A reader suggested I write about detective cases, which was my day job when I wasn’t writing for the Review. There wasn’t much mystery about it.
The most difficult assignments needed to be completed the same day I received them. They involved finding defendants due in court that day, key witnesses for immediate testimony, and emergency injunctions. The following cases occurred during the 20th century. No cellphones or internet service.
One memorable case involved a defendant whose trial had already started. We’ll call her Gladys. She had been driving an enormous Cadillac when she had an accident. The other driver sued and the attorney for her insurance company was defending her. The attorney was frantic that Gladys hadn’t responded to calls or correspondence and was missing her own trial.
I telephoned Gladys. There was no answer and a male voice was on her outgoing message. I drove to her apartment. Her husband’s name was on the doorbell. I rang and knocked but there was no response. It occurred to me that Gladys might be a widow and was maintaining a male presence for security reasons.
I drove downtown and read her late husband’s will. Three witnesses were listed with their phone numbers. I spoke with a witness, who knew precisely where Gladys was at that moment. She was playing bridge at the Leaning Tower YMCA in Niles. When I arrived there, I found some senior citizens playing cards.
One of them was a tiny lady named Gladys. She was so hard-of- hearing I had to shout my name. I yelled that her case was on trial and we had to go downtown immediately. Gladys said she was playing 3 No Trump and refused to budge.
I returned to the courthouse to inform my client that I had found Gladys but she refused to come. My client whined, “I can’t defend an empty chair.” I suggested she was better off. If the jurors saw Gladys, they would immediately realize she couldn’t have seen over the steering wheel of the Cadillac. We lost the case. I don’t know whether Gladys made her bid.
I had another case already on trial and a witness had to testify that afternoon. I immediately went to his address on the South Side. When I turned off Western Avenue, I was suddenly in Lithuania. Everything was Lithuanian including the shops and restaurants. There was no answer at his apartment. At the neighborhood grocery store, I learned he was an architect who worked downtown.
I contacted the American Institute of Architects and found he worked for the General Services Administration. When I rode the elevator to his office floor, a group of men wearing suits got on. One of them looked vaguely Lithuanian and turned out to be my witness. I gave him the subpoena and announced he immediately had to accompany me to court. He replied, “You don’t understand, I’m taking these gentlemen to lunch.” Lunch was abruptly cancelled, as I hurried him to the courtroom.
A third case involved a prostitute whom we represented in a lawsuit. When I found her, she was wearing her work outfit. I told her I was taking her to court. She chose not to change her clothes. As we walked to the courthouse, work stopped at every construction site in the Loop. She was a sensation on the witness stand and we won the case.
Finally, there was an emergency injunction that involved a Ford that had once belonged to Pope John Paul II. Someone had removed it from a car museum and planned to sell it. My daughter, Nicole, drove to Indiana and served the thief. The next day, newspapers triumphantly reported the “Popemobile” had been saved!