samajayathebook

A book by Asoka Samarasinghe

chapter 6 – King maker

One decent night’s sleep was what he wanted. Where he could sleep without getting up scared whenever he heard an approaching vehicle, a creaking door, footsteps, voices. For over 18 months his life was one of a fugitive. He had stepped out of the Sri Lankan prison system at the end of 2012 and 18 months later his nerves were shot. Besides the constant paranoia, the man felt alone and miserable.

Just the night before he thought about his dad and he had cried by himself most of the night. He missed his father, a good man, an honorable man. His father had been a hardworking blue-collared worker who sacrificed his happiness to ensure his two sons got a better shot at life than he did.

In the dark, cold, lonely hotel room the fugitive looked at a picture of his father and his heart raced every time a car door slammed on the street below. He shook his head as he thought about the stupid decisions he made soon after being bailed out that led him to being a fugitive.

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Chapter 5 – Street diplomacy

The gentle but insistent nudging was Peter Camp’s ritual wake up call. It had been so for the last 6 years give or take the few occasions that he had to spend in a hotel room while travelling on work. It would start at his exposed feet by the ankles and then work its way up till it could not be ignored. Being woken up by a wet nose in your face and some sloppy licks was Camp’s idea of contentment ever since his wife died the previous year. The puppy had been her gift to him when they were both working at the university in Georgetown. She’d decided that Peter needed exercise and that a brisk walk every morning would ensure that he never had another heart attack again. She was right.

They’d named the Labrador pup Smokey as he resembled a chimney sweep in Camp’s eyes. Jet black with only the pink of his tongue and whites of his teeth to add a contrast. The morning walks were at first a chore but the puppy after a week of daily walks with Peter had come to relish them and his enthusiasm was infectious enough to rub on Christine and Peter Camp.

The childless couple doted on Smokey and he loved them back the way only a dog could. When Christine had got sick and stayed home, the doctors having given her a little less than an year to live, Smokey was there beside her. When the cancer took her the young pup barely an year old mourned with Camp. But through it all the morning walks never ceased. Christine had made them go out even in the winter cold. In the spring, with her ashes scattered across the Chesapeke she loved so much, Peter was a broken man. Yet, even in his grief that warm, wet snout would wake him up at the crack of dawn. Amazing how a young dog could give an old crusty academic a reason to live and a purpose to move towards.

Chapter 4 – Working Title – Blowing in the wind

” The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”

– James Arthur Baldwin

The heat had got  so unbearable and he was beginning to come undone with every cop and police vehicle he saw pass him by on the road. Tiresh Devanayagam had less than a hundred rupees on him and that was not good. But right now the tall young man needed some respite from the heat and  to gather his thoughts. He got off the bus at Borella junction and made his way to the internet cafe that he saw on the bus ride to Pettah which he always took to feed the hunger that was clawing at him mercilessly.

The internet cafe was open and thankfully it was air-conditioned. A hundred rupees would give him 2 hours to come up with a plan. He was also grateful for a private booth. That meant that he could watch some porn and jerk himself….relieve some tension that way. Between now and his next fix, that was the best alternative he had. There were others but it was just 10am on a Friday and it wouldn’t do to snatch a chain ion the middle of fucking Borella as that would ensure he gets thrashed the crap out of and that he ends up behind bars. No….he needed to come up with a way of getting at least 20 thousand rupees. He could buy 3 street grams of heroin with that and there’d be some money left over for food.

How? How? How? How? he asked himself as he logged on to his facebook account. Tiresh Devanayagam was 38 years old and he had just come out of a long and grueling rehab run by a Bhudist monk in Kalutara. Each day had been pure hell but Tiresh stuck to it promising himself that as soon as he was out he’d lock himself up somewhere and just get high for a week. There was just the small problem of his brother and the other was the probation services.

He had been released by the Sri Lankan prison’s department over 14 months ago after having served almost 20 years in prison for the murder of his parents and a soldier. In 1989 Tiresh was only 14 years old when the bough broke. He butchered his parents and the soldier who guarded his father who was an army officer. The story would have made headlines and received media attention had it not been for the fact that Sri Lanka was in the middle of a marxist uprising and death and destruction were the order of the day. Amidst tire pyres and rivers clogged with decomposing boies, a 14 year old murdering his parents was not news worthy.

Tiresh was blessed with a forgiving elder brother who did his best to save him from a life time behind bars. Though he spent an incredible amount of money to prove Tiresh had in a moment of insanity committed the murders, the Sri Lankan judiciary gave him 19 years. If that weren’t enough, Tiresh received bail before sentencing and his brother Presad didn’t realize that his brother had come out of prison with more baggage than he went in. In addition to his sociopathic tendencies, Tiresh now had a full blown dependency on heroin.

He stole from his brother, from his friends and from any one he could steal. Each time Presad forgave him and saved him from more legal woes. Tiresh decided that he’d have to do something drastic and resorted to an elaborate scam involving lottery tickets. That was what cut short his time out on bail. Even before he could see his scam to fruition he was arrested and remanded and while in remand for the lottery scam the murder case came up for trial and Tiresh appeared for the entirety of the trial from prison. He was sentenced to 19 years for the 3 murders and a few years later he was convicted for 2 more years as a result of the lottery scam.

While in prison Tiresh worked the system to his advantage. His ability to use a computer skillfully along with his fluency in English, Tamil and Sinhala endeared him to the Superintendent of the prison. The rest was a cake walk for Tresh as he manipulated the superintendent, guards and fellow prisoners at the Welikada prison. In prison getting drugs was easy…his access to the superintendent was highly sought after by the dealers at Welikada and they would always look after Tiresh. But only once he was out on parole did he realize just how tough mere survival was on the straight and narrow. Finding drugs and the money to buy them was not so easy.

Tiresh was desperate enough now and the withdrawal was making him think things that for a normal person would seem crazy. At this point in time Tiresh would do anything to get his fix. Anything. That was when he remembered the white guy who wore the Rolex and walked his dog near Vihara Maha-Devi park in the mornings as Tiresh walked back home after a night out.

Chapter 3 – Working Title – Good cop, bad cop

If you have integrity, nothing else matters.  If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.  ~Alan Simpson

 

Peter Orr’s designation at the American Embassy in Colombo was that of Regional Security Officer and at this very moment he was feeling a little overwhelmed by what he was reading. Intelligence generated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s agents in Afghanistan reported that over 250 kilos of pure heroin had been purchased at the source by a Pakistani intermediary for a Sri Lankan client. 250 kilos was huge. Though a federal agent responsible for liaising with the host nation’s law enforcement branches, Orr worked for the US Department of State….Not the Department of Justice under whose aegis came the murky world of countering the threat of narco traffickers. Yet, he was the only US law enforcement  official in Sri Lanka and it was up to him to share this intel (as advised by his colleagues at DEA) with the Sri Lankan police’s Narcotics Bureau.

There was only one snag for Orr….as Regional Security Officer he was privy  to all relevant data generated by the massive electronic surveillance that his government’s intelligence agencies had on the Sri Lankan government and all it’s key officials. One of them happened to be the Deputy Inspector General of Police responsible for the Narcotics Bureau. Orr scowled at the computer screen as he thought about the man. Rohan Herath was a trusted confidante of the Sri Lankan president and his brother the Secretary to the Ministry of defense. They had given him a powerful job within the police as he had towed the party line for the brothers even before they had come into power. Though Orr was certain that had the brother’s known about their number one counter narcotic cop’s indiscretions and dereliction of duty, they would have long ago distanced themselves from him. Herath was as dirty as they came. He was amassing a fortune with the help of a small unit of narcotics officers whose scruples were similar to their boss. They were masters at the art of creating havoc in the local drug trade and pitting dealers against each other. They never made arrests, but instead very conveniently ended up killing almost every dealer they arrested. In Sri Lanka it was considered a norm for a suspect to hide a fragmentation grenade even after he’d been arrested, patted down and handcuffed. Especially in the case of Herath’s self proclaimed ‘Elite’ team of counter narcotics officers. Eventually the suspect would try to throw the grenade (handcuffed) at the arresting officers, who in an effort to save their lives fire indiscriminately at the said suspect. Very neat. No loose ends. The man was dirty and Orr couldn’t hide his disgust whenever he had the misfortune of running into him when the RSO visited the Sri Lankan police headquarters every Monday for a briefing. 

Chapter 2 – Working Title – The great pretender

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

1825hrs – Colombo

The man watched from the tea shop opposite the dealer’s grimy apartment block as the foreigner departed in a trishaw. He would later find out from the driver who the woman was and where she was dropped. Like everything else on this stretch of road that was known as Vivekanandan, the trishaw belonged to the nondescript man who sat having the strong, sweet tea the shop prepared. The beauty of it was that besides the dealer and a few of the drivers, no one knew that the distribution belonged to him. Even the dealer and the drivers knew so little about him…a name common to most Singhala males and the fact that he was not to be trifled with. To them he was known as Vidura. To his competitors who he chose to keep alive or free to do business, he was known as ‘Debara’, the Singhalese for hornet. To those who really knew him, his family….he was none of these things. He pulled on the cigarette filter and inhaled deeply. ‘Who am I really?’ He asked himself. In 5 short but tumultuous years he seemed to at times forget where the line of separation was to the carefully compartmentalized parts of his life.

Buwanaka Halpe came from an upper middle class Singhalese family. To the world he was a successful businessman who had taken over his father’s construction business and applied the skills gained through an expensive Western Education to turn an ailing business around and make it soar. He was to this one world, the epitome of what ‘good stock’ was. A devoted son, a loving husband, a supportive father, a concerned Chairman of a public listed company that was and had been the hottest pick on the Colombo bourse for 3 years in a row. Halpe Amalgamated PLC was the gold standard in construction on the island. They had the best of everything, be it staff, equipment and work ethic. What they didn’t have they bought. Because one thing Halpe Amalgamated had in seeming abundance was an unlimited cash flow. Yet the company’s chairman wasn’t ostentatious. His only extravagant expenditures was the array of benefits he provided his employees with. In a country struggling with a rising cost of living, Halpe’s was the ideal employer. They paid above average salaries to every member of their staff from unskilled laborers who worked in the construction crews to the senior executives who managed the company. Halpe’s rewarded its people in excess. However, to the consternation of the chambers of commerce and the captains of industry in the capital…not once had Buwanaka Halpe associated in any public functions. The man was a social misfit. All public relations of the group of companies were the responsibility of his senior executives. Buwanaka was assiduous in his making certain that he stayed as far away from the public eye as possible.

Chapter 1 – working title – Fallen cradles

1715hrs – Colombo, Sri Lanka – December 2nd 2004

The girl had been there since 10 that morning, but it seemed to her as if she’d just arrived. She no longer had her wristwatch on…the man in the track suit had taken it off her when she had run out of money. She had asked him to take it. She could always get another watch later. It was the here and now that she was more concerned about. In the here and now there was just complete and utter bliss. ‘Mother fucking nirvana’ she told her self as she greedily inhaled the smoke that emanated off the paper foil she held beneath her nose. She watched as the brown powder dissolved itself from the heat of the lighter she held below the foil. She watched in awe as it turned into smoke and filled her lungs.

She’s been there 7 hours. Spent over a 1000$ and when that ran out gave the dealer her Patek Phillipe that her father had given her for her 16th birthday. Easily worth 5000$ but she knew that the dealer would only give her a few grams of what she needed for it. After all, it was a buyer’s market here when purchasing what was sold here with anything other than cash.

She was oblivious to the state of the room she was in. The stench of the piss, puke and sweaty bodies of her fellow addicts didn’t make her wince. Neither did their advances and touching her. At that moment in time Helen Brattskaar would need little convincing to just strip herself and spread her legs wide for any of these men…as long as she got a gram out of it.

Since two days ago she’d been in severe withdrawal. She’s been an addict less than 2 months. First introduced to heroin by her boyfriend of 3 weeks who was in a class senior to her at the Overseas School Colombo. The relationship had failed but far as Helen was concerned the best thing to come out of it was the indescribable escape and release that heroin could only give her. Not even the best sex, the longest orgasm could compare to this feeling of flight and disconnect.

The dealer got up and asked her to get up off of the floor she sat crosslegged on. She was trying to scrape the heroin sediment off the foil to get one last hit. The dealer wasn’t an addict and he knew that keeping the white woman here any longer was asking for trouble. He wasn’t the least bit scared of the police; having bought and kept their loyalty….no, what and who the dealer feared most was his boss. If the man walked in here now and found this woman in the middle of all these addicts, there would be dire repercussions for the dealer. For many reasons but mainly because a woman in the middle of all these addicts would not get out unmolested. The only reason she’d been relatively safe here was that every addict here knew the dealer and his men were armed and that they had no compunction in killing any of them if they got out of hand.

The dealer had also checked this girl’s wallet and saw her passport. He knew how to read English well enough to realize that she was the daughter of someone at the Norwegian embassy. So no, she had to go. He gestured for her to get up. When she looked at him in that blank expression of an addict who’d just taken a hit, he grabbed her arm and jerked her up.

She didn’t yell or wince. She didn’t even know what was going on. The dealer called one of his men over and said something. The man handed him two small packets of heroin which he took and put into her wallet. He straightened her up, gave her the wallet and said in English “I give you 5 grams miss. Now you go home. No staying here. Very dangerous here.” The man gently led her to where his men stood and asked them to put her into a known tri-shaw and have her dropped at the Norwegian embassy. He hoped the tri-shaw driver knew where that was. She hadn’t bought a phone along with her, which the dealer found strange but didn’t care. He just wanted her gone before the boss got here.

Going to start…so buckle up

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
– Sylvia Plath

Ok as of today I’ll start writing Samajay as it comes to me in my head. I’m not going to waste time correcting grammar and typos but just let it loose and get it all outta my head. Buckle up, enjoy the ride.