In which our hero - as a fully fledged 'Jamaican' -
encounters some tough criminals and
refines his prowess as a sleuth...
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
Alligators (or crocodiles) are not very maternal but after all the
egg-laying effort they have a reasonably possessive attitude. So
before the rains began that day, the reptiles noticed their loss and by
the same primeval instinct that had enabled their species to survive,
they followed the trail to Adassa's doorstep. By morning they were in
place as Gator had intended, one in front of the house, two others at
the back, crouching immobile and deadly-looking.
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"Good God! I never knew Khouri was a family man. Confirmed
bachelor I thought. You do mean the same man, motorcycle traffic
"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
"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.
The corpse was now hideously swollen, the stuff of nightmares.
The bloated purple tongue stuck out defiantly between lips as fat as
tyres, eyes bulged even more, and the trepanned top of the skull had
tilted forward at a raffish angle. A wave of sickly gas hit Knight as he recoiled. It was enough for him to panic. Constable Knight ran as
though he had just scored the winning run in a very important
match. He did not stop till he reached the road, a half hour's rough
walk away from the pond. From there he set off downhill at a fast
pace, his heart pounding, perspiration streaming down his face, for
once all thoughts of Susan were abandoned.
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
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.
"I trust you can spare me some of your valuable time Hinds, if
you've finished practising at the nets!" the Superintendent
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
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
"Father O'Shea came to see me this morning," the senior officer
"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
"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
"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
"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
Later that day, Hernandel found he was loaned to the St Ann
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
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
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
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
He paused for such a long time the detective was forced to
"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.
Augustus suffered in silence, sipping rum from the bottle he had
negotiated from Hernandel. At last Dudney's mirth subsided into a
few giggles: he wiped the tears from his eyes and took a serious
drink from his glass. "Lawd Gawd, that good. You sell the man 'love
wood'. But that nah work, man. I have to give that gal Susan plenty
for this or she nuh pam-pam with him at all." And Dudney was right.
When he picked up Susan the next evening and told her the deal,
she was deeply affronted for she only dealt with tourists.
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
Susan nearly fainted, knowing that she had hidden some reserve
packets of the weed under her bed, and they would certainly be
found. She could not wait to blurt out a confession describing
Dudney as a pimp and trafficker in juveniles and accusing him of
drugging her with ganja. By the time she and Hinds had finished
'concocting' her version of events, she appeared almost saintly,
more sinned against than sinning. The detective promised to ask the
judge to be lenient in view of her tender years.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
"You rob the Queen herself!"
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
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
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
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."
Six months passed before Hinds saw Jameson again and met his
wife. He had dropped in to see them at the renovated house near
Discovery Bay owned by the captain's family. By then Jameson had
become a civilian and his wife, Juanita, had changed her
employment as a ground hostess with Arawak Air in New York and
now represented the carrier as a concessionary travel agent in the
tourist town of Ocho Rios.
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 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
"I can travel wherever they go," she said, with a soft Hispanic
accent. "And there are quite a few marketing meetings in the States
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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.
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
"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 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.
He had listed both circumstantial and factual evidence. The only
primary one was the body itself and secondary were the forensic
samples, never popular with unpredictable juries. The police would
have to wait for a reply from the government chemist to determine
if the samples of fluid and scrapings from the water trough and the
cattle dip which had been sent to Kingston for analysis, did indeed
include traces of logwood dye. Hinds had looked it up in the small
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
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 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
"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
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
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
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.
So daring did the gang become that it was even claimed that they
'borrowed' the Police Commissioner's official car and stuffed a
slaughtered cow on the back seat, its remaining hock sticking up in
rigor mortis. Legend has it that at the Ferry police station, a
constable actually saw the sleek Humber with pennant flying
speeding past in the early dawn. He blinked his eyes, observing
a dark shape huddled in the back seat, apparently with an arm
stretched stiffly upwards in a parody of the fascist greeting.
The sleepy and bewildered constable responded, snapping to
attention and returning the salute. The carcass on the rear seat
made no response as the vehicle tore into the night. Needless to
say, this was only folklore, but it was an established fact that the
Commissioner's official car was stolen and subsequently crashed.
(See The Inspector-General.)
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
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
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
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
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.
Meanwhile, the Saucers, their numbers swelled by the addition
of more plain clothes police, surrounded the area. While the net
closed in, unmarked radio cars patrolled the district as back-up and
in the harbour a police launch, lights doused, motored quietly past
the nearby waterfront road. Nothing was left to chance. Except six foot-six Constable Murphy who put his foot on a garbage bucket.
The ensuing clatter was deafening and every dog in the
neighbourhood responded at once.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
"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
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
On another occasion, a few days later, wearing slacks, sneakers
and knit top, she visited the room and installed the tape recorder.
She emerged later in her airline uniform and drove off in a
borrowed car with an airport parking sticker on its windscreen.
When everything was ready, the receiver and tape recorder were
switched on by remote control. Everyone involved held their breath.
Two days later, Firefly retrieved the test tapes, which proved the
baton was transmitting and decipherable signals were received.
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,
"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
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
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
"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