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The Mystery of Mount Ida
By George W Graham
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Not rated by the Author.
A mysterious house fascinates a child.
Along the mountain ridges facing Jamaica's southwest shore, the trees grow at a forty-five degree angle because of the furious prevailing wind. The mournful whistling of the willow trees late at night can make the hair rise on the nape of your neck.
It was there that a Jamaican-born nurse had decided to build her dream home. She came home from England for a visit, saw a lonely site high above the Caribbean sea, and fell in love with it.
For many years, she sent money to an architect she had retained to build her home. But as the house grew, the money vanished, and by the time it was finished, the nurse was dead. She never got to live in her dream home.
It was called Mount Ida. My maternal grandmother ran a guest house there for a while.
Rising from the craggy terrain, Mount Ida looked like a concrete fortress, its granite-gray walls shadowed by steep inverted eaves. Under its floors were a series of deep, dark storage tanks that caught the water drained from the roof. Fall into that cavernous reservoir and your body would never be found.
It was the perfect setting for an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
But life at Mount Ida was far from sinister.
My grandmother held Sunday school for us and a neighbor's sister, a lady well over fifty who still dressed and acted like a little girl. We sang, "Tell me the old, old story..." and Grandma read from the Bible.
In my memory, I can see a family friend's thirteen-year-old daughter sitting at the piano, her fingers skipping across the keys to create the magic of a Chopin etude. She had performed on ZQI, the radio station that broadcast from Kingston a few hours each afternoon. And I understand she went on to become a celebrated concert pianist in England.
How I marveled at her! How I grieved when she went home to Kingston at the end of the summer ...
Once a group of guests, members of a folk-singing organization, presented a concert. They sang all the old Jamaica songs...
"Sammy plant peas an' corn down a gully, uh-uh! Sammy dead, Sammy dead, Sammy dead, oh..."
"Chi-chi bud, oh, some o' dem a holler, some a bawl..."
"Cockroach 'im buil' one three-foot wall aroun' 'im garden gate..."
Still, the cheery songs and Bible stories never did convince me that Mount Ida had nothing to hide.
Consider the fact that one of the schoolmasters at nearby Munro College mysteriously disappeared, never to be heard of again. Suppose he was involved with shady characters who tracked him to Jamaica, lured him to Mount Ida, and drowned him in the underground reservoir?
It was wartime; suppose he was a German spy? British Intelligence could have killed him and disposed of his body under Mount Ida's floors... All grist for spine-tingling speculation as we children huddled together in the flickering lamplight, listening to the eerie sound of the wind in the eaves.
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