Copyright © 2005 Austin G. Mitchell
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Austin G. Mitchell
For my late brother, Carlton Constantine Mitchell.
• Fred Billings was taken off the streets and brought up by Gus McCreed and his late wife, Suzette. Fred knows that he owes his very existence to this man, but his life’s goal is to control Gus McCreed’s empire and will not let sentiments stand in his way.
• Lorena McCreed has lost her childhood sweetheart in a mysterious accident. Now her foster brother is scaring away her suitors because he knows a strong husband could ruin his plans for a takeover.
• Curtis ‘Bendoo’ Johnson, Special Branch Detective, was sent to Wareika Hills to infiltrate the gang hiding out there. Two joint police-military raids on their headquarters have failed to flush them out. Can Bendoo accomplish this dangerous and almost impossible task?
• Danny King was one of the largest drug barons on the island until he and McCreed clashed in a war that threatened to turn the streets of Kingston red with blood. Now King, defeated by McCreed’s is trying to make one last comeback and destroy his old enemy.
• Gaskell Burke, a disgraced lawyer, believes that McCreed ordered the hit on his brother and seeks revenge. Burke and some of his brother’s former associates have taken over his small syndicate. Their intention being to strengthen it enough to confront McCreed, then kill him and take over his share of the market.
Bendoo kept one eye on the road while thinking about the summons he had received from his boss, Neil McDonald, the head of Special Branch. It wasn’t every day that you received such a call so it had to be be something important. He followed the road which hugged the side of a mountain. A vehicle was parked ahead of him and a man was pulling a woman towards the car. Bendoo passed the vehicle, looked in his rear view mirror, then decided to stop. Knowing how isolated this place was he patted the gun in his waist reassuringly before getting out of the vehicle.
“What’s going on here?”
“Nothing, mind your own business.”
“I didn’t ask you any questions, Mister. Is this man bothering you, Miss?”
“Didn’t you hear what I said, guy? You must be deaf or soomething.”
The man rushed in, swinging a fist at Bendoo. Bendoo blocked the blow and hit him on his jaw. He punched him under the chin and he staggered and fell.
The woman was screaming and getting hysterical.
Bendoo hovered over him, fists clenched, but the man staggered to his feet, ran to his car, jumped in and the car roared away.
Bendoo rushed to his car, intent on pursuit when the woman shouted.
“Are you going to leave me here?”
“Come with me, let’s see if we can catch him.”
The woman held her wrist.
“Did he hurt you?”
“No, I’m okay, thanks for helping me.”
“That’s all right, some men can be downright stupid.”
The woman didn’t comment.
“What was this quarrel about anyway?”
She flashed him a look of irritation mixed with embarrassment. She was about twenty-five, he estimated, admiring the flush that spread over her smooth skin as she caught him looking at her.
“We’ve probably lost him by now,” he stated.
She didn’t comment.
“I hope I didn’t intervene in anything that I shouldn’t have. I hate seeing men take advantage of women.”
The flush in her cheeks deepened.
“That’s okay,” she said. “Thank you again. Believe it or not, that guy’s my foster brother.”
“What, and he’s treating you like that. If I were you I’d report him to the police.”
She turned on him, her eyes blazing.
“My father’s name is Gus McCreed.”
“Why do you look so shocked? You know him?”
“No, I’ve only heard about him, but it doesn’t matter, I’ll drop you home if you wish.”
He frowned. What was Gus Mc Creed’s daughter doing up here?
“What’s your foster-brother’s name?”
“Fred Billings. You’re lucky he didn’t try to shoot you.”
“Does he have a license to carry a gun?”
“He’s very violent and unpredictable. That’s all I know.”
“One of these days he’s going to mess with the wrong person.”
“That’s what my father keeps telling him.”
Bendoo opened the car door and gestured for her to get in.
“I don’t take rides from strangers. I don’t even know your name.”
He looked at her.
“What do you want me to do, leave you stranded here? Taxis hardly run up here.”
She looked as if she didn’t believe him.
“My name’s Curtis Johnson but everybody calls me Bendoo. If you want I can show you my identity card.”
She waved him away. “It’s all right. Do you live up here?”
“I was in the area dropping off something.”
When she got into the car he noticed she didn’t have a bag, maybe she had left it in Fred’s car. He drove for a while before she spoke.
“If you drop me in Half Way Tree, I’ll take a taxi home.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier if I took you home?”
“I don’t want to inconvenience you or have you run into Fred again.”
Bendoo didn’t say anything. It was a typical Friday evening with many vehicles on the road transporting people home from work, schools and the markets.
They had left Wireless Station Road now and were descending Old Stony Hill Road.
“You didn’t tell me your name.”
“You didn’t ask me.” She smiled. “I’m Lorena.”
“Your parents named you well, it suits you. Do you live with them?”
“My mother died years ago. I’m mostly in Ocho Rios to help run our hotel. I come up some weekends.”
“I never knew that Gus McCreed had such a beautiful daughter.”
She laughed. “A lot of people say that. They only see one side of my father. But I suppose I got my looks from my mother.”
“It must have been hard on you.”
“Very much, but I suppose God knows best.”
“Is your father, Gus McCreed, the ex-boxer. I use to hear them talk about him.”
“The same person, I can’t remember any of his fights. I was too young, maybe not even born yet. Anyway, I think I’d better end this conversation. My father would be angry if he knew I was discussing him with a complete stranger.”
Bendoo wasn’t offended by her remarks. Many people in the force suspected McCreed of illegal activities, but they had nothing against him that could stand up in court. According to the grapevine, he had been a hitman for several American crime syndicates. He was also rumored to be a drug baron.
“Where do you stay when you come up?”
“My father lives in Coopers Hill but that doesn’t matter. I told you I’ll take a taxi home.”
Bendoo ignored the rebuff. This girl was hard to understand. One minute friendly, the next, exactly the opposite. In Half Way Tree, she got out, thanked him and walked to the taxi stand. Maybe she had money on her to take a taxi, he thought as he drove off.
He drove up Hope Road for his meeting with his Chief. He wondered what his assignment would be this time.
His last mission had been to track down a gang of drug smugglers operating between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. It had ended in a shoot-out at the gang’s headquarters in Port Antonio. One of the gang members was killed, but the other four were captured and scheduled to go on trial in early August.
His thoughts turned to McCreed and his beautiful daughter’s face came to mind. Despite his girlfriend in the United States, Bendoo knew he had to see Lorena again.
After he was cleared by the officers on duty he got to Mc Donald’s office.
Mc Donald was tall, bald-headed and had a stony face. Bendoo guessed his age to be in the late forties.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I sent for you, Bendoo.”
“A gang of gunmen based in Wareika Hills is responsible for the recent upsurge in criminal activities on the island.”
“We believe that the gang is working for a syndicate and that their operations might not only involve murder and robbery but hard drugs as well. So far we have no evidence. We believe that the only way we can break up the gang is to send a man to infiltrate them and we have decided that you’re the best man for the job.”
“Me, sir? I know you have better men than me in the Force.”
“We might, but we feel that you are the best man for this job.”
“What do I have to do?”
McDonald picked up a file and skimmed a few pages.
“You have to look the part of a Rasta-man. Then you have to find a way to get into the gang. You’ve got two weeks to prepare for it and then you’re on your own. After you get in, you are to feed us with information about them.”
“How am I going to get in touch with them?”
“Every now and again some of them come to town. How you get in is your business. Your contact will be Delbert Wood.”
Bendoo was aware that McDonald was keeping secrets from him. He was avoiding eye contact by looking out of a window. Bendoo knew that raids had been made on Wareika but had failed to flush out the criminals. There was talk that information about the raids had been leaked.
“Woody rented a furnished room for you off Mountain View Avenue. We want you to collect what you’ll need and move in tonight. Woody will keep an eye on your car and apartment. We’re putting out a press release that fifteen men will be going to England for a six-week training course. Your name will be on the list to account for your absence.”
“How much of a chance do you think I have?”
“Just watch your back.”
“I’ll do the best I can, sir.”
“Good, I know that you won’t let us down.” McDonald shook his hands.
Bendoo then left the office and went home to his apartment in Queensbury, where he picked up some clothes and other necessary items.
Lorena McCreed had lied to Bendoo about taking a taxi home. She could have gotten her car later and let him drop her home, but she didn’t want to chance a fracas if Fred was home.
She took one down to McGrath’s garage. The employees called it the ‘Factory’ for reasons she had never discovered. Dangler, the garage manager, wiped greasy hands on his overalls as he came to greet her. He led her to her car and held the door as she climbed in. She drove it once around the yard and stopped beside him.
“How does it drive?”
“It feels all right.”
“Good, those guys worked on it all day yesterday.”
She reached into her pocket and took out three crisp twenty-dollar bills and gave them to him. The charge for the work would be billed to the hotel.
“Buy yourself and those guys a drink,” she said and drove off.
When she reached home, Caslyn was in the kitchen looking after dinner. Caslyn and her mother, Suzette, came from the same village. She had started working for them about ten years ago and never left. On her weekends off, she returned home to look for her relatives.
“Cas, dad or Fred come home yet?”
“Only Fred, Miss and he didn’t stay long.”
“Did he leave my bag with you?”
“I put it in your room.”
Damn him, she thought and went to her room to retrieve the bag. She took out the Smith and Wesson automatic Colt. 22, her father insisted that she keep for protection. She had completed a firearms instruction course and kept the weapon with her at all times.
She took a bath, then ate dinner. She then occupied herself with television, wishing that her father return home soon. She needed to discuss the latest episode with Fred.
Lorena’s thoughts strayed from the television to Bendoo. She had seen the bulge of his gun through his t-shirt and guessed he was a policeman. In addition to the gun, he was clean-shaven. He looked about thirty, making him five years older than her.
Lorena’s childhood sweetheart, Bobby, was a year older than her. He was her next-door neighbor when they lived in Vineyard Town. His family moved to Barbican before her family went to live in Coopers Hill.
She started out with boarding school in the country. After her mother’s death, she relocated to Kingston and attended school there. More than anything else, she was interested in partying and couldn’t wait for the holidays. She and Bobby would go to endless sessions around town. Bobby was always the life of the party.
They continued the relationship despite no longer living close to each other. Falling in love and planning to marry. But five years ago, after attending a party they each hitched a ride home with a different friend. As they drove off, Lorena felt that something would go wrong. Near dawn the next morning, Bobby’s mother called to tell her that the car with him and his friends had run off the road into a precipice. There were no survivors.
The policemen, who investigated the accident, suspected that another vehicle was involved but couldn’t prove it. She cried for weeks. She tried hard to take her mind off Bobby. After a while she managed to forget about him. When she graduated from university, she returned to her father’s hotel as an assistant manager. She envied her girlfriends, who were married and having babies while she partied, unable to find a man to spend the rest of her life with.
Then Fred returned from university abroad. He had changed, no longer the jovial youngster she had known. Instead he had become aggressive, almost overbearing. He had several brushes with the law which had cost her father plenty.
His attitude caused most of her male friends to stop visiting her. When she confronted him, he told her that those men weren’t her type.
“It’s none of your business, which man, I talk to.”
“Gus is afraid that these guys are after his money. I can bet that it’s you who treat them when you go out.”
“So what, it’s not your money I’m using.”
“Gus says I’m to keep an eye on you. I intend to do just that.”
“Go to hell. I’m not telling you who to talk to so why do you want to choose a man for me?”
She complained to his long-time girlfriend, Johanna Mc Farlane but to no avail. She had fallen back into his arms on his return. She seemed to be the only person, who didn’t notice any change in him after those four years in America. Maybe it was the apartment he bought her as well as the large amounts of money he gave her, enabling her to live a life of leisure. She didn’t even seem to care that he had killed a man in a fight over another woman.
Today was another example of his uncontrollable behavior. Had Bendoo not intervened she didn’t know what might have happened. She was determined to resolve the matter with her father. If he couldn’t control Fred’s behavior, then she would just have to stay in Ocho Rios permanently.
To be continued.