Wired868 concludes Chapter One of The Black Butterflies: A Trinidad crime novel
My car was rammed from behind again, and this time I screamed out, more in frustration than fear. I could not lose these guys I thought as I took another corner. I had now lost count, as all previous corners now seemed to be a blur. I had no idea how long I had to drive before I reached civilization.
They were very close. Their cars were faster and bigger. They had guns and bullets to spare. I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw a man leaning out his window trying to take aim with a gun of some sort. They were very serious. It was then that an idea formed in my head and I slammed on the brakes before I lost the heart to do it. I braced myself for the impact.
The first car saw me too late. By the time the driver registered what was going on, the only thing he could do was swerve quickly to the right. What happened next shocked even me. My plan was at least to cause the two cars to run into each other or off the road. The car’s sudden spin to avoid running into me, was enough for the guy hanging out the window, to lose his grip of the side of the car and to tumble out onto the road.
Even if I had not looked back, the end result would have been obvious from the scream the guy made. The second sedan was so close behind that everything took its occupants by surprise. The driver of the second car had two choices. Run over his partner, or run off the road. The scream that followed still walks into my darkest dreams. The final image of the broken guy, with his gun still in hand, is forever burnt into my memory.
The accident must have shaken them up. I guess they never expected such a deviation from the plan to occur. I am sure they did intend for someone to be very dead, just not one of their own. Whatever their thoughts were, all I know was the intensity of the chase faded away then. I however did not slow down until I was well past the village and through the next major city.
My eyes never left the rear-view mirror for more than thirty seconds. I kept expecting my pursuers to reappear at any second, everyone loaded into one black car and twice as angry. They never came and I began to relax as I neared home.
I drove into Port-of-Spain sometime after seven o’clock. The city itself was busy and very much alive with all types of activity. Already all the trees on the promenade were decorated and lit in anticipation of Christmas Day. Somewhere Christmas carols fought for a chance to be heard, above the roar of vehicles and voices. As usual pedestrians filled the streets, walking in and out of traffic lanes, oblivious to any danger which such action might cause.
Normally that would get to me. I could never understand why pedestrians wanted to cross the road at all times, no matter what the colour of the traffic lights and at any location as well, the whole concept of the Zebra Crossing completely lost to them. Tonight, I was okay with all that. I had nearly lost my life and I still might. The world seemed to be filled with bigger problems than a few jaywalkers.
On every corner people spilled out of bars, onto sidewalks, into roadways – just like the drinks in their hand, spilling over every fabric of our existence. Alcoholic drinks were commonplace in public, but Christmas made it more prominent and gave it more life. For thousands this festive season had nothing to do with the birth of Christ in a manger, in a faraway place almost 2000 years ago. It was for many the pre-season to Carnival and the time when drinking and revelry became the law and the order of the day.
I realised then as I inched through the streets of the capital city, that I was very hungry. Besides the few sandwiches that I had prepared earlier, I had not really eaten anything else. I started looking for the next best place to park. I could eat from any of the twenty-odd food stands illegally littering the pavements or from any of the legal restaurants which stood on every corner. I could already see the fried chicken restaurant from its location on the busiest corner in the city and I imagined its smell hanging over all of us like a huge rain cloud. I smiled then as I thought of how crazy this normal scene, would drive city co-operations in other parts of the world.
I got a parking spot and skipped across on-coming traffic to a burger stand, just one more jaywalker. I knew the owner well; a round Indian woman who made perfect burgers, and steak fries with a secret sauce. All that right there. Or so she claimed. I knew there were at least three of her daughters at home doing the main cooking, and delivering to her every hour or so.
It took me almost half an hour to get my order and head back to the car. All the while I was taking in everything, with a new and grateful perspective. The place seemed very loud, yet naturally so and the smells of jerk chicken, corn soup and burgers, created a mixture that should have been nauseating in the least, but still was acceptable. Even the smoke from the grills that would normally burn my eyes didn’t bother me and I watched as it wafted up into the beautiful night sky, littered with stars. I was indeed glad to be alive, even though my heart had not stopped racing and I was still on a high from the chase.
As I made my way home, the severity of what had happened started weighing in on me and not for the first time. I knew that I had seen something that I should not have. I knew that I could easily be followed and murdered. I doubted that it could be done in the city though, but I did not rule out the possibility. However, in my heart, I was convinced the country road had far less rules than the city. If they wanted me that bad they could trace my car and kidnap me from home, killing me at their own time and place. These men were not regular thugs. Regular thugs I surmised could not afford three-piece suits.
I had no idea what to do next. I started to drive around the city limits trying to think. Slowly going along streets I hardly knew. I did not want to go home. The empty apartment in my mind made me an easy target. I started thinking then about people who get killed and their family and friends had no idea why. Or about the people who go missing and never re-appear. Could it be because of what they knew? Or who saw them as potential threats or problems? If I go missing what would people think? Or worse what would they say if I turned up dead?
In our society people always assume that dead people with bullets in them and no logical explanation usually meant one thing: drugs. And I guess most times they are right. To be honest I used to be one of those people. And I personally believed that the Government and the Police Service were corrupted. In fact a month ago the Government sent back a team of Scotland Yard Detectives to England and now only two or three have remained, tying up what they called loose ends before they themselves are shipped back. Their reason was lack of funding, but the average citizen believed it was done because of what they would un-cover.
Still I could see the numerous news events, the countless bodies that turn up every day, and the countless still that go missing. I was afraid and I knew that even if I turned up dead, as I still might, there would be no-one crying on the evening news about the senseless of it, or even worse, no-one to follow up and ensure justice gets served to the wrong doers. Not that the last part mattered much, of the two hundred plus murdered so far the police had solved about ten. Justice it seemed was not being served in this country, at least not in any hurry. What seemed normal, is the person who does see and seem stupid enough to want to do the right thing, gets murdered. The few who are smarter and do see just turn a blind eye.
I needed a real plan though. I understood the gravity of my situation. The good thing was that I only had two choices. Find someone to tell what I knew, what I saw. Show them the photographs and then take it to someone in authority. What would follow was the long legal process in which my evidence and in-put would be needed. What I would then have to do is to rely on the local police department to keep me alive long enough, for the trial and conviction of the people I am going up against. All of this, while I assume that what I have seen is enough for a court of law. And if not, then my so-called evidence gets thrown out, and I try to go back to my life.
Or I could skip all the doing your civic duty nonsense, throw the film away, take my three months vacation from the newspaper and head out on the next flight with the furthest destination. The latter might at least allow me the opportunity to meet the woman of my dreams, get married and have children. And not necessarily in that order.
By the time I had circled the same block for the fourth time, I decided I would lay low for a while. Maybe visit the island of Grenada and relax on a beach somewhere. I would not report what I saw now. In fact I could almost hear the doubting police officers as I spun my tale, surely thinking that I was the modern day Anansi. I would lock the film in my safety deposit box at First Caribbean Bank and check into a hotel on the outskirts of the city.
It was my plan that night and it actually worked for a while.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE for the first part of The Black Butterflies: Chapter One