Javier stood at the starting line, concentrating on his breathing. He blocked out all the commotion around him. His focus was keener, sharper than at any other moment in his life. This was his time. This was his chance. It all came down to this.
When the starter pistol sounded, his muscles leapt into instinctive action, all that coiled kinetic force propelling him forward. He saw nothing but the finish line, heard nothing but his rhythmic breathing, felt nothing but the beating of his heart and the energy coursing through him connecting with the ground at every stride. He was a bolt of lightning, he was a powerful beast, he was . . . alone?
When he rushed through the banner that marked the finish, pride-puffed chest first, arms raised triumphantly above him, there were no cheers. There was no crowd of eager fans to congratulate him. There were no almost-winners breathing down his neck. Baffled, he turned and looked back. 400 meters away a crowd of sprinters and spectators gathered at the starting line in a knot of concern.
Javier jogged the track in reverse as if rewinding his success. He shouldered his way in through the growing crowd. When his head emerged into the center circle he drew his breath in sharply. There on the ground was number 23, Tyson Blake, his chief rival and the favourite to win this race. He was twisted into the ungainly pose of unexpected death, his face an alarming shade of gray. A tiny feathered dart stuck out of the back of his left calf. One clenched fist extended forward toward the finish line as if in death he still strived for victory. Javier suddenly felt ill.
Paramedics with a gurney parted the crowd and knelt to start their futile resuscitation efforts. It wasn’t until the coroner arrived and waved them all away that Javier could tear his eyes from the grisly scene. He scanned the dispersing crowd for his brother Mateo, spotting him leaning against the hood of his pride and joy, a conspicuous yellow Camarro. The need for speed ran in the family, they often told a new acquaintance or interviewing journalist.
As Javier approached, Mateo pulled his hands out from deep in the pockets of his leather jacket and clapped him roughly on the back.
“Great race, bro. You killed it.”
“That’s not funny, man. Let’s just go.”
After three weeks the police investigation had gone exactly nowhere. The race was rescheduled and on the morning of Race Day: Take Two, Javier shrugged into his leather jacket on his way out the door. As he walked to Mateo’s waiting car he tucked his hands into his pockets, his fingers coming to rest on a thin cylinder that felt like bamboo. A puzzled frown flashed across his face.
“You’ve got my jacket on, bro.”