Last week, my garage was burglarized and precious bikes were stolen. The crime was reported, claim was made with the insurance company, and five of the six phases of grief had passed on through. Shock, Denial, Anger, Depression, Acceptance. All in a matter of days. My husband and I had found peace and accepted that we no longer had mountain bikes. In a sense, we were over it.
Monday morning I was driving to work when just blocks from my house I spotted a guy riding my husband's stolen bike! On the wrong side of the road, helmet-less, and in broad daylight, he rode. He shamelessly pedaled along through a school zone, past a cop, on my husband's bright freaking blue, very expensive, custom mountain bike. "This isn't real" I thought. I never expected to see that bike again. I had about 2 seconds of internal debate before I laid on the horn and shouted "That's my BIKE!" The kid looked at me with wide, startled eyes and started spinning like crazy. He was in a low gear. It was on.
I followed him in my car as he took me on a tour of the neighborhood. And no, I didn't menace him with my car, as I am for cyclists' rights to the road. I just followed him around until we came to a dead end. There was a barbed wire fence which enclosed an apartment complex. He hopped off the bike, gave a running start and proceeded to hurl the bike over the fence. I was already out of the car and jumping (my chest on the top of the fence) up to grab whatever I could of the bike. I had a hold of the chainstay and the kid by now was on the other side of the fence trying to yank the bike free. Luckily, the crank had wrapped itself around the barbed wire and the bike was going nowhere. I called Brian with my free hand. While waiting for Brian to arrive, the culprit and I played tug of war with the bike. I yelled at him and then explained why he couldn't have this bike.
I told him this bike was "special" because my husband made it. I told him that it was our last name on the down tube and that the bike was worth more than most of the cars in that apartment parking lot. I told him that stealing this particular bike was a felony and when he told me he bought the bike from his friend for a hundred bucks, I told him that merely being in posession of the bike was a felony. He said "Lady, I really need this bike, I need it." In the scuffle, one of the tire's sidewalls was ripped on the barbed wire. I told the kid that he would never be able to ride this bike anyway because the wheel size is super rare. They are 650B and he would have to special order new tires from a bike shop who would likely turn him in to the cops.
The young delinquent begged me not to call the cops. Then I started to feel bad. This is a huge character flaw, I just don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Even felons. I told him I could get him another bike. "Will it be this nice?" he asked. I assured him it would. I also promised him a ride home and he gave up the fight. I had all but exchanged phone numbers and invited the perp in for tea and crumpets when Brian came barreling down the dead end street, leapt over the fence and punched the dude in the face, knocking him to the ground. I yelled at Brian for a second, then took off, remembering there was a cop stationed at the school zone one block away (duh).
So we have recovered one bike. Honestly, I don't feel good about it. I don't feel complacent or victorious like you usually do when justice prevails. I feel this way, partly because I am beyond paranoid that this kid will gather his friends, gang, or whatever and come back to retaliate. I think my husband scared him enough to stay away forever, but his last sentence to Brian keeps ringing in my head "All it takes is one phone call." People have killed for a lot less than a punch in the face or a bicycle. This worries me. When I came home from work today, there was a strange car sitting in front of my house. I decided not to go home because I was scared and went to Safeway until Brian got home. When he called to tell me he was there I asked if everything was okay. He said "Yes, everything's fine. Thugs don't read "Field & Stream Magazine." Um, what? The car belonged to my next-door neighbor's friend and there was a copy of "Field & Stream" on the passenger's seat. Oh. Well, ya never know...
My aunt, who is a public defense attorney and works with juvenile delinquents reamed me in a Facebook status comment for taking matters into my own hands rather than contacting the authorities. She's right, I took a huge risk and put myself in danger by facing this kid. It's not that the thought of calling the cops didn't cross my mind, it's just that I have no faith in them. It's not them that I don't believe in really, but with recent decreased funding to the police department, our resources are limited and I felt that this situation wasn't reason enough to detract from them. I just knew that if I didn't go after that bike, I would never see it again. I should have been okay with that, but I reacted quickly and irrationally.
Another thing that keeps haunting me is the kid's misfortune. I don't know if he personally broke into our garage or if he bought the bike off of a friend like he said. Judging by the way he reacted when I honked at him, he knew that bike was stolen. A part of me still feels that we stole from him. There he was, merrily riding along when this crazy woman chases him down and rips his bike out from under him and then her crazy husband comes and punches him in the face. Poor kid is now bikeless, bloody and (possibly) out a hundred bucks. What a shitty day!
So far, I'm lucky. No one has come back for revenge on the twice-stolen bike. My bike is still out there somewhere, but I'm not going to go looking for it. I hope that it's spray painted by now so that if I do see it, I won't recognize it and do something stupid again. Sometimes you should get away with things. The thief can get away with stealing my bike if I can get away with the risk I took. We'll call it even.
As a welcome home present to Brian's bike, I am going to take new pictures of it with a non-wrinkly sheet in the background