Well apart from the things that I touched/ nothing got broke all that much/ and apart from the things that I took/ nothing got stolen babe, and look.

Matthew Houck

Dateline Singapore: October 30th, 8:02

The thin man woke at the 1887 happy to be alive and went on down to breakfast as instructed. He picked out his guy immediately. The broker was perfectly of his type, his suit barely disguising, indeed almost accentuating, the hustler inside. The thin man ordered orange juice and eggs, the broker drank coffee. He had probably already eaten.

The broker, like all of his kind, couldn’t give a shit who he was pimping as long as he got his 8% commision. He took the thin man’s data points and promised to turn them into a resume that would emphasize the high stakes, low reference point nature of his previous work. “I’ll get something going,” said the broker.

Dateline Singapore: November 1st, 11:43

The thin man stayed on at the 1889, hoping that the bill was paid for a few days at least. On Wednesday the phone rang, and the man on the other end introduced himself as Alejandro from Company X. The broker knew his lane, apparently.

“I have work for you,” Alejandro said.

“What sort of work?” asked the thin man.

“The best kind, the kind where you get in and out.” The thin man could hear Alejandro’s razor thin smile through the phone.

“I deal cards,” replied the thin man, “I’m not a safecracker.

“Of course not. We are a respectable company with a 400 year history. This work is simple. The company is in negotiations around a merger with Green Group Ltd. They are playing hardball and we need to know their real intentions.”

“Basically you want to know if they are bluffing?”

“Precisely. And who better than an operator such as yourself to find this out?”

“And what do I have to go on?”

“The Green Group will be having a party at the Swissotel downtown tomorrow night. There will be about 200 guests. You will infiltrate the party and get the lowdown. That is what you British say yes, “the lowdown.”

The thin man was not British but it didn’t matter. “Yes, that’s right. OK, book me a room on the club floor starting today. I’ll need a new suit, a haircut, and a cell phone. How’s $500 a day for expenses and $20,000 for the job?”

“What about the broker?”

“That’s your end,” said the thin man. My end is $20,000.”

“Deal. Don’t fuck up.”

“I don’t intend to.” And with that the conversation was over. The thin man had acquitted himself well, but only by the grace of god. Several things were running through his mind;

i) was $20,000 a lot or a little for a one-night stint of corporate espionage? Alejandro had bit right away so perhaps he was underselling his services. Or, Company X was desperate;

ii) 200 people at the party and the thin man knows not a one of them. He’ll have to research, chose a few likely targets, although after five weeks of carousing there wasn’t a lot of research energy left around. He’ll need to make minimal and efficient moves;

iii) he has no bank account. His severance was paid in cash and he does not intend to stay in Singapore forever, however appealing the locale. He’ll need to get legal sooner rather than later.

Dateline Singapore: Around 17:07

The thin man is up for the job, however like we said he could use a little up front information. So he checks out of the 1887, which thankfully is all paid up, and grabs a taxi to the Swissotel where he checks in, showers, and scopes out the premises. The Alligator Pear is the poolside bar at the Swissotel, and the thin man figures tomorrow’s party will be at held around the pool. Thus, this visit is classifiable as reconnaissance–this visit is billable, baby. A single couple lingers over a menu across the way.

“What’ll it be?” asks the bartender?

“Do you have any eggnog” asks the thin man, more out of habit than preference. The bartender gives him a sideways look, as if he is not sure who the joke is on.

“No sir, I am afraid we only serve eggnog during the Christmas week. How about one of our signature Manhattans?”

Manhattans, they taste like mouthwash.

“Sure a double Manhattan. And pop an egg in it would you?” This time the bartender doesn’t even blink.

“Of course, sir. One Manhattan with a raw egg.”

The drink is served and the thin man knocks it back straight. It is as disgusting as an adult beverage can be. “Perfection,” says the thin man. I’ll take a double martini with a sprig of Rosemary please.” As the barkeep makes his second drink the thin man turns to survey the space. Despite knowing no one and nothing about tomorrow evening’s party, he has a few advantages. First, event spaces are inherently permeable. More on this later. Second, he has nothing to lose. Nothing whatsoever. The $20,000 is what you call a titular payment. Hypothetical. His sainted mother has long passed; his widowed sister could be anywhere. The Costa Rican chick who claimed he’d knocked her up in ’04 was probably still out there, but he had no confidence in her presentation of events. He was only on shore for 48 hours and months on the water tends to take a few miles off a guy’s fastball. She was sweet, but it was probably a hustle. So like I say, nothing to lose, and therefore easy to underestimate. That’s what the thin man is counting on. He’d better; the bastard’s precious little else.

The martini is served and the thin man takes a deep drink. Three men approach the bar, lanyards around their neck, ties beginning to come undone, voices high. The Green Group, thinks the thin man, excellent. He takes a deep breath and turns his head slightly to the right, cementing his presence in their field of vision without being in any way threatening or intrusive. “Can you fuckin’ believe Bill?” asks one of the men. Pulling up sick on a day like this, the company going to shit?” “I think he’s faking,” says the second man, a lifer in his early 50s. “He’s always been weak like that. Looking to cover his ass.” “Fucking wanker, if you ask me,” replies the first man. “Pussy.”

The thin man looks up at the men and smiles. He sympathises. He will be their good friend tonight. Corporate espionage, he decides, is like everything else. It’s just a matter of intention.

to be continued…

Dedication: For salarymen everywhere. I sympathise.

2 thoughts on “The Thin Man in Singapore Part II: The Ask

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