After marching from the car to the cave entrance, he put his index finger to his lips like a Papal order. Now he looked like a choirboy in her father's non-Papal church. There was an untouchable connection between him and the odd coffins. She sensed an attachment between her guide and the wood. She also thought it would not impress her father, but did not understand why.
One thing puzzled her, why had they not stopped at the no entry sign, they then arrived at a small desk manned by a uniformed officer who stared at them for a second.
"No need to raise your hand to us," said Mat.
He then took the raised hand of the security man into his own. The man's eyes were glazed. He then showed them the way in. Leading them forward.
"I know the way, thank you," said Mat.
Slowly it dawned on Debbie that Mat was talking in English to the Thai security man, "Do these guys all speak English?" Debbie thought.
"How come the guard understands English, most people I've come across in Thailand don't?" she asked.
"Dear Debbie, it's how you talk, not what you say. One day you will understand."
Debbie was not sure what he meant but didn't care, it was 'the way he said it!' She giggled to herself.
During that first day in his company, she fell deeper and deeper in love. He entranced her. She felt like a heroine in a romance novel waiting for the big prize. "How can this be happening to me?" she had wondered.
Now back in 'his own' cave, she cleared her mind of these girlish thoughts and memories of their first day together. Gently shook her head and brought herself back to the present.
Looking around the cave, she checked she had locked his possessions in the secure steel box which Mat had previously cemented to the floor. On the top shelf was the broken alms bowl, next to the rusty knife, some damaged whalebone combs, odd-looking misshapen balls, "What are they?" she wondered. There was a collection of ancient nails and a dried seahorse. Without asking, Mat had taken the trouble to explain that the bowl was useful, "Because, one day soon, I would place it under somebody's house, it has great power." She did not understand why but knew it was to Mat's advantage, as were the rusty nails.
"They are from coffins. After the coffin along with the body is consumed by fire, the nails are all that remain. One day soon, you will learn how they are so powerful," he had said.
On the second shelf, the pride of place was given to a leather-bound volume of 'Pernkopf Topographic Anatomy of Man - Nazi Pernkopf's Atlas', this well-thumbed journal was leaning on the rest of a collection of German-language books and manuals. One which looked like a Bible, but was written in a strange script. Some other books looked like they were printed in Thai, but she knew it wasn't Thai. The letters were much more circular, "Maybe Burmese?" she wondered.
Debbie did not understand that a file of 1,000s of pages drawn up from experiments during the war was on the second shelf. Descriptions of the illustrations were all in German.
The prize of Mat's library was the books detailing a 20-year project of a prominent Nazi and doctor, Eduard Pernkopf, who rose through the academic ranks in Austria thanks to his support for Adolf Hitler's party. Pernkopf's colleagues described him as an "ardent" National Socialist who, from 1938, wore a Nazi uniform to work every day.
When he was made dean of the medical school at the University of Vienna, he sacked all the Jewish members of the faculty, including three Nobel laureates.
In 1939, a new Third Reich law ensured the bodies of all executed prisoners were immediately sent to the nearest department of anatomy for research and teaching purposes.
During this period, Pernkopf worked 18-hour days dissecting corpses, while a team of artists created images for his book. Sometimes the anatomy institute was so full of bodies, executions had to be postponed.
When shutting and locking the box, Debbie had been instructed by Mat to place her left hand on the inscribed words on the door and to chant.
"Women are softer and physically weaker," she yelled. "That makes them more susceptible to spiritual possession."
Mat, who professes to understand that mental health plays a role in many of the people he sees, but is emphatic about the power of Jinn.
"The two are only linked in the mind." Mat had taught her.
Sometimes Debbie failed to grasp his meaning.
"Science is important, but it can't fully explain the supernatural," he had told her. "Non-believers won't understand these attacks unless it happens to them."
"What attacks?" she wondered. His words often baffled Debbie. He had stressed that the words were from the Satanic deity Baphomet and that she must believe them. She did.
After ensuring his treasures were securely stored, he asked, "Are you ready?"
He knew she was. She would never dare to be tardy. After the first and only time, she was late, a forgetful day, as she had also questioned his actions. He had grabbed an ear in each hand and blew a cold breath between her eyes. She could still feel the white electricity flying between her ears.
She loved him. She hated him. She never went against his wishes.
Debbie sat silently in the back seat of the car, leaning sideways, resting her head against the door, unseen from the outside. He clicked the door lock closed as he stalked off to the nightclub.
They knew the gay club by the name 'Eighty-Two', no one knew why for sure, maybe because the nightclub had opened in that year.
The original owner often joked, "That is the number of boyfriends I have."
The owner, a roly-poly effeminate Englishman who could no longer stand living in his hometown of Sunderland, the hurtful jibes, were one thing, but gay-bashing was another. So, he opened his business in the more tolerant Thailand. All was well until he died of complications of human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
The club was just numbers. His illness was just initials. It was now run by one of the eighty-two, a Thai boyfriend of the gregarious English man who made the club famous among gay men worldwide.
"I will kill that DJ! As soon as I walk in he plays YMCA. He knows I hate it."
Mat always kept his promises, eventually. This one could wait. He glared at the colourful man on stage. Mat ordered a whisky and found a seat. He didn't look around; he knew someone would come to him.
"Hello, good looking. All alone?" asked an Englishman.
"If you sit down, I won't be," answered Mat.
"Are those eyes real? They look electric in the light show."
Mat tried not to cringe at the 'falang's' chat-up line. The foreigner was fat and ugly. Perfect.
"Are you on holiday, or do you live here?" Mat's cringe line. He needed to know if they would miss the slob.
"Dear chap, I come from London, I like to escape my business from time to time. My friends back home do not know what I get up to in Thailand. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge."
The man acted out a Monty Pythonesque comedy.
Mat rubbed his hands. He wasn't thinking of Debbie, but tonight she wouldn't have long to wait in the car.
Vote in a coffin, better not!
YOU ARE READING
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