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A Little Known Murder in Studio 4 is the fifth case of the main Trese series and the first of four cases published in Trese: Unreported Murders.

Plot[]

Just after finishing the last scene in her movie Luha ng Bituin, Heather Evangelista was found murdered in her dressing room at ABC-ZNN's Studio 4. Captain Guerrero and Sergeant Tapia examined the scene, finding a half eaten Choc-nut and a child's shirt on her vanity. Guerrero found the Choc-nut intriguing, since she was reportedly on a strict diet during filming, but was more alarmed at the presence of the child's shirt. He asked Tapia to scour the missing children reports, having remembered a rumor that she went to the States last year to give birth. He realized that if there was no missing child, then it might be something worse. Assuming supernatural involvement, he asked Tapia to seal off the area from SOCO and called Alexandra Trese.

Alexandra answered the phone while raiding the manananggal that had been behind a recent kidnapping ring in Ongpin. She promised to call back, ending the call early to help the Kambal face the manananggal and hopefully save a few people in the process.

After the commotion, Alexandra arrived to meet Guerrero at the crime scene. Guerrero explained that he initially suspected an additional crime of kidnapping of a child or a dwarf-like person, based on the unusual presence of the child's shirt. However, he remembered a similarity with a 1977 case with Anton Trese involving duwende, one of his few interactions with the species, which prompted him to call Alexandra. She lifted the cloth with the Sinag and found red dust. Duwendes usually turned into coal or dust upon their death, so Alexandra recognized it as a unique case. She asked for any potted plants that the police might have found, and Guerrero remembered Evangelista's P.A., Ethel Dominador, observing that Evangelista always brought a bonsai with her to all her professional outings. The police found that her Best Actress award, as well as the bonsai, was missing. Guerrero decided to interview his last lead, Nova Aurora, a "Choc-nut-a-holic" and one of the last people that saw Evangelista alive. Alexandra decided to follow later after stopping by Balete Drive to consult the Nuno sa Manhole.

The Nuno Sa Manhole greeted Alexandra, wondering if she's on another white lady case. Instead, she brought the red dust and the Choc-nut for him to analyze. He explained that the red dust are the remains of a duwende killed by someone they love or by someone who loved them, pointing out the irony in the latter. He also explained that the Choc-nut tastes less sweet, seemingly tainted by sadness. The sadness seemed to affect him, making him leave to go back to his mate, but not before bidding Alexandra to tread lightly.

Alexandra then caught up to Guerrero who was in Nova Aurora's mansion in Dasmariñas Village. The actress was found to be mentally unstable regarding the missing Best Actress award and the bonsai. Guerrero explained that the maids found her in a manic state, singing the theme song from her last movie of acclaim, Ang Huling Himala. Aurora suddenly spoke about someone being gone and it being her fault, which prompted Alexandra go to the garden at the back. She took the bonsai, a basin of water, and a white candle with her, and warned Guerrero not to do anything or let his men go see the oncoming commotion.

She pulled out the Sinag as the ground rose up and morphed into several laman lupa. They confronted her about what she has done to their amo, and she clarified that she was only there to return him. Nevertheless, overwhelmed with anguish, the mounds began to attack her. Alexandra fended off the assailants on her own long enough until the Kambal show up to help her. The two noticed that their firearms aren't doing much, but Alexandra urged them to continue to distract them.

She mixed the red dust and soil from the bonsai into the water, and used melted wax from the candle to fuse it. After dipping the Sinag into the basin and uttering an incantation, a manifestation of the dead duwende appeared from the now-red wax. Quickly understanding the situation, the duwende commanded the mounds of earth to stop, and they followed him instantaneously.

Alexandra asked if he is Aurora or Evangelista's handler, to which the duwende confessed to being both, regretting his stupidity. He explained that he made Aurora his familiar when he felt bad after seeing her fail singing contest after singing contest. After blessing her to win her first singing competition, he introduced himself and finalized a deal in order to make her a star. The duwende, recognizing the temporary nature of the spell, due to the the lit candle Alexandra was holding, cut to the chase and explained Aurora's fall from grace. After two failed marriages and several boyfriends, she fell into a drug-filled hedonistic life. She fell out of favor with the duwende, marking the decline of her career. She started buying mounds of Choc-nut to bribe her handler, but to no avail, earning her reputation as a Choc-nut fanatic.

Evangelista, the actress cast to play Nova Aurora in her biopic Luha ng Bituin, visited Aurora's mansion one day to observe Aurora and practice her role. The duwende grew fond of her, seeing the old Nova in the young actress. Eventually, he revealed himself to her and made a similar deal with the one he made with Aurora years ago. That night, he induced Aurora to fall into a deep sleep, and escaped the mansion with Evangelista, who stole his pot from Aurora's bedside.

Realizing what happened, Nova came to the set to beg the duwende to come back, complete with an offering of Choc-nut. The duwende did not want to come back, but pitied her enough to give her one small wish of success, taking the Choc-nut as payment. He did not realize that his denial would fuel her contempt for Evangelista enough to kill her. Coincidentally, a tear from Aurora dropped onto the Choc-nut, tainting it with so much sadness that it killed him when he ate it. Alexandra is confused at Aurora's last act of killing when her wish was getting granted anyway, but the duwende advised her to wait and see.

Nova Aurora was charged for murder, which propelled her name to the national headlines. When called to the stand at her own court trial, she gave a rousing performance that moved the whole courtroom; treating it like her last performance to the journalists present. Immediately after finishing her monologue, she died due to a stroke.

Months later, a film festival premiered Luha ng Bituin, which Alexandra and the Kambal went to. On the side, a young girl looked at the movie's poster, admiring Evangelista andwishing to be like her one day. Off to the side, a duwende watches, taking a liking to the girl's ambition.

Trivia[]

  • This is the first case in the series to feature duwende.
  • This case features the Nuno sa Manhole last seen in At the Intersection of Balete and 13th Street.
  • The premise of this case was based on an urban legend that Filipina actress Nora Aunor had the help of a pet duwende with her fast rise to stardom in the 1970s.[1] Budjette flipped this idea around, making the human the duwende's pet instead.[2]
  • Heather Evangelista and Nova Aurora are references to real life Filipino actresses Heart Evangelista and Nora Aunor, respectively.
  • This case makes references to various classic Filipino movies, such as Nora Aunor's Himala.
  • In the earlier editions, Alexandra's incantation "Magpakita ka, usap tayo" was written in incorrect Baybayin.
  • in the Ablaze and Avenida editions, the incantation was lengthened and written in English, as well as expanded into a full page.
  • https://superstarnora.blogspot.com/2013/10/ultimately-nora-aunor.html
  • Afterword of the Ablaze edition of Trese: Unreported Murders
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