A CASE study. A thesis subject. Was that what I meant to Sigmund? How foolish of me. I should have suspected that something was amiss when he offered me a part-time job at the cafe. The money was good, so I chose to turn a blind eye on any ulterior motive behind the offer.
Ang tanga-tanga ko. Ni hindi ko man napansin. The dots were already there but I failed to make any connection!
"Let me ask you again, Mav." His soothing voice was meant to console me but I knew better. Namumula pa rin ang isang side ng kanyang pisngi sa sobrang lakas ng pagkakasampal ko. "Where did you get a copy of my thesis proposal?"
"Does it matter kung saan galing?" pabalang kong sagot. "Mas mahalaga kung ano ang nakasulat diyan. How dare you trick me, you manipulative bastard! Why didn't you tell me na balak mo akong gawing case study?"
Umurong na yata ang dila niya kaya hindi na siya nakapagsalita. Shame on him!
"If I did, would you agree to be my subject?" malumanay niyang tanong. The usual smile across his lips became fainter as seconds went by. "The answer would be no, I presume. 'Yon ang dahilan kung bakit kinailangan kong gumamit ng gano'ng strategy sa 'yo, Mav."
"So you are admitting that you used me?"
"There's no point in denying it, is there?" He picked up the folder on the floor and showed it to me. "You already have the evidence. I would be a fool if I try to get away with it."
"Kaya mas mataas ang salary ko bilang part-timer sa inyo? 'Yon ba ang bayad mo sa akin para sa pagiging test subject mo?"
He nodded. My left eye twitched.
"Did you honestly think that we can call it quits dahil lang sa pera?" Hindi ko na mapigilang mapalakas ang aking boses. Kumuyom ang mga kamao ko, halos bumaon na ang aking mga kuko sa palad. Even if my right hand was in pain, I would want to slap him again.
Sigmund bowed his head, probably in shame. Dapat na mahiya siya sa ginawa niyang panloloko sa akin. How could he be so outright dishonest to me? Kung hindi siya nabuking, patuloy niya akong lolokohin.
But seconds later, I heard a giggle from him. Then it eventually turned into a maniacal laughter.
"Hi-hi-hi-hi. Ha-ha-ha-ha! HA-HA-HA-HA!"
I bit my lower lip, trying to control myself from punching him in the face. Was he laughing at my own foolishness? How dare him!
He combed his hair with his fingers as he raised his head, looking at me directly in the eye. "Should I be proud that you have figured it out? Or should I be disappointed that it took you days before you learned the truth?"
The innocent Sigmund was replaced by someone twisted. I did not recognize him for a second. Has he gone mad? Was this the real him?
"I tricked you." He tilted his head on the side. "That's what you wanna hear, right? Happy now?"
"Alam din nina Landice at Nikolai ang tungkol sa case study mo, tama?"
"How can you say?"
"Before the wolfsbane case, nadulas si Landice at sinabi niyang hindi raw ako ang thesis subject niya. He knew all along that this detective training was nothing but a front at ang gusto mo lang ay pag-aralan kung may matututunan ako. Nikolai then beamed awkwardly and tried to divert the topic."
Naiinis ako sa sarili. Bakit ba naging bulag ako? Landice remark was already a dead giveaway. If I wasn't dumb enough, I could have sensed the deception.