Roi Tam Ruad Tho (Police Lieutenant) Chai Son Sinuan of the Royal Thailand Police parked his motorbike in the car park then walked up the steps and through the main doors of the Chaweng police station. Sergeant Chakrii, the duty sergeant was manning the main desk, he looked up to see who it was coming in and when he saw that it was only Lieutenant Sinuan he quickly looked away again and busied himself with some paperwork. Because of his stance against corruption in the police force, Son was not well-liked at the police station and he was snubbed and ignored by many of his work colleagues, which suited him just fine. A devout Buddhist he wasn’t in the police force to make friends or take bribes he had joined the police force to catch criminals and try to make Thailand a safer and better place to live. He often thought that many of the same police who were paid to protect the citizens of Thailand were just as bad, if not worse than most of the criminals that he arrested on a daily basis. He quickly made his way to his office eager to see what crimes the populace of Koh Samui had committed overnight. He still had a few current cases that needed clearing, a robbery at a gold shop not far from where he lived in Mae Nam and a missing German farang who had left his Thai wife and their two children in their house in Lipa Noi two days before to go on his regular late afternoon bike ride, and had not been seen or heard of since. When Son had talked with the wife when she had reported him missing, she didn’t give him the impression that she was too upset about him not returning home. Hopefully, the farang had returned home by now and they were arguing about where he had been and who he had been with. He probably had another Thai girlfriend somewhere else on the island and he had most likely been shacked up with her for a few days.
At the gold shop Son had interviewed the lady owner and her young daughter who were both in the shop when it was robbed and he had looked at the grainy surveillance video the day after the robbery and saw that it was the usual gold shop heist. A well-dressed man had walked in wearing a surgical mask, the same as most people were wearing nowadays due to the coronavirus, and a black baseball cap pulled down low on his forehead shielding his eyes. He talked with the owner of the shop for a few seconds saying that he wanted to buy a bracelet and necklace for his girlfriend’s birthday and a few seconds later he had pulled out a gun and demanded she put the trays of gold and jewellery onto the counter. He had then filled a rucksack that he had brought with him with what the owner claimed was over three million baht worth of gold plus the day’s takings and the man had then fled on the back of a waiting motorbike. The whole job from start to finish was over in less than three minutes. Neither the owner of the shop or her seventeen-year-old daughter who worked in the shop with her mother recognised the man and they had not been able to get the motorbike registration number but Son knew that the bike would have either been stolen or would have had stolen number plates on it anyway so even if he had got the number it probably would not have been much help to him.
Son glanced at his in-tray and saw that there were only two new crime reports that had come in overnight. The first report was a theft from a hotel room in Lamai where money, jewellery and a laptop computer had been stolen while the occupant was out for the evening. The second was a missing person alert. A bar-girl, Nangfah Saengsawang working at a bar in Chaweng was reported missing by her Mamasan when she had not turned up for work for two days and was not answering her mobile phone. He would hand the hotel theft to someone else and concentrate on the missing German farang and the bar-girl that was also missing as well as the gold shop robbery.
Koh Samui had been quiet for eight months now due to the coronavirus. This was devastating for Thailand tourism but a refreshing change for crime statistics on the island. In 2019 two and a half million tourists had visited Koh Samui; with the vast majority of them coming from overseas but since the coronavirus and restrictions on travel there were hardly any foreign tourists coming to the island now, which reflected on the number of crimes committed. Thailand had contained the coronavirus well and things were now starting to pick up in the domestic travel market with many Thai people visiting Koh Samui to take advantage of the peace and tranquillity of not having many overseas tourists. With hardly any tourists the beaches and the seas were looking clean and unpolluted again just like Son remembered them from 30 years before when he was a child and his parents would take him on holidays to places like Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Pattaya, Phuket, Phi-Phi Island and Krabi. There was nothing on his desk about the missing German so he rang the desk sergeant to see if the man’s wife had reported that he had returned home. The phone was eventually picked up by Sergeant Chakrii. “Sergeant this is Lieutenant Sinuan has Mrs Schuster been in touch regarding her missing husband?”
“Yes she rang about an hour ago asking if there was any news, I think that she was hoping his body had turned up by now, she probably has him insured.” Sergeant Chakrii did not like Thai women who took up with farang men, his wife had left him three years before when she met a man from Italy and she now lived in Naples.
Sinuan picked up the missing person file and glanced through it, then said; “When she reported him missing I drove out to their house and took her statement and she did not seem upset or that there was too much love lost between them, she seemed quite indifferent that he had gone and had not returned home. I’ll go and talk with her again this morning, he has been missing for two days now and I am starting to get a bad feeling about this case. Can you check to see if there have been any reports of arguments or domestic violence where the police have been called to their home in Lipa Noi in the past?”
Sergeant Chakrii said that he would, then pretending to be interested said; “What about his mobile phone has there been any activity since he disappeared?”
“I talked with his phone provider yesterday the phone company said that there had been no signal from his phone since early afternoon on the day that he was reported missing. So it’s either switched off or the battery’s flat. I also contacted his bank to see if there had been any withdrawals from his account since he was reported missing, they were going to check and get back to me but as usual, they are dragging their feet, give them a call and find out. While you’re at it talk with immigration to find out about Schuster’s immigration status and while you are talking with immigration check to make sure that he hasn’t left the wife and kids and flew out of Bangkok and returned back home in Germany.”
Sergeant Chakrii didn’t like Lieutenant Sinuan telling him what to do but he was one of his superior officers so he assured him that he would get on to it straight away. When he hung up the phone he went over to the coffee machine, poured himself a cup then picked up the Bangkok Post and sat down to read about the latest anti-government protests in Bangkok the night before.
There was a note on Son’s desk from his boss, Lieutenant Colonel Saetang telling him to report to his office as soon as he came on duty. Son hadn’t had his breakfast yet and he couldn’t face Saetang on an empty stomach so he went back outside to one of the local food carts and bought a coffee and a bowl of Som Tam and sat on a bench opposite Chaweng Lake and watched the joggers, dog walkers and people exercising as he ate his breakfast.
Half an hour later and suitably refreshed Son tapped lightly on Saetang’s office door and walked in without waiting to be told. “You wanted to see me, colonel?”
Colonel Saetang looked up from reading his morning newspaper and looked at his watch; “Yes over an hour ago...I saw you pull up in the car park at 8.00 o’clock its now 9.15 where have you been?”
“Sorry colonel something came up that I had to deal with urgently, but I am here now. What do you want to see me about?”
Saetang glared at Son for a few seconds trying to judge if Son was taking the piss then said “The German embassy has been in contact they want to know if Herr Schuster has turned up. It seems that Manfred Schuster has a brother who is high up in the German Bundestag and a member of the Christian Democratic Union and he is worried about his brother, what have you got to report?.”
“Well, he hasn’t turned up as yet. I am heading over to his house in Lipa Noi to talk with his wife now. I was hoping that it was just the usual farang problem, where he gets tired of his first Thai wife and wants to trade her in for a younger model but I think that there could be more to it than that”
“Well get this sorted, the last thing I need is problems with governments from other countries; I have enough problems dealing with our own government.”
Son took that as an invitation to leave and got up and walked towards the door.
“Oh before you go Lieutenant. A new man is arriving later today, Roi Tamruat Tri (Police Sub Lieutenant) Shinawatra. I want him to work with you. His father’s a high ranking police officer in Udon Thani.” He looked at his notes on his desk; “His father’s a Phon Tamruat Tri (Police Major General) so naturally his son has progressed through the ranks quite quickly but he needs more experience before he can move up to the next level, the Major General is an acquaintance of mine which is the reason why he is sending him here”
Son turned to look at Colonel Saetang; “I am sorry colonel but I prefer to work alone if you don’t mind.”
Colonel Saetang, his coffee cup halfway to his mouth replaced the cup in the saucer, put on a sympathetic face and said; “Oh I am sorry Lieutenant Sinuan you prefer to work alone, I didn’t realise that. I will call the Major General straight away and tell him to call his son and tell him to turn his car around and drive back to Bangkok. I’ll explain that I had completely forgotten to ask if it was alright with you first, I’m sure that he will understand.” Colonel Saetang looked menacingly at Son and then banged his fist on his desk nearly spilling his coffee; “Sub Lieutenant Shinawatra is driving down from Bangkok today, he will report to your office for duty first thing in the morning, I expect you to look after him while he is here with us, don’t let me down Sinuan the Major General has friends in high places.”
Son knew that he couldn’t win this one. He was a good Buddhist and he had been taught that the path to enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom and that like a tree you sometimes needed to bend with the wind. So he gave a Wai to Colonel Saetang and left his office, making sure not to close the office door on his way out...a few seconds later he heard the colonel curse as he slammed his door shut. It was a small if insignificant victory but it was better than nothing.
Son went back to his office to grab his motorbike keys, and on the way, he checked with Sergeant Chakrii to see what he had learnt about Manfred Schuster. Chakrii was in the back office reading a newspaper. “What did you find out about Manfred Schuster sergeant?”
Sergeant Chakrii looked over the top of the newspaper that he was reading and lied as he did most of the time “It’s being checked now; I will let you know the moment that I hear anything” then went back to reading the newspaper.
Son had been in the police force for many years and he knew how to play the game so he told Sergeant Chakrii about Schuster’s brother being a prominent member of the German government, that the case was now starting to become political and that he had just come from Colonel Saetang’s office and the colonel wanted the case wrapped up without delay. Son knew that by telling the sergeant that Colonel Saetang was involved in the case that he would get his full cooperation and any information that he needed without delay. He told Sergeant Chakrii that he needed to know about Schuster’s immigration status straight away and for him to personally call the immigration department and then get back to him with the information; Son then went back to his office and waited and as expected a few minutes later his phone rang.
“Lieutenant this is Sergeant Chakrii. Manfred Schuster was arrested for driving under the influence in Pattaya two years ago and was fined 15,000 baht. The police had also been called to his home in Lipa Noi twice for domestic disturbances but no charges were laid. He has no other criminal history. Immigration is still checking the status of Schuster and they assured me that they would get back to me as soon as possible” which Son knew that without putting pressure on them immigration could, and probably would take days before they would get back to them with the results, as inter-government department rivalry was standard practice in Thailand.
“Thank you, Sergeant. I want you to keep in contact with immigration and get the information I need this morning. Colonel Saetang has asked me to keep him posted on any progress in this case. I will let him know that you are the person dealing with the immigration department and for him to go directly to you should he have any questions or concerns.” and he hung up the phone.
He looked again at the two reports in his in-tray and decided that they could wait until later; right now he needed to go and talk with Mrs Schuster.
Son drove the forty-minute drive down the coast road through Lamai and past Taling Ngam. The Schuster’s lived in a large house overlooking Lipa Noi Beach with views to the remote island of Koh Pahruay one of the Angthong Marine Park islands. Son parked his motorbike in the drive and before he had taken his crash helmet off the door opened and Mrs Schuster came out; “Have you found him?”
“I am sorry not as yet Mrs Schuster, we have checked all of the hospitals on the island without any luck. I take it he has not been in contact with you since you last saw him?”
“No, you had better come in. The children are really upset but I made them go to school this morning, there’s nothing that they can do here. It’s better that they are with their friends at school than moping about the house.”
Son followed her into the house, she was a nice looking lady that he estimated to be about 35 years of age and there was a big age difference between her and her husband as Mr Schuster was 68 but that was not unusual with Thai/farang relationships in Thailand
Son closed the door behind him; “Mrs Schuster before your husband...”
“Please call me Phitsamai, Mrs Schuster is too formal”
“Thank you, Phitsamai before your husband left to go on his bike ride had there been any arguments or disagreements with either you or the children, anything that may have made your husband angry and want to stay away from home for a while?”
“No it was just a normal afternoon; Manfred had gone for lunch at his favourite restaurant at Karma Beach, I stayed at home working in the garden. Manfred returned about the same time that the children got home from school, he got changed and said that he was going on his usual bike ride around the area. He asked the kids if they wanted to go with him on their bikes but they were not interested so he went alone...and never came back.”
“I am sorry but I need to ask you some personal questions Phitsamai, it’s just routine and questions that must be asked whenever a spouse goes missing.”
“I know what you’re going to ask, were we happy together,? and the answer is no, not for a long time. I met Manfred ten years ago. I was working in a health spa at a hotel as a massage therapist, and once again before you ask, no, it was not a happy ending massage spa, I am a fully qualified masseuse and the spa was in a very reputable hotel. Manfred was staying in the hotel when he first came to live in Thailand and he would come into the spa for a massage regularly and after his first massage, he would then always askfor me. While he was having his massage we would talk and we seemed to get along well then one day he asked me if he could take me out for dinner. We enjoyed each other’s company so we dated for about ten months, during that time he rented a house and we moved in together. Then I got pregnant with my daughter Lawana so he did the right thing and married me. We were happy for about five years and then my son Tanawat was born and then Manfred seemed to lose interest in me and our relationship went downhill from there.”
“You say that he lost interest in you in what way did he change.”
“Manfred always had a lot of German friends in Kho Samui and he started to go out more and more with his friends. Some nights he would not come home and he would come back the next day and I could smell the perfume on him and I knew that he had been with his latest bar-girl and that he had spent the night with her. By then we had separate bedrooms and we had come to the arrangement that he could more or less live his life as a single man as long as he never brought any of his girlfriends home, paid the bills and looked after me and the children financially”
“And you Phitsamai did you have a boyfriend or boyfriends?”
“No, I had a bad experience with my first husband who was Thai. When he drank, which was most of the time, he had a temper and he would hit me, he also turned out to be a play-boy just like Manfred. When we divorced I swore that I would never go with a Thai man again and then I married a German and found out that farang were not much better so I decided I preferred my children and celibacy.”
Son felt for the lady she had made some bad choices in her life; “I’m sorry to have to ask you these questions; it must be very upsetting for you”
“It’s ok don’t worry. I am happy, I have two beautiful children, a nice house and we live well. If nothing else Manfred is a good father and he provides for his family.”
“Has he ever done anything like this before?”
“No he has stayed out all night many times before, but he always came home the following morning. In fact, he had been out all night the night before he went missing.”
“Did he say where he had been or who he had been with?”
“No, we never talked about that kind of thing anymore but I knew that he would have been with a woman.”
“What time did he arrive home that morning?”
“About ten o’clock.”
“When he went on his bike ride that afternoon do you think that he could have been going to meet the woman from the night before?”
“There was no need for him to pretend that he was going on a bike ride and then go and meet someone lieutenant, we had got past that stage of our relationship years ago and he was quite open about what he did. He went for his usual bike ride for exercise there is no way that he would say he was going out for a ride and then end up shacking up with someone for a few days. Even though we lead separate lives he loves his kids and he would not do that to them”
“Could you give me the contact details of your husband’s friends including any of his girlfriends if you have their details?”
“I don’t have any of his girlfriend’s details we never talked about that, but I can give you his friend’s phone numbers, at least the friends that I know of.” She went over to the landline telephone and opened a contacts book that was sitting next to it and started to copy some of the phone numbers. Son’s mobile phone rang and he looked at the screen and saw that it was Chaweng police station.
Please excuse me Phitsamai; “Lieutenant Sinuan speaking”
“Lieutenant this is Sergeant Chakrii. I have just been speaking with immigration, Schuster’s on a twelve-month O-A retirement visa which doesn’t expire for another 13 weeks. He is due to do his 90-day residency report within the next week. His passport has not been used to leave Thailand recently, the last time that he used his passport to leave the country was late last year and he was away for three weeks, returning to Thailand on December 29. I spoke with his bank earlier this morning and they have just got back to me; his ATM card has not been used since last week and there have been no withdrawals or any activity on any of his accounts since he went missing.”
Son walked outside of the house so Mrs Schuster would not overhear their conversation. “Thank you, Sergeant, I want you to get a search team together and get them to start searching Lipa Noi around the area where he usually took his bike ride, which covers the length of the beach road from his house as far as the Koh Samui Naval Base. He was riding an expensive red and white Ribble Endurance road bike so they should keep an eye out for that as well. Tell them not just to look along the road and side roads but off the beaten track, maybe he was hit by a car and is lying dead or badly injured somewhere in the undergrowth.” He ended the call and went back into the house. Mrs Schuster handed him a piece of paper with her husband’s friend’s phone numbers. He looked at the list and saw that there were six Germanic-sounding names written down.
“When your husband left to go on his bike ride did he take his wallet and mobile phone with him?”
“Yes, he never goes anywhere without them.”
“What about his passport is it still in the house?”
“Yes, It was the first thing that I checked, it’s still in the safe.”
“Do you know what areas in Koh Samui your husband drank when he went to meet up with bar ladies?”
“Well there are no lady bars in Lipa Noi, it’s not touristy enough the closest ones are in Lamai but I think that most of his friends live in, or close to Chaweng so I would imagine that he went there, probably Soi Green Mango.”
“Just one more thing Phitsamai does your husband have a life insurance policy and if so who are the beneficiaries?”
She looked shocked and for the first time Son saw some emotion from her, as tears started to well in her eyes “Do you think that I killed him for his life insurance lieutenant?”
“No, I don’t think that at all Phitsamai; these are just routine questions that I have to ask as I said before.”
“Manfred is a lot older than me but I still love him, maybe not as much in the last few years but he looked after us well and I will always be grateful for him for giving us the life that we have. He is worth much more to me and my children if he is still alive lieutenant than if he is dead. To answer your question, yes he took out a life insurance policy here in Thailand when our daughter was born to protect us in the future should anything happen to him. I believe that he also had a life insurance policy in Germany in the names of his four children from his first marriage who all live in Germany.
“Before I go do you have a recent photo of your husband that I could have?”
“Yes, he needs passport photos for when he renews his retirement visa I will get one of those for you.” She left the room and came back a few minutes later with the photo. Son looked at the photo; he was a handsome man looking somewhat younger than his age and he imagined that many Thai bar ladies would be interested in this man. “Phitsamai I know that it’s hard for you but please try not to worry, in my job I see this sort of thing happening all of the time and 99% of the time the person turns up eventually and life goes on as normal.” He said this to try to put her at ease but his gut instinct was telling him that Manfred was one of the people that were in the unfortunate 1%. Son thanked her and told her that he would be in touch when they located her husband and Mrs Schuster followed Son outside towards his motorbike;
“Please get in touch if your husband contacts you or if you can think of anything else that might help us find him.” She said that she would and Son started his motorbike and began the ride back to Chaweng. While riding back he thought about the interview with the wife. He had originally thought that Schuster could have been killed or arranged to be killed by his wife for his money but he no longer thought that the wife had anything to do with his disappearance. She seemed content with her children and the affluent life that they led and she was no different to many Thai women who had made a bad choice when it came to farang men. There was still a chance that she had killed him and that she had hidden his body in a moment of madness because of his affairs with other women but deep down he didn’t think that had happened. He still hoped that Manfred Schuster would turn up soon, embarrassed and ashamed by the trouble that he had caused by disappearing for a few days, or at the worst, he would be found dead in the long grass at the side of the road a victim of a road accident but he had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach that something much more sinister had happened to Herr Schuster and Son’s gut instincts had an uncanny knack of being right.
Back at the police station, he started to call the list of German friends that Mrs Schuster had given him. The first two went unanswered so he left a message telling them who he was and asking them to return his call and that it was urgent. The third was picked up almost immediately. “Hello Dieter speaking,” said a heavily accented voice.
“Mr Muller my name is Lieutenant Sinuan of the Royal Thailand Police; I believe that you’re a friend of Manfred Schuster?”
“Yes, I know Manfred, what’s the problem is he ok?”
“He left to go on his normal bike ride two days ago and he hasn’t been seen since. Has he been in contact with you over the past two days?”
“Oh, Mein Gott, I hope that he is alright. No, I have not spoken with Manfred in over a week. Let me think...we were out with the usual crowd in the Bayern Beach Bar in Chaweng last Wednesday or Thursday night.”
“Can you be more specific, was it Wednesday or Thursday?”
Dieter Muller thought about this for a while then said; “It was Wednesday, I remember now because it was pool competition night in the Bayern Bar.”
“How was he, did he seem troubled or worried about anything?”
“No, he seemed normal. We talked about the usual things, football, girls, German politics, Covid that sort of thing it was just a regular night.”
“What time did he leave the bar?”
“He only stopped in for a couple of drinks, before going to meet a girl that he had met in a bar a few nights before, he left at about eight o’clock, just before the pool competition started. I don’t know if you are aware but Manfred and his wife lived together but they had an arrangement that Manfred could see other women. I believe that they only stayed together for the sake of their children.”
“Yes thank you for telling me but I was aware of that; Mrs Schuster told me that they had an open marriage. What was the girl’s name that he was going to visit and do you know which bar she worked in?”
Muller laughed then said; “Sorry I can’t help you there lieutenant. Manfred is quite the one for the ladies. He usually meets up with us in the Bayern Bar for a couple of drinks but then he would normally take himself off to the lady bars here in Chaweng or sometimes in Lamai.”
“Did any of his friends ever go with him to the lady bars?”
“No, there’s usually about five of us who meet up regularly to have a drink, a game of pool or sometimes play a round of golf. Ralph went back to Germany in February for a holiday and has been unable to get a visa to re-enter Thailand because of the coronavirus. Johan like me is happily married, Kurt has a long term Thai girlfriend and she would cut his balls off if he went with another lady and Franz is gay.”
Son looked at his list and saw that the names matched up with the names Mrs Schuster had given him except for one name. “What about Friedrich Becker?”
“I hardly know Friedrich; he is not part of our crowd. I have met him a few times but I didn’t like him much he’s a bit of a rough diamond. Now that I think of it I think Friedrich used to sometimes drink in the lady bars with Manfred, I remember Manfred saying on a few occasions that he was off to meet Friedrich and see if there was any new talent in Soi Green Mango or some such place.”
Son looked at his list again and saw that the two numbers that he rang first that did not answer were Ralph Kepler and Friedrich Becker. Kepler was back in Germany and had been for a while so he could cross him off the list but Becker was definitely a person of interest. Son thanked Muller and gave him his phone number and asked him to call if Schuster got in contact or if he thought of anything else that might help trace his friend. He tried Becker’s number again but it just rang out, he would try again later. It was getting late and he hadn’t eaten since breakfast so he decided to go to a hawker food stall to eat and then head back to Lipa Noi to see how the search was going.
Son was just finishing a bowl of Pad Krapow Moo Saap when his phone rang; he looked at his phone but he didn’t recognise the number. “Hello, Lieutenant Sinuan speaking.”
“Lieutenant this is Sip Tamruat Tho, (Police Corporal) Songkarn Ambhom . I am in charge of the search party looking for the German farang here in Lipa Noi.”
“Have you found Schuster?”
“No Lieutenant one of my men has found a damaged Ribble Endurance road bike that matches the description of the bike he was riding but no sign of the farang.”
“Where in Lipa Noi are you?” The corporal gave him directions. “Ok don’t let anyone touch the bike I will be there in about 40-minutes.”
Son parked his motorbike and Corporal Ambhom a smartly dressed young man of about twenty-five approached him and gave a smart salute and then a Wai which Son returned. He asked the corporal to show him where the bike was.
“Before I take you to see the bike there is something else that you should see.” The corporal walked Son about five metres back down the road and indicated to an area close to the fence line. It looked like the area had been well-trodden, probably by the search party. About a metre out from the fence there was what appeared to be a large amount of dried blood in the long grass with a rock about the size of a man’s fist also covered in what appeared to be blood. On closer inspection Son saw that there were bloody fingerprints visible on the rock.
Son turned to the corporal; “Secure this area; I don’t want anyone walking here until forensics has cleared the area.”
Corporal Ambhom called one of his men over and told him to stand guard and protect the crime scene. They climbed over the wire fence into a rice paddy and Ambhom guided Son a few metres into the field and indicated where the bike had been found
The bike looked like it had been involved in an accident. The front wheel was bent out of shape as were the forks of the bike and the handlebars. “Has anyone touched it?” asked Son while studying the bike.
“No, I told my men that if they found anything that they were not to touch anything just report back to me. No one has touched the rock over there with blood on it either.” Son was impressed, good crime scene procedure was lacking most of the time by the police in Thailand.
“Right, contact forensics and get them to send someone to inspect the bike for blood and fingerprints and anything else that they can find, as well as the rock with the blood on it”
“I have already contacted forensics sir, they should be here soon”
Son was impressed again; this man would go far especially if he had Hi-So connections.
Son took a closer look at the mangled bicycle. There was no doubt that it was Schuster’s as there wouldn’t be too many bikes like this on the island and definitely not this close to his home. Son squatted down on his haunches to get a better look and he noticed that on the bicycle pedal on the right-hand side of the frame of the bike there were what appeared to be scrapings of blue paint. There also appeared to be blood smeared on the frame and the saddle of the bike. He heard a car pull up on the main road and a few seconds later a familiar face appeared and the forensic officer climbed over the fence and walked towards him. Sergeant Ananda Kaenchantha gave Son a Wai which Son eagerly returned. He was glad that they had sent Sergeant Kaenchantha he was the best forensic officers that they had in Koh Samui and like Son, he was incorruptible and loved his job. “What have we got here then Lieutenant Sinuan?”
Son indicated to the bike lying in the rice field. “This is in connection with the Schuster case, the German that has gone missing. It looks to me that his bike was hit back there out on the road by another vehicle and it was then picked up and thrown here into the rice field where it couldn’t be seen from the road. No sign of the farang but the search team are still searching the rice field and the surrounding area. I want you to give the bike a good going over, it looks like there is blood on the bike so I want the DNA from that and there is what looks to me like blue paint on the pedal and frame that I think may have come from the other vehicle involved so I need that analysed for matching when we find the other vehicle. If the bike was thrown into the field there should be fingerprints on it from the person who threw it so when you’re finished here go to the Schuster’s house and see if you can get Manfred Schuster’s prints from something that only he would handle such as his razor or a belt from his wardrobe for comparison and elimination. Also, get his toothbrush and comb or hairbrush so we can get a DNA matched to the blood on the bike.”
Son pointed to where the police officer was standing guard over where the bloodied rock was found; “Over there is what appears to be quite a lot of dried blood in the grass and a rock that is covered in what looks to be blood. It looks like whoever was responsible for this left their fingerprints on the rock.”
Sergeant Kaenchantha smiled and said; “That was very considerate of him I like it when a suspect contributes to solving a crime it makes my job so much easier.” Always eager to get to work laid he down his case next to the bike opened it up and started to work his magic.
As Son was walking back towards the road his phone rang. “Hi this is Friedrich Becker, I got two missed calls. You said that it was urgent.”
Friedrich Becker looked to be in his mid-sixties. He was wearing a pair of grubby shorts and what farang for some reason called a wife beater but was known to Thais as a vest or singlet. He was about six feet tall and he was probably once muscular, though he was now going to fat. He had a large protruding beer belly, was heavily tattooed on his arms and legs, and he had a shaved head and Son took an instant dislike to him. They were sat in his aptly named Porky’s Bar in Lamai close to the Grandfather and Grandmother Rock tourist attraction. Son had in front of him what was supposed to be a cup of coffee that had grease floating on the top of it and Becker had a long neck bottle of Singha Beer that he drank straight from the bottle. “So how long have you owned this bar, Mr Becker?”
“Call me Fred. I came to Thailand nearly six years ago with the intentions of retiring, but I got bored sitting around doing nothing so I opened this place a couple of years ago.”
Son turned his head and looked around the bar. It was a typical Thai girly bar consisting of a shabby looking pool table, a wooden bar with a small selection of cheap spirits on a shelf behind it, a drink fridge stacked with Thai beers, a long bar and stools along the entrance for the bar girls to sit and try to entice customers inside and at the back of the bar a door that he knew would lead to a smelly toilet with dubious hand washing facilities.
“Nice place you have here Fred, you must be very proud,” Son said sarcastically, which was wasted on Becker.
“Thanks, it is one of the better bars in Lamai.”
“How do you know Manfred Schuster?”
“We grew up together in Dusseldorf. Manfred retired to Thailand quite a long time ago and whenever he came back to Germany to see his family we would occasionally meet up for a drink and he would tell me about Thailand and what a great place it was to live. A few years ago I decided to come and take a look for myself and I liked it so much that I sold up in Germany and came here to live.”
“When was the last time that you saw Manfred?”
Becker sat back deep in thought; “Three nights ago. He came here for a couple of beers and a chat. How long did you say that he has been missing?”
“He was last seen two days ago by his wife before he went out on his usual bike ride. How long did he stay in your bar when he came here three nights ago?”
“Let’s see; he arrived at about 6.30 we had a couple of games of pool and he would have left about 8.00 or 8.30.”
“Did he say where he was going when he left your bar?”
“Look I don’t know if you know but Manfred and his wife didn’t get along and he had other lady friends; he was going to a lady bar to meet someone.”
“Yes I knew about him and his wife, where was the bar and what was the lady’s name and the name of the bar that she worked in?”
“I’m sorry I don’t remember.”
Son looked at him and knew instinctively that he was lying. “You don’t remember?”
“No my memory isn’t so good, maybe it’s an early onset of Alzheimer’s,” he smirked.
Son didn’t have the time to play games with this fool. He stood up and started walking towards the door; “Thanks for your help, Mr Becker. I am sure that your bar is up to code but I will arrange for someone to come around from the local Liquor Excise Department to check just to be sure. I will also get some officers to check in on you around midnight every night to make sure that you close on time and don’t accidentally lock the doors with customers still drinking inside.”
“Hey wait a minute don’t be in such a rush, sit back down you haven’t finished your coffee officer”
Son returned to the table and sat back in his chair. “So, how’s your memory now Mr Becker, I hear that Alzheimer’s comes and goes?”
Becker sat with a frown on his face with one hand cupping chin as if deep in thought; “I don’t think that he told me the name of the bar, and if he did I honestly can’t remember it but it was in Chaweng, and I think that he said he was going to see the girl in Soi Reggae.”
“And his girlfriend’s name?”
He went through the same act and eventually said; “If I remember rightly I think that Manfred said that her name was Angel.”
“When you were talking did Manfred tell you about any problems that he was having with anyone or did he seem worried about anything?”
“No, he was just his normal self. I was thinking of going with him to Soi Reggae but the bar started to get a bit busy so I was needed here.”
“Did Manfred have any enemies here in Koh Samui, any arguments with people in the bars?”
“No, not that I know of.”
“He was retired but did he have any business dealings with anyone on the island or in Thailand for that matter?”
“Again, no not that I am aware of.”
Son decided that here was nothing else to gain by talking to this man so he got up to leave; “Thank you, Mr Becker, you have been very helpful.” he left his undrinkable coffee on the table untouched, exited the bar and started to walk back to his motorbike. He didn’t think that Becker had anything to do with Schuster’s disappearance but he would have him checked out anyway. Becker was the type of farang that gave Thailand a bad name, he would ask the Liquor Excise Department to do a check on Porky’s Bar and it wouldn’t hurt to get the boys in brown to drive past at midnight to take check out the bar each night either.
Back in his office he picked up his phone and called Sip Tamruat Tri (Police Lance Corporal) Niran Chanthara. Niran was one of the few police officers that he trusted in Chaweng police station. He was the Chaweng police department’s computer expert and Son took full advantage of Niran’s computer skills as he himself was computer illiterate. He should have got Niran to check out Schuster with the department of immigration that morning instead of Sergeant Chakrii it would have been so much quicker, but Chakrii was a more senior police officer and paid more than Niran so why shouldn’t he work for his money also.
“Niran this is Son, are you busy?” They worked together often so despite their difference in rank they were on first-name terms when no other police officer was present.
“No more than usual, what can I do for you Son?”
“I have a German farang that I would like you to check out. Friedrich Becker, he is from Dusseldorf, he is in his mid-sixties he arrived in Thailand about six years ago and now owns a bar in Lamai called Porky’s.”
“What is it that you want to know about him?”
“Anything that you can find is he here legally, does he have any outstanding arrest warrants or criminal convictions either here in Thailand or back in Germany, I don’t like the man so anything that you can find out about him would be good.”
“No problem I will get straight on to it. I will get back to you as soon as I have something.”
Son thanked him then hung up. It was getting late and there wasn’t much more that he could do about the Schuster case until he got the results from forensics. He realised that he had not even looked at the missing bar-girl report or followed up on his initial interview with the gold shop robbery. The gold shop could wait until tomorrow but the bar-girls would be starting work about now he decided to go to the bar where the missing girl worked and talk with the Mamasan and the girl’s friends to see what he could find out. With any luck, she had just been with a customer for a few days and she was back at the bar by now and he could ride home and have an early night.
The bar was situated in Soi Reggae and was just a few minute’s drive from the Chaweng police station. Soi Reggae was the second busiest area for girly bars in Chaweng with Soi Green Mango being the busiest. The Pussy Galore Bar stood about a third of the way down the main street. As bars went it looked more upmarket than most of the other bars in the area, and the girls sitting outside looked younger and a little more glamorous and they were probably more expensive to sleep with than the girls working in other bars on the street. It was early so there were no customers and most of the girls were sat at tables applying their makeup or having dinner before starting work. Son entered the bar, took out his identification and walked up to a lady who was busy re-stocking the beer fridge; “I am Lieutenant Sinuan from the Chaweng police station, you reported a girl missing?”
A big built older lady who was obviously the owner said; “You took your time I reported her missing yesterday.”
“Are you the owner of this bar?”
“Yes, and I pay my money to the police every week and I expect to be treated better than this when I have a problem.”
It was common knowledge that police took money from the bar owners to turn a blind eye to the goings-on in the bars after all prostitution was illegal in Thailand. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Pussy.
“That’s your bar name, I’m not going to call you Pussy. What’s your real name?”
“The constable who you spoke with yesterday Rochana has put in a report and the girl’s description has been circulated. A police officer went around to Nangfah’s condo this morning and she was not home. He talked with the manager of the condo and some of the people that live in the block and she has not been seen around for a few days. I take it that you have not heard from her?”
“No, this is the third night that she hasn’t come to work; it’s not like her. She often goes with someone for one night then the man asks her to stay with him for another day or two but she always phones and tells me and she always pays me the bar fine for the extra days.”
“Did she have any friends or family in Koh Samui?”
“She didn’t have any friends that I know of, just the other bar-girls but she had a brother who lived in Koh Samui. She used to see him regularly but he was arrested for selling drugs about six months ago and he is doing two years in the Koh Samui district prison. Angel usually visits him in prison once a week to take him food.”
“When you last saw her did she leave with a customer?”
“Yes, she was sat with him for most of the night and about 10.30 he paid his bar bill and the bar fine for one night and she left with him.”
“Do you know the man, was he a regular customer?”
“I didn’t know him, I have seen him walking past the bar quite often. He had been in here a few nights before and sat with Fah but she didn’t go with him when he left that night.”
“Do you know where he was from, can you describe him?”
She thought about this for a few seconds; “He looked like most farang fairly old but he was not fat like many of them he was quite tall had all of his hair and he was quite thin. He was quite handsome, better than most of the bald fat farang that we normally get in here. When I took some drinks to their table I said hello to him and he sounded European.”
“When you say fairly old, how old do you think that he was?”
“It’s hard to tell with farang. With Thai men, I can usually guess to the month but with farang... I have spoken with some who look ancient but when I ask how old they are they turn out to be much younger than they look or so they say and then I have seen men who I think are young but they turn out to be old men. But if I had to guess I would say about 55.”
“Is Fah popular with customers?”
“Yes, she is the most popular girl here. She is very beautiful and she speaks good English. Many of the customers sit with her first if she is available. Her name Nangfah means Angel in English so that is what her bar name was, Angel.”
Something rang a bell in the back of Son’s mind but he couldn’t quite grasp what it was; “Did she have a regular boyfriend or someone that she saw regularly?”
“Before the coronavirus, she had many farang boyfriends but not now. Many would come here for two weeks holidays and fall in love with her and come back here to see her most nights. When they went back to their own countries they would phone her and some would send her money and gifts and a couple of them came back a few times to see her again. One paid for her to go and visit him in Australia just before the coronavirus started last year but she had to come back early when she heard that they were soon to be stopping flights into Thailand to stop the virus from spreading.”
“Did she keep in touch with this man from Australia?”
“Yes, he calls her on the phone all of the time and sends her money, he also pays for the rent on her condo. When she came back from Australia she said that she didn’t like Australia much and was glad to leave, that there wasn’t much to do and that he wasn’t much fun to be with and was he was boring. She said he lived in a small country town and that was boring too.”
“Do you know any of their names of any of the men or do you have any of their phone numbers?”
“The only one that I knew was the one that paid for her to go to Australia because she always talked about him so much. He was fairly old, maybe 65 or 68 years old. He wasn’t much to look at but she said that he treated her nice and was always buying her things. His name was Logan; sorry I don’t know his second name.”
“What did he look like?”
“As I said mid to late sixties, he had longish grey thinning hair, quite fat and not very tall, maybe a bit taller than me.”
Son looked at her and assessed her height to be about 170-centimetres “Did he live in Koh Samui?”
“No, but he came here often for a few weeks at a time. When he was here she would take time off from the bar and I negotiated with her a lower bar fine for the time that he was here so that they could be together.”
“Did he stay at her condo with her?”
“I would think so because he sent her the money for the rent each month.”
“What about the man that you saw her with the last time that she was working here did she say that she liked him or that he was special to her?”
The Mamasan thought about this for a while and then said; “No I don’t think so, she seemed to get along with him ok but I think that he was just another customer.”
Son took out the photo of Manfred Schuster. It was a long shot but it was worth a try; “Has this man been in your bar before Rochana?”
She took the photo from him and studied it for a few seconds, then went over to show it to the tables where her girls were sitting. There was a flurry of conversation as she showed them the photo and she came back to where Son was sitting.
“This was the man that paid Fah’s bar fine, the European man who she left with three nights ago.”
“So the two missing persons were known to each other. Angel was last seen on the Wednesday night and Shuster on Thursday afternoon.”
Son was sitting in the house that he shared with his girlfriend Kara and he was relating the day’s events. Son had met Kara six months before when he was working on a case where an English girl had gone missing from the hotel where Kara was working as an assistant manager. A few months after he met Kara, he sold the house that he had shared with his wife Samorn, who had died of a brain aneurysm two years before. The house was too full of memories of the life that he and Samorn had shared since they had met when they were young while attending university in Bangkok. He donated most of the money from the sale of the house to the Buddhist temple that was his wife’s favourite temple to worship and show merit and he had moved in with Kara. They were planning on getting married as soon as they had the time to make plans.
Kara refilled his wine glass and said; “Well it will certainly save you time, it will be a lot easier than running two separate investigations. Do you think that they have run off together?”
“I would like to think so, but his bike was found badly smashed with blood on it and it had been thrown into a rice paddy, there was a bloody rock nearby also. No, I think that he is dead and that she was either mixed up in his death somehow or she is dead as well.”
“Maybe the wife got jealous or sick of his infidelities and decided enough was enough?”
“That was my initial suspicion but after I talked with her today now I don’t think so. They had come to the arrangement that he could live his life as a single man as long as he did not flaunt it in front of her and their children and that he would provide for them. His wife seemed quite happy with the arrangement.”
Kara smiled at him; “Sometimes tirak as a policeman you are too naive and trusting when it comes to women. What if he fell in love with someone else and told her that he wanted a divorce and that he would no longer provide for her and the children, or that he was returning to Germany to live without them. Something like that could have pushed her over the edge.”
Son thought about what she had said then reluctantly said; “Yes I never thought of that.”
“There is an English saying that my mother used to quote to my father when his eyes started to wander; Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. You say that there were scrapings of blue paint on the bike that the farang was riding that could have come from a car. What colour is the Schuster’s car? ”
Son thought for a minute and remembered seeing a BMW sat in the Schuster’s driveway, he replied sheepishly; “Blue.”
“So maybe you should take a close look at the BMW and see if there has been any recent damage?”
Son gave a heavy sigh. Kara’s father was a police major general in Chiang Mai and her brother was also a police lieutenant and as Son often said about her, the coconut doesn’t fall far from the tree. If Kara had joined the police force instead of going into the hotel business she would have risen through the ranks...but then again probably not, this was Thailand after all, and women were not treated as equals here with only about 8% of the police force being female. Son yawned and stretched and said it was time for bed he told her that he had a new sub-lieutenant starting the next morning that he had to babysit and thanks to her he now had to also go back to Lipa Noi to inspect the BMW for damage, tomorrow was going to be a busy day. He kissed her goodnight put his wine glass in the dishwasher and Kara watched him walk into their bedroom and close the door, then she shouted loud enough so that he could hear; “It’s a shame that you’re so tired I bought a new bottle of coconut baby lotion that I wanted you to rub into my body tonight to keep my skin soft, don’t worry it will keep for another time...goodnight, sweet dreams. A few seconds later the bedroom door slowly opened and Son stuck his head out; “Did I say tired, I didn’t mean sleepy tired, I’m just a little lethargic, come on to bed and bring the lotion with you. We can’t have you getting dry skin.”