Carta Visa Chapter 33
Bold: The characters are speaking in English.
Allow me to switch from hardcore mode to a more lighthearted mode instead, little Petch’s brain is already on the verge of exploding. I was scared of Ethan’s ghost (so he’s dead now?), scared of Viktar (give me back my kind and caring dot dot guy), and scared of Alexey (what if I approached some other man by accident…?). In addition to this, I sported a split lip from being punched, as well as a bruised back from crashing against the wall.
I had been pondering for exactly forty-five minutes and thirty-seven seconds already, flipping over left and right on my bed. Why did Ethan–who was arguing about Eisbär earlier–all of a sudden begin to lash out at Alexey instead? I definitely must have missed some vital detail.
And if Ethan was angry at Eisbär, why did he have to take it out on Alexey?
Are these guys caught in some kind of love triangle rivalry? Or was this actually a 3P situation? Hua… just picturing it in my head was already giving me goosebumps. With Eisbär’s physique being that of a heavyweight class wrestler, the bed would have had to withstand several tons of weight I bet.
However, it was also not out of the question if the situation was actually a love triangle rivalry instead. Hypothetically for instance, out of certain circumstances Eisbär becomes 'involved' with the hottie, resulting in Ethan being left and abandoned all by himself.
Another issue which was lingering inside my head was that… in my entire life, I had only gotten to meet Eisbär once, this being during Jessica’s wedding; to which I myself do not remember any of my actions from that day at all. But even more curious is that on that previous night in which I cried in front of Sasha… venting about Alexey and what he did to me… Sasha had claimed that Alexey was merely fulfilling the promise that he made to me from long ago…
Sure I might have requested something from Eisbär, but I certainly have never requested anything from Alexey. Furthermore, even if I really did request something from Eisbär, how was Alexey related? Don't tell me this is also a case of Satan's spawn inheriting his father's will, hm?
I definitely must have missed an important detail, but being clueless as to what it could be… Jessica, you need to take responsibility for this matter (?).
However, before I could see her, I had something else that I needed to investigate first. No need to hire Kindaichi Kosuke since that guy is old now, rather, Kindaichi Phachara will solve this case instead!; so long as Google still exists in this world.
After wallowing in a German fansite for three and a half hours, finally I managed to find the ultimate hidden treasure trove… Ethan’s final three modelling photographs.
From just a single glance, I dawned on the reason behind the break up.
These final three photographs were not Eisbär’s work. I was willing to put my head on the line and claim that these three photographs were amateur level. This was blatantly a case of a kid chancing upon a master's camera. But have you heard of this saying? ‘A Leica won’t improve your photography.’–to which I believed this to be true, because a good photo consists of a perfect blend of experience, skill, perspective, and a camera. If missing either one, a good photo cannot be produced.
‘It's a completely separate matter to your betrayal of him by going to that peasant scum.’
This means that Ethan joined hands with someone else in order to betray Eisbär.
But who? And how could he?
What exactly did I learn from these three photographs? That this was a case of one's work being stolen, a case of one being impersonated, and a case of one being betrayed so shamelessly that if feels like a smack in the face.
I sympathized with Eisbär, and felt deeply sorry for him.
“Hey, Mr. Pha-cha-ra… what time do you think it is, knocking on a lady's door like this? If I get acne from going to bed late, do you think you can buy me Lamer cream to cover the damages?”
I sighed. “Even Lamer can’t help the skin on that face of yours, you might have to use cement instead.”
The kathoey let out an offended screech but agreed to allow me inside. “What do you want? Out with it.”
I handed the photos that I had printed out from that website to my kathoey friend. “I found them, now give me the rest of the story, you left me hanging last time remember?”
Jessica took the photos, studying them before likewise letting out a sigh. “What do you think of these?”
“They're not Eisbär’s work, the skill can’t even compare.”
Jessica looks at my face. “Yes… and nobody realized this until one day, someone in our group walked past a bookstand and picked up a magazine to flip through casually, only then did they discover something abnormal: The severe contradiction between the photographs taken and the name of the photographer. Thus, the secret was laid out in barebones. A third party individual had secretly used Eisbär’s name to accept work from various magazines… with Ethan's complicit approval and cooperation too.”
“Surely there had to be people that doubted this, especially when the man himself never makes an appearance?”
“Of course the magazines doubted from the very beginning, however, all of them were pressed for time, desperate to get their hands on work before their deadlines. Moreover, at this point, Eisbär’s name practically served as a guarantee that the photos would turn out fantastic. However, upon receiving these three photos in particular, they were rendered completely speechless. An editor who very familiar with Eisbär saw this work and immediately blew their top, reaching for the phone to give him a stern tongue-lashing, but who would have guessed…”
“When did Eisbär find out?”
“When the magazine was already laid out, wide open on his table as he received the call from that editor.”
Boom! What followed afterwards didn’t need any explaining.
“Did Ethan not try begging for forgiveness?”
“Ethan went and wallowed around with scum, not to mention dumbing down his own brain with cocaine too. When we tried to question him… he was already drained of all sense of responsibility and care.”
Jessica’s emphasis of the word ‘scum’ made me flinch. “And… who was that other guy…?”
“I don’t remember his name, but what’s certain is that he can’t pick up a camera anymore, ever again.”
“Why? Is he banned?”
“The banning is one reason but… an accident which caused the bones in his right arm to fracture beyond repair is another.”
Hearing this caused my goosebumps to flare up again. This kind of cruelty… clearly reminded me of Alexey.
“Where is he currently?”
“Stuck in jail in Florence, he got given the nickname ‘One Hand Coke’ too, cool isn’t it? It’s a mixture between ‘Stumpy’ and Cokehead.”
Oh my good god… his bones were fractured so badly that they had to amputate the entire arm? Not to mention being arrested for selling drugs? What an absolutely miserable outcome.
“…” I was speechless, this story was honestly depressing. “And what about Ethan? What happened to him after that?”
“Well you can probably guess that everyone willingly shunned him from the industry, he had no work, no money, and everything that he used to own vanished in the blink of an eye. People… when we destroy our own honour and dignity, even a mutt won't bother to give us a glance.”
“It’s strange, they loved each other so well all these years and suddenly… or were they already in an argument prior to the incident?”
Jessica shifted her stance. “Yeah… like the saying goes, lovers are akin to tongue and teeth, its natural for the two to clash with one another. Think about it, even you and Alexey bicker on a daily basis.”
Oh, she has a point…
“The argument must have been big then. Could it be… is it concerning them abandoning their lives in Europe and returning to Kazakhstan?”
Jessica nodded. “But it in no way means that if one needed to go back, the other had the right to betray him by having an affair.”
She was right about this as well. Someone like Eisbär could probably be reasoned with if spoken to nicely.
“He knew from the start that Ethan was not going to follow him back to Kazakhstan, however, distance doesn't necessarily dictate that we have to break up with our loved ones… Eisbär was prepared to sell his house and rent a luxury penthouse in Frankfurt for Ethan, not to mention planning to transfer his cherished Maserati under Ethan’s name as well. But when this incident occurred, boom! Everything was over… it was an ugly end too.”
…!!! A penthouse in Frankfurt and a Maserati! This huge dedication, just how much did he love Ethan?
I processed these details inside my head and concluded the lecture.
“To conclude, there are three big disputes. The first… Eisbär needed to return Kazakhstan but Ethan didn't want to abandon his life in Europe, as such, Eisbär prepared everything so that Ethan could live comfortably over there–this was something that the public had no knowledge of. The second… Ethan was seeing another man, behind Eisbär’s back no less. And third… unbeknownst to what Ethan was thinking, he let that man become famous in the photography industry by relying on Eisbär’s name, as if this newcomer had Eisbär’s approval, but this is…”
“The trampling of both a man’s and a photographer’s honour and dignity.”
Yes, Jessica was right. If it was me… I wouldn’t be able to bear it as well if my lover was having an affair and stealing work so blatantly from my face no less. No one could bear such thing.
“How is Eisbär doing right now…?”
“I have no more stories about Eisbär to tell you, everything ends there… Eisbär has left us, and will never return again.”
We both went quiet… I had no clue what Jessica was thinking, but I… was sad, to know that the person I had admired so much was shredded by a storm so badly that he could never get back up ever again.
“Eisbär left the industry and entrusted everything in Alexey’s care.”
“It’s already over Petch, don’t clutter your brain with stuff from the past.”
“But Ethan’s not over it, didn’t you see Viktar beat him up?”
“No one can ever forget about past loves, even if time has passed for so long and the feeling has already vanished. Some people believe that those who used to love each other will come back to love each other again, treat each other nicely again, but for others, they just let it pass them by, looking back with an empty feeling.” Jessica handed me a glass of water. “But I believe Viktar did not beat Ethan out of resentment, rather, he was simply fulfilling his duty.”
“The duty that Alexey entrusted to him. To look after you and keep you safe, so that you can work without any problems of course.”
How ridiculous, I shouldn’t be feeling anything from the words coming of my friend’s mouth, but my troublesome cheeks were already flush red.
I wanted to see Alexey so badly… I wanted so see him right this instant…
“Alright, all this chatting is making my throat dry, do you want some water? There’s fruit juice as well.”
My best friend abruptly switched topics all of a sudden. Fine, I won’t dig up anymore stories about Eisbär, regardless of what occurred in the past he was still my idol.
Jessica poured me a glass of orange juice without bothering to wait for my answer. “Here! Orange juice, drink up so your skin can be beautiful and young as mine.”
“Then it’s a good thing that I celebrated my 28th Birthday just recently.” I joked and quickly altered the mood before it could get anymore depressing. “Let me ask you something else, this one’s not stressful so no need to worry about you ageing.”
Jessica opened her mouth as if about to cuss, but held back. “What now? You’re wasting my sleep time.”
“I want to ask about your wedding, the day you were the most beautiful in your entire life.”
“Oh you’re exaggerating.” Her voice sounded almost abashed, but upon hearing the following sentence, I wanted to jump kick her. “Although honestly speaking, I think I get prettier and prettier with each passing day, my husband is still head over heels for me you know?”
What a waste of my saliva, I shouldn't have complimented her in the first place. “That day, what did I exactly do…?”
“Not much, you just went on a massive rampage, destroying each and every thing in your path.”
“Like hell does that sound like something 'not much'… what I mean is, do you remember at all what I talked to Eisbär about?”
“Of course I do, you were totally wasted that day, not to mention getting into such a huge slugfest with the waiter that Eisbär was forced to intervene, he sent the waiter flying with a punch and dragged you away by the collar.”
“Hua… and what next?”
“Fuck, you really can’t remember anything at all? Do you even know how you sobered up?”
I shook my head side to side, putting on an highly interested expression.
“Good job you drunkard, he threw you into the pool in order to calm you down."
“How cruel! That's barbaric! Did he really treat me that violently?”
“And you don't think it was deserved?” Jessica retorted. “You’re both crazy. Anyways, when you managed to climb out of the pool, rather than sobering up, you clung onto his back like a little baby monkey instead, begging if you could follow him back to Frankfurt, coining yourself as his favourite pupil, offering to eat his leftover food, and trailing after him obediently like an abandoned baby monkey looking for its mother.”
“You saying this makes me want to conserve wildlife.”
“Conserve your own species first, Petch!” She cajoled sarcastically. “Actually it’s fortunate that you remember nothing, because the look that Eisbär kept giving you was an odd mix of pity and sympathy.”
“Hua… he threw me into the pool yet still had the shamelessness to feel sorry for me, I’m touched… and what else did I talk to him about?”
“Quite a lot, gosh… I don’t really want to admit it but, are you aware that you can speak English when you’re drunk?”
This was a shocking revelation to me as well (I thought my improvement in English was only exclusive to after eating Pedigree).
“Joking my ass. You begged him to teach you photography techniques and when he started to ignore you, you tried putting on a cute act, sending him pitiful watery-eyed looks until he couldn't help but acquiesce. Only when he promised that he would come back to find you that you started to smile again. Hua… talk about using underhanded tricks and sorceries.”
“And did Eisbär ultimately fall for my trap? No.” Was I really trying to defend myself here?
“In that moment no. Since he said that your drunken speech was all over the place, he dragged you off to wash your face until you finally sobered up. And upon coming to your senses, all of sudden, you refused to talk to him.”
“How much did I exactly drink that I ended up not remembering any of this?”
“If I recall, a bottle and a half of Black Label plus several shots of vodka.”
If I really drank this much… even if Jessica claims that I danced the flamenco and did a voice-over in Swahili, I’d still find it believable.
“And did you ever get to meet him again after that?”
“No, I haven’t seen him in a long time now. If you want to pass a message on to him then just tell Alexey, he’ll know.”
I puffed out my cheeks. “But it’s embarrassing.”
“The hell are you embarrassed about?”
“If I tell him to pass on the message: ‘Love you xx come see me in Thailand soon’, that hottie is never going to let me live it down."
Jessica replied by staring daggers at me. Hua… it seems like I really can’t pass on this message.
Alexey opened his email for the very last time before retiring to bed, double-checking the Bangkok to Samui flight e-tickets for himself and the twins Kiril and Nikolai. However, right then, the sound of an incoming call on Skype broke his concentration. Upon pressing accept, the image of a sunburnt monkey with a swollen lip and a pouty expression popped up onto the screen.
“You're finally online, making me wait for so long.”
“You look… quite dark.”
He thought the charred-faced monkey was going to go along with his teasing, but was confronted instead by a long rant.
“Hua… what did you expect? You sent me to a desert Mr. Alexey, not the north pole. Your home country’s desert, even SPF 350 suncream can't hold out. Also, that dude Ethan who you sent to me as a model is the goddamn devil, you were actually trying to bully me weren't you? @#%%#%&*()(_)__( and then Viktar beat him up until blood spurted out of every orifice, talk about hardcore. Is he really a bodyguard or actually an assassin $%[email protected]#%^&*((&…”
After a full five minutes, finally the charred-faced monkey’s throat was parched. Alexey sat there watching silently as the person who had just complained about his swollen lip chug an entire bottle of Corona Extra in one go (didn’t his split lip sting when met with beer?)
“Do you have anything else you would like to rant about?”
“No more, I’m tired, all this ranting is making me even more tired.”
It was obvious from his complexion that he was truly tired. Beneath those big eyes were a set of puffy bags, as if they had been hit with a punch each.
“Then again, are you planning to leave me here all by myself? It’s lonely you know.”
Didn’t you say you were done ranting? But Petch carried on telling his story from start to finish, beginning from the first second in which he made eye-contact with Ethan, the harrowing incident of shattering a coffee cup in mid air with a single gunshot, etcetera, etcetera, and finally ending with…”
“So what exactly is up with the five hundred thousand euros? I demand a clear explanation.”
Despite teasingly wearing an indifferent expression like he couldn’t care less, Alexey was aware that this sun-scorched monkey had called him out of his own volition, so he reckoned some truth was deserved… just half of it though.
“It’s the cost… how should I word it, the cost for…”
“Five hundred thousand euros, that's twenty-one million baht you know? Are you actually that rich?”
“If you want a straight answer, then yes… paid full in cash too.”
“Wow, whaaat…? How come you never buy me snacks or treat me to meals at all?” The sun-scorched monkey pouted. “Put shortly, that's the cost for tricking Ethan into accepting this assignment correct? Your actual goal was to bully me right?”
“If I wanted to bully you, I wouldn't need to rely on Ethan.”
“Are you proud of that or what?” The monkey pitched his voice sarcastically. “Forget it, not like it’s my money anyways, you can scatter it on the side of a road or roll a joint with it for all I care.”
“Of course I’m not giving it away to Ethan for free. Once it’s returned to me, I’ll snatch up a Leica camera for you, how about it? Will you stop complaining now?”
The monkey's face stretched into a wide beaming grin. Alexey wondered, has anyone told Petch before that sometimes, he looked a combination of silly and cute? “Use that money to heal my mouth too okay?”
“A split lip only takes a few days to heal but a foul mouth can’t be fixed Petch.”
“Alexey, you!!! Ow… it hurts.”
Alexey felt sorry for him… but teasing him was too much fun.
I wore a pouting face, letting the hottie coax me for a while until my mood improved.
“You still haven’t stopped laughing.”
“You’re the one who's done this to yourself though!”
“What did I do to myself exactly? I was punched okay?”
“I know… in any case, how is your work going?”
When I said that I was scraping by but wanted him to help take a look as well, he nodded his head.
“Send it over, I’m not busy right now.”
I thought I had heard wrong! Ever since writing this story, Alexey has never once said that he wasn't busy. But now, I was so excited and elated to hear the opposite. Complying to his wishes, I therefore sent over the photos and we carefully looked at each photo together one by one. I was aware that Alexey was not a photographer–he was a mafioso (in the skin of a civil servant)–yet in spite of this, his every opinion was so educated and straight to the point that I had to quickly reach for my pen, jotting down the points that needed fixing and improvement.
Although we spent only an hour on this activity, I felt like I had learnt more from doing this than taking photos for an entire year. To tell you the truth… I felt that over the course of these past several weeks, my work has changed unusually for the better. And if I’m not mistaken, this hottie played a part in said improvement.
Once we finished going over the last photo, I felt inexplicably relieved. I told him that I would send over the photos again as soon as I was done making the fixes. “Do you have anything else to comment on?”
Alexey leaned against the backrest, drumming his fingers on the table as if in the middle of a thought.
“This may be difficult to hear but… I think your portrait photos… still needs a lot more work.”
I was dismayed… feeling as if I was being criticised for not meeting his expectations.
“But I understand… that this is impossible to do if the model refuses to give you his cooperation, like what Ethan has done.”
“You did your best.” These words were accompanied by a faint and seemingly-consoling smile. “You’ve done very well Petch.”
My lips slowly unfurled into a smile, heart puffy and full with some sort of feeling which could almost lift my body up into the air…
The hottie had already gone offline, leaving me to sit in front of the computer by myself. And then, I began to compose an email in my severely crippling English.
Thank you very much for today, I learnt so many things.
But I still have another request that I want to ask of you.
See, could you arrange… or let me meet Eisbär?
Look… don’t misunderstand okay? I promise not to ask weird questions too.
I… I want thank him myself.
For this best once in a lifetime opportunity that I’ve been given.
Don’t forget okay? Pass this on to Eisbär for me!
P.S. I won’t pay back the car repair fees or return that red convertible to you if you forget.’
When I was about to turn off my MacBook and go to sleep, I found a new email in my inbox… sent by that hottie. Inside the email were two attached files. I selected one at random and had to cry out loud with a mixture of surprise and a feeling of wanting to jump with joy. This is because what popped up on my screen was a flight booking for a business class seat from Astana to Bangkok, as well as a connecting flight from Bangkok to Samui. The name of the passenger specified clearly as:
‘PASSENGER : THANAWISUTTHIKUL / PHACHARA MR.’
This much was enough to give me a heart attack. I muttered to myself 'that hottie must be kidding…', but who would have guessed. Upon clicking on the second file, it was a polaroid photo of two tiny twins. One had grey eyes and a wide smile which looked slightly cheeky. As for the other one, he had blue eyes and a pair of swimming goggles strapped to his head, sticking his tongue out at the camera. Scribbled on the photo was the childrens’ messy handwriting in English.
‘Don’t dawdle, call and confirm the tickets now.'
Returning to the message within the actual email itself, although he didn't reply exactly according to my request, reading it still made me want to fly back to Thailand and kiss Alexey this very instant.
The person who has granted you this opportunity is no one else but yourself.
And this is the reward for this small victory of yours.
Guess what I did after that…? I packed my bags and fled the cold to Samui of course!