Authors: Andrew Warren
A THOMAS CAINE NOVELLA
Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Warren. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, events or locales is purely coincidental. Reproduction in whole or part of this publication without express written consent is strictly prohibited.
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The tiny grill spat grease and smoke into the tropical air.
Its blackened metal rods were covered by a thick, charred crust, the petrified remains of previous meals.
But the smell emanating from the strips of meat cooking on its surface was mouthwatering.
From the shore, Sarah leaned over the wooden railing of the narrow walkway and waved to get the attention of the tiny Thai woman working the grill.
The grill was set up on a small boat, one of several that were docked in the muddy waters of a shallow canal that crossed through the Pattaya floating market.
The market was a popular tourist attraction, and a bustling crowd of people shifted around her.
As Sarah waited for the woman, she caught a glimpse of an older man wearing cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt that looked one size too small.
He was eying her legs as she leaned over the railing.
Her slim, lean body was tanned from weeks of travel, and she knew the tiny cutoffs and faded tank top she was wearing did little to conceal it.
She was grateful she had kept her tan, despite the cloudy, gray skies that loomed over the marketplace.
She had arrived in Thailand two weeks ago, and in that time the sun had barely peeked out from behind the thick, gloomy curtain.
She ignored the lecherous man, and soon he disappeared into the crowd.
She waved to the old woman again and finally caught her attention as she handed a Styrofoam plate of food to another tourist.
The woman's face was dark and lined with wrinkles.
A green embroidered shawl was draped over her working clothes.
"Sixty baht, sixty baht," the old woman chanted.
Sarah did some rapid currency conversions in her head.
Two plates of food would cost her about three Euros, which would just about buy her a can of soda back in Germany.
She held up two fingers.
The old woman nodded, and prepared two plates for her.
Each plate was stacked with rice, a small cup of cucumber salad, and three skewers of the sizzling meat.
She handed the woman six twenty-baht notes, and a ten-baht coin.
"Keep the change."
The old woman smiled and nodded, and slid the plates over the railing to her.
Sarah inhaled deeply.
The meat smelled delicious, but she couldn't quite identity what it was.
"Chicken satay?" she asked.
The woman shook her head. "Jarakay, ka."
Sarah had no idea what that meant, but she knew the proper response when ordering food in Thailand.
She smiled and said, "Aroy."
She grabbed the two plates, and continued down the wooden walkway of the market.
To her right, the long strip of water wound its way between the two sides of the market.
The canal was crossed by several arched wooden bridges.
Crowds of tourists made their way across each bridge, usually stopping in the middle to take pictures of the boats in the water below.
The canal was manmade, and the water was a dark, muddy brown.
Its dull, flat surface only served to highlight the explosion of colorful fruits, seafood, silks, and other goods that filled every boat and stall in the market.
Sarah took a deep breath as she absorbed the sights and sounds around her.
She felt alive, the most alive she'd felt since finishing university.
The idea of returning home, of finding a job in some law office in Hamburg filing papers and reading court documents, seemed like just another cloud on a distant horizon.
What kind of life was that, compared to what she had experienced in these months of travel?
The warm, tropical climate, the thrill of new people, new places and, most of all, new possibilities ... at that moment, she knew with absolute certainty; this was the life she wanted.
Her train of thought was suddenly interrupted as she felt a hand squeeze her ass through her torn, cutoff shorts.
She shrieked and spun around, dropping one of the plates of food in the process. Remembering the leering old man in the Hawaiian shirt, she raised her hand and prepared to deliver a strong slap to whoever had groped her.
She looked up, and lifted her sunglasses off her face.
She was staring into the warm brown eyes of Guenther, her university mate and traveling partner.
After last night
, she thought,
Guenther is quite a bit more than just a mate
"Arshloch!" she screamed in German, beating his tanned chest with her tiny fist.
"You scared me!"
Guenther was shirtless, and his skin also still held a golden tan.
A black tribal tattoo snaked around the lean, athletic muscles of his right arm, and a shell necklace hung from his neck.
Sarah watched the muscles move beneath his skin as he threw back his head and laughed.
She found herself thinking more about the previous night.
That feeling of being alive, of infinite possibilities on the horizon ... Guenther was part of those possibilities now, too. She couldn't deny she was hungry for a repeat performance of their intimate physical gymnastics.
"Liebling, if you haven't relaxed by now, what am I gonna do with you when we go someplace really crazy?" he asked.
She let her fingers linger on his chest.
"I know, I know.
Sorry, this pervert was stalking me before--just got me on edge, I guess."
Guenther looked deep into her blue eyes, and brushed a wisp of blonde hair from her face.
"Well, who could blame him, eh?
I was getting an eyeful of you myself.
You know I love those little shorts."
"But look what you made me do!"
She pointed to the spilled food on the ground.
"That's your lunch down there.
She scooped some rice into her mouth with chopsticks.
Guenther reached for her plate, but she turned her back on him.
"Oh no, clean up your mess first."
Guenther grabbed the plastic plate off the ground, and used it to scrape the fallen mess of food off the walkway and into the canal.
A school of tiny black fish darted to the surface, and nibbled at the morsels as they sank into the water.
He tossed the plate in a garbage can, and the two walked through the market.
Guenther threw his arm around her shoulders, and grabbed a piece of meat off her plate.
He popped it in his mouth, and chewed.
"It's good," he said, his words slurred as he continued to grind the meat between his teeth.
"What is it?"
"Chicken satay, I think?
I got it from one of the boats.
The woman who served me called it 'jarakay'."
Guenther swallowed, and scanned the market stalls.
Think I need a beer."
"A beer, now?
"Because 'jarakay' means 'crocodile', and in Thailand one does not eat crocodile without a cold Singha beer."
"Oh, that's a rule, ja?"
"It is now.
Guenther's rule on eating crocodile in Thailand with a beautiful girl."
Sarah leaned into him, and kissed his cheek.
"I like this rule.
They shared the plate of food as they walked arm in arm through the market.
Guenther spotted a small stall that was selling beer from a cooler, and he broke off.
"Be right back.
Don't eat all the crocodile without me!"
Sarah watched him waiting in line at the food stall.
His legs were lean and strong, the result of months spent surfing and hiking around the world.
She looked up at the cloudy sky, and decided that, once they left the market, they would be spending the rest of the day in their bungalow by the beach.
They could go sightseeing again tomorrow.
After all, there were infinite possibilities on the horizon.
What would it hurt to spend one more day in bed, satisfying their passions?
She heard the high-pitched sound of a child crying.
Spinning around, she saw a little Thai girl, no more than five or six years old, stumbling through the crowd.
Her simple tan dress with blue and pink stripes looked handcrafted.
Maybe her mother is working on one of the boats, and she wandered off
, Sarah thought.
No one was stopping to help.
The crowd simply pushed past, oblivious to the crying child.
Sarah tossed the remaining food in a garbage can and walked over to the girl. Kneeling down in front of the child, she put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"Hey, it's OK.
Are you all right?"
The girl looked at her with small, deep brown eyes.
Her mouth seemed to struggle to form words.
Sarah pulled a napkin from her pocket, and brushed the tears from the girl's puffy checks.
"There you go.
Are you lost?"
Sarah saw a flash of movement over the girl's shoulder.
She looked up and saw the old man, the one who had been leering at her earlier, moving across a bridge towards them.
Sarah knew that, in addition to the beauty and energy that she thrived on, Pattaya had a dark side.
Prostitution and sex tourism were common.
If one was seeking perversions, anything imaginable could be found in the city's dark alleys and seedy bordellos ... for a price, of course.
Was that why the girl was crying? Was this pervert in a Hawaiian shirt chasing her?
She took the little girl's hand and stood up.
"Come on," she said.
"I know someone who can help."
The girl continued crying but dutifully followed along, her little legs moving as fast as she could to keep up with Sarah.
The two made their way back to the food stall.
Guenther smiled as he walked towards them, taking a long swig of beer from a frosted Singha bottle.
"Who's this then?"
He smiled at the girl, and for the first time, she stopped crying.
Sarah melted, knowing how reassuring she found that smile herself.
"I found her crying over there."
She pointed towards the bridge. The man in the Hawaiian shirt was there, rummaging through a box of seashells perched on a rickety souvenir cart.
"That's the guy I told you about, the one who was stalking me.
I think he was following her," Sarah said in a hushed whisper.
Guenther looked down and spoke to the girl in broken Thai.
You lost your mother?"