Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Lady In White

There are so many stories to tell. Days, months, years of them. The faces and cases blend together in a collage of memories and realities... each investigation running the gamut from highly aggravating and life-altering, to catastrophic.

To share such stories on a forum like this one requires both caution and respect.

Caution... because there are issues of privacy in all investigations -- legal, ethical and moral.
Respect... because by the time a client hires a private investigator, things in their life have gotten very grim. And a person who is willing to fight for their rights, willing to hire the warriors.... the attorneys, the p.i.'s, the mercenaries .... to do battle for them, deserves respect. Yet at the end of the day, in some cases... I find the respect I initially invested, poorly spent.

The justice system has flaws in its structure.
There are innocent people on death row and guilty people on the streets.
The bad guys look like good guys, and the good guys are often overlooked.... because the bad guys disguised as good guys seduce their targets, victims, subjects.

Let me preface the case study that follows by saying, just because it appears to feature a female victim, men are victims as much, if not more as women from domestic dramas, traumas, confrontations.

We all have our illusions and delusions of love when we think we are falling in love.
But that stage of falling is more like we are being led by forces beyond ourselves that are actually within ourselves.

Because in the first moments of new physical relationships, it is hormones, primal instinct... not our brains... that launch, then drive us. It is instinct, passion, need, desire, want, lust... those are the things that first fuel a fire of attraction that may or may not remain lit.

That initial fire of infatuation either extinguishes itself over time, or continues to grow. Sometimes it's contained. Sometimes it leaps boundaries, burns homes, consumes lives and leaves ashes in its wake. Forget logic, reason, rationality.

Some relationships are so sick, or co-dependent, they're like those birthday candles you blow out that perpetually re-ignite. The abused return to the abuser. The apologies work until the next offense. Then the patterns repeat themselves.
People keep making the same mistakes over and over again until they either get it right. Or die trying.

Case In Point: The Lady In White

Domestics are the most violent of all cases for police calls. That's because passions are ignited like wildfires, weapons are often involved. Lovers scorned can and will hurt or kill each other every day.

This is the story of one domestic... A single vignette from a huge canvas of possibilities I could pick from. My challenge will be to sum up this story, to span many weeks into just a few paragraphs.

It started at sushi bar when I first met my client-to-be...
the beautiful 39 year old white lady dressed in a white blazer, white turtleneck, white pants and white sandals which revealed white tipped french manicured toenails that matched the tips of her fingernails. the sushi bar i was seated next to her at was painted a soft white with a clean white countertop. The sushi chefs wore their white coats and hats.

I got a lot of cases from sushi bars in my early days as a P.I. Sitting by myself, at the sushi bar, ordering in Japanese, chatting with the sushi chef, sometimes sipping sake, maybe reading a book or writing....that draws attention. I wait for someone to talk to me. Or I comment on something they order. Ultimately, people ask what I do. I tell them.
And poof! a case arrives. Just like that.

So that's how I met the lady dressed in white who looked like Sharon Stone, with very short cropped blond. hair. She asked me for my business card when I told her what I did.

When I asked her what she did, she said, "Marketing."
I asked what kind. "Business," she replied.
Then she changed the subject to the one that pays the bills. She wanted to hire me to investigate her new boyfriend.

She is 39 years old she says. She lives in a mansion, (she really used that word), in Redmond (Microsoft-ville) all by herself. I asked if she was married. She hesitated, said no, then started talking again.

She said she hired a counter man/handyman type to put white marble on all her counter tops She said he's actually a very handy and exceptionally smart man. She said you wouldn't know how smart he was to look at him, because he needed major dental work and had a kind of rough appearance. He wasn't exactly ugly, she said, but he needed a bit of fixing up. Besides, she said, it was his soul, his spirit she was attracted to.

She said he was divorced, living in an apartment and had partial custody of a 17 year old daughter.

She said having this man work on the counters of her house... she couldn't help herself. He was so charming, so witty, so strong. One minute they were talking, the next, her botox lips with expensively capped teeth met his smarmy mouth and somewhere in that mix, love blossomed.

She said, they've been intimate two nights a week ever since. He'll spend Mondays and Thursdays nights at her house but had to take care of his 18 year old daughter the other nights. She had never been to his apartment, never met his daughter. Now she wanted him to move in. And she wanted me to check him out.

I asked her what her house is worth. She said a half million dollars.
I ask her what assets she knows he has. She said none.
She said she doesn't want me to get the wrong idea.
She's a smart woman, she said.
Before she moves him into the house, he'll live in a tent in the backyard. The tent was his suggestion, she said. She told him yes he could come in use the shower and bath, but she'd prefer most night to sleep alone and she said he was fine with that.

She said she liked the idea because she felt good having a man around to keep an eye on things.
She didn't tell me why he liked the idea.
I had that one all figured out.
He liked the idea because he could live rent free in a tent in the back yard of a beautiful, evidently rich woman's home...and ultimately move in on her... to fulfill whatever motive he had up his sleeve. And being who I am and what I do, I suspected said motive was nefarious.

She added one more point to the story. He agreed to do handyman work for her around the house and in return, she would pay his dental work, a completely new set of teeth. She guessed this would cost about 25k.

This was told me at the sushi bar.

The next time I spoke to her was at her house. Her "mansion." And that it was.

I parked next to the white Mercedes in her driveway.
She answered the door at 10:00 am in a white cashmere bathrobe that almost reached the floor. Her entire house was white, walls, rugs, furniture, picture frames.

Oddly there was only one personal picture in the living room. The same picture was in her bedroom, above the bed with a white mink-like coverlet on it. The picture was a photo of the lady in white, in white, hugging her white-haired dog, a Husky, who came out of the lily white kitchen to greet me.

She gave me a tour of her home. White staircase to white bedroom, white walk-ins, sitting rooms, bathrooms with white Italian tile and granite.

When we sat down at her white kitchen table, I asked her again what she did for a living.
She again was evasive, said she does some marketing for a friend's company and mainly she'd come into money.

She owns the house outright she said. Money is no object, she continued, as she wrote out a check and handed it to me.

I had her figured as a high class hooker or a trust fund baby who was either into the white thing.. or an obsessive compulsive thing.
I saw no office in the place, it was this make-believe Barbie Doll house in Arctic white.

Now... we fast forward.

I did my investigation. The guy was bad. Very bad. He'd beaten one wife he'd divorced. I called and talked to her, She was still terrified of him. She said she thinks he is evil. She said one time he got mad at the new kitty she just got and threw it out the window and down three stories. Crushed kitty's skull. And that was just the beginning of it all.

So I tell the lady in white this. She stares at me blankly from across her white kitchen table.
I tell her again... he killed a kitten, do you get that?
Her response was, "I'm an animal right advocate, that is disturbing. But people change."

I gave her the rest of his story. I'd done a background and surveillance on him.
He was still married.
His wife lived with a woman who I later I.D.'d via the open living room window and my camera as the wife's lesbian lover. Or part of a threesome involving the handyman.

I told my client that was where he spent the nights because he didn't have an apartment. That's why she never saw his apartment, I tell her. And he didn't have a daughter either. At least I couldn't identify one.

When he told my client he went home to the daughter, he usually boozed it up with Thelma and Louise.... then one, two or three retreated into the bedroom.

I wrapped my summary for her by suggesting she get him out of her life immediately, cut off contact, no tent, no future, no nothing. I also suggested Thelma and Louise may be in on the whole thing.

She seemed oddly calm and said this:
"While the information surprises me, I don't think it will change my mind about letting him move in."

I, of course, was dumbfounded.
I re-stated my case to her.
I showed her the records, the court files, report of interview with the ex wife, photos of the current wife and restraining orders. I show her the residency databases, the fact that he shares a permanent address with a woman he is still married to.

The lady in white calmly said, "Thank you I will take it under advisement."

I pondered the next move. Were she not a client, a good slap upside the head might be in order. Instead, I asked, "Who pays for this place, really? What's going on?"

It was the right question because the rest of the story unfolded.

"It's a secret," she said to me, smilingly mischievously.

She said she used to be a waitress in a diner in Wenatchee which is a more rural city in Eastern WA, reminiscent more of cowboys than metro-sexual city types.

She was living in a trailer with a guy who did too much coke and hassled her all the time. He beat her once, she said. She grew up in Wenatchee, she said and she wanted out.

The area there was all white people, she explained. She had red hair then.

So one day, this man, "a colored man" she called him, he told her he was 82 and was dressed in a very expensive suit, carried a fancy leather briefcase.... and he must have been 6 '3". He ordered eggs, toast and jam from her and she struck up a conversation with him. He was very well spoken she said, very well educated.

Turned out, she said, he was a wealthy man who owned land and was here to settle his dead sister's estate. He was the only one left alive in his family. She owned orchards. He inherited her money and had a lot of his own. There is no one else alive, it was all on his shoulders now, he told her.

He was in town a week. He came back to the diner the next morning, then the next and she courted him, she admitted to me.

On the day before his last breakfast at the diner before heading back to Seattle...
she told him her life was in danger, her boyfriend was in jail and if he was released, he would kill her. She needed to escape.

She told me he instantly asked her to marry him. He would move her to Seattle where he lived. So he, the 82 year old man married the 39 year old, red head turned blond.

She told me she agreed to marry him as long as they didn't have sex.... to which i said "Bullshit.:" She said, "No its true."
It's not about the sex she said. They have a spiritual connection.

Ultimately, she told him Seattle gave her the creeps, so she picked out a house in Redmond in a gated community next to a pond for him to buy her. She told him she had a nervous condition and has to be alone most of the time. All he asked is to spend every Sunday night with her, she told me. She would fix him something special and dress like she did in the diner. She also added that he signed his will.... everything over to her.

So when he dies, not only will the house remain with her because it is in her name, she will also get his house in Seattle, and all his other assets from his entire deceased family, which are significant.

So... she said to me, concluding her story, the handyman is just that. A handyman. She doesn't intend to marry him because she is already married. She just intended to have him handy in case she needed him for "something."

I have pondered that "something" for years now.

Once I walked away from her door, I refused further work for her.

I checked up on her husband for a year or so, he was still alive.
I don't know whether the handyman is around... whether he has a new set of teeth...
whether she was planning to use him as a handy hit-man or a foil for the SODDI defense (Some Other Dude Did It.)

Many single or newly single women are drawn to handymen they hire.
I investigate a lot of these cases. Landscapers, carpet cleaners, roofers, handymen... there are predators in every business where people are alone, vulnerable and in need of an assist.

Predators know many independent women with assets secretly want to be loved and they play white knight until darkness descends and they can separate their prey and their assets. In this case, I'm not sure who was the prey, really. It's like everyone used each other.

Ultimately, I'd say the men were the ones being played by a player, the likes of which I never saw coming.

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