The Perpetual Bystander

I witnessed a crime at lunchtime last week.  I say witnessed: witnessed in the sense that I neither saw the actual crime take place, nor could I begin to identify any of the protagonists involved, but I saw the drama of the aftermath of a crime.

I was outside the office, standing in the street, on the way to buying a sandwich.  It started with a revving of motorcycle engines.  There were two motorcycles, two passengers on each, quickly picking up speed from a standing start––nothing so unusual.  What was more unusual was the sudden appearance of a young man running after them, shouting out “Stop, stop!”  The chasing man was clearly alarmed; panic-struck.  He was running quickly; at one point it looked as though he might even succeed in overtaking the bikes, who were temporarily stalled by the busy traffic.  He was still running and shouting when I lost sight of both him and the bikes.

My inference was a snatch and grab robbery.  A pillion passenger on one of the bikes snatching a mobile phone or a laptop or a briefcase. I didn’t see the actual snatch; I wasn’t alert enough to clock the registration numbers of the bikes, nor their makes, nor even take in the vaguest descriptions of either riders or victim.

I would like to fall back on the old cliché: “It all happened so fast.”  But, it didn’t.  Not really.  It all seemed to happen in slow-motion, in fact.  I was simply frozen in inaction, like most of my fellow bystanders.  Life turned into a spectator sport.

In fact, amidst the crowd of people who had witnessed the theft, only two individuals displayed any animation: one called out with callous insensitivity “Run, Forrest, Run”, whilst his friend beside him chuckled inanely.

© Simon Turner-Tree


Simon Turner-Tree indicates the way, long after the birds have flown.

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