“I mean, can you imagine it? Winning the Tour de France seven times?” Buck Junior says. “And in a row at that. Quite an achievement. Whenever I get in a tight spot, I ask myself, what would Lance do?”
As Velvet locks her bicycle outside the building where their pick-up is, she wishes the newbie she’s training would shut up about Lance Armstrong. She doesn’t give a bat’s fart about what Lance would do. “You do know he doped his way to all seven tour wins?”
Junior looks taken aback. “Yeah, I know that. It shows dedication, don’t you think? Winning at any cost? Something this country has forgotten how to do.”
“Spin it however you like, it’s still cheating,” she says, locking her bike.
Junior locks his bicycle too and follows her lead inside. “Maybe, or you could say he was simply leveling the playing field. All of the big names from Lance’s era got busted at one point or another. And remember, he was betrayed by a teammate, not caught, he should be commended for that, for being such a good cheater. He’s just plain good at everything he does. If that Judas Floyd Landis had kept his mouth shut, no one would be the wiser and Lance would still be a national hero.”
Velvet knows it’s pointless to argue with a true believer. They’ll call a dick a clit if it will keep their world outlook straight. She presses the up button for the elevator. “A word of advice, newbie. I get it that he’s your hero and you’ve got a big man-crush on him, but if you keep going on about him like this, especially in front of the other messengers and drivers, you’re going to get tagged with a nickname I doubt you’ll like.”
“Cool, a nickname? I’ve always wanted a nickname. How about Lancet?” he says as the elevator arrives and they get on. “I’ve never liked being called Junior.”
“Junior may be lame, but preferable to Lance’s Apprentice.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
Velvet looks at him. He’s maybe a year younger than her but it seems like a lot more, and sort of dumb in a likable way. “I’m being kind. It’s your first day. Believe me, it’ll be much worse.”
When they return to their bicycles with the pick-up secure in Velvets all-weather backpack, Velvet catches sight of a strange craft hovering silently over the building across the street. “What in the world is that?” she says as she pushes back her skullcap, and as she does, the craft disappears.
“See what?” Junior asks, looking where Velvet is looking.
“I don’t know. It’s gone.” She shakes her head and pulls her cap back on. As she does, the craft reappears over the building. She pulls the cap off and it’s gone. “Fuck me,” she says and tosses Junior the cap. “Put that on and look over there.”
Feeling the dampness of the skullcap, he hesitates. “Why?”
“Because it’s what Lance would do, Apprentice.”
He puts it on. “Holy cow, what is that?”
“So you see it too? Then it’s not some sort of magic mushroom flashback.”
“That’s no helicopter. That’s totally scifi.” He pulls the cap off. “Now it’s gone.” When he puts the cap back on, it reappears, but this time a woman is floating in the air below it. “It’s about to eat some woman.”
Velvet grabs her cap from his head and pulls it on just in time to see the woman disappear inside the bottom of the craft and for it to fly away at immense speed. “It’s gone. It took the woman and it’s gone. I wonder if it’ll bring her back.”
“I want one of those hats.” Junior wipes the residual dampness on his head where the hat was with the back of his hand. “What else can you see with that thing on?”
“I don’t know. I only got this morning. It was a gift from my dog nanny.”
“Yes, I have a dog nanny. Come on, let’s go.”