Return to One - Visions to Fruition
Vision Number Two: Covert Ops - Courting a Con Artist
In 1986 I planned a long-anticipated move to Portland from a small town with one big dream to be the next Ansel Adams to photography. While hardly an original ambition, I left for the big city fueled with ambition.
My cohabitating girlfriend made sure that she was in alignment with my plan, and enrolled in modeling school, anticipating my arrival. We moved in with her mom on my arrival to Portland, before we were engaged and move to our own place.
I busted my butt at work to become a manager, thus allowing me to shoot weddings on the weekend. This was my grand strategy to escaping grocery retail. A goal that I was SO hungry for, that I must’ve radiated it to one of my regular customers. An older guy that I’d seen talking to the store owner and manager.
He introduced himself as David W. Ross III one night, saying he was killing time go avoid the couple he was staying with. His car was in the shop, so he asked me if I’d mind giving him a ride back to their house. On the way, he asked me to take a detour to show me the house he was having built.
He walked me through a massive, beautiful house being built in a wealthy neighborhood above my store. When I asked what he did to afford this, he had me on the hook. I own a chain of retail stores called Ross Dress for Less. I told him of my goal to get into management at the store he met me, so he offered to hook me up with one of his nearby stores.
Long story short, he moved in with my fiancé and I until his home was complete. “I enjoy your company more than that bitch and my house is nearly finished.” After the second delay, and his social behavior seeming a bit off, I grew more suspicious.
One night before Halloween, he asked me if I’d mind stopping off at a nearby Toys R Us. While passing the costumes, we both picked up something goofy to try on. I’d only heard of aberrations until the night I saw him picking up a devil’s red pitchfork. A genuinely evil smile covered his face and I could swear I saw nubs on the top of his head for horns.
While I don’t believe in a physical devil, the vision gave me the pang that I needed to raise many questions.
I made an anonymous call to his former friends, asking if they knew of him. “I know this is going to sound very strange, but I’m afraid to tell you who I am yet, and need to ask an important question. Do you know David W. Ross?”
“You must be his latest victim”. My gut turned. I asked if she would mind if we met. I needed to see her eyes when she spoke to me so that I could tell if I was being played even more.
We met, exchanged similar stories and she proved that she was the manager of a very reputable jewelry chain in town. Using more evidence than I thought to seek from “Mr. Ross”. We agreed that I should continue the charade long enough to bring him down.
I had two days off and needed to hitch a uhaul to retrieve the last of my furniture in Pendleton. I asked if he was up to a road trip. He said yes and even offered to take his car. I told him how relaxing Pendleton was and that it would do him some good to leave his alleged work behind. An always-locked brief case that he pulled my Ross application out of.
On arrival to my parents house, I made the introductions, and offered to fetch our luggage from the car. On opening the trunk, I discovered two sets of license plates under the spare tire. I could see him through the front window of the house, so I faked the trunk closing, and unlocked it, gently propping for my return.
After taking the luggage in, I guided the conversation toward the kitchen, away from the front window. I couldn’t let my parents know what was up, but the chief of police Ed Taber lived several houses down the road.
I snuck out to “get the rest of our stuff” and grabbed the license plates as I sprinted down to pay a visit to Ed. His wife Terry opened the door to reveal Ed’s big smile sitting in his recliner. “Am I glad you’re home. I don’t have time to explain, but I believe I’ve got a con artist at my parents house and I need your help. I just found these plates in his trunk.” He calmly grabbed the phone and dialed the station. “Yeah, this is Ed, I need a plate check on a set of Washington and New Hampshire numbers.”
He covered the phone and said “go back so he doesn’t get suspicious. I’ll call you with an update. Who should I say I am when I call?” “THANK YOU – say you are Jamie, your voice isn’t far off of his”.
The only mobile phones then were Motorolla “Bricks” and I wasn’t a doctor. We knew my mom would answer, so he had to disguise his familiar voice.
I ran back and joined the conversation with my parents. They were likely intrigued by whatever bullshit he fed them in the last 10 minutes. The phone rang, my mom answered and called out “Jamie’s on the phone for you”. She had to have suspected something by the nervousness in my eyes as I told her I’d be brief.
“Is he about six feet tall?” – “yep”.
“Dark hair?” – “Ya”
“Tatoos?” – “You’ve got me on that one”
“Well the owner of those plates is wanted in a at least a couple of states for assault. I’m concerned that your friend might be dangerous, let me try to connect you with a detective near you”
I waited until he was asleep to sneak out to the car to look for any hidden weapons, but found nothing. I forged my way through the hasty visit with my parents, eager to explain after I knew what I would be telling them.
I called my fiancé the next morning. She had successfully pried open and copied everything in his brief case. Birth certificates, death certificates, obituaries, news clippings and of course, my application that was never given to the Ross manager that he gracefully introduced me.
How on Earth did he pull that off? I replayed that store meeting for the better part of our three-hour drive back to Portland. He introduced me, giving me the illusion of being the owner of the chain.
“This is a white elephant store for us, so don’t be surprised if he’s extremely nervous while we are there. I’ve pushed the board to keep it open, even losing money because it’s the closest one to my home. Maybe you can help turn it around.”
The next day was a fast-paced blur. I had no appointment with the busy West Linn detective, so I left a note. I asked that they review my envelope of copies, call the Pendleton Chief of Police to verify and please get back to me asap.
I checked in again later, and got to share my account. I was not encouraged by the pace that would be needed, and I could no longer subject myself or fiancé to this. His car was parked in my rental garage at the apartments, so I snuck everything I could find of his into his trunk at every spare second I had.
I was preparing to kick him out, and wanted to give him no reason to stall. I loaded my shotgun in our bedroom, and instructed my fiancé on how to use it. I told her that if he attacks me in any way, shoot for the legs in case she got me too.
I made one last call to the West Linn police, who had still not been able to get a warrant for arrest.
I was angry that I would not be able to nail him but chose safety over vengeance. He was much bigger than me, but in that moment I felt no fear. I reviewed the gun use one more time in our room and proceeded to the living room.
“You need to get up and get out of my house now.” His face was filled with shock. I don’t recall him blinking once as he stared me down, obviously processing what I might now know. “Don’t ask me questions, and don’t tell me another fucking lie – just get your shit out of this closet and leave. Everything else is in your trunk.”
His chest was heaving rapidly as his face went flush. He turned back once as he dropped something. I picked it up quickly and said “I’ve got it, just keep going”. As he was driving out of the parking lot, I stepped in front of his car and aggressively told him “Don’t even think about screwing over another person, the police are on you”.
I went back inside just in time for the call I’d been waiting for. “Keep him there for another 15 minutes, we’re sending an officer now” I felt as thought I just gave up an inch from the finish line. An unbearable sense of in-completion replaced every bit of fear I felt just moments earlier.