Jerry the Finn swaggered into the Tachilek immigration office and demanded his passport. The uniformed men and the office girl backed off from him in horror, not only was he staggering drunk but he stank of cheap whiskey and the vomit that stained the front of his tee-shirt. Producing his passport in record time; it was the only one left because the Thai border was minutes from closing, they watched him leave with palpable relief. The day pass system at Myanmar immigration requires border crossers to leave their passport at the office. But it wasn’t alcohol that drove the Finn towards the stylish archway that contained the Thai border post, he wasn’t any where near drunk by his standards- Max had got him to limit his intake, but the potent cocktail of heroin and amphetamines that coursed through his veins.
Ignoring the offered entry form he brushed aside the unenthusiastic clutches of the immigration officers, burst through the remaining tourists and visa-run Expats and fell splendidly down the steps into Thailand.
Two blonde backpackers hurried over to him with anxious cries and helped him to his feet, retrieving his small heavy back pack as the Thai police came running down pushing them out of the way. They had been expecting Jerry but not this late and in this condition; wondering if he had lost his nerve or the greedy Burmese had decided to keep it all for themselves. Their furious officer, nothing less than a police colonel, grabbed the backpack from the girl, not noticing that the other girl wore an identical one. They dragged the roaring thrashing Finn back up the stairs, the enormously strong man taking care not to hurt anybody during the struggle. Max wandered forward playing the interested onlooker and the girl handed him her backpack. The switch was on.
Max threw the backpack into the trunk of the small black BMW. Hired in Chiang Mai for the week it made the required statement. Winding the engine up he dropped the clutch and pointed it south to Chiang Rai. Behind the tinted windows he was a rich Thai heading back to Chiang Mai after a weekend of screwing under age Burmese girls. Coming to the first check point he revved the motor angrily and was waved through by the Thai police eager to go home at the end of their shift. Good, the police hadn’t realised the dope was gone, but the second check point twenty klicks further south was too much of a risk. He swung right into the Mae Salang turn off and headed through the mountains for the Mae Ai to Fang road. It may even be a good idea to spend the night at Mae Salang, they would never think of that, assuming that he had slipped through the checkpoints and had gone to ground in Chiang Rai; he had driven past an interesting looking karaoke bar there the previous year, probably full of Lisu girls but there may be a pale, breast less Chinese girl who had disgraced her family working there. Mae Salang was full of Chinese, even the street signs were in Mandarin. A Nationalist regiment, cut off from the Eastern coast by Mao’s army had fled into Burma expecting a welcome from their former English Allies. The British, their hands full with resurgent Burmese nationalists, were hardly overjoyed at the arrival of a fully equipped, battle hardened Chinese regiment with nowhere to go. They directed them south to Thailand; still smarting at the American decision that all non-communists were good people and that the Thai treachery in the late war could be forgiven, they decided that the Thais deserved them. In typical Thai style the government decided that the Chinese would come in handy one day and pointed them into the northern mountains, informing them that a professional reorganisation of the opium trade would be appreciated as long as the Thais got their cut.
The tiny ivory skinned girl snuggled against Max; she couldn’t believe her luck, a rich old Farang who had been happy with a blow job and a quick fuck. He slept like the dead after running her hands over her body thoughtfully for a while, lowering the level of a bottle of Islay Malt as he did so. He would be more enthusiastic in the morning, the old ones always were, but with luck he would leave the bottle with a good tip. She stroked his penis thoughtfully; it was amazing that no matter how much she tried to remain detached her body always went into immediate convulsions when a long pale Farang organ entered her. Perhaps it was how they stroked and caressed her with fingers and tongue beforehand where as her tuktuk driving boyfriend entered her immediately and it wasn’t until after his second or third orgasm that she managed to enter into the spirit of things. She gently rubbed the sensitive area under the glans, feeling the white snake stiffen and a tiny pearl of sticky dew appear on the end. She heard him chuckle and lowered her mouth to him, thinking that if she got him off again she could sleep in the morning. But, by the Gods, why was it so sweet, why was it so sweet.
Pleased with his day Max lay awake as the exhausted girl slept beside him. It was always easier to let the hot ones get on top and ride themselves out then give them a bit extra for luck. Finding Jerry after all these years had been nothing short of miraculous. He had gone to Mae Hong Song with a plan half formulated; he needed a mule, a drug courier, who was a step above most of the Farang junkies that hung out there. Someone smart and suicidely brave; some one desperate enough to risk all on one throw of the dice. As he crossed the street an almost forgotten gravel voice, last heard a quarter of a century ago in a Brisbane pub, roared across at him. “Hey, stuck up Pommy cunt, stop, I want to talk to you.” He wanted to hug Jerry the Finn but knew that he wouldn’t tolerate any of that “fucking poofter bullshit” so settled for returning the bone shaking punch to the shoulder that had left his arm numb to the wrist.
In the nearest restaurant Max ordered two bottles of Leo beer, he knew that Jerry would drink straight from the large bottle, to the mortification of the Thai waiter, so included an extra one for himself.
The big Finn looked at him affectionately, “Fucking Pommy cunt, Jeez you got fat,” he said; Max had made the mistake years earlier of telling Jerry of his English origins. The years hadn’t been kind to either of them, of a similar height Max was well over a hundred kilos and Jerry’s ravaged face spoke of other bad habits than the booze and black girls he had once craved. They talked well into the night; only memories for now, business would come later. Where was PJ? He of the Bourbon and Coke and Rothman’s plain cigarettes, twenty years dead, most of the remaining tissue on his two metre frame tumours. He had been Max’s special mate when they had headed for Cairns in the seventies and shared the willing hippy girls. Smoking dope to be part of the scene but alcohol always the drug of choice. Some fucking flower children we were thought Max.
Brownie, as fastidious as an old maid, cleaning pub cutlery with an immaculate handkerchief before eating; dying alone and in terrible pain, too proud to reach for the phone, desperately ashamed of the colostomy bag. Bombhead, who had walked out the pub one day, had his stomach stapled and given up beer and pies. Max had seen him a few years previously driving a courier van and the once affable big man had barely spoken to him. Lee, who had parked in the bush with a bottle of scotch and run a hose from the exhaust pipe to the window; his wife and family had him under pressure to leave the woman and child he loved and one day he had just said “Fuck every thing”. Ivan and Melvin, drunk and stoned early one morning in the outback, turning their car into an abstract sculpture on the front of a road train. The brotherhood of the pub.
Reminiscences over; Jerry, as always, got straight to the point.
“I’m on the fucking hammer,” he said, “Fucking drunk one night they make me try it; I can beat anything but not this. I make enough for my stuff doing six and five with the junkies waiting for money from home but I got to get back to Finland, they got good rehab there.” Six and five was the old Asian bargirl loan system, borrow five pay back six at the end of the month. His iron face softened, “I got daughter in Australia I want to go back to, God she's fucking beautiful.”
Max put the proposition to him. Jerry was smart enough to see the flaws in it but could add some input to improve the plan. Max told him he had one hundred thousand US; some his, the remnants of his divorce settlement but the bulk coming from silent partners in Australia. They would buy Burmese ecstasy, not the pills- the powder the active ingredient. The pills could be made up in Australia and sold there. The younger generation spurned heroin as an old man’s drug and barely even smoked marijuana, they wanted to dance all night and half of the next day. Jerry listened carefully, he trusted Max, everyone trusted Max, he was the one who had never let anybody down.
Only his family, his parents who had sent him to university only to see him to drop out and go to jail for safe breaking, leaving them shattered. Virtually condemned to a life of menial labour by his record he had done the lot, driven cabs, trucks, painted houses and shovelled shit.
Only the wives and girlfriends who had loved him, Lisa the Australian who had seen him sell the florist business she loved because he said that a recession was on the way. She had made him pay with years of adultery. Da, the twenty year old Lao bar girl, who had shared his bed for a year, thinking her life would change when his divorce came through, Regina the Filipina woman who still waited for her cut and finally Thuy, the devout Vietnamese Catholic, who had given him her virginity. Max had ignored her emails for two years now.
Months before Max had invited two friends to a steak dinner in a Sydney pub; they went back a long way, calling themselves old school chums: the school had been Yatala Labour Prison in Adelaide. Neither were serious drinkers so Max ordered light beer for himself. He laid out the plan, producing a map, feeding them enough line to keep them on the hook but withholding vital details. Either of them was capable of taking the scheme and using it themselves.
Harry had been the success story of the three. Now known as Sydney’s porn shop king he was a crime groupie and loved only guns and cash money, but his empire was becoming shaky. He had sold guns to the wrong people who had used them to exterminate their opposition in the Melbourne amphetamine war. The police had trapped a middle man and he had set Harry up with an undercover agent. The Taxation Department was waiting in the wings; they knew that Harry hadn’t banked a single hundred dollar note since they had appeared on the currency scene. After the police were finished they would pick the carcass. Harry’s criminal record came in three bound volumes and he was unlikely to see the light of day again, and it would be an impoverished daylight at that. Harry fancied overseas retirement and liked the idea of a last minute earner.
Rex was another kettle of fish. Unlike Harry and Max, both from middle class backgrounds, he had been virtually abandoned at the age of six and ended up in reform school for the crime of running away from his foster parents.
Meeting real criminals there he had been an apt and enthusiastic pupil, finally being freed at the age of eighteen. The reform schools had had trouble keeping him in one place too. Rex had immediately embarked on a career as a professional criminal, a used car yard stocked with stolen cars, a partnership with a builder that under cut the opposition because Rex was stealing the required materials off their building sites. Strictly small-time he was a frequent guest of her Majesty’s Prisons. One day, sickening of thievery, he had been ripped off by a pair of junkies that he thought he was buying a truck load of stolen goods from. As they relieved him of his cash he heard one remark that they would buy dope in the comparatively marijuana friendly state of South Australia and sell it in the less tolerant Eastern states at a handsome profit. Being at gunpoint at the time he gave it no further thought that day but later drove out to see a grower friend of his. On hearing the proposition the grower said it would work but like anything organised by dope smokers it usually went tits up. If it could be run as a disciplined operation by someone who could keep his mouth shut and not personally use up his stock, sure it would work.
Rex embarked on his new career and after a year of trial and error turned it into a million dollar operation. Intensely paranoid he seldom slept in the same bed and bemoaned the gradual disappearance of public phone boxes, his only electronic means of communication with his clients.
Rex had noticed the demand for party pills but had also noticed that the production was controlled by leather jacketed gentlemen with a low tolerance of competition. However they were wary of Rex who tended to take his personal safety lightly and had been assured by distribution level people that there was sufficient demand in the market to leave room for him. Rex had put to Max a plan to bring the pills into Australia from Europe using commercial shipping, but Max knew more about boats than Rex after a stint as in the Painters and Dockers and knew it wouldn’t work. The work force in the merchant marine now almost exclusively consisted of Eastern Europeans and a few Asians all of whom spoke little or no English. They were highly unlikely to risk their jobs and freedom for pie in the sky.
So Max laid the plan out. He and Harry would put the money up, Harry the bulk. Rex, who Max well knew would be reluctant to part with cash, would be in sole charge of manufacture and distribution. Max would do the work and take the risks. After expenses they would divvy up twenty five, twenty five, and fifty. Max with the biggest cut to pay his operatives. Done deal they said, neither stood to lose any thing they would miss.
Max had spent several nights a week for three months in Tachilek whispering in the right ears. Dropping a few dollars, making himself popular with the small brown Burmese prostitutes who didn’t mind an occasional yah bah themselves. Crazy drug the Thais called it. He knew that the drugs were controlled by several factions, the Shan State Army who used them to finance there war with Yangon, The Wa Free State Army and the PRC Chinese the most prominent. Personally he preferred doing business with the Shan but heavy fighting in the South had driven them further into their mountain fastness. The Chinese were recent arrivals on the scene but had made heavy inroads with a savagery that had even made the Wa take a step back.
Finally he was invited to accompany a tuktuk driver who drove him several kilometres west of the Tak River. When he saw his future partners his heart sank; small, dark and wicked they were officers of the Wa forces. Only a generation before the Wa, a primitive mountain tribe, had been taking heads as part of their religion. The Shan and Karen, the enemies of their blood, had parted with theirs reluctantly and at a high cost. Treacherous by nature they had eventually joined forces with the Burmese generals and assisted them in there murderous campaign against the other ethnic groups. Max knew he would have to step smartly to keep his body organs in their correct place.
Max was well aware Jerry was in for a hard time but the Finn had assured him that he had been through it before. If the rewards were there he would cope, and Max had already put a hundred thousand baht in his account. The buy had gone off well, both Farangs aware that every detail would be reported to the Thai police and had gone over the procedure a dozen times. Max had crossed the border early and tested the E in a hotel room then doing the buy in a large outside restaurant adjacent to the border post. Ignoring the sellers’ advice to leave immediately he had gone across the street to another restaurant and started drinking with a waiting Jerry. Horrified by this lack of professionalism the Wa had departed; arguing publicly about the distribution of Max’s money. Another identical back pack had been produced and Max headed for the border, the Finn nursing what the Americans called a speed ball that he would put in his arm when his courage needed a touch of insanity. He only drank now from habit; now that his Aussie mates were all gone he didn’t enjoy it as much anyway.
Max raised his arms and was patted down while the Thai police tore the lining out of his backpack; no way was there twenty five kilos of powder there. The floor was littered with pirate DVD movies and cheap clothing, the typical purchases of a Farang tourist on a day trip to Myanmar. Police Colonel Duangvichit was not amused; the easy money from the amateur deal was not working out as simply as he had assumed. He could hold Max but if he did the big blonde Farang who obviously had the drugs may not make the crossing, leaving the Burmese to take all the pickings. The dope could be confiscated and sold back to the supplier, a common practice every time people who were not in the system turned up to make a buy. A hundred thousand US wasn’t peanuts and maybe his superior would stop making jokes about his Lao name for a piece of that. Also there would be Farangs to put in jail.
Thinking deeply he smiled at Max in apology and indicated the police to let him go.
© Julian. All rights reserved by the author.