A quick deal
Daan was making his way through a back alley. It was a short cut only locals knew, but a useful one, where you avoided having to walk down Sukhumvit Road. It was always congested with traffic and tourists, especially now at the height of the tourist season. The route took him down along a canal with its dirty water, filled with garbage floating around. It was one of those places where a dead body wouldn’t look too much out of place. Knowing the area, it probably happened on a regular basis. Though it was supposedly the cool season he was sweating and his shirt stuck to his skin. He crossed on a narrow wooden bridge and continued down the next Soy, waking past Nana station and up Soy 4. It was early afternoon but the whole street was already bustling. The bars were full with the usual braggers and drunks, lots of drunks. All of them foreigners. Some were regulars, others were first timers; the street itself packed with curious tourists who had heard about Bangkok, sin city, and who sent long inquisitive looks into the bars’ darkness as they walked by, too timid to enter inside. Bangkok definitely was sin city but not this area. This was the nice area, despite that the look of the place suggested otherwise.
The street was one long row of bars on both sides, loud music blaring out. Daan walked on, passing the bar where the meeting was taking place. He tried to scan everyone and everything as he walked by; tried to spot anything out of the ordinary; anything that looked out of place. After a few hundred meters, he doubled back. Once outside the right bar he quick went up the short flight of stairs. The place had a large open front, providing a full view of the street. He was early; at least a couple of hours before he was supposed to meet his dealer. He wanted to get there well before the guy showed up. Just in case it was a police sting operation. It was unlikely, but one never knew. Getting there early he at least had a bit of a chance to see if there were any suspicious activity. The place was almost empty. He ordered a beer. The waitress, a woman past her prime, came over and served him. She gave him a second look trying to decide if he would be interested in any of the services, she offered which were not on the menu. He could tell what she was thinking and shook his head. She walked off, leaving him alone with his beer.
He sat and looked around. Though he did it often enough he couldn’t help feel a bit nervous. He always did whenever he was picking up supplies, especially since it was from someone he had only dealt with once or twice before. His regular supplier had suddenly stopped answering his calls. He still hadn’t been able to find out what had happened to him. He was starting to get desperate for new supplies when this new guy had stepped in and offered to help. Daan nursed his beer. Sometimes he felt like he was dreaming. It was beyond dreaming. Never in his wildest fantasies had he ever imagined it would come to this. Him, a retired carpenter from Rotterdam, dealing drugs in Bangkok. Who would have thought that? It had never ever been on the cards, but there he was. The whole move had been on a whim. After a nasty divorce had left him shaken and depressed a friend suggested, they went to Bangkok for a break and a bit of a good time. He had never been to Thailand before and it sounded like a good idea. He never looked back. It was many years ago now. The first few years had been one long party. The weather, the food and all the bars. He wished he had discovered it earlier. It was like a second youth and he had partied like he was 20. Living off his pension and the money from the house he sold back home, he had managed alright. Plenty of money for women and drinks.
Some drunk staggered up the stairs and down towards the end of the bar. The waitress obviously knew him because she served him a beer before he had even sat down. The man didn’t look at her or say anything. He just started drinking. He looked in a pretty bad way, but there were plenty of foreigners in Bangkok looking even worse.
Daan looked at his watch. Still more than an hour to go. He looked around. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as he could see. He really only did this because he needed supplies to tie him over until he could find a new supplier. He needed money, something for Boonsri. After a few years of partying, he had found her; or rather she had found him. Drunk, almost unconscious in some bar she had helped him home one morning. His wild partying had stopped after he met her. Well, he still partied but not nearly as hard. It had been a good life, the two of them in Bangkok and occasional visits to the islands down south! Then Boonsri had gotten pregnant. She had been over the moon about it; him a lot less so. He had never imagined becoming a father in his 60s, late 60s as it was. He had grandkids that were older than their boy. Suddenly the money from back home weren’t quite enough. Whatever was left from the house sale soon disappeared. He needed to look elsewhere for an income. Of course, moving back was an option, but he couldn’t face moving back to the Netherlands. What would he do there with Boonsri and baby Albert? Living in some small council flat braving the shitty weather and the narrowminded Dutch mentality. He had promised himself he would never return! On the other hand, working in Thailand was difficult and didn’t pay much. He ran into some stranger one evening in some bar and ending up talking to him about his money problems. The guy happened to know someone who could perhaps help. A few days later the introduction was made. The man was also Dutch, Thijs. He was a lot younger, and lots of tattoos up and down his arms. He had to leave the Netherlands after some issue with a biker gang he belonged to. He was a nice guy, very talkative. Thijs preferred to work with other Dutch. It was better as he always said. It didn’t take Daan long to discover what the proposed business was; the other thing Thailand was famous for! At first, he was appalled and horrified, but soon enough he got used to the idea, helped by an increasing need for money. He had never dealt drugs before coming to Bangkok. As a matter of fact, he knew nothing about drugs; nothing at all. Thijs took time to train him; taught him all he needed to know about coke, ketamine, ice, you name it. Daan started out as a helper but had later graduated to dealing independently. His leap into independence had happened overnight when Thijs got arrested after making a stupid mistake. It had cost him ten years in jail though he had been extradited to the Netherlands after only seven. Once back in the Netherlands his old biker friends soon found him. Daan had read about it in the papers. It was a shame; he was a nice guy. With Thjis suddenly away, there was a hole in the local market; one Daan had been quick to fill. He knew the contacts and had seamlessly slipped into his new role as dealer. So, the retired carpenter from Rotterdam had become a dealer. A rather late career change, but a lot less demanding. The bad back and arthritic knees were not a problem in his new profession.
Daan suddenly realized there was a loud sobbing coming from the back of the bar. The old drunk was sitting crying, clutching his beer glass. The waitress looked like it happened on a regular basis and paid no attention to him. Daan looked around and noticed there was another drunk. He hadn’t seen him enter. He also sat sitting nursing his beer but seemed to be more interested in the waitress. She noticed and returned the attention.
Daan was relaxed. He felt confident. By now he had been doing it for years, dealing. Never too much. Just enough to get by. He wasn’t greedy, just wanted to make enough to keep living life the way it should be lived. Too high profile and the police would get interested and the other dealers jealous. So, he kept a low profile. No flashy jewelry, or big parties. He had chosen his market carefully. Pattaya was by far the best place to deal in all of Thailand but there was too much competition. Too many old men trying to supplement their pension to finance their young girlfriends and what not. It was also the place where there were the most Thai dealers and the greatest potential for trouble if they felt someone encroached on their territory. Dealing in Bangkok on the other hand was easy. Lots of supply and demand. As a white face he could easily move around. As long as he looked like any other tourist chances were that the police would leave him alone. It was a great advantage when dealing. He had built up a decent clientele amongst the expat crowd. However, whenever an expat was caught up in drugs, then being a foreigner was not going to save him. It was well known that the Thai police preferred to arrest foreigners rather than locals. Bangkok’s jails were overflowing with people who had gotten tempted by the promise of quick money and who forgot to be careful, as Thjis found out.
Daan had chosen his place in the bar well. Up against the wall, and not too close to the street to be easily seen, but not so far back that he couldn’t keep an eye on what was going on out on the street. He spotted someone walking by outside. He observed the man, the way he scanned the street and looked inside the bars as he walked by; the bouncers nodded to him. He wasn’t alone. There was another on the other side of the street, following him. The first man crossed the street and came up the stairs. Dealers! It was so obvious. Daan kept looking at him and realized that he knew him. Though there were many dealers in Bangkok, it didn’t take long to recognize the ones dealing in certain areas. The trade was very territorial. As soon as he realized he knew the guy, Daan looked down. He heard the dealer exchange a few words with the bouncer. It was not good! If the dealer recognized him, there would be trouble; thinking that he was trying to deal on someone else’s turf. It wouldn’t be the first time he got into trouble that way. Despite his best intentions, it had happened a few times before. So far, he had just gotten roughed up by the bouncers; a few bruises and a black eye or two, nothing worse than that. It was all part of the game. The bouncers had to provide access to the bars for the dealers who controlled that area while at the same time keep the competition out. Still, you had to be careful. If the dealer wanted to make an example of him it could turn really serious; ending up in the canal. The dealer made his round of the bar, not noticing him and disappeared down the stairs on to the next joint. Daan relaxed and finished his beer. He had a second one. He wanted to stay clear minded when he met the dealer but a few drinks he could handle. He scanned the bar again. Hardly any guests and they all looked like the typical Bangkok expat or drunken tourist. None of them looked like a potential police informer. The bouncer was new. The old one, Samrit got beaten up badly a week or two back. Though Daan rarely came to any of the bars on this street he had still heard the story. It had been pretty serious, at least that was what the rumor said. Had to be some tough guys, probably more than just one or two. Samrit might have been a burned-out fighter but one that still had strength. Daan didn’t know the new guy. He checked his watch. It was getting close to the time. He kept discretely looking up and down the road.
A delivery van was parked across the street. It wasn’t there when he first arrived. There was a young guy with a clipboard standing next to it, looking like he was trying to figure out where to deliver whatever it was, he was delivering. He looked pretty lost. Could be his first day on the job; looked like it! It was early afternoon, but the street was busy. It was still only tourists. No locals would walk around in the heat if they could avoid it. That made it easier to keep an eye out for police agents. Daan hesitated checking his watch every few minutes.
He saw his contact come down the street, carrying a small backpack. He recognized him right away. The man was a local guy and really looked like he used too much of his own stuff; a complete wreck, just waiting to get busted by the police. He made the drunk tourists look good. The guy didn’t even bother to look to see if he was being followed. He passed by the delivery van before he crossed over. The man with the clipboard had gone into the bar across the street and was talking to a waitress. It looked very animated. Daan’s dealer came up the stairs and walked past the bouncer who gave him a scrutinizing look; trying to decide whether to throw him out or not. The man walked straight over to Daan’s table. He was not discrete. If the clientele had been a bit more sober, they would have noticed, but no one did.
“Got the money?” the guy asked without sitting down. It was clear that he wasn’t staying. The waitress came over and the guy just shook his head. Daan didn’t like it. The way he acted was way too obvious. Anyone watching would know they were up to something. Daan cast a glance towards the entrance. The bouncer wasn’t there.
“Got it right here,” Daan said and showed a small bag nested between his feet on the floor. The man bent down and grabbed the bag. After a quick look inside, he dropped his small backpack on the table. Daan grabbed the bag and checked the content. Little packages with small yellow pills. It looked alright. He knew he would be able to find the dealer again if there were any problems with the quality. The dealer knew that too. Daan looked at the man and nodded. The dealer gave him a little smile, almost like a smirk, as he took the bag with the money. He quickly went back down the stairs as Daan took the backpack. Suddenly the quiet of the bar was shattered as the whole place erupted. The drunk who had been in deep conversation with the waitress suddenly jumped up and came over screaming while the door of the delivery van outside sprung open and four or five police officers jumped out. They all sprinted up the stairs. Daan sat at the table, still with the backpack in his hand as they all converged on him, grabbing his arms; one trying to life him up while another was trying to push him down. Daan saw his dealer, with the money bag in his hand, disappear down the street. The commotion was so loud that the crying drunk in the back looked up for a second before he went back to sobbing into his beer.
Thomas Kring July 2023