Kraushaar Ford occupied a half block on Michigan Blvd. in Waukesha. It was 11:00 am on a bright Thursday morning in September when Josh kicked out his Harley on the wide concrete apron outside the showroom. Kraushaar Ford was a long, low, gleaming white building with a hint of art deco, a glimpse of the future from a Fifties-era Mechanix Illustrated.
Josh entered the chill interior. It smelled pleasantly of coffee and lemons. A Shelby Mustang sat on the spotless black and white tile floor, presenting its shark-like grin to the public. A young salesman, dapper in a gray suit, headed Josh's way with a smile plastered across his chin, not unlike the Mustang. At a trim five eleven, wearing a tank top that revealed fully tatted arms and shoulders, Josh looked like a biker.
"How are you today?" the salesman sang. "That's a nice Harley. That's not stock, is it?"
Josh smiled. "No way. I'm here to see Mr. Kraushaar."
"Do you have an appointment?"
Kraushaar cruised their way causing the salesman to back off. Kraushaar was a florid fifty-something, former Green Bay linebacker, silver pompadour, Hawaiian shirt, dark blue with stars, palm trees, and waves, that hung outside his khakis concealing the growing paunch of an aging athlete.
"Josh, how are ya? Come in my office. You want something? Coffee? Soda?"
Josh followed Kraushaar back toward a series of offices with windows overlooking the showroom.
"Coffee would be good."
Jerry paused to snap his fingers at a good-looking brunette behind the Customer Service desk. "Billie, honey, would you bring us a couple of coffees?"
Josh sat on a leather sofa beneath a framed print of the new GT. Kraushaar sat in a high-zoot black mesh office chair, leaned back with his hands behind his head. One wall was covered with certificates, plaques and pictures. United Way, Salvation Army, Realities For Children. Pictures of Kraushaar with the President, Jay Leno, Dale Earnhardt Jr., the mayor, the governor.
"You got any kids?"
"No sir," Josh said.
"My daughter Brandy is seventeen going on twenty-five. She wants to see that Cretacious show at Summerfest Sunday. I know she smokes pot and I think she's even tried a little coke. Is it my fault? Who knows. I smoked pot. I snorted coke. But not since I've had her. I've tried to be a good father but man, it's rough."
"Where's her mother?" Josh said.
"Shacked up with some boozer. Crystal and I divorced ten years ago. She gets a nice monthly check and she doesn't try to contact me. That's our deal. She could be back hooking for all I know. I don't always have the best taste in women."
"I know how you feel," Josh said.
Billie entered with a tray containing mugs, a tureen, cups of half and half, and sugar. She wore a tight green dress that stretched across her butt when she set it down.
"Thank you, Billie."
Josh watched her go.
"Does her mother have any interest in Brandy?" Josh said.
"About twice a year she makes a little time. Birthday. Christmas. I got custody. Crystal's probably still snorting, far as I know."
"You want me to take her to the show and bring her home safely."
"Exactly. It's worth five grand to me."
Josh nodded. "That's doable."
"Well there's something else. She was seeing this thug. Rick Roloff. Claims he's training for the UFC. I hired an investigator to look into it and this Roloff is bad news. He served time for aggravated assault. He's shacked up with some other goons on the near west side. Team Anguish, they call themselves."
"I served time," Josh said.
"I know that. But you're not the same man as you were fifteen years ago, am I right?"
"Here's the report she prepared." Kraushaar slid a manila envelope across the top of his desk.
Josh emptied the contents and picked up a mug shot of a defiant young man with one of those bony hillbilly heads, jug ears, black unibrow crawling across his forehead beneath shaved bristle.
"He looks inbred," Kraushaar said.
"May I keep this?"
"It's all yours. Come to my house at six p.m. Sunday. I will provide a vehicle. Cretaceous goes on at eight."
"I know Wes Magnum."
"Lead singer for Cretacious. I met him last year. I can get backstage passes if you like."
Kraushaar goggled. "Are you serious?"
"It's not a problem. You can tell your daughter that as long as she behaves herself, she can meet the man."
"Wow. That's fantastic. She'd love that. I'd go myself but I have something else going on. I'll give you 2500 when you come over, and 2500 when you bring her back safe."
"That's not necessary, Mr. Kraushaar. I can bill you."
"Oh please. And call me Jerry."
It rained on Saturday but Sunday dawned bright and cheery. Josh had been to Summerfest many times with the Bedouins, but not since prison. He worked most weekends bouncing at the Dew Dropp Inn and the Pyramid. Josh took 90 east, turning off at Delafield, a bedroom and recreational community thirty miles west of Milwaukee. Kraushaar lived in a fifties-modern stone rambler with a four car garage on two wooded acres. Josh rode his bike up to the front door and kicked out on the brick turn-around. The air smelled exquisite from yesterday's rain.
The doorbell chimed and seconds later Josh heard footsteps on a hardwood floor. The door swung inward. Brandy was taller than Josh had expected, wearing tight jeans and a Cry! T-shirt over pert breasts, wide-set brown eyes regarding him with bemusement and a trace of surprise, mouth open like a saber-jet.
"Jerreeee! The bodyguard is here!"
Moments later Kraushaar crossed the flagstone vestibule wearing flip-flops, Bermuda shorts, and an orange and red Hawaiian shirt.
"Brandy, this is Josh Pratt."
Josh shook Brandy's limp hand.
"Come out to the garage I'll show you what you'll drive."
"Jerreeee!" Brandy said. "I want to ride on the bike."
"That's not advisable, sweetheart," Kraushaar said.
Josh put his hand up. "Be a lot easier to get in and out on the bike. And we can park a lot closer too."
Brandy jumped up and down like a puppy. "Puleeeeeze? Come on, Dad. You know what it's like."
Kraushaar regarded her dubiously. "Well you've got to wear helmets. Let's see what I've got."
Josh and Brandy followed Kraushaar through the house, the kitchen, out into his massive garage where four bikes occupied one bay. A Fat Bob, an Indian bagger, a Triumph Rocket 3, and a KTM dirt bike.
"I still ride," Kraushaar said. "I looked into opening a Harley dealership but I couldn't swing it." He went to the back wall where a number of helmets occupied cubby-holes in a custom cabinet. He chose a ruby open-face helmet and handed it to Brandy.
"What about Josh?"
Josh hadn't worn a helmet in years, except in those states where they were required. But he didn't want Brandy to feel awkward. He found a silver open-faced Bell that fit. He turned to Brandy.
"Are you bringing a purse?"
"I've got a backpack." She walked out through the open garage door and approached his bike. "Wow. What all did you do to this?"
Josh inhaled deeply. "Engine: 88 with oil cooler. Changed the cams to S&S gear drives with 510 lift. Took out the fuel injection and replaced it with an S&S Super E, Yost Power Tube, S&S manifold and Pingle High Flow petcock. S&S Tear Drop air cleaner cover with a K&N filter. Screaming Eagle Hi Performance ignition unit with a 6200 rpm rev limiter. Accell Super Coil, Fire Wire plug wires and spiral wound metal core wires. Accell Platinum tip plugs. Five speed tranny with Barnett kevlar clutch, self-adjusting hydraulic chain tensioner. Screaming Eagle dualies. Progressive springs in front with higher viscosity, Progressives in back. Changed the rear swing arm bushings to "STA BOW" nylon high density. SBS semi-metallic disc brake pads and the brake lines are stainless steel braids. Went to tubeless wheels."
Brandy stared at him like he was a bug. "Can I sit on it?"
"Knock yourself out."
Josh followed Kraushaar back into the house and found Brandy's Hellboy backpack sitting by the door.
Kraushaar went to a wet bar in the sunken living room and poured himself a couple fingers of Scotch.
"Well you know what to do. Call me if there's any trouble. I won't be able to sleep until she's back."
"What do you do all the other nights?" Josh said.
Kraushaar shrugged. "I'm dealing as best I can. She's been under strict curfew since I broke it up with the cage fighter last week."
Brandy was still sitting on Josh's bike when he came out, gripping the handlebars and making guttural engine noises. Josh held out her backpack.
Brandy glanced at him and down shifted four times, making engine noises in the back of her throat. She stopped, got off the bike, took the backpack and shrugged it on. "Is it true you know Wes Magnum?"
"We got backstage passes," Josh said, getting on his bike. He straightened and steadied while Brandy got on behind him.
"That is so cool! How do you know him?"
"Ran into him on a case. Keep your hands wrapped around my waist."
"I know how to ride," Brandy said. "Rick has a Wide Glide."
Her skinny arms around his taut midriff, Josh pulled out of Kraushaar's perfect black driveway and headed toward the lake.
The vision for Summerfest was the brainchild of the late Mayor Henry Maier in the 1960s. Following a visit to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, Mayor Maier dreamed of a festival for the people that would revitalize Milwaukee's downtown and bring the community together. In 1968, the first Summerfest debuted at 35 separate locations throughout the city. (www.summerfest.com)
The 75 acre site was now a permanent installation on Lake Michigan and a much sought-after venue. Everyone from Cream to Tower of Power had played there. Josh had seen Stevie Ray Vaughan and Guns 'n' Roses there when he was with the Bedouins. Last year the Rolling Stones had headlined.
Earth, Wind and Fire were the current headliners but Cretaceous had one of the prestige closing slots Sunday night. There were five major stages. Since the heavy metal band had reformed the previous year they'd released an album and toured ceaselessly. Josh joined the shining river of chrome heading east on the Interstate. It became denser as they approached the waterfront and took the National Avenue exit along with thousands of other bikers. Police stood at every intersection directing traffic. Because bikes took up less room and Harley-Davidson called Milwaukee home, there was special parking near the festival grounds. Josh carefully maneuvered past hundreds of parked hogs until a volunteer waved him into a slot next to a Guzzi bagger.
Josh backed his bike up to the concrete curb and kicked out.
It was seven thirty by the time they'd worked their way up to the will-call desk, and Josh got their laminated backstage passes on lanyards. Brandy held hers up, grinning at the EWF logo.
They entered the festival grounds through a turnstile joining tens of thousands of others congregating toward one of the five stages. Brandy consulted a program.
"Oh! The Bessemers are playing on stage three!"
"They started ten minutes ago. Can we go? Puleeeeze?"
Josh consulted his program. Cretaceous was due to go on in fifteen minutes at the other end of the fairgrounds. "Not if you want to see Cretaceous. They'll have started by the time we get there."
She seized his hand and pulled him toward the stage. "Let's go!"
His first impulse was to jerk back his hand. She was a child. On the other hand, the crowd was a dense, living thing. A bearded hippy in a Grateful Dead T-shirt and his fat hippy earth mother wife in a shapeless flowing dress glared at them in disapproval. Josh saw other bikers with equally young dates.
They snaked through the crowd. Josh looked for patches: Sons of Silence, Mongols, Hells Angels, Mastodons. Clusters of hoodies slunk by, their pants around their knees. Ambient noise approached the business end of a 747. The mob around Stage Five was nearly impenetrable. They worked their way around the fringes until they came to a security gate manned by a volunteer in a Summerfest T-shirt. They showed him their passes and he waved them into a backstage area with trampled grass and a picked-over buffet table consisting mostly of crumbs and guacamole smears.
An off-duty cop lowered the velvet rope leading to the celebrity corral. Josh and Brandy joined dozens of other camp followers, techs and friends of the band on the deck behind the stage. The cluster was particularly dense surrounding Magnum himself, a silver-haired man in his 70s. A year earlier Josh had agreed to help one of Magnum's old flames and the mother of Magnum's girl, Marissa, prove that the song "Marissa" belonged to her. At the time, Magnum was assumed dead in a club fire in Denver. Magnum had faked his death, had a sex change operation, and had been living in obscurity since then as den mother to a bunch of marijuana growers.
Josh caused Wes to come forward, admit his deception, and declare the song Marissa's. Brandy wormed her way through the scrum, no longer holding onto Josh. Magnum's eyes swept over him, then swept back.
"Josh!" Magnum said, holding out his hand. The crowd parted like the Red Sea. Brandy's jaw bounced off the floor as Magnum embraced Josh in a bear hug. Josh waved her forward.
"Got a fan of yours, Wes. This is Brandy Kraushaar."
Brandy approached with that saber jet face. "Wes Magnum! I can't believe I'm actually talking to you!"
"H'old are ya, honey? You weren't even born when I pulled my disappearing act."
"My old man turned me on to your music. He's pretty cool in some ways. In other ways, not so much!"
A tech in a Cretacious T-shirt slithered up. "Five minutes, Mr. Magnum!"
Magnum grabbed Josh's hand. "Stick around after the show. We're havin' a little party at the Pfister. Of course these days, me partyin' is mostly sipping Geritol and tea."
Josh and Brandy watched Magnum slip into performance mode.
"You want to watch from up here, or down front?" Josh said. "There's a little VIP area we can get into."
Brandy grabbed his hand and pulled him with surprising force toward the stair. "Down front!"
Power chords rippled through the crowd as Cretacious broke into "Born To Be Wild." Josh and Brandy eased along the protected front of the stage and slipped into the cordoned-off VIP area which held several rows of folding chairs. Josh sat in the front row while Brandy stood directly in front of the stage staring up, rapt. There were three original members but the drummer and lead guitarist were kids. The lead guitarist, with his wild mane of black hair and Nudie-boots, grabbed Brandy's attention. She did everything but toss him her phone number. The guitarist winked at her, duck-walked to the edge of the stage and played to her.
The band blazed through a 45 minute set ending with "Marissa." Josh stood on his chair and looked all around hoping to spot the eponymous ex but she was nowhere to be seen. Josh wasn't surprised. Marissa and her daughter Melonie were fringe-dwellers, barely hanging onto society's hem.
"Folks!" Magnum boomed. "We're going to take a short break and we'll be right back!"
Brandy whirled toward Josh, hands clutched in front of her, face red with delight. She reached into her backpack and pulled out pack of American Spirits, sticking one in her mouth. She stood in front of Josh with the cig dangling, hands on hips.
Josh opened his hands. "I don't have a lighter."
Brandy rolled her eyes, grunted, and reached into her tight jeans for a Bic. She lit the fag, inhaled deeply and let it out through her nose. She pulled the rumpled program from her hip pocket. "Ooh. The Violent Femmes are at Stage One. Let's go!'
"Don't you want to hear the rest of Cretaceous?" Josh said.
"I've heard enough. They're great, but they can be a little overpowering."
"You lead the way."
She reached for his hand. He reluctantly let her pull him through the crowd.
"What's the matter, Josh? Don't you like me?"
"I like you just fine. Your father hired me to make sure you got home safe."
She let go his hand like garbage and headed toward a wall of green porta-potties set up against a hurricane fence, long lines extending backward from each.
Josh sat on a picnic table and watched as the lines inched forward. He pulled out his phone and checked his messages. He went on Facebook and posted a picture of Magnum. One of his friends had posted a chili recipe. Another friend disputed the use of tomatoes. Within twelve posts it degenerated into Fuck You and No! Fuck You! When Josh looked up Brandy was nowhere in sight.
He watched someone exit the porta-potty for which she'd been standing in line. Josh let out a big sigh. He activated the tracking app for the transmitter he'd placed in Brandy's backpack. The screen showed a map of the festival grounds with a red dot marking Brandy. She'd veered away from the Violent Femmes toward a section of the park devoted to picnic tables. He stood, stretched, and ambled toward the picnic area gazing at his phone like so many around him.
Josh walked between a row of vendors to the picnic park, a half acre surrounded by trees. Every table was taken, the place a riot of family and group activity. Through the trees Josh saw some boys tossing a Frisbee. He looked at his device, looked up, and spotted Brandy about 150 feet away locked in a clinch with Rick Roloff. Roloff wore a white wife beater the better to show off his inked-out gunboats and the gold chains around his neck. He looked to be a light heavyweight.
Of course they'd hooked up. Of course! What was Kraushaar going to do? Take her phone away? The lovers sucked face. Josh stood five feet away waiting for them to unlock.
Brandy did a double take. "Fuck! It's the bodyguard."
Roloff let her go and turned with a sneer. He had two inches and thirty pounds. "This is the guy?"
"That's the guy," Brandy said.
"You got to be shitting me."
"This girl is underage. Do you want me to call a cop?"
Rick stepped up. "Do you need to call a cop?"
Josh pivoted and drove his right hand deep into Rick's sternum. Rick's eyes bulged and he fell to the ground coughing and gasping for breath. Josh grabbed Brandy by the arm and pulled her with him.
She struggled and tried to kick. "You fucker! I'll scream! HELP! HELP! I'M BEING ABDUCTED!"
A number of people turned toward her in alarm. Some of the men stepped into Josh's path. A big guy with blond hair got in Josh's face. "What's the story?"
Josh looked him straight in the eye. "Sir, the young lady's father hired me to make sure she didn't run off.
I'm a private investigator from Madison."
The man stepped back, suddenly unsure.
"THAT'S A LIE!" Brandy screamed. "He's trying to abduct me."
"Sir, I will be happy to wait here while you call a policeman."
The sun set. A half dozen men surrounded them, their girlfriends and wives hovering in an outer perimeter. Nobody made any threats, and Josh didn't try to leave. Five minutes later a Milwaukee PD came up. He was medium build, black with a mustache. His name tag said Thigpen.
"What's going on?"
"Officer, the young lady's father hired me to escort her to and from Summerfest."
By this time Brandy had clammed up, crossed her arms and rolled her eyes.
"May I see some identification?"
Josh forked over his driver's license and PI license. Thigpen examined them closely.
"Officer, this is Brandy Kraushaar. Her father is Jerry Kraushaar."
"Do you have Mr. Kraushaar's phone number?"
Josh pulled out his phone, looked it up, and showed it to Thigpen.
"Just wait here a minute, sir," Thigpen said. He walked a few feet away and spoke into his phone, returning five minutes later. He handed Josh his licenses back.
"Just spoke with Mr. Kraushaar. Do you need any help?"
"No thank you, officer." He turned to Brandy. "You don't want Jerry to talk to Officer Thigpen, do you?"
Brandy looked away and stuck out her lip. Josh steered her toward the parking lot. She shrugged loose of his grip.
"You don't have to drag me! I won't run away."
"That's good because I can run faster than you."
"How do you know? I lettered in track. I ran the 100 meter in 12 seconds."
Josh gave her a face. She strode off with Josh a step behind. By now it was dark, and people were leaving the park, lit by the omnipresent sodium lamps. The lot where Josh left his bike was a sea of Harleys with everything else thrown in, clusters everywhere, groups standing and sitting around their rides, revving up and pulling out. Brandy paused at the edge of the lot and Josh took the lead, grabbing her hand. A cluster of bikers in denim and leather jackets stood next to his bike looking at a program. As Josh reached his bike, an arm like a bridge cable went around his neck and tilted him back. Josh immediately jammed his head back hoping to butt his antagonist as one of the bikers turned around and he saw that it was Rick.
Rick grinned and slammed his fist into Josh's gut. Josh went down. Someone kicked him in the side, that same damn rib he always broke, lifting him off the cement while the others gathered around raining blows. Someone cracked him with a bottle. His phone rang. He ignored it. The storm intensified and for an instant there was only the sensation of pain and the dull, pounding rhythm of blows landing. Then the figures scuttled away leaving Josh writhing in pain.
A pair of black leather boots loomed. Josh stared at them in agony. A man squatted. His face was old and seamed with an extravagant white handlebar mustache.
"You all right there son?"
Josh sat up and felt himself. His ribs ached but they weren't broken. A sizable lump formed over his left eye. "I think so. Did you see what happened to the girl?"
The old dude extended a hand and helped Josh to his feet. "They went that away," he said, pointing.
Josh heard a number of motorcycles revving through the exit. Brandy must have worked out a back-up plan.
Two cops approached. "What's going on?" said the tall black one with a mustache.
"Heard there was a fight," said the shorter Hispanic one with a mustache.
Josh showed them his ID and his license. "Some goons jumped me. It's no biggie, officers. Thank you for your concern."
"Do you want to press charges or file a report?" Officer Ramirez said.
"No, I think I'll just go home."
"Good," Ramirez said. The cops turned and walked away and soon disappeared into the crowds.
Josh wanted a shot, a beer, and a hot bath. But the night was young and he had to find Brandy and take her home. Josh bungeed the two helmets to the pillion, got on the bike, and checked his tracker. It showed the red dot heading west on the Interstate. Josh switched the program from his phone to a screen on the bike, installed by Randall Kleiser.
He checked his phone. Kraushaar. He turned his phone off.
Josh popped two ibuprofen from the bottle in his tank bag, thumbed the snarley into life and headed west. The red dot veered north on Racine, into a mixed-use neighborhood of crummy clapboard houses and light industrial. Power and phone cables crisscrossed over the street, alive with low-riders, bikers and rolling boom-boxes. Bass emanated from the core of the earth, affecting all who walked.
Josh hadn't seen a cop since turning north. When the red dot stopped, so did he, four blocks away. There was a roadhouse across the street, Lucky Sue's, with a dozen choppers parked out front. Josh waited for traffic, did a U-turn, and backed his bike between two choppers. "Los Bros Diaz" was painted in stylized script on three of the choppers.
The interior smelled of beer, peanuts, sawdust and reefer, a dim, long room with two pool tables in the back and several flat screen TVs broadcasting a Brewer's game. A half dozen patrons turned to give him the once over, most of them wearing colors, tatted to the max, lots of facial hair.
Josh wore no colors but was obviously a biker. He was one of a handful of gringos. He sat at the bar and ordered a Bud. The bartender looked like a squat Mayan sculpture with massive arms and a black mustache. He set the mug on the bar in front of Josh.
Josh forked it over and sipped his beer. He didn't have to wait long. One of Los Bros Diaz detached himself from the end of the bar, ambled over and sat next to Josh. He was a thin, wiry dude with a long ponytail of black hair and a mustache.
"What you ride?"