“Buntu … Buntu!” called out a voice in the mist of smoke in Mustafa’s shop.

“Get up, man, they’re gone. Come on, get up!”

I soon realised that it was one of the two customers on the other side of the shelf from me. He was calling out to one of his friends who also lay on the floor.

“Buntu, Buntu! Get up, man.”

Then I heard the same voice cry out in anguish.

“No, no! Buntu! … Buntu! … Noooooh!

I got up, cautiously keeping an eye on the entrance to avoid another blast off from the AKs. Luckily I had not been hit and I began to crawl around the shelf to where the other two customers were lying flat on the floor. What I found behind the shattered shelf was shocking.

A man was lying in a pool of blood. He had been shot in the chest. His friend held him tightly as he continued to weep. So it was not only Mustafa who had died, but also one of his customers; both had become victims to the shooting.

I stood numb before the two men like, my mouth open, unable to speak. All I could do was to stand still and stare at the spreading pool of blood.

My mind was racing. There was a phone next to the cashier, right there on Mustafa’s counter.

I dialled the local police.

“Edo-Mill Police Station, Sergeant Daliwe speaking …”

I told him what had happened.

“Just calm down for a second, sir. Where are you, and what exactly happened?” replied the sergeant.

“I said I am at Mustafa’s shop in Zone 1, dammit,” I became frustrated. I did not understand why the sergeant had not listened properly. I heard a radio in the background in the police station and laughing.

“All right … All right, sir, we’re on our way. Just stay right there and don’t go anywhere.”

I slammed the phone down.

“Are they coming?” asked the devastated young man.

I assured him they were. But I was not sure, myself, how long they would take, and whether his friend could hold on.

I thought about what had happened and I was quite sure that the gangsters had escaped in a vehicle. They could not be on foot with all of the items which they had stolen. If they were running surely one or two people in the neighbourhood would have seen them escape.

I was in shock. Just a couple of hours ago I was at the taxi rank watching as a robber was beaten to the ground. Now I was looking at the dead body of Mustafa and the bleeding man on the floor. What on earth did these two people do to deserve to die such a gruesome death?

It was not long before the local police arrived on the scene with a screeching of tyres.

The moment we stepped out of the shop one of the policemen shouted. There were about five police vehicles parked at the front and probably seven armed officers, all aiming guns directly at us.

“No … it’s not us, we did nothing,” I pleaded with the police with both of my hands still held up high.

“I said don’t move, or I will shoot,” shouted the officer once again, ignoring my plea. I knew I had to figure a way to convince the police that I wasn’t one of the robbers. I was panicking. Then I thought of the call I had made a few minutes ago inside the shop.

“Officer, please don’t shoot us,” I urged desperately. “The two people who are dead are inside the shop. I was the one who made the telephone call. It was me, I was the one who spoke to Sergeant Daliwe. He is the one who told us to stay put and wait for the police here.”

There was a tense moment before the sergeant spoke.

“Drop the weapons,” the sergeant told his officers and they lowered their guns.

The sergeant came forward.

“I am Sergeant Daliwe. What happened here?” he asked as he entered the shop, followed by the other police officers.

“There were four men armed. Their faces were covered with balaclavas and they were wearing black leather jackets. Before they left the scene, sergeant, they stole goods inside the shop and shot at us, killing Mustafa here.”

“Did you get to see a vehicle?” asked Sergeant Daliwe.

“No … nothing at all, Sergeant,” I replied. “We were still trapped inside the shop when the men started shooting at us. We couldn’t move or do anything; we were just lying flat on the floor near those shelves. As you can see, the place is a mess. By the time the men took off, the shop was grey and filled with smoke. We couldn’t hear any vehicle starting; there was too much noise going on, here inside the shop.”

“Damn those bastards,” the sergeant lashed out furiously. “This is the ninth murder case in Edo-Mill. Sooner or later they will suffer for their evil actions.”

We gave our statements about the incident. Then we were escorted out by two police officers to wait outside. The sergeant offered to drive us home in a black private police vehicle. In the car, while we waited for the sergeant, I turned to the man next to me. He had witnessed his best friend being murdered. He was in a state of shock. When the police had arrived, he had not said much.

The local ambulance arrived on the scene and two paramedics carried stretchers into the shop. The place was crawling with police now. I just wanted to head back home as soon as possible. We were now spectators, sitting in a police vehicle and watching the aftermath. People had come to stare, some in their nightgowns. They all wanted to see what had happened at Mustafa’s that had brought the cops.

The crowd of residents fell silent as the police left the shop with two, covered, dead bodies.

“Oh! Buntu, my friend … Oh! Oh!” cried the fellow next to me, filled with emotion. He watched from inside the police vehicle with teary eyes as his best friend’s body was wheeled inside the ambulance. I could do nothing to ease his pain. To say, “It’s going to be okay,” would mean nothing. The fellow was in pain, one of his best friends, had died.

After the two bodies had been taken away, Sergeant Daliwe came out of the shop accompanied by two other officers. He seemed calm and focused.

The sergeant spoke with the two officers for a few seconds and then got into the driver’s seat.

“I’m driving you home now, boys,” said the sergeant. “It’s not a good thing to be at a murder scene after what you have witnessed. After all, we have got all the information we needed from you.”

As the sergeant started the engine, he looked at us in the rear-view mirror. I could see that he understood the pain we were in.

“I’m sorry, boys, that you had to go through all of this; nobody in the world deserves such agony.”

I only nodded my head in reply. We drove off, leaving the scene at Mustafa’s shop with a small crowd of Edo-Mill residents trying to get in to see what had happened for themselves and being pushed back by the police.

* * *

Question: How can the police work with residents of Edo-Mill to help them catch the gang?