Shamus was a bearded teddy bear with a soft spot for firearms. “Don’t worry,” he told me. “I won’t be giving you a gun.” He handed me a pocketknife and pair of latex gloves, and we headed out the door. We were responding to a distress call made by Kendra, a prominent neighbor, local artist, and active member in the bike community. At 4:25pm, she made a post on Facebook:
There may be a stakeout tonight for my bike.
It has been seen twice now. Who’s in?
Last seen by ME on 7th and Hardy last night
Six of us accepted the mission and decided to assemble later that night in a Chili’s parking lot. Three of us would patrol on bikes, while the other three cruised Zone 1 in cars, all in hopes of retrieving the stolen property before the end of the night.
Four nights before, Kendra’s Jamis Coda Comp was snatched from outside the Normal Diner across from ASU while she and a small group of women shared drinks and food after their weekly social ride. Sometime between 7:30pm and 9:30pm some opportunistic bastard cut her cable lock and rode off with her silver roadie. After multiple social media posts, sightings of the bike began to swirl.
The bike team stuck close to Hardy, where both sightings occurred, while the car team did a larger sweep of the neighborhood, covering as many streets in Zone 1 as possible. We communicated through an app called Zello, which acted as a walkie-talkie with custom-made channels. It quickly became evident that using walkie-talkies forced its users to carry an official tone and use lingo they picked up from Cops or The Wire.
“Bike team is at the Circle K on University and Hardy, over.”
“Can we get a car on 7th and Hardy? We’re noticing a lot of foot traffic around Jaycee Park, over.”
The walkie-talkie banter was the highlight of the night, unfortunately, as there were an unusually low number of bikes out and about. Jeff and I saw one that looked close enough to follow for over a mile before realizing it was a false alarm, and we almost intercepted a Jimmy Johns employee with suspicious riding posture, but the mission was quiet and failed to recover Kendra’s bike. We called it quits around 10:45pm.
Two days later I received a call from Shamus. “The bike has been found,” he said.
“Holy shit. Where at?’”
“South of Alameda on Roosevelt.”
“What’s the deal? Who’s there? And will I need any knives or latex gloves?”
“Just wanted to round up some people. Ashley is there. And no.”
“On my way.”
Earlier that morning Ashley had breakfast with her friend, Wayne, who was in the middle of an unexpected layover. Ashley started work at 5:30am, but since Wayne was stuck in town, she told her boss she wouldn’t be in until around 9:30am. After breakfast, Ashley spotted the bike at University and Hardy. She followed the bike south on Hardy while talking with the cops. After briefly losing the bike, Wayne and Ashley caught a glimpse of it locked up outside the Orangutan Home Services warehouse. Dispatch said the officers were on another call, but would get there when they could.
Ryan arrived after Ashley and put his own lock from the future on Kendra’s bike, thwarting any type of getaway. I pedaled up a couple moments after, giving Ashley thumbs up as I parked next to Ryan. She headed to her car and off to work, but not before flashing us a humble, that’s-how-we-roll-type smile. Ryan had to go to work, too, so I told him I’d stick around until the badges showed up. But when employees started filing out the side door for their morning smoke break, I told him that a few more bike friends wouldn’t be a bad idea.
A marked SUV pulled in the parking lot before Ryan had to leave. We flagged him down and the smoking circle got shifty. Officer Scheffner dismounted from his vehicle like a T-1000, but without all that pizazz. We marched over to Kendra’s bike and showed him the serial number. Scheffner read it into his radio with a walkie-talkie lingo that put our attempts as a bike watchmen group to utter shame.
More Orangutan Home Service employees gathered, provoked by a sketchy kind of curiosity, asking rhetorical questions like, “Is that bike stolen?” We told them the bike was stolen from a friend. A few of them insisted it had been on the rack forever, but we informed them it was just seen earlier that morning. We also informed them it had been spotted around town twice in the last week, making it known there was an army of us looking out for it, that we were actively alert, and that we wanted to make it a bit harder to experience the joys of stolen property… to whomever it may concern.
A kid looking barely old enough to belly up to a bar emerged from the warehouse and lumbered over.
“What’s going on?” he mumbled.
“Is this your bike?” asked Scheffner.
“Yes,” the kid replied. He then asked if it was “stolen or something,” saying someone gave it to him after Scheffner said that it was. They both stepped out of earshot and further discussed the kid’s story.
Kendra pulled in the parking lot around the same time. Even her car appeared pumped, exuding a peppy kind of angst. She hopped out, gave us hugs, and posed for a picture with her bike, capturing a seemingly non-existent occurrence. Common knowledge said stolen bikes were usually parted out and long gone in an instant. And it was for this reason the actual culprit was still shadowed by doubt. Although most crooks would say they got the bike from someone else, I don’t know how many would approach an officer and spark up a nervous conversation. However, perhaps he was a newbie criminal who thought approaching a cop inspecting an upside down bike and saying he owned it was the behavior of an innocent man. I asked Secret Agent Serious where the kid said he got it but was told to obtain the police report instead. The kid wouldn’t be charged for the time being, but there was enough sense of victory to warrant a celebration.
A crew of around forty came out to Boulders on Broadway and bashed glasses together in support and triumph. The sense of accomplishment and belonging was bursting. The crowd was giddy. What recovering Kendra’s bike meant in terms of bike community vs. bike theft still demanded careful discussion. After all, we didn’t need this morphing into a bloodthirsty witch-hunt or failed social experiment as a result of an intense craving for justice. For the night, however, it sufficed for us all to share the visualization of one petty thief whispering to another, “Dude, they showed up to his fucking work and got it.”
Over and out.
Written by: Bradley Sutherland