THE BIG GUY
Phil fell for the coat the moment he saw it. Luxurious chestnut leather in a style that could only be Italian: Armani perhaps, maybe Gucci. And extra-large, Phil’s own size. He absolutely had to have it.
It hung on a retro-style coatstand beside the maitre-d’s desk right there beside his own battered topcoat.
Phil reached out to stroke the soft leather and knew he was in love.
The bill had been paid, cash as always, and the desk was unattended. It was his last night in Bangkok. On impulse, he grabbed the leather coat, slipped it on and headed for the restaurant’s revolving doors.
Outside, the oriental night was a kaleidoscope of neon: a frantic cacophony of noise and hustle. Phil hailed a passing taxi and told the driver to take him to the airport.
Phil levered his bulky frame into the rear seat of the Toyota and rewound the events of the last three weeks: a crazy roller-coaster of wins and losses, but mostly wins and lucrative ones at that.
A natural-born scammer, Phil saw other people’s money as his for the taking and if that left them penniless, well, tough, no one said that life was fair.
That elderly couple he’d met in the bar of the St Regis: English, like himself, but alien as Martians. They’d taken to him right away: clearly saw him as a local character, a big guy, full of smiles and ex-pat cheer. They were old-school, superior, patronising and greedy: the marks were always greedy when you got down to it. And their greed was the key, that magic key to unlock their wallets, bank accounts, the lot.
He’d scored on that one and no mistake. They’d be lucky, when they discovered just how thoroughly he’d cleaned them out, if they could even afford a weekend in Skegness.
At Suvarnabhumi airport, Phil checked his ticket and admired his profile in a washroom mirror. The leather looked fabulous and fitted him perfectly. Its former owner must have been a big guy too, broad across the shoulders. It was in great condition, so the guy must have taken care of his clothes. The only flaw was a small tear in the lining of the left side pocket, but that could be sorted when he got back to London.
Checking his watch, Phil, joined the queue at Security. With only a laptop as luggage, he knew he’d be through in no time.
Security was visibly high with groups of Thai military stationed at every turn and uniformed police working the concourse and seating areas with sniffer-dogs.
Slinging his laptop and leather into a waiting tray, Phil, stepped through the metal-detector arch and collected his possessions when they’d passed through the scanner.
He was coming out of Duty Free when two Thai policemen approached him with a black Labrador. Phil relaxed and stood still while one of them walked the animal around him. When the dog abruptly sat down, he was nonplussed. He never touched drugs and certainly wasn’t a terrorist, so what what the hell was this about?
Twenty minutes later, Phil knew the answer. Two small sachets of pure heroin had been retrieved from the lining of the leather coat. They had evidently slipped through a tear in the lining of the left pocket.
Phil was a big guy and the shiny Thai handcuffs felt uncomfortably tight.