On The Run

I tip my ball cap to the two male police officers, which has the dual effect of covering more of my face and making them really, really angry. I slip my left arm through my backpack’s hanging strap, give them a little wave, spin on my heel and run.

The police siren’s scream echoes harshly in these narrow confines but I am still able to hear the car turn into the narrow lane and begin its pursuit. While my sneakers pound the pavement my eyes search for the marker I left when I first arrived just after midnight - I never commence a piece without an escape plan.

Without looking over my shoulder I know they’re getting close - the tires are crushing trash I dashed between only moments before; I can almost feel the heat of the engine on the back of my legs; and that sounded like the passenger side window being lowered.

My stride does not falter as I imagine the officer leaning out the window with his gun drawn. My breath remains steady, my thoughts focused. It can’t be much further. Where is it, where is it, where…

There! I make a hard right between two buildings separated by no more than three feet; my left shoulder slams into the crumbling brick wall but I continue on without slowing. Behind me tires screech in protest at their suddenly halted forward motion, followed closely by two car doors slamming in unison. I reach another turn, pause to look back and a laugh escapes between measured breaths. I knew I had chosen well.

I do not select my canvasses lightly. For this particular piece two factors had made it an easy choice - the first being that the warren of alleys connected to the bank made for a relatively easy getaway on short notice. The second was that Patti’s Donut Shop two blocks away had a long standing two for one deal for local police officers. Let me just say that the men and women who patrolled this area were loyal customers.

Undaunted by, or perhaps unaware of, our mismatched physical fitness levels the two men come heaving down the narrow alley. The resemblance to two hippos squeezing through tree trunks is remarkable. I wave for a second time and start moving again.

The lane I’m racing down is wide enough for a car but the road connecting it to the first is nearly a half mile away. I would have escaped even more easily if they had remained in their vehicle but it would have been far less fun. For me, anyway.

I slow as I approach yet another turn; I want to ensure that they see me take this one. They spill out of the alley with grunts and curses and I disappear from view again. A few steps into the poorly lit alley and the end of the chase is at hand.

I scale the chain-linked fence that ends halfway up the buildings, reaching the top faster than a cat. I swing my right foot up onto the metal pole running across the top and raise myself to an unsteady crouch. I calm my breathing as I look up at the fire escape that terminates six feet above the fence. Just a short jump, easy for anyone starting from a flat, stable surface; easy for someone like me from any footing.

I spring up and grab hold of the metal with both hands, pulling myself up and onto the platform just as the cops reach the entrance to the alley. I peer over the side and enjoy the view of their confused, beet red faces. Silently I slip my backpack off and unzip the main pocket to grab my camera - some moments just need to last forever.

I bring the device to eye-level and zoom in on the scene below. I get the shot I want and click off a few frames; perhaps I’ll send these along with the portrait of Mayor Wilkerson to Emma B at the online magazine…

But my hands are slick with sweat and I watch in stunned horror as the camera slips from my paint-stained fingers and pirouettes through the air, down to the pavement below.

The End

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