‘Patpong Road Mr Gary or straight home?’ My driver Noi seemed to know my habits better than me these days.
‘No, thanks, Noi. I reckon I’ve had enough for one night. Straight home and put your foot down.’ Normally I would have gone down to Patpong to one of the many bars there.
But it was December the 23rd and the night of our staff Christmas party at the Australian Embassy. The Poms pride themselves on being able to do the pageantry bit but I reckon we put on the best Christmas bash amongst the embassies here. You would think the Yanks would outdo us, but they had become a bit too nervous about recent terrorist scares to put on too big a splash or invite outsiders.
Noi pulled out into the usual busy, night-time traffic and I prepared myself for a little snooze on the way home. I lived a fair way up Sukumvit Road, not far as the crow flies, but at least half an hour in this traffic.
‘Good party Mr Gary? Noi asked into his rear-view mirror.
‘Sure was, Noi. That’s why I think it would be better to go straight home as I expect Lek will be more than a little pissed off that I’m this late, especially as she didn’t come to the party.’
Lek was my regular girlfriend. We had been going steady for a while now. She worked in the Central Department Store; we met one Saturday when I was shopping there. She was a super girl but a bit out of her depth when it came to social occasions at the embassy. For that reason I decided to go on my own, which didn’t go down too well.
I flopped back into the air-conditioned comfort of the car and looked out of the side window. The next thing I knew Noi was tapping me on the arm.
‘Jesus, what time is it? I must have died.’
‘It’s two-thirty, Mr Gary, traffic was okay tonight, only take bit over half an hour.’
The house was in complete darkness which was very odd seeing as Lek was staying over and if for some reason she wasn’t, the maid would have left the outside lights on before she left.
‘Must be a power failure?’
‘No sir,’ Noi said, ‘Look, house next door still got lights on.’
He was right, their lights were on alright but my compound was in complete darkness.
I’d just got out of the car and trying to adjust my vision when all of a sudden a figure loomed out of the shadows gabbling on in Thai. To my relief it was only the watchman.
‘Jesus, Suporn, you scared the shit out of me! What the bloody hell are you doing skulking about in the shadows, and why are the lights off?’ These conversations happen regularly which was totally stupid on my part as neither of us understood a word spoken between us. It required Noi to take on the role of translator as well as diplomat to calm me down as my temper got the better of me.
‘He say sorry, Mr Gary, he doesn’t know why there’s no lights. Maybe Miss Lek turned them off by mistake. He also say he sorry he frightened you but batteries in his flashlight have finished. He say he told you yesterday.’
‘Alright, alright, I’ll sort it out. You bugger off home, Noi. Come back at ten, I want to do a bit of shopping as I think some extra Christmas presents might be needed.’
‘Okay, sir, goodnight,’ with that he was off.
Gingerly I felt my way along the path from the drive to the front door. My eyes had adjusted themselves a little by now as I reached the front door, felt for the keyhole and unlocked it.
I quietly stepped inside and shut the door behind me. Once inside it seemed even darker and I cursed as I banged my shin on something heavy as I struggled to find the light switch. Recovering my balance I found them and turned them on, then as I bent down to take my shoes off, a figure leapt out of the shadow of the book case and jumped on me. For the second time in a matter of minutes I was scared out of wits until I realised from the perfume, that it was Lek.
‘What the bloody hell are you doing you silly cow?’
I did my best to shake her off but it is very difficult to defend oneself without hurting her consequently she scratched my right cheek before I could grab her wrists
‘You are bad, bad man Gary,’ she screamed in my ear as the pair of us fell to the floor. ‘Why you leave me at home? Are you ashamed of me? What have I done? Have you been with some bar girl? My momma say you are butterfly.’
She was completely hysterical; I’d never seen her like this before.
‘Look, I’ll let you go if you can just control yourself,’ I yelled. By now I was on my knees holding her by the wrists, she was half lying in front of me.
I started to get up and let go of her but she renewed her attack and flew at me again. Dodging her flailing hands, I grappled her to the ground again. I could taste the blood trickling down my cheek. With the shock and the amount of Christmas grog inside me, I was close to throwing up and would if this went on much longer.
Through the fog of alcohol I had an inspiration. God knows why I suddenly thought of it. When I was a kid visiting my granddad’s farm, his old cockerel attacked me. The second time it happened, granddad was watching and he simply grabbed it by the legs, whirled it round and round above his head and tossed it into the corner of the yard. The bird tried to stand up but fell over twice before it made off looking very sorry for itself.
‘That’s how you deal with a stroppy chook, young feller, and works every time.’ I never forgot the lesson.
That’s what I needed to do to calm Lek down. I grabbed her ankles, got to my feet and started to whirl her around. This’ll do the trick if nothing does.
‘Garree….’ she screamed, ‘Put me down please.’
But I kept on spinning, just like granddad did with the cockerel. On about the second rotation I got a bit giddy and almost dropped her and then there was a sickening thud. Her head must have banged against the heavy book case. The pair of us crashed to the floor again.
‘Oh Jesus! I’ve killed her, I’ve bloody killed her.’
She just lay there completely lifeless. There was a cut on her forehead and a trickle of blood was oozing from it. I could see tomorrow’s headlines in the Bangkok Post – ‘Australian diplomat kills Thai beauty.’ This could be the end of my bloody career. Everything I’d worked for. It would be the worst scandal the embassy had ever faced. I’d be lucky if they gave me life. More likely, it would be execution by firing squad.
What a stupid, stupid bastard, what have I done? In an attempt to calm myself I tried to think as rationally as possible what to do next. I need to get her out of here and quick. I straightened out the rug that had become rucked up, dragged her by the ankles alongside it and rolled her up in it.
Now to get her to the car and dump her somewhere, my mind was racing. Of course that silly bugger Suporn will be hanging around out there, just when I don’t want him to be. I’ll need to get rid of him while I put her in the boot.
I opened the door and went outside, closing it behind me.
‘Suporn,’ I yelled into the yard and he appeared out of the shadows but this time I was prepared and the outside lights were on anyway. I gave him a thousand Baht note and ordered, ‘Beer Singha, Beer Singha, nung carton.’ I made the shape of a box with my arms.
He looked at me as though I was mad. He had undertaken this simple task many times before, but perhaps never at three in the morning.
‘Go on you dopey sod, get me beer.’ He took the money and headed for the gates. Once he was gone I quickly opened the boot of the car. Thank God, it was empty, need to move fast.
I rushed back into the house and with a supreme effort hoisted the wrapped-up body over my shoulder. Thank goodness Thais are so light. I couldn’t imagine being able to do this with one of the Sheila’s back home. I staggered through the front door, put the bundle into the boot and closed the lid.
I leaned against the side of the car to catch my breath. I looked in the glove compartment for the car keys where Noi always left them, no sooner had I found them bloody Suporn was back lugging a case of beer and a grin on his face like a fox eating chicken guts in long grass.
I couldn’t believe it. If I’d been dying for a beer he would have been gone for hours. I just stood staring at him. He motioned with his chin, should he carry the beer into the house. I shook my head. He mustn’t see the mess inside. Because I didn’t want the beer in the house he supposed I wanted it in the car and started moving towards the boot. I overtook him and tried to wrestle the case from him, but the stupid sod resisted in some dumb servile desire to complete his task.
While all this was going on I felt I was within a hair’s breadth of heart failure or throwing up, or both. Then a dull thudding sound came from the boot of the car, followed by Lek’s muffled cries, clearly audible in the still of the night.
‘Help! Help! Someone help, please.’
We were married three weeks later in a church in Convent Road. My parents and sister came up from Brisbane and the whole embassy turned out. We would have got married on New Year’s Day but we had to wait until the bruise on Lek’s forehead faded a bit.