Why run five miles at five o’clock in the morning? Money.
We found a purse in June, it was empty. We found a diamond ring in July. That was a big hit, and the
best story told at the family picnic. We found the dead guy in August.
It’s not like we found a body in the road, even though there are a few brushy spots along the bluff that
smell like something died.
Early morning runners find all sorts of things. Returnable cans and coins are usually the most lucrative
items. Franklin and I have hypothesized an entire science about how loose change ends up where it does.
We’d like to find a money clip stuffed with a wad of bills no drug dealer in his right mind would run a ‘Lost’
We’re not hard up for money. We teach. We run. We find stuff on the ground because you better be
watching where you put your feet at five a.m. “Finders, keepers...”, you know. It makes for some pretty
unusual discussions at social gatherings.
There’s a bus stop near the gravel parking lot above Oaks Bottom. Last winter we found a whole handful
of pennies gleaming under the streetlight. We still scout that area pretty carefully.
We’re on the lookout for traffic, but rely more on our sense of hearing for approaching vehicles. I usually
run out front and make a lot of discoveries. I’ve learned the hard way not to stop dead in my tracks
without tossing a verbal warning behind me. Sometimes I forget, especially when it comes to money and
an acute case of gold fever sets in.
“Hey, a wallet!” I stopped dead in my tracks.
Franklin narrowly missed plowing into me by veering out into the street. One advantage of running when
no one else is awake is there’s not much chance of getting hit by a car.
“You’re kidding...no, you’re not.” He bent down and picked up the worn leather billfold. Franklin isn’t
afraid of dirt and germs. The wallet looked like it had been tossed out of a window and turned a
somersault or two to reach the roadside.
“Yesss! Our lucky day! It’s gotta be stuffed with hundred, no, thousand dollar bills...” I was shouting. My
heart was racing. We’d only covered half a mile at a slow jog.
“Now, just hold on.” Franklin was opening it like a book he wasn’t particularly interested in reading. I was
impatiently hopping from one foot to the other, trying not to reach out and rip it from his grasp.
Franklin is a very organized, methodical person. He has the neatest underwear drawer in the world. That’s
one of the reasons I married him. Because of his traits, not his underwear. I admire cool, calculating
people who can take charge and hold the world together in a crisis. This wasn’t a world crisis. It was one
of the few times I wished he was a little less methodical. He continued searching through all the hidden
slots and pockets men can find in a simple wallet.
“Well? Any money? Credit cards? A license?” I paced around, ready to call it a bust when I saw one of
those plastic wallet inserts a few feet away. “Wow! Look what else!” Tossing my dirt and germ worries to
the wind I reached down and snatched this latest gem. Aha! Something of my own to investigate.
“Nope, no money, no cards, no driver’s license. This probably belongs to Brad Sakai. He drives a Honda.”
My husband is a pretty smart guy, but sometimes he astounds me with his intuitive powers.
“Brad Sakai? Who’s that? How do you know what he drives?”
“Fishing license...says he lives on S.E. Rhine, number three. And, here’s a Honda key. What do you have
there?” He reached for the insert I was holding.
That’s how it always is. Just when I give up and think Franklin isn’t going to answer me, I start my own
little project. Then he comes through with something to distract me. In the midst of wondering what Brad
Sakai must look like and how his wallet found its way to Milwaukee Avenue, I realized Franklin was flipping
through the insert making new and exciting discoveries without me.
“This must be his little kid. It says Tommy Sakai, age two, on the back.” He handed me a photo of a
twinkly eyed toddler sitting in front of a phony fireplace hung with Christmas stockings. That snowy
window didn’t fool me. This picture had been taken on a hot summer day in a department store. “And
this must be his wife, or the reason he doesn’t have one anymore...”
“Criminy! Is that a real gun?” My eyes were bugging out of my head. This snapshot couldn’t have been
taken at the same place young Tommy got his 24 mini-pics and a free five-by-seven. Based on our
reprobate bachelor friend John’s descriptions of the local topless clubs, this woman was probably a
dancer. She had this wild mane of coppery hair and wore a black leather motorcycle jacket revealing more
than enough cleavage. Her skimpy black shorts were about two sizes too small.
Amber had written her name in rather voluptuous letters, then sealed the whole Kodak moment with a
kiss. The lip print and the signature led me to believe this wasn’t one of those free pictures that come
with a new wallet.
“That’s probably one of those realistic looking plastic squirt guns. You know, a prop.”
“Some prop,” I snorted. Maybe Brad thought Amber was a sexpot, but I sure didn’t think she looked
wholesome enough to qualify as Tommy’s mommy.
“Do you think somebody stole this guy’s wallet, yanked out his I.D. and the cash, then threw the rest
My theory wasn’t original. A few years before I met Franklin three thugs jumped him in a parking lot. To
get his wallet, they ripped the back pocket off his jeans, then put a few knife holes in his Trail Blazers
World Champions t-shirt. Some sleepy-eyed doctor stitched his body back together in the wee hours of
the morning. Alerting the credit card company in time, Franklin stole the creeps’ opportunity to purchase
a new stereo. He was still ticked about the shirt. And replacing I.D. was such a hassle.
Mr. Sakai didn’t have much left, but maybe his fishing license would give him a place to start. Visions of
Brad gratefully handing us a generous reward for our kindness and concern began forming in my
Franklin said nothing as he fit the insert back into the wallet, then put it in the tall grass at the base of
the streetlight. “Why are you doing that? Aren’t we going to give it back?” My reward scenario began
fading around the edges. We picked up the pace, heading south toward our turnaround point near the
“Why carry something we can pick up on our way home?” Mr. Efficiency strikes again. Right, I rationalized,
we’d need our hands free to carry all of the other treasures we would no doubt find. Resisting the urge
to glance back over my shoulder, I hoped nobody was spying on us. Someone who might plan their own
roadside investigation once we were out of sight.
Pickings were slim the rest of the run. We were foiled more than once by those round shiny ends off
breath mint rolls and smashed beer caps. They impersonate dimes and quarters so well. Foreshortened
cigarette butts and round white bird droppings also look promising in the early morning light.
Empty handed, I was quite relieved the wallet had remained undisturbed in its impromptu nest. The
number nineteen Tri-Met bus pulled up across the street just as Franklin plucked the billfold from its
hiding place. Luckily, no one got off to sprint across the street and claim our latest find.
We have this routine we follow after every run. Franklin is great at establishing routines, and I usually find
real comfort in their predictability. After a summer morning run, we walk a block past our house to check
the tavern parking lot for change, groom the front yard of stray Japanese clover, then inspect the baby
tomatoes for sow bug holes.
This was not a good day for me to do a routine. I had a nagging urge to tear into the house, skip the
shower, and get on with finding out more about Brad’s recent misadventure.
Since there’s no way to hurry Franklin when he’s in routine mode, I settled for rifling sweat-sticky fingers
through the phone book while kicking off my running shoes. Doing two things at once makes me feel like I’
m getting a head start. ‘Sakai, Brad.’ Sure enough, this guy lived on Rhine. His phone number had a
couple of zeros at the end, just like ours. Probably a good sign.
Six days a week The Oregonian gets neatly dissected at our breakfast table. The juiciest tidbits come
from the Metro section. That’s where we find out things like whether it was a backfiring car or a gunshot
we heard coming from the White Rose Motel the night before. Not that southeast Portland is crime-
ridden. We just like clipping out the more exciting neighborhood news to send to Franklin’ mom down in
Franklin checks the weather forecast, always of utmost importance to runners. We’re the rare two
Portlanders who don’t think rain is cozy. People who think rain is cozy must spend all their time indoors
I scan the obituaries, which Franklin thinks is ghoulish, but news about everyone ends up there eventually.
While he reads everything in the sports section, except for boring stuff like golf, I cruise the classifieds.
My favorite section is Lost and Found, of course, as a possible money source. So far it hasn’t paid off.
But then, some people spend a dollar on the lottery every week and never make a cent.
No one had run an ad for a lost wallet. I figured Brad was only recently robbed, or he was still in the
‘Now, where did I put that?’ stage.
“Found your wallet while running. No cash or credit cards inside. Got your address from the fishing
license. The Rices.” Below that I jotted our phone number, just in case Brad wanted to get in touch with
us to make arrangements for some sort of remuneration. I slipped it into a large white envelope, copied
his address on the front, then put our return address in the upper left corner. The wallet fit inside, but it
was a pretty bulky package. “Shall I drop this in the mail, or are we going to deliver it in person?”
Franklin took one look at the envelope and said, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, giving out our
address.” I didn’t ask why, because my paranoid sense suddenly agreed with him. I scribbled out our
Brad’s wallet hadn’t traveled too far. He lived down in the Flats, near Brooklyn Yard. We pulled into the
very small parking lot of a sage green two story apartment building. It had that low rent facade, and I felt
our possible reward dropping in value.
“There’s a Honda,” Franklin pointed toward the only car in the lot without a license plate. “It’s in pretty
bad shape.” Good description for a car with no front quarter panel and a windshield resembling a monster
spider web. “I’ll bet he wishes someone would steal that mess. At least he could get some insurance
“Franklin, that’s it! A plot! Brad threw his wallet away with the address and the key inside so some slime
ball kids would rip off his car and take it for a joyride. I’ll bet he bashed into something--maybe he ran
over somebody--and he could claim the joyriders smashed it up and- What! Why are you looking at me
like that?” I hate it when Franklin gets that look on his face, like I’ve turned into one of those weird
scribbly cartoon people and I’m speaking in the language of a rabid dog.
“I think you’ve been watching too many movies, that’s what.”
“You’re the one who got all worried about our address...” I countered.
“O.K., O.K. Let’s just drop it in his mailbox and go.”
“Shouldn’t we knock on his door? If that’s his car, he’s probably home.” Something in his look led me to
believe that Franklin’ suggestion was a better idea than mine, but I wasn’t quite ready to flick it all in yet.
“Isn’t there some federal law about touching other people’s mailboxes?” I’ll admit, it was a feeble attempt
at pretending I wanted to meet ol’ Brad. I didn’t really want to go knocking on a stranger’s door.
Especially if it aborted his own plan involving cash.
I walked toward an alcove with a stairwell on the left, mailboxes on the right. Somebody had dropped a
Tri-Met schedule at the base of the stairs. Litterbug. No wonder fares go up. I picked it up and slipped it
into my sweater pocket. We’d be driving past a bus shelter on our way home, I could drop it off there.
Apartment number three’s mailbox was like the other seven. Not a high class locked box operation. Just
tall metal rectangles with flip top lids. Each one had a cut out slot near the bottom to show if anything’s
inside. I used the tips of my fingernails to lift the lid and realized Franklin was right, I had been watching
too many movies. Who cared about my fingerprints anyway? I wasn’t stealing, I was doing a good deed.
The envelope thunked to the bottom and white paper with ball-point writing peeked through the slot.
“Criminy!” I practically jumped out of my skin. I’m about the world’s biggest scaredy cat, and I don’t like
sudden noises that come from behind. If this was a movie, there would be spooky music playing right
now and Franklin would be shouting, “Don’t look back, just get the hell in the car!” I hightailed it,
slammed my door, and turned to Franklin.
“Well?” That’s not what getaway drivers are supposed to say.
“Well, what? Let’s go,” I gasped.
“What’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing. I heard something. Let’s go.” I glanced toward number three. I could have sworn I saw the
tiniest slice of dark around the door disappear, like someone shutting the door.
Franklin shook his head, “No more suspense movies, Dear.”
I checked our Caller I.D. unit when we returned home. Not an incoming call from anyone, let alone Brad,
the ungrateful wretch.
By Friday evening I was beginning to wonder if someone hadn’t robbed Brad’s mailbox. A little after nine
o’clock the phone rang.
“That was our buddy, Brad. He said thanks for returning the wallet.” Franklin had answered the phone
while I was puttering around in the bathroom.
“That’s it? Thanks? No reward? No dinner out?”
“Hey, don’t you feel all warm and squishy inside having done such a good deed?”
Well, yeah, but I didn’t go to bed feeling like my bank account had gained any weight.
Saturday mornings are our day off from running. We sit in bed drinking coffee and reading the newspaper
until our neighborhood Greek restaurant opens for breakfast. I just about threw my coffee all over
Franklin when I shouted, “Holy cow! Listen to this! ‘A service will be held at 2 p.m... born in Honolulu,
Hawaii...’ Wait, wait, listen-- ‘Mr. Sakai was found in his Brooklyn apartment August 11. His death is
under investigation.’ Franklin! This is August thirteenth! You talked to him last night! Did he sound dead?”
Franklin grabbed the paper. I reached for the Caller I.D. unit on the night stand and punched through the
list of recent calls. ‘Amber Franklin, 8/12, 9:06 p.m.’ It wasn’t Brad’s phone number. No double zeros.
“Oh, jeez, Franklin. He was probably a dead guy when we went to his apartment!”
We ransacked the paper for one of those little ads they run with the Crime Tipsters number on it.
Portland’s developing a reputation for criminals who don’t cover their bases. Amber and her brother didn’
t let us down. The hole in Brad’s forehead matched the hole in the Honda’s spider webbed windshield. A
plastic assault rifle hadn’t made those holes, but they did find the real thing at Amber’s place. So much
I’d heard “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, but I thought this was a little extreme. “Losers,
weepers,” might have been a more appropriate approach for Amber to take.
Portland’s also developing this reputation for citizens who are good recyclers. The cops found Brad’s
missing license plate in Amber’s recycling bin.
Little spiders skitter up and down my back when I think about Amber and her brother, and us. Why did
they call? Maybe they figured we’d come back to see why Brad hadn’t sent so much as a thank you note.
Maybe they thought we’d picked up something linking them to Brad’s demise.
I’d been so rattled, I’d forgotten to drop that Tri-Met schedule off at the bus shelter. The guy at the
cleaners looked at me kind of funny when he handed it to me along with my sweater.
On the map inside, a murderous red ‘x’ marked the bus stop near Milwaukee and Rhine.
Same shade as the lipstick print on Amber’s photo.
Same shade as the lasting impression she left on Brad’s dead face.
We’ve started running at four-thirty in the morning. In September we picked up a thousand dollars. Not
off the street. From Crime Tipsters, the reward money.
“Finders keepers, losers weepers.”
by: D. Rice