Tiger Lily of Bangkok in London
by Owen Jones
1 The Sunday Times
Lily was a good intuitive shot. She was one of those people who doesn’t seem to have to take aim like most marksmen. Whatever her eyes were looking at was in trouble – they were her laser-targetting devices. She threw her meat cleaver and hit David Cameron right between the eyes. She had been willing the blade to find that spot, but she knew that she had hit it as much through luck as judgement.
She was still fuming mad, so she jumped up and retrieved the six assorted kitchen knives from the two chopping blocks to which she had stuck six photos of famous politicians and personages cut out of the Sunday Times colour supplement at random. The chopping blocks were hanging from cords like dartboards on the far wall of the kitchenette.
“How dare they?” she said to no-one but the photographs. “How dare they allow child abuse to go on under their very noses and do nothing about it!?”
Leon Brittan got a steak knife in the right eye, but she was still most proud of the Cameron shot, although hitting any part of a three by four inch photograph from ten feet with ordinary domestic cutlery was quite a feat in itself, especially as she hadn’t practised since she’d left Bangkok.
Lily was no ordinary young woman though.
She had studied martial arts in her native Thailand and taken up archery in conjunction with that. Throwing knives or indeed anything sharp had just happened, because she couldn’t practice archery in her flat, first in Bangkok and now in London. She was still a medical student, but she had managed to get a placement in Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital for two years.
She had one year left.
Her English had been good since school and studying medicine had meant that she had had to read a lot of medical books and journals in English. She had decided to force the pace by reading the Sunday Times from cover to cover every week, and it did take her all week to accomplish. Today, she had been reading about the suspected paedophile rings operating in Dolphin Square and some of the orphanages, children’s homes and hospitals up and down the country.
Margaret Thatcher and Jimmy Savile caught steak knives in the head for the fourth time each. They had thwacked in hard and were still vibrating from the ferocity with which they had been thrown.
Sunday was the only day that she knew she would be free every week, so she was still in her girlish pyjamas. She was also entitled to a second day off a week, but sometimes she took two half days and other times she just worked it. She didn’t really have a lot of use for free time. She still hadn’t made any close friends in London, although she sometimes went for a night out with a bunch of her co-workers.
It wasn’t a problem to her though, she had been a loner since her so-called uncle had started abusing her when she was eleven, half her lifetime ago and she loved her job and the children it involved her meeting. Lily was petite and could still pass for a child if she wanted to. In fact, many of the children at the hospital thought at first that she was a patient dressed up as a nurse, although she was in fact a student doctor.
She threw the six knives at the six photographs one more time, then she returned her attention to the long article on establishment child abuse.
It cited alleged instances from the Seventies and Eighties, yet she wasn’t even born until 1993 and the names meant nothing to her. The only politicians she had heard of when growing up were Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and George Bush, who, she knew wasn’t even British. Now she was aware of Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Miliband. In fact their photographs were on the wall, although she was conscious that some of them were still in school when the abuse took place. Others, suspected participants or, at best, misguided facilitators were already dead, and yet others waiting to die in nursing homes or mental institutions, oblivious to the scandal that was brewing up among the general public outside.
Lily picked up her iPod and called up the locations mentioned in the article. First, Stoke Manderville hospital where someone called Jimmy Savile, now dead, had carried out many of his crimes; then Dolphin Square, in Pimlico, the heart of London’s Westminster and West End; Elm Guesthouse, Barnes, in south-west London; and finally Grafton Close Children’s Home in Richmond-upon- Thames.
Investigations by various police forces including London’s Metropolitan Police Force such as Operation Fairbank, Operation Midland, Operation Fernbridge and Operation Yewtree were still mysteries to her, but she wanted to learn more about them.
It was gone eleven by the time Lily stopped reading about the allegations. Her head was reeling and she felt sick. Memories that she had always tried to push to the back of her mind were resurfacing and she didn’t like it.
She took off her pyjamas, opened the French windows onto her fourth-floor verandah and stood naked in the summer sunshine, then she calmed her mind and began her warm-up moves of T’ai Chi, before moving on to the more aggressive Kyokushinkai Karate, which she had studied in Bangkok as a full contact sport. She was light, but fast and strong and many opponents had made the mistake of underestimating her.
When she felt more at ease, she collected the six knives and threw them at the tattered images one last time, then she put the knives away and the photographs in the bin and ran her bath.
Lily had always sought solace in a warm bath, it was where she carried out most of her most productive contemplation.
She had hoped that those dark days of madness in Bangkok of two years before were behind her. She had forgotten how many men, suspected paedophiles, she had killed, although she would be able to recall each grizzly instance and count them if she wanted to. She never did want to though. It was more than ten and that was close enough for any young woman to cope with, however much the victims had deserved their fate.
This was not her country though, she could pretend that it wasn’t her fight. Surely, the British would sort out their own mess. Yes, she could try that approach and stay out of it. That thought lasted almost a minute, but she knew how the rich and powerful could literally get away with murder in her own country, and hadn’t Nick, the chief witness in this London scandal, and several officers in the Metropolitan Police Force hinted at something similar happening in Britain?
How could she do nothing when she had the power to do something, albeit illegally? She could help redress the balance, if she were strong enough. In Bangkok, she had been burning with rage, now she was only really angry and she was older and more able to control her temper. Practicing martial arts had been a great help in that respect.
However, she could still choose to do something, and who knew? Being sanguine about the problem might even make her more effective and less likely to get caught.
No-one had touched her since she had moved to London. She was still officially going out with Ron, but he was in Bangkok and neither of them had expected the other to remain faithful, although they Skyped one another often and always finished by saying ‘I love you’. Ron even sent her part of his allowance from his parents so that she would be free from financial worries and could concentrate on her studies. Not that she was poor anyway. She had stolen a lot of money and jewellery from the men whom she had liberated from their sinful existence to start a new life and make amends.
She couldn’t tell Ron that though, he only knew about the ten million Baht that her mother had left her, and that was not a lot of money to him or his family.
Lily lived quite frugally, not purposely so, it was just her nature. She took buses everywhere, didn’t go out much and didn’t own or want a car, despite the fact that the British drove on the same side of the road as the Thais, so she would have picked it up quickly.
Her only extravagances were her apartment, her vast wardrobe of assorted outfits and her collection of make-up . She liked nice clothes and she insisted on living in a comfortable environment and Ron’s contribution paid for most of the rent anyway.
She foresaw that in about fifteen months time, she would return to Bangkok, move in with Ron and pass her doctor’s examination, before looking for a job somewhere. Ron would want that to be in Bangkok, near his parents, where he had lived all his life and that was all right by her, because she hadn’t spoken to any of her family since her mother’s funeral.
However, that was all next year, what about the rest of this one?
She knew deep down that there was no way that she could do nothing. It just wasn’t an option. She despised her own family for having done nothing when she was being abused, however much they asserted that they hadn’t known what was going on. She couldn’t believe that no-one had noticed that she had become ‘quiet’, troubled and nervous of being left alone with her treacherous ‘uncle’. It was inconceivable to her, and so was the idea that she would be able to live with herself if she did nothing now.
However, do what?
Although the skin on her fingers had long since turned wrinkly, she let more hot water into the bath and thought.
It seemed to her that the main difference between the situation she had faced in Bangkok and the one she would in London was local knowledge. She been going from home to work, to the shops and back home for the last year and didn’t know her way around like she did in Bangkok. Furthermore, the article she had been reading, had talked about homosexual paedophiles, whereas she had concentrated on men who liked young girls, other than that, perhaps, she could adapt her old tactics to the new circumstances without too many complications.
She paused to consider whether her not inconsiderable make-up skills would stretch to making her look like a boy. She wasn’t sure, but sat up in the bath to see her face in the clouded mirror. She pulled what she thought were boys’ faces, but was not convinced, then the idea struck her that she could make a passable lady-boy – a transvestite.
This led her to thinking about disguises, uniforms and ultimately, weapons.
The skewers had been exceedingly effective in Bangkok, and could be used again, but they were necessarily close-range weapons and they may form a link with the Bangkok murders. She could throw, which would put more distance between her and her target. She was sure that she would be able to hit a man somewhere from twenty to thirty feet, given the right missiles and more practice, but she could easily treble that distance with a bow and be more accurate.
It was getting hold of the weapons without drawing attention to herself that was the problem. She was not your typical Londoner, whatever that was, but she didn’t feel like one anyway, and she knew that her deceptions worked best when she was able to relax and believe herself what she was trying to convince others of.
She stood up slowly and pulled out the plug with her foot, then rinsed herself off with cold water from the showerhead, wiped the mirror with the flannel and studied her body.
No problems yet, and she might just pass for a boy, she thought.
She dried herself off, covered her body in talcum powder in the old Thai style and applied other creams and her beloved jasmine oil to her face, hands, arms and neck as she was accustomed, then she wrapped a large towel around her body and went back to the living room.
Before she had even had a chance to take a coffee onto the balcony to enjoy the summer that the British said was so hot, but was the same as a Thai winter, she knew what she would be doing that afternoon, and if she did that, she knew what she would inevitably be doing in the near future, as sure as ‘b’ follows ‘a’ and two follows one.
She got dressed in drab student-type clothes so as not to stand out and went shopping.
The train was in motion and the destination inevitable.
The first thing she wanted to do was find a hobbyists, so she loaded an app onto her iPhone and let it look for the nearest registered outlet. A taxi took her to within a hundred yards of it minutes later.
She took a deep breath, and walked into the small shop.
“Hi,” she said, not attempting to hide her Asian accent. “I want to make plaster models for my family for good luck, but heads keep snapping off. Do you have metal rod to put inside?”
“Yes, Miss. We stock several diameters, which would you like?” He helpfully pointed at a rack of what looked like stainless steel stair rods behind and below the counter.
“Er, I think six millimetre”.
“Certainly, Miss, how many?”
She could see that they were a metre in length.
“Er, three, please. Er, how you say? I am here for holiday and not have tools for cut. Do you have?”
“No, Miss, I’m very sorry, we are waiting for delivery, but there is a Jewson’s builders’ merchants two hundred metres out this shop turn right. They will have angle grinders, hacksaws or whatever you need”.
Lily paid and left for Jewson’s, happy that her first purchase had gone so easily.
At Jewson’s, she took her time looking around. She knew what she wanted, just not what form it would come in.
She weighed six-inch nails in her hand, but they were far too light. Then she spotted the nail punches. That was more like it. She put a roll of eight assorted-sized punches and a single, loose one of the largest punch into her trolley. As she was looking at files, she noticed a broken one, the handle of which had come adrift. The metal file was nine inches long and the wicked-looking spike that went into the handle was four inches. She reassembled the useless tool and put it in her trolley too. Then she bought a four-inch angle grinder, a few spare discs, a hacksaw, spare blades and a pair of pliers, and left.
She took a taxi to a hundred metres from her flat and stopped for a coffee before continuing home.
Lily put the bags containing her purchases under her bed and then caught a bus to a shopping centre that she had not used often, but she knew quite well. Her first job was one of her favourite hobbies: she walked from shop to shop holding clothes up against herself and chatting with sales assistants about the latest fashions and which colours suited her best. She wasn’t completely sure what she wanted, but she had the confidence to know that she would recognise it when she saw it.
She was now officially on a mission and they had always worked out for her, so far.
Lily already had a vast collection of makeup since that had been a passion of hers since she was first allowed to wear a little eye shadow and mascara at the age of sixteen. She also had several CD’s of magazine cuttings on different styles and techniques of applying makeup that she had collected over the years and scanned to disc.
She had always liked to experiment with new looks and styled herself on Madonna: she wore wigs and different styles of clothes which transformed her from a teenage punk to a demure young woman and every stage in between. She could even hide the fact that she was Asian, although she didn’t normally bother. However, being of Chinese-Thai descent, she had a naturally light-coloured skin, and since she had lived in London, it had paled to a typical European hue. The only style she had never tried, and couldn’t think why not now, was to look like a boy.
She brought up mental images of Julie Andrews and Lisa Minnelli dressed in men’s clothing and thought that it looked quite good, but not what she was after. AC-DC was more what she wanted, but then they were real men. That didn’t put her off, she just started paying more attention to the sort of clothes that teenage boys wore in the UK. She soon realised that most of them were shapeless scruffs when they didn’t have to go to school. She would have no trouble hiding the fact that she was female if she wore a hoodie or a kagool.
They went on her mental shopping list.
She also bought short and long trousers, skirts, blouses and shirts, socks and sensible shoes, then took her bags to a coffee shop for the chance to think. She tried what she thought was a butch voice on the waitress who came to take her order, but she wasn’t happy with it and noticed the strange look on the girl’s face, so she didn’t say another word in the shop.
Lily was running her purchases through her mind and letting combinations of clothes and scenarios suggest themselves to her, when the usefulness of several more items suggested themselves. When she left, she was glad to get out of there as she felt that she had made a fool of herself. She felt as if this were confirmed when the two waitresses started giggling to each other as she walked out of the door.
Lily wanted a large map of central London that she could hang on the wall, a roll of one-inch wide Sellotape and some inexpensive party wigs. They were easy enough to find and she bought four assorted types and the four polystyrene heads to store them on cost more than the nylon hairpieces. It was four o’clock when she got in a taxi to take her and her things home, which was a touch on the late side for what she wanted to do, but she couldn’t help that.
She didn’t have time to put her clothes away properly which would normally have been a priority after such a shopping expedition, but they had strict rules on noise in her apartment block and there was to be no noise made that might disturb other residents after five pm. It was one of the reasons why she had chosen the flat in the first place and she didn’t want to start attracting any undue attention to herself now.
She took the angle grinder, the pliers and one rod from under the bed and on to the verandah, where she plugged the cutter in. Then she divided the rod into six pieces with markings using an eye-lining pencil, put on a pair of sunglasses and, holding the rod with the pliers she carefully cut it up. She was left with six six-inch stainless steel rods a quarter of an inch in diameter.
She listened for neighbours banging on the wall in complaint, but she still had twenty minutes to make as much noise as she wanted. She had to do it now, because when she was working, she didn’t get in until six. There were no signs that she had upset anyone, so she placed the grinder between her knees, clenched hard and started it up again. She took a six-inch length of steel and turned it on the spinning blade until it was as sharp as a teacher’s 3H pencil. It was too hot to touch, but she admired the point and then treated the other five rods in the same manner.
She switched the machine off and listened intently again, but still there was nothing. Good, she was five minutes within her limit. She was hoping that people would not have associated the noise with a shy, foreign, female, medical student anyway and she was probably right. Lily returned the angle grinder to its box and hiding place under the bed and fetched the broken file and carefully used it to take off all the rough edges and burrs from the six items.
She turned them over in her hand, feeling their weight and testing their sharpness. Some she perfected with the file before laying them out in a row on the table before her.
‘They ought to be black,’ was the only criticism she could think of, ‘but they’ll do for now’.
Lily brushed the dust and filings over the edge of the balcony. She was house-proud, and always had been, but she didn’t want that in her flat. She put the dustpan and brush away, and started to control herself again. Deep breaths, mind-focus, calmness…
She gathered up the mini rods, their combined weight in her hand felt reassuring, like an old, oft-used hand gun – a friend that she had known in the past. She fanned them out in her left hand, points towards her body and walked to the far end of the room. She span quickly and had flicked three bo-shuriken into each of the chopping blocks in ten seconds. It was almost as fast as automatic fire. The first hadn’t hit its mark before the second and third were flying on their trajectory behind it
There came a tap, tap, tap on the wall. Lily snapped out of her reverie and looked at the wall clock. It was five thirty and they were into the curfew on noise.
She put the bo-shuriken rods in the back of a drawer and went for a shower.
‘Six hits with six forty-gramme, six-inch steel bolts from twenty feet wasn’t bad,’ she was thinking as she stood under the shower, ‘ even if the targets were fifteen inches in diameter’.
She hadn’t thrown shuriken since Bangkok and had never used this particular design before, so she was happy with that… for today. It was only the start of her training, but it was a propitious sign.
You can buy Tiger Lily of Bangkok in London from the bookshop in the title bar.
by +Owen Jones