Vitamins, Supplements, Sport Nutrition

CHAPTER 87

The Vespa lurched into the slow lane of the Carretera de Huelva. It was almost dawn, but there was plenty of traffic‑young Sevillians returning from their all‑night beach verbenas. A van of teenagers laid on its horn and flew by. Becker’s motorcycle felt like a toy out there on the freeway.

A quarter of a mile back, a demolished taxi swerved out onto the freeway in a shower of sparks. As it accelerated, it sideswiped a Peugeot 504 and sent it careening onto the grassy median.

Becker passed a freeway marker: SEVILLA CENTRO‑2 KM. If he could just reach the cover of downtown, he knew he might have a chance. His speedometer read 60 kilometers per hour. Two minutes to the exit. He knew he didn’t have that long. Somewhere behind him, the taxi was gaining. Becker gazed out at the nearing lights of downtown Seville and prayed he would reach them alive.

He was only halfway to the exit when the sound of scraping metal loomed up behind him. He hunched on his bike, wrenching the throttle as far as it would go. There was a muffled gunshot, and a bullet sailed by. Becker cut left, weaving back and forth across the lanes in hopes of buying more time. It was no use. The exit ramp was still three hundred yards when the taxi roared to within a few car lengths behind him. Becker knew that in a matter of seconds he would be either shot or run down. He scanned ahead for any possible escape, but the highway was bounded on both sides by steep gravel slopes. Another shot rang out. Becker made his decision.

In a scream of rubber and sparks, he leaned violently to his right and swerved off the road. The bike’s tires hit the bottom of the embankment. Becker strained to keep his balance as the Vespa threw up a cloud of gravel and began fish‑tailing its way up the slope. The wheels spun wildly, clawing at the loose earth. The little engine whimpered pathetically as it tried to dig in. Becker urged it on, hoping it wouldn’t stall. He didn’t dare look behind him, certain at any moment the taxi would be skidding to a stop, bullets flying.

The bullets never came.

Becker’s bike broke over the crest of the hill, and he saw it‑the centro. The downtown lights spread out before him like a star‑filled sky. He gunned his way through some underbrush and out over the curb. His Vespa suddenly felt faster. The Avenue Luis Montoto seemed to race beneath his tires. The soccer stadium zipped past on the left. He was in the clear.

It was then that Becker heard the familiar screech of metal on concrete. He looked up. A hundred yards ahead of him, the taxi came roaring up the exit ramp. It skidded out onto Luis Montoto and accelerated directly toward him.

Becker knew he should have felt a surge of panic. But he did not. He knew exactly where he was going. He swerved left on Menendez Pelayo and opened the throttle. The bike lurched across a small park and into the cobblestoned corridor of Mateus Gago‑the narrow one‑way street that led to the portal of Barrio Santa Cruz.

Just a little farther, he thought.

The taxi followed, thundering closer. It trailed Becker through the gateway of Santa Cruz, ripping off its side mirror on the narrow archway. Becker knew he had won. Santa Cruz was the oldest section of Seville. It had no roads between the buildings, only mazes of narrow walkways built in Roman times. They were only wide enough for pedestrians and the occasional Moped. Becker had once been lost for hours in the narrow caverns.

As Becker accelerated down the final stretch of Mateus Gago, Seville’s eleventh‑century Gothic cathedral rose like a mountain before him. Directly beside it, the Giralda tower shot 419 feet skyward into the breaking dawn. This was Santa Cruz, home to the second largest cathedral in the world as well as Seville’s oldest, most pious Catholic families.

Becker sped across the stone square. There was a single shot, but it was too late. Becker and his motorcycle disappeared down a tiny passageway‑Callita de la Virgen.