Beating The Odds – Episode 9
© Brian Ngoma
Up high the tree, Kani sat comfortably reading a book. He didn’t remember how he had gotten there. Everything around him didn’t matter, it was like he was alone in the world. He could only hear birds chirping from a distance and some livestock from neighboring farms squeaking. It was also freezing cold and the clouds were dark as if it would rain.
“Kani!” Veronica called him. “Get down here.”
In less than a second, he found himself on the ground with Veronica on the front door. She called him while she kept a smile on her face. He slowly walked to her while he kept looking around. Something was awfully strange but he could’nt seem to figure it out.
“Come on in,” she opened the door for him.
He entered and found Greg in the living room. As soon as he entered, Greg stood up and was smiling too. “Hello son, sit there,” he pointed to the sofa.
Kani sat down in his mind trying to figure what was happening.
“We have a surprise for you,” Veronica said joyfully.
“You can come out now,” Greg looked at the door to the passage.
Kani’s heart was quickly beating as his eyes turned to the door. From it emerged a girl slightly taller than him. She shyly walked to where he was and knelt before him. He looked at Greg and Veronica and they were still smiling.
“Kani you forgot about me,” the girl cried.
“I don’t know you,” he got away from her. “Who are you!” he shouted.
He tried to look at where Greg and Veronica were, they had disappeared. The whole room had changed. It was empty and only had a bunker bed.
“You left me,” the girl was holding a knife in her hands. “You didn’t even look for me.”
“No No,” he tried to look for a door and couldn’t find one. “I don’t know you!”
“I’m Tasha your sister,” she said before running to him and threw the knife at him. “Now you’ll pay.”
“Kani wake up its lesson time!” Veronica’s voice shouted from a distance.
His eyes slowly opened and met the ceiling body. He was breathing heavily but not too shaken. He had realized it was a dream; a bad one. He got out of bed and said the prayer, “Please God protect Mayi and…” he paused and remembered the knife. He blushed it off and went on. “Tasha.”
“Kani!” Veronica called again.
“I’m up!” he yelled.
“Clean up, your breakfast is prepared, you will find me and Greg in the tree house, don’t take forever.”
The incidence at the store brought Kani and his foster parents closer than never before. He started opening up and would spend hours and hours talking with them, Watching TV, doing chores and shopping. It was like he had finally found his place within the small Kingdom which Greg reigned as King and his wife as Queen. He was the prince.
All the time he had spent with them since the orphanage of not been interested in anything, he was finally interested in something and that felt good. He was thinking about the next job while climbing the tree house. He couldn’t help it but think about his dream. That was a first in years he had dreamt of Tasha. Good morning,” he said as he sat down.
“Morning my boy,” Greg said. “How did you sleep?”
“Slept just fine,” he answered. “What are we doing today?”
“Easy Kani,” Veronica joined. “There is still alot you have to learn. In light of what happened last week, we need to be careful now.”
“But i escaped,” Kani said. “Didn’t I?”
“You got lucky, next time you won’t. We have to be careful,” she answered.
Kani frowned and looked at Greg. “Didn’t i do just fine?” he asked him.
“You did great but like your mother here is saying,” Greg looked at Veronica and went on. “We have to be extra careful. One slight mistake and we might land in prison. Those detectives might have eyes on us.”
“I’m not afraid to go to prison nor those detectives, i can take them down,” Kani said incognizantly.
“Wooh, hold up there. Those are trained cops not that security guard,” Greg warned him. He felt sick in his stomach. What made Kani dangerous was his lack of fear in him. Danger aroused him and that scared Greg. Perhaps, they had got a wrong kid. He brushed his insecurities away and said, “Bottom line is no one should go to prison here. That’s the reason we have to be careful. So let’s start,” he looked at Veronica.
She cleared her throat and looked at Kani. “Listen to me very carefully. We are not the only ones on the market but what sets us apart is that we are professionals.”
“Professionals?” Kani asked.
“Yes,” she answered. “There are are amateurs, Kleptomaniacs, Juveniles and vagrants. All of these steal when they have the urge, others on impulse and the others compulsively whenever they get the urge,” she looked at Greg.
“Us the professionals spend our time perfecting the techniques. We plan ahead; we know what we want, where to find it and how to get it,” Greg said. “I have been impressed with your physical skills but you need to work on that mind of yours. Never do things on impulse, it might risk your life. You hear me?”
“Yes sir,” Kani answered. “I have a question.”
“Go ahead,” Veronica said.
“What happens when one of us is caught?”
Veronica looked at Greg who shifted uneasily. “We have never thought of that but that’s the reason we should never get caught. We are professionals.”
Kani forced a smile and said, “We are professionals.”
“That’s right my boy,” Greg said standing up. As he stood up, a hand gun dropped from his laps. “Whoops, sorry,” he picked it up.
“Is that a gun?” Kani asked curiously standing up.
“Yes it is,” Greg answered.
“I have never seen one, can i touch it?”
Greg looked at Veronica who was watching them. “Of course,” he handed the gun to Kani.
Kani got the gun and looked at it curiously. He asked about the parts of the gun while simulating actors from movies he had seen from the TV. “Can you teach me how to shoot?” he looked at Greg.
Greg felt cold. This boy was making him uncomfortable. “Yes i can but you have to perfect your skills at shoplifting first. After that, i will teach you how to handle a gun.”
“Yes i do.”
Over the next one year, Greg and his small family became the most notorious shoplifters in Lusaka township. NEWS had spread of them. No one knew where they came from but all shop owners became alert. Despite being alert, whenever Greg and his crew hit, no one saw them coming. What was raising heads was the boy who moved as light as a feather. People were talking about how dangerous the young boy was. He had beaten up four guards at malls respectively. When shop attendents were asked if they saw the boy enter the stores, they would say no. No matter how careful and alert they had been, no shop attendent or guard had seen him enter but on most occassions, they saw him leaving. It was like he wanted them to see him and this didn’t sit well with Greg.
“Why do you let them see you?” he asked Kani while they were in the car outside a supermarket.
“It’s fun that way,” he laughed.
“No it’s not,” Greg raised his voice. “I told you that we are professionals, didn’t i?”
“Yes you did,” he looked away.
“Look at me when iam talking to you boy,” Greg yelled. “We are only the two of us today. Don’t mess up. I know you are enjoying this but showcasing yourself has to stop. Are we clear?”
“Yes,” he answered.
Greg opened the car doors and got out of the car. He stood by the door and looked at Kani in the car. “You enter after i have entered, you get me?”
“Yes sir,” he answered mockingly.
Greg started walking to the entrance. He had studied the supermarket and knew that at this time, it would be packed with shoppers which was a big distraction. As he walked, something felt wrong that day. The supermartket was not as packed as he thought it would be. He could only see a few people and some were looking at him. He felt his stomach turn and he knew it was a step up. He turned around to go back when he heard, “Freeze!” It was the police. “Don’t you dare move!”
The heat on their back had become too much. While they were perfecting their skills, the police were also perfecting theirs and they had managed to find them. Greg stopped in his tracks. He was very far away from the car and there was no way he could have made it. “Put your hands where i can see them!” the officer said.
From the voice, Greg infered the officer was alone and thought he could take him down. His gun was in his waist and he knew if he just reached for it quickly, he could draw it and fire at the officer. There was no way he was going to prison. What he didn’t know was that the whole cavalry was behind him.
Kani looked at his watch and knew it was time for him to go too. He closed the car windows. As he stepped a foot out of the car, he heard gunshots and people screaming. His heart beat was racing. The gunshots stopped. He knew something was off. He heard voices shouting. The voices were husky and vigilant. He instantly knew it was the cops.
“Search the cars, they must be here!” one voice shouted. “Be careful, they are armed and dangerous, if threatened don’t hesitate to take them down.”
Footsteps could be heard from where Kani was. He quickly dropped to the ground and crawled under a car which was next to Greg’s. He looked all ways and from a distance saw Greg laying in a pool of blood gasping for his last breath. He wanted to shout but held his mouth as he wept bitter tears of angst and affliction.
One of the police officers heard something and stopped. “I have heard something!” he shouted.
Kani saw two huge boots coming towards the car he was under in. He looked at Greg whose eyes were wide open as if looking at him. Greg was dead. Kani was in a quagmire; It was him against the police force.
To be continued