Excerpt of Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett
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(Contains sexually explicit content)
Killing customers just isn't good for business."
My mother Nong's tone reflects the disappointment we all feel when a star
employee starts to go wrong. Is there nothing to be done? Will we have to let
dear Chanya go? The question can only be decided by Police Colonel Vikorn, who
owns most of the shares in the Old Man's Club and who is on his way in his
"No," I agree. Like my mother's, my eyes cannot stop flicking across the
empty bar to the stool where Chanya's flimsy silver dress (just enough silk to
cover nipples and butt) drapes and drips. Well, the dripping was slight and is
more or less finished (a rusty stain on the floor turning black as it dries),
but in more than a decade as a detective in the Royal Thai Police, I have never
seen a garment so blood-soaked. Chanya's bra, also hideously splattered, lies
halfway up the stairs, and her pantiesher only other garmentlie abandoned on
the floor outside the upstairs room where, eccentrically even for a Thai whore,
she has taken refuge with an opium pipe.
"She didn't say anything at all? Like why?"
"No, I told you. She dashed in through the door in a bit of a state holding
an opium pipe, glared at me, said, 'I've done him in,' ripped off her dress, and
disappeared upstairs. Fortunately, there were only a couple of farang in the bar
at the time, and the girls were fantastic. They merely said, 'Oh, Chanya, she
goes like that sometimes,' and gently ushered them out. I had to play the whole
thing down, of course, and by the time I got to her room, she was already
"What did she say again?"
"She was tripping on the opium, totally delirious. When she started talking
to the Buddha, I left to call you and the Colonel. At that stage I didn't know
if she'd really done him in or was freaking out on yaa baa or something."
But she'd snuffed him all right. I walked to the farang's hotel, which is
just a couple of streets away from Soi Cowboy, and flashed my police ID to get
the key to his room. There he was, a big muscular naked American farang in his
early thirties, minus a penis and a lot of blood from a huge knife wound that
began in his lower gut and finished just short of his rib cage. Chanya, a
basically decent and very tidy Thai, had placed his penis on the bedside table.
At the other end of the table, a single rose stood in a plastic mug of water.
There was nothing for it but to secure the room for the purposes of forensic
investigation, leave a hefty bribe for the hotel receptionistwho is now more or
less obliged to say whatever I tell him to say (standard procedure under my
Colonel Vikorn in District 8)and await further orders. Vikorn, of course, was
in one of his clubs carousing, probably surrounded by naked young women who
adored him, or knew how to look as if they did, and in no mood to be dragged to
the scene of a crime until I penetrated his drunken skull enough to explain that
the business at hand was not an investigation per se but the infinitely more
challenging forensic task so lightly spoken of as a "cover-up." Even then he
showed no inclination to shift himself until he realized it was Chanya (the
perp, not the victim).
"Where the hell did she get the opium?" my mother wants to know. "There
hasn't been opium in Krung Thep since I was a teenager."
I know from her eyes that she is thinking fondly of the Vietnam War, when she
was herself a working girl in Bangkok and a lot of the GIs brought small balls
of opium from the war zone (one of them being my almost-anonymous father, of
whom more later). An opiated man is more or less impotentwhich reduces much of
the wear and tear on a professional's assetsand not inclined to argue about fee
structure. Nong and her colleagues had always shown special interest in any
American serviceman who whispered that he had a little opium back in his hotel.
Being devout Buddhists, of course, the girls never used the stuff themselves,
but they encouraged the john to get stoned out of his tree, whereupon they would
extract exactly the agreed fee from his wallet, plus a tip somewhat on the
generous side to reflect the risk inherent in associating with drug abusers,
plus taxi fare, and return to work. Integrity has always been a master word for
Nong, which is why she is so upset about Chanya.
Excerpted from Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett Copyright © 2005 by John Burdett.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without
permission in writing from the publisher.