The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism
The next hot lead came from DCIA Norcroft. It was confirmed by RTP [The Royal Thai Police–the national police force of Thailand], the German Bundesnachrichtendienst [the foreign intelligence service of the Federal Republic of Germany which compiles political, economic, and military foreign intelligence], the RTGS: Sapha Ka Chat [Thai Red Cross Society], CIA, and INTERPOL, which had issued a Red Notice for six of the Thai suspects [INTERPOL will be alerted whenever any one of them crosses and international border and will arrest them at the border crossing and put them in detention].
Sybil Norcroft communicated with the DOJ; and by six or seven steps, it fell to Jason Richter to take over the investigative lead in Bangkok. The Royal Thai Police had demurred because of “suggestions” from senior government officials that the huge sex tourism business might leave the country if they were able to prove that the heretofore protective police departments had actually made a genuine effort to interdict the traffic—better known to those corporate tycoons as “the business” that so enriched the nation’s corporate leaders and certain ranking military and parliamentary grandees.
Jason had been to Bangkok before to attend the International Society of Orthopaedic Surgery and Traumatology conferences and twice had presented papers. He was aware of the general layout of the city, the hassles of getting from the airport to anywhere, and the incredible density of population. He was also well aware of the traffic on and across Rodeo Street which was going to be the focus of his interests.
It was a relatively quiet Tuesday when he arrived; so, it only took him five hours to go seventeen and a half miles via Route 7 from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the City Center, Soi Phetchaburi 21 (Kanchana), Thanon Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi. Were one to make the trip shortly after an apocalyptic fast burst, high energy nuclear EMP event, it would take twenty-six minutes driving at posted speed limits—or about ten minutes at reasonable speeds. The traffic during festival and other heavy traffic times could result in the short trip taking eight hours; so, Jason considered himself to be lucky.
He hired a cab to take him to the seventy-seven story King Power MahaNakhon building where he was to meet his Thai contact. The memory of the clamor, noise, and aromas, of the colorful city rushed back to Jason and reminded him that he was hungry for the world’s best Thai food. It was midday, 12:15 pm for him—lunch time in NYC—but 12:15 am (O dark thirty) in the Thai capital. The traffic was as busy as if it had been midday instead of midnight, and the restaurants and bars were similarly just as busy.
He had the cabbie stop two blocks east of the MahaNakhon building, paid the fare, and took a receipt to confuse anyone who might be watching or interested in recording his activities while in Bangkok. He walked along Naradhiwat Rajanagarindra Road to number 1141 and turned in to the very modernistic structure. He was carrying only a backpack and a large messenger bag. He waited three minutes for the elevator door to open, then he was whisked at breathtaking speed to the fifty-eighth floor. The floor held four offices, only one of which had its name on the door in English. That was handy since it was his destination.
He greeted the receptionist, a beautiful svelte young Thai woman dressed in a figure enhancing floor-length, deep maroon, traditional, Thai dress with a wide black band across her slender bottom and three bright colored bands at the ankles. She wore a large gold emblem of the monarch King Maha Vajiralongkorn–officially known as King Rama X–hanging on a thick gold chain. It promptly occurred to Jason this was not going to be anything of a low brow mission like the earlier one in the Bronx.
She smiled the toothy smile for which Thailand is famous, and he returned it enthusiastically. She was exquisite.
“How may I be of service?” she asked in perfect, slightly accented English.
“I am expected by Dusit Paithoon Shinawatra-Trubbaya,” Jason read from his small cheat-sheet.
The beautiful smiling receptionist began to laugh—a friendly and comradely sort of laugh.
“What’s so funny?” he said with an engaging return smile.
“It is not to give offence,” she said, “but, Mr. Shinawatra-Trubbaya insists that we call him, “Bob”.
It was Jason’s turn to laugh.
She said in between laughs, “Bet you can’t say his name three times fast.”
He didn’t even try, and they both laughed.
“I have a note telling me to send you right in.”
“K-hxbkhun,” he struggled to say.
She suppressed a mischievous smile, and said, “Thank you, as well.”
Mr. Shinawatra-Trubbaya was a quintessential rich Thai man in all respects: small, dark, stiff black hair, perpetual full toothed grin, an impeccable grey suit, pastel robin’s egg blue silk dress shirt with cuff-links bearing a prominent “B”, and perfectly polished black Ribona Limited lace-up dress shoes from Milan—which Jason knew from lusting for them in a catalogue that they cost $2,500. To complete the ensemble, he was wearing an Eton Red embroidered silk tie from Dunhills. A better description for the tie color was a medium lavender which set off the grey of the suit and the blue of the shirt perfectly. He did not look like a “Bob”.
“Call me “Bob”, please, everyone else does, even my wife. My long name has always been too difficult to pronounce, even for my good wife. Can you imagine what it was like to try to spell it when I went to first grade?”
The men shared a laugh.
“I know time is of the essence, and I will not waste any. The things you ordered are sitting in a couple of boxes in my rear office. They have not been opened, as per your instructions, and I do not know what they contain, nor do I want to. Tomorrow night should be the best time to rescue the girls where they are being held by the traffickers. A Royal Thai sergeant who shall remain unnamed will accompany you. You will be disguised, I presume; and so will he. You will never see each other’s faces. I do not ever want to know anything about what the two of you see or do. Does that meet with your preferences?”
“Because I trust Sybil Norcroft so implicitly, here is a key-card which will open the building and my offices. Please destroy it after you finish. I regret that everything has to be so cloak-and-dagger; but, alas, not all police officials can be trusted, I’m afraid. It is tantamount to suicide to get involved with the 14K triad, or any Chao Pho group, for that matter. The card should not fall into the wrong hands. I presume you have arranged to avoid leaving any incriminating DNA or fingerprints. It goes without saying.”
“Thank you, Bob.”
“You are most welcome. If you need help, you can contact Ms. Saelim, anytime, night or day. Here is her personal card. Please only communicate with her for very important matters. She is a lovely girl, and any personal interaction with her would be considered a breach of the verbal contract between DCIA Norcroft and me.”
“You can count on me for complete discretion, Bob. Now, how do I meet this illusive police officer?”
“He is waiting in the outer office as we speak. I suggest you assume your disguise now. He has a professional make-up artist who makes him look completely unlike his usual self. That is all for the best, I assume you agree.”
“I do. And many thanks.”
“We will not meet again. I wish you Pras-b khwām s-ảrĕc læa chokh dī.”
“Would you translate, please?”
“Of course, it means ‘success and good luck.’”
Bob showed Jason into the back office, and Jason set to work opening his boxes—heavy box tape still intact. He opened a breadbox sized plastic container and removed disguise beards and makeup. He emerged with long grey hair, grey eyelashes, a neatly trimmed Van Dyck mustache and beard, heavy dark-frame nonprescription spectacles, and a cane. His own mother would not recognize him.
He left Bob’s inner office, noting that the Thai executive was out of the office for the day. He stepped into the outer office and saw a short note on Ms. Saelim’s desk, “Out for coffee, be back in fifteen.”
Only one person remained in the outer office, a portly, sallow complexioned, man wearing a seedy brown plaid Chinese style sport coat, trousers whose color and style mismatched his coat, worn sneakers, and a bright red beret which drew immediate attention to itself.
Jason nodded to him, and the gentleman got up with difficulty demonstrating an apparently significant degree of left hip disease. He steadied himself—rather theatrically, Jason thought—and spoke to him.
“We will walk together to Soi Cowboy street–150 yards long with about forty bars, mostly of the go-go bars variety. There you will see what we are up against.”
It was a short distance away from the MahaNakhon building to a shopping mall appropriately named Super Rich located near the Phrom Phong station.
The disguised police officer whispered, “You should change some dollars for Baht and buy some small item; so, we look something like tourists while we wait.
Jason made a show of inspecting purses, wallets, belts, and other accessories, and became mildly disconcerted when he saw that none of the items had price tags attached. After fifteen minutes of phony searching, he picked up a small hand engraved wallet made of some exotic kind of snakeskin and walked to the clerk’s desk.
“How much is this, please?”
The clerk did not speak; she opened the wallet and removed the price tag sitting in the cash compartment. B7,950. Jason quickly did the math: $240 for a wallet. He winced and tried not to show it. He forked over the cash grudgingly but still maintained a soda-cracker expression. He stuffed the change in his pocket.
The cop nodded that it was time to go.
Outside the exclusive shop, the police officer stopped, nodded to his right, and gave Jason a view he would never in his life believed to be possible.