By Cindy and Walt
I stopped for lunch on the way to pick up the bike. When I got there the welding shop owner met me at the car.
“As I said on the phone, I made a few changes to make it even more sturdy,” he said. “I also made the trailer easier to remove if you want to store them separately,” he informed me.
I sat on the bike and saw that it was easier to recover than I expected. I could actually sit on it with my feet on the pedals without it leaning. “I have to admit that I like it,” I said.
“So do we. We aren’t violating anyone’s patent are we?” he asked. No the trailer is an open source design and the hitch is open source as well,” I said. “You just brought them together in a new package.”
“Well, I went a little over the $100 dollar estimate,” he said. “Instead of working on it two hours I worked on it three.”
“So what is damage?” I asked.
“My policy is I charge only half price for the time over the estimate. So you owe me $125 dollars,” he said.
“Fair enough,” I said handing him the money. “Now for the extra $25 how about loading it in the back of my truck?”
“Sure no problem. Let me give you a tour on how to connect and disconnect the trailer,” he suggested.
Once I could hook and unhook the trailer he loaded it onto the back of my truck with the trailer unattached. I figured it would be easier to remove it that way. When I got home it proved to be well within my capacity to load and unload them both.
It was a Monday so I dropped the bikes and went back to the Village. There were no tradesmen on site for some reason, but I didn’t mind. I was able to get my hands dirty for a few hours.
Since it rained a lot in the mountains, Carlos had decided early on to put the roof decking on as many houses as he could first. Then he and Juan could work inside even on rainy days. The heavy blue plastic tarps were not exorbitant and I wanted the houses done as soon as possible, so I had sprung for more tarps. I mentioned it because it had begun to drizzle by the time I got back to the Village.
I found them in one of the three tarped houses. Two more of the houses had roofing shingles, but were not completed inside. I worked with them as a helper. I carried materials inside the house for them to use. We replaced a few window sashes and made repairs to the beaded board walls of a house. Since the houses were for sale, I removed the cheap Masonite paneling to reveal the original beaded boards. Before we did anything else we tried to remove as much old paint as possible from the living room walls. I had those walls finished with polyurethane by the painters, but I didn’t like the idea of having a paint company charge me to sand the walls. I wanted to give Carlos and Juan the work since the cost would be the same.
The bath got tile glued to concrete board and the beaded board above the wall tiles. The bedrooms got a fresh coat of paint on the walls. The flooring man came in and sanded the floors after everyone else was finished. Then the house was either turned over to the new owner, or it was put up for sale.
I stopped by Luis’s place on my way home. He was home for a change. “Rosy, what can I do for you?” he asked.
“I was going to ask you that. Are you doing okay? I couldn’t help notice you were gone over the weekend,” I said.
“My daughter came for me and I spent the weekend with her and the kids,” he explained. “So you up for a drawing lesson tonight?”
“Not tonight, but I brought you a sketch I would like an honest critique,” I said.
“Okay,” he said. I handed him the envelope then left.
When I got home, I went to Ebay to check out hub motors for my bike. I found that the most powerful electric hub motor was a real barn burner, but I didn’t want anything that powerful. That would completely defeat the purpose of the bike. The purpose was to ride it as far as my ass could reasonably stand to be in the seat. I couldn’t pedal that far continuously, but I could do a combination of both.
I spent several hours reading the various forums on electric bikes. The best I could figure weight versus range the lithium had everything else beat all to hell. Also from the forums, I learned that a 48v 1,000 watt motor would do what I wanted, like help me climb the hills and let me rest some. It would also move the bike at twenty five miles per hour on the flats and about ten to twelve mph going up hill.
So it came down to the cost of the lithium batteries. They were hugely expensive. For batteries with a hundred mile range it was going to cost me almost a thousand dollars. Well nobody said a road trip would be cheap. At least the bike was paid for and appeared to be safe.
What I decided to do was to buy the front hub motor at 36v 800 watts. I also bought a 36v 20ah lithium battery. That should give me almost thirty miles. I placed the order before I chickened out.
After I got it, and got it all together I could practice with short trips. The first was likely to be to the Church Camp. I could spend the night there and come back the next day. It would be within the 30 mile range I was expecting from the bike. Of course it was also pretty much up and down hill, so I needed to test the bike before I even tried an overnight trip anywhere.
Luis helped me set up for the festival. He really was a big help and he got his account with me reduced accordingly. I was still waiting for the motor kit and battery to arrive, so I threw myself into the festival completely. I left the finishing of the houses to Carlos and Juan. Part of Luis’s duties was to check on the tradesmen. I sent him when I was busy with the festival.
I had begun to run advertisements for the festival starting a month before the event. Luis hated it, but he helped me with the paper work and ran errands for all of us. Just to piss off the woman at the Arts Council, I offered a discount for any Arts Council member who wanted to join us. I knew they would tell their friends so I would be reaching most everyone the president would have reached, and I didn’t have to join those pompous asses.
I ran advertisements in local newspapers and arraigned for Luis and some of the other residents to be interviewed. A couple of the residents were naturals. I got enough coverage without having to go on camera. On the weekend of the festival, I wore my baggy jeans, a baggy sweatshirt, and a baseball cap complete with big ugly sunglasses. I didn’t tell anyone why, I just did it.
The second festival was even better than the first. Since I didn’t charge admission and the fee for the twenty five spaces was only $25 each per day. I couldn’t pay the performers, but I did the same thing as I had for the first festival. I encouraged them to send a pretty girl through the audience to take up a collection. I put twenty bucks in each of the collection plates. The food trucks did a hell of a business, but they weren’t mobbed by any means. It was just a nice Community Arts Fair. I doubted the food trucks would try again.
With the festival over we concentrated on finishing the houses on 4 Sale Lane, as I had come to think of the second parallel street. The first street was 4 Rent Lane and it was complete. Just four houses remained to be finished on 4 Sale Lane. If we did anything else it would be on the streets that connected the two completed streets. One of those streets, I thought of as Bottom Street. It had no houses on it. Top Street originally had eight houses and the company store building.
The end of July came and the two phases were complete. “What we gonna do now,” Carlos asked.
“We’ll get all the demolition leftovers off the lots on Top Street. Put them on the old plant site till we finish five more houses on Top Street and the store building. I am going to sell the five houses but keep the store building,” I admitted to Carlos. “I have no idea what I am going to do with it but I’ll do something.”
“Could I take a week off when we finish the house on 4 Sale Lane?” he asked.
“Of course, you are a contractor just tell me you are going to take a week off,” I said. I was expecting my motor any day, so it was possible that I could take some road trips while he was gone, if it arrived in time.
The motor arrived three days before Carlos finished the houses on 4 Sale Lane. We have five more to go on Top Street before we had to make some hard choices. I had to decide whether to build on the factory site or keep it as a fairground. I was going to put that decision off as long as possible.
“It took all Sunday to put the bike motor on correctly. The advertisement was right, I could have done in and hour of so. I could have if I had known what I was doing. The learning curve was large. I started after breakfast and by the time I prepared a late dinner consisting of a tray filled with Mac & Cheese, it was finally done.” I put the battery, which had arrived a few days earlier, on the charger, then went to bed. Okay I prowled the Internet for a couple of hours before I went to sleep, but I was in bed when I did that.
I had just gotten in the restaurant from the fast food breakfast race, when Alice took me aside. “I know you are working hard. What with the festival and the finishing up of the village, but honey you have to take better care of yourself. Your hair looks like a welfare mother,” she said.
“Actually it looks worse than a crack whore,” Jeremy said with a laugh.
“Alright, I’ll go see Lucile. I have been thinking about a new hairstyle anyway,” I said.
That’s how I came to be standing outside her door with the new bike parked on the curb. I walked in the door carrying the bag with the lithium battery inside. I plugged it in, then took a seat.
“What is that? Did you ride that thing all the way from your house,” she asked.
“I did indeed. Now I want a new hairstyle. I’m going to spend the rest of the summer riding that thing all over,” I said.
“What do you want to look like when you get off the bike and take off the helmet?” Lucile asked.
“A blond goddess of course,” I said with a smile.
“The impossible does cost a little more,” she said. Lucile had given me a haircut once a month for the last year.
“I would like to have it easy to manage, but some hair sticking out from under the headgear,” I said.
“I don’t know Rose. Look through the books and find something you like.
I like it the way it is, but it’s too much trouble for being on the road. Actually it’s because it looks like shit, when I take off the helmet for lunch,” I said.
She suggested the grown out pixie look. The cut left the length in the back but cut it short on the sides. I could towel dry it in the mornings and leave it straight. I could curl it if I wanted to look all girlie. It even had a punk look about it, if I slicked it down.
“Okay you talked me into it,” I said. I had arrived at 9 AM. I waited an hour till she could work me in. Then it took her and hour to do the simple cut. At 11 AM I paid her and headed for the village. The phone hadn’t rung, so I figured no one needed me.
Since it was a Friday and Carlos and Juan were taking a week off starting that very afternoon. I had a wad of cash in my pocket.
“The repairs are almost finish on the last house. There is so little left that you can have the painter, the flooring man, and the roofer in while we are gone,” Carlos said.
“Yes I will check with them and just have them move from house to house. We might have some real progress done when you get back.” I figured we could have the three houses completed. I didn’t see any of the tradesmen when I was there but that wasn’t unusual, since most of those guys liked to get an early start on the weekends.
I made sure I paid the two men off before I left the job site, then I went looking for things to take on my bike trip. I planned to make the trip beginning Monday morning bright and early. I always went to Walmart for that kind of thing, so after returning the bike to my deck, I drove the pickup to the plaza. I bought a rain suit, a summer weight sleeping bag, and a tarp.
After I left Walmart I placed calls to the painter and flooring guys. I told them that I had left the keys to all three houses with Luis. They were free to work on the houses and I would pay them when I got back on Tuesday or Wednesday.
On Sunday I dropped the keys and several sketches by for Luis to critique. I had a hard time getting away from him, so I took him grocery shopping. He wanted to stock up since I was going to be out of town for a couple of days. He saw me most everyday since he had made the move to The Village. He had been able to count on me stopping by with take out at least once a day. He also had some money left from his Social Security check. From time to time he did some tattoos. I think he had even sold a sketch at the art festival. Mine didn’t sell, but I hadn’t expected that it would.
Sunday night I went to bed early. I had my route laid out. I should be able to get thirty miles on those batteries. I decided that after checking the forums all over the net and taking the lower estimates everyone else had given. That is why I figure thirty miles out and thirty miles back the next day. The battery pack was small I had room in the trailer for my sleeping bag, tarp, and plastic rain suit. I also carried my hatchet just in case I wanted to sleep outside and build a fire.
Instead of Church Camp I went to College Hill via back roads. After the thirty mile run I got to College Hill’s City Library around noon. I went to lunch at a small Italian restaurant less than a block away. It had been only a three hour ride, but it wore me out. I had slipped my tablet into the saddlebags along with the clothes I would need if I decided to stay over night.
In the library I got permission to plug the battery charger into a wall outlet in the reading room. I pirated their WiFi, then spent the afternoon on the web. The batteries were charged by five, and since it stayed light until 9 PM during the month of August, I decided to head back home. I had gained some insights about bike travel.
When I got home, I was glad that the ride both ways had been uneventful. I knew that I could do the travel on a bike no problem. Since I figured I could easily ride six hours a day, and that be about sixty miles, I needed enough power for that distance. I figured a forty amp/hour battery with my twenty as a spare should do just fine. I sent the order for the battery with my authorization for a $500 Pay Pal draw from the prepaid debit card. So I could expect the battery to be delivered within three weeks. I thought that would be a reasonable time frame. I would still have the month of September for my trip.
Carlos was still gone when I got the message to come home. The message came from church camp via encoded email. I called Luis, “Luis I have to go out of town. If I don’t get back, you will have to fend for yourself. Please Tell Carlos to see the bookkeeper, if I don’t get back by next Monday.”
“Sure, but are you Okay. Can I do anything?” he asked.
“No I just need to see my family for a few days,” I lied.
“Okay, do you have any idea how long you will be?” he asked.
“No I have no idea. I’ll call you when I get back,” I said. I left the Country Store immediately after loading a backpack with all my cash. I didn’t pack any clothes since I always had to buy new ones anyway.
I left the truck in the parking lot. My truck would be stored, but where I had no idea. As usual it was late when I got to the cabin. I had to wonder why I was always the first one to arrive.
I was happy to see the four sofa beds scattered around the cabin. The old double decker bunks were gone. It showed that Andrew and Sylvia were adapting to their staff’s needs. Well we weren’t really staff. We were technically contractors, but it was still nice not to sleep in a bunk bed like a ten year old.
I began making wild guesses as to what the job might be. With this crowd it could be anything, but for sure it would be dangerous. Well I seldom got put in danger by the Church Camp people. I usually wandered into it on my own.
I spent an hour in the stuffy cabin before a tall hunk of man came in and said, “The commandant wants you right now.”
“Okay, I’m always ready to see Andrew,” I said making sure the operative knew that I knew Andrew well enough to call him by his given name. Hell I didn’t even know his last name.
I followed along behind the hunk till we got to the dining hall. I went up the stairs attached to the side wall of the large open space where up to a hundred people could eat at one time. I had never seen that many people at Church Camp but there was room for them, if they ever did show up.
“Well hello Andrew,” I said upon entering the room.
“Well Rose it is good to see you again so soon,” he smiled when he said it. I knew what he meant. It hadn’t been too long ago that I slept in the VIP cabin awaiting Andrew’s arrival which never came.
“So what am I doing here without my team?” I asked.
“Oh they will be along soon. I need you to do something first.” he suggested.
“What exactly do you need me to do?” I asked a little surprised. It felt like I was going back undercover alone again.
“I need you to lure a subject to a hotel room, where we can kidnap her,” Andrew said.
“Her, you want me to help you kidnap a woman?” I asked.
“Yes Rose I do. If you can get her to a motel room alone, you can save a few lives. If not, then we are going to have to take her by force. That could get very bloody,” Andrew said.
“What makes you think I can do it?” I asked.
“We have studied her background. She had a long term affair with a woman several years ago, when she was in college. We also think she has had a few encounters with other women. She is very discrete,” Andrew informed me.
“Is she married?” I asked.
“Yes and she is also Iranian,” he said.
“You mean the same Iran that has no homosexuals?” I asked.
“Yes, that is the one,” he agreed.
“How good are her bodyguards?” I asked.
“They are very good but they are not zealots. They know that people are not perfect. They also know if they help her engage in this type behavior they would be killed. The best she can hope for is that they will be less than diligent now and then. In exchange she has nothing but nice things to say about her detail, so they get to travel outside the country. If she complained, they would be replaced,” Andrew explained.
“So it is possible for her to meet me secretly, where I am sure you will whisk her away,” I guessed.
“No you and your team will whisk her away and bring her to Sylvia,” he said.
“Why would we do this,” I asked.
“We are going to turn her,” Andrew said.
“What if she can not be turned?” I asked.
“Then she will have an accident and you will have to disappear again,” he said.
“Sometimes this job stinks,” I said.
“Yes I know,” he said. “Jeremy and Alice don’t need to know that last part.”
“Well the devil is always in the details, so what are we going to do?” I said.
“You are going to meet the lady in New York City. Her husband is negotiating a change in status for the Country. I don’t have any idea what that means but they expect it to go on for months. We want an asset inside. She is our best shot,” Andrew explained.
“Andrew, what kind of leverage are you looking for?” I asked.
“Well we would like to have her in love with you. You know the kind of love that she will do anything you ask, but we are not kidding ourselves. She has never allowed more than a few meetings. Sometimes just one meeting for sex,” Andrew explained.
“Are we shooting video then,” I asked.
“Yes we are going to blackmail her, if all else fails,” he said.
“We could be setting her up to get killed,” I said.
“If she does what we say, the odds of her not getting caught are good. If we give the video of her to her husband, she is as good as dead,” he said.
“Would you do that?” I asked.
“A threat has to have teeth Rose. You have to follow through, so both your friends and your enemies know that you are ruthless. Our reputation is we win, or we make the others wish we had won and then left. So yes we will give her husband the video.”
“I wonder who I am working for, the saints or the devils?” I asked.
“Both,” Andrew said.
“What’s her name?” I asked.