Excerpt of Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett
(Page 2 of 4)
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We both know the Colonel is arriving in his limo, because his damned
signature tune "The Ride of the Valkyries" is booming from the stereo as his car
approaches. I go to the entrance and watch while his driver opens the rear door
and more or less pulls him out (a beautiful cashmere Zegna sports jacket, fawn
colored and somewhat crumpled, pants by Eddy Monetti on the Via Condotti in
Rome, and his usual Wayfarer wraparound sunglasses).
The driver staggers toward me with Vikorn's arm over his shoulder. "It's
fucking Saturday fucking night," the driver complains with a glare, as if it's
all my fault. (We prefer not to investigate even capital crimes on Saturday
nights in District 8.) The Buddhist path can be much like the Christian in that
the karma of others often seems to get dumped on your shoulders from out of
"I know," I tell him as I make way to let him pass, and Vikorn, sunglasses
now thrust fashionably onto his hairline though slightly askew, also glares at
There are padded benches in intimate little booths along the back wall of the
club, and the driver dumps Vikorn down in one while I get some mineral water
from the fridge and hand it to my Colonel, who empties the bottle in a few
swigs. It is with relief that I observe the rodent cunning return to those
frank, unblinking eyes. I tell him the story again, with a few commercially
focused interjections from my mother ("she makes more for us in a month than all
the other girls put together"), and I see that he already has a plan to maximize
wriggle-room should things get difficult.
Within ten minutes he is close to sober, tells his driver to disappear with
the limo (he doesn't want to broadcast that he is here), and is staring at me.
"So let's go up and take her statement. Get an ink pad and some A4 paper."
I find the ink pad that we use for our business stamp ("The Old Man's
ClubRods of Iron") and some sheets of paper from the fax machine, which Nong
installed for those few of our overseas clients who don't have e-mail (we tried
for hooker.com and similar domain names, but they had all been taken, including
oldman.com; whore.org had of course been taken since the dawn of cyberspace, so
we had to make do with omcroi.com), and follow him across the bar. He stares at
Chanya's dress on the stool and cocks an eye at me.
"Fake or real?"
Gingerly I hold it up, hefting the weight of the blood it has absorbed.
He grunts much as Maigret used to do, as if absorbing a clue too subtle for
my understanding, and we continue up the stairs, passing the bra without
comment. I pick up the panties on the floor outside the room (almost weightless
and apparently innocent of bloodstainsthey are more a cache-sex than a proper
undergarment, with the rear panel no more than a bootlace that divides the
buttocks). I hang them over a stray electrical cable for now. Chanya was too
stoned to lock the door, and when we enter, she blesses us with a rapturous
smile from that awesomely beautiful mouth, before returning to whichever of the
Buddha heavens she has escaped to.
She is quite naked, stretched out on the bed with her legs akimbo, her full
firm breasts pointing at the ceiling (an exquisite blue dolphin is jumping over
her left nipple), her long hair shining like a fresh black brushstroke on the
white pillow. She has shaved her pubic hair save for the subtlest filigree black
line, which seems to point to her clitoris, perhaps as a road sign for drunk and
fumbling farang. The opium pipe, a classic of about three feet of bamboo with
the bowl two-thirds of the way down, lies beside her. The Colonel sniffs and
smilesas with my mother, the sweet aroma of burned poppy sap holds fond
memories for him, though of a radically different order. (He used to trade it up
in Laos in the golden years of the B-52s.) The room is tiny and hardly big
enough for the three of us when I bring two chairs and set them on opposite
sides of the bed. The sex goddess between us begins to snore while Vikorn
dictates her statement:
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.