Posted on December 27, 2011 by Dylan Evans
“She’s the most important thing in my life,” the man stated in monotone, locking his unblinking gaze on my own. “I don’t care what it takes. I just need her back. Please, do whatever you can.” The single-minded focus emanating from the man was almost overwhelming. I had been the recipient of that uncomfortable look many times before, and from my experience, I had learned it was a combination of utter despair and unshakable resolve.
Of course, locating missing persons was nothing new to me. Private investigators are often tasked with tracking down a client’s personal ghosts, the people who vanish between the cracks of society. Sometimes it lead to a heartfelt reconnection, while other times the reunions were charged with more negative emotions. Regardless, I was an expert at delivering results.
However, this particular situation was somewhat different.
This man’s ghost was his cat.
“I cannot stress this enough,” he continued, his adamant expression still fixed directly on me. “She keeps me sober. She keeps me sane. Nothing matters to me in this world but her.” For just an instant, the slightest flash of misery washed across his face, staining his resolve with a look of absolute horror at the possibilities running through his mind.
“You may find me crazy, but this is what matters to me in life. I don’t know where else to turn. Nobody will take me seriously.” His face quickly hardened again.
Above all else, a private investigator is a problem solver and a critical thinker. This was not a typical situation, but the grief evident in this man’s soul was very common in my line of work. I had gotten into the business to help people with their problems, and I simply could not slam my door on this man when everyone else had done just that.
Offering my new client another cup of coffee, I began interviewing him more thoroughly. I learned that his front door had been left ajar, and his cat did not hesitate at the opportunity to investigate outside. That same day, while asking around his neighborhood, I soon discovered that a neighbor had found the cat and taken it to the local animal shelter, thinking it was a stray.
“This is going to be easy,” I thought to myself. Of course, like any situation where that sentence arises, reality is often more surprising.
I drove to the animal shelter, approached the front desk, and identified myself and my goal.
“Well,” the receptionist began, taking a long pause. “It turns out that particular cat was stolen. I am so sorry.”
According to the shelter manager, they had indeed received the cat from my client’s neighbor. While the paperwork was being filled out and the cat was still in the front room, an elderly couple walked through the front door, saw the animal, grabbed it, and ran.
“Apparently, they didn’t want to pay the adoption fee. It happens from time to time,” he said.
I asked to look at his surveillance camera footage, and he was more than happy to oblige. At 6:55PM, the recording showed an elderly couple stuffing a box into the back of a green Mazda and driving away. The license plate was partially visible.
That evening, I scoured the DMV database for vehicles matching the make, model, and partial plate number from the surveillance camera. Narrowing my search down to a few hundred vehicles, I began looking into the registrants, finding people who matched the elderly couple on the footage. By the end of the night, I had their contact information.
I called the cat thieves early the next morning, and less than twenty-four hours later, my client had been reunited with his ghost.
“You cannot understand how much this means to me,” he said. “This little animal brought me back from the brink. I was dead. I almost drank myself into the grave, and then… there she was on my porch. I had to be responsible for somebody other than myself, and for the first time it let me see how badly I was screwing up my life.” He paused to shake my hand.
“Thank you.” The tension engraved on the man’s face was gone in an instant. “You’ve given me my life back.”
Everybody has something in their life that brings them hope, something that inspires them to reach greater heights. Whether that thing is another person, a passion, or even a pet, the end result of losing it is still the same. In that moment, I wasn’t thinking about the absurdity of the situation. I was simply grateful that I was able to help this man find the happiness he had lost, no matter what form it came in.