So the following Saturday rolled around and I had already put the whole thing out of my head. I don't know if it was because I didn't want to get my hopes up or if it was I just so busy with work an family stuff but saga of the two SPS's were the last thing on my mind when my phone buzzed on the table.
It was Greg calling. He was there with the bikes. I asked him where "there" was. As it turns out, after meeting the guy at the McDonalds, he was chauffeured away to a small self storage in the north shore suburbs. The bikes were covered in a series of bedsheets and tucked away in the back of a unit in a hard to reach place in the maze of units. The way Greg was explaining it, this was the first time they were seeing the light of day in many many years and the guy was super paranoid.
I asked him how it was and how the seller was. He giggled a little before suppressing it and whispered into the phone, "Oooooh maaaan. I am going to have to call you on my way home. You are going to want to hear all about this."
He said that a bunch of pictures would be coming through on my phone and he wanted to know if these were what I wanted to see and what else should be take pics of. I had told him where the VIINs were located and he assured me that he got those. I asked him about the 7 mile bike and he said it was hard for him (as a non motorcycle guy) to be 100% sure the 7 miles were legit but in his experience, this is was a brand New Ducati with only 7 miles that had been hidden from the banks under bed sheets for 20 years would look like.
I told him I would wait by the phone and look for the pics. I was already thinking ahead to let Matt know so that he could look over the pics with me so we could compare notes.
I was getting ready to hang up and then Greg said, "Hold on. I took pics of the two bikes but you want me to take pics of the third Ducati?"
I was like "There's a third Ducati??"
"Yeah. It looks just like the two you want but it only has 1 mile on it."
I came into this whole thing trying to source ONE Ducati 916SPS for my little growing collection. Then it suddenly morphed into my possibly buying two bikes (including one unridden one). Now in the blink of an eye there was a third bike. Given all the hoops I would have to jump through, the incredibly complicated logistics and deal making, the tinge of a possible past crime, as well as the "unique" nature of the seller, this was getting out of control very quickly.
I decided on the spot that if the third bike wasn't a 916SPS or a 996R or 998R, I would have to ignore it. Even it it were the more common 996SPS I would have to ignore it. The deal was already shaping up to be very complicated given that the bikes weren't legally owned by the seller, the bank didn't know where the titles were, and the amount owed on the bikes were more than what I would spend on a really nice Ferrari. One top of all of that, the bikes were thousands of miles away. This was not straightforward.
Furthermore, I knew that it wasn't part of the loan that I was currently trying to navigate, given what the bank had told me. Given that it was in the storage unit, I could only suspect that it had a similar story to the other two bikes and was probably tied up in a separate note that for all I know was with a whole other bank.
I told Greg to send me pics but that it wasn't going to be the focus. Within minutes, tons of pics started coming through on my phone. He separated them out into the one bike with 6k miles on it and then the other with the 7 miles on it. It became immediately evident that these were real SPS's, both 98's. Not only that but the 7 mile bike was really a 7 mile bike. You could tell that while it might have been started at some point, it was never ridden or used. The bike with 6k miles on it looked pretty good too. It had some weird safety wired bits on it and some safety wire holes on a couple of bolts but other than that, it looked completely stock and exactly what it was supposed to be. This really might be the most incredible story unfolding right in front of me.
The third bike came through as well but there were only two pics and not very good as the bike was stuck way in the back of the dark storage unit. But I could tell it wasn't an SPS or R so I kept with my original plan.
I quickly forwarded all of the information to Matt. He agreed with my assessment and now I realized that I would have the monumental task of trying to put this deal together. Then my phone rang. It was Greg.
Greg was laughing so hard he could barely get the words out. He kept saying over and over that this guy was the craziest person he'd ever met and he couldn't believe this was happening. I said that the pictures were awesome and I was going to start putting the pieces together. I would try to coordinate it so that Matt could drive down from Michigan and meet the guy to take physical possession of the bikes sometime when I could be at the bank and present them with a cashiers check while they could sign a legal release of the bikes and hand over the titles (both key requirements of mine). Greg was immediately like, "Oh, I want to be there for that. Think your guy from Michigan would want some help?"
He then said, "By the way, I was racking my brain all morning to think of who this guy reminded me of. He is very different cat, if you know what I mean. I finally realized who it was. This guy is like the living embodiment of Marty the Landlord from The Big Lebowski. It's him in like every way."
I immediately knew who he was talking about it while I was awash with all kinds of feelings, half feelings of excitement for the bikes and half feelings of dread for how much work this was going to be.
Here's a clip of Marty the Landlord for all of those who don't remember the movie.
The phone rings, it's Ryan. He was all business, no pleasantries. "It's go time," he said in a rather monotone voice. My hands began to sweat. He continued, "But first I have to explain a few things to you, and I want you to know that it is totally ok if you don't want to go through with this." So I listened as Ryan shared the updates, all the while pretending like I was still evaluating whether or not to make the trip. The truth, however, was that the truck and trailer were already fully prepped and I could depart with as little as 30 seconds notice. There was nothing that Ryan could tell me that would convince me to abort this mission. Ryan concluded the update and I was relieved to know that I wouldn't be jumping off the cliff just yet. Instead, it would be several days before the stars in the universe needed to perfectly align. I was relieved to have a few extra days to prepare. It was less comforting to think that there was a potential mad man getting the same.
The day arrived and I set out on the 3+ hour journey, but not before giving a last minute update to my family and asking them to call Ryan if they didn't hear from me by midnight. The drive to Chicago seemed the longest it ever felt to me, the sound of the trailer wheels humming behind me the whole way. I stopped off to fuel up just a few miles before reaching that ominous little dot on the GPS, I wanted a full tank in the event that I needed to put some distance between me and whoever might eventually be following me. I then took a deep breath and I made my way through the final few minutes of the journey. The GPS startled me as it announced, "You have reached your destination." Upon arrival I couldn't help but think how proper this area was. The street was lined with a perfect row of trees on either side, families were walking together down the sidewalk, and a beautiful blue sky soared overhead. And the storage facility, protected by its brick and wrought iron fencing, didn't appear to be the kind that would be harboring such a secret.
I was totally engulfed in taking it all in when adrenalin suddenly rattled through my body. It took me a second to process, but the reaction was from sensing his presence. I looked to the side and there he was. His car sat lower than it should, the engine clinging to life as it struggled to maintain its idle. While I still felt that he was a mad man, he had the appearance of a canine who had just seen its owner after a long absence. Despite the crazed look, it appeared that he was very excited to see me. I knew it was him. Not only did he look like the image in his driver's license picture, he was dressed like the image in his driver's license as well. He instructed me to follow him through the entrance gate. We pull into the storage facility and, not surprisingly, he fumbles entering the gate code...numerous times. Finally the gate makes its way open and he guns it, leaving a sizable gap between him and I. The gate closes. He leaps out of the car and says "That didn't work." No kidding I screamed (to myself).
We make our way into the storage facility, rows and rows of storage units of varying sizes. This place was huge. The layout is like that of a square comb; a long spine of storage units on the opposite side with rows of storage units jutting out towards us like the teeth from a comb. We're now following the edge of the property, staring down into the long rows of storage units, each one of them dead-ending. We make it about half way back and he stops, we must be near ground zero. I never touched the brakes and made my way by him, creating some apparent confusion as if he thought I missed seeing him stop - - which would of course be impossible. What he didn't know was that I wasn't getting out of my truck before doing a 180 to set myself up for an efficient exit. I made my way to the back of the property, put my trailering skills to the test to execute the turn, and then approached him frm the opposite direction; the exit was now a short drive right in front of me. In the meantime he did the same and I rolled to a stop right behind where he had parked. There was another person in the car with him, equally reassuring as it was frightening. He exited the car and began to walk toward me. To this day I don't know how to describe him, there was a LOT to process. As he walked toward me I quickly ascertained that not only was he dressed in fatigues, he was armed. Fantastic. He explained that his wife was with him, although she remained in the car and left me doubting her actual identity. He began unbuckling his belt and holster and said, "I don't want to scratch the bikes." He then proceeded to lay the belt and holster (and its contents) down on the ground behind his car and he set off towards the storage lockers. I was frozen in disbelief. This situation was indeed fraught with a great risk of bodily harm, but as I would later learn that risk was primarily directed at the gunman himself. For the first time in decades, Frank Gallop's "The Ballad of Irving" started playing in my head.
I have no recollection as to how Greg entered the scene that day as my full concentration was on the character who just laid down a firearm in a parking lot and walked off, and I wasn't taking my eyes off of him for even a second. I met Greg via a quick handshake, we didn't need introductions. What I soon realized was that Greg was not there to help. He wasn't there to assist in my safety. Greg was there primarily because he wanted a front row view of my reaction to meeting this character for the first time, and he was already getting his money's worth. Marty, as we'll call him, was already well on his way to the locker and Greg and I began to follow. Of course the locker ended up being all of the way at the dead-end, undoubtedly the least safe place on the whole property. I began to assess my ability to scale the storage locker walls, should it be necessary. Marty pulled out a set of keys that had dozens of options and, amazingly, opened the lock on the first try. I looked over my shoulder to make sure nothing was happening in the long alley behind me as Marty slowly rolled the storage unit door open. I've never personally been involved in exhuming remains, but I remember imagining that this must be what it feels like...and smells like. This storage locker had obviously been dormant for decades. The door rolled to a stop in its fully open position and there they stood right in front of me, the mysterious bikes that were the foundation of this nearly unbelievable experience.
It was a monumental task to get things to this point. I had carefully coordinated a deal with the bank and the guy as well as Matt and Greg so that at exactly 9:30a, mountain time, on a Tuesday morning, there would be a simultaneous handover of cash for titles while in Chicago, bikes would be loaded into a trailer and whisked away to safety. But it almost never got to that point.
First there were the issues with the seller's bank:
When I met with the bank manager and told her the only way I would do the deal - the simultaneous exchange of cash, titles, and banks - she admitted she would have to do some research and this would have to go to the top channels. When I circled back with her, she had the number of the department of the bank in Indianapolis that handled bad loans and said that she would try to locate the titles which hadn't been seen in this century. I called them and made an offer to buy the collateral out of the loan. I didn't get anyone on the phone. I had to leave a message. I waited for a call back. Nothing. After about three days I called again and made the offer again, also again via voice message. I heard nothing back. Keep in mind that I was making an offer to a department of a bank via a phone message system and still no one could tell me where the titles to these were or even if they existed.
While this was going on, I was having issues with the guy:
The 6k mile bike didn't have keys (there were all kinds of books and tools and everything but only the unridden bike had its keys apparently). I told him to keep looking for them but if they couldn't be found, I would have to figure out a way to replace them. I said that it might affect how much I paid depending on how I solved the problem but not to worry. Instead, I get a call from him the next day. He called the Ducati dealership and asked them what they do when there are missing keys. They explained a whole protocol about it and estimated to him that it would be about $500. So what did he do? He went to the bank and paid $500 into a loan that had been charged off 11 years before. So here's the loan that the bank had written off. In their minds, it's a lost cause and it ceased to exist for over a decade. And now, this guy suddenly brought it all back to life because he thought he could somehow help me by putting $500 into the loan (which had a total due of well into the six figures so $500 was nothing). And now, there was a huge risk of the bank's rejecting my offer for the collateral because to them, it would look like they suddenly might have a chance of the debtor (who they didn’t even know still existed) possibly coming good on all that money.
I immediately told him to not do that again. I explained that this could create an excellent chance of the deal falling through as the bank could refuse to deal with me. Not only that, but the money wasn't going to help my cause anyways. It was going to the bank, not me, and wasn’t ever going to be credited on my behalf toward the collateral in the loan.
Back to the bank:
I called the bank again and finally I got someone on the phone. I told them that I had been trying to make an offer on some collateral on a bad loan. They said they already accepted my offer. I asked if they accepted it, why hadn't anyone called me back? They said they don't return calls. It violates corporate policy. Seriously. That's what they said. So then I asked if when I hand over the cash to the bank, if the titles will be ready. The lady said that's not how it works. She said that 3 weeks after they verify the funds are good, they will send me the titles. I said absolutely not. I explained that I was handing over a cashiers check from my bank that was good funds. That's the whole point of delivering good funds. There was no need to wait. She said that the banks policy was three weeks and a check was a check and she didn't care which kind (seriously).
I hung up, thinking that this deal wasn't going to happen. I called the bank manager at my local branch and explained to her what was going on. She sighed. She said that corporate didn't know how any of this works. She was in the process of tracking down the titles and to just leave that part to her. She said she would let me know when they were enroute so I could coordinate the rest of the deal.
That bank manager really saved the whole deal for the bank. She was a real rock star. True to her word, she called me the following week and said she tracked down the titles and was having them sent to the branch and we could do a deal the following Tuesday. So I called Matt and told him to get the trailer ready and saddle up. I also called Greg and he said he was going to show up in case Matt needed any "help." It turns out that he wasn't going to miss any of the adventure at all.
So the last part was for me to get the cashiers check for the bikes. I figured I would go on Monday to my bank and get the check to have it ready for Tuesday. Monday came and it turns out it was a bank holiday for something or another. Great. Now I would have to show up right when they opened on Tuesday and then race to the other bank. So Tuesday morning comes and I go to the bank. The bank was open right on time but the usual person who is at the desk was stuck in traffic. I said okay, I'll wait. After 10 min, I started getting nervous. I called Matt. He was with the guy and said it would take a bit to get the bikes organized and such and not to worry.
After 20 minutes she showed up however it was not Morgan, the usual bank receptionist. It turns out that Morgan was on holiday. So I explained that I wanted a cashiers check for a certain amount. The new receptionist, already totally flustered, quickly set about printing the check. She disappeared into the back office and after 10 minutes, she emerged more flustered than ever. She said that the printer wasn't printing. I said I have to be at another bank in 10 minutes and is there any other way? She called more people and asked for them to print. No dice. Then she asked if cash would do. I said I'm sure it would. So she runs to the bank and comes out with LOADS on banded bills under her arms. I was totally taken aback. She explained that they apparently hadn't gotten in all the big bills for the week yet but she had just enough in $10's and $20's to cover my needed amount. I was thinking how would it look when I walked into a bank with a garbage bag full of enough small bills to buy two collectible Ducati's. I remember thinking that it's so crazy that this was where this was going to fall apart. Anyways, I said I'll go find a bag and she can count the money. She again went into the back room and then I heard a squeal. She runs out with SEVEN cashiers checks. It turns out the printer just had all of a sudden spat them all out.
My eyes had to be as big as saucers. I was glad to get the check but seven of them??? I was like, that's like A LOT OF MONEY suddenly ejected from my account. I quickly started doing the math to figure how much money they just debited from my checking account. I was like, "um, Rachel. That's like a jillion dollars you just took out of my account." She said don't worry. Just take one and she would fix it so that only one check counted. I placed my trust in her and ran out the door, racing to the other bank, now inevitably late to the appointment, knowing that everyone in Chicago was waiting on this.
I called Matt and told him where things were and to hang tight.
At the other bank, the bank manager was ready for me and had everything perfectly prepared. She was totally ready to go. As I said, a real rock star. I gave her the check and she handed over the titles and the bills of sales as well as a series of releases saying that I legally and lawfully owned the bikes and no legal action by any party could call that into question. We filled out the titles together. As I signed the last piece, she entered the check into the account. The deal was done.
I called Matt and told him that the deal was complete and the check had been credited to the guy's account, that I had the titles, and to whisk the bikes to safety.
Matt paused awkwardly for a moment. Finally he said, "Uh, the guy won't let me load them up and take them. He said you didn’t actually buy them.”