It’s Not Just Heterochromia

by Jillianne A. Santos

A cartoon of a person with glasses

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Artwork by: Jillianne A. Santos

MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT DURING CONVERSATIONS. People communicated with their words and body language. But the eyes spoke more than the two of these combined.

King used to struggle with maintaining eye contact. He found it uncomfortable to look into people’s eyes. Or maybe, people looked into his eyes a lot more. They found it fascinating to look at his green right eye and maroon left eye. 

Every time someone asked King about his eyes, he insisted that “it’s just heterochromia.” In reality though, even among the many people with heterochromia, he was the only one with this pair of eyes. King could see lies. Literally.

In King’s vision, people emitted a certain aura around them as they spoke. The young boy soon figured out that the colors of the aura he saw pertained to how truthful people’s words were. Auras with greenish hues indicated the truth while reddish auras meant they were lying.

He called it his lie-detecting vision. At some point, King wished for an awesome superpower like reading people’s minds or laser vision. But having eyes that detected lies was just as cool, so he was already happy with what he had. 

King first noticed his ability in his first year of high school. Whenever his classmates lied to the teacher about “leaving their homework at home,” King could see a red aura around them. Also, he saw the same glow when a teacher falsely accused her student of cheating and when a student claimed that he did not plagiarize his assignment. He noticed the pattern and concluded that liars glow red. 

Eventually, King compiled a lot of secrets. He knew all the lies everyone kept in their dirty little stash of secrets. Nobody could keep their secret from King, but he kept his lie-detecting vision a secret to everyone.


LEYNES WAS KING’S CHILDHOOD FRIEND. They were neighbors back when he lived in Pasig, and they had been best friends until high school since they were lucky to be in the same class every year. 

King never told Leynes about the gift of having a lie-detecting vision. But at some point, King thought Leynes knew about it. Leynes never lied to his best friend but he would tell petty lies to other people. And when he did, he would immediately confess it to King.

“It would be wrong to lie to your best friend, right?” as Leynes would always say.

Unfortunately, the two parted ways when they went to college. King got a scholarship from a university abroad since he wanted to pursue his dream of studying forensic science. Meanwhile, Leynes pursued a degree in social sciences at the Sentro State University in Manila. 

Six years later, King and Leynes crossed paths again. Now in their late 20s, both of them applied and got accepted into the Sentro Forensic Institute. They both vividly remember the flabbergasted look on each other’s faces when they met during the new employees’ orientation. 



Instead of using his vision to be the most stellar detective, judge, or doctor, King had a different plan in mind. Dead bodies could not lie. They could only tell the truth. And it was up to the forensic expert to make them tell their truth. 

Sentro Forensics Institute had the best reputation in the local forensics field, probably because it was the only functioning forensics institute in the Philippines. There would be no competition when there are no competitors. This institution pieced together numerous cases in the past. Many victims of crimes and natural disasters sought this institute’s services to help them understand the stories of their departed loved ones. 

People looked up to the prestige and reputation of the SFI. But this did not erase the fact that the SFI was a severely understaffed government agency.  King was the only trained forensic pathologist working in the laboratory. And there were only four detectives, one of which was Leynes. The five of them were the people making the forensics services run.

Being in the SFI also meant facing bribes, corruption, and selfish people all the time. When a country’s justice system favored the rich and powerful, people seeking the truth would be victims as well.

King and Leynes were used to being approached by bribes. And when their money would not work, they resorted to intimidation and even death threats. But the two got used to it. Indeed, it’s hard to say no to easy money but King and Leynes had the same principles. Leynes never cared about making more money from his job. All he cared about was finding answers to the mysteries around him.

King always admired Leynes’ dedication to his values. Not only that, Leynes even worked his way up as a detective. From being a junior, he was promoted to the second-highest rank in just two years. On the other hand, King felt like he cheated. Unlike Leynes, King was immediately awarded the highest rank as a forensic investigator. When King got accepted for the position, SFI’s senior forensic pathologist immediately resigned from her post. During their quick chat, the senior pathologist wished King good luck and warned him of what lay ahead in working in this field. 

Even after being apart during college, the bond between the two had not changed. Whenever King was behind in work or overwhelmed by deadlines, Leynes would always calm him down and suggest that he breathe and take a break. This forensic pathologist was even surprised when Leynes told him that he looked up to his best friend. 

With a green aura around him, Leynes said “Understanding the dead is something only you can do! Our operations here will collapse without that.”

That was enough for King to push forward every day despite facing a toxic environment and having their safety jeopardized.


LEYNES WAS THE ONLY DETECTIVE WHO SHOWED UP TO WORK THAT MORNING. He just came back from his two-week vacation leave. Four detectives were supposed to be on duty, but Leynes was not surprised that no one else showed up that day. That always happened. 

One of them showed up to log his timecard by 9 am but spent the day elsewhere and only went back to the institute when it was time to log out. “He is just coming in for his attendance,” as Leynes would say.

The most senior detective only came on call and rarely showed up to work. He served for more than three decades already. Eventually, he always mentioned how excited he was to retire. “At this point, I just think he already retired,” as Leynes would say.

The other detective was so busy with administrative tasks. He was always in the building but preferred to excuse himself to be elsewhere for a meeting, a call, or whatever. “I don’t even know if he is telling the truth,” as Leynes would say. However, King knew that the third detective was making those up but never revealed this discovery to his friend.

It’s a good thing that Leynes was finally back from his leave. King was so worried about possibly handling a case alone while his friend was away. Anyone would have trouble working with the other missing-in-action detectives. Indeed, Leynes was more diligent and reliable than the other detectives of the SFI, but he could get clumsy sometimes. He would be late to work for the dumbest reasons like setting his alarm on his phone’s calculator or going the wrong route to work. Each time this happened, he would confess it to King.

King and Leynes were an inseparable duo who solved a bunch of cases together since they started working here in 2021. They soon became a trusted tandem in the SFI. Now, in their third year in the institute, King could confidently vouch for Leynes’ detective work because of how he handled cases. This detective was a creative genius who thought outside the box. 


KING THOUGHT THAT HIS LIE-DETECTING VISION WOULD SOLVE CASES LIKE MAGIC. But it turned out that identifying lies from truths was not the only thing needed in this field.

During their first year in the SFI, King and Leynes handled the murder case of Ms. Vallencio. She was a victim of domestic violence and after she had had enough, she ran away from her ex-partner’s house and filed a lawsuit.

One day, Ms. Vallencio was found dead in her apartment with a gunshot through her right temple. It initially looked like Ms. Vallencio had done it to herself as she was spotted holding a handgun in her right hand. 

King learned from the university that the most frequent site of self-inflicted handgun wounds was at the temples. And since Ms. Vallencio was shot at contact range on the right side of her temples, it may indicate that it was self-inflicted. But during the autopsy, King immediately found that there were two bullets lodged in her skull, with adjacent entry points in her right temple. After confirming that the death was from two shots instead of one, the probability of the case being a homicide increased drastically.

King relayed his autopsy report to Leynes. Since the SFI was understaffed, King usually went with Leynes to interrogate some persons of interest. Of course, Leynes did all the talking and King secretly did all the lie-detecting.

During the investigations, the ex-partner was crossed out as a suspect as his best friend provided him with an alibi. He said that they were together during the time of the crime, which was at 3:30 pm on November 17, 2021. 

King believed the alibi. The best friend glowed green when the duo talked to him. King was baffled with what his lie-detecting vision saw. His gut feeling was so sure that the ex-husband killed Ms. Vallencio. But as King was close to giving up, Leynes came up with something. He managed to figure out that the best friend had come to Manila in the morning of November 17, from his 5-day Japan trip. His wristwatch was not yet adjusted to Philippine time. Hence, his clock was an hour advanced to match Japan’s time zone. This discrepancy in his understanding of what time it was had been sufficient for the ex-husband to murder Ms. Vallencio.

February 7, 2022. Ms. Vallencio’s ex-partner was convicted of murder and was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment.


ONE EVENING, SOCIAL MEDIA BLEW UP WITH NEWS ON A HAZING VICTIM. This time, a 35-year-old man named Renato Gomez. That night, Leynes forwarded this news to King’s messaging app, followed by: “I sure hope we don’t handle this case. I hate working with fraternities.”

The next morning, Leynes barged into King’s laboratory, bringing a white folder with Gomez, Renato 2023 – 121223 written on the folder’s flap.

“Is this the guy you messaged me about last night?” King asked, looking dismayed.

“Yes. I’m sorry. I jinxed it for both of us.”


MRS. GOMEZ, THE VICTIM’S MOTHER, CONSULTED LEYNES. She was referred to the SFI for an autopsy of her son’s remains to understand what happened to him.

“So let me tell you what we have now.” Leynes sat down and King reached out to peek into the white folder. 

Unfortunately, Renato Gomez’s folder contained unfilled charts, except for the personal information and history of the victim. Leynes went on and read the information there.

“The victim is her son, Renato Gomez, 35 years old, who lived in Quezon City. He is currently a law student at the Sentro State University in Manila. In the same university, Renato is also a professor of organic chemistry for undergraduate general education units.”

“He is both a professor and a student in the same university at the same time?” 

“Yeah. What a guy.”

“What else?”

“By December 8, Renato went to Batangas for the weekend. Turns out, this was their fraternity’s initiation rites. Mrs. Gomez knew that her son was joining a fraternity but was not aware that the rites were done during those days. By December 10, other neophytes found his body in a burned-down warehouse where the rites occurred. Police said that they already detained the suspects– four frat guys who are allegedly the ones doing the beating up.”

“Who told the police who those guys are? How was Renato identified?”

“There were ten neophytes that night, including Renato. All the other guys spilled who handled their initiation rights. And Renato was the only one missing from the ten neophyte guys, so… they assumed the dead body was his.”

“Why was he burned?”

“The suspects narrated this,” and Leynes proceeded to read aloud the chart:

The victim’s body was found in a warehouse where the fraternity admitted doing their rites. Suspects claim that the alcoholic beverages they drank that night, along with several lighters for their cigarettes ignited the flame. And since the victim was unconscious due to his state after the rites, he failed to escape the burning warehouse.


“You will receive the remains this afternoon.”

“What are you supposed to do? The suspects already turned themselves in.”

“Nothing much for me. Mrs. Gomez wanted to confirm what killed her son.”

King felt something was wrong here so he asked the detective: “Do you wanna talk to four frat guys?”

“As much as I hate dealing with them, but sure. I might go later this evening.”


RENATO’S REMAINS ARRIVED AT KING’S LABORATORY A BIT PAST 4 PM. King was supposed to work only until 5 but he wanted to finish the report quickly, so he chose to stay in the laboratory tonight. 

Even with his forensic training, King was having a difficult time with Renato. He could not immediately tell if Renato really was a victim of a hazing incident. Due to extensive burns, visual recognition and fingerprints could not be used to identify him anymore. The forensic investigation’s goal was to discover anything that happened to Renato before succumbing to his injuries in the fire incident. 

Renato’s cause of death was “extensive thermal injuries due to fire, consistent with being in a burning warehouse.” His body was burned, maybe to cover up the existence or nonexistence of the usual physical injuries common in fraternity initiations. 

This left King in a tricky situation. Muscles, skin, face– there was no way to extract any information from these anymore. Nor the fingerprints on his clothes or shoes. 

There was this wound on Renato that was nowhere near the usual hazing injuries. King found a gunshot wound on his palate and a bullet lodged into his skull. The only way to have a bullet there is to shoot the victim point blank. 

There was a clear intention to kill the victim. 



After King told him what he found during the autopsy, Leynes sighed, “Well, the killer may have timed the murder during the initiation of their fraternity to make it look like it is one of their younger brods who did the killing.”

“But who would do it? Surely, someone higher than those detained guys, and–” King looked back to his friend and before he could say more, Leynes filled his sentence,“ –I guess there is work for me after all.”


WHILE STARING AT THE REMAINS FOR A GOOD 30 MINUTES, KING FOUND SOMETHING STRANGE ON RENATO’S UPPER TEETH. He had a dental implant on his upper right central incisor. The crown restoration melted onto the implant, making it difficult to spot at first. Plus, the adjacent tooth had a diagonal chip that fractured off a third of the tooth. Around this fracture was an unusually charred black discoloration.

The resin of tooth fillings can melt at very high temperatures. So this tooth may have been previously restored with a filling. But King was no dentist, so he knew he needed to confirm all of these with a dental professional.

King was taking pictures of Renato’s teeth when he heard the door open. It was Leynes. It was already 9:45 in the morning. Leynes held two cups of iced coffee he bought from a nearby coffee shop. 

“Dude, why are you so early?” Leynes asked after taking a sip from his cup. “Here is your usual,” handing King the second cup. “Lanes” was written on the cup. The barista wrote his name wrong again.

“I got stuff to do. Thanks for the coffee.”

“I received a call earlier. This new murder case that we are exploring, the media is asking me if we could rush solving it.”

King rested the camera on his desk, sanitized his hands, and joined Leynes. “But why?” he asked, after taking a sip of his coffee.

“A director from a big company wants it to be a film.”

“They can make the film now if they want. Put as many famous actors as they want.”

“The film will center on the murderer.”

King placed his drink back on the table, crossed his arms then let out a rant. “You see, the thing I hate the most about real or fiction crime stories is they rest their eyes too much on the murders. The victims become the side characters here. Crime victims are never the side characters in these stories!”

Leynes gulped his coffee and said, “Life is just unfair, man.”

Silence followed, but it was time to set their minds back to work. King pointed to Renato’s skull and jaw arranged on the tray and asked Leynes, “By the way, can you help me go to Renato’s dentist?”

“You know how much I hate going to the dentist.” 


MRS. GOMEZ QUICKLY REFERRED KING AND LEYNES TO DR. BEN, THEIR FAMILY DENTIST. When she gave the clinic’s address, King and Leynes swiftly visited to ask questions about Renato’s teeth.

There, Dr. Ben handed the duo all of Renato’s dental records. The most recent notes on his file:

September 23, 2023. Renato Gomez suffered from blunt trauma on the face which led to the vertical fracture of his right central incisor (11), and a Class IV fracture on the mesial of his right lateral incisor (12).

Treatment done: Extraction of 11, immediate implant placement, crown final restoration. Direct composite restoration on 12.

“So if I get this right, he had a tooth pulled out because that tooth fractured when he got punched in the face. That made you put a dental implant on him. Then, the same force also fractured the tooth next to it, but this time, you can restore the tooth with a direct filling instead of pulling it out?” King asked.

Dr. Ben nodded in approval, and King’s vision assured him that the dentist was telling the truth. The duo went back to the car after getting the dental records. It was time to go back to the lab and figure things out.

“He may have gotten into a beef with someone within the last three months. The chipped front tooth on Renato’s remains may not be related to physical injuries during the initiation rites. How can we trace anything from that?” King asked Leynes while he read the records.

Leynes handed his phone to King and asked him to pin Renato’s university on the navigation app. “Aside from being a law student, do you remember that Renato was also a professor?” 



“September 2023 was part of the first semester of the academic year 2023 to 2024. Mr. Renato had three organic chemistry subjects here, all on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.”

The department secretary quickly attended to the pair’s needs after they told her that they were from the SFI. And everything she said was completely true.

“Within the semester, Mr. Renato filed a report on a physical fight between him and his student.”

“Renato punched a student in the face?!” Leynes jabbed in the air.

“No, it was the other way around. According to the report, the student was consulting with Mr. Renato. The student had a failing grade with no means of making up for it with an extra project or removal exam. He might have been upset and became physical with his professor. Because of the incident, Mr. Renato filed a motion to expel the student from the university.”

“Can we have the name of this student?” King asked.

The secretary was double-checking her computer, making sure that she would give the correct name. With a green aura around her, the secretary mentioned the name: “Rob Louie Descalsota.”


THE NEXT DAY, KING ARRIVED IN THE BUILDING A BIT PAST 11 IN THE MORNING. As he entered the building, he noticed an unusual amount of police cars parked in the driveway.

Instead of going back to the laboratory, King went straight to Leynes’ office. On his way there, four policemen walked out of the detectives’ office. Their eyes met and exchanged greetings. Maybe Leynes figured out the case already?

“Yo dude, what is with all those guys?” King asked after finding Leynes fixing his table cluttered with many documents. Like other days, Leynes was the only detective who showed up to work.

“I needed their help in finding someone.”

“So you figured it out already? Who did it?”

“Today is Friday. On Fridays, the regional court goes on its weekly hearings of public cases.”

“Renato’s case is now on the regional trial court?” King asked again, trying to make sense of what Leynes was coming to.

“Nope, not yet. But I found something else. Look at the attendees of today’s hearings.” Leynes handed his phone showing his internet browser. “Here is a government webpage showing a tabulated schedule of lawyers attending the regional court hearings. For today, December 15, 2023. Amadillo Descalsota. Lawyer, District II.

“How did you come up with that all of a sudden?” 

“Most likely he is the dad. I remember that Descalsotas are prominent in the political scene in Bulacan. Their family members hold different districts there. Plus, this guy wears the logo of the same fraternity on his badge in all his photos. 

Here is what I think: The dad knew his son was in trouble, so he took matters into his own hands. It may be a coincidence that the guy they hated wanted to join their fraternity! During the initiation rites, he grabbed this opportunity to commit the crime. The victim voluntarily went to a secluded area, the witnesses around were people they could silence, and the burning warehouse was a cover-up. But I cannot claim anything yet. A lot of investigations and questioning will follow this. Man, I really hate dealing with fraternities.”

King sat down, trying to digest the detective’s theory. 

Leynes seemed anxious and chimed in. “Hey, King. I forgot to tell you something. Actually, I waited until we knew a bit more about this case before telling you.”

“Telling me what?”

“Renato Gomez. He used to be my professor in organic chemistry back when I studied at Sentro State University.”

“He was?!” King put Leynes’ phone gently on the table and tried his best not to drop it after being surprised.

“Yeah. I studied at the university where he was teaching. Remember?”

“Oh, I guess I forgot about that part,” King confessed.

Leynes laughed and continued, “Despite his stellar resume, he wasn’t exactly great at teaching. He may have had the best credentials among the chemistry professors. But he had the worst reputation when it came to teaching! More than half of his class fails his subjects, just makes the class report topics, does not entertain questions, darts his students’ final grades– all those things.”

From King’s perspective, Leynes had the same green aura around him. 

“Not only that but there were also reports of him verbally abusing his students when they cannot answer chemistry problems during recitations. Eventually, students fabricated stories about why he was like that. Being gifted with that kind of academic skill can really take a toll on one’s social empathy. And pride.”

Leynes sat down, took a sip of his usual iced coffee, and continued with his story, “I even witnessed his tantrums in class. I often sit at the back and sneak out the door when his temper gets the best of him. That guy really thought that having his stature is a free pass to be a bad person.”

“I took his chemistry class three times and barely passed on my third take. Pure luck. That is why we graduated the same year even if I just had a four-year course while yours was six. It was bittersweet. A lot of what ifs, but I don’t think my delay matters to me now,” Leynes explained. King could see his friend’s greenish aura starting to have a tinge.

Silence followed. King did not want to let this question drown in his throat, “Do you think he deserved this?”

“No,” Leynes muttered.

But King asked the question with his eyes closed.

About the Author: Jillianne Santos is a dental medicine student from the University of the Philippines Manila. She started writing personal essays and short stories during the pandemic and is currently a freelance writer. She had her first short story entitled “Tulad ng Bulaklak sa mga Bitak ng Aspalto” published in 8Letters Circles Magazine Issue No.4, Vol. 1. Aside from writing, she also has an interest in Filipino writers. Some of her inspirations are the novel “;Ano” by Zero A.D., and the short story “Servando Magdamag” by Ricky Lee.

One thought on “It’s Not Just Heterochromia

  1. Love the open-ended ending! Makes me curious about what will happen if there comes a time when their beliefs are vastly different from each other. Great story!

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