Fresh Nike Air Jordans jog in and out of the yard in another part of Khayelitsha. It is Brice, doing what he does, dealing drugs. He is busiest at night. His wheelchair-bound uncle is in a dark corner of the yard, smoking a cigarette, watching him.
Brice can hear the wheels of the wheelchair squeak towards the fence, where he is dealing. He makes eye contact with his uncle, and knows he is about to get a lecture.
“My nephew, I remember the day you were born.” His uncle coughs and discards the cigarette. “My only hope was that you’d be the one in this family not tainted by crime.”
“We all can hope as much as we want, Uncle Steve, but reality is reality.”
“I see you are becoming a big man in the streets now. A top dog in drug dealing. And I’m so disappointed in you.”
“‘All money is legal,’ Uncle Steve. That’s what the tattoo on your chest says, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, and if I could I would erase it. This gangster life took me to jail. I took lives. This life left a gaping hole in my conscience. This gangster life took away my ability to walk. Now I am–”
Brice’s cellphone rings. One of his dealers is at the other end of the line. Brice listens for a moment, then his expression changes into a scowl.
“Don’t mess with me otherwise I’ll break your legs!” Brice shouts into the cellphone. “The money flows up, you idiot. I warned you not to get high on the supply. Didn’t I? You better bring the money to me! There will be trouble if I have come get it myself.” Brice drops the call.
“That’s big man gangster talk right there, my nephew. Mr Big Shot,” Uncle Steve mocks Brice.
“You are always on my case about dealing, Uncle Steve. But what would we eat if I stopped selling drugs? Will we fill our stomachs with sand, grass and rocks? Stop with this preaching. It doesn’t suit you.”
A car with tinted windows pulls up. Brice gets in the back seat. The car continues down the road and stops at the end of a cul-de-sac. Inside the car there is Spokes and another man Brice has never seen before. But he doesn’t have to know him to understand that this man is the kingpin. The thick gold chains on his neck and the Rolex watch on his wrist tell Brice so.
“The money for the last consignment, Brice,” says Spokes. “Do you have all of it?”
Brice nods and hands over an envelope. Spokes opens it, nods in approval and says, “This is Trevor, the main man.”
Trevor turns and looks at Brice. With a flick of the hand Trevor dismisses Spokes and the driver from the car.
“I hear you want to move my product.” Trevor’s soft voice belies his stature in the underworld.
“Yes,” says Brice. “A lot of my customers want cocaine. We can make a lot of money.”
Trevor nods. He looks at his Rolex and says, “How do I know I can trust you?”
“You can trust me, Trevor,” says Brice.
“Can I, really?”
“Well, to get into my inner circle you have to prove your loyalty. I want you to do one simple thing for me.”
Brice nods and says, “Name it, Trevor.”
Trevor retrieves a plastic packet from the door compartment. “This is the only test you have to pass, Brice.”
Trevor hands over the parcel. Brice feels it. It seems to be a hardcover book. “What is it?”
“For me to trust you, I first have to see if you can follow instructions,” says Trevor.
“I’m very good at following instructions.”
“Are you sure?”
“I want you to take this, read it, and destroy it. Within five minutes of me leaving here, it must have burned to ash.”
“Don’t just nod, Brice. Say you will do what I want you to do.”
“I will burn this until it becomes ash,” says Brice.
“Good.” Trevor breaks into a gold-toothed smile. “If you can do that without telling a soul, all the cocaine you want to sell in the world will be yours.”
Tell us: Will Brice be able to keep the gangster code of silence?