The sun was just beginning to set. Looking at the red orange glow of the sky from his kitchen window, Mike wanted to just go out there and jog to his heart’s content. It had been weeks now since he had jogged last. This was because of a number of murders that happened recently. Already there had been two killings near their otherwise peaceful town of Gusa.
He had been gardening for the last few hours and doing some chores. It was the weekend of a long tiring week selling fine watches. He had decided to take the day off to relax. The headaches were back. The only thing that he found that could make it go away was if he did something that he really liked to do to relax. Gardening was one of those.
But as he stooped to turn on the sink, he couldn’t help but wince slightly as the headache was still there as well as the shaking of his hands. Jogging was one thing he could do that would really clear his head. He wondered if the police had caught the killer already.
“Chloe, could you change the channel to TV Patrol please? I want to listen to the local news.”
“But Daaad, Dora’s not done yet!” came the voice from the other room. Chloe is seven years old and is the only family left him since her mom passed away four years ago due to a tragic incident.
“Daddy needs to listen to the news, honey.”
“Sigh, ok dad.”
Right on cue, the rolling music of the news program came and the news anchor started rattling off the headlines for the day.
“The police still has not found any leads to the string of murders. Investigation is still on going in Opol where the last murder happened…”
Sighing in disgust at the ineffectivity of the police, Mike shook his head and winced again as his head scolded him for it. He heard shuffling footsteps behind him.
“You hungry, Chloe?”
“What would you like?”
“Can I have peanut butter sandwich?”
“Sure, give me a sec.”
Wiping his hands dry, Mike took out the peanut butter and loaf from the ref.
“Dinner will be a little late, hon. Daddy has decided to go out to jog for a while.”
“Can you please stay daddy?”
Holding the bread he was about to scoop some peanut butter with a spoon when his hands paused in mid-air as he looked at his daughter. She had never asked him to stay before.
“I’m just gonna go for a quick jog so that my headache will go away, Chloe. I’ll be back really soon.”
“But I don’t want you to go, dad,” came the quiet reply. Chloe had her head down and was looking at her feet.
“What’s the matter, honey?” he asked, suddenly concerned.
“I just have a bad feeling, daddy,” she said sniffling.
Kneeling down in front of her, he mussed her hair and gave her a hug.
“It’ll be alright, Chloe. You want daddy to bring you, your favorite dessert when I get back?”
She brightened up at that. “Okay! And a new bedtime story too!”
“That’s my girl.” Smiling, Mike gave her the peanut butter sandwich and poured her a glass of milk.
A few minutes later with his jogging gear on and gym bag on his shoulder, Mike headed out to his car. Daylight was fading fast and Mike knew he had to hurry. It would not be wise to stay out too late.
For the first time since her daughter spoke of feeling bad, Mike suddenly had a bad feeling himself. He shrugged it off as he told himself he was going to jog far from the place where the police had said they were looking for the killer.
Going to Villanueva was a breeze. That was a good sign, he thought. He was looking forward to sweating it out again.
As he pulled over to his planned jogging area, Mike looked at the long stretch of the dirt road with tall lush trees all around. He had been here several times already before. And he liked the serenity of the place. Hardly anyone went through this road. Tall trees had been a favorite thing for his wife. Looking at them now helped him think of fond memories of her.
Leaving his car behind, Mike looked at his watch beneath the sweater to mark the time and then started to jog towards the road.
He wasn’t running a few kilometers yet when a pick-up truck pulled over the road beside his car and after a few seconds drove into the dirt road where Mike had gone in. Mike was fully lost in the rhythm of his jog and breathing that he didn’t hear the pick-up until it was almost upon him already. He jogged to the side of the road and waved the driver to pass him. Instead of passing him right away, the headlights came on. After a few more steps, Mike slowed down and waved the driver to pass him again. This time, the truck slowly passed him by. But not before he saw the driver eyeing him from head to toe as he passed by.
Gasping for breath, Mike found it strange and creepy the way the guy was looking at him. As he watched the truck round over the bend he lost sight of the taillights. Mike started to jog again, thinking that he would turn back after a few more kilometers.
It was dark by the time Mike reached the end of his route. He saw the tree that was his turnabout marker and was happy he had made good time running. But then, he suddenly noticed the pick-up truck parked at the side of the road with the driver nowhere in sight.
Mike suddenly had a bad feeling. Then he saw the guy stepping out from the shadows. He appeared to be carrying a heavy object.
Slowing down warily as he approached, Mike called out a greeting. “Hi there, what’s up?”
The man just eyed him. The man was big. He had on a cap and a green hunting jacket.
With his heart beating and hands trembling, Mike suddenly remembered his daughter’s warning that she had a bad feeling tonight.
Mike was a few paces from the man when he saw that one of the pick-up’s tires was flat. Looking at the man’s hand, he saw that the man had been carrying a tire wrench.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Mike said “You’ve got a flat? Do you need a hand?”
The man’s sullen face finally eased up and he even smiled a little.
“Yeah, ran over some sharp nails back there. I could use a hand with the tire coz it’s heavy.”
“Sorry to hear that. I’d be happy to help.”
“Thanks! I’m sorry about back there too. You know with the news about the killer on the loose. Can’t be too careful.”
“I know what you mean. My daughter didn’t want me to go out either.”
“I’d have taken that advice. This place just isn’t safe anymore with that killer on the prowl. When I saw a car parked out there on the roadside I was worried something had happened.” Coughing, the man paused for a second.
“Oh, that was my car, I parked it there.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that out when I saw you jog,” said the man as he coughed and spat on the ground.
“You thought I was the killer?” Mike said sounding amused.
“Can’t be too careful, the news did say that the killer strikes at seldom used roads. I have a farm up here so I go here from time to time.”
“Oh, so that’s why you gave me such a creepy look when you passed by earlier.”
“Yeah, sorry about that.” The man said sheepishly.
“Don’t worry about it, we better get started on this tire of yours.” Mike said as he bent over to look at the damage, he saw the nail protruding from the tire, and got a rock to pry it off.
“It’s a nasty nail,” he said straightening up, “do you have the time? I promised my daughter I would be home to prepare dinner for her.”
“Sure, let me look.” The man looked down at his watch to look at it clearly.
That was when Mike swung the rock with all his might at the man’s bowed head. It hit with a satisfyingly loud crack. And the man tumbled to the ground like a puppet cut from its strings.
Looking around, Mike took an even bigger rock this time and smashed it on the man’s head again and again.
Panting and smiling, Mike dropped the rock and looked at his hands. They were steady. His head was clear and didn’t hurt anymore.
The best remedy he found for his headache was doing the things he liked the most. Gardening helped a little, jogging helped a little bit more, but it was the killing that helped the most. It helped ease the pain of the memory when his wife had died while jogging because of a careless driver.
Erasing his signs and trail, Mike jogged back to his car put on his watch and drove home where his daughter was waiting for dinner. He would buy her dessert and tell her tonight’s bedtime story. She loved hearing how he made the world a better place for people like her mom.
David J. Chiong was born in CDO, took up BS Business Administration at DLSU-CSB, and is at present managing a family business.