“I’ll walk from here,” Malik said, stepping out of the taxi onto the crowded sidewalk.
“You want me to wait? I’d advise against taking a street taxi here.”
“I’ll manage.” Malik handed the driver a crumpled fifty thousand rupiah note, lit a cigarette, and started down the litter-strewn street. He turned the corner onto a narrow alley and felt his chest tighten as he saw the two men in dark suits guarding the door. He took a last drag and crushed the cigarette with the toe of his shoe, then instinctively raised his arms to be searched. Finding no weapon, one of the men pushed open the heavy metal door and Malik stepped inside.
Malik let his eyes adjust to the dimly lit interior. At the far end stood Anand Priya, the man who’d summoned him to the dusty warehouse near the waterfront in the Maura Angke slum on the northern edge of Jakarta. Malik took a deep breath and started across the concrete floor. To Anand’s left stood a man with shoulders as wide as he was tall, a braided ponytail and full beard. Malik recognized him as Anand’s ever-present bodyguard and enforcer, Eko.
As Malik walked closer he saw another man in a police uniform seated in a metal chair. His hands were tied behind his back, his face swollen. The front of his shirt was stained with blood. Eko cast a disinterested glance at Malik, then turned back and kicked at a large burlap bag lying on the floor in front of the man. Malik stepped back as he saw the sack begin to writhe and twist.
The man in the chair struggled and cried out to Malik, “Help me! Please get me out of here. He’s insane! You’ve got to help me!”
“Selamat Pagi, Captain!” Anand said, ignoring the man’s pleas. He glanced at Eko. “Shut this blubbering fool up while I talk with my old friend, Malik.”
Eko picked up a roll of duct tape, tore off a piece, and slapped it across the captive’s mouth.
Anand was the leader of the Black Sea Tigers commando unit during the Tamil Tigers’ fight for independence. After the conflict ended, Anand turned to gunrunning, smuggling, and hijacking. The criminal organization he created grew to be one of the most powerful in Southeast Asia. Anand used the warehouse to store and distribute stolen and smuggled merchandise, but it was also one of his favorite spots for interrogations. As usual, Anand was dressed impeccably, wearing a white linen shirt, silk slacks, and Italian loafers.
“You’ve arrived just in time,” Anand said as he walked behind the seated man and patted him on the shoulder. “Work before pleasure, though. I was disappointed I didn’t hear directly from you about your charter assignment.”
“I only just learned about it myself,” Malik said. How could Anand have possibly known about this already? Malik’s mind raced. “I was going to tell you.” He lied.
“Uh huh,” Anand looked at Malik skeptically. “You wouldn’t try to keep information like that from me, would you?”
“No,” he lied again.
“Of course you wouldn’t. You should know I always find out about these things.”
“It looks like you’re busy, Anand. Maybe I should come back later.”
“Nonsense. I wanted you here to see this.” Anand looked down again at the man in the uniform. “Our friend here enthusiastically accepted the generous gifts I offered. All I asked in return was a little information. But what he gave me turned out to be false. He greedily said I’d have to pay more for the information he’d already promised. He even threatened to go to my competitors. You know me, Malik, when I make a deal, I keep my end of the bargain. I only ask that others do the same. This kind of thing can’t be tolerated. It upsets the order of things. There has to be consequences.”
The man struggled in vain to speak.
“I hope he does what you want so that won’t be necessary,” Malik said, glancing over at the terrified man.
“And miss the fun? He’ll give me what I need before we’re done. Before we get started though, let’s talk about your charter.” Anand stepped away from his prisoner and put his arm over Malik’s shoulder. “As it turns out, the timing of your assignment is perfect. I have some merchandise I want you to deliver.”
“I’ve been asking to meet with you to talk about that, Anand. I’ve done everything you’ve asked for three years now. I’ve earned you a fortune. I just can’t keep doing this. I want out.”
“I see.” Anand took his arm off Malik’s shoulder. He walked over to the burlap sack, picked it up by the draw strings, and carefully spread open the top of the sack.
“Come take a look at this.”
“Thanks, I’ll pass.”
“It wasn’t a request.”
Malik cautiously leaned over and looked inside. He saw the head of a large snake raise up, spread its hood and hiss loudly. He quickly backed away.
“Isn’t she a beauty?” Anand said. “Asiatic Cobra. Very toxic venom. A real nasty temper as well.” Anand pulled the drawstrings tight again, and handed them to Eko. “Remember what my last pet did to that fucking traitor? Watching that was a truly a religious experience. This will be even better. He died too quick. We’ll be able to enjoy this longer.”
“You’re not going to let that thing loose, are you?” Malik took another step back.
“Of course not. We’ll put the bag over his head and pull the strings tight. I’ll dump his chair over and we’ll watch the fun begin. He likes little girls. Let’s see how he likes this one. After a while Eko will take off the bag and we can listen to him whimper and beg for this.” He pulled a small glass vial from his pocket and held it up to the light, shaking the clear liquid inside it, making sure the seated man could see it. “Anti-venom.”
Anand loved buying exotic animals from poachers at the infamous Yogyakarta bird market on Java. He paid top dollar for those that could kill or maim. The last pet Anand referred to was a half-starved Sumatran tiger poached from the Tesso Nilo National Park. Malik was forced to stand next to Anand as Eko pushed a man into a cage Anand had specially built for the occasion, then watch as the tiger ripped the man apart and devoured him.
“I think we’re ready, Eko,” Anand licked his lips in anticipation. “Take the tape off first. I want to hear him scream. It’s like music to my soul.”
You have no soul, you sadistic bastard, Malik thought. “I didn’t come here to see this, Anand.”
Anand studied Malik for a few seconds, “Do I need to remind you again that it was me who saved your life? Do you think you’d still be alive if I hadn’t paid off the casino mob for you? I own your debt which means I own you.”
There’ll be no negotiating with Anand today. Malik sighed. “Give me the details.”
Anand smiled. “That’s more like it. First, tell me more about this charter.”
“I got a call from a dive master working out of Bali. Her customer will be filming an underwater documentary in the Nusa Tenggara. The boat she originally chartered for the expedition is no longer available and they needed another on short notice.”
“Americans I think. Her name’s Addie Lee. She said the guy doing the film is a journalist named Dayne. She came to see my boat. I told her I know the area where they’ll be diving and she hired me.”
“Do they need permission from the government for that?”
“She said they have a permit.”
“Perfect! That’ll work beautifully.” Anand said, smiling.
“What is it you want me to deliver?”
“A hundred kilos of first grade heroin.”
Anand picked up his suit coat and removed a piece of folded paper from the inside pocket. “Here’s the contact info for the captain of a freighter I want you to deliver it to. His ship will be passing south of you in the Savu Sea. Get in touch with him and agree on a rendezvous.”
“Why do you need me? Why can’t he just pick it up himself?”
“It’s a Taiwanese flagged ship. We don’t want to risk it being boarded and searched sailing in Indonesian waters. A dive boat carrying foreigners on a government-approved film project, on the other hand, is perfect cover.”
“You do realize there’ll be a film crew aboard my boat? This is not going to be easy.”
“I don’t want to hear your problems. This is a new customer, Malik, and an important one, so don’t fuck it up. Do we need to discuss what will happen if you lose my shipment?”
“No.” Malik said. I will end up staring into the eyes of one of your poacher’s latest captures. Malik unfolded and read the instructions, then refolded and stuffed it into his shirt pocket, “What about the money? Am I picking up the payment?”
“I’ve taken care of the money. Just make the delivery.”
“Once I do this, Anand, I’m out.”
“We’ll see. I’m sending Kamil with you.”
“I don’t need a baby sitter. I’ll do my job.”
“Just the same, he’s going along. He’ll bring the merchandise and meet you at your boat.”
At least he’s not sending Eko, Malik said to himself. Kamil was young and could pass as a sailor. Eko couldn’t pass for anything but the murderous thug he was. He glanced again at the seated man, then turned and headed towards the door.
“You’re not going to stay and watch this?” Anand said.
“I already know how it ends.”
Anand had allowed the man to hear the details they had just discussed, which meant he was already dead. As Malik reached the door, he heard the screams begin as Eko ripped the tape off the man’s mouth and slipped the burlap sack over his head.
Slumped on the edge of the bed in his small hotel room, Malik poured a shot of arak into a clear plastic cup, drank it, and poured another. Then he picked up his phone and called Kamil Farran.
“Selamat pagi, Malik.”
“Selamat pagi, Kamil. Anand said you’re accompanying me on my expedition.”
“Yeah, he told me.”
“We’re weighing anchor tomorrow night. You’re bringing the merchandise?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there. It will be good to see you again, Captain.”
“You as well.”
Malik hung up and tossed the phone on the bed. He liked the young man, but Kamil’s presence complicated his plans. Taking the wallet from his back pocket, he picked through business cards and crumpled receipts till he found the photo: a faded picture of a smiling young woman holding a child. One more delivery and I’ll be free of Anand and I’ll find you again. He kissed the photo and carefully slipped it back into his wallet, then poured the last of the arak and swallowed it in one gulp.
© 2017 Phil Vincent. All rights reserved. Website by ZoePDX