2016 08 07
CARVED Part 09: Getting Warmer
Rod Estoque’s head burned. When he opened his eyes, the world flashed red and white. He shook his head and his vision cleared. He felt his temple and winced. A lump the size of a table tennis ball throbbed along with his heartbeat. His memories creeped back from the haze. When he tried to stand, he slumped back onto the floor. The blow to the head really did a number on him.
As he gazed at the ceiling, he wondered what sort of mess he had gotten himself into. Everything was okay back then. When he woke up in the mornings, he didn’t have to worry about messages magically getting carved on his arm. He didn’t have to worry about the lump on his head, or the damage that was done to his body. He didn’t have to worry about gangs or shootings or Kris…
The name was the shot of adrenaline that Rod needed. He bolted upright and checked his surroundings. He was in a shoddy room with a wooden floor, corrugated metal ceiling, and walls made of a mishmash of concrete blocks and plywood. Rainwater leaked in through the holes in the roof and through the windows. Easing himself up, he inspected the windows and saw they were just holes in the wall with iron bars criss-crossing through them.
Raindrops struck his face and his injured temple, cooling off the burning pain. Looking down, he saw that he was on the second floor of a house. His spot overlooked the same shanty town that Carlo took him to. Was he the one involved in the restaurant incident? Rod wondered.
As if to answer his question, a car pulled up in front of his building, right between rows of parked motorcycles. A lone figure stepped out of the driver’s seat and into the rain. Rod squinted and spotted the figure’s pockmarked face in the glow of the headlights. Carlo!
Pain lanced through Rod’s head. He stepped away from the window and sat down. Carlo’s arrival only meant that Rod was in big trouble. Did he and his gang know about Kris? Was she even here?
Rod’s thoughts were interrupted by a vibrating sensation in his pocket. His phone! He fished it out and saw a number of missed calls from Elvira Camonte, with another incoming. Accepting the call, he whispered, “Hello?”
There was an audible sigh from the other end. “Rod! You’re okay!” Elvira sounded relieved. Rod’s spirits lifted. At last, a glimmer of hope.
“Aunt Elvira,” he said, “is Kris there? Are you guys okay?”
Elvira laughed. “Sorry, I can’t help it. Glad to know you’re okay. Kris is next to me. We’ve been looking for you for hours now. She’s been worried sick about you.”
“Hey!” exclaimed another voice on the other end. Rod could tell that it was Kris. Even he couldn’t suppress a chuckle. She was safe, at least.
“Good to know,” Rod said. “Aunt Elvira, I’m being held in a shanty town. Not sure where I am, but there’s a light on the second floor of my building. And there’s a car with a bunch of motorcycles parked outside.”
“That place could be anywhere, Rod. I need a street name or something. Even though we have Kris’ men backing us up, it could take the entire night to find that place.”
Rod ignored the burning pain in his head as he tried to think of something. Then it hit him. “Aunt Elvira, give Kris the phone.”
After a second, Rod could hear Kris saying, “Rod? It’s me.”
“Kris, you remember when you got your messages from me? You said it really hurt. Where were you at the time?”
“Umm… I think it was when I was in the Park of Heroes. My arm started bleeding while I was jogging.”
“And where is your house?”
“It’s near the airport.”
The Park of Heroes was only fifteen minutes away from Rod’s house. But the airport was almost an hour a way. Rod said, “Thanks, Kris. I have an idea.”
“What is it?”
“I need you to grab a pen and start writing messages on your arm. I think that the reason why it hurt so much when you got your message was because you were near my house. And it didn’t hurt so much for me because your place is so far from mine. We can use that to find me. I’ll let you know when the pain gets stronger. That means you’re getting closer to me.”
Kris gasped. “But you’re injured! I saw you get hit. What if the pain’s too much for you?”
Rod forced himself to smile. “I’ll be okay. That blow didn’t kill me, right? Whatever you do, DON’T STOP WRITING.”
The familiar scratching sensation returned. A tiny line formed on the inside of Rod’s forearm. The pain was negligible. He said into the phone, “Wherever you are, you’re too far away. Try another shanty town.”
More and more marks formed. When the pain intensified, Rod encouraged Elvira and Kris. They were getting warmer. It was not long now. But the pain almost drove him mad. He gnashed his teeth and screamed in his mind to stay cool. It would all soon be over.
The door to his room burst open and was barely hanging by its hinges. One of the black-helmeted bikers from before strode in. Rod’s injured temple pounded as he saw the baton in the newcomer’s hand. It was the one who struck him!
The rider tossed away the baton and it echoed as it hit the floor. He reached behind him and pulled out a butterfly knife. With one deft motion he exposed the blade. Rod gulped as he felt his heart sink. The rider must have noticed as he took his time removing his helmet before tossing it aside. His brown face contrasted with the white spots near his mouth and nostrils. His left eye was bloodshot and glaring at Rod. The right one was hidden beneath a bloody bandage.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” the rider said with a grin that spread from ear to ear. “I’m going to enjoy cutting you up.”
TO BE CONTINUED
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