Spike the Bike

[Bob Fishell writing:]


With all the acrimony that's been passed around about bikes vs. cars, I thought it would be a good time to talk about a really interesting ride....

It was a Friday. Fridays are usually good days because you have a lot of teenagers drinking and driving, plus a lot of people who are in a bad mood and in a hurry to get home from work. The factories usually pay on Friday, so you get a fair number of beer-commercial types cruising around in their 4X4s looking for some butt to kick while they're knocking back a few brews. A cyclist's paradise.

I stuck a full mag in my MAC-10 and put another one under the saddle. The gun fits into the water bottle cage pretty well, and it's fairy light. I stuffed a couple of grenades in my jersey pockets and slipped my Rambo-knife into its sheath on the front fork. Just for good measure, I grabbed a thermite grenade and dropped it into the remaining jersey pocket. This is a little more weight than I usually carry, but it was Friday night after all.

I caught the first one just a mile from home. It was a type-A, businessman-yuppie-semipsychotic in a BMW, who didn't like the fact that I was occupying two feet of the lane in front of him. He let me know with his horn and his middle finger. It's pretty hard to hit a moving car from a moving bike, even with a machine gun. I must have fired four bursts before I put one in the gas tank and the "Bimmer" erupted into flame. Fortunately, this bozo managed to get the car off on the shoulder before it blew up, so I didn't have to find a detour around the fire.

The next one didn't come along for another five or six miles. This was a couple of punks in an old Camaro. They pulled alongside me and the passenger barked out of the window like a dog. Then the driver floored it and screeched off in a cloud of burnt-oil smoke. I got lucky for once. The punks got caught at a stoplight, so I didn't need the gun. I pulled into the center of the road so I would pass the driver. As I rolled past, he started talking some punk talk. I don't know what he said, because he stopped in mid-sentence when he saw the grenade go through his open window into the back seat. I caught a glimpse of both of them frantically scrambling after it just as it went off. It looked like some of the glass and shrapnel did some damage to the car ahead of them, but it couldn't be helped. Every war claims some innocent victims.

I'd had enough of the city traffic, so I headed out into farm country. As I went past a barnyard, two enormous dobermans took off on an intercept course. I dropped them both with one burst, and put a couple of rounds through the farmhouse windows to remind the farmer about the leash laws in effect everywhere in the county.

A short time later, I heard the roar of knobby tires behind me. I looked back to see a huge Ford pickup truck, one of those jacked-up monstrosities with the undercarriage about three feet off the road. As it pulled closer, I heard loud country music blaring over the din of the tires. There were two men in the cab. They both wore Stetsons, and they were both drinking beer from cans. An archetypical redneckmobile.

I felt like just blasting them right then and there, but I waited to see what they had planned. Sometimes these guys just pass you without giving you a hard time. Not this pair, though. The guy in the passenger seat had a styrofoam cooler full of icy water, which he was preparing to dump out the window on yours truly. That was all I needed. As soon as the truck pulled even with me and the guy started to toss the water, I put a burst through the window. This brought trouble, though, because the cab was so high that I didn't get the driver. The truck continued down the road, and I tried to finish them off through the blood-spattered back window, but wouldn't you know it, the mag was empty.

I couldn't reload while I was rolling, and the driver of the pickup had by now stopped the truck and was turning around to come after me. I had, maybe, two seconds to make up my mind what to do. I reached into a jersey pocket and pulled out the other grenade. Then I did a time-trial turn, pulled the pin, and looked over my shoulder at the truck which was now speeding towards me. This would have to be timed just right. I let go of the handle and dropped the grenade, then sprinted for everything I was worth. I heard the blast and felt something graze my right arm. Turning around, I saw the truck in flames and out of control. It did a spectacular flip as it went into the ditch, then overturned. There was a second explosion as the gas tank went up.

I decided to cut my ride short, since my arm was bleeding. The wound was superficial, but it was nasty enough to cause a lot of discomfort. I thought back to the ammo I'd wasted on that turkey in the BMW, and regretted it. One of these days, I'd have to get some tracer bullets for the MAC to help me aim. Oh, well. I reloaded the gun since I was bound to come accross a few drunks & punks on the way home.

A few miles passed and I heard a siren behind me. I decided to play it cool, hoping they weren't after me. I was disappointed. The sheriff's car slowed behind me and I heard an amplified voice telling me to get off the bike and lie face down on the ground. Damn. I hated the thought of wasting a cop, but if they'd go out and do their jobs, I wouldn't have to ride around doing my part to rid the area of its rat population. But I had an idea. I still had a thermite grenade. I yanked it out of my pocket and tossed it on the hood of the patrol car. I'd hoped for the element of surprise and got it; the two deputies inside the car were too startled to shoot at me. The grenade went off and started burning its way through the engine compartment. The deputies managed to stop the car, and by the time they got out, I was a good quarter mile down the road. I heard shots behind me, but they'd never hit me at this range with .38 Smith & Wessons.

My escape was short-lived, though. I saw two more sheriff's cars up ahead with riflemen crouched behind them. I heard more sirens from behind. This was it. I pulled out the MAC and fired wildly at the roadblock, crouching to make a smaller target. If I had to go, I was going to take some of them with me. It had been a good life. I'd had some good times. I just regretted that they were getting the wrong guy. I felt something hot tug at my shoulder. I reached up, expecting to pull my hand away bloody, and found my office-mate's hand instead. "Bob..Bob!.. Wake up! You fell asleep at your desk! C'mon, it's Friday afternoon. Time to go home!"

I went home, firmly resolved never to eat that cafeteria chili again.

Spike 1

[The year is 1998. The Federal Government is the puppet of a consortium of the 20 large corporations which run the country. State and local governments have been completely taken over by real estate developers, whose goal it is to turn America into one giant suburb consisting of subdivisions, apartment complexes, shopping malls, and office parks.

Bicycles have been all but outlawed. The Bicycle Act of 1992 made it illegal to appropriate tax dollars for bike lanes, paths, etc., and included a provision that "those persons riding bicycles on public roads do so entirely at their own risk." The law was originally intended to stem the flood of imports of Japanese bikes before foreign trade was cut off entirely in '94.

However, the ramifications of this law were much more serious. If a cyclist were to be injured or killed by a motorist, the motorist could not be prosecuted or even sued. It is open season on cyclists. One man fights back....]

A cloud of brown dust stretched as far as the eye could see along old route 126. From my vantage point behind an old barn, I watched the grim parade. For the third time in less than a minute, a huge gravel truck rumbled past, spewing acrid, black smoke and kicking up more of the brown mud-dust and spreading it all over everything.

Including me. I'm Spike Bike. I hate cars.

Taking out a tractor-trailer rig isn't easy. You might be able to get a grenade into the cab, but if it bounces back at you, you're finished. You can sometimes shoot out all the tires on one side of the tractor and the truck will jackknife, but it takes at least half a mag, and half the time you won't get all the tires. I had to face the fact that a MAC-10 submachinegun and a few grenades just weren't going to do the job against these monstrosities.

My weekly raid on the old Joliet Arsenal yielded what I needed: a bazooka and a couple of crates of armor-piercing rockets. As usual, the morons the Army has watching the place didn't see anything. All the approaches to the arsenal are pretty well guarded, but nobody expects a guy on a mountain bike sneaking up from the river bank. I slung the bazooka over my shoulder, stuffed all the rockets I could carry into a set of panniers and a backback, and slipped away unnoticed.

Back in the garage, I set about converting the bazooka and some old Reynolds tubing into a bikezooka. When I was finished, it looked pretty much like any other fat-tube bike, except your every-day Kleins and Cannondales aren't capable of firing antitank rockets out both the front and back ends. The bike handled a little funny, but I wasn't going to do any criteriums on this baby.

I had to ride along 126 for a couple of miles before I got an opportunity to test it. There wasn't a gravel truck in sight, but I spotted an enormous flatbed carrying a bulldozer. Both the truck and its cargo were filthy, covered with mud and chipped paint, just the thing to make my blood boil. He tried to run me into the ditch, but I'd expected that, and I dodged him easily as he rumbled past. He gave a blast on his air horn that meant "I'll get you next time!"

There wouldn't be any next time. I waited until he was about 200 feet ahead and let the first rocket fly. It scored a direct hit on the rear axles and blew the wheels clean off. The truck collapsed on the roadbed and the 'dozer broke loose from its restraints to lurch forward and crush the cab. My second shot ignited the truck's fuel tank and set both the machines ablaze. I had a weapon!

My first opportunity to take out one of my primary targets came a few minutes later, when I spotted a gravel truck a quarter mile behind me. It was big and ugly and loaded with dirt -- a fat hog to be butchered. I loaded a rocket into the nose and flipped the firing mechanism over so I could launch the round out of the back of the bike. I waited until he got closer, almost too close. I heard him downshift to get more power as he headed straight for me. I let him have it. The missile struck the radiator just above the bumper. The entire cab exploded and blew off the undercarriage. With the steering box destroyed, the truck promptly and violently jackknifed, turning over in the ditch and spilling its entire cargo of dirt, rocks, and debris off to the side of the road. It lay a smoking ruin as I pedaled on.

I'd only brought along four rockets for this test run. I'd hoped to get a chance to hit another truck, but it was after 5, and most of the truckers had gone home. The remaining rocket didn't go to waste, though. On the way home, I spotted a big, gaudy, new Pontiac pulling out of one of the myriad construction sites along 126. A foreman, maybe; he smoked a cigar and wore a yellow hard-hat. He roared up at me from behind, hoping to clip me in the side, but he didn't realize who he was dealing with. I feinted towards the ouside lane, then quickly cut back to the shoulder, and he missed me entirely. I could see him flipping me the bird out the back window as I fired the final rocket. There wasn't time for his expression to change, but I'll bet he saw the backblast just before the warhead blew his car into small metal scraps. I had to carry the bike over them for sake of the tires.

It had been a long day. I headed home and went to bed early. The construction crews start at dawn.

Spike #2

[In the year 1998, one man fights the tyrrany of the automobile...]

The image of a white panel truck grew ominously in my helmet mirror. The vehicle's speed and the faces of the two men inside left little doubt as to their intentions. As they got closer, I saw what they had in mind. The passenger had a four-foot section of heavy water pipe stuck out the window, intending to play a little polo with Yours Truly's skull. This would call for perfect timing, but then, it always does. I faded towards the right shoulder, and the van did the same. But then, at the last possible moment, instead of going off the road, I darted in front of the van and went off on the left shoulder, into the grass, throwing the bike into a controlled skid. The driver reacted the way I'd hoped. He cut the wheel sharply to the left, still intent on having his pal brain me, and lost it when he hit the brakes to avoid a utility pole. The van skidded wildly, rolled onto its side, and slid to a halt 100 feet down the road. I picked up the bike and rode over to the wreck, tossed a grenade through a shattered back window, and sped away. The explosion was spectacular, as the grenade touched off something, a propane tank, maybe, inside the truck.

It gave me no satisfaction. This was the third one today, and I'd only been out a couple of hours. My mood blackened, just as the smoke from the plumbing truck blackened the sky. When would it end? "Spike, m'boy (I said to myself), you need a vacation." I headed home, packed up a few things, and caught the next flight to Calgary.

I needed to pick up a couple of Dura-Ace gruppos, anyway. Canada had no Bicycle Act and no Japanese trade restrictions, unlike what was left of the States, and I was really looking forward to getting to my cabin and putting in a few days of mountain biking without having to bring along an arsenal. After a couple of hours of tearing up and down the trails, I found myself on the road, heading down the mountain and into town. I could do with some breakfast. I heard a roar behind me, the unmistakeable sound of knobby tires. I looked back to see a jacked- up Jeep Cherokee following me down the twisting, gravel road. Nothing to worry about, I thought, this is Alberta, after all. I hadn't lost my instincts though, and I kept an eye on it. As soon as it was close enough for me to see the Illinois plates, I sprang into action, heading for some rocks near the edge of the road. He barely missed me, and put some big gouges in the side of the Jeep as he sideswiped the boulder I cut behind.

It was two men, American men. Just my luck. Goddam tourists, and drunken ones at that. They didn't stop to inspect the damage, just threw a bag of empty beer cans and cigarette butts in my direction, and sped off down the road. I didn't have so much as a firecracker with me, and I stood there, impotent, shaking with rage and frustration.

A clear head soon returned, though. There were no motels in the little town at the foot of the mountain, just a grocery store and a couple of restaurants. They could only be staying at one or two places, campgrounds up the mountain. They would be back, probably soon. I made a few preparations down the road and doubled back to the spot where I first encountered them. No more than 45 minutes passed before I once again spotted the roaring blue Cherokee coming up the road, laden, no doubt, with beer and junk food for another day's revelry. I hefted the bag of garbage they'd tossed out before and waited behind a rock. As they roared past, I hurled the bag at the driver, shouting "hey a****le, you dropped something!" It hit him in the head.

As I expected, he slammed on the brakes and skidded to a halt, manhandling the Jeep to get it turned around on the narrow mountain road. By the time he got it straightened out, I was a good 200 yards ahead of him, which was all I needed. I kept him in sight, making sure he wouldn't lose me, as I headed down the old fire road from which I'd removed the barricades. The surface was bumpy, barely navigable for both me and the Jeep, but it would get a lot worse -- for them. I spotted them closing in behind me, nearly bouncing out of their seats. That's it, butt-brain, watch me and not the road. Just a little farther. Atop a sharp rise, a chasm 10 feet wide and perhaps 40 feet deep cut accross the old road. The bridge had long since collapsed, but I'd laid a foot-wide plank accross the abyss. I shot accross with the Jeep nearly on my back wheel. As the heavy vehicle lurched over the edge, the plank snapped like a toothpick and it and the Jeep tumbled to the floor of the ravine.

After a while, I peered over the edge. The only sound from below was the babble of the little stream at the chasm's floor, which now ran streaked with red from under the wreckage, carrying away beer cans and little scraps of trash. What a shame, to pollute such a pristine wilderness. Before I headed back to Chicago, I would call the RCMP -- anonymously -- and tell them about the mess. In the mean time, I had a couple of days to take it easy, breathe the clean mountain air, and get in some more trail riding. After today, though, I'd tuck my 9mm Browning into one of the panniers, just in case I ran into some unfriendly critters, like bears. Or more tourists from the States.

Spike #3

[In the year 1998, one man fights the tyrrany of the automobile...] "DROP YOUR WEAPON AND PUT YOUR HANDS UP! STAY WHERE YOU ARE!" An amplified voice roared from somewhere beyond the blazing wreckage of the delivery truck that had chased me in here. Instinctively, I fired a burst from my MAC-10 in the direction of the squawking and sprinted off. I heard bullets grazing off the pavement behind and winced at a loud ping from the rear wheel. The bike swayed crazily as I leaned it around the corner of a building, and I went down at the top of a ramp that led down into a loading dock. I scrambled for the only cover available, a narrow, filthy space between the building and a large dumpster. I heard several cars screech to a halt as I dove into the gap. The voice repeated, "THROW OUT YOUR WEAPON! WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED!"

I answered with a burst of submachine gun fire. My situation was grim, but it could have been worse. I had a defensible position, two and a half mags of ammo, and four grenades. They wouldn't get me without paying dearly.

They weren't real cops, of course. There weren't any real cops left, just security guards employed by The Twenty. Cities contracted with them to have their goons patrol the adjoining roadways, which supposedly saved tax dollars. It was a laughable system. It was all these idiots could to to keep from shooting each other, and cooperation was virtually nonexistent. It was one of the reasons I've been able to operate for so long. But now, they had me in a spot. Perhaps it would all end here. How did it begin?


I was born Spiro Bikopoulis on February 14, 1965 in Oak Park, Illinois, the eldest of six children. My father was a prosperous importer of foods and specialty items from his native Greece. I played football and soccer in high school, then did a stint with the Marines, where I taught hand-to-hand combat and automatic weapons at the U. S. Naval Academy. After the Service, I picked up degrees in Physics and Metallurgical Engineering at Caltech, where I started building bike frames as a project, and later for the racing team I captained.

As a bike racer, I moved up rapidly, particularly after word got around that bumping me on purpose was a mistake. I even got to the Olympic trials in '92, but I was disqualified when a California race official detected traces of Tylenol in a surreptitiously obtained sample of my urine.

"I had a headache," I told him. "besides, I took it after the race!"

"Don't serve me a plateful of irrelevant arguments, you fool!" the official countered, "it's right here on page 387 in volume 3 of the USCF rule book (revised 1992). You're out! Finished! Disqualified!"

I left the race official with volume 3 of his rule book stuck in a most uncomfortable place, and quit sanctioned bike racing forever.

That was when everything started to go to hell, anyway. The Economic Holocaust had begun, first with import restrictions, then the repeal of anti-trust and conflict of interest laws. A group of giant corporations known as The Twenty soon emerged, crushing all competition and gaining a strangle-hold on the Government.

In 1992, the Congress passed all kinds of ridiculous laws designed to curb the demand for Japanese goods. One such was the Bicycle Act, which cut off federal highway money to any state that didn't strip bicycles of any claim of right of way on the public roads. Shortly after it was passed, reports of bicycle fatalities all around the Country rose sharply. The same hotheads, rednecks and hell-raisers who used to just harass cyclists had upped the stakes to what amounted to legalized murder. The nation's roads became a living Hell. As The Twenty expected, bicycle sales, and hence imports, dropped off to nothing. The nation's highways were ruled by motor-driven hooligans who killed for sport. It had to stop. I, Spiro Bikopoulis, alias Spike Bike, would make the roads a living Hell for _them_.

My old Marine uniform and some forged orders got me into the Joliet Arsenal, where I learned the place's weaknesses and established my secret entrance. I soon had an extensive collection of military ordnance -- and I knew how to use it. I began my campaign around rowdy roadhouses and construction sites in my native Illinois, leaving a wake of blood, fire, and destruction, as driver after driver, trying to turn me into road kill, discovered too late that I wasn't defenseless. Soon the attacks diminished, not only on me, but on the die-hard, crazy cyclists who still braved the roads all over the Chicago area. Word was out. Bikes weren't sitting ducks any more.

That was 5 years ago. Since then, I've been all over the country, hitting areas at random, leaving my grisly signature on roads in every state, and everywhere I've been, brave souls have ventured out on bikes again, to find that drivers give them a wide berth, knowing that any one of them could be me. Bicycles have become a symbol of the growing Anticorporate Movement. It is the beginning of the end for The Twenty.


Unfortunately, it might also be the end for me. Crouching behind the dumpster, my reverie is shattered by a volley of gunshots clanging deafeningly against the heavy steel. Four of the goons are charging my position, concentrating their fire to keep me pinned down. I pull the pin of one of my grenades and lob it into their midst. I hear the blast, and the gunshots stop for but a second. The hail of bullets resumes and shadowy figures stir through the smoke. How many of them are there? And where am I? A sign on the loading dock door confirms my worst fears. I'm in a facility belonging to the Chrysler-Ford General Motors Corporation, President Iacocca's own company. The delivery van I took out hadn't chased me in here by happenstance. I'd been set up, and I'd fallen for it! I fire wildly into the smoke, enraged as much at myself as any of the uniformed hooligans out there. How many are there? How many?


[Synopsis: Pinned down behind a dumpster by armed security guards, Spike recalls his past: his privileged childhood as Spiro Bikopoulis, son of a wealthy Greek importer, his tour with the Marines, his college days at Caltech, his bike racing career, and the Economic Holocaust -- the emergence of a consortium of giant corporations, known as The Twenty, who control the Government and nearly every aspect of American life. He recalls the passage of the Bicycle Act, which, in essence, gave America's "rednecks, hotheads, and hell-raisers" a license to kill, and how he became an armed, two-wheeled guerrilla, who would purge the roads of mechanized murderers and strike terror into the corridors of power in Detroit.

In the year 1998, one man fights the tyrrany of the automobile. Now, he fights for his life...] ---

Bullets rained against the heavy steel of the dumpster and chipped away the concrete of the wall next to it. I was inbetween, in a two- by-six foot pocket of cover which would be my coffin when my ammo ran out. I lobbed one of my three remaining grenades over the top of the dumpster at where I thought the fire was coming from. I must have gotten lucky, for the onslaught broke up. I took advantage of the lull to slip a peek around the corner. Through the smoke, I counted seven bodies, two of which were moving some, and spotted two more men diving for cover behind parked cars. Perhaps six more of the grey-uniformed goons received them there, crouching with pistols drawn.

My situation seemed hopeless. I'd taken out almost half of them with just two grenades and a few rounds of ammo, but they wouldn't be foolish enough to try a frontal assault again. They were too far away for me to get a grenade behind their cover without exposing myself, and I could not slip away unseen. They would wear me down, or keep me besieged, awaiting reinforcements armed with something heavier than the .38 revolvers that were standard CFGM Security issue.

CFGM -- The Chrysler-Ford General Motors Corporation, largest and most powerful of The Twenty, and the most ruthless. They controlled all transportation in America, including cars, trucks, rails, ships, barges, and airlines. Their CEO was also President of The United States, and lately, I'd been on his agenda. I'd been hitting bigger and bigger stuff, like that fleet of construction trucks back home, and I was a huge embarassment to CFGM and the Government. Last week, a group of demonstrating Anticorporatists rode bikes around the White House, and no one had touched them. Iacocca must have given the word to get me at all costs.

That must have been how this bunch had trapped me. I suspected that CFGM Security forces all over the Country had been instructed to lure or chase bicyclists onto CFGM property, where they could be apprehended and held for questioning. This bunch just got lucky -- or so they must have thought. Luck had run out for a truck driver and seven security guards when they'd tangled with me. It was the remaining eight, watching my dumpster through the sights of their pistols, that I had to deal with now. A thought occurred to me: they wanted me alive, if they could get me that way, although I'm sure they'd been told to get me any way they could. Perhaps I could parlay that into an advantage.

I tore a sleeve away from my white jersey, and waved it gingerly past the edge of the dumpster. I heard a voice ordering the goons to hold their fire. An instant later, the same voice came over the squawk-horn.

"THROW OUT YOUR WEAPONS AND COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP," he intolled. Didn't he have anything else to say? He was beginning to annoy me.

"Stick it, Butt-brain!" I shouted back, "Just come and get your wounded. I'll hold my fire!" A few moments passed in silence. "Come and get them, they're bleeding to death!" I insisted, and added, "Just leave that bike where it is!"

My bicycle, its back wheel collapsed after a stray round had fractured the hub, lay near the top of the ramp, among the fallen men. There were eight more grenades, a .44 magnum, and several magazines of ammo in the panniers, one of which had ripped open to partially display its contents. If I could get to it, I could hold out much longer, maybe even blast my way out. But if they got to it first, they could take me out with my own grenades.

After a moment, two men emerged, empty-handed, from behind the row of ugly grey Plymouths the guards drove. They made motions toward the wounded man nearest them, but then quickly darted for my ruined bike. One man scooped it up while the other produced a gun from behind his back and opened fire on my position. As they retreated, the others fired to keep me pinned down. The wounded men lay unattended on the asphalt. The two who'd ventured out ducked back behind the cover with their prize.

Long ago, I'd vowed I wouldn't be taken alive, and that I'd get whoever and whatever got me. To that end, every bike I built had a little extra weight: two pounds of plastique in the down tube, with an electronic detonator linked by radio to a monitor strapped to my chest. If my heart stopped, the bike became a bomb. I had flipped the arming switch during my encounter with the delivery truck. All that remained was to make the bike think I was dead. I drew as far back into my hole as I could, put my head down, reached under my jersey, and ripped the monitor away from my chest. Within seconds, a powerful blast shook the ground, and debris rained down all around me. There was no gunfire as I emerged from the filthy hole that had nearly been my tomb.

I surveyed the havoc I'd wreaked. The row of cars my adversaries had used for cover lay twisted and blazing in a disorderly array around the smoking crater the bike-bomb had made. One of the wounded men who'd been abandoned by his comrades was still alive. He groped weakly towards his fallen pistol, but I sprayed it with a burst from my MAC-10, driving it away like a leaf before a garden hose. The man looked at me with terror in his eyes. I looked at him with pity in mine. He was a conscript, no doubt, some poor, dumb slob who couldn't get an honest job. I holstered my weapon, removed his belt to make a tourniquet for his leg, made him comfortable, and picked up a small object from the ground to stick in his shirt pocket. It was the hand-tooled silver head badge of a bicycle, twisted and charred, but still intact. It was inlaid with the caricature of a bulldog with a steering wheel clenched in his teeth. The name on his collar was "Spike."

"Give this to your boss," I told him softly.

Sirens approached from the south. I found an undamaged security car and made my getaway. 30 miles away, I rendered it to scrap metal and walked the rest of the way to the airport. I would go back to Illinois, rest up for a few days while my road rash healed, and outfit another bike. I had much to do.

Copyright (c) 1989 by Robert Fishell

Spike #4

[In the year 1998, one man fights the tyrrany of the automobile]

I heard it before I saw it. An ancient Cadillac convertible was closing very quickly from the rear. There was nothing ancient about its electronics; at least 1000 watts of amplifier power screamed raunchy C&W from god knows how many speakers. It sounded even worse for the doppler shift; he was doing at least 100. That was stupid. He would try to clip me in the side, because people in snazzy cars always try to clip me in the side, and at that speed, he wouldn't be able to maneuver. I feinted to the left when he closed to within a few hundred feet, then cut right abruptly when he'd committed himself. He missed me by a good four feet. As he roared past, I opened up on the tires with my MAC-10, shredding them. The Caddy swerved crazily, rolled over twice, and slid off the road upside down. Crazy as it seemed, that godawful music was still blaring out from the wreckage. I fired another burst into the gas tank, and the racket stopped as the wreck went up in a huge ball of orange flame. The driver's Stetson hat lay in the road perhaps 50 feet away, virtually undamaged -- unlike the driver, who had no further use of it. I emptied the rest of the mag into it, chasing it down the asphalt, cutting it to scraps. Sure as shootin', I was in Texas.

I'm Spike Bike. I hate cars. I don't care much for C&W, either.

I'd been to Texas before. The rednecks in these parts are as stubborn as they are mean, and that's meaner than most. This time, though, I had come for one man, and it wasn't that bozo in the Caddy. I'd never met Earl Josiah "E. J." Ross, but I'd heard plenty about him. He was a millionaire oilman who spent much of his time hunting since Standard Oil bought him out. It was said he hunted rattlesnakes, coyotes, and wild horses. These days, he also hunted bicyclists. My Anticorporatist contacts in Lubbock said he'd run down at least 20 of them, and those were only the confirmed kills, the ones there were accident reports on. I'd come to see that there would be no more.

I arrived at the Yellow Rose Cantina at about 11:30 in the morning. I counted three cars and two pickups in the dusty gravel parking lot, plus a couple of cars out back. It was more than I'd expected, but not too much of a problem. I leaned the bike up against a crumbling adobe wall and went inside, bracing myself against the assault of darkness, smoke, and Tex-Mex blaring from the jukebox. I paused near the door, letting my eyes adjust to the dim light, and checked the place out. Three men sat at the bar, and two more played pool in the adjoining room. A tired-looking waitress set out ketchup bottles on the empty tables. There was a big, middle-aged redneck behind the bar. I guessed that there was some one in the kitchen, but I couldn't see much through the tiny round windows set in the door. That would complicate things.

As my vision cleared, I noted that all eyes present were on me. I wore black lycra shorts with a red stripe, and a red three-pocket. I surmised that this was not suitable attire for this place, but then, I wouldn't be staying long. I crossed to the bar.

"A glass of beer" I ordered.

"Ain't got no beer, boy." This brought chuckles from the men seated at the bar.

"How about a sandwich, then?"

"Ain't got no food." More chuckles.

"What time does E. J. Ross show up?"

"You a friend of E. J.'s?" The chuckles gave way to raucous laughter.

"Didn't know the son of a bitch had any."

I casually strolled over to the jukebox, studied it for a moment, and viciously yanked the plug out of the wall (Who the hell was in the kitchen?). The twangy music abruptly stopped.

"Awright, get the fu** out of here, sissy-pants!" The bartender had lost his grin.

"I said, what the fu** time does E. J. Ross show up?"

"'bout half past noon, but y'all ain't gonna be here that long."

He was out from behind the bar, lumbering towards me with an unopened bottle of Lone Star beer in his hand. When he closed to within a couple of feet, he brought it up in a wide arc.

"I thought you didn't have any beer" I commented, as I threw a block to his wrist and brought my knee up into his groin. As he flinched from the pain, I snap-kicked him in the face and he fell back. He and the beer bottle he'd wielded hit the floor about the same time, and ended up in approximately the same condition. The sleepy-eyed waitress screamed, dropped her tray and retreated into a corner. The three men from the bar advanced on me, one of them hurling a bar stool in my direction. I ducked aside and blocked it away with my wrist. Coming up from the floor, I fan-kicked the nearest of the three in the jaw, spun around and threw a fist into the adams-apple of the next man. Both collapsed. The third held back, circling, looking for an opening (who was in the goddam kitchen?). The pool players had entered the room by this time, brandishing their cue sticks menacingly. I thrust a side kick at the third man from the bar and caught him off balance. He hit his head on the corner of a table as he fell. A pool cue came around at my head, and I ducked, grabbed the man's arm, and felt his elbow crack as I twisted. The pool stick flew out of his hand to crash into the row of bottles behind the bar. The other pool player realized his situation and wisely dropped his stick, retreating with his hands out to the sides.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flood of light from the kitchen door, saw a blur, and heard the sound of a shell being chambered into a pump gun. I instinctively reached for the 9mm Walther I had concealed under my jersey. In one motion, I chambered a round, took aim, and fired. The mercury-filled slug tore through the cook's skull and he fell back. The scattergun discharged as it hit the floor, and a lighting fixture shattered overhead. I quickly swung around to cover the people who were still standing, and backed towards the door.

"Tell E.J. Ross I'm looking for him. I'll be up the road a ways."

Two plumes of smoke intertwined in the air above the Yellow Rose Cantina. Before leaving the parking lot, I'd fetched my .44 magnum from the mountain bike's panniers and fired a round through the radiator of each of the cars and trucks parked around the dump. Two of them caught fire as the heavy slugs ripped through the engine compartments. I'd taken care to cut the phone lines, but I didn't want any of the survivors going for help. The ones I'd left breathing would recover. The one I'd left with his brains splattered all over the kitchen door wouldn't be needing help. Now, I watched the Cantina through powerful binoculars from a mesa half a mile up the road.

My friends in Lubbock told me that every day, E. J. Ross stopped at this dive for a bowl of Texas chili and a few beers on his way back from his Lubbock office. The bartender had told me he'd arrive at half past noon. Sure enough, at 12:30 sharp, a cloud of dust near the horizon portended his arrival. I took some time to study his vehicle as it pulled into the Yellow Rose's parking lot.

I'd heard about the E. J. Special, but I had to see it to believe it. It had stared as an enormous Chevy pickup, but thousands of E. J.'s dollars had transformed it into a rolling monument to bad taste. It was mostly a glossy black, with elaborate desert scenes airbrushed onto the side panels. The windows were tinted very dark. The grille was from a Rolls-Royce, or a good imitation. Headers protruded from beneath the running boards, to come together and elbow into stacks that rose three feet above either side of the cab. The license plate read

                               |KICK ASS|

All the brightwork was plated in 14K gold. The antlers of an authentic Texas Longhorn steer embellished the hood. Under that hood, I knew, was a finely-tuned, 454 cubic inch V8 that didn't bother with emission controls.

E. J. himself was as audacious as his truck. He was big, at least 6'4", and 350 pounds if he was an ounce. He wore a white suit and matching Stetson, with mirrored sunglasses, a string tie, a hand-tooled Navaho belt with an enormous gold monogrammed buckle. His correspondingly enormous belly hung over it. On his feet were ornate Texas boots with gold caps on the toes. Gaudy, expensive rings embellished each of his pudgy fingers. A huge stogie jutted out from his mouth.

I regarded him through the binoculars, wishing for a moment that I was peering through the telescopic sights of a .30-06 Winchester; one squeeze of the trigger and I'd make happy ladies of each of his ex- wives. No, that would be too easy, too quick. I wanted him to know it was coming, and who it was who brought it.

A small crowd had formed in the lot beside E. J.'s truck: the bartender, the frumpy waitress, and a couple of the men I'd dealt with earlier. I could not hear their conversation, but I surmised they weren't talking about the weather. One of the men gestured up the road, in my general direction, and I thought it was time I announced my presence. I fired the magnum at the side of the building, not expecting to hit anything in particular at this distance, but I was pleased when a window shattered. The report echoed several times from the sides of the nearby hills. All but E. J. hit the ground or scattered. He merely looked up, trying to pinpoint my location. I hoped my red jersey made it easy for him.

E. J. got into his truck and started up the road. I stuck the magnum back in a pannier and hurried down the slope to meet him. I waited behind a rock for the E. J. Special to round the bend, and took off up the road, certain I'd been spotted. Timing would have to be perfect. That monster could go from 0 to 60 in less than 9 seconds, despite its size, and it had already killed at least 20. Surprisingly, he gained on me very slowly. So that's how he did it; let them sweat a little before the kill. I let him close to within 50 feet before I made my first evasive move, cutting accross the center line and darting through some rocks. I abruptly spun the back wheel around in a controlled skid as E. J. brought the truck to a halt, and I took off in the opposite direction. The truck did not turn around, but screeched after me in reverse, much faster this time. As it closed to within a few yards, I sliced off to the left and rode up the steep slope of the embankment. At the summit, I paused to make certain E. J. knew what direction I took.

The road wound through a canyon cut into the low mesas that dotted the countryside. I had scouted it carefully earlier, but it was going to be tight. I sprinted over the uneven, rocky surfaces towards the bend in the road where I'd hoped to intercept him. I arrived barely in time. planting myself in the middle of the road, I just had time to draw the MAC-10 and cock the receiving bolt. The E. J. Special roared around the curve, 200 feet up the road. I took aim for the driver's side of the cab and looked for his face, found it, met his eyes. The huge pickup bore down on me like a hellhound, but I waited for his expression to change, his jaw to slacken, his eyes to widen in fear with the shock of realization: that's right, you son of a bitch, this is a machine gun, and you're going to die! He got an arm half-raised before his face and cut the wheel sharply to the left as I opened fire. I held the trigger and fanned the barrel in a narrow arc, exhausting the full magazine. The windshield disintegrated and both the side mirrors shattered before the truck ran aground against the embankment and turned over on its side.

Five miles down the road, I could clearly see the column of smoke rising from the remains of the E. J. Special. A well-placed satchel charge had taken care of it, the road, and part of the adjoining hillside. E. J. Ross was no more; 20 lost souls were avenged, and Texas was just a little safer for bikes now. Perhaps E. J. had been the worst of the men I'd faced, perhaps not. At least I'd known his name, unlike most of them. And I'd had time to hate him. The satisfaction was fleeting. E. J. and his ilk had always been there, murderous intentions just below the surface, hatred and intolerance held barely in check. The real evil was the system that allowed the E. J.s to emerge, and I and all my guns, grenades, and bombs had no more effect on that than spitting on a forest fire.

All that would change some day. I had to believe it would. I'd killed two men today, and I'd seen their eyes. You don't forget the eyes. You feel them watching you when you wake up shivering, pillow soaking wet, with the sound of your own hearbeat shattering the night. How long?

Copyright (c) 1989 by Robert Fishell

Spike #5

[In the year 1998, one man fights the tyranny of the automobile...]

A cold November rain beat against the window. The hour grew late. Yawning, I had set down my book and started off to bed when a knock came on the door. I warily crossed the room to peer through the door peep. It didn't look good. There were two grim-faced men in cheap suits outside. I caught a glimpse of more men in the grey uniforms of CFGM Security just on the fringes of the fish-eye view. This wasn't a social call. My 9mm Walther was in my right hand. My left rested lightly on a control panel next to the sill. I spoke into the intercom:

"What can I do for you fellows?"

"Spiro Bikopoulis?"


"United States Secret Service. We'd like to talk to you."

"I'm all ears."

"Open the door, please"

"I can hear you just fine. Modern electronics, you know ---"

I saw the taller of the two men motion to the goons. Two of them came into view, ready to kick in the door. I threw a switch on the house's security controls. Instantly, a barrier slammed across the threshold of the front door, and the house shuddered as similar barriers simultaneously covered the remaining doors and windows. It was a metal-polymer laminate I'd developed during my years as a metallurgical engineer. Inch for inch, it was nearly twice as tough as armor plate, yet it weighed only a quarter as much. It, and the reinforced construction of my little ranch house would give me but a few minutes. If they'd come for the reason I suspected, they'd have brought some heavy firepower. I heard bullets thudding against the other side of the barrier. They would try a battering ram next, then explosives.

I ran down to the basement. The sequence I'd set in motion upstairs had already opened the sealed door to the secret room I'd built five years ago. I threw aside my bathrobe and pulled on a rugged jumpsuit and mountain bike shoes that awaited there. A gunbelt and flack vest followed. I hopped on the black-anodized mountain bike and opened the heavy door to the tunnel that led down to the river bank, 300 yards away. The chill and dank air seized me as I entered. I paused inside and tapped out a code on the keypad just outside the door. It quietly closed behind me, and I knew I'd never see my little house again. The bike's powerful headlamp stabbed far into the darkness of the tunnel, and I sprinted hard into its depths.

Halfway down the tunnel, I heard the muffled explosion behind. I had set the charges to gut the house without causing too much damage to the immediate area, or any innocent bystanders nearby. If, by chance, any of the goons had bashed or blasted their way inside, though, they were toast by now; those charges had been high-temp incendiaries. In any case, they would not follow through the tunnel.

Opening the hatch at the tunnel's mouth, I was nearly overwhelmed by a rush of knee-deep water. The heavy rains had swelled the river beyond its banks. I tried to get the camouflaged hatch closed again, but it was hopeless, jammed with mud. The tunnel would be easily visible. Hoping to at least cover my tracks, I rode through the shallow water for perhaps 200 yards before climbing up from the bank.

I rode along the river for another half mile before I saw the chopper. A powerful spotlight swept across the landscape, paused, and darted up and down the river bank in the direction I'd come from. They'd spotted the tunnel, no doubt, and were trying to decide which way I'd gone. The chopper turned to and headed my way. I offered a silent curse and took off at a right angle to the river, into the back of the railroad yard. I needed to get to cover fast. There! A freight train was pulling out of the yard, and I sprinted to match speed, pull alongside, and catch the open door of a boxcar. I struggled to get myself and the bike inside before the chopper spotted me.

I didn't make it. The light played over the door and instantly returned. The powerful beam followed the boxcar, and I heard the chopper descending. I extracted a drab green cylinder from the mountain bike's heavily laden panniers, extended the fore and aft tubes, and took aim at the spotlight. A squeeze of the trigger and the LAWS rocket found its mark. The chopper exploded and a huge fireball fell from the sky.

The train did not stop, but continued to roll out of the yard, picking up speed. It was evidently a robot locomotive, and it would not stop until it was programmed to do so. I didn't know where it was going, but any place was better than here right now. I closed the car's door and pondered my situation. In my bike's panniers and packs were my usual armament of a MAC-10, 12 grenades, a .44 magnum, and extra ammunition. But this particular bike had been especially prepared for this occasion. I also carried two, make that one, LAWS rockets, two satchel charges, and a sawed-off, 16 gauge pump shotgun. The rest of its cargo was less destructive, but perhaps more essential: Dry clothing, dehydrated food, $20,000 in small bills, some forged documents, and a pint of Jack Daniels. I cracked the seal on the last item and took one swig against the chill, replaced the cork, and set the bottle aside. This bike and the gear it carried were now all I owned, and I had to make the best of it.

I had known they might close in on me some day, but I had to learn how. That and many other questions burned in my brain. But first, I needed to sleep. I would need a clear head in the morning, wherever I might be then. Where?

I awoke from a light sleep as the lurching of the cars made me aware the train was slowing down. Through the space under the door, I could see it was still dark outside. I opened the door a crack. The weather had cleared considerably, and it was quite cold. I examined the skyline silhouetted against the stars: Detroit. That was just about perfect; just get accross the border to Windsor and I could make my way to my Alberta cabin to decide on a course of action.

How had they found me? More importantly, why now? Corporatism was finished. It had been a failure on all counts, social, political, and economic. The early boom years, when the executive-politicians had had the support of the people, had been financed by speculation, riding on false hopes. Lately it had been falling apart. Economic growth had ground to a halt, some consumer goods were growing scarce, and services were deplorable. Dissension was widespread among workers at all but senior management levels, despite harsh policies by employers -- The Twenty -- to ensure loyalty. The "workfare" labor force, which amounted to a pool of cheap conscript labor, could not absorb any more fired workers, and the threat of losing your job if your district voted the wrong way became meaningless as the quality of life deteriorated.

Though the Presidential election was still two years away, the midterm Congressional elections and several key gubernatorial races spelled disaster for The Twenty. Voter turnout had been unprecedented. Despite lavishly orchestrated media coverage and huge PAC funds, nearly every Corporatist candidate had been resoundingly defeated. The Enterprise Party, the political party of the Anticorporatists, would be firmly in control of the Congress and most of the states beginning in January. My contacts in the Party had told me that impeachment procedings against the Iacocca Administration would probably be the first act of the new Congress.

I had rejoiced in the news. The long nightmare was nearly over. I could soon go back to being Spiro Bikopoulis. Now, that dream was shattered. My cover was blown. I'm Spike Bike, now. I can no longer be any one else.

The train had slowed to perhaps 15 MPH. I slid the door open, dropped the bike out, and jumped. I was just outside the railway yard, near a crossing. I decided to take a chance on the road, at least for a little while, in order to cover ground quickly while I still had the darkness. It was early Monday morning. I would have to get near downtown, dump the bike and the heavy weapons, taking only the cash and my forged papers -- on foot -- to the bridge which led to freedom.

I covered about 5 miles before the morning glow made it too dangerous for me to stay on the main roads. Now I wound my way through alleys, through the poor neighborhoods near the downtown area. I would ride for another half mile or so and then change into street clothes and hoof it for the bridge.

My hopes were dashed. A block ahead, a dull grey Plymouth skidded to a stop, blocking the alley. Almost immediately, another duplicated the maneuver at the corner behind me. I immediately cut accross a back yard, through the narrow space between two dilapidated garages, and emerged with the MAC-10 drawn and ready for action.

This came immediately. As I rode out into the street, two of the CFGM Security cars converged on my position. I sprayed the windshield of one, and it changed course abruptly, crashing into a tree. The other was closing fast behind me. I rode up onto a yard, between houses, and into the alley paralleling the one in which I'd been spotted. To the west were two grey Plymouths, and I cut hard to the east. I grabbed a grenade and waited for the cars to close, but they kept their distance.

Up the alley ahead, I could see the walls of skyscrapers. I was only a few blocks from downtown. As I crossed a street, I saw three more of the CFGM cars closing in, but the way ahead was still clear. Finally, I ran out of alleys beneath the heights of the tallest building in Detroit -- the CFGM building. To the left and right of me were roadblocks. I had only one place to go, the parking garage under the skyscraper. I darted inside, my machine gun ready for an ambush, but I found no one waiting. I looked around for a place to make my next move. I felt a sting in my leg. Looking down, I saw a small dart protruding from my thigh. I reached down to pluck it out, but my hand wouldn't obey. The world tilted crazily and went black.

At first there was only a blur of agonizing light and a noise like a buzz-saw ripping through my skull. After a few moments, the blur became a face, and I realized it was speaking.

" ---ming around, Mr. Bikopoulis. Can I offer you a drink?"

A pail of icy water was thrown into my face, and I sputtered for air, choking and nearly throwing up. It began to clear my head though. As my vision returned, I observed that I was in an opulent office. Before me was a heavy mahogany desk. On it were my MAC-10 and a drab- looking suitcase. Behind, a panoramic window displayed the city lights of Detroit-Windsor, seen from the exhilarating heights of what I realized was the top floor of the 103-story CFGM building. The last fringes of twilight glowed in the west. It had been early morning the last I'd been conscious.

I was bound to a chair with duck tape, uncomfortably tight across my wrists and ankles. I had been stripped to the waist. A glance assured me that my heart monitor was still there. Looking around the room, I saw my specially-equipped mountain bike leaned against a wall, its armament intact. My gun belt and flak vest lay beside it.

"Yes, the bike's here," my host offered, "We know about that little electronic gizmo of yours, but we didn't have time to figure out how to disarm it. We thought it wise not to fool with anything, in fact. It was easier just to keep it in range of the transmitter for now. You're quite ingenious, Mr. Bikopoulis. Or is it Spike Bike?"

"That'll be _Mister_ Bikopoulis to you, Butt-brain." A mistake. That brought knuckles across my face.

"You should show proper respect for authority, _Mister_ Bikopoulis. Don't you know who I am?"

I knew who he was. Ames Morgan, Secretary of Transportation and Executive Vee Pee of CFGM, Iacocca's right-hand man. It was rumored that Morgan was the real boss of the Corporatist government. What was an important cabinet member doing smacking me across the face?

"The face and charming manner are familiar. You grunt for the Prez."

"The President of the United States is rather upset with you, Spike."

"The American People are rather upset with him, so I guess he's entitled. But why does he care about me? Senator Crisp..."

"Joseph Crisp is merely the political leader of this disloyal rabble. You're their folk hero. You inspire them. You're too much of a nuisance to have around."

"Somehow I think it's Mr. Iacocca who won't be around, at least not much after the 3rd of January. Is it true that they're just going to impeach him, or are they going to throw his ass in jail, too?"

"That's rather outlandish, coming from a terrorist."

"Terrorist? I'm just a concerned citizen, doing my best to keep our highways free of trash."

"Terrorist. Particularly after the little stunt you pulled in New Mexico Thursday."

"I was in New York Thursday, filling out reams of your goddam forms just to receive a shipment of Metaxa from Greece."

"Quite the contrary, Spike. You shot up a top-secret government installation. We've got it all on video tape. Killed thirteen people, including a janitor and a couple of secretaries, before you got away with this."

He placed a hand on the suitcase sitting on the desk. He removed a panel to reveal an array of switches and displays. Reaching into his pocket, he extracted a key and inserted it into a slot in the control panel. The displays jumped to life.

"The CIA whipped this up. Quite clever, really, only thirty-six pounds, and most of that's the shielding."

"What is it, a crystal set? Captain Video decoder, maybe?"

"I thought you were a weapons expert, Spike. It's a thermonuclear device. Oh, it's just a little one -- thirty kilotons, maybe -- but enough for you to do a great deal of damage to this fair city and its distinguished guests."

I suddenly saw what he was getting at. It was monstrous.

The Enterprise Party had fittingly chosen Detroit's Cobo Hall as the site for its first Transition Planning Conference. Every important member of the Anticorporatist movement would be in attendance. The conference was to open this evening. So that was why they'd timed my capture for this date! They intended to destroy the cities of Detroit and Windsor, and make it look like an act of terrorism, with me the perpetrator. A quarter mile in the air, this office would be ground zero. We were half a mile from the convention center. None of the delegates would survive, and hundreds of thousands of innocent people would perish with them.

"You're insane!" I hissed. I tugged and jerked at my restraints. Morgan leaned back in his chair, placed his feet on the desk next to the Bomb. His laughter filled every inch of the spacious office.

Morgan's laughter died down and my struggles ceased -- partly because I'd managed to partially free my right leg, and partly because I needed a cool head to size up the situation. I was alive only because of Morgan's maniacal ego. He'd conquered Spike Bike, and couldn't resist confronting me, just to gloat. I studied the device on the desk before me. One of the displays on the suitcase Bomb was changing. It read:

3:58:21... 3:58:20... 3:58:19...

I had to keep Morgan talking, to find out what he had planned, and to divert his attention from my quiet struggles with the leg restraints. He evidently hadn't realized the strength in a cyclist's legs. As I exerted steady, concerted pressure, the strands of tape tore slightly on the squared corners of the chair legs. Eventually, they would break and my legs, if not my arms, would be free.

"You'll never get away with it. Even Iacocca wouldn't approve of nuking an American city."

"Actually, he doesn't know anything about it. He's mainly a figurehead, anyway. Past the age of retirement, you know. In any case, four hours from now -- make that three hours and fifty-six minutes -- your friends down there will be radioactive vapor, and the people will have to look to the only government they have -- us -- to see them through the ensuing international crisis. And you, my friend, will go down in history as the most infamous terrorist of all time."

"The bomb goes off in four hours?"

"10:00 PM sharp. Senator Crisp should just be finishing his speech to the convention around then. I'll be long gone by then, driving west toward Chicago. Couldn't take a chance on the airlines. You, on the other hand, will be right here, snoozing away on another dose of aneprazine -- that's the stuff we shot you with downstairs. You'll have the whole building to yourself. We gave the cleaning staff the night off -- not much point in mopping the restrooms in the middle of ground zero, is there?

"Well, Spike, it's been nice meeting you in person, but I have pressing matters to attend to. It seems there's no way to disarm this thing once the countdown has started -- which it has -- and Detroit is fast becoming a crummy place to be."

He extracted a hypo from a briefcase on the desk. My legs were not quite free. I had to stall him a few moments more, fan his ego.

"One more thing. How did you find me?"

"The computers did it. Took us a long time. Seems you always traveled under assumed names, paying with cash for your airline tickets. But you used your family's business shipments to transport your weapons and bicycles by rail and truck to the areas you hit. It was just a routine audit of our shipping records, anything to get a lead. When we found out that Spiro Bikopoulis, former bicycle racer, was shipping merchandise to areas that were shortly thereafter visited by Spike Bike, we had a pretty good idea who you were.

"That business you pulled back in Illinois confirmed it. Incidentally, that was a half-million dollar chopper you blew up. Fortunately for us, the pilot radioed your situation just before you smoked him, so we had the train diverted here. Quite a stroke of luck for us; we got some nice pictures. The security cameras caught your entrance downstairs and got a nice close-up of your face before we tranked you. It was not strictly necessary, but it will add credibility to the story of the world's first nuclear terrorist. In a few days, the tape will be on every TV screen in America, along with the stuff we got in New Mexico."

"You got a ringer for me."

"Remarkable likeness, at least from a distance. Good with weapons, too, an ex-Marine, like yourself. Down on his luck, poor chap. He was more than happy to work with us after we got him off death row in California. He took to a mountain bike like a natural. Did a great job for us in New Mexico. We need more men like him. Pity you don't work for us, Spike. Well, Spike, I could go on for hours, but I really should be going. Have a nice nap."

He prepared the hypo and crossed from behind the desk. My legs were free. I would have just one chance. As he drew close to administer the shot, I rocked back on the chair and kicked up violently with both legs, catching Morgan in the rib cage. The thrust hurled him through the air several feet, until his back crashed through the expansive, mural window. They say that from 103 floors up, you're dead before you hit the ground. I always thought it was a myth, but I didn't hear him screaming the whole way down, just 50 floors or so. Maybe there's something to it after all.

My hands were still bound. I lay on the heavily carpeted floor, alone with the Bomb.

3:42:01... 3:42:00... 3:41:59...

The silent, florescent display counted down the seconds until an inevitable 30-kiloton nuclear blast. Morgan had said the Bomb could not be disarmed, and he'd had no reason to lie.

I got myself turned around and managed to get on my feet. My hands were still bound to the arms of the chair. I gingerly hobbled over to the shattered window, through which poured the chilly November air. The jagged glass cut through one of my bonds, giving me a gash across the wrist in the process, and soon I was free of the chair. Glancing down to the street, I saw tiny flashing red lights converging on the area where I knew Morgan's remains must be splattered. Not good; I'd hoped to get out of here unnoticed. The surrounding streets would be crawling with CFGM Security by the time I reached the ground floor.

I turned my attention to the Bomb. Within just over three and a half hours, it would have to be taken to a place where it could be detonated with relatively little harm. There wasn't time. Morgan and his henchmen had kept the theft of the Bomb a secret from the public, and I could not deal with CFGM Security, which policed the city. It could not be exploded on the surface anywhere in the populous East. A fast military plane might get it to the Nevada desert in time, but how could I convince the Air Force or the Navy of the urgency of the situation? And how could I trust them? I had no idea how extensive the conspiracy was. Searching my memory, I thought of one place it could be taken that might suffice: the extensive salt mines under the city. I knew I would have to take it there myself.

I retrieved my MAC-10 from Morgan's desk and checked out the bike. It was undamaged, and Morgan had been afraid to tamper with its extensive array of armament. That was good; I had a feeling I'd be needing it. I patched up the cut on my wrist and replaced my flak vest. Then I set about lashing the 36-lb Bomb to the rear rack. It was more weight than I was used to carrying, but I was able to maneuver the bike around the room. I boarded the private elevator which connected Morgan's office to the parking garage under the skyscraper. A brief, sinking feeling assured me I was on my way. On the way down, I broke all the lights in the car's interior. I readied the machine gun, prepared a grenade, and straddled the bike as the elevator slowed to a stop. As the door opened, I saw two grey Plymouth sedans waiting outside.

I burst through the doors firing in a wide arc. The guards crouched behind the cars instinctively ducked, and did not return fire for a critical second while I sprinted past the roadblock, tossing the grenade as I passed. One of the guards got off a shot before the blast, and I felt something hot laid across my shoulder. The wound was superficial, but bloody. I waited for more fire, but none came. The next wave would be at the garage's entrance. There was no time for stealth. Repeating my bold move at the elevator, I sprinted up to the street. The Bomb's weight slowed my progress up the ramp, but I still burst out of the door with enough speed to maneuver. Fanning the machine gun at the row of grey Plymouths just outside, I cut towards the alley I had come out of this morning, right between two of the Security cars. This time, none of their shots connected. A second grenade went off behind me and the guns fell silent. A block away, I knew I had made the first hurdle, but I could not get far this way. A mountain bike has tremendous advantages in rough country, but it's not much help on city streets. I thought for a moment about where I should go, and had the answer.

I wound my way through the alleys toward the sea of light four blocks from the CFGM building. There was one place in this city where I might find friends, but there would not be any time to explain. Firing into the air, I burst forward into the light. A stretch Lincoln limousine was just pulling up in front of the glittering entrance to Cobo Hall. It would do nicely. Riding up onto the sidewalk, I grabbed the first person in reach, a terrified woman. I hated to do it, but I needed to hold off the guards while I got the limousine door open. I rolled the bike inside and dove in after it, releasing my hysterical hostage. There was a distinguished-looking man inside, rubbing his knee. The bike had jostled him some.

"Senator Crisp, I presume."

"So. I finally get to meet Spike Bike."

I instructed the Senator's driver to get away -- fast. The Bomb silently counted away the seconds.

3:08:18... 3:08:17... 3:08:16...

"... and you're sure the Bomb can't be disarmed?"

"We can't afford to try. We've got less than three hours, and I have a feeling the people who built this thing won't help us much. No, Senator, the mine is our only chance. You have to help me get it there."

The Senator finished bandaging my wounded shoulder. He'd been reluctant to volunteer any help at first, but I had convinced him of the urgency of the situation. I turned my attention to the limousine driver. Could he be trusted?

"Your driver, Senator. Secret Service?"

"Yes, but..."

I held the muzzle of my MAC-10 against the driver's neck. I told him to pull the car over and struck him sharply on a well-chosen point at the base of his skull. He slumped over unconscious. I pulled his limp form into the back seat.

"You'll have to drive Senator. I'm going to be busy back here. Is this heap bullet-proof?"

"No, it's just an ordinary limo," the Senator replied as he took the wheel and sped off. I tied the driver's hands and then busied myself with smashing out the back window. Flashing red lights pursued from behind.

"Step on it, Senator!" I implored. Several CFGM Security cars were gaining on us. I waited until they were just in range and opened up on them with the MAC-10. The lead car went out of control, creating a spectacular smash-up. Only one car came through the chaos to continue pursuit. Bullets struck the limo and I felt it swerve. I turned my head to see that Senator Crisp had been struck in the arm. It was only a scratch, but it proved that our pursuers were not overly concerned with the Senator's well-being. I took careful aim at the driver's side of the Security car and hosed the windshield. It veered crazily off the road and crashed into a utility pole.

"Are you all right, Senator?"

"It hurts like a bitch, but yes."

"We've got to get help. The CFGM Security force is loyal to the Corporatists. They'll kill us both. Is there any one you can trust?"

"Maybe. There's a mobile phone in the back seat. Give it to me." Crisp thumbed a number, spoke a few words to the person who'd answered, and turned to me.

"The Coast Guard is sending up a chopper. The Base Commander and I go back a number of years."

I hoped the relationship was a congenial one. Up ahead, a few miles yet from the entrance to the mine, was a massive roadblock. More grey Plymouths approached from the rear. We could not stop, and we could not turn back. I reached into my ATB's bag of tricks and readied my remaining LAWS rocket.

"Put it to the floor, Senator!" I opened the door and leaned out, took careful aim at the center of the roadblock, and squeezed the trigger. The explosion blasted a hole through the roadblock, setting the vehicles ablaze and taking out most of the guards who'd awaited with pistols drawn. The limo crashed through the inferno and continued down the road towards the mine. I had to hand it to the Senator; he was a hell of a driver!

A flood tide of red lights was still in pursuit. My MAC-10 was empty, and the extra mags were in the bottom of one of the panniers. I didn't have time to hunt for them. I extracted the 16-gauge sawed-off from the bike's arsenal and took aim at the center of the parade. It would not be enough. So close, dammit, so close. Another mile to the mine entrance, but we wouldn't make it. I pumped the scattergun again and again, but they kept coming. As they were almost on us, a bolt from the heavens struck in front of the lead car. The Coast Guard chopper! The Security cars scattered to the roadside and gave up pursuit as the chopper engaged them with rockets and machine guns. The way to the mine entrance was clear.

More resistance no doubt awaited at the mine. That chopper was busy; I had to deal with it myself. A quarter of a mile from the mine entrance, I bade the Senator to stop the car.

"Thanks for the lift, Senator. Sorry about your wheels."

"I think the taxpayers can afford it. What now?"

"I take the mine. You've got to get as many people as you can out of this area. The mine should contain the blast, but there will be a hell of a shock."

"Good luck, Spike."

"You're the one who'll need that, Senator. You've got to put this Country back together. All I've got to do is dispose of some of the last Administration's garbage, here." I patted the deadly suitcase. Its flickering blue display continued the silent, businesslike counting.

1:58:33... 1:58:32... 1:58:31

The Senator sped away and I mounted the bike. I could not try the main gate, it was too heavily guarded. I would have to get onto the grounds some other way and find my way to the entrance to the mine shaft. Though time was of the essence, I would have but one chance to do this right, so I took my time in careful preparations. I blacked out my face and donned black gloves. I taped together the remaining MAC-10 magazines and tucked them into pockets in the fresh black jumpsuit I'd obtained from the panniers. Six grenades hung from my belt.

I scouted the perimeter of the grounds until I found a stream bed which ran under the chain-link fence. It was a tight squeeze, but I got through, dragging the bike after me. The area into which I emerged was isolated and poorly lighted. The mine shaft was located on the other side of the complex. To get to it, I would have to cross an open field and wind my way through huge piles of salt, thence across a brightly lit yard. It was not going to be easy. A force of about 25 CFGM security men guarded the mine complex, and they had by now been alerted that I was in the area. I rode through tall weeds parallel to the fence for a ways, staying out of the open until I could cross the field to the salt mounds at the narrowest point.

I spotted a jeep patrolling the perimeter service road, sweeping a spotlight over the fence. I laid the bike down in the weeds and kept low. The light did not come near, but the jeep stopped when the guards passed the breach in the fence. One of them got out to look more closely, shining a flashlight along the stream bed. He abruptly drew his pistol when he spotted the crushed weeds that betrayed my arrival.

I could wait no longer. I tossed a grenade at the jeep and opened fire on the flashlight. Both the grenade and the burst found their targets, but I no longer had stealth to my advantage. I sprinted hard for the salt mounds, darting between two of them as I caught sight of headlights flickering and heard gunfire from several points.

The salt mounds covered an area of three or four acres in an irregular pattern. It would be easy to get lost winding my way through the maze -- on the ground. I shifted into a granny gear and started my way up the steep slope of a large mound. I took a spiral course around the mound, staying just out of sight of the grey Plymouths that prowled through the grounds.

At the mound's crest, I had a much better view. I could see the entrance to the mine and was able to pick out a course through the salt mounds. Below, three cars systematically searched the mound area, supported by half a dozen men with flashlights. I would need a diversion.

I readied a grenade and observed the progress of one of the security cars. As it drew behind one of the mounds adjacent to mine, I lobbed the grenade over the top with a throw a major league outfielder would have been proud of. I don't know if it hit its mark, but after it went off, the searchers converged towards the area of the blast.

I rolled down the mound at a reckless speed, fighting to keep the overweight bike under control. As I neared the bottom, I caught sight of a lone searcher. He swung his flashlight in my direction; too late, I was on him. There was no time for either of us to shoot. I ran the bike squarely towards him, with all the momentum of my quick descent behind me. At the last moment, I pulled back on the handlebars and the front wheel left the ground to catch him perfectly in the chest. The bike skidded crazily as he went over, but I kept it up. No gunfire followed as I made the first turn through the course I'd scouted.

The last hurdle was yet ahead. Emerging from the salt maze, I sprinted for the entrance to the mine. To the left and right, two grey Plymouths sped towards me. I took aim at the windshield of the nearest, fired, and watched the car spin out of control. The other car spat fire from the passenger's window. I felt something thud solidly against my flack vest and nearly lost control of the bike. Bringing it around, I fired again, off balance, but I hit one of the Plymouth's front tires. As the driver fought the wheel to regain control of the car, I opened up on the passenger's window and the return fire fell silent.

I reached the entrance to the mine shaft as the security force began to regroup near the salt field. I rode straight into to the elevator, slammed the doors, and threw a switch which I hoped was for "down." Reassuringly, the car began to sink.

Several minutes passed before the elevator lurched to a halt. I wondered what awaited me outside. I threw the doors open, submachine gun ready, but saw only a few startled, unarmed men. I bolted through the door, into their midst.

"Everybody into the elevator! You have to get out of here!" To convince them, I fired a burst into the air. Salt rained down from the high ceiling. The frightened workers packed the elevator.

"Is this everybody?" I snapped.

"We're all there is. Most of the mine's automated, now. We're just a maintenance crew, going off shift"

"Then get the hell out of here! And don't bother punching out. You won't be working here tomorrow."

The doors closed and the elevator began to rise. The adjacent shaft would bring the other elevator down, teeming with armed men. I would not be able to deal with them directly. I set one of my satchel charges at the bottom of the shaft and rigged it to explode when the car contacted it. In the mean time, I had more urgent business to attend to.

I saddled up and headed down a tunnel. There was a fairly steep grade; good, I was getting deeper and deeper into the earth. After perhaps half a mile, I reached a large chamber at the tunnel's end. I did not know if this was the deepest part of the mine, but it would do. I detached the suitcase-Bomb from the bike, set it down, and examined my surroundings. This was evidently a center of operations. There were tracks and conveyers leading through various tunnels, and there were crude offices set up.

That's where I found this terminal. The mine, like everything else these days, is run by computers. This one has an operating system I'm familiar with, and it was fairly easy to get an outside link to access the main computer at Bikopoulis Imports. I brought up my diary file and began typing.

This, you understand, will be my last entry. I heard the satchel charge go off a few minutes ago. It had to be done in order to seal the mine shaft and contain the blast. It also leaves me with a problem. That was the only elevator. When the Bomb detonates in thirty-nine, make that thirty-eight minutes, Spike Bike will be no more.

Men like me are, I suppose, an inevitable consequence of harsh times. But when the times change, we are out of place in the World. I am a killer. The men I've killed were trying to kill me, but they're still just as dead. The Bicycle Act freed them to act on their basest instincts, but it allowed me to do the same. I hunted them, baited them, and killed them without compunction. Some kind soul may argue that my motives were noble, that the ends I achieved were for the greater good, that what I did was for the benefit of everybody who claims the right to ride a bicycle. I told myself all of this often enough. But the quest for justice isn't enough to make a man kill. I am driven by a rage that is neither good nor evil, but animal. Again and again I have felt it boil over, surge through my nerves, and burst forth in a stream of fire and lead. It sickens me now. I am sick of rage, sick of killing. It is well that it should end here.

Do not lament. I have longed for this day. Although it is an end for me, it is the beginning of everything I've fought for. But the fight isn't mine any longer. It must be won with law and order, not guns and bombs. Make it happen for me. I never made it to the Olympics. Let Spike Bike go out a winner.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I've still got a pint of Jack Daniels stashed away on the bike somewhere. I've got about half an hour to kill, and I could sure use a belt. It's been a long day.


It was Spiro Bikopoulis's wish that his diaries be made public in the event that something happened to him. Had I not known Spike, albeit briefly, and seen the climax of this adventure unfold, I might not have believed the fantastic accounts recorded on the diskettes that were sent to me by the Bikopoulis Family. I am honored that he chose me to be among the first to read it.

The nuclear blast was well contained by the deep mine. There was considerable structural damage from the shock, but little radiation escaped, and Detroit-Windsor has remained safe for habitation. Casualties were minimal, and an international crisis was averted, thanks to Spike's sacrifice.

We do not know, as yet, how widespread the Morgan conspiracy was. We are searching for Morgan's accomplice, the man who, posing as Spike Bike, stole the Bomb that was almost the end of us all. He should be able to tell us much, if we ever find him.

President Iaccoca resigned in lieu of impeachment. We decided not to pursue criminal proceedings against him, in deference to his age and satisfactory evidence that he knew nothing of the Morgan affair. Vice President Turner has resigned as well, although there are charges pending against him. The Cabinet has, of course, been dissolved.

House Speaker Trump has resigned in scandal, leaving the job of U.S. President to me, as President Pro Tempore of the Senate. It is with great reluctance I have accepted the Office. Spike was right; I'm going to need some luck.

The new Congress has a staggering agenda. The Corporatists did an incredible amount of damage, and it will take more than a decade to overcome it all. Yet Spike was wrong about a few things. The first Act of the new Congress was a unanimous resolution to repeal the Bicycle Act of 1992. The legislation left in its place provides for a nationwide effort to improve the roads to better accommodate bikes, and outlines severe penalties for motorists who engage in "willful acts of hostility" against cyclists.

Attached to the bill was a resolution, passed by acclimation, granting a general pardon to Spiro Bikopoulis, a.k.a. Spike Bike, for "all crimes and misdemeanors, known or otherwise," committed during the years the '92 Act was in force. It also ordered that a medal be struck in his honor. However, the Cities of Detroit and Windsor have upstaged us. On an artificial island in the center of the Detroit river stands a statue of a man astride a mountain bike. Twenty feet tall, it is appropriately larger than life, as was the man it honors.

Respectfully Submitted,

Joseph Crisp President of the United States July, 1999]

Copyright (c) 1989 by Robert Fishell

Spike Explanation

[In the year 1989, one man rails in futility against the tyranny of the automobile...]

Springtime in northern Illinois comes late, too late for me to wait for balmy breezes and sunny skies to begin hard training. I can't stand my wind trainer, and the trails are often too icy for off-road mountain biking, so I've been hitting the roads. Sometimes I can get a partner or two, but mostly, I'm out there by myself, friendless and defenseless. Just me and THEM.

In the winter of 1980, I quit smoking. A month or so later, I decided to do something about the ravages thirteen years of tobacco addiction had inflicted on my body. I considered jogging, nearly threw up on myself just thinking about it, and bought a bike instead. It was a 32-lb department-store superclunker, but it had ten gears and drop handlebars. It was to change my life forever.

I'd not had the bike for long before the pattern was set. One: I was hooked. Despite its massive, water-pipe frame, flimsy steel rims, 80-PSI gumwalls, pot-metal brakes, and all the other frailties junk is heir to, this amazing machine gave me a sense of freedom, an exhilaration I thought I'd lost along with childhood. I knew right away this was for me, and that I'd be doing it until the day I die. Two: I discovered that day could come prematurely. I'd already encountered some of THEM. I was thus forced to make a decision: I could cower in some health club, buy a set of running shoes, and let THEM dictate how I enjoy my free time, or I could defy the bastards and maybe get slaughtered in the process. As you all know, I took the latter option, and I've been living with it ever since.

Every year that decision gets harder and harder to live with. Every year I ride more and more miles, 4500 in '87, 6000 in '88. I've set a goal of 7500 for 1989, provided I survive. Every spring I think about the close calls of years past, about the impermanence of human flesh, and about the weak law of large numbers and all those goddamn CARS. Maybe only one driver in 100 gives me any real trouble, but there are so, so many of them. So many of THEM.

It gives me the heebie-jeebies when I think about it, so I don't think about it. I've made my decision, and I will not go back on it, the increasing risks notwithstanding. I'm not going to have my life run by a bunch of hotheads, rednecks, hell-raisers, and half-dazed morons who don't even watch the road half the time, let alone look out for bikes. I hate them. I hate them all. Mile after mile I ride on, seething with hatred and contempt, ever-vigilant and wary of every mechanical monster that comes within my sphere of awareness. Watch and hate. Listen and hate. I have to hate THEM, or they'll scare me out of my shorts. Hate is a strong emotion. Stronger, even, than fear.

Last spring I dropped into a local sporting-goods store to pick up a supply of those terrycloth sweatbands that vanish without a trace in the laundry. A display case in the store caught my eye: GUNS. There were hunting rifles, target pistols, even an imposing Redhawk .44 magnum. One piece in particular prompted a closer look: a double-action .38 Smith & Wesson revolver with a snub-nosed barrel. It was perfect. Small and easily tucked away in a jersey pocket, it could be drawn and fired in a split second without having to fuss with a safety catch or a receiving bolt. You could keep one hand on the handlebars to steady your aim. Perfect. And it could be had for a few hundred bucks, well within the means of any credit-card-carrying yuppie such as myself.

I don't know how long I stood there looking at it. The reality of that cold steel mingled with eight years' accumulation of a hatred that borders on paranoia, and something dark and ugly stirred within me. On the other side of the glass was a fistful of revenge, and all it would take was a little bit of paperwork and some of my disposable income, and it could be all mine. That thought scared the crap out of me. I quickly fled the gun department, bought a handful of the sweatbands I'd come in for, and left the store feeling very shaken. Days later, I was still disturbed about it. For just a moment, perhaps for just a split- second, I'd actually felt the impulse to do it, to call the salesman over, plop down my Visa card, and do something that would almost certainly ruin my life -- and could very well end it. I know now, as I realized then, that as long as I own a bicycle, I must not own a gun. Having made _that_ decision, I felt a whole lot better.

The incident brought into focus a peculiar problem, though. I need my hatred to give me the courage to ride, but I have too much of it left over, pent up. I needed an outlet. I'd already settled the matter of my carrying a gun, but it seemed such a shame to let the idea go completely to waste. I conjured an image of a man who'd made that decision the other way, and the result was a story called "My Wild Ride," which I posted to rec.bikes some time in May of last year. The character in that story was to disappear in the bursting bubble of a daydream, but he would return a few weeks later as Spike Bike. I already had the idea of a vigilante cyclist who would wreak vengeance on the dregs of motorized society. All I needed was the proper setting to put him in. In what sort of society might such a man emerge? I didn't have to think about that for too long.

I chose our own society of course, making just a few minor changes here and there. I had a little fun with it, getting ideas from current events: ruthless corporate takeovers, trade protectionism, political corruption, and rampant urban sprawl. But the central premise of the Spike series was the Bicycle Act of 1992, which formally strips cyclists of all the rights which have been informally stripped away already, i.e., now, in 1989. That's right, 1989. Now. Today. We have no rights.

Don't take my word for it. If you want to discuss your rights, ask that son of a bitch who just honked you, cut you off, and flipped you the bird. Ask Officer Rupp. Ask your State representative, who will dismiss you as a crank and subsequently ignore you. The only reason we get to ride at all is that there aren't quite enough of THEM to get bikes outlawed. The fact is, most people just don't give a damn one way or the other. Certainly not about us. But to the extent that's changing, it's changing for the worse. Bike bans are more and more prevalent, e.g., Sheridan Road here in Chicago. By 1992, there could very well be a law to get us off all the roads.

There may be some hope nevertheless. The Spike Bike series ends with his society moving in a positive direction. The bicycle becomes a symbol of opposition to the forces of Evil. Inspired by Spike Bike, people take to the roads in ever-increasing numbers, in spite of the risks. It's the same in our own society. If you want to be able to ride tomorrow, ride today, and take a friend with you. Better yet, take two friends, not people who ride all the time, but people who've, maybe, just quit smoking and are looking for a way to get in shape. You see, the more of US there are, the easier it will be to deal with THEM.

Spike began to understand this, too, near the end. He realized that one man could do little to change things, despite all his resources and skill. Benevolent creator that I am, however, in the series' climax I gave him an opportunity to be a real hero (and gave myself a neat way of wrapping things up). The world Spike saves is better than the one he shoots full of bullet holes; it is better, even, than the reality of 1989. Perhaps I'm an optimist, or perhaps I just don't like to tell depressing stories. You get enough of those from the Ten O'clock News.

The Spike Bike series was cathartic for me. I had something to get off my chest, and to all of you who enjoyed the stories and encouraged me to write more, I offer my heartfelt thanks. I'm no Hemingway. I'm just a hack engineer who harbors a frustrated writer within, and it's nice to have a way to let off a little steam, to indulge in a little fantasy, and know there's somebody out there who gets a kick out of it. It was fun. Thanks for coming along.

I'll be away from my office for a couple of weeks, so I'll be off the net for a while. I'll leave all of you with a couple of things to think about, though.

Spike did something after he arrived at the salt mine's control center. What did he do, and why would he do it?

Spike logged out half an hour before the Bomb went off. Copyright (c) 1989 by Robert Fishell

Spike Bike Returns


[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.]


(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...)


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?


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


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?"


"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.


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?"



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.

Spike Bike:

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 can..."

"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."

"Such as?"

"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 point.

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 smiling.

Damn it, Currey. You weren't supposed to get it that way.


[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 race.

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 to sleep.


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

Scott Currey 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 door:



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 behind me.

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 happened, Mike?"

"I don't think you'd believe me. In any case, it's over with."

"Is it?"

I didn't know.


Author's Note

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

Spike - How it Began

[In the year 1989, one man fights an institution]

Annie asked me how it all began.

I told her the story of Scott Currey and the last Kay-five, but it really started a long time before that. I learned how to ride a bike when I was four or five, and it probably started shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, when I think of more recent times, of the dark years immediately preceeding the Act, one incident comes to mind...

It was the summer of 1989. I was in my second year as an undergrad at Caltech, visiting my family in Chicago over the break and competing in some of the local races. I was still a Cat 2 then, unknown save for a small local reputation I was getting.

Dave Karpinski, my best friend and one of my teammates, showed me a newspaper clipping that had been circulating among most of the USCF clubs in the area. The author was a humorist, a local personality noted for his irreverent commentary and sardonic wit. Usually, his columns were funny. There was nothing funny about this one. He described an incident involving his wife and a local cyclist. The cyclist, it seems, had been hit by the wife's car. The circumstances which led to this were not fully explained, but the columnist inferred that it had been the cyclist's fault; perhaps he had run a stop sign. This was not infuriating in itself. The columnist, however, went on to explain how his wife had been upset by the incident. He claims that he would have enjoyed it. Mutilation and death, it would seem, were appropriate penalties for minor traffic violations.

That was infuriating.

The local racing organization was asking its members to write letters to the columnist's paper, deploring the irresponsible nature of the column and all that. I took a somewhat different view. Being one who holds freedom of speech in the highest regard, I didn't want to tell his paper they shouldn't have printed the article. The man was entitled to his views, however warped and sadistic they might have been. Nevertheless, I wondered if he was sincere in his word. I thought I might find out. I was always better with a bike than with a typewriter, anyway.

The rag he wrote for ran TV commercials that suggested he was a regular at "Billy Goat's Tavern," one of the Loop saloons. I checked it out and found out it was true enough, although the place wasn't as homey and cozy as the commercials would have you believe. I spent considerable time observing him, keeping track of his comings and goings and the amount of beer he drank. The information would prove useful.

I followed him home a few times, in my Dad's car, keeping a discreet distance. I didn't want him to see me on a bike just yet. I had to learn his habits, which turned out to be well established. This would also prove useful.

Ultimately, I was ready to set up for him. I didn't go armed in those days (although I often wanted to), but what I had in mind was somewhat less than lethal. Hanging from ceiling hooks in my parents' garage was an old Schwinn LeTour I used to ride to high school. It was battered and rusty, but still serviceable. It did, however, require a few modifications. I retrieved a set of Deore' cantilever brakes and a pair of beat-up Campy Record levers from my junk box. A little work with a brazing torch, and the brakes bolted on. I installed a couple of oversized Mathauser brake pads, the kind used for heavily loaded touring, and a pair of well-stretched 2mm cables. When I was done, my old beater bike had brakes that would stop a train.

I waited until Friday afternoon to make my move. I wore my most obnoxious outfit, a screaming, day-glow jersey I'd won in some crit or another, and a matching helmet cover, white gloves, and shorts with a bright yellow stripe. I wanted to make sure he could see me.

I lay in ambush for him in an alley a couple of miles from his house. I knew he'd be coming home from Billy Goat's down this narrow street, with several beers in him. As I saw him approach, I pulled out of the alley and strategically moved in front of his car. He laid on the horn, but I ignored it. There were cars parked in solid lines down both sides of the street, with nowhere for me to go, even if I'd wanted to. Of course, I didn't want to. I wanted him good and mad.

At the end of the block was a four-way stop sign. The columnist would make a right-hand turn here, usually the California variety. This is where I sprang my trap. I did something he didn't expect. I stopped. That is, I STOPPED, from 21 MPH to zero in just enough space to keep me from going over the handlebars.

He did what I expected. Timing it perfectly, I had released the brakes an instant before his bumper hit my back wheel. It was easier to control than I'd expected; I had to throw the bike into a skid myself, taking care to slide a ways on my elbow and thigh. A touch of road rash would make it more convincing.

By the time the columnist was out of his car, a couple of passersby had already come to my side. I wasn't hurt, but I made a good show of it, holding my elbow with the other hand, not getting up from the street. A crowd was gathering. I heard someone murmur something about getting an ambulance, another mentioning the police. The columnist was visibly shaken, but I was just getting started. As he approached, I turned to face him, pointed my finger and shouted to the gathering crowd:

"Him! He tried to kill me! He followed me for blocks! Get him away from me!"

A couple of big men emerged from the crowd, stood between me and the columnist, glowering menacingly.

"What did you do to the kid?" One said (I was 24 and an ex-Marine at the time, but I took no insult in being called a "kid" under the circumstances). "Sh__, you just run him down, man. Hey, mother______, you been drinkin'?" The crowd got uglier as sirens approached.

Ultimately I went easy on him. I dropped the assault charges a few days later. I waited a couple of months to tell him I wouldn't be seeking civil damages, although I did ask him to pay for the bike. He was in a good deal more trouble with the police and his editor, given the content of the article he'd written. And I didn't see him hanging around Billy Goat's Tavern much after that. Just as well; I kind of liked the place.

It was just a small skirmish, ultimately an empty victory before the gathering storm.

Copyright (c) 1989 by Robert Fishell All Rights Reserved