May 11 2006 at 10:20AM
I hand my keys over to the chubby petrol attendant. He's jolly - as usual. "It's winter today," he laughs.
I walk the 10 paces to the garage shop to buy milk and cigarettes - and hear a cracker. Cracker? Another one. Gunshots? Maybe I must rather go back to my car.
I turn and walk back - and see the petrol attendant scurrying to the front of my car. I run and fall down next to him. There are men storming out of the shop. A lot of them. Maybe 10.
Now I hear shots. One, two, six.
I see at least eight men in a group running towards a quiet adjacent road
We crawl to the passenger side of my car and I see two men split away from the group and run towards the main road. More shots. We're too exposed. Rather back to the front of the car.
I see at least eight men in a group running towards a quiet adjacent road. We are in full view of them. Rather the passenger side. Hide there, only two behind us.
I don't even try to count the shots. Sixteen? We cower. I see my keys lying broken on the tar in front of me. Another petrol attendant is lying like a flat tyre to my right.
"Open your door, let's drive away," Mr Jolly whispers.
"I can't. The passenger door is locked."
I open the passenger door and crawl in
"You can. Just do it!" He is angry now.
The shots have stopped. I crawl to the passenger door and unlock it. I lift my head - and see a man in green pants and an orange beanie coming back from the quiet road. He empties his gun. He turns and runs.
I open the passenger door and crawl in. Mr Jolly is trying to get into the driver's seat, but he then leaves. I sit up, start my car and drive off.
Thank God, no traffic. I'm in the main road, Friedland Avenue, driving away from it all. Around the corner I stop: "Phone Murphy, he'll know what to do," is all I can think.
I'm hyperventilating when Murphy (our neighbourhood security man) answers his cellphone.
"The Zenex (garage) was hit, a lot of shooting! People must be dead," I pant.
"I'll phone the cops. How many? Where did they go?"
I tell Murphy about the two men running down the main road and the other group going up the quiet road. What did they look like? I don't know. Black clothes. Beanies. Green pants. I'm not a good eyewitness. "I'm on my way," he says.
I'm shaking in my car. And now? I owe the garage R50. Must go back. I do a U-turn and go back.
There's already a police van on the scene. A man on a walkie-talkie, a female officer standing around. I see Mr Jolly. "Is everybody in the shop all right?" I ask.
"Nobody's all right."
I look to my left and see a man sitting in a big golden 4x4 with his head drooping. There's blood, lots of it. I jump out of my car and run over to him. "You've been shot. Where?"
His eyes are open, but he doesn't answer. I see blood on his pants, his face, his shirt, his arm. Everywhere I touch there's blood.
"Where have you been shot?" I see no wound. His hand moves up and down his gear lever. He's trying to leave, I think.
I run to the female officer. "There's a man in that car bleeding to death. Come help me."
"I've called the ambulance," she says curtly.
"I don't know first aid. Please help me!" She stays where she is.
I run back to the man. "I'm trying to get you help. Can you talk?"
His eyes are closed now. I rub his head. "The ambulance is coming."
I see no wound. I see a dead man through his windscreen. I just know he is dead. I rub his head. "I'll try and help."
Another police van pulls up. Three officers pour out. I run to them. I now use the word "civilian" to describe the man.
"Bliksem, kaptein," the cop says and starts running with me. He gets into the 4x4's other side. "Here it is. He's been shot in the head," he says. At last, I've found someone who can help.
Then there are ambulance people all over. More cops. I see a man walking with his arm held high. He is bleeding. Someone else is working on another body lying very still outside the shop.
My phone rings. It's Murphy. "Where are you?"
"At the Zenex."
"So am I. I can't see you." He spots me and runs over. I start crying. I'm safe.
An hour later. Murphy phones: "Nothing was taken, Carine."
It turned out that it was a security guard who had been shot dead, which explains the green pants I saw.
"They killed the Chubb (security) guy - with his own gun." That explains the body; it was not a petrol attendant as I'd thought.
And the guy whose head I've been rubbing? "Don't know if he'll make it. He was shot high on the top of his head and the bullet exited high at the back. He was airlifted to Milpark."
I had turned away from the Shop of Death. Just in time. Another three steps and I would have met Them.
Somehow, today I cheated death.
And I thank God.
o This article was originally published on page 1 of The Star on May 11, 2006