The Axe Factor: A Jimm Juree Mystery (Jimm Juree Mysteries)

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Authors: Colin Cotterill
Boot would have led with a good old traditional Thai headline: FAMOUS FARANG WRITER KICKS OUT WIFE FOR ILLEGAL BURMESE. And I’d get the blame for both the story and the break-up. In fact, I didn’t think Conrad’s sex life was any business of the populace of Chumphon. I would have been happier to hope there were enough sophisticated readers to warrant an actual literary piece. I’d obviously been aiming too high.
    “It’s an okay start,” he said. “Now I want it more sexy. More decadent. Dig the dirt, Juree. You’re supposedly a crime reporter. Find some.”
    “Is this just your sweet way of asking me to rewrite a perfectly good interview?” I asked.
    “You’ve got it.”
    “And you’ll be paying me for both versions?”
    “I’ll pay you for the final version if you get it right. You’re a freelancer. You do what I tell you. I don’t need your big Chiang Mai attitude in my office. You do it right or you don’t do it at all. Get it?”
    As I was walking out of the News ’s, one-room house, I noticed the week’s headline on the fresh batch of newspapers. It was pure class. DRUG ADDICT HAS SEX WITH DEAD GRANDMOTHER. I realized I had a long way to go.
    The drive to the coast helped me focus on the decline in journalism. It wouldn’t be long before the planet got its daily news in tiny boxes to one side of the celebrity scandal sites it subscribed to. Technology was making people even dumber. Moronicism was the new religion. As I drove out of the city, I repeated the mantra, “Keep it brief. Keep it vulgar.” Until I heard a look tung tune on Radio Chumphon that I recognized. I turned up the volume and sang along.
    I’d passed the Novotel before on my way to the Ko Tao ferry. It was a vast place with its own nine-hole golf course, behind an ugly fence. Noisy road between it and the sea. No public transport into town. I’d always wondered why anyone would stay there. I parked in the car park and sought out Administration. There was one person at the front desk, who told me the manager was away. It was mid-week. There were no guests. The words “money laundering” passed through my mind. But the receptionist, Doy, was perfectly sweet. She was pretty and delicate as a hibiscus—the way I’d always appeared in my own dreams. When she found out I was inquiring about conference facilities, she wai ’d me respectfully and asked how she could help. I suppose I could have told her I was an unemployed journalist looking for an old doctor I wasn’t particularly interested to find, but that wouldn’t have got me anywhere, would it now? So I leaned across the marble counter, took hold of her arm, and said, “Doy, I’m at my wit’s end. You’re my last hope.”
    “Me? Why?” she said. “I mean, what can I do to help?”
    “My mother,” I said. “She suffers from dementia. We can’t find her.”
    “Oh, my word.”
    “The last time anyone saw her was here at your hotel at a conference.”
    “Oh!”
    “It’s just … it would be really bad publicity for the hotel if she’s lying dead in a flower bed somewhere.”
    “Well, yes. Certainly. Do you know what conference it was?”
    “Child care.”
    “That was just this weekend.”
    “Yes.”
    “I … I should tell somebody.”
    “Thank you. And perhaps they’ll suggest you find the hotel reservations for a Dr. Somluk Shinabut and the list of conference attendees.”
    “Yes. Yes. Good idea.”
    She started to rifle through a drawer.
    “And perhaps you could put me in touch with someone from the hotel who attended the conference.”
    She looked up.
    “We … we don’t.”
    “Don’t what?”
    “Attend. We just rent out the space. The organizing is all up to the people who book it.”
    “So, they could all be running around naked up there and you’d never know?”
    “Oh, I doubt whether … they wouldn’t do that.”
    “Who was it that booked the conference room last weekend?”
    “Right. I should know. There was a welcoming sign

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