Or is it true?!
From Billy Kaderli:
ONE NIGHT IN THAILAND
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 there.
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 wallet burning.
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 huh.
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 you.”
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 information.
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, she says “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? I ask.
Pong completely changes her accent and sounds like she’s lived in the States.
“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 too much.
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.