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4

Or had he? Ive witnessed so many brilliant strategies of Vikorns over the years that Ive come to understand something of the nature of his genius: improvisation. His plans tend to be pretty general ideas designed to best his archenemy, General Zinna of the Royal Thai Army, which can be adapted to whatever circumstances occur on the ground. I dont think even Vikorn ever contemplated anything as bizarre as a Tibetan named Tietsin.

It was at least a month since my appointment as consigliere to our cop godfather, and Id even drawn my first paycheck, which amounted to the equivalent of thirty times what I was earning doing much the same sort of job without the title, when Vikorns black-hearted secretary, Police Lieutenant Manny, called me. I was sitting at my desk feeling guilty that I was so much richer, all of a sudden, than all the other straight cops; except there werent so many of them, so there was no real justification for the guilt, and I was simultaneously wondering if Id inherited the farang disease of self-recrimination from my long-lost GI dad. But I realized I had to do something to earn my dough, even if it was illegal and bad and likely to land me in the drug traffickers hell for a couple hundred years. (A Sisyphic adaptation: you are forever pushing your rock up a hill toward the gigantic syringe at the top; just as youre about to grab the smack, your strength gives out and you and the rock are at the bottom of the hill again; and thats only for small-time dealers-I didnt dare think what happened to heavy traffickers.)

Get up here, the boss wants you, Manny said.

I knocked somewhat peremptorily at Vikorns door, waited for his Yeah, entered, and found him standing at his window with an expression on his face Id never seen before. Quizzical doesnt quite describe it; he seemed to be suffering from the exquisite dilemma of deciding whether or not to believe in his undeserved good luck. He turned, stared at me, shook his head, and went to his desk without a word. I shrugged and sat opposite him without asking permission. For a long minute I was staring at the picture of His Majesty our beloved King that hung above a poster all about the evils of police corruption (which Vikorn was inexplicably fond of, perhaps because it showcased the source of his wealth and was therefore a comfort in times of stress).

Ive just had a call, he finally said.

Yes.

Its the weirdest thing I ever heard of. Really the weirdest. He seemed unable to develop the conversation further for a moment, the weirdness was too overwhelming. Finally he said, The phone call was from Kath-mandu, in Nepal.

Now I was starting to get a sense of what he meant. No one would dream of calling Vikorn on a matter of law enforcement, so who the hell from Kathmandu would want to talk to him? The caller, was it a Thai or a Nepali or a farang, a he or a she?

None of the above. He grinned. It was a Tibetan who claimed to be a kind of lama. You know about this stuff, thats pretty high up, isnt it?

Spiritually at the top. The Dalai Lama himself often says he cant match his lamas for technical accomplishment-you know, like living on a teaspoon of rice in a freezing cave for fourteen years while meditating naked in the lotus position and making purple rain. Lamas are those kind of guys.

But he could speak some Thai. Not well, in fact pretty badly, but somehow educated. Like hed learned it all from tapes or something.

A Tibetan lama who speaks Thai? That still wasnt half as weird as a Tibetan lama who would want to speak to Vikorn. What did he say?

A frown passed over my masters face, and he shook his head. He said a lot. He stared at me. He knows all about us. He knows what we do. And he knows about the problem I have with General Zinna-our permanent feud. And he made an offer. He looked up at me. An offer which, if its real, we cant refuse.

What sort of offer?

An offer to put Zinna out of business and allow me to clean up not only on the retail side, which we have pretty much under control, but on the supply side too. Here came the crunch, and he took the moment to check my face. He offered to solve all of our supply-side problems-all of them, transportation from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Bangkok.

I shook my head. So, its just someone trying to get a piece of the action while dealing in fantasy. You havent been able to solve your supply-side problems for thirty years. How could some religious fanatic in the Himalayas help?

I know, I know. So did he. Thats why hes offering us first choice after demonstrating his credentials and effectiveness. If we say no, hell sell his services to Zinna.

This doesnt sound like a spiritual personality.

If he was genuinely spiritual, he wouldnt be of any use to us, would he? Vikorn scratched the stubble under his chin. But when I say he knows all about us, I mean it. He knows about you. He mentioned you. He wants you on the team. You are the only reason he is favoring us above Zinna. Buddha knows how he got his information. Anyway, hes shrewd enough to point out that if we force him to go to Zinna, Zinna will get so rich hell be able to wipe us out in five years.

How do we know this isnt some hoax, maybe by the anticorruption squad?

By following his instructions, which arent too difficult.

I jerked my chin. What instructions?

You go to the Immigration desks at Suvarnabhum Airport tomorrow at about ten-thirty in the evening. Make yourself known to the officer in charge. Someone will try to pass through Immigration to take a KLM flight to Amsterdam. According to the Tibetan they will be detained. You are to watch and be there, thats all. I wait for the revelation. After a minute he reaches into his desk drawer and takes out a piece of paper with a photo on it. He asked for my private Internet address and sent this.

Vikorn passed over the paper. On one side was a color photograph of an exceptionally attractive young blond woman in her mid-to late twenties. He says her name is Rosie McCoy. Shes Australian. A mule who works for Zinna.

I dont understand. What does this prove, even if its true?

It proves hes got the guts and the know-how to hurt Zinna-as long as we accept his offer. Vikorn stared at me until I lowered my eyes. He had successfully transferred the full emotional force of the words hurt Zinna; could there be a better justification?

I took the paper and started to leave. When I reached the door, Vikorn said, If this is the real deal, well need you to take a trip to Kathmandu.


| The Godfather of Kathmandu | c