SHORT STORY: Courage in the face of fear

Friday August 11 2017

Sarah  ran through the slum, following the tell-tale grunts of the injured man up ahead. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NMG

Sarah ran through the slum, following the tell-tale grunts of the injured man up ahead. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGAH | NMG 

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The sun was sinking below the horizon. The sky was now a deepening purple-blue, with the first stars twinkling dimly.

Sarah fidgeted in her seat, trying to stretch her muscles in the cramped space of the car. She had spent the day cruising up and down, patrolling the streets, and now she was looking forward to her shift ending. She was planning to put her feet up, enjoy some snacks and her favourite show…

“Code 10! Robbery on Crescent Street… shots fired… all units respond...” The sharp words and radio static jolted Sarah out of her daydream.

“Sergeant 034 responding, I’m five minutes away,” Sara said, already switching into gear. She arched her neck, feeling the adrenaline coursing through her body, elevating her heart-rate and firing up her muscles. She screeched to a stop as she arrived at the shop, only to see two young men running down the street and into an alley.

“Sergeant 034 here, requesting back-up, I’m in pursuit of two male suspects…over.” Sarah had no time to lose, if she waited until back-up arrived, they would lose the perpetrators. Making sure her holster was secure; she got out of the car and started running down the street.

However, as she turned into the alley, she immediately slowed down. The dull street lights barely illuminated the narrow, dank alley. There were heaps of trash and shadows everywhere. As she moved deeper, Sarah realised that this was an entrance into a slum, one of the many that dotted the periphery of the city centre.

“Steel yourself… you’ve got this,” she murmured to herself, pulling out her gun and slowing her footsteps so that she was as silent as she could be. Darkness had fallen fast after the beauty of twilight, a moonless night where even the faint stars kept being blotted out by heavy clouds. Sarah listened closely as she moved closer to the tin shacks lining the narrow way.

“Haha, the old man never knew what hit him…”

“Yeah man, the fool thought we were joking around. I bet he doesn’t think that now!”

The callous banter and chuckles of the two robbers reached Sarah’s ears as she rounded the corner and saw a flickering light coming from behind a sheet of metal. She felt a stirring of fear and her hands shook slightly as she gripped her gun, her trigger finger at the ready.

She had the element of surprise, she reminded herself, drawing courage. They didn’t think anyone would follow them into this abyss of danger. Positioning herself, she counted under her breath to three then violently kicked the sheet down.

“Police! Put your hands where I can see them!” she yelled at the shocked, aghast faces of the two men.

One of the men begun to raise his hands as if to surrender, until his companion leapt up to make a dash for it. As Sarah’s attention was diverted for just a second, the other man lowered his hands, reached for his gun and aimed a shot at her.

Sarah dived into the grimy ground, feeling the rush of air as the bullet whizzed past her. Rolling away from the suspects, Sarah took shelter behind a large metal drum, aimed at the fleeing men and fired off a few rounds. A yelp of pain confirmed that at least one of her bullets had found its mark.

Breathing heavily, Sarah lay where she was a split second more, getting her bearings then leaping up in pursuit. Her senses were fully alive now, her eyes seemingly “seeing” in the dark, her ears picking up the slightest sounds.

The slum was awake now; dogs barked and curious faces peeped out from inside the shacks, onlookers who dared not leave the safety of their make-shift tin homes.

She ran through the slum, following the tell-tale grunts of the injured man up ahead. She caught up with him as he tried to leap over a ditch. Tackling him to the ground, Sarah expertly had him in hand-cuffs in mere minutes.

As she tried to stand him up he kicked out viciously hitting her square in the stomach, sending her sprawling a few feet away. Doubled over, pain spreading from her middle out across her entire body, Sarah blinked back the involuntary tears now clouding her vision. She grappled on the ground for her gun that had flown out of her hands, and turned back to where the suspect was and saw… two shadows?!

“Finish her off!” a wild scream rent the air.

It was as if time slowed down in the moments that followed. Sarah watched as one shadowy figure helped the other up and then turned towards her, advancing menacingly.

She felt a cool breeze stir the tendrils of hair at the back of her in the deathly silence that had fallen all around her. Then her mind cleared as the shadowy man raised his arm. He may have been quick, but she was quicker; she had not graduated top of her class at the police academy for nothing.

Rolling over on her side, she heard the thud of a bullet hit the moist ground where she had been lying only a moment before. Then it was her turn to fire, and she squeezed off round after round until her clip was empty.


“For exemplary courage and bravery, and for going beyond the call of duty, we award Sergeant Sarah this medal of honour. A few words Sergeant?...”

Sarah, standing on the podium in front of hundreds of her colleagues, let her mind wander back to that dark, dreary night; recalling the events that had taken place. What could she say that would sum it all up?

“Thank you for this,” she said as she fingered the gold star on her lapel, “I…I was just doing my job,” she stated simply, smiling to the thunderous applause and cheers that accompanied her off the stage.

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