I see her standing on the pier waiting with MCS. I don’t have my glasses on, so I can’t tell that she’s crying. But I can see from her posture that something is wrong. She and MCS come over to where Bigness and I are retrieving our big plastic bins full of supplies and produce from the water taxi. We've been gone a few days to the mainland to my studio so that I can have some peace and paint. I see her face is puffy and eyes red, almost swollen shut like she’s been beaten down and was crying a hard cry. The kind where you cry yourself to sleep and in the morning your eyes are so swollen, you can hardly open them.
“What’s wrong Jane?” I ask, thinking maybe she had a fight with her boyfriend. Being 18, half Belizean half AMerican, and a little bit crazy is a hard life, but someone’s got to live it.
“Miss Lee I was attacked” said Jane
“Attacked how?” I’m looking at her more closely now and I can see she has sand ground into her ears, the edge of her scalp like someone pushed her into the dirt and held her down. I can see claw marks on her face and neck and she shows me a large bruise on her hip. Her pupil in one eye is blown out, dilated, the blood vessels in both eyes are popped.
“I can’t remember everything, except that I was at the I & I Bar with MCS and we hadn’t had much to drink except 2 or 3 beers. I started to feel strange like I was going to pass out, and wanted to leave, so we left and went outside, then I can’t remember anything until I was walking home and got to Mr. Chaninos yard and this guy came up and grabbed my face from behind and started to choke me. I tried to scream but he had his hands over my mouth and nose."
I look at MCS and raise my eyebrows (I never get the straight story), she immediately says to me “Mom, we didn’t have that much to drink. I think we were drugged. I think someone put Ecstasy in our beer trying to set us up. It made me feel queasy and I threw up right after leaving the bar, but it went into Jane’s system and totally screwed her up.”
Just then the female officer in charge of the case comes up and its time for them to get on the boat to San Pedro to see the magistrate and the physician that has to examine her.
When she arrives back on Caye Caulker she comes to see me again and I take close up pictures of her face all puffy and bruised, the choke marks on her neck, blown out pupil in one eye, scraped bruised hips, knees, elbows and feet.
The story comes in bits and pieces over the next few days.
“I want you to do a couple of things” I tell Jane. “I want you to go see Miss Reene and tell her what happened, she knows people at the consulate.” I don’t know how to deal with this, how much I should get involved in the rape and attempted murder. “I want you to see our female Cuban (free) doctor on Caye Caulker and have an examination by she or our Guyanese nurse Dona.” Jane reminds me of my youngest daughter Malibu Mallory. Except Jane is much more silly and a little bit crazy. We have had these long conversations about what her prospects are like on Caye Caulker and what her future holds and the conclusion is always that she needs to go back to the real world and get into college and get a real job and make some money before she comes back, more prepared with an idea about what she wants from life.
“She only speaks Spanish, and you know I can’t speak Spanish.”
“It doesn’t matter, the nurse speaks English. I also want you to call your mother in the U.S. and tell her what happened.”
“I can’t do that, it will only make things worse”
“She doesn’t want me there and I’ll just worry her.”
“She’s your mother and she should know what’s going on. No matter what. Does Miss Ellie know?" I ask Jane about her Belizean step grandmother.
“Probably, but I’m not telling my Dad. You know all about him” (he’s hard on crack and will probably land back in prison soon for thieving someone’s bicycle to pay for a rock) “He will just make things worse, scold me and blame me for it.”
Jane wasn’t even supposed to be here. She had a return ticket for the end of March and had decided to go back home and go to school. She left for the airport on they day she was supposed to leave, and because her flight hadn’t been confirmed, they sold her seat. THEY SOLD HER SEAT. How many of you have ever confirmed your flight? Me? N E V E R. The next available flight was 2 weeks away. The day she was supposed to leave again, her mom didn’t want to pay the flight change fee (so the story goes).
More of the story tumbles out over the next few days as I'm baking cookies for the store, or working on the computer, or laying in the hammock trying to read (new shipment of books has just srrived). Bigness stays out of it, as usual. He sees her coming and runs to hide.
I hear clomp clomp clomp up the wooden stairs from the beach, “Hi Miss Lee, is MCS home? No?” Big sigh as Jane plops down on a chair and starts to unravel. “I thought I was going to die right there. I should have died, you are looking at a dead person right now. I am a dead person. I am dead.” Jane blurts out with a gush.
“No you’re not, you’re a person with a very strong will to live.” I tell her these simple truths about herself. “You are alive because you are supposed to be. If you were supposed to be dead it would have happened.” I tell her the plane crash story about oldest daughter coming home for Christmas early, urgently wanting to get home, me begrudgingly change her ticket (costs money) and the original plane she was supposed to be on crashes, kills everyone on board. “Let’s try and figure out why this happened and how you can avoid this happening again.” I’m really not trying to use cheap pop psychology, but I’m not a trained counselor, I have no idea what to say.
We decide to take a little trip to get away. Business is slow and I need to get to Placencia and service my wholesale accounts down there. What it going to cost for an extra person to ride along? MCS has only been as far south as Dangriga, so this is a new experience for her too. Cashews are coming into season, and the trees on the mainland are loaded with them. If you look closely, there are 2 parts to the fruit. The top part is sweet and juicy and you squeeze the juice out, but you don't eat the meat (don't ask me why I have no idea) the bottom of the fruit holds the cashew nut which is poisonous until roasted (so the legend says)
United Nations baby sucks the sweet juice from the cashew fruit. Although I thought the aftertaste had a slightly gasolina ambiance to it, the fruit probably wasn't as ripe as it could be.
It’s a manhunt:
I’m in my studio on the mainland and the radio is on in the living room. I hear snatches of words, almost in my subconscious. A woman on Love FM at the news hour, a call in, disowning her son for what he’s done to dem pipples on key kakka. Bigness speculates that the police have visited the parents of the rapist and “questioned” them. I ask him if he thinks they will catch him and he says “Of course, it’s a small country and unless he goes through the back door (escapes to Mexico or Guatemala) they will get him in time. I post a slightly obscure inquiry on a message board for San Pedro asking if anyone has information.
While we were out:
The suspect shows back up on Caye Caulker and THE POLICE ACTUALLY DO THEIR JOB AND ARREST THE GUY. A Y E - M A Y - Z I N G. The morning that Jane and MCS came back to the island the rapist had just been led in handcuffs by an officer, to the water taxi and taken to see the judge on the mainland. They probably passed his boat going in the opposite direction.
In the News: No Bail for Caye Caulker Rape Suspect
He had two attorneys representing him in Magistrate's Court, but that didn't prevent one man from going to jail today. 37-year-old Ladyville fisherman Herman Crawford appeared in connection with a report made by an 18 year old female from Caye Caulker. She reported that on Tuesday morning she had been hanging out and shortly after 1:00 am, he dragged her into an open lot, choked her and forcefully had sex with her.
Crawford was charged with grievous harm and rape. The harm charge arises because a doctor who examined her classified the injuries to her neck as grievous. Despite arguments from Crawford's attorneys B.Q. Pitts and Lutchman Sooknandan, Lord said he denied bail because he does not want to exercise his discretion on way or the other and defers to Earl Jones, the presiding magistrate for San Pedro.
The comments from people have been a mixed bag. Some people here will walk right up to your face and say what they think, others tell their friend and they tell their friend and they tell their friend. Some say she deserved it, what is any girl doing out after midnight? All good girls are in bed by 10. Some say, poor baby, if you need to talk to someone, I'm there for you, but you know its all a bunch of crap. People are so insincere.
I don’t think anybody deserves this. But sometimes you have to burn your hand on the stove before you acknowledge that it’s hot. How many times did we screw up when we were teenagers, drinking and driving, doing stuff we weren't supposed to, being where we weren't supposed to be? I remember the summer between high school and college, another foot and I would have put my parents car over a small cliff and into a lake. Mom, if you're reading this, don't tell Dad, O.K.?
You know you're living in a small country when... an inmate from the country's only prison calls you (because you're listed in the phone book) to tell you the rapist was immediately remanded to Hattieville Prison - no bail - to await trial.
There is a whole shadowy underworld out there, some of it we're aware of, some of its is just lurking and waiting for an opportunity. Yes, were living in paradise, but its not heaven.
Its been 2 weeks and the bruises are almost gone, her pupil is back to normal, but the bruised and bloodshot eyes of a near strangled girl remain wide open and afriad. Clomp clomp clomp up the wooden stairs, "Is MCS here? I don't want to walk home alone."