by David Huberman
THE SHEETS of rain were receding and the ocean’s violent waves were weakening. As the powerful storm diminished, compelling rays of moonlight scythed through the fog.
While drawing the window curtain closed, he could see sex workers through his half cloaked view, returning to their favourite spots on Beach Road. They appeared to him as chessmen on a gigantic board. There was nothing like going out after a good downpour on Beach Road in good old Pattaya, Thailand.
‘What wonders would I find? Just call me “weed head Timmy,” or “The Jack of many Trades”.’
‘Time to leave my crypt cave and run down those cracked stairways with not a care in the world. Gimme that floating fog, so that I can celebrate and dance around. Let me scare the Bejesus out of those vermin infested tourists. With a rumble come those curs from Bombay, Shanghai, Moscow, or wherever the hell else. They will flee like the beggars they are.’
With a grifter’s gait he brings in the weight.
‘How are you?’ No answer. He struts to her side. ‘What’s with you hon-ey? Don’t know English, only Thai? Country bumpkin are you?’ He makes a move to pinch the kathoey’s fanny, embracing the enticing gender bender from behind. ‘Ohhh—that’s the way you like it, I see!’ The palming is quite firm.
The streetwalker’s arms shoot out like tentacles, entangling poor Timmy. ‘What the fuck!’ he screams in shock. Through his funny awkward ears he hears a strange echoing voice.
‘Hello sexy man…’
A cry like no other reverberating into his brain. He strains to break the vice grip in which he has been trapped. Struggling and out of breath, his adrenaline soars as he feels something break inside himself. And then he hears it.
A sound—a squishing sound—engulfs him, and he finds himself coldly regarded by a large, piercing eye. He screams in terror as huge moist lips open, revealing long shiny fangs, which bite down like a steel trap into his face. The pain is unbearable. And then Timmy feels no pain at all.
Two Days Later. January.
IT HAS ALWAYS been a delight to be stationed in Pattaya around this time of year, Robert Randall muses as he strides down Beach Road. His shift as a tourist cop was scheduled to begin at 7:00pm. However, early this afternoon, he had received a call from Lieutenant Boonsong of the Royal Thai Police Unit, that he was being summoned.
‘What I really need is a beer. Not one of those piss poor Thai beers, but a real Irish Lager. Yes that would be nice.’ Still, he had better not take any chances with this Mr. Boonsong. Carrying a small valise with his change of uniform and meagre supplies for the day, he had just two more blocks to Pattaya Nine Alley.
Tour boat operators must be making a fortune chartering out their small motorboats, while the boardwalk attendants rent out lounge chairs and hammocks, and sell all manner of food and drink. Tourists are flooding the late afternoon beach like crazy. Dozens of small time hustlers are about, peddling Rolex watches, brand name pocketbooks and leather goods of all types—everything counterfeit! Bloody bastards! Don’t they have any respect? Don’t they know who I am?
Still passing through, many bar girls are on their way to begin their nightly bustle and grind at the beer bars and Go-Go establishments where they earn their livelihoods. Soon a horde of Ladyboys will materialize from out of nowhere to peddle their wares. It all comes with the territory.
But the bar girls like him—always giving him the eye—their gaze firm and direct, probably fawning over his California beach dude looks. Sometimes they call him Jeff Bridges. ‘You Jeff Bridge movie star! You stay at Hotel California?’
‘Ahh—that bullshit actor, he’s a fat dude with a thickset corpulent look now. I’m much better looking than that Hollywood cat…’ He has arrived.
He walks in and approaches the huge wooden desk. A picture of King Vajiralongkorn hangs on the wall. ‘Hey, Sergeant Razzle, how are you?’
Sergeant Razzle glares back at him with contempt in his eyes. ‘It would be nice if once in a while you could address me in my native tongue.’
Surprised, he responds, ‘I would, but truth be known, my language skills are not the best. Thai is a hard dialect to learn. But I can read Thai, and I do understand your speech sometimes. Look, I can’t speak it! I know it doesn’t make sense.’
Sergeant Razzle simply nods and says, ‘What also doesn’t make sense is that the Homicide Squad is here to see you. What did you do? Off a ‘wild’ monkey?’ He rolls his eyes, points downward. ‘They’re waiting for you in the basement—in the records department.’
Mustiness assails his nasal passages as he descends the concrete steps. Damn! A tourist cop usually just assists Thai officers with European foreign nationals who break minor laws, or get too drunk and beat each other up.
He opens the door—all five men in the room are standing. All is silent but for the hum of the air conditioner. He feels as if all communication stopped cold. Five pairs of eyes glare at him.
Finally, a slim, athletic Asian man with artfully coiffed grey hair—apparently in his early fifties—speaks up. ‘Ahh—Mister Randall has arrived. So sorry to take you out of your schedule tour. But I have good reason to have you here with us. I have not had the pleasure of seeing you since the Breski homicide—you found the body on your tour.’
Randall frowns deeply. ‘Oh… pretty horrible what they did to that man, but totally predictable.’ The other officers look stone faced at Randall and don’t say a word.
‘Yes, everyone seemed to know the future of ‘the Breski killing,’ except for him. He died of arrogance—thinking he was someone he was not. An open and shut case—a Mob hit—taking care of one of their own. We never did get the people who did the killing, but no one will miss Mister Breski except, perhaps, his mistress. We have it down as an organized gangland killing.’ He stops, then says something in Thai to one of the other officers, who, waiting for his command, thaws from his frozen state. He then briskly leaves the room. With a little cough, the Thai commander continues.
‘You must be wondering why we have you down here. By now you must have realized that this has nothing to do with the Breski hit. That crime happened six months ago and is way behind us. No... No... I wish these new incidents were as simple as the killing of Mister Breski. Unfortunately, they are not. Have you heard any rumours of late?’
Randall draws a deep breath. ‘There’s been some idle talk about a weird murder on Beach Road near Soi Seven, but nobody seems to have any details.’
A knock on the door, and Mister Boonsong lets the officer back into the foul smelling room. ‘I could show you some highly explicit photos of your associate Timothy Reed.’
‘So, he was the ‘vic’? Timothy was a pain in the ass, but…’ The words escape him as he trails off.
Boonsong carries on. ‘Timothy Reed harassed tourists and Kathoeys. There were many complaints against him. Still he was a minor fool amongst many in Pattaya. But now he’s dead. Very dead. Plus, I’ve had two more corpses like him over the last few weeks. His entire skull was caved in… crushed to death. I’ll be handing you a confidential report containing photos of the deceased. Not very pretty, I must admit. Please read the report and examine the photos. I want to know what you think. Mister Timmy was a friend of yours. Of sorts?’
A few seconds pass before Robert Randall cautiously answers, ‘Sort of like… a fishing acquaintance.’
‘Yes, I see.’ Boonsong replies. ‘This is highly confidential report, Mister Randall. I want it, as you say in English, hush hush. I also hear, you know most of the local characters and Farangs, as well as the beach girls—and even the Ladyboys. That is why I believe we will need your help.’
The five other men in the room stand stoic like immovable statues. Words were still not uttered.
‘There is something else I want you to think about, Mister Randall—if any of these outcasts you see on your rounds have any weird or rare animals?’
‘Oh, you mean like Mister Luna with his pet crocodile...’ Randall smiles.
Boonsong answers, ‘And the little old lady from Bonn, Germany, with her Nazi panther. Imagine. Tattooing a baby panther with a Nazi symbol!’ Even the five stoic statues smile at that.
Randall continues. ‘The Thai government fined her a big sum of money for her keeping that exotic pet. I hear the creature is inhabiting a prime area in the Bangkok Zoo… But what’s with the exotic pet angle, Lieutenant?’
‘Sergeant Talis, tell Mister Randall of your theory, please?
One of the statues comes to life—a thin brown skinned man with big eyes and big lips. ‘We doubt very highly that a human being is actually doing the murders. We think the killer is a rare animal being directed by a demented human being. Maybe a monkey, or an ape?’
Boonsong interrupts, ‘Sergeant Talis, please show the object we think is evidence left by the killer or killers.’
Mister Talis retreats to the back of the room, and returns from the cavernous shelves with a plastic bag. Using a metal prong he whips out a bikini bottom. It seemed, at first, to be made out of beads—utterly translucent—but when Randall examines it more closely it looks almost alive, like the skin of a sea animal.
‘Yes, gentlemen. This bikini is made up of organic cells. At one time it was part of a living organism!’
ONE WEEK PASSES and all is quiet. Officer Randall and the other tourist police officers make their rounds on Beach Road—being extra cautious around the highly commercial Walking Street’s ‘Red Zone’ area.
Meanwhile, at Soi Six and Beach Road, a notorious trans woman named Zora is ambling back to her bar when a customer stops her. A slight breeze picks up—stirring the lazy drizzle, but the threat of real rain seems to still be in the mix.
‘Hey, gorgeous l-aa-d-y, where are you going now?’
Zora, a mixed beauty of Thai and Mediterranean ancestry, answers, ‘Ah... Mister Chekhov. How are you tonight? Oh... I can see without you answering, you are very horny.’
A big blushing fellow, Mr. Chekhov twitches with sexual desire. ‘Mistress, I am ready to be of service to you!’
Zora approaches her client, yet as she approaches him, a creeping mist has appeared. Nothing new here; Pattaya weather changes on a dime. Her focus is still on Chekhov—she wants to bring this Farang to his knees—her erotic movements thrusting her pineapple breasts upwards as she licks her red lips and throws her jet black hair to the sky, driving her customer out of his mind with desire.
On his knees with spittle dripping out of his mouth, Chekhov does seem out of his mind now. ‘I need you bad, Mistress. Please…’
‘Give me some money, you worthless slave!’ Zora screams with delight.
At that moment Zora catches a flash of movement from the waterfront. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, another lady stands before her—and then her confusion is driven out by terror. Before she can speak one word the strange woman’s arm shoots out—Zora and Chekhov are sent reeling, pitching backwards to the damp sidewalk. She attempts to right herself when she feels the blood pouring from her face. There is no pain. Bringing her hand to her face in shock, her fingers grasp a slick, flat plane that her nose occupied mere seconds ago. And then blackness descends...
NEVER HAD RANDALL seen so many old books captured in reddish brown bookshelves. It was actually quite beautiful in a way. These tomes were definitely looked after—no cracked volumes here. He seemed to be the only one in the Athenaeum. And who would have guessed that a special collection library and museum dedicated to Fortean marine phenomena would be here in Pattaya City.
The air is crisp and the vast hardwood hall was cold. The air conditioners must be the best, he thinks, as there is no hum to be heard. He walks slowly down the hallway in a somnambulist’s trance until a booming voice awakens him.
‘So, you represent the Law?’
His eyes darting, the Constable sees no one, yet he answers, ‘Indeed I do—in a way—but really I’m just an errand boy for Lieutenant Boonsong.’
Again, he strains to pick up on the phantom echo, however, he cannot spot where the loud speech is coming from. The voice rejoins, ‘Up here, Mister Randall... on your right side.’
He looks up and addresses his host. ‘Well, now, this is a large library. Books to the heavens, is it now?’
With a near silent hydraulic whisper, an automated ladder lowers before him a stout, red headed gentleman in a bright burgundy suit. Randall notices that even the man’s skin is reddish—camouflaging him like a juxtaposed bookshelf. ‘For a man who represents an oceanic library, you don’t seem to get out much.’
Jasper Swoon grins like the Cheshire Cat. ‘Sir, this bibliotheque is not just concerned with matters of the sea, inasmuch as what is in the sea. And, anyway, my complexion would suffer greatly in the seething sunshine of Pattaya. This ‘Land of Smiles’ is not really made for people like myself, but somehow I ended up here in this stately tourist haven—this retreat from Thailand’s punishing sun…
Swoon continues, ‘But, my good man, let’s get down to brass knuckles. The Lieutenant has given up on the human element in this case, I see. I expected he would. Yes, I expected a visit by his office—and here you are, Mister Randall. Boonsong did call ahead to let me know you were coming. Being proactive, I have the files he wanted. The Lieutenant requires you to study them.’ He hands him three light folders and walks slowly away.
Randall closely observes:
File One (1) is comprised of all the listed homicides over the last fifty years on Beach Road—some grisly photos of dead victims, mostly young women.
File Two (2) contains reported incidents of strange creatures seen on Beach Road over a fifty year period.
File Three (3) boasts no photos. Rather it spans a wide variety of off kilter cult phenomenon and religious legends concerning Sirens of the Sea, particularly around Pattaya Beach.
ABOVE THE SHOP windows, the lintel reads, ‘The Mermaid Store.’ Randall finds himself heckled by a tiny dwarf like woman. Their conversation is in progress:
‘Ahh, Mister Randall. I like your name. Irish name, I think. You come to ask me about sea creatures. I look at your face—no matter how concerned you are about this matter, you have not gone to the house of God to pray to Jesus! Only Jesus can truly help you now, Mister Randall! I gave up on Buddhist religion for Jesus. I Born Again now. Real religion! But you—don’t care about that. You come to see me about my knowledge—legends of those horrible Sea Hags, those Devilish Mermaids. Everybody in Pattaya knows something is up.’
‘This place where I have my store, many beautiful boats in this marina, all millionaires and playboys and luxury yachts. But now, these rich men are paying for their sins, for fornicating with these lost women of Pattaya. Ka, I hear Ladyboy now get murdered—well under that dress she man—and only men getting killed. Maybe Phi Krasue is the spirit you seek but doubtful. Even this evil ghost not go that far—but she is a bad spirit! No… must be the Sea Mermaid scum. They are the worst. Mister Randall, you need Jesus bad!’
Na has a big mouth for a tiny woman. ‘Na. Answer one more question for me. How does your store get to stay in the biggest marina in Southeast Asia?’
Na smiles—her teeth brown from eating too many Betel nuts. ‘Mister Randall, Ocean Marina Yacht Club big boss is born again too! Plus my store makes good money—I pay much rent!’
CURIOUSLY, SHE RESEMBLES an Asian version of Cleopatra, especially the way her hair falls across her shoulders. This intoxicating creature was looking directly at him.
Now that I think of it, Randall mused, she does look more like that pop star, Katy Perry! But she wasn’t either one though. In fact, she wasn’t born a woman at all. But ‘Clang,’ who now calls herself Gina, had undergone the best and most expensive gender reassignment surgery in all of Thailand.
‘I’m still the number one showgirl in all of Pattaya. Don’t you think so, Robert?’
He smiles. ‘Well, Gina. You look beautiful as always.’
It is late in the day, and the two are lounging inside a club called ‘The Establishment’ right near the entrance to the notorious ‘Walking Street.’ She definitely resembles Katy Perry over Cleopatra, but then nobody knows what the Egyptian goddess really looked like. Gina stands—a full figured, model like creature. She is posing for him—wearing only a black and silver bikini and yellow thongs. ‘Another Singha, Gina?’
‘Yes, of course,’ she replies, trying to imitate Marilyn Monroe, although Randall doubts Gina goes back that far. Through The Establishment’s glass ceiling, it is beautiful to watch the red Pattaya sun slowly descending.
‘Gina, dear. I came to speak to you about your friend Zora.’
Gina freezes when she hears the name—poise evaporated. ‘Robert Randall—she was no friend of mine. Zora was not a good person. Black heart for sure. She steal from everybody. That Ghost Spirit did a service for all. Anyway the Phi Song Nang only kills men. That how you say ‘evil spirit’ in Thai!’
He stares at her, baffled. ‘Wait a minute. Why do you say this demon only kills men?’
Gina makes a small gesture. ‘Word is out on the street. This Phi Song Nang Chaw is the vengeful spirit for all the freelance women who got murdered by men on Beach Road, and maybe in all of Pattaya! Zora was really a man wearing lady clothes with silicone breasts. Most of Zora’s customers were gay men who wanted her nine inches! Me, on the other hand, I am sex change—a woman. I have full operation. Maybe this bad spirit would not kill me…’
Gina falls silent for a moment, but before Randall is able to respond, she continues. ‘Maybe this demon would kill me anyway—even with my full reconstructive surgery! I don’t know. I won’t take any chances. I will not linger on the beach. Thank you, Buddha, my customers all know me already. I have been thinking, maybe this Ghost Demon is not Phi Song Nang, but somehow a mixture of Phi Song Nang and Nang Ngeuk, the Crocodile Mermaid. Oh, I don’t know, Mister Randall. I pay over twenty seven thousand American dollars for my operation and now this demon can kill me for no good reason!’
‘SO GOOD TO see you again, my dubious tourist cop assigned to me from Ireland. I had hoped you would have teamed up with Jasper Swoon, who is an expert with these types of homicides. But no—you are too frivolous a man to do that. No wonder you have never moved up in your own country. The man in that museum knows a thing or two about creatures of the deep, but you won’t have it—no team playing for you! Instead you are doing a highly incompetent investigation alone, on your own. The key to closing this case is Mister Jasper—helping you with this investigation!’
The silence grows oppressive in Lieutenant Boonsong’s musty smelling office. Finally, after a minute or two, he mumbles an incoherent reply. However, Boonsong cannot make out a single word. ‘Officer Randall. Are you trying to speak in Thai or are you just drunk?’
He lowers himself into a creaky, sun burnt chair, and leans forward defiantly. ‘Lieutenant Boonsong, I only had a few shots of Thai whiskey. I am not incapacitated in any way—not by a long shot. Might I say sir, I don’t even know how this investigation ended up in my lap, except maybe you are looking for a fall guy. Blame the Farang for this investigation falling apart. Lieutenant, this whole rigmarole is bigger than both of us—bigger than your whole damn crime fighting unit! And then you partner me up with a man who can’t even get a healthy sun tan! What you really need is an Oceanic Investigation Unit with professional marine biologists and military men. This is way out of our reach—This is not Dick Tracy and Joe Jitsu. It’s beyond us in every which way!’
‘Yes. I agree with your assessment. But you are all I have now,’ Boonsong acknowledges despondently. He looks incredibly tired—like a deflated balloon. This case is sure taking its toll on him, he thinks to himself. ‘You and my red headed Farang, as you say, are what I have to work with. My men—my crime unit—are not allowed to work on this case. I will not lie to you, Officer Randall. There will be a total cover up! The tourist business in Pattaya City has profited since 2018. Twenty million people have come here. Thailand is making maybe about a billion dollars a year! Ka, a Monster from the Sea! Of course you are a pawn! What did you expect?’ His tirade then concluded, he hoists himself up—exhausted—and leaves the room.
THE MINUTE HE returns to the Athenaeum, Randall’s hair stands up as if he has been struck by lightning. Something is not right. He can barely breathe. Nerves on edge, he cautiously enters the library. Books and furniture are scattered everywhere in disarray. He reaches for his flashlight in the pitch darkness, and he hears a noise—a moan. Casting the flashlight’s beam around the walls, he finds the light switch, and flips it on. A crimson trail leads him through the wreckage to a broken man almost buried under ransacked books and shattered equipment.
Dishevelled, shocking red hair sets off his deathly pallor.
Randall surmises, I can see Mr. Swoon’s formerly pristine suit is riddled with holes—he is bleeding out from a multitude of wounds. He approaches the victim, who draws a sickly, rattling breath. Jasper attempts to right himself, clutching the spear gun still at his side. But it is of no use. He motions him not to speak as he reaches for his phone to call Boonsong.
Jasper waves it off, points to himself—he speaks breathlessly—’Pretty sure I am dying, phone no good… I thought I caught it… but the creature had ensnared me instead—lured me into its trap! It’s very keen, incredibly intelligent… I underestimated it! I did injure it though…’ Randall waits for him to continue, however, he has already succumbed to his injuries.
TURNING AWAY FROM the carnage, he plays the beam of his flashlight across the floor, picking up a trail—part blood, part primordial slime—heading out the door and back towards the sea. He has no idea how badly the creature had been injured. He fishes out his cell phone, and calls the Lieutenant, his voice inexplicably steady. ‘Mister Swoon is dead!’
For a few seconds there is only silence, and then Boonsong asks, ‘Where?’
‘The Athenaeum, Lieutenant.’
‘I’ll get back to you, Mr. Randall.’ And then the phone goes dead.
TWO NIGHTS LATER, Constable Randall’s phone rings, and he picks it up to find Gina on the line. ‘She’s here, Randall! Soi Eight on Beach Road. Come quickly! Hurry!’
‘Gina, is it injured?’
‘Not that I see… You better get here fast!’
THERE SHE STANDS, right in the middle of a clusterfuck. Eight ladies of the night surround her, and do not seem to fear her. In fact, they act as if… as if she were one of them. Officer Randall thinks back to the beginning of the affair and finds his perceptions have shifted as well. At first, it was a Monster, and now ‘IT’ was a ‘She.’ A Goddess, a Bitch, a Protector of Lost Women. Before he can make a move, Gina is upon him.
‘She’s been with us for a few hours now. We are having a Girl’s Night Out party. No men! She accepts me. She knows that I’m a real woman! Of course I’d doubled up on my oestrogen. Please don’t shoot her! She is a spiritual entity that shields us poor unfortunate ladies against the world of evil men!’
He edges closer to get a better view, yet maintains what he feels is a ‘safe’ distance, and silently draws his gun—a Sig Sauer P320. Of course, he is an unauthorized user. In fact, it is against Thai law for him to carry a concealed weapon. Still, he thinks, this case might be considered an exception to the rule. Moving closer, he instinctively stays out of the beast’s long reach. Not wishing to raise any alarm, he holds the gun steady at his side. The women know who he is. They shield the creature as it transforms itself before his eyes into a goddess. Finally, he is close enough.
‘Ladies, out of the way!’ Randall yells. ‘You are shielding a criminal!’ Only now does he raise his illegal Thai pistol and take aim, and the women dive out of the way. He brings out his handcuffs and throws them at the being’s feet. ‘Put them on—I’m arresting you for murder.’
The laughter of the Goddess washes over him like a wave. ‘S e x y man…’ The voice is more like a moan. ‘I go now… back to the sea… no see me no more… ra’ venj is mine!’
Randall takes another step closer. ‘The Thai word for revenge? I see you speak English and Thai—good for you. Your revenge is what I call murder. Don’t take another step. Put on the handcuffs.’
Even close up, the Constable cannot make out what this creature/Goddess really looks like. Her long brown hair covers most of her facial features. Once again a wave of laughter bubbles forth.
‘I go now s e x y man—ha ha ha—you will not see me for long time now.’
As the entity moves, Randall can see the gash where the spear gun wounded her, yet she does not appear to be in any pain. ‘Stop!’ he warns, ‘I will shoot!’ And yet he hesitates. She somersaults gracefully backward and hits the water like a skin diver, and with a splash, she is gone. Only he and the ladies remain.
BACK AT LIEUTENANT Boonsong’s musty office, Randall sits opposite—gazing across the immense wooden desk. Sipping pensively, Lieutenant Boonsong asks, ‘Would you like a cup of the best Ceylon tea in Thailand?’ He shakes his head—no. Lieutenant Boonsong continues. ‘Well, I have read your report, and as far as Unit Five Homicide Squad is concerned, the case is closed. The Mad Australian Serial Killer we shot last week committed all the murders. He only murdered men because of his conflicted homosexual homicidal rage.’
The Constable smiles. ‘Ah, yes. The ‘Fall Guy’!’
Not missing a beat, Lieutenant Boonsong replies, ‘I like that English expression, ‘All’s well that ends well’.’ Mister Randall, I have an envelope for you. A bonus for your help. And please, sir, take a few weeks off.’
THE LIEUTENANT POINTS to the door. Randall nods, rises, takes the envelope, and makes his way towards the red exit sign.