Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (59)

“One macarwoni cheese for one very speshaw pwincess,” said Plums in an affected manner, while serving up the steaming bowl. “Be carefuwl, sweet’eart. Iss very ’ot.” “Thanks, Mister. What’s your name?” the little girl asked cheerily, blowing on her spoon so hard that some flecks of cheese spattered the crisp white tablecloth the manservant had laid out carefully only moments earlier. He stared at the bright yellow spots for a few seconds before replying. “’Arry. You can cawl me ’Arry.” “Harry it is,” Sophie stated, a little prissily. “Is this your ship?” “No – it belongs to the guv’nor. Bazza’s ’is name.” The ringleted girl chuckled, an act which produced conspicuous dimples either side of her mouth. “Bazza? That’s a funny name!” “Yes, it is,” a voice suddenly boomed out from behind, making her jump. “It’s a funny name for a funny uncle!”

Inhaling sharply, the young girl turned with a start to look at him for the first time. She felt instantly that he looked somewhat strange, although she did not really know why. Was it something about the fake blonde, pill-box head of hair? The way it contrasted with his coffee-coloured skin? “You look scary,” she suddenly chirped. In the few seconds’ silence that followed, Bazza looked warily at Plums, seeking to gauge his partner’s mood from any facial expression on offer. “I’m not scary! I’m nice – aren’t I, Plums?” he insisted, finally.

But Plums was in no mood to lend his support to Bazza’s little charade. In fact, he felt downright hostile – something his boss was quick to detect. The former reggae star now threw his carrot-topped companion a challenging glare, causing the weaker willed man to turn away. “Plums?” Sophie suddenly piped up, not noticing the frost that had crystallised in the air between the two men. “I thought your name was Harry?” Plums turned and offered her a weak smile that was more a look of pity. “That’s funny!” Sophie continued, giggling now. “Plums is a fruit! You’re funny! I’m going to call you ‘Funny’,” she chattered away, waving a clammy finger at him. “And you’re ‘Scary’.” She pointed at Bazza, this time, having regained some of her earlier confidence. “Funny and Scary, Funny and Scary,” she sang in a playground melody, in between a succession of puffs blown on to the piping hot macaroni. “Have you got any toys?” she then asked, innocently, in so doing lighting the touch-paper in Bazza’s sordid mind.

Plums, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly anxious. “A word, guv. I need words wiv ya. Now,” he suddenly blurted. Breathing heavily, he withdrew in a huff to the galley, half hoping that his commonly volatile boss would not follow. Terse instructions were not something he doled out regularly to the man who had kept a roof over his head for the past twenty or so years. But the erstwhile reggae star was not about to let a comment like that drop. “Shit on sticks, Harold Cheeseman! What the fuck was all that about?” he hissed, barging through the galley’s swing doors. “Are you trying to frighten her? Spoil everything? Jealous again, are we? Christ, you’re pathetic, Harry.” Looking guiltily down at his feet, Plums knew that he had overstepped the mark. That the unwritten code governing their relationship – the one that enabled him to accept, and even condone, Bazza’s grotesque behaviour – had been violated. And Plums also knew that he was in serious trouble, for his boss never referred to him by his real name. Unless he was exceptionally angry, that was.

But despite all this, and his generally timid nature, Plums was somehow still able to summon the courage to make his true feelings known. Perhaps it was the depth of his growing revulsion for what was in store for the pretty seven-year-old back there in the VIP cabin. Or the fear that someone would come looking for this pretty little western girl who, unlike all the others before her, was missing from a home somewhere. Whatever, he steeled himself before launching into the first real challenge he had ever laid at Bazza’s feet. “I don’t fink you can go froo wiv this, guv,” he began, a little tremulously. “It’s way too risky.” Pressing on, he tried to rationalise his assertion. “I fink you should cawl the ’howle fing off. Stick to the usuwal stuff.” “Look. I’m sick of those dirty little brown things, OK?” spat Bazza angrily, in response. By now, he was holding Plums by the collar. “I want something pure, right? Not dirty little brown scumbags any more. Pure. White. Clean. Understand, you meddling fucker?” He shook Plums with every word.

What the fuck’s up with him? Bazza reflected, returning to the VIP suite. He could still hear Plums’ sobs coming from the galley as he slowly slid open the cabin door. Inside, he found Sophie staring out of a large porthole, marvelling once more at the incredible rock formations jutting up from the sea. But the bowl of macaroni cheese remained only half-eaten on the table and there was a note of concern in her voice when she quietly spoke: “I heard some shouting. Is Funny Harry upset?” “No, no, no, my dear. Don’t you worry about dear old Plums,” Bazza reassured her in reply. “Right then,” he added, more upbeat now, while rubbing his hands together. “Did you say you wanted to play? What about ‘My Little Pony’? Shall we play that?” Sophie squeaked her excited approval.

Eavesdropping on their mirth from the galley, Plums continued to feel anxious. He was familiar with the sequence of events that always started with this playful prelude, having witnessed it a hundred times before. Partaken, on occasion. But this time it was all wrong, he felt. Much too risky. Unnecessary, too, when there was so much availability out there, on the streets of Hanoi, Hai Phong and elsewhere.

Bazza, meanwhile, was fishing out a boxed set of an assortment of plastic horses from a storage locker stacked high with children’s toys. “That’s not ‘My Little Pony’!” exclaimed Sophie, on seeing what he had produced. “That’s just horses!” “But we can make pretend, though,” the erstwhile reggae star replied. He picked up one of the cheap mouldings and pushed it around the table top in a kind of bucking motion. “Yay!” squealed Sophie gleefully. “That’s cool, Scary! I like you!”

posted by Kirk at 4:33 am  

Friday, November 21, 2008

Without Trace, By The Kaptain

For David Blackburn, wherever you are…

Did you go to ground
Harried by the hounds?
Did it seem, that day
Like the only way?

Vanish without trace…
To some quieter place…

Did they bite your heels –
Agents of ill-will?
Was it never clear
That we shared your fears?

Vanish without trace…
To a better place…

Was it stubborn pride
Made you run and hide?
Don’t you know your friends
Would have helped you then?

Vanish without trace…
To an unknown place…

You’re missed, my friend
Please send a sign
To show us you’re alive…
Return again
To make us smile –
We’ll help you to survive…

posted by Kirk at 10:32 pm  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Blog!

One year old today!

I can scarcely believe how the time has flown…

posted by Kirk at 6:50 pm  

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (78)

When she met his eyes Ramani had been jolted, almost physically. It was as if Daman’s soul were suddenly passing through her body. She could almost hear its swish as it laced around her neck, and ears. Perhaps it was her surprise at the ease with which their chance encounter – the first in twenty-five years – had occurred. For while she had always instinctively known that they would one day meet again, not once had she conceived of walking straight into him right upon her impromptu arrival in the capital. And if it were this easy for them to meet, why had they waited so long, endured so much pain?

Ramani knew she must have wobbled momentarily, weak at the knees, because the old man who had accompanied her throughout her journey was now helping her up those same steps which Daman, her only ever lover, had just descended. She wanted desperately to turn and follow him, to smell the musk she would instantly recognise, hear his smooth baritone confirm once more: you’re safe with me. But while her heart pulled at her strongly, her mind quickly restored her focus to the real reason she was here: the matter of her son – their son, Anath – who lay stricken in a Casualty Ward bed, just through the doors up ahead.

But it was also in this moment that something crystallised within Ramani, and she determined to act in order to change the fate she had been dealt. For too long, she had passively accepted a life lacking in fulfilment, but now she would reclaim what she knew to be rightfully hers, just as soon as she had established that her son was all right. Steeling herself with the aid of the old man, the beauty from the desa then took a deep breath before pushing inside to find him…

Arriving at her room, the young Detective happened upon quite a scene. Five or six of the other girls were crowding the dimly lit chamber, babbling away in various stages of excitement, and exhaustion. It was clear from the state of the place that some kind of incident had occurred, but he was relieved to note that Lulu was unmarked. Ushering them out one by one she mumbled her gratitude, while refusing to meet his gaze. But once the door had closed behind them, she flicked him an angry glare. “You… you bastard! I thought you different,” she spat, accusingly. “Babe, I’m so sorry.” Adi shook his head. “Things have happened so quickly… between us, I mean,” he added, his tone now affected – soft. “I just didn’t have a chance to–” “How Lulu can believe you? Men, men, bastard men… Always same. Always hurt Lulu. Now you.”

By now he had caught her in an embrace and was trying to find her mouth with his, while she struggled. Ultimately, glad to be held in his arms once more, she collapsed into him, letting out a tired sigh. “Tell me about your past,” Adi encouraged. “Tell me everything, lover. Let’s make today the beginning of a new life, not the end of a relationship.” Sighing deeply again, the girl looked downcast. “Lulu ashame. What happen me no Lulu fault. Lulu korban. Victim. Men so, so evil. Use woman body, sell woman body. So… so evil,” she said, falteringly.

“I know. So tell me everything, so there’s no secrets. Nothing I’ll ever hear about you that I don’t already know,” he explained, urging her to wipe the slate; make a fresh start. The girl looked up into his eyes, her tears beginning to form. “When I fifteen my father sell me. You believe that? It true,” she began. “Ya ampun,” the young Detective exclaimed. Good grief. “Sell me to gang in Kota. Lulu cry and cry and cry. I know never to see mother again. Sister again. I just give up. Laying there. Men come every hour, every day. Fuck me, hit me.” “You were indentured – a sex slave.” “That right, I slave. I give up. No fight. Lulu too weak.” “Kasihan,” Adi murmured. You poor thing. “Then they start laugh at me, say I no good in bed. I no make them satisfaction. That why I so ashame. ’Cause I decide prove I’m good. And I show them, after that, I can do sex good to them.”

Adi swallowed hard. It was an image he did not need in his mind. But the girl was not finished. “I choose play their game. Then they start nice to Lulu, give more food. And… drug.” The Detective parted from her, a quizzical look on his face. “That right. Drug. Fucking drug, OK?” Her expression had hardened. “I like it. Drug. They give more. I like lot. But I know I die if no stop. One day I pretend take, but no. They so high they just watch me walk out door.” “Wow, that’s some story,” encouraged Adi, putting something of a brave face on the unsavoury details of her revelations. “But no finish there. Laba-Laba come look for me. I so scare, again. My friend took me here. This place. Endang. They protect, but now I professional. No slave now. Only whore. That my life. Until you.”

Silently, the young Detective reached out and pulled her towards him again, kissing her warm lips as the tears fell down her cheeks. She might not be perfect, but then nothing in life was. And despite her sordid past, Adi was now convinced of one thing. This was the girl for him.

posted by Kirk at 8:49 pm  

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (58)

The pair had hotfooted it back through the market square and were now scouring the street for a taxi. There was no thought of checking out of Blake’s hotel: instead, they would make directly for the railway station, to take the next available train South, in the direction of Qinzhou. At some point in their dash Elle turned her head towards him and was about to yell something, when someone emerged suddenly from a side street and shouldered into her, heavily. Twisting away almost instantaneously the man grunted, indicating his intention to move off without further delay. Blake pounced on him in a flash, however: not to demand an apology, but after recognising what was in fact a classic sleight-of-hand manoeuvre. “Check your bag!” he yelled out to his companion. Rummaging around inside, Elle found herself bereft of her purse. A Gucci, at that. “Shit! My fucking purse is gone!” she cried, an exclamation that was followed by a shy grimace, as she realised that it was the first real time she had sworn in front of him.

By now, Blake had the pickpocket in an arm lock and was pushing him up against a nearby wall. Then flipping him round aggressively, he was forced to share the lowlife’s pungent breath as he fixed him squarely in the eye. “Where’s the purse, you cunt?” he spat, from inches away. Blake’s bile flecked the smaller man’s lips, causing him to lick them, involuntarily. “Where is it? Eh?” he further demanded, as Elle came up behind him. “Adam–” she began, but Blake cut her off. “I’ll deal with this,” he snapped. “No, Adam,” she persisted, a little crossly. “I mean, look at his face. The scratch marks. He’s–”

And suddenly there it was – so obvious, so close before his eyes that until Elle pointed it out, he had not noticed it. From the orbit of the man’s left eye all the way down his cheek were four deep scratch marks. Scars that were so narrowly spaced, they could only have been made by a child. “Talk to him,” Blake said, without removing his glare from the man’s now terrified expression. Elle babbled away for a few moments, producing only the odd grunt in response. Then clearly agitated, she yelled something at him, harshly, to which he silently nodded, while casting his eyes down. “My God, Adam,” she gasped. “Oh my God…! I think he’s one of the gang… the gang that snatched Sophie!” Blake closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. His grip on the man’s arm tightened. He felt like smashing the crook’s head in, but knew instinctively that he was far more useful to them alive, and conscious.

“We’re taking him with us,” he said, after a lengthy pause. “Tell him he’s going to fucking well show us where he and those bastards took Sophie. Or I’ll kill him.” Once again, Elle rattled off Blake’s instructions in Mandarin, this time at length. But it was clear from the man’s body language that his response was negative. “He says he can’t,” she said, finally. “Won’t say why – just keeps on saying ‘no’.” “Tell him I’ll pay him,” replied Blake, swallowing hard. I can’t believe I’m doing this, he thought. I should just take the cunt out, right here and now. But Blake knew in his heart that their chance encounter with the gang member was an amazing stroke of good fortune – and a significant breakthrough in the search for his daughter. He needed to make the fullest use of what the scumbag knew. And if paying for it were necessary, then so be it. Exacting his revenge could follow, once his little girl was back, safe and sound.

On learning of the potential for reward, the petty thief in Blake’s grip could scarcely believe his luck. His demeanour changed dramatically, such that he was now nodding so enthusiastically it appeared his head might fall off. Blake relaxed his hold a little, allowing him to dig out Elle’s purse from a pocket. Opening it to check the contents, she then carefully counted out some notes and offered them to him. “I’m giving him a down payment,” she advised. “Don’t be too generous,” Blake countered, without mirth.

“OK, let’s go,” Blake said a little later, as a taxi eventually responded to their beckoning, coming to an untidy halt at the roadside. “And tell this cunt that if he makes a wrong move – tries to trick us – escape – whatever – I will rip his bollocks off with my bare hands and feed them to his wife. Watch her choke on them.”

Despite her evident disgust at his choice of phrase, it was clear from the look on the man’s expression as the taxi pulled out into the traffic that Elle had faithfully translated every word of Blake’s threat. Silently, and within an atmosphere of considerable tension, the unlikely trio then began their journey towards the station.

posted by Kirk at 10:40 pm  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You Fill My Heart, By The Kaptain

Though far apart
You fill my heart
More deeply than appears
Forgive the hurt
I’ll not desert you –
I will dry your tears

If sad and lost
Know it’s the cost
Of love’s own sacrifice
The future brings us
Different things
For which we’ve paid a price

Be strong as men
If downcast when
You wonder where I am
Your broken hearts
Tear me apart
As every other man

On waves of love
I sail above
Their currents, strong and deep
The proof, my sons
One day will come –
My promises I’ll keep

You fill my heart
My mind, my soul
My every waking notion
Keep faith in me
However hard
To temper your emotions
You fill my heart
With love and pride
I miss your raffish smiles
What future
Lies ahead
If only you can wait a while

posted by Kirk at 2:53 am  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (77)

He saw her the instant they descended the steps that led down from the hospital’s Casualty Department. For a split-second, it felt as though time stood still. Daman’s heart leapt into his mouth, leaving a hollow cavity where it had been. Twenty-five years had passed since he last set eyes on her. And as she stopped in her tracks having caught his gaze, he saw that those years had been kind to her: she had aged little, it seemed, across the same span of time in which he had become notably less agile, both physically and mentally. Ramani… Ramani… he mouthed, silently. “Son.” The old man was tugging at his arm. “This is not the time. Come – we’ve got to get back to your mother.” Reluctantly, he followed, as ’Pak Bambang headed off in the direction of the car, craning his neck until the last moment, as the sole love of his unremarkable life disappeared through the same doors from which he had just emerged. She was accompanied, he now saw, by a familiar face – his father’s most loyal servant from the plantation. And it was clear that the old man had a hand under one of her arms, as if she needed support.

Daman stopped again, suddenly. Jaw slightly agape, he stood frozen while the damp breeze began to lick around his ears. He felt an irresistible urge to run to her and tell her how he had felt all these years; of the crushing emptiness that had never once really left him. Wave after wave of emotion now flooded his mind, crashing through his senses. He needed desperately to hear her say that she, too, felt the same – that a flame had been kept burning for him throughout the long nights that followed their enforced separation. And more than this, he simply had to know – selfishly – that she had sought the comfort of no other. Daman wanted to reclaim her, this lost prize – to hold and caress her; to explain, perhaps, what she should expect when next laying eyes upon her son. Their son. Paralysed by these insatiable cravings, he now stood immobile: rooted to the spot.

Sensing his son’s hesitation, ’Pak Bambang barked a further instruction from across the parking lot: “Daman! Come on, let’s go!” he yelled, a little coarsely. Saying nothing, the dutiful son turned to trudge without enthusiasm in the direction of the Jaguar, where his father was already counting some grubby, low denomination Rupiah notes into the hands of the cheeky urchins who had looked over the car during their absence.

“I’m sorry, ’Nak,” the old man said, once they were both inside the car’s luxurious passenger compartment. “I had a feeling something like that might happen. I can imagine how you feel.” He turned to survey his son’s expression before looking back out through the windscreen, while pulling smoothly into the sparse evening traffic. “It’s been a hell of a day,” said Daman meekly, and after a considerable pause. “I think I need another drink.” His tone was flat, like his spirit. “Son, I’ve been thinking,” ’Pak Bambang resumed, in a manner that made it clear he was about to embark upon something of a prepared speech. “Look: I think it’s time for you to meet the boy and his mother. Properly, I mean. Decide on what arrangements you want to make for the future.” There was a brief silence while he waited for a response that never came. “When it’s finally time for me to go,” he continued, “I don’t want to be lying on my death-bed with this issue unresolved. It’s a quarter-century since we shook hands on our pledge and I think it’s now well and truly past its sell-by date… rather like me!” Daman could not find it within him to laugh at the old man’s gallows’ humour. He felt confused, sad and angry all at once. Why had everything suddenly reached this point, so… so catastrophically? Why could things never work out as planned?

Because I betrayed love, he found himself repeating what were, by now, familiar words.

“OK, ayah. Agreed,” he said, finally. “But I’ll need to be careful. I’d never want to hurt my wife.” “Yes, I’ve thought of that. Why not tell her that I’ve asked you to go to the plantation next week, while I have some further tests at the hospital?” said the old man, somewhat manipulatively. “I’ll make reservations for you, the boy and his mother at the Bogor Country Retreat – do you know it?” Daman nodded. His father turned again to look at him. “Sorry. Yes – I mean yes,” said the son. “Good. You can spend a few days together. Make your peace, as required. Take it from there in the manner you see fit. You’ll soon be taking over the business, son. It’ll be good for you to start making important decisions without any influence from me. Is that OK with you…?

posted by Kirk at 2:50 am  

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (57)

The engine of the dilapidated launch was complaining loudly as they rounded the last promontory on the final stretch of their voyage. The Morning Glory was now in full view although still some distance off, while the Captain began preparations for rafting up to her by instructing the crew to throw a set of fenders over the port side. Sophie sat glumly on deck, looking down at her feet while kicking them, purposelessly. She was awfully hungry, but still refused to eat. The only interaction she would permit, in fact, was with the kindest crewmember: the one who had encouraged her to drink water, all through her longest night.

But despite her anxiety, the plucky seven-year-old still found it possible to marvel at the incredible rock formations that stuck out of the sea everywhere, like canine teeth. The shroud of morning mist served only to add to the panorama’s mystique, so that it felt at times as if they were punting through some prehistoric lake. Lulled by the hypnotic throbbing of the worn out engine she was, on occasion, able to banish the seriousness of her predicament from her mind and transport herself instead to some magical fantasy world. A world where some miracle would happen, ending in her rescue. And they all lived happy ever aft–

Suddenly, it began dawning on her that they were approaching another, much larger vessel: all white and shiny, it looked very swanky indeed to the impressionable youngster. Perhaps it was owned by a Prince. And in a sense it was: but his heart, sadly, was black, and he lived in darkness. Having no idea what was planned for her, Sophie’s spirits soared as they edged closer and closer to the Glory. It seemed that her dreams would come true, after all. That God was answering her prayers. Mummy, she mouthed, silently. I’m going to see my Mummy again.

Plums was waiting on deck as the grimy launch finally drew alongside, collecting up Sophie from the outstretched arms of the sole crewmember she allowed near her. But while she now felt a surge of elation at her apparent change in fortune, the man who had cared for her during the ten-hour voyage from Qinzhou Marina looked downcast as the launch then chugged noisily away. Looking glumly over his shoulder as the Glory receded into the distance, a tear could perhaps be detected in the corner of his eye.

“They knee-capped me, those men,” Sophie comically erred. “Well, all except for one. He was nice.” She ran around excitedly on the polished deck, while Plums tried to usher her through to the main saloon. “Thanks for rescuing me,” she eventually concluded, a solemn look on her face. Bazza’s loyal manservant got a lump in his throat on hearing this, wavering for what was one of the very few times since his boss had begun preying on the young and innocent. “Yay! This place is cool!” squealed Sophie, surveying the Glory’s luxuriously appointed interior. “When’s my Mummy coming?”

It was easy for Sophie to settle quickly into her quarters. Bazza had instructed Plums to stow ‘the merchandise’, as he described her, in the VIP cabin, which constituted a fabulous twin room suite, complete with its own Jacuzzi. “I love it here!” she shrieked, delighted. And compared with the conditions she had been forced to endure in the very recent past, her new surroundings were indeed quite fabulous. She had yet to meet Bazza, spent force of the pop world, and when she did she would be too young to recognise him for the former chart-topper he genuinely was.

Within the confines of the yacht’s even more lavish Owner’s Suite, the faded pop-reggae crossover king was meanwhile pruning himself, if a little nervously. The children he had previously abused were generally unable to communicate with him. But this one would be different, he knew, and it unnerved him, ever so slightly. Would he be able to go through with what he planned, after all?

“What d’you fancy for lunch, sweet’eart?” Plums was, by now, asking back in the VIP cabin. “You must be really ’ungry after that awful long journey. ’Ow about macarwoni cheese?” “I love macaroni cheese!” the young girl enthusiastically replied. “Yay! I love this place! Is it a great big ship?” Responding with nothing more than a wan smile, Plums withdrew to the galley, where he spent a good deal of time each day, preparing food. It was also the place where he did most of his thinking. Ordinarily, on an occasion such as this, he would be relaxed in the comfort that his temperamental boss had secured the services of another new underage sex slave. For it usually meant that the atmosphere aboard the Glory would remain harmonious for a few days, until Bazza became bored and tetchy again. But today the generally imperturbable cockney queen was harbouring doubts. Grave ones.

posted by Kirk at 12:51 am  

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Picnic In The Park

Siena Park, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong.

Ladies & Gentlemen… Presenting “Oneness”…

We have the glamour:

The line-up:

A professional rig:

We’re tight:

Have passion:


We know how to party:

And dance:

We have great smiles:

And one certified Psycho:

The set list was:
1) You Keep Me Hanging On (The Supremes)
2) Game Of Love (Santana feat. Michelle Branch)
3) Ready For Love (Bad Company)
4) Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
5) I Saw Her Standing There (The Beatles)
6) Dancing In The Street (Martha Reeves & The Vandellas)

So only a 30-minute set, but what fun we had…

posted by Kirk at 9:28 pm  

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Streets Of Ba-ha-rain

Much of the accommodation in Ba-ha-rain is in the form of houses contained within neatly manicured compounds:

Typical housing, shot through the window of an apartment:

A bridge linking islands:

Check out the apparent size of the sun in this shot:

Most of Ba-ha-rain’s reclaimed land looks like this:

posted by Kirk at 12:39 am  
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