Off the seat of a bicycle
Chapter 47 dusty-gray

I rode a bike. Long distance. Big gear. No matter the weather I was there. 65 miles a day, rain, snow, freezing cold, heavy winds.
I endured because I needed it. It was never enough to wander around inside a building, I wanted to take a long walk to see it and feel it.
My encounters might be typical for the number of miles ridden, or for the choice of circumstances or attitudes which brought me to ride. I can't say, but feel compelled to tell the stories.

In addition to running face-to-face into the top Mafia guy in Chicago who reacted to my sudden appearance by almost killing me a few weeks later, and meeting John Gacy at the tile store where I worked, about two weeks before Gacy was arrested, there were a number of unsettling encounters in Chicago:

This story merits discussion: I met dusty-gray late one night while riding. It was around two in the morning. I worked the late shift at the tile store and then went for the usual 65 mile round-trip from 
Arlington Heights into the loop. Normally took about 5 hours.

It was near downtown, riding on Lincoln Avenue illuminated by intermittent street lamps when a car started following me.

People followed sometimes, maybe I was riding fast or they were driving slow and got zoned out … but it was extremely unusual for night-time.

Mostly people leave bikers alone at night. In the daytime, people regularly perform the rooster scratch over bicyclists, and run-tell the police if the cyclist refuses to take it. But at night, people leave you alone, and, odd as it sounds, it’s safer at night.

That night the car started following uncomfortably close and refused to speed up and pass … most followers stay with you a block or two and then they’re gone … but this car kept following and it felt wrong … it felt like a dusty gray box.

It was a dirty, light gray car that rolled quietly with under-inflated tires, like its sole purpose was trolling the streets at low speed. I saw the lone driver in silhouette when he passed a street lamp, but immediately knew not to lock eyes with him.

And my experience harked a warning.

I was being felt-out by a predator.  

There were no businesses nearby, no cars were running, all the buildings were dark, all the lights were off. The streets were empty and the parking spaces were filled. I felt totally without protection on the street but certainly didn’t want to put myself on foot in an unknown neighborhood … at least not until last resort.

Nor did I want to streak down an even darker side street to hit a hole and fall under the wheels of that car. It would be totally stupid to run.

I had to wait for him to make a move … which is of paramount importance to controllers like him. They measure your vulnerability by the uneasiness they cause, and then turn the screws to gain a thrill from your helplessness.

This situation is precisely when a man needs a gun, but I only had a screwdriver for repairs, and that was outmatched by a ton of steel driven by an eel in the night.

Shortly up-ahead was a stop light with a dimly-lit corner store on the right side. But a store is just as vulnerable as the road and I wasn’t going to let some guy follow me inside with a gun … or worse yet go inside the store and lose sight of him; let him disappear, and come back out with eyes ill-adjusted to the dark.

No. If the cow slinks or shows fear, the predator will target that one for sure. You have to keep your eye on the predator and I wasn’t going to quit the road out of fear, and maybe that's why I was there, like a mountain climber or tightrope walker.

I rode toward the stop light with dusty-gray pulling up behind.
Then real quick, I rolled a circle through the store parking lot and came out behind the station wagon. Now I was behind him and could see a slightly built lone white male driver…

… and the car had no license plates.

We both waited in silence at the red light. No other cars passed but I knew this guy wasn’t going to get out of his car. At least not there.

The way he sat in the seat said this man was a coward. But I didn’t like him, or the car.

The car was him … there was something significant about the car. Like so many people, a car is their power … but that car was so dirty and old, how could anybody feel affinity for it.

Most people feel kinship for their sporty car, or their rich car … and only a strange mind indeed would feel connected to that dusty gray car.

Even so, I thought the situation was bled dry since I was behind him now, and he would drive away … but despite my moderately aggressive move circling behind him, I had actually shown fear.

The light turned green and he accelerated slowly and I followed. Surprisingly, as soon as I got up to pace, he pulled over into an empty parking space in front of a dimly lit building.

He was stopped ahead of me. And I would have to either pass him or turn the bike around and ride the other way showing real fear. No, it would not do to reverse course and start playing hide and seek along the back streets in a strange neighborhood if it came to that.
The darkness might embolden a coward to jump out with a gun. But I didn’t feel he was going to do that either … not to an able-bodied man. No he was too calm and would choose a time to hit me with his car … but in my estimate, he was waiting because he hadn’t been fully triggered.

Everybody has a trigger, but some never use it and don’t know where to find it. Those are the people that predators like most … the ones that cannot rise forcefully to their own defense. Every police self-defense course tells people to act decisively toward an attacker, but that night there was no decisive course that led to a comfortable outcome.

My best position would be to stay upright on the bike. I didn’t have a choice because my feet and knees were busted by age 28. I couldn’t run nor was I agile except on a bike.

It was absolutely safest to continue on course. I would stay upright and balanced on the bike … and then I pulled even with the car.

I viewed everything as I rode past. Inside the back of the station wagon were stained flannel blankets … and they were stiff, so the guy didn’t sleep there. No. It looked like a place for someone to lay dead and covered up, and I didn’t want to be in there ‘on the way to the hospital’ after the guy pinched me on the road.

If I had a gun at that moment, without a doubt, I would have shot a bullet hole through the window to mark that car as trouble. Without doubt I would’ve done it, and absolutely without a doubt this man would not go to the police about it either.

The driver’s window was rolled up so that meant he wasn’t directly armed … still I wasn’t going to challenge, or say anything to offer a clue to my strength or weakness.

Nor did I draw my screwdriver because that would tell him I was afraid and it would also tell him the exact extent of my strength … and it might trigger him … but without a gun, there was little threat to offer except preemptively sticking a screwdriver in the guy’s neck … and he looked so in need of a slashing. But the whole fact that my mind was playing this scenario, told me I was in danger.

It’s hard to explain the man sitting there. Dusty-gray was a clean 25 to 30 year-old white male, wearing a white t-shirt with a moderately soft build and average size with short brown/blond hair, and no facial hair. He sat looking straight ahead with no affect on his face … an expression perfectly suited to the mall parking lot at mid-day … but in this situation? It was out of place. It was so Jeffery Dahmer.

He was placated in the power trip, but he needed more … you could see it … like I said he needed a slashing, because that would back him off, and otherwise he was going to do whatever he planned to do. Which might be nothing … but why the missing plates?
Yes he was at his pinnacle, the ‘poised predator waiting in a car’ … but otherwise quite ineffective in life … a bird who likes shitting white on the public newspaper, but later when you confront guys like that at Burger King, they turn into small cowards with fastidious little habits. Still this guy felt stronger than that, he wasn’t a person who would belch in your face, he had table manners for sure, but he wouldn’t respond to a threat either. It would take outright violence to ward him off.

I gleaned all of that because of how he sat and the way he calmly refused to look at me, and how he blinked when I peered through the corner of his eye … but I turned away before he looked back because I didn’t want to trigger that coward … even so, at night and one-on-one he was measuring me for weakness, and up to no damn good.

Dusty-gray’s mama was mummified in the attic alright, so I had to let him know we weren’t dancing.

This guy was beyond negotiation … and I knew guys like him respond to a slashing, so I projected that violent image in my mind; I would stick and slash him and he would be too slow to stop it. Yes that was the image I projected to him … one of absolute determination. I would protect myself.

After passing his car, he pulled out and started following again. Same uncomfortable distance as before. He acted like my older brother after my brother stole money from his siblings and snickering at our demands for integrity… yes that was it … dusty-gray was about wreaking havoc on helpless people while calmly playing twiddle-dee.

He was a sadist, and probably targeted males because he was gay … and let the females in his life emasculate his tiny ass while blaming them for the problem. Go ahead, pick up a textbook and a newspaper, it’s all in there.
Several blocks passed, maybe eight or ten with him still behind me. I rode more slowly so I could turn sharply, yet fast enough to dive in between parked cars and not get pinned. I waited. He would have to make a move and I would hear his car.

With him in tow and not moving very quickly, we approached a well-lit cross street ahead. I felt more comfortable with cars driving past, as if in dream-world somebody would stop for a cyclist crumpled and bleeding on the road. But the situation improved the odds of a patrol car passing and tipped the balance toward me.

The light was green for us, but abruptly turned yellow so I powered-up the bike to run through the light. Dusty-gray immediately responded by gunning his engine. It was his trigger, and he was coming through with me … and would clip me on the far side.

I flashed through the intersection, and suddenly turned hard right, rolling up the sidewalk wheelchair ramp and off a different direction while dusty-gray roared by and continued straight down the street. He didn’t even move his head or look back … which was double unsettling, because I couldn’t read his next intention.

Was he going to circle the block? Was he going to wait on a dark street ahead? Did he know my regular route? It was hard to believe he wouldn’t come back. Or maybe the fool just lived down the street.

Just then I saw a little girl playing on the sidewalk, and wanted to say … go back inside baby girl … there are predators about… and after passing, I thought to myself, what the hell is this little girl doing outside alone in the middle of the night? My god, Chicago was a zoo.

The rest of the night was leery looking around for dusty-gray’s car to reappear. After a while, the odds were long but I knew if he came back, there would be no choice, I would have to go straight at him. There was no way I couldn't fatigue myself dodging a clamhead for hours. It would have to come to a fight, and I would choose the middle of a busy street because experience taught me cowards don't like that.

The most notable thing about the encounter was my level of preparedness to carry out violence against another person … albeit in response to a perceived threat, but as the years went on, this preparedness (or paranoia) played a huge role in the condemnation of my evolving bicycle activism within general society.

No matter what the real street threats are, there is tremendous social pressure by sellers of merchandise, and sellers of law-and-order to project an image of ‘normalcy.’ They work hard to prove that people don’t have to live in constant fear on the street … and statistically that’s true for most people’s lives …

… but had I met a third serial killer, or wanna-be killer, in Chicago in less than 20 months?
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