Four stories/arcs make up a circle, where the lines are blurred between victim and perpetrator, between innocent bystander and involved participant, and between right and wrong.
David Roces is the front man of Baliw, one of the biggest rock bands in 90’s Manila. He is young, talented, driven, and extremely popular. He also just received an anonymous letter with newspaper clippings saying, “There’ll be 3B4U.” And then the front men of other bands start dying.
A steady drumbeat pierced through the din of voices and suddenly everyone in the dark, cramped room was silent.
A seemingly bizarre bass guitar riff floated through the smoke-filled air, and people started moving, slowly but deliberately.
A rhythm guitar joined the fray, and the energy level of the spectators increased.
A voice, more a musical groan, took up the melody, and the crowd started going wild.
The music slowly reached its climax, and suddenly there was silence.
A single spotlight turned on and focused on a lone figure caressing a sleek black electric guitar. The sounds made by his fingers running across the strings brought the people in the club to a frenzied state. The guitar solo was both powerful and heartrending, the guitarist’s face was covered by a mass of unruly long hair.
Blackout and silence.
The anticipation was palpable. A few seconds more and the music exploded. The lights went on, and a voice pierced through everyone’s consciousness. From that moment, everyone’s focus was centered on the singer, whose voice soared above the music; every word he uttered went straight to the heart. He was taller than normal, lean, wearing a simple white T-shirt, black ripped denims and boots. His eyes were deep-set and expressive, and his mouth was wide, his lips full, but his mop of longish unruly dark brown hair concealed half of his face. Ordinarily, offstage, he was considered almost handsome, but when he was onstage and making his music, he was beautiful.
The crowd went crazy.
Very apt, since the band onstage was named . . . Baliw, the Filipino word for crazy.
Zia is an artist with a lot of inner demons to slay. A victim of rape as a child, her road to recovery has been long and arduous. In fact, she is still on it. But then she starts receiving anonymous emails with links to her old court case. Then she gets an offer of a lifetime any artist would die for. Are they related? Can she ever really escape her dark past and not let it define her?
Trigger warning: this is about a child rape case and the effects on the person when she grew up. There are scenes that pertain to the act itself and this is definitely not for the faint hearted.
Zia is a mad woman. Her hair is disheveled, her hands and knees stained with colors. The canvass is on the floor, and she is moving her entire body on the canvass, to distribute the colors in the bizarre pattern that is in her head. There are tools scattered around—brushes, paints, different types of cloth and material, and in the middle of it all, Zia, operating on adrenaline, coffee, and a mad propulsion to let out all her feelings on the canvass.
The painting that is on its way to being created is not for the faint of heart, but neither is it without appeal. It is hauntingly beautiful, and more so because the person creating it is possessed, haunted. Her seemingly random scattering of colors blend in a way that makes the painting more alive. More heartbreaking. More forlorn.
It is sad. Frightening. Magnificent.
After a few hours, Zia collapses just beside the finished painting. She is of the same color as the canvass, and as she remains unmoving, she seems to be an extension of the painting. A spillage.
Many hours later, she wakes up. She had been dreaming. She looks at the canvass beside her and realizes she hadn’t been dreaming. She surveys herself in the mirror, and she doesn’t recognize herself, all covered in paint.
She takes a shower and the paint and dirt and everything else is washed away.
She is clean.
On the outside.
She will never be clean on the inside.
Another email, this time with no link, just a picture and a screenshot of part of a document. The picture is of a child on a long bench or pew surrounded by important-looking people, inside what looks like a courtroom. The child is playing with a Barbie doll while eating what looks like a pack of biscuits.
The document screenshot underneath the photo had portions blacked out.
“That sometime on the _____ week of _______________, ______, at ______________, Barangay __________________________, Municipality of _____________, City of __________________, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the abovenamed accused, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously lie with and have carnal knowledge with ____________________________________, a six (6) year old minor, against her will and consent.
Contrary to law.”
Notwithstanding the misspelling and wrong tenses, it should hurt, but it really doesn’t anymore. I am numb. Even with the details blacked out, I know what the words would say. How can I not?
I know the name of the child in the picture. Elizabeth F. Henson.
The child in the picture is me.
The case is of my rape when I was six years old by my next-door neighbor.
No wonder I’m screwed up, right?
Whoever sent this email wants me to be flustered.
But I am not.
So, whoever you are, bring it on.
Nothing more can hurt me.
The bastard who raped me made sure of that.
My own family made sure of that.
Pablo is an IT practitioner by day and an erotic fiction writer by night. He is also an information broker, responsible for the recent heists in different executive subdivisions. He suddenly develops a conscience, but he knows his policeman contact will not take kindly to this very lucrative venture ending abruptly. So what can Pablo do? And will the friendly neighborhood sari-sari store owner with a checkered past and his tall, dark and sexy Law student niece be instrumental in helping him out?
Note: This has a high heat level written in the POV of a male erotic writer.
“Qing bu yao shang hai wo men! Bu yao shang hai wo men de hai zi!”
I motioned to her to keep quiet, to keep her toddler boy close to her. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I was sure that she was pleading for me not to hurt them. The look of fear is universal. She embraced him with her arms, and that’s how they were when I tied her hands.
“Which room has a sturdy lock?” I asked.
“Zhu wo shi wei sheng jian,” she whispered. She must not have realized that she was speaking a language I could not understand. Stress and fear made people do strange things, because I was sure she could speak perfect English and Filipino.
“I don’t understand,” I said, shaking my head.
“The master’s bathroom.” Her English was impeccable. She motioned with her head and eyes toward the said room.
I heard the others ransacking the other rooms.
“Quickly!” I led them to the bathroom. There was a large tub. Oh boy.
“Lock the door, get in the tub, and don’t make a sound. Don’t open the door unless you know who it is. Don’t open it even for me.”
“Xie xie,” she whispered.
I understood that she was thanking me, even if I didn’t understand the words she uttered. I felt like a cad. She was looking at me like I was saving her life, when it was my fault that their house was being robbed. My fucking fault.
There had been a series of home burglaries in the executive subdivision where the Chinese mom lived. The village was huge, situated over three big local areas—Pasig, Cainta, and Taytay. There had been speculations as to who were involved. People said the police were involved. Some said the burglars were residents.
They’re almost correct. There is a policeman involved, some hired muscle, and yes, a resident—me.
I’m no mastermind. I am no longer sure why I am still involved. Okay, I know why.
I do it to be accepted.
I am an information broker. You can’t imagine how much information can be had from different sources that we don’t know can actually make us very vulnerable.
First, there is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and other social media platforms. The amount of information you can get about someone from the internet is actually insane, if you know how to consolidate and use it.
Next, there are the people we usually let into our homes without a second thought. People who can be asked to divulge information without them even knowing it. The maids, the electricians, the plumbers, the construction workers, the guys who deliver the mineral water and gas, the men who deliver and pick up party tables and chairs, the home service masseuses, and even the tutors.
If you have a way to get specific pieces of information from all these sources and know how to weave them together, then you get enough to stage a burglary.
Take the pretty Chinese mother, for example. A construction guy known for being a tsimay killer (or someone who likes getting pretty, young house help as his girlfriends) is in my payroll, to an extent. We would hang out for drinks after he does some work on my house, and I just let him talk. I make prodding follow-ups, and on his fourth shot, he would basically tell me anything. Sometimes, I can ask him to date a maid and transmit to me what he finds out. What he knows is that I am a writer, and I need lots of material. He never questioned my motives for the questions.
From him, I found out (courtesy of a not-so-young-but-still-single nanny) that the beautiful woman’s husband was a prominent businessman who had lots of cash lying around the house toward the end of the month. He also liked his gadgets and toys and has a state-of-the-art entertainment center. The maid bragged that when the family is out, she would watch her favorite noontime show on the big-ass screen with surround sound. From her too came the schedules of his frequent out-of-town trips. She was also too glad to share that she was happy not to have to clean up after any house dogs, and that she usually cleans the garage on the dot at 5 PM, opening the gate to let the garbage out.
I should have told the beautiful woman to fire her blabbermouth maid.
Rachel is a horror fiction writer known for her dark and disturbing stories, but she doesn’t look it in her bright summer dresses and perennial smile. She tries her hand at writing a true-to-life crime story from her past and in the process, discovers that she was never just an innocent bystander but an integral part of the story. Can a wizened crime novelist join forces with an elegant psychiatrist to help unravel Rachel’s past in order to save her future?
Trigger Warning: This has some themes of child abuse—physical, emotional and psychological—as well as crimes of passion, police brutality, and suicide.
“Mom, you’ve got to believe me! There’s a monster inside the closet!”
“Liam! For the thousandth time, there is no monster in your closet! You should stop watching those horror cartoons and playing those stupid games on your tablet!”
“Go to sleep! I have an early conference tomorrow, and I need to prepare!”
Liam’s mom tucked him in and hurriedly kissed his forehead. She left the door open a bit, but she forgot to turn on the night light before she left.
Liam sighed. He switched on his night light and waited. He had made up his mind. This had been his mother’s last chance. And she had blown it.
Liam stared at the door of the closet intently. He tried to still his breathing, because he had to be prepared to go through his plan. It was the only way he could be free.
The closet door opened a fraction of an inch. Liam had to rub his eyes, because he wasn’t sure whether it was just his imagination or if there was really something there. Some part of him wanted to suddenly confirm that he was really just imagining everything, like what his mother said.
But then the door opened another inch. And when it was opened around six inches, it stopped. Liam knew from experience that it would take a few more minutes before the door opened wider and the monster appeared and his nightmare would begin. He had only a few minutes.
He took the glass of water on his bedside table, drank a few gulps, and then screamed at the top of his lungs.
As always, it took his mother a few minutes before she stomped into his room, irritation on her face.
“Liam! I swear! You are just doing this to annoy me! I need my sleep! I don’t need your drama tonight!”
“Mom, I am seven years old. Couldn’t it be possible that I screamed because I really am scared and I just need my mother? You are still my mother, right? Not just someone who looks at me like a burden?”
Liam’s mother couldn’t speak. She stared at the little boy that used to mean the world to her. The little boy that she loved to death, and for a moment, she almost went to him to embrace him, sorry that she had been short with him the past couple of weeks.
She had been struggling to make ends meet. The separation from Liam’s father had taken a toll on her, and she just didn’t have time to coddle a troublesome little boy at this point in time. So instead of softening, she hardened and said the words that sealed her fate.
“Do you blame me for looking at you like a burden? You have done nothing but try to make me believe this far-fetched lie about a monster in your closet. Liam, we have to face reality. We no longer live the perfect life. The sooner you realize that the better. I am trying my best!”
“Mom, I’m seven. I don’t have to face reality just yet. But you do.”
Liam’s mother looked at the steely resolve of her son, dressed in his Transformers pajamas, tucked under the Marvel superheroes blanket on his bed. He looked at her, not as the innocent seven-year-old boy she was trying to make grow up fast, but as a person that was years beyond his age. And there was something in his eyes.
She heard a loud creak and the closet door to her side opened wide.
Before she could ask Liam what he meant, she saw something emerge from the closet, something she would not have ever imagined existing in her entire life. This “something” was huge and dark and had lots of teeth. And this something had suddenly taken hold of her and was dragging her into the closet. It was happening so fast, she couldn’t react. She didn’t even have time to scream. She felt the most exquisite pain and then there was blackness as the closet door closed.
The monster will no longer bother Liam, ever again.
Liam stood up, went to the closet, and opened it gently. Inside, he saw the familiar sight of his clothes and toys on the shelves. He smiled, and closed it again, just as gently.
He went back to bed, prepared to have a good night’s sleep, something he has not had for the past weeks. Before he closed his eyes, he whispered some final words to his mom.
“If only you believed me . . .”
Release Dates and Book Links
The Crime Circle print versions (local through POD and international through Amazon CreateSpace) were released on March 24, 2018. The novella 3B4U (TCC #1) was also released at the same time as an ebook on Amazon. The other novellas are planned for release as follows:
(TCC #2) Lost – May 31, 2018
(TCC #3) Climb – August 2018
(TCC #4) Breathe – October 2018
bitly.com/TCC-print → The Crime Circle local print order form
bitly.com/TCC-print-I → International (CreateSpace)
bitly.com/TCC-3B4U → ebook TCC #1 3B4U (Amazon)
bitly.com/TCC-Lost → ebook TCC #2 Lost (Amazon)
bitly.com/TCC-GR → The Crime Circle in Goodreads
bitly.com/TCC-3B4U-GR → TCC #1 3B4U in Goodreads
bitly.com/TCC-Lost-GR → TCC #2 Lost in Goodreads
Yeyet Soriano is a multi-genre author who writes speculative fiction, crime fiction and contemporary romance.Based in Manila, Philippines, her day job is that of an Asia-Pacific regional senior IT manager for a multinational corporation. She is married to a man who has never read of any of her works (he only reads to fall asleep), and they have three wonderful kids—a teen-aged daughter who just entered college and who is pursuing her passion for street dance, a sweet daughter in fourth grade who is a budding poet and writer in her own right, and a son in first grade who hasn’t taken up reading for fun yet, but is unbelievably smart and charming.
Author Website and Blog: www.yeyetsoriano.com