In which I go sleuthing… (pt. 3)

(When we last left, our hero, he was making some headway in the search for the missing Phone / MP3 Player. Faced with a hiccup in progress, he had a sudden epiphany…)

Back to Verizon Wireless’s website.

View current usage.

Bingo! Two more pages of calls made, some to Louisville, one to Atlanta, and one to New Hampshire (Kemco Industries, an 800 number). And even better: a slew of fresh Richmond numbers.

As I plugged those new numbers into the Reverse Lookup tool, I finally got a few successes. One of them had the same last name as the first name I found; but a couple other seemed entirely unrelated. Most of them were labeled as residents that were 50+ years old.

The phone rang again, it was the woman from the Palladium-Item again. She mentioned a name and asked if it was familiar. I told her that whomever stole the phone did so anonymously, and that I doubted I knew the person myself. I started reading off a few of the new names I uncovered from the Reverse Lookup tool. Two of the names she definitely recognized, and said she thought she knew who it was.

One of her carriers (“delivery-persons”) had some sort of connection to those people. Better yet (or worse yet, depending on your perspective), she was OUR CARRIER. We had a name. (Withheld from this blag for legal reasons)

Suddenly, it all started piecing together, like a retrospective montage on CSI.

We only receive the Sunday edition (if you’ve ever read the weekday editions, you’d understand). The first fraudulent call was placed late Sunday evening. When we were packing the car, it was warming up, so my keys would have been in the ignition. When Melissa and Sullivan loaded into the car, I had to remove the keys in order to lock the front door of our house. My keys and cell phone are, coincidentally, kept in the same pocket — so when I got the keys out of my pocket at the door, I must have knocked the cell phone out without realizing it. When our Newspaper carrier delivered our paper that Sunday (the following evening), she must have seen the phone and, for whatever reason, decided that she was entitled to remove it from our porch.

My new friend at the Palladium-Item said she was going to call that carrier and check, and that she would call me back. I started feeling hopeful. I continued to compile the Excel spreadsheet, preparing a writeup describing the data and my conclusion. I even color-coded the phone numbers so it would be easier to see how often a number was called.

Less than 5 minutes later, my phone rings again. It’s her, and she’s got good news. The carrier said she had the phone, and that when she “got out of bed” and came into work, she’d bring the phone with her. Awesome! I graciously thanked her and asked her to call me when she knew more.

Gathering my things, I drove down to the Police station. The secretary had asked me to bring the call records for the case file. She was very impressed with the detail and thoroughness of my data (although she referred to it as “efficient”, I knew what she meant). She said I should stop back in tomorrow to speak with the Detectives. Part of me was excited about the progress, and part of me was completely bewildered that Detectives were being assigned to locate a missing Cell Phone. (Then again, the Cell Phone DOES play MP3s also…)

Fast forward 90 minutes.

I’m in the kitchen, making dinner, and the phone rings. It’s her again. She says the person is on her way to work, with the phone, and that it will be available shortly. I’ll spare you the details here, but ultimately, my new friend ends up bringing the cell phone to my house, since she was on this side of town anyways. Score. Someone is getting flowers.

The phone looks intact – I don’t see any scratches, scuffs, or chips on it. It is only 2 months old, so it’s practically new. The first thing I checked after that was to see if my micro-SD card was still in there. I had picked it up on Woot.com for 8 bucks — it’s a 1GB card that has a bunch of my music on it. Still there. Awesome.

Curious, I started looking through the phone, looking for traces of my thief. The first thing I noticed was that Mel’s number was missing from the Contact list. Completely gone. Every other contact looked like it was there, except that one.

I looked at the call history; empty.

Text messages; empty.

Emergency Info; empty.

Even my speed dial numbers, which are set dynamically when a contact is entered; empty.

The only other person that I knew had called was The Gill — his number was also erased (but only the cell phone number, his house line was there). I’m kind of puzzled by this; Mel’s record was completely gone, but only one of Gill’s was.

The wallpaper on the front of the phone (the screen that’s visible when it’s folded shut) was changed to some tacky looking heart / pearls graphic. The wallpaper on the inside of the phone was what it used to be: a pic of Mel and Sullivan. So she had changed the outer graphic but not the inner one? My thief was quite an enigma.

The phone rang — she had changed the ringtone too.

I checked the number. I didn’t recognize it. Answering “Hi, who is this?”

“Uh….I think I got the wrong number.”

“Oh, were you looking for <name redacted>?”

“No, I was mumblemumblemumble… byemumblemumble.. <boop>”

With Mel’s new HP Mini Note at hand, I fired up the Reverse Lookup tool again and plugged in the number. Bingo – another listed name & address – I added that to my list. This person probably knew the thief as well.

The thing that puzzled me the most of all though was that it was charged with two bars. The phone is only 2 months old, so the battery life is pretty good — but it’s not so good that it could withstand 100-200 minutes of talking over a solid WEEK and STILL have 2 bars — I’m lucky if I can get 2 or 3 days with moderate usage out of it. This means that the person either purchased an LG charger, or had one already.

If you aren’t familiar with cell phone chargers, they tend to be extremely proprietary; An LG charger usually won’t fit a Motorola phone, and neither will fit a Palm phone, etc. Heck, Mel and I both have LG phones, but different models, and even our chargers are different. So this person had acquired a charger explicitly for use of this phone. She wasn’t taking a joyride on my phone, she was settling in as the new owner.

But on someone else’s account? On one hand, I thought perhaps she just wasn’t familiar with cell phones — perhaps she didn’t realize that every call is logged in detail (although the same goes for landlines too). But then how would she know to delete the call and txt message logs?

This play is not yet over. The protagonist has just finished his soliloquy, but we have yet to bring the conflict to a head.

At this point, my plan of actions for tomorrow morning (Wednesday — I’m pre-writing these blags) is to stop by the Police Station again to speak with the Detectives, and to stop by the Palladium-Item to speak (rather gruffly, I imagine) with a manager. Mel is of the opinion that they will probably cover the overage charges, since the phone was stolen while the employee was on the clock.

The police may pursue the criminal charges with this, I’m not sure. I’ve been in this situation before (I had a bike stolen several years ago – I recovered that as well! I’m pretty good at this sort of thing I guess) — if the police decide to prosecute, it’s entirely out of my hands; I can choose to sue or not sue in Civil court (Small claims, in this case), but the criminal offense is at he discretion of the district.

I’m not really one to capitalize on this sort of thing — if I can get my overages paid for, that’s all the money I want. My phone / mp3 player is fine and I’m not being penalized for anything else; I’m pretty sure there wasn’t any identifying information on my phone (aside from my contact list, but I have a feeling my thief wasn’t smart enough to do anything worthwhile with it).

In spite of that though – I have mixed feelings over whether the thief should be penalized any further. I’m not seeking any more compensatory damages; I wasn’t damaged any further, so that only seems fair. But should we really be sending the message that what she did was ok, and that the only thing she did wrong was get caught? Should the judicial system apply some sort of penalty to chastise her for taking something to which she was not entitled? I’m not saying she should be locked away (even though my phone DOES play MP3s) — at best this is a misdemeanor, right? A small fine and she’s off to the races. There’s the possibility she loses her job over it — I wouldn’t like to see that happen, as making her unemployed probably won’t make her less likely to steal again — but then again she should be responsible for her actions, right?

I’d like to know why she took it. Why did she take a cell phone and then even more bizarrely why did she USE IT so extensively? What went on in her mind when she decided to snag the phone? I may never know, but I’ll always wonder about it.

(Cont’d in the near future…)