Alessandra was looking forward to enjoying a beautiful New York spring day. The flowers and the lunatics would both soon be emerging from their winter hibernation. The squirrels would be running freely all over Central Park, while dogs wanting to chase them would lunge desperately against their leashes. All of the typical characters would be out enjoying the sunshine. People would be playing, running, biking, taking pictures, having a picnic, sauntering back and forth eating dirty water dogs and churros. Illegal street vendors would line The Mall selling caricatures, bootlegs, and cheaply printed photos of New York landmarks and celebrities. There would be that special, inescapable blend of aromas: roasted nuts, horse urine, blooming flowers, all mingling with that classic concrete dust and old funk of the city. Yes, it was springtime in Central Park.
Alessandra decided a walk in the park was just the thing she needed to clear her head. She rifled through the weathered secondhand armoire that served as a closet, got dressed, and headed out to the bus stop. She boarded the crowded bus and looked for a seat. A fit young man with a briefcase on his lap saw her coming, but looked away in order to avoid eye contact. Nice, Alessandra thought to herself, thanks for being a gentleman. She grabbed hold of a strap and hung on. As the bus continued on its route, a very pregnant woman got on. Alessandra looked to see if the young man would at least give up his seat for her. He decided instead to fix his gaze out the window as she passed, despite it being obvious she was looking for a place to sit.
More than a few stops later, the young man finally got up and exited the bus. Alessandra saw an elderly man boarding. She stayed near the now empty seat to ensure he could sit there, which he did. He gave her a kind smile and a tip of his flat cap. The bus lurched and started inching itself along its route.
Alessandra looked out the window and spied the young man cursing and running after the contents of his briefcase. The case had somehow opened on its own, just in time to catch the gust of wind sweeping between the buildings and around the corner. A beautiful young Indian woman walked calmly in the other direction, smiling joyfully to herself and enjoying the lovely spring weather.
Alessandra got off the bus and headed into Central Park. She loved how peaceful the park always felt. It was almost as if she wasn’t in the city at all. There were people scattered all around, seizing the opportunity to enjoy the first warm weather they’d had in months. Flush with the ecstasy of spring, many people forgot they were supposed to be self-serving, irritable New Yorkers. Some of them even smiled at the other people sharing the park.
Alessandra walked along the path leading down from Strawberry Fields toward Bethesda Terrace. As the breeze pushed her long black hair away from her face, she closed her eyes and took in the sounds of nature and people all around her. A faint guitar in the distance played an old Beatles tune, as the nearby blackbirds seemed to joyfully whistle along. Heaving a satisfied sigh, she continued down the path. She waited for the walk signal. Once it changed, she started over the crosswalk.
“GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY!” a voice bellowed from her left. The bike rider hit his brakes and swerved back and forth, cursing at the pedestrians for being in his way. The handlebar of his bicycle clipped a man escorting his young daughter through the crosswalk.
“Hey! You hit me! And you ran a red light! Get back here!” the man hollered back at the biker, who promptly raised his middle finger in the air and belligerently rode on. Some bicycle riders chose to use Central Park as their own personal velodrome, and not a single hair on their bodies cared that other people were in the park and had the legal right of way. Alessandra had never been hurt herself by these inconsiderate and dangerous bikers, but she knew people who had. She looked up the rules one time on Central Park’s web site, and confirmed that bicycles were considered vehicles and were subject to the traffic rules of the road. That meant they were supposed to stop for traffic lights and yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. She also learned that, crosswalk or not, pedestrians always had the right of way, though they were encouraged to use traffic lights and crosswalks for the purposes of safety.
She thought about the biker, how he had just hit someone and gave them the middle finger to boot. What a jerk! she thought. Her mind was brought back to the conversation with that woman in the diner. She took out the card from her purse and flicked it back and forth in her fingers, thinking, I’d sure love to see him go to the bathroom and come out to a flat bicycle tire. She returned the card to her purse and sighed.
She crossed over and down into Bethesda Terrace, then over Bow Bridge and up into the Ramble. The Ramble was her favorite place in the entire city. She loved to sit in the Ramble and read, losing herself in a story and in nature. Today she felt too irritable to just sit, so she made her way up to the castle and back down through the Shakespeare Garden. She heard a resounding “Yes!” and turned to see a young woman passionately embracing a young man as he rose up from one knee.
Alessandra smiled and her heart jumped a beat. She started to wonder about Brady and where their relationship might be going. She definitely liked him, but did she love him? Neither of them had said those words yet, and they’d been dating for a few months. Was that some kind of sign? They were certainly both too young to start thinking about marriage or anything, but where were they heading?
Her hike was starting to make her thirsty, so Alessandra headed back toward the road to find a food cart.
“Bottled water, please.” She reached into her pocket to get some money out. She heard a scream followed by a crashing sound. Her head jolted up in time to see that same obnoxious biker rolling around on the ground, with one hand holding his knee and the other holding his head. She started to walk over to help him, but Alessandra stopped in her tracks as the biker starting yelling at an older woman standing nearby.
“You hit me with something! I know you did it!” he screamed at the top of his lungs.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the woman said, extending a hand to help him up.
“Get away from me!” He slapped her hand away violently and got up. He got closer to her and screamed, “Something hard hit me in the head, and you were the only one around!”
Alessandra recognized the woman immediately. It was Gabrielle, the older woman from the diner.
Gabrielle tried to calm the biker. “Sir, maybe if you had been wearing a helmet-”
“I don’t need a helmet, you old cow! Stay out of the damned road!” he yelled in her face. Gabrielle backed up a step, looked down, and pointed to the ground.
“Is this what hit you?” She bent down to pick up an acorn. “I saw it fall from the tree. Maybe you should go yell at the tree. Perhaps you should scream profanities at the squirrel who dropped it. You should definitely go and give that squirrel what for.” Gabrielle tossed the acorn over her shoulder and walked away, leaving the man quivering in his anger.
“Screw you, lady!” he yelled after her. He did a quick inspection of his bike, then picked it up and rode away down the road. Alessandra went back to the cart and purchased the water. She ran back up the road after Gabrielle, but didn’t see her on the road anymore.
“How does she do that?” Alessandra said out loud to herself. She jogged up a little more onto a bridge, and spotted Gabrielle below, on the Bridle Path. Alessandra ran to the other side of the bridge and down the lawn onto the Bridle Path.
“Gabrielle!” she called, and ran up beside her.
“Well, hello, Alessandra,” she beamed.
“That jerk biker ran into a guy walking with his daughter further down the road,” Alessandra said, shaking her head.
“He should probably get into an anger management program, eh?”
“Yeah, seriously,” Alessandra chuckled. She walked a couple of steps, then paused. She stepped in front of Gabrielle, blocking her path. “Wait. How did you know my name? I don’t remember telling you at the diner.”
“We know everything about you,” Gabrielle said coldly, and walked around Alessandra, continuing up the Bridle Path. Alessandra’s mind turned cartwheels and a knot hit her square in the stomach. She turned and stared at Gabrielle who was walking away, seemingly oblivious to the bombshell which had just exploded behind her. Alessandra nervously caught up with Gabrielle.
“Look, I don’t know who you are and who this ‘we’ you just mentioned is. Are you following me or something?” Alessandra clenched her fists, trying to convince herself of her own courage.
Gabrielle stopped and glanced nonchalantly at the nearby rocks peeking out of the ground. “I’m not following you. I was already at the diner when you arrived. I was already here in the park when you ran into me. Perhaps I should ask if you’re following me.“
Alessandra hadn’t thought of that, and she stood there hoping words would magically come to break the awkward silence.
Gabrielle sensed the tension needed breaking and with a smile said, “Did you get the card I left for you?”
“Y-Yes. What does Balancers mean? Is ‘we’ the Balancers?” Alessandra pulled the card out of her purse. “What is Blockhouse One? Is that some sort of meeting place?”
“Something like that. Do you have time to take a walk with me?” Gabrielle asked. Alessandra nodded, and the two continued walking together up the path.
“It’s like I told you in the diner,” Gabrielle continued. “When people do evil unto others, some of us are called to act in order to ensure that justice is served. Sometimes we punish the aggressor, other times we do a really nice thing for the victim. There are often times when we do both. The man with his little girl could have been seriously hurt by that biker. That man is going to have a chance encounter in Bethesda Terrace with one of my colleagues.”
“Colleagues? You mean a Balancer?” Alessandra interrupted.
“Yes. The Balancer might tell the little girl that her dress is beautiful and give her a flower. They might pay a musician busker to play the man’s favorite song so he can dance with his daughter. I’m not sure what they’ll do for them. That’s not my assignment. I was assigned to the biker. His actions were dangerous, thoughtless, and selfish. They caused someone pain, and he was unrepentant about it. So, I felt it would be fitting for an acorn to get dropped on his head.”
Alessandra laughed. “So you did hit him with the acorn!”
Gabrielle put up her hands in innocence. “I didn’t throw it at him, I promise. I did happen to hip check the tree as I walked by, though. The acorn happened to be in the right place at the right time, and was about to fall anyway. If that biker hadn’t been flying so recklessly down the road, it wouldn’t have even hurt him. He was so infuriated that he instantly turned his head to yell something nasty at me, and as a result he crashed his precious little bicycle.” Gabrielle let a tiny smirk peek out.
Alessandra walked silently in thought next to Gabrielle for a little way. She then asked, “You said you were assigned to the biker. What do you mean? Who assigned you?”
“We’re given assigned tasks at certain times. We go to the places we are told to go, and do what we are told to do. I was sent to a certain place to observe an aggressive biker in the park. When I saw that biker clip the pedestrian and then act like a total jerk about it, I knew that was the person I had to balance against.”
“But you hit him with an acorn,” Alessandra said. “Doesn’t that qualify as revenge instead of justice?”
“No, I don’t believe it does. The biker didn’t hit me. He hit the man walking the little girl. I acted on the pedestrian’s behalf, without the pedestrian even knowing about it. Justice was done on the biker, who proportionately felt the same pain he caused.”
Alessandra continued walking with Gabrielle past the reservoir, toward the north end of the park. They talked about different ways the biker should have behaved, and different choices he should have made. They discussed the subtlety of decision making and intentions, and how easily one person’s actions can adversely affect another. They talked about Gabrielle’s various experiences as a Balancer. They even talked about Daphne and how much Alessandra missed her.
They kept on walking, further north. They came upon a small lake and stopped at a small wooden bridge next to a beautiful waterfall. Alessandra said “I haven’t been this far north in the park before. It’s really beautiful.“
“It is,” agreed Gabrielle. “I enjoy how peaceful it is here. There are far fewer tourists on this part of the park. At least as long as you don’t go too far toward Fifth Avenue and run into the Conservatory Gardens. They’re usually packed this time of year.”
“You know,” Alessandra mused out loud, “you still haven’t told me how you know my name. Did you get some sort of assignment to seek me out? It’s a little weird you all have been, I don’t what to call it, scouting me? How did you find me?”
Gabrielle laughed out loud. “Honey, we haven’t been scouting you. The first time I ever met you or even had a thought about you was in the diner.”
“Then how do you know my name?” Alessandra asked.
Gabrielle stopped and turned to Alessandra. She took her dramatically by the shoulders, looked her intently in the eyes and said, “The guy with you at the diner said your name.”
“Oh,” Alessandra said, and laughed, feeling rather foolish.
“Come on. We’re almost there,” Gabrielle said with a grin.
“Almost where?” Alessandra asked.
“Blockhouse One, of course,” Gabrielle replied and started walking again. Alessandra looked after her with surprise. She ran and caught up quickly to walk alongside Gabrielle. As they approached the North Woods they saw the biker coming around again. He was at the end of the largest downhill in the park and was flying through at high speed. He saw Gabrielle and gave her the middle finger. Then, he flew through a red light and forced a woman with a baby stroller to jump out of the way.
Alessandra shook her head in disbelief. “He just won’t learn. What are you going to do to him now?”
“Nothing,” Gabrielle said. Alessandra looked confused. “I haven’t been told to do anything further. I imagine another one of my colleagues will get the assignment.”
They continued on. The path began to ascend up into the hillside. Gabrielle stopped near the northern end of the park. Alessandra was winded from the uphill climb. She locked her fingers together on top of her head and breathed heavily.
“Thanks. I needed a break,” she wheezed.
“Well, don’t stop now. We’re here,” Gabrielle said and pointed. Perched atop the rocky schist was an old looking structure. It was square and nearly featureless, with weeds surrounding it and ivy clinging to the stone walls. It was a single story structure, built level into the angled rock foundation on which it stood. Alessandra thought it looked positively ancient.
Together, they made their way to the building’s side, where a small set of concrete steps led up to a door with a locked steel gate. Gabrielle reached into her pocket and extended her hand out to Alessandra. In her palm rested a key.
“If you truly want to be a part of this, unlock the gate with my key and step inside. Once you make the decision to join the Balancers, you’re opening yourself up to a whole new world. I can’t promise you all the answers or anything like that. Heck, I can’t even promise it will make you happy. But, you’ll at least get a front row seat to the fight against evil, and to the rewarding of good.”
Alessandra looked at the key in Gabrielle’s extended hand. It was silver, well worn, and tarnished with age. Yet, the teeth of the key seemed to be in perfect condition. Alessandra felt a momentary hesitation. She was just finishing up her first year at John Jay, and was on her way to the job she had dreamed of since she was a child.
She thought about the good she could do as a police officer. She also thought about the many flaws in the criminal justice system which so often had disappointed her. Too many times, criminals got around being held accountable either because of high priced lawyers, evidence tampering, or just the sheer bureaucracy of the bloated system.
There was also something different about Gabrielle. She showed such peace and contentment in doing this work. Alessandra loved the idea of serving justice directly to people in the world who mistreated others. She also loved the idea of rewarding good people secretly for their actions. The thought of that made Alessandra’s heart happy. That was a feeling she hadn’t had in a while.
“I think I’m ready.” Alessandra paused, then stood tall. “No. I know I am. I have always wanted to help others and see justice done. I want to be a part of this.”
She took the key from Gabrielle’s hand and headed up the stairs. She unlocked the gate and entered Blockhouse One.
Alessandra stepped in and looked around expectantly at Blockhouse One. There wasn’t much to see. In fact, there was pretty much nothing but dirt and out of control weeds. There was a flag pole in the center, and a few square indentations in the stone walls.
“Good afternoon,” a voice said, “come on over.” Alessandra turned around, startled. In the back corner sat a grizzly, disheveled old man. He was perched happily upon a beat-up camping chair. Next to the man sat a mangy ball of matted hair and teeth that at some point might have resembled a small dog. Life had definitely chewed these two up and spit them out. Alessandra stood for a moment, staring at the motley pair.
The man looked up and smiled, saying “I won’t bite, and neither will Chew-Barka here, will ya boy?” The dog panted and wagged his ratty tail.
Alessandra juggled apprehension and curiosity in her gut. Her instincts told her to stay clear, but there was something calming and somehow familiar about the man.
“Do you know why I’m here?” she asked.
The man nodded and smiled. “Of course I do, Alessandra.”
Her eyes widened. How did he know her name? She felt her shoulders and neck stiffen a moment, but then relaxed. Gabrielle must have told him.
She paused and waited for him to speak. He sat there, a serene smile relaxing on his face. Chew-Barka stopped panting and tilted his head at Alessandra, then let out a burp and licked his lips.
Feeling uneasy, she finally said, “I’m… not sure what I’m supposed to do here. Do I ask you questions? Do you give me instructions?”
The man chuckled to himself. “Let’s start with an introduction. That’s the proper thing to do, isn’t it? I’m Nicholas. I’m here to give you guidance. I will give you information to help you restore balance to the scales of justice. For now, you’ll be helping with the little injustices, nothing on any grand scale. If you excel and display the ability to remain objective and dispassionate in dispensing justice on behalf of others, then we might start giving you larger assignments.”
“What do you mean larger?” Alessandra asked.
“Well,” Nicholas replied, “like most things in life, different acts of injustice have different levels of consequence. Someone slamming into another person on the street without apologizing is going to be treated much differently than someone who cheats someone out of their money. The latter might have evidence of his actions planted for the right person to find and notify the police. The former might just find himself stepping in dog poop he swore he didn’t see on the sidewalk a moment ago.”
Chew-Barka’s tail wagged. Nicholas gave him a wink.
“So, to begin with, I’ll be a small-time operator?” Alessandra quipped with a grin.
“Something like that,” Nicholas nodded. “We merely want to see how you handle your own balance while in the act of balancing on behalf of others. It’s important that you never permit your emotions to dictate your actions. There is a very good reason that Justice is often depicted as blind. It must be objective at all times.”
Alessandra nodded. “I understand. Gabrielle also said we get to reward people who are kind. How does that work?”
“In much the same way,” Nicholas said, pleased to hear Alessandra was interested in both sides of the duty. “You will be given signs, tip-offs as it were, to let you know how to be in a position to reward an act of kindness. Just like the consequences for bad choices, reward for good choices must also be done so that the person does not know directly. In some of the most rewarding cases, a person who has acted badly can even be convinced of the harm their actions do and wind up getting rewarded for choosing to change their ways.”
“This is all so incredible,” Alessandra said, putting her palm to her brow. “So all of this is to be done dispassionately, I get that. Am I allowed to enjoy myself, at least, whenever giving a consequence to evildoers?”
“There’s no harm in being satisfied with justice being served. It’s even okay to use humor and irony to see it done. Those are often the least harmful tools to help someone learn a valuable lesson about how they choose to treat others.”
Alessandra stood there a moment waiting for more, but Nicholas just sat there petting Chew-Barka. “Did you have any other questions?” he asked.
Alessandra shook her head. “Not really, I suppose. Oh, actually I do have one question. Who is the ‘we’ you referred to? Where does all of this come from?”
“Why, from Chew-Barka and me.” Nicholas looked at Alessandra and gave her a smug smirk. He raised a dismissive hand, “Don’t give it too much thought. I’ll be the one to guide you. Just go about your business. You will receive your instructions soon enough.”
Alessandra walked closer and extended her hand to Nicholas, who extended his own. She wasn’t sure if he was even real, and half expected her hand to pass straight through his. But, it didn’t, and she shook his hand with excitement. She looked at Chew-Barka and patted his head. She knew she had never had a dog like that, but for some inexplicable reason, she saw a familiar love in his eyes. She dismissed the thought, thinking all dogs must be that way. She had always loved the dogs she had when she was growing up. Frankly, she loved her dogs more than she loved most of the people in her neighborhood. Her dogs loved her unconditionally and they were loyal to her. Perhaps that was what she felt was missing in her fellow humans. She remembered a bumper sticker she once saw, and smiled at Chew-Barka.
“Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am,” she said. She gave Chew-Barka a scratch behind the ears for good measure, eliciting a grateful leg thump on the cold dirt underneath him. She looked at them both one final time, and made her way to the door.
Alessandra walked out of Blockhouse One and down the steps back into the Central Park world she knew. She looked around for Gabrielle, who was sitting on some rocks. Alessandra extended a hand with the key out to Gabrielle.
“Okay, so what happens now?”
Gabrielle took the key and put it back in her pocket. “You go home and do what you normally do. Go to your classes, live your life. Instructions will come at the proper time. At first, it might be difficult to pick up on the signs, but you’ll catch on soon enough. What did you think of your… guide?”
“He seems kind enough, and his dog is really cute. I grew up with dogs in my family, and I miss having one. My apartment building doesn’t allow them.”
The corners of Gabrielle’s lips came in for a curious smile, and she nodded her head. Alessandra would have sworn she saw a hint of amusement in Gabrielle’s face.
They started walking in silence downhill toward the path. Alessandra was trying to wrap her head around everything that was happening to her. The denizens of New York were out and about enjoying the spring weather. Some were playing tennis, some were jogging and biking. A group of rather scantily clad people were doing yoga together in a meadow. Squirrels flitted about from tree to tree. Birds chirped cheerfully at the most welcome warmer weather.
Alessandra asked, “So when do I get my own key?”
“Hmm? Oh. Check your pocket,” Gabrielle said absentmindedly. Alessandra reached into her pocket and was surprised to feel a small, unexpected object there. She pulled it out and gaped at the shiny new silver key in her hand.
Gabrielle laughed and said, “When I first joined, that freaked me out.” Alessandra shook her head with a wry smile and put the key back into her pocket.
They walked down the path together, people-watching and taking in the scenery. They walked through the crowded Conservatory Garden and then through the East Meadow. All the while Alessandra interrogated Gabrielle about the Balancers. They continued on down the east side of the park, sticking to the Bridle Path in order to avoid runners and cyclists getting in their daily exercise.
As they reached the back side of the Metropolitan Museum, Alessandra stopped to buy a couple of water bottles from a street vendor. They took the waters and sat on a nearby bench, with a plaque that read. For my Bessie, who loved this park so dearly.
Alessandra stared at the ancient obelisk towering over the area. It inspired her to ask, “Gabrielle, how long have the Balancers been in existence?”
“I have no idea,” she said. “If it is, in fact, somehow connected to the divine, then I assume it must be pretty old. If we get our idea of balance between good and evil being maintained by God, then this might go back thousands of years. Psalm 28 verse 4 in the Bible says: ‘Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors; Give them according to the work of their hands; render to them what they deserve.’ So, I imagine if it’s in the Old Testament, it has to go back quite a long ways.”
“But that doesn’t account for the Balancers,” Alessandra replied. “That seems like an instruction for people to take revenge. Where does it say that revenge should only be taken by God?”
“It’s mentioned in Ezekiel as well as Thessalonians, that God will repay the wicked for their evil deeds. In so many words, anyway. That’s where we come in. For lack of a better way to describe it, we’re a proxy of sorts for the divine powers. We enact the justice to repay both the wicked and the good for their deeds.”
“Is it just the Bible? Is the Balancers strictly a Judeo-Christian thing?” Alessandra asked.
“Not at all,” Gabrielle responded. “The Quran instructs its followers not to return evil with evil. It also says that goodness is for those who do good in this world. Surah An-Nahl verse 34 says: ‘So the evil of what they did afflicted them and that which they used to ridicule encompassed them.’ The Balancers are the divine help ensuring that the evil are afflicted by the evil consequences of their actions.”
Gabrielle took a sip of her water, then continued, “Now, different religious cultures think of sin in different ways, but in the end it all comes down to either being good to others or being evil to others. We might treat a Hindu worshiper differently with respect to an ironic punishment for a sin, because that person’s belief about sin differs from those in the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim faiths. In Hinduism, sin is more of a poison, and our different anxieties and mental problems stem from that poison. So, we might do things to give that person specific emotional responses tied to the sin he or she has committed. We might then follow that up with actions or even subtle conversations which will help them to associate the negative emotional state with the action they took.”
“Wow,” Alessandra said, raising her eyebrows. “It’s getting pretty complicated. I never thought about justice in cultural terms.”
“We’re all different, and we all define how we view our actions based on our belief systems of what is right and wrong. We would not punish someone as harshly for doing something which they don’t know is wrong, but which negatively impacts someone else. That would be more of a subtle slap on the wrist consequence mixed in with some good old fashioned classical conditioning. If they know that what they are doing is wrong and they do it anyway? Well, that’s where we get to be much more creative and have fun with them.”
Alessandra finished the last of her water, and put the cap back on. She took Gabrielle’s empty bottle, got up from the bench, and deposited the bottles in the recycling bin. They headed further down East Drive just inside of the stone wall outlining the eastern edge of Central Park.
As they passed underneath an old stone arch, Alessandra said, “This isn’t nearly as cut and dried as I initially thought. I like this, though. I really do. When you think about it, what we’re doing is a great service to the world and to humanity. I’m so glad I met you. What are the odds that you would happen to be at the diner that day?”
“Oh, sweetheart, I don’t know how much of a coincidence that is,” Gabrielle mused. “I think there are a lot fewer accidents and coincidences than we want to believe. I received a sign that morning to go to the diner. I didn’t know why. I don’t live anywhere close to that neighborhood.
“I was watching the morning news just after I awoke. There was a commercial for the Olympics, which were last year, so there’s no reason a commercial would be airing now. Then, I looked out of my window, and a neon sign that was supposed to say “Dinner” had one of the n’s flicker and go out. I checked the internet for Olympic and diner, and found the Olympic Diner right here in the city.”
“Crazy,” Alessandra said, shaking her head. “Oh, did you put a hair in Brady’s bagel?”
Gabrielle laughed. “That was a long black hair. As you can see, my hair is much shorter and mostly gray now. I haven’t had hair that long since the 70’s.”
Once they reached Gabrielle’s bus stop, she hugged Alessandra. “Welcome to the Balancers, Alessandra Genovese.” She turned and boarded, and Alessandra watched the bus drive away down Fifth Avenue.
As she turned to walk back into the park and head back to the West Side, Alessandra heard a man’s voice angrily muttering to himself. He was rambling about the low-down dirty thieves in the city. It was the aggressive biker, trudging along and carrying his bike over his shoulder.
The seat was missing.