Two evenings a week, I go wild jogging. We call it wild jogging because it’s in the Wilderness Section of North Park, all half a square mile of it, with three miles of winding trails. There’re accidents from time to time – twisted ankles, broken wrists, flat noses and black eyes. It’s rough ground and people run it till late evening when you can hardly see where your feet are landing. So what do they expect?
But most runners are regulars; we recognise and acknowledge each other, and chat at the rest points or the water faucet, and help if anyone’s injured. Not that we know each others’ names for the most part – it’s more like, ‘She’s the one with yoga pants and breath smelling of California Merlot.’ Or, ‘It’s him with eyes fixed at chest height and a parrot stuffed down his pants.’
Mid-evening, and I was on the zigzag path down the Waybrook face of Tunni Cliff, where there are a dozen tight bends. It’s fast, precipitous, exciting – but the hairpins are banked, and have wooden grab rails like for hitching horses to. They’re to stop joggers over-running into the trees and down the rocks. Not that it stops all of them – Ditzy Babs went off Highview Bend last month. They found a pocket mirror nearby. I bet she was checking her looks. Hardly a wonder her brats are so vain – would-be models my ass.
While I’m running, I keep one eye looking down through the pines, to see the path below in case anyone’s coming up who I might crash into on the next bend.
Yes, I saw someone on the section below, standing looking around. Waiting… A mugger? I’m thinking he’s not dressed for exercise – hoodie and jeans. Just a glimpse of him, then he was alerted to something; he ducked.
I kept running, eyes wide for— Ah… There. A loose rock. I grabbed it – weathered granite with a rough surface. Good grip. You get a huge amount of momentum behind a swing with that in your hand. He’s not going to get me; not going to stop me; not even slow me down…
It’s better to keep up the rhythm of your speed, rather than try to walk it, so I just carried on as usual, hefting the rock. Round the hairpin I ran; seeing ahead thirty yards, forty. Yes. There. I saw him – the Hoodie – bending over someone. Another jogger. There was a lot of blood.
I was closing in so fast. He looked up as I was almost on him – a woman lying there – throat slashed. Knife in his hand – looked like he was reaching for her phone or something.
He realised I was coming – eyes widened, a bit surprised, but not alarmed. Probably saw me as another victim. Still kneeling, just starting to rise, when I reached him at full speed, leaping across the prostrate body, bending a fraction, my hand swinging with all my strength, and amazing accuracy, if I do say so myself.
Splat! The lump of granite smashed into the middle of his face. Squurk!!! I felt his face give way. Crunch. His head jerked back.
I slowed, stopped and went back. Throat gashed wide; eyes blank, the jogger was beyond help. So was the killer – face smashed, teeth scattered – other bone bits, lots of blood – eyes flickering… bubbles of blood playing in the remains of his mouth. Beyond my help, anyway.
‘You can rot here,’ I told him, hitched my boobs up, and carried on. Probably, there wouldn’t be anyone else along here this evening. If they came – so what? Wouldn’t make any difference to the jogger. Not much to Hoodie, either: he was going to be in agony with that all night – and that was the best he could hope for. He was in for a lifetime of it – whether it was for one night or fifty years.
Me? I look like two dozen other regulars: average height, jogging gear, one-twenty pounds, flat chest under my sports bra. I tossed the rock in the stream, a couple of hundred feet lower down, rolled in the water to get rid of any blood on me, then splattered in the mud to hide any that might be left. And if anyone saw me, I’d have a pretty good reason for having thoroughly washed all my gear that night.
So I re-laundered it, then dumped it outside St Vincent Thrift Store – the charity shop the far side of town – next morning. If I was ever questioned, I’d claim to have been wearing one of the other sets that night.
I still feel a bit bad for leaving Martine Lukovic there all night. I’d seen her before; couple of times we’d nodded, but she never answered when I spoke to her at the water point. So I didn’t know her name or anything about her till the papers printed everything – including about the critical condition of the knife-wielding killer. He died from septicaemia three weeks later, having communicated not an iota of information about what had happened to him. It’s hard to talk without a face.
I still run; but not around dusk. A bunch of us formed a self-defence club since then. We have training sessions every Monday night.
I’m keeping quiet about my best self-defence tactic, though, in case I give myself away: – Carry a rock. Keep jogging. Say nothing.