Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Diamond's Aren't Forever

A distressed woman named Diane called me from Boston. She told me that she had recently inherited $20,000 worth of diamond jewelry from her late mother. Diane came home from work one day and found that the jewelry had disappeared, and so had her live-in boyfriend, Bernie.

After several phone calls, she learned that Bernie ran off with a woman named Alice. Diane called the Boston Police Department, which had her come in to fill out the requisite forms. Her case was assigned to a detective. After three months, the only break in the case was that some of the jewelry had shown up in Boston-area pawnshops. Still, the Boston PD had no lead as to the whereabouts of Bernie.

Frustrated, she sought outside help and found our investigative agency on the Internet. I took all the details over the phone and commenced the investigation.

Employing every technique in the book, I searched and searched for Bernie. I ran database searches, left messages with his friends and relatives, and even talked to his estranged mother in Miami. No one seemed to have any idea where Bernie was, and his own mother didn't even want to know.

While giving my client a telephone update it occurred to me that I didn't have a photo of Bernie. Missing persons photos do two things. Hanging on the wall over your desk they're a constant reminder of the task at hand. Then, there's an outside chance that you will see the person on the bus or in the drug store.

So Diane mailed me a photograph of Bernie, but warned me that it was eight or nine years old. He looked older now, she said.

Three months passed, and I hadn't gotten a single lead as to Bernie's location. He and Alice had disappeared without a clue. However, "give up" is not part of my vocabulary. Somehow I knew that I would find Bernie.

Meanwhile, I worked on my heavy caseload. One case involved surveillance in New York's Diamond District on 47th Street. One midmorning I took the #5 bus down Fifth Avenue and got off at 50th Street and walked south toward 47th Street.

Between 48th and 47th Streets I noticed a casually dressed couple sitting on the sidewalk with their backs against a building. A stack of battered luggage sat next to them. A small hand-written sign placed on the sidewalk read "HOMELESS." Next to it was an empty Starbucks cup with a greenback sticking out.

It occurred to me that the man resembled Bernie. "No," I said to myself, "I've been working too hard, it couldn't be Bernie from Boston." I walked on by, but the image of the two sitting there bothered me. I turned around and walked back to the couple and added a dollar to the cup.

"Thank you," the man said. The woman also said "Thank you."

"What's your name?" I asked the man.


"I'm Alice," the woman said.

As the adrenaline hit me, I mumbled, "Good luck," and stepped around the corner and called 911 on my cell phone. I explained that I was a private investigator and related some details of the case. A police car would arrive shortly, I was told.

I called Diane and gave her the exciting news. She was as ecstatic as I.

The cops arrived in ten minutes. After I identified myself and repeated the basic details the officers went over to the couple and asked the squatting man for identification. He claimed not to have any, but acknowledged that he was Bernie so-and-so, my target, as we say in the business.

They asked Bernie to stand, and then slapped cuffs on him. With an officer in the back seat with Bernie, and me and another officer in the front, we drove to the Midtown North precinct where they put Bernie in a lockup.

Detectives from the NYPD called the Boston PD and told them that they had Bernie in the lockup, and gave them 24 hours to come and get him.

To my astonishment, the Boston PD told the NYPD that they might as well let Bernie go, as they wouldn't come and get him. His crime didn't warrant a trip to New York City.

Bernie and I walked out of Midtown North together, parting ways when we hit the sidewalk. Then I dialed Diane on my cell phone to explain what had happened.

The next day I saw Bernie and Alice sitting on the sidewalk with an empty Starbucks cup. I guess diamonds aren't forever.

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