Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Alas, my brother Raymond!

Published:Sunday | March 13, 2016 | 3:00 AMOren Cousins

The multicoloured neon lights of the Mangrove Club flashing intermittently from a 30-foot billboard could be seen for miles about the Portmore-Port Henderson-Hellshire-Edgewater region. The night was dark, so dark that the stars shone like pin pricks from a barely discernible sky. The innumerable Portmore houses, the shop lights and street lights flickered and shimmered like yellow and white sequins on a black evening gown. "See di fu-fu-fu-bu-bu-bwoy deh!" Buzzer hissed, as he pointed at Raymond and Needham arriving at the club.

"Dem bwoy fi dead! So mi say!" Scarface swore.

"No-no, ki-ki-ki=kill dem. Bu-bu-bubrrk dem-ass!" Buzzer ordered. Buzzer, Scarface and Bappis had been watching and waiting for Raymond and Needham to show up. When they arrived, Buzzer, after a great deal of angry hissing and stammering, managed to persuade his companions to wait a little longer.

Raymond swaggered into the club and 'kotched' against a woman who was sipping Ting at the bar. She was laughing and flirting with the guy on her left. Needham went to the lower end of the hall and unceremoniously dragged a young woman onto the floor, contorting and grimacing to the music.

Raymond tapped the arm of the woman he had kotched against. "Hi, Chile, yuh no long fi see I?" he greeted her. "W'at's cookin'?"

She continued to flirt with the man on her left, as if she hadn't heard.

"Hey Vi," he tapped her arm again. "Yuh no 'ear man ha talk to yuh?"

"Cool!" she said to the man on her left. "Nutten naw gwaan, Rayman," she replied. "Mi dey yah same way!"

Raymond pressed the small of his back more firmly against the edge of the counter, and examined his Nike, shoved his hands deeper into the pocket of his jeans, while viewing the small crowd in the hall. "Vi, yuh naw buy mi a beer?" he asked.

"Mi no ha no money, Star!" she replied. "Mi jus' didda tell Percy say t'ings t'in. Nuh business nuh dey!"

"W'at yuh drinkin'?" Percy asked.

"Heineken," Raymond answered.

Percy ordered another Ting, a Red Stripe and a Heineken.

Buzzer said to Scarface,"Y-yu-yu-yu go-go-gggo hey-hey-elp Ppppercy, guguget dem out!"

The young man who cleaned the club and helped to wash dishes and glasses and pots and pans, crept up to Needham. "Missa Needham, I want talk to yuh," he shouted into Needham's ear. "It urgent!"

Needham followed the boy out of the crowd. "Buzzer an' two man deh 'bout. Mi 'ear dem say dem lookin' fi yuh."

Needham looked around in alarm. Conscious of his gun hanging heavily in the waist of his pants, his eyes piercing and splitting the mass of light into small pieces, he whispered to the youth, " Ha wey dem dey, Star?"

"Mi no see dem now" the young man replied. "But dem deh 'bout!"

Needham wasn't feeling too good. He and Raymond had been avoiding Buzzer for several weeks. He should have paid Buzzer his money. That Buzzer did not make jokes pass through his mind. Needham felt for his gun, and the hardness and closeness of it reassured him. "Make Buzzer go f- himself!" he said to the youth who beat a hasty retreat. "After him no badda dan mi!" He could not, despite his bravado, control his gut knotting with fear. He sidled over to Raymond. "Ray, we betta ex dis spot!" he said. "Leave 'ere!"

"Vi, mi wi see yuh, Awright, Percy, see yuh anadda time," Raymond said, fear and urgency creeping through his body.

"Awright, Ray, ah will see yuh soon!" Percy said.

Raymond and Needham had almost reached the door leading into the kitchen when Percy shoved a gun into Raymond's back. "Raise yuh han' easy like," he growled. Needham also felt a gun jabbing viciously into the small of his back, and almost simultaneously, he was relieved of his. "Bwoy like unnu fi en' up in a han'cart an' crocus bag!" Scarface growled, prodding Needham painfully with his weapon. "Move an' keep movin', Bwoy!"

Buzzer emerged from the darkness at the back of the kitchen. Raymond noticed that Buzzer did not have a gun in his hand. His mind began, almost immediately to devise a ruse to escape, but his legs were trembling uncontrollably. He did not see the slap coming at him from Buzzer. It exploded against the side of his head, and he fell to the ground. Percy savagely kicked him in his side, and dragged him to his feet. "Mi mmmmoney!" Buzzer hissed. "Hahaha wuwuway e dey?"

"Wu-wu-w'at yuh say?" Raymond screamed.

Buzzer say wey di money deh?' Percy interpreted and doubled Raymond over with a fist in his stomach. Raymond opened his mouth and spilled the beer Percy had bought him.

He was too occupied to notice what was happening to his friend. Scarface's gun was ominously exploring Needham's nostrils, under his jaw, behind his ear, below his eyeball, his chest, his crotch, as if searching for the most vulnerable or most painful spot in which to put a bullet. "W'at mi fi do wit' him?" Scarface asked Buzzer.

"Fififinish wuwuwid dis one fufufirs!" Buzzer replied.

"Mi gigi Nneedam di money fiffi gi yuh," Raymond stammered and pleaded with Buzzer. He was desperately afraid with Percy's gun stroking his ear. The other was badly hurting where Buzzer had applied his open-handed blow, an' he dared not lift his hand to scratch it.

"Give me a chance," Neeedham screamed as the muzzle of Scarface's gun violently jabbed at a most sensitive spot. "Mi wi' bring di money tomorrow!" he moaned. He could stand the torture no longer. He broke free and ran into the darkness. He tried to skirt the mangrove swamp to the left, but fell head first into the foul-smelling water. Mangrove roots and octopus-like branches clutched at his arms and legs, as he tried to climb out of the ooze and the slippery tangle of roots, leaves, and stems. Clutching a sea-fig trunk, he dragged himself from the mud.

Even before he regained his breath, he felt his body for gunshot wounds. Feeling none, he shouted between gasps of air, "Jah, mi nuh dead!"

"B***!" he shouted, when he discovered that he had lost a foot of his Nike sneakers, while the other foot was filled with mud and water. He discarded the wet and muddied shoe as well as his socks. All around was silence, except for the savage and strident music seeping from the club, and the sounds of myriad nocturnal creatures in the swamp. And soon, too soon, the mosquitoes discovered him. Luckily for him, they did not attack those parts of his body that were muddy and wet. He began to jabber between chattering teeth when he chilliness of the night and of the water penetrated his skin, and his crotch began to itch terribly.

"Jus' wait till I man pick up mi odda gun," he kept shouting as he crawled towards dry land. "I man gwine shot out dem blouse an' skirt! Den wi' si who can lick shot!"