“Thanks a lot,” Jazza said to himself, he was unhappy with his bosses comment, even less happy with her suggestion. His latest task was handed via email which ended ‘my office door is open’. The other reporters hid their grins behind papers. He trudged towards the door at the far end of the building.
It was tough getting his work permit, now it seemed even harder keeping it. He was stumped. His boss was the editor of a provincial newspaper. Jazza was only the second non-Thai journalist working for them. To gain the work permit, he needed to prove he was doing a job that a local could not. He was sent on missions no Thai journalist would want. Garbage collection outside schools was the latest no hope article, two thousand words nobody will read. The editor’s newest scheme was to blow open the growing trade in ‘night-life’ workers from the provinces.
Her bright red lipstick annoyed him, so did her tight skirt and her blouse stretched the buttons beyond belief.
“Christ, mutton dressed as lamb, what would my mum say?” He could imagine his mother telling her neighbours, ‘My Jeremy, he’s doing so well, a high flying journalist in Thailand. Imagine?’
"Yeah, she wouldn’t be so proud now."
He snorted, shook his head and marched through the door into the editor’s cluttered office.
“You want me to pretend to buy underage girls to learn their trade in a pretend massage parlour?”
“Yes, but not only girls, but boys can also be good at massage too, you know?” She laughed.
“Are you serious? You’ll get me shot,” Jazza was on the verge of walking out.
“Did you know that footballer you keep on about, he is coming to The Crest Hotel,” she flipped a finger at the window behind her, “over the road, with his wife when the season ends. I’ll need him interviewed. How do you fancy that little job?” she said.
Jazza suddenly perked up. “Really?”
“Yes, but I want an award-winning story about massage kids first.”
“I’m not saying no, but this seems perilous?” said Jazza.
“Look, we can’t use a Thai person, the girl’s dad won’t believe our story, it must be a European or American. You’re the man for the job. Remember, I have a contact high in the police force, he will be eh… monitoring your progress from a distance.”
“And expenses? I’ll have to spend, car rental, maybe entertaining and for the poor unfortunate child.”
“Yes, yes, you will need cash, the parents won’t have it any other way. For any bar or restaurant bills, you can use the company credit card.”
“Won’t that be a giveaway?”
“Yes, yes, it will. Use your cash, I’ll pay you back when you get back. And I need receipts.”
“I don’t think they give receipts in the places I’ll be going,” Jazza said.
He grumbled his way home, “Early to bed, early to rise,” he said to himself, preparing himself to meet the challenges of the next day. He was dreading buying food and drinks for some pimp. He had been given the name and phone number of the in-between contact.
Jazza could speak passable Thai but never mastered reading or writing. He had met up with the contact, short military haircut, immaculately dressed, a very upright person, at least in his demeanour if not his trade. He drank wine and enjoyed the steak dinner he was offered as he handed over details of the poor girl to be bought.
He was thinking about his chosen career, the good, meeting famous people, and the bad, having to deal with wicked folk.
“No problem,” he said to the car’s mirror, “I doubt if I need to read a contract with the farmer or his daughter,” he laughed, as he reached the up-country village.
As much as he hated the idea of taking a fourteen-year-old girl away from her family and school friends, he was excited by the cloak and dagger thrill of working undercover. He had drafted the skeleton of the article in his bed. Now he needed the bones, and a few shots with his iPhone camera secreted in his pocket.
Not only did the farmer not want a contract, he barely spoke. Dragging the young girl from a shed behind the house, she struggled and cried as she sat in the front of Jazza’s hire car.
The farmer counted the thousand Baht notes, grunted, and stomped inside.
“Don’t worry,” Jazza said to the girl, as the car moved off. “My boss promised to find you a safe and friendly care home where you can finish your schooling.”
An uncertain smile flicked across her face. Jazza wondered if she doubted his comment or was she laughing at his poor language skills.
The road was cracked, and the edges are broken and missing, as Jazza manoeuvred around potholes. Flashing lights caught his eyes ahead.
“Oh, no, I hope that’s not an accident?” he mumbled.
It wasn’t, police cars surrounded him in an instant.
He was bundled into the back of a pickup truck and cuffed to a railing.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
The uniformed officers sneered at him without reply.
“I want to speak to my boss, no, I want the embassy.”
They laughed, tapping each other playfully, high-fiving, happy with their arrest. His phone and wallet were confiscated, as he was charged with kidnapping at the station.
Later at the newspaper building, a well-dressed police captain strolled into the editor’s office, he threw his cap to a spare chair and plonked himself down and stretched his feet up onto her desk.
“That all went well.” He breathed. “I’ve got rid of a pain in the arse Brit for you. A new member of staff for my massage parlour, and recovered all your money. Happy now?” He asked as he leant forward and kissed his mistress full on the lips.
“Not in front of my staff,” she laughed.
“Oh, I’ve placed the farmer in the same cell as Mr Jeremy, do you think they’ll get on?” They both roared. She tore the work permit in half.
“Wait, you may need to use that again.”
“A permit for a female called Alice Drabble to use, ha, I doubt if I’ll be lucky enough to find another half-wit who can’t read!”