My Safe Refuge – 17
Richard just came from Palawan. He had been travelling to far provinces for the past three days. He joined the police in following separate leads which claimed the sighting of someone who fit the description of James.
All leads turned out to negative though and it frustrated Richard already. They followed four leads which wasted their time. He was exhausted, frustrated and feeling hopeless.
When the week passed and they weren’t able to get positive results on Maya and Luke’s whereabouts, they decided to put a bounty on James Ventura. They intensified the hunt for him since they learned that he was also in the wanted list for drugs and illegal weapons.
James Ventura’s involvement in these illegal activities aggravated Richard Lim’s fear for the safety of Maya and Luke.
“Brod, mahahanap natin sila. I’m sure of that.” Ryan was trying to allay the fears of his friend. He knew what Richard went through when Alex died and it pains him to see how helpless his friend is now that Maya and Luke are in danger.
“I really hope so Ryan. I would trade anything just to get them both safely and unharmed. Di ko alam ang gagawin ko kung may mangyaring masama kay Maya at Luke. I will never forgive myself.”
“Brod wag kang mag-isip ng ganyan. Mahahanap natin sila. Magtiwala ka lang. It wouldn’t help kapag ganyan ang iniisip mo.
James, Maya and Luke were staying at a rented condo south of Metro Manila.
They actually just stayed there when James found out that he is already wanted by the authorities.
When he got Maya and Luke they’ve been staying in various hotels as James would transact his illegal activities with his clients inconspicuously in those hotels. They would easily be regarded like a family on vacation. Having Maya and Luke with him made everything easier.
But after learning from his contacts that he was already wanted by the PNP and even the NBI, James became very cautious. Being on the watch list limited his mobility and also his resources. Good thing that he had Maya and Luke with him. He could use them to bargain with the authorities in case they find him.
“Mom is having a very high fever dad! Let’s bring her to the hospital please dad!” Luke was already crying and begging for his dad to bring his mom to the hospital. After suffering under the hands of James, Maya’s body finally gave in to the pain, stress, beating and drugs forcibly given her.
“Nobody’s going to the hospital!” James yelled but this didn’t stop Luke from badgering his dad. This no longer scared the boy who felt that he is responsible for his mom.
“We have to bring mom to the hospital!” the boy shouted back. “I will never forgive you if something happens to mom!” Luke angrily answered his dad. “You are a very evil person. You got me and mom to protect yourself! I hate you! I wish you weren’t my dad! I wish you were dead!”
Instead of his usual reaction of beating Luke or lashing hurtful words, something in what his son said affected him.
James only got to say, “There’s a store at the ground floor of this condo. You can buy medicines for your mom there. Buy yourself whatever snacks you want as well but never talk to anyone. You know what would happen kapag sinuway mo ako.” He handed Luke a 500 peso bill.
When Luke was about to go out, his dad again called him and checked his
pockets for cellphone. He didn’t want the boy calling for help.
“Richard you better get some sleep, you don’t look good anymore. We won’t be able to resume our search for Maya kapag nagkasakit ka.” Rafi was already concerned of Richard who hardly eats and sleeps the whole time they were patiently and helplessly waiting for any good news about Maya and Luke.
“Okay lang ako Rafi. Hindi naman ako makakatulog eh. I’ll just have coffee then I’ll be fine. Ikaw, you better go home na muna. I’m sure worried na rin yun si Charlie.”
They were staying at Richard’s Manila residence, the one he used to share with Alex. Though he never wanted to stay here for the house is filled with memories of Alex and it kept reminding him of how he neglected her, he had no choice. Besides it is the best location to wait for updates on Maya and Luke.
Rafi also lives nearby and Ryan is just a neighbor.
“Richard magagalit si Maya once she finds out that you are not taking care of yourself. Magagalit rin yun sakin once she finds out that I allowed you to neglect yourself. Pareho tayong malalagot nito.” Rafi tried to joke, wanting the very worried man in front of her to relax a bit.
Richard smiled and appreciated the attempt of Rafi to ease the tension they were all having. “Sige Rafi iidlip akong saglit kapag nakauwi ka na. Pahatid na kita kay Joma.”
Luke bought paracetamol and flu medicines for his mom.
He also bought some bandages and antiseptic for her wounds which was inflicted by his dad.
He also bought his mom’s favorite fruit juice which his Tito Richard usually buys for her.
He thought of his Tito Richard and became teary eyed when he remembered the last time they saw each other.
Though he didn’t understand why his Tito Richard just allowed his dad to get him and his mom, he still prayed every single day that he would save them. He prayed that he would rescue him and his mom before something worse happens to them.
He had to do something.
Without buying snacks for himself, Luke gathered courage to approach the staff of the store. “Ate I need to call my dad. Nakalimutan ko po kasi yun phone ko. Can I borrow your phone po? Eto po I’ll just pay for the load.” He prayed that the lady would lend him her phone.
“Ano bang pangalan mo? Sige eto gamitin mo phone ko. Wag ka nang magbayad. Dun ka sa loob ng office namin kasi maingay dito.” The lady was helpful to him.
“I’m Luke po. Thank you po Ate.”
Luke dialed his Tito Richard’s number. He memorized it after the typhoon that hit their province before. It was one of the important reminders his Tito Richard had taught him – memorize numbers of important people so he could call them during emergencies even if he uses a different phone.
After Rafi left, Richard had five bottles of beer instead of coffee. He needs it to be able to sleep. He was already annoyed with his mom’s incessant calls telling him to sleep.
His phone rang and he groaned knowing that it is surely his mother again. He ignored it. He didn’t want to talk to her at the state he is in now.
The phone rang again and he still ignored it. As he became annoyed of its sound, he was about to turn it off when a message came in. It was from an unknown number.
“Tito Richard help!” The moment he read the message he hurriedly called the number.
“Tito Richard he’s been hurting mom. Please help mom. Please…” Luke’s voice was heard on the other line. The boy was trying his best to keep his voice low but he obviously so scared.
Then he now could hear the boy’s repressed sobs on the other line. His drunkenness suddenly forgotten. The boy seemed finding a hard time to talk as he was in between controlling his sobs and repressing the sound.
He asked again.
“Luke, Tito Richard is here, where are you and your mom?”
“Hindi ko po alam. I’m just buying medicines for mom here sa baba ng condo. Kinulong po kami ni dad dito. I don’t have my cell phone. I just borrowed po from the staff here. Nandun sila ni mom sa taas. He’s forcing mom to take something tapos ng umayaw si mom, he hit her face and may dugo… and…di ko man lang matulungan si mom tapos he was…” Luke was now unable to finish as he was crying again, “now po mom has fever kaya he allowed me to buy medicines.”
“Luke, stay on the phone with Tito Richard okay? I need you to help me find your location. You have to be brave for mom. Can you hear me Luke?”
“Opo.” Luke said in his soft voice, trying to stop his sobs.
“Okay I want you to calm down. Don’t tell anyone there. If the lady who lent you the phone asks why you’re crying just tell her you missed me. I don’t want your daddy James to find out that we talked, understood?”
“Okay you try to find the name of the condo and the name of the store you are in. Can you see buildings in front of it? It could help if you could describe them too.”
After being able to get the name of the condo and even the exact address from the staff who lent him the phone, Luke provided all the info to his Tito Richard.
“Very good Luke. I’m so proud of you. We can easily find you. I need you to return to your room and take care of your mommy. Just stay with her. Don’t tell her that you called me. We wouldn’t want to risk being heard by your dad.”
“Yes po. Please hurry up Tito Richard.”
“I will Luke. I promise I will.”
Richard didn’t waste time. The moment he ended the call, he alerted the authorities. He called Rafi and Ryan as well.
In no time, they were on their way to the condo, which, fortunately was located in Manila. Richard could imagine what’s happening from what Luke said and he couldn’t help but blame himself for being unable to protect Maya and her son.
He was so focused on himself and the pain he felt that he was even unable to notice the fear in Maya and Luke’s eyes when they saw James in the resort. He thought they feared being found out by him. He was so selfish to even realize that the fear was for Maya’s husband.
“Sabi ko na sa’yo we will be able to find them.” Rafi who was beside him already noticed how quiet he was so she tried to strike a conversation.
He just nodded his head and smiled at Rafi.
The moment the whole team arrived at the condo, they easily apprehended James Ventura.
He was handcuffed and had him arrested for kidnapping, illegal drugs and illegal possession of firearms. He would also be charged with physical abuse.
He didn’t say anything when he was led outside the unit.
The policemen also ensured that Richard Lim won’t go near James for they feared that with what they saw in the condo, he might not be able to control himself and harm James Ventura which might even complicate their case.
The unit reeked with the smell of liquor and cigarettes. There were empty cans of beer in every corner of the unit, on the dining table and on the small table of the living room. Empty boxes of pizza were also on the table and it meant that James had been feeding Maya and Luke pizza for it was the most convenient food to be ordered.
Also seen on top of the table were colorful tablets which were identified by the authorities as party drugs. Some were sealed but some were empty which meant that James Ventura could have consumed them.
Rafi and Ryan could see how furious Richard was with what they found out in the condo.
Richard then knocked and called Luke to open the room where he and his mom were staying. Earlier, he instructed Luke to just stay inside the room, lock it and never come out until he arrives. He didn’t want to risk Maya and Luke being caught in a gunfire incase James Ventura fights the police.
The moment the door opened…
“Tito Richard!” Luke jumped into his arms. The boy cried the moment he saw his Tito Richard, Tito Ryan and Tita Rafi.
Rafi smiled at the display of affection between Luke and Richard. She wasn’t surprised anymore that Luke ran to Richard first before hugging her and Ryan as well.
“Rafi, Ryan puntahan ko muna si Maya. Dito na muna sa inyo si Luke.”
They all allowed him and Maya some privacy and closed the door.
Richard proceeded near her bed. Maya was just blanky staring at him. She was so frail, too weak to even react. She was pale, very thin and there were bruises all over her arms, under her chin, there were dark marks on her neck and a scar near her left eye. Ever her mouth was swollen.
He couldn’t believe that Maya’s husband could do this to her in front of their son.
“Maya, I’m here… you and Luke are safe now.”
He hugged her, careful not to exert much force that could further inflict pain on her bruised body. He kissed the top of her head, her forehead, her cheeks.
She still remained quiet but she was staring at him trying her best to convey her gratitude for being saved from James Ventura. Tears were already welling in her eyes.
Richard stared deeply into her eyes as well…. “It’s all over Maya. Wala na si James. He is already arrested. Safe na kayo ni Luke. Please be brave okay? Si Luke…he’s such a brave boy. He was the one who called me that’s why we found you. Your son had the courage to do it because of you, sana ganun ka rin. These wounds will heal Maya. magiging okay rin ang lahat.” He told her lovingly.
Maya gave him a small smile then she suddenly became unconscious.
Richard called the medical team who was just outside the room. They already checked on Luke.
As Maya was wheeled on a stretcher outside the room, Richard went inside the bathroom with the intention to splash water on his face.
Inside, he saw several empty boxes of contraceptives. He was all the more enraged that he didn’t notice anymore how he clenched his fists then hit the bathroom wall.
He started throwing up as well. After a few minutes and after splashing water to his face, Richard sat on the toilet seat, his hands covering his face.
He silently sobbed for the all the pain the woman he loved had to endure.
He sobbed for his guilt of not being able to protect her and her son.
He knows that aside from the physical pain Maya suffered, a deeper emotional wound is again embedded in her being.
He just hoped that despite what he did, Maya would be able to forgive him.
He hoped that she will still allow him into her life.
A/N. Sorry natagalan to. Aside from being busy, it’s hard for me to write this.