[1424 words] A Flight to Singapore

I am at my desk completing a press release for Mike, the former mayor of Cebu. I write former mayor because he relinquished the position to a rival following the well-publicized June election.  Now in opposition, Mike is working hard to maintain a media presence.  He wants to make sure the citizens of Cebu remember him and what he accomplished while in office.  He intends running again at the next election.    Of course, this suits me.  Mike is one of my best clients.  I’m an Australian citizen enjoying a comfortable and profitable lifestyle in the Philippines. 

You would think Mike’s demands on my time would have eased up a little, considering he’s been out of office for two months.  Not so.  One of his former colleagues, Mayor of another city smaller than Cebu, was recently sworn in as  President of the Philippines.  This new president is cracking down on crime, corruption and, in particular, drug dealers.   For some reason I am yet to understand, Mike became a black publicity target during the election campaign.  Too many people believed the lies.  This cost him the mayorship.  Cleaning up the mess, in the wake of Mike’s loss of status, is my job. Consequently, I am busier now than before the election.
The President delivered a speech to the media this week.   In it, he named Mike, and two former, high-ranking police officers from Cebu, as coconspirators with members of the local Drug Mafia.  The President declared that, throughout Mike’s tenure as Mayor of Cebu, known drug dealers had been awarded protection.  We immediately released a statement contradicting these assertions, pointing out that during Mike’s mayorship there had been arrests of several high-profile drug dealers, and apprehension of many small time dealers.  Our statement also emphasized the minimal influence Mike had over any of the Cebu City Police Chiefs, pointing out that the appointment of each of these men had been made by the current President’s predecessor.
The press release I am now writing is one which begins to outline Mike’s intentions to meet with the newly appointed Police Chief.  He decided to view the so-called evidence supporting accusations being made against him. This meeting was meant to take place yesterday afternoon, at the Cebu City Police Headquarters.  Mike was to report back to me before nightfall, so that I could include his findings in this current press release. I haven’t heard from him yet.  This is a bit unusual.  Generally, Mike contacts me several times a day, either by text or email. The last email received from him arrived in my mailbox at 9.15 am, yesterday morning.  In it, he reiterated his intentions, telling me to expect some interesting news before the day’s end. 
I don’t usually attend such meetings with Mike.  This responsibility belongs to Tom, Mike’s speechwriter. Tom likes to observe and record the reactions and responses to Mike’s speeches.  He also assists Mike, in any ad hoc meetings, by monitoring his speech and behavior, using a privately concocted sign language to politely steer him away from any points of peril.   Tom and I work together when it comes to the writing the press releases.  Tom checks everything over a couple of times and even signs off the press releases if Mike is too busy, or not available.  Like today, I find myself thinking.  I wonder where Mike is. 
*****
My cellphone rings.  It’s Tom. I’m surprised.  He tends to send emails and texts. I tell him that I am getting ready to email the latest press release to both himself and Mike.   “Where’s Mike?” I ask him.  He doesn’t answer my question. “Where are you?”  He asks.  Confused, I respond. “I’m at home.  Why?”  His hoarsely whispered words reach my ear.  “Get out of the country!  We are in big trouble!  

They’ve arrested Mike.  They think we’ve both been assisting him to run a drug empire.  They’re claiming that, between my speeches and your press releases, we’ve been sending coded messages to drug cartel leaders, their dealers, and corrupt officials.  One of my friends who works at the courts rang me thirty minutes ago, telling me an arrest warrant had already been issued for Mike. They are now in the process of applying for arrest warrants for us. I can’t get out of the country. I don’t have a passport. I’m not going to tell you where I’m going, but you need to leave the country now!  Get out of your house now!” The call ends.
*****

Tom’s urgent command, ‘Get out of your house now!’ is still rattling my brain. Feelings of panic are confusing my thought processes.  I need to get to the airport in a hurry.  I want to leave this country and fly back to Australia.  What if the airport has already been alerted?  I’m thinking, possibly irrationally, that I should just head to the Australian Embassy….Could they help me?  The paralysis of fear is beginning to fracture a little.  I think the airport is my best option. The courts wouldn’t have had time to organize a legal hold departure. I am banking on logic and hope I’m right.  
My hand shakes as I grab my laptop, search for and locate an online travel booking site.   My airline ticket is for a 6PM flight from Cebu to Singapore.  It is now 3PM.  I throw all electronic gadgets into a leather satchel, grab an overnight bag, stuff in essential clothing and, within ten minutes of Tom’s phone call, I’m walking down the street looking for a taxi.
*****
I’m on my way to the airport but don’t feel safe.  The same motorcycle has been behind us for at least the last three kilometers.  The driver pulls out and overtakes, but doesn’t stop.  I’m shaking.   Two police cars pass the taxi.  Neither stops us. I alight from the taxi outside the International Departure entrance, my hand is shaking as I push far too much money into the driver’s outstretched palm.
*****
I’m a little more relaxed.  I am thinking that if the police trailed the taxi to the airport they would have stopped me by now.  Breathing deeply as I approach the Bureau of Immigration desk, I try not to look anxious. This will be the big test. The woman checks my ticket and passport against the data on her computer screen and then smiles at me. Heading toward the gate, I glance at my watch.   It is 5PM.

 

My heart continues its erratic beat.  I won’t feel at ease until I’m in the air.  The final hour drags.  I try to ring, text and email Tom; several times.  No response.  The boarding call reminds me to behave normally.  I don’t want to arouse any suspicions.  The plane takes off. 
*****
It is four hours since the flight left Cebu.  The lights of Singapore are now beneath us. It’s raining as we land; the landing wheels bumping hard against the wet runway.  Without checked in luggage I’m one of the first passengers to face the Singapore Airport Immigration staff. There are several police officers, like neatly dressed toy soldiers, watching all of us.  I’m not in the clear, yet.  If Cebu authorities have already contacted Interpol, I’m a goner.  Interpol is a much faster machine than the Philippine police force.  

*****
The immigration officer is taking his time in checking my passport.   He signals his supervisor to come over to the desk.  I force a smile.   I feel like I’m going to break out in the sweat.  To my relief the supervisor is only needed to help the officer log back into the computer.  He hands back my papers.  I’m on my way!  I’ve never been so happy to be in Singapore. 
*****

The morning sun pushes a few of its beams past the hotel window blind.  I get online to check the Philippine news.   The headlines assault me.  Mike was shot dead at the police station.   The news report claims he was trying to escape.  Police are claiming they found drugs and a huge cache of firearms at his house.  I don’t believe it.  I’ve seen almost every nook and cranny in Mike’s house.  Never spied a gun or even the smallest joint.   There is no mention of Tom or myself in the article.  I try calling Tom.  Still no answer.  I start thinking about the quirks and unfairness of life.  I’m the one who is alive and free.  Should I thank God?
*****

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2 thoughts on “[1424 words] A Flight to Singapore

  1. Dima Kirakosyan

    Nice story. It Grabs attention from the start. However, I think it could be better if you either write less info about Mike or add more details in the middle of the story and its ending.

    Like

    Reply

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