Mekong Delta

by Andrew Passey

Chapter 12

I don't know how much later it was when my uncle returned. With no clock in the office I could see then time passed in it's strange way. It may have been five minutes, it may have been hours. All I know was that it was an incredibly stressful and panic inducing time. The sense of impending doom was all encompassing. Not just for me but for Dan. From what my uncle had said it was either a life of being raped and abused for Dan...or immediate death. Neither of those options were things either of us wanted for him!

My uncle looked at Dan and started ranting at him.

"Why are you westerners so much fucking trouble? You'd think any pervert would be happy to pay top dollar for an attractive western boy like you but everyone is claiming it's too dangerous. I know it's a negotiation tactic and they'll take you but even so. I'm still wondering if I should just kill you. It might just make things a bit simpler for everyone. It would save you from a miserable life of abuse and torture I guess," He said with a nasty smile at Dan who whitened again and shook with fear.

"Please don't kill him!" I begged which turned his ire back to me.

My uncle then started ranting about me being ungrateful and I deserved whatever I got. How he'd done so much for me and I'd thrown it all back in his face. I couldn't believe I ever thought he was a good person. If Dinh hadn't told me the truth who knows what terrible situation I'd be in now? Although as I thought that I realised that I was no doubt heading to that sort of terrible situation very soon.

"I almost wish I was there to see you being split apart for the first time as you cry out in pain. You deserve it for all the trouble you've caused me! Still, you'll get used to a lifetime in pain. At least until they get sick of you and drown you in the Mekong!" He said as he ranted. As he said that though he looked around as there were some noises out in the warehouse which got louder, shouting and the sounds of scuffling. The two men left the office and went to investigate as my uncle started telling Dan about the sort of evil bastard he was going to sell him to

The noises got louder and Dan and I looked at each other. He smiled and winked at me as if he knew what was going on but it was all very confusing for me. It all became clear as men in uniforms burst into the office and pointed a gun at my uncle.

"Arrest this criminal," A well dressed man said, as he walked in and pointed at my uncle.

"For what?! You can't do this. Do you know who I am?! I have friends in high places!" my Uncle protested looking shocked to be treated like this. As someone used to controlling people and being the big boss around Can Tho he clearly couldn't believe this was happening to him. To be honest neither could I and I had absolutely no idea why he was being arrested and if it had anything at all to do with us. The answer was soon forthcoming though.

The well dressed man gave him a withering look, "Yes it appears you did have those friends but they all forgot about that as soon as you kidnapped the son of the British Ambassador. You exceeded your power and your usefulness. Now you'll get to find out what happens when you do that. You're unlikely to see the light of day again for a long time. When I say a long time I probably mean never," He said, waving my Uncle away as he was taken out of the office.

I looked at Dan in shock, "Your Dad is an Ambassador?! Why didn't you say?"

"Didn't seem relevant. I said he worked at the embassy didn't I?" Dan said with a grin then we hugged each other in relief. I felt lightheaded as the adrenaline and fear that had been pumping through my veins through the past few hours started to disappear. I was safe and it was all thanks to Dan. But how the fuck did they know exactly where we were? Had my uncle told the wrong person what was going on?

I'd put it all on my uncle messing up but the actual answer was much more thrilling to me than that,

"Are you two Ok? Let's get you back to Ben Tre. Nice to meet you Daniel. Your father will meet you at Ben Tre. You've caused everyone a lot of worry! However you've done well. I know he wants to congratulate you on activating the phone app so we could track and hear what was going on and so do I. I'm very impressed the way you handled yourself and it's thanks to you that we've been able to find you and arrest that corrupt criminal," the man said to Dan. He introduced himself as a "simple Government official" but he clearly was a man of influence and power. I was just relieved it appeared to be all over and we could go back to Ben Tre. Whether or not there would be a reckoning for my role in this I didn't care. After all Dan had been captured because of me but all I cared about was that he was going to be ok. If I ended up back on the street tonight then that was a small price to pay for everything.

When we both got in the car Dan and I exhaled loudly. We were safe! I don't think I'd ever felt more relieved and I couldn't stop grinning. The unmarked car took us on the way back to Ben Tre with the official sitting in the front seat making various phone calls to clearly important people letting them know Dan was safe. I guess a big diplomatic incident and indeed a major news story had been averted.

On the journey Dan told me that his Dad had always warned him about potential kidnapping from an early age. As a child of a diplomat there was always the chance he'd be targeted particularly. While it was unlikely he knew what to do if there was even the chance of trouble or any risk. As soon as Dao had notified us of the potential problem he'd activated the app on his phone and left it in his bag so if we were taken they'd hear the conversation and also be able to track his position. While he hasn't been targeted I had it didn't matter. The app still did its job and Dan had clearly thought very quickly on his feet.

The relief we both had was palpable and even though it was only mid afternoon we fell asleep. We were both unsurprisingly exhausted by our experience. While it had only been a few hours or so the whole thing felt like days. The heightened sense of panic and fear had made time move glacially slowly when were in the car and then in the office. Now we could both relax and the sleep was much needed.

We both woke up as the car slowed as we got to the hotel. Dan ran out the car to hug his Dad and Mum, telling them all about it, pointing at me and talking excitedly. I felt so bad about what I'd done and stood by the car not sure what to do. I was beckoned over by Dan and I sheepishly walked slowly over to them where his Dad was proudly introduced by Dan as the Ambassador for the UK in Vietnam. Dan's Dad laughed slightly and shook his head,

"We don't need such formality here. Call me Mike, Phuc. It's nice to meet you."

I bowed in respect and then started to apologise for getting Dan into this situation. Mike put his hand up to stop me.

"You have nothing to apologise for Phuc! From what Daniel says you could have left him and escaped but you chose to come back to help and stay with him. That is the mark of a real hero to me. Not only did you save my son but you helped the authorities arrest a whole chain of criminals. You should be very proud of yourself. Now you boys must be hungry, let's celebrate! I have to be back at the embassy later this evening for a reception but I'll come back at the weekend," He said.

Despite Mike's formal role I felt relaxed in his presence and we got on well. He quizzed me about my life and my thoughts about the country. He showed an impressive knowledge of the language and our culture. It was clear he had love for the country and that he was conscientious like Dan was.

"Phuc, you are an impressive young man. Not only heroic but you've got some interesting insights into your country and how things work. You're intelligent with a quick mind and I'm just upset for you how you've been betrayed by that monster in Can Tho. You've seen all manner of different parts of society good and ill and that experience though hard has helped meld you into the amazing caring boy you clearly are. Not many boys would have risked their lives to help Daniel. The easy thing would have been to run away or to run to the hotel and ask for help leaving Daniel on his own. You ignored that to take the hard option and out yourself at risk showing intense loyalty to Daniel. Your instinct to protect our son has left a debt to us we can never repay!" Mike told me, looking ever so slightly emotional.

I thanked him for his words but assured him I did what anyone would do. I didn't want to tell him that I loved his son and would sacrifice my life for his but I hoped I got over that he was important to me. Mike's words really brought him home what a terribly stressful time he and Paula had experienced when Dan had been taken. Thankfully it had ended happily for them and Dan. For now well at least I was safe from my uncle now. I'd become more streetwise and confident in my ability to survive on the street. diplomat. Keeping calm whatever the circumstances.

It was early evening when Mike left and Dan, Paula and me sat chatting for a while. It all felt quite surreal. Just like the night before but so much had happened since then. Who knows what Dan and I would have been enduring this evening if we hadn't been rescued.

We were both yawning occasionally still tired by the whole experience but also feeling happy and mildly euphoric from having survived our ideal. Eventually Paula decided to act. "You boys look exhausted, why don't you go to bed," She said. It was only 8pm and I felt fine aside from the odd yawn but I guess she was just mothering us. It was a nice thought to me as no one had tried to mother me for a very long time. After a round of good nights and a long hug between Dan and his Mum we trooped up to our room...

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