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2. Customer Service
She leaned the Big Dummy against a wall, opened up one of the panniers and pulled out a multi-tool and a half-eaten sandwich. After taking a bite of the sandwich, she looked to be taking in the place.
Seward picked up a flyer, what he liked to think as the Seward Coop Menu of services, and made his way over. He held out the flyer. "What can I help you with?" He would have rather given her a pick up line, but he needed money. Even in the current economy, people still tended to buy new bikes rather than parts, and the rent on the building was due again in a few days.
Looking Seward in the eyes, she took the flyer. "I've got a long haul ahead. I was just passing by when I saw your sign. Thought I'd take a look around." She handed the flyer back. "I think that I'd like to use your bathroom, and…" She looked over Seward's shoulder, "I might make use of a station."
Seward shrugged his shoulders. "Five dollars an hour. Plus parts and lube." He walked back to the counter and picked up a key. He held it up. "Key for the bathroom. There's a shower back there. Feel free to use it." He knew she'd been on the road a while by her offending orders. Normally, Seward found sweaty women all that more attractive, but she smelled spoiled.
"Really?" She opened the other pannier and pulled out some clothes. "You have a towel?"
Seward had stocked towels when he opened, but found that he hated laundry day more since then, so he stopped. "Sorry, no. However, there is a couple bars of soap and some really cheap shampoo." He bunched up his face as if tasting something bitter. "If you feel so inclined, there is jar back there. If you can spare anything to help keep it socked, it'd be much appreciated."
As she hurried by, she said, "Thanks Emmet."
At hearing his middle name a loud, Seward's typical relaxed demeanor was replaced with one of panicked curiosity. Emmet, he thought. No one round here knows me as Emmet. Well, no one beside my parole-officer, and I haven't had to see him in a couple of years. Everyone I know knows me as Dan or Seward.
His thoughts kept spinning round and round until he landed on the last time he'd used his middle name. It'd been more than ten years, back when he was in college in Michigan. At that time, he'd thought that he'd been Dan in high school, so in college he'd wanted to see where Emmet would get him. Funny thing, Emmet didn't get him very far. Sounded too southern, and northern folk equate southern with slow and stupid.
Well, he thought, pondering wouldn't pay the bills. He picked up the next ticket and found a real rock-jumper that needed suspension work. He found the bike in his lined up orders and placed it on his WorkStand. As he lifted the bike, the suspension fork dropped to their full extension.
After securing the bike, he applied pressure to the front tire to test the suspension. The fork easily slid all the way up as if there wasn't air in them. First things first, he thought as he collected an air pump. He opened the damping valve and attempted to re-pressurize the fork, but just after a few pumps, he realized that the seals were blown, and he'd have to take the suspension a part and rebuild it with new seals. Luck for the customer, Seward kept replacement seals on hand. They were hard to come by because the manufacturer would rather have the sale of a new fork for $1,600 than four-dollar replacement seals. And so would most retailers for that matter, while Seward just wanted to get people back on the road and out of their cars.
Seward put all of his focus into repairing the suspension fork, but in-between steps his mind drifted off to the woman using the shop's shower. Other than her off putting odor, she was very attractive, and she somehow knew his middle name. He'd couldn't escape imagining her naked body. He could bet that she'd have more tattoos than those on her arms. Those thoughts led him to imaging her opening the door to the shower and inviting him to join her, which of course ended in their having the best sex he'd had in years. Which wouldn't have been difficult seeing that it'd been years since he'd last had relations with a woman.
Before he knew it, he'd pressurized the suspension fork, taken the bike down off of his WorkStand, and parked it with the others ready for pick up. He was about to call and leave a message for the bike's owner as the woman came out from the shower drying her hair with a t-shirt.
"Thanks. I really needed a shower." She put down five bucks on the counter. "For the workspace for next hour." She packed her clothes back up in her bike and rolled it over to the station furthest from the shop's windows.
Seward watched her for a few minutes as she tinkered, tightening a few bolts and checking her tire alignment before going back to his pile of repairs. He picked his phone up again to call the customer when he decided that he wanted to know how she knew his middle name more. He put the phone back down and walked over to her workstation.
He wasn't one to beat around the bush, so he asked her outright. "How do you know my middle name?"
She put her tools down slowly and turned around. Her eyes were wide.
Seward noticed her fearful reaction the question, so he took a step back and rephrased it. "Ah, I mean, no one round here knows me as Emmet. I go by Dan or Seward." He held out his hand to her and smiled. "Hi. I'm Dan Seward."
His awkward back peddling must have lighted the mood because she took his hand and replied, "I'm Inez."
Seward let go of her hand. "So, Inez…" He let the question tail off as he looked at her bike. "What do you think of the Big Dummy?"
"It's a little heavy, but it's the station wagon of hybrid bikes."
Seward nodded. "I like to think of them as SUVs."
"Manlier." She put her hand on her hips. "Either way, they get the job done."
"Yeah. That they do."
Inez still looked nervous, but as her shoulder's sagged, she opened up. "You're Daniel Emmet Seward." She looked around as if to check for eavesdroppers. "You're the environmentalist who took out the lumber mill a few years back near Ann Arbor." Inez paused. "I was told you might still be sympathetic to the cause – that you might help me."