When you live outside of people's lives for long enough the way I have, you start to
see them as stories, as screenplays, to be watched and read and understood. The last thing you think of is to actually talk to the screen or the page. It makes it easy for me to figure out things that normal people, the ones who interact, who communicate, find baffling or at least difficult. That's my secret, my little edge, and as I'm quickly finding out, the key to being relatively "smart."
I am "ghostwriting" this "detective story."
I am doing the work of finding a murderer while another man gets the credit; that's one thing that never leaves me, not the credit part, but the fact that all you are to me is a story.
The little girl was doused with gasoline and set on fire. She went to Calabra Primary School, which meant that the cinders lying around her corpse like dead leaves around a dried and broken limb were once a green tunic and a yellow blouse. She was killed this afternoon walking home from school through the Herry settlement. A shortcut. Herry is a collection of small shacks in a gully in the gray boundary between Calabra and
Mayfield. There are only a handful of real towns in Jamaica even though there are many on the maps. No way to tell where one starts and the next ends.
In the Polaroids Marcus has sent me, you see the dingy, grim little houses made up of recycled lumber and Aluminum sheets. You see the scrawny dogs wandering on the fringes of the crime scene and the crowd of excited, many grinning onlookers. Ah yes, lovely Jamaicans so ready with a smile. Maybe we should put this on American TV, let them see how happy we are.
I hold the recorder to my mouth so that the neighbors, if they are up at this hour, have nothing to gossip about later today.
"Sex crime. He destroyed the evidence," I say, and move on.
I scan the faces of the people in the pictures. Little girls in short, tight skirts, laughing and whispering to each other. Some wearing wigs awkwardly placed on top of the real hair that has been burnt out by straightening cream, or pulled out by heavy weaves. Young girls whose bodies have been misshapen by having babies at thirteen. Almost all young girls, almost all leaning on or touching another young girl.
The young men stand by themselves in fishnet sleeveless undershirts, three of them, one red undershirt and two yellow, one Rastafarian in a yellow and soccer jersey, one man in a sleeveless t-shirt. Eight little boys, none of them with shirts on, all laughing. The young men are posing, looking thoughtful, but not scowling. The TV cameras are there, somewhere off to the left I would guess. The older men, the Rasta, and the sleeveless shirt look serious. This could have been their daughter, they are saying to the cameras, we are very pissed off. Marcus will have to jail the prisoner in Spanish Town or Kingston or face a mob.
"They don't know who did it. Don't waste your time," I say to Marcus via the tape.
I take out Marcus's hand-drawn map, the one I told him to make with every case he brought to me or I would charge him for having to go to the scene. Even if he drove me.
I look for the main road. The path down to Herry had a deep bend. You couldn't see the settlement from the road or until you went around that bend. I haven't been there for years but I remember that there were a lot of trees, lots of bushes and tall grass. He didn't know that there were people there. It was a dirt road; too bad the police fucked up the tire tracks.
"Not from around here," I say into the
I take a sip from my mug of lukewarm instant coffee, then I lean back in my chair and light a Craven A. I think about places that are far from here. I think about a guy who burns his body and doesn't know that you are never very far from some inbred little chunk of population in this country. I think about a guy who takes his American TV seriously, but doesn't know that that shit doesn't work everywhere. When I am finished smoking I pick up the tape recorder.
"He's from Kingston. He was educated down here. Will be well dressed, probably talks well, wants you to know he is smart. His family will be poor or lower middle-class, he might have worked for a time before college. Thirties or late twenties. This is his first time. He is nervous and will not be very far away. Brookwood Guest House."
Brookwood Guest House is the only local inn in the phone book. I sit back again and think about how certain I am of this. Jamaica is a small island, no haystack. Sex criminals basically profile themselves. So I add the last part, the part that will let Marcus know how to handle his "investigation," how to ensure that we don't get a repeat offender or have him, the Homicide Detective who can barely read, testifying to a jury about complex evidence.
"The jury will like this one."
A few days from now, somebody will come upon the body of a man in the Rio Cobre, or hidden in some bushes, or dumped in the Riverton City Dump, a body with a single shot to the back of the head. But only if I'm right.
look at the clock on my screensaver. 4:38am. Twenty-two minutes. I go back to bed.