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42

On Bangkok murder squads, inspiration and paranoia are Siamese twins joined at the hip for life; some of us theorize they are the same thing. Ive got it now, the insight into the devious workings of an exceptionally twisted and gifted criminal mind-but whose? Ill find out. Im 100 percent certain Ive finally got a handle on the Fat Farang Case, and for the first time Im slightly irritated with myself that Ive promised Sukum he can have all the glory. This may be a good sign: maybe Im returning to egocentric normality, thereby rehabilitating myself as a card-carrying citizen of the twenty-first century? Whatever, I am unashamedly pleased with myself this fair morning when I am on the phone to Virginia. The FBI listens to me in attentive silence, then says, Youre a genius, Sonchai, theres no other word for it-Ive been racking my brains about your case, but I never would have thought of the solution. Youre just amazing.

Theres nothing I can do until you get me some fingerprints, or, even better, DNA samples, I say, not for the first time.

Dont worry, honey, well get them. In the meantime you might try his apartment.

Im onto it-but the place was very clean. Any fingerprints or hair samples are likely to be from cleaners or the forensic people-it was never the crime scene, so we werent too careful.

What about his car?

Yes, Ill try it.

I get the keys to Frank Charless Lexus from Sukum and take a cab over to the building on Soi 8. Charless penthouse owns three parking spaces underneath the building, and it takes about a minute to find the metallic-gray sedan parked in one of them. Best bet for prints, always, is to dust the gear stick and steering wheel. I dust both and lift the prints. Even in the rough I think I can see one set of prints repeated over and over again. I also pick up a selection of fiber rubbings from the front seat, pop them into a bag, rush them over to forensics-and even though its only three in the afternoon, Im so exhausted from having been up all night I decide a massage is called for. I go to the massage shop at the corner of Soi 39 and Sukhumvit, mostly because of the sense of religious silence that prevails there after lunch when most of the customers have gone back to work and most of the girls are fast asleep.

So here I am, prone and submissive under a muscular girl who is all of five feet tall and in the process of delivering the most delicious torture to my mind-ravaged body, when-of course-my cell phone rings. I fish it out of my pants, which are hanging by my side, to check the identity of the caller. I only deal with emergencies during massage, but when I see it is the FBI I signal to the girl to hold off with the torment for a moment while I take the call.

Got it, the FBI says, it was an amazing piece of luck. I just happened to be making some casual checks on the Net, using Frank Charles as a keyword, and guess what? He was in some kind of paternity dispute with a Thai woman here in the U.S. a few years ago. It seems she was trying to tap him for dough on the assumption he wouldnt fight the claim for child support, but he did, and the DNA test came out in his favor-it wasnt his kid. So I got hold of the file and now we not only have prints, a mouth swab, and some hair follicles, we have the DNA chart. We already have his DNA profile, in other words. Im sending it via e-mail, youll have it in roughly ten seconds. She hangs up.

If I was a cooler kind of cop Id let the girl finish with the massage, but Im not. I apologize and give her an extra big tip, and now Im on a bike on my way back to the station. Sure enough, when I arrive I see the FBI has already sent me the file. Now I dont need the prints and fiber from the Lexus. I print out the DNA chart and hold it to my heart for a moment, while expressing profound thanks to the Buddha that I have not totally lost my touch or my luck or my mind. In fact, Im wondering why I was so slow to catch on. Even Frank Charless obesity makes a sinister kind of sense: who was ever going to doubt the victim was him, the morbidly obese giant with the long hair, fat face, and gray beard? But all those things-the beard, the obesity, the long hair-have the capacity to diminish individual traits. Somehow, Charles found a willing substitute-such things have been known-who was prepared to die a few years earlier than expected (with that kind of weight no one lives long; maybe the proxy was terminally ill?), in return, perhaps, for a generous payment to his dependants? With the corpse mutilated in exactly the way portrayed in the movie, no one was going to doubt the identity of the victim-it was a brilliant device, depending more on illusion than anything else: the one thing no sane person was going to doubt was that the victim was the Frank Charles. Amazing! It was only the unexpected revelation that the death scene in the movie was faked that put me on the right track. Now everything is clear and obvious and Im kicking myself for not working it out before. For some reason, Frank Charles wanted to disappear-why? I dont know. When I call Doctor Supatra, she tells me shell have a DNA test done using the victims blood and get back to me. It will take a couple of days.


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