'DO YOU RUN every day?' asked Pippa.
'Yes, young lady. Why do you ask?' said Fred.
'I've seen you run down this street many times.'
'I like to run early in the morning at first light or night as it gets dark. It is cooler, and you must look after your body when you get to my age.'
'You look in pretty good shape. Can I ask how old you are? In Thailand, it is common to ask that, but I know you foreigners can get touchy.'
'Your English and knowledge of "Falang" traits are excellent.'
'Can you speak Thai?'
'No, a few words only. You asked my age. What do you think?' asked Fred.
'My guess would be fifty-five.'
'You are a long way off. How old are you?'
'You guess my age.'
'A lot of Thai people look younger than they are, so I think you are eighteen.'
'Not bad, I'll be twenty next week. Come on then, how old are you?'
'Never,' said Pippa.
'Really, I am.'
'Can I run with you?'
'If you can keep up.'
They both laughed and started jogging.
'If I come out again, can I join you next time?' Pippa asked.
'You know where I'll be; how could I stop you?'
They laughed again and then went their separate ways.
'Hi Honey, I'm home; I'll have a quick shower, then I'll make you something,' Fred said.
Fred's wife raised her arm and smiled; Fred eased her against her pillows and flicked on the TV to Channel Seven news.
"Another couple were butchered in their home last night. Police were called to the home of an American and his Thai wife last night; neither had been seen for two days, raising concerns of their neighbours and friends. The grisly remains greeted officers who entered the back door; the couple had been hacked to death by what is thought to be a rice sickle. Police Captain Thanansat said: 'It seems we have a serial killer in the city. Four couples have been murdered similarly in the last month.' More later as we get it."
Fred turned it off and found a Thai soap opera.
'Hi, Dad, I'm home. I've been up to that fancy estate on the hill,' Pippa said.
'Hello, darling, did you find any translating work?'
'No, but I met a nice man. What are you doing?'
'Oh, this? An old habit I can't drop.'
'Why don't you throw that old thing away? You don't need it. We haven't had any rice to cut since Mum got control of all your land.'
'Don't blame your mother; her head was turned long ago,' the elderly man said.
'What was it with her? I remember her trying to sing English pop songs when I was a toddler.'
'Yes, she loved all those old hits.'
'Then she started cooking Baked Beans. What was all that about?'
'She thought being a Thai farmer was below her.'
'Yeah, right, and then she ran off with that Damn English land grabber.'
Pippa's father stood, head bowed, looking at his trusty scythe.
'Give me that, and I'll put it in the shed. I'll warm up a curry; come on, cheer up.'
She went outside to the gas rings, served up two plates of rice and carried a bowl of steaming "Green Chicken Curry" back indoors to her father.
'Thank God you passed your exams and landed your job. Otherwise, we'd starve,' her father said.
'Dad, it's only part-time; I'm hoping to find another company with translating work. Then we can rent a better house.'
'What's wrong with this one?'
'Oh, Dad, you can't stay here.'
'Why not? We were happy here.'
'You may have been; Mum couldn't wait to get out. Let's not go there again.'
Pippa was busy on her mobile, ringing her college contacts. 'Hi, it's me again. Have you got any work for me?'
'Sorry, no, I'll let you know.'
The shower steam filled Fred's upstairs bathroom; the water pounded his tattooed body. He chuckled at his force's parachute logo splattered across his chest. 'Oh, how young and foolish I was,' he said as he soaped himself—then turned the water cold. 'Pity we can't get it freezing,' he grinned.
Downstairs, his wife sucked on her straw; once again, it slipped from her lips, and her tongue aimed it back into her mouth. She drained the rest of the cup. Her favourite show was beginning. She smiled as the host introduced his guests.
A sound caught her attention; her head couldn't turn to check.
'What do you want? I'll shout for my husband,' she said in Thai.
A hand grabbed her mouth from behind. The masked head studied her and her wheelchair. 'That I didn't expect.'
The choking woman shook her mouth free; she coughed and said, 'What did you expect?' The gloved hand slapped itself across her lips again.
'All of you sluttish Thai women who married "falangs" dump your heritage and Thai families to be with rich animals. To live in luxury but with no love.'
The secured head shook slowly from left to right.
'If I release you, do not shout, but tell me what you mean.'
'My husband loves me, and I love him. Even when I got sick, he stayed and cared for me. We are not all the same.'
'Sorry, I don't believe you.'
The hooked blade appeared under the woman's chin.
The parachute tattoo flashed as a muscled forearm hooked the mask's throat; in a split second, a crack signalled a broken neck as the body hit the tiled floor.
'Are you okay, darling?'
'Yes, yes, don't fuss, I'm fine. I never wanted a baby alarm, but now I'm pleased you installed it,' she laughed.
'Yes, I can hear whatever trouble you get yourself into. Shall I get dressed before the police arrive?' Fred grabbed his towel from the floor and joined in the laughter.
'No, officer, I have not touched the body; it is where I left it.'
The detective lifted the mask and looked at Fred open-mouthed.
'She spoke so nicely, though,' said Fred's wife.