Tears of the Princess
By Melodie Thomas
Edited by Holly Hart
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Lin and I arrived at the hospital about an hour after Charlie was taken from the hotel to find that he was still in surgery. We found Maria in the surgical waiting room, sitting on the end of a sofa, with her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs, just staring at the floor, not making a sound. When Lin sat next to her and pulled Maria into her arms, I watch the five four tower of strength collapse and a scared little girl emerge. Her sobs were loud enough to draw the attention of a couple of nurses, but she had held it long enough, the pain needed out.
We waited another hour to hour and a half before the doctor showed up and told us Charlie was out of surgery and in recovery. According to the Doctor, Charlie had a punctured lung, some shattered ribs and had lost a lot of blood. However, barring any complications or infections, should recover fine. His right lung was the only thing concerning the doctors at that time, as not only did he have two bullet holes, but a lot of bone fragments had needed to be cleaned out, which was the cause of the extended surgery.
With some effort, we convinced Maria to let Lin take her back to the hotel to shower and get clean clothes while I took care of Charlie’s hospital admissions and billings. Maria made it very clear that I needed to make sure he got a room she could stay in, and that was not a debatable topic. Since I had already seen her determination in action, I did not argue.
Charlie did not wake up until the next day, and Maria was constantly at his side. Lin told me that Maria had finished over three quarters of a nursing program before she had to quit and find work to support her family. Maria had spent a fair amount of time working with the paramedics in her hometown, which explained much of what I saw that Saturday afternoon. Maria had become quick friends with the nurses in charge of Charlie, and took over many of their duties in caring for Charlie. I found my thinking changing from hoping Charlie knew what he was doing, to hoping Charlie was worthy of her.
The Cambodian embassy started gathering up their people and preparing to send them home, since our operation at the hotel was over. Sunan maintained his focus on working with the victims and helping them wherever needed. To some extent, this became one of the more difficult times, as about half the victims wanted to change back to their male selves before going home, a quarter did not want to change back and the remainder were not sure what they wanted. Between the Malaysian police and the Cambodian embassy, small armies of counselors were provided to assist those that needed someone to talk to.
Sunan came to the hospital every day to see Charlie, and by Wednesday their level of banter had started to increase to somewhere near normal, which was a good sign that Charlie was on the road to recovery. Charlie’s status could also be seen in Maria’s behavior, as there was more bounce in her step, and nearly a constant smile on her face. Sunan always brought a guest with him during his visits, the same Cambodian victim that was with him the day of the shooting. It appeared this was one of the victims that wanted to stay feminine, as she was still wearing the clothes and makeup as well as styled hair. Sunan introduced her to us as Rachana, but offered no further explanation.
Robert Brajovik was on life support and, according to the doctors, brain dead for all practical purposes. Not only did he end up with a broken back, which was being blamed for the lower extremity paralysis, but they also found a large swelling on his neck, at the base of his skull. The doctors are speculating that damage to his neck caused nerve damage that caused respiratory failure and resulting brain damage. Though he was alive, the doctors are not giving him much hope of recovery.
Abdullah’s team all but dismantled Brajovik’s boat, looking for any clue that would tell us where he had been, or where his wife, Anya, was at the moment. The boat was surprisingly clean and yielded very little information for us to go on. The navigation system had been erased and shut off so all waypoints and navigation tracks were gone. We were able to develop a couple of theories, based on what we found on the boat. There was no evidence that the boat had been fuelled recently and the tanks were still sixty percent full. Also, there were no supplies or refuse on the boat to indicate an overnight trip, or extended time at sea. We started to believe that, where ever Brajovik came from that day, he’d made the trip in a single run that consumed forty percent of his fuel. If we could figure out the fuel consumption of the boat, we should be able to create a search area. We were reaching, but we had nothing else to go on.
Yunram suffered a single, small caliber gunshot wound to the abdomen. Though not trivial, the doctors did not believe it was life threatening, but still would not let us talk to him for a few days. Finally, on Thursday, we got permission to pay the good Major a visit.
After breakfast on Thursday, Lin and I were visiting with Charlie and Maria in Charlie’s hospital room. Though very stiff and sore, Charlie was able to sit up in bed fairly comfortably. The doctor had already told him, if he was living anywhere but in a hotel room, they would have released him from the hospital, as long as he had Maria with him. However, they thought it best to keep him for a couple of more days because getting to food and bathrooms may still be a bit of a challenge for him.
“Have you two given any thought on when and where you are getting married?” Lin asked, and then translated to Tagalog, as was her normal habit.
Maria smiled, “Please, Ate Lin, I need practice my English.” She then let the smile fade a bit as she looked at her hands, “we have talked about, but don’t know how. We want both families to join, but very difficult.”
“Yeah,” Charlie added, “I have a big family and Maria has a big family. There is no way to get them all together.”
“Why not have two ceremonies?” I asked. Both of them gave me a blank look. “Have one ceremony in the Philippines, but have Charlie’s parents attend. That way they can meet Maria’s family. Then have another ceremony in the U.S. with all of Charlie’s family, but invite Maria’s parents to attend so they can meet Charlie’s family.”
Charlie and Maria looked at each other and started talking about if that would work, and could they get visa’s, and all the things there would be to do, but I saw a level of excitement in their eyes.
“All I can say, Charlie, is you better not drag your feet. Don’t let this girl get away.” I said with a smile.
Maria blushed, “No worry, Kuya Dan, I not leave my Charlie.”
There was a knock at on the door as it opened and Abdullah entered the room. Everyone except Charlie, stood to greet Abdullah and we all chatted for a minute about Charlie’s condition.
“Dan,” Abdullah said after a few minutes of chatting with Charlie, “the doctors say we can start having visits with our good friend the Major. Would you care to join me?”
“I would love to.” I said standing.
Lin quickly stood and grabbed my hand, “You keep it under control, please. I don’t care about him, but I know you.”
I kissed her lightly, “I will, but he is going to talk to me.” I gave her hand a squeeze and followed Abdullah out the door.
We took the elevator down two floors to what was called the prison ward. It really wasn’t, but there were a group of smaller rooms, with no windows and lockable doors that were used quite often by the police when a prisoner needed medical attention. As such, it picked up the nickname of the prison ward. As we approached Yunram’s room, I could see two guards wearing combat uniforms, each armed with automatic machine pistols. Both stood to attention as Abdullah and I approached.
“Any issues?” Abdullah asked the guards as we reached the door.
“No, Sir,” one of the guards answered as the other unlocked the door.
The room was very small with a single hospital bed, a mobile table beside it and a toilet/sink area that was blocked only with a movable curtain. Major Yunram was lying in the bed, with the back raised to a sitting position. He had long chain cuffs attaching both hands and both feet to the bed. The chains were long enough to allow some movement, but he could not get out of the bed on his own.
Since the capture of Brajovik, and the arrest of Yunram, neither Abdullah nor I had spoken with the Thailand government officials. I had received many calls from Minister Chanweerakul, none of which I answered. The cell phone that we took from Yunram was ringing constantly, and Abdullah just had officers recording the caller id numbers, but not answering the calls. Minister Chanweerakul started placing calls to his counterparts in the Malaysian government; however Abdullah had already briefed everyone on the situation, so the politics of diplomacy were being played out at levels well above us. We found out on Wednesday that Minister Chanweerakul, Commissioner Buramuk of the Royal Thai Police, and Commander Chaiket of the Central Investigation Bureau, had been invited to come to Malaysia for a personal update on the situation. They were to arrive on Friday.
“Hello, Kasem,” Abdullah greeted Yunram as we entered the room, “the doctors tell me you are feeling well enough to visit with us. I hope that is true.”
Yunram looked down at his hands and nodded slowly. “If I cooperate with you, can you help me?” he asked softly.
Abdullah leaned against the wall and smiled. “Kasem, understand that if the courts take pity on you, you will spend what is left of your life in one of our fine prisons. If they don’t take pity on you, your life will end at the end of a short piece of rope. Though I do not want to give it to you, I will offer you some hope. The level of cooperation I get from you will define what I tell the courts, and my recommendation of what your punishment should be. Also, understand that I will get your cooperation even if it means your life comes to a violent end in one of my interrogation rooms. Do you understand?”
Yunram nodded again without speaking, but I could see his hands shaking. My suspicions were that Yunram was not going to be hard to break. He was a bully and fit the behavior of the classic bully. All of his bravado was the result of being able to attack defenseless people, but reverse the roles and he would snap like a twig.
“How did you get involved in this?” Abdullah asked.
“Chaiket offered me a chance to make some big money. He had been working with the Brajoviks and the General for some time.”
“Who is the general?” I asked, speaking for the first time.
Yunram lifted his eyes to look at me, like he wanted to say something, but changed his mind, returning his eyes to his hands. “I don’t know his real name; he is part of your CIA. He gave us the name that you got as a code phrase. He said if anyone ever came asking about him, we were to give that name. He said it would alert him that someone was looking for him.”
“Does Chaiket know who he is?” Abdullah asked.
“I think so, but I don’t know if he does or not.”
“What is Minister Chanweerakul’s role in all this?” I asked with a glance at Abdullah.
Yunram shook his head, “He knows nothing about this, only what we want him to know. Chaiket is the direct contact with the Brajoviks and the General.”
“Where is Anya?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” was all Yunram offered.
Abdullah walked up beside Yunram and quickly grabbed a fist full of his hair, jerking his head back he was looking up, Yunram started shaking worse. “Kasem, I will get my answers out of you, one way or the other. Now, where is Anya?”
“I don’t know,” Yunram whimpered, “I really don’t know. We think they have an island near here, but we don’t know where.” Yunram turned his eyes toward me, almost pleading, “That is why I ran to the boat, I wanted to get his navigation data to find the island, but it was erased.”
“So you knew Anya was not coming with Robert?” I asked.
Yunram tried to nod but his head was still being held by Abdullah, “Yes, I knew, I have been in contact with Robert a number of times over the past month.”
Abdullah let go of his hair, “Explain to me why you were in contact with him and why you did not warn him of our trap?”
Yunram was shaking badly now, “I…I was in contact with him to make sure he came to the sale. Since McNeil…” he glanced up at me, “…asked if anyone knew the General, there was a fear that the Brajoviks have become too sloppy. Letting some of the people go free had led him right to us.”
“I don’t understand,” Abdullah started while stepping away from the bed, “why did you want them to come to the sale?”
“I was ordered to kill them both,” Yunram whimpered.
“Why at the sale?” I asked.
Something here was not making sense to me. Leading the Brajoviks right into our hands in an attempt to kill them was sloppy, very sloppy, and not something Smith would have done. Why take the risk that the assassination would fail?
“You were not listening, McNeil,” Yunram said looking at me with a smirk, “we don’t know where they are, so the only way to find them was to lead them to somewhere we knew, and then kill them.”
Abdullah was looking at me and picked up on where I was going with the question, “Who ordered you to kill the Brajoviks?”
“Chaiket said we needed to silence them before they exposed all of us.”
I walked up to the bed and leaned over, staring directly into Yunram’s eyes, “Did the General order you to kill the Brajoviks, or did he know you were going to kill them?”
Yunram just stared at me with a slight smirk on his face, I swatted quickly at the bandages on his stomach, not making contact but causing him to flinch, “I asked nicely, I ask again and I will make that hole bigger and start pulling pieces out of you.”
Yunram rather smiled at me, “You are bluffing. I know you don’t have the guts to do that.”
I pulled away from him quickly, while bringing my right fist in an uppercut swing, connecting solidly with his left rib cage. The impact caused him to jerk away from me with a gasp. His natural body reaction was to clench his stomach muscles, which sent a shot of pain through him as the stitches were stressed. I grabbed him by the throat with my left hand and forced him back flat on the bed.
“Dan?” I heard the cautionary warning in Abdullah’s voice.
“Now, I ask you again, did the General know about your plan?” I growled at Yunram while applying pressure to his throat.
Yunram was gasping as waves of pain racked through his body, “No…we did not…tell him… that you had…found…the hotel. Chaiket said…we could…take over…the Brajovik’s operation…and show…the General we could do it…without…the Brajoviks.”
I stepped back from Yunram, thinking about what I had just heard. That was why everything worked so easily, Smith was not involved, but that brought up a whole new set of problems. I could see the bandages on Yunram’s stomach starting to show blood seepage as he continued to groan. I saw Abdullah looking at me with a troubled look in his eye. I nodded towards the door and he followed me out of the room.
We walked to the elevator and rode to the first floor, and entered the cafeteria without speaking a word. We both purchased a drink and selected a table near the corner.
“Was that necessary, my friend?” Abdullah finally asked the question that was on his mind after we took our seats.
I thought for a moment, “Probably not, Abdullah, but I am sure I got the truth from him afterwards. I am also sure I will regret that action later when I look myself in the mirror, but right now I have other concerns.”
Abdullah nodded, “Okay, let’s talk about those concerns.”
“The man that I knew as Mr. Smith is a professional field operator, super spy kind of guy. There is no way he would have let something this sloppy have happened had he known about it.”
“Meaning,” Abdullah interrupted, “you think the Thailand people are operating on their own?”
“Yes, that is just want I mean. If someone were to tell me that Smith wanted the Brajoviks killed, I would not be surprised. I think he would sacrifice his own mother if it fit his needs. However, the people carrying out the task would have been professionals, would not have missed, and would not have left a trail for us to follow. There is no way he would have sent a single fuck up, like Yunram, to do the job, let alone, allowing the Brajoviks to fall into our hands.”
“Okay, so you believe Yunram. I don’t see your point?”
I took a sip of my drink while I thought about how to word what was on my mind. “Robert Brajovik left his wife somewhere to come to the sale. He did not bring extra clothes or even a toiletry bag.”
“Now that he has failed to return, his wife is probably wondering where he is. Why has she not tried to call his cell phone? Maybe, afraid of giving away the one thing that is their most precious secret, where they are.” Abdullah answered his own question.
“Now, put yourself in her shoes for a moment. Your husband has failed to return. Maybe you have people here that you can call and either they know we have him, or at least know his boat is still here and impounded by the police. You are all alone, what do you do, who do you call?”
I could see the sparkle in Abdullah’s eyes as he started following my thinking, “I call the one guy that has probably given me the most money and support. The guy with the knowledge and resources to deal with the situation, your Mr. Smith.”
I nodded, “Between Anya and the fact that I sent the information on Robert’s capture to the newspaper reporter that I have been working with, I think it is a safe bet to say that Mr. Smith knows we have Robert, even if he did not know about the whole thing up till now.
“Now, Abdullah, I want to pose a different question to you. Put yourself in the mind of a professional spy. Someone who is very familiar with the black ops world, someone that believes collateral damage is a key part of acceptable losses. Someone who is willing to sacrifice their own team if it meets the goals of the objective.”
“Someone who is willing to burn an asset if it means saving the operation.” Abdullah interrupted.
“Exactly, what would you do now?” I asked.
Abdullah thought for a moment, “I would pull in what resources I could save, and cut the ties with the rest.”
“Or, silence the ones I could not pull in, or any other source that could lead directly to me. I would make sure Robert, Anya and their entire operation was closed down for good. Acceptable losses, but still protect the overall operation.”
“What about you and your family?” Abdullah asked.
“There is always a risk, but I don’t think so. When he came after me in Baltimore, he thought it was just me stirring up trouble with the press. Silence me and the story goes away. He did not know what was going on over here. Now that he does, he would realize that hitting me would do nothing to stop the activity, too many people involved.
“Coming after me now would be a vendetta, and a vendetta is against his discipline, would cause too much risk of exposure. No, I don’t think he gives a shit about me now; he wants to cut all the external ties to him. He is going after Robert and Anya, maybe even Yunram and Chaiket.”
“Okay, so what do you think we should do?”
I thought for a few minutes, “This may sound strange to you, Abdullah, but I would do a detailed background check on every female working in this hospital or on your staff, especially those that have been with you a short time, maybe less than a month. I would immediately mandate that only male medical personal be allowed anywhere near either Brajovik or Yunram. I would also mandate that only male security guards are allowed around either of them. After that, we need to find that damn island.”
Abdullah made a call back to his office and set up a meeting that afternoon with his analysts and investigators. We needed a plan developed to find Anya’s island. Abdullah also put into motion the reassignment of the male and female staff at the hospital, which cause a fairly significant uproar, specifically when one of his commanders at the hospital naturally presumed that since Maria and Lin were both female, they should not be allowed around Charlie. The commander lived through that little error, but barely.
We met with a group of his analysts who had completed the fuel consumption estimates on Brajovik’s boat. The fuel consumption estimates were laid out on a nautical chart that showed the maximum range, assuming he did not refuel, that he could have traveled that day to reach the pier. My heart sank as soon as I looked at the arc that was drawn on the map; it covered most of the east coast of Indonesia.
“Well, that didn’t do us much good.” I complained as I slumped back in my chair.
“Maybe not, but we are not done yet.” Abdullah answered still looking at the chart. “We have two critical clues we need to consider. First, Kasem is pretty sure it is an island, and if you look at the chart, there are not many islands along the coast of Indonesia. Second, Brajovik’s yacht is registered in Malaysia, which would be required if he spend most of his time in Malaysian waters.”
I leaned forward again to where I could read the chart, “So, what are you thinking?”
Abdullah though for a moment, studying the chart, “There are two groups of Malaysian islands within his travel estimates, one north of Kuala Lumpur near the mouth of the Perak river, and the other south near Melaka. Both are clusters of small islands, some inhabited, some not. I think we need to look at those.”
We spent the next couple of hours putting together plans to reconnoiter both groups of islands. We had to work on the assumption that Anya knew we were looking for her, so our reconnaissance trips needed to be well disguised so as not to tip her off further. We also needed to work on the assumption that Smith was looking for her too, so we needed to not only be quick, but also watch for others doing the same thing we were.
I have always been impressed with Abdullah since our first meeting and my impression continued to improve as I watched him work that afternoon. He was able to take the complicated problem and break it down quickly into sequential activities, using all the resources available to him. Though you could tell he was the man giving the orders, he was always approachable, taking input, suggestions, even criticism from those working for him, but the plans and the activities started taking shape.
Abdullah called his contacts with the Malaysian Air Force and discussed getting aerial surveillance of the islands, but not using military aircraft, what could be done with small civilian aircraft. Plans and agreements were made and the initial flights would start later that afternoon and be completed by the end of the next day.
While the analysts were working on a list of which islands were populated with known settlements, Abdullah was coordinating activities with the Immigration department, setting up flags and alerts for spikes in male visitors, most likely westerners, that would come in as singles and/or doubles, but in a consolidated time block, across multiple points of entry. I was gambling that if Smith was coming this way, he would not use military resources as there were already too many questions being asked about those past usages. I didn’t think he would want to add fuel to that fire.
By the end of the day, dozens of groups had been organized to take fishing trips, bicycle tours, photography tours, beach combing and various other actives around the islands. None would start before tomorrow and would probably take days to completely investigate all of the islands, but at least we were started. The final activity was to warn all of the group leaders that the people we were looking for probably knew we were looking and should be considered armed and dangerous. All of the groups would be carrying concealable handguns, but nothing big enough to deal with an armed compound. All groups received clear orders that if they ran into trouble they were to vacate and communicate.
Sunan had been busy working with the Cambodian victims and, other than his visits with Charlie; I had not seen much of him throughout the week. With Charlie still in the hospital, and Maria glued to his side, Lin and I had dinner alone that night, which was kind of nice. It was the first time in weeks that we had a few hours of just the two of us, and I had forgot how much I enjoyed it. Things had been so busy that I felt guilty for not spending much time with Lin. However, she never mentioned it and was always there. I needed to be careful not to give her the impression that she is not my first priority.
After returning to our room, I took a quick shower and prepared for bed. While Lin was taking her turn in the shower, I checked my email and found an update from Kathy.
Hi Dan & Lin,
Based on the updates I have received from you, I am pretty sure you are busy enough that you have not kept up on the news here in the US. Things are starting to hop here like the frogs at the county fair. The story is starting to be picked up by a number of news outlets and a lot of people are starting to ask a lot of questions. Not going to bore you with all the articles, but here is some of the headlines.
Federal Bureau of Prisons Confirms Assassination of Human Un-named Source in the Pentagon Confirms U.S. Navy SEALS Justice Department Admits Charges filed against Two Congressmen Admit to Being on Special Committee Bosnian National involved in Human Trafficking Scandal
Related to Human Trafficking Case
Protected Government Witness in Albuquerque
Trafficking Suspect in Albuquerque by Transsexual Dental Assistant
Used in Hawaii Terrorist Attack in 2009.
Special Agent Daniel McNeil, but Charges Dropped at the Request of the CIA.
That is Subject to Missing Congressional Record.
Captured in Malaysia and Talking to Authorities.
In a nutshell, a lot of the story that you told me is starting to come out of other sources and there is a lot of back peddling and ass covering going on. One news source out of the Midwest had an interview with Stephanie’s parents and confirmed that you tried to talk to them and they did not believe you, but now think they made a bad judgment.
Federal Bureau of Prisons Confirms Assassination of Human
Un-named Source in the Pentagon Confirms U.S. Navy SEALS
Justice Department Admits Charges filed against
Two Congressmen Admit to Being on Special Committee
Bosnian National involved in Human Trafficking Scandal
It is a good thing you are not here, and I would not advise coming here either. Your name is popping up everywhere and we are being flooded with requests for interviews. We have requests from Larry King, Bill O’Reilly, Good Morning America among many others. I know you hate having your name out in the public, but it is the best way to keep your ass alive. Anything happens to you now, and this powder keg will level Washington.
Take care of yourself and keep me in the loop.
Kathy had talked me into releasing my name right after the capture of Brajovik. She argued that a no name former FBI agent, killed in some mugging would be a two-line blurb on page fifteen, if it made the print at all. However, the death of the person at the center of a full blown scandal would just escalate the scandal. I wasn’t completely convinced, but I was pretty sure Smith had bigger issues to deal with now than me.
We had also agreed to leak the story about Robert Brajovik’s capture, but leave out the part that he was currently a vegetable attached to life support. Kathy just wanted to let the people that knew him think he was just talking his head off, though we would never quote him on anything.
I closed my laptop and set it on the nightstand as Lin came out of the bathroom brushing her long hair.
“Just read an email from Kathy,” I said watching her walk to the bed, “seems there is a lot happening right now.”
“Hmmm,” Lin responded, not even looking at me.
I got the hint that something was bothering her but stayed on the topic of the email. “You want to read it?”
“Maybe later,” she responded, sitting on the edge of the bed with her back to me.
I looked at her back for a moment, “Are you okay, Lin?”
She stopped brushing her hair and just sat there for a moment. Finally, she pulled her leg up on the bed and turned to face me. “I don’t know, Well… maybe, Dan, we have been together for almost three months and sleeping in the same bed for most of that.” She stopped and looked at me for a moment.
“And?” I asked with raised eyebrows.
“Well,… and…shit, why is this so hard to say. Dan, are you ever going to make love to me?”
I looked at her for a heartbeat, “Are you ever going to wear anything to bed besides those heavy cotton pajamas?”
Thirty seconds later, sweat pants and cotton pajamas had been randomly deposited throughout the room. Two hours later, I was on my back staring into the darkness, feeling Lin’s naked body snuggled tight against me and hearing her soft breathing while she slept on my shoulder.
It was really quite difficult to describe what I was thinking at that moment. Something had changed, I felt different. I thought of Stephanie, and there was a momentary feeling of guilt, but it passed quickly, as I just felt this was something she wanted. Thoughts of Lin felt different to me now as well. I would always love and cherish Stephanie’s memory, but there was now an intimacy, closeness between Lin and me that I never shared or experienced with Stephanie. Stephanie would always be part of me, but now Lin was also part of me, just a different part.
Lin shifted her position slightly, and even though I knew she was still asleep, she softly kissed my cheek before settling back to the soft, shallow breathing of sleep. No, Lin was as much a part of me now as Stephanie was, and I could never let either one of them go. I gently wrapped my other arm around Lin and possessively held her tighter to me. I was thinking to myself, ‘I hope she enjoys being here, because this is where she is going to be for the rest of my life.’ I rested my cheek against her forehead and drifted off to a peaceful sleep.
Friday, October 29, 2010
The contingent from Thailand was arriving this morning with a planned meeting in one of the conference rooms at Abdullah’s office. While discussing it with Lin over breakfast, she surprised me by stating that she really did not want to attend that meeting. Her reasoning was she did not care that much for the Thailand officials, and did not think she would add much value to that discussion. However, she did feel she could help Maria with Charlie and spend some time with Sunan and the Cambodian victims, especially the ones that did not want to transition back.
That was the second surprise Lin had delivered to me this morning. The first came when she had exited the bathroom, ready to go to breakfast. She was wearing a light yellow sundress and three inch heels, which most would think as normal. However, I have only ever seen Lin in a dress whenever we had a dinner engagement, never on normal days. There were other things different about her attitude that morning. In my eyes, she has always been beautiful and feminine, but for some reason, that morning it shone through even more.
In the world of political diplomacy, equals need to meet with equals for the appropriate ass kissing before dealing with those of us in the lower echelons. At ten am Friday, Minister Chanweerakul, along with Commissioner Buramuk and Commander Chaiket were scheduled to meet with the Minister of the Interior of Malaysia, Chanweerakul’s counterpart. After that meeting, the Malaysian Minister, who had already been briefed on the entire situation, would deliver his guests to police headquarters where Abdullah and I would be waiting in a pre-arranged conference room.
The Thailand government had been kept intentionally in the dark about everything that had transpired, and I was expecting Minister Chanweerakul’s mood to be pretty sour when we finally did meet. I also expected it would be significantly worse after we met.
At eleven fifteen, word reached Abdullah that the Minister of the Interior had arrived at police headquarters with his three guests from Thailand and were being escorted to the conference room. Just before reaching the conference room, the Malaysian Minister, as was planned, announced he needed to use the restroom and excused himself, while the Thailand dignitaries were escorted to the conference room. However, instead of using the restroom, the Malaysian Minister circled around a different hallway, returned to his car and was taken back to his office. His chores had been completed.
As the door to the conference room opened, Abdullah and I had positioned ourselves at the head of the conference table on the far side of the room from the door. Minister Chanweerakul was the first one through the door and his eyes were focused on me, and he marched, with purpose, across the room towards me, followed closely by his two subordinates. All three men were so focused on Abdullah and me, they failed to notice the two commandos, armed with automatic weapons standing against the wall on each side of the door.
Commander Chaiket, being the lowest ranking member of the Thai contingency, was the last one to enter the room. As soon as he did, the two commandos grabbed him, forced him face first into the wall, kicked his legs out from under him so he landed on his knees, and then proceeded to handcuff him.
Chanweerakul look of pure anger towards me, changed rapidly into surprised shock, as he turned and witnessed what was going on behind him.
“What is the meaning of this?” Chanweerakul bellowed, “I demand an explanation!”
“If you would kindly take a seat, Minister, I will be happy to explain.” Abdullah said calmly.
“I will not take a seat, until you tell me what this outrageous behavior is about!” Chanweerakul all but yelled.
“Very well, Minister. Mr. Chaiket is being placed under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder and as an accomplice to murder.” Abdullah calmly explained.
“That is pure…” Chanweerakul yelled.
“Minister,” Abdullah raised his in voice in interruption, “if you do not sit down, I will charge you with interfering with a police officer!”
To emphasize the point, one of the commandos brought his weapon to his hip, trained on Chanweerakul. I saw the color drain from Chanweerakul’s face as he slowly lowered himself into a chair, with Buramuk doing the same, a couple of chairs away.
“Thank you, Minister,” Abdullah said with a smile, “Mr. McNeil, if you would.”
“Minister,” I said, “I have something here I would like you to see. Once you watch this, I am sure most of your questions will be answered.”
I started the playback of the video taken at the hotel, which started with Yunram walking into the room with Brajovik and Wong. I watched the expression on Chanweerakul’s face turn from confusion and anger to one of horror as the scene played out and understanding started to develop. As the video ended, Chanweerakul just turned his head and started at Chaiket. Chaiket said something in Thai, that sounded pleading, but I had no idea what he said.
“I have one more I would like you to watch, Sir, if you would.” I said as I started the video of Abdullah and my discussion with Yunram yesterday.
When the second video ended, Chanweerakul was just sitting staring down at his hands. Chaiket was saying something to him in Thai, but almost sounded like he was about to cry. Abdullah nodded to the two commandos guarding Chaiket, who grabbed him by the arms and pulled him out of the room, closing the door behind them.
Everyone remained quiet for a few minutes, “What happens now?” Chanweerakul finally asked.
“Three of my men died as a result of the shootout at the hotel, along with two of the Cambodian victims.” Abdullah said softly, “Both Yunram and Chaiket will be questioned and tried for their crimes. However, since Chaiket is here on a diplomatic passport, you could petition and have him released, Minister.”
Chanweerakul raised his head, looking directly at me, “Do you think I had anything to do with this?”
“I would like to hear it from you,” I answered, “but, no, Minister, I don’t. I think you were fooled just like the rest of us.”
Chanweerakul nodded, looking back at his hands, “I wish I could say I was part of it. That would be a lot easier for people to accept than the realization that I am so incompetent that I had no idea this was going on. That two of my top men were involved in such activities and I was ignorantly blind to it. In case you are wondering, this will kill me politically, when the word gets out.”
He was quiet for a few moments, then, “Inspector Abdullah, you may keep both of them. I will just have them shot if I see them again.”
Later that evening Lin called and told me she would meet me in Charlie’s room, since I still needed to make my daily visit. As I entered the room Lin stood and stepped up to me, putting her arms on each side of my head and kissed me. Not a quick pecking kiss, nor a deep passionate kiss, but somewhere in between. The type of kiss that held emotion and love.
“Hi, Baby.” Lin whispered to me after the kiss.
“God, you are beautiful.” I whispered back to her, looking into her eyes.
“You two need to get a room?” I heard Charlie call out from the bed.
“Charlie!” Maria scolded, as everyone laughed.
I had not noticed Sunan and Rachana when I entered the room. They were sitting together on the edge of the other bed, holding hands. Maybe he would tell me about it someday, but for now I think he was just hoping we would accept that he had a friend. I think that was when I realized just how much I had changed over the past couple years. I had no trouble accepting it.
Charlie announced that dinner was going to be on him that night and he had arranged a catered dinner for all of us. Fifteen minutes later six hospital dinner trays were delivered to the room. The banter and ribbing went into overdrive at that point as we all enjoyed the gourmet meal that Charlie reminded us he had to live on, so just shut up and eat it. Everyone had a good time, and it felt good to relax with friends. Even Rachana seemed to have a good time. Even though she could not speak English, it turned out she did speak some Thai, which meant she could get involved through the translations of Sunan and Lin.
With dinner done and the trays collected by the hospital orderly, Lin and I said our good nights and returned to our hotel, where I received Lin’s third surprise of the day. When she came out of the bathroom, she was not wearing her cotton pajamas, but a satin nightgown that did nothing to hide her very feminine figure, nor leave much to my imagination.
“Wow, what happen to the pajamas?” I asked rolling up on one elbow facing her.
“Oh, those got donated to the maids today. I no longer have a need for them,” she said, sliding into bed and facing me.
“Really?” I whispered as I moved toward her lips.
“Real…” as our lips touched.
Sometime later, lying on my back, letting my heart rate settle back down, Lin was snuggled tight against me. I was running my fingers through her long hair that had started out carefully combed, but now felt like a tangled mess.
“That nightgown should last you twenty years, when you only wear it fifteen minutes per day.” I whispered with a smile.
Lin chuckled softly, “I hope you give me the twenty years to see if we can wear it out.”
I reached down and gently lifted her chin so I could see her eyes, “Why would you think I wouldn’t?”
A sadness quickly passed through Lin’s eyes, “I am afraid you will realize that I am not a real woman and change your mind about me.”
I looked at her for a moment then kissed her forehead. “Lin, I love you. There is no way…” and my cell phone rang.
I rolled over and grabbed my phone. The caller ID showed it was Kathy. I hit the speaker button, “Hello Kathy, how are you?”
“Dan, are you sitting down?” she responded.
“Almost. I’m lying down.” I answered with a smile at Lin.
“Even better,” she responded excitedly, “I know who Smith is.”
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