Shortly after I got married in 1982, I learned that my husband had lied about everything. He disappeared for hours on end after making large cash withdrawals from our joint account and deceived me about many other things, including how many times he'd been married. I grew to hate him and myself.
Yet I couldn't just walk away. I didn't want my marriage to be a failure without trying everything I could, so I decided to arm myself with information. I had no idea that I'd learn so many things I never wanted to know.
As this was before the internet, a friend told me she knew a private investigator who could help me access documentation, mainly about where all of our money was going. The next day, I left work early to meet with the PI.
I felt like Mary Astor in "The Maltese Falcon." The whole thing was like being in an old noir movie. I walked into an old brick building and down a long dark hallway until I found a smoky glass door and pressed the buzzer.
"You're here for Jimmy? He's expecting you," said the bleached-blond receptionist, who then walked me into his office.
Jimmy stood up. He was tall, with a big warm handshake, reminding me of the guys in my Brooklyn neighborhood, who could be tough with bullies and sweet with women. He described himself as a former police detective who was now a private eye. He had the people skills of a psychiatrist, the supportive smile of a 1st-grade teacher, and a kind, baby face: the guy I'd always wanted as my big brother.
Jimmy explained the process of a "matrimonial," how his operatives did searches, followed guys and so on. I told him that my husband was leading a double life and money was disappearing. Then I said that I was thinking of divorce and wanted to know my options.
"You seem like a nice woman," he began. "I have to tell you, I don't like doing this kind of investigation because whenever you go looking for a skeleton in a closet, you're bound to find a live body."
That pretty much sold me on Jimmy. He asked me about my husband's hobbies and habits, about his whereabouts on evenings and weekends. I told him about the ex-wives and the mysterious charges to our accounts. He was impressed that I brought copies of those bills.
He told me that the standard routine for a matrimonial was to begin with a $250 retainer and then see how much tracking and following the client needed. Jimmy reluctantly took my check. "You're too nice to be in this mess. You know you want to leave," he said. "I hope I can find some secret accounts you can go after. Let's nail the bastard."
A week or so later, I went back to his office. He was listening to the Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over," singing along with them and playing imaginary drums. He was adorable. I'd found a singing detective.
Jimmy told me some of the things I already knew: that credit card listings for "Creations and Things," "Irresistibles" and "Media Delights" were all charges for phone sex. The charges for "welding supplies and home repairs" checked out as welding supplies and companies that sold French doors, but had a shell company which was a house of prostitution in Vernon, Connecticut. Mastercharge, Visa, American Express and Morgan Stanley private accounts all showed charges for "renovation supplies," legal and tax-deductible, but they were also bills for more brothels in Connecticut.
After reading from his report, Jimmy was too disturbed to look at me. He shook his head and took a sip of coffee.
"There's more. That apartment you said he'd owned on West 87th Street that he'd said he sublet to his ex-girlfriend?"
"He told me that place is on the market," I said. "He tells me details about people that want to buy it, and then every few weeks the buyers change their minds, or the deal falls through."
"I'm sorry—he doesn't own it."
"It was her apartment all along?" I thought out loud.
"Neither. It belongs to her aunt."
"You're good," I said.
"You did most of the work. I made a few calls you didn't know how to do, a few minutes of police work. You'd be a great operative," he said and smiled.
"Do you need anyone on a part-time basis?" I jokingly asked.
"Your biggest job is taking care of yourself. You know everything you need to know to see if you want to leave. You deserve better than this schmuck. I wish you well," he said. Then he added, "Oh, and because you're a good kid and I didn't have to do that much, here's your check back. Take care of yourself and good luck."
The whole experience was the stuff that dreams are made of.