I puff on the cigarette he offered me earlier but do not inhale the smoke into my lungs. ‘I’ve heard stories of captains lying to clients. Like recommending girls who give bad service. Why they do such things?’
He sits upright suddenly, and crosses his arms. ‘Most captains know their girls well. It is our job to know. We ask for feedback from customers regarding their masseuses. Like who has big boobs, who can French kiss, who has birth marks, who offers anal and so on. Even in this centre, I know who the lazy girls are, who sit on the edge of the bed to massage. But customers’ expectations differ. A spa lou chiok may find an average girl’s service below standard. But an inexperienced customer may consider the average girl good. So, It is often a case of differing customer expectations, not the captain giving false recommendations. A spa cannot survive for long if its business is based on lies.’
‘Is it advisable to let a masseuse walk on your back?’
Ah Fook waves his hand and frowns, creasing his forehead. ‘Honestly speaking, that’s not a good thing. If She is having her period, it can give you bad luck. Also, she may step on the wrong places and dis-align something in your spine. However, if the man is big, and the masseuse is small, the risk is lower. It all depends on the girl’s skills.’
Charles Chow’s cell phone rings. He answers it and strides to the office toilet. ‘Hello? Yes, Adrian. Yes?’
Voice: ‘Boss, your luck’s very good. I’ve got a virgin from Vietnam. Interested or not? She arrived yesterday.’
‘Sure or not? Genuine or artificial?’
Voice: ‘Of course, real. You’re my regular. Where I dare to cheat you? You can take her to a doctor for medical check-up. If fake, you can enjoy a short time with her free.’
‘How much is her price?’
Voice: ‘Market price is six thousand ringgit. But I got her direct from her Vietnamese agent. I give you friendship price. Four thousand.’
‘What! So expensive! Ridiculous!’
Voice: ‘Hello! Four thousand for one week. Not one session.’
‘Where’s she staying?’
Voice: ‘Upstairs, hotel room. Want to come and QC? If not, I’ll call other people.’
‘What’re the terms of payment if I take her?’
Voice: ‘Pay half in cash up-front. Balance of two thousand when you return her to me.’
‘Okay, tomorrow, I’ll come at three o’clock.’
Next day, Charles steps from outdoor tropical brilliance into the dim, air-conditioned reception area of Sandy Spa in Laguna Hotel, Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur. He settles into a sofa and Adrian, the spa’s co-owner, rises from the counter, and sits beside him. A stocky woman sets a glass of Chinese tea on the wooden table in front of Charles with a soft thud.
Adrian calls from his cell phone. ‘Hello, are you ready? Customer wants to see you. Hmmm... Hmmm...’
He ends the call and turns to Charles. ‘Her name’s Tuyen Trang. Tuyen means "angel". She is only twenty-one, knows how to speak English. She is not a farm girl. Please wait a while, she is putting on her make-up.
‘You can put her up anywhere you like. If you buy her and want her to stay here, she has to change room, which you have to pay. Don’t worry about food. She’ll eat in the coffee house or call room service and sign for it.’
The pimp’s mobile phone rings. ‘Come. Let’s go.’
The lift whisks them to the sixth floor and Adrian leads Charles to a room at the end of the corridor.
Adrian presses the bell and the door swings open. From behind, a face peeks at them. They step inside and the girl closes the door. Clad in an electric blue tube dress, she goes to sit on the chair at the dressing table. Her eyes are fringed by long, curving lashes and her complexion is the colour of longan.
Adrian and Charles plop down on one side of the bed. ‘How?’ Adrian asks.
Charles answers in Cantonese dialect: ‘Let me make small talk first. Get a sample of her character.’
‘Where are you from?’ Charles asks in English.
Tuyen stiffens and clears her throat. ‘Thuan An. Ten miles from Ho Chi Minh City.’ Her voice flows out like a clear stream over jagged rocks.
Charles switches on a smile. ‘What were you working as?’
She clasps her hands and rests them on her knees. ‘Seamstress in factory.’
‘Played sex before?’
She averts her eyes from Charles. ‘No, never.’ Her lips upturn in a weak gesture of warmth.
Charles turns to Adrian and says in Cantonese dialect: ‘What guarantee she won’t run away if I take her?’
Adrian replies in the same dialect. ‘Oh, don’t worry, I’m holding her passport.’
‘Fine. It is a deal then.’
Ten minutes later, Tuyen and Charles go to another room. After the act, Charles phones Adrian. ‘Come up, please! Got big problem. Need to talk to you.’
Adrian enters the room to see Tuyen slumped on a chair, one arm resting on its curved back, and her face buried in the crook of her arm. She is whimpering.
‘What’s this? You call this girl virgin?’ Charles points to the bed-sheet. ‘Not even a drop of blood or stain!’
‘How was she in bed?’
‘What you expect? She was noisy. Said "pain, pain, pain" but I think she was pretending.’
His face ashen, Adrian moves closer to inspect the creased bedsheet. ‘Let me call the Vietnamese agent.’
He talks briefly on his cell phone and passes it to Tuyen. ‘Your agent wants to talk to you.’
Tuyen sobs and wails in Vietnamese, while Adrian paces up and down the room, his lips pressed tight. She returns the phone to Adrian and stares blankly at the carpeted floor, bleary-eyed.
Charles asks: ‘So how, now? I’ve to pay two thousand for one session?’
Adrian discharges a deep sigh and takes out his wallet. ‘I’ll refund you thousand eight hundred. Just pay the normal price.’
Fifteen minutes later while Charles is driving away from Bukit Bintang, his cell phone rings.
‘Hello, Charles! Looks like Tuyen’s attempting suicide.’ Words in a hurried torrent burst from Adrian’s voice through the Bluetooth headset. ‘If she dies, we’re in deep shit. Please come and calm her down.’
‘What?’ Charles, overcome with guilt and sympathy, slaps his hand against the steering wheel. ‘Okay, I’m coming back.’
He executes an illegal U-turn, speeds to Laguna Hotel and returns to Tuyen’s former room. The door is ajar and he strides in. The split glass casement windows are open and Tuyen is sitting on the ledge, her feet dangling on the other side, one hand holding the middle sash bar. Adrian is standing several paces from her, taking deep breaths as if trying to calm down.
Tuyen turns to face Charles and snivels, her voice choked with emotion. ‘I virgin! I virgin! I no boyfriend!’
Adrian’s face is pale, his voice shaky. ‘Her Vietnamese agent called again after you left. He insists Tuyen’s a virgin before she met you. In fact, he’s acquainted with her family. He suggests you take her to a gynaecologist for a check-up. Just look at her. She is very upset. She’ll owe her agent a lot of money if the deal fails.’
Most captains know their girls well. It is our job to know. We ask for feedback from customers regarding their masseuses. Like who has big boobs, who can French kiss, who has birth marks, who offers anal and so on.
SMS only: +60124460864
Address: 51-A, Changkat Road Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia