Conway's Last Dance – Benjamin Welton

        Conway thought he was so slick. The slickest he had ever been in his miserable life. Knocking over the big boss was easy enough—he just weaseled his way into the heart of one of the boss’s best girls and ran like hell. Best of all, the idea was his and his alone. Conway figured that it more than made up for years of disappointment. 

        Ever since washing ashore in Bangkok, Conway had considered his luck somewhere between bad and rotten. He’d tried his hand at all kinds of work, from private security to petty larceny. All were strikeouts. Then, thanks to a friend in the Thai military police who wasn’t above easy money and sucking down bottles of whisky from a broken neck, Conway learned about the big boss, Earl McGuire. 

        A British expat, McGuire had his hands in almost every dirty pie. Want weed or cocaine? McGuire’s got you covered with the best stuff straight from Burmese warlords. Want a woman? McGuire has plenty of them, and they’re pretty and disease-free. Want something underage? McGuire can supply you that too, although it comes with a hidden cost (blackmail to keep your disgusting, pedophilic mouth shut). What Conway wanted was money, whether Thai Baht, Euros, or old fashioned American dollars. He sweet talked his way into McGuire’s operation. 

        For months Conway was the low man kept busy raking the muck. That meant having to shake hands and swap smiles with ugly Thai men with missing and/or gold teeth. However, when he moved beyond the street level, that’s when McGuire and his gang decided to stick up a jewelry store at CentralWorld. It was a simple job carried out with the help of several disgruntled employees. The diamond rings, gold necklaces, and other shiny objects that McGuire’s boys took could fill up a family van. But of all the objects, the most valuable was a fat, uncut diamond that somehow managed to go from the blood-filled mines of Southern Africa to the antiseptic tiles of Southeast Asia’s consumer culture. 

        Conway saw the diamond once. That’s all it took to convince him that he needed to take it. With his silver tongue and sugary sweet manner, he got Jasmine, the favorite whore at McGuire’s favorite bar, to drop a few sleeping pills in the boss’s Singha. When Conway got word that the deed had been done, he ransacked McGuire’s office. He found that the big boss, despite all of his money and success, was, deep down, a moron who hid things like uncut diamonds in a basic wooden desk. Conway felt nothing wrong about double-crossing him. He pinched the diamond. The original plan was to run off to Canada, to the former industrial hellhole that he had grown in. If that couldn’t be arranged, then he’d go to port in Australia. The Gold Coast had the best looking women, everyone said. 

        The problem was that McGuire’s gang moved faster than expected. They caught on quick to the fact that Conway was the guilty party. They penned him in like another rat in the city. He had nowhere to go, and the diamond became nothing short of an albatross around his already flimsy neck. 

        A lifeline came from an unexpected place. Mr. Zhu represented the last remnants of one of Thailand’s Cantonese crime families. Weak, but still respected, Zhu and his men offered to buy the diamond from Conway and take the burden off of his shoulders for good. Conway agreed. 

        And then he reconsidered. 

        The price that the Cantonese were offering looked low viewed from a new perspective. He actually decided to hang onto the diamond while pocketing the first half of Zhu’s payout. He went on the run again, now with the Cantonese and McGuire baying for his blood. 

        Conway found a hideout near the border with Laos in what the Thai call Isaan (“Northeast”). He found a nice hotel that catered to farang. He also found a local girl desperate to marry a white man and get out of Isaan. She was sick of tending to the buffalos, her aging grandparents, and her little siblings and their constantly runny noses.

        Yes, Conway had it made for a few months. Under an assumed name and flush with Zhu’s cash, he enjoyed endless nights with cold glasses of Chang and Singha. His girlfriend filled his other hours, even though she constantly pestered him about the promised marriage. That became a real nuisance when the money started to wither up and die. Conway couldn’t let his girlfriend go because she was too good looking. However, she thought he was rich, which meant that Conway needed money and needed it bad. That’s why he went to the dance. His plan was to pick several pockets in a single night, then find the next flight out of Thailand. 

        The dance was held at another hotel in Isaan. This one was even nicer, with waiters and waitresses dressed in white coats and gloves. The bar served everything, including three-year-old Scotch. The band played English-language songs and few Thai classics. They were terrible, but nobody cared. 

        The ostensible reason for the dance was charity. A flood in the Malay Muslim south had left millions homeless, so the well-heeled foreigners and their Thai wives gathered to raise money for the cause. More importantly they gathered to drink champagne and cheat on each other. It was Conway’s kind of party.

        An hour before midnight and Conway’s pockets were full of wallets. He also had the diamond on him. It never left his person because he trusted no one, especially his money-minded girlfriend. 

        “Hey, stranger. Never seen you here before.” 

        The voice belonged to a blond woman with a British accent. She looked forty, but given her suntan, expensive clothes, and abnormally tight face, Conway figured her real age for sixty or above. She wanted to talk, so Conway let her. 

        “No offense, but you don’t look like the kind that gives to charity. You seem more like a taker. Am I right?” 

        “Partially. Mind buying me a round?” Conway asked. Her eyes gleamed underneath the central chandelier. 

        “My, my. You’re no gentleman either. Asking a woman to buy the man a drink. I don’t understand this generation. You’re cute though, so I’ll let it slide.” 

        A few minutes later she handed Conway a glass of champagne. The next few rounds (all bought by her) included red wine, whisky, and Russian vodka mixed with Florida orange juice. Conway was already drunk when she began telling him her life story. 

        “…graduated from Eton. Loved it, but those mystical ‘connections’ never appeared for me. I’m just the daughter of a small town bank president, after all. I had to settle for Cambridge, then I moved to London. Worked for a man with a large Jaguar, a Savile Row suit for each day of the week, and an expensive taste in cigars. He’s also dying as we speak. Extreme hypertension is the culprit, but that doesn’t stop him from sleeping around. I’m waiting for the day when he dies in bed with some cherubic-looking Cambodian boy.” 

        Conway spit up his drink a little. “Your husband is gay?” 

        “More bisexual, but lately he definitely prefers boys. Seems he doesn’t have any time for me. That’s ok; I like boys too.” 

        She clinked glasses with Conway. He winked at her. 

        “Look, let’s cut the chit-chat and go up to my room. I know professionals like you don’t normally go with women my age, but I promise that I can make it worthwhile.” 

        She momentarily flashed a big wad of Baht in Conway’s face. His blue eyes grew as big as saucers. 

        “I have Euros too, if you prefer.” 

        “It doesn’t matter; I’m all in. Lead me to your room, m’lady.” Conway’s mock aristocratic accent caused her to chuckle. 

        Her room was a penthouse suite. Way up on the hotel’s top floor. She bragged to Conway about how the room lacked neighbors. 

        “Nobody can hear us in here. Be as loud and aggressive as you want, my dear.” 

        Conway liked the idea. He rushed her. He picked her up and threw her on the room’s gigantic bed. He threw the high thread count sheets on the floor. Her clothes went on the floor too. 

        The two made love for what seemed like hours. When it was done Conway was drenched in sweat. She had a wide grin on her face. She offered him a massage; he accepted. When she was done, she asked him if he knew any tricks that could please her. 

        “You’ve got moves in the bedroom, but can you do anything else?” 

        Conway took it as a challenge. A light-hearted challenged, but a challenge nonetheless. 

        Through the deep fog of alcohol, a memory came flooding back to him. He remembered Terry, the troubled kid who grew up a few doors away from him in Kitchener. Everyone avoided Terry because of his reputation. The worse story that everyone knew concerned the time when Terry beat up a fellow boy and left him bleeding in the parking lot. Rather than walk away and leave the wounded kid to his pain, Terry unzipped his fly and pissed all over the vanquished opponent. It was an act that horrified hardened adults. 

        Conway took it as a mission to befriend Terry. He managed to do it one summer after Terry watched him steal mail. Conway robbed his neighbors blind under the hot sun. This impressed Terry. The two became friends for the season. One of the useful pieces of information that Terry had told Conway had to do with his escape from home. Terry told Conway that his parents had tried to discipline him once and for all by locking him in his room. The problem was that they knew that Terry had a spare key, but they couldn’t find it. They tried to lock him in anyway. It didn’t work because Terry had swallowed his own key. He waited a few days until the key reappeared at the bottom of the toilet bowl. Terry picked it up through the filth, then, after nightfall, let himself out of his room and out of the house for good. 

        “Watch this,” Conway said. He went over to his suit jacket draped over a chair. He pulled out the diamond. He held it up for her to see. He slid it into his mouth and then swallowed. 

        “Some trick, right? I should have done this a while ago. Maybe then they would’ve left me alone.” 

        It was only in hindsight that Conway realized that she never asked him who “they” were.

        “A neat trick, but stupid. You’ll find passing that to be unpleasant. Excuse me while I go freshen up. In the meantime, drink this.” 

        “What is it?” 

        “Can’t you smell? It’s a beer. I grabbed one out of the fridge for you. You can thank me later.” With that she kissed Conway on the cheek. 

        Conway felt great lying there on the bed. He drank his beer with ease. He thought about Terry, but those thoughts easily gave way to thoughts about what he had just done. The thoughts excited him, and when she returned Conway was already touching himself. 

        “Such stamina. I haven’t seen a man with such stamina in a long time. You really are impressive. Can I ask a question?” 

        “Sure, baby. What is it?” 

        “Do you charge by the session or the night?” 

        “We can discuss that later,” Conway said taking her in his arms. 

        “I have a request for you. You don’t have to do anything. Just stay there and stay relaxed.” 

        It sounded like a sweet deal to Conway, so he complied. She used some of the bedsheets to tie Conway’s feet and arms to the bed. She made a show out of it, humming old showgirl rhythms as she went about her business. She was gentle. She even kissed him a few times, and not just on the mouth. When she was done, Conway felt exposed, but not uncomfortable. 

        “Hang in just a moment longer. I’ll be right back.” 

        “Don’t take too long, baby.” Conway’s voice was downright saccharine. 

        When she returned she was still nude, except for a pair of rubber gloves. 

        “Thinking about washing me?” 

        “No. I have other things in mind.” 

        She produced more bedsheets. Conway figured that they came from the other room. These bedsheets were tied around his eyes and mouth. He tried to say something about not liking his latest bindings, but she put a finger to Conway’s lips. 

        “Don’t talk. That’ll ruin the fun.” 

        Unbeknownst to Conway, she stood over him with a surgical scalpel in one hand. She had used such a device before in London. Then of course there was that job in Blackpool. That had been a nasty one. 

        “That wasn’t so clever to swallow that diamond, sugar. Mugs much smarter than you have tried the same plot before. Has never stopped me. Not once, not ever. I will tell you something, though. Your little game, which was also quite stupid, helped to make history. For the first time ever a farang and a Cantonese decided to work together to erase a shared headache. Any guess who the headache is?” 

        Conway began thrashing about on the bed. 

        “No good. Remember: there’s no neighbors up this high. Nobody’s coming to save you. Might as well relax and let me do my work. It’ll end quicker if you forget about resisting.” 

        Conway cried as loud as he could, but the sound was muffled. He kept crying as she sunk the scalpel into his stomach and began cutting upwards.