Stolen-car story is better in unabridged version

THIS JUST IN ...

February 17, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

A lot of you are going to say, "I heard that on the news," because a Baltimore television station had this story last week. But it was offered in such abbreviated form -- mere finger food from the news buffet -- that it could hardly be considered satisfying. This morning, you get the full-course meal.

Let's pick up with the UPS man in the brown jacket delivering a tin of cookies to Ryan Kirby's house in Rodgers Forge. They're chocolate chip cookies, with M&Ms substituted for the chips -- a modest thanks-for-your-business gift from the guys at Apple Ford who sold Ryan Kirby his 1997 Taurus two weeks earlier. Nice touch, wouldn't you say?

Except that Ryan Kirby wasn't in the mood for cookies.

Just 15 minutes before the UPS man arrived, Kirby had returned home from filing a police report. His new Taurus -- and the golf clubs and laptop computer inside -- had been stolen.

Kirby had parked his car in York Road Plaza and gone into a dry cleaner's for just a few minutes. When he returned, no car. Someone had swiped it by unlocking the driver's side door and starting the engine with the spare key Kirby had concealed (though, apparently, not very well) under a front quarter-panel.

It was a double bummer because that afternoon (Feb. 6) Kirby, a 25-year-old salesman of office equipment, had an important appointment. He works for T. Talbott Bond Co., see, and he had hoped to sell "a very large copier" to Johnson & Towers, distributors of diesel engines. But . . . car stolen, appointment canceled. Have some cookies, Ryan Kirby.

OK, let's jump ahead six days.

We meet Ryan Kirby again, and this time he's driving a rental car. He's with his manager, 30-year-old Greg Mix, and they're headed to finally pitch the office copier to Johnson & Towers. They're on Pulaski Highway, with a red light coming up. As Kirby starts to slow his car in the middle lane, he notices a Ford Taurus to his right. It makes him sentimental for his stolen car.

This Taurus has four doors, just like Kirby's. It's the same shade of green. Gee, it even has temporary tags. And the temporary tags bear almost the same numbers as the temporary tags on Kirby's missing Taurus.

As Kirby slows his rental car for the red light, his curiosity goes into overdrive. He takes a hard look at the numbers. Suddenly, he realizes something: They're not almost the same numbers. They are the same.

"That's my car!" Kirby shouts and pulls his rental up and in front of the Taurus.

He and Mix look over. There's a young man at the wheel, a woman and a child. In the next instant, Mix jumps out of the rental, opens the driver's door of the green Taurus, reaches over the steering column, grabs the gear stick and puts the car in park.

The driver shouts. The woman screams. Mix runs around to the passenger side. Kirby reaches into the Taurus and grabs the driver by his shirt collar.

"What the hell?" the driver yells.

"What're you doin' to him?" the woman yells.

"This is my car," Kirby snaps back. "He's wearing my topcoat and gloves, too."

So now Kirby and Mix are blocking two lanes of traffic on Pulaski Highway, and every driver out there wants to know why these two guys have cut off the green Taurus and muscled the driver. Fortunately, Kirby's car registration is still in the glove compartment and he can prove the Taurus is his. That comes in handy when an off-duty paramedic runs up to see what's going on. Immediately, he jogs back to his vehicle and uses his CB radio to call for help. Five minutes later, city police are all over the scene. (And more than one tell Kirby they'd never heard of a stolen car's owner recovering his own vehicle through such a coincidence.)

The driver of the Taurus remains silent the whole time. Police take him away in handcuffs. Even then, the woman is still incredulous, still holding her child and yelling.

"Didn't you think it was funny your husband just showed up with a new car and a nice coat? Did you think he'd just gotten a new office job?" Kirby asks her.

The woman mumbles that a "friend gave us" the car. (Police later told Kirby that the 19-year-old driver of the Taurus admitted stealing it.)

Of course, with all the fuss, Kirby again had to postpone his appointment with Johnson & Towers. (He finally got to make his pitch last week, but as of Friday he still didn't know whether he'd get the contract to sell the copier.)

Kirby got his Taurus back but not his laptop computer and only half his golf clubs. He doesn't know where they could be. But I told him not to give up hope that he'd see them again.

I figure that, one of these days, he and Greg Mix will be taking an important business customer out to a local golf course. They'll be waiting to tee off and suddenly discover a guy in the foursome in front of them carrying Kirby's stolen clubs. I pity that fool.

Pub Date: 2/17/97

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