By Ben |

When I worked for the Friends of MPL, I rode the bus most of the time. Bicycling through downtown was always a little nerve-wracking, and although I had a pass to park in the employee bike parking complete with locker room and shower, in the library's temporary location that was down in a sub-basement of the heavily fortified former Federal Reserve building. Biking down the steep ramp through the giant motorized blast-resistant doors (4" solid steel! with machine gun turrets!) was a little terrifying, and biking back up it at the end of the day was positively demoralizing.

Even so, I did bike sometimes when I had somewhere else to be that was inconvenient to get to by bus. One such day, I had a wedding reception to attend after work. The weather was cool enough (and the reception was informal enough) I wasn't worried about sweat, so I just wore my nice clothes to work. I pulled up at the underground bike rack and proceeded to lock up my bike. There was another young man there I hadn't seen before, also locking up his bike. As I recall he had an ornately embroidered jean jacket with the sleeves cut off to show his tattoos.

He introduced himself as "Draco" (this was before Harry Potter would make the name infamous) and expressed concern for the safety of my bike. I said it would be fine locked up in the basement. He pointed out the security camera trained on the rack and said he'd have a word with the security guard. When we got to the first floor, he went straight to the security desk and tried to tell the guard to watch the camera for me. The guard, who bore a powerful resemblance to Lady Deathstrike in X2, gave him a look that, had he been paying attention, would have made him crawl back into the sub-basement.

I didn't think any more about Draco until I was leaving at the end of the day, when I ran into him again at the bike rack. He complimented my bike again, and as one does, I mentioned that I needed a new shifter for the right handlebar. He lit up and said he knew a new bike shop where I could get a great deal. I said I was on my way to a wedding reception in North Minneapolis, and he said no problem, it was on the way, and if I followed him, he'd get me hooked up in no time. I couldn't find a way to say no, so I followed him.

There are some very nice parts of North Minneapolis, but they all seem to be about 2 blocks away from really sketchy parts. He led me to an alley in one of the sketchy parts and told me to wait there. He disappeared into a doorway whose door had been pulled off its hinges. A large dumpster (maybe 15' long) was parked beside the door, and the wall above had been completely demolished into the dumpster, leaving a gaping, ragged hole from floor to ceiling. The dumpster was overflowing with drywall, broken bricks, and jagged chunks of concrete, and on top there was a splatter of blood, as if someone had fallen from the upper floor onto the rubble.

Draco emerged a minute later with a very scrawny young man in stained clothes who looked like he'd rather be anywhere else. Draco pointed out my shifter and asked if the man could replace it. I asked about the blood in the dumpster. The man said there had been a party the previous night, and the two of them disappeared back into the building. After what felt like five minutes, I shouted to them that I was out of time and needed to leave. They came back out with a shifter that had clearly just been taken off another bike and offered it to me for $5. I agreed. 

The young man grabbed my handlebar and proceeded to try to remove the rubber hand grip by twisting. Normally bike shops remove grips with a blast of compressed air, because they are by design grippy. After a few twists, I could see sweaty black rubbings coming off the grip. I begged him to stop and told him the deal was off, I didn't want the shifter badly enough to damage the grip as well, and in any case I was running late. I left them standing in the alley and never saw either of them again.