lotus

previous page: 9.7.6 Spike Bike Retrospective
  
page up: Bicycles Misc
  
next page: 9.7.8 The Adventures of Spike Bike: The Last Race (1 of 2)

9.7.7.1 Spike Bike Returns




Description

This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.

9.7.7.1 Spike Bike Returns

From: fish@ihlpa.ATT.COM (Bob Fishell)


Copyright (c) 1989 by Robert Fishell

Spike Bike Returns

* PRELUDE *

[American life in the Year 2000 is not what the futurists of the
late Twentieth Century had predicted. With the Western economy nearly
wrecked by the remorseless profiteers of the Corporatist era, conditions
are sometimes harsh, problems and unrest abound, and a fledgeling
Government struggles to steer America back to a course of prosperity and
growth.

Times are hard, but improving. In many ways, it is a better world.
Most Sundays, bicyclists ride freely up and down the streets and avenues
of American cities, secure in the knowledge that they are no longer
flirting with suicide.

Optimism abounds as the new Millenium approaches. People have
grown kinder, more tolerant, even happy. Most people, that is. In the
year 2000, one man cannot forgive the lowly cyclist for getting in his
way. Another cannot forgive himself.

Fate is to bring them together.]

* PROLOGUE *

(The smell of the new upholstery exhilerated him. With a lot of
people out of work, it meant something to drive a new car. It was not
just a cheap little econo-crate, either; this was a top-of-the-line
mini-van, with a V-6, air conditioning, stereo, power windows, the works.

He drove out of the congested city into the abandoned roads south
of town. This would be a good place to open it up, see what it could do
now that it was broken in. Just over the hill and .. NO! Just his luck,
a goddamn bicycle. One of those arrogant wimps who were responsible for
those spineless bleeding-hearts in Washington. Things had been good
when the Corporatists were in charge; there was money, and you could buy
a new car every couple of years. Now he had to work a second job just
to make the payments on this fine machine.

He followed the bike at a distance until the shoulder of the road
gave way to a bridge abutment. That would be the place. Okay, you
little bastard, it's pay-back time. He pushed the accelerator to the
floor...)

* PART ONE *

I lay on the shoulder of a dusty Texas road, my feet hopelessly
tangled in the toe straps of my wrecked bike. My arms felt like lead.
E. J. Ross towered over me, his great bulk quivering as he laughed.

"Gonna whup yo' ass, boy. Teach y'all to fool with me!" E. J.
moved closer, reached for me. I managed, lamely, to get an arm raised,
and I tried to throw a punch at his jaw. My fist drifted slowly through
the air, barely dented the pudgy flesh of his jowls, and fell back. I
could not raise it again. So weak...

E. J. gripped my shoulders in two ham-like fists and pulled my face
close to his. His breath stank of whiskey. He was no longer laughing.
He squeezed my skull against his forehead and I felt my head begin to
split. I could not breathe. I could see nothing but his eyes.

"Gonna whup yo' ass, boy."

---

I awoke with stifled scream lodged in my throat. My pillow was
drenched. The chill air of the cabin impinged on my awareness as I lay
among knotted bedclothes tossed askew in the night. Shivering, I turned
the pillow over and pulled a heavy quilt up around my neck. My head
hurt. After a while, sleep returned. E. J. Ross did not.

A beam of morning sunlight glinted from the half-empty Jack
Daniels bottle next to the bed. The cabin was awash in daylight,
terribly bright, driving needles into my eyes. I sat up groggily and
reached for the jug, for the hair of the dog. Raising it to my lips, I
was seized by a pang of revulsion as the peppery-sweet fragrance bit my
nostrils. I hurled the bottle into the fireplace, where it shattered
and fell among the other shards of glass there. I regretted the gesture
immediately, for the whiskey stench now flooded the room. After a few
agonized moments, I rose to my feet.

A light June snow had fallen in the night. With the bright
sunshine, it would be gone by mid-morning, and by noon, I would be able
to split wood outdoors without a shirt on. Such weather was not
uncommon in the Canadian Rockies, but even after nineteen months, I had
not grown indifferent to the unpredictability of this place. It helped
to mark the passage of time -- time which was too slowly healing the
wounds of a life ended under the streets of Detroit back in '98.

The day's first coherent thoughts returned to that night, as they
often did. Another morning, another day's life drawn on a bankrupt
account.

I didn't deserve to live. Sitting there alone in the mine, I tried
to recall how many men I'd killed since I awoke only that morning. I'd
lost count. Multiply that uncertainty by five years and it added up to
a load of guilt which could be expunged by death alone. It was the
right time, the right place to die.

But I did not want to die.

I'd had the better part of an hour to work with the mine computer.
It took little time for me to activate one of the conveyers which
carried salt to the surface, half a mile above. After completing the
last entry in Spike Bike's diaries, I prepared my escape. To lighten
the bike as much as possible, I removed all the heavy armament, keeping
only the grenades and my 9mm Walther automatic. I then donned a dust
mask and hefted the bike and myself into one of the hoppers. At
precisely 9:30 PM, as I had instructed the computer, the conveyer
lurched to life and I began the painfully slow ascent.

When I emerged , I had but ten minutes to get away. I used the
remaining grenades to blast the conveyor tunnel I'd used to escape,
hoping to contain a bit more of the radiation from the impending nuclear
blast. Then I jumped on the bike, pointed it at the main gate, and
sprinted away. Fortunately, I ran into no resistance. Senator Crisp
must have been successful at evacuating the area.

I got, perhaps, two miles from the mine entrance when a brilliant
flash lit up the sky. A moment later, the pavement buckled violently
and I was thrown into the air. I landed hard on the broken asphalt. I
looked back towards the mine, half-expecting to see a mushroom cloud,
but I saw only the glow of scattered fires. The flash I'd seen had been
merely the result of a transformer explosion. It was over. Ames
Morgan's plot had been foiled; what was to have been a major nuclear
disaster had become a second-rate earthquake.

The bike had landed hard enough to collapse the back wheel. It was
totaled, and I was not far from being totaled myself. I hadn't broken
any major bones, but my left wrist was sprained, and the bullet wound
I'd received in my shoulder earlier had long since opened up, oozing
blood down the front of my flak jacket.

I armed the plastique charge in the bike's down tube, tossed the
bike into the culvert, and simply walked away. When the radio-linked
heart monitor I wore was out of range of the bike's receiver, the charge
went off, rendering the evidence of my survival to slivers. Spike Bike
was dead.

In the pandemonium following the blast, it was easy to slip across
the border into Ontario. I had discarded my remaining weapons, keeping
only my Canadian papers and some cash. Some time early Tuesday morning,
Michael Resnick, of Caroline, Alberta, Canada, checked into a Windsor
hospital and slept for two days. The doctors did not challenge my story
about getting my injuries in a gas line explosion, although I don't
think they believed it, either. In any case, I was discharged after a
few days, to make my way to the only home I had left, taking the only
identity I had left.

Michael Resnick was born April 17, 1965, in Vancouver, B.C. He died
of severe birth defects on April 18. He had been my cousin. His birth
certificate was among the effects my mother inherited when Michael's
parents died in a plane crash in '67. I used it to obtain other
Canadian documents, including a passport and driver's license.

I established the Resnick identity during the years I fought the
Act. Canadian citizenship made it easier for me to move around north of
the border and helped to cover Spiro Bikopoulis's movements. To the
Canadian government, Michael Resnick was a geologist, a mining
consultant who spent most of his time in the States. But that was just
for the benefit of the authorities, and the bankers and lawyers in
Calgary. The people of the little town of Caroline, Alberta, where I
kept my post office box, didn't care what I did for a living. I was
just a hermit who came down from the mountains only to get whiskey and
supplies.

I'd have to go this day, as that jug I'd smashed had been my last.

I didn't get drunk every night. Why, just two weeks before, I'd
gone to bed after only a couple of good ones. Well, maybe three. It's
not that I needed the booze. It just helped to dim the stares of a
hundred dead men. I could handle the rest of it, memories of the
flames, the twisted metal, even the blood. It was just those damned
_eyes_.


---
[In case you were wondering:

In the final installment of "Armageddon in Detroit," Spike removed the
Bomb from his rear rack after he reached the mine's control center.
Why would he do that if he didn't intend to ride the bike any more?

How many of you caught on?

Fish]

My cabin cannot be reached by auto, even by 4WD, which is why I
like it there; it cuts down on the riffraff. There are two ways to get
there: on foot or by ATB. I prefer not to walk.

The bright June sunshine had already melted the night's snow from
the trail, leaving only mud, but I was used to that. I rode the mountain
bike effortlessly down the five miles of familiar trail (riding back up
with full panniers would be more taxing) to the Timberline Trading
Post.

At 6500 feet, it was well below the timberline, but it was the last
outpost of so-called civilization for the tourists who passed by on
their way to the campgrounds up the mountain. They were willing, if not
happy, to buy their groceries, eggs, and notions at the Timberline's
outrageous prices if it would save them the 20-mile haul into Caroline.
As for me, I got a substantial discount, inasmuch as I half-owned the
place. My partner, Jack, kept most of the obscene profits in return for
not involving me in the day-to-day operations of the establishment. I
got my eats and supplies wholesale, and I got to use the Timberline's
ancient Jeep CJ when I had to go into town for stuff Jack didn't sell,
viz. American bourbon.

I pulled into town around 2:00. I stopped by the post office to
get the month's mail. It was the usual stuff: bank statements, junk
(even assumed names can't escape mailing lists), and a couple of letters
from my mother, forwarded by my lawyer in Calgary. My family knew I was
alive, but not where I was. My lawyer knew where I was, but not who I
was, and I paid him enough not to ask.

My next stop was Snuffy's Tavern, one of Caroline's less-classy
saloons. Snuffy kept in stock for me an extra case of Jack Daniel's,
which was my usual monthly supply. Stepping into the dark, smoky bar, I
noticed something shockingly new: a 120-cm, wide-screen, high-
definition, surround-sound, plasma-display television set. I had long
ago forsaken such banalities, but I was snared by a close-up shot of a
pitcher winding up. A "C" emblazoned on his jersey told all: the Cubs
were playing, at Montreal. What's more, they were actually leading by
four to one in the bottom of the eighth.

I guess it's something about growing up in Chicago. The bums
hadn't won so much as a division championship since 1984, but Cub fans
die hard. I sat down, ordered a beer, and watched the rest of the game,
which, of course, the Cubs lost on a grand slam homer in the bottom of
the ninth.

During the post-game wrap-up, I observed that the program
originated from Chicago's WGN-TV, and was being picked up here in
Alberta on a satellite dish. Snuffy had really gone overboard with this
rig. I was just about to pick up my whiskey and head back up the
mountain when the program broke to the local news. An attractive female
announcer deadpanned:

"Two more bikers killed in Oak Lawn. Details next on News Nine."
Typewriter music faded into an inane beer commercial. I sat down again.
Snuffy reached up to change the channel, but I gripped his arm. He gave
me a startled look and backed away from the set when he caught the
expression on my face. After an eternity of drivel, the announcer
returned.

"Two Oak Lawn teens are the latest victims of a hit-and-run driver.
The bodies of sixteen-year-old... "

The screen flashed high-school photos of the two victims, a boy and
a girl. I was struck by the girl's pretty, white teeth and engaging eyes
[at this point, the reader will notice, the narrative descends to
contrived, manipulative hate-mongering, a cheap ploy to gain the
sympathies of the reader and make his blood boil at the same time. --
Fish]. The announcer continued,

" ...the youths were the fifth and sixth victims of what police
believe to be the work of one man, seen fleeing the scene of this
morning's tragedy in a late-model Ford mini-van.

"Despite severe federal penalties, it appears, at least in Chicago,
that the streets are still not safe for bicycles."

The newscast switched to local politics. The announcer's voice
faded into the rest of the background noise: the clinking of glasses,
the murmur of the other patrons, the rickety ventilation fan. I sat in
numbed silence, no longer watching the screen. Something familiar and
yet new stirred inside me, a feeling I'd not had in years.

After a while, I got up to leave. Snuffy called after me:

"Hey, Mike, what about your booze?"

"Pass it around when business picks up. Tell 'em it's on me."

It was near nightfall when I got back to my cabin. I sat staring at
the fire, sober for the first time in nineteen months. Their eyes were
gone, along with their accusations, their hatred, their fear. The sons
of bitches had deserved it. The old rage blazed inside me, searing away
the guilt, cauterizing the wounds. The only pair of eyes I saw in the
flames were the powder-blue discs of a dead girl, imploring me to avenge
her.

That night, I slept better than I had in years. The next morning,
I was on my way to Calgary Airport.

The plane made its approach to O'Hare over Lake Michigan, giving me
a spectacular view of the Loop. I had not seen this city I once called
home in well over a year. My thoughts were not, however, of homecoming.
Somewhere down there was a killer, the kind of man I'd nearly destroyed
myself trying to fight.

The plane landed and I disembarked, going through customs without
incident. I'd brought only an ordinary suitcase and a few hundred
dollars in traveler's checks. I had hoped that what I would need here
would be waiting for me in a rented storage shed out on 75th street.

With the aid of my shipping records, the old Secret Service had
raided several of my caches when they closed in on me, but they couldn't
have known about this place. The key-card still opened the gate, and
the seal on unit 13-J had not been tampered with. I'd leased this place
back in the fall of 1998, paying two years' rent in advance. A musty
smell greeted me as I opened the overhead door to reveal the shed's
contents: A dining room set, a china cabinet, and a large crate marked

HAMMOND ORGAN
HANDLE WITH CARE

I moved to the rear of the crate and felt under a slat for the small
studs which, activated in the proper sequence, would disarm the charges
that lined the box. A reassuring chirp from within assured me that I
would not be blown to bits, along with everything else inside of fifty
yards, when I pried open the crate.

All was intact, and appeared to be in good condition: A custom-
built, titanium-frame mountain bike, a MAC-10 submachine gun, a .44
magnum, a small-caliber automatic, a case of ammo, another of grenades.
A small box in the corner of the crate held ten thousand dollars in
American greenbacks. I buttoned down the crate, loaded it and the rest
of the junk into my rented panel truck, and drove away.

I needed a place to stay. A hotel would not do; there was too
little privacy. I finally found a tiny furnished apartment to sublet in
Berwyn. A house would have been better, but this would do. Besides, the
landlord had been happy to accept my hard cash for the three months
which remained on the lease, and didn't ask many questions.

There was little danger of being recognized. There had been no
close-up photos of Spike Bike, and the few photographs of Spiro
Bikopoulis that had been in the news did not resemble my present
appearance. I'd grown a short, full beard, which, like my hair, was
flecked with gray. The most familiar news photo of me was of a clean-
shaven, 22-year-old Marine sergeant without much hair at all. The
principal threat would come from a chance meeting with someone I had
known well, but the chances were pretty slim. My family no longer lived
in the city, and I'd had few close friends during my double life in the
Act years.

My principal problem was locating my quarry. I'd never had much
difficulty finding trouble in the old days, and the few specific
individuals I'd gone after, like the infamous E. J. Ross, had been
easy to find. But all I could do now was set myself up as bait and hope
the killer would take the hook.

The police would be looking for him, too, but law enforcement in
Post-Corporatist America was, like everything else, in a state of
disarray. The economy was slowly recovering, but the country was in a
near-depression. Unemployment was at its worst levels in sixty years,
civil disorder was widespread, and crime was rampant. The fanatically
loyal private security forces of The Twenty had been completely
disbanded, and their former employees were barred from public service.
State and municipal police departments were staffed with eager but
inexperienced young officers and a few old hands who'd been willing to
come back to the job. They were a dedicated lot, but they were pretty
green.

The Federal Government wouldn't be much help, either, with the FBI
and Secret Service having undergone the same kind of overhaul. All
things considered, it was a wonder things worked as well as they did.
President Crisp and his pals had their hands full. Faced with the most
staggering agenda since the Second World War, I suppose the Government
had more important things to do than to devote scarce resources to
protecting a few crazy cyclists.

Nevertheless, it made my blood boil. The police were advising
cyclists to stay off the streets. While that would make my job easier,
it wasn't what I'd been all about for five years of my life. Had I done
any good at all?

I should have stayed in Alberta.

How was I going to find the son of a bitch?

It had been a hot, sultry summer in Chicago. At 9:00 in the
morning, the temperature had already risen into the mid-eighties, and
the afternoon promised to be positively infernal. I wondered if it was
keeping my adversary indoors. For three weeks I had been riding nearly
a hundred miles a day, randomly criss-crossing through the southwest
suburbs where all of the attacks had occurred.

All had been quiet so far. Motorists passed by without so much as
a tight squeeze or even an angry horn. Riding on city streets was less
unnerving than it had been even in the pre-Act days, back in the
Eighties. Perhaps the new laws were doing some good, or perhaps the
excesses of the Act had shocked these people into better behavior. It
was almost disappointing. With the temperature in the nineties nearly
every day, the weight of the heavy weapons I carried made itself ever-
apparent. I was particularly aware of it now.

I first saw the lone rider as I headed into what used to be the
Palos Hills Forest Preserve. It was now a maze of abandoned
construction sites strewn with rotting building materials and rusting
machinery. The roads, however, were pretty good, so it wasn't
surprising to see somebody training out here, or it wouldn't have been,
had not the scare kept so many bikies off the streets. I decided to
pursue. I hadn't ridden with anyone in years, and I found myself longing
for company.

To my chagrin, whoever this was didn't seem to want any, or was at
least playing hard to get. After chasing the rider for nearly two
miles, I had closed barely half the distance between us, and I was
panting and drenched with sweat. O.K., maybe I was on an overweight
mountain bike. Maybe I was thirty-five years old, and maybe I had been
drunk every night of my life for over a year and a half. But dammit, I
had still trained every day. I'd once beaten Alexi Grewal. I'd never
had so much trouble trying to catch up with a woman!

She knew I was there. Several times, she glanced back, flashed a
smile, and dug in. It was only after she had to slow down over some
broken pavement that I finally closed the gap. When I pulled beside
her, I had to catch my breath for a few beats before I could speak. She
saved me the trouble.

"Hi! I'm Annie." She turned her head, and I could see that she was
nearly as wilted as I was from the race. She was also very pretty. She
had nice teeth, and the niceness sort of continued in all directions
from there.

"You can call me Mike." She could have called me anything, I
wouldn't have minded. "You know, you're pretty fast."

"You're not so bad yourself, considering. What have you got in
those things, anyway? You touring, cross-country?" She indicated my
full panniers. I liked her, but I didn't want to burden her with the
details of their contents just now. I don't think it would have made a
good impression.

"Just day touring, but I like to be prepared. You know, tools and
things."

"Tools? Looks more like you've got a whole bike shop in there", she
laughed. "You do any racing? Off-road?"

"On-road, back, oh, ten or twelve years or so ago. Before the
Act."

"Gee, you don't look that old."

It was bad enough that she was gorgeous. Did she have to be
ingratiating, too? "Chalk it up to clean living. You race?"

"I just started this year. Got a crit Sunday. Registration's
still open. You wanna come?"

"I'd love to," -- and I would -- "but I've got some things I have
to do." Which I did, and it was something I was beginning to really
regret. Riding here beside my new-found companion, I felt more alive
than I had in years. I'd forgotten what living had been like. I'd been
close to no one, lonely.

Damn, she was pretty. She was young, twenty, twenty-two, maybe.
Long, light brown hair streamed behind her from underneath her helmet.
She wore black lycra shorts and a light jersey, much as I did, but on
her it looked a lot more interesting. She was tall. I think "leggy"
might be the word, but there was no awkwardness, at least, certainly not
in the way she rode her bike. I thought she might be holding back for
me and my fat tires and my grey whiskers, and I began to wonder if she
hadn't purposefully allowed me to catch her. I got the feeling she
could break away at any time, and there wouldn't be much I could do
about it. I was glad she didn't.

I found myself thinking what a beautiful day it was. For the first
time in many, many years, I remembered why I had started cycling in the
first place. There was her, the warm sunshine, the rush of wind, the
singing of the wheels underneath. I momentarily forgot what I had come
here to do. Just for a minute. It was a minute too long. Too late, I
heard the roar of the engine, the howl of the tires. I jerked my head
around and he was on us, close enough for me to see the bugs on his
radiator. A blue Ford mini-van. I had nothing in my hand but a water
bottle.


[Yes, she's beautiful.

No, I'm not going to put any cheap, gratuitous sex in this story.

-- Fish]

The deadly blue van was nearly on us. There was no time to get to
the MAC-10, not even to the little Walther that I always had close at
hand. There was no time even to warn Annie of the danger. There was
time for only one act.

Back when I was racing, I'd go up against guys who were a little
short on manners, particularly in the closing laps of a criterium. One
learns to expect some aggressive maneuvers in such situations, but
occasionally somebody would cross the line between competitiveness and
sheer malevolence. Once in a while, somebody would bump you a bit too
hard, with the obvious intent of making you crash and perhaps take out
some of the pack with you. I developed techniques for dealing with
these guys, an unusual blend of cycling skills and Aikido. If a move
was executed properly, you got the guy out of the race without taking
anybody else down. It was such a technique I applied to Annie,
regretting that I had no time to explain.

Fortunately there was water and soft mud in the ditch that ran
along the side of the road. Annie's wheels hit the high curb and she
went sprawling, sliding down the muddy bank on her side. I cut just in
front of her and bunny-hopped the curb an instant before the van's tires
slammed into it. A hubcap came loose and rolled past me as I fought to
keep the bike upright on the slippery surface, groping for my automatic.
The van swerved and fishtailed for a block or so, then accelerated away
before I could get off a shot. Remembering I wasn't alone, I quickly
tucked the little Walther back in its holster.

I turned my attention to Annie. She was fishing herself out of the
muddy ditch, uttering some decidedly unbecoming monosyllables. She
turned to me. As she stood, I could see that she was strikingly tall,
nearly a match for my own 6'2" frame. She removed her helmet and shook
her head to get some of the big pieces of mud out of her long hair. I
waited for her to speak, more afraid of what she might say than I had
been of the marauding van.

"Are you OK, Mike? What happened? That van..."

She had seen it! Thank all the gods and all the lucky, twinkly
stars on a Rocky Mountain night, she had seen it! She would understand
why she'd just been run into a filthy ditch by a guy she'd known for all
of five minutes.

"Oh, my god!" she exclaimed, "that was him, wasn't it? The guy on
the news, the one who's been... Oh, Mike, if you hadn't been here..."
She crossed the distance between us, put her long, willowy arms around
my neck, and kissed me. She was covered with mud, and she was smearing
it all over me. It could have been tar and feathers, and it would have
been all right with me.

After a delicious, brief eternity, she broke away. We took a few
minutes to clean some of the mud off her bike, then rode together as far
as the nearest convenience store. Neither of us said much. She kept
giving me puzzled glances. I could not take my eyes from her.

"We have to call the police," she remarked, "they'll want to talk
to us."

She was right. Well, half right, anyway. My Resnick identity might
hold up, but then again, it might not. In any case, I didn't have time
to get involved in a police investigation, particularly one conducted by
young, enthusiastic, and somewhat inept detectives.

"No, _you_ have to call the police. They might want to talk to me
about some things I don't have time to explain right now."

"Are you in some kind of trouble, Mike?"

"Let's just say I have my reasons for not wanting to get involved."

"But you are involved, aren't you? There's something odd about you.
I know you from somewhere. You had something in your hand when I got
out of the ditch. You didn't want me to see it. That was a gun, wasn't
it?"

"It was just..." Dammit, I didn't like lying to her. "Annie,
please, let's not go into that. It's better that you don't ask. Listen,
you call the police, you tell them what happened. Tell them to get that
hubcap back there, it came off his van."

"What do I tell them about you?"

"Tell them what you have to. Tell them I was afraid."

"No. Not you. I don't think you scare easily. But..."

"Annie, I have to go."

"Will I see you again?"

"Count on it."

I turned the bike around and sprinted away. I looked back only
once, to see her standing there, looking after me. I decided to go
home. The killer, having been foiled, would likely not do any more
hunting today.

My heart was doing flip-flops. I'd come here on a mission and I
had failed. But I'd been in the right place at the right time. If I
had not been there, Annie might have been dead. Yet if Annie had not
been there, the killer would be dead, and it would be over. But then,
I'd not have met her, would I? Life was beginning to get very
complicated.

I returned to my small Berwyn apartment feeling exhausted and torn.
Too much had happened today. My head swam, and I longed for a drink,
just one little belt to put things back in order. I knew, of course,
that diving back into a bottle could only make matters worse. I settled
for a hot shower instead. Letting the water run for a long time, I felt
the tension slowly leave my muscles to mingle with the soap and mud that
ran down the drain. Remembering how I'd gotten so muddy, I was
reluctant to wash it off.

I considered my feelings. The rage which had driven me for so many
years was still there. The image of the blue mini-van escaping
unscathed incensed me. If only I'd had my senses about me. I played it
over in my mind, how I would feint to the outside, then cut back beside
the van, shoot out the tires, and finish it off with a grenade. Two
granades. Hell, I wanted to shred it and its driver into pieces too
small to identify. I wanted to do it twice. This much was familiar, and
almost comforting.

But there was a lot more. Annie. I'd spent, maybe, twenty minutes
with her. I didn't know anything about her, her background, her
circumstances, not even her full name, yet I could not get her out of my
mind. It made no sense. In my situation, I shouldn't even consider such
matters; it couldn't work out with any woman, yet that knowledge made no
difference in how I felt. I had to see her again.

That was still not the end of it. I'd been caught off guard today;
I nearly died because of it. This gave me a profound sense of failure,
but even this was not new. I'd blown it before. What was new was that I
was afraid. I was not afraid of death, but of life. For a brief,
fleeting moment today, I had forgotten everything, forgotten who I was
and all that had happened in my life, and I had _lived_. And enjoyed
being alive. There was no room for that feeling in the context of my
existence. Nevertheless, I wanted more. I wanted to _live_, whereas
before I had wanted only not to die. It scared the hell out of me.

I shut off the shower when the hot water ran out and collapsed,
soaking wet, on the sofa bed. I awoke many hours later, shivering and
ravenous. I crossed to the tiny kitchen and extracted a leftover
chicken leg from a paper bucket in the refrigerator. Wolfing the
drumstick, I padded back to the bathroom to throw on a robe.

Returning to the main room with a Coke and the rest of the chicken
bucket, I flicked on the tube to catch the rest of the Cubs game. They
blew it in the top of the eighth, losing eight to four, which would back
them into a tie for fourth place, four games below .500, and eleven and
a half games behind the first-place Mets. But it was only July. Things
could get better.

I was finishing off a serving of congealed mashed potatoes when the
nine o'clock newscast came on. I dropped the mess in my lap when the
screen cut to a shot of Annie.

"This Orland Park biker narrowly escaped death today as the van
killer strikes again. Details next on News Nine."

After an interminable spate of commercials, the newscast got under
way. There was an interview with Annie, who recounted the events that
had transpired earlier, save that she made no mention of another
cyclist. All too soon, the camera cut away to the young police
lieutenant in charge of the case. He bungled his way through the
interview, commenting that they'd recovered a "valuable piece of
evidence" from the scene. I presumed he meant that flattened hubcap,
which wouldn't tell them diddly-squat. They already had the make and
model of the van. They were no closer to bagging this bastard than
they'd been when I was stinking drunk in my mountain cabin.

I found out a little bit about Annie, though. Her full name was
Ann Chernak. She was twenty-two years old, unmarried(!), a nursing
student at Loyola. She also looked just fantastic with the mud and
sweat washed off her and her hair combed and set and large hoop earrings
and just the right amount of makeup around her eyes.

I sat with a lapfull of mashed potatoes through a re-run of "The
Twilight Zone" and half the late movie before I cleaned up the mess and
went to bed. I had checked the phone book for "Chernaks" and found
there were eight entries, but no "Anns" or 'A's, listed for Orland Park.
I thought of contacting Loyola, as if they'd tell me anything, but then
I remembered she was going to race on Sunday, two days from now. There
couldn't be too many bike races in the area. I hadn't seen one in ages.
Come to think of it...

All day Saturday I criss-crossed the southwest suburbs, ranging
from Darien and Willow Springs all the way to Frankfort and New Lenox.
There was no sign of a blue Ford mini-van, nor any sign of Annie. Well,
if she knew anything about racing, she would be training lightly today.
I did spend a little extra time patrolling the side streets of Orland
Park, but I reminded myself that I'd come here for a reason, and it
wasn't to meet women.

Where could he be? _Who_ could he be? I wondered what sort of mind
the killer posessed. He wasn't like any of the brutes I'd faced during
the Act years. They had come from various social and economic
backgrounds, but they were united by a common trait: they'd had no real
scruples; the Act had merely removed the thin deterrent of punishment.
They were predictable, and that had made them relatively easy to deal
with.

This guy was something different. Cyclists were now protected by
laws stiffer than those of the pre-Act years. Shocked by the brutality
of the nineties, Americans had affected a kinder attitude towards
bikies. The killer was not, therefore, merely a product of his times.
He was an abberation, a psychopath, unpredictable.

All I knew was that he struck his victims several weeks apart. His
attack on Annie and me yesterday was the first he'd attempted since the
incident that had first brought him to my attention, nearly a month ago.
Would it be weeks before he struck again? Or would he hit somebody
today? Yesterday had been the first time he'd missed. Maybe he had an
itch to scratch, and I'd put it out of reach. Maybe I'd gotten him mad.

In any case, I didn't think he would emerge today. I would watch
the news later to find out, but I had some things to do yet. I'd looked
up a couple of bike shops in the Yellow Pages, and I was pleased to see
that the old Oak Park Cyclery was still in -- or back in -- business.
It was on my way home, so I stopped in just before closing time.

It wasn't as I remembered it. The bicycle industry had been
utterly destroyed during the Act years, so the inventory was skimpy and
unimpressive. Most of the new bikes were from places like Korea and
Malaysia, although a few European and Japanese companies had begun
dipping a toe into the American market once again. I didn't see
anything I liked, though, so I poked my head into the repair area and
asked the greasy-nailed guy back there if he had anything nice that
wasn't on the sales floor. He did.

It sat in the corner of the shop, a used Pinarello built up with
Campy Super Record. It was scratched up and at least 20 years old, but
it had the right sized frame. The guy said I could have it cheap, only
$1800, since it had sew-up tires, and nobody used them any more. I
pondered whether $1800 was cheap, but there was quite a bit of inflation
these days, and it was the only decent machine he had.

He let me take it out around the block for a test ride. The
handlebar stem was too short for me, but I could live with it, and it
cornered well. I told him I'd take it and a pair of cleats, which he
threw in free of charge. I think he knew he was gouging me, and the
shoes made him feel a little less guilty -- particularly when I paid him
with nice, crisp, fifty-dollar bills. I removed my shades for the first
time when I paid for the bike. The young mechanic-salesman (-owner?)
looked at me for a moment and remarked, "You've been in here before,
right?"

"Not in years", I told him.

"You look familiar. Can't place you, though."

I thought of something Annie had said yesterday. "Lot of that going
around," I returned, "but I'm sure I don't know you."

"It'll come to me."

He turned his attention to scribbling out a receipt, after happily
counting through the wad of greenbacks I'd passed him. This was the
first time I took a good look at the large poster which hung over the
cash register. I recognized the photo. It was taken at the 1991
Nationals. A sweat-drenched, road-rashed bike racer held a trophy
triumphantly above his head. A caption was emblazoned on a wide black
stripe across the bottom of the poster. It read:

Spiro Anton Bikopoulis
1965 - 1998

He noticed my looking at it.

"Oh, yeah, you want a Spike Bike poster? You get one with the
bike."

"Uh, no, no thanks."

"Yeah. I suppose everybody's got one of those by now."

Hell, it wasn't a very good picture. And I'd only won the damn
race on a disqualification.

I didn't know. Mom's letters had said nothing about it, and the
papers and newscasts I'd seen lately had mentioned little about me. I
thought they'd still be looking for me in every state in the Union.
Instead, I find out I've been pardoned, and that there's some statue of
me turning green and collecting bird droppings in the middle of the
Detroit river.

Of course, they thought I was dead. Had they known I survived,
would they have been so magnanimous? Or if they'd known how I skimmed
profits from Bikopoulis Imports to finance my operations, or how I'd
cheated on my taxes because of it? Would the Canadian Government be
pleased to know I was impersonating somebody who died when I was two
months old, and that I'd broken just as many Canadian tax laws, and that
I still went around packing a 9mm automatic everywhere I went?

It occurred to me that there might be certain advantages to staying
dead. It also occurred to me that I should finish my business here and
get my ass back to Alberta before somebody took a really good look at
me. The trouble was that my business wasn't entirely under my control,
and there was more of it than there'd been when I got here.

The bike shop guy had told me there was only one nearby race that
he knew about. It was a 4-corners criterium being held in an industrial
park outside Willow Springs. It had to be the one. I rode the Pinarello
down from Berwyn and arrived at the registration desk about 8:00 AM. I
didn't know how I was going to bluff my way in, but it turned out I
didn't have to.

USCF was defunct. The Bicycle Act had put an end to all organized
bike racing in America by 1993, and the organization disbanded. It had
been in disarray even before then. The leadership had deteriorated to
an entrenched cabal of squabbling, imperious men who sat around thinking
up silly-ass rules that were as inequitable as they were
incomprehensible. It was the reason I left the circuit in '92.

This competition, however, was a far cry from the old days. Like
all races now, it was an open affair, sponsored by local clubs and
businesses. There was no license required, just ten bucks and a release
form. There were only two divisions each for men and women, "Beginner"
and "Experienced," which means you'd finished a couple of "Beginner"
races without crashing or going off the back. Even at that, nobody
checked; you just signed one sheet or the other and got your number.
The only thing they really worried about were unroadworthy bikes -- and
from what I'd seen of the bikes that were currently available, the
concern was justified. I had to get my bike checked out by one of the
officials, who turned out to be the greasy-nailed guy who'd sold me the
bike yesterday.

"Oh, hi, Mister, ah, Renwick?"

"Resnick."

"Well, I guess this bike'll check out."

"I would hope so."

"You know, I'm still thinking. It'll come to me, I never forget a
face."

"I suppose."

"Well, good luck."

"Thanks. Say, when do the women race? You know a tall gal, light
brown hair, kind of thin, name's..."

"Annie. Ain't she an eyeful? Yeah, the women's 'E' race starts at
9:30, she should be there. She's pre-registered, so she probably isn't
here yet. She'll win. Hell, she could win the men's division. You know
Annie?"

"Met her the other day. Say, she going with anybody?"

"No, no boyfriend. But a lotta men tried, and a lotta men died.
Man, you _really_ need some luck."

"Thanks. I'll keep it in mind."

I pinned my number to the back of my jersey and loped over to watch
the men's 'B' race, the event just before Annie's. It was a comical
affair. There were numerous crashes, though none were serious. The race
officials did a good job of clearing the course of stragglers who'd gone
off the back and obviously had no chance of catching the pack. These
kids had heart, though. It brought back fond memories of how things had
once been, before everything went to hell. I had to smile. Damn it, I
was beginning to enjoy myself again. Damn it to hell, I was beginning
to like this place. Damn...

"Mike!" That voice! "Mike, you came! You're _entered?_"

She approached, as gracefully as anybody can walk with cleats on,
and placed a hand on my arm. Her smile was dazzling. I noticed for the
first time that one of her eyebrows was just a little crooked. It made
her face all the more endearing. She looked delicious. She had looked
delicious with mud all over her.

"Mike," she lowered her voice, "Mike I didn't tell them about you
the other day. I said he ran me off the road, that I steered myself
into the ditch. I guess I owe you a lot, and I know you've got
something to hide. That's why I didn't tell them about you. But you've
got to tell me about it. Can we talk after the race?"

"You can count on it. I..."

An announcement pierced the air. God, they were still using those
same damned bullhorns; some things hadn't changed.

"That's me. I have to get to the starting line. Wish me luck!"

"Good..." She draped her arms around my neck and kissed me.
"...luck."

The women's 'E' race was a 40-km criterium which, I learned, was
the standard distance for most events these days. Power would be more
of an advantage than savvy would be in such a competition. That was
well-suited to the times, as few aspiring racers had any real
experience. It made me wonder how I'd do in my own race. I had done
little road biking in the last eight years, and the maneuvers I'd
mastered on my ATBs were probably not useful here. Breaking away from a
pack isn't the same as dodging a marauding pickup truck while you're
cocking the receiver of a MAC-10 with your teeth. I was still pretty
strong, but some of these kids looked strong, too. I would have my
hands full.

Annie was quite at home here. She stayed near the front of the
pack for much of the race, then made her move when a group of three of
the stronger women broke away. She cut to the outside and effortlessly
ran them down from a hundred yards back. By the last couple of laps, it
was evident she would win with ease. Just before the lap gun, she
broke away, easily outdistancing the pair of riders closest to her. The
gap steadily widened as she sprinted up the long back stretch of the
3.2-km course.

It was the trick of a practiced eye that caught it. I saw a light
blue blur on the edge of my perception, and automatically homed in on
it. It was _him_! He roared down a road parallel to the course,
watching out his side window for an opening. He would get his chance at
the cross street near the end of the back stretch, a mile or so distant.
The only rider who'd be there to meet him was Annie.

I jumped on the Pinarello, cursing as I lost precious milliseconds
starting a cleat in the unfamiliar pedals. I knocked down two
spectators as I jumped onto the course, and two of the women who were
trying in vain to catch Annie collided as I darted into their path. I
was going to make them scratch this race, but that wasn't important
now. In the clear, I stood up and sprinted for all I was worth.

Only slowly did the gap between me and Annie narrow. The menacing
blue van was at the end of the parallel street, making a screeching left
turn onto the common cross street that would connect him with the
course. I tried to call out to Annie, but she couldn't hear me over
the commotion on the sidelines. I could not reach her in time. I would
have only one chance.

I'd brought the little Walther along almost as a good luck charm.
I hadn't intended to race with it, and I was feeling it now as the
holster dug into my side under my jersey. I drew it, flicked off the
safety, and pulled back the receiver in the hollow between my chin and
neck. I tried to steady it before me as my eyes swam and my lungs
burned.

Annie rounded the corner and accelerated into the bottom stretch
just as the van smashed through the barricades. The hay bales and
sawhorses slowed him down just a little, enough time for Annie to to get
out of the line of fire. I tried to center the sights on the driver's
window. I squeezed off one shot, two, three, nothing. Four, five, the
van swerved slightly, kept to its course, picked up speed. Annie,
Annie, SPRINT, dammit! I fired off the sixth shot and the side window
shattered. One more shot, then I kept pulling the trigger, but there
were no more cartridges.

I knew I hit him. I could have sworn that his head jerked to the
side as I squeezed off the last round. The driver was no longer
visible, but the van continued to gain on Annie. I tried to scream, but
I had no breath. NO! My god, if only I could reach her! If only I could
take her place! I could not watch, yet I could not look away. Annie...
The van closed to within a few feet of her rear wheel, but then lurched
abruptly, left the roadway, turned over on its side, and crashed into a
wall. A moment later, it exploded into a ball of orange flame and black
smoke. Only then did Annie turn around to see what was happening.

You won, Annie.

After an eternity, I took a breath. I pulled off the course and
got away as fast as I could. There would be police here very soon,
with questions to which I had no answer.

---
_Epilogue_

I waited behind the rusting carcass of an earth-mover as I watched
the distant rider approach. I stepped into view when she was close
enough to recognize me.

"I hoped you'd be here." She said.

"Glad you could make it."

She crossed to me, raised a hand to touch my face. It was a moment
before she spoke.

"When I was a little girl, I had a bike. It was just an old
clunker, but I loved it. I rode it everywhere. Then, when I was
fifteen, my father took it away. I didn't understand. I cried for days.
I didn't cry like that again until I heard you were dead."

Tears welled in her eyes. She fell into my arms, kissed me, and
held her embrace for a long time. Neither of us said anything in the
minutes or hours that passed. Finally she drew back.

"How long have you known?"

"Since you left the other day. I wasn't sure at first, but when I
saw you again at the race, I knew. I think some of the others do, too."

"The police?"

"They know somebody rode onto the track and shot him. Nobody would
tell them anything else. Only Dutch -- he's the guy who owns the bike
shop -- and I know your name, or the one you're using. Dutch destroyed
your race registration. We didn't tell them. They didn't need to know.
Oh, Spike, you got him. That's all that's important."

"Another dead man. Another pair of eyes. They all watch me from
somewhere, you know."

"You did what you had to do. You did it for all of us. What of
the living Spike? What about us? What about _my_ eyes?"

"They're lovely."

I pulled her to me and kissed her again. After a while, I let her
go.

"You know I have to leave, Annie."

"Where will you go?"

"I can't say."

"Take me with you?"

"I'm getting old, Annie. I couldn't keep up with you."

I turned away and walked toward the mountain bike. It was no longer
loaded down with packs and oddly bulging panniers. There was no C-4
packed into the frame any more. For the first time in an eternity, I
didn't need any of that stuff. The bike felt light. Riding away, I
realized that I felt light too, younger by the minute, and _alive_.
What in the hell was I doing?

She hadn't got more than half a mile down the road. I chased her
down in less then a minute. I tried to hide my shortness of breath.

"You ever been to Alberta, Annie?"

* THE END *
---

Postscript

Some time ago I read an essay by someone very good, Harlan Ellison,
I think. He explains that his stories often tell themselves; he writes
them down almost as though they have been dictated by an unseen other.
Occasionally, a story willcome out far differently from what he had
planned. In my own experience, "Spike Bike Returns" was such a story.

I had always planned for the original Spike Bike series to end in a
final confrontation of Good and Evil, with Spike bringing order to his
world only though the act of supreme sacrifice. As the series
developed, however, Spike became more than a comic-book character to me.
I grew fond of him, and in the end, I couldn't bear to kill him off. I
gave him a way out, which an astute reader will have surmised from the
little clues I left in the closing paragraphs of Spike's narrative in
"Armageddon in Detroit."

"Spike Bike Returns" begins where that story left off, but beyond
getting Spike out of the mine and safely into exile in Canada, I had no
idea where to take the story from there. With the fall of Corporatism
and the demise of the Bicycle Act of 1992, the central premise of the
original series was gone. I had deliberately left some loose ends at the
end, but I had only a vague idea how to develop them into a story. The
serial killer idea seemed like a good way to get Spike out of
retirement, but beyond that, I had no idea where the story would lead
me.

Yet lead me it did. Every spring, my thoughts turn to two things,
cycling and people like Annie. Once I had the idea for her character, I
realized that the loose ends would have to wait. The story diverged
from the old blood and fire and became a tale of a man's rebirth, his
reconciliation with life and humanity. To be sure, Spike deals death in
the end, but it is for the sake of life and love, not destruction and
hatred.

Much of this story was written in one sitting. It took me as much
by surprise as it did any of you, I assure you. If it was less
bloodthirsty than what you'd come to expect from Spike Bike, perhaps
it's because I wrote it early in the year, before I've had an unhealthy
dose of hostility at the unclean hands of the local motorhead
population. Nevertheless, I was quite pleased with the story. I've
been making up stories for as long as I can remember and writing them
down since I was nine years old. Of all the stuff I've written in
recent years, "Spike Bike Returns" has been the most gratifying
personally. If it wasn't what you expected, I hope you liked it anyway.

Will Spike Bike be back? This time, I honestly don't know myself.
There are those loose ends I mentioned, but at the moment, Spike is
happy and healed. I'd like to give him and Annie a little privacy for a
while. Of course, it's early in the year yet. I had an unpleasant
encounter with a gravel truck last Saturday; there will undoubtably be
similar incidents in the months to come. It's possible I will need
Spike again before the summer is out.

 

Continue to:













TOP
previous page: 9.7.6 Spike Bike Retrospective
  
page up: Bicycles Misc
  
next page: 9.7.8 The Adventures of Spike Bike: The Last Race (1 of 2)