Journey into Disaster
- Title: Journey into Disaster
- Author: Konstantin von Weberg
- Copyright: © 2020 Konstantin von Weberg
- Cover: © 2020 Konstantin von Weberg
This is the novel Journey into Disaster.
Konstantin von Weberg • 2020 – 21
Buy the German Edition as eBook or Pocketbook! Written in easy and current German.
Preview on Amazon [German Edition]
1. Saturday night (continous)
1.04. Say it!
In the meantime it has become quieter in the chamber. Apart from the sonorous whirring of a table fan and the working noises of the two officers at the desks, it is indeed depressingly quiet in the office. Through the window of the door, I’m watching Ma’am Papillio and Ma’am Tolisan conspiratorially moving closer to the children. The children are sitting in a semicircle around the policewomen. Now and then the children secretly watch at me through the smeared glass.
The children are tired, confused and at all not good looking.
The day before this horror story began has been full of actions. First the bus trip, second, the time in the shopping mall and eating our lunch. Then the two-hour action into the swimming pool area. The boys couldn’t get enough. After swimming and after relaxing in the room, we went again in the shopping mall, for burger and iced tea. But the main reason was the medicine for Phil’s toothache. Back in the cottage, the boys watched “Tom and Jerry” on TV and fell asleep very fast.
I remember the boys today. The shiny eyes, the happiness and their joyness. It was the highest level of happiness.
I’m rubbing my face with both hands. After the eyes burning slightly. I am totally exhausted now. Officer Sarang offers a menthol-lemon candy: ”A little patience please, sir.”
The candy stimulates the senses.
Damn what now? The children are under police investigation and I can not do anything in this cramped, shabby and musty police station. It’s stressful for the children and me! The children were woken up by strangers and taken to the police station. Then the intrusive camera team. Now the tough questioning late at night. Why all this and what’s next?
The questions are spinning around in my head, but there are no answers. It’s almost one o’clock, and I have a headache. Nevertheless, I noticed that the atmosphere in the chamber is getting tense.
Basically, the policewomen finished recording the children’s personal details. There are a few gaps in the data stored in the computer, but that is not important for now, because the policewomen know that the families will appear as soon as possible. Then it can be added what is missing right now. As far as they can tell, the boys come from poor but intact families.
Ma’am Papillio and Ma’am Tolisan are a well-coordinated team. The wordless communication between the two can hardly be interpreted by outsiders. Especially not for children. They decide to ask the crucial questions, despite the late hour and the condition of the children. Ma’am Papillio and Tolisan move up close to the children and lower their heads as if to discuss a secret. Unconsciously, the children do the same.
Ma’am Papillio asks softly: “Does your big friend Tommy do strange things with you?”
Ma’am Tolisan adds kindly: “Such things that kids should not do.” She’s stretching her arms now, playing tiredness and artificially yawning: “Such private things. You know what I mean.”
Ma’am Papillio wants to know: „Did Tommy touch your private body parts?“
I observe that the kids are shaking their heads, being silent and staring on the floor.
Aboy is the first who speaks. In an aggressive tone he answers honestly: “No!”
Ma’am Tolisan speaks maternal and trustful: “Tommy has a very nice photo camera. It looks expensive!”
Ma’am Papillio interrupts Ma’am Tolisan: “Did Tommy take photos of you?”
Ma’am Tolisan becomes louder: “Without any clothes, picture when you are nude?”
„No! No! No!“ the boys answer simultaneously.
Aboy is outraged, jumps up and screams: “Why should Tommy do that?”
The little Dan sobs a little bit, but doesn’t cry.
Sam is also upset, but says only „No!“ and shakes his head wildly.
Phil holds his hand in front of his mouth. He has big eyes and looks scared.
It seems he keeps a secret. Ma’am Papillio mentally interprets the gesture. Phil stays continuously silent.
Jan and Sam, the two oldest, move with the chairs a few centimeters back. Then Sam is holding his hands in front of his face. Jan’s face color is changing from pale brown to red and back again. The bodies become rigid and sweat builds up on the faces. They are quiet and won’t say anything more to the conversation.
Ma’am Papillio and Tolisan recognize how the boys go in self-protection.
Aboy definitely drums his fingers on the seat of the plastic chair.
Dan and Phil lock up and fix the polished concrete floor.
Sam goes out of the rigidity and his right knee is moving now up and down.
Jan continues fixing an imaginary point on the wall behind the computer.
Ma’am Tolisan tries again awkwardly: “Don’t be afraid. You can tell us anything. We’re on your side. Trust us.”
The boys are silent. The conversation is extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing for them.
Ma’am Papillio is frustrated and realizes that she doesn’t get the five. She failed to build the bridge.
Tomorrow they will reveal the secrets.
Ma’am Papillio gives the signal to end: “Oh,” she’s playing astonished and is looking at the brightly colored Mickey Mouse watch on her wrist, “it is so late? Time to sleep!” She claps her hands softly twice and whispers something in Ma’am Tolisan’s ear.
The children are remaining silent and continue to avoid direct eye contact with each other and with the police woman.
Ma’am Tolisan carefully folds the yellow paper with the notes and slips it under the computer keyboard. At this moment she’s getting up and leaving the chamber.
Ma’am Papillio uncups a tiny bottle of “Efficascent Oil“ now, putting drops at the tip of her index fingers and rubbing her temples. Immediately the small room smells pleasantly of the essential herbals.
“Does anyone like a refreshment?“ she asks and recognizes how cute the small boys are. Ma’am Papillio is sadly: “Tommy is a nice guy. He likes you all. That’s right, isn’t it? He is your big friend and best buddy. If there were anything unusual between you and Tommy, say it, boys. I know this is maybe embarrassing for you. You may already know that adults do things that children don’t do. And all of you probably know a bayot, a homosexual. A man who lives with a man and not with a woman.”
The young nod barely visible and grin a little.
Aboy suddenly laughs: “The cousin of Sam is that one!”
Sam immediately counters: “So what! What about Boboy? Your uncle, huh?” He asks for a drop of the green Efficascent Oil, rubs it on his neck and says: “That’s good, ma’am.”
Aboy and Phil also accept ma’am’s offer. All the boys thaw.
Now I’ll catch the boys, Papillio thinks and she formulates the most important question in her mind: Did Tommy touch you? She wants — damn it — to clarify the case! Here and now. She nervously takes a deep breath, is about to ask her question, but then the door slamming open, that the loose pane of glass is rattling.
The woman who knocked on the cottage door is standing in the doorway: “Ma’am Papillio,” she is gasping breathlessly, “you want to speak to me? Did the children tell you something?”
Ma’am Papillio is frightened at first, then perplexed and finally angry. “Shit!” she hisses.
The woman in the doorway is asking scared: “Sorry, ma’am?”
1.05. Damn, where is the problem?
At the same time as the interview of the boys in the chamber.
I can’t longer follow up the drama in the narrow chamber, the suffering of the children and also the two police women. At the same time as the tough questioning of the children, CIDG Officer Villanova appears in the office, rumbling and puffing. He slams the door and rudely puts my backpack at my feet. He briefly opens the door to the chamber, says a few — for me not understandable — words and shakes his head towards Ma’am Papillio. Before Villanova closes the door of the chamber, I clearly hear an “okay” from Ma’am Papillio.
The “Okay.” is spoken like singing. Short “O”, and long “Kay”. An “okay” that women usually use when they agree to something, but actually do not like or want, or thinking exactly the opposite.
Officer Sarang nods to me in relief and quickly raises his right thumb, unnoticed by Officer Villanova and the policewomen. I have absolutely no nerve or the imagination to understand the connection between CIDG Officer Villanova, the “okay” from Ma’am Papillio and Officer Sarang’s gesture.
I don’t have time to think about the “okay” or asking any questions, because Officer Villanova is now standing in front of me. He has something from an ape. The sturdy build. The somewhat too long arms with the big hands. His missing neck with a square head. In addition, the short legs and a trained body, but beer belly and bald head. Well, the latter probably doesn’t have a primate. He’s not fat, I’m realize in the cold neon light, he’s just built in that way!
Villanova grins broadly and presents incomplete teeth. At the same time, he briefly lifts the backpack and states: “It’s pretty heavy!“
“That’s the single-lens reflex camera with the lens,” I reply without looking up. I prefer to keep what I’m thinking to myself. It’s none of your business, brutal idiot!
A tablet is stuck under his left arm. At first I thought it was my tablet PC, but now I’m realizing that this is some no name product.
Officer Villanova tries to speak understandable English: “I read the Miranda Doctrine to you in the hotel room.”
I’m annoyed: “The what? Minrinda, Maranda what please?”
Officer Villanova gasps impatiently: “You have the right to remain silent!”
With a mockery in my voice I answer: “I can’t remember!” I have a sulky smile: “I was probably busy with other things!”
Officer Villanova is upset: “Just make fun of. This is not funny at all. Your situation is anything but for laughing!”
I reply bitterly: “I get that, sir! What please — damn it — are you blaming me?”
Officer Villanova grins confident of his victory and taps on the back of the tablet PC: “You will find out in a moment. But first I will read again the Miranda Warning, or as we say the Miranda Doctrine. So that I was your arresting officer — meaning the officer who arrested you — don’t go in trouble. We never know! Foreigner, big money, private attorney!” He laughs maliciously.
I don’t understand much about his chatter, but I still know how to translate what I have heard last in my German language. Foreigners, pockets full of money, private attorney. Annoyed, I’m asking now: “What are you talking about?”
Villanova points to the policemen: “Officer Sarang and Officer Pangutana are my witnesses.”
The two young police officers nod a little without looking up from their desk work. Villanova takes a deep breath, looks at the paper in his hand and begins to read. His chest swells, his English is poor:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
Well, well, well. I’m thinking during his eagerly reading, what else do I have to endure?
Nevertheless, I translate what I understand in my language. Of course without any words.
After a few minutes Villanova finally finished his speech. Suddenly I’m dog tired.
“Do you talk to me, with us?” asks Officer Villanova critically. He looks serious.
Immediately I am wide awake again: “I will, but tell me what the stupid problem is?”
1.06. Law is law
Again that night, I rub the fatigue out of my face with both hands and bring something sweat from the forehead into the eyes. Now I see CIDG Officer Villanova blurred. I ask again, this time formally and in a friendly manner: “Sir, please, why am I being arrested? What gives you the right to knock on the cottage and bring the children and me here?”
Probably because of my sudden friendliness, Villanova looks confused and he stutters: “Sir, your name is Heger?”
“That is correct, sir,” I answer quickly.
He explains: “Okay, just a moment, Mr. Heger. I’m just turning on the tablet. Then I’ll show you what the problem is.”
Officer Sarang and Pangutana seem to be satisfied now. They feel the latent aggression is gone.
The tablet screen lights white. Villanova is impatient, moves with his thick finger over the tablet and buzzing: “Okay, see here, that’s the problem. Here is a paragraph of the Philippine law, Republic Act 7610.”
He holds the tablet very close to my nose, so that I’m unable to read the text. Now I’m moving it back carefully and finally I’m taking the tablet in my hand.
Villanova moves with his finger the text on the screen up: “Read paragraph (b).”
I do what Villanova advised me. But before I’m reading paragraph (b), I’m skimming the headline:
Other Acts of Neglect, Abuse, Cruelty or Exploitation and Other Conditions Prejudicial to the Child’s Development.
As far as my concentration allows, I am translating in my language to understand. Then I’m moving paragraph (a) up out of the screen and skimming paragraph (b):
(b) Any person who shall keep or have in his company a minor, twelve (12) years or under or who is ten (10) years or more his junior in any public or private place, hotel, motel, beer joint, discotheque, cabaret, pension house, sauna or massage parlor, beach and/or other tourist resort or similar places shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its maximum period and a fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000): Provided, That this provision shall not apply to any person who is related within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity or any bond recognized by law, local custom and tradition or acts in the performance of a social, moral or legal duty.
I understand the text only in parts. What I’ve heard is overwhelming and I have real problems to put this in my brain.
Officer Villanova is friendly now. It seems it’s also more comfortable that we have found a reasonable communication level: “If I’m allowed to make a summary: the children are 12 years and below. You are not the father, stepfather, uncle, cousin or the brother-in-law and so on, and you do not have any other official social or legal legitimacy?”
I shake my head in disbelief and now I’m understanding Ma’am Papillio’s and Officer Sarang’s questions about my relationship to the children or a possible social assignment, such as priests, coach and so on. I get hot, beads of sweat form on my forehead. I feel the pulse in my throat. The blood pressure rises because the pressure in my temples increases. I cough because my throat is bone dry. For a few seconds I am unable to have clear thoughts. The room turns and wobbles slightly.
My emerging panic is apparently noticed by CIDG Officer Villanova. He instructs Officer Sarang to bring more bottles of water.
Like a pile of misery, I sit slumped there. I’m speechless and finally have to get my brain under control. I pour the cool water down, and immediately feel a little better. I stammer in a hoarse voice: “I didn’t know that, sir! We don’t have such a law, I mean, in my country. This is a misunderstanding! I can explain that.”
Officer Villanova shakes his head: “Good, Ma’am Papillio will discuss everything else with you. Good luck and take care of your hand.” He points briefly to the band aid, turns fast about on his heel, nods to the young police officers and leaves the office without a word.
Short and painless the guy. I’m thinking now while I’m looking with open mouth at the closed office door.
Officer Sarang guesses my thoughts: “He’s just like that. Don’t blame him. He’s been through a lot. His wife was also a police officer. She was shot by a drug dealer. Now sit in a wheelchair.”
I don’t know what to do with this information and nod carefully. That’s all in all a little too much, so late in the night.
Ma’am Tollisan rushes out of the chamber, passes me without a second glance and leaves the office.
Officer Sarang approaches: “I’m thinking there is still good news for you, sir. But Ma’am Papillio, the boss, should better discuss that with you.” Officer Sarang looks at his watch and is startleds: “Oh my God, so late? Well, we’ll take care of your gadgets tomorrow. I would just like to briefly ask you to see whether all the gadgets are in your backpack.” He laughs out loud: “Not that something was left behind in the hotel.”
I can’t laugh at the joke right now, and I’m checking the content: “Everything seems to be there!”
The officer happily picks up the backpack and locks it in a cupboard in the left chamber.
He grins like a boy: “Don’t worry, nothing will be stolen here.”
My humor also returns: “Yes, after at all, we’re in a police station.”
The office door is suddenly pushed open. But it’s not Ma’am Tolisan who rushes through the room now, but the little woman who knocked on the cottage door in the hotel and was hyperventilating. Her function is still not clear to me. She now pulls open the door to the chamber so that the loose pane of glass in the frame rattles softly and she exchanges a few words with Ma’am Papillio.
Ma’am Papillio hisses the word clearly: “Shit!”
Startled, the woman steps back out of the chamber and begins to hyperventilate again.
I feel the sudden tension in the air.
1.07. Violation against the law?
The children are finally coming out of the chamber, and the function of the small older woman from the hotel is still a mystery to me. She stands halfway in the doorway, either stroking each boy’s head or shoving him out of the chamber by the shoulder. Now the children are looking perplexed in the office, while the woman is speaking excitedly but quietly to Ma’am Papillio. Superintendent Papillio seems to be upset. The boys look around, embarrassed, and look at me with pity. They are sleepy and sweaty.
Aboy breaks the awful silence. First in Visayan and then in broken English he asks: “Tommy, ikaw okra? Tommy, are you okay?”
Jan repeats Aboy’s question.
I yawn loudly: “I’m so tired!” Then I try to calm the children: “Don’t worry, boys. That’s a misunderstanding. I didn’t know that it is forbidden to sleep in a hotel with children who are not yet 12 years old. It’s my mistake, but it will be clarified soon. I’m sure we’re going back to Sendong City tomorrow.” I wipe over my hair: “Hey, you all look so very tired.”
“Tommy, you made no mistake,” replies Sam.
With discomfort I try to recall the law. How was it? I must be in a social, moral or legal duty. What does that mean? We wanted to buy school supplies. Then the parents gave permission to the trip. So I do have the legitimate duty in the social or moral sense? Shit! I’m scared when I see the faces of the children: “Sorry, boys! You are certainly very tired.”
The boys look at me blankly with big eyes.
Ma’am Papillio and the little woman notice our small conversation and come hurry out of the chamber. The policewoman instructs the children to pick up their backpacks, which are behind the desk where the young officer is sitting. Slowly the kids put their backpacks on their shoulders. The woman is impatient and claps her hands.
The policewoman speaks reassuringly to the kids: “Boys, you are sleeping in the BSWD youth home tonight. Ma’am Solano from the BSWD will accompany you. Be nice and follow her instructions.”
The children nod and briefly whisper to one another.
Again it is Aboy who finds the courage to speak: “We have cellphones. We want to call our parents!” The four other boys nod.
I remember, Filipinos call the German word ‚Handy‘ (it means mobile phone) ‚cellphone.‘
“Children!” calls out loudly the woman from the youth home. She stretches the word ‚children‘ — like the word ‚please‘ in the hotel when she asked me to take a view into the cottage a few hours ago — miserably into the length. She holds her hand in front of her mouth now and is shouting: “Oh, my gosh! We can’t allow that now.”
The children get shocked about the speech of the old woman.
That’s the same stupid ‚Oh, my gosch‘ gesture as in the hotel room, I remember bitterly. After all, I know her name yet, Ma’am Solano. She will certainly be an employee of the youth welfare. But why has she been there, then who knocked on the door in the hotel and not the police itself? I wonder.
Ma’am Papillio talks again reassuringly to the children: “Later in the morning you may call. Look, it’s already in the middle of the night. Your parents are already asleep.”
The boys look even sadder than before. It seems, Aboy, Sam and Jan are thinking how they should react. This is clearly visible in their faces. Nevertheless, they stay quiet and seem to agree with the statement. The fatigue pays a tribute apparently.
Suddenly, the youth social worker Solano is waving her arms wildly, as if trying to catch chickens. “Come on, come one!” she says hastily.
She doesn’t give me a second glance. Not at present and also not at all in the evening. With her chin raised proudly, she visibly enjoys the situation, the success and the triumph, as she puts her hands on Dan’s back and on his head and pushes him towards the exit. One after the other, the children disappear through the door, Ma’am Solano last.
I do not like this arrogant woman.
Right now I do not have the slightest idea that this person plays a crucial role in my life.
Officer Sarang and his colleague look questioningly at Ma’am Papillio. Ma’am Tolisan just appears into the office, reads the time on her golden ladies‘ wristwatch and sighs without saying a word.
Ma’am Papillio turns to me tiredly: “Mr. Heger, I think you don’t want to comment on the matter now?”
“Ma’am Papillio, I’ve known the children since they were born. Had their parents‘ permission to travel. What gives you the right to drag us out of the hotel? Then those caustic cameramen and the countless people in the hotel room who took hundreds of photos of the sleeping children! Look, my injured hand.”
The policewoman interrupts me: “Please calm down, Mr. Heger. Sorry, but we’re very sorry about your hand. It can happen once. It’s very late and we discuss everything else tomorrow morning. Officer Sarang will take you to a cell. You can sleep there.”
I protest loudly: “And why am I arrested? I want to get out immediately! That will have consequences! You have nothing, absolutely nothing, against me. I want to contact my embassy immediately. Damn it, immediately!”
Ma’am Papillio seems puzzled and asks: “Didn’t Officer Villanova explain our law Republic Act 7610?”
“Yes, yes! But that can’t be your serious, ma’am! I had the parents‘ permission for the excursion and we wanted to go back this morning! So, where is the crime here, please?”
Ma’am Tolisan stands next to us the whole time and now says harshly: “Breaking the law is breaking the law!”
“It’s okay, ma’am!” Ma’am Papillio reassures Ma’am Tolisan and silences her. She replies to me: “Mr. Heger, we’ll sort that out later. Now let’s all sleep a few hours!”
“I have the right to contact my embassy!”
“At half past one at night?” Ma’am Papillio counters.
I remember Officer Sarang’s words with resignation: “But the officer said that here is good news for me.”
Officer Sarang looks embarrassed at the floor.
Ma’am Papillio thinks for a moment, then she says resolutely: “Mr. Heger, we’ll talk about that later. That has nothing to do with the legality of the arrest.”
I am defeated because I have no further arguments. Panicked and desperate, I look into the faces of the four police officers who have now taken their places around me: “I can’t believe it! I have been arrested! I haven’t done anything! Why, ma’am?”
“Calm down, Mr. Heger. We’ll see later. Let us all sleep.” Now Ma’am Papillio is in a hurry. She instructs Officers Sarang and Pangutana to bring me in a cell.
She smiles at me: „Good night, sir!“
1.08. The horrible cell!
We walk out of the office, left along the gloomy corridor and the flat stairs between the two swing doors from the vestibule. Just straight on, past the closed barrier would be the exit for my liberty. At the right hand of the barrier is a square, two-storey watchtower located. The barrier with the watchtower is illuminated by two neon tubes. The guard with the short machine gun, it could be an Uzi, looks tired but curious. Surely he’s thinking of two colleagues with a foreigner on the way to the cells, that doesn’t happen every day – or night. After stepping out of the building, we immediately turned left and then once again left through a rickety wire fence.
Officer Sarang, he goes in front of me, calls, “Caution, sir!” and shows to the ground.
I don’t see what he means because it’s too dark and we are too fast and then we have certainly already passed the supposed danger zone. A few more steps and we stand in front of a closed gate from the wire fence. Officer Sarang laboriously unlocks the padlock with a large bunch of keys. Officer Pangutana, who is always behind me, gives light with a flashlight.
I ask into the silent night: “Officer, what’s the good news about?”
Officer Sarang, busy trying to find the right key, replies: “Well, probably my boss gives me a verbal warning tonight, coz I’ve talked too much. Ma’am will discuss that with you tomorrow morning. Only so much that has to do with your gadgets.”
Officer Sarang is cursing and the keychain jingles. Then the wire fence swings open with a squeaking and scratching on the floor. Now Officer Sarang is busy opening a lattice door. The flat building, in front of which we stand, is reminiscent of a horse stable with horse boxes. As far as I can see in the dark night and lamplight, there are three more doors made of steel bars on the right. A door frame without a door can be seen on the left. On the opposite wall of the building, two previously strong halogen spotlights shine. Now they light up only slightly yellow. Fat moths or other insects still fly against the weak lamps. The spaces behind the lattice doors are without light and deathly quiet, except of rattling breathing and snack noise. The keychain jingles, the padlock cracks, the lattice door squeaks when opening and also when closing. Again the keychain jingles and the padlock cracks and I’m in the black nothing.
I’m in the damn cell!
I hold the damp and rusty bars of the door with both hands and press my forehead against it. Thick, roughly welded structural steel. Behind me the absolute nothing. I even don’t have the courage to turn around. Apparently nobody beside me is in the cell. Officers Sarang and Pangutana also lock the gate of the wire fence and quickly disappear into the sultry tropical night.
They wish me a good night.
I hope the officers may come back right now. Jingles the keychain, crack the padlock, let the lattice door squeaks when opening. Go back outside. Out into liberty. Put an end to the unreal story. It doesn’t go into my brain:
Damn it, I’m arrested and locked up!
There is music and laughter. From time to time it flashes in all colors. That has to come from the square. There was a lot of action and people when we bent from the road to the driveway of the police station. I take courage and turn around. Black, it’s pitch black! This is the inside of the boiler of a steam locomotive. It doesn’t get any blacker than this.
Maybe the cell burned out recently and that’s why it’s so black.
It doesn’t smell burned!
Slowly I can see in the darkness. Compared to the lattice door, moonlight shimmers through a narrow window under the ceiling. The window gap without glass is only about 40 centimeters high and extends over the entire cell length. The window also has bars made from construction steel. On the wall between the cell door and window wall is a roughly made wooden bunk bed. In the weak light the bed appears like a wrecked ship or like the skeleton from a horror movie. It creaks suspiciously when I sit on the lower bed and I hope it will not collapse under me. In the depth of the cell, nothing can be seen in the darkness. The moon and the weak lamp light are not sufficient.
Worse than the darkness, however, is the stench, which I notice now: urine, sweat, puke, the sweetish smell of stale and spent air, and like damp earth. Nevertheless, I suddenly have the scent of grilled meat in the nose. That has to come across the square. Where the disco is, where life is raging, where people are celebrating and happy. Here is only death, mold, depression and loneliness.
I’m horrified and shocked and I whisper quietly: “The Devil! That’s a tomb, the atrium to hell! It lacks only the hell fire, but the temperature is already like hell!” Outside flashes the colorful lights of the disco spotlights and reflect on the wall from the police station.
I press the light button of the watch. For a few seconds, the black nothing is not bright, but sufficiently illuminated. Immediately I regret that! Because what I see is incredible. I can’t believe my tired eyes! Absolute chaos on the wall across from me. A mountain of rubbish piles up to the ceiling. I tap the watch button again and again and again. Paper, cardboard, cardboard boxes, full and empty bags, broken plastic chairs, cans, partly rusted, new and old plastic bottles. Smashed and complete glass bottles, several broken Coke boxes with several bottles in them, rusted metal parts, old, yellow neon tubes, a car tire with a rim, splintered wood and a yellowed rice sack with the imprint: NFA Rice, Grade 5, Vietnam, 50 kg. The sack is tied. There is a lot of packaging from fast-food chains. Much cannot be assigned in diffuse light. The source of the bad smell is the mountain of rubbish. There is rustling in the garbage and parts of the garbage move.
A deeply shock.
To make matters worse, I suddenly have to pee too! All that mineral water tonight! But where? There are no toilets, no sinks and no taps either. There is nothing! Not even a hole in the ground. Just nothing! I don’t dare to pee out of the door, because despite the dark knight, I noticed the camera that turns its eye on the cell doors. A plastic bottle lies on the floor. A clear, certainly new mineral water bottle. Clean and with a lock. Not thought about it for long and peed in, screwed the bottle and fired into the pile of rubbish. Immediately something with shiny dark fur and a long, smooth tail, squeaking loudly past me, scurries out of the bar door. I cry out because I’m just as scared as the rat, shudder again and whisper with horror: “What would have happened if she had jumped at me?”
I press the button for light again. There’s much more livestock there. An ant road from the garbage heap runs out of the door. Fat cockroaches do gymnastics at the lattice door. Small beige animals that look like lizards crawl around walls and ceiling, chasing insects. Now I also hear the mosquitoes whirring, shine once in a semicircle with the watch and discover a carpet of cobwebs on the bottom floor of the bed above me, but there are no spiders to be seen.
I’m the nervous wreck, but I don’t care now. Exhausted, I lay down on the dirty cardboard. The left hand pinches, but also it doesn’t matter now. I do not give a shit! I’m considering pressing the button for light again to check the time, but let it be.
No matter! Time doesn’t matter either!
Now I am lying there as I was arrested. In sandals, shorts and a shirt. Totally exhausted, I really don’t care about anything: the unbearable stench, the dirty cardboard I’m lying on, the creaking bed, the insects and the cattle, the disco music with the colorful flashes of light that goes with it and the laughter of the happy people far away.
I think of the five boys and I speak softly to the cobweb carpet above me: “Hopefully you will find a better place to sleep. Certainly it is. You are now especially valuable friends. Valuable for the police, the media and for whom or what anything else? For me! Yes, mainly for me!” I rub my face again: “What stupid and unnecessary thoughts!”
I close my eyes and immediately I’ll go there where I have been a few hours ago: between the wake and the sleep. In an unreal intermediate world.
1.09. Youth Home
Bureau of Social Welfare and Development (BSWD)
At the right side of the entrance from the street to the BSWD is a skewed white emblem of the office. The hand-painted logo of the BSWD adorns the concrete block: two stylized hands that encircle several people. On the narrow left side of the concrete block there are imprints of very coarse soles. Silent legacies of the deed that may have made the emblem awry.
It goes around two o’clock in the night. Moonlight renders the situation eerie. The heavy police vehicle drives onto the wet, sparsely lit area and its headlights cast cone-shaped light into the hazy tropical night. The diffuse light makes the concrete slab building that appears now, extremely repellent. The unimaginative seventies functional building is white painted and the rain has already washed off the paint at some places. The windows surrounding the building are at view sides protected with vertical round steel bars. There is a playground with a half basketball court in front of the three storey building. A wire fence, about three meters high with rolls of barbed wire on top, surrounds the property. The wire fence gate from this fence is open. Heavy chains with padlocks hang on the gates.
Lights on the front door and in the stairwell switch on together.
Five boys wearily get off the benches of the pick-up, which are placed in the center and facing the direction of travel. They shouldered their backpacks. Social worker Ma’am Solano steps forward like a mother duck and the boys trot along impassively. A policeman in a khaki uniform is the tail light. With his shouldered rifle, he looks like more a soldier going to war than a police officer. A driver stays in the vehicle and lights a cigarette. The policeman lights the way for the group with a powerful lamp. In the BSWD office, his assignment is over. He asks: “Permission to go?” but doesn’t wait for the BSWD employees, carries out the military salute with his hand at his forehead and disappears.
Ma’am Solano tells the children to take a seat in the corner of the office. She sits down at one of the two desks and immediately talks quietly to the elderly gentleman, who is dressed in beige trousers, a shirt and a vest and is sitting at one of the desks, even late at night. He has dark lacrimal sacs under his tired eyes, is probably as old as Ma’am Solano, and a little overweight. Ma’am Solano and the gentleman could be siblings. During the lively conversation, sweat forms on their foreheads. Sometimes they laugh cautiously and shake their heads. Then ma’am obviously shows the man the photos from the hotel room that she has saved in her cellphone. The gentleman looks at the display with interest, then smiles at the children, but shows no further reactions. Now he is typing on his computer keyboard while talking to ma’am. Carefully and slowly with one finger, considering each key as if he is afraid of damaging the keyboard with his fingers.
Beside the kids sits a young woman social worker and she is quiet. All employees have a laminated ID card at the band hanging around the neck. The pretty social worker listens to the conversation of the two older ones. She wears a thick ponytail. Sometimes she looks at the children in disbelief or furtively. But now she smiles. The wide pink jogging suit and the white sneakers looks nice on her.
The children are crouching, scared and disturbed in the corner like puppies waiting for the mother.
The young social worker suddenly reaches behind her and picks up a pack of six water bottles. She gives each child a bottle with the words: “A little patience, children, you can go to sleep soon.”
The children are thirsty, drink greedily, nod barely visible and briefly shrug their eyebrows and whisper: “Salamat kaayo, ma’am.”
She answers quietly: “You don’t need to say thank you.”
About ten minutes later, a dot matrix printer rattles. The thick but sympathetic smiling man tears the leaf from the endless paper and puts it ma’am on her table. She cumbersomely puts the golden reading glasses on the tuber nose and studies and signs. Then she yawns artificially, gives the paper back and looks briefly at the children with pity. Now she nods to her colleague, looks at the little gold watch, yawns again, holds the back of her hand to her lips, rummages through a few things, briefly looks at the children again, says good night and leaves the office without any words.
Now the elderly gets up from his chair. The neon light from the ceiling lamps is reflected on his bald head and face, and he wears trousers with creases. His narrow belt cuts the belly so that it hangs a little above the belt. There are countless pens in his left breast pocket. Together with him, the young social worker gets up.
Now he opens his arms as if greeting an old friend: “Welcome to the BSWD youth home!”
The children raise the eyebrows, but avoid direct eye contact.
“My name is Sir Sala. I am the boss from the Youth Center and the children’s home.” He nods with a crooked grinning to the social worker: “And the name of the young pretty lady is Ma’am Burque. She will take care of you until the matter has been clarified and we know what will happen.”
Ma’am Burque says kindly: “You’re surely very tired? You look so.”
The boss interrupts her: “You have been through a lot tonight. Don’t be afraid. Here with us you are safe!” He nods to Ma’am Burque and, lost in thought, asks the children: “You like to sleep in a four-star hotel?”
The children don’t know what the term “four stars” means. They don’t answer and look uncertain to the side.
“Well, it doesn’t matter,” ends Sir Sala. “Would you like to have a snack or drink before Ma’am Burque shows you the beds?”
The five are silent and continue to avoid eye contact.
Sam finds the courage to answer: “Can I call my parents?”
Phil screams: “Me too, please!”
Sir Sala looks at the clock: “Children, it’s 2:30 a.m. Your parents are all asleep.”
“But my father wanted to go fishing. He’s probably still awake!” replies Sam quickly.
“Mine too. I mean, my father wanted to go fishing too,” adds Phil.
“I also have a cellphone,” calls Jan.
Dan, Jan’s little brother, nods.
Aboy just says: “I have to go pee into CR!”
“You all have cell phones?” asks Sir Sala, surprised.
“Tommy gives us as Christmas gifts!” Aboy shouts proudly.
“Okay!”, replies Sala shortly.
Ma’am Burque helps her boss: “But children, we go to sleep now, your parents are sleeping too!”
The boys give up. They are also just too exhausted and tired for more protest.
Sir Sala looks at the children sternly: “Boys, I promise you, tomorrow morning you can call your parents. But in return you will tell us what happened yesterday in the hotel, I mean, what you did there yesterday, okay?”
The kids don’t even grumble.
“Well, children don’t be sad. You’re safe with us. Now sleep first. Ma’am Burque will show you the dormitory. Good night, boys.”
[End of Chapter 1 and the first hours of detention]
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This is a translation from the German language. Not verified yet. I’m searching you! Native English Speaker or similar for checking the English text. Contact me by email [HERE]
Copyright by NOKBEW™ • Oct. 2020