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Authors: JP Bloch

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BOOK: Identity Thief
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Probably this Betsy person was in denial, and I felt a little sorry for her. “Tell me more.”

“Biff comes from a very good family,” Betsy explained, going on about his pedigreed but uninteresting genealogy before finally getting to the point. “Anyway, he e-mailed me that he was going to meet his parents in the Bahamas to get more money before moving in. And that’s the last I heard from him. His parents said he e-mailed them at the same time to say he was scared of me and didn’t know how to tell me to get lost, so he was going away.”

I thought about it for a moment. “Do you believe he was scared of you?”

She laughed. “Biff scared of
? I mean, come on. He was a man’s man. Besides, why would any man be afraid of me? I’m a very feminine woman.”

I figured I’d humor her. “Take it from me, those are the worst kind.”

She reached across the table to give my face a light, playful slap. “You men! You’re all such jokers. But seriously, I’ve been devastated ever since. Devastated and . . . all alone.”

“I can see that.” Yeah, she seemed about as devastated as a floor lamp.

Betsy looked at me hopefully. “Can you really? You’re the first person who has. Biff’s family treats me like dirt. Even though he’s the father of my son. They like filed a missing person’s report. If you ask me, they don’t give a rat’s ass about him.”

“Son? You mean you have a child?”

“Oh, didn’t I mention that? Scotty’s nine. I
.” She took the straw from her drink and licked off the scotch.

I was trying to get the story right. “You and Biff had a child, but you never lived together?”

Betsy seemed annoyed for my slowing down her story. “Biff didn’t know he was the father. I mean, he
, but he didn’t know-know.”

“In other words, you never told him?”

“No, not like, ‘Biff you’re the kid’s father.’”

As if there was some other way to tell him—maybe by playing Pictionary? But I let it pass. “I’m a little confused.”

She gave a heavy sigh, as if exhausted for having to go over it all. “Biff knocked me up in college. We were in love, but I married this other prick instead. Don’t ask. Anyway, I finally got rid of that asshole, and Biff was going to move in. Instead he suddenly decides he’s scared of me. Supposedly. After we fucked for like our whole lives.” She meditatively stirred the ice in her drink.

“And when was this?”

Betsy told me the date. When I realized it was the same day as the bank robbery, I just about shit in my pants.

“Did Biff have a job? Did he have any enemies? Did he do drugs? Did he gamble?”

“No and no, yes and yes. His parents supported him. They could throw money out the window all day long and never go broke. They were always bailing him out of money jams. His father owns like a million banks.”

“Oh really? Which ones?”

Lo and behold, she mentioned the name of the bank that was robbed. Biff was getting more interesting by the moment.

“My ex-husband was Biff’s only friend,” Betsy continued. “Most guys were jealous of Biff because he had so much going on. You know, everyone always says women get catty with each other. But if you ask me, men are just as bad.”

“Very true, Betsy.”

“I could write a book about men,” she agreed. “Like my ex. I think he was cheating on me all along because like five minutes after we broke up, he found a new girlfriend. They even stole my son away.
have custody of

“That must be awful,” I empathized. “No one likes to be cheated on.” But I was thinking,
Biff had a lot of
debts. What if his family got tired of helping him

“Tell me about it.” She signaled for another triple. “It’s the nice guys who really know how to break a woman’s heart.”

From under the table, her foot rubbed against my leg, possibly by accident. “Do you have a picture of Scotty? He sounds like a fine boy.”

“Uh, let me think . . . not in my wallet. Maybe I have some at home. Oh, sure I do. You know, school pictures and things. Can you really find Biff for me?”

I wore my best serious frown. “I can try. I’ll need to know more about him. Where might he go if he wanted to get away from it all?”

“Beats me. He was such a homebody. Not that he spent time with his parents. Who would? But you know, he kind of hung around the house and watched TV and drank and smoked weed and snorted coke and did X and stuff. He played online poker, and it was weird because he always lost. I figured the guys he played with were cheating. He traveled when his parents made him. Otherwise, he spent time with me. In the bedroom, if you get my drift.”

“Oh, I do indeed.”

She rubbed my leg again with her foot so I knew it was no accident. “Or he’d pal around with my ex. They’d play golf.”

“Did your ex also gamble and take drugs?”

Betsy made a dismissive gesture with bent wrist. “
? Are you kidding? I mean, his favorite flavor of ice cream was vanilla. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to live with someone like that? If someone chased him with a gun, he’d stop if the traffic sign said
He was always trying to straighten Biff out. To make Biff as boring as he was. To take the man out of him.”

“And you can’t think of anyplace else Biff might be?”

“I already told you, Biff hated to go anywhere. That’s what’s weird.”

I rubbed her leg in return—subtly, but enough so she’d notice. “Do you think there might have been . . . that is . . . ”

“You mean do I think someone offed him? No way. For a while, I was saying that I killed him, and—”

“You said
?” I withdrew my foot from under the table.

“I had my pride to think about. Better to say I killed him than to have everyone think he abandoned me. I couldn’t hurt a fly. Honest. Well, I
swat flies, like if one comes in the house or something. Don’t worry, I straightened it all out.”

“I’m sure you did.” She was a total numbskull, but who wasn’t?

“I mean, why would I pay you to find him if I killed him? It makes no sense.”

Sometimes people say such dumb things you can’t help but correct them. “Unless you were trying to make it look good. You know, ‘Gee, where is he?’ When all along you murdered the son of a bitch.”

She threw the dregs of her drink in my face. “You can’t talk that way about Biff. The son of God would be more like it. He was, I mean, he is so wonderful.” She took out a Kleenex and perhaps really sniffled a little, though probably it was an act. But I didn’t think she killed him. She wasn’t smart enough to murder someone. Yet, it wasn’t hard to imagine why this Biff person wanted to get away from her. I suspected that his parents knew perfectly well where he was, but they weren’t saying. Rich families often closed ranks in this way. In fact, if he was stealing my money—or who could say, even other people’s money—they’d close ranks all the more.

Blame it on the scotch, but next thing I knew we were in a hotel room together.

Contrary to the impression she tried hard to create, Betsy was hardly a tiger in bed. She was one of those women who simply sprawled out horizontally and expected the man to do everything. She made little mewing sounds throughout, which were annoying as hell. Still, I had this image of Biff as my identity thief, living on a yacht in the Caribbean or someplace, thanks to my money.

“I’ll take your case,” I said quietly, nuzzling my face to her stiff blond hair.

“I thought you already were taking on the case.” Betsy registered hurt. “Why else are we here?”

“What do you mean? Are you paying me with sex?”

She shoved me away. “Of course not. What do you take me for? I have
. And lots of it.”

“Divorce settlement?” I rubbed some watered down scotch on my face.

“Yeah, you could say that. I made a trade. I gave up all visitation rights to my son.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” I touched her shoulder.

Ignoring my gesture, Betsy sat up in bed with a look of utter determination. She demurely covered herself with the hotel bedsheet, as if to signify she meant nothing but business. “So what are you going to do first? About finding Biff.”

“I’ll want that photo you have of him. And what about your ex-husband? You said he was Biff’s only friend. Maybe they confided in each other.”

Betsy looked down and away. “I don’t think you should talk to him. He’s . . . he’s hard to talk to.”

I had a strong sense she was hiding something but that it was something that would matter to no one except herself. Betsy, I could tell, was one of those people who made everything much more complicated than it needed to be.

“Maybe I could meet him by accident.”

“How? Right. Like, ‘Here’s this private detective hired to find Biff?’”

“Certainly not. But we could pretend to be on a date. You could invite him and his girlfriend. Or are they married now? And to show there’s no hard feelings, we could all go out.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding.
hard feelings?
I hate that prick, and I hate that whore.” She grabbed one of the pillows, and I thought she’d rip it in half.

“I thought you wanted to find Biff no matter what.”

She threw the pillow at me, as if in punishment for forcing her to be logical. “I will never socialize with the two of them. I don’t care if I was married to the King of Fuckville.”

“I don’t think there is such a place or person. The main thing is that I connect with your ex. Gain his trust. To learn about Biff.”

“Fine. I’ll give you his address. But promise me one thing. Never talk about money. It’s a really sore spot between us. You know, the divorce and everything.”

“You took him to the cleaners?” I feigned a smile, but I hated when this happened to men.

“Ha! That’s a good one. That whore he lives with is filthy rich. He never has to work another day in his life. They gave me money to keep me away from own child. More money than he wanted to part with, the cheap fuck.”

Betsy seemed to truly believe that she got screwed by giving up rights to her son in exchange for what was probably a hefty settlement. Lord only knew what happened to make her such a confused, vindictive mess. However, I had no interest in discovering it, thanks just the same.

Driving back home, I started thinking. Sometimes when you’re face to face with someone, it’s totally different from when you think about that person afterward. And usually, it feels worse than when you saw them. I supposed that’s a sign that someone was not to be trusted. But whatever it meant, I knew I didn’t trust Betsy. Who could? She wasn’t really pretty or much of a lay, she had all the intelligence of a petrified rock, and she was incapable of thinking of anyone but herself. Yet somehow she got what she wanted.

I got home looking no worse for the wear. Esther turned off her French/English lesson to run to the door to kiss me. I didn’t feel guilty; having sex with Betsy was like having sex with nothing. And anyway, a strong case could be made that Betsy took advantage of me.

I told Esther about my little adventure in finding a client—leaving out the part about the hotel room, of course. I obviously didn’t mention Sabrina. I also didn’t say that I may have learned who my identity thief was. I didn’t want to jinx it. Besides, Esther might try to talk me out of tracking him down by myself.

“I don’t know, Esther. I have a bad feeling about this client.”

“Oh, go for it,” she replied merrily. “It sounds like fun. Didn’t you always want to be a detective when you were a kid?”

I tried to remember back that far. “Not at all. I wanted to be . . . I don’t know, really. But it wasn’t a detective. I wanted something more. I can’t explain it.”

“Are you saying you wanted to be a fireman?”

I laughed. “Sure, why not?”

That very evening, I rang the buzzer at the apartment of Betsy’s ex. I figured it was better to show up than to call him; he was more likely to talk to me if I was right there. A man’s voice came on the speaker and asked who I was. I said I was Randall Van Sant, PI, and that I was looking for a missing person who apparently had been the best friend of Betsy’s ex-husband.

After a long pause, he buzzed me in.


Having bid farewell to my bewildered family at Betsy’s house, and then enduring a silent ride to the police station, I was roughly dragged inside. Though I was not handcuffed, they treated me like I was. They led me through a corridor in which many busy, noisy people utterly ignored me. I guess they figured I was just another scumbag, like they saw every day. Finally, I was deposited in a private room with no windows. I assumed I was being taped or watched through a one-way window. It was hard to sit there as if nothing was wrong. But finally a bald detective wearing rolled up shirtsleeves and a bow tie slammed the door and shouted at me. “Are you Dr. Jesse Falcon?”

After mulling it over in my mind, I finally answered, “I want to talk to my lawyer.”

The detective opened his mouth in shock, as if he could not believe I would say this, that his interrogation of me could not possibly be over, given all the plans he had.

BOOK: Identity Thief
13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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