Luk Thep, Chapter 3

Jane was again struck by the sensation that she and Khajee were not the only two parties in the room. She could no longer ignore it, pretend the feeling wasn’t there.

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Jet lag, jet lag, she told herself. Just focus on getting the job done, so you can get back home again!

Barring an unforeseen, last-minute disaster, this would be a quick trip, barely two nights. 

Jane had arrived late the previous night, local time. After grabbing a few hours of sleep in her hotel room, she had gone directly to the TRX plant on the outskirts of Bangkok. The taxi ride out to the plant was made a bit precarious, owing to the driver’s minimal English, and his uncertainty regarding the plant’s location. For a brief while, Jane had imagined herself to be the victim of an elaborate kidnapping plot—not a farfetched scenario in Thailand, where kidnappings for ransom sometimes occurred. Jane breathed a sigh of relief when the smiling driver finally located the TRX plant in the distance, along a rural country road where a new industrial park was under development.

Then Jane and Khajee had spent the entire day out on the factory floor, observing the new supplier’s components in production. They talked to quality control inspectors and production engineers, to line supervisors and assembly line workers. Khajee graciously translated every word of every conversation, which made every interaction take twice as long as it would have in the U.S. or Canada.

Ram was obviously keeping an eye on them, hoping in vain that the new supplier’s components would be judged substandard and unacceptable. He occasionally stopped by to listen in on their conversations with various parties, glowering as it became ever clearer that everyone preferred the new components to the old ones. 

Jane reflected on how the events of the day had combined to thwart Ram’s scheming. She had been more than a little pleased to see Ram get his comeuppance. Good for him!

Khajee, tireless and ever patient, continued now to scroll through the lines on the spreadsheet that contained the previous month’s quality data for the new components. Jane was impressed by her conscientiousness, her desire to produce the best result for the company. Khajee was a team player. 

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Khajee’s job was made all the more difficult by her boss, whose motivations were personal, venal. The supplier change would likely have a negative impact on Ram’s finances. Not his TRX salary, mind you, but his “off-the-books”, or “outside” compensation. 

Thinking of Ram’s resistance and probable corruption, Jane could not help feeling a twinge of anger. The change of supplier should not be at all controversial. 

Though nothing could be proven, Jane was certain that Ram was corrupt. Although bribes and greased palms were common enough in this part of the world, Jane found the reality of the situation galling, nonetheless.

Could Ram be watching them? Jane wondered. 

There was that spooky feeling again: Try as she might, she couldn’t shake it. When Khajee paused to reach for the mouse and scroll down the spreadsheet, Jane looked over her shoulder, out the window. 

Khajee’s office was on the first floor of the plant facility. The night was moonlit; and the window looked out upon a typical inland scene in the rural tropics: There were scattered palm trees, and far beyond that, hills that would be covered with impenetrable jungle. Off to one side she saw one of the factory’s utility buildings, gleaming white beneath halogen lights.

What had she expected to see? Ram standing outside the window, watching them? 

It was ridiculous. Everything would be better, Jane told herself, once she got some sleep.

Chapter 4

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