"HOW MANY STUDENTS do you have today?" a beautiful new mum asked her husband. Sylphy was loving being a mother and enjoying the adventure of living by the sea in Thailand
"Busy one tonight dear, six kids, one straight after another, so flat out for three hours," said George, Sylphy's husband.
He laughed as he carried on, "Best job I've ever had, teaching lovely Chinese children all from my laptop, from anywhere in the world. And we've chosen a great spot."
"And we get regular money from your work," said Sylphy, "With my job I never know if I'll get a penny."
Sylphy also worked from home. She ran a blog selling affiliate products.
"It will pick up, you've only just started don't forget. You can also teach if you want to," said George.
Both were qualified teachers and worked in England before deciding to travel the world, paying their way with online work. That was until Sylphy fell pregnant. They agreed they couldn't travel and didn't want to go back to the UK. They loved the peace in Pranburi, so they stayed.
"Maybe, but I can't work the same hours as you, someone has to feed Juju."
The odd name they had given their daughter was only temporary. George's mum was named Judy, and Sylphy's mum was Christened, June. Both Judy and June wanted their granddaughter named after them.
"You can't call a baby Juju. What will people think?" said the grannies. It was one of the few things they could agree on.
George and Sylphy were in no rush to upset one or other of the ladies.
"I'm not working till five o'clock. What do you fancy doing today?" asked George.
"Why don't we take Juju for a walk? How about going to the mangrove swamp?"
"I'm worried about the mosquitoes there. Juju will get eaten alive," worried George.
"We've got repellant spray, we can wrap her up. Come on, it will be fun," said Sylphy.
"You want to go on the boat?" asked George.
"Not this time, we haven't got that long. Just a stroll on the elevated pathway?" suggested Sylphy.
George called their regular taxi man, who drove them the short ten-minute ride to the wetland.
"I'll call you when we're ready to go home, okay?" said George.
Sylphy prepared the stroller as George cuddled his daughter.
"Good idea coming here, and it is all ours," said George. "Where is everyone?"
"I guess as it is a weekday and all that rain we had probably kept people at home."
As they walked, George pointed out the birdlife he had been reading up in 'Birds of Thailand.'
"Thanks for the book, it is full of information and brilliant photos, love it."
"Think of it as a gift from your daughter. The first present from daughter to father."
"And what does mummy want her daughter to give her? Eh?" laughed George.
They held hands and kissed passionately.
"We should rush home!" giggled Sylphy.
The sound of footsteps was close behind, causing Sylphy to turn.
"Oh, hi, you walk quietly," smiled Sylphy.
The girl smiled, "Beautiful baby."
"Thank you," said George.
"May I?" as the girl stooped to look closely at Juju.
The proud parents nodded.
The girl with the scarred lip tugged the pacifier from Juju's mouth and threw it on the decking, George and Sylphy were shocked and stared open-mouthed. Hla turned and grinned as the flashing blade crossed Sylphy's throat.
George stood from picking up the dummy in time to see Sylphy hit the ground. Before he could say a word, the blade plunged deep between his ribs. He staggered to the handrail as his heart stopped. Hla pushed him back into the swamp. Juju would not buy her father another book.
Hla stroked the baby's head before she struggled to tip her mother into the muddy water below.
Calmly Hla checked Juju's seat belt, smiled and walked away, pushing the stroller with Juju sleeping peacefully.
George hadn't checked in with his Chinese employers, they flashed him an email saying he was to not only lose his wages but they would fine him for taking leave without notice. A blip on Sylphy's website signalled a sale. It too went unanswered.
The taxi driver wondered why they hadn't called for a lift back, guessing they must have met someone who ran them home.
The couple's rent was due the next day, they always paid on time.
"That's odd? I wonder why the rent money has not gone into my account," wondered the landlady. "I'll give them a day or two, then ring them," she thought to herself.
The mother-in-laws both tried ringing their children, they got no answer. Emails also went unanswered.
There was activity inside a townhouse in the centre of Pranburi, the second bedroom was being turned into a laboratory, test tubes and Petri dishes were being prepared on a table below the full bookshelves.
"I'm getting used to your brown hair, but I will be happier when you go back to blonde, and please don't wear contacts. Keep your blue eyes on show until you go out," Hla said as she sidled up to Caddy.
"Not now, you can see I'm busy," replied Caddy as he shrugged her off.
"You're not turning back to gay again are you?"
"Leave it will you, I said. I'm busy," Caddy was getting angrier.
"Come with me. Will you?" the landlady asked her daughter.
"Sure mum, what's the problem?"
"They won't answer their phone, either of them, something is wrong."
The landlady noted the couple's small Honda in the driveway as she opened the front door with the spare key.
"Looks all right, mum," said the daughter.
"Where are they? See if you can find their passports."
"Mum, we can't just look through their things."
"Okay, call the police then, something is wrong."
A pair of police officers arrived on a motorbike just ten minutes from receiving the call. The landlady's concerns were answered.
"Thank you, madam, we'll search the house," said the more senior officer.
"The passports were in the bedside cabinet. Her contraceptive pills were on top of the cabinet and have been taken until last Tuesday. And they left some cash in small amounts in two places. You were right to call us."
"Is this them?" asked the younger officer as he picked up a bedside photo. "Good looking baby."
"They have a baby?" asked the senior man.
"Yes, beautiful little girl, just a few months old," answered the landlady.
Police radios were busy.
"Can we have the key please, and your telephone number, we'll need a more thorough search of the house. We'll let you know."
The officer showed the ladies out.
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