“Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“To give Officer Roy the busiest day of his life.”

This is a popular joke here and I don’t mind it. The things the police handle on this island are mostly small. Mr. So-and-So cut down Miss So-and-So’s sugar-apple tree. A scuffle at Papa Mango’s. Floyd Vanterpool operating an unlicensed taxi again. We do see a few cases of domestic trouble each year.

Much of my job involves helping our children here grow up safely and become upstanding citizens, and I like this work. Every year I visit the island primaries and teach a lesson on bicycle safety. For my demonstration I ride a small pink bike with streamers on the handlebars, and this always receives a good laugh. When children see me around they shout, “Officer Roy!” “Officer Roy!” just to say hello.

When the young folk have a late-night bacchanal on Little Beach I have no choice but to bust it up, but I try not to be too cross with them when I do so. I try to remember that I limed on Little Beach myself in my time. While they clean up their rubbish I make jokes. If I see a boy and girl coming out of the bushes together I say, “She out of your league, man!” If I see a boy who’s small for his age I say, “Who invited this nursery child to the party?”

If I see some youths clustering outside Perry’s in the Basin I pull up beside them and say, “This is loitering. I’m going to have to write you up.” You should see how some of the toughest ones look like they might soil themselves until I start laughing.

“Aw, man, don’t do that s*** to we!” they say, but they’re not really mad.

“Do it up, Officer Roy!” they beg when I prepare to drive away. “Please, Officer Roy?” I turn on my lights and my siren and drive off to their cheers. I have a rapport with them, you could say. I watch these kids grow and I play my part.

Edwin and Gogo—I used to shoo them away from the radio tower when they were snot-nosed little boys. I came up with Gogo’s daddy, God rest his sweet soul. I pulled those two and their hooligan mates over for drunk driving all the time and took them in to sleep it off. I never saw it as punishment. I never wrote them up. I was protecting them from their young stupid selves, like pulling a baby back from the water’s edge. My wife and I couldn’t have children. The island children are my children.

I must have picked Edwin and Gogo up a hundred times before that night. That’s how I know something happened and they were part of it. Because the ninety-nine other times I pulled them over, on the drive to the station they joked with me and made chitchat. But that time, the night Alison Thomas died, neither one of them said a word.

Saint X: A Novel