Blue

BLUE ORCHID

 

QUEZON CITY

More than 5 years ago

 

[i]

 

Sandra Villacorte, with harried steps navigated the corner of Scout Tobias like an F22 fighter plane evading a missile.

“Damn, my boss should not have extended that meeting.”

She muttered to herself and like an airplane on afterburners, she moved faster.

“Just a few more blocks, why can’t you find a taxi when you really, really need one.”

Almost running and rummaging through her bag, Sandra took her cellphone, unmindful of her friend’s warning earlier not to use her high-end gadget so as not to attract muggers.

“The heck with it, I need to call my mom.”

The ringing phone, the patter of her feet, and her needle focus on the need to reach the LRT station, all conspired – she didn’t notice the guy who came from the shadows. A painful bump in the head and her world suddenly became dark.

Sandra awoke with a start. She was laying on a mattress that has seen equal number of summers and users. Soggy, bumps all-over and some wet parts. Uncaring what cause the wetness, she can’t shout, courtesy of a smelly and musky gag that was shoved to her mouth, when she was under. The stink and smell of the gag about to overpower her and upturn her stomach.

Arms and legs immobile, that one-fourth inch rope giving her very, very limited movement, she was spread-eagled to as far as the bed can offer. First, she self-check, though she felt a cool draft from down there and knowing that though she was not wearing any underpants, she was pretty sure she was not molested at all.

She tried to look around, her bounds limiting her movement. From one corner of her eyes, she saw a large man, a froreigner, grinning and removing his shirt.

“This is not happening! This is not happening to me! I am just dreaming… I will wake up anytime.”

She shouted to herself, more to calm her growing fear than convincing herself. The man was walking towards her, and with every step, the dread she felt were like weights piled upon her chest.

The man was now bending on her, his face inches away from her own. Smelling the sweat and pungent smell that seemed to attack her every sense, she somehow knew, what he wanted. She closed her eyes and held it, welcoming the darkness than stare at the leery eyes of the man.

She knew she was attractive. At 22 years old, she had a body that men wish to own, especially when she dons those flimsy super short shorts, or when she parades on the beaches of Boracay. Her breasts, a 34 Cup-C were good enough for her 5 feet 6-inches frame. Her Venus delta, that only knew a man twice while in college, was properly shaved and cared for. She had a figure and face enough to win a few beauty contests.

Her worst fear was soon confirmed, she felt his hands on her breasts, pinching, mashing and grabbing… mashing… pinching… grabbing… left… right… left… a little pause… then she felt hands ripping her clothes. In a while, there she was, naked with all her precious jewels open and bared to the man.

Then she heard the man move towards a corner. Her spirits rose. She thought, she may be spared the humiliation, the painful experience. Until she heard the soft rustle of a pair of pants falling to the cement floor.

“Mother of God…” she cried to herself.

She heard the man step on the raggedy mattress. She felt him kneel and started pinching and mashing and grabbing. She felt his hot touch on her crotch. She kept her eyes shut. She willed her eyes not to open and bit fiercely on her gag. The man can do what he wants, but she will never give him the satisfaction of a voice.

She felt him enter her, forcefully, she was utterly dry and the entry felt like a ragged pole being thrust up her vagina, the pain was excruciating… so with her breasts that his hands were mashing and grabbing. She felt her pound on her, faster and faster. She heard his grunts and groans… the perspiration running off from his whole body… the wet slaps of his hips on hers.

The man kept at it… Insatiable… She felt like falling through a deep bottomless hole… Each movement of the man on top of her like banging her on the sides. Each pinch… each mash… each grab… like daggers struck on her soul. Sandra felt her world spinning, so with her dreams, hopes and visions, all drawn towards a seemingly bottomless pit of nothingness.

Sandra lost track of the time and many times she was violated. Her eyes clamped tightly closed, unwilling to open. She does not want to remember, the mattress… the battered chair in a corner… the dilapidated table… the dirty unwashed plastic curtains and the tarpaulin walls with the inverted face of a candidate. There was only one thing on her mind – death!

But definitely not hers!!!

 

[ii]

 

Sandra woke to an internal scream, or was it? It has been days. The rag in her mouth has long been removed, but the taste still remained. She was aware that it had been several days.

Between the meals, the episodes at the comfort room, and the rape, she counted the times when a light came through a small hole by the side of the roof. She counted the times when the light changed to blackness followed by the mellowing of the sounds around her. Her wrists and ankles were raw and throbbing with pain, as the blisters opened and became wounds. She felt the weakness trying to overcome her, the gloom and feeling of despair that was just on the periphery of her vision. And every time she feels like letting go, every time when she feels depraved and ready to give up – that little hole blossoms to light – tantalizing her, steadying her, cajoling her – it’s not time to quit!

Once after the man awakened from his stupor and has done his dastardly deed, she asked to go the restroom to relieve herself. After slaps coupled with the threat of death should she try to escape, seemingly like a rote, bound she was led to a small cubicle with no door. She had to do her thing in full glare of the man who was enjoying the spectacle while scratching his balls.

When the man shifted momentarily, she checked the crack where she shoved her identification card, that she palmed about 2 days ago, when the man gave her bag. Earlier, she noticed a female voice coming from just behind the wall. Hurriedly, she slipped her ID card and hoped that someone finds it. The card is gone, her spirit lifted. A little ray of hope filtered through her veins, until she got back inside and saw her card on the table.

The man looking at her and the card gave a loud cackle and did a little jig as if to mock her efforts of escape. This brought Sandra’s fury to bear, she pounced on the man, who was startled by her reaction. She raked her with her nails. The man howled like a dog, punch her in the stomach. Luckily, at the same moment, Sandra, who was swinging pivoted so the punch didn’t hit will full force.

The pivot and the punch push her towards the back of the man, while her bounds were caught on his chin. Sandra pulled, giving it all she got. They fell backwards, Sandra felt the weight of the man on her as they fell, almost knocking her breath away. She didn’t let go.

She pulled and pulled while the man tried to grab her from every which way. She thought of the times this man abused her, made her feel lower than dirt. The times he raped her physically and spiritually. The slaps that made her ears ring. The cigarette burns on her thighs. The painful mashing and pinching of her breasts. All those memories rushing… flooding into her veins, into her body… giving her the strength… all or nothing… now or never! Finally, with seemingly superhuman strength, she gave a final jerk and heard the man’s neck pop.

It was not a loud pop, as the sound effects movies do. It was not even a dramatic pop, like when you crack your knuckles. It was teeny-weeny pop, but sounded like a cannon in Sandra’s ears. Still she held on, unwanting to let go lest the man was acting his way out. She held and held and held, until all the adrenaline in her system were gone, and she felt her limbs limped and ache from so much exertion.

Sandra let go, slid herself from under him. Sweating profusely, she looked at the man. His tongue was out, eyeballs rolled upward. His urine was everywhere and his bowels had erupted, all these adding to the stink that was permeating the air.

She crawled to the comfort room and release the vomit that was on her throat since the beginning of her ordeal. She heaved and heaved until nothing came out. Only then did she cry. And she cried and cried. Not for what she went through, not for the man she just killed… She cried for her freedom, for her release, for the strength that made her kill and the cried for all those abuse that made her feel very dirty.

Sandra stood up, went to a drawer, she found her clothes, all ripped and torn. She rummaged the drawers, found some boxer shorts and t-shirts and pants, though several sizes bigger, were good enough for her purpose. She found her purse, her cards were still these but no money. She found the man’s wallet, a few thousand pesos inside, some powdery material in small sachets, probably some illegal drugs. The wallet she took and placed in her bag. She found a black garbage can, and crammed all the documents she can lay her hands on. She also found half a loaf of white bread and a few hard-boiled eggs and crammed everything in her mouth.

Her hunger abating, she combed her hair with her fingers bound her hair with a rubber band that held the plastic pack of the bread, gave herself a once over. It was not that good, but anyone who sees here could only think that she was either a tart or a wierdo. It was good enough for her. And she needs to leave before anyone notices the man’s disappearance.

Finally, she gave him the last look, posed like a fish pulled out of the water that gasped its way to death. Undignified… Sandra realized, and told herself. There is no dignity in death. There is no dignity in the world and the world be damned – first will be all those who deserve it.

She vowed to herself.

Sandra, threw a lamp to floor where it hit the already reeking urine, sparks flew from an outlet somewhere. She let herself out of the door, and faded into the dusk.

 

BOOK ONE

Opening Moves

CAMP CRAME, QUEZON CITY

Five years later…

31 years old SPO1 Miguel Cartagena, known to friends as Mike, was on his first day as a Homicide Detective assigned to Organized Crime Division Task Force at National Police Headquarters at Camp Crame. Today he is attending the briefing conducted by the Joint Task Force and Interpol. Apparently, a string of murders from Hongkong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore yielded a primary suspect and intelligence information led Interpol operatives to believe that the suspect has flown to Manila.

“Our latest information from one of the operators that we have apprehended in Hongkong is that this woman, the supposedly leader of the Blue Orchid Syndicate, has flown to Manila last week and has been here since. All information showed that this woman has killed more than 50 people in 5 countries. Most of those people she targeted are either drug leaders, human traffickers and hardened criminal bosses.” The head of SPD said.

“Sir, with due respect, why run after someone who for all intents and purposes is actually helping us?” Senior Inspector Roman Salvador, Head of the organized crime division, Miguel’s boss, asked.

“Very right, like you we are of mixed emotions on this case, for this woman known as ‘Blue Orchid’ is, from one point of view, helping us in our combined battle against organized crime, however, it is not right for vigilantes to operate above the law. Vigilantes do not have a place in our societies. So for whatever good she has done, she is still a murderer.” Mr. Fung Hai, Head of the Interpol team replied.

“Information about ‘Blue Orchid’ is very limited. All we know of the moment is that she is about 30 years old, very beautiful, very resourceful, very rich and have a lot of connections from Hongkong to Macau, from Singapore to KL, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.” The Interpol Head continued.

“Nobody knows of her nationality. There are rumors that she is a Filipina who can speak fluent Mandarin, Fukien and Bahasa. Some say she is a Chinese. An informant we interrogated swore she is a Singaporean. So we really do not know.” Mr. Hai concluded.

“Gentlemen, we want you to be careful. Our information tells us that this girl is physically able, has solid martial arts skills and is gun certified from handguns, SMGs to sniper guns. Her signature kill is a headshot from 450 yards using a 5.56 grain sniper rifle. Should you get any lead, do not engage unless you are really, really sure! Call for back up. Is that clear?”

“Sir… Yes… Sir…!” the group replied in unison.

“Okay team, you will get your individual briefing kits and other documents that will guide you in this operation called OPLAN BLUE. These materials will not leave the premises. Read them thoroughly, compare notes and start cultivating assets. Let’s not let this chance pass through our finders. Dismiss…” Senior Inspector Salvador told his men.

Mike, shuffled his documents and prepared to go through them, when Roger, a colleague tapped his shoulders.

“Mike, we are planning to go to a place in Makati. It’s known to be a haven of shady characters. We may be able to find some assets there. Come with us, you might learn a trick or two.”

“Okay, I really need to know how you develop assets. Most of my former assets were on petty criminals and thieves.” Mike replied.

Mike and Roger spent the whole day talking to people and trying to find someone with any information. By six in the afternoon, they decided to call it a day and separated. It was a bit early for Mike, so he decided to pass-by a college friend’s house, which was about 3 blocks from where he lived in Miragold Subdivision in Pasay.

He was surprised when arriving at the place, a party was underway. One guy whom he barely knew was belting a Tom Jones tune on a karaoke machine. on another side, others where happily drinking and laughing.

“Bro, welcome. It is nice of you to pass by. I was trying to call you the whole day to invite you, but your fone seems to be out of coverage area.” His friend Ricky happily said while putting a hand on his shoulders and at the same time pulling him inside.

“Sorry Bro, I was on operation the whole day, it was quite hectic and I had no time to answer the fone. So what’s the occasion? Everybody seems to be having a good time.” Mike replied

“Bro, my beautiful cousin arrived from Singapore! Remember? I introduced her to you when she stayed here before she left. I think that was about 4 or 5 years ago.”

“You mean Sandra? Really? That super-duper beautiful cousin of yours? The same one that I had a really big crush on? Wow! Isn’t she the very aloof and distant one. I tried my best, but she simply was unreachable. I sure would love to see her.” Mike enthusiastically intoned.

“Yup, mom told me she was going through some hard times then. That’s why she wasn’t into guys then. But boy, you should see her today, if she was beautiful then, she is amazing now.”

“I am already excited, so where is she?” Mike asked.

“She’s still upstairs talking to Mom and Dad. She be down in a minute. While waiting let’s have a couple of bottles.”

“That’s the best idea I heard from you.”

Mike and Ricky found a quiet corner and started drinking.

“So Ricky, where did your cousin go?”

“From what I learned, she went all-over Asia, although she started in Hongkong. She first worked for a security company. Then when the company opened a branch in Singapore, she was asked to handle the office. From what I heard, her company is planning to open a branch here in the Philippines and she is doing the initial works.”

“Great! That’s something we really need here – investments. But you know what, I really didn’t understand a lot of things about her. She’s very gorgeous, yet she’s very much into sports. Karate, boxing and even rifle shooting mostly man-activities. I remember she asked me to bring her to a shooting range one time. I was then a rookie policeman, but she trumped me Bro. I was quite red-faced when my colleagues made fun of me being bested by a woman.” Mike recounted.

“Well, Uncle Lito is a successful businessman. He is constantly worried about her security being an only child, so he taught her all those. But, she was more into guns. It was always a fascination to her. In fact, I think at that time, Sandra had more and better guns than the police.”

“Yes, on that account you are right. She did have a better gun than I had, in fact, better than all the rest of guys in that gun range.” Mike replied.

They had a good laugh at that. While talking Sandra appeared, together with Ricky’s mom and dad. After getting re-acquainted, they started talking. All the while, Mike can’t take his eyes off Sandra, who in his eyes have not only exceeded his expectations. She in fact was one of the reasons why he never married, he was pining for her, ever since he saw her, five years ago.

It was a little late when Mike excused himself and went home.

 

MANILA CITY

Present day…

Sandra, was totally exhausted, yet was nowhere coming. So she got up and made a cup of coffee. Sitting on a rattan rocking chair, she reminisced the times when she lived here. Six months have passed since that thing happened to her. She kept it secret to everyone, even to her parents. She said she stayed with a friend all those days and there was no signal at the place where they went. Her father had already contacted the police in worry and had to apologize for the inconvenience.

She was grounded for a month. And she used that time to heal her wounds and read all the documents she got. She learned that the man was a member of the Russian mafia operating in the Philippines and had branches all over Southeast Asia. That whole month, she trolled the internet, gathered as much information, then for three months Sandra re-trained herself, made herself more proficient and more adept in the skills she already excelled.

She applied for work with one of the smaller branches of the organization, used her beauty and skills to get the job. A month after, she was accepted, thus from the province, she returned to Manila and stayed at Ricky’s, whose father was her mother’s brother.

She did remember Mike, who was then a bumbling rookie policeman, who just graduated from the police academy. She was in fact attracted Mike’s rugged yet manly physique. Had the incident not happened, she would probably have jumped into the arms of Mike. But she had bigger goals to attend to. She was focused on making sure that no other woman will fall victim to the mafia and making them pay.

In Hongkong, Sandra did her homework and became a diligent employee of the mafia. She used her wiles and charm to gain the trust of the boss and got to learn all the names of the members of the organization and all the syndicates that they operate.

Secretly, she sent help to all the victims and became the de-facto silent leader of all those being abused, not just by the Russian group, but also of the Japanese Yakusa, the Hongkong Triads, the 13K of Taiwan, the Golden Circle Gang Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Mobs that operate drug distribution, human trafficking, arms smuggling and all other illegal activities.

In Hongkong after she left the mafia, together with her small supporters, she started gathering names, places, and even operation details. Slowly, her group grew. With her access to the mob records, she began siphoning funds for her organization. Re-routing payments, ambushing ang hijacking millions of dollars of arms payment. She began eliminating the small lords, consolidating their holdings into her own organization – The Blue Syndicate, led by the Blue Orchid.

In just 2 years, her group rose from a mere operator into a major player. Gathering enough money, her group silently finance operations aimed at disrupting the operations of the big syndicates. She used the money they obtained to buy more guns and equipment. Her group was known to be ruthless, working in the shadows, leaving a trail of blood and dismembered bodies. Slowly the big syndicates became aware of them.

Sandra was careful, when she learns that a group is after her, she made moves to eliminate the group head and nobody seems to be beyond her group’s reach. Guarded houses raided, bombed or utterly destroyed. Drug shipments disrupted with the drugs magically appearing in police headquarters, or sold to rival gangs. She operated from Hongkong but her reach included Mainland China, Taiwan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Her nom de guerre became a by word, enough to evoke fear among the mobs. Mob and Gang lords have contracted hired killers to find and kill her. None even came near. Her followers who were captured choose death rather than reveal her name. In fact, they didn’t know her real name, nobody did, not even those closest to her and she always wear a veil when talking to her followers, often backlighted, so aside from her feminine form, her face was never revealed. Often when needed, she wore a mask, and address her followers in their native dialect.

The large syndicates knew that when one of them came up in her radar, life suddenly becomes hard for them. They will be exposed all over the internet. Their operation, cubbyholes, mistresses, and safe houses, even the food they eat were bared and often given to the police. If the police don’t act on the information, their families are harassed or kidnapped released only after a sizeable ransom is paid. And the coup de grace, their bodies are found either hang on power post, or floating at the bay. All with headshots, and in the pocket, a single blue orchid.

On the fourth year, her ruthlessness was already legend among all syndicate leaders and even gang lords and in the circles of petty mobs and gangs. Police protectors of these people were exposed or killed. Drug sources, routes, distribution centers, processing plants were being dismantled, either bombed or razed to the ground. Clubs and staging areas where young girls were kept were being constantly raided, girls freed, records show that some of them were given money to return home.

Her operations made a lot of money for her, lot of people happy, but it also created a lot of enemies. Her security became her primary concern. In her organization, traitors, who were discovered once and awhile, were dealt with swiftly, floating the dead body on Victoria Harbor, with a note and a blue orchid.

It was her last operation that almost exposed her. Her target was a Russian Arms dealer, who unfortunately before his death was able to tell his comrades that blue orchid was an Asian woman. She had information that this Russian was the brother of the man who molested her, she wanted to look at his face before he died. Instead of leaving, she went near.

She underestimated the tenacity of the man, who was as big as the man she killed 5 years ago. He was able to grab her and remove her mask. She stabbed him several times, but before she can kill him, his guards burst through the barred door, prompting her to leave immediately. Although the man died without giving any further information, she decided to leave her primary base in Hongkong to her second in command, also an abused woman, while she traveled to the Philippines to lay low. She also planned to start some clean-up jobs while working to re-establish her cover.

Her mind drifted back to Mike and she smiled. He’d become more matured but also more attractive. Maybe it was his youthful look and the aura of confidence, common with most policemen. Although he was already cute before, he was even cuter now. Best of all, he is still available.

Her thoughts began to wander. She imagined how it would be to be folded within Mike’s arms, those arms that seem to radiate with manly power, yet she knew that it can also embrace with tenderness. To be held by his hands, grips that can hold her and tell her that it can be as gentle as cotton, but as firm as the rock she stands on. His body, with bumps and bulges on the right places that even his clothes can’t hide. She wondered what it would be to spend a night with him. She hadn’t had a man since she was raped, simply because she never let anyone get that close, since that incident happened. Sandra drifted to sleep on the rocking chair, with her thoughts wondering what would happen if Mike would pursue her just as he did five years ago.

 

MIRAGOLD SUBDIVISION, PASAY CITY

Present day….

While Sandra’s day was beginning with her falling to sleep, Mike’s day began with a shrill alarm. At 5am, he was awakened with an all-points bulletin, of a group that robbed a bank. They were discovered by a janitor who was able to call the police before the robbers found him hiding in a closet and shot him. The robbers escape by commandeering a UV van, taking the driver and 2 of the passengers as hostage. Pursued by the police, they holed up in a dilapidated building in Pasay, near Mike’s place. So when the call came, Mike was among those who responded.

“Chief, SPO1 Mike Cartagena, OCB Crame, anything I can do to help.” Mike told the police captain who was giving commands and showing him his badge.

“Thank you for responding, I am Captain Magdalo, are you familiar with this place?”

“Yes sir, I practically grew in this place, I live a few blocks away. Why?” Mike asked.

“Good, Mike, that’s your name right?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Okay Mike, we have 5 bank robbers holed up in that building. We pursued them from Guadalupe in Makati, and they have 3 hostages. One is the driver of the UV van, and 2 students who were on their way to school.” The captain explained.

“Do you have a fix on their location captain?”

“So far, we know they are at the top floor, 2 are at the rooftop, on concealed positions. Based on their skills, these are sharpshooters, that’s why we can’t go near. Every time we do, they effectively drive us back. I have 2 wounded officers, behind those 2 cars. If we can’t neutralize those snipers, those men are going to bleed to death.” The captain pointed to the cars just ahead.

“Ok captain, I said I know this place. Pull out your men from where they are now and establish a perimeter here and here.” Mike pointing to a map.

“These are the only probable areas of egress. If we can block them, then we can contain the situation to this part. Meanwhile, do you have someone who can assist me?” Mike asked.

“The SWAT men are ready, but we don’t know how to enter the building without getting seen.” The captain said.

“I know a way captain, but a big group will not viable, at most 3 guys can go with me, trust me captain, this is the only way.” Mike insisted.

The captain motioned to some SWAT personnel who immediately came over.

“This is SPO1 Mike Cartagena, of OCB Crame, he grew up in this place and has a possible entry point for us.”

“Sir.” Mike said. “I know the owner of this bakery shop and in his basement there is a passage way which will bring us to the basement of the building. This is where we use to hide when playing hide and seek when I was younger. This used to be an access route, for the baker to deliver food to the building which was once a hotel. However, we cannot all go in, is a very small room and can only accommodate at most 4 people at a time. If you may, select 3 guys to come with me and we will try to take the robbers by surprise through this access. The rest can follow after us when we cleared the first floor.”

“Okay. That’s a good plan.” The SWAT leader said. “Macario… Reyes… Abino… You go with Cartagena. Tiago, Abdul and Lizardo, we will be Team Two. The rest you will be Team 3. Macario, give Cartagena a vest and a communication device. Cartagena, my call sign is Red Lead, you will be Red One. Let’s move…”

Mike quickly donned the vest. When everyone was ready, Mike gave the signal to advance.      Mike together with the 3 SWAT men entered the bakery behind the building where the robbers where holding court to the police. After talking to the owner, they entered the small room and crawled towards the basement of the building.

Reaching the other room, Mike slowly opened the closet door. They search as they spread over the first floor. When they cleared it, they signaled the second team to start moving. When the second team arrived, they signaled the third.

“Sir, tell your men to guard this floor. My team will go up to the second floor and check if we can eyeball the robbers.”

“Okay. Men, let’s spread and clear this floor. Move!”

Slowly Mike and the 3 others crawled towards the stairs leading to the second floor. They were almost at the top, when one of the robbers passed by. Mike removed his military knife, a gift from a friend. He signaled the others to stay put. Silently, he creeped until he was right at the back of the robber. He moved silently, clamped a hand on the mouth while he stabbed the robber… once… twice… thrice… The robber fell convulsed then died. Mike dragged him to a corner. One SWAT member came up to help him.

Mike then, silently move about looking for other robbers. Finding none on the floor, he signaled the others to follow him.

“Red Lead, Red One, 2nd floor cleared. Come via the north stairway, follow the east wall, avoid the southeast stairway. First room on the right will be our converging point…” Mike called to the SWAT leader on the communication device.

“Copy Red One, on our way.” Was the reply.

When the group was gathered on the room.

“Sir, this is where it gets dicey.” Mike said. “I have neutralized one. But up there, we still have 4 culprits. According to Captain Magdalo, there are at least 2 on the roof, that means we have 2 covering the hostages. We have no way of getting to the roof covertly from the outside and there are no other higher buildings on this place. Any approach on the roof will surely get the hostages killed. There are 2 stairways to the next floor, one at the north and the other on the southeast, near the fire hydrant. We have no information if these stairs are covered. It would best to assume that they are.”

“We can storm the third floor, but then we don’t know if the robbers have them in one place, or if they are held individually. Either way, we risk the lives of the hostages.” The SWAT leader replied.

“There is only one possible way sir. If you can communicate with your ground team to try a tactical approach on the west side, keep the robbers busy, I can try and access the roof, via this window. I noticed a few hand and foot holds that I can use. I am a professional mountaineer and I think I can manage. It just a 15 to 20-foot climb.” Mike suggested.

“Cartagena, are you sure you can do this?” The SWAT leader asked.

“Not 100 percent sir, but I believe I can do it.”

“Okay then, take a rope with you and secure it at the rooftop and let it down so I can send someone to back you up.”

“Copy that sir.”

“Okay people, Team 3, I want you to cover the stairs on the north side and Team 2 cover the Southeast side. Move slowly and silently so as not to alert the robbers. Go…”

The two teams slowly and silently made their way to their designated places. The SWAT leader gave instructions to his ground team and told them to begin their diversionary move upon his signal.

“Cartagena, get ready, as soon as the robbers start firing back, you may begin. Take no unnecessary chances. If it is not doable, don’t force it. Is that clear.”

“Copy Red Lead.” Mike replied and he slowly and silently eased himself out of the window.

Red Lead gave the signal, 4 SWAT men started moving towards the east side of the building while 2 others started peppering the roof edges. The snipers started replying with their own fire.

“Go Red One.” The SWAT captain commanded

“GONE…” Mike replied. He started his climb. Slowly he inched himself using every crack and exposed metal re-bar. Using his mountaineering skills, he eventually reached the top. He eased himself from the ledge, saw that the two robbers had their backs to him. He quietly secured the rope to a lead drain pipe, tested it, when he saw it held, he threw the other end over.

“Red Lead, Red One.”

“Go Red One…”

“I’m on top, two snipers located. Tell ground force to intensify fire. Send two men up. I have a plan.”

“Roger Red One, stay covert. Red Ground you heard Red One, keep firing…” The SWAT Captain ordered.

When the two men was re-united with Mike. He told them his plan and they positioned themselves.

“Red Lead, on my signal, we will take down the two snipers. Tell your men to continue on hitting the wall. Once we have taken them out, they will use the robber’s guns and keep firing at the ground. This will make the other culprits think that their men are still engaged. Then I will try to clear one of the stairways. Do you copy Red lead?” Mike directed.

“Read you load and clear Red One. Men, make it happen. Ready when you are Red One.”

“EXECUTE…” Mike commanded as he signaled the two men who shot the robbers. They then took over their guns and began firing. So fast was the takedown that to those listening, it only seemed like the robbers changed their magazine clips, before re-engaging.

After giving the signal, Mike crept to the nearest staircase, and slowly crawled his way downstairs, headfirst. Upon reaching the bottom he went left, found himself in a small room. He continued to creep towards the next door, where he saw one of the robbers guarding two hostages. He was about to slip in to take him down, when he heard a loud scream from the opposite door.

He turned towards, the door and slowly cracked it open. Through the slit, he saw one of the robbers ripping off the clothes of one of the student hostages. Mike slipped through the door and came behind the robber. With one swift stroke, using his knife, clamped the mouth of the robber while slitting his throat. Blood started to gash from the wound spilling unto the hostage who kept screaming.

Mike tried to calm her down, but she wouldn’t stop. Then suddenly a shot reverberated. Mike at first didn’t feel it, but his body went limp. He tried to raise his hands, but they won’t obey his brain. The robber on the other room was at the door, he came to check on the screaming and found Mike trying to pacify the hostage. His shot hit Mike at the back.  Smiling, he aimed again to deliver the killing blow, when the SWAT Captain appeared and shot the robber on the head killing him before he can make the shot.

The last image Mike saw was the face of Red Lead before everything went dark.

 

Manila General Hospital

Present day…

Sandra woke up to the noise that came from the living room. It seemed like a thousand people were speaking up all the same time. She rose and went to find out what was happening. She was just in time to see Mike being carried on a stretcher and loaded to an ambulance on TV.

“What is happening? What happened to Mike?” She asked.

“Mike was involved in the hostage rescue and he got shot.” Her uncle responded.

Sandra sat down while Ricky explained what happened based on the interviews and account that the police and SWAT Captain gave.

“Listen, to this Ate Sandra.” Ricky said.

“According to Captain Magdalo, Police Chief of the Southern Police District, SPO1 Miguel Cartagena was among the first to respond to the all-points bulletin announcement. He volunteered to help because of his first hand information and knowledge of the area. He led the SWAT Team through a basement access and cleared the building floor by floor. According to the SWAT Captain that we interviewed earlier, SPO1 Cartagena was the one who led and provided the operational direction which led to the successful rescue of all the hostages. Also we have information that SPO1 neutralized two of the robbers by himself. One of these robbers were about to rape one of the hostages, when SPO1 Cartagena killed him.”

Sandra did not hear the rest of the report, as she went to the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee. As she came back to the living room, she heard the tail end of the report.

“… As of now, SPO1 Cartagena is still listed as critical at the Manila General Hospital. That’s all for now, back to station.”

“Ricky… Why don’t you go to the hospital and visit Mike? Right now he needs someone to attend to him. His mom is in the province and he does not have any relative here.” Ricky’s father suggested.

“Right Dad, that’s a good idea. Let me prepare.” Ricky replied, then he looked at Sandra.

“Ate Sandra, why don’t you come. At least you will have the chance to go around and see the changes in Manila.”

“That’s right Sandra. It will be a better alternative compared to staying here. Besides, you will be surprised how fast Manila has changed since the last time you were here.” Ricky’s father added.

Sandra wanted to say no. But, she remembered that she also need to communicate with her Filipino contact and her organization. So she said yes and went to prepare.

They arrived at the hospital and found that it was crawling with police. Sandra felt a little uneasy. She knew that they are looking for her. All her instincts are telling her to run and get as far away as she can. On the other hand, she thought, it was the best place for her. They won’t be looking for her among policemen. It took sometime before the police were able to confirm the identity of Ricky. It was actually one of the colleagues of Mike, whom he brought to Ricky’s house during one occasion who vouched for them.

By mid-morning, Mike was still inside the operating room, so Ricky and Sandra decided to go and roam around the city. During that time Sandra found a way to connect with her contact and call her second in command in Hongkong. It was past 9pm when they returned home.

Ricky told his dad that they were not able to see Mike as he was still in the operating room. His dad informed him that Mike was already out of the operating room and is already at the Intensive Care Unit. He was still fighting for his life.

 

Sands Hotel Singapore

Present day…

The top leaders of the Russian Mob, Japanese Yakusa and the Chinese Triad were in a meeting in one of the rooms of Sands Hotel in Singapore.

“According to out Interpol informers, there are still no leads on the location of Blue Orchid. Are you sure that she has gone to the Philippines?” Asked Ivan, the leader of the Russian group.

“That is the information that we got and I believe it is highly reliable. We captured one of her men and before he died, he blurted out that she is leaving for Manila.” Replied Yojiro, the head of the Yakusa.

“Aside from this, do we have any other information? Is there a way to confirm this information? Is there a way to know for sure? Asked Hzang, the head of the Chinese Triad.

“If she is indeed in the Philippines, so why are we still losing men and shipments? Just night, two of my most trusted guys were killed. Snipers, right on the head, 5.56 grain that’s her signature isn’t it?” The Yakusa leader declared.

“Right, the other day we lost a shipload of girls coming from Indonesia. It’s the third ship intercepted this month alone!” The Russian mob boss declared.

“If you think that’s bad, one of our warehouses where we keep our guns and bullets for shipment to the Afghanistan, worth 500 million dollars was burned down. Someone doused the whole place with gasoline. It was impossible to save anything.” The statement came from the leader of the Triad.

“Our main problem is not what we have already lost. While it is affecting our incomes, the main issue is we are fast losing people we can trust. Our new recruits are too dangerous to trust. Also, some of our customers are already distancing themselves from our operation.” The Russian leader said,

“Above all, we do not know who our enemy really is. All we know it is an Asian woman. We have already spent so much, even hired killers and offered large rewards for any information. But to date, we are still facing a blank wall. Either this woman is very, very good, or our men are simply a bunch of idiots.” The Yakusa said.

“We have to intensify our efforts to find out who this woman is. I have already alerted all our men, informers and even our police contacts all over Southeast Asia. Even the Fung Hai, head of Interpol, who is on our payroll, is already helping us.” The Triad leader stated.

“I heard Mr. Fung went to the Philippines to brief their police. Is this true?” Asked the Yakusa man.

“Yes, I actually suggested that to him.” Replied the Triad man.

“I have also alerted our group in the Philippines. The group that my late brother, Igor, have mobilized every available man they have to scratch every inch of Manila. If she is there, she will eventually pop-up somewhere.” The Russian leader informed the group.

“By the way Ivan, how’s the case of Igor, you already found the person who killed him?” asked the Yakusa leader.

“Yes, our best suspect was a rival gang who wanted in on his trafficking operations. We have long eliminated him and all his men. Unluckily that was our only lead, especially that all evidences were burned when his lamp shorted and started a fire. Apparently my brother fought hard, and given his size, we thought at least 3 people killed him.” The Russian replied.

“So much of that, we need to be very careful. Limit our operations to secured and sure deals only. Until we have more information from whatever sources, we have to assume that Blue Orchid is still here in Hongkong. We must continue to keep a low profile and move in small circles until this woman is neutralized. Mind you we don’t even know her nationality so be careful with meeting with new clients.” The Russian continued.

“Our strongest hunch is she’s a Chinese. What we don’t understand is why she is hell bent in hitting us. Most of our experts even postulated that she maybe a government agent. Yet, all our contacts tell us they don’t have any operation against us, overt or covert, plus they will inform us of every operation they do.” The triad leader insisted.

“Well again, we just have to be extra careful.”

 

Manila General Hospital

Present day…

4A week has passed since Mike was shot. He is still confined in a guarded room at the Manila General Hospital. During those times, Sandra has visited Mike 4 times. 3 together with Ricky and once by herself. Today was the second time she did it alone. She arrived at his room and found a few police officials and press people gathered around him. One official was pinning a medal on his chest and congratulating him. She silently went to a corner, away from all the cameras and watched the proceedings.

“SPO1 Miguel Cartagena, pursuant to General Orders, 2016-0706, issued at Camp Crame, Quezon City, you are hereby awarded a spot promotion to Senior Inspector and entitled to all benefits attached and inherent to said position, effective immediately. Congratulations Senior Inspector Cartagena.” The police general stepped back after his declaration.

“Senior Inspector Cartagena, upon orders of the Commander-in-Chief, of the Republic of the Philippines, the reward money, amounting to One Million Pesos for the capture, dead or alive, of Arturo Cai and his gang, considered enemy number one, for crimes of robbery, murder, drug and human trafficking, is hereby awarded to you. Order dated today, subject to standard government auditing and accounting rules. Congratulations Senior Inspector.” Declared another officer.

After all the awarding and the flashes of cameras, the officials filed out of his room together with all the news reporters. Until only the SWAT Captain was left. He approached Mike and held his hands.

“Mike, I am here not to present any awards, but upon the agreement of the SWAT Team. I am proud to give you this SWAT Badge, as an honorary member of the SWAT. Me and my team will always be proud to have worked with you and welcome you anytime should you decide to join us.”

“Thank you, sir, please tell everyone I am as equally proud of them. It was a rare honor to work with them.” Mike replied.

After a few more exchanges of words and get well soon, the SWAT Captain left, leaving Mike, a nurse and an orderly who adjusted his bed and IV drip. Sandra approached Mike who was beaming.

“Congratulations Senior Inspector.” Sandra blurted.

“Thank you. Sorry about this. I never thought this would happen. I just wanted to help.”

“It’s okay, I believe you deserve it. Not all policemen are willing to rush into a firefight like you did. It is just proper that you get all those accolades and medals. Which brings me to a question that is nagging me. Why did you do it?”

“Contrary to what was said on the news, I did not do it for medals or promotion. Like everyone else, I am also afraid to die. When I responded it was because I was near the place. This is standard for us policemen. However, when I was there, I learned that there were hostages. You know my life story. My sister was killed when she was taken hostage by criminals. She was then 12 years old and was shopping with my mom when those SOBs entered the mall while being pursued by the police. This incident was one of the reasons why I decided to be a policeman.”

“Yes, you told me that story when we first met. Inspite of everything, I am happy for you Mike. So on to more positive things. You just earned a cool million bucks. What are you planning with it?” she asked Mike.

“Well, I have to share it with the SWAT guys, the rest, I do have some earned leaves, plus the 30-day convalescent leave for getting wounded on duty. I plan to go someplace and rest. I still have no idea where to go. I was hoping you can suggest a place, where we can go and relax.” Mike said with a wink.

“Senior Inspector!” Sandra feigning surprise.

“Why? I was just joking, just in case.” Mike said with a mischievous smile.

“Let me think about it, Mike, I still have somethings to do and finish, Also, I am not sure if I can stay longer. I may need to leave earlier than planned.” She replied.

“Well it was just wishful thinking. I actually planned to invite you and Ricky’s family to one of the resorts, before you leave, until all these happened. You just think about it. You can even pick the place.”

“Thank you Mike, I will do that. By the way I brought some fruits and juices for you. Ricky will be coming along soon to take over.”

Mike suddenly held her hands.

“Sandra, I really appreciate all these that you are doing for me. I do not know how to repay you. And if I knew that you would be my beautiful nurse, I will want to be wounded every day.”

“Mike, I…” Sandra was lost for words at that moment. All she felt was the warm hands of Mike on hers and the fast beating of her heart.

“AHEMMM.” Ricky intoned, startling the two. Mike immediately took his hands off while Sandra turned to the fruit table to hide her blushing face.

“Ricky! How long have you been there?” Mike asked.

“Not long enough. Just in time to hear about a vacation to a resort.

“Ha…ha…ha… you remember that we have been planning about that for some time. I think we can use my situation as a very good excuse.”

“Yah right, and Ate Sandra would be our guest of honor.”

“You boys are so full of it… Mike needs a vacation and some rest, not some foolish male chauvinistic and evil thoughts that you guys have in your heads.” Smiling as she replied.

“Well, he can always do both. Rest and be your escort.” Ricky jokingly replied while giving Mike a surreptitious wink.

“Mike, don’t you listen to this cousin of mine. He’s long been trying to find a guy for me. Even when we are talking online.”

“Ate, you’re what 29 years old. Don’t you think it’s time you find someone to be your lifetime partner. You have already saved enough that if you wanted, you could sit down and not worry about anything. Besides, Mike here has been asking about you since the time you left. He’s kind, loving and though not much of a looker, he is at least kind.” A laughing Ricky retorted.

“Ricky, you…” Mike threw a pillow at Ricky who playfully caught it midair. He immediately regretted it as a pain went through his sides.

“See!” Sandra noticing the all too familiar grimace, since she had gone through it. “Enough you boys. And Ricky, Mike is not even interested in me, he may have someone else in mind. Remember, policemen have girls all over the place.”

“NO, that I can vouch. Mike is the utmost gentleman and as far as I know, he never had somebody special for as long as I knew him. More than that, I think you will make a good pair. I can only imagine how beautiful or handsome my nephews would be.”

“Okay… Okay… Whatever.” Sandra gesturing surrender. She looked at her watch.

“Ricky, Mike… I need to go, I have to call my office in Singapore and send some supplies to them. I’ll see you both later.” She took her bag and jacket and prepared to leave.

“Okay, just think about what I offered. I am not joking, will you?” Mike hurriedly said.

“Yes, I will, but don’t expect too much. As I said, I may have to leave soon.” With that Sandra left the two.

 

Malate, Manila

A few hours after…

In a quiet neighborhood in Malate, Sandra was talking with her Filipino contact. She is talking with her 2nd in command over skype, who gave her an update of their operations. She was confident using the system designed by someone who assured her that it is untraceable.

They were using a server, with a system that bounce their signals all over the world. Tonight, any one tracing the call would see that it was a caller from Arizona, talking to someone in Greece.

“Madam, while you were gone, we have followed your instructions to keep hitting the syndicates. We are keeping close to your operating guidelines to make it appear as if you are still here.” Her assistant reported.

“Good, Blue One. What about our operation in Dhaka? I heard some bad news over there.” Sandra asked.

“Madam, our information on that is still limited. I sent Blue Four to supervise it. He has not yet reported and it has been 2 days. If something bad did happen, and he was captured. He does not have the information on your current location. I am not 100 percent sure though. He might have heard some rumors.”

“Continue to monitor this. I want to be updated 24/7. Also prepare a compensation package, should the worse come to bear. Make sure that the widow is well taken cared off and the children’s education continued. Is there anything else?” She asked.

“So far everything is fine. In two days, we will be operating on that arms manufacturing plant that we discovered in the suburbs of Guangzhou City, and the gambling den at Shienzhu Prefecture near Nagasaki.” Blue One reported.

“That’s nice. Tell everyone to be careful, no unnecessary risks and always assure them that we will take care of their families if something happens to them.” And then Sandra terminated the connection.

Sandra came out of the sterile room and went out to the living room. The place was a 15-storey commercial building she owns. One she had constructed through several intermediaries and untraceable to her, 2 years ago. It is a condominium, open to everyone with the whole top 2 floors and an underground basement all to herself. She installed a secret independent high-speed non-stop elevator complete with access codes and guarded 24/7 by her own selected people. All access only known to her.

To anyone, the last two floors appeared to be offices of the building management, and units owned by the owners of the building. The rooftop even has a heliport, as was one of the common features for high end condominiums. Sandra owns half of both the 14th and 15th floor. It is solidly constructed with metal plates between concrete walls and flooring, anti-electronic signal wired, ensuring no signals entering or leaving from the rooms. Windows were constructed with ½ inched polymer that can stop a sniper’s bullet. Her place that can only be accessed from a secret door in one of the plush units owned by the building manager, who was her Filipino contact, or via the secret elevator. Both access only she had the codes.

Maning, her Filipino contact approached her with a glass of juice, placed it on the table and sat down. Maning is one those who knew her real name, and the aliases she used for the building construction. He was with him since the beginning and was one of those she rescued in China 4 years back. She discovered Maning’s administrative skills early on and made him her personal aide in many of her activities. Maning was to her as Alfred Pennyworth was to Batman.

“Madam, I know you want to stay with some people to maintain cover, But, aren’t you safer here where you guards can protect you?”

“Maning, you may be right, but, right now I need more distraction rather than protection. Staying here, people may see me and will start doubting and asking questions. Whereas, where I am right now, nobody would even suspect me.” Sandra replied.

“Madam, we have information that the syndicates have activated their men here in Manila. May I suggest that you move to one of our resorts in Laiya, Batangas. There at least if something comes up here, you will have ample time to escape and have more access to various transportations.”

Sandra found herself thinking. Maning’s idea actually coincided with the proposal of Mike. It was a novel idea, indeed going on a vacation with Mike and Ricky’s family is the perfect cover she needs.

“Okay Maning, reserve the suite at the resort for me. Have my bags and other things brought there today. Also reserve 5 Executive rooms, in the name of Susan Vicencio. Also instruct all our men in the area to be careful, everyone must pretend that I am just an ordinary guests and not the owner. I will be bringing along some people, who must never know who I am.”

“Yes Madam, will you be using our chopper, if not I will use it to transport your things.”

“No, have someone to prepare a commuter mini-bus, to be driven by one of our trusted guys, make it appear like I rented it.”

“Very well Madam, is there anything else you will need?”

“No, I just want everyone to be prepared. Keep all our transportation ready at all times, just in case I need to leave immediately.”

“Yes Madam.” Maning replied.

Sandra, finished her juice and took the elevator to the basement, and exited where a local taxi was waiting for her.

 

Manila General Hospital

Present day…

“Okay Mike, seems like my schedule suddenly opened up. You boys will have your wish of a vacation.”

“You mean?”

“Yes, I am accepting your invitation to have a vacation.” Sandra said. “Provided…”

“Provided what?” Mike eagerly asked.

“Provided, I select the place to go and the place to stay and…”

“And… I pay for me and Ricky’s family.”

“But…”

“No, no buts. Either you allow me to pay, or I don’t go at all.” Sandra insisted. “Oh I know you have the money saved and all that reward, but I did work hard for five years. So I deserve to enjoy my money.”

“I know you do, Sandra, but I intend to bring my mom and the whole of Ricky’s clan. That will be a big burden for you. However, if you insist, can we meet halfway. Whatever the bill, we split it, half and half, deal?”

Sandra, pretended to think. “Hmm… Well okay, deal!”

“Okay, so where do you plan to go?” Mike asked.

“While I was in Singapore, one of my boss told me that there’s this place in Laiya, Batangas called Blue Lagoon. He told me it was gorgeous and perfect for people who wanted peace and quiet and for people who want to take it easy. He showed me some pictures and I fell entranced with the place. Since then, I really wanted to go there.”

“Well, what are we waiting for? I have Ricky make the reservations and arrange for transportation.” Mike enthusiastically stated.

“Nope, nope. My condition is I make the selection and everything. Our agreement is we split the bill. So you just relax, and let me and Ricky do everything. By the way, when can you be discharged?” Sandra asked.

“According to the doctor, they need me to wait until my sutures dry up before I can move. That would be about a week from now.”

“Perfect. I will have enough time to shop for beach clothes and other items and inform my office in Singapore. You rest for now, I will talk with my uncle and Ricky for the preparations.”

“Okay Sandra, thank you very much for accepting my invitation.”

“No, you don’t have to thank me. I also want this one for myself. Besides, with your condition, you needed a change in environment, and any mischief you and Ricky are planning will not happen.” Sandra playfully replied.

With that she smiled and left. Mike smiled back and settled back to sleep.

 

Sands Hotel, Singapore

Present day…

The leader of the Chinese Triad called for an emergency meeting.

“Have any of you read the Filipino newspaper?” He asked the group.

“No, we did not. Why what happened?” the Yakusa head asked.

“My uncle was killed by a fucking policeman. Apparently they botched one of the jobs I wanted them to do and was on a hostage stand-off. The fucker came and intervened which led to his death.”

“Why was your uncle involved in such a petty job?” the Russian leader asked.

“This was based on that information we got, that this bank had secret transactions that can lead us to the identity of Blue Orchid. I asked my uncle to personally handle this matter as I don’t want to alarm our target. Our target was the bank’s server, in the guise of a bank robbery.” The triad leader explained.

“Did they get the information?”

“Yes, and he would have transmitted it to me, if not for that fucking policeman. The police were able to recover everything and the server hard drive was totally destroyed. Now we will have a hard time getting it from the bank because they will now be more cautious.”

“What do you have in mind now?” The Yakusa leader asked.

“I am going to the Philippines. I will take care of him personally. That fucker need to be taught a lesson he will not forget.”

“Should you need more men, just call me, I will have my most trusted people ready.” The Russian mob leader promised.

“Same here.” Said the Malaysian leader of the 13K syndicate.

“So are we.” Added the Yakusa leader.

“I am not sure if I will need that many people. You know it is easy to do this in the Philippines. There are so many policemen that we can pay. In fact, if I can find one, I will have him do it. Anyway thank you gentlemen. If the need arises, I may take you up on your promises.”

“Very well, it is settled. The organization will be behind your back on this. Not just on personnel, but also in anything that you will need.” The Russian promised.

 

MIRAGOLD SUBDIVISION, PASAY CITY

Two weeks later…

“Come on people, the bus is here, let’s load up. The beach is waiting for me already.” Ricky excitedly exclaimed. “Ate Sandra, where are your bags so I can have them loaded?”

“Relax Ricky, we will get there and stay there for a whole week, we don’t have to hurry.” Sandra replied.

“Sandra, I don’t know how to thank you for arranging everything. I’m glad you took time-off from your job just to do this.” Mike’s mom said hugging Sandra in the process.

“Ate, we are really very lucky, would you believe, Sandra took care of everything. My good for nothing son, didn’t even help. Now he’s the one who’s very excited.” Ricky’s father added.

“Sandra, my only regret is that your dad can’t make it with us. I really would love to meet him.” Mike’s mother said.

“It’s ok Auntie, there will some other time.” Sandra replied.

“Okay, we have loaded everything. All those going to the beach, either come now or be left here.” Ricky bellowed.

Everybody piled into the bus, while Mike was hoisted together with his wheelchair.

*-*-*

While everybody was having the time of their lives. A silver Toyota Altis that was parked a block away was closely monitoring everything and reporting to the Triad Head.

“Sir, Cartagena, his girlfriend and family are now leaving. It looks like they are going on a vacation. What are your instructions sir?” the spotter reporting.

“Follow them, if there is a chance to take him out, do it.”

“What about the other members of the family?”

“I don’t care. Just do what I say.”

“Copy that sir.”

The car started following the bus, whose occupants were completely unaware of the danger.

*-*-*

Sandra felt her cellular fone ring. She took it from her bag and looked at the message.

“Please call mother.” That was text message. A code that says she is in danger and must contact Maning immediately.

Sandra smiled and told the mother of Mike who was sitting beside her that she needs to call someone. She stood up and went to the back portion of the bus and made her call. After two rings Maning answered.

“Madam, we have just confirmed that the men from the Chinese Triad are following you. It’s a silver Toyota Altis about 100 meters back. We have already alerted your driver and the chopper is already on its way to pick you up if necessary. What are your instructions?”

Sandra felt like her heart leaped to her throat. A sudden chill went through her body. She saw Mike looking at her – a concerned look. She forced herself to smile and wave.

“Madam, are you still there?” Maning asked.

“I’m here Maning. Is there someone monitoring this car?”

“Yes, Madam, Team 3 is behind them.”

“Instruct Team 3 to take them out, but make it look like an accident. Is this the only car following us?”

“We are not yet very sure. Madam, if I may suggest, I have called our police friends. Take the Calamba Exit, and stop at the Rose Restaurant. Our police friends will detain them at the toll gate and then Team 3 will take over from the police. This way we may be able to extract information and determine whether it is necessary for you to leave the country.” Maning suggested.

“That’s a good idea Maning. Do that and inform me immediately.”

“Yes Madam.” with that Sandra ended the call and returned to her seat.

Mike motioned to her and she approached him.

“Is there any problem?” Mike asked.

“No, it’s just a conflict in schedules with the office. So I made clear that I am on leave and can’t be there.” Sandra explained.

“Are you sure? I thought I saw your face go white earlier. I thought it was something bad.”

“No really, it’s just office work. I told my secretary to call me back when she has settled everything. You don’t have to worry. By the way, I feel a little hungry, I just had coffee this morning. Are you hungry?”

“I am okay, but if you want we can stop somewhere and eat.” Mike answered.

“Yes, I heard of this Rose Restaurant that’s famous for its spicy “bulalo”. Can we pass by there and have a go at it?”

“Sure. Let’s ask Ricky to instruct the driver.”

“Ricky!” Mike called. When Ricky joined them mike told him of the new plan.

“That’s an excellent idea, I am also hungry, all these fresh air is making me voracious.” Ricky replied.

“I think our best route would be to take the Calamba exit. That’s according to the guidebook that I read.” Sandra suggested.

“Don’t worry, I’ll talk to the driver.” With that Ricky went and told the driver, who already receive instructions from Maning. The driver gave the okay sign which also signaled to Sandra that he already got his instructions from Maning.

About 30 minutes, the bus was turning right and taking the Calamba Exit. The car slowed down, while the triad spotter reported the route change to the triad head.

“Sir, they are now turning and taking the Calamba exit. We are still on their tail and plan to take them, at the junction before they enter the CAVITEX.” Said the spotter.

“Okay, just keep me informed when it is finished. You know where to hole up after, do you?”

“Yes sir.”

The proceeded to follow the bus. When the car exited the toll station, they suddenly found themselves stopped by 2 police cars, and a private car that boxed them front, back and side. Even if they tried to fight they found themselves surrounded and were forced to surrender. Upon inspection, the police found their guns and confiscated all their fone and communication devices.

The triad men were handcuffed and loaded to the police mobile and brought to a secluded place, where after an hour of torture, one revealed the reason why they were following the car. The triad men were dispatched and left at the roadside, positioned in such way to appear that they were robbed, while the leader of Team 3 gave a full report to Maning.

Sandra’s fone rang and she again excuse herself and took the call from Maning.

“Madam, the triad men, are following Senior Inspector Cartagena, and not you. You are in fact known to them as his girlfriend.”

“So why were they following him?”

“Apparently, the leader of the group, Antonio Cai that Inspector Cartagena killed is the brother of the Mr. Steven Cai, the triad head that we have been looking for. They want to have their revenge and kill everyone in that bus.

Also, they have been reporting to Mr. Cai your whereabouts, although they do not have any information about your destination. They did tell us that there are no other cars, and that unless they report to Mr. Cai – 3 hours from now, a major operation will be launched to find Inspector Cartagena.” Maning reported.

“Thank you for the information Maning. Hold on, I will call you later. I just need to confirm something.”

Sandra ended the call and lazily sauntered to where Mike was seated.

“That was the office, according to my secretary, everything has been settled and that my schedule is cleared for two weeks.” Sandra happily informed Mike.

“That’s good news. At least for the next two weeks, I will be able to stay beside you.” Mike joking jibed.

“Yup. I would also like that. Although I really wished that nobody can trace us and disturb you, because you really need to rest and heal. At least my office won’t be disturbing us anymore. I don’t know about yours.” Sandra asked Mike.

“Well, I am officially on leave. I filed that two days ago and asked Ricky to submit it to the office. Although they don’t require it, but I had to inform them of our plans, as it is required. But generally, they leave us alone.”

“Well, I hoped they won’t bother us. I have big plans for you Mister, and wounded or not, you will have to participate. This is the first time I had a time-off from work, and I will not let a small wound stop me from enjoying it.”

“Small wound? Who’s calling this a small wound?” Mike replied with a feigned hurt feeling.

“Tush. Tush… it’s just a small wound and you are just such a cry baby.” Sandra replied playfully. She then stood up, and went to Ricky with whom she had a few laughs. She also came to Ricky’s sister Anna and her baby and started playing with the baby. After a while, she returned to the back and called Maning.

“Yes Madam.” Maning answered after the first ring.

“Maning, apparently the inspector file a vacation leave from office and has indicated where he is going. We’ll assume that the triad have this information. I want you to double the guards at the resort and have 3 teams on the perimeter. Let’s control the situation from our side. Besides, by changing plans now, the triad will surely doubt that we had something to do about his men.”

“Madam, Team 3 have made it appear that these guys were robbed.”

“I know Maning, but I know how paranoid Mr. Steven Cai is. Even if it will look like his guys were robbed and killed, changing Mike’s schedule will signal him that something bigger than Mike is in-charge. This is actually a good chance to get him while he is here. Let’s do it without endangering the organization or anyone else. If he joins the team to take out Mike at the resort, I want you to make preparations that if this happens, the police will take credit.”

“Yes Madam. I will have our people prepared and everything set just as you instructed. By the way, all the items you requested are already at the resort. Please be careful Madam.”

“I will Maning. Just remind our staff that they should not make any move to reveal me as the owner. That is vital to this trip.”

“I will Madam.”

Sandra ended the call and saw that Mike was asleep. She came over, added a few pillows to make him more comfortable, while she also prepared a place for her to rest.

 

Blue Lagoon, Laiya Batangas

Six hours later…

“This is what I call a vacation.” Ricky spreading his arms as if to embrace the room. “Perfect… Plus look at that view!” he went to the window that gave them a picturesque view of the ocean. “Ahhh, I can stay here forever.”

“Ricky, before you do that, you have to sort out all the bags so the porters can deliver them to our rooms. And for the first time you are right, this place is gorgeous.” His father told him.

“Okay, so we are at room 303. Ate Sandra is in room 307. Mike is in room 305, his mother auntie Thelma is at 306 and Anna and her husband in 304. Got it.”

Off went Ricky to arrange all the luggage and inform every one of their room assignments. Mike and Sandra were at the lobby, finishing up their registration and payments. With that done. The manager approached them.

“Sir, Madam, I am Frank, the manager of the resort, welcome to Blue Lagoon. We hope you will enjoy your stay. Inspector Cartagena, we saw your heroism on TV and let me be the first to tell you that when I and the staff heard that you will staying here, we felt very honored. We understand that you have just been released from the hospital, so we made sure that we have a certified doctor, who is on call, should you need it.”

“Thank you very much Manager Frank, I appreciate all your preparations for me. And please tell the staff, I just did my duty. I am no hero. In another time, I may have run away.” Mike told the manager.

“Anyway sir, madam, you have complimentary welcome drinks that you may take at the bar, patio, poolside or even at the beach. Please tell your personal valets, Karen for the madam and Drigo for you, sir, where you prefer to take them. Your valet will be at your call you at all times. Should you need them, just ring the bell or press the buzzer and they will be there to attend to you. Dinners are from 7 to 11 in the evening, breakfast, from 6 to 10 in the morning. We also have a 24-hours bar and kitchen where you may order anything you like. Is there anything else you need? Or if you have any questions, I will be very happy to answer them as best I can.”

Mike looked at Sandra as if asking if she had any.

“Manager Frank, thank you for the welcome, and if we find ourselves needing your services, for anything, can we count on you?” Sandra asked the manager.

“Madam, I stay in the resort, and I will be very happy to respond to whatever you will need me for.”

“Good, that’s all for now.” Sandra said.

The manager then crisply left, and along the way gave instruction to the valets.

“Sandra, it’s too early to go to the rooms, would you mind taking a walk with me. I mean you walking while I ride my wheelchair.” Mike blurted a bit embarrassed.

“Sure, I really wanted to go to the beach, sit on one of those chairs and enjoy the evening breeze.” She replied.

Together they went to the beach, Drigo, Mike’s valet pushing Mike’s wheelchair until they found an empty table. Karen, Sandra’s valet came with their welcome drink, which was a pared coconut, with a straw and a cute umbrella going with it.

“Sandra, thank you, you pick the best place, I could not have done any better. This place is paradise. Although, I know this could be very costly. Are you sure you still want to split the bill?”

“Mike, forget about the bills okay? That’s a matter for later. Today, let’s just enjoy.”

“If only I can, I wish to stay here and never leave. But on my salary? A vacation is all I can have.”

“Mike is it true that policemen’s salaries here in the Philippines are so low that they can be easily tempted or bribed by the rich people?

“Sad, but true. I told you before you left 5 years ago, I was then a PO2, and I was receiving only 14 thousand pesos per month. It was not even enough for my needs, how much more for a family man with 2 kids. That is why, even if I wanted to, I can’t really afford to take vacations, especially in places like this. If not for the prize money, I would not come here.”

“So why don’t you look for a better paying job? I mean you can if you want to, can you? Besides, it would be much less dangerous. I know every day that you are out on the field, you risk your life, for people you don’t even know and the pay is not even commensurate to the efforts you give.”

“Sandra, being a policeman is not about the salary, or the uniform. It is not the honor or being one, nor about saving people. It is about being able to serve. Making people feel safe at night before they go to sleep. Ensuring a peaceful place, where other people, including us, can weave our dreams without fear, that someone will steal or grab that future.”

“Wow, I didn’t know that you are that committed to your job.”

“Anyway, Sandra, if you don’t mind, why haven’t you found that someone special in your life. You are beautiful, sexy, talented and a successful woman. I can’t believe that all the men around you are all blind so as not to see you for what you are.”

Sandra, look at the waves and the crimson colored clouds in the horizon, she didn’t know how to answer the question.

“Mike, it is a long story which I don’t want to open up for now. Suffice it to say, that I have not yet met the man that I know will understand me, or accept me for who I am. Yes, you may say I am a woman who men will vie for and even fight for. But, that’s all on the outside. There is another person inside me, that wants to get out, be heard and be free. And it is that person who I want my future partner to accept and love. Not this face, not this image that you see now.”

“Sandra, I will not pretend to know you, for really I don’t. I will not pretend to understand you, for I know I never will, unless you make me understand. I probably will not be the kind of man who you would want to be your partner. But one thing I can promise. I can always be your friend.”

“Thank you Mike. Ever since I met you, I know in my heart that you are a good man, and if things were not as they are, I may have fallen for you. You are not hard to be with. I like your honesty and humor. I like the way to do your best to make me smile then and even now. Mostly, I like the way you allow me to be myself and never pressing me, like the others do. I would really love to be your friend.”

“Sandra, I am hoping that one day, we, you and me, may be able to move forward to be more than friends. But for now, I am happy that you accepted my friendship.”

“So do I Mike, so do I.”

At that point, Drigo and Karen came over and informed them that the whole gang is already at the lobby and ready to have dinner. Drigo came over and pushed Mike’s wheelchair, while Sandra walked with him. Mike reached for Sandra’s hand and held it all the way. Sandra smiled and responded by entwining her fingers with Mike’s.

 

Manila Intercontinental Hotel 

9:00 in the evening of the same day…

“How did this happen? How can they just be killed and presumed to be robbed? Do you want me to believe that the men we sent, were killed for nothing? How can they just be targeted? How did people know that they have guns? All these just doesn’t compute. It’s not logical.” The triad leader was shouting at his men.

“Sir, they were on a road where people very rarely go to. Even the locals evade the place because of its notoriety as killing fields. What we don’t know is that why they passed that way when there is a much better road, better paved. In fact, the road they are on is not even a shortcut, and it only leads to a remote mountain village not even worth going to.” A triad member explained.

“Further sir, if Mike were going on a vacation, and by all indication they are going to the beach, they would not have turned at the Calamba Exchange. Unless they went there to have something to eat. According to our source, they did indeed eat at a famous restaurant. I cannot find anything out of the ordinary in their route of choice. Except that from that restaurant, we don’t have any information as to where they went.” Another member surmised.

“Sir, could it be that the police are monitoring them and discovered our men. We heard rumors that our men were stopped by the police when they exited the toll gate. We were not able to confirm this, but it is worth looking into.” One of the members asked.

“Okay. What we need to prioritize is knowing where that fucking policeman is now. Call all our contacts, check every beach resort and vacation places along the direction the took. Second. I want you to follow-up that information, if the police really have picked our men. I want everybody on this. As soon as any of you have any verified information, call me immediately. Understood?”

“Understood sir.”

The group the dispersed and filed out the door. One the trusted men of the triad leader approached him and whispered.

“Sir, if indeed the police picked our guys, then it means they are on to you. This makes the situation problematic. If I may suggest, let’s leave this to our boys and manage this from somewhere. We can’t have you caught by them, it will jeopardize our entire Southeast Asian operations.”

“I know. I want you to check with our police contacts. See what they know about me and our operations. If it becomes hot. Then have everything prepared for a fast exit.” The leader replied.

“Yes sir.”

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

Same time, same day…

Sandra had just finished calling Blue One over the secured internet connection. She had almost the same security at the resort as she had at her building. From the secure room, she went into her private conference room. Waiting at the table were 5 persons, 4 males and 1 female. Sandra took her seat.

“Frank, thank you for that very professional welcome. I liked that. If we can make that a standard greeting for all our guests, we can make them more comfortable right from the beginning of their stay.”

“Yes, madam, we will do that.”

“Maning, how are our preparations?”

“Madam, everything is ready. Your chopper is fueled and ready to depart in 5 minutes. Our pilots are staying next to the chopper. The flight plan is already prepared and your destinations confirmed. Tickets were already purchased, open dated. You will leave via Davao direct to Singapore, connecting to Frankfurt, and then Vienna.” Maning answered.

“Good, about the group of Mike?” She looked at Lito, a military looking man, at the other end of the table.

“Madam, the moment you exfil, they will be brought to the beach where they will be loaded to a fast craft and brought to Batangas port, from there the bus will bring them home. On our ground security, we have 3 7-man teams, one covering the beach, one covering the entrance and the last covering the perimeter.” Lito replied.

“What about our personnel?” Sandra asked.

“They have been briefed Madam. For the duration of your stay, we have given non-essential staff, those not part of the organization, paid leaves. All that are left are members of BLUE. Many of them, are those that we have rescued from the syndicates and their families. They all know what to do if something happens.” Maning replied to Sandra’s query.

“Good work everyone! For now, everyone takes it easy. Tell everyone to sleep and relax. If the triad moves, they won’t make it now or in the next 2 days. I believe they will get a bead on our location by not later than tomorrow night. It will take them another 24 hours to mobilize. Its Saturday today, expect them to be around latest by Monday afternoon.

If this China, they won’t wait for nighttime. Here they will have to, because they are not familiar with the terrain. So let’s rest tonight, enjoy tomorrow and prepare for Monday.” Sandra instructed everyone.

“You may go and rest now. Maning and Lito you two stay for a while.”

The rest of the group left.

“Lito, I want you to supervise the shooting practice tomorrow. Let some of our men join us in a sort of contest, so it will not appear as if we are preparing for something. Remember Mike is a policeman. He will sense it if we are role playing. Make it appear natural.”

“Maning, I need you to supervise Frank, I know he is not used to this. He will need someone with a steady hand. You are the best person for that role. However, if possible, the least exposure to do, the better. I can afford to lose Frank or anybody else, but not you. Your survival is the primary concern.”

Sandra turned to lito.

“Lito, you have the ensure that though all these, Maning MUST survive. I am not the most important person in the organization. He is! I am inconsequential, I can be replaced anytime, but Maning is the heart and soul of our group. This is the reason why we are strong, because its survival is not dependent on the head alone. So given a choice between me and him, always pick him. Do you understand me Lito?”

“Yes Madam. Crystal.”

“Madam, Thank you for your faith in me, as important as I am, I will be crippled without your guidance. So, can we just leave things as it is and act only if things come that point.” Maning told his boss.

“Maning, I have left a set of instruction at my vault at the building. If something should happen to me, take them to Blue One and together take off from there.” Sandra concluded.

“Yes Madam. I suggest you rest now. It has been a long day.”

“Thank you gentlemen. You may leave me now.”

Both men left, while Sandra opened up the CCTV camera console. Looking at them, she noticed that Mike was at the veranda of his room, looking at the ocean. A peaceful look at his face was very evident.

Sandra touched the screen as if to touch Mike’s face. She had to admit to herself that all these concerns for Mike is because she is attracted to him and concerned enough to allow something bad to happen to him. She must admit to herself that the attraction makes it harder and harder for her to distance herself. A feeling that she has never felt since.

She remembered that the two boyfriends she had had were not able to evoke this kind of feelings from her. They were like casual affairs that was spurred by the fact that her classmates had boyfriends, so she must also have one. It was never about love, even after they had sex, it was more of a play rather than a serious commitment to one another.

Now, looking at Mike, she knows it’s a totally new feeling. Something that calls for her to be protective, to care and to do everything she can to make him happy. A feeling she is afraid to confront, because if Mike should ask her to drop everything, she just might do it. And she can’t afford to do that now, not until she completes her vengeance.

 

Manila Intercontinental Hotel 

2:00 in the afternoon of the following day…

“Sir, we have confirmed that Inspector Cartagena is at the Blue Lagoon Resort at Laiya, Batangas with his girlfriend and his uncle’s family. They are billeted at rooms 303 to 307 at the executive suite building. I have already sent a runner to confirm the information we got. We will be able to hear from him by tonight earliest and tomorrow morning latest.” A triad member reported.

“Very good. Prepare all available men and equipment. I want to be there by Tuesday morning. I want maps, access points and exfil routes. I want an operational plan by tomorrow morning. If this information is golden, then I don’t want that fucker a minute longer in this world.” The triad leader stated angrily.

“Yes sir.”

“Sir, I know how it feels to lose a brother. But is it necessary for you to go and personally lead this operation? Is it worth risking yourself?” His second man asked the leader.

“Look, you told me that the police have no idea about me. That the incident about our men was a simple case of mistaken identity and that they were targeted because the robbers learned that they were carrying guns. That the robbers targeted them for these guns and the killing was only a consequence of that. Are you telling me this information are all wrong?”

“No sir, I have personally confirmed all information from our sources. Is just that I have a bad feeling about all these?”

“Look, they are in a simple fucking resort, at most there are 8 private security guards, with 38 caliber revolvers and shotguns for protection. One of my friends stayed at the place last month, and he didn’t see any military or paramilitary force. We are mobilizing more than 50 men who will be equipped with high caliber guns. Where’s the risk?” The triad leader exclaimed.

‘I know that sir, it’s just that I am worried about the information that Blue Orchid is here. What if this is a trap?”

“My friend, look at the facts. We are after an ordinary policeman. First, if Blue Orchid is here she will not associate with the police. Second, this is an entirely separate operation and nobody knows why I am here. Lastly, just last night, one of our minor boss was killed at the CBD district of Macau, another blue orchid in his pockets. It will be impossible for her to do that, travel here and set a trap. Won’t it? It’s just your nerves my friend. After this you can go on a long break to calm those nerves. Okay?” The boss assured his friend.

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

Same day…

“Are you sure that you can handle that gun Mike? You’re still weak and that’s a Remington C70 sniper rifle, 7.62 grain. It wallops a hell of a kick. Are you sure this is advisable?”

“Sandra, you’re making me look like a baby. I have handled bigger guns. I may be wounded, but I can handle this beauty.” Mike answered while he stroking the gun.

“If you say so. Lito, kindly set the target plate at 150 yards. I really would like to see how a policeman misses. Hahaha…”

“What would be my prize if I hit the target, hmmm?”

“Prize? Ricky, what would be a good prize?”

“A kiss…” Ricky shouted back.

“What? Not that, anything but that…” Sandra stammered.

“KISS…KISS…KISSSSS!” the group shouted together.

“Okay… okay… a kiss it is, a peck on the check.” Sandra capitulated.

“No, it should be a wet smack on the lips…” Ricky countered.

“No that’s too much. Sandra’s right, a peck would be good enough.” Mike’s mother admonished.

“No Mom, I’m wounded, that’s already a disadvantage, plus I am not familiar with the gun. A wet smack on the lips is just enough to motivate me.” Mike countered jokingly.

“Alright Mike, let’s make it 200 yards and if you hit it, I’ll give you your wet smack.” Sandra agreed confident that Mike is not going to make it.

“You’ve got a deal.” Mike accepted her challenge. The target was then moved farther by Lito. Once done he made the thumbs up sign.

“Alrightttt… Mikey…Mikey… Mikey…” Chanted Ricky while Mike positioned himself.

Mike found it inconvenient to brace himself while sitting on the wheelchair, so he slowly stood up and assumed a sniper’s prone position. Sandra was watching him apprehensively. Mike checked the wind direction, he wetted his forefinger and held it above his head, closed his eyes, wanting to get the feel. Then he looked through the sights adjusted the verticals, when he was ready, he inhaled and held his breathe. Squeeze do not pull, he remembered his instructor say.

Mike squeezed, the muffled sound of the suppressor was quick and with a smile Mike saw that his targeted metal plate was down.

The group erupted into cheers…

“KISS… KISS… KISSSSSSSSS!” Ricky was shouting the loudest.

A blushing Sandra had no choice, she placed her hands at the nape of Mike and gave him a wet yet sweet kiss on the lips of Mike. She felt Mike’s lips parted then a flick of his tongue. She felt tickled, and she gave back a small flick of her tongue, and Mike’s tongue came out and she met him with her own. The short and sweet kiss became and long and hot one.

The kiss would have gone longer, if they didn’t notice that the group was becoming more boisterous and animated. Ricky was jumping all around. They parted, Sandra’s cheeks getting redder while Mike had his hands on her waist.

“Now, that is what a kiss should be.” Mike proudly stated jokingly.

Recovering from her embarrassment, Sandra asked.

“Well done. How did you learn to shoot? The last time, we went shooting, it took you a clip to hit a target at 100 meters, so how?” Sandra asked.

“Sandra, don’t you know that Mike is a certified sharpshooter, both short and long guns?” Ricky informed Sandra. “And yes, when he invited you to shoot, he was just pretending not to hit anything. He told me that.”

“Mike… you cheater…” Sandra playfully punched Mike, whose arms were still on her waist, a feeling she liked very much.

“Enough of the shooting, lunch is ready, let’s eat.” Ricky’s father announced while setting the grilled fish on the table.

Mike guided Sandra to the table and sat beside her. And they had a sumptuous lunch while laughing at every joke thrown.

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

Monday night…

“Madam, we have confirmed two triad men this afternoon, they have been sitting around looking at the inspector. We could have eliminated them anytime but Sir Maning said, it would only cast more doubts. They are billeted in a resort 3 kilometers down the road. I have asked some of our guys to keep an eye on them.” Lito reported to Sandra.

‘Very good Lito, now that the bait is taken, tomorrow will be a dangerous day. I you to check all equipment, make sure we don’t have any misfire.”

“Yes Madam.”

“Maning, is everything ready?”

“Yes Madam.”

“Okay, tomorrow morning, I want you to instruct Frank to transfer Mike’s group to the Presidential Suites. Make up something, like a leak or anything, just make sure they won’t have any reason to doubt. Make the transfer after the noon siesta and make sure nobody sees the transfer. Also, I want you to make sure that my favorite loft is ready.”

“Yes Madam.”

“Maning, I want you at my favorite loft the moment something happens. You stay there until the danger has past. Or if something happens to me. No heroics, and you do exactly what I tell you to do. Am I clear on that? And tell Frank to drum up various works in the resort, trimmers, gardeners, pool cleaners, carpenters, painters anything where we can put our men. Tell all our guest we are expecting a VIP, so nobody will ask questions.”

“Okay, tomorrow is critical, make sure everyone have their eyes on the ball, and prepared for anything and everything.”

“Yes Madam.’

“Thank you, Maning. That’s all, go get some rest.”

Maning left the room. Again, Sandra opened her CCTV console and her eyes again riveted on Mike’s veranda. For almost an hour, she just sat there, looking at Mike, remembering the kiss they made earlier. His hands on her waist, hot hands that felt like they were searing into her flesh. She wondered, what if something, should happen to her tomorrow? What if, something happens to him?

Sandra reached for her phone, dialed Mike’s room number. It took 4 rings before Mike reached the phone.

“Hello?” Mike said.

“Hi Mike, I’m glad you’re still awake?”

“Hi Sandra, I am, why are you calling?”

“I can’t sleep, I thought I’d talk to you.”

“Sure, Sandra anytime for you, what do you want to talk about?”

“I have this brandy, I bought in Hongkong a long time ago. It is in my bag reserved for a very special occasion. I am thinking of opening it and sharing it with you. I know you can’t but a few sips won’t probably affect you.”

“Sure, I would love that. Do you want me to go to your room?” Mike asked.

“No, I come over, I don’t want you to over-exert yourself.”

“Sandra, I am already ok, my wounds are almost healed. In fact, it was only you who insisted I bring the wheelchair, I can already walk with a cane. I think I am about 95% cured, thanks to you.”

“That’s nice to hear. Give me 30 minutes, okay?”

“Okay, see you in 30.” Mike replied.

Sandra went to her wine collection, took a bottle of Macallan 25 Years old Single Malt Whisky, and left the room.

Mike opened the door after two knocks and Sandra sauntered in with the whisky, two glasses and a bucket of ice that she picked from the lobby. Sandra assisted Mike as he hobbled to the side table. She then placed the ice on the glasses and poured some whisky.

“Cheers!” they both toasted each other.

After the toast, they looked at each other and didn’t have anything to say. Sandra stood and looked out the window, thinking of what to say to Mike.

Mike sensing an awkwardness in the moment, reached out and held Sandra’s arm. Slowly she pulled her towards her. At first Sandra resisted, but then, eventually gave in. She turned to face Mike and in one swift move, reached out and kissed him.

Mike was caught unprepared thus, both fell to the bed, where Sandra kept kissing him. He responded and slowly he felt her warming up. The gentle kisses became more urgent, hungrier and more demanding. The embrace became tighter, as if each one trying to bury themselves to each other’s body.

“Sandra… Are you…?” Mike lovingly asked her.

“No Mike, let’s do it before I change my mind…” Sandra replied.

Sandra removed Mike’s shirt, and He help her remove hers. They helped each other until both were naked.

Mike looked at Sandra, and he was right, she was even more ravishing without her clothes.

Sandra looked at Mike, feeling his manliness made her wet and wanting him more. She pulled Mike’s head closer and began kissing him. She felt him grew and the hotness that emanated from his manliness. Mike’s hands began stroking her breasts gently, his fingers playing with her nipples that were becoming rock hard with her arousal.

She felt every touch, every nip and lick that Mike did. Her body shuddered with his every move. Her anticipation for the final moment was bringing her higher and higher. She was beyond wet and slowly losing her mind to all the sensations that seemed to attack her senses from all direction.

Mike was good and know how to bring her up and when she was about to reach her peak, he stops and moves to another part and begins again, the frustration and anticipation building into a crescendo. He was the conductor, her body the symphony, and just like a concerto, his hands and tongue were making every string in her body move towards the finale that was just hovering in the fringes of her consciousness.

When she thought she couldn’t bear anymore, Mike shifted and Sandra gasped as Mike buried his head down there. Her shock was complete when his tongue began exploring every crack and crease. She was losing her mind, the wild swirling of colors filling her mind, until she couldn’t control herself any longer. The sensation started from her toes and fingers, white heat racing faster and faster… converging finally on her center and she lost control. She came and came and came.

She was still at the height of all these senses when she felt his manliness, hard and throbbing enter her, slowly… gently… and she felt him bury himself deep into her, pulled back and plunge. Over and over, over and over, she felt herself racing into an explosion that promised to be much bigger than the previous one. She felt him begin his own journey towards his fulfilment, his small shudders, the tightening of his muscles and sinews straining. She felt his breath coming faster, her breath the same, matching him, breath for breath. She met his thrust with thrusts of her own, until they both exploded and felt the world rising to meet the heavens.

Spent and perspiration forming rivulets running down both their bodies, mingling, they paused and held each other’s hand, they lovingly looked at each other, each still feeling the electricity of every touch.

The night became a mute witness to the number of times they found each other arms and wallowed in the bliss they longed from each other.

At about 3:00 in the morning, Sandra slipped quietly from Mike’s room and went to her own.

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

The following day…

“Ricky, you better come out of the water right now, or I’m going to drown you there myself.” His mother was shouting at Ricky for the umpteen time.

Mike and Sandra were sitting in a soft bench laughing at the way Ricky was ignoring his mom. Finally, Ricky came out of the water, toweled himself and sat in front of Mike and Sandra. He can’t help but notice the subtle change between the two. The holding hands, which started since Mike left his room. The soft brushes and giggles, as well as the way Sandra fed Mike.

“Mom… Dad… I think there is going to be a much bigger celebration soon.” Ricky bellowed.

“What celebration?” Anna inquired. She was feeding her baby, while her husband was playing with their 3-year old son on the beach.

“Why don’t you ask Mike?” Ricky was using his lips and pointing at Mike and Sandra.

“Auntie, don’t believe him, he’s just trying to divert your attention from himself.” Mike replied.

“Yes, Auntie, just don’t mind Ricky, he probably just need more food.” Sandra added.

They simultaneously laughed at that. Anna, took her baby and joined her husband at the beach. Sandra joined her aunt and uncle and wallowed in the water. Mike was watching them when his mother came and sat beside him.

“Son, it looks like you and Sandra have finally decided to be an item. I think it’s time. It has been a long time since I’ve seen you with someone. Sandra is perfect for you. She’s not just beautiful, she’s also very intelligent. I am sure you both will give me beautiful grandsons and granddaughters.”

“Mom, it’s still too early to think about that, Sandra and I plan to take our relationship slowly. I still don’t know if she’s willing to transfer here or if her company will allow her to stay. But, yes if she will agree, I am planning to propose to her before this vacation is over.”

“You do that son. Sandra is someone you should never let slip through your fingers. She’s a lady for keeps, and I know she loves you. I can feel it, I should know I am a woman. She has the same look that I had when I am with your father.”

“Mom, your just too melodramatic. As I said, I will propose to her before this vacation is over.” Mike insisted.

Together, Mike and his mother watched the group frolicking in the water. Mike wishing that the moment would not end. At that point the hotel manager Frank, talked to Mike about the transfer of their rooms.

 

In another resort, Laiya, Batangas

12 noon, same day…

“Sir, here are the ground plans of the resort. This is the executive suites and this is where the whole family is staying.” Said one member while pointing to the location of the building.

“Sir, look at this. This is the entrance of the resort. There’s a gate here about a kilometer away. The concrete fences extend up this point and from here it drops. Our plan is to have one group enter here and another group here and here.” Pointing to two other points in the resort fence.

“We also suggest that we send some men to approach from the beach. Just in case they would try to leave through that way.”

“How many men in total do we have?” the triad leader asked.

“All in all we have 43 local people, 12 Chinese that came with you from Hongkong, 5 Indonesians and 4 Malaysians courtesy of 13K. Including you and me that makes a total 64 people.” His second in command answered.

“What are we packing?”

“Everyone has a handgun, mostly 9mms and 1911 45 Caliber. 22 have M-16s, 8 have AK57s. We also have 8 Mossler shotguns. 2 have locally made Uzi’s made in Danao, Cebu. I have a P90 and you have your Galil SMG. All in all, we are a small army, compared to the 8 security guards that we know guard the place during the night.”

“What about the police?”

“According to our information, it will take about 30 minutes before the police will arrive. The people who will take the gate will take care of them as soon as they arrive. By the time the reinforcements arrive, we shall have exited the place. A motor launch will be on standby for you and me, while all the rest will regroup here and will be taken to a small boat that we have hired and now anchored just off the beach.”

“Good. Are everybody prepared?” The leader asked.

“Yes sir, we will start deploying at 9:00pm. The attack will commence at 10:00pm, we expect a quick in and out, done in 15 minutes, at most 30 minutes. We will be out of the place by 10:30, by 11:00 you will be motor to Batangas port, where a chopper is waiting. You will be flown direct to the airport, and take the 3:00 am flight to Hongkong. By 7:00 am you will be having breakfast with your family, by then the news will be broadcasting what happened here.”

“Nice plan. Let’s do this. Now what have you prepared for me? It’s only 12 noon, I have 9 hours to kill.”

“Sir, your Russian friend sent you a gift. She is already waiting for you in your room. I will call on you for dinner at 7:00pm sharp.” The second man of the Chinese triad informed his boss.

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

1:00 pm, same day…

Sandra just finished lunch of crabs, lobsters and other seafood and was having coffee when Frank the resort manager came over and asked if he can talk to her. Sandra excused herself.

“Is there something wrong Sandra?” Mike worriedly asked.

“No, nothing, it seems that there is a discrepancy on the documents that I presented and those sent by my company. I need to look at them and contact my office so it can be resolved. I am sure that there is nothing to worry.” She said.

“Okay, but if it is about payment, I will pay, you can refund me later.” He offered.

“No, it’s not about payment. It is just documentation. This should not a cause for you to be concerned. Stay here and enjoy. I will be back as soon as I am done.”

With that Sandra left with Frank in tow. When they were beyond hearing distance, Sandra told Frank to tell Maning and Lito to meet her at the conference room.

“Madam, our spotters report a large group of armed men gathering in a resort about 3 kilometers from here. They have taken some pictures and I would to show them to you.” Maning reported and showed the pictures taken via a cellular phone.

“Madam, in one of those pictures, although a bit hazy is Mr. Cai. I believe he came to personally settle the score between him and Inspector Cartagena. According to our informant who is one of the waiters in the resort, he heard they are planning an attack to kill the Inspector. There is no mention about you or our group.” Maning continued.

“Suggestions?” She asked the group.

“To avoid this, we can send the inspector and his family back to Manila. We can use the alternative route. However, the danger is they may be ambushed as soon as they exit to the main highway. Especially if they have someone here monitoring their actions.” Lito offered.

“We cannot take that risk. You’re right they will be more vulnerable outside. My other concern are the current guests. How many are still here?”

“Right now we still have 14 other guests, the rest have checked-out and since you arrived, we have not accepted new ones, we told them we are full and have no available rooms. Those who have booked earlier were accommodated by other resorts for which we are paying. Of the 14, 3 will be checking out by 2:00 pm today.” Frank answered.

“Frank, you mentioned earlier about a concert in Puerto Gallera, can you schedule a night-out for these guests? Tell them it’s a totally free jaunt, that way, we can have them out of the way for tonight. Give priority to the group of Mike. Convince them to go, but do this without fanfare. Do that now. Be as convincing as you can and encourage them, give them some freebies or discounts if needed. I leave the details to you.”

“Yes Madam.” And then Frank left the meeting.

“Lito, these pictures show that there are more than 50 men. May be around 60. How many do we have?”

“Madam, right now we have about 35. Even if we call for reinforcements, it will take them at least a day before they will arrive.”

“What our equipment status?”

“We have enough M-16s and handguns for everyone. We have about 18 NVGs (Night Vision Goggles) that Maning brought from Manila.. We also have grenades and mines, that we can plant strategically, but doing so will only expose your presence. We have to do this surgically. As silent as possible.”

“What about suppressors”

“Madam, we have 10 snipers, all have suppressors. We have about 10 more for our long guns and about 12 for handguns. That’s about it.”

“So what are the probabilities?”

“Madam, If I were in their shoes, they will be sending a team to take out our security guards at the gate and then station them there to stop any police interference. They most possible entry points would be here, here, here and here.” Lito pointed to a map. “They might also be sending a group to the beach area to anticipate any egress through that area.”

“Our counter?”

“I intend to station at least 4 snipers on each of these points. Another 4 on top of the Executive Suite building, we know this is their target. The rest will be stationed on top of the observation tower. 6 guys with suppressed handguns guns at the first floor of the building and 4 at the Presidential suite building. Should they spill over to that area. The rest I will distribute along strategic places.” Lito said.

“Maning, are all our cameras, aside from the CCTV all working?”

“Yes Madam, we have hidden cameras in most of the areas of the compound, these cameras are link to all our PDAs, so we can see what is happening at real time.”

“How many PDAs do we have?”

“We have 5 Madam. One for you, one for Maning, one for me, one for my assistant and the last one is for Frank.”

“Okay. What about the signal jammer?” Sandra asked.

“Madam we do not intend to use it until they launch their attack. Our group will be using the PCS coms we bought from Germany, which will be using a frequency outside of the range of common cellphones and handsets. Your set is already in your special place.” Maning informed her.

“That’s a good plan, I just have a few changes. First, depending on whether Mike’s group goes for the jaunt, I want 4 persons detailed to them. In a worst case scenario, bring them to the safe house and Maning will take over from there. Second, I want the attackers on the gate neutralized immediately, then leave 4 people there to man the gate, the rest will move to back-up positions at the beach area. I anticipate Mr. Cai will be leaving via this route. I want him captured alive if possible, dead if necessary. Last, I will be on sniper position from here.” Pointing to a tower.

“I want our snipers on the building to focus on this side. I want everybody on position by 8pm. Maning, since we will have no guests to serve, send the non-essential employees home by then. Leave the usual night lights on and Lito, tell everyone with unsilenced guns to hold fire until needed. Those living near us, the fishermen must be restrained from coming near us during the firefight. I don’t want any collateral damage.”

“Finally, should the police appear on the scene, I want everyone to wear their uniforms under their black jackets and remove them as soon as they see the police. This will help the police to identify our men. Maning, we do have prepared contingencies for those who will be hurt or killed, don’t we?”

“Yes Madam, and we have already brief everyone.”

“Okay, from now on, I want to be brief every hour, and every 30 minutes from 6:00 pm and every 15 minutes from 8:00pm. Our critical hours will start from 8:00 pm, so we will make that hour Zero. For call signs we will use the green code, I will be Green Mother, Maning is Green One. Lito you will be Green Lead, all others will start from Two… Is everything clear?”

“Yes Madam.” Lito and Maning chorused.

“Okay let’s go.”

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

9:30 pm, same day…

Sandra was at her favorite loft. A 6 feet by 6 feet room. With a reflective one-inch lexan bullet resistant glass. It has eight 1 and one-half circular holes space and positioned ideally for snipers. From this vantage point, she had a panoramic view of the compound. The lexan glass will allow her to see from the inside, while those on the outside cannot see in. Her guns and suppressors were handmade according to her design, thus it does not have the usual nozzle flare as it is fired.

She also has her tablet and PDA which is connected to the mainframe. She will be able to access any camera and see what her men are seeing. The PCS com is already neatly settled in her ears, so she hears every command made. Over the hour, she has already corrected 2 commands.

She settled in and made herself more comfortable. She knew that Maning is just below her in the safe room and guards her rear. She was tempted to show the place to Mike, but that would destroy everything.

Smiling to herself, she remembered what happened that afternoon when she returned from the meeting. It was helter-skelter, everyone was scurrying around packing a few bags. They told her the resort is having a night jaunt to Paradise Resort in Puerto Gallera, where a known singer from Manila will be performing. Even Mike was excited.

However, when she informed him that she can’t go because she needs to take a chopper ride to Manila because an urgent matter needs to be resolved and she is the only one who can make it happen. She did promise to be back before midnight. With this, Mike refused to go. He said he only wanted to go if she can go with him. He said he will wait until she arrives and will take the time to rest. His mother wanted to stay, to take care of him. Mike convinced her to go telling her that his valet Drigo can handle whatever he will need.

Mike made her promised to call him as soon as she returns, to which she said yes. She also whispered naughtily to Mike that she still has a bottle of whisky. Mike gave her a sweet kiss before she left. She saw the whole bunch plus 7 other guest take the boat. 2 other guest opted to stay. One was sick and the other was a book writer wanting to finish his novel.

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

9:45 pm… same day…

Using a Motorola VHF handheld radio, the triad leader was giving instructions to his men.

“Is everybody in position?” he asked. A series of “yes Bossman” came back to him. Bossman that was his favorite call sign. It exudes raw power, just like the way he sees himself.

“Remember this is a simultaneous attack. At exactly 10:00 pm we all attack, from all points. Is that clear to everyone

Another series of yes Bossman came back on the radio.

“Good, everyone be prepared, we will start the dance in 5 minutes.

——*

Meanwhile, Mike was lazily sitting on a chair watching CNN. Wishing the hours to go faster so he can be reunited with Sandra, whom he was already missing.

——*

In Sandra’s loft.

“Green Mother, Green Lead.” Her earpiece chipped waking her from her recollection.

“Green Lead, Green Mother.” She replied.

“Incoming.” A single word that said it all. The attach was in progress.

She had initially positioned herself facing the entrance. It was about 700 yards away. An easy distance for her gun. Her night-visioned scope immediately picked 4 men moving, crawling towards her men posing as security guards.

“Green lead, any of your men moving?”

“Green mother, negative, everyone on static positions.”

“Copy that.” She replied as she took her first shot. The crawling man became a dead unmoving man. She panned left, saw another target fired. She saw the figure bounced and stopped moving. A little further, one man was talking to his radio, she aimed and bang, the man dropped the radio and his body followed. Not bad, 3 for 3.

“Green lead, 3 tangos down.” She found her fourth target, aimed and fired. “Make that 4 tangos. Green One cut their comms.” Take it from here.

“Copy green mother.” Both replied

——*  

Five minutes into the attack, the Bossman was already shouting at his men. A lot of things happened at once. He was waiting for the familiar sound of gunfire from the entrance. Nothing came. His radio suddenly went dead all he was hearing was a hissing sound.

Unknown to him, by the time his radio went off, more than 20 of his men lay either dead or severely wounded. His beach team, mostly the Chinese triad members he brought with him never even got to firing their guns. They were efficiently mowed by guns with suppressors from Green Two, Lito’s assistant, and two other men who fired from upturned fishing bancas. There were two who tried to flee the scene but were eventually caught, gagged and bound.

His Second and command who lead the entry at the north side, took a direct hit on the head from a 5.56 grain sniper rifle and died in the mid-stride, his troops one by one were being sniped, the rest fled back to find the Bossman.

The same fate happened to the others who came from the west side. They kept calling on the radio asking for instructions, their leader, the Malaysian is already dead.

——* 

“Green Mother, Green Lead.”

“Go Green Lead…” Sandra replied.

“Entrance secured, all tangoes down”

“Copy Green Lead, proceed as per plan.”

It would have been a classic rote, until one of the Indonesian at the west side decided to make a run for it and commanded everyone to fire. Out they came firing. And the Sandra’s men started firing back.

——* 

Hearing the gunfire, those at the north gate likewise opened fire.

The Bossman, encourage by the firing ordered every man out and ordered them to shoot anybody. He was the last man out, and began crawling towards the nearest building, the Presidential Suites.

——*

With the sound of gunfire, Mike’s instincts kicked into motion, he reached for his bag where he kept his service gun, a Glock 27, 9mm, 13 bullet load capacity mag. Standard government issue. Check his mag and shove it in, cranked the slide to chamber a round. He picked his 2 extra mags and shove it in his walking shorts waistband.

Mike dropped to the floor and listened to where the gunfire was coming from. He tried to call the police hotline, but his phone didn’t seem to work. So slowly he crawled to the door, opened it a crack, seeing no danger slid out and crawled to the balcony. Now the gunfire was a bit louder and more intense.

He saw one of the guest pop her head out, and he gestured it to return to her room, which she did. Mike crawled towards the stairway and position himself to where he can see anyone coming.

——*

Sandra was already on her 9th kill shot and lining up for the 10th. She held her breathe and gently squeeze the trigger, another pop – 10! As her 11th target appeared on her sights.

“Green Mother, Green 4.”

“Go Green 4.”

“The inspector is out of his room and has position himself at the top of the stairs. Awaiting advise.”

“Cover his back Green 4. He can handle himself, but he needs back-up.”

“Copy Green mother.”

Frank, who was Green 4, moved towards Mike. He can see him through his PDA, but Mike may shoot him by mistake. So as soon as he was near, he shouted to Mike and slowly showed himself. Mike seeing him motioned him to approach.

“Manager Frank, what is happening?”

“Sorry about this sir, but I think bandits have attacked us. We assumed they are here to take hostages and have them ransomed for money.”

“Do you have any idea how many?”

“I don’t have any idea, sorry sir.” Frank answered.

‘You have a gun, do you know how to handle that?”

“Sir, management has required all personnel to learn how to use them and we have a monthly required 50-round firing practice. Even women staff who are willing are allowed to practice. So I can handle a gun sir.”

“Good, now We are going to move to the lobby area and wait there until reinforcement arrives. Have you called the police?”

“Yes sir, just in time before they cut off the wires. I believe our attackers brought with them a signal jammer. Nobody can use their cellular phones,”

“Yes, I think they have.”

“Okay Frank, let’s move, stay at my back and check my six always.”

They climbed down the stairs moving to the lobby. Sandra, saw all these from the cameras. She had already down 3 more while Mike and Frank were talking. She shifted position to focus more at the west side.

“Green Lead, tell your snipers to take the north side. I will handle the west side.” Sandra called on her comm.

From her vantage point she had a clear view to the west breach. She scanned the area and behind a wall, she saw a head bobbing out then hiding again. She aimed at the bobbing head and fired and missed. She fired again and missed again. So she waited… she timed her shot when the head’s motion was going up. Boom, a red mist came and she saw the grass at the back flattened out.

She checked on Mike and saw that he was engaging and shooting at someone. She tried to check which, but the person Mike is shooting was hidden by another building. Scanning the cameras, she saw Mike and Frank taking in 4 shooters.

“Green 6… Close in on the Presidential Suites, east side. Inspector Mike and Frank are in danger.” Sandra called out.

“Copy Green Mother. Moving now.” Drigo, Mike’s valet, code Green 6, replied.

“Green Mother, Green Lead… Police force ETA 15 minutes, they have just entered the junction.”

“Copy Green lead. Give the signal to inform all elements to remove their black jackets when they are 2 minutes out.”

Sandra saw that Drigo and 2 others left their hiding places and began moving towards Mike’s position. Suddenly automatic fire came from their right side. One of Drigo’s men fell. Drigo and the other guy crawled to an outcropping for cover.

Sandra aimed at the man with the automatic rifle, she saw him maneuvering for a more vantage position. She waited for him to position himself, and fired. Down went the gunner. Sandra panned to the right, she saw another gunner hiding by the coconut trees. The gunner was covered by the tree trunk. She was looking for a way. She saw that the tree had nuts, she aimed at a bunch and fired. As the bunch was falling the gunner broke cover, Sandra had her chance. Down went the gunner.

“Green 6, you’re clear. Move now, I have you covered.”

“Thanks Green Mother.” Drigo replied and started moving.

Sandra saw Drigo and his partner move towards the building. Drigo suddenly jerked and fell. It was not a fatal hit, he was able to crawl and prop himself behind a concrete wall while his partner was firing behind a concrete planter. Sandra cannot see who they are shooting. Faintly she heard Mike shout for Drigo to stay put and he is coming to him.

“Green 4, cover his six. Green 1 proceed to Green 6’s location stat.” Sandra commanded and heard the roger of both men. She wanted to abandon her post, but she saw 4 enemies emerge from a wall and engaged them.

——-*

“Drigo, how badly are you hit?” Mike asked while slapping a fresh clip to his gun.

“I’m okay sir, it’s just a flesh wound. Stay put sir.” Drigo answered.

“Stay under cover, I will be coming from your 10 oclock.” Mike replied while crouching behind a marble post. Since arriving at the lobby, he already neutralized 4 of the attackers. He saw 4 more, taking cover just beyond the door of the building. Unless he can neutralize them, he had no way of reaching Drigo and his partner.

“Frank, can you lay cover fire? I will try to move forward.”

“Yes sir.”

“On the count of three… 3… 2… 1…” Mike counted and moved forward, while Frank peppered the area where the enemies where. Mike dived behind another marble post just as a barrage of automatic fire followed him. From his position he fired at two guys who were firing at Drigo’s direction. One was hit, while the other escape and repositioned.

——*

Sandra saw one enemy repositioned and came to her sights. Her gun cough and the guy slithered to the ground. She scanned the area looking for other targets, there were none.

——*

Mike saw the man he just missed fall down, half of the head blown away.

“Frank, do you have snipers in position?”

“Yes sir. Our security guards are former military men.”

It was then that Mike noticed that Frank’s gun had a suppressor. A kind which is not commercially available but custom made. “This is some resort.” He said to himself.

“Sir, on your 2 oclock, there’s a dead guy with an M-16 and bandolier. If I can get it, it will improve our chances of survival.

Mike took a peak and true enough, the guy he shot earlier had what Frank told him.

“Frank, I am nearer his position. Cover me while I try to get to him.”

“Copy that sir… Go!”

Mike crawled to where dead guy was. Chips of concrete and marble peppered him as bullets whizzed by hitting the floor and the posts. In between he was aware that Frank was firing at his shooter. He reached the guy and very quickly took what he needed. He was repositioning himself when he heard Frank grunt. He saw him slid to the floor bleeding from a hit on the shoulder.

“Frank, are you okay?” Mike shouted.

“I’m hit sir, but I can still manage.” Frank replied with a groan.

“Ok, Stay down.” Mike slowly slithered toward the door when an enemy came through it, as if shoved. Mike drilled him in the chest with a double tap. The next man however was a bit faster. He dived and took cover in another marble post.”

——*

“Green Mother… Green 11, I am at the gate, police cars are about 500 meters away.

“Green 11… all green forces, this is Green Lead, remove your black jackets now, show resort uniforms… Now… Now…”

“Green Lead, what’s our status?” Sandra asked.

“Green Mother, we still have 6 targets at the north portion although they are retreating. Green 15 is pursuing them. We have cleared the west side, all enemies down. Green 2 has cleared the beach area.”

“What about our forces?”

“So far, I have confirmed 9 dead, 12 wounded. I still don’t have the exact number.”

“Copy, converge on the Presidential Suites building. Tell all the others to slowly pull out and stay out of sight. Bring all the wounded that they can. We don’t want the police to see our people.”

“Roger Green Mother…”

Sandra heard Lito giving instructions to the other members of his team and saw some slowly moving towards the walls and disappeared. She was however concerned as shots are still being fired from that direction.

——*

“Inspector fucking Cartagena… Today you die! You killed my brother, now I will kill you… then I will kill everyone that matters to you… I will start with your beautiful girlfriend, then your mother… FUCK YOU…!” The triad leader shouted at Mike.

“I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know your brother…” Mike responded.

“You fucking killed him, it was just unlucky you didn’t die. But tonight that will change, you fucker…” The leader followed his words by spraying Mike’s position with lead.

“Come and get me… because if not, I am coming for you so you and your brother can have your reunion in hell. Come on, you’re full of talk, no action.” Mike taunted the syndicate leader.

The Chinese Triad leader was so focused on Mike, that he didn’t notice Lito coming from behind him. One of his goons did and fired towards the direction of Lito who was able to take cover. This distracted the triad leader. Mike noting this took advantage, he suddenly broke cover and run towards the enemy, 3 meters away he did a backward slide ending just right below the leader with his rifle aimed at him.

“Now you have a decision to make… Surrender or die!”

One of the enemies saw his boss’ dilemma, he tried to circle around, Lito took him out with a headshot.

Finding himself alone, the boss chose to surrender.

——-*

When the police arrived, a short gunfight ensued. Faced with an overwhelming force, the triad members choose to lay down their arms. By the time the policemen rounded up the members of the triad who surrendered, Lito had already finished dressing the dead members of his team with security guard uniforms that they have prepared for this occasion.

A total of 11 of his guys were killed. 15 wounded, 3 were critical including Frank. The police however only saw 5 dead and 3 wounded. The rest were spirited away to a safe house.

In the ensuing investigation, the police were able to establish the identity of the Chinese Triad Leader and the motivation of the attack. All in all, 37 of his men lay dead, 18 wounded 14 seriously and 11 surrendered. Mike declared that he had killed 5 and identified them.

While the police may have been wondering how a small force was able to wreck so much damage and why there were so many killed with headshots, most probably with a high caliber gun, they found no evidence to substantiate their doubts. They searched the whole compound with Maning assisting them, they were unable to find anything amiss. Lito and his crew have earlier removed most of the rifles but left the handguns.

In the end, the story that came out in the newspaper, was that a large group of triad members, led by Mr. Steven Cai, brother of the slain bank robber Antonio Cai, attacked and tried to kill Senior Inspector Cartagena who killed his brother, in revenge. But the already wounded policeman assisted by the valiant guards, and top management of the resort was able to thwart the attack and in the process, captured the Chinese Triad leader, who is among the most wanted list of Interpol.

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

9:00 am the following day…

Mike stooped down and opened the doors of the helicopter and assisted Sandra as she came down. After they reached a safe distance from the rotating blades, Sandra gave Mike a tight embraced, one that wanted to do last night. Tears were flowing freely from her eyes, as the tension from all that happened bled away from her. Mike mistook her tears as tears of concern, embraced her back and cooed her.

“Enough… don’t cry, I’m okay. See? No holes this time.” Mike jokingly spun to show Sandra that he indeed was not hit.

Sandra without any warning kissed Mike full on his lips which lasted for more minutes than what it should have been. She missed him and was totally worried for him all those times when bullets were flying about.

“All I know is what I heard on the news, so I came back immediately. Is everybody alright?” Sandra asked pretending to be concerned.

“Yes. Finally, you asked about us. We are fine… It was just provident that the resort sent all guest to the concert last night, else there would have been panic and somebody may have been shot.” Ricky added.

“When I heard what happened, I tried to call you, then the resort, but all the lines seem to be busy or barred. That made me worry even more. I had not slept a wink, until I heard on the news that everyone was safe.” Sandra convincingly lied.

After all the hugs, the group proceeded to the presidential suite building, where once again, Mike narrated what happened the previous night.

That night at Mike’s room after a really steamy and heart pounding love making. Mike was sitting on the bed, Sandra was laying down, her head on Mike’s stomach.

“Mike, what’s bothering you?” Sandra lazily asked.

“I was just thinking about last night. There were so many coincidences that can’t seem to be just random incidents. There were so many unknowns that can’t be explained. I am trying to provide a rationale to all these. But some things really do not compute. I mean it’s just not logical.”

‘What do you mean?” Sandra asked wondering if Mike saw through the events and would conclude that she used him to get back at the Chinese Triad leader.

“First, how did this Chinese triad leader find out where we are? Second, I was in the middle of the fight last night, I know how it is and I can’t believe that with all those triad casualties, very few from resort guards died. Also, as a policeman, I am aware of the effects of a bullet hit. Some those were not made by the guns that the guards have. You know if I did not know you were away, I would say, those bullets were made by a gun similar to yours.”

“Mike, let’s look at this logically. You said you are a policeman, so you would know the reach and power of the Chinese triad. You have been in the news. You have been interviewed at home, so everybody knows where you live. It would be easy to have someone follow you.”

“Yes, that at least I know.”

“Now, as I learned all of the guards in this resort once served in the military, as well as some of those occupying management positions. They have a program that allows all these people to train using their guns. As they said, there have been several incidents where guests were harassed by rebels. May be their training paid off.” Sandra explained.

“I know, but by the looks of it, the triad came to surprise me, but it looks like that they were the ones surprised. And the way the guards positioned themselves, it was like they knew they were coming. Also, was it just coincidence that all the guests were evacuated to Puerto Gallera.?”

“The Puerto Gallera event is real, even I was invited by one of our business partners to go there. As to the guards being ready, we can probably just say that that is how they operate. As you said, they were positioned. May be that’s their regular way of guarding. Remember there are foreign guests, maybe they just don’t want, what happened in other resorts to happen here.”

“Okay, I can take that. But, what about the guns?”

“Mike, my first work was in a security company. I know for a fact that not all companies declare all the guns they have. Some do it to avoid extraneous charges. Others, especially in the security services, in order not to make their enemies aware of their true strength. Plus, you forgot this is the Philippines. Everybody knows that the number of unlicensed guns is ten times the number that are registered,”

“Yes, I know that. Only that I have this nagging feeling that there’s something bigger here. I just can’t put a finger on it.”

“Mike, my darling, you’re just overthinking things. We came here to relax, seems that this was not the right place. If you want, we can transfer to another place.”

“No, this place is fine. May be you’re right, I am just reading too much into things. Finding shadows and thinking of everything as a conspiracy. What I should do is make love to my beautiful girlfriend.” Mike turned to face Sandra and immediately he felt the stirring in his loins.

A few hours later, Sandra left the room after rejecting Mike’s offer to stay. She said she had to finish her report, which she was unable to complete because of what happened.

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

2:00am

“Maning. Give me the update.”

“Madam, all the dead have been taken care of. Their dependents will be supported and assured that all their needs will be provided for by the resort’s foundation. By the way, one more died at the hospital, but all the rest will make it. Frank will be out of commission for the next 2 weeks, his assistant will be taking over. The police accepted our explanations, especially when we said that they were the ones who were the key in repelling the attack. They will get their medals.”

“What about our guests? And more importantly, how will this affect our organization?”

“Madam, we have appeased all our guest, including those of Mike’s group. Some demanded refunds and discounts, all of which we agreed to, after bargaining. A few were doubtful of the coincidence of the night jaunt, but otherwise no one was the wiser. On the effect of the effects to our organization, I believe that for as long as the police stick to the version that we have agreed, that they had prior intelligence report and prepared for the attack, and the resort guards just assisted them, our secret remains safe. However, to be on the safe side, I suggest that we close down the resort for say one month so things can die down. We can claim that we are renovating because of the damage caused by the attacks.”

“Good, just make sure that the police will stick with the script. Also, I agree with your suggestion of closing down the resort, make the necessary arrangements.”

“One other thing Madam, with regards to your safety and continued stay at your uncle’s place. It would be best if you leave the place. Now that the triad know where you stay, it won’t be long before the others will come.”

“Yes, I’ve been thinking about that too. But, doing that immediately will only create more doubts. My cover is still intact, and the more that they see me as a regular fixture in the life of Mike, the less they will suspect, who I really am. For now, I want you to organize a tighter cordon on the area, spread our people, there are several rooms and units that are unoccupied, put our men there. I have already talked to Blue One to intensify our operations in all areas, and to gather information about the plans of the syndicates.”

“In the next few days and until we leave, make sure that we have men on the perimeter. We need to be sure that no remnants or gang-ho member of the triad slips through.”

“Yes Madam.” Maning assured his boss.

 

Blue Lagoon Resort, Laiya, Batangas

Three days after …

It was the last night of the group in the resort, and as form of compensation for the trouble, as well as the help that Mike gave, the resort prepared a grand luau exclusively for them.

In the middle of the celebration, Mike stood up held a glass and started tinkling it with a fork.

“Everybody, I have an announcement to make…”

“Everybody stopped and looked at him.

“I would like to announce that Sandra and Me are officially sweethearts. And if things go well, who knows, wedding bells may be ringing soon.”

Mike them asked Sandra to join him and in front of everybody, backlighted by the bonfire. Mike kissed a blushing Sandra.

 

Sands Hotel, Singapore

Same time, same day…

The officers of the syndicate are in a serious discussion about what happened in the Philippines.

“I hate to disagree with you Igor. What happened in the Philippines was unfortunate. It was a mistake and a blotched, poorly planned operation. I do understand where you’re coming from. But looking at the entirety of what happened, I think our friend Steven either underestimated the police, or he was blinded by his hatred for that policeman. I know that it was a golden opportunity, but he used too many men for a very simple operation that a dozen could have easily done. Those number of men if not properly handled could indeed attract suspicions, which was what happened.” The head of the Yakusa explained.

“Yujiro-san, my friend, you mistake my point of view for something. What I was saying is simply that with the amount of force that Steven brought with him and knowing the capabilities of the Filipino police, it is hard to imagine how 12 policemen, 8 security guards and that police inspector practically decimated his forces. Not unless these people are US Navy Seals. Further, according to the reports, there was no moon that night and the lighting was poor. So how the hell can you explain why many of his troops died from headshots?” Igor asked the body.

“Igor, you may have missed that part of the report that there were police snipers in high ground and vantage positions. Those could account for the headshots. Now as to accuracy considering that it was a dark night, I can only surmise that it was not as dark as reported. Because it behooves me to believe that the Filipino police have night-vision scopes, they may have a few NVGs, for all we know.” Yujiro countered the Russian.

“Enough, I think we have covered this matter as best as we can. Nobody here have first-hand information and we are discussing conjectures, theories and assumptions. Why don’t we wait for Steven to tell us exactly what happened? Right now our friends are working for his escape. They have already bribed the jail guards, the jail officer as well as a few officials of their Department of Justice. On his arraignment next week, he will be boosted-out by our friends and will be flown to Zamboanga City, then brought over by fast craft to Indanan in Indonesia.”

“On the proposition that Blue Orchid is in Manila, we need to review, because in the past few days, selective hits were made on our ventures. We have confirmed that these are her personal trademarks. We have no reason to believe that she is anywhere but here. However, we also cannot discount the fact that she could also be there and what is happening here is just a diversion to cover her tracks. Yes, we cannot and will not discount anything, and we have to resolve this puzzle for the purpose of our organization’s survival, we need to get to the bottom of all these.” Hzang Tsui, head of the 13K syndicate told the group.

 

 

BOOK TWO

Taking pieces off the board

 

Miragold Subdivision, Pasay City

2:00 pm The following day…

“Wow, I am totally wasted.” Ricky said as he flop to a chair.

“Yeah, I am too.” Allan, his sister’s husband agreed.

“Ops… Ops… Guys, don’t rest as yet, you get all the luggage and bags and bring them here before you think of rest.”

Both of them groaned and stood up.

Outside, Sandra and Mike were holding hands as if not wanting to be separated.

“Darling, why don’t you come and stay with me?” Mike asked her.

“Mike darling, I would very much want to, but the what would uncle and aunt think, also your mom?”

“I don’t care what they think, I just don’t want you away from me.”

“Goodness Mike, I am just 3 blocks away. If I shouted from here, you probably will hear me.” A smiling Sandra replied. “You know I will miss you too my darling, but for the sake of the people around us, we need to act appropriately.”

“Yeah, I understand.”

“Anyway, I have to go to work later. I need to sign a few documents. After that, I need to rest. You too. It was a busy vacation for you – as a policeman and as a lover.”

“Okay. I agreed only because you’re right. I am quite bushed and I feel like I am going to fall flat on my face, unless I immediately go to sleep. Only my love for you gives me the bravado to keep going.” Mike replies his voice ringing with real exhaustion.

“I know. Now you go, don’t keep mom waiting.”

They kissed and Mike went back to the mini-bus for the short ride home.

Sandra, though she felt exhausted, hurriedly took a bath and left saying she has something to do at the office. She told them not to wait for her. She might be staying in the office and will probably sleep there tonight.

 

Malate, Manila City

5:00 am The following day…

Sandra woke up refresh after falling down on her bed at 7:00 last night. Maning made sure she was not disturbed. She had been on the go for more than 48 hours with just a few hours of sleep in between. She padded to kitchen started the percolator and took her bath. A few minutes later, bathrobe wrapped around her and a towel wrapped on her head, she was sipping coffee alternating from reading the papers and watching CNN.

She was on her second cup when Maning entered through a secret door that he alone has access, bringing some scrambled eggs, a plate of toasted pandesal (Philippine buns), bacon, cheese and a pitcher of cold mango juice. He set them up on the kitchen table, while Sandra ambled slowly, her eyes glued to the CNN Breaking News report.

“Information is still sketchy at this point. According to initial reports that CNN received from police official on the scene. The police received a tip that a shipment of illegals were being unloaded at Pier 24. Acting on the tip, policemen raided said location and uncovered a syndicate holding more than 100 young girls of mixed nationalities. The police arrested the syndicate members and a more in-depth investigation is now going on to determine how this happened right below the noses of the Harbor Police. Singapore is one of the signatories of the UN Anti-human trafficking law. We will continue to monitor this and update of viewers on new developments.” The CNN reported then proceeded with other news.

“It seems like Blue One has been quite active these few weeks. She has been very successful in making everyone believe that Blue Orchid is still in either Singapore, KL or Hongkong.” Maning commented while Sandra was ambling towards the table.

“Yes, she really deserves a raise.” She noted.

“Hahaha, good luck with that. Remember how she refused the last two raises you gave? She said doing so would give her more than what you are getting. Besides, I believe what she really needs is a vacation. Her son’s graduation is coming up, she already said she wants to be with him.”

“Make that happen Maning. She deserves a break and don’t forget to send my gift to her son.”

“Consider it done Madam. By the way, I know it’s not my position to say this, but let me say it anyway. I notice that you seem to be getting closer to Inspector Mike. Considering what has happened and what will, do you really think it is a good decision?”

“I know it is not. I also know that getting involve especially with a policeman is very bad idea. Just like a moth attracted to fire, I am courting to get my wings burned. But, I had this feeling for Mike, even before I left the country more than 5 years ago. I tried to suppress it, but it just pops out, beyond my control. It feels like my body feels different when I am with him. My mind loses its focus and for once, I just want to be a woman in love. It’s wrong, I know.”

“Madam, there’s nothing wrong in falling in love. Inspector Mike is a good man and I can’t see any reason why you should not. In fact, in another situation, I would be the first to congratulate you. What I am afraid of is what will happen if he finds out? Would he believe that you love him, or would he be thinking that you just used him? As I said, I am not in the position to tell you what to do. I just want to give a word of caution.”

“I understand Maning and I am, grateful. I just hope that things will work out for the best. Let’s keep our fingers cross on this one.” Sandra quipped. “So what’s on my schedule for today?”

“You have some documents to approve, this is for the organization. Checks to issue for our legitimate travel agency business. And later today, you have a skype meeting with the bank, concerning the monies being transferred to your Cayman and Geneva accounts. Those are the things only you need to do. I have taken cared of the rest.” Maning replied while arranging the documents on the table.

“Maning, let me ask you a question and I hope you give me a very honest answer.” Sandra asked.

Maning seeing the seriousness of his boss, pulled a chair, poured himself a glass of juice while refilling Sandra’s glass.

“This seems to be a serious thing, mind if I sit down?” he said

“Maning, do you think it’s time for me to stop?”

Maning took some time before answering. He drank his juice, cleared his throat.

“Madam, our organization has grown from a simple group into what is now considered as one of the most efficient syndicate in this part of the world. We have people and connections all over the world and our legitimate fronts and investments are already earning more than enough for what all of us need. If stopping is about you settling down to an ordinary businesswoman’s life. I would say yes; it is time to stop. However, if you are thinking of the reason why you started all this and have you achieved that objective. We may have wounded the enemy, but we have not killed it. A tiger is most dangerous when it is wounded. Our enemies will not stop unless they destroy you. So with this in mind, stopping is not an option for you.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too. Seems like we have to take this to the end. We can’t just stop until everyone of those demons are dead and their organization destroyed.” Sandra suddenly hardened her voice. “Maning, let’s move to Phase 2.”

“Yes Madam.”

 

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Manila

8:00 am… 1 week after…

“Sir, our escort is here. They will be our Marshalls as we transport Mr. Cai to the Makati Regional Court where he will be arraigned. I have already informed his guards as well as the Traffic Bureau who already approved our route.

“Very well, have everyone gather at the front. Everyone you know your jobs, let’s get moving.”

The convey of 3 cars left the compound, it was relatively short distance, but traffic was a little heavy along the way, thus the convoy had to leave early for their 10 oclock court hearing.

15 minutes into the trip, as the convoy rounded the Buendia rotunda, a shell from an M203 rifle grenade hit the first car causing its engine to explode. All occupants of the car never had a chance. A second shell hit the tailing police car. A general panic ensued. Commuters waiting their bus scampering in every direction, the wounded crawling away from the carnage. Vendors leaving their goods, people bumping into their stalls scattering everything, everybody wanting to get as far away as possible.

A traffic enforcer tried to approach the burning cars, a single 5.56 bullet from a scoped CAR-15 entered his head and like a melon it exploded. 3 guys with bonnets covering their faces started firing into the crowd and into the air. Panic in an instant became pandemonium. While 4 people approached the middle car. The driver tried to get out, but the guy riding beside him fired into his head killing him instantly.

He took his keys and unlocked the handcuffs of Steven Cai.

“Mr. Cai these guys were hired by your friends, go with them, I will try to cover your escape and distract any reinforcements. Good luck sir.” The NBI agent told the triad leader.

“Thank you. I will make sure you are properly paid.” The triad leader gratefully said and then went out of the car where he was loaded to another car that immediately sped away, while the 3 guys continued to mow down people randomly. After seeing that the escape was completed, they began converging to another car.

One policeman covering behind a jeep, saw the chance and fired at the fleeing gunmen. By a lucky roll of the dice, he hit one smack on the head and killed him instantly and one on the hips. When his gun ran out of bullets, He hurriedly ejected the empty clip and was slapping a fresh clip when a sniper found him and drilled 3 bullets, all hitting him on the chest. It took less than a minute for the policeman to die.

With the sound of police sirens converging, all the gunmen piled into the car leaving the wounded and the dead where they laid. The wounded tried to shoot it out with the police, and was were eventually killed.

As things cooled down and policemen cleared the area. 5 policemen and 5 NBI operatives died. Only one survived. The one who killed the driver. During the commotion he shot himself on the thigh, a flesh wound, to give him a plausible excuse.

 

Mall of Asia, Pasay City

Atop the Ferris Wheel….

Sandra was in a prone position waiting. She secreted to the area and unto the ferris wheel earlier by her men who now standing guard in the area, dressed as street sweepers.

3 days earlier, her group learned that the syndicate was planning to spring Mr. Cai from jail. They were going to do it when he will be transported from the NBI holding cell to the Makati Trial Court. Using his connections, Maning learned that Mr. Cai will be conveyed by car to the small boats port just behind the Mall of Asia in Pasay. With this information, they were able to anticipate the syndicate’s moves. However, even if they knew the time, they were unable to discern where the hit will happen.

The main mission was to get Mr. Cai, dead or alive, possibly alive as he is worth more alive. But if not possible, then he will be allowed to leave the country alive. They have prepared a 3-pronged plan. First was to hit the convoy at the corner of the Artiaga and Taft, then at the corner of Sampaguita St., just before the left turn to Ayala, and finally just before the convoy enters the court premises. Their plan however depends on the route that the convoy will take and nobody among their contacts knew the route.

Thus, as a back-up, should the syndicate be successful in extracting Mr. Cai, she will be the last line of the success of the mission. From her perch, and following the events through the reports of her men.

A few more minutes and she saw two cars turning towards the MOA grounds, people began scampering all over the place. Sandra positioned herself and prepared. She has already tested her sights and windage. she took a few practice shots on some floating cans.

As soon as Mr. Cai left the car she was already tracking him. She didn’t get a chance as he was surrounded by his men. The boat engine was already running even its passengers step aboard. Sandra was already getting frustrated. The boat started to move, Sandra was getting desperate, 50 meters from the dock, a grinning Mr. Cai raised his head to peak at the chasing police cars. It was the last picture that registered in his mind, as a 7.63 grain bullet from Sandra’s rifle entered just above his ears and took away half his head.

Minutes later, a black Toyota Fortuner slowed down to pick a passenger at the side entrance of the MOA-SMX. The passenger was carrying a rather large backpack which nobody noticed because of the boat race happening as the coast guard fast boat tried to cut the escaping speedboat.

 

Sands Hotel, Singapore

9:00 pm… same day…

“WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?” Yojiro, the head of the Yakusa was shouting at everyone.

“I thought, everything was planned, everything was cleared and every possibly glitch was considered and studied. WHAT THE FLYING FUCK HAPPENED?” he continued.

“According to our man, everything went as planned, until the last minute when they were already on the boat and leaving the pier. It was, according to him, a really impossible shot.” Igor the Russian narrated.

“Based on our experience, only one person can make that shot – Blue Orchid.” Hzang of the 13K group concluded.

“That much is a given. It could be possible that Blue Orchid learn through the news that Steven is being held at the NBI cell in the Philippines and took him out. This only means one thing gentlemen. Blue Orchid is well connected and get information about us from everywhere it is available.” Malik Mustafah, of the Indonesian Golden Circle Syndicate, commented.

“Me and my group have been after her in Johore, Indonesia. We captured a few of her men, but nobody talked. Those who did, never even met her much less give a description. She operated through cut-outs. Unless we can penetrate her group, we will have no way of knowing who, where and what she is.” Malik continued.

“The same happened to us in Indanan. We missed her by minutes. The shell casing was still very hot when we got to her position. But she was nowhere. Some of my men are already thinking that we are fighting a ghost. She hits us with impunity, and we don’t even know where and when she will hit us again.” Hzang added.

“Gentlemen, when Blue Orchid was hitting our minor guys, we didn’t care. I thought, or shall I say, we all thought that she can’t get to any of us. She can only hit our middlemen. Until she started going up the ladder. This here gentlemen – is a statement – she is sending us a message – she can get to us!”  Yojiro exclaimed with anger.

“Today it’s Steven, who will be next? We cannot afford to wait, we have to take the offensive and do something.” Igor adamantly exclaimed. “So what’s the decision of the group?”

“We need to calm down and think through this one. We cannot act harshly. Let’s learn a lesson from what happened to Steven.” Hzang replied.

“At the moment, we don’t any idea where to start. But, if you remember earlier, we discussed about how that police inspector survived the attack of Steven. Now I tend to believe that Blue Orchid has something to do with it. We can start from there.” Yujiro suggested.

“I also suggest that we send people to follow that policeman. If she saved him, then he must mean something to her. If so, we can use him to pressure her to show herself.” Malik told the group.

“That’s a good idea. Also, Manila is a small city, let’s flood it with our men and beat the bushes. Sooner or later something actionable is going to come up.” Igor suggested.

“Igor, most of your people are white, whether we like it or not, they will stand-up and easily noticeable. But, bring your best men to Manila, on ready alert, just in case we will need for them.” Yojiro suggested to the Russian mob leader.

“Meantime, let’s pick a dozen or more from each of us and send them to Manila as soon as possible. She may have already left Manila by now, but then she will have left some trail that we can follow. Agreed?”

With a resounding chorus of ayes, Sandra’s world has become smaller and more dangerous.

 

Marigold Subdivision, Pasay City

11:00 pm… Same day…

Mike and Sandra were in bed talking. Earlier their love making was intense and borne out of missing each other for several days.

“What time did your mother leave? I wanted to give her something to bring to the province, but when I got here, she’s already left.” Sandra asked.

“She decided to leave early, it’s not your fault. Anyway we can always send it via package delivery.” Mike replied while his was rubbing Sandra’s shoulder.

“Mike, darling, I notice you’re a little distracted, why? Is there something wrong?”

“No, I was just thinking about that Chinese Triad leader who was killed while trying to escape.”

‘Yeah, I saw that on the tube earlier today. A part of me wanted to rejoice, men of those kind must not be allowed to live. But then another part of me felt sorry for his wife and children. That feeling disappeared when I saw the number of policemen and civilians who were killed during the escape.”

“Sandra darling, you must understand that from a policeman’s point of view, I cannot condone killing, whether deserved or not. Mr. Steven Cai may be the worse and lowliest kind of man, but all the same, he deserves his day in court.”

“You know what, I agree with you Mike darling, but then, he was escaping, so he just established that he’s guilty and wants to run away from whatever he did. He may not have deserved to die, but if he stayed and faced the law, then maybe he would still be alive today.”

“I know, that’s why I have mixed feelings about what happened. But like you I really felt bad about those who were killed. I was actually wishing that I was there to stop those guys. Although, I know I may not be able to, but that sense of responsibility as a cop is really eating me.”

“Mr. Superman, you have to remember, you can’t be around to save everyone.” Sandra jokingly replied.

“You know what Superwoman, you still don’t know how this superman can make you squeal when I tickle you.” Mike started to tickle her.

Sandra was squirming, and hysterically squealing and turning over and over in bed, while Mike was laughing so hard.

 

Malate, Manila

9:00 am, two days’ after

“Madam, our sources have confirmed that several trained assassins and hired killers, known to be associated with the Yakusa, 13K, Golden Circle and the Russian mob have entered the Philippines in the past 2 days. Their number is yet unknown. But it would not surprise me if more will be coming in the next few days.”

“So it has begun.” Sandra stood and walk to her bar and got a bottle of Perrier.

“Maning, is the resort prepared?”

“Yes Madam, all those involved have been given one-month paid vacation leave. All those wounded have been relocated to our other resort for them to heal. Anybody asking would have a hard time looking for them. Plus the resort remains closed for renovation. So we just have a skeletal set of staff who practically know nothing.”

“Good. Are all the documents for the sale and transfer of the resort to another owner done?”

“Yes Madam, any and all reference to us have been removed. Even your favorite loft is gone, part of the renovation. For all intents and purposes, the resort was sold by the Calariga Investments, Inc., to Rida Corporation, Inc., which is a minor subsidiary of Raffles Hotels.”

“Okay, I want you to make sure that we erase all traces in the area, plus all those who can identify me as the owner are either out of the place or are loyal to us and will never tell anybody about it. I don’t want any innocent person to be involved in our mission.”

“Yes Madam.”

“Now, let’s have people following these killers. We need to know where they are at any given time, the people they talk to and if possible what they are planning. I don’t want them to surprise us. Let’s bring our guys from Mindanao and the Visayas to augment our people here. Soon, Manila will be a battleground, and I want to be sure that our organization emerges triumphant.”

“Madam, there is one thing I would like to point out.”

“What?”

“Police Senior Inspector Mike Cartagena. He is going to be in the middle of all these, whether we like it or not. And most probably, the syndicate will use him, and those close to him to get to you. How would you like to handle this?”

“You’re right Maning, that has been on my mind for some time now. Mike’s going to report to work starting next week. One way or the other, he’s not a soft target for them. But Ricky and his family are. His mother is. I’ve been thinking of sending them somewhere, but this will only spark suspicion.”

Sandra paused, apparently deep in thought.

“Maning send 2 or 3 guys to covertly guard Mike’s family. Instruct Lito to study the place where they live, and prepare an exit strategy should it become necessary. Also put 2 people to monitor Mike’s place all the time. We also need to prepare an exit plan for Ricky’s family. I think Lito’s assistant can handle that.”

“As you ordered Madam. We’ll get to it right away.”

Maning left Sandra, who sat down to think about all other options that she need to decide on. She knows that a lot of what will decide will affect whatever future she and Mike will have. She also knew of the danger and the very strong possibility that she may not get out of this situation alive. But more than all these, she is apprehensive of what would happen to their relationship once Mike discovers her real identity, will it survive?

Sandra’s has never known fear when she decided on this path. Her fear is not about whether the organization survives. But rather for that wee life, that was seeded by Mike on her womb. She’s two weeks late, and her period was always as regular as clockwork.

 

Camp Crame, Quezon City

9:00 am, the following day…

“Senior Inspector Miguel Cartagena…” Someone shouted as soon as Mike entered the office. ‘WELCOME BACK BRO…”

Everybody came, some congratulating him, others slapping his back. Everybody cooing and kidding him about his skin and glow.

“Bro, vacation really did you good. You look like a man who just won the lotto.” A colleague joked.

“It’s not just lotto bro… Have you seen the picture of his girlfriend? Wow, I would glad exchange her for a million bucks.” Another colleague quipped.

“Bro, you are the luckiest man on earth. And if it were me, I would gladly be shot, if I can find a girlfriend like that.”

At that point Chief Senior Inspector Millan entered the scene.

“Cartagena… You’re supposed to report next week, why are you here.”

Mike saluted before replying.

“Good morning sir. I just passed by. I am already dying of boredom, so I came to say hello.”

C/SInsp. Millan saluted back at Mike and said.

“Good to see you again Cartagena. Why don’t you join the briefing. You may be able to provide insights, since you have first-hand experience. Besides, this is also concerning you.”

“Yes sir, gladly sir.” Mike replied enthusiastically. He was unable to hide his glee of going back to the saddle. He followed his buddies to the conference room, where other policemen were already gathered.

After a few congratulations and back slapping, C/SInsp. Millan asked everyone to sit down and began the briefing.

“Gentlemen and Ladies, as of yesterday, we have received information that several known international gun-for-hire and known assassins, wanted by Interpol have entered the country. We are however still confirming this report, but our assets have identified at least 3, with pending arrest warrants by the Interpol. However, the information came to us too late to be able to apprehend these killers.

We have no idea as to their purpose here. It could be they are on vacation, which I doubt, nor are they here to attend a convention of killers and mercenaries.” The Chief attempting at humor which greeted by a few chuckles and some yeahs…

“As of the moment we have no idea as to why they are here. We do have a few possible theories. One is that they want to avenge the death of Mr. Steven Cai and his brother. Two, they may want to have a second go at Senior Inspector Cartagena, who backed by security guards and recovering from a gunshot wound, thwarted and even killed most of Cai’s men, while happily having a vacation in Laiya, Batangas.

Honestly Mike I never believe that story about the police killing those men. I’ve worked with them, even had shooting matches with them and they can’t even hit a lamppost at 5 meters in broad daylight. So that cock and bull story about them killing those guys… Don’t fly with me.”

C/SInsp. Millan, sarcastically told Mike.

“Third, these killers are her to kill someone, someone like the Blue Orchid, as the Interpol told us several weeks ago. Now whatever the reason they are here, we have to stop them. As of the moment, we have nothing to use so we can arrest them, except those with warrants of arrest from Interpol, there’s nothing that we can do with the others. As such, I want everyone to make this your priority. Drop everything else, let’s focus on this. Any questions?”

Aside from a few questions about their Rules of Engagement (ROE) and schedules, the group broke up.

C/SInsp. Millan then called Mike to walk with him. They went to a veranda where Millan shook a cigarette, offer one to Mike who politely declined.

“Mike, I don’t know about you, but may I suggest that you take this very seriously. These guys are professionals, known the world over. If they are targeting you, know that they may also target your family and love ones. I hope you have contingency plans for this kind of situation. I am saying, send them somewhere else, do not let them be used by these men as something to pressure you. Now if you need anything, just remember we have your back.”

“Thank you sir, I will definitely consider your advice.” Mike replied.

“You’re welcome and by the way, welcome back, you’re looking pretty good for a man who just got shot.” Millan commented and then walked away.

 

Marigold Subdivision, Pasay City

9:00 pm, same day…

Spent after a really hot and steamy episode of love making, Sandra and Mike, both naked in bed were talking about everything and anything. Sandra was trying to find a way to tell Mike about her being pregnant.

“Sandra darling, I just came from Camp Crame. My new boss, who is a close friend of mine asked me to join the briefing.”

“Why would he do that? You’re not supposed to report not until next week, we’re you recalled?”

“No, he asked me to come because the briefing was about Steven Cai.” Mike explained.

“So, what about him?”

“Well, the office received information that several assassins and hired killers from around Southeast Asia has entered the country. We are pursuing those with standing arrest warrants from Interpol. But, there are those that though known killers, don’t have any record with the police, so we can’t do anything except observe their movements.”

Sandra already knew this, in fact earlier that day, Maning already wanted to move her out of the country. She refused to move away but agreed that the security in Mike’s house be doubled.

“How can that be? They are known killers, so why can’t the police simply arrest them? I know the law gives them certain rights, but they are killers.”

“Sandra, here in our country, even killers are given the benefit of the doubt and unless they are proven guilty in a court of law, they have as much rights as any ordinary citizen.” Mike explained to her.

So what did your office say, why are these killers here? What did they tell you to do, or precautions to take?”

“They have a few hunches about the reason why they are here. Mostly about exacting revenge for Steven Cai’s death, that being directed to me and my love ones. They told me that everyone I love is in danger, as they may use them, especially you, to make me capitulate. And there’s also that theory that they are here to hunt a certain Blue Orchid, known to be the leader of a right wing vigilante group, hunting them.”

“This Blue Orchid, what do your office know about him?” Sandra asked.

“Her… According to Mr. Fai from Interpol, it’s a woman, identity unknown, nationality unknown, location unknown. Only that there was information that this woman came to the Philippines, nobody knows why.”

“If this woman is such an international figure, why don’t they have any details on her? Like where she came from?”

“I also asked that question from Mr. Fai, according to him, this woman just came to their attention about 3 years ago, when the lower bosses of syndicates were being targeted and killed. Since then, many operations of the Syndicates in Southeast Asia were dismantled, exposed and intercepted by Blue Orchid. But, in all these, she foiled all assassination attempts on her life, as well as any attempt to gather information on her and her organization.

Interpol learned that all of her followers who were captured choose to die rather than give any information. Those who were force to speak by using torture or chemicals, do not even know the real name of their immediate boss. According to the Interpol, anyone who joins her organization are baptized again.” Mike told Sandra.

“So why are these people so loyal to this Blue Orchid? What makes them give their lives for her? What’s their motivation?”

“Mr. Fai was not very clear on that, but according to one of those that they captured, those who are accepted to their organization, gets a job. Her organization provides for all his family needs. Everyone is treated equally and fairly. And when one dies in defense of the organization, his whole family is well provided for, even the children’s education. Her organization is using all the money that they got from the syndicates amounting to billions of dollars, invested them to provide for all her supporters.”

“Mike darling, I don’t know if I got it right, but it seems like you are describing an organization and a leader that is doing good for people. Getting rid of the bad ones and helping the abused? A modern day Robin Hood. So why are the police and Interpol after this Blue Orchid.” Sandra asked.

“That’s the same question that’s bothering me too. While I do not question that this anarchistic method is wrong, I also cannot question that the results from all these have greatly improve the stability of commerce and industry in this region. If it were up to me, I would rather give a medal to Blue Orchid and let her do what she does best. But, I am a police officer and I adhere to the laws of the land. If I have to kill her, I will because it is my job, not because I want to do it. But surely, it will be the greatest regret of my life.” Mike sadly replied.

“Why do you think this Blue Orchid is doing what she does? And why are all these people after her?”

“Nobody really knows the reason or reasons why she is doing this. Mr. Fai said, this could probably be revenge, but with all the atrocities that the syndicates did, it is impossible to single out which one. One theory is that she is the daughter of one of the Chinese generals that the syndicate killed. There are other stories, most are unsubstantiated.”

“So why do they go after her?”

“For the syndicates they want to get back to their ways where they control everyone through fear and subjugation. They want power and control as well as the gains. This they cannot do when someone opposes them. For the syndicate to retain their power they need the politicians and person with authorities to help them quell sporadic dissent. Politicians and officers that can be bribed, greedy and want to live lavish lives. This symbiotic dependence is the status quo that everybody wants to maintain. Both cannot afford to have Blue Orchid upsetting this balance.”

Sandra knew that Mike is an intelligent man, she didn’t realize he was this perceptive and aware of the social schematics of crime. At that point she wanted to confide in him, tell him her secrets. She wanted him to understand everything. But she cannot afford to do this now. It is not yet time.

Sandra stood up.

“Where are you going?” Mike asked her.

“My darling, all those sex and those high ideas of crime which honestly I didn’t even understand, made me very hungry and horny. I will eat first then eat you.” Sandra declared haughtily leaving Mike laughing.

 

Malate, Manila City

9:00 pm, the following day…

“Talk to me Maning. I need to know.” Sandra steely asked.

“Madam, we picked 2 guys last night near the resort. They were asking questions about what really happened there. If not for the fact that they were foreigners, we would never have suspected them.”

“I understand Maning, but why was I not notified immediately?”

“Madam, I gave strict instructions to everyone, that unless it is a matter of life and death, no one is to disturb you, when you are either in Ricky’s house or at Mike’s. I want you to have a normal life when you are there. A place where you can be who you are. Any intervention that will be done will be done in such way it won’t affect nor cause any person will suspect you.”

“Thank you Maning, but next time, send me a message, in code, so I will be aware and can at least do something.”

“Yes Madam.”

“So, how do you plan to dispose of these people? What do we know about them and what are they planning?

“They were brought to our safe house, and so far they have not been saying anything. What we know so far is that one is Japanese and the other is Chinese.”

“Nothing? Not a peep?”

“Yes Madam. They refused to talk. We tried everything, short of torture, nobody’s talking.”

“Bring me to the safe house. Let me talk to them.”

“Is that wise Madam?”

“Don’t worry Maning, I will be wearing my mask.”

2 hours later at the safe house.

Sandra, wearing a blue orchid mask, entered the room where 2 blindfolded foreigners sat, tied securely to metal chairs that were bolted to the floor. Sandra gestured to Maning, who was also wearing a mask, to remove the blindfolds.

Sandra faced the two guys, moving from one to the other.

“I am Blue Orchid. I think you already heard about me. You were probably sent by your bosses to check if I am here. The reason why you can’t see my face and wondering why you are still alive is because I plan to set you free. Believe it or not, I don’t want to kill you. You’re just pawns in a big game. My quarrel is not with you.”

Sandra paused motioned for Maning to give her a chair which was positioned in front. She also motioned for Maning to remove the gags. She sat down, arranged herself dramatically before continuing.

“I can be ruthless, or I can be kind, that’s what your bosses did not tell you. In fact, there are people in your organizations that we captured and have set free. Now they work for me and provide me information about your movements. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself, how would I know where to find you? Know exactly what you are doing? It because someone in your group is telling me.”

“We don’t believe you, and there is nothing you can do to make us betray our boss.” The Japanese yelled at Sandra.

“If you think we are gullible enough to believe that you will let us go, we’re not that stupid.” The Indonesian added.

“I know that, otherwise if not for my believing that you’re not stupid, you wouldn’t be talking with me. Even if I let you go now, you still cannot tell your boss what I look like. You may find this place, but then we will be abandoning this after. So gentlemen, what do I have to lose? But you have your life to bargain for. I will be honest with you, only one of you will leave here alive. That will be the one who can give me the best information which I can verify. I guarantee you that.”

“If you let me go, I will return and it will be my supreme pleasure to kill you.” The Indonesian angrily said.

“That is if I let you go, which I will – if you give me what I want. However, I can also promise you, if you continue to defy me, I will make every minute so painful that you will beg me to kill you, but I won’t. I will bring you back with morphine, make you feel good, then start there, until the pain returns.”

“You can do what you want, we’re dead anyway. Our bosses know we never talked.” The Japanese said.

“Who said you didn’t?” Sandra gave a signal, the speakers began playing back the voice of the Japanese, as he was denying and resisting, then slowly, the voice continued – it was talking about working for Blue Orchid. Someone was talking, mimicking his voice. Then suddenly, a new voice came from the speakers, it was the voice of the Indonesian, again talking about working for Blue Orchid.

“Now tell me gentlemen, what will your bosses think if they heard that? What’s that penalty for traitors? The whole family is killed? As I said, I don’t have to kill you. You own organization will do that for me.”

“Nobody is going to believe that.” The Indonesian shouted. But uncertainty was clear in his voice.

“Yes, our boss knows how loyal we are.”

“Maybe and maybe not. Your call gentlemen. I will leave you for now. I will be back in 30 minutes, by then I will ask questions and I hope you have the right answers for me.”

Sandra left and went into a room where she can observe the two guys whose faces and reactions are monitored by a hidden camera.

“So Maning, who do you think will be the first to break?”

“I don’t have any idea as yet. Let’s see when we get to phase 2.”

“Do we already have their identities?”

“Yes Madam, they were identified by our friend from Interpol. We also have their addresses. I have already sent some men.”

“Okay, let’s take a break and when everything is set and ready. Call me.”

“Yes Madam.”

Two hours later, a group of masked men entered the room, they started setting up 2 50-inch flat screen television sets. After which they left. Then the screens came alive. On the screens first appeared two houses, then the cameras starting going near, it came to gates and then the sound of knocking was heard. Two women came on the screen. It froze on that scene.

Sandra entered the room still wearing a mask and stood between the tv screens. She looked at the two men and smiled.

“Yes gentlemen those were your houses and these are your wives. You may be wondering how? I can tell you, our organization is stronger than any of you can ever imagine. We have more resources and can reach anywhere we want.” Sandra sat on a chair and made a sign. The screens started moving again and this time it showed another scene.

“Gentlemen, please note the date and the time at the upper left corner of the screen. You will know that this is live and being streamed to you. This one is direct from Palembang, Indonesia, Mr. Muhammad, this is your 10-year old son talking to one of my men. And on that screen, direct from the Shinbutshu District at Nagasaki, we have your 16-year old daughter, talking to one of my men. Hmmm, I didn’t know that you have a lovely daughter, Mr. Nakamoto.”

The TV screens again froze. The two men were looking at Sandra with smoldering eyes. She just looked at them with a sly smile.

“I will be back later. Why don’t you give our friends water? They will need it later.” She told Maning.

Sandra left the room. While she was away, the two persons where separated each facing each other and in between them, the two TV screens. One guy seeing only the screen in front of him. It showed a live stream of Sandra’s men following the children of the two guys. However, every 10 minutes the screen switches. For 10 minutes the Japanese family is displayed to the Indonesian guy and vice versa. This resulted to the two guys shouting and demanding to be informed of what is happening.

After an hour, Sandra returned. She sat down and asked both of them.

“Anybody wants to speak to me now?”

Both men were silent. Both glaring at Sandra.

“Okay, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.” Again she left.

Once again the TV screens came to life. During the first 10 minutes, it showed Sandra’s men entering their houses. They detained everyone and had their wives and kids bound. Then the video died, all they are hearing were shouting, crying and pleading. They heard slaps, body hits, grunts and groans. The Japanese man heard her daughter screaming.

Both men were struggling and straining to get away from their chairs. Both were shouting and crying at the same time. Unknown to both men, their families were just bound and ushered to one room in the house. All the sounds they heard were digitized by Sandra’s expert and made to appear as if their families were being hurt.

Sandra entered the room, once more. Again the feed stopped. In the houses of the two men, their wives were taken and a make-up artist started working on them. They were asked either to act like they were hurt, or they will be really hurt. Both choose to act.

Sandra just sat and said nothing. She raised her hand and the feed started. This time the scene was showing their wives with made up wounds and fake blood, face swelling and all the gore. They were roughly shoved to the screen and the picture froze.

“I am just starting, that’s level one. Unless one of you start talking, level two will commence immediately.” Sandra paused for a minute waiting for their reply. Seeing none, she stood up.

“I did not condemn your families, you did. Tell our men to do it.” And she started walking away.

“WAIT…” The Japanese man shouted. “If I talk will you guarantee that you will set my family free?”

“I will not just guarantee, I will make you see my men leave and your family left alone.” Sandra replied. “However, if I sense you’re not telling the truth, then all bets are off.”

“I WILL TALK…” The Indonesian man shouted. “Give me that guarantee and I will tell you everything I know.”

“I will also give you my guarantee, nothing more will happen to your families, if you are telling the truth.”

Pointing to 2 men. “They will listen to every word you will tell us. One single lie and you know what happens next.” With that she left with Maning following her.

At the adjacent room, Sandra called Maning to a corner away from the others in the room.

“Maning, make sure we squeeze every information from this two guys. Before we release them.”

“Release them? Aren’t you courting danger if you do that?”

“I know, but I promise to let them live, though I did not promise what condition. After they have told us everything, I want our men to break their legs and arms. Those will heal, but for the meantime, that would be two men less to run after us.”

“Then why don’t we just kill them and get done with it. At least, that way the syndicate will not have a clue as to what happened to them.”

“Look Maning, we captured them at the resort, that was their assignment. One way or the other their suspicion on the resort is already a given. But since we have since erased our involvement there, then they can’t use that as a pressure point for us.

Also, by releasing them alive, I am sending a message to the syndicate that I am here. That will draw their leaders, or at least their best men here, where I am the strongest. Secondly, by releasing them alive, they will be able to tell everyone what I have done to them and for them. I want them to be able to tell their friends, that our organization is only ruthless to the leaders, but we spare those men who will not do us harm.”

“Madam, there are times when I really cannot understand the deviousness of your mind. But tell you what, this plan I really like. Let them come to us, you’re right, here we control everything. I love this plan Madam.”

“I know you will Maning. I know you will. Anyway, I’m going to rest. Call me when you feel we have had all the information from these guys.”

“Yes Madam.” Maning enthusiastically replied with renewed respect for his boss.

Four hours after, Maning woke a sleeping Sandra.

“Madam, I believe we have extracted all that we can from them. They are just repeating what they have already said. And, we have compared their statements and they match.”

“Do we have the video of their families?”

“Yes Madam.”

“Okay, let’s go talk to them.”

Sandra and Maning entered the room. The two men looking at her with anticipation.

“My men told me that your statements corroborated each other. This only means that you were both telling the truth…”

“Our families?” the Japanese man interrupted her.

“We will get to that. Let me just tell you that, our fight is with your bosses. We are not after you individually, and for as many as those who will not cause us harm, we will not cause them harm either. But to those who will choose to hurt us, we will hurt them more.”

“Now, as I promise that you will see your families as my men leave. That will.” Sandra nodded her head to Maning.

The TV screen flickered open and the Japanese man saw his family. His wife and children were laughing and celebrating, together with Sandra’s men who were now dressed as production crews. They were told that they are part of a movie being produced and they were purposely made unaware so their acting would be very real. The Japanese guy saw Sandra’s men pay his wife some money, made them sign a voucher. After handshakes all around, they left. The same thing happened with the Indonesian’s family.

With tears in their eyes, the two men looked at Sandra with awe and gratitude.

“Now, on my other promise to release you. Again, being a woman of my word, an organization of its words, I will. But, I do have a dilemma. If I simply released you, then your organization will doubt your loyalty and may even have you killed. So gentlemen, something must be done, something that will not give any permanent damage, but will be convincing enough to give you an alibi to your bosses. I hope you can help me with this.”

A discussion began and when it ended, both men agreed to have one leg broken, a superficial stab wound, and bullet wounds on the shoulders.

“Gentlemen, you can see how our organization treats its people. We demand respect from each other and value each other’s opinion. But, don’t you doubt our resolve. As you have seen, we can reach you and your families anytime we want to. Now, I will leave it to you how to explain what happened and your escape. I would suggest something like being kidnapped for ransom. That is believable since you are foreigners on this land. Now, if you choose to tell your bosses about us, then note that we have recordings of you sitting on the chair, and telling us you will talk to us. This time a real recording and we will be sending this to them, as soon as we knew that you betrayed us.”

‘Madam Blue Orchid. We understand that you can’t trust us. We know that in your eyes, we are your enemies. But speaking for myself, seeing what you did, in my eyes, you are not my enemy. You are also not my friend, but definitely not my enemy.” The Indonesian man said.

“Madam, I was born a Yakusa and will die a Yakusa. Our loyalty is to our Lord. Do not expect any loyalty from me. That will not ever happen, but like my companion, I do not see you as an enemy anymore. But I will always respect you for keeping your words.”

Sandra motioned to Maning to release the two men.

“Thank you gentlemen, I hope the next time we meet, it will be during better times. It has been an honor and a privilege to have known both of you.”

Sandra bowed to both men, who returned her bow.

“Sayonara Iguki-san. Assalamu Alaikum, Patil. May fair winds blow on your sails always.”

Saying such, Sandra was actually making the impression that she was either a Chinese or Taiwanese. A precaution that should these men be tortured; it would mislead those searching for her. She then left the men to be handled as they agreed.

 

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Manila City

Conference Room, 8:00 pm, the following day…

“So how are the two men that we sent to spy on the resort?” The team leader of the Yakusa asked.

“Sir, we received their call last night. They were rescued by the police somewhere in Sta. Rosa Laguna. Apparently, they were kidnapped and were supposedly set for ransom. Those who took them thought they were rich foreigners. Somehow, they were able to find a way to escape. They snatched one of their kidnappers cellular fone and was able to call us and the police. They fought their way through, until the police came and rescued them. By the time the police arrived, the kidnappers were all gone, but our two men were wounded. Both have broken legs, stab and gunshot wounds and are now in the hospital.” One of the Yakusa members replied.

“Is there any chance that those who kidnapped them were from the organization?”

“Sir, if it was the organization, then both be dead by now. Just like the guys we sent to follow the police inspector.”

“Yes, that’s true sir. So far, there has never been an instant that the Blue Orchid spared anybody. She has always been ruthless. Besides, I cannot find a good reason for her to hold and release them. These men don’t have information more than what they were ordered to do.”

“Okay, so this was basically just a group trying to make a quick buck? You’re pretty sure about that.”

“It does look that way sir. However, there is one information that both Iguki-san and Patil learned. While they were in their small cell, they saw two guys talking to an English speaking woman, who according to Iguki-spoke with a definite Chinese accent. They called the woman Madam Blue. Unluckily, she had her back to them the whole time, so they were unable to see her face.”

“Patil noticed that all the time she was there, everyone treated her with reverence and she had more than a dozen armed men with her. All armed to the teeth. He said It looks like she had a small army. But what stood out for Patil was that her men had blue orchid patches sewn to their right collar lapels. All these are consistent with what we know about her.” The second in command of the team told his team leader.

“Really? If this is true, then we finally have a break.  This confirms that Blue Orchid is here. It also cements our assumption that she is of Chinese descent. This information must be communicated immediately to the boss!” The Yakusa Team Leader exclaimed.

“Yes, also, according to Iguki-san, he heard the woman gave the kidnappers money and ordered them to kill them after they get their ransom.”

“It so seems that our men were kidnapped and somehow, Blue Orchid learned of what happened and to hide her presence, she used the situation to have our men eliminated without exposing her involvement.”

“Sir, I suggest that as soon as those guys are allowed to leave the hospital, send them home. They won’t be able to help us any further. Also we don’t want the police to do any further questioning about them, I fear that further questioning may make them slip and reveal our presence.”

“I agree with you, let’s do that while I make a report and ask directions so we will know our next plan. Meanwhile, let’s intensify our efforts to know exactly where Blue Orchid is hiding.”

With that the group broke up.

 

Sands Marina Hotel, Singapore

11:00 pm, the same day…

“Now that we have confirmed that Blue Orchid is in the Philippines, can anyone suggest, what our next move should be?” Yojiro asked the group.

“Wait Yojiro. Are we basing our decision on the peep-hole observation of two men? How reliable are these men? Are we sure that these men saw what they really saw and this is not just a cockamamie story they concocted to save their sorry asses?” Igor asked the Japanese.

“I have thought of that too. But there are just too many details and information that only this council and our most trusted people know for this to be a made-up story.” Yojiro continued.

“First, I have my man Igumi. He is as solid and loyal as any of my men. Otherwise I would have not sent him there. Second, very few of our men, including Igumi, knew that we have more or less ascertained that Blue Orchid is Chinese. Lastly, we know that only Blue Orchid’s most trusted men wear the emblem on the right collar lapel. An information that we just learned from one of her men that we captured and drugged, before he could kill himself. All these information points to the fact that if these specially trained blue orchid army is there, then Blue Orchid is there.”

“I think Yojiro is right to suggest an offensive. This is the first time that we have confirmed Blue Orchid’s location. And we would be fools not to act on a solid information such as this. It is very rare that Blue Orchid makes this kind of mistake.” Malik the Malaysian insisted.

“I do not mean to question your man’s loyalty Yojiro. I was just stating my concerns about the validity of the information, because as our friend Malik said, it is very rare for Blue Orchid to commit this mistake.” Igor replied,

“I don’t think Blue Orchid thought of this as a mistake. She probably just thought that her ruse of making us believe she us still operating here – will still stand. Notice that her people are stepping up the attacks on our businesses have racked-up this past few days. She is desperately still trying to maintain that cover.” Hzang the Chinese retorted.

“Gentlemen, it is time to take the war to her and bring her down. Our businesses and our people have suffered enough. It is time for us to take back what was rightfully ours.” Yojiro said.

“No one here disagrees with you Yojiro. So our next issue is, what is our plan? How do we do this?” Hzang asked.

 

Miragold Subdivision, Pasay City

9:00 pm, The following day…

Mike and Sandra are having dinner.

“So darling, how was your day?” Sandra asked Mike.

“Well, it went fine. So far they wanted me to ride a desk until I am fully certified for field work. It took me about 30 minutes before I got bored. I didn’t know that there are documents that can go as many as quintuplicate. I’d sooner be shot than ride another desk, ever.” Mike replied with feigned enthusiasm.

“How about yours, how are things in your office?” Mike asked Sandra.

“Same-o, Same-o. Meetings, then reviewing documents, then talking with the staff. As boring as you find yours, I think mine is double boring.” Sandra answered with as much enthusiasm as Mike’s.

After dinner and while sitting down having a glass of red wine and relaxing, Mike and Sandra were talking about their relationship.

“Darling, don’t you find your work as a policeman dangerous? Have you tried finding a new line of work?” Sandra asked.

“When I was a small boy, all I ever wanted to be when I grow up was to be a policeman. For me then, those who are wearing a policeman’s uniform are like heroes. I carried that dream until I graduated secondary school. By then, it was not just wearing the uniform, but also being able to serve and protect the people. I know it’s dangerous and that at any time, my life may hang on the balance. But, this did not stop me. Also, even if I wanted to stop, I can’t imagine myself doing another job. This is what I do best.”

“Have you thought about the suffering of the people who loves you? Their worries, thinking about what’s happening to you.?

“Well, most of the times, I do think about it. But I can only assure them that I try my best to be careful and stay safe. Also darling, when it is your time to die, no matter where you are and no matter how safe you are, that’s the end of the line for you.” Mike said.

“Yeah, but do you have to put yourself in a situation where the odds of getting harmed or killed are high?’

“Hey, what’s all this about? Feeling worried about me?” Mike asked.

“Yes, honestly I am worried. I know you are good at what you do. But, what happened at that resort had me thinking. A really big syndicate is after your head, and seeing that they can command lots of people, I am really wondering if and when they will try again.”

Mike sat nearer to Sandra, collected her in his arms and hugged her as tight as he can.

“Sandra, with what we did to them. I believe it would take them sometime before they would even think of trying again. Plus, my chief has assigned some people to check upon me every time. Besides, if I run, then what would that look like? That the police are afraid of them?”

“Darling, I do understand bravery and your commitment to your job. But please understand, I do worry about your safety. Especially that I have to leave in a few days.”

“What? Leave, why?” Mike was startled with what Sandra said.

“Darling, I have to return to Singapore to handle some administrative matters, I may be gone of about 3 to 4 weeks, depending on how fast I will be able to do the job.”

“That long? I thought you’d be staying here for good?”

“Yes, I am. I will be handling the office here. But, we are still building a client base here, plus we are still tied to our Singapore operations. Only until we can function and operate independently will my stay here more permanent. Although there will still be times when I have to travel to help our other offices. But that will be at most a week. Most of the times, I will here.”

“So when are you leaving?” Mike asked.

“My flight will be at 9:00am two days from now, that’s on Monday.”

“Wow, that’s close. And when are you coming back?”

“It will be about 3 to 4 weeks, but not longer than that. I hope I can finish it faster so I can come back to your arms earlier.”

“I will definitely miss you.” Mike said.

“So will I my darling. I just hope that when I come back you will still be there for me.” Sandra replied.

“Of course, I will.” Mike exclaimed.

“Hmmp, I know you policemen, the moment I turn my back, you probably have somebody extra waiting.” Sandra said feigning jealousy.

“No, and to prove to you, come here and I will make sure that your worries are erased.” Mike answered while pulling Sandra nearer to him.

 

Malate, Manila City

Two days after…

“Madam, we have transferred everything to your room. I have also called everyone per your instructions, they are all in the conference room waiting for you.”

“Thank you Maning, tell them I will be with them as soon as I finish freshening up.”

Maning, exited the room and went to the conference room.

Sandra opened her cellphone and called Mike.

“Hi Darling, I am already here at the pre-departure area, and will be boarding in a few minutes. How are you?”

“I am at the office and already missing you. Have a safe trip and call me whenever you can. Promise?”

“Yea, Promise I will.” Sandra replied. After that, she turned off her phone and proceeded to the conference room where 7 of his most trusted lieutenants were gathered. They we brought to the place while being blindfolded all along the way. Maning secreted them through the elevator, where their blindfolds were removed. Despite her trust on her people, Maning insisted that they remain ignorant of her real base to ensure its security.

“Good morning, thank you for coming here. I know it is not easy since we have to make sure every precaution is taken, but I am happy that we are all here. Let me make the introductions. On my right is Blue One, Alicia is the head of our Hongkong office. Next to her is Blue 5, Freddie is our man in Kuala Lumpur. Over there, is Blue 3, Amina is our fearless head in Indonesia. We can congratulate her for a job well done last week in Penang.” Motioning to her left.

“Here is Blue 2, Susan is our girl in Singapore and next to her is Ronald, Blue 4, the gentleman that handles our Japan operation. Finally, you all know Maning, my trusted guy here in Manila, and Lito our head of security for our Philippine Operations.”

After a few nods and smiles, Sandra continued.

“I called all of you here today, because of the information that 4 of the 5 leaders of the syndicate are in Manila now. Only the head of the Russian mob is absent, but we are not sure if he will be coming. I hope he does, so once and for all we finish this business.”

Sandra then narrated to the group the events that led to having all the leaders of the syndicate converging in Manila.

“Madam, given the information, I think you were right in calling us here. This is the chance for us to crack and eventually end the evil reign of the syndicate.” Blue 4 replied.

“Right, now we can bring them down in one sweep.” Blue 2 concurred.

“I admire your enthusiasm, but for this mission I will be needing mostly Blue One, Two and Four. Notice that I have picked an all women team. It is simply because it would be easier for us to move around in the urban areas, plus all of us have in one way or another have personal knowledge of the targets.”

“Three and Five, I need you to work closely with Maning and Lito. I will be needing your expertise in preparation and coordination. However, I also want you to be prepared, just in case you will be needed on the field. But, most of the time, you will be our back-up and rescue, our way out if we need to be extracted. Any questions?”

After answering a few questions about the operation, Sandra addressed the group.

“We will be staying in one of the hotels in Makati. We have actually reserved 3 whole floors and have filled it with our own trusted men. The middle floor will be exclusively for us and access to the floor will be covered by our own CCTV, which Maning and Lito have secretly placed in strategic locations. We will be using the Red Codes for this operation. I will be Red Lead, while you will be using Red and your numbers. Maning will be Red 6 and Lito is Red 7.”

“This base will be Castle and if all things fail, we will congregate here. Each of you are provided with folders. Read them carefully, you may bring it with you, but these documents must never leave your sight, and you will give it to Red 6, when you are finished with it. Meanwhile, I want you to read, relax, we will be moving to the hotel as soon as it is dark. If you need anything, Maning and Lito will make sure you get it.”

With that Sandra left the group and entered her suite. She made herself a cup of coffee, a bad habit she acquired by being with Mike for so long. She was finishing her coffee when Maning entered the room

“Madam, everything is already ready, we are just waiting for the right time to leave.”

“Very good, do we have control of the hotel?”

“Yes Madam, we have already checked and double checked all its personnel and those that we have doubts will not be detailed near us or allowed to approach us areas. 8 of the rooms will off limits to all hotel personnel, those will be all our rooms, and the 8th will contain all our CCTV monitors which will be manned at all times.”

“How about communication devices?”

“We have just given each one the newest SVTs (Sub-Vocal transmitters) that will be broadcasting on a dedicated frequency and equipped with scramblers so nobody can monitor our transmissions. But it will only be available to very few of us, since we can only do limited purchase from British contacts, they said its only available for the military.”

“Maning, later tonight I need to talk to you. Meantime, I want you to make sure that everything is taken cared of.”

“Yes Madam.”

 

Raffles Hotel, Makati City

11:00 pm, the same day…

“Madam, everybody is already settled for the night. Red 4 requested to be transferred to another room, she wanted to have a window that faces Mecca. We have accommodated her on a room that is about 3 rooms from Red 6. Much as we wanted to have at least 4 rooms between them, we made an exemption for her.”

“That’s okay Maning, just be sure our security precautions are cleared about this changes.”

“Red 7 already have done it. Madam, earlier you said you wanted to talk to me. Is it about this operation?”

“No Maning, it’s something different. Sit down, pour yourself a brandy, you may have need of it, after I tell you what is in my mind.” Sandra said.

Maning feeling apprehensive, pour himself a more than a double, and downed about a half of it before sitting down.

“Maning, I am pregnant!”

Maning was unable to utter a word, he downed the rest of his brandy, went for another, downed it again and pour another shot before returning to his chair.

“Does Mike…”

“No, I wanted to, but for some reason, I decided not to tell him, not until this business is done.” Sandra somberly stated. “I have to admit I have very strong feelings for Mike, and if I survive this operation, I may opt to slow down and stay here for good. Although, you will still be running the operations of the group, I will be handling the legitimate fronts of the organization.”

“Madam, if I may say this, why don’t you take a back seat on this operation. Red 1 and 2, can very ably handle this. At this point you will just be endangering your life and the life of your child.”

“No Maning. If it were any other operation, I will gladly hand it over to them. But this is personal, this the reason why all these started, and I fully intend to finish it. I have sacrifice a lot and if it requires me to sacrifice my life, my child’s life and even my love, I will, if only I can put an end to all the evil things that these people did.”

“How far away are you Madam?” Maning asked.

“It has been about 4 weeks since I missed my period. I am not very sure, but my periods have been regular ever since I knew it. I need you to buy those kits, so I will be sure.”

“I will have them ready for you by tomorrow morning when you wake up. I understand that is the best time to do that test.”

“Thanks Maning. This matter will only be between us, and nobody needs to know about my condition.”

“Of course Madam.”

“By the way what is the status of our surveillance of Mike and Ricky?”

“Everything is in place, in the past few days, we have followed and learned that these men are billeted in a hotel. We have already checked, it’s only those guys staying there. We still don’t know where the leaders are staying.”

“Okay, keep up the surveillance. We need to know as soon as possible where they are staying. The sooner we end this, the sooner I can begin to live a normal life.”

“Yes Madam. I understand.”

 

BOOK THREE

End Game

 

South Pembo, Makati City

The following day…

“Igor has elected to handle our operations while we handle Blue Orchid here in the Philippines. Much as I would like him to be here, I admit the logic behind his reason to stay back is solid. As a white man, it is impossible for him to blend with Asians.” Yojiro of the Yakusa reported.

“I agree.” Hzang of the Triad added. “Anyway, between the 4 of us and the people we have, I seriously doubt that Blue Orchid can raise enough people to fight against us.”

“Yes, but we should not be over confident about our number of men. We have to keep in mind that the late Steven had more than 60 people and yet they were unsuccessful. We have to make sure of our tactics. We need to be sure of our information and be decisive in our moves.” Yojiro said.

“So now that we are all here, what will our first move.” Malik the Malaysian asked.

“Our first move is to flush her out and the best way to do that is to hit the person that seems to be someone close to her – Mike. Now, given that this guy is a policeman, hitting him directly would bring the whole police force against us. I don’t have any issues with the Philippine Police. We can take them anytime. However, I am considering, what if this Mike is not something important to her. We will just be revealing our hand for nothing.” Yojiro explained.

“On the other hand, if we strike against his love ones, soft targets, and she does not react, we can narrow down that path, with at least only the policeman after us. However, if Blue Orchid is somehow connected to him, then she will be force to do something. If this is so, then we strike at the whole family. One swoop, and we erase her together with all the people she loves.”

“Nice plan, so what information do we have?” Malik asked.

“One of our men was able to tail the policeman and his girlfriend when they visited his mom who is living in the province. The address is 12 Acacia St., Barrio Malubay, Malolos, Bulacan. She is living there with her husband, who is a retired military officer.”

“What about the girlfriend? What information do we have on her?” Hzang asked. “Wouldn’t it be more effective if we target her? There is more emotional investment for him in her than his mom.” Malik suggested.

“From what we have gathered, she is a Filipina and the head of a travel agency that has branches all over Southeast Asia, Europe and America. We have check the company and it is legitimate. She is considered one of the more trusted workers of the company.” Yojiro replied.

“Yes, it would be nice to get her. Hzang would really enjoy the added benefits to that plan. However, she is a rather hard target to pick since her schedule is very flexible. Like right now according to her office, she, and her family is in Singapore to attend a quarter conference and audit. She would be there for about a month. Given the time constraints, our best move remains to be this policeman’s mother and father.”

“Okay then, when we plan to do this?”

“As soon as the other place we have prepared in Valenzuela City, which will be in 24 hours, is ready, then we move. Right now we need to consolidate all our men and review our plans.”

The group proceeded to discuss their plans and their needs for their operation.

 

Raffles Hotel, Makati City

Same time, same day…

“Madan, I have your cousin Ricky on the line and he wants to talk to you.” Maning told her.

Sandra picked the phone and motioned Maning to sit down.

“Hi Ricky, sorry I was not able to talk to you earlier, I was in a meeting. So how is everybody? Is there anything you need?”

“No, Ate Sandra, we all okay and so far all our needs are provided. I just called to tell you that Mama, Papa and your mom and dad plan to take the whole day tomorrow at the park all by themselves. I told them I’d ask you first because of your instructions that if there are changes to our plans to check with you first.”

“It’s ok, let them enjoy, they have for some time really wanted to visit Singapore, and this is the first time that they have. Let them enjoy. How about you and Anna? You doing okay?” Sandra asked.

“You know Ate Sandra this is the best vacation I ever had. Although like everyone else here, I am wondering why you had to send us here on so short notice, while you stay there, but you want us to tell Mike that you are with us. Why?”

“I have my reasons Ricky. Just be sure that you take a lot of pictures, send them to me and don’t send any to Mike. I will send to him myself. Thank you for the batch that you sent. I love them. Remember, if Mike ask you if he can talk to me. Tell him that…”

“That you are on a meeting.” Ricky completed.

“Good, just tell him I will call him as soon as possible. Okay?”

“Sure Ate Sandra. Are you sure you two are not fighting? Because it looks like you are hiding from him.”

“No we are not, I just have something to do first before I tell him.”

“Okay… Again thanks Ate.”

“you’re welcome, just enjoy your vacation.”

Sandra put down the phone and faced Maning.

“Maning, I know you tried to persuade Mike’s parents and there’s nothing more you can do. I don’t want you beat yourself. What I want you to do is to make sure that we have enough people to cover them.”

“Madam, that’s the issue we have now, we are already spread thin and I cannot guarantee we will be able to give them a 24/7 coverage.”

“Maning, don’t worry. We will face whatever happens together.” She assured him.

“Madam, Mike called twice, I told him you are still in a meeting. Have you already called back?”

“Yes I have. By the way, thank those IT guys who photoshopped me into the pictures that Ricky sent. Make sure they are ready for more of those.”

“Yes Madam.”

With that their day ended. For some, their day just began.

 

12 Acacia St., Barrio Malubay, Malolos, Bulacan

Same time, Same day…

Mike’s mom was washing the dishes as his father was watching his favorite tv telenovela, when he heard someone knocking on their door. Marcial, Mike’s father, called out to his wife, Susana.

“Sanang, open the door, someone’s there. It’s probably Lucio, that up-to-no-good neighbor of ours, wanting to ask for rice.”

“Tut…tut… Stop that nonsense, he is a good kid, they have just fallen to hard times. Anyway a cup or two of rice won’t hurt us. We can’t consume what Mike is sending us every month. It’s better to give it than let it rot.” Mike’s mother replied.

“I know, but he’s got a really big body and if he wanted to, he can always find work. He’s just lazy.” Mike’s father retorted.

Susana open the door, and what she saw made her eyes grow big.

“Scream and you’re dead.” A masked man with a 1911 caliber 45 pistol waved in her face.

“What do you want? We don’t have money nor valuables” Susana warbles.

“Nothing, from you nor your husband, but your son has something we need.” The masked man pushed Susana towards the living room where her husband was busy with the TV unaware of what was happening.

“Sanang, who was th…” Mike’s father stopped in midsentence seeing his wife, the masked man and the gun. He stood, facing the masked man ready to pounce, when he noticed 4 other masked men coming from the back.

“What do you want?” he stammered

“As I told your wife, from both of you nothing. We want your son. You two are our guarantee that he is going to do everything we tell him to do, otherwise, you’re both dead. So, if you don’t want you and wife to get harmed, just do what I tell you to do, and you better tell your son that if wants to see both of you alive, he will follow our instructions. Understand!” the masked man commanded.

Susana and Marcial both nodded. They were brought to the kitchen and hogtied to the Narra chairs. Someone gave Marcial a newspaper and told him to hold it, while he was taking a video. He focused first on the faces of Mike’s parents, then on the date of the newspaper. After he finished, he called his boss.

“Sir, mission done. What do you want us to do next?” the masked man asked someone on the other side of the phone.

Yojiro, who answered the call from the masked man said. “Keep them there for the moment. Make sure that the place is secure and none of the neighbors will know you are there. Prepare them for the next stage.”

“Yes sir.” The masked man replied.

Yojiro then called Mike’s phone, the number of which they were able to obtain from the police station.

“Hello?” Mike answered on the third ring.

“Senior Inspector Mike Cartagena.”

“Yes, this is Mike Cartagena. Who is this please?”

“My name is not important. What you will see next is. Please standby for live steam video.” Yojiro told Mike and motioned to his man who facilitated the live stream broadcast to Mike’s phone.

“As you see Mr. Policeman, I am holding your parents’ hostage. Notice the time and the date. You can verify that the date is today based on the newspaper that your father is holding.”

On Mike’s face, anger has registered, he immediately placed the phone on speaker and everyone present, including his chief were looking at the small screen.

“What do you want?” Mike asked.

“Is not about what I want Mr. Policeman, because what I want is something that you nor the whole police force can give. But, you can provide me the information I need.”

“What information?”

“I know that you are part of the team that is searching for and international fugitive known as Blue Orchid. I want a copy of all your data, information and investigations.”

“And then you release my parents?” Mike asked.

“The life of your parents depend on your continued cooperation, any misinformation, attempt to rescue them, or hiding any information from me, I will know, and you can guess, what happens to them. Do we have an understanding Mr. Policeman?”

“Whoever you are, I will find you. I will not make any idle threats to you, you will just laugh in my face. But, I promise you this, I will not stop until I get you.”

“Very good Mr. Policeman. I expect no less from you. I know you need to talk to your chief, so I will give you one hour to get his approval. One minute late, both your parents loses their pinkies, two minutes late, 2 fingers, so on until all their fingers are gone, then I will start with the wrists.”

“Don’t you ever harm my mom and dad. I will do what you want, whether my chief agrees or not.” Mike replied angrily.

“Well then, Mr. Policeman. All information you have, scanned and uploaded to an external drive. Do this in 24 hours. At this time tomorrow, I will call you and tell you where to bring the drive. Am I clear enough.”

“Yes.”

“Good, after that, I want an update every 24 hours. I will be giving you the place and time where you bring the data. Remember my warning, because that is the only warning you will get from me.”

Yojiro ended the call and instructed his men to bring the two hostages to a safehouse in Pangasinan.

 

Anti-Organized Crime Division, Camp Crame

An hour after the call…

“Mike, I have already dispatched a SOCO team to your house in Bulacan to check if we can get prints and interview the neighbors, for information.” Mike’s chief, told him.

“Thanks chief.” Mike weakly replied. The pain, anxiety and fear evident on his face.

“Mike, don’t worry, one way or the other, we will get these guys and they will pay dearly.” Mike’s buddy said while embracing him.

“Thanks Buddy.”

“Mike, I already told our IT department to prepare everything you need. I am launching a separate operation to recover your parents. Don’t worry, the division is behind you on this. We will utilize all the facilities of the division to resolve this as fast as we can.” His chief told Mike.

“Thank you, sir. I am just worried because they are already old and they are taking medicines. I can’t express my anger, I am trying to contain it, but its slipping away. I don’t know how long I can hold on.”

“Mike, just remember, we are here if you need us. Personally, anything you need if it is within my power, you can have it. I am talking here not as your chief, but as a friend.”

With that the chief left Mike whose head is bowed held by both his hands.

 

Raffles Hotel, Makati City

Same time, same day…

“I thought we have them covered? How did this happen?” Sandra angrily mustered.

“We have been monitoring them, but tonight, we had to pull out our people to help in tailing the news guys that arrived earlier. As I told you, we have spread ourselves to thinly, that we cannot cover all fronts. I have already activated our guys from Mindanao, but they are still arriving tomorrow and on the following day.” Maning replied.

“Do we have any information where they were taken?”

“We are still trying to get that information as of the moment. Right now, we are following every bit of information we can get.”

“Okay, let me know as soon as we have the information.”

“Yes Madam.”

“What else do you have for me?”

“Madam, one of the leaders, Malik Khan, of the Golden Circle, based on information is due at his favorite place tonight at 11:00pm. We have already prepared all the items you will need for the hit.”

“Change of plans Maning. If I hit him now, then the syndicate will know that I am connected to Mike. We will only put more people at risk. Also we will be condemning Mike’s parents to a sure death. This hit must not appear as my M.O.”

“What are you planning Madam?”

“Who do we have with us on rotation? Is Lito here?” Sandra asked.

“Yes Madam, he will be with you, supposedly as your spotter. I can ask him to come here.”

“Yes, tell him to pick 2 trusted guys to accompany him. But, only Lito comes to my room, and call Red One.”

Maning turned and made a call on the phone. 10 minutes later Lito entered Sandra’s room together with Blue One.

“Red One, Lito. There’s a change in our operation tonight. I want you and Blue One to make a plan. We have to so the hit tonight, but we cannot make it appear like we did it.”

“Red Leader, it will be a bit dicey. Let me and Lito go through things and then push it to you for your approval.”

At that point, Sandra’s phone rang. Mike was calling her.

“Okay, its 10 pm, I want a plan by 11 tonight.”

With that Sandra left the room and went to another room and answered Mike’s call.

“Mike darling, sorry I was busy with some documents when your call came through. So how was your day?”

Without any preamble, Mike narrated to her what happened to his parents.

“My God! What have the police… I mean the police in the area, done? Do they where they were taken? Who were these people? Any information if your parents are ok?” Sandra said faking surprise.

“So far, we still are facing blank wall. My only connection is a voice, apparently the leader, and he wants all information and investigation reports we have on Orchid Blue or Blue Orchid. And I have to give it to him in 22 hours and 41 minutes from now.” Mike exhaustedly said.

“Darling, is there anything I can do? What will you need? Are you ok? Do you want me to come home?” Sandra asked.

“NO!” Mike said emphatically. “I cannot put you in danger. I want you here with me, but I cannot promise I can protect you all the time. You mean so much to me, and as it is, I am barely holding to myself, but if something happens to you, that will make me snap.”

“Mike, I am a big girl, I can take care of myself. You know how I love your mom and dad. I cannot just sit down and do nothing. You know what? I can ask Lito to provide you security. Is that okay with you?”

“Sandra darling, I am a policeman, if policemen would need bodyguards, that will only further degrade our image to the people we serve. Thanks for the offer, but I can’t accept it.”

“Okay agreed, it’s a bad idea. But there must be something, anything I can do.” Sandra insisted.

“Sandra darling, the reason why I told you is so will be aware. Be more careful. I cannot bear it if something happens to you.”

“I will darling… I will be very careful, only if you will too.”

“Yes, I will. I love you.” Mike said.

“I love you too.” Sandra replied.

Mike ended the call, Sandra returned to the room.

“So do we have a plan yet?” Sandra asked Lito and Red One.

“Red Leader, Lito knows one of the girls in that establishment. She is a sympathizer and she is willing to help us. She will let us in through the back door.” Red One explained.

“Nice plan, but it will still reek with a planned killing that will point to us.”

“Yes, but if can convince the girl to take the fall for us, then it can be made to appear as if she killed him. A case of jilted lover, or that that someone forced her?” Red One said.

“What does she get out of it?”

“Well, in my talk with her just now, she’s willing to do it, provided we give her parents 1 million pesos and provide a lawyer to defend her in court. Her parents live in the province and once she can confirm that they received the money, then she will tell the police that Malik was trying to molest her and as she defended herself, she ended us killing him.” Lito answered.

“There is a risk in that plan Lito. What if in the middle she recants and tells the police the truth?”

“One million is a pretty good motivator, plus we can always tell her that if she squeals, we can make life very, very hard for her.” Lito said.

Sandra looked at Maning who gave a nod.

“Okay Lito, make it happen. Tell her we agree. Maning have the money delivered right now.”

Both men chorused their agreement.

“Red One, I need you to back me up on this.” Sandra told her subordinate.

“I always have, Red Leader. I will prepare everything we will need.”

Both women went to their separate rooms to prepare.

 

Malate Red Light District

2 hours after, same night…

“Red Leader… Red One”

“Copy you Red One, go.”

“Red Leader, I count 4 tangos. One tango at entry point door.”

“We need to distract that tango Red One. Our contact will be opening the door soon. She must not be seen by that tango.”

“Copy Red Leader, I will act as decoy and drag him from there.” Red One replied.

“Roger Red One. I will await your signal.”

Red One maneuvered to a dark corner and emerged as a sexy woman she was pretending to be a drunk hooker, looking for a score. She slowly approached the guard and caroused with him. After a few minutes, she was able to drag him enough for Sandra to slip through.

Together with Alisa, the woman who agreed to be their fall girl, they tiptoed to the room where Malik was busy pumping a young, barely 16-girl, kidnapped from the streets just a few hours ago and given as a gift of a friend to him. The girl was tied to a post and screaming with every invasion that Malik was doing to her.

While he was in the throes of his ecstasy, Sandra and Alisa silently entered the room with a bottle of drugged red wine, his favorite bottled and replaced the bottle at the table, while Sandra hid herself. Alisa silently retreated and hid herself in another place.

It took some time, before Malik was sated. He poured a glass of his favorite wine, which Malik drank thirstily. The young girl who was unconscious was laying on the bed, her blood all over the sheets. Malik then felt the effect of the drug, felt a bit dizzy, He sat on the bed and tried to compose himself. But the drug in the wine, was a strong version of the Ativan tablets that hookers often used on their victims, where the person who take it, is aware of what is happening around him, but is paralyzed and unable to move.

When Malik fell flat on his back. Sandra and Alisa left their hiding places. Alisa, taking the drugged wine, poured its contents on a sink, and replaced it with a regular bottle. Sandra meanwhile was towering over Malik, knowing that he hears and understands everything she ways.

“Malik Khan, voted leader of the Golden Circle Society, based in Malaysia and now coming to the Philippines to look for Blue Orchid. Well, here I am Mr. Malik. Blue orchid in the flesh. Sadly, my face will be the last face you will see.” She slowly removed a cheap knife from her belt, one that many hookers carry with them for protection.

“Mr. Malik, did you enjoy your virgin victim? How many of them were your victims? 20? 30? Or a hundred? Imagine all those young lives destroyed, laid to waste because your insatiable lust for young flesh? Well I hope you did enjoy, because I know where you’re going it’s going to be a long time before you can have one again.”

Sandra bowed to Malik’s face, almost touching. And as she slowly pushed the knife into his stomach, she saw both fear and loathing in Malik’s eyes, a split second before the reality of pain made Malik gasp. Sandra wanted to take time doing what she wants, but she knew anytime the police that Red One contacted would be arriving. So made slashing wounds all over him, torso, arms, shoulders legs. She made it appear as if made by a woman who was defending herself. Some shallow wounds, some deep gashes.

Finally satisfied with her work, Sandra this time aimed the knife at the place where the heart is. Slowly as she pushed, she could feel his heart beating, the tip of the knife entering the heart, breaking every muscle. She could even say that Malik’s heart was screaming until it began to slowly and erratically tried to keep pumping blood, until it finally stopped beating.

Sandra had blood all over her, she quickly gave the knife to Alisa, who began smearing herself with Malik’s blood. Together they manipulated his fingers to scratch her all over her body, while also ripping her clothes. Sandra punched Alisa a few times in places where black and blue will appear. After that Sandra tried as best as she could to clean herself. When everything was ready, Sandra hid, while Alisa started screaming, came out of the room carrying the bloodied knife, and people started entering the room.

In the confusion, Sandra slipped away and a few minutes later, 2 police cars arrived at the scene and added more to the confusion. Sandra smiled and together with Red One and Lito, faded into the dark early morning.

 

South Pembo, Makati City

10:00 am… the following day…

Yojiro, flung his coffee cup against a wall, pieces of the ceramic cup splashes of coffee          scatters all over the place. He approached the table and slammed both hands, hurting himself in the process.

“How could this have happened?”

Hzang, who was himself in his bathrobe, showing that he was rudely awakened just a few minutes ago was startled at the viciousness of Yijiro. But still calmly replied.

“Yojiro-san, it’s too early in the day to assume. Let’s wait for the report of our guy. He’s just minutes away. Let us remain cool and not let our emotions get the better us.”

“I bet everything I have Hzang, Blue Orchid is behind this. I can smell it. Her hands are all over this.”

“Is she is, then we can execute our hostages. But before we do that, remember that they are our only insurance and way to find out and flush Blue Orchid.” Hzang replied.

As if realizing his mistake, Yojiro went to the percolator and made himself another cup of coffee, drank it while his anger was simmering. After a while the door opened and someone entered. It was the man they sent to gather information.

“What did you learn?” Hzang asked him.

“As instructed I talked with the police, the club manager and some of the girls in the club. More or less, I got the same version. According to them, Mr. Malik tied a minor to the bed and raped her. After that he ordered a bottle of wine and he tried to rape the girl who brought the wine. The girl fought her and used her knife. She stabbed him on the heart which caused his death.” The man reported.

“How could she have done that?” Yojiro asked.

“Seems like the girl was from the province and was always carrying a knife with her. It’s a rather common knife that most girls of her age carry around. She suffered a scratches and nail gauges all over her body, proof that Mr. Malik indeed tried to rape her.”

“So where’s the girl now?” Hzang asked.

“She’s in the hospital under strict police guard. Pending any complaint, she will be released soon.” The man continued.

“What else have you learned about the girl?” Hzang asked.

“She’s 20 years old, not much of a looker, but she’s sexy and very charming. She has worked at the bar for more than a year now, working night shifts as a bar girl and a student in the afternoons. She never accepted any clients. Her colleagues know her to be feisty and a bit snobbish, but generally a person who can easily get along with others.” Said the man.

“What about his bodyguards?” Yojiro asked.

“Mr. Malik had six bodyguards, 2 were in the entrance to the rooms, two at the entrance door and 2 at the backdoor. Nobody suspicious entered the place. There were just a few regular customers, nobody except the girl entered the rooms during the period, and she was bringing the wine. They responded when the girl started screaming, and aside from the people already on the place, there were no other persons inside the room, except Mr. Malik and the girl he raped, who was still tied to the post and very much unconscious.”

“I want a man assigned to her at all times. Follow her, we need to know if she is in league with the Blue syndicate or not.” Yojiro ordered.

“Yes sir.”  With that the man left.

“You see Yojiro-san, you’re just paranoid and thinks that everything is related to Blue Orchid. I can understand your anger against her, but what happened to Malik was just a plain and ordinary run of events. We all know Malik’s propensity for young flesh. For him, the younger the better. What happened is that Malik thought everyone is free for his taking. He met his match. Unfortunate but I see nothing that ties up to the blue syndicate.” Hzang said.

“I am just worried with the very uncanny coincidence. We grabbed that policeman’s family and then this happened.” Yojiro replied.

“One indicator that made me conclude is the fact that Malik brought with him six loyal and capable body guards. None of them were hurt and nobody entered the place while Malik was there. Based on information from the news, Malik is not the only man that this girl attacked, seems like she has had several of these incidents with men who are trying to manhandle her. Given these, let’s not get sidetracked and start looking for shadows where there are none.” Hzang explained.

“I do agree with that. Besides Malik knew the risk when he acted despite our advice to take caution.” Asnan, Malik’s second in command retorted.

“I agree with both of you. I am just expressing my feeling of dread. It looks to me that this knee jerk reaction we had, is becoming more of a trap and not an operation. But, let’s get back to business. What is happening to our hostages? Any new information.” Yojiro asked.

“None so far. It is fairly clear by now that the policeman is not telling his parents anything about his job. They are both retired employees, and are just that, a retired couple being visited by their son every now and then.” Asnan replied.

“How is our policeman doing so far?”

“He’s cooperating as expected. We are getting as much information from him. From the reports we received, which we have verified from one of our contacts with the police, they are nowhere near Blue Orchid as we are. It has been several days, yet there is no action from Blue Orchid against us. It’s beginning to look like he doesn’t have that connection to the Blue Organization that we first thought he had.”  Hzang replied.

“Let’s hold on to them for a few more days. If nothing comes from this, get rid of them. We need more people on the field and not waste their time playing nanny to two old people.” Yojiro commanded.

“Asnan, I want you to increase the pressure on the policeman, and expand our data gathering process. This operation needs to be concluded as soon as possible. The less time we stay in this country, all the better for all of us.”

“We will do our best. We have already requested one of our paramilitary consultants PMC, the same one we used before, to send their experts to help us. They will be arriving tomorrow and hopefully we will be able to resolve things faster.”

“Good. Inform me when they get here.” Yojiro said.

 

Raffles Hotel, Makati City

08:00 pm… the following day…

Sandra was meeting Maning and Lito in her room.

“Madam, we have confirmed our information that PMC operatives, mostly Asian will be arriving day after tomorrow disguised as tourist.” Maning reported to Sandra.

“Good, we have been anticipating this. Do we have their identifications?”

“Yes Madam.”

“Lito, have them watched 24/7, use the guys that we have trained for this purpose and alert all our men on the hotels where they are staying. I want these guys out of the way as soon as possible. We do not want to tangle with them. Persuade them to leave, and if they don’t then their lives are forfeit.” Sandra ordered.

“It will be done Madam.” Lito replied

“Maning, do we have that confirmation of where syndicate is keeping the parents of Mike? What about where the syndicate located its base?”

“I have already sent men to verify both locations. We have confirmed so far that the syndicate is based at a safe house at South Pembo, about an hour’s ride from here. We are already scouting the area for vantage points. However, we still have to confirm the hostage site. I will have confirmed information by tomorrow morning.”

“Good, remember it is critical to our plan that we confirm this site. For as long as they have Mike’s parents with them, I cannot move.”

“I understand Madam.”

“Maning, as soon as we confirm this location, call the group to a meeting. Lito, I need you to prepare a “tactical assault plan for both areas as soon as the information is confirmed. For now, focus on their hideout.”

“Yes Madam.”

“Okay, both of you take a breather. Tell our men to inspect their gears and be ready to move with a 4-hour notice. Nobody does anything foolish or unnecessary.”

Both men replied to the affirmative ad left Sandra’s room leaving her mulling over the events of the past days and the forthcoming attach she was planning.

 

AOCD, Camp Crame, Quezon City

09:00 am… the following day…

Mike’s chief arrived at the office and saw him asleep on his desk.

“Mike… Mike… Wake up… You’ve slept in the office for the 3rd night. I’m just reminding you that, you can’t make our office a hotel without paying for room service and hotel rates.” Mike’s boss joked at a yawning Mike.

“Sorry Chief, I was reviewing the files last night, I didn’t realize I feel asleep.”

“Mike, if I were in your shoes I probably will be doing the same. But what you are doing will not help your parents. You need to be 100% ready just in case we get information about your parents and need to move. As it is right now, if information comes in, you cannot think properly. Go home, rest. I got this, and if there is new information, you’ll be the first to know.”

“Yes Sir.” Mike replied, took his jacket and left. As he was at the door…

“And Mike, no more sleeping in the office.” His chief said.

“Sir Yes Sir.” Mike said giving a weak salute as he closed the door.

 

Raffles Hotel, Makati City

Same time… same day…

Maning entered Sandra’s room with coffee and croissants, scrambled eggs, fruits and a pitcher of fresh mango juice. He found her sitting in the sofa, in deep thought.

“Good Morning Madam. Breakfast is served.” Maning broke into Sandra’s reverie.

“Morning Maning. Thank you. But you know I usually just have coffee in the morning, why all these feast?”

“Madam, the coffee is for you, the rest is for the little one inside your stomach. He needs all the vitamins and minerals that your body can give to withstand all the stress you are giving him.” Maning replied.

Sandra smiled at Maning.

“Maning, you have been with me for about 4 years now. Taking care of me, providing for every need I have, you have become almost a father to me. Now you are turning to be a softie grandpa.” Sandra said while sipping her coffee.

“What can I say, I am a doting grandpa, and before you know it, I will spoil your baby, whether you like it or not.” Maning replied

“Yah, I bet you will. So what’s the information that you said you wanted to tell me?”

“Our contact has confirmed the warehouse in Barangay Sta. Maria, Macabebe, Pampanga. It’s gated and security is tight. We have obtained the design plans of the warehouse and can fairly determine where exactly they are keeping the parents of Mike.” Maning stated.

“Good. Good. Any information about his parents> Are they still alive?” Sandra asked.

“Yes, both are still alive, though the man who was already sick from the beginning is deteriorating fast. Our best guess is that in a week, he will be gone, unless they rescue him.” Maning replied.

“Inform everyone that I will meet with them tonight, 9:00 pm.” Sandra ordered.

“Yes Madam.”

Sandra went to the table and started eating her breakfast. For the first time in days, her eyes sparkled with joy. Finally, everything can begin, she said to herself.

 

Raffles Hotel, Makati City

09:00pm… same day…

Sandra entered the room they designated as their conference room. She knew in here they can all speak freely as it was checked for bugs daily and that no one else can enter the room without her permission.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the time has come to confront our enemies. We have the location of both the warehouse and the hideout of the syndicate. Red later Red 7 will brief you of these places and our tactical plan on how we are going to attack the syndicate hideout. There is however one complication that I want to tell you before he does.” Sandra told the group.

“Days ago, the syndicate has kidnapped the parents of Senior Police Inspector Mike Cartagena. During my stay here, I’ve used this man several times to camouflage my operations. Apparently, the syndicate thought that by doing this, they can lure me out, which I didn’t take. I was informed today that his parents are getting weaker, so as a courtesy we have to do something.” Sandra continued.

“My plan to is hit both sites simultaneously, a swoop and end all these. However, I also intend to inform Mike of the place and let them handle the rescue. However, knowing the syndicate they will have penetrated the police hierarchy and thus possibly endanger the lives of Mike’s parents. I want Red 2 and 4, to handle the long guns, take out the opposition from a distance while the police are attacking. According to our information, they are holding the hostage at this small room. Red 2 and 4, bring 1 spotter each, get to the roof of the adjoining warehouses where you can have a vantage point. As soon as the police have started their assault, you are to make sure that those guarding them are the first to go down. Then assist the police, take down hostiles and clear the way for them.”

“Are there no other vantage points? This is kind of dicey, as most of the roofs here are GI sheets and they may detect us while positioning.” Red 4 commented.

“I know, but our recee did not show any higher buildings. Most are warehouses of similar build. However, I will leave the final decision to both of you when you get to the ground.”

“Good enough.” Red 2 said.

“Red 1, and 3, the three of us will handle the syndicate hideout. I have identified vantage points from 3 buildings. Lito and his group will handle the ground assault. I have to make you aware that per information, there is a team of 6 men from PAC. We all know how good these hired mercenaries are. We don’t want to tangle with them, but if they will not back-out, then we will have to. Red 6 has the dossiers of all these. I encourage you to study them carefully.” Sandra said.

“Our attacks will be synchronized. We will attack as soon as the policemen start their attack at the warehouse. Hopefully we will be able to do this within 48 hours or before. I will let you plan your movement and materiel needs. If there is anything special you need from the armory, you can talk to Red 6. All others, Red 7 will be your man. Any questions?”

“Red Mother, how sure are we that the police will attack within 48 hours?” Red 1 asked.

“Let me handle that, I have plan. Just be ready. If you need to scout the locations, inform Lito so he can coordinate all movements. Now if there are no questions, let’s retire and prepare.”

Everyone started to move.

“Red 1, I need to talk to you privately with Maning. Can you come with me please?”

“Yeah Red Mother.”

The trio proceeded to Sandra’s room. When they got there, Sandra opened a bottle of Artadi Pagos Viejos, a red wine that she knew was Red 1’s favorite. She poured 3 glasses gave them to Maning and Red 1.

“Wow, this must be something very important for you to honor me with this very expensive bottle.”

“It’s not that expensive, but I really love its full bodied juicy plum flavor with hints of blueberry, minerality and gentle oak. It tastes very light, yet not filling. But Alicia it’s not the wine that I called you here for. Something personal that I want you to handle personally.”

Red 1 sipped on the wine to calm her nerves which were slowly getting to her. She hadn’t seen Sandra this serious ever since they started the organization five years ago, not when Sandra calls her by her real name.

“Now I’m curious, what is it?” Red 1 asked.

“Alicia, I’m pregnant it’s about 6 weeks now.”

“What?… How?… Really?…”

“Yes, I am and the father is Mike.” Sandra said.

“The same Mike whose parents got kidnapped? The same Mike that went with you to the resort?”

“Yes.”

“What the Fu…? What were you thinking my friend?” Alicia exclaimed.

“I know, I was not thinking.”

“I mean not about Mike, knowing you, that guy must have extra joss on his hips, to have made you lie down on your back. I get that, and I believe it is time for you to use the eggs that God gave you. What I am asking you now is – what the fuck are you planning this operation and joining it? You should have rested and let us do this. Are really that untrustworthy to you?” Alicia exclaimed.

“No my friend, this is where it all started for me. This is where all the bad things began and made me follow this road. This is also where I plan to end it. This is like catharsis for me. Doing this will remove all the pain, the shame and the burden that I have been carrying since then.” Sandra explained.

“I understand, still you are endangering that life inside you. Does Mike know?”

“No, I have not told him anything, I will when this thing is over. Telling him now will only derail everything I have planned for. I don’t want him to worry and prevent me from doing what I need to do.”

“This is not right Sandra. You should have thought about your child. I know how important this is for you, but please reconsider. Red 5 and 6 can take your place, Please, my friend, think about it.” Alicia pleaded.

“I have given this more thought than you can imagine my friend. It may not be logical, but to me, this will define my future. Yes, I think I have found the right man, but how can I face him every day if the specter of my shame is still hounding me. Alicia, if I want a normal life, I need to do this.”

“Okay my friend, so what do you want me to do?” Alicia asked.

“Alicia, I am not sure if I will survive this war. If I don’t, I want you to make sure that Mike will never discover anything about me. I want you to make sure that he will be supported and will have all the chances open to him, without making him feel like he is getting things the easy way. I also want you to make sure that my uncle and parents are provided for. I have already tasked Maning in all these, But I want to personally appeal to you, since you are on the line to take my place if something happens to me.”

“My friend, I can assure you that, but if you have second thoughts, why do this all. I know how important this is for you, but being in the sidelines does not mean you cannot take credit. It would be like you were there, even if you are not physically active.” Alicia pleaded.

“My mind is made up Alicia, but just so I can assure you, I have taken all the necessary precautions to protect myself. Also, I have Maning acting like an overzealous grandpa, I won’t have you acting like him.” Sandra jokingly said.

Alicia, unable to express herself, just embraced her friend.

 

AOCD, Camp Crame, Quezon City

9:00am… the following day

Mike just arrived at the office and powered up his computer terminal and was browsing his email when he notice an email from blueorchid@gmail.com. He hurriedly opened the email and read it.

Senior Police Inspector Cartagena,

            I know your office is looking for me and any information about me. I just want to inform you:

  1. Your office has moles that report to the syndicate and validate every report you give them. One of them in in your office, and one is an officer higher than your chief. There are others, although we were unable to obtain facial pictures so we are unable to confirm their names. The pictures attached to this email will show them meeting with syndicate members. The pictures will show who these syndicate members are.
  2. We have information where your parents are currently held. They are of the moment ok, but they are nor feeling very well. DO NOT trust that the syndicate will release them if you do whatever they ask you to do. This is not what they do. Records that I have attached will prove that in all their hostage operation, NONE of the hostages survived.
  3. If our information is correct, your parents will either be terminated or transferred within the next 48 hours. However, attacking them immediately will only lead to their deaths. The place is heavily guarded. I suggest that you surveil the area, make your plans and hit them in the next 48 hours. I have attached several pictures of the place including the exact address. There is also one picture that shows your parents inside the building.
  4. I will not presume to teach you what to do, I know you are capable of doing so. But, I respectfully suggest that you keep this email to people you totally trust, you know that your parent’s life is at stake.
  5. Lastly, our organization is not against the law. We will always try to follow the rule of law where ever we operate, and we do this only against criminal syndicates. Like you we care about the people they have victimized and in many cases the police are in their payroll, so you would very rarely get any information about them, plus all your reports are sanitized before it is sent to your officials.

I hope that with this information, we are able to assure you that we have nothing against the police, but we will fight you if you get in our way. Please do not try to trace this email. I have taken precaution to ensure that it is untraceable.

With utmost respects.

                                                          Blue Orchid

After reading the email and scanning the pictures, Mike hurriedly printed everything and copied his email to a flash drive. He then locked his email server with a password that nobody knew and shut down his computer. He almost ran to the office of his chief.

There after they studied the email, decided to talk to the Police Director.

“Sir, the pictures alone are proof that the reason why we cannot get any actionable information about the syndicates operating here is because these people are cuddling them.” Mike said.

“How sure are we that this are not fake and manufactured pictures?” The police director asked?

“Sir, we can send some NBI agents to the place to scout and verify the area, but given the possibility that Mike’s parents might get killed, we need to act on this information.” Mike’s Chief answered.

“I agree with you. We will need people whose integrity are airtight. We cannot trust anyone in your division. I will call the SAF Commander. You proceed there right now. Don’t worry, I will inform him of the sensitivity of the information. You can trust him, he was formerly under my command.”

“Yes Sir.” Mike and his chief then hurried to the SAF command headquarters.

Arriving at the SAF Headquarters they went directly to the office of the commander.

“Come in gentlemen. Have a seat. I have spoken with the police director and I know exactly what we need. In fact, I have already called the team leader of our elite team. You can trust him fully that I can assure you.”

While the SAF commander was talking to them, a smart looking SAF officer entered the office and saluted the commander.

“Ah, here he is. Chief, let me introduce Lt. Armand Garcia. And yes, he is my son. I am not recommending him to you because he is my son, but because he is one of the most decorated officer of the SAF. Let’s proceed to the conference room so you can brief us.” The SAF commander suggested.

 

South Pembo, Makati City

10:00 pm… the same day…

“Gentlemen, by now, if Blue Orchid wanted to hit us, she should have already do so. It looks like our plan to trap her with the parents of that police inspector is not working. We need to do something about them, since we learned that the old man is not feeling well.” Yojiro reported to the group.

“Yes, I think we need to do that.” Asnan replied.

“Wait, Yojiro-san, you said the old man is about to die, why not let nature run its course, then when the old man conks out, we kill the old woman. A few more days won’t matter anyway.” Hzang suggested.

“Yes, that’s a good idea. Let’s do that. Asnan, any news from PMC?”

“Right now they are following a lead. They have identified someone whom they knew was in Singapore a few months’ back. They hope this guy can lead them to Blue Orchid.” Asnan replied.

“Good, keep me informed if there are developments.”

 

Raffles Hotel, Makati City

Same time… same day…

“Red 1 in position.”

“Red 2 in position.”

“Red 4 in position.”

“Red team, this is Red Mother. Red 7 is coming to the corner. There are 4 people following him on foot and 2 in a car. These are PMC guys. Be careful, they are good. We need to hit them simultaneously. Make sure nobody escapes so Red 7’s cover will not be blown.” Sandra told the group. “Red 6, are your men in position?”

“Roger, Red Mother. Our signal will be when the trailing car explodes.”

“Good. Red team, you know your targets. One hit, one kill. Double check on your partner’s target. Back-up and hit if you have the shot.” Sandra voiced over the communication device.

“Red 3 and Red 5… You are the blocking force just in case anyone slips through. Is that clear.”

A chorus of rogers came through the radio.

“Heads up, Red 7 coming through.” Red 2 noted on the radio.

“Red Team it’s game time. Good hunting everyone.” Sandra replied.

Sandra through the reticle of her scope saw Maning casually walking towards them. At first she objected at the plan, but she saw the logic that Maning was the only face that the PMC knew, thus, only he can lead them to the trap. She panned backwards and saw the 4 men taking turns following Maning and the car that slowly followed them. Maning purposely led them through a non-populated area, to avoid any collateral damage.

She then focused on her target. The man was still about 1,000 yards away, stopping every now and then. Maning was now about 200 meters from the go point. By then she hopes her target would be around 800 meters. It will a hard and moving target, but to ensure a kill she needs to be very, very, accurate.

Maning is almost at the go point, the first 3 targets and coming within the scope of red team, but her target was still staying back. She estimates him to be around 900 yards. Not an easy target, since he is hidden by a neon sign about a bank. The glare, the distance and the movement. She is praying for a miracle.

Maning entered the go point, as agreed, he pretended to accidentally drop the book he was carrying. He stopped and picked them up, and continued as if nothing happened. It was the signal!

An M203 grenade spewed and rapidly accelerated towards the car, reaching its terminal velocity in 1.5 seconds. It was on target, right at the point where the gasoline tank is located. The grenade penetrated the thin metal and buried itself about 8 inches from the gasoline tank. The fuse ignited by the impact spread to the incendiary powder which ignited and swelled causing a pressure of more than 50,000psi causing the casing to rupture sending hot flame reaching 5,000 degrees Celsius that caused the gasoline tank to ignite and caused a secondary explosion, less than a second later, which made it appear like one single explosion.

Less than a second after the explosion, three, 7.62x39mm grain, fired from three scoped DDM4V7’s, remodeled and refitted with GEMTECH G series super suppressors, spat out almost without a noise, travelled the distances of 250, 270 And 420 yards in less than a second. Straight and true, the bullet plowed through bone and brain matter and opened a hole 10 times larger than its entry point. All three men, dropped nor knowing what hit them.

Sandra’s target saw the explosion of the car where his colleagues were. He knew it was a hit, he ran towards the car to check if he can save anyone, it was his last mistake. Sandra who was unable to find a good vantage point the whole time, saw the opening, she tracked the man, and when he stopped, took the shot. Sandra’s target stopped turned around to locate his other colleagues – as he turned to look around, a 308 grain bullet, coming from an enhanced and modified Sabatti Heavy Tactical rifle entered his left eye, and exited near his nape, carrying with it about a third of his brain.

“All targets down! Proceed to exfil areas, converged at the hotel.” Sandra whispered over the radio.

Less than 10 minutes later the area was full of cops while TV and radio reporters were busy describing the incident over their respective stations.

 

South Pembo, Makati City

15 Minutes after… the same day…

“SHIT!!! FUCK!!! SHIT…SHIT…SHIT…” Yojiro was shouting at the TV broadcasting the event.

“THIS IS HER… DEFNITELY HER…” a terrified and totally shocked Asnan replied.

“We need to call for reinforcements. If what they are saying on television is true, that it was almost a simultaneous hit, then her whole team is here.” Hzang who was visibly shaken by the events stated. “If we call now, in two days we can bring about 200 men in.”

“Yojiro, why don’t we pack up, leave this place. We can’t fight her here. Our organizations are weak in this country. We can fight her where are the strongest.” Asnan suggested.

“FIGHT HER WITH WHAT? WE ARE AS BLIND HERE AS WE ARE IN OUR PLACES. SHE IS HERE RIGHT NOW. HZANG IS RIGHT, WE BRING IN MORE MEN.” Yojiro shouted.

“Are we still safe here?” Hzang asked.

“We may need to transfer to another place when our people gets here. This place is not big enough. Send someone to scout for a bigger place. We need to leave latest 3 days from now.” Hzang replied.

“Make that 2 days.”

 

SAF Command Headquarters Camp Crame

Same time… same day…

A uniformed SAF personnel knocked, entered and whispered to the Commanding Officer. He turned picked the remote and opened the TV set. There they saw the carnage and looked at each other.

“Do you think these people are with the syndicate and looking for Blue Orchid?” the commanding officer asked.

“It is highly possible.” Mike replied.

“In that case, we need to assault the warehouse no later than tomorrow night before they do anything to the hostages.” The commanding officer stated.

“Armand, tell your team to get ready. We are moving out at 1600 hrs tomorrow. Mission Briefing at 2000hrs on site and go time at 2100 hrs.”

“Sir yes sir.” He turned around and left.

“Chief, Mike, you need to go home and prepare. Be properly rested. I don’t want you to be bumping around tomorrow and endanger the lives of my people.”

“Yes sir.” Both replied, picked up their things and left.

 

Raffles Hotel, Makati City

2pm following day…

“Madam, we’ve got confirmation that the SAF Team has left for the warehouse in Pampanga. They will be taking the chopper to Lubao, and then enter the area by land. Our information is they will be conducting drug raids in the nearby areas, with some local policemen, returning by truck on another road which will pass by Sta. Maria which they will assault by 11pm tonight.” Lito reported to Sandra.

“That’s good, inform the group we will move out starting at 3 pm and must be in position by 9pm. This will give us a 2-hour window to prepare and plan our assault. Also inform Red 2 and 3 to be in their position also by 9pm.

“Madam, Red 2 and 3 have already left for the target area. They will be confirming positions as soon as they are there. Red 5 has elected to join your team, since our vantage points are quite hindered by walls and blindspots. An extra gun would be necessary. Their GPS shows them about 10 kilometers away.” Lito answered.

“Good. Maning, tell the group to prepare. We will leave separately, and assemble at the apartment that Red 6 has prepared. Tell them all their instruments are already there.”

“Yes Madam.”

 

Outskirts of Sta, Maria, Macabebe, Pampanga

And South Pembo, Makati City

10:00 pm same day…

“Sir, our men are beginning their entry into the target area, they should be in position in 15 minutes.” A SAF officer reported to Arman.

“Thank you, tell our men to take it easy, mingle with the crowd if necessary, but don’t let the enemy notice you.” Lt. Arman replied.

“Yes sir” and the officer left and talked to the radioman of the team.

“Chief, Mike, let me go over this once more. Team 1 and 2 are now around the area. Team 3 will do the initial contact while Team 1 will secure your parents. Team 2 will provide cover for them. Based on our intel, there are about 30 men guarding them. This should be an easy in and out operation. Get ready. We will be leaving in five minutes.”

“Copy that Leutenant.” Mike responded.

*******

“Red Mother, Red 2…”

“Go ahead Red 2.” Sandra replied on her long commo radio, while shifting her position. Her reticle has been following Yojiro’s head, since about 15 minutes.

“I see the police assault team coming to a bend. They are following a standard FBI HRT assault formation.” Red 2 reported.

“Copy that. Keep me posted. Red Team, report.” Sandra whispered to her short commo device.

“Red 1 in position, target acquired.”

“Red 4 in position, target not, I repeat NOT acquired. Target is hidden by a concrete pillar. I need to reposition to alternate site Red 4 bravo in 5 minutes if situation does not improve.”

“Wait Red 4. Red 5 are you in position?” Sandra asked

“Yes, in position and I have Red 5’s target.”

“Okay, Red 5 take 4’s target. Red 4, relocate to overseer position. Take out the gate guards instead. Do you have them on sight?”

“Roger that Red Mother, I have them on sight, switching to overseer position.”

“Good, Red Team, on my count, you are to take your shots, and proceed to your alternative targets. I say one hit one kill. I say again, one hit, one kill.”

Sandra heard her team acknowledge her orders.

“Red 6, is your team ready?”

“Roget that Red Mother, as soon as the guards are down, we will approach from 3 points, 4-man team and 6 men are at the south exit point to take care of those who will try to escape.” Lito answered.

“Red Team, make sure that all guns are suppressed. This is a silent assault. Repeat, this is a silent assault. If we can avoid open gunfire, the better it is for all of us.” Sandra ordered.

Again a series of rogers confirmed that every one concurred.

Sandra, repositioned herself, as she saw Yojiro stood up answered his phone while walking to a window.

********

“You have to leave that place now! I mean this instant. Blue orchid knows that you are there. There is no point in pursuing this Yojiro. Leave now and let’s regroup and re-plan. There will be another day.”

“Igor my friend, I have already considered that, and we have already bought our tickets, we are leaving at 5 in the morning today. That’s exactly 7 hours from now.” Yojiro replied.

“Good. But I do not like the reason why you still stayed there even after you learned that Blue Orchid decimated the men of PMC, which by the way made them very pissed. They are insisting that the contract was a ‘no contact’ agreement. Now they are demanding extra.”

“Those motherfuckers are using all the reasons in the world just to fuck us out of our money. They should have sent professionals, not those SOB second rates. Tell them to go and fuck themselves. They are not going to get a dime more than what was agreed.” Yojiro angrily replied.

“I know they won’t like it, but you’re right. Anyway, I want you here by tomorrow, I will not be able to breathe easier until I know all of you are safe. And you my good friend, keep your head down. By the way, have you taken cared of the hostages?” Igor said.

“Actually, I was about to call our men to eliminate them when you called. I will do that as soon we’re done. Don’t worry, I am safe here. I am pretty sure Blue Orchid is nowhere around here. We have eyes and ears and control the whole fucking place where we are right now.”

Yojiro was never more wrong with that statement.

*******

‘Red Mother, Red 3… Flash traffic…”

“Go Red 3.” Sandra replied immediately.

“Police group approaching from the east road will undoubtedly be slaughtered unless we engage now. They have been spotted and their enemy is fanning out to meet them. I need advice.”

“Red 3, intervene only when necessary. Take out your primary targets before engaging, copy?”

“Roger that Red Mother. It will be Showtime in 5 minutes.”

“Red 2 and 3, prop time to start when Showtime begins.”

“Copy Red Mother.”

“Red Team, get ready… Showtime in 5 minutes.” Sandra whispered to her radio.

It was actually less than 5 minutes when Red 2 press the button and said ‘SHOWTIME!’…”

“Copy… Engage!!!” Sandra replied to Red 2.

“Red Team on my mark…. SHOWTIME…!”

Sandra center her reticle on Yojiro’s upper ear, gave her trigger a few more ounces of pressure until it buckled. The same 308 grain hunting rifle that killed the PMC guy from about 950 yards away, sent a sub-sonic bullet on its way. In less than a second, a laughing Yojiro became a very dead Yakusa head Yojiro.

Sandra panned to her left and right. She saw Hzang, the Chinese Triad leader slumped on the sofa, a bullet hole where his left eye was. Asnan with half of his face gone faced down on table his jerking hand still holding on to a cold beer bottle.

She panned for more targets…

“Red Mother… Red 3.. sitrep… hostiles guarding the parents are down, but one guy was able to press his trigger before I got to him. I have no idea if the hostages where hit.”

The report sent chills to Sandra’s spine.

“Copy Red 3… both of you engage hostiles until the police gains the upper hand, then cease and fall back. Copy?”

Sandra heard both rogers.

******

“Mike, take the south side, we have men wounded in that area.” His chief told him.

“Yes sir.”

Mike moved to the place his chief indicated and found Lt. Armand laying on the dirt, a bullet wound through his thighs. He pulled him to a better cover.

“Sir, do you have confirmation about my parents?”

“Thanks Mike, Team 3 is still enroute, they are encountering heavy resistance along the stairwell. We can cover you from here. Go and assist them.” Armand said.

Mike zigged and zagged his way. He saw a man scamper towards him firing an M-16 Armalite rifle. He aimed, but before he can shoot, the man tumbled back. Mike thought his colleagues provided the cover fire. He ran towards the side of the building he was about there when three men emerged and started firing at him.

Mike knew his Glock 29 – 9mm pistol is no match for the assault rifles they were firing at him, yet still he fired while running. He saw them fall one by one. Yet he did not hear a shot.

“Sniper!” he said to himself. Surely the SAF had him covered. Cautiously he entered the warehouse. He did not see anybody, until he came to the lobby. He saw a few SAF men down and wounded, and some still firing at the enemies who had taken position at the stairwell.

He motioned to the SAF to cover him, while approached from an angle. He saw an open window and peeped out to see if he could access the next floor through it. There was none.

*******

“Red Mother.. Red 2.. policeman Mike just entered the warehouse, I just tapped 4 guys on him. I will try to cover him, but I have no visuals on the enemy at the stairs.”

“Roger Red 2, keep your eyes on him.” Sandra replied.

Sandra was moving towards Red 4.

“Red 4 are you still there?” Sandra asked.

“Roger, but I have 4 or 5 tangos coming my way. I am not sure if I can take them all, since they are coming from three directions.”

“Can you maneuver to position Red 4 Charlie? I am coming to you and meet you there.” Sandra replied.

“Roger Red Mother, moving.”

Sandra in a crouch position ran. The supposedly silent assault ended when a rather alert guard saw Red 6’s team entered the compound and started firing at them. A moment later, Red 4 took him out, but it was enough to bring everyone into the fight.

She already ordered Red 1 and 5 to exfil with Red 6 providing cover. When Red 4 radioed his predicament.

Red 4 position Charlie was on the second floor of an apartment building, which leads to a fire escape, ending in an alley that exits to a small street about 100 meters from the compound.

She had her suppressed K&K MP10 out and had already downed 2 guys with it when she got to Red 4.

Reaching him, she saw blood coming from his shirt.

“How badly are you hurt?” She asked

“Not that bad, I can still move.” Red 4 replied.

“Okay, I’ll lead the way, follow me closely and cover my six.” Sandra ordered.

They started moving towards the end of the corridor where the fire escape was located.

“Red 6… Mother and Red four exiting through alternate Red 4 Xray. Red 4 is hurt, condition unknown. I repeat, unknown…” Sandra muttered on her radio.

“Copy Red Mother, exit Red 4 xray. Red 1 and Red 5 will provide cover.”

Sandra and Red 4, have reached the fire escape when three men started firing on them. Sandra returned fire while Red 4 took cover in a recessed wall and fired back with his own 45 caliber Remington pistol. Sandra released her spent mag and loaded a fresh one when a bullet, fired from an AK47, hit the wall beside her and ricocheted into her side.

The bullet slipped through between the plates of the body armor, penetrated her skin, broke through her softer lower ribs, broke them as it glanced and change its trajectory downward. The bullet continued forward, passing and severing arteries and veins, punched a hole through her liver and entered her womb. Spent, the still hot bullet floated downwards to a 15 centimeter pulsing lump of blood. The toad-like figure inside the sac seemed to look at the intruder as if to ask if it belongs in the same place as he did.

Sandra’s adrenalin was too high to notice at first. With a long burst from her gun, the two other men fell and she and Red 4 went through the fire escape. Red 4 went first and while she was climbing down, she felt the weakness overcoming her body and she fell to the waiting arms of Red 4 unconscious.

Red 4 saw blood coming from her side and shouted on the radio.

“Red Team, Red Mother is down. I say again. RED MOTHER IS DOWN!”

Red 4, himself weak from blood loss, tried to carry Sandra, finding that he didn’t have the strength to do so.

“Red Team I am negative to carry Red Mother, too weak to do so. I need you to come and get us.”

While doing so, 4 men started peeking through the fire escape.

Red 4 took Sandra’s gun and began firing at the men at the fire escape, who returned fire. The firing was intense, he had no choice but to take cover. Every time he had his chance he returned fire, until his gun was empty.

From about 50 yards, Red 1’s rifle spat out 3 bullets, 3 of the 4 men collapse, dead before they fell. Red 6’s gun took out the last man.

Red 5, came and picked Sandra, while Red 6 assisted Red 4, slowly they picked their way and reached the get-away vehicle, while Red 1 continued to scour the building for more targets.

Sandra woke up in the car and heard Police sirens fading. She saw Red 1’s crying face worriedly looking at her. She smiled and again lost consciousness.

******

Mike was crab-walking towards the right side of the stairwell, when he saw a enemy come up from his hiding place. He raised his gun and drilled one smack on the forehead. He crawled through the steps, into the first landing area. As he peeked from the concrete balustrade post, several shots hit the side causing him to pull back. He returned fire, changed magazine and like a snake crawled on his belly towards the next level.

Almost to the top, he raised his gun and fired indiscriminately until it was empty. A SAF officer who was following him, handled him a rifle, which he used to spray the area. Again there was no response… After about a minute, Mike slowly raised his hands, no shot… He slowly raised is head to peek. Nobody shot at him. He stood and ran to the wall.

Mike saw about 10 men laying on the floor, 8 had head wounds, 2 have chest gaping with holes. He surveyed the area, seeing that there were no enemies declared to his companion that it was all clear.

Mike ran to the room where the reports said they were kept. The door was closed. He rammed into it splintering the lock and the door jambs. There he saw his mother cuddling his father’s dead body. He had 2 wounds that entered his back that he got when he used his body to shield his wife.

Mike felt all his strength drain from his body into his head.

And then the tears began to fall.

 

Malate, Manila

12:05 am, 1 hour after the escape…

The whole Red Team, where anxiously gathered on the conference room, when Maning entered.

“Maning, how is she?” Alicia also Red 1, asked.

“The doctor is still operating on her. She had 2 broken ribs, a punctured liver and a few damaged intestines. The doctor said all these are repairable. What’s working for her is her youth and physical resistance. But unluckily, the bullet also penetrated her womb and the bullet is sitting right beside the fetus. The doctor is still trying to determine whether he can remove it without damaging her baby.”

“Fetus..? You mean she’s pregnant?” Amina also known as Red 3 exclaimed.

“Yes, she is.” Red 1 replied. “I tried to persuade her not to do this, but she insisted.”

“Then you should have been more persuasive.” Freddie also known as Red 5          angrily retorted.

“Don’t you think I did that. I did, she just wouldn’t listen to me.” Alicia answered back.

“Fuck man, I did this to her.” Ronald, Red 4 said. “I should have provided her better coverage.”

“No use on blaming yourself Ronald and don’t you go on a hara-kiri attitude. We all knew the risk and took them to ourselves. Madam Blue as we all know it, will at all times give her life to save any of ours.” Susan, also Red 2 stated.

“Ladies… Gentlemen… Madam Blue is practically safe. She will need a little time before she can discharge her duties. She has made it clear that in the meantime, Alicia will be taking over her duties and continue our work.” Maning officiously declared.

“As to her pregnancy, I have known of it and I was there when she told Alicia about this. I was witness to the discussion that ensued and how she tried to convince Madam Blue not to do this. Be then assured that this was her decision and all efforts to dissuade her were in vain. At this point I can only ask for your prayers, for her baby.”

Now please sit down so we can start the debriefing.

They all sat down while Maning gave them the details of the simultaneous operation they just finished.

 

Malate, Manila

9:00am, 3 days after…

Sandra was awake, lying listening to an interview of Mike’s Chief over CNN Philippines.

“Sir, many are wondering why you used the SAF and not your own men? Can you tell me the reason why?”

“Well, as we have earlier told you, the SAF is the most logical choice for us. They have the experience and a discipline that is needed for operations like this. This is the reason why they were created as a unit of the AFP.” The chief replied.

“Sir, did the SAF deploy sharpshooters and snipers in this operation?”

“If you are referring to the reports that several bodies were found to have bullet holes in their heads, that only a sniper can inflict, this is true. But to tell you that we have snipers in the area, I cannot discuss operations and tactics openly, as this will undermine our ability to conduct our next operations.”

“Sir, we heard that the father of Senior Police Inspector Miguel Cartagena was killed in the rescue. Why was he there in the first place?”

“Mike’s father, retired Marine Captain Isidro Cartagena and his wife were abducted by a syndicate who was at war with another syndicate. They were kidnapped to put pressure on the AOCD, to provide them information on the whereabouts of the other syndicate. We cooperated to ensure the safety of the hostages, until we discovered where they were hiding the hostages. Unluckily, retired Capt. Cartagena, gave his life to save his wife, with what he had at the time, his body.”

“Sir, can you call the operation a success?”

“We have a term that all policemen learn in the academy – Successful Failure. The success is that we were able to disband the syndicate and killed everyone connected to it. These are foreign killers hired by the Yakusa, Chinese Triad, and the Golden Circle, who have shown that they can operate with impunity in our country. This proves the capability of our law enforcers to repel criminals. But it was also a failure that we were not quick enough to reach the hostages before they were fired upon by the kidnappers.”

“Sir, my final question. In South Pembo, Makati City, while you were doing your raid at the warehouse, a fierce gun battle happened that lead to the killing of at least 57 men, 3 of which were identified as known leaders of the Yakusa, Chinese Triad and the Golden Circle, and the subsequent arrest of 14 men wounded in the fight. Was this a police operation and do you think these incidents are related?”

“No it was not a police operation, we have ruled this to be a clash between large syndicates operating in Asia. We have information that earlier a group known as the Blue Syndicate is being actively sought out by these 3 other syndicates, who have joined forces. But then again we do not have enough information to properly make that conclusion. While we are thankful that these hardened criminals’ careers were ended, we are unhappy that these international syndicates have used our country as a battle ground. In this case, we have found that aside from the 57 identified as foreigners, 5 Filipinos where also killed. Some have said that they were passers-by, while others have claimed that they were killed in battle. Again as I said, these are still quite raw and more investigation need to be done to really determine what happened.”

“Thank you for that interview sir, we shall continue to monitor these incidents and will be asking your more questions as more information is gathered.”

“Thank you too. My office is always open to you if you need more information.”

Sandra clicked off the TV screen, as Maning entered the room.

“Good morning Madam. How are you feeling today?”

“I have seen better days Maning, but thank you for asking. So what’s happening?”

“All Blues have returned to their respective AOR’s. All traces to our men have been expunged from the records. The families of our men who got killed in that operation were all taken-cared of. The organization is still under the radar and no one has any information about us. We have sent false leads and information and newspapers have already started reporting seeing you in Europe.”

“What about Mike?”

“Well, he was at first angry about the mugging incident. I told him that you were robbed on your way home and was shot. One news agency we own already reported the fake assault and we showed him a clipping. He wanted to go to Singapore to visit you, but we dissuaded him saying it is a matter of security. Plus, his involvement with the syndicates will only attract attention to him and may cause more danger to you. Madam, you have to talk to him as soon as possible. At least, whatever decision you need to make, you need to tell him. This is not going to stop unless you do so. Much less now that he knows you are pregnant.” Maning told her.

“I know Maning… I know. I just don’t know how to tell him who I really am without the complications, especially with his job,” She replied.

“I cannot continue to be who I am and be a wife and mother at the same time.”

“Madam, it does look like you have to make a choice. I cannot make you pick one. One thing though that I can guarantee, I and everyone of us will always be behind you, no matter what choice you make.”

“Maning, until each of the heads of the syndicate are gone, Mike and me will never have a peaceful life. I very much would like to have one, now that I found the right man. But, the specter of what I have done, will always haunt me.” Sandra told his faithful assistant.

“Madam, when you were out of commission, Blue One came with a plan, and if implemented properly and timed just right, may be your way out. Would you like to hear it?”

“Yes, what is it?”

Maning told Sandra their plan.

 

EPILOGUE

 

A secluded beach in Amanpolo      

800 in the morning

Sandra and Mike were walking down the beach holding hands while watching Ricky, his family and Mike’s mother enjoying the surf. Suddenly Sandra felt a strong pain in her stomach prompting her to sit down while Mike was carefully assisting her. Sandra is on her 7th month of pregnancy and married for less than a month.

It took some explaining to Mike why she wouldn’t want him to come to her, but eventually Mike accepted, especially with the baby coming. It took them 2 months to plan the simple wedding ceremony which was attended mostly by Mike’s mother, friends and colleagues, Ricky’s family and the Blues of Sandra’s organization, who were introduced as either partners or co-workers.

Only Blue Three was not present, and would never be.

Two months ago, Blue Three according to plan assaulted the Russian Mafia’s headquarters. She killed Ivan and many of his lieutenants, before the police came and as planned, she allowed herself to be captured, where she confessed to be Blue Orchid, the leader to the Blue Syndicate.

After several attempts on her life, she is now being kept in a highly secure facility, where she revealed to authorities the extent of the operation of the syndicates and the officials who serve as their protectors.

Following a massive cleansing, where several government and police officials in Southeast Asia were removed, the activities of the Blue Organization died down, and a new group the “BLUE CORPORATION” emerged – led by Sandra. A legitimate front, with some not-so-legitimate activities on the sidelines.

“Darling, are you sure you’re okay?” Sandra heard Mike say.

Sandra looked into his eyes and only love in those deep brown orbs.

“I am and will always be,” She said.

She kissed him and held his arms, as they silently watched the people they love playing and enjoying the ocean…

 

THE END

Advertisements

The Pscyhology of a Sin

Duco.ex.umbra@2015

We encounter this term almost every day, in fact we have several quotes and sayings that either refer to the act – sin, or the point of committing the act – sinning. May it be that we do not really know what sin is.

Generally, sin is defined as an act against any moral law, a transgression against a divine law. The Christian definition says it is a transgression against God. This carefully dissociates sin from the term offence, crime, misdeed or misdemeanor which are the synonyms of the word, but mostly referred to for civil disobedience.

Given this definition it is make it rather clear that – “sin is an act of wrong doing, an act of wickedness or and evil act that offends a deity or is contrary to the teachings of belief, religion and faith.”

The ethos here is that for a sin to be committed, it must: first, be an act of man. It is unthinkable for animals to commit a sin since even if they have memories and emotions, they do not have a cogitative mind that can be comparable to the human mind that is aware of what is right and wrong. For an action to be considered an act of man, the resultant event has gone through a process, sensory input, thought process, resultant emotion and compelling reason – then the act itself.

This is the reason why minors are not tried in court, no matter how heinous their crime because moral law presupposes that they do not yet have full command of their mental capacities. Although, there have been several debates on establishing – what is the real age, when the rudimentary concept of what is right and wrong becomes a settled understanding in a person’s mind.

Second, the act must be wrong or evil or against a moral or divine law. In this case the base premise is the moral or divine law. The determination of what makes an act wrong must not be based simply on what is wrong in the eyes of society, but must also be seen from what is acceptable and forgiveable versus what is unacceptable and unforgivable based on a certain set of beliefs and norms, either from a god or a belief.

This can best be exemplified in such instance where a father cleaning his gun; left it to get something, his 5-year old child picks it up, makes those moves as he sees in the movies and accidentally fires the gun killing his father. Killing is a mortal sin and against both civil and divine law, but it is unacceptable to punish the child for doing what he thinks is fun.

This is also one of the reason why ISIS is bold and brutal in killing non-Muslims, because they have judged these people to be against their beliefs. While we are shocked, sickened and angered by their act, the divine law provides that we cannot deprive any man to practice his belief. What is left to us – is to argue the interpretation of the rules of that belief. Following the same logic, the brutal response elicited by this act becomes justified as the same divine law provides that people have to the right to defend themselves or form into coalitions to defend others who share the same faith. The question then – which divine law should prevail?

Lastly, by the very nature of the term divine law, it assumes that there is a divine, a deity which serves as the judge of what is wrong or right. The applicability of the divine law should have transcended the boundaries of religion and colour. The divine law is centred on mankind’s existence on earth, good manners, right attitude towards others, mutual respect and understanding of life and properties.

Rightly so, humans as we are, we have always seen that the grass is greener over in another’s pasture. So when we see the person to be weak, we pounce and grab. Each time we do this, we feel that rush of victory and power that us yearn for more. Just like a drug addict looking for his next fix. When we have taken everything we can, somebody with a bigger army comes and crushes us. The divine law, abused and even manipulated to justify acts of wrongdoings. History is full of stories of those who have used the name of god for their own selfish ambitions, which sadly is still happening today.

Let me go back to our definition – sin is an act against the moral or divine law. How can there be a moral or divine law if there is nobody moral or divine? Divinity is not something ethereal. It must have an entity upon which an act against is considered a transgression. Like raping nature is a sin against the earth, but raping a woman is not against the earth, neither is it against the woman, because that is physical abuse – who then is offended when we perform such acts as, rape, killing, brutality, plunder and stealing? Aside from those who wished that they have done the act themselves.

Here in this process, where man is asked to judge man, is the bastardization of the conscience of the divine law and the divinity of the deity upon which the law was founded. When the law of acts against nature is argued to be against the law of development and economic growth. When the law against mankind, is justified by invoking the law of the jungle and survival, where meek and weak must be subservient to the strong and the victors.

We argue on which act is more acceptable – the survival of man or the survival of the divine law? For those who interpret the law are men, and their interest being man is also that of survival, it is expected that in many cases, the divine law is cast aside. Further, since nobody can be considered as authority and can ably defend it, it succumbs to the interpretation of the man who has in its best interests his own survival. Not to mention that he also profits and enjoys the protection of the interpretation.

Sin in this case is not a transgression of the divine law per se, but rather a crime against man’s interpretation of the divine law. So if a person fights for his right to live, speaks about the truth of abuse and exploitation done to him, he is well within his rights under the divine law, but has sinned against those who are powerful and interpreted the law to favour themselves and their interest. And, as the spoils of interpretation goes to the victor, he who is more powerful will always be right.

This is where the beauty of the words of Jesus in the bible – “Let he who has not sinned be the first to cast the stone.” (John 8:7) These words not only defined the law, but establishes the fact that each one has committed a sin against this law, not only by interpreting it the wrong way, also by not standing to defend it. The sins of commission and omission.

Following this line of thought then, beyond the application of its religious meanings, one of the basis by which we can interpret the divine law is the two commandments of Jesus. “To love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and to love your neighbors as you love yourself.” (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30-31).

Loving God includes the love for everything he made, and since God is conceived to be good, just and kind – loving Him requires following in His footsteps. The second rule defines the law for others, to be treated and respected as we have treated and respected ourselves.

Sin therefore is when we transgress against these commandments. Regardless of reason or logic, explanations and justifications, we are answerable for all our acts against these laws. We are expressly not allowed to pass judgement, much less penalize anyone on this sins, until the act becomes a civil liability. Simply this means, when a man looks lasciviously and lust for a woman’s body, the sin remains to be divine, punishable by the divine. But when the man rapes the woman, it then is not just divinely wrong, but also civilly wrong and the laws of man comes to play.

Lastly, when the sins that man has committed is been forgiven by society, this does not mean that the divine law has also forgiven him. For the day of reckoning is yet to come and all these will be accounted for.

Peace be with all of us…

What makes a Filipino…

duco ex umbra@2015

Part 1 of 3 parts

Funny you would say, why would a Filipino ask what he or she is? Unless he is not a real Filipino. But let’s turn around and ask someone, an American for example – what is an American? And I did, one time when I was hanging out with a few friends, I did pop this question to an American friend and you know his answer?

An American is a citizen of the strongest country in the world, whose currency is the only monetary system that the world respects, a country who can wage war with any in the world and would emerge victorious. He is man from a place called a land of milk and honey, of golden opportunities and where democracy is the counterpoint, where people can say what they want, do what they want, dream what they want, and for as long as it does not hurt or endanger anybody they are free to do what they want. He actually continued to the more banal and diverse things that makes an American, from the financial to the historical. Sadly, though, he never answered my question.

Frustrations…

Yup, it is very true, like the “brown Americans” that we have always dreamt ourselves to be, our response to this question would very much be in the same vein as my old friend said. Just take note of the number of people, young an old, who would give an arm and a leg just to become an American citizen. Frustrating to know that statistically, 90 percent of the college graduates that our universities and colleges spew out every year dream of going to the good ol’ US of A, believing that the land of milk and honey will usher a life of plenty and glam.

Frustrating to listen to young girls on social media mimicking the twang and even giving the effort of convincing others. Irritating to listen to mothers and yaya’s saying – “No don’t go there, the aswang will catch you.” Well, at least aswang is already an accepted English word. But the tone and delivery makes it sound like a tin plate as it is ripped apart by the incredible hulk. It literally makes my short hairs stand and my skin fell like a thousand ants are crawling over it, as I listen to 5 and 6-year old girls belting up the “twerk it like Milley” song and undulating as if their lives depend on it.

Frustrating because we all know it is not right, but we tolerate it, accept it and even endorse it. Just note the number of likes that you see after the post. Hmmm, I did like a few performances though, count me as one of the guilty.

Back to the topic…

I know, I know, I digress. I am just, like you, human and the desires you have run true in my veins and brain. Although, when I say this, I kinda hear my mom’s voice in the background, with her poetic and shrill call – “wala ka talagang utak…(you don’t have a brain)”  followed by a few sentences and her finale – “hindi mo talaga ginagamit ang utak mo…(you’re not using your brain).” I, once did respond, “sabi mo wala akong utak, paano ko gamitin ang wala ako? (You said, I don’t have a brain, how can use what I don’t have?” If you can imagine the explosion of the Nagasaki bomb during world war II, it was kinda like what happened after I said those words. Needless to say, I learned my lesson and after that it was all “yes mother – no mother”, safer that way.

Moving on, really, what is a Filipino? What makes you one? We can’t say we’re a land of democracy, for in truth we’re more like a theocratic-monarchial-democratic-dictatorship.

Theocratic – I would day, as our churches play and ply our religiosity to the person sitting in power. Why am I seeing some raised eyebrows? You don’t believe me? Haven’t you notice our politicians taking a knee at religious gatherings pro-offering support and subservience especially during election times? The laws that can’t be passed because they cannot offend the church. Such that more children are born to families who cannot afford to have them, simply because the government must cater to the sensitivities of the pro-lifers lead by the church who does not appreciate the freedom and common-sense of a condom. Women who continue to suffer the beatings of husbands, because our “kongresistas” and “Cenadores” won’t buck the Roman Catholic church and pass the divorce law. It is better for these women to suffer, rather than get the ire of the Almighty who said – ‘what God has put together, let no man put asunder’.

I am not saying it is wrong, a belief is a belief. But God in his ultimate greatness and compassion knows that his love does not allow people to suffer, go hungry or die. It is our humanity that has limited our vision and our desperate ways to interpret God in the most human and common of ways, which if I was God, I would call all my angels and send lightning bolts to all these charlatans in our beloved halls of congress and all those who conspire with them. Sadly, that I am not, and not only do I not have angels, I also do not have lightning bolts. I can only ask, why can’t these leaders, as they call themselves, see the greater good of the many?

Monarchial – this is another outrageous thing that we Filipinos, me included, love. We love our politicians with so much genuine passion, that even decades after the election is done, we still have those election posters lining up our walls, some even next to the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Our love for our leaders surpasses the love of the British for their Queen. I know, for I have been to places where leaders are treated with reverence.

People sacrifice their beloved farm animals, knowing their economic lives depend on it, just to feed the VIPs, as if they came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of stone with the commandments of God. And what do they get from these? A wave? A nod and a 3-minute face to face? He who gave his beloved “kalabaw” is not even given the chance to say a word, as the “GUARDS” are screening every word said so as not offend, every person is taken a threat. And the lowly Pinoy says “it’s okay, at least I saw him.” WTF!!!

Other than these, notice how the teachers and their pupils spend hours to practice dances, parents saddled with the costs of make-up, dresses, costumes and diving deep into their savings just to ensure that their children will look nice and prim and proper. And then they present themselves in front of the dignitary, sweating under the noonday sun, while the dignitary is busy talking to the person beside him, not even pretending to appreciate what the teachers, pupils and parents went through. After all these, the teachers thank the pupils and parents for their support and everyone goes their merry way. Those that will remain to at least glimpse the dignitary are being pushed aside, often roughly, by the “GUARDS”. A fucking royal treatment for girls and boys who suffered the noonday heat to entertain a person who was not fucking paying attention! WTF!!!

Democratic “kuno” (as if) – this is our form of government. That is what teachers and everyone else with 2-cents of brain will tell us. REALLY??? (visual aid – eyebrows raised). A government of the people, by the people and for the people, a nation governed by laws, with equality and justice for all… AGAIN REALLY? (same visual aid).

Stand up anyone who believes that his congressman has really done something for them, without getting something for himself in return? Raise your hand if the senator, whom you voted for, has gone to an old man and brought him food, without a bevy of newsmen and cameras around him. Raise the roof if your governor has constructed a road to exact specifications and pricing. These are the people selected by us – our people – so to speak. But have they been talking about us? About the rising prices; the dilapidated roads; schools whose roofs are falling down; non-existing bridges but reported completed; books that are either full of errors or out-moded information; medicine that have long expired; hospitals with no doctors or nurses; traffic that cannot be resolved; killings and muggings that have exploded; rape, torture and kidnappings; etc. Have they talked about these and have they laid down CONCRETE PLANS of resolving these?

We are supposed to be a government of laws – true, we have as much laws that if you put each of these laws volumes, you will fill the whole floor area of SM North EDSA. But are their laws for economic development? Laws to support farmers? Laws to develop the countryside? Laws to better-off the lives of the OFWs? Laws to ensure that labourers are getting the best benefits? Laws to allow foreign investments to thrive? Do you think we have laws for these? Sadly, we have presidential directives, presidential orders, department memoranda… But, these are transitory laws – laws that that next leaders can easily erase and replace, if not manipulate. So what government of laws are we talking about? The disparity of laws for the poor and the rich is so blatant that if a lawyer worth his salt would be true to his profession, he will sit down and weep.

With justice and equality for all – don’t you even get me started on this, else this becomes a 5-part essay rather than a 3-part. Do any of us have any idea of the number of cases now pending in the courts? How about the number of convicted people, who are actually guilt free? How about the people whom the rich have abused? Those of our fellow Filipinos who spoke the truth and then simply disappeared? Government employees, who abused their positions. Imagine waiting in line, while a pouting employee wants to finish her make-up?  Does she care that your time is as precious as hers? Imagine a government employee berating a lowly farmer for not being able to pay his irrigation fees? Or your feeling when you are so desperate in need of money for medicines and you filed a loan from SSS or Pag-Ibig and the clerk while attending to the few ahead of you starts chatting to another clerk about her date last night.

I am simply stating that injustice does not have to manifest itself as a direct affront to a person or his property. Injustice can also be something that is due to you by law, yet someone in a position denies it from you. Injustice can be a person of authority berating you, because his wife didn’t want to have sex last night. Injustice can be someone who refuses or delays to give you your due attention, especially when you need it most. In justice is when lowly employees are out rightly taxed, while their bosses hide incomes in off-shore accounts. Injustice is seeing our “public servants” riding in air-conditioned SUVs while the taxpayers cower under almost-to-give-out umbrellas under the rain waiting for their public conveyance to arrive.

Finally, the apex – dictatorship! What dictatorship you may ask. I am free. I can do what I want. I can say what I want and when I want it. Congratulations, you win my toilet bowl! Are you sure you are free? Think again, for there have been a lot who exposed the truth, people with honour and dignity who came forward and spoke their minds. My question, where are these people now? Have the questions they espoused before been answered? Were the issues they championed resolved? There are still a few of them around, but when you ask them, they will simply smile and turn away. Have you asked yourself why? Yet there are also others, you see them now on television shows, still the raging on, but singing songs of praise for those they criticized before, basking in the glory of what they shunned before and bathing in the aromas of the stench they have questioned before. The remaining few, they still continue to shout, but they voices are slowly fading, like lamps whose useful life has long gone past.

So again, if we say if I say I am a Filipino and Philippines is my country and I am proud of it. How honest are we when we say so? How proud are we really of the country that gives us our identity? Can we stand in the market square of the big apple and declare, I AM A FILIPINO?

End of Part 1…

A Simple Voice…

suyop.abog@2015

THE LEGACY OF GOVERNMENT

I was never a nihilist nor a pessimist. In fact, I would more call myself as an objectivist, following a simple precept – Man can do better, if he sheds off the ties from which his predatory nature causes him to prey on others. With this, I felt quite comfortable and safe as I go through the daily rigors of life. I pretty much avoid political topics, as they are traps for useless banter and philosophical allegories.

The other day, in a retreat for graduating college students, fielded a question from the outfield. Understandably since the country is going through a national political exercise, the questions along this subject was anticipated, but not expected. Who is my presidential choice and why?

I wanted to dodge the question, not because I don’t have an answer, but mainly because I haven’t made up my mind. But, as innocent as the question was, it is like a loaded gun that can explode at my face, whether I answer it or not. Thus, after a moment of contemplation, I decided to form my reply.

I honestly told them, I haven’t made up my mind, and the only answer I can give, for them to seek answers based on what and who they think is best. I knew the follow-up question would be – how. This brought me to a situation that I hoped I could avoid. But, as I was already soaked, as a saying goes, it’s time to get wet. I gave them how I look at it.

The government has one simple job to do – protect and support the welfare of the people. That is basically it…! The many agencies and offices of government is to provide the mechanism and process so government can effectively deliver its job. There are a lot of thing that government must do and must not do. However, since the time when government were created, the concept of subjugation has always been the main principle of the so called leaders, with the citizens being docile and willing participants to this.

The interpretation of laws, the manipulation of taxes, the allocation of monies, and even the appointment of people to sensitive positions where sole authorities given to our leaders. The right to be pampered and treated like kings and queens, are more often the rule and not the exception. So much so that the people to which these services are intended, as per the mandate of the law, are often sacrificed in the altar of “leadership convenience”.

However, it is unclear whether the rules on these perks are written, or are they subsumed to be part of the deal? Nobody knows, because inspite of the multitudinous laws and rules, there was never a clear rule on etiquette for elected and appointed officials. Rules are made by the leaders as they go along – as in wars, the spoils go to the victor.

All nations, including the Philippines, have always been strong, by its natural resources, but the industry and resilience, and the spirit of its people. That strength is not debatable or questionable. What weakens a country is the way the laws are interpreted. Lee Kwan Yu of Singapore, proved that if a leader puts his feet firmly and detaches himself from political strings, a nation can move faster towards self-sustainability.

This being so, the weakness of government, is not on the delivery of service, but in our selection of the people who we task to deliver those services. It goes without saying the, that – we deserve the government we get, because it is our choice.

And then we say, we did not expect this person to be like this when we voted him or her. Herein goes the age old chicken and egg question – is it the system corrupting the person or the person corrupting the system? Then again, we say, an incorruptible person, no matter where you place him will remain pure. Oh, really?

The truth is whenever a person owes something to another, that alone becomes a weakness of the person. A leader may maintain his innocence in matters that he doesn’t know, but people to whom he owed a debt, will soon find themselves in positions where the lure and temptation of hanky-panky will eventually lead them to use the markers that a leader owes them. In response, then the leader plays the 3-monkey game: Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil.

If any government really wants to deliver the services due to the people, from whom their existence is derived, the leader must have the will to defy what is called as “political normal”. A leader must be willing to lose his friends and even become a pariah among the people who spent money for his ascendancy. But, who wants to be that person?

This is the sole reason of the campaign and the election, for people to know and be sure. So people can discern who is best to lead them. Lead them where? To a vision- a clear, achievable and realizable future. Based on what is real, what is here and what is now. Political rhetoric and propaganda are useless means of convincing us. We have to know, we have to study and be sure – not just for us but for everyone.

The selection maybe our individual acts, but the effect of which covers everyone. Satisfying ourselves because we got personal gain; leaning on personal friendships; or concepts of achievement; popularity and fame; and affiliations, may be good, but the basis of selection should be not we wants for ourselves – but what we all want. For a leader is not just there for you, but for everyone.

As I concluded, I simply said – “look at yourselves now, and imagine yourselves 6 years from now – where do you want yourselves to be? Do you want to be standing in the same place? Would you want to move 10 paces or would you want to be kilometers from where you are now? And, where do you want others to be?

The answer is in the name we write in our ballots! That is our legacy and the legacy of the government we chose.

—————

21FEB16

A question…

The Imperfection of God

Suyop Abog@2015

I know, nor a few eyebrows will definitely rise reading this title. I have debated a long time before I even considered putting this. And before anybody bombs me with God’s perfection and etc., allow me to present my case and make myself better understood. For when I say God is imperfect, it is not because he is – but because we make God imperfect.

Let’s consider the beginning of all these, the first book of the bible – Genesis! From the dark void to light; then to the heavens and seas; from the animals to man, then a woman. A perfect scenario to say the least. Add a garden of Eden, where peace and quiet reigns, where no violence exist. What a world it would be.

Imagine we are a movie company and we would like to produce a big budgeted movie. We can have someone with real skills to make a blockbuster script from this biblical story. Maybe we can hire someone with an very nice commanding voice to do a voice over, then viola – a hit! That’s what we think.

Before we can even start this movie, we have to consider: What about the skeptics? Those that do not believe in the story of the creation? The scientist who postulates we evolved from some form of animal, a monkey or otherwise? What about the non-conformist? Those who believe we are alien life forms that came to earth and got stranded here? What about those, who are still out there in the deserts of nowhere, digging for clues on the origins of man? Suddenly, our religious story becomes a scientific impossibility. And the perfect scenario, becomes a simply story, for science cannot prove it, then if there is no proof, it is nothing but a mother goose tale.

Sadly, every story in the bible, and even those that can just be inferred from what is written have been studied, analyzed, refined and there are those, who want to find evidences of biblical history and match them with actual history. The case of the documentary of the Exodus for example. There are several proofs and artifacts that proved Exodus happened, but simply because it does not fit the records of known history, many scholars have actually ruled – Exodus is simply a story.

Archeological findings show that the story of the Exodus happened 200 hundred years earlier than when it happened. New and incontestable evidence are being found daily. Yet, the historians of Egypt, do not want to change the facts of their known history, because of a story. A proof that even if we can find the best evidence of our faith – there will be those who will question and will even tell us to keep faith separate from science.

Why is this so?

From the very start of what we can recall, based in records and writings in stone and paper, papyri and what not. It has been our practice to write about the glory of man. Our achievements, our accomplishments. Nobody wrote about the losers. We can remember kings and queens, heroes and heroines, but we never wrote about the people behind the greatness of these characters. We all know Napoleon Bonaparte, but do you recall a sentence, just a sentence of who his commander was of the 2nd brigade? Was that person not part of the greatness of Napoleon? Hs is, and yet we know nothing of him.

Jesus, even as a Son of God, simply because he came as a son of a poor carpenter, was not recorded in the history books. Herod was, but Herod’s assistant was not. This only proves that the selection of events to be recorded were dominated by those we consider important. Only after, when a person is glorified, will his existence even be noted, by then the notes on the pages of history are either gone, vanished or forgotten. The remaining remnants of whatever is available will serve as “authoritative” accounts of life. Like Beethoven, remembered because of his music.

Now since Jesus’ existence cannot be proven, no actual accounts can be recovered. Skepticism and doubts as to Jesus’ life is under question. And this serves as a reason why some religions do not believe Jesus to be God. This is a take-off point why some religions believe him only to be a prophet. Some argue that being a son of God, does not make you a God.

Now, because Jesus left no accounting of his life, except that which is recounted on the bible, the bible itself is being questioned. How true can Jesus be? Because we, with all the instruments and gadgets we have under our command, cannot definitely say Jesus is God, we invented all means of criteria – not to prove Jesus’ existence, but to disprove his life on earth.

We know that by doing this, we will disprove Christianity, we will disprove the Vatican and the papacy, we will destroy the core belief of more than 100 billion Christians. Say, we will be able to do this. Say we are able to disprove the bible to be a book of stories – what do we offer as an alternative?

The Muslims have their Qur’an, the Jewish the Torah all of which are considered Holy Books of Faith, Disproving the bible, does not only affect the Christian Bible, but all Holy Books – for just like the bible, there are no historical proofs that can legitimately claim a religion’s starting point. Not only that, most of the teachings of these holy books are also the same teaching in the bible, thus by inference, if the bible is wrong, then all these books are wrong?

So where do we go?

My father, a really wise guy, despite his educational background, told me a long time ago, that it is unwise to discuss anything about faith. And, I believe to a point – he was right!

This brings me back to my main point – the imperfection of God. When God created trees, it was in perfect symbiosis with man’s existence, as we rely on trees for the conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen that we need to breathe. When God created the heavens, God made sure that there are clouds to give us rain, and the oceans to continuously supply clouds. When God created the animals, He made is so we can use them to better our lives. Not merely for food, but also for industry and even for plain companionship.

If we look around us, the creation to many people may just be a tall tale, but we cannot but wonder, how the entwining strands of relationship, the intersecting threads of life forces we share with everything around us, were thought of – not just to ensure man’s survival, but the survival of the earth itself. For even the lowly ant, that we don’t even see, have a great role to play in the whole gamut of life. If there was no God, who designed all these? And if God was imperfect – how do we explain the perfect entwining, diverse, and complex relationship that man have with all those around him?

If God is imperfect, then how can we explain the perfect coordination of our own bodies. The beating of our hearts that resonate through our bodies. Our lungs, kidneys and liver as they clean internal waste inside us. Individually, despite the differences of our color, function in the same way as the other. Perfect, in all respect. Who makes these plans? If we say evolution, so why didn’t the whales develop a brain so they can communicate with us like we do to each other? They have been in this world much longer than us. Even if they want to, the structure of their nasal cavities and speech centers do not conform to the human mouth.

We need not look any further, right beside us are people we love. A wife, children and friends. Who developed the perfect symmetry of events that led us here? Why people choose to befriend us or why we choose to be their friends? And why we love the people we love?

It is said that man seeks for perfection. We all seek to be better, we want to be better. What is perfection to us? To have rooms of money? To adorn jewels all over our body? To live peacefully and contentedly? What is perfection to us? From over 100,000 people asked about this 99,991 said perfection is like God – being able to do everything we want!

To be like God – funny but didn’t we just question God? We doubt God’s existence, yet we yearn for His power. We despise God, only to aspire to be like Him. We refute God’s existence, yet we based our concept of perfection on Him. We question God’s methods, yet we call on Him for help. Surely, if I was God, I would already sent lightning bolts and what not on these people.

Finally, let’s settle this issue. Is GOD perfect, or not? Nobody knows, to those who believe in Him, He is… To those who don’t – there’s no point to talk about it.

-fin-

 

A Killing Story

A KILLING STORY…

Short Story

By: Suyop Abog@2015

CHAPTER ONE

The Killing Fields

Bath in sweat, tossing and turning on the hospital bed, I was dreaming. Dreams of gunfire, of smoke and the carnage that was happening around me. I looked at my gun, a 1911 colt 45, locked and empty. I thought I had one last bullet reserved for me. But someone with a menacing bolo came from nowhere, my self-preservation kicked in, so I emptied my gun at him. He fell on me and it took him some time to stop quivering. I almost drowned on his blood gushing from the wounds where my bullet entered his body.

I tried pushing him, but my strength was ebbing rapidly. I knew I have been hit in my abdomen and bleeding profusely. I heard shouts from somewhere near. Getting louder and louder and louder…

“Check everyone! None of these motherfuckers leaves alive!” It was one of those leaders. ‘Kumanders’, as they called them.

From the bottom of my foxhole, I heard sporadic single shots. I knew they were executing my buddies. My friends for years, and soon it will me my time. I prayed, preparing myself for what is coming. I thought of my Mom and Dad, my 2 brothers and sister. How happy they were the last time I came home. It was Christmas and we were shopping for gifts. Each one beaming, smiles that were invaluable to me. Mom and Dad talking about what to prepare for the Noche Buena. I was lost in my thoughts…

“Good” I told myself. At least I die in the company of the people who mean most to me. Even it was just in my mind. I fixed my mind on their faces, ignoring the gnawing pain. In my state, a shadow suddenly blocked the blazing sun. I had my eyes closed, I willed myself not to open them, knowing that doing so would mean immediate death. But curiosity got the better or me. I half opened my eyes and found myself staring at a familiar face.

“Abdul?” that’s what my mind said. This was the guy I helped when his mother needed blood. I had that rare blend – type AB, same as his mom. I volunteered and offered to donate my blood, even though I knew they will not allow it being a Christian. I wasn’t sure why, it was maybe the direness of the situation, or something else, but they allow me. I saw Abdul, twice more in the hospital after that. It was more than a year ago. Now here, his face staring at me. So that’s where he went, to the mountains and became a rebel.

“Abdul, are they still alive over there?” I heard a ‘Kumander’ shout. Abdul didn’t reply, he was still looking at me. Suddenly, he grabbed my gun, pulled the man on top of me and covered my face.

“No, they’re all dead over here. Here, I have the gun it’s a nice souvenir.” I heard Abdul say.

“Good, now everyone, gather all the guns, take their shoes and whatever you can. We will need anything useful.”

I heard Abdul shuffle back to the hole and began untying my shoes. Then he proceeded to the other soldier beside me and did the same. Suddenly he lurched and pulled his gun and shot him.

“What’s that?” A ‘Kumander’ asked.

“I thought I saw him moved when I took his shoes. I was startled, so I made sure.” Abdul replied.

“Fool” the ‘Kumander’ retorted “that was maybe just a muscle twitch. “Don’t let it get to your nerves. Hurry up now.”

I heard a few laughter and snickers. I knew why Abdul did that, he made sure that everyone believed him when he said we’re all dead in that foxhole. I sent him a mental thank you. Then I heard them rustling about.

“Let’s go, hurry up, their reinforcements are already on the way. Let’s go home with this victory.” With that I felt them leave the area. I waited for a while, it felt like hours, before I tried pushing the body on top of me. I managed to free my head and gasped at the fresh air. But my weakened body was not able to cope up with the exertion.

I felt my body go limp. My eyelids falling. This is it… so this is how you feel when you’re about to die. Floating… floating… floating…. flo…

I was practically dead to the world. I didn’t hear the arrival of the reinforcements. I never felt the hands that removed me from the foxhole, nor the press of a medic’s head on my chest. I didn’t hear the medic shouting that I was still alive. I didn’t feel the carrying to the ambulance and the trip to the hospital.

There was simply nothing…

 

CHAPTER TWO

A Doctor to Kill for

I opened my eyes as the doctor slid the curtains letting the bright sunlight in. And as she saw me move to cover my eyes, she said.

“Good morning Captain Salvador. How are you feeling today?”

It was her usual beaming smile and jovial attitude that greets me for the past 4 days. It does cheer me up, that plus the pretty and almost angelic face, the humdinger of a figure, which made me wonder what it would look, beneath her hospital gown. What would it feel to hug that body?  Hmmmm, I began to feel some stirrings somewhere between my legs. I did my best to ignore it, not very professional I told myself.

“Much better than yesterday. Dr. Madrigal. By the way, why do you look lovelier every time I see you?” I answer the doctor teasingly.

“There… I have started it. I should not have flirted.” I thought to myself. Too late, I have already allowed my mouth to get ahead of my head.

“My, oh my, Captain, I think you are already healed. You are already flirting with me.”

“Flirting? Hmmm you should see me when I get serious flirting with you.” I replied.

I got a beaming smile, while the doctor went over my records. The nurses who were with her started taking my blood pressure and a thermometer was unceremoniously stuck into my mouth, preventing any further talk. The doctor came over to the side and started a few gentle presses and probes on my abdomen. I could smell a faint whisper of jasmine on her hair, and a subtle scent of perfume on her. She took out her stethoscope and started pressing it on my abdomen. Her eyes looking at the ceiling and listening intently. As if a philharmonic orchestra was playing Beethoven’s Sonata on B Minor on my tummy. Then as if on cue, the thermometer came off, and I can speak again.

“So doc, how’s the music in my stomach?”

“I was trying to listen to the flow of your gastric fluids to see if your intestines are healing properly. It seems like we will have no problem on that area. I will have some final blood test done and if everything turns is okay, then I can release you in the next few days.” She replied.

“Release me already? I haven’t finished flirting with you yet.” I groaned.

“You can flirt with anyone anytime, when you are good and ready. Meanwhile, be a good soldier and rest.” She replied with a rather cute smile and walked away.

“Maam, Yes, Maam” I playfully answered her and to the bottom part of myself I uttered “As you were Soldier.” As I was staring at a cute pair of buns walking away.

Laying down, when you are a person whose body is used to moving around is a tedious task. Suddenly you develop itches all over your body and most of them located at places where it would require a contortionist to reach. You find your eyes wandering around for things or corners where you can rub to remove the itch, only to discover that there are more itches all over. So I tried to ignore them. I reached for a book, one that I started reading over a year now, and I am still in page 87. Well, 500 plus more pages to go.

I was about 10 pages into the book, when from the corner of my eyes, I saw a little girl standing at the foot of my bed looking at me. I put down the book and looked at her. I smiled and she smiled back. Then, turned and ran away. I was smiling, thinking it was a girl from another room who wandered and somehow got lost. I forgot the incident and went back to my book.

About 4 in the afternoon, Dr. Madrigal returned and after a few banter and lame jokes, I got to learn her name – Christina. A 32-year old widow. A few years back, she and her husband and daughter of about 5 years old met an accident killing her husband and daughter. I express the usual condolences and that was that. She left to attend to her other patients.

I was propped-up half inclined and watching the early news on TV we again I saw that little girl peeping from the door. I smiled and motioned for her to approach. It took some time and she timidly came nearer. I reach for a piece of chocolate cake, that someone from headquarters sent and offered it to her. She came, took the chocolate and softly said…

“Thank you…” she gave me a beaming smile and again ran away. I followed her till she was gone and went back to watching the news.

 

CHAPTER 3

Killing the Time

Dr. Madrigal did not come the next day. I was informed by a nurse that she had something to attend to and have requested another doctor to check on me. I felt a little left down, as I was expecting to do a little jibe and joke with her. I was never good with women, probably the reason why I was still single at the age of 34. I have devoted most of my time with the military and honed my skills to perfection. Although I did have a few not-so-serious relationships, none however gave me the confidence to tie the knot with.

From the information I learned from the nurses, not without a few ohhhs and ahhhs, Dr. Madrigal comes from a decent family of doctors, she being the oldest and the last to marry, at 26 years old, among her siblings. A literal homebody who loves books and photography. She married an engineer and was with him and their daughter to visit a project when a freak accident happened. They stopped in a curved because she wanted to take some pictures, while her husband, who was on the phone was in the car with their daughter. That was when an earthquake hit causing the car to slide down into the ravine and got covered with rocks and earth. Dr. Madrigal had no phone and no way to call for help. Eventually when help came, both her husband and daughter were already dead.

According to one of the nurses, Dr. Madrigal have many suitors. I thought “no doubt, that lady is a good catch for anyone who would be lucky”. However, for no apparent reason many of the suitors simply stopped pursuing her, as if they never had any interest at her at all. Those that remained eventually stopped, or just simply didn’t visit her again. Nobody really knew why.

After some ribbing and jokes, the nurses left me and saying that I would be a good match to the doctor and that they heard the doctor mutter that, I was handsome in a kind of rugged way. Just her kind of man. I practically had to shoo the nurses away giggling at their childish snickers and jokes.

Left alone, I was thinking about Dr. Madrigal and the life she went through. I wondered how strong a woman must be to be able to bear all that pain. Something I can say I am familiar with, since the people in my platoon, were my best buddies and they were killed while I was a few meters away. It was insufferable to hear their cries and unable to do anything. The same maybe what the doctor went through.

The day was as uneventful as is was in the past few days. At about 5 pm, Dr. Madrigal entered the room and for no reason I felt elated and happy to see her.

“Hey, I thought you had something to do somewhere?’ I asked

“Yes, that was this morning.” She smiled in her reply.

I sense something seems to bother her and she looks to almost ready to cry at a pin-drop. I wanted to ignore it, but again my mouth went ahead of my head.

“You look like… sad. Something wrong?” and knowing I was intruding I hastily added. “I know I am out of place, but if you need someone to talk to… look no further, for I cannot walk any further than here.” A weak smile to go with a weak joke to cover the weak ground I was standing on.

“It’s ok, I’m alright… It’s just that…” she paused looked at me… “it’s ok, don’t bother.” And she continued to prod me with that snakelike rubber tube called stet…

“Doc, I don’t know what it is that bothers you. I will not pretend to be a friend, nor will I say I can solve that which ails you, because I am not a doctor. But, what I can do is listen. I will not judge, nor make any conclusion. That I can promise.” I said gently.

Dr. Madrigal sat down. Look at me, then stared out the window, as if deciding whether to talk to me or not. I kept silent giving the space and time she needed.

After a while, she started talking.

 

CHAPTER 4

Dr. Madrigal’s Killer Story

“Two years ago, my life was perfect. A kind and responsible husband, a beautiful daughter and good practice, a nice home. All suddenly gone like smoke, when the accident happened. I keep telling myself it was my fault, although at the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t. It was the earthquake that did it. The only thing I did was insist on coming with him to the project with our daughter, or that and stepping out of the car on that freakin’ road to take pictures.”

She paused, bent her head looking at her fingernails. I wanted to riposte with something witty, but suddenly I can’t seem to remember any. So I just sat down there and waited for her to continue. After a time, she stood up, took a glass of water. She sat down and continued.

“I don’t know if I have to tell you this, but you promised to listen and not say anything. Didn’t you.”

“I did”. I replied motioning with my hands for her to continue with her story.

“For some time, I kept blaming myself. Eventually the hospital forced me to take some time off to grieve and get a grip of myself as I was falling apart. I did, and I travelled to my mother-in-law’s place. I found them very supportive and they bluntly told me that it was not my fault. And they even said, God may have spared me by making me step out of the vehicle. I may still have bigger things to do, as my grandmother said. After a month of staying there, I went home to my parents and again found lots of support from there. My father even told me to stay there forever and leave this place. It was a tempting idea, but something kept pulling me back here.”

“So I came back and started working. That was about a year and a half ago. And now here I am.”

“A – a, you still haven’t told me why you were sad earlier. Don’t you short-change me now doctor, I have already ordered the popcorn and ready to hear the whole story.” I jokingly told her.

“There’s really nothing much after that. The reason why I was out earlier today, because it’s the 2nd anniversary of the death of my husband and daughter. I went to visit their graves brought some flowers. I actually just passed by to check on you and some other patients before going home. I have prepared a small party for friends.”

“Whoa, can I come?” I blurted

“Why not, if you can stand and walk unaided. You sure can.” She said.

“Now, doctor, you’re kidding me, you know I can’t do that. Anyway, can I ask something from you before you go?”

“Yes, what is it?” she asked.

“Can you pray with me?” I said.

“Captain Salvador, that’s a surprise, I didn’t know you are a praying man?”

“There is more to me than most people know. Will you pray with me?” I asked again.

“Sure…” she hesitatingly replied.

“Let’s hold my hands and bow our heads.” I told her and then prayed.

“Father in heaven, you are the fount of everything. Everything as it is and will be comes from You. We praise You and give glory to You glory on earth as it is in heaven. Father we thank You for everything we are and we will be, for we believe in Your will and follow Your path. Father, I raise Christina to You, a beautiful person, sad because she misses those that she loved, which You lovingly now hold in Your hands. Touch her heart and mind Father, that she may feel them through You and feel the peace that You have given her husband and daughter. For thou art our most loving Father, our sanctuary our refuge. I raise my plea with her claim for Your loving hand, that she may find the strength and the peace of mind. They will be done always in our lives Father. In Jesus Name.”

Opened my eyes and released Christina’s hands. Smiled at her. I noticed tears flowing from her eyes. And for the first time, I saw a real smile on her face, not the professional one that she gives everyone.

“Thanks… that was wonderful” she said.

“Anytime” I replied. “Don’t forget to bring me a piece of cake”

“I won’t” she replied and left.

 

CHAPTER FIVE

A Killer Dream?

Late that night, I was waiting for the news on TV, and was just about drowsy, when from the corner of my eyes, I again saw this little girl, in the same dress. Waving her hands and smiling at me. So I motioned her to a chair, where a friend mo mine sat down earlier. She came and sat down, and again I offered another piece of cake, a different one this time.

She took the cake and started eating it. I asked her, if she was a patient in the hospital. I got a head waggle to mean NO. So I asked if she was with a patient. Again another waggle, another no. Ah, I said, you are the daughter of a nurse and maybe your mother had to bring you here because there’s nobody at home to take care of you. The answer was a giggle and another no. I was about to ask another question, when the girl approached me and whispered in my ears.

“When you were on the field, and about to die, were you afraid?”

“What?… how… how did you know that?” I asked

“The nurses told me…” she said. “Were you afraid?”

“Yes, in fact I was very afraid.”

“Why?” I heard her ask

“Maybe because I felt it was not yet my time. Maybe because I wanted to be able to do more. Maybe because I felt I was not ready… and maybe because I am not sure what happens after death…” I heard myself answer.

I was wondering if I was sleeping or awake, why was I hearing myself. Then I heard her ask me another question.

“Why do you believe in God?”

“What kind of question is that, and to think you are just about 4 to 5 years old?”  I replied.

“Humor me please.” She pleaded.

“Okay, Why I believe in God. It may be because of my upbringing, when I was small. It was the foundation of faith that I grew up with. But as I grew older, I learned to become a skeptic. I questioned everything and had ready scientific answers to everything. But as my life move further, I can be proud to say I am a little above the average guy, and have learned a lot. But I discovered that knowledge does not give me peace of mind. I started to think that there is more than just knowing.” I paused at this point.

“So that’s when you believed in God?” she again asked.

“No, I first started in knowing that God exist. I started accepting His existence. From there it was easy to take the next step – believing.”

The girl again approached me and whispered.

“That Is a good answer, but it is not the answer to my question – why do you believe in God?”

I was getting uneasy, her I am arguing about God with a 5-year old, whose logic is akin to that of my Theology professor.

“Okay, okay. Why I believe in God, because… because… because… I can feel Him around me. In the birds, flowers and trees around me. In the people and friends, whom I love and who loves me. I feel Him around me, helping me, guiding me and inspiring me… I believe in God because He is God and that needs no further explanation.”

“That’s a better answer. Captain.”

I turned my head, and the last I saw was her skirt as it disappeared in the corner.

 

CHAPTER SIX

The Killing reality

I woke up early, since I was to be discharged from the hospital that day. I folded my blankets, placed all other items in a big box, and made preparations for leaving. I lovingly looked around the room. Not that I would miss it, but maybe because it breathes an aura of having seen too many patients over time. I was just one of them.

Another chapter of my life added to the pages of my personal life-book that I can safely say I have surpassed. I wasn’t quite ready to return to my life as a soldier, but chances are I can’t milk my condition for more days, simply because I wanted to take my chance with Dr. Madrigal who became close to me after that night.

Her smiles came naturally, and the laughter and jokes became lewder and greener, all for good things though, never beyond the boundaries of propriety. Even the nurses were feeling more at ease with her and they have intoned to me that I was the cause.

They told me that before I came Dr. Madrigal, though amiable and kind, was easy to erupt and get angry with them even if the mistakes were tolerable. Now, she had, to use their term” mellowed, and was radiating with and inner glow. She once threw away a music box from her office, now she had a radio tuned in to a music station and was often humming a tune during her rounds.

Yep, it was an improvement indeed, but as I told the nurses, it would be presumptuous to say that I caused. They would simply raise their eyebrows and tell me they don’t believe me. I left it at that.

I was waiting for her to arrive to give me my clean bill of health and permit to leave the hospital, when I thought I saw a glimpse of the skirt of the little girl pass by the door. I hurried stood up and went outside. I looked left and right, found nothing. So I started walking to the other rooms up to the nurse’s station, hoping to catch a glance. Until I saw Dr. Madrigal.

We walked back to my room while she explained about me coming back every 3 days for the next 2 weeks so she can check me.

“Oh, so you have packed and ready to exit this place.” She exclaimed when she saw I was already packed.

“No, I just had too much time when I woke up, so I decided to do some packing.” I replied.

“I know, the nurses told me. Anyway. Here is your medical certificate, this is required by your office and a doctor’s report as your attachment. And here is your pass so our security guard will allow you to leave.” Please captain, don’t bring with you any property of the hospital.” She jokingly quipped.

I was about to reply when her cellular rang. She motioned me to wait and answered her phone. After which, she placed it down on the bed and told me that she would do a final check on me abdomen. As she was doing her thing with the stethoscope, I glanced at her phone on the bed and shivered. She looked at me puzzled as to why I suddenly became four shades whiter, as if blood was drawn from my face.

“What happened, are you in pain? Anything wrong?” She asked.

My mouth was dry as paper. She told the nurse to give me a glass of water. I hurriedly drink and asked her to show me her phone which she did. I looked at it, the picture on it was the little girl I was talking to for several days.

“That’s my beautiful daughter, who died 2 years ago.” She said.

 

EPILOGUE…

I was at the back of the car, on my way back to barracks. Waving to Christina, she insisted I call her that. We had a long talk after I told her that I was talking to her daughter. She was crying at first and then she understood. I hugged her and she hugged back. As if promising that there will more intimate hugs sometime in the future. But that would be another story.

As we rounded a corner, I was looking at the portion of the hospital and to the area where my room used to be, the window was open – on the sill sat Divine – Christina’s daughter smiling and waving to me.

I smiled and waved back…

 

…the end

Nipoy: A Short Story

Nipoy

SAAN ANG DAAN PAPUNTANG LANGIT

Maikling Kwento Ni:  Suyop-Abog@2015

 Unang Tagpo

(Taong 1995, sa isang liblib na bayan sa Mindanao.)

Umuulan ng bala at mainit ang bakbakan ng militar at mga rebeldeng Muslim. Marami ng nakatimbuwang, di malaman kung buhay o sugatan, at sa gitna nito’y si Jonathan Nipacio, na kung tawagin ng mga kasama – Nipoy. Dalawampu’t isang taong gulang, tubong Dabaw at katatapos pa lang ng training. Ito ang una niyang assignment at di inaasahang sila’y pasabak. Nakadapa si Nipoy, may tama sa kanyang ulo at binti. Bumabalon ng dugo sa kanyang uluhan at tila patay ng hindi gumagalaw.

NIPACIO!!! ARE YOU OKAY?” sigaw ni Lt. Reyes, ang kanyang Commanding Officer. “SUMAGOT KA!

NIPOY!!! SUMAGOT KA BATCH!” Sigaw ng kanyang kaibigang si  KimJohn na kasamahan nyang nagtapos sa military training.

Nakita nilang ng tamaan si Nipoy ng bala at bumagsak, nakikita din nila ang pagdami ng dugong bumabalon sa bandang uluhan ni Nipoy.

Sir, permission to extract Private Nipacio!” wika ni Kimjohn.

Are you crazy?” Sagot ni Lt Reyes. “Hindi mo ba nararamdaman ang volume of fire ng kalaban? It means mahigit 50 sila! Besides, nakikita mo ang dami ng dugong lumalabas sa ulo ni Nipacio, we are not sure kung buhay pa sya.” Dugtong ni Lt. Reyes.

Pero Sir, kung di dahil kay Nipoy, marahil patay na tayo lahat! Siya ang nagsakripisyo ng sarili nya para lang maligtas tayo. Siya ang nakadiscover ng patibong at ng sniper Sir.” Galit na sinabi ni Kimjohn.

I know, and I owe him. Pero I will not sacrifice another life, sa isang action na di sigurado.”

Pero Sir, mga 5 metro lang ang layo nya, kaya kong gapangin at hilahin sya pabalik dito. Please give me permission Sir.” Pasumamo ni Kimjohn.

Private! I have made my decision, wala na tayong magawa para kay Nipacio, we will honor him by staying alive. THAT’S AN ORDER!

Sargent! Asan na ang request natin na air support?

Sir, ETA 2 minutes…

OK Men, I want you to focus firing 15 degrees North by Northwest sa landing zone. Make sure na clear ang egress natin… MOVE!!!

Muling Tiningnan ni Lt. Reyes ang nakadapang katawan ni Nipoy, sabay sumaludo, at nagwikang – To the chosen few, who laid their lives for their country and spilled their blood, I salute you Nipoy, may you join the ranks of heroes and martyrs and be glorified with them. Sabay gumapang pasunod sa mga kasamahan.

Ilang saglit pang nagsagutan ng putok ang militar at ang mga rebelde, matapos nito’y niyanig ang paligid ng mga pagsabog mula sa mga rocket launchers ng militar at dahil dito ay nagpulasan na parang mga daga ang mga rebelde. Sinamantala ito nila Lt. Reyes na dali-daling nagsipagsakayan sa helicopter.

Ng palipad na, tila sinadya na napadaan sila sa lugar na kinalalagyan ni Nipoy, at nakita pa nila itong napaligiran ng mga rebelde, agad nilang niratrat ang kumpol na dagli namang nagtakbuhan.

Ng ikutan nilang muli, nakita nila nakatihaya na si Nipoy, hubad lahat ang katawan maliban sa shorts nito at punong puno ng dugo ang ulo’t katawan nito.

Sumaludo silang lahat, at pagkatapos ay nagwika si Lt Reyes.

Let’s go home men.

Ikalawang Tagpo

Payapa na sa lugar kung saan nangyari ang enkwentro, ngunit bantulot pa ding naglalakad si Mang Ibrahim, 62 taong gulang, kasama ang anak dalagang si Amira na kanyang ihahatid sa may highway. Si Amira ay isang nurse na nagtatrabaho sa isang ospital sa lungsod ng Cotabato. Noong makalawa ay umuwi ito dahil nakarating sa kanya na inatake ng hika ang kanyang ina at ubos na ang gamit nito. Ngunit ng siya ay pabalik na sa lungsod, ay pinigilan siya ng ama dahil umano’y mag-ooperation ang mga militar at natatakot silang malagay sa crossfire ang dalaga.

Ama, bilisan mo naman, ayaw ko ng umabsent sa trabaho, maliit na nga ang sweldo ko, mas lalo pang liliit dahil sa absences ko. Bakit kasi ngayon pa nasira ang sasakyan natin.” Inis na bigkas ni Amira sa ama.

Anak, hindi ko naman kagustuhan ang gyerang ito. Saka, natatakot ako na baka may mga natitira pang mga kasamahan ang mga sundalo at rebelde at mapagkamalan tayo.” Wika ng ama.

Bakit kasi hangang ngayon ay di pa din matapos-tapos ang kaguluhang ito? Ano pa ba kasi ang kailangan patunayan ng mga kalahi natin? Alam na ng pamahalaan ang gusto nila, bakit di na lang sila mag-antay?”

Anak, wag na nating pagusapan ang mga bagay na yan, pareho tayong wala sa lugar at walang karapatan na arukin at bigyan dahilan ang isang paniniwala na noon pa man ay sinusunod na ng mga ninuno natin. Bilisan na lang natin ang paglakad at malapit na tayo sa sakayan.

Tahimik na nagpatuloy sa paglakad ang mag-ama. Sa bandang unahan ay manarinig silang ungol na nagpahinto sa kanila.

Amira, ungol ng tao un. Galing dyan sa may talahib sa unahan.” Wika ni Mang Ibrahim habang papigil na hinawakan ang braso ng anak.

OO nga, sandali sisilipin ko lang. Akin na yang itak mo, baka kung anong hayop yan.

Magi-ingat ka anak” sabay abot ng itak at binunot ang dala-dalang kalibre 45 at dahan-dahang nagkasa.

Marahang humakbang si Amira pantungo sa kung saan nangaling ang narinig nilang ungol. At sa kanyang paghawi ng talahib ay tumambad sa kanya ang duguang katawan ni Nipoy na puno ng galos at sugat sa kagagapang.

Gulat na napaatras si Amira…

Ama, may taong sugatan dito, halos hubad at puno ng dugo.” Pabulong niyang wika.

Marahang lumapit si Mang Ibrahim, lumuhod sa gilid ni Nipoy.

Assalamu Alaikum” hinang hinang nabigkas ni Nipoy.

Alaikum Wassalam” dagliang sagot ni Mang Ibrahim.

Parang magic na dahil sa nabigkas ni Nipoy ay agad nila itong pagtulungang hila-in sa may tabi na daan at agad na pinunasan ni Mang Ibrahin ang mukha ni Nipoy. Agad naman iniabot ni Amira ang kanyang dala-dalang mineral water na dahan-dahang pinainom ni Mang Ibrahim. Matapos nito ay nawalan na ng malay si Nipoy.

Ama, kailangan madala siya agad sa ospital.” Habang pinupulsuhan siya ni Amira.          “Mahinang mahina na at halos di ko na sya mapulsuhan.”

Alam ko anak, pero paano natin magawa un? Nawalan sya ng malay, at hindi ko naman sya kayang pasanin?” wika ng ama

Ano kaya kung mauna kayo sa may kanto, habang dito lang ako bantayan ko sya? Malapit lang din naman, halos isang kilometro na lang.

Pero anak, di tayo sigurado kung masamang tao yan, baka pagkamalay nyan, eh kung ano pang gawing masama sa iyo?” Nagaalang wika ni Mang Ibrahim.

Sa palagay ko ama hindi na nya magawa ito, nawalan sya ng malay dahil sa dami ng dugong nawala sa kanya, at sa kalagayan nyang yan, isang pitik ko lang yan.” Patawang bigkas ni Amira.

“Sabagay, pero iiwan ko itong baril ko sa iyo. Akin na yang itak. Kung magkamali sya, barilin mo na agad sa paa o sa kamay. Madali lang ako, tatakbuhin ko na para makabalik ako agad.” Nagmamadalin wika ng ama

“Sige ama, bilisan mo, maagapan pa ito kung madala agad sa ospital. Magiingat ka”

“Oo anak, magiingat ka din.” Habang patakbong lumayo.

Habang palayo ang ama. Marahang pinupunasan ni Amira ang duguan mukha at katawan ni Nipoy at marahang nagtanong sa walang malay na si Nipoy.

“Sino ka? Anong ginagawa mo dito? Bakit ka sugatan?” Mga tanong na alam niyang masasagot lamang kung mabubuhay ito. Habang pinupunsan nya ito napansin sya ang isang maliit na tattoo sa may kanang braso nito, larawan ito ng punyal na kakatarak sa mga katagang ‘SALOME’.

Inabot din ng mahigit kalahating oras bago nabanaag ni Amira ang headlights ng palapit na sasakyan na isa palang Police Mobile na nakasalubong ni Mang Ibrahim malapit sa may kanto.

“Amira, anak pinag-adya marahil ni Allah ang taong yan, nakasalubong ko sila kapitan malapit sa may kanto.” Humahangos na wika ng ama

“Maam, buhay pa ba yan?” Tanong ng kapitan ng pulis.

“Opo sir, buhay pa po, pero mahinang mahina na ang pulso nya. Baka nga di na ito umabot sa ospital.” Sagot ni Amira

“Tara, dali, isakay na natin baka mahabol pa natin yan.” Wika ng pulis, kayo, ayusin ninyo yang likuran ng sasakyan. Maglagay kayo ng kahit anong mahihigaan nito. Bilis!”

“Yes Sir” sabay na sagot ng 2 pang pulis.

Agad na naisakay si Nipoy sa mobile at kaagad din silang lumisan. Sumabay na sa sasakyan si Amira. Pagdating sa ospital, agad itong dinala sa emergency room. Hawak-hawak ni Amira ang kamay ni Nipoy, hangang malipat ito sa operating table. Marahil sa kauuga sa kanya, ay marahang minulat nagmulat ng mata ni Nipoy, at mahinang nagbigkas…

“Suhkran Bai…” at muling ipinikit ni Nipoy ang mga mata.

“Afwan” ang tanging nasambit ni Amira habang sinasara ng doctor ang tabing ng operating room.

Ikatlong Tagpo

Sa military detachment malapit sa lungsod ng Cotabato. Kasalukuyang nagbibigay ng kanyang after operations report si Lt. Reyes

“Malapit na kami sa aming appointed rendezvous Sir with the 3rd platoon, 1st Company of the 352nd Battalion ng napuna ni PFC Nipacio, who was our tail scout, na parang sinusundan kami. Agad niya akong ininform, kaya huminto kami. Then he volunteered to double check by going back.”

“Then what happened?” Tanong ni Col. Mariano na syang Commanding Officer ng military camp.

“Pagbalik ni PFC Nipacio Sir, sinabi nyang may isang malaking grupo ng rebelde na sumasalikop sa amin. From than I gave the order to move south, papunta sa may high ground, kung saan mas malaki ang chances of survival ng platoon. Pero habang umuusad kami in crouch positions ay napansin ni Nipoy.. I mean PFC Nipacio ang isang sniper, and to maintain silence, ay agad niya akong tinakbo, at tinulak papunta sa may kanal, where we were able to take cover. Sadly, si PFC Nipacio ang tinamaan ng sniper.”

“Nakita nyo ba kung saan sya tinamaan? Anybody of you who can confirm the hit?” Tanong ni Col Mariano.

“The first salvo got him in the head sir. Headshot! That much I can confirm Sir, nakita ko ng tamaan si PFC Nipoy Sir.” Sagot ni PFC Kimjohn. “Alam ko kasi I was about 1 meter mula sa kanya Sir.”

“Maliban na dun, we saw a lot of blood coming from his head while nakahandusay sya. Confirming that it was indeed a headshot.” Wika ni Lt. Reyes.

“So clearly it was an ambush, which nobody was aware of. Up until the last minute, the situation was preventing anybody from making the recovery of the body of PFC Nipacio possible without sacrificing the lives of others. Is this your official assessment Lt.Reyes?”

“Sir, Yes Sir. Na-assess ko po ang situation at nakita kong napapaligiran kami ng mga kalaban, that it was impossible to recover his body. Kaya napilitan na kaming magwithdraw leaving his body. Further nung nasa chopper na kami nakita naming pinaligiran sya ng mga rebelde at hinuhubaran ng damit. His body is covered with blood and I can surely say na KIA si PFC Nipacio.” Patapos na wika ni Lt. Reyes.

“Recommendations Gentlemen?” Tanong ni Col Mariano sa panel of officers na kasama nya. “Ex-Officio, any thoughts?”

“Well Sir, based on the circumstances, I believe PFC Nipacio deserves post-humus honors. Sayang lang because he was an officer material.” Wika ng Ex-O.

“I agree Colonel.” Dagdag ng Deputy for Administration.

“Concurred!” sambit ng Deputy for Operations.

“Well then, so be on record, isumite ninyo sa GHQ ang recommendation for honors of PFC Nipacio and let’s inform the next of kin. This Meeting is adjourned.” Wika ni Col Mariano habang tinitiklop ang 201 folder ni Nipoy.

“Meanwhile, Lt. Reyes, you and your group will also receive a commendation, as soon as you arrive sa SouthCom sa Zamboanga City. The whole company will reinforce the 6th Infantry Division force sa laban against MNLF fighters sa Jolo. You are directed to proceed there within 24 hours.”

“Excuse me Sir.” Dali-daling wika ni Lt. Reyes. “Jolo Sir?”

“Yes Lieutenant, why is there any problem?” Tanong ni Col. Mariano

“No Sir, pero after what happened, the troops need to recover and they deserve a little R-and-R, after this event Sir.”

“Yes, I understand, do it in Zamboanga. Any other questions?

“No Sir. Thank you Sir.” Wika ni Lt. Reyes sabay Saludo.

Ikaapat na Tagpo

Sa Ospital kung saan nakaratay si Nipoy. Nagulat pa si Mang Ibrahim ng nilapitan sya ng doctor na syang nagasikaso sa sugatang si Nipoy.

“Bapa” wika ng doctor.

“Opo Doc” dagli sagot ni Mang Ibrahim

“Kaano-ano po ninyo ang sugatan?

“Sa totoo lang Doc, hindi namin sya kamaganak. Natagpuan lang po namin sya ni Amira ng inihatid ko sya sa may sakayan.” Wika ni Mang Ibrahim

Habang nagsasalita si Mang Ibrahim sa sya namang pagdating ni Amira na nakasuot ng kanyang damit pang-nurse.

“Doc, kamusta na po ang pasyente ninyo?” Tanong ni Amira sa doctor

“Yun na nga sana ang sasabihin ko sa ama mo. 80% ng sugat nya ay deep lacerations, o malalalim na gasgas at hiwa. Marahil nakuha nya ito noong gumagapang sya. Kung yun lang hindi ganun kalubha ang magiging kalagayan nya, pero may malalalim syang sugat sa ulo at sa mga binti at palagay ko mga tama ng baril. Ung tama sa kaliwang binti nya ay tumama sa buto sanhi ng pagkawasak nito. Ang nakabuti lang clean break, magagawan pa ng paraan para makalakad syang muli. Ung sa kanan naman, tagos pero walang tinamaang buto. Pero…” dito napahinto ang doctor

“Pero ano doc?” sabayang bigkas ni Amira at ng kanyang ama.

“May tama sya ng bala sa ulo, at ayon sa results ng x-ray, nasa tabi mismo ito ng isang major artery. Kaya hindi muna namin ginagalaw, baka kapag operahan namin ay bumigay ito at maging sanhi upang ikamatay nya. Oobserbahan muna namin, at kung kinakailangan ay ilipad sya papuntang maynila upang doon na operahan.” Wika ng doctor.

“Kawawa naman sya.” Wika ni Mang Ibrahim

“Unconscious pa sya hangang ngayon. Sa palagay ninyo, sino kaya ang makapapagsabi kung sino ang biktima at kung anong nangyari sa kanya.”

“Ang iniisip ko baka sundalo sya, kasi noong isang araw ay nagkaroon ng sagupaan sa malapit sa amin. Pero, ayon sa barangay captain namin, wala namang nareport na nasawi o nawawala sa grupo ng mga sundalo.” Sambit ni Mang Ibrahim.

“Hindi kaya Ama sa itong byahero na hinold-up at basta na lang itinapon sa lugar natin. Di ba halos hubad natin syang natagpuan sa talahiban.” Wika ni Amira

“Maaring tama kayong pareho ng ama mo Nurse Amira. Sa ngayon, nakablotter na ang mga pangyayari sa pulisya, pasasaan din at may maghahanap sa kanya, o di kaya’y magtatanong. In the meantime, i-check ninyo sa 6th Infantry Division Headquarters kung meron silang missing ng opisyal.” Wika ng doctor.

“Opo doc, balak ko ngang magsadya sa kampo bukas kasi may kailangan din akong gawin doon.”

“Ok, Salamat Nurse Amira, Mang Ibrahim, utang ng taong ito ang buhay nya sa inyo sahil di ninyo sya naagapan, marahil namatay sya at walang kahit na sino mang makakaalam. I will continue to monitor his condition at iinform lang kita Nurse Amira, from time to time.”

“Opo doc. Salamat kay Allah at nasalba po ninyo ang buhay nya.” Wika ni Amira.

Umalis na ang doctor at naguusap si Amira at ang kanyang ama.

“Anak, binigay pala sa akin ng duty nurse sa emergency room ang isang friendship bracelet na may palawit ng letrang ‘N’. Sabi nya yun lang nakuha nila sa lalaki.” Wika ni Mang Ibrahim.

“Alam mo ama, kanina habang nasa sasakyan tayo, nakita ko ung brief nya, punit punit pero sa may bandang garter, merong nakalagay na mga katagang ‘NIPOY”. Hindi kaya yun ang pangalan nya?” Tanong ni Amira

“Marahil, pero sinong makapasasabi?” tugon ng ama

“Malakas ang kutob ko na tama ka ama, isa syang militar at nasugatan ng magkaroon ng enkwentro sa may malapit sa atin.”

“Siguro. Bukas pagdating ko sa kampo magtatanong-tanong ako. Sige na anak, bumalik ka na sa trabaho mo, mamaya-maya konti ay lalakad na din ako.” Sabi ni Mang Ibrahim

“Opo ama, magiingat po kayo.” Sagot ni Amira sabay tumalikod.

“Wag mo kalimutan yung gamot na dadalhin ko pauwi bukas.” Pahabol ng ama

“Don’t worry ama, nabili ko na po lahat, babalutin na lang.” sagot ni Amira

Ikalimang Tagpo…

Makalipas ang 2 araw, sa opisina ng Civilian Military Relations Officer ng 6th Infantry Division sa Camp Gonzalo Siongco, Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, kausap ni Mang Ibrahim ang isang opisyal at ikinuwento ang mga pangyayari.

“Sir, totoo pong nagkaroon ng engkwentro sa lugar na sinasabi ninyo, pero iisa lang po ang casualty at wala pong naiwanang sugatan. Ito po ang report the Team Leader nila. Sad to say, hindi po natin maconfirm ang ibang details dahil kahapon po ay tumulak ung buong team ni Lt. Reyes dahil orders sa kanila na madeploy sa Jolo.” Wika ng opisyal

“Oo nga po, sabagay gusto lang po naming i-verify kasi nga walang paraan para makilala ung biktima. Talaga po bang walang record dyan ng pangalang ‘NIPOY’?” tanong ni Mang Ibrahim

“Sir, nahalungkat na po namin ang mga records, ang pinakamalapit sa sinasabi ninyo ay Nipacio, pero hindi po pangalan kundi last name. Ang pinakamangandang magawa namin ay kontakin namin ang team ni Lt. Reyes at itatanong namin. On the way na po kasi sila papuntang Jolo at naka radio silence po ang operations nila. Kung napunta po kayo kahapon baka naabutan pa natin sila sa kampo.” Sabi ng opisyal

“Balak ko po talaga pumunta dito kahapon, kaso po napakalakas ng ulan at lam mo namang walang sasakyan papasok sa lugar namin, kaya ipinagpabukas ko na lang.” tugon ni Mang Ibrahim

“Ok lang po yun Sir. Tutal nairecord ko na po ang number ninyo, tatawagan ko kayo kung nakontak na namin sina Lt. Reyes.”

“Sige po, ganun na lang po, sasabihan ko na lang ang ospital para magawan din po nila ng paraan.”

Pagkatapos nito’y nagpaalam na si Mang Ibrahim at tumuloy sa ospital kung saan naabutan nyang naguusap si Amira at ang Doctor.

“Assalamu Alaikum Doc” bati ni Mang Ibrahim

“Alaikum Wassalam, Bapa” sagot ng doctor

“Anak kamusta na sya?” kagya’t nyang tanong

“Nurse Amira ikaw na magsabi sa ama mo, kailangan ko pang tapusin ang rounds ko. Maiwan ko na kayo Bapa.”

“Opo doc, thank you po.” Wika ni Amira

“Good, I’ll check back with you as soon as naayos na lahat ng kailangan.” Pagkawika nun ay tumalikod na ang doctor at umalis.

“Anak, anong sabi ng doctor?” Tanong ng Mang Ibrahim

“Kailangan na daw syang dalahin sa maynila para maoperahan. Nakita kasi nila sa CTScan na iniipit ng bala ang ugat, at unti-unti ng nagmamaga ang utak nya.”

“Ganun ba? Kawawa naman. So anong plano ng doctor ngayon?

“Nakipagugnayan na kami sa PGH sa maynila, at ayon kay doc, meron isang foreign doctor dun ngayon na pwedeng gumawa ng operation, kaso aalis na sya sa makalawa, tapos kung aantayin pa natin ang C130 ng military, sa ikatlong araw pa ito darating.” Sagot ni Amira

“Ano bang maitulong natin?” tanong ng ama

“Ok na daw po, may nagsponsor ng pagdala sa kanya sa maynila, at dun ay susunduin na sya ng ambulansya papuntang PGH. Kamusta naman pagpunta mo ng kampo, may nakuha ba ka bang impormasyon?” Tanong ni Amira

“Galing nga ako dun anak, kaso hindi din nila alam, Ang sabi ng opisyal, itatanong daw nila sa team leader nila kung kasamahan nila ung lalaki. Tatawagan lang nila ako kung may impormasyon na sila.”

“Sana nga ama, kawawa naman ang mga kamaganak nya kung di nila malalaman. Malay mo may asawa’t anak sya. Kailangan nilang malaman.”

“Ipagdasal na lang natin sya anak. May awa si Allah.” Wika ng ama.

Ika-anim na Tagpo

Makalipas ang isang linggo, sa isang ospital sa Maynila, kasalukuyang kinakausap ng kapatid ni mang Ibrahim ang doctor na umasikaso kay Nipoy na nakaratay pa din sa ICU.

“Doctor, kamusta na po si Juan?” tanong ni Sahara

“Kaano-ano po ba ninyo ang pasyente?” tanong ng doctor

“Kapatid ko po ang nakakita sa kanya at naghatid sa ospital sa Cotabato. Wala po kaming paraan para makilala sya, kaya nga po “Juan” ang pansamantalang pinangalan sa kanya.” Wika ni Sahara

“Sa ngayon wala pang makapagsasabi. Masyadong malubha ang kanyang tama sa ulo, buti nga’t naagapan ni Doctor Weller, pero hanga’t di sya nagkamalay di pa natin maarok kung ano ang extent ng damage sa utak nya. Ayon kay Doctor Weller, may mga nueral nerves na tinamaan ang bala, possible na affected ang kanyang memory, o di kaya baka tuluyan na syang malumpo. Ipagdasal lang natin na sana makarecover sya.”

“Ganun po ba doc. Sana nga po makarecover sya.”

“Malaki naman ang chance nyang makalagpas, he is out of critical stage, baka bukas pwede na natin syang ilagay sa isang kwarto dito. Sige po Ma’am, ipagbigay alam nyo lang sa nurse station kung may impormasyon na kayo sa katauhan ni Juan.”

“Opo doctor, salamat po.” Sagot ni Sahara

Umalis na ang doctor at kaagad namang nilabas ni Sahara ang kanyang cellfone at tinawagan ang kanyang kapatid na may 2 misscalls.

“Kaka, pasensya ka na di kita nasagot kanina, kausap ko kasi ang doctor ni Juan.”

“Ok lang Sahara, kamusta na sya” tanong ni Mang Ibrahim

“Ayon sa doctor hindi na daw sya critical, pero hangang ngayon ay di pa din ito nagkamalay. Possible daw na maapektuhan ang kanyang memorya, at ang pinakagrabe kung pati paglakad nya maapektuhan, maari daw syang malumpo habangbuhay.”

“Ganun ba? Kailan naman daw pwede ilipat sa kwarto?” Tanong ni Mang Ibrahim

“Maari na daw bukas. Maiba ako, kamusta na ung pagtanong ninyo sa katauhan ni Juan?” Tanong ni Sahara.

“Yun na nga ang dahilan kaya ako tumawag. Nung isang lingo sabi nung opisyal ng militar na kausap ko, tatanungin nya daw ung Team Leader na nag-operasyon dito sa may malapit sa atin. Kaso, nung tumawag sila nasa isang operasyon sa Jolo ang buong team. Tapos kahapon nung bumalik ako, nalaman ko na napasabak sa bakbakan ang team nila, halos naubos silang lahat. May isang nabuhay sabi ng opisyal Private KimJohn Martin ang pangalan, na-airlift na ito papuntang V. Luna. Hindi rin daw ito makakausap sa kalagayan nito, kaya wala pa rin tayong impormasyon hangang ngayon.”

“Kahirap talaga ng buhay ng sundalo Kaka, napapasabak sa gyera at di nila alam kung makakabalik pa sila ng buhay o hindi na. O sige, papasok na muna ako sa trabaho. Babalik-balikan ko na lang si Juan kung may panahon ako.” Sagot ni Sahara

“Sige, balitaan mo na lang kami dito, concern lang din kami dahil kami ang nakatagpo sa kanya. Magiingat ka dyan parati.”

“Opo Kaka, kayo din magiingat din dyan.” Sabay sinara ni Sahara ang kanyang cellfone at lumakad ng palabas ng ospital.

Mahigit dalawang lingo pang nakaratay si Nipoy sa ospital, at nang muli itong dalawin ni Sahara, nagulat na lang sya ng ibang pasyente na ang naabutan nya sa kwarto. Agad pumunta sa Sahara sa nurse station at nagtanong.

“Excuse me nurse, ung pasyente sa Room 306, nalipat po ba?”

“Ah Ma’am, namumukhaan kita, ikaw yung parating dumadalaw sa kanya di ba?” wika ng nurse

“Opo, bakit po, may nangyari ba?” nagaalang tanong ni Sahara.

“Kahapon kasi ng umaga nagising na ang pasyente, si Juan. Pero nang tanungin namin sya kung sino at kung alam nya kung ano nangyari sa kanya, wala syang masagot sa amin. Hindi nya matandaan kung ano nangyari sa kanya, kung sino sya at kung ano nangyari sa kanya. Akala namin, mahina pa sya, pero kaninang umaga ng mag-rounds si doc, wala na si Juan. Hinanap na namin sa buong ospital pati sa mga malalapit na mga tindahan dito, hindi namin sya nakita. Nagreport na kami sa pulis.”

“Tapos ano po ang nangyari?”

“Ang latest na impormasyon namin, nung i-review ng IT technician and record ng CCTV namin, may isang lalaki na pumasok sa Admin Section at ang isang male nurse namin dito nawalan ng dala nyang bag. Sa palagay namin si Juan yun. Sabagay, ilang daang piso lang naman ang lamang pera at mga damit nya ang laman ng bag.” Sinabi ng nurse kay sahara.

“Talaga po bang hindi na ninyo sya nahanap?”

“Opo maam, pati nga pulis tumulong ng maghanap, pero wala talaga.?”

“Paano yun? Sabi ninyo hindi nya nakikilala ang sarili nya at nanghihina. Paano sya nakalabas?” Baka kung napaano na yun.” Nagaalang wika ni Sahara

“Hindi daw po napansin ng duty nurse kagabi dahil toxic daw sila nung mga oras na yun.” Wika ng nurse

“Saan kaya nagpunta yun?”

“Nakipagugnayan na din po kami sa ibang mga ospital, baka po dun sya na pumunta.” Sabi ng nurse

Tuliro na umalis si Sahara na agad naman tumawag sa kapatid at pinaalam ang nangyari.

Ika-pitong na Tagpo…

Makikita si Nipoy na naglalakad, marungis na ang damit at mapapansing bakas sa mukha nya na gutom ito. Huminto sya sa may lilim at nagpahinga sandali, tumingin tingin sa paligid.

“Welcome to Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya” paanas na basa ni Nipoy. “Saang lugar kaya ito?” tanong nya sa sarili.

Maya-maya pa’y muli syang nagpatuloy ng lakad.

Halos tanghali ng sya’y napapadpad sa isang ilang na lugar. Nakikita nyang may mga batang naglalaro sa palaruan. Nakakita si Nipoy ng isang kubong gawa sa kawayan, at tinumbok nya ito. Umupo habang nakangiting minamasdan ang mga batang masayang naglalaro. Dala marahil ng pagod at gutom, unti-unting naidlip si Nipoy.

“Hindi ganyan ang pagtali ng sugat anak, ayusin mo ang benda, linisin bago mo ito gamitin. Lapatan mo muna ng mertayolet, lagyan ng penicillin ang sugat, bago mo ito bendahan. Kailangan mahugasang mabuti ang sugat bago mo ito lapatan ng lunas.” Wika ng isang matandang lalaki na hindi namumukhaan ni Nipoy.

“Opo..” agad naman nyang sagot,

“Anak, darating ang panahon na ang mga natutunan mo dito ay magagamit mo sa pagtulong sa mga nangangailangan. Maaring kaibigan, kasama o baka sa mga magiging anak mo. Kaya tandaan mo maige ang mga tinuturo ko sa iyo.” Wika pa din ng matandang lalaki – pamilyar sa isip nya pero di niya kilala.

“Opo, ama.” Sagot ni Nipoy…

“Ama? Kung ama ko sya, bakit di ko sya kilala? Bakit wala akong maalala sa kanya? Ilang beses ko na syang napapanaginipan, pero hangang ngayon, di ko pa din sya maalala.” Tanong ni Nipoy sa sarili

“Sino po kayo at bakit anak ang tawag nyo sa akin? Ano po pangalan ko?” Tanong ni Nipoy sa di kilalang matanda.

“ANAK… ANAK…ANAK…” nauulinigan ni Nipoy “ANNNAAAAKKK!!” sigaw na gumulantang at gimising sa kanya. Agad syang bumangon at hinanap kung saan galing ang sigaw.

Sa isang swing, nakita nyang nagiiyakan ang mga bata at may mga guro at magulang na nagtatakbuhan. Lumapit si Nipoy, nakita nyang umiiyak ang isang ginang habang kalong ang isang batang lalaki. Isang guro naman ang nasa kanyang cellfone at tumatawag sa isang ospital.

Tiningnan ni Nipoy ang bata, tumilapon pala ito sa upuan sa sobrang lakas ng pagtulak sa kanya ng isang kaklase, na humahagulhol sa isang tabi habang pinapagalitan ng ina. Walang malay ang bata at malaki ang sugat sa ulo, habang makikitang halos lumuwa ang buto nito sa may siko gawa ng pagtukod nito ng bumagsak.

“Ma’am, meron ba kayong bandages, antibiotic at mahihigaan ng bata?” Tanong ni Nipoy sa isang guro.

“Yes, Sir, meron po.” Sagot ng guro

“Kunin po ninyo, bilisan niyo lang po, kailangan maiayos natin ang buto nya, bago ito magmaga, at malinis ang sugat nya sa ulo para umampat ang dugo.” Wika ni Nipoy

“Nurse, bilis, kunin na agad lahat ng sinabi nya.” Baling ng guro sa school nurse na agad namang tumakbo.

“Madam, hindi makakabuti sa anak ninyo ang kalungin ninyo sya, hindi natin alam ang extent ng injuries nya, mas makakabuti kung ilapag ninyo sya at wag galawin habang wala pa ang ambulansya. Magsasagawa po ako ng first aid sa anak ninyo habang wala pa ang duktor.” Malumanay na alo ni Nipoy sa ina ng bata.

Dumating naman agad ang mga hiningi ni Nipoy at agad nilang nilatag ang bata sa isang foam na higaan. Dito agad na hinugasan ni Nipoy ang sugat nito sa ulo, medyo may kalaliman ang sugat, at dahil sa ulo nga, malakas ang tagas ng dugo.

“Ma’am meron po ba kayong instant glue?” tanong niya sa guro

“Sir, sir, meron ako, eto o’ Bulldog… kabibili ko lang kanina kasi aayusin ko sana yung sandalyas ko. Pwede po ba ito.” Hangos na sinaboi ng isang guro.

Agad itong kinuha ni Nipoy at dahan-dahang nilagay sa sugat. Maya-maya pa’y kumapit na ang glue na kayang nilagay at unti-unting humina ang tagos ng dugo. Nang makita ni Nipoy na paampat na ang dugo. Agad naman nyang binalingan ang braso ng bata. Hinawakan nya ang balikat nito, kinakapa-kapa ang buto.

“Madam, masakit po ang gagawin ko, pero kailangan itong gawin bago magmaga ang braso ng anak nyo, kailangang maibalik sa tamang ayos ang buto nya, dahil kung hindi, mababaluktot ito at dadalhin nya ito hangang sa paglaki nya. Pumapayag ba kayong gawin ko ito.?” Tanong nya sa ina ng bata.

“Pero..” bantulot at nagaalalang sagot ng ina.

“Sige na mare, tama si Sir, ipaayos mo na.. habang wala pa siyang malay.” Sabad ng isang guro

“Sige po payag po ako. Pero..” atubiling pa ring sagot ng ina.

“Salamat po. Kailangan ko isang taong pipigil sa balikat nya.” Tanong ni Nipoy sa mga andun.

Agad namang nagpresinta ang isang matipunong lalaki. Pinahawakan ni Nipoy ang balikat ng bata, at unti-unting hinihila ang kamay ng bata, hangang sa lumagutok ito, tanda na pagbalik nito sa tamang ayos… Saglit pang minapamsahe ni Nipoy hangang matiyak nyang maayos na ang braso nito. Sa puntong yun ay dumating na ang ambulansya na may doctor at kasamang nurse. Agad silang kinausap ni Nipoy.

“Doc, nahulog ang bata sa swing dala ng malakas na pagkatulak ng isang kaklase. This resulted to a laceration sa ulo nya, nilinis ko na ng mineral water, nilagyan ko ng betadine at sinara ko using a fast acting glue. Kailangan ninyo buksan uli ung sugat at tahiin dahil medyo malaki. Yung braso nya, nadislocate ang elbow, naibalik ko na pwesto, pero it will still need an x-ray to be sure and i-plaster cast para mag-set ang buto ng maayos.”

“Ok Sir, salamat sa maagap ninyo ng pagtulong. We will do everything you have suggested.” Sagot ng nurse. “Pare, ilagay nyo na sa gurney ang bata para madala na natin sa ospital.” Sabi nito sa kasama.

Agad tumalikod ang nurse at sumakay na sa ambulansya.

Habang nagkakagulo, umalis na si Nipoy at bumalik sa kubong pinangalingan at muling nahiga. Ilang saglit lang ay muli na naman itong nakatulog.

Ika-Walong Tagpo…

Kausap ni Private KimJohn si Major Moreno ng and Administrative Officer ng SouthCom. Sumaglit ang opisyal sa V. Luna Hospital upang alamin ang kalagayan ng sundalo.

“Salamat naman Sir at napadalaw kayo.” Wika ni sundalo

“Ok lang un private, I just want to check if everything has been alright. Gusto ko din ipaalam sa iyo na isa sa mga mission ko sa pagpunta ko dito ay upang ihatid sa GHQ ang mga gamit ng mga kasamahan mong nasawi, para mahatid na din sa mga pamilya nila.” Wika ng opisyal.

“Private, alam kong tapos na ang debriefing mo, pero meron akong konting agam-agam. Not because of doubt, simply that hindi ko maintindihan totally bakit naubos ang buong team ninyo. Can you brief me again sa mamgyari sa team mo?”

“Sir, nasa detachment kami noon, alam mo namang kararating lang namin. Hindi namin alam na ilang araw bago kami dumating, may nakaenkwentro ung team na pinalitan namin, according sa info, anak daw ng isang rebel commander. At balak na pala nilang lusubin ang detachment para gumanti. This info was not given to us Sir, kaya nung dumating ang grupo ng commander, akala namin usual visit lang sir, kasi yun ang nakasanayan namin sa previous station namin.”

“Pagkatapos?”

“Ganun na nga Sir, lumapit po si Lt. Reyes, kasama ng 3 pang kasamahan namin, ng mga 2 meters na lang, bigla na lang pinaputukan sila, bumagsak agad si Lt Reyes, nakagapang pang pabalik si Sargeant Makay, pero hinabol din sya ng bala. Umatras kami at gumawa ng perimeter defense, pero naikutan na pala nila ang detachment, kaya from all directions sila nangaling. Estimate ko Sir mahigit 50 ang lumusob sa amin. Lumaban kami to the best we can, pero overwhelmed na kami Sir.”

“Yes, ganun nga ang nakuha naming info. Pero paanong di ka napuruhan?”

“Guard Post duty po ako sir, after nila niratrat si Lt. Reyes ay ang pwesto ko ang binanatan nila. Tinamaan ako dalawang beses sa dibdib sir at bumagsak, Pero bago ako nawalan ng malay tao, naramdaman ko na may lumapit sa akin, akala ko kasahan ko, pero nung makita ko ang suot niyang ‘tubao’ pinili ko na lang na wag kumilos. Nakita nya siguro na puro sa dibdib ko ang tama, kaya akala nya patay na ako.”

“KimJohn, alam mo bang ikaw lang ang nabuhay sa team ninyo? Nung dumating ang reinforcements sa detachment ninyo, wala ng ung mga umatake, kaya nung makita ka nila na may pulso pa, agad kang pina-airlift at hinatid dito sa V. Luna. Binubwenas ka pa din talaga.”

“Kaya nga Sir, masaya ako na malungkot dahil mamimiss ko yung lahat ng kasamahan ko. Minsan nga Sir, tinatanong ko sa sarili ko bakit ako nabuhay.”

“Marahil may mission ka pa Private Kimjohn.”

“Siguro nga Sir. Siguro nga.”

“Meron nga pala akong gustong itanong sa iyo private. Natatandaan mo ba yung enkwentro ninyo sa Maguindanao, bago kayo naassign sa Jolo?”

“Opo Sir, bakit po?”

“Kasi shortly after nakaalis kayo, may tumawag sa office namin at nagtatanong kung, meron daw sundalo na pangalan ‘Nipoy’ yun daw kasi ang nakita nila sa brief ng isang tao na natagpuan a few kilometers mula sa encounter site.”

“Yes Sir, si Private Nipacio, Nipoy ang binyag sa kanya ni Lt. Reyes. Kasama ko syang nagtapos sa training at sabay kami na nadestino sa team ni Lt. Reyes. Pero Sir, imposible kasi nakita ko mismo na tinamaan sya sa ulo. Tapos, last na nakita namin sa kanya nasa chopper kami at pinapalibutan sya ng mga rebelde. Kaya nga inutos ni Lt. Reyes na i-straffing ung kinalalagyan nya. Imposible buhay pa sya Sir.”

“Yes, nabasa ko nga yung after action report na sinulat ni Lt. Reyes pati yung debriefing ni Col. Mariano. Kaya nga nung nakita ko yun, pinuntahan ko sa Cotabato yung nakatagpo sa kanya at may dala akong 201 file ni Private Nipacio, at kinumfirm nya na si Private Nipacio nga ung natagpuan nila.”

“Saan na daw si Nipoy ngayon sir? Matutuwa ang ama at ina nya sa balitang yan Sir.”

“Yan ng nga ang isang sadya ko sa iyo Private. Kasi after 5 days sa ospital sa Cotabato, nagkaroon ng kumplikasyon ang kalagayan nya nagmaga ang utak, kaya nilipat nila ito sa PGH, nagkataon kasi na may bumibistang Neurosurgeon galing ng America. Accordlingly, naoperahan naman siya, pero two weeks ago, nagising si Private Nipacio at according to the report of the doctor, may amenesia siya at walang nakikilala, walang natatandaan. Irereport nga san nila ito, pero kinabukasan, bigla na lang nawala si Private Nipacio and until now, hinahanap pa din ito.”

“Anong maitulong ko sir?”

“Baka lang Kimjohn may alam kang pinupuntahan ninyo dito sa Maynila, favorite places, maliban sa mga regular areas na pinuntahan ninyo. Something to help us locate him.”

“Hindi naman mahilig lumabas si Nipoy, I mean Private Nipacio Sir. Madalas kung lumakad kami, parati yang syang pumupunta sa mga ampunan, sa home for the aged. Natanong ko nga sya minsan kung bakit. Sabi nya gawi na daw nya ito dahil siguro sa parehong doctor ang mga magulang nya. Ambisyon nya lang talaga ang maging isang sundalo, pero balak nyang kumuha at magspecialize ng Emergency Medicine.”

“Posible kayang nasa mga ganung lugar si Nipacio ngayon?” tanong ng opisyal

“Posible Sir, pero tulad ng sinabi ninyo na wala syang matandaan, marahil mahirap syang matuntun, lalo pa na hindi nya kilala ang sarili nya.”

“Ganun na nga, anyway we will do everything we can to locate Private Nipacio as soon as possible. We have already place ads sa TV at radio. I will be meeting with his parents, para macoordinate ang lahat ng kilos.”

“Yes Sir, request lang po Sir?”

“Yes Private, ano yun?”

“Pwede po ba akong ma keep in the loop sa kalagayan ng paghahanap Sir?”

“Oo naman, I will instruct the team to keep you informed.”

“Thank you Sir.” Wika ni Kimjohn

“You’re Welcome Private. Magpagaling ka at marami pa tayong mission na gagawin sa Mindanao.”

“Sir Yes Sir” Sagot ni Kimjohn. Sabay saludo sa opisyal

Gumanti ng salute and opisyal at tumalikod na.

Ika-siyam na Tagpo

Sa bahay ng mga magulang ni Nipoy, kasalukuyang naguusap amg kanyang Ama at ang si Col. Maraiano

“Base sa paglalahatd ninyo Col Mariano, kasalukuyang nawawala si Nipoy at hindi ninyo sya malocate mula ng sya ay umalis sa ospital?” tanong ng kanyang amang doctor.

“Yes Sir, ginagawa po namin ang lahat para po sya matagpuan, pero wala po kaming lead. Meron kaming narinig na ayon sa mga kwento ay may isang di kilalang lalaki, hawig sa hitsura ni Pvt. Nipacio, na di-umano’y tumulong sa isang pamilya sa may Limao, Bataan. Ayon sa nakausap namin, maysakit ang isang anak ng isang pobreng pamilya at habang sakay ito ng tricycle papuntang ospital ay di sinasadyang nasiraan ang sasakyan. Ayong sa ama ng bata, may isang lalaki na lumapit, at binigyan ng first aid ang bata. Ayon sa mga doctor, kung hindi yun ginawa, maaring hindi na umabot sa ospital ang bata. And masaklap lang po, hindi namukhaan ng mga magulang yung tumulong sa kanila.”

“Maaring si Nipoy yun, noon pa man malapit ang loob nya sa mga bata at sa mga maysakit, at nung nagaaral sya ng medisina, malimit tuwing bakasyon nasa iskwater area sya at nagbibigay tulong sa mga medical missions. At kung walang magawa, madalas nasa klinika ko at ginagawa ang mga gawain ng mga nurse assistants.” Wika ng ama

“Napansin nga po namin yang skill nya nung nagti-training sya, at tuwing may nasusugatan o nasasaktan sa training ay inaasikaso nya agad. Malimit ding nasa medical station si Nipacio at kausap ang mga medical staff. Maitanong ko lang po, maganda naman ang kurso niya at di naman nahuhuli ang kanyang mga grado, ayon nga sa nakausap naming mga kaklase nya, isa sya sa mga nangunguna sa kanilang klase. Pero bakit po sya huminto at pumasok sa pagkasundalo?” Tanong ni Col. Mariano

“Mahabang kwento Colonel. Noong high school pa lang si Nipoy may kaklase syang naging malapit sa kanya. Isang babaeng hikain at patpatin, si Salome. Madalas itong dalawin ni Nipoy at inaalagaan. Sa palagay ko, isa ito sa mga dahilan kung bakit pinili nya ang medisina, gayong pangarap nya talagang maging isang abogado, gaya ng kanyang tito.”

“Sa pagkakaalam namin, naging magkasintahan si Nipoy at si Salome at sabay silang pumasok sa unibersidad ng Pilipinas. Second semester, noon ng umuwi si Salome dito sa probinsya, ng tambangan sila ng mga NPA. Apat silang mga babae na ginawang human shield ng mga rebelde, kaya ng nakaenkwentro nila ang militar, isa si Salome na natamaan at nasawi.” Wika ng ina ni Nipoy

“Hindi tinapos ni Nipoy ang semestre, umalis ito, at nalaman na lang namin na pumasok pala ito bilang isang sundalo. Nasa America na kami ng mga panahon na yun, at nalaman na lang namin ito mula sa kanyang tiyuhin kung sya nanunuluyan.” Pagpatuloy ng ama.

“Marahil, gusto nyang gumanti, o siguro, gusto nyang makalimot, o kung ano man ang kanyang dahilan, pinilit namin syang i-discourage, pero kung kilala mo si Nipoy, once na set na nya ang kanyang utak, hinding hindi mo na ito mabago.” Dagdag ng ina.

“I really don’t know kung ano man ang motive ni Nipoy Colonel, ang mahalaga sa ngayon matagpuan sya, lalo na sa kalagayan nya. Kung ano man ang maitulong namin sa paghahanap ninyo. Sabihin lang po ninyo. I have also asked several of my friends to provide you any assistance you will need. You may call us anytime, day or night, kung may impormasyon na kayo.”

“It’s ok Sir, salamat sa assistance, but we can manage. Napakalat na po namin sa lahat ng military detachments, and units sa buong bansa ang kanyang picture. Sooner or later, matatagpuan din namin sya.”

“Please, colonel, hanapin po ninyo ang anak ko.” Sumamo ng ina ni  Nipoy.

“We will Maam, you can count on that.” Sabay tayo no Col Mariano. “Sir, Maam, hindi na po ako magtatagal. Salamat po sa mga details ni Nipacio, we will put that on record. Isa lang po masabi ko, be proud po, Nipacio was a Hero, he saved his fellow soldiers on the field of battle, and we have recommended him to receive the Medal of Distinguish Service kapag natagpuan na natin sya.”

“At this point colonel, honors to us don’t matter, mas mahalaga sa amin na matagpuan sya.” Sagot ng ama.

“It basically the same concern that we have Sir. And umasa po kayo, hindi kami hihinto hangat di namin sya natatagpuan.” Pagkawika nun ay umalis na si Col Mariano, habang nagyakap ang kanyang ina’t ama.

“May awa ang diyos mama, may awa ang diyos, ipagdasal natin sya.”

Ika-sampung tagpo.

Sa isang liblib na barangay malapit sa Sta. Maria, Ilocos Norte, pauwi na si Mang Kardo na isang magsasaka. Kagagaling nya lang sa bayang kung saan namili sya ng mga buto para sa kanyang gulayan, at mga de-latang hiniling ng kanyang mga anak. Sa bandang unahan, nakikita nya ang isang lalaki na nakaupo sa isang natumbang puno. Ng malapit na sya, napansin nyang payat na payat ito at tila hapong hapo ito, at mukhang gutom na gutom. Lumapit si Mang Kardo at kinausap ang lalaki.

“Amang, tila napakalayo ang pinanggalingan mo. Saan ka ba papunta?”

“Mangandang tanghali po.” Wika ni Nipoy

“Mukha namang magalang, at edukado at hindi sinto-sinto tulad ng unang akala ko…” wika ni mang kardo sa sarili. Bumaba sa kanyang kalabaw, kinuha ang dalang tubig at iniabot kay Nipoy.

“Saan ka ba galing at tila nawawala ka ata?”

“Pasensya na po kayo manong, hindi ko kayo mabigyan ng sagot, ang alam ko lang galing ako ng Manila, nagkaroon siguro ako ng aksidente, dahil nagising ako sa isang ospital, ni hindi ko maalala ang pangalan ko.” Wika ni nipoy

“Ano? Eh paano ka nakarating dito? Di hamak ang layo nito sa Manila. Halos dulo na ito ng Pilipinas.” Gulat ng sagot ni Mang Kardo. Umupo ito sa tabi ni Nipoy.

“Bago ka sumagot matanong kita, kumain ka na ba? Meron akong baong kamote at saging dyan na hindi ko naubos kanina. Pantawid gutom din yun, sandali lang kukunin ko.”

Kinuha ng mang kardo ang pagkain at binigay kay Nipoy.

“eto, kumain ka.”

“Salamat po.”

Habang kumakain si Nipoy, ay mataman syang pinagmamasdan ni Mang Kardo. Ng matapos si Nipoy.

“Ako ng pala si ricardo inocentes, kardo ang tawag sa aking ng mga kabaryo ko.”

“Hindi ko alam ang totoong pangalan ko, pero ang alam ko, tintawag akong Juan dun sa ospital.”

“Ah Juan, marahil yun ang pansamatalang pangalan mo. Paano ka naman napadpad dito sa Sito Malinit.”

“Nung umga po kasing nagising ako, uhaw na uhaw ako, kaya bumangon ako, hilong hilo po ako nun, at naghahanap ako ng maiinom na tubig. Marahil mga alas tres yun ng umaga at ng nakarating ako sa may mga nars, wala akong inabutan, sabi nung isang lalaki na nakita ko dun, wala na nga din syan tubig at niyaya nya ako bumili na lang sa may labas. Kaso naka damit-ospital ako. May nakita akong bag, ay may damit panlalaki, yun ang sinuot ko. May nakita din akong pera, mga barya, sabi ko sarili ko ipagpaalam ko na lang pagbalik ko.” Saglit na uminom ng tubig si Nipoy

“Sumama po ako dun sa lalaki, para bumili ng tubig. Kaso dahil madaling araw pa, wala halos bukas na tindahan at malayo-layo din ang nilakad namin bago kami nakakita ng bukas. Habang andun kami, nakatangap ng tawag yung kasama ko, na agad naman syang tumalilis, sabi nya lang manganganak na misis nya. Pinilit ko syang sundan, pero dahil hilo pa ako, di ko na nakita kung saan saan sya dumaan. Nawala na ako, kaya nglalakad lakad ako, umaasa na makabalik sa ospital. Ayun po, hangang nakarating na po ako dito.”

“Susmaryosep naman, gaano naman katagal kang naglalakad?”

“Mag-iisang buwan at kalahati na po akong palakad lakad. Kung saan abutin ng gutom o antok, dun na po ako nagpapahinga. Minsan, may mga mababait naman na pinapatulog ako at pinapakain, minsan sa mga estasyon ng pulis at bus.” Sagot ni Nipoy

“Ang hirap naman ng pinagdaanan mo. Pero sabi mo wala ka talagang matandaan?”

“Opo, may mga panahon na kung minsan nananaginip ako, pero malabo po. May mga mukha akong nakikita, pero di ko maalala. Pero meron isang babae na madalas napapanaginipan ko, pangalan nya sinabi nya sa akin sa panaginip – Salome. Pero kahit anong gawin ko hindi ko talaga matandaan kung kaano-ano ko sya.”

“Alam mo Juan, mahirap yang ginagawa mno, lakad ka ng lakad, tapos wala ka namang direksyon, hindi mo alam saan papunta, sinong pupuntahan, aba daig mo pa si Samuel Bilibeth nyan.”

“Opo, yan din po sinabi sa akin nung isang pulis na nakausap ko. Kinuwento pa nya sa akin sino si Samuel Bilibeth.”

“O paano Juan, medyo may kalayuan pa yung lugar ko, kailangan ko ng umalis.” Wika ni Mang Kardo

“Opo, sige po, muli po maraming salamat sa kamote’t saging.” Sagot ni Nipoy.

Sabay silang tumayo, at habang inaayos ni Nipoy ang dala-dalahan si mang kardo nama’y hinila na ang kanyang kalabaw pabalik sa kalsada.

“Mang Kardo, saan po ba papunta ang kalsadang ito?” turo ni Juan kung saan galing si mang kardo.

“Yan ang papuntang bayan ng Sta. Maria, dito naman sa kabila, kapag tinuloy tuloy mo, makakarating ka ng highway, Kung kakanan ka, Papunta kang Pagudpod, kung kakaliwa na naman, papunta ka sa syudad ng Tuguegarao.”

“Ah, ganun ho ba. Sige po, salamat po uli. Tutuloy na po ako.” Wika ni Nipoy.

“Teka, may pupuntahan ka ba sa Sta. Maria? Ang sabi mo, wala kang matandaan at wala kang kakilala?”

“Opo, wala din po akong kila sa Sta. Maria, magbabakasakali lang po na baka may makakita sa akin at kilala ako.” Wika ni Nipoy.

“Juan, sandali lang, bakit di ka nalang muna sumama sa akin sa bahay. Apat lang naman kami dun, ako, si misis at ang dalawa kong mga anak. Ung panganay ko kasi, nasa kolehiyo sa Tuguegarao at buwanan lang kung umuwi. May kamalig ako dun na minsan kapag lasing ako, eh dun na ako nakakatulog. Bakit di ka muna magpahinga dun, bukas mo na ipagpatuloy ang paglalakad mo.”

“Nakakahiya naman sa inyo Mang Kardo, ok lang naman po na maglakad ako hangang bayan. Maaga pa naman.” Sagot ni Nipoy.

“Anong maaga, gabi ka makakarating dun. Halika ka na at wag ng maghiya-hiya pa. Isa pa matutuwa si misis dahil, minsan lang naman kami nagkakaroon ng bisita dahil sa layo namin sa bayan.”

“Hindi ho kaya maging pabigat ako sa inyo? Hayaan nyo po, tutulong po ako mga gawain ninyo para naman makabaywad sa kabaitan ninyo.”

“Hala, sumakay ka dyan sa karosa ko, at ng di tayo masyadong mahapunan sa daan.” Sagot ni Mang Kardo.

Sumakay na nga si Nipoy sa karosa, at habang nasa daan ay nagkukwentuhan sila ni Mang Kardo.

Ika-labing-isang Tagpo

Taong 2000

Sa Sitio Mainit, isang barangay malapit sa Sta. Maria…

“Kuya Juan, tama na po daw yan sabi ni tatang, andito na po sya at kakain na daw po kayo.” Sigaw ni Carlo, anak ni Mang Kardo.

“Sige, at kanina pa nga ako nagugutom.” Sagot ni Nipoy na nakasanayan na ding tinatawag syang Juan

“Aling Mercy, napalitan ko na po yung mga benda sa sugat ni junior, ingatan lang po ninyo na wag mabasa o madumihan, tapos ibalik nyo sya dito sa makalawa para matingnan ko uli kung natangal na ang impeksyon.”

“Oo Juan, salamat naman, marahil kung di dahil sa iyo, baka kung napaano na si Junior.”

“Walang anuman, ganun ho talaga ang mga bata, madalas nasusugatan dala ng kalikutan at curiosity. Marami silang gustong madiskubrehan, at hindi pa nila alam ang maaring idulot nito, Kaya nga dapat gabayan at turuan natin sila.” Wika ni Nipoy sabay baling kay junior.

“Junior, sa susunod, magiingat ka. Tingnan mo tuloy, ilang araw ka nang di nakapasok sa paaralan dahil sa kalikutan mo. Sumunod parati sa mga turo ng magulang, pwede ka namang maglaro ng di ka nasusugatan.”

“Opo Sir” sagot ni junior

“O, sige lumakad na kayo bago kayo abutan ng hapon, may kalayuan pa naman ang saka ninyo.” Wika ni Nipoy

“Salamat Juan, paano yan, gulay lamang po ang maari kong maibayad sa iyo.”

Sa puntong ito ay dumating si Mang Kardo.

“Hayaan na po ninyo, ang mahalaga gumaling si junior. Yang gulay, i-abot ninyo kay Father Nando sa kapilya, sabihin ninyong dinala ninyo para sa kanya. Wag mong sabihin na galing sa akin, dahil mamaya pupuntahan na naman ako nun dito at mauubos oras ko sa huntaan naming di matapos tapos.” Nakangiting sambit ni Nipoy

“Sige, muli maraming salamat.” Wika ni Aling Mercy

“Walang anuman. Tandaan po ninyo ang bilin ko.”

“Opo, aalis na po kami, Mang kardo, kami ho’y yayao na.”

“I sige mercy, junior, magiingat kayo sa daan. Ikaw junior, ingat sa kakaakyat sa mga puno.” Sagot ni Mang Kardo.

Umalis na si aling Mercy at si junior at si Nipoy nama’y naghugas ng kamay at lumapit sa isang mesang gawa sa kawayan kung saan nakalatag na ang dalang pagkain.

“Carlo, kunin mo na ung tinimplang kape ng nanang mo ng mainitan naman ang tyan ng kuya juan mo.”

“Opo tatang” sabay nagmamadaling umalis ni Carlo

“Juan, halika na habang mainit pa itong sinaing. Kanina pa sana namin ito nadala, kung di gawang napakabagal kumilos nyang si Carlo.”

“Ayos lang po yun Mang kardo, marami din po akong ibang inasikaso.” Nakangiting sagot ni Nipoy

“Ayan, me nabingwit akong maliliit na isda sa may sapa kahapon, ipinaksiw ng Nanang mo, masarap yan.”

“Oo nga po amoy pa lang tulo na laway ko.”

“O sya kumain na tayo.”

Matapos kumain, naupos si Mang kardo sa isang papag sa labas ng kubo. Maya-maya pa’y lumapit na si Nipoy at umupo sa tabi ni Mang kardo.

“Malapit na naman ang anihan Mang Kardo, sana po di pa dumating ang mga bagyo, ng sa ganun di tayo matalo sa kita tulad nung huling anihan.”

“Oo nga.” Habang nakatingin sa kanyang bukid

“Juan, parating na ang kapistahan ng barangay, ikaw ba may balak na mamasyal? Balita ko maraming mga dalagang umaasa na sana pasyalan mo naman.”

“Baka po sasaglit ako sa mismong araw ng pista para makapamili ng konting gamot. Halos paubos na po ang supply ko ng anti-biotic at paracetamol. At tungkol naman dyan sa mga dalaga na yan, kelan kaya nila ako tantanan? Nahihirapan na akong tumangi sa mga pangiimbita nila sa mga sayawan. Alam mo naman parehong kaliwa paa ko pagdating dyan.” Patawang sagot ni Nipoy.

“Alam mo Juan, ni sa panaginip di ko maisip na may isang taong magmamalasakit sa aking kabaryo tulad ng ginawa mo. Marahil kung di dahil sa iyo, hindi magkakarron ng magandang medical station dito.”

“Si Father Nando ang dapat nyong pasalamatan. Sya yung nagsimula ng programang ito, ang akin ay tulong lang, maliit na bagay po yun.”

“Anong maliit? Di mo ba napapansin, kahit yung mga nars at mga doctor na gumagawa ng medical mission dito pinupuri ka, at tinatawag ka pang doctor. Teka, yung isang nars na maganda, si… ano nga bang pangalan nya? Yung taga Baguio nga…”

“Si Fely po..”

“Yun. Sya nga… kamusta na, alam ko balik sya ng balik dito dahil sa iyo. Sya mismo nagsabi nun sa akin. Ano na?” tanong ni mang Kardo

“Wala po yun. Minsan sumusulat at nangangamusta, pero madalang ko nang masagot. Oo nga pala nuong nakaraang lingo, may pinadala sya ditong isang kahon ng iba’t ibang gamot na pinag-ambagan nilang magkaklase. Merong nga ding isang second hand na cellfone. Pero sabi ko nga wala namang signal dito sa sitio natin kaya di ko din magamit.”

“Aruu, nakita mo na… may gusto yun sa iyo, hindi mo pa ba nahahalata? Ay naman kakupad ng kilos ng manok ko. Ano ba gusto mo gawin dyan sa alaga mo? Gawing paksiw, tulad ng paksiw ng nanang mo?” nagtatawang biro ni Mar Kardo

“Kayo ho talaga Mang Kardo, kung ano ano na lang pumapasok sa isip ninyo. Mabait lang po talaga si Fely, saka galing sa may kayang pamilya, barya lang sa kanya yung mga pinapadala nya. Wag mong lagyan ng ibang kahulugan yung pagkamabait nya.”

“Wala lang Juan, kasi maglilimang taon ka na dito, pero hindi kita nakitang naging seryoso sa mga dilag dito. Andyan si Susan, yung anak Aling Kare si Imelda, sino pa nga ba? Si ano pala, si Neneng na anak ni Igmeng Lasingero. Ang lagkit ng mga tingin nun sa iyo… Aysus, kung ako nasa lugar mo, baka nahilera ko na yung mga yun.”

“kayo talaga ang hilig nyo pa din.” Sagot ni Nipoy

“Paano kasi, halos ipagduldulan na nila sarili nila sa iyo, andyan yung magpahilot, akala mo may pilay, tapos sa dibdib… aba kelan pa nagkakapilay ang suso” tumatawang sambit ni mang kardo.

Saglit na natahimik si Nipoy at makatingin sa malayo

“Ayan Juan, nagiisip ka na naman.”

“Mang kardo, maglilimang taon na nga pala ako dito, parang kelan lang nakasakay pa ako sa karosa mo. Natatandaan mo ba yung umagang paalis na ako at pilit ninyong binibigay yung naipon ninyo para umano may baon ako sa daan?”

“Oo naman, yun ang dahilan kung bakit di ka na nakaalis. Paalis ka ng dumating si Father Peter, yung sinundan ni Father Nando. Manghihiram ng tricycle para madala sa bayan yung dalawang anak at isang pamangkin ni Aling Esther na nasugatan sa pagkahulog gawa ng gumuho nilang balkon.”

“Oo nga hindi pa din mawala sa isip ko na nakakita ng isang pari n banyaga ang tila naringing kuting na di alam ang gagawin.” Wika ni Nipoy

“Tapos, bigla ka lang nun tumakbo, ni hindi mo alam kung saan ang bahay, buti na lang hinabol ka namin.”

“Parang instinct ko lang kasi yun na makatulong. Di ko naisip na hindi ako taga-rito.”

“Tapos ng nakita mo mga sugat, inutusan mo ung banyagang pari na bumili ng gamot at yung perang binigay mo, yung ang ibinigay mong pambili. Alam mo bang di halos makapaniwala ang nanang mo ng ikwento ko yun sa kanya? Saka pati ako nagulat, dahil kabisadong kabisado mo ang mga gamot na kailangan mo. Akala nga naming lahat noong una, doctor ka.”

“Oo nga po, kaya nagdagsaan lahat at dinala mga may sakit nila. At kahit anogn dabihin ko na di ako doctor, pilit na pinapagamot ung mga maysakit nila. Nahiya na din po akong tumangi nung mga panahon na yun, saka nakita ko na hirap na sila.”

“Alam mo Juan, marahil di mo napapansin, halos lahat ng taga-dito maging sa ibang malapit n sitio, pumupunta na dito para magpagamot sa iyo.”

“Oo nga po, dumadami na tuloy mga alaga natin dahil halos puro manok o kaya biik ang pinambabayad. Pero kahit papano, nakaipon din naman tayo ng pambili ng segunda-manong tricycle.” Natatawang sagot ni Nipoy.

Akmang sasagot si Mang Kardo, ng biglang nakarinig sila ng ugong na tila galing sa ilalim ng lupa at sinundan ng isang malakas na pagyanig.

“Lindol… lumilindol…”

“Dapa kayo Mang kardo! Carlo, Carloooo, lumabas ka dyan sa kubo at dumapa ka dito sa tabi ng tatang mo.” Sigaw ni Nipoy

Agad naman silang dumapa habang patuloy na yumayanig ang kapaligiran. Maya-maya pa’y huminto ang pagkilos ng lupa. Sa may kalayuan, narinig nila ang isang malakas na pagsabog, at nakita nilang tila slow-motion na duma-usdos ang isang panig ng bundok at tila bahang rumagasa ang lupa pababa sa Sitio Malambong.

“Diyos ko… katapusan na yata ng mundo…” wika ni Mang Kardo.

“Mang kardo, isama mo si Carlo bumalik kayo sa bahay at tingnan baka may nangyari kay nanang. Pupunta ako sa sitio at titingnan kung ano maitutulong ko.”

Pagkawika noo’y agad sumakay sa tricycle si Nipoy at kumaripas papunta sa guho. Hindi alam ni Nipoy na ang lindol ang magiging daan upang tuluyang magbago ang kanyang buhay.

Ika-Labing Dalawang Tagpo

Gabi sa Sitio Malambong, naglalakad si Mang Kardo, dala-dala ang isang bayong na may lamang pagkain, patungo sa isang tent. Naabutan nyang kausap ni Nipoy ang isang opisyal ng barangay.

“Kapitan, kamusta ang coordination mo sa bayan? Alam ba ng mga nasa katungkulan ang mga nangyari dito? Hindi natin makaya ito. Sa nagyon po, hindi pa natin alam kung ilan pa sa mga kabaryo natin ang natabunan ng lupa.” Wika ni Nipoy

“Oo Juan, nangako na si mayor na agad silang magpapadala ng mga kailangan nating gamit, tauhan at mga pagkain.” Sagot ng kapitan

“Magandang gabi kapitan” sabad ni Mang Kardo. “Juan, may pinadalang pagkain ang nanang mo, baka kasi makalimutan mo kumain, Dala ko na din yung mga gamot na ipinasabi mong dalahin.”

“Salamat po Mang kardo, kamusta si nanang?”

“Ayos lang sya, nakahiga at natutulog sya ng mangyari ang lindol, hindi nya halos namalayan kung di lang dahil sa pagsabog, marahil hindi pa nya maramdaman. Salamat naman sa Diyos. Si Carlo at si Nenita, wala namang masamang nangyari, hindi naman sila masyadong naapektuhan.”

“Salamat naman kung ganun,” wika ng kapitan “Sa Sitio Mainit po ba, may naapektuhan ng lindol?”

“Hindi gaano dun, maraming bahay ang natumba at nasira, pero malibas sa mga galos wala namang malubhang nasaktan. Andun ngayon si Kagawad Edgar at pinangungunahan ang maglipat ng mga naapektuhan sa kapilya kung saan pansamantala silang maninirahan.” Wika ni Mang Kardo.

“Sabagay, talagang maasahan yang si Edgar sa mga ganitong sitwasyon. O sige, aaskasuhin ko muna yung mga taong in-charge sa pailaw.” Sambit ng kapitan habang paalis

“Kumain ka muna Juan, gabi na at tila hindi ka pa nakapagpahinga mula kanina.”

“Sige lang po, pakilagay na lang po ninyo sa mesa yung dala ninyo, at aayusin ko pa yung mga gamot na dala ninyo.”

Habang kumakain si Nipoy

“Ang dami ng nasaktan ng lindol, kawawa naman. Buti na lang andito ka at agad silang nalapatan ng panandaliang tulong.”

“Mahigit isang daan ang kasalukuyan nakaratay dito ngayon, ang dinig ko, mahigit dalawang daan pa ang natabunan at hindi pa nakikita. Hinuhukay pa sa ngayon. Kasalukuyan kasing market day, kaya yung mga galing sa ibang bayan at sitio nagkaipon at namimili. Yung palengke daw ang unang naabot ng lupa sabi ng mga nakakita.”

“Alam mo Juan, hindi ko talaga alam kung paano mo nakayang asikasuhin lahat ito. Minsan, hindi ako naniniwala na hindi ka doctor. Alam na alam mo kung ano ang gagawin, alam mo din ang mga gamot.” Patanong na wika ni Mang Kardo

“Ganun din po ako Mang kardo. Hindi ko din alam bakit kapag nakita ko ang nasaktan, parang may bang may nagsasabi kung ano ang gagawin ko. Tulad na lang ng paglalagay ng dextrose, pag-injection. Hindi ko alam kung bakit, pero alam ko paano gawin.” Minsan ako man din nagiisip, na baka doctor nga ako bago ako naaksidente.”

“Kung ano man yun Juan, ang mahalaga nagagamit mo ito para sa kabutihan ng mga kababaryo natin.”

Nasa ganun silang paguusap ng biglang parang may nagkagulo sa labas ng tent.

“Juan, Juan, may nahukay silang bata, papunta na dito, sabi ni kapitan i-handa mo daw yung isang kama.” Hangos na wika ng isang volunteer.

Maya-maya pa’y dumating na ang isang grupo dala ang isang stretcher kung saan may batang putikan na nakaratay.

“Juan, natagpuan namin syang nadaganan ng isang poste ng palengke, ng pulsuhan namin, mahinang mahina na pero buhay sya.” Wika ng volunteer. “Katabi nya ang isang matandang babae, palagay namin kaanak nya, pero wala na itong buhay.”

“Ilatag niyo sya rito. Bilis! Alisin ninyo damit nya at punasan…” Wika ni Nipoy

Agad pinulsuhan ni Nipoy ang bata, kinuha ang stetoscope at pinakingan ang dibdib. Napansin nyang hirap itong huminga at nangingitim ang dulo ng mga daliri. Sa puntong ito, dumating ang kapitan.

“Juan, kamusta ang bata?”

“Kap, kailangan nitong mahatid agad sa ospital, sa tingin ko, maaaring nagcollapse ang baga nito sa kanan gawa ng pagkadagan sa kanya, tapos napansin ko ding parang nakakain ito ng putik, at nahihirapan itong huminga dahil sa barado ang daanan ng hangin. Pero sa kalagayan nyang yan, hindi sya aabot ng ospital kung hindi magawan ng paraan na makahinga sya at, mapalobo ang nagcollapse nyang baga. Kailangang ma-stabilize sya bago bumiyahe.” Wika ni Nipoy

“Andyan ang sasakyan ko at driver, pwedeng mahatid agad ito sa ospital, pero ano ang maaring gawin para mabyahe sya.”

“Wala tayong gamit pang-opera, Anong balita sa mga doctor na sabi ni Mayor papunta dito?” tanong ni Nipoy

“Aabutin pa daw ng mga 4 na oras bago sila makakarating dito. Inipon pa nila mga gamot at mga gamit na dadalhin nila dito.” Sagot ng kapitan

“Hindi na aabot. Kailangang may gawin tayo.” Sabi ni Nipoy, sabay baling sa mga volunteer. “Linisin ninyo yang mesa, linisin nyo ang bata at ilatad dun. Bilisian nyo.”

Agad namang kumilos ang mga volunteers.

“Kap, kailangan ko ng dalawang ballpen na may butas ang gitna.”

“Ito, pwede na ba ito?” abot ng kapitan kay Nipoy na agad namang sinuri ang ballpen

“Pwede na ito, kailangan ko pa ng isa pa.”

“Meron ako dun sa bag ko, kukunin ko.” Wika ng kapitan at agad naman umalis para kuning ang ballpen.

“Mang Kardo, pakiabot ng alcohol ko dyan sa dala ninyong bag.” Binalingan ni Nipoy ang mga volunteers “Kailagan ko ng assistant na hahawak sa ilaw, kailangan maliwanag sa ooperahan ko, hindi tayo pwedeng magkamali dito.”

Naghugas ng kamay si Nipoy gamit ang alcohol, sabay hinugasan ang mga gamit at mag ballpen pati na din ang bata.

“Kapitan, Mang kardo, hawakan nyo sa magkabilang kamay ang bata… kayo, hawakan nyo ang kanyang mga paa.”

Matapos nito, muling hinugasan ni Nipoy ang leeg ng bata kung saan dumugtong ito sa kanyang katawan… Gumawa ng isang maliit na sugat at dahan-dahang isisuksok ang isang ballpen, hangang narinig nyang ang malayang pagdaloy ng hangin, agad nya itong nilagyan ng tape para di na gumalaw. Pagkatapos naman ay lumipat si Nipoy sa tabi at tila may kinapa sa may dibdib ng bata. Hiniwa si Nipoy ng parte na kinapa nya, at tulad nung una, ay unti-unti nyang sinusuksok ang isa pang ballpen. Ginagawa nya ito paulit-ulit, hangang narinig ng lahat ang isang malakas na higop ng hangin kasabay ng tila napalakas na higop ng hangin sa ballpen na nilagay nya sa may leeg ng bata. Agad namang nilagayan ng tape ni Nipoy ang mga ballpen para hindi gumalaw.

“Ikaw” turo sa isang volunteer, “siguruhin mong sa byahe, hindi magagalaw yang ballpen. Sa ngayon, malayang nakakahinga ang bata sa pamamagitan ng ballpen na yan.” Sabay baling sa kapitan

“Kap, nagawang natin ng emergency method at napagana na natin ang nagcollapse nyang baga, pero pansamantala lang ito. Yung ballpen, dyan ngayon humihinga ang bata, pansamantala din. Sa ospital matatangal nila yang bara sa lalamunan nya, para maging normal na panghinga nya. Ingatan nyo ang sugat nya para hindi magkaimpeksyon. Sabihin mo sa doctor na tatangap sa kanya, hindi sterilized ang pinaggawan ko nyan kaya mataas ang chances na maging septic ang bata. Alam na nya gagawin nya. Lumakad na kayo, para maligtas ng tuluyan yang bata.”

Agad na nilipat sa stretcher and bata at sinakay sa jeep ni kapitan at umalis na ito.

“Juan… paano mo nagawa yun?” Manghang tanong ng Kapitan

“Di ko din alam Kap…basta lang alam ko, kung paano di pa kita masagot.”

Magtatanong pa sana ang kapitan ng pumasok ang isang volunteer

“Kapitan, tinawag po kayo ni mayor sa radio.”

“Ok, sige, papunta na ako. Juan mamaya na tayo maguusap.” At tumalikod na ang kapitan

“Juan, mabuti siguro, umupo ka muna, ang putla-putla mo at parang hapong-hapo ka at nanginginig ka pa.” Wika ni mang kardo

“Opo… alam nyo, hindi ko po alam kung bakit at paano ko natanto kung ano gawin. Ang nasa isip ko lang, matulungan ang bata.”

“Juan, sa mga nakita kong ginawa mo, hindi na ako magtataka kung darating ang araw, kapag nanumbalik na ang isip mo, ay malaman nating isa ka palang tunay na doctor.” Wika ni Mang Kardo.

Ilang oras pa silang nanatili dun sa tent, habang dahan dahang dumadating ang mga nabiktima ng lindol, per maliban sa mga galos at pilay, wala namang malubha. Kaya bandang alas-tres ng umaga, ay pakaidlip-idlip si Nipoy at mang kardo.

Mag-aalas singko ng umaga ng nagising si Nipoy sa kaguluhan sa labas. Agad siyang lumabas upang alamin ang nangyayari. May nahukay pala ang mga volunteer na isang lalaki at parating na ito sa kanyang kinaroroonan. Agad hinanda ni Nipoy ang mga emergency equipment.

Ng ipasok ng mga volunteer ang biktima, agad napansin ni Nipoy na laylay ang kamay nito’t paa, palatandaan na nadurog ang mga buto nito. At sa tagiliran nito, isang malaking sugat, na kung saan, lumuwa ang mga bituka. Pinipigilan lang ito ng mga volunteer para hidi umalagwa.

“Juan, malubha ang isang ito, kailangan ng malapatan ng lunas.” Wika ni Mang Kardo

“Oo nga, pero hindi ko na kaya ito. Maliban sa wala tayong instrumento para gumawa ng emergency response.”

“Merong pa ba kayong emergency kit? Ang mga doctor matagal pa ba?” Tanong ni Nipoy sa isang volunteer

“Meron dito doc, ung pinadala ni mayor. Bago lang dumating, may mga gamit din dito para sa doctor. Yung mga doctor parating pa lang, mga 30 minutes andito na sila. Nauna lang ang gamit dahil dito sila sa shortcut dumaan.” Sagot ng volunteer

 “Sige, ihanda na ninyo ang biktima at maghuhugas lang ako. Halika mang kardo, kailangan mo ding maghugas. Hindi man sterile ang lugar, kahit man lang sa precedure ay makatiyak tayong malinis para maiwasan ang impeksyon.”

Matapos makapaghugas, agad namang inasikaso ni Nipoy ang biktima. Una, nilagyan nya ito ng neck brace upang di na gumalaw ang ulo at dextrose. Tapos nilisan nya ito, ginupit ang maputik na damit, saka tiningnan ang sugat.

“Mang kardo, kailangang mahugasan natin ang bituka at laman loob ng biktima, hindi natin ito pwede basta na lang ibalik dahil baka ito pa ang ikamatay nya. Kumuha kayo ng malinis na tubig. Yung distilled water dyan, isang litro at lagyan ninyo ng isang kutsarang asin.”

Agad namang tumalima si Mang Kanor. Nagsimula si Nipoy na hiwain at pinalakihan ang butas kung saan lumabas ang bituka. At ipinasok ang kamay, kinapa nya kung may putik na nakapasok. Ng mapansing wala, pinisil pisil ni Nipoy at tyan at dibdib, tiningnan kung may nangingitim na parte.

Lingid sa kaalaman ni Nipoy, ay dumating na ang mga doctor na pinadala ni mayor. Kasabay nilang dumating ang ilang pang mga doctor na galing pa ng maynila na rumesponde sa nangyaring trahedya. Agad naman silang pumunta sa tent ni Nipoy at tinitingnan ang kanyang ginagawa.

Agad lumapit ang isang doctora na kilala na si Nipoy dahil ilang ulit na itong nakapagsawa ng medical mission sa baryo, inasist nya si Nipoy. Matapos malinis ng tubig at asin, ay nilinis naman ni Nipoy ng dextrose ang mga bituka at dahan-dahang ibinalik sa tyan ng biktima. Pagkatapos noon, ay tinahi at binendahan. Agad tinawag ni Nipoy ang isang volunteer.

“Hayaan mo muna syang makapahinga ng mga 15 minutes, then isakay nyo sa sasakyan at dalahin sa bayan.” Pagkasabi noon, ay sinulat ni Nipoy sa isang papel ang kanyang mga ginawa at dinikit sa katawan ng biktima.

Noon pa lang napansin ni Nipoy ang mga doctor na kararating lang. Binalingan nya ang doctorang tumulong sa kanya.

“Salamat naman dumating na kayo Doc. At least, may mga tunay na doctor ng mangaasikaso sa mga biktima.” Wika ni Nipoy

“Juan, ang ginawa mo dun sa biktima, gawain ng doctor yun. Marahil kung di kita kilala, hindi ako maniniwala kung sasabihin mo sa akin na hindi ka doctor.”

“Emergency na kasi Doctora, hindi ko na kayo maantay, bumagsak na ang blood pressure ng biktima, at kailangan ng malapatan ng solusyon.”

“Alam ko Juan, at kung makakaligtas ang inoperahan mo, magpapasalamat sya at niligtas mo buhay nya, kahit hindi ka doctor.” Wika ng doctora.

Sa puntong yun, pumasok ang isa pang doctora na siyang nagasikaso sa mga gamit na dala dala. Pagpasok nito, saglit itong napahinto… matamang tinitigan si Nipoy… at mahinang nasabi…

“Nipoy?”

Ika-Labingtatlong Tagpo

Sa medical tent, kasalukuyang nakaupo sa isang tabi si Nipoy humihigop ng mainit na kape. Kaharap nya ang 3 doctor, si Mang Kardo at ang kapitan ng barangay.

“Yun na nga ang huling nalaman namin tungkol sa iyo. Ayon kay Col. Mariano, huli kang nakita na lumabas ng PGH, at mula noon ay pinaghahanap ka na. Maglilimang taon ka ng hinahanap ng lahat ng nakakakilala sa iyo. Maging ang military units sa buong bansa hinahanap ka.” Paliwanag ni Dr. Sheryl Miranda, sa syang nakakilala kay Nipoy.

“Wala akong memorya, maliban sa noong nagising ako at lumabas ng ospital. Sabi mo Jonathan Nipacio ang tunay kong pangalan. Pero, hindi ko kilala ang taong ito. Sabi mo sundalo ako, pero wala akong nakikitang bakas o kilos ko na masasabi kong sundalo nga ako. Marahil, totoo sinasabi mo, maari ding kamukha ko lang ang sinasabi mo Jonathan NIpacio.” Wika ni Nipoy

“Ah oo nga pala Doctora Sheryl, bakit kilalang kilala mo si Juan, o si Nipoy, kamo?” tanong ni Mang Kardo.

“Mang Kardo, magkakapit bahay po kami ni Nipoy at kalaro ko sya mula nung bata pa kami. Sabay kaming pumasok ng elementarya. Best friend ko si Salome, na sya namang naging kasintahan nya at ang best friend nyang si Das, ngayo’y Atty. Dimas Parecho, naman ang naging kasintahan ko. Madalas kaming magkakasamang namamasyal at magdate noon. Andun din ako ng mamatay si Salome, hangang nilibing. Kaklase ko din si Nipoy sa UP College of Medicine.” Wika ni  Dr. Miranda

“Nagbago ang mundo mo Nipoy ng mamatay ang kasintahan mo si Salome. Hindi nakakausap, tahimik, at hindi ka na pumapasok.” At bumaling si Dr. Miranda sa mga kausap.

“Alam po ba ninyo na maliban sa pinakabata, si Nipoy ang pinakamagaling sa klase namin. Advance sya sa lahat ng antas, dala marahil dahil doctor ang kanyang ama, at mula pagkabata ay tumutulong na sya sa klinika ng ama nya, pero talaga hong magaling sya. Isang taong na lang sana, at the age of 19, matatapos na nya ang kurso nya. Isa sya sa mga tinatawag na prodigy sa larangan ng medisina. Kaya nga lahat kami nagulat ng malaman naming huminto sya at pumasok sa pagkasundalo.”

“Doctor, pwede mo bang ikwento sa akin si Salome?” tanong ni Nipoy

“Nipoy, si Salome nakatira sa tabing bahay namin. Una mo syang nakita nung lumipat sila at nagkataong naglalaro tayo sa bakuran namin. Ikaw mismo ang lumapit at niyaya syang maglaro kasama ko. Dun ung nagsimula. Hangang sa pumasok tayo ng elementarya. Pero naging mas close kayo nung High School ng malaman mong isa syang asmathic. Natatandaan ko pa, na halos lahat ng libro tungkol sa sakit ni Salome, binasa mo at pinagaralan kung ano ang gamot.”

“Alam mo bang ikaw ang dahilan kung bakit unti-unting gumanda ang kalagayan ni Salome. Ikaw ang nagsikap na mabili ang gamot nya galing sa amerika. Nakita ko kung paano mo iniipon ang pera mo, at maghanap ng paraan para magkapera mabili lang ang gamot nya. Hindi mo alam, ingit na ingit ako sa inyong dalawa, high school pa lang tayo, sinabi mo na sa kanya na pakakasalan mo sya.”

“Tungkol naman sa aksidente?” tanong ni Nipoy

“Ang alam ko lang, umalis si Salome upang pumunta ng probinsya. Sabi nya sa akin, may kukunin lang. Pero alam ko na ilang araw bago sya umalis ay madalas kayong magsagutan at nagaaway. Pinagseselosan ni Salome si Doctor Mendoza, yung seksing professor natin sa Pharmacology 2201. Madalas daw kasi nya kayong nakikita na magkasama at parang close na close kayo. Minsan naikwento mo nga sa akin na humahanga ka sa kanya dahil maliban sa maganda at seksi ay matalino pa. Attracted ka sa mga ganung babae.” Wika ng doctora

Pero, alam kong si Salome lang ang laman ng puso mo. Sinabi ko nga sa kanya na wag mabahala, dahil kilala kita at alam kong sya lang ang mahal mo. Pero si Salome kasi, masyadong possessive sa iyo. Ewan ko lang, marahil dio mo na din matatandaan na minsan na din kayong nagaway dahil nagselos sya sa akin at kung bakit inahatid mo ako hangang sakayan. Dahil nga yun sa isang manliligaw ko na sobrang kulit.”

“Tapos?” tanong ni Nipoy

“Tapos, un nga, noong araw na yun, nagpaalam sya sa akin, uuwi daw muna sya ng probinsya dahil may kukunin sya dun. Sabi ko nag bakit di na lang nya antayin ang weekend, para masamahan mo sya. Dahil un naman parati nyong ginagawa. Sabi nya sa akin, marami ka daw inaasikaso at ayaw ka nyang maabala. Dun na, ng tambangan sila ng NPA at isa sya sa ginawang human shield. Dinala sya sa sa isang liblib na lugar sa may cordillera, at ng magsagawa ng operation ang mga militar, sia si Salome sa nasawi sa enkwentro.”

“Juan, hindi kaya marahil yun ang dahilan kaya ka nagsundalo?” tanong ng kapitan ng barangay

“Ewan ko Kap, sa totoo lang, parang kwento sa komiks ang sinasabi ng doctora. Kahit bana-ag lang, wala akong matandaan, wala akong ma-imagine na mukha o lugar.” Wika ni Nipoy.

“Nipoy, nabasa ko ang charts mo sa PGH, after ng operasyon mo, sinabi nung espesyalista na ang possible effects ng injuries mo is partial or transient amnesia. Tinamaan ka sa ulo, at apektado ang memory area mo. Pero possible na bumalik ang memories mo.”

“Doc, ipagpalagay na lang natin na tama ka, maglilimang taon na ng nangyari ang enkwentro na sinasabi mo, bakit wala pa din akong matandaan?”

“Nipoy, walang perfect science na makapagsabi sa epekto ng sugat sa ulo. May cases na madali lang, may mga cases din na taon ang binibilang. Malay mo isang araw, maalala mo din lahat. Alam ko dahil instinctively, pumunta kang norte ng Pilipinas, bakit? Dahil may portion sa utak mo na pumunta dito. Dahil sa norte ang porobinsya ni Salome. This proves that there is a protion sa utak mo na alam kung saan pumunta. Kaso lang ang synapses o triggers ng utak mo hindi pa konektado sa memory area ng utak mo, kaya instinct dito ka papunta, pero as to why – hindi mo masagot dahil hindi mabigyan ng dahilan ng isip mo.” Wika ng doktor

“Siguro nga. Let’s cross the bridge when we get there. Sa ngayon, unahin muna natin ang mga biktima. Kap, tutal andito na ang mga doktor, maari na siguro muna akong magpahinga. Gisingin nyo lang ako kung sakaling kailangan nyo ako.”

“Sige Juan, alam kong pagod na pagod ka na… kung ano man kailangan mo sabihin mo lang sa mga volunteers natin.”

Tumalikod na si Nipoy at pumunta sa isang maliit na tent, diumano para magpahinga.

“Doctora, sinagot mo ang maraming katanungan namin tungkol kay Juan… este Nipoy, naguguluhan dila ko. Noon pa kami nagtataka kung paano nya nagagawang manggamot, Sa totoo lang, naniniwala kaming isa talaga syang doctor. Ilang buwan din kaming naghanap ng paraan na makilala sya. Kaso napakalayo namin sa bayan at kita mo naman kahit telebisyon dito sa amin wala dahil di kami abot ng signal.” Sabi ni Mang Kardo

“Mang Kardo, maraming salamat din po at sa inyo napadpad si Nipoy. Masasabi po nating nakakalungkot ang nangyari kay Nipoy, pero may mga tao pong tulad ninyo na kumupkop sa kanya. Natawagan ko na po kanina habang inaayos para ibyahe ung pasyente ang mga magulang ni Nipoy at si Col. Mariano. Nagco-coordinate na po silang pumunta dito.”

“Salamat Doktora, para naman matuwid na ni Nipoy ang buhay nya. Hindi nyo lang alam kung ano ang natulong sya sa baryo namin. Aba, di lang ilang beses syang nagbalak umalis, pero parating nagkakaroon ng dahil kaya napipigilan syang lumakad. Marahil sinadya ng Diyos para dumito sya at matagpuan na para matapos na paghihirap nya.”

“Oo nga po Mang Kardo, sabagay talaga lang pong patulungin yang si Nipoy, minsan nga kahit pagkain nya ipinamimigay nya sa mga street children na nadadaanan namin papuntang unibersidad. Tawag nga namin sa kanya Sto. Nipoy… Sige po assikasuhin ko muna ang mga sugatan. Mamaya lang po tayo maguusap.”

“Sige doktora, uuwi din po muna ako upang balitaan ang mag-ina sa magandang balitang ito.”

Pagkawika noo’y umalis na si Mang Kardo. Kasalukuyan naman nakahiga si Nipoy sa isang folding bed sa isa sa mga tent. Ngunit ayaw syang dalawing nga antok, kahit pa man halos buong araw na syang walang pahinga. Maraming naglalaro sa kanyang isip, mga katanungang pilit nyang sagutin, pero tila mapaglarong alaala na habang pinipilit nyang matanto, ay parang nasa dulo lang ito ng kanyang kamalayan. Tila aninong umaaligid, pero hindi nya maabot.

Ika-Labingapat na Tagpo

Nasa ganung pagmumuni-muni si Nipoy ng nakarinig sya ng isang marahang katok.

“Nipoy, gising ka pa ba?” Boses ni Dra. Sheryl.

Bunamangon si Nipoy at pinatuloy ang doktora at pinaupo

“Doc, meron akong thermos dito at palagay ko mainit pa ang kapeng dala ni Mang kardo. Gusto mong magkape?” tanong ni Nipoy.

“Salamat, per hindi na, katatapos ko lang magkape. Sana di kita nagambala, alam kong hindi madali ang iyong kalagayan. Alam ko ding litong lito ka. Pero may dala akong mga larawan sa pitaka ko at nais ko sanang Makita mo ito, upang kahit paano’y makatulong man lang para matanggap moa ng mga nasabi ko sa iyo kanina.” Wika ng doktora

Nagtimpla ng kape si Nipoy at umupos sa harap ng doktora. Sandaling humigop ng kape bago sumagot.

“Ok lang doc. Tama ka nalilito nga ako. Pero mas nananaig sa isipan ko ang maraming mga katanungan. Personally, alam kong may karamdaman ako. Hindi ko naman ito tinatangi. Alam ito ng lahat na nakasama ko dito sa loob ng halos limang taon. Sa buong panahon na yun, pinilit kong mabuksan ang memorya ko, nagbabakasakaling, kahit man lang konti, ay may matandaan ako tungkol sa buhay ko, bago ako naaksidente. Kaya lang, kahit anong gawin ko, ang natatandaan ko lang sa nakaraan ay yung nagsimula ng magising ako sa ospital.”

“Nipoy, kailangan mong sumailalim sa isang masusing test. Malay mo, hindi permanente ang kundisyon mo. It could something reversible. Kung natatandaan mo, ikaw mismo nagsabi noong mga estudyante pa tayo, isang misteryo ang utak ng tao. Wala pang syensya na makakapagsabi with 100 percent accuracy kung ano ang kayang gawin ng utak natin.”

Sandaling natahimik si Nipoy at di umiimik habang humihigo ng kape. Sinamantala ito ng doktora at inipon ang mga dalang larawan. Iniabot ito kay Nipoy.

Isa-isang tiningnan ni Nipoy ang mga larawan, habang kinikwento ng doktora ang bawat isa.

“Yang larawan na yan, kuha yan ni Dr. Loren. First year pa tayo nyan. Nasa SM North Edsa tayo nyan at naghahanap ng libro para sa case study natin. Yan naming isa, kuha mo. Kami ni Salome ang andyan. Dun din yan sa SM. Yan si Richard, ung mayabang sa klase natin na Anatomy. Nanligaw sa akin yan, kaso binasted ko. Yan naman ang buong grupo natin, kuha yan ng isng saleslady dun. Andyan ka sa bandang kanan. Sus, momoy na momoy pa mga porma natin dyan.” Nakangiting biro ng doktora.

Sa isang larawan, saglit na napahinto si Nipoy. Pinagmamasdan sya ng doktora habang nakatingin sa larawan.

“Ikaw yan at si Salome. Dun yan sa may hagdanan malapit sa supermarket. Bumibili kami ng junk foods at nagpaiwan kayo dahil hinihingal na si Salome sa kaiikot natin.”

Ilang minuto ding nakatitig lang si Nipoy sa larawan habang tahimik namang minamasdan sya ng doktora.

“Doc, dito sa mga larawang ito, habang tinitingnan ko, kahit anong pilit kong hagilapin sa alaala ko. Blangko… ni sarili ko, kung di ko lang parating nakikita ang mukha ko sa salamin, di ko nakikilala.”

Ibinalik ni Nipoy ang mga larawan.

“Doc, sinabi mo sa akin, matalik tayong magkaibigan. Isang honest question lang.”

“Sure Nipoy, anything.”

“Kung ikaw ang nasa kalagayan ko ngayon. Nanaisin mo pa bang bumalik ang alaala mo? Ikaw na mismo nagsabi, masakit ang pinagdaanan ko. Siguro ito ang dahilan why my brain decided to keep it hidden. Para di ko na madala ang sakit. Para di ko na maramdaman ang bigat na dinadalo ko noon. Give me a good reason why I have to go back to who I was before?”

Hindi sumagot ang doktora. Nagaptuloy si Nipoy

“Mermories, masakit man o masaya, are something na dapat i-cherish. Good memories make us laugh. Sad ones make us stronger. Pero sa case ko, alin previous memories ang paghuhugutan ko? It seems like I never existed before the incident. It’s all blank before that. Gumawa ako ng bagong mga memories, not because I wanted to. But I didn’t have a choice. Kahit na ang pangalang Nipoy, it doesn’t evoke anything.”

“Naiintidihan kita Nipoy. Tama ka, kung wala ka lang man ding memorya sa nakaraan, bakit mo pa ito balikan.” Wika ng doktora

“Tama.” Sagot ni Nipoy

“Pero Nipoy, hindi lang ikaw ang may memorya. Lahat ng tao na naging parte ng buhay mo, may memories about you. Can you ask them to also erase that memory sa mga isipan nila? Sa mga taong nagmahal sa iyo, ang mga magulang mo? Mga kaklase natin, ako at mga kaibigan natin? Can we all just erase that portion and pretend as if you never came to our lives? Ang memorya mo maaring di na bumalik, pero kaming mga kaibigan mo, ang mga taong nagmamahal sa iyo, we can be your memory. We can fill in the gaps sa buhay mo na nawala sa iyo.”

“Doc, hindi ganun kadali yun. Iba ang memorya mo na alam mo kesa sa memorya na parang impormasyon na sanisabi sa iyo. Parang balita lang sa TV. Pinoproseso ng utak. Each day, lumapalit ako sa mga bulaklak inaamoy ko ito, because it is that kind of sensory fulfillment. Makukuha ko ba ito kahit ikwento mo pa buhay ko 100 times a day? Will I have the sensory input, kung gaano kasublime ang feeling kapag hawak mo ang kamay ng isang taong mahal mo, by hearing it from others?”

“Hindi ko maitatangi na tama ka Nipoy, dahil totoo, hindi maaring palitan ng salita ang mga bagay na nararamdaman. Alam mong hindi yun ang ibig kong sabihin. Ang gusto ko lang ipaabot sa iyo, bakit di ka mag-reach out? Bakit tumatangi kang tulungan ka namin? Bakit ayaw mong ibalik kami bilang bahagi ng buhay mo? Sa akala mo ba, by shutting the door to your past, and to everyone na kabahagi nun, magkakaroon ka ng katahimikan?” tanong ng doktora

“Maaring hindi, maaring oo. Pero kung titingnan mo sa punto ko. Bakit ko pa pahihirapan ang ibang tao. Bakit kailangang magabala ako bg ibang tao, na ni hindi ko alam kung pasalamatan ko, o suntukin ko, for reminding me of a painful past? Hindi ba mas maganda na wala na lang akong maalala, that way, wala akong masaktan… wala akong pahirapan… at wala akong iisipin.”

“Hindi kita pipilitin Nipoy kung yan paniwala mo. Earlier sabi mo if you can ask a question. This time, pwede bang ako naman ang magtanong?” wika ng doktora.

“Sure, ok. Ano yun?”

“Pwede mo bang titigan ang larawan ni Salome, then ask yourself. Ito din ba kaya ang gugustuhin nya para sa iyo?”

Pagkawika noo’y lamabas na sa tent ang doktora. Naiwanan si Nipoy na nakatitig sa larawan nila ni Salome, kuha ng nakalipas na masasayang sandali.

 

Huling Tagpo…

Sakay si Nipoy sa isang bus byaheng Maynila. Maaga syang umalis sa Sitio Mainit. Saglit na dumaan sa bahay ni Mang Kardo, at iniwan ang isng sulat. Binalot ang ilang pirasong damit. Nagpahatid sya sa isang kaibigan sa paradahan ng bus ma tyempo naming may paalis na.

Alas Sais ng umaga, nagising si Mang Kardo at unang nakita ang sulat ni Nipoy. Kinuha nya ito at binuksan.

“Mang Kardo,

Sa oras na mabasa ninyo ito, maaring nakaalis na ako. Papunta akong Manila. Lubos po akong nagpapasalamat sa inyo, kay nanang, dahil sa pagkupkop ninyo sa akin. Marahil, kung hindi dahil sa inyo, palaboy laboy pa adin ako ngayon, at walang tiyak na patutunguhan. Napakalaki ng utang na loob ko sa inyo at sa pamilya ninyo, at hindi ko alam kung paano ko kayo pasasalamatan. Darating ang panahon at kung ipapahintulot ng Panginoon, babalik ako uli at ipagpatuloy ang aking nagawa.

Muli po maraming salamat. Meron po akong dalawang sulat na iniwan. Isa para sa mga magulang ko. Sabi po ni Doktora Sheryl, darating po sila kasama noong sinasabi nyang Col. Mariano. At ung isa para kay Doktora Sheryl. Pakiusap na lang po kung pwede ay ibigay ninyo. Pakisabi na lang din, wag na silang magabalang habulin at hanapin ako. Nais ko lang munang magisa at pagnilayan ang mga bagay bagay. Darating din ang panahon na uuwi ako.

Lubos na gumagalang at taos pusong nagpapasalamat.

Juan.”

Agad naming naghanda si Mang Kardo at pumunta sa evacuation center sa Sitio Mainit. Pagdating ay sinalubong sya ni Doktora Sheryl na nagaalala. Kasama ng doktora ang napagtanto nyang marahil ay mga magulang ni Nipoy at isang opisyal ng sundalo.

“Mang Kardo, salamat naman at napunta kayo, paalis n asana kami upang puntahan kayo.” Wika ng doktora. “Eto nga pala ang mga magulang ni Nipoy. Si Dr. Ethan Nipacio at ang asawa nyang si Atty. Elena Nipacio. Kasama din naming si Col. Mariano, ang dating commanding officer ni Nipoy”.

“Kamusta po kayo Mang Kardo, balita naming kayo ang kumupkop at umaruga sa anak naming nitong nakaraang limang taon.” Sambit ng ina ni Nipoy.

“Ayos lang naman po ako Attorney.”  Sagot ni Mang Kardo.

“Elena na lang po.”

Matapos nagkamay at naupo, agad iniabot ni Mang Kardo ang mga sulat sa ina ni Nipoy at kay Doktora Sheryl.

“Pasensya na po kayo. Pagkagising ko kanina, yan na lang po ang inabutan ko. Ang sabi nya sa sulat nya papunta syang Maynila at nakiusap syang kung maari daw ay wag ninyo syang sundan at bigyan ng pagkakataon na makapagisip.”

Saglit na binasa ng mga magulang ni Nipoy ang kayang liham.

“Papa, bakit ganun ang anak natin?” wika ng ina ni Nipoy habang niyakap ang asawa. “Hindi ba niya tayo gustong makita? Naisip ba yang limang taon nating syang hinahanap. Tapos ngayon na natagpuan natin sya, bigla na naman syang umalis ng di man lang tayo naisip na makita?

“Mama, Hayaan mo na muna si Nipoy. Alam kong sa ngayon hinahanap pa nya ang sarili nya. Alam kong nabigla lang sya sa mga nalaman nya. Ilang araw lang akala nya ganun lang kaliit mundo nya, tapos bigla lang nalaman nya lahat. Kahit sino, mayayanig sa nalaman nya. Hayaan mo lang muna sya. Kilala natin si Nipoy, uuwi din sya.” Wika ng ama ni nipoy

“Sabik na akong makita sya at mayakap. Ilang taon din syang nawala sa atin. Pero tama ka, marahil kailangan pa ni Nipoy ng panahon para maisip nya lahat at matanto nya kung saan nya ilalagya ang sarili nya.”

Sa loob ng bus patungong maynila tahimik si Nipoy. Naglalaro sa alala nya ang lahat ng sinabi sa kanya ng doctora. Maya-maya at muli nyang pinagmamasdan ang larawan nila ni Salome.

“Kilalang kilala ka ng puso ko.  Hindi mo matatago ang kalungkutang nadarama ko habang minamasdan ko ang maamo mong mukha. Pero bakit, wala akong maalala sa iyo? Bakit, kahit isang segundo ng pagsama natin wala akong maalala. Pero, sa puso ko, andito ang isang napakalaking kawalan.” Tanong ni Nipoy sa sarili.

“Tuwing tinitingnan ko ang mukha ko, parang magaan na mabigat ang nararamdaman ko. Mabigat na alam kong hindi na kita muling makasama upang matanong sa iyo kung paano kita minahal. Mabigat dahil, hindi ko alam kung paano kita sundan, dahil hindi alam ng isip ko kung asan ka. Ito ang nagpapabigat na nararamdaman ng puso ko. Nalulungkot ako, dahil hindi ko lang matanong sa iyo kung naging masaya ka sa piling ko. Ni hindi ko man lang madala sa isip at puso ko ang mga alaala natin. Pero alam ko, darating din ang araw na lahat ng tanong ko ay masasagot. Ang maipapangako ko lang, aantayin kong dumating ang araw na yun.”

Matagal na nagiisip si Nipoy habang nakatingin sa malayo… Muling tiningnan ang larawan sa marahang sinabi…

“Alam kong ikaw ang langit ng puso ko, pero, nasaaan ang daan pantungo sa iyo? Nasaan ang daan papuntang langit? Hindi pa marahil ngayon… pero darating din ang panahon na matuntun ko ang daan pantungo sa iyo – Salome”

EPILOGO…

Sa General Headquarters ng mga marino..

“Sir. Col Mariano Sir.” Hangos na sabi ng isang Civilian staff.

“Yes” wika ni Col Mariano na kararating lang.

Sir, may isang sulat po na dumating para sa inyo. Nilagay ko po sa mesa ninyo.”

“Thank you” sagot ni Col Mariano. Agad siyang pumasok sa opisina nya at doon nakita ang isang sulat. Agad niya itong tiningnan at nakita na galing ang package kay Private Jonathan Nipacio. Binuksan nya ang sulat, dito nakassad:

“Sir, I am a marine and will forever be one. I am proud to have served under you and will always carry that pride in my heart. But, right now, my heart is not in the service, for which I have no memories of. So I willingly and by my own volition, resign from my commission as a member of the Philippine Marines. I express my deepest gratiutude to you and the Corps.  Private Jonathan Nipacio. PN.”

Matagal na tiningnan ni Col Mariano ang sulat, bago tumayo at dumungaw sa bintana.

******

Sa Mindanao, sa Cotabato Regional Hospital, katatapos lang nagpunch ng kanyang time card si Amira ng nilapitan siya ng isng kasamahan.

“Amira, may package kang dumating kanina. Sabi namin wala ka kaya inwanan na sa amin ng nagdeliver.”

“Ha? Kanino daw galing?” tanong ni Amira

“Hindi ko alam, pero nakalagay dun Pvt. Jonathan Nipacio” wika ng kasama nya. “Uuuuyyy, baka ano na yan…” tukso ng kasama nya.

“Loka loka ka talaga… Sige, puntahan ko na lang. Salamat.”

“Walang anuman”

Agad na pumunta si Amira sa nurse station kung saan nakita nya ang isang package na nakaaddress sa kanya. Agad nya itong binuksan, at dun nakita nya ang mga bagong gamit ng isang nurse, isang kahon ng mamahaling gamot. Sa isang sulok nakita nya ang isang sulat at agad nya itong binuksan.

“Dear Amira, Marahil, hindi mo na ako matatandaan. Pero utang ko sa inyo ng ama mo ang buhay ko. Ako ung lalaking niligtas ninyo, mahigit limang taon ang nakakaraan. Marahil, kung di dahil sa iyo at sa ama mong si Mang Ibrahim, ay wala ako sa kinalalagyan ko ngayon. Nagpapasalamat din ako sa kapatid mo na syang nagbantay sa akin habang nasa PGH ako. Hindi matutumbasan ng kahit ano kalaking pera ang ginawa ninyo para sa akin, pero napgalaman ko na sira na pala ang sasakyan ng ama mo. Kaya may sinama akong isang tseke, na maari nyang gamitin para pamabili ng bagong sasakyan, ng sa ganun ay di na sya mahirapan. Muli, taos puso akong nagpapasalamat sa kabaiting ninyo. Pvt. Jonathan “Nipoy” Nipacio. “pinangalanan mong Juan”

Napaiyak si Amira habang binabas ang sulat. Maya-maya pa’y kinuha ang kanyang cellphone at tinawagan ang ama.

*****

Sa Sitio Mainit, nalasampak ng paupo si Mang kardo habang pinapaypayan ang sarili ng hangos na dumating ang kapitbahay na si Pedring.

“Mang Kardo… MangKardo”

“O Pedring, ano bang nangyari at tila nagmamadali ka. Halika dito at mainit dyan sa may tarankahan ko.” Wika ni Mang Kardo.

“Mang Kardo, may dumating kasing delivery kanina, pero andun ka pa daw sa bukid kaya, kanina pa kami nagaantay sa iyo.” Wika ni pedring.

“Bakit, ano bang balita yan at tila parang di ka magkamayaw sa excitement mo.”

“May nagdala ng isang magarang sasakyan sa center natin. Nakalagay para sa iyo lang. Eto nga may sulat na kalakip.”

Agad iniabot kay Mang Kardo ang sulat at nanginginig itong binuksan ni Mang Kardo.

“Mang Kardo, Humihingi ako ng paumanhin sa bigla kong paglisan. Sa mga panahong yun, magulo ang isip ko at hindi pa ako handang tangapin ang mga nalaman ko at harapin ang mga tao sa aking nakaraan. Kaya pinili ko munang magpakalayo. Alam kong kailangan mo ng sasakyan, kaya pinadala ko ito sa ito. Akin ito, binili ng mga magulang ko pero hindi ko masyado nagamit. Kaya pinapahiram ko muna sa iyo, habang wala pa ako. Pero babalik ako dyan upang ipagpatuloy ang mga nagawa ko. Ikamusta niyo pala ako kay nanang, at sabihin mong wag pabayaan ang kanyang kalusugan. Lubos na nagpapasalamat. Nipoy/Juan”

“Ang gara ng sasakyan natin Mang kardo, pasakay naman.” Wika ni pedring

“Luko luko, kay Juan yan, pinadala lang dito para magait nya pagbalik nya.”

“Totoo ka Mang Kardo, babalin na si Juan? Aba, mas magandang balita yan. Sige po ibabalita ko yan sa mga kababaryo natin, may mga babaeng hindi na naman makakatulog nito…” Agad na tumalilis si pedring habang natutuwang tinitingnan sya ni Mang Kardo.

*****

Sa bahay ng mga Nipacio, dalawang buwan makalipas na nakauwi ang mga magulang ni Nipoy, isang sulat ang dumating. Binuksan ito ng kanyang ina at binasa.

Papa at Mama, humihingi po ako ng paumanhin, alam kong hindi ninyo nagustuhan na umalis ako gayong alam kong parating kayo. Alam ko ding sabik kayog makita ako. Hindi ko nais saktan kayo, pero sa mga oras na yun, hindi pa ako handa na makasama kayo. Hindi ko pa alam kung ano ang gawin ko kapag nasa harap ko na kayo. Natatakot din ako na baka magulat kayo kung hindi ko man lang kayo makilala kapag nagkaharap na tayo. Pero, pasasaan ba’t uuwi din ako. Kapag natagpuan ko na ang sarili ko, kapag kaya ko ng harapin kung ano ako at kung ano nangyari sa akin. Uuwi din ako. Sa paguwi kong yun, hindi ko man maalala ang lahat kung ano ako, ay tangap ko na ang lahat at handa na akong harapin at pasalamatan ang lahat ng pinagkakautangan ko ng loob, noong panahong, hinahanap ko ang daan ko. Nagmamahal, Nipoy”.

Luhaang ngumiti ang ina ni Nipoy saby bigkas…

“Sige anak, hanapin mo ang daan mo, at kung makita mo na, sana makita mo din ang daan pabalik sa amin ng ama mo… Andito lang kami, at aantayin ka naming dumating…”

 

WAKAS…