from her.”

The boss lady looks down at Plaa and flutters a hand at her, then me. “Why are the troubles of a common street vendor of any concern to me?”

I smile and gesture to the restaurant around us.

“Apparently they are, or will be.”

“Are you threatening me, Mister Sharp? Do you know who my husband is? I am going to call him.” She lifts a hand with a mobile phone in it.

Everyone knows who her husband is. He’s politically connected, but word on the street lately is that some of his ties might be coming loose. There are more than slight whiffs of scandal. But he hasn’t been talking. Generals who stay out of the public eye tend to last longer than those who don’t. He won’t want publicity.

“Go ahead. Maybe he will want to get mixed up in this. But I’d be surprised. For now, my friends like it here, Khunying Preeya. It is cool and comfortable. They could become regulars. I have a lot of friends, and my friends have friends as well.”

“What do you want, Mister Sharp?”

“It’s not about what I want.” I almost say “lady,” but you never get anywhere in Thailand by not at least pretending to be polite. “If you would be so kind as to speak with my friend Khun Plaa, I am sure you can work something out.”

“She can come to my office.” The boss lady begins to turn and walk away, and it takes a lot of effort for me to sound civil. If Plaa goes back there alone, who knows what might happen?

“I don’t think my friend will feel comfortable in your office. This is such a nice room, and there is an empty table in the corner where you can have some privacy. It would be best if you spoke out here.”

She almost loses her cool but keeps herself in check with no more than a minor harrumph. She crooks one of her heavily weighted fingers at Plaa and walks to the table that my correspondent, the editor and the reporter have left.

Plaa looks up at me, not sure what to do.

“Go, talk to her. Tell her what you want. You’ve got the power here.”

She turns to the reporter, and they whisper to each other.

They get up together and follow the boss lady to the table. Plaa sits next to the khunying, the reporter across the table but still close enough to lend support.

Everyone in the restaurant is trying to look like they aren’t trying to listen. There’s no way to hear anything, but it’s hard to be patient, especially when I’m so thirsty. I take a bigger sip and then a gulp of the terrible beer. There’s still half of it left when I put it down, and it hasn’t helped at all. It was just reminiscent enough of something refreshing to make my thirst worse.

After about five minutes the boss lady makes a call on her mobile phone. She says something, listens and then responds with something shrill, not quite a shriek, but close. She listens again and hands the phone to the reporter.

The reporter speaks briefly and then spends the next few minutes listening, taking notes and not saying anything. When she’s done, she hands the phone back to the khunying, who begins talking but then stops in what is obviously mid-sentence. When she hangs up, she looks around the room frowning. She looks at Plaa and her body sags a little in her chair.

The boss lady gestures to the hallway. The big guy comes out and bends down to her. She whispers something and he hurries away. She stands up and says something that makes Plaa smile and the reporter shrug her shoulders. Then she walks away toward her office.

The two of them return to our table. Plaa sits down, still smiling, and takes a big sip of her now cool tea. The reporter leans in to whisper to her editor. He smiles, then frowns, then smiles again. She sees me watching them, and when she’s done talking to the editor, she looks at me.

“I talked with the General.”

“Get anything interesting?”

“No, just a statement, but it means your friend Khun Plaa gets her cooler back and they’ll leave her alone in the future.”

“Great, but what’s in it for you?”

“We’ll be the only paper that’s got anything at all from the General.”

“Sure, but it’s just him blowing his own horn.”

“It’s a start.”


“It raises his profile. That’s not good for a general in this country.”

“Give him enough rope?”


About ten minutes later the big guy walks up to the table looking like he’s about to explode. I begin to get up, not sure what I can do. But all he does is roughly drop Plaa’s cooler onto the table in front of her. The sound booms across the quiet restaurant.

Plaa stands up to look into her cooler. When she closes the lid again, she’s smiling.

The editor waves a waiter over and orders drinks, cold and hot ones, whatever anybody wants, for the whole restaurant.

Cho and I share a tall, frosty Kloster before heading out to the van and back into the traffic. I might even make it to my last two appointments.

I still didn’t get my fish for lunch. Next time.

Eric Stone

Eric Stone has worked as a writer, photographer, editor, publisher and publishing consultant. As a writer he’s covered a wide range of topics, including business, economics, finance, politics, arts, culture, sports, and travel. For eleven years he lived in Asia, based in Hong Kong, then Jakarta. He’s best known for his Ray Sharp PI series, set in Asia and based on stories he covered as a journalist,including Shanghaied, Flight of the Hornbill, Grave Imports, and Living Room of the Dead. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

Hot Enough to Kill

Collin Piprell

The sun burns a white-hot hole in the sky over Bangkok. Eyes are filled with disquiet; street dogs slink, panting, from shade to shade. According to the radio, this is the hottest April in fifty years.

Sombat the legless boy down the road was found dead yesterday, still upright on his little wooden cart, the one he propelled by hauling back on the steel crane-operator’s lever. It was amazing how, so frail, he clattered and squeaked around the neighborhood, honed down to sinew and spirit, yanking away on that big handle. But yesterday was too hot, and he tried to go too far too fast. Or maybe he just got tired of it all. Who knows? He sat there as though asleep, breathless, like the day itself, motionless as the leaves on the trees behind the temple wall, his face drawn but peaceful.

The lane where Chai stays with his brother Vajira and his brother’s wife is all but deserted. Vajira is surprised that Chai isn’t going to the temple. Everybody liked the boy, and there’s to be a tamboon, a merit-making ceremony, to mark his passing. But Chai has something he must do today. It’s too hot to move, really, but this is something he has to do. It’s going to bring in money. Good money. And his brother Vajira has been

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