About the Author: JAMES A. NEWMAN, originally from London, lives and writes in Bangkok. He is the author of the JOE DYLAN noir crime series and has just completed the fifth in the series: FUN CITY PUNCH. Download a free copy of his novel RED NIGHT ZONE http://spankingpulppress.com/the-deal
by James Newman
The informer placed the business card on a table stood in a hotel lobby where the overhead rotary blade fan shifted the thick tropical heat around the room the way an oven fan does. Wallpaper peels almost visibly away from the walls as The Informer speaks to The Agent. “It seems they want to meet with you. I have word that they are across town plotting their move as we speak.”
“Who are they?” The Agent asked.
“The Family, the bureau, Buddy. They came here while you were, erm, relaxing… Said they want to speak with you in person to explain some things and maybe well, who knows? Remove that bothersome object. They are at The Atlanta Hotel, room 304.”
“This is too easy,” The Agent sat on the sofa beneath the picture of the thatched cottage and looks at The Man directly. That bothersome object he had carried for the best part of a year and through five different time zones. Like an octopus the Family, or CIA, had tentacles all over the rock. The largest organization in the world…
“You know what they say about gift horses?” The Informer smiles opening that dark wet graveyard, his mouth, derelict, abandoned.
“Depends who they are. I don’t trust this. It’s too easy.”
“Take it or leave it.”
The Agent picked up the card. “I’ll take it.”
The Agent walked over to the hotel lobby and desk and spoke to a bright Oriental receptionist in the local tongue. “I need you to do something for me. Phone the Atlanta hotel and book room 303.”
“Your room here?”
“Keep it running and I’ll be back, hopefully. I want you to organize the check in.”
“Ah, I will send over your passport page. Just pick up the key at the reception.”
The Agent walked out of the hotel lobby, out into the blistering Bangkok heat, he turned left past a three-legged dog, beyond a kid squeezing pomegranates, past a man with a rack attached to his motorbike, on the rack hung women’s underwear, thongs, lace, black, pink, transparent panties wrapped around a shapely mannequin, further on a stall selling reading glasses, paperback novels; through the weapons section, knuckle dusters, catapults, crossbows, air guns, swords, knives, daggers, blackjacks, death stars…Bangkok. Where else were weapons sold on the street? The Agent stopped at one of the stalls and picked up a throwing blade and looked at it. Weighed it in his hand. He paid the dealer a price for it and pocketed the death star in his suit jacket side pocket where it sat heavy and cold like a bulletproof insurance policy.
The Hotel was on the edge of the Zone before the Central Business District took over the urban sprawl with its sanitation; where metal and glass replaced concrete and timber.
The Agent took the tunnel.
The tunnel was overland, covered at the top in corrugated iron and ran parallel to the main street. Lower Bangkok was a good city if you didn’t need to be seen. The lack of security cameras, relentless traffic, congested sidewalks and shops and stalls on every stretch of concrete made it easy to slip into the crowds and go unnoticed. Through the tunnel, open air kitchens pumped out clouds of fried garlic and chili, scammers pecked away at keyboards in internet shops, seamstresses worked on costumes for all tomorrow’s parties. Hookers hooked and Johns did the dance. Transsexual hairdressers set the hair of transvestite nail technicians forming impossible beehives and big bouncy bangs. The smell of perfume battled with the sewers and the trash. A cat laps at the gray puddle collected on the ground; above the puddle an external air-conditioning unit with water dripping down. At the mouth of the tunnel a middle-aged man of near-eastern decent slices undetermined meat from a rotating spit, dumping the meat into a pitta before adding salad and a squirt of the chili sauce. A hunch-backed woman begs for change outside a seven-eleven, her cold eyes evil and her smile knowing as her glare pierces through the harsh tropical sunlight landing with a curse on those that pass, like The Agent, without donation.
Evening and the rats have yet to rise from the sewers and gather beneath the food carts and raised restaurants where they habitually forage for scraps of food carefully avoiding a diner’s sudden instep or finding their bodies squeezed between the wrapping of two lovers legs together in the romantic darkness.
If The Family found him this would all be dust, not even memories.
What was life anyway? With The Family on his tail it was simple snatches of excitement among the panic. The thrill of passing through another border, checking into another hotel with forged documentation was wearing thin. A midnight fumble with a bedfellow of dubious statue was equally shallow; ethics were out of the window, morality too. He’d stolen, lied and cheated to keep his show on the road. And for what? To do it all over again in a different town or city. Maybe this was the place to give up the ghost and hand himself in, give them what they wanted and resign from life on the run.
He turns a right onto the second road, through the Arabian section, large dark eyed men of the sand smoke shisha and converse in guttural bursts while ordering fried pigeon and mint tea. Past the overweight, perhaps hopeful, woman who hooks from the corner of the road and snarls at each passersby less it be a man of apparent good standing in which case her mouth twists into what passes as a smile in these parts. Aggressively possessive of her patch, the patch that looks out over the road to where it now stands: The Atlanta Hotel.
Inside the hotel lobby The Agent scans the area looking for heat. Suits in the tropics were a giveaway; in fact any wardrobe that looked expensive rang alarm bells. The Agent realized that the bureau provided an expense account for clothes and most agents wanted to use that expense account in the best possible way. The Family also changed their hangouts of choice as soon as they were recruited; they could be found rubbing shoulders with tropical executive types and corrupt politicians. Virgin cocktails and warm pigeon salads… The Atlanta seemed cool enough, and unless the staff were on the payroll nobody was overtly snooping. He hit the bar and ordered a soda water, no ice, from a bar tender who looked like he’d been blown in with the delivery of the rose wood furniture circa 1910.
He drank it realizing he had no real fear of death.
It would come to him as most things in life had; punctual and intended.
The Agent walked to the lobby and took the key to room 303.
He knocked softly.
To his surprise a woman opened it.
He recognized her vaguely from a street carnival in India.
The arms of The Family stretched wide and far.
“Enter,” she said. The Agent didn’t need telling twice. Wrapped in a bath towel she reminded The Agent of a movie star at the height of her career. Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, perhaps. Looking at her half-nakedness he had to admit to himself, God, and at least one other person that the mission had just taken on a whole new level of importance. She was a clock ticking, a piece of exotic fruit expiring, she was right there but how long would it be that way? She was everything that he couldn’t have. The Agent pinched his forehead as the implant throbbed, suddenly dizzy, he sat on the bed and, oh please no, it had to happen. The woman’s towel dropped, hit the ground, she took a pair of briefs from an open case and slipped into them. The Agent caught the reflection in the vanity mirror, shards of lamplight reflected from the blade placed on the wooden furniture.
“Are you going to take them out?” She pouted.
“What dancing? No, never. I’m not dressed for it.”
“You should, you know,” she purred.
“There’s a reason the CIA call themselves The Family. You kill one of them you got the whole forty thousand of them on your back. There was a time when a man could disappear. That time is no longer now. There was a time when what happened off US soil wasn’t a US problem. Now they make new laws so they can bring anyone back home and try them in a US court of law. There was a time when you could make a telephone call, send an email, write a letter and there was a good chance that it wasn’t been monitored or read by someone who knows what’s good for you and you better moderate your freedom, baby, because national security depends on it.”
“You think there’s no hope?”
“I think we’re living in the dark ages and the trouble is nobody knows it.”
“And you now. Maybe I might kill them. Now that I’ve told you I might not get that chance.”
She leaned up against him asked, “Is that some reassurance in your pocket?”
“Similar to what you have in your hand?”
“Do you have what they are looking for?”
“I think I’ve just found it,” he said, wrestling her to the bed.
She rolled out of The Agents grip and made a move for the vanity and the blade.
But it was too late. The Agent had taken the death star and sliced his own jugular with it causing a steady stream of red to lap down his white shirt as his face smiled directly at her with a gladness that lit up every darkened corner of room 303.
Check out would be a mere formality.
* * * * THE END * * * *
Copyright James Newman 2016