The Girl from the Lane- 17th Installment
The exhalation of Jamaicans could be heard and felt worldwide when the most epic National Elections climaxed on October 30th, 1980. More than a thousand Jamaicans had lost their lives in the process as the island made a choice between the Communist/Socialist ideology of the then ruling party as opposed to the Rightist-Capitalist direction of its opposition. Aided and abetted by the undermining influence of its powerful North American neighbour, the Opposition triumphed, trouncing the socialists 52 to 8 in the number of seats won in the country’s parliament.
The political battles left deep scars in the nation, dividing communities along political lines and literally pitted neighbours against each other. The conflict provided perfect cover for the development and strengthening of criminal and gang violence throughout the island, particularly in the major townships as the guns once controlled by the political contenders were now trained on civil society for personal financial gains. In the capital city, gangs ruled with brutal and deadly force as they sought to carve out territory for themselves.
This was the social climate that the country’s young had to contend with, and with the disappearance of jobs many unwittingly fell in with the ubiquitous gangs that abounded.
“Tony, I need you to hold on to this bag”, Big George instructed as they boarded the shiny new Toyota Corolla motor car. There were five of them in the vehicle as it slid smoothly into the afternoon Washington Boulevard traffic. Tony was seated behind the driver in the right rear passenger seat. Whatever was in the bag carried a fair amount of weight. He cradled the bag in his lap as the car proceeded east along the Boulevard and onto Constant Spring Road.
Tony wondered about Sheila, and about his two children. It had been months since he had seen them as he had not ventured home since the shooting at the post office. His longing for the company of his children and the warmth of Sheila was severe. The fear for their safety as well as that of himself was more compelling and on the instruction of Big George he stayed away. George ran things in that part of Saint Andrew and provided for his support group. Things had however become more challenging since the elections and the loss of political power by the party the group supported as there was no more money to be had from the political representative. The group, like others elsewhere in the country had been forced to fend for itself.
The car had come to a halt the Tropical Shopping Plaza in the Constant Spring Road area. Tony had been too lost in his thoughts to have noticed.
“Give me the bag …, Give me the bag Tony,” Bellowed Big George.
“Wha… what?” Tony Snapped back to the present.
“ Give me the bag man,” said Big George, clearly annoyed with Tony for not being attentive. “ You need to be more alert man.” He added.
“Boss, are you sure that you want to take this youth with us?” asked the driver of the car.
Tony was unaware of what their plans were. He handed the bag to Big George who emptied its contents onto the floor of the car. Big George then issued out four handguns among them. Tony recognized the 9mm that he had received from Errol that fateful night which now seemed ages ago. It then dawned on him that the group was about to rob somewhere. He had no idea as George usually only confided in his driver known only to him as “Scalla.”
It was at that point that the instructions were issued.
Four of them would go around the supermarket pushing shopping carts. Within a twenty minute period they would each join the longest check-out lines with whatever they had loaded into the carts. Big George would approach the manager’s office with a querey. “Thumpa” would provide the cover immediately as George was in the office and join him there. Tony and “Legs would remain in the queues. Scalla of course would remain outside in the car. The entire operation was scheduled to last 25 to thirty minutes. Tony felt the bile rising to his throat from his stomach.
“Jesus Christ,” he thought. “These people are actually going to involve me in a robbery.” “All right,” commanded Big George. “Check your watches. Twenty-five, to a maximum thirty minutes. Just keep your eyes on me.”
The four men filed into the supermarket and meandered around packing indiscriminately selected items in their carts. It was 5.25pm and the Saturday afternoon shopping traffic was thick. Big George had chosen the most popular supermarket in Kingston and Tony, his heart racing, wondered if he had someone in the supermarket who was working from the inside. He tried to take his mind away by thinking that he was shopping for his ‘wife’ and children. He picked up corn flakes, jam, canned and packaged juices. All the time he was glancing at his wristwatch while peering out for the others. He was certain the other shoppers could hear the pounding of his heart as it hammered inside his chest.
Soon they were standing inside the respective check out lines when George and Thumpa moved forward as they seemed to be accompanying the cashier who had been checking George’s groceries to the manager’s office. As the two entered the office Thumpa forced himself behind them. Within minutes shouting could be heard coming from the office.
“Open the Rass safe, manager boy” Tumpa had growled.
The supermarket manager fumbled around and eventually had the safe opened. Big George instructed Tumpa to clear its contents. The supermarket manager now lay on the office floor, his neck curled beneath. Big George’s heavy left foot. The cashier was also lying face down on the floor determined to avoid eye contact with the robbers. Within a few minutes they were backing out of the office. Big George came out first holding a large black bag, its zipper gleaming in the artificial light. As George descended the stairs he motioned to Tony and Legs who were now at their respective registers. Legs pulled his gun and swooped over the cashier to empty the register of its cash. Bewildered, Tony froze as this was not part of the plan.
Suddenly the atmosphere was shattered by a thunderous explosion from the office. The supermarket manager had fished out his pistol and placed a shot in the left side of Thumpa’s skull. As he fell, Big George turned to face the direction of the gunshot. His eyes were white with horror as he saw the manager’s finger squeeze on the trigger of the super 38 pistol. His bladder muscles relaxed as the bullets thudded into his chest. Urine flowed freely down his legs as his lifeless carcass slid down the stairs.
Pandemonium followed as the shoppers dashed from the store. Legs, had run from the store, discharging two rounds in his flight to the waiting car. Tony, too bewildered to move by himself was carried outside by the surging rush of frightened shoppers. The Toyota Corolla had disappeared into the evening traffic and Tony gathered himself and slipped away amid the excitement.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007