They slowly stalked their victim, “Flat Top” was the first to spot the large bulge in the elderly gentleman’s pocket, he nudged his companion, “Dutty Baggy” was busy looking across the street at the busty big bottomed girl, he had called her something rude, but she had merely given him a look of disdain, and kissed her teeth.
The nudge galvanized him into action. That was pleasure, this is business, no words were exchanged between him and Flat Top, just a cursory glance in the direction of the target told him that something was on. Today he was the blocker, there were four of them operating today, Flat Top, Dutty Baggy, Acrobat and Telephone. All their nicknames suggested a particular habit, or feature, Flat Top wore his hair flat on top, Dutty Baggy it was said never washed his underwear, Acrobat was flexible and Telephone acquired his name from the cut he received in a fight, the scar stretched from his ear to his mouth. They were all young men in their early teens, they lived on the streets of Kingston by their very wits, but their specialty was picking pockets or handbags.
As they slowly picked their way amongst the shoppers they kept their sights on the old guy, today Dutty Baggy was the “blocker”, he was responsible for momentarily delaying the target while one of the others would do the “dip”, the other two would keep a sharp lookout for anyone looking on, or “penetrate” as it was known in their line of work.
The four friends walked some way behind the old man with an air of casual nonchalance, while watching their victim with the intent of a lion stalking its prey.
Suddenly they pounced, again there was no word spoken, they knew from experience when the opportunity was right to strike. As the old guy stopped briefly to allow an old lady to pass, Dutty Baggy moved in front of the old guy, he hesitated for just a second as he bent down to tie an imaginary shoe lace, as the old guy stopped Flat Top moved in, he swiftly inserted his index and middle finger into the man’s pocket, all the time making sure to conceal his actions behind his rolled up newspaper, the whole operation took a mere six seconds, meanwhile Acrobat and Telephone expertly scaned the passing pedestrians for evidence of “penetration”, suddenly the dreaded word went up, “penetrate”!!!! Damn!! They were seen, with a deft hand Flat Top quickly passed the wallet to Telephone, he pushed it in his pocket and melted into the crowd just as the word went up…”tief!! tief!! tief!! tief!!!, dem tief de man billfole!!! Someone made to grab onto F lat Top but he skillfully twisted away and ran, suddenly a fist slammed into Dutty Baggy`s jaw, he fell with blood spurting from his mouth, but somehow managed to get up from the gutter where he fell, both youths ran wildly through the crowd with the noise of “tief!! tief!!”. Meanwhile joining the crowd behind them were Telephone and Acrobat. Chasing, in an attempt not to be implicated, “a wah dem do?”’ said a frantic Acrobat, running alongside an irate middle aged man. As they ran down the street the crowd by now getting larger behind them, what was simply an everyday exercise had now become a life and death race.
Flat Top frantically ran up the street, he could see Dutty Baggy had changed tactics and had crossed over the street, they were now running on both sides of the street, but with Dutty Baggy some way ahead of him, suddenly he watched in horror as his partner, and lifelong friend, tripped, Dutty Baggy fell headlong into a higgler selling children’s wear on the pavement, he attempted to get up, but had someone’s boot to his face, Flat Top called out his friend’s name “Duttyyyy”!!!
Suddenly the crowd was upon Dutty Baggy, one man pulled his knife and plunged it into the youths heart, as the blood spurt out of his friend’s heart, Flat Top could only ran on helplessly to save his own life, the crowd gathered around Dutty Baggy, kicking him and stamping on his face even as his young life ebbed away.
Dutty Baggy died as the angry crowd stood over him and cursed, he was only 15 years old, and had seen his mother, and father killed at age nine, in gang related crime. He had hustled on the streets to survive ever since. Later as the remaining three friends, Flat Top, Telephone and Acrobat counted the contents of the old man’s wallet. It amounted to one dollar, a lottery ticket, an appointment card to the doctor, a blood donor card and a tiny sliver of paper with some words crudely written, it said…”the meek shall inherit the earth”.