I was sitting anxiously across from a petite woman with short, brown hair and an easy smile, cradling a cup of black spiced tea with milk. A sitar droned through the speakers at the back of the restaurant. We had ordered drinks together awkwardly, like a couple on a first date trying to feel out the preferences of the other person:
Black tea or green?
How many lumps of sugar?
Yes or no to milk?
And so on until we were both sipping our tea in silence, glancing across the table at each other with mixed expressions.
Sy seemed like an unlikely candidate to have secret information about there whereabouts of my bike, Luna Pisces Moonbeam. For a few moments I flirted with the thought that she had simply called in the hopes of getting the reward money in exchange for leading information, but the thought passed quickly when, after nearly 20 minutes of small talk, she hadn’t brought up the reward money once. However, we hadn’t actually talked about my bike at all since we met at the Indian restaurant, and instead continued to engage in a choreographed verbal dance, skirting from topic to topic with general ease and broad, stylish spins and dips. I was anxious, bored, and starting to feel like this was a waste of time when suddenly she lifted her chin and spoke. She preceded her words with a dimpled, nearly apologetic smile.
“So I know this meeting may seem kind of random...” She paused, and smiled again. “The thing is, I’ve heard a lot about you and couldn’t help but be surprised at the fact that your bike got stolen. It was even more surprising when I found out that I think I know the guy who took it.” She looked at me with slightly narrower eyes than before, almost as though she was lost in thought.
When she didn’t continue, I chimed in. “Yes, I was surprised and admittedly quite upset when Luna was stolen. I’ve searched high and low in this city, but I can’t seem to find her anywhere. I figured, with spring here, people would be out riding bikes every day and if I just kept my eyes open I might spot someone riding a lavender 1987 Nishiki Prestige.” I knew I was babbling, but couldn’t seem to stop. For some strange reason, I felt safe telling this complete stranger all about my sad life and even sadder thief tracking ineptitude. “I’ve looked all over, but haven’t even found the tiniest lead. If you know who took my bike, I’d love to work something out with you to get it back. As much as I want to nab them, I can control the need for revenge and try to...forgive and forget.” Just saying those words made the milky tea sour in my mouth, but I knew that it was true. If there was a way to get Luna back, even if the thief never got properly reprimanded, I would find a way to forgive and forget in order to have my bike back safe and sound.
Surprisingly, Sy chuckled at my speech, a lilting laugh that drifted through the air and blended with the sitar music.
“I think you misunderstood me,” she said. “I know who took your bike, but I’m not friends with him. In fact, I’m hoping you might be able to help me... in seeking revenge.”
I blinked and unconsciously raised my eyebrow in curiosity. “I’m listening.”
“You see, I’m a mindful, community gardening type of gal. I teach people how to garden, how to eat nutritiously, and how to make delicious meals out of the vegetables that they grow. I help maintain a number of gardens throughout the area, and also grow my own food in my backyard using what I like to call ‘extreme gardening methods.’” She paused for effect, practically begging me to ask her more.
I found myself, surprisingly, on the edge of my seat. Thus, I abided her silent plea and asked, “What to you mean by ‘extreme gardening methods?”
She flashed another crinkly smile and her face lit up. Bingo, I thought. This ought to be good.
“Well,” she began eagerly, “I developed a technique that allows me to plant my garden without ever having to leave my apartment! Wait, that makes me sound really antisocial. For the record, I do leave my apartment, quite frequently, and enjoy doing so...”
“It’s ok, I understand what you mean,” I replied, politely overlooking her own lapse into awkward babble, just as she had overlooked mine. Besides, I was still curious as to her gardening methods. “Go on.”
“Well, I only garden organically so I don’t use artificial fertilizers or anything, but I developed a way to extract pure nitrogen from organic compost to make small explosives. You know, mini pipe-bomb type experiments. Anyway, after a few years of practice, I invented a mechanical arm that can drop the small explosives out the window with extreme precision, allowing me to arrange them in intricate patterns or simple grids. Since the garden is right outside my window, I use the arm to arrange the bombs in rows, then detonate the explosives and fire seedlings into the smoldering holes with a specially crafted bow and arrow set I designed myself! It’s a very efficient process-- I can plant the entire garden in less than an hour! Besides, it’s exceptionally fun.” She immediately took a sip of tea following her monologue and glanced at me with raised eyebrows over the rim of the cup, trying to determine if I thought she was crazy or not. Obviously, I did. But more than anything, I felt admiration, and possibly even jealousy.
Brilliant! I thought, trying to keep my face from showing any signs of interest. Why didn’t I think of that idea?? My mind kept fluctuating between blurting out a string of wildly embarrassing praises, and wondering how this had anything to do with the theft of my bicycle.
“I’ve got to admit,” I said, raising my eyebrows across the table and smirking slightly, “that sounds like one hell of a good time!”
Sy laughed, then said, “I’m sure you’re wondering what on earth this has to do with your bicycle!”
Damn. She’s like a mindreader!
“The thought may have crossed my mind.”
“Well, several weeks ago I was preparing the garden for planting. I had all my explosives made, seedlings started, and had finished fine-tuning my mechanical arm, when I realized my bow and arrow set was missing. I knew I had seen it just the previous day, because I had to check the alignment of the arrows to ensure accuracy, but that day it was nowhere to be found!”
“Are you suggesting that you think the same person who stole my bike snuck into your apartment to steal your bow and arrows?” I asked doubtfully. “It seems a little far fetched. This is a big town we live in!”
“I know, I know. But there’s more. You see, the very same day your bike was stolen, I noticed an advertisement in the classifieds section.” Here, she started fumbling through her pockets and pulled out a carefully clipped and laminated section of the newspaper. She handed it to me across the table. I read the few sentences slowly.
“Wanted: Archery equipment. Call 777-3445.”
I was starting to doubt the legitimacy of the story Sy was crafting. “Sy, this really doesn’t imply anything about my bicycle being connected with the theft of your bow.”
“No, not yet. But look, here is a clipping from the previous day’s newspaper, day before your bike was stolen, and the day after my bow was stolen.” She handed me another small newspaper clipping that read,
“Wanted: Functional road bicycle. Call 777-3445.”
Sy was starting at me for signs of emotion. I think she could tell that I wasn’t buying into her hap-hazard clues. “Before you dismiss me as crazy, just think about it for a minute. Both of these advertisements have the same phone number listed, and appeared in the newspaper the day before our items matching the ads were stolen.”
“Yeah, but this could just be some crazy coincidence! Why would someone list items they want in the newspaper if they’re just going to steal them anyway?” My tea was growing cold, and I was growing tired of this conversation.
“You’ve got it all wrong!” Sy exclaimed. “It’s not the person listing the items who is the thief! Rather, I suspect that the thief saw the ads and thought they could make some quick cash along the way by obtaining the wanted items and selling them both to the same buyer, who could then later be blamed for the theft of the items when the actual thief calls you about the whereabouts of your bike in response to your reward posters!”
She was talking fast and making connections that my still-sleepy brain was striving to keep up with. At that moment I felt my cell phone begin to vibrate in my pocket and pulled it out to inspect the number: Restricted.
Sy eyed me glancing at my phone. “You don’t believe me, do you? Well I think you should answer that.”
“No, no, it’s alright. That would be terribly rude of me, I apologize for even looking.”
I was beginning to place my phone back into my pocket when Sy abruptly snatched it from my hands, snapped it open and answered with a clipped but polite, “Good afternoon!” Her expression of determined curiosity changed to one of near excitement. The conversation was brief and confusing for a listener like myself only getting half of the dialog, and ended just as abruptly as it had begun, with Sy snapping the phone closed, launching into a standing position with fist raised over her head, and triumphantly yelling, “Yes! We’ve got him!!”
...To be continued.....