“Just call Dice Pizza, ask for Snake Eyes, and he will deliver the remainder,” he said handing the card number to Vince.
Inside the club, two gorillas with guns frisked them before nodding them to the meeting room at the back of the club. Whilst Vince was never critical of how others acted, he wasn’t worried, because they made some elementary mistakes. One of the gorillas should have kept a distance and the other shouldn’t have given Vince the opportunity to disarm him. Bloody amateurs, he thought; they even disregarded his calculator.
However Lai Chan Chen was a different proposition. He was alone in the meeting room, wearing an earpiece. It started pleasantly enough.
“We meet again,” said Lai, in perfect English, smiling at Elroy and Innocent and acknowledging Vince with a nod. “You will take tea?”
Elroy and Innocent looked at each other. Innocent said, “Fuck tea, just give us a cold beer, or better still some Jack Daniels and ice be good.”
Pleasantries over and seated at the large table with plenty of spare chairs, they got down to bottom-line business.
Lai Chan Chen said, “We want to know how all of you are involved in this Nigerian syndicate?”
The million-dollar question.
Vince gave Elroy and Innocent a ‘shut-up’ look and explained their cover story. “Mr. Biera is an active partner with distribution responsibilities, whilst Mr. Ramnaps prefers to carry out the street trades. Our other associates prefer to be silent partners at this point until we have established a working relationship.” Even to Vince giving it his best shot, the Nigerian syndicate still sounded like science fiction, but what the hell; Chinese seem to believe in magic.
At least, Lai appeared to be satisfied. But who knows, thought Vince, Lai was taking instructions from someone who was not willing to show his, or her, face.
Then Lai surprised them, by moving to the door and opening it. Two people entered. “Let me introduce Ms. Lee and also my bank manager. Ms. Lee is our principal investor.
Vince couldn’t help staring. Ms. Lee was conservatively dressed in a sexy Rhinestone Cowgirl Costume, a well filled Triangle Bra Top with Rhinestone Stars, Skirt with Fringe Detail and attached Garter, Belt, and Hat, plus matching thigh length boots and spurs.
“It’s ok boys, relax, I left my guns at home,” she said, as she and the bank manager sat down at the table. “Just show me the money.”
Surreal or what, thought Vince. “Look I hate to interrupt the floor show Ms. Lee, but we’re trying to negotiate a business deal here. Well that is, I thought that’s what we were doing.”
Ms. Lee replied, “This is my way of doing business, but you can call me Lucy.”
“Ok, Lucy, let’s do it your way,” said Vince, picking up the briefcase, putting it on the table and opening it. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
Dong Sui See watched from the observation post. The script was going to plan. It would be interesting to find out more about this Nigerian syndicate and Mr. Rennie’s part in it. Nok had not been to see him for a few days. He relayed instructions to Lai Chan Chen, saw Lai nod to Lucy, and she excused herself from the room.
“I’ll leave you boys to play with your toys. You can call me back when you’re ready,” she said.
Lai said to Vince, “While Ron is carrying out his verification tests, perhaps you can tell me more about your role with the Nigerians,” pointing to Elroy and Innocent, who were lounging about, being cool.
Vince took a deep breath. “I was offered big money by my business contacts to broker an agreement between this syndicate and yourselves. I had no idea these two were involved until I caught up with them. I thought they just robbed shops and banks. Big surprise all round.”
Lai seemed satisfied.
Elroy now came under the spotlight from Lai. “Mr. Biera, we meet again at this club, it’s been longer than two weeks,” he said looking at his Rolex Challenger, making sure that Elroy and Innocent understood he was still looking for repayment from the 7-Eleven robbery.
Vince thought about activating his calculator. What Elroy was going to say could make or break this operation.
Elroy drawled. “Look man, these syndicate guys are family from way back, and they look after their cousins. You watch the news, that’s us that robbed the Siam bank and we used the haul to buy us a stake.” He slugged down a gulp of his whisky and stared at Lai.
Lai looked hard at Magnam who said nothing.
Lai turned to Innocent.
Vince tensed up.
Before Lai could say anything, Innocent put it in plain words, “All these fucking questions are not good for your health. Like my man explained we’re serious business now, so you can back off and show some respect, ok?”
Vince could not have put it better. That might just work.
Lai tensed, but instead turned back to Vince, “So why choose us?” he asked.
Vince explained that the Nigerian syndicate needed an up and running laundering network to disperse the counterfeit money. The Chinese set-up would be ideal, and both operations could make big bucks in a short time. Provided, of course, that an agreeable exchange rate could be reached.
Lai glanced upwards and then asked, “So how much money can you supply?”
Vince thought. Take the bait, whoever you are.
“Two million baht ready for delivery now. A further fifty million baht stored at our secure distribution outlets.”
Lai nodded and asked to be excused. “I will arrange tea, or perhaps something stronger?” he asked.
“Tea will be fine for me,” said Vince. “The boys have their Jack Daniels.”
At 3pm, Lucy, Lai and Vince’s crew reconvened. Lucy had changed into a black business suit, and white blouse buttoned to the top. As they all could speak good English, Magnam took Ron to play pool while the negotiations were taking place.
“The quality is acceptable,” said Lucy. “We will pay you 25% of the nominal value. Our overheads are considerable. That is generous.”
Like hell it is, thought Vince. “We were thinking more like 65%,” he said calmly.
Lucy raised an eyebrow. “Shall we have some more tea,” she said. “Looks like we have a long session ahead.”
First round to Vince on the judges’ card.
At 3.30pm, Lucy, Lai and Vince’s crew reconvened. Lucy had changed into more casual attire, a long silk skirt and a purple blouse with a white orchid design. The top button was undone and showed a hint of cleavage. Magnam and Ron took a beer and continued to play pool.
“My associates cannot agree to pay more than 30%,” said Lucy as she entered the room. “The negotiation is finished.”
Vince waved her back to her seat. “Maybe we can compromise a little. Shall we have some more tea?”
Second round to Lucy on the judges’ card.
At 4pm, Lucy, Lai and Vince’s crew reconvened. Lucy had changed into matt-green slacks and a pale beige blouse with the top two buttons undone and showed a little more cleavage. Magnam and Ron took another beer and continued to play pool.
“We appreciate your considerable overheads, however the quality of our notes are excellent. They will be accepted by all major banks, therefore reducing transaction costs.” He paused as if coming to a decision. “We can accept 55%. That’s our final offer.”
Lucy appeared to think about the offer. “Shall we have some more tea,” she said. “I’ll need to confer with my associates.”
Third round to Vince on the judges’ card.
At 4.30pm, Lucy, Lai and Vince’s crew reconvened. Lucy had changed into a short chiffon skirt that showed off her long legs and matching white T-shirt that was cut off above her waist, showing off her pierced diamond stud. Magnam and Ron took one more beer and, waving their cues somewhat unsteadily, continued to play at pool.
“Our final offer is 35%,” said Lucy. “We are taking all of the risks here, including up to a 15 year jail sentence if any of our launderers get caught. This will cut our profit margin to the barest minimum.”
Vince nodded. He still had a few cards to play. “We will guarantee you sole distribution rights, with a constant flow of money.” He paused to read from some hand-written notes. “We estimate that the Thai banking system can absorb 10 billion baht over a one-year period without any adverse effect.” Now the selling pitch to the man upstairs. “If you agree to a 50%-50% split you will earn one billion baht...that’s big bucks.”
Lucy looked at him appraisingly. “Let’s have some more tea,” she said. “I think we’re getting closer to reaching agreement.”
Fourth round a draw on the judges’ card.
At 5.00pm, Lucy, Lai and Vince’s crew reconvened. Lucy had changed into a long halter necked Chinese royal blue silk dress with a side slit up to her thigh. Her graceful neck was adorned with a 22 carat gold chain that displayed a rare white sapphire pendant resting on her ample cleavage. Magnam and Ron took one more beer and took turns to miss the black ball.
Lucy shook her head. “Our associates cannot move any further,” she said somewhat regretfully. “35% is our bottom line.”
Vince was surprised. Maybe he had got it wrong. He played his last card. “We’re also starting to produce US dollars. We’ll have a few samples soon. The quality is guaranteed.”
Lai interrupted. “How so?” he asked.
“Our plates are as good as you’ll get and we are gathering genuine stocks of ‘paper’.”
Lai raised an eyebrow. Looked puzzled.
Vince explained the technique. “All dollar bills are the same size and we have good plates available. However, the hardest challenge is to reproduce the ‘paper’, the fibres of which have more in common with the ‘shirt-on-your-back’ than paper.” Vince showed him a one dollar bill. “Feel it. It’s tough.”
Lai ran his fingers across the surface. “I agree. It would be difficult to forge these notes.” He looked at Vince expectantly.
Vince smiled to himself. The mighty dollar was irresistible. “What we’re doing is gathering quantities of one-dollar notes. We use advanced bleaches to remove the imprint without harming the fabric. When the bills are dry, we overprint with our hundred-dollar templates. Simple, but virtually undetectable.”
Lai looked impressed. “We get sole distribution rights on these as well?”
“Yes,” said Vince.
Lai nodded to Lucy. “Offer Mr. Rennie a concessionary rate.”
She smiled. “Okay 36%.”
He smiled back. Hooked at last. “45%”
Everyone looked relieved. Lai went to fetch champagne. Elroy and Innocent nodded their heads in agreement, that is they were trying to look down Lucy’s cleavage.
Lucy was now leaning over the table somewhat, looking into Vince’s eyes. Vince became aware that this look was more than relief, more than that of an innocent child; it was flagrant lust. So that’s how she gets off, thought Vince.
Vince excused himself to make a phone call to Dice Pizza, and asked for Snake Eyes. “Agreement reached. Send the consignment to Lucky-Nine club at 10 am tomorrow.” He waited for the confirmation. “Yes that’s acceptable, ok.”
He turned to the crew. “By the looks of you piss-heads I’ve got some catching up to do. Give me a beer.”
While the champagne flowed freely, Lucy, with her back to the camera, slipped a piece of paper into Vince’s hand. She raised a flute of sparkling Dom Perignom. “Perhaps we can trade some more,” she whispered, giving Vince a clear view of the trade in mind.
“Perhaps,” said Vince, tapping her glass with his bottle. Offers on a plate were dangerous bedside companions, but there again danger was his business. Maybe he got off on that.
Before everyone became totally inebriated, arrangements were made for the following day to meet at a local bank used by the Chinese operatives. Lai would cash a banker’s draft for 780,000 baht, which represented 39% of the counterfeit 2 million baht at 9.45am, and wait in the bank with Vince.
When Lai received notification that the Pizza had been delivered to the Lucky-Nine club, and satisfied Ron, hopefully in a more sober state, he would give the cash to Vince.
Perhaps surprisingly, all went to schedule, albeit with massive hangovers all round. Lai said that they would contact Vince when the notes had been successfully laundered and the next consignment could be delivered.
Vince swallowed some more paracetamols and breathed a sigh of relief. So far so good.