AuthorVan Patten, Jonathan K.

No need to hurry, he thought. There would be plenty of time today. Jeffries knew that the festive crowd would help. He surveyed the sprawling Harley-Davidson parking area, a chaotic mixture of sights and sounds. More bikes per square foot than anywhere else in the world, even downtown Sturgis itself. To the uninitiated, it was a sea of motorcycles. This sea had many colors, many textures. Machines and men. And women, whose contributions to the diversity of the spectacle were undeniable. One could detect the unmistakable aroma of cannabis over the accumulating mix of exhaust, grease, and sweat. The smoky haze enhanced the sense of unreality, as if the concentration of mind-altering clouds affected vision as well. Bikes came and went, each with a noisy proclamation trailing behind. Rounding out the exhibition were the disembodied sounds of country and rock artists wafting over the crowd. Life was good. It was Rally week in Sturgis.

Because of the crowd, it would have taken longer than usual to reach the store, but that was not Jeffries' destination. Walking around the parking lot and observing was his specialty. This was his fifth Rally and Jeffries felt at home here. He liked bikers, with all their contradictions. They wore their independence proudly, yet had a uniform, of sorts. The uniform was a costume and bore no resemblance to the profession or trade one followed outside of the Rally. Doctors, lawyers, and accountants, as well as plumbers, firefighters, and teachers, all became vocationally undetectable with the cover provided by leather, denim, muscle shirts, and tattoos. Although positions varied widely along the political spectrum from left to right, most harbored a natural skepticism of authority and all shared a love of freedom. Bikers seemed like idealists, flaunting convention as if prophets from another era, but they were ultimately pragmatists, a necessity to survive the dangers of the road, as well as the challenges of group travel, motorcycle maintenance, and the weather. Outwardly adopting the persona of outlaws, they respected property rights, valued competency, and cherished individual autonomy. They also liked to have a good time. And the Sturgis Rally was like Spring Break for adults.

Although he liked bikers, Jeffries' business model left no room for conscience. He stole high-end motorcycles. It was a stone-cold operation. No room for emotion. Operating out of a large, nondescript residence and shop in a mid-sized town in Rhode Island, members of the extended Jeffries family had distinct roles in the business, which had a nationwide presence. Wade Jeffries' focus was on the acquisition end. Bikes parked overnight at apartments, condos, and garages were the mainstay. Easy pickings, so long as the usual precautions for selection were taken. Bike rallies provided special opportunities because they were a gathering place of inventory for which customers could pre-order their preferred make, model, and even color. Specific accessories might pose a problem but were not out of the question. Bike owners were not defenseless against theft. Attention to sensible anti-theft measures was essential. At rallies, there was strength in numbers, but also vulnerability as a result of those numbers. The motorcycle industry and law enforcement had devoted considerable resources to the matter, and the evolving cat and mouse game involved high tech ingenuity, cunning, and luck.

Wade Jeffries had waited for the day to develop. Unlike Black Friday, where the zealous attempted to beat the crowds, he welcomed the opposite. He needed the crowd to bring enough inventory for selection and to provide cover through commotion and chaos that would aid his appropriation. As he meandered through the rows of bikes, the sea of motorcycles broke down quickly under his practiced eye. With this group, the majority were Harleys, but other makes were also represented. Jeffries thought about yesterday's efforts in Deadwood, where the team was able to drive the van right into the lot across from the hotel. The red Harley Road Glide was an especially nice find, right down to the preferred color. Low hanging fruit. But you can only go back to that well every so often. At the Black Hills Harley-Davidson store, the inventory was parked in a "Bikes Only" section. No vans to help here. Higher risk, but higher reward.

And then he saw it. A new Harley Electra Glide CVO, blue and silver. It was on the list. Wade Jeffries stood by for a few minutes, seemingly paying no attention to it, as if the surrounding spectacle was enough. He bumped it to see if there was an alarm. If there had been, there would have been plausible deniability, given the general chaos. But nothing sounded. To further test his luck, he leaned over and turned on the ignition switch. The bike came to life. Most helpfully, the owner had left a fob key in a storage compartment. Rich kid, he thought. Nearly ready to go, a diversion provided an added touch. Jeffries' partners, Jill and Sonya, had been trailing behind and when he mounted the bike, they went into action. Jill yelled at Sonya about flirting with her boyfriend and soon there was the beginning of a catfight, no doubt of interest to the gathering crowd of male onlookers. Jeffries calmly pulled out from the row, when he heard a shout, "Hey, whadayathink you're doin'?" Jeffries shouted back, "It's okay. My buddy asked me to move it." "No he didn't," was the quick response. "That's my bike." The nearby catfight aficionados quickly gathered around Jeffries, impeding any further movement. Attempts at explanation were to no avail as the owner vociferously pressed his case. Jeffries was rudely lifted off the bike by several bystanders who pushed and punched him roughly. They didn't stop there. There was grabbing of both arms, with pulling and twisting. Whereas only moments before, the crowd had been cheerful and affable, the almost sacrilegious affront posed by the attempted theft swiftly changed their mood. It was now bordering on ugly. Fortunately for Jeffries, security personnel quickly arrived. Had they not been close by, it could have been the end of business, literally, for Jeffries. Bikers take property rights very seriously.

Jeffries was quickly escorted to an area at the back of one of the sales tents. There wasn't much to talk about as they waited for the Rapid City police to arrive. While his actual experience with what was about to occur was limited, he knew enough to keep quiet. After a few minutes, Rapid City Deputy Sheriff Grace Luther entered the back area, briefly assessed the situation with security personnel, and placed Jeffries under arrest. He was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. The handcuffs were checked for proper fit and then double locked to ensure they would not tighten up during transport. Luther moved Jeffries outside and conducted a search in front of her patrol car to ensure that the dash mounted camera recorded the procedure. As Jeffries was being patted down, his keys, wallet, and cellphone were taken. The wallet would be useful in the later booking process and the confiscation of the cellphone would thwart communications with the outside, a safety issue. Also discovered embedded in Jeffries' right sock was a lock-picking device, known as a "peanut."

Although Jill and Sonya had quickly disappeared into the crowd, Wade's wife, Lynn, came to the tent area to see about her husband. She had ridden with Wade to the Harley-Davidson lot and had planned to ride the bike back to their campground. She had watched from a distance as he was rescued by security personnel but had no clue what would happen next. Perhaps she could back up whatever story Wade had come up with. Because he was not talking, Deputy Luther turned her attention to Lynn. After asking what she wanted, Luther asked for and received a driver's license from Lynn. Seeing that she was from out-of-state, Luther asked where she was staying.

"At the Deerview Campground in Piedmont," Lynn replied. "That's about ten miles from here. How did you get here?" "We rode." "Where's your bike?" Lynn motioned toward the far north end of the lot. "What was your husband doing on another man's bike?" asked Luther. "Don't know. He must have been moving it as a favor." "I don't think so. Not according to the owner. Is that your husband's jacket you are holding?" "Yes, it is. I was holding it for him while he was walking around." "May I look at it for a moment?" "There's a gun in the left pocket." That got Luther's attention. There was indeed a 9 mm Ruger handgun in the jacket. Luther quickly turned back to Lynn. "How come he was carrying?"

"Oh... he always does that at the Rally," Lynn responded hesitantly. She was winging it with her answers. "Safety, I guess," she offered.

Deputy Luther was not satisfied. She was an eight-year veteran of the sheriff's department and each Rally brought new challenges. This situation didn't feel right, especially the gun and the lock pick. Her intuition told her to check out Jeffries' bike. She asked Lynn to point out where it was, but the response remained vague. She told Lynn to wait in the backseat of the patrol car. With Jeffries' keys in hand and a general description as to the bike's whereabouts, she set off in the direction of the north end. Luther was joined by Special Agent Michael Kinney, who had just arrived at the scene. Kinney, a special law enforcement agent from Connecticut, was a member of an anti-theft task force working the Rally. His experience had been acquired through fifteen plus years of dealing with vehicle theft across the country. Luther and Kinney found the bike after about twenty minutes of searching. Kinney looked at the bike carefully for several minutes and then ran the information through a database on his iPhone. He told Luther he believed the bike had been stolen. Now, they were very interested in the Jeffries family.

Returning to where Wade and Lynn were...

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