FINAL ISLANDS IN THE SUN
“So what did you want to become?”
The question came to her mind from an old man whom she could hardly remember. She tried visualizing that old man. The best she could make out was her class mates at university telling her how wise that old man was. Very wise, they insisted.
“So what did you want to become? At his age, I mean?”
The old man had this sinister habit of repeating the same thing over and over.
She turned, feeling dazed. She wanted to answer the old man’s question, tell him he was outdated; and that his kind never lasted long.
“Miss,” came a harsh voice, and she realized she was at a police station.
“Miss,” the constable repeated, edging her along, into the dark confines of the station’s interview rooms. “The senior sergeants are waiting.”
Then as if in place of reciting ‘you have the right to remain silent’ the constable blurted out suddenly: “You bashed up that little boy like he was an adult.”
She knew then that even she might have been manhandled somewhere along the way.
She swore. She spat.
“The little brat was paraphrasing you grown up apes,” she muttered under her breath.
“Constable,” a senior policeman emerged from a room down the corridor. “Just show Miss Caswell in, will you?”
The constable instantly snapped shut his heels and led her into what looked like a conference room for senior police officers. Three senior sergeants looked up mournfully at her. She shrugged, took the seat offered her.
“Someone coming for you, Miss Caswell?” said the one who had directed the constable to lead her in. “We have an odd case here,” he added, indicating a file on the table.
“The laws you women create in parliament, Miss Caswell, bounce back at you like this one,” chuckled another, pushing the file towards her.
Caswell was cracking her now bruised knuckles. The three senior sergeants smiled.
“Let us hope someone does come for you, Miss Caswell,” they all said, rose and went outside.
She was left alone. She flipped through the pages. The intending charges looked ridiculously fabricated. She didn’t lie in wait and ambush the innocent little boy. And what’s this about child abuse, for God’s sake? She read on: complex childhood plus peer pressure, parental demands of getting the best in life, failed emotional associations, high cost of professional maintenance fees, boredom, aloneness, lack of social input… what the heck is lack of social input… all these, culminating in that resort to aggression as necessary distraction…adding, finally, that child abuse was a serious offence.
She pushed the file away, making it look as if she did not open it at all. The sergeant who did the chuckling seemed too old to be employed in the police force. She wondered why aged old seniors like him still loitered around in the public service.
She sat there, waiting. A cleaner mopped her way in to where she was and asked her to lift her feet so she could do the rest of the room. She obliged. After mopping the whole room the cleaner asked if there was anything she wanted. Yes, she wanted the senior officials attending her case immediately.
The cleaner advised her that they would be out for a while. It was their lunch hour.
“The people who forced you down to this police station were remorseless, my elder,” said the cleaner.
“I don’t need your sympathy,” she said. “That boy needed discipline.”
“Still, they shouldn’t have dragged you here by the hand,” said the cleaner, adding “my elder” with extreme courtesy.
The cleaner had a point. People justice was getting out of hand in Port Moresby. She looked at the cleaner closely. She looked familiar, like someone from her part of the country. She wondered, though, why an elderly looking cleaner like this one would address her as “my elder”.
But as if in answer to her wondering, the cleaner bowed slightly and said, “Our hill together, my elder.”
There was a commotion outside.
The cleaner did a sudden genuflect and remained still, her head bowed.
The three senior sergeants made their return to the interview room somewhat hurriedly. The fat and older one was sweating. It was a behavior least expected of the seniors. A few security personnel entered the police station, clicked their heels and stood at attention. The crowd moved aside to let a woman through. The woman looked thirtyish. She displayed a certain amount of authority about her, sniffing at what lay before her from a height. The cleaner remained as she was. The woman looked at the cleaner briefly then waved her to rise.
“Ku Gaesasara,” said the cleaner and rose to stand at ease.
The woman nodded and marched into the interview room.
“Lady Gaesasara,” said the fat old sergeant with a bow, his palms glued together in reverence. “It is good to see you here in person. We did not realize Miss Caswell was your client. Do forgive us.”
“There is nothing to forgive, my elder,” said the woman. “I must rather thank you and your good officers for looking after my client well. Is there anything you would like me to know before I take her away?”
“Nothing that would warrant addition to the noise the media is making about Miss Caswell, Lady Gaesasara,” said the old sergeant, “except, of course, her file here which we shall keep for our own records.”
“Ah, yes; the media and their usual tirades. Very well, then, I shall leave with my client.”
As the constable escorted her out to Lady Gaesasara’s men, the cleaner leaned over to the woman they called Miss Caswell and whispered, “Our hill together. You are in good hands. All charges will be dropped.”
Miss Caswell looked puzzled. She turned, regardless, nodded her thanks to the cleaner and the constable and was whisked out of sight.
The old man and the other sergeants followed suit, escorting Lady Gaesasara to her car. The young constable turned and joined them, to whom Lady Gaesasara turned and said, “And where are you from, young man?”
“And where might Boku be?”
“Inland Rigo, Lady Gaesasara.”
“Ah, yes. Where the loyal ones come from, wouldn’t you say so, constable?”
“I heard mention of such, Lady Gaesasara.”
“As loyal as the Baniaras?”
“That also I heard mention of.”
“You heard mention of these, constable. Don’t you have an opinion of your own?”
“That I do, sir!” said the constable and quickly snapped shut his heels to attention. “Ku Gaesasara! Our hill together!”
The senior police officers, particularly the old sergeant, nodded in agreement. Lady Gaesasara was visibly impressed. The power of law, she thought.
The crowd that had brought Miss Caswell to the station decreased in number by now. A few angry murmurs could be heard, however. But there were no rocks or stones, nor even sticks and footwear cast that day. And Lady Gaesasara’s party along with the police officers would then wonder how long it would take to hold out such spates of mob justice. The saddest thought of all that crossed Lady Gaesasara’s mind was what to do with the little boy who had provoked a simple law-abiding woman to violence.