Journey into Disaster • Chapter 4.01. online • What? •

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Journey into Disaster

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4.01. What was that?


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4.01. What was that?

The officer and I are just passing the barrier when the gatekeeper speaks to me: “Your visitor is Mr. Kabaltos?”

Startled, I answer quickly: “That’s correct, sir! But Mr. Kabaltos is allowed to stay at the cell yard. I’ll be back quickly too.”

“No, no,” the gatekeeper answers, “it’s his cell phone that he left here. It is buzzing very often.”

The gatekeeper and the officer exchange a few words, and tell me to wait because the officer is already going to Michael to take him to the gate.

Michael checks his cell phone. Meanwhile, we go to Officer Sarang’s office. The escort officer sits down at Sarang’s desk. Behind Officer Pangutana’s monitor sits a handsome, sporty and elegant dressed man. He will be around 40 years old. “Mr. Heger, nice to meet you. I heard about this extremely embarrassing story. May I introduce myself? Pizarro, Attorney Pizarro.”

We shake hands powerfully, although this is not common in the Philippines. The attorney’s English seems to be good. Probably he was abroad for a couple of years? I believe.

Attorney Pizarro sits down behind the monitor again and uses the computer keyboard. I sit at the corner of the desk across from him, but I can’t see the screen and reply: “Yes, of course, an embarrassing story. You could say it that way.”

“You are close to the children and their parents, Mr. Heger?”

“Yes, of course, sir. I’ve known the boys since they were born and the parents for a long time.”

“Well, that’s very good. You don’t have an attorney yet?”

“No sir, you are the first attorney I speak to.”

He is reading a thin police file.

“Is that my file?” I ask curiously.

Attorney is puzzled by my question: “Yes, a copy of it, Ma’am Tolisan was so kind.”

I realize this is the attorney the policewomen are recommending. Whether an attorney who is recommended by the police in secret — because the police are not allowed to recommend attorneys — is really the right one? I get cautious.

The attorney continues as he studies the file: “Well, the kids don’t say anything about abuse. There are also no offensive photos. You opened the cottage door voluntarily, Mr. Heger. The children were sleeping and no one was naked when the rescue operation took place. But the boys romped naked on the beds in the hotel beforehand. Oops, strange,” he says while turning the page,” a page is missing. It is probably not meant for me.”

The attorney grins oily and turns to the computer. He taps the Enter key briefly and loudly: “Republic Act 9208, human trafficking, life imprisonment!”

At first I think I misheard. It echoes in my head: “Life imprisonment?” Then I’m thinking he’s kidding me. What he said bounces off me because I don’t want to hear that.

The attorney goes one better. He frantically types on the keyboard and pops the Enter key loudly again: “Republic Act 7610, Child Abuse, 12 to 15 years imprisonment.”

I get hot, my pulse and my blood pressure goes up. My blood sugar, however, is apparently dropping because I am starting to shiver. Now I feel miserable. Confused, I shake my head, wipe the sweat from my forehead with my little cloth and croak with a dry throat: “But, but, the children, they are not testifying against me and the parents are on my side and good friends.”

My mind spins like a merry-go-round and I declare Attorney Pizarro crazy. It flashes through me: The business of fear! Yes, he wants to scare me in order to win me over as his client! Immediately I pass my judgment on Attorney Pizarro: No, not like that, not with him! Not that way!

Pizarro is not finished with his incredible statements: “All parents are your friends? In that situation it would be better if the parents file a criminal complaint against you!”

I think I have misheard again. That’s outrageous, and that takes the biscuit! Now I am totally confused and speak hoarsely: “Never!” My dry throat scratches, I cough, clear my throat several times and hardly bring the words over my lips: “Why should the parents do that?”

The attorney works the keyboard, answers casually and appears arrogant: “Because it’s better.”

For me the conversation is over. I cross my arms demonstratively on my chest and move the chair a little backwards. The plastic chair creaks pathetically on the concrete floor. Like a trumpeter I make big cheeks and let out the air loudly.

Attorney Pizarro probably understands my body language. How and what he asks seems like sarcasm to me: “Are you okay, Mr. Heger?”

I’m sweating on my forehead again. I wipe it away with hectic movements and be silent because I’m speechless.

The attorney suddenly holds a business card in his hand. It’s the size and thickness of a credit card, is made of plastic and has a high-gloss surface. When I turn the card, the font and logo appear three-dimensional. Lost in thought I let the high-tech business card circle in my fingers and look sadly at it from all sides. I would love to jump up straight away, run out of the office and be with nice Michael. Though I’ve never smoked in my life, my body screams for nicotine while I think about Michael. Or is my body crying out for sugar? For chocolate? I just don’t know what’s going on with that stupid body. But I still feel miserable and the slight tremor does not subside.

Again Attorney Pizarro seems to be able to read my mind: “You need legal assistance, Sir Heger.”

Oh, suddenly he’s calling me “Sir.” I’m angry.

Attorney Pizarro is standing now behind the desk. Contrary to his elegant appearance, a bunch of keys hangs and jingles on the carabiner on his belt. The voluminous Toyota car keys are striking. They certainly belong to a fat SUV.

“Call me or let the policewomen know and don’t wait that long. My phone number is on the card.”

We shake hands again. This time his hand is dominant and powerful. He waves my hand like a handkerchief in the air. The attorney leaves the room with great strides. Exhausted, I sink into the stupid, loudly creaking plastic chair, am confused and annoyed at the same time and have only one thought: What was that?

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