I wake up one Saturday morning and it's gone - my beloved Norco Bush Pilot, stolen from my own front yard, where I've locked it faithfully with a Kryptonite lock for a year and a half.
The lock, smashed into three pieces, lies on the ground. I'd just ridden it for the first time this year not two days before.
I immediately call the police to file a report, even though I don't know the bike's serial number. They tell me the chances of getting it back are slim even though I can describe every detail with 100 per cent accuracy.
I'm sinking into the bowels of depression over this tragic loss, but I recognize that I need to move on - or at least start shopping around for another bike, since the weather is getting nicer and I ride everywhere. So I start cruising a few shops.
I'm in Urbane Cyclist on John Street moping around the new bikes and telling my woes to the clerk. She tells me about a particular dealer who often mysteriously turns up with stolen bikes. She advises me not to buy anything from him, since it's bad karma, but to check him out.
Now, I'm not religious, but I am superstitious. A friend recently left her purse (with over $300 in cash, plus all of her cards) on the subway. She prayed to St. Anthony and did end up getting it back with all of its contents intact. The catch about St. Anthony is that you have to promise to give something to charity if you get your wish. So I promise to give $20 to the church at the end of my street if I find the Bush Pilot.
That day, I walk over to the store I'd been told about and look at a row of bikes on display at the front. Mine isn't there. When I ask if there are any others, the clerk says, "Take one of these for a ride." But I insist on seeing if they have any more, so he takes me to the basement. Hundreds of used bikes are lined up down there.
I slowly walk down the row, looking closely for my beloved. And there, tucked away in the back corner, is the Bush Pilot! The front basket has been taken off and the logo scratched away, but I know it's my bike. I'm so excited but manage to play it cool and tell him I'm not interested in any of them. I go back upstairs and outside, jubilant inside. But what to do?
Then I look up, and, lo and behold, a police cruiser is parked across the street. I run over and say, "Officer, officer, my stolen bike is in that man's shop!" He wants to know how I know it's mine, so I tell him the story.
He goes into the shop with me and we bring my bike upstairs. The officer asks for the log book of bikes to see if my story can be confirmed. The man starts serving other customers, so we patiently wait. About 15 minutes later, the officer asks, "Having a hard time finding that book?"
So he brings it out, and, sure enough, the bike was brought in on exactly the same date I filed the police report. (Stores have to keep records of the dates bikes are brought in, the make, serial number and name and number of the person who sold it. The name is illegible, funnily enough.)
Now, by law, shop owners are supposed to get valid photo ID from the person selling the item. Pawnshops are also supposed to fax their lists of new inventory to the police department on a weekly basis so police can check against reported stolen goods.
When I call Constable Jim Murphy of 52 Division later, he tells me, "These pawnshop people are dealing with an element of society that is usually shady, and they're just in it to make a buck.' The store owners, he says, sometimes don't care if the items are stolen and don't care to follow proper procedure.
In the record book that verified when my bike was brought in, its value was given as $20. The rat bastard had paid some kid $20 for my only adult bike. Pawnshops are also not supposed to purchase bikes if the serial number is scratched off. It doesn't help that the police force's "pawn squad' no longer exists.
Says Murphy, "Pawnshops don't feel the same pressure as before because police officers in plain clothes are not coming in regularly like they used to. Unfortunately, it all comes down to money.'
As we're looking over the book back at the shop, a large man bursts in, the rat bastard himself, demanding to know what's going on. The officer explains that I've found my stolen bike in the basement, then turns to me and asks if I want to press charges.
The owner is quick to laugh, slap me on the back and offer that I can walk out of the store with the bike for free, as if he's doing me a favour. He even says, "Funnily enough, the same thing happened last week." Yeah, real funny. He goes on to say, "I hope you'll be a long-term customer!" Uh-huh.
I won't be shopping there again - unless my bike goes missing.