Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bombardment of the Galería and Shooting

Kiki Explodes
After months of tranquilitude La Loma de Chivo heated up. Popitín and Fabriccio are the two tigueres the police are after the most. Popitín’s leg healed well and within three weeks he was back on the street and his limp disappeared after a few more days. Rivals shot Gavilán in the leg and he was not seen for more than a month.
After sleeping for months on Chavela’s floor in her new apartment, which is where Ambar used to live, Kiki moved in with his girlfriend, Mariela, in Chavela's old apartment. Mariela was Kiki’s childhood sweetheart when they were growing up in Baní but she dumped him when his fights escalated along with his drug use years ago. Mariela moved to our neighborhood to be near Altagracia who was a mother figure for her when they were neighbors and she found work shampooing hair and sweeping the floor in a hair salon somewhere in the Zona Colonial. Before renting Chavela’s old apartment across the alley (from which you can see into our bathroom if you peer through the percianas at the right angle) she lived with a different boyfriend a couple of blocks away who worked and had a large flat screen TV. But as the weeks passed she began taking up with Kiki again and since the boyfriend spent quite a bit of time away working she was able to entertain Kiki in the other boyfriend’s apartment.
            One afternoon during this period Kiki found himself short of money and thirsty so he pawned the boyfriend’s giant TV for $30 and when that money ran out he sold the pawn ticket. Drunk he argued and pushed Jhoanglish around so Jhoanglish went and borrowed Mariela’s cell phone, which of course had the boyfriend’s number listed, called him and told him what happened so the boyfriend dumped Mariela. So without a place to sleep she joined Kiki on Chavela’s floor. Mariela then missed her next period, quit her job and the two of them rented the space over the old colmado. The Venezuelans paid their first and last month deposit.
            I met the Venezuelans New Year’s eve the night my wallet was stolen. (I had never taken such precautions before sallying out to the Malecón outdoor concert thronged with people event. I had removed my ID cards and had put my spending cash in other pockets, the wallet was in my front pocket while I waited to use one of the portable outdoor toilets. While I was in the line a large man with a hat pulled low cut in the front of the line two or three people ahead of me—a number of us told him to move, that it was a line etc. but he only moved laterally cutting in front of the line for the adjacent port-o-san. I now believe that while this intentional distraction was going on, he had a friend who was lifting wallets from behind.) At any rate, Altagracia and I and Niningo and Chavela, along with Kiki and Mariela had driven to the Malecón together. I gave Kiki and Mariela $15 and the same to Niningo and Chavela for refreshments and we all milled around in the crowd. At one point Kiki brought us over to cluster of people he was drinking with and proudly introduced us to four Venezuelans as his business associates. I was impressed at first, the V’s were dressed in black sport jackets and spoke enough English to want to practice their conversation. Later I learned that they had all met in prison. Kiki goes out with them occasionally and returns with money and none of us knows what they actually do.
            Mariela’s pregnancy began with very bad malestar or morning sickness, which is not a phenomenon I am expert on, but I do know that she vomited at any time and with no warning and was weak and dizzy. Stress could be partially to blame since Kiki told her that if she lost the baby he would kill her. She told him to go make some money, and she didn’t care how. She got her severance pay and secretly gave me 2000 pesos of it to me to hide for her for the next month’s rent so Kiki couldn’t spend it. Her malestar got worse and whenever Kiki stole or earned some money (he actually worked construction for two days but decided that his hands were not suited to rough labor) he bought rum and drugs. When Mariela started a tab at one of the local colmados Kiki slapped her, hard on the street and did it when Belita (an ex of Kiki) was passing by. A sonogram showed the fetus somehow badly placed. Mariela had had enough and I gave her back the 2000 pesos. She gave Kiki 250 for food money for a few days and she left for Baní to be with her family. Within 15 minutes Kiki bought a bottle of rum and an hour later he bought another one. While I was eating dinner in the kitchen his voice came croaking in from the street that he wanted to talk to me about borrowing 500 pesos ($15) so he could take a guagua to Baní where he suspected Mariela’s family was advising her to get an abortion. I said no. Later he was seen up by Manso’s colmado with another bottle. Altagracia and I went to bed around 10:30, Niningo turned out his light a half hour later. A cement block crashing against the front door woke us all up around midnight. Then another boulder hit the steel burglar bars, then another. We were under bombardment. Kiki was hurling the chunks of block and stone from the street and screaming at us to come out so he could send us all to Hell. We did not know if he was otherwise armed. Some of the blocks hit the tin roof of the galeria mangling it in places. Niningo called the police, then 5 minutes later called again. We waited inside in the dark clutching baseball bats. We could hear Chavela out in the street screaming at him to stop, we later learned she had a knife but never got close enough to use it.  Finally 4 police on motorcycles, a police SUV and a paddy wagon showed up. Kiki was dragged out of Chavela’s apartment where he had run when he saw the cops coming and Altagracia hysterically identified him and challenged the cops to shoot him in the feet and lock him up in Najayo (a tough prison here) for a real long time. They stuffed him in the SUV and took him to the station house in Villa Mella. We followed in the guaguita because Altagracia would have to sign to keep him locked up since it was a family matter. At the station house, when we were in the front room signing the complaint Kiki lunged out of the back room howling, ”Mommy, mommy,“ and was hauled back in and slammed up against the wall a few times. We went home and wended our way through the rubble and broken glass on the galería floor and went to bed.
            In the morning Altagracia had to go back to the station house to re-sign to keep Kiki in for 24 hours, which is the maximum when no one in a family dispute is injured. I went to sell photos in the Plaza. Altagracia called me at noon to tell me that Kiki had escaped the jail. I figured he would have run far, foolishly thinking that it was a crime to escape from jail in the Dominican Republic. When I got home from work we heard that he was with a bunch of neighborhood tigueres drinking and snorting drugs in a local disco. Later in the evening he turned back up at Manso’s colmado. Around 11 PM when we were getting ready for bed we heard a shot but didn’t think anything of it. Around midnight we awoke to Chavela frantically pounding on the front door saying that Kiki had just killed somebody. We talked to some near-eyewitnesses in front of the house and pieced together that Kiki had been with a guardia and had either borrowed or taken his pistol in order to rob someone—he had pistol whipped the guy then pushed the gun into his chest and pulled the trigger repeatedly but the gun did not go off, got about $5 from him and while yelling “You’re useless, tu no sierves!!” and while pulling away on the motorcycle had reached back and shot at his head, the gun went off this time but only took off a piece of his ear. But until we knew how bad the injuries were and who the guy was we had to prepare for immediate repercussions. He might have armed brothers, he might be part of a gang. Niningo, Altagracia and I turned off every light source in the house, double checked the door bolts and sat behind a concrete wall and waited silently. Well, Altagracia kept hissing for us to be silent while she monologued in a high whisper about all the things that could go wrong. We waited like that for about an hour and eventually concluded that neither the police nor the avengers would come that night and went to bed tensely listening and twitching at every cat scratch, dog bark and distant pistol shot. At 3:30 in the morning we heard somebody hitting a padlock with a hammer two houses away. It was Valentine’s Day.
            As I write this on Monday Kiki is on the run based around Baní, where he knows the woods and where he figures Mariela will protect him. He still has the pistol but only one bullet. The guardia has been thrown in jail for losing his pistol and his father is trying to negotiate its return. At the moment the proposal is that the father give 4000 pesos ($120) to Chavela and Jose, a local trusted tiguere, and they go to Baní to buy the pistol from Kiki for 2000 pesos with Jose getting paid the other 2000. So far Kiki has not agreed. Mariela is bleeding and has severe abdominal pain, is not eating and has not seen a doctor.
            Altagracia and Alicia cleaned the rubble off the galeria using shovels and 5-gallon pails while I was at work and dumped it in the vacant lot across the street. The pile of brickbats would have filled more than two wheelbarrows.

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