Authors: Tish Wilder
A BIKER AND A THIEF
Copyright © 2015 Tish Wilder
All rights reserved.
to Margaret McDonald
A shout out to my friend, Rolanda Riggs
A BIKER AND A THIEF
She could hear the roar of the engine as Jake pulled up in front of the bar on his Harley. He wasn't quite like clockwork but he usually ate lunch at the bar at least a couple of times a week. It gave her something to look forward to especially since it was his habit to come in after the rush so she wasn't being run off her feet and had the time to spend a few minutes in conversation with him.
He wasn't a closed book but he definitely played things close to the vest. He'd been coming in here for some time and she still didn't know a whole lot about him beyond that he had a passion for Harley's, was smart & didn't think like anyone else she'd ever known. Rules seemed optional for him and he never had to rush off to work. It made her wonder what he did for a living. All the unknowns combined with her vivid imagination led her to make up some pretty unlikely possibilities. A few she'd eliminated by teasing him until he denied them. He wasn't royalty in hiding, a retired rock star, or a bank robber though the twinkle in his eye when he'd denied the last one made her wonder. Despite these things or because of them she definitely had a thing for him and now and then she got the impression he might feel the same about her. She hoped so.
Jake slid into his favorite booth returning Gigi's smile as she waved to him from the bar. He had lunch here 2 or 3 times a week, the place provided both good food, good company, and a good view he thought as he watched Gigi walking towards him with his drink. She was good looking but not in that trying to hard overly made up way so many women had today. He knew Gigi wanted to get to know him better but she probably wouldn't like him so much if she did. His life hadn't always been above board and he also had to be careful since the statute of limitations hadn't completely run out on some of his more creative pursuits of income.
She took down what he wanted and they exchanged pleasantries, chatting about little things for a few minutes before she went to the kitchen to turn in his order and he turned his attention to the news on the tv over the bar.
"Damn" he thought seeing the top story was about another jewelry store robbery. Some clown was racking up the hits in the last couple of months. He might have admired the thief except he was copying Jake's own M.O. even down to the day of the week the robberies were happening. Jake couldn't really fault the kid, at least that's how he thought of the new robber, not that Jake was that far from being a kid himself at 28.
He couldn't fault the kid for the tactics he was using. After all he'd often wondered why more people didn't do it the way he did but this kid was taking it too far. The kid was wearing the same mask Jake had used, was hitting the stores on Tuesdays like he had and though it wasn't being reported Jake would bet money there was always a second robbery soon after. News reports were making speculations between these robberies and similar crimes that had taken place almost 5 years ago so he knew the cops would be too and that made him edgy.
He'd retired. He was living a crime free life. He was set financially, had a couple of bikes that he loved, and was almost past the statute of limitations for his "work". He didn't need some punk thief who couldn't even think up his own M.O. to get his cases reopened or worse pin new ones on him.
He was so deep in his thoughts he didn't notice Gigi returning with his food until she sat it on the table in front of him, asking what had happened while she was gone to make him frown like that. Since he certainly couldn't tell her that some a-hole was going around robbing jewelry stores like he used to he just shook his head, mumbled "nothing" and started to eat.
She told him to let her know if he needed anything else and went back to the bar a little more subdued than usual. He felt bad. He didn't want her to be mad but he didn't want to talk about it either. Now he had one more grudge against the kid that was messing with his life. He was going to have to do something about him. Getting him locked up seemed like a good idea at the moment. He'd have to find him first, of course, but he had an idea how to do that.
If you're a professional thief, not a collector or someone out for kicks, you don't want to hang on to what you've stolen. You want the cash. In order to get the cash you need a fence. That's how Jake intended to track down his imitator. It took three tries, the rest of the day and part of the night but the third fence was the charm. He hadn't seen Reynaldo since he'd retired but they'd been been friends and that hadn't changed.
Even though he understood why a clean cut from the lifestyle and everyone in it was necessary Reynaldo couldn't resist giving him a hard time for being such a stranger. Jake took it good naturedly, falling back into the easy patter they used to have, turning the jokes around to point at some of Reynaldo's less charming personal habits as the reason for his absence.
Before Jake could tell him why he was there Reynaldo poured them a couple of drinks and asked if it was about the new guy who'd ripped off his M.O. He told him when he'd first heard about the robberies he'd been hoping Jake was back in the game. He sure missed dealing with people who had skills and business sense. But before long the new guy showed up to move his merchandise. Work is work and all but I miss the good ol days when we were all friends from the neighborhood.
During the conversation Reynaldo offhandedly remarked, "This guy is definitely no You." Jake was surprised by the praise and even more surprised by the implied disapproval of the kid especially since Reynaldo made it a rule to never give opinions on any associates. It also told him that the kid had obviously done something to get the fence's back up. Not a smart move since Reynaldo was the best there was at moving high end jewels.
They'd spent a long time talking over the good old days and it was late by the time he left but Reynado had given him everything he knew and promised to do a little digging. Now Jake had the kid's description, some places he was likely to be found and a name. Tanner. He'd also found out the "kid" was about his age but he was arrogant and liked to spend money just as fast as he made it.
The night was pretty well shot, the edges of the sky were already turning pink, by the time he left Reynaldo's. He decided to go home and get some sleep before picking up his search again in the morning. If he hurried he might even get to bed before the sun was all the way up. Besides a party kid like this Tanner seemed to be wouldn't be up at dawn. Kid, maybe he should stop thinking of him a kid since they weren't that far apart in age. No, if you act like a kid, it doesn't matter what your age is. It fit.
He didn't bother to start looking too early since most of the places on his list of possible hang-outs wouldn't even be open in the morning. Still, when lunch time had come and gone and he hadn't had a shred of luck his temper began to fray. It was Tuesday and though he hadn't consciously thought about it he realized he'd been counting on getting to the kid before he could pull off even one more job.
The pool hall on Carleton was the last place on his list and it was a bust. Maybe the kid stayed in and meditated on robbery days. Maybe he actually had a day job too or was a college student. Who the hell knew. Thinking over the leads he'd gotten from Reynaldo they really didn't add up to a whole lot. Why he'd thought they did he didn't know. The kid obviously wasn't a moron. He checked in with Reynaldo. He hadn't come up with anything new but he was still looking.
With nothing else to do right now and his stomach growling, Jake decided to grab some dinner at the bar. Tuesdays Gigi worked the dinner shift, it was a little late but hopefully she'd still be there.
His booth was open so he took it. Gigi was busy waiting on another table but she waved and he knew she'd get to him when she was done. It didn't take long before she was at his table asking if he'd like his regular to drink. He said yes and ordered his food. He didn't need a menu, he was in there so often and it wasn't like they served a wide range of options anyway.
Gigi watched Jake while she poured his drink, the TV was on and he was watching it so she didn't think he'd notice. Something was bothering him she could tell. He looked tired and while he'd been friendly and smiled while she was talking to him now he was frowning and kept tapping his fingers on the table. She wondered if it was over the same thing that had soured his mood yesterday. Trying to think of what it could be she remembered that he'd gotten upset after the story about the jewelry store robberies on the news yesterday.
She knew he'd been following the case in the news but didn't know why he'd have that kind of reaction to it. It was a scary world and crime happened everyday and in her experience bikers like him didn't get hung up on little things like stolen jewelry. Maybe he was the secretly the thief and was worried they were getting close to catching him. There went her imagination again, running wild she chided herself. Still, that would be kind of exciting wouldn't it, to know a master jewel thief. Nope, she wasn't going to get lost in that kind of silly fantasy. More likely he knew someone that was involved and was worried about them.
The bar was slow after the dinner rush on a Tuesday so she slipped into the booth opposite him to visit for a few minutes while he finished eating. She'd been a little afraid her company wouldn't be welcome after the way he'd shut her out yesterday but he seemed almost grateful for the distraction. He was telling her about his plans for a trip he was going to take in the spring when the news broke into the boring reality TV show with a special report.
As the image they'd been using to represent the jewelry store thief flashed on the screen her heart sank. She looked back at Jake thinking maybe she could turn his attention back to their conversation but he was now intent on the broadcast. It wasn't going to be good news, they didn't interrupt shows for good news or regular 'ol reporting. The too happy reporter delivered the news that there had been yet another Tuesday night jewelry heists but this time something had gone horribly wrong and the store manager had been killed.
Jake had gone pale but as the reporter continued with a comment about the thief's comeback to continue an 11 year career and then going from no injuries to a killing a man Jake became very still. He didn't trust himself to move. He wanted to punch things, starting with that damn TV. He couldn't afford to react badly. No one associated him with any of this right now and he needed it to stay that way. He tried to smile at Gigi hoping to go back to their conversation but road trip stories seemed beyond his ability. His smile must not have been that convincing because she said she'd get him something stronger to drink and got up.
She came back with two glasses and a bottle of whisky. He raised an eyebrow at her and asked if he needed one for each hand. She laughed, poured just enough for a shot in each, handed him his and threw back the second herself. He swallowed his and reached for the bottle to pour another. When he started to refill hers she shook her head. She gathered up his plate and went to check on the only other customer in the bar. She gave him his bill and after he took the hint and left she turned the sign to closed. When she got back to Jake she was glad that he seemed to have stopped after the second shot and was now sipping from his glass.
She helped herself, following his lead and skipping another shot. Thinking about the robber turned killer she asked "Is it a friend of yours?" then could have kicked herself for assuming because he was a biker the criminal would be the one he knew. She smoothed it over as best she could by asking, "I mean the store manager, did you know him?"
He just stared at her, stone faced. He took so long to answer she started to squirm. Then she remembered her fantasy about his being the jewel thief. All the romantic ideas of him being a master thief and what an adventurous life it would be to be his girlfriend slipping away. After what felt like forever he seemed to come to a decision and then answered her.
"No" he said, he didn't know either one. He paused and took a swallow of whiskey. He explained that no he'd never met them but he'd spent the day looking for the thief and now more than ever needed to find him. No not just find him, make sure he was caught. Jake couldn't believe he was telling her this but once the words started he couldn't stop himself. She sat quietly, waiting for him to go on. He told her everything. How he got started. All the stores he'd robbed and how he did it. How this new thief, this Tanner, had copied him and what that could mean for his own future. Why Tanner had to be stopped and made to pay for his crimes. When he finally finished he was staring down into his drink afraid to meet her eyes and see what she thought of him now.
She took a minute, gathering her thoughts before she spoke. Then she said, matter of factly as if they'd been discussing the lunch special, "Maybe you should set a trap for him." He looked up, blinking at her. Maybe he was drunker than he thought. She sounded like she still liked him and even wanted to help. She smiled back at him and added, "Maybe he'll even be blamed for everything you stole too." A laugh burst out of him and he clinked his glass with hers in salute, hoping it was all going to work out despite himself.
They spent the rest of the night drinking and plotting. Once they got past the fact that she intended to help and by that she meant to be actively involved in catching Tanner, the plan came together pretty easily. They would need some help but Jake had that covered. There was also the possibility that since the heat had just been turned up Tanner may have skipped town but Jake had a gut feeling that wouldn't be the case and they were going to make the bait so tempting Tanner wouldn't be able to pass it up.