The Supreme Battery Mystery

Sugarmill

Peter saw the windmill from afar. It stuck up like a fat thumb. Its giant sails turned slowly.

Introduction.

Peter Cuthbert is 24, and completing his training at Battex, an international battery company. He is sent to Barbados urgently when the local General Manager, Mark Ramlogan, disappears. Set in 1970’s Barbados, Peter has the task of sorting out the battery factory but he becomes inexorably drawn into the case of Mark Ramlogan’s disappearance. He discovers Mark was not the straightforward electrical engineer he had claimed to be. Fast-paced action across the colourful isle of Barbados yields surprising results.

Chapter 1 Bridgetown, Barbados.

In January 1972, Mark Ramlogan felt pleased with himself. He had landed the position of General Manager of the Supreme Battery Company. His lively and confident personality convinced both his interviewers he could lead the company and his electrical engineering degree from Cave Hill University helped considerably. It testified to his serious engineering attributes. Coming from the same school as Grant, one of the interviewers, did not hinder him either. There was the briefest of discussions on salary. Mark accepted readily. His new salary and car allowance marked him out as one the better off Bajans. He had the island at his feet. He was twenty seven.

In the evenings, however, the spruce clean cut Dr. Jekyll turned to into Mr. Hyde. He had a wild party side and was well known among the country’s demi-monde. Using his electrical skills, he made extra money by lighting dance shows and discos. His youth and light brown skin attracted many women, but he was homosexual. Currently, Anthony, a young St. Lucian, who had met on a yacht party a year ago, was his partner.

On a quiet September night, Mark Ramlogan in an open necked calypso shirt was drinking in Pedro’s, a popular nightclub with a less well-known and rather exclusive brothel attached. The club, a former grand plantation house, stood on the top of a small hill. Surrounded by a refurbished open veranda, which caught the slightest evening breeze. The club’s two air-conditioned bars and the dance floor was a popular venue for tourists. Motown disco music played in the background softly.

Mark and his partner, Anthony, sat together on a curved red-padded velvet seat in a cubicle with a circular table. Anthony, in tight blue jeans and a stretch fabric top with a central zip which clung to every part of his torso was admiring himself in the mirror wall behind their booth. He fluffed up his bulbous Afro hairstyle with a large comb.

‘Man, dunno what I going to do. I gotta leave this island soon, my visa’s up,’ said Anthony. He upended the last of his tall glass of Rum Collins.

‘I know, but lets not think now about that and spoil the evening. Another rum?’ said Mark.

‘Not yet man, you trying to get me drunk? It’s no problem for you. Why don’t you came to St. Lucia?’

‘Tony, I can’t. You know that. There’s nothing there. We couldn’t live like this there.’

‘It’s all right for you but I have to keep coming and going.’

An athletic looking, middle-aged man entered alone. Mark noticed he appeared ill-at-ease. He looked around for a while, dithering, then he seated himself in the next semi-circular cubicle with his back to Mark and Anthony.

After a short while, an alluring woman in her hot pants and skin-tight top entered. A thin gold chain hung around her neck and a thick black leather belt, hanging loosely, accentuated her slim waist. Her long, black hair had been straightened. It was cut carefully around her face. She smiled at Mark, showing perfect teeth.

Hi, Mark. I ain’t seen you around much recently. What’s up?’ she said.

Oh, things, nothing much. I jus cooling. Why you here?’

Business,’ she whispered pointing to Wilson at the next table, ‘Hey, Wilson, come over here and meet my friend, Mark.’

Glancing to his left and right, Wilson dragged himself out of his cubicle to join Mark and Anthony in theirs. He maintained an expressionless face.

‘We go back, man. Met Wilson in London. Didn’t I, Wilson?’

‘Yes,’ he said. The word, spoken without warmth or interest on Wilson’s behalf, had to be dragged out of him.

Mark was about to introduce Anthony when Wilson said, ‘Come on Joanna, let’s go.’

Be seeing you, Mark,’ said Joanna. Her eyes upturned to the ceiling.

Do you know who that was, Tony?’ were Mark’s first words after Wilson and Joanna had left.

Who, the girl or the man?’ Anthony answered.

Well… the girl’s a dancer. She’s often at the Hilton up at Needham’s Point. She even danced in London for a while. She’s hot and real classy too. No one gets her cheap, but the man, he’s our Chief Justice, Wilson Senior!’

‘Tell me more, man.’

‘In ’69, my last year at Cave Hill University, that man he had risen from solicitor through barrister to judge to become Chief Justice of Barbados. He came to our graduation ceremony and told us about the opportunities our education would give us. Man, I’ll never forget his description of the journey to become Chief Justice.’

‘How come?’

‘He told us how he grew up in Oistins and aged five or six, his mother took him to live in Canada. Then he went to London, before returning here and climbing up to become Chief Justice. There was a lot about it in the press years back. He keeps the government in check.’

‘How dat?’

‘By checking they don’t break their own laws!’

‘So what?’

‘So nothing, I’m just telling you. Come on, I’m bored. Let’s go home.’

*

A week later, Mark got a call from Joanna. ‘Hey Mark, fancy a drink down at Pedro’s tonight?’

Mark agreed. Anthony had returned to St. Lucia; his resident permit for the island had expired. It did not take long for Mark in his white Mini-Moke to drive the kilometre or so to Pedro’s up at Archbishop Rise.

Tourists shunned September. It was a quiet period on the island due to the prospect of hurricanes. That evening, the wind blew strongly but it was no hurricane. Pedro’s was almost empty.

Mark entered. A few red skinned, young tourists, taking advantage of the cheaper stormy season rates, sat drinking scattered among the booths. Two couples gyrated to the Temptation’s ‘Papa was a Rollin’ Stone’ on the polished wood floor.

Joanna sat at the bar on a high stool sipping an orange drink thorough a long straw. She looked stunning.

‘Hi Joanna, been here long?’

‘No, man jus’ come. Like a drink?’

‘Fine, but make it a juice. What you drinking? Orange?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Fine, an orange, thanks.’

‘Ain’t seen you around much recently,’ said Joanna after nodding to the barman who placed an orange before Mark.

‘I’ve been busy at the factory….’

Joanna’s eyes wandered and Mark stopped talking about his job. ‘What you doing with Wilson? He’s a big man these days,’ he asked.

‘He always had an eye for de ladies, if you see what I mean. Although he married to Moona, they not live together. Perhaps, because of working so hard to climb up the legal profession, Wilson have no time for romance, only sex and not just wid de ladies, if you see what I mean.’

‘Is that why he and Moona live apart?’

‘Probably, but I don’t know.’

‘He’s demanding. He pays well too. What I’d really like,’ she said stressing “really”, ‘is to borrow your home for an evening and get a fag or two round. You know plenty, I’m sure. Wilson is too well known around town these days and needs to be discrete.’

Mark pondered. ‘Sure thing,’ he said, ‘when’s he thinking about? I got a fashion show down at the Hilton, next Saturday. There’s a party afterwards too. We could have a nice boy from there.’

‘Sounds good,’ said Joanna.

‘I’m lighting the Coral Coast fashion show for the tourists that evening. You’d love it.’

‘Why dat?’

‘The middle-aged rich American and Canadian women love to think of themselves as young, slim and alluring, just as the models, and buying the very same dresses, skirts or bikinis displayed is the first and easiest step to achieving their beauty aims. Man, they spend money like water and we all do well.’

‘Sounds good, but who’s we?’

‘The Coral Coast Clothing Company, the hotel, and me. We all made good money. There are male models too for the husbands and lovers. So I can get a nice boy along too. No trouble. The show finishes around ten. So, would eleven be fine at my place, OK?’

‘Yeah. Ideal, Mark, thanks.’

On Saturday, after the fashion show Mark drove John, a well-proportioned young man with perfect skin and shiny, slight muscles to his house. John, the newest and youngest of the male models, had persuaded Mark to promote him to the lucrative post via his sexual affections. Game for anything, John looked excited for the upcoming encounter. They arrived at Mark’s house at the same time as Joanna and Wilson.

After a couple of introductory rums and tuning the stereo music to the swaying sounds of the Merrymen, Mark left the three of them to his house and bedroom. He would be back later on Sunday for he had a rendezvous of his own.

*

The following afternoon, with anticipation making his heart beat a little faster, Mark returned to his empty, but neat and tidy house. He was sure no one except him would have known anything about the previous evening’s activities. He was excited. He ignored the three glasses on the table in the lounge and headed straight for the bedroom. A bead of perspiration slipped down his forehead, his fingers trembled before the secret drawer in his bedroom cabinet which held the hidden camera and its video recorder. Holding his breath,Mark pulled back the drawer slowly. The apparatus was unchanged. Mark extracted the video cassette from the camera. He turned it in his hands to check both sides and smiled to himself in relief. He carried it to the television unit in his kitchen-diner. A few fuzzy frames showed up before the video recording commenced. It showed Wilson, Joanna and John enjoying a ménage à trois.

The video recording had been a partial success. For about twenty minutes, it revealed the activities of the night before, until, for some unclear reason, the video just went blank. But there was enough evidence there to convince anyone of the immoral behaviours of the three participants.

Wilson Senior might not be an upright man of the law, but he was clearly an upright man in a brothel. Mark smiled to himself; it might be useful in getting a residency permit for Anthony. But how would he go about it? He needed to find someone to copy the video copied for starters.

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