Lek almost never called him while he was on duty. “Okay, Tan. Good luck and see you tomorrow.”
Pon returned the truck to the station, cleaned up the dried vomit in the backseat, and headed to the gold shop. The old Chinese woman who ran the operation was unofficially open for business 24/7, so even though it was 2 am, Pon rang the buzzer in front. She came down the steps from her bedroom above the shop and immediately recognized him in his brown uniform.
“Nice to see you again, Pon. Are you here for the gold necklace?” Without saying a word, he handed over 10,000 baht and waited for the old woman in the nightgown to fetch Lek’s necklace from behind the counter.
“Here it is. You know, I have a very nice niece who’s a stewardess for Thai Airways. She would be delighted to be taken out by a handsome young man.”
“Thank you, kindly, but I already have a girlfriend.” The old woman shrugged, locked the door, and shuffled back upstairs.
Pon arrived home at the Baan Nguu apartments at 2:30 am. The security guard and Bee, the owner of the Fun-Zone internet café next door, were casually sitting on plastic chairs in the courtyard and eating pineapple slices with wooden toothpicks. Once they saw Pon, they began whispering to each other. Pon immediately knew the topic of conversation was about something Lek had done or how he was out of his mind for staying with her.
Bee walked over to Pon while glancing over to the small one-bedroom apartment that Pon and Lek had on the third floor. “Lek’s really been out of control tonight, Pon. She’s been knocking on everyone’s door on the third floor asking where you are. She called me a couple times while I was working and asked which room you were in with your kik. Be careful.”
Pon was upset with his bad luck, but he was hoping that buying back Lek’s gold necklace would calm her down. Lek had been so happy when he first bought it for her, and she did say she wanted to stay with him forever.
“Thank you, Bee. I’ll go upstairs and get things straightened out.”
As Pon made his way up the stairs, he could hear the moaning and screaming coming from the third floor. He pulled the gold necklace from its red plastic case, getting ready to present it to Lek. The door was unlocked, and unaware of what he would encounter, his police instincts dictated that he open the door slowly. Cracking open the door he muttered, “Honey, I have your gold necklace.”
“Why don’t you give it to your kik, you scoundrel!” Lek had lost at least five kilograms in the past two months, and her once beautiful cheeks were now completely sunken and ashen. Her mouth was covered with blisters from smoking her glass yaa baa pipe, and her eyes were all bloodshot. Pon often dealt with drug addicts on the job, so he knew how dangerous someone can get while coming down from a methamphetamine binge.
“Where have you been?” Lek screamed. She then picked up a knife he had bought her at the market to cut the sausages from the northeast she enjoyed so much. She approached him and cried, “You want to die?”
He grabbed her little arms and began shaking her, forcing her to drop the knife. “What’s wrong with you, baby! I don’t have a kik. I only love you.”
“Nung called me and said you and Tan were driving around with a pretty girl.”
What terrible luck, he thought. One of Lek’s friends must have been at Pairote’s club when we picked up the celebrity. How did all these girls know each other anyway?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve been working since five this afternoon.”
“You lie! Get out of my apartment.” She pushed herself off Pon and started rampaging in the tiny apartment. First, she grabbed the picture of Pon and his mother when he graduated from the police academy and hurled it across the room. Then, she grabbed the refrigerator and tipped it over. The massive thud shook the entire building as the contents of the refrigerator scattered across the floor.
The residents of Baan Nguu typically ignored bouts of domestic violence, since intervening could be construed as impolite and result in loss of face. However, at 2:35 in the morning, this racket exceeded their level of tolerance. The phone by the building’s security guard began ringing with everyone pleading for the guard to call the police.
Sensing that his problems with Lek were escalating into a spectacle, Pon stepped out in the hallway and shut the door, as Lek continued destroying the interior of the apartment. By the time he got back down to the courtyard, he saw two police officers from the Phra Khanong precinct talking with the security guard. Pon awkwardly recognized one of them as a pair of his own sandals got flung from the balcony and almost hit this officer on the head.
“Pon, what’s going on here?”
“I can’t control my girlfriend, and there is nothing else to tell.”
The two police officers ventured upstairs. Five minutes later, the screaming and crashing subsided. With the situation seemingly under control, the officer Pon knew said, “We managed to calm your girlfriend down, but she’s suffering from serious withdrawal from meth. My colleague will stay with her for a while to see that she gets some rest. But, there’s not much else we can do for her.”
“I know. It’s an absolute shame.”
“Hey, you should talk to Khun Pairote. I think he has some medicine that can help her not act so crazy. See you again, Pon.”
Pon looked over and noticed Khun Pornthip, the mother of the building’s owner, standing outside the apartment building’s office where she lived. Pon offered her a respectful wai to salvage some face from this nightmarish evening. She slowly raised one hand with a grimace to acknowledge. This elderly woman was mean and surly to everyone, including her own son, so Pon dreaded what she was going to say.
But, rather than tell Pon he was evicted from Baan Nguu, Pornthip hobbled up to him with her cane and said, “Lek is a very bad girl. If you think you can change that, then you are a fool. We can’t help whom we love, Pon, but we can avoid those who bring us grief and suffering. You can sleep in the manager’s office tonight.” She made a waving motion inside with her cane toward the couch next to a toolbox and security camera monitor. Pon obliged, and he slept well knowing he still held on to the gold necklace.
The following night, Pairote held his hand to his chin, contemplating. “This is a serious problem, Pon. Are you sure you love this girl?”
“Yes, Khun Pairote, with all my heart.”
Pairote’s office in Thong Lor did not look at all like the stereotypical mafia boss hideout. There was a framed picture of him and his grandchildren in front of a yellow flower bed at Suan Luang Park, and his computer screen idly put out updates from the Manchester United match. The only giveaway was the burly fellow sitting in the back chain-smoking menthols.
“Pon, my team and I are very appreciative of the work you and your colleagues at the Thong Lor station have done for us over the years. So I feel obligated to repay this favor to you. Those of us who have been in law enforcement can have a difficult time when not in uniform. We become so accustomed to the violence and vice of the city’s streets that we are unable to handle ourselves in normal affairs. I have seen so many good police officers seek out women, alcohol, or gambling in an extremely risky fashion. You must do what you can to take good care of yourself while you are young.
“Has the Superintendent been informed that you are seeking my assistance?”
“Yes, Khun Pairote. I personally called Colonel Suthep this evening, and he is supportive of me asking you for this favor.”
“I understand. Now, if you truly love this girl, you will give her this medicine.” The burly fellow in the back handed Pon a plastic bag containing a small vial and syringe. The label was in English, and Pon couldn’t make out what it said.
“Colonel Suthep called me shortly before your discussion with him, and he requested I provide you with medicine that will make your girlfriend both docile and harmless. This will cure her of her narcotics problems and bring happiness to you.”
“How does it work?”
“Simply inject the syringe into her arm, and all will be well. She will no longer crave yaa baa, she will no longer gamble with her friends, and she will finally be a good girl.”
“Thank you, Khun Pairote.”
Pon traveled home earlier in the evening than usual. Colonel Suthep had instructed him to take “vacation time” until things were sorted out with Lek. Pon arrived at his apartment and hoped Lek would not repeat the incident of the previous night. He peeked into his room, and, fortunately, she was still asleep. The police officer who had briefly stayed with Lek the night before had even been kind enough to put back the refrigerator.
Pon took out the vial and punctured it with the syringe, drawing 25 milliliters of the mysterious fluid into the chamber. He kissed Lek on the cheek and muttered, “I love you so much, baby.” He held up her thin right arm, found the blue vein, and jammed the needle home.
She immediately bolted up and screamed. Pon cupped his hand over her mouth. Her saliva began frothing all over his wrist and onto their bed.
“Take it easy, Lek. Everything will be okay now.” She was violently convulsing as he pinned her down onto the bed. She clenched her teeth down onto his palm, her arms flailing wildly, and he accepted the pain. Blood came streaming down onto the bed, and Pon was not certain whether it was his.
“Lek, you have to be still. Please.” Lek’s eyes rolled back into her head, and she finally eased into silence. Pon stepped away from her lifeless body on the bed. His mind began to race about what to do. Just then his cell phone rang. It was Colonel Suthep.
“Pon, have you given your girlfriend the medicine yet?”
“Yes, Colonel Suthep. I’m afraid it may have worked too well… She’s dead.”
“I’m sorry, Pon. But we had to kill her. She was becoming a liability and an embarrassment for you, one of my best officers. Someone from the precinct will come by to properly dispose of the body. Take the next two weeks off.”
While surprised and distraught that Suthep had given Lek medicine that would murder her, Pon couldn’t help but feel a certain respect toward his boss for orchestrating this. Suthep had to make the difficult decision in looking out for his subordinate’s best interests, and that’s what great leaders do.
Pon pulled the gold necklace from his pocket and placed it on Lek’s lifeless wrist. “I will always love you, Lek. Never forget.” He wiped the blood and froth off her mouth and brought her body out onto the balcony. He dropped her down into a chair that managed to survive her frenzy the night before so that she could face out into the courtyard.
The elderly Pornthip stood outside the apartment office, glaring at them from across the courtyard. “What’s going on up there?”
“See how much of a good girl Lek is, Khun Pornthip. She is so polite now.”
Pornthip gave a scowl in Pon’s general direction and headed back inside. She was unimpressed.
khun: a respectful term for a person
farang: a mildly pejorative term for a Caucasian foreigner
baht: Thai currency
half-baht: 7.58 grams of Thai gold
yaa baa: literally “crazy medicine”; methamphetamine
soi: a side street or alley
kik: mistress, but non-gender specific.
wai: a two-handed gesture appropriate for salutations, acknowledgments, and farewells
Illustration by Alan Van Every
Paul Salvette is a 30 years old writer. He is originally from the United States but has lived and worked in Bangkok, Thailand since 2009. Paul’s day job involves working as the personal assistant to former Thai senator, which allows him to meet many interesting people. Paul also served in the United States Navy from 2002-2009. Visit his blog.
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