With thanks to Alex, who moulded me into a writer
First published by Staging Post in 2016
10 Orange Street
Auckland Park 2092
South Africa +2711 628 3200 http://www.jacana.co.za
© Louis Wiid, 2016
All rights reserved
Cover design and cover image by Georg Kerpert of 3rd House
Set in Warnock Pro 12/15.5pt
Printed and bound by ABC Press, Cape Town Job no. 002610
Also available as an e-book: d-PDF 978-0-9946677-5-5 ePUB 978-0-9946677-6-2 mobi file 978-0-9946677-7-9
It was just after four on a Sunday morning, the quiet time after the noise of the nightlife had died down. It was only a couple of hours before the sound of the morning prayers would be broadcast over the mosque’s public address system. Even the dogs stopped barking at this hour in the Mitchells Plain’s neighbourhood of Cape Town, South Africa.
A fifteen-year-old skedonk of a Mazda 323, hijacked earlier that evening from an unlucky university student, was slowly driving towards a small shopping complex. The car stopped fifty metres short on a side street.
The three occupants got out. The driver unlocked the boot. The second guy bent over and removed three balaclavas. His name was Errol, the leader. He had a tattoo covering most of the left side of his neck, depicting a barcode, like those printed on groceries and other products and used to ring up goods at checkout tills. He wore a tight-fitting black T-shirt covering his muscled upper body. He was short of build, not a block, actually well proportioned, taking into account his small stature, with a waist size around 30. He fitted a balaclava over his head and handed the others to his two partners.
‘That’s good thinking, Errol, the camera will recognise that tattoo, and with your funny build and walk, you’ll be behind bars before you can say boom,’ the third guy, whose name was Roscoe, said. In anybody’s book, he was a giant. Apart from a similar barcode tattoo to Errol’s on his neck, both his tree-trunk-like forearms were inked from top to bottom, looking like he was wearing colourful patterned shirtsleeves under his T-shirt.
‘Ja,’ Errol said. ‘Says the idiot who wears a white T-shirt on a night job.’
Roscoe took a crowbar out of the boot and inspected it. The crowbar was of standard size, bought at Builders Warehouse, but the sharp end of this one was grinded in a knock-shop garage, sharp as a razor blade. A small khaki canvas bag remained.
Errol turned his gaze to the pencil-thin driver whose name was Buti. But he didn’t carry the barcode tattoo on his neck that declared you were initiated as a full member of the 69 gang.
‘You still haven’t given me an answer why your brother isn’t here,’ Errol said. ‘His job is to blow the machines, there’s no way I’m going to do this.’
‘Franklin is pissed and drugged out of his mind from the Tik,’ Buti said, disappointed.
‘The meth is going to kill him,’ Errol said, staring at the canvas bag like it was a ticking time bomb – which it probably was.
‘I hope you got that dynamite from Franklin?’
Buti shrugged. ‘I have no clue where he put the new sticks,’ he said. ‘But I found this bag in the garage.’
‘Show me,’ Errol said, irritation evident in his voice.
Buti opened the canvas bag. A pungent smell emanated from it. Roscoe looked over Buti’s shoulder.
‘Bliksem,’ he said. ‘We can’t use it, how old is this kak? It smells like hell’s fire and brimstone.’
‘So why did Franklin store it in the garage? If it’s so unstable, it would have blown up the whole fucking house long time ago,’ Buti said confidently, assured of his logic.
Roscoe nodded. ‘You got a point there, but who’s going to place the sticks and light them?’
‘I will, Franklin told me how he does it. It’s as easy as rolling and lighting a zol. I’m good for it. I can do this,’ Buti said.
‘So smoking weed gives you all this insight?’ Errol said. ‘Bullshit, you’re only the driver, and you don’t even have a driver’s licence.’
Roscoe grunted out a laugh.
‘It’s a bit stupid to say Buti doesn’t have a licence and us breaking the law in such a much more serious way, hey?’
‘I’ll fuck you up, Einstein,’ Errol said. ‘But that will have to wait. We need to finish first.’ ‘Buti, look at me,’ Errol said.
Buti turned to face Errol.
‘You better cover for your loser brother and do this properly, otherwise, I swear, I’ll take him out before the Tik does.’
After Buti and Roscoe put on their balaclavas, the three gangsters slowly headed in the direction of the shopping complex while surveying their surroundings.
The shopping complex consisted of a 7-Eleven, a fish-and-chips restaurant and take-away, a Nando’s chicken restaurant, a video rental store, a dry-cleaner and a Nedbank ATM.
When they reached the ATM, they saw that the machine was well lit.
Not good, Errol thought. But fortunately from my inspection yesterday the ATM is an older model, easier for the job.
‘Don’t you guys feel guilty about always attacking these defenseless ATMs, they never put up a defence,’ Roscoe said.
‘Stop talking kak and open her mouth wide that she can give these sticks a proper blowjob,’ Errol said.
Roscoe flipped the crowbar around so that the sharp end was pointing forward. Using stabbing movements, he focused his attention on the cash dispenser’s opening. The gap was tight, less than one centimetre, but enough. He followed a simple but methodological stabbing process to widen the dispenser hole. For a big man, he was surprisingly accurate.
All those evenings playing pool in Eldon’s strip club, he concluded.
After a number of hits, maybe fifty, the cash dispenser hole was about five centimetres wide. Roscoe inserted the bent end of the crowbar into the opening and forced it wider with a series of up-and-down leveraged movements, his muscles bulging.
Five minutes later he wiped away the sweat on his forehead with his forearm, stood to the side and motioned to Buti.
Buti took out the canvas bag, tried to open it, but lost his grip and dropped the bag.
‘Fuck, you better be careful,’ Errol said. ‘Why are you shaking so much? How much dagga did you smoke?’
‘Not much,’ Buti mumbled, while fishing in the bag like an old lady fearing her purse had been stolen out of her handbag.
‘Shit, I forgot the matches,’ he said.
‘Yissis, I work with fuck-ups,’ Errol said.
‘You are both fucking useless,’ Roscoe said.
Errol punched Roscoe on his upper arm, but the big man didn’t budge. It was like hitting a brick wall.
‘In the car,’ Errol said.
A minute later Roscoe rushed back with a box of matches that he handed to Buti.
‘All yours, we’ll wait in the car,’ said Errol.
Buti placed the bag on the floor in front of the ATM. Sweat drops blocked his view through the balaclava’s holes. He ripped off the balaclava and threw it on the floor.
Fuck the cameras.
He removed one dynamite stick, saw it didn’t have a fuse attached, and tossed it back in the bag. He removed another one, saw it did have a fuse but the stick looked a bit moist and soggy and the sulphur smell was too strong, in his professional opinion.
He threw the piece back in the bag. Needs to be just right.
The next one was okay. He fitted it in the enlarged opening and saw that there was room to fit another three sticks, maybe four.
Shit, how many did Franklin use when he performed his jobs?
He tried to remember what he said. Let’s be certain, I will put in as many as it can take.
He found three more sticks that were sort of usable. Apart from the faulty ones, a number of sticks remained in the canvas bag that he casually threw over his shoulder.
Okay, let’s do it.
He took out the box of matches, removed one, and tried to light it. It didn’t take. He tried again with another match and still it wasn’t successful.
Stop shaking, for fuck sake.
He took out five matches and scraped them against the side of the box, this time it worked.
The amount of sulphur ignited by the matches burned his fingers. He instinctively dropped it.
The resulting explosion flattened the ATM, the 7-Eleven, and the rest of the shopping complex.
For some minutes after the explosion, the rain of shredded banknotes enveloped the surrounding area like a cloud of flaming red confetti falling from the sky.