They called her The Hag.
Old Victoria did not resemble such a distasteful caricature when she was younger. She was not the most beautiful in the village but never the ugliest as she was depicted nowadays.
She had a family once. Sadly, they all left her when a strong typhoon washed their house away. They were never recovered.
Living at the mercy of a strict middle-aged spinster, who was ‘kind’ enough to give her shelter at the back of a run-down storage house, she shared space with a sty nearby. Never a complainer, she held her patience and vowed to do so till the end of her days.
There he was. She saw him a week ago.
The stranger was said to be a drug salesman from the large city. All the information she knew came from what she overheard when the man gave her landlady a visit.
He was a smooth talker. Obviously, the glib was part of the job.
At the moment, he was on his third visit. Her landlady was elated.
Old Victoria waited to be called to the main house. Any free medicine to alleviate her numerous ailments would be welcomed.
However, after a few more minutes her prayers were not answered. She was a living ghost that no one seemed to care about except for those who taunted her point blank.
Old Victoria hobbled toward the fence, where she gathered young camote leaves she would put in boiling water. With steaming newly-cooked rice, her meal was complete.
– o –
Cardo saw her from afar. He had heard the rumors before. She was never caught though nor any evidence pointed to her. But old tales never die.
A large sweaty hand held his forearm. The grip was so tight that he immediately swung his left arm toward his attacker.
“Hey! What’s with you?” Andres ducked, his dexterity saved his face from a sure smack from his friend’s oncoming clenched fist.
“Don’t ever do that again!” Cardo looked very pale.
“You sick?” Andres queried politely.
Cardo did not respond. His eyes went back watching his suspect.
“Eddie wants you in the boat.”
Cardo shook his head several times before heading to his work. He left his friend without another word.
– o –
Joe watched the two men from the spinster’s second-floor window while he sipped a freshly-brewed coffee. He was on the verge of completing the sale of his most expensive package of assorted medicines.
“Do you know those guys?” he asked hastily.
Magda craned her neck and saw only disappearing figures from the distance.
“Local carpenters,” she guessed.
“They seem interested to the old lady back there?”
“Don’t be silly,” Magda laughed. “You think too much.”
“In the city nothing is impossible, if you know what I mean.”
Magda’s face became serious. She did not wish to offend the man of her dreams. Her hopes of marital bliss were re-ignited when he arrived.
“I am cooking lunch. I hope you’ll stay.”
“I have an appointment,” he said tentatively, “but I will cancel it just for you.”
Magda’s eyes twinkled like a teenager. She was unusually young-looking as she neared her fourth decade on Earth.
“I have to leave before dark though. I have other tasks to attend to.”
“If you say so,” Magda muttered, hiding the disappointment in her voice.
– o –
“Can I have these?” Cardo asked Eddie who was kneeling at the side of the boat they were repairing.
“Okay,” he replied after a quick glance toward the objects Cardo pointed to. The discarded pieces of bamboo were taken out from the boat. Since they were soaked in salty waters, they could be re-used for other purposes at home.
“Can I go home early?” Cardo asked. He withheld any information concerning his personal suspicions about a certain person in the village. Men talked to their wives. That was how rumors began.
Eddie stood up slowly, his working stance produced a short pain on his waist. Cardo’s request added more pain but this time in his head.
“Call Danny on your way home. Ask him to take over from where you left.”
Cardo hauled the long pieces of bamboo on his shoulder. They would form as part of the defense strategy he thought out. Crude they might be but once he sharpened the ends, they would be lethal weapons against enemies, real or imagined.
– o –
Sonia carried her weight carefully. A sudden slip would not only put herself in danger but her unborn child as well.
The remaining sunlight that shone on the kitchen began to fade away. Dark clouds covered the sight of a beautiful sunset.
Where was he?
She heard a scratching sound on the roof as if something slid downwards. It stopped. Then, it was repeated several times.
Like a sprite, her husband came in from nowhere, holding a pointed bamboo that looked like a lance. His sudden appearance surprised her as much as the object in his hands.
“You should have called,” she gushed nervously. “I was afraid you were someone else.”
Cardo gave his wife a guarded smile. He did not want to alarm her of what he planned that evening.
“I needed this to poke the rats out that run around at night. I saw a few yesterday,” he lied.
“I have not seen one.”
Sonia was unconvinced. There was something her husband had not been telling her.
“We have now,” Cardo stated in a dominant tone that no amount of arguing could deflect.
(to be continued)