The next morning Brent awoke to jackhammers going off in his head. His mouth tasted like the bottom of a well-used birdcage and it took a superhuman effort to get himself off the bed and into the bathroom for a cold shower. He grabbed his toothbrush on his way into the stall.
When at last he emerged he opened the fridge hoping to find a beer to take the edge off his hangover but the shelves were bare. Hair of the dog was going to be the order of the day so he put on some fresh clothes and headed for Bangla road.
As he shuffled down the street the events of the night before came back to him in fits and starts. He was sporting a silly grin until he got to the part in the alley. He stopped short and ran it through his mind again. That woman. That creepy bitch that had wanted money from him. Then he remembered the bird. Had he imagined it? The thing seemed like pure evil. Its head twisted all the way around, that long ugly tongue and it had hissed at him like a snake, it’s eyes boring into his.
It couldn’t have been. His mind must have been playing tricks on him. He continued to the beach and went into one of his favourite hangouts and ordered a beer. As he sat there drinking, grateful that they hadn’t turned on the music yet a boy entered and slapped him on the back.
“Hey mister Brent, you up early today.”
“Hey, Sam, what’s up?” The boy’s name was Som but Brent had taken to calling him Sam. He didn’t seem to mind. They had met his first day in Phuket when Som had tried to pick his pocket. Brent had given his a stern lecture then bought him and ice cream cone and they had been friends ever since.
“Just out hustling, you know how it is. You have a good time last night?”
Som chuckled. “Yeah, that’s what I hear.”
Brent put his beer down. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, nothing. People talk, that’s all.”
“People talk? What do they say?”
Som looked nervous and waved his hand. “Just some stuff about last night. Not important. I shouldn’t have said”
Brent dragged him onto the stool next to him and fixed him with a look. “Like what?”
“Well…someone say you ran into a Lisu woman in the alley when you was throwing up.”
“Lisu. They some peoples that aren’t from Thailand but they live here now. Come from Tibet long, long time ago. Thai people don’t mess with them. Not the women anyway.”
“Yeah? Why’s that?”
Som fidgeted on his stool and made to leave. “Gotta go now. I see you later mister Brent.”
Brent caught him by the arm. “Sam, don’t hold out on me. That woman gave me the creeps. What’s her story?”
Som looked at him with pleading eyes and looked around at the others in the bar to see if they were listening. A couple of the locals turned their heads away. He leaned over and whispered in Brent’s ear.
“She’s a witch mister Brent. Local people afraid of them.”
Brent’s eyes went wide then he let out a hearty laugh. “You had me going there, mate. I’ll get you back for that.”
Som squirmed away from him and backed toward the door. “I see you later maybe mister Brent. You be careful.”
Brent watched him go and then turned back to his beer. He liked the kid a lot. He was going to miss him when he went home.
Part 3 Tomorrow