“So what’s the deal?” My assistant is on the line, and seriously should be promoted. He does practically all the work--except for what I do. Which might just be the most important stuff… actually on second thought he definitely does the dirty work. Respectable. I only hope I can reach his level someday and repay him. But for now, being best friends is just going to have to work.
“It’s a bike shop on Finney and 6th. The owner just died of cancer, the city wants to shut it down and put something else in.”
“You know what?”
“A barbeque pit.”
“You’re kidding,” I deadpan, staring incredulously through the windshield. This town has three Mexican places, two Thai cuisines, a Chinese and Mongolian grill, two small-town French diners and an astounding plethora of coffee houses. A barbeque is probably not what this corner needs. But the city gets what the city wants, right?
“Not in the slightest. But the family wants to keep it up; they’re all bike people.”
“Brent, how much is ‘all’?”
There’s silence on the other end. While my assistant is incredible and brilliant and loyal to the core, he also is an optimist… somewhere near the highest degree… which means he will exaggerate just a little from time to time. He’s also British, so he sounds professional no matter what he says.
“It’s only the wife and one son.”
I sigh, slightly frustrated. This puts me at a disadvantage if I choose this case. “Brent, what’s the other two?”
“Stolen garbage truck and Ronald McDonald impersonator,” Brent lists off dully.
“Okay, the first one is never making it to court, and the second one’s called cosplay.” I can practically see him sigh as he responds, “It’s copyright.”
So those are my choices. Either save family bike shop and possibly get somewhere, or be known as that one amatuer lawyer who took down Ronald McDonald. Thanks, I’ll pass. It’s bad enough that I went to law in a family full of doctors. Like every person of every generation since the forties went into medicine—so basically my existence is like breaking a tradition.
“I’ll take it.”
“Which one?” This time I can hear his smirk.
“The bike one.”
“But I was so looking forward to you sparring a clown. Very well, I’ll tell him right away. Where are you now?”
“On my way to Finney and 6th. Where are you?”
“Finney and 6th.”
“You sly dog, I’ll see you in seven minutes.”
“See you here, Jules.”
“See you there. And also, thank you.”
“No problem. Really you are an upgrade from that insufferable chrome dome that did all the work himself.”
“Ha, thanks. Okay. That makes me feel so much better. Ba-bye.”
Glancing at my phone, I end the call and focus on the road. I will find a reason to keep this thing going--although right now it seems less than interesting. When I pull into a parking space on Finney, I lean down and adjust my hair and add a bit of lip gloss. Muttering confidence quotes to myself, I step out of the car and enter the shop.
Rows of bicycles line walls, gear hangs packaged from hooks, and parts line every shelf. Jerseys on hangers form an array of biking brands, and the boxes of shoes must be some sort of valuable; the price tags are higher than I would pay for a pair of tennis shoes. A mounted tv plays a bike race from somewhere in Europe, and behind the counter I notice many broken bikes. All in all, the shop is fairly small, and it doesn’t strike me at all.
Brent is standing with a small group of people behind a rack of jerseys, and as our eyes meet, I signal to him that I’m not done. He makes a sign back that I need to hurry. There’s a few yards of hallway in the center of one wall, indicating there’s another room--probably a workshop--beside the joint building. Slowly meandering in that direction, despite Brent’s silent request to quicken the pace, I notice a few things that are interesting.
First, framed pictures of cyclists in the 30s along with names and printed articles hang artfully on the wall. Second, among the framed pictures are old, faded jerseys, carefully preserved in glass cases with their medals. Some are nearly threadbare, and with the information hung beside them, I know this took more than just a little effort to produce. At the end of the hallway is a bookshelf, filled with cycling books. Volumes on the history of cycling, the science of cycling, the mechanics and even fictional novels about cycling. A cardboard box sits on the floor at the base of the bookshelf containing messy stacks of used cycling books.
Above the bookshelf stands a few trophies, obviously some sort of big-league collection, and when I see the bulletin board with newspaper cuttings and fragments about famous cyclists and what appeared to be the deceased owner of this shop, I realize this is more than a rental/repair bike joint; it’s a museum. And suddenly the old dates, faded pictures, ancient jerseys and rusted medals all make sense. This was the owner’s life. This is what mattered to him.
I walk out of the hallway quickly, ready to meet with Brent and some of the city officials, but as I make my way toward them and look around, my eyes catch so much more. More jerseys, signed jerseys, are pinned in rows to the wall. Above the products on every wall, classic, antique bikes from 1883 and on stand on their racks. Yellowed cycling club banners, worn company signs, and tattered racing numbers are encased carefully in sleek black frames. I have to save this all; too much effort and unceasing love was poured into the shop for it to be thrown away.
As I approach Brent, he gives me a reproachful look for my slacking, and makes space for me in the circle. I’m not usually just a naive, timid, amatuer lawyer who has everything done by her assistant, but when I don’t have anything to run off of, cold feet are no strangers. However, I give Brent a look telling him I got it--whatever ‘it’ is. I observe the slightest twinkle in his eye as he nods in subtle acknowledgement, and I am introduced to the officials.
The rest of the meeting goes smoothly, and hopefully they didn’t catch onto my ‘freshness.’ Brent and I stay a little chatting to the owner’s wife, learning more about his life and his dedication to the shop. He must have noticed the hard, determined look in my eye as I absorbed the information because when we are finished, he stops me at my car.
“Jules,” he begins seriously, his tone almost concerned. “Why are you so passionate about this case? It would bore you to death usually.” I smile a bit before answering thoughtfully, “Because it’s someone’s life. Their legacy and their passion, dedication. It really mattered to them and still matters to at least part of their family. And if the family can keep it up, why turn it into a barbeque? And if that’s their way of serving this community--not to mention their, or her, income--shouldn’t we do our best to preserve it? This is why I went into law; to help the people in the community. And with this case, that’s what I’m doing. And with your help, assistant slash best friend who desperately needs a raise but his boss is too poor currently to offer it, I’m sure to do just fine.”
Brent just gazes at the shop sentimentally, and almost in a whisper, adds, “My dad took me here.”
I shoot him a puzzled look. “I thought you were from England.”
“I am. But when we visited for a summer, my dad was really into the whole cycling thing. This was the first shop he bribed me into going with him--for sweets, of course--and I remember… the owner’s name was Paul. He liked this one because of its history. He felt it like you did.”
“Hm… Then I guess we have a job to do.” I smile at him and open the car door. “And Brent,” I add, “you saw this case and knew I would take it, didn’t you?”
He chuckles and waves, spinning on his heel and heading to his car. I slide into my seat and start the engine. Through the window I can see the hall, and tilting my head and smiling softly, I whisper, “Because it mattered.”