Part of the ‘Cazique of Poyais’ story – read more here
A third ship full of emigrants has now arrived in Belize Town onboard the Mexican Eagle and Major-General Edward Codd, often just referred to as General Codd, was less impressed with every group that cane ashore. His immediate disgust was for the man who had most likely planned and instigated this scheme that had left so many dead and more close to destitution. The details were yet unknown, but General Codd was determined to find the extent of it.
As soon as he had understood the background to these suffering Poyais ‘settlers’, he quickly decided on his course of action. First, he immediately quickly despatched word to his superiors in Britain, advising them of the fate that had befallen the Poyais ‘settlers’. He hesitated to use the word for there was nothing to settle, but it was the most accurate word for the unfortunate souls. Second, he did what any good superintendent would do when faced with an uncertain set of facts and true tragedy. An investigation was immediately opened to lay open the true situation of the imaginary State of Poyais and the unfortunate settlers.
It was on this second course of action that now brought Lieutenant Levearson to his office. Levearson was on the older side for a Lieutenant and acted more like a sergeant in how he dealt with his men out in this remote part of the empire. There was surely work to be done, but it never strained the resources.
Levearson stood at ease in front of General Codd’s desk awaiting instructions which he knew were in relation to the Poyais settlers. The scenes had been relatively benign as people had arrived on the Mexican Eagle’s ferry service from what they called Poyais, but the officials of Belize Town knew as part of King George Frederic’a domain and also as a disease ridden swamp. Now strain was starting to show in places. The hospital was full with the Poyais Settlers and the Town was overcapacity by some margin. Some of the duped wished to stay in the new world where they still very much intended to make a new life while others had lost those they depended on and were likely to receive no quarter from any of the Belize Town inhabitants. Crowd control was underway and discipline being strictly kept in light of numbers, so it puzzled Levearson as to exactly what was required of him.
“I’ve opened an investigation, Lieutenant. We must discover how this all happened and report back on it. Use any men you can spare without jeopardising the safety of the town.”
“Sir, of course. How far shall I investigate, Sir?”
“As you see fit based on the people’a accounts here. I suspect we may not fully get to the bottom of this all, but it’s what must be done.”
“Of course, Sir. I’ll be on my way then.”
Levearson turned and left General Codd’s office with his new task and the pride and satisfaction of someone chosen for a great new project. He knew that the tavern would be the first place to stop. Where else did people talk freely and openly without fear? Fear is tucked away in a dark recess, quarantined by alcohol and the adrenaline of human interaction. Anger reins free and from there truths and half truths flow. As long as he could soak up this initial information it would give him a good start to his investigation. Formalities, of course, would have to follow, but Levearson never thought those formalities could get to the heart of the matter.
It was still early in the afternoon. The sun hung still quite high in the sky, basking it’s radiant heat down upon the inhabitants of Belize Town. For those newer arrivals, unused to the heat and with nothing to do, the tavern by the waterfront offered them their only solace. All they had saved for their future sat in the bank of some impostor who sold them a tall tale. This was the view of most, so they rubbed what little pennies they had left in life together to conjure up one of many elixirs that helped a person forget.
The Belize Town tavern could hold only a few people on the inside, but it had the great advantage of the waterfront. It was nothing special by any standard, that is sure. Still, when the time was right the certain Belize Town residents enjoyed it and so did visiting sailors. There had been known to be small problems here and there in the past, particularly when any unscrupulous bunch of sailors were about. All in all it was ok.
Now, with this influx of the depressed and downtrodden souls, it was at bursting point. Fights broke out at random as anger flared to the surface and was pointed and whatever direction was available.
As Levearson walked in with his right hand man, Smith, they knew they would hit jackpot here in terms of material. The question was how much was truth and how much just pure anger.
The happier lot were out on the waterfront, so they made their way into the darker depths of the tavern to find a table in the corner where they could quietly over hear the general murmurs of discontent more clearly. Before they could even order a drink, they heard a couple lamenting their fortunes.
“How could this have happened, John?” Asked a young woman to a young man who sat head in hands sipping a rum.
“God’s will or something like that, that’s all. Why do you keep bugging me about it?”
“Your brother died out there on that god forsaken land and his wife lies in that wretched hospital here with a fever that may never pass!”
The man, John, stood up shock straight and looked about to hit the woman, but then quickly receded, seeing little point.
The woman continued, “it was that man who came and spoke in the town hall selling his bonds and plots of land. That Gregor MacGregor. It’s his fault all of this is.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about woman! He was an honourable man he was. Served in the army in both Europe and here in South America. It was his bloody agents. That Colonel Cook and those bankers. Sir MacGregor owned the land alright, but it was those bankers who tarted it up so we would buy those bonds as well.”
The woman was incredulous, staring at her husband, “Are you telling me that ‘Sir’ MacGrgegor is completely blameless. That he didn’t know what this land was like, this Poyais that he so ‘humbly’ decreed himself ‘Prince’ over? You’re mad you are!”
“He just sold us the land, woman. He hadn’t been there himself. It was that Captain Thomas Strangeways that wrote the book talking about this place as the land of milk and honey. He’s the bastard that’s duped us all, Sir MacGregor included!”
“You are a classic fool, you are. Blame the agents and everyone else but the man who perpetrated the crime and the man stupid enough to fall for the con.”
John couldn’t take it any more. Criticism is not taken well by most and it hurts more coming from those you love in the moments when you feel powerless. Stranded, for want of a better term, on the other side of a great ocean with none of the opportunity that had been promised to him and in turn he promised to his loved ones. They were barren husks of people sparring an endless battle of blame and hatred. There was no real blame. Circumstances had simply stacked up against them to the point that they toppled all over, leaving John’s brother dead, his sister in-law terminally sick and him and his wife clawing on to whatever semblance of a future they had. Anger was all they really had in this moment as they weren’t strong enough to let love see them through. Perhaps their love wasn’t strong enough to begin with.
His wife, the young lady made to speak again, but before she could, John slammed his fists on the table and stood up in a rage looking down upon her with a fire and passion she had never seen and said, “Enough, woman. I will hear no more of this. Sit here quietly or get out of my face.”
This was hardly a decision for the young woman who promptly stood up and retreated quickly out of the tavern, leaving John to sip at his rum in horrible contemplation.
Levearson made a decision quickly and him and Smith followed the young woman out the door. They would find out more from this scorned and neglected woman than any of the drunken fools wallowing in their own self pity and bad fortune. They decided it was best to see where exactly she was going.
The young woman, more angry and determined than sad and confused, was clearly the stronger of the couple and was prepared to weather this particular storm by fighting rather than hiding. She made her way along the waterside and then cut in which made it obvious to the following investigators where exactly she was going. Before they could each make their guess, there it came into sight, the small Belize Town hospital. It was nothing special, but carried all of the standard care facilities and tools that were commonly available. The key issue now is as that no one had ever designed it to care for the hundreds that now sat within it harbouring some tropical disease or the other.
As dangerous as it was entering a hospital, the young lady went straight in. Likely to see the sister in law that she had spoken of with her husband. Levearson and Smith hesitated outside. Both military men, they did not properly fear death, but rather the thought of going to a disease than in combat. You could stop another person from stabbing you or shooting you. They were both well trained in that. How to stop yourself from catching a disease was trickier. Sure, they could both walk in to the hospital and then walk back out again without anything. There was also the very distinct possibility of becoming ill.
“One of us will have to go in,” Levearson said, “We need to get to the bottom of what happened in ‘Poyais’ and it seems more likely we’ll get it out of this woman than any of those louts down in the tavern.”
Smith had a resigned look about him. He was the type that would follow orders. He made an attempt at something different though and said, “Surely there are others that aren’t swilling around in a tavern that we can find and reach out to. This seems like an unnecessary danger.”
“It is a danger, but I’m not sure about unnecessary. We need to find out what happened. It’s our duty. I’m not convinced that this young woman will provide us with everything. Now that I think about it though, it’s likely that the people most willing to speak are those sitting on death’s door in this hospital.”
“I see,” replied Smith, “into the hornet’s nest then.”
“No,” said Levearson, “Just me. I won’t endanger you if you don’t want to go in. It is important though, so I will be. If you don’t want to come, find me someone who can help me out. I worry that you may catch something in any event.”
Levearson wasn’t doing it on purpose, but he had just hit Smith’s button. There was no way that he was going to let Levearson go into the hospital on his own now.