Jacque Breeden Business Park
Albuquerque, New Mexico
“Hey, Spider-Man, it’s your turn.”
“Don’t call me Spider-Man. I’m not that good,” Michael Anthony Callahan said.
“Dude, I saw you run straight up a ten-foot wall last week,” the unofficial parkour team leader said. “It was sweet. I know a Spider-Man when I see one.”
“Peter Parker is a white man, five-foot-ten. I’m five-four, 135 pounds, and sixteen years old.”
“Then, you’re a little brown Spidey-Mikey with a black ponytail, my man.”
They stood on the roof of one of several new office complexes springing up all around Albuquerque. Michael leaned over the edge of the four-story parking garage and looked down to the parkour obstacle course that had been unofficially marked out below.
New office buildings, ramps, sidewalks, tree-lined streets, acres of concrete, boulders, and a lush landscaped park promised opportunities for a mega adrenaline rush. Nearly deserted that early Sunday morning, it was perfect for what Michael and his new friends had in mind.
He loved this sport he had recently discovered. Every parkour session was like the opening scene of a James Bond movie. Videos were popping up all over the Internet, people leaping, diving, and flipping across urban rooftops, ramps, and parks in cities from London to Tokyo. Michael called it applied gymnastics or real-world gymnastics. His father, a retired fighter pilot, would call it combat gymnastics—if he knew anything about parkour, which was doubtful. Leaping between multi-story buildings was flat-out dangerous. A simple slip or mistake could put you in the hospital—or morgue.
Michael would be the last competitor to launch, which was fine with him. He was a watcher, preferring to see what the older guys were doing, to check things out before he dove into this new situation. He was careful everywhere except on the ski slopes or in a skateboard park. Which was why he had yet to be arrested like many of his friends and why his picture hung in a place of honor on the wall of the Taos Orthopaedic Clinic. It was a Callahan family joke that Michael’s snowboarding medical bills had paid for the doctor’s new Mercedes.
An experienced snowboard and skateboard competitor, Michael knew the nervous tension he felt now would disappear once he started his run. This was serious stuff, exhilarating and hazardous at the same time. It was precisely what he loved and craved.
He looked down at the course destination, a circular fountain about a block and a half away, then jogged over to the opposite side of the building to prep for his run. He closed his eyes and reviewed the plan, visualizing like he would right before a run down a slopestyle course or a halfpipe. First, the leap across a fifteen-foot gap to the next rooftop, then—
Sirens shattered his concentration.
Michael’s head jerked around. Police cars were surrounding the fountain and some of the streets leading to it.
“Cops,” the team leader shouted. “Get out of here!”
Perched where he was, Michael picked out the only direction away from the swarm of police, an improvised, unproven way. Not his style, but if he got caught up here, it would be jail for sure.
Relax, you can do this.
To get away, he had to leave now and fast. No time for fancy tricks.This was survival mode. Michael sprinted to the stairwell, vaulted over the wall, and dropped to the next lower level. He trotted to the other side of the building, swung his legs over a safety rail, paused to get his bearing, and leapt across the gap between the buildings. He landed hard on the sloping roof and started a semi-controlled slide down the massive air conditioning ductwork. Michael slithered to a stop across the roof. Carefully gauging the distance, he backed up, then sprinted forward, took a flying leap across another fifteen-foot gap to the next rooftop, Bond-rolled to his feet, and hurried to the other side. Two stories to go. No cops in sight.
He peered over the edge. No obvious choices. He went to another wall. Still nothing. The third wall offered a dicey option of dropping to a narrow stone ledge where two walls intersected. Normally, he would shun this if given another alternative, but the sirens sounded closer. No time, no choice. He steadied himself a moment, and over the wall he went. He hung by both hands, facing the bricks. A glance down showed at least a twenty-foot drop if he missed the ledge. He released his left hand, and his body swung 90 degrees to face outwards.
He dropped. Both feet hit the ledge at the same time. He teetered there, trying to gain his balance. The mortar on one section of the ledge gave way, and the stone slipped. He fell forward. Off balance and desperate, he twisted to get his feet under him properly and failed. He plummeted down, smashed into newly planted shrubbery, barely missed being impaled by a tree stake, and bounced. Fire lanced through his left leg, and he almost screamed. Didn’t want to move ever again.
He tried to sit up. Spasms stabbed him. He tried again. Waves of agony.
This was going to be ugly, but if he didn’t get up and out of there, the cops would make it worse. He took a deep breath and rolled over. Most of the pain concentrated in his leg. He had broken enough bones in his life to know it was no sprain.
Oh God, no. I can’t have a broken leg. Not now. We’re supposed to go to Ireland next week. What’ll I say to my dad? He’s gonna kill me. Oh no, here come the cops!
He yanked off his hoodie and threw it deep into the bushes along with his cap. Reaching behind his head, he snapped the scrunchie holding his ponytail and shook out his mane of shoulder-length hair. He spotted a cluster of tools stored behind the shrubbery by the landscaping crew. Rolling toward them, he grabbed a hoe, levered himself upright, and hobbled out into full view of the arriving police.
He nearly toppled over from the pain. The hobble was the real deal.
The police car stopped. Michael’s heart felt like it did too.
The officer rolled down his window. Silver aviator sunglasses framed his brown face. “Hola,chico! Did you see anybody run through here a few minutes ago? Blue hoodie, ball cap on backwards?”
“No,señor,” Michael managed to choke out. “I no see nobody like that.”
The cop studied him for a moment. “You okay, amigo?”
“Si, señor. Just a cramp.” He patted his leg. “I get some agua.Be okay soon.” Michael gave a smile and a wave. Please go away. Please go away.