Bangkok – Wednesday, Feb. 19, 7:30 a.m. (7:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Feb. 18)
In a crisp white shirt, slate-blue suit and tangerine tie, Giovanni Salazar approached the marble concierge desk at his hotel in the Sathon district of central Bangkok. Handsome and dark-haired, he was blessed—or cursed, depending on your perspective—with the type of ethnically ambiguous look that fit in equally well in Bangkok or Lima, Madrid or L.A.
The concierge, a middle-aged Thai woman who had seen myriad businessmen come and go, bowed and offered a wai, the traditional Thai greeting of palms pressed together in a prayer position. “Sawat di kha,” she said. “Bonjour! Good morning,” she added, unsure which language he preferred.
Salazar nodded and smiled in reply. “Good morning. I’m Salazar. Room 2323. Could you point me toward the restaurant Sathon Stars?” he asked in English.
“Wouldn’t you like to try our extensive international breakfast buffet, Mr. Salazar? You will not be disappointed.”
“Sathon Stars has excellent online ratings.”
“We too have outstanding food and service. Our dining room also offers a traditional Thai garden in the back.”
“I’m sure it’s wonderful,” he said, smiling and nodding at her. “But I have a breakfast meeting.”
“Well, then, sir. You may stroll down the soi to the main road. There is a taxi stand on the corner. Otherwise, I am happy to call a car for you.”
“What about on foot? I like to meander, better to explore the city.”
She tilted her head slightly, puzzled at the high-class foreigner who preferred to walk amid Bangkok’s smog and traffic, but she told him the route. He thanked her and, grabbing a complimentary paper copy of the English-language Bangkok Sun from a rack by the revolving door, he departed in the direction she advised.
Several blocks later, where the concierge had told him to turn right, he turned left. He ducked through an alley and entered a luxury shopping mall, snaked through and continued northeast along Silom Road, then Ratchadamri. He passed through a parking lot and the gates of
Lumphini Park on the northwest side.
Locals and expats alike were taking advantage of the cooler morning air to run around the lake; some people were cutting through the park for a respite from the heavy street traffic on their walk to work. The music of an outdoor exercise class blared. Not far off, a six-foot monitor lizard lounged along the water’s edge. Like a deer in Central Park—but not—he mused. Salazar passed an open-air gym, where several men and women were lifting weights. He kept moving until he reached a bench under the trees on the west side. He sat down and, holding the newspaper up, pretended to read.
Soon, a man wearing a Niagara Falls T-shirt and Orioles baseball hat jogged toward him. Old enough to be Salazar’s father but still strong and fit like a bodybuilder, he stopped by the bench, removed his hat, wiped the sweat from his brow and sat on the other end. He brushed his hand through his black hair and put the hat back on. Then, he turned to Salazar briefly and nodded.
“You’ve been to Niagara Falls?” Salazar asked.
“Oh, yes,” the man replied. “Great place to visit.”
“I’ve never been there myself. People say it’s for honeymooners.”
“Anybody would enjoy it,” the man said, again nodding but avoiding eye-contact. “You weren’t followed?”
“That’s what I’m saying, right, Mr. Gold?”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure I convinced the hotel concierge I’m crazy. She thinks I walked all the way to Sathon Stars.”
“Better than Soi Cowboy or Patpong,” said Mr. Gold, smiling without opening his mouth. “Isn’t that where an American man of your age is expected? Farang!”
Salazar remained silent, looking down. Mr. Gold was knowledgeable about many things. Why did he say things like that? The slur farang was vulgar, at the very least old-fashioned.
Also, it was unfounded. It was Mr. Gold who went to the go-go bars.
“Very well. You see, if anyone quizzes her about where you went, she will know, and she will not know," Mr. Gold said.
“I used your techniques. I know the drill.”
“These precautions are very important,” the older man said, leaning over, resting his elbows on his knees and looking at the ground.
“What’s wrong? You scheduled this meeting abruptly,” Giovanni asked.
“Complications,” Mr. Gold said, studying his jogging shoes. “Mr. Channarong is dead.”
Giovanni forced a straight face. “That comes as…unexpected.”
“Yes, plans have changed. Now, you are to bring the girl here.”
“Just like that?”
“Buy her a ticket. Tell her you can’t stand to be alone. Something like that. We don’t have the time for you to start all over. I’ll be in touch,” Mr. Gold added, jogging off. “Good day.”
Copyright © by Wolf Bahren. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with “permission requests” in the subject line at email@example.com. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.