I took one last look in the dingy bathroom mirror of my Strand Hotel room, opening my mouth in a wide, toothy grin to make sure everything was in good order, and then I took a deep breath, muttered a "OK, then, let's do this" to myself, and turned to the door. "Can't keep the general waiting too long."
I would have said something to the hotel management about the condition of the bathroom but from what I gathered of the conversation in the dining room the previous night, I had one of the only functioning bathrooms left in the establishment. As I walked down the corridor to the stairs, not trusting what was offered as an elevator, I did what I could not to look at the smoke-damaged, peeling wallpaper of what had once been the celebrated Rangoon gem of the necklace of colonial grand dame hotels extending from New Delhi, down through the Southeast Asian nations, and up to Hong Kong. I hoped that someday the hotel would again regain its glory, but that was unlikely to happen as long as General Ne Win, now in his twenty-fourth year since he seized power in Burma in 1962, held his stranglehold on power here.
I would be honored to be able to be any part of whatever changed that.
I entered the dining room, where there was just a smattering of diners, just as there was only a smattering of lodgers at the hotel. Most Burmese were not permitted to lodge or dine at the Strand, and most foreigners weren't even able to get into the country. It was a minor miracle that I was able to be here myself, especially considering that my request for a visa was based on an intent to interview the imprisoned emotional symbol of the freedom fighters, Kyine Nyunt, whose father had unsuccessfully led the struggle for a return to civilian rule and had died in the attempt. Kyine Nyunt, who had written elegantly and spoken eloquently in favor of the freedom movement throughout the world, had returned to Burma, only to be imprisoned and held with little contact outside of Mandalay, a long distance north of Rangoon up the Irrawaddy River. Along with the opposition's even more important intellectual leader, Aung Htun, who also had been imprisoned in some unknown place in Burma, Kyine Nyunt, was the heart of the country's freedom movement.
I was here, in the Strand dining room, because the key to my being able to land an interview with Kyine Nyunt for my International Press news agency was sitting at the best table in the room, separated by a considerable distance from any of the foreign diners. General Soe Ye, once (and still) the war lord of a major opium-producing enclave somewhere upcountry in Burma on the Thai border, was dining here this evening. I had known that. There was a whole network of informers willing to put me into contact with the whereabouts of General Soe Ye. The good general was also one of General Ne Win's backers and main supporters. If anyone could get me to where I needed to go, it was General Soe Ye.
My entrée was that I had met the general before. I had been covering an ASEAN mutual cooperation conference in Bangkok that General Soe Ye attended for the Burmese. "Mutual cooperation" was a euphemism for military alliance, but, as ASEAN was not supposed to be a defense organization, all of their talks on cooperation were couched in economic terms. I was covering the conference for the IP. General Soe Ye was royally bored by the economic framework given for the talks, and his eyes wandered. His eyes wandered to me—repeatedly—which was noted by those with interest in the freedom movement in Burma. As they also knew what General Soe Ye's weakness was, they had come to enlist my cooperation. My own inclinations didn't rail at the assignment, and the general had, in fact, propositioned me before leaving Bangkok and invited me to come to him in Burma, so, with their help from the Thailand end in me getting into Burma, here I was. Making myself available—for a worthy purpose.
Soe Ye saw me, and his face lit up in a big smile. It's not that I wasn't expected; I wouldn't have even gotten this far, to Rangoon, without his intervention. But he nonetheless was happy to see me. As, no doubt, was the waiter, who, when the general's attention was switched to me, managed to slip away from the hand that had been squeezing his buttocks and retreat to the kitchen.
"Mr. Jansen," he said in excellent, if perhaps somewhat overenunciated British English, "welcome to Rangoon. I trust you had no trouble clearing customs."
"Nothing that two bottles of Johnnie Walker Red didn't smooth over," I said. "But thanks for all of your help," I quickly added, having seen the touch of anger my first comment had caused to flit across the general's face. Corruption and bribery were widely practiced here in Burma during these years; it just wasn't anything you would talk about openly, especially not to one of the senior generals of the ruling cabal. "And do call me Gene," I added, giving him a sunny smile, which changed the expression on his face considerably. "I'll call you general, of course, but you certainly needn't be formal with me . . . given the circumstances."
"So, you have considered the little proposition I made you in Bangkok, then, have you . . . Gene? And, please do sit down and have a drink." I sat while he motioned for a waiter. "What is it you'd like to have, Gene?"
"I'll take a vodka screwdriver," I said to the waiter. I wasn't that fond of screwdrivers, but I had winked at the general—playing him—when I'd said "screwdriver," and he'd appreciated the little joke.
The waiter stammered, reluctant to admit the hotel's limitations in front of the all-powerful general. "I'm sorry, sir, we are unable to serve vodka here."
"Oh, that's OK," I said, understanding that to mean they didn't have any vodka to serve. "I'll take whatever beer you have available then."
While he was leaving, Soe Ye leaned over to me and said sotto voce, "I have vodka upstairs in my suite. And a screwdriver too. We can go up there directly to entertain each other with them." His lustful smile was unmistakable.
"That, I'm sure will be very . . . entertaining," I answered him, with a smile of my own. "But first things first. I must serve my masters—I do like to serve masters." I saw the chill of a thrill zing through his body when I said that.
"As you know, I have been sent here with a purpose. My news agency wants an interview with Kyine Nyunt. It would mean so much to my standing there if I could get one. As we discussed in our letters, certainly. The authorities can review the text of the article, of course—before I leave Burma. That's a given, naturally."
Such a game we were playing. I knew the Burmese government didn't want an interview with the emotional symbol of the opposition of any sort floated, and they would have been donkeys to not understand that a censored article run now wouldn't preclude an entirely different version being published once I'd left Burma. But it was all a game within a game, and much of it hung on the lust of General Soe Ye and on what he convinced himself was worth giving up to get what he wanted in the short term.
"Yes, quite all right," Soe Ye said. "And you have a guide to take you up to Mandalay?"
"Yes," I answered. "He's right over there—his name's Saw Win." I waved to the local Burmese guide my friends in Bangkok had hooked me up with, and he smiled back. Soe Ye wasn't smiling. He was looking at Saw Win speculatively. I wondered if Soe Ye had, by instinct, recognized the competition. Saw Win was quite talented and heavy on the muscle and good looks and assessing eye. I had only met him yesterday afternoon, at the airport, at the arrival of my Air Burma plane from Bangkok. But he'd already spent the night in my hotel bed, fucking me masterfully like we were long-time lovers.
"Shall we go up to my suite now?" Soe Ye asked in a tight voice. I'd pulled his attention away from Saw Win by placing my hand on his thigh, just above his knee, and giving it a little squeeze.
"The letters of access and of passage up the Irrawaddy," I said gently. "I believe we had agreed that I would receive them first."
"Yes . . . I . . . I." The general was struggling for control now. I'd moved my hand to his basket, holding what gave me a lurch of fear and anticipation through the material of his trousers. This was a tricky moment, and I needed to have him in my control and panting for me.
"Here, right here. I have them," he said. And he produced a packet of precious passes worth their weight in gold—certainly worth what I was about to do.
After looking the passes over, I motioned to Saw Win, who approached the table, and I gave them to him and he left the dining room. Soe Ye watched Saw Win intently as he walked away, with seeming mixed feelings. Another obvious rooster leaving the hen house; but leaving with high stakes that Soe Ye had placed on the table in the playing of his hand.
Soe Ye was a forceful, and cruel, and demanding lover. It was all about him; his pleasure. And part of his pleasure was in inflicting pain, receiving full service, having full control. The preliminaries were all about me pleasing him. Me massaging him and sucking him to the heights of desire and the hardness of steel. And the main event was focused on him taking me—by force, at his direction. My struggling against the taking was instrumental in him getting as much passion out of the fuck as possible. I massaged his ample body and gave him suck until he rose up and slapped me hard across the face, sending me to the floor. And then he was upon me, covering me, and thrusting inside me as I struggled, on the tired, almost threadbare carpeting of his room, trying—at his direction—to scrabble out from underneath him and slither to the door. Putting me in a headlock and screwing me to the floor with the force and size and insistence of his cock then, he fucked me in a lengthy campaign for his ejaculative satisfaction, while I whimpered and moaned and groaned at the onslaught.
Then he held me there, me panting, close to exhaustion, while he had barely broken a sweat. He was recharging, but while he did so, I remained his prisoner, pinned to the carpet by his bulk and by the ramrod drilled into me, nailing my pelvis to the floor.
When he was ready again, he pulled me up off the floor, flung me onto the bed, on my belly, the balls of my feet on the floor, my legs spread, and he beat me with a riding crop on my back and thighs and buttocks while he rode me hard to a second completion.
Afterward, he sat, calmly in an arm chair next to the bed, smoking cigarettes and drinking scotch and humming to himself, as I lay, exhausted and covered with welts, still panting hard, on his bed.
"You please me," he said, blowing rings with the smoke of his cigarette. "You will come back to me here after your trip to Mandalay."
It wasn't a request or a question. I could not leave the country without his acquiescence. If all went well, however, I had no intention of meeting him here at the Strand again. And if I was guessing right, he didn't really have any intention of that either.
My guide, Saw Win, was waiting for me in my room when I returned from being debauched by the general. He was all cluckings and soothing words. He gently rubbed salve on my welts—both of us having known what the general would do with me—and then he stretched me out on the bed on my side and covered me close from behind and made languid and deep-delving love to me with his master cock until I drifted off to sleep.
* * * *
Saw Win suggested that, since I had managed to get into Burma and most likely would not find it easy ever getting in again, that we should break our trip up the Irrawaddy on a series of river trader steamers at the ancient temple complex at Pagan, which rivaled Cambodia's Angkor Wat at setting the mouths of archeologists of ancient Asian civilizations drooling. It was here that the expedition turned ugly.
I was exhausted from a full day of moving from one ruined temple to another in a World War II vintage Jeep. Saw Win was an excellent guide. He knew so much about the long history of the building of several hundred temples at Pagan on the banks of the Irrawaddy. And he also was so attentive to me. And loving.
The facilities were primitive, and we showered together in the evening under the drizzle of a water pipe in a half-enclosed shed, soaping each other up and rinsing each other off, running our hands all over the tired curves of muscles and into the inviting crevices of one another. He was magnificent and masterful, and I was panting my want for him while he toweled me off and guided me into the guest lodge and parted the mosquito netting for me to lower myself on my back on the bed and then spread and raise my thighs, so he could maneuver himself between them, slowly glide inside me, and start filling and stretching me with long, languid strokes.
During the lovemaking, we whispered to each other, discussing what lay ahead of us, knowing that if anyone was spying on us, all they would hear were two lovers in high heat, their bodies undulating against each other in primeval passion, whispering what they want to feel or do next.
I had been led to Saw Win by friends of the Burmese opposition forces in Bangkok. So I knew that he knew there was more to my coming than gathering an interview with Kyine Nyunt that would be chopped to pieces before I filed it—if they let me actually talk to her at all, which in itself was highly unlikely. It was time to tell him more. I had been told to tell him more at this point in the journey.
"I am not really here to . . . oh, god, that's good. Again, please. Oh, Shit! . . . to interview her," I whispered. His cock stopped in its probe at that point. He held us there, not moving a muscle other than the throbbing of his centering muscle inside me. I was panting, waiting for the next thrust, wanting the next thrust. But he was waiting to hear the rest of what I had to say. I could feel him beginning to tremble, in anticipation, no doubt having waited for this since that first day in Rangoon.
"Go on," he growled.
"I'm not gathering," I whispered. "I'm giving. I'm carrying a message for her. Something so important that it has to be conveyed this way."
"A message?" he asked. Holding, trying to hold us in suspense. I moved my pelvis against him, trying to get him to push me over the edge, but he placed the palm of a strong hand on the small of my back where it descends into my crevice and held me there, waiting.
"Yes," I murmured. "It's in code. In my interview notebook. A page that looks almost like the shorthand of the rest, but not quite. If . . . if . . . oh, god, YES!" he had started to pump me slowly again. ". . .If anything happens to me, could you? . . . Oh, oh, Ahhhhhh!"
We had been stretched out almost flat, Saw Win's pelvis between my thighs. But now he went up on his knees, rolled my hips up to him, pushed his cock a couple of more inches inside me, and began stroking me hard and fast, as if there was no tomorrow. He was sending me over that edge I had been seeking. I arched my back and thrust my hips into his pelvis in a counterpounding, lost in the fuck, wanting every single inch of him and the tiniest dribble of his spouting deep inside me. Pounding against each other endlessly, both crying out in lust and passion.
When we had both ejaculated and collapsed into a sweaty, spent heap, I started to doze off. I was not yet asleep. Saw Win might have thought I was, though, from my regular, shallow breathing, when he rose from me, parted the mosquito netting, and padded over to the doorway, which had been covered by matting.
The shadows of two monstrously muscle-bound men raced across the ceiling in the light of the small bedside lamp, and I was being manhandled, fucked vigorously by one bulky, cruel attacker after the other, as Saw Win stood off to the side of the room, rifling through my things, looking for my interview notebook.
* * * *
The truck journey east, away from the Irrawaddy, not north toward Mandalay, but east toward the Thai border area, was a rough one. The track we moved on could hardly be called a road; there was little if any suspension in the bed of the truck, where I was huddled between two burly Burmese hulks, both of whom prodded and pulled at my naked body to their great enjoyment. I wasn't hooded or kept from watching my surroundings in any other way, which I took as an ominous sign that they had no reason to care where I was being taken.
Saw Win wasn't with us. I had seen nothing of him after he had found my interview notebook and left our room in Pagan, while the men who had invaded the room were still fucking me.
Hours later, the truck pulled up into a jungle compound, walled and consisting of several pavilion-style, leaf-roofed buildings set against the side of a steep ravine tumbling down into a rushing stream far below. The canopy of the trees met far overhead, making the compound virtually invisible from the air.
I was hauled out of the truck and set down on my bruised feet and forced to turn around. I was standing right in front of . . . General Soe Ye.
"Welcome to my kingdom, Gene," Soe Ye said. Then he laughed and ordered me to be taken into one of the pavilions and slapped down onto a rough table on my back. My wrists and ankles were bound to the legs at the four corners. And then General Soe Ye, entered, naked now, swishing his riding crop, and smiling an evil smile.
He beat and fucked me almost into unconsciousness, declaring that I couldn't fool him, that he knew I wasn't in Burma just to interview Kyine Nyunt, that he was too clever for me, and that he would hold me here and play with me until I was all used up. No one, he said, would know what happened to me after I'd left Rangoon. I was in his world now and there was no leaving it.
I moaned for him and whimpered and told him that he was the greatest lover and that I didn't need to be bound. That all I wanted to do was please him; that I couldn't get enough of him. That he had the best cock I'd ever had.
Afterward, I was unbound and led to where I could stand under a water pipe and sluice the fucking of so many men off of my bruised and broken body. I was given a native sarong to twist around my waist and led to a small pavilion near the back of the compound. Unlike the other pavilions, its sides were set with iron bars. It was a cage of some sort.
I was pushed through a barred door, into the cage, and the door shut tightly behind me and was locked.
The area inside the small pavilion was dark, but I was able to see the rustling of material back in the corner, and, as my eyes became adjusted to light, I could make out the figure of a small, emaciated man. He turned and I checked the memory of the photographs that had been shown to me back in Bangkok.
"Aung Htun? Is that you? You are Aung Htun, aren't you?"
The figure rose up off the bench and shuffled toward me, reaching for the light.
"Who? What?" he asked through parched lips, in a ragged voice having grown unused to conversation. Aung Htun, erstwhile leader of the National League for Democracy, the coalesced umbrella organization for the Burmese opposition. The intellectual underpinning of the movement.
"Your friends in Bangkok have sent me with a message," I said. And I laughed to myself. A message for Aung Htun, not for Kyine Nyunt in Mandalay. All a game within a game, the opposition in Bangkok knowing that their intellectual leader was being held by General Soe Ye somewhere—although no one knew where. Needing someone to lead them there.
"A message?" Aung Htun asked, in confusion. "But you come almost as you were born. Where is this message? Why have they not taken it from you?"
"I am the message," I said. And then I smiled a broad, full toothed smile for him, reached two fingers into my mouth, and pulled out a molar. "In this false tooth is a transmitter," I said. "When I found you, I was to extract it and disconnect it. That was the signal that where I was, there you would be also. I would suggest that we both stand back toward the back of the cage now, if you don't mind. And perhaps go under that bench. In a few minutes, I think it's going to get very busy around here."