Your Bike Has Been Stolen

These thieves picked the wrong bike to steal

Ford van parked in darkness
The plain white van sat in the gloom of D Street. The three US Marines inside had experienced significantly worse places while waiting for action.Nick Ienatsch

The Ford Econoline van sat in the middle of the block, parked along the curb and blending in with the sea of cars parked up and down D Street. This part of the city held working-class apartments and a fair share of college students. By midnight, the neighborhood had quieted and the Ford sat silent among the cars and apartments. Wednesday night wore into Thursday and D Street slumbered.

Seven hours later, the van’s engine cranked to life and it pulled from the curb, idling away in the morning light. No person had entered the van that Thursday morning; the driver had been inside all night.

Nobody noticed and nobody cared, but the van was back that night at 11:30, finding another spot along D Street to settle silent and still in the gloom. Friday morning dawned and the van slid away from the curb to disappear for 16 hours. It returned Friday night and again parked on D.

The van couldn’t have been more innocuous, until one noticed the tiny camera bolted to the left rail of the roof rack. It wasn’t too sophisticated, just a simple lipstick unit that Brian Smith bought from the Cabela’s catalog earlier that month. The camera’s intended usage was to capture images of wildlife and it worked well in low-light situations.

Brian lounged inside the van with his twin brother Jordan and their friend Harry, each napping and watching the camera feed in turn. The young men weren’t hoping for a glimpse of an elk or bear; they were waiting for a glimpse of a criminal, the thief who ripped off Brian’s CBR100RR two months ago.

The two months since Brian’s bike was stolen from a nearby apartment complex had been extremely frustrating for the US Marine. Brian had filed a police report but was told by the detective that there wasn’t much hope of regaining his bike. The cop empathized with Brian, but his experience told him the bike thieves were able to get bikes parted-out or exported so skillfully that the police would rarely catch them. Brian learned that his Honda wasn’t the first sportbike stolen from this neighborhood and probably wouldn’t be the last.

broken motorcycle lock
The only thing Brian saw the morning after his Honda was grabbed. The police told him that little could be done to recover a stolen bike;  the thieves were just too good.Nick Ienatsch

Brian’s CBR was a 2006 Repsol edition he had found after returning from Iraq. It was insured, but only for liability. Brian couldn’t afford the theft insurance but had spent $100 on a U-lock and took care to always park his bike in front of Jordan’s GMC Sonoma pickup in their apartment’s carport. It was sometimes a hassle to pull the truck in and out to get to the Honda, but Brian felt it was worth it because his bike was safe.

But it wasn’t. It disappeared in the night and the love of Brian’s life was gone. He checked in with the police for the first month, but had given up hope in that system and was starting to save again for another liter bike.

Brian and Jordan had met Harry in the US Marine Corps and there’s really no other way to say this: They were three bad-asses. The three friends had been recruited into the Recon unit and trained in everything the Corps offers. They stayed in for three tours and the stuff they did will be classified forever. The Marine Corps hung onto the three young men and had them running the nearby Marine camp’s basic training and weapons training. It wasn’t a lot of money, but these three guys were in their element.

And now their element was a Ford Econoline van parked on D Street. Each man had spent days silent and still overseas, waiting for things to happen that needed fixing. So waiting for something to happen while in a Ford van was pure luxury. And the mood inside the van was expectant, confident, patient.

Brian, Jordan, and Harry believed in the law, in civilized order, in handling things through proper channels. But the proper channels sometime fail to deliver and these were three guys who had never accepted this statement: "That's just the way it goes." When the police finally told them nothing would ever happen, they knew that wasn't true. Something would happen.

And that something was in the form of a 2007 Suzuki GSX-R750 parked across the street in the carport of apartment 217. Nobody in the van knew who owned the bike, but it had arrived in their neighborhood about two weeks ago and had become the spark to light this mission. Like Brian's CBR, the GSX-R was locked in an apartment carport and the three Marines knew something about criminal behavior, betting that the yellow and black Suzuki would be the bait that would attract the thieves.

The three friends pooled their money and rented a van for two weeks. This was the third night of the watch and nothing happened. Brian, Jordan, and Harry didn’t care. They went to the base on Saturday to do basic maintenance to the gym equipment and knew they’d be back in the van that night.

And the night after that, and after that. Eight days after the vigil began, the something they were waiting for started to go down. It was 2:17 Wednesday morning.

“Bri…heads up,” Harry whispered to his slumbering friend as he watched the Ford pickup cruise past the GSX-R at a walking pace. The camera wasn’t good enough to capture much detail, but the Marines had never seen this truck in their apartment complex before.

Brian’s eyes snapped open and his brain grasped the situation immediately. “This could be it,” he replied, hoping he was right. Brian looked over at Jordan and saw that his twin was awake and ready.

Sure enough, the Ford crept by for another look and again disappeared, idling away out of view of the camera.

“They’re checking everything out,” Jordan narrated. “I’d say one more pass and then they’ll move.”

“How many are in the truck?” asked Brian.

“Can’t tell, this camera’s crap,” replied Harry.

“Hope there’s at least four,” answered Brian.

Suddenly the Ford whipped into the camera’s field of view, this time moving quickly and with no lights on. The driver and passenger doors opened and two men jumped out, followed by a third from the back seat. They moved quickly despite the tools they carried.

As planned, Brian, Jordan, and Harry eased out the van’s side door and broke into a quick run forward along the sidewalk for about 30 yards, then turned hard left and crossed D Street, streaking through the grass verge and sliding under the apartment-complex wrought-iron fence. They moved like lightning because they carried no tools, no weapons, only fury and cunning. Twenty seconds after the van door had opened, the three Marines huddled together five cars away from the thieves.

Brian looked at his brother and Harry, nodded once and the devastation began. The three Marines hit the three thieves with running body blocks that carried only slightly less force than being run over by a train. Two of the thieves had been huddled by the GSX-R’s front wheel to freeze and then snap the cable lock, while the third had been busy de-keying the ignition switch to free the handlebar lock.

The Marines spun and each of them pounced, putting to use their years of martial-arts training and a wholesome rage. They inflicted a tidal wave of pain, delivered not just with fists, but with elbows, knees, and feet. It was a short fight, but not merciful. And it wasn’t over.

Each Marine dragged his victim to the Ford truck and together they heaved the thieves into the back-seat area, throwing their tools in on top of them and quietly closing the doors. Brian hopped in the driver’s seat with Jordan next to him and the pickup idled quietly away as Harry slipped back to the van.

Four minutes later, the Marines reunited in the rear parking lot of the city library, a parking lot guaranteed to be quiet at 2:30 am.

The thieves were dragged quickly but not tenderly out of the truck. Harry zip-tied each crook’s hands together with industrial-strength retainers they had used in Iraq, and each thief was then zip-tied to the Ford truck’s bumper. Jordan fished each thief’s cellphones out of their pockets and carefully but completely crushed two of them under the heel of his jump boot.

The third he used to dial 911. “Hello, I am a criminal who steals motorcycles and I want to turn myself in. I’m in the parking lot of the city library with my gang.” Jordan then dropped the phone and rendered it useless.

For Brian, it was more than the loss of a bike to a bunch of losers. It was a blow against the person who feels it’s okay to steal anything from anyone. He, Jordan, and Harry had talked at length about those who work for something and those who steal that something. They had worked for their place in life and in the Corps; nobody would take that without a fight.

Six minutes after they had entered the library parking, the van turned left out of the lot headed back home.

EPILOGUE

Two days later, Brian and Jordan heard a knock on their apartment door and it was the same city detective who had handled Brian’s initial theft report.

“Hello guys, how are you?”

Brian and Jordan both nodded and Brian answered: “Good. Did you find my Honda?”

“No. Well, maybe. But someone dumped a few guys at the library, guys who probably stole your bike. You know anything about that?”

The two Marines shook their heads: “Nope.”

The detective nodded, expecting and even hoping for that answer. “Well, they’re in the jail hospital, they’ll be there for quite awhile. We traced their truck back to a warehouse and set up a sting that grabbed seven other a-holes and enough bikes to start a dealership, but they’re mostly in parts.”

Brian and Jordan nodded, expressionless.

“Your bike’s probably in there somewhere. But it’s gonna be a few weeks before we sort it out.”

The Marines said nothing.

The detective shuffled his feet and turned toward the door, stopping with his hand on the handle. “We’ll let you know one way or the other.”

He opened the door to leave the apartment but stopped halfway through the doorway. He smiled, looking Brian and then Jordan directly in the eye.

“Hey. Thanks.”

The Marines nodded and the apartment door closed.

Hill Ranch Racers book cover
Hill Ranch RacersNick Ienatsch

Editor's note: If you enjoy reading Nick's fiction, order The Hill Ranch Racers from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It's an e-book that motorcyclists will love.

More next Tuesday!