This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.
From: spike@cbnewsd.ATT.COM (Bob Fishell)
By now, most of you have heard that the Spike Bike stories I posted
to netnews last year were accepted for publication by _Cyclist_
magazine. You've also heard that _Cyclist_ went out of business.
In any case, I am still determined to get the stories into print.
Once you've seen yourself written up in slick paper, it goes to
your head. I had intended to publish the series myself, making
it available to Spike's fans. The story which follows was written
as a sort of carrot to get people to send in for the booklet.
When I succeeded in selling the series to a magazine, I abandoned
the idea of a limited publication, and I decided to post this story
as a way of saying thanks to all the people who encouraged me to
develop the series.
Regrettably, this was shortly after I was unceremoniously dumped
onto this wonderful, new netnews system with its "enhanced"
software. As result, most sites didn't get the article.
"The Last Race" opens in Spike's hospital room a couple of
days after his escape from the Detroit salt mines. The story,
however, is set in the summer of 1993, the year it all began...
The Last Race
by Robert Fishell
Grey November light poured through the window of the stark hospital
room in which I lay recovering from exhaustion and a bullet wound in my
shoulder. My body, if not my spirit, felt much better today. The
doctors told me I could go home soon.
Home. I didn't know where that was any more. As Michael Resnick,
I kept a two-room cabin in the Canadian Rockies, but it was no more home
than this grey hospital ward. It would be a place to hide, perhaps to
heal, but it would not be home.
It was over. I would kill no more. This purpose gone, I had
nothing left but memories that even now had begun to haunt me. How did
it start? What was the turning point? Why had I stayed? Why did I
kill, and who'd been the first? I remember...
I was no longer racing in the spring of 1993. I got my USCF license
revoked after the 1992 Olympic trials following an altercation with one
of the officials. Disgusted as I was with the organization, I didn't
appeal the suspension.
As things turned out, the incident was moot. The Corporatists had
taken control of the Congress and passed the Bicyle Act of 1992. The
Act prohibited all states and municipalities from spending any resources
on bicycle facilities, so it was no longer possible to hold USCF races
on public roads. There were still a few track events, but those fell
apart when most of the big names fled to Europe, Canada, and Australia
to continue their racing careers. The little fish in the lower Cats were
left in the lurch. In the spring of 1993, USCF formally disbanded.
The full impact of the Act had yet to be felt, though. Few
cyclists took the "at own risk" clause seriously, since most of us felt
that we'd been taking that risk for years, anyway. Motorist animosity
toward cyclists had grown slowly but steadily throughout the eighties,
but most of the skirmishes were name-calling contests that hadn't
resulted in any real violence.
As such, it wasn't surprising that the Chicago area clubs decided
to hold the Kay-Five unofficially. Most of the course was on little-
used farm roads in Kane and Kendall counties, where there wouldn't be
much of a threat from autos anyway. Or so we thought.
The Kane-Kendall Korn Kountry Klassic, which everybody called the
Kay-Five, was a 120-km road race held every year on the Sunday before
Memorial Day. It was the first race I'd won as a Cat 2, and I won it
twice after that before I achieved National status. I still held the
course record. Now that my licensing problems were no longer a concern,
I allowed myself to be coaxed out of retirement by my old friend Dave
Karpinski. It seemed there was a score to settle.
In 1992 the Kay-Five was won, amid considerable controversy, by
Scott Currey of the Winnetka Wheels. Currey purportedly won by jamming
a water bottle into my ex-teammate Jerry Smies's spokes as Smies
overtook him on the last stretch. The only witnesses near enough to
actually see it were Currey's teammates, who kept their mouths shut.
Jerry went down at over 30 MPH and got himself busted up pretty good.
Everybody knew Currey's reputation, so most of the guys believed
Jerry's story. The only ones who didn't believe it were the USCF
idiots who officiated the race. Currey got the win and the prizes
that went with it. Since that time, everybody was gunning for Currey,
particularly the Oak Park guys who were Jerry's teammates, as I was
once. No one had nailed him yet. The Winnetka Wheels were a very fast,
very skillful team, in spite of being some of the worst sportsmen even
USCF had to offer.
My reunion with the old Oak Park team was an emotional affair,
which called for a few extra rounds of Wisconsin's finest (or cheapest,
as the case may be) swill. The important business thus out of the way,
we settled into a strategy session for Sunday's race. Jerry Smies, the
team's fastest rider since my departure, started in.
"O.K., now that Spiro's back, we can put those Winnetka wimps back
in the gutter where they belong. Of course, Spiro'll win this year. We
"Hold it Jerry," I interjected, "I don't think that's the best
approach. Why don't we plan for Karp to take it this year. I think you
and I are going to have some other business to conduct."
"I think we ought to take care of Mister Currey. Catch my drift?"
A vicious smile twisted Jerry's lip, bringing color to the patch of
road rash he still had on his left cheek from his last confrontation
with Scott Currey. The smile was infectious, and soon we were all
grinning and chuckling our way through the strategy session. Of course,
it was thristy work.
The authorities would not cooperate for Kay-Five, but the weather
did. It was a cool day, partly sunny, and the winds were light. It had
been raining off and on for several days, filling the drainage ditches
and making lots of nice, black, Illinois mud wherever the soil had been
turned. This was perfect for what we had planned for Scott Currey. So
far, everything had gone as planned. 100 klicks into the race, the
field was pretty well spread out. At the front were myself, Jerry
Smies, Dave Karpinski, and Scott Currey, who was by now nervously
glancing around in search of his teammates. The rest of the Winnetka
Wheels were well back in the pack, hopelessly tangled up by the other
members of the Oak Park team and a couple of dozen other guys who'd had
it in for Currey.
We had Currey boxed. Jerry Smies took the point, while Karp stuck
on Currey's wheel. I held the flank, cutting off Currey from moving to
the outside. To the inside was a drainage ditch and a soft gravel
shoulder. A couple of miles up ahead, there was a sharp turn in the
road. The area had recently flooded, and the ground all the way to the
road's edge had turned completely to mud. Added to the mixture was a
generous amount of natural fertilizer contributed by the local bovine
population. It was there we planned to give Currey his due: Jerry was
to move momentarily to the side, giving Currey room to move on the
inside. But I would sprint to the point to cut him off, whereafter
Jerry would bump him into the muddy embankment at the curve's sharpest
It wasn't to happen. As we pulled into the curve, an enormous,
high-rider pickup truck pulled into our lane, crossing the double yellow
line. I went off to the left of the truck. Karp and Jerry went into
the mud. Currey went into the grille of the truck. His bike went under
the oversized tires, but Currey was carried for several hundred feet on
the bumper before the driver slammed on his brakes to shake him off.
I'm pretty sure Scott Currey was already dead. He wore a helmet,
but it wasn't much help in a head-on collision with that behemoth.
Nevertheless, I didn't get sick until I saw the truck drive over his
body before continuing on its way. As I had dodged the truck a second
earlier, I'd seen the face of the man behind the wheel. He had been
Damn it, Currey. You weren't supposed to get it that way.
* TO BE CONTINUED *
[Synopsis: Recovering from exhaustion and a bullet wound, Spike's
memories take him back to 1993, the year it all began. Nobody took the
Bicycle Act seriously, particularly not the Chicago area racing clubs.
Despite the collapse of USCF and the end of public support for bike
racing, the Kane-Kendall Korn Kountry Klassic -- the "Kay-Five" -- will
run on schedule. The defending champion of this 120-km road race is the
hated Scott Currey, who won the 1992 running by causing one of Spike's
former teammates to crash. Reunited with his old team, Spike plots to
give Currey his due by bumping him into the mud near the end of the
A vicious redneck in a red high-rider pickup truck puts a tragic
end to Spike's plans. Deliberately crossing the center line, the truck
plows into the pack. Spike and his teammates escape, but Currey is
caught head-on, killing him instantly. Spike laments that Currey was
supposed to get his -- but not that way.
In the year 1993, the legend begins... ]
We all stood in shocked incredulity as the deputy continued,
"...well, it's one thing for you to say the guy was left of the
yellow line. Maybe he was, but it doesn't make any difference. _I_
didn't see it, so I can't issue him a citation. In any case, it's all I
could do anyway. Your friend there..." he gestured toward the coroner's
wagon "...was on his own. I'm sorry, boys, that's how the law reads.
As far as I'm concerned, there was no accident. Legally, you guys
weren't even here. I can't go after him. Now I'm telling you, for your
own good, get those bikes off the road."
We'd all seen the son of a bitch. Down the road, the scumbag had
sort of plowed through the pack, sending riders off both sides of the
road, but no one else was seriously hurt. Just Currey.
Most of us had disliked Currey. He was a dirty competitor, and off
the road, his personality had been somewhere between arrogant and
psychotic. A lot of the guys who raced against him would not have shed
a tear to learn that he'd been struck dead by lightning. Yet he had
been one of us. He showed up for the Kay-Five to defend his title,
even though it was an outlaw race. It was thus by acclamation we
declared him the winner. The kitty was six hundred twenty dollars. It
bought quite a few flowers.
I didn't sleep much the night of Currey's death. I could not
forget the look in his eyes when he knew he was going to get it.
Neither could I forget the fat, ruddy jowls of his murderer wrinkled
into a remorseless grin as he went by. The words of the insensitive
sheriff's deputy repeated themselves over and over in my mind.
"...can't go after him...get those bikes off the road...can't go after
him...off the road..."
Every notion of justice I'd ever held was shattered. What was
happening to this country? Why had I spent four years in the Marine
Corps, what had I been defending? And what of the goddamn cops? What
did they have to protect any more? "...can't go after him ... your
friend was on his own."
We were all on our own, now. It had been that way for years, but
most of us had learned to cope with angry gestures and trash thrown out
of windows. Now we had to cope with murder. That price was too high
even for a bastard like Currey. It was much too high for me. What I
had to do became suddenly and painfully clear. Finally, I drifted off
He'd been easy enough to find. Red high-riders are pretty
conspicuous, and I'd guessed rightly that he lived in one of the small
towns that sprinkled the area where we held the Kay-Five. For days I
watched him, doing nothing, getting to know his routine. He was an
early riser. Each day, he got up before dawn and left for work at first
light. He was a foreman at a construction site in Batavia. He bullied
his workers, drank his lunch, and chain-smoked all day long. Around six
o'clock, he would leave the constuction site, stop at a little roadhouse
outside of Batavia, and drink boilermakers for a couple of hours before
departing for home.
I didn't let him see me at first, while I learned his habits, but
when the time was right, I started to spook him a little. I dressed all
in black, like the mountain bike, save for mirrored sunglasses. I
smeared black smudges under my eyes, like a football player, partially
to cut down on the glare, and partially to obscure my face. I stood
across the road from his driveway, leaning on the bike, sitting on the
top tube, as he departed for work. The sun was peeping over the
horizon, and I caught its glint with my shades, flashing it into his
eyes. My hand cradled the butt of a 9mm Walther automatic behind my
back, but I did not use it. He just gave me a funny look, turned the
corner and drove off to work.
He kept a pair of wretched, abused dogs penned in the back yard.
When he returned home that evening, they were gone. The next night, he
did not park in his garage. Somehow, it had burned to the ground. When
he rose to go to work the next morning, he would find the words
1966 -- 1993
rendered in black spray paint on the side of his truck. For the next
several evenings, he would return home to find nothing untoward, save
for an occasional random phone call in the middle of the night.
Two weeks after I first appeared at the foot of his driveway, I
showed myself again. This time, I waited, leaning against his truck, as
he left the construction site. When he caught sight of me, he began to
run, heaving his belly from side to side. I jumped on the bike and
vanished into the maze of half-built houses before he could reach me.
But I had left a calling card scratched into the paint on the driver's
Northern Illinois is mostly flat, save for a few anomalies left behind
by the glaciers. One such was Johnson's Mound, a heavily wooded hill
out in the middle of the Kane County cornfields. It was a forest
preserve before Corporatist real estate developers razed it in 1996.
There was a road that cut through the woods. It wound through the
trees, then cut sharply into a hairpin turn to the left, thence to a
steep grade to the top of the mound. It was a popular attraction for
local cyclists, who used to race one another to the top. The grade was
steepest just before the crest; this caught many an unwary cyclist in
the wrong gear. It was here that I set up for him.
In the blue, predawn glow I waited beside the road, watching the
wide-set, elevated headlights approach. When he was near enough to take
chase, I sprinted for the woods. As I expected, he crashed through the
chain that was drawn across the bumpy drive, two hundred yards or so
I reached the sharp turn and jammed my way up the hill. Unable to
negotiate the turn, he went off into the woods, had to back up and
maneuver around to right himself. He was making this easy. I waited
atop the hill for him to reach the notch just before the steep grade to
the summit. At precisely the right moment, I kicked over an ashcan, and
fifty-five gallons of used motor oil flooded the pavement. When his
wheels hit the slick, I heard the motor abruptly change pitch and saw
the huge truck lurch to the side, slamming into a tree. He tried for
half a minute to get it started up the slope again before he finally
shut off the engine. He reached to the rack behind the seat, got out of
the cab, and leveled a double-barreled shotgun at me.
"You wanna tell me what you want, boy?" he grunted.
"Your worthless redneck ass."
I stood at the summit, perhaps fifty feet above him, not moving or
flinching as he gesticulated menacingly with the 12-gauge.
"You the sum'bitch that took my dogs? You burn down my garage?
You mess up my truck?"
"Your dogs ran off as soon as the gate was open. I don't think
they liked you very much. You had a lot of old rags and paint in that
garage. Wiring wasn't much good, either. As far as that piece of sh*t
truck goes, it was messed up right off the assembly line."
"Who the hell is Scott Currey?"
"Just about the meanest son of a bitch ever to straddle a bike.
Besides me, that is. Too bad you didn't get to know him before you
killed him. You might have liked him."
He took a few steps up the slope, leveled the shotgun, and pulled
back on the hammers. I maintained my stance.
"What's a matter with you, boy? Don't you know you're gonna die?"
"Well, we all gotta go sooner or later."
I watched, grinning, as he pulled one trigger, then the other, to
no effect. A look of consternation crossed his face. He broke down the
shotgun, extracted the dud shells, and moved back toward the cab.
"They're all like that." I told him. "Regulation weight, except
for the powder. They don't work too well without it."
He reloaded the gun and repeated his futile gesture, casting the
shotgun aside as it once again failed. He retrieved a tire iron from
his truck and came for me.
He slipped on the oily surface twice as he scrabbled up the hill.
I waited motionless as he regained his balance and eventually closed to
within swinging distance. I kept my hands behind my back casually,
almost lazily ducking away (so it appeared) as he repeatedly swung the
iron. He lunged with its point and I stepped aside, tripped him, and
kicked him in the butt as he went down. Stepping back, I waited as he
rose to his feet and advanced again. He was beet-red, dripping sweat,
wheezing like a broken bagpipes.
"You know, you ought to give up smoking." I offered. "Bad for your
health. I'll bet your blood pressure is out of sight."
"You son of a bitch!" he panted as he swung at me again. This time
I did not step aside, but stepped into his lunge, blocking aside the
tire iron and bringing my fist hard into his solar plexus. Stepping
back as he doubled over in pain, I snapped my foot viciously up into his
face. He fell onto his side, blood streaming from his nose, gasping for
air in little, desperate gulps. I retrieved the tire iron from his limp
fingers and cast it aside, down the hill and into the woods.
"That's for Scott Currey." I said softly.
I left him there, struggling weakly to his knees, and rode down the
other, dry side of the hill. At the bottom, I waited for perhaps twenty
minutes before I heard the engine start. A moment later, the huge
pickup emerged from the woods, lurched abruptly, and drove onto the
grass, picking up speed, headed straight for me. I let it close to
within fifty yards before I brought the Walther around and leveled it at
the driver's side of the windshield. When I could see his eyes, I fired
seven times, exhausting the magazine. The truck rolled past and fell
over on its side in the ditch.
"And that's for me." I said, to no one who could hear.
"Well, Mike, your temperature is down today. I think we might be
able to send you home in a day or two."
The doctor examined the stitches in my shoulder, pursed his lips in
satisfaction, and replaced the dressing. He withdrew the I.V. umbilical
that had chained me to the bed for the last few days.
"We'd like you to move around some today, but take it easy. You
know, most men wouldn't have stood up so well to the punishment you
took. You have a remarkable constitution. Enviable, in fact."
"Don't envy me."
His expression turned somber. "You want to tell me how this really
"I don't think you'd believe me. In any case, it's over with."
I didn't know.
Johnson's Mound is a real place, much as described in the story. A
glacial legacy, it rises above the cornfields, dwarfing the gently
rolling hills which surround it. Although the climb to the top is
relatively short, the steep grade is a challenge for local cyclists,
particularly for those who use tight gearing that is more appropriate
for the surrounding flatlands. Because it is conveniently situated in
the middle of some of the better cycling country around Chicago, it is a
popular place to set up rest stops for the many invitational tours and
group rides held in the area throughout the season.
Copyright (c) 1989 by Robert Fishell
All Rights Reserved