Two police cruisers colonized Hidden Oaks parking lot the next morning. I felt guilty as hell for no reason except that I was a parolee. Someone would tell me what Parole Board Canada imposed condition I had allegedly breached soon enough. That was odd. Odera’s car was missing. Farther on, the ATCO trailer door hung splintered and cracked. The doorjamb had been torn loose with deadbolt fully extended in the locked position. Telling. I climbed the stairs gingerly and stepped inside, more nervous than a heretic summoned before the Spanish Inquisition.
The ransacked trailer commanded my attention. Tables were overturned, papers scattered, drafting instruments strewn across the floor. Someone had dumped each drawer on top of the computer desk, rifled the filing cabinet, yet Robert’s architectural drawings and his desk in the outer room were undisturbed. The old computer CD holder was in pieces. All the old backup CD installation discs and portable thumb drives were missing. Four city police officers and Robert’s angrily narrowed eyes ― lion eyes that clawed meat from a fresh kill — raked over me. I viewed the burglarised disarray thinking that everyone believed the culprit had presented himself with huge audacity.
If circumstances were not already tense, Mike Beck appeared from around the corner. Odera was nowhere in sight. A city of Toronto police officer wearing three stripes on his sleeve stepped forward.
“Yes, sir.” I looked at Robert’s contorted face. Haunted eyes stabbed at me, plunging dread into my breast. “How can I help you, sergeant?”
“We’d like to ask you a few questions, downtown.”
“Regarding what?” He removed handcuffs from his utility belt. “You’re arresting me? What charge?” I inquired labouring to reconcile Robert’s cemetery squint.
“I suspended your parole,” Beck chirped. “An unmanageable risk. We’ll see what happens after the police finish interrogating you.”
“Interrogated? Listen…I played no part in this mess. I wasn’t even in the city.”
“You’ll have your chance to explain downtown. Turn around. Place your palms against the wall.”
“What have you done with her!” roared Robert.
Robert’s grief-stricken face went red. His eyes turned to madman slits as he lunged toward me. Two of the four officers grabbed his arms. Still, Robert reached out, hands and fingers splayed like claws. Maniac murder fighting to unloose.
“Done with? Odera? What?”
“You bastard! I’ll see you in hell if you’ve harmed her!”
Insane grief fuelled berserker strength and allowed him to break free. He managed two heavy steps in my direction before one of the officers hauled him backwards by the waist.
“Give her back!” he yelled fighting the cops who attempted to restrain him without causing bodily harm.
“Get him out of here!” the sergeant barked, moving to help the other two uniformed constables restrain Robert.
Harmed? What the fuck?
“Face the wall. Right hand behind your back; left hand on the wall,” ordered the constable beside me, placing a thick-soled cop boot between my feet.
Feeling the cold metal arm begin to capture my wrist, accompanied by Robert’s tormented look and his odd statements, changed the direction of my life. Before I had consciously decided to act, I stretched out my left arm to place it on the wall and then rapidly reversed its path, pistoning my elbow backwards. It ploughed into the cop’s ribs. Spears of agony shot up his torso and drove him back a step. Handcuffs clinked on tile. Pivoting around, the heel of my other palm sledge-hammered his solar plexus and the bundle of nerves beneath. Air whooshed out of his lungs. He crashed to the floor, stunned. Freed from restraint, I bolted through the busted door and sprinted across the gravel road. The trailer door banged open after rebounding shut.
Three more strides and I jumped gigantic upon the outer row of scaffold platforms, praying my leap contained enough height to keep the column from tilting backward. The sharp report of a Glock 9mm handgun, immediately followed by the angry whine of a slug drilling into wood inches from my head, sent spruce splinters into my cheek. When playing hockey as a child I had experienced periods when I felt so on top of my game, so focussed on what I was doing, the puck expanded into the size of a volleyball and everyone moved in slow motion. Those were flashes of clarity, moments of empty mind that rendered scoring a goal a near certainty. Running headlong from the police, bullets yearning my flesh, my senses perceived the mayhem in slow motion while my body entered warrior mode. Adrenaline had charged my muscles with energy and my lungs took deeper breaths to meet the additional requirements I had asked of them. This state of being was where I thrived, where I felt the most like myself. Neither doubt nor worry nor indecision slowed my thoughts.
I clambered to the top of the uppermost stack while my mind constructed and analyzed one scenario after another that shared a single theme. Evade. Evade. Evade.
A glance at the trailer revealed that one officer spoke into his radio, no doubt issuing a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) bulletin for my capture and arrest. Beck was nowhere in sight, but Robert had stepped outside. His grief-stricken gaze focussed on my fleeing figure. In front of Robert stood three cops with their arms outstretched in combat positions, zeroing me in their Glock .17 sights. Kendo reflexes automatically judged height and trajectory.
Roll left. Move now. Stay low.
Zig right to force the three right-handed shooters to use their left hands to compensate and thereby reduce their accuracy. The Glock .17 9mm handguns dead-zeroing on me were fine weapons with barrel lengths of 4.49 inches if a person wanted a terrific weapon in close quarters with static targets. The police used a lighter load in the cartridges to prevent penetration into houses and other barriers if they missed, and to help avoid slugs passing through one person and killing the next closest. Fewer grains of gunpowder reduced the upward kick and the handgun itself was built using several plastic parts to further lighten the weapon.
Which was its greatest flaw unless the marksman had put in a lot of hours with moving targets. It was easy to move the front sight too quickly and overshoot the target, unlike the Glock .40, a heavier calibre weapon better suited to fluid tactical engagements. Also in my favour, cops mostly used static firing ranges with stationary targets, so my best strategy was to move laterally and make them track me left to right and perhaps overshoot. The way I looked at it, it would be nearly a miracle for any of them to put a slug in my center mass while I was in motion.
Halfway into my roll across the platform tower, two slugs screamed past my ear, cracking the sound barrier just ahead of me. Another followed as I went over the edge, ploughing a spruce furrow beside my hand as the shooter became aware of leading me too far and overcompensated by snapping off a low shot. I landed awkwardly, bracing myself on two hands and one knee. Scrambling to stay in motion, I wiped the bullets from thought as my warrior’s brain planned my next action. Focus on the moment; this one and no other. More bullets slammed into metal and wood, but none penetrated the wood and steel tower.
Move your ass! I told myself. Speed. Speed. Speed. Get out of sight.
“I’ll call it in. You and you, after him,” yelled the sergeant.
Hiding was out of the question. They would unleash the canine unit. Dogs would take my scent. My home had become a trap. Telephones would be tapped. A BOLO would be posted for my motorcycle and my picture transmitted over television news stations, to every squad car in the province and beyond. Steel scaffolds rammed into my shoulder when I cornered too tightly. Neither pain nor discomfort registered. Dashing through the familiar paths and alleys, I toppled stack after stack, hoping to create time-hindering obstacles, hoping to instigate a domino effect, but failing to do so. The north property-line fence appeared. After tearing a piece of my shirttail loose, I impaled it on top of the fence and walked three steps backwards stepping in my footprints. I climbed to the top of the nearest row and ran crouched low until my nerves could no longer survive the imaginary bullet targeting me and jumped down.
Ten long striders later, the eight-foot-high west fence came into view. Five more strides and I coiled my legs beneath me and sprang for the top. Planting two hands on the top rail, I vaulted to freedom, but rather than trying to nail a landing, I let body roll to absorb the fall and gained my feet stumbling briefly before dashing across the street, legs pumping like pistons for the subway station. Running on the sidewalk let me exploit tree cover. Anything to discourage another salvo of weapons fire.
The intersection of the first block waited dead ahead.
Running attracted attention so I forced myself back to a walk. Despite warning myself not to, I snatched a quick look behind me. Nothing to see. Several deep breaths quieted my labouring lungs and allowed my madly racing heart to depart the back of my throat. Slouching reduced my height and the limp I adopted changed my gate. A person’s gate rated among the easiest traits to identify, and to alter, I thought. After that run, a limping man would not be given a second look. Basic human psychology. The sound of blood rushing in my temples faded as the kendo breathing style I had adopted regulated the internal calamity that had become my life. Calm asserted itself. Half a city block remained between the subway station and me. Never-ending sidewalk stretched into oblivion. Each step became a hundred yards fraught with nine-millimetre peril.
The subway station’s red and white sign materialized like an ocean life raft. Police sirens warbled across the city, competing for dominance in the rush-hour bedlam, echoing off buildings. Sirens seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. Six blocks away at the most, I reasoned. Those sirens clashed with honking horns as I pictured law-abiding citizenry letting the cruisers pass. Nobody rushed in rush hour, and it lasted longer than an hour. Congested bumper-to-bumper streets and the irony of rush hour worked in my favour. I could move around the city faster than vehicles could for the time being. Bicycle- and beat cops hit my top-ten list of things to avoid. Troglodyte safety replaced any topside worry when I slipped into the comforting pedestrian crowd descending into the TTC subway station’s subterranean womb and shuffled unhurriedly down the steps.There was no place for haste when your future’s gone to waste.