“Well, it’s a life sentence either way,” said a drinking buddy as I shared my news with him over a game of pool in a Sukhumvit bar.
“Yes, I suppose it is,” I said as I tried to slam a ball home, only succeeding in rattling both balls off the table, across the floor and into the wall.
“And you’ve only been here six months? As far as rookie errors go, I think this takes the cake,” he roared between bursts of laughter. “Priceless!” I smiled ruefully and rubbed at my receding hairline as a bargirl scuttled after my rogue balls.
I’m not a man to run from my responsibilities and knew I probably wouldn’t get far even if I tried. I married her in a Buddhist ceremony a month later at the family home up-country. My new father-in-law took care of what equated to my stag’s night by taking me, his son and his brother to a local karaoke bar. They each had girls pawing them but I flapped them away self-consciously as my in-laws laughed, groped and a bit later, fucked. I knew I’d done the right thing when Por pulled his weapon and shot a competitor for “his girl” in the thigh before calmly ordering another bottle of Johnnie Black.
On my wedding day my boss called me from Bangkok, congratulated me and then told me that he had to let me go. When I hung up my new father, Por, gave me a knowing smirk and told me not to worry. Now that I was part of the family I would work for the family. He asked for my passport and a week later he gave it back with a big smile and a fresh long-term Visa and Work Permit that I hadn’t applied for.
That was just over a year ago. Our son is healthy and handsome and he has my blue eyes. The young idiot sitting across from me in an interview room at the Thong Lor Police Station has blue eyes too, but both are nearly closed and have deep purple bruises flowering under them and are streaming tears. Now he is finally realizing that I am his best hope and he is begging with me to help get him out. I will, but not before I squeeze as much cash as I possibly can out of him. That’s my job and as a “Volunteer Police Translator” I get a percentage. So does Por as the station boss and the rest goes into the “Widow’s Fund.”
I’ve done this a few hundred times already. I go to farang clubs and bars and play “spot the coke-head.” Then I call my brother-in-law. If he doesn’t get a quick cash settlement I get called into the station to explain the rules and negotiate. I find out what hotel they are staying in, what their occupation is and assess their financial capacity against their level of fear before coming up with a figure to fine them.
I don’t normally enjoy extorting money but I feel no guilt at all with this arrogant young prick with his designer clothes, superior attitude and posh accent. He’s certainly showing a bit more respect and remorse than he was last night when we brought him in shouting about Daddy’s law firm in London and how he’d see to it that we’d all regret catching him with a gram of charlie in his pocket outside Q Bar. More often than not, a night in a holding cell with a bucket of shit and a couple of angry Thai yaa baa addicts results in a swift change of attitude.
I explain that the fine has gone up from the hundred thousand baht he was offered last night, to a million baht. I figure that twenty thousand quid should be chicken feed to rich brat like him and Daddy would pay it if he couldn’t. That would give me what I normally average in a month as a snitch and ‘legal advisor.’ He starts jabbering on again about calling his embassy and getting a lawyer and I calmly explain to him that this is a bad idea if he wants his freedom. I tell him that once this happens his case will be logged and become official which will only result in a court appearance, him being remanded in custody and then sentenced to somewhere between ten years and life. He starts sobbing and I feel like punching him in the face. He soon starts to puff up again in mock outrage, slams his fist on the table and demands his phone call. I tell him that this is Thailand and that the rules are different here. I tell him that he is still “off the books” and advise him to pay the “fine” but he begins pompously blustering about being above corruption so I leave him for a few more hours to mull it over.
When I return he has a blood-crusted broken nose, his shirt front is red rather than white and his trousers have been torn almost to shreds. He starts sniveling again and tells me he’ll pay what ever it costs just to get out and I am starting to feel sorry for him now. I explain that with every delay the price goes up and that his freedom will now cost one point two million. He blanches but quickly agrees. We log onto the internet on my laptop and he arranges a transfer to Por’s Dubai account. Por witnesses the transfer but refuses to release him until the funds have cleared which will take another twenty-four hours. The boy breaks down and starts to beg not to be put back in a cell with ”those Thai psychos” but quickly shuts up when Por touches his gun.
When I come back the next day to facilitate his release I am led to a holding room where the boy lies dead on the ground. Gap year over. His face is unrecognizable pulp. Por explains to me that his body will be ‘discovered‘ in the Phra Khanong Canal later this afternoon, his embassy contacted and a murder enquiry launched. The coroner will find drugs in his system and his death will be ruled as a suicidal overdose. Case closed.
Por has his money so he is feeling pretty pleased with himself and with me also. I feel sick. I make it to the bathroom but throw up all over the floor. Then I go to the Robin Hood and start drinking pints and shots and lamenting my life sentence and the role I’d played in the boy’s death sentence. When I get home Por is in the lounge fawning over his grandson, talking about what a powerful and important young man he will soon become. He looks at me with some pride too and I force a smile in return and dump whiskey and ice into a couple of tumblers. We clink glasses and he hands me an envelope thick with money that reeks of blood and death. I take it and I hate him and my life.
Later that night I hold my son in my arms and look into his searching blue eyes and make a silent promise to him that he won’t have to share my punishment. I put him to bed and start to plot our escape.