This story is by Anand Venigalla and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
John Bean failed to assassinate Rodrigo Malabar, President of the Philippines. Malabar was likely ignoring, nay, aiding and abetting extrajudicial executions of not only drug addicts and dealers but also journalists, cops, and even women and children. At one point, to show the cops how it was done, Malabar shot two junkies from his motorcycle. When the cops rebuked him, he shot them in the head. Not only that, but even babies were being killed. Malabar shot a baby while trying to shoot a dealer. So the stories went. Thus was John sanctioned to kill Malabar.
Not only did John fail, but he and his comrades got the Filipino police on their watch. They were stranded in the Philippines. They couldn’t communicate, receive aid, call for help, or do anything apart from run. They could die at any moment.
Someone apparently caught on the plot and sent information to people in the government. They seemed to have acted accordingly.
And now John Bean split from his comrades — Jack Folger, Peter Howard, Brent Brewer, and two off-duty privates who offered to help, one of whom was Private James McAfee. The other private, Gale Bean, John’s brother, was the only one with him at the moment. And even John and Gale were distanced from one another. Each of them feared not only for his own life but also for the life of his comrades.
It was morning at Davao. Some locals transported the assassins in separate cars, away from Manila. McAfee, Brewer, Howard were at some other town. John Bean and Gale Bean went together to Davao – John to help coordinate everything, and Gale to stand by his brother and, if necessary, shoot anyone that would hurt him. Gale Bean was walking near a shop when John Bean, two blocks away, outside the door of a high-rise building, said through the walkie-talkie:
“Should we call the others now?”
“No, I think we should wait until 11:00,” Gale said. “I’ve heard that our two fellas, Jack and Peter and Brent, are all over the place. I don’t know where they are, or how to get ‘em together. Not to mention it seems that some of them are coming to us…”
“Best to be cautious. Even our lines are tapped, I think. I wonder if someone’s listening in…”
“Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. But if we’re dead anyway, why shouldn’t we speak whatever the hell we want? It seems they already know.”
“They think they know. It seems to be suspicion. If you say anything that makes them think we’re doing it, they might actually believe it, and then they will know.”
Just across from where John was, there was a police officer, Danilo Torres. He was on the lookout for the suspects. He whistled to himself. He did not seem to see the apparently evident sight of a nervous-looking man speaking into a walkie-talkie. His eyes were directed elsewhere. Danilo did not see John Bean. Danilo had a gun on him, and he kept his hand near it as much as he could.
“So, should we have been in this business after all?” asked Gale. “Why were we even involved in this?”
“Don’t ask that question, you know why,” responded John Bean, his voice tinged with a delicate harshness. “We knew of him killing his own people. He didn’t care who he killed in his mad power grabs.” He stopped a little. “The U.S. and the Philippines had a history, I know, but we were getting somewhere. Then this man started to behave badly, and act as if he had all the power. So we had to step in. They took out one of ours – a cousin of mine. We ought to kill Malabar, without pity, without hesitation. Kill him like he killed our cousin.”
“But why this way? Won’t the Filipinos hate us?”
“They’d love us,” said John Bean, with a little mocking in his voice. “They’d been suffering under that tyrant for some time. We have to act. That’s our goal as Americans – to proclaim liberty throughout the land, make the world safe for democracy, all that good stuff. If we kill President Malabar, we make a way for all that to happen.
“Anyway, we got sidetracked to finding this man who informed on us: do we know where he was?”
“I don’t know,” said Gale. “I think some information had been mishandled. John, when you were at the hotel room, did you leave any files or pieces of information that could be used by anyone?”
John started to feel nervous. “I don’t think I kept any papers on me. But I do remember I carried a journal where I’d write on how things went…” His voice became more hesitant around the moment. “I left it with James McAfee, and I’m worried he might have lost it…”
“Or if someone else, Peter or Brent, might have read through the journal in some not so safe place…”
“You don’t think…”
“I wonder if we were so focused on spreading democracy and killing foreign leaders that we forgot the basic handling of info, in a fucking journal no less!” Gale said, with an air that was dismissive but tinged with some worry.
John’s face sunk. He dropped the walkie-talkie on the sidewalk. The cop came back and saw him, and pulled out his gun, and he shot John. He walked up to the fallen walkie-talkie and spoke into it.
“John…John…where are you? John, you don’t think…” said Gale.
“I shot him in liver,” said the cop. He put his foot near John’s wound. John writhed in pain. “I heard about some journal. About that…you stupid asses couldn’t keep your mouths shut. Someone heard about it, someone tell me about it, and now I and other cops are after you.”