Passport to Death
Publisher: Oceanview Usa
IN A WORLD OF SHADOWS, IT IS EASY TO GET LOST
Dotan Naor, an Israeli private investigator, who was ousted from the Shin Bet security – Israel's internal security service - goes to Thailand to find Sigal Bardon, a beautiful young girl from a wealthy Israeli family. Sigal has disappeared in Bangkok - completely. Dotan has connections in Thailand and he is familiar with Bangkok's dark side – the narrow alleys with bars and hookers, trenches of stagnant water, hotel rooms with illicit activity. This is where he intends to start his search. But when the passport of the missing Israeli girl ends up in his hands during his first taxi ride in the city, he's suspicious that someone is playing him. But who? And why?
As Dotan searches for Sigal, police corruption blocks his every path while he delves deeper. Every lead he pursues draws him closer and closer to a black hole in his "own" path – one intertwined with his pursuit of Sigal – one that leads him to Reuven – and the haunting failure that led to the dismissal of both of them from Shin Bet. The wound between Dotan and Reuven is raw and deep, but Dotan realizes it must be healed in order to save Sigal.
“A twisty, propulsive story, a sardonic and charismatic hero, evocative settings, drama, action, heartbreak, and a snappy translation - this book has it all.”
“The dark and seedy side of Bangkok is wonderfully dissected in all its glory with visceral, sensual authenticity in this fast-moving and engaging “prequel” to the equally-excellent Death in Shangri-La. Dotan Naor is back, working his cynical yet effective investigative skills in search of a missing Israeli girl. It’s a gritty thrill-a-minute, and one you will read in a single sitting!”
--Raymond Benson, author of BLUES IN THE DARK
I was at my regular corner table in the back of the coffee house in Masaryk Square, far from the bright light streaming in through the south-facing window, sitting with my back to the wall as usual. I was sipping leisurely on an espresso as I leafed through the morning paper, waiting for Mira to finish her shopping and come pick me up. And then my cellphone came to life in the pocket of my jeans.
It was my partner, Shai. "Dotan," he said, "We've got a case. This time it's Bangkok. A missing woman." Silence.
"That's it?" I grumbled. "You're really drowning me in info." I already missed the ease I was feeling before I answered the phone. I took another sip. I always liked the coffee here, but this time it was particularly good, a strong intriguing blend.
"Listen up," Shai said with obvious impatience. "Her name is Sigal Bardon, twenty-six. I'm getting the details now. You ought to get down here right away." Lately my conversations with Shai were as brief as possible, and I don't even want to talk about the taste they left in my mouth. Our partnership was going south. For a lot of reasons.
I got up reluctantly, to put it mildly.
"You didn't finish your coffee," Nora, the long-time waitress, said. She'd started working here years ago when she was a student, studying art or cinema or something like that, and never left. I'd also started having my coffee here years ago, and I was still here too.
"What is it?" she asked. "A case?"
I flashed her a smile. It's easy to smile at Nora. Slender body, ample perky boobs, flowing red hair. Wherever your looked, figure or face, she was a sight to behold, even though she wasn't a kid anymore. And you could tell she wasn't burdened by a permanent man in her life.
"The coffee – a new blend?" I asked.
This time it was she who smiled as she gave me a thumbs up. "Should I save some for you till you get back?"
I mumbled an answer, left her a generous tip as usual, and left. The light was almost blinding, the abrasive glare of late spring. The comforting grayish light of a Tel Aviv winter was gone. I hailed a cab. As I settled into the back seat, I remembered to call Mira. "I'm on the way to the office, baby. I'm guessing I'll have to catch the night flight to Bangkok."
"Again? You just got back."
"I'll make it up to you when I get home, sweetie."
"Should I tell you how many times I've heard that?"
I heard her sigh as she disconnected. We both knew it was a lost cause – us, I mean, not the case.
"Wow," the cabbie started badgering me as soon as I finished the call. "What I wouldn't give to go to Bangkok again." I could see his cloudy eyes in the mirror. You can't avoid those kibitzers. He'd been to Bangkok once, and now I would have to hear about it the whole ride. "I had such a great time, you wouldn't believe it," he went on. "I'd chop off a finger to get on a plane right now."
I tuned him out. I pictured the body of a young woman lying naked on the bed or floor of a room in a no-star hotel. I could see the screaming headlines in tomorrow's papers: "26-Year-Old Israeli Woman Found Dead in Bangkok Guesthouse: Autopsy Reveals Heart Failure Following Lethal Combination of Alcohol and Drugs."
Drugs. It wouldn't be just any drug. It would be heroin, white magic, Bangkok gold. Throw in alcohol and you get vomiting, convulsions, sweating. An overdose paralyzes the central nervous system, sending the victim into a deep coma. Death follows quickly, within minutes. One second you're high, and the next there's a corpse to get through customs. It happens at least once a week in Bangkok.
Mira drove me to the airport. She almost had to twist my arm to convince me not to call a cab. "It's our quality time," she sighed, "the drive back and forth to the airport."
Mira. The only person who still cares when I come and go. That too, I guessed, would soon be over. Especially considering the fact that we were already living in separate apartments. A "trial separation" it's called. I'd known a few in the past. Somehow these trials never pan out. Or maybe it's the opposite. They work so well that at least one side isn't in a hurry to get back together. Maybe that's why I'd heard myself calling Mira "baby" and "sweetie" lately.
"What's the story?" she asked on the way.
"A missing woman."
"Don't know. She hasn't been in touch with her family for over two weeks."
"It's so sad," Mira said, her voice filled with compassion. "It's always the family who suffers in the end."
"This family is well-known, well-connected," I said, adding, "and filthy rich. They asked us to keep a low profile."
"What difference does it make?" I said irritably. "They're all pretty."
I remembered the picture in the file Shai prepared for me. The truth? Sigal Bardon was pretty. Very pretty. But it really didn't make any difference.
Mira kissed me lightly on the cheek. "Take care," she said.
It sounded like good-bye. Maybe it was. But my mind was already someplace else.
The airport was as busy as always. You see the lines at the duty free shop and you know that life goes on. No matter what's happening outside, beyond the huge glass windows - intifada, economic crisis, whatever – the price of single malt whiskey has gone up, men are sniffing Cuban cigars, and perfumes are being piled into shopping carts like cartons of milk in the supermarket. I bought a few cartons of Marlboro, which in my experience is the incentive most highly prized by the cops in Thailand. Especially Tom, an old friend of mine. I threw in two bottles of Jameson, one for meetings so I wouldn't have to endure the local whiskey, Mekhong, which mangles the digestive system. The other was for the nights, or more precisely, for the mornings after the nights, those never-ending mornings you spend trying to figure out what the hell happened the night before, where you were, and even more importantly, with whom. That's a pivotal question in Bangkok. It can sometimes be a matter of life and death. So a bottle of Jameson is a good idea. It always comes in handy.