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The Fifth Man by Robert Bell. $3.99 from Smashwords.com Paul and Frank thought with the death of Matthias, they had closure. But they realized they were missing someone, the mastermind. The puppet master. As Diamond Detectives work on new cases, which they soon find are linked back to Matthias, Paul and Frank close in on the Fifth Man. But once they identify him, how do they prove it in a court of law. Karen suggests the Bratislava solution.

EXTRACT

The Case of Misplaced Stardom

Nik met the team on Monday.  "I've two cases, if you guys are willing to take them on.  I don't need an answer today.  But I think they will fit in with your skill sets.  Others we can take on later.  First is a complaint about a group of rip-off lady bars in Bangkok offering sex shows, if any of you are up to performing in front of an audience with some girls.  Not only is there on stage sex in an upstairs bar, but the customers are enticed with the offer of no cover charge.  Once they are inside of course the show is delayed and they are ‘forced’ into buying lady drinks at 500Baht.  Of course, they don’t see the price until they get the bill at the end.  The other is a porn company fronting itself as doing fashion photography and music videos.”

Jeng smiled.  “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do a porn movie.  Boys or girls?  And Fak used to fuck guys on stage when he was seventeen, I’m sure he could manage a girl or two.  Hey Tong, fancy joining us.”

Tong laughed.  “I’ll give it a shot.  I really regret not being able to last time.  Nik, how far undercover do you and Chai expect us to go?”

“As far as you are comfortable and no further.  Do a review with the guys.  Work out a plan.  We need a good result.  Once we have shown it works, we’ll get more funding, and that means pay rises and promotions.”

Nok looked round the room.  “Nik, we know you and Chai are putting your necks on the line over this.  We also know what Rot and his team have done in the past.  We don’t want to let you down.  We also know that we may be asked to do all sorts.  Jeng, you have three days to train us to be Coyote dancers and do your job.  If we can master that, we can do anything.  Run wants us to start on Thursday.”

“Everything?”

Tong laughed.  “Just in case anyone is desperate enough to off us.  It will only be for two or three nights.  It will also explain to any curious passerby’s why two gorgeous hunks are hanging round the soi.  And Jeng says there are often hot girls looking for a fuck for the night.”

It was Nik’s turn to laugh.  “I may have to visit Friday.  But I’m not sure I’d call you hunks, still it’s a good idea.  And there is something else you should know.  General Chamnaan, Chai and I have a three year plan approved by the chief.  We are lucky, he has seven years to retirement.  No one else will know of your existence.  Anyway Tong, Nok.  What have you told your friends.”

“We’ve been seconded to Interpol.  It’s a liaison role.  That it’s the worse posting possible, no chance of promotion or collecting tea money.  That the Farangs are a pain and require us at their secure compound twenty four hours a day, if we aren’t out on a case.”

“And your family, girlfriends?”

‘The family, that we were being moved to navy police on Sattahip base and therefore would not be as free to communicate, national security.  The girlfriends, that having tried the girls in Pattaya, they were awful fucks.”

Jeng looked at them.  “We’re taking Frank out tonight, want to join us?  Or you can go with Jit, Paul and Timo.  Or Tristan, Joom and Karen are spending the night at Diamond.”

“I’ll go with Jit tonight, Tong can go with you.  Swap tomorrow.  But let’s do it with one eye open as to what might be going on, from our new jobs point of view.”

Nik looked round the room.  “Just don’t trying claiming expenses.  At least not more than a thousand each for drinks.  Let’s review on Wednesday, and Ton says the rooms should be ready Thursday.  You sure you are covered until then, we can pay for rooms at the hotel.”

“As long as Tong doesn’t jump me in bed tonight, we are fine.  We’ve got Jeng’s new room until Thursday.  Joking apart, we thought we should spend a lot of time having ‘fun’ together, get to know each other, so once we start work proper we know how each other thinks, and our limits.  There can’t be any secrets.  If Tong has to chokwah every night, I need to know.  And tomorrow we want to buy new cheap phones and numbers.  If you want us under cover we need to build a new life.  We’ll keep the old numbers for family on the cheap phones.  Can we accept help from others?”

“Depends what you mean?”

“Ivan has offered to provide us with some clothes, so we look the part in the Soi.  He said we can choose from their prototypes, and end of line stuff.  He’s also providing us with stuff for our coyote debut.”

“Of course.  Sounds like you have a plan.  Chai will be down at the weekend.  Then we agree the plans and start work.”

Nik led the Saturday meeting.  “We’ve given them names.  First ‘Movie Stars’.  From what we can tell of the porn movie operation in Bangkok, it supplies guys and girls photos to a number of websites based in Europe and also produces some straight porn movies.  Nok and Jeng are going to try to get an audition for a fashion shoot.  Ivan is going to dress them, and Dan will take photos.  There will be a few revealing a bit more than normal.  They run a web site asking for interested models to contact them.”

Chai nodded “Sounds like a good plan.  Supposing they are invited to model, then what?”

“We see if they are enticed into doing anything more than fashion.  If they are then we’ll find the outlets.  We’ll also hope that at least one of them is invited to a second shoot, and we’ll arrange a raid.  We can’t do it the first time, as we need to know the set up.”

“Fine, weekly updates on this, and all cases.  Next.”

“Second is ‘Stage Stars’.  Tong is going to see if he can get a job in the lady bar, ‘Godiva’.  He’ll look round the area, probably won’t start off with the one in question.  It is the one that gets the most complaints, and the hardest to crack.  It seems they find customers from downstairs to go to the sex show upstairs.  Jit will go with Tong to keep an eye out.  Give him some experience.  We might have to create a vacancy to get Tong in.  We've a few plans, and might need to you find drugs on someone."

"Of course.  I'll need a day's notice, ideally."

Fak will spend the time spreading the word about Diamond Detectives, creating the cover story.  It will also give us some intelligence for future cases.   Third, we can’t leave Pattaya alone.  We are calling this one ‘Old Dogs’.  Paul and Mike have been working hard.  They have been trawling message boards.  They have a list of seven bars, 5 lady, 2 boy, who appear to be flouting the rules, to an extreme extent.  Behind Sai Sam, near Arunotai.  Nudity, on stage sex, under age staff.  It’s amazing what people disclose about bars.  Paul is going to start frequenting some of them.  See what goes on.  One of the guys will join him at some of the bars with the story that Paul has agreed to get his boy a lady, or boy, for the night in return for some special services.  Joom will go out with him a few times to others.  Once they build up a picture then we can organise raids.”

“Good idea.”

“There's a fourth that will involve Oud.  He is going to try and get a job in Soi Midnight.  At a karaoke bar to be precise.  All the information on file, and the guys local knowledge, suggest that one of them, at least, is a front for drug operations.  We’ve called this ‘Sing Song’, not very original but we wanted things that we would remember.”

“Seems like a good start.  A bit of a mix, but trading off the guys knowledge as well.”

“And whilst all this is going on, we’ll continue gathering intelligence on the other cases.  Mike and Paul are still finding message boards and forums to join and are joining expat groups.  Once they are accepted on boards as regulars they’ll begin starting threads.  ‘Which bar has the youngest looking girls?’  That sort of thing.  They are also trawling old newspapers and we are building that map on the wall.  Where there has been crimes involving foreigners.  Building a pattern.”

“Playing to the strengths I see.  Keep me informed.  I’ll be down in three weeks.  There is another family party my wife wants to avoid.  Let Karen know that she is invited to afternoon tea, Saturday and Sunday.”

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