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This true-story excerpt from Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins, Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye, concerns a divorce case seven or so years ago where the almost-ex-husband, in an enraged phone call to his vodka-and-cocaine-loving almost-ex-wife, spilled everything his attorney had told him in confidence about his private investigators (us) and our investigation plans. Another fitting title for this case story could be “A Lawyer’s Big Mouth Almost Landed Us in Jail” but instead Colleen titled it…
The Day The Sheriffs Escorted Us to Another County
One thing we’ve learned at our investigations agency is to never provide details about an investigative task to a client until after the task is completed. Unfortunately, years ago one of our lawyer-clients spilled the “investigation beans” to his/ our client, which caused all kinds of problems.
A Lawyer Hired Us for a Nasty Divorce Case
The husband had recently moved out of his mountain home, leaving his wife and two small children there. The problem was, the wife was overly fond of cocaine and vodka, staying up partying for long periods before crashing for day-long sleeps. The children, both under six years old, had told their dad that on “Mommy’s sleep days,” they were going outside to play by themselves.
The attorney asked us to conduct a trash hit, see what evidence there was of alcohol and drug use. In preparation to visit the home, we learned it was remotely located in the mountains (very dangerous for young children to be outside for long periods by themselves). We also learned the soon-to-be ex-wife had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. In preparation for a trash hit, we learned the day the trash was set out and where the trash cans would most likely be located. As the wife didn’t have a job, it was likely she’d be at home, so we planned to work quickly.
It was going to be a long drive to the mountains, so we decided to take our Rottweiler, Aretha
Franklin. Although on such cases, we like to call her Investigator Aretha.
Imagine Our Surprise When We Saw…
The home, located in the mountains, was only accessible by a single dirt road that snaked around hills, boulders, trees. When we finally hit the last stretch of road leading to the house, imagine our surprise to see several sheriff’s units, including a K-9 unit and a van. These dudes, and dog, were waiting for us. Our Rottweiler, Ms. Big Bad Herself, leapt into the front seat, all hundred-plus pounds of her knocking the wind out of me as she landed in my lap where she huddled, shivering with fear. I have never seen her behave like that before or since. Maybe it was all those sheriffs in uniforms, who knows.
The sheriff approaching our vehicle had seen Ms. Big Bad clear the backseat and placed his hand on his holster. This was going to be one of those days.
My husband poked his head out the driver’s window and said loudly, calmly, “The Rottweiler is docile— she’s cowering in my wife’s lap.” I smiled at the sheriff as Investigator Aretha trembled and whined in my arms.
Wife Added Sinister Story Twists
For the next hour or so, the sheriffs interviewed my husband and I about what we were doing there, who we were, who sent us, etc. etc. etc. From the questions, it became obvious that our chatty attorney-client had informed the almost-ex-husband that we were heading up the mountain to conduct a trash hit on his former residence. Later we learned that in a rage-fueled conversation with his estranged wife, hubby had blabbed everything the lawyer had said, down to the expected time of our arrival.
The almost-ex-wife, after hearing that a couple of P.I.s, on behalf of her husband’s divorce attorney, were on the way to the house, called the local sheriff and added all kinds of sinister twists to the tale, leading the sheriff’s office to believe we were everything from potential burglars to kidnappers.
The sheriffs, upon learning we were really working on behalf of a lawyer in a nasty divorce case, decided the best recourse was to escort us to another county, which was fine as that next county was the one in which we lived and worked.
Escorted in Style Down the Mountain
The sheriffs set up a caravan of their vehicles, in front and behind us, and our happy convoy proceeded down the mountain. Along the way we called our attorney-client, explained that his telling the client everything about the trash hit had resulted in this sheriff-fest.
“Are they putting you in jail?” he asked, “‘ cause if they are, call me. I’ll represent you, no charge.” He thought that was pretty funny.
We continued in our sheriff-P.I. caravan down the mountain, our steel-nerved Rottweiler refusing to leave my lap. As we crossed the county line, one of the sheriffs honked and waved good-bye. Friendly folks, those mountain sheriffs.
Since then, whenever we start working a case with a new lawyer, we insist that pertinent details of an investigation not be shared until after the task is completed. Most attorneys know this, but we’d prefer to err on the side of too much information than to be part of a law enforcement’s procession again.
Postscript: That attorney hired another investigator who safely conducted a trash hit. Significant amounts of drug evidence and alcohol were found (the wife, despite knowing her husband’s divorce attorney was keen on getting evidence of her drinking and drugging, continued to party and toss that evidence right into the trash). We’ve since heard she’s in a recovery program, so hopefully this story has a better ending for the kids.
Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye by Colleen Collins, a nonfiction, no-holes-barred, modern-day story about life in the female PI fast lane.
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