All the calls to Mickey’s phone went straight to voicemail. If they had gone unanswered, then it wouldn’t have seemed suspicious at first. Mickey wasn’t the type to turn off his phone or have his phone uncharged for extended periods of time, but depending on what he was doing, he wouldn’t always pick up. He was all about his money, and as a taxi driver, his phone was second only to his car. The car was a recently purchased Hiace van. The taxi business was treating Mickey well. He had recently moved into one of those apartments in the vicinity of Chilitos and Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road. He probably left Papine because he thought it wasn’t safe anymore. I know that’s the reason I left. In the ghetto, a trying youth is not always a welcomed sight, but at least you can always see trouble coming.
I knew Mickey all my life, and though I was only one month older than he was, I thought of him as my little brother. We went to Basic School (Kindergarten) together many years ago. He used to stop by my house in the mornings on his way to school, and we would walk together. Then it was Primary (Middle) School and later, High School. I was always more mature than Mickey. So I looked out for him, not that he felt he needed anybody to look out for him. He was a ball of energy that left an impression wherever he went. The thing with Mickey was that he always needed guidance and direction, or else he would go astray.
By the time I got the news that Mickey was missing, he had been missing for a week. Seven days had passed, and nobody had seen or heard from him. He hadn’t checked up on his mother and the taxi men he worked with hadn’t seen him on the road for a while. His van was not at his apartment, and his apartment door was found open. Nothing was missing from the home, and there were no visible signs of a struggle or any foul play. It was as if Mickey had vanished.
Mickey’s housemate wasn’t much help. All he could say was that Mickey wasn’t there when he got home, but that because of the nature of his job, he didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t know this guy, and I was not fond of him. He had taken my place, and now my oldest friend was missing, and he didn’t know anything.
A month earlier, Mickey and I were supposed to have moved in together. He had shown me the apartment, but I wasn’t as enthusiastic about it as he was. I guess he thought anything was better than living with his family in Papine. I was leery of the whole thing from the start. The landlord was a shady looking Rastafarian he called Dread. I suspected that the real owner was overseas, and Dread was just looking after the place until he returned. The lease for the apartment was for six months. I asked Dread why the lease wasn’t for one year, but he couldn’t give me a sensible answer. His response was, however, good enough for Mickey. I got the feeling Mickey would have taken the apartment even if it didn’t have a roof. The apartment needed major repairs. The door to one of the bedrooms was busted, the kitchen sink and cupboards needed replacing and the bathroom faucet was leaking. I told him if he or the landlord fixed the issues then I would move in. The next time we spoke, he had gotten a house-mate. I was upset and disappointed, but I had come to expect stuff like that from Mickey.
It was now two weeks since Mickey was missing and we were not any closer to finding him. He was now one of the hundreds of people who go missing in Jamaica each year, many of which are never found. The ones that they find are not usually found alive. Mickey’s parents had notified the police and gotten the local TV and radio stations to broadcast missing person announcements. All through this ordeal, there was an eerie calm. We were all dying inside, but for the most part, everybody kept it together. Mickey’s mother was the epitome of calmness. She had found religion; I didn’t know if it was genuine or if it was because her youngest child was missing and she felt helpless. It was our first time dealing with a situation like this. I had seen countless movies about kidnappings and missing persons, but this was nothing like in the movies. There were no tactical meetings, no investigation or ransom demands. Just a whole lot of hoping and praying. A part of me wanted to believe that Mickey was safe and sound somewhere, and this was all a joke or careless mistake on his part. If that were the case, we would have probably beat his ass for putting us through this ordeal.
This incident wasn’t the first time Mickey had caused widespread panic and prayers. One day while on his way home from Primary School, Mickey fell off the top road on Gordon Town Road, across from Bigga’s Plaza, and onto the bottom road that leads to Tavern in Papine (Trust me if you know the area it will make a lot more sense). He was severely injured and only saved because a passerby found him and rushed him to the hospital. He was admitted with a punctured lung. We were never sure what caused Mickey’s fall, but rumor had it that he was doing somersaults when it happened. Mickey was well-known for doing somersaults, but he never did them again after that day.
As news of Mickey’s disappearance spread so too did the rumors. There was one that he met a White woman, and they ran away together. Another said that he came into a large sum of money, and disappeared to enjoy his new-found fortune. A friend of the family did have some important news, though. He informed us that Mickey frequently visited a young lady in the Patrick City area. He told us that based on the nature of the visits, he concluded that Mickey and this woman were involved. It was now three weeks since Mickey was missing and this was the first piece of useful information we had received.
Things were about to take a strange turn. The family friend spoke to the young lady and arranged a meeting between her and Mickey’s mother. The mystery woman claimed she had no idea that Mickey was missing, but she assured his mom that he was alive and that she could contact him. The plan was that she would contact Mickey and then have him call his mother. I couldn’t help thinking that this woman was somehow involved in Mickey’s disappearance. To that end, we proposed an idea to his mom; get some men of questionable character from the neighborhood to pay this woman a visit. If Mickey didn’t show up by a particular time, then the men would pay her another visit and this time, they wouldn’t be so friendly. Mickey’s mom would have no part of it; She said she wanted to have a clear conscience, and she didn’t want to ruin any chance of her son returning safely to her. I didn’t understand her reasoning, but I respected it. Our hands were tied without her blessing. All we could do was wait, and that’s all we did.
Every time Mickey’s mom’s phone rang, she hoped it was her son and then one evening it was. Tears streamed down her face when she heard Mickey’s voice. The voice on the other end of the phone sounded distressed and groggy, but she knew it was her son. She questioned him about his whereabouts and wellbeing, but he didn’t respond. The few words he did mutter were about money. It was as if he was in a trance. He kept repeating: “A just some money mi want.” After awhile the line went dead, his mom wasn’t sure if he hung up or if somebody took the phone away. She also wasn’t sure what to make of the phone call. She was happy he was alive, but now she had many more questions.
To be continued…..