Monday, January 7, 2013

Italians in Thailand/4: the shady guys

Good old S just came back to Pattaya, where he's gonna stay for the next six months. His girlfriend is pregnant and he wants to stay close to her. I meet him at the Big Buddha hill trail, where I go jogging in the evenings. He's got another one of his bombs in store for me.
A few months ago, still in Pattaya, he met another Italian, one of those wretches who scrape through life in a not-so-clear way. Apparently he seemed to be a nice, easy-going, honest guy. Just apparently. We - who are endowed with hindsight powers - won't call him the honest guy, but the shady one. One day the shady guy wants to walk S to his hotel. S hasn't got any particular reason to say no. Once in S's room the shady guy looks carefully around, then he remembers that he doesn't have any money on him and asks S if he can borrow a few baht. S agrees, after all it's just a little sum. The shady guy insistently looks at him when he goes to fetch his moneybox. Just in case, a little thoughtlessly though, S decided to carry a big amount of money with him, a few thousands euros, cash. The shady guy drops a sequence of funny comments, such as: "Why so furtive?" and "Oh Jesus, I see, look at that stack of banknotes!"
I don't really know him very well but it's easy to tell that S, even though in the past he got into a lot of mischief and is slave to quite a few nasty vices, at heart is a naive good-natured person who wouldn't hurt a fly. And who, as a consequence, is not lead by his instinct to detect the malicious and sinister side of others. In the last few years, though, he's paid dearly for this candid disposition of his and experience must have thickened his rind. Now, for instance, he's just smelled something fishy.
The shady guy makes a telephone call, then he asks S if he'd like to have lunch together. Obviously, it's on him (and obviously he will pay with the money S just lent him). S accepts the invitation and initially walks out of his hotel with the shady guy, then he claims that he forgot something upstairs and tells the shady guy that he's gonna catch up with him at the restaurant. The shady guy doesn't look very happy with that, but he agrees nonetheless. S goes back to his room, gets hold of the moneybox and hides it somewhere else, then goes to the restaurant where he meets the shady guy who is sitting at a table with the shady guy 2, a Moroccan tourist, the only one in town who hasn't deserted him yet, as S will soon find out. Just when they are about to order, the shady guy changes his mind (so to speak, as he has actually entertained the same filthy idea since the very first moment), says that he has some urgent business to take care of (you bet he has...), stands up and leaves them there.
At the end of the dinner the shady guy 2 (i.e. the lookout, or the sidekick) invites S to have a nice walk around town, adding that he has a lot of new stuff to show him. After a few minutes though, S, getting more and more suspicious, takes his leave and goes back to his hotel. The door was forced open and the room is a mess. Fortunately the box has remained inviolate.
The hotel owner and some neighbors tell him that they saw his friend (i.e the shady guy) entering the hotel by himself. Nobody has informed the police yet as they think it's up to him to decide. S talks with the Italian agent of the local tourist police, who suggests he sues the shady guy, as some CCTV images can also be used as evidence. S says that he won't do that: the shady guy would fall into the ordinary police's clutches and, as he wouldn't be able to pay the necessary bribe to be released, he would be sent to jail. Jail for a foreigner in Thailand is tantamount to little less than a death penalty. I've already told you that S is a good guy at heart.
Still, he's not a fool and as soon as he's back to Italy he decides to inform some friends who work for the Guardia di Finanza, suspecting that the shady guy does houses (= is a burglar) at home as well. Probably the shady guy learns about this and when S is back to Thailand he approaches him and apologizes for what he did. S replies that it would be nice if at least he were reimbursed the 100 euros he had to pay to fix the hotel room door. The shady guy says that he can't. Then he invites him to join him on a ride on his van (apart from being a robber he is also an electrician by trade and he claims that he's just started a new business in Pattaya: he installs, hear ye, hear ye, security cameras and burglar alarms!) S suspects that he wants to take him somewhere quiet where he can give him a thrashing without being noticed. He wriggles out of it with some excuse. 
Now S is torn: on one hand he'd like the whole story to be over, on the other his pride forbids him to appear afraid. He's been carrying a pocket-knife with him since. I hope that the shady guy and his conscience will not give him a reason to use it.

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