A Bangkok Solution
Fallon looked up from his notes, leaned over the lectern, and gazed steadily at the rapt faces in the packed, dimly lit, auditorium. "And so, in conclusion ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I can confirm that our third year of operations has been successful well beyond my expectations. Our increased focus on security at sea appears to be working, especially in the Somali sector of the Indian Ocean. This is especially satisfying. Since we commenced operations in 2010, no ship carrying our armed security units has been successfully hijacked in that area, a region that saw 189 pirate attacks in 2010 alone. Estimated ransom payments in that year were in excess of 160million US dollars, a considerable financial blow for many maritime companies. Those days are now over thanks to Global Solutions. I can say with confidence we have all but eradicated piracy in that region.
“Our preparation for training of special-forces in Thailand is going ahead
smoothly and it is to be hoped will lead to further contracts in South East
Asia, such as Indonesia and possibly the Philippines who both experience
piracy problems. Finally, in all areas, we have been completely loyal to our
mission statement which is: To provide a professional and confidential
military advisory service to legitimate governments; to provide the most
professional military training packages currently available to armed forces,
covering aspects related to sea, air, and land warfare, to provide advice to
armed forces on weapon and weapon platform selection. And to provide a total
apolitical service based on confidentiality, professionalism, and
dedication. He smiled. “We are, of course, not without our critics and enemies. There
are those who would like to shut us down. So, we must be constantly on
guard.” His smile widened. “Thank you for your attention.”
The audience rose and delivered a long, rousing applause. As the applause died, Fallon raised a hand. “In the room behind you, you’ll find a splendid buffet at your disposal; please do it justice. And for those of you so inclined, there’s plenty of good liquor to help wash it down; on the house of course.” A surge of laughter rippled across the room and the audience began to file out the double doors of the auditorium.
Fallon tidied the lectern and placed his papers in a briefcase. The last to leave, he closed the doors and went into the banquet room. He picked up a goblet of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter, took a long pull and appraised the crowd around him. He felt suddenly accomplished, complete, and the feeling was thoroughly satisfying. As a young soldier, first in the Parachute Regiment and then the Special Air Service, he’d dreamed of forming a security company like Global Solutions, and now it was a successful reality.
Like many special-forces soldiers, he’d feared retirement more than anything. What does an SAS soldier do when he hangs up his spurs? He’s relatively young and facing an uncertain future; it had always been a problem. But not anymore; he joins Global Solutions. He smiled and sipped his drink.
Coming through a small crowd, he saw his wife Chantal with Simon Pierce enjoying a tete-a-tete by a table. He went over and joined them. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you two are having an affair,” he said with a tight smile. Chantal Fallon laughed and squeezed his arm.
Pierce grinned. “I suppose we shouldn’t make it too obvious, Chantal. That
was some delivery, James,” he said.
“Thank you, Simon,” Fallon said. “I think I covered everything.”
“You didn’t mention the bonuses,” Chantal said.
“No, but that’s covered in the pay section in the printed prospectus which everyone gets.” Fallon drained his glass.
“I’m going to mingle with the girls,” she said. “Be good boys and don’t get
drunk.” She picked up her glass and slipped into the crowd. A passing waiter paused and both men picked up fresh glasses.
“James, you mentioned problems in Bangkok to me yesterday, but didn’t get chance to explain,” Pierce said.
“That’s right, I didn’t. The problem is David Payne.”
“In what way?”
“He’s not up to it?”
“I understood it was an easy posting?”
“It is really. At the moment, it’s a liaison role with a little travel; he’s basically minding shop until the training exercises start in two months. And that’s when a lot of work will need to be done. There will be meetings with high military brass and he’ll need to be on the ball with his wits about him.”
“So, what’s his problem?”
“The problem is he’s started to drink. I heard rumors, so I hired a Bangkok private investigator to keep an eye on him. The feedback is not good. He’s drinking hard, hitting the tourist watering holes and frequenting a couple of low-life sex-tourist places called Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy. And he’s picking up girls; bar girls and whores and taking them home. He’s coming apart. The photographs the PI sent me show him pissed, unshaven and dressed scruffy, like some sleazy bar fly.”
Pierce grinned. “I can imagine it. Bangkok can do that to a man. One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble as the song goes. What do you propose?”
“I want you to go out there and take his place. Put him on a plane home. Get him out, pronto, before he really fucks things up. It was a mistake to send a single man to Bangkok in the first place. I take full responsibility for that.”
“I’m single, James. Do you think I’m impervious to temptation?”
Fallon’s grin was crooked. “No. But you’ll know how to handle it.”
“When do I go?”
“You do have a choice, Simon, you’re not under orders. You can refuse.”
"I know that. But I’ll go.”
“Good man. Go next week.”
“You’ll can him, Payne?”
“No. No, I’ll not do that. He’s a good boy, basically. I’ll post him out in Abu Dhabi, minding some of those oil sheiks. Let him dry out in the Middle East.”
“That sounds about right. David is a good guy. When is your Canadian canoe trip?”
“In three weeks, on the seventh of next month.”
“What’s the name of the river?”
“The South Nahanni in the Northwest Territories: three canoes, six men and three weeks of hard paddling, three days white water, in a very remote area with lots of black and grizzly bears.”
“I wish I was going with you. You’ll have fun.”
“I’m sure, apart from the mosquitoes.”
“And Chantal; what will she be up to while you’re in Canada?”
“She’ll be going to Bretagne, visiting her mother; that and selling her
legal software to law firms in Paris. She’ll be busy.”
“OK. So I’ll pack and prepare to move to Bangkok.”
“Good. I’ll have your ticket booked tomorrow along with Payne’s ticket home. I’ll get you booked into a hotel not too far from the office. But when Payne is gone you can move into his place.”
Global Solutions’ Bangkok office was on the tenth floor of a prestigious building close to Siam Square. Pierce, who had booked into the Landmark Hotel, rose early and took the Skytrain, Bangkok’s elevated commuter train and, using a street map, found it with little difficulty. He bought a coffee and a cheeseburger from a fast food outlet and took the elevator up and let himself in.
There were two rooms: a reception room furnished with a secretarial desk and chair, desktop computer and several easy chairs around a glass table, a coffee machine and water dispenser. The inner office was larger and well appointed. A broad teak desk with a comfortable leather director’s chair dominated. Other chairs were placed about the desk. Behind the desk, a floor to ceiling bookcase covered the wall. Simply, but elegantly, furnished in dark teak, the office had a Spartan, businesslike quality to it. Pierce took the big chair, sipped coffee and examined the books: war histories, military biographies and works on military theory. He pulled on the desk drawers, but they were locked. The place was clean, neat and tidy with everything in its place. Whatever had happened to David Payne, his breakdown was not reflected in his office. Pierce checked his watch: 9:40. He went out into the reception office, took the secretary’s chair and unfolded a copy of the Bangkok Post. He drank his coffee and began to eat the burger.
By 11:00 AM, with no sign of Payne, Pierce tossed the newspaper in the waste bin and went out. He took the skytrain, direction east, alighting at Thong Lo Station. A ten-minute walk brought him to Payne’s residence on a quiet lane off Sukhumvit Soi 38. The gate was unlocked, and he went inside the yard. Thai music came from the open kitchen window along with the rattle of dishes being washed. He tapped on the door.
The Thai girl who opened it wore a skimpy, see-through, nightdress. Pierce put her age around eighteen, maybe less. She was small, pretty, had nice legs, but was spoiled by prominent tattoos on her arms and shoulders. Noting his unguarded appraisal, she smiled. “Good Morning,” she said and waied him.
Pierce smiled and was about to reply when the door was wrenched wide to reveal an unkempt David Payne in a stained t-shirt and cut off denims. A big man, he towered over the girl.
Pierce grinned. “Good Morning, David,” he said. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
“Oh, Simon,” Payne muttered. He looked shocked.
In the living room, Pierce took a chair by a window. He drank coffee the girl had provided, appraised Payne’s quarters and liked what he saw. Payne came in; he’d shaved, showered and dressed in tan trousers a short sleeved tennis shirt. The girl brought him coffee.
“It’s good to see you, Simon,” he said. “though it is a surprise.”
“Thank you, David. However, I am the bearer of bad news.”
“Really?” Payne looked puzzled, and nervous.
“You’re being recalled. I’m replacing you.”
“Oh, well,” Payne shrugged. “How much time do I have?”
“You leave on Friday night on the scheduled British Airways flight to London.”
“Yes. I suggest you don’t drink today, David; keep a clear head. We’ll meet in the office tomorrow morning at 10. I’ll need a full briefing on everything I need to know. If I were you, I’d also prepare a short report for Fallon.”
“I’m being fired?”
“No. James has far too much respect for you. You’ll be posted elsewhere. But you will be on notice, so shape up, laddy.”
Payne nodded. He looked nervous. “This place, Bangkok, it gets to you,” he said. “I was OK at first. I worked out at the gym and stayed in shape. I kept to myself. It starts with a few drinks with the Thai military. It’s expected of you. Then it gets heavy and with that awful whisky they drink. Then it’s the bars and the girls,” he grinned slightly. “And the girls are something else, believe me; young, lovely...”
Pierce smiled. “I sympathize completely, David. But it’s over now.”
With Payne gone, Pierce settled in and quickly got down to business. Within two weeks, he’d met with the all the Thai military brass with whom he would liaise in the coming months as the training got underway. His outstanding military record, especially his SAS career performance, had been made known to his hosts by James Fallon before Pierce presented his credentials. A warrior, a soldier’s soldier, his was a hard earned reputation which he backed up with a cool, impeccable swagger that other military men admired, envied and stood in awe of. After all, Pierce was a fighting man in the truest sense, and had on occasion waged war in single combat with nothing more than a knife in his hand.
Pierce came to like the seclusion and quiet of the residence he’d inherited from David Payne. He hired a maid-cook and a cleaner. He joined an elite health club, worked out and swam most days. When he drank it was beer or wine taken in moderation at home on the living room verandah while he read and listened to classical music. But on occasion he went out to a small pub, The Mad Hatter, he’d discovered nearby. Run by a Brit, it had satellite television and carried English Premier League football fixtures and international rugby matches. It also had a good crowd of British and other expatriates.
Using the cover of a business rep for a London electronics firm, Pierce enjoyed their company and often played darts with them. He was amused to find a self styled ex SAS man called Jeff among them. Jeff, was a total bull-shitter of course, as Pierce quickly determined. For fun Pierce pried him open with searching questions and discovered that Jeff had never heard of David Stirling or Paddy Mayne. He didn’t even know that SAS headquarters were in Hereford. But Pierce avoided the temptation to expose Jeff; that would have been churlish and cruel. But it amused him that so many believed and swallowed Jeff’s nonsense. If they only knew, he grinned to himself.
On the evening of the 7th of August, Pierce took a glass and a carafe of wine onto the house verandah and called Fallon, dialing his house landline. It rang at length before being answered. “Good Afternoon, Fallon residence, Chantal speaking.”
“Good Afternoon, Chantal. Is James there?”
“No, Simon. He left for Canada early this morning.”
“Oh yes, he’s off on the canoe expedition. I’d forgotten.”
“Liar. How is Bangkok; hot, I suppose?””
“It would a lot hotter with you here.”
She laughed, softly. “What are you doing?”
“I’m sitting on a bamboo couch on my verandah drinking a nice red wine and listening to Brahms, Liszt and a little Mozart. It’s a lovely Bangkok evening. I’m alone, and I’m thinking of you. Care to join me?”
“I’m leaving for France tomorrow. Anyway, Bangkok is full of lovely young ladies, Simon.”
“Yes, but they speak no English, are poorly educated, don’t listen to fine music and we have nothing in common. It’s not just your body I want, Chantal.”
“You saw me at the annual party; I’m old and fat now.”
“Not old and not fat. Fuller, yes, and more developed than before; sexier I’d say. I could hardly contain myself that night.”
“What happened was long ago. I was younger then. I’m happily married to a fabulous man whom I love very much. I also have two lovely sons and a great future. I’d be a fool to jeopardize that.”
“Who will know? James is in Canada. Fly out to France, visit mum and then fly Air France to Bangkok. I’ll get two tickets to paradise for one last fling. Two weeks in Ko Samui won’t jeopardize anything.”
“Oh, it’s Ko Samui you want me in is it?”
“You said you loved Samui.”
“I spent a month there during a gap year when I was twenty. Yes, I loved it.”
“There you are then. We’ll never get another chance like this.”
“Simon. You’re good looking, intelligent and have a great personality. Find yourself a single girl.”
“I want you.”
“I’m not available.”
“I once asked you if you split with James would you come back to me; you said yes. Does that still hold?”
“I’m not sure.”
“You still have feelings for me then?”
“You still have my letters?”
“When you said you loved me you meant it?”
“Yes I did. Simon, we had a lovely passionate affair. But it’s past now. Be my friend.”
“I want more than that.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Don’t, please.” Pierce hung up.
Three days after his return from Canada, Fallon listened to the tape recording in his home office, drinking cognac and coffee and smoking a Cuban Cohiba. And what he heard chilled his heart.
He’d known about Chantal and Simon’s affair for several months now, ever since he’d found the love letters in a box in the attic. Searching for some old diaries of his father’s, he’d found them, thirty two of them in three bundles tied with ribbon, still smelling strongly of cologne, Simon’s cologne, lying at the bottom of Chantal’s cedar chest.
The letters delineated an affair of a year’s duration, beginning just after the birth of Fallon’s first son, Michael. Fallon had been having a rough time of it. His efforts to kick-start Global Solutions were having serious problems; financing was difficult to obtain, money was short, and things looked hopeless. Topping this, his marriage had entered a difficult patch. Chantal had developed severe post partum emotional problems requiring treatment. They’d separated, and Chantal had moved back to France leaving Fallon devastated. And unbeknownst, to him, Simon Pierce, his SAS colleague and closest friend, had moved in on her.
Eventually, after a long year, Chantal had returned, and they’d reconciled. At the same time, the long sought financial backing came through and Global Solutions began to take off. A year later, Fallon’s second son, Christopher arrived. That was all of four years ago.
Fallon and Pierce had met as SAS recruits; Fallon coming in from the Paras, Pierce from the Royal Marines. They saw action together on tough assignments in the Middle East and North Africa. Once, over beers after an arduous training crossing of the Brecon Beacons, Fallon had asked Pierce would he go into the jungle with him. “Without hesitation,” Pierce had replied. “And I you,” Fallon had said and they’d gripped hands. Fallon had considered Simon Pierce to be his closest and most loyal friend, a consideration that changed when he found the letters.
But even so, he was prepared to forgive and forget, believing human nature to be weak and fragile. Chantal was unquestionably beautiful and able to turn any man’s head. And Simon was a handsome devil. Things like that happen. Still...He returned the letters in their box to where he’d found them. Forget about it.
But he couldn’t help noting the attention Pierce continued to pay to Chantal whenever they met. And it made him think. Consequently, his posting of Pierce to Bangkok to replace Payne was deliberate and calculated.
Simon Pierce was serious and organized and the perfect man for the job. He would set up the Thai operation and steer it through. It would be a complete success and in that way the posting was sound. But it was also a test. Fallon had placed a bug in the land-line telephone of his home which recorded all calls, going out and coming in. And Pierce had telephoned Chantal four times from Bangkok in the first week that Fallon had left for Canada, cajoling and tempting her; but to no avail. Chantal had stood firm and declined. And Pierce had failed his test.
Listening to the recorded conversations Fallon felt terribly wounded and was filled with a cold hatred for the man he had so completely trusted. It was time for action. He decided that killing Simon Pierce was the only answer. He’d kill him in cold blood as a matter of expediency. And he’d do it in Bangkok. Unlike Britain, which was festooned with CCTV cameras, they were almost non-existent in Thailand. This, combined with a police force that was notoriously inept and corrupt made Bangkok the perfect killing ground.
On the 30th September, Fallon dispatched three hundred men, ex Special Air Service (SAS) ex Special Boat Service (SBS) from Global Solutions to Thailand aboard a chartered Boeing 747-400 flying from Stanstead Airport.
Arriving at 2:00 am local time at the old Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok, the contingent was met by Simon Pierce along with Thai Special Forces commanders. Once the arrivals had cleared Immigration they were transported by military trucks to the Special Forces bases. The training exercises had begun.
In England, a weary Fallon took a holiday, his first real break since forming Global Solutions. He took Chantal to Europe for a long promised extended vacation. After a week in Paris, they rented a car for a slow tour of the French wine regions before moving on through Holland, Belgium and Germany and the white wine vineyards of the Lower Rhine.
In late November, Fallon flew out to Thailand to join Pierce for the last week of the joint exercises. At their termination, a dinner was held to celebrate their success at The Royal Thai Army Headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Nok Road in Bangkok where Fallon met both the Commanding General of the Royal Thai Army and the Defence Minister, both of whom suggested that the exercises should become a bi-annual event. This cheered Fallon who readily agreed.
During the after dinner speech making, Fallon, was presented with a Heckler & Koch P30 automatic pistol with thirty rounds of a 9×19mm Parabellum ammunition, fifteen of them hollow points, in a beautiful teak presentation box; a gift to Global Solutions from the Royal Thai Army. Later he handed the weapon to Pierce. “There’s no way that can go home, Simon. Pity; it would look good in the trophy case in headquarters.”
“What should I do with it?” Pierce asked.
“Put it in the wall safe in the office. It’s behind the Lyman lithograph. Leave it there until we can come up with a home for it.”
“You’ll need the combination, of course,” Fallon said and wrote it down for him.
For a week, they partied and reminisced about old times. Pierce took Fallon to The Mad Hatter, introducing him to the expat crowd as a work colleague. Fallon also met Jeff; the self styled ex SAS soldier. Whereas Pierce was amused by Jeff, Fallon totally despised him for dishonoring a great regiment. Watching him drinking and chain smoking, he wondered how the out of shape, bullshitting fake would fare ferrying a full pack across the Brecon Beacons. Before leaving for London, Fallon instructed Pierce to remain in Bangkok and tidy any loose ends before coming home. “Stick around for a couple of weeks,” he said.
“You’re not closing the office?”
“Oh, no. We need to keep the lines of communication open. Especially if this is to become a bi-annual thing as I hope. We’ll use the posting as a form of R&R for any boys needing a break.”
“That’s a great idea. So long as they don’t go off the rails as David Payne did.”
“I’ll hire that PI to watch over them,” Fallon laughed.
Back in England, at his desk in his home office, Fallon riffled the crisp pages of the passport. British, never used and issued in London in the name of James Peter Radcliffe, it bore Fallon’s photograph. He placed it on the desk along with a compatible driving license and International Driving Permit; bank credit cards and other effects added credibility. The passport was sound and would pass muster at any immigration checkpoint, and any police check would validate the driving license. The bank cards were fake; not to be used, but looked perfect and added a good effect. Fallon would carry cash and traveler’s checks to Bangkok. He logged onto his computer and downloaded the British Airways e-ticket issued in the name of James Peter Radcliffe. It was first class, London-Bangkok, return open. He printed it and packed everything into a wallet which he placed in a shoulder bag. He was ready and his timing almost perfect.
In two days, Chantal would leave for France to visit her mother and then go on to Frankfurt to attend a Law Symposium where she would demonstrate her legal software to German law firms and she hoped, make sales. Fallon’s elder son, Michael was in school, and the younger boy, Christopher was with James’ mother.
Ostensibly, Fallon was going to Wales, hiking with an old SAS friend in the Brecon Beacons and would be unreachable for a week. And James Peter Radcliffe would leave in thirty minutes for Heathrow and his 15:50 scheduled flight to Bangkok, Thailand.
After clearing Thai immigration, Fallon took a coffee and Danish at a concourse outlet and went out to the taxi rank. It was 10:15 and already hot. Slipping into a taxi’s cool interior, he directed the driver to the Dusit Thani Hotel.
At the hotel desk he took a single room, paying cash. In his room, he unpacked, showered, put on shorts, a t-shirt and sandals and went out to the terrace restaurant. After a light breakfast, he took a taxi to the office of Global Solutions.
At the office door he put on surgical gloves and went inside. He stood for a minute before the Stephen Lyman lithograph: Moonfire. A birthday gift from Chantal he never tired of admiring. He took it down, opened the wall-safe and removed the boxed Heckler & Koch pistol. Sitting at the desk, he hefted and familiarized himself with the weapon. A combination of steel and polymer it felt light and good in his hand. He field stripped and reassembled it twice and then loaded the gun’s fifteen round magazine with hollow points. He worked the gun’s silky slide action, loading the breech and ejecting the rounds and switching the safety back and forth with his thumb. With a smile of satisfaction, he placed the gun in his shoulder bag, chamber empty, hammer down and safety on. He put the box back, locked the safe and replaced the artwork. On the street he took a taxi back to the hotel.
At 2:00 in the afternoon, he rented a black Honda 125cc Dream scooter with electric start from an agency near the hotel and spent an hour riding it and getting familiar with negotiating the heavy traffic in central Bangkok. He rode defensively, giving way, using his mirrors, gaining confidence. The last thing he wanted was a traffic accident.
After sundown, in black padded jacket, trousers and helmet with smoked visor, he took a ride along Sukhumvit Road and turned down Soi 38. He passed Pierce’s residence and rode on to The Mad Hatter Pub. It was unlit and obviously closed. Monday had to be the staff night off. He turned around and rode back, noting how quiet it was in the narrow lanes. Passing the house again he paused and noted a single light burning behind the lattice gate. Moving on, he reached the main road where he found it easy to leave the Soi, turn left and meld smoothly into the heavy traffic stream on Sukhumvit.
He’d been planning to follow Simon Pierce home from the pub and hit him on the fly, from behind from the moving scooter close to his house and then get in to the Sukhumvit traffic as quickly as possible, but he’d had second thoughts and changed his mind. He wanted Simon to know it was him, Fallon, who’d hit him; and why. It was only right. He decided he would ambush him in the house yard. And he’d do it the following night; Tuesday. That was when Pierce played darts in the pub and arrived home around 11:00pm.
Pierce put aside his paperback and got up off the couch; it was 9:15. He put on a light windcheater and went out, locked the gate and headed toward The Mad Hatter. Pierce was restless; his thoughts were focused now on going home. He’d enjoyed his work in Thailand, but now it was done; it was time for a changing of the guard. To arrange matters, he’d called Fallon at home without success. James was in the Welsh mountains for a week, so his answering service said, and Chantal in France. He’d left a message, and he’d try again over the weekend and get it sorted.
And when his replacement eventually arrived, he’d take a week’s R&R in Kho Samui and have a little fun, swim in the salt, get laid with local beauties and eat and drink well. And then back to London and get into another project. He turned a corner, and the lights of The Mad Hatter came into view. He smiled with anticipation; he could taste the beer.
In his hotel room, Fallon pushed the gun into his jacket inside pocket; it felt snug and sat well with little sag. He went down to the hotel car park, took out the Honda and headed toward Pierce’s place.
He passed the pub at 10:30 slowed down noting the crowd and then pressed on. Reaching Pierce’s house, he parked the scooter a few yards beyond the gate under the limbs of a small tree. He covered the number plate with a small hand towel. He opened the gate, went in and re-locked it. Finding a plastic stool by the door, he carried it behind the foliage that skirted the yard’s left side, sat down and removed his helmet. With darkness he had sufficient cover. He leaned back against a wall and waited, listening to the night sounds; music, voices, laughter, the clatter of utensils, the blare of television, the barking of dogs and the rasp of passing scooters; there was always noise in Thailand. A tuk-tuk rumbled by, sounding rough, its occupants laughing. Then soft footsteps and a rattle of keys, the snap of a lock and the gate opened. Fallon reached for his gun as Simon Pierce came in, closed the gate and crossed the yard toward the house. Fallon drew the pistol and stepped clear of his hide. “Good Evening, Simon,” he said.
Pierce stopped and turned. He swayed a little and seemed to peer. “Christ, it’s James. What...” He noticed the gun in Fallon’s hand.
“You just can’t leave Chantal alone, can you, Simon.” Fallon said, thumbing off the safety.
Pierce looked down, shook his head and shrugged. “James if I...” Fallon shot him then, a lung shot to the left side in the heart region and Pierce gasped and staggered back. Fallon fired again and Pierce crumbled to the concrete. The harsh pulsing bark of the gunfire brought on a chorus of barking dogs. Fallon stayed cool. He bent down and examined Pierce, whose eyes stared back blank and unseeing; he’d been dead before he’d hit the ground. He squeezed Pierce’s shoulder gently. “Goodbye, Simon,” he whispered.
He pocketed the gun, picked up the two shells and put on his helmet and went out, leaving the gate partly open. Despite the gunfire and barking of dogs, there was no one in the lane. He removed the towel and, mounted the bike and rode to the main road, turned and quickly joined the traffic stream.
Back at his hotel, he parked the scooter and took a taxi to the Sala Daeng BTS Skytrain Station and took the train to the river. Alighting at the Saphan Taksin station, he headed on foot across the Taksin Bridge that spanned the Chao Phraya River. To his left, a packed ferry slipped her moorings, siren blaring, and left the Sathorn Pier heading for the west bank and the Thonburi side of the river. He felt hot in the padded jacket and took his time, striding slowly. At the halfway point, he stopped, leaned on the barrier rail and looked south toward the city ports. On his left the lights of Bangkok burned with insolent intensity; the lights of Thonburi on the west bank were more subdued. Below him, the black river ran swift as an ebb tide raced for the distant Gulf. Behind him, the road traffic was heavy, but he was alone on the walkway. A barge, long and wide, riding low in the water moved slowly upstream and passed beneath him. He reached for the gun. And as the stern of the barge passed beneath the span, he drew the weapon clear of his jacket and threw it out into the darkness. He saw the faint splash as it hit the water. The two brass shells followed and Fallon turned away and headed back.
In his room, he showered and changed into ivory slacks and a black long sleeved shirt. With a shaking hand, he poured a cognac, half filling the glass, adding an ice cube. He went out onto the small terrace, leaned on the rail and gazed out on the vast sea of illumination that is nighttime Bangkok. The shock of his actions in the last hour swept through him. Killing a fellow man in battle is never easy, especially at close quarters. But murder was another thing. And gunning down your closest friend in cold blood, was something else entirely. He took a taste of cognac, drank deep and recalled Pierce lying on the ground in that yard, the shocked expression and the dead, unseeing eyes. Why the hell did he not leave Chantal alone? He took another deep drink of the brandy.
Fallon no longer felt any hatred for Pierce. All rage and anger was now assuaged and Simon, in death, was cleansed. He’d paid a heavy price and the slate was wiped clean and he was forgiven. Fallon felt a deep pang of sadness. He remembered the closeness of their friendship and their times together. Staring out across the city’s sea of illumination, he recalled an SAS hostage rescue operation in Tunisia.
Six men, anti-Gahdafi militants, had taken control of the Libyan Embassy in Tunis, holding twenty three foreign tourists and the Embassy staff hostage. When their initial demands were not met they’d killed two Embassy workers, throwing their bodies onto the street. The Tunisian President remembering the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980, and the small SAS team that had brought it quickly to a satisfactory end, asked Britain for help. The British Government agreed to do so. They would send an SAS unit to Tunis.
In SAS Headquarters, Fallon was handed the task. He decided a team of four was sufficient and selected three others, John Curtis, Mike Maudsley and Simon Pierce. They flew out to Tunisia on an RAF C130 Hercules transport.
In Tunis, Fallon advised the authorities to prolong the dialogue with the terrorists. And while negotiations continued, the four soldiers, in full-faced balaclavas, sat in a park opposite the embassy and studied drawings of the building layout and laid plans. Then, armed with Hecklar & Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, they moved across the road.
Pierce and Curtis, utilizing the fire escape and grappling hooks, scaled the building to the roof, intending to enter and descend through a maintenance access door. The door was locked. Pierce used a Hatton breaching round destroying the lock, but the muzzle blast gave warning to the terrorists inside. Fallon and Maudsley entered the basement via a window and began moving up.
Pierce and Curtis claimed one terrorist in an upstairs room. Maudsley shot and killed one on the staircase who seemed to be fleeing to the basement. Curtis killed another in an upper office after a short exchange of fire.
There had been a close shave when Pierce had tripped on a stair carpet and tumbled down. A terrorist had stepped out from behind a desk and was about shoot Pierce when Fallon, emerging from a stairwell had stopped him with a sustained burst from his sub-machine gun, almost cutting the man in half. Fallon had helped Pierce to his feet; they’d gripped hands and laughed. The last two villains who were holding the hostages in the reception area dropped their weapons and surrendered, releasing their captives. The operation had taken thirty minutes.
After a brief meeting with the delighted Tunisian President, the squad flew back to England the same day and celebrated in the Hereford mess with a party that turned into a monumental drinking session. Fallon smiled at the memory and drained his glass.
He decided he’d return
home as quickly as possible. He went inside, took out a British Airways card
from his wallet, picked up the phone and dialed the reservations number; if
a seat was available for the following night, he’d take it. The operator at
the BA desk checked the flight manifest; yes, there was a seat available
tomorrow in the first class cabin. Fallon reserved it, thanked her and hung
up. He smiled, refilled his glass and went back outside.
Fallon arrived Friday morning to a cold Britain and promises of imminent and serious storms issued by the Meteorological Office. He took a taxi home from Heathrow Airport, negotiating a fixed fare with the meter left off. The driver, only too pleased at getting such a long distance fare, accepted. Fallon got the driver to drop him in the village at the Hare and Hounds, his local pub, a mile from his house. The pub had just opened. He went in, sank a pint of Marston’s Bitter then headed home on foot.
It was chilly in the house. He turned up the heaters, fixed himself a cognac and went into the library. He’d been away all of five days. He checked the phone messages; there were six. One, eerie now, was from Pierce in Bangkok, wanting to come home soon and requesting a replacement; he would call again on the weekend. Listening to the voice of the man he’d just killed, chilled Fallon. The other five calls were for Chantal.
He built a wood fire in the grate and took a chair by the hearth. As the fire took hold, he added coal from a scuttle and watched the flames work their way from the wood kindling into the coal lumps. From his windcheater he withdrew James Peter Radcliffe’s passport and driving license and tossed them onto the fire; the credit cards followed. He took a pull on the brandy and watched the flames devour all evidence of Radcliffe’s existence.
In Bangkok, Simon Pierce’s body was discovered by two boys playing in the lane off Soi 38. A curious crowd gathered at the gate. Someone called the police who arrived quickly and commenced to set up a forensic crime scene. Eventually, Pierce’s body was taken away to the police morgue to await autopsy. A senior officer contacted the British Embassy in Bangkok.
The news spread quickly. Fallon received two calls from colleagues saying they’d heard rumors of Pierce having an accident in Bangkok. Later in the day, two men from the Foreign Office called on Fallon at Global Solutions Headquarters to officially inform him of Simon’s murder. They were also seeking relatives of the dead man.
“Simon had no family other than an estranged brother in Australia.” Fallon told them. “Both his parents are dead. As to cousins and other relatives, I have no idea. However, we will handle the funeral arrangements. Simon was a close friend of mine and of others here at Global Solutions. He also has good friends in his old regiments. I’m sure the Thais will need to carry out an autopsy, but I would like the Foreign Office to get him home as soon as the Thai police finish with him.”
The men promised to help expedite Pierce’s return home and left. Fallon now had the unpleasant task of breaking the news to Chantal.
The death of an important British “military advisor” and “liaison officer” was well covered by the Thai news media. Both English language papers, The Bangkok Post and the Nation carried the news, prominently. The Thai Prime Minister, flanked by the Defence Minister and the Commander in Chief of the Thai Army appeared on television news and issued a brief, terse statement to the assembled media people. He said. "I have ordered the police to find, arrest and bring to justice the killer of the British military attaché at all costs and as soon as possible."
Simon Pierce’s funeral took place in the Cotswold village of Alford, his birthplace. The church of Saint Anne was packed to capacity with Simon’s many friends and soldiers from the Royal marines and the Special Air Service. In his Royal Marines Dress Uniform with the epaulettes of a lieutenant colonel, he was borne into the church on the shoulders of two Royal Marines and two Special Air Service soldiers to the singing of the hymn, How Great Thou Art, and placed before the altar, the casket open. Fallon, with Chantal by his side went straight to the coffin, and while Fallon firmly squeezed Pierce’s hands, a weeping Chantal gently touched his face.
The service opened with the singing of Abide with Me. Midway through the funeral mass, Fallon delivered a stirring eulogy; an address filled with tales of Simon Pierce’s military accomplishments, his audacity and fearless courage, and peppered with humorous anecdotes. This was followed by a thunderous delivery of William Blake’s Jerusalem.
At the end of the mass, the casket was closed and raised to the shoulders of the pall bearers and, to the accompaniment of the hymn, Going Home, the priest led the congregation out of the church to the gravesite. And Simon Pierce was placed in the ground beside the grave of his parents.
Thirty seven days after Simon Pierce’s murder, Thai police in Bangkok announced that the crime had been solved; the killer of Simon Pierce had been found. Supat Kerdsap, an itinerant worker with a long record of petty crime, was arrested during a house break-in on property close to the home where Pierce was found shot to death. Under interrogation, Kerdsap confessed to killing Mr. Pierce after he was interrupted attempting to break in to the house. He asked for seventeen other break-ins and robberies to be taken into consideration. After a swift, accelerated trial, Kerdsap was sentenced to life imprisonment.
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