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Not Far Enough From Worries

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Thailand's Underbelly Beckons in a Heart-Pounding Tale 1980s Thailand. Sun-drenched beaches hide a sinister reality. Here, Camilla, a fearless motorbike-riding reporter, navigates a web of secrets, one closer to her than she dares to imagine. Her uncle, a notorious drug lord, holds the key, but the truth comes at a brutal price. Can she expose the darkness without succumbing to it? Two English lads, Kev and Nick, crave tropical paradise. Instead, they stumble into a dangerous game orchestrated by a deceitful Dutch engineer and his ruthless allies. The stakes rise when they cross paths with French dog lovers hiding motives more complex than affection. Enter Mad Mike, the enigmatic Welshman, whose talent for illicit drug concoctions attracts unwanted attention. As lines blur between friend and foe, Kev and his enigmatic girlfriend, Skylab, embark on a desperate chase into north Thailand's perilous depths. Action explodes, romance ignites, and tears flow in a breathtaking finale where loyalties are tested and justice demands a sacrifice. Prepare for a rollercoaster ride through murder, love, and secrets that will leave you breathless. Fast-paced, thrilling, and deeply human, this novel throws you into the heart of Thailand's underbelly where nothing is as it seems. Unravel the shocking family secret that could shatter Camilla's world. Will Kev and Nick survive the ruthless game they've been forced into? Can love bloom amidst the shadows of danger? Experience the electrifying world of 1980s Thailand, where beauty and brutality collide. This gripping story that will stay with you long after the last page.

Chapter 1 - Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok

'IT IS NOW TWENTY past two in the afternoon! Where is my mate? The plane landed two hours ago. What have you done with him? Is he drunk? Have they arrested him? Or was he kidnapped? Where the hell is he? Everyone else has retrieved their bags and gone.'

An exhausted and frustrated young Englishman stood and scratched his head. He wished someone, anyone, would answer his questions.

He would also like to stop muttering to himself. No one else was listening to his questions, anyway.

Kev decided he needed to walk around, cooling his rising frustration. A cup of coffee? He needed one, mainly when he saw the look of amusement on the face of the latest man he had confronted.

'I am sorry, sir, I cannot tell you anything,' stated an airport security officer, whether he knew anything about the flight or was clueless about most things. Whatever, he was gawping, standing in his over-ironed shirt. Over-ironing had turned the cheap material shiny brown. Leaving it to the imagination or a plausible guess how the seams of his shirt remained attached.

The airport emptied; the commotion was quieting—still no Nick.

Kev was not happy. Usually, he is very reasonable; he is not prone to talking to himself. Today he was on the verge of becoming volcanic. Not only that, he had answered himself. Kev had read Lonely Planet. Here in Thailand, it would be best if you did not show your feelings, happy or wild. Any sign of temper wins you a frown from all angles. Kev was wearing his brand new L plates.

He felt an overpowering need to moan and whine; he tracked down an information kiosk.

'Before arriving at the airport, I had spent four and a half hours on a bus with a broken air conditioner. Can you please help me?'

The look on Kev's face had the information lady signalling to the nearby security man. He came over and stood next to Kev. He carried on with his rant to the lady and himself.

'You know it was cool enough when I boarded the bus in the early morning. The mercury rose as the miles passed. So did my temper.' She was looking puzzled.

Kev's frustration was evident for all to see. The security guard had placed his right hand on his pistol. Of course, it was an overreaction, but Kev was making everyone nervous.

Kev went on with his complaint.

'By the time we reached the city's outskirts, not only was it hot enough to make the devil jealous. There was not a whiff of a breeze.'

He remembered the perspiring Westerners, or "falangs" as they are known in Thailand. They leaned across his upper body to remove their bags from the overhead storage. Overloud Thais, front and rear, left and right, all jabbering. They were relating something earth-shattering, like the next-door neighbour's dog peeing on the washing or telling their whole life history to fellow travellers. People they had met only five minutes earlier—true Thai style. Thai people love a good yarn. Whatever they were saying, Kev did not understand.

'Christ, the Westerner's body odour wafting makes it all worse.'

The security man had released his grip on the pistol, and the lady seemed more relaxed.

He knew well that the surrounding foreigners needed some scented soap and water. They were all grateful they could disembark. And sample another of the country's many delights, be it edible, visual or beddable.

'Whatever, get away from me!' That was the thought that crashed around inside his head. With that unspoken thought, he wandered on. It was solving nothing and leaving the two on the desk looking at each other, wondering if all "falangs" were like that.

Kev had travelled up from Hua Hin, the sleepy seaside town now Kevʼs and soon to be Nickʼs new home. Kev was happy soon to see his oldest mate but worried that Nick would not fit in, in more ways than one. Nick would not be comfortable in the flight's 'economy' section for a start. Twelve hours squeezed into a seat built for a person half of Nick's size. Would he cope with the heat? Could he keep his temper when necessary?

Earlier that day, Kev had travelled by bus. He was aiming north to Bangkok, the country of Thailand's capital city, the City of Angels. After a lengthy wait at Don Mueang Airport's arrivals area, he still had not seen Nick, let alone an Angel. However, the arrivals sign promised the plane had arrived and was on time.

Thailand's population was under that of Britain, but over fifty million people. Both countries are proud to boast a working democracy. In Thailand, a good proportion of the people loved and adored their King. Thailand's King is considered by most of his people a demigod. In every country, some people would change their system of government. Thailand is no different. It does not take many firebrands to cause a country serious problems.

What could have happened to Nick? The man was not built to enjoy thirty degrees Celsius. Household weighing machines are not made for people of his girth. One leg on the equipment and the little arrow already nudged twenty stone. Nick was a lad who enjoyed his food. And not a healthy choice, although he would take it if nothing else. Chips and pies, Chinese or an Indian with crisps and a large slice of sweet cake would be his pick. All that to go with a few pints of lager. Unlike Nick, Kev could go for hours without sustenance.

Small jerky movements of his neck, eager eyes flicking left and right. Panic was welling up, churning inside, battering his empty stomach.

'How long since I last ate? Come on, Kev, get a grip.' He said, almost kicking himself.

'What would you do if you lost somebody at Heathrow?'

So, he went in search of a policeman. There were men in uniform everywhere, and he chose the alert-looking one, busy chewing gum.

'Oh, a big man, yes?' He answers in schoolboy English. Another officer with an overworked uniform had no information. What do they feed these guys? In a country full of slim people, why do all the overweight people have jobs with a uniform?

Kev found a sensible-looking woman in a uniform that fitted well; she smiled at him and asked if he was looking for a big guy.

'Yes!'

Came Kev's eager reply. But still no useful facts on Nick's whereabouts.

'Yes, you are correct, that's the person! Where is he?' Kev pressed her further.

He was getting so desperate he was running to the next person in uniform. Anyone in uniform, he quizzed an airport cleaner who he mistook for a flight Captain. Nice uniform for a cleaner. Kev had read in a guidebook that in Thailand, you should always smile, even in tricky situations. This tested that theory. One last try–a man with a clipboard.

At that, a big smile spread across the man's chubby chops. Kev did not like him or what he was about to hear, which was nothing helpful.

'Well? I am waiting.'

Kev's forced smile was slipping. Instead, he told his tale of woe.

'Ooh, a big man,' said the uniform as he marched off.

Kev's smile slipped further.

This would be a long and frustrating wait. Another hour passed. He then failed in his inquiry to discover if Nick had been on the plane.

'I cannot tell you security rules.'

The airport emptied, and few people were left in sight, but still no Nick.

Then laughter rang all around, echoing from the glass and concrete walls. Airport staff appeared from each doorway, all sneaking a glimpse at Kev, and they were all smiling. Thais, unlike Kev, found fun in every situation. They are great at grinning.

Don Mueang airport opened in 1914 as the Royal Thai Air Force base. Then, in 1924, it took commercial flights, making it one of the world's oldest airports. But, unfortunately, none of that information made Kevʼs wait any easier.

The grand entrance of Nick followed the spontaneous outburst of clapping and cheering. It was as if he had finished conducting an opera. Bowing his head combined with his newfound skill of performing the "wai". Placing your hands together, the Thai gesture looks like someone in prayer. The wai can mean hello, goodbye, and thank you, amongst other things. Someone in uniform must have passed on the art to Nick. He had been enjoying himself. Kev was thinking of a new use for the wai.

Nick had made friends. With the immigration police, the airport security, and even the well-dressed cleaners. They must have offered him food; they had. But not just any food; he sampled "somtam". A Thai favourite dash. So spicy it can melt glass. This salad features fermented fish. They can turn the most muscular stomach and assault the unwary nostril.

A rumpled Kev could not hold back his moan.

'I have been here for hours. What the hell happened to you?'

'First, they looked me up and down. They then enjoyed touching my beard. Do Thai men have beards? It was as if they had never seen one before.'

Nick was warming to his first time in Asia, enjoying his experience.

'Then my size impressed them. Are there no large people here? They wanted to know how much I weighed. I do not know, as you remember, I broke normal bathroom scales, so they got me on the airport weighing machine! That was interesting. Someone summoned airport staff, and quite a crowd gathered. They all enjoyed that, particularly when a man ran a book on the announced weight!'

Nick was wobbling with mirth. Kev was not.

'Then they wanted to know what was in my bags. Nothing illegal, but when the Marmite jar appeared, they thought no one would eat it. They all wanted a taste.' He chuckled. 'Which I offered. After all, they had shared some of their food with me. They were laughing so much. The whole department joined us, and even more, people appeared from somewhere. Then I had to prove I could eat and enjoy it! Sorry mate, I know it was for you, and you've been missing your favourite breakfast spread. I ate the whole jar, and again money changed hands. A female cleaner seemed very pleased with both results. Were they gambling?'

Nick stopped wobbling, and he looked at his mate.

'Anything the matter? You don't look happy.'

The airport staff looked like they had enjoyed their shift, with cheery waves all around as they left for home.

At that, Nick hitched his waistband and untucked the part of his shirt that was not already untucked.

'Now, what's next?'

He was almost skipping along the terminal corridor. But then, a thought crossed Kev's mind.

'So who is it that would not fit in?' Kev mumbled.

There was the sound of clicking and speeding heels from behind them. People usually rushed towards departure, not when they had arrived.

'Strange, what's going on?' asked Kev.

A tourist hurried past, dragging his suitcase along the floor. A young father was pushing his children ahead of him and peering backwards as he shoved his youngest forward.

Kev no longer notices the fear in the eyes of new arrivals. Instead, he was busy admiring a beautiful air hostess, adjusting a tight jacket and skirt. The reason for the rearrangement of her clothing soon became apparent. She then sprinted, a feat difficult to do in a pencil skirt.

Kev had turned to say something to his friend about her lovely legs when he spotted the unusual flight path of a plane filling the window behind them.

'Christ, look out,' shouted Kev.

The sounds of terror grew. People could see that the craft was flying at the terminal building. Shrieks and screams were increasing in volume. People turned to see a cargo plane's wings dipping one, then the other. Finally, it hurtled toward the unprotected building. The pretty hostess hitched her tight skirt even higher and ran faster.

The white propeller-powered plane filled the windows. It appeared to be coming straight through. But, instead, it fell short of the building as it dipped and crashed into a fuel tanker parked outside. Some empty cars parked alongside the building lifted into the air. The explosion shattered glass for a hundred yards all around.

A fireball burst from the destroyed fuel vehicle. Black acrid smoke choked the life of any birds unfortunate enough to be flying past. People in the airport ran as fast as the slippery tiled floor would allow. They could hear glass crashing as the shattered panes came loose from their frames. Passengers screamed. Uniforms ran in all directions.

Welcome to Bangkok!

Chapter 2 - Nightlife In The Big City

A LOCAL TV CREW, excited for the latest update, spotted Nick and tried to interview him. Not a chance, the big man nipped behind a group of Arabs, whose flowing robes distracted the reporter. The newsman looked left and right, mentally picking his next victim to quiz on camera. The reporter being in two minds gave Nick a chance to escape. But instead, the news team nabbed an American serviceman—a much easier and doubtless more talkative target.

After recovering their composure outside the airport terminal, they moved like the rest of the travellers. They were getting into buses or taxis to escape the hectic mess. Throngs of police, military, and newspaper reporters buzzed towards the action.

'An accident; it could have happened anywhere.'

That was Nick's educated comment as sweat ran down his face.

They were jammed for more than an hour in traffic. Wedged, all going to or away from the smoke. Kev spotted a leaflet on the seat, luckily printed i

Heroes

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