March 22, 2023

It was yet another cold evening. I turned the television on to watch the news as I sat on the couch, with a glass of wine on my hand. I could barely hear what the reporter was saying, so I grabbed the remote and increased the volume. With tears in my eyes, I watched. “Breaking news. Another body of a journalist was found in a lake this evening. The police haven’t given any details about the victim.” Tears left my eyes again. I’m not going to forgive the people who killed him; killed them. I drank all the wine left on the glass, stood up, and stared at the wall where our portrait used to hang, but is now full of pictures of suspects, victims, clues, and locations – an evidence board. What a sight.
We were a small team of young journalists, releasing papers anonymously about corruption and illegal activities of politicians. For the past five days, members of our team died, one each day. All deaths were the same with the first one: three bullets on the body, one on the heart, and one on each palm. They were blindfolded with a red cloth and their mouths were covered. Before all these deaths, we were investigating the death of the only witness who was willing to give us a statement regarding a certain group of politicians doing illegal activities. We have been investigating these people for almost a year now and his statement was supposed to be one of the last things we needed before we can expose these politicians. But, on the day we were supposed to see him, he was found dead in his bath tub, his mouth was covered with thick layers of tape around his head, his hands and feet were tied, and his clothes were drenched with his own blood. We were so close to having his words on our papers. From there, we already knew someone was after us, trying to hinder us from knowing and spreading the truth. Someone knew who we were, our identities, and what we were doing.
The one who died was my partner since day one. It used to be just the two of us, investigating, writing, and releasing the papers. But eventually, we became a team. But now, I feel so devastated that I will be the one to investigate their deaths. My partner left me a clue to continue with the last thing he texted, “Our place, beside the world. F2S13R4B58.” Believe me, we have played a lot of riddles before as our pass time, but this was hard and my life depends on it. Because I know I’m next.
A few hours later, an update was released about his death. “According to the police, the dead journalist was also part of the group that releases the paper, “Veritatem Cognoscere” which means to know the truth. Six members of the group have died in the past six days. The number of members of the group is still unidentified. The police said they are still investigating this serial killing, and will catch whoever the killer is. According to the investigators, tonight’s death may be a robbery-homicide, since they couldn’t find the victim’s money and phone,” the reporter said. I really need to work quickly, because whoever has his phone may have seen the clue he sent and decode it faster than me.
I tied my hair into a messy bun, rolled the sleeves, and started to search about the codes. F2S13R4B58. I ran each combination on my laptop, but I didn’t get anything from it. I also tried different deciphers, still no results. I started to search around our place – our office for something I don’t even know. Feeling hopeless, I stood in front of the evidence board, drinking another glass of wine. I didn’t even realize it was already midnight. “Our place. Our place. Our place?” I stopped repeating these words when I suddenly remembered him saying “our place” way before all this. I don’t know if it’s the right one, but I need to take the risk and check.
Jardiel Library. This is where we used to study every after class. The place that witnessed us doing our research papers ‘til 3 a.m., where we reviewed for our examinations. “Jardiel Library is our place. It will always be,” he told me once, while we were studying. Then the codes made sense. Second floor, shelf 13, row 4, book 58. I ran upstairs, counting all the shelves until I reached 13. And there, I saw the book on the end of the fourth row of the shelf, beside a globe; beside the world. I opened the book and saw a flash drive labelled “last piece”. I connected it to my phone and saw all of the witnesses, including the one that recently died, videos of them telling their statements regarding those group of politicians. It was literally the last piece of our almost one year of hard work.
I ran out of the library, happy that everything is finally complete. I walked to the dark parking lot, a few blocks behind the library. But before I could even get into my car, someone grabbed my arm and covered my eyes and mouth with cloth. I screamed to the top of my lungs, asking for anyone’s help. The cloth was sort of see-through and I saw two men – one holding my right arm, one holding the other while pointing a gun to my chest. By the time the man was about to fire the gun, I pushed the both of them somehow, making the bullet go through my stomach instead. I ran, scared for my life, as I took my blindfold out. I didn’t care where I was going as long as I escaped them. As I was running, I realized I was going the opposite way of the library, so I couldn’t get any help. I was bleeding, my hair was a total mess, and I was holding the information that would serve justice to the ones who died. I walked into a small alley behind an old building to rest and get out of their sight.
“Are you okay?” you asked, worried. I didn’t notice that someone was standing there, not until you spoke. I was really out of breath. I was putting pressure on my bleeding stomach, making me feel more pain. “What’s going on? We have to go to the hospital!” you said, as you tried to grab my arm. I pushed your arm away with all the energy I had left. I took out my phone out, and the flash drive I got from the library. I turned to you, looked into your eyes and said, “To know the truth. Seven deaths. This is the last piece. Guard this with your life and don’t get caught. Run!” I handed you my phone and the drive. Not sure on what to do, you just ran away all confused, leaving me on the alley. By the time you were not in sight, the two men caught me again.
I started to hear people whispering and gossiping, the sirens of police cars. Cries of people I know and some I don’t. I saw myself, laying on the cold alley, dead, with four shots on my body: on the chest, stomach, and two palms. I was blindfolded with a red cloth and both of my arms and feet were tied. Seven members, seven days, seven deaths. Then, I felt this warm touch on my shoulder, and I looked over to see the hand of my partner, with tears in his eyes. “You did your best. Thank you. I’m sorry you had to lose yourself just to look for the justice we, along with many more people never had. The truth will be told,” he said.
I looked around and saw you, the one whom I gave my phone and the flash drive, looking so shocked as you saw my body. Like you couldn’t believe that the girl you were seeing was alive just a few minutes ago. It’s all in your hands now. I entrusted you with something that holds the future of every citizen of this country. Either you, by the looks, the eighth member of Veritatem Cognoscere, with a hidden identity from the killers, throw it all away, or dive deep into this and continue what we’ve almost completed. Veritatem quaere, quialatet. Meaning, seek the truth, for it is hidden. Can you tell everyone the truth and do us justice?