Murder In Tobago
A sequel to A Cottage In The Country and The Emerald Lighter
by Malcolm Taylor
Tobago is not normally a violent island, and I am horrified that I ever embarked on the final solution to my problem. I’m writing this down as a release from my torment really, because I’ve got to tell somebody about the recent events, and perhaps, when you’ve read my explanation of what led up to my taking those two lives you might put yourself in my position and even identify with my predicament. I’ve had lots of time to go over my crime since the event and honestly believe my actions were triggered by a set of extraordinary circumstances, which, hopefully I can avoid in future – if I can’t, at least I’ll know how not to react. I still can’t believe I did what I did, but then, when we act totally out of character we never can, can we?
The trouble started as soon as we moved in to our house at Grafton. Nobody had warned us about the neighbours. It’s to be expected really; nobody wants to tell you anything negative because it might put you off buying. I did wonder though why the place was going so cheap. Ah well, lesson learned. I remember asking the vendor about the neighbours too. ‘What are they like?’ I thought there was a fraction too long a pause before she replied, ‘Well we don’t see much of them next door’, she said brightly, ‘they live in Trini and only come over for a few weeks a year. When they’re here they don’t bother us at all.’ ‘Not too noisy then?’ I enquired. ‘Not at all’, she reassured me. You have to be careful, you see, buying a semi-detached house; you never know, do you? She was right about the people next door though, the Smiths were a pleasant couple, and we got on well right from the start. The vendor didn’t mention the couple across the road though – well she wouldn’t would she? It was probably that lot that had prompted her move in the first place. No doubt about it in my mind.
They had a much larger plot than ours, with a vast wooded garden which was obviously their pride and joy. Every morning they were up with the larks, either digging away or harvesting the fruit from their many trees. A pity, we thought, that they couldn’t have gone about their business with a little less noise.
They were all right to begin with. They didn’t look at us if we passed them in the road or anything (even though we always nodded and smiled), but we could cope with that. At least they seemed civil. His walk was very cocky I thought, and she looked a bit drab, but who cares about appearances? Each to his own. No, it wasn’t until we felt threatened that I began to think about .. well, things. I wish I hadn’t. God, I do. No, it was when they started screaming at each other that we first began to lose our bottle. Annie was convinced they were screaming about us, but that was ridiculous. I mean they couldn’t be; we’d only just arrived and had had nothing to do with them. It crossed my mind that they may resent foreigners living in their midst – but as Tobago is such a multi- cultural society it didn’t seem likely. No. Anyway it was alright for about the first week. Then I started to notice things. The most un-nerving part was that one minute I’d catch sight of them through the window just going about their business, then the next there’d be the most terrible shouting match you’ve ever heard in your life. And, yes, Annie had a point; sometimes they definitely seemed to be looking in our direction, as if they had a grudge against us just being there. They’d look in our direction, then he’d turn and have a go at her – as if he blamed her for us being there! I mean, I ask you …. I thought matie was going to kill her on more than one occasion, I can tell you. Why she’s stayed with him beats me. Anyway I don’t want to bore you; just fill you in on how it all started.
Well, after about a month, when we were coming to the end of our tether, with all their racket, Annie suggested that perhaps if we gave them a present – you know a sort of goodwill gesture - they might at least calm down a bit when we were around, just out of gratitude for our friendly overture – you know. Anyway she’d made an apple pie and after supper she went round to see if they’d like to finish it up. I stayed in the kitchen because I didn’t really want to meet them face to face (yes, alright I’m a coward) so Annie trotted round on her own. I was surprised not to hear her chatting to them, but when she got back she said they seemed to be sleeping, so she’d just left the pie for them to find in the morning. Well, judging by what went on the next day, I doubt if they’d even noticed our peace offering let alone eaten it. We were awoken by what I can only describe as an assault outside our front door – that’s right, assault. There was enough screeching and yelling to wake the dead. This was followed by a great torrent of foul language – not that I understood their lingo you understand – but I knew from the tone that it certainly wasn’t ‘friendly’, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I sidled out of bed to the window and looked out. There they were, bold as brass, in broad daylight, literally flinging themselves around our porch. He was more violent than I’d ever seen him before; not content with yelling at the top of his voice at us (he kept looking up, and I kept ducking down to avoid catching his eye) He must have been furious that he couldn’t get at us, so he took it out on her. Yes, really! I even saw him take a great bite at her neck – and it certainly wasn’t a love bite I can assure you! I thanked heavens I’d put double locks on our door, or I swear he’d have had it down. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as I was concerned.
Well that was it. We had to do something, obviously, but what? Our first reaction was to call in the estate security, or even the police. We had a word with the girl in the office, but she wasn’t much help. Although sympathetic, she thought that nothing could be done officially. If all the residents on the estate had complained it would be a different matter, but they hadn’t. It was just us. She also pointed out that the police weren’t likely to be interested either because it wasn’t as if any real crime had been committed; just a bit of harassment really. ‘I mean, nobody’s been knifed or anything have they?’ she said. ‘Have you been physically harmed? Has there been a break-in to your property? No, I had to agree. She made me feel as if we were being paranoid, but I knew we weren’t. We were absolutely terrified of them. Walking home I realised that nobody was going to help us. It was down to us. I was in a right state I can tell you, and instead of having a shower and a couple of drinks to calm me down, it was then, as I opened the door to our house that I made that final, fatal decision. Once taken it had an irrevocable motion of its own.
I didn’t tell anyone, not even Annie, what course of action I’d decided on, but just set about trying to find the right person to – you know - in my own quiet way. I needed to ask around, but wasn’t sure where to start. I did drop in on a few local bars, but when I, jokingly, broached the subject with a likely looking low-life character I got rebuffed so emphatically that I felt humiliated and quickly left. For days I wandered about, racking my brains, and was about to give up my plan when – bingo! I thought of the very chap. The person I needed had to be clear-headed, cool, calm, and a deadly shot. As far as I was concerned my guy fitted the bill perfectly; only a few days earlier I’d seen him blast a jar into smithereens with a single shot from fifty yards. He was ideal; not only did he dislike the neighbours almost as much as I (he’d told me so on more than one occasion) but I knew he was always on the lookout for extra cash to feed his expensive habits.
We arranged to meet, away from the hurly-burly, on the shore of a local beach. It was one of those wonderful tropical evenings when dusk creeps up imperceptibly as the sun settles into its final, crimson fall - a perfect evening for plotting in fact. We discussed the plan in detail. He knew that there would probably be only one opportunity for success; miss it and the alarm would be raised and the game up. I’d hoped to settle for reasonable terms, but my conspirator was hungry and adamant; his terms or none. With little choice, I capitulated. Fee agreed, we went our ways, swearing mutual silence on the matter.
The next morning I could hardly suppress a smile as I heard the usual screams coming from over the road. I recall the anticipation of what was to come as I sipped my coffee, and though I cannot deny it gave me so much pleasure at the time, I shudder now to recall it.
That evening there was a strange quiet about the place. I said nothing as Annie remarked ‘You know, perhaps they’re calming down after all. There hasn’t been a squeak out of them since before lunch.’ I stuck my face more deeply into my book, and pretended to be in a world of my own.
About two days later I heard what I thought was a police car drive up and park outside our house. I suppose I assumed it was the police because I felt so guilty and half expected them. It wasn’t of course. I opened the front door to be confronted by Oswald, a keen nature-lover. He held his son, Martin, by the scruff of his neck. Martin was about ten years old and was stuffing his face with a large ice-cream. He looked scared and apologetic. ‘Is it true that you bought this wretch two cans of coke and this ice-cream to do your dirty work for you?’ demanded Oswald. He held up two very large, dead birds by their limp necks. ’What harm have these poor Cocricos – noisy maybe, but protected nevertheless - ever done you?’ I blinked and gulped with shame as the enormity of my crime dawned on me. Martin’s catapult hung limply in his one free hand.