Death on a dusty street
Montego Bay Travel Blog› entry 21 of 23 › view all entries
So I did as I was told. I arrived at the Montego Bay bus stops and made my way to the Police Station. There were a couple of cops hanging about but they told me to wait until the patrol returned and they would walk with me up to the hotel.
I was booked into the Blue Harbour. It is up on the hill above town and has a nice view of the city and the beach. When the cops were ready they threw their automatic rifles over their shoulder and we wandered up the hill.
I still didn't understand why everyone was so worried about my well being. I'd been around the world a couple of times and of course,dealing with the bad guys was my job. I dumped my bag in the room and headed back down to the city to have a look around.
There was plenty happening and I wandered about getting my barings for a couple of hours. As i was making my way out of the center and back up the hill I saw a blonde guy being jostled by 3 Jamaicans. When I say blonde I mean blonde. This guy was nearly Albino his hair was so blonde. I thought about seeing if he was cool but decided he had come here and was in control of his own destiny. I needed to learn to chill a bit more. I was asked by one of the Janaicans if I wanted ganja but I didn't need to chill that much.
That night at the Blue Harbour I met four other travelers who were staying there. The blonde guy's name was Brett. He was a young Aussie kid and had been taken by his 3 new friends to see their ganja plot.
I think Brett was a bit disappointed when the most seasoned of our guests suggested he should have paid about US$15. It's never nice to learn you've been ripped off by the locals. Tony was a New York travel agent. He came to Jamaica a lot.
The final two in the hotel were a young couple. They had run away together for this holiday. They were dressed as punks and spent the whole time in their room or in the pool. I'm not sure whether it was because they were enjoying the freedom of forbidden "togetherness" or because they lost their bags when they first hailed a taxi to the airport. I cringed when they told us the story. There was no going back once they had set out and to have a tragic start to the trip, even before you've left your own country, proved they had some guts, if nothing else.
They had arrived in Montego bay with the clothes they stood up in and a pocket full of dollars. The rest of us sprang for the odd meal for them as the bulk of their cash had gone to their bed and breakfast. ..oh, and a bag of ganja of course!
It was an easy week. I was delighted to be hanging at the Blue Harbour. The pool was too good to leave but I did head down to the beach on one of the days.
All in all there wasn't much going on. Even with just the 5 of us in the hotel we outnumbered the staff. The place was quiet and I didn't mind having it to myself at all.
On Thursday afternoon Brett said he needed to go to the money machine. I wandered down with him and whilst he was doing his thing I noticed there was a strange excitement in the crowd.
It was about 5pm and everyone was finishing work for the day. I could see they had all stopped at the next street and were looking along the road. Hundreds of people all with their heads turned the same way was a photo too good to miss. By the time I took my camera out they had all turned and run away from the street. A moent later they went back and looked again.
I was intrigued. I asked a man walking past me what was going on.
"The police are shooting a robber on that street."
So it was. I found out an unsuccessful bank robber had exchanged several bullets with the cops and come off second best. I heard he was laying back there dead. I was starting to appreciate the need for the automatics the cops had slung over their shoulders when I arrived here.
The next day Tony was flying back to the States. The punk couple were also leaving, but later in the day. They didn't have enough cash for the taxi ride to the airport so Brett and I helped them out with the balance.
On the Satruday morning I decided it was time to scrub some clothes. Brett and I put our day packs on our backs and went in search of a laundromat. The hotel staff had told us where to find it and since we left early we decided to swing down to the beach and wander along there.
As we walked back through the bushes between the sand and the urban sprawl a dishevelled looking Jamaican crawled out of the scrub and muttered something to me that I didn't understand. He had his hand under his shirt and I decided he was trying to get money off us.
I moved to him and pulled on his arm, asking him what he wanted to give me.
He looked a little confused and I heard him say, "knife".
I have no idea what else he was saying but I told him to be careful or I'd get the police and he'd find himself in a power of trouble.
We pushed past him and headed into the city center.
We found the laundromat but it wasn't self service. We had to pay for someone to wash our clothes for us.
He told us there was a self service option but the place was in the heart of the suburbs and it wasn't safe for us to go there. Naturally I ignored his warnings and we turned in the direction he indicated.
After a couple of blocks I started having my doubts. I told Brett that if I was to say turn around we would do exactly that. I said he was not to run, just turn and we'd make our way out. Two blocks on and I was feeling pretty uneasy. I told Brett to turn and as we did we came face to face with one of the guys that had taken him to the plot the other day.
He told Brett he wanted the rest of his payment for the ganja. Brett was pretty quiet.
I stepped to the guy and told him he had been paid ten times what he should have and he wasn't getting any more money from Brett.
The guy pulled out a long spike weapon. It looked like a knitting needle with a handle. He demended the rest of his pay.
I grabbed his hand holding the weapon and tossed the guy to the ground. I threw the spike up the street and told Brett to walk. We marched out of there.
When we had made it back to the town center I suggested we get some fruit from the market. I knew Brett's white hair was going to make him an easy target for this guy and any of his friends.
The market was a large open square with a road along the bottom and fruit stalls around the other three sides. We went to a stall with a good selection of fruit and veg. As we grabbed a bagful of produce the guy offered me a drag on his joint. I could hear someone shouting down by the road and I saw a strange man dancing around and yelling at the cars driving through. I was paranoid enough this morning without being stoned at the same time. I turned the guy down and we bought the fruit.
As we walked back to the road to exit the market I saw Brett's mate approaching with his spike. I regretted that I hadn't thrown the weapon up on a house roof. The I noticed he was with two other guys. One was carrying a baton.
After 11 years involvement with the Scouting movement and gaining the highest of scouting accolades, the Queen Scout Award, I was able to identify the baton as the bottom half of a tent pole. A 9x9 centrepole I would say.
My expertise gave me an understanding about the baton that some might call adventageous. I knew it was the bottom half because it had a steel collar around one end, into which the top half would slip, but when used as a baton, would afford exceptional face rearranging capabilities.
Both these guys walked past me and set themselves on either side of Brett. The third bloke stopped in front of me and unfolded a 6" blade of a pocket knife a couple of inches from my belly.
Very swiftly I assessed the situation. The warnings of danger I'd been getting since arriving in America and Jamaica, the bank robber shot to death on Thursday afternoon, the man in the bushes this morning and now the hunting down of us by these three, one of which I had already tossed over the road.
I knew right then that we were about to die. There in that dusty street, running through the middle of a busy market place.
A car stopped behind us and I turned and placed both hands on the bonnet. I called to the driver to, "please help us!"
The driver was alone in the car. A well dressed Jamaican woman, and she looked as terrified as I'm sure I looked right at that moment.
I wondered who would tell my mother I was dead.
I pushed back off the bonnet and turned to reassess the situation.
I noticed my man was watching his two mates with Brett the Blonde Aussie. Brett had his back to me and I saw the small carryhandle on the top of his day pack.
I reached up and grabbed the handle. I yanked him off his feet and rolled across the bonnet of the car. As I hit the ground I was already running and half carrying Brett who hadn't yet touched the ground from my pulling him over the bonnet.
We didn't look back but as we came out onto the main street we were running for our lives and could hear our robbers yelling that they would get us because they knew hwere we were staying. Slowly the sound died down and we realised they weren't chasing us. We trotted up the hill to the hotel and decided that we weren't going to leave here except to change our flights out of the country. We were both worried about a visit in the night so we took a cab to the airport to see about the earliest flights possible.
Brett left the following morning. I had to endure another full day. I was in the hotel alone for that day, a very bored prisoner but I didn't mind. At least I still had breath in my lungs and now a tale to tell. I was also pleased none of my workmates had been required to chat to my mother!
When I finally got back to NZ my travel agent rang to see how it all went. She asked me about Jamaica and I told her my story. She said, "yes, we'd been told Kingston was the most dangerous place in the world to visit but I wanted to know what you thought."
I though, "Shit. Thanks for that!"