What mystery pervades a well!

That water lives so far

A neighbor from another world

Residing in a jar.

Emily Dickinson

I wonder what we would find If we search-lit every well in Barbados.

Detective Sergeant A D Crick




Prickett’s Plantation, St. Lucy, Barbados


They started harvesting the sugar-cane crop late that year. It was the end of March and in spite of three months of intermittent, unseasonal rainfall the ground was still hard and dry. Light grey puffs of scattered cloud drifted slowly over the island that morning but without any real threat of rain. On the contrary, the morning was already heating up, the clouds offering only occasional respite from the near-equatorial sun.

McCarthy drove the dull-red mechanical cane-harvester between the fields of tall, ripe sugar-cane  along the rocky cart-road, one of a network of similar roads across the island’s agricultural lands, originally designed for carts drawn by horse, oxen or donkey but still called cart-roads. Straight ahead at some distance, the land rose gently to a rocky, sour grass mound with a single flamboyant tree at its summit. McCarthy and his friends had flown kites there when they were youngsters. He turned the harvester to the left when he reached the four-cross intersection, drove to the far end and waited for the receiver truck to come alongside. Soon, the commingled sounds of hydraulic motors, elevators, blowers, cleaning fans, and choppers biting into stalks of the tall, sweet grass shut out the cawing of black birds and white cattle egrets. The birds swooped around the machines, keeping sharp eyes out for pickings from the freshly disturbed earth and ignoring the cane-cutting cacophony completely. Cut stalks of sugar-cane flew into the first of the two caged trays of the accompanying tractor-drawn contraption. The sweet smell of sugar-cane permeated the air. A dust cloud churned in the wake of the machines.

Up and down, up and down, the machines travelled, stripping the field of its produce. Soon the first tractor trailer departed for the sugar factory and was replaced by a second, with young Joe Padmore at the wheel. McCarthy slowed the harvester as he approached the middle of the cane-field, looking out for the familiar four-foot high coral stone surround at the top of the well there. He stopped his machine a couple of feet in front of the stonework. He unscrewed the cap of the silver flask next to him, put the flask to his head and downed some of the cold mauby it contained. From a brown paper bag, he extracted a cheese cutter, bit a chunk and chewed it slowly. Finished his morning snack, he tidied up and prepared to restart work.

He might have missed the shoe as he was about to back away, but It called me, he said later. Older Bajans talk about this kind of instinct as if it were a separate being talking to them, what they termed a mind. A mind tell me to do this, they would say, and one had to be very careful about ignoring or overruling what a mind told you to do. McCarthy’s mind told him, This don’t look right. What the hell would a woman’s shoe be doing in the middle of a cane-ground, next to a well?


Detective Sergeant A.D. Crick responded promptly to the urgent text message from Senior Superintendent Thomas. He turned his vehicle around and headed for the Holetown Police Station. He had already heard about the discovery of the body on his car radio and from colleagues, so the message from his superintendent was not a surprise. Crick had been on the trail of a suspect concerning a robbery in Sandy Lane: not the grand hotel but its annex, that original set of exclusive luxury villa developments which, dotted around golf greens, occupied the rest of what was formerly the Sandy Lane sugar plantation. But murder always took precedence over robbery. He drove slowly out of the blocks of low-income terraced houses past a group of young men hunched on makeshift seating at the side of the road. He looked at them and they glared at him, each knowing the other. He had arrested two of them before. He knew that to them he was an enforcer for a power structure that they rejected and one which they considered rejected them. To Crick, some of them had succumbed to a way of thinking which sanctioned a range of illegal activities, breaking and entering, armed robbery, dope dealing, you name it. They were from the same place as he, but had chosen a different path, one which put them and him on a collision course from time to time. His younger brother, Marcus, a sociologist, said they were the natural outcome of a well-intentioned but not well-thought-out bit of social engineering. The intention was to provide housing for those unable to provide for themselves; the result was the creation of separate, inorganic communities of the poor and already socially isolated, a perfect recruitment ground for criminal gangs. They had simply built houses and left the building of communities to groups of disadvantaged persons, who needed more than a place to rest their heads. Crick didn’t accept Marcus’ explanation. As far as he was concerned, the people he pursued and arrested didn’t give a shite. After all, not everyone who grew up in a government housing scheme turned to crime as a way of life, and the law abiding majority lived in fear of this criminal-minded minority. That was why each time they victimised someone on his patch, he chased them down and it was, “me and them.”


Holetown was a two street town. There was a First Street and a Second Street, both located toward the northern end of a four-hundred-meter strip of main road and opposite the new upscale Lime Grove shopping mall and the old Methodist church. Jerome once told Crick that this was an interesting juxtaposition of God and mammon. Holetown was a little town which had been through an evolution in the last fifty years. It had earned the designation of a town by virtue of being home to regional civic facilities, and it had been the seat of local government up to the early sixties when the system was scrapped and all political power transferred to the Barbados’ national parliament in Bridgetown.
According to Crick’s father, Gerald, Holetown used to be residential to quite a cross-section of Barbadian society. There were lower-, lower-middle- and middle-upper-income families who lived there, in chattel houses or stone bungalows or more imposing “upstairs” houses. Gerald told him that the Carews, the Simmonses and the Hutsons, prominent Holetown Bajans, once lived there. Now, none of the original inhabitants remained, having taken advantage of the commercial expansion of the little town by leasing or selling their properties to businesses. So, Holetown now bustled with restaurants, bars, shops, malls, banks and much of what Barbadians would find in a larger town, and it had spawned its own suburbs in Sunset Crest, Jamestown Park and Sunset Ridge, all located in what were once sugar-cane fields. Holetown’s special place in the history of Barbados, Crick reflected, apart from being the only town in the universe named for a hole, was that in 1627 it was the landing site of the first British settlers to the island.


The smile faded from Superintendent Thomas’s face and was replaced by an earnest look. He leaned forward as he spoke.”I have requested Detective Constable Lashley from Bridgetown, to work on this case with you. I have heard really good things about her… I have met her and am very impressed.”

Crick raised his eyebrows and looked at the SIO, saying nothing for a moment, but thinking, why the ass he want to give me some little schoolgirl on this case? We already have Mason from Greenfield and it is his immediate jurisdiction. And we can also call on Moore from up at Crab Hill, next door, or Simmons from Speightstown. These guys know the area and the criminals up there. But when he spoke his tone was even.

“She is a promising youngster, sir, but, no disrespect…I don’t think we need her, and if we did need someone, I would prefer a more experienced detective. Did you hear how that young Princess Royal College girl vomited all over the place when she saw her first murder victim, the woman that the man stabbed-up in Nelson Street?” asked Crick.

“I know. I heard about it. How the image of the bloodied victim touched her. But I also heard how it motivated her. She became obsessed with the case, and she found the killer. But you know what really impressed the boys at Bridgetown about her? They tell me that she is always thinking and she makes you think, too,” said the SIO, wagging a finger in Crick’s direction.

“Sir, PRC girls and boys don’t normally end up in the police force. They become doctors or lawyers or accountants or teachers or professionals in some area revered by the general population of Barbados.”

Princess Royal College was one of Barbados elite secondary schools. Its pupils were creamed off at around eleven years old by virtue of having excelled at a national common entrance examination, which influenced, if not quite determined, the future of many primary school students. The exam was part of the legacy of the island’s colonial education system. The exam has long since been abandoned in England.

“Sergeant Crick, the Shondette Lashleys of this world are the future of the Royal Barbados Police Force. She is the youngest detective in the history of the force. The world has changed and policing in Barbados has to change with it otherwise the criminals will run rings around us. For a number of years our policy makers have been trying to raise the quality of our senior officers. First, they wanted to recruit suitable candidates for officer training school but this, you will remember, was very firmly rejected by the Police Association, which insisted that senior officers had to come through the ranks. The second strategy was to encourage policemen already in service to pursue tertiary education. Allowances were made for suitable breaks from work to fit in with university schedule I am one of the beneficiaries of this strategy.You should have taken advantage of this. You have the ability.” The SO’s voice rose as he spoke the last few words and his tone suggested annoyance to Crick. Crick did not respond.