Earlier this summer I had a chance to visit Beaverdale Books, a for-real independent book store in a Des Moines neighborhood where I used to spend a lot of time. The neighborhood is also home to a fictional bicycle shop / taproom that I made up for my second Detective Red Shaw novel.
When you’re in Beaverdale, you can actually buy both of those crime novels at Beaverdale Books. However, you won’t find the bike shop Red Shaw and Phil Vega visit in the following excerpt from North of Grand.
In which detectives visit a Beaverdale beer & bike shop…
…while investigating the murder of a cyclist.
Beaverdale Bike-n-Ale sold bicycles in the same spot for twenty years before new owners came along with a new business model. They thought they could draw in more cyclists, many of whom liked good, trendy beer, if they also attracted a share of the growing numbers of craft beer drinkers who didn’t necessarily give a rat’s ass about bicycles, resting heart rates, or power-to-weight ratios. The bicycle side of the shop sold custom-fitted road machines and mountain bikes that cost more than Shaw’s first two cars put together. The taproom offered an ever-changing menu of craft lagers, ales, stouts and other concoctions as long as they came from anything other than a brewery that had even the faintest whiff of international consolidation.
A chalkboard behind the bar caught Shaw’s attention. “If you want Bud Light, leave now,” read the top line. The day’s list of carefully selected brews on tap filled the rest of the board.
A bearded twenty-something behind the bar sported a red farmer bandana and a tattered Tour de France t-shirt. He was rinsing pint glasses and four-ounce tasters in hot water before setting them on a mat to dry. Clean glasses hung in rows from an overhead rack. Vega eyed a pair of patrons at a nearby table and nudged Shaw, nodding to indicate where he should look.
“That’s a man bun, Phil,” Shaw said. “You’d look good with one.”
Bun Man overheard the comment and turned to the detectives. “I can see that,” he said, pointing at Vega’s black waves. “Let it grow a couple more inches and you could definitely rock a bun.”
“Yeah, and Rosa would definitely snatch it off in a second.”
Bun Man’s companion commiserated by rubbing his shaved head and laughing. “Sssssnatch you bald,” he slurred.
Shaw flagged down the bartender, who looked over after putting up the last beer glass.
“What can I get you, sir?”
Shaw caught a name on the whiteboard that told him the Ale Agent on Duty was James. “Nothing right now, James,” he said as he held out his badge, “but we need to ask you a few questions.”
Vega produced his own shield and James yawned as he glanced at it then looked back at Shaw. “What?”
“Do you know a Zachary Costa?”
“Yeah, I knew Zach. He used to come in a lot. Every few days. Not lately, though.”
“So you heard about his death?”
“Who hasn’t? It’s all over.”
“Fuck that, the newspaper,” he said as he snatched a smartphone from a back pocket and held it out. Shaw saw Vega twitch toward his Glock before catching himself and relaxing. “It’s all over the internet, man. Where you from, fucking 1990?”
Vega pulled his own smartphone out and laid it on the bar. “Nice attitude, James. When’s the last time you saw Zach Costa?”
James took a deep breath and exhaled, slowly. “Week ago. He had a couple of pints with Emma, his girl, and they left.”
“Did you know him outside of here? You guys hang out or anything?”
“No, we just talked beer and bikes when he came in.” He nodded toward Bun Man and Bald Guy, who were heading for the door. “Those guys probably knew him better.”
Shaw caught Vega’s eye and nodded their way to send him after them.
“You know their names?” he asked James.
“Yeah. And I’ve got one of their credit cards. Tab’s still open.”
“It looks like you need to close it out and call a ride for them.”
James grabbed a rag to wipe down the bar. “No, I think Gav’s okay, and he’s driving. Jeff has probably had enough, though.”
Shaw picked up Vega’s phone. “My partner has some pictures of Zachary Costa’s bicycles we’d like to show you.”
James smiled. “To hear him talk, he had some nice rides.”
“He had a couple of higher-end Treks that he raced, and another one he called his ‘investment.’”
“What was that one?”
“A Paramount from like the sixties. He thought a collector might buy it for four or five grand.”
Bun Man and Bald Guy were back soon, after a quick smoke in the alley, with Vega trailing behind.
“Detective Vega, can you show James Mr. Costa’s bicycles?” Shaw asked.
Vega took the phone and flipped through the images one by one as James provided a running commentary. “That’s one he probably raced … that’s a beater … another beater … yeah, that’s a time trial bike he talked about.”
“Thank you, James,” Shaw said. “That’s very helpful.”
“What about the other one?” James asked. “The Paramount? No picture of that one?”
Vega dodged the question. “Let us know if you hear anyone else asking about it, okay?”