THE KOI KEEPER
Felice Bassuk & Richard F. Russell
CLAY HARRINGTON, an American diplomat in Bangkok, is Kimberly’s cuckold husband; SYBIL, 16, is their precocious daughter. Addicted to the drugs Toshiro supplies, Kimberly plans to run away with him – tomorrow! But the next day, drug-sick and fearful of leaving her family, Kimberly calls it off. She can’t do it.
Toshiro is quietly enraged, and his jilting ignites this tale of love and revenge.
Our protagonist, Sybil, is kidnapped. Her bodyguard resists in a highly charged martial arts battle – but she dies, leaving Sybil helpless. Clay and Kimberly receive Sybil’s blood-soaked sneakers, but no ransom is ever requested.
Kimberly seeks help from Toshiro. He agrees, but only if she’ll abandon her husband. Unable to cope with her misguided life, she overdoses. At her memorial, Clay confronts Toshiro, whom Clay suspects fed drugs to Kimberly. Words turn to blows. Clay’s outburst shocks everyone, including the Embassy staff. Clay becomes persona non grata, and the Ambassador orders him to leave Thailand.
Sybil is confined in a brothel. Like the other girls, she sleeps on the concrete floor, her meager belongings scrunched into a pillow. Just before she’s put ‘to work,’ Sybil learns that someone has ‘bought’ her. She’s transferred to a large estate with walls and guards and gates. To her astonishment, she’s settled in a lush bedroom. She eats with other captives who obey a strict pecking order. At the head of the table is Golden Girl, a delicious Asian with blonde hair, the slave-master. She is tough, aggressive and hates Sybil’s ‘privileged’ attitude. Ratana, a practical Cambodian girl, clues Sybil in on the rules, and they quickly bond.
Sybil meets Toshiro. To Sybil, Toshiro is a dangerous enigma with no ties to her mother. He informs Sybil that the compound is her new home. She’s wary – what about her parents? Not answering, Toshiro leads Sybil to a garden where martial arts professionals spar under the watchful eye of Golden Girl. Upon Toshiro’s signal, one after another, the Men attack. Golden Girl levels each one with ease and grace. Sybil watches in awe.
At a Koi pond, Toshiro draws philosophic and moral lessons from the multi-colored fish. He tells Sybil that Koi always seek perfection, and if they fall short, they are released from a flawed life. Sybil is increasingly fascinated by, perhaps even dangerously attracted to, Toshiro, who personifies the wisdom and resilience of Koi. Is he her captor or her protector? Golden Girl, the keeper of the Koi, observes Toshiro’s growing interest in Sybil and twitches with jealousy.
Clay installs himself in a run-down boarding house. He has defied the Ambassador’s orders and secretly remained in Thailand. He hooks up with a corrupt investigator who rips him off, a comely journalist who enshrines Sybil’s disappearance online, even a gang of thugs – anyone who can help him find Sybil… To no avail.
Having lost to Golden Girl, a thug plots to kidnap Sybil and claim the reward. He leads a gang of “businessmen” into Toshiro’s compound to taste the “orgy” hosted there. They grab Sybil, but Golden Girl appears and a martial arts massacre begins. Toshiro stops the thug carrying Sybil and takes him apart, piece by piece. Toshiro is terrifyingly deadly – and sexy. With the man demolished at his feet, Toshiro tells Sybil she will commence training.
Golden Girl reluctantly trains Sybil, whose skills improve rapidly. Nevertheless, Sybil longs to escape. When Ratana becomes ill, Sybil conceives a way to obtain medicine. They flee and hide in the back of a wagon bound for Bangkok. When they reach downtown a riot ensues. They press on, but behind them, the MOB revs into motion, shouting slogans. The mob swells and surges, sweeping the girls into its midst. An army truck unloads soldiers in riot gear. TV vans arrive; camera crews spill out. A grenade explodes, soldiers fire teargas, gunfire erupts. Panic!
At the U.S. Embassy, despite Sybil’s desperate pleas, the guards won’t grant entry. Clay has been caught up as well. Trying to avoid the violence, he watches as a blonde girl is thrown into a police van. Sybil? He contacts the investigator who assures him no white girl was arrested. Exasperated, Clay fires the investigator. He’ll do this on his own.
Sybil studies the Koi. She reads and learns to identify the different types and how to care for them. With Ratana gone, she grows to love the Koi, her only friends. Toshiro appoints Sybil his Koi Keeper – replacing Golden Girl, who barely conceals her outrage.
Toshiro visits a Thai Official, WONGSAWAT, seeking permission to acquire a piece of property to expand his business. Wongsawat suspects Toshiro of drug dealing and sex trafficking and sends him away. In his limo, Toshiro smokes opium and offers it to Sybil, who wishes to protect him from the authorities.
On TV, the journalist presents a follow-up report about kidnapping and human trafficking. Rumors about Toshiro figure prominently. Wongsawat sees the report, and his anger grows. At home, he discovers his daughters have received a mysterious ‘gift’: inside the doll is a disconnected bomb – not dangerous but a crude warning. Wongsawat suspects Toshiro threatens his family.
Stockholm syndrome: Sybil has become deeply enamored of Toshiro. She’s been seduced by his demeanor, his mysticism, his power, and the drugs he offers. Her moxie, her fighting ability, and her care of the Koi have impressed him. He takes her out, buys her new clothes, wines and dines her, and they make love for the first time. When the Koi are killed with bleach, Toshiro knows it was Golden Girl. In a stunning motion, he slashes her throat.
Sybil accompanies Toshiro on a Koi-buying trip. He values her knowledge and skill as they re-stock the pond. After, he shows her where he grew up and shares his tortured memories of being abandoned by his family. He convinces Sybil that, after her mother’s death, her father sold her! He rescued her from the brothel. They are joined by their common abandonment. They marry in an elegant Shinto ceremony and spend their honeymoon in a hotel.
The Gang Leader learns where Sybil lives, and Clay joins the gang in a raid on Toshiro’s compound. A gun battle rages between gang and guards, and Clay kills a guard. But Sybil is nowhere to be found. She and Toshiro are still at the hotel. Thai police arrive, and Clay is arrested. Incarcerated, Clay’s beard grows wild as he wastes away, unaware that Sybil rejoices in her love for Toshiro.
But love, like Sybil’s story, takes many twists and turns. Sybil finds evidence of Toshiro’s affair with her mother and her father’s banishment from Thailand. She confronts Toshiro, who simply says: “Koi deal with surprise. Koi overcome.” He does not understand – Sybil is not a fish.
Clay’s friends at the Embassy hear of his arrest and concoct a secret plan to break him out. They succeed, and they convince Wongsawat that Toshiro has Sybil. Wongsawat plans a raid.
Toshiro hosts another “orgy” where his girls service wealthy men. Sybil dresses exotically and joins Toshiro. She’s repulsed by the lechery around her but shows no emotion. She takes Toshiro by the hand and leads him to the Koi pond. He turns to admire the fish. When he turns back, she buries a knife in his chest. “That’s for my mother,” she says. When she tries to extract the knife, he grabs her hand and pins it against his chest. “You seek release?” she asks. He lets go, and she pulls out the knife – before she hands it back! “Release yourself,” she whispers, and flees.
Wongsawat and the troops arrive, and a battle engulfs the gate. Sybil hides in the bushes. As the troops enter the compound, Toshiro sinks to his knees in the pond, and his blood turns the water crimson. Wongsawat orders his men to fish out the barely alive Toshiro.
Free at last, Sybil dashes through the gate – and freezes. Walking toward her, scraggy and bearded, Clay. He stops, exhausted but overcome with joy. She can barely breathe as tears run down her cheeks…