He could not be more than fifteen. His biceps were fully developed. You would know that he spent a considerable amount of time pumping iron. His neck was loaded with visible veins and his face looked well sculpted. His facial hair was untrimmed and he looked rough and masculine in appearance. You could pass Pattostik, the leader of the pack, for an eighteen or even twenty year old lad. So were his room and deed mates.
He hung a ruck sack over his shoulders and they moved in threes. They lived in the derelict part of Villa Miseria, Buenos Aires. They fended for themselves. Their biometric would be hard to detect. They did not know their etymology because they were not told and they couldn’t be bothered about it. They ate raw food. They ate nuts and fruits. They never paid for food. They were known in the neigbourhood for their ruggedness. They pulled tyres up the steep neighbourhood slope every morning. They wrestled. They sparred in boxing. They pulled stunts on their bikes on road. They ran with rucksacks filled up with stones. They were super-duper fit.
Their accommodation was like a hostel, a dormitory like facility. They shared a room and they all lived in this room. They ate from the same plate, they walked together holding hands and you could never catch any of them alone. You would never know the immense power they had until you encountered them. They reminded one of the Bantu culture – one danger to one is danger to all.
Their day started at about nine am. They would ride their bikes to Ballet street, and chain their bikes on the alley way. Then with their rucksacks they would head out to the City Centre and all the touristy places. They would split up in twos and threes, two short or average sized people and one tall person. They would walk for a while and observe their prey before they finally pounced on him or her. It would first start with a slight push, as if somebody bumped into you. You would miss your steps and nearly fall and in that split second, one of them would snatch the phone or unhang a handbag to another one and the one with the stolen item would continue walking on and the prey would be startled, beholding the people around him who would keep walking in an unconcerned manner. “Where is my phone the preyed upon would wonder?” But no clue and life went on as if nothing had happened. In the cool of the day, they would meet Old Bashir who would assess the value of the items and pay them some money. They would head to a local cafeteria for a rendezvous. They would return to base, triumphant.
One time the product they brought to old Bashir was worth about $7000 and old Bashir offered them only $2300. They were not happy with old Bashir.
“You know if I don’t buy these products from you, no one else will. Remember these are all stolen products and if you got caught, you are all going to prison.”
“We risk our lives to bring business to you and what you offer us all the time is peanuts” Pattostik protested.
Old Bashir drove a sleek Mercedes and lived in a very comfy villa. His children went to nice schools while these touts and predators worked for him and got peanuts in return.
After their rendezvous that night, they made up their minds that they would never deal with Old Bashir again. They went for a new client – Bekkanutta. Bekkanutta was an old rival of Old Bashir. He knew that Old Bashir was a crook and was waiting for an opportunity to pay him back in his own coin. He paid the Wailers handsomely for the goods they brought to him.
Old Bashir’s lifestyle suffered because supply was cut off. He wouldn’t lose face to beg the Wailer’s to bring the goods back.
On their way to Bekkanutta one evening, Old Bashir intercepted them and accosted them for being in possession of pilfered items. He had on hand two cops. The Wailers stifled the cops, and beat the living daylights out of the cops. They then lunged straight at Old Bashir and almost suffocated him. Old Bashir learnt to stay off their business from that day.
They were ruthless in handling Bashir and the cops. Since the whole setup was illegal from the outset, Old Bashir and the cops could not press charges or look into prosecuting the boys. Besides, Bekkanutta was on hand to lend a hand.
The summer of 2018 brought a lot of tourists to Buenos Aires from Europe and China and they all came with wads of cash that the Wailers fed from. The economy in Argentina was experiencing a decline and the heat waves in the UK and Europe made it possible for people to escape to a temporary luxuriant lifestyle. The booming economy in China gave the Chinese more flexibility to travel abroad.
Pattostik pushed Ling, a tourist, and while Ling scuttled, Tarantula reached for Ling’s rucksack and Ling swiftly turned around and grabbed his hand. Tarantula tried to set himself free but Ling’s grab was too strong for him. Pattostik and Lancer quickly swooned in on Ling to distract his attention but, Ling was unfazed. He clutched on to Tarantula and then switched his left arm to Tarantula’s neck, he went straight to the apple gland and put his finger on the windpipe choking it. Pattostik kicked Ling’s leg to dislodge his sense of gravity and Ling fell to the ground. As he fell, he took along with him, Tarantula. Pattostik and Lancer grabbed Tarantula to try and yank him off Ling. From the ground, Ling kicked Pattostik at the groin. Pattostik bent down in pain. Ling turned Tarantula over and flipped himself from the ground kicking Lancer in the eyes. Lancer bent down in severe pain. Ling lounged again at Tarantula’s windpipe just as he was struggling to get himself off the ground. At this stage, passersby had converged and were trying to make out what was going on.
Pattostik and Lancer ran. Adrian and Mickey came on the scene to rescue Tarantula but by this time, his eyes were turning blue and they watched the spirit depart out of his body. It was a grim and sorry sight.
People jubilated, not because of the departure of Tarantula, but because they would now experience some relative calm in the district. This group had evaded the police for too long. They had caused enough havoc. They were too smart for their ages. The Wailers had affected business negatively for local business owners for too long. Now, there would be sanity. Tourists would be able to enjoy the city without the dread of losing items.
No one missed Tarantula apart from the Wailers. No family member came to claim his corpse. He was buried without the full honours of family farewell.
After the funeral, the Wailers shared their proceeds and decided to go separate ways. Commander Pattostik thought differently though. He felt that they should hang in together as a team to avenge the death of Tarantula.
“Who would you attack?” Lancer queried. “What we are doing is wrong anyways?”
“I am going to start a new life” Lancer said. “That could have been me and I could have died” he finished.
“I am off to see a priest” Adrian quipped in.
“I will go back and locate my grandma. I will try to go to school” Mickey finally said.
“Can I come with you to see the priest?” Pattostik asked.
“I will come as well” Mickey announced.
“Let’s go and repent” they all chorused.
Uwem Mbot Umana©2019