Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Exotic Dancer

I think a Private Investigator is a Crisis Manager.
By the time we get involved in things, the situation has gone beyond grim.
I once considered changing the name of my detective agency to Triage. I felt... and feel.... like I am in a war zone every day. A MASH unit, just trying to keep a victim's hope alive.

I am a one-hit wonder of an Personal Injury Investigator.
I sweep in, get the whole story and swoop out.
I get all the facts and all the paperwork I can -- like police reports, medical bills, witness names, their scene sketches.
I take photos of victims, measure and photograph scenes, places, vehicles.
I talk to witnesses, visit roadside grave sites and mourning parents.
Then I write up, deliver my case to the the law firm... and step away.
Unless.... I am called too do further investigating, or to testify...which I hate doing.
(Some Investigators enjoying being on the stand, or the limelight. Not this one.)

I prefer the beginning, the point where the door opens and no one knows what to do next and why.
I enjoy building trust; then breaking a problem down into components and tackling them one at a time.
And I relish in the knowledge I've gathered over the years because I have so much information in my head to share. I am truly an Investigator on a mission -- to inform, to educate, to help injured people understand their legal rights and resources.

Doctors, lawyers, Indian Chiefs, insurance agents, teachers, cab drivers, truckers, police officers, fire-fighters, construction workers. White collar. blue collar, hospital collars... these are my clients. Most living, some barely. A few dead.

When I saw Lindy I was struck instantly by both her youth and beauty. She was 24, tall, long blond hair to her waist, gorgeous blue eyes... perfectly, symmetrically arched eyebrows... bright red full lips. Movie star face.

Her body was magnificent, a work of silicone art.
Her face was flawless, I asked her secret.
She said she used olive oil and swore off Botox.
Being 24 didn't hurt either, I thought.

After I showed her my ID, I said, "To look at you on the outside, no one would suspect you got hit by a truck."

She smiled weakly and said, "That's precisely my problem. No one has any clue how bad I feel."

"I do," I answered as she led me into her living room.

She was a single lily white mother of a curly black-haired, olive-skinned daughter.
I met the daughter when Lindy's mother walked her into the apartment from the daughter's school bus stop.

Lindy told me, before her mother and daughter got there, that her mother was crazy and did weird things.
"Mom's seriously manic depressive" she said, "Just ignore her, okay?"
I nodded.

Lindy's mother was hard to ignore when she pulled up a chair right in front of me and stared me in the face.
She demanded to know who I was.
Lindy being an adult, was entitled to her privacy. My job was to protect it.

I told Lindy's mother I was Lindy's Investigator and I was here to help an attorney help her daughter. I said our meeting was private, and I promised I would not hurt her daughter in any way. I showed her my state license, gave her a little sell on my background and Manic Mama went into a back room with Lindy's daughter.

The facts of Lindy's accident were this:

Lindy, was driving and her best friend was her passenger. They were driving the kids to the state fair when a female drunk driver in Pick Up ran a red light and turned in front of them. This resulted in Lindy's hitting the DEF driver head-on. Both Lindy's airbags deployed. Both vehicles were towed.
Everyone was taken to the ER by ambulance.
It was a a good case in terms of liability.
Lindy's tire marks showed how she tried to stop.
The police report cited the DEF driver for making an illegal turn... and for turning a on red light.
It was clearly not Lindy's fault.

I filled out the requisite form the lawyers gave me.
I got to the part where I ask,
"What do I put down as your profession?"

She looked me straight in the eyes and said "Exotic Dancer, though really that's just fancy for stripper"
I was impressed.
I usually got more hesitation, or embarrasment, with such revelations.
I asked who she worked for.
She told me the name of a big club here in Seattle.... and she said goes to Las Vegas conventions.
I asked how many days of work she missed since the collision.
She said three.
I asked how much money that added up to.
She said between $4500 to $5000 for 3 nights.

When I said "Wow..."
She said "Yeah, I went to school to be legal secretary. I found out how much they make and saw what my friend was making as a stripper. I thought... I can dance, what the hell? So I got two boob jobs, some extensions and now I'm doing great. Or was until the accident."

I asked her if there was "light duty" associated with her work.
She laughed, and said, "Honey you try pole dancing, cracking a whip, or crawling all over a stage with a back and neck injury."

She was hit by a Ford Pick Up that was totaled. Her Volvo was totaled. Both her airbags deployed. I know when steel vehicles get totaled, human flesh, muscles, tendon, nerves and bones do too. I told her that and she started to cry.

She was in enormous pain, she said. Her lower back was excruciating. Plus her chest, where she had the implants, was aching. She thought one of the implants may have moved or burst. She promised to get to her plastic surgeon in the morning. She promised to have her spinal column examined. She'd already been to the ER two times.

This story doesn't really go anywhere except to an unknown end.

During my interview with Lindy, we had two more room visits by her Manic Mama and I deflected all her questions.

As I said my good-byes, I gave Lindy my phone number, I said, "hold onto this so I can check out your 8 year old daughter's boyfriend in about 10 years."
Lindy thought that hysterical and said she may need me to check out her next honey.

Then I went to the tow yard which they were holding open for me so I could photograph her car. Full airbag deployment evident, frame bent, windshields cracked. What a mess. And what a miracle everyone survived.

Though I am not allowed to talk to a lawyer's clients about money, there's no law against thinking about it. Driving home, I assessed the case.
There appeared to be good insurance companies and policies in place.

I found myself wishing for a huge settlement for Lindy, something that will get her from where she is, to the next stage of her life... when aging takes its inevitable hold... and the guys no longer tip as much... and your body is no longer your best commodity.

I thought how quickly the bloom of youth fades.
That's when the best asset you have is your brain and how you use it.
This is how I use mine.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Shellfish Plot Thickens

I have a couple of cases to tend to today. First, however, I must share something with those those who have been following my encounters with a specific shellfish harvesting company whose name I can not mention here because there may be a suit filed against them.
I am not one of those folks considering suing, just one of many people who could be called as witnesses should the case go to trial.

Here's the deal.

There are these guys, this company, let's call them the RipOff Shellfish company.
Only they use a name that doesn't sound like a ripoff.
I live on a peninsula with houses spotted around the bay. The whole area used to be an oyster farm; we are abundant with shellfish.... hundreds, thousands of oysters, clams, crabs, everything.

The Indians are legally allowed to harvest shellfish and catch the salmon in the bay with their nets during salmon season. Non-Natives, AKA white and other colors of folks, use fishing rods for salmon; have weight and quantity limits; and must follow rules when harvesting shellfish. All activity is closely monitored by a number of government agencies.

I have no issues with the Indians, the Native Americans. I am not crazy about their salmon nets, but they were here first.
They too are stewards of the land that started off as theirs anyway.

I have given the RipOff Oyster company no permits to harvest our oysters or clams, nor have my neighbors to the left. So one day, I was walking when the RipOff company was gone, checked the tags on their oyster bags. That's where I got the real name of the company.

Did a little internet research, then a lot, then found out this company had criminal charges and was found guilty years ago of defrauding lots of people on the Hood Canal and ravaging oyster beds on one whole side of canal.

According to the court documents I read, homeowners signed contracts to let the RipOff Shellfish Company harvest the oysters, pay them, then agree to seed the beds for three years. By the time the three years are up, there are no re-seeded oysters, the people don't get paid and the oysters are gone.

So I called the Fish and Game Folks, the Shellfish Hotline, the Police, everyone involved and asked if they know these guys with a felony record, the RipOff Shellfish Company are back in biz here in our little bay.

Yes, the authorities tell me, they all know. They had a Officer call me back for a longer conversation. He said, sad but true... the RipOff Shellfish Company dudes have served their time and no... no one can stop them until they rip people off again.

We have to wait for them to commit a crime because everything they are doing is legal.
The Officer I spoke to, thanked me for caring and keeping my eyes on things. He said, I am not alone. Other neighbors like me, are helping law enforcement by keeping an eye on these people. He said Fish and Game and the Public Health Department are on them too.
Yet, they can do nothing but check the harvesting process, make sure they are doing it legally, then when they do not pay a customer or seed those beds, they got 'em. Provided the statute of limitations doesn't expire again. I told the Officer I spoke with that I just wish we could stop them now.

So I printed up these fliers that included their criminal charges and a newspaper expose about the RipOff Shellfish company... and handed them out to all my neighbors who like me, are a little "different" than the rest of the civilized world.

Our houses are hidden, strangers are suspect, and after dark,it is wise to be very careful in these parts.
Most of the people I gave the fliers to did not know me. I introduced myself, explained I am a neighbor and a P.I. and they might want this research on the Ripoff Shellfish Company because it is evidence of their prior crimes and I do not think they should give these guys their oysters. I suggested they at least work with a legitimate company.

All neighbors appeared grateful for the info. All except one very wealthy man who said to me, , "I don't care if they rip me off. The oysters bring the geese, I hate the geese crapping on my yard and I don't need the money anyway."

That comment momentarily stunned me on a number of levels. But I got over it. It is his right to handle his land and tidal flats as he so chooses. I warned him, his decision.

So... a couple days, or was it a week ago, I walked the beach, this time not alone, but with with my husband and dogs and found a couple of illegally harvested bags of clams stuck in the mud, abandoned. I am told now there were hundreds clams in those bags.

The clam bags were different colors than the RipOff Shellfish Company's bags, they were not tagged, they were clearly illegally harvested. With my man.. a soldier... and my two dogs by my side, I stepped into the water and mudflats and squatted and sawed the illegal bags open with an oyster shell half and freed the clams.

I had done that once before alone, with two bags of rogue oysters, also unmarked, also hidden, that were on our land, our tidal flats. My husband thought maybe the bags washed off a boat or more likely, were illegally harvested and buried for a later pick-up.

This clam liberation episode happened recently. I deliberately left the cut open bags dangling from a bush. I wanted to let whoever did this know someone was onto them and freed their captives. I never would, never have, messed with a legal bag that had a tag on it.

Then two days ago, a knock at my door. Daytime. Unusual.
I answer it.
It is a neighbor who I never met in person. I gave the flier to someone to give him because he wasn't home when I stopped by. He started the conversation like this.

"Did you cut open two bags of clam on the beach or know someone who did recently?"

I tend not to lie unless I am undercover, so I said,
"Yes, I cut open the bag of clams because some dirtbag illegally harvested them."

Except, I must confess, I said douchebag, not dirtbag.

I figured the neighbor would be pissed at me.
Instead he reached out and hugged me.

He said, "Thank you, those were my clams. And once I saw your fliers and researched the company I realized they were going to rip us all off. I and my neighbors stopped the harvest on our land and the suckers came back and tried to take those clams anyway. So when I saw someone cut open those bags, which were clearly illegally harvested... and I saw these three big holes in the low tides filled with bubbling and spitting clams I had to know who saved them."

"That would be me" I said.

At this point my husband was standing by my side. He met this neighbor before and they both liked each other.

My husband explained how we went down there, how strange it was to find the living creatures packaged in such a way and just left there. My husband said he tried to convince me to wait, while he returned to the house to get his knife. I wouldn't wait. I showed the neighbor the cuts on my hand because I did not use a knife when I sawed opened the clam bags, with just an old oyster shell half and no gloves.

The neighbor asked me if I would prepare an affidavit, statement , testify, whatever,because he is thinking about suing the RipOff Shellfish Company. They never paid him or the neighbors. And never seeded the beds. I said sure.

The neighbor said before he could stop the guys they had harvested almost all his oysters and was livid. They defied him because they said he signed a contract.

I said, "Well, they're working down to the left now and that neighbor doesn't care."

I also mentioned the oyster beds across the bay from us. They are so thick with thousands of oysters. I told the neighbor we were talking to I hope they don't get to that bed across the bay because I couldn't get my flier to those neighbors. My neighbor said he would try to.

Too late. Sure enough, that's where the RipOff Shellfish Company was yesterday and this am. I counted 10 harvesters and already about 30 bags of oysters this morning. Nothing I can do. I can not walk across the water and tell those people they have hired crooks to harvest the oysters they hope will pay for their property taxes or kids education or pay the power bill.

I just have to walk my side of the beach across the bay with the dogs as I always do and be grateful a sea of mud at low tide and a sea of water at high tide separates us from the RipOff harvesters.

They watched me this morning, the crew across the bay. My husband left at 4:00 am to fish, he is out at sea somewhere. It was creepy this morning. Isolated. I have one huge dog on a leash and a little one.

This morning's low tide was a negative one, which was the perfect time for harvesting. As they harvested, I heard the hum of their voices. Then the hum stopped as they saw me emerge from the wetlands and onto the beach, walking, my hood on my head as usual, hair tucked in, big dog next to me.

I knew they were across the bay, no way they could get to me. So all one guy did, the big one in the yellow slicker, was give me the finger.

I pondered giving it back but decided that was not the right path.
Instead, I just stared back, let my dogs do their thing, then headed back through the wetlands and our private wooden boardwalk that leads to the sanctity and privacy of my little beach house.

When stalkers stalk someone, police want to help, to stop them, but can't do squat until a crime is committed. This would be the same case.
The neighbors across the bay with thousands of dollars of oysters being harvested will not get paid. Their beds will not be re-seeded and then when they finally figure it out, it will be too late. The statute of limitations will expire, or the company will go bankrupt or any number of escape avenues crooks take will be used. Unless... and it's a big unless... the neighbor who came to my door actually does sue them during this season's harvest.

I am posting this for myself mainly. It is therapeutic to write and release my anger.

I wish I could give you the RipOff Shellfish Company's name. I wish I could be like one of those people in Greenpeace who confront the whalers. I wish I could be an activist or just out of my mind a little bit more to really do something. However... I am a state licensed Private Investigator. I believe in and respect the law. I must be responsible. And this is the only avenue I have right now to do anything.

My words are my swords. As the oyster shell was my blade.

And oddly enough, writing this post was liberating to me.
I just wish... I could help those shellfish and those people across the water who are already in the RipOff Oyster company's net.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Perils of Privilege

I always wondered why they didn't have children.
They were both young, beautiful, deeply in love and wealthy.
Libby was ten years younger than me. Her husband Eddie, was the same age as she was.
He was a construction worker when they met. She was the heiress to an oil fortune, she told me. She already had a sizable account due to family inheritance, gifts and whatever entitlement rich young kids get in that silver spoon they are being served from.

I never grew up with a sense of "entitlement" though I know a lot of people who have...
and are still there. And there's a whole generation of young entitled kids coming up the pike

I grew up one of five kids from a middle class family. We never went without, though we never had excess either. My parents had one ultimate expectation of all of us: that all five children would get college degrees. And we did.

My dad provided, by working with his hands and mind, to get just about all the money it took get us through college. It wasn't shortly after my younger sister, the fifth child, finished college, that my mother decided to a back to college. My father was delighted, he joked how he could retire and she could support him.

Mom graduated shortly after my dad died at age 57.
Now my mom, at 82, works a 40 hr hour week as a therapist.

The inheritance my father left us was not financial, it was better than that.
It was knowing I could do and be anything I want. A writer, a private eye, a University instructor. A blogger! Whatever.
The only thing I have never been... is rich.

That said, back we go to my rich heir or heiress friends.

Throughout my lifetime and travels (both of which have been extensive) I have been privileged to meet many people of privilege.

A lot of the money in those families is distributed monthly in stipends, like an annuity account, until the much anticipated big death unloads the vast fortune on whoever gets their hands on it first. Usually, it all ends up in probates courts for a year or two, sometimes many years... which feeds the probate attorneys and their families.

So as I stated in a previous blog about a probate surveillance I did, in some families where there's a lot of money in place, there occasionally -- or ultimately -- comes this battle that rapidly turns into a war... over money.
Deaths are just like divorces on the money end. Financially contentious.

In inheritances, it all filters down from the top.
There are rich grandparents. Or rich parents. It's their children who are the first layers of inheritors. And rich people tend to divorce, so there are divorced spouses and stepchildren to complicate the inheritance equation.
After that there are grandchildren.

And it appears from the day the silver spoons enter the mouth of some of these kids, that is all they think about.... the money they have or they money they will get. After all, they think they are" to the manor born."
What they don't get is this: that their manor born can turn into a house of cards if they don't play theirs right.

I do not intend this as a generalization or judgment.
There are perfectly wonderful, absolutely normal trust fund babies out there who live frugal lifestyles and keep their vast sums of wealth or potential wealth to themselves.Or at the very least, on a low key.

Others flash their cash with bling and things.
Libby was not like that. She was quiet, laid back, caring, loving, sweet.

When you got to know her, you knew there was money there.
It was the reason she and Eddie lived on this perfectly manicured large, private parcel of lush green land surrounded by trees and spotted with tiny little buildings -- a greenhouse here, a storage shed there, a special garage for the most expensive tractor I'd ever seen anyone use just for mowing a lawn. It cost as much as car.

Libby and her husband were friends of ours.
They bought themselves a trailer to live in while they built their little dream home on one their five acres.
We watched it go up slowly and steadily.
She designed it and he built it with his own two hands.
They lived humbly, and simply.
She drove a beat up late model Toyota. He a Pick Up.
They hung out with with friends in the hot tub or around the fire pit.
On weekends they played together, golfed, gardened, or traveled.
She was happy when he jammed with a band he once toured with in the studio they built on their land for just that. She was happy watching the birds and tending the plants, land and flowers...reading historical novels... running the books for a small construction business he had.

They told us when I'd first met them, a decade or so ago, they'd never had a fight. Ever.
I found that hard to believe yet... since most people fight about money or sex. Yet it appeared there was plenty of both around their house, so I guess there really was little to fight about.

She was bit of a hermit, as I am I. We were drawn to the hermitness in each other.... so there were periods of great conversations between us... and long gaps of silence. But always, a friendship more like family. So I was privy to her life -- the ups and downs.

Her beloved mother and best friend in the world developed one of those horrible, lingering cancers which lead to all kinds of catastrophic complications and surgeries.

Libby, the only daughter, and as close to her mother as a daughter could be, moved in with her mom to nurse her through nearly two years of living hell for both. And lots of pain and anti-anxiety Meds meant for her mother... and used by both. Libby became a secret pill addict.

Libby's husband was okay with Libby moving into her Mom's apartment while he tended their land and built their house. Eddie stood by Libby through Mom's death. Libby inherited a lot of money.

Long story shortened goes like this:

Libby used a tons of pain pills and anxiety Meds and other things you drink or smoke. She spent a ton of money on plastic surgery, fancy cars and for reasons I don't know, which could have been a car wreck, she landed once in a fancy rehab.

Then she relapsed and had a second accident, a bad one involving another driver. This resulted in arrest for DWI, jail time and everything else that goes with it. Including another stint in a rehab Libby hated. It was more like a prison, she said.
Since her mother's death, and release from the second rehab, Libby claimed to be sober again and started day-trading with her inheritance. I tried to talk her out of it to no avail.

It got worse from there.

Somewhere along the way, Libby was prescribed a pain med for a disease she has which causes her spinal column to harden.
That pain med should never be prescribed to opiate addicts, which Libby clearly was.
That medicine also causes seizures, which it did with Libby. Libby had a big seizure in Las Vegas, which caused her to fall, hit her head and frontal lobe on concrete... and go unconscious for five minutes.

Unknown to anyone, Libby stopped the Med that caused the seizure cold turkey, without a doctor's assist and went psychotic.

In the past month... or is it two?... Libby has been sinking slowly in the quagmire of insanity. She has been incarcerated in jail, locked in the hospital psycho ward, then dragged screaming and kicking into a mental hospital.

Still her husband took her back. We had dinner with them 2 days after she got out of the hospital. She was alternately normal and delusional. It was alarming to everyone, including her brother who stopped by.

Then she called me two days later to say kicked Eddie out and wanted a divorce. He moved out.

She'd gone through almost all her money, she said.
She spoke to an attorney yesterday about a divorce.
Her family knows she's lost it, she's sinking fast.

Occasionally, I am called to contact her, just to make sure she is alive. Every time I speak to her I say "The prescription drugs are doing this to you."
I tell her she's acting crazy and nuts for divorcing her husband, who really is one of the coolest guys on the planet. She ignores me or changes the subject.

Thinking of Libby, I think a lot about the dog I had that once would've drowned in the mudflats at low tide. I blogged about this once.
Her name was Karma and her head was the only thing sticking out of the mud as the in-coming tide rushed towards her. She was crying and somehow, someway, through some miracle, act of God, any and all of the aforementioned... my husband, with a dislocated shoulder, managed to dislodge Karma from that mud and drag them both to shore and my car.. My first look at them was a profound experience -- two of them, together, covered head to toe with a thick brown gooey sludge.... survived.
And only because one living creature extended a hand to another.

So last night I extended my hand. I called Libby, one last time.
I told her she had to listen to me -- she was on drugs that affected her thinking and made her delusional. I said she needed to get off the drugs -- in another rehab or cold turkey -- so she could save herself. I said there are instructions on the net on how to withdraw all by yourself if you don't have money for a rehab.

I told her she was truly nuts for kicking her husband out and filing for divorce. I told her to think long and hard during that separation time the state requires. I told her it won't feel good when she wakes up one day to realize she lost the man she loved to another woman due to drug abuse.
I said there were a ton of women out there ready to snap up her husband in a heartbeat.
I told her in most divorces, women end up in poverty.

She heard none of it. Not a word.

And so I drifted off to sleep and woke up and thought I have to let this go.
Nothing can be done to pull her out of that mud.

Her husband called and asked our opinion on committing her again. We all agreed re-committing her will destroy her and what is left of their finances.
She must bottom, sink on her own, as each one of us has in our lives...
and I can only hope she has the strength to crawl out of the mudflats by herself as we all did.

So I started this blog post and a phone call came. It was from an aunt of Libby's, someone I didn't know existed. Eddie told her about me and my efforts with Libby.

So this aunt told me about her Libby, their family, and about the aunt's perceptive abilities, which were spot on.
This aunt visited a sacred Indian (Native American elder type Shaman) who said that Libby has holes in her brains that are caused by drugs that are letting evil spirits enter her brain . So, the Indian has begun a ritualistic healing thing for the next seven days... and I am thinking... why the heck not?
No one else can do anything.

Some people, they have to truly want to live to live.
Otherwise you can't stop them from jumping off that bridge, hanging themselves from the closet or tree, shooting themselves in the head.
Google "suicide", you'll see its so much more common than you can imagine.
And for some, who are in an inconsolable pain, it is the only way to truly end that pain.

What I think people don't get is this:
that taking cocktails of prescription drugs is also suicide.
Albeit a slower form of it.
Heath Ledger, John Belushi, Janis Joplin, Anne Marie Nicole and her son, killed by drugs. Almost forgot two -- Michael Jackson and Elvis. People taking pills pretend they are escaping the pain. Truth is they are killing themselves slowly.

Amazing but true. Today, more people in the United States are dying from prescription drugs than car accidents.

I have a friend, Libby, going there right now.
It's her choice, it's her path and its her only life.
I do not know if she will make it back to reality.

Sometimes, it's the "letting go" that allows the "coming back."

And sometimes, it's the Indian Shaman.

Only time will tell... as it always does.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

From Shakers To Hummers

They asked me to defend him and I agreed, even though I really didn't have a choice. I was working as an intern investigator for one of over 80 Attorneys at the Public Defender's office early in my career. Unless there was a "conflict of interest"... and that was ascertained through a "conflict check" on the Public Defender's computer. .. the case I was assigned was mine and the firm's.

At the Public Defender's, my least favorite alleged criminal clients to represent.... among the homicidal maniacs, wife beaters, meth heads, parent killer, thieves, robbers, rapists, shooters and cheats... were the Baby Shakers.

When I was a Criminal Investigator, I represented a few Baby Shakers. To my dismay, there was never a conflict of interest revealed through a conflict check when I ran the shaken baby cases through the Public Defender's conflict check system.
So I did what I did.
My job.
Investigated on behalf of the scumbag who shook innocent little babies to death until I couldn't take it any more and switched sides.
For that reasons and a few others, I went to the light.

I left the Public Defender and became a Civil Investigator for Personal Injury Attorneys or the occasional average American who is anything but average.

As a Civil Investigator, I've encountered a few "conflicts of interest" in the area of auto accidents.

I recall meeting one client, I'll call her "Betty", who drove a small 4 door Honda, which was T-Boned by a pick-up that ran a red light. She was alone in her car, no passengers.

Betty's Honda was hit on the passenger side, otherwise she would have died. Her car was towed and totaled. Betty sustained a dislocated right shoulder and a broken hip, plus other right side injuries. As a single mother of two teenage boys and their sole provider, this hit affected her deeply on a physical and emotional level.

The police officer cited the pick-up driver. The pick-up driver and his insurance company accepted liability.
Plenty of insurance coverage was in place.
It was what we in the business sometimes call a "no-brainer." Liability was self-evident.

It was time for me to to meet and interview Betty.
As I drove around Betty's upper class housing community, entered only by a code punched in a box at a gate, I did a slow trawl of the streets. I searched for house numbers often hidden by bushes, paint jobs, or blown-out lights bulbs, all the things that make my job that much harder at night.

I saw the bright yellow Hummer in Betty's driveway before I saw her house number. When Betty answered the door and I said "Nice car," she told me it was the car she purchased after the accident with the settlement from her little Honda... and a sizable loan.

Betty did not call an attorney until 6 months after the accident happened and I asked her why.
She said that was because she was not sure she wanted an attorney. She figured since she settled her P.D./Property Damage Claim just fine, she could handle the injury claim as well.
After all she was an accountant who ran numbers daily.

She said, in the beginning, she couldn't justify giving an attorney a percentage of a settlement she was sure she could get on her own.
It didn't take long dealing with the insurance companies, the Defendant's and her own, before Betty realized the waters she was in were harder to navigate than she thought.

She called the law firm which sent me to her home with a preface:
She just wanted to talk to someone about her case and her rights.
She said she wanted "No pressure". The attorneys called it "attorney shopping".
The person the attorney sent to Betty was me -- an independent, state-licensed investigator who would look out for her interests and the law firms.

While I interviewed Betty in her custom kitchen with marble counter-tops she said were flown directly from Italy ... her two handsome sons, one 16 and one 18... sat on either side on Betty watching me like a pair of Hawks.

After two hours of talking, Betty decided she wanted the law firm to represent her. She signed the documents, I wrote up the case, handed it into the law firm and went on my way to the next day, the next week, the next month, the next year. One injury victim after another.

And then, about two years year after Betty's case settled, I was assigned another case from that same law firm. This one was a death investigation.

Little boy, hit and killed by a car.

As I reviewed the case file and the report, I studied the information about the the DEF (Defendant) who hit the child.
The DEF was 18 years old. He drove a bright yellow Hummer, he was under the influence and currently incarcerated.

I recalled a yellow Hummer in my memory's overloaded database. It was a while back.
I recalled the yellow Hummer in the driveway and checked my old calendar and the police report. Same locations.
An official conflict check revealed what I suspected.
The driver of the Hummer that killed the little boy was the same young man I met in Betty's kitchen, years earlier. The DEF driver was Betty's younger son, now 18.

The irony was as screaming yellow as the Hummer was:
Betty decided to replace her little Honda with a bigger vehicle so she could never be hurt again in an accident.

Betty's son who loved the Hummer... and loved to party... bonded instantly with the vehicle. So about two years after the law firm settled Betty's case, Betty's son killed a little boy riding a bike while under the influence in the Hummer.

The law firm chose not to accept the death case due to the "conflict of interest," which was based on their prior representation of Betty.

They said, among other things, that because I interviewed Betty as a client... and the law firm and I had her private information from the prior case.... and the information about her and her sons.... then I and the law firm would have privileged information that could be used against her as co-defendant in the action against her son. This would be unethical and illegal.

So the dead boy on the bicycle was a casualty again.
His grieving mom was referred to an equally proficient and professional attorney.

Betty was also a casualty again.
Her beloved son was now in jail after killing a little boy who might've survived a hit by a Honda vs. a Hummer.

The only one who gained from this situation was me... in the form of yet another lesson learned as a newbie investigator.
That lesson would be this:

Life is series of ebbs and tides, every flowing, never static. I never do a case now without a conflicts check first.
And if something stirs my memory, I stir the pot to bring that memory to the surface.
In the legal business, it is far better to ask permission than forgiveness.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Man Of Steel

He reminded me of Patrick Swayze in his healthier days. He had that air and attitude about him. Still, his cheeks were thin, there were dark circles under his eyes, he was clearly in pain as I watched him limp as he carried his cup of coffee from the cash register to the table at Starbucks where I was waiting -- a mobile warrior's second office.

Some people will not let an investigator in their house.
Even though the attorneys prefer the investigator meet clients or potential clients at their homes, to better size up the situation... there are some places that house people with dirty dishes.... or dirty secrets.
The Starbucks I met him in today was 1/2 mile from a 4 mile dirt road that led to his place.
It was his suggestions to meet at Starbucks.

I'd been out to that town years earlier.
It was 81 miles door to door, one way. I remembered it as lonely stretches of forest and mountain highway.
Now as I passed through the area... poof!.. it was civilized. There were stores, gas stations and a shopping center complete with a Starbucks on the corner. It was so new it wasn't on my GPS yet.

Steve (a pseudonym) was nervous when we met and told me so. He hired another attorney the day after the accident happened. Steve was on heavy meds.
Now the attorney would not return his calls or assist him in any way.
The accident happened in July, yet nothing had been done. No property damage settlement or repair, no discussion of medical bills and how they get paid.

Steve had been a Steel Worker, union member for 15 years. Unable to work as a result of this accident.... and no longer able to qualify for unemployment benefits due to his injuries... he lost his home, is living in a borrowed trailer, and had to apply for food stamps.

Steve, was s riding his beloved Harley at the time of the hit.
(An observation: -- to every man,the Harly is beloved.)

He was in traffic that slowed for a traffic flagger. Steve slowed to about 5 mph when his motorcyle was rear-ended by a Large SUV going 50 mph.

Somehow Steve managed to hold onto his Harley handgrips, despite the fact the impact knocked him from the passenger seat forward to the gas tak which he straddled.
Very long story short, the act of holding onto to the handlebars and trying to keep the bike upright and from hitting an oncoming car, caused Steve's right shoulder blade to break. And the initial hit, combined with the bike's movements, caused two hernia s near Steve's navel that will be surgically removed in 5 days. Steve also blew two discs in his lower back.

Thus his anxiety.
His currenty attorney was doing nothing for him.
Fortunately, a friend of Steve's referred him to the attorney who called me and I knew that attorney could help.
I had a paper with me called "A Substitution of Counsel." That's how people inWashington state fire one attorney and hire another.

I asked 37 year old Steven questions about his case.
I reviewed the police report.
Liability was clear. The DEF driver was cited, apologized on scene, his insurance company accepted liability.

I asked him about prior injuries, accidents, or pre-existing conditions.
And that, dear reader, is the point of this blog.
Because tonight I met a human being who lived through all this:
  • He was stabbed four times in the back and once in the chest by a group of Gang bangers who didn't like him..
  • He fell 40 feet from a tree while running a tree trimming business when younger.
  • He had a steel plate and six screws in his right hand when it got crushed by steel.
  • He had a twisted instenstine and that required surgery.
  • He has a broken neck once, he said, "also from a tree fall."
  • He waas truck by lightening in his right foot.
  • His father was killed three months earlier.
Steve said he was in two car wrecks before this motorcycle accident.
  • One happened five years ago. He was parked and hit head on by a drunk driver.
  • In the second accident, he was thrown from the passenger seat of a convertible that flipped when the driver lost control
  • he had no attorney for either of these.
He hired an attorney for his motorcycle accident when it happened in July and told me he made a terrible mistake.
He picked the wrong attorney.
The attorney never returned his calls except one time since July and said,
" It's not my fault you don't have money in the bank to live on. I can't be responsible for your poor financial planning."
Steve admitted he said a few choice four letter words to that attorney and hung up on him.
I told him I might have done the same.

Long story short, Steve became a client of the attorney who sent me out to see him today. I shook his hand and thanked him for his trust. Then, when I assured him his new attorney had his back and would treat him with dignity and respect.... his eyes welled up.

It felt good finishing his file by the time the ferry landed tonight. By tomorrow afternoon it will be in the good attorneys hands. And soon, Steve will have a settlement for his bike.
Most important, however, is that Steve can go into surgery with one objective in mind -- healing.

And the attorney will fight the good fight for him.
As only the good ones do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Parasite Surveillance

It was really a simple operation as far as surveillance goes.

You just set up shop for the day, or night. Meaning, you park yourself in your vehicle somewhere you hope you won't be noticed so you can observe and photograph a particular house while following all legal parameters.

When I do surveillance that may end up taking hours or days, I often call the local police beforehand and let them know I will be there. I tell them I am a state licensed investigator working a case and explain the nature of my investigation.
That way, when the inevitable happens and a curious neighbors notices me and calls the or 911 everyone knows what's what know what's what. And I remain undisturbed at my vigil.

The house I watched on the day I am writing of, belonged to a widow, we'll call "Mother".
Mother's beloved husband died 3 years earlier. He left a large insurance policy behind. Then Mother died unexpectedly.

My job was to watch the house the day her son, and the two other adult children heard the news. I was to observe and note who came and went. To see if people took things with them. To photograph the comings and goings.

When I do these jobs, I enter the scenario before the estate settles. Sometimes, its before the person is even in the ground, wind, or sea.
It didn't take longer than 1.5 hours when I witnessed and filmed the first theft by an an heir, apparently.

When someone dies, the human parasites emerge from cracks and crannies so fast, it's mind- boggling. Suddenly dead humans acquire monetary value of extreme urgency which, among some families, launches competitive probate actions and dueling-for-dollars dynamics you see.... and still don't want to believe.

And now that the economy is tanking, people are seeing money as their life raft. They believe it is the money that will keep them afloat. Or sink them.

So tonight's blog, a short one because I just got home, is about matters of money, particularly probate.
Probate is a dark and evil place.
And it keeps many investigators like me, legitimately and gainfully employed.

I was hired by Mother's eldest son, an attorney I knew to be kind, trustworthy and a fine human being. He wanted to protect Mother's estate from his two other siblings whose life rafts were full of holes and sinking fast. He wanted a funeral for his mother and then, the reading of the will.

I was parked across the street from Mother's house before sunrise. She just died 10 hours earlier. I didn't expect anything while I sipped slowly on my coffee and watched the neighborhood wake up.

The first visitor arrived just after dawn.

Within the course of an eight-hour day, I filmed both siblings at separate times with their spouses, as they came and went in Mother's house the day after she died and took things with them. Lots of things. On one visit, one of the couples brought their two teenage sons to help with the hauling.

I filmed people enter the house and exit with lamps, framed pictures from the wall, a red velvet chair. There were large cardboard boxes, handfuls of clothes. A jewelry box. Even an entire file cabinet hauled by a father and his two sons. And so it went throughout the course of that day.

People, my client later I.D'd as his siblings and their kids, were in and out of Mother's house robbing her blind.
"It's a good thing she's not alive to see this," the attorney said to me as he shook his head slowly and watched the footage.

The thing was, he explained to me, his Mother had a will. She had wishes. She had desires. She had a sizable estate.

My client, the attorney, had that will in hand. It was a reasonable will, he said. It was fair.
Yet he was the Executor Mother chose. The siblings resented him for that and for his success. So he was the enemy. The siblings, unwilling to wait for the funeral, hired their own attorneys and the probate circus had begun.
After they cleared out Mother's house.

This one probate surveillance was a major lesson learned for this investigator.
Being, how lucky I am to have a family I am certain would never go there.
And how unfortunate it is for those who have families that do.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Runaway Vehicle Day

I started my day late this morning, so I hit the ground running. I was the last car on the ferry, made it to the post office, the bank, the law firm, then to the little guy, the attorney's newest client in South Seattle.

He is 11 years ago and a few days ago, he was going home from school. To do so, he took a yellow school bus to a city bus which took him far away from school to home in west Seattle.
It was on the return trip that it happened.

"That's a long commute," I said, as I sat and took notes in his living room with his mother and father beside us.
"Yeah, and I was almost home," Danny (a pseudonym) replied.
"I just stepped off the bus, stepped into the street and onto the curb. I was just on the sidewalk. Then I saw the car coming and it hit me. And I went out. It was black."

What happened was a female driver, age 34, in a fully-insured, trendy, 2009 mini- SUV type vehicle... told one responding police officer that she pushed on the accelerator instead of the brake. She continued to accelerate as she drove up on a curb, drove down the sidewalk, hit a tree and a telephone pole and did a complete 360 --- before hitting 11 year old Danny, who told me he "was froze solid."

Danny's mom showed me the police report.
The DEF driver, female, was cited for negligent driving.
"No DWI?" I asked.
"Makes no sense to me" Danny's dad said. "Something else had to be going down. Maybe she was on the phone or texting. Don't even know if she was tested for drugs or alcohol."

My attention turned back to Danny.
"After you blacked out Danny, what's the next thing you remember?" I asked.

"Waking up twice, " he responded.
"Once on that backboard thing in the ambulance. I was looking down at my body from the ceiling. I knew it was me even though it couldn't be me because I was looking at me," he said. "They were doing things to my body and I wondered if that's my body who am I, if I am watching me?"

Mom interjected at this point. "They told me he died once in the ambulance."

Danny then said he went back into his body, blacked out again and woke up for good in the hospital room.

He sustained significant injuries.
I took several photos of the huge goose egg on the frontal lobe of his head.
"Youch" I said, as I zoomed in tight on the discolored lump with scrapes and cuts in it.
"Does it hurt as bad as it looks?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said, "I get headaches all day, bad headaches. The doctor said they're migranes. I can't take the light. "

Danny went on, the words flowed unfiltered,
"My right shoulder, I can't move it up or down. And my whole right arm is tingly. And my back hurts so bad there are only a few ways I can stand now. I've missed two days of school already and I'm off the football team."

I explained Danny his rights in front of his parents.

I told him because he is a minor, one of his parents will sign the lawyer's documents for him as his parent and guardian. I told him the law firm would also pay the costs of a guardian ad litem-- a person in the legal system who represents the minors against any parents or attorneys who do not have the child's best interests in mind.

I told him what a Statute Of Limitations is....
how, because Danny is a minor, the statute of limitations in Washington state is 3 years after he turns 18.
And, if Danny settles or sues before age 18, the money goes into a trust fund until he turns 18.
I told him if he has not settled or sued before he turns 18, then the documents are re-signed in his name and he has 3 years to deal with the settlement or suit.

By contrast, I added, adults... those over 18.... have only 3 years to settle most personal injury cases in Washington state.

It was a lot for a kid to absorb... which was why his parents were both present and his signatories.
And it it was a lot for his parents to absorb.
I could tell Danny and his folks got it, though.
Danny's dad, Dan Senior, had been one of the law firm's clients before, so there was a great deal of trust in the room.

Ultimately, Danny was both lucky and unlucky.
Unlucky that he was hit. Lucky in that he survived.
As his mother wept at the prospect of life without her only son,
Danny said, "I was sure I was a goner."

Then Danny asked me, "You think I was dead when I looked down in my body in the ambulance?"
I thought about this for a while before answering.
The kid was 11, who knew what religious beliefs his parents had or held.
"I think you were between life and death Danny. And I think you.... or someone greater than you.... chose it was not your time to die. Maybe you have great things in your life left to accomplish."

I closed my case file and said my good-byes as I sucked in the heady smells of lunch on the stove, Grandma's Jambalaya. Serious intoxicant.
They invited me to stay.... and tempted though I was.... there is a line of demarcation between business and pleasure I choose not to cross.

I graciously declined and headed north to Sedro Wooley... then due east... about 2.5 hours away.... to meet a farmer whose legs were run over by neighbor's tractor last weekend.
It was neither a pretty situation or picture.

On the ferry ride home tonight, the sun was setting and I wondered if I would weasel out of writing a blog tonight.
Was today a story worth telling?
Or was I just dwelling on another day, another wreck, another innocent victim shattered by what... A twist of fate? Or destiny?
I don't know which.
I do know there's something therapeutic in the telling of the story.
I hope the same is true in the reading of it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hollywood Con Man

Yesterday's blog post inspired me to write a brief one about a con man who could be be Gypsy Woman's counterpart.

Joseph Medawar, is a con man I track on my own. Just one more of many interested parties.
The question is not if he will strike again, it's a matter of where, when and who he will hurt this time.
They've done a story about him on "American Greed," the TV series on CNBC. You'll find the show when you google his name.
Yet if you are like most people, you haven't heard of him before. And if he were to target you, you would not see him coming if you didn't know what he looked like.

He was a Hollywood producer who claimed to have a TV series called DHS. Department of Homeland Security. He had a credible series trailer. Impressive contacts. And, he said, huge potential returns for investors.

He got U.S. politicians, including Bush Version 2 and Homeland Security to help weave his net. Ultimately, he harvested money from many investors -- from to upper and middle class, to members of a Church in Watts who invested anything from a dollar a share to taking out second mortgages on their homes.

He was a scam artist, an upscale con man. Ultimately, he was exposed. For reasons that still escape me, Medawar did less than two years jail time. Minimal financial restitution.

And here's the grabber:
Despite the theft of hundreds of millions from investors, despite the abject poverty many of the those investors have slipped into because of his misappropriation of their money to support his lavish lifestyle... his shingle is up. He is back in business!

The thing about bad guys and the American Justice system is ultimately, most of the incarcerated get out.
Time is done and either the convicted are released as redeemed souls determined to contribute to society.... or the released become the greater statistic... the one that adds up to repeat offenses and a lifetime of intermittent incarcerations.

The door to Joseph Medawar's website is locked.
I am... ever so curious.... about who he lets in.
And I also wonder, if nce inside, they know they are doing business with an agent of the devil?
Fortunately, I understand the IRS and DOJ keep their eyes on him too.

Click on the title of this post. It is a link that will take you to an older, albeit one of the best, articles about the case.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gypsy Woman

In cities all across America, we have these Super Malls. They're not just your regular malls,these are super-sized. Super in stature, super in square footage, super in retailers and selection, super in everyway.

Some people, many senior citizens, use Super Malls as indoor walking tracks. And for good reason, they're safer there than walking many streets. When it's rainy, snowing or overheated outside, a Super Mall remains at a constant temperature inside. A city unto its own.

I remember reading somewhere that Malls are the museums of the 21st century. I wouldn't disagree with that. In the collective American need for consumption -- which feeds restless, insecure, or addictive egos -- malls are the places some go to just to look, or to buy.
Some go for retail therapy.
Others go just to play.
Or prey.

It was in one such Super Mall when I with one of the rare private clients I took on as a Private Investigator. Usually, I work for and directly through attorneys. This allows me a much better level of protection on a legal and physical basis. It also affords me a much more reliable means of payment.

In Zelda's case, I was a newbie Investigator and took her case on because I wanted work and had just placed an ad in a local paper to launch my biz. Zelda was one of many Gypsies that both read that publication and had need for a P.I.'s services.

In Zelda's case, I would be her Criminal Defense Investigator.

She and her husband hired a Private Attorney, though she specifically asked that I be paid directly by her and her husband in cash, which I had no problem with.
I would still issue them an invoice, I said.
And I would report the earnings to the IRS.
They were comfortable with both that. And the sizable retainer fee I requested up-front.
It was bigger than usual because -- after all -- they were Gypsies.
I didn't trust them as far as I could spit. Which has never been very far.

I've traveled the world.
I 've been with friends when they were robbed by Gypsies.
I also know there is Gypsy blood in my ancestral pathways.
So if it takes one to know one... and you've seen one in action... you come to learn that the Gypsies are a tribe that sticks together, exclusive of all outsiders, who are viewed as potential prey or marks.
People like me, those of a utilitarian nature, are neutral and/or considered allies until the worm or tide turns.
I am not judging Gypsy culture, just calling it as I saw and see it.

So now I will cut to the chase, which would be this case.

Zelda(a pseudonym) and her husband, Alphie (also a pseudonym and also a Gypsy) had a psychic stand at a Super Mall where they sold crystals and gemstones, books on all things spiritual, jewerly, long beaded necklaces, earrings, tarot cards, icons, colorful scarves. It was one of those booths that runs down the center of the Mall.

The star attraction at their booth in the Super Mall, however, was my client Zelda -- who positioned herself more like a Psychic than a Gypsy. Zelda was in her early 50's, quite attractive and heavily made up with thick blue eyeshadow, dark eyeliner and bright red lips. She had long, black, curly, thick hair flowing down her back. It was tucked under her colorful head wrap. I wondered if it was a wig.

She wore layers of golden necklaces blended with layers of crystal necklaces. Both her wrists were covered in bracelets. The left side of her nose was pierced with a diamond. On every finger, a jeweled ring. If I worked for Central Casting and I was looking for an upscale Gypsy matriarch, that would be Zelda.

Zelda's husband Alphie was about 3 inches shorter than Zelda and had that Napoleon thing going on -- built up, bulging muscles, tough guy attitude, aggressive posture and approach. He did most of the talking.

There was a sign at their booth where we met that read: "Psychic Readings and Spiritual Protection."

People came from all over to sit at the little red velvet table attached to their mall booth while Zelda did Tarot Reading or Palm reading for $35. a pop back then.

Before people did a reading, they signed a form, a disclaimer, that Alphie typed up saying there are no guarantees and people can not ask for their money back if they don't like the predictions.
They had all their paperwork filed with the city, Alphy told me they were working in a fully legal manner.
Or so it appeared.

One day, an evidently wealthy woman from a city out here called Bellevue came to visit Zelda in her Super Mall Booth.
This woman -- who was half human ingredients and half silicone, botox, restalyn and who knows what else -- had money to spare, no job, an affluent husband and a future she decided she wanted to to hear about when she first spotted Zelda's booth in the Super Mall.
She sat down for her first reading with Zelda and she was hooked.
Let's call this Bellevue woman, Liz.

So Zelda did a reading for Liz and it turned out everything Zelda said, was right.

Three days later, Liz came back for another reading, this time a Tarot and Palm reading.
That was when Zelda delivered some very bad news to Liz.

According to Zelda, Liz's husband was going to leave her.
Liz's beloved only child, her 24-year old daughter would lose her job and have a car wreck that would leave her unable to walk or have babies.
And Liz would develop more extreme heart problems that Zelda could tell, by the cards, had already started.

Liz was mortified, horrified and stymied.
"What do I do?" she asked Zelda.
"I can protect you," Zelda said in a slow and steady low voice.
"How?" asked Liz.
"Through my sacred ceremonies. I am touch with these forces. I can lay them to rest."
And so it began.

$90,000 dollars and 3 weeks later, Zelda and Alphie had provided Liz with a litany of bizarre ceremonies and twisted spells designed purely for protection of the self and loved ones. Each came with a price tag.

For instance, protecting her daughter would require $50,000. $25k upfront.
"The rest payable per treatment " they said.

They cast a spell to keep the daughter from losing her job.
There was another spell required to prevent the car accident.

A separate spell was summoned to cover the daughters reproductive parts in case Zelda's prediction about the daughter's reproductive problem was unrelated to the car accident that Zelda also predicted.

And of course, there was extra-special mojo, or magic -- and money -- required for the spells required to keep her husband from divorcing her.

And they'd need a very rare and costly form of magic to reverse the physical damage Zelda said had already been done to Liz's heart.

One year later, after Liz's family audit at tax time, Zelda and her husband were hit with criminal charges.

It appears Liz's husband discovered the missing money and he felt betrayed because Liz made such a huge financial decision without consulting him. He felt he couldn't trust her and divorced her.

Liz's daughter, meantime, had a car accident, not involving a tree but a drunk driver. She broke her neck. Lost her job. And Liz's daughter's fiance called off her marriage. The only good news was the prognosis that Liz's daughter would likely walk again and would be able to carry a fetus to term.

And after a CAT scan, it was discovered Liz's heart was perfect.There was never any damage to it.
So Liz and her daughter went to the police.
The police pressed charges.
And my job was to defend the Zelda and Alphie.

I could write a book about every aspect of this case. But this is a blog and I am not the fastest of writers. My goal is to get this up and read.
So I will sum things up this way, which are more like snapshot memories than a full flowing story.

I had been paid for my work when I handed my defense investigation case files to Zelda's husband Alphie, who gave them to their attorney.

I went to the trial, I was not asked to testify.
The only thing Alphie, Zelda's husband, told me at the trial, (his charges were dropped on a technicality) was that Zelda was suffering inhumane conditions in jail, was very depressed and was not allowed to wear underwear.

Zelda hung her head during the trial.
Without makeup and her wig she was nameless, faceless, just one more case number.
Zelda's attorney fell asleep during the trial.

The prosecutor and police detective and their witnesses, Liz's family, appeared quite believable.

Zelda's defense attorney, who based his arguments on the cultures and traditions of Zelda's Gypsy tradition... and the fact that Liz signed the disclaimer at the first Tarot treading... and the fact it was not Zelda's fault the spells failed... did not go over well with the jury.
Nor was the jury impressed by the fact that the defense attorney had so little enthusiasm for his client's case, he fell asleep during the trial.

Zelda lost and went to jail.
She was still hanging her head as she was led away in handcuffs.
Alphie, who sat beside me, got up without a word and exited the courtroom.

I didn't return for the sentencing.
I'd already moved to the next job.
Despite my loss on Zelda's case, the Gypsy community still liked me enough to employ me for an occasional case or two.

Years passed.

I was in Nordstrom's Rack, specifically the shoe department.
Someone tapped me on the back.
It was Zelda and next to her, Alphie. They both had wide grins on their faces as Zelda reached out and grabbed me in her arms.
I was stunned.

"Geesh Zelda, you look great!" I said, and she did.
She looked like she stepped right out of a Spa and into a Designer dress.
"Did three years," she said, "Just got out three weeks ago."
"Wow, "I said, reflecting on how quickly large parcels of time pass.

"You still doing readings?" I asked.
"Sure do," she answered, "Want one? Complimentary?"
I smile, shook my head and said "No thanks, I'd rather not know a thing about my future."
More pleasantries were exchanged when exit time arrived.

"I'm sorry I didn't do a better job for you Zelda," I said.
"No problems my dahling,'" Zelda replied, "You tried, we tried. The time is done.
Now onto the next pair of new shoes," she laughed. And she was holding an expensive pair.

"Besides," Alphie added, "We hired this big time attorney. He wrote us a disclaimer that would hold up to a legal army now."

And Alphie may be right.
I scan court records every now and then, run Zelda's name and her 15 other aliases.
So far she's been a very good girl.

Morale of this story:
You can't win 'em all, but you can learn a whole lot just by being in the game.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Writers Beware: Conned by the Con Man

Conned by the con man. It happens to the best of us. Myself included.

You see, I have been writing this blog since April. It is an interesting read to a few people who have become readers, followers and Facebook friends. I suppose the interest in this blog is two fold -- I am a full time Private Investigator who writes about real cases in an easy to read way.

So I get responses to this blog. From readers and professionals.

One agent and publisher who contacted me and wanted to publish my blog turned out to be a scam artist I didn't see coming. I almost fell for them -- hook, line and sinker.

The thing is, they seemed so real, so credible, so believable... even this private investigator was lured, flattered and almost hooked.

Were it not for the investigations, and then intervention, of my two dear sisters -- who I sent the emails to -- I might have easily lost my investigative mind and bitten at this dude's bait without looking first, at what was really on the line.

Bottom line, if you are a writer and you think writing is a way to make major money fast, forget about it. It must be a passion that may or may not payoff. You must work with a legitimate agent and a legitimate company. Or you must self publish with a reputable company.

Do not quit your day job when you are thinking of writing unless you can afford to. Or are fortunate enough to have a patron of your arts.

Please... clink of the title of this blog.
It will take you to a fake blog someone built about the leader of this illegal literary gang. His name, the bad guy, is Robert Fletcher.

I'm also attempting to add an additional link to this blog that provides further info.
That's not working because I am stopped by e-blogger when I try to post the links.
I want to find the original ad that sucked me in, so no other writer gets sucked in either.

I know we all have a writer in us. This warning goes to the writer who is stepping outside, pen in hand (or fingers on keyboard) and putting it all on the line.

For now, the investigator in me is humbled.
And the writer in me is worried about all the other writers out there who are being robbed, financially and emotionally, by guys like Fletcher.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Drug Dealers - Part 4 - "Life Turns On a Dime"

The problem with being a full time Private Investigator is having little time to do anything but.

Between traveling to and from injured people's residences, attorney's offices, courthouses and the occasional jail or prison; conducting a meeting or researching; photographing injuries to people, vehicles and things; diagramming scenes; then writing up the case notes (which have to be delivered to an attorney within 24-48 hours), there is little time to blog.

Yet the writing calls me like a siren from the sea on the final crossing of the ferry, taking me home.

So on tonight's crossing, I sorted through the endless drug related cases, the doped depths I have plumbed over the years, for Part 4.

Which story will people find most interesting? Which one most helpful?
There is a method to this blogging madness, just as there is a purpose to my investigation.
To assist. To weave a net. To toss a line. Or life preserver. To... at the very least... extend a hand.

I haven't figured out how this story will accomplish that. Though I have concluded it is a story worth telling because it involves a simple little marijuana deal that turned on a dime. A dime bag.

That's about $10. worth of pot my client's son was getting from his buddy, we'll call "Freddie." My client's son, let's call him "JB", knew Freddie since they were kids. JB and Freddie went to the same high school. They were both Seniors, decent kids... though Freddie was rougher around the edges.

On Thursday night, JB called Freddie, asked for a dime bag.
On Friday, Freddie brought the dime bag to JB at school.

JB invited Freddie to party with him that night, so they went into the woods, smoked a little weed after school.

Then they got the munchies, so JB invited Freddie to his house because there were lots of leftovers in Dad's fridge.

JB lived with his Dad and Uncle -- Dad's brother -- ever since JB's mom exited the planet.
Her end began with a single bottle of Oxycodone for a work injury. It was like she'd found God in pill form.
She shopped doctors, forged prescriptions and ultimately.... higher than a kite... figured she'd add vodka and her old Nissan to the mix. Fortunately, she was the only human killed that night. She and the telephone pole met their ends at the same time.

So it was just 17 year old JB, his Dad and his Uncle at home when Freddie, also 17, joined them for dinner. It was great night I was told. Lots of food, lots of laughs.

No drink though. Dad would not allow the stuff in his house. He was sober 3 years since JB's mom's death. The Uncle had been in AA 5 years. It was a "zero tolerance" household and JB knew it.

Since Seattle winter nights get dark early and tend to be cold and wet... and Dad did not drink... he decided to drive Freddie home that night instead of Freddie taking the bus.

So it was about 10:00 pm. Freddie's house was a twenty minute drive from JB's .

Dad got into the front seat, "cold stone sober", he told me, of his "Vintage Cadillac Seville."
Dad's brother, JB's uncle, sat next to him in the front passenger seat.

JB sat directly behind Dad, on the driver side, in the back seat.
Freddie sat on the right passenger side of the vehicle, behind JB's Uncle.

Dad described how mellow the mood was in the car. He said they were playing old blue's music. He told me if I went to his Caddy in the wreck yard, and took the tape out of the player and listened to what was playing at the time, I'd know how the mood was. "Smooth," Dad said, "it was all so smooth."

What Dad and Uncle in the front seat didn't know was this:
while they were listening to the music, Freddie lifted up the leg of his left loose fitting jean pants, and showed JB the gun tucked into the white sock with the Nike logo, that fit into the white basketball shoe with the Nike logo in it.

JB was not happy with that, he shook his head and whispered, "not cool man, put it away now."

Freddie didn't hear or didn't care.
Instead, he pulled the gun out of his sock.

Freddie's intent at this point can only be speculation.
According to the police report, Freddie said he just wanted to show his friend his new gun.

And whether JP knew about the gun earlier is also speculative.
According to the same report, JP said he did not know Freddie had the gun until he got in the car and he told Freddie to put it away.

I didn't find JB's story about seeing the gun for the first time in the car credible, because Freddie and JB were together a long time that day. It seemed more likely Freddie showed JB the gun earlier in the woods when they got high. Regardless, it's all moot at this point.

All that matters now, is what happened next.

For whatever reason, Freddie pulled the gun out of his sock on 1st ave south, which runs through a commercial district of gas stations and fast food places in an industrial area of South Seattle. When the tip of the gun barrel left his sock, Freddie touched the trigger of the gun-- and it went off.

The bullet exited the gun barrel, entered the back of dad's head and flew out the front.

You may recall Dad was driving the car, so the bullet to his head was definitely not a good thing for Dad, or the three occupants of the car, which was going at an estimated 35 mph at the time.

The hit caused Dad's head to drop down to the steering wheel.
Dad's forehead rested on the horn in the middle of steering wheel.

The car began to drive itself while its human passengers processed what happened -- and was happening. Because no one took control of the wheel, the car drove itself into the southwest side of a gas station... through the wall.... shattering a window... and stopping shy of the cashier by inches.

The video was stunning. In the part of town they were passing through robberies were common. Cameras were everywhere. I got to watch the whole thing happen post shooting.

Even more stunning, however, was the fact that I was talking to the man who had just been shot through the head... who crashed into a building.... and lived me about it from his bedside in Intensive Care.

The bullet passed through his head and caused damage to the part of his brain that affected the movement of the left side of his body. His speech was slow and slurred.
Fortunately though, mentally he was still all there... bright, optimistic, grateful to be alive.

"I'll have to learn to walk all over again " he said to me. His son JB sat with us in the hospital room.

I was there to investigate the accident. The police were doing the criminal investigation part with Freddie. He was a minor, with a gun, in lock-down in Juvie.

I was doing my civil investigation thing. Dad had already accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. The Vintage Cadillac was totaled.
Dad's Cadillac was fully insured. Perhaps, the attorney told me, there was enough insurance to help. Though the insurance company would likely put up a fight, calling it a criminal act and not an accident and therefore, not covered.

Dad told me his version of the accident.
Then JB told me his.
What was left out was that dime bag. The catalyst.
Yes, the weed didn't shoot Dad.
Yet, I wondered, were it not for that dime bag, the two boys might not have connected at that peculiar and specific point in time and space where catastrophes happen.

I figured, what the hell.
Someone had to bring it up.

I asked Dad, "Did the police tell you they arrested Freddie for the shooting.... and possession?"
"Possession of what?" Dad asked.
"They found five dime bags of pot in Freddie's right sock. He brought one to JB that day."

Dad looked from me to his son, who kept his gazed fixed on the floor.
"Son, is that true?" Dad asked.
"Yes Dad" JB answered as he looked at Dad and then at me.
JB didn't appear angry at me, or attempt to make excuses to his father. Rather he appeared relieved, more calm than he had been since the whole thing happened.

For many people the truth is truly liberating.
I think it was that way for JB.

It seemed to me the perfect time to exit.
I wrote up my case and my conclusion.
It was up to the attorneys to decide whether to take it on and do battle with Dad's insurance company.
Freddie's family was as poor as you can get.
No auto insurance there.
No assets.

Just two dimes to rub together.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Medical Trilogy

It was an over-the-counter cold medicine. There were a few with the same ingredient in them, but I was investigating one particular brand whose name I will wisely choose not to mention here.
This product was pulled off the shelves years ago because it contained an element called Phenylpropylene.(Google: phenylpropylene + strokes)

It was one of the first over-the-counter cold medicines you might might buy when a cold hits.
It was in my medicine cabinet.
It was in a lot of people's.
Many companies, schools, hospitals kept it stocked in their medicine cabinets for cold relief.
What happened... and this was years ago... it was discovered the phenylpropylene in this medicine caused strokes.

A recall was put in place.
Press releases were sent out.
Doctors were notified.
Products were pulled off some, but not all shelves.
Some companies said they didn't get the recall. Others ignored it.
Either way a whole lot of people of all ages were taken down by strokes caused after they took this cold medicine containing phenylpropylene.

For a while, no one knew what caused these strokes.

It was only when some savvy ER doctors saw the similar brain bleeds in a wide age range of otherwise healthy clients who all had recent colds; then reviewed the medicines the patients had taken; that they figured out phenylpropylene was the culprit.

Until the doctors put two and two together, who knews how many people were taken down... some unable to speak or walk, from strokes due to the ingredient in this medicine.

My job in this investigation, was to travel Western Washington and interview the worst of these stroke victims. The youngest was 25, the oldest was 65. One couldn't speak, several couldn't walk, most couldn't move a side of their body. Some had saved the actual medicines which I took into evidence. Others had thrown them out.

I recall meeting a logger near Hoquiam, on the Washing Coast. Turns out, the company he worked for gave him the cold medicine when he visited the company nurse. I thought I might stop by the logging company while I was in the area. Sure enough, they had the medicine with Phenylpropylene on the shelf. They told me they never got the recall letter, which I carried with me. The medicines were pulled from the medicine cabinet that day.

There was another medicine I investigated. Lipitor. (Google: Lipitor + "muscle breakdown")
It was taken to lower cholestrol, but it had one nasty side effect. The medication ate away at the leg and arm muscles, causing them to break down... liquify. The liquified muscles mass was more like a gooey gel that got stuck in the kidneys. I always imagined it to be like old dirty motor oil stuck in a plug of sludge.
Ths stuff stuck in the kidneys caused a back-up that led to renal failure and death.
And if you did live, you had muscles of goo.

Again, my job was to interview the worst of these victims across Western Washington. I recall one man, a fisherman, who lost use of his leg muscles and lost his career at sea. He saved the original medication bottle he had. I placed it in the evidence bag. His was one more voice in a sea of many heard in a suit against those who ignored the recall.

And the third story in this P.I. trilogy is about Pacemakers...faulty ones placed in patients over a two-year period.
Some of the patients came to the attorney after the Pacemakers, which were defective, shocked and scared them to death.
Others contacted the attorneys after they heard about the recall.

Some still had the defective pacemakers in their chest, wanted them out and wanted the attorneys to hold someone accountable for the bills and pain and suffering incurred in living in fear of their Pacemaker going off at the wrong time. Or, worse, not going off at the right time.

My job, per usual, was to travel the state, visit the worst of the worst... hear the stories from one man young as 21 to another man 79, who kept getting shocked all day long.

The purpose of this trilogy is not to frighten, rather to educate. We think of pills as the be-all and end-all of for cold relief, high blood pressure, cholesterol, pain relief, anxiety, depression. The question you must ask yourself is this:
when is the alleged "cure" worse than the disease?

And beyond that, there comes a choice where we don't have choice. We need a Pacemaker, we rely on the company that makes it to get it right.

Investigating cases like these are just one of many things Private Investigators do. This job is not about hiding in bushes and catching cheating partners for all of us.

For many PI's, myself included, it's about catching companies that are negligent in their manufacture or distribution of products which cause irreperable harm to countless of innocent people. And then, making those companies pay to make our clients well again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Drug Dealers --Part 3--Lilly, The Living Zombie

It was a rainy, cold and dark Seattle day when I walked towards that outside door.

I was headed to one of those small anonymous apartments in a concrete sea of bigger anonymous apartments, called Section 8 in these parts. Section 8 is housing any one of us could be living in were our financial needs high enough... and our income low enough, to qualify.

Section 8 often keeps good well-intentioned people off the streets.
Still there are abusers, cheaters, thieves working the system.
Rules aren't merely being stretched, they're being torn to shreds or ignored by some landlords and some tenants.

The building I was about to enter was not like the horizontally based Section 8 apartment complexes I was used to.
Instead, there was one main front entry door, one main back door and one tall building up, I counted five stories.

I approached the back door which was near where I parked. The back door was open.
On the way, to it, I stepped over one big pile of pee and chose not to contemplate whose it was.

The back door was designed to be locked and entered with a key code box.
And at the door I approached, it became clear some one tore the alarm box off. Nothing left but the wires. Anyone could just walk right in the apartment building like I did.

It was early morning. That's when I make my appointments to places like this one the attorney sent me to when I have a choice.
Junkies sleep in the morning. So I figured 9:00 am Sunday, I'd be okay.
I opened the back door.
I almost expected to hear ,"white girl on the floor...." like I have heard "woman on the floor" shouted through the halls of homeless shelters where I have met many male victims or witnesses.
Instead, the only sound I heard was the metal door as it creaked open, then a swoosh as it scraped a dirty carpeted floor spotted with stains.

It took a moment to adjust to the lack of light inside.
I saw no people, just things ahead: doorways and stairs...exit signs ... papers posted to the walls... an occasional eviction notice tacked to a door.
I walked quietly down the hall and then took the stairs up to my destination, Floor 3.

This is always a point of concern for me.
Stairwells, like elevators, tend to lock you in. When you're locked in with a psycho or bad dude, that can be problematic.

The building I was in had no elevators. I had no other choice other than to enter the stair well, which, I discovered, to my relief, was not enclosed. Escape could be had with a leap.

Up I went two flights and down another hallway.
I start tracking the numbers.
"304...Bingo," I thought as I knocked on the door and wondered, as I always do, whatit would open to.

There was no answer.

I knocked again, harder. No response.

I didn't want to wake the neighbors so I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the phone number the attorney gave me for his potential client. I wrote the phone number in ink on the inside of my left hand, a habit developed for occasions such as this one.

I leaned towards the door. I heard the phone ringing through the apartment door.
"Yallow?" a sleepy female voice answered on the fourth ring.
"Good Morning Lilly," I said, " It's me, Susan, the Investigator." I gave her the name of the attorney who sent me. Then I said I was knocking at her front door and no one answered.
"OK . Be right wit' ya" " the voice shouted from behind Door 304.
I guessed the accent was Jamaican.

As I stood waiting at the door, I heard things being moved about... whispers of voices... a house being cleaned up for an investigator on a Sunday morning after who knows what kind of Saturday night.

It took maybe five minutes before she opened the door.

I was right. She was Jamaican. She had the head scarf on, the accent.... and the large Jamaica tourism poster on the wall to my left was a dead giveaway.

There was something wrong with her left eye, it was completely clouded over, a milky white. I looked into her right eye, it was still brown and covered slightly with grey.

"I be 90% blind" she told me as she extended her left hand towards mine.
Her right right arm was broken and she had a sling on.
" I"m Lilly" ( pseudonym) she said. I reached out with my right and shook her left hand.
"Pleased to meet you Lilly, "I said, "Though I wish it were under better circumstances."
"You got dat' right sistah' " she said.

Some investigators don't shake hands.
This one does.
I think when you touch someone, you really say to them, I am willing to commit to this dialogue, to connect with you.
I am not afraid of you.
Sometimes... it means, quite literally, my life is in your hands.

I think the old school of investigation: stepping back from the subject; hands kept in pockets; playing Joe or Josephine Friday; is not the best approach.
A hand shake tends to soften situations which otherwise would be harder to crack.
I was however, aware I had shaken a hand covered with who knows what substances and germs, so I consciously kept that hand away from my eyes, nose and mouth until I could return to my car and my hand sanitizer.

So after said handshake, Lilly led me into her living room. There was a bedroom to the side. Then two other doors. I heard a tv on in one room.

"Anyone else here?" I asked.
"My man" Lilly said, "He be watching his man show in dah' bedroom".

I smiled and accept the seat Lilly offered me, near her on the sofa. Though I hoped there was not not a hypodermic needle where I sat, I was polite enough not to ask.

I get as close as I can to subjects of my interview.
I like them to see me write my notes, to suggest corrections or catch mistakes if I write something down wrong.
I want them to draw me pictures of the crime scene or accident scene.
I deliberately invade their personal space in order to expose it. This is not an easy thing for a white girl to do in a world that doesn't necessary think fondly of, or trust us, white folks.

Lilly, however, was congenial enough though. I showed her my state investigation license. I remembered her blindness and read it to her.

"Do you think I have a case?" she asked.
I told her I wouldn't be there if the attorneys didn't think so. Because they pay me whether or not they take on her case. If they think there is a party at fault, I tell her... and they think there is insurance money they can get.... then they may take her case on.

What I had been told about her case was just a one liner on my Blackberry:
Pedestrian in street hit by car at 1:00 am. Find out everything.

What we did not know was whether Lilly was at a crosswalk.

Or whether the driver that hit her was both identified and insured.

We did not know who was at fault.

Lilly said she had the police report with her but couldn't read it.
I asked her to show it to me.
It was only page 1 of 3.
The police do this on accident scenes.
In cases like Lilly's, an officer usually gives the victim the first page of the report so the victim has the police report number or case number, the names of the people involved and their insurance companies. Then the police write up the rest of the report later when they are stationary, have time to do a scene sketch, get it submitted into their system so an injured party, or someone like an attorney, with power of attorney, can order and get it.

The police report didn't say much. The driver was in a Ford Taurus, female, 32 years old with a two and a four year old in baby seats in the back. She had auto insurance, that was good. There was no citation indicated however and that surprised me.

"Tell me what happened Lilly." I said.

She leaned closer to me, spoke softer, as if she was telling me an old Jamaican tale.

"Well I be poor as you can see. And my man, he be hungry.
So at night, he say to me,
'Lilly, I be hungry. You go out and get me some money so we can get me some food.'
"And I say okay. Only it be midnight... I be sleepy and almost blind.... so it takes me a while.
He tellin' me to hurry up, I tellin' him to shut up while I be gettin' pretty.
Then out the door I go and then I look up and I see the lights of the cars.

The street she was referring to was Highway 99- International Blvd, right by Seattle Tacoma airport. Its where the Green River Killer trolled for victims.

"So I be heading toward the lights of those cars..." she continued, " and I see one car go very slow and I figure he be wanting Miss Lilly and I walk to him cross middle of road and next thing I know I be hit. First in hip, then I go up on windshield, then down on ground. I catch myself with 'dis arm and it snap in two."

I asked Lilly if she was in the crosswalk when this happened.
"No, I can see no crosswalk, I blind remember? I just go to lights."

It was time to ask what I had already deduced.
" Lilly,what is it you do to get your man's money?"

She said, "I be de' lady of de' night. In de' night they do not see my eyes because I wear fancy glasses.

While Lilly spoke, I filled out the form the attorney gave me for the case. Under "occupation" I wrote "blind hooker." I was not feeling optimistic at this point.
I asked Lilly her date of birth. She was 50. She appeared to be in her late 60's.

I looked at Lilly's arms and ankles, all speckled with needle marks -- some new.
"Lilly," I said non -judgmentally, "I can see you use. It's okay to tell me about it, I'm on your side. I work for the attorneys, not the police. What's your drug of choice?"

"Given my druthers," she said, "I be doing Meth right here,right now. You got any?"

"No," I say, "That's evil stuff."

"Devil's brew" she replied.

So I had almost all the information I came for. I played through the case in my head.

At about 1:00 am, a Blind Meth Adddicted Prostitute approached a car in the middle of the night, in the middle of the busiest road by the Sea-Tac Airport. She was hit by a different car with a mother and two kids in it, a car that didn't see her.
Just one more question.

"What were you wearing that night Lilly?"

She said, "I be wearing my black lace nighties sweetie, my red lipstick, my black pearls, them hot black fishnets and my hooker heels."

I thought of the mother of two who hit Lilly. Did she see Lilly coming? Was there a spotlight or camera in the area?
Did her kids she it coming?
The female driver, the hitter, was no doubt horrified. Could she have avoided hitting Lilly?
It seemed to me, she just did not see Lilly. Lilly was dressed in black. In the middle of a dark busy road.
Whose was liable? What would a jury think?
Is it the blind, Meth-adddicted prostitute?
Or the mom and two sweet kids in the Ford Taurus who didn't see see her coming."

I looked long and hard at the Lilly and the case. I decided she would not make a good client for the high-powered attorney who hired me -- an attorney I considered a cut above the ones who would take anyone on as a client.

I made my decision. I would advise the attorney against taking the case on. Now, it was just a was just a matter of making my exit.... without letting her know that her case would be a reject. It's never good to anger a Meth Head.
"Well Lilly, " I said, "Sound like I got everything I need for the attorneys. Can I call you this afternoon if I have more questions?

"Afternoon be best," she replied. "So you think they can make me lots of money?"

"Lilly" I said, "They don't tell me anything after I hand in the case notes. It's their call.
But I am curious... if you ever came into a huge chunk of money, like you won a lottery or something, what would you do with it?"

"Why I buy me and my man a mountain of Meth." she answered without hesitating a beat.

"You don't want anything more than that for yourself Lilly?" I asked. "You got no dreams for the future, no hope? Nothing?"

Lilly focused what vision was left in her goodeye on my two healthy blue ones and said,

"Anything you give me to get out of myself... I be all for it.
What can I say? I be just a junkie."

I don't know about you, but I found that sentence quite profound.

"I be just a junkie."

The words still reverberate in my head.
Some girls just don't grow up to be teachers, secretaries or secretaries of state, doctors, soldiers, private investigators,shrinks, artists, steelworkers, truckers...
Some girls grow up to be blind hooker junkies with no way out.
And that would be Lilly.

I called the attorney who sent me out and told him of my interview with his prospective client Lilly. He agreed with my conclusions and asked me to drop the case file by his office and he'd give it all one more "look see." He said based on what we discussed, it was likely, he would have someone from his office call Lilly and tell her they would not handle her case.

Lilly is a Living Zombie.
I met her in her lair. Her man was there behind a closed door. No doubt, he was another of the same species. To this day, I marvel at the fact that I lived to report another encounter with Living Zombies.

I charged the attorney a little extra for that investigation. He reviewed the file again and didn't take the case. Nor did he complain about my fee.

As for Lilly, she went back in back in her shadowlands. Or she is in jail. Or she is dead. One of the three. I see no other ways this one could play out.

What will tomorrow's door open to? This investigator never knows.
Could be another Lilly.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Drug Dealers- Part 2- "Living Zombies"

It all starts innocently enough. A pain in the back, a tweek in the neck, a muscle pulled here, a bone broken there. Car wrecks, dog bites, gun shots, stabbings, shootings, assaults. Bar fights. Falls. Hundreds of thousands, (or is it millions?) of people depart hospitals and doctors offices every day with pills.

Cancer patients have pill bottles littered everywhere. And cancer patients have caretakers, often family members, who unable to deal with their own fears, become stressed as well. They take the cancer patients pain Meds and become addicts themselves.

A doctor friend of mine told me one of her elderly patients had a hip replacement. Her caretaker, the daughter, stole and swallowed all mom's pain pills.

There are others stressed by anxiety -- from the economy, their marriage, their single-hood, their children, their lack of children, deaths of those they love, the feeling of being unloved.
Compound that with more anxiety and fear.

The economy is not just tanking, it is now drilling into the depths of an economic depression all across this great country of ours.
Fears are soothed, nerves are calmed with Valium or Xanax or anti-depressants, anti-anxieties.
And when that's not available, there's always booze, heroin and Meth.

When the pain is real, from a broken bone, a ruptured disk, a broken neck, a crushed toe, endometriosis, you name it -- what the pain meds do is kill the pain without creating the high.

When the pain is gone... or there is no pain to begin with... the pain killers provide nothing but the high. Between that spectrum of real pain treatment and real pain killer highs, are shades of gray hard for the medical professionals and family members to interpret.

When the anxiety is quelled.... and the nerves are calmed.... it sure beats climbing the walls.
But sometimes, the only way to get over walls IS to climb them.

Therein lies the quandry.
Pain is nature's way of telling us something is wrong with the body.
Stress is nature's way of telling us we are in a situation requiring our fight or flight.
When we are drugged and numbed, we really don't know what is happening and down we go.

ER docs and Family Practioners are now officially on the look-out for "drug seeking behavior". Yet, on the other hand, that "drug seeking behavior" is built into the drugs those same doctors prescribed.

If you have excruciating back pain and the doctor gives you pain pills, then why wouldn't you take them?
And as you continue to take them and you heal... then you start getting high from the pain pills.... why would you stop?
Some people can and do stop. Others can not.
I think like cigarettes, there are addictive elements built into many prescription medications and the world is tilting on its psychological and emotional axis because of this.

As soon as I finish this blog, I will hit the road to work the weekend's cases.
Normally I am gone much sooner than this. I usually take an earlier car ferry, drive off through Edmonds and into Seattle via Aurora Blvd, which was the first real freeway in the area before I-5 came into the picture. Now it's like one of those older bigger roadsm Route 66's, all over America.

I like taking Aurora into Seattle, because it is slow.... the road is spotted with stop lights... which gives me time to chill and look around. Because I investigates so many auto wrecks, I am never in a hurry when I drive. I am always observant, ever vigilant.

Aurora Boulevard which becomes Pacific Highway and International Blvd south depending which way you head, is filled with all kinds of fascinating people in a variety of life forms: good people and bad; sane and crazy; happy and said; bag-laden or empty handed. Some have money, many are homeless. Some people haul their whole lives in garbage bags, while others sip their Staburcks Venti Doubleshot down the road.

There is one area with cheezy wall-to-wall motels the prostitutes and their pimps book by the hour. I enjoy passing those places, I'd confess to an affection for them, because I have been in most of them meeting said prostiutues, pimps, and other random players I need statements or info from. Some of those places are now closed and soon to be, I am told, "gentrified."

I can spot a druggy and hooker a mile a way. I watch the women and men, young and old, black white and every color inbetween, roam the streets of Aurora often. This is where Gary Ridgeway, the most prolific serial killer in the country did his hunting.

I used to represent some of these people who walk these streets when I worked at The Public Defender. In particularly rough areas, there are signs posted on poles and posts that say SODA, (meaning Stay Out of Drug Area.) Or SOPA (Stay out of Prostitution Area.) Most people don't even know those signs exist.

So there is a point to all this. And it ties into Drug Dealers, Aurora Ave and one more subject, Living Zombies.

Because there is a spot I pass, if I hit it just right in the morning, where from out of nowhere, twenty, thirty people, and many more people emerge from everywhere as they begin to gather in small groups and lines to enter a Methadone clinic for their daily dose. It is early in the morning when the gathering starts, 6, 7, 8 am, it varies.

What I do know about this place and places like them all over our country and cities, is that people struggling to get off of hard core drugs just for the high... or prescription drugs because of the pain... are now legally dosed in such clinics daily. Every single day, seven days a week.

Some are dropped off by friends or relatives. Some take the bus. Some come from miles by ferry because there are no Methadone clinics where they live.
Others walk miles with backpacks, or shopping carts, and shoes worn with holes.
They all line up, enter this building and get their dose.

Then they all walk outside, mellow, smiling and expressionless. The Living Zombies hang outside while the high takes hold and form small circles os Zombie cliques. Groups of friends, puff cigarettes, tell stories, laugh, wave their arms, shake, twitter and tweek, high.

I confess. I have seen this often and close up with my binocs while I sip my morning drug of choice, caffeine. Living Zombies are far more interesting in real life than movies.

Then they all say goody-bye and the Living Zombies go back to whatever it is they do the rest of the day until the next morning and it begins all over again.

I have concerns about all this and that is why I have chosen to blog, in this series about drugs and dealers -- legal and illegal. I think people just aren't aware of how intoxicated our country, our cities, society has become. And how the Pharmaceutical Industry profits from that.

As I said in Part One of this series, prescription Meds, legal ones can be and mostly are, a blessing.
When they are over-used, abused, they become a burden. Or a killer.
Heath Ledger, for example, took it too far. So did Janis Joplin, John Belushi, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Annie Nicole. Need I go beyond the famous and speak of normal people like you and me?

Today's diary entry is brief because my work calls. But first, one quick analogy.

I was up most of the night last night, trying to process the fact that my friend, who has a chronic pain condition has gone completely psychotic due to mismanagement of prescription Meds.Her family and I, over the course of a couple years, have tried to weave a net to save her and it appears not to be working.

When she spoke to me last night of her house being bugged by aliens, and the blue birds being sent to her trees by neighbor spys...
when she told me I was talking in code...
when she told the one person in her life who would have taken a bullet for her - her husband-- she wanted a divorce, he said fine and walked. The husband is not only a saint, he's a great man, a man's man. The kind of husband a woman would never want to lose.

He called me. He was sane. She called me. She was not.

I tried again and again to tell her she is delusional, her mind is altered by the drugs.
I told her she needs to go back into hospital she just got out of. Or she needs to go to detox. At the very least she needs her husband back.

Instead, she told me to quit my work,and she would "buy me" (she's rich) to take care of her.
That was the point that I realized there was no point. Some people either make it or don't.

So I told her last night I know she is back on drugs. I know she is ordering them on the net. I told her she is delusional, psychotic, she is in grave danger and no, she can not "buy me." I told her she needs help I am unqualified to provide.

I believe we, her family and friends, have all done everything we can.
I told her she has two paths here. S
he can either suck it up, get through withdrawal and live life -- pain, anxiety and all like the rest of us poor schmucks out here.
Or she will end up alone, in a mental hospital, jail, or dead.
She said, "F.U." and hung up on me.

This is the fabric this series on Drug Dealers will be woven of.
As an investigator who works both criminal and civil cases, I have a great deal of experience, and expertise, in this area.
There are the drug dealers on the streets and there are the drug dealers in Doctor's offices. And then, there are the Pharmaceutical companies. It is a subject as vast and as heated ad the Sahara.

Time to grab my water bottle and hit the road.
Part three tomorrow.