“Tan Dai, no here,” said a small dark dumpy woman with glasses, hair pinned back into a bun, protectively holding a young child.
“Where he go?”
“Probably playing pool, or cards, or dice and by now,” looking at her watch, “drinking Mekong whisky.”
Again. “Where he go?”
To the side of the bar was a door that led to the toilets. Lai, dressed inconspicuously, black open necked shirt, no bracelet and loose black trousers with soft black casual shoes waited for the fat man called Tan, to finish his game of pool and relieve himself.
Tan Dai with his trousers undone down to his knees and stomach protruding, his ham pissing into the urinal, was at a disadvantage. Lai pushed him against the wall and held a knife to his throat. “Tan Dai, time die.”
Tan Dai flinched as the blade grazed his skin. “You want money? Can have.”
“Why take 7-Eleven money? I lose face, you pay-back.”
“What you talk. Not know.”
Knife drew blood. Kidney punch. “Not hear good,” said Lai into Tan Dai’s ear.
“Shit.” Tan Dai, now sweating profusely. “Ok, Ok, pay back soon. Big problem. Lose away money, dice game unlucky. Mekong drink too much. Go with girl short time.”
Lai explained clearly and slowly to Tan Dai that skimming money from the 7-Eleven takings to pay for gambling debts, alcohol and women was not only dishonest, but dangerous to his health.
“You pay back 5,000 baht every week. I arrange collection.” Lai held Tan Dai’s hand against the wall, and Tan Dai screamed in pain as he felt the serrated edge of the knife cutting off his little finger. “If no pay, next time feed dick to Soi dog.”
On his way out of the club Lai glanced around the poolroom, then picked up Nok’s suitcase from the bartender and told him, “Man have accident in toilet, cut face and finger, need ice and hospital.”
“Master, Nok delivered the briefcase to me as promised,” said Lai.
Lai entered the combination lock that Nok had given him and opened the briefcase, full of 1,000 baht bills in front of Dong Sui See.
Dong Sui See picked up a bundle and riffled through it. He did the same with a few others. His expression remained composed. “Someone has tricked us,” he said softly “The top note is genuine, but the rest is paper.”
The bartender was adamant. No one had touched the briefcase. There was no way that anyone could have switched cases. That left Nok. Surprisingly, Don Sui See told Lai to leave Nok for now because there were more important matters to address; he had heard from his associates that a new, powerful Nigerian crime syndicate had recruited the bank robbers and were planning to launder money through the Chinese network.
“You will locate these men and find out what they want from us,” instructed Don Sui See. “I will deal with my granddaughter.”
Earlier that evening Mr. White had found an empty table in a small restaurant, which overlooked the Lucky-Nine club. He ordered coffee, and spread out his newspaper. The waitress, dressed in a white blouse and short blue skirt, asked him if he wanted food, but he shook his head.
From time to time he’d look absent-mindedly at the stray Soi dogs sniffing around rubbish piles. Bangkok was a wonderful city full of luxuriant green parks and floral gardens, but street walkways were invariably littered with discarded human debris.
He hoped the waitress wouldn’t bother him, and was pleased when another customer came in. That would divert her attention. He ignored his paper and continued to stare out of the window.
Two cups of coffee later, Nok came out of the Lucky-Nine club without the briefcase. As she climbed onto her motorbike he decided not to follow her, but to check out the club. He could blend in to the Thai culture, being part Asian, and was dressed casually enough, so would pass for a local poolroom hustler. He waited another ten minutes, then folded up his newspaper and got up. He left a few coins on the table to pay for the coffee and, much to the surprise of the waitress, gave her a 50 baht tip.
Mr. White was outside the restaurant looking across to the Lucky-Nine club when he saw a man in black walk out of the club holding a briefcase. He bent down by his motorbike and undid the chain lock. The man waved down a Taxi, held a brief conversation with the driver and got in. Mr. White reasoned that the Lucky-Nine club was not holding a business meeting, so he got on his motorbike and followed.
Had he waited, he would have seen Lai leave.