Peggy Cole is a self-published author who enjoys writing fiction stories, book reviews and articles about simpler times.
The body dangled from an overhead beam on a rope made from silk neckties. Joined together with perfectly tied square knots, they ranged from flamingo pink at the rafter end to a dark maroon around the neck. The corpse wore a shimmering disco shirt, the first three buttons open to reveal a hairy chest underneath. On one foot was a shiny, hand-made Italian loafer. The other shoe, cast off in the end-of-life struggle, lay beneath the body.
“Nice ties,” the sergeant snickered. “I’ll bet he didn’t buy those at the dollar store.” Smedley picked up the discarded shoe and turned it over in his hand. “This guy had expensive taste. These babies had to cost a couple of hundred bucks.”
“Cut him down,” Detective McGuinness growled.
“Looks like he’ll miss the party.” Smedley dragged a chair under the victim and climbed up. With his pocketknife, he neatly cut through the ties as high up as he could reach. The body fell with a thud in a seated position with the head tipped forward.
“Looks like he’s taking a nap,” Smedley observed hopping down. He motioned to the photographer, pointed to the body and made clicking noises. “He’s ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille.”
McGuinness gave him a stern look cutting off Smedley's idle chatter.
Once photos of the corpse were taken, Smedley loosened the noose and snipped it at the back before dropping it into an evidence bag. Then, he slipped paper bags over the victim’s hands and secured them with tape.
“The Medical Examiner will do the rest,” McGuiness told the photographer, who clicked and contorted to capture every angle of the body. The Coroner squinted as he came in from the bright sunlight.
“Who’s the stiff?”
Smedley shrugged. “Some guy from the States.”
“Thanks for pointing out the obvious.” He bent down to examine the label on the victim’s shirt. Next to the corpse, his assistant laid out a black body bag.
“Does he have a Repat Policy?”
“A what?” Smedley said.
“It’s insurance,” the coroner said rolling his eyes. “It covers the cost to return the body to the States.”
“Don’t know,” he answered. “This is my first overseas investigation.”
“What’s to investigate?” The coroner pointed to the knot still dangling from the rafters. “Looks to me like he offed himself.”
“We’ll see about that,” McGuinness said, coming in for a closer look. The three men stood in a loose circle watching the assistant roll the corpse into the bag. The sound of the zipper closing echoed around the silent room.
“What’s his name?”
“Jason Flint,” McGuinness said. He read the ID from a wallet removed from the pants pocket.
“Tagged and bagged,” the assistant reported. The two men shifted the body onto a lowered gurney, snapped it upright, and rolled it outside to the waiting vehicle.
The hotel clerk tried to deflect any early morning calls to residents at the resort facility. No one on vacation was ever glad to be awakened before dawn. But the Chief of Police had insisted his call go through. Seconds later the persistent ringing woke Mrs. McGuiness, who glared across the bed at the phone, a familiar look of exasperation appearing on her puffy face.
“Why can’t they just leave us alone?” she groused. “It’s our last morning here.”
Larry McGuiness rolled over, took the phone from his wife and fumbled it to his good ear.
“Just one more day and it would’ve been the perfect vacation.” Their flight fly back to the states wasn’t until late in the afternoon.
“Yeah,” McGuiness said in a gravelly voice.
“Hate to interrupt your beauty sleep, but we have a case for you to wrap up over there.” The voice of the Chief of Police, his boss, brought him instantly awake.
“Honey, I’m sorry,” he whispered, hopping up to stand at attention beside the bed.
“It figures this is the way our vacation would end.” It was their first vacation in ten years and she understood her husband’s often unpredictable duty requirements.
She wrapped herself in the thick, luxurious bathrobe with the resort logo on the pocket and stormed into the bathroom and slammed the door. He could still hear her grumbling through the closed door.
“Yes sir,” he said. “What’s up?” McGuiness’s voice sounded weak from the late night they’d spent in the lounge their last night on the island. He cleared his throat.
“You’re gonna’ love this one,” he said. His voice carried way too much enthusiasm for that hour of the morning.
“It’s an open and shut case. The perfect end to your slack time.” The line crackled. McGuiness groaned in his head.
“A piece of Cake.” The Chief said that far too often. It was rarely true. Nothing in his line of work ever was.
“This isn’t even our jurisdiction.”
“Like I said, you’re already there. This little job will set me even with the Constable,” the Chief continued. “I don’t like owing people favors.”
McGuiness kept his mouth shut. He knew more than he liked about the Chief and favors.
“You’ll be back stateside in no time.”
According to the Chief, the Jamaican Constabulary Force had called for help from their American counterparts for two reasons: Their investigative unit was swamped with a barrage of homicides over the weekend. With three murders routinely committed per shift the JCF chalked up the suicide of an American as little consequence. But there were protocols and the Constable was required to follow them.
Far more pressing than a barrage of unexplained deaths of their own citizens, the delegation of dignitaries expected an exhibition of their new Constable Homicide Counter Terrorism Unit followed by a Parliamentarian Parade down Main street. This would tie up most of the JCF staff with demonstrations of field training prowess to seated men wearing fancy medals.
“We’ll let your highly skilled U.S. detectives handle the grunt work,” the Constable remarked to the Chief. He knew the Constable would probably claim their reports on the investigation as his own work and send the paperwork to the local Deputy Commissioner.
With one phone, call the Chief called an end to McGuiness’ vacation and sent his family home without him.
McGuiness was the first of the Americans to arrive at the site. He pulled aside the room-darkening curtains spanning the east wall of the room and looked outside. Beyond the small yard was a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. He watched sea oats sway lazily back and forth with the gentle ocean breeze. With a gloved hand, he flipped open the window latch and slid the window open. The breeze rushed in filling the room with the fragrance of jasmine and sea salt. It was a welcome dilution to the smell of death that lingered. He moved to the other side of the room and opened the glass doors that led to a balcony.
“Has anyone checked the grounds?” McGuiness asked looking down into the grass below.
“Two uniformed officers are out there now,” his second in command answered.
An archway led from the living room into the den where the victim’s widow sat on a leather couch hunched over with her head nearly in her lap. Scattered on the floor at her feet was a collection of used and crumpled tissues. She pressed a soggy tissue to her face, grimaced, and reached toward the empty tissue box on the coffee table. McGuiness pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and held it out to her. He’d noticed a pile of shopping bags strewn in an untidy pile on his way into the room. She’d clearly been out most of the morning shopping. The bags brimmed with boxes of shoes, clothing and purses.
He sat on the edge of the coffee table in front of her and waited for her to talk.
© 2019 Peg Cole