On the dawn of the day he was to retire from the Office of Execution, Justicar Pedro Holdon opened the door of his mansion and found his only son cradling the lifeless body of a female.
"I didn't," Janus said, "I didn't kill her."
Justicar Pedro Holdon reached for the gun under his robe. "Did you rape her?"
"I," Janus said, "I didn't mean to. She," he cocked his head to the right, "she and I were at the motel already. We were already undressed. We were kissing, and then she got a call. And then suddenly she had to leave." Janus was crying. "Father--"
Justicar Pedro Holdon checked if the gun was loaded. "What was," he shook his head, "What is her name?"
"June. June Mabuti."
Justicar Pedro Holdon shot his son Janus between the eyes. He considered picking up the female corpse splattered on his front steps, but decided against it. What was the point? He had already avenged her rape and murder. Justice was a job for the Office of Peace. He closed the door of his mansion, returned the gun to his robe's pocket and went to the telephone. After calling the police he went back to his bedroom, checked if his wife was disturbed by the gunshot, found that she wasn't, and went back to sleep.
When he awoke he found the sun shining through his windows and his wife missing. With him in the room was another man, his partner for the last six months of his career: Justicar Rainier de Belen. The man was smoking, sitting at the foot of the bed. Pedro considered reaching for the gun under his robe.
Rainier spoke: "The Office of Peace fools are downstairs. Candy told me to tell you to get up and dress up."
Pedro rolled his eyes. "You'd think turning forty would give me the right to start my day when I want it to start."
Rainier blew rings in his direction. "You're retiring today, Justicar. Your life's about to begin. But first you have to end it."
Pedro got up. "The corpses?"
"The woman's family, they should have hers about noon today."
"And the other?"
"Candy took care of it. Agriculture's got this one man committee, human fertilizer fanatic. Candy's signed the papers already."
"Good," Pedro said, taking off his robe, "good. I'll get ready. You wait for me here."
Pedro went to his comfort room, sat down on the recycling bowl, cleansed his bowels, went to the shower, set the water to warm, showered, went back to his room. Dressing up he addressed Rainier: "You know who's speaking today?"
"You know that psychoanalyst from Malolos, one of the last who trained in France?"
"She's come back and she's spreading the news about the decay of Europe." Rainier made more smoke rings. "Aren't you from Bulacan?"
"Hagonoy. Spent three fourths of my life there." Pedro was halfway with his pants when it hit him: the ceremony wasn't until three in the afternoon. "The ceremony's not until three. Why is Candy having me dress up?"
"We're not going to the ceremony, we're going to a crime scene."
"Good god." Pedro let go of his pants. "Surely you're joking."
"No joke," Rainier said, "and don't call me 'Shirley'."
"A case? I'm handling another case? On the day of my retirement?"
"Duty's duty, Justicar."
"I just killed my son a few hours ago!"
Rainier shrugged. "So? He was a rapist. The one we're after, he's a rapist too."
Pedro rolled his eyes. "Will you put that thing out? Last I looked cigarettes are illegal in Manila."
"Not until tomorrow, Justicar. Not until tomorrow." Rainier grinned. "Then I'll go to Ilocos to smoke. Now finish dressing. I want this finished quickly, I don't want to be late for the ceremony."
2. "Justicar Holdon! Justicar Holdon!"
Pedro turned to find a teenager in sando and shorts running towards him.
She stopped just a few centimeters from his nose. Panting, she reached into her pockets and produced a cellphone. "Justicar Holdon, my name is Nerissa Decena. I was wondering if I could interview you for my blog?"
"Capital punishment and--"
"Forget it. I have--"
"I'm People's Media," she said, reaching into her pockets. She was practically shoving the ID up his nose. "I'm People's Media."
Pedro rolled his eyes. He turned to Rainier, who just shrugged. "Very well, you're People's Media. Interview away." Janus had been People's Media. A blogger, just like everybody else. Janus, his son. Janus, the rapist. What a hypocrite! Pedro nodded to his partner, who went ahead to the crime scene. It was the yellow house a corner away.
"First question: why did you murder your son?"
Pedro started. "In the first place," he said, "I didn't murder my son. I killed a rapist, who just happened to be my son."
"Don't you feel any kind of remorse. Or regret?"
"Good God, no. He was a rapist. I'm after a rapist right now. I'm a Justicar of the Office of Execution. It is my duty not to make distinctions." Pedro thought about patting Nerissa Decena on the shoulder, and then reminded himself that that was a violation of her private space. He contented himself with what he thought to be a fatherly smile. "Is that all? You know you shouldn't say first when you don't have a second."
Nerissa Decena smirked. "Second question. Don't you think it goes against the principles of our Social Democracy, the murder--"
"The killing of rapists?"
Pedro sighed. He had never been good with fatherly smiles, or fatherly anythings. "We live in the Philippines, madame, and here we kill confessed and convicted rapists, torturers, slavers and child abusers. Four classes of people that are a blemish in the face of humankind." He should've made Rainier stay. His partner was good with spouting official doctrine. He was just good at killing criminals.
"We spare murderers, drug dealers, people convicted of plunder, people who bomb schools, people who spread viruses... Doesn't everybody deserve a second chance?"
"Everybody deserves a second chance. Except rapists. Why should we give a rapist a second chance to rape?" This time Pedro couldn't control himself. He pat Nerissa Decena on the shoulder. The blogger moved away. "I'm sorry." Pedro sighed. "How old are you?"
"Thirteen. What's that got to do with anything?"
"We live in a just society, Nerissa Decena. You are young. When you become fourteen, you will understand." Pedro turned and walked away.
"I have a third--"
"I don't care about your turd." Pedro kept on walking. He thanked God the blogger didn't follow. A few steps later he was in front of the yellow house. Rainier was there too, leaning against yellow picket fences. Pedro gave his partner a raised eyebrow.
"Then why are you here?"
Rainier shrugged. "She wouldn't let me in."
"Why the hell not?"
"She said she had nothing to tell me that wasn't in her report."
"Then why did she request us to come here?"
"She said she wanted to make sure the Office of Execution was on the case."
"Great. First, an anti-killer blogger, now a doubting citizen. All we need is some bureaucrat telling us how to do our job."
"That reminds me, administration called--"
"Oh, shut the hell up." Pedro got gum from his pocket. Something about Rainier always intensified his infantile need to have something in his mouth. "How is the survivor?"
"Emotionally, angry. Just like all rape survivors."
"I wouldn't know."
"And why not?"
"I couldn't get a good look of her."
"And why not?"
"She wouldn't open the door. We spoke through the intercom."
Pedro bit his lips. He didn't want to curse. He knew the rules. Never blame the survivor. Tolerate her ways of coping. Know the rapist, find the rapist, kill the rapist. Leave the survivor to the Office of Peace. Leave justice to the Office of Peace. His job was revenge. "What information have you gathered about the woman in question?"
Rainier shrugged. "She's 30 years old. The crime took place a decade ago."
Pedro let out seventeen expletives.
3. The ride back to station on the mobile was uneventful. Pedro drove and chewed his gum. Rainier logged on to the Office of Execution database via the Internetional and smoked while reading about the rape survivor who refused to let them see her. Curiosity ate at Pedro, but on the other hand he just wanted to retire. Killing rapists had been his life for a decade now, he liked it still. But, he also wanted to try other things--like singing. He logged on to the Internetional and searched for his favorite radio station. He turned the volume up and hummed along.
"What is that song?"
"'Di Bale na Lang Kaya,' a classic from the 90s."
"Funny, it doesn't sound like something from ten years ago."
"The 1990s, Rainier. Good god, you know nothing about music!"
"I kill rapists, Justicar. I don't need to know anything else." He chewed on the butt of his cigarette. "Strange lyrics. 'Bitin'?"
"It's about this man who wants to have sex with a woman. She keeps on promising that she will, but she never does."
"The cocktease stereotype. Funny taste in music, Justicar."
"Oh, quit being so doctrinaire. It doesn't matter if the song has biases. There're more important aspects in a song, like rhythm and beat. Surely you can't find anything wrong with it?"
"No," Rainier said, shrugging, "I don't. And don't call me 'Shir--'."
"You know, that joke wasn't funny when you first said it."
"There're more important aspects in a joke. Besides, based on my observations, your knowledge of music is less than scholarly. As I recall, you were the one who told me 'Ganyan Talaga ang Buhay' is about child abuse."
Pedro didn't answer. He set the mobile on automatic driving and looked out the windows. Manila was a mess of metal, skeletons jostling with spirals. Spires and towers reaching for the sun. The giant buildings gleamed, hurting his eyes, as if accusing him of something. He remembered his grandmother telling him about how she was at the inauguration of the first bullet train, how she rode on its maiden voyage, from Manila to Nueva Ecija in three minutes. She participated in the Feminist Revolution, Pedro's grandmother. She was involved in munitions. A funny woman, his grandmother…
The sight of Candy standing in middle of the parking lot, a basket in her arm, brought Pedro back to the reality. He resumed control of the mobile, he didn't trust parking to machine control, and prepared for landing.
Candy opened the mobile's door.
Pedro got out and hugged her. He gestured to the basket. "Going on a picnic?"
Candy tapped the end of his nose. "Supper. With you. I thought we could attend June's cremation. The retirement ceremony isn't for three more hours anyway."
"The girl. The woman."
"Ah," Pedro said, "yes. Of course, of course." He raised his arms in confusion. "You brought a car?"
Candy nodded, turned and started walking away.
Pedro turned to Rainier, who shrugged for the eleventh time that day. "You can take care of the case?"
"When have I never?"
"Thanks," Pedro said, and ran after Candy. When he caught up with her he said, "What's the matter Candy?"
"I don't know." She started walking faster.
Pedro caught her hand and matched her speed. They were silent all the way to the car. They were quiet on the way to the crematorium. They gave their condolences to the Mabutis, shaking hands with June's parents. But they didn't speak to each other during the cremation. When it was all over Candy drove, and Pedro realized she was bringing him to their favorite park, Janus's favorite park when he was young, the park where Pedro and her had met more than two decades ago, Rio de Janero Park, Hagonoy, Bulacan. Pedro didn't say a word when the car landed. He just opened the door on his side and, not even waiting for Candy, headed to their favorite spot: a swing on the top of the park's seventh hill. He sat on the swing when he got there. Candy soon arrived, carrying the basket, as well as a picnic blanket. She spread it out on the ground and unpacked supper.
"I don't feel like eating," Pedro said from the swing.
"Come over here then," she said, "and have a drink of water."
He went over to her and held her hands.
4. When they got back to the station the Bulacanian was already delivering her speech. All the other retirees were seated in the first row of the Office of Execution's multipurpose hall. Pedro, his head bowed low, and Candy sat down at the left end of the fourth row.
"A century ago," the Bulacanian was saying, "who would have thought that Philippines would be what she is now? Not I, for I wasn't alive then…"
Pedro wasn't listening. On the way back Candy drove, and he was able to research bits about his last case, the only rape case he didn't solve in his capacity as Justicar. He wasn't so much angry as disappointed. Had he not shot Janus, he felt, he wouldn't have been so busy today. He usually only needed a few hours to find the rapist and kill him. This time he didn't even know who rapist was. What a way to end a career! He just knew he was going to be annoyed with himself all throughout his retirement. Well, maybe not all throughout. But for a very long time... Maybe a week... As his thoughts flew he focused his vision on the Bulacanian's podium.
"Not now, Candy. Please?"
"I'm not Candy, Justicar Holdon."
Only when Pedro turned and saw the face of Nerissa Decena did he realize that the Bulacanian had stopped talking, and that all around him men and women had their guns drawn. Retirees, husbands and wives, administrators and ushers. Only Nerissa Decena, blogger, People's Media, thirteen year old anti-death penalty activist, was unarmed. And behind her stood Rainier, Justicar, Pedro's partner. And his gun was pointed at him.
Pedro wiped his face with his hand. "Good God."
"Did you rape her, Pedro?"
He couldn't tell who asked the question. He shrugged. "I," he said, "didn't mean to. It was so long ago."
"Two decades and three months to the day." It was Rainier, it was Rainier who was speaking.
"I," Pedro said, "I didn't kill her."
"You're dealing with the Office of Execution, Justicar, not the Office of Peace."
"I'm," he looked around, fighting off the itch to reach for his gun, "I'm sorry. Candy? I'm sorry I shot our son."
"We're all sorry, Justicar. But he was a rapist. And so are you."
"Pedro," Pedro said, "please. Somebody call me Pedro."
Justicar Pedro Holdon never knew it, but Nerissa Decena shot him between the eyes.
July 30, 2007