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Authors: Angela Savage

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‘As soon as we get back to the station, you’re to write
up what I’ve told you,’ he’d said as they waited for back-up to arrive. ‘It’s imperative we get it down quickly.’

Komet complied, writing what he was told happened while he was searching the garden. Ratratarn said when he’d questioned the foreigner further the suspect admitted to being in the Man Date bar with the victim and confirmed they’d argued. When Ratratarn probed him as to the cause of the argument, the suspect became agitated and aggressive. Pointing to the photograph of the victim, he shouted that Khun Sanga was a bad person.
Chua meuan mah
was the exact phrase he’d used.

The lieutenant colonel asked the suspect if Khun Sanga was ‘as bad as a dog’, did he deserve to die like one. The foreigner replied in the affirmative. The lieutenant colonel then suggested that the suspect had killed Khun Sanga.

The suspect responded by rushing at Lieutenant Colonel Ratratarn with raised fists. Caught unawares, the lieutenant colonel, though unhurt, was thrown off balance. By the time he righted himself, the suspect had run out the front door, clearly intending to avoid capture.

Ratratarn said he called out for the man to stop as he was under arrest. When that failed to have an impact—by which point, the suspect had reached the top of the stairs— the lieutenant colonel fired a warning shot into the air. The suspect failed to stop and, as a last resort, Lieutenant Colonel Ratratarn fired his pistol again, aiming to wound him in the leg. The foreigner stumbled on the stairs, however, and the shot caught him in the back. He was dead by the time Officer Komet, on hearing gunfire, rushed from the garden to the front of the house.

Komet dutifully recorded this account of the events. His commander checked the draft and added a paragraph at the end.

‘It’s important we include all facts,’ Ratratarn said, handing the document back. ‘Since the case involves the death of a farang, we must anticipate some kind of inquiry. It’s a regrettable business, but since there were only two of us present, here’s hoping they’ll get through it quickly.’

Komet returned to his desk and read Ratratarn’s amended conclusion: ‘Later asked by journalists at the scene whether he thought the suspect had committed the murder, Lieutenant Colonel Ratratarn replied there was no doubt as to the foreigner’s guilt. “An innocent man would have done everything in his power to defend his innocence,” he said. He added that he regretted that the suspect’s death would not enable him to be brought to justice through the correct channels.’

Komet typed up the changes, unable to shake the feeling that the lieutenant colonel didn’t regret the foreigner’s death nearly so much as he regretted the prospect of an inquiry.

It was almost lunchtime when he submitted the finished report and stumbled home. With barely enough energy to greet his anxious wife, Komet fell into bed.

He woke several hours later to the sound of the television. Arunee was sitting on the end of the bed, eyes glued to the screen. Komet reached for the remote and turned up the volume to hear the news presenter on Channel 4.

‘A Scientific Crime Detection Division representative has confirmed that a cut-throat razor found by police at the home of Canadian murder suspect Khun Didier de Montpasse bore traces of blood matching the type of murder victim, local boy Khun Sanga Siamprakorn. Police say they found the murder weapon wrapped in a plastic bag behind a water trough in the foreigner’s backyard.’

‘But that’s not—’ Komet began.

‘Hush,’ his wife stopped him. ‘I want to hear this.’

At the next ad break, Komet staggered outside to the toilet, directing a stream of urine into the hole in the floor. He flushed with a scoop of water from the adjacent tub and poured a second ladleful over his head. Rubbing his face, he tossed the dipper back, watching it bob on the surface.

He could have sworn he’d checked the area behind the water trough at the foreigner’s house. Not only that: though Ratratarn said he’d fired twice and forensics found two spent cartridges at the scene, Komet remembered hearing only one gunshot.

In hotel lobbies throughout Chiang Mai it was not unusual to see receptionists, bellboys, waiters and cleaners comatose in front of television soap operas and quiz shows, but it surprised Jayne to see the staff at the Silver Star transfixed by the local news. Glancing at the screen, she saw with a pang that it was an item about Nou and Didier. She removed her sunglasses.

‘Police say they found the murder weapon wrapped in a plastic bag behind a water trough in the foreigner’s backyard,’ a silver-haired anchorman in a brown suit said.

The scene cut to a press conference at Police Bureau 5. A taut, hard-faced man in a skin-tight uniform, red braid coiled around one arm and fastened under an epaulet with a patchwork of coloured medals on his breast pocket, was surrounded by microphones. A caption identified him as Police Lieutenant Colonel Ratratarn Rattakul in charge of the murder investigation. Jayne listened as he droned on about the results of forensic tests, before an off-screen journalist asked if the foreign suspect had committed the murder.

‘All the evidence points in that direction,’ Ratratarn said.

‘Have the police located any eyewitnesses?’ another asked.

‘Interviews are still under way.’

‘You’ve said you regret accidentally killing the suspect. Is this because there’s some doubt in your mind regarding the foreigner’s guilt?’

Jayne stared at the man responsible for Didier’s death. When Ratratarn looked into the camera, it seemed as if he were staring right back at her.

‘There is no doubt in my mind as to the foreigner’s guilt,’ he said in a tone that defied anyone to question his judgment. ‘I regret only that the opportunity has been lost to punish the offender with the full force of the law.’

‘And in news just through,’ the anchorman said, ‘sources reveal that murder suspect, Didier de Montpasse, previously faced assault charges in his home town of Sainte Romauld in the Canadian province of Quebec. Police say the foreigner’s history of violent crime is significant.’

‘What the fuck—?’ Jayne swore out loud, attracting anxious looks from the hotel staff. She mumbled an apology and retrieved her key.

Back in her room, she took a couple of painkillers, and lit a cigarette. There was a desk against one wall with a large mirror over it and she sat down and stared at her reflection. Her eyes were puffy and glazed, and her face was drained of colour. Her skin was chafed from using toilet paper to blow her nose, and her lips seemed swollen, as if bruised by kisses.

The man she had kissed the previous evening—her best friend, whom she loved—was the same person they were talking about on the news. The idea that Didier could commit a criminal act of violence was so at odds with his character, she was convinced there must be some mistake.

She picked up the phone, placed a call to Bangkok and had just lit a second cigarette when the connection came through.

‘Your call to Bangkok, Ma’am,’ the operator said. ‘Go ahead, please.’

‘Hello?’

‘Jayne, is that you? Where are you?’

‘Max!’ She paused to swallow the lump that rose in her throat at the sound of her friend’s voice. ‘I’m in Chiang Mai.’

‘Oh, God! So you know about—’

‘Yes, I know about Didier. I…I was with him last night, just before…’

‘Oh, Jayne, I’m so sorry,’ Max said, his own voice shaking.

‘Hang on.’ She put down the receiver, wiped her nose, took a deep breath and picked it up again.

‘Last night, we went to this bar—it was part of Didier’s work—and Nou turned up. They had an argument because Nou’s been gambling again, working the beat to pay off his debts. It got pretty heated, but things seemed to have calmed down by the time I left.’

‘Have you—?’ Max hesitated. ‘The news reports mentioned eyewitnesses to the argument. Has anyone talked with you?’

Jayne frowned. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Have the police interviewed you?’

‘Not yet,’ she said, her mind ticking over. ‘Shit! I should have thought of that.’

‘Hang on a minute. I didn’t mean to imply you should talk to the police. On the contrary, I think it’s best if you get back here as soon as you can and—’

‘But I can explain it,’ she said quickly. ‘I mean, you and I both know there’s no way Didier could’ve killed Nou.’

It took so long for Max to reply that Jayne thought they’d lost the connection.

‘Do we really know that?’ he said finally. ‘I mean, there is the matter of what happened in Canada.’

Jayne felt her face flush. ‘The assault charges,’ she said. ‘I saw it on the news. But that’s got to be bullshit! I can’t believe that.’

‘Oh, Jayne, I didn’t want to be the one to tell you this but it’s true. Didier beat up a man, beat him senseless. The charges were dropped, but that doesn’t change what happened.’

‘But Didier would never—’

‘Broken nose, lacerations to the face and arms, three broken ribs, severe concussion—’

‘What the hell are you doing?’ she snapped. ‘Reading from the guy’s bloody medical report?’

‘Well, yes.’

Jayne flushed again. As second secretary to the Australian Embassy, Max would have access to such a document.

‘But it must have been an accident or…or an act of self-defence. I mean, we don’t know anything about the circumstances, do we?’

‘The victim was sixty years old,’ Max said. ‘There was no evidence that a struggle took place. Nor was there any prior history of violence in the relationship between the victim and his assailant.’

‘But—’

‘The victim’s name was Jean-Clément de Montpasse. He was Didier’s father.’

‘Oh shit!’

‘I’m sorry, Jayne,’ Max said. ‘Believe me, I’m as shocked as you are. I mean, you think you know a person well…but sometimes you have to admit you didn’t know them nearly as well as you thought.’

‘But you can’t honestly believe Didier killed Nou!’ Her voice was barely audible above the static on the line.

‘I’m not saying that,’ Max said carefully. ‘All I’m saying is there’s evidence to suggest he was capable of killing Nou. The bottom line is it doesn’t look good.’

‘No,’ she whispered, ‘I guess it doesn’t.’

‘The Canadian Embassy will be organising an official inquiry. Forget going to the police. Just come back to Bangkok as soon as you can.’

She said she’d call him back when she had her travel details and replaced the receiver in its cradle. Her cigarette had burnt itself out, leaving behind a perfect cylinder of ash.

Jayne stared at the remains in the ashtray. With each new development the evidence against Didier was mounting. She’d witnessed the argument between him and Nou, and saw that Didier was unusually angry. There was also the matter of the murder weapon. Jayne had seen Didier use a cut-throat razor, and had accused him of being pretentious when he said it was the only way to get a really close shave.

But what really shocked her was the assault. Even though Didier hadn’t been in Canada since the late seventies, it proved he was capable of violence. And there was a link between Nou’s death and the assault on his father: in both cases the violence was directed at men close to him.

Jayne looked in the mirror. She was a private investigator! Could she have been so wrong about him?

M
ax supposed he only had himself to blame for bringing them together. Although Jayne was his friend first, once she met Didier, Max knew he’d been passed over. He long suspected her of having fallen in love with Didier, though Jayne scoffed at the idea.

‘Really, Max!’ she had said. ‘There’s nothing more pathetic than a straight woman pining for a gay man.’

Whatever the case, there was no mistaking Jayne’s deep affection for Didier nor, for that matter, his for her.

Max had met Didier in his capacity as the international liaison officer at Chiang Mai University, and found him likeable, if serious. As for Jayne, he’d responded to her ad and hired her to spy on his boyfriend.

‘You did what?’ Didier said when Max told him.

‘I hired a private detective. I knew Boun was up to something. And within forty-eight hours, I had evidence that the little prick was seeing the secretary to the defence attaché on the sly—a photo of them at the Sphinx bar with their hands so far down each other’s pants you’d think they were examining each other for prostate cancer.’

Didier was intrigued and during his next visit to Bangkok, Max invited both him and Jayne to one of his soirées, a premier networking event. A plush apartment in Bangkok’s embassy district was one of the perks of diplomatic life, and the monthly soirées took place in what Max referred to as his salon, a room modelled on the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, boasting marble floors, dark wood panelling, cane furniture and slow ceiling fans. Authentic Singapore slings were served from five o’clock. The night Jayne and Didier met there were around twenty people there, but Max couldn’t recall either of them speaking to anyone but each other.

He watched them exchange business cards on arrival, a ritual greeting throughout southeast Asia.

‘“Discreet Private Investigator, speaks English, French and Thai,”’ Didier read aloud from Jayne’s card. ‘I’ve never met an Australian francophone before. “Experienced in both private and criminal investigations.” What sort of criminal investigations?’

‘Oh, petty theft, fraud, missing persons—that kind of thing.’

‘She’s too modest to tell you,’ Max had interrupted, ‘but one of those missing persons was murdered. And in the process of uncovering that information, Jayne busted a wildlife smuggling racket.’

‘I’m putting Max on the payroll as my PR agent.’ She smiled at him with exaggerated sweetness, then glanced at Didier’s card. ‘And you’re an academic researcher based in Chiang Mai. You’d have your work cut out for you.’

‘Yes—’

‘He also does outreach work in the clubs and bars,’ Max piped up again, ‘and uses his own money to pay for the condoms he distributes.’

‘An academic with a conscience,’ she said, smiling at Didier. ‘They must be as rare as Australian francophones.’

Max left them at that point to attend to other guests— the German ambassador’s wife needed distracting, lest she complain again about her Thai domestic staff—and it was an hour before he had the chance to check in on their conversation.

BOOK: Behind the Night Bazaar
10.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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