The lady with 60 daughters
The rain started to fall in mid afternoon and there was no hope that it would stop before the Walking Street go-go bars were due to open at 8 p.m. Mam stared from her bedroom window and wondered where she had put her umbrella. That might be the least of her problems as the water was already flowing inches deep along the soi where she lived. She would have to walk to the main road and find a songthaew or Baht Bus, the small pick-up trucks that cruise the streets of Pattaya and adjoining towns, transporting passengers for just ten baht per person. That was the extent of public transport that day and most of them would have given up by the time the flood really took hold. Motorbike taxis were nowhere to be seen. By midnight anyone using a bike would have been knee deep in rainwater. It was the flip side of Pattaya’s much vaunted idyllic weather.
Mam had worked in go-go bars for twenty years and never accepted a bar-fine from a customer. At 23 she had a good job in a bank in Udon Thani, a husband, Arthrit, and a perfect daughter she called Mai. Arthrit committed suicide shortly before her 26th birthday and she left Isaan to work in the bars of Patpong. It was the only way she could take care of her daughter. She could make money faster by sleeping with farang but found the idea repellent. After a few months as a waitress, her club needed a new cashier. Mam was perfectly qualified. She even had a certificate from the bank where she had worked.
Ten years earlier she had become mamasan at the Platinum Club. Required to take care of the girls, she was a natural. Most of her adult life had focused on giving her daughter the opportunity to have a normal existence. She saw her charges as a whole bunch of mini-Mais. Unable to save them from a life of prostitution she would still help them any way she could. On the face of it she just managed the dance rota and encouraged customers to spend as much money as possible but Mam saw herself as guardian to the girls, someone who could make a tough life more bearable.
She had a gut feeling for customers… which ones had Jai Dee, which ones could be trusted with the young and inexperienced girls and which were to be avoided at all costs. Her track record was good, the owner grateful that she delivered a good atmosphere amongst the staff, which in turn attracted new girls to the bar. The dancers loved her. In a job where respect is in short supply, Mam treated them with dignity and affection. September 2011 was her lowest point, when she realised that she had missed something crucial that had stared her in the face.
Over 60 girls were on the staff at the Platinum Club but she knew most of their life stories and what made each girl tick. One of her favourites was Dah. Staggeringly pretty, she was two months from her 19th birthday. Mam often felt she was a magnet for the wrong type of customer and regularly turned down a bar-fine if she felt uneasy. The mistake she made was that while looking for the wrong type of customer, she missed that Dah had met the wrong type of boyfriend. Only later did Mam discover that he made his living by selling drugs. When business was slow he got Dah to “lend” him money.
The signs were all there – Dah’s unpredictable changes in mood and bursts of elation. Generally a shy girl, she would become the life and soul of the party. Mainly quiet and demure with potential customers, she would suddenly be bumping and grinding in their laps. Mam put it down to tequila. Most of her girls took to their new lives reluctantly but with either grim determination or the detached Buddhist outlook that this was a trial on the way to a better place. For some it was a good life with lots of parties and plenty of money; Dah was one of the girls who needed more help to get through the day. Her boyfriend gave her what she felt was love and affection, the pills gave her the confidence and the will to cope with a job she despised. Mam missed it all, she thought she was looking at a shy young girl who lost her inhibitions with a few drinks inside her.
Dah did not turn up for work on the night of September 27, 2011. Her body was found in her room the following morning. She died of an overdose of the methamphetamine known locally as yaba. At the age of 18 she suffered cardiac arrest and failure of all her major organs. They never established whether it had been an accidental overdose, a suicide or even murder. The police knew she was a bar-girl consorting with a notorious drug dealer, so they didn't care either way. Mam only knew that Dah’s boyfriend had killed her, directly or indirectly and then he disappeared.
The high to end all highs
Joy was absolutely certain, it was Dah’s old boyfriend. He had not been seen for more than two months but that morning she spotted him emerging from the apartment block opposite where she lived. Mam now knew his name was Diskul Naradee and that he had supplied yaba for a number of girls at the Platinum Club. She was aware that some were occasional users, but only Dah suffered truly tragic consequences.
“You have to help me,” she told Joy.
They agreed what they would do over soup, Somtam salad and rice bought from a street stall shortly after the club closed for the night. It was time for “Jai yen” or “cool heart”.
By the time they got to the club the following evening, Joy had much more information and the plan was almost complete. She had identified the man for certain, he was living with a girl called Ook who had been a go-go dancer but was now a hopeless drug addict. She occasionally plied her trade at the Coconut Bar but with decreasing success. The girl in the next room was called Nit. She identified a picture of Naradee from Joy’s phone. She doubted Ook had any real loyalty to the man but if he gave her drugs she would do anything for him. Apparently the man often spent the afternoon on a terrace at the back of the apartment block leering at any young girl who passed by. Nit was told Dah’s story and quickly agreed that the following day she would introduce herself to Naradee, the rest of the plan was also fine by her. Mam took the 6,000 baht she had tucked behind a statue of the Buddha in her bedroom and gave half to Nit. The girl explained that having heard the story, she needed no money but Mam insisted. Joy was sent on an errand with the rest.
The following day Nit wore her tiniest top and tightest shorts as she stopped by the terrace. She spent her nights faking a passionate interest in farang; it was not too difficult to make Naradee think she had been waiting for a man like him all her life. He followed Nit to her room without a moment hesitation and was still undressing the girl with his eyes when a sharp blow to the back of his head knocked him unconscious. It was fifteen minutes before he came around and another minute or so before he took in the sight of Nit, Mam and Joy. A length of rope was tied tightly round his legs and hands. Mam had seen plenty of movies where the bad guy gets his comeuppance and it was generally dragged out for dramatic effect. She had no time for that. Naradee was preparing himself for the worst, so it was a surprise when Mam spoke.
“You are filth, you are the lowest form of life and you deserve only pain and anguish. Every day you bring people and their families untold agony so that you can make money. You will never set foot in this town again.”
Naradee was getting hopeful; maybe she wasn’t going to kill him after all. He could barely believe it when she cut the ropes and opened the door.
“Get out of here and never let me see you again.”
He scuttled across the floor and practically hurled himself through the door.
“That stupid bitch,” he muttered to himself, “She'll pay for this; her and those whores that work for her.”
He also had some unfinished business with that little prick teaser Nit. Maybe tonight when the others had gone. He had heard people say that when you cheat death, the feeling of elation is incredible but he had no idea. This was extraordinary, it was a rush like he had never experienced.
The front page of the Pattaya Daily News covered the story in technicolour and great detail. Diskul Naradee, was a known drug dealer. His body was discovered in a small soi off the main road to Jomtien. Most of the apartment blocks nearby housed girls who work in the bars of Pattaya, many were home that afternoon but no-one saw a thing. They worked at night so the afternoon was time to catch up on some sleep. Doctors confirmed that the deceased had died of a massive overdose of methamphetamine. He also had marks on his arms and legs, which suggested that he might have been involved in some sort of sex game before he died. A police spokesman trotted out all the usual platitudes about an investigation but was barely able to conceal the triumph in his voice when he confirmed that Naradee was a known dealer. Now he was very definitely known dead.
Mam read the article with no sense of satisfaction. It was all too late for Dah but maybe there would be other girls who might have a better chance with one less dealer on the street. She had considered herself to be a loving person without a malicious sinew in her body. Nonetheless she sent a young girl on an errand to buy yaba, she crushed the tablets and made a solution that she had injected into Naradee's arm minutes before he regained consciousness. She felt neither triumph nor guilt, her thoughts were with Dah and Arthrit, her husband. He had been a bus driver on the long run from Khon Kaen to Bangkok and a friend had offered him tablets to keep him awake on what were often two eight hour shifts per day. Many of his colleagues did the same and crashes were frequent until the government cracked down on the problem. By then Arthrit had discovered that for him, giving up the drug was far more lethal than taking it. Withdrawal creates a major risk of severe depression and suicidal urges. Arthrit left a note, climbed the stairs to the top storey of an open-air car park and threw himself from the ledge.
If you like this short story, please check out the entire collection -