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“Tatlong lalaki ang patay matapos makipagpalitan ng putok sa mga pulis. Narito ang buong ulat ni Felix Cordon.”

“Tsk. Patayan na naman,” sabi ni Warden habang nililigpit ang kinainan niya.

“Ano pa bang bago? Sa panahon ngayon, mas madalas na ang pagpatay kaysa panganganak,” dagdag naman ni Handei.

“This is one of the reasons why foreign investors are scared to enter our country’s economy,” Kissa criticized as she finishes her report.

“How about you, Captain? What can you say about this?” tanong naman ni Warden at nakita kong nakatingin silang tatlo sa akin.

“You guys pretty much said what I wanted to say,” sabi ko na lang. “Anyway, get ready. Since the crime scene happened three blocks away from here, I’m sure their bodies will be sent to us.”

“Okay, Cap!”

Kumilos naman sila agad at naiwan ako sa Common Area. Pinatay ko ang TV at nagpahinga saglit dahil katatapos lang ng monthly report namin. Pipikit na sana ako pero naramdaman ko ang vibration ng phone ko kaya agad ko ‘yong kinuha sa bulsa ko. Pagtingin ko ay nakadisplay sa screen ang pangalan ni Dad. For God’s sake, not about that again.

“Yes, Dad?”

“Dawn, nakapagdesisyon ka na ba?”

I knew it. Buti na lang at hindi niya ako nakikita dahil siguradong pagsasabihan niya ako dahil sa facial expression ko ngayon.

“I told you, Dad, I don’t need a boyfriend!”

“But I need a son-in-law and a grandchild! You are my only daughter and you need to continue our family.”

“Dad!”

“Do you know the Captain of the Photography Division of Forensic—”

“That Oslov? No way! I can’t even stand his presence during our weekly meeting.”

“Then how about—”

“Stop it, Dad! Seriously! Kapag pinilit mo pa ako sa bagay na ‘to, hindi na talaga ako uuwi.”

Pagkasabi ko no’n ay in-end ko kaagad ang call dahil baka lalo pa kaming mag-away. Huminga ako nang malalim para kalmahin ang sarili ko. Other fathers would not even let a guy approach their daughters so easily, yet here’s my Dad, trying to set me up with some jerks. That old man needs to mind his own business.

After a few minutes ay tumayo na ako para bumalik sa trabaho pero nagulat ako no’ng naabutan ko ang tatlo sa may pintuan habang nagpipigil ng tawa.

“You . . .”

“Captain, gusto mo bang kami na ang maghanap ng boyfriend para sa’yo?”

“Si Oslov? Pfft. Baka magbarilan lang kayo sa date niyo.”

“But Dawn, you’re already 25 years old, right? Do you even have your first love or something?”

Ngumiti ako sa kanila at lalo lang silang tumawa. Inabot ko kaagad ang baril sa table at mabilis ko ‘yong kinasa. Bigla naman silang natahimik.

“S-sige, Captain, b-balik na kami sa lab.”

Pagkatapos no’n ay agad silang umalis at naiwan naman akong mag-isa roon. It’s really hard when you have a father who’s dead set in finding you a husband material and subordinates who tease you everyday. What a life.

Sumunod naman ako sa kanila sa biosafety laboratory at nagsuot ako ng PPE. I scanned my ID to enter the lab and saw them doing their own jobs. Dumiretso ako sa loob ng clean room para ipagpatuloy ang blood test na ginagawa ko. Basically, I’m doing a PCR analysis to determine the DNA sequence of the victim and the suspects. The victim’s DNA profile would tell his identity and that would solve a lot of problems regarding the case since his face was brutally hammered and the investigators couldn’t tell who he is.

Pagkatapos ko sa analysis ay sinend ko kaagad ang results sa main computer at saka ako lumabas. Halos sabay lang kami ni Warden na natapos sa tests na ginawa namin at papunta na rin siya sa computer room.

“How’s the fingerprint analysis?” I asked since that was his job.

“Confusing,” sagot naman niya habang umiiling.

“Why?”

“All of the suspects have their fingerprints on the murder weapon. The three of them.”

“That’s difficult to assess.”

“Yeah. Pero sino kaya sa kanila ang pumatay?”

“Well, that’s not our job. We only have to provide them the necessary evidences, and that’s it.”

Dumiretso kami sa computer room at kinumpleto ang kanya-kanya naming reports. After a few minutes, Handei and Kissa entered the room and typed their own reports, too. With some minor additions, I finally finished my report and sent it to the Forensic Head Office so that they could compile and analyze it.

I think they could identify the victim and its killer right away due to the advancement of science and technology. Decades ago, it would take a few days or even weeks to finalize the reports, but now, due to the bills and laws passed by the previous administrations, it’s easier to catch criminals.

Eight years ago, I remembered the law about DNA profiling and the completion of the Philippine Genome Center. The government required all Filipinos to have their blood tested so that they could have a record on everyone’s identity. For the places that do not have any access to health centers or hospitals, medical volunteers did the job. Right now, when a child is born, he or she is also required to give blood samples after six months. However, even though it’s required, I know that some people didn’t participate on this due to various reasons.

Napatigil naman kami sa paggalaw nang biglang tumunog ang alarm.

“Warden, check it,” sabi ko at agad naman siyang lumabas sa laboratory.

“Cap, it’s the CSI unit,” sagot niya kaya agad akong lumabas sa Computer Room.

Naglakad ako sa hallway at nakita ko naman ang grupo nila. Dinala ng CSI unit ang mga bangkay sa autopsy room at sumunod naman ako.

“Norman,” tawag ko at agad naman siyang lumingon.

“Hi, Cap,” he greeted while all of us entered the room.

Norman is one of the forensic pathologist duo of our team and along with him is Gabbie, a medical examiner; Thalia, a field analyst; and several police officers to assist them.

Three body bags arrived and they immediately started working. Nagpaalam naman ang mga pulis at muling bumalik sa crime scene habang inabot sa akin ni Thalia ang mga physical evidence na nakuha nila.

“What is the initial report?” tanong ko kay Gabbie.

“Death was caused by gun shots,” sagot niya. “Oh, you’re here.”

Napatingin naman ako sa likuran at mukhang natapos na niya ang report na inaasikaso niya kanina.

“Gun shots?” tanong niya agad habang sinusuot ang gloves at labgown. Napangiti ako nang makita ko siya dahil parang nagiging ibang tao siya kapag oras na para sa autopsy.

“Yes,” Gabbie answered. “Thalia and Sir Norman already have the initial examination.”

“Okay.”

Naglakad siya papunta sa table kung saan nilapag ang body bags at mukhang mabilis lang matatapos ang imbestigasyon nila.

“Norman. Handei,” tawag ko at halos sabay silang lumingon.

“Yes, Cap?” sabay rin nilang sagot.

“Report the results immediately,” I ordered. “Well then, work hard.”

The four of them nodded to me and I left the room without any worry. After all, Handei and Norman are competent forensic pathologists and they’ve been a huge help to me ever since they were assigned to my division. In addition, with the trustworthy Thalia and Gabbie, those two wouldn’t have any problem.

Babalik na sana ako sa Computer Area para tignan kung may pending reports pa bang hindi natatapos pero napahinto ako nang mag-ring ang phone ko. Kinuha ko kaagad ‘yon sa bulsa ko at maiinis na sana dahil akala ko si Dad na naman pero nanlaki ang mga mata ko nang makita ko ang pangalan ni Mom.

“Oh my God!” Agad ko ‘yong sinagot at tumakbo na ako papunta sa Computer Area para kunin ang gamit ko. “Mom! Oh my God, I’m sorry! I forgot!” sabi ko habang mabilis na inaayos ang mga gamit ko.

She let out a sigh and I could imagine her smiling face, as if she already knew what I just said. “I knew it. Buti na lang at tumawag ako bago tayo magkita.”

“Papunta na ako, Mom,” I replied. Nakita ko pang palihim na tumawa si Kissa habang tinatapos ang report niya kaya tinuro ko kaagad ang monitor niya para sabihing mag-focus sa pagta-type.

“You should really buy a planner, Dawn. Lagi mo na lang nakakalimutan ang mga lakad mo,” she said while I mouthed the same words. Yup. Lagi ring ‘yan ang linya mo, Mom.

“Sige na, Mom. I’ll be there in ten minutes. Bye!”

Lumabas ako sa office at nagmamadaling naglakad papunta sa kotse ko. Buti na lang talaga at walang traffic ngayon kaya naging seven minutes lang ang byahe ko. Tumakbo ako papunta sa café na meeting place namin at mukhang alam niyang ako ang dumating kahit nakatalikod siya sa pinto dahil tinaas niya ang kamay niya para makita ko kung nasaan siya.

I plopped on the seat in front of her while catching my breath.

“You smell,” bungad niya at bago pa ako makasagot ay inihagis niya sa akin ang alcohol spray niya.

“Sorry. I just finished some analyses. Wala na akong time para magbihis o magpabango, Mom.”

“But that might become your habit. Paano kung may imi-meet kang date at nakalimutan mo? Amoy laboratory o amoy patay ka ‘pag pumunta?”

“Mom!” I yelled and the customers near us looked at our direction. Ngumiti naman ako sa kanila at nag-sorry.

“And please, be demure, Dawn. Kaya umaatras kaagad ang mga nagkakagusto sa’yo dahil sa kilos mo.”

Napabuntong-hininga na lang ako pagkatapos niyang sabihin ‘yon. Akala ko makakatakas na ako sa topic na ‘to mula kay Dad pero mukhang pati si Mom ay iniisip na rin ‘yon.

“How’s your work?” pag-iiba ko ng topic. “Okay na ba ang case na hawak mo?”

“Well, I already have enough evidence to put him on trial.”

Bakit ko pa nga ba ‘yon tinanong kahit alam ko naman na ang sagot? She has been one of the top prosecutors in the country so that should be expected. Siguro kung hindi ako naging forensic biochemist, susundan ko ang yapak niya para maging prosecutor o lawyer.

“Anway, Mom, hindi ka pa rin ba talaga uuwi sa bahay?” tanong ko at bigla namang kumunot ang noo niya. Uh oh.

“No,” she coldly said and I was startled when she put down her glass of water with too much force. “Not until that father of yours admit he’s wrong.”

I wanted to say that they were both at fault but that might lead to another fight, especially both of them have a strong sense of pride. Ang hirap lang kapag anak ka ng isang Major General at Chief Prosecutor.

O-order na sana ako para kahit papaano ay kumalma si Mom pero hindi ‘yon natuloy dahil sa nangyari. There was a loud explosion at the street across this café which aroused panic among the crowd.

That time, I was not yet aware of the looming tragedy waiting for us. I didn’t know that it was the start of an unfortunate story that would change my whole life, as well as his.



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