Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Murder at the doorstep

 Blood, wantonly being shed in T&T and around the world, showed up close enough to my doorstep on Thursday to haunt the memory of that night and to make bleak the prospect of Friday. At time of my writing, no report of it shows anywhere, but a murder occurred short strides away from my “gap”.

Until Friday’s showers partially rinsed the setting, blood demarcating the length of a man’s body stained the pavement, and congealed as a dark pool in a stagnant adjacent drain. Murder is a commonplace of the national experience, sometimes hardly detaining an eye surveying the daily news. But Thursday night occasioned for me something like ownership of the episode.

There was no getting away from it. For hours, I could not get into my own yard, as the streetscape transformed into a crime scene. That was how a policewoman named it for me. She was gaitered, side-armed and rifle-bearing, like her colleagues, including soldiers, who were standing guard near yellow tapes barring the passageway, as flashing blue lights signalled a drama. Until completion of the crime-scene formalities, she said, no access was allowable to my place. 

She allowed me a glimpse of the body, a figure in navy or black, lodged in a corner I had never before noticed, but one conveniently affording no possibility of escape from the killer. Neighbours said they had counted six gunshots. One neighbour had been near enough to hear the victim exclaim, after the first, “What is this, man?” As he fell, the triggerman unfailingly fired five times more into his head.

Life went on. From a church crusade, a block away, sounds pierced the still night air, featuring an American–accented preacher and a music band. In cars and on foot, people getting home or getting around made their way, reversing and bypassing the police no-entry yellow tape.

 In time, the crime scene specialists arrived in two black four-wheel drives, accompanied by a hearse. They took their time scoping the area, and then getting into their priestly white bodysuits, and setting up tripods for lights and cameras. 

One murder, adding to the ever-rising count: but it was being taken seriously, to judge from the steadily increasing traffic of police and soldiers. One contingent filled a TTPS-marked maxi.

Temporarily rendered homeless, I watched it all from outside the yellow-tape perimeters patrolled by police and soldiers, one end of tape apparently attached to my own gate.  

During that short interval when I had gone out for a bottled something to wash down dinner, murder had happened. Now, appetite was gone.

“You know the fella, man.” So I was assured about the victim’s identity by a familiar handy-man type, a presumably all-knowing frequenter of the street. What’s his name? He couldn’t or wouldn’t say. What’s it all about—this murder?  He couldn’t or wouldn’t say.

Murder happens just so. A mystery visitation, subject to conspiracy-theory speculations, ranging from jealousy over woman’s attention to defence of territory.

 Twice before Thursday night (including once in Guyana), I had happened upon murder scenes. About this one, closest to home, I am denied any intelligence.

I am reminded of the existence of an underworld that thrives, beneath capture of the knowledge or adequacy of understanding by us who only read the news, or report the news. The intuitive message, the moral of the story, is to mind my own business, and hope for the best.

But the bloodstains outlining a human form kept recalling me to watch and wonder. Nobody else around appeared similarly moved. After the showers, the stains remained, and the purplish patch in the drain settled, unmoving.

I had come out again to view the blood-stained scene, as the drizzle began. A plainclothes figure, vaguely familiar from the night before, was handing out flyers.

“You’re a police officer?” I challenged him. “Yes,” he said, handing me two flyers, and saying something like “We have to try our best.”

He belonged, he said, to the Homicide Investigations Bureau. Notoriously, it must be the most under-achieving of police units. But they are trying.

The flyer, eight inches by five, promptly enough produced, announced that the bureau is “seeking information relative to the murder of Sheldon George who was shot and died on Thursday, July 17, 2014”. This, then, is how it’s done: in 2014, police detective work candidly makes public-relations pitches.

More than just pleading for help, the officers seek to rally public-spirited support. “Enough is enough,” urges the flyer. “Assist your community by giving information. By helping others, you help yourself. DO SOMETHING NOW!”

Police professional self-esteem has come to this: that they want and need all the help they can get. “We want to help you,” the flyer proclaims, listing numbers to call. “Time to put a stop to crime.”

Both for how it happened and for the response, the murder on my doorstep has been a wake-up call. That hit means me, somehow.

  A chilling reality, it’s not capable of being overlooked or ignored. The presence persists of deadly peril, like the bloodstains in that fatal corner, and the puddle clotted in the drain.