by H.E. Palmer
‘Bam! Bam! Bam!’
I jumped from my sleep and hurried out of bed, tripping over myself and knocking over half the things that stood on my dresser. I got up off the floor; my eyes still cloudy with sleep. I flipped on the light switch and looked at my bedside clock. It was exactly 1:30 a.m. surely those explosions were gunshots and it sounded as if they had come from Charles Pen. We in Cuttlebung found it hard to differentiate between music and gunshots, but each time I heard them I was frightened. After not hearing any voices or any more explosions, I went back to bed feeling that it must have been fools on the loose testing their new machinery. However, an hour later there were more explosions and the sound of sirens echoed through the night. I heard the murmuring of a crowd and I wondered if I was still half asleep.
Was I dreaming? I got up slowly and went into the bathroom to wash my face, but the noises were still out there. I went back to my room, took off my nightgown and quickly wiggled my legs into a pair of jeans and put on a bra and a blouse. I slightly cracked opened my window and looked across to Luke’s house. I didn’t notice any movement on the inside, but the light was on. The same went for my neighbor Dawn’s house, no movement. I wondered if I was the only one who heard the shots or if I was just dreaming. That was until I heard Smokie shouting ‘Zekiel! Zekiel’ ‘Oui!, a who dat a call mi?’ ‘A mi Smokie yuh nuh hear di shot dem?’ ‘Shot, wha kinda shot? mi nuh hear nutten.’ ‘Yu sleep too dead man said Smokie, come! mi hear she somebody dead.’ Dead! What the hell was going on! I definitely knew then, that this was not a dream.
I quickly opened my front door and a stiff, cool December breeze caressed my face. Well, at least I was not the only one who heard the shots. A moment later the road was flooded with men in underpants and merinos and women in night gowns, carrying flashlights. Everyone had something to say and when they saw two more police cars with flashing lights passing on Charles Pen road they did not hesitate to follow them. I too began to follow the crowd. Troy and Chad found me after a while. I held firmly to Troy’s hands and we walked side by side. As soon as we reached a quarter mile into Charles Pen, we saw the police car lights flashing. Inspector Goode was there and he did not look pleased. The crowd saw the yellow tape, but they moved closer despite the weak efforts of Inspector Goode and his men who tried to prevent them from getting any closer to the crime scene.
My heart started to pound like a carpenter’s hammer on a roof top. My lungs contracted, slowing down the flow of oxygen through my nostrils. My knees started to fail but I still had to see what happened. I saw faces leaving the scene, filled with disbelief and women crying their eyes out, holding their bellies with shaking hands. A woman screamed ‘Lawd Lawd dem kill mi boss! woi an she a good, good woman, woi Jesus!’ The woman had on a white night gown and her head was wrapped with a multicolored piece of fabric. She almost ripped her head off in despair, sending her head wrap flying into the bushes. An elderly woman tried to calm her down; ‘Mi child get a hold a yuself di woman dead, she in di lord hands now, it’s okay mi child, mi know, mi know, it terrible, it terrible bad bad,’ the elderly woman whispered as she held the woman firmly in her arms while rubbing her head against her bosom as she continued to sob. ‘A mi boss, a mi boss,’ then she fainted. One of the policemen had to rush the woman to the hospital.
But who was dead? I looked at Troy and let go of his hands as I pushed my way forward to see for myself. There was a Blue Cadillac with bullet marks overturned in a ditch and on the sidewalk was the pale, white lifeless body of a woman, half naked with three bullet wounds to the chest. Even her throat was slit. My stomach failed, all my supper came gushing out in the bushes. It was the worst thing I had ever seen. The scores of onlookers’ faces were overwhelmed with bewilderment. It was the first murder so close to home. I asked about the identity of the dead woman. Her name was Mrs. Mecado, the wife of a respected Syrian who lived in the hills of Sweet Waters. He owned quite a few businesses downtown and was known to be very wealthy. This was bad, really bad. Chad and Troy both took a look and shook their heads. I took a final look at Inspector Goode, his face was as it should be, he was the cause of this. I then began to think back on how life was in Cuttlebung as a child and how it gradually changed. For me, my adventures as the only girl in the little gang were intended to be fun, but things did not always go as planned…