The Italians called him the Greek. The Greeks called him the
Sicilian. He was from Nicosia. It was a funny coincidence that the
largest city in his native Cyprus shared a name with a city in
Sicily --- the birthplace of his bride.
"Sofia," he whispered in the darkness.
His wife of eleven months lay sleeping beneath a clingy cotton
sheet, the gentle curve of her hip a silhouette in the shadows of
night. A late-summer heat wave had sent them to bed naked, and like
true newlyweds, they'd made the best of it. Cyprus was the
mythological birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who
couldn't have held a candle to Sofia. She was a classic Italian
beauty, a strong and passionate woman with dark hair, captivating
eyes, and flawless olive skin. The Greek felt lucky to have her,
and he marveled that she loved him enough to leave her family and
run all the way to Cyprus with him.
He only wished he could stop running.
"Sofia, did you hear that?"
Her head didn't move from the pillow.
The Greek slowly slid out of bed, crossed the room in silence,
and went to the open window. The lace curtains were motionless in
the warm night air. He crooked his finger and parted the panels
just enough to check the quiet street from his second-story
The cloak of night could hide centuries of decay, and Nicosia
was beautiful in the moonlight. Flanked by the Pentadaktylos, the
five-finger mountain, Nicosia was one of the oldest cities in the
world, the geographic heart of an island paradise in the eastern
Mediterranean. Behind thick sandstone walls, Cypriots had defended
themselves from a host of invaders and occupiers dating back at
least to the Byzantine Empire. The mid-twentieth century had proved
to be another violent chapter, with five years of armed struggle
finally bringing an end to more than eighty years of British rule.
The Greek had taken no stake in that fight --- which was why
real Greeks called him the Sicilian (or worse) --- but
he'd grown accustomed to noisy nights, even gunshots.
It was purely instinct, but tonight the Greek felt another type
of raid coming --- one that had absolutely nothing to do with
Greeks, Turks, or any of the country's traditional ethnic
divisions. He stood quietly at the lone window in their one-room
apartment and listened. He was certain that he had heard something,
and it took more than a cat on the roof to wake him from sleep
He walked around to the other side of the bed and sat on the
edge of the lumpy mattress.
"Sofia, wake up."
She grumbled and propped herself up on one elbow. Even at 3:00
A.M. she was beautiful, but she immediately sensed his concern.
"What is it?" she said.
He didn't answer. He sat and listened for that noise again.
There it was --- a thumping that came from the first floor of their
"They're coming!" he said in an urgent whisper. He sprang from
the bed and quickly pulled on his underwear.
"Who's coming?" said Sofia.
He pulled on his pants. The thumping noise was louder, like a
herd of stallions charging up the stairs.
"It's me they want, not you."
"Listen to me. Don't tell them I was here. Just say --- tell
them I left you."
He kissed her before she could protest.
The loud bang on the door was definitely not a knock. Someone
had put a shoulder into it. They were busting their way in. The
Greek couldn't find his shoes or his shirt, and there was no time
to grab anything --- except his gun in the top dresser drawer. He
dived through the open window and out onto the balcony as the chain
lock ripped from the frame and the apartment door crashed open.
He heard his wife scream.
"Sofia!" he shouted --- which accomplished nothing, except to
give himself away.
"Out the window!" a man yelled from inside the apartment.
The Greek could only run for it. He grabbed the rain gutter and
pulled himself up to the second-story roof. His first step loosened
an old barrel tile, and it crashed onto the street below. As he
regained his footing, the Greek glanced back to see the lead man
climbing up onto the roof behind him.
He was wearing a police uniform.
The Greek didn't hesitate to shoot, the sound of Sofia's scream
replaying in his mind. The return gunfire told him that he'd missed
--- and the bullet ripped through his hand. He cried out in pain
and dismay as his revolver flew from his grasp, slid down the roof,
and landed in the gutter. Another shot shattered the clay roofing
tiles at his feet.
The Greek kept running.
The slope of the roof changed from pitched to flat. He gained
speed and jumped across the alley --- the canyon between buildings
--- and landed on the neighbor's roof. A quick glance over his
shoulder didn't slow him down a bit. Two --- no, three --- men in
uniform were in pursuit. The Greek ran faster, his heart pounding
in his chest. Beat after beat, the blood pumped from his wounded
hand, leaving a crimson trail across the rooftops. He couldn't stop
running. At any moment, he expected a bullet in the back. They were
close enough to take him out.
He leaped across another alley, and this time it took his breath
away. The ground had gone from two stories to four stories below
him. The buildings on his street had the same roofline, but they
were built on the slope of a hill, each one of increasing
Too high to jump.
He raced across the rooftop, but the footfalls behind him grew
louder. His hand didn't hurt --- too much adrenaline to feel pain
--- but the loss of blood was making him dizzy. No way could he
outrun these guys. He had to find a safe place to jump down and
hide. The roof pitched upward, however, and the only way down from
here was through the men with the guns. He climbed even higher, all
the way to the crest, where the roof flattened into a wide expanse.
It was a big building, like a warehouse. No, a hotel. The Mykonos
Hotel --- the last building on the block. No rooftop beyond it. No
more alleys to jump.
Excerpted from BORN TO RUN © Copyright 2010 by James
Grippando. Reprinted with permission by Harper. All rights