Bangkok by day was hot and humid. He had done the tourist bit; walking slowly along the Chao Phraya riverside early evening in the cooler air watching water-taxis ferrying commuters and heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples and luxury, five-star hotels. Later, the sex industry. Sukhumvit, Nana plaza area: a haven for pot-bellied tourists full of girlie bars, massage parlours, lady-boy shows and everything in between.
Yesterday when he needed to stock up with provisions in his apartment, he had grumbled to the two girls behind the 7-Eleven counter. “Call this a convenience store? Why not stack the beer on the high shelves where I can reach them easy.”
One girl, who was pretty and slim with perky breasts, and the other, who was larger and not pretty, just stared at him and giggled. But then the pretty one smiled. Giving him the ‘I’m interested’ coy look. She sure looked out of place in the 7-Eleven. “Tell manager, Farang not happy, ok?”
Vince had smiled back. Interesting. Maybe he would go there sometime.
That was yesterday.
Nothing had bloody well changed since then. No manager about, and the same two girls were behind the check-out chatting; not busy switching beer bottles around the cooler shelves. He still had to bend down by the cooler to select his beer bottles.
Clearly 7-Eleven didn’t worry too much about customer care. Perhaps he should go down the street and see if the Mini Mart was still open at midnight.
Then he heard the first shot...
Elroy Biera stretched his lanky frame and gazed around their Grand Palace twin bed hotel room, number 557 inked in black on the door with a not so grand bathroom, but it had air con that worked ok.
It had all seemed so easy. Hit the 7-Eleven to raise enough cash to replace their cheap Bangkok pistols, and to upgrade to a pair of 44 Magnums or whatever. And then to bigger things.
He felt uneasy in this strange environment. Bangkok was full of friggin’ Asians, all speaking some weird language. To them, money was king. Money got you honey, like beautiful long-legged women. No choice really. 7-Elevens were real easy pickings, and they needed the friggin’ cash. That was top priority right now. He wanted to get it over with. He kicked the big bear loafing in the chair watching cartoons on cable TV. “Dawg, listen up.”
Innocent Ramnaps stirred and moved his foot to one side. “What the fuck you doing?”
Elroy hauled himself out of his armchair and gestured to Innocent to shift his ass into cruise.
“Time to move on out.”
They caught a cab some ways from the Grand Palace Hotel and had the driver drop them off two blocks from the 7-Eleven around midnight. The street traders had gone. There were only a few night birds and a blind beggar with white cane and bowl sitting on the pavement by the Bangkok Bank ATM machine. As they arrived, Elroy took a quick glance through the entrance door. No one was waiting to be served. Two girls waited at the check-out. One yawning, the other with her cell phone attached to her ear, talking.
“Okay let’s friggin’ do it.”
…The commotion was up by the front door. Vince peered up quickly, but carefully. He saw two black guys. One was a lanky, athletic type stretched over the counter, and stuffing a bag full of notes. The other was holding a pistol in his huge hairy paw. Could have been a .38.
He moved into a crouch to see better. The large girl was lying in a pool of blood. The pretty one was stumbling back and she fell in a dead faint, her cell phone bouncing across the floor.
He leapt up clutching his basket of Chang beer bottles. “What the…?” Bad move. Should have known better.
The athlete snatched up the bag and high-tailed it, while the ape turned with a look of surprise and fired again, as he ran out the door. Vince desperately flung himself into a dive as a couple of bullets smashed into his beer bottles and richoted back into his body. The last thing he thought about before slumping to the floor and losing consciousness was, ‘Anything can happen’.
Innocent, lounging around in a white T-shirt and jogging pants, was in a good mood. “It was real cool Dawg. We did what had to be done. You see me drop that white ‘motherfucker’?” He lolled in his favourite chair, watching a TV doctor carrying out a liver transplant.
Elroy wasn’t so happy.
Although they had got clear away without causing a commotion outside, the haul had been 6,050 baht, around US$70, which hardly bought a friggin’ Songkran water pistol let alone a 44 Magnum.
He picked up his Chang beer that had 6% alcohol content written on the side of the green can with a picture of an elephant on it, and took a gulp. “How the hell I know some smartass was there? Anyways he won’t be doing much drinking or much else now you filled him full of lead.”
That pain in the ass Innocent acting like he was a black Rambo or something, not finishing the job. Now they gotta keep off the streets until the heat cooled down. By the friggin’ time it was quiet again, all the money would be gone on hotel bills. Elroy grimaced, “We gotta check the smartass is dead and maybe we need to take out the girl also. They’re the only ones who could friggin’ testify.”
Innocent took a gulp of his beer and motioned for more. “No problem Dawg. Be cool.”
Elroy wasn’t cool. “Dawg, the 7-Eleven is history. It’s what comes next. Hitting the Siam Commercial Bank.”
Innocent picked something green out of his nostril and flicked it across. “Yeah, so what?”
Elroy swatted the slime ball away in exasperation. “We don’t just go in and shoot everyone. We gotta act real cool.”
Innocent glared. “Like I said, I can blow these ‘motherfuckers’ out real easy, so what’s the problem?”
Elroy kept his cool: “Well for one thing. There could be a bunch of people working and customers. While you’re blowing brains out all over the place, one of them that you don’t shoot will press this big alarm button before I get the friggin’ money, and all hell will break loose. No Dawg, we gotta think smart.”
“Smart? What the fuck you mean?”
Elroy, thinking out loud now that Innocent had put him on the spot, “We hit it just before closing time. They’ll be otherwise occupied in cleaning up, so I go up to the counter and tell one of them to open the cash drawer and put the notes in the bag.” It was flowing nicely. “I give the bag over and let them see the .38 pointing at them. I say act real cool, nothing stupid and we all go home safe -that’s it. Easy.” He punched the air. “They give me the friggin’ money and we get out fast.”
Innocent wasn’t having any “So you’re acting Mr. Real Cool. What I do, pick my fucking nose or something?”
One friggin’ thing he was good at, but Elroy wasn’t going there. “You cover me. Make people lie on the floor away from any alarm buttons. Wave your gun around a bit - show we’re friggin’ serious.”
“Better I shoot the ‘motherfuckers - that’ show them I’m serious.”
Elroy, looking hard at Innocent and thinking maybe he lost it somewhere said, “Think on it Dawg. You want to end up looking out of bars the rest of your life?”
Innocent scowled. “Fuck it.”
The dream was real. ‘Anything can happen.’ Vince shuddered and opened his eyes. He focused on the pretty assistant from the 7-Eleven sitting alongside his bed, in a small private room that had a picture of King Rama IX on the wall. He smiled, and went to sit up to look at her better, but he couldn’t move because of four tubes and two drips attached to his body and arms. The pain in his stomach was enough to keep him lying there quiet.
“You lucky man,” she said. Very, very strong, save Nok, black man no good.” Her eyes clouded over. “Ghost Lin, she come see me, unhappy. I scare.”
Vince was happy that Nok was alive, strange how the pretty ones always survived, but unhappy that some black bastard had shot him. Also, looking at the drips, the hospital treatment was not going to be cheap.
That made it personal for them both.