*An excerpt from Slippery by Liam Carroll*
Joel pops the trunk and waves me up, “Right mate, all clear, out you get.”
I push my golf club camouflage away and edge forwards. The heat overwhelms me. I’m so sick of the equator. We’re a short way down a dirt road in the shade of some tropical overgrowth. I hop out and feel the side of my head, the cut seems to have healed over somewhat and the bleeding has at least stopped.
“Flynn, there’s a train station around the corner. Get a train north, hide out and keep as low a profile as you can.” He hands me his business card, a prepaid mobile phone package with two $100 credit vouchers, a recharge cord and all the Singapore dollars in his wallet. By some miracle he’s managed to get me out of Singapore. He’s a god damned Saint! But I need more.
“Joel, I want you to do me one last favour. Can you write a new cheque for me? Make it out to Mark Rassad and please get it to him in Jakarta, here’s his phone number.” I hand him the $1,500,000 bonus cheque he gave me only yesterday, the piece of paper I thought had confirmed me once and for all as the supreme package of success and brilliance.
“I’ll try my best mate.”
“Please, it’s my only hope.”
“We’re going to get you out of this mate. Lay low, keep your eyes on the news and contact me whatever way you can. You’ll be back in the office as soon as possible.”
“Yeah. Well just in case that’s not the way this story ends, give me a hug ya big poofter.”
“Good luck mate.”
Joel hops back in the Aston and takes off. It really is a magnificent stack of metal. I check my Hublot. It looks impeccable. 10.27am. I hold back more tears. Get it together, fuck’s sake. I walk the short distance across the dust to the bitumen road as I put my jacket back on. If global warming could just hurry up and bring about a new ice age, that’d be great. I’m sweating heavily.
There’s the dreariest of train stations a couple hundred metres down the road. A collection of clapped up beige, blue and gray Honda Civics, Mitsubishi Colts, Nissan Pulsars and dozens of scooters are parked on the street. There’s a sign for an ATM, but the clothing and nick-nack outlets to fully stock up on my well thought out Eurotrash costume are not going to be found in this backwater train stop. Fuck that plan, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I’ll stick it out with the James Bond garb.
I turn away from the street to face the trees and do a quick count of the money Joel’s given me, $3,455 SGD. I’ve got $925 SGD myself. OK then, well that’s going to have to last me a lifetime. I walk up the station stairs and check the maps and timetables. I’m at Kempas Baru. Have you been? I wouldn’t bother. I see a sign for the toilets and head in. It reeks, as you’d imagine, of dank piss and steamy shit.
There’s a cracked mirror above a plastic hand basin. I wash my face and tidy up the cut to the side of my head as best I can. I take a piss at the urinal, shooting off a lengthy splash to the floor for no sane reason and return to the basin to wash my hands and face again. I take the mobile out of the packaging and my own Blackberry from my pocket. Fuck, can they track me on this thing? I quickly scroll the contacts and transfer the numbers for Joe, Mark, Mum, Dad and Joel into the new phone, before removing the battery.
I call Mark on my new prepaid. Pick up!! What is with these fucking bastards and screening my calls today? It’s a new number, so he doesn’t know it’s me, I’ll give him that, but I can’t risk sending him a message in case that can be tracked as well. Can they even track you like that? All this CSI, NYPD, Police Academy, Hollywood junk, fuck knows what cops are truly capable of. They always seem blessed with an incredible flair for finding semen, but aside from that, does anyone know what detective talents are actually at their disposal in the real world?
I head to the counter to buy a one-way fare to Kuala Lumpur. I pass a $50 SGD note to the inert, glasses wearing, frizzy haired old lady in the clear plastic booth. She hands me a ticket through one of those prison cell meal dispenser trays, as well as some change in Malay Ringgit. I’ve got no idea what the exchange rate is or how much the ticket actually costs, but now I have 200 MYR, $4,330 SGD and a watch that could see me comfortably retire in basically any Asian nation if only there were a way to sell it for its supposed market value. I already know I’m going to be handing it to some chancy prick for a pittance, probably before today is over, in exchange for a bowl of rice or a promise not to inform the police of my whereabouts.
There is a bookshelf type case to the side of the ticket booth with all the usual handouts and pamphlets about touristy shit. I grab a bunch of brochures and continue through the turnstiles, up to the platform. Walking tours, scuba diving, sailing, yada, yada, fucking yada, all the usual tropical endeavours. There’s zero mention of cock sucking golf caddies. Black markets always have the premium produce. I take a seat at the far end of the platform and find a brochure with a map of the train network overlying a map of Malaysia, now we’re talking.
A train arrives within a few minutes. A handful of Malaysian battlers disembark, carrying their sweaty, stunted bodies and waddling off to whatever wretchedness the rest of their lives have in store for them. I don’t see any police officers or notice anything non-routine about the setting. It starts to rain as I jump into an empty carriage, take a seat and refocus on the maps. How the fuck am I going to get out of this?
This train line looks to pass through Malaysia basically from south to north. Aside from KL, I don’t recognize any of the names of the various train stations. I call Mark again. Fucking hell, still no answer. No pick up. Nothing. Fuck. No one is going to help me here. It hits me. I have to get to the coast. Indonesia is my only chance. I speak the language, bits of it at least after countless surf trips to the most wave-blessed destination on the planet. Most importantly, it is the ultimate land of opportunity. If I can barter with this watch somehow, I’m sorted for a lifetime.
There’s just a little Malacca Strait crossing to worry about. How hard can it be? There’ll be fishermen who can ferry me over. Yep, this is how I’ll live to fight another day. I take a close look at the map. Malacca. That’s my launching pad. I have to get to Malacca.
The resolution of how I’m going to survive puts me immediately on edge. Why the fuck am I on a train? I’m a sitting duck. Joel has probably returned to the office by now and has had to explain himself to authorities. God would also be demanding an explanation as to what’s happened to me. Plenty of people saw me in the office this morning, it’s not as though I just vanished into thin air. The police will be able to check Joel’s passport and know he passed into Malaysia this morning. They’ll be straight on my tail.
The train arrives at the next stop. I don’t even notice the name of the place. I get straight out, run through the turnstiles and race to the first taxi I see.
“Malacca long way boss.”
“Yes, long way, that’s fine, let’s go.”
“Much money. You pay now.”
I have no idea how much it should cost, no idea if this is the last cab I’ll ever catch. I hand him $200 SGD. He has a whinge, huffing something in Malaysian. I hand him another $100 SGD. He doesn’t smile, but he stops looking like his daughter just blew me and gets driving. I let out a long, slow breath, take off my jacket and wrap it over my head and sink into the synthetic leather seat. We’re no more than a few hundred metres into the journey when I see a bookstand on the side of the street and the title ‘Malaysian/Indonesian Phrase Book.’ Fuck yeah.
“Stop, stop!” The driver lets out another agitated wheeze, turns his head to face me, but his eyes are rolling so far back in his head, we don’t actually make eye contact. I’m a supposed drug lord, I should smash his face in, but I was raised far too well for such behaviour. “One minute, I’ll be right back.”
The curb side bookstall not only has the phrase book, there’s also a proper map of the region. Done and done. The stall proprietor is a young girl who can’t be older than ten. She says something in Malaysian and holds out her hand. I pass her $50 SGD. I’m assuming this is way too much, but motion for her to keep the change and walk away. As I open the cab door I hear the innocence of her kindhearted voice, “thank you, mister.” She’ll do well at Four Floors of Whores in the not too distant future.
The cab shoots off. I open up the map first of all, asking the prick driver to point out where exactly we are. Kulai. OK then. He tells me it will take about three hours, maybe more, to Malacca. It’s 11.15am. Rightoh. I find the patch of seating with the least amount of scratches and focus on learning Malaysian, brushing up on my Indonesian and becoming as best acquainted as possible with every nook, cranny and potential hiding cave in the Bermuda triangle between Chennai, Manila and Darwin.
The drive takes us through pouring rains and overcrowded roads. Somehow, we’ve not passed a single roadblock or police officer. I’m focused intently on the phrase book. Malaysian and Indonesian are essentially the same language. I’m going to need some reasonably smooth talking to get my way across the Malacca Straits. I read again and again through the phrases, not wanting to practice speaking them aloud with the driver in case the conversation gives away my fugitive status.
It’s 3pm. We’ve made it to Malacca. If I weren’t on the run for my life, I’d be sure to stay a while, the place looks stunning. But fuck all that floozy shit, I’ve got an escape plan to bring to fruition.
“Take me to the fish markets.” Gee, what sort of a pompous cunt talks like that? Old mate behind the wheel lets out his usual huff, fair enough, can’t blame him. After a few minutes, he pulls up in front of a huge series of tarpaulins connected between two old red brick buildings.
“Fish market here.”
Well, that’s that then, here we go.