Saturday, May 19, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 28)

June 29, 2010 (5am)
                It was dawn. The sun was beginning to rise from the east. The air was still and cold. Callon had gone to his house to take a short rest two hours ago. As the morning slowly became brighter, he sat before his desk to write notes. He tried to recall all of the moments in which saw Chalano.
                The list that he wrote was not very long, for he didn’t see the kid very often. One of the incidents in the list was that night when he caught Chalano inspecting the soil in the crime scene after house number 3 burned. Callon stared at that part of the list, thinking very deeply. The soil.
                Callon hurried out of his house, and walked along Lincoln Street all the way to house number 3. Once at number 3, he went under the police line to enter the property. He walked to the part of the ground where he had seen Chalano inspecting something 11 nights ago. He took a magnifying glass from his pocket, and bent down for a closer look at the soil. He took a twig nearby, and used it to dig a small hole into the soil. The soil on the surface was slightly lighter in color than the soil beneath it. He put the magnifying glass back into his pocket. He took a small paper bag from the pocket of his jacket. He placed the open paper bag on the ground, and used the twig to move some light-colored soil into the bag. He straightened up as he tightly closed the bag, and put it back into the pocket of his jacket. He ran to the road, and hailed a commuter vehicle. The nearest crime laboratory was in the main police headquarters, which was about two kilometers away.

                It wasn’t very sunny, and the sky was full of white clouds. There were many noisy students in the canteen. As usual. Chalano sat down on a chair amidst all the noise, and took his lunch from his backpack. He placed the small container on the table before him. Lunch was tuna, which made him anticipate lunch break all throughout the morning. He ate as quickly as he could, because their recess time was limited.
                The school bell rang, its piercing sound reaching the farthest corners of the campus. All of the students hurried to their classrooms, and Chalano put the food container back into his backpack even though he hadn’t finished eating yet. As he jogged toward his classroom, he saw a man walking to the back of the juniors’ classrooms. Non-students were not allowed into the campus during school hours, unless they were members of the faculty. But he couldn’t recognize the man. The man was wearing a black jacket, a baseball cap, denim pants, and rubber shoes.
                The back of the juniors’ classrooms actually led to a long passage that went almost all around the whole campus, and ended beside the school gate. Maybe some mean student told him that it led to the Registrar’s Office, Chalano thought. He ran after the man to inform him that he had taken the wrong way. Chalano entered the narrow passage. The man was already at the first corner, which was behind Chalano’s classroom.
                “Sir,” Chalano said when he finally reached the man. “That’s not the way to the offices.”
                “I never expected that you would come to me,” the man said as he stopped, with his back still turned to Chalano. “I thought that I would have to bring you to me.”
                Chalano was puzzled, and asked, “What do you mean?”               
                “You’ll understand what I mean in a few minutes,” the man said as he reached into the small bag that he had been holding. He brought out a small bottle. Written on the bottle was “gasoline.”
                Frightened, Chalano asked, “What are you going to do?”
                The man laughed, and turned to Chalano, saying, “What else, Charlie?”
                Starting to panic, Chalao rapidly thought about the name “Charlie.” He couldn’t recognize the man, but, aside from his mother, there was only one person who insisted on calling him by that name.
                “Collifer Moneto,” Chalano exclaimed. “Cole, you are the arsonist?”
                “At least, we are re-introduced.”
                “I thought that you were imprisoned.”
                “The police freed me after I helped them catch all of our members. You were lucky because there weren’t plenty of evidence against you, and you were a minor, but you were actually on my list.”
                “Traitor! How could you do that?!”
                “It was all about saving your own skin, Charlie. What can I do? I had to be free.”
                Chalano couldn’t control himself. He attacked Cole, but Cole quickly caught his arm, and twisted it. Chalano screamed in pain. Cole tightly wrapped his right leg around Chalano’s left knee to bend it, and Chalano fell to the ground.
                Chalano crawled away from Cole, who silently watched him. Chalano stopped before a small plant, and held his wounded knee. Grimacing in pain, he slowly said, “You recruited all of them. You taught them to be loyal to you, and you taught them to be bad. They wouldn’t have been bad if not because of you. They trusted you, Cole.”
                “They had a choice. They had a choice to listen to me, and they had a choice to quit. Being imprisoned was their choice.”
                “Go to hell!”
                “Yeah, I’m going there. I’m from hell anyway. Same with you.”
                “What do you mean?”
                “You shouldn’t go on with the illusion that you are good. You are not qualified to be in the Youth Council, and you are not qualified to graduate from high school as if you are a good boy. You’ve sinned once, and you’re gonna carry that sin for the rest of your life. You are a killer. A criminal. No matter how much you aspire to be good, you’re not good.”
                Cole threw the gasoline into the stock room, which was beside Chalano’s classroom. He said, “My dad locked me up in my bedroom as soon as the police set me free. I couldn’t feel freedom, so I burned all of us. I’ve kept burning my enemies, and I’ve been getting better at it. Now, a whole school. More than a hundred students. After this, I’ll leave you here. You will be the suspect. Good for you, because you need to face the real you: a killer.”
                “Not my friends!”
                “Kim is not your friend. He’s your enemy. You are bad, and he is good. I am with you. Do you remember your final days with us? You made such a nice art from those dogs. I learned from you. You introduced me to fire. We both know the pleasure of burning. With a flicker of those flames, someone is gone. Fire is more than just a statement. Fire is power.”
                Chalano was unable to stand up because of his wounded knee. He looked at a nearby fountain. It was a statue of Aquarius, who was holding a jar. Water was flowing out of the jar, down the body of the statue, and into a small, cemented pond. He tried to call the water. Help. Help. The water continued flowing calmly to the pond. He couldn’t believe it. The water won’t listen to him.
                Cole reached into his small bag, and brought out a test tube with a blue liquid in it. He also brought out a matchbox. Chalano stared in shock as Cole took a matchstick, and scraped it against the side of the matchbox to light it.
                “Hey,” John called as he walked into the passage from the back of the juniors’ classrooms. “Chalano, are you okay?”
                John froze at the sight of Cole opening the test tube. He walked faster toward Cole. Cole mixed the burning matchstick into the test tube, and swung his arm to throw the mixture into the stock room. John screamed as he began to run toward Cole, “No!”
                Cole let go of the test tube. John reached Cole, and used his body to block the way of the test tube. The liquid fell all over John’s chest, and he began to burn. He loudly screamed as he ran out of the passage, and went away from the buildings, “Turn on the fire alarm! Stay away from the stock room!”
                He ran to the middle of the empty, wide parking lot, and stopped. He collapsed. The wild flames covered his body. And then he was gone. All that were left of him were ashes and smoke.
                The piercing sound of fire alarms filled the air. Emergency sprinklers in the corridors went on. Emergency lights went on. Students hurried out of their classrooms, and made their way to the ground floor just like what they had done in fire drills.
                Cole climbed up the wall at the back of the school, and went over it. He landed on a roof of a house, and ran like crazy from roof to roof. Chalano sat staring at the ashes. He was too shocked to scream.

The phone in his office had been ringing. Callon left the water dispenser, and hurried into his office to take the call.
                “Inspector Gallaner?”
                “I’m Dr. Mardin Esso from the crime lab. The substance that you brought in is consisted of soil, and bone fragments. The DNA belongs to Mrs. Chrom, one of the people who were said to have been burned inside 3 Betsy Street, 4th Project Town.”
                Callon’s radio suddenly came alive. “Thanks” was the only thing that he could say before putting the phone down to join the other members of 4th PATF (4th Project Arson Task Force), who were already running out of the precinct to another emergency.
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