Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Friday, August 15, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (64)

Too fast. Things are happening too fast, thought ’Pak Bambang. His head whirred in contemplation of the day’s events so far. It was as if time had deliberately sped up, mocking his inability to stretch out what little of it he had left. Absently stroking his chin with a hand, he stared vacantly into space for a while, deciding eventually that there was no option but to call his son. It was finally time for the discussion he knew he should have prompted some time before, upon first discovering that he was terminally ill. Picking up the telephone, he dialled the number he knew by heart. After a few rings, his daughter-in-law could be heard on the line. “Assalamu’alaikum.” Her voice, as ever, seemed to ooze a curious mix of culture and innocence together. The woman’s evident good nature began to point a finger at ’Pak Bambang, instilling within him a sense of remorse. She’s always been there for my boy. Stood beside him through thick and thin. And yet I’m about to betray her, he admitted, inwardly. But the old man knew that he had to press ahead, anyway. Whatever the consequences. “Wa’alaikumsalam,” he managed to reply. “Hello, my sweet. Is Daman there?” he then added, swallowing. “Yes of course, Ayah. I’ll get him right away.” She addressed him as if he were her own father, with the blind obedience her upbringing had taught her. “Papa? What’s up?” Now it was his boy on the line. My son. My poor son. All those years… ’Pak Bambang could barely conceal the sudden wave of emotion that swept over him. Almost choking on the words, he made the arrangements that he hoped would lead to his release from the cage of guilt he felt trapped within. The rendezvous that would facilitate his confession, and in some way make amends for all the heartbreak he had caused: “Daman… ’Nak… Could we… meet? For a chat? There’s a couple of things I… I need to discuss. How about the golf club…? Let’s say an hour from now?” “Sure – but we’re coming round to the house tonight, remember? Is everything OK?” “Of course. Of course it is, son. Just… just meet me there.” “OK. See you at the club at… three-thirty,” Daman concluded, checking his watch. He had tried to remain positive but, despite his upbeat response, there was a quizzical look on his face as he then rang off. “Bye.” At the other end of the line, ’Pak Bambang put the receiver gently back into its cradle and tried to compose himself. Mentally, he began rehearsing exactly what it was he was going to say…

Detective Adi was not altogether sure what he could offer by way of assistance, but he sensed there had to be something he could do to make up for the part he had played in the boy’s misfortune. He kicked himself for not considering the poor kid’s fate sooner. Bringing his car to a halt, this time a few blocks before reaching Sate Blora, he continued on foot through the drizzle, his shirt becoming soaked through by the time he reached the scene of his earlier ordeal.

Despite the rain, there was still a sizeable crowd of onlookers – street-kids mainly, many of whom stood staring, fascinated, at the blood that stained the earth where Anath fell. The excitement generated by the day’s surprise events was tinged with fear, the hair bristling on their necks as if subjected to static shock. As Adi approached, he saw that some of them were replaying the action, their movements as much a product of their fertile imaginations as mimicking what they had witnessed. Some toted their fingers around like guns – bang! – while others wrestled in slow motion. Each re-enactment seemed to add a new chapter to the story, making it more elaborate than the last. Walking up to a group of them, Adi reached into a jacket pocket for a pack of Gudang Garam that he kept for just such occasions. “Ayo! Boys! Mau rokok?Cigarette? The waifs rushed to gather round him, failing in the hubbub to spot the obvious signs of battle that scarred his face. Signs that, were they to pause for thought, might suggest a link to the events of a few hours before. “What happened here?” he asked them, feigning ignorance. Adi’s simple question produced a babble of rapid storytelling, a half-dozen voices striking up at once, eager to tell their tales. He handed out the kretek, which they tucked away into pockets or lodged behind ears, not perhaps to smoke, but instead to later sell.

“So – where did they take the boy? Ke mana?” continued the Detective, once a relative calm had returned. “Dunno,” replied one, his comment echoed by another. “Yeah – dunno.” The rest either shook their heads or stared back at him, blankly. Quiet now, the street urchins looked guiltily at one another, realising they had given the matter no thought. Suddenly, just to their rear, a city mikrolet lurched to a juddering halt, its inexperienced driver stalling the engine at the very last moment. A series of weary-looking passengers began to disembark, their clothes bloodstained to varying degrees. The first of them, a well-built man, called out to the others before disappearing purposefully off into the distance. “It’s OK. Thank you, boys,” Adi finally said, patting one of them on the head before moving off in the direction of the bus.

The parting pleasantries of the passengers could be overheard as he approached one, a large woman who appeared completely fatigued. “Did you see what happened to the boy?” he asked. Viewing him with obvious disinterest, the woman kept her response as brief as she could. “We took him to Rumah Sakit Medika,” she half-whispered. “The hospital on the outskirts of town? Down the main highway?” Adi queried. The woman nodded. “Is he still there?” She nodded again. “Which ward?” “Darurat. Casualty, of course.” Thanking her, the young Detective moved smartly away, back in the direction of his parked Toyota, breaking into a trot as he went. A curious look momentarily formed across the woman’s face, before she dismissed the thought that had begun to form in her mind, and turned to walk in the direction of her nearby home, where she would take some well-earned rest.

posted by Kirk at 11:39 pm  

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