Revenge of the ScorpionFrancis Chang / Thrillers & Crime
The Revenge of the Scorpion
By francis chang
Copyright Francis Shettlesworth 2012
Lek had been on duty for several hours manning a traffic police road block on the super highway. The super highway stretched all of the way to Bangkok and the road blocks were placed at many locations along it’s length. Their position was ideal as they could not be seen by motorists until the last minute and they had the shade from the airport overpass to keep away the glare of the sun. Lek’s wallet was full as there had been no shortage of motorbike riders without helmets or Farangs to intimidate with threatened prosecution for alleged speeding offences. Still, his pistol holster was new and rubbed sorely against his hip.
Gope, one of his friends in the traffic police, called out to him -
“Hey Lek – how much money have you made today?
“Not enough Gope!”
Gope knew that Lek led a high life with many debts, a wife and child to pay for every week and a fondness for gambling. Police officers were paid low salaries and had to pay for many items of their police apparel and equipment, including their motorbikes, themselves.
“What time are you going to eat?”
“Listen Gope… I have a few jobs to do, as well as eat, can you cover for me for a few hours?”
“Sure, but don’t make it too late. That new captain will be making his rounds at some time to collect – okay?”
“Sure Gope… just tell him that I had the ‘runs’. Too much rotten food from the Som Tam vendor next to the police station.”
Lek climbed on to his motorbike, kick-started it and headed off down the super highway. The hot saddle of his motorbike burned his upper thighs. It seems that he always forgot to cover it when not riding the bike.
The afternoon was blistering hot without even a light breeze to move the leaves of the bamboo and banana trees. It was the middle of the hot season and the earth was baked to a hard crust deprived of rain for many months. All of the inhabitants of the yard were either sleeping or sheltering in their burrows in the ground to avoid the fierce glare of the sun – all except one. The scorpion was hungry and sun or no sun it needed sustenance and it had to feed. Slowly its feelers removed the hidden door to its lair and it left its home to find food.
The card game started late that day. It was played hidden from watching eyes at the back of the house in a rice barn sala. The wooden table was laid with a full ice bucket, bottles of lao kaow moonshine, Singha beer, glasses and of course the cards. A revolving fan was plugged in to an extension cable and aimed at the table. Gradually the family and friends took their seats around the place of battle. A radio in the back ground played North Thai music from a local radio station
Lek turned his motorbike into the yard and parked under a palm tree. The group at the table called out to him
“Lek you bad boy! How many poor people have you shot today?”
Lek, loved his Colt .45 Revolver and was still paying installments through the Police Cooperative but he had never aimed the gun at anyone – let alone shot someone. Still his day would come. He walked over to the table and placed his 2-way radio on the table next to him. He was still on duty and it was possible that a call could come through at any time. In addition he if the new Captain showed up – Gope would give him a call.
Kek poured himself a Singha, put some ice in the glass and sat back.
“So whats new Somchai? Is it going to be a good crop of rice this season?”
Somchai shook his head. “That will be the day.” Somchai was a betel nut chewer with red teeth. He spat some of the juice onto the ground
“Well Lads…what’s the game to be? I hope that you have brought lots of money for me to take from you – no doubt stolen from your wife’s hiding place in the empty fish sauce bottle !”
By this time the others all had glasses in front of them. They grinned at each other. Somchai an old rice worker from the fields and owner of the house said -
“Come on Cowboy Lek. What are you going to do if you lose? Shoot us?”
The rest of the group laughed uproariously. Somchai called out to his wife to bring some crispy rice kanom for the table. One of the younger men who worked with Somchai in the fields pointed to the house at the other end of the garden.
“How is your son – the Westerner Farang?”
This brought new laughter as they all knew that the Farang was well into his seventies.
“Farang Bah….he’s crazy. All day long he rides his bicycle, some say all the way to Laos and back. And in the night time when I want to sleep he plays his music or television at full volume”
Not that they had a way of knowing but the Farang in question was an ex-Buddhist Monk and nearly totally deaf. He was cared for by his Thai-Japanese wife and son-in-law.
“Well… you know what they say Somchai” said Lek “Farang-Kee-Nok” A very insulting expression which meant Western Bird Shit.
“Now, what’s the game to be?”
The group all replied unanimously –
Bpauk-Daeng – Red Tree Bpeauk-Daeng – similar in play to the Western Baccarat - one of the most the most vicious of all Thai card games, where no prisoners are taken, small fortunes won and lost and sometimes lives also. Lek leaned forward brushed a small fly from his face, slowly looked into each face at the table and slyly asked if they were sure. All of them nodded their heads. Disagreement ensued as to who would be dealer. The dealer holds a small edge of just over one per cent to the other players. Ultimately Lek picked up the deck, shuffled and started sealing counter-clockwise for high card to be dealer.
Nok, one of the rice field workers and Somchai’s friend received an ace and the deck and became ‘The King’ - Dealer. He waited until the other players had laid their bets on the table. In a public place these would just be spoken but the sala was located in a concealed spot in the garden. The bets ranged from 20 Baht to 100 Baht laid by Lek. Nok rifled the cards in a horizontal shuffle and again dealt counterclockwise – two cards to each player, face down, one at a time.
Lek surreptitiously looked at his cards – a glorious 4 and a five, Bpauk-Gao, and turned them over. Nok stared at Lek’s cards in amazement.
“Lek…are you cheating?’
“No need when I play cards with you!” Lek sneered.
Nok shook his head and went around the table asking the other players if they wanted a further card. Two of them nodded their assent and Nok dealt the extra cards. As for himself he held an ace and a two obliging him to draw another card as points lower than three require a further draw. A ten! A useless card, which did nothing to increase his total points. One by one the other players turned their cards up.
The players with three cards had a flush and a set awarding them three times the amount of their bet. The other players all had points above 4 and Nok grudgingly paid all of their winnings. Lek told Nok that he would replace him as dealer as for sure Nok would not have enough money for the bank. Lek poured himself another glass of Singha. Nok got up from the table and walked over to the rickety old spirit house in the yard. The deal had cleaned him out. So much for the Spirits of the house and garden bringing him good luck.
“I don’t suppose anyone will lend me a hundred Baht?” He called back to the table. They all shook their heads and grinned. Nok stormed out of the yard.
All though the afternoon the game continued with Lek dealing and winning.
Somchai was the first one to see the scorpion.
“Hey… that’s a big beast!”
All of the group at the table turned around to see what he was looking at. Somchai pointed to the middle of the yard where the scorpion was scuttling across with a small Gecko lizard held by the front claws – eager to take the Gecko home to its lair and devour it.
“Lets have some fun” Lek said while removing a small plastic magnifying lens from his wallet. Lek had trouble enough understanding English – let alone reading the small letters on a foreigner’s driving license.
Lek found an old half inflated and patched inner tube underneath the sala and ran across to the scorpion. Carefully he dropped it over the scorpion so that it was trapped. He called the rest of the men over –
“Hey watch this… you think that its hot today? This will make the bastard squirm!”
He focused the lens between the sun and the scorpion, which dropped the gecko and tried to move away from the dreadful pain of the beam. Lek laughed and quickly made the beam follow the scorpion, which writhed in agony.
A commotion and shouting came from the other side of the yard. The Farang, who had long straggly hair tied with string, had been hanging wet washing up shouted:
“What are you bloody lot up to tormenting that poor creature?”
Lek turned to Nattapong who was student at the local college and spoke a little English.
“What’s the old goat saying?”
“He’s telling you to leave the scorpion alone.”
“Tell him to fuck off!”
After a few minutes more of the cruel game Somchai said –
“Hey Lek…come on… that’s enough! Either kill the wretched thing or let it go on its way.” I have enough trouble with the Monks at the Temple as it is.”
Lek reluctantly pocketed the lens and kicked the inner tube away. They all drifted back to the table in the sala to re-start the game.
Lek won yet another game. As tempting as it was to accuse him of being a cheat – that was dangerous territory as he was Police.
Joe and Nok had lost all of their money to Lek and the others were all short of cash.
“You know Lek – you think that you know it all.”
Lek had undone his belt and the top of his trousers, lowered his underwear to gain access and be able to scratch his hip which had become irritated by the rubbing of the pistol holster. Just then his two-way radio crackled with his call-sign and a message.
“Sorry Lads…got to go. There has been a multi car and motorbike accident at Rincombe junction.”
He gathered in all of the baht notes and coins and started to find his wallet.
Now Scorpions are physically unable to jump but can move at lightening speed.
Apparently one thing that Lek did not know was that the scorpion had made its lair underneath the sala.
The scorpion tumbled to the ground. Lek jumped up desperately trying to keep his trousers around his waist and jumped onto the scorpion, kicking it with his black police boots and grinding it into the ground until he was sure that it was dead.
Somchai, who had much experience in dealing with scorpion stings from his time in the rice paddies, helped Lek to sit back in his seat.
“Don’t worry Lek – the sting is poisonous but it won’t kill you! Just take it easy for ten minutes”
He took a handful of ice and made a compress with some of the paper tissues from the table.
“Lek – sit still for a wile and keep this ice pressed down onto the bite. It will soon stop stinging.”
Lek, feeling sorry for himself, sat back down. “Bloody scorpion.” He should have killed it when he had the chance with the plastic magnifying card. He looked at the site of the sting – just to the right of his groin. Already it had become inflamed and a deep red colour
Some of the other men at the table, who had lost their money, were thinking Som Nam Nah – ‘Serves Him Right’.
Lek pulled his mobile telephone out from his shirt pocket. Did he have Gope’s number? He looked at the directory – yes – and then Lek called him. Without going into details about the card game he explained that he had been bitten by a scorpion and was going home. Had the Captain turned up? No – he was safe then.
Lek thanked Somchai and carefully climbed onto his motorbike. The bite was causing him grief but nothing that he couldn’t handle. He carefully drove home.
When he arrived at his small house he called out to his wife –
“Teerak – are you here?”
His wife replied that she was cooking on the gas hob at the back of the house. Lek grunted and told her that he was going to have a shower. Lek undressed and left his clothes in an untidy heap on the floor and placed his gun and holster on a table by the bed. He left the cold water on for many minutes and directed the spray at his groin. The throbbing of the bite had subsided but the inflammation still made the bite look angry. He grabbed the towel and drying himself left the bathroom to find his wife standing there with a steaming bowl of hot noodles.
She looked at glanced at him and then looked more carefully. Her gaze took in the large red inflammation by his groin.
“You cheating bastard! You dare to come back into the house with love bites from your whore all over you!”
She threw the boiling noodles onto the bite and Lek’s groin.
In the midst of Lek’s torment and agony he thought that he heard the strange sound of a scorpion laughing.