Monday, February 3, 2014

They've Given You A Number And Taken Away Your Name

A couple of years ago, a family friend who has a private investigation company hired one of my sons to do some surveillance work for him. My son went to a soccer field and photographed a woman thought to be cheating. She was there alone watching her son, then went to lunch with a woman friend. All very innocuous. He got paid for his time, gas and even the hotdogs he ate.

After my adventure this week, I've considered asking this guy for a job.  And I'd work cheaper than my son because I don't eat hotdogs.

There have been some pretty cool women working as private investigators or the like: Agent 99 from Get Smart.  Sabrina Duncan from Charlie's Angel's. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. And now, me.

It began last year when someone close to me got ditched after 30 years.  They never married, and enjoyed a rather bohemian lifestyle in a little cottage by the water. Then the bastard just packed his clothes and walked away, leaving her with the house, a mortgage, a second mortgage (taken out when he was out of work for two years) and a sickly 14 year old dog.

Throughout last summer she and I talked regularly. I mentioned moving back to New Jersey-hey we've got PLENTY of water up here too, but she liked her life among the fruit trees.  Make lemonade out of those lemons, I would jokingly say.

Then the bomb dropped.  She learned that said prick had an IRS lien on their house.  He hadn't paid income taxes since 2002.  All told, the house wasn't worth the paper they owed.  My gut and my big mouth told her to get out of Dodge and find someplace new. 

I made an impulse trip to visit her. And while the purpose was to get her to consider moving, my ulterior motive was to find the jerk and tell him what I thought of him. And since it's still winter, my mouth was in fine shape for a discussion heavy in four letter words.

She left for work and a mutual friend showed up, who also wanted to talk to this guy for the same reasons. Like Stephanie Plum who had Ranger, I had this man who you should really be afraid of if he ever gets mad.  We drove to two construction sites the guy might have been at with no luck. My smartphone showed that the main office was only 15 minutes away.  And there we saw his truck.  JACKPOT.  We pulled into a warehouse parking lot across the street to start some real detective work.

But it was hot. Really hot.  I should have been sitting outside in the sun getting some vitamin D to improve my mood.  Instead, I was sweating bullets in front of a guy who was glaring at every toothless lowlife walking by, imagining what we were doing sweating together in a rented car in a warehouse parking lot.

After a half hour, I was ready to throw in the towel.  I was a hot soggy mess and my phone was almost dead from playing games on it out of complete boredom. A guy walked out of one of the garages across the street, and my friend said in a way-too-even-voice "that's him". He started the car and pulled it directly behind the asshole's truck, surprising him as he carried his Tupperware lunch container.  My adrenaline started flowing.  Or it might just have been more sweat.

"Can we talk to you?" said Mr. Scary. The guy nodded, and my friend opened the door and got out.  I watched as the jerk put his hand in his front right pocket.. Could it be a gun??? I jumped out of the passenger seat and considered my Stephanie Plum options: knock him over, jump in front of Mr. Scary or run like hell.  No need-he was just shakily grabbing a cigarette. My heart was pounding so hard just then, I considered asking him for one.

Our brief conversation was mostly one sided (ours) and ended with the idiot agreeing to work with us to help our friend.  Mr. Scary said he would be calling to tell him what he needed to do. He told him that for everyone's sake, he hoped we wouldn't need to "meet again," and the ex nodded nervously. For a split second, I almost felt sorry for this buffoon who knew he meant business, and then stopped and put my game face back on.  I nodded solemnly.  Yeah, what he said. I was a little afraid of what would happen if we had to meet again myself.

We got back in the car and he suggested lunch.  Fine by me, as long as I could order something cold and wet. We stopped at a Mexican place, and after he ordered himself an appetizer, lunch and a salad, Mr. Cool said "well, we ruined his day."  I raised my Margarita to him and thought about that friend with the investigation firm back home.  Maybe I wouldn't be able to work as cheaply as my son.  Buying the drinks to calm my nerves after an experience like this would cost him dearly.

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