The house had more people than it could accommodate. Every chair was occupied and its corners full of whispering heads sipping sporadically from plastic cups. The sun had already set leaving the night air humid and the fans working vigorously. The bodies added to the heat but more still came. Most the town had gathered at Beldon Trace. The news of Pedro’s murder had spread like fire on a dry grass plain. Some did not believe it and had come for confirmation but most had seen the report on the news or heard it on the radio. He had been gunned down in front of the barber shop in Curepe. It had taken five bullets to make him fall and even then he had enough breath to talk to the men at Supreme. Even as his mouth filled with blood and they had lifted him into a car, Pedro had spoken and his last command was clear.
His wife and three daughters were cocooned in the master bedroom. Not out of fear of the killers but to give Sonya Ramdeem some space to breathe. She had been at a grocery in Arima filling her trolley with their youngest child Angel. The phone in her bag had rumbled first but before she could retrieve it Angel’s began to ring as well. Sonja’s heart started to beat like the wheels of a steam engine train, fast and loud, and the fear that had dissipated over the years was suddenly back.
“Mammy is Desireé.”
But neither answered their phones as Bolo had come inside and was looking at Sonya with moisture and fear in his eyes. She heard his words and felt the air seep out of her body. Her knees got limp and Bolo and Angel grabbed her before she could collapse onto the cold white tiles.
Now Sonya was propped up in her martial bed with a cold towel on her forehead and her daughters holding her hands and rubbing her arms. She had stopped crying only a short while before.
Desireé was the oldest. Twenty three and long and wiry like Pedro but her face was Sonya’s before babies and life had changed her shape. Natasha was twenty-one but could easily be the eldest. With generous hips and a thick waist she possessed Pedro’s dark skin and features. Angel was not yet fourteen and was still the baby in every way. Three different girls but each with eyes a shade of brown sugar.
The bedroom held the four women as well Bolo and Junior. They were Pedro’s boys who worked for him around the house and looked after his cars. Natasha had been to one to go to the Forensic centre to say it was her father who lay there. She had looked at his face and had a moment of shock but it left as quickly as it came. That was why she had gone as the other women in her family would have had to be admitted to the hospital nearby as soon as they saw his body.
“What did he say?” Bolo was driving her back to Beldon Trace.
He was just a few years older than her. An Indian boy from Chaguanas with a stutter that grew worst the more nervous he was. Natasha made him feel so all the time.
“IIII eh….nobody say….not yet”
She asked him again, the lie that transparent.
“Bolo stop and breathe for a minute then tell me what Pedro say.”
He seemed to take an almighty gulp of air then exhaled as they sped along the highway. Pedro said Tasha was hard. He said it all the time. Said she was meant to be a boy but the something funny had happened in the womb and she had ended up being a girl instead. It was not that she was a tomboy or unattractive. She was a very attractive girl but she spoke with an authority and finality that made her the most like her father beyond their identical faces.
“He say it was Baldeo. He tell the Ricky them to make sure he don’t see the end of the week.”
Natasha knew it was Ravi already. Who else would be so bold as to kill him? Her mind was full of bank accounts and businesses and the funeral. There no time to dwell on Pedro’s actual death or how his killers would meet their own but she needed to know what his final words had been.
“Ricky say he talk about you too. He say Pedro say you know what else to do.”
Again that twinge of emotion came to her again. Like a flutter in her chest but it evaporated as it had before. There was no time for any of it.
Now she looked at her mother and sisters and thought of what else they had to do.
“Mammy you have to go out and show your face.” She had taken out a clean dress for her to wear
Sonya could barely move the pain hurt her so.
“Tasha no. Let me lie here nah.”
“No Mama, Daddy would not want it so. All of them come to show their respects. Go out and thank them.”
It was strange to see a mother and daughter talk so. It was like the roles had been reversed and the younger woman had given birth instead.
“Go wash your face Angel and we go go out together. Pedro dead but we still here.”
There moved slowly, each trying to get themselves together, looking decent for the faces outside the door. All they needed to hear was that Pedro would want it and they obeyed. That was the power he had over them.
Desireé wrapped her arms as much she could around Sonya thick waist and propped her up as they went down the stairs. It was the biggest house in Beldon Trace with three levels and open spaces but all eyes looked at Pedro’s family during their descent.
Natasha wondered how long it would be before these mourners became the vultures she knew they were. Each of them wanted something from Pedro Thomas and they were simply bidding their time. Some had even known beforehand that his visit to Supreme that day would have been his last but like the vultures none of it mattered. Her father has relayed this night to her since she was thirteen. The first time he had spoken of his death and what would follow it she had been afraid. She did not say this to him or even show it in her reaction. He needed her to listen and follow his instructions. Now eight years later it was unravelling like he had written the script himself.
“Sonya go be a mess. You have to prop her up Tasha. They go expect that.”
“I know Desi and Angel will look after her so you can deal with the rest.”
“What I have to do?”
“Make sure you get everything before the vultures descend. Let everyone get the piece I leave them and nothing else.”
When Roger Gomez held her she tried to not stiffen against his touch. He ran the club for Pedro in St Anns.
“Pedro fight hard man. He was a legend. A true legend.”
He flashed gold covered front teeth as he rubbed her arm. The sexual undertones in his touch were deliberate. He was possibly the largest vulture in the house. His place in Pedro’s group had been high these last few years so in his mind he had the most to gain and Natasha was part of the bounty. She could not believe he was smiling at her. At least the others carried a mask of sad faces to accompany their condolences.
Maybe he could read his mind because his lips suddenly formed a sad line.
“Mr Gomez can we meet tomorrow?”
“Yes man. You need help with the funeral?”
“No. All of that is fixed already. I just have to talk to you about something else.”
His eyes betrayed his confusion but his face remained the same.
“Tasha you know I have time for you girl. Pedro say you was his eye. Whatever you need from me.”
“Good. I will call you tomorrow”