He was never been a suspicious individual, even during the Martial Law years when almost all of his close friends hid themselves for fear of the crackdowns on dissent. His belief was simple back then: if they wanted you, they would find you. Otherwise, you were not on the list.

Writing was his method of protest, anonymous writing in particular. He had used all the names of local heroes as pen names, outwitting those who tried to discover who he really was. That was the power of secrecy: only one held the secret.

They were a hundred yards behind him, keeping pace with his brisk walking. He got the feeling they were onto him when he crossed the street from the mall. Illegally, he jaywalked though it was the practice of others who were lazy to use the overpass walkway. His reason was to check for a tail.

They used the fear factor to stop vehicles while they crossed, obviously not professionals, unversed in the tradecraft used by intelligence operatives. More or less, they could be muscle who used brawn and not the decoration on the shoulders they called heads. The real question though was why they followed him.

Or, perhaps his girlfriend was playing tricks on him. She’s wealthy: to hire people to watch his every move would be easy. Her last transmission inserted confusion in his mind.

He saw a cab slowing down near the curb, its passenger could be alighting. It was his chance to break free from the pair’s pursuit.

“Where to?” asked the fifty-something old driver. He was not in a hurry as he counted his money for the day. “Traffic is hell.”

“Anywhere but here,” The Czech replied, glancing behind through the rear window of the air-conditioned taxi. “Please hurry.”

The driver was probably used to strange riders that he asked no further. He stepped on the accelerator and snaked his way through the narrow space between two ten-wheeler trucks before taking a sharp U-turn at the intersection. Formula One drivers could never emulate such a daring feat.

“You’re going the wrong way.” The Czech froze at the backseat, holding tightly to dear life.

“You should have told me that before we left. You said anywhere.”

He could not fault the driver’s logic: his language failed him once more. At least, he solved temporarily the questionable circumstances he was in.

“Can you drop me off in the next LRT station?”

The driver did not answer. Instead, he shook his head for picking up a passenger who would only ride for a short distance. He avoided them like virus: the illegally reset meter would be useless to jack up the fare.

The taxi stopped beside big buses lining up near the station, adding more chaos in the traffic. The exact opposite of the rule of the road was blatantly committed.

The Czech gave the driver a fifty peso bill. He was willing to forego the change as incentive for the driver’s quick reflexes. He got out immediately to take advantage of the red light.

“Next time, ride the jeep!” The driver’s parting words were insulting.

“Good thing I am in a hurry,” he shouted back. “Or, you’ll be sorry. You’ll be lucky to have a horse-driven carriage instead of your junk of a transport.”

The driver showed him the finger as the cab sped away.

(to be continued…)



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