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3 Quantum Suicide / Closer

10 August 2004

Theresa quickly left Christianne’s room and went off in search of Patrick. She found him in the kitchen, sautéing tuna flakes in a small pan.

‘What are you doing?’ said Theresa.

‘Well, all that absentminded girl has left to eat are cans of tuna, and I could never eat something straight out of a can, so here I am.’

‘Why aren’t you sleeping yet? You haven’t had rest for almost two days now, have you?’

‘We need to eat first,’ Patrick grinned. ‘I’m sure you’re famished.’

‘That’s beside the point…’ Theresa’s voice trailed off. ‘Never mind,’ she added before sitting down on a nearby chair to watch Patrick in silence. He turned off the stove and trotted over to the rice cooker. He lifted the lid, took a spoon, and prodded its contents.

‘This one’s done, too,’ he said.

‘Hm,’ Theresa observed, ‘you seem to know your way around the kitchen.’

‘Yeah,’ Patrick grinned again. ‘I learned a lot from my aunt—my uncle’s wife.’

‘You know, I remember reading somewhere that a girl should never trust a man who could cook.’

‘What?’ said Patrick in that befuddled way only he could.

‘I’ll set the table,’ said Theresa, ignoring Patrick’s confused expression, although her eyes sparkled with amusement.

They spent some time eating in silence. After they have had their fill, Patrick stared at Theresa, a question evident on his face.

‘What is it?’ said Theresa.

‘If you don’t mind me asking…’

‘Go,’ said Theresa with a bite of impatience.

‘Um,’ said Patrick, still with a hint of hesitation, ‘what’s the deal between you and your dad? I mean, judging from your surname, you must be…’ Patrick paused, unable to continue.

‘An illegitimate child, is that what you wanted to say?’ said Theresa. She took a breath, almost like a sigh, before continuing. ‘Yes, I am illegitimate. To be more specific, I’m a mistake my parents made while they were still in college.’

‘What?’ said Patrick.

‘Well, you know who my dad is, right? A son of the Aquino Group’s owner. My mum’s from this lower-middle class family; apparently her parents had to sweat blood just so she could get into college. Then, during her freshman year, she somehow caught my dad’s eye. I could imagine how hard it would be to resist him, if he put all his efforts into having you. Eventually, they did it, she got pregnant, and I was the result. My dad’s family—well, I think you could understand; they wouldn’t let a mere peasant marry a possible future head of their family’s business. My mum’s family disowned her—they didn’t care even if my dad married her; she said they told her that they didn’t bring her up just to sell her body to some rich man. So, to summarise all that, my parents made a mistake, and I was a result, therefore I am a mistake.’

‘Still, you shouldn’t be calling yourself “a mistake.” Maybe what they did was, but you didn’t have anything to do with that; you were just the product. Don’t go blaming yourself for the decision other people made. At least they had a choice.’ Patrick paused, and then added almost as a whisper, ‘At least you have them both.’

‘What do you mean?’ said Theresa.

‘My mother died while giving birth to me. Can you imagine that someone had to die just so I could be born?’

‘Hm, I might just turn your own advice back on you,’ said Theresa. ‘Don’t blame yourself for things beyond anyone’s control.’

‘But… I think my dad hates me.’

‘That’s no excuse. I know my mother hates me—or so she said a few times. As for my dad, I don’t know what he thinks of me, but I’m sure his family hates me for being this dark secret of their son’s, as well as a siphon of their wealth. In any case, my mother might have called me a mistake, but I didn’t sulk about it. I go out there every day to prove that I was a mistake worth making. If you really feel that way, why don’t you go do something to make your mother’s sacrifice worth it?’

Patrick was growing uncomfortable with the conversation. He regretted bringing this topic up, so he changed tack.

‘What will we do now? About our situation, I mean.’

Theresa glanced questioningly at him, but then she closed her eyes as if in acquiescence. ‘I hope the doctor’s not in too much trouble. We can go look for his house, ask him about what he knows regarding what happened to us, and maybe knows a way to remove your dreams. I’m sure he has ideas; I just didn’t get to make him tell them because you suddenly burst in.’ Patrick gazed apologetically at her, but she shook her head lightly and gave him a small smile. ‘I haven’t thanked you yet for saving me, have I?’ she said. ‘But please, next time, don’t do things differently from what you see in your dreams.’

‘Can I ask why?’

Theresa was pensive for a moment. ‘I suppose I could tell you this much… You could destroy the world if you do.’

‘Just by doing something different from my dreams? Even as little as turning left instead of right?’

Theresa nodded. ‘You’re not meant to change the future, after all. And you’re not supposed to add something that shouldn’t be there.’

Patrick had a horrified look on his face. ‘All those times…’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Theresa. ‘Those changes have passed, I think. But I guess we’ll need to ask Dr Agcaoili about them, just to be sure. Now, go to sleep. We need to be early tomorrow.’

Patrick blinked hard, as if suddenly realising why he would be sleeping in Christianne’s living room sofa instead of his own bed.

‘Somebody tried to kill me…’

‘If there were, then he’s a persistent fellow. Remember the mall bombing yesterday?’

Patrick nodded, aghast at Theresa’s deduction.

‘Hey, do you know someone who wants you dead?’

Patrick shook his head. ‘I don’t think I’ve offended someone that badly. I hope…’

‘Then this might all be a coincidence. Don’t worry too much about,’ said Theresa with a reassuring smile; she seemed to be doing that more often. ‘In any case, that’s another thing we’ll ask Dr Agcaoili tomorrow, just to be sure. Now go to sleep, Patrick,’ she said kindly but firmly. She took their plates and left them on the kitchen sink. On her way to the guest bedroom she saw a sliver of light from Christianne’s slightly opened door suddenly disappear. So she was watching us, Theresa thought. She shrugged to herself.  We were doing nothing wrong.

* * * * *

Not a kilometre away from them stood OJ, beholding the ruins of a destroyed bungalow, unmindful of the bustle of the vehicles and men around him.  Is this her second target? he thought. Or is this a new terrorist altogether?

He didn’t need further troubles—he was still smarting from what happened in Dr Agcaoili’s office. To think he’d pull something like that off… Due to pressure from the higher-ups, he was forced to release the physicist until he had stronger evidence for his complicity in the bombing. Or bombings.

But he knows something; I’m sure he does. OJ knew he was risking his badge by doing so, but he ordered a discreet twenty-four-hour surveillance on Dr Agcaoili. If Theresa Santos contacts him again, I’ll get them both.

A tap on the shoulder shook him from his musings.

‘What is it, Guerrero?’

SPO2 Raymond Guerrero saluted and said, ‘I have preliminary data from this bombing, as well as information regarding our search for the suspects.’

OJ nodded for him to go on.

‘The bomb experts did an analysis of the bomb residue, and they found—’

‘Let me guess: ammonium nitrate and nitromethane.’

‘Ammonium nitrate, at least,’ said Guerrero, nodding. ‘But they said the blast size indicates that more than ten kilogrammes of the stuff was used.’

‘Still,’ said OJ, ‘same material as yesterday’s bomb. Did they find the detonator?’

Guerrero shook his head, ‘A bomb this big, it could’ve been vaporised.’

‘Why bomb this place, though…’ muttered OJ to himself. ‘No one died here, correct?’

‘No body was recovered, sir.’

‘Whose house is it?’

‘It belongs to a’—Guerrero leafed through the papers in his hand—’an Agapito Sumibol, a retired seaman, and his wife Lualhati. Some of the neighbours we asked said that the couple took in a boarder more than three months ago. His name’s Patrick, surname unknown, a student in Universidad Central.’

‘Patrick?’ said OJ in alarm. ‘Wasn’t Theresa Santos with a Patrick Cruz when she first visited IRHEP? Could they be in it together? Maybe this was where they made the bombs… but there’s no gas station anywhere nearby. First thing in the morning, ask the university for pictures of this Patrick Cruz.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘How’s the search for Ms Santos?’

‘She’s not at home, sir. Her mother doesn’t know where she is, but she did call some lawyer over to give our people a hard time.’

‘Great,’ cursed OJ. ‘By the way, where’s Rivero?’

‘She’s back at HQ. She got the records of ammonium nitrate sales, and she’s going through them now.’

* * * * *

SPO4 Agnes Rivero was at her desk at the Central Police District homicide division, with a stack of papers in front of her and a pot of coffee by her side. She had been compiling data on the sale of ammonium nitrate from authorised dealers and manufacturers during the last month, and now she browsed through them, occasionally making notes on a legal pad. Ammonium nitrate was a controlled substance, due to its use in improvised explosive devices, but it was also a much-used fertiliser. Due to the possibility of abuse, potential buyers must provide a name and an address, as well as present a government ID to confirm the information given, before they could purchase ammonium nitrate. Its sale in the city has declined due to the rise of composting, as encouraged by the eco-friendly programme of the current mayor of the city. But there were still those who chose to buy ammonium nitrate for its reliability, despite the hassle involved in buying it; hence the five-centimetre thick pile before Agnes.

There had been no massive purchases of ammonium nitrate over the past month, Agnes saw. No one bought more than ten kilos of the stuff—the biggest single purchase she saw was eight. But Agnes noticed that there was someone who made repeated purchases of five kilos—she had encountered the name for the seventh time now—from different dealers. She checked the name of the buyer: Alan Gomez, a sergeant in the army. Agnes wrote the name down on her legal pad, along with the note: ‘check army records.’ In two of his purchases he used a credit card. Agnes jotted down the number, followed by a note: ‘call credit card company when banks open.’ She checked the time. 10:20 pm. Her friend in the army records would probably still be up. She reached for her phone and dialled a number from memory.

‘Captain Flores speaking, who is this?’ said a wary voice after a few rings.

‘The army must have run out of good men if they even thought of promoting you, former lieutenant,’ said Agnes with a laugh.

‘Agnes? Agnes Rivero? Hey! How are you?’ Agnes heard a loud cheer from the phone. ‘Listen, my team’s down by three, and it’s the last two minutes of overtime; can you call me later?’

‘Ah, bad time, sorry Larry. But could you check a Sergeant Alan Gomez when you have the time? You can call me back here in the office; I’ll be here all night.’

‘Wait, lemme write that down,’ said Larry as Agnes heard fumbling over the phone. ‘Sgt Alan Gomez, right’ said Larry slowly, as Agnes heard the scratching of a pen. ‘Is that all?’

‘Yes, and congrats on the promotion.’

‘Thanks. Now if you’ll—’

‘Okay, bye,’ said Agnes before hanging up. She went back to the file while she waited for him to call back. She saw Sgt Gomez make three more purchases of five kilos of ammonium nitrate, bringing his total purchases to fifty kilos. What would he need that much for? Then Agnes remembered that five detonators had been stolen, and each bomb used ten kilos of ammonium nitrate. Could this Sgt Gomez be the bomber?

Less than an hour later, Agnes’s phone began ringing.

‘Sorry, Agnes,’ said Larry pre-emptively, ‘shouldn’t have called me during the game, it screws my mind up. I know the old man, Sergeant Alan Gomez. He retired from front line service three years ago after he lost both legs to a land mine. He was one of my mentors here in records during all of last year, before some general snatched him up to be his personal clerk.

‘Do you know which general?’

‘Um, let me see… Major General Teodoro Garcia, head of army special forces planning. What’s this for, anyway?’

‘Just checking loose ends. Thanks, Larry,’ said Agnes evasively before hanging up.

‘Special forces planning, huh?’ Agnes muttered as she stood up to pace in her tiny cubicle, restoring circulation to her numb legs after hours of sitting down. ‘That means he has access to that armoury. But he’s an amputee… What’s going on here?’

11 August 2004

Patrick woke up with a gasp.

There was a reason he kept trying to put off sleeping. Even in the metro, when he closed his eyes to rest, he did his best not to let his mind drift away.

He knew what would happen if he surrender to unconsciousness.

He had a dream of the future. It was a future Theresa said he shouldn’t change; otherwise he would destroy the world.

He dreamt of a future he wished he could change.

The message in his hand.

The desperate rush towards a certain place.

And the blinding flash—the knowledge that he was too late.

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