Two weeks ago, as I came out of the shower at the gym, I saw someone closing my locker. I asked what he was doing and he said my lock was open and he was shutting it for me. I thanked him for being so thoughtful! A few hours later I noticed my credit card missing. I called the bank and shut down the account, but not before a $1,500 purchase was made at an Upper East Side boutique. I filed a police report. I called the boutique and the salesman remembered someone peculiar so I asked him to contact the NYPD. I asked the manger of the gym file a police report as well.
Friday morning I got a call from Detective “Smith” of the Midtown Precinct. He said an arrest was made and the suspect might have something to do with the theft of my credit card. He asked if I would be willing to come down and look at a lineup. Are you kidding me? An authentic NYPD lineup? What a thrill! Hell yes! Who would say no to that? Detective Smith was everything you’d imagine a New York City detective being; a deep voice, a firm handshake, a tight haircut, a stern look in the eye, an inexpensive tie, a thick Noo Yawk accent and accessorized with a 9mm.
The precinct house on 35th St. was a disheveled mess; as though someone picked up the building by its roof, gave it a good shake and set it back down. Not dirty. Just a mess. I was taken to a small, windowless cinderblock room that contained a table and a few blue plastic chairs and was asked to sit tight until the “perp’s” lawyer arrived. They also needed to gather a few “fillers” for the lineup. It was all very surreal and I was having a pretty great time. It was like an amusement park thrill ride or a very authentic theater piece. :20 minutes later, however, Detective Smith came to escort me to the lineup room and it got very serious and very real.
He led me down a short, pitch black corridor into a tiny room. The perp’s attorney and another Detective were already there. The room was so small that it couldn’t have accommodated another person. They lifted a piece of cardboard that covered a rectangular one-way window. It wasn’t like the movies. I expected this:
I thought they’d all turn, show their profiles and deliver a clever witticism.
There were five sad-faced men seated along the length of a table. Each held a manila folder in front of them with a number written on it. Detective Smith said, “Do you recognize any of these men? Take your time.” I looked them over. I let my eyes rest on each face for a moment because I didn’t want to make a mistake. I said, “I recognize number three.” “Where do you recognize him from?” “I saw him closing my locker at the gym.” Detective Smith gave me a flat, non-committal “Thank you.” The perp’s attorney also turned to me and brightly said, “Thank you very much!”
What was that suppose to mean? Did I blow the I.D.? It suddenly felt that way. My heart sank. My certainty had dissolved into doubt. I was escorted out of the tiny room, down the dark corridor. Once outside, I glancd over at the second Detective. He gave me a quick look and pumped his fist. Got him.
Evidently, this was no ordinary robbery. The thief is a foot soldier in the Albanian mob. Who knew the Albanians had an organized mob!? Their scam is to steal credit cards from gym locker rooms. There has been an epidemic of thefts from city gyms in the past few months and I am, apparently, their first break in the case. Detective Smith told me they have a device, easily obtained on the internet, which jimmies a padlock open in a matter of seconds. Once inside, they take a credit card or two, but leave the wallet, which is very clever of them. You’d notice right away if your wallet was missing but you might not notice one card missing for a few days. Mrs. Wife and I only have one credit card so believe me, when you go from one credit card to none, you notice right away.
The Detective said that the suspect’s lawyer is one of the better criminal defense attorneys in the city. The fact that he got to the precinct house in only :20 minutes and carries a pedigree as shark means that there is some significant money behind his hire. The NYPD would, of course, like the foot soldier to give up his boss. He was denied bail and has been incarcerated all weekend. I was told that I might have to testify in front of a Grand Jury. Stay tuned.