Saturday, June 9, 2012

Crab Mentality (Part 31)

June 30, 2010 (4pm)
    As he walked along Lincoln Street, Chalano decided to drop by Kim’s house. He wanted to talk about Emma, or, perhaps, reconcile with him. He and Kim never spoke with each other again after they had fought, and not even after John died.
Fortunately, Kim was just going out of their house to feed their dog, Minnie. He saw Chalano, but turned to the corner of their garage (where Minnie’s cage was). Chalano approached him.
    “Emma got nominated as President of the Student Council,” Chalano said as he stood behind Kim, who was sitting on a tiny stool beside Minnie’s cage.
    “Yes, she is,” Kim replied without looking at Chalano.
“Leah and Rica have been bullying her because of it.”
“Uh-huh?”
    “I saw them and their friends harassing Emma at the Park this afternoon. I still can’t believe that I did it, but I managed to scare all of them away. I promised Emma that we would be there to protect her.”
“’We’?”
    Chalano didn’t know what to say. After a long, awkward silence, Kim looked at Chalano. He said, “I never planned to tell this to you.” He looked back at Minnie. “But after everything that had happened, I probably should say it.”
    After a few seconds of hesitation, he suddenly stood up, and placed the stool inside a small cabinet. Finally, he said, “On the night that house number 3 burned, you found me hurrying through the crowd of onlookers. I actually came from John’s house. A couple of my cousins and I had gone to his house that night to gang up on him. I was just mad at him after he and his friends beat you up while you were alone and unable to fight back; I just wanted revenge.”
    “Now, I understand why you had blood on your lip that night, and he had bruises the following day,” Chalano said.
    “I bit his hand because he tried to strangle me. It was the reason why Rella later invited us to the stage play. John told her about it, and she was scared that it would happen again. I’m sorry, Chalano. I may not be as intelligent as you, but I’m definitely a lot braver than you. Too brave, I guess.”
“It’s great to be brave,” Chalano said. “At least, you learned that some people aren’t really that bad.”
“John was not really bad,” Kim agreed. “Maybe he was just frustrated with being the Student Council president in the same way that Emma is starting to be disturbed about the same position. Somehow, he became a hero. He saved all of us; the whole campus.”
    “Yes, he is a hero. I can still recall what he said to me, ‘If life is so short, it would be better to be friends instead, right?’”
    Both of them became quiet. Chalano stared at the road, and Kim stared at Minnie. They did their best to keep themselves from becoming emotional. Trying to change the topic, Chalano rapidly blinked away tears and said, “Speaking of Rella, why is she still alive?”
    Kim looked at him in surprise. “Speaking of Rella,” Kim repeated. “I have discovered something. Come in.”

    It was a very neat bedroom. Even though it was simple, there was something about it that was so sophisticated. The huge, glass windows had long, beige curtains. There were a couple of indoor plants near the windows. The curtains had been opened, so that natural light can come in. The part of the room that was unreachable by sunlight was lit up by a computer monitor. The computer monitor was resting on a white desk that was beside a revolving chair. The heavenly silence was ruined by Kim’s chatter as he led Chalano into the room.
“I’ve been observing news records of the arson for two days now. I couldn’t find any pattern. The arson led from my house to our school. You just can’t predict what’s next with a style like that. The killer doesn’t keep a regular schedule; he’s unpredictable. But I think that he’s lonely,” Kim explained as he slid the computer keyboard out of the desk, and took a brown stool so that Chalano could also sit down.
    “Why are you doing this?”
“The police won’t share their findings. Since the killer is still moving about, it appears that they have been onto the wrong lead. They don’t like to inform, and they do not like to be informed. That’s why I’m doing my own investigation.” He sat down on the revolving chair.
Kim held the mouse, and looked into the screen as he spoke. “I’ve been doing searches on the words ‘fire,’ ‘burn,’ etc. I found this.”
    A social networking profile appeared on the screen. “John Doe,” the name of its owner read. Chalano was going to tell Kim that it was not the arsonist’s name, but he suddenly remembered that Callon had ordered him to keep the name secret. Instead, he asked, “How sure are you that it’s the killer?”
“I’m not sure. I’m just curious, because, in a culture where everybody’s trying to be somebody, it’s strange to see someone who’s trying so hard to be nameless. Also, ‘John Doe’ is a name that is usually given by the police to an unidentified suspect. If you looked through his profile, you’d sense his need to hide, but, every now and then, you’d see a side of him that craves to be famous.”
    Kim clicked on the Favorite Quotes field, and said, “This is what got me thinking …”
    Written on the Favorite Quotes field was: “Your death means a new identity for me.”
    “He didn’t even include the source of the quote,” Kim observed. “I think that he created the quote, and I think that he’s referring to his victims. He’s unique with how he completely burns people and things, but what if he’s more unique than that? The quote is about death and identity. Someone’s ‘death’ is his ‘identity.’ I think that he’s talking about his victims’ identities. What if he turns into them when he burns them?”
“So, Rella is dead? And he walks around now looking like Rella?”
    “Looking like John, Chalano. He just burned John.”
Chalano thought about what Master had said, “The arsonist cannot be burned. That’s its power.” “Its left hand once accidentally got wet. Since then, the arsonist kept its hand covered with a glove that contained metal.” He thought about the day when he saw Rella:
   
 He glanced at the people who walked beside him, and the ones whom he passed by. They were so much in a hurry, that they didn’t notice a teenager like Chalano staring at them.
    Many of the people seemed to be in the working class. They were in office uniforms, and they rushed like their appointments mattered the most in the world. There were college students. There was a pretty girl who was walking even faster than most of them. She was about as old as Chalano. She was wearing a denim skirt, and her left hand was gloved. Chalano was totally surprised. It was Rella!
   
     Kim kept talking. Chalano didn’t want to listen to him anymore, because Chalano didn’t want to hear another thing that he would dislike. Rella was dead. He had been counting on the idea that she was still alive, but Kim’s findings just ruined his hope. Chalano couldn’t accept it. She was too kind. She shouldn’t have been murdered. This is impossible, he thought. How can a human being turn into anyone who he burns? This is just impossible!
Chalano’s attention shifted back to Kim, who was saying, “I’m waiting for his reply.”
“Whose reply?”
“John Doe’s reply.”
“What? You contacted him?”
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