The parliament was in session at my local pub, called as usual when an issue of national or local importance is at large. It is made up largely of middle-aged or old men, with wise heads on tired bodies. All are black, most Caribbean. They vote less and less often in national elections and read the tabloids, the Daily Mirror in the main. My major role in this august body is to provide odd bits of information, to take the discussion out of any particular rut and advance it further, and (though this is almost impossible) to keep order.
The latest issue was Dr David Kelly. Did he commit suicide? Or was he murdered? West Indians are instinctively sceptical about both the media and the ruling establishment, simply because so much garbage has been written and spoken about them.
I proposed that they sit as a coroner's jury, and they agreed. Fatwall opened. He saw no reason for the description of Kelly as a softie, alarmed by loud-mouthed MPs on the select committee. After all, the man had been operating in a world of espionage. He was in and out of Baghdad, the most dangerous place on earth. I threw in the fact that he had managed to uncover the most vicious assembly of weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union. Lawrence was pumped up: "Dey put the man in a safe house, which is a place for spies, and why didn't they follow him?" He meant: why hadn't they kept him under surveillance? Kelly was a man of the dark world, said Lawrence, a man whom the Saddamists (I thought he was saying "sodomists") would like to kill. Winston piped up: "And the CIA, too, dem man dey kill their friends if they fall out of line."
Tessa gave us a feminine view. The man had long been married: surely if he was in a suicidal state, his wife must have known and would not have let him go walking on his own. And did he not, on that morning, send an e-mail to someone in the US saying "see you in Iraq"? Then, on his walk, he stroked a fellow villager's dog and carried on a normal conversation. Lawrence was certain the murderer was an Arab. Why? "Arabs like knife and dagger." Jaykadie hardly ever speaks, and now came his only question: "Was Kelly under arrest?" I thought that Jay was several pints of beer ahead of us. "No, no, no," he insisted. Kelly had gone to the select committee with two policemen, one on each side.
The jury's verdict? Murder by an unknown hand. I added a rider. Maybe he was invited to do the honourable thing.