Safely settled in my office tucked
into the back of a massage parlor, deep within the jungle of Northern
Thailand, Pook brings me some tea. “You OK Kuhn Billy? You have good
trip?” Yes, I am fine, Pook, thanks for asking.
It’s good to be home. My Thai life seems so much less complicated than
when I am in the Western World.
This, the “Land of Smiles,” and the kindness of the Thai people keep me
returning and has always made my time here memorable.
As I am catching up on correspondence I can hear noises coming from the
small kitchen. Pook pops her tiny head in through the thin curtain and
asks “You want Pad Thai Gung?” Sure, it smells GREAT! “ OK, I bring to
you.” Pook disappears as quickly as she appeared.
Shortly thereafter in comes a large plate of wok-stirred rice noodles tossed with
whole shrimp and seasonings. Delicious.
As my pile of important papers is not
getting any smaller, I decide I need to take a break from all of this
and duck out the back door into the narrow alley. Twenty Five meters to
the main road, I turn the corner when I hear, “Hey Billy” in this thick
Southern drawl. Without missing a beat I know it’s MJ, a West Virginian
who has long over stayed his Visa and claims he’s not running from
anyone. Let’s go down to the Easy Bar and catch up, I suggest. I heard
Lance was in town. The girls at my office told me I could find him
As we walk in, Darling is leaning over the pool table about to take a
shot when her eyebrow raises and a large smile crosses her face. “He
wait for you there” as she motions to pass through the string of red
beads separating the bar from the private rooms. As we make contact with
Lance, he nods to the three girls keeping him company to bring us some
beers then take a break.
Lance pulls out his well used briefcase, and plops some papers,
including spreadsheets, on the table. “I thought you might be interested
in these” he says, “JG has already approved.” JG, our squinty-eyed money
man who can make two and two equal six, passed through a day ago. Seems
he had another one of his business trips to the Burmese border.
“He’ll be back in a few days if he keeps his bike on the road, ” Lance
casually mentions as he stares at the papers and takes a long drink from
his tall glass.
I hope so, he needs to explain that last deal he got us into. That land
is still two feet under water since the construction of the Short Time
Hotel never made it off the books.
“Billy,” Lance interjects, “Momasan Martha assures us she can get the
approval for this project. Says we need to be patient.” I can feel my
Let’s get some more beers and take a look at those papers.
This deal smells as bad as fish sauce cooking at 7:00AM. Who’s Ben?
“He’s an investor I met in Bangkok and has loads of cash” Lance quirks.
In these parts no one ever asks where the money comes from. “He saw the
deal and wants in. I think he said twenty five percent.” A big player
Why do I always get nervous when a new player wants into one of our
deals? And for a quarter on his first trip.
Lance can tell by my face that
I have concerns about Ben. "Have Nords do a check on Ben," I say as two
girls arrive with our cold beers.
“Nords ran down to Pattaya for some un-finished business. Should
be back tomorrow.”
I know better than to ask about Nords and Pattaya. There’s
history there. Ok, let’s get him on it ASAP
Meanwhile, through the beads I
can watch MJ catching up with Darling as he’s helping her from behind to aim
the pool stick. Looks like those two are on again I mention to Lance.
“Yeah, love at first sight” Lance jokes. “At least while he’s in town.”
I can still hear the banging on the door like someone placed a bucket
over my head and hit it with a steel pipe. OK, OK! I splashed cold water
onto my face so that at the least I could focus. I don’t remember asking
for a 6:00AM wake up knock, and after our major meeting last night I was
in no mood for visitors. More banging. HEY! I said I was coming!
I open the door a full four inches and in barges Tozz, fresh from the
overnight train . “You got any breakfast?”
Oh geez! Did you bring the cash?
This early in the morning few people are awake so walking with a
suitcase full of cash is not an issue, nor does anyone take notice. The
massage parlor is open 24/7 so getting into my office is not a worry.
Being careful not to wake the sleeping girls however can be tricky,
especially if they’ve had a long night.
“Good morning Khun Billy,” Pook mumbles then turns over and closes her
eyes. Tozz and I make our way to my office and transfer the contents of
the suitcase into the safe. On our way to my office we notice The Lucky
Bar still open and decided to go for breakfast. The sticky rice with
mango and strong coffee was just what I needed.
We were finishing up our second cup of coffee when Lance calls on my
cell. “Billy, I just got an email from JG. Says he met a girl up on the
border and wants to bring her into the group. He already ran it past
Martha and they think she would fit in nicely. Billy, you there?”
Just once I would like one of these deals to go as planned. Just once.
Yeah, I’m here Lance. When is he bringing this lovely to meet us?
“Tonight at the Easy Bar.”
Tozz and I will be there, let’s meet at ten.
I inform Tozz who slightly smiles while shaking his head at the thought
of JG and the new girl and says he will see us tonight. I head back to
the office, look at those piles of papers, decide against it, and ask
Pook to give me a two hour massage.
Pook wakes me “Billy, I finish massage”
Two hours already?
“Yes, I finish. Man wait you downstairs. Big man, nice tan, says he know
Feeling refreshed, I take my time showering and putting my clothes on
knowing it’s Nords.
How was Pattaya? Did you get your business finished? Knowing full well
he went there chasing women. Nords' face said it all.
“Naw, looks like I will need to get back once this deal is finished” We
both smiled and shook hands.
Did you check out this guy Ben? Anything there?
“Looks solid, Billy. He’s been into a few of these deals and everyone is
happy and alive to tell about it.”
Good news. We are meeting tonight at the Easy Bar around ten. Can you fit
it in to your schedule?
“I’ll be there. Can’t wait to see Darling.”
I arrived early, since I was
thirsty. The regular Saturday night crowd was there. The Eagles’
“Hotel California” was blaring from the jukebox, and the ladies
were keeping the men happy and ordering drinks. After making my
usual salutations, the girls let me know Lance was already there
in the back. Beer in hand, I move through the red beaded
doorway, and there’s Lance with the same three ladies from
before. One is giving him a foot massage, another is massaging
his head and shoulders while the third is keeping his glass full
of Beer Chang.
“You’re early. I’m off till ten, right?”
I could see the situation and knew he wanted some time with the
ladies. I nodded my head, turned
around and found a seat at the bar. My
second beer arrived when I could hear the roar of JG’s bike
taking the last corner before pulling up in front of the bar. That bike
has more chrome than the bumper on a 57 Impala, and caught the angle of
every street light. She’s a beauty.
Of course he gets the attention of
every bar girl in the joint until they notice the dish strapped on
behind him. She was a looker. My guess is a twenty something with
straight black hair down to her waist, a red mini skirt, and white
halter top. She had a pair, and it wasn’t the fruit she was carrying.
Where does JG find them?
JG shuts down the beast, spots me, smiles, and walks in.
“Billy, you like my partner? I call her Pong”
What was there not to like about her?, I am thinking. JG assures me
she’s 34, and not in her twenties and has brains to match her beauty.
Just what we needed, “A smart woman in a real short skirt.”
We sit down at a table and start catching up on stories.
“You hear about that guy Cut
Throat? I heard he caught a big fish up near the Mekong River,”
JG quietly tells me.
We always suspected that CT was CIA. He didn’t get his nick name
by bringing ‘em back alive, and suspect this case was the same.
“The Post is running a lead story on it in tomorrow’s paper”
JG rarely gets his facts wrong so I knew this was good
Now that Cut Throat’s cover
is blown, it’s my guess he’ll be retiring back to the States.
JG concurs. “And take up fishing.”
Where’s Pong? I need to meet her.
JG motions over towards the bar where Pong is entertaining four or five
Dutch guys. As soon as she sees he’s looking, she heads our way.
“I wanted to give you some time to catch up on old times” Pong states
with a half smile like she was bored with the guys at the bar.
I introduce myself, and trying to make conversation, I mention her
stunning looks and that she should be a model. Without even a thank you,
“Looks can be deceiving, Mister Billy.”
JG’s beer starts coming up through his nose. He can barely contain
himself. He gets up and walks towards the bar. I can see in the mirror
behind the bottles he’s still laughing.
Puzzled, I look at Pong. Then she too starts laughing. What’s so funny?
Pong completely changes her accent and sounds like she’s lived in the
“I was born in Pasadena, California. My parents are Thai. MBA from
Stanford and studied at the Wharton School of Business, Martha was my
sorority sister, and oh yes, I
was the Orange Bowl Queen. I can switch my accent back and forth from
Asian to Western depending on my needs. I have a bike as big as JG’s
parked around the corner, and I’m all natural. Anything else?”
Yeah, Lance wants to know. Are you married?
Nords and Tozz walk in together, just as Lance is emerging from his den.
One look at Pong and Lance’s eyes widen. We make room at the small table
to fit all of our drinks. Lance sits next to Pong, across from me.
“Anyone seen Darling tonight?” Nords ask. Lance and I both notice that
MJ is missing and keep our mouths shut.
JG starts. “Haven’t seen her, not tonight. Everyone has seen the papers
on the deal, correct? Am I to assume that you’re all into this project?”
We all nod.
“OK, let’s get started.”
JG rattles off the details of this real estate deal involving a
complicated bridge loan, cash and his famous accounting. We’ve heard
most of his schemes and have few questions. He’s done this before, and
most of the time the deal has worked and we’ve never had to take
possession on any property and the cash has flowed. None of us want to
actually own property here.
That's when Pong chimes in “Where does all of this cash come from?”
The table goes quiet. Sometimes it’s better not to be so smart or know
Just then Darling pulls up on her motorbike with MJ hanging on with one
arm around her, and one holding a beer. Both are laughing like two
sixteen year old lovers.
Nords shoots a look in my direction, then at Lance. We all shrug our
shoulders and smile. Such is Life in the Land of Smiles.
MJ and Darling join us. More beers are ordered. Pong and Lance are
chatting it up, the music is loud. JG and I look at each other and
realize that it's just another night in Thailand.
Characters are fictional and not meant to reprsent anyone personally.