The shock lasted a few mind-numbing moments, then something snapped awake inside me. I stared straight ahead, scanning hard into the distance. I saw my guy running against the traffic of cars and human bodies, trying to blend. Trying to disappear. I spotted a flash as the second guy, the other member of the scam, ran too. My guy shot a quick look back. Even in the distance, our eyes met.
I was in Uniben. It was the period I picked up jogging every morning. Jogging and lifting weights. I had been doing it for months. Maybe a year. All these workouts, all these waking by 5am to hit the streets, all these intense periods of throbbing pulse, thundering heart and feet pounding on the pavement as I sprinted past sleep-deprived students returning from night class, they kicked in suddenly and I shot forward without thinking, going after the two thieves.
Lagos traffic, for once in its worthless life, was a blessing. I was running against traffic I slipped between crawling cars, sprinted between split traffic lines, Gala and LaCasera hawkers jumping out of the way. Some of those people in cars probably thought I was a thief myself, fleeing a possible lynching. Except there was no mob behind me, baying for my blood.
The guys were still several yards away. I ran harder, kicking off my slippers to add more lightning to my feet. Ahead, the thieves crossed the road and ran behind a building, going out of sight. I followed, pausing momentarily to let a car speed past (the other lane was less congested). Roadside traders looked up as I approached.
A woman pointed at a footpath between two buildings.
I darted into the space, following the thin stretch of road that led into an open street.
There was no sign of them. But I ran on. I ran blind, trusting my feet, trusting the voice in my head that wasn’t really a voice telling me to keep going. I ran, my lungs starting to scream, my heart thundering harder than my feet. I ran like I had just seen signs preceding the end of the world.
I spotted them as I rounded the next bend. The shorter guy had outrun the first one and was several yards away. They both were closer and the road was clear for that one last burst of desperate energy. The taller guy looked back and I smiled inside. Run, run, run as fast as you can, I will still get you, I am the Gingerbread man.
Lemme pause and give small motivational speech: Because you can’t see what you are after doesn’t mean you are not on track.
I sprinted after them, aiming for the taller guy. Those punks were too amateur to split up and attempt to confuse me. Too dumb to use the split seconds of being out of sight to hide. I kept nearing and nearing the taller guy, till I was close enough to see sand flying from his slippers. Close enough to see the beaten expression on his face when he looked back again.
Close enough for me to go for a tackle.
(To be continued)