When Getting the Car Just Doesn’t Matter

Editorial

It was just before Christmas of 2007 and I had been out of the repo business a little over a year and was working as the Regional Collections Manager for Fireside Thrift (RIP) when I received a message for skip trace assistance from a Rosalie Thorsen of Child Quest International. She was looking for help in locating a woman named “Rosie *****” who was recently out of jail on probation and had recently kidnapped her 4 year old son from his father who had full custody. My account wasn’t even delinquent yet and it wasn’t an issue for us yet, but I gave her what little information I had, which was unfortunately, nothing she didn’t already have. Over the next several months, it became my issue.

As expected, the loan climbed in delinquency as did my interest in the situation. I was soon in frequent conversations with Rosalie at Child Quest sharing leads and getting updates as well as providing what little I had with Detectives at the Oakland PD. But, it was my conversations with the boy’s father that really struck a nerve.

My son was less than a year old and I found the thoughts of what this heartbroken man was going through resonating within my own feelings for my son and how I would feel if it were my son that were stolen from me and living who knows where and under what conditions. I could hear the torture this man was going through in his voice and felt guilty even talking to him, but he was the one calling me. He desperately wanted help and despite all of the other delinquent loans and skips, this one held a special importance even though it was only an $8,000 loan on a five year-old Hyundai.

As is in my nature and probably biggest flaw, I began to obsess on the case. I thought about it day and night, grinding my teeth in my sleep and cold sweats. It had really gotten under my skin, a very negative instinct I must have acquired from my time as a skip tracer and working in the field at A-1 Adjustment. My wife (now Ex) didn’t even want to hear about it and I just internalized the whole thing.

I interviewed  her ex-neighbors, relatives and anyone I could just trying to get that one little tip that could break things open. I ran credit reports weekly, or probably even more frequently just hoping to find some activity. But odd enough, it was DMV that gave me the lead. Despite her being on the lam, she had surrendered her expired California plates for Nevada plates and provided my first lead.

Of course, the address was a mailbox drop, but I at least had a city to focus on. A source obtained the physical address provided to the mailbox, but as luck would have it, it was an empty apartment previously leased under another woman’s name. With this information, the Oakland PD had gotten in contact with the Las Vegas PD who checked with the landlord and found the woman had been evicted with no forwarding information and all of the woman’s DMV information old and worthless. Another dead end.

I had just celebrated my son’s first birthday at the end of March 2008 and I remember feeling guilty. Guilty I was celebrating my son’s birthday while the Father of four year-old DeVonn was still wondering where his son was or how he was doing. My restless nights were probably nothing compared to the empty pit that sat in his stomach day and night. And while I watched my one year old dig his fingers into his birthday cake, I knew there were people out there whose lives were fractured by the selfish acts of a woman who had already demonstrated her poor morale character to both the courts and all that knew her. I was getting closer, but it wasn’t over.

As luck would have it, the creature comforts of a home were too irresistible for the mother to avoid. The gopher brought her head out of the hole. An inquiry from a cable TV carrier in the Las Vegas area had just shown on her credit report. In 1998, things weren’t as tight as they are now, and information was obtained from her attempt to get cable TV installed at an apartment in North Las Vegas that cracked the whole thing open.

I verified her listed employment, but it was a temporary employment agency. The home address was an apartment, which I felt was a pretty strong lead. I hadn’t assigned the repo to an agent yet because I wanted to time the whole thing right. I was in touch with the Detectives in Las Vegas and quickly provided them what little information I had.

The cops did some leg-work and came up with the location where “Rosie” was working and within a few hours, I received the call. She was under arrest. Unfortunately, they picked her up at her work and she wasn’t talking. We still had no idea where four year-old DeVonn was. Not forgetting I had a car to get repo’d, I assigned an agent to cruise the parking lot and area where the biological mother “Rosie” had been arrested to get our car. Strike two, the car was nowhere to be found.

It was late in the afternoon and I hung around until 6 or 7 waiting to hear more. But there was no word from the police. I went home actually feeling worse than I did before. Now this little boy didn’t even have his mother with him. He was alone with who knows who in Las Vegas. I don’t think I slept at all that night.

When I came into the office the next morning, I received a call from Rosalie at Child Quest. While his mother wouldn’t talk, the daycare provider had ended up calling Child Protective Services (CPS) later the night before when “Rosie” didn’t pick him up. CPS called the Las Vegas PD and young DeVonn was sitting safely at the Las Vegas PD headquarters waiting for his father who had jumped into his car the night before to drive to Las Vegas to pick him up.

The stone had been lifted from me. I felt good, real damn good.

I didn’t get the car for another four months when it showed up in a tow yard inoperable and thrashed. We barely made enough from the sale of it to cover the costs of the repo, but I could care less.

In the collections and recovery business, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to make a positive difference. After all, we spend most of our time trying to get money out of people down on their luck or taking back collateral to minimize losses. It’s pretty thankless and some would argue, and wrongfully I might add, soulless. This was one of the moments in life where you know you played a positive role in the outcome of people’s lives. This never really had anything to do with the car.

The attached photo and letter have sat behind my desk for the last 13 years as a reminder to myself that every once in awhile, we can make a positive difference in this world.

I never met young DeVonn or his father in person nor did I ever speak to him again, but the photo that Child Quest sent me said more than they ever possibly could have. I hadn’t ever thought about looking them up until I started thinking about writing this story, but I found Devonn online. He appears to be a normal teenager with many friends and a lot of positive interests.

Looking back, getting the car meant nothing.

 

Kevin Armstrong

Editor

 

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