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The private eye is our last romantic hero. Here’s what he really does for a living.
By Rowland Stiteler |

12:42 p.m., February 21, 1967. White Rock Lake.

Dennis and Sandra are enjoying a nooner, thirty minutes of passion that will steam up the windows of Dennis’ 1967
Eldorado and make Sandra 15 minutes late getting back to the office from her lunch break. Dennis and Sandra are
behaving like high school kids, blithely fondling each other in the back seat of a car parked not 50 yards from West
Lawther Drive. But it has been years since either of them was in high school. Dennis is gray-haired, forty, and a
successful insurance executive. Sandra, 13 years younger than Dennis, is blond, exceptionally attractive, and a
secretary for a law firm in the Casa Linda area.

Dennis and Sandra are married. But not to each other. That’s why they find it necessary to conduct the more intimate
aspects of their relationship in the back seat of Dennis’ car. Both of them enjoy the risque nature of their
meetings. And besides, they don’t consider themselves to be taking that much of a chance. Both their spouses
are miles away, and the streets around White Rock are always dotted with cars with couples inside them during the
noon hour. Who’s going to notice?

Alex is also parked just off West Lawther Drive, slumped down in the seat of an aging Chevrolet a couple of hundred
yards from Dennis and Sandra. However, Alex is alone. For more than an hour now, Alex Henson (not his real name) has
been frozen in the same position, his shoulder against the car door, bracing his body in a manner that will allow
him to steady the 500 millimeter telephoto lens on his Nikon. Alex is happy today because he knows he has some
excellent shots. The license numbers on both Dennis’ and Sandra’s cars were well in focus when they pulled into the
parking lot. Alex is particularly proud of the shot he got when Sandra first got into the Eldorado: a clearly
identifiable profile of the couple kissing, plus the entire rear end of the Eldorado, and consequently the license
plate. One picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

And in this case, Alex Henson has the feeling the photo might be worth a thousand bucks. Alex is a private
investigator; one of the less ethical of the couple of dozen detectives listed in the Dallas Yellow Pages. If the
circumstances were only slightly different, what Alex is doing at White Rock Lake would be perfectly legal under the
laws which regulate private investigators, and completely ethical under the guidelines to which licensed detectives
subscribe. Texas law gives private investigators the right to put people under surveillance and document their
activities if such documentation might be used by a third party in a legal action – in this case a divorce suit. But
what makes Alex’s actions at White Rock Lake offensive even to his peers is that Alex does not have a client yet.
Alex is working on spec. He has devised an ingenious new way to fund his fledgling private detective agency.

In the Sixties, Alex would merely hang around popular lovers’ lane areas like White Rock. With his Nikon loaded and
ready for game, Alex would wait and watch for expensive cars with adults in them. When he found a couple like Dennis
and Sandra he would photograph them, check out license numbers, and then put together his own little thumbnail
financial assessment. Then Alex would contact the wife of the man involved, giving her a pitch that had become
standardized after the first few cases. Alex would tell the woman that he was a private investigator and that while
working a completely unrelated case he had come across evidence which led him to believe that her husband was having
an affair. If the wife didn’t throw Alex out or threaten to call the police at this point, he would say that the
other case he was working had just been concluded and if the wife would like to know more about her husband’s
activities, he would be happy to conduct an investigation. There would of course be a retainer fee (Alex always made
up the exact figure when he saw his client’s house) and an hourly rate, plus expenses, while the “investigation” was
being conducted.

With a retainer fee safely tucked away in the bank, Alex was free to sit back and wait a week or two. Then he would
go back to his client, produce the photographs, and collect the remainder of his fee. Alex also provided ancillary
service: He could recommend a good divorce lawyer, and he was available, at his standard hourly rate, to testify in
any legal proceedings that might take place. But it rarely came to that. After Alex Henson stepped into a stranger’s
marriage, it usually fell apart of its own accord.

It has been years now since Alex has done any cruising at White Rock. Clients are less gullible than they used to
be, and Alex is much more sophisticated and legitimate than he used to be. Now Alex, like some of his more
successful Dallas peers, is into industrial security and corporate jobs like background checks of prospective
employees. Alex doesn’t have to go peeking into parked cars anymore. But he’ll never be able to look down his nose
at such activity. After all, he owes his financial success to lovers’ lack of judgement and his own capabilities
with a telephoto lens.

I set out to write about private detectives because of the Alex Hensons of the world. They represent a living
contradiction to the Charlie’s Angels, Sam Spade myth. Despite our collective need for bigger-than-life heroes to
idolize, there just aren’t any Dan Tanas or Barnaby Joneses in the real world. As any real detective or police
officer will tell you, the TV detective can only be found on TV.

But despite my muckraking intentions, 1 found that the image of the private detective as the denizen of the darkened
motel room, the parasitic sleuth who makes his living wrecking other people’s lives, is also somewhat overblown.
Plenty of Alex Hen-sons still exist and flourish in Dallas. By calling a few of the detectives listed in the Yellow
Pages, you can find someone who will tap your business competitor’s phone or get photos of your husband in bed with
another woman. But for the most part, that type of detective has faded away with the coming of the Seventies and the
public’s growing concern for privacy. In 1969, the state legislature established the Texas Board of Private
Investigators and Security Agencies, a watchdog organization that annually revokes the licenses of several hundred
security guards and private eyes. The state board is very keen on kicking out the misfits who like to play
policeman, the con men who think a badge makes a good shield for a scam, and anyone who thinks danger is his

And there has been an effort by the private investigators to police their own ranks. “I think most of us have gotten
tired of the fact that when you tell people you are a detective they either think you are somebody who considers
himself another James Bond or you are some type of sleazeball who makes his living kicking in motel room doors,”
says Joe Horn, one of Dallas’ better-respected private investigators. “I do this for a living. I’m not in business
as a joke. And 1 think most of your professional investigators are not all that happy with the guys who give our
profession a bad name.”

What do real detectives do then, if they don’t spend their time conducting 100-mile-per-hour chases down deserted
highways or photographing people with cameras disguised as pinkie rings? The truth turns out to be a little boring.
Investigators spend a lot of time on mundane tasks that could be performed by clerks. “Every investigator who’s been
in business for a long time has been involved in a case or two that turns into a cloak-and-dagger episode,” says
Horn. “But for every minute you spend doing something exciting, you have hours and hours of going through courthouse
records looking for deeds or sitting in a parked car watching a house.”

Dave Pellham of Universal Investiga-tions likes to tell people about a surveillance he conducted at an Oklahoma
warehouse. Because the company suspected loading dock workers of stealing freight, Pellham was hired to try to catch
the thieves in the act. He had himself packed into a 3-foot-square shipping crate with a small hole through which he
could aim a small, handheld home movie camera. To fit in the crate, he had to pull his knees up to his chest and
keep them there. He stayed in the box for 12 hours, watching everything that went on at the warehouse. Nobody stole
anything. After they took Pellham out of the box at the end of the day, it took him several hours to regain the use
of his legs. That, Pellham contends, is the nature of detective work.

That is not to say that all of our television-learned impressions of detectives are untrue, however.
Investigators do spend a lot of time following people. Wives have their husbands followed. Husbands have their wives
followed. Some men even have their mistresses followed. Companies that make deliveries in Dallas frequently have
their delivery people followed to see if they are stealing things, or if they are simply wasting time on the job.
Insurance companies hire investigators to follow and watch people who file injury claims, to see if the claimants
are really injured. That, also, is the nature of detective work.

While detective work takes many forms it usually has one common element: It is client-oriented, custom-made law
enforcement. “What we are selling is our time,” says Paul McCaghren, a former Dallas police detective who is now a
private investigator. “If you have something major stolen from you, for instance, the police assign a detective to
work on the case and try to get your property back. That detective will most likely be working on five or six other
cases at the same time. If you hire a private investigator, he can spend all his time just working on your case.”

One other advantage a private investigator has is that he is less restrained by bureaucracy and the law than a
police officer. A real cop has Miranda warnings and civil rights and triplicate forms to worry about. A good
detective knows how to bend the law just enough to stay within it – more or less – and still get the job done.
That’s why companies hire detectives to go into Mexico to steal back planes that have been stolen from them. A
detective knows that once he gets the plane back, the original thieves certainly aren’t going to do anything about
it. But if the police tried something like that, it would surely provoke an international incident.

As is the case with hiring a lawyer, the more money you have to spend, the more likely you are to get good results.
Because of that, private investigators these days have largely become the servants of the affluent. Lots of wives
may be suspicious of their husbands, but only those who can afford to spend $10 to $30 an hour to have their spouses
followed are going to get an investigator interested in their relationship. Detectives, like most people in other
lines of work, are in business to make money, not to make legends.

But like people in most other professions, detectives like to talk shop, to tell about their peers and their work.
These are the true detective stories, the stories one detective tells another over a beer. Here is a sampling of
those stories:

The Case of the Disappearing Debutante

Virginia Hudgins first met Candice’s parents one night about six months ago. She was called to their fashionable
two-story home and told that her services were being sought as a last resort. Candice had been missing for several
days. Because she was 16, the police considered Candice most likely to be a runaway, and consequently they weren’t
exactly ripping the city apart to find her. Candice’s parents said they called in Hudgins because they had heard
that one of her specialties was finding missing children, and they wanted their adopted daughter back no matter what
it took to find her.

Something about the way Candice’s parents were reacting made Hudgins doubt that they really did want her
back. “It was a very cold atmosphere in their house, and 1 just got the feeling that deep down they really didn’t
care all that much about getting the girl back,” she recalls, “and that just made me more determined to find her.”
After agreeing to accept the case only if she got their complete cooperation, she began to interrogate the couple.
She wanted to know every detail of the girl’s personality and activities they could give her. Who were her friends?
Where did she go after school? Whom had she been dating?

Then Hudgins searched the girl’s room thoroughly, looking for any scrap of evidence. A phone number. An address.
Nothing turned up.

She got her first lead by talking to Can-dice’s friends. Virginia Hudgins has an excellent ploy she uses with
friends of runaways: She usually tells them she is looking for her own daughter. “What your friend does is your
friend’s own business,” she will say, “but I think she knows where my daughter is and I’d just like to ask her about
that.” That trick usually works wonders. Hardly anybody can resist helping a mother looking for her daughter.

By talking to Candice’s friends, Hudgins learned that on the night she disappeared, she had been seen on the parking
lot of an Oak Lawn convenience store, talking with a black pimp and several of his girls. Can-dice had met the group
several days before her disappearance and had told one of her schoolmates she thought it would be exciting to run
away with them and become a prostitute. The girl who told Hudgins about this had been introduced to the pimp and his
women and remembered some of their names. That turned out to be a big break. One of the prostitutes was a woman
Hudgins had used before as an informant.

Now the investigator hit the Cedar Springs area, talking to prostitutes, looking for the woman who had been her
informant and passing out photographs of Candice. If they could help her locate the girl, they would be paid
handsomely for the information, she told them. That type of bargain represents one of the only tactics that
television detectives and real detectives have in common. Real detectives pay for information. Many contend it’s the
only way to find out anything on the street. Hudgins’ sources told her something she’d been expecting, but really
didn’t want to hear. The pimp was breaking Candice in as one of his girls. The young girl had been raped, beaten,
and forced to take addictive drugs. Now she was the pimp’s property. He and several of his girls had split to
Houston and had taken Candice with them.

Hudgins’ next stop was obvious. Houston. It is always more difficult for an investigator to work away from his home
turf with the local street grapevine, but Hudgins had worked Houston before, and she thought she could find Candice

She couldn’t. After trying all her Houston leads, she was forced to come home empty-handed. Candice was nowhere to
be found. By now she had been gone for weeks and the chances of finding her were getting slimmer.

But Virginia Hudgins wasn’t ready to give up yet. She still thought she could find the prostitute who had been her
informant before, the woman who had been seen with Candice the night she disappeared. After checking the
neighborhood where the woman lived, Hudgins found the prostitute’s mother. The woman said she thought her daughter
was back in Dallas, and that she was still running around with the same man she had gone to Houston with. Unless the
pimp had sold Candice to another pimp, the girl Hudgins sought was probably back in Dallas. She started to work the
street again. She got a solid lead. In checking a free health service clinic, she learned that Candice had been
there for treatment. Virginia figured it would only be a matter of time until Candice came back. Most pimps run
their girls through free health care centers for treatment of veneral disease as regularly as a cab driver rotates
the tires on his automobile. Periodic maintenance helps keep up the property value.

Her hunch was right. One of her street informants spotted Candice going into the clinic one afternoon and called the
investigator. She went straight to the clinic as soon as she heard the news. She found Candice and the pimp in the
waiting room. But the pimp was in no mood for a family reunion. He grabbed the girl, ran out the door, and got on a
bus with her. While a television detective might have used this as an entry for a good chase scene, Virginia Hudgins
did what any real detective would do. She followed the bus in her car, and called the police on her mobile phone and
told them the bus had a runaway girl on board. A police car stopped the bus and took the girl into custody. Within
an hour she was back with her parents.

The last time Virginia saw Candice, she was in a psychiatric ward, where she had been for weeks. “Sooner or later,”
says the detective, “they’ll have to let that girl out of the hospital. I figure it will be only a matter of time
until her parents will be calling me again to find her.”

A Case of Opportunity

Marvin remembers the exact day, the hour, in fact, that his previously dismal detective career made a dramatic
turnaround. Up until March 6, 1978, Marvin’s attempts to make it as a detective hadn’t amounted to much. He fancied
himself as another James Bond, but obviously nobody else did. He had tried to get a job as a Dallas policeman, but
never made it into the academy. Then he had worked as a Pinkerton security guard, but was fired for falling asleep
on the job. Marvin lacked the persistence to be a really good investigator. He was not like Dave Pellham, who is
willing to sit in a freezing cold automobile for 14 hours on a stake-out, or Joe Horn, who likes to take apart
computer systems so he can figure out how people are using them to embezzle money. Marvin always gravitated more
toward movie detective style. He kept a gun under the seat of his Pontiac Trans Am, and he always felt his strong
suit was putting a good con on the ladies.

On March 6, 1978, Marvin’s self-professed talents finally paid off. He was putting the make on a little redhead in a
bar on Harry Hines. He had a bad habit of asking women questions and only pretending to listen to the answers. But
when he asked Donna what she did for a living, the answer hit him like a fast-moving gravel truck.

“Oh, I’m just a clerk,” she said. “I work in the customer service department of one of the banks downtown. I have to
spend my days digging out people’s bank records for them and then listening to all their bitches and moans about why
we bounce their checks.”

Marvin choked on his Schlitz. Donna started pounding him on the back, trying to help him as he gasped for air.
Finally he regained his composure.

“Did I say something wrong?” Donna asked.

“Heavens no, babe,” Marvin responded. “I just got some beer down the wrong Pipe.”

Marvin knew this could be the most im-portant relationship of his professional life. To hell with the fact that
Donna was too short and overweight to ever make a good James Bond mistress. Donna had access to thousands of
checking account records, and Marvin knew that if he handled the relationship correctly, she could be his ticket to
professional success. Over the months that have passed since then, Marvin and Donna have been seeing a lot of each
other. They never miss a Cowboys home game, and Marvin has promised to take Donna to the Super Bowl this year, even
if the Pokes don’t make it. Donna does little favors for Marvin, like slipping him Xerox copies of various
individuals’ checking account files. Information like that, in the investigative community, is literally as good as
money in the bank.

One thing that both the good investigators and the sleazeballs like Marvin share is an insatiable need for
confidential information about other people’s lives. It is the ability to acquire such information that gives the
private investigator a service he can sell in the first place. Access to checking account records is perhaps the
most valuable source of information about people, because a record of most individuals’ monthly checks will usually
reveal some very detailed information about their lifestyles.

What Marvin knew when he met Donna was that the information she could supply him would make him valuable not just to
his own clients, but to other detectives as well. Dallas private investigators, like detectives everywhere, share
their resources – for a price. Within the circle of local investigators who have come to trust each other, each
knows of the others’ specialties in terms of sources of information. One investigator has an out-of-town company
with membership in the various credit reporting agencies. (Investigators are specifically barred from membership.)
When another investigator wants a credit check run, he simply goes to the investigator with the credit connection
and has him get his company to acquire the information. Still other detectives have sources in the Social Security
Administration – excellent for finding people who have left town, since the Social Security computer can instantly
tell you the whereabouts of anyone who is working under his own name and Social Security number. And more than one
investigator has a friend at the phone company who can supply unlisted telephone numbers or records of long distance
calls. Because of this clandestine network, a good private eye with a few dollars to spend can come up with more
information in an afternoon than a legitimate law enforcement officer could get in a week with a court order. That’s
what people are willing to pay for. And that’s what has made the payments on Marvin’s Trans Am.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

One of the most useful investigative devices in a detective’s inventory is a technique known in the trade as
“pretext.” A layman might be tempted to use the term “lying” to describe this method of gaining information, but
good pretext is much more than that. Pretext is obtaining information from someone by representing yourself as
someone other than a detective. It is perfectly legal and considered completely ethical in the profession. A really
good practitioner of pretext is more than just a good liar, he is a good actor as well.

A good example is the way Dallas detective Dave Pellham handled an investigation into the death of a construction
worker in an accident in Louisiana. Pellham’s client, an insurance company, wanted to know whether the worker had
been killed driving from one job to another, or whether he had been off duty, and possibly drinking, when he was
killed. Those facts made a major difference in the benefits the company would have to pay. The company initially
sent an attorney to the small Louisiana oil town where the worker, a man named John Rush field, had been killed. He
went from bar to bar, flashing a picture of the dead man and questioning people as if they were on a witness stand.
Everyone he questioned denied having ever seen or heard of the man.

Pellham was hired to try to find out what the lawyer could not. He decided to pose as a construction worker. It
really didn’t take much acting to convince anyone. Pellham, who likes to wear short-sleeve sports shirts that expose
his bulging biceps, looks like a man who would be more at home on an oil rig than behind a desk. All he needed was a
hard hat to make him look like a natural inhabitant of a blue collar bar.

In the first bar he came across in the Louisiana town, he started by ordering a beer and trying to blend into the
surroundings. After ordering several, he was ready to give the waitress a try.

“Say, honey,” he asked. “Is your name Joyce?”


“Well is there a gal who works in here whose name is Joyce?”

“Not that I know of. Why”

“Well,” said Pellham, “I met a fella a while back up in Shreveport and he said he used to hang out in this bar and
that if I was ever in here I should ask for Joyce . . . What was that guy’s name?” Pellham asked himself aloud.
“Rushing. That was it. The guy’s name is John Rushing. You know John Rushing, don’t you?”

“I think you mean John Rushfield,” the waitress said. “The guy you are thinking about was named John

“What do you mean was?” asked Pell-ham. “Something happen to him?”

“Oh, sugar,” the waitress said, “don’t you know? Johnny got killed in a car crash just down the road a few months
ago. He was in here just before he died. Bought several of the regulars in here a drink that night. I was a little
worried about him because 1 really didn’t think he was up to driving when he left, but nobody said anything to him
about it.”

The Case of the Forest and the Trees

A national lumber company with a big processing mill in East Texas hired Universal Investigations a couple of years
ago when a routine audit showed that about one million more board feet of wood were coming into the plant than were
being shipped out. Company officials couldn’t see how anyone could be stealing that much lumber: They had
24-hour security patrols and a tight inventory system designed to account for every stack as it was loaded onto
outgoing trucks.

Dave Pellham, the investigator who had taken the case, decided to start with the fundamentals: stake out the plant.
For two weeks Pellham sat in his rusty old pickup truck and watched, all night long. It was incredibly cold in East
Texas that winter, and all Pellham got were numb toes. Finally, moving into his third week of surveillance, he saw a
truck leaving the plant with a load of lumber. Pellham had been given a list of night shipping departures from the
plant, and this one wasn’t on it. It was the break he had been waiting for. He cranked up his old Dodge and started
following the truckload of lumber. Early the next morning, the truck pulled into a lumber yard in Broken Bow,
Oklahoma. Pellham could hardly wait to get to a phone. He called his client and told the manager of the lumber mill
that he had discovered where at least some of the wood was going.

“Oh damn,” the plant manager told Pellham over the phone. “I could kick myself for not telling you about that. We
had a last-minute shipment to Broken Bow that wasn’t received in time to make it onto your list.”

As Pellham drove back to East Texas from Oklahoma, he decided that perhaps he should switch tactics. It was getting
awfully cold in the Dodge, and so far no one had stolen anything as far as he could see.

Pellham decided to take a closer look at the inventory system. The forklift operators who loaded outgoing trucks
kept an individual log of how many loads they handled every day. That was the basic method of determining how much
lumber was on each outgoing truck. Then the trucks were counted and the total was verified by the security guards.

The incoming control system was based on how many acres of trees the company harvested from its timber leases and
land purchases. There is some variation in how many trees will be found on each acre of land, but certain averages
apply. And there would not be enough variation in timber harvests to make the plant run short by a million board
feet of lumber a year. Something had to be wrong. Pellham started questioning people at every control point. The
forklift operators told him something that didn’t sound right. The supervisor had told them that in order to make
themselves look productive, it was okay to fudge a little on the tally sheets and report that they had each loaded
five or six more loads of lumber per shift than they had really handled. That meant the lumber loss was even more
severe than plant officials thought. Somebody was taking the company for thousands of dollars worth of lumber every
day. And Pellham still couldn’t figure out how.

Finally he decided to check the other end of the inventory system. The company had given him records of every
timberland purchase made by the plant that year. Pellham started hitting courthouses in the counties where the land
was located. That’s when the case broke wide open.

Every lumber purchase had been exaggerated on the company’s records. When the company records showed 10 acres of
timberland had been purchased, only five were shown on the county records as being sold. If the company records
showed 15 acres, the county records showed seven. The county records showed something else that was quite
interesting. Almost every seller of land had some connection with the plant or its manager. Plant employees.
Cousins. Fellow lodge members. All were selling timberland to the plant manager and all were being grossly overpaid
for it – by Pellham’s calculations, the total was $800,000 a year.

Pellham called the home office of the company. Either their plant manager was incredibly generous and stupid or he
was stealing the company blind, the investigator reported. The response was quick and categorical. Pellham had to be
wrong. The plant manager had retired from the U.S. Forest Service. He was beyond reproach. There was no way in the
world he would steal from them.

Reluctantly, the officials in the home office agreed to let Pellham at least ask the plant manager for an
explanation. He called the man and set up an appointment for the next day. Pellham showed up early; the plant
manager didn’t show up at all. After Pellham had telephoned him the night before, he had taken his family, his cars,
and all his liquid assets and left the state. He made arrangements to have a relative sell the house and send him
the money.

The company officials were shocked and embarrassed, but not so much that they wanted to prosecute. Now that the
plant manager was gone, the problem was solved. All the company could gain would be a lot of negative publicity; it
would look like a corporate giant persecuting the little man. Pellham had heard that argument before. He didn’t
bother to try to change their minds.

“One thing that makes corporate crime so good for the criminal is that he will al-most never be prosecuted,” Pellham
con-tends. “The worst that can happen is that he will be fired. Companies just don’t want the bad press. To most of
us investigators, it’s very frustrating. It’s like having a nice bird dog and taking him out and having him find you
some birds and then you won’t shoot ’em. Why bother to take him hunting in the first place if you are not willing to
kill anything?”

The Case of the Accident-Prone Widow

The insurance company is everybody’s favorite institution to defraud. People come up with a new insurance scam every
day. Even “honest” people do it, exaggerating claims when their homes are burglarized or their cars damaged. But the
private investigator is rarely called in to work petty cases like that. There are enough bona fide professional
insurance frauds in Dallas to keep investigators busy for decades.

A typical case is that of Mae Washington. A couple of years ago the new Cadillac Seville she was driving was
involved in a wreck with a rental truck. The two cars collided on a winding road near Mountain Creek Lake. There
were no witnesses except the driver of the rental truck and the five passengers of Mrs. Washington’s car. All six
occupants of the Seville were slumped in the car when police arrived. No one was bloody, but all began to moan and
scream when the patrolman opened the car door. He called an ambulance, which took them to Parkland. The occupants of
the car (all of whom happened to be related) said the rental truck had run a stop sign and broadsided them as they
were driving down a major thoroughfare. The driver of the rental truck, who fortunately had taken out the maximum
liability insurance package the rental company offered when he picked up the truck, agreed that he had run the stop
sign. All six occupants of Mrs. Washington’s car filed injury claims against the rental company’s insurance

The investigator who was hired to work the case called in a specialist in reconstructing auto wrecks. The specialist
determined that the Seville had been standing still when the crash occured, even though all six occupants said it
had been traveling at 40 miles per hour.

The investigator checked the computer information service to which the insurance company subscribes. The data bank
of shared insurance company records includes a master file on who has been involved in automobile accidents and
when. Mrs. Washington, it seems, was accident-prone. In the past two years she had been involved in three accidents,
either as a driver or a passenger. Two involved rented trucks. The third involved a rented Oldsmobile which hit a
second car and then ran into the side of a house. Then came the break: The investigator found that the truck driver
was a friend of a second-year law student who was a relative of Mrs. Washington. The student had been involved in
one of the previous wrecks.

“What it looked like to me,” the detective later said, “was that the student had come up with a jim dandy way to
work his way through law school.” After he turned in his report, the insurance company took the standard course of
action in such cases: No prosecution for fraud, but no payment of the claim either. Mrs. Washington and her
relatives apparently got well; they did not pursue their injury claims.

While some writers have made a lucrative profession telling the bigger-than-life detective stories, some
investigators have made the real stories pay even better. Sometimes there is more money in not telling
thestories than there is in telling them. That’sbeen a skill that has paid off for Alex Han-sen more than once.
Investigators whoknow Alex say that usually before he writesup a report on the activities of a jealousman’s wife, he
checks with the woman tosee how much she will pay him not to write it.

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