A Lustful Gent, Part Three – ‘Toby’, Chapter XIII

A Lustful Gent

Here’s Chapter XIII of my novel  – a couple of days later than I would have liked – but better late than never.

I have also drafted Chapter XIV, and will definitely publish this by the middle of next week. I have to say that I very much doubt if I will ever be able to publish 2 chapters a week, or even 3 chapters every 2 weeks; as not only would I find such a schedule very time consuming, but also mentally exhausting.

So I will continue to try to roll them out at one chapter a week and see how it all goes.

 

Here is chapter XIII, and happy reading…..

 

A Lustful Gent

 

PART THREE –TOBY

 

CHAPTER XIII

 

 

 

The two women had finished their meal and Ying was sipping the last drops of her iced coffee when on an impulse, Na took out her phone and dialled Toby’s number. The last time she had tried it there had been no signal, but who knows, maybe he had finally switched it on. She wasn’t expecting much so it was quite a surprise when she realised that the number was actually ringing. Fully expecting to hear Toby’s drunken voice on the line at any moment, she was quite taken aback when a woman answered.

‘Hello.’

‘Hello – who is that?’ Na asked, ‘can I speak to Toby?’

‘Toby? Who is Toby? What are you talking about?

‘The number I called, it belongs to Toby. Where did you get that phone?

‘I don’t know anything about any Toby. I bought this phone this morning from my neighbour – a cop. He said the owner was dead, and he was asked to sell it by the dead man’s family to pay off some of his debts.

‘Dead! Toby Dead! Who sold it to you? What cop sold you that phone?’

‘I told you – my neighbour – Lieutenant Somkid. He works at Pattaya police station. If you have any problems I suggest you go and see him. I’ve done nothing wrong. And don’t bother to call me again because I’m going straight down to 7/11 and get a new sim card.’

The woman rung off, and Na sat there in shock.

‘Na, what’s happened?

‘I just called Toby’s phone number and a woman said she bought the phone this morning from a cop. The cop said that Toby was dead and his family had asked him to sell it to pay off some debts.

‘Dead! Family! Toby’s got no family in Thailand – except me. That woman was lying. Did I hear you say the name Somkid?

‘Yes –she told me it was Lieutenant Somkid who sold it to her.’

‘Lieutenant Somkid! He was the one who called me last night and told me they had arrested Toby and asked me to go to the police station. He warned me that Toby might die if I didn’t go – but surely not. Why didn’t they tell us he had died when we enquired earlier? Nobody at the station knew anything about him. If he had died in custody they would have told us. But if he had been released from jail, why did that cop have Toby’s phone? Something’s not right. I’m not convinced he’s dead.’

‘Ying, maybe he can help,’ Na suggested, pointing to the elderly policeman at the next table. He was smoking a cigarette and his head was immersed in a daily broadsheet newspaper.

‘Him?  He looks like a pretty high ranking cop, a colonel I think – why would he help us?’

‘Because we are two beautiful young ladies; and in any case, I sort of know him. He was the one who told me that Toby wasn’t there. Come on, it’s worth a try – maybe he knows something. We’ve got nothing to lose.’

Na rose and approached Colonel Chamlong’s table; Ying was half a step behind.

‘Excuse me Colonel, do you recognise me?’

The officer glanced up from his newspaper and looked at Na, and then at the attractive Ying, standing behind her. ‘No… I don’t believe I do.’

‘I spoke to you at the police station a while ago – don’t you remember? I asked you about a farang – named Toby.’

The name ‘Toby’ reminded him of the irritating interruption when he was trying to leave the police station earlier that morning. ‘Well, yes, now you mention it, I do remember something about a Toby – but he wasn’t there! So what do you want from me?’

‘May we sit down Colonel,’ Ying asked, putting on her most captivating smile.

‘Yes, yes, of course you can. Please sit here, and …can I get you anything.’ The elderly man was beginning to enjoy the company of these two attractive, well- dressed young ladies.

They both ordered iced coffees as they explained their dilemma.

‘So you see, colonel, we don’t understand why Lieutenant Somkid had Toby’s phone and why did he sell it to a neighbour –  and  tell herthat Toby was dead?’ Are you aware of any farangs dying in custody today?’

The colonel remained silent for a long time, deliberating on what the two ladies had told him. He didn’t want to get his officers into any trouble – they all ‘scratched each other’s’ backs as far as ‘questionable’ police activities were concerned – but he realised that he wasn’t going to brush them off very easily. They looked quite determined, and one of them even claimed to be married to this… this Toby.

‘Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but I admit I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the custody lists earlier on. Maybe I missed his name on the sheet. I’m going back to work now and I’ll recheck the records; and I’ll give Lieutenant Somkid a call from my office. Why don’t the two of you come and see me in an hour’s time? I’ll try to get to the bottom of it.’

With that, the officer rose from the table, tossed some bank notes down to cover the bill, and started to walk out of the restaurant. Then he stopped and turned in his tracks.

‘This, er, Toby – is he a tourist? Is he here legally? How long has he been in Thailand?’

‘No, he’s not a tourist; he’s retired. He’s been  here about ten years, I think,’ Ying replied, ‘but he was here before – many years ago – he used to work here, a long time ago – maybe thirty or forty years ago. I’m not too sure…’

 

***

 

Following his Indonesian odyssey, Toby hit the ground running when he arrived in The Land Of Smiles and it is doubtful whether he slept more than two or three hours a night during those first few, wild weeks. He had first discovered the delights of Bangkok some three years earlier, when he used to occasionally fly to Thailand for a spot of ‘R&R’ from his monastic existence in Abu Dhabi. On those occasions, he would virtually live in a large massage parlour off the Sukhumvit Road, in central Bangkok. He used to book a room in a nearby hotel, and spend his late mornings and afternoons in the parlour; drinking beer and ogling all the gorgeous ladies who were sitting inside the glass fronted viewing room, waiting for customers. When he grew hungry, he would select his girl for the day, and take her with him for a meal, then back to the hotel for a late afternoon sex session. There would then follow a riotous night on the town before he caught a cab back to his hotel in the early hours for yet more sex, followed by a drunken sleep. Later, he would return the girl to her place of work, and start all over again; with a new day’s companion.

This time around, he had become a bit more adventurous, and decided to go further afield in his search for women, particularly as he had now discovered there were many other red light areas scattered across the large metropolis. As much as he had appreciated the beauty of the Indonesian women, he found that there was no comparison between the ladies of Jakarta and the incredibly sexy women who he met in Bangkok. He was totally unable to resist the charms of the Thai ladies and he would become infatuated on a regular basis. On any given day, he would find the most wonderful girl in the world to shack up with, only to discard her a few days later, when he found an even more fascinating replacement.

After a while, all this frenzied activity was starting to make a large dent in his savings, but he didn’t seem to care – he just trusted in fate to see him through; although ironically, it was his old haunt – the massage parlour where he once spent his R & R from Abu Dhabi, just across from his hotel, that proved to be his undoing.

He decided to go there one day to see whether the quality of ‘talent’ that was on display was any better or worse than it had been back in the old days. He wasn’t disappointed, and within a few minutes he spotted the most incredibly beautiful girl he had ever set his eyes on. He wasted no time in ‘buying’ her out and immediately paid in advance to keep her as his companion for the next seven days. She called herself Lynda, and he was already besotted with her before he had even got her to bed on that very first day.

Lynda was a very lovely young lady from Ubon Ratchathani, in the North East of Thailand. She spoke pretty good English – albeit with an American accent, which Toby learned had been acquired during the two years she had worked in the US commissary at the Ubon airbase. It didn’t occur to Toby to question just how her work at a commissary would have given her such a good command of American accented English. But there again, he didn’t question anything she told him.

For her part, the lovely Lynda soon realised that she had netted herself a prize ‘fish’. The stupid farang believed everything that she told him and she only had to smile at him and invent some ridiculous story and he would open his wallet and peal out a wad of bank notes and hand them over. She even talked him into redeeming a large diamond ring that she had pawned several months ago when she had first arrived in Bangkok.

Toby was blinded by lust, and was completely besotted with her. They had been together for several, blissful weeks, when one day, life became even better. His wildest dreams came true, when – out of the blue – Lynda suggested that they get married. Up to that point, Toby had been in constant dread that he would be unable to hang on to such a highly desirable lady, and was ecstatic at the idea of actually marrying the girl of his dreams, after such a brief courtship. Now, at long last, he would be safe and secure with the new love of his life, and be able to enjoy a stable, loving relationship – something he had craved for so long.

They made arrangements to go to the district office – the Amphur – two days hence, to legalise the marriage and on the morning of the civil wedding, Lynda persuaded Toby to accompany her to a local jewellery shop where he bought her a very expensive engagement ring and a thick, solid gold wedding ring.

They kept their appointment at the Amphur in the afternoon and once  the formalities were completed, took a taxi back to Toby’s hotel, to get changed before going out again for a sumptuous wedding dinner.  As they alighted from the taxi and walked towards the hotel entrance, something occurred that shook Toby to his very soul.

As if from nowhere, three long-haired men on motorbikes surrounded them, barring their progress. One of them jumped off his bike and grabbed hold of Lynda, dragging and pushing her towards the pillion seat of the second bike. The other two men glared menacingly at Toby.

‘You – farang! Don’t move, or we kill you!’ one of them shouted, brandishing a knife.

Before he could get his wits together it was all over and they were gone – along with Lynda, his wife. He rushed into the hotel and screamed at the receptionist to call the police, protesting vehemently that his wife had just been kidnapped. The receptionist remained unmoved, and seemed to think that Toby was crazy – after all, nearly every time she had seen him, he was drunk.

‘Please! Please! I beg you! Call the police! I’m not crazy – I’m not drunk! My wife has just been kidnapped!’ Toby yelled, almost in tears.

The Chinese-Thai manager, who knew Toby quite well and valued his frequent custom, came out from his office to find out what all the commotion is about.

‘Mr Toby, whatsa matter?’

‘It’s Lynda – my new wife. We just came back from getting married at the amphur and were walking to the hotel entrance, when some men on motorbikes drove up and kidnapped her. I’ve been trying to get your girl here to call the police but she doesn’t believe me.’

‘Kidnapped? Really? That’s very strange.’

‘Yes it is, but it really happened – barely five minutes ago. Call the police! Please!’

‘Of course we will, but furss, let me get some details. Whass ‘er name?’

The receptionist, who had been taking an incoming call, interrupted the manager, and spoke quickly to him in Thai.  He picked up the receiver, listened for a few seconds, and then smiled as he looked back at Toby.

‘Mr Toby, maybe there’s has been some kind of er …misunnerstan. Here, take this call, I think, iss your wife.’

Toby grabbed the phone. ‘Hello – Lynda?’ he waited but there was no reply.

‘Lynda! Lynda! Are you there?’

After a long silence, Toby finally detected a faint woman’s voice on the phone. ‘Toby! Is that you? Toby?’

Yes, yes it’s me. Lynda – where are you?

‘I…I don’t know… this gang have locked me in a room and tied me up. Toby I’m very scared.’

‘Oh my God! What do they want Lynda? What do they want?’

‘I don’t know. They told me to warn you not to call the police…’

‘OK, Lynda, I won’t. But why have they kidnaped you?’

‘I don’t know. They say to wait in your hotel tomorrow morning at six o’clock and they will call you back.’

‘Tomorrow? But why? What do they want?’

The line went dead.

‘Lynda! Lynda!’

But his screams fell on deaf ears.

 

***

 

 

He sat on his bed, hardly daring to believe what had just taken place. He stared at Lynda – slumped into the chair opposite – so relieved to have her back, but very worried at what today’s mayhem had cost him. He had already spent a substantial portion of the funds that he had saved from his time in Indonesia, so how was he going to live – and support his new wife? He would have to find a job – very soon. It was only three in the afternoon but for Toby, it had already been a long day. After a sleepless night, he had duly hurried down to the hotel reception at six o’clock that morning, and had waited until nearly seven, when at long last the call came though from Lynda.

‘Toby, this gang,’ she had shouted down the phone, ‘they say they gonna make me work in their brothel in the south of Thailand as a prostitute if you don’t give them some money.’

‘Oh my God? How much do they want?

‘They told me – twenty thousand dollars.’

‘Twenty thousand dollars – four hundred thousand Baht? I haven’t got that much money’

There was a long silence.

‘Lynda! Lynda! Are you still there?’

‘Toby, can you pay… ten thousand dollars?’

‘Ten thousand? Well, yes, I… suppose so… How do I pay? And how do I know they will let you go if I do pay?

There followed a rambling, somewhat fractured conversation with Lynda, during which it appeared that Lynda and her capturers seemed to be arguing amongst themselves. Eventually, Toby was told to be at Victory Monument, in the heart of Bangkok, at one o’clock with the money in cash; Lynda would be returned to him in exchange for the ransom.

The distraught Toby had rushed to the bank as soon as it opened and drew out most of his cash savings before making his way to the huge traffic circle in the centre of Bangkok, which bordered the tall monument. He waited by the side of the monument until nearly two o’clock and was coming to the conclusion that either he had misunderstood the instructions or the gang had changed their mind, when suddenly two motor bikes roared over to him. One bike contained two long haired young men and the second bike was being driven by yet another long haired man with his beloved Lynda perched at the back. The man driving the first bike demanded that he give him the money, which Toby gingerly handed over, while trying to making sure that Lynda was allowed to get off the second bike. Within seconds, the two bikes had disappeared into the swirling traffic and Toby breathed a sigh of relief as he realised that the gang had kept their word, and had released his newly wedded wife. He immediately flagged a taxi and took her straight back to his hotel.

Lynda looked shocked and dishevelled, and was still wearing the same clothes she had worn when she had been grabbed the previous day. He wondered whether she may be suffering from some kind of ‘post kidnap’ trauma, as she had been sitting there, without uttering a word for more than five minutes; but just as he was starting to get worried about her state of mind, she suddenly broke her silence.  

‘Toby, I have to go home to Ubon for a few days, I have to see my mother’

Toby looked at her. ‘Why… yes… of course… you poor thing… you have been through so much. When do you want to go?’

‘Tonight! There is a bus at eight o’clock.’

Tonight?  So soon? I’ve hardly had any time with alone you since we were married.’

‘It’ll only be away for a few days – then you’ll have me forever, and I’ll never leave you again – I promise. Just let me go and see my mum, so I can tell her that I’m married; and I can tell her about you – my new husband,’ she said, smiling at him, for the first time since she had been rescued.

When she  put it like that, Toby could hardly refuse, but no sooner he had agreed to her request when she followed up with a second request – this time  for money.

‘Toby, when Thai girls get married, their husbands are supposed to pay a sin sod to the family.’

Sin Sod? What’s that?’

‘It’s…it’s money that husbands have to pay to the wife’s parents before they let their daughter get married.’

‘Oh – you mean a dowry?’

‘I don’t know – we call it sin sod.’

‘But why didn’t you tell me about this before we got married? You know I haven’t got much money left, not after I had to pay that gang for your release – how much am I supposed to find money?’ he asked anxiously.

‘Don’t’ worry Toby – my family won’t keep the money. I just have to show it to them – so that they can see my husband has enough money to support me. It’s so that they don’t lose ‘face’. When I come back to Bangkok I will give it all back to you – well most of it anyway.’

Thinking, back, Toby knew he should have smelt a rat – maybe he did – but in his euphoric state, after just having rescued the love of his life, he went along with her every demand without a murmur. He rustled up most of what remained of his savings and thrust the money into Lynda’s hands as he escorted her to the bus station to catch the night bus to Ubon Ratchathani.

‘Don’t worry, my darling,’ she said to him with a smile, ‘I’ll take good care of your money and I’ll be back in a few days. Wait at the hotel and I’ll call you when I’m on my way.’

Three weeks later, a very chastened and miserable Toby boarded the very same night bus with his Thai friend, Suthep, to make the very same journey to Ubon, in a desperate attempt to track down his missing wife and – in the words of Suthep –  to ‘chase his money!’ He had found a letter in one of Lynda’s discarded hand bags in his hotel room, and Suthep had confirmed that the letter was from Lynda’s mother. The Thai address was written clearly on the envelope, so they decided to go to Ubon and see what they could unearth.

In the event, it proved to be quiet an adventure. When they arrived at Ubon bus terminal the following morning, they discovered that Lynda’s family village was still many miles distant – a long way from the provincial capital. The village was located deep in rural Thailand, close to the Thai-Laos border, and it could only be accessed by a badly rutted, largely un-surfaced road. It took Toby and Suthep more than three hours in a ‘bone shaker’ of a local bus, followed by a hair raising ride in a rusty old tuk tuk, before they finally reached the village where they hoped that Lynda’s mother still lived.

They enquired at several of the primitive dwellings that were scattered around the village but received monosyllabic, non-committal, and distinctly unfriendly replies to their enquiries as to the whereabouts of Lynda’s family home. To make matters worse, most of them responded in the largely incomprehensible Laotian dialect, and Suthep obtained little in the way of helpful directions. Eventually, more by luck than judgement, they came across a house which looked to be in a better state than most of the other dwellings in the village –and asked an aged woman who was sitting under the eaves of house in the shade, if she had heard of Lynda or her mother. Miraculously, when Suthep mentioned the Thai name of the woman he was seeking, she gave him a beaming smile and told him that she, herself, was the woman he had been looking for.

‘Toby – this is Lynda’s mother.’

‘Really? Well done, Suthep! So where is Lynda? Ask her.’

‘My daughter isn’t here,’ the old woman told Suthep in badly accented Thai, ‘she stayed for a couple of days, about a month ago, and then she went straight back to Bangkok.’

‘Not here! Bangkok!’ Toby shouted, when Suthep had translated the information, ‘But…but what about my money?’

Suthep looked at the woman and then looked at Toby.

‘There Toby… there’s your money,’ he said pointing towards the roof of the house.

Toby looked up at the impressive, obviously new, beautifully tiled roof. It was such an imposing piece of workmanship that it made the house stand out.  All around them were the humble, dilapidated dwellings of the villagers, cobbled together with a mishmash of rotting wood and rusty, corrugated iron roofing. By contrast, Lynda’s family home stood out as a beacon of indulgence, with its lovely new roof, courtesy of the last of Toby’s precious savings.

Intermission

Upon Toby’s return to Bangkok, the paucity of his funds had obliged him to move out of the hotel, and for a short while, he lived in a modest, western-style studio apartment. He tried to set himself up as a private English tutor for rich Thai kids, using his room as a classroom, but it all came to nought. A further reduction in his paltry finances then obliged him to take the drastic step of packing up his few meagre possessions and disappearing from his rented apartment in the middle of the night, still owing two months’ rent.  He moved to a tumble-down wooden house in a slum, just off the main Sukhumvit highway, where he rented a tiny, very basic room; devoid of furniture, save for a moth-eaten grubby mattress that had been dumped in the middle of the rough, wooden floor.

By now, he was so desperate for money that he had to pawn two of his last remaining possessions – his watch and radio cassette player – just to buy some food to fill his starving belly. A welcome improvement in his precarious financial situation came when one of friends told him about a nearby commercial college that was looking for foreign English teachers. It was not the perfect solution by any stretch of the imagination, as the pay was very low, but at least he was able to earn sufficient money to eat and pay his rent. Since he was a kid, he had secretly fancied himself as a teacher but he soon grew disillusioned when faced with the difficult task of having to teach kids who had little or no interest in learning and most of whom were also almost impossible to discipline.

Occasionally, in addition to the pittance the school paid him for his daily English classes, he would earn extra money by giving private lessons to some of the more diligent students – mainly ethnic Chinese – in their own homes, and it was this supplemental income that enabled him to revert to having a modest ‘tipple’ on most evenings – cheap Thai whisky, which he would wash down with a bottle or two of cheap Thai beer.

It was at this time that he discovered the notorious coffee shop in the Grace Hotel, off Soi Nana in the Sukhumvit Road, which was within a twenty minute walk from his modest home further along the Sukhumvit Road. On many an evening, he would wander down to the coffee shop and sip on a single bottle of beer for hour after hour, while he watched the comings and goings of dozens of free-lance whores, who were busy transacting their business with customers, all of whom were considerably more affluent than the impecunious and seriously malnourished Toby. Most nights, he would give up any hopes of persuading one of the girls to give him a free screw in return for a free bed for the night and would return home alone in the early hours; but once in a while, one of the girls would take pity on him, and take up his offer of a bed in exchange for some perfunctory and generally  unsatisfactory sex.

Toby never gave up the belief and hope that sooner or later he would find a lady who would transform his life, and after countless nights sitting alone at the Grace Coffee shop, one day – for the umpteenth time in his life – he thought he had discovered just such a woman. She was Yupin, who seemed to like him for himself and not just because he had a free bed on offer. She only lived a stone’s throw from the Grace, so she didn’t need a free bed, like so many of the girls who had travelled many miles from the outskirts of Bangkok to ply their trade.

Yupin was a pretty, very slim lady from Ayutthaya, who had seen Toby in the Grace on many occasions before she finally decided to walk over and speak to him. Dressed in his ‘day’ clothes of white shirt and black trousers, she immediately guessed that he was a teacher, and gave him the nick-name ‘teacher’ from thereon. Toby was overjoyed to have finally found a woman who seemed to like him for himself and they soon struck up what he considered to be a serious, romantic relationship.

But there was a problem; Yupin was a ‘working girl’ and she received very little in the way of financial support from Toby. He would give her the occasional hundred Baht, whenever his meagre earnings permitted, but this was nowhere near enough to pay for her upkeep and – more importantly –for her daughter and family back in Ayutthaya. She was very fond of Toby – her ‘teacher’ – but her underlying feelings were ones of empathy rather than anything approaching love. The truth was, she didn’t love him – she just felt very sorry for him.

Not wishing to hurt Toby any more than was necessary, she would disappear for days at a time with stories about having to go back to her home or to go away with a friend or cousin, and Toby would be left to his own devices for days on end, wondering when she would be coming back. Deep down, he suspected what she was up to but he just couldn’t come to terms with it, and found it easier to believe Yupin’s ever more outlandish excuses for her frequent disappearances.

He should have realised what was really going on one day, when after she had been gone yet again for several days, he decided to go round to her home and see if her neighbours knew of her whereabouts. To his complete surprise, not only did he find Yupin at home, but he found that all her family were there as well, having just returned from a shopping spree, and were awash with presents from the local department stores. He knew that Yupin didn’t have the money to buy such gifts and tried to ask her what was going on, but she refused to answer and glared at him in anger.

‘Teacher! What you doing here? Why you come here? I not tell you to come. I tell you before – I come see you when I have time… Go home! I busy with family. I come see you soon – now go!’ she shouted at him.

Toby was obliged to make his sad and lonely way back to his wretched room, wondering how Yupin had found the money to pay for all those presents, and not liking the likely answers. So the ‘on-off’ relationship continued to teeter on the brink and every time he thought that Yupin had disappeared for good, she would unexpectedly appear at his room one evening to spend a few pleasant nights with him, before taking off, yet again.

The final crunch came when Toby’s school closed down for the long, summer break, and his main source of income dried up. To make matters worse, there were no guarantees that he would even be hired back again when the new term started – assuming that he could survive the next two months without any teaching income. His precarious financial situation became so desperate that he finally came to the conclusion that it was time to leave Thailand – go back to England – and start all over. But that was easier said than done, as not only did he lack sufficient funds to pay for a ticket home, but he had also overstayed his visa – by many months, and he had no idea how he could solve that problem, without ending up in Bangkok’s notorious immigration jail.

His friend, Rob, had told him that his visa problem could be fixed by buying an air ticket out of Thailand, and then by bribing immigration to deal with his overstay on the day of his departure; but he had no money to do either of those things.

 

***

 

He sat on a low wooden bench alongside two other farangs who looked as miserable and worried as he felt. His friend, Khun Suthep, was just along the corridor, in deep conversation with the immigration officer. The discussion seemed to be interminable, and the longer it went on, the more concerned he became. ‘What if Rob has got it all wrong?’ he asked himself. ‘What happens if Suthep can’t do a deal with the immigration cops? What then? Weeks – or even months, rotting in an immigration jail?’

Toby’s friend, Rob, who he had first met three years earlier when he used to come to Bangkok for ‘rest and recuperation’ from his job in Abu Dhabi, had assured him that all he had to do was surrender to the immigration authorities and have Suthep slip the officer a ‘bung’. He would be driven straight to the immigration court, where he would be fined and then released.

‘You have to make sure that your flight is booked for the same day that you go to court; show the police your air ticket and you will be okay. You won’t be put in jail. Trust me, I have done it many times,’ Rob had assured him.

Suthep finally wandered back over to where Toby was sitting.

‘What’s happening? Is everything all right, Suthep?

‘Yes, Toby everything OK, but the immigration man – he want another five hundred Baht. I try bargain with him but he not agree. What you think?’

‘Five hundred Baht – it’s no problem, here – give it to him,’ answered a relieved Toby, as he extracted a bank note from his shirt pocket and pushed it into Suthep’s hand.

Suthep returned to the officer and after a few seconds he beckoned Toby to join them. The three men then walked outside to the waiting immigration truck. Toby and Suthep climbed in the back while the officer got in the front, alongside the driver.

‘Don’ worry Toby – you be back home by three o’clock, Suthep said with a smile.’

 

*

 

Suthep was true to his word, except that Toby didn’t have a home to go back to. He had already packed his meagre belongings and moved out of the primitive room where he had been living, so the two of them took a taxi to the small sub-soi, off Soi Nana, where he had left his stuff in Yupin’s care.

He checked his money. He had enough left for a cab to the airport, pay the departure tax and to buy bus and underground tickets in London to get him to his parents’ place in East London.  After counting his remaining bank notes carefully, he decided that he had enough money left over to buy a few beers for Suthep, Yupin, and her friends to celebrate resolution of his ‘visa’ problem, and to wish him a ‘bon voyage’. They had all been very worried about him when he had left with Suthep that morning, and were overjoyed when he had arrived back a few minutes ago, safe and sound. There was still a couple of hours to kill before he had to go to the airport and he was going to make the best of them.

The little group sat down on makeshift seats outside Yupin’s very basic, wooden hut and the ice-cold Singha beer flowed. Toby smiled for the first time in days. He was excruciatingly thin, and looked like he hadn’t had a decent meal in weeks. He had been so short of funds over the past few months that he had often been obliged to survive on a single, five baht dish of rice a day and the effects on his already skinny frame had been alarming. ‘God only knows where I would be today if good old Roger hadn’t stumped up the money for my airfare,’ he thought to himself.’  

He sipped his beer, desperately needing to feel a little high; but not too drunk to risk missing his flight. He turned to Suthep and handed him a twenty Baht note. ‘Suthep, can you get me a band of Mehkong whisky please? Toby knew that if he drank the band – half a bottle – of the Thai whiskey, and chased it down with a couple of large bottles of Singha beer, he would start to feel pretty good again. He knew this, because he had been doing it on a regular basis for quite a while now – whenever his meagre finances permitted.

He dreaded going back to England – back to his family, broke, jobless and with nothing to show for the past eight years or so of his life, except a propensity for alcohol. It really is going to be a classic case of ‘the prodigal son’. He dreaded what his father would say to him, and tried not to think about it. It had been a very hard decision – to go back home and make a fresh start – but in the end, he knew it was the only way out of the mess he had landed himself in.

Once having decided on a course of action, he had to solve the problem of his long expired visa and the lack of funds to buy an air ticket. So he wrote to a few of his old work mates around the world, and he didn’t know what he would have done if good old Roger hadn’t sent him a cheque by return – the only one to respond to his pleas for help.

Only a year or so ago, his career had been showing such promise, he mused. He had been the youngest ever Chief Financial Officer in Santa Cruz when he landed the job in Abu Dhabi, and he knew he had done pretty well there. Then there was the disaster of Indonesia, and his subsequent resignation; he had been lucky to get out of that with his reputation more or less intact. In spite of all that had happened, he had still arrived in Bangkok with high hopes of doing something worthwhile with his little pot of bonus money. But it hadn’t worked out that way – no, not at all.

And now he was on his way back to England – back to his parents’ home with his tail between his legs.

‘I wonder what my fucking father is going to say?’ he pondered yet again, unable to keep the question out of his mind. ‘Well, I reckon I have a bloody good idea. And I wonder how long will I have to stay there before I get myself sorted out? How many months – or years – will it be before I can return to Thailand, and see Yupin again? But even more to the point; how long will it take to find a job – and where the hell will I work?’