His Life for a Bicycle
A bicycle is missing: a man's red 27-inch Schwinn Sprint ten-speed, serial number 4653563, that cost $184.57 new.
Spot this bike in the next few days and let us know, or let the police know, and you could collect a cool $10,000. But hurry, time's running out.
Bikes of this quality tend to change hands often. The Schwinn has been stolen at least twice; the second time our neighbor was murdered to get it.
Charles Regalado died last July 27, a month after graduating from Saint Benedict High School. His parents and three older brothers still live across the street. His dad works for Inspectional Services, his mom for a nearby company in East Ravenswood. Charles cut our grass; he let the dog out when we weren't at home and often had a key to our house. His brother Mark says he was thinking about the Air Force; his buddy Frank says he was more interested in buying a Camaro.
Charles and Frank lifted weights and they were both in terrific shape. Frank also owned a bike, a black 27-inch Raleigh ten-speed with gray trim. Charles, good with his hands, fixed Frank's flat tire that night last July and they took off.
We found Frank in the bar where he works on Armitage and asked him to remember what happened. They had biked to Oak Street Beach and back, then pedaled west on Grace Street and were only a few blocks from home.
"He's on my left, I'm on his right, and we're riding," Frank remembered. "We're riding real slow talking about lifting, and then two guys come out of Bosworth and say, give us your bikes. If they had tried to take the bikes with their bare hands that would have been great, we would have beat the shit out of them. But you can't beat a gun.
"Everyone has his own survival instincts. His was to get away. I was always taught money comes and goes but you only have one life."
Frankie got off his bike and handed it over. Charles pedaled off. One of the two robbers--the one with the gun--ran after him. It was agonizing watching Charles try to get his Schwinn up to speed. There was a pop, and Charles lurched.
"It sounded like a cap gun to me," Frank said. He took off running, up Greenview, then down an alley to a convenience store on Ashland. "I was real embarrassed to say--I had never heard a gun before--'I think Charles was shot.'" When he came back with help, he found his friend lying in a pool of blood on someone's front steps.
It was Frank who went to tell Charles's parents and girlfriend, Maria. They waited at Illinois Masonic Medical Center until Charles was pronounced dead. "I wanted to see Charles before the morticians played with his face," Frank said. "I saw him and he had a funny look, kind of sick, his eyes were open, and I gave him a kiss on the head and went out."
As we said, this was the second time the Schwinn was stolen. Detectives and the family tell us a girl we'll call Lucy bought it originally, but when she turned it over to another kid to fix--let's call him Peanut--he turned around and sold it to Charles Regalado for $30.
This was risky of Peanut. Lucy is friendly with the Latin Kings, the police say, and her cousin Raoul (another pseudonym) is a tough guy who'd just been sentenced to four years in prison for burglary.
So when Lucy found out what Peanut had done with her bike, Peanut tried to get it back. But the $30 were long gone, and Charles Regalado told him to go to hell.
Police work on theories. The theory at Area Six Violent Crimes (744-8262) was that someone had stalked Charles for his bike. The van Frank saw pulling away north up Greenview as the two thieves fled south on Bosworth on the stolen bikes added weight to this presumption. But Peanut passed a polygraph test; Raoul, angry that he was on his way to prison, flunked his, but he could have made a deal and stayed out if he'd known anything, so he probably didn't. Lucy, who's 16, agreed to take a lie test; but her mom wouldn't allow it.
They never found any van.
"The way I feel, the only real lead is Frankie," said Mark Regalado, the oldest brother. "He was there, I mean he saw the whole thing. What more can you ask? You have a witness to a murder." Frank has looked at a lot of pictures. He's stared at faces in lineups. And he has bad news. It makes him sick but he's not sure he would know the two thieves if he saw them again, even though they were inches away. "I wish, I wish, I wish, I wish I could, but it just won't come," Frank said. He told the police they were skinny, young Hispanics, the gunman a little shorter than the other one. Frank's father, who's a greengrocer, has told the police he wishes they would just leave Frank alone.
In the past year the Regalado family blanketed the East Ravenswood area with fliers several times. Beneath a picture of Charles is the legend
Help Us Catch The Killers Who Are Still Roaming Free
followed by the details. But a family friend set up the reward fund last August with the understanding that if a year went by and nothing happened, all contributions would be returned. Some local businesses that made big donations want their money back.
"I'm having a mass said for him at Saint Andrew's Monday," Frank told us. "I ordered it a couple of days after he was killed. I don't know what a mass can do. I'm religious, but I want Charles. If it can help his soul, that's great. But I've known Charles since fifth grade and I want my friend back."
It was a bad year for Frank, despite the 3.5 he pulled his freshman year at DePaul (his goal is an MBA from Northwestern). "I was just kind of stale about life," he said. "If I flunked a test it was no big deal. But finally around April I started to get in the groove.
"I wanted vengeance. I wanted to tear those fuckers' hearts out. I'd still like to see them go to prison and have their ass kicked every fucking day. But it's like the mass--I want Charles. I don't know if they'll get punished in an afterlife; I want them punished now. But what it comes down to is--I want my friend."
Ollie & Bernie
With heroes, it is feast or famine. Lately they have been showing up everywhere.
Innerspace, a classic movie of the post-Vietnam era, set us to thinking about this. The Rambo, the berserk hulk, is just one of the cinematic champions of this era; Innerspace displays two others in all their glory. The first is high technology--the wish-fulfilling science of tomorrow that can do anything, like implant alter egos inside your ear. The second is the nebbish thirsting for manhood.
Where would Hollywood be today without these motifs? In Back to the Future the nebbish was set right by his time-traveling son. In Weird Science an erotic android rolled up her sleeves and turned the adolescent hackers who'd created her into men. This summer's major Neb Tech entry offers a daredevil Air Force pilot who, literally, gets into the blood of a checkout clerk.
All we could think of was Oliver North infecting Bernhard Goetz. How daring! How right! Truly, North and Goetz are brothers under the skin. "This nation is at risk in a dangerous world," the colonel solemnly instructed his inquisitors and the nation, conjuring a picture of America as passenger in a sort of global New York City subway system.
These were men who took measures! North schemed and lied his head off, while Goetz kept squeezing the trigger. Eschewing moderation, each moved rapturously along lines that a nation in peril would find hard to disavow; and later, neither man made any bones about the extremes he'd gone to. They trusted their fellow Americans to accept the extremism. The nation has not let them down.
They belong to America now, to America and Hollywood. Goetz is the sad sack, heroic because he's also pathetic. But while there's a bit of Goetz in all of us, North is the exotic one, dauntless and idealistic and great with ribbon.
Actually, anyone who has put in time in the military has met men like North, driven by a romantic and simpleminded patriotism. But who puts in time in the military anymore, or ever gives the services a thought? "My God," we wondered, "to think this venal land of ours can still produce such men!" We stand in awe, empty of the experiences that would have had us knowing several, and remembering most of them as idiots.