For a small businessman, nothing beats a steady client and that one check you can count on every month. I have a client who has been sending me a substantial monthly payment since the Disco Era. This November I didn’t get it.

They said my check was mailed Nov. 8 and that I cashed it on the 16th. You’d think I would have remembered cashing a check for $2,250. Even more improbable, they said it bore my endorsement stamp and the signature of my assistant.

Before having the SWAT team surround her house, I examined a copy of the check. Like my assistant, the endorser’s first name begins with “V” but it was clearly a forgery. Someone used a typewriter to approximate an endorsement stamp but managed to get the name of my company wrong.

I surmised that the person who cashed it was in cahoots. I was once a slightly incompetent bank teller but even I would have refused to cash this check.

I reported the theft to the Forest Park Police. The crime was not in their jurisdiction but they provided me with a police report to document the loss. Then I called the Postal Inspector because it appeared a mail employee might have snatched it.

I had an earlier dealing with the Postal Inspector and was quite impressed with their thoroughness. The officer assigned would trace the check from my client’s mailroom to my Forest Park P.O. Box. Suspects would include mailroom workers, the carrier who picked it up and thousands of workers at the Carol Stream postal facility.

The officer would also contact the bank to find out which financial institution cashed it, as they neglected to stamp the back. Meanwhile, I showed the check to the officer in charge at the Forest Park Post Office and she said the writing did not belong to her clerks.

The signature is difficult to decipher. The last name appears to be “Manning” and we’ve all taken guesses at the first name. I’m searching for the culprit, under the assumption they were dumb enough to sign their real name.

The thief may never be caught, but I still think they stole from the wrong guy. I will exhaust every lead and trust the Postal Inspector to do the same.

It’s funny, but I had felt sympathy for the postal service. As our society goes paperless, I’m concerned about the postal system’s deficit and the fact many mail workers might lose their jobs. Now, I have trouble trusting it.

In the sermon I heard this week, the minister said that God gives us adversity to teach us and lead us in the right direction. I was sitting there wondering what God’s purpose was in having my check stolen. Then I could almost hear His voice whisper: “Direct deposit.”

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.