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The Black Butterflies: Prisoner of the state

The Black Butterflies: Chapter two

December 8, 1992.

It started to rain around the fifth of December, and kept at it for some days well. By the eighth it had slowed considerably, but the cold, dark atmosphere still hung around. In fact as I stood with my black parka zipped all the way up, the rain still seemed to threaten. Almost matching my mood, I noted even more sullenly.

I needed this to be over as soon as possible. The urge to change my mind was there, right next to the one that wanted me to run. I would give him five more minutes. He was taking his time to get here and I was losing my cool. All I could see in my mind was my apartment burning in my memory, courtesy the Daily Star evening news. I really needed to talk to someone.

For some days I had remained out of sight; but obviously not out of mind for some people. I really had started to relax, making braver visits into the city. I still spent most of the time in my room though. Finishing some new poems, and doing my newspaper editing on my laptop.

I would stay at the hotel and call room service; doing everything, while the television ran quietly in the corner. I would tune in to the news at seven though, the only given in my relaxed schedule.

About a week after the incident, I made the news. Well not me personally, but my landlord. I watched silently as my apartment was shown in news footage, burning to the ground.

“Police officials along with the fire department are yet to find a reason for the complete destruction of an apartment at number seven St. Clair Avenue Port of Spain,” said a female reporter. “No one was home at the time and the owner of the rented property refused to give out the name of his tenant, claiming that he had not seen or spoken to him for at least a week. The building itself…”

I had tuned out then, I knew all the other details by heart. I kept looking at the news every day, hopeful that every passing uneventful moment was a good sign. I had expected to at least see some report of an accident on the North Coast road. I was wrong there also; the power of my new friends seemed far-reaching. Or then maybe not. On that deserted road I guess it was easy to have and clean an accident without too much hassle.

I was glad that I had the common sense to call my landlord Simon Mitchell and tell him that I had to cut my tenancy short. I promised him a three-month check that I would send in the mail. My point was he could live off that while he tried to find a new tenant. Mr. Mitchell was about 78, and far from old and senile. I guess from my voice he could tell that something was very wrong. You don’t talk to someone everyday for three and a half years and not get to know at least that. But he did not bother me for information.

I told him that I would collect my things in a few days and that if anyone asked, he had no idea where I was or when I was coming back. He pointed out then that that much was true. He had asked me to take care and to be in touch and told me he would keep the apartment for two months in case I changed my mind.

I was touched. It was then that I realized how close to family he was. Tears filled my eyes as I corrected that, he was my only family. In response I had foolishly nodded into the payphone, not trusting my voice. As I said, Mr. Mitchell was no fool.

“Take care son,” he replied and hung up.

Now I owed him much more than three months rent. During his interview on the news, he did not seem the least bit concerned about the loss of income, but more about what the whole scenario meant. If he was not worried that I was a big boy and could handle it, he would now have his doubts.

Photo: The Black Butterflies.
Photo: The Black Butterflies.

I was checked into a hotel in my name, using my credit card. My mind had not yet developed the knack of surviving behind the scenes. But it would have to, and quickly. I checked out of the hotel then and traveled to a guesthouse I knew in Manzanilla. I regretted the fact that I had wasted so much money before I thought about this place. All of the conveniences without all of the nonsense, was the way the owner Marcus Houston usually put it.

I thought that the only way I would have been able to sleep that night, was if I became stone drunk. Marcus had a bar on the same property as the guesthouse and I had a couple Jack Daniels on the rocks. Three was all it took to take me out.

All that was now behind me, but I had a very restless night. The first of many; full of nightmares about the man I had killed. It was no consolation that they had been trying to kill me and I acted out of self-defense. The thought of making an official report never crossed my mind. In fact since nothing was ever reported, how the hell should I know that the guy was dead? I was not into confessing about things I did not do. Suppose all the King’s horses and all the King’s men did put their friend back together again? I knew that was pointless self-consolation, but that was all that I had. It was either self-consolation, or let my conscience kill me.

However when I awoke that morning at five thirty, glad for the light that brought a new day, I made a decision. I would have to tell someone. If I died, it would serve me better knowing there was at least one person who could carry this on to justice. At least now I was convinced that what I saw was important enough to not keep quiet about it. These men also had no intention of letting me lay low. Dead perhaps, but certainly not low.

I made a call to Police Headquarters. The person I wanted to talk to was supposed to leave for England soon, in a day or two. He was in charge of the Scotland Yard team that was here before. I had seen him a few times before on the news, while the investigation was in progress, and I knew that he was officially off-duty and just wrapping up a few loose ends. In fact over the last few months he had appeared in the public about the difficulty of the case, more than anyone else. He had also been the main story a couple times with our newspaper and I had been casually introduced to him once, while he waited for an interview with our chief editor Paul Cain.

My call to his desk was straight out of an old spy movie.

“Meet me at the East gate in Woodford Square. I can make your investigation easier with what I know. Be there for ten in the morning.”

“How will I know you?” Cassius asked.

“I know you sir, don’t worry about it.”

With that I had hung up. Now I was wondering if he would simply not show up, thinking that I was some crazy fool wasting his time. No sooner had the thought formed than I saw a rental police car, grey and well tinted driving by. It was parked in a no parking zone and Cassius Charles got out. He placed a police sticker on the windscreen and started walking to the west gate. I kept my eyes on him.

He was a huge man and I watched as he walked in the morning air with his suit perfectly cut. He looked like any other businessman or lawyer on his way back to the office after a late breakfast. He seemed in no hurry and for a moment I thought that he had the gates mixed up. Then he casually checked his watch and walked around the water fountain, heading to the east as planned. I smiled. He was taking this seriously. I myself was sitting on a bench counting pigeons, with a newspaper folded and un-read on my lap. Cassius walked right past me without a second glance.

I let him get a few paces ahead, and then I got up and followed. There were other people around all on their own dates and a few vagrants who had met all but their final appointment; the one with their maker. I was just within earshot when he spoke without looking back.

“Do not look around Mr. Daniel, I think that we are being followed.”

I almost froze in my tracks. This guy was touted as being very, very good. This however was uncanny.

“So you remembered me?” I asked, speaking to the broad expanse that was his back.

“I never forget a face.”

He kept a few paces ahead.

“Keep up with me and follow my lead. And don’t speak; you might need every ounce of your breath later.”

I imagined that he said all this without moving his lips. My heart was racing and I kept up with him as he turned left, heading to a bronze statue behind the washrooms I guessed. I wanted to glance back but kept fighting the urge.

We were almost to the statue when the first shot rang out.

 

When I first heard it I did not run. Nothing registered in my head. In my heart though, I was convinced that nothing too dramatic could happen, with at least thirty people walking around. I never expected the sound to be gunshots. I heard Cassius shout, “Get down!” as he spun around and the rest of that incident did not happen in real time. It was dream-like and flowed with what felt like a strange disconnection.

I ducked then and ran straight towards him as he half-crouched behind the statue. In one quick motion he had his gun out looking, I guessed, for a possible target. People started screaming and running all over. I dropped the newspaper as I reached Cassius and stooped with him by the statue.

“Good to see you again sir,” I said, as soon as I caught my breath and managed a smile, my mouth closed just enough to contain my heart.

Cassius smiled himself and nodded.

“Same here,” he answered.

We could have been anywhere else in the world having this conversation, not in the middle of a possible bloody slaying. Cassius was calm. I on the other hand, was not going to die from multiple gunshot wounds but from heart failure. I was taking bets on that.

More shots struck the statue and Cassius half-pulled, half-dragged me behind the washrooms. I believed that under the oak trees on the other side, would have been a safer place to take cover. That distance however, was way out of reach for my dream-like rubber legs. He had his gun out, a sleek 9mm, but he had not fired. He seemed unsure of exactly where the gunshots were coming from and the people running back and forth screaming was of no help.

“We need to get to my car,” he said intently.

“The one in your pocket, or the one that is a mile from here?” I retorted sarcastically.

“You choose,” he answered.

With that he headed right, gun raised and trying to focus on a possible target. He was running now and I was not going to be left behind. We were about twenty-five feet from the east gate when we saw them. There were three in total, dressed in black, trying to form a rough circle around us. Cassius fired then and I was momentarily deafened by the sound. He fired at one then the other before I realized that the third one was not in sight. They must have guessed that we were heading for the car because they started to focus on the gate.

There were people everywhere, running like herds of wild animals in all directions. They must have thought it was another coup. The time of that first attempt to overthrow the government, was still fresh in most people’s minds. This was happening a couple hundred feet from our Parliament building, exactly where it began those fateful two years earlier.

We headed out through the east gate and made a dead run for the car. As I said I had no sense of time or of action that should have flowed from one step to the next. All I know was that we were trying to make a u-turn on Knox Street, when shots hit the car.

I heard sirens faintly in the background. I saw soldiers stationed across from Parliament building rush into the streets, guns drawn. A motorcycled man drove directly up to the car and opened fire. I ducked below the dashboard expecting the windscreen glass to come raining down on us, in tiny shards. Cassius however, did not flinch. The car was bullet proof, it had to be and it made perfect sense my mind reasoned. I offered prayers of thanks then, still wishing though that I had my rosary and imagining my trembling, sweaty fingers, slipping over each bead as I recanted the joyful mysteries.

We were stuck. The roads were a mess, vehicles blocked every way out and I heard Cassius swearing under his breath. Suddenly the guy on the bike sped off, making his way through the traffic with ease. I looked out at the scene of cars and people, from the streets and nearby buildings. It was un-believable the chaos that we had caused.

“Looks like we caused a scene,” I offered.

“What we?” Cassius asked.

At that moment what seemed like fifty soldiers and officers were closing in on us. I saw police vehicles closing off the street ahead and behind.

“Damn!” I said, louder than I had planned.

“Relax,” said Cassius. “Follow my lead”

“Should I do that to the cemetery also?” I asked, seriously.

He offered me a deep penetrating glare then, and I looked away.

They had us totally surrounded, guns drawn. Cassius opened his door and stepped out hands raised. We had no choice I realized and did the same. The officers did not move for a few seconds as they noticed it was Cassius Charles, the chief Scotland Yard Detective. A well dressed man, in a neat blue suit, came forward then.

“At ease men,” he said.

He looked at me then at Cassius.

“You trying to go home in a body-bag?” he asked and then smiled.

The two-shook hands and I walked over looking around suspiciously.

“Patrick, this is Mr. Daniels and the man behind all your troubles today.”

I had seen Patrick Stewart before but I had never spoken to him. I nodded not sure if that introduction would get me off or in trouble.

Now sirens were loud and clear. An officer was trying to get the traffic moving. The air was heavy with gunpowder.

“I want you to take Mr. Daniels into your custody, as of now he is your prisoner,” I heard Cassius saying as I floated back to reality.

“What?” I asked.

The disbelief was not only evident on my face, but in my voice. My heart stopped beating or at least it slowed and my knees felt weak.

“What?”

This was all I could manage as I shook my head helplessly. Two of the soldiers took hold of me then.

“Take him away,” Senior Superintendent Stewart said.

I sat cursing nothing and everyone in the back of an army jeep. The shock that I felt knew no limit. I looked out the wire mesh window and saw Cassius climb into his vehicle and drive off. My heart sank and the tears flowed then without my help.

 

I was taken to the army barracks. My room was small and windowless. There was a bed, and a dresser, as well as a television in a cage in one corner. In the other corner was a desk and chair. There was a door that opened into a washroom. The place was cold even at noon and smelt of old cigars. There was one ceiling bulb, naked and dim overhead and none in the washroom area. I sat on the bed amazed that it was softer than it looked. Then I lay down trying to re-capture the last few hours in my mind.

I had been taken by escort through the city at a break-neck pace. I imagined all the passersby and on lookers trying to get a glimpse of the man who was in the back of the army van. I had two soldiers seated in the back with me and I could see two more, seated up front. My hands were not tied but they might as well have been.

When we reached the base it was almost twelve and as I climbed out the jeep into the cool morning air, I noticed that four other vehicles had accompanied us. I could smell the freshness of the sea nearby and my mind flashed back to last Sunday. The rain would not fall today I realized as I saw the sun trying to peep out from behind the clouds.

I was taken into an office that was well outfitted on the inside even though the outside walls were bare and peeling. The air-conditioner was on full speed. A tall grey haired guy, in a well-pressed army suit greeted my two captors and me. We shook hands and he claimed that he was Captain Wren, a rank that meant nothing to me as a mere civilian; but I assumed it placed him ultimately in charge of my fate, at least in the short term. To be honest, that did not help to make the situation any better from my viewpoint. He smelled of cigarette smoke and old spice: A bad combination.

Captain Wren informed me that, as of now, I was a prisoner of the state. I would be kept there until Patrick Stewart said I could leave. I would be given three square meals a day and the daily newspapers. I could bathe, watch television, read or write. I would not be allowed any calls to my lawyer; a privilege, I assumed, which was only reserved for characters in movies. Nothing that I wrote would be mailed. I would not be able to receive any calls; but, if it was necessary, I could make at least one a week but not to my lawyer as mentioned before. And of course the issue of necessary could be debated. I would be allowed to leave my room for three hours at the most every day. I would be under the supervision of two officers at all times. One of whom will remain at my door whenever I was in my room.

I was asked then if I understood. I nodded. I was told that I must answer yes or no for the record. I said yes. I was then given the opportunity to ask questions. My first question was exactly what was I being held for. The answer was that I was a National Security Issue. I did not like that answer. My next question was how long my vacation would be, my first real attempt at sarcasm. The answer was as long as the state deemed fit. I asked if that was legally possible. The Officer smiled then and showed me his crooked stained teeth. His answer was that he thinks so. I did not like that answer either.

I was numb. My brain could not process all this at once. I kept waiting for the moment that I would jump up, wide awake in my bed. I’d be in my apartment and the guy next door would be cutting his grass as he did every Sunday. I would smell the freshness of it with the sweet dew and it would remind me of days growing up.

I was then taken back to my room. One of my captors and now personal security guard told me that I would be getting lunch in ten minutes and then left.

And so I remained on my bed wondering where this had all gone wrong. Both my head and my heart hurt. I was certain of two things. One was that they had somehow gotten to Cassius with either wrong information or something that they had invented about me. Either way, they would be coming to put me to rest soon. The next thing I was certain about was that I would never be able to sleep in a hurry.

I was asleep in two minutes; so on the last count I was wrong.

 

When I awoke my watch read 4:17 pm. On the desk in the corner were a plastic takeout food container and a plastic bottle of Coke soft drink. I made a mental note to ask for Diet with my next meal, just to piss them off. I realized then that in all my supposed wit and sarcasms I had submitted to their will with little or no opposition. I had made no smart-ass comments or said any witty shit. I simply nodded like an idiot agreeing to their rules about when and where I could shit and piss. I got up and opened the food tray. I was surprised firstly by how good it smelled and then by how good it tasted. The drink was lukewarm though but that was okay.

I made a check of all that I had. The clothes I had on, a couple hundred dollars and my credit cards. Everything else was at the guesthouse in Manzanilla. I needed my laptop because I still had work to do, prisoner of the state or not. I needed to speak to someone. I had no intention of spending more than forty-eight hours here. That was all the time that they could legally hold me for. I knew that.

I switched on the television and was somewhat disappointed to find that there was no cable. Not too bad though. A game of cricket was on and I left the set low and went back to the bed.

The next thing I knew was that I was cold and someone was shaking me awake.

 

I got up with a start to find one of the officers who had been in my company all day, leaning over me.

“Time to get up sir,” he said politely.

I opened my eyes and waited for the room to stop spinning and my mind to focus. When I saw the officer and the un-plastered walls, reminders of the day’s events came flooding back. I sat up, swinging my feet to the floor. I noticed that my boots were not on, even though I could not remember taking them off.

The officer had placed another food container on the table, with another bottle of soda. He handed me a bag then and I checked: toothpaste, soap and some other toiletries.

“Thank you.” I said.

“I brought you two books to read. Do you need anything else?”

“No, I don’t think so, what time is it?”

“It is just after seven. Do you want to see the news?”

“Yes, thank you.”

I felt groggy with sleep. I watched as he switched the television back on and set the station. I figured that he was about twenty-three for the most.

“What is your name?” I asked.

“Special Agent Jayson Holder,” he answered.

“My name is Edward Daniels and I guess that we would be in each other’s company for the time being. What is your assistant’s name?”

“Special Agent Greg Anderson.”

“I never knew that our army had special agents.”

He simply smiled then.

“I woke you because this is the last check for the night. I needed to know if you wanted anything else. If you don’t then I’ll be on my way. Try to eat that food before it gets cold okay? If you need anything knock on the door.”

“Do I just have to sit tight until further notice?”

Holder nodded apologetically.

“When can I see your Mr. Wren?” I asked.

“Perhaps tomorrow.”

With that he left. I knew then I would be getting plenty answers I did not like while I was a guest of the state. I tuned in to the news.

 

I was not mentioned at all, at least not by name. Neither was Cassius. What was mentioned was an attempted robbery at a store in Port-of-Spain, which had resulted in two of the would-be robbers being shot dead at Woodford Square. The armed men had a brief shoot-out with members of the army based on Abercrombie Street before losing their lives in the Square. No one else was injured in the incident that had some people thinking that the capital was again under attack.

The reporter did mention that the police had arrested a third man in connection with the incident. I smiled then. The press really could say whatever they wanted you to believe. No one would ask for the details like which store was robbed and who tipped off the police or even the identity of the men. The story added up and consoled the public, so that was all that mattered. I was in the media business, I knew how this worked.

I watched the rest of the news because I needed something to do. When it was finished I ate my dinner which was still warm and drank my coke. I got up and showered in what had to be at least 40 degree water. From the bag I dressed in a track pants and a jersey. When I was finished I left the television on low while I picked up the two books. They were from the public library in Port-of-Spain. The name on the card said Jayson Holder, the address read St. James and the books were due back in five days. I started wondering why Agent Holder would borrow books from the library to lend to me. Maybe it was a psychological thing, luring me into thinking that he was a friend.

What I did not understand was why they held me here. What was the game plan and whose side was the army on? What side did they think I was on? That was the bad thing about life; there was always two sides to everything. And that normally meant good side, and bad side. I guess everyone wanted to be on the good side, or at least they thought that they were on the right side. I just wanted to be on the winning side; the side that lived to be old and grey in a rocking chair, no teeth, trembling and with a memory like a strainer but alive all the same.

My mind could not come up with anything that was logical or made sense in anyway. Why had Cassius abandoned me so quickly? Why had no one come to talk with me about what was really going on? I was full of questions and even though I felt safer here than out in the public, I still needed answers.

The closeness of everything in the room would start to get to me. The fact that I was a prisoner would start acting on my nerves. I wish I knew what to do. To simply sit and wait made no sense to me and my intention of talking to Cassius did not factor in getting arrested. What could be their reason for holding me? And who were they anyway: the state, the army, Captain Wren or his friend Detective Cassius? I wanted to scream, scream on and on, until the darkness swept me away. I got up and started pacing the room.

I placed my ear to the door. I could hear nothing on the outside. I needed at least a window to look out to the world; that would not totally save me but it would help keep me sane a little longer.

I returned to my bed and picked up the books again. They were The Sign and the Seal and American Gods. I opened the smaller of the two, which was American Gods and started to read.  It began with a man named Shadow in prison, awaiting his freedom that was due in a few days. I found the idea that I was in prison myself, not ironic, but sick. Holder might as well have brought me Nelson Mandela’s Long walk to Freedom. He could not have picked a worse book. I flung it across the room and with the lights still on, decided to wait until morning to really deal with this.

 

Editor’s Note: Wired868 has been authorised to publish excerpts from Kirk A Inniss’ maiden novel, The Black Butterflies for readers. Click HERE to read from Chapter One, Part One.

AboutKirk A Inniss

Kirk A Inniss
Kirk .A. Inniss is a Trinidad-born, New York-based author of The Black Butterflies and Lessons for My Children. Sometimes he works with the Writers and Poets Union, to write for his supper. He absolutely refuses to sing though.

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5 comments

  1. Scotty Ranking

    ‘Tory goin’ good, boy! Ah feel Ah go hadda buy dis book, oui!

  2. Hope to match demand now! 🙂