By January 19, 2006

Something to Lose

Warning: this is a long entry. Believe it or not, what follows is the short version. Some of you already know this story, some of you don’t. It partly explains the paucity of my journal entries, and partly gets something off my chest that I meant to kept hidden if my plans came to fruition.

About a month ago, Lady Jaye and I bought a king sized mattress. It was a big, exciting purchase for us. With Rosie growing up and both dogs sleeping in the bed with us, my old queen sized bed wasn’t doing the trick. After testing out the 12″x12″ mattress squares at our local Costco, we ordered the set online from costco.com to the tune of $800 delivered. The mattress was delivered on the 21st of December by three men from a third party courier/delivery company used by Costco. In preparation for their arrival, I put all my guns and Lady Jaye’s lockbox in the master bathroom and shut the door.

The first man to arrive was Ernie the truckdriver, a middle aged man. He said his “carry crew” was running late, and sat outside in his truck for a bit. I felt badly making him wait inside, so I invited him in for a glass of water. We started chatting about how long he’d been in the Richmond area (20+ years), all the states I’d lived in, etc. etc. The next thing I knew the carry crew showed up and it was half an hour later.

The carry crew was comprised of a young white male (later identified as 18 years old) and a young black male, whom I’d put at about the same age or possibly a few years older. Now, carrying a king sized mattress set is a bit of a chore. The boxsprings aren’t too bad — as the boxspring on a king is actually two twin-sized boxsprings — but the mattress itself is a big, heavy monstrosity.

Being my normal paranoid self, I followed each member of the carry crew upstairs while each man carried a boxspring. The white male remarked at how cute Porter and Rosie were, behaving quite well in their crates. When I followed the black male up, he said how much Porter looked like his brother’s dog and how good both of them looked. I went downstairs, and saw that the white male had brought Ernie some chicken wings. Ernie waved me over. “Let’s get this paperwork taken care of while they’re carrying the mattress upstairs.” I nodded, eager to get these men home so close to the holiday, especially after Ernie had been waiting at my house for the carry crew to show up.

“May I use your microwave?” Ernie asked. “Sure thing,” I replied, and nuked his chicken wings while we went over the paperwork. The carry crew wrestled with the mattress and got it up the stairs with a minimal struggle. I turned my attention to Ernie, his wings, and the paperwork. I signed a few sheets, and Ernie asked for some hot sauce — I gave him tobasco. All in all, the carry crew was unsupervised for probably five minutes.

The carry crew rumbled down the stairs, wished me a happy holidays, and I ushered them out of the house with a smile on my face. They were all exceedingly pleasant. I never got the impression that anything untoward had happened. That is, until Lady Jaye and I received our bedframe on the 27th of December.

The bedframe, purchased and delivered by Haverty’s, was ginormous. Unlike the Costco delivery, the two of us followed the delivery men around the entire time. They were never unattended. Lady Jaye and I were laughing about Rosie no longer being able to jump on the bed. She put her front paws up on the super-high bed, with her muzzle between her paws. Whining and wiggling her tail, she’d hop about two inches, unable to fully scramble to the top of the bed. I wanted to film Rosie’s mad hopping action, especially after I filmed her triumphant first leap onto our old queen.

I looked for the camcorder where I last remembered seeing it — between Lady Jaye’s jewelry box and our bedroom television. It wasn’t there. No worries, I thought to myself, and looked in my office, home of many a gadget. No luck. I looked downstairs on the kitchen island. Then the living room. Then the master bathroom. Then the guest room, the guest bath, the half bath downstairs (including under the sink), the dining room, the attic, and even the refrigerator. Lady Jaye and I took each room apart. No camcorder.

We decided to wait an evening before completely freaking out. We invited our friend Peaches over for a fresh set of eyes, and she couldn’t find our camcorder, either.

I called Costco on the night of 12/28 and spoke with Jack Williams, one of the store managers. He sounded genuinely distressed about our camera, and suggested I call “Steve” over at the courier company. Jack has been with Costco since the store opened 15 years ago and said no one has ever reported anything untoward about the delivery company.

I phoned Steve at the courier company on 12/29. He said he’d been with the company for 10 years and had never had anything reported stolen from someone’s house. He actually laughed at me a little bit when I told him my story and that I thought his employees were responsible. He said he’d “talk to them” and call me back.

I waited exactly 24 hours before I called Steve again. According to the man who answered the phone, Steve was on a conference call and would call me back. He never did. My next phone call was to the Chesterfield county police.

I figured I needed to go through the formality of filing a police report, and didn’t expect anyone to show up for a few days after I hung up with the dispatcher. In the meantime, I called every pawn shop in the greater Richmond area, trying to find my camera. I still had the box, with the camera’s serial number on it. I was hoping it’d turn up, but more importantly I was hoping any store that bought my camera would have information on who took it. More than retrieving our camera (despite the content of the tape within), I wanted justice. I wanted revenge.

To my surprise, Officer Francis was at my door in less than an hour. A 12 year veteran, Officer Francis was immediately sincere and upfront. He didn’t think I’d see my camera again, but given my thoroughness in my own investigations he said he’d go down to the courier and question the three men. He also noted that all pawn shops that receive any merchandise of value (such as my camera) were required to report their acquisition to the police, along with any serial numbers. If someone tried to pawn my camera, the police would be notified. Lastly, Officer Francis said that even though the value of my camera wasn’t extremely high, its $400 value put the theft into the felony range.

Officer Francis asked me what I would do if I had to choose between getting my camera back and punishing the men responsible. I told him that the camcorder itself was nearly without meaning. The tape and any copies thereof was next. Preventing the men from stealing anything else from anyone was of next importance. The most important thing, I explained to him, was that the people responsible were punished. I wanted justice. I wanted revenge.

I called Jack Williams back at Costco. I told him that I’d tried to talk with his pal Steve and hadn’t gotten anywhere, so I had to call the police instead. Jack’s demeanor changed. Instead of being apologetic and understanding, he became blunt and short-worded. He told me that Steve had gone on vacation for a week and to wait until the following Monday before doing anything else. I hung up with Jack, fully expecting never to hear from Steve again (I still haven’t).

Next step was to call a lawyer. I took a recommendation from Bond, and called his family’s lawyer. Unfortunately my case didn’t smell of enough money or fame, and the lawyer did not return my inquiry. I explained my situation to , who asked his wife (a lawdog herself) for her opinion on what my options were. She said what I thought all along: that even if we could surmise that someone from the courier company had stolen my camera, there was no way to prove which person(s) did it. I could take them to court for anything, but to what purpose?

My options were dwindling rapidly. I’d called the principal store I’d bought my bed from. I’d phoned the courier company. I filed a complaint with the police. I had called every pawn shop in town — which was no friendly task. I’d called a lawyer. My remaining options were very long shots in a long shot situation. Write Costco’s corporate office. Hire a private investigator, offsetting the manpower issue with the regular police and possibly uncovering more courier customers with unexplained/unreported missing items. Contact a news agency and hope for a “5 on your side” type of investigative reporting, with the eventual goals of finding more victims, escalating my case with the police, and with Costco going with a different delivery vendor. I wanted justice. I wanted revenge.

My most direct option, of course, was the one I am best suited to take. My most direct option is to punish the three men with the most direct and final means at my disposal. Unfortunately for them, since I don’t know how many of them (all? Ernie had a great patter in retrospect) were guilty, so they are all guilty. Anyone in the way, anyone would also suffer at the most direct and final of means.

I let three men into our home willingly and with great courtesy and kindness. I never once suspected that they would do any wrongdoing. I reheated Ernie’s chicken wings so that he could enjoy a warm meal. In exchange for not bearing them any overbearing suspicion or racial-socioeconomic prejudice they stole my camcorder. Given the location of the camcorder when I last saw it, you can imagine the content. These men violated our property, our trust, and our privacy. These last two things I hold above everything else. I want justice. I want revenge.

So, why am I typing this out instead of getting what is easily obtainable? Do you think it’s because of some cosmic reckoning with a made-up god? Maybe because I don’t know exactly who is responsible, and might be giving at least one man an undeserved ultimate punishment? Perhaps some indoctrinated sense of what’s right and wrong, “do no harm,” any of that nonsense? If so, you don’t know me one whit. The world has far too many people, and the earth isn’t going to miss these three motherfuckers.

The one thing that gives my trigger pause is, ironically, what started this whole mess in the first place. Lying in our new bed, with Lady Jaye breathing softly in her sleep, Porter and Rosie nestled in quietly between us, I realized that for the first time in my life I have something to lose. Destroying the three men would be effortless. I have the means, the training, and the cold heart. What made me stop was that I knew I would get caught, and getting caught meant I would put the three most important things in my life in jeopardy. I wouldn’t be able to see my sweetheart and our two babies again. To me, this is more important than getting my revenge.

For better or worse, I have something to lose. And having something to lose is what allows those three men — and those like them — to go on betraying, to go on stealing, and to go on living.

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2 Comments on "Something to Lose"

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  1. cymwyd says:

    I can sympathize. The Captain and I had some books and journals removed from our nightstands on a move between Charlottesville and Indianapolis 15 years ago. Not something we wanted to call attention to, given the oh-so-conservative white-bread region of Indianapolis. I no longer blush at the thought, but I do take extra care with what I store and where.

    On a practical note: maybe you should treat your tapes the way you treat your ammo. Remove and store them separately from the “weapon” when not in use.

  2. drfaulken says:

    Thank you for the sympathy. Your idea about keeping the camera separate from any tapes is a good one. Despite losing any footage at all, at least we didn’t lose Rosie hopping up on the queen bed for the first time.