Act 1 (Friday, the 15th of October 2027)
The night is still young. Ermita, Manila’s red-light district is still opening up and preparing for some evening shows. It’s Friday, the weekend and people tend to flock to these places to relax and sometimes have a good time.
Just a couple of meters away is Ermita Police Station where Detective Gabriel Reyes is getting ready to go home. The day was uneventful – a surprising twist in this corner of Manila where crimes are rampant. From petty theft to bank heist and murder – name it. There are at least a couple happening every day.
As the detective exited the Police Station, he glanced at his watch – it’s exactly 9:00 in the evening. He then went to a dimly lit parking lot and walked towards a red car. Before getting in, he lights a cigarette, takes a couple of puffs and there he goes. Traffic on a Friday night is a curse, a fifteen minute-drive will be two hour long during these times.
Act 2 (Saturday, the 16th of October 2027)
A loud knock on the door wakes Detective Gabriel Reyes. “Sir Gab, are you there?”, utters Raymond with some sense of urgency. “Something happened at the bay!”. The bay – the famous Manila Bay. One of the best places to watch the sun set. “What could have happened there?”, surmised Gab whose eyes are still half-open. “For Christ’s sake Raymond it’s 6:00AM!”. Raymond is a police intern who’s eager to learn from the detective. He just lives a couple of blocks away, it’s a convenience as well a curse for Gab to have him. He is like the Detective’s personal errand boy. From fetching something to eat. Getting some information on the street regarding a case. Name it – Raymond is the “go to guy” of the detective. But during those times that the detective needed some peaceful “alone” time – this guy came banging on the door.
Detective Gabriel Reyes, Gab to those who know him personally, finally arrives at the crime scene. At least that’s what they called it, but it’s clear that the crime happened somewhere. Somewhere, sometime – a frightened, defenseless human being was killed.
A woman in her 20s lay dead amongst the garbage washed ashore at the bay. “What do we have here?”, Gab asked the SOCO. The SOCO are those people being called to gather evidence and establish some initial investigation on the crime committed. The Scene of the Crime Operatives, akin to the US CSI albeit less dramatic and bound only to the crime scene.
One of the SOCO answered, “Her name is Kristine Medalla, 23, worked at the Orient Spa Bar, strangled to death, been missing for 3 days” holding what looks like an ID. The next phrase coming from the SOCO sent shivers down the spine of the detective. His whole body trembled as if he saw a ghost.
“Her left foot is missing. Cut at the ankle. Possibly she’s still alive when her foot was cut.”
Act 3 (Wednesday, the 13th of October 2027)
Hazel Bernales, a college student by day and part-time digital artist by night has been sitting in front of her computer for almost 14 hours. She is waiting for something – or someone. Someone who will buy her newly crafted NFT on the largest NFT trading platform – towelforsale.com. “Damn!”, curses Hansel. “How can an artist working her ass off is having a bad time selling her NFT artwork for just a couple hundred Deapcoin, while an NFT picture of a cabaret girl that fetches thousands of Deapcoin was sold in minutes! This is insane, last week it’s a picture of a construction worker.”
Time is tough, Hazel lost both of her parents in the pandemic of 2020. Being the eldest, she was forced to assume the responsibility of being a parent to her younger sibling. Hazel saw that being an artist – will help her and her brother weather the tough times ahead.
Act 4 (Saturday, the 16th of October 2027)
We have a Serial Killer
Three! Three victims in a month and all have their left foot missing. These victims are somewhat tortured before being killed. But why? How on Earth does he pick his victims? Is there any connection between these victims? Is this really the work of a serial killer? Or is it only a coincidence?
These are the questions that keep on repeating inside Detective Gabriel Reyes’ head as he looks at the pictures of the victims on his desk. A cabaret girl – Kristine Medalla, a construction worker – Simeon Marcos and a certain “John Doe”. “John Doe” for male and “Jane Doe” for female is the name given to a person when the real name is unknown.
You can’t really overlook that this is the work of a serial killer – all have a missing left foot.
Suddenly the Detective’s phone rang.
Act 5 (Saturday, the 16th of October 2027)
The Detective and his errand boy Raymond are now in front of the Orient Spa Bar waiting for someone. Someone who can provide a clue in solving these murders.
A bald man in black shirt, black jeans and boots came out of the door. This guy is at least 1.8meters (6ft) and probably more than 100kg(220Pounds) of muscle.
“So, you’re the witness?”, ask the Detective. “Yeah” he answered. “Look man, I’m only gonna tell you what I saw. Nothing more, nothing less.” He is one of the bouncers of the said establishment. Probably he saw something the night Kristine disappeared.
That’s the point of being a witness. You only tell what you saw. Nothing more, nothing less.
After a quick but in-depth interview and a couple of minutes spent checking the CCTV footage, the two are already in the car on the way to the station.
“So, our suspect is a woman?” quipped Raymond. “As of now this woman is a person of interest. What is her connection to the victim? Are the murders really connected?” More questions than answers.
“Let’s go back to the construction site.” the Detective sighed. There might be another clue there. He might have missed something the first time he went there to gather some evidence about the murder of Simeon Marcos.
Act 6 (Tuesday, the 26th of October 2027)
A New Development Part 1
It’s almost 2 in the morning, Hazel finally sold her NFT art – an illustration of a “Balut Vendor”. An old man holding a woven basket, inside the basket are duck eggs. Fertilized duck eggs– a delicacy of the past in the Philippines and other parts of SouthEast Asia. Right now, the scarcity of ducks and chicken are taking a toll on the egg and chicken industry. Damn, avian-flu nearly decimated all the birds on the planet. That was 4 years ago, 7 years prior we almost went extinct because of the pandemic.
At 300 Deapcoin, this single “Balut Vendor ” NFT is already a big help for Hazel and her brother in getting through the week.
“One more, I’m gonna buy some NFT and sell it at a higher price later” hopes Hazel. After clicking the “Newly Crafted NFT” button on towelforsale.com, a picture of a basketball player familiar to her appears. It’s worth 20,000 Deapcoin! “Wow, Gaspar Abadiano is a model now?” she surmised. After a couple of seconds, SOLD!
That was fast. This “Ms. Butterfly” is so lucky to auction off her NFT at such high prices.
Act 7 (Friday, the 29th of October)
A New Development Part 2
It was a cloudy morning, almost a hundred percent it would rain. Hazel is at her school.
As Hazel walks on her school’s corridor, she can feel that there is a certain gloom and a heavy feeling surrounding her. The students are a little bit uneasy – there is sorrow in the air.
“Haze! Haze! Hey!” a petite young woman blocks Hazel and repeatedly calls her name. “Have you heard the news last night?” she asked Hazel. Hazel only has 3 hours sleep, she needs to grind, work on her new NFT – the semester’s about to end and it only means one thing, tuition payment.
“Gaspar is dead!” Those are the words that keep ringing in Hazel’s ears. “A couple of days ago I just saw his face, his happy face donning a red basketball jersey.” Gaspar is the face of their basketball team. A tall, blond man with fair skin. His eyes are a shade of gray. Suffice to say, a basketball heartthrob. The positive description ends there. He really is not that talented when it comes to hoops. The only reason that made him part of the team is his uncle, the school’s basketball coach.
Act 8 (Saturday, the 16th of October 2027)
“So, you surely did not see anybody with him the night he disappeared?” asked Detective Gab to a man in a white construction helmet. “Yes, I was sure. On the dot at 5:00 PM every day he’ll clock out and be on his way, alone.”
If only the CCTV cameras are already working on this part of the city. Probably it’s easier to just check the footage than asking these people.
Simeon Marcos is a well-built 25-year-old construction worker, his square face shape and angular jaw coupled with a posture akin to a military personnel will make you wonder if he really is a construction worker or a model. To his fellow workers, he is a little bit mysterious. He seldom mingles with them. The only person who knew him personally at work is the white hat man – the engineer who oversaw the construction of this 12-storey building in Manila.
Act 9 (Friday, the 29th of October 2027)
Are Falling into Places
The fourth victim, the basketball player. Gaspar Abadiano lay dead in an abandoned warehouse. Just like the previous victims, his left foot is missing.
“What’s the connection? Aside from all of them being somewhat good-looking.” Gabriel asked himself. “Hey, Raymond, let’s start at the school.” and off they go.
“It’s in the jersey Raymond. It’s in the jersey.” the Detective told Raymond. Who seems to be baffled on how did the detective know the place they’ll start with the investigation – the school.
No leads at the school. The dean, the basketball coach, Gaspar’s friends, even the utility worker – all of them did not provide any solid leads. Nothing sufficient to help the case.
Until, “ahhhmm, detective, sir” as a small voice emanates behind Detective Gabriel Reyes. The voice was almost inaudible, fearful, reserved.
At last, a lead. Hazel told the detective everything she saw on the NFT marketplace of towelforsale.com. Kristine Medalla – the Cabaret Girl, Simeon Marcos – the Construction Worker, Mark Del Valle formerly “John Doe” – the DJ and Gaspar Abadiano – the Basketball Player. Their pictures were posted on the website as NFTs days before they were found lifeless.
Act 10 (Saturday, the 30th of October 2027)
Ms. Butterfly and the King
It’s already 10:00 in the evening but Detective Gabriel Reyes is still in front of his computer checking every post on towelforsale.com. Who is this Ms. Butterfly? Her profile picture is, you guessed it, a butterfly – an orange butterfly with black trim. Aside from the profile picture there is nothing there. No address, no workplace, no nothing. Even the IP address of the computer used to upload the victims’ NFTs are routed outside the country.
“Here boss, black no sugar” says Raymond while handling the Detective a smoking hot cup of black coffee. Now, two sets of eyes are staring at the same computer screen. As a new set of NFT pops on the screen. A cat illustration, a family photo, a painting by a famous painter, even music and a birthday video. All these NFTs are being sold for a meager amount. There is nothing here, at least for now.
“Why don’t you try the Justcord Channel boss. There is a channel there for NFT requests.” Raymond suggested. Justcord is a public messaging platform meant to bridge the gap between people of similar interest. It’s so popular that even other websites used it instead of their own messaging facility.
On the site’s Justcord public server for NFT requests, the detective’s eyes were fixed on a certain user – the account name is simply “King”. What makes it somewhat interesting to the detective is the cryptic emoji posts of this “King”. A food emoji, a turntable, a hammer, basketball, a police officer, a teacher, a dancer, a farmer, there is even an emoji of a race car driver and a nurse.
“Could it be…. Oh my God! These are the NFT requests and some of their job descriptions are similar to those victims!”
Act 11 (Sunday, the 31st of October 2027)
It could be a coincidence, what if there is no real connection between this “King” and our “Ms. Butterfly”? What if there is? Then these strings of murder are far from over.
There are about a hundred members in this Justcord Server, and if there really is a connection then our murderer must be here. “Jak0Lantern”, “King”, “Laan[Bow86]”, “Lady.Monarch”, Masco0t3.3.2.A.x.B.”, “My_NFT_Love99”, “Neo_Matrix6”, “The_Collective[r]”. The list goes on and on. “Who are you, where are you, what’s your Justcord name” whispers the detective.
An e-mail notification caught the attention of the detective. A reply from Justord Inc. Last night, he sent an email asking for some personal information of the “King” from Justcord Inc. It was a long shot. He was right, he needed a court order to do that. “It’s Sunday, and tomorrow is a holiday so I have nothing to do but wait.” the detective concluded.
“Buddy, call it a day. You’ve been here almost 48 straight hours.” Officer Leyva suggested. Officer Leyva is a 55-year-old police officer. He’s been in the police force for at least three decades now. One more year and he’ll be retiring. Poised to enjoy life as a civilian away from the hazard of police work – a one foot on the grave kind of work.
The detective notices the folder Officer Leyva’s holding. The title on the folder says “Missing Persons 2025-2027”. “Another one missing? May I” requested the detective.
As the detective scans through the list, his attention was caught by a picture of a young lady. Probably in her mid 20s, her eyes are luminescent like a sparkling dew in the morning. Her face is full of innocence yet there is some maturity in it. A refreshing look. She’s like an angel, who can make your pain disappear.
“Ah, that girl, maybe she’s just in a friend’s house. The parents reported it last night after she didn’t arrive home from the hospital.” officer Leyva said.
Hospital? Why? Does she work there? Oh, my God, she’s a NURSE!
Act 12 (Sunday, the 31st of October 2027)
The detective is now on its way to the Manila Medical Experts Hospital. A twelve-floor state-of-the-art hospital located at the heart of Manila. One of the premier newly-built hospitals in the country.
At the hospital the detective flashes his badge and goes straight to the security department. He wanted to see the CCTV footage the night “Maria Anna Rivera” – the nurse disappeared.
“You need a warrant for that sir” one of the security personnel told the detective. “Look, I don’t have time for that. Let’s make this between ourselves only. This nurse is in danger and by the time a warrant was issued she’d be probably dead” the Detective answered calmly.
6:37 PM, a young woman dressed in a navy-blue blouse and pants with white rubber shoes exited the main door of the hospital. She’s holding a phone, and looks like she’s talking to somebody.
“There’s our nurse,” one of the security personnel quipped. At exactly 6:45PM, a car stopped in front of the hospital and picked-up Maria Anna.
Act 13 (Tuesday, the 2nd of November 2027)
Race Against Time I
At last, a reply from Juscord Inc. The detective just secured a court order this morning and Justcord Inc. is so responsive, they sent feedback almost immediately.
“Leyton King Harvey” that’s the real name of our “King”. A quick search on Metabook.com yields one result. This guy is halfway around the world, he’s from Louisiana in the United States. What caught the attention of the detective is Leyton Edgar’s “Places he’s lived”- 1999 to 2012, the Philippines – particularly Manila and Pasig City Philippines.
A more in-depth “google search” and there it goes, this guy 59 years-old was arrested two days ago for killing their dog. A stark parallel between this “King” and our “NFT Killer” gave the detective fear, an unquantifiable fear in his eyes – a dread.
This “King” HAMMERED all four toes of his dog before killing it and removing both the left foot.
Act 14 (Tuesday, the 2nd of November 2027)
Race Against Time II
It’s been two days since “Maria Anna” was reported missing. It’s a race against time.
The detective right now is doing everything in his power to find the killer. Any connection, any help is greatly appreciated. How is Leyton related to “Ms. Butterfly”.
The detective logs on to google.com and searches about butterflies. There may be a connection as to why she chose a butterfly as her profile picture. Suddenly,
“I’ve seen this name before” the detective utters as he shook his head trying to remember the name he saw. Monarch Butterfly, Monarch Butterfly. He pulls up Juscord.com and there it is! Lady.Monarch!
A couple hours later, an email from Justcord Inc. “Lady.Monarch’s” real name is Princess Harvey and she lives in Manila. There’s the connection.
Armed with a search warrant, the detective and a handful of SWATs stormed the apartment unit of Princess Harvey. But just like in the movies, no one, nothing is there.
Act 15 (Tuesday, the 2nd of November 2027)
Almost at the end
The scent inside the apartment of the detective’s primary suspect is overwhelming his senses. The mixture of lavender and eucalyptus reminded him of a massage parlor. He always hates that scent whenever he goes to a massage parlor. As his senses adjust to the overwhelming, to others, relaxing smell he notices a single framed photo on top of a small table. It’s a photo of a man, Harvey and a young boy– probably his son on a beach.
There is an uncanny resemblance between this young boy and “Princess”. Perhaps they’re brother and sister.
The detective instructed Raymond to interview some of the neighbors. They might have noticed something.
After a couple of minutes, Raymond came gushing towards the detective. “Seems our Princess is not a princess after all, his name is Francis!” said Raymond.
It all makes sense now. The boy in the photo is possibly our serial killer. He is our Ms. Butterfly, Lady.Monarch, Princess.
The detective tried to dig and extract all clues available at the apartment. He notices a picture hanging on a wall near the kitchen. It’s a family photo, there is Harvey, the boy and a woman. In the background is a building that looks like a warehouse.
“I have seen it somewhere, that warehouse,” said the detective.
Act 16 (Tuesday, the 3rd of November 2027)
The building in the photo is not a warehouse. It is now clear to the detective that it is an old building near Chinatown in Manila. Before being abandoned, it was an ice plant. Aptly named “King & Queen Ice Plant and Cold Storage”.
No time was wasted, the detective hops on to his trusted red Toyota and drives off. The detective was driving like a race car driver. Navigating Manila traffic like a demon on the wheels hoping it’s not too late for the nurse.
Suddenly a message notification alert sounded on the detective’s phone. Glancing, on his phone he just read some part of the message. It’s from Hazel and the only words he read was “Nurse is on auction!”.
“This is detective Reyes, requesting all available units to proceed to Poehling street at the old ice plant. Murder suspect possibly armed, proceed with caution”. The detective called on his trusty two-way radio.
Arriving at the ice plant, the detective draws his standard issue .45 caliber colt revolver. He checks the chamber, it’s fully loaded. Ready to unleash hot lead to whoever is unfortunate enough to challenge him.
Act 17 (Tuesday, the 3rd of November 2027)
Two birds in one stone
As the detective enters the abandoned building, he notices a slight shivering light on the second floor. There is someone here. As he climbed the stairs, he heard a small voice. A woman’s voice, in distress, begging for her life. “Please don’t! Please” begs the woman.
Now, almost at the room where the voice originates, the detective saw a woman tied to a vertical beam, a rusting vertical beam. That’s the missing nurse – Maria Anna Rivera.
But where is our suspect? Is he inside the room? Then a loud thud and the detective’s ears are ringing. Disoriented, the detective tried to make up for the situation. He was hit by a metal pipe. The detective fell down the stairs. Blood gushed through his head.
He tried to get up but it seems the whole building is spinning.
“Tonight, I only need a nurse but an additional police officer. Wow, it’s like hitting two birds with one stone!” a loud baritone voice mocks the detective. The detective saw a silhouette of the killer. He still is disoriented and everything is still spinning – as the killer tries to hit him again. The detective manages to block it with his left arm. He felt the bones in his left arm shatter. “It’s over Francis, your dad was arrested yesterday! It’s all over!” the detective utters writhing in pain.
“You liar!” Francis is ready to give the final blow to the detective. As he raises the metal pipe ready to give the detective the fatality move; A loud “bang!” was heard. It’s the sound of the detective’s gun. Francis turned around and saw Maria Anna, the nurse holding it, she managed to escape from being tied to the beam. Maria Anna pulls the trigger again, and again and again.
All six bullets were spent on the killer’s body.
As the killer goes down lifeless,
“It’s all over. It’s over” the detective utters as he drifts out of consciousness.
Act 18 (Wednesday, the 4th of November 2027)
At Last It’s Over
“There you are!”exclaimed Raymond as the detective woke up. He is now in a hospital. His whole body aches. There is a bandage in his head as well as a cast on his left arm. “Where is she?” the detective asked.
Maria Anna, the supposed 5th victim is alright. She’s already at home recovering from the trauma that she experienced.
The detective couldn’t help but notice a bunch of flowers beside his bed. “Probably from the nurse you saved,” said Raymond.
There is a card in it, and the message inside made the detective relive the trauma he just experienced. As if he was transported back to the old, abandoned ice plant; alone and helpless – and the killer is about to kill him.
The message – “This is just the beginning. Regards, Ms. Butterfly”
Comments on Receiving the award:
I always wanted to share some of my stories that’s running inside my head but never made it public.
Sometimes, I lack the courage and sometimes I lack the medium.
I am truly grateful of this NFT Novel Award – NFTnavi by DEA, I got the opportunity to share my story publicly.
There were times that I already wanted to stop and not participate in this award, but every time I opened my browser I was taken to the website 1st NFT Novel Award – NFTnavi. Guessed, I accidentally made it my homepage.
I took it as a sign so I participated and got chosen as one of the winners.
So, once again thank you so much for giving me the opportunity of sharing my story to the public.