Air to a Bird

Water to a Fish

Mankind to Himself

A Hindu proverb


January 16, 2002, evening

He’d been more or less drunk since New Year’s Eve and that was two weeks ago. Slumming with the tourists along Soi 33 on that sweaty tropical night, cheap booze at 150 baht, he and Gilly had toasted farewell to 2001, the year of freaking terrorists, and welcomed 2002 with beery optimism. Let the Feds crack down on this cranked up world. Better them chasing down Arabs than snooping in our drawers, right, Gilly?

Giggles across the bar from a pair of Thai girls in body-hugging black silk. Mister? Mister? Three thousand baht for good time?

Why not?

Hormonal logic coaxed him up the stairs. You had to let down once in awhile, right? Take a chance. Money and risk nuzzled in the same sack; that much he knew. And what were the odds of snagging a twofer the minute one year rolls into the next? Lucky omen. Had to be.

An hour later, the girls—gone, and so were his 14k gold cuff links. No problem; its only money. Screw it as long as the windfall runs. And it would. Then as he pulled on his trousers, he reached for his Blackberry. Gone, too. Shit! Money can’t fix that!

Now he was stinking sober. From the twenty-fourth floor of his penthouse overlooking the Bangkok skyline—banks, embassies, hospitals—he waited among Asian antiques, state-of-the-art computer technology and a sky-high putting green along the south terrace. The spectacular balcony garden, well-tended by the house staff, blazed in a lush lime green of tropical plants, fruits and spices that he couldn’t begin to name except for the occasional spikey fingers of cannabis growing among them.

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