The Black Butterflies: Chapter seven
December 21st, 1992.
The house did not start to take on the feel of Christmas until this day. We had more or less breezed through the weekend.Some of the plans that we discussed were in action, the surveillance of our one main lead so far though, had not yielded any fruit.
Cassius was back in England for a few days and Patrick had taken a month off from work.The guards who kept us company were doing a good job so far and I had made the extra effort to go unnoticed by them.
Arlene was well enough after the few days home and went to town with Patrick to get some decorations for the house. We were in the process of setting up the Christmas tree and putting up new curtains.
I loved Christmas. There was something that always made me feel warm and comforted around this time.My grandmother said it was because of the extra love that flowed and I assumed like always that she was right. I had no way to really described it.
As I helped the Stewarts get their house in order, I had to admit that it was the closest I felt to her, since her passing more than two years earlier.This was her time. The cleaning, the decorating, the baking, and the fifty million things that started earlier and earlier every year, but still saw us up on Christmas Eve night trying to finish half of them.
And Christmas had its own smell too. The cakes, the bread, and the ham were signature Christmas smells. It was part of the spirit, the same one that had been missing from me for the past two years but had now returned at this strange time.
I guess it was because in some sad way, these people had become my family and as the days would stretch into weeks, the house would indeed become my home.
And as we argued over which decorations should go where, I almost felt like I belonged.I wanted to. The loner life was getting to me and the love that flowed from these people, who were once strangers, was remarkable.
We were forming a bond that would unite us through time, I was certain.The type of bond that would force us to look back at this, as if it was all that we ever knew.
In the background there was Christmas music playing and Patrick was humming along as he prepared lunch. For the moment, all our worries were checked and stored away.
No one wanted to think about all the bad things that had occurred over the last three weeks or so. We all wanted to believe for a moment that all we had to worry about were gifts that had to be bought and the beats and drinks that needed to be consumed.
I wanted to go out though. I would never admit it. I needed to walk the halls in a shopping plaza and take pictures of the huge decorations that were up.
I needed to walk the streets and feel the energy of all the people pushing back and forth. I needed to soak in all the smells and the noise that came with the season. The fruit stands spilling over with apples and grapes, the music on every corner, playing hard enough to wake the dead.
I thought that I could raise the issue tonight and try not to make too much of it when they both disagreed. I really did not expect them to say yes anyway, but I would bring it up.
We had made it a standard routine to sit in the study and discuss the case after dinner. Tonight Patrick said we would do it over some wine.
We all agreed that while we had little to celebrate, we needed a little difference to maintain our sanity.
The case took a new twist during the day. Patrick received a call and hurried out the house just after lunch.
Arlene was finishing up some work as she had been out of the office for some time now. She had passed all her major assignments to another prosecutor, but had offered to help with anything, as she had the extra time on her hands.
I was in the study toying with the idea of a new short story when Patrick walked in on us.
“Just got a call with a new lead. I will fill you guys in when I get back.”
With that he was gone and by the time he returned I had helped with the dinner and the decorations were all complete.
Patrick was tired when he got in and had a shower and dinner before he said anything. He was pumped up and it seemed that something big had developed. We had to wait for his story, like little children that saw their gifts wrapped on Christmas Eve, but were not able to open them until the next day.
We gathered in the study as usual and Patrick collected the file from his vault. Arlene went through her usual tapes and yellow pad ritual. Her collection of tapes was growing into a decent stock pile.
“Okay,” Patrick began. “Our surveillance of Antonio Scarface Mendez has finally paid off, with the most amazing of turns.”
“What the hell can we hear that is more amazing than what we have heard so far?” I asked seriously.
“Natalie Yorke did visit Scarface as we suspected, in a foolish disguise. The team had gambled on not taking her then, as she and Scarface had a huge fight. The argument on the tapped microphone was about her payment. Scarface informed her that the police were now on the case and that all payments were on hold. She was furious and threatened to say what she knew. Scarface had simply laughed. It was simple as he saw it. To talk would result in the death of her daughter Marisa Yorke.”
“Isn’t he the father?” I asked.
Arlene was writing all this down, as usual.
“No he isn’t. Natalie was followed to another house in Westchester Palms. She spent the night there. When she left the next morning the house and the phones at that location were tapped. Two days later the owner of the house and Natalie, were seen and photographed there. We also have a recorded conversation. Natalie Yorke was talking to and involved with the man that had ordered the hit apparently on you Daniels.”
We sat up straight then.
“He is also the father of her daughter.”
“Who?” I muttered.
“The Mayor of Arima, Marcus Brutini.”
The urge to scream until I lost my voice was a great one. Not just scream and stop. To scream until I passed out, until it did not make any sense to stop.
The case kept getting more complex and I felt my sanity itself being threatened. I needed a glass of that wine that Patrick had promised.
The web was being woven tighter at every turn and I was certain that we would run out of doors to look behind, just as soon as we got caught like little insects. Every door that was chosen seemed to have a monster worse than the one before, hiding behind it.
“What now?” Arlene asked, two seconds before I did.
“We now keep all of them under tighter watch,” Patrick replied.
“What do we use to determine when to move in on them?”
“I say we take Scarface in a few days. We tell him that his friend Brad spilled the beans.” I offered and watched as they thought about it.
“That might work,” Patrick interjected. “Except that we would not let Brad know that he is totally off the hook. We make him a state witness and grant him immunity, but he has to tell all that he knows.”
“Sounds good, go on,” I coaxed.
“We then take Natalie in and we tell her that Brad has implicated her. If we say Scarface she would know that we are lying. He does not look like the talking type,” Arlene offered.
“Right, and then we bring in the mayor feeding him the same lines that Natalie has implicated him,” I added.
“On that note, there is a bit of bad news. Brad was released today, his lawyers insisted that we either charge him or free him, so we had no choice,” Patrick admitted dejectedly.
“Maybe that might not be so bad. As long as we can keep an eye on him, he might be as helpful as Natalie,” Arlene said.
“Do you think that we’ve got big enough bait, or do we still need more?” I asked.
“The mayor is good enough for now, but we might need more, to catch even bigger fishes. We still need to bring in Judge Scott and tell him the mayor has implicated him.”
The pieces of the puzzle were slowly starting to fit.
Cassius called around 11:00pm that night. We were all in the living room sipping chocolate tea and watching the lights from the Christmas tree blinking in its continuous series.
The rain was falling lightly and Patrick had sent home two of the officers. The place looked quiet enough.
“Cassius what time is it in London?” Patrick asked, as he took the cordless phone up to the study.
Arlene and I went up to the patio after our tea and settled in to watch the grey sky. I knew that the more we sat out in this space that was slowly becoming ours, the closer we got.
At times our conversations ran deep and at times we just skimmed the surface of our minds, touching on nothing in particular.We never knew which way our discussions would go, until the conversation started and the free flow of it all seemed to make sense.
That night we actually sat for a while saying nothing. Even with the rain and the ever so distant rumbling of thunder, I could hear Arlene softly breathing. For a moment I thought that she had fallen asleep and I gently touched her shoulder.
“I’m not sleeping,” she said and looked at me.
Suddenly we froze. If either one of us had seen it we would have doubted, but we had both seen what could have only been a split second of light from the house next door.
Someone had flicked on the light and then flicked it off just as quickly. For all the time since no-one had been there.
Was it possible that the owners had come back in the middle of their vacation?
Arlene had said that for all the years she could remember, the Walters had spent their vacations away from home.
Why was this vacation any different from the last ten or so?
“You saw that?” I asked foolishly.
For a few minutes we were at a loss, as to what it could mean. I stood up and looked over the railing onto the grounds below. The guards were not in sight.
“We have to go over.” I said and choose not to watch the shock that I knew would be on Arlene’s face.
But even before she could answer Patrick peeped out onto the patio.
“Both of you get in here now.”
And just as soon as he had appeared he was gone again. I glimpsed back as we followed the instructions and saw two of his men already at the wall, looking just about ready to go over.
They had seen the movement too. At least they were alert enough. Maybe it would be nothing but as Arlene and I re-settled in the living room I had a feeling that it would indeed be something. After all, that was slowly becoming the norm around here.
We settled in front of the TV and chose to watch old sitcom re-runs. They weren’t hilarious but they passed the time, as we waited to find out what was going on.
I was tempted a thousand times to get up and peep through the windows. Arlene on the other hand was still on medication and a lot more subdued. She looked distant and I debated the rational of pressing her to see what was wrong.
Within twenty minutes we grew even more comfortable and before I knew it Arlene was asleep, curled up on the sofa with her head on my lap. I listened to her breathing and realized that in spite of all she had been through, it still sounded like she slept restfully.
No tossing and turning and probably no torment. I did not know if she dreamt though, and I could only hope that if she did, it was pleasant enough.
I dozed off eventually as well, and when I woke up an overnight infomercial was running about some magnificent new gym equipment. The house was just as it was, before sleep came.
All the lights were on and Arlene, still in fetal position was next to me. Patrick and his men must still be next door. I needed to adjust Arlene and go check.
I looked at the time and calculated that at least forty-five minutes had passed since his demand that we come in from the patio. I decided to wait a few more minutes and spent the time trying to wrestle the remote control from under sleeping beauty and change the channel to anything else. I eventually settled on the BBC news and waited.
I heard the footsteps at the back door and was shocked when Patrick walked in partly covered in mud and blood. I was slightly embarrassed that Arlene and I were in a very comfortable, and somewhat awkward position, but that seemed to be the furthest thing from his mind.
At least tonight. In the morning I guess, would be a different story.
For now I just looked at him, as he took off as many pieces of clothes that he could. His face was scratched and blood was slowly running from the bruise.
He walked passed us and headed up the stairs. I was beginning to realize that he liked the suspense. We might as well have been invisible. However, he seemed to read my mind, as he paused on the stairs. “Stay away from the windows.”
“You should check the cut on your face,” I offered.
So he could see, I gathered and he was gone as I nodded to the empty hallway. I refocused on the news while I waited for him to shower and change. He was back down faster than I expected and headed to the kitchen.
He came back with two glasses of scotch on the rocks and offered one to me. He settled into his recliner and started to speak without looking at me.
“I do not know what the hell happened, or what that was all about,” he started by saying and I began to wonder how productive this conversation would be. His face looked clean and the cut was really just a small scratch.
“As you know someone was over there. Well actually it was more than one person. When we got there one was leaving so we assumed the house was empty and decided to check it anyway. That’s the Walters’ house and they are supposed to be away on vacation. We found the point of forced entry and expected to see the house ransacked. Well it was not and we started our systematic room by room search.”
His pause was long enough for him to sip his drink and I waited, not sure if I would ever get accustomed to his slow calculated way of speaking.
“I was caught off guard as someone was still in the house, the master bedroom, to be exact. I went in first and we fought. We left a mess over there and some broken windows.”
I, for one, had not heard a thing.
“Did you see who it was?”
“Well a couple things first. Like I said we fought and he managed to get past me and my two men. He dove through a window and got away. He wore a mask though and we could only guess that someone met him in a car, not too far away. We searched the few blocks, but he was nowhere to be found. I think that his arm might be broken though, but that was not enough to keep him back.”
Something else was troubling him and I jumped to my question instead of waiting.
“Does this mean the Walters could be involved?”
“At this stage, we have to leave that as a possible yes. Jeffery Walters is after all a police corporal.”
“And the forced entry?” I asked.
“That is the only think that has me undecided right now. For all we know the intruders could have used keys and just broke the door to give us the impression of a forced entry.” He explained.
“At least it gives the Walters an excuse if and when they are questioned,” I admitted.
Patrick nodded in silent agreement.
Another long pause was followed by another slow sip.
“In the master bedroom that faces the patio we found a sniper gun. It looks like he was there a couple nights. For some strange reason the light was flicked on, maybe by accident and we saw it. We have no doubt that he had intended targets. Maybe it was to be you or Arlene or even me, I have my fair share of enemies.”
“Or maybe it was all of us.”
He did not answer opting instead to get another round of drinks. An option that I highly favored at this time. When he came back we remained in the type of comfortable silence that the house and its members sometimes slip into.
“I need to make a trip,” he said after a while.
“A trip to where?”
I nodded, waiting for him to reveal more, but he never took the bait.
“Are you related to Arnold Stewart?” I asked suddenly.
“Yes he’s my younger brother.”
“The big construction company Stewarts is your younger brother’s?”
“Actually it is a family business. My parents run it and Arnold; well he is the front man. The face that speaks for the company. Arlene followed in my crazy footsteps and got out of that field. I mean if we could help we would, but the construction industry is not my thing, or hers I guess.”
“Yeah, why build houses, when you can build enemies right?”
“I like that slogan; maybe I should register it for my team.”
I sipped my drink, not sharing in his obvious amusement.
“But do you guys get along?” I continued.
“To be honest yeah we do. My brother and I are close. We were all we had growing up, as our parents spent most of their time building the giant company, which they own today. I guess in the beginning we could not understand why they were away so much and why other family members had to take care of us for weeks sometimes months. You know you look back now and you see the extent of the sacrifice and you can really appreciate it.”
“And when the sacrifice is worth a couple millions, well understanding and forgiveness come easier,” I joked.
Patrick laughed then and I joined him. “Honestly my brother and I both inherit the company half and half, but that is not why I like my parents. I like them because in the end when I needed them most, they were there. When Linda died they helped Arlene and me get through it.”
“That’s how family should be,” I admitted.
“You know it isn’t always like that though,” he replied.
“But in death?” I challenged.
“Sometimes even then, people remain the same,” he answered and I knew that he was right. “Besides her death that was inevitable, you know they were the shoulders to lean on, to help me carry Arlene when I grew tired. I had spent so much time sitting at her bedside caught between wanting to sleep and wake up finally from the nightmare that I was in. Still I was afraid to sleep and miss her if she died.”
“Were you at her side in the end?” I inquired.
“Yes. I had just finished changing her sheets and the nurse had bathed her. I sat next to her as I always did. She opened her eyes after some time and nodded. We had devised a small coded system and the nod meant that she wanted me to read to her. I got Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Have you ever read that book?”
“I have, yes. Not one of my favorites though, I must admit and a strange choice for your wife too, I would think.”
“Actually she had claimed to have read all of his works and the three that she had not got around too were Twelfth Night, Othello and Measure for Measure. I had actually read the whole of Othello for her and had started the next one. I think that she was saving Twelfth Night for last.”
“I would have too. If she knew the plot in general, she would have wanted that one last,” I explained.
“Why?” Patrick asked.
“It is a happy story. No tragedy, no death.”
“She must have thought she would live long enough then.”
I said nothing to the comment.
“She died one day in August, while we were still on Act One.”
“I am sorry.”
“Thanks. At times I wonder if my wound over losing her would ever heal.”
“It is not supposed to heal completely,” I offered. “All wounds sustained in battle heal in time. It grows new skin and it’s covered over. Yet it still itches you, and it still aches when the rains come. Not so much as a bother, but to remind you. It is a part of you; a part of who you are and in truth, healing never really ends.”
He nodded and I assumed that it made as much sense to him, as it made to me.
“What is your trip about?”
He hesitated, probably wondering if it was wise to go on now.
“Someone I met,” he answered meekly.
“Another truth about life is that the world keeps spinning and the living keeps going on with it. Every new day is new hope. Take the chance.”
“You seem to know many truths,” he said and I smiled.
He looked me squarely in the eye then: “I wait for the day when you would take all of your own advice though.”
It felt like more should be said, that I should at least defend myself. Instead I nodded seriously and admitted: “I will.”
Our glasses had about one more sip each. “What line were you on when she died?”
“The Heavens give Safety to your Purposes.”
I raised my glass and leaned forward to his. “Lead forth, and bring you back in Happiness,” I added as I knew that to be the next line.
“I thank you, fare you well.”
We knocked our glasses together then and downed the last of our drinks.
It was on this night while we helped Arlene up to bed, that I realized two new truths.
It had taken a man haunted by demons of the past like myself, a few drinks of scotch and three lines of Shakespeare.
One truth was; that it was indeed time that we both moved on and stop being burdened with the past.
The second was that this place was home.
I was born September 19th, 1964 in the heart of the hurricane season. On that night, more than half the Caribbean was under threat from Hurricane Wilma.
In fact it was so bad that I had to be delivered at home, by my grandmother.
My mother was normally a sick woman and with great hesitation, my grandmother Katherine Daniels, attempted the task at hand. My grandfather Paul Daniels was still at work.
The family had learnt earlier that the bridge, which separated the steel mill in Aripo Heights, from the rest of civilization, had been washed away, before any of the two hundred workers got the chance to leave. My grandfather was a supervisor there at the mill and was working for William Stewart at the time, Patrick’s father.
With the rain and the wind howling outside and the family’s only car miles away at the steel mill, Katherine delivered me. It was semi dark, as the power had been gone all day and the light from the few candles was little.
The house was an old two bedroom wooden one, in a village called Calvary and both my mother and my grandmother had reason to be concerned about its safety during a violent storm.
I was delivered and the house itself survived not only that night, but thousands after that.
My mother Angela Daniels died three years after I was born. She was only twenty-eight. She had sickle cell anemia, but she had really died from pneumonia.
Katherine had cried a lot, but Paul had admitted that this way was better. She would be better off, where she finally rested.
My father Randall John had never shown up since I was born and Paul glimpsed him at the funeral service for my mother. He never laid eyes on me and apparently disappeared after that.
I was left in the care of two sixty year olds and they became my parents. I remember the first day of real school for me. Not kindergarten, that was for babies.
Real school, with real book, uniforms and homework. I was delivered there that morning by Katherine and I noticed a lot younger mothers and fathers delivering other children. It did not bother me honestly but it seemed to affect her.
When I was placed in my teacher’s care she had held me one last time. “Make your mother proud,” she had whispered. “I will make you proud.”
I said not understanding then if she meant herself or Angela. To me it did not matter much. She was my mother then and has been ever since.
I was average in school and did enough just to get by.
I tried, but the addition and the remembering was hard for me. What I did was enough to satisfy them at home and when I saw them happy, it was enough to keep me going.
I did not discover my ability to write until Standard Four. By then I was nine and Katherine had helped me with a beautiful story about a trip to the market.
It was part true, part fiction and I would learn that all stories were built like that: half and half and it were up to the readers to decide which was which.
We had taken our actual trips to the market, with the scents and the sights and the colors, the people and the noise and the conversation, and concocted a story that had taken the reader through Market Square, in our eyes.
It had started just as simple as that. And when the teachers had shown their interest in my writing, I started to work on it even harder. The story had been ours and the first of many fond memories that we would share together.
I had kept that story and promised to put it in my column every year on the day Katherine died. That day was June 19th, 1986, but that time in itself was a long way off.
I remember when I saw my father for the first time. I was about twelve then and had rested writing a little for my new love: Art. I would draw and paint everything in sight, in magazines, books even newspapers and would stick them all over my bedroom.
Some I would stick on the walls in the living room, but only if they were happy enough as Paul put it. Happy for him were the ones with bright colors and I accepted that without any question.
I was out back, on the porch, drawing a picture of the small cluster of coconut trees, that bordered our yard on the left and the bamboo patch that closed it off on the right. Behind all that was a river and the only place I truly loved.
I had drawn the river enough times and was fighting with the thousands of leaves that make up a tree, when I heard a car drive up to the house. At first I continued drawing.
No one ever came to see me, except the one time that Mrs. Nedd, my school teacher, had driven over to see what the reason was for me missing three days of school.
It turned out that I would miss at least fifteen more, because I had chicken pox. I got homework still though, as she would come out with it every evening and on the days when she couldn’t, she sent her son Andre, as he could drive.
Andre was going to be a basketball star in America as he put it and he would bring me magazines from National Geographic so that I could see that other places existed outside of our little island.
I knew that but seeing the pictures made it all clearer. When Mrs. Nedd came she would bring me fruits like mangoes and oranges and I grew accustomed to listening for their jeep, coming up our driveway.
That day the car that rolled in made a lot less noise and the driver was indeed my father. He looked young and well dressed and Katherine said he had left my mother alone with me, because he was afraid of the responsibility and immature. I had listened, not sure why her heart still allowed her to feel sorry for people, even when they were wrong.
Randall had a bookstore in Trinidad and was on his way to open up another in America. He had come out to our place, because he wanted to take me with him. The choice, as I understood when I walked in on both of them, was up to me.
Paul was out on the front porch smoking his pipe and had not even looked in Randall’s direction. Katherine had invited him into the living room and when I walked in I heard him saying how much he could do for me, how many doors he could open and all that.
I stood listening to them talk about me as if I was invisible, very aware of how good adults were at doing that. They were talking about me and not to me Katherine had explained once and as always I offered no opposition.
I could see the outline of Paul in his rocking chair and the whiffs of smoke that he kept blowing. I knew that he could hear us. The last time that he and Katherine were talking about him cutting back on his work days because of his heart, I could have heard them well, from out there.
After some time Randall’s gaze fell on me.
“Son, come over here,” he said.
And I walked over to him. He smelled of Old Spice cologne and as he extended his hands, I shook what had to be the softest male hands I ever felt. Paul’s hands were coarse and hard and probably twice the size of his.
“Do you know me?” He asked.
“I guess you are my father,” I replied quietly.
“That is right boy and I have come to take you to a better place.”
“What could be better than here?” I asked innocently.
“Here?” He asked and looked around incredulously. “America boy and the land of opportunity.”
He made it sound like we lived in hell, in contrast to where he was going, which was so grand. I looked at Katherine.
“Let me tell you something,” she began and held my hands. “This here is your long lost father, returned from the dead and willing to make it up to you. If he takes you with him he will make you a better life, with better opportunities. Maybe even one day you would be as rich as those Crawfords over the river. If you stay, we cannot give you anything that he promises. We are too old and too poor for that. I have never lied to you boy and I won’t start now.”
I remember that day clearly. She had on her red and white polka dot dress, the one that had two huge side pockets that hid the sweets she would always slip me.
She had on her apron too and I could see the grease stains that meant dinner was on the way, even though it was just after five.
I could remember the flour that was still evident on her hands, almost as course as Paul’s, as they held my little ones.
“This is your father. If you want, go with him son and we will not love you any less. We can’t,” she muttered. “He can give you things that we can’t and that is true.”
Randall waited and I could see the impatience with the whole affair in him. We did not look the same and I stared at this stranger, trying to make some connection with him.
The truth was that I was very afraid of going. I did not know him and how would I get back from America, to this place, if it did not work out, but what if he was nice?
And he was my father so how bad could it be?
For years I had silently dreamed about him and wished that he would indeed come to see me, but to take me from the only ones whom I knew and loved was hard.
I needed longer than a few minutes to think. And I said that.
“How long do you need to think son?”
“Until my heart knows.”
He sighed and placed his hands on my shoulders. “Opportunities like these do not come every day Edward.”
And Katherine nodded.
“Do you want me to go?” I asked her suddenly. It sounded harsher than I meant and she looked startled.
“Are you tired of me?” I asked softer.
“I cannot compete with his offer Eddie. All that we have is love. That’s all, lots of it. In life at times, you need more than that.”
“You told me once that all we need is love. You said that.”
“I know son, yes I did.”
“Are you tired of me?” I asked again.
“I cannot tire of you Eddie, not today, not tomorrow, and not ever.” She knelt before me and I looked at her. “What does your heart say?”
I looked at her on her knees before me and at Randall. My eyes filled with tears then and I hugged her savagely.
“My heart says stay,” I cried.
“And has it ever failed you?” She asked.
I shook my head. “Then stay, but all we have is love here, nothing more and nothing less.”
“And that is all that I have ever needed,” I whispered.
Randall left sometime after and while some details fade as some sharpen, I remember standing in the doorway and watching his shiny black car drive off.
I never saw him after that and I never regretted my decision.
When the dust in our driveway had settled again, Paul came in the house from the porch.
I was hugging Katherine and I never wanted to let go. Paul came over both of us and covered us in his huge arms.
“I knew that you would do the right thing son. You belong here with us.”
“You are all that I have always had,” I said.
“And we will be all that you need,” he added.
It was the first time I saw Paul cry. And that evening February 28th, 1976 I knew that the house I was in was really my home and the two people who had been with me through it all so far, were indeed my life.
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.