The Crab-tree Gang
by Austin Mitchell
The crab-tree gang was at lunch. They numbered five youths all under eighteen except Bryce Deans who was reported to be nineteen. Naddy had ridden a mile to the nearest fast food outlet to buy their food. This was his payment to the gang in lieu of hard cash. The gang had been operating at Mc Clellans’s High School for the past fifteen years. Leadership and membership of the gang had been passed down among families.
“We nearly didn’t collect enough money to buy our lunch,” Bryce told them as he bit into a piece of chicken.
“It seems as if those youths don’t want us to protect them anymore,” Welton Bright said as he bit into a another piece of chicken. He was seventeen and in his last year at school. He had come into membership of the gang through a cousin.
The gang protected children from Nixon, Norton, Waste Land and Big Leaf districts numbering about three hundred in all.
“If they don’t pay us they’ll have to pay the Deuce gang and they charge more than us or maybe they’d like to pay the Ridley or the Dexterous gang?” Dalton Dillon asked as he drank some more of his fruit punch. He was big and burly and a month younger than Welton. Dudley West and Bidey Dixon made up the rest of the gang. Dudley was of medium height and was a few months past his sixteenth birthday while Bidey was also of medium height. Bidey was going on eighteen.
These boys had gotten into all sorts of trouble and had just missed being kicked out of school on several occasions. Bryce had to repeat grades at least twice and it wasn’t because he wasn’t good at his lessons. He loved loafing about and playing all sorts of pranks plus he was something of a playboy.
In addition each boy was required to spend at least a week being an enforcer in either Kingston or Spanish Town. So that some days at least two boys from the gang would be absent from the school and dressed in plain clothes. So in addition to their behavior their attendance record was also very poor.
All the gangs controlled different clusters of districts and had their enforcers in the school. The Crab-tree gang only operated at Mc Clelland High and was not an offshoot of any other gang like the others. The surplus cash from the day’s takings was split among the gang members who used it to outfit themselves or their girls and to party with them. They bought the most expensive cell phones, sneakers, clothes and sunglasses. Occasionally they would make up a collection to give to Stash, the area Don, who although he didn’t demand it, felt that the youths were showing him respect the more frequently they gave him money.
Bad men were roaming the communities doing kidnappings and raping of young girls. They were also robbing kids of their lunch money and lately their cell phones. All the youths had bicycles. They would shepherd those kids they protected to school in the mornings and back home in the evenings. Bryce had gotten into fights several times with grown men and came out the winner each time. Each of the other boys had confrontations with some of these men and had prevailed over them. The gangs had managed to chase some of these miscreants out of the communities. A few remained and it was these that the kids sought protection from by partaking of their lunch money to the various gangs operating at their school.
But the real fillip in all this was when a bad man by the name of Weller and Bryce had a confrontation. Weller thought of himself as some sort of a Don and fancied the bigger girls at Mc Lelland High to such an extent that the majority of them would run or hide whenever they saw him. Bryce was riding his bicycle home one evening alongside a girl he fancied. Weller confronted him about trying to be friendly with his woman. Weller drew a knife to stab Bryce. Bryce grabbed an iron pipe which he carried on his bicycle and promptly broke Weller’s hand. Weller fled the community and was never seen in the area again.
“I want to make a collection to give Stash next month,” Bryce announced.
“Maybe we shouldn’t promise him anything until we collect the money. After all we have to eat good food every day, outfit ourselves and our girls,” Dalton opined.
Before Stash they knew that the gang had to give money to a man called Dell. He had been shot and killed in May Pen about two years ago.
“But we never promise him anything. Only when we have surplus cash we give him,” Bryce said as they finished their meal.
“We’ll have to go over the books to see who owes us money and make them pay. I’m sure they wouldn’t like to stop coming to school,” Bidey told them.
A man called Bilton kept their tally book for them. He also kept weapons and contraband, all for a fee. He lived within a half a mile of the school. Bilton also sold marijuana and whatever things they needed such as condoms, anti-pregnancy and aphrodaziac pills.
“Suppose Stash goes to Bilton for the information on our takings?” Dudley West asked.
“Bilton wouldn’t tell him about that,” Bryce replied.
“Understand that they are having a big splash at Goofer’s tomorrow. We could collect our girls and go,” Welton said.
Goofers was a club in May Pen where fetes were put on. Students could normally attend because most of the activities took place during the day.
“Well tomorrow being a Friday we should reach there by about three o’clock,” Bryce said. His main woman was a teacher at the nearby basic school. She had told him that she had a workshop this Friday so he would have to take Deika, the fourth former, he had been romancing for about a month now.
The gang heard the bell ringing for the afternoon session of school and got up wearily from their seats knowing that after such a hearty meal they would probably sleep out the rest of the afternoon.
The session at Goofers was in full swing and Bryce was dancing with Deika. He left her in a corner to go and get some drinks when a hand held him around his neck in a choking hold.
“I want twenty thousand dollars from you by next week, youth man,” Stash told him. He gradually released his hold on Bryce’s neck.
By the time Bryce had cleared his head and stopped coughing Stash was gone but the other members of the gang had seen what was going on and rushed over. So also had Deika and she rushed over too.
“What did that guy want with you?” Bidey shouted. He knew the man who had been choking Bryce but he didn’t want any of the girls to know.
“Who was he, Bryce?” Deika asked as two policemen came over.
Reluctantly Bryce gave a statement to the policemen. He denied knowing the man who had assaulted him and told the policemen that he knew of no reason why anyone should be assaulting him as he wasn’t in any conflict with anyone. The gang stayed around to enjoy themselves with their girls.
Saturday Bryce phoned the other gang members to let them know about Stash’s demands. They immediately went to Bilton for their tally book. On the pretext that they were studying they went on the school’s compound. Several teachers as well as students expressed surprise at seeing them at school on a Saturday and no games were being played. The tally book revealed that they were owed over nine thousand dollars.
“If we could collect that money plus this week’s collection we could get the money to pay him,” Dalton Dillon said.
Stash’s enforces had gotten off some serious charges when witnesses failed to show. The boys didn’t want them to be coming after them. That Stash had physically delivered the message instead of one of his enforces showed that he meant business.
From Monday of that week the boys went on a serious collection drive. They were saddened at the food they now had for lunch. This was from the canteen and the boys’ taste buds couldn’t get used to what was being served. In fact they hardly touched the food. Other boys were recruited as enforcers. Finally on Friday they had collected fifteen thousand dollars. Stash took the money but he wasn’t pleased. He gave them until the next Friday to come up with another ten thousand dollars.
The next Monday the boys started their collection drive again.
“It seems as if we’re working for Stash,” Bidey opined. “If he isn’t satisfied this time I’m not collecting any more money for him.”
All the youths knew that they could leave the gang but if they left they would lose a lot of prestige plus they would now have to pay money to the new gang leaders.
That afternoon there was a big rumor that Stash had been arrested for assaulting Bryce.
Bryce was riding his bicycle home that evening when a car blocked his path. Three men whom he recognized as Stash’s enforcers came out of the car. Bryce knew that he daren’t try to escape because, as in all probability the men were armed and would shoot him.
One of the enforcers took him off the bicycle.
“Why did you tell the police that it was Stash who attacked you?”
He had drawn his gun and had it in Bryce’s face.
“I didn’t tell the police anything. They saw when he attacked me but I don’t know why they arrested him.”
“They’re going to hold an identification parade. Go there and say that it wasn’t him.” The enforcer and his cronies got back into the car and drove off.
The identification parade was held the next week Wednesday. Bryce went and didn’t point out Stash as his attacker.
“Yes, my youth,” Stash told him that Friday. “You did all right, I liked how you handled yourself.” He took the ten thousand dollars that the gang had collected.
Stash assured Bryce that he wasn’t going to pressure him for any more payments, not for now anyway.
The following Tuesday the youths were enjoying themselves. They were eating pizza.
“Stash says that we don’t have to give him any more money for now,” Bryce announced.
“He took the ten thousand though. I don’t know how he expects us to come up with so much money. What about his enforcers, maybe they aren’t doing such a good job,” Dalton Dillon complained.
Bryce told them of his meeting with Stash’s enforcers and what took place at the identification parade.
There was a knock on the door and Bidey got up to open it.
Three policemen were in the doorway along with Bilton and Stash, both in handcuffs.
The boys recognized the policemen from the local station as Sergeant Giscombe, Corporal Griffiths and a constable, Mr. Jackson.
The boys got up and tried to go through a side door but the Constable blocked it.
“All of you sit back in your seats,” Sergeant Giscombe ordered.
He looked them over.
“You boys are having a feast,” he said taking a pen-knife and cutting off a piece of the pizza and putting it in his mouth.
“Where did you guys get money from to buy such expensive food? Don’t bother tell me that you were saving up your lunch money. I know all about the way you guys get your money,” the Sergeant said as he finished chewing the pizza.
He threw a bag on the table containing several knives and a gun, contraceptives and pills.
“Which one of them gave you money to help buy that gun, Stash?” Sergeant Giscombe asked.
Stash pointed out Bryce.
“I didn’t give him any money to buy any gun, sir,” Bryce protested.
“He said you gave him fifty thousand dollars. He bought the gun from Bilton,” the Sergeant countered.
“Stash told us to collect some money for him. He didn’t tell us what he wanted it for,” Dalton Dillon came to Bryce’s rescue.
Corporal Griffiths help up their tally book.
“You know what you boys are guilty of. This tally book that we took off Bilton proves it.”
“All of you, roll up your shirt sleeves. Better, yet take off your shirts,” Sergeant Giscombe ordered.
The boys hesitatingly took off their shirts. There on their bodies, were the tattoo of a crab climbing up a tree. Some of them had it on their shoulders, their necks as well as other parts of their body.
At the police station the boys were charged. Bilton and Stash were also charged with a battery of offences.
The boys because of their youth were given suspended sentences and counselling. However Bryce because of his age was tried as an adult and was also given a suspended sentence. The Crab-tree gang was effectively broken up. The other gangs were also broken up when safe school officers were assigned to the school. The End.