Unsolved Heinous Crimes
Phetracha’s guards immediately arrested the man. Phetracha was about to go out into the temple yard but the monks told him to remain behind while they found out what the trouble might be. They returned to tell the general that there had been another death in the village. A young woman was found dead. She had been raped and strangled. The old man outside was the girl’s father. “Well what does that have to do with me?” Phetracha demanded. “Find the culprit and punish him. Why bother me?”
There was ominous silence that followed. It was eerie to say the least. Even the temple dogs stopped whining and, it seemed, the black crows in the trees outside fell silent. The head monk, sheepishly glancing around at the other monks, finally spoke up.
“He accuses your son, Prince Sorasak, of the crime,” he said.
Phetracha went into a rage and without heeding advice from the monks he charged out into the yard. “I will have your head on a pole,” he shouted at the old man. “How dare you make such accusations!” Then to the guards he shouted, “String him up. Whip him. Whip him until there is no more life in him.”
The guards took hold of the old man and forcefully dragged him into a corner of the yard to carry out the orders. The general went back into the temple to conclude his business with the monks.
“What did the old man tell you?” Phetracha demanded from the head monk.
The monk was slow coming with his worlds. “The man said the girl was working in the field and under Sorasak’s orders his guards seized her and dragged her into the forest where Sorasak was waiting.”
Phetracha wanted to hear no more. He lashed out verbally at the old man for accusing Sorasak of this heinous crime without having proof He hurriedly started to leave the temple grounds but the head monk stopped him. “Danger comes not from men like Phaulkon,” he said gathering together his courage, like a fighter picking himself up from the floor and coming out for another chance. The monk was relieved, perhaps, that he didn’t have to answer the question that General Phetracha came to seek. Phetracha was momentarily taken back by the monk’s words. He halted in his tracks, cocked back his head and listened.
“No, not the foreigner,” the monk continued, picking up where he left off, “it comes from those evil souls who rape and kill young women. You say it was not Sorasak, so be it; then we must find out who it was. Something must be done, for this is not the first time a young woman has died this way. There were others.” Phetracha heard enough. He cupped his hands in a wai, mumbled thanks to the monk, turned and left the temple without looking back, as he generally did when departing. The monk stood in the arched doorway and watched him leave.
Phetracha knew where he had to go, and that was to see Sorasak and confront him before he had time to make excuses. He had little doubt that Sorasak was innocent of a crime. He headed straight for Sorasak’s house, a good five kilometers distant, kicking up clouds of dust as he scurried through the streets. So rapidly did he move that his guards who followed several paces behind him had a hard time keeping up. The afternoon heat was intense and they sweated profusely. Dust, rising up from the street as they walked, clung to their sweating bodies. Still they did not stop, not until they reached the house where Sorasak lived. The guards took positions outside the building while Phetracha burst into the house through the front door.
He found Sorasak asleep on a couch. Sorasak was out of it and did not hear the general come into the house, which angered Phetracha even more. In a fit of anger he pulled Sorasak from the couch and threw him onto the floor. Sorasak’s clothes were torn-he had scratches across his face. He couldn’t even clean himself up, Phetracha thought.
Sorasak shook his head and sat up. He looked dismayed to see Phetracha standing over him. Phetracha demanded to know where he had been the past night, but no answer came, only incoherent grumbles. “You don’t answer but you can hear,” Phetracha shouted. “Do you hear? Get rid of this evil force that’s enslaving you. Go to the temple. The monks will listen to you. Go or I will deal with you my own way.”
Sorasak was suddenly wide awake. “Do you forget,” he shouted at Phetracha, “you are talking to a future king of Siam.”
“You, a king!” Phetracha cried. “You are not even fit to be called a man and certainly not even to be my son. You are not fit to rule anyone, not even yourself.”
“And you would rather have a foreigner rule Siam?” Sorasak cried.
“Everybody knows the king is sick. When he is gone, Phaulkon will become the next king, as you sit, and as you play soldier, and go and talk to the monks while our kingdom is being taken over by foreigners. You can no longer even talk to the king. Why? Because he is busy with the Greek. And you tell me what I should and should not be doing. You have the duty to keep Siam for the Siamese, not for the farangs. You have a kingdom to worry about. Stop worrying about little village girls.”
Phetracha did not respond. He turned, without uttering a word, and left the room in anger. He hated himself for thinking it, but in his mind Sorasak was right.
General Phetracha did not see Sorasak again until a week later when they had a scheduled audience with the king. At the allotted time they entered the king’s chamber and prostrated themselves before the king who had just taken his seat at the throne when he heard them enter. “We have come, Your Majesty, to discuss the wild elephant hunt that is to take place tomorrow,” Phetracha said. The king did not respond. “Your Majesty asked for us to come see Your Majesty before the hunt.” Still, King Narai did not reply. His thoughts were elsewhere. He was hardly aware that his general and Sorasak were in the same room. Phetracha then noticed that he was not alone. Phaulkon was in the room with him, standing near an open window, and before him mounted on a stand was a new telescope that had just arrived from Europe. The king and Phaulkon had set up the telescope and were gazing through it to the heavens when Phetracha and Sorasak entered.
Suddenly, without uttering a word, King Narai rose from his seat and went to join Phaulkon at the telescope. He left Phetracha and Sorasak sitting on the floor. At the telescope be began fumbling with the settings, excited as a child with a new toy.
Sensing Phetracha’s dissatisfaction, Phaulkon attempted to appease him by stepping away from the window and bringing up the subject of the elephant hunt again. “I have never hunted elephants,” Phaulkon said. “They tell me it can be quite exciting.”
“Then you must join us,” Phetracha said and out of duty offered to take him on a hunt.
The king, upon overhearing the conversation, left his telescope and came to join them. “That is a grand idea,” he said to Phaulkon. “I always thought that one day you should try it.” Phaulkon couldn’t back down now. He agreed to go join Phetracha one day.
“Why not tomorrow?” Sorasak spoke up. He sensed an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. “I will make all the arrangements for you to join us tomorrow.”
Phaulkon, thinking that perhaps he had accepted too quickly, said he might have a difficult time convincing his wife, Marie, to let him go. Sorasak’s expression changed in an instant. The smile disappeared and a scowl came to his face. He couldn’t conceal his jealousy. The very mention of the name Marie set him on fire. He hated being reminded that it was Marie who should be his wife and not this farang. But when he thought about the coming elephant hunt and what might happen the smile returned.
Phaulkon was forced to accept the invitation.
After Phetracha and Sorasak exited, with Marie still on his mind, the king asked Phaulkon about her. “You must love her,” he said.
“Yes, Your Majesty, like I have never loved anyone before,” Phaulkon admitted.
The king asked how he could be so sure. Phaulkon explained that he prided himself with knowing what his heart desired, and then fulfilling it, like he did in finding Siam. “I knew the first time I saw Siam that this is where I wanted to be,” he said. “This now is my home, my country. So it was the same when I first saw Marie. I knew right then that she belonged to me, and I to her.”
“Don’t you miss your home?” asked the king. “You came from a great country, a country rich in history, and art, and rich in philosophers. Your country was once the greatest the world has ever known.”
“It is not greatness that pleases me,” he replied. “I have seen many great places and many great lands but to me they’re just places, just lands. I have no feelings for them, as I do for Siam. What is it about Siam that draws me so dose to it? When I saw your kingdom for the first time, I knew, deep down, that I could be happy here. It was like my being born again, being made alive again. I felt, would you believe, Your Majesty, that I was returning home. Yes, returning home. I felt I belonged here. I am not Siamese, not in skin anyway, but it’s my heart that cells me I am Siamese. And is it not my choice? Does not a man have the right to choose who he wants to be? Siam is where I want to belong. No one forced me. I am not like other farangs who want to return home one day. Siam is my home. Am I wrong to feel this way, Your Majesty?”
Before the king could respond, his daughter, Princess Yothip, entered the room to remind the king it was time for his walk in the garden. The king told Phaulkon they would continue their conversation another time, and he reminded Phaulkon to go on the elephant hunt with Phetracha and Sorasak. “It does one good,” he said, “to go spend time in the wild every now and then.” He told Phaulkon it would make Phetracha happy. “And maybe then Phetracha will leave me alone,” he said jokingly, but Phaulkon gathered it was more than a joke.
When Phaulkon agreed to join the hunt, Sorasak’s mind began to work overtime. Here was the chance to rid the kingdom of an evil, and no one would know it had not been an accident. He had a scheme which he discussed with his most trusted men. They agreed it was feasible. He approached Phetracha with his plan. At first the general was opposed, but after Sorasak explained in detail what he intended to do, the general agreed it had possibilities. How different the court would be without the Greek. The general slowly began to change his thinking. After mulling it over, he finally agreed. But in the same breath he warned Sorasak that he had to do things right, and above all, he must not get caught. Sorasak answered sarcastically. If his plan succeeded, he explained, Phetracha had everything to gain. If he failed, only he, Sorasak, would suffer.
At the elephant kraal, a stockade for herding wild elephants, some three kilometers north of the capital, Sorasak held a meeting with his men and explained what had to be done. The deed was settled.
When Marie heard about the wild elephant hunt she became alarmed. “Don’t you realize those men you are going on the hunt with don’t like you,” she said.
“I will have Diego and Christoph with me,” he answered. “They hate them too,” she cried.
“What harm can they do? We will all be on equal ground,” he said.
“They have a plan, I am sure. They will take advantage of your inexperience,” she sighed. But Phaulkon assured her that it was not easy to get rid of him. He added that this might be his chance to prove to Phetracha that he was not an enemy but a friend.
As Phaulkon left for the hunt, Marie ran after him and asked, “What shall I do if you find yourself in harm?” He reminded her of the story of Samut Kote and his princess, and he told her she was safe where she was, and if trouble did come, not to go into the forest looking for him. “That is what matters,” he said, “knowing where you are at all times. Unlike Samut Kote, I won’t need to wander around in the forest searching for you. Besides, nothing can part us ever, remember? Not kings, not gods, not even death.” He held her and kissed her dearly.