02 February 2019

Justice Pursues And Is Pursued On A Steelman

What do you do when you realize you can't achieve some youthful dream of yours?

Well, if it involved the creative or performing arts, you can teach them and, perhaps, practice them on a smaller scale or stage--say, in local theatre or gallery exhibits.  You can also teach if you wanted to be the Great American Novelist or a poet--or you can do some other kind of writing like, say, blogs (not that this one makes any money!)

Now, if your dream was an athletic pursuit, you might find a career as a coach or in one of the industries that serves the sport to which you'd devoted yourself.  Or you can keep yourself in shape and become a trainer, or go (back) to school and become a nutritionist or some other professional who helps athletes maximize their potential.

Of course, many people who don't realize dreams with long odds enter careers very different and far from the ones they'd envisioned for themselves:  They might become everything from insurance salespeople to social workers to engineers.  If nothing else, those occupations can provide long-term stability that is lacking in  most of the things we envision when we're young.

Then there are those who simply don't get over not having "made it" and drift from one thing into another--or try their hands at metiers that are dangerous, foolish or even criminal.

When he was still pursuing his dream

One would-be Olympic sprinter made a list of occupations that, he hoped, would offer him thrills or at least satisfaction for the instant gratification he got from pumping his pedals on the velodrome.  He compiled that list after--get this--washing out of the French Foreign Legion.  On the list were jobs that were dangerous, foolish (for him) or criminal.  He tried to enter a couple of them before finally settling on the last one--which was dangerous, foolish and criminal.

As for the foolish (for him), he applied to a Catholic seminary. From what I read about him, he's about as religious as I am, but it seemed, as he said, like a "fresh start."  The admissions officer, however, knew better and advised him to do some "soul searching."

As for the dangerous (and possibly foolish), he talked his way into an informational interview with the Drug Enforcement Agency.  The interviewer, like the seminary's admissions officer, quickly sussed him out: "You don't seem like the kind of guy who's going to kick down doors fighting the war on drugs."

Finally, he got involved with something illegal--ironically enough, dealing cocaine.  To finance it, he would embark on a career that was dangerous, foolish and criminal:  bank robbery.

Not surprisingly, to make his heists, he used one of the skills he honed while trying to achieve a dream of his youth.  You guessed it:  He escaped on his bicycle.  Because he could mount and take off with a burst of speed, he could ride just far enough into some alley or parking garage where the cops couldn't follow him and peel off the neat shirt,tie and slacks he'd worn into the bank. Then, in his billboard jersey and spandex shorts, and with is messenger bag slung over his shoulder, he looked like any bike messenger.  

He actually spent three years robbing and dealing before he was finally caught.  And, as was the case with many serial criminals, he was stopped because someone noticed a detail others might not have seen.

That someone was a police officer whom the rider-turned-robber eluded.  And the detail he noticed was the bicycle itself.

Officer Sean Dexter of Walnut Creek, California might not have been a bike aficionado.  But he knew that the bike--which the thief abandoned when he fled across a creek--wasn't some commuter's Schwinn.  "This bike is special to somebody," he observed.  "We gotta find out who."

It's no surprise that an Olympic aspirant and local champion would ride a bike better than the ones sold in Wal-Mart.  But the bike stood out even on the club training rides our rider-turned-robber did to keep himself in shape. It wasn't only the frame's bright orange color, or the matching deep-V rims that distinguished the machine.  It was the frame's pedigree:  custom-built by Brent Steelman.  

The getaway vehicle

Since he only built about 50 frames a year, it was relatively easy to trace the bike--even though the bank robber who was using it as his getaway vehicle bought it second hand. Dexter and other investigators followed a trail from Steelman to the shop that sold the bike to the person who ordered it and ultimately sold it to the pedaling pilferer.

Now, if it isn't ironic enough that someone was pulling bank heists on a bike built by Steel-man, the name of the racer-turned-robber seems like even more of a cosmic joke:  Tom Justice.

Maybe he should have gone to law school.  I imagine that winning a case can be quite a thrill--and lucrative.

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