YORK -- Tommy Kimble, at 33 years old with the flaming red brush cut, the million freckles, the smile that covers his Down syndrome like a satin baby blanket, lives for his bicycle.
Really a three-wheeler, built just for him a few years ago by his older brother, Donnie. Painted red like Tommy's hair, with a basket on the back for putting all the great stuff that Tommy finds in his travels. Like a flower for his mother.
He is the king of Charlotte Street on the city's north edge. The neighbors wave as he pedals down a few driveways, as far as his mother lets him go by himself.
Everybody knows Tommy.
Tommy always would buzz one of those bells on the handlebars -- the kind sounded with your thumb on a lever -- that makes the sound of pure joy.
Tommy had no joy Thursday morning when he went outside to ride his bike.
Somebody had stolen it.
"I am just sick about it," said Tommy's mother, Jean Kimble, who has spent almost every day of the past 33 years with her youngest of seven children.
Jean and her husband, Lester, searched around the sides of the house Thursday morning and asked the neighbors. Nobody saw a thing, but everybody vowed to start looking. One guy down the street sent out his son to search the neighborhood.
Jean Kimble told the trash men on the truck, the recycling man, the mailman. All vowed to look out for the bike.
Lester Kimble called the police, and an officer with the York Police Department came in a jiffy Thursday morning. On the top pipe of the chain link fence in the backyard was a scrape of red paint. On the ground -- on the other side of the fence, not in the Kimble's yard -- lay the board Tommy always put on the bottom of his basket so small things didn't fall through.
The officer, 18 years on the force in York, named Dale Edwards, vowed to help Tommy and the Kimbles find the bike. He left to type up his report and get the word out to other officers.
One of those officers who heard Thursday started out "po-licing" more than three decades ago making about $500 a month. He knew Lester and Jean Kimble then, knew their children, knew their last son named Tommy who was born with Down syndrome.
That cop's name is Bill Mobley. York Police Chief Bill Mobley for so long now, a man who on Thursday in his city was none too happy about a stolen bike on Charlotte Street.
"It's bad enough to steal from somebody, steal anything, but to take Tommy's bike?" Mobley said. "Everybody knows Tommy. This is just uncalled for. Tommy is a good-natured person. Never hurt anybody. Tommy can't understand this, how somebody could do this to him, take the only thing that's really his."
The case is now in the hands of a detective
Years ago, Tommy had a two-wheel bike, but he couldn't ride it alone.
"He'd just push it around, and I didn't want him to get hurt," said his mother. "We had to find something better."
Donnie Kimble, that brother who forged the three-wheeler, was found Thursday in the oil change pit at York's Wal-Mart where he makes his living. The bike's worth on the police report was estimated at $200. That would make it a petty larceny. A misdemeanor. Small potatoes.
I saw in Donnie Kimble's eyes, down in that pit where he was working, that Tommy's bike is worth so much more.
"I made this one special just for Tommy, with the box on it," he said. "He loves that bike. Everybody knows Tommy and I guess the bike, too."
Donnie said what Mobley and Edwards the policemen said: This bike would be conspicuous if anybody but Tommy were out riding it. It is probably the only one of its kind.
"It has special gears, you couldn't ride it up even the smallest hill," Donnie Kimble said.
Later Thursday, Tommy sat on the porch swing at home because there was no bike to ride. He sat on the swing in the backyard, too. His mother talked about that phrase "everybody knows Tommy."
"Better than 36 years in this house, on this street," Jean Kimble said of Kimbles on Charlotte Street. "Tommy is 33 years old. He hugs everybody. Has for years."
Tommy bowls once a week with a few other people his family knows who have similar disabilities. One lady's name is Chrissy. They went to the county disabilities board prom together. Tommy even gave her a ring, a real diamond, that was once given to one of his sisters by a long-ago boyfriend.
Besides his outings with his family, about the only other time he was without his bike was last summer, for a week, when he went to a special camp for adults with special needs up in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains. There, he wowed the others with his wrestler Ric Flair "Woo!" -- he did it Thursday right there in the yard -- and his Elvis Presley arm pumping move learned from the "Aloha from Hawaii" special. His mother is sewing him a special white suit for the talent show at camp this summer.
That camp where Tommy will be Elvis is called Camp Joy.
On Thursday, Tommy gave one more look behind the shed near the chain link fence. He saw the paint on the fence, the board.
"Bike," he said.
But there was no bike. And no joy, either.