Chris Johnson, U.S. Customs Agent based in Seattle is given a demanding assignment in Malaysia. The country needs assistance in slowing the fast growing trade in illegal smuggling of exotic animals and protection of endangered species that are rapidly being wiped out.
With the assistance of Suhaimi Wahab, Malaysia’s Wildlife Crime Unit, and a defiant undercover agent named May Ling Kang, Chris becomes embroiled in the smuggling activities of ruthless gangs who use murder, kidnapping and corruption to enforce their business and to keep money and trade flowing.
Can Johnson save exotic species from extinction and stop the smuggling? Will the rainforests survive the slaughter? Read this exciting novel for insight into the dark world of endangered animal smuggling.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
While living in Malaysia, author Marlene Zeffereys published several books on education; co-authored Secrets of a Rainbow Goddess, a romantic, adventure novel; and Khymer Bronzes From the 9th to the 15th Centuries, and Thai Customs and Etiquette.
She first became aware of the devastation of international animal smuggling while living in Malaysia where she was coordinator of the Malaysian American Commission on Educational Exchange advising center. Exposed to frequent reports of exotic animals taken from the rain forests of S.E. Asia she took the cause to heart and wanted to make a difference. She has a BS/PreMed degree in Zoology from the University of Winnipeg and has worked in medical research and education in the U.S. and Canada.
FENG WAS TENSE AND EDGY. This was his first job for the secret society. He knew if he failed he would pay dearly. They didn’t tolerate any mistakes.
The night was dark—the moon, a small silver crescent in a clear, star-filled sky. Chan was driving intently, concentrating on the road ahead. He hunched over the steering wheel, peering through his glasses at the pitch-black highway, lit only by the car’s dim headlights. They came from Penang, a large island off the west coast, two hours south of the border.
Their black, compact sedan sped along the North-South expressway toward Bukit Kayu Hitam, (Black Wood Hill), the main Malaysian border crossing into Thailand.
Feng’s nonstop nervous chatter disrupted Chan’s concentration, making him jittery. Finally, he slammed on his brakes and the car squealed to an abrupt stop. He turned to Feng and spit out his words.
“Shut up! Zip it, kid! Stop talking! I can’t drive with your noise.” He angrily switched off the radio, blaring loud Chinese rock music in high-pitched wailing tones. Feng blinked rapidly several times as stony silence filled the car.
“Sorry, boss.” He mumbled.
Chan took a deep breath, revved the engine and drove the car back onto the highway. He increased his speed as he concentrated on the road ahead. Chan was an older Chinese man, and a loyal member of the syndicate, always took the dangerous assignments. Stocky, with short graying hair, he wore a dirty white tee shirt with I Love New York scrawled across the front; underarms damp with large sweat stains spreading across his chest.
Feng wiggled in his seat, tapped his fingers to some imagined rock music, slyly glanced at Chan, and suddenly stopped.
Finally, he sat on his hands and remained still as if transported to some dream world. The young man wore a gold earring in his left ear and short spiky brylcreemed hair with blond tips, Asian style of the moment. He was pitifully thin; his sallow skin highlighted his hollow cheeks covered with red pimples and scars from a bad case of acne.
They rounded a curve in the road and bright lights on either side of the highway abruptly burst into view. Large green road signs, directed the traffic to reduce speed.
Chan slowed the car to a crawl. His muscular arms rested on the steering wheel revealing a large, red-eyed, green dragon tattoo, winding around his right arm from his shoulder to his elbow. The dragon had its mouth open breathing fire down Chan’s arm.
Chan glanced at Feng and whispered. “Don’t open your damn mouth. I’ll do the talking. Don’t even look at the customs officers, and if you don’t sit still, I’ll slit your throat!”
They moved toward a short queue in the narrow lane, only wide enough for one car to move forward at a time. The brightly lit border was busy this time of night with a line-up of several lorries waiting for their cargo to be inspected.
Cars in one lane, lorries in another, the lorry drivers standing beside their lorries, smoking, chatting together until it was their turn to be inspected by the customs officers.
Feng lit a cigarette, inhaled a few puffs then flicked it out the window. Their car inched toward the brown-colored metal booth with a glass window open at one side for passing documents. Chan drummed his fingers nervously against his thigh. Feng watched him silently.
Azmi, a new customs recruit in his early twenties, had just completed his training. New officers always pulled late night duty. Only two hours remained before his shift ended at midnight, and he was looking forward to returning home.
He liked his job. He felt important, questioning people, inspecting their cars and lorries.
Customs Officer Mustapha, also on duty, was busy writing up the daily report while waiting to inspect the next vehicle. His blue uniform with short sleeves accentuated his long arms and height. He was senior to Azmi, but only by a few months.
Two army officers patrolled this border crossing. They were dressed in blue camouflage uniforms tucked into their military boots; blue berets worn jauntily at a slant, M-16 A2 rifles slung over their left shoulders, P99 Walther pistols in holsters strapped to their right thighs. They were resting in the office, smoking and chatting.
Chan drove to a customs booth in the lane nearest the office. He opened his window as he approached the booth. The humid hot air flowed into the car, fogging his glasses.
Azmi leaned forward and said with authority, “Passports and car registration.”
He passed both through the window, and then wiped his glasses on his dirty shirt as the officer ran the documents through the computer, and returned them.
“Move forward to the inspection lane.”
Mustapha watched from the office as the car pulled into the lane. He grabbed his flashlight as he joined Azmi and motioned the car to pull forward into a bay.
Mustapha said. “Turn off your engine and place your vehicle in park.”
He walked down the passenger side of the car towards the trunk, shining his flashlight into the car. At the same time, Azmi approached the driver, flashlight in his hand, ready to inspect the vehicle.
Feng could hear the blood pounding in his ears as his heart beat rapidly. He felt as thought his heart would burst out of his skinny chest at any moment. It took all his energy to remain still. He thought about the money he would receive from this job, but he also remembered Chan’s threat.
The air conditioning was off; the inside of the car quickly heated up and Chan wiped the beads of perspiration off his forehead with his hand, and then wiped his hand on his grimy pants leaving wet stains.
Azmi shone his flashlight on the driver. “Where are you going?”
“Hat Yai, South Thailand. Be there four days,” Chan said as perspiration ran off his nose. He wiped his face with the back of his hand. His glasses steamed again and he wiped them on his soiled shirt.
Azmi shone his flashlight into the empty back seat and then at Feng, studying him for a moment, then asked Chan. “What are you taking into Thailand?”
“Tee shirts for the night market.”
“Open the trunk.” He turned to Mustapha and signaled him. Mustapha moved to the trunk. Chan pulled the release and the trunk popped open.
He shone his flashlight into the trunk. A strong musty smell hit him and he gagged at the offensive odor. He stepped back and took a breath of fresh air. He inspected the trunk after the smell had somewhat dissipated.
Azmi listened to him as he itemized the contents of the trunk.
“Cardboard boxes, two suitcases and large burlap sack here... Sack smells stinky. I’ll check it out.”
He asked Chan again. “What’s in the sack?”
“Tee shirts. Some got wet so they don’t smell so good.” He smiled weakly.
Mustapha said, “Doesn’t look to me like tee shirts. It’s bulging and I think I see some movement in the sack.” He stared at the sack and watched it slightly change shape. “Definitely movement in the sack.”
Azmi took a step back and eyed Chan while checking on Mustapha. He kept the flashlight beam on Chan’s face.
Feng tensed, but he continued to stare through the windshield, concentrating on his rapid breathing.
Mustapha peered at the burlap sack and then reached for the sack, grabbed it near the top, slowly dragging it to the edge of the trunk.
He grasped the long end of the thick cord tied around the top of the sack and tugged it with a quick jerk. The knot slowly untied. The sack opened and dropped downwards.
Mustapha was paralyzed. Frozen to the spot. His eyes widened in terror. His left hand still clutched the cord.
He stared into the cold, glittering eyes of a very agitated king cobra as it rose high in the air, flaring out its hood. He heard a bone-chilling hiss as the snake coldly stared at him. The snake continued to hiss with a sound like the throaty growl of a large dog as his tongue flicked back and forth.
Mustapha was hypnotized. Terror consumed him. Then, a large wet stain slowly appeared on the front of his pants.
He gradually took his eyes off the snake’s face without moving his head and focused on the pattern on his neck, two black spots along each side of the yellow hood. The yellow underside of its body grew as the snake rose two feet above the sack, its head at a right angle to its body.
The cobra watched Mustapha, its body swaying slightly. He slowly released the cord. It fell on the sack. He began to lower his arm haltingly, inch by inch, hoping the snake would ignore the movement. The cobra saw the movement. It struck with lightning speed. Biting his arm.
In an instant he felt pain near his left wrist and fell to the ground screaming, holding his left arm with his right hand, above the snakebite.
“Help me! Help me! Please help me! Snake bite! Snake bit me! Help!” He screamed as the large, six-foot long, mottled brown, King Cobra slithered out of the burlap sack, over the edge of the trunk, across the inspection lanes, toward the thick jungle and disappeared.
No one moved.
Azmi ran to the back of the car.
Hearing his screams, Feng and Chan quickly opened their doors, jumped out and ran. Feng followed Chan for the first few steps, not knowing where to go.
Chan yelled, “Split up, you idiot! Don’t follow me!” He held his pistol in his hand. Feng watched as he ran toward the jungle then quickly ran in another direction that led towards Thailand’s border.
Meanwhile, fifteen snakes, one eight foot python, and several small black cobras, slithered over the edge of the trunk and onto the road. People waiting in inspection lanes saw the snakes, screamed, jumped into their vehicles, closed their windows and locked their doors.
Azmi took one look at Mustapha, holding his arm, then at the snakes slithering toward the dark, thick jungle.
“Oh my God!” He ran to Mustapha and put his arm around his waist.
“Walk slowly, keep your heart from racing! We’re going to the Pajero.”
He nodded, held his arm down concentrating on his slow steps. He guided Mustapha to the black Mitsubishi Pajero with the customs insignia on the doors, parked next to the office.
Azmi yelled to the army officers who ran out of the office. “I’m taking Mustapha to the clinic! Two men are escaping. Go after them!”
He yanked open the rear door, helped Mustapha onto the seat, ran to the driver’s seat and within seconds was speeding down the highway toward the clinic in the small border town.
The army officers saw Chan and Feng running from the car. As they gave chase, the sergeant yelled.
“Halt! Drop your weapons. Hands behind your heads!”
Chan quickly turned to face the officers, raised his pistol and fired several shots that went wide. Both officers aimed their semi automatic rifles at the men and each fired one burst.
Chan was hit in the chest, jerked backward, and crumpled where he stood, blood oozing from his wound, puddling on the road.
The second bullet slammed into Feng’s right shoulder knocking him to the ground. The officer, with his side arm drawn, safety off, approached him, leaned over him and felt for a pulse. “He’s dead, sir,” he said to the sergeant.
Blood seeped from Feng’s wound, pooling in a large red stain on his shirt. He whimpered as he lay on the ground. “Please...don’t shoot me! I have no gun. Please!”
The officers roughly packed his wound, then pulled him to his feet and flexi-cuffed him. The officer drove him to the army base near Alor Setar where he would be treated, then jailed. The sergeant covered Chan with a sheet, waiting for the coroner and remained at the border.
In the Pajero, Mustapha was tightly holding his wrist, his eyes wide with terror.
“King Cobra bit me.” He took short, fast breaths, sobbing between each gasp as he wailed. “I can feel pain from the venom moving up my arm. It hurts! I’m going to dieee! ...I know I’m going to die!” He lapsed into silence staring ahead, watching the road.
Azmi leaned toward the back seat and softly touched his arm, trying to comfort him while he drove. He glanced at him in his rear view mirror as he sped toward the clinic.
“Calm down, so the venom doesn’t travel up your arm so fast. Take a deep breath. We’ll be at the clinic in a few minutes.”
His only hope was the anti-venom shot. The red streak was now visible near his elbow. His voice rose to a high-pitched wail.
“I can feel the venom racing toward my heart! I am dying! Oh, Azmi... let my family know I love them.”
The Pajero screeched to a halt at the clinic entrance. Azmi jumped out, yelled at the nurse standing in the reception area and pointed to the car, “Cobra bite! Give him a jab for a king cobra bite! Quickly! Quickly!” He ran back to the vehicle and helped Mustapha out of the car.
The nurse hit the emergency call button, then rapidly pushed the gurney to the open door. Azmi grunted as he lifted him onto the gurney and pushed him into an emergency cubicle smelling of antiseptic, bare, except for a heart monitor and an IV cart. As he watched Mustapha, he heard the nurse outside the cubicle.
“Dr. Subra, man bit by king cobra. I have the anti-venom ready.”
When the doctor entered the cubicle, Azmi explained that he had to return to his post, then ran to the Pajero and sped back to the border.
Fifteen minutes had passed since he was bitten, the effects of the venom already noticeable. His heart raced, his breathing became shallow, and he began to feel lightheaded. Beads of perspiration gathered on his forehead.
Dr. Subra checked his vital signs and then quickly gave him the shot. He monitored him, stethoscope on his chest, and blood pressure cuff on his arm.
The nurse watched the monitor as his heart continued to pound. She noted his blood pressure and called out the readings. He closed his eyes. Several minutes passed, then his pulse rate dropped slightly and his blood pressure fell. The red streak stopped its advance, his thready breathing slowly returned to normal.
The doctor breathed easier, knowing that his patient would recover. The anti-venom shot saved him.
He still required constant care to ensure there was no relapse. He opened his eyes, smiled weakly, gave the doctor the 'thumbs up' gesture and closed his eyes again. Dr. Subra smiled at the nurse as she wiped Mustapha’s brow.
“He’s a lucky man. Another ten minutes and the jab would have been useless.”
The nurse nodded. “Yes, doctor. He was very lucky. We had only one vial of cobra anti-venom.”
He nodded. “You had better order more tomorrow.”
She nodded and noticed that Mustapha had fallen asleep and was now resting comfortably.
The restaurant owner in Hat Yai would be angry when they didn’t show up. There would be no exotic food for his customers. Feng would pay dearly for the mistake. Chan already had.
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Koehler Books, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M1938467604
Book Description Koehler Books, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111938467604