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The Black Butterflies: Something in the air

The Black Butterflies: Chapter eight

December 22nd, 1992.

We all woke up late, the next morning. Arlene was up first and I filled her in about last night, while she finished up breakfast. Patrick joined us a little later and informed us that he had some men sweeping the house next door, for finger prints and other clues.

“I will be holding a meeting with my team here in about an hour. I need you both out of sight, okay?”

“Can we go out?” I asked.

“Yeah out to the study. Stay there until I come up to get you okay?” He answered.

“Man you make us sound like four year olds,” I replied sulkily.

He just stared at me then and I decided that it would be better to leave well enough alone. After breakfast we trooped up to our detention in the study and I decided to start talking to Arlene about leaving the house for a while, to see the town.

She was busy pouring over the notes that she kept making and I was met by expected negatives and claims that I had seen enough Christmas lights with decorations and that missing one, would not herald in the end of the world.

From my point of view the sarcasm level in the house was going up, while the tolerance level was going down. And I said so. Not that it mattered anyway, because the defense continued. I would not like to be in a court opposing her.

“What are all the notes that you keep taking anyway?” I finally asked.

“You ask too many questions.”

“And you never give enough answers.”

“I’m not suppose to I am the lawyer.”

“I hate to be the one to tell you lady, but this is not a courthouse,” I said with a fake smile.

She was not deterred and ignored me and my comments, with a shrug. I was forced then to try and decipher what Patrick was yelling about downstairs. When I was able to focus enough, I heard him talking about a possible stakeout.

“I want to know everything about that place and the people in it. I want to know where they bought the paint for the walls and how many shades it comes in. I want to know where they bought the fixtures, the lights, the air condition units, who gave them a discount and why; and what they used to pay for them, okay?”

“Yes sir!” They all chimed in unison. I stifled a laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Arlene asked not looking up from her yellow pad.

“Your commando father down there is trying to give the troops an idea of how thorough he wants them to be.”

I turned to face her and put on my best Patrick imitator voice.

“If someone goes to the bathroom over there, I want to know what time it was, and how long they took. I want to know their boot size and their jeans size. Boxers or briefs. If someone over there breathes I want to know why and the excuse better be a good one!”

I laughed heartily at my own attempt and Arlene shook her head.

I could see the smile that was waiting to erupt from her.

“My dad does not talk like that,” she stated and I laughed more.

“Someone better tell commando to take it easy before he blows a vessel,” I concluded and wiped the tears from my eyes. Arlene kept looking at me smiling and shaking her head.

“I know, I know.” I finally managed when the fit stopped. “You think that I’m an idiot.”

“No?” She said. “Now why the hell would you think that?”

“There goes that sarcasm again,” I pointed out.

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

 

The search next door had indeed been a thorough one. The fingerprints lifted would all match the ones that belonged to the family Patrick guessed. None was found on the gun or in the area around the window in the master bedroom. No real surprise there either. Someone who could afford a high powered rifle, a box of ammunition and silencer, could certainly afford a pair of gloves. Might even get that free with the sniper set, as far as I was concerned.

The hopes of finding anything substantial slowly dwindled as time went on, and it was beginning to look like the Walters house was chosen because it was close enough to the Stewarts, and it was empty. However, by pure luck, one of the detectives on the scene confiscated a paper shredder from Jeffrey Walter’s office. The bits of paper took another team, a few hours to put together. The most interesting item recovered after that exercise, was a copy of an invoice.

It was for a shipment of potassium. One hundred barrels of it, to be exact. There was no charge on the invoice and the address was that of a warehouse in Central Trinidad. On initial investigation the warehouse was found to be listed as the property of Jeffrey Walters. He however leased it out on a regular basis. The present holder of the lease was none other than Judge Clarence Scott.

The stakeout of that property was what Patrick’s meeting was about. He needed men on the site immediately. He also had another team researching the uses of potassium and the purpose of needing it in such large quantities. It was also necessary to check on the company based in Florida that had shipped it to Trinidad, free of charge.

It was not lost to Patrick that the Walters’ vacation was always spent in Florida as well. But that could all be coincidental and he would let the investigating results decide. For now the warehouse at #32-34 Warner Street in Warrenville, was the key. He was certain of it. More certain than anything else since all his years of police work.

 

Cassius returned from England that night. He did not even call for anyone to meet him at the airport. We just heard the taxi pull up outside the house and saw him strolling in, with two bags and a young beautiful brown eyed girl. He smiled as if this was the most normal thing in the world and I watched quietly as Patrick and Arlene greeted them.

“Sandi meet Daniels he is a friend of the family,” Arlene offered.

“Daniels this is Sandi, Cassius’ daughter.”

“How do you do my lady? It is indeed a pleasure to meet you,” I said.

“The same here,” she answered and smiled.

“I do not see the resemblance here detective, she is certainly too pretty to have anything to do with you.”

For once Cassius had no argument as he smiled and headed upstairs.

“Sandi let us wash up and get ready for dinner.”

When we all regrouped in the living room I was as excited as any child could be. The discussion about what we should have for dinner was thrown off schedule by the innocent Sandi Charles. Being unaware of the situation her father had brought her into, Sandi had innocently suggested that we eat out.

She got my support in an instant and became my new best friend, in a matter of minutes. Arlene also claimed that she saw no immediate harm in the idea. She too had been confined for some time. The adults among us, Patrick and Cassius, held a quick conference and then called us all together. We were going out.

 

In all honesty, it was only eight days since I left the house to meet Arlene at the airport. Eight days since she was shot. I saw her checking the wound the day before and it looked pretty good all things considered. The time confined had felt a lot longer than the reported calendar dates. I had to admit also that the time at the airport could not really be considered as time outside, because of the circumstances.

Tonight was different. We rode in Patrick’s car and I noticed that we were being followed by his special team of officers. Patrick drove with Cassius in the passenger seat and I sat behind, between the two beautiful ladies.

Arlene was sitting on my right and looked pre-occupied with the lights flashing by. There were one or two houses around that had put up creative Christmas designs, but her distraction seemed to stem from more.

I decided to leave her to her thoughts like I left the adults in front to their talk. I assumed that Patrick was filling in the blanks, and the way he got to it, the process would take some time. That left me with Sandi. At first I was going to ignore her, assuming that we would have nothing at all to talk about. I decided to gamble anyway as I had nothing really to lose.

“Is this your first time here?” I asked.

“Well I came once before about three years ago but I hardly remember the place. It was only for a few days and we were in a hurry so you know.”

“Are you on vacation or something?”

“Some bloody vacation. I’m studying law now and I swear sometimes it’s the pits.”

“Most times,” Arlene added. She was paying attention.

“Wait until your final year with exams dancing on the horizon and you will see how often the murder of your professor, enters your mind.”

Sandi laughed, throwing her head back while she did, her eyes squeezed shut.

“Like bloody hell, I’m already trying my case in my mind and seeing how airtight it is.”

“Professor Dickinson is the worse. If you get her, all that will see you through is scotch. Preferably the better aged ones.”

“I heard she’s like the Margaret Thatcher of law.”

Arlene nodded in agreement. “What are you studying, criminal law?”

“Yes,” Sandi replied.

“Gentlemen you are spoiling these beautiful ladies,” I said and was duly ignored.

“What’s next? After your studies?” I asked.

“Law in Trinidad maybe.”

“Why here?”

“Why not?” She replied with a shrug.

“Where do you want me to begin?” I whispered and Arlene elbowed me in the ribs.

“What do you do?” Sandi questioned.

“I write a weekly column at one of our local newspapers and I fit in some poems every now and then as some extra work,” I said this with a fair amount of disinterest, as if it might very well be, the most boring job in the world.

“And it pays?” Sandi asked.

“Well for now it does thank you,” I admitted.

“And you like it?”

“It’s all that I know.”

“Sounds good enough if you’re happy.”

“I am,” I concluded and she nodded.

If only it was always this simple, life itself would be perfect, I thought to myself.

We were on our way to a restaurant in south Trinidad, called Thai’s Place. I had never been there and to tell the truth the south was almost totally unknown to me. But the others were regulars and when we showed up they were greeted with enough fanfare for royalty. Sandi and I were impressed enough as newcomers and settled down for a good dinner.

The place itself was beautiful. On the walls around were huge paintings of Chinese gardens and built in aquariums housed huge fish, swimming around aimlessly. In the middle of the restaurant was a fountain, with countless coins littering the bottom. A wishing well I was told and one that guaranteed that wishes made, came true. I had my doubts, but said nothing.

The place was lit by individual lamps on each of the forty plus tables with the main lighting over the bar area and a designated smoking section with large sofas. We were ushered in a corner and placed around a huge round table. We sat almost like we sat in the car: Patrick and Cassius together then Arlene, then me and Sandi. As before, I sat between them, without complaints.

We started with beers for the men and white wine for the ladies, while we waited on the menus to arrive. In the background they were playing music from the eighties and the mood around was light and relaxed, almost romantic to be honest. The talk around our table was simple and Patrick controlled most of it, with topics that would keep everyone involved.

Dinner came and we continued through it while we talked. By the time it was over, I had consumed a lot more beer than both Patrick and Cassius combined. The time out like this was all I really needed. The place was half filled and we had managed the time out unnoticed by all present. Each table, like at the airport, was occupied with people who were only interested in the people immediately around them.

“Can I talk to you?” Arlene whispered to me. I nodded and she gestured for me to follow her.

I did follow her out of the dining area and onto a terrace, which opened up to the mountains and a huge sky with more stars than I had ever seen. We were able to look over the banister and down on the city below. It was beautiful and I remember thinking that the lights below seemed to stretch as far as the stars in the sky above.

We had both walked with our drinks and at least three other couples were out on the balcony as well. The setting was indeed romantic and the moonlight helped to enhance the scene.

“What is it? Are you in pain or something?” I asked.

“No actually I’m okay.” She did in fact look a lot better for someone who had been shot not too long before.

She looked down at the lights below.

“I am not sure how to say this,” she began.

“Okay is something wrong?”

“Well yes and no…I don’t know. Don’t ask any questions, just stand here with me.”

And I complied. I was not sure what was going on, but something was on her mind. I had never seen her unable to say what was wrong, so I waited, instead of forcing her.

We were standing close enough for anyone that looked at us, to at least assume that there was something between us. The wind that was blowing was just enough for me to step a little closer to her and when I placed my arms around her she seemed to settle comfortably under my care. We stood like that for some time saying nothing, as we were accustomed at times.

“You are single aren’t you?” I asked not looking at her.

“Why does it matter?”

“Just making conversation.”

“You never just make conversation. Why the question?”

“You know why,” I said and turned her to look at me.

“No really why?”

“Jayson Holder. Knight in shining armor. Bodyguard. Need I say more?”

“And yourself and Sandi?”

“Please, I met her a few seconds ago; I am just trying to be nice. Besides she didn’t save my life.”

“So you think that I might have feelings for Jayson?”

“Do you?”

This conversation sounded too like High School, but I was falling headlong into it and there seemed to be no immediate method of stopping.

“Why don’t you ask if I have feelings for you; that might be more appropriate?”

I almost took the bait, but instead replied: “That would be tactless, I rather guess or assume or something. Anything would be better than an outright question like that.”

“No really ask me.”

“Why did you ask me to come out here?” I challenged.

“For some fresh air.”

“I see and does Sandi bother you?” I asked.

“Should she?” Arlene challenged.

We looked at each other then. Almost in the same way that we had, on the patio the last night we sat out there. It was the look that everyone must have felt, at some time or experienced. It was the look that forced the heart to beat just enough, for the blood to continue to flow. It was the look that occurred while breathing itself slowed and the hands trembled with both excitement and nervousness.

I stared at her and waited for her to look away. But she didn’t and instead held my gaze, waiting I think, for me to make the next move. She was the most beautiful person that I knew and that was without a doubt true. I leaned forward and kissed her then. It was a slow action and we moved to it without any hurry. I felt the soft touch of her lips and felt the warmth of her mouth. Her breathing was as rushed as mine.

We pulled away slowly and I noticed that her eyes were still closed as she leaned forward and wrapped her arms around me. I needed to leave the past behind yes and move on with the future. At that exact moment in time I was ready. I was also aware that we had both left certain questions unanswered.

 

When we got back home it was almost midnight. No one was sleepy and we headed to the study, for what was to be a brief sit down. It was the first with Cassius for some time and the first with Sandi, who knew a lot about what was going on. Cassius admitted that on the flight over he had more than enough time to present an entire case, an exaggeration no doubt, but we all let it pass without interference.

I had actually questioned the logic of bringing Sandi in at this time though. It was as dangerous as ever for us, without adding danger for someone else. Arlene told me that Sandi was not spending the whole of her two weeks off with us and would be at her grandparents from Boxing Day. We would then see her a week later when the final plans for the year were decided upon.

There seemed to be more as usual going on with Cassius and the fact that he brought her at this time, vacation and Christmas aside, meant something. I had no way of knowing what that was for sure, unless I spoke to either Cassius or Sandi, but I needed to know what it was, for my own personal reason.

Arlene herself, wanted to know why I was so curious to know what was going on, but I decided to hold on to that for a little longer. As far as the case went, Sandi was left flipping through the file that looked thicker each day, while we reviewed where we were.

The stakeout at the warehouse had revealed nothing much so far. The police on the case had followed all the trucks in and out the compound but they all had shipments of different dry goods, canned food and bottled drinks. One of the containers delivered a shipment of computers and other electronics, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The team would continue to keep surveillance of all that went on at the site and the Police Service had rented two properties directly opposite to make the job easier. The Walters also needed to be tracked down and someone made to answer questions about the visitor next door. The plan that was discussed earlier was mentioned to Cassius and he agreed that it seemed like the best bet so far.

It was decided then that everything would be set in motion from the day after Christmas. The first person to be brought in would be Antonio ‘Scarface’ Mendez. All the others would follow in order: Natalie Yorke, the mayor and the judge. It was not going to be a merry Christmas for some people.

Arlene and I were the last to go to bed. We were sitting in the kitchen on two stools as we were banned from our regular spot on the patio out back. I shared the story about my father with Arlene and she had listened intently. She was indeed a lawyer to her heart. I had stopped at the day my father came for what was to be the first and the last time.

It had felt right to start filling her in on some of the secrets that I had but like I explained some stories take longer than others while some never get told. I was sure that she had stories to tell too and I offered her the chance to fill me in on the past that she could remember.

 

**********

Arlene was born five years before me in a hospital in London. Her mother already had slight traces of cancer then and the pregnancy was complicated. Patrick had decided on natal care at a hospital recommended by Cassius, and Arlene was delivered on April 5th, 1957. At that time Patrick was already in the service as a young constable and had spent three months of his vacation in London as a guest of Cassius and his parents while being close to his two ladies. When Linda and Arlene were good enough to travel, they returned to Trinidad.

Linda had lived as normal a life as could be expected and for a few years the family lived like any other. She was a school teacher by profession, but had settled to simply being a housewife after the birth of her daughter.

The Stewarts were rich, as the steel mill that her grandfather owned, the same one that my grandfather worked at, was just the beginning of their good fortunes. William Stewart, along with his wife Carla, had grown from just steel mill operators, to become the most sought after construction suppliers, in the Caribbean.

Arlene went to all the prestigious schools and enjoyed all the best things in life. It was the same kind of life that Randall John had offered to a young Edward Daniels, the same life that I had refused. Therefore I did not envy the life and the good fortune that Arlene had as she was entitled to that.

And I was not surprised that one of her good friends had been none other than Simone Crawford, someone who would have a lasting effect on me, growing up. Arlene went to London every year to spend her vacation at the Charles’ and after finishing high school, she went there to further her studies.

Her mother died during the summer, while Arlene was on one of her many vacations away from home. That day was August 21st, 1969. She was given the news by Cassius that evening as she came back from swimming at one of the public pools. Patrick had asked that she be kept and Cassius gave her the option, even as he knew what the answer would be.

“I am so sorry,” he said as she hugged him. He was a giant of a man and he had held her like a baby. She had cried like one too.

“I need to go home,” she said. “Daddy will need me now. He tries to be strong for me but I see that he hurts. Oh Cassius he must be so sad and alone now. We must hurry I need to see him, I need to let him know that he has me and that I love him so much.”

Cassius Charles had never been so moved and they were both on the next flight to Trinidad. Patrick met them at the airport and soon realized that his concern over Arlene understanding death was misplaced. She had already accepted that her mother was suffering and the better thing for her was to go to heaven. In heaven there was no pain or suffering or sadness. She knew this and believed that this was what her mother truly deserved.

Cassius had stood aside as she ran across the airport arrival hall and hugged her father as if she had not seen him in ages. She had held him and cried like there was no tomorrow. Cassius knew that he had no place in that specific moment, but he was glad to be a witness to one of the greatest demonstrations of love.

They had remained like that in the middle of the hall, surrounded by strangers, Patrick on his knees and his daughter clinging to his neck, the two covered in each other’s tears and love.

“I will never leave you again okay and I will always be here at your side. I will always be here so you won’t be alone. I do not want you to be sad anymore okay and I do not want you to cry. We still have each other and we must never forget that,” Arlene promised.

On the day that Linda Manuel-Stewart was finally giving her last rite of passage into the new world above, her daughter just twelve years old had matured tremendously. While the rest of Linda’s immediate family cried uncontrollably, her daughter had led the procession bravely to the cemetery. She had not cried and had held the white pair of shoes that her mother had worn for her wedding close to her chest. It was as white as snow and matched the white dress that Arlene had chosen to wear.

Just before the final hymn she was asked if she wanted to say anything to her mother one last time. She had remained silent for a long time, her façade on the brink of shattering and when Patrick came over and lifted her in his arms, her strength returned.

“We will miss her until the end of time. And as all the days and nights go by we promise to never forget this woman that loved us without fault. Linda may your soul rest in peace.” Patrick concluded.

For years after that Arlene kept her promise. She had refused to go back to London for vacation unless Patrick went with her. As it stood the too remained in each other’s corner for the next eight years. By then the healing was well on the way and Arlene needed to further her studies. She had broken that promise and returned to England.

What Patrick did not know back in 1969 was that Linda had spoken to Arlene before she went to England. She had spoken to her as if it would be the last time. The two talked a lot, but on the day before her summer vacation Linda had known that she would not see her daughter again. At least not on this level.

“I want you to promise me that you will be strong. Promise me that you will take care of your father and that you will love him enough for the both of us. That is all I want from you. Walk with my wedding shoes and lead me to my final resting place. My baby, do not cry. Cry all you want before and after but do not cry then. Be strong for your father.”

It was an unfair request to ask of a twelve year old, but Linda was well past being reasonable and her request while it might confuse many did not confuse her daughter. It was a simple last request and one that she had promised to fulfill.

They had stood staring at each other the morning of her flight and they had held hands.

“I will carry you in my heart,” Linda said in an almost whisper.

“And I will do the same.”

That was the goodbye they always shared. And it was the only one that they knew. On that day it was to be the last goodbye with life. All Arlene could do next was wait on the call that she knew would come soon, to fulfill the last request of her mother and honor the promise that she had made. Her mother would have been proud.

 

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.

About Kirk 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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