“Ano na ang balita kay Arthur?” Coco asked the moment he stepped inside the house.
My tired eyes watered again when I heard my twin brother say his name. I hadn’t slept a blink or eaten at all since yesterday. It was five in the morning when Coco and his family arrived from the airport and headed straight here. I greeted him a hug and he hugged back even tighter.
“Hindi pa rin nila nakikita si Arthur…” I sobbed into his shoulder.
“It’s going to be okay.” He gently said. “Makikita din natin si Arthur. Hindi tayo titigil hangga’t hindi natin sya nakikita.”
“Tita Drey, I hope we find him soon because I miss him so much. We even bought toys for him.” Cookie’s lips tugged downwards, his eyes getting misty.
Anais stood behind her son with a sad expression on his face. Hardly anyone in the house had a good night sleep. There were police everywhere. Our phones had been tapped incase the kipnappers called. Kuya Miggy and Callum had been up all night getting updates from the police. Ni hindi ko nga nakita ang dalwa na umupo man lang para pumikit. Ronnie wouldn’t stop crying and blaming herself even thought I kept telling her that it wasn’t her fault. Tito Axel sent the best search team to look for Arthur. Pumunta din sila Uncle Tristan at aunt Andi and all Dad’s friends were heare with us until midnight. Help poured in like rain.
Kuya Miggy said Mama and Dad were on their way home.Hindi ko pa sila nakakausap. I couldn’t. Ano’ng sasabihin ko sa kanila at paano ako haharap sa kanila? Pakiramdam ko napabayaan ko sya. He’d been with Mama and Dad his whole life at ilang araw lang nilang silang nawala at pinagkatiwala sa akin si Arthur ganito na ang nangyari. He was better off with them. I felt like I was a useless mother.
“When will this end? It feels like it’s happening all over again.” Coco raked his finger through his hair.
“Sana wala silang gawin masama kay Arthur. Sana ako na lang kinuha nila. Bakit siya pa? Arthur’s too young. Siguro takot na takot siya ngayon.” Maluha-luha ng sabi ko.
Callum pulled me to his side and tried to comfort me. “We’ll find him.”
“I hope they’re just after the money. Kahit mahknaong halaga ang hilingin nila ibibigay ko, masiguro lang ligtas na makauwi si Arthur dito.” Kuya Miggy said as he paced back and forth. He closed and opened his palms as if to relieve his stress. Anxiety was evident.
Could it be na may kinalaman yung mga kumuha kay Drey dati sa kumidnap kay Arthur? Coco said.
“Oh, I hope not…” Anais said, putting her hand over her chest.
“What do they want from Audrey? From us? I don’t understand why they’re doing this!” I could hear the frustration and anger in Coco’s voice. “When Audrey was kidnapped, we didn’t receive any calls. Walang humingi ng ransom o kahit ano. Is it their life long mission to make us miserable?”
Mama and Dad suddenly entered the living room. Mama’s eyes were red and puffy from crying and Dad had dark circles under his eyes, a sign that he hadn’t slept very well.
“Kumusta na? Wala pa din bang lead ang mga pulis?” Dad said, looking and sounding stressed out.
“No calls, no anything?” He asked.
Kuya Miggy quiety shook his head.
“Mama, Dad, I’m sorry.” I got on my feet and Mama embraced me. “Hindi mangyayari ito kung hindi ko pinabayaan si Arthur. It’s my fault. I should’ve taken better care of him. Ngayon ko na nga lang siya nakasama, mawawal pa siya.”
“No, Don’t blame yourself. Walang may gusto sa nangyari.” Mama said, her voice raw from crying. “Walang mangyayari kung magsisisihan tayo. It was nobody’s fault. Ang mahalaga maibalik si Arthur ng ligtas.”
“Paano pag may nangyari kay Arthur?” I could feel the physical pain clenching in my chest at the thought of it.
“No, no…” Mama shook her head vigorously. “May awa ang Diyos. Mabait na bata si Arthur. I know He won’t let anything happen to him.”
“Mama, I can’t lose him again. Ayaw ko nang mawala sa akin si Arthur.” Halos hindi na ako makapagsalita sa paghikbi.
“We’re not going to lose Arthur. We’re not going to lose anyone in the family…” Mama assured as she hugged me tighter.
“Pakiramdam ko pinaglalaruan na tayo.” Dad’s jaw and fingers clenched, his eyes reddening with angry tears. “Kung sinuman ang mga tarandong iyon, they will pay hell for what they did to my Audrey and my Arthur. I will slowly kill them with my bare hands. Hangga’t nabubuhay ako, hindi ako titigil sa paghahanap sa kanila at pagbabayarin ko sila sa ginawa nila sa inyo.”
I hugged Arthur’s Curious George stuffed animal. Ito ang unang regaling ibinigay ko sa kanya. Palagi niyang hawak ito kapag natutulog siya. I buried my face into the stuffed animal and inhaled. It still had his scent on it. It felt like he was just here with me.
Nakakain na kaya siya? Nakatulog ba siya ng maayos kagabi? Were they treating him right? Did they give them a comfortable bed to sleep in? Arthur’s a bit of a picky eater. I hope they fed him the food he likes. I hope they read him his bedtime stories, he couldn’t sleep without being read to. Sana nagbukas sila ng nightlight bago matulog kasi hindi nakakatulog si Arthur kapag madilim na madilim. Sana hindi nila sinasaktan si Arthur. I hope they realized how precious and innocent and fragile he was.
“Love…” Callum smoothly sat to me kissed the back of my head. “You still haven’t eaten anything.”
“I don’t want to eat. Gusto kong Makita ang anak ko.”
“There’s nothing more I want than to have Arthur back again. We’re going to get him back, I promise. Lahat gagawin ko maib alik lang si Arthur ng ligtas.” He lifted my chin up and looked at me.
“Paano kung sinasaktan nila si Arthur?” A sob rose from my throat, my hands clutching tighter onto his stuffed toy.
“They won’t dare. If they hurt even the tip of our son’s finger, I will hunt and kill them wherever they are.” He said through gritted teeth.
“Gusto kong magwala. Gusto kong sumigaw. Guso kong umiyak ng umiyak. Ang sakit, Cal. Mas masakit pa ito sa kahayupang ginawa nila sa akin. Ano bang kasalanan ko sa kanila? Bakit pati ang anak ko dinamay nila? Ang dami pa naming hindi nagagawa. Nagpromise ako sa kanya na dadalhin naming ang bike niya sa park. Sabi niya tatawagan niya ako araw-araw pag nasa California na tayo. Sabi niya palagi niya akong kukuwentuhan. He said he’s going to have his own band and he’ll be the greatest musician.” I said, bursting into tears.
Policemen and investigators went in and out of our house. I could feel the anxiety in the whole house. The busyness of it. I felt I was in a snowglobe that some had shook hard. I just stood in the middle while all kinds of chaos were going on around me. I just wanted everything to end.
“Huwag mo akong gaguhin! Tell me where Arthur is!” Callum’s voice boomed throughout the room.
Napabalikwas ako. I hadn’t even realized that I already fell asleep on the couch until I woke up to Callum’s voice. Callum paced back and forth as he held on the wireless telephone to his ear
“I don’t know what game you’re playing but we’ve all had enough of it. Huwag mong idamay ang bata sa katarandaduhan mo. Don’t you dare do anything that would hurt Arthur. Hahanapin kita kahit nasaan ka pa and I will you fuck you up.”
“Cal…” I sat up. I was sure they were talking about Arthur.
Callum, averted his eyes to me and massaged his temples. “Yes… yes… Siguraduhin mo lang na ligtas mong ibabalik sa amin si Arhutr. Kahit anong gusto mo ibibigay naming sayo. Kahit magkano pa. Nakikiusap ako sayo, don’t harm the child.”
Nabuhayan ako ng loob sa narinig ko. The kipnappers had already called.
“Hello? Hello?!” His face crumpled and then his body collapsed next o me.
“Cal, ano’ng sabi nila? Ano daw gusto nila? Magkano ang hinihingi nila?” Tanong ko.
“Sinabi lang nila na nasa kanila si Arthur and then they hang up.” Callum looked like he’d aged ten years. He, himself hadn’t had any sleep since last night.
“We need to tell Dad and the police. They’ll be able to trace the call.” Sabi ko. I got up from the couch and went to Dad who was busy talking to the investigators in his library.
I told him that Callum had picked up a call from the kidnappers and they told him that they had Arthur. The investigators and policemen immediately worked to trace the calls we’d received from the kipnappers.
We later learned that the call was from a payphone near our village. Agad kumilos ang mga tauhan ni Dad para puntahan ang lugar kung saan nanggaling ang tawag. After a few hours, we received an update from the police. May dinala dawn a bata sa kanila na nagfit sa description ni Arthur at kamukha ng nasa picture niya.
Gusto kong maglulundag sa tuwa ng marinig ko iyon. We quickly rushed to the police station where the child was.
Callum and I held hands as we walked from the car to the police station. I hadn’t been this nervous for a long time. Sana si Arthur talaga ang batang sinasabi nila at sana maayos siya.
“Do you think it’s really him?” I asked in a shaky voice.
“I hope so…” He quietly said as he squeezed my hand in his.
We entered the police station and I immediately saw Arthur. He sat on a chair that was too big for him, swing his legs back and forth. Agad kaming tumakbo ni Callum palapit sa kanya. We hugged him in a tight embrace.
“Saan ka ba nanggaling ha?” I pulled away from the hug and brushed his dark hair back. I couldn’t help the happy tears from flowing down my cheeks.
“We’ve been looking all over for you. You scared us!” Callum caught his tiny face. Pinugpog niya ng halik si Arthur Sa mukha. “Huwag mo nang gagawin iyon ulit. Huwag kang sasama sa strangers, okay?”
“May ginawa ba sila sa’to? Sinaktan ka ba nila?” I worriedly asked, lifting his arms and legs up. Checking for any signs of scratch or bruises.
“No, Mr. Spiderman was really nice to me.” He smiled his usual cheeky smile. “We ate ice cream and cake for dinner but I did cry at night because I miss you and Dr. Callum and Mama and Papa and Ate Ronnie. But he said he’d take me back when tomorrow comes and now was tomorrow.”
“Arthur!” Agad na tumakbo si Mama at Dad papunta sa kinauupuan ni Arthur pagpasok pa lang nila sa police station.
Dad took him in this in his arms and hugged him.
“Mama! Daddy!” He was so happy when he saw them and he gave them both hugs and kisses. Kuya Miggy and Coco soon joined him and in no time he was being showered with so much love and attention.
“Baby!” Umiiyak na niyakap ni Ronnie si Arthur. “I’m sorry, I lost you. Hinayaan kong kunin ka nung lalaking iyon.”
“Mr. Spiderman’s a really cool guy. He let me watch cartoons all day while I eat cake and ice cream.” He said.
“Do you know what he looks like?” Tanong ni Dad.
“When he’s nothing wearing mask, he looks like a normal guy. He has eyes, nose, and lips.” Sabi ni Arthur.
“Did he tell you why he took you?” Kuya Miggy asked.
“Well, he said he was waiting for the result because he wants to know it I’m a hero or not. He put something in my mouth and then put it in a small bag and then he gave it to his friend.” Kwento ni Arthur.
“How many were they?” Coco asked.
“There was just Mr. Spireman in the house but his friend visited last night and then this morning. Tapos binigay niya sa akin itong paper.” He took something out from his pocket. “Sabi niya ibigay ko daw sa Mommy ko.”
Mama took the envelope from Arthur and opened it. Her eyes scanned through the paper and suddenly her face paled.
“What is it, Cassie?” Dad’s brows crumpled with worry.
Mama gazed at me and I knew by the look of her face that it had something to do with me. With shaky hands, she handed the paper to me.
There were letter and numbers, I didn’t really understand. But then my eyes went down the bottom of the paper. Parang hinatak ang puso ko ng Makita ko ang nakasulat sa baba ng papel.
Probability of parternity: 99.9999%
Underneath it was a sentence that horrified me even more. Pakiramdam ko para akong naupos na kandila.
I am nearer than you think.