"I told you, Jeff, I'm a skeptic."
"I've traveled the world, been to the sites of war crimes, genocides, murders, hotel fires, and I've not once, NOT ONCE seen a ghost."
"My offer still stands. One million dollars to anyone who can prove to me that ghosts exist."
"Look, Mr. Palmer..."
"Call me 'Jay,'" he interrupted.
"Jay, you didn't get to be a wealthy man by being gullible, but..."
Jay interrupted again, "Cut the flattery. You're saying that you can show me ghosts in Bangkok, and I say it's bullshit. The offer stands. Show me a ghost, I'll show you one million dollars. My secretary will email you my Bangkok itinerary. We'll be in touch."
And with that the call cut off.
For a couple years I'd been following Mr. Jay Palmer, on Twitter, and had been enthralled, entertained and annoyed at his tweets. No stranger to fame or controversy, the handsome young billionaire, the Wall Street hedge fund star had once been heralded as the next Warren Buffett.
He'd originally achieved fame for his business acumen but these days was known more for his brash, outspoken personality and relentless ridicule of the supernatural, ghosts, in particular, as well as his tendency to engage in social media spats, often with other celebs, and sometimes even random commenters.
I'd seen that Mr. Palmer, along with his starlet girlfriend, would be in Vietnam on business, so I'd tweeted him, thinking he'd probably ignore me.
But, to my astonishment, he'd replied, and we'd exchanged direct messages, then phone calls, and I'd challenged him to visit the haunted sites of Bangkok, which includes my street, and afterwards see if he still doubted the existence of ghosts.
He'd taken me up on my challenge, and I'd be seeing him in less than 48 hours...
As for me, I wholeheartedly believe in ghosts. I've seen plenty, been accustomed to their presence since I was a youngster. I'd seen several spirits in my childhood home, in Pittsburgh. The first I saw were tiny balls of light floating around and through the ceiling of my bedroom.
Later, I'd see misty silhouettes of human forms on the staircase by the living room. There'd also routinely be doors closing, opening unexplainably, around the house.
My sister, too, had seen the blobs of light flying through the ceiling, in her room, but my parents refused to believe the ghosts were there. But I knew. And my sister knew. And the ghosts, they knew. And that was enough for me.
Fortunately, the ghosts in my house were not malicious spirits. They were only present. Remnants of the former owners, probably. Such is usually the case when one lives in a 100-year-old house. I never feared them, those ghosts, and simply accepted them as fellow occupants of the dwelling...
For as long as I can remember, ghosts have fascinated me. I've always enjoyed ghost stories, movies, books, more for the entertainment factor, history lessons, though, that they held.
The stories, the ghosts never scared me, really. More so, I'd pitied the ghosts, and I wondered if the ghosts in my house or the ghosts in the stories knew if they were ghosts.
What a tragedy, to be a ghost, and not know it...
When I first came to Bangkok as a tourist, I was delighted to discover the city held such strong beliefs in ghosts.
The welcoming, warm and friendly Thai people, plus the climate, the hot weather, and the scrumptious, hot and spicy food agreed with me, and I decided to ditch the corporate world, and stay in Thailand, in Bangkok. For the last 7 years, it's where I've been. I've left only for border runs to Cambodia, Laos to renew my visas.
My first job in Thailand, like many expats here, was teaching English, but then I found my way into another, more exciting and lucrative business- paranormal tours, videos...
Along with my Thai partner, Somchai, we started the business as a side hustle, but it'd expanded well enough that we were able to turn it into a full-time gig.
Our tours consisted of taking clients out around Bangkok to local haunted sites, at night, and we made videos of these ghost tours that we'd post online, share on social media- video recordings of real footage of paranormal activity.
Our tours were provided on motorcycles, one driven by Somchai, one by me, and perhaps additional drivers if we had a larger group.
Motorcycles sure aren't the safest method of transport, but it's the fastest way of getting around in Bangkok, given the perpetually gridlocked city traffic. Occasionally, though, we'd take clients out in a car if they were too squeamish to sit on the backseat of a motorcycle, or if they demanded AC.
Our tours' itinerary included several spots. Many only provided entertaining, spooky tales, but not actual ghost sightings.
However, The Sathorn Unique Tower, Wat Don Cemetery, and the "Curve of 100 Corpses," these were the most reliable Bangkok locations to spot paranormal activity. Especially the Wat Don Cemetery. Practically every trip we took there yielded a ghost sighting or two.
In the cemetery, a place where over 10,000 victims of accidents were buried, many in unmarked graves, we'd often see "tai hong", which is Thai for an angry ghost, one that died in a sudden, tragic manner.
The "tai hong" we most frequently saw was a headless ghost that'd fall from a tree, crawl on its stomach like an alligator and disappear into dead air.
One time a ghost appeared in Somchai's car, in the backseat, the ghost bloody, missing limbs, screaming in agony. A couple German clients sitting next to it freaked out, yelling and demanding us to pull over, and when we did, they ran away, tearing off running into the crowded Bangkok streets.
Somchai said a prayer that let the ghost out, back into the night.
After that, Somchai bought a special green jade amulet, from a monk, and the amulet has since prevented ghosts from entering his car, though recently we found a legless ghost on the roof, and Somchai said a blessing that allowed it to leave...
The Sathorn Tower, a failed business development, an abandoned skyscraper, was a hotspot, too, for ghosts.
We'd often find ghosts of businessmen jumping from upper floors, reenacting their suicides. Somchai said they were trapped in repeat, in a purgatory of sorts, having to jump again and again until they'd be able to pass onto the next realm. Or maybe they were being punished, forced to relive their suicide because of the bad karma they'd created.
In addition to the jumpers, we could also, via telescope, spot the ghost of a middle-aged Swedish man, a tourist, hanging by a noose from a ceiling pipe. You could see him hanging lifeless there practically every night.
Occasionally, we could bribe a security guard to enter the building, have a look around, but never were we able to see the ghosts up close. The ghosts there seemed to prefer keeping their distance, only staying visible from afar...
The infamous "Curve of 100 Corpses," a treacherous stretch of road known for its countless horrific traffic accidents, has always yielded many paranormal sightings, ghosts on motorcycles, mostly, those lost in auto accidents. Somchai said they were also in a purgatory, riding around the same roads until they could pass. He said it was because their family members might not have performed the correct funerary rites, or that the ghosts were too angry to accept they'd died, refusing to believe it, continuing to ride back and forth along the same stretch of road, every day and night.
(I'd wondered, too, if some of the office workers I'd seen in subways, rush hour traffic, back in America were suffering the same fate...)
Another famous ghost spot, the "Thawi Nakhon Deserted Mansion" was a point of contention between Somchai and me.
It was the only site he'd been genuinely afraid of, and he'd dissuaded me from adding it to our itinerary. His objections being that the site was haunted by a malicious ghost called "Dao."
It's common for ghosts of those who died in horrific, tragic manners to attempt to take vengeance on the living, particularly those similar to the people the ghosts are angry with; the ghosts doing this either out of sheer hatred, or so the living might take the ghost's place in the afterlife.
"Dao" was one such malicious ghost, the ghost of a young woman with long black hair, who always wore a white dress that resembled a nightgown.
Somchai said it was her that'd possessed many tourists, foreign men, Westerners in Bangkok, and caused their deaths.
Somchai told me his sister, a medium, once spoke to Dao. That his sister was contacted by her, randomly, as she slept, and the two of them spoke in a lush green rice field near the outskirts of Bangkok...
Dao said she'd been jilted by a foreigner, a handsome young man, a US soldier, around the time of the Vietnam War. The man was in Bangkok on R&R before he was to return to America, after completing his tour, being discharged. He'd met and seduced Dao, who was a chaste young woman from an upper-class family, and a practicing Buddhist, and he'd taken her virginity, promising to return later to marry her.
But he never returned.
Dao, in a fit of grief, jumped from a building, plunging to her death in the Chao Phraya River.
Her family had moved, abandoned the mansion, on the edge of Bangkok. With its bad karma coming from the inauspicious end of the family's daughter, it never found a buyer, and the mansion remains empty to this day. Dao's ghost its only resident.
Though in life Dao was said to be reserved, after death, her demeanor changed, and her grief shifted to rage. Her ghost not only resides in her family's abandoned mansion, but is said to be alive in Bangkok, floating from hotel to hotel, in search of vulnerable foreigners, those down on their luck, depressed, or with other issues. Dao enters their head, encourages them to commit suicide by jumping from a building or bridge.
Though she's mainly preyed on foreigners, she's also attacked Thais too, murdering 5 teens who'd disturbed her house, the teens belonging to a group that'd broken into the house late at night, to do drugs, drink and do whatever else teens do. Later, one by one, each died in various gruesome traffic accidents...
Not wishing to disturb such a spirit, we'd stayed away from the mansion. Until a wealthy Italian, with a large pile of cash, too much to refuse, demanded that we take him and his wife there. At night!
Which we did, armed with Somchai's most powerful amulet, and a protective spell from his monk, bestowed on us after a generous donation to the temple...
The mansion was situated on a large empty lot, flanked by endless green rice fields, a patch of jungle, and a highway to its far left. A fence around its perimeter precluded entrance.
On the back of twin motorcycles, one driven by me, one by Somchai, with the Italians riding on the motorcycle backseats, the wife on Somchai's, and the man on mine, and damn, was the portly fellow weighing down my bike, draining the gas gauge as we rode slowly up to the mansion and parked for a peak at the house.
A chalky white, three storey manor, with hulking Grecian columns in its front, it'd stood up to time, the elements rather well, I thought, showing only mild dilapidation, weather wear.
At first the manor was totally dark, but suddenly, a light went on in an upstairs room. The Italians shrieked in Italian. Somchai screamed something in Thai. And I followed his lead as he tore off back to the highway.
A week afterwards, the wife, holding large handfuls of shopping bags, was struck by a motorcycle taxi while crossing Sukhumvit Road and died on the scene.
Perhaps out of grief, or something else as well, the husband jumped to his death from the fifth floor of the Terminal 21 shopping mall, landing face first on the ground floor, horrifying the surrounding shoppers, staff alike... The mall was only a block from where his wife had died...
"Dao," Somchai told me.
We both immediately went and received further blessings from the temple after learning of the suicide.
Somchai also had his sister, the medium, attempt to contact Dao, which she did, meeting Dao again in the rice field in a dream, though this time, the rice field was on fire. Dao appeared as a burn victim, horrific scars covering her body.
This time, Dao wouldn't speak, and instead summoned a driverless motorcycle to ride off, disappear into the conflagration. Then she twisted her burnt lips into a grin and walked slowly into the fire.
Somchai reckoned that it was a sign, a warning to keep away from the house and that we were lucky to be alive. He told me he wouldn't go there again, even for a million dollars...
Mr. Jay Palmer and his girlfriend, the lovely Miss Amber Royal, reality TV star, Instagram influencer, model, socialite, etc., arrived in Bangkok with much fanfare. Local paparazzi were there to snap pictures of their early afternoon arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport.
After passing by a contingent of Thai fans, signing a handful of autographs, they traveled via limo to the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok's premier luxury hotel, where I met them, for a pre-tour meeting.
When I rode my motorcycle into the hotel's parking lot, I saw a throng of fans, paparazzi and press camped outside the hotel. Seeing the clumped masses, wide-eyed and wielding microphones, cameras, and phones, I wasn't envious of the pair's fame. Their money, yes, I did envy that, but being hounded by photographers, having people with their smartphones chasing after them anywhere they went, even in Thailand, that level of fame, nope, didn't envy that at all...
We met in the hotel's ritzy "Author's Lounge" for late afternoon tea.
I must admit I was a tad starstruck when they entered and sat down to our table. Heads all around the wooden room were turning, everyone collectively marveling at the pair's celebrity and perfect facial structures.
Aside from what appeared a very forced smile and perfunctory "hello", Amber said nothing, ate nothing, only sipped sparingly on a glass of sparkling water, and stared and tapped at her phone unflinchingly.
Jay, on the other hand, was animated.
"Jeff, I can't believe you make money doing this. People are idiots. It's that they WANT to believe in ghosts. That's why they see them."
He continued, heatedly, between healthy bites from a splendid plate of assorted tropical fruits, "It's hallucinations. Mind tricks."
I opened my mouth to chime in and he seemed to notice that I was about to speak, so he, perhaps preemptively, continued his anti-superstition jeremiad.
"I see you're about to show me something on your phone," he said in a mocking tone, nodding his chin at the phone in my hand, "don't bother, I've seen the bullshit footage you post online. I know it's faked. All 'ghost' footage is faked," he'd thrown up air quotes around "ghost footage."
"Amityville House, or should I say, Amityville Hoax, fake. All those paranormal shows, fake. Just doctored images, sounds, permutations of white noise, static. I mean, humans have existed for over 200,000 years, right? Why don't we ever hear of caveman ghosts? A monkey man ghost outside your house, rubbing sticks together for a fire... Never hear of that. Nope, always some asshole in a top hat. Only Slash gets to wear a top hat, okay?! Fucking ghost bullshit.
"And how come no animals are ghosts? They don't get to be ghosts? The chicken you ate for lunch comes back to haunt you? Oh, hold up, it does, food poisoning!"
Jay broke into hearty laughter at his own joke, nudged Amber with his elbow, but she ignored him, scrolled on her phone.
"Have you read Richard Dawkins?" he asked, after catching his breath, his eyes flickering and his facial expression turning serious. Dead serious. Angry even.
"Yes, I know of..." I began to say when he interrupted again.
"There is no God. No ghosts, either. God is the biggest ghost. The best ghost story ever told if you ask me. Don't tell anyone I said this, though. I can't have the religious freaks after me. Baptists buy stocks, too, you know. I hope you read the waiver you signed."
"Sure, I read it word for word, and don't..." and he interrupted me once more after sinking another double shot of espresso in one swift gulp, sucking it down like it was a shot of whisky.
He smacked his lips loudly and continued, "You're taking me out on your tour tonight. You meet me at the back entrance of the hotel so we can avoid the press. I'm planning to only pay you for the tour, but if you really can show me a ghost, even just one, I pay you a million dollars. It's in the contract.
"But you won't show me anything. I know you won't. And you know you won't.
"You really sure you want to take this challenge? I'm going to post it on Instagram, tweet it, add you to my list of the vanquished. I've got like over 40 million followers. You want that heat?"
"I've already accepted your offer and am confident I can show you not only one, but multiple ghosts. And, at the risk of sounding cliché, and with all due respect, sir, I wouldn't live in Bangkok if I couldn't take the heat, or the ghosts," I answered and took a sip of the extremely bitter and strong espresso. The stuff numbed my mouth. It was like liquid cocaine.
"I admire your confidence, Jeff. I'll see you tonight." Jay said as he reached over the table and gave me a fist bump.
He and Amber both rose, and she peered up for a second, waved a goodbye with another forced smile, then went immediately back to her phone, glued to it as she walked off, arm in arm with Jay, the couple ushered out of the lounge dotingly by hotel staff wearing bow ties and perfectly creased blazers.
I sat back in my chair, looked up at the stunning architecture of the building, the intricate transoms, glittering chandelier, and assorted black and white photographs hanging on the walls.
I glanced admiringly at a photograph of Somerset Maugham, the famous author who'd suffered through a bout of malaria at this hotel.
I finished my plate of assorted pastries, finger cakes. They were delectable and immaculate. Rich people really eat well.
Gazing out towards the Chao Phraya River, I wondered where exactly Dao had jumped. Was it here? From the hotel? With the hotel's long history, having been built in 1876, there must be many ghosts around. Maybe Mr. Maugham's ghost drops by, from time to time...
Hopefully more than one or two ghosts were ready to show up later tonight... A million dollars was riding on it...
When Somchai and I showed up that evening, around 10 p.m., I could tell Mr. Palmer was slightly tipsy.
"Too many glasses of red wine at Le Normandie," he grunted. His blond hair was combed and slicked back neatly, and he'd changed into blue jeans and a black Guns N' Roses t-shirt.
(I was surprised he was into classic rock. I thought he'd be more into mumble rap, for whatever reason...)
I passed him a motorcycle helmet to wear. I'd picked a helmet for him that had a super dark visor, to help conceal his identity from the press, fans.
"And where is Miss Royal?" I asked Jay, who was struggling to figure out how to sit properly on the back of the motorcycle. Somchai rushed over, helped him up and on.
"Nah, no Amber, she's going to a party, with a Thai princess she's pals with. She doesn't want to be outside much anyway, in this heat.
"And I don't blame her. How could anyone live in a place this fucking hot? Dammit, the whole place stinks like ass. And just look at that pole up there, the electric pole, all those twisted wires... What a shithole...
"And speaking of shit, Amber said she knows you're full of shit, and you don't need to prove it to her. Me, on the other hand, I like a good joke, shattering superstitions. Science is the only truth, Jeffyboy. Let's do this, bro."
And with that, we set off into the humid Bangkok night. We rode around the concrete jungle, and Jay scanned around quietly at its backdrop of neon lights and shimmering skyscrapers, bustling city streets.
Passing by a row of street food vendors, Jay yelled into my ear, "Smells great, those noodles. I'd almost eat them if they wouldn't give me diarrhea. If it wasn't probably rat meat in there..."
"Thais are a rather cleanly people. The street food here is quite safe, generally. Even as safe as many upscale restaurants." I screamed back to him over the din of the traffic...
We hit our top three spots in succession, the Sathorn Tower, the cemetery, the "Curve of 100 Corpses." But nothing. For the first time, ever, not a single ghost showed themselves.
We had to dig deeper, so we took him by the "Prostitute Graveyard," an abandoned brothel where women were forced into sex slavery and many were killed and buried in the yard behind what was now an abandoned building, a rather shoddy structure, that looked more like an old empty factory.
It was usual to hear cries there at night. See the ghost of a crying woman pacing outside the building entrance. But, again, nothing.
I decided to go with the most reliable ghosts I know. Those living near my apartment.
My apartment is near the site of the infamous Santika Club fire, where 66 people burned to death. At night, it's common to see ghosts of the club-goers, either on fire, or as charred corpses, running up and down the street where the club once stood, the ghosts probably seeking the exit doors they tragically couldn't find that fateful night.
We pulled up to the site of the club. Waited.
Then we drove to the front of my apartment building. My building is one of many on a side street, off Sukhumvit Road, in an alley. The Art Deco style, pastel pink building next to mine was the site of a shocking murder where a British man, angry over his money allegedly being stolen, threw his bargirl girlfriend off the balcony, and she fell to her death in front of my building.
The Brit is rotting in the Bangkok Hilton, but the girl lives on as a ghost, as a "preta," a hungry ghost.
Pretas are ghosts of those who were too materialistic or greedy and are doomed to wander as ghosts with small mouths, and elongated, super thin necks. They are always hungry or thirsty, but their mouths and necks are too tiny for them to eat or drink.
The girl thrown off the balcony was supposedly such a preta, and me, the neighbors, would see her wandering the alley both day and night. A tormented ghost, the sun would freeze her, and the moon would burn her. My landlady would regularly say prayers for the preta and hoped the ghost could one day pass on to a new life.
I'd taken a few pictures of the preta, video too, had seen her several times per week.
When we rode into the alley, sure enough, the preta was there, wandering around the spot on the pavement where she'd fallen to her death.
"There, there, look!" I hit the brakes, craned my neck and yelled to Jay. But when I looked back, the preta was gone.
"I didn't see anything. This is getting boring," said Jay, flipping up his helmet's visor and snarling at me with an upturned lip.
Looking back at Jay, I was ready to reaffirm what I'd seen, when behind him, the preta had reappeared.
She'd grown too, was over 7 feet tall, and was cupping her palms to her face, like a scream mask. Her belly was growing as well, was terribly distended and her skin was pale as bone and mummified.
Somchai jumped off his bike, took several steps back, held up his amulet.
"She's... Behind you..." I whispered and pointed in the direction of the ghost.
"No, no, she's not," Jay shot back, with a tone of exasperation.
"I swear. She is." I affirmed, "seriously."
Jay shook his head derisively, sighed and shifted around in his seat, looked back. As soon as his gaze turned in her direction, the preta vanished into thin air.
Jay let loose a shrill burst of sardonic laughter, shifted back and checked his phone to take a look at a stock ticker, then switched to YouTube, showed me a clip of Bill Maher.
"This guy is such an asshole, Bill Maher, but he gets it. He gets the human condition, the stupidity of human beings, people like you. He gets it probably better than anyone, except Bill Hicks, or George Carlin."
"You're oh for six, Jeffyboy. It's a double strikeout. Oh wait, maybe you can show me a snake that crawls up from a toilet! I hear that happens in Bangkok, like you'll be on the toilet, and a cobra pops up, bites you in the ass! I'd say that's probably more likely than a ghost... Can you show me that?"
Something like that had happened once or twice since I'd been in Bangkok, though fortunately not to me. I was about to reply to Jay, along those lines, and opened my mouth to speak when he beat me to the punch...
"Nah, forget about it," he sneered, his New Yawk accent really coming out, "you can take me back now. I knew this was fake. Hold on, I'm gonna call Amber before we go, I'll have you drop me off at the party. You're basically my chauffeur at this point. I fucking OWNED you, bro..."
He brought his phone up to his face, tapped on it and the image of the heavily made-up starlet appeared on the device's screen.
"Hey, Amber, what's shaking, sugar tits..."
His voice trailed off a bit as he walked down the alley, yapping to his girl on his Bluetooth headset. I could see her at a party, in a glitzy club somewhere, next to her was an impossibly gorgeous Asian girl I recognized, who I think was Lisa from the K-Pop girl group BLACKPINK...
Somchai told me that there was nothing we could do to prove ghosts to Jay.
Not because ghosts didn't exist, but that Jay didn't believe in them, and not just didn't believe, but didn't want to believe. As long as he held such a determination to not believe, his energy, his cynicism would force away ghosts, especially the non-malicious spirits.
Fear attracts ghosts. Disbelief, and cynicism, pessimism, especially, repels them. This is what Somchai had always told me. It was seeming to be right.
I checked my phone and noticed that I had thousands of messages on Twitter. Our company was being bombarded by trolls mocking us. Jay had been tweeting his experience the whole night, ruthlessly roasting us.
At first, I felt a spear of pain, was hurt to see hundreds of tweets full of invective, belligerence, stuff like "fuck u" "scamers". Worse was the racist language against Asian people. But when I noticed our company's follower count had gone from around 5,000 to 90,000, in the span of a couple hours, I felt better.
Jay ended his facetime call with an air kiss, sauntered back over to us. I thought we'd take him to wherever this party was, but with an annoyed expression, he made one final request.
"Okay, so one of Amber's Thai friends, some model floozy, actually believes in this bullshit. She was all worried that we might have gone to this abandoned mansion. We didn't, though, and she's like saying something in Thai, which was translated as warning me 'never to go there'...
"So, of course we have to go there. Then after that, you take me to the party."
"Was it the Thawi Nakhon Mansion?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
Jay peered down at his phone, scrolled through a Google map, looked back up at me.
"Yup, that's the one. Let's go," said Jay, strapping his helmet back on.
Somchai was staring at me intently. I stared back. It was our last chance for one million dollars, Somchai, come on!
But Somchai wanted no part of it. He shook his head, got on his bike, and zipped off.
Jay held up his phone, shoved it at my face, on it was the 1980s music video for the song "Ghostbusters," and he jokingly shimmied and sang along to it.
"I ain't afraid of no..."
One million dollars was on the line. Although Dao might not show herself, given the fate that'd befallen everyone who'd disturbed her, I had to make it clear to Jay what he was getting into. And I did. I explained Dao's story and clearly told Jay what happened to the teenagers, to the Italians, and about the medium's dreams and warnings.
Jay laughed through the whole thing and snapped back at me, "Look, I don't believe a word of that. With the way I've seen the Thais driving, anyone anytime could be killed in a traffic accident. And I know, for sure, and more so than ever, after tonight, that ghosts are BULL FUCKING SHIT.
"But, you know, I admire your patience, persistence. I can't tell you how many arguments I've been in with people over this subject, fucking whiny little bitches. And here you are, a gentleman the entire time, even looking out for my well-being after I shit on you all night, destroyed you on Twitter, got millions of people laughing at you right this second, on their phones...
"So, here's what we'll do. We're going to that house, and get this, if I die, within the next month, in a 'tragic' accident, you get one million dollars. Hold up, I'll have a lawyer put that in writing right now."
Jay made a quick facetime call to his lawyer, who was eating breakfast, and had the old guy draw him up a contract. Then we sat for a few minutes watching Anthony Jeselnik's comedy special "Caligula."
"Ah shit, that holocaust joke is gold. A Nike factory," Jay guffawed, and then showed me the contract stipulating that if he died in the next month, in an accident, I'd get the one million dollars.
"You sign it AFTER we see the mansion. AFTER you drop me off," Jay said, slipping his phone into a front pocket of his jeans...
We drove out there, and as with the other sites, nothing happened. No light went on in the house. It was just an old mansion to Jay, who quipped that maybe he'd buy the house, turn it into a museum about ghosts, and that probably lots of people would be stupid enough to pay to visit it.
"Hey, what's with the little temple type house over there? I've seen a buncha those..." asked Jay, pointing over at the spirit house on the side of the road.
"That's a spirit house. It's common here in Southeast Asia. The locals set them outside their houses, businesses, to honor and shelter whatever spirits might be in the surrounding area. They figure it's better to have them in the spirit house than have the ghost coming into their house or apartment. You'll see people go out there in the morning, bringing gifts of juice or fruit for the sp..."
"You believe that shit, Jeff?" Jay asked, cutting me off, walking up to the small brown wooden spirit house that sat atop a dais. He stuck his face up close to it, had a long look around its inside.
I was about to answer when he yelled out, "I don't see any ghosts in it! Hey, ghosts? You there? You there?"
Then he grabbed the spirit house, shook it.
"Maybe I can shake the spirits out! Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
"Jay, please, stop, if a local drives by and sees you doing that, he might..." I pleaded.
"IT'S BULLSHIT!" he screamed and shoved the spirit house down. It, along with the offerings of fruit and plastic bottles of juice, crashed to the ground.
"See, no ghosts! If they existed, wouldn't they show themselves after I trashed their house?"
"Jay, no, you can't..." I begged him, stepped towards him, about to yank him away, when he unzipped his pants, and screamed out, "Fuck your ghosts! I'm Jay FUCKING Palmer, bitch! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
Then he flung out his cock and began to piss on the spirit house.
I stood frozen in disbelief, grimaced, shut my eyes and hung my head in shame. I couldn't even comprehend how many visits I'd need to make to the temple to atone for this...
He finished his business, zipped up his fly and proclaimed, "Now, take me to the fucking party. I'm sick of this charade..."
I clutched my protective amulet tightly, hurried over to my bike. Jay jogged over, jumped on the back and we rode off...
Riding to the nightclub in lower Sukhumvit where his party was, I rode the motorbike like a grandma, extra careful.
Normally I'd never been afraid of ghosts, but after what he'd done to that spirit house, I couldn't shake the mental image of Dao, enraged, her hair on fire, the taste of blood in her mouth. I felt a change in the air, too; it'd gotten at least 5 degrees cooler once we'd left the site of the mansion; I was getting gooseflesh.
When I pulled up to the front of the club, the bouncers growled at us, their angry eyes like those of mad dogs. One promptly attempted to block us from pulling further towards the entrance.
"Excuse me, can I help you?" pointedly inquired the tallest of the lot, a lanky bouncer with a long scar on his right cheek. He appeared to be French by the sound of his accent.
Not too many of this nightclub's patrons arrived via motorcycle. Dude probably thought we were deliverymen or in the wrong place.
"I hope you can help me, or else you'd be pretty shitty at your job," said Jay, flipping up his visor.
"Mr. Palmer, I apologize, sir, I did not..." the Frenchie bouncer started to stammer and stepped back.
Jay hopped off the bike, passed me the helmet, gave me a fist bump.
"As much as I shit on you tonight, this was fun, I must say, riding around, seeing the city. I don't get out like this too often... Here, sign this..."
He handed me the phone, and I read over and then signed the new contract on his iPhone's touchscreen, using my finger.
"You been a sport, Jeffyboy. I don't know how good your reading comprehension is, but hopefully you saw in there that I'm giving you an extra 20k. You probably won't have many clients after this, so you'll need the cash. Take care, bro."
And with that, Jay looked over and nodded to the bouncer who ushered him into the club.
Before riding off, I checked my phone again. It was burning up with tweets, none of them nice either and an online brawl between the comedians Steven Crowder and Nick Di Paolo versus the actress Alyssa Milano had broken out in the thread of comments. The rapper Tekashi69 had even trolled me.
But on the bright side, my followers had grown to over 140,000, and a rep from the Discovery Channel had sent me a DM, asking about appearing on a ghost-themed reality show.
Two days later, as Jay and Amber were outside the Mandarin Oriental, waiting for a private boat to take them on a tour of the Chao Phraya River, a young Thai girl, of university age, plunged from the roof of the building, landed on top of Jay, crushing him and killing him instantly.
The girl had worked at the hotel and had recently broken up with her boyfriend, so it was thought she'd committed suicide. But she'd left no note, not spoken or told anyone of suicidal thoughts and was known as a gregarious, friendly, and optimistic girl.
She'd also been a fan of Amber and had been taking photos of her before she fell, leading some to believe maybe she'd tried to snap a selfie with Amber in the background and wound up falling.
The subsequent police investigation was inconclusive...
Amber's fame only rocketed after the event, the tragic tale. Her follower count soaring to over 75 million on Instagram, and she did a series of tell-all interviews, launched a new product line of clothing in the months after...
As for me, my business had grown exponentially from the publicity of Jay's tweets and then even more so after the media firestorm surrounding his untimely death. We had more clients and deals than we could handle and had to hire additional staff. What's more, we signed a deal for a series of episodes on the Discovery Channel, about ghosts in Bangkok.
And about 5 months later, I was shocked when I went to the ATM to withdraw some cash and found there was over $1,000,000 that had appeared in the account, sent to me by the late Mr. Palmer's estate.
With business being as good as it was, and with the TV deal we'd inked, I knew what to do with the cash.
I tracked down the family of the girl who'd died at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the one who'd fallen to her death. Her family turned out to be destitute, living in a shack alongside the Chao Phraya River, in a slum, on the outskirts of Bangkok.
When I spoke with the girl's mother, I learned she was a single mom, who was struggling to put her 15-year-old boy through school.
Somchai and I took the lady and her son to Bangkok Bank, and transferred them $1,000,000.