65

‘Is Becky all right?’

Father Finn was there to meet them at Manila airport, waiting for them on the apron. He was being blasted by the prop wash from the propeller as he opened the passenger door and stuck his head inside.

‘There is a doctor waiting at the refuge.’

Mann had telephoned ahead. The Father knew what to expect.

‘I’m all right, Father.’ Becky sat up and eased herself out of the seat. She hovered, dizzy, at the door. Mann held on to her and steered her out. Father Finn supported her when she got outside.

‘Thank you for coming to fetch us, Father,’ she said, squinting in the sunlight.

The Father held up his hands. ‘No trouble at all.’ His eyes were on her and then he reached out and hugged her.

‘Thank you, Remy.’ Father Finn waved goodbye to Remy; he was eager to make a fast exit-as always, he thought on his feet. ‘Now, let’s go. I need to talk to you on the way. These are very difficult times, no? Can you walk?’

Becky nodded but she was looking very pale and unsteady on her feet.

‘She doesn’t have to.’ Mann picked her up.

‘I will run on and get the Jeepney.’ Father Finn jogged across the car park and returned driving the Jeepney belonging to the refuge. It had slices of juicy-looking mango on the side and a Mercedes replica emblem on the front.

They left Manila airport and headed north. All three of them sat in the front. The back was filled with sacks of rice that would last the refuge several weeks.

Becky sat by the window and stared out. She had a scarf wrapped around her mouth to ease the pollution that bit the back of her throat and burnt her lungs. She closed her eyes. She knew she was safe now. Next to Mann, she always felt safe; she could close her eyes and rest.

They hit the MacArthur Highway northbound. The sign at the side of the road read:

No Dilapidated Vehicles

No Smoke Belchers

Father Finn glanced over at Becky and could see that she was resting. She wouldn’t hear him anyway-they had to shout over the noise of the traffic and the Jeepney had no glass in the windows. He did not want her to hear what he had to say in any case.

‘There’s been terrible news from Davao, Johnny. Wednesday is dead. Her throat had been cut. She had been tortured. Her body was dumped back at the entrance to the Barrio Patay. It was left as a warning to others not to come looking for their children.’

‘Why didn’t she wait for us?’ asked Mann, shaking his head with sorrow. ‘Such a bloody shame, Father. She deserved so much better.’

‘She was contacted. Someone frightened her into doing it. You should have seen her, Johnny-made my heart break. She had been scalped; there were cigarette burns all over her body. It’s the same cowardly way that those men always do it…But her legs were sliced through at the back, above the back of the knee, right through to the bone. I don’t know why they did that.’

‘She was hamstrung, Father, to stop her running to or from something.’

‘Jesus, mother of God.’

Mann felt his heart fill with an overwhelming sadness. To him, Wednesday had embodied all the hope and decency of someone who had dug themselves out of the gutter and made a new life for themselves. All she had asked for was a little help along the way.

‘Did anyone see who dumped her body?’

‘Yes, a boy, Pepe, he saw her body thrown from the car. He said it was a big Kano from Angeles. He told me that he had talked to him before. It was Pepe who had delivered the message to Wednesday to go and get her daughter. “Come without the priests,” the boy said they’d told her. You know who that is then, Johnny? It’s the Colonel. No one else hates me like him.’

‘That miserable fucking bastard will pay for this. Sorry, Father.’ Mann apologised for swearing.

‘Please…if I could say it, I would.’

The car fell silent as Father Finn concentrated on driving and farms replaced factories and the urban squalor. The land stretched out flat until it rose in the distance to the volcano beyond. They left the highway, to find houses crammed together in clusters at the edge of the road. They had no uniform style. The outsides were bright, gaudy and mostly looked half-finished. They were made from a variety of reclaimed and new materials: thatch-palmed roofs, corrugated iron and breeze blocks. Washing was hung over barbed wire and goats grazed beneath.

Mann had so much to think about. He needed to try and piece it together. Why had Becky been targeted? They hadn’t expected Mann back for an hour. They were taking their time, but they intended to kill her and leave her in the room. Otherwise they would have moved her straight away. It was not a kidnapping, it was a murder squad who thought they had time on their hands. But why Becky? Stevie Ho must be the reason. Those were Wo Shing Shing officers that Mann had killed. They were under orders from Stevie. But still, why Becky? Was it just because of her association with Mann? That was the last thing he wanted to believe, but it was the first thing that came into his head-yes, in my own way, I am responsible again.

Becky stirred as the noise from the road disappeared and was replaced by the sounds of insects and birds, then the noise of children laughing.

‘We are here.’

They turned into a steep driveway that led up to a large multi-level building. It was made of wood and had a large balcony at the front. ‘Welcome to the Angeles refuge.’

‘It’s a lovely place, Father.’ Becky smiled at the sight of the children all running out to greet them, as before.

‘We are lucky that we have permission to build over this entire hill, so many of the workers live just a minute’s walk from here, in their own houses. Mercy and Ramon, that you met before in Davao, have a lovely house just on the other side of this hill.’ They were surrounded by children immediately. ‘Here is Mercy…’

As she came to greet them, Mann thought how she looked bigger than ever. In just a few days her shape had changed slightly, the baby was resting lower.

Mercy looked at Becky, concern in her face. ‘You need to rest, come…’

‘No, please, I’d rather not.’

Mercy looked at Becky and read her eyes. She saw that she meant it. She needed distraction. She did not want to be alone to think about things.

‘Come, then, someone is waiting for you.’

From the corner of her eye Becky saw Eduardo standing apart from the others, waiting to be seen. She smiled and beckoned him over. He took her hand.

‘He is still traumatised. We have therapy sessions where the children are encouraged to let go of their feelings, cry, scream, whatever it takes, but he is still not ready. It is early days for him.’

Becky sat down next to him on the porch. His eyes were full of concern and his brow was furrowed as he looked at her battered face. She smiled, shook her head and pulled him closer.

Mann’s phone rang. He stepped out of earshot to answer it.

‘Yes, Ng?’

‘CK is on the move. He has been calling in officers from everywhere. He is preparing for battle. There are hundreds ready to go in London, Hong Kong and the Philippines. We have already had a few spark-offs here. Somebody tried to torch Miriam’s bar.’

‘Is she all right?’

‘She’s okay. Minimal damage, but the yakuza took it personally. Instead of stepping away from the fight they are stepping up to it. The place is buzzing with tension, Mann. I don’t think CK will back down, whatever happens.’

‘I still have till midnight.’

‘He doesn’t care about his daughter. He has been waiting for this day all his life.’

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