Thursday, May 12, 2005

I think it's safe to discuss the bullshit now, but because this involves criminal charges, I'm going to have to use that wonderful word "allegedly."

And here is the disclaimer. All of the below is alleged until proven in a court of law, which means that all parties mentioned or inferred to are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Now with that out of the way, let it be said that there are two things that are on my top five hate list. Liars and Thieves are two of them.

By liars, I don't mean the white lie you tell someone who asks you if the zit on their face that resembles an African ant hill is really that noticeable. By thieves, I'm not talking about a thrill shoplift of a Hershey Bar from 7-11 to impress your new friend in middle school that your parents surely wouldn't approve of.

I'm talking liars, by someone who tells a bold faced lie to escape blame or get something they didn't earn, and thieves, like my neighbors, whom I'll call Betty and Igor, who ask me how I've been while they are stealing my phone service. Allegedly.

This makes them both. Liars, by omission, and thieves, because they spliced into my phone line through some crude hot wiring done on the phone box down in the boiler room to get free phone service. Allegedly.

Mostly, it makes them lowlife scumbags. That is not alleged.

Invading my privacy wasn't enough for these two. They also allegedly gave my number out to the trash that they associate with. I discovered this on Saturday while holding my cordless phone in my hand. I'd had suspicions that something was going on with repeat strange phone calls and some other stuff, but not full blown proof until that day. I had pressed the talk button to engage the dial tone, and was about to dial a number when the phone started dialing on its own in my hand. Curious, I held the phone to my ear and listened as Betty called Igor, who also lives in the apartment but wasn't home. During their conversation, my call waiting kicked in and both asked, "What the fuck was that?" Betty then said, "Maybe she's getting a phone call." By she, she meant me.

And let's just explain for a minute who "she" is. "She" is me, and I was the only person who made an effort to make these people feel welcome and overlook their incredible shortcomings when it came to being good neighbors. I tolerated their loud dogs, loud fights, and his throwing cigarette butts all over the building. I coached them on the expectations of being good neighbors, such as picking up after their dogs in the neighborhood. I made excuses for them to the landlord and bragged on them after they helped me when I was maced. I felt they needed a chance, stumbling as they were through life, and that maybe they could make it.

Back to that moment when I was sitting at my desk with the phone in hand. I stayed silent, absolutely dumbfounded as my fury level quietly rose to a boiling point. The two grunted a bit more to each other, and then he gave her a phone number to call to get a ride to where he was. I went downstairs to the Freddy Kruger room, otherwise known as our boiler room and saw the job on the phone box. My years in the computer industry served me well with this one to see what had been done. I then went to my parents' house to call the phone company.

When I arrived back at my apartment, Betty's ride had arrived. The guy was sketchy as hell and strutting around like he owned the place while he waited for Betty to come outside. His entire being pissed me off, so I asked him what his business was at our building. Not surprisingly, he copped an attitude. I copped one right back, so much that he got back into his double-parked car to wait for her. Little did he know that I had just been on the phone with Verizon reporting the very person he was picking up for stealing my phone service. As I looked at the swaggering broken down piece of shit, I was livid that he had my unlisted phone number. Also, I simply didn't like his face. Under the circumstances, I wouldn't have liked it even if he had looked like Brad Pitt.

My stepfather had accompanied me home and was standing across the street, and both of us took turns playing overly nosy, intolerant neighbors who didn't want riff-raff infiltrating their turf. I made a show out of taking down his license plate number, after which we exchanged a few hostile words. We let him know he wasn't welcome in the building and that we weren't intimidated by his gangster sashay and thugster attitude. During this, Betty trotted out of the building and saw what was going on. She kept her head low and avoided looking at me, then shrank into the man's car. Not a word from her as she sat in the passenger seat as meek as a mouse. As the words flew between us, I think if she could have, she would have stuffed her head underneath the seat. The guy put up a show, but I've not seen him back since. Criminal types hate to be visible, and I made sure he knew he was glaringly so. They also don't like it when girls half their size wearing designer clothes don't back down to them.

A little background on Betty and Igor. They fell four months behind in their rent and got a put-out notice. I saw them move the last of their belongings out yesterday, and I can only hope that is the last of them. Just after Igor moved in, he went away to serve prison time for a drug charge while she lived in the apartment and went to college. Like I said, I gave them a chance.

Over time, they showed they were irresponsible in small ways, sort of just clueless about being good neighbors, but it started to get more severe over the last year. She quit college, estranged her family and friends, and was frequently picked up by shady looking characters. At night, at least two times a week, they had vicious fights and on all occasions I could have called the police, but did so only on three. Neither have been able to hold steady jobs.

By rent standards, these places are very affordable. Especially with two people sharing an apartment, it would take two part-time jobs for them to make ends meet. Rent for the apartments is around $700 a month. Expenses, if you are watching your pennies, can't be more than $200 a month. Betty is in her early twenties, and Igor is in his mid-twenties. Aside from his conviction that will keep him from certain types of employment, both are able-bodied people who can work.

Two weeks ago, her friend from high school and the friend's father stopped by the apartment because they hadn't heard from Betty in weeks. They told me that Betty's father was worried to death and that if they had to, they would kidnap Betty to get her away from Igor. Despite being the same day that I found out about the phone theft, I was very touched by this, seeing this man and his daughter who cared so much for their friend who was ruining her life. The father had a braided pony tail and was a big no nonsense guy whom I bet would defend my honor any day in a rough bar. He stated to me his thoughts about Igor in one sentence, "Don't like him."

Right now, I don't like either of them. She however, is in dire need of an intervention, but also a dose of reality of what the criminal life is like. These two would be what one would call "small time" as are their thugster friends. They are not the kind of criminals profiled on The Wire. They wish. Why they wish, I have no idea.

During my conversation with the two in the stairwell, Betty and Igor walked in. He skulked past the two with his head down and asked me how I was. I wanted to say, "Why don't you tell me since you can listen to my phone calls?" The last time Betty had seen me I had been telling her sketchy friend to get the fuck out of here and stay out. However, no mention of that. When she saw her friend and the friend's father, her entire demeanor changed. I saw the girl that she may have been once, which included a smile and maybe even a thread of confidence. She did end up going with the two, and I was thrilled. That is, until 1:30 that morning when she returned. They had one of their most vicious fights, and I called 911.

I believe the phone theft started a few months ago after the day that Betty knocked frantically on my door after Igor had been mugged. Read, beat up by characters who were real thugs that he'd gotten into trouble with. She had already told me her cell phone was "stolen," and asked to borrow mine. I let them keep it for a bit as calls were coming in from the police. Now, I swear I'm not making this next part up. Betty told me that they knew who the mugger was. Apparently, the guy that mugged Igor of $600 in cash, (no, I'm not naive as to why he had that much cash on him) is an "acquaintance" of a "friend" of theirs. The mugger is a guy whose real life story was used as a base for a major character on The Wire. Yeah. And let me just say, that guy is way out of their fucking league in thugville. Igor didn't press charges as far as I know.

I however, did.

I'm moving on prosecuting both of them. If she wants a taste of the reality of being a thug, I'll give it to her. Especially when a Verizon rep called me at my home number and Betty answered it from her apartment. When he asked for me, she had the nerve to tell him that "She isn't home." Once again, that mysterious "she" is me. Luckily, he didn't tell her why he was calling and noted it in his records. And yes, I have that representative's direct line if it's needed.

I have some very damning proof, but that's for only me to know right now. I'm not about to show my cards in case said scumbags read my blog. But if they do read it, let me ask, how fucking stupid are you to steal phone service from the person in the building who works as a researcher for "The Wire," a show that has a major focus on wiretapped phone lines? You knew that's what I did for a living you dumb twats. Not to mention, how fucking scummy of you to steal from me like that and invade my privacy. How completely trashy.

I was able to pull some very high strings in the Baltimore City Police Department through my police contacts with The Wire and cut through that bureaucracy and get the charges pressed under the right offense. I was relentless on this, and in my dealings with the phone company and in evidence gathering. Another thing about us researchers and writers, we're good evidence gatherers because we have to do it all the time for the weirdest shit. When you deal in the world of make believe, it takes you to places where few people get to go in their daily lives. My last writing gig took me to the far reaches of the earth, through the jungles of India with sandalwood and ivory smugglers, to former Soviet bioweapons facilities, and Antarctic Research stations. And that was just a tiny bit of that project. I did it all from my desk, but were someone to ask me to find stuff on any of those topics, I'd know where to go and whom to call. In this case, that's exactly what I did. Once I felt I'd gone as far as I could on my own, I called our technical adviser who is a high ranking fellow within the BCPD and he was all too happy to help me. The experience with the court commissioner is a whole different blog post.

My court appearance is in June and what I've mentioned here is in my complaint.

And of course, all of the above is alleged, just for the record.

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