Harwich saw all this when he was first offered a job with security on the island and then thrown into The Men's Show to show his new "employers" his survival skills. Surviving a tiger in the arena, he was put in the prison compound--to test his "loyalty" to Koh Dum's leader, Capt. Suwat Thubcharoen of the Royal Thai Navy--and helped the prisoners to break out of their cells. This led to the complete destruction of all the evils Koh Dum perpetuated.
Harwich rescued the girls but when he and one of them, Connie Krevving, were cut off from the other escapees, they fled the island on Trent's junk. Unfortunately for them, Trent had hidden himself aboard the junk when the shit hit the fan on Koh Dum. As Bitchin' Joss got free of the island, Trent ambushed them and took them hostage, forcing Harwich to sail the junk to Singapore. Harwich managed to turn the tables on Trent, recapturing control of the junk, but a nasty surprise was waiting for him and Connie when they reached Singapore: Marine Police boats Trent had earlier signaled. Connie had tried to explain to the Singapore Police that it was Trent who was the villain, not Harwich. In the confusion, Trent used a gun he had squirreled away to kill Connie. Harwich shot Trent but it was only a shoulder wound. The cops got to Harwich before he could finish the Oz off.
Harwich had been arrested and put in jail. He was sentenced to die by hanging, all because Seth Trent had a contact high up in the Singaporean government. That man's name was Xavier Chew.
Enter Dee Mahk. He was one of Harwich's old SF buddies from the war who now ran a go-go bar on Patpong and had been a huge help in Laos and Cambodia recently. He'd gotten Harwich's e-mail but hadn't been able to do anything about it due to a bizarre problem with an ex-wife. By the time he saw Harwich's e-mail, twenty-four hours had passed. Still, Dee was nothing if not persistent and adaptable. He had taken Tossie McGillicutty, an Aussie expat largely responsible for Trent's finding Harwich, and two other expats down to Songkhla to rescue Harwich. They were too late there but made their way to Singapore where they tracked down Trent's contact, Chew. Chew couldn't be persuaded to get Harwich freed but then the oddest part of all occurred: Diana Parkes, Chew's fiancee who turned out to be Oscar Taggart's younger sister. Taggart had raped her when she was fifteen and ruined her life as a result. In return, she was more than happy to help Dee ruin Trent's life. Learning her boyfriend was highly connected to her older brother, she leaned on Chew. Hard.
Chew got Harwich released and exonerated. Trent was "quietly" arrested and beaten to death with bamboo canes while Diana watched with venomous triumph.
Diana's final effect on Harwich's life was to give him Bitchin' Joss, lock, stock and batwing sails. This included the second cargo that was still aboard.
Cargo that belonged to one Victor Lu. A man from Hong Kong. A man Harwich had spoken with on Diana's cellular phone at the Raffles Hotel. Lu wanted Harwich to sail the junk to Zamboanga, in the southernmost part of the Philippines, and deliver the cargo--Chinese antiquities--to an associate at the duty free port. He had offered to pay $10,000.00 US for every man on the junk.
Harwich hadn't liked it. Despite being from Cape Cod, he wasn't much of a sailor. Nor were any of his friends, except for Tossie who had told many highly questionable stories about his sailing days in the Pacific Rim. Strike one.
The route of the trip would take them through pirate-infested waters, Muslim strongholds and the typhoon season. Strike two.
Victor Lu had all but admitted he was a Triad big boss to Harwich.
Harwich was in pain, he was tired and he just wanted to go back to Chiang Mai to sleep for six months. The hell with Diana Parkes, Victor Lu and "Chinese antiquities". He was sick to death of death, tired of betrayals and in the mood for no adventure bigger than risking his stomach on a new street vendor's meal.
So why was he on his own Chinese junk sailing into dangerous waters with no armaments and dragging his best friends along for the ride?
He couldn't answer that question.
And yet, in a perverse way, he could.
It was Mr. Adrenaline Junky, that side of him that craved action. This wasn't a facet of his persona that Harwich was proud of but he was smart enough to not try to deny it, either. Being sentenced to death and believing it was going to happen had shaken him, too. Life was sweeter now, filled with a zest that made the darkest shades dazzling Technicolor and the smallest creaking of Realia's teak deck a Dolby delight. Being out here, he was free of his jail cell in Singapore, free of Koh Dum, free of the land and mostly free of the memories.
Lots of memories. Too damned many.
No sooner had he gotten involved with Trent than he was involved with the three girls who were his main reason for sailing the junk to Singapore. Especially Connie, with whom he had spent a special moment during the many hours of terror aboard the junk. And now she was dead.
Nor did the other two girls fare a whole helluva lot better.
Melody Peterson, the girl he had met at that lounge at Logan, the red-haired loan officer from a major Boston-based banking firm who had convinced him to sail on the junk, had been raped and abused on Koh Dum. She was scarred for life, forever changed. The last Harwich had seen of her was the night before at Changi International Airport in Singapore. She had freaked out when she had seen him, attacking him verbally, cursing him and spitting in his face. She held him responsible for everything that had happened to her and her friends.
The second biggest part of that everything, following the killing of Connie, was the staring, drooling blonde Melody had been holding hands with at the airport. Kara Markotte. Kara had been a Valley Girl from California who had been an airhead but a friendly, unpretentious airhead. She was the one who had gotten involved with Trent at 1997--a club in Hong Kong--and it was because of her that her friends had agreed to sail the junk to Singapore despite their misgivings about Trent. On Koh Dum, she had been drugged, raped and even forced to have sex with a German Shepherd before Harwich had rescued her. It had all been too much for Kara and she had withdrawn into a catatonic state. It was doubtful if she'd ever return.
Harwich shook his head. Maybe he was running away.
"Two baht for whatever bullshit's swirlin' in yer skull, Johnny," boomed a deep voice behind him.
It was Dee Mahk. Harwich turned and smiled at his old friend. "Just clearing out cobwebs, buddy."
"Thought I smelled somethin' burnin'," Dee chuckled.
Harwich laughed too, considering his companion. Dee Mahk was taller than Harwich, bulky where Harwich was athletic, with a bullet head that was crewcut, a red goatee and piercing blue eyes. He had a drinker's gut but could waste almost anyone he encountered. If Harwich had to use a word to describe Dee, it would be excessive. Dee was larger than life: he drank heavily, smoked cheroots heavily, ate heavily and could hardly get six words strung together in a sentence without three of them being swears. Dee hailed from Pittsburgh, PA as Donald Marcus. He hated the name Donald--due to his incredible hatred for being called Donald Duck as a kid and later the toothy Mormon Donny Osmond--so in the Special Forces, he was known simply as D. Marcus or simply Dee. When he was assigned to the 46th Special Forces Group in Thailand, the Thai nicknamed him Dee Mahk--Thai for "very good"--and it had been his handle ever since. Dee had been running The Hot LZ for nearly thirty years, been married three times, divorced three times and thanks to the reappearance of Harwich, had been up to his devilish eyebrows in danger, firefights and money. And loving it.
Dee regarded his friend. "Harwich, I hate to be serious but are ya all right?"
"Don't play stupid, pal; yer too convincing. I know ya been through some righteous shit in the last three days. That broad gettin' greased and yer time in the monkey-house, all the jollies ya had on Koh Dum--it does a number on a guy's skull."
Harwich frowned under his baseball cap. "What, are you playing dimestore shrink now, Dee?"
"Maybe a little. Ya been standin' here like a statue since we left Singapore."
"And you're wondering if all the bulbs are burning in the chandelier, right?"
"Not quite, shithead, it's just that after what ya seen these last coupla days, well, I..." Dee trailed off; this wasn't his forte.
"Don't worry, Dee, I'm not going to howl at the moon or paint my naked body blue--"
"Damn, there goes my day."
"And I'm not about to crack up, either. I just need some time to get my head on straight."
"Okay, I can take a hint--I'll boogie."
"No reason to do that, De. I'm being quiet. That doesn't mean I'm going bonkers or being antisocial. It just means I have a lot of shit to sort out, that's all."
"Like this trip for instance?"
Harwich spun around as though slapped. "Look, Dee, if you don't want to continue on, I'll turn around and you can--"
"Jai yen-yen, goddamnit. Chill the fuck out, Johnny. It's not a matter of my wanting anything--"
"Yeah. I'm all for this. With what happened up in Bangkok with Toy and the news people catchin' it on film, I'm more than happy to stay the hell outta Bangkok for the next coupla weeks, believe you me." Dee seemed defensive about this and not just a little embarrassed. He had good reason to be. Why Dee had been unable to help Harwich out sooner than he did could be summed up in one word: Toy. Toy was one of Dee's ex-wives. He had divorced her years earlier when he had learned she had become the mia noi--minor wife--to a wealthy Thai-Chinese jade merchant. This was bad news for Dee and not just because his wife was screwing around on him. Wealthy Chinese merchants didn't tend to take kindly to competition, even legally-married competition. Nor did they have to; their usual amount of finances easily bought a hit-man on a motorcycle. What Toy's Chinese man did instead was to pay Dee off with a goodly number of US dollar bills, several thousand in all. Dee hadn't liked it but he liked the other options even less and besides, he'd be getting paid to get rid of his unfaithful bitch of a wife, right? And that had been the last he'd seen or heard of Toy.
Until a couple days earlier when she'd called him at The Hot LZ, telling him she had to see him urgrently. Against his better judgment, Dee had gone to the Ambassador Hotel to see his ex-wife who'd told him he was going to be meeting his fifteen year old daughter that he didn't even know he'd had. It was a sham. He got there and found no daughter, only Toy. She had lured him there to have sex, claiming her hubby was old and boring.
Dee hadn't been impressed; he knew "hubby" had bodyguards who'd be more than happy to put a farang in the Hurt Locker for doing the horizontal bop with the boss' mia noi. He was horny, too, but fought it and fled the hotel room. He had gotten into the nearest elevator but Toy was fast and she got in with him to continue her "arguement". That's when the elevator stalled between floors and the lights went out in it. For the next several hours, Toy had her way with Dee, making savage love to him in the elevator.
When the elevator had finally been fixed and the doors opened, they found themselves surrounded by media people who had heard of the people trapped in the lift, one of who was always screaming (in reality, Toy having full-blown orgasms) and thought there might be a story here. As the doors finally swished open, they saw the story: Dee, Toy and a pile of used condoms in the elevator.
Dee had bailed out, running for the exit and Soi Cowboy. He was in pain, he needed alcohol but most important, he was shitting kittens that Toy's husband would learn about their romp and what the messy reprecussions would likely be.
It had just so happened that Harwich's problems with Seth Trent had come at a time when Dee found it advantageous and beneficial to his well-being to be out of Bangkok. Nothing had happened to Dee following his tryst with Toy or his marathon drinking session afterwards but Dee was just as happy to be away from Patpong, Sukhumvit, Bangkok and Thailand in general. Besides, he'd seen some interesting things in the Sulu Archipelago when he'd been there a few months back and he wouldn't mind checking it out again now that they were going to be in the area.
"Do you think it's going to be a problem for you when we get back to Bangkok?" Harwich asked, returning Dee to the present and the junk.
Dee shrugged. "Dunno, Johnny. Toy told me so many different stories that I figure either the old Chinaman's gonna thank me for keepin' that hellcat out of his face for a few hours or else his boys are gonna turn me into a chunka Swiss cheese, capische? Could go either way, damn that cunt."
Harwich laughed, his momentary anger fading. "Yeah, but you had fun with her, didn't you?"
"Aw, that ain't the effen point, dummy," Dee groused.
"Let me guess; we're talkin' about Toy?"
Both men turned to greet the new speaker. Rollie Meyers was a pudgy Chiang Mai expat with a sheepdog's face and a drinker's nose. He had been a crew chief aboard the USAF's Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopters based out of the Issan during the Vietnam War, flying on over one hundred missions. He had also served a tour of duty at Bien Hoa in South Vietnam. Rollie had gone back to the States but found he couldn't deal with the USA or his Jane Fonda-wannabe wife so he'd left both looking at the crack of his ass and returned to Asia. Once back, he'd hooked up with an old childhood friend of Harwich's, Richard Shaugnessy, known as Rickshaw ever since he'd shown up in Laos to fly for Air America. Rollie and Rickshaw had settled in northern Thailand, in Chiang Mai, and started their own private cargo-and passengers airline, Flying Rickshaw Ltd. It was Rollie and Rickshaw who'd gotten everyone out of Laos with Rickshaw's DC-3, Target Ship II, and it was the pair of them that had flown a C-123 called Air Thermae out of Cambodia.
When Rollie got Harwich's e-mail about Trent, he had hooked up with Dee in Bangkok and was more than happy to go down to the Gulf of Thailand to help Harwich out. When Harwich had asked him at the Raffles earlier that day if he'd be interested in sailing Realia to Zamboanga for $10,000.00 US, Rollie was thrilled. He could be dour but Rollie genuinely like Harwich and ten grand didn't upset him, either.
Nor would Flying Rickshaw Ltd need him now: Rickshaw had missed out on the Koh Dum/Singapore events because he'd gone home to Cape Cod for his niece's wedding. He was currently missing this run to Zamboanga due to being involved in a stupid car accident at the reception when a nephew smashed into Rickshaw's rental, breaking his arm and leg. The expat pilot wouldn't be coming back to Thailand anytime soon so he and Rollie had shut their airline down. Thus, here was Rollie. And everyone knew Rickshaw would be jealous as hell that he couldn't be here with them aboard the junk.
"Did I hear somebody mention eveybody's favorite toy, Toy?" chided the fourth man in the group, Harry Tranton.
"Aw, fa' Chrissakes," Dee rasped throwing up his hands.
Sean Bunzick, Copyright 2007
This most recent of the John Harwich series by Sean Bunzik is still in the process of being published and distributed (we don't even have a pic of the cover for it yet). 'Zero Trust in Zamboanga' purchasing information will follow as soon as we have it for you. We thought you'd all like getting an early preview of it now. We are looking forward to reading a copy as soon as we can get our hands on one. Information is forthcoming.