My driver scampered after me gulping down the remainder of his rice on the way.
“Ayyye!” he exclaimed when we reached the taxi. The door had been jimmied open with a screwdriver and the remains of the rear door lock hung loosely. We threw open the door to find a jumble of videotape crumpled on the floor; its slick blackness shimmering in the afternoon brightness. My camera was smashed beyond repair.
“Damn it! Jerry must have spotted me tailing him at some point. Probably when I was shooting out the window. Damn! That was careless…just plain stupid.” I scowled in the direction of the gem shop, wondering if he was in there watching me…laughing. “Ah, to hell with it. I got enough footage of Jerry and his little girlie-boys back in Pattaya to choke a damned horse with. Let’s find a phone and then we’ll get outta here. I got bigger fish to fry than that fat fairy.”
I found a phone in the adjacent shop. My driver stayed out front with the car, looking sadly at his fucked up door lock.
“Captain Sorkan please.”
“Captain Sorkan not taking calls today,” answered a nasal female voice.
“Tell him it’s important. Tell him it’s Rich Spanner calling.”
She put me on hold and I smiled to the shop keeper who’d lent me the phone. It was some sort of house-wares shop with crappy little nick-nacks. My free hand dallied through a shelf with idle curiosity of its own. Instinctively it closed on a baseball shaped piece of something heavy.
“They ‘a made in Bangkok,” spouted the shopkeeper. “Vera’ good quality. Vera’ beautiful.”
I glanced down at a spherical orb. I tossed it in my hand, savouring the heavy density of it. My fingers search for threaded seams--found instead, the gentle line where the two halves of glass had been moulded together. My fingers hugged that line and my hand mimicked the action of throwing a curveball. My grip on it was something familiar, something comforting.
“Mr. Spanner. It’s good to hear from you,” said Sorkan’s voice over the receiver.
“Hey, have you seen what they’ve printed in the paper!” I blurted. Wait a minute. ‘It’s good to hear from you’? How can he be so damned polite? He’s musta had complaints, nosey reporters, and angry politicians calling him all day!
“Yesss. It would appear there has been an oversight made.”
“Oversight my ass! Lastradisomp is giving them false information! Wil was right about that guy--he’s a jerk!”
“Perhapsss,” hissed Sorkan.
I waited for more, but none came. What is this guy made of? I mean this is a bit extreme! I’ve heard of well mannered, but this guy’s like a damned rock! Being of much flimsier stuff, I was about to fly-off at him; bitch him out for what I saw as weakness! But I stopped myself just in time. I’m not Asian. How am I to understand this shit? Despite his control, I could sense the sorrow and humiliation over the phone line. I would only shame him further.
(I have to admit here, that I actually thought Sorkan was rolling over without a fight. How shitty I had misjudged my new friend.)
Something very human in me was determined to cheer him up. “Captain, I have excellent news!” (I was still rolling the glass orb in my hand behind my back as though I were standing on the pitcher’s mound gripping a Spalding.) “The names on the list are gem dealers. Bangkok gem dealers! I recognise them now. I’ve been to some of those places!”
“Excellent, Mr. Spanner,” replied Sorkan. “And I have news of the mysterious leper.” I stared absently into the sparkly centre of my little toy. It was a decorative ball, for display on a shelf or a coffee-table. At its core was a delightful confusion of colourful light-refracting filings and shards of glass. “But I have truly been puzzling …” continued Sorkan, “…over the broken glass. A very telling discovery I believe. I have cross-referenced glass shipments…”
Glass! Something in my mind clicked. Thrills coursed through me in waves of blood-borne chemicals and shit. I danced on the spot, almost dropping the orb. Something about glass made two other things fit together somewhere in the murky pool that was my brain, but at the same time my consciousness was such a cluster-fuck of clues and facts and videotape that the connection was just beyond reach. Nevertheless I felt like I was wielding a static charge and I wasn't about to let go. "Meet me at the garbage pile!" I cried.
“The garbage pile?”
“Yeah. Call it a hunch if you like!”