Even though I wanted to sleep forever, I awoke at 7AM. I made coffee then dressed in my cold weather bike riding outfit. After a few more pulls than usual, I got the bike started, and off I went to Hardee’s for breakfast. Again, as I did every morning while at home, I wished that Helen would find a place to open a sit down diner of some kind. I loved Hardee’s, but I felt like a trader. I really wanted to spend my money with Helen, and now Cheryl.
Still Hardee’s was always interesting. “Hey there, haven’t seen you in a while,” one of the old men commented.
“I’ve been out of town working,” I replied.
“And how about your friend?” he asked. Cheryl was who he really wanted to know about. The one with the big boobs and smaller ass.
“Cheryl, got a job. She works morning, so no time to come out and play,” I said with a innocent smile.
“Ah that’s a shame, but it’s good to see you back,” he spoke loud enough, so that any of the regulars, who happened to be in the place, would know the whole story first hand.
“Thanks,” I said.
After I finished my breakfast, I pulled and pulled on the bike’s engine and I finally got it to crank. I rode it to the mall for my morning walk, even though I knew I should go straight to the preacher’s bike shop with it instead.
I walked inside the mall as I always did. I got even more questions like, “where you been” and “Where the hell is your friend.” In the beginning I was amused that the men seemed to be so attached to Cheryl’s boobs. After a while, I was a little sad, since people seemed to have missed her so much more than they did me. But I was still able to laugh it off as a boob thing.
When I returned to the spot where I remembered leaving my bike, it wasn’t there. I glanced around at the other spots where I might have left it. Then I replayed everything to be absolutely sure that I wasn’t looking in the wrong place. When I was positive that I was indeed standing beside the correct dumpster, I walked into the mall to find the on duty security officer.
“Hello, I’m Maxine Stone,” I said to the older man. “I think I have a problem.”
“Oh what kind of problem Ms Stone?” the older man asked.
“My motorbike isn’t where I left it. Did you have it towed away by any chance?” I asked.
“No Ma’am, we would only do that, if we had a complaint. I have never had one about your bike.” He said it looking concerned.
It was quite obvious that someone had stolen my damn bike. I was so pissed. I couldn’t think straight, the security officer had to call the police for me, while I ranted.
“While we wait for the local police, why don’t we hop in my car and ride around the parking lot. We can check to see, if someone moved it to just bug you,” he suggested.
“That is possible, so sure lets do it,” I said. We rode in the mall’s three year old Ford. We rode from one end of the mall to the other. The bike was just plain gone. That was our conclusion at the end of our ride.
“There is the police car,” the security officer said. Sure enough the city police car was sitting by the lower entrance to the mall. It was where I normally parked the bike. The police officer, who got out of the car as we drove up, was familiar to me. She had been in the Cop Out a few times.
“Maxine, is it your bike that is missing?” she asked.
“Yes it is, and I really want that bike back,” I admitted.
“Let me fill out a report for your insurance company,” she suggested.
“I don’t want a report for my insurance company, I want my bike back, That is a special bike and I want it back.” I didn’t tell her that the bike had belonged to the Gunny, She wouldn’t have understood anyway.
“I can see that you are upset, but you have to understand that we seldom recover bikes. It will wind up in the hood. The fact that it has a motor will make it easier to identify, but still don’t get your hopes up.”
I can’t believe this, I have been out of town two weeks. The first thing that happens when I get back is someone steals my bike.”
“Welcome home,” the cop said sarcastically.
I calmed down and gave the bike some logical thought. Then I said, “I know the detectives are not going to do any follow up on this. So tell me where would this kind of thing wind up, if the kid doesn’t keep it for himself?“
“I never had a motorized Bike stolen, let alone had one recovered. Maybe Big Al’s pawn shop. That’s about all I can think of,” she suggested. “Do you know where that is?”
“Yeah, I know where it is. Someplace I wouldn’t let my kids go, if I had any.” I replied.
“Yep, that would be the place,” she admitted. “I’m not supposed to do this, but do you need a ride.”
“No thanks, I have a friend nearby.” I admitted. The friend nearby was Gwen that morning. Thanks to TV’s never ending need for mind numbing crap, I have a ride home, I thought.
“So do you want to drive me to Big Al’s pawn shop, or do you want to drive me home and follow me to Big Al’s?” I asked if of Gwen after she pulled up. She had been filming from a spot several yards from the Cop’s car.
“I think I’ll drive you. For once I won’t be scrambling to catch up.” She said. Good luck with that, I thought. She looked up the address on line, then punched it into her GPS. It told her everything, except to stay the hell away from Big Al’s without a police escort.
Big Al had found the ideal place for his pawn shop. Before Big Al put his pawn shop in the building, it had been several other things. It had been built as a major gas station in the forties. Then the highway bypassed Downtown Aster in the fifties or sixties, leaving it to wither. At that time the building became a second rate gas station. Then the Feds decided that Aster needed a low income housing development. They said it was for displaced agricultural workers, who had moved to the area around Tryon and Aster. The housing project was after the major loss of family farms and the farm jobs they provided. The second rate service station became a convenience store run by a Korean family for the next decade.
A town the size of Aster should never have had a housing project, but one got built anyway. It was the true example of build it and they will come. The Feds decided to make it a warehouse complex for human beings, instead of a place to inspire and motivate people to rise above their parents’ poverty. The Feds didn’t provide any of the tools to help the people improve their lives, they just forgot about them. They got the votes they wanted and to hell with the people.
Aster got a huge up tick in violent crimes. Big Al found the perfect environment and even the perfect building when the Korean family ran for their lives.
The drugs culture of the 80‘s and 90‘s invaded the area and that bred gangs of hopeless kids. Kids who wandering around trying to make an easy buck. All that was usually far enough away from my life to be ignored. On that morning it appeared that someone caught a bus to come steal Gunny’s bike.
“First we are headed for the preacher’s bike shop, so reprogram your GPS for the Laboring Few Bike shop.” I demanded.
“Mr Evans,” I said to the older man with the spider web veins covering his face. “Someone stole the Gunny’s bike. I am sure that if anyone shows up trying to sell it to you, you will call me.”
“Of course I will. There is no question about it.” he said simply.
“Good, what do you know about Big Al’s pawn shop?” I asked. “All I know is the area. I don’t know anything about his operation.”
“I don’t think Big Al ever has a customer come into the place to buy anything, they all want to sell. He runs an auction on Wednesday night from a warehouse in a different, and better part of town. There he sells the items he purchased during the last week or so. Well, for the items he couldn’t find a buyer for himself. They say that his Rolodex is filled with the names of every high end fence on the east coast. His brain is filled with all the names of buyers to whom he has sold a stolen item. He calls them, if something he thinks they would have an interest in comes along. It is even said that he takes special orders and passes the information to his customers at the shop.”
“So if I go visit him, in say two hours, is there any chance my bike will mysteriously show up there?” I asked.
“That would be a crap shoot,” he suggested.
“I feel lucky how about giving me the address of that warehouse as well?” I asked.
Gwen and I drove first to the warehouse. I planned to look around just to see if the bike had made it there somehow. Even if Al bought it, I was pretty sure it would still be in the pawnshop’s pipeline. Still there would be less chance of a confrontation at the warehouse, so it seemed a better place to start.
The warehouse, I would have expected to be located in one of those old run down building. One left over from the many businesses that went belly up. Instead it was located in a nice modern metal building. The overhead door was up, so I just walked in. I could see most of the big stuff from the door. I was pretty sure that if Gunny’s bike was there, I would be able to spot it during a quick walk through.
Immediately I had a young black man with big arms, and a mean look following me. He was trying to talk to me, to tell me I had to leave. He was a hell of a lot bigger than me, so I just ignored him and kept walking. I hoped that he would not see running me down and kick the shit out of me, as the macho thing to do. I hoped that his Mama had raised him better.
Since he was the only one working, he couldn’t corral me and throw Gwen out at the same time, so she was able to stand behind him and film everything. Gwen with the camera might have saved me from a severe ass whipping.
I found the bike leaning against the rear wall, beside a very nice looking guitar. I turned to the large black man and shoved the .380 in his belly. “Now this ain’t much of a pistol, but it will puncture your kidney and liver. It will probably get a piece of your intestine as well. So let’s all act like grownups here. That silver bike leaning against the wall belongs to me, most likely the motor is still hot. Hell the whole damn bike is hot, since it was stolen about three hours ago from the mall.
“Now here are our choices, I can call the cops and go through all kinds of shit to get my bike back, or you can roll it out to the parking lot and start it for me. I will then ride that bike out of here and never come back. What do you say big boy. Oh yeah you can try to stop me, in which case all those nasty things I said might happen to your insides, will happen.”
He looked confused. “So what’s it gonna be?” I asked.
“Ms Stone, I’m gonna roll that bike out in the parking lot for you, if you take that pistol out of my belly.”
“Lets move it to the back of your head, while you do your little chore. We can call it occupational motivation.” I suggested.
I let Gwen get in her car to watch and film the action, while I climbed on top of the bike and rode it out of the parking lot. We were stopped at a traffic light, when she pulled up beside me.
“What was all that about?” she asked.
“I have no idea, but I’m sure as fuck going to find out.” I replied.
I rode the bike home then parked it in the storage room, before I went through my back door. I even let Gwen use that entrance to save her a walk around to the security gate. I went to the gun stash as soon as I entered my apartment. I swapped the small .380 for the Colt 1911. If you plan to scare a thug, take artillery.” I said it to the not so hidden camera in my bedroom.