2003-11-25 SvsG Events
The following is my own account of events, typed on or about 11/28 (i.e. soon after returning to Durham).
Dating: I was initially unsure of the dates on which these events occurred, as I had written "Tuesday" but also "11/24" (which was a Monday), and the police report says "11/25". Checking back in chat logs for that day, it appears that 11/25 is the correct date, so I have amended the document to show the correct date. Other than that, it is exactly as written on or about 11/28.
I got the important stuff from the trailer. I called the police so they could witness that L&B are holding the Benz (for which they *do* have the keys), piano, and merchandise as security (which I do not believe is legal, in the absence of a contract) against a debt I supposedly owe them but for which they have so far declined to produce any accounting, much less evidence or proof. I am pursuing legal action against them to recover those items but can't do anything until Monday at this point.
Tuesday morning (11/25): rented UHaul around 9:00 (due back at 6). Showed up at Hull Road around 9:30-10:00 and went back to check out the situation.
All three trailers (mine was #3) were gone.
I knocked on the door; Lynne answered. I demanded to know where my stuff was (I think I managed to avoid inserting "the hell", though I certainly thought it). Lynne said it was down at Neff Rental and that I could retrieve it. I asked for their phone number. Her reply, as best I can remember, was a very frosty "I don't think that's something I need to be jumping up and doing for you right now."
The nearest phone book was back at Livia's, so I started to get into the truck to drive back over there (at 50 cents/mile plus gas) but of course Lynne kept adding parting shots, and after the second one I stopped answering and got into the truck. Bubba appeared, ran around to the driver's side of the truck and tried to engage me further... I responded briefly and then tried to drive off — he was almost clinging to the mirror, but I kept going (looked back to make sure I hadn't run anyone over, if only because of the possible legal consequences).
Got to Livia's. Talked to Neff Rental, established that yes in fact the trailer was still there and there was no problem with my accessing it – I specifically asked if there was an outstanding balance; apparently there had been, and that was why it was hauled off, but it had been paid up.
(I think one of Lynne's parting shots was about how she had gone to the *great* trouble of paying up the bill for *my* trailer so *I* could access it, like she was doing me some special favor... they seemed to be under the illusion that I owe them storage fees for previous years, and I have no idea upon what basis they're trying to claim this (what was I storing??). The only thing I can think of is storage for the merchandise, and that would be a very iffy claim at best. Another one of her parting shots was that if I had let them know I was coming, she would have *told* me the trailer was down at Neff. Never mind that she totally failed to respond the last time I tried to let them know when I was coming, never mind that she should have warned me if they were behind on payments, never mind that she should have told me when it happened regardless, and never mind that I simply don't believe her. What can I say; the lawyer was right.)
The guy at Neff said he wouldn't clean out the trailer and dump everything until December 5.
Conferred with Sandy about what the priority should be at that point; she was of the opinion that since the trailer was "safe", i.e. out of L&B's hands, I should ask for the rest of the stuff and call the police if they withheld any of it. So I drove back over, still in the truck (my car being out at the UHaul place, about 40 minutes round trip).
L&B had left; youngest daughter Angela (age about 20; Adrian's mom) answered the door and said they had gone on a couple of errands; she wasn't sure where, but thought one of them was Neff Rental. (I have no idea if they actually went there or not, but they may have been hoping for a captive audience – they could slow me down while I was moving stuff, and maybe talk me into something.) I asked Angela if she knew where the Benz keys were, and she said she didn't and also that Bubba had said I wasn't allowed to take it. "Something about a contract", she said. "I guess I'll have to pursue this through channels," I said.
I immediately called Neff again and let them know that I had been renting the trailer from L&B and that L&B did not have my permission to go into it – not that Neff would necessarily have known if they showed up; it's a pretty big parking lot, and the trailer units are stored out back, out of sight from the front office.
The thing to do seemed to be to *try* to move the Benz, and only take further action if prevented (either by Angela or by L&B returning), so I called the Benz repair place to get towing advice. The guy there seemed to think that it might be difficult to move without the key – and the problem would be more on the delivery side than the pickup side ("where to put it" was the problem, he said, if it was "immobile"); I don't quite get the details, but the upshot was that it would be significantly easier with the key.
Just then L&B pulled back in the driveway, so I finished up with the auto guy. I asked L&B for the Benz, the piano, and the merch. They would never outright say "no"... I called the police.
L&B disappeared for a bit, so I called Sandy to let her know what was going on. A minute or two into the conversation, Bubba shows up and I tell Sandy I have to go – at which Bubba says (and I have to quote this, just because it was so incredibly rude and ugly) "So, she's still got her hand up your butt even from three hundred miles away."
Bubba then furiously pulled out all the same old arguments and practiced them on me some more. Lynne at least seemed to understand that it had gone beyond the point of convincing me and that he might as well save his arguments for the courtoom. He kept going regardless; I re-iterated this point for the fifth or sixth time in a sort of sing-song voice, at which point Lynne made some pointed comment about how extremely annoying I was being. I pointed out that they were the ones bugging me, I was just trying to wait for the police. Someone (probably B) suggested that I should leave... I pointed out that leaving the scene (which could probably officially be classified as a "crime scene" at that point) might well be frowned upon, which they seemed to find surprising.
During the course of this conversation, Bubba walked flat-footed into two complete self-contradictions (I didn't notice until soon afterwards). First, he claimed he had mailed the keys to me months ago. (He tried to get me upset by suggesting that he might have mailed them to my address in Wisconsin.) Later in the conversation, he pulled them out and dangled them in front of me saying "you should have checked the *ignition*, idiot!" then ran away around the front of the truck – clearly hoping I would grab for it, chase him, etc. (Note: I had not, in fact checked the ignition... nevertheless, it would be just like Bubba to say something like this even if the keys had been in his pocket the whole time; seems to be his idea of deep humor. He probably likes kicking anthills for entertainment, too.) The second contradition starts with Bubba saying "A verbal agreement is legally binding in the state of Georgia!", as if he had just looked it up at the library, and ends with something one of the policemen said which I'll get to shortly.
The police arrived while he was still haranguing me; I think he had just said something particularly outrageous... was that when he tried to claim co-authorship of the software I wrote for the store, or was that earlier? "It's my business, you were just the programmer; you were working for me" is more or less verbatim... I asked how it could be that if it was his business, I was the only one who knew how to make anything work. He said something about not being involved in those areas... I think I was saying something about not knowing what reality he was living in but wishing he would go back there so I could just sit and wait for the police – when they did, in fact, show up.
I wish I had a recording of the conversation with the police. (Actually, I wish I had recordings of all our conversations going back to 1997, but that kind of goes without saying.) L&B kept trying their usual delaying tactics: change the subject, don't give a definitive answer... and the main policeman let them do it to a certain extent (I'm afraid I allowed myself a few retorts here and there –0 mainly when Bubba tried to claim I was his brother, and in response to something he said about the Benz as if they'd been keeping it safe as a favor to me instead of wrecking it -- "Lynne didn't *wreck* it; she ran into an obstacle", quoth he) but eventually came down to "what items are you guys going to let Nick take?" and the answer was nothing except the stuff in the trailer (which was out of their hands anyway).
The policeman advised that I should maybe try to call them back in a few hours, "after tempers have cooled", and Lynne confirmed that she might be able to get Bubba to back down... as it turned out, I didn't have time and I'm just as glad I didn't; I suspect it was just more delaying tactics and maybe a dash of "good cop - bad cop": if I would make some token concessions, maybe she could talk Bubba into letting me have some things; he's very upset about all this, you know... except that the concessions would be major, and the things would be minor and few (if any).
As they were finishing up, the policeman said "You know, I really hope you guys have something in writing, otherwise somebody's gonna get screwed. One or the other of you." Which kind of seemed a good answer to Bubba's earlier statement about verbal agreements being legally binding. (Never mind that you can't enforce something if nobody knows what it was. Or can remember the details. Or if the two people involved remember it differently. Or any other number of caveats.)
The upshot of the situation seemed to be that as long as there was a dispute, all the police could do was to witness that there had been a dispute and that I would need to take it up with the Magistrate's court to get a decision. There didn't seem to be time enough to get that started and still get finished with the truck by 6; since I had gone to the trouble of renting the truck, I decided to proceed with Mission A (getting the stuff out of the trailer).
Shortly after noon, I took the truck down to Neff.
It took a bit of backing and filling to get the back of the truck close to the back of the trailer, but after about 10 minutes I had it in pretty good proximity at about a 45-degree angle; easy enough to hop from one to the other.
When I had *originally* put my stuff in the trailer, it was parked on a mild slope. I had put up some free-standing shelves (boards with coke-can "bricks" separating them) leaning against the downslope wall so stuff could be more accessible for moving, because a lot of the stuff I needed to store is just loose equipment with no way to stack it.
And as expected, those shelves had mostly fallen over during the ride. Most of the damage was to some old turntables I had salvaged -- fortunately none that were working properly in the first place. The old Dual turntable with the hardwood base survived without a scratch. (The Technics direct-drive I salvaged for Tigger back at Brown was, however, one of the ones that got creamed.) About half the strings in the clavichord got snapped, but the exterior and innards seemed otherwise ok. (Maybe they can be replaced with guitar strings? Not sure.)
Livia had given me a source of manual labor to draw on if I needed it (a local company -- $14/hour, 4-hour minimum); I decided to start in on the mess for a little while before calling for help. I also had a deadline which, I thought, might mean that I would need to leave too soon for anyone to get down to help me -- the office to the storage place closed at 2pm.
At about 1:30, I had moved the couch (the largest item) and a sizable chunk of the rest of the stuff and decided I had better call the storage place and see what could be done. It turned out I could rent the storage over the phone -- so my only deadline was the truck return at 6pm.
I had the truck mostly full by 4pm and was doing triage at that point -- grab the stuff that's important and set the rest aside. And then I got to the back and realized I didn't have the loft bed (which I made in 1984 or so), significant parts of which were behind things which had fallen down and needed cleaning up, and also the cushions for the couch...
Did a whirlwind excavation of the bed and cushions, loaded the various components on top of everything else, did one last look-around for anything important (grabbed a few more boxes and smallish things), made some cursory efforts at tying things down, and closed all the doors. (Had to pull away from the trailer to close its doors.) Then drove -- very carefully -- to the storage place, on Danielsville Road about two miles south of Livia's house.
I had to leave the Great Big Enormous Speakers I foolishly purchased the previous time I lived in NC, when I had a nice big room for them... and a number of boxes of mostly magazines but which might easily have some important paperwork tucked in them... and the IBM S/9000, which worked the last time I powered it up but which has been through an awful lot since then... and the Big Honking Mixing Board.
(For those who don't know, supposedly this was the mixing board used on R.E.M.'s first two albums. Soon after I bought the board in 1994 or so, supposedly Dan Dudley -- formerly of MoG -- ran into Bill Berry at a bar in downtown Athens, which I could believe, and confirmed that the description matched what Bill remembered. So... the board doesn't work and is highly impractical for my current needs, but I'd *really* hate to let it just get tossed out. More on this later.)
Anyway, back to the truck, driving to the storage place:
Amazingly, nothing fell. I had "mom's attic" full of totally unsecured bits and pieces, including a set of little plastic component drawers which would have spilled stuff all over the place if it had fallen -- and nothing did. The rest of the stuff was packed so tightly that there wasn't much it could have done, but still... it seemed like a good sign.
At 5:45, the light was fading and I was still about 15 minutes from being done. When done, I would need to tank up (if UHaul had to fill up, it would be $20 + $2/gallon) and drive it back (maybe 20 minutes). And unfortunately they had kept the piece of paper with my reservation number on it... and their phone number... so I called the main UHaul office (this is one instance where it was very handy to have Sandy on the cell phone: I had her look up both those bits of info on the laptop) and got the number for the local UHaul, then called them and explained the situation -- and they said as long as I could get it back by 7pm, there would be no problem.
I finished up around 7:15 -- and the sooper-dooper lock I had bought from Home Depot for just this occasion wouldn't fit. It would go all the way through the hole, but the hole was recessed and the other end of the U-bolt couldn't make it back out. So I had to leave the door unsecured. Fortunately the storage place is behind a fence, with a keypad security thingy, so the number of people who can even get in is pretty small, and it seemed unlikely that any one of them would be interested in stealing my junk -- even if they happened to choose my unit to open up and inspect -- in the time it would take me to get out to Lowe's and buy a smaller lock.
(Dinner details omitted)
Next morning... Livia was firmly of the opinion that I should pursue the issue of the car/piano/merch with the magistrate immediately, rather than calling after I got back to NC. Sandy concurred.
And this was where the puzzle pieces started to fall together, albeit slowly. I called the magistrate's office to see what to do (and to make sure they were open that day, the day before Thanksgiving), and they reiterated what the Sheriff had told me a few weeks ago: The police file a report. You take the report to the magistrate's office. So I went to the police station.
The police had not filed a report.
After a bit of inquiry, I was able to establish that in fact they *should* have filed one, and another officer started composing one (apparently *something* had been filed) which he said would take at least 15 minutes.
While waiting, Sandy called to say that the power had gone out. I talked her through starting up the generator, but we were unable to get the (gas) heat blower to come on. Lovely.
Fortunately, the report showed up more or less on schedule; they were actually very helpful, I felt. So I drove on down to the courthouse.
At the courthouse I almost locked myself out of the car, but in an unexpected display of good design it wouldn't let me lock the door from outside while the key was in the ignition. (Woo-hoo.) I did actually remember to divest of unnecessary implements before going in, though, which helped me feel less nervous.
The magistrate's office was these three secretary-types behind a service desk -- one each for criminal, civil, and bad checks. The "criminal" one was apparently handling customers that day, so I talked to her.
She took the police report, made copies (for them -- I got to keep the original, a nice bonus), and did a bit of investigating. Apparently the dollar value is high enough that someone might decide that a detective should be assigned to the case, in which case I gather I'd be talking to the detective to find out what happens next. I can call on Monday to find out about that, if I don't hear from them.
In the absence of a detective being assigned, I fill out the form (of which she gave me a copy) to charge L&B with Theft By Retaining, mail it in with a check for $20, and then call to find out when to call to find out when the court date is. (Or maybe they'll call me; I forget.)
So now I have until December 5 to do something about the rest of the stuff in storage. My current plan is to see if my court date is anytime next week; if it is, then do the court date and move the rest of the stuff on the same day, time permitting. Otherwise call Neff again (probably Monday) and see if I can arrange for an extension... or maybe just drive down anyway, especially if we can get the respite care this time.
The police report "original narrative" page reads as follows:
|On 11/26/03 @ approx 0930 hrs. victim came to ACCPD to obtain a report regarding his personal property being held by suspects w/o authority for a debt suspects claim the victim owes.
Victim advised he operated his personal business out of suspect's residence and had left some of the property at 1242 Hull Rd. while arranging victim's relocation to NC. Victim advised when he returned to collect his property, the suspects refused to allow victim to collect them. Suspects claim victim owes them an undisclosed amount of money and won't release property until the debt is paid. Victim advised the suspects have the keys to his Mercedes and won't return them nor allow access into the house to get his piano or business merchandise.
An ACCPD office (H. Duranso) responded to the address on 11/25/03 regarding this incident and met with both parties but no report was filed.
Victim advised he will pursue matter w/Magistrate Court for resolution.
Account continues (briefly) in 2003-11-28 SvsG Events.