MISCHIEF ON THE MEKONG Part 3...Kidnapped & Extorted...The Polly Diaries.
Two tom cats yowling into the night...a distant horn of a barge...a midnight knock on a door.
The knocking repeated...louder this time...a man's voice wrenched out of deep sleep calling out "Who is it? Who is it?"
Denise awoken in the next room..."That's Shane's voice?"
A female voice "It's Housekeeping...please open the door."
"What do you want?"
"I want to see Polly."
"We have received a message in reception. Please open the door. I want to see if Polly is alright."
There is a pause in the darkness.
"She's not here" came Shane's pained reply.
"Please open the door Sir...I can hear a voice...Who have you got in there?"
"That's my friend Sheba."
"Please open the door Sir...I want to see if Sheba is alright."
The squeak of a heavy door opening...the sound of a scuffle...Shane's voice more urgent...startled me...sound of laughing...shoes going down stairs...sounds like several people.
I don't think sometimes...sometimes I don't think...sometimes I just do.
I don't even remember opening our bedroom door...our room closest to the stairs.
POLLY & SHANE
In happier times...a special relationship
standing there...tear in his eye...in his pjamies.
I was then going down those stairs like a madman...saw a few men and a woman...the woman a bit slower...grabbing at her...she drops something...looks small...one eye flashing at me as it bounced on the mottled stairs...I reach down to comfort...the sound of running feet well gone.
I bend down and pick it up. It's warm...its furry...it's a toy camel.
Blow me over with a feather...it's Sheba...Shane's mascot Travel Camel.
And on the way up...a Polaroid photo on the stairs...my opening picture.
Denise and Shane at the top of the stairs..."Are you alright David?"
Shane takes Sheba...tear in his eye...
"They've got Polly."
With that he turned and entered his room and shut the door.
Couldn't sleep...all sorts of things going through my mind.
Who is this man known as The Travel Camel?
Hadn't met him before...hadn't met Nick the Cockle before either...arranged to meet for the purpose of travelling together for a bit of "Mischief on the Mekong".
This is my fault...if I hadn't got us together this wouldn't be happening...pull yourself together David...you got us into this mess...up to
THE RANSOM NOTE
Photo courtesy of Cockle
you to get us out of it.
But who is that man?
Who is The Travel Camel?
Who is he really?
What has he done to bring this onto us...nah...onto him?
Don't worry Shane...We're here for you mate.
Next morning at breakfast Shane shows us a note.
"I found this put under my door."
Nick spills his cup of tea...Quynh shocked & speechless...Denise white...me whiter...Shane tear in his eye
The note said:
"GIVE US WHAT WE WANT OR THE FROG GETS IT"
Yikes...a Ransom Demand.
What's Shane got us into???
What do they want???
*********** Mekong River Tour
We are in Can Tho...Day Two of our Mekong River Tour.
Been pretty peaceful & relaxing so far I've gotta say.
Met at a travel agency two days ago in Ho Chi Minh City...pretty early start...told our hotel we'd be back...then ferried like sheep into a bus...all these faces looking at us as I recall...long bus trip into the Mekong Delta...stopped...told to get out and only take day packs...into a boat...up the river...rained throughout...me wetter than Denise...all these faces looking at us.
onto the bus and taken further south...big hotel next to the water...our room next to the stairs...Shane next room to us...Nick & Quynh further down the hall.
Then I got into trouble with Reception. What...No Coffee
When we travel we like our coffee...usually carry a coffee plunger in our packs...usually...but not this trip.
Gotta rely on the coffee sachets in our hotel rooms for our coffee hits...boil water...Den's black...mine white with one sugar...white powder called creamer.
But I couldn't find any coffee...nor tea...nor sachets of anything...couldn't even find a kettle!!!
Can't let Denise wake in the morning without her hot coffee...what sort of husband would I be?
Time to visit Reception.
The Receptionist excellent English and helpful...until she knew what I wanted...said I had to see the Supervisor...said he not in...O.K. I'll wait.
Then said to wait in my room...so I did...and waited.
Rang Reception...same girl...pretended she didn't know what I wanted...O.K I'm coming down.
Demanded to see the Manager...He's not here...I want to see him anyway...Here's my business card...first time I've ever done that in my travels...I want to see the Manager now!!!
he is...beckoning me to luxurious lounges near the window...pretending to be helpful.
You are kidding me...you have a deal with the travel company...but that does NOT include sachets of coffee...no extras...no extras whatever...sorry I can't help you...fingering my business card...twisting his lip.
"There's five of us...five bad stories...won't go down well."
So I pulled the Travelblog card.
"Alright...just for you...but you cannot tell anybody...I'll meet you in your room in five minutes."
And five minutes it was...knock on the door...the Manager himself...presenting me with a kettle, two coffee sachets, two sugar, two cremer.
"You must not tell anyone I have done this for you."
Gotta say the coffee sachets were much fancier than usual...must be from his private stash.
A unique experience...Couldn't wait to tell the others!!! The Ransom
Had another nice day on the river...cruising through the morning markets...being part of that frenetic pot pourri of humanity plying trade & travel on the Mekong...venturing down narrow tepid streams...jumbled dwellings on stilts waving their washing as we passed...Nick doing his best to keep us cheery...Shane not himself...informative as ever...but eclipsed by a heavy heart.
How can you say "She'll turn up mate"..."Could've been worse"...what
KIDNAPPED & EXTORTED
One of the photos from the kidnappers sent to Shane
can you say to comfort his loss?
Got back to the hotel before dusk...pink fingers of cloud stretching towards us...as if they too wanted to take something from us.
Passed Reception..."Mr Dallas" called out.
"Mr Wayne Dallas?" enquired.
"No...I'm Shane Dallas."
"I think this is for you Sir...It's your Room number."
Shane held it up...calls us to gather around...opened in our presence...sharing his pain.
A simple note...an address by the Harbour for drop-off...6pm tomorrow night.
A bundle of photos...Shane only able to look at the first three..."Polly, Polly" he stutters...hands them to us...didn't want them back...much too upsetting. And at the end of the note a demand
"2,500,000 DONG IN NEW BANK NOTES"
"No way I'll be able to raise that" Shane splutters through clenched teeth.
"But you'll be able to raise that Shane." "If the Australian Government will not pay ransoms for hostages...nor will I."
And nothing would sway his mind. The Plan
Word had spread among our tour group that Polly had been taken...Shane pretty tight lipped...not trusting anyone...only allowing the women to give him comfort...the prettier the better...shut us men out...Nick & I determined
to help in some way.
I was approached by two Germans, a Frenchman & a Vietnamese woman...whispering they may be able to help...suggesting a meeting that evening to discuss...away from the rest of the group.
Interpol connections suggested...Shane somewhat nervous...O.K. I'll check it out...can't do nothing...not know if we can trust these guys.
"OK after dinner we'll head off for a drink and "A No Markets, No Harbour" tour."
And that is what we did....the others to markets.
Shane and Denise stayed with us for a while but left us by the harbour to head off for bed...two Germans, a Frenchman, a Vietnamese woman & this Aussie...yep...five left to save Shane's world.
Gotta say it seemed impossible but my companions were a determined lot...and paced their brilliance between cans of beer...
The Germans, Thomas & Felix...the Frenchman, Joe...the Vietnamese woman, Nhu...& the Aussie, Dancer (for short)...devised a plan that was daring...but brilliant.
building a plan...building a pyramid of empty cans.
Daring...as I would provide the money (as Shane was too tight).
Brilliant... as Thomas, Felix & Joe would do the drop-off and Nhu would try to get Polly back...and if there was delay...get Shane's hotel details in HCMC to
PAYING THE RANSOM
My 2,500,000 dong to the Germans to deliver to the kidnappers...risking all to rescue Polly
the kidnappers to arrange return of Polly.
With our plans cemented...time for a pre celebration photo...and by the size of the pyramid...we were all in high spirits our plan would succeed. Have I lost my dough?
I've been robbed before...I've had our cook in Zambia steal all my money and my passport...but I've never been robbed wiillingly.
So I felt pretty confident when I withdrew 2,500,000 dong in crisp 500,000 dong notes from the bank and handed it to the Germans.
Felt pretty empty when we had to return to Ho Chi Minh City without Polly.
Felt pretty empty when there was no message at our hotel on our return.
But I had a gut feeling I could trust those guys...that look in their eye.
And if they couldn't be trusted they wouldn't have given me their email addresses...would they??? Bingo...but I still lost my dough!
A couple of days passed.
Nick & Quynh had returned to Bien Hoa...their home town.
I went to the dentist in HCMC...Denise, Shane & I hanging out before Shane left for Dubai...and Denise & I left for Cambodia...planning
a get-together with Rat on the Road.
It was late afternoon...resting before dinner...ring on the phone in our room.
It was Shane asking me to come to his room on the next level.
Knock,knock, rat-a-tat...my usual knock...Will never forget what happened next.
Shane's door opened really slowly...Shane's right eye peering 'round.
Then below it a green ear appeared...a bright black eye...
My faith in humanity justified...gut feeling I could trust these guys...and they delivered.
Shane was over the moon with delight...that mischievous smile returned...that broad warm grin was back.
There was even a note from Polly to thank me for rescuing her.
Thought it was a good time to suggest to Shane he might recompense me for the 2,500,000 I had paid for Polly's ransom money.
Shane looked with that far away look...as if he was travelling down the Mekong with his mates from Travelblog...as if he was already in Iraq...in the Serengetti...the snow capped mountains of the Stans...on his next adventure...clutching Polly to his chest...as if he was fronting Toastmasters...and said: "If the Australian Government will not pay ransoms for hostages...nor will I."
I looked at Shane...I looked at Polly...could have sworn she smiled at me...that smile of a child once lost...now reunited.
I smiled...a warm smile...then a grin.
"Don't worry Shane...it was my gift to you...wouldn't have had such a great time without a Cockle, a Camel & a Dancing Duo.
It's been a blast...thanks for the memories."
And...I've got a long memory!!!
Relax & Enjoy,
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