Saturday, April 24, 2010


I attempt to meet most of my witnesses, victims, potential clients in their homes, for a multitude of  reasons.

It's easier to talk freely in a home, apartment, motel room, or even a car,  about sensitive matters. Unlike a coffee shop or restaurant where strangers are observed and overheard.

Yet often, people are ashamed of their homes and don't want any one in... especially a stranger who happens to be an investigator.

I get that.
I don't like having strangers in my home either.

However,some of the attorneys I work for... and when I fly solo... in-the-home pow-wows are best.
This allows me to see who we are truly dealing with.
And almost always, other people are present during that meeting.
Some of those people I don't see, they're hiding behind doors or in a adjoining room, eaves dropping.
Some people I an interviewing, want someone sitting in the room with us  an advocate, witness or second set of ears.
Mostly though, I have an audience on some investigations, just because some people have never met a P.I. before.... the only new input in a consistently mundane existence.

With the economy tanking, foreclosures and mortgage walkaways are at the highest point in recent history.
The only people unaffected by the economic collapse are the rich
And even they have watched their holdings dwindle.

I'm not  hard to see how things are changing in people's homes and lives.
Some Americans  have to tighten their belts...others have to expand them, because the only food they can  afford is the fast food variety which is dirt cheap.

When one's money stops coming in, electricity is the first to go.
I've seen many people make do in imaginative ways.

One young woman I recently met, who was severely injured by someone else, decided to fight back. She was at the bottom of the bottom. Squatted in a home she once owned -- she stopped paying mortgage on it for a number of years.

She had the home set up like an encampment because there  was no power.

She showed me how she built a huge layered tent in a small bedroom around her bed, how  the tent kept her warm and that's where she spends most of her time. She lives my candlelight.

I told her I couldn't understand why the mortgage company/bank allowed her to stay there without a single mortgage payment for so many years.  She told me she guessed because it was a nice house, maybe the bank/lender saw her as "guarding it" because there are too many homes out there unoccupied and a whole lot of homeless people.

I asked her how she eats.
She showed me her refrigerator... which was another bedroom, this one so cold, she left everything she'd refrigerate in it and used the open window ledge as the freezer.

I asked her how she powered the cell phone she reached the attorney on.
Starbucks, she replied.
I laughed and told her I do the same thing
I stop for a break and plug whatever device I have into one of many outlets designed specifically for road warriors

She told me how she has a supply of Starbucks coffee cops, fills one with water, saunters in, picks up a newspaper someone left lying around and charges her phone.

I asked who paid for her phone. She said there are people who help her. One person, a guy she used to date, gave her the phone and the minutes because he was worried  about her.

When I broached the subject of family, that's when things got grim. Her mother, father and sister no longer speak to her. They have taken her children away from her and are filing for custody of the two boys. She asked me if anything could be done to stop that.

I looked at her house, at her condition and asked more questions about where the boys were now.
They were safe...and safer... with her family. Well fed, in school, protected.
She knew it, I  knew it, the were better off growing up right now, without living with her.
Problem is, her family cut her off completely and is now trying to terminate any parental visits/right  altogether.

She told me this, "my youngest son said mommy, they treat me differently than they treat my older brother. Don't let them have me. I'd rather live under a bridge with you than live in a fancy house with them."
Then she broke down.

I didn't reach out and touch her hand, comfort her, nothing.
I just sat and waited for the tears to pass.... me the allegedly objective investigator, she the young woman approaching 30 and losing everything

I will admit, she got to me.
She started her life with medical difficulties and several surgeries.
What she accomplished before her world fell apart astounded me.
She told me she  got her college degree on the streets, "except it was lower not higher learnin," she laughed.
She recently received a grant to go back to school.
She wants to be an advocate for the poor and displaced, she said.

I then began to build her up.. told her a story or two of others, myself included, who had walked in similiar moccasins and survived. I said she can do everything she wants in life...provided she develops a plan and moves carefully. She listened with that hunger for knowledge I see so often.

When we parted ways, my investigation complete, I pressed my card in her hand.
 "Just know I am out here" is all I said.

I stopped giving out my cards whenever possible ever since one guy I interviewed got arrested with  crack and my business card in his pocket. I got a call from a family member in the justice system who was present after the arrest of said crack head who wondered why he had my card.

I had met the crack head on an inury case I was investigation about two years before he discovered crack.
He was a bright old guy, dead ringer for an old Bill Cosby, only funnier.
He asked for my card. He said he never met a real P.I. and he carried it, evidently, everywhere in his pocket... until it was discovered after he started using, while he was being frisked and cuffed.

Once I explained my role in his prior case, what could have been a nightmare, turned into a memory that resurfaced in the house the young woman once owned and was now squatting in.

The young woman and I parted ways and I didn't hear from her again until last night.

She had been sending me texts.
She was very depressed and scared, she said.
Her one guy  friend  left her a note that morning and took off for Alaska. He also" cleaned out the house," everything she, or the bank owned.
Fortunately, she slept with the cell phone and it still worked. She thought he might shut it down,

She was terrified, she said and not sure what to do next.
I gave her a list of options I have memorized and shared countless times.
Shelters, advocates, churches, refuges for the misplaced, displaced, desperate, decent and indigent.

My last text to her last night... from my beach house where eagles fly and oysters grow and no one ever knocks at my door because it is so remote and safe... was "I am so sorry for your pain. Just know, life turns on a dime."
I didn't hear back from her until this morning when I opened my eyes and look at her text.
It said, "I am now down to 3 cents .All I need is 7 more.  Then will my life turn?"

I haven't texted her back yet.
Instead, I retreated directly to this blog because, it is the Diary of A Private Eye, and this is how I roll.

Today, I have specific needs.

I need people who have, to understand how hard it is for those who don't.
I need people to know that the homeless and hungry are not idiots, morons, or society's leeches.
I need anyone who reads this to repeat after me when choosing to be judgmental.

"There but for the grace of God, go I."

These are words my mother has told me since I was a kid.

I will text this young woman back after I post this blog.
Sending her money, offering her refuge are not a possibility... professionally, ethically, it's just not done.
I may have testify in her case one day.
My lack of objectivity, my caring and compassion to her plight could be her downfall were I to cross professional boundaries.
Thus, the investigator is often stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.
Today, I'm between the two... in the sand.

No comments:

Post a Comment