Five children are motherless after a 41-year-old woman was murdered in Wolfeboro last Sunday. I was not in town that day, so I missed the first surge of shock, sadness and anger that rumbled across what had been a placid town on Mother's Day. We'd gotten a hint here in Effingham, because a friend of ours had come through town and seen all the police activity around the house on North Main Street where the crime occurred. At that point, as far as we knew, it could have been a medical emergency, but the presence of a lot of law enforcement implied it was more than that.
The story evolved on local television over the next two days. In a small town, everyone meets at least once, it seems. The murder victim had brought bikes in for service. I couldn't recall any details, but that's often a good sign. The high maintenance whiners often leave the strongest impression.
The Gossip News Network has already arrested, tried, convicted and executed a suspect, but the official investigation is more circumspect.
The bike shop is a quiet backwater. My regular route to and from work doesn't take me past the taped-off house or the growing memorial across the street from it. Ours is not a place where large numbers of people pass through and discuss events. We have our own discussions of topics lofty and lowly, but we often subsist on crumbs of both news and gossip.
Wednesday passed quietly. Only the sight of a police helicopter hovering for many minutes over Back Bay reminded us of the drastic changes in some people's lives less than a quarter-mile from the shop.
Officially there is no single theory about the crime. Unofficially, opinion leans heavily toward domestic violence.
In our greasy little bubble of mechanical toil, nothing seemed different. Stuff still needed to be fixed. We still got hungry and thirsty, puzzled over mechanical challenges, told jokes, farted, scratched and watched the helicopters. A breath of solemnity would occasionally cool the room. But really, all most of us can do is watch and wait. And wonder: who will turn out to have done this, and why?
Murder is always an unforgivably selfish act. This becomes most obvious in a small town. Festive events of the springtime are now completely disrupted. From the devastating impact on the lives of those closest to the victim the waves roll outwards. Local observance of Bike to Work Day has been postponed a week because of memorial events this weekend. An annual canoe race may not be canceled or delayed, but certainly it won't be the light-hearted demonstration of all levels of paddling ability we look forward to every year. These are trivial pursuits next to the anguish someone felt compelled to create. A small community emphasizes how we're all in this together, even if you didn't think you were in it before.
For many of the observers, the emotions are more a matter of principle than actual personal impact. Life goes on. Closing time comes and it's time to ride home.
All I had to do was make it home. I didn't have to rush to get to a meeting. I did have some stuff to write up for the conservation commission, but my main objective was to get to the couch. I pushed easy gears as I headed out.
On Route 28 I was startled to hear a rider say hello. I turned to see Vincent, one of the local group that goes out virtuously early on Sunday mornings. I gave that up years ago in favor of the cellist's delicious breakfasts and another day of virtuous transportation cycling. I don't have the energy to sprint to Wolfe City in time to meet a 6:30 or 7 a.m. ride, ride the ride, work the day and ride home. I hate to waste an opportunity to commute by bike by driving to a ride. Hence I see little of the hammering crowd, except when they break something. It's all good.
"You been getting out much?" I asked.
"About three days a week," he said. "That's a lot better than last year."
Some years are like that. Vincent is some kind of international business dude and he has a family. So it's good to see him figuring out a way to schedule regular riding. So much of the rest of life squeezes in on riding time. You have to go through the peloton of life with your elbows out to make sure you have a space through which to pedal toward the front.
The good part was that Vincent was not inclined to hammer. He was on about 19 pounds of carbon and aluminum racing bike. I was on about 30 pounds of chromoly, dirty laundry and road grime. When he took a hit at the front, a smell of clean laundry wafted off of him. I guarantee he did not have the same experience behind me. A lot of the time we rode next to each other, or at least partly overlapped, so we could chat. It was a nice change from my usual solitary grind.
After about six miles he peeled off to complete his loop back to Wolfe City. I continued to follow the homing beacon of the couch.