The Sidecar Tales Ch. 01byRetiredReprobate©
Note to my readers: the first couple of chapters set the stage for the following action. Stick with me, please.
Homeowner to bankrupt to wealthy nomad in 48 hours
It was to be the trip of a lifetime, riding from the East Coast out to Texas, to have a sidecar put on my bike, so it could carry two in comfort. Maybe it would rescue my increasingly shaky marriage.
I'd traveled hard, making North Texas in four days, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Yeah, I know the Iron Butt folks can do a thousand miles in one day and night, but I sure can't. I still think that a 6 to 7 hour riding day, with breaks, followed by a comfortable bed, clean sheets, a locking door, heat/air-conditioning, hot water and a good meal are one of the heights of Western Civilization. That includes good roads and reliable motorbikes, too, of course.
Just to the east and north of Dallas, I'd dropped off my bike at the sidecar factory, and gotten a ride into the nearby town of Greenwood, Texas, via a pre-paid car rental agency. I was to stay in a motel there, for the two days it would take to convert my Suzuki Burgman AN650 into a sidecar rig.
Burgman, you say? Isn't that a (gasp!) motor scooter? Well, given that it has a step-through frame and an 'automatic transmission,' I suppose it is, technically (horrors! Ban him, before he multiplies! Freaks like him shouldn't be allowed to breed!). If so, it's a fire-breathing motor scooter—top-speed 110 mph—able to hold the road at 85 mph all day long with no strain, all two cylinders and 638 cc's of it. I called it the Phantom, after the old radio serial show ("no one knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men ... only the Phantom knows ... hahahaha!!!").
By the way, I'm Sam Collingson (at least, I was then). Just your average early-middle-aged guy. Sandy hair, brown eyes, tallish, not athletic, but not a couch potato, either. Married long enough to have an 17 year-old son and a 14 year-old daughter. Married to Sylvia Lynn, a blonde sex-bomb 'trophy wife,' who was, right now, an increasingly-reckless, compulsive over-spender, so I'd had to conceal my savings and investments from her to keep our heads above our debt limit. Obviously, this didn't sit well with her, but I was sure we'd smoothed out our problems, and she'd OK'd this trip, so that I could take her with me on my future trips.
My boss, Charles Thurgood and my family attorney, David Silverstein—"Uncle Charley" and "Uncle Dave" to my wife and kids—were also long-time family friends, and both had said they wished they could go with me on a two week vacation, just to ride across the USA and back
When my world came crashing in around my ears, I'd just settled into the motel room of the large chain of inns, and I'd called home to verify where I was, and give the motel's name, address, phone number and my room number. An hour or so later, as I was preparing to go get dinner, and then call home again to tell my wife the good news, I got a call from the desk. Wandering back to the lobby, I fretted about what the problem was, since they'd scanned my charge card when I checked in, and it was comfortably funded.
Oh, shit! They'd re-scanned my credit card, to verify the address, and this time, found, not just a zero balance, but a negative one. Very negative, by several thousand dollars.
I checked my secondary credit card, and it, too, was cancelled, with a large balance owing 'immediately.' My debit card, from the bank, was similarly zero. In the space of an hour or so, I'd gone from well-off to pauper.
I arranged to pay for the room from the cash reserve I had, paying for the two days I'd expected to be there, and hurried back to my room to get my wife on the phone. As I was entering my room, my cell phone chimed. I had some text messages:
From my now-ex-wife – "Ur dvorcd. I gt all the $. Ur crds dnt wrk, do they. I fukt u good. I sld the hse, 2. got all th stks an bnds. I gt it all. gtohel, u poorass mthrfukr."
From my boss – "ur fired. gave ur lst chk to Sylvia. Personally. Put it undr hr tit. She was naked. Don't kum bk, mthrfukr."
From my son – "I hate u. mom tld me abt all th $ she got fm yu. She is a saint. ill kil u if I see u agn."
From my daughter: "we jst moved. We live w unkl chrly now. mom is in the bdrm with hm. She has his big ting in her mouth. Yuk! unkl dav is watchng. His big ting is out 2. Ewww. They say I kn wach. Gross. they r all payng me lots of $ not 2 talk w u evr agn an I need the $ a lot mor n I need u."
I frantically called home, but got the 'phone disconnected' message from the company. I called Sylvia's and the children's cell phones, and got the same answer.
It was still early enough in the day, and I called the bank. I was further shocked to discover that all of our bank accounts hand been zeroed, and the checking overdraft was maxed out, to it's limit, and the bank wanted its money back 'right now!'
I called the 800-number on the credit cards, and discovered that Sylvia had transferred all our debt to my two cards, and also borrowed heavily on each of them, to the maximum, from the cash advance.
I spent an uneasy night, and called our broker the next morning, to get more bad news. Apparently on MY verbal orders, as transmitted by Sylvia and with MY APPARENTLY SIGNED AUTHORIZATIONS, all of our investment stocks and bonds and been sold, and the money transferred to Sheila's account. I was going to owe the State and the Federal government some whopping capital gains and income taxes.
In total, I was just under $62,000 in debt, to various banks, companies plus the State and the Federal government.
I checked on my phone, and, lo and behold, I had no cell service any more. Nor did my e-mail or internet connection work any more. I was cut off, back to the level of the motel's landline.
About 10:00 AM that day, FedEx delivered an overnight package of documents to me. There were divorce papers, authorizations to sell stocks, apparently authorized and signed by me ... documents I'd never seen before.
I had a 'signed' admission of having sexually harassed my boss' secretary, been caught and having been fired because of it, with no references and a really bad work profile.
I also had 'documentation' that I surrendered all custody of the children, with no visitation rights, and that I owed Sylvia back-dated child support and a large alimony check, every month.
The crowning blow came from my elderly mother, who I'd cared for from a distance, since her husband—my Dad—had died, a dozen years ago. Ever since Dad died, mom had been trying to get "her Oochums-Smoochums Witto Baby Boy, Who Needs His Muh-du" (me!) back home to live with her. Now, I held a set of apparently legal documents, that said I was 'disowned' and 'disinherited,' as a result of "my lust-obsessed sinful behavior to my wife ... who was 'my best friend in the whole world ... who would never lie a single word to her ... that this was all my fault ... that whatever happened to me from now on would be my own fault ... that I was 'legally forbidden' to ever use my family's last name again ... that she and her-best-friend-in-all-the-world would make sure I never-ever got a good job ever again ... and that I was never to see or speak to her again, or 'darken her doorstep' with my foul and sinful shadow."
Mom had been acting very Victorian of late, and I'd been suspecting a slow onset of dementia. I tried calling the phone number that I'd memorized, so many years ago, back to grade school, but found it, too, was disconnected.
I saw that all the documents had the same date (in my handwriting) and bore an identical signature. Completely identical, down to each loop and squiggle of my sloppy-signed legal name ... just as though it had been printed there by my right hand, exerting some force. But, each document was signed and 'witnessed' by my attorney and his legal secretary, acting as notary.
[How could this happen, you ask? Think of a signature and a date, made into a couple of rubber stamps. Very simple and entirely legal. Then take the rubber stamp, and carefully press it into wet alginate, like the stuff a dentist uses to make an impression of your teeth. Let the alginate cure for an hour or so. It retains the impression of the rubber stamp. Pull out the rubber stamp and throw it away. Then pour thick, strong wet clay into the mold you've just created. When the clay is partly dry, but still flexible, form the clay master around a curved wood block, peel away the alginate, let it dry, and then gently bake. When you want a legal signature, just roll the clay-signature, backed by the wood block, across a pad of black pen ink, and then roll it carefully onto the document, pressing hard. Voile! You've just signed a document you've never seen before, initialed parts of it and dated it by the same method. It's not even forged, as it is your signature—you just weren't present when it was done. If someone else gets it notarized, it'll hold up in court ... particularly if a lawyer, and his notary-secretary person swears under oath that you signed it in their presence, and the date was set several weeks or months before you left on a cross-country trip.]
In one carefully pre-planned stroke, my wife and her two new lovers thought they'd reduced me to utter poverty, so deeply in debt that I'd probably never be able to dig myself out, and complete with bad work references.
Knowing Sylvia and how her mind worked, plus my Mom's new-found Victorian-driven revenge fantasies, I probably had 'poison pen' letters and a feminist-oriented whisper-campaign going out to every place I could get a new job, in and around our New Jersey home. A few calls back there confirmed that I had no friends and no contacts left in my former neighborhood.
My mother had 'washed her hands of me.' My son wanted to commit fratricide over the insult to 'his Mummy,' and my daughter was successfully bribed not to communicate with me in any way, and was happily taking that bribe.
My now-ex-wife and her lovers had made sure that I was left with just a few dwindling dollars; just the clothes on my back and the stuff in my tail-bag; a motorbike fixed to a sidecar, plus mountains of debt and taxes owed. No children. No wife. No friends. No job. No house. No savings. No investments. No retirement. No inheritance. No credit or debit cards. No bank accounts. The IRS and State taxing agencies after me. No mother. No future. Not even having any right to use my own name (which was a farce). No legal recourse to any of it, apparently.
On my way over to the restaurant, to get a good steak dinner and several drinks, I laughed, long and loud.
I'd said my marriage was shaky, and I'd never imagined the lengths Sylvia would go to get her own way, and all the money we had to spend, but I wasn't dumb.
Under my bed in the motel were what appeared to be two lengths of iron pipe: dirty, banged up and scored with tire tread marks, which I'd taken out of scooter, just before giving the machine up to the sidecar folks. Each end was tightly capped, but I didn't need to get inside. Sandwiched between tightly-rolled packages of fifty- and hundred-dollar bills in each pipe were ten Canadian Maple Leaf one-ounce gold coins, totaling 20 coins (currently valued at about $1,000 each on the metals exchange market) and enough folding green stuff to keep me going for several months of living well.
But the best part lived in my wallet. A small square of paper was there, with printing on both sides, indicating that I was the possessor of a winning lottery ticket from the Pennsylvania Power Ball lottery, with current valuation of thirty-one million dollars. If taken as an annuity, after Federal taxes, that would yield me a yearly income of over a million dollars, for the next 20 years.
If I lived every night in an upscale motel or residence inn, ate well, and used up three or four of tanks of gas a day, plus other stuff, it'd only cost me about $100,000 a year. Even with taxes, I'd be making over 10 times that amount, every year.
This was the small square of paper I'd bought as I passed through Pennsylvania, and just discovered I had won ... the same day that Sylvia had done me dirty.
That was to be the 'good news' I was going to phone in to my wife, before her carefully-contrived roof fell in. The good news that I'd never tell her.
I fell asleep, smiling.
The next day, I picked up the newly-altered scooter. I took temporary possession of a storage room in town, under an assumed name, and put the scooter-sidecar rig there. After taking considerable cash from my 'Banco Popular,' I threw the 'pipes' into a pile of dirt, other junk pipes and old paint cans that I'd brought into the storage room, hiding them in plain sight.
Then I drove my rental car into Dallas, and turned it in at the airport, taking a flight out to Harrisburg, PA. Once there, I carefully signed the lottery ticket, in my name and collected my winnings. I split the resulting money between two different banks.
Federal taxes took out a chunk of my annual income, of course, but there were no State taxes on my winnings. Working carefully and using only money orders drawn on various different banks and locations, I arranged to pay off all the taxes, fines and penalties that had been forced on me, and also paid off all the bank and credit card liens and debts that I'd been forced to owe (except to 'Uncle Dave'), canceling each account completely as I paid it off.
I made sure to pay on the steep alimony and child support that I'd been forced into ... each money-order coming from a different bank.
I still had much more money than I could spend. I spread the amount over several different banks, with associated national debit and credit cards, to rest for a while. I started investing what I didn't spend.
I thought over the 'never-use-the-family-name-again' nonsense that my mother had demanded. I also thought over the probable lengths that my new-ex-wife and her businessman- and lawyer-lovers might go, if she or they ever discovered my newly-won wealth. Suspecting all this, I started the process of changing my legal name. On a whim, I selected "Thomas Cattus," for the independent, homeless 'Tom Cat' I expected to become.
Through an RV website, I located a mail-forwarding service, to give me a fixed-base address for official communications. I had an entirely separate re-mail service for any financial communications. I also had my driver's license changed to a Texas registry.
I bought a new cell phone with a pre-paid national calling plan and a new laptop computer. After transferring my critical files from my old machine to the new computer, I did a total wipe-and-wash (Guttman complete: 35 passes of wipe-and-over-write per each former file) plus a full low- and high-level re-format of the old computer's hard drive, and then donated it to a woman's shelter, where I also left my old cell phone (minus the SIMM card).
I also wanted time to carefully think over the actions to take to bring down 'Uncles' Charley and Dave. I also wanted to keep a discreet observation of my son and daughter. I was sure my hyper-vindictive but over-spending Sylvia would take herself down, since the amount of money that she could ultimately demand and spend didn't exist on this planet.
With all financial arrangements made, I flew back to Texas, picked up my motor scooter & sidecar from the storage area, and began to enjoy my new mid-life nomadic bachelorhood.
Things turned out rather differently than I'd planned.
I quickly discovered that driving a sidecar rig called for some adjustments in my driving skills. The most obvious was that I couldn't 'lean' into turns, but had to steer into them. Just as obvious was the tendency of the scooter to pivot around the right-hand side, where the sidecar wheel was. Taking advice from the folks and the sidecar company, I spent a few days just driving on the Farm-Market roads in north and west Texas, trying not to kill myself or anyone else as I re-adjusted to the new riding demands.
However, just as obviously, I suddenly had over ten times the carrying capacity of the scooter, as up to 300 lbs. of 'stuff' could be jammed into the footwell and seat of the scooter, including into its locking trunk.
However, the open cockpit proved to be almost irresistible to some folks. I had to physically manhandle a drunk away from pissing into it, outside a motel's bar, one evening. I was sure that a couple of young folks had sex in it, after a warm night at another place. I had to get a custom-made cover for it (windshield and all), just to make sure that random folks didn't get in. Even so, I was pretty sure that it was used as a comfortable overnight shelter for the wandering homeless, as a nice, cozy shelter.
On the other hand, the open sidecar seat was a chick magnet. Young chicks, older chicks, single women, MILFs and even older ladies: nearly anytime I stopped for gas or for a rest, some female person would admire my rig and, in a couple of minutes, start dropping hints about wanting a ride.
That's where my adventures began.