. Much of the shooting was done on a beach, which one reached by driving on a track through a cattle field. I arrived in time for a box lunch and a quick gape at Hollywood in action, then returned to wait for the PM.
Next day disaster struck. I woke up covered in red spots, a clear case of measles or chickenpox. I was sure that instead of protecting the most famous man in the world, I had infected him with some fell disease, because we formally shook hands twice daily.
Forgetting breakfast, I rushed to the local medical officer, who asked me if I'd had much experience with 'grass lice'! That was it, I was covered in cattle ticks and they had spent the night bloating their bodies feasting on my blood. The MO made his nurse bathe me in kerosene.
Wiser, highly-inflammable and smelling like a garage. I returned to my security duties. Sir Winston and I even shook hands again, and I accompanied him to Jamaica Inn, then the most expensive hotel in Jamaica, where we had a magnificent dinner and the guests all stood to applaud.
Sir Winston was delighted and responded with his famous 'V' for Victory sign.
To this day I can close my eyes and see him, shaded under his wide-brimmed Stetson, sitting on that low stool in his light jump suit with a dead cigar projecting from the corner of his mouth. Somehow, I have forgotten how Eden looked in his pyjamas, the mind being such a fickle biographer.
The Man with the Black Moustache
GIVEN the bloody HISTORY OF THE CARIBBEAN, there should be no surprise that official and unofficial criminal societies existed, one rejoicing in the title of 'The Caribbean Legion'. This was no group of banner-bearing pensioners, but a small secret gang of assassins, set up by President Trujillo of the Dominican Republic. Its leader, an old Mafia hand, ensured that it followed the structure and motivation of his Chicago alma mater, 'Murder Incorporated'. Arms were often supplied by the Dominican factory Trujillo had thoughtfully set up by importing a number of Czech technicians from the Bren gun factory.
The islands that were British, later to form part of the short-lived Federation of the West indies, were never involved with such nefarious organizations, even though on one occasion an alert immigration officer apprehended one of its assassins. The gentleman in question was actually in transit, loosely disguised as a nun. It was only the weight of his hold-all that gave him away. The helpful officer carried the bag and became curious about the contents, which turned out to be a Thompson sub-machine gun.
The whole affair gave Latins a rather bad name in Jamaica, so it was with some misgivings that the head of the Police Special Branch learnt of the planned state visit by the Governor of Puerto Rico, Senor Munoz Marin.
Vicious though the Caribbean Legion might have been until its founder, Trujillo, was himself gunned down, few terrorist movements were more deadly and effective than the Puerto Rican Nationalists, who were all entitled to US passports and could move freely in the Caribbean. They were some of the first dissidents to machine-gun United Nations representatives, attack the UN Building in New York and commit suicide there and elsewhere, murdering indiscriminately, as any effective terrorist organization is wont to do.
The Governor of Puerto Rico was an extremely popular figure at home, so naturally had been selected as a prime target by the terrorists. The FBI anti-terrorist squad had received clandestine intelligence to the effect that an assassination attempt would be made during the Governor's forthcoming visit to Jamaica and the United States of America.
The head of the Jamaica Constabulary Special Branch began to plan extensive security measures for the visit. From the start, the chief of the Puerto Rican police announced that he would arrive well in advance to assist in every way he could. Meanwhile, by way of openers, he enclosed a thickly-bound wad of known terrorists' profiles. The Jamaican police superintendent was surprised to see that many of them were extremely attractive women, the remaining males somewhat nondescript.
The security of an island should, by definition, be relatively easy to establish. But this was not the case when tourism was the main industry and Americans, including Puerto Ricans, formed the majority of visitors.
As soon as the Puerto Rican police chief arrived, the head of Special Branch compiled a watch list for circulation at the Montego Bay and Kingston airports where the local Special Branch maintained a nominal form of travel control.
In answer to the question concerning which nationalists might be expected to participate in the planned attack, the Puerto Rican chief quickly selected a number of females from the book.
"More deadly than the male," he claimed.
"OK, which of the males?" the Jamaican cop asked.
The chief simply shrugged.
"Any of them," he replied.
"Well we cannot distribute a list this long, it will be self-defeating."
The chief shrugged again.
"Tell them to look for small, dark men with big black moustaches."
The Head of Special Branch shuddered when he thought about the Commissioner's likely reaction, but since no further enlightenment was forthcoming, authorized the circulation of a warning to be entered in the watch list to the effect that all arriving small, dark men with big, black moustaches should be the subject of close scrutiny.
All he could do now was hope for the best.
The Governor of Puerto Rico arrived and displayed the somewhat cavalier approach to security that VIPs all too often express. The Jamaican superintendent wished he was a rural cop back in St Ann not troubling anybody; but no such luck. Time, the last enemy but one, had taken care of that. He was the Jamaican chief of security, holder of the special imprest fund, innumerable secrets and top secrets, keeper of the key to the red leather dispatch box that was couriered between certain secretive offices, plus many other privileges. So it was that the cryptic 'All ports' addition to the Watch List included: 'small, dark men with big black moustaches'. The warning list was circulated throughout the island.
The visit proceeded without security problems for the first few days: the Puerto Rican Chief of Police and the Jamaican Head of Special Branch began to relax, after all the end was in sight. That was until the telephone call from the sergeant in Montego Bay. who gave the dreaded message:
"A man answering the description..." had arrived on a flight that afternoon from Puerto Rico via the Dominican Republic. The suspect was now under observation in one of the larger tourist hotels.
The Superintendent could hardly imagine the Montego Bay constabulary mingling easily with the crowd at the hotel and forced himself to repress the thought. Instead, he conferred with his Latin colleague, then throwing caution and public funds to the wind, they rushed to the Palisadoes airport where a chartered aircraft was prepared for instant take off. The Special Branch Sergeant, a large individual who wore a perpetual smile along with a huge pair of dark glasses and a filthy trilby in the face of all adversity, met the flight at Montego Bay. The trio hastened to the Casablanca, the hotel where the suspect was being kept under discreet surveillance.
As the Superintendent expected, there were four people in the dimly-lit bar, two plainclothes police, a nervous-looking barman and, yes, a small, dark man with a black moustache, who exactly answered the description on the watch list.
The Puerto Rican Chief jerked his head in the general direction of the gentleman's lavatory. The security trio followed to confer amongst the gleaming white bowls and metal cubicles.
"Just the type," the Chief confirmed, busily loading an enormous Colt revolver. It was very fortunate that he was the holder of nearly all the amateur shooting awards in his native Puerto Rico and even some in the US, because the Jamaican constabulary was a paramilitary force, brought up to drill with First World War rifles and bayonets. The Superintendent and his sergeant were not far removed from this primitive form of aggression and on the whole, the results of the Special Branch's recent practice on the range with small arms had been disappointing. A spectacular exception was an incident involving an unfortunate laundry lady at the police training school being struck in the buttock by a stray bullet, even though, at the time, she had been bending over behind the detectives using the range.
Armed and ready, the Superintendent and the Puerto Rican Chief of Police sat down one on either side of the man at the bar, while the sergeant, as rank demanded, took his stand behind the suspect. Gently, the would-be terrorist was lifted off his stool as each of his elbows was taken. A quick frisk by the sergeant revealed the presence of a concealed automatic weapon, small but deadly. A look of profound relief crossed the small man's face. With some pride, he assured the three security men that he was proud to be a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Movement and he had promised his current ladylove that he would shoot the Governor.
In no time at all, the would-be assassin was whisked to the airport and put on the first plane out, a Pan American clipper to nowhere in particular, whose senior flight attendant stood at the top of the metal stairwell leading to the aircraft and voiced her objections to having an instant deportee thrust upon her. Authority, both American and Jamaican, over-ruled her.
"Jeez," she remarked stoically, shifting the gum from one side of her mouth to the other, "do we get them or do we get them?" To which there was no answer.
The Governor's tour of Jamaica was completed without further incident, but upon his arrival at Dade County Airport, Miami, he was quietly escorted away by FBI and secret service guards.
It may have been the Mob, or just pure coincidence, that the first passenger from this flight to leave the terminal in the normal way was met by a burst of enthusiastic but inaccurate machine-gun fire.
Champagne Tastes And Shiny Boots
THE SCENE AT THE AIRPORT WAS CHAOTIC. There were two strange aircraft on the runway, both bearing the markings of the Haitian air force and they had just disgorged their passengers. The first plane was filled with the recently-deposed President of Haiti and his mixed entourage, while a stream of soldiers had poured out of the second. Wearing American style steel helmets, and armed to the teeth, the Haitian military were on a war footing. The escort evidently intended to make sure that their former President got the message loud and clear. It was like a sudden invasion as the soldiers swarmed over the airport with impunity causing fright and confusion among a crowd of assorted passengers and ground-staff. To make matters worse, they all spoke French. The ex-President of Haiti, his family, his staff and his ministers, had arrived to accept political asylum in Jamaica.
It was not the first time Magloire had visited Jamaica. Several months earlier he had been invited as part of the Tercentenary celebrations: along with other heads of state, including President Tubman of Liberia, the Governor of Puerto Rico and a couple of Royals. The Queen herself had toured the island. Princess Margaret had enjoyed a holiday while schoolchildren waited for her lining the streets armed with their Union Jacks, and one of the most conscientious members of the royal family, Princess Alice, had officiated tirelessly as the Chancellor of the then University College.
Princess Margaret attracted the most media coverage, but not to be outdone, President Magloire was accompanied by thirty assorted members of the Haitian press and presidential photographers. The President was a handsome man and cut a striking figure in his Italian style uniform. The tunic was dark-brown and covered with appropriate decorations, his breeches light cavalry twill. But it was his boots that outshone everything else, so highly-polished they seemed as if they housed two bright lights, beacons even, instead of the President's stockinged feet.
However, after the ceremonies, the visiting Heads of State had fared badly. Two were subjected to assassination attempts (unsuccessful) as they returned home. Magloire suffered most of all, ousted after his successor, a small grizzled medical graduate from McGill University, Montreal, won an overwhelming majority in an election. 'Papa Doc' Duvalier had immediate popular backing, including from the military, so Magloire decamped with alacrity with all his tribe, kit and kaboodle.
Notice of the arrival was extremely short: in fact the ex- President's flight was already in the air when the Acting Assistant Commissioner (Crime) was notified by the First Secretary. By the time the ACP arrived at the airport, the Immigration Inspector had managed to restore some semblance of order, displaying the initiative that was later to be recognized and carry him onwards and upwards to become Commissioner of Police. Somehow the armed contingent of the military escort was dissuaded from leaving the runway and reluctantly returned to their aircraft, which soon took off. Arrangements were made to accommodate all the family and staff in the Myrtle Bank Hotel. A Haitian fellow-citizen, who had introduced himself to Magloire the previous year during the official visit, thoughtfully manoeuvred a local resident into 'offering' his large suburban residence for the use of the ex-President and his household.
Uniformed Constabulary guards were posted in the spacious grounds to prevent any assassination attempts with a few Special Branch officers patrolling in plain clothes, cursing the sudden onslaught of night duty.
A political problem remained to be resolved. The Governor of Jamaica insisted on being assured that the ex-President was not plotting a counter-revolution and charged the police Special Branch with the task of collecting intelligence on the subject. The unfortunate Head of Security was given the job. In desperation he befriended the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was a relative by marriage to the Magloires. The information obtained from this source enabled him to monitor negotiations to find some country that would accept the deposed President. The only one was France. However, the Governor of Jamaica was rather quicker to offer temporary asylum than the Quai d'Orsay was in granting it.
At one stage the Governor had assured Fidel Castro that he would be welcome in Jamaica if Batista drove him out as the Central Intelligence Agency had confidently predicted. Actually, it was the other way round. Several boatloads of hastily-retired members of Batista's secret police and security service arrived in St Ann to replace the revolutionary' 'Twenty-Sixth of July Movement' refugees in Jamaica.
Soon after Magloire's arrival, a reputable customs broker rang his official government contact and dutifully reported the arrival of several cases of vintage-quality champagne, to be held in a cool place pending the unnamed owner's further instructions. It so happened that the Chief of Operations for Customs and Excise was a drinking friend of the head of Special Branch, who, at the time, was still Acting Assistant Commissioner (Crime). The airport's airconditioning had broken down as usual so they were enjoying a review of airport security procedures over a couple of deliciously cold Red Stripe beers while seated on the observation deck. They had changed the subject when the customs man made a casual remark.
"Are you by chance a wine fancier. Superintendent?"
"Not really, I mean not here; we have yet to get round to wine growing. But perhaps you're right. Maybe a glass of Island Chardonnay would be acceptable if we could grow grapes in the Blue Mountains beside the coffee."
"No, I'm serious. Someone has shipped in several cases of quality champagne. They are in bonded storage right now. I mean even King's House doesn't bring in that many. You should know that, you were an ADC, weren't you?"
The Superintendent closed his eyes and suppressed a shudder. His days as commissioned butler he would prefer to forget. The Customs officer continued, "Well, someone is going to claim them soon, I'm sure. Don't you figure it's the Magloire crowd? They are probably all champagne sippers."
The police officer nodded and tucked the thought at the back of his mind. Bad enough that the Commissioner was already claiming that he had seen one of the uniformed Constabulary guards smoking an outsize cigar. "Turning the whole b-b-bloody lot into a gang of gang-gang-gangsters," he had intoned wrathlully Now was it going to be champagne, the Superintendent wondered?
He could just imagine the constable on duty at the entrance to Magloire's driveway holding his smouldering cigar in one hand, raising a flute of bubbling golden liquid in casual salute and smiling benignly at the police chief one morning. He decided to trace the affluent owner of the bubbly before it was too late. A brief call to the customs broker was sufficient to ensure that as soon as the cases were collected the owner would be identified.
In due course the call came through. It was indeed a Haitian and he had ordered delivery to a house in suburban St Andrew. The acting ACP checked the address and a couple of alien landing cards, then decided to visit and, who knows, perhaps even sample the brew.
The residence was luxurious and occupied. A uniformed maid led the officer into a cool, tiled sitting-room, sheltered by a spacious veranda. A wizened black man shook his hand and waved him into one of the spacious cane chairs. His English was almost accentless. The officer introduced himself as a senior member of the Jamaican Constabulary concerned with security.
"I hope you will forgive the intrusion," he began, "but I believe that you have recendy arrived in Jamaica from Miami and that you are a visitor from Haiti. I would be happy to provide any advice my staff and I can offer during your stay at any time, within reason of course..." he smiled encouragingly. The small man smiled back.
"I quite understand, Commissioner, being in the same business myself so to speak." The Jamaican officer profoundly hoped that this statement was an exaggeration, but decided on balance to accept the instant promotion. He had heard of law-enforcement methods in Haiti and even of the new President's TonTon Macoute.
"Until very recently I held the position of Chief of Police in the Republic of Haiti, an office heavy with responsibilities I can assure you," the little man continued. "But after the elections..." Here he paused to make a noise that was a cross between a whistling frog and a steam engine, "Pfflffffwwhhheeeeeeeeeeee!... All Gone... everything!!" The ex-Police Chief gave a good imitation of a Gallic shrug. "It will be replaced by something far worse. Hooligan vigilantes, TonTon Macoute they are known as in my country. There will be a reign of terror, the black people will slaughter the mulatto. It will happen. Trust me."
The Jamaican officer smiled back, certain that about the last thing he would do short of jumping into the gleaming pool outside with all his clothes on, was put any trust in his host.
"Then I presume that you would like to restore the former President's regime, wouldn't you?" he asked unsubtly.
The Haitian was saved from answering by the click of high heels on the tiled floor, heralding the arrival of a Mrs or Miss Champagne Lady. The acting ACP stood, his eyes riveted on the newcomer.
"This is Veronica, a very dear friend of mine, Commissioner," the ex-Haitian Police Chief smirked, waving his hand vaguely in the bimbo's direction. She sashayed across the room, extending a hand decorated with extremely long, extremely crimson finger nails and quite a few large rings. Her greeting and accent were pure Brooklyn. The officer hid his surprise.
The woman's arrival put a damper on any official conversation. As soon as he could the Jamaican police officer made his excuses and left. But driving down Trafalgar Road, his mind was filled with possibilities.
Clearly the former Chief of Police would be involved in any counter-coup. Why else would he be in Kingston with his champagne tastes, even allowing for the fact that he had the foresight to bring all his creature comforts? How could the Special Branch people get close enough to have a constant source of reasonably active intelligence? It was important that Jamaica did not become the jumping-off point for some sort of palace revolution. But how was he going to find out what was going on in the closed Haitian exile community?
He would have to find a source that was acceptable to the Police Chief. Obviously this must be a fellow-countryman. Haitians, he mused, who do I know? Of course! He had an inspiration. His mind had suddenly jumped to the Voodoo priestess, 'Horse-and-Buggy'. (see Police-Can't-Catch-Me-Oil). Perfect, if he could just find her. And he did.
Horse-and-Buggy was proprietress of a small plot of coffeebearing land with a stream running though the lush undergrowth and a barbecue to spread out the beans to dry. The Haitian lady had earned the price of her deposit on the land and journey into agrarian respectability under the auspices of the police who had rewarded her generously for her help as an informant on several occasions.
She was neither surprised nor overjoyed when a detective inspector visited her early one morning. She was less pleased when she learnt of the reason for his visit, but calculated that the money offered for extra constabulary duty would enable her to purchase more land. So once again the Haitian lady with the strange nickname was able to assist the police with their enquiries.
She mingled easily with the Haitian community, met the one time Chief of Police and became party to many of the plots, counterplots and schemes. In fact there were so many that the chances of any of them succeeding was negligible, but despite this Horse-and-Buggy had to suborn the Junoesque Veronica to assist her to expand her clandestine surveillance, at no cost to herself. The funds of the Special Branch secret imprest fell to an all-time low.
The head of Special Branch was delighted when he learnt that the French had at last agreed to accept the Magloire entourage and the ex-President had purchased an apartment in central Paris. A French liner was due to return home to Europe at the end of a Caribbean cruise and there was one more stop: Jamaica. Travel arrangements were hastily made and together with most of his entourage the ex-President embarked on the vessel.
Several members of the Jamaica Constabulary escorted the party on board, including the Head of Special Branch. A magnificent lunch was provided before the ship sailed and afterwards the ex- President made a short speech and awarded the astounded Superintendent with some kind of decoration that resembled the Victoria Cross but was more the equivalent of one of the Victorian Orders. Evidently one of the entourage had surrendered his own medal complete with a red and navy blue ribbon. Mr Magloire even apologized for having to present the award 'posthumously'. The officer was never too sure how to interpret this remark and never had occasion to wear it, even on the right breast of his uniform.
One notable absentee from the party happily sailing into comfortable exile, was tbe former Chief of Police. He and his lady both disappeared via a plane flight to parts unknown.
MANY AIRLINES ARE ADMIRED for their safety record, advertising skills, including in-flight magazines, cheap package tours, freedom from adverse incidents, leg-room provided, the courtesy of their cabin crews or the excellence of their food. Unfortunately, most of them are notorious for the opposite reasons. Some carriers are incapable of landing on time, others noted for their outstanding ability to misplace luggage.
I could go on forever about airlines I have known, loved and even hated, but there were some that were always fun. Wardair now sadly deceased; or Bahamasair, which owned or leased an elderly fleet of Grumman flying boats that hopped from island to island. They only landed if there was a signal that someone was waiting for the flight. Sometimes the Goose or Mallard would land in the sea and pick up the odd fisherman, who would be paddled out to the plane with the suggestion that he could pay the balance of the fare with a lobster catch.
Until recently, only Chalk Air, one of the oldest carriers in the world, still flew flying boats from Nassau to Florida with passengers and the daily take from the casino. Bahamasair and Air Guyana also used Grumman amphibians. Some of these sturdy old birds can still be chartered in the US Virgin Islands, albeit equipped with new turbo-prop engines. The founder of Cayman Airways, Robbie Roberts, started off with a slow but safe Catalina, but now like Bahamasair, has a 737 jet service to Miami to meet the industry's fierce competition.
My favourite, however, was BWIA - British West Indian Airways - whose Vanguards and Vikings used to island-hop northwards from Trinidad. The airline was known locally as 'Beautiful Women In The Air', but to be brutally sexist about it, the ground staff were just as pretty as the flight attendants I used to train in early anti-hijack procedures as part of the Special Branch security role.
BWIA also was charged with carrying the 'diplomatic mail', mostly classified Secret, but occasionally even a Top Secret would be slipped in, sealed with a round, red disk that could not be lifted. These vital documents were mostly carried by what was laughingly called 'Safe Hand' but more accurately, in the pilot's trouser or shirt pocket. Sometimes the 'dip' mail was too bulky, in which case the captain sat on it while the Vikings skipped between the cumulus clouds from place to place.
That was until the day the honourable British Secretary of State, Mr John Profumo, decided to visit Kingston and Belize, then British Honduras. The flights to Belize left early in the morning and turned right around to start the route from Jamaica to Trinidad, calling at various islands en route. Mr Profumo had thoughtfully sent his speech in advance to the Governor of British Honduras to vet before the opening of the Legislature. But it never arrived. Some BWIA captain had left the precious document in his shirt pocket and upon arrival in Trinidad sent it to the wash. The Secretary of State's speech was thoroughly laundered. As a result, officialdom determined that the handling of 'dip' mail should be tightened up, inspections to be carried out by travelling security officers, and most hated of all, a small safe with a combination lock welded into the bulkhead at the back of the flight deck. On the one occasion I checked out the contents. I found an odd sock and a cracked coffee mug.
It was on a return flight to Jamaica that I inadvertently became involved in what threatened to be a family crisis. When we landed in Grenada, the baggage bashers had changed gear from their customary dead slow to an unappreciated stop. They were on strike and my friend the station manager was removing the luggage for the few landing passengers by hand himself. Sweating as a result of his unaccustomed exertions, he managed to grind out through clenched teeth the suggestion that we should meet in the bar before take off. I nodded and wandered through customs and immigration as only a visiting plain clothes police officer in transit can do.
"That is NOT the man!" she shouted. Unmasked, I slunk away to the bar and hoped the flight would soon be called, where Miss Trinidad and Tobago or possibly, an undeclared Miss St Kitts, would greet my return to the bulkhead window seat I occupied next to an Indian dentist, who took an unnerving interest in the state of my teeth.
But it was in the Cayman Islands that I confronted my first hijackers - three Cuban gunrunners. Castro haters in Cuba had several secret airstrips hidden in the valleys between steep mountains, concealed under the leaves of cassava plants during the day. The landing strips also had wire stretched from one side to the other to prevent unofficial use. The three Latins in question had had their aircraft shot up when flying low on the approaches to one such airstrip and their gas tank was punctured. Undismayed, the gunrunners headed for Grand Cayman, glided down, and despite a buckled landing gear, taxied safely on a deserted beach somewhere near Duck Pond Cay on the north shore of the island.
They stealthily unloaded the guns and ammunition, hiding them in the nearby mangrove bushes to the voracious delight of the local mosquitoes which abounded there. The Cubans then crept to the local Owen Roberts Airport, just outside Georgetown, on a reconnaissance tour. They spotted a small, high wing plane belonging to Cayman Airways and attempted to load their cargo into it before dawn broke. But before the three would-be hijackers could steal the plane, a patrolling police jeep spotted them and the trio quietly surrendered.
The policemen's immediate problem was; what to do with the prisoners? No court would be held before Monday, there was only one cell at the police station - and that was occupied by a local resident. In addition, the Cubans claimed they did not speak English, but they managed to convey with fervour their opinion that there was no specific law against hijacking or any legislation enabling us to arrest hijackers, and little evidence of their intentions.
The police superintendent, a wise and experienced officer, decided to send for help. Help turned out to be the Head of Special Branch and his indefatigable sergeant from Montego Bay (heroes of The Man with the Black Moustache), the Cayman Islands at the time being a dependency of Jamaica.
To compound the problem, the Governor of Jamaica had issued strict instructions to the effect that the Cubans would not be allowed to land in Jamaica and no representative of the Cuban government would be permitted to land in transit to Cayman. In view of the fact that all routes to or from Cayman passed through Kingston or Montego Bay, this was to prove an inhibiting factor, the exception being direct flights from Cayman to Florida.
Nevertheless, a sinister man from the Cuban secret service soon arrived in Kingston, complete with gun and diplomatic passport. He demanded to be allowed to travel to Cayman threatening that a serious diplomatic incident would occur. To his surprise, the few BWIA flights to Georgetown were full, but a diplomatic incident was avoided, thanks to my favourite airline's ground hostess staff, who smilingly turned the furious security person away. Fortunately Cayman Airways' sole craft was also out of service at the time.
Meanwhile, back in Cayman, the housing crisis had been temporarily solved. One prisoner was held in the charge room, another in the CID office and the third, a small, swarthy man with a nasty scowl, in the Cayman Superintendent's car. When interviewed in any language the trio proved truculent, unwilling to reveal their identities or where the flight had originated. A search of their crashed aircraft's log book proved equally unrewarding, but examination of the firearms and ammunition clearly indicated their American origin. Assuming the illegal flight might have come from the US, telegrams, fingerprints and photographs were immediately dispatched to the FBI office in Miami.
Next day, three US officials arrived in a Border Patrol DC 3. Two were officers of the Border Patrol, the other from the FBI. They gladly took custody of the three Cubans who were wanted in Texas for kidnapping, gunrunning and various other inter-state offences we were unable to understand. It was alleged that the unsavoury trio had Mafia connections. During an inter-gang dispute they had kidnapped an illegal arms dealer who had failed to come across with the goods after receiving payment. In truth there is no honour among thieves.
The whole affair ended in a sort of anti-climax, except that when I returned to Kingston there was a long cable addressed to me in Spanish from Fidel Castro himself, but even the translation was totally incomprehensible.
A Day With 'The Chief'
NO COLLECTION OF TRUE FICTION' about the Caribbean would be complete without a piece on the founding fathers of Jamaican independence, Norman Manley, QC, and Sir Alexander Bustamante.
I got to know Norman Manley from court appearances. We were always in a sort of adversary situation because he was the defending counsel and I the witness for the prosecution. But Manley was always courteous to witnesses, treating them to a half smile as he turned away to consult his notes or his junior, his wig barely concealing his unfashionably long grey hair. But polite as he invariably was, his cross-examination could devastate any witness. It was like Filleting a fish to reveal the bones. Half-truths were swept aside to ascertain the actual facts and separate them from perceptions for the benefit of a highly-prejudiced jury. If he had practised in England, Manley would have undoubtedly risen to the forensic heights of Sir Edward Marshall Hall or William Norman Birkitt. As things turned out, I got to know Sir Alexander, more popularly known as 'Busta' or 'Chief and leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, much better. At this time he was Leader of the Opposition.
One day Busta phoned the Police Commissioner demanding to see "one of them English officers" whom, he claimed, were not so likely to be infected by the scurrilous propaganda of Manley's People's National Party. Of course the Chief was quite wrong; he knew as well as anybody that the local constabulary in those days were pro-JLP for the most part, and by way of balance the Jamaica Defence Force traditionally supported the PNP.
By that time, there were only five expatriate officers left out of a total of about twenty when I had first arrived in Jamaica, that is if you discounted a couple of short-term contract men. So I was delegated to go to Busta's home on Tucker Avenue and take note of his complaints, which concerned the alleged political machinations of the PNP.
The Chief lived in a smallish bungalow in those days. After he became Prime Minister of an independent Jamaica, and Jamaica House was built, he took up his official residence there: later, he was to retire to the hills near Irish Town. His longtime aide, secretary and ultimately wife, Miss Gladys Longbridge, opened the door and ushered me into the dining room where the Chief was just finishing his breakfast. He invited me to join him with a Red Stripe beer and immediately got down to facts regarding some by-election that he claimed was being "mashed up" by the opposition.
If Busta could be described in one word it would probably be 'flamboyant'. He was very tall, well over six feet and he had a mane of white hair, the inspiration of cartoonists. During a visit to Britain the Chief had delighted the media and crowds in the East End of London by wearing a top hat and tails while distributing bananas and advertising Jamaican produce. He was always a crowd-stopper wherever he went, but on the day I am telling you about, he was relaxing in a colourful Tower Isle shirt, khaki slacks and sandals.
After I had duly recorded all he wanted me to know about the sinister designs and methods of the PNP, he summoned the ever-prepared Miss Longbridge who entered bearing more Red Stripe, by then the third or fourth of the morning. Busta waved the glasses away impatiently.
"Miss Longbridge," he intoned, "bring we the case, not bottles." Both Miss Longbridge and Sir Alexander could speak perfect English with the beautiful soft accents of the islands whenever they wished, but by now the Chief was beginning to use his Jamaicanese. He probably wanted to confuse the alien police officer in the same way that he had asked for an expatriate superintendent with the intention of playing on his ignorance of local politics.
Then the Chief began to give me a version of his life story. Curiously enough it did not begin until he was locked up at the outbreak of the Second World War, after he was arrested and held without trial under the 18B regulations governing the detainment of dangerous subversives and aliens in the interests of national security.
Busta told me how he had been searched and forced to remove his belt. Deciding that acting out the story was more effective than mere telling, the future Prime Minister unbuckled his belt. "They even took my shoelaces," he continued, removing first one shoe then the other and unlacing them both with painstaking deliberation. By then it was early afternoon and the beer had been flowing from morning.
"They lock me up," the Chief declared, disappearing from the room and closing the door firmly behind him. I wondered if and when he would reappear, but need not have worried. Busta spent only a few moments before re-emerging to continue the saga.
At some point in the narrative. Miss Longbridge came in with a huge plate of sandwiches.
And just in time, the case of Red Stripe was empty.
The sun was way down when my driver collected me and by the time I got back to police HQ it was getting dark. As soon as he saw me, the Assistant Commissioner suggested that I go home. I did, but early next morning I wrote an edited account of the interview, full of police journalese, although I never used words like 'proceeding' or 'acting on information' - thank God.
The report went to the Governor who subsequently sent it on to the Ministry of Overseas Development in Whitehall; I'm sure it's still there.
Of course there were many other influential politicians but I believe that Manley and Bustamante set the trend to the extent that the leader's relative charisma became the major political factor determining the outcome of any election in the Caribbean. Even in Trinidad, the supreme oligarch, Dr Eric Williams, was able to charm the public with his informal meetings. But enough of politicians, I usually steer clear of them as much as possible.
Eccentric characters abounded in the rural parishes of Jamaica, especially amongst the plantocracy of St Ann, which was once described to me as 'semi-feudal'.
One of the estate owners always wore his pyjamas, even when he used a cattle whip on some unfortunate agricultural inspector who came to check the arsenic in the cattle dip. Another eccentric was an English expatriate of so many years standing that he looked and talked like a Jamaican. He lived in the bush but was once a research scientist; he constantly urged the creation of forests and plantations filled with trees bearing fruits such as mango, ackee, breadfruit, soursop and so on. His obsession was probably a good idea; however, he was never taken up on it.
I also remember one very elderly resident of a rural part of the parish. She was large, very white from the top of her hair to her large bare feet and had the unmistakable air of command which has always been the hallmark of the British upper class.
She used a huge trumpet-shaped earphone made of horn, like a communication frontier to her own advantage. When she wished to hear, it was screwed firmly into the right ear, but when she did not want to catch an unfavourable reply, it was determinedly removed and sometimes waved in the air.
She drove a half-truck, the back always filled with large dogs. On one occasion she descended on the St Ann's Bay police station from the hills where she lived in relative isolation. Some of the dogs stayed in the back of the truck, barking furiously at any uniform they happened to see. One would invariably jump over the side and accompany his mistress into the station, while another, the size and approximate breed of a Great Dane, would carefully inspect the parking area.
She did not listen to me but turned on bet bare feet and padded towards the exit of my office. The large and serious-looking animal that had accompanied her into the office, glowered at me with its baleful shit-coloured eyes, then lifted its leg and let fly a huge stream. To add to the insult, it used both rear legs to scratch-up the polished wooden floor before it turned and strutted out of the open door to the parking area.
Subsequently, I had a brainwave, visited her at home and suggested a shotgun, preferably with a small bore. With it she looked like Annie Oakley and it would have been a very brave aggressor who would face such a formidable victim, not to mention the Hounds of Baskerville, who made no secret of their intense disapproval when I drove up in uniform.
St Ann is a part of the island steeped in early history, particularly on the coast. Taino artifacts have been found in Seville Estate grounds, and at one time my wife's uncle, who was the medical officer, lived there. It was justifiably claimed that he cut out every appendix except one in the parish before he was transferred to Kingston. The sole remaining appendix that had survived his medical regime, followed him there a year later and was removed in a hospital 'Emergency' ward.
There were many other notable characters, like the Gustos, an elderly retired military doctor, who was highly respected; like the Jesuit priest (see God's Gambler), who once brought the famous author Graham Greene to St Ann police station to obtain something official. Greene was staying with the priest while writing The Comedians, his controversial novel set in Haiti. Many years later, when I happened to sit next to Greene in his favourite Antibes restaurant, I told him that his friend, the priest, had died in Cayman, after surviving a kidnapping and a murder attempt.
Then there was the sporting colonel, who fell off his polo pony at Drax Hall as I was watching the game. He landed on his head. To my indignation, he died next day without recovering consciousness just when I was trying to buy his beach cottage.
There were also 'the occasionals', who only came during the winter and added excitement to the local gay community. During a lunch parly, one gentleman came downstairs and squeezed past the manager of Barclays Bank with an "Excuse me, darling". The banker was so shocked that he dropped a whole plate of fish salad covered with mayonnaise into his wife's lap.
A former chairman of the late lamented Baring's Bank had a house near Ocho Rios, which he sold to the Dockers, reputedly one of the richest couples in Britain. They never visited the cottage but relied on the captain of their yacht to tell them all about it.
They don't know who they missed.
WEST INDIANS LOVE WORSHIPPING GOD almost as much as they love participating in the law. In the parish of St Ann there was a Jesuit: an intellectual and like most of his order, a pragmatist. The rich blood of the Levant mixed with a dash of Portuguese and a touch of illicit Africa flowed in his veins. Father was also a born gambler. His parish fund-raising garden parlies included roulette and other games of chance, all adroitly hand-made by the priest. Chance, a fine thing, was always on God's side, but as someone once said, "You can tell what God thinks of money by the people to whom He gives it," so this was obviously coincidental. Father was also fond of his large collection of firearms.
It was a strange twist of irony that the new English police Superintendent for the parish of St Ann was Father's nephew-in-law so it was inevitable that Father would sooner or later request some sort of permit from him. The first of these approaches occurred one morning, heralded by the scream of tortured tyres as Father furiously drove his Citroen through the narrow streets of St Ann's Bay, scattering dogs and assorted livestock.
The Superintendent's long-suffering office clerk. Corporal Bailey, himself a member of Father's flock, recognized the sound and was able to warn the officer of the impending visit. (Corporal Bailey offered his usual sage advice: use extreme caution when dealing with the zealous Father. Bailey's view was biased by local knowledge and the experience of the current Superintendent's various predecessors.
Parking his car in the station yard, the priest marched into the office, his stocky figure clad as usual in his crumpled white linen suit, clerical collar, a white straw trilby pulled right down on his head. He conferred briefly with Bailey, who quite unnecessarily announced the visitor and even went as far as making a formal introduction to the Superintendent.
Family chit-chat completed and normal pleasantries exchanged, the Superintendent uneasily eyed a large, brown paper package that his uncle-in-law had deposited on the desk between the 'in' and 'out' trays.
The Superintendent closed his eyes before speaking: "I hope that this firearm is something you were given or came across recently and now wish to turn in. How many guns have you got now? I forget."
Father, never one to take a hint and totally unabashed, produced a completed licence application form, although one or two sections relating to the Mauser's origin had tactfully been left blank.
"I wonder if you could just sign this form," he suggested mildly. After an hour of altercation, the form remained unsigned and Father left in a huff. The Mauser, a gift from an anonymous parishioner was added to the police armoury collection of unlicensed firearms and was much admired by the constable in charge.
But it was in Runaway Bay, part of his parish, that Father both triumphed and nearly met his nemesis.
Runaway Bay boasted a police station, several churches of varying sizes and denominations, a village shop, some straggly houses and not much else in those days, except a superb converted stone warehouse, the winter home of an expatriate lawyer and his friend, a long-term companion. The owner was seldom in residence, being otherwise fully-occupied in assorted foreign but expensive litigation. He relied on the local staff, a maid, a garden boy and a part-time lady cleaner, to maintain the place.
For a year or so all was well, the arrangement worked, but one tropic moonlight night, the maid, Gloria, lay in her quarters, being gradually lulled to sleep by the soft splash of waves on the nearby reef. She gradually dozed off, after a long day of 'cocking up foot' in Jamaicanese, or more grammatically, exhausting inactivity. Suddenly she was awakened by a thump on the roof. Fully alert, she listened again. Another thump, followed by two more. She jumped out of her bed and ran outside shouting loudly:
There was no answer so she returned to her bed promising herself to discuss this mystery with her friend, the Runaway Bay police 'Corpie' the next day. But when she wandered round to the station she was disappointed to learn from the district constable that the corporal had taken the forage horse to inspect some distant spirit licence premises situated in his domain. The DC was a part-time policeman and local stalwart. but not one Gloria felt able to confide in.
The next night she lay awake, listening. Sure enough, the thumps were repeated for even longer. A quick check outside in the light of a nearly full moon that threw moonbeams between the coconut trees and turned the rough crabgrass a delicate silver, revealed only the shingled roof. The many night noises, crickets competing with the whistling frogs, continued uninterrupted. It must be a duppy, the maid thought, or even worse, a Rolling Calf, the sight of which signals impending death!
"No good talking to Corpie now," Gloria thought. "Better I talk to the obeahman in Watt Town." But her second thought was: "It far an' him expensive!"
Then the solution to her dilemma came to her.
"Father! Him can't charge me. It a good t'ing me a regular at him church."
So next day Gloria took the bus up the hill to Brown's Town, the nearby market centre, then walked the rest of the way along the dusty, red road to the rectory, where indeed she had parted with some of her savings, gambling at Father's last garden party. Now at least, she figured, she would get some value back. As she turned into the gate the priest arrived in his dusty, old silver Citroen, nearly killing her in his own driveway. Hot and sweaty, and still in his off-duty papal uniform - white suit and hat - Father berated Gloria for blocking the way. After he had finished, he calmed down and gave her a cup of tea while she poured out the whole story.
"And don't it full moon tonight, Father? Duppy come for sure," she concluded.
"All right, my love," Father replied, rising nobly to the occasion, "You don't worry. I come to the bay tonight and check it out. But you don't discuss this with anyone, understand? Or God may punish you. And don't think I won't know after next confession."
Actually, Gloria attended all the churches, including the Seventh Day Adventist, because she enjoyed the singing, the company and sometimes even the drama of the sermons, especially Father's description of hell, but otherwise she favoured no preacher man and had never been to confession in her life.
"Oh, yes, Father," she said, "It all right, me no tell no one. Duppy going hear it too."
Greatly relieved, Gloria returned home.
It was after ten the same night when Father arrived on foot at the converted stone warehouse, having thoughtfully parked his car behind the police station. He carried a loaded twelve bore shotgun - not for him holy water to exorcise duppies. Still, he reflected, as he crept stealthily through the bush towards the old stone building, now bathed in soft moonlight and occasionally obscured by a passing cloud, anyone might be forgiven for believing the two hundred-year-old building was haunted by the ghosts of long dead slaves who had laboured there under such grim conditions.
Getting closer. Father crouched behind a tall coconut tree whose leaves swayed high above him, rustling in the soft 'undertaker' breeze that blows down from the hills at night, chasing away its counterpart, the 'doctor' breeze that caresses each new day from the sea as regularly as, or perhaps instead of, the tides that are not so dramatic in the Caribbean.
Father crept through the hibiscus bushes that abounded close to the house, gradually making his way to the back. Rounding the corner, he kept going towards the sea then sharply bore to his left so that he could observe the back door to the kitchen. Nothing happened for a moment or two. Then suddenly a figure rose from the long grass, an arm was seen to draw back and a large piece of rock landed on the roof.
Father fired his shot gun once in the air.
"Hold it man," he commanded, "Take one step, you Dead!"
"NO!" cried a quavering voice, which belonged to the ragged figure who quickly raised his hands in the air.
Father crept up behind the unmasked duppy, calling for Gloria to come out but also taking the precaution of pressing the shotgun in the small of the intruder's back.
When Gloria arrived, she screamed, not in alarm but rage. The priest interrupted her.
"You know this man? He's a trespasser you know, so don't tell a lie."
"Him no trespasser," she replied, shaking with righteous indignation. "Him Horatio, the garden boy."
Father lowered the gun.
"What happen man?" he asked. The truth came tumbling out. Horatio was a city person and knew full well how superstitious country folk were. IHe had found a new lady love in Runaway Bay and had decided that if he could scare Gloria away, his paramour could replace her. They planned to move in and save themselves time and expense looking for alternative accommodation. As simple as that. So it was the proverbial 'dog' that died. The garden boy was replaced by the local cleaner's young son, Ezekiah, while Horatio and his pregnant girl friend moved on westwards towards Montego Bay.
Father went home, pleased that he had solved the problem and had found a use for some of his armoury other than shooting pea doves.
The Road to Hell
THE OTHER DAY I held the door of my Ottawa bank open for an old lady who was slowly picking her way crabwise through the pouring spring rain. Taking her time, she splashed through the puddles and eventually reached the entrance. She regarded me speculatively.
"Thank you very much," she wheezed, "but this is not my bank and I was not going in. I suppose I'll have to now!"
As I released the door handle, my memory whisked me thousands of miles away, to a sun-drenched Kingston street and a policeman in white tunic and helmet courteously helping a would be bandit to park his getaway car outside the main branch of the Royal Bank. I was reminded of the old adage, 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions'.
Indeed it was for Charlie.
A born salesman, it was widely acknowledged throughout Jamaica that Charlie could sell sand to fishermen who live on the shore, make a profit by selling the barman a drink he had just served, and above all sell insurance. Charlie was the star salesman for the British American Insurance Company, an institution that was widely acknowledged as a leader of the industry in the Caribbean.
Part of Charlie's success was due to his tendency to empathize with everyone and everything, no matter what the cost. Early one morning Charlie saw a shaggy old dog dragging itself home after what must have been a hard night comforting lady dogs all over the city of Kingston. Charlie led an active sex life himself and at once he was moved to compassion. The dog paused, sniffing a variety of aromatic garbage at the base of an interesting tree, with the air of a wine connoisseur sampling a rare vintage. Charlie went over and patted the top of its shaggy grey head: the dog looked up irritably then bit him. The ungrateful animal started to turn away then changed its mind. The beast wheeled tightly to get in position with his back to Charlie, then lifting a hairy leg, let fly a trickle of evil smelling urine, which left a pale yellow stain on Charlie's new seersucker trousers.
Undismayed, Charlie continued his ill-advised attempts to make life easier, happier and more insurable for everyone and everything he met.
"All right. Come, man," he urged, waving her back enthusiastically then rushing to the front of the car to beckon her on. The huge car crept cautiously backwards, forwards, backwards again and forward again. In full control, never once did Charlie allow the Cadillac's chrome bumpers to even kiss its inferior neighbours. A crowd gathered, applauding and offering advice, peering at the limited space and consulting among themselves.
The plump lady turned the steering wheel as though she was drilling for oil. The sweat poured in rivulets down her cheeks leaving a narrow trench of mascara over the heavy plum-coloured rouge. The imitation flowers on her hat waved as though experiencing a severe storm. The lady's jowls shook with the exertion as she swivelled and twisted violently, controlling the contortions of the giant under her command.
At last, Charlie stepped back, his face wreathed in smiles as though he had just sold her a million dollar double indemnity policy.
The crowd applauded, Charlie beamed even more and gave them the benefit of a slight bow. Like an evangelist who has just made a significant conversion, Charlie addressed the driver: "There you are, man. You can park here indefinitely, I shouldn't wonder." He smiled triumphantly at an interested traffic policeman, who had dismounted from his motorcycle and, sinister notebook in hand, joined the spectators. For some reason he stood directly under the 'NO PARKING' sign.
The woman's face was suffused with rage. She seemed either on the verge of apoplexy or was about to explode. Her ring glinted as she pointed a fat forefinger at her guide. The finger was tipped with a long nail, varnished a shade of pink that matched the car's coachwork. For a moment the lady driver had some difficulty speaking.
"But massa," she finally managed to splutter, "Is why you pul me here? I DON'T WANT TO PARK!" She gasped for air, gesticulating wildly towards the traffic policeman. "I want to go! Now look there. The police come already!!!''
At that point the motor cycle cop handed her a ticket with a flourish that was all official.
The Power of the Press
'RAS" IS THE OLD ETHIOPIAN Title Prince, but one of the original dreadlocks, long before the days of Bob Marley, adopted the latter name instead of the common-or-garden one he was given at birth. In the fifties, the Jamaican media seldom lost an opportunity to publicize the eccentric. The Rastafarian Movement in general and Prince in particular, always provided good copy for the two leading dailies, especially The Star, whose edition came on the streets every afternoon and then as now, enjoyed a wide circulation.
This story is about a rasta and the influence of the press on some aspects of Jamaican life.
Often when the House of Representatives was in session. Prince would wander down the street which was closed to traffic, and present himself at the police post that controlled the entrance to Jamaica's parliament. There he would spend hours airing his views on political philosophy with the long-suffering sergeant - the uniformed representative of 'Babylon'. Sometimes Prince would be fortunate enough to meet the sergeant's immediate superior, a junior assistant superintendent, coincidentally a graduate of political science from some far distant and alien university. With the patience of Job, Prince would expound his Peace and Love theories in a confused kind of way, often quoting lesser-known texts of the Old Testament. Occasionally during the course of his peroration, Prince would become quite excited and wave his long staff in the air, a light froth forming round his mouth.
But Prince was really quite harmless and no threat to the peace himself. The trouble was that his incoherent rambling attracted a crowd of Rastas, their minds addled by spending more time smoking ganja than eating. At one of these rallies the Rastafarians decided they would march: their route, timing and destination delightfully unplanned; the purpose unclear. What was clear, however, was that permission was required from the Commissioner of Police to hold a public demonstration. The police do not like marches, marchers or demonstrations, particularly those down busy streets during peak shopping hours, traffic was certain to be snarled beyond redemption and angry protests from every angle would plague the overworked, undermanned traffic department.
So on this occasion permission was refused and confirmed in a long, printed and totally incomprehensible form. Prince took the rejection lightly. He saw it as typical of Babylon: the children of Judah would ignore it and exercise their God-given right to freedom.
Prince expressed this view to the short, tubby reporter from The Star who took the stub of a pencil from behind his ear and wrote down a complete quotation, which appeared under a carefully posed, full-length photograph of Prince in that afternoon's edition.
The following day, a Saturday, Prince and some of his followers marched, in full Rasta regalia, bearing flags, banners and exchanging good-humoured encouragement and insults with the crowd that idly watched their progress. The police were taken by surprise, unused to having their authority thwarted so flagrantly, A team of a dozen or so constables hastily assembled at Central Station, in full riot gear, steel helmets and gas masks contrasting with their smart blue working uniforms. They scrambled aboard the black and white half truck, encumbered by the large wicker shields they carried. Once the squad was aboard, the inspector checked the complement and, satisfied, thumped on the driver's cabin top. They drove through the gates of Central Station and immediately into the midday traffic melee.
The Rastas' march was slow and leisurely, the ranks of the rambling procession gradually swelling with ordinary Jamaicans who had nothing else to do but watch the world go by and hope for some action.
Action came at last when Prince's unplanned progress was suddenly blocked by a line of uniformed Babylon - the police riot squad. Prince harangued them at length with his usual polemics, but the inspector in charge was in no mood to engage in political or philosophic exchanges. Prince and half a dozen or so of the other 'uniformed' marchers were unceremoniously bundled into the paddy wagon and carted off to jail, where they were held without bail or legal representation for the weekend.
Come Monday morning. Prince and his entourage joined the long procession crossing Sutton Street which runs between the back of the fort-like Central Police Station and the Magistrates' Court.
Here they mingled with lawyers of all shapes and shades, petty offenders, witnesses and litigants, for no nation on earth numbers more citizens who participate in the law than Jamaica.
Prince rose with great dignity to plead to the charges. He bowed to the judge, the clerk of the court, police and counsel, who were all waiting on other trials.
"Guilty with explanation. My Honour,'' he announced in his high quavering voice.
The magistrate sighed heavily, the clerk of the court turned and looked at him, his eyebrows raised questioningly.
"Yes, yes," snapped His Honour, "let's get on with it or we won't be finished in time for the lunch recess." Members of the legal profession stirred uneasily, exchanging alarmed glances; their twelve o'clock break for liquid refreshment in the cool bar of the Kingston Cricket Club was seriously jeopardized.
The Bench neither accepted nor rejected Prince's irrelevant plea of "guilty with explanation". From previous experience the clerk of the courts knew there was no point in explaining to Prince that he was not allowed to qualify any plea, since the Rasta was a freethinker, who did not acknowledge the laws or court procedures of Babylon. However, the magistrate, a reasonable Englishman with a strong sense of fair play, nodded his consent to hear the explanation.
With some ceremony. Prince produced an exhibit from beneath his robe and unfolded the front page of the previous day's Star. I'he banner headline read:
RASTAS WILL MARCH SATURDAY
"Please, My Honour," Prince intoned, "don't it true dai wise men dem follow de Star?"
There was a moment's silence following this impeccable logic, then an unseemly ripple of mirth ran through the court. The Magistrate pounded on his raised desk top irritably.
"I find you guilty of all charges - you are bound over to keep the peace. Admonished and discharged."
To the sound of ragged cheers, the Rasta team left the courtroom, streamed down the broad stairs and straggled out into the street, going their way and rejoicing in the power of the press.
Everyone in St. Ann's Bay knew him as 'Taffy' and for all practical purposes he did not have another name. He might be Evans, Davies or more likely Morgan, but Taffy disavowed all surnames, so even the local police had officially listed him in both the charge book and magistrate's court record as 'Taffy'. He could not say when or where he was born, although it was probably in some remote part of the parish.
Taffy was very skinny, with sparse hair on his head and his gaunt chin. He was hollow-eyed and had evidently suffered from chronic under-nourishment since infancy. The more he ate, the thinner he seemed, but his appearance did not noticeably change much over the years. He always wore the same old khaki shirt and pants; on his head there was an ancient navy blue police cap, now rather greasy and no longer bearing the constabulary badge. The only shoes he had were sandals made from old car tyres. To conserve storage space and for effective security, Taffy kept on the same clothes, even wearing the cap when he was sleeping.
Taffy's residence was his own version of a mobile home. It consisted of a large box mounted on four small metal trolley wheels. During the day he used it as a form of transport; at night and during part of the afternoon it was instantly converted to a bed, into which Taffy folded himself with more skill than comfort. The bottom was padded with an old pillow and a spare shirt and pants, carefully folded to add more comfort to the owner's skinny bottom. In addition, Taffy kept a small store of cigarettes, matches and a clay pipe together with his small change, some soap and personal effects in a silver tin hidden under his limited wardrobe. The only other item was his tool kit, hammer, nails and a screwdriver, all essential for the daily maintenance of his trailer home.
Usually Taffy parked at night in the Police Superintendent's double garage. It was dry, close to his casual employment and from one angle he could enjoy the unrestricted view of a huge guinep tree through the permanently-open doorway. Sometimes, particularly when heavy rain leaked through the rusty corrugated iron roof and dripped onto Taffy, he would move to the other doorway and enjoy the sight of the guango tree which always had a variety of orchids hanging from its limbs.
In return for unofficial residence, periodic meals, liquid refreshments and the use of the staff toilet and cooking facilities, Taffy did odd jobs, like carrying bags and boxes for the Super and his household. The unspoken arrangement continued even though the police officers came and went over the years. Rut the real advantage of the police quarters was their position, half way up the hill immediately above the St Ann's Bay police station. This meant that Taffy could wheel his residence into the narrow road and coast down the slope at breakneck speeds, his feet dangling in front, cap at a rakish angle while he leaned back, holding a loop of string that controlled the front steering arrangement.
At the bottom of the hill there was a junction with the main road, but with consummate skill, Taffy would swerve left or right, his vehicle tilting dangerously as he ran it up a nearby bank to break his speed. Taffy would then emerge with some agility from his bed. and walk slowly round to the entrance of the police parking lot, dragging his vehicle behind him until he reached his customary parking spot at the foot of the outside staircase leading to the detective's office on the second floor.
Here Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds, the officer in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department, was king. On court days he loaded Taffy with exhibits for the day's procedures. Sometimes there was something larger that had been stored downstairs and Taffy would be instructed to load that separately. Once he had wheeled a whole door to court - evidence in an obscene handwriting case - and another time he carried a mysteriously heavy contraption used for printing money made with banana leaves. Taffy was nothing if not versatile and he always managed to manoeuvre his cargo of exhibits safely along Main Street to the old courthouse.
Taffy knew the building and the lower courts only too well. He had, on occasion, appeared before the Justice of the Peace for various misdemeanours such as disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, and been sentenced to a fine of forty shillings. This was an astronomical figure that equated with ten days in the local lockup. Taffy always opted for the lock-up: after all, it was free board and lodging, his vehicle/residence was safely impounded and the work was the same without actual pay. At 8 a.m. every weekday, he and an elderly district constable climbed the hill to the Superintendent's quarters. The maid would let them sit in the kitchen and enjoy some bread and sugar, washed down with a brew of strong tea. Later Taffy would slowly dig or weed the garden, chat to the children and Nanny, and sometimes offer his tattered khaki trousers to the washer-lady to be laundered and pressed, while the district constable snoozed rather noisily throughout the morning. They would report back at the station for lunch, which Taffy ate sitting on the step outside the three cells, chatting to the other inmates if there were any, then he would tidy things up around the station yard in the afternoon.
Whenever Taffy was a short-term prisoner, it was not considered appropriate to allow him to transport the exhibits, although at any other time he was solely responsible for them all, wheeling them to the bottom of the courthouse steps, even important exhibits destined to be produced before the superior judge, who wore a wig and a crimson gown.
On those special occasions Taffy pushed his squeaking barrow behind the police guard of honour drawn up in full dress awaiting inspection. Down at the police station, Corporal Hinds, wearing his best suit and cricket club tie in preparation for one of his days in court, always took time to emphasize the importance of the event to Taffy:
"Listen nuh, Taffy. You doan be around when de judge come or I kick your arse. Don't make the place look untidy. Right man?''
"Hit hall right, Corpie," Taffy would reply. "Me gone like hall de time."
Taffy would load the exhibits as quickly as possible, aided by a couple of detective constables. Picking up the rope he would lean forward and pull his contraption up the slope towards the courthouse accompanied by the two detectives, while Corporal Hinds drove there in his ancient American car. He would personally supervise the safe arrival of the exhibits and ensure that they were unloaded and laid out in various courtrooms before the parade began. The assembled constabulary guard of honour was called to attention by the Superintendent, smartly turned out for the parade in full dress with sword, crossbelt and spiked helmet, his white tunic stiff as a board, with the distinctive red striped navy barathea trousers, a uniform worn throughout the British West Indian islands.
Never once had Taffy been anywhere in sight to mar the dignity of the parade when the judge arrived to be greeted by the senior Justice of the Peace - the Honorable Custos - who was the Queen's representative. After it was all over and the judge had disappeared with the Custos to share a sociable scotch or gin and tonic. Taffy with the help of the detectives would load his vehicle with the carefully labelled exhibits and convey them safely back to the station where they would remain, pending appeals.
In between such onerous duties Taffy would hang around gossiping and running his transport business from the police compound. The entrance to the car park was reached from a side lane on which stood a very busy rum shop, one of the leading social centres of the town. Taffy would often cross the road and sit near the bar just to hear the news and add his ill-informed opinions to the heated political debates that continuously raged there. For Taffy it was a second home. Sometimes he even had enough money to buy a drink or two and occasionally somebody treated him.
So it was almost routine one day when Taffy shambled out of the open gate, crossed over the narrow lane to the bar and folded himself onto one of the uncomfortable metal chairs just inside the open entrance. He did not notice the sudden hush that fell over the crowd round the bar or that he had become the unaccustomed focus of attention. What Taffy did observe was a plump brown man wearing a tight-fitting striped suit that was only eclipsed by a tie resembling the result of a violent traffic accident. Obviously he was a Kingston person and probably the owner of the elderly silver Pontiac convertible Taffy had observed parked outside.
"Taffy, man, wha 'appen?" Taffy was unaccustomed to such immediate greeting by the barman who usually ignored him.
The city man leaned forward and pushed his dark glasses high on his sweaty forehead to better inspect the rumpled khaki clad creature seated in front of him. He removed a long and slightly bent cigar from his mouth.
"So-o-o," the city person said in a meaningful way, so that Taffy's eyes bulged a little more than usual. "So-o-o - you are Taffy, right?"
The barman indicated the city person with a nod of his head. "This is Mr George Day from de big rum company. You must listen to him wid respec."
Taffy rose, bowed and sank ungracefully back onto the chair.
"Taffy man, I wonder if you are a sportin' man, for if so..." the speaker paused dramatically, "this is your lucky day."
The salesperson took Taffy's grin for full agreement. "I going to give you the chance to win a whole bottle for free," he announced, holding up a full bottle of white proof rum for general inspection. "All you have to do is drink this glass full without a pause. Right?"
Taffy nodded his head as the barman carefully measured out a full glass of colourless proof spirit and placed it on the table in front of him. Taffy looked round uncertainly, saw the jeering faces and made up his mind. Raising the glass to his lips he downed the contents without a pause, to the round of applause.
But as Taffy drained the last drops he tilted his head back, his whole body tipped backwards, and he fell from his chair on to the edge of the road, unconscious.
Across the road the Police Superintendent was exchanging gossip with the local Medical Officer. Hearing a commotion he glanced out of the window to see Taffy stretched out on the sidewalk, and a small crowd rapidly gathering round.
"Oh shit," the Superintendent gasped, "Taffy's down."
Both the doctor and the Superintendent ran out of the office, followed by Corporal Walcott and Sergeant Bailey followed by the two office clerks.
The Medical Officer knelt beside Taffy's inert form.
"OK, keep him here while I get my car," he ordered, straightening up and loping across the road to his black Jaguar.
Minutes later, Taffy was propped in the back seat - a moment of luxury unprecedented in his life. Ten minutes later he was in Emergency having a stomach pump applied.
Later, waking up between unaccustomed sheets in a clean bed, Taffy's eyes fluttered open.
"Why you do a stupid thing like that, man?" the Sister enquired.
"I have no money a pay so-o-o..." Taffy sighed as his lids fluttered down over bloodshot eyes for the last time and his spirit slipped away from the frail undernourished body. His liver could no longer keep up with the unequal struggle with alcohol, or his lungs with the poisonous trickle of tobacco. The coroner had no trouble determining that "the man known as Taffy' had died as the result of acute alcoholic poisoning".
The problem was how to complete the court records for a man with no known date of birth or full name. In the end the simple gravestone just bore the name 'Taffy'.
From that time onwards, the smart green police Land Rover took the exhibits to court. But hanging from a nail in Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds's exhibits cupboard was a battered plain blue police cap, now with a silver constabulary badge attached. It proudly bore the name 'Taffy'.
Larceny in His Soul
PEOPLE STEAL FOR MANY REASONS, some do not respect the social contract regarding property: some do it to get equal, others to get rich or to get even. Not Leonard: he simply had larceny in his soul.
As soon as he was old enough to run, Leonard began a career of praedial larceny. He stole guineps initially and sold them to the other children who attended his rural school. Soon he was into bananas, citrus, breadfruit; you name it, he stole it. Thieving became his hobby, his profession, his lifelong obsession.
In his early teens he left the village of Bamboo, where he had exhausted the patience of local smallholders and farmers. Moving to the coast he worked at night, stealing whatever he could sell or barter. Soon he took to coconuts. Later, he began to specialize in the bright green parrots and parakeets, but also had to keep himself and his catch in food, which he stole. Leonard's black market in birds became famous throughout the island, even catching the attention of a US customs officer in Miami.
Summoning his overseer by loudly and repeatedly blowing his car horn, he waited at the foot of the tree until the man arrived, then left him, shotgun in hand, to guard the tree. The owner swung his Wolseley round and with a shriek of tyres, swished off towards the Runaway Bay police station, soon to return with the local law enforcer.
The police corporal was a firm believer in the right of property, owning a small piece of land himself in the next parish. His station was the recipient of goodwill from the properly owner in the form of favours that helped with such important local affairs as the police cricket match followed by Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds's famous curried goat. The estate also provided the rum for Hinds's highly-regarded rum punch.
The police corporal ordered Leonard to come down off the tree. No movement. He watched while the landowner loaded his twelve bore and peppered Leonard's backside. Still no movement.
"Goddammit!" exclaimed the trees' lawful owner. "Cut down the fucking tree. Corporal!" The overseer sent off for an axe, and the policeman chopped down the tree and arrested Leonard, who lay groaning on the ground, three ribs broken from his fall and his lacerated buttocks bleeding. He was escorted to the police Land Rover and, still wearing handcuffs, taken to the St Ann's Bay Hospital where he was admitted.
When he recovered from shock, his ribs were tightly-bound and he was able to sit up using a rubber ring to ease the pressure on his sore bottom. That day Leonard had a visitor, Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds, the head of the St Ann Criminal Investigation Department.
Hinds replaced his battered trilby hat on his head and clamped a huge curved Danish pipe in his mouth as soon as the ward sister left.
"Now Leonard man, me know you is a miserable tief but Super treatin' you good," the detective began. "Me, I wud kick your arse but him think different so..." Hinds shook his head in despair or bewilderment. He took his pipe out and examined it with the critical eye of a connoisseur. Apparently satisfied, he began the whole refill ceremony, taking his time as all real pipe smokers do. He glanced furtively round the ward to make sure authority was absent, applied the wavering flame to his pipe bowl and stomped down the dross. After puffing a cloud of noxious but satisfying fumes into the disinfected air, the detective crept to the window and threw out the incriminating match, peering suspiciously left and right as he did so in case any of the staff were watching. Satisfied, Hinds returned to sit beside Leonard's bed, opened his briefcase and extracted several sheets of legal-size Constabulary notepaper.
"So even tho' you is a teefin' rass clott, me goin' to take a statement from you, an doan bother wid no bullshit, man." he told Leonard.
"But Missah Hinds sah...me, Ah never do nuttin, han...han now me sick so."
Though it was the first time he had been actually caught, Leonard was well-known to the police throughout the parish.
Hinds looked at him pityingly, but said nothing. Rashly, Leonard continued to protest his innocence, his case based on the fact that he had no stolen property on him when he fell with the tree. He tried suggesting that he had only been practising night climbing, and was, at worst, a trespasser.
The detective took no notice, formally cautioned Leonard, then explained that the Runaway Bay corporal and the estate owner, who was also a justice of the peace, had been charged with 'assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm'.
Leonard's initial surprise and delight were somewhat marred by the fact that their conviction would probably require an admission of guilt on his part. But in his obscure way, Leonard confessed to intent if not implementation of larceny. Corporal Hinds wrote it all down in a laborious longhand, breathing hard, his pipe clenched between his teeth.
Nature and the law both took their course. Bones mended, Leonard was discharged from hospital into police custody. He learned that the charges against the estate owner and the police corporal had been referred to the magistrate's court. Leonard was tried for a misdemeanour by a Justice of the Peace and after pleading guilty 'with explanation' received a sentence of ten days to be spent in the local lock-up.
The St Ann's Bay lock-up was a rather exclusive club. To become a member one had to be found guilty of a misdemeanour and sentenced to ten days incarceration, no more, no less. There was no attempt at rehabilitation, free food was provided, usually purchased from a local restaurant but occasionally cooked by female inmates over the wood stove in the police recreation room. The cells were dry and well-equipped with comfortable straw pallets and there was recreation in the form of dominoes, draughts and some off-course betting. The baby-sitting was provided by Radio Jamaica Rediffusion and the 'labour' consisted of mild weeding or planting of various gardens under the far from watchful eyes of a district constable.
It was during this period of recreational rehabilitation that Leonard came to the attention of the young Police Superintendent who allowed him to work under supervision in the gardens at the police quarters. When Leonard finished his ten-day sentence he transferred to the quarters to be trained as a butler, with the possibility of diversifying to cook, barman or housekeeper.
The Superintendent's wife, in her local wisdom, really knew better, but she was always hopeful and agreed to teach Leonard all the niceties of domestic service, without being servile. After all at twenty years old, how can you fail? And even Leonard had yet to leave his teens. A full career stretched before him as he squeezed into the discarded white uniform jackets that nearly choked him if he tried to fasten the high collar. He wore black trousers but by mutual consent, no attempt was made to accommodate the broad flat feet that had never been encased in shoes of any sort.
To give him his due Leonard did try. The problem was that although he was an apt pupil by day, at night his larcenous soul took over. He closely observed the comings and goings of the Superintendent's friends, and assessed their worth.
Looking back, it now seems inevitable that he should have resumed his life of crime. Since the local Barclays Bank manager and his wife were frequent visitors to the Super's house, perhaps it was also inevitable that Leonard should have selected them as his next victims. So it was that while still working for the Police Superintendent, Leonard graduated from parrot-snatching to burglary and when he was caught, the Super was suitably mortified.
THE POOR FISHING VlLLAGE in the parish of St Elizabeth where Susan was born was so small it was hardly worthy of a name. There was neither school nor church, only a small rum shop.
Susan's mother, Adassa Meikle, had twelve children by at least three, and possibly four, different fathers: her social security plan. Susan's father was probably a policeman hut Adassa was not really sure. It was true, she agreed with her friends, that she had romanced one night with a motor cycle police who had visited the village in pursuit of the one and only vehicle owner, guilty of some minor traffic infringement. The fact that this man happened to be Adassa's current paramour and father of several of her children may have influenced events. By way of a favour to him, Adassa had entertained the 'cool skin' law enforcer while he waited for the man he came to see. They never met because the truck owner was inexplicably delayed out fishing until the policeman had left.
The only evidence of paternity available was physical, for Susan's skin was pale and she had those strange eyes that seemed to glow golden in certain lights. By the time Susan was thirteen she was very conscious of the fact that she was different from her brothers and sisters. Unlike them, her features were Asian rather than African, her hair thick and shoulder length. She was already tall and slender and the more she matured, her figure filling out, the less like them she became.
Susan never felt that she fitted in and to make matters worse she did not have a nice nature, being vain, lazy and facety. So when a distant aunt visited one Boxing Day, Susan's mother hastened to extol the non-existent virtues of her daughter. The aunt agreed that Susan was certainly very pretty and smart for her age and to everyone's surprise and enormous relief agreed to take the girl under her wing. Now this aunt held the post of housekeeper to a wealthy absentee landlord, the owner of a large mansion in Reading, outside Montego Bay. The owner and his family only visited for a month or so each year, but maintained a full household of staff under Aunty's strict command. Susan could come to Reading with her. Aunty decided, and be an assistant to the nanny.
So it was that Susan excitedly packed her few belongings in a cheap cardboard suitcase and climbed into the shiny but aged Studebaker that belonged to Aunty's gentleman friend, a cigar smoking off-duty butler wearing an amazing three piece suit donated by his employer and a white Panama hat decorated with a sober black band. With a powerful roar illustrated by a puff of black smoke, the highly-polished old car took off with Susan seated in the back seat for her ride to the rest of the world. She never looked back at the village as they rattled their way along the dirt road hedged with rough grass, bush and cactus.
At first Susan was overawed by the splendours that surrounded her at the villa, by the pool and patio, the extensive garden and even the view of a distant sea. But gradually the novelty wore off to be replaced by her habitual boredom. There were no children to look after, the staff squabbled and played politics amongst themselves and there was nowhere to go. Her nasty nature had also become apparent to all. So when the owner returned for his annual visit, complete with children and new wife, there was a distinct sense of relief that now they would all have something to do, including the intractable Susan.
To everyone's surprise, the newly acquired third wife took to Susan. A teenager herself, Wife Three was some kind of Hollywood starlet and she adopted Susan as a lady's maid and companion, teaching the teenager how to use make up, walk, dress and even use a knife and fork properly. She gave her barely-used dresses and accessories and took her to the beaches and hotels in Montego Bay, Then suddenly the halcyon days were over. The husband had a violent row with Wife Three. Still in a tantrum, she left the following morning carrying a vanity case and draft letter of intent about divorce and suggested alimony. She boarded the first available Pan Am flight to the States without any luggage, in a fit of pique having given to Susan all her designer dresses and hats, custom-made Italian shoes, accessories, underwear, and the suitcases she had brought them in. Shortly afterwards, the husband put the place up for sale and left the island, never to return.
Aunty found herself a new position as staff supervisor at a hotel and Susan a job as a waitress there. Being a hotel waitress was a distinct come-down for Susan, so she sought distraction and soon found it by flirting with one of the guests, a plump American insurance salesman, who assured his wife that he was off to Kingston for a couple of days on 'company' business. The wife never knew the company was Susan.
But the new waitress was to get her come-uppance when she came back to the hotel after an absence of three working days. Learning of the prodigal's return, Aunty hurried to confront Susan, who showed no sign of contrition, merely pouting and kissing her teeth. Aunty grabbed the girl by the arm and spun her round on the high heels which Wife Three always favoured, ordering her to pack her things and return to her mother. To make sure, Susan was escorted to the country bus by Aunty's gentleman friend who, as he picked up the expensive suitcases inherited from Wife Three, had to smile wryly as he recalled the cardboard suitcase Susan had started out with just over a year ago.
The driver started the old diesel engine and the bus left the terminus in a cloud of exhaust and dust. Inside, Susan perched uncomfortably on the cracked plastic seat, tried to decide how best to explain her return to her mother especially since she had never bothered to send her so much as a postcard.
As expected, Susan's return was met with alarm and despondency but there was plenty of room in the house, several older brothers and sisters having left. Adassa now lived with Jeremiah, a stranger to the village. Susan found a job in the village rum shop and things seemed to settle back to normal.
But gradually Adassa became aware of something not being right, her friends fell silent at her approach then quickly melted away. Her puzzlement turned to suspicion when she noticed how Susan fluttered her eyelashes at Jeremiah.
"I think she paint her face for he," Adassa told herself and some of her more intimate friends. One day she returned home early, hoping or dreading to surprise them both. Her bare feet making no sound, she opened the front door and crept silently to the room at the back. Before she could reach the door, a board creaked and Adassa rushed forward, all pretence at stealth abandoned. But she was too late. She flung open the bedroom door, to find the room empty but her daughter's panties forming a guilty silk puddle beside the rumpled bed. Adassa rushed to the open jalousie window, a faint breeze stirring the print curtains. She peered into the bright sunlight. Outside, nothing. Or was that a shadow? With a grunt of rage Adassa grabbed a bamboo switch.
Meanwhile, Susan and Jeremiah crouched against the wall, out of sight below the window. Susan, quite naked but for her suede Ferragamo court shoes, clasped her dress to her bare breasts, while Jeremiah was wearing a garish T-shirt, sandals, a pair of dirty white socks and holding his trousers in his hand. Jeremiah decided to take his chance and made a run for the nearby bushes, leaving the girl to fend for herself. Trembling with fear, Susan crept round the side of the house, hugging the wall till she reached her bedroom window. She was just climbing through it when, without warning she received a stinging blow to her bare buttocks. She shrieked in pain and surprise as one of her ankles was grabbed and she was hauled backwards. Her feet hit the ground and she whirled round to face her outraged parent. Beside herself with rage, Adassa beat Susan unmercifully until, her rage abated, she flung down the stick and strode off, leaving the sobbing girl sprawled face down on the ground.
Despite this confrontation, life went on. Jeremiah had successfully hidden under the dense bush watching Susan being thrashed. Although he was suspected, he was never accused of any improper behaviour. He continued to live with Adassa while Susan stayed on under sufferance, after a tearful promise to behave better and make an increased contribution to the household.
But things went from bad to worse. In the village, every male hung around the bar and Susan. Now barely sixteen, she flirted with them all, wearing expensive make-up and perfume, dressed in Wife Three's fashionable city clothes.
The women of the village, including Adassa, found the situation intolerable and they huddled together and discussed what should be done. Eventually, they decided to seek wiser counsel.
Not far from the village, in the mangrove swamp behind Middle Quarters lived a very old obeahman, known for his arcane skills. There was no road to Gator's shack, it was easier, and drier, to get there by boat. He was called 'Gator' because he was known to live with what were called alligators in Jamaica (though the local creatures are in fact crocodiles!. He had often been observed talking to the reptiles with whom he shared the mangrove swamps, but no one had heard them answer back. Gator sometimes earned money by guiding visiting sportsmen through the swamps to the ponds where the migratory ducks parked on their way further south, or by taking them on 'alligator' hunts. According to Gator, he only picked out the bad ones that had snatched the odd domestic pet or perhaps an infant or two playing innocently by some swollen pond.
Knowing of Gator's other claim to fame, the village women took up a collection and drew a straw to select one to seek him in his lair and solicit his advice. It so happened that Adassa was the one unlucky enough to draw the straw, but after all, everybody said, what goes around comes around. Susan was her daughter so she must be at least partly responsible. In all fairness, the selection was completed without recrimination and Adassa set off.
She had to persuade a fisherman to paddle his canoe through the mangrove swamp to the muddy landing place by a rundown wooden hut built on stilts above the dark waters. Gator emerged at the doorway smoking a clay pipe. He wore an old top hat, his scrawny limbs clad in a canvas shirt and pants that he had taken a fancy to and actually retained after his release from one of his many prison sentences since he and the authorities frequently disagreed over his philosophy, profession and way of life. All in all, Gator 'favoured' Anancy, the legendary spider-man more than a crocodile. Anancy illustrated a boastful triumph of the weak over the strong by the use of guile, his companions were mostly animals, and Anancy too always wore a top hat.
Gator unblinkingly regarded his visitor as Adassa nervously climbed out of the canoe and scrambled across the dried mud. He invited her into his hut and listened to her story. Then he sat behind a cloud of acrid tobacco smoke and thought about it all.
"Tell me, Missis. You know the girl's father? You ever contact him?'' he finally asked.
Adassa shook her head.
"I don't know him for sure," she said, "but there is this thing," And she produced a grubby newspaper cutting from the fountain of all Jamaican wisdom, the Gleaner, which she handed to Gator, adding, "the photo favour him for true".
Gator unfolded the paper and smoothed out the creases. Under a fuzzy passport-type picture of a man wearing a police cap, was the story.
"GALLANTRY RECOGNISED," he read out aloud, "Acting Corporal Khouri has been promoted to corporal and recommended to receive the Queen's Police Medal for Bravery, the highest award for courage. The gallant officer was off duty from his base in Brown's Town, St Ann division, when he happened to pass the premises of a local financial institution. The officer looked through the window, and saw what appeared to be a man gesticulating with a firearm. Quickly reacting to the situation, and without regard for his personal safety, A/C Khouri, who was unarmed at the time, picked up a small rock and stoned the aspiring bandit with deadly accuracy. His missile struck the holdup man on the back of his head and felled him instantly, thus enabling the brave officer to effect the arrest of a would-be robber."
Gator smiled. "You think this police Is the father of the girl - your daughter?" he asked.
Adassa nodded and told him of their meeting. Gator chuckled. He put down his pipe and rubbed his hands together. "Lawd, what a thing this." he said to himself. "Me can avenge the police them and fix things for this woman at the same time. What a piece of trouble to send him!"
Gator agreed to take the case, discussed terms, collected the down payment and told his new client to go home and wait. He would rid the village of the girl, he said, and teach her a lesson she would never forget. He instructed Adassa to start talking to her daughter in the most favourable terms about her father, the heroic Corporal Khouri. Gator would contact her at home in a week, when he would also take a look at the girl to 'make sure she ready'.
Before Gator paddled Adassa back to the road in his own canoe, he fumbled under an iron cot that served as bed on top and store room below, and produced a survey department large scale map of the area. Consuiting with Adassa, he made sure it included correct details of the swampy area around her village.
Having set things in motion, Adassa made her way home. The next day Gator cycled off to see a friend at the nearest police station. A week later, he arrived on his bicycle at Adassa's house. Susan was otherwise engaged at the rum shop, as he knew she would be, and as Adassa opened the door he walked in, carrying an old Gladstone bag. He politely removed his battered top hat and produced several packages from the bag. Finally, he lifted out a crudely carved wooden alligator. It was about a foot long, painted light grey with bright red eyes and tongue. Gator set the toy gator down on the floor, opened one of the paper parcels and produced an envelope containing black powder which he poured in a circle round the wooden effigy then lit, creating a 'whoosh' of flame and a sparkle as it went out.
"Come on, boy! GO!" Gator urged, as Adassa stood back gaping.
"You tell the girl about her father?" he asked.
Adassa said she had. She had also given Susan the Gleaner clipping about Corporal Khouri. Her daughter had taken the picture to her room and Adassa had peeped and seen her comparing their looks in the mirror. Gator's wrinkled face was wreathed in smiles. He rubbed his hands together and relit his foul-smelting pipe before he informed Adassa that he had found out where Khouri was:
"Him transfer on promotion. Him a corporal at Ocho Rios now." Adassa made no reply, still overawed by the obeah magic she had just witnessed.
"All right, Missis, I gone. You make sure you and all the pickney them and everybody in the house except that gal get away from the house and stay away. Don't come back till you see that gal leave. After that, everything all right."
Adassa asked no questions but prepared to do as instructed.
Meantime, Gator cycled to the rum shop, noticing the low black clouds fleeting across the sky. Out at sea there was the sound of thunder and flashes of lightning. Perfect, he thought, as long as the rain holds off till tomorrow. Casting a last look round he went in to the rum shop and took a seat in the corner. Susan, standing behind the bar painting her nails, barely deigned to acknowledge his signal, but taking her time, put down her nail varnish, sighed, and coming out from behind the bar, hips swaying in her tight mini-skirt, undulated in his direction.
Gator ordered a Red Stripe beer. When she returned some minutes later he paid her without giving her a tip. She looked at the small change in astonishment and scowled down at the wizened old man. Before she could speak, Gator clamped his bony fingers round her slim wrist.
"You know who I am?" he whispered softly." No? That is too bad, for I know all about you. I know you is a bad girl. Bad, bad, bad!"
Gator's eyes glowed like red-hot coals. Susan's long lashes fluttered as she tried vainly to jerk her wrist out of his iron grip. Gator half rose from his seat so his face was within inches of the frightened girl's.
"My friend tell me you going to see your father, the police. You taking the next bus to Ocho Rios. That's where he is. You better heed my words, for if you don't do it, my friend the alligator going to get your fancy fat arse and eat it."
Her lips parted and she tried again to wrench her arm free but Gator held on as he delivered his parting shot:
"Tomorrow," he warned, "things get bad for you. If you still round the next day, you gone as alligator food."
As Gator released Susan's wrist, she snatched the money for the beer and tossed her head, teetering back to the protection of the bar. But there her knees sagged and she placed both hands on the counter top, closing her eyes. When she opened them, the little man had faded silently into the night and she wondered if she had dreamt it. She nevertheless rushed home as soon as she could, still trembling from the strange encounter. She fell onto her bed and lay there fully-dressed, thinking about the awful threat she had received. When she could bear it no longer, she decided to go and wake Adassa and the others. But she was shocked to discover she was alone in the house.
Meanwhile, Gator had visited his friends in a nearby mangrove swamp and discovered to his great satisfaction two alligator nests with eggs. Well before dawn he rolled one egg over the rough grass and scrub to the steps leading to Adassa's house. For good measure he repeated the trail with another egg from the second nest, and returned by the same route to leave better tracks that were easy to see and smell.
Susan woke late, having hardly slept at all, to hear the rain beating on the corrugated iron roof. She got up and stared out of the window. She looked up at the low clouds, heavy with more rain and sucked her teeth. When she glanced out of the window a second time, her heart almost stopped. There, not more than a few yards away, was an alligator at least twelve feet long, its eyes hidden under its heavy armoured lids. Susan was petrified. She didn't know much about the behaviour of the beasts but had heard they could move like lightning. If it stayed there until it got hungry, the door would be as much protection as matchwood.
Trembling like a leaf, Susan sank down onto a chair. Getting control at last, she remembered the horrible man of the night before and his strange warning. He had told her to leave and go to her father in Ocho Rios. But why had he done that? She decided to waste no more time thinking: she would pack and catch the first bus.
Feeling better, she clambered to her feet and dashed into her bedroom where she began frantically throwing all her clothes into the suitcases. Then she calmed down. She had never heard of an alligator burglarising a house. She took her time getting ready, selected one of her best dresses to put on and sat in front of the mirror, taking plenty of time to make up her face and collect her personal things. Finally, she picked up her cases and staggering under their weight, made for the front door. Cautiously she peered out and nearly died of fright. The alligator had not moved!
Too bad, she thought, she would have to go through the back. Too bad indeed. For when she opened the back door and prepared to put her bags out, she saw them and nearly died of fright again. Two alligators even bigger than the one in front dozed beside a damp banana sucker. She was trapped. And it was then that she noticed for the first time that Wife Three's suitcases were made of reptile skin that looked like it might once have belonged to an alligator.
Susan sank back, the blood draining from her face before she slumped to the floor in a deep faint. Some time later she was able to crawl to the front window and peep out. The alligator was still there, and as she watched its eyes seemed to flicker and it stretched its jaws in a huge yawn revealing a serious set of teeth. Susan's skin crawled. She opened her mouth to scream but checked herself just in time. Perhaps if she stayed quiet they would not notice her. She crouched back on the floor and thrusting her fist in her mouth, buried her head in her arms and quietly sobbed.
Gator waited till dark to distract the three alligators who were now very hungry. He let a chicken run in front of the reptile by the front door and later a young piglet was dumb enough to run between the two alligators at the back who moved so fast they almost collided in the yard. Taking advantage of this period of distraction. Gator quickly rolled the eggs away.
It wasn't until the next morning that Susan was able to summon enough courage to look out of the window and so discover that all three creatures were gone! Both back and front were clear.
Leaving everything behind, she ran as fast as she could. She never even paused to wash her face, though she did remember to snatch up her purse with all her money in it. When the first bus came through, she was on it. Even though she bad left all her clothes and other belongings behind, the women were sure she would never return to the village.
The Corpse that Wouldn't Die
IN A REMOTE PART OF THE PARISH OF ST ANN there was a small pond. Although lush foliage grew round it, the pond was seldom visited during daytime and never at night, because the place had not enjoyed a good reputation since a smallholder, of indeterminate age, had drastically discouraged praedial larceny of her crops by sprinkling a generous quantity of arsenic powder over the patch where she had planted her yams. A family of five had subsequently died.
According to the local villagers, the place was haunted by the duppy of the poisoner. Perhaps it was this very spirit that proved the undoing of a very promising young policeman though there are some who blame the bewitching girl Susan, with whom he got entangled. Wlio knows?
The nearest police station was located a few miles away in Ocho Rios, and it was to the charge room there that a barefoot youth arrived one day to report the presence of a body in the pond. An hour or two later, the police Land Rover set off driven by a uniformed constable who was accompanied by a detective in plain clothes and the young informant. When they drove as far as they could, the detective peeled off his jacket and set off walking with the guide. On reaching the pond, he found the body of a large black man floating face down and a couple of crows circling overhead. Still wearing his trilby hat and a silver Constabulary Sports Club tie with red and blue stripes, the detective removed his new brown shoes and rolled up his trousers. He paddled up to his knees in cool water, his flat feel sinking in the soft mud as he trampled down the water weeds; it was some time before he managed to get a proper hold on the slippery body and pull it slowly to the edge of the pond. Once he landed it, he flipped the corpse over so the wide open eyes stared sightlessly at the cloudless blue sky.
"You know him?"
"NO!... Me no kno nuttin'. Hi doan' know 'im hat all!" the youth cried as he backed away, his eyes fixed on the body, the first dead person he had ever seen.
Much later the detective used the radio to call Ocho Rios station and relay his report to the Inspector, who in turn passed it on to Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds at divisional headquarters in St Ann's Bay. Hinds informed the Superintendent who grudgingly agreed to go to the scene, picking up the Medical Officer on his way.
It was Sunday and unfortunately, the Chief Medical Officer was away for the long weekend and a new, very temporary locum had been assigned to fill in. It was the young MO's first assignment and DC Hinds regarded that fact with well-founded misgivings. He had observed temporary MOs in operation before and in his experience they fell into two categories. The officious ones who knew it all and the total incompetents, who knew nothing. Besides, Hinds had more serious problems on his mind than a possible murder. The Detective Corporal's major interest in life was cricket. His obsession with the game went far beyond the casual flinging of a ball stitched lovingly into red leather, for in his way, Hinds was a fanatic: he investigated everything, every word or deed that had any bearing at all on the game, including the British character, which he assidously studied.
As Captain of the St Ann division cricket team he was preoccupied with the forthcoming match against the Manchester Division to be held away in Mandeville: a rccognized stronghold of the British way of life. The challenge of winning the constabulary cricket club finals in Mandeville of all places represented the supreme accolade in Hinds's sporting life. For if anywhere in Jamaica was more English than the English, it was indeed the quiet little town of Mandeville, where the civilian colonels retired, high in the hills in the centre of the island. In addition, victory there might even result in an opportunity to humble Trinidad's formidable team. So the advent of a body at such a critical lime amounted to a personal insult. The cross that Hinds bore as the chief investigator and captain of the cricket team, was very heavy indeed.
So that hot Sunday afternoon, a far from happy trio drove from St Ann's Bay to Ocho Rios in the Super's snappy MG Magna saloon and there collected a body box, and transferred to the green police Land Rover for the journey to the pond. When the police party arrived at the spot the uniformed constable hastily rose to his feel and saluted. "Hall's well, sah!" he reported, standing stiffly to attention. The Superintendent nodded, his eyes straying to the body laid out in the long grass. The MO mopped his brow, sighed heavily and picking up his bag made his way at funeral pace towards his next challenge, his first ever post-mortem.
Sensing the young doctor's unease, the Super sent the rest of the party away, allowing Corporal Hinds to try and establish identity by making enquiries locally.
While the MO fumbled clumsily in his black Gladstone bag, the police officer sat on a log some distance away and went through the elaborate preparations of lighting his pipe.
The doctor looked up after five minutes of comparative silence.
"Well, I can confirm that this man is dead," he announced officially.
"Yes, I'm sure he is, so at least we are not wasting our time, are we?" the Super responded testily. "However, what the Coroner would like and we need to know is how, why and where. You see my point?" The doctor nodded and the officer continued. "For example, did he drown? If so, when and why? Let's try starting with establishing the time of death, approximately anyway. Then give me a general picture, you know, age, health, probable or possible cause of death." He put his pipe back in his mouth and blew a thick puff of Dunhill Medium into the warm air. He wondered why a dead body merited so much more attention than its previous occupant did in life. The MO looked down at the body doubtfully, then hesitantly tried answering the questions, noting them down untidily on a large Jamaica Constabulary form, dramatically headed SUDDEN DEATH.
Beginning to lose patience, the Super walked over and examined the dead face. There was a large contusion on the forehead that was soggy from several days of immersion.
"Is that a bang on the head do you think, caused by a blow, or did he drag his face over some stones or a piece of driftwood? He has lost his watch, obviously wore one on his left wrist, so we'll have to rely on you to establish if he died before or after immersion and how serious that head injury was."
The MO took a decision. He began emptying gleaming instruments out of his bag until he found what he was looking for, an operational saw used for forensic trepanning.
"I'm not tiying to do your job, but couldn't that wait till we get him to the mortuary?" the Super enquired.
"It's a long weekend, we won't be able to do much before Tuesday there. I'd better have a look inside here." The doctor had answered a question about brain surgery during his medical finals so he was beginning to regard it as his speciality.
The Superintendent had no intention of trying to influence an official giving his professional opinion. He retreated to the log, wincing as he heard the saw grate as it cut through skin and bone. Two hours later the MO was still hacking at the body with increasing desperation and the insect community had assembled to feast on the living and the dead. Corporal Hinds had returned without any information and was sitting beside his superior talking about the forthcoming match.
"We're well placed for fielding but batting isn't so good. All we have is young Knight." Hinds removed his pipe and stared at it quizzically. "'Trouble is, he is living up to his name." The Super looked up in surprise, thankful for any chance to change the subject. He had hated cricket ever since he had been forced to play it at an English boarding school.
"And just what does that cryptic comment imply, Hinds? I thought he was destined for accelerated promotion and great things, even plain clothes duty."
"Well he was, Sir, but..." The officer's lack of comment forced Minds to conclude: "Well, he has a girlfriend."
"Yes, that often happens. Hinds." The Superintendent recognized with a jolt that he sounded pompous, even to himself.
"It's that girl that came to the match last time we played at Drax Hall. THE figure." Hinds rolled his eyes and made a quick but graphic cartoon in the air using both hands.
"You mean that girl in the short, tight skirt? The one with the hair and heels?" During the socializing that followed cricket, despite Hinds's famous red hot curry, no one failed to notice the stunning brown skin girl in a white mini dress.
Hinds looked the Superintendent in the eye. "Is Corporal Khouri's daughter."
"Good God! I never knew Khouri was a family man. Confirmed bachelor I thought. You do mean the same man, motorcycle traffic patrol?"
"Correct, sir. Well yes, it seems he have a daughter now. She from the country - St Elizabeih. He got her work at one of the hotels."
"I shouldn't think that would be difficult, she's certainly very pretty. Anyway, what's Knight's love-life got to do with cricket?"
"He tired, sir. All the time he so bloody tired he can hardly stand, never mind run. He dead on his feet."
"How do you know it's her fault? Maybe he's got hookworm."
Hinds dismissed any medical problem with a brief shake of his balding head and asked hopefully, "You think we could transfer him to Watt Town or Cave Valley?"
"I'd have to talk to Sergeant Roberts. I don't suppose he'd be too keen to lose one of his best men. I can hardly tell him about - what's her name?"
"Susan. Susan Khouri she's called," Hinds mumbled reluctantly.
Suddenly the doctor stood, the flies buzzing around him. The Superintendent and the detective went over to inspect the corpse. It was an awesome sight.
Silently the Superintendent held out his hand for the postmortem report. He looked at it and closed his eyes for a long time before issuing instructions.
"Constable, put the poor sod in the box and put the top on for the time being. Stay here and we'll organize a relief for you. We will have to do this again when Dr Myers returns." Without further comment he returned one copy to the doctor and retaining the other, turned and made his way down the track. It was Sunday; Monday would be a holiday so the body would have to stay there until after the postmortem could be arranged.
When they reached Ocho Rios, arrangements were made for a relief at the pond. It coincided with the hour when the duty roster for the next twenty-four hours was being compiled and Constable Horace Knight had just reported for duty.
"Oh God, me tired," was his first thought, "That Susan is something!" He padlocked his bicycle to the rack and made his way into the station to change into his uniform and find out where he would be on patrol that night. He slumped down in the recreation room and closed his eyes. Even though he had only just left her, the erotic image of Susan seeped into his tired mind. His desire matched in intensity, if not durability, Corporal Hinds's love of cricket. That his dream girl was totally amoral, incurably vain and self-centred had entirely escaped Horace Knight's attention. He thought of little else except his next assignation with her. From the outset, Susan had taken every opportunity to claim favours from her new-found parent, Corporal Khouri, holder of the Queen's Police Medal for bravery, but a puppet in his daughter's hands. She had even persuaded him to travel to St Elizabeth to rescue from her mother the clothes she had left behind in her flight from home. Her wardrobe restored, the overjoyed Susan had lost no time displaying it in a personalized fashion show to the overawed young constable, who was now reporting for duty after an exhausting twenty-four hours. At the police station, his reverie was broken by an acting corporal who was the charge room duty officer and despatcher. The protesting Knight was assigned duty as bodyguard to a corpse, suspected murder victim.
Knight's protests fell on deaf ears.
He was driven up the hill and guided to the pond to do duty for the next six hours. He made a cursory check of the closed wooden coffin, little more than a primitive box. He did not fancy looking inside, despite a glowing account of the disastrous post mortem gratuitously given by the constable he was relieving. Knight settled down with his back to a coconut tree and stared up at the moon. It was a calm night, quiet except for the usual rural noises. It was pleasantly restful and soon his eyes began to close. To clear his head, he looked up at the moon which was beginning to slide behind a cloud it lightly outlined with a graceful silver edge. The cloud's soft curves reminded him of Susan's shapely bottom and he slid gently into a doze, erotic dreams continuing to flicker through his subconscious with never a thought for the body in the box whose privacy he was supposedly ensuring. Constable Knight fell sound asleep. Half an hour or so passed. He began to snore gently. Maybe that was the sound that woke him. He opened his eyes wide and blinked them free of sleep. Fully alert now, he listened carefully.
"Crack!" it came again. No mistaking the noise this time, the rough wooden coffin was definitely creaking. The constable's eyes widened. He had heard the place was haunted, but he had got his Cambridge School Certificate and knew there was no such thing as a duppy. Only ignorant country people believed in ghosts.
Knight stood up and slowly approached the coffin, his heavy torch waving like a defensive weapon. To his horror, the cracks became a groan as the lid slowly rose, gradually freeing itself from the coffin. Knight began to back away as the coffin nails screeched agonizingly, the lid came free and toppled to the ground.
Before his horrified gaze, the corpse began to sit up.
But as his panic subsided, they returned, at first hovering faintly at the back of his mind then more strongly-centred. He would collect her, hide until they could make their way to Kingston where they would catch a boat, a train, a plane, anything to put as much distance behind him and the terrifying creature by the pond!
Following this line of thought. Constable Knight realized that he would first have to withdraw all his savings from the bank. Then where would he take Susan and all her bags? To an aunt who lived in a place surprisingly called Elephant and Castle, in London, in far away England. Or a distant cousin in Islington or another in Birmingham. He would decide when he got there, but Susan would probably prefer London.
When the lights of an approaching vehicle cast his shadow along the road, Constable Knight returned to sanity and officially flagged it down. It was to be his final act of law enforcement. Driven back to the Ocho Rios police station he crept past the yellow lights of the charge room where an acting corporal slumbered peacefully, into the barracks. He changed out of his uniform into civilian clothes and collected his bicycle, wheeling it through the gate before mounting. By then Knight had realized that Monday was a holiday so he would have to wait until after 10 a.m. on Tuesday before Barclays Bank D C & O opened its doors. In the meantime, he and Susan would have to find a place to hide from the 'thing'. Then they would hitch a ride to Kingston or catch a bus. His mind leapt ahead. Once in London what would he do? He would help Susan be a model instead of the performer she had recently set her heart on becoming after meeting a singer who boasted that he had a recording contract. Knight himself might join the English police and become an inspector or superintendent.
Meanwhile the Superinlendent in St Ann's Bay had sent his report and the medical officer's death certificate of an unidentified male to Highgate in St Mary. There a Senior Superintendent who commanded three divisions, including St Ann, had his area office. Corporal Khouri took these reports on his motor cycle and hand delivered them in Highgate early on Monday morning. At the same time his daughter was giving Horace Knight a hard time.
"You crazy, man," Susan stormed at her luckless suitor. "Why you think I would ever want to go to England with you?" Petulantly she threw one of her father's flower pots at him. Little did Knight know that he had interrupted a date with the would-be recording star.
Corporal Khouri returned in the early afternoon and handed back the reports to the Superintendent, with a handwritten footnote from his boss, which read; "As far as I can see this man may have died in childbirth. Get a proper post-mortem."
That evening the regular Medical Officer who had just returned from his holiday weekend, accompanied a small police party to the pond. They were surprised to find the coffin lying on its side, the bloated body tipped out onto the grass. A lone constable heralded their arrival with evident relief and reported how he had found the body when sent to relieve Constable Knight, who could not be found. A few hours later, the Medical Officer was ready to pass an opinion.
"The cadaver reveals significant symptoms of venereal disease at an advanced stage. Prior to death had imbibed a large quantity of alcohol. Probable cause of death however appears to be drowning as there are still some minor traces of fluid in the lungs, despite my young colleague's attempts to destroy all the symptoms." He looked sadly at the Superintendent. "Poor fellow probably got drunk, fell in the pond and passed out. Drowned from drink you might say."
By the following weekend a disillusioned Mr Horace Knight, formerly a promising policeman and all-round cricketer, was on his way to England - alone, his dreams nevertheless still filled with thoughts of Susan.
The St Ann division lost the cricket match in Mandeville against the Manchester division.
The grizzly case was closed and efforts to identify the body abandoned although there was still the hope that someone would eventually report him missing and perhaps repay the Government of Jamaica for the funeral expenses. There would be no charge for the police and medical services.
AUGUSTUS WAS NOT A JAMAICAN and this added to his mystique. Born on the island of Dominica, he had wandered far and wide in the Caribbean, first as a seaman, then as a travel agent specializing in emigration to England. This phase of his career was terminated rather abruptly when he made a hurried departure from Barbados with some funds advanced from would-be emigrants meagre savings.
In search of a new life he drifted to Jamaica, where he became a practitioner of magic, a self-styled obeahman. He was beginning to expand his practice and search for other fields of illegal endeavour when he became the subject of discussion between two men he had never met in a place he had yet to visit. The two individuals talking about Augustus were a police superintendent and a Roman Catholic priest and the place was an office at the St Ann's Bay police station.
Father O'Shea was an American Jesuit, very much from Boston, He was tall, elegant in a lanky way, always impeccably dressed, indeed his sartorial elegance was privately the subject of comment amongst the priesthood, all of whom had taken vows of poverty. Of course, Father O'Shea was poor too, but he never managed to look it. His white sharkskin suits were spotless, his Panama hat the soul of discreet opulence. He smoked exotic cigarettes through an ivory holder and he loved gardens almost as much as he loved God.
Father O'Shea's church at St Ann's Bay and the one beside the sea at Ocho Rios were famed far and wide for the beauty of their gardens, set as they both were in the midst of lush natural vegetation. The small church at Ocho Rios was especially attractive. A landscaped garden unfolded into the blue clear water of the Caribbean and the open design of the building that had been converted from a private house to its present status, allowed the congregation to gaze out to sea through what were originally the dining-room windows. This doubtless contributed to their pious thoughts during the long sermons Father gave, largely for the benefit of tourists who were always attracted to the little chapel. The man called Augustus never attended; he was a seriously lapsed Catholic. Father's interest in him, however, was over another matter.
After his meeting with the priest, the Superintendent headed for the upstairs room that housed the senior divisional investigative officer, to find its sole occupant, Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds, practising his bowling. He had placed a full-length mirror, an exhibit from an attempted burglary, against the wall so he could practise his left hand break, making short dummy runs and whirling his right arm past his ear. The trick was not to let go of the cricket ball he was grasping, but when he realized that the officer in charge of the parish was watching him, the red bound leather missile dropped from his fingers. It bounced two or three times on the bare wooden floor, waking the duty constable who was dozing in the late morning heat of the station charge room immediately below.
Hinds had the grace to look embarrassed. "Sorry, sir, I was just..."
"I know, I know. You were just practising for the next game against Montego Bay."
"Well, sir, it is important that we win the round so we qualify for the all-island finals." Hinds said eagerly, then frowned. The young Superintendent's pronounced lack of enthusiasm for the game of cricket was a perpetual source of surprise since Hinds had been led to believe that all the English were born with a total dedication to the game, as they were addicted to flat beer and steak-and-kidney pie.
The Superintendent moved across the room and sat on the edge of the rickety wooden desk, taking his pipe out of his pocket, he filled it from the Dunhill leather tobacco pouch which he then passed to the detective who was as addicted to his pipe as he was to cricket.
"Father O'Shea came to see me this morning," the senior officer began.
"Oh, yes sir, I saw his car in the yard," the plain clothes corporal murmured, slowly filling a huge curved pipe himself and borrowing the Super's gunmetal lighter.
"He told me there's an obeahman living at Bamboo who's defrauding his parishioners. Apparently he's started a practice in Ocho Rios now. Father's had some complaints. Heard anything about him?"
"Bamboo?" The detective furrowed his brow and drew on his pipe. The office was filling up with acrid life-threatening smoke from two pipes. "I can't say I know about that, but there's a new man in Ocho Rios, comes from the country..."
"What about him? Have the Ocho Rios people reported it to you? Does Sergeant Roberts know about it?"
"Well, sir," Hinds began, "it's a little complicated. As an obeahman he's not much for sure, just a trickster. But he's into ganja. He's the supplier for Dudney. You know, the taxi driver."
"Oh shit," the Super exclaimed, shaking his head. "You mean that bloody political man in the Ocho Rios Taxi Association again. Drives a vintage Bentley, or is it a Daimler? A convertible built like a battleship."
"The same, sir, but he just makes a noise like he's political to cover his business."
"What's that, for God's sake, just tourism?"
"Tourists it is, but he's selling them ganja and girls. If Dudney's caught he'll call it political persecution. And this so-called obeahman's one of his ganja suppliers."
"Have you talked to the Ocho Rios police or what?"
The detective drew heavily on his pipe before replying. "Well, there may be a problem. That girl, you know, Susan, the Ochi traffic corporal's daughter..."
"Oh God! Not her again!"
"Well, she's one of Dudney's girls."
"So let me get this straight," said the Superintendent. "Basically, what we have is a half-arsed obeahman, who is supplying ganja to a taxi driver who caters to tourists in the Ocho Rios area. And we daren't tell or use the local police because one of the taxi driver's girl friends is the outside daughter of a traffic officer?"
"That's about it, sir. Susan spends a lot of time at the station... She's very pretty."
"Hinds, have you got something in for this bloody girl?" the Super yelled. "I'm not surprised she's trouble, she's so bloody gorgeous even if she is only about sixteen. But for the moment, I am not interested in her. I just want to know about this obeahman. Has he got a name? Does he come from Bamboo? Is he collecting ganja from cultivators in the bush up there? I'll need to report it to the area HQ in Highgate and organize some more ganja raids."
"Er, well, there's another problem, if you could just wait before you mention it to the area chief..."
"Why? Oh no, don't tell me."
"Yes, the office clerk, he... well he's Corporal Khouri's brother-in-law."
The Superintendent groaned. "Propinquity, bloody, bloody propinquity," he thought, shaking his head.
"All right. Let's start at the bottom with the easy part. Send someone from Brown's Town to nose around Bamboo tonight. Find out if this obeahman or whatever lives there and anything else of interest. We'll discuss it when we've got something firm to go on."
That afternoon, a plain clothes detective constable boarded a country bus and got off in the village of Bamboo, where be visited a friend who worked at the prison farm there. They repaired to the local rum shop and spent the evening chatting and playing dominoes with a group of locals. After Red Stripe beers had been abandoned in favour of several rounds of proof rum with stout chasers, the constable was able to justify his expenses by telephoning Corporal Hinds the following morning, confirming that a foreign person was living in the bush near Bamboo. His name was Augustus and though he had no job, he was away a lot, often in the company of a man from Ocho Rios, who drove a big convertible taxi. In addition there were rumours to the effect that the stranger traded ganja for obeah consultancy. The local district constable had also proved to be an extensive source of information.
On Monday the Superintendent and Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds held what Sherlock Holmes would have described as a 'three pipe' conference on the subject to plan the next move in the investigation.
"What we need is someone to approach the obeah person, Augustus, with a serious problem. Offer to pay for some magic help, then see where we go from there," the Super proposed.
"What about Dudney and the ganja?'' asked Hinds.
"Let's try and keep it simple. It would be nice to tie that in but don't get over-eager."
"It would be even better if we could get Dudney for living off immoral earnings as well!" The detective took his pipe out of his mouth and stared down at it thoughtfully. "What I was thinking, sir," he continued, "is if we could borrow someone not known around here, he could start by trying to get close to that girl, Susan. He could be advised to contact Augustus for a magic love spell, hhat could lead into the obeah business."
"Yes, but we must be careful about entrapment. You know how the Crown objects to that!"
Hinds nodded gloomily and the meeting ended after more random discussion. Later, Corporal Hinds commandeered the aged Ford station wagon that noisily served all police purposes and set off for area HQ at Highgate. He had arranged to meet there secretly with another detective who had recently been transferred from Kingston.
Detective Acting Corporal Hernandel's features reflected the result of wildly mixed genes that is not uncommon in Jamaica. For some reason, he alone of all his tribe was a throwback to some Spanish ancestor, perhaps one who had perished under a blade wielded by one of Cromwell's men. In any event, his face could have graced a seventeenth-century portrait of a halberdier crowned by a metal helmet. He was slightly-built, but rather tall, so that he tended to stoop, bending his head to hear better in a slightly deferential manner. His eyes were large and mournful, his despondent expression enhanced by a drooping moustache that was rather too long. It was incorrectly suspected by his CID colleagues back in Kingston that this was the reason the Commissioner had recently ordered his transfer to Area 2 in Highgate.
Detective Corporal Hinds was delighted when he set eyes on Hernandel. He was perfect for the role the devious detective had in mind, and which he explained in some detail to his new temporary assistant.
Later that day, Hernandel found he was loaned to the St Ann Division.
First he went to the local pharmacy and purchased a variety of beauty supplies. He succeeded in getting them at a wholesale rate: he added the savings to the fund he had set aside for the investigation. He packed a small case with a few clothes, strapping it on the back of his motorcycle along with the cardboard box of samples he had acquired. The Norton was indeed a venerable machine that had provided reliable transport to several generations of sturdy young men who had to be strong enough to control its clumsy bulk. When Hernandel started the powerful engine, it sucked up gas and spewed out blue-black fumes. The noise was deafening to all bystanders when later that day he set oft for Ocho Rios.
When Hernandel began his rounds of the hotel beauty salons he was far from enthusiastic about his cover story, namely that he was a travelling salesman. He did not feel at home in the role until he arrived at the hotel where Susan worked. He pushed open the door and was assaulted by a wave of damp air-conditioning and the aroma of singed hair overlaid with heavy perfume. The click of heels heralded the arrival of a dream of loveliness such as Hernandel had seldom even imagined. He was awestruck and floundered in a pair of enormous golden eyes. Wavy auburn hair falling to the shoulders framed a clear-skinned brown face, rather heavily made up to skilfully emphasize the owner's slightly Asiatic features. An hourglass figure was contained in a tight silk dress that looked and was expensive despite its brevity. The dress allowed a view of shapely legs tapering down to a pair of well turned ankles and feet shod in equally expensive Italian shoes with extremely high heels. Although still only a teenager, the girl obviously spent all she earned on her back.
Somehow the disguised detective managed to produce his case and display his wares to the divine creature who listened attentively to his sales pitch.
The girl introduced herself as Susan and of course was quite interested in the free samples she was sure would be donated. And they were.
It took the detective a while to recover his perspective after leaving the hotel beauty salon but he sternly reminded himself that he had a job to do.
After several futile attempts to date Susan, Hernandel confided in Fitzroy Hinds that it was now time to approach Augustus for magical help. The detective agreed.
So the huge motor bike arrived in Bamboo, scattering chickens, pigs and assorted children. Arriving at Augustus's shack, Hernandel dismounted inelegantly and unstrapped a box containing a large bottle of Captain Morgan rum.
He found Augustus sitting at a battered wooden desk, tryng to look intellectual and worldly at the same time, peering through a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles he did not need but assumed made him look wise. Augustus was very black and very wrinkled. It was as though he had acquired new wrinkles every time he moved to another island and every time he began another career.
Hernandel carefully memorized the map of Augustus's face, as he discussed his problem. Unrequited love was one of the obeahman's specialities, as Corporal Hinds had discovered. Augustus listened attentively to the love-sick salesman and prescribed a remedy, not a cure.
"Man, the problem is this. She don't fancy you. So all we need to change is that."
"Lawd Gawd, massa, how we go do that?"
The obeahman considered. "There is two ways," he announced. "One, you give her a special love drink, which is inexpensive. But it don't last."
He paused for such a long time the detective was forced to enquire:
"And the other?"
"The other is much better." He paused for an unconscionably long time again before he whispered: "Special. Only for you. I have the magic blades."
Hernandel looked gratified. "Yes man, me hear about that already. It famous," he lied. "But is how it stay?"
Augustus produced two smooth boards that roughly interfaced. "Man an' woman belly to belly," he announced, rubbing the objects together. "Every night you strap them to you jaw. It ensure you lady come for you after three days."
"I wear two piece of wood for the night? Strapped to me jaw?" Hernandel asked incredulously.
"Yes, man, them magical you know."
Hernandel and the spurious obeahman haggled over the price, Augustus in the end reluctantly agreeing to accept half down with the rest payable if the magic blades worked. If they failed, he would return the deposit. Normally he would not enter into any such arrangement but he was charging Hernandel much more than his village clients and he needed the money desperately. Plus, he stood to gain more from this man for the working of the magic blades was a sure thing. He had only to ask Dudney to speak to the girl, Susan. But then, he thought, he would also have to pay Dudney for his help and the girl would probably want her cut too.
Taking a small delivery of good quality marijuana later that night from another client, Augustus took the bus to Ocho Rios. He began by visiting Dudney where he dropped off a parcel wrapped in brown paper. He rather diffidently broached the subject of his new client's obsession with Susan.
Dudney showed a rather tasteless interest in the whole arrangement. He asked what son of spell Susan might be expected to encounter. Dudney's red-rimmed eyes widened when Augustus reluctantly told him about the two pieces of board he had sold Hernandal. The taxi man was middle-aged, large and fat. His neck was a series of heavy jowls, which began to shake like a jelly as he laughed. He laughed and laughed till the tears rolled down his plump brown checks. He threw back his head and roared with such uncontrolled mirth that his hat fell off, revealing a bald head.
"Why I have to romance a fella like dat?" she pouted. "Him have no money an is jus' a buffuto jump-up nayga."
Dudney sighed. "You owe it to me."
Susan looked at him in outraged astonishment. "I owe it to you? I owe it to you?" Her voice rose higher and higher. "You mean you owe it to me. Don't is I who send the tourist to you for the taxi an the weed?"
"Don't is I who send you the tourist boy dem?"
"I not going to sleep with that fella," Susan announced with finality. "I not going out with he."
"Him don't want fe go out, him want fe go in," Dudney yelled. Susan stamped her foot indignantly, breaking her stiletto heel.
Further enraged now, she attacked Dudney, who easily held her off. "Now look what you do," she wailed. "I have to go barefoot or you drive me back to the hotel. And pay for the shoe repair," she added as an afterthought.
After some hard bargaining, Susan reluctantly accepted Dudney's method of payment to ensure her co-operation. He invited her to act as his agent and distribute ganja directly to tourists staying in the hotel, for a fat commission. When Susan walked through the hotel lobby early next morning, in her handbag was a sealed brown paper parcel filled with dried marijuana.
Meanwhile Detective Corporal Hinds had a conference with Hernandel, then contacted the district constable at Bamboo and arranged for Augustus's movements to be reported.
Augustus spent the next few days collecting ganja from cultivators in the bush and Hernandel mooned around Susan as much as possible, till she agreed to attend a dance with him. After the dance she pleaded a headache and made the disappointed 'salesman' pay for a taxi to take her home. The cab was none other than Dudney's. As usual there was some altercation during the journey, Susan demanding compensation for her evening's entertainment in the form of a greater share of the weed, her initial distribution having proved successful. Dudney reasonably pointed out that as she had been given a good dinner of black crab, washed down with Red Stripe beer and then been taken to a dance, she should compensate him for the entertainment value.
In the end Dudney arranged for her to be at his house the next evening when the obeahman was due to make a delivery.
following Hinds's instructions, Hernandel visited Bamboo to report failure of the magic charm and demand his money back. He even produced the receipt Augustus had unwisely given him, which spelt out the name D.A.C. Hernandel in a rounded handwriting. Augustus was assured the initials stood for Desmond Anthony Charlton, never dreaming that in fact they were short for Detective Acting Corporal.
Augustus was quite alarmed by Hernandel's altitude, just as Hinds had hoped, since he had no money to repay him, and he reacted as planned by telling the policeman he was due to collect payment for something in Ocho Rios that night and would then be able to refund him.
The DC reported to Hinds in St Ann's Bay. Hinds rubbed his hands together gleefully and arranged to gather a raiding party for action later that evening. Hernandel managed to make another date with Susan and this time he hoped to take their relationship a step further. He was understandably put out when he was instructed to deliver his companion to the taxi driver that night as soon as he could and then rendezvous with the rest of the police.
That night, shortly after Dudney had collected Susan and returned to his home with her, Augustus furtively opened the unlocked door of the taxi driver's rather grand house and crept in with a suitcase full of the weed. The house was located on a sandy strip where a small dugout canoe was beached when it was not being used for clandestine purposes, like smuggling ganja to cruise ships.
Inside, the three conspirators gathered round a large mahogany table and argued about the division of the ganja the obeahman had brought. Eventually Susan accepted a package small enough to slip into her purse, which she did without further delay. Dudney then returned her patent leather court shoes, which he had collected that afternoon from the repair man. Susan pouted and slipped the shoes on, partly mollified. She stood up and bent her head down to silently examine her neatly-shod feet. Her distraction was broken by a knock on the front door which immediately opened to reveal Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds of the St Ann's Ray CID.
"Evening all," he announced, politely removing his hat and bowing slightly.
The new arrival was greeted with absolute silence save for the symbolic crowing of a distant cockerel, the ensuing pause followed by the surprised barking of many local dogs.
The trio were stunned by the horror of the moment; the suitcase occupying pride of place in the centre of the table before them. They were as rigid as lot's unfortunate wife when she was turned to a pillar of salt, as more plainclothes police poured through the door.
The police officer waved a search warrant in the air. "I have reason lo believe you have contravened the Dangerous Drugs Act and are in possession of..." Having broken the spell. Hinds did not finish his speech or even have time to issue the usual caution. The three scattered with one accord. Susan was first out, running into the adjoining bedroom as fast as her high heels and light skirt would allow. She swung her legs through the window and jumped right into the open arms of Acting Corporal Hernandel, who held her up bodily, one arm round her shoulders the other under her knees. Sobbing with misplaced relief, she flung her arms round his neck and clung to him as she recognized her saviour.
"Thank God you here, darling," she gasped, forgetting in her hour of need all previous rejections. She pressed against him trembling, her breasts hard against his chest. The detective inhaled her subtle perfume, a free sample from the hairdressing salon. He savoured the ecstasy of her sensual embrace for a blissful moment. Then he firmly returned to duty, swung Susan round and lowered her feet to the ground. As she stood trembling in front of him, he removed her hands from the back of his neck. Unaccustomed to being rebuffed, Susan glanced down and to her surprise, saw a pair of metal handcuffs being snapped round her slim wrists.
Later, all three prisoners were led outside to the waiting police vehicles along with the exhibits taken from the house. A loudly protesting Dudney was taken to the Ocho Rios police station where he was formally charged by Hinds and his cab impounded. He demanded to see the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Commissioner of Police and a lawyer, in that order and all in vain. The other two were driven to St Ann's Bay along with most of the exhibits. They were marched into the charge room, their rights read out and they were led away to be searched before being locked up for the night.
Next day, Detective Corporal Hinds interviewed the obeahman first, in deference to the Superintendent's sense of priority. He decided to offer a plea bargain regarding the ganja on the grounds that the court just might regard Hernandel's evidence as inadmissible due to misinterpreting it as a form of the dreaded entrapment. Augustus gladly accepted the suggestion that a magistrate might agree to issue a deportation order if he pleaded guilty instead of waiting in prison for a lengthy trial, followed by serving a sentence, all at the Jamaica taxpayer's expense.
Hinds's ploy was to ensure that Dudney's co-defendants reinforced the almost watertight case against him, by pleading guilty. So he decided to concentrate his best efforts at persuasion on the girl, to get her to agree as well.
He sent down for Susan, who was escorted upstairs. On entering his office, she snatched her arm free of the senior policewoman's rather too-possessive grip.
She paused in the doorway and tossed her head defiantly at them all. She glared at Hinds with her huge golden eyes, then sashayed into his office, hips swaying as she minced across the floor to stand in front of the detective's desk. She was careful to stop far enough away to enable him to have a full view of her shapely legs. The detective examined the 'force ripe' teenage prisoner carefully.
Despite himself he was impressed. No wonder she attracted tourists like bees round a honeypot, he thought. Hinds gestured for her to sit on the straight-backed public works chair. Susan complied, pouting at the detective, pulling her skirt down and crossing her dimpled knees demurely. Hinds waited for the inevitable opening request for a lawyer. It came.
"Me want Lawyer Tuck."
Hinds was not surprised. Tuck was a lawyer who rejoiced in showing up the police and decrying their methods. He was a constant adversary, a pain in the law-enforcement's backside and a budding politician.
"You can't afford him, or any other lawyer," Hinds said brutally. Susan recrossed her legs and tossed her head scornfully. Father can," she responded. "And I want bail."
Corporal Hinds shook his head sadly. "I know your father is a motor cycle police," he told her. One of his pet hates was the traffic department, but still, the Force was the Force. "Your father has a career in the police. He's already recognised with a high decoration. You think he is going to sacrifice his career for you?"
Susan's eyes widened, this possibility had never occurred to her, but she knew it to be true and immediately changed tactics.
"Mr Hinds, sir. I am innocent."
"If you are innocent, mongoose mate wid goat," Hinds said irreverently.
Still, Susan did not give up, she kept uncrossing her shapely legs, hoping to distract Hinds. But she did not know he associated her legs with cricket, and that hardened his heart for he had always blamed her for the defeat at an important inter-divisional match and he strongly suspected that she was responsible for the loss of his team's star batsman.
"Susan, you plead guilty to having the ganja," he instructed her. "I will ask the judge to treat it as a misdemeanour and you appear before the justice of the Peace on Monday. The worst that can happen is ten days in this lock-up. If you are lucky, you will get a reprimand and be bound over. Otherwise, I don't know." Hinds looked grim. "And when we finish search your room at the hotel..." He shook his head sadly, "...you gone to Kingston Woman's Prison for sure."
Susan signed the statement. Hinds noticing her carefully manicured fingers and long pink nails, wondered how they would survive in custody when he had refused her request for bail.
"If I let you go, Dudney will get you for sure," Hinds flatly stated. Susan shuddered but resigned herself to be taken back to her cell preparatory to spending at least the weekend in protective custody along with Augustus. It would certainly be preferable to facing Dudney, who, she well knew, was prone to violence.
Susan stared at her interlocutor, wondering what came next. She was quite surprised when Corporal Hinds came round the desk, handcuffed her, then took her downstairs and into the space where the police vehicles were parked.
"Now we go and look at your room in Ochi," he announced.
Once in her room, Susan pulled her case from under the bed and somewhat meekly handed over a small parcel of ganja. "Is Dudney make me keep it," she whined.
It suited Hinds to accept the lie, he even rewarded Susan by allowing her to recover all her personal things before she was taken back to the station and locked in a cell.
Susan and Augustus remained safely locked up at nights for the rest of the weekend, despite the obeahman's earlier boast that he would use his magic powers to escape.
When the President Magistrate heard the full story from the Crown Prosecutor on Monday morning, he reluctantly agreed to Susan's guilty plea being dealt with in the lower court. She had stood in the dock before him with her co-defendants while the Crown's prosecuting counsel was presenting the charges against all three accused. Susan somehow did not manage to substantiate the 'tender years' bit Hinds had in mind for her defence. The judge thought that she was over-made-up, her skirt too short, her blouse too low cut, and her heels too high. A disinterested observer, however, would have noted that he appeared to enjoy every salacious moment of her presence. The cases against the two men were deferred for three weeks, Dudney was granted bail, and Augustus was remanded in custody pending sentencing and deportation. The charges against him had been reduced and no mention was made of obeah, which pleased the Superintendent but rather annoyed Father O'Shea who attended the hearings.
Later that day Augustus was shipped off to Kingston pending Dudney's and his own trial hearing. Susan was sent down to appear before a Justice of the Peace, who deliberately prolonged her sentence by remanding her in police custody without bail, until a report could be submitted by the probation officer.
It was Susan's bad luck that the IP hearing her guilty plea was a homosexual. Hinds did his best for her, but after hearing an unfavourable probation report days later, the presiding IP told the court that he regretted he could not give "this depraved young woman" a longer sentence than ten days. He went as far as reprimanding the prosecuting officer for lowering the charges against her.
Susan wept as she was driven back to the police station to begin her sentence. She tearfully submitted to an intimate strip search. Afterwards her fashionable clothes and jewellery were removed, to be replaced by a coarse calico prison gown, like all short-term prisoners, she was allowed to keep her underclothes and shoes, but she was no longer allowed to sit outside doing nothing as she had done before. When not locked in her cell she was kneeling on all fours cleaning the station floors, polishing the door knobs or cleaning windows, while all the St Ann policemen ogled her.
Almost every one concerned was satisfied with the outcome of this case, especially Detective Corporal Hinds. Susan had got her comeuppance, as had Dudney and eventually poor Augustus. Corporal Hinds was able to officially 'close' the case file. The Superintendent signed it off and wrote a rather smug thank you letter to his Senior Superintendent at Area 2 HQ Highgate to which DAC Hernandel had returned after the night of the raid, never seeing Susan again except in the witness box at Dudney's trial.
The Great Royal Mail Robbery
Every morning a rather elderly canvas-topped van left Kingston and headed past SpanishTown, across the plains to May Pen then wheezed its way upwards towards Mandeville. To the tune of grinding gears and the gnashing of metal teeth, the van would climb over the spine of hills that forms Jamaica's backbone to Spaldings, then rattle its way past Cave Valley to Brown's Town. With a relieved series of sharp cracks and creaks it would coast downhill till it reached the north shore and its final destination of St Ann's Bay. Whenever the van was in motion, the tailgate was largely obscured by a cloud of black smoke that belched from a leaking exhaust.
The van was painted bright red, and in defiance of its shabby exterior, was emblazoned with the royal coat of arms. It was through the same back of the van that the mail was secured, distributed and. on one occasion, misappropriated.
Stamford Calder, the driver, was in his way a veritable aristocrat of the road having distributed mail on behalf of Her Majesty for the last twenty-six years. He was an artist, keeping alive the tired old engine, coaxing it to manage yet one more drive up the hills, easing the screaming brakes down the winding roads, caressing the wobbly gear shift all the way and mewing his feet on the worn out clutch, brake and accelerator with the dexterity and muscle-control of a prima ballerina.
His team mate was Ezekiel, the sideman. Stamford was the brains and had the technical skills; Ezekiel provided the muscle. When the mail van stopped at a post office, the 'captain' sat in the driver's seat, the ripped plastic covered with several comforting layers of the Gleaner, smoking a Marlboro, while Ezekiel used his muscle-power to sort the bags which were scaled with metal tags, delivering them according to their labels.
No one ever thought about it, but Ezekiel actually was the administrative manager, Stamford merely the technician. After all, a sideman was considered just a sideman, a common labourer. Stamford was the captain, in charge of Ezekiel, the vehicle and all its contents. Besides, Ezekiel was almost illiterate and dirt-poor.
Nevertheless, as he sat in the passenger seat beside Stamford, Ezekiel reflected about life. How come he did not have 'quattie to him name' while there was so much money in the van? Because Ezekiel had overheard the clerks checking out the contents of the canvas mailbags he was picking up and knew that the bags were full of enormous sums of money. Ezekiel told himself that even a 'wutless' mailbag was richer than he. So he decided to even the score. After all the politicians were always telling the people that the rich got rich by 'teefing from dem, de poor people'. So now he would become a hero by robbing de rich mailbag'.
Ezekiel might have been ignorant in many ways, but he was no fool. He planned systematically what he would do. He began by gradually acquiring some empty bags which had been thrown on the floor pending further use. Next, he pocketed a few blank labels. Then one morning he stuffed the bags with blank paper to make them 'favour de mail dem'. He finally committed himself by addressing some blank labels in rather untidy block letters and attaching them to the dummy bags, which he managed to load into the back of the van while Stamford remained in the driver's seat, smoking and reading the newspaper.
Ezekiel's home was Cave Valley and he was dropped off there as the mail van passed through, Stamford going on to his home in Brown's Town where he spent the night. It was here that he had joined the postal service as a boy, delivering mail on foot, then later on a bicycle, before he graduated to driving the van. In the morning, Ezekiel would rejoin Stamford in Brown's Town and they would resume their journey down the hills to their final destination, the St Ann's Bay post office. Here Ezekiel off-loaded the remainder of the mail. Later in the day they would take on another load for the return trip to Kingston.
It was always dark long before the van reached Cave Valley. On the fateful night of the theft, Ezekiel had carefully arranged the bags so that when he was dropped off he could jump out of the van's cabin, run round to the rear and collect two of the genuine mail bags along with his coat and battered holdall. As usual. Stamford did not move from the driver's seat and could not see what Ezekiel was doing. A loyalist through and through, it did not occur to the long service driver that anyone would even think of interfering with the Royal Mail.
After alighting, Ezekiel spent most of the night digging holes to hide the mailbags in different locations. One was in the graveyard, another not far behind the courthouse building, on a steep hill infested with rat-bats and seldom frequented. Ezekiel figured he could safely visit the hiding places whenever it was dark, meanwhile, he would behave normally and pretend to know nothing at all about the missing money bags.
So early the next morning he caught the bus to Brown's Town and walked across to the post office as usual. Stamford fired the engine as soon as he arrived and they set off to complete their journey.
The loss of the mail was quickly discovered and very soon bank managers and several others were angrily calling the police Superintendent's office. A rumour went round St Ann that the Queen had been robbed and by midday a calypso had been composed about it and was being recorded by the well-known singer, The Mighty Fly.
Upstairs in the St Ann's Bay police station. Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds was sitting at his desk, lovingly oiling his cricket bat and wondering if it would be worth getting it bound once more. It had split again during the disastrous inter-divisional match against the Manchester team the year before, when Hinds had desperately tried to make up for the loss of his star batsman (see The Corpse that Wouldn't Die). His thoughts of cricket were interrupted by the office clerk summoning him to the Super's office. Hinds sighed and reluctantly locked his bat away in the exhibits cupboard where it was kept along with his boots, cricket pads and gloves.
He clambered down the wooden stairs and stood at attention in front of the Super's desk, hat clasped to his stomach with one hand, the other resting respectfully against the seams of his well-creased grey trousers. The Superintendent waved him to a chair.
"Sit down, Hinds, for God's sake." In Hinds's experience this was a bad sign and meant a lengthy conference and/or a serious problem. He was right, for the Super continued:
"Some stupid ass has robbed the bloody mail van and everyone is screaming at me that if we don't find out who it is there will be no more written communications in Jamaica, or out of it for that matter."
Hinds raised one eyebrow and smiled quizzically. "Would that be a bad thing, sir?"
"Depends where you stand. How many letters do you send out for the cricket club asking for illegal donations?" Hinds's smile disappeared as his senior officer continued.
"Anyway, I've spoken to HQ and there have been no other reports, over and above the usual theft and losses due to incompetence. So it seems at first blush, that it's a local job. Probably a new sideman or something, though why it should suddenly happen here today, God only knows. Go and find out who they are, what their routines are, route and all that, then check their backgrounds out locally." He raised his hand. "And yes, you can have whatever resources you need, within reason. Better get someone to talk to the main sorting office in Kingston too. Keep me informed so I can tell Area HQ how we're getting on."
Hinds called together his three detectives and co-opted a couple of uniformed men to take statements from the staff at the post office. He sent two plain clothes officers to bring the driver and the sideman to the station and take their statements, then he strolled across the road to hear the rumours in the local rum shop, which was the social centre of St Ann's Bay.
By the time the driver and sideman had been brought to the station, Corporal Hinds had phoned the Cave Valley and Brown's Town police and now knew more about the two men than they knew themselves. This was the price they paid for living in a small community where everyone knew everyone else's business, especially in places where DC Hinds arranged the curry socials that followed the local cricket matches.
Stamford was ushered into the detective's office, shook hands with the policeman and sat down with some dignity. Hinds moved from behind his desk and placed a chair beside the driver. He carefully read Stamford's statement out loud, checked all the procedures and established that Stamford had worked for the post office all his life and could produce any amount of evidence to support a hitherto unblemished record of loyal service. The detective treated the older man with courtesy and understanding, dismissing him in time for him to have a rest and a meal before driving back to Kingston.
Ezekiel was a different story. First, he refused to go up the stairs to Hinds's office and had to be marched there by a large constable, who used the traditional police method of propelling him forward while holding Ezekiel by the back of his pants and half lifting him so he walked on tiptoe. This humiliating posture did not prevent Ezekiel from hollering so loudly that the Super emerged from his office to see what was going on.
When Ezekiel was released from the embarrassing grip on his pants, he was sat down in front of Hinds's battered wooden desk. The constable stood behind him as the detective read his statement out loud and flicked it across the desk with his fingertips.
"Yu mus' believe I am some kind a quashie police. What kind of rubbish is this?" Hinds demanded, tapping Ezekiel's statement.
"No sah, I nevva take it; is not me take it; I nuh take nuttin, Massa Hinds, sah. Not I."
Hinds shook his head and pointed the stem of his pipe at Ezekiel as if it was an offensive weapon.
The detective jabbed the air accusingly with his pipe stem to emphasize his point. "De Judge, he sit on the Queen's bench and he is going to put you in Spanish Town prison for life. When you come out, if you do come out, you will be too old to enjoy the money you steal."
Hinds paused to let this sink in, then said in a much friendlier tone: "So if you tell me where you hide the money, I tell the judge you make a mistake with the address. You stupid fe true, but you don't want to tief from the Queen."
Ezekiel was bewildered by the unfairness of the accusation and the suggestion that the rich mail bags belonged to the Queen, who as everybody knew, was far richer than even the Americans and lived in a palace. He could not understand why she had a bench for her judges to sit upon. Ezekiel raised his eyebrows till they nearly touched his curly black hair. His eyes opened wide as he shook his head to show his astonishment and innocence, but said nothing as he knew it could be used as "evidence against him".
Hinds scowled at him. "All right, Massa, I will catch you, for sure. Yo g'wan nah. Get yo' rass out." Hinds relit his pipe, the wooden match flaring, then he puffed heavily, filling his small office with blue smoke as Ezekiel hurried out of the door and stomped down the wooden stairs.
That evening Stamford was even more silent than usual as he drove the mail van back to Kingston. Ezekiel talked almost non-stop, proclaiming his innocence and his outrage at the way the police had treated him. Even the mail van seemed strangely subdued, apart from occasional squeaks and the odd explosion.
The next day they repeated the journey back to St Ann, Ezekiel disembarking at Cave Valley as usual, leaving Stamford to drive on to Brown's Town for his overnight rest in the company of his wife of over forty years. As she gave him his dinner they discussed the shameful robbery and Stamford's interview with the police detective the previous day. Both of them felt quite humiliated and hoped the Queen would not learn of the theft. They knew that she was a real person; she was not just a picture on a stamp: they had both seen her when she had stopped to open a road during a royal visit (see Royals & Not So Royal).
By the time Ezekiel had jumped off the mail van, Detective Corporal Hinds had been to Cave Valley and had personally searched the small shack where Ezekiel lived with his woman. Ignoring her outraged screams. Hinds had supervised the ruthless digging of the yard, which so upset the scrawny fowls that lived there that they did not lay a single egg for over a week. In addition, any crops Ezekiel and his woman had planted in the thin soil were also ruined.
As soon as Ezekiel learned that the police had searched his house and yard, he began to panic. He decided to transfer the contents of one of the mailbags to his holdall and take it with him next morning. He would hide the money in Brown's Town, he decided: DC Hinds would never look there. He went and dug up the mailbag he had hidden near the courthouse, emptied it into his holdall and buried the empty bag again. Carrying his holdall, he then dug up the other bag he had hidden in the graveyard and stuffed the cash into two crocus bags, burying them far apart in the same graveyard.
While he was digging it got darker and darker as heavy rain clouds veiled the moon, the only light coming from the peenywallies flashing in the dark air. It was quieter too in the graveyard before the rain fell. Ezekiel's machete scraped the dry earth, hitting an occasional rock and drowning out the night noises, the croaking lizards and whistling frogs. IHe took so long digging up the original canvas sacks and reburying the crocus bags that now contained the Queen's money that he overslept and missed the early morning bus to Brown's Town. He started walking in the rain, hoping to be picked up by some van driving higglers to the early morning market. He cursed his bad luck, mentally tracing DC Hinds in the most unflattering terms, even cursing Stamford for leaving him if, for the first time, he should be late arriving.
So when the only vehicle to pass him on the lonely dirt road slowed and slopped, Ezekiel ran forward eagerly, his delight instantly turning to horror as he recognized DC Hinds opening the rear door of the police station waggon. Hinds politely invited the unlucky mail robber to get inside and as Ezekiel climbed into the back seat, he was relieved of his battered holdall.
Hinds placed the case on the front seal, switched on the dash light and opening it, examined the bundles of bank notes it contained before they resumed driving.
"I'll give you the receipt when we get to Brown's Town," was his only comment. He lit his pipe despite the risk of an explosion, as all the police, including the driver, were basking in the rich fumes of Appleton Estate rum which they had been consuming all evening as they waited for Ezekiel to make his move.
At the station, the money was counted and placed in the CID's exhibit locker. Ezekiel was cautioned for the first time, charged with theft, searched and given a receipt for the money, which was retained with his belt and other personal effects. He appeared in court later that morning and was remanded in custody by the magistrate who was unimpressed hy his explanation that he had just found the money and was on his way to return it to the police.
When he was taken back to his cell, Ezekiel found there another inmate sitting disconsolately on the wooden bunk, Ezekiel did not especially care for the look of the man but he decided to make the best of the situation.
"Wha' happen, man?" he asked.
"Me doan do nutien but dem say I cuss de Inspector im. 'Im is a wicked mon fe tell lie pon me! Me no cuss 'im at all. I jus' call 'im a red rass an' 'im make de corporal lock me up.''
The fellow prisoner said he was known as Ackee-eye, adding that he was an unemployed carpenter and part-time labourer. Neither of which was true because Ackee-eye was a full time police informer, and in fact, Corporal Hinds had arranged for him to be locked up in the cell so that he could save them all a lot of trouble and earn a cash reward by finding where the rest of the money was hidden.
Ackee-eye waited till after the evening meal before he began to reason with Ezekiel.
"I hear you tief de mail money dem dat belong to de Queen," he began. Ignoring Ezekiel's denials, he continued. "Corporal Massa Hinds gwine frame you fe life if him no find do money."
Ezekiel remained silent.
"Tomorrow I gone, but you still lock up," Ackee-eye continued, "if you tell me where the money is, I will find it and keep half fe you. More than that, I give you the biggest half."
Ezekiel laughed. "Why should I trust you?"
"You doan have fe trust me. But if the police find the money when they bulldoze the whole of Cave Valley, you get nothing, fo sure. If I find the money, you have a chance to get something. It stand to reason, man." Ackee-eye paused and stared at Ezekiel, trying to determine if his offer was succeeding.
"They going to bring the bauxite machine, you know," he added in a moment of inspiration. There was no way the police could induce anyone to lend them a bulldozer to be transported to Cave Valley. But Ezekiel's judgement was clouded and instead of regarding the indomitable Corporal Hinds as his pursuer, he now believed the Queen to be his opponent.
Ezekiel stared back at his fellow-prisoner, debating with himself. Ackee-eye had shiny jet black eyes that reminded Ezekiel of a mongoose. He did not trust him, but there was truth in the fact that if anybody else found the money he could be sure that he, Ezekiel, would never see any of it again. He had no choice because the Queen would order Corporal Hinds to bulldoze the whole of Cave Valley in search of it.
By morning, Ezekiel decided to take a chance, reminding Ackee eye in layman's terms that he was already compounding a felony and would incur the Queen's rage if he were caught. And caught he would be unless he behaved honestly and kept his word to Ezekiel, who would otherwise be forced to report him to the law-enforcers. So Ezekiel gave Ackee-eye a roughly-drawn map using the paper and pencil thoughtfully provided by the detective Hinds. Ezekiel swopped it for a receipt signed by Ackee-eye.
On his release the next day, Ackee-eye was escorted straight to the CID Office, where he gave Detective Hinds the map of the Cave Valley graveyard, which was desecrated that very afternoon and the remaining cash recovered.
Ackee eye was rewarded. Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds congratulated and promoted, and Ezekiel sentenced to six years' imprisonment. The presiding judge remarked that it was abhorrent to him that an employee of the Crown would stoop to such depth as to rob the Royal Mail and damage its long established credibility. He went on about the general public's right to place their confidence in the loyalty of the postal staff. Therefore he had no alternative but to send him to prison and so forth and so on.
The old van continued to ply its prescribed route, coaxed by Stamford and a new sideman; the banks were reassured. Hinds bought himself a new cricket bat. The Superintendent was included in the Queen's Birthday Honours List and received the Queen's Police Medal.
Everything was more or less as it should be once more.
All the Queen's Horses...
"You beat us again, Fitz! It's like you do nothing but play cricket," the middle-aged captain from the Jamaica Defence Force exclaimed as he shook hands with the policeman who had just led his team to victory against the soldiers. Captain Wellington Jameson was still wearing his khaki battle fatigues and beret. "What happen to crime in St Ann? Maybe when I come to settle down here I should take to robbing banks, or is it the Royal Mail?" They both laughed as Detective Corporal Fitzroy Hinds allowed himself to be guided towards a large red cooler filled with bottles floating on blocks of half-melted ice. Hinds gratefully accepted a Red Stripe beer. All around him beside the improvised pitch near Moneague where the JDF had their training camp, thirsty cricketers from both teams were doing the same.
Hinds lowered the bottle at last. "So you're going to settle in St Ann when you retire?" he asked. "How long have you got to go?"
The captain shook his head. "I'm not retiring, I'm leaving. My parents have that place outside Discovery Bay and we're going to fix it up a bit and put up some self-serve tourist units beside the water. Six of them actually. The wife and I will run it."
Hinds looked surprised. "I know your people have a place there but I never knew you were married."
"I'm not...yet," Jameson said with a smile. "My fiancee is still working - she's with Arawak Air in New York, but she'll be moving here after we're married."
The captain, clad in a pair of ragged khaki shorts, a brightly coloured striped shirt and leather sandals, met the police officer and, as anticipated, invited him in for a drink. He led the way through the old bungalow, then out to the side facing the sea. Hinds shambled after him, across the original veranda and down to a newly-paved patio that surrounded a kidney-shaped swimming pool. There was a small bar at one end and some steps leading down to the sea where a small boat was pulled up on the sand. Jameson turned from the fridge holding two glasses filled with ice and reached under the counter to pour two stiff drinks.
The men were chatting and the captain about to pour a second drink when Juanita made her entrance. Her appearance took the detective's breath away. She certainly was a stunner, he thought, as he took in the voluptuous curves framed by a casual but expensive silk sheath dress. As she acknowledged the introduction then sank gracefully into a chaise and lifted her neat Italian platform sandals, the detective mentally noted that Jameson might have a problem keeping up with her wardrobe requirements. And he could not help wondering about the contrast in their attire for the evening.
The new Mrs Jameson was originally from the Dominican Republic, he learnt, but had relocated to New York when she joined Arawak Air. She was explaining that as she was the local representative, she and her husband would still get free flights on every route.
"I can travel wherever they go," she said, with a soft Hispanic accent. "And there are quite a few marketing meetings in the States too, so..."
The detective would have cause to remember this particular item of information a year later.
Then Juanita stood up in one fluid movement. "Would you like to come and see our guest units?" she invited, waving well-manicured pink nails towards the new block that had just been built.
Hinds was impressed by all he saw on the tour; the Jamesons had certainly put in a lot of work, he thought, but he was also vaguely aware of an undercurrent of tension between the couple, Juanita was not only beautiful but looked at least twenty-five years younger than her husband. As he drove away feeling the warm glow of the rum, Hinds knew in his bones that something was wrong. Apart from the fact that the couple were oddly-matched partners in almost every way, there was an uneasy sense of role-reversal: he was the housekeeper, she the entrepreneur. The detective could not quite put his finger on it, sensing some latent hostility between them. But he did not speculate on the outcome.
The months went by. Hinds spoke to the Jamesons on the phone but did not see them. At the end of a hot dry summer, winter was introduced by an irritating series of severe 'northers'. When the blustering of the winds abated enough, the most optimistic of the fishermen put to sea again to lay their pots off the coral reefs.
One of the fishermen was called Monkey Ears. Scrounging, stealing and smuggling were all part of his stock-in-trade, and he made a point of investigating anything unusual in the hope of securing some benefit. So when one overcast grey dawn he noticed a flock of birds swooping and fighting over a point of sharp honeycomb rocks inside the reef, he paddled towards the spot.
His curiosity was rewarded with a sight he would never forget. High on the surf line something was wedged into the honeycomb rock. Something dark and fleshy, swollen and putrid in a damp sort of way, like a human torso that had been in the water for a week.
Monkey Bars stood up, nearly tipping his canoe as he frantically started the outboard engine and headed for the nearest haven.
At the St Ann's Bay Police Station, concealed behind a thick cloud of tobacco smoke, Detective Corporal Hinds and Acting Corporal Walcott, one of the office clerks, were discussing tactics and going over the batting order for the next inter-divisional cricket match when the call came through. Hinds swore at the interruption of serious business, but took up the phone and listened to an excited corporal calling from Discovery Bay, raising one hand to scratch the top of his crinkly head of hair with the stem of his pipe as his eyebrows rose higher and higher.
Ten minutes later, the old police station wagon was rolling out of the parking area behind the St Ann's Bay station, turning sharply into the main street, tyres screaming excitedly as the driver gunned the Ford engine and noisily changed gear. Inside, the detective constable charged with behaving like a one-man scene-of-crime expert, was untidily packing film into a large camera case.
Two hours later, the officer in charge of the St Ann Division was on the phone to area headquarters reporting the grisly find and soon after lunch the telephone rang in an air conditioned office of the Jamaica Constabulary in Kingston. It was answered by the young Superintendent who was acting as Assistant Commissioner (Crime), familiarly referred to as the ACP. He listened carefully until the officer at Area 2, Highgate, finished his report then gave his instructions:
"Right, St Ann's probably going to need some help. First, we'd better get some back-up for the local medical officer because sooner or later we're going to need expert forensic advice." The ACP furrowed his brow, then continued. "So first, if we can be sure of the cause of death, it will be a help. We must establish how the head was removed. If it was chopped off, it is probably a case of murder, but may not be, so we can't jump to conclusions yet." He listened for a while. "Any chance of finding it? Yes I know. How about hands and feet?" The telephone crackled some more in short bursts of static. "No! I was afraid of that. I suppose the body was washed up during that norther. Any ideas how she got there? Pitched from a boat or what?"
The Jamaican telephone system was notoriously unreliable in the country parts and the officers had to speak quite loudly to each other while the phones alternated between gradual fades and loud static. The senior officer continued to give instructions then announced that he would drive over. "Better meet me in St Ann this evening and I'll bring Sergeant Brooks and a couple of others from the scene-of-crime section, " he announced, "I'll call forensic too, so they can send a specialist to the post mortem. Make sure the MO holds off till he gets there."
The ACP was delighted to be able to turn his attention to a serious crime despite the fact that his weekend plans for sailing would he cancelled. He was well aware that the discovery of an unidentified corpse posed special problems. He contacted the government forensic office and requested the help of someone who could give technical advice during the investigation and expert evidence in the event of an arrest. Then he went home to pack a bag and reorganize his weekend.
That evening three senior officers attended the post mortem examination. Afterwards the body was packed in ice and driven to a laboratory in Kingston for further examination and there was a conference in the St Ann's Bay police station. The search of the area where the body was found was abandoned for the night.
A week later, little progress had been made by detectives throughout Jamaica searching for missing persons. The ACP was tempted to institute a check throughout the Caribbean and even of possible visitors from the US, but he was discouraged by the immensity of the task. Somehow he felt that the mystery would be solved in St Ann, possibly even in Discovery Bay.
Every experienced investigator knows that if a case is not cleared up within the first twenty-four hours, the chances of solving a murder diminish daily. So far, all that had been established was the result of the post-mortem: the body was that of a female aged in her late twenties to early thirties. She was five feet four tall, small boned, in good health with average physical characteristics, no scars or identifying marks. The amount of water in the lungs and stomach indicated that the cause of death was probably drowning, but this was circumstantial and would be difficult to prove under the conditions in which the body had been found. The head had been cut off by a sharp implement, the ankles bound together after death, as indicated by the slight marking the rope made on the cadaver's skin. Six feet of rope dangled free of the body, which appeared to have been attached to a weight, anchoring it until it broke free in the underwater turbulence and rough seas, caused by the surface winds. The estimated five or six days immersion in a rough sea had resulted in serious deterioration of the flesh, which was compounded by fish nibbling at extremities before and after the norther subsided. The subsequent result was the destruction of identifiable finger and palm prints. The investigators were left solely with a female body whose dimensions they could accurately record.
Little progress was made during the days that followed. The initial problem of lack of identification persisted, although the investigators kept pressing the forensic laboratory for facts.
Then they had one of those sudden breaks. The pathology laboratory at last confirmed their suspicion that the body had been dyed soon after death, they identified the dye used as a fluid resulting from boiling the heart of logwood chips. The information was passed down the line to the detective office in St Ann's Bay where Corporal Hinds was desperately attempting to close the case file in time for the forthcoming cricket match. When he heard the news he was simultaneously elated and downcast. Pleased that he now had something to work on and might even be able to solve the case; distressed because his hopes of being able to complete the investigation in time for the game were irrevocably dashed.
He sat down with the local Superintendent and discussed the startling development.
"Well sir, you know the Jamaican saying, 'Every John Crow tink him pickney white'?" Hinds asked. The Superintendent nodded. "It would seem that somebody doesn't want us to think on those lines. So the question is, what sort of complexion did she have, dark brown to white? She might not even be Jamaican, you know. Can't the forensic people be more specific?"
"I doubt it at this stage," the Superintendent replied. "The only thing they added was that the body seemed to have been dipped in the dye rather than dabbed, and the toe and fingernails still had some naked polish on them. It's puzzling why the killer, or whoever, took off the head, left on the hands after taking the trouble to dye the body."
"I would guess he was pretty sure we would never find the body, and if we did, it would be far too decomposed to matter. He may have been in a hurry, or thought it would be more dangerous if he cut her up into too many parts. It really depends on who she was and the circumstances. We can't be sure it was even murder."
The Superintendent groaned. He had recently been transferred to the division and was very conscious of his lack of local knowledge. "You're right of course, Hinds, I wonder if the lab can answer your question at all. But obviously someone wants us to look for a missing woman with a dark complexion, or as the ID forms put it, 'dark black', So we had better start from the assumption that the dead woman originally had a white or brown complexion."
"Or was Chinese, or part Chinese, or..." and here Hinds had a flash of inspiration, "maybe she was Hispanic."
"I suppose you're right. Maybe we'll find the head and be able to get dental records or some features reconstructed. But we can't count on any such luck. Better step up the search for missing ladies of the right age and build with lighter complexions. I'll talk to the ACP about it again. The search will probably have to be expanded rather than shortened. You gut any ideas?"
"Well, maybe...just maybe," Hinds said distractedly, "Let me check something out, sir."
Ten minutes later Hinds was back in his own office upstairs, where he lit his pipe and called for the CID station wagon.
The corporal in charge of the police station at Discovery Bay was sitting at a battered public works desk, thumbing through a pile of buff-coloured files when he heard the unmistakable sound of the old Ford's engine and was delighted when the detective walked through the charge room door. He was a back-up bowler on the cricket team and Hinds was an old friend.
After they had exchanged greetings and talked briefly about the forthcoming divisional match, Hinds sighed, lit his pipe and sank down on a rickety wooden chair.
"You know the IDF Captain - Jameson?" he demanded. It was a rhetorical question. He knew the corporal knew everyone in his area and particularly those who were applicants for a licence to sell spirits.
The corporal nodded.
"You seen Mrs Jameson lately?"
"No, they're not there. I know because I called round the other day. The only person there is the captain's old mother."
"Where they gone?"
The corporal shrugged. "Off the island, that's all she told me." Hinds sighed. "I want to look at the place while you talk with the mother."
The corporal was stunned as the implication hit him. "My God, you don't think is she?"
"Corporal Faulkes," said Hinds dramatically, "I don't think. I feel!"
So while the uniformed corporal interviewed the old lady. Hinds wandered round the property, not sure what he was looking for. He stood in the bush at the back of the main house and stared unseeingly at some scraggy-looking cattle standing in the shade under a clump of coconut trees. Hinds pushed his battered trilby back on his head and mopped the sweat off his brow as he tried to focus on his task. The body had been totally immersed, but in what? He began by looking for a cattle dip. He knew all the farms used arsenic dips to keep down the tick population on livestock. When he found the dip, with a ramp cut in either end and sealed with cement, it was surrounded by a mud patch bare of the crab grass that grew all around in the paddock and half-filled with a muddy dark brown liquid. An old sump petrol-driven pump was beside it. He shook his head. There was no sign of any dye but the fluid was so filthy it was hard to tell.
The detective turned and looked towards the sea, a shining silver mirror that seemed to merge into a cloudless grey-blue sky. The norther was still around, he thought, early for the time of year. He glanced back at the cows. They were moving at a leisurely pace towards an old bath that served as a water trough. A midday drink before lunch, he idly thought, Then it struck him. A bath! The water trough was an old bath! He hurried across the rough crab grass that sprouted through the red soil and stood gazing down at the mahogany-brown depths of the once white bath, now filled with a dark oily fluid. Corporal Hinds ran his hand through the liquid and disturbed the water level so he could see the solid rim of dark stain under the surface. He withdrew his dripping hand and stood back thoughtfully staring at the tub, absent-mindedly pulling out his pipe, reaching back to his hip pocket and producing a tobacco pouch. He lit his pipe with a battered metal lighter and puffing smoke like an old tramp steamer, ambled back to where the CID vehicle was parked, climbing in beside the corporal who was sweating profusely.
"But it hot, man," he groaned, wiping the back of his striped uniform shirt collar with a huge crimson handkerchief.
Hinds's only response was to explain that after dark he intended to come back with a sterilized bottle or two and a machete to collect some samples to be sent to the government chemist for analysis.
Early on the Saturday morning following these events, the Superintendent who was acting as ACF was interviewing the chief executive of Arawak Air in Montego Bay who was at first reluctant to give out information, until he was told the police wanted to eliminate Juanita Jameson as a murder victim. "We merely want to locate her and establish that she is alive," the Super assured him.
The executive agreed to discreetly check whether the woman had taken a flight anywhere on the airline or if anyone knew of her whereabouts. Consulting a thick file which his secretary brought in, he was able to say she was not travelling on company business. "But that does not exclude a free pass to any of our routes," he added. "Juanita could have left someone to run the agency in Ocho Rios for a couple of days and not informed us here. I'll get the reservations people to check on that next."
He also revealed some facts about Juanita that were new to the policeman; that she had had to leave New York because the FBI had contacted the airline and informed them that she was involved in some sort of investigation "which had the whiff of organized crime". The policeman immediately thought this gave him a new angle on the case.
"The Immigration people took away her green card and Juanita was demoted after her immigration status had been changed. But," - and the executive raised a cautionary hand - "as far as Arawak Air was concerned it was all unsubstantiated rumour. We continued to consider her a very effective employee. But as she could not work any more in the States, well, we had no alternative but to move or fire her. At about that time, she met this army captain, got married and moved here. So it all worked out."
"Very conveniently," the policeman thought but did not say.
The airline official paused to draw on his cigar. "She's a good employee, an achiever, no doubt about that." He paused again and thought for a while. "The FBI thing really concerned her live-in boy friend, some son of diplomat at the UN who blotted his copy book somehow and it rubbed off on her." He looked up and took the cigar out of his mouth, delicately flicking the ash.
"It's going to take a while to see if any free passes have been issued and used, so you had better come and see me on Monday when I should have some information. But all this is strictly between us as far as your source is concerned. I'm sure you know that we can't be seen as police informants."
That suited the ACP perfectly.
Corporal Hinds spent the weekend the way he liked: playing cricket. The burdens of criminal investigation fell from his shoulders as he bowled out one opposing batsman alter another, then supervised preparations for the curried goat feed while his team was batting. The whole thing was a great success and on Monday morning the detective was ready to devote himself unreservedly to the 'Headless Corpse' enquiry as the media had dubbed the case.
The ACP had spent the weekend in Montego Bay and arranged to stop in St Ann on the way back to Kingston. When he arrived soon after lunch and convened a meeting with Hinds and the divisional Superintendent, Hinds was able to hand around the notes he had spent the morning painfully typing out.
Logwood, originally imported to Jamaica from Central America (Honduras). Common in Caribbean, evergreen brownish, used in dyes and for charcoal. Contains metallic mordants & glucoside also salt for blue & black dyes. Factory Spanish Town. Blends with fabrics.
Hinds added the notes made from interviewing the Jamesons' servants which confirmed that the couple had recently been on bad terms with each other and that they both had left suddenly without any announcement of their departure or indication of where they were going or when returning. The maid had noticed that some clothes and toilet effects were missing.
The ACF brought them up to date. He began by announcing that Arawak Air had come through with a little more information. No free passes had been issued to the Jamesons. In addition he had been told on the phone that morning that the immigration branch's efforts to locate any sort of departure record from the island had proved fruitless. He himself had cabled the FBI and requested all background information concerning Juanita's stay in New York and any immigration records of recent entry to the US from Jamaica. Then he took an official huff envelope out of his briefcase and handed Hinds a collection of twelve-by-eight inch glossies - photos of Juanita given him by the airline.
"Assuming she is the same person, Juanita Jameson, the one on the left? Has she changed much? You've met her, I gather?'' There was an anxious hush while the detective studied the photographs, which were in full colour and showed two young women in Arawak Air uniforms.
Hinds nodded. "Yes that's her on the left, the shorter one, in the dress, without the wings on her blazer. She looks exactly the same sir. Beautiful. It a shame if she's the one."
He sighed heavily and passed the photographs on to the Superintendent, who studied them intently as the ACF continued: "Yes, she certainly is - or was - quite lovely. That may have been the problem. Anyway, now we have to get the lab people to work out the height, approximate weight and measurements, then match them with the body. When we have established her identity, and if she was murdered, we then have to convince a hunch of cynical lawyers, a judge and twelve jurors, all of whom may he quite hostile to the police. We know how reluctant judges and juries are to convict in murder trials because of the death sentence. Then, she was from the Dominican Republic so probably not much sympathy for the foreigner. We all know what a Jamaican jury is like. You can bet that if we find the killer he will claim it was an accident all the way to the gallows."
The speech was followed by a gloomy silence since they all knew it to be true. Like most experienced law-enforcement officers, all three had in the past been mauled by juries' verdicts.
The ACP resumed his summation. "But we are nowhere near that stage. All we have is some very circumstantial evidence. We must take one step at a time and establish it beyond reasonable doubt, then move on logically to the next step. Do not presume or conclude anything unless you have made sure we can prove it. If you have any doubts, for God's sake discuss it with me before you leap in with both feet. Deal in facts."
The meeting dragged on for another hour, Eventually, on the basis of Hinds's report, and regardless of the ACP's homily, they concluded that the logwood lady was probably the late Juanita Jameson and that if the forensic evidence backed up the theory, there were just about sufficient grounds to issue a search warrant.
With the ACP's agreement, the following Wednesday a search warrant was signed by a friendly Justice of the Peace. Hinds and three detectives and a policewoman in plain clothes drove to Discovery Bay to execute it. But first they visited the police station, where Corporal Faulkes was co-opted. Ten minutes later the search party parked the Ford wagon in front of the main house. To their surprise, they were met by Captain Jameson himself. Coming down the steps, he shook the detective's hand then expressed astonishment and some irritation when the warrant was read to him. With an obvious effort he controlled himself and waved them inside. The captain showed Hinds into the room he used as an office and after some hesitation went to the desk, opened the drawer and held out a letter which he invited the detective to read, which purportedly had come from Juanita announcing she had left him. The paper it was written on bore the heading of a hotel in Miami Beach, the date recent, but there was no matching envelope. The captain said he had thrown it away.
Hinds made a note of the Miami Beach address then began to search the room while his colleagues went through the rest of the house, the guest units and the grounds. Depending on the results of the initial search, a more extensive examination of the cattle trough was tentatively being planned which would include forensic experts from Kingston.
The police group took particular interest in various lengths of rope, found stored in the back of the outside bar. The bar was located between the pool patio where Hinds had sat talking to the Jamesons months earlier, and the nearby beach. A rough path led from the patio down to a sandy beach where small waves lapped gently as the fresh water of a shallow stream met the sea. A canoe tugged at its anchor as if anxious to escape over the reef and avoid the search. A speedboat was pulled further up on the beach out of the water. One of the detectives went to summon Hinds, who raised his hand to hold the others back as he walked down the steps and examined the two craft without touching either of them, even though he had to paddle out to the canoe and squat over the water.
Hinds and the policewoman spent a long time in the bedroom going through clothes and drawers, watched by Captain jameson. They pushed aside hangers bearing dress after dress in a walk-in clothes cupboard. To one side hung a rack of shoes all bearing names like Ferragamo, Chanel, Charles Jordan. The detective knew he could never reckon how many thousands of dollars hung on the racks or sat on shelves.
By way of contrast, the captain's walk-in closet was almost empty, a few old military dress uniforms, long retired from active service, hung beside three or four tropical suits, some casual pants and colourful shirts. Boots and shoes were piled untidily at the back.
The policewoman examined the dressing table to see if she could locate anything that no woman would leave home without. There was a formidable array of cosmetics, a few pieces of jewellery and in the drawers, wispy lace underwear, stockings and accessories. A search of the bathroom revealed the same. Spare toothbrush, rather worn; cosmetics appearing casually abandoned hut no firm evidence of interrupted usage. The captain quietly pointed out that his wife had taken an airline hold-all and a large suitcase with her. The paradox that ran through the officers' minds as they executed the warrant was, how could a prematurely retired army officer possibly pay for all this?
Three hours later the police party left, taking with them ropes, samples of Mrs Jameson's dresses, uniforms, underclothes, several pairs of shoes and jewellery. Hinds gravely issued a receipt to Captain Jameson, who smiled wryly.
"Need anything else belonging to my wife, Mr Hinds?" he sarcastically enquired.
"Yes sir. I need an address where she can be reached."
Jameson did not reply.
The old wagon drove away bearing the search party's trophies. The items collected were taken to Kingston for further examination. A forensic specialist went back to the Jameson place and made a thorough examination of the two boats to try and determine if there was anything at all to link them with the body. The grounds were thoroughly searched again but there was no sign of the missing head.
Hinds was put on a flight to Miami after a briefing by the ACP. His mission: to talk to the FBI and the Dade County police.
A few days later, the Attorney-General of Jamaica and one of the crown counsels were discussing the 'Headless Corpse' case with the Acting Commissioner of Police.
"The results of our enquiries in the US have been negative, rather as we expected. I'm afraid." he informed them. "The law enforcement agencies have been very helpful but they can find no trace of Juanita Jameson and there is no immigration record of her entry into the States during the last three months, certainly not under her own name. The FBI have been unusually informative, presumably on account of the possible connection to a New York crime cartel, but there does not appear to be much there. She was only guily by association through her job at the airline. Her boyfriend may have been more involved, but at the time he was transferred to Central Africa, Mauritania to be precise, as a UN labour adviser, so we can count him out."
"It seems that all we have now is circumstantial evidence, Superintendent," said the Attorney General as he raised his eyebrows far above his heavy, horn-rimmed spectacles. He was a fleshy Jamaican of European stock.
"Well we have a body. We have some forensic evidence and we have opportunity," the ACF replied. "We also have motive. Captain Jameson's life was the army, his career could hardly be described as spectacular, but he was about to get his majority when he married her and resigned. A confirmed bachelor whose ambition was to reach field rank. He takes out a huge mortgage on his parents' estate, shoves them aside and sets her up as partner/manager/ director of their new business, renting self-contained units to tourists. She is quite a sophisticate. Her upkeep costs are high, very high. Within six months he is financially crippled."
He paused to note that he held their interest.
"The business does not take off, but she does, announcing that she expects alimony and a hefty settlement. He must sell up everything or let her have it as a settlement - debt free. He can't. Being a military man, he thinks attack is the best method of defence. He plans to kill her and dispose of the body rather than fake an accidental death. Too risky in his view. Better just let her memory fade away, who will care to involve themselves in a police enquiry anyway? She has no relatives to speak of, apparently not even in the D.R.. He forges a couple of letters, collects the logwood chips and is nearly ready when something happens. Maybe she announces that she is off that day and he will hear from her lawyers. On the spur of the moment he drowns her, probably in the new swimming pool, then puts the rest of his plan into action. The servants were off for the day, so it was a Sunday. She had an open ticket to Miami with the airline, a staff pass to be used any time like a flight attendant deadheading. But now we know she never used it. She disappeared."
The Attorney General shook his head. He took off his glasses and wiped them with a white handkerchief. The crown counsel scratched his head. He had made copious notes, but said nothing. If one word could be used to describe the AG, it would be 'bland', while the crown prosecutor's would be 'frayed'. His clothes all had delicate fringes of worn cuffs, cracked shoes, a frayed collar. Sartorial elegance was definitely not his forte.
"Let's just go over the evidence we have again, shall we?" The AG ran his tongue over his lip. "I know that the forensic people and the medical faculty at the University have built a mould that exactly resembles the torso which you are preserving as evidence. How do you propose to bring that into the Circuit Court or even the preliminary hearings before the Resident Magistrate?"
"The plastic model has been recreated from life-sized photographs and has been compared to the actual remains," the policeman explained. "We intend to produce the original hands and feet, then introduce that part of the model and match the rings and shoes. Finally, the torso mould to fit the clothes on. There is also the comparison of the marks left by the rope that anchored the body to the sea bottom till it was frayed right through during the norther."
The AG steepled his fingers, resting his elbows on the desk. He closed his eyes, seemingly lost in thought. Finally he spoke:
"Before we can issue a warrant for the man's arrest, we must be sure of our facts. Also, as things stand, even if you charge Captain Jameson with his wife's murder, you would have a hard time opposing bail."
The ACP sighed, but made no further comment until the meeting was over and he was walking down the corridor with the crown counsel without a warrant to arrest Captain Wellington Montgomery Jameson until he had been duly cautioned and asked to make a statement.
That evening he visited the mortuary at the University College Hospital and saw the plastic replicas of the body, hands and feet, watched while the torso was dressed, the stockings and court shoes pulled on and the rings fitted on the plastic fingers. He did not stay to view the original remains but accepted the assurance that the measurements were exact.
The next day Corporal Hinds invited Captain Jameson to accompany him to the Discovery Bay police station where they would discuss the law-enforcement agencies' inability to locate his wife in the USA. Jameson was formally cautioned and invited to make a statement. He did so, but it was at variance with the version the ACP had outlined to the Attorney-General.
One Sunday morning, Jameson said, he had been finishing breakfast by the pool when Juanita, fully-dressed in her blue and gold Arawak Air uniform and carrying an airline holdall, came and announced that she was leaving.
"You will hear from my lawyers," she had announced.
Jameson said they had had a row the night before, as usual over money and the surrender of his career to meet her demands. He claimed that in a fit of rage, he had grabbed Juanita and flung her into the pool and immediately stormed off inside the house. After a while, he calmed down and hearing no sound, he had returned and found her inert body floating face down in the pool. He had dragged her out and tried to revive her, without success, and had noticed that she had a wound on her head. He surmised that she had been stunned by hitting her head going into the pool and that had caused her to drown since she was a good swimmer. He had panicked, Jameson admitted, his only interest then being to hide the body. He had cut off her head to hide her identity in case the body was found and for the same reason he had dyed it, then dumped the remains in the sea. Later, he forged the letter and hoped that Juanita would become a fading memory. She had no dependents or close relatives and worked by herself. He had planned to send a letter announcing her resignation to Arawak Air.
Sitting, facing the accused as he told his story. Hinds had to admit to himself that it all sounded quite logical. He leaned back as Jameson lit a cigarette.
"How come you happened to have logwood chips around when it happened," he asked.
"I was making some dye to paint over the new units. The salt gels on them and it has to be renewed all the time. It's not hard to boil logwood chips on a farm you know."
"Where did you get rid of the body and the head? The suitcase too, I suppose?"
"God knows. I took the canoe and paddled beyond the reef then sank the torso with a lump of concrete tied on the end of a rope, paddled further out and dumped the clothes in a crocus bag with rocks, the head in another. I thought that would be the end of it all."
"Was your wife bleeding when she hit her head going into the pool?"
Jameson shook his head but did not reply.
Hinds took his pipe out of his mouth and said harshly: "Let me tell you how I think it went, Jameson. I think you took a machete and chopped off her head because there was no head injury. I think you planned the whole thing. When she told you she was leaving, you had to act quickly. You threw her in the pool and held her there by her legs till she had drowned, then you tied her ankles and let her dangle there. That's why there were rope marks on her ankles."
Jameson jumped up and paced furiously up and down. "No...no man, nothing like that. I was mad, yes, but I didn't kill her. I thought I loved her... but later she showed what a bitch she really was... I never really knew her. She ruined me. I know that's a motive, but you'll find out anyway. She was a bitch, you know."
Hinds made no comment as he passed the written statement over for Jameson's signature. He knew in his bones that his own version of events was the correct one. But if Jameson stuck to his story, there was no way they could prove it,
Jameson, to his surprise, was allowed to go home.
Despite the repeated cautions of his lawyer, who had arranged for a leading Queen's Counsel to come from Trinidad to plead for the defence, Jameson made a full statement immediately after his arrest which was essentially the same as the first. His solicitor then urged that the charges be dropped or reduced to the illegal concealment of a body or, at worst, manslaughter. On the strength of this argument, the Resident Magistrate who presided over the preliminary hearing, allowed bail.
Captain Jameson returned home. It must have been just before dawn that he took his service revolver, placed it against his temple, and shot himself.
WILLIE WAS BAD. Had he been born a hundred years earlier he would have been hanged as a brigand or perhaps a pirate, depending on the circumstances of his capture.
Willie's band of twentieth-century rogues would set forth from Kingston in a stolen car or truck equipped with bogus licence plates. Driving deep into the countryside, to the rolling pastures of St Ann or the flat savannah of Westmoreland, they would follow up earlier reconnaissance trips to spot potential targets. There, amidst pastoral surroundings, late at night or in the pre-dawn hours, they would park their vehicle. Sometimes they ignored the furious barking of local dogs, sometimes they silenced them with drugged meat. Then taking their razor-sharp machetes, they would slash the leg of a sleepy cow, almost severing the hoof, and wrap the wound in a sack before the animal could bleed to death. The small holder or farmer hearing the agonized bellows of one of his livestock, would rush out to find out what was wrong. In his dismay, he would fall an easy victim of the smooth-talking city slicker, who offered an immediate solution to the problem. Cash, always less than half the beast's real value, free slaughter and transportation of the carcass. The dead animal would be driven back to the city for dismemberment and early sale to butchers willing to deal with the black market and pay the price.
As time went by, Willie's villainous gang became bolder, despite the formation of a special police anti-black market squad and the occasional scuffles with the law. The price only went up and there was an increase of police raids on butchers' shops.
In addition to his black market meat empire, Willie owned a sinister black cutter of some fifty tons, the flagship of his marine branch. Although it had huge, rust-coloured sails that sagged in an unseamanlike manner and were seldom furled, the vessel was driven by a noisy diesel engine. The engine belched black smoke from an inadequate chimney, situated aft over the wheelhouse, whose wooden deckhead had long ago been replaced by sheets of corrugated iron.
Not a keen sailor himself, Willie despatched his cutter and its motley crew to raid the Booby Cays, some thirty nautical miles from Kingston. It was here that the local fishermen camped on the sandy shore, and using dugout canoes equipped with high-powered outboard engines, blew fish out of the water with dynamite (a highly illegal practice). Willie's piratical crew simply dynamited the fishermen and their craft, then collected the catch.
During the season when the booby bird eggs (which are protected) were collected to provide a special delicacy, the water police would borrow the harbour master's barge. the MV Lady Huggins, and patrol the Cays. However, the Lady Huggins, despite her name, was an old wooden workhorse whose main function was to replace buoys and tend to various harbour navigation lights. Whenever she hove into sight, Willie's cutter would disappear hulldown over the horizon.
Willie lived in some splendour in the shanty town off the Spanish Town Road. He had joined several ramshackle houses together under one tin roof to form one dwelling, where he lived with all his tribe. The floor was covered with imitations of rich oriental carpets, the chairs and couch consisted of overstuffed plastic in the worst of taste. Willie's bar was stocked with every conceivable and some inconceivable beverages. Willie himself held sway behind an enormous mahogany desk, and ruled his family with an iron fist.
Willie had a much younger brother called Cho-cho. Cho-cho was also a bad lad, but in a different way. He was as thin as Willie was fat, tall as Willie was short, handsome in a gigolo kind of way as his elder brother was ugly. In addition, the meaning of the so-called work ethic had entirely escaped Cho-cho, whose passions were gambling, ganja and girls, in that order. He represented a financial drag as far as Willie was concerned and so was the recipient of frequent homilies about settling down and earning money instead of spending it. These fell on deaf ears.
One day Cho-cho was indulging in two of his favourite pastimes: gambling and ganja. He was playing dice in one of the many illegal gaming establishments that consisted mainly of an unfinished building, bare except for a concrete floor and tin roof held up by wooden poles, Chicken wire formed the walls, with privacy assured by the spread of flattened cardboard boxes tied to the wires.
Cho-cho sat with a group of three others, smoking pot from a chillum pipe, drinking and throwing dice. They made a lot of noise which got louder as they got higher. (The chillum pipe is a stubby clay affair with marijuana stuffed in the thick end and a small round stone jammed into the thinner end.) When the pipe became hot they wrapped it in a dirty cloth and passed it from hand to hand at decent intervals, enabling each of the four young men to inhale the wicked weed.
Unfortunately, Cho-cho's concept of a decent interval was at variance with that of his neighbour who, in Cho-cho's view, held the pipe for too long. Becoming more and more impatient for his turn, Cho-cho eventually drew a sharp knife and stabbed the man. Mortally wounded, the man fell off his chair and sprawled on his back, eyes staring sightlessly at the tin roof. Recognizing a crisis, the other three, together with the proprietor and a couple of spectators, vanished like snow in a heat wave. The body lay there undiscovered for a day or so, until rumours of the crime reached the Denham Town Police Station.
Two uniformed constables, despatched by a bored duty sergeant, were quick to call in and hand the whole matter over to the specialists of the Criminal investigation Department, who in turn passed the buck to the inspector in charge. With some foresight, the inspector, an elderly grizzled police professional, decided to avoid the responsibility of having another unsolved murder on his books so referred the killing to headquarters at Central Station.
Long before other more enlightened police forces had set up SWAT teams, the Kingston division had created a special group known only as the 'Flying Saucers'. This hand-picked body had originated as the Water Police vice squad, whose activities and interests gradually expanded under the enlightened leadership of two junior assistant superintendents. So it was that since nobody wanted it, the case of the unidentified gambler was passed to the attention of the Flying Saucers.
The two Supers conferred with the senior Superintendent in charge of the Kingston division and it was agreed that some guile was needed to crack the case. Guile often costs money and takes time. The first step was to identify the victim, then the killer and finally to catch him or her. A wide net of informants spurred on by promises of reward, began to make discreet enquiries in Kingston's west end. It was not long before the victim and assailant were identified by various girl friends, who had been recipients of pillow talk and subsequent cash rewards. Needless to say, it was also established that the alleged murderer had disappeared.
At that time, nearly a million people lived in Kingston and the suburbs of Si Andrew. Somewhere among them Cho-cho was hiding, aided by his brother who had many connections, including several on the waterfront. Rumour had it that his big brother was already in the process of arranging for Cho-cho's transportation to Belize, the Bahamas or another Caribbean island. The prospects did not bode well for the Flying Saucers. But they had initiative.
First, they assembled everything known, supposed and presumed about Cho-cho and his immediate family. Burning the midnight oil, the two Superintendents sifted through all the material, sorting fact from Fiction. They noted Cho-cho's weaknesses and decided to exploit them: he loved women, liked to back the odds in a game of chance and was superstitious.
They needed an obeah woman.
The two police officers agreed that it should not be difficult for the Flying Saucers to set up a sting but any old bag would not be accepted by Cho-cho. They needed to find an informant who was both physically and professionally attractive. As it happened, just such a person fell into their hands, having been scooped up on Hanover Street, the heart of the red light district. In Jamaican and Haitian patois she had put a curse on the entire police plain clothes team that had arrested her, then followed up by adding the officers in the charge room when she was brought in, prior to being locked up in all her finery. She was being detained in the cells pending trial, Those cursed had been nervous enough to charge her with 'using abusive and calumnious language'.
The self-styled witch of Haitian origin went under the strange name of Horse-and-Buggy'; no one knew why, and she refused to offer any other when escorted to the CID Office.
One of the Flying Saucer Superintendents made a deal with Horse-and-Buggy: all charges dropped, cash payment in advance, bonus on delivery of the target. The Superintendent was in a weak position because the evidence against her was pretty slim.
Her slanting, green eyes flashing, Horse-and-Buggy shook her dark brown locks and haggled, only accepting after she had driven a hard bargain. She was certainly a very attractive woman, a mulatto, who had escaped the misery and poverty of Cap Haitien in a fishing boat, only to find that life was no better as an illegal immigrant in the Bahamas. Somehow, taking advantage of her outstanding looks and speaking passable English, she had made a marriage of convenience to a Jamaican seaman and drifted to Jamaica, setting up shop in one of the brothels. She had been standing outside the establishment getting a breath of cool air and puffing at a welcome cigarette, when the Flying Saucer jeep drove up. Several large men had jumped out and bundled her into the black and white wagon that followed close behind.
The task of baiting the trap for Cho-cho became a research project for the Saucers. Everything needed for a practitioner of the black art had to be supplied. Rumours were floated and circulated about the superior powers of the newcomer from Haiti. The word spread throughout the tangled slums of Kingston and St Andrew, that a high-powered obeah lady of great skill and beauty had recently arrived and was a specialist in evading the law with her Police-Can't-Catch Me Oil, as well as providing solutions to problems of potential matrimony or revenge, good fortune, bad luck and the rest of the obeah practitioner's stock-in-trade. Unfortunately, it was also soon established that her fees were extraordinarily high; more than the average slum-dweller could possibly afford.
Horse-and-Buggy rented a simple dwelling in the new development of Trench Town paid for with CID secret funds. Meanwhile, the medical faculty at the University Hospital obligingly provided a human skeleton. One large glass demijohn filled with green liquid, another with red were also loaned. A good supply of proof rum, sugar and finally a live cockerel were added, to ensure that all the essential ingredients were ready for the concoction of the powerful Police-Can't-Catch-Me Oil.
Several long candles were provided along with a white sheet to act as a tablecloth. A medium-sized wooden table, which could be converted into a sort of altar and an iron cot were included as fixtures in the otherwise unfurnished shack. Horse-and-Buggy's equipment also included some finely-bound illegal publications, those of a questionable Chicago publishing house, which the Superintendent found amongst the old court exhibits, long after the owner had been tried and sentenced. These works explained in detail how to weave spells, and included a catalogue of potions, magical talismans and charms. No self-respecting obeah person would leave home without them, even though they were hefty volumes and on the list of banned publications.
For a week or two, Horse-and-Buggy waited as the Flying Saucers spread word of her powers. She moved around the crowded shanties of nearby Admiral Town and Denham Town. Occasionally she made appointments, but there were no follow-up deals made for her services after the price was announced.
Cho-cho, meanwhile, relied on his brother for intelligence reports submitted by informants who were instructed to relate how the police were progressing with their enquiries. The news was not good, and the reluctant fugitive moved restlessly from hide-out to hide-out, waiting anxiously for a boat to arrive that would smuggle him to safety. He could not forget that the sentence for murder was death by hanging. Meanwhile, Willie had heard the rumours about the Haitian voodoo lady and he advised Cho-cho to seek her assistance. Cho-cho was only too happy to do so when he heard that she was also quite attractive.
So contact was made at last and detailed arrangements, including payment, were completed in great secrecy. Date, lime and place were agreed upon, Horse-and-Buggy immediately informing the Superintendent. The trap was set.
The night of the rendezvous, dark clouds obscured the moon as Cho-cho cautiously bicycled down the straight but totally-deserted street, trying to recall the directions he had been given. To add to his misery, it began to rain and water was soon trickling inside his upturned collar, soaking his grease-stained brown trilby, a symbol of Kingston's gangster community.
Feeling lonely and not a little apprehensive, Cho-cho pedalled slowly. The whole area had been bulldozed flat and left a muddy terrain bereft of topsoil and so was without vegetation. The flat deserted streets all looked alike. The small dwellings were identical, each provided with an outside lavatory, consisting of a wooden bench raised over an open trench, all hidden behind a clapboard screen. There were no street names or street lights. Only a few windows glowed with the flickering light of kerosene lamps.
Horse-and-Buggy had taken the precaution of hanging a lantern at her door which enabled Cho-cho to locate it, although the cabin itself was in total darkness. With some relief, he stopped cursing, dismounted, and guided by the light of the lamp, approached the door. He gave the agreed password. A softly-muffled voice responded correctly and the door opened. Bearing in mind the crime rate in the neighbourhood, Cho-cho prudently wheeled his borrowed cycle inside.
In the dark room, Horse-and-Buggy struck a match and lit the candles, now placed beside the two demijohns. By their flickering light, Cho-cho saw a bare iron cot in the shadows, with a human skeleton stretched out on one side of the uncovered mattress. The young man could not repress a shudder when he was ordered to undress and get on the bed beside the skeleton. Having a keenly developed sense of survival, Cho-cho quickly took stock of the room before complying. Apart from the bed the only other piece of furniture was the altar-like table. He noted the window, privacy assured by a heavy blanket draped over it. Despite his nervous misgivings and the dim candle-light, Cho-cho was just able to see that the witch was even more attractive in the flesh than she was reported to be, despite the shapeless white robe that concealed her figure.
While he obeyed her order to undress, she prepared the sacrificial cockerel, mumbling incantations in a strange tongue, repeating spells memorized from the banned Chicago publications. Her excited client stripped naked and replaced his battered trilby hat before putting his revolver under the thin pillow.
Covertly eyeing Cho-cho, Horse-and-Buggy took stock of his arousal and decided not to waste time. Quickly she strangled the chicken, cut its throat and let the blood drip on to a pile of sugar. She continued to murmur incantations in English and French, as she mixed proof rum, chicken's blood and sugar in a tin bowl then took a match and set the proof rum spirit on fire. It sizzled out when she added some of the red and blue liquids from the demijohns. She pounded the whole messy concoction into a sticky paste and began to rub the famous Police-Can't-Catch-Me Oil on Cho-cho's naked body, carefully avoiding the more private parts. Next, Horse-and-Buggy smeared the substance on to the skeleton, explaining to Chocho that by this means she was passing the guilt from his body to that of the skeleton.
Cho-cho was galvanized into instant action. Grabbing his gun he fired at random, jumping towards the window beside the bed where he had been stretched out. In one giant leap he cleared the windowsill, still firing his revolver, thereby ensuring that everyone kept their heads down, including Constable Murphy and the witch, while the fugitive escaped into the darkness wearing only his hat. Dogs continued barking, cockerels crowed, all the many night noises were heard throughout the whole entrapment.
One of the radio cars, responding to the alert, screeched to a halt beside a dark figure, huddled in a crouched position beside the road. Questioned, the man gestured vaguely eastward. The car started, stopped, reversed. Too late, once again the figure had disappeared. But the location was containable.
This time using dogs, torches and a reserve of uniformed men, a house to house search was organized. And there in an outside toilet, up to his neck in sewerage, they found Cho-cho hiding, still with his hat on his head.
Which way did the spell of Police-Can't-Catch-Me Oil really work? Who can say, but when Cho-cho was tried, he was found guilty of manslaughter and escaped the death penalty.
The Man from Moscow
It was the habit of the Head of Special Branch to ensure that his research officer, who was his general executive assistant, read the Gleaner from page to page, first thing every morning. This saved him time, effort and the possibility that the Commissioner would see something that attracted his attention first and question the Special Branch, who are supposed to know everything that goes on everywhere. This particular morning the aggressive click of heels along the-highly polished tiles of Police HQ heralded something important. Breathlessly, the research officer entered the office and slapping the morning's paper on the desk, tapped the centre of the back page with a long crimson nail.
"What do you make of that?" she asked, her voice filled with excitement.
There was indeed a startling advertisement in the personal column. The Superintendent read it out loud:
"Robert Robinson, formerly of Kingston, Jamaica, now resident in Moscow, USSR. Anyone with information regarding this person, please contact Mrs Smith at..."
He noted the name and the out-of-town address.
"Actually," he said, "I don't make a bloody thing out of it. But I know who will." With that, he got out of his swivel chair and pulled his jacket off the hanger behind the door. "I'm going home," he announced. "Tell Nigel I'm out for the rest of the day." And with that he was gone.
The research officer was left to tell the Deputy Superintendent that the boss had gone home for the day - without a word of explanation.
Meanwhile, the Head of Special Branch had quickly recovered from his astonishment, aided by a fortunate coincidence. He had recognized the person who had placed the advertisement in the Gleaner as the mother of his next door neighbour. The families were very good friends, even sharing an elderly eighteen-foot 'O' class sailboat which they raced across Kingston Harbour every Saturday. He lost no time in contacting his neighbour, who had no idea what her mother was doing, other than offering as a possible clue, the fact that she represented the The Quaker Movement both in Jamaica and abroad. The policeman knew only that Mrs Smith was originally from the United States herself but had married a Jamaican and lived in the island for many years. He asked her daughter if she would take him to see her at her home in St Thomas. Which was why, later that day, an unmarked police car drove up the steep driveway to a low bungalow sprawling comfortably on top of a hill in that parish, its veranda overlooking the ocean below. Mrs Smith warmly greeted her only daughter and received the Superintendent with good humoured resignation. She had often met him and his family when visiting her daughter in Kingston, though never in an official capacity. But she was happy to offer an explanation of the advertisement she had placed.
She told him that a group of Quakers visiting Moscow had been contacted there by an elderly man named Robert Robinson who claimed to be a Jamaican and who wanted to go home to die. He had applied to the British Embassy as a naturalized Soviet citizen and been refused a visa to visit Jamaica, where he was allegedly born. In those pre-independence days, the British Foreign Office represented Jamaica's interests overseas, though the island at this stage enjoyed full internal self-government. Rebuffed by the British, Robinson had learnt of the visit to Moscow by the Quakers and thought it worth a shot, so he arranged to meet them.
The Soviets were far from displeased and may have manipulated the whole thing. They incorrectly anticipated that the US would follow the official British line, thus providing the bonus of anti-US material, as well they might have if Robinson had been a US citizen, but he was not! The problem was that Robinson had renounced any claim to citizenship other than that of the USSR. He had appealed to the Americans to help him, as it was a well-known fact throughout the Soviet Union, that although much resented, even hated in many Asian and Iron Curtain countries, Americans will help anybody, often for the wrong reasons. But in this case, the Quakers did not rush in, being commendably cautious people. On returning home, the US delegation had contacted their Jamaican representative. As an initial step, they asked her to make enquiries locally to find out if the Russian-Jamaican had relatives or was even known to anyone.
The visit from the Head of the police Special Branch was the only response so far to her enquiry. So the Quaker and the policeman agreed to collaborate on research to establish if Robinson's claim was valid.
The Quakers had very little information other than a few blurred Soviet newspaper cuttings and photographs of Robinson disguised as a Zulu warrior during his career as a Soviet film extra. Lengthy research of records was the only remaining means available to Mrs Smith if she was going to further her enquiry, unless there was some other response to her advertisement.
The police requested the UK Foreign Office and the security service to provide some background information about Robinson. After the usual transatlantic and bureaucratic delays, word filtered back from Europe and some of Robinson's unusual history was collated. The official enquiries produced a good deal of information, including date and place of birth, the number and issue date of Robinson's Soviet passport, photographs and some personal material.
Robert Robinson had left Jamaica for the United States when very young and found a job with the Ford motor company. When Ford signed a short-lived contract with the Soviets to build cars in the USSR, Robinson was sent to Moscow as one of the manufacturer's technicians. It was not long before Soviet public relations experts spotted this lonely man of African origin, "labouring in inhuman conditions that were an essential part of the Capitalist system". No longer would he be exploited; the freedom loving peoples of the Socialist Republics would rescue him from the chains of bondage and embrace their brother as one of their own 'honoured workers'. And honoured Robinson was, no doubt to his surprise.
He played bit parts in a variety of films, depicting the noble African warrior being crushed by the white colonialists, evidently keeping his nose clean, this unusual Jamaican was appointed to be a member of the Moscow Soviet, roughly the equivalent of a municipal councillor. But when Robinson's propaganda value began to wane, the Soviets seemed to lose interest in him. Besides, at the Patrice Lumumba Freedom University there were now many students with distinctive African features who could play parts in films, so Robinson disappeared into obscurity again. Years later, in the so-called golden age of his life, the Jamaican felt the need to go home. He evidently obtained approval from Soviet officialdom, who doubtless presumed they would get some propaganda value out of the anticipated reaction of the British Embassy.
AIl of this background information was shared with the Quakers, together with the discouraging news that the Jamaican government had decided to uphold the British Embassy's position. Robert Robinson was not going to lay his weary bones in Jamaican soil. Officialdom had decreed that he would never be allowed to return.
The matter might well have ended there, but Quakers do not accept defeat so easily. Not for nothing did their fathers leave Europe to establish the sort of society they could live with in the new world. When the news reached Philadelphia there was some indignation and a suspicion that human rights were being trampled underfoot or at the very least being ignored. A journalist was selected and sent to Jamaica to try and change the government's mind, or at least get them to reconsider Robinson's application.
The Quakers had unsuspected allies, the Jamaican Intelligence community, who supported Robinson's application for an entirely different reason. They saw it as a way of obtaining information on subversive persons in Jamaica, if indeed there were any. Some in high places thought that this was a figment of the Cold War mentality.
There was a small and ineffectual Communist Party in Jamaica, led by an old trade unionist whose history parallelled Robert Robinson's. The party leader had emigrated to the US, joined the merchant marine and become a senior executive of the Seaman's Union. Communist elements had long sought to penetrate, then dominate the union, as they had successfully done in Australia. So it was with some delight that the US immigration department had discovered that the union official was a Communist Party member and a Jamaican. His appeal against deportation was not even heard, except by the Soviets. Many years later, this same activist managed to become a high official in the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), whose head office was based in Prague. WFTU was an active communist front organization and engaged in the usual activities, including the extension of 'fraternal guidance' to organizations on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Its publications were on the banned list in Jamaica.
The day for retirement came, and the unionist was sent home to Jamaica. He may have used many passports, but unlike Robinson, he had never renounced his citizenship which in those pre-independence days was British. His union pension was also sent home to Jamaica along with some expenses to be used at his discretion. Eventually, he managed to establish two feeble political organizations. They did not thrive because, although Jamaicans have always been keenly interested in politics, they tended to go in for charismatic leadership and flamboyant personalities. The discipline required of a Communist Party member also did not appeal.
Unlike some other pan-Caribbean parties, the Jamaican comrades never presented a serious security problem, although the potential was undoubtedly there, especially during the volatile years that led up to full self-determination for the British West Indies and the Bahamas.
The police Special Branch had an intelligence-collecting and collation function which included the preparation of a monthly security report which was sent to the Commissioner of Police and HE. the Governor of Jamaica. An integral part of the Jamaica Constabulary, the Branch's major function was to provide warnings of trouble, such as armed uprising by extremist movements, labour unrest leading to riots, and the investigation of subversion and certain related types of crime. The Branch also assisted vital facilities, such as local airlines and public and government-owned utilities, to maintain a reasonable level of security. Passport control and alien registration also reported to the Head of Special Branch.
When the advertisement about Robinson first appeared, there were reports from reliable sources that the local Communist Parly leaders were confused and apprehensive. They were not sure of his status or intentions, but had obviously received some sort of 'fraternal guidance' that put them on their guard.
A warrant was issued by the Chief Minister's office and confirmed by a Magistrate, authorizing the Branch to take special measures. This took the form of the most sophisticated technical operation ever mounted in Jamaica up to then, although technical aids had been used fairly extensively elsewhere in the region.
Communist organizations loved secrecy: simple political acts were plotted in secret, like conspiracies, which of course they usually were. Some of the Jamaican comrades had been trained in Marxist- Leninist theory and practice. As a result they were understandably very security-conscious. More often than not, they took so many self-defeating precautions that they actually attracted attention.
It was known to the Branch that clandestine meetings of what passed for the political committee of the party were held at various locations throughout the Kingston area, and sometimes business was combined with pleasure. One very private meeting place, used exclusively by the most senior party leaders, was a small private house in a middle income suburb of St Andrew.
The occupants were two young Chinese sisters whose politics, if any, were unknown, although their sympathies probably lay with the Chinese mainland and the local representative of the Min Chi fang, a left wing political group based on a secret triad, with extremist tendencies in Jamaica, strong ties to the Chinese People's Republic and some nasty anti-social habits. The two young sisters were regarded as trustworthy enough to provide a 'safe house' for party stalwarts, who also socialized there. The Special Branch maintained occasional surveillance on the premises. Tailing one of the visitors, a nondescript individual, they were surprised when the target led them directly to the St Andrew police station. They soon discovered that the man they had kept under surveillance was a district constable, reporting to the local police after going off duty. The ladies had arranged for the services of the DC at night as part of their security precautions. This was not unusual. Although they shared some police powers, DCs in urban areas like Kingston were basically watchmen, armed with a badge and a baton, and the police were often requested to provide them for this purpose. They were trained and supervised by the regular police, whom they supplemented.
It was relatively easy to recruit the DC: and give him some basic training in the art of duplicity. His status for the Branch's purpose was formalized by signing him on as an aide to the criminal investigation department with appropriate remuneration including allowances for plain-clothes duty.
Intelligence communities the world over love to code their operations, ostensibly to protect their sources. This particularly applies when technical aids are used; their raw products are always 'adjusted' so that they appear to originate from a human source. Raw intelligence and procedures relating to this particular operation were code-named Nightlife, the doctored and re-edited product was Daybreak, and the DC whimsically bore the code name Dragonfly.
Operation Nightlife was now in the advanced planning stage, which involved the use of a sophisticated technical aid in the form of a transistor radio, inserted into the end of a hollowed-out baton. It was indistinguishable from a normal lignum vitae baton issued to all the police, but was slightly heavier. The first step was to equip the DC with one that weighed the same as the doctored version. He was instructed to get into the habit of leaving the baton hanging by its leather loop from various doorhandles.
Regardless of the sort of equipment used by secret agents in films, all technical aids have their limitations. One is the source of power needed for transmission, A radio can be plugged into the main electric supply, which provides a constant means of transmission, but this was obviously impossible in this case. Batteries are the other source of power, but even the most advanced transistors have a limited life and are not powerful enough to transmit signals for a distance at a reasonable audio level. While changing the batteries did not present a problem, the receiver of transmissions did. To have a car driving around equipped with a radio receiver would soon attract attention and the reception would be affected by interference and movement from place to place even within a limited radius. So it was essential to set up a static listening base, where the recorders could he housed and the tapes replenished. While it was not difficult to rent a room and hide the equipment, the occupant had to be acceptable enough to avoid gossip.
The Head of Special Branch had many contacts, particularly with the Catholic Church and through one such he was soon having a talk with Monsignor John. The Monsignor had a flock that consisted mainly of Chinese and East Indian Jamaicans and knew the families intimately. After they had met in the Monsignor's office and the Superintendent had explained his requirement in very general terms, the priest came up with the name of a suitable candidate, a young parishioner whose parents were of Cantonese origin, born in Hong Kong. She was a graduate of a Catholic boarding school where she had been a school prefect, and was described by the cleric as one hundred per cent reliable. She was employed as a secretary to an established law office. A routine background check soon confirmed that she was discreet and had all the right qualifications. A more formal clearance to 'top secret' would follow but this would require personal detail.
Early one evening a few days later, the Monsignor met the Superintendent again, this time by pre-arrangement, in the main body of the cathedral. He was accompanied by a very attractive girl who was introduced as Deirdre Chen. The Monsignor had no desire to learn more about the clandestine operation and left. The Superintendent surreptitiously examined Deirdre and realized she was more than just pretty, she was stunning. She returned his gaze and he smiled encouragingly.
"Miss Chen, as you know, I am a police officer and we often need assistance outside the Force," he began. "Jamaica is a small place and I am pretty well-known in Kingston, so are a lot of my staff. Father has suggested that you might be willing to help us with an operation we are planning?"
The delectable Miss Chen smiled.
"Well, it all depends. I mean...er, I'd like to help but I don't really know much about the work the police do, except traffic of course, and in the office it's mostly civil stuff, not criminal. So I'm not sure how..." Her voice trailed oft and she looked faintly embarrassed, a slight flush rising to her cheeks.
"It doesn't require any special knowledge," he assured her.
"Really it's just time we want and some corning and going, sort of courier really. And a face that's not normally associated with any of us." He paused then added: "I would be grateful if you keep this just between us, regardless of whether you agree to go ahead or not." "Oh, of course. Father told me that this is very confidential. Like a confessional."
"Right. We do require a signing of the official secrets act. then sometimes we put our assistants on a contract and pay them."
"Oh no, I don't really want that." she protested. "Besides, it would make me a sort of employee and I'd rather not. But if you think I can help you in some way, I'd be happy lo do it - even just for the excitement." She beamed at him displaying delightful dimples and crossed her slender legs.
After they had parted, the policeman had reservations. He did not care for excitement as a motivation, though in fairness to Deirdre, he concluded that she had just said the first thing that came into her head. He was by no means opposed to employing pretty' girls, quite the contrary. His real concern was that Miss Chen was far too pretty and well-turned-out; she had been a close runner-up in the Miss Chinese Jamaica competition. Her appearance would almost certainly attract attention.
The Superintendent had both attended and conducted 'watcher' courses. One of the basic principles was to tone down anything that might attract attention during surveillance, particularly attractive members of the team. They all had to blend easily with every day surroundings, subject to exceptions such as official functions, when the teams were dressed appropriately. On such occasions the Superintendent himself had been forced to don his own mess kit, a white monkey jacket, miniature medals and wing collar.
That line of thought led to his inspiration. Appear natural, be part of the scenery. Of course! Airline staff were renowned for their good looks, and management was always cooperative. A smartly dressed flight attendant was always good advertising for the company. If management and the lady would agree, Deirdre would become an off-staff member of an airline. It was an ideal cover. Wearing the attractive uniform she would arrive by cab from the airport carrying a small in-flight bag. She would spend time at the room she had herself rented, switch the tapes, collect the new ones and leave, wearing her own clothes, to be changed back to uniform during another visit. The timing would be staggered to roughly fit peak flight times, but allow for reasonable electronic coverage and the use of the magic baton.
Deirdre Chen's designated code-name Firefly and unusually attractive photographs were added to the new 'top secret' file retained in the drawer marked Nightlife. It was all hidden and protected by an alarm system and the four-wheel combination lock of the class 6 safe. The weight of the safe was one of the reasons why the Branch was located on the ground floor, the immediate area around it having been reinforced to spread the load and prevent any sudden plunge into the basement.
The identity of all agents, the raw intelligence in the Daybreak file, like all details of the Branch operations, remained compartmentalized on the need-to-know basis. Only those directly involved at various levels, such as the young second-in-command, and the research assistant had total access. Handling officers had limited access and the surveillance team supervisors knew some of the sources. The doctored product containing information about the local Communist Party's attitude regarding Robert Robinson received limited circulation. The Commissioner was not made aware of the details of Nightlife, nor did he possess or want to know, the combination of the safe.
At their third rendezvous, this time late at night outside a popular night club where Deirdre had gone in her brother's car, the Super briefed his newest agent and gave her a book on tradecraft to read and absorb. She was also introduced to her alternate handling officer, Nigel, Deputy Head of Special Branch. The Superintendent noticed the couple's reaction to each other as they formally shook hands and decided that for the time being he would limit contact with young Nigel, who was on his way to becoming the perennial bachelor.
Before operation Nightlife began, there were several dry runs. Firefly again refused any remuneration other than expenses, saying she enjoyed the 'drama' of being a secret agent. An advance was made from the secret imprest fund so she could be outfitted with her airline uniform. In her new ensemble. Firefly was ready to stretch her wings.
She began to visit the room where the radio receiver and tape recorder would be installed. According to the deep cover informants within the Party, there was no indication of alarm amongst the hierarchy. When the electronic baton was ready, the ranges and the various strength tested again from different directions, Firefly put on her uniform, and carrying the receiver in her flight-bag, installed the radio.
After this success, a special security committee meeting was arranged and a report submitted by the police to members, which gave no details regarding Daybreak's sources.
The Assistant Permanent Secretary, who had called the meeting, chaired it.
"It's about this bloody man Robinson," he began. "We have to agree on our line of approach for the Chief Minister. Has there been any change of view since last time?"
As usual, there was no reply from 'Military', who seldom contributed anything but presence, looking uncomfortable out of uniform, despite the regimental tie displayed beneath a well disciplined moustache.
The UK security adviser, Northern Caribbean, frowned and looked secretive. He did not like to offer early opinions and preferred them to come from his head office, but London was three thousand miles away.
The Head of Special Branch looked at his boss, the Assistant Commissioner who nodded. "Right," he said. "We are in favour. The police feel they can handle it. We've spent a lot of time and money making sure that Daybreak works. Or my young friend here will be transferred to Claremont or St Elizabeth." The Head of Special Branch shuddered. The St Elizabeth division included the punishment station Black River.
The security adviser decided that it would be fairly safe to throw in his lot.
"We more or less support that position, with the proviso..." he began.
The chairman interrupted him and reported that the Quaker journalist had been to Moscow, seen Robinson and was now requesting a meeting with the Chief Minister of Jamaica.
"Right, then we're all agreed," the chairman concluded. "The Chief Minister sees this journalist person and we recommend a visa for Robinson." He stood and shuffled papers, then took off his wrinkled white linen jacket and loosened his Jamaica Club tie to indicate the meeting was over.
It was with considerable disappointment some days later that the Assistant Permanent Secretary informed the security committee members that the Chief Minister had met with the American journalist representing the Quaker interest in Robinson's application and that after 'sympathetically' considering the situation, had decided to stick with the original decision. No sunshine for poor old Robinson.
The crestfallen Head of Special Branch obtained the Assistant Commissioner's concurrence for the next step, a personal cards-on-the-table meeting with the Chief Minister. But first he decided to check that Nightlife was in full operation, all components working, especially Firefly. In a sense, the contribution of Dragonfly, the district constable, was completed. He had successfully achieved the objective his controller had previously outlined, which was to ensure that a slightly heavier baton was accepted as a kind of fixture hanging from door-handles in various rooms. His final task was to replace the dummy baton with the real thing and after that occasionally change the batteries.
Fully-satisfied that operation Nightlife could work, the Special Branch Head made an appointment to see the Chief Minister, with whom he had had several previous meetings in the course of duty. This meeting was held, one on one, in the mahogany panelled room at Headquarters House where the Chief Minister had his office. As ever, the Chief Minister was friendly and carefully listened to the policeman.
"You can do that, Superintendent?" he exclaimed from time to time. "The Branch can do that?" He shook his head, the lion's mane of hair for which he was famous and loved by cartoonists flying from side to side. "You're sure?"
Then he would sit with his head between his hands, elbows on the table, ears covered, as he thought.
Finally, he stood, and walked round the large mahogany conference table. A wave of optimism surged through the Head of Special Branch. He was going to succeed, he was sure, they would get official blessing for the operation.
The Chief Minister sat down heavily and shook his head again. "No," he finally said. "I simply cannot risk it. It's not you. It's the opposition. They'll crucify me. Call me a fellow traveller, say I'm a Marxist, even though they themselves... God knows I'd like to help the poor fellow, I believed that American journalist, but I'm a politician and the answer is no. Think what the President of the United States would say. What would Her Majesty the Queen think of me? Categorically no."
The disappointed Head of Special Branch took his leave. A rare intelligence opportunity lost, he thought, sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. An operation ruined, his carefully developed sources demolished. It was all over. And Robinson? He would have to stay in Moscow till hell froze over. He probably did too, because he faded from vision and the annals of the Intelligence world, a forgotten star. Even the Quakers accepted defeat. After all, they too had done their best.
There was one happy ending though. Nigel, the young Deputy, was allowed to take out Deirdre Chen in public as she had retired as an airline' employee, her flying time completed. Six months later she became Mrs Nigel and the Branch helped celebrate the marriage.
The wedding was a grand affair with the slim, confident groom in full police uniform, including dress sword and medals. When David and Peggy came out from the church, a ten-strong guard of police Superintendents and Assistant Commissioners, all with spiked helmets and silver spurs, raised their swords to form the customary arch under which the newlyweds walked.
The splendid reception was held at the home of the bride. Strawberry Hill at Irish Town, high in the mountains of St Andrew, today a most beautiful retreat created as part of Chris Blackwell's unique Island Outpost resorts. Few brides could have rivalled the beauty of the bride herself, the spectacular venue for the reception or the bevy of stunning young women in attendance - friends to this day; Audrey Jackson (Bynoe), Helen Rose (Davidson) and Shirley 'Midge' Browne. Those present on this auspicious occasion could little have realized they were being introduced to many from a cast of rare characters who would emerge almost fifty years later to grace a small book of reminiscences.
Another of Peggy's famous uncles at the wedding was Dr Owen Trinlinson of Seville in St Ann who, in fact, did take out every appendix in the parish (including my husband's!) except that of Ali Dougall of Llandovery Estate - which he got later in Kingston (see Eccentrics). But it was the stalwart, Dr Lenworth Jacobs, in his capacity as Medical Officer for St Ann, who performed the final post-mortem in The Corpse That Wouldn't Die. But if I were to divulge the true identity of all Godfrey's dramatis personae, we might fill yet another book or, worse, be held for libel.
Suffice it to say that the 1950s was a period of global 'Cold War'; the Caribbean was agonizing over Federation and Jamaica was gestating its awesome new baby - finally birthed in August 1962 - called Independence. At the time of the Godfrey wedding, Ian Fleming, already a devotee of Jamaica since 1942, was just writing Casino Royale and creating his world-renowned sleuth, James Bond - from whence my husband and I, and many others, have always referred to David as "007". However, it was not until a few years later that Godfrey himself was introduced to Bond by Doris Duperly, who had a tiny bookshop in Water Lane in Kingston. Indeed, this was after he had been assigned to Goldeneye in Oracabessa (now another of Chris Blackwell's picturesque retreats) for the protection of Sir Anthony and Lady Eden. When Sir Anthony was recovering from a nervous breakdown, just prior to his resignation as Prime Minister of England.
Born in 1926 at Orpington, Kent in England, David Godfrey comes illogically from a line of renowned English symphony conductors. At age six, he was condemned to one of the traditional English boarding schools designed to toughen small boys by means of cold baths followed by early morning classes and one mile runs. After a stint at Blundell School in the West Country, which later entitled him to be part of the universal English Old Boys fraternity, he became a cadet at age sixteen in the Royal Naval Reserve. He survived bombing in England and five years in the Far East - nearly being murdered during a naval mutiny in India - then he followed the liberation into Shanghai and 'won' the war from Sydney Harbour where the great invasion fleet had gathered. After being blown up in the Palestine police sergeant's mess, he decided to join the Colonial Service, hoping to be posted with the Marine Police in Singapore or Hong Kong.
Instead, he was sent to Jamaica.
It was late in 1949 that David Godfrey, accompanied by his Morgan 2-plus-2 motor car, arrived in Kingston on the Elders and Fyffes banana boat, SS Ariguani, to take up his colonial duties as Assistant Superintendent in charge of the Water Police. Between turning that division into the Vice Squad/SWAT team (nicknamed the 'Flying Saucers'), being seconded to King's House as ADC to the Governor, and being the youngest ever (at twenty-six) to be promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Police (for the parish of St Ann), he read for the Bar and completed sessions at the Police College, Bramshill, and MI-5 at Leconfield House. Later, in his capacity as Head of Special Branch, he spent five years being an 'executive spook' during which time he frequently acted as Assistant Commissioner Crime. This portfolio included the CID, Security and Immigration. Thus he was responsible for the protection of many VIPs and the foiling of attempted hijackings and other spurious endeavours.
In 1960 he was transferred to New Zealand and for the next seven years was a member of the New Zealand Security-Intelligence Service, during which time he also furthered his university studies. From New Zealand, he was transferred to Canada and the frozen North where he participated in the formation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Organization.
As a result of his success in combating international terrorism, hijack and kidnap extortion. David Godfrey set up his own high level security business with offices eventually in Switzerland, Monaco and Ottawa from which he lectured widely, conducted operations for important banking and other institutions, wrote internationally accepted security guideline textbooks, did security studies in Africa, Asia, the USA and Canada, and - until the time of his recent retirement due to illness - inter related with governments, high profile individuals and companies. Due to the nature of his work, few specifics can be given in the interests of security and the Official Secrets Act.
By cutting his sleuthing teeth in Jamaica, David Godfrey was well schooled as a private eye to face the 'ginnals' and rogues of the rest of the world. This series of semi-autobiographical tales is but the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully we can look forward to many sequels.
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1962 Map of Kingston
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