Traceur 5-O

A shot from Banlieue 13: Ultimatum (2009), a decent French action film with a focus on parkour sequences.

Detective Alex Dujardin was finding it difficult to breathe.

The typical thrills of hunter-prey dynamics were starting to get to him, accelerating his anticipation and excitement.

It did not help a single bit that he was sitting in a truck beset by armoured men with intimidating rifles. The infamous Special Operation Group (SOG) of the Victorian Police were the Australian equivalent of the famous American SWAT Teams, called in regularly to deal with armed offenders and other sensitive, high risk crime.

The 6 men that sandwiched Dujardin in the armoured truck were dressed head to toe in extremely dark blue uniforms, with balaclavas masking their faces and the word: POLICE emblazoned in bright white letters across their chest and back. The atmosphere inside was deathly quiet, nerves and steely resolution mixing and fighting together in each man’s mind.

As for Dujardin, he was dressed like the casual Sunday version of the SOG men, with jeans, a polo shirt underneath his armour and radio, with his pistol and baton on a thigh rig across his right leg. Attached to his left hip was a taser gun and CS spray. As the lead case officer, his job was merely to observe the take-down and allow the bigger men with their rifles, shotguns and other paraphernalia do the heavy lifting.

Routine thought Dujardin, even though he knew that anything involving the SOG was quite far from normal.

At a modest height of 175cm, with soft hazel eyes, Alex Dujardin was not the most intimidating of police officers in the Metro area. What he lacked in brawn however, was aptly filled in by speed. His body was hardened and lean after years of competitive athletics, excelling in the 400m and 600m sprint.

His acceleration, in spite of the standard police equipment, was immense, often out-sprinting criminals and rugby-tackling them before they were even aware of what was happening. In his patrol days, Dujardin’s prowess was so highly respected, any officer that had to run to catch their collar made the joke that they performed a ‘Jardin that shift.

It also helped that Dujardin was a practitioner of parkour, the French phenomenon that was borne out of a desire to conquer a obstacle course as efficiently as possible. His weekends were often spent with the Melbourne Parkour community on the CBD’s Southbank, leaping from wall to wall, vaulting benches and answering kids’ questions about his job.

Simply put, there wasn’t an officer on the force more suited for chasing down criminals than Alex Dujardin.

Feeling a rumbling beneath his feet, Dujardin looked up as the truck began to slow, approaching its’ destination carefully and quietly. As it halted a few hundred metres later, the point man of the SOG team cranked the door open and the men filed out quickly.

Looking around, Dujardin noted their location with a familiarity that only a locally born native could. They were near the Carlton Gardens which hosted the Royal Exhibition Building, and the Melbourne Museum.

The contrasts between the two buildings could not be any more dissimilar, with the Royal Exhibition Building a testament to old-school architectural styles, the entire structure Italianate in looks, complete with a Florence Cathedral inspired dome, whilst the Melbourne Museum, showcased the contemporary post-modernism styles, with sharp angles and abstract colours, a more complex mess of glass, metal and concrete.

However such historical architectural footnotes, were of no relevance to Dujardin, who had visited both many times as a child, and was more eager to prevent the criminal residing in an abandoned building across the street from escaping to said Museum and Exhibition Building.

At the corner of Rathdowne St and Victoria St, the abandoned building in question, was a former Cancer Council Victoria office building, the charity organisation having moved to greener pastures in South Melbourne, leaving behind a dilapidated, and ugly squat building. With its brown styling, dark tinted glass windows that was prone to dust and dirt collection, and dull interior, it was slated for demolition, the ugly style of the building only worsened by incessant amount of graffiti and poor maintenance.

The place had already been stripped clean, with nothing of value inside, however, for the brazen thief known as the Spectre, it had proved the perfect staging grounds for some daring B&E (Breaking & Entering) raids into affluent people’s homes and a particularly messy robbery at a restaurant that had escalated to murder.

Little was known about the Spectre beyond his physical description which was caught on camera, after the gunning down of a restaurateur as she was closing her business. At a lean 180 centimetres tall, and possessing dark hair with blue eyes, the Spectre was surprisingly attractive, in a rugged mid-30s way.

However, his panic over the restaurateur’s death had lead to many uncharacteristic mistakes and proved to be the break Alex Dujardin needed to track his target down. Now, only hours after the murder, Dujardin stood outside the lair of the Spectre, eager to see his target in cuffs.

Handing the warrant over to the SOG pointman, Dujardin watched as the elite team began their approach towards the building’s walls, each man scanning in all directions.

Due to the proximity of the civilians, a safety boundary had been established 200 metres out, with patrol cars blocking streets and people from moving around. Since the operation was being conducted late at night, at 10pm, traffic was mercifully quiet and the Museum was already shut down.

Dujardin heard, rather than saw, the teams making entry into the building, with flash-bangs creating lights inside a building that had not seen them for years. Loud yells of POLICE, COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP! came billowing through shattered glass.

Waiting impatiently, with his right foot tapping the ground nervously, Dujardin was waiting to hear the sounds of an arrest being made over his radio, when he felt a strange prickling sensation across his neck, causing him to look up.

Just in time to see a man bolt onto the roof of the abandoned building and without hesitation, aim a zip-line launcher that shot across the street and pinned the line into a Greenco Carpark.

Dujardin scowled, as he watched the SOG team burst onto the roof, only to fall back into each other as the Spectre unleashed a torrent of gunfire from a pistol. By the time the point man could bring his rifle to bear, the Spectre had already dropped the pistol, attached a T-bar to the line and begun his swing, 50 metres across the street.

Within seconds, the Spectre had cleared the police cordon and was now sprinting through the carpark that would allow him to disappear into the city populace as it connected onto Latrobe Street.

However, even before the final shot from the Spectre’s pistol had finished echoing across the urban jungle, Alex Dujardin was vaulting over police cars, leaving his fellow officers behind as he ran underneath the Spectre’s feet.

Bursting through the doors of the Greenco garage, Dujardin sprinted furiously past rows and rows of cars, as he made for the opposite side. As he was halfway through, a banging noise could be heard up ahead and Dujardin made his way over, sliding over a shocked BMW driver’s hood, as he braked furiously to avoid a collision.

Noting that the fire escape door was still swinging on its hinges, Alex put his shoulder through and immediately scanned left, then right.

Remembering that the Spectre was wearing a dark blue jumper and green cargo pants, Alex felt fear when he couldn’t see any traces of the man on either side of the street, until he saw the alleyway to his 1 o’clock.

Dashing across, and nearly getting hit by another car, Dujardin swore when he saw the Spectre halfway down the alleyway, his boots clattering on old cobblestones.

Pushing himself into a more comfortable rhythm, Dujardin blasted down the short 40 metres of the alleyway, gaining every so slightly, as he noted the Spectre turn the corner and nearly collide with a businessman on a call. The two men stared at each other, the businessman yelling angrily at the Spectre, only to go down in a heap as the criminal pushed him hard into the wall and ran in the direction of Melbourne Central.

The busiest shopping centre in the entire CBD, replete with multiple entryways, dozens upon dozens of restaurants and shops, and more crucially a train station.

Dujardin blasted out of the alleyway, only checking his speed a tiny bit, as he took a wider line onto the opposing footpath to the Spectre and pressed a button on his radio.

Suspect is moving down Little Lonsdale St, in the direction of the State Library! Get the MC PSOs up here now! half yelled Dujardin as he watched as the Spectre nearly collide with a couple walking out of a Uyghur restaurant.

His hazel eyes widened with opportunity as he noted the Spectre recklessly running across traffic, cars screeching horribly to a halt, and the man desperately trying not to get hit.

Seeing a tiny metal fence obstructing him, Dujardin smoothly gripped it with his weak hand and vaulted over with ease, before taking 2 steps and performing a kong vault over a silver Mercedes, a move where he placed both hands on the hood and then hopped his legs through in a smooth motion.

The elderly couple in the Mercedes could only stare in astonishment, as they saw the casually dressed police officer in tactical gear, smoothly slide over the bonnet of a stray Uber Toyota before exchanging incredulous looks with the Uber driver and his passenger.

As the Spectre glanced behind him, he was shocked to see a police officer keeping pace with him. Not only was he keeping pace, it seemed he was only getting closer.

In desperation, the Spectre crossed from the Library side of the small street and into QV, another one of Melbourne’s famous shopping malls. Nearly crashing through the glass doors, the Spectre made a beeline for the staircase with an escalator beside it, shoving and pushing people aside, yells and screams erupting behind him.

As he reached the bottom of the escalator, he could hear the policeman yell about the PSOs from MC, making their way down Swanston St, which was adjacent to the direction he was heading.

Swearing, the Spectre ran across the small food court and out onto a small alleyway, where he could see another shortcut through a car-park which lead into Melbourne’s Chinatown district.

As the Spectre waited for a break in the traffic to allow him to cross, he heard a loud thud behind him.

Turning slowly around, the Spectre’s blue eyes widened in shock, as he beheld the dogged policeman, recover from his 3m drop to the ground, in a smooth recovery roll.

Aware of the Spectre’s intention to lose him in QV, Dujardin made a calculated gamble, and had bluffed a call about the Protective Services Officers (PSOs) that normally patrolled and guarded Melbourne’s busy train stations making their way down Swanston St.

Instead of following in the Spectre’s descent to a lower level, Dujardin had simply sprinted across the upper square to the surprise of the many young people who were resting on the artificial turf, and without pause jumped the 3 metre difference in height down, behind the Spectre.

The Spectre, now properly spooked by the sheer determination of this police officer, sprinted across the traffic once more, his panicked expression now beset by flashing red/blue lights, as Dujardin’s fellow officers, tracking him on the GPS, were now joining the chase and were pouring down Lonsdale St in their patrol cars and sirens.

The Spectre ducked under the car-park gate.

Alex Dujardin leapt over it.

The Spectre shot through the car-park, before putting his shoulder into a fire-escape door and knocking back a sleepy bouncer who was pacing the length of the street, outside the door of the Shanghai Club Pokies.

As the bouncer fell on the floor, dazed by a door slamming into his face, the Spectre stepped over him and looked up and down the red-lantern lit street of Melbourne’s Chinatown.

Seeing the Target entrance that would take him to Bourke St, via a quiet strip of Chinese food and boba shops, the Spectre hauled ass, just in time to look behind him and see the dark expression on Dujardin’s face.

By now, both men had slowed down considerably, their initial furious pace, unsustainable over such long distances. The Spectre was especially breathing hard, his feet now lumbering a bit more as they pounded their way through the arcade, in vain hopes of keeping ahead of Dujardin to Bourke St.

Dujardin, whilst feeling fresher, was struggling as well, his exertions compounded by the gear he was wearing and the explosive energy he needed for parkour moves wearing him down.

The chase was nearly at an end.

It was now, just a matter of time.

As the Spectre burst out onto Bourke St, he swore even louder, when he realised that he had just put himself into police custody, as less than 25 metres away, the Melbourne’s Police HQ was right there.

Before he had time to run away again, Dujardin had caught up and launched himself at the Spectre’s legs.

The Spectre, moving quickly, was not fast enough and tumbled to the ground. But he was able to roll away from Dujardin’s grasp and lurch to his feet, only this time facing the policeman with a switchblade in his right hand.

Dujardin’s strong hand went for his baton and flicked it open.

Don’t do this. cautioned Dujardin as the two men eyed each other.

Just give it up man. There’s no need for extra violence mate. Just put the weapon down and get down on your knees.

The Spectre said nothing and continued to warily circle Dujardin.

Don’t be stupid man. PUT THE WEAPON DOWN AND GET ON YOUR KNEES. shouted Dujardin. The words were barely out of his mouth, before he was swatting the Spectre’s knife hand out of the way with his baton. The blow was enough to push the Spectre off-balance and Dujardin took the opportunity to go for his taser with his left hand.

However, before he could properly draw, the Spectre moved in again.

With his hand on the grip of the taser, Dujardin could not effectively block the incoming knife due to his awkward body position.

Without hesitating, Dujardin did the only move he could.

He tucked down small and rolled himself at the Spectre’s legs.

The knife thrust sailed over his head by the smallest of margin, and the Spectre buckled as his leading leg took the full weight of Dujardin’s body. Yelling in anger and pain, the Spectre whirled around, only to receive 50,000 volts to his system.

Convulsing, the Spectre went down hard, his face smashing directly into the hard smooth stone floor of Bourke St.

Alex Dujardin exhaled heavily, as he held onto the trigger of the taser, before letting go in an explosive effort.

As one of the most iconic and busiest streets in Melbourne slowly began to light up in red and blue flashes, and the murmur of the crowds, began to get replaced with siren wails, Alex Dujardin stepped over the twitching body of the Spectre and wrenched the man’s hands behind him, slipping on the cuffs.

As Dujardin did a rough check for any other weapons, he did his best to ignore the dozens of phone cameras that were recording his every move. It wasn’t long before the crowd dispersed before the onslaught of officers who had finally caught up. As cars formed a barricade and officers piled around Dujardin, Alex could barely stop shaking under the weight of congratulatory back slaps and handshakes that poured in.

Dujardin smiled wearily at the point-man of the SOG unit, who gave him a thumbs-up in approval, before walking the Spectre over to the police station only metres away.

The chase was now over, now … the real work began with the paperwork that awaited such a public and messy foot-chase through the city.

Dujardin’s self self-congratulatory mood soon disappeared as he realised that every single person affected by the chase today, would have to have a statement taken off them and that there was going to be a very long review process, especially after the spectacular body-cam footage that he had unwittingly taken.

Can’t outrun everything … thought Dujardin wearily, as he took off his body vest and sat down at his desk for a long night ahead.

Author’s Note.

Short, sweet and sharp, I wanted to make this smaller and leaner, a bit more of a quick read than my usual entries. Inspired by every single foot chase ever, with cops and robbers involved. But mostly financed by my dreams to film a foot chase in my home town one day.

Until the next one!

~ Damocles.

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