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Im at the station sitting at my desk staring at the computer monitor after having consulted the online I-Ching for the hundredth time today. I want to know if Pichai has been reborn already, or if he is waiting for Chanya and me to make love so he can come back to us (does he know his former mother is now a nun?), or if my visions were correct and he really does intend to hang out on some higher plane until the appearance of the Maitreya Buddha. (I Googled him, by the way-the Maitreya Buddha, I mean-and I have to report a serious schism in the Mahayana cosmology here. The earliest we can expect him is in three thousand years, but there are others who doubt hell show for a hundred thousand-apparently what is left of humanity will have had enough of beautiful cars and luxury condos by then and be quite rabid for the transcendent.) The Book of Changes is more than usually gnomic today, however, and the best it can offer is Hexagram 52: Ken/ Keeping Still, Mountain. There are no moving lines to help me pin down the advice, but the commentary is not without resonance:

It is very difficult to bring quiet to the heart. While Buddhism strives for rest through an ebbing away of all movement in nirvana, the Book of Changes holds that rest is merely a state of polarity that always posits movement as its complement. Possibly the words of the text embody directions for the practice of yoga.

It strikes me, farang, that with its insistence on constant movement the I-Ching might be a better guide for you than our Buddhism. I cant see you ebbing into nirvana just yet, frankly, not with all those lovely wars going on, and all that restless money sloshing around all over the planet. (Sorry, Im in one of those moods.) As for yoga, Ill believe it when theyre doing head-stands at the New York Stock Exchange. Anyway, I see from a pop-up that the FBI has just sent me an e-mail:

This must be one of the easiest assignments of my career. I got most of it from the Net and the rest from a few contacts in LA. Frank Charles was a phenomenally successful TV and movie director, if you measure success in terms of dough. He incorporated as Patna Productions Inc. and got rich from making sloppy romantic B movies, then selling the franchises to TV for serialization. He had the smarts to make sentimentality look respectable for the middlebrow educated without losing the masses. Looks like he started out wanting to make art-house feature films, based on French and Italian movies of his generation: Truffaut, Bertolucci, Fellini-all that crowd. He did make one film-his first full-length feature-in the American noir genre called Black Wednesday, which got a lot of critical acclaim but wasnt a great commercial success. Looks like he took the hint and did a deal with the devil. It was mostly schmaltz schmaltz schmaltz all the way to the bank after that, with a feature film every eighteen months. He married neurotic starlets five times, had one child, a girl, by one of them, let them take him to the cleaners on divorce, but it didnt seem to dent his wealth. After the fifth marriage fell apart he started using professionals in a regular way, which is what took him over there about ten years ago. Like a lot of men, one visit was all it took for him to get addicted to your red-light districts. He hasnt done any serious film work for a decade and Patna Productions was formally dissolved about six years ago. After that he seems to have gotten involved in Asian real estate (stories about him buying in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan), which made him yet another fortune. The more money he made, the more miserable he got: theres an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair in which he comes out with a full confession of disillusionment with the system, money, etc., I mean, he just about breaks every American taboo, and especially every Hollywood taboo, by saying how miserable money and success have made him and maybe he should have done something else with his life that would have left him with more self-respect and less money. Actually, he comes across on the Net as having been a nice guy who hated his work but couldnt give up the wealth. Which I dont quite buy. I mean, the subtext of this interview with Vanity Fair is that his soul was somehow damaged by the notorious bad taste of America. That may be true, but he has been a major contributor to our philistinism, and lets face it, no matter how much irony and cynicism he brought to his work, to be that good at the sunset ending he must have had a generous dose of Jell-O in his own heart. Also, he was said to be ferocious in business. No criminal record as such, but quite a few run-ins with Hollywood cops regarding prostitution. He escaped prosecution, but everyone knew what he was up to. Now heres something you might be able to pick up on. After he first started going east, he tried taking Thai girls back with him to LA to be his companions for a week or two at a time (occasionally, more than one girl at a time). He made the mistake of showing up in public, at parties, etc., with these girls, and got the cold shoulder from the matriarchs, so he had to stop. Instead, he spent more and more time in Bangkok without anyone knowing: he simply had his phone calls patched through to his hotel or condo, and then e-mail came along to make it all easier still. Lately, he seems to have tried to mend his karma by taking up various forms of mysticism. There are reports of him making a fool of himself telling people at LA dinner parties about Hinduism, Buddhism, mystic Christianity-he didnt seem able to make up his mind.

Frankly, with that kind of background, I would follow the money. Ill try to find out if anyone over there knows of a will-I mean, who stood to benefit by his death? His daughter and her mother would be the first place I would look. I know that doesnt fit with the cannibalism, but who knows? Maybe the macabre is just a smoke screen here? Money does strange things to all people.


In the meantime, the Chief has summoned me to his office. Do you think hes worried about our slow progress with the Frank Charles murder? No, neither do I.

He wants the money next week, Vikorn says in a tone of bewilderment.

He is standing at his window looking down at the illegal cooked-food stalls in the street, which specialize in the cuisinary preferences of District 8 cops: somtam salad, chicken satay, tom yum gung, pad thai, crispy duck for Vikorn and his two deputies, steamed broccoli with peanut sauce for his secretary, Manny, fried rice, spring rolls, mango with sticky rice, lotus-root water for Lek, vegetable dumplings, fried mussels in butter, spicy roast beef-those are the main ones. There are so many stalls eager and ready to assist the Royal Thai Police-each of which must have its own set of chairs and tables that it will not share with other stalls-that the whole open-air kitchen stretches for more than half a mile on either side of the station; any cop foolish enough to complain about street congestion gets traffic duty at the Sukhumvit-Asok interchange.

Who does?

Your Halloween Buddhist up there in those fucking mountains. Who does he think I am, George Soros?

Tietsin? But he doesnt get paid until he delivers.

My Colonel glares. Thats the point. He wants to deliver next week. Hes the keenest wholesaler Ive ever heard of. How can anyone get hold of forty million dollars worth of smack that quickly? Did you do the math?

Five hundred and thirty-three thousand, three hundred and thirty-three point three recurring. (Of course I did the math, Im the consigliere, arent I?) Basically, five hundred and thirty-three kilos, or eleven hundred and seventy-six pounds, which is a little over half an American ton: point five eight eight of a ton, to be precise. I stop to take a breath. You dont have the money?

Vikorn holds up his arms. In a tone of confusion he says, No. I wait for the coda. Sure, I can get it, of course, but it takes time. Nobody moves money around like that these days. Its unheard of. Forty million in liquid, or as good as? He smacks his forehead. I was expecting to receive the stuff in installments, a millions worth here, two millions worth there.

Cant you sell something? What about your row of chalets on Phuket? Or that strip of prime riverfront property on the Mekong up near Nong Kai?

These sound like desperate measures, but I am factoring in the great carrot Tietsin has dangled: the money and the power to establish total dominance over General Zinna, to literally wipe him out.

Its the wrong time to sell real estate. Anyway, you cant sell stuff like that overnight. And Im not even sure Id get forty million. Everyones shifting to Phnom Penh for real estate, and Sihanoukville, on the Cambodian coast. Thailand has screwed itself by being standoffish toward foreign investors. Apparently Cambodia is pristine and wide open, everyones scrambling to get in on the ground floor. Then theres Vietnam and Malaysia. Theres even a rumor the Laos Socialist government is about to collapse, or do a quick double shuffle into unrestrained capitalism-imagine the profit for those whove already invested there.

I stand with arms hanging. So, why not tell him he has to wait?

I did. Politely. After all, hes potentially a huge business partner, and I dont want to offend him. But hes not happy. Can he really deliver all that dope next week?

I have no idea.

Why is he in such a hurry?

I shrug. He didnt say. He just said his movement needs the money.

Vikorns eyes sharpen. Whats he planning, the invasion of China? I do not say, I wouldnt put it past him. Have you been watching the news recently?


Those demonstrations in India and Lhasa, led by Tibetan monks. A hundred of them blown away by the Chinese. That wouldnt be anything to do with him?

I have no idea. I think its inevitable, theyre trying to embarrass Beijing before the Olympic Games.

Vikorn looks at me. Yes. I guess if youre a Tibetan, this is your big chance. Now or never.

They dont have never, I say with one of those superior smiles he hates so much, only now.

Get out of here.

When I reach the door, he says, That Australian mule, have you followed up on her yet? It is not a question. It is an order.

Back at my desk I call Lek over to tell him to find a taxi that will take us to the womens holding prison over the river at Thonburi.

| The Godfather of Kathmandu | c